Ancient Israel’s Revolts
“This is what Jehovah has said, ‘On account of three revolts of Israel, and on account of four, I shall not turn it back, on account of their selling someone righteous for mere silver, and someone poor for the price of a pair of sandals. They are panting for the dust of the earth on the head of lowly persons; and the way of meek people they turn aside; and a man and his own father have gone to the same girl, for the purpose of profaning my holy name. And on garments seized as a pledge they stretch themselves out beside every altar; and the wine of those who have been fined they drink at the house of their gods.’”—Amos 2:6-8.
In Biblical usage, the number “three” may represent intensity or emphasis. Hence, the ‘three, even four revolts’ of the 10-tribe Kingdom of Israel against Jehovah stand for the combined record of the Kingdom of Israel’s unfaithfulness.
Righteous persons would be sold for “mere silver.” The Law did stipulate that a thief who was unable to make compensation should be sold for the things he stole. (Ex. 22:3) It may be, therefore, that the influential ruling class went far beyond this, selling lowly persons for profit and not because the poor needed to make compensation. Or, the ‘selling of someone righteous for mere silver’ may be understood to mean that judges, on receiving silver as a bribe, or the promise of such, would sentence righteous persons.
Possibly because a poor man could not pay for a pair of sandals, his creditor would heartlessly sell him into slavery. Or, to get a pair of sandals or some other item of no great value, an influential man might sell a poor person. Callous men ‘panted’ or eagerly looked forward to seeing the poor brought down to such a state of despair that they would throw dust on their heads. (Compare Job 2:12.) The “meek” simply could not hope to get any justice.
Idolatrous Israelites of the same family would resort to the same temple prostitute as a form of worship, thereby profaning Jehovah’s holy name. They also showed flagrant disregard for the Most High by other violations of his law. For example, a garment taken as a pledge was to be returned before night came. (Ex. 22:26) But these wicked men would keep the garments taken as pledges and then use them as blankets on which to sprawl themselves out during sacrificial feasting at the temple. Additionally, the fines unjustly extracted from the poor would provide the funds for the wine that they drank ceremonially at the temple of their gods. Thus, they used the gain of their oppression in false worship. What reproach unfaithful Israelites brought upon Jehovah’s holy name!
Justice required that the 10-tribe Kingdom of Israel be called to account for its revolts. The time for judgment did come when, in the eighth century B.C.E., the Assyrians conquered the land and captured Samaria, the capital of the northern Kingdom of Israel.