Lessons From the Scriptures: Amos 1:1–9:15
The Demise of a Nation
“GET ready to meet your God,” says “Jehovah the God of armies” to the nation of Israel. (Amos 4:12, 13) The reason? Blinded by prosperity, the Israelites had forgotten his Law and were guilty of polluting his sacred land with idolatry, immorality, bloodshed, and violence.
As Jehovah’s prophet, Amos is raised up to pronounce a warning message not only to his own nation of Judah but particularly to the northern kingdom of Israel. He condemns Israel for her self-indulgent life-style and foretells her eventual demise at the hands of enemy nations. The book of Amos, written sometime between 829 B.C.E. and 804 B.C.E., provides insight into God’s ability to foresee coming disasters, and it offers some timely warnings.
Fiery Destruction of God’s Enemies
No one can escape God’s judgments. How true this proved to be for the nations of Damascus (Syria), Gaza (Philistia), Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah! Jehovah will ‘not turn back’ his hand from against them for their wrongdoing. Nevertheless, their foretold calamity only served to emphasize the judgment Israel faced for failing to maintain her covenant relationship with God and to uphold his laws.—Amos 1:1–2:16.
Heed God’s warning. “You people only have I known out of all the families of the ground,” says Jehovah to Israel. (Amos 3:2) However, their sinful course showed contempt for God’s name and sovereignty. Many were determined to be rich, living in idle luxury with ‘a winter house in addition to a summer house,’ at the expense of their own brothers. (Amos 3:15) With deceptive weights, they selfishly cheated the poor. Their forsaking true worship meant that Jehovah’s punishment was due. Yet, ‘Jehovah would not do a thing unless he revealed it to his servants.’ Thus, Amos foretells Jehovah’s judgments and warns them: “Get ready to meet your God.”—Amos 3:1–4:13.
Jehovah Is Salvation
God will show mercy to those who repent. “Search for me, and keep living,” is Jehovah’s appeal to Israel. (Amos 5:4) “Hate what is bad, and love what is good.” (Amos 5:15) Such words, however, are ignored. Apostates preferred to go up to Bethel and Gilgal, centers of idol worship, there to offer sacrifices to false gods. (Amos 5:26; 1 Kings 12:28-30) On ornate couches of ivory, smug evildoers gulp down fancy wine and pamper themselves with the choicest of foods and oils. (Amos 5:11; 6:4-6) “The day of Jehovah” is coming, and “by his own soul” God has sworn to Israel’s destruction. (Amos 5:18; 6:8) Jehovah will raise up a nation to oppress Israel and lead her into exile.—Amos 5:1–6:14.
Fear Jehovah, not opposers. The destruction of Israel could be brought about by a swarm of locusts or an all-consuming fire. Amos appealed to God in Israel’s behalf, and “Jehovah felt regret” over his judgment, so it was not carried out in this way. However, like a builder who checks the vertical plane of a wall with a plummet, Jehovah “shall no more do any further excusing” of Israel. (Amos 7:1-8) The nation must be desolated. Incensed by the prophet’s message, Amaziah, a priest of calf worship, falsely charges Amos with treason and orders him to ‘run to the land of Judah and no longer do any prophesying’ at Bethel. (Amos 7:12, 13) Does Amos cower? No! He fearlessly foretells the death of Amaziah and calamity for his family. As fruit is gathered at harvesttime, so it is time for Jehovah to make an accounting with Israel. There will be no escape.—Amos 7:1–8:14.
There is hope for those trusting in Jehovah. “I shall not completely annihilate the house of Jacob,” says Jehovah. There is still hope for some of Jacob’s offspring but not for the sinners. Their destruction is certain. Nevertheless, Jehovah will “gather back the captive ones” of Israel.—Amos 9:1-15.
Lessons for today: Those who make themselves enemies of God will be judged worthy of death. However, any who heed the divine warning message to repent will receive Jehovah’s mercy and keep alive. If we fear God, we will not allow opposers to keep us from doing his will.
[Box on page 22]
BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
○ 1:5—Ancient cities had high walls and huge gates. To lock these gates, long bars of iron or bronze were placed against them on the inside. ‘Breaking the bar of Damascus’ meant that the Syrian capital would fall to the Assyrians. It would be as if its city gates could not be locked because their bars had been broken.—2 Kings 16:8, 9.
○ 4:1—The luxury-loving women dwelling in Samaria were referred to as “cows of Bashan.” Bashan’s rich pastures contributed to the production of fine breeds of animals. (Deuteronomy 32:14; Ezekiel 39:18) These selfish “cows of Bashan” evidently pushed their “masters,” or husbands, to extort money from the poor in order to fill their own “houses of ivory.” (Amos 3:15) Such actions, though, resulted in divine retribution.
○ 4:6—The expression “cleanness of teeth” is explained by the parallel phrase “want of bread.” It thus appears to refer to a time of famine, when teeth were clean because there was nothing to eat. Evidently, Jehovah had expressed his disapproval of the idolatrous ten-tribe kingdom by sending famine to the land, even as he had warned long before. (Deuteronomy 28:48) However, neither this nor other expressions of divine judgment reached the heart of this covenant-breaking people.—Amos 4:6, 8-11.
○ 5:2—When Amos uttered his prophecy, the people as well as the land of Israel had not been subdued and ravished by a foreign power. Thus, they were personified as a virgin. In just a few years, though, the virgin Israel would fall to the Assyrians and “go into exile beyond Damascus.” (Amos 5:27) So certain is Amos of Israel’s destruction because of her unfaithfulness that he describes it as having already taken place.
○ 7:1—“The mown grass of the king” most likely referred to the tax or tribute levied by the king to provide food for his animals and cavalry. The king’s tax was to be paid first, after which the people could get the “grass,” or vegetation, for their own use. But before they could do so, the locusts came and ate up this later planting.
○ 8:2—Summer fruit was picked toward the end of the harvest season. The end of the agricultural year thus symbolized that Israel had reached its end. “I shall no more do any further excusing of them,” declared Jehovah. The nation was due for the execution of his judgment.
○ 9:7—Because of their faithful ancestors, Jehovah chose the Israelites, delivered their forefathers from Egyptian bondage, and brought them into Canaan. But they had no basis for pride over this, for their wickedness gave them the same standing as the Cushites. (Compare Romans 2:25.) Likewise, the deliverance from Egypt was no more a guarantee of continued divine approval than was the fact that the Philistines and the Syrians were living in areas other than their earlier locations. Descent from the faithful patriarchs was not going to save the Israelites. An approved standing with God depends on compliance with his will.—Amos 9:8-10; Acts 10:34, 35.