Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- V. Christ in the Prophets
10. Amos --
- The ''man of God from Judah'' was sent to Bethel in the northern kingdom to rebuke Jeroboam I, as he was sacrificing to the golden calves [1Kings 13]. Another man of God from Judah was sent to prophesy at Bethel, during the reign of Jeroboam II, in the person of the herdman, or shepherd, Amos. Amos is one of the many instances in the Bible of the Lord calling a man to some special service while occupied with his ordinary daily work.
On the wild uplands of Judah beyond Tekoa, which is twelve miles south of Jerusalem, Amos, inured to hardship and danger, received his training as a prophet straight from the hand of the Lord. His beautiful style abounds in illustrations drawn from his mountain home. He had learned the power of the Creator in the mountains and the wind, in the dawn and in the darkness. Like David, he had gazed upon the stars and looked beyond them to their Maker. Like him also, as he had ''followed the flock'' (7:15), he had known what it was to defend them from the wild beasts, both the lion and the bear, and is probably describing his own experience when he speaks of a shepherd taking out of the mouth of the lion ''two legs or a piece of an ear'' [3:12].
[Author's note: ''The common Syrian goat, Capra mambrica, may be at once recognized by its enormous pendent ears a foot long, often reaching lower than its nose, and its stout recurved horns'' (The Natural History of the Bible, p. 93, by Canon Tristam).]
The snare of the fowler and the snake concealed in the rough stone wall were alike familiar to him. He was also a ''gatherer,'' or ''dresser,'' of sycamore fruit. This fruit, which is a very inferior sort of fig, only eaten by the very poor, has to be scarified at one stage of its growth with a special instrument for the purpose, in order to enable it to swell and ripen properly. Many of the figures which Amos uses are taken from the milder lowlands; these also may have been familiar to him in his earlier life, or, as a keen observer of nature, may have struck him as he prophesied in the plains of Samaria. He speaks of the oaks and the cedars, the vines and fig-trees and olive-trees, the gardens, the ploughmen, the sower, the reaper, and the cart pressed down with its weight of sheaves.
- The Earthquake.
- Amos opens his prophecy by quoting the words of Joel, ''The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem'' [1:2; Joel 3:16]. He tells us, in the verse before, that his prophecy was uttered ''two years before the earthquake.'' Joel also says, ''The heavens and the earth shall shake.'' They no doubt refer to the same earthquake, and it must have been one of exceptional severity; for Zechariah speaks of it nearly three hundred years later, as an event well remembered, though the whole captivity in Babylon had intervened (Zech 14:5). The Hebrew word Ra'ash suggests the English word Crash, ''two years before the crash.'' Dr. Waller, in his little book on Amos, shows how perfectly the prophet's description of the coming catastrophe fitted the event, though probably at the time Amos prophesied he did not realize that it was an earthquake he was describing. Twice over (Amos 8:8; 9:5, R.V.), we read that ''The land is to rise up wholly like a flood, and sink again as the flood of Egypt.'' This is a most terrible form of earthquake. ''If the widespread effect of the earthquake in Amos is indicated literally by the clause seven times repeated in chapters one and two, 'I will send fire which shall devour the palaces,' then the shock must have extended from Tyrus to Gaza on the coast of the Mediterranean and from Damascus to Rabbah of the children of Ammon on the east of Jordan. The whole of the bed of the Jordan is said to be volcanic-- which means that the underground forces are there, and available if the Lord of creation should choose to set them at work.'' [Amos, by Chas. H. Waller, D.D.] Fires almost invariably follow severe earthquakes.
Reading Amos in the light of the earthquake, we can account for various things he foretells. The fires throughout the book. ''The waters of the sea poured upon the face of the earth'' (5:8). ''If there remain ten men in one house, they shall die'' (6:9). ''He will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts'' (6:11). ''Shall not the land tremble?'' (8:8). ''Smite the lintel of the door, that the posts may shake'' (9:1). ''He toucheth the land and it shall melt'' (9:5).
But behind the primary fulfilment of his words, in the earthquake, there was the terrible invasion of the Assyrians, and the people carried into captivity (5:27; 6:14). And behind all this ''the day of the Lord.'' ''Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel'' (4:12).
- Judgment on the Nations.
- Amos opens the way for his message to Israel by proclaiming the Lord's judgment upon six surrounding nations-- Damascus (Syria), Gaza (Philistia), Tyrus (Phoenicia), Edom, Ammon, Moab [1:3 - 2:3]. Then he comes nearer home and pronounces judgment against Judah (2:4,5), and against Israel itself (2:6-16), and finally against the whole nation (3:1,2).
It would seem that the people questioned [the prophet's] authority, for he proceeds by a series of seven questions to show that the Lord has revealed His secret to him, and that therefore, he can do no other than prophesy (3:3-8).
He denounces the sins of Israel in more graphic detail than Hosea, dwelling especially on the careless ease and luxury, the oppression of the poor, the extortion and lying and cheating which prevailed, and the utter hypocrisy in worship. The Lord grieves over the people for not attending to His judgments, with the refrain, ''Yet have ye not returned unto Me, saith the Lord,'' and the renewed invitation, ''Seek ye Me and live.'' [Chapters 4 - 6]
- Five Visions.
- The last three chapters contain a fivefold vision of judgment which the Lord showed Amos.
- First the locusts, and second the fire, which judgments are removed in answer to his intercession [7:1-6].
- Third, the plumb-line. There was no hope of deliverance from this last. The Lord said, ''I will not again pass by them any more'' [7:7-9; cp. Isa 28:14-18]. This unqualified pronouncement of judgment stirred up the smouldering animosity of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, to a flame, and he denounced the prophet to the king, saying, ''The land is not able to bear his words,'' so mightily had they shaken the nation. At the same time, he urged Amos to flee away back to the land of Judah and prophesy there-- but not here at the Court of the king. Amos fearlessly told of the Lord's call, ''I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and said, Go, prophesy unto My people Israel'' [7:10-17]. He then pronounced the Lord's judgment upon Amaziah, and proceeded with the account of the remaining visions, regardless of the interruption.
- The fourth vision was of the basket of summer fruit, the last basket. ''The end has come upon My people.'' The prophet saw the guilty nation ripe for judgment [chapter 8].
- The fifth vision [chapter 9] is of the Lord Himself, standing upon the altar [*], and closes with the glorious promise of restoration for the fallen Tabernacle of the House of David, the promise of the Messiah, who was to come at the moment of its greatest humiliation. This passage [9:11,12] is quoted in Acts 15:15-17 by James, and applied to the ingathering of the Gentile believers, and God's favor at the same time to the House of David, when His purpose for Jew and Gentile alike will be accomplished.
[* Notes regarding ''the Lord standing upon the altar'':
- ''The position of the Lord (Adonai) is significant. The altar speaks properly of mercy because of judgment executed upon an interposed sacrifice, but when altar and sacrifice are despised the altar becomes a place of judgment. cp. John 12:31" [ScofRB]
- Since Amos is addressed primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel, which had established alternate altars (eg. Amos 8:14), and had rejected the ''tabernacle of David'' (9:11), their altar offered false hope and was under God's judgment, from its inception. Although the Lord must judge the nation severely, His promise of restoration remained for those who would turn to the Mercy-seat of His provision (Heb 2:17).]
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