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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Amos 4

Verses 1-5

AMOS - CHAPTER 4

SACRIFICES AT BETHEL

Verses 1-5:

An Abomination to Jehovah

Verse 1 appeals to the kine (cows and bulls) of Bashan, fat cattle between Mt Hermon and Gilead, east of the Jordan river, to give heed to the prophet of God. He denounces their mountain resorts in Samaria, their oppression of the poor, and their continual crushing of the needy. These fat cows and bulls of Bashan represent the luxurious living nobles, princes, and kings in Israel. These "fat-cat" princes appealed to their master (the king) to bring or appoint, make available to them wine, that they might make "slap-happy" merriment together, Psalms 22:12; Ezekiel 39:18. Their voluptuous wives were party to the tyrannical behavior and debauchery of their men who led in the oppression and robbery of the poor and needy, Isaiah 3:16; Isaiah 32:9-12.

Verse 2 threatens that the Lord (Jehovah) has sworn, based on His holiness of character and His covenant that He will take Israel away from her promised land with hooks, and her posterity with fishhooks, instruments of fishermen, symbolizing judgment by the invaders and spoilers who would come upon the land, Psalms 89:35. As fish are taken from the water by hooks, literally thorns, so shall Israel’s enemies suddenly and violently take her people from their homes and cities, 2 Chronicles 33:11; Jeremiah 16:16: Ezekiel 29:4 - Habakkuk 1:15. Anciently, captives were led by their enemies with a hook made to pass through their nose.

Verse 3 prophesies that each of Israel’s princes, nobles, and rulers would go out of the cities through holes in the walls, not through the gates, like stampeding cattle, one after the other. Reckless and desperate they shall stampede to escape for their lives. Calves had been the object of their idolatrous worship; now they are compared with sensual animal life; Like cows and calves they fled through breaches in the walls, in disorder and panic. And they will cast their children into the palaces like bait for hungry lions, to slow down their enemy, as they selfishly fled for their lives, Joshua 6:5; Joshua 6:10; Joshua 6:21. Sins overtake the swiftest person and nation, Numbers 32:23.

Verse 4 recounts how, with irony and sarcasm the prophet of God, Amos, called upon them to come to Bethel, meaning the "house of the one true God," and to Gilgal, in both of which places they had erected idols for worship, Elijah, Micaiah, and Jesus used irony for similar purposes, 1 Kings 18:27; 1 Kings 22:15; Matthew 6:2. There He said, try bringing your sacrifices and tithes that you dote on, Ezekiel 20:39; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:11; Deuteronomy 14:28. See if God will accept them, He challenges their obstinate course of behavior, Isaiah 1:11-24.

Verse 5 challenges the Israelites to go on with their pious offering of thanksgiving with leaven and burnt incense for "this liketh you all" or this is what you like to do. The idea is that the whole ceremony was a sham, because of the way they were living, embracing the God-offending idol gods, Exodus 20:1-5; Psalms 115:4-9; Mark 7:1-12.

Verses 6-13

Corrective Measures Of Chastisement On Israel

Verses 6-13:

Five Means Of Correction

Verse 6. First, famine is used as a means of calling Israel to repentance. The famine is expressed by cleanness of teeth and want of bread in all their cities and places. Yet for all this they "returned not" to the Lord, v. 8, 9; Isaiah 26:11; Jeremiah 5:3; Hosea 7:10; Haggai 2:17.

Verse 7 describes dearth and scarcity of water as the second corrective chastisement from the Lord, designed to call His people back to repentance, and an holy way of life. It is God who gives rain and fruitful seasons, but they would not acknowledge it, Acts 14:17; Proverbs 14:4; Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; 1 Kings 17:1 is the drought meant.

Verse 8 describes Israel’s aimless and vain wandering, like starving sheep from city to city, to find water to satisfy, Psalms 59:15. The Prophet concludes that yet they had not turned back to God, Psalms 109:10; Jeremiah 14:1-6.

Verse 9 describes a third measure of chastening, designed correction to turn Israel back to the Lord. It was blasting, exceeding heat, and mildew on what little plant and fruit the land did produce, as described Genesis 41:6; Deuteronomy 28:22; 1 Kings 8:37. Mildew and blight turn the ears yellow without grain. This blast and mildew struck the gardens, as well as the fields, to destroy the orchards, herbs, and flowers, accompanied by plagues of palmerworms upon their vineyards, fig, and olive trees. In vain they planted and cultivated their gardens, without a right relation with their maker and sustainer of life, Job 8:16; Song of Solomon 4:13-14; Song of Solomon 6:11; Exodus 10:13.

Verse 10 introduces the fourth instrument of corrective chastisement sent on Israel, as pestilence and the sword. He punished them with pestilences similar to those sent upon Egypt Exodus 9:3; Exodus 12:29; Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:60. Their young men were slain in battle and their horses were carried away by victorious armies. The hosts of Israel assembled, rotted on the battlefields, while their stench polluted the air and the land, Isaiah 34:3; Joel 2:20. Yet with repetition it is announced "they returned not unto the Lord," Psalms 78:50.

Verse 11 asserts that God has already overthrown some of them, like He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and those yet living existed from the burning, Isaiah 7:4; Zechariah 3:2. Yet they had not repented or returned to the Lord, Deuteronomy 29:23; Genesis 19:24-25; Isaiah 13:19; Jeremiah 49:18; 2 Peter 2:6; Judges 1:7.

Verse 12 pronounces the fifth Divine act of corrective chastisement on Israel, in the form of overthrow by an earthquake, on which basis He appeals to them, "prepare to meet thy God, O Israel," Ezekiel 13:5; Ezekiel 22:30; Luke 14:31-32. The earthquake perhaps refers to a narrow escape under Jeroboam II, 2 Kings 14:26.

Verse 13 describes the Almighty God who has sent this five point message of corrective chastening warning, as the God of all creation who knows the thoughts of man, who controls the darkness and the light, Deuteronomy 32:13; Micah 1:3. He is ever giving and withholding prosperity, with all things continually under His caring control; He rules as the Lord of hosts, of the armies of heaven, Psalms 139:2; Daniel 2:28. Why should not wise men seek to be at peace with Him, lest His judgment fall because of man’s ingratitude toward Him, Proverbs 22:3; Lamentations 2:22; Lamentations 3:21-22; Acts 17:28.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Amos 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/amos-4.html. 1985.