Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Amos 4


Amos 4:0


Punishment of Israel's Sins(Amos 3:9-5)Israel's Sinfulness and God's Punishment(Amos 3:1-14)The Doom of Samaria(Amos 3:9-3)Israel Warned and Threatened(Amos 3:1-14)
Israel's Luxurious Excesses and Vain PietyAmos 3:12-3Against the Women of Samaria
Amos 4:1-3Amos 4:1-3Amos 4:1-3
Israel's Failure to LearnThe Self-deception, Obstinacy, and Punishment of Israel
Amos 4:4-5Amos 4:4-5Amos 4:4-5Amos 4:4-5
Israel Did not Accept Correction
Amos 4:6-11Amos 4:6Amos 4:6-8Amos 4:6
Amos 4:7-8Amos 4:7-8
Amos 4:9Amos 4:9Amos 4:9
Amos 4:10Amos 4:10Amos 4:10
Amos 4:11Amos 4:11-12Amos 4:11
Amos 4:12-13Amos 4:12Amos 4:12
Amos 4:13Amos 4:13

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 4:1-3 1Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!” 2The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness, “Behold, the days are coming upon you When they will take you away with meat hooks, And the last of you with fish hooks. 3You will go out through breaches in the walls, Each one straight before her, And you will be cast to Harmon,” declares the LORD.

Amos 4:1-13 Notice the structure of this chapter.

1. Amos addresses the wealthy women of Israel (i.e., all exploitative elements of Israeli society), Amos 4:1-3

2. YHWH's sarcastic response to their religiosity, Amos 4:4-5

3. YHWH's sending of the covenant curses of Deut. 27-29, but they still will not repent, Amos 4:6-11

4. YHWH's threat of personal, temporal visitation, Amos 4:12

5. Amos' doxology to God as creator, and therefore, rightful judge, Amos 4:13

This brief outline shows the problem of how to analyze a prophet's poetic message. It is difficult to tell when the prophet comments and when he quotes the message of YHWH given to him. The revelation is so overpowering that the words of the prophet are merged with the words of YHWH! Outlining the message is less significant than allowing the whole message to impact the reader's consciousness!

Amos 4:1 “Hear this word” The VERB (BDB 1033, KB 1570) is a Qal IMPERATIVE (see note at Amos 3:1. The VERB is also used at Amos 5:1). This prophetic formula is seen several times in Amos (e.g., Amos 3:1; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:1). This is God's message to His people. Covenant violations result in covenant judgments (cf. Deut. 27-29).

“Cows of Bashan” This is Amos' rural reference to the elegant society women who abused the poor for their own luxury. Bashan was an area northwest of the Sea of Galilee from the mountains of Herman to the Yarmuk River. It was famous for its beautiful cattle (i.e., the wives of the wealthy). This may not have been a negative statement, but a metaphor of well kept and well fed, pampered cattle. Being pampered has turned into demands gained at the expense of the poor (BDB 195)! On the other hand, it may refer to fattened cattle, ready to be slaughtered! Amos uses several rural metaphors from his personal experience as a sheep herder.

There is still another possibility, that these refer to cultic sexual partners.

1. not called “wives”

2. said to be on the mountain of Samaria (possible reference to the raised altar at Bethel)

3. their men not called “husbands,” but “lords” (Amos 4:1c)

4. cows seen as gods of fertility and strength in Egypt and early Israel (cf. Exodus 32:0). They also became a symbol for Ba'al (i.e., the golden calves of Jeroboam I at Dan and Bethel).

5. cultic sexual acts may be alluded to in Amos 2:7-8. God swearing by His own holiness may refer to 2:7d.

“on the mountain of Samaria” This refers to the well fortified capital of Israel, which Omri built on the top of a mesa. It had steep cliffs and only one natural entrance.

“Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy” These two Qal PARTICIPLES (BDB 798, KB 897 and BDB 954, KB 1285) are parallel and describe the actions of the wealthy women. YHWH is uniquely (i.e., compared to other ancient Near Eastern law codes) concerned about the plight of these people (especially Deuteronomy, “the orphan and the widow. . .the alien,” cf. Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 24:14, Deuteronomy 24:17, Deuteronomy 24:19; Deuteronomy 26:12, Deuteronomy 26:13; Deuteronomy 27:19). This then is another allusion to the Mosaic Covenant. The prophets did not invent or introduce a new ethical system, but reemphasized the Mosaic covenant requirements (cf. Jeremiah 7:6) with their blessings and curses (i.e., Deut. 27-29)!

“say to your husband” This is not the formal term for husband. It is a rare ancient form which meant “lord” (BDB 10); here used in the sense of “husband” (e.g., Genesis 18:12; Judges 19:26-27). Irony is being expressed; “the lords” are being commanded!

“Bring now, that we may drink” This phrase has two VERBS of command (BDB 97, KB 112, Hiphal IMPERATIVE and BDB 1059, KB 1667, Qal COHORTATIVE). These women had been indulging in luxury to the point that alcoholism and greed were the normal way of life. Their motto would have been “more and more for me at any cost!”

Amos 4:2 “the Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness” The VERB (BDB 989, KB 1396) is a Niphal PERFECT. This is a rare and serious statement that speaks of God swearing by Himself (cf. Amos 6:8; Psalms 89:35). YHWH is an ethical God. Loving and just relationships are required, not only with Him, but with other covenant partners. True biblical faith has both a horizontal aspect (God) and a vertical aspect (others).

“the days are coming” This is a reference to judgment day. See full note at Amos 2:16. It is referred to as (1) “in that day,” Amos 2:16; Amos 8:3, Amos 8:9, Amos 8:13; Amos 9:11 and (2) “the day of the Lord” in Amos 5:18 and 20. This motif is common in the latter prophets. Israel viewed YHWH's visitation as a day of God's blessing, but Amos reveals it as a day of wrath and judgment.

NASB“meat with hooks. . .fish hooks” NKJV“fishhooks. . .fish hooks” NRSV“hooks. . .fish hooks” TEV“hooks. . .a fish on a hook” NJB, Young's Lit.“hooks. . .fish-hooks” JPSOA“in baskets. . .in fish baskets”

The first term (BDB 856 I, KB 1036) for “hooks” is found only here in the OT. It seems to be related to the Hebrew root for “thorn,” “spike,” or “spear.” Apparently these fancy society women and their children will have a hook placed in their lower lip by Assyrian soldiers and they will be marched out of the city naked (LXX) in single file, tied to one another as a train of unruly cattle.

The second term (BDB 186, KB 215) relates to fishing gear of some type. Because of the paralleling, “hooks” seems best. Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 16:16) uses “fishing” as a metaphor for judgment. The question one asks of this verse is, “Is it metaphorical or literal?” Assyria did use hooks or rings in the lower lip to tie refugees together during deportation marches as an intimidation factor (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:11 of Assyrians and Habakkuk 1:15 of Babylonians).

The REB translates both of these terms differently. The first as “shields,” which is similar to the way the ancient versions translated the term.

1. LXX - “weapons”

2. Peshitta - “weapons”

The second term is translated as “fish-baskets” (cf. NET Bible). The LXX has “boiling caldrons.” Because the Hebrew roots are so rare, the meaning is uncertain and similar roots and cognates are used to try to fit the historical and literary context. The main point is a violent and humiliating deportation!

For me, since the context addresses the “cows of Bashan” and since Amos has a rural background, the terms should probably relate to cattle herding. It is possible that Amos changes metaphors, but because the Hebrew terms are rare, then “prod” and “hook” for controlling and moving cattle, seem best.

“and the last of you” The word “last” (BDB 31) can refer to

1. every last one of you (cf. Amos 1:8; Amos 8:10; Amos 9:1)

2. a small remnant

3. descendants or posterity

The context implies #1.

Amos 4:3 “straight before” The phrase “straight before” is a metaphor for the complete destruction of the protective city wall. The population was tied together in single file and exiled to a distant location to the east.

NASB“cast to Harmon” NKJV“cast into Harmon” NRSV“flung out into Harmon” TEV“thrown out” (word omitted) NJB“herded away toward Hermon” NAB“cast into the mire” JPSOA“flung on the refuse heap” REB“thrown on a dung hill”

This VERB (BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil PERFECT) often has the connotation of God casting a sinner from His presence (cf. 2 Kings 17:20; 2 Kings 24:20; Psalms 51:11; Psalms 71:9; Psalms 102:10; Jeremiah 7:15). However, its use as a positive covenant promise is found in 2 Kings 13:23. Although the immediate context of Amos refers to Assyrian exile, the term itself has the implication of divine wrath. Assyria exiled Israel because of their sin and YHWH's judgment, not Assyria's innate power!

There have been several theories as to the meaning/wording of this phrase.

1. It is a place name of unknown location. The LXX calls it the mountain of Rimmon or Romman.

2. It is a misspelling of Mount Hermon (cf. NJB and UBS, Translator's Handbook, p. 234) and, therefore, a parallel to the later phrase “beyond Damascus,” Amos 5:27, which meant on the way to exile in Assyria.

3. The JPSOA and the REB have emendated the Hebrew text to a similar Hebrew term (BDB 199) “dung heap” (cf. Isaiah 25:10), which in this context would refer to the place of disposing of the dead bodies (the “hooks” then would be for dragging away the dead bodies). Their translation reads “and flung on the refuse heap.”

4. An Aramaic Targum and some later Syrian translations have “beyond the mountains of Armenia,” which also parallels Amos 5:27.

5. It is possible to divide the Hebrew text differently and get “cast out, O mountain of oppression” (cf. NIV STUDY BIBLE footnote, p. 1352).

“declares the LORD” This recurrent phrase, Amos 1:5, Amos 1:8, Amos 1:15; Amos 2:3, Amos 2:11, Amos 2:16; Amos 3:10, Amos 3:13, Amos 3:14; Amos 4:3, Amos 4:5, Amos 4:6, Amos 4:8, Amos 4:10, Amos 4:1 and 5:17, shows whose authority, power and prestige stand behind these statements.

Verses 4-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 4:4-5 4”Enter Bethel and transgress; In Gilgal multiply transgression! Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days. 5Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened, And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known. For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,” Declares the Lord GOD.

Amos 4:4 “enter” This (BDB 97, KB 112) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. Verses Amos 4:4 and 5 have a series of IMPERATIVES (3 Qal IMPERATIVES; 3 Hiphil IMPERATIVES).

“Bethel. . .Gilgal” These were early cultic centers (Bethel, Genesis 12:8; Genesis 28:10-22 and Gilgal, Joshua 4:0). They were popular worship sites in the eighth century B.C. (cf. Hosea 4:15; Amos 4:5 and 12:11). Verses Amos 4:4 and 5 are highly sarcastic (cf. Amos 5:5-6).

It is possible that YHWH's sarcastic statements in Amos 4:4-5 were due to

1. Israel's love of formal worship rituals, but evil lifestyles

2. their condemnation by the prophets when God chose Jerusalem as the central sanctuary (e.g., Deuteronomy 12:5, Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:13, Deuteronomy 12:14, Deuteronomy 12:18, Deuteronomy 12:26; Deuteronomy 14:23, Deuteronomy 14:24, Deuteronomy 14:25; Deuteronomy 16:2, Deuteronomy 16:6, Deuteronomy 16:7, Deuteronomy 16:16).

In context option #1 is best.

It is difficult to be certain which Gilgal is referenced here. There are possibly four different Gilgals (i.e., “circle” of stones; see The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, pp. 1022-23). Hard Sayings of the Bible asserts that this site is close to Bethel (Anchor Dictionary #2), not the one mentioned in Joshua 4:0 (p. 330).

“Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days” There are three theories about this verse: (1) it shows their excessive religiosity; (2) it shows the normal worship practices of the pilgrims as they attend these shrines (i.e., arrived one day, offer a sacrifice the second, and the tithe on the third day, cf. REB); or (3) the tithes refers to the third year tithe for local poor (i.e., another allusion to the Mosaic covenant, cf. Deuteronomy 14:28; Deuteronomy 26:12, “days” would then be a reference to “years”). See Special Topic: Tithe in the Mosaic Legislation.

Amos 4:5 “a thank offering also from that which is leavened” There are two theories concerning this phrase: (1) leaven was forbidden and, therefore, shows their perversion (cf. Exodus 23:18; Exodus 34:15; Leviticus 2:11; Leviticus 6:17) or (2) it should be understood as “bread offering” (cf. NRSV, TEV), which was not required, but showed extra devotion. Leviticus 7:13 allows leaven in a fellowship sacrifice. It is not always a metaphor of evil. See Special Topic: Leaven.

“proclaim. . .make them known” The VERBS are a Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 894, KB 1128) and a Hiphil IMPERATIVE (BDB 1033, KB 1570). Their worship activities were an ostentatious public display of religiosity (cf. Matthew 6:2).

“For so you love to do, you sons of Israel” Multiplied, eloquent ritual had become the essence of their faith, not social justice based on their personal faith in YHWH. They wanted to flaunt their religiosity before each other! A faith cut off from daily life!

“Declares the Lord GOD” See note at Amos 3:1.

Verses 6-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 4:6-13 6”But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities And lack of bread in all your places, Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. 7Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you While there were still three months until harvest. Then I would send rain on one city And on another city I would not send rain; One part would be rained on, While the part not rained on would dry up. 8So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water, But would not be satisfied; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. 9I smote you with scorching wind and mildew; And the caterpillar was devouring Your many gardens and vineyards, fig trees and olive trees; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. 10I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. 11I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD. 12Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; Because I will do this to you, Prepare to meet your God, O Israel.” 13For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name.

Amos 4:6-11 These verses describe a series of calamities (curses) that will befall Israel because of her rejection of God's covenant (cf. Deut. 27-29). These God-sent judgments include

1. no food, Amos 4:6 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:16-17)

2. no rain, Amos 4:7-8 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:23-24)

3. dry wind, Amos 4:9

4. dry rot, Amos 4:9 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:22)

5. insects, Amos 4:9 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:21, Deuteronomy 28:38-39)

6. plague, Amos 4:10

7. war, Amos 4:10 (cf. Deuteronomy 28:22, Deuteronomy 28:49-52)

Amos 4:6 The first two lines of poetry are parallel. Cleanness of teeth is not a dental problem, but a result of no food to eat!

The pronoun “I” is emphasized. It is YHWH Himself who “sends” (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal PERFECT) these covenant curses (cf. Deut. 27-29).

“I gave you” The “I” is emphatic. God sent these disasters to bring His people back to the covenant.

“Yet you have not returned to Me” The purpose of these calamities was redemptive (cf. Amos 4:6, Amos 4:8, Amos 4:9, Amos 4:11), not just punitive. The essence of repentance is both a change of mind (Greek term) followed by a change of action (Hebrew term, e.g., Jeremiah 3:22-2). See Special Topic: Repentance in the Old Testament.

Amos 4:7 “I withheld the rain” The first two lines refer to the later rains just before the maturing of the crops in March and April. Fertility is controlled by YHWH, not Ba'al!

Lines 3-6 are a theological way of asserting God's control over nature (cf. Amos 4:8). He is able to direct the curses (cf. Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:12, Deuteronomy 28:23-24) to certain cities and/or localities. This is similar to the Egyptian plagues. The first nine fell on the land of Egypt, but not where the Hebrews lived in Goshen.

Amos 4:8 This verse continues the emphasis of Amos 4:7. Cities are personified as seeking water, but they cannot find enough to sustain life.

The term “stagger” (BDB 631, KB 681, Qal PERFECT) has the connotation of staggering or wandering as a result of God's judgment (cf. Amos 8:12; Genesis 4:12, Genesis 4:14; Numbers 32:13; Jeremiah 14:10; Lamentations 4:15).

“Yet you have not returned to Me” This is a repeated call for repentance (cf. Amos 4:6, Amos 4:8, Amos 4:9, Amos 4:10, Amos 4:11).

Notice the personal emphasis, they are to return to God, their God. He had made a covenant uniquely with them (cf. Amos 4:2). Their part was devotion and obedience. The purpose of creation was fellowship. God wanted a personal being like Himself (cf. Genesis 1:26-27) to have a relationship with. This fellowship/relationship must conform to the nature and character of God. The fracture of this intimate fellowship is the essence of the Fall (cf. Genesis 3:0) and the goal of redemption (i.e., the restoration of the image of God damaged in human rebellion).

Amos 4:9

NASB“scorching windNKJV, NRSV, NJB“blight” TEV“scorching wind”

BDB (995) defines this as “smut on crops” and gives Deuteronomy 28:22; 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 6:28; and Haggai 2:17 as examples. However, Holladay's Lexicon (361) defines it as “scorching” and gives the same examples. The NASB and TEV understand this as referring to the hot desert wind known as “the sirocco” (e.g., Genesis 41:6, Genesis 41:23, Genesis 41:27).

“mildew” This word (BDB 439) is paired with the above word in all examples. BDB translated it “rust.” The term also means “paleness” (cf. Jeremiah 30:6). This is not the mildew caused by too much humidity, but the whitish powdery kind caused by lack of humidity.

“the caterpillar” Insect infestation (i.e., locusts [BDB 160], cf. Joel 1:4; Joel 2:25) as a judgment from YHWH for breaking the covenant can be seen in Deuteronomy 28:38-40, Deuteronomy 28:42. The infestation could be (1) the locusts themselves or (2) their larvae.

Amos 4:10 “I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt” The term “plague” (BDB 184) is used of:

1. one of the Egyptian plagues in Exodus 9:3, Exodus 9:15

2. a threat of God's judgment on His own peope in Exodus 5:3; Leviticus 26:23-25; Numbers 14:12; Deuteronomy 28:21.

It is interesting that the Hebrew consonants for “plague” are the same for God's “word.” There may be an intentional word play. The Israelites neglected God's “word” and thereby reaped God's “plague.” A return to Him and His word would abundantly restore and multiply!

“along with your captured horses” This would refer to military equipment, but it can be understood in two ways: (1) they thought their victories, which resulted in the capture of horses and chariots would give them greater strength, but God took all of it away (NEB) or (2) the enemy captured their horses and left them without military might (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB). Most English translations use option #2.

“the stench of your camp” This refers to the unburied bodies (cf. Isaiah 34:3) of the young Israeli men who died in battle.

“rise up in your nostrils” This may simply be a description of the rotting corpses of the dead or it is just possible it is another allusion to the Mosaic covenant. One metaphor used of YHWH favorably receiving an offering was “a soothing aroma” (cf. Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41; and many times in Leviticus and Numbers). A good example of a negative use is Exodus 5:21.

Amos 4:11 “I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” The VERB (BDB 245, KB 253, Qal PERFECT) is used of God's judgment, both temporal (cf. Genesis 19:25; 2 Kings 21:13; Jeremiah 20:16) and eschatological (cf. Haggai 2:21-22). It speaks of the total destruction of two entire cities by natural or supernatural means. To refer to Israel in the same way as the immoral “cities of the Plain” would have been a shocking insult to these Covenant People. It is another allusion to Deut. 27-29 (cf. 29:23).

“And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze” In context the TEV translation seems correct in seeing this as an additional message to the few survivors of God's fiery judgment (cf. Zech. 3:20), but even after all of these covenantal curses (cf. Deut. 27-29) they would not return (i.e., repent) to Him. God had tried and tried again to reach them through disasters, but they would not. Only complete judgment is left! This verse, like Amos 3:12, denotes total destruction. Only in Amos 9:8-15 is there a future hope!

“firebrand” The root (BDB 15) originally meant “to be bent” or “curved.” It came to be used of a stick used to stir a fire (cf. Isaiah 7:4; Zechariah 3:2).

“Yet you have not returned to Me, declares the LORD” See note at Amos 4:6.

Amos 4:12 “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” The VERB (BDB 465, KB 464) is a Niphal IMPERATIVE plus a Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT. It often is used of spiritual preparation to meet God (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3; 2 Chronicles 12:14; 2 Chronicles 27:6; Ezra 7:10). This meeting could have been positive (cf. Exodus 19:11-17), but their sin had turned God's visit into covenant judgment (cf. Amos 5:18-20).

There is an interesting alternate understanding of this verse which sees Elohim, not as referring to YHWH the covenant name or Elohim as the Genesis 1:0 name for God as creator, but as referring to the “gods” (i.e., false fertility gods) of Israel (cf. Amos 5:26; Amos 8:14; also esp. 1 Kings 12:28). The term Elohim is not used by itself to refer to Israel's God in Amos. Only the combined name YHWH Elohim (cf. Genesis 2:4) is used. Joel and Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), by David Allan Hubbard, mentions a possible alternate translation which does not change the Hebrew consonants (i.e., “prepare to call your gods, O Israel,” cf. G. W. Ramsey, JBL, 89, pp. 187-191) p. 162.

If so then the doxology of Amos 4:13 is a sharp contrast to the claims of the false gods which Israel was worshiping in YHWH's name (cf. cultic partners of Amos 4:1-3, along with Amos 5:26; Amos 8:14, and the book of Hosea).

Amos 4:13 This verse seems to be poetic liturgy, doxology, or an early hymn to God as Creator, and thereby, Judge. Amos has several of these powerful doxological praises (cf. Amos 5:8, Amos 5:8; Amos 9:5-6).

“forms” This VERB (BDB 427, KB 428, Qal PARTICIPLE) is from the concept of a potter forming clay (e.g., Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:19; Isaiah 29:19; Isaiah 45:15; Jeremiah 33:2).

“mountains” Mountains were a symbol of strength and permanency.

“creates” This VERB (BDB 135, KB 153, Qal PARTICIPLE) is parallel to “forms.” This VERB is used exclusively of God's creative activity. Its basic meaning is “to form or shape by cutting.”

“wind” This Hebrew term (BDB 924) can mean “wind,” “breath,” or “spirit.” Here the context implies a contrast between the physical and the spiritual realms (mountains versus spirit).

“And declares to man what are His thoughts” The Hebrew text is singular, “His thought,” which refers to God's will. This seems to refer to:

1. God's special covenant relationship to the Patriarchs and their descendants (cf. Amos 3:2)

2. God's desire to communicate with His highest creation, mankind (cf. Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27; Genesis 12:3).

3. It is possible that the PRONOUN “his” refers to mankind. Several OT texts speak of God as knowing individual human thoughts (e.g., Job 34:21-23; Psalms 94:11;[1 Chronicles 3:20]; Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10).

Even rebellious, fallen mankind can know God, not exhaustively, but adequately for fellowship. Sin is that which destroys this desire for God (i.e., human independence)! God is not just creator, He is friend and companion!

“He who makes dawn into darkness” This can be understood in several ways.

1. another allusion to Gen. 1-2 (i.e., (1) God as creator [cf. LXX] or (2) the natural order of nature, cf. Amos 5:9)

2. contextually related to the previous line of poetry and thereby refers to God's revelation. Spiritual truth is not a human discovery, but a divine revelation.

3. a way of asserting God's judgment on Israel (cf. Amos 5:8, Amos 5:20; Jeremiah 13:16; Joel 2:2)

4. the parallel of Amos 5:8 (another doxology of YHWH as creator) shows the power of God over His creation.

“treads on the high places of the earth” This may be another connection with Deuteronomy (i.e., Mosaic Covenant, cf. Deuteronomy 32:13). It is a metaphor for asserting God as creator (cf. Job 9:8). In Isaiah 58:4 and Habakkuk 3:19 it was a way of referring to the blessings of God on His people.

This term bamah was associated with the worship of Ba'al (cf. Amos 2:7-8) on the top of hills (e.g., Hosea 4:13; see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 284-288). This may be another way of rejecting the worship of Canaanite fertility gods and asserting YHWH's care and provision.

“the LORD God of hosts is His name” This is similar to Amos 3:13. Amos has spoken of the God of creation, fertility, and judgment based on the Covenant. He now states specifically and unambiguously who that deity is, YHWH of Israel (cf. Amos 5:8b). See Special Topic: Lord of Hosts.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the emphasis of Amos 3:2-8?

2. Why are the prophets so upset over the cultic activity at Bethel and Gilgal?

3. Why is the religiosity of Amos 4:4-5 condemned?

4. What is the purpose of God sending calamities on His people?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Amos 4". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.