AMOS CHAPTER 4: HEIGHT AND BREADTH OF GOD’S PATIENCE
What is described?
What literally happened?
What is revealed about God’s character?
Chapters 3-5 of Amos are interrelated. Amos 3:1-5:17 is a section of Amos’ prophecies and words with a chapter that each begins with “Hear this word” (3:1, 4:1, 5:1) and is followed by two “Woe to you” sections (5:18, 6:1). All of these are directed at the Northern Kingdom of Israel which is termed “Samaria,” “fat cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,” “House of Israel,” and “House of Jacob” among other descriptions. God continues to address Israel, whom He will utterly tear down, and further explains that they have not returned to Him which is why the fire will be laid out against them.
CHAPTER 4 “Hear 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, that we may drink!’ 2 The Lord God has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. 3 And you shall go out through the breaches, each one straight ahead; and you shall be cast out into Harmon,” declares the Lord. 4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; 5 offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” declares the Lord God. 6 “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 7 “I also withheld the rain from you when there were yet three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would have rain, and the field on which it did not rain would wither; 8 so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 9 “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 11 “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord. 12 “Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” 13 For behold, he who forms the mountains and creates the wind, and declares to man what is his thought, who makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth— the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!”
The Hebrew in verse 1 for “cows” has the unwritten “fat” with it. Ironically humorous in some ways. What is not humorous is that these fat cows (honestly, yes, He is speaking to women) #1 oppress others #2 crush the needy and #3 are lazy for drinks. This is deep and derogatory language about the women in Israel shows that the people of Israel are ready for slaughter. The verse is not anti-female, don’t fall into that trap (it is not a put-down, but judgment language), but rather it is a metaphor for the attitudes of the people and why these self-satisfied oppressive people are ready for God’s action.
We should also take note that the Hebrew words in these verses are problematic for scholars, but what is not problematic is the end result that the people of Israel would be helpless. No matter the specific words, the imagery means ‘capture,’ ‘led away,’ ‘helpless as you are prisoners’ like fish caught on a hook.
This chapter has 5x “you have not returned to me” which underscores the absolute waywardness of the People of God. The warnings come over and over and calls His people to faithfulness. God (YHWH) is creative and discerning and transforming and triumphant and redeeming even in the midst of personal and societal sin.
God says in summary: ‘I’ve got to judge, but don’t think I am not longsuffering.’
God will allow enemies to overrun Israel. This historically happens under Tiglath-Pileser in 734 BC and again fully in 722 BC as the lion (Assyria) fully destroyed them. The People of God distanced themselves from God and He allowed the fire of judgment to consume them. The summary thought that will happen to Israel is that God will tear down everything they have built because of their unrepented sin.
SUMMARY & APPLICATION: What is revealed about God’s character?
God is seen as fed up with the rebellion in that their sacrifices mean nothing to Him. God speaks and yet people do not often listen. There comes a point at which His warnings come true and people who reject him pay the price for their sins.
Take note as well… God highlights so much sin… the height and breadth and width of His patience. His patience (longsuffering is a great word to meditate upon) endures much rejection and sin and on-purpose idolatry. We should be thankful for the longsuffering of God Almighty the Lord of Angel Armies and that He offers grace and opportunities for repentance before finalizing accounts of souls.
TMB & BMD