AMOS CHAPTER 5 (PART 1): GOD STAYS SOFT
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 begin 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.
CHAPTER 5:1-17 “Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel: 2 “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.” 3 For thus says the Lord God: “The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.” 4 For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live; 5 but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.” 6 Seek the Lord and live, lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, 7 O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth! 8 He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; 9 who makes destruction flash forth against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress. 10 They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord: “In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, 17 and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord.”
We see in the opening lament of chapter 5 that Israel had not yet been conquered by another nation which is why Amos calls them ‘virgin’ Israel. These people have turned their backs on God, but He commands obedience and calls them to repent.
The call to repentance is the central key for this passage. A parallel phrase is stated in verses 4-6: “Seek Me and live” and “Seek the Lord and live.” The only path to life is through God (YHWH). That is it. No path in any of the other places of worship set up (Gilgal, Bethel, Beersheba) will bring salvation to the people. Only God. Relief is only found in God. Safety is only found in God.
The consequence for not repenting is the fire of judgment already mentioned in chapters 1-4. This same fire will sweep up Israel. Israel has several sins explained for the purpose of demonstrating the need for repentance. They #1 despise truth even in court (verse 10), #2 trample the poor (verse 11), #3 oppress the righteous and take bribes (verse 12), and #4 mouth off about evil (verse 13). We then have a third “seek” phrase which calls back to verses 4-6 in “Seek good, not evil” (verse 14).
Historically it would seem that the rich were full of pride and trod upon the poor and those not in their circles. Not only did they do this in their homes, but the courts of the land were corrupt. Not only did they commit evil, but they spoke openly about it and did not care. God speaks to Israel as a whole, but also to individuals who needed to change their ways.
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?
The Lord God Almighty / the Lord the God of Hosts / YHWH Adonai calls the people to repent to avoid the great times of calamity and wailing. God clearly does not want His judgment to fall on Israel but is true to His nature and what was promised. Notice that God’s heart stayed soft and full of compassion even though He is leveling out judgment.
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