AMOS - CHAPTER 2
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
“Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will
not turn away the punishment thereof; because they burned the bones of the
king of Edom into lime.”
The Moabites were also related
to Israel, Moab being the incestuously begotten son of Lot by his elder
daughter, Ge 19:37.
Though the specific event is
not known, the burning of the bones of the king of Edom is believed to have
been connected with the event mentioned in 2 Ki 3 which records the attack
upon Moab by Israel, Judah, and Edom, in the course of which the king of Moab
offered up his own son as a burnt offering, an act which apparently so
horrified the kings of Judah and Edom that they withdrew, thus compelling
Israel also to end the siege. Tradition has it that the Moabites then
retaliated by attacking Edom, and either burning the king of Edom alive, or
taking his bones from his tomb and burning them to lime. The reference here
to that act indicates that it is fact rather than mere tradition.
“But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kirioth:
and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the
“And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the
princes thereof with him, saith the Lord.”
Kirioth was the capital of
Moab, and the destruction foretold here was executed by Nebuchadnezzar early
in the sixth century BC., for though Ammon continued thereafter, it was
drastically weakened and of little importance, having disappeared entirely
from history by the time of the Romans.
“Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will
not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of
the Lord, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to
err, after the which their fathers hath walked:”
Having revealed the judgments
that were about to overtake the Gentile nations, the prophet now addresses
Judah, assuring them that they too had rebelled against God, their sin being
the more heinous because to them He had revealed His will in the law given at
Sinai, something He had not done with the Gentiles. In spite of having been
given that explicit revelation, Judah had deliberately rejected it, and had
turned from Jehovah to worship the false gods of their heathen neighbors.
“their lies” may refer to the false teaching of their leaders, which had first
led them to bow down to the Baals of Canaan, but it is to be noted also that
kazab, the word for false god, means literally “a lie or something
“... after the which their
fathers hath walked” declares that their idolatry wasn’t something new. It
was of long standing. They had had time in which to repent, but they
preferred the licentious worship of the Baalim to that of the pure and holy
activity connected with the worship of Jehovah.
It is possible that in Judah
God is presenting us with a symbolic picture of the true Church as it is
today, for only the spiritually blind will fail to see that many genuine
believers are guilty of great disobedience. Immorality and divorce are
becoming as common among Christians as among the unconverted. Many Christian
businessmen are no more to be trusted than are their unconverted fellows.
What passes for worship in the average congregation is a travesty of the
scriptural order; and as for idolatry, many Christians while keeping up the
pretense of worshiping God, are just as ardent devotees of Mammon, Education,
Pleasure, etc., as are their unconverted neighbors.
If we doubt that the vast
majority of those comprising the true Church today are suffering the judgments
of God, we have only to look at the unhappy state of their lives, their
failure to be effective witnesses for Christ, and the few genuine converts
being made. Little or no time is given to prayer and serious Bible study,
with the result that Christians are powerless, and as ignorant of the ways and
will of God as are the unconverted around them.
“But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces (citadels)
Nebuchadnezzar was God’s
instrument to execute that judgment by destroying Jerusalem and carrying the
people captive to Babylon in 586 BC as recorded in 2 Ki 24-25. That
destruction, however, was but the foreshadowing of a second, which came in AD
70 when Jerusalem was again destroyed, by the Romans under Titus, that
destruction being also a preview of that which is yet to occur in the fast
approaching Tribulation when Jerusalem will again be surrounded by armies, but
delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ returning in power and glory to judge the
nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.
Relative to the application of
the preceding verse to the true Church, it is significant that the emphasis
here is upon the destruction of the palaces (citadels) of Jerusalem, and not
of the people. The citadels may represent the local churches, and no one can
deny that within the lifetime of this present generation, congregations have
shrunk in size, and diminished also in number, nor does the condition of the
Church offer any hope that things will improve, the Lord Himself asking, “...
when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Lk 18:8.
“Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will
not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for
silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;”
Finally the prophet addresses
Israel, the ten northern tribes, and whereas he mentioned only one offence
when addressing each of the other nations, he declares Israel to be guilty of
eight great sins, one more than seven the number of completeness, i.e., they
had filled their cup of iniquity to overflowing: (1) they perverted judgment,
(2) they sold the poor into slavery for failure to repay even a small debt,
(3) they trampled roughshod over the poor, (4) father and son lay with the
same woman, (5) they dressed themselves in clothing forfeited by penniless
debtors, (6) they offered in the Temple wine forfeited by or bought with the
money of bankrupt debtors, (7) they corrupted the Nazarites, and (8) they
forbade the prophets to declare God’s truth.
Israel’s sin was compounded by
virtue of her having been given a fuller revelation of
God’s requirements, and as always, increased knowledge carries with it
Before continuing our study it
is necessary to note that as Judah may be a type of the true Church, so may
Israel be a type of the professing mass of apostate Christendom, so that the
judgments foretold relative to Israel are also foreshadowings of those about
to fall on Christendom in the coming Tribulation.
First, God charged them with
having perverted justice by accepting bribes, forbidden in Dt 16:18-20; and
secondly, with having sold the poor into slavery for a debt as trifling as the
price of a pair of sandals, see e.g., 2 Ki 4:1, doing this in defiance of
God’s command given in Dt 15:7-11.
An honest appraisal of our
so-called “Christian” society reveals that its justice systems are as venal as
was that of the Israel addressed by Amos; nor is the oppression of the poor
“That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside
the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid,
to profane my holy name.”
The NEB translates the first
part of this verse, “They grind the heads of the poor into the earth, and
thrust the humble out of their way,” and some commentators take this to be
descriptive of the misery of the victims of perverted justice.
The second part of the verse
relates to brazen immorality on the part of the Jews, which caused God’s name
to be dishonored. The reference is generally understood to be to the use of
cultic prostitutes, the clear implication being that Israel was involved in
the licentious worship of the Baalim.
Comment on the brazen
immorality of the “Christian” nations would be redundant; and as noted in our
introduction, the worship of money, education, pleasure, etc., is no less
idolatry than was Israel’s veneration of literal idols.
“And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and
they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.”
This describes their
reclining, in garments forfeited by penniless debtors, while they reveled at
feasts in connection with their worship of false gods, drinking or offering in
idolatrous worship, wine also bought by money obtained as fines from those
falsely accused, or seized from debtors too poor to repay a debt.
Some also understand their
laying themselves down, to refer to sexual activity with cultic prostitutes.
God forbade the keeping
overnight of a garment given in pledge for a debt, see Dt 24:12-13.
“... in the house of their
god” may refer to a heathen temple, or it may be God’s angry ironic disavowal
of any relationship with people who had corrupted His pure order of worship by
an intermingling of the vile practices mentioned.
An honest examination of
Christendom’s so-called worship, in the light of the order set forth in
Scripture, reveals it to be a hypocritical travesty.
“Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of
the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from
above, and his roots from beneath.”
Amorite means sayer, a
meaning which is particularly significant in connection with the use of the
name here as a synonym for Canaanite. They were a powerful people occupying
land east and west of the Jordan, their name being applied generally to all
the tribes of Canaan. God was reminding rebel Israel that it was He Who had
given her all that had formerly belonged to the Canaanites, and in that
reminder was also warning her that He was now about to dispossess her, for her
iniquity was greater than theirs.
While the references to their
height and strength may be metaphoric, literality can’t be dismissed in view
of what is written in Nu 13:32, where the spies sent to search out Canaan,
reported that, “... all the people that we saw in it are men of great
“... I destroyed his fruit
from above, and his roots from beneath,” is the equivalent of the modern term
“I destroyed them root and branch,” i.e., the destruction was complete:
neither ancestor nor descendant remained. This was God’s reminder that it was
His power that had destroyed the Canaanites, so that Israel might inherit the
land. But it is to be remembered that Canaanite means trafficker,
which, combined with his occupation of land that God intended Israel to enjoy,
presents him as a type of those who traffic in spiritual truth for personal
gain, and who occupy a place that God intends for born-again believers only.
The significance of their being also called Amorites sayers lies in the
fact that these spiritual traffickers are they who say they are Christians,
but who are in fact the enemies of God and His people. Canaan occupied by
Canaanites, is a clear typological picture of that section of our modern world
which claims to be Christian, but which misuses spiritual things for temporal
gain. (Canaan occupied by Israelites, is a typological picture of the
spiritual sphere into which the new birth introduces spiritual Israelites,
i.e., genuine believers). As God destroyed the Canaanites, so will He also
destroy their spiritual counterparts: those who constitute professing but
apostate Christendom; and it is that truth that is being declared ultimately
in His foretold destruction of the Israel addressed by Amos.
“Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through
the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.”
He further reminded her of her
former state. She had been the bondslave of the Egyptians from whom He had
delivered her by miraculous power, breaking their power and impoverishing them
by His plagues, the last of which slew all their firstborn, their final
destruction coming when He drowned their armies in the Red Sea when they in
their folly pursued their former slaves.
And having delivered Israel,
He had led her for forty years through the wilderness, finally bringing her
into Canaan with its milk and honey, and driving out the enemy from before
“And I raised up your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites.
Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the Lord.”
In His love and gracious
kindness toward Israel Jehovah had added blessing to blessing. In addition to
those already mentioned, He had revealed His mind and will to chosen ones of
their sons to be His prophets, not only to their fellow Israelites, but to all
nations, His revelations to them constituting our Bible. In addition He had
chosen some of them to be set apart from others (Nazarite means separated),
as sanctified vessels for His service, the allusion possibly being to the
separation of Aaron and the Levites to be His priests.
His question “Is it not even
thus, O ye children of Israel?” was rhetorical: they couldn’t deny the truth
He had just declared.
“But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying,
One of the requirements of
Nazariteship was that the man or woman drink no wine, see Nu 6:1-21, the
spiritual significance of this being that since wine, in a bad sense,
represents sinful pleasures, those who would walk in obedience to God, must
keep themselves separate from the world’s sinful pleasures. But under the
metaphor of Israel’s having given the Nazarites wine to drink, we are being
pointed to the depravity of the priesthood, as for example in the days of Eli,
see 1 Sa 2:12-25.
Christendom has also given the
Nazarites wine to drink, as a review of the history of apostate Christendom
reveals all too clearly. It was early in her experience that the apostate
church replaced the spiritually gifted ministers listed in Eph 4:11, with
theologically educated clerics - many of whom lacked spiritual life - and who
were all too ready to join their congregations in a giddy round of social
activities, so that they who should have been teaching others the need of
separation from the frivolity of a sinful world, quickly became the
Christianized counterparts of Israel’s wine-bibbing Nazarites, literally and
Relative to the prophets,
Israel’s evil treatment of them is too well attested to need comment, see,
e.g., Mt 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and
stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy
children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and
ye would not.” By every means in their power they sought to silence God’s
messengers. Nor is it any different in Christendom. As long as the preachers
pronounce polite platitudes all is well, but let one of them preach the truth
as declared in Scripture, and almost invariably he finds himself unemployed.
“Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of
Translations of this verse
differ widely, the NEB, e.g., rendering it, “I (Jehovah) groan under the
burden of you...” while the RSV, and TAYLOR translate it, “I will press you
down in your place...” and “I will make you groan...” respectively. The one
that seems to make most sense, however, is the AMPLIFIED which combines these
three, and renders it, “Behold, I am pressed under you, and I will press you
down in your place, as a cart presses that is full of sheaves.”
God was grieved by their
wickedness and their refusal to repent, so that He was left with no
alternative but to execute judgment.
“Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not
strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself:”
There would be no escaping
God’s wrath. The swift would be unable to run fast enough; the strong would
be weak; and the mightiest warrior powerless against His judgmental anger.
“Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot
shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver
The most skillful archer; the
fastest runner; even the horsemen, would all alike be unable to escape the
wrath of the God Whose patience they had exhausted, a position relative to
which it is written, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the
living God,” Heb 10:31. He who will not fall into God’s hand in repentant
belief, in God’s time, and thus save himself, must then fall into His hand as
an unrepentant rebel, and perish eternally.
“And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day
saith the Lord.”
Taylor translates this verse,
“The most courageous of your mighty men will drop their weapons and run for
their lives that day.” It is one thing to defy a God Who is unseen; quite
another to stand in His presence having human might exposed for the puny thing
it is in the blaze of His omnipotence.
Relative to the fulfillment of
the judgments foretold by Amos, Dr Tatford quotes Pusey as follows, “There
followed, under Tiglath-Pileser, the fulfilment of the prophecy as to Damascus
and Gilead. Under Sargon was fulfilled the prophecy on the ten tribes. That
on Judah yet waited 133 years and then was fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar. A few
years later, and he executed God’s judgments foretold by Amos on their enemies
Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre. Kings of Egypt, Assyria, and the Macedonian Alexander fulfilled in
succession the prophecy as to Philistia.”