By Sam E. Stone
Amos began his prophecy by pronouncing judgment on the major countries throughout the part of the world where he lived. Captivity was coming for the people of Israel as well. Within 50 years his predictions would be fulfilled. Henry Halley wrote, “Over and over Amos contrasts the voluptuous ease, palatial luxury, and feeling of security of the leaders and the rich with the intolerable sufferings about to befall them. They would be the first to feel the sting of Assyrian slavery.”
The extravagant life of these wealthy people has been described like this: “They lie stretched, as it were poured out, upon beds inlaid with ivory, to feast and fill their belly with the flesh of the best lambs . . . to the playing of harps and singing” (C. F. Keil). So callous were the people with their self-indulgence that they could not see the approaching “ruin of Joseph” (fall of the northern kingdom) that was coming.
Amos 6:7, 8
The “hear this” messages of Amos to the people described the punishments that were coming soon. Harold Shank noted that “once God has removed the people, he will destroy the empty houses. . . . Now the people who were the ‘notable’ of the nation . . . would ironically be the foremost, first to go into exile (Amos 5:27).” Their feasting was almost over! This prophecy was fulfilled when Samaria succumbed to a three-year siege of the city in 725 BC (2 Kings 17:5).
The Sovereign Lord has sworn by himself. This indicated the strongest possible oath that God could make. The pride and self-confidence of Israel had reached the breaking point. God abhorred their pride and detested their fortresses. Then he declared, “I will deliver up the city and everything in it.”
Thomas Edward McConiskey explained, “As Lord he is also Judge. He can, and does, raise up one nation against another in judgment (Amos 1:3–2:3)—a process that will continue until the Lord’s return for he is now, as always, ‘the Judge of all the earth’ (Genesis 18:25). . . . When God must find his people guilty of covenant-breaking, he raises up another nation against them (Amos 6:14). As sovereign Lord of all, he is able to do this; as Judge of all the earth, he must.”
Extent of Destruction
It was time for Israel to take the consequences of her sinful and selfish behavior. As Professor O. Bussey put it, “Israel has been guilty of such crazy behavior. She has turned justice into poison and righteousness into hemlock or wormwood. Now she must take the consequences—judgment (v. 12). Iniquity, such as Israel is guilty of, is not a thing to gloat over, and yet that is what she has done (v. 13). She was also boasting of her power, but Jehovah was raising up a nation (Assyria) against her, and no power of hers will avail in that day (v. 14).”
The country’s destruction will include not just the great houses, but the small houses as well. Whether affluent or poor, all of the citizens were subject to the Lord’s judgment. Some Bible scholars note that King Sargon used something of a “scorched earth” policy when he carried off thousands of Israelite captives, destroying anything that could be valuable to his enemy, the Israelites.
The prophet then asked two rhetorical questions of the people: Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen? The answers were obvious. Yet such behavior was precisely the kind of foolish and selfish action that had come to characterize those known as the people of God—the nation of Israel. They have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness.
God’s judgment would be swift and sweeping. He would send the Assyrians from the north, and their oppression would expand southward. They would come from Lebo Hamath at the northern edge of Israel all the way down to the valley of the Arabah, the southernmost boundary. From the Orontes River in south Lebanon to the Dead Sea, the entire land was included (2 Kings 14:25). God abhors selfishness—and he will render judgment on it at the proper time.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.