Lesson Six (Amos 2:9–16): The Reason for Israel’s Punishment

The previous verses have given reason enough why the judgment should fall on Israel as well as on the surrounding nations. In the verses 6 through 8 a summary is given of the sins committed in Israel. Amos is sent to prophesy against Israel and, consequently, the remainder of the book will go into detail concerning the evils of which Israel is guilty.

In this passage (Amos 2:9–16) we hear God’s complaint against his people. He relates what he has done for them and what their reaction has been. Because of this reaction he will send his punishments upon the land.

If Israel will only look back into its own history it will see what God has done for this people in the past. That history should humble them. That history ought to drive them into his arms. They have been favored as no other nation. He brought them into the land where they now dwell. That land was hostile. Before they arrived that land was peopled by giants. In comparison to the inhabitants of Canaan they looked like grasshoppers. They would never have been able to conquer this people themselves. God destroyed the Amorite before them! The first stronghold, Jericho, fell without battle. By the term Amorite the prophet means all the former inhabitants.

If they will look back a little bit further into their own history, they win see that God delivered them from Egyptian slavery and carried them through the wilderness. He destroyed and plundered Egypt for their sakes. Those forty long years in the wilderness were the result of their own sin, but God used them for their welfare. He fed them during all those years. He prepared them for the conquest of Palestine. No, one does not look back with pleasure on those forty years in the wilderness, but what a marvel of divine grace that even the wrath of man shall praise him!

Although Israel was to receive the land of Canaan as its inheritance, it was not to walk in the ways of Canaan’s former inhabitants. Therefore God raised up prophets and Nazirites. The prophets would warn the people and teach them the fear of God, The Nazirites were to show the people by their example that they were the peculiar people of God. What did Israel do? They gave wine to the Nazirites, These Nazirites, as Samson and Samuel, had taken a vow not to drink wine nor to allow a razor to touch their heads. Thus the Nazirite’s influence and example were undermined. To the prophets Israel said: “Prophesy not.” This is the way the people treated the ambassadors of the God who had done so much for them, Israel did not persecute God’s Servants; no, they simply rendered them helpless. In a very “decent” and “civilized” way they silenced the word of God and did as they saw fit. They forgot the past, They live for “today.”

What will be God’s reaction to this attitude of his people? He sends Amos. Amos also is told not to prophesy (7:12-13) but he is not silenced. He is called to proclaim the judgment of God on the attitude which this people has manifested for a long time, The measure of Israel’s iniquity is full. The punishment will not be turned away again.

Now the prophet comes with the word of judgment. “I will press you in your place as a cart presseth that is full of sheaves.” There is a difference of opinion among commentators as to the exact meaning of these words, Yet, the explanation of the following verses depends on the interpretation of these words, The most plausible explanation seems to be the following; He will cause the land to groan as a cart or wagon groans that is overloaded with sheaves. The load is too heavy for the cart, As a result, every movement causes it to groan, So will it be in Israel. Israel will be overloaded with the judgments of God so that it will groan by reason of this burden. This includes everything in Israel. Every institution, every movement, their whole way of life will groan, God’s judgments will weigh heavily on the whole land.

No one will be able to escape this judgment of God, The swift will not be able to flee it. The strength of the strong man will not be sufficient to deliver him. No one will be able to offer resistance, The bow will be a useless weapon against the judgment of God, The horse is of no help to deliver. No matter how courageous a man may be he will have to flee away naked. There is no defense against God’s judgments!

These things are going to happen “in that day.” That day is spoken of again and again by the prophet. Israel looked for the day of the Lord to be a glorious day. That day, they believed, would mark their triumph. Amos reveals to them the fact that that day will be the day of terror for the enemies of God. The earthquake of which he spoke in the beginning is a forerunner of that day.

lsrael thought all was well until Amos came. They imagined they were serving God and that God was favorably disposed to them as was evident from the blessings which he showered on them. Now they are told that they are totally mistaken and that they have misinterpreted all the signs. God is coming to judge their “innocent evils” and their “splendid vices.” They only sought to “tone down” the message of the prophets and the strictness of the Nazirites, These marred their festivities and disturbed their sense of security. Compared to the surrounding nations, Israel was a God-fearing people. Yet, the judgment is pronounced. God does not compare Israel to the other nations; he judges them in the light of his revelation.

This is God’s warning to his people of every age. Comparison with others is not the standard to be employed. Favorable comparison with others does not justify us, To the law and to the testimony!

Questions for discussion:

1. How can the knowledge of the past safeguard us against present-day sins? Of what value is the knowledge of church history?

2. How was the wilderness wandering of Israel a blessing for them?

3. Why was idolatry always such a temptation for Israel?

4. What was the place of the Nazirite in lsrael’s religion?

5. Is the church guilty of silencing the prophets today? If so, how?

6. When does a church arrive at the stage that it will no longer listen to the truth? Note: Where the truth is proclaimed the churches are filled, while most modernist churches are empty.