The Book of Amos: Lesson Nine (Amos 3:13–4:3) – Wealth and Judgment

Hear ye, and testify against the house of Jacob, saith the Lord Jehovah, the God of hosts. For in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him, I will also visit the altars of Bethel; and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground. And I will smite the winter-house with the summer-house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith Jehovah. Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, that oppress the poor, that crush the needy, that say unto their lords, bring, and let us drink. The Lord Jehovah hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that they shall take you away with hooks, and your residue with fish-hooks. And ye shall go out at the breaches, every one straight before her; and ye shall cast yourselves into Harmon, saith Jehovah. Amos 3:13–4:3

Wealth has often been the undoing of both nations and individuals. When used in the proper manner it can be a great blessing but it is often used as an unrighteous power. Israel enjoyed unheard-of wealth in the days of Amos. Although they had been warned against the pitfalls of wealth again and again, they still fell into its snares.

God calls other peoples to testify against Israel. Israel had received the fullest revelation but they did not listen to it. Let other peoples, Ashdod and Egypt (vs. 9), now bring the message to Israel. The content of this message is that God will visit the transgression of Israel upon him. He will not allow his sins to go unpunished. And when he visits these transgressions, he will not only remove Israel’s wealth; he will also visit the altars of Bethel. The misuse of wealth is but the symptom; the origin of the evil is to be found at the altar. God goes to the heart of the matter.

The false worship of the people leads them to all manner of sins. The horns of the altar, on which a fleeing person might lay hold for his life, will be cut off and fall to the ground. There will be no place of safety.

When the altars have been destroyed, God will attack the exhibition of wealth. The wealthy in Israel have advanced so far that they now have both summer and winter houses. They can enjoy life to the full. Some have houses whose walls are inlaid with ivory. Here is luxury. Not only the rich but even the “common people” are enjoying wealth unheard of before. To this the prophet refers when he speaks of the “great,” or rather the many, houses. But all of this wealth and luxury will come to an end. They have not been thankful in their prosperity. They have not used their wealth for the benefit of the needy. Their gold has become their god!



In the first verse of chapter four Amos uses a form of address which startles us. “Ye kine of Bashan.” Is it right to address people this way? Isn’t that going a little bit too far? Who arc these kine, these cows of Bashan? The prophet refers to the women of Samaria! He likens them to the sleek, well-fed cows that graze in the marvelous pastures of the land of Bashan to the east of the sea of Galilee. How these women must have hated this prophet for naming them the way he does! They must have concluded that Amos had lost all sense of decency. What a coarse and uncouth man!

Amos speaks the word of Jehovah. God calls those women “kine of Bashan.” Why does the prophet censure the women so vehemently for this evil in Israel? Women exert a great influence in any nation. Usually it is an influence which makes a nation more humane. They often have more tender feeling and compassion for those in need. But if the women of a nation have become evil so that they deserve the name “cows of Bashan” there is little hope that justice will be given to the poor. This was the situation in Israel.

They say to their husbands, “Bring, and let us drink.” When their husbands leave the house in the morning their women urge them to make money so that they may continue their manner of life. More is needed every day. The wives call their husbands “lords”, reminding us of the relationship of Sarah and Abraham. However, the resemblance is only one of words. Their husbands have become their slaves! They are so accustomed to the life of luxury that it must continue at all costs. Their lurury is bought at the expense of the poor. Amos tells them that they have oppressed the poor and have crushed the needy. Their insatiability wrought havoc in the lives of the poor. Indeed, they are like the sleek, well-fed cows of Bashan who seek only their own comfort. They have neither mercy nor compassion for the needy.

God will not allow the wickedness portrayed in the first verse to go unpunished. He has sent his prophet to warn them. Oh, that they may yet turn from their evil ways! If they will not turn, the punishment will certainly come. The Lord swears by his holiness that they will not escape. His holiness is the standard by which human conduct wiIl be judged. No arbitrary standard is used.

The manner of their punishment is again pictured very vividly. They had been likened to the cows of Bashan. Now Amos likens them to the fishes of the sea. Surely, he does not come with flattering words to the women of Samaria. They may be shocked by the words he uses, but no one will criticize this prophet for being vague! He is not afraid to use very plain language.

Destruction is going to come upon the women of Samaria as it comes to the fishes of the sea. They swim about in their true element. Suddenly they see food dangled before them. A fish, of course, does not realize that this food contains the deadly hook. In its greed it bites into the bait and is caught by the hook it contains. So will destruction come to the women of Samaria. They are never satisfied. Tomorrow must yield more than today if they are going to be successful. They will finally eat their death in their wealth. Death-dealing judgment is concealed in their wealth. All of them will be taken. There will be none remaining.

That the destruction will be complete is further pictured in verse three. They will go out at the breaches, everyone straight before her. The whole wall will be broken down. The walls which were designed to give protection will be destroyed as completely as the walls of Jericho in the days of Joshua. Every man could go straight before him; no part of the wall barred his way (Joshua 6:20). Their whole world in which they trusted will come tumbling down. So they wiII go into captivity to another land, here called Harmon.

How their glory has departed! All because of the misuse of wealth! But these things were also written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come!

Questions for Discussion:

1. What are some of the dangers for us in these prosperous times?

2. How does the “altar” influence the lives of the people?

3. What was the importance of the horns of the altar?

4. How can the women of a nation be an influence for good or evil?

5. Is it wrong to have both a summer and winters house? Is it wrong to have elaborate houses is one can afford them?

6. Can God’s judgments ever be too severe? Explain.