Studies in Prophets and Writings

Amos 2: Amos starts calling out Israel’s social injustice

Amos is warning the people of Israel that although the nations around them have committed heinous sins but Israel’s sins are even worse. Israel could easily see the failures of the nations but they could not see their own failures. Amos is trying to take the veil off their eyes. He wants Israel to look inward at themselves.

As I mentioned last week as we went through Amos 1, the punishments on these nations were heaped upon the leadership, the ruling class, not the general populace. All these nations suffered from a profound lack of good leadership.

The first nation called out in Amos 2 is Moab. They were known as a backstabbing, vengeful nation. They were also very brutal. They had centuries of relative peace up to the point that the Assyrians took them over. Even when Judah/Israel held a hegemony over them, they lived security in their own towns.

Judah is the next nation addressed by Amos. They are called out for failing to live up to God’s laws. Isaiah 5 (and parallel passages 2Kings 3:26-27 and Jeremiah 48) gives us insight into the social injustice that Judah’s leadership indulged.

“Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, Until there is no more room, So that you have to live alone in the midst of the land! In my ears the LORD of hosts has sworn, Surely, many houses shall become desolate, Even great and fine ones, without occupants. For ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine, And a homer of seed will yield but an ephah of grain.” (Isaiah 5:8–10 NASB)

This text is critical to understanding the book of Amos, even though Isaiah is speaking over 100 years later. The accumulation of houses and fields by the ruling class is against Torah because every 50 years, the fields were to be returned to the original owners but the ruling class, the nobility, were not doing that.

Amos is not addressing priestly conduct but the conduct of the nobility and the royal class.

Amos leaves his most lengthy, scathing and explicit critique against the people of Israel. He waxes poetic here.

“Thus says the LORD, “For three transgressions of Israel and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.” (Amos 2:6 NASB)

This is a parallelism, the shoe and the silver both are a reference to a permanent exchange. The righteous and the needy are undervalued in society. There is no freedom, no release and no reasonable value. Their lives, their service to society is cheap. The noble class is exchanging a righteous society for silver. Once the princes have sold the righteous out, they will not be back. The reason the ruling class don’t place a greater value on righteous citizens than unrighteous citizens is because the righteous don’t make them anymore money than an unrighteous person. Money is more important to them than peace.

“..And a man and his father resort to the same girl in order to profane My holy name.” (Amos 2:7 NASB)

This is not just a rebuke of incest or temple prostitution, Amos is still speaking about social injustice not religious injustice.

What upsets Amos is how the Israelites are trying to legitimize their sexual deviancy by committing an act that God despises and pretending that it’s an act of worship to Him. They are flouting God’s law and pretending that He rubber-stamps their “worship.”

Same-sex marriage in our day and age is the same thing. The LGBTQ community and their supporters are taking the covenant of marriage, which is a covenant that God designed for one man and one woman, and placing that covenantal title upon a relationship that God has never approved or sanctioned. They are trying to put God’s stamp of approval on their sexual deviancy and pretending that God blesses their corrupt relationship. This profanes God’s name.

“On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar…” (Amos 2:8 NASB)

When you take a pledge from a poor person, you must return it at the end of the day, but the ruling class are keeping it. They are using money taken from the poor and using it to oppress the poor even more.

“‘Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets And some of your young men to be Nazirites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?’ declares the LORD. ‘But you made the Nazirites drink wine, And you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!'” (Amos 2:11–12 NASB)

Forcing someone else into sin is worse than committing the sin yourself. Like Eli’s family, the sons were sinners but their actions profaned God’s name because as God’s priests, they made worshipping God such an awful experience for the people that they didn’t want to come to the Tabernacle for the required pilgrimage feasts.

The people of Israel had lots of religion but they did not have God. The religion doesn’t give you God. God gives you what is good.

“Behold, I am weighted down beneath you As a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves.” (Amos 2:13 NASB)

What makes the ground shake that is not an earthquake? An army. This verse is a prophesy that the Assyrians are going to come and take everyone and everything which has any value away and replace them with a people who have no knowledge of God whatsoever. He talks about all the people who will not escape.

Amos is trying wake up the ruling class of Israel. The army is their strength and Amos is warning them that if they don’t repent, their army will not be able to protect them from God’s wrath.

They will be all carried away because their rulers rebelled against God in how they treated the poor, the widow, the stranger and the orphan. That is what makes God snap. God holds Himself responsible for them, God gave them to the rulers to take care of and if the rulers fail in the duty that God gives them, God will take their job away from them.

The social injustice that Amos is railing against is the ruling class creating a society in which the poor, the stranger and the powerless can never rise above their station so that they can be perpetually used and oppressed by the ruling class.

Speaker: Daniel Agee. Summary: Tammy. 

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