A Sorry State: Knowing Neither Right nor Wrong (Amos 2-3)

Scripture reading – Amos 2; Amos 3

Amos had prophesied that six Gentile nations would be judged for their transgressions against God, His people (Israel and Judah), and humanity in general (Amos 1): Syria, identified as Damascus (1:3-5), Philistia, identified by its principal cities (1:6-8), Tyre (who were Phoenician, 1:9-10), Edom (1:11-12), Ammon (1:13-15), and Moab (2:1-3). The judgment of those six nations was certain, and would serve as a warning to Judah and Israel, that God is just and their transgressions would not go unpunished (2:4-16).

The Case Against Judah and Israel (2:4-11)

Amos declared the sins and transgressions of Judah (2:4-5) and Israel (2:6-16) announcing God’s judgment (2:6-16).  Lest any doubt the grace and longsuffering of God, the prophet reminded the people how the LORD had brought them out of Egypt (2:9), led them through the wilderness for forty years, and given them the land of the Amorites for their possession (2:9-10). In His longsuffering and compassion, the LORD had sent prophets to preach His Word and teach His Law and Commandments (2:11).

God’s Response to Israel’s Rebellion (2:12-16)

How had the people responded?

They had tempted the Nazarites (who were models of dedication and service) to violate their sanctification and break their vows (Numbers 6:1-20). When the prophets preached the Word of the LORD, they “commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (2:12).

God Declared His Judgment of the People (2:13-16)

The Lord warned, He would crush Israel with the weight of a cart “full of sheaves” (of wheat, 2:13). Israel’s military would be soundly defeated (2:14-16). The soldiers would take flight from the battle, but neither be swift, strong, or able to retreat (2:14). Archers would fail to stand in their places, horsemen could not flee, and the nation’s mightiest warriors would drop their weapons and flee with nothing (“shall flee away naked in that day,” 2:16).

Amos 3 – A Description of Israel’s Judgment for Its Transgressions

The Basis of God’s Judgment Against the “Children of Israel” (3:1-2)

Amos 3:1 declared God’s judgment for their transgressions would not only be against Israel (the ten tribes in the north), but “against the whole family” (thus including Judah, the southern kingdom). The prophet reminded all who were descendants of the Hebrews that came out of Egypt, that they were a chosen, beloved people (Genesis 12:3; 28:14). Yet, the LORD declared, “I will punish you for all your iniquities (3:2).

A Series of Rhetorical Questions that Illustrated “Cause and Effect” (3:3-6)

In a series of questions, Amos declared a principle we will call, “cause and effect.” The first questions made the implication that the answer to each would be, “No.”  The first, “3Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (3:3). Of course, the answer was, “No.” To walk together, there must be an agreement by both parties on the plan (method) and destination.

Two questions regarded the lion on the hunt, and asked, “4Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?” (3:4). Again, the answer is, “No.” A lion on the hunt prowls in stealth and is cautious, not alerting its prey; and a young lion would not roar its approval if it has nothing to consume.

The capture of a bird in a trap is the subject of two more questions, that asked: “5Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth, where no gin [trigger] is for him? Shall one take up a snare from the earth, and have taken nothing at all?” (3:5) Again, the presumed answer is, “No.” Without a trigger to snap a trap shut upon its prey, no bird will be entrapped. Of course, removing a snare with no prey makes no sense either.

Two other questions demand “No” for an answer: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?” (3:6a) In ancient times, the sound of a trumpet would warn the city of an approaching enemy (3:6a), and give reason for fear and for mounting a defense.

The last question was noteworthy, for it illustrated the sovereignty and providence of God: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (3:6b) Whether troubles befall a city, state, or a nation, we are assured it is the doing of the LORD, and for His eternal purpose.

Witnesses to God Punishing His People (3:9-10)

Adding to Israel’s humiliation, God commanded Amos to summon two Gentile nations to witness His judgment of Israel: Ashdod, a city representing the Philistines, and Egypt (3:9). Those heathen nations were summoned to “the mountains of Samaria” (the capital city of north Israel), and observe God’s judgment upon His people for their sins.

The wealthy and powerful of Israel were guilty of oppressing the weak and the poor, and filling their palaces with plunder and spoil. Because they had rejected God’s Law and Commandments, the people had become spiritually blind, and “know not to do right, saith the LORD” (3:10).

God’s Judgment Pronounced: Israel Would Be Devoured by An Enemy (3:11-15)

History reveals Assyria as the enemy that destroyed the northern kingdom. The Assyrians would come through the land, and destroy Israel’s defenses (3:11). The people would be ravaged like a sheep in the mouth of a lion (3:12), and all Israel would be judged (3:13). The altars to the gods erected by Jeroboam would be abolished (3:14), and the great palaces and houses of the wealthy would be utterly destroyed (3:15).

Closing thoughts – When a people and nation make light of God’s Truth, and reject His Commandments, their hearts will become so desensitized to wickedness that they lack moral judgment, and “know not to do right” (3:10).  Sadly, the world around us gives ample evidence of what will become of a society that rejects God and His Laws.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith