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Amos, Part 9 - Christogenea on Talkshoe 03-29-2013
Accompanying this presentation of Amos is a separate article, Scatterers and Gatherers
KJV Amos 6:1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!
Amos is addressing the rulers, the societal elites, in Israel. The House of Israel had come to these people. That does not mean that these people themselves were not of Israel. It rather means that they had come to the control of the Kingdom, in one way or another. It seems, from 1 Chronicles 5:17, that genealogy still played an important part in reckoning the people, in spite of Israel's having long before gone off into paganism. It must be noted however that the Books of Chronicles were compiled from what records remained after the return of portions of Levi, Benjamin and Judah from Babylon. This is easily demonstrable because it is evident in the listings of the tribes in the opening chapters of 1 Chronicles. After describing the inheritance of the children of Gad, that passage says: “All these were reckoned by genealogies in the days of Jotham king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel.” The reference to Jeroboam is to that king of Israel who ruled during the time of the ministry of Amos.
2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?
Calneh was one of the great cities of Babylonia, and one of the original cities of the empire of Nimrod. The city Calneh is mentioned among the conquests of the Assyrian kings Shalmaneser III and Tiglath-pileser III. Hamath the Great was the city in Northern Syria which seems to have been the northern extent of the empire of David, restored to Israel in this time by Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:28). Evidently, the surrounding nations were not as well-off as the children of Israel were at this time. Yet not long after Amos had written his prophecy, Calneh, Hamath, and Gath all fell to the Assyrians, and Israel was soon to follow. Over 30,000 people were deported from Hamath by Tiglath-pileser III, who ruled Assyria from 744 to 727 BC (ANET, p. 283), some time before much of Samaria was deported by Sargon II circa 721 BC.
The Septuagint reads these first two verses quite differently, and we shall repeat them here: “1 Woe to them that set at nought Sion, and that trust in the mountain of Samaria: they have gathered the harvest of the heads of the nations, and they have gone in themselves. 2 O house of Israel, pass by all of you, and see; and pass by thence to Ematrabba; and thence descend to Geth of the Philistines, the chief of all these kingdoms, see if their coasts are greater than your coasts.”
If the Septuagint reading of Amos is proper, then the statement that “they have gathered the harvest of the heads of the nations” seems to refer to the restoration of much of the former empire of David under Jeroboam II, the king of Israel when Amos had prophesied, which is described near the end of 2 Kings chapter 14.
The word Ematrabba is exemplary of the problems of how names were frequently interpreted in the Septuagint. The first two syllables are from the Hebrew form for the name Hamath. The last two syllables are from the Hebrew form of the word rab, which means to be a chief or to be great. So the word properly appears in the King James English as “Hamath the great”. What the translators of the Septuagint from Hebrew to Greek did was not wrong, it was colloquial, but the meaning is lost in the rendering.
3 Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;
Unrighteous people do not imagine that the day of their punishment shall come, and they continue to act unrighteously – in essence mocking and scoffing at God. Yet the Septuagint reading of the verse is “Ye who are approaching the evil day, who are drawing near and adopting false sabbaths”.
4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches [the Septuagint has “live delicately on their couches”], and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; 5 That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David; [the Septuagint has verse 5 “who excel in the sound of musical instruments; they have regarded them as abiding, not as fleeting”, with no mention of David] 6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
The reference to “the affliction of Joseph” is a reference to the poverty of many of the people of the land, as the wealthy in Israel enjoy its fruits. In Amos chapter 8 we shall see this explained by Yahweh through the prophet, where He says in part: “ 4 Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, 5 Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?”
With opulence comes apathy. When men are successful, they build golf courses and go fox hunting or yachting. They collect riches unto themselves, and the material things which they acquire become their gods. Rather than working to uplift their less fortunate brethren they seek to rule over and police them so that they may protect their wealth and their positions, which then leads them to tyrannize their own countrymen and enrich themselves even further. Certainly the enemies of Yahweh our God have a hand in this, however the children of Israel are just as much at fault – the enemies of God come to rule over the children of Israel because of the greedy and opportunistic among their own number.
In Deuteronomy 8, Yahweh warns the children of Israel not to forget Him when they become wealthy, but rather to use that wealth to build His kingdom: “11 Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: 12 Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; 13 And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; 14 Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; 15 Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16 Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end; 17 And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. 19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. 20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.”
7 Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.
Again the Septuagint reading is quite different, although the message is the same, where it says “Therefore now shall they depart into captivity from the dominion of princes, and the neighing of horses shall be cut off from Ephraim.” Where Brenton has “from the dominion of princes” the Greek may just as well be read “by the chief of rulers”, referring to the kings of Assyria.
So we see the result of not abiding in the warnings of Deuteronomy chapter 8 concerning the wealth and increase which Yahweh our God provides us. This same thing is happening in America today. Men should spend their wealth and their leisure building God's kingdom and not their own, and helping their kinsmen rather than pursuing their own lusts and entertainments.
8 The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.
The reference to a city in verse 8 is to Samaria, the capital city of Israel. The city was besieged by Shalmaneser V for three years (2 Kings 17:1-6) and was taken by his successor, Sargon II, circa 722 or 721 BC. An inscription left by Sargon II explains that once the city fell, 27,290 of its citizens were taken into captivity to Assyria, and others – enough to form a “contingent of 50 chariots” - were forced into the Assyrian army. It also states that peoples from other parts of the empire were resettled in Samaria, and an Assyrian governor was placed over the city at this time (ANET, pp. 284-285). This must have happened at least 30 years after Amos completed his prophecy, since Amos wrote in the days of Jeroboam II who ruled Israel until about 753 BC.
9 And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die. 10 And a man's uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that is by the sides of the house, Is there yet any with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD.
The Septuagint reads the beginning of verse 10: “But a remnant shall be left behind, and their relations shall take them, and shall strenuously endeavor to carry forth their bones from the house: and one shall say to the heads of the house, Is there yet any one else with thee?”
A remnant of Israel was left behind in the city by Sargon II, and after his inscription describes the number of those carried away captive and the number of those taken for the Assyrian army, it states that he “made [the] remaining (inhabitants) assume their (social) positions” and that he put them under tribute (ANET, p. 285).
The text also infers that cremation was used to dispose of the dead in a time of war, where the city was under siege. The latter part of verse 10 indicates that the children of Israel in their distress would not call upon Yahweh their God. Yet we must also bear in mind that the greater number of them had been practicing paganism for well over two hundred years, since the kingdom was divided and Jeroboam I instituted the priesthood and worship of the golden calves.
11 For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts. 12 Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:
The Septuagint has verse 12 to read “Will horses run upon rocks? will they refrain from neighing at mares? for ye have turned judgment into poison, and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness”.
13 Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?
This reflects the attitude which Israel was warned about in Deuteronomy 8:17 where Yahweh says: “And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.”
14 But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.
This nation is, of course, Assyria. We have already seen much evidence in this presentation of Amos, that the children of Israel had held and occupied many of the cities of Syria as far north as Hamath, of which the border was over 120 miles north of Damascus and 250 miles north of Jerusalem. The reference to the “river of the wilderness” seems to be a reference to the “river of Egypt”, or Sihor (Joshua 13:3, “Sihor, which is before Egypt”; Jeremiah 2:18, “the waters of Sihor”), which was the name for the canal of Egypt, the easternmost branch of the Nile. These would be references to the northernmost and southernmost frontiers of the ancient empire of David.
KJV Amos 7:1 Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king's mowings. 2 And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small. 3 The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.
This is reminiscent of the parallel prophecy in Joel chapter 1: “2 Hear this, ye old men, and give ear, all ye inhabitants of the land. Hath this been in your days, or even in the days of your fathers? 3 Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. 4 That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpiller eaten. 5 Awake, ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine; for it is cut off from your mouth. 6 For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. 7 He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.”
This prophecy in Amos, like all of the prophecies concerning the great Day of Judgement of the people of Yahweh, seems to be a dual prophecy corresponding to the judgement against the mountains of Israel in the latter days which we see in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39. As we discussed at great length in our presentation of Joel here a year ago, the locusts, caterpillars, palmerworms and cankerworms, the “great army” which Yahweh sends among His people (Joel 2:25), represent alien races. Here in Amos, we see the grasshoppers did not come to devour the land until “the latter growth after the king's mowings.” This seems to indicate that the government gets its share of the produce of the people first, and then the aliens eat up whatever is left. This is precisely what we perceive of our national situation today, after the swarms of the enemy have come in like a cloud to cover the land (Ezekiel 38:9, 16).
4 Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part. 5 Then said I, O Lord GOD, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.
The people of Israel in Samaria had been greatly reduced from their former glory. Amos must have known the many Scriptures which prophesied great things for God's people, and wondered how they may achieve those things in their condition as he saw them at this time.
6 The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.
The Septuagint has verses 4 through 6 thus: “4 Thus has the Lord shewed me; and, behold, the Lord called for judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and devoured the Lord's portion. 5 Then I said, O Lord, cease, I pray thee: who shall raise up Jacob? for he is small in number. Repent, O Lord, for this. 6 This also shall not be, saith the Lord.”
The inference seems to be that Israel, “the Lord's portion”, would be totally devoured if not for the purposeful intervention of God.
7 Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. 8 And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:
Yahweh divides the people with a plumbline, which ostensibly determines which of them would survive and go into captivity, and which of them would remain behind, either dead or alive.
9 And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
The “house of Jeroboam” is a reference is to Jeroboam II, who was king as Amos was prophesying. The places of idolatry would all be destroyed. This did not actually happen for some time after most of the children of Israel were taken into Assyrian captivity. In the days of Josiah, who ruled Judah from about 640 to 609 BC, we see as it is recorded in 2 Chronicles chapter 34 that “1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. 2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left. 3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. 4 And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. 5 And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6 And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about. 7 And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.”
From the account of the reign of Josiah in Chronicles we also see that there was indeed a remnant of Israel left behind by the Assyrians, who were later known generally as Samaritans. Of course, the later Samaritans also consisted of many Canaanites and many of the aliens who were brought into the land and resettled there by the Assyrians.
10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.
Bethel was the seat of one of the golden calves set up by Jeroboam I. Therefore this Amaziah would be one of the priests of the idolatrous priesthood which Jeroboam I instituted at that time, nearly 180 years before Amos had written. From 1 Kings chapter 12: “26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.”
11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.
The latter part of 2 Kings chapter 14 records the reign of Jeroboam II, the length of his reign, and how he restored the kingdom of Israel to much of its former glory. However the account is silent concerning the manner of his death. He was succeeded by his wicked son, Zachariah, who after only six months was publicly executed in a coup by Shallum the son of Jabesh, who usurped the throne (2 Kings 15:8-11). Shallum's rule was also very brief, lasting about a month. The books of Chronicles are silent on the lives and deaths of Jeroboam and his son Zachariah, as they also are concerning several other of the kings of Israel in this period.
12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: 13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court.
Amaziah had informed on Amos for his prophesying, by complaining about Amos' message to Jeroboam. Now Amaziah plays the other side of the fence and warns Amos of possible danger.
Here we see that Bethel is “the king's chapel, and … the king's court”. This demonstrates that the custom initiated by Jeroboam I about one hundred and eighty years before this time had been continued to this day. Picking up from the point where 1 Kings chapter 12 was quoted while verse 10 of this chapter of Amos was discussed earlier: “32 And Jeroboam [meaning the much earlier Jeroboam I] ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. [The priesthood of this Amaziah in Amos 7.] 33 So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”
14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: 15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
That Amos was chosen to be a prophet, having been a herdsman, seems to be a reproach to those who should have been prophets. Yet it has already been prophesied by Amos, as it was also by Hosea, that Gilgal – the ancient home of the prophets of Yahweh in Israel – had become corrupted. (Hosea 4:15, 9:15, 12:11; Amos 4:4, 5:5).
Hosea 12: “10 I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets. 11 Is there iniquity in Gilead? surely they are vanity: they sacrifice bullocks in Gilgal; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the fields.”
16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. 17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
Amaziah was to be severely punished for attempting to silence Amos. His wife would become a whore, and his children would be slain. Amaziah was fortunate to receive such a direct warning. Men today should reconsider what it is that they are doing in their own lives, when they and their families suffer likewise.