Before delving into commentary per chapter 7 of Amos, here are a few pieces of knowledge to help think through what is going on per the Northern Kingdom of Israel and what God has said in previous bible books.
- The ruler at this time is Jeroboam II. He is not the first ruler of the divided nation of Israel but a later namesake.
- There has been 12 previous kings over the Northern kingdom up to the time of Amos (Amos: around 760 to 755 B.C.)
- *Jehu [father]
- II Kings 10:30 tells us because he did some things well in the eyes of God Jehu was promised a son on the throne of northern Israel to the 4th generation.
- He fulfilled Gods desire to destroy the house of Ahab, king during the time of Elijah and Jezebel, a very evil king of Israel; i.e. meaning “some things done well in the eyes of God.”
- Each of his four descendant kings were evil in the eyes of God
- Jehoahaz [son to Jehu]
- Joash (aka: Jehoash; grandson to Jehu)
- Jeroboam II (great-grandson to Jehu; this is the time of Amos’s prophecies)
- Zechariah (great-great grandson to Jehu; dynasty ends with his assassination)
- *Jehu [father]
- As in the book of Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, “Religion” was prospering but Faith in the one true God YHWH was just another form of a religious practice.
- Jonah [of the great fish] preached in Nineveh during this same time in history.
- Amos was from the Kingdom of Judah. Hosea was from the Kingdom of Israel.
- Assyria and Damascus were battling each other which allowed time for Israel to prosper economically. However, once Damascus fell to Assyria, Amos’ prophecy of doom to Israel came true…about 32 years later.
Regarding the roles of Amos and Hosea (perhaps we should include Jonah to Nineveh) is best stated by Spurgeon:
The breath which causes the music is the same, but no two of the instruments give forth precisely the same sound. It is true they all utter the words of God; but each voice has its own special cry, so that though God is pre-eminently seen, yet the man is not lost” (Spurgeon).
Odd as it may appear, Amos thwarted the immediacy of God’s judgement on this northern kingdom by interceding in prayer for them. He did NOT excuse their actions but asked God to hold off on HIS judging them so harshly; buying time for his prophecies to them to sink in and possibly take root [verses 7:1 & 2]. They had the plague of locust eating up their crops. The first mowing had already happened; i.e. the portion goes to the rulers and leaders. The second mowing is remnant crop for the people. God allowed an overabundance of locusts to “eat it up.” Amos 7:2b tells us that Amos pleaded in prayer to not diminish the people by starvation.
Amos 7:3 is an example of when God “changed his mind.” People who try to set God in iron clad dictates suggest he is unwilling to change or listen to our pleas. 7:3 exposes the falseness of such doctrine. God changing his mind is repeated in the next few verses; 7:4-6. God had not changed his mind about punishing the people of the Kingdom of Israel but the methodology. The second time it was destruction by fire. Amos pleaded once again in prayer to not have this happen. God obliged him.
Amos 7:5 per the phrase “Jacob is small” is debated in multiple commentaries. Many don’t even address this statement. Such avoidance begs the question, why ignore it? Amos identifying “Jacob” (Israel) as small, perhaps is a comparison with Jacob’s twin brother Esau. Robert L. Hubbard puts it this way:
“Israel is called Jacob, a reminder that he was the smaller, younger one to Esau in Isaac’s family; God had deliberately chosen him and therefore was obligated to stand by him in his helplessness.”
The Hebrew for smaller is qâṭân. It can mean diminutive in quantity, size or number (Strong’s H6995). However qâṭân is abbreviated from the Hebrew koot. That means “cut off, detested, be grieved or loathed of self”. At ahabiblemoments we suggest it is the latter. Why? There was a great divide between the wealthy and those in poverty in Israel. This is one of the callings of Amos to prophecy in this northern kingdom; the rich taking advantage of their own; loathed by their countrymen; those who are looked down upon and without true justice.
Next [7:7] Amos sees God with a plum line. Such a tool is used to assure a wall is true vertically; straight as it stands; upright. It is used on all walls, not just the lead wall. It is a way to assure each wall is up to standards. In this case it was to see if Israel as individuals stood upright. The ones not standing according to God’s standards is corrected or removed. Within but a few more years, this is exactly what the invading Assyrians did. They removed those who did not measure up to God’s standards never to find them again united until the return of Jesus Christ at his millennial reign. The Assyrians were not of God but used by God for this purpose. Yes Israel exists today but not all Israelis live or are yet called back to this Promised Land.
In Amos 7:9 we find that “Isaac” is mentioned. Now we have both Jacob [v5] and Isaac [v7] mentioned in chapter 7. This must hold significance. It is Israelis within the context of Jacob and Isaac, their progenitors; they being the standard or plum line. Amos twice pleaded the case against destruction; by locust and fire. God relented both times. This use of a plum line allowed Amos to visualize the uprightness of his northern cousins. Verse 8b is chilling. It literally means to “not forgive them anymore; no more mercy” [Jamieson-Fausset-Brown; Adam Clarke].
The high places Israel used were of legend and ancestry. Abram and Isaac had established these same “high places” to offer sacrifices to God. The delinquent northern Kingdom some 1,000 years later used these “high places” to offer idol sacrifices. It is easy to understand God’s wrath upon them for this. [See Jamison-Faussett-Brown Commentary; V9] Their time of Amos purpose of sacrificing on these “high places” was two-fold: to prevent the northern Israelis from venturing to Jerusalem and the Temple; one that did not yet exist during the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to offer an alternative religion.
Amaziah versus Amos: The chief priest [in Bethel] of the north was greatly concerned about the influence of Amos on the Israelis of the northern kingdom. He wanted Amos to GO HOME; return to the southern kingdom from which he came. Amaziah brought charges against Amos to King Jeroboam. This is mixed with a little fake news in verse 11.
Amos 7:11 is the key verse: [ASV] For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of his land. Commentaries are mixed on the meaning of this statement by Amos. Some say the “death by sword” only referred to the family of King Jeroboam; not him. Jeroboam did die of natural causes [2 Kings 14:9]
Ahamoment: Under Jeroboam II Israel enjoyed one of its most prosperous periods of political and economic security. The prophet Jonah, who had anointed Jeroboam’s great-grandfather Jehu, was still alive at that time…It was [also] an age of corruption in which wealth and power ruled the day. [Jewish History; https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/464005/jewish/Jeroboam-II.htm] This makes Amos, Hosea, and Jonah contemporaries.
At this point let us recall: “I will stir up a nation against you, O house of Israel, that will oppress you all the way from Lebo Hamath to the valley of the Arabah” (Amos 6:13-14). This happened about 40 years later in 722 b.c.
The balance of Amos 7 is the chief priest telling Amos to return to Judah and calling him a prophet [seer]. Jeremiah makes it clear that God called him from being a caretaker of sheep and fig trees to warn Israel of pending doom. He was, in a sense, just a layperson.
Jstark – 2020