We come now to the conclusion of Amos, at least in the form of going through it passage by passage. Next week we will look at the book as a whole, and then some applications—Amos for Americans.
“Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail . . .” (Amos 8:4-9:15).
Structure and Overview of the Text
Amos again follows his consistent pattern. This portion of Amos is another seven-fold chiasm, and is a wonderful declaration of the permanent things.
a the coming destruction of the land (8:4-8)
The evil rulers of Israel swallow the need (v. 4). They chafe under the fact that the Sabbath means they cannot cheat people seven days a week (v. 5). They hunger to steal from the hungry (v. 6). So God swears by their “excellency” or pride, and says that He will not forget their deeds (v. 7). The land will rise up like the Nile to flood them (v. 8). God will make their sun go down at noon (v. 9). He will turn all their festival days into bitter days (v. 10). He will send a famine of His own word (vv. 11-12). The young and vigorous will fail (v. 13), and those who swear by the sin of Samaria and other idols will fall forever (v. 14). God will bring judgment on the temple and those in it (9:1). Though they tunnel down to Hades, or any other place in creation, they will be found out (vv. 2- 3). When they think the judgment is complete because they are in exile, they will be struck there (v. 4). Again, they will be flooded with judgment (v. 5). God’s wisdom in creation is declared, and His authority over nations (vv. 6- 7). God sees the wicked and will destroy them (v. 8). A remnant will be spared (v. 9), although the sinners will die (v. 10). And then, at verse 11, an astonished turn occurs. God will raise up the fallen tabernacle of David, and rebuild it (v. 11). Israel will possess all the heathen (v. 12). Astounding prosperity will come (v. 13). The return from exile will be completed (v. 14), and Israel will be restored forever (v. 15).
Those Who Swallow the Needy
Amos begins by attacking those rich, dishonest merchants who rip off the poor. The ephah was the measurement of volume (a little more than half a bushel), and by lining the basket you could make the ephah small. The shekel was the measurement of weight, and by making it “great” you had your thumb on the scales. Why do we have little ridges around the edges of our coins? Why are our current quarters little copper sandwiches? Because we are governed by liars, thieves and scoundrels—and we love to have it so. It is the rich and influential who control the mechanisms of commerce, and it is they who are in a position to rig the system. Cui bono? Well, guess. As we consider this sin, remember how God evaluates it (Prov. 11:1; 16:11; 20:10, 23). Take just one of these. “A false balance [is] abomination to the LORD: but a just weight [is] his delight” (Prov. 11:1). Does cheating with weights and measures somehow become okay if we do it on a grand scale? We can’t be thieves because we steal a lot?
The Sin of Samaria
As we have noted, a recurring theme for Amos is the fact that all this oppression flows out of false worship. False worship cannot produce anything else but oppression. So who will fall, never to rise? Those who swear by the sin of Samaria, which is their idolatry (8:14). Those who say to Dan “thy god liveth.” Dan was the northernmost city, where Bethel’s twin gold calf was. A corrupt shrine was in Beersheba to the south, and so from Dan to Beersheba, from top to bottom, they were all going to fall. Note the sin that causes economic oppression, and mark it well.
Who is the Lord?
Remembering that Amos has marked this point at the center of this chiasm, we must remember the Lord God of hosts is the God of creation. He touches the ground and it swells like a flood (9: 5). He builds story after story into heaven (v. 6); heaven and earth are His skyscraper. He builds His foundational strata on the earth. He summons water out of the ocean, and pours it back out onto the earth (v. 6). The Lord is His name. He is therefore the Lord of nations and mass migrations (v. 7). How could this God not be Lord of the nations?
The Fallen Booth of David
Amos takes a dramatic turn in 9:11, and it is noteworthy that this prophecy is quoted by James at the Council of Jerusalem, and is applied to the creation of the Christian Church and the inclusion of the Gentiles as Gentiles. On the authority of the Lord’s brother, we know that this great prophecy is being fulfilled in us. But what is the tabernacle of David? Why that expression? The tabernacle of David was built on Mt. Zion before Solomon’s temple was built on Mt.Moriah. This tabernacle was not a sacrificial tent, but was rather a place for musical praise. After the temple was built, the music was moved to the temple and took the name “Zion” with it. The place of music in the worship of the Church is therefore significant. There are no more blood sacrifices—but we are to fill the earth with the sacrifices of praise.
When the fortunes of Israel have been restored, as they have been in the Church, what will be the result? As we look for the new covenant to be established in the earth, what should we look for? First, we should look for the inclusion of all the Gentiles (v. 12). This is how James applied it, quite rightly (Acts 15:16-17). Second, we should look for astounding prosperity. In the first place this would be the mirror image of the famine of the Word of God in 8:11-12. There would be an abundance of teaching and application out of the Scriptures—so much that we won’t know what to do with it all. But in the second place—because we are not spiritualizing gnostics—the time of the new covenant is a time of great material prosperity. The fields will be so fertile that the plowman almost runs down the harvester. The same thing will happen in vineyards. The mountains will drip with wine. The land that had been bulldozed under by the divine judgments is a land that will be settled again, and this time there will be no exile. In the time of the new covenant, the disasters in the first part of this book will never fully apply.