The Word Made Fresh
1“Listen to what I, the LORD, have said against you, people of Israel, and against all those I brought out of Egypt:
2Of all the earth’s families, you are the only ones I have known,
and I will punish you for all your sins.
3Do two people walk together without making plans?
4Does the lion roar in the forest without having any prey?
Does the young lion roar from its den
without having caught anything?
5Does a bird get caught in a snare
when no trap has been placed for it?
Does a trap snap shut when it has captured nothing?
6When the trumpet is blown in the city,
are not the people afraid?
Does calamity engulf a city unless it is from the LORD?
7You can be sure the LORD God does nothing
without giving an explanation to the prophets.
8When the lion roars, who is not afraid?
When the LORD God has spoken, the prophets must prophesy.
9Speak to the fortresses in Ashdod and the fortresses in Egypt.
Tell them to gather on the mountains of Samaria
to see what troubles there may be
and what oppressions are being carried out there.
10Those who practice theft and violence in their fortresses
don’t know right from wrong,” says the LORD.
11And that is why the LORD declares that
the land will be surrounded by an enemy
who will strip all your defenses
and plunder all your strongholds.
12The LORD says that the people of Israel who live in Samaria will be rescued, but only part of a couch or bed; just as a shepherd might rescue a sheep from the lion’s mouth, but only the legs or a piece of an ear.
13“Hear this,” says the LORD God Almighty,
“And proclaim it to the family of Jacob:
14I will punish Israel for their sins,
and on that day I will destroy the altars in Bethel.
The horns of the altar will be severed and fall to the earth.
15I will dismantle the summer houses and the winter houses;
the ivory houses will be destroyed.
Many houses will come to their end,” says the LORD.
1-2: These verses actually belong to the previous section, for they continue the judgment against Israel.
3-8: In a series of questions that recall the style of Proverbs, Amos seeks to defend his prophetic office. God made an appointment with him, and so he and God have been “walking” together. God (the lion) has spoken (roared) to the people (the forest) because they have sinned (and are thus the lion’s prey). Israel (the bird) has fallen into God’s hands (the snare). God would not be announcing their punishment (a trap springing up from the ground) if there were no cause (if there is no game for the snare to catch). Verse 6 is more direct. The warning trumpet is being sounded and the people ought to be afraid. The coming disaster is God’s doing. The job of God’s prophets is to announce God’s plans; they can do no other.
9-11: Israel’s ancient enemies, the Philistines (Ashdod) and Egyptians, are called to witness what God is doing to Israel (Samaria). They are being invaded and conquered because of their iniquity.
12: As a shepherd might find only a small part of a lamb torn by a lion, so only a small part of Israel will be recognizable when God is finished with them.
13-15: A picture is drawn of the destruction that will take place in Israel, and the emphasis is on the destruction of the religious shrines and the houses of the wealthy, perhaps specifically the king and his family.
It is interesting that, for all the judgments brought against Israel, there is always the promise of some remaining people whom God will protect and preserve. God will pare us down for our sinfulness, but God will never give up on us completely.