The five judgments
Prepare to meet your God
As we come to the judgments here recorded by Amos, it mustn’t be forgotten that Israel was materially as wealthy in Jeroboam’s reign as it ever had been (with the acquisition of more territory and secure trade links, the overall wealth of the nation would have increased - see my notes here under the header ‘Jeroboam’) or else there couldn’t have been ‘rich’ sections - indeed, the way the rich believers are spoken of, it portrays a society that had many who were wealthy, living predominantly in Samaria.
The judgments detailed here, then, must have been all limited in scope and may well have now been substantially over and done with, in the light of the prophet’s declaration to the nation that they were shortly to be exiled away from the land through the invasion and conquest of a foreign nation.
What YHWH is thus recording is His past attempts to wake the nation up to its position before Him rather than to detail the sorts of judgments that would fall upon them in the future to cause them to turn back.
The first ‘I’ in this passage is emphatic and doesn’t come across as anything special in the RSV. Amhub renders it
‘Even I Myself…’
to give it better emphasis. Ammot develops this theme for some considerable lines, opening with the interpretation that the Hebrew means
‘Now I, for My part…’
to emphasise the actions that had been taken to avert the judgment that was about to fall. He also speaks about how ‘busy’ the Israelites had been in their sinful acquisition of wealth and contrasts it with this passage where God is said to have been equally so. Both the nation and their God, then, had busied themselves - Israel in drawing itself further away from the covenant, God in making opportunity for them to return in repentance.
As such, Amos 4:6-11 stands as a fitting contrast to 4:4-5 for the religious busy-ness of the nation is contrasted sharply with the covenantal busy-ness of God. Even though they thought that such ceremonial observances were bringing them Divine favour and acceptance, it was only in their correct response to the disasters that God had sent that they were going to find their restoration.
We must also note that it was God who’d brought these judgments to bear upon the nation (and, perhaps, this is another reason why the ‘I’ of the opening verse is emphatic - to make sure that the Israelites don’t miss the point).
When ‘evil’ comes upon God’s people, the tendency has always been to see it as a product of satan or of the works of sinful men and women who stand opposed to His will (though, in my experience, the latter are normally considered to be so much on the side of the former that satan normally gets the blame anyway).
I’ve never been one for attributing too much power and resourcefulness to satan - it makes him out to be someone to rival God Himself and an adequate enemy to overcome the power and provision of the cross.
But such a belief becomes even more deceptive if it’s God Himself who’s bringing those defeats and disasters upon us - if we miss God’s hand, we’ll miss the opportunity to repent (even though it’s because of our rebellion that they come upon us in the first place and so it’s our continued rebellion that closes our eyes to the source).
And that was the whole point of these acts of God - each of the five sections (Amos 4:6,8,9,10,11) concludes with the words
‘…Yet you did not return to Me’
so that it’s correct to accept them as teaching that punitive actions encourage the recipients to repent. Far from them simply being judgments, they serve the purpose of calling His people to a place of contrition where they might be brought back to obedience before God (the reader should also turn to my notes here both in the introduction to the web page and under the header ‘God fights against His own’ for more information on this subject. In that place, God has declared Himself to be the One who’ll fight against His people in the future - here He declares Himself as the One who’s fought against them in times past).
The Church pictures itself as being God’s representative on this earth, declaring the will of God in the Gospel that all men should repent, seeing victory follow victory in each area over which the name of Jesus is pronounced.
It doesn’t mean that no one will be martyred or that nothing will come against the Church but that, in all these things, it will be shown to be (Rom 8:37)
‘…more than conquerors through Him who loved us’
If that’s the case, what are we to make of situations in which we suffer defeat? Of those times that we see all manner of enemies arrayed against us and who overcome us? When the Church marches out against the powers of darkness and makes negative headway?
Most leaderships tend to sweep such experiences under the carpet to try and bury them without trace (for they, quite rightly, feel that they’re a hindrance to the development of faith) or spiritualise them so that the defeat actually becomes a glorious victory (these leaders have missed their true vocation in life, surely, for they should be working as the spin doctors of the current political parties).
For the Church to suffer defeat is an indication that all is not well (not a proof, I admit, but an indication). It’s a prompt for it to seek God and to determine the cause of the problem - just as Joshua did when the armies of YHWH were chased away from their conquest of Ai (Joshua 7:1-9). When he petitioned God, the reply he got was that the defeat was simply an outworking of their sin where He’d now turned from them, no longer being with their armies (Joshua 7:10-15 - it would be going too far to say that God was fighting against them for the record doesn’t say as much).
Whether the solution to defeat is that God isn’t in the Church’s midst or that God has become the Warrior opposing them, the result should be the same - that His people should fall down before Him and find out what the problem is.
Such was the reason for God sending upon the land and people of Israel the judgments outlined in Amos 4:6-11 - He was calling them to return to Him, to learn what it was that was forcing Him to either allow or do these things and to repent of their sin that He might come to restore them back into the covenant.
As I noted above, Amos 4:6-11 stands as a fitting contrast to 4:4-5 where the religious busy-ness of the nation is contrasted sharply with the covenantal busy-ness of God. Thinking that God takes delight in the Church’s ceremonial observances is vanity for it’s only in the correct response to the defeats and minor judgments that fall upon it that there’s the possibility that restoration might take place.
The five judgments
I’ve already discussed the reason for YHWH choosing to afflict the Israelites with the judgments listed in this passage in the introduction to the web page above and there remains only the more general observations to be made before continuing with the conclusion to the chapter (Amos 4:12-13).
Commentators don’t find this passage one of the most enthralling on which to comment judging from the volume of text that’s assigned to it. After all, we’d rather expound on God’s unmerited favour directed towards His creatures and how He intends to restore and provide for them. But judgment is a necessary preliminary to blessing - just as it was in the initial conversion experience when we passed from darkness to light.
If God had been unconcerned with sin, Jesus would have died to no effect and all men everywhere - regardless of their belief or morals - would be saved. But God has repeatedly showed Himself to be One who expects His creatures to reflect His nature, to be the reflection of God throughout the earth and any less isn’t acceptable.
Deut 28:15-68 sets before the Israelite a picture of chaos in the land where just about everything descends upon them because God’s judging them on account of their sin. It’s as if the land has become some sort of monster that can’t be tamed, rebelling against its inhabitants with just about every horror imaginable - whether afflictions directed at the people, the plants or the livestock, they’re all here and serve as a thermometer of the spiritual temperature of the nation before YHWH.
Paralleling the passage with Amos 4:6-11, we see that what comes upon them is nothing less than the opening shots of God who’s beginning to oppose His own people because of their sin.
These judgments (Amos 4:6-11) had all fallen upon Israel in the past as a wake up call for the nation - in Deut 28:15-68, however, it’s difficult to affirm that they were to be employed as that for we simply read of what would come upon them if they forsook the covenant. Even so, the Israelite who was careful to understand the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) should have been able to see in these events the warnings that all wasn’t well.
Therefore, as the first judgments are made known, the Israelite who was trying to live righteously before his God should have heard alarm bells ringing loudly in his ears - as should also be the case in the present day Church. That we fail to give heed to the smouldering of the ground in the outlying parts of the camp (Num 11:1) is a warning that more is to follow.
What I intend doing here is simply to show the parallel between the two passages and, where necessary, to explain what the judgment actually was.
The first judgment that YHWH brought upon both the land and His people was famine (Amos 4:6), paralleled in the specific judgments of Deut 28:17,33,38,51. Amos’ words are too general in their scope for us to even begin to attempt a stab at what had fallen upon the land but it was national in scope for the prophet speaks about it having taken place both ‘in all your cities’ and ‘in all your places’.
Neither could this judgment have lasted a long time for national annihilation would have been the case - rather, it’s best taken as one year’s failure of the staple crops of the kingdom and that there was an agricultural recovery in the subsequent years.
It must have come as quite some shock, then, to the people who were sacrificing to the gods who should have guaranteed their fertility and the fruitfulness of the land. Those who worshipped YHWH should also have recalled the promises of God that the land would provide an abundance for them and should have realised that all could not be well (Ex 3:8, Deut 28:3-5).
Instead, they seem to have gone about their own business regardless.
The second judgment was drought (Amos 4:7-8 Pp Deut 28:22,24). Specifically, God announces to the nation that He’d withheld the rain
‘…when there were yet three months to the harvest’
The land was dependant upon receiving both the early and latter rains (the rainfall between October and March) that caused the crops to grow. The longer the ‘latter rains’ fell (that is, those towards the end of the rainy season), the more bountiful the harvest was generally (obviously, torrential rain into June would have had an adverse effect by laying the cereal crops low), for whatever water provision there was had to be sufficient throughout the drought months of summer until the early rains came again around October.
By withholding the ‘latter rains’, therefore, the barley harvest that ripened just after Passover (the waving of the first ripe sheaf of barley took place at the First Fruits festival that took place during the seven day festival of Unleavened Bread - Lev 23:9-14. See also my notes on this festival) and the wheat harvest that ripened before Pentecost (the baking of the two loaves of bread were presented to YHWH at this festival - Lev 23:15-21. See also my notes on this festival) would have been decimated.
Amstu’s statement that YHWH had sent drought ‘for three months’ misses the point. Not only does the text state that rain did fall in some places but not others but, if there really had been a national drought from three months before the harvests were due, it would mean a drought period of some nine months because the summer months were normally dry.
God says here, then, that He was selective in where He sent the rain - though He stops short of saying that those fields that had rain were the ‘righteous’ and those who received nothing were ‘wicked’. The point is that God was simply giving some provision to keep them alive (they were able to seek out the cities where rain had fallen) to make them sit up and come to their senses, but not enough that they might be satisfied. He hadn’t yet come against them to remove them totally but was giving them a slap to try and get them to wake up to their position.
The third judgment (Amos 4:9) was an attack against all the other crops (and the cereals of barley and wheat, too, more especially spoken against above) - this seems to be the sense of judgments two and three for He deals with the cereal crops first before coming against the figs, vines and olives. There’s also an attack against their ‘gardens’ where vegetables would have been raised for personal consumption.
The general observation, untied to any specific crop, is that God brought upon them ‘blight’ and mildew’ (the same two words are employed in Deut 28:22 - Strongs Hebrew numbers 7711 and 3420 respectively). Ungers sees the first of these as representing two specific agricultural problems though it’s only one of them which seems to have been prevalent in Canaan - the withering and burning of the ears of the cereal crops when the east wind blew.
However, any tender growth would be ‘blighted’ by excessive heat and dryness. Mildew occurs in just the opposite of circumstances for it’s a characteristic of a damp climate that encourages the growth of fungus or parasites on the leaves and fruit.
There are two extremes here - in some places, there was hot and dry conditions that struck the tender plants and fresh growth while, in others, it was so damp that disease spread rapidly. In short, it’s an interesting consequence of there being rain in one place while nothing in another (Amos 4:7-8) even though the judgments here spoken of are clearly meant to be taken as separate and distinct.
Whatever did survive to harvest, though, was eaten by locusts (paralleled in Deut 28:38,39,40,42 though none of the Hebrew words employed here are the same as the one used in Amos 4:9). The picture is of a land being decimated by natural disasters, that no matter what happens (whether rain or drought) what they put their hand to fails to come to an acceptable conclusion.
These first three judgments that were brought against the land (Amos 4:6-9) were the antithesis of Deut 11:13-17 where God blesses the people of Israel and lays down the condition that if they will obey His voice
‘…[I] will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And [I] will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be full’
going on to warn them that, should they be full and satisfied in the land, they should
‘…take heed lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, and the anger of YHWH be kindled against you, and He shut up the heavens, so that there be no rain, and the land yield no fruit, and you perish quickly off the good land which YHWH gives you’
This is something that the Israelites certainly seem to have been doing by their establishing or worship centres in Bethel, Gilgal and Dan (I Kings 13:28-29, Amos 4:4-5) although we need to be careful to realise that His main cause for complaint against His people was that they were oppressing the poor and sinning against their brothers.
Nevertheless, that they had had a hard time of it should have alerted them to the fact that there was a problem between themselves and YHWH that needed immediate dealing with - and no amount of religious ceremony was ever going to be able to appease Him.
God moved on after the attacks on the agriculture of the land to strike the inhabitants with disease and not being able to stand in battle against their enemies (Amos 4:10) before, finally, giving them the sternest of warnings by bringing a limited judgment upon some of them in the same manner as He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah (Amos 4:11).
The fourth judgment was twofold. Firstly, it put ‘pestilence’ upon the population. The same word (Strongs Hebrew number 1698) occurs in Deut 28:21 where God speaks about bringing it upon the people until they would be destroyed from off the land - but perhaps the better parallel passage is in Deut 28:60 which specifically speaks of Egypt as it does here, promising the Israelites that He would
‘…bring upon you again all the diseases of Egypt, which you were afraid of; and they shall cleave to you’
It’s probably meant to be inferred that the disease was one of the contributing factors why their soldiers were unable to stand in battle before the enemy (Pp Deut 28:25) and their bodies were given over to be food for the wild animals of the land (Pp Deut 28:26) - the least weak amongst them had gone out to fight and there was no one left to rise up and bury the dead.
Amhub sees the pestilence as being
‘…a by-product of water, spoiling of food, failure of sanitation that siege conditions produced’
and therefore ties it in with the power of the enemy over the Israelites who found it impossible to openly oppose the invaders and, instead, simply shut up their cities when they were being besieged. There’s good reason for this because Lev 26:25 ties both these together, the only problem being that pestilence is spoken of as being a result of an enemy advance after the cities had had to be shut up from within whereas the implication here in Amos is that the pestilence is the first to strike.
Fifthly, God speaks of a limited judgment upon some of them who were overthrown as God had done to Sodom and Gomorrah (Amos 4:11 Pp Deut 29:22-23 - the word ‘overthrow’ occurs in both places and is the same word - Strongs Hebrew number 2015. There seems little doubt that the same sort of destruction is meant), the cities of the plain that had been so utterly destroyed in the times of Abraham.
God speaks of the Israelites as having been
‘…a brand plucked out of the burning’
so that, whatever the exact nature of the judgment, it would appear to have been something which had had the potential to decimate the entire nation - that they had escaped by the narrowest of margins, it had seemed, to stand upon the land as they were at that moment in time. The idea of the deliverance of Lot and his family, therefore, and their parallel deliverance from out of the area couldn’t have been far from the idea.
Amhub sees this judgment as a reference
‘…to military assault rather than natural disaster, continuing the picture of judgment by political means’
but it seems to me an odd way of describing a military conquest, more especially so when the previous judgment has already clearly stated that that is what had taken place. It’s much more logical to take the destruction of Sodom as a parallel to what had occurred in Israel - and that most definitely was not the result of human conquest.
Finally, at the risk of boring the reader, we must remind ourselves that all these things had come upon them from the hand of God and not as impersonal reactions of bad agricultural practices or of advantageous breeding conditions for pests and diseases. It’s God who’s stood against them to warn them, giving them opportunity to repent of their ways before the full and final exile from off the land.
The curse of the Law is equally plain. Deut 28:63 cannot be taken any other way for it states that
‘…as YHWH took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so YHWH will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you…’
and we must think of God as being willing to fulfil His promise of judgment personally.
Although such an idea is anathema within the Church today (except when directed at the really bad believers or people in the world who deserve it), the Scriptures bear testimony that God will fight against His own people to, firstly, give them opportunity to repent of their ways (the times that lay in the past for Amos) and, failing that, to remove both them from their inheritance and their life from them(the times that lay in the prophet’s future), both being explained in the NT as a withdrawal of the Holy Spirit.
Prepare to meet your God
This is a confusing verse.
The opening ‘therefore’ glues them back into the previous passage so that it’s meant to stand as the conclusion to the history of God’s actions to try and wake the Israelites up to their condition before Him. He’s saying that, because they’d failed to return to Him, He was about to move in their midst in judgment (though Amhub sees the ‘therefore’ as being indicative of the entire passage that has started with Amos 4:1). That’s plain enough.
But when God speaks (my italics) and says
‘...thus I will do to you...because I will do this to you...’
the question seems to immediately arise as to what it is that God’s saying He’ll do. If you look at the previous six verses to which this stands as a conclusion, it isn’t there - if you read the next verses (or even the next passage from Amos 5:1) it isn’t there.
What exactly was God saying that He was to do to the Israelites that He would promise them that they needed to ‘prepare to meet [their] God’ (a phrase which, by the overall context, is certain to mean something negative for the nation - but just what, goes both unmentioned and unhinted at)?
The question isn’t an easy one to solve. Amhub suggests that the two italicised words above
‘...may assume some dramatic symbolic gesture like a blow from a fist, a cutting of the throat or a wielding of a sword’
and, although this has much going for it, it only adds more problems to the difficulty for we would have to assume that, when Amos pronounced these words, he had, for example, a sword in his hand that he violently cut downwards or thrust upwards to emphasise his point but that he neglected to give us even the remotest inkling of what sight accompanied the message. He only had to say
‘Therefore, I will cut you like a sword, O Israel...’
to give meaning to his words - but he neglects to do this, presumably, because he felt that the words made perfect sense without them.
Amstu, on the other hand, thinks the reference is back to the ‘covenantal curses’ of Deuteronomy chapter 28 (that he totals at twenty-seven) so that God is saying something like
‘These five judgments that I used to wake you up to your condition were purely limited in scope. Now I will do much of the same - and more - and there will no longer be an end in sight to what I pour out upon you’
or, as he paraphrases it
‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’
This certainly has a lot going for it because it focuses the Israelites’ attention upon the mercy of God in making the previous acts limited and restricted to a certain time. But where it falls down is that, although the Israelite may have been reminded of the covenant curses, there’s no direct link to a passage such as Deuteronomy chapter 28 and it’s stretching it just a little too far to think that the Israelite was able to understand what God’s words meant.
After all, if God doesn’t speak clearly and simply, how can He expect His people to understand His message and His complaint against them? Therefore, it remains more unlikely than probable that we’re meant to see YHWH referring to a chapter that goes unmentioned.
Ammot - again slightly differently - interprets the statement as meaning that God would
‘...continue the destructive judgments of verses 6-11 and implement the predicted disaster of 3:9-15’
but there’s no indication that the immediately preceding six verses have anything to do with the judgment that’s about to fall upon them.
It’s better, first and foremost, to accept that the ‘therefore’ is added because the Israelites had not returned to YHWH despite the opportunity that they’d been given through the five acts of God. But Ammot’s idea that God’s new ‘action’ is to be thought of as being a reference back to the final seven verses of chapter 3 seem to be the only logical conclusion to draw.
Amos’ message, then, becomes self-contained and gives the answer to the Israelite without them having to know anything prior. God has set Himself to cause an enemy nation to invade the land, to overthrow it, and the reason is because the nation has refused to give heed to the warnings that were given it through His limited judgment.
In the life of the believer, the words
‘Prepare to meet your God’
would usually always be taken as positive. Believers are looking forward to seeing Jesus, to see what He looks like. It’s difficult for us ever to perceive that there might come a time in our lives when the last words that we would ever want to hear is that God’s coming to meet with us.
Even if we know that we stand pure and undefiled before God, meeting with Him isn’t like getting into the company of your friends down the pub - it wouldn’t even rival meeting with nobility or aristocracy.
Meeting with God is frightening, disconcerting and not something that anyone should be eagerly looking forward to in this life. Those who met with God in the OT often found the experience bewildering (Ex 3:1-6, Judges chapter 13, Is 6:1-5, Dan 10:15 - I have used those meetings with the angels of God also) even though some, such as Abraham, seem to not have had any problem when standing before Him (Genesis chapter 18).
Even though we correctly understand that, when Jesus appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, the only right reaction from the sinful man he was at that time was to fall down on the ground in obedience (Acts 9:4), we accept but don’t comprehend that when ‘righteous and cleansed’ John saw Jesus on the island of Patmos, his reaction wasn’t any different (Rev 1:17) - even his response to the angels who later appeared to him in the vision (Rev 22:8).
The nation of Israel, however, were terrified at Sinai (Ex 19:16) - even more so would they be when they met with God as their Judge in the tribulation that was about to fall upon them. Even though they talked about ‘the Day of YHWH’ as if they were God’s buddies and should be eagerly looking forward to it (Amos 5:18), the prophet was quick to point out that such a day would not bring them blessing but a curse (Amos 5:18-19).
Even if we desire God to come in our midst, imploring Him to bring revival amongst us, we don’t really understand what that will mean - for it makes being judged a necessity, it makes dealing with sin obligatory or else having to face the consequences of His awesome presence that can tolerate nothing ‘unclean’. Meeting with God isn’t meant to be exciting - and, if most men and women should ever encounter even a little of His presence, it would be enough to ‘kill or cure’ us. It’s strange that we testify to God being ‘amongst us’, that we can feel His presence move in our midst and yet we continue to sin and go our own way apart from Him.
If God was truly moving in His awesome presence amongst us, times of repentance would be equally as common as times of joy and praise - but that this doesn’t happen is surely an indication that what we’re experiencing is very often not the fulness of the presence of God in our midst.
When God truly does meet with His people, though, you can be sure that there’ll be very few people who’ll be able to stand before Him (Ex 40:34-35, I Chr 5:13-14, Mtw 17:6).
Israel’s destiny as a nation to meet with God wasn’t going to be their salvation as they might have imagined - it was to be their death. Their expected preparation before He was to come to them was surely to repent and change (as it was of the nation’s first encounter with God at Sinai - Ex 19:10-11,14-15), hoping that, somehow, God might turn from the intentions proclaimed to them previously and wash them clean of their sin.
Before we close our discussion, we need to note Ammot’s statement that ‘prepare to meet your God’
‘…points to grace rather than wrath’
and that we should hear in them
‘…the notes of encouragement, grace and welcome’
He points out that every invitation in the OT to meet with God has connotations of grace and, therefore, that these words must be more like a call to repentance than a word of judgment.
While I’m willing to accept that there’s a note of repentance implied in these words (but there’s no implicit reference to such and no opportunity being directly offered), I wonder whether we should accept the call for all men to appear before the great white throne as being ‘encouraging, gracious and welcoming’ (Rev 20:11-15)?
The point is surely that God will be coming in wrath and judgment - not in grace - or else why does God say that ‘thus’ He will do to the nation when the clear intention of His words is that He’s coming to them as their enemy?
But, more than this, we have a couple of verses in Amos 5:16-17 that tells the Israelites what they can expect when YHWH meets with them in the land for He describes the events
‘In all the squares there shall be wailing; and in all the streets they shall say, “Alas! alas!”. They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, and in all vineyards there shall be wailing...’
and then goes on to give the reason
‘...for I will pass through the midst of you’
If God’s returning presence in the land brings judgment here, why should we think that His call to prepare for His meeting should be any different?
The words, therefore, are meant to jolt the hearers into action - but they are by no means a message of grace.
I’ve called this section ‘doxology’ (a short hymn of praise to God) simply because this is how it’s often labelled by commentators who go one step further and see this verse as a ‘borrow’ from some hymn or psalm which was common in Amos’ day and which is used here by the prophet either as a point of reference for his listeners or to round off the message by reminding them of who YHWH is (it’s surely significant also that, should God speak similar words to the Church as He does to Israel throughout this book, it wouldn’t be surprising should words from popular hymns or choruses be integrated into the message).
This ‘doxology’ is also paralleled with two later verses (Amos 5:8, 9:5-6) and some would see all three as being taken by Amos from a common source to add weight to the message that’s being brought. Although these discussions are interesting and may well show how Amos was able to respond with His own words, incorporating them into the message of YHWH that came through him, they shouldn’t be thought of as superfluous or irrelevant.
The prophet - as I showed in my notes on the introduction to the book - is meant to be understood as being one with the message, where the burden of the words is the prophet himself (because, by translation, the name ‘Amos’ means ‘burden’). We aren’t simply thinking of a man who allowed himself to be God’s channel but one who was so attached to the message that to reject it was to reject the prophet himself - and vice versa.
Amos’ own words here, therefore, are just as much a part of the message as the previous ones - and they serve the message by reminding the Israelites of some of the characteristics of YHWH, painting a picture not of a localised, semi-powerful deity but of One who’s in control of the universe and does as He pleases with none to oppose Him.
What Amos is trying to do is to cause Israel to realise that what God has just announced to them, he won’t be slack in performing and that He has the ability to bring about everything that’s been declared. As Amhub says
‘…the interpretation of the hymn stanza that follows [verse 12] must be in line with the theme of judgment’
YHWH, then, is proclaimed as being:
1. He who forms the mountains
The word from which the RSV translates ‘form’ (Strongs Hebrew number 3335, M898) is defined by TWOTOT as having
‘...its primary emphasis…on the shaping or forming of the object involved’
and, as such, the idea is that YHWH causes the hills and mountains to rise up and be eroded away. There doesn’t appear to be the obvious intention that it’s God who formed them at the beginning of time (even though this is an additional truth that can be gleaned from it) but that He’s in control of their continued construction.
Applicable to the Israelites for God is seen as the One who fashions and forms His people according to His own purpose (the word is used in association with the potter and his moulding of clay), raising some up while casting others down - in the present circumstances, the idea would be one of laying the proud low.
2. He who creates the wind
The word transliterated ‘bara’ (Strongs Hebrew number 1254, M278) is translated by ‘creates’ and means specifically ‘to bring something out of nothing’ as opposed to ‘asa’ (Strongs Hebrew number 6213) which is used by its side in Genesis chapter 1 and which more properly means ‘make’.
They can overflow in meaning when they stand alone, though their contrast in the same passage should be taken to revert them back to their main meaning - just as here, for the latter word is used shortly afterwards.
The idea of a ‘creation’ rather than a ‘making’ is to be accepted - more especially because the wind has no solid substance and couldn’t be thought of as having come from anything material. It would have been God alone who would have to be the One who’d brought it into existence.
God is, therefore, being proclaimed as the One who brings something from nothing that, even when there appears no way something can happen, he has the ability to make it so - applicable because of the objection that the nation’s prosperity and the political circumstances in which Israel found itself couldn’t possibly envisage an army overthrowing their nation.
There may also be an allusion here to the breath of life for the word ‘wind’ can also mean ‘breath’ or ‘spirit’. God is seen as the Creator of all life, therefore, the One who breathes life into existence - even that He’s the One who causes the message of the prophet to come into being.
This idea would then be naturally expanded upon in the following phrase.
3. He who declares to man what is His thought
Perhaps following on from above, Amos depicts YHWH as the One who gives revelation to men and women that they might discover what His thoughts and will are.
Inextricably bound up with the prophet’s message, it gives the Israelites the encouragement to believe that God won’t keep hidden what His will is concerning them and perhaps even hints at an opportunity for repentance through Divine foreknowledge..
4. He who makes the morning darkness
Ammot understands the Hebrew to mean alternatively
‘He who makes morning out of darkness’
and this seems preferable if one thinks of what’s ‘natural’. God is seen as being the One who takes an active part in the running of the world, of causing the day to day needs of all Creation to be met through His provision of light.
The Hebrew from which the word ‘makes’ comes (Strongs Hebrew number 6213, M1708) is transliterated ‘asa’, the companion word that contrasts with ‘bara’ above. This word means to ‘make’ (to form from things already in existence) rather than to ‘create’ (to bring into being something that didn’t already exist and which had no possibility of coming into existence).
Even in the darkness of night, God has made provision for light to come - a significant word if taken to heart for the darkness that’s about to fall upon the nation of Israel might well be reasoned to be only a temporary judgment, after which God’s provision of light would be expected.
This may be reading too much into it, however, and it might be best to follow the RSV’s translation that God makes the morning into darkness to depict the coming judgment as falling upon them when they least expect it.
Whatever the exact meaning, both translations make sense in the context of Israel’s coming judgment.
5. He who treads on the heights of the earth
TWOTOT sees the word translated ‘treads’ (Strongs Hebrew number 1869, M453) as indicating
‘control of the enemy’
and when used in Deut 33:29 it’s a promise to Israel that they will ‘tread’ upon the ‘high places’ of their enemies where the idea is that the nation will be in a position of supremacy over and above everyone who stands opposed to them. They also note that
‘…when used of God [it speaks of] His sovereignty as Creator of heaven and earth’
This seems to be the meaning of it for YHWH is being proclaimed as high above all and able to bring about the purpose of His will regardless of any opposition that may be offered Him. In the NT (Eph 6:12), the high places are those areas where spiritual powers hold control and against which the believer is exhorted to do battle, clothed with the full armour of God.
If YHWH strides across the habitations of these ‘spiritual hosts’, He’s seen to be the One who has all things under His control, able to tread upon or subjugate anything that opposes His will and purpose. Nothing, therefore, can stand against His declared judgment of His people, Israel.
6. YHWH, God of Hosts, is His name
For a brief discussion of the phrase ‘YHWH of Hosts’, readers should access my web page here under the header ‘Lord of Hosts’. My conclusion there is that the phrase
‘…seems to have been coined to denote God’s Sovereignty over all the multitudes and groups of the world, whether they be nations, tribes or armies. Instead of the nation of Israel looking at their God and seeing Him purely as a ‘local’ god who was over themselves alone, they envisaged Him being supreme over the nations (and angelic hosts) even though the nations may not be recognising it’
As such, it fits in well with the idea of judgment for God is proclaimed as in control and fully able to bring about all that He’s purposed.
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