In this chapter we see a kingdom disappearing and a kingdom coming.
1 The fifth vision
1 I saw the Lord standing beside the altar, and He said,
“Smite the capitals so that the thresholds will shake,
And break them on the heads of them all!
Then I will slay the rest of them with the sword;
They will not have a fugitive who will flee,
Or a refugee who will escape.
This fifth and final vision is by far the most terrible. The Lord stands beside the altar. That must be the altar in Jerusalem. This altar means atonement for those who believe. For those who disobey, judgment comes from the altar. What is the basis for the atonement now becomes the place from which the judgment comes. It shows the nothing sparing judgment.
Here happens what has already been announced (Amos 5:17; 7:8; 8:2). There is only talk here of “the Lord” (Adonai), the sovereign Ruler, and not of the LORD (Yahweh), His Name indicating the relationship with His people. God does not come here in judgment to any other people, but only to His own people. God speaks and His hand strikes.
By “the capitals” are probably meant the pillars of the temple. The question is whether this is the temple of Jerusalem or that of Bethel. Most obvious is that it is the one of Bethel because Amos preaches there. This is not only the literal temple, but the entire religious system of the ten tribes realm. It is also not impossible that the words of Amos also apply to the religion of the two tribes. After all, Amos involves Judah more often and also further on in this chapter he talks about the restoration of the entire realm.
Here it becomes clear that God demolishes the whole religion of man, which is seen in the smiting of the capitals, by which is meant not only the destruction of the temple building. The direct consequence of the smiting is that the whole temple building collapses, killing all the temple-goers who are present there. The people gathered at the temple will be buried under the collapsing temple. Also here the whole people are represented by these people who are directly involved.
2 In the Realm of the Dead and Heaven
2 “Though they dig into Sheol,
From there will My hand take them;
And though they ascend to heaven,
From there will I bring them down.
Nowhere is a hiding place to escape the Divine wrath (Jer 51:53; Oba 1:4). It is reminiscent of Psalm 139, but there it is about the happiness a man finds in the knowledge that God sees him everywhere. There it is about understanding for the better, which a believer wants (Psa 139:1-4,22-23). Here it is about the fear of having to appear before God.
The shelters that Amos calls – “Sheol” and “heaven” – are completely beyond the reach of man. It is impossible for him to get there on his own or with the help of someone else. That the prophet nevertheless calls these extreme spaces of the universe – which are opposite each other and lie outside the visible creation – he does, in a manner of speaking. If he could get there, God would know to find him there as well. Fleeing and becoming untraceable is impossible.
3 On the Summit and the Floor of the Sea
3 “Though they hide on the summit of Carmel,
I will search them out and take them from there;
And though they conceal themselves from My sight on the floor of the sea,
From there I will command the serpent and it will bite them.
Man himself could see the impossibility of reaching a hiding place as mentioned in the previous verse. Then he would look for hiding places that lie within the visible creation and are accessible to man. The Carmel with its many dens and strongly overgrown and winding paths has been a refuge for persecuted people for centuries.
But whether someone is in the deepest den at the height of the Carmel, or in the deepest den on the floor of the sea, it does not matter. Nowhere a man is untraceable for God and His judgment. Nowhere is a place where he can hide or God takes him away from there. Nowhere is a place where he can hide but God’s judgment will strike him there.
4 God’s Eyes Against Them for Evil
4 “And though they go into captivity before their enemies,
From there I will command the sword that it slay them,
And I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.”
No matter how sad the position of captivity is, life is still present. If you are captured by one enemy, you are protected against another enemy. Like someone who was in prison, said he felt safe there, protected from his criminal ‘friends’ who wanted to get rid of him.
But in the case of Israel, captivity does not offer a solution when it comes to the judgment of God. The judgment of captivity is not heavy enough. He will also deprive them of the hope of return. Therefore, He sends “the sword” of His judgment after them to kill them where they have been taken into captivity (Jer 9:16).
‘To set eyes against someone’ is usually an expression of benevolence (Gen 44:21; Jer 39:12). Here God directs His all-seeing eye against His people for evil. All their evil deeds are before His face (Hos 7:2). Nothing escapes His gaze. He includes everything in His omniscient judgment. That is why He acts completely righteously. Everyone will have to acknowledge that He acts righteously when He treats His people for evil. They only have to blame themselves for it.
5 - 6 God in His Omnipotence
5 The Lord GOD of hosts,
The One who touches the land so that it melts,
And all those who dwell in it mourn,
And all of it rises up like the Nile
And subsides like the Nile of Egypt;
6 The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens
And has founded His vaulted dome over the earth,
He who calls for the waters of the sea
And pours them out on the face of the earth,
The LORD is His name.
As before (Amos 4:13; 5:8) we have here a description of the omnipotence of God. Following on from the previous verse, it means that He, Who directs His eye toward them, is this omnipotent God. The power of the LORD is described to show that He is able to carry out what He has said. He is the God Who directs everything and submits everything to Himself, “the Lord GOD of hosts” (verse 5). He not only has the authority in and over Israel, but all the powers on the whole earth and in heaven fall under His authority.
Perhaps Amos in his description of God’s omnipotence alludes to the judgment of the deluge. In any case, that thought is obvious when we read that He “calls for the waters of the sea And pours them out on the face of the earth” (verse 6). “His upper chambers of heaven” are His heavenly chambers (Psa 104:13), from where the water that is poured out over the earth comes (Psa 104:3; Gen 7:11). Amos has already spoken of “the Nile” and “the Nile of Egypt” (Amos 8:8).
7 God’s People Are No Better Than the Gentiles
7 “Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me,
O sons of Israel?” declares the LORD.
“Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt,
And the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?
The judgments come on Israel because they are no better than the nations. In practice they are no closer to the LORD than the Gentiles. God takes away the carnal certainty on which they rely, namely that they trust that they are the elect people. After all, God proved that when He delivered them out of Egypt, didn’t He? This election guarantees that God will not reject them as His people or have them destroyed by the Gentiles, they believe.
But to them what we read in Romans 2 applies: “For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision” (Rom 2:25). He who keeps the law is a true member of God’s people and can count on God’s protection. The apostates will perish; they have become equal to the Gentiles. To boast that they are Abraham’s offspring is misplaced if they do not also do the works of their father Abraham (Jn 8:33,37,39-40). Their behavior is equal to that of the nations, therefore they will be treated as the nations.
The equality with the nations mentioned by Amos is not meant in an absolute sense (Amos 3:2). But practically, the apostate Israel has come to the level of these peoples, who are also not connected to God. It is also true that apart from Israel, God also interferes with the other nations of the earth and gives them a place to live.
All in all, there is no ground for Israel to exalt itself, as if God’s meddling were limited to Israel and thus Israel would be indispensable to Him. It is therefore not about denying Israel’s special privilege, but about opposing Israel’s carnal conception of it.
The sons of Ethiopia are mentioned because of their black skin (Jer 13:23) as a picture of the spiritual blackness of Israel. Jeremiah describes it this way: “How dark the gold has become, [How] the pure gold has changed!” (Lam 4:1). Although they are children of Israel, they have no more value to God than the sons of Ethiopia.
Christians, too, can behave in a way that they are in practice, no different to God than sons of darkness. Then He rejects them and their service, just as He does here with Israel. For degenerate Israel the exodus from Egypt has no higher meaning than that of the two mentioned heathen peoples from their former homeland to the area where they now live.
It seems that the Philistines and the Syrians are not arbitrarily mentioned as examples. The Philistines are uncircumcised and therefore despised by Israel. But Israel behaves as if they are uncircumcised and that is why God equates them with the Philistines. The Syrians are mentioned because in exile they will be brought back to Kir, the place of their origin (Amos 1:5). What will happen to the Syrians is an example of what will happen to Israel, the judgment that will affect them (Hos 11:5).
8 Judgment and a Remnant
8 “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom,
And I will destroy it from the face of the earth;
Nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,”
Declares the LORD.
Here again we speak of “the eyes” of the Lord (verses 3-4). His eyes are directed “on” in the sense of ‘against’ the sinful kingdom (cf. Lev 20:5; Psa 34:16). For the “sinful kingdom” no continuation is possible and it will not rise again. God can never remain in connection with sin. If His kingdom, the government of which He has entrusted to His people, becomes a kingdom ruled by sin through misrule, then God becomes its Opponent.
He wanted someone to sit on ‘His throne’ (2Chr 9:8), ‘the throne of the kingdom of the LORD’ (1Chr 28:5), who represented Him. But His throne has increasingly fallen into the hands of people who only pursued their own interests and not the interests of God.
Where man reigns without the awareness that he represents God, there, sin comes to power and the whole kingdom is permeated by sin. In this kingdom, God sees nothing but sin. That is why He must wipe it off the face of the earth. How different will be the kingdom over which the Lord Jesus will be King. How different that will be, we will see in the millennial realm of peace.
Yet in the midst of this announcement of judgment, God introduces an element of hope. He “will not totally destroy the house of Jacob”. There will be a remnant from which He will form a new realm and holy people. This element has so far been lacking in the preaching of Amos; it was only judgment and nothing else.
9 The Sieve
9 “For behold, I am commanding,
And I will shake the house of Israel among all nations
As [grain] is shaken in a sieve,
But not a kernel will fall to the ground.
“All nations” are like a sieve in the midst of which “the house of Israel” will be shaken, shocked, and ravaged. They will be rejected from one place to another. But the real Israel will be preserved precisely by this ‘sieving’. What remains in the sieve is a remnant that will be spared.
The normal use of a sieve is that the bad disappears and the good remains in the sieve. All chaff, dust and impurity will fall to the earth through the sieve to be trampled and exterminated. But not a kernel, no good grain, will be lost. Nothing will be lost of what is meant to remain.
10 The Sinners of God’s People
10 “All the sinners of My people will die by the sword,
Those who say, ‘The calamity will not overtake or confront us.’
The self-confident sinners who rely on the mere fact that they belong to God’s people and therefore believe that judgment cannot affect them will perish by the sword. In the same way, today there is a frivolous reliance on outward appearances such as baptism and the Supper. As if baptism and the Supper have any meaning in themselves for God. What matters to God is the mind of the heart of those who participate in these institutions.
The sinners of God’s people may try to flatter themselves with the thought that they will escape, but the prophet has cut off all possibilities to escape in verses 1-4 of this chapter. The exception we have just seen in verses 8b-9 applies only to the pious who bow under the judgment of God.
If sinners say that the calamity, that is the judgment, will not overtake them, then with the coming of the judgment the remnant sees their salvation by God out of their distress. The pious suffered greatly from sinners, their sinful fellowmen. But God will take care of them by saving and preserving them in His Divine grace.
11 Raising up the Fallen Booth
11 “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches;
I will also raise up its ruins
And rebuild it as in the days of old;
Also here the expression “in that day” points forward to the future (Amos 8:9). It indicates the time when the Lord Jesus will publicly appear in favor of the believing remnant in ungodly Israel to deliver them from their enemies. This remnant will be poor and miserable, but it is they who are connected to the house of David.
Of the once so glorious house of David, which under Solomon knew the peak of its glory, not much is left but a “booth”, which conjures up a picture of weakness and bewilderment. This picture is reinforced by the word “fallen”. In connection with the “shoot … from the stem of Jesse” in Isaiah 11 (Isa 11:1), where we find the same thought, the “fallen booth” of Amos refers to the kingdom of David, while the shoot of which Isaiah speaks, refers to the lineage of David.
How much the house of David has declined is also made clear by the genealogy of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 1 (Mt 1:1-17), as well as the circumstances under which the Entitled to the throne (Lk 1:32-33) is born. Amos speaks here about the Messianic promise of salvation and this is there for the twelve tribes of which David was king. It is remarkable that also in a Jewish writing (‘Sanhedrin 96b’) in view of this verse of the Messiah it is said: ‘After all, the Messiah is the restorer of the fallen booth.’
The restoration for the house of David mentioned by Amos corresponds to what Paul mentions in a speech, the “SURE [blessings] OF DAVID” (Acts 13:34). These blessings can be fulfilled because the Lord Jesus has risen from the dead. His resurrection is the guarantee that all the blessings promised to David will be fulfilled. He is the Son of David in Whom and to Whom God will fulfill all His promises. That fulfillment takes place in the raising up in glory and splendor of what is still here called “the fallen booth of David”.
The raising up of that fallen booth of David refers to the restoration of the whole realm, in which the great tear between the two and the ten tribes will also be closed (Eze 37:22). Also the many other tears, caused by internal divisions as well as external attacks, will be closed. Then the promise to David will be fulfilled (2Sam 7:11-12,16; 1Chr 17:10-14).
12 The Remnant of Edom and the Nations
12 That they may possess the remnant of Edom
And all the nations who are called by My name,”
Declares the LORD who does this.
It seems as if there will be something left of Edom after all, but it will be of no significance and will belong entirely to Israel. What is left of Edom is his territory and that will be hereditary to Israel because God has reserved it for his people. How that will happen, Obadiah, the next prophet, tells us. In his prophecy the fate of Edom is described in detail (cf. Num 24:18).
Amos uses Edom as an example of the restoration of God’s authority. God exercises His authority through His people over all peoples who were once subject to Israel, but who had withdrawn from its authority because of the decay of the house of David.
The proclamation of the name over something or someone indicates ownership (2Sam 12:28; Isa 4:1; Jer 7:14; Deu 28:10). The whole restoration of Israel into the land of blessing and the restoration of his authority over the nations is only the result of the LORD’s actions. Although He uses His people, it is He who puts His people in that position and gives them strength to subdue past enemies. He is “the LORD who does this”.
This verse and the previous one are quoted by the apostle James in Acts 15:16-18. In that chapter the question is discussed whether believers from the Gentiles can be included in the church without becoming Jews, i.e. without being circumcised. In the fierce battle of words that ignites about this, James speaks healthy words. He shows that it has already been said in the Old Testament that the Gentiles will be blessed without joining Judaism.
To confirm that his statement is in agreement with the prophets, he quotes these verses from Amos 9 (verses 11-12). He does not speak at all about the fulfillment of the prophecy. He only says that the prophets are in agreement with what Peter said earlier during the discussion on this issue. Amos makes it clear that people from the nations will bear the Name of the LORD, independent of Judaism.
What James does not say with his quotation is that with the birth of Christendom the fallen booth of David was erected. As has been shown before, the erection of the fallen booth refers to the time when the Lord Jesus will reign on earth on the throne of His father David. But just as it will be in that future time – that there will then be blessing for the Gentiles as a separate company – so does James apply the quotation from Amos to the present time. Also in this day and age happens what God will do in the future and that is blessing the Gentiles. God blesses them, not by allowing the Gentiles to join Judaism, but by forming Jew and Gentile into one body, the church.
An important difference is that the believing Gentiles in this time are blessed by Christ in heaven. This also applies to the believing Jews nowadays. Soon the nations will be blessed through the restored Jewish people, the once fallen booth.
James does not speak about the blessed position of the church. The truth of the church in which Jew and Gentile together form something totally new will be taught and explained by Paul, especially in the letter to the Ephesians. James only quotes the words of Amos because they correspond to what is happening at that moment and not to say that the prophecy of Amos is now being fulfilled.
The correspondence between what Amos says and the problem in Acts 15 is that there is blessing for the Gentiles as such. The difference is that Amos speaks prophetically about a time when there is blessing for the Gentiles in the future when they submit to Israel; he does not speak about the present time. Acts 15 is about the time of the church in which we still live today and is about the fact that blessing for the Gentiles comes through repentance to God and not through becoming a Jew. Amos speaks about the time of the realm of peace in which the whole earth will be blessed through Israel.
13 Abundant Blessing
13 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD,
“When the plowman will overtake the reaper
And the treader of grapes him who sows seed;
When the mountains will drip sweet wine
And all the hills will be dissolved.
In the two previous verses, the prophet spoke of the restoration and expansion of the outer kingdom. Now he is going to speak about the inner glory with the richest blessings for the land (verse 13) and for its inhabitants, the people of Israel (verse 14). The whole will exist for eternity (verse 15).
Verse 13 connects to Joel 3, where also such an abundance of blessing is described (Joel 3:18). It is almost even richer here than there. One is barely ready with ploughing, that is preparing the ground for sowing, or the other already comes to reap the ripe grain. That is how fast the corn will grow and ripen. The same goes for the grape harvest. This is how great the fertility of the land will be under the Messianic rule.
Here we find the situation promised in case the people will be obedient to the LORD (Lev 26:5). This abundance of earthly blessing is due to the work of Christ on the cross. If the smallest insect or herb had been left out of this work of the atonement, the enemy would still have won the victory over God and Christ, and that is impossible.
14 The People Enjoy the Blessing
14 “Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel,
And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live [in them];
They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine,
And make gardens and eat their fruit.
But what is all the abundance worth if there are no people to enjoy it? God has a supply of blessing just for His people. A land without people is dead. A people determines the land. God’s people live in God’s land. Once God has restored the captivity of His people, it means that His people are no longer in the foreign land, where God has led them because of their unfaithfulness, but that He has brought a change in their captivity.
He has brought them back to their own land, the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their offspring. Through their own sins they have been driven out. Through God’s grace and the work of Jesus Christ, their Messiah, they are brought back into it.
With Him at their head (Hos 1:11) they will rebuild their cities and live in them without anyone frightening them. With Him at their head, they will plant vineyards and enjoy undisturbed joy, of which the wine is a picture. With Him at their head, they will eat all the fruits that their orchards will produce, without fear that others will eat them (Deu 28:33).
The people will be able to enjoy the results of their labor in undisturbed peace, without fear of punishment (cf. Amos 5:11). There will be an abundance of mouths to consume the abundance of fruit.
15 Blessing Forever
15 “I will also plant them on their land,
And they will not again be rooted out from their land
Which I have given them,”
Says the LORD your God.
The blessing they will then enjoy will last forever. It is not possible to see its fulfillment in the time after exile when a remnant returned from Babylon. It is also not possible to see these things being fulfilled in the course of the history of the Christian church with the fullness of the nations as the final fulfilment.
Israel has been driven out of its land many times in the course of the centuries. But under the reign of the Messiah that time is gone forever. God Himself will plant His people in His land. And if He plants and nurtures, who will tear them away?
Amos began his prophecy with weeping shepherds and a withered Carmel. He concludes his prophecy with a scene full of joy and fertility. The glory of that time will be so great that all suffering will be gone and forgotten. Then the word of Isaiah is fulfilled: “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind” (Isa 65:17).