by Francis Foulkes ©


Hear this word which I take up over you in lamentation, 0 house of Israel: "Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up." For thus says the Lord God: "The city that went forth a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went forth a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel." (5:1-3)

a. The lamentation

In Israel when a person greatly loved died, there would be a song composed to express the sorrow felt, as a lamentation. We have a good example of this in David's `lamentation' over Saul and Jonathan when they died in battle (2 Samuel 1:17-27). These songs of sorrow had a special name, and often had a special rhythm. Amos had a lamentation to sing, and he may have sung it in the streets of Samaria, the capital of Israel, or perhaps at one of the religious festivals at Bethel. It was a lamentation over a beautiful 'virgin', dead in her youth and her beauty. But the 'virgin' was not just some lovely girl from among his family or friends. As the people listened to Amos sing his lamentation - and he called them to `hear' his words - they would have been surprised indeed. 'Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.' The 'virgin' was Israel their nation. It was Israel that was fallen and whom Amos lamented. The Old Testament often speaks of a nation as a 'virgin', thinking especially perhaps of the beauty and the glory of her life, unspoilt by the attacks of enemies from outside (see Isaiah 23: 12 and 47: 1, Jeremiah 18: 13 and 31:4). Israel in the time of Amos was, as we have seen, beautiful in its prosperity and in its fine houses, winter houses and summer houses and everything seemed to go well her. Who was this Amos to take up a lamentation over her? Why did he do such a thing?

b. The nation

To Amos the fall of Israel was so certain that he could make up this song and he felt he must publicly sing his lamentation over her, 'Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel'. It was 'as if a living man, in the midst of his pride and luxury ... could see his own funeral procession' (Pusey). Amos knew that Israel must fall and he said so. Outwardly she was beautiful and glorious but inwardly everything was corrupt. She had refused God's warnings, rejected His calls to repentance, and despised the salvation that He offered. Her people would go out to battle by their hundreds, proud and confident, but only ten out of a hundred would return. They would go out proudly by their thousands, relying on their strength and their numbers, but out of a thousand only a hundred would come back. Why? Why could Amos say all this? Because she had forsaken the only One who could help her and save her. She had rejected Him and there was no one else left to help and to save.

We are wise to think of the New Testament parallel to this and the way that it applies. God in His infinite love has sent His Son to us, to die for our salvation. In Him God freely offers to us pardon and forgiveness and life. But if we turn away from Him, 'How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?' (Hebrews 2: 3). In the end we have nothing unless we have God and His help. We have only our failures to face if we do not turn to Him to forgive our sin and take away our guilt. If we despise the sacrifice of the very Son of God for us, 'there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins' (Hebrews 10:26). There is no other way, no other hope, no other salvation. 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God' if we have rejected His word and turned aside from His salvation (Hebrews 10:31).

c. The prophet

We have been thinking a great deal, as we have studied this passage and the earlier chapters of Amos, of Israel and of the sins of Israel, and what would be the result of their sins. We should turn for a moment and think of the prophet, of what it meant to Amos to give to his people a message like this from God. Prophets before him, like Elijah, had spoken of the troubles that would come because the people turned away from the Lord and served other gods. As far as we know, never before in history had a man been called and sent to tell his own people in God's name that his nation would fall. Later on Jeremiah had to do this and, like Amos, take up a 'lamentation' over his people, and so did Ezekiel (see Jeremiah 9:17-22 and 13:15-19 and Ezekiel 19:1-14). But Amos had to do what no one had done before him. Amos loved his country, and we see in 7:2 and 5 how he prayed for his people, but he knew that he must give them warning from God. Then when they rejected God's help and salvation, he knew that he must speak like this in 'lamentation', `Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up'. Loyalty to our country is a great thing. Nationalism has a right and true place, as long as it does not lead us to despise others. But the man who believes in God as Lord of all and Lord of his own life, will put Him and His will first, even before his country, even before his family (see Matthew 10:37-38). The life of any family, any nation, will be purified and kept pure only when there are men and women, like Amos, who have the courage to speak God's word whatever it may cost.


Lord, raise up in our land, we pray, faithful messengers of Your word, and give them wisdom, love, and courage to speak, however hard it may be; and may we listen to Your message through them, for the sake of Jesus Christ. AMEN.

For further thought and study. Compare the love of Amos for his people and his faithfulness in preaching to them, with that of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and also the apostle Paul. See especially Matthew 23:37-39 and Romans 9:1-5 and 10:1-4. How should we express most deeply our love for our people?