by Francis Foulkes ©


"Yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and who was as strong as the oaks; I destroyed his fruit above, and his roots beneath. Also I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not indeed so, 0 people of Israel?" says the Lord. "But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, "You shall not prophesy" (2:9-12)

Israel did great wrong in the sight of God because they repeatedly disobeyed the law which God gave them for their good. They broke their side of the covenant that He had with them, in which He had made them His people and promised to be their God. Their wrong in God's sight was also that they were ungrateful for all that He had done for them and that they treated His great gifts so lightly. Here Amos speaks of five things that God had done for them.

a. God brought them out of slavery in Egypt

All through Old Testament days the people looked back to the Exodus, their coming out of Egypt, and their deliverance from slavery then. That made them a nation, whereas before they had just been a collection of slaves. The story is told in Exodus chapters 12-15, and there we see clearly that God did for them what they could never have done for themselves. Often afterwards the people were told, 'You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you' (Deuteronomy 15:15. See also Deuteronomy 5:15, 24: 18, 22 and 26:5-10). But they forgot, and they lived as if they owed nothing at all to their God of love and power who had made them free men. In the same way, we who are Christians often forget what God has done to make us free. We forget our great deliverance, and that Jesus Christ, God's own Son, died on the cross to make us free. His death and resurrection (which took place at the time of the Passover when each year people recalled the Exodus), are indeed the means of our freedom from sin, and the way of our having life as His people. With Paul we should say `Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!' (2 Corinthians 9:15).

b. God led them through the wilderness

It was no easy road that they had to travel when they were set free and came out of Egypt. They had to go through rough country where very little could grow. The Bible usually calls it the 'wilderness' and it certainly was a wild place. Just as they could not have been set free from Egypt except by the help of God, they could not have come through the wilderness, had food and water there, and known the way, except by the help of God. The people were told, 'You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness . . .' (see Deuteronomy 8: 2 and also 1:31, 2:7, 29:5 and 32:10-12). They forgot this too and forgot, as we forget so easily, all the ways in which God provided for them and guided them. Their sin, like ours, was not only the sin of disobedience; it was also the sin of ingratitude.

c. God gave them their land

The land that the people of Israel occupied had been the `land of the Amorite'. But, as the Old Testament puts it, when the Amorite people had defiled the land, when 'the cup' of their 'iniquity' was full and they refused to turn from all their evil, God removed them from the land and gave it to Israel (see Genesis 15:16 and 1 Kings 21:26). In their own strength it would have been impossible for Israel to conquer the Amorites and to occupy the land. They were powerful people who seemed to them to be as tall as the great cedar trees of the forests of Lebanon and as strong as the mighty oak trees. They had fortress towns which seemed to be cities 'fortified up to heaven' (Deuteronomy 1:28). The Israelites felt just like grasshoppers before them (Numbers 13:33). But under the leadership of Joshua God gave them the land and victory over all their enemies (see Psalm 44:1-2). They forgot this too, and were ungrateful for their inheritance that God gave them, and thought they could live by their own strength.

d. God sent them prophets

God not only gave them freedom, provided for their bodily needs and gave them victory over their enemies, He also provided for their spiritual needs. He constantly sent His word to them, calling men as prophets to be His messengers, so that they might know Him, know how to serve Him, and be warned of the dangers of turning aside from Him. God's word to the people through Jeremiah (7:25) reminded them of this, 'From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day.' So God has been good to us. In many ways and by many messengers He has spoken to us. Above all He has sent His Son Jesus Christ as the Living Word. We, like Israel, owe great gratitude to Him for giving us His Word. But the greatest way of showing gratitude is that of obedience. The challenging question for us is always. What have we done with His Word when He has spoken to us, clearly and plainly, so that we know His way?

e. God inspired the witness of the Nazirites

Verse 11 says that not only did God raise up some of the sons of the people to be prophets, but also 'some of (their) young men for Nazirites'. The Nazirites were men who made a special vow of loyalty and service to God, as a sign of which they let their hair grow long. We read of the Nazirites in Numbers 6:1-6, and how Samson was a Nazirite in Judges 13:1-5. Their vow meant that they would not take any wine or strong drink. They refused to let their own pleasure and enjoyment come first in their lives. God was first, and they bore witness by a simple way of life, in which it could be seen that God stood first and not they themselves. We should always thank God for those who have lived simple lives, serving God alone, and not trying to become rich in the world. We may have no Nazirites today, but there are those who inspire and challenge us by the dedication of their lives, and by them we are called to a higher and simpler way of living. These five great blessings, of the past and the present, Amos spoke of, and challenged men and women to think of them, 'Is it not indeed so, 0 people of Israel?' Was it not true that everything good that they had in their lives came from God? God had set them free, led them, given them victory over their enemies and shown them His ways in the words and in the lives of men who served Him. Should they not be thankful to God for all this? But they turned away from Him and despised His gifts. They wanted to silence the prophets, and to hinder the witness of the Nazirites by giving them wine to drink. They made the choice - between God's word and their own ways - but they had to face the consequences.


'Bless the Lord, 0 my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul, and forget not all His benefits' (Psalm 103:1-2)

For further thought and study. 1. Look up the following passages as examples of the way that the people often tried to silence the prophets: 1 Kings 18:4, 19:1-2, 22:1-28, 2 Chronicles 16:7-10, Isaiah 30:8-11, Jeremiah 11:21, 20:1-2, 26:1-18, 38:1-6 and Micah 2:6.

2. Think out in more detail what in the life of a Christian corresponds to each of the five things that Amos mentioned that the people should have thanked God for and so have kept faithful to Him.

Notes. 1. Sometimes the name 'Amorites' is used as a general name for the people who lived in Canaan before Israel occupied the land. (See Deuteronomy 1:7, 19, 20 and Joshua 24:15, 18.) More accurately they were one of the Canaanite peoples, as Exodus 3:8, 17 and Numbers 13:29 show.

2. It has sometimes been asked whether verse 10 originally belonged before verse 9. The Exodus from Egypt and the time in the wilderness were before the occupation of the land of the Amorites. Perhaps God's destroying of the Amorites is put first here, because it was important for Israel to realise that now they were defiling the land by their sins, as the Amorites had defiled the land and suffered judgment for it. (See Leviticus 18:24-30 and 20:22-24.)

3. We have many examples in the Old Testament of the way in which leaders, prophets and psalmists called the people to remember their past, to recall God had done, and so go on in faith, obedience and gratitude. For example, see Deuteronomy 1:19-3:29, Joshua 24:1-18, Psalms 78:1-72 and 106:1-46 and many others of the Psalms.