30 May 2014

Amos 4:1-13

"Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!" (v.1)


Verses 1 to 3 address the rich women of Samaria. It is perhaps surprising to hear them described as cows, but this shouldn't necessarily be considered as an insult (as it would in English) but a reference to their excesses. Bashan was a fertile area to the east of the Jordan and was renowned for its well-fed quality cattle. By relating the women to cows Amos is drawing attention to their luxury and fine living.

These women don't directly oppress the poor and helpless as they wouldn't have been in positions of leadership. But they benefit from the results of that oppression, staying at home calling out for drink. They live off the spoils of injustice, and are therefore just as guilty as those directly responsible. So their comeuppance will be just as severe (verses 2-3).

Verses 4 and 5 are full of irony - Amos is inviting the people to exhibit their corruption and sinfulness, in places which God's help had been seen. Bethel was where Jacob had dreamt of the ladder of angels between heaven and earth and where God had promised to give the land to Jacob and his descendants (Genesis 28); Gigal was the first place Joshua and his followers stopped after they had entered Canaan (Joshua 4:19) and where they first celebrated Passover in the promised land (Joshua 5). To be invited to sin in these places show how far the people of Israel has fallen. The reference to leavened bread in verse 5 is unusual as this was prohibited as a sacrifice (Leviticus 6:17) - either Amos is condemning the Israelites for deliberately breaking the law or accusing them of offering inappropriate gifts to God. Either way there is a misuse of religious ritual -going against God's love of justice, mercy (Amos 5:15; Hosea 6:8).

And that's before we even get to Amos talking about God's use of natural world to try and bring the Israelites to heel ...

To Ponder

  • What place does irony or sarcasm play in proclaiming the word of God?
  • To what extent do you benefit from the result of injustice and inequality? What could you do to make a stand against this?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.