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Go to Bible: Amos 4
“cows of Bashan.” Bashan was an area east and north of the Sea of Galilee that was known for its cattle. The cows of Bashan were the fattest and sassiest cows in all Israel, and so here the prophet Amos refers to the fat and sassy rich and powerful women of Israel, who live in the capital city of Samaria, as “you cows of Bashan.” Referring to a woman as a “cow” was not necessarily an insult in biblical times. Cows were expensive and well cared for. Samson referred to his young wife as a heifer (Judg. 14:18). Nevertheless, calling the ruling women of Samaria, “cows of Bashan” was an insult in this context.
“Bring us drinks!" This would normally be alcoholic drinks, and what was available at the time were wines and beers, and other fermented drinks. Distilled liquor like whisky could not be produced yet.(top)
“they will take you away with hooks, and the last of you with fish hooks.” This sounds like a metaphor or hyperbole, but it is historically accurate. The Assyrians were very cruel people, and the Assyrian monuments show the Assyrians leading strings of captives from Israel. Each captive had a hook or fishhook through their lips or tongue, and the hook was attached to a cord which then went to the next captive and so on, such that there were lines of captives being lead along on a line with hooks.(top)
“the breaks in the walls.” The captives would not have the honor of leaving through the city gates which would either be destroyed and collapsed or controlled by the enemy army for their use. They would be taken captive through the breaches in the wall made by the attacking Assyrian army.(top)
“Bethel…Gilgal.” The towns of Bethel and Gilgal were two centers of pagan worship in Israel. Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel, set up a golden calf in Bethel soon after Solomon died (1 Kings 12:28-29).
“and sin.” This is irony. The prophet is magnifying the sin by making an ironic statement about it. He is certainly not encouraging the people to go sin by worshiping idols. The same kind of irony is used by Isaiah (Isa. 50:11).(top)
“for this is what you love to do.” The people of Israel loved to make a show of their religious activities and were for the most part blissfully ignorant of that fact that they were living in disobedience to Yahweh and His laws and their rituals meant nothing to God; in fact, they offended Him. God does not value ritual for ritual’s sake. On the few points in which they knew they were not obeying the Law they made excuses for it, thinking it did not matter much. That behavior still goes on. People who knowingly disobey God convince themselves that obeying God in everything is not really that important.(top)
“cleanness of teeth.” An idiom for famine. The people had nothing to eat, so their teeth were clean. This is clear from the context (Amos 4:7-9).
“and lack of food in every town.” One of the great lessons of the Bible is that the behavior of people affects the land that they live on. This lesson is throughout the Old Testament (cp. Deut. 11:13-17; 28:1, 12, 15, 22-25, 38-40; Lev. 18:24-25; Ps. 107:33-34; Jer. 3:2-3; 12:4; 23:10; Amos 4:6-10). (See commentary on Lev. 18:25).
The Hebrew word translated “food” is literally “bread” in the Hebrew text, but here, as in many other places, “bread” is used for food in general.
“but you have not returned to me.” The Bible is very clear that if Israel was faithful to God, they, as well as their animals and land, would be blessed and there would be plenty of food. So, since there was famine, the people should have known what was happening, known that they had abandoned God, and repented and returned to Him. But they were so set on their ungodly ways that they ignored the disasters that were occurring to Israel.(top)
“withheld the rain from you." Rain in season and abundant harvests were promises of God’s blessing, and no rain was a sign Israel had not obeyed God (Deut. 28:12, 24), so from what was happening with the rain should have been a sign to Israel they needed to repent and return to God.(top)
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“and declares to man what is his thought.” The meaning and translation of Amos 4:13 is debated by scholars, and this phrase is included in the debate. The primary debate about this phrase is whether it is speaking about human thoughts being revealed to other people by God, or God’s thoughts being revealed to humans. Making things difficult is that it is not clear in the verse who the “his” refers to in the phrase “his thought,” is it referring to God or people? Also, the Hebrew word translated “thought” only occurs here in the entire Bible. A closely related word is used of human thoughts or counsel, or worry or lamenting, but is never used of God’s thoughts, and that has led some scholars to say that the verse is likely speaking of God revealing human thoughts to humans. However, arguing from what the Bible does not says is very weak, and it is especially weak when the argument is not even really based on the actual Hebrew word in the text. Furthermore, the scope of Scripture and context of Amos favors the interpretation that this verse is about God revealing His thoughts to humans. Amos opens with Yahweh roaring from Mount Zion, giving His word and will to the people, and the phrase “this is what Yahweh says” is prominent in Amos. Amos is clearly God revealing His thoughts and plans to people through the prophet Amos.
The Bible has many places that state that God declares His will to people so that they can obey it or be held accountable if they do not—in fact, one could make the case that a huge percentage of the Bible is God revealing His thought to humankind so they know how He is thinking and what they should do. One of the loving things that God does for humankind is to reveal His thoughts to them so they are guided in life. Versions of the Bible that clearly support that Amos 4:13 is referring to God revealing His thoughts to humankind are the BBE, CEB, CSB, GWN, NET, NIV, NJB, NLT, TNK,(top)