If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 1 Chronicles 1–2, Hebrews 8, Amos 2, Psalm 145. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read Amos 2.
Amos chapter 2 continued the Lord’s prophecy of judgment started in chapter 1. This chapter prophesied judgment for Moab (vv. 1-3), Judah (vv. 4-5), and Israel (vv. 6-16). Israel got the longest treatment because of her many sins. In the past several weeks we have read about the sins of Israel and Judah both in 1-2 Kings and in the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Joel. Idolatry was the primary sin of Israel and that sin is certainly present here in Amos 2:8. Verses 6-8a, however, focus on a different category of sin namely, exploitation. God’s people were punished both because they worshipped false gods and because they took advantage of other people.
The exploitation of others took several forms. Verse 6b said, “They sell the innocent for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals.” This is the form of exploitation known as slavery. In biblical times people became slaves in one of two ways: Either they (1) were captured in war and their slavery was the price they paid for losing or (2) they sold themselves into slavery to pay debts they could not pay back. Selling the “innocent for silver” indicates that Israel enslaved some people who were not debtors at all. Perhaps they used the threat or acts of violence or maybe they arranged false witnesses to accuse people of debts they did not owe. The second line in verse 7, “the needy for a pair of sandals” indicates how willingly they sold others for very meager profits.
Verse 7a continued the description of Israel’s exploitation by describing how they treated the poor. This section refers to how the poor were treated in court; our familiar expression they were treated “like dirt” is basically what “They trample on the heads of the poor as on the dust of the ground” means. The next phrase, “and deny justice to the oppressed” continues the thought. The poor in Israel were abused and what little they had was taken from them by the wealthy and well-connected. When they went to court to get it back, the court sided with the rich and powerful.
Verse 7b says, “Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name.” This is a reference to sexual exploitation. There isn’t enough information to know exactly what is meant here. Were fathers and sons raping their female slaves? Is this a reference to prostitution or wide-spread adultery? We don’t know; one thing is clear: sexual promiscuity was a big problem and men seem to have been forcing themselves on women.
Verse 8 seems to combine several of these sins. “They lie down beside every altar” is a reference to immoral sexual relations in the idol temples, “…on garments taken in pledge” is a reference to abusing a poor person. Moses’ law forbid Israelites from taking the outer, heavier garment of someone as collateral for a loan. If you were poor enough and desperate enough, however, you’d hand over your coat if it meant enough money to feed your family. People who took these coats as collateral were then using them as bedding for their immoral sexual relations. The final phrase, “In the house of their god they drink wine taken as fines” tells us that instead of buying their own wine, the wealthy and privilege in Israel would find a poor man who was violating some minor law and take his wine to pay the fine, then they would consume that wine in their idol temples.
All of this tells us that God is watching how people treat each other. When we pick on the weak because they are weak and cannot fight back, the almighty judge sees. Those who used threats of lawsuits or better lawyers than their opponents could afford or the levers of government to enrich themselves at the expense of the weak and poor will have much to answer for on the day of God’s judgment.
Let’s be sure that we don’t do something similar by giving a low tip to our waitress or pizza delivery guy, sexually harassing (or worse) someone who is younger or subordinate to us, or being stingy about loaning or giving money to someone we know is legitimately suffering financially. Let’s be sure that, if we serve on a jury, we seek a just result, not one assumes the guilt of the defendant or the correctness of the corporation. All of these things are wicked in the sight of God. Showing kindness to the weak and poor and standing up to the powerful when others are exploited are reflections of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.