Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Amos 8:11-14

11"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord GOD,
"When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
12"People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it.
13"In that day the beautiful virgins
And the young men will faint from thirst.
14"As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,
Who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan,'
And, 'As the way of Beersheba lives,'
They will fall and not rise again."

God opens our passage today with the announcement that He is bringing a famine upon Israel. But, not a famine that might have typically struck the nation (food or water), but a famine "for hearing the words of the Lord." (vs 11) Begs us to look at the word famine.

'Famine' is a two-fold word. It means a scarcity of something, often food, but it can be other things. Along with the scarcity comes great hunger on the part of those who are lacking. Famines could last for short periods, like weeks, or longer periods, like years. Sometimes, famines came from natural circumstances, such as locusts eating the food supply, and sometimes they came as punishment directly from the hand of God. That Israel will receive a loss-of-God's word famine should come as no surprise.

Can there be a much more terrible situation than that? Israel would come to know captivity in a nation that did not honor the Father. The tremendous hunger for God that would follow as a result of being without His word would probably feel something like being in Hell. And perhaps this was on God's mind as He worked the discipline plan of saving His people.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
--Matthew 5:6 & 8 (emphasis mine)

Verse 14 sent me digging, mostly because of the place names, even though we have seen these names before in Amos.

"They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again."
--vs. 14, King James Version

Instead of 'guilt' or 'sin', some translations use "Ashimah of Samaria." The Hamathites, people of Hamath in Samaria, created the god Ashimah to worship. After Israel is exiled to Assyria, the king of Assyria sends Ashimah-worshiping Hamathites and other foreigners to take over Israel's land, worshiping their own gods. [God does not let that situation continue for long. See II Kings 17:30]

Dan is a city at the northern limit of Israel. To understand why Dan is mentioned here, we need to look back at the evil King Jeroboam and his move to squelch God from Israel:

"Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.' So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.' He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan."

--I Kings 12:26-29

Out of pity for the long-distance traveling worshipers to Jerusalem (!?!), Jeroboam I creates golden idols for their worship, thus sparing himself from the presumed attack on his life as a result of their serving God. "Thy god, O Dan, liveth." Sadly, Israel had taken the bait. But God would not let them forget their dishonoring of Him.

Beersheba is the southern most part of Judah. It was often said, "From Dan to Beersheba" in referencing both the northern and southern kingdoms. Genesis 21 and 26 recount the stories of Abraham's and Isaac's stop at this spot, with Abraham actually naming the place Beersheba.

Abraham met up with Abimelech, Philistine king of Gerar (part of modern-day Palestine). Abimelech was concerned that Abraham would harm him, since he recognized that God walked with Abraham. Abraham was upset because Abimelech's men took over a well that Abraham and his men had dug and were using. The two men swore an oath of respect, and Abraham planted a tamarisk tree, "and called there on the name of Jehovah, the Everlasting God." (Genesis 21:33)

Years later, Isaac would also meet up with Abimelech (likely Jr.) at Beersheba. Isaac and his men were redigging the wells of Abraham that had been stopped up by Abimelech's men. [That covenant didn't get passed down the line, apparently.] Isaac's men found water, which Abimelech's men claimed for themselves. Eventually, Abimelech confronted Isaac. Because it was clear to Abimelech that God walked with Isaac, he wanted Isaac's reassurance that nothing would come of him. A second oath was made by the sons in the same place.

It is no wonder that Beersheba would be considered a shrine by Israel. But, in their waywardness, they no longer respected the work of their forefathers. How interesting that God calls out the place in which He gave His people water to drink--twice!--knowing that they would be in deep thirst, no longer having His word. Beersheba was witness to two generations of Philistine kings recognizing the power of the Almighty, only now it was not recognized by its own.

"The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none,
And their tongue is parched with thirst;
I, the LORD, will answer them Myself,
As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.
--Isaiah 41:17

Not forsake, but not withhold judgment either. Chapter 9, last chapter of the book, begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Amos 9:1-4

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

1 comment:

Carmen said...

I love it when that happens! God`s Word is so rich when you research some of the details. Wonderful information, Sue.

PS: I just can`t imagine a world without the Word!!