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Amos 5:12  (King James Version)
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<< Amos 5:11   Amos 5:13 >>


Amos 5:12

Amos says that the people went to Bethel bearing abundant rebellions on their consciences, but they returned with them still there. Outwardly, they sinned because inwardly was a heart of rebellion. There was not any real concern about the rebellion in them.

If they had really sought God, they would begin to do something about these sins, their rebellions. A person who is really seeking God is so concerned about having God's approval that he will pay any price, make any sacrifice necessary to stop sinning and thus have His approval. These people did not care. They went right on sinning.

He shows them returning from Bethel unconcerned with what people were in their character (whether they were just or upright), but they were concerned about what they had and what they were prepared to pay as a bribe. This is the gist of, "You afflict the just and you take bribes." The poor person who was telling the truth had no chance in court unless he was willing to pay a bribe to those who were judging him.

These people were not concerned with morals or ethics but how much money, influence, and status they and others had so that they could use one another to get ahead.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God



Amos 5:4-12

Why does Amos specifically mention Bethel (verses 5-6) other than that it was where the Israelites were holding feasts? Why did they choose Bethel as a feast site? Bethel played an important role in Israel's history. Twice Jacob, one of the fathers of Israel, has important events happen to him there.

Genesis 28:11-22 records the first occasion Jacob has an encounter with God at Bethel, though it was not called Bethel then. It received its name—"House of God"—from God revealing Himself to Jacob there, and Jacob believing that He lived there. On this occasion, the patriarch arrives as a homeless wanderer, a man on the run from the murderous intents of his brother Esau. He is a man with a past, having just deceived his father and brother out of the blessing. Nevertheless, God reveals Himself to him there, and the transformation of Jacob begins. He leaves Bethel as a man with a future.

The second time he encounters God at Bethel (Genesis 35:1-4, 7, 9-15), he arrives after departing from his father-in-law, Laban, and having reconciled with Esau. He is a far better man than the first time, but he is not yet complete. However, he arrives as "Jacob" and departs as "Israel." The new name is assurance of the reality that he is a new man, that a transformation is taking place. In the Israelite mind, Bethel thus became associated as a place of renewal, of reorientation, of transformation by God.

Even as verses 1-3 of Amos 5 are a dirge, verses 8-9 are in the form of a hymn praising the true God, the transforming God. When God is at work, things change for the better; He is the God who makes a difference.

With this background, we can understand why Amos 5 calls attention to Bethel. God is asking, "Why aren't you Israelites being transformed in the conduct of your life when you keep the feasts?" He is saying, "You indeed go to Bethel for the feast, but no transformation of your conduct and attitude occurs. Are you going there to seek Me?"

One of the primary proofs that God is making a difference in a person's life occurs when one who was formerly hostile to God and His law begins to love God and His law. He shows his new love by obeying God and His law in his life in areas like those mentioned in verses 10-12.

Yet, the Israelites attended the feasts in Bethel and returned home with their lives still ungoverned by God's truth. When Jacob met God, his life began changing immediately, as his vow to tithe in Genesis 28:22 shows. Faith immediately became part of the conduct of his life. The lives of those in Amos' day should also have changed according to the dictates, principles, and examples of God's Word. They should have left Bethel singing and exemplifying, "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).

It seems that these people turned the feast in Bethel into nothing more than a vacation. Thus, Amos admonishes, "Do not seek Bethel! Seek the Lord and live!" Ultimately, the Bethel approach signifies death, not life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles



Amos 5:4-15

Central to understanding verses 4-15 is the word "seek," which appears four times: three times in relation to seeking God Himself and once to seeking good. The charge to seek God is not in the sense of searching to find Him?because He had already revealed Himself to them to some degree?but of seeking to be like Him.

A second important element is the listing of a number of their sins, all of which are what we would call "social sins." Amos mentions the "poor" twice, but he does not necessarily imply a person with little money. The term includes them, but here the meaning is "weak." The poor are those whom we would say have little or no economic, political, or judicial "clout" or "pull." The sins Amos addresses are matters of the strong taking advantage of the weak.

He also mentions other sins that afflict the poor, such as bribery, unjust judgments in the courts, truth being ridiculed, and righteous testimony being thrown out. Amos especially indicts Israel's corrupt court system.

Undoubtedly, the most important element in this passage, due to its impact on most of the instruction in the chapter, is the mention of Bethel, Beersheba, and Gilgal in verse 5. Amos notes these places because the Israelites were holding their festivals there. His overall warning to the Israelites is, "Don't go there because God is not there. Seek God instead." The rest of the chapter tells why God is not there, why what they were doing is unacceptable to Him, and what He will do about it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles



Amos 5:12-13

Again, Amos describes injustice in the legal system. The rich and powerful hired false witnesses, just as was done against Jesus (Matthew 26:59-60) and Stephen (Acts 6:11). The poor, without the financial ability to hire high-powered lawyers to handle their cases, were helpless before them.

What was the effect of this? "Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, for it is an evil time" (verse 13). The poor could only wait quietly for the judgment of God, since they were powerless to appeal to the judgment of men through the civil authorities.

Today, many people are afraid to help the police because they fear that, if they go to court and testify, the accused felon or his friends will take some kind of retribution against them or their families. For just this reason, we have rampant problems with inner-city gangs and organized crime.

Our criminal justice system is so lax and unjust that the odds are good that an accused criminal will be acquitted through a technicality or receive a very short sentence. In our nation today, crime does pay! No wonder witnesses are afraid!

We find in America a very large but timid group that the media call "the silent majority." Though predominantly conservative and moral, these people allow themselves to be led by a vocal minority that espouses radically liberal views. Though they privately denounce high taxes, homosexuality, rising crime, illegal aliens, gangs, corrupt government, and so on, "the silent majority" publicly "keep silent."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Amos 5:12:

Haggai 2:11-14

 

<< Amos 5:11   Amos 5:13 >>



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