The word “shema” is both a request and a challenge. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience.
Amos 3 (Author’s translation)
1 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey this particular Word, essence, substance this which YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken upon you, children of Israel, upon the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt: 2 “Only you I know from all families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your depravity.” 3 How can two people walk in unity except if they are in agreement? 4 Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Will a young lion employ his voice from his den except if he has caught something? 5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the ground if there is no bait in it? Will a trap rise up from the earth, and seize nothing at all? 6 If a rams horn is blown in a city, will the people not quake with terror? If an evil, distressful disaster occurs in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord not fashioned it? 7 Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God does not speak a word unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. 8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? Adonay YHVH (Mercy) The Lord God has spoken! Who can stop himself from prophesying? 9 Proclaim on the palaces in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, “Gather on the mountains of Samaria and see the great turmoil within her and the oppressions in her midst. 10 And they don’t know how to fashion what is straight,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, “these storers of violence and havoc in their palaces.” 11 Therefore, this is what Adonay YHVH the Lord God says: “An adversary, will circle the land, and take down your might from you, and plunder your citadels.” 12 This is what YHVH (Mercy) the Lord says: “Like when the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so will the children of Israel be snatched away who dwell in Samaria — in a corner of a bed, and in Damascus from a couch! 13 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey and bear witness in the house of Jacob,” utters Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God Who goes warring.14 “For in the day that I number Israel’s rebellions, I will also number upon the altars of Bethel; and cut off the horns of the altar, and they will fall to the ground. 15 And I will slay the harvest house upon the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish, and the great houses will come to an end,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
Amos 3 (Line Upon Line)
1 Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-hadavar this particular Word, essence, substance hazeh this asher which diber YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken aleiychem upon you, b’neiy Yisrael children of Israel, al kol-hamishpachah upon the entire family asher which he’eleiytiy I brought up mei’eretz from the land of Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt:
1 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-ha’davar this particular Word, essence, substance this which YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken upon you, children of Yisrael (overcome in God), upon the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt (Mitzrayim: double distress):
“Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey et-hadavar this particular Word, essence, substance”
The opening word “Shimu” (Shema) is well known among the people of Israel. The central prayer of the faith of the Jewish people, which is found in D’varim (Words) Deut. 6:4 begins “Shema Yisrael”, (Listen, hear, comprehend, obey Israel…). The word “shema (shimu)” is both a request and a challenge. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience. This is a call not only to repentance but to discipleship. It is the very essence of the Good News of our King Messiah.
What follows is the phrase “et-ha’davar”, meaning, “this particular Word, Substance, Essence”. The “et” and “ha” are both determiners, the “ha” being the definite article in Hebrew and the “et” emphasising the “ha”. Thus, in one sense the Hebrew translates as, “Very definitely, The Word”. Put concisely, this is not just any word but the Word (logos: Yeshua [John 1]).
The prophet Amos upon whose tongue God has placed these words is aware that the Word Who places the words, is present. Amos is asking Israel to receive not only the words but also the One Who both births and inhabits them. Imanu-El, With Us God, the King Messiah is manifest in the words of Amos.
“this which YHVH (Mercy) the Lord has spoken upon you, b’neiy Yisrael”
It’s a mistake to translate “aleiychem” as “against you [pl.]”. A translation employed by a number of English versions of the text.
Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Hebrew knows that this common contraction of “al” (upon) and “l’chem” (to you [pl.]) means “upon you”. This is why we respond to the colloquial phrase “Shalom aleiychem” with the words “Aleiychem shalom”. “Peace be upon you”, and the response “Upon you be peace”.
The common English translation “against” misunderstands the Biblical Hebrew worldview. In the same way that Amos carries the burden of God’s Word upon himself, the people of Israel carry the weight of the Word of God’s rebuke upon themselves. God’s Word is not “against” Israel but “upon” her. It is not punitive but instructional. The weight of God’s rebuke is heavy only so long as Israel remains unrepentant. Through repentance that which was heavy becomes light. This is one of the reasons Yeshua says:
“Come to me, all you that labour and are heavy with burden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am gentle and lowly (close to the earth) in heart (core being): and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” -Mattitiyahu (Matthew) 11:28-30 (Author’s translation)
Given that like the prophet’s name Amos (burden), the word he carries is made a burden upon the children of Israel. We should remember that Amos himself is an Israelite of the tribe of Judah. Thus the prophet identifies with the people. He doesn’t see himself as separated from the people in relationship to his ethnic and religious identity, rather he is distinct from those who are walking in disobedience to God’s instructions.
“upon the entire family which I brought up from the land of Mitzrayim (double distress) Egypt:”
This word is clearly indicated as being for all the tribes of Israel including Judah and Benjamin. In the context of Amos when Israel is used of the northern tribes alone a distinction is made by the lack of qualifying terms. Here, Israel is qualified as “the entire family which I brought from the land of Egypt”.
2 “Rak Only etchem you yada’tiy I know mikol from all mishpechot families ha’adamah of the earth, soil, dirt; al-kein therefore efkod I will punish aleichem you eit kol-avonoteiycham for all your depravity.”
2 “Only you I know from all families of ha-adamah the earth (the substance from which humanity is created in union with the breathe of God [neshamah]); therefore I will punish you for all your depravity (avon).”
These are the words of a devoted husband who has eyes only for the wife of his youth. They’re spoken to a wife who has nonetheless slept around on him and welcomed his affection only so far as it serves her lust filled goals.
We note that the Hebrew specifies that God’s choosing of Israel distinguishes her among all human beings. The phrase “ha-adamah” reflects the creation of humanity from the “adamah” dirt of the earth.
This is an intimate reminder of the fact that God’s relationship with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a familial relationship between Father and sons. When Jacob went down to Egypt he was 70 in total (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5; Deut. 10:22), a family numbered according to the symbolism of the fullness of the nations (Gen. 10). God is reminding Israel that even before her trial of slavery and bondage He had set her apart to belong to Him. Like a bride preparing for her wedding in this sin affected world, Israel was proved through her trial and matured in her suffering.
3 Hyeikechu shenayim How can two people walk yachdav in unity biktiy except im if noadu they are in agreement?
This question begins a series of rhetorical questions denoting cause and effect. Ultimately the rhetorical question that sums up the series would be, “How is it possible that you have been clearly warned by God of coming destruction (the just response to your sin,) and have been directed as to how you might escape it, and yet have chosen to ignore Him?”
This first rhetorical metaphor alludes to God and His chosen people, two men who are not walking in unity because they do not agree on the foundational doctrines of morality.
This does not teach that believers must agree on everything, rather it teaches that unless two agree on the foundational premise for the way they walk, they cannot walk together. The context does not address agreement between Israelites (though that too is important), but agreement between God and Israel.
Put simply, if two men arrange to meet at a given point in order to begin a journey (walk), but one of the men later decides of his own fruition that he thinks he should meet his friend at another time and place entirely, and doesn’t inform his friend of the changed plans, the two will neither meet nor begin their journey together.
With regard to God and Israel, the two had agreed together at Sinai on the holy standard set by God in order for their right relationship to continue. However, while they began the journey together, at some point Israel decided that she knew better and left the path. By doing so, Israel had put herself in a position equal to that of those who refuse to agree to God’s moral standard in the first place. Thus, at the time of the prophecy of Amos, Israel was not in agreement with the foundational principle of her relationship with God. Therefore, “How can two people walk in unity except if they are in agreement?”
To walk in unity with God is to agree with Him, that we have fallen short of His moral standard and accept His grace enacted in mercy, so that we can once again walk unashamed with our Creator.
4 Hayishag aryeih Will a lion roar baya’ar in the forest veteref eiyn when he has no prey? Hayitein Kefiyr kolo Will a young lion employ his voice mimeonato from his den biltiy except im if lachad he has caught something?
4 Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Will a young lion employ his voice from his den except if he has caught something?
In this metaphor the Lion is HaShem and the prey is Israel. Israel is living in idolatrous comfort believing that the forest is quiet, but the lion is roaring and roaring means He is on the prowl for prey. The right response would be for the prey to cower and seek refuge (refuge is something that according to His nature, God offers perpetually to Israel). However, Israel has numbed herself to the danger (Jer. 5:6; Nahum 2:11), and at this point in her history is perpetually turning away from God (with the exception of the righteous remnant, inclusive of the prophets).
5 Hatipol tzipor Will a bird al pach fall into a snare on ha’aretz the ground umokeish eiyn lah if there is no bait in it? Haya’aleh-pach Will a trap rise up min ha’adamah from the earth, dirt, ground velachod and seize lo yilkod nothing at all?
5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the ground if there is no bait in it? Will a trap rise up from the earth, and seize nothing at all?
While this is another rhetorical question intended to convey the idea that all the coming destruction is inevitable, it is nonetheless also an allusion to the self-destructive behaviour of Israel. Israel has fallen for the bait of sin and death: the false gods, the sexual depravity and the injustice of the neighbouring nations. The snare indeed has been thrown skyward to catch the bird Israel, who has willingly sought out the lure and has become entangled in the fruit of her own sinful choices.
We note that two different words for earth are used: ha-aretz (the land) and ha-adamah (soil). The metaphor speaks of the bait of sin being present in the violated creation, thus “the land”, while also being particularly associated with “Ha-aretz” the Land of Israel. Alongside this are the very building blocks of humanity, “ha-adamah” (the soil) and the “Neshamah” (life breath of God convergent with the soil). These two hold the sin affected human being to account by way of a just snare.
The trap springs up from the beginning of creation and captures the violator of creation, that person who has refused life and invited sin and death. The redemptive solution is always on offer. The offer of salvation being present before the creation of the worlds (1 Peter 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8).
6 Im yitaka shofar If a rams horn is blown beiyr in a city, ve’am will the people lo yecheradu not quake with terror? Im tihyeh ra’ah If an evil, distress, disaster occurs beiyr in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord lo asah not fashioned it?
6 If a rams horn is blown in a city, will the people not quake with terror? If an evil, distressful disaster occurs in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord not fashioned it?
Once again it is not a “trumpet” but the shofar (rams horn) which combines the symbolic meanings of warning and substitutionary sacrifice.
The plain meaning (p’shat) being that people in a war torn area who hear the sound of the rams horn become terrified knowing that their city of residence is on the brink of destruction.
“If an evil, distress, disaster occurs in a city, has YHVH (Mercy) the Lord not fashioned it?”
The rhetorical question has an obvious plain meaning. However, some misinterpret it to their detriment.
The foolish notion that God is not in control of evil is silenced here. God is not guilty of evil, nor is He complicit, rather He created the possibility of evil in order that love might be manifest through freewill. Knowing the end from the beginning God also sacrificed Himself in Messiah before the creation of the worlds, thus providing the solution to the problem of evil before the problem of evil existed (1 Peter 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8).
“But he said unto her, ‘You speak in the same way the foolish women speak. What are you saying? Should we receive good at the hand of God, and not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” -Job 2:10 (Author’s translation)
The satanic forces are subject to God. He puts in order all things both good and evil for His divine purposes of holiness and redemption. In God all things exist and have their being, nothing exists outside of God, therefore the forces of evil are reliant on God for their continued existence. If evil comes, God has not only allowed it, He has set it in order for the purpose of good. Because evil relies on God, who is good, for its existence, evil is subject to good. Thus, evil cannot overcome good. “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5)
Put simply, the rhetorical question is, “Do you seriously believe God is not in control of the evil that happens?”
Consider the alternative, if evil is not under God’s control, who controls it? If Satan controls evil and that control is not subject to God, is Satan outside of God’s control? A curse on that lie! The false idea that there is balance between good and evil is a lie seeded by Satan.
The reality is this: God is all existing, Satan is created, the created thing is subject to the Creator. Therefore, the battle of good and evil is the battle between a Papermaker and a piece of paper. The Papermaker finds that the paper has been defiled with vile words, so He lights a match and the paper is incinerated. The battle between Good and Evil is like a battle between an ocean of universes and a speck of dust beneath a toenail.
7 Kiy lo ya’aseh For Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God does not davar kiy im galah speak a word unless He reveals sodo His secret el-avadayv to His servants haneviyiym the prophets.
7 Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God does not speak a word unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
This verse qualifies the former verse by explaining that God has both ordered and given warning regarding the destruction (evil) that is to come. He has not quietly arranged the destruction of the people in response to their sin. He has instead given them every opportunity to repent. This has always been his modus operandi with regard to Israel and humanity as a whole. The prophets are like emergency workers sent to give news of the approaching disaster and direct people to shelter (repentance, reconciliation). Fools who disregard the warning of the emergency workers will always reap what they have sown.
“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him; and He will show them his covenant.” -Psalms 25:14 (Author’s translation)
8 Aryeih sha’ag A lion has roared! Miy lo era Who will not fear? Adonay YHVH (Mercy) The Lord God diber has spoken! Miy lo yinava Who could stop himself from prophesying?
8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? Adonay YHVH (Mercy) The Lord God has spoken! Who can stop himself from prophesying?
The Lion, God Himself has roared fair warning. The prophet Amos is incredulous, the rhetorical question sour on his tongue. By the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) it’s as if Amos were saying:
“I can’t help but prophecy this warning to you because of my devotion to God and the realisation that I need to repent and rely on God’s grace and the manifestation of His mercy. How is it that you [pl.] are not terrified of God? How is it that you are not repenting and prophesying warning to others?”
9 Hashmiyu Proclaim al on armenot the palaces be’ashdod in Ashdod (Violent despoiler) veal-armenot and on the citadels be’eretz in the land of Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress) veimru and say, “Heiasfu Gather al on hareiy the mountains shom’ron of Samaria (Guardians) ureu and see the mehumot rabot great turmoil betochah within her va’ashukiym and the oppressions bekirbah in her midst.
9 Proclaim on the palaces in Ashdod and on the citadels in the land of Egypt and say, “Gather on the mountains of Samaria and see the great turmoil within her and the oppressions in her midst.
Amos, by the Spirit declares that the coming punishment upon Israel is to be made known to Israel’s neighbours. The nations must learn that God shows no partiality. All must know that God is just and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.
Within the historical context of this message, how were Israel and Judah (v.13), and the surrounding nations to hear the prophetic warning?
To make a modern comparison we would say that the ancient prophets of Israel were the equivalent of self-published writers with a very small immediate audience. They travelled, certainly, but in and of themselves they did not have the reach required to ensure that all for whom the message was intended would receive it. Even when the ministries of three or four prophets overlapped their collective resources could not have spread the message nationally or internationally. Therefore, there was an element of great trust in the obedience of the prophets. A trust placed in God for the spread of the message, and the fullness of its redemptive outcome.
So how did the message of the prophets spread and become popular knowledge (as indicated by the prophetic word itself)? It spread by word of mouth from one righteous person to the next and was proclaimed not only by fellow prophets but also by common people of righteous faith, people the Scripture refers to as a righteous remnant.
No prophet could hope to be effective based on his own personal reach, rather the spread of the prophetic word relied on the obedience of the faithful remnant community. Some would travel through dangerous lands to convey the message they had received from the Lord via the prophet, others would share the message with their children who in turn would pass it on to their friends and so on. A farmer, a house wife, a stone mason, a builder, a vine tender, a harvester, from the highest echelons of society to the impoverished street person, those who were of the faithful remnant spread the message of warning throughout Israel and Judah and into the neighbouring nations.
How can I be so certain of this? After all, I don’t live in ancient Israel. My certainty, like the trust of the prophets, is born of and reliant on God, Who is just. Justice demands an accurate indictment, the opportunity for the guilty to face their accuser, and a fair trial. This has always been the modus operandi of the King of Justice, YHVH (Mercy).
“and say, ‘Gather on the mountains shom’ron of Samaria (Guardians) and see the great turmoil within her and the oppressions in her midst.’”
The plain meaning points to the neighbouring nations standing on the high places of Samaria in the territory of the ten northern tribes of Israel in order to witness Israel’s punishment. This of course denotes Israel’s future exile and the desecration of the shrines of idolatrous worship constructed on the high places.
The neighbouring nations are called to bear witness to Israel’s punishment. They are called to gather on the mountains of Shom’ron (Guardians). The remez (hint at deeper meaning) here is that of guardianship. The nations are to gather in the midst of the guardians of Israel and look upon the discipline that the guardians of Israel meet out upon her according to God’s instruction. The malakhiym (angelic guardians) who surround Israel, surround her for her protection. Both her protection from outside threats and protection from the threats within. The greatest of the threats within being idolatry.
10 Velo-yadeu And they don’t know asot-nechochah how to fashion what is straight,” neum utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, “ha’otzriym these storers chamas of violence vashod and havoc be’armenoteiyham in their palaces.”
10 And they don’t know how to fashion what is straight,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord, “these storers of violence and havoc in their palaces.”
The Targum reads, “And they know not how to practice the Torah”.
At this point in our history, we Israelites have so neglected God’s written word that we no longer know how to obey it due to our being devoid of it. Instead we store up sinful violence and practice injustice within our cities and palaces.
11 Lachein Therefore, ko this is what amar Adonay YHVH the Lord God says: “Tzar An adversary, useviyv will circle ha’aretz the land, vehorid and take down mimeich uzeich your might from you, venavozu and plunder armenotayich your citadels.”
11 Therefore, this is what Adonay YHVH the Lord God says: “An adversary, will circle the land, and take down your might from you, and plunder your citadels.”
This refers to the king of Assyria, who invaded the land of Israel in the days of king Hoshea, and conquered Samaria, carrying Israel captive (2 Kings 17:6).
12 Ko This is amar what YHVH (Mercy) the Lord says: “Ka’asher Like when yatziyl haroeh the shepherd snatches mipiy from the mouth ha’ariy of the lion sheteiy two chera’ayim legs or a vedal-ozen piece of an ear, kein so will yinatzelu b’neiy Yisrael the children of Israel be snatched away hayosheviym who dwell beshomeron in Samaria — bif’at mitah in a corner of a bed uvidmeshek and Damascus ares on a couch!
12 This is what YHVH (Mercy) the Lord says: “Like when the shepherd snatches from the mouth of the lion two legs or a piece of an ear, so will the children of Israel be snatched away who dwell in Samaria — in a corner of a bed, and in Damascus from a couch!
The plain meaning is that only a small remnant of the northern tribes will survive the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions.
“Israel are scattered sheep; the lions have driven away: first the king of Assyria has devoured him; and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.” -Yermiyahu (Jeremiah) 50:17 (Author’s translation)
The phrase “in Samaria in a corner of a bed” can be understood multiple ways. First, it speaks of the very corner of the tribal land and therefore means that all will be affected from the Greatest to the least. Second, it may be a metaphor for cowardice, hiding in the corner of the bed. Third, a metaphor for poverty, having only a corner to lie in.
The phrase “Damascus on a couch” refers to the residents of Damascus, the then capital of the kingdom of Aram, being comfortable, sitting on luxurious couches thinking themselves secure. However, Damascus was taken around the same time Samaria was.
The Targum reads “that dwell in Samaria, in the strength of power, trusting in Damascus.” Inferring that the northern tribes had begun to place their trust in the foreign power Aram. Some Israelites even living in Damascus. Regardless, both Aram and Israel would be conquered.
13 Shimu Listen, hear, comprehend, obey vehaiydu and bear witness beveit Ya’akov in the house of Jacob (follower),” neum utters Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God hatzeva’ot Who goes warring.
13 Listen, hear, comprehend, obey and bear witness in the house of Jacob,” utters Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God Who goes warring.
Once again the Hebrew “Shimu (Shema)” is employed. Listen, but don’t just listen, hear. Hear, but don’t just hear, obey. Obey, but don’t just obey, walk in obedience.
“Bear witness in the house of Jacob” is a declaration to the prophets, and the righteous remnant who live within all Israel (inclusive of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin).
As is the case elsewhere in the TaNaKh (OT), two witnesses of a matter are established by the third witness, God Himself (Deut. 19:15). The first witness being the neighbouring nations (v.9), and the second being the prophets and righteous ones within Israel’s borders (present verse).
“Adonay YHVH (Mercy) the Lord God, Eloheiy the God hatzeva’ot Who goes warring.”
Three titles for God are expressed here. “Adonay”, meaning Lord, Master, “YHVH”, the unpronounceable proper noun which denotes mercy*, and “Eloheiy Hatzevaot” meaning, “God Who goes warring”. The Hebrew “tzevaot” is an intense plural form of “tzava”, to go forth in war. Thus, “God Who goes warring.” These three names teach us that God is the Merciful Lord Who goes warring against sin and death. We are not to diminish His character in our own eyes by saying that He is a pacifist, nor that He is devoid of mercy when He disciplines. We accept and hold the mysterious tension of His holiness with awe.
*In Jewish tradition it is written:
"The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to those, You want to know my name? I am called according to my actions. When I judge the creatures I am Elohim, and when I have mercy with My world, I am named YHWH" (Exodus Rabbah 3:6).
In Scripture Elohim is the Name given for God as the Creator of the universe (Gen 1:1-2:4a) and implies strength, power, and justice, whereas YHVH, expresses the idea of God's closeness to humans. For example, YHVH "breathed into his (Adam's) nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7). Closeness to humanity only continues in the sin affected world and beyond through YHVH's mercy.
14 “Kiy For beyom in the day pakediy that I number fisheiy Yisrael Israel’s rebellions, alayv ufakadtiy I will also number al-mizbechot upon the altars of Beiyt El Bethel (House of God); venigdeu and cut off karnot the horns hamizbeach of the altar, venafelu and they will fall la’aretz to the ground.
14 “For in the day that I number Israel’s rebellions, I will also number upon the altars of Bethel; and cut off the horns of the altar, and they will fall to the ground.
“For beyom in the day pakediy that I number fisheiy Yisrael Israel’s rebellions”
We note that the coming day of numbering is not a possibility but a certainty. “When”, not “if”.
The language of “numbering” is a measure of accountability and a sort of listing, in this case a listing of sins recorded in the indictment against Israel. Specifically, the root “pasha” (rebellion) is addressed. The idolatrous act of rebellion forms the foundation for all other types of sin.
“I will also number al-mizbechot upon the altars of Beiyt El Bethel (House of God)”
Not only does God bring to account the general sins of Israel, He also very specifically numbers the many infractions of idolatrous syncretism performed at the apostate centre of worship in Bethel.
Bethel was the location of one of the calves Jeroboam fashioned in a vile re-enactment of Israel’s idolatry at the foot of Sinai (Choreb)[Ex. 32; 1 Kings 12:28].
God, through the prophet, brings His indictment upon “altars”, meaning multiple altars set up in worship of multiple deities and in connection with the misuse of God’s Name (Hosea 8:11).
“and cut off karnot the horns hamizbeach of the altar, venafelu and they will fall la’aretz to the ground.”
Having mentioned multiple heathen altars He now speaks of the primary apostate altar of Bethel, that being the rosh (head) over all other altars. It had been constructed in direct opposition to the singular altar of Mt Tziyon in Jerusalem. It is likely that the primary altar at Bethel was a replica of the altar in Jerusalem. No matter how detailed a counterfeit is, the maker of the genuine article can always tell the difference.
The phrase “cut off the horns” refers both to the literal cutting off of the horns of the altar where blood was sprinkled in provocation of efficacy, and to the removal of the fourfold strength* of the heathen altar (a horn at each corner).
*Throughout the TaNaKh (OT) horns are seen to represent strength.
15 Vehikeiytiy And I will slay beiyt-hachoref the harvest house al-beiyt hakayitz upon the summer house; veavedu bateiy the houses hashen of ivory will also perish, vesafu batiym rabiym and the great houses will come to an end,” neum utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
15 And I will slay the harvest house upon the summer house; the houses of ivory will also perish, and the great houses will come to an end,” utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
The idiom denotes full destruction from seed time to harvest. Destruction that continues over a period of at least a year.
Additionally, it seems that the king of the northern tribes may have had both a winter and a summer house, each residence serving him according to the seasonal changes. A modern example would be that of a financially stable resident of Canada’s northern regions wintering in Colorado.
In Jewish tradition it is noted that the king of Moab had a chariot (described in the ancient text as a “house”) made from ivory, and 1 Kings 22:39 says that king Ahab built a house of ivory.
The Jewish commentator Radak explains:
“This was the custom of the kings to make themselves a house for the winter and a house for the summer, and it is also said of Jehoiakim ‘the king sits in the winter house in the ninth month’, and concerning the chariot of the king of Moab it is written ‘and the house of the tooth which he built’, the tooth is the tooth of the elephant from which we make certain crafts:” -Radak on Amos 3:15
“the great houses will come to an end,” neum utters YHVH (Mercy) the Lord.
This is a reference to the houses of the wealthy and in particular to the many houses of the king of Israel.
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2022
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.