Amos 7:1-9 Grasshoppers, fire, and a plumbline
Jeroboam II, like all the kings of the northern kingdom, was a wicked king. Yet, he was successful militarily against the Syrians; he retook the coastal lands of Hamath and recovered Damascus (2 Kgs. 14:25-28). He reigned for 41 years and was a powerful king. However, the prophecies against him warn him that trouble is coming-that he is not invincible.
Foreshadowing apocalyptic plagues, the Lord told Amos he would send grasshoppers to eat all the grass and crops producing a great famine; he told Amos he would send a fire throughout the land which would devour the water supplies and cause a great drought. Yet, Amos received a promise that neither of these plagues would completely destroy Israel. 2 Kings gives us an explanation why Jeroboam II deserved any favor from God, "For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel (meaning they were isolated and alone against all their warring neighbors). And the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven." (2 Kgs14:26-27)
Notice that the Lord promises not to completely destroy them by grasshoppers or by fire, but he doesn't ever "repent" of the plumbline curse. The plumbline curse is the worst of all. It indicates that the Lord "will not again pass by them any more"-meaning that the Lord was drawing a line in the sand over which he would not cross. He would remain on the other side of the line, and would not help them in time of need. He would no longer give them the victory. His presence would be forever withdrawn.
Amos 7:14 I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son
Israel already had other prophets when Amos was called-Isaiah and Hosea being the most famous. Why then would the Lord need another? The scriptures don't tell us, but what we do know is that the Lord can call whomever he wants to be a prophet. Sometimes, herdsmen and farm boys like Joseph Smith make the best prophets.
Orson F. Whitney
Prophets are not chosen for their worldly culture or their social position. A plain-going farmer, no less than a college professor, may be gifted with prophetic power and be called to exercise it for the good of his fellows. Amos, according to his own statement, "was no prophet," nor "a prophet's son." That is to say, he had not been trained in any school of the prophets, such as existed in Old Testament times. He was not, like Jeremiah, the son of a priest. He was a herdsman and a fruit-gatherer when the word of the Lord came to him: "Go, prophesy unto my people Israel". (Saturday Night Thoughts [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1921], 20 - 21)
Amos 7:16-17 Prophesy not against Israel
Amos probably felt some natural insecurity in commanding the king of Israel. The herdsman may have felt some natural inferiority to the well respected priest of Beth-el, Amaziah. Yet, there is no tone of inferiority in Amos' response to Amaziah's request, "prophesy not against Israel." With the courage of Abinadi, Amos retorts, "Oh, I see. You don't like me prophesying? You don't like bad news? You don't want to hear that the Lord will bring his all-powerful sword down on the head of king Jeroboam? Fine, then I'll give another prophecy even harsher than the first: the king's wife will turn into a harlot, his children killed by the sword, his land divided, his life lost in a polluted land, and his kingdom taken into captivity. There! Is that better? Any more requests? If you ask me to stop prophesying one more time, I will prophesy yet another curse upon your head."
Amos 8:11 I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water
Missionaries teaching about the Apostasy commonly quote Amos 8:11 and passages from Paul (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-7) to show that the Bible predicted a great apostasy from the truth. Latter-day Saints consider the Great Apostasy to be a thing of the past-a historical event belonging to the dark ages of a bygone era. However, if an individual lives today, enjoys the enlightenment of civilized democracy, modern medicine, and accelerating technology, yet lacks the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the saving ordinances of the priesthood, then he still suffers from the spiritual deprivation of a modern day apostasy. What good has the Restoration done them? Certainly, we are surrounded with those who suffer from this spiritual famine. Even today, they "run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord," not finding it. Herein is the great tragedy: that there are so many starving spiritually people in the world. They are "only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12).
Neal A. Maxwell
Afflicted with anguish, some wander to and fro upon the earth in search of truth without knowing where to find it. (See Amos 8:11-12; D&C 123:12.) One such prominent wanderer was described by a colleague: "It is strange how he persists ... in wandering to-and-fro. ... He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief." (Nathaniel Hawthorne, 20 Nov. 1856 in English Notebooks, ed. Randall Stewart [New York: MLA], pp. 432-33.)
Such is the scene, therefore, of which we are a part. Many reject the scriptures, the moral memory of mankind, and then declare absolutely the absence of absolutes. Others reject the light of the gospel and then grump over the growing darkness. Still others cut themselves off from God and lament the loneliness of the universe. Some pursue the paths of him who openly desires mankind's misery (see 2 Ne. 2:27), and then bemoan their discontent. ("Shine As Lights in the World," Ensign, May 1983, 10)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Amos of old prophesied:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it (Amos 8:11-12).
There is hunger in the land, and a genuine thirst-a great hunger for the word of the Lord and an unsatisfied thirst for things of the Spirit. I am satisfied that the world is starved for spiritual food. Ours is the obligation and the opportunity to nourish the soul...
I remember the story of one of our LDS chaplains, a man of great faith, devotion, and courage. For a year or more he had been in the central highlands of South Vietnam during the war there some 30 years ago. He had been where the fighting was bitter and the losses as tragic as in any area of Vietnam. On two occasions he was wounded. He saw a tragically large percentage of his brigade become casualties, many of them killed in action. The men of his unit loved and respected him. His superior officers honored him.
He was not always a member of this Church. As a boy in the southern U.S. he grew up in a religious home where the Bible was read and where the family attended the little church of the community. He desired the gift of the Holy Ghost of which he had read in the scriptures but was told that it was not available. The desire never left him. He grew to manhood. He served in the U.S. Army. He searched but never found the thing he most wanted. Between military enlistments, he became a prison guard. While sitting in the gun tower of a California prison, he meditated on his own deficiencies and prayed to the Lord that he might receive the Holy Ghost and satisfy the hunger which he felt in his soul. That hunger had not been fully satisfied with sermons to which he had listened.
One day two young men knocked at his door. His wife invited them to return when her husband would be at home. These two young men taught that family by the Holy Spirit. In two and a half weeks they were baptized. I have heard this man testify to the effect that as he was taught by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was edified and rejoiced with those who taught him. Out of that marvelous beginning, with the gift of the Holy Ghost, came a shedding forth of light and truth that gave peace to the dying, comfort to the bereaved, blessings to the wounded, courage to the timid, and faith to those who had scoffed. Sweet are the fruits of teaching done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They feed the spirit and nourish the soul. ("Feed the Spirit, Nourish the Soul," Ensign, Oct. 1998, 2, 4)
Jeffrey R. Holland
Some time ago I read an essay referring to "metaphysical hunger" in the world. The author was suggesting that the souls of men and women were dying, so to speak, from lack of spiritual nourishment in our time. That phrase, "metaphysical hunger," came back to me last month when I read the many richly deserved tributes paid to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One correspondent recalled her saying that as severe and wrenching as physical hunger was in our day-something she spent virtually her entire life trying to alleviate-nevertheless, she believed that the absence of spiritual strength, the paucity of spiritual nutrition, was an even more terrible hunger in the modern world.
These observations reminded me of the chilling prophecy from the prophet Amos, who said so long ago, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord."
As the world slouches toward the 21st century, many long for something, sometimes cry out for something, but too often scarcely know for what. The economic condition in the world, speaking generally and certainly not specifically, is probably better than it has ever been in history, but the human heart is still anxious and often filled with great stress. We live in an "information age" that has a world of data available literally at our fingertips, yet the meaning of that information and the satisfaction of using knowledge in some moral context seems farther away for many than ever before.
The price for building on such sandy foundations is high. Too many lives are buckling when the storms come and the winds blow. In almost every direction, we see those who are dissatisfied with present luxuries because of a gnawing fear that others somewhere have more of them. In a world desperately in need of moral leadership, too often we see what Paul called "spiritual wickedness in high places." In an absolutely terrifying way, we see legions who say they are bored with their spouses, their children, and any sense of marital or parental responsibility toward them. Still others, roaring full speed down the dead-end road of hedonism, shout that they will indeed live by bread alone, and the more of it the better. We have it on good word, indeed we have it from the Word Himself, that bread alone-even a lot of it-is not enough...
It is to those who so hunger that I wish to speak this morning. Wherever you live, and at whatever point in age or experience you find yourself, I declare that God has through His Only Begotten Son lifted the famine of which Amos spoke. I testify that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life and a Well of Living Water springing up unto eternal life. I declare to those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and especially to those who are not, that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Firstborn Son did appear to the boy prophet Joseph Smith and restored light and life, hope and direction to a wandering world, a world filled with those who wonder, "Where is hope? Where is peace? What path should I follow? Which way should I go?"
Regardless of past paths taken or not taken, we wish to offer you this morning "the way, the truth, and the life." We invite you to join in the adventure of the earliest disciples of Christ who also yearned for the bread of life-those who did not go back but who came to Him, stayed with Him, and who recognized that for safety and salvation there was no other to whom they could ever go. ("He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things," Ensign, Nov. 1997, 64-65)
Amos 8:14 Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and The manner of Beersheba liveth
The land of Dan and the land of Beersheba represent the northern and southern limits of Israel, respectively. (see map 4, 1999 edition of maps)
Amos 9:9 I will sift the house of Israel among all nations
The best way to think about the scattering of the ten tribes is to imagine first a group that was taken north but was able to retain its identity as a people. Their cohesiveness is implied by the latter-day prophecies of them producing scripture, having prophets, and coming as one body from the land of the north (2 Ne. 29:12-14; D&C 133:26-34). Second, there was a great portion of the Israelites that were sprinkled throughout the entire world. According to Amos, "I will sift the house of Israel among all nations." Historical records of the dispersion and sifting of the northern kingdom are few to nonexistent. Historical records of the sifting of the southern kingdom, first by the Babylonians and second during the Roman Diaspora (late 1st century) are plentiful.
"Just how many Israelites were carried into Assyria is not known. Sargon II claimed 27,290 captives, but that number only represents the captives taken from the city of Samaria alone. Doubtless the total number carried away was significant, for Samaria never recovered as a power from the expulsion and never again became the dominant force that the northern kingdom of Israel had been...
"It may be that those taken captive by the Assyrians numbered in the hundreds of thousands. In any case, these members of the Lord's Other Tribes were taken away as colonists to the area of northwestern Mesopotamia, toward the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, there to await the time of their escape. Today those areas are associated with eastern Syria, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, and the Armenian region of eastern Turkey...
"The best account of the departure of the Other Tribes by Judah's record-keepers is found in the book of 2 Esdras (also called 4 Ezra). In verses 40 through 47 of chapter 13 we read:
'These are the ten tribes which were led away captive out of their own land in the days of Josiah [Hoshea] the king, which (tribes) Salmanassar the king of the Assyrians led away captive; he carried them across the River, and (thus) they were transported into another land. But they took this counsel among themselves, that they would leave the multitude of the heathen, and go forth into a land further distant, where the human race had never dwelt, there at least to keep their statutes which they had not kept in their own land. And they entered by the narrow passages of the river Euphrates. For the Most High then wrought wonders for them, and stayed the springs of the River until they were passed over. And through that country there was a great way to go, (a journey) of a year and a half; and that region was called Arzareth. There they have dwelt until the last times.' (R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, 2 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964, 2:619)
"This report agrees with 2 Kings 17:6, 18:11, and 1 Chronicles 5:26 in that the tribes would have been taken 'across the River' (the Euphrates) on the way to the places of captivity named in those verses. An escape 'by the narrow passages of the river Euphrates' (that is, in its upper reaches-see map) into 'a land further distant, where the human race had never dwelt' points to a northward direction for the subsequent migration of the tribes (the lands east, west, and south of Assyria were already inhabited at that time). This, too, agrees with a number of scriptural prophecies relative to the eventual return of those Other Tribes from the 'land of the north,' or 'north countries.'" (Vern G. Swanson, "Israel's 'Other Tribes,' " Ensign, Jan. 1982, 28-29)
Amos 9 The Scattering and Gathering of Israel
"In consequence of their failure to return to the Lord, Amos further predicted they would be taken captive and sifted among the nations (see Amos 6:7; Amos 9:9). Isaiah declared that their captors would be Assyria and Babylon (see Isa. 8:4, 7; Isa. 39:6-7).
"The author of the book of 2 Kings summarizes the house of Israel's situation:
Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments. ...
Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers (2 Kgs. 17:13-14).
"The northern kingdom of Israel was especially resistant to these warnings. Consequently, in about 721 B.C. the Lord allowed Assyria, a nation to the northeast of Israel, to invade it and take its tribes captive. The scriptures record:
The king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away. ...
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe [kingdom] of Judah only (2 Kgs. 17:6, 18).
"The Bible has very little information about where the Israelites were taken except to say that the Assyrians placed them in the city of Halah and in the cities of the Medes, located north and east of Assyria's capital, Nineveh (see 2 Kgs. 17:6). Their story thereafter is not discussed in biblical text, and thus they became known as the lost tribes of Israel." (Paul K. Browning, "Gathering Scattered Israel: Then and Now," Ensign, July 1998, 57)
Spencer W. Kimball
How completely and thoroughly have these prophetic words come to pass! For although the scriptures are filled with examples of the Lord's patience with ancient Israel-how he endured their pettiness, listened to their eternal complaining, recoiled from their filthiness, groaned at their idolatries and their adulteries, and wept at their faithlessness-yet his people finally did reject him through unrighteousness and rebellion. Then, true to the words of his holy prophets, the Lord suffered them to be scattered-first one branch, then another, and another-to the four corners of the earth: "For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve." (Amos 9:9.)
First, the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and its people carried away captive to Assyria nearly 2,700 years ago. From thence these people, our fathers, known to us as the "ten lost tribes of Israel," and principally Ephraim, were scattered among the heathen nations of the earth, to fall into the darkness of an apostasy that lasted for millennia.
Little more than a hundred years after this first captivity, the southern kingdom of Judah was attacked by Nebuchadnezzar's armies; Jerusalem was sacked and its inhabitants, the Jews, taken into exile. After a time, some of them were permitted to return, but the remainder were scattered throughout western Asia. Following the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, however, Jerusalem was once again destroyed, and unrighteous and rebellious Judah was once again driven from the land of their inheritance to wander to and fro in darkness upon the earth to await the gathering of Israel in this day.
In 600 B.C., just prior to the exile of Judah, the Lord led yet another precious branch of the house of Israel out of Jerusalem. Father Lehi fled Jerusalem before the destruction and was directed by the Lord to establish his seed upon the American continents. These were a people with an impressive roster of great and inspired leaders. These were the people of the Book of Mormon, the Lord's "other sheep" (John 10:16), whom he personally visited in the meridian of time, who at one time achieved for the space of 200 years a society of perfect peace and unity. Nevertheless, these too fell into disobedience and rebellion and wickedness and were cut off from the presence of the Lord, to be scourged, scattered, and "led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her." (Morm. 5:18.) The remnant of this people are our brethren the Lamanites.
Many long centuries have come and gone since the momentous day of the parting of our ways. Countless peoples have lived and died; many kingdoms have risen and fallen. Within the limits of the vast horizon of world history we have seen the hand of the Lord; we have seen a great river divided into smaller streams, to wander over the face of the land, moving ever farther from the place of their origin; we have seen the wanderings of the many branches of Israel, natural branches once part of a strong and healthy tree, then broken from the living tree and scattered.
Yet the Lord has not forgotten Israel, for though Israel was to be sifted among all nations, the Lord nevertheless said, "Yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth" and be lost. (Amos 9:9.) In our own time we have seen the political developments that have prepared the way for the gathering of Judah to old Jerusalem, to the land of their inheritance. Our comparatively recent history has also unfolded the preparation of the land of the Americas for the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and we have witnessed much of the gathering of the remnants of Joseph in the land of the New Jerusalem and the grafting of the natural branches of Israel into the new tree of the restored gospel. We ourselves are witnessing the fulfillment of the words of the great prophet Isaiah:
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isa. 2:2-3.)
And though we have seen the beginning only, yet shall the work of bringing Israel again to Zion expand to the uttermost parts of the earth. In this regard, I am reminded of the words of the prophet Habakkuk: "For I will work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you." (Hab. 1:5.)
Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
But, The Lord liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land. (Jer. 23:7-8.)
Of immense importance to this work of gathering the scattered branches of the house of Israel is the work of carrying the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to the Lamanites, for the Lord's work in these latter days can in no wise be complete until these children of great promise are brought back into the fold. The Lord said through his prophet Lehi, "Behold, I say unto you, Yea; they shall be remembered again among the house of Israel; they shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive-tree, into the true olive-tree." (1 Ne. 15:16.) We are witnesses to these events; we ourselves, both Lamanite and gentile, have seen the removal of the great stone of our separation. ("Our Paths Have Met Again," Ensign, Dec. 1975, 3-4)
Bruce R. McConkie
Israel shall be scattered, and not one grain shall bring forth fruit unto eternal life until the day of gathering when they repent of their sins and return to the Lord... "In that day"-the latter days-"will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old." Israel shall assemble and worship the true God, and the old kingdom shall then be established anew. Bounteous harvests will grace the earth, and Israel and the Gentiles who join with her "shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them." Peace will prevail. "And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." (Amos 9:8-15.)
In the day of gathering the Lord promises to save his flock. "And I will set up one shepherd over them," he says, "and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it." (Ezek. 34:22-24.)
There is, of course, much more. Whole volumes might be written about Israel-her scattering, gathering, and final triumph-but we have confined ourselves here to passages that speak of the King and the Shepherd who is destined to rule and reign on the throne of David in the millennial day. How beauteous the holy word is! How better could the ancient prophets have taught the glory and power of Christ's millennial reign than to equate it with the image David had in the eyes of the people? And David's greater Son shall soon come as the Second David to rule and reign over Israel and the world forever. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 610)