Amos 4:1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
Cows of Bashan – Bashan was a fertile area to the northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The cows were known for being fat. The women of Bethel, accordingly, were lazy, and did little besides eating and drinking.
Amos 4:2 The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness: “The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fish-hooks.”
Amos 4:3 “you will each go straight out through breaks in the wall, and you will be cast out towards Harmon,” declares the LORD.
Amos 4:4 “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years.”
“Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gigal and sin yet more” – Spoken, of course, with biting irony.
‘Is the invitation to go up to Bethel or Gilgal and get a special offer on sinning: perhaps four sins for the price of two today (to be just as cynical)? Nowhere else in Scripture does God encourage sin; why here, or so it would appear?
The prophet Amos speaks with real irony and sarcasm to an audience that has grown somewhat deaf and tired of hearing his calls for repentance. In an attempt to startle an otherwise recalcitrant nation, Amos spoke in a dissimulating way to see if that would bring any reaction.
To be sure, the people zealously went on their pilgrimages to Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba, all places with religious connotations and associations. At Bethel, of course, the ten northern tribes had set up for themselves a rival altar to the one in Jerusalem, so that worshipers would not need to travel there and one’s politics and potential allegiances would not get confused. But this was in contradiction to the will of God, for God had prescribed that his name would dwell only in Jerusalem. King Jeroboam, amazingly enough, set up a golden calf at Bethel and one at Dan, saying: “Here are your Gods, oh Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (1 Kings 12:28) Amos wasn’t the only one who was contemptuous of the site of Bethel; the prophet Hosea changed the name Bethel, meaning “house of God,” into Beth Aven, meaning “house of wickedness,” (Ho 4:15) while he too castigated Gilgal as an improper place to worship God.
The irony of this invitation to go and sin at Bethel and Gilgal comes out in the word for “sin,” for it also could mean to “fall away” from God. The Israelites would even prefer to do too much than do too little in their false worship. Thus, they burnt on the altar a portion of the leavened loaves of their praise-offerings, which were intended to be eaten at the sacrificial meals, even though only the unleavened bread was allowed to be offered. (Amos 4:5) They were really proud of the fact that they offered freewill offerings in addition to all the rest of the religious acts that they were doing.
But why mention Gilgal along with Bethel as a place of idolatrous worship? This was not the Gilgal in the Jordan Valley, where Israel had camped after crossing over the river Jordan. It was northern Gilgal upon the mountains, to the southwest of Silo or Seilun, where there had been a school of the prophets in the days of Elijah and Elisha. (2 Kings 2:1 4:38) Now in the eighth century B.C. it had been chosen as the seat of idolatrous worship. (Ho 4:15 9:15 12:11 Amos 5:5)
No, God does not encourage sin. The prophet was merely using ironic and graphic words in hopes of getting the attention of those whose moral quotients had sunk to new lows.’ (HSB)
Amos 4:5 “Burn leavened bread as a thank-offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD.
Amos 4:6 “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Amos 4:7 “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up.”
Amos 4:8 “People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Amos 4:9 “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Amos 4:10 “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Amos 4:11 “I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Amos 4:12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, oh Israel.”
Amos 4:13 he who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD God Almighty is his name.