Harry Whittaker
The Time Of The End

4) “For Three Transgressions And For Four”[4]

After the briefest of introductions, Amos 1, 2 consists mainly of eight judgements foretold against Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel. In each the solemn repetition sounds in the ear: “for three transgressions and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof.” This doom, against the people of God and against their ancient enemies round about, was spoken “two years before the earthquake” in king Uzziah’s reign, and presumably was to be fulfilled through that cataclysm. This was the proximate or primary fulfilment of the prophecy. At the beginning of his work as prophet, Amos was presenting his credentials — a prophecy soon to be fulfilled. When events turned out just as he said, the people would be ready to take notice of his ensuing prophecies. All this in accordance with Deuteronomy 18: 22: “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”


This should not be deemed to be the limit of application of Amos’ initial prophecy. There are good Biblical reasons for looking for a further fulfilment in the Last Days:

  1. 1: 2: “The Lord shall roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem” is a passage which is repeated verbatim in Joel 3:16, in a context the last-day fulfilment of which none would question. So evidently Joel saw this Amos prophecy as having reference to the time of the end. The similarity of 1 :6, 9 to Joel 3 :4, 6 confirms this conclusion.
  2. The language of the prophecy requires an upheaval, which is a final retribution for the evil wrought by the nations listed on four (not seven) separate occasions, which have involved all of them. This is not traceable in ancient history, but presents no difficulty whatever in the twentieth century.
  3. Uzziah’s earthquake provides a valuable clue. In Zechariah 14: 4,5 that earthquake is presented as a unique prototype of the earthquake which will happen at the coming of the Lord. Isaiah describes the same earthquake beforehand also (2: 10-22). But this description by Isaiah is appropriated in two places in the New Testament as prophetic of the coming of Christ. Isaiah 2:19 = 2 Thessalonians 1: 9 “... punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints ...” Also, Isaiah 2:19 = Revelation 6:12, 16: “and there was a great earthquake and the kings of the earth, and the great men ... hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.”

If the conclusion based on these Scriptures be accepted, a further conclusion of exceptional interest follows. The nations enumerated in Amos 1, 2 are Judah and Israel together with all the Arab powers round about. On three separate occasions in recent years all these peoples have been involved in transgression together — in 1948, when the state of Israel was established; in 1956, the time of the Suez crisis; and in 1967, the amazing six-days war.

The prophet says explicitly there is to come a fourth involvement, which will lead on inexorably to divine retribution upon them all. This prophecy reads like specific reinforcement of the inferences possible from such Scriptures as Psalm 83, Obadiah, Ezekiel 35,36, Joel 3, that there must be yet another clash between Jews and Arabs, in which, or after which, all will pay the penalty for their cruelty, selfishness and ungodly materialism.

It may be that Amos 1: 1 justifies a further conclusion. Why was the prophecy made public “two years before the earthquake”? Is the vindication of the prophet’s dependability the only reason for mention of this unusual time element? Or is it there to indicate also that after the third (or maybe the fourth) transgression there is to elapse a period of only two years before the great divine intervention that must inevitably ensue?

It may be appropriate to add a further detail. Amos mentions both Judah (2: 4) and Israel (2: 6). Both were in existence in his day. In a sense both are now in existence today. Up to 1967 there was a small very circumscribed Jewish state, very little larger than the old southern kingdom of Judah. Since the six-days war the territory of the state of Israel approximates much more nearly to the dimensions of the combined kingdoms of Judah and Israel. The stage is set for big new developments.

[4] That is, 3 + 1 = 4; not 3 + 4 = 7. Compare Micah 5:5, where 7 + 1 = 8 (Revelation 5:6), not 7 + 8 = 15

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