4:1 Hear this word [not a call to repentance but an announcement of judgment], you cows [cf. Ps. 22:12 re: the bulls of Bashan] of Bashan [northernmost region of the promised land east of the Jordan River, east of the Sea of Galilee, given to half-tribe of Manasseh because its people desired to raise cattle (Num. 32:1,33)] on Mount Samaria [capital city of the Northern Kingdom; name means “mountain of watching or keeping”], you women [most likely the wives of rulers and other leaders of the Northern Kingdom] who oppress [to take by force or threat] the poor and crush [to break into pieces] the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks [implies their desire for drunkenness and carousing]!”
4:2 The Sovereign LORD has sworn [taken an oath] by his holiness [comprehensive term for the nature of God (cf. Isa. 6:3); for God to swear by Himself indicates strongest possible pledge]: “The time will surely come [payday would come!] when you will be taken away with hooks [probably refers to Assyrian practice of hooking their captives through their noses to lead them away], the last of you with fishhooks.
4:3 You will each go straight out through breaks in the wall [the same breaks the invaders used to gain entry into the city], and you will be cast out [indicates the wicked women would be violently taken from their homes] toward Harmon [an unidentified place in Assyria beyond Damascus],” declares the LORD.
4:4 [this verse is a parody of a call to worship] “Go to Bethel [a center of false worship] and sin [rebel]; go to Gilgal [a center of false worship] and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices [general term for the offering of animals] every morning, your [but not God’s] tithes every three years.
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.
4:6 [disciplinary warning: famine] “I gave you empty stomachs [literally “cleanness of teeth”] in every city and lack of bread in every town [“city…town” indicates broad or nationwide scope of famine], yet you have not returned to me [Israelites did not learn from God’s warning; indicates redemptive intent of judgments],” declares the LORD.
Note: Amos 4:6-13 record disciplinary warnings designed to encourage the people of Northern Kingdom to repent. These warnings testify to the long-suffering patience of God with the Northern Kingdom.
4:7 [disciplinary warning: drought] “I also withheld rain [drought: chief cause of famine; also insult to Baal, god of storms and fertility] from you when the harvest was still three months away [inopportune time of the drought; time when crops needed water the most (resulted in stunted growth of plants)]. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another [illustrates God’s control of rain; God chooses where the rain falls]. One field had rain; another had none and dried up.
4:8 [effect of drought on people] People [from area that received no rain] staggered from [to area that had received rain] town to town [cisterns generally had only enough for local citizens] for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
4:9 [disciplinary warning] “Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight [means “scorching:” crops withered by burning winds] and mildew [pale or yellow; “blight and mildew” represent crop diseases in general]. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
4:10 [disciplinary warnings/signs: pestilence and sword] “I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt [cf. Deut. 28:58-60]. I killed [in warfare] your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench [from rotting corpses; cf. Isa. 34:3] of your camps [not enough men left alive to bury the dead], yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
4:11 [disciplinary warning] “I overthrew some of you [cities] as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah [reminders of great destruction; cf. Gen. 19:24]. You were like a burning stick snatched [indicating they had been spared from complete destruction] from the fire [disaster], yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD.
Note: The phrase “a burning stick snatched from the fire” is “proverbial for a narrow escape from utter extinction.” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown • Commentary on the Whole Bible)
4:12 “Therefore [because people had failed to repent after ample warnings] this [pointed to certain judgment] is what I will do [keep on doing] to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, prepare [brace for the onslaught] to meet [encounter] your God [a warning that judgment was near/certain; not meet another prophet they might also ignore], O Israel.”
4:13 [description of God’s awesome power; indication that God’s power was adequate for the task of impending judgment] He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness [the opposite of what one would expect, i.e., darkness to dawn], and treads the high places of the earth—the LORD [personal name by which God revealed Himself to Moses] God [Heb. generic word for God] Almighty [literally “of hosts”] is his name.