Scheduling a Divine Appointment
In Amos 3:3-6, God reasons with Israel, reminiscent of Isaiah 1:18, where He said through the prophet,
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool.”
God is not unreasonable. John calls Him the Logos (John 1:1), which is the rational word that is logical, reasonable, and intelligent.
Walking in Agreement
Even as God had reasoned with Israel through Isaiah, so also does God give the nation of Israel a series of reasonable questions, beginning in verse 3,
3 Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment [ya’ad]?
The Hebrew word translated “appointment” is ya’ad, which is defined as “to meet with anyone at an appointed time or place.” The word is used again in Job 2:11, where Job’s three friends “made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.”
So to paraphrase Amos 3:3, God was saying, Do two men walk to a designated place for a meeting unless they have first made an appointment? In other words, there is no point in deciding to meet someone, say, at the temple, unless you know that he will be there to meet you. If you do not make an appointment, it is not likely that you will be able to have a successful meeting.
Hence, the obvious answer to God’s rhetorical question is: Of course not. No one is going to meet another person without first contacting him and making an appointment. To do otherwise would make little sense. Perhaps God was trying to make an appointment with Israel. “We need to talk; where can we meet?”
When Does a Lion Roar or Growl?
Verse 4 asks two more rhetorical questions:
4 Does a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey? Does a young lion growl from his den unless he has captured something?
No, lions are silent when they get hungry, because if they roar in the forest, they scare away their prey. As we noted earlier in our comment on Amos 1:2, a lion roars only as he leaps upon his prey.
Secondly, once a lion captures his prey, he drags it to his den. Then he growls a warning if another lion approaches. So the answer to the second question in this verse is NO, for if the lion has no prey to eat, there is no reason for him to growl.
After Amos returned home without seeing any sign of repentance from Israel, he wrote “The Lord roars from Zion” (Amos 1:2). Now we find from Amos 2:4 that God would not have roared unless He had captured His prey. In other words, Israel was doomed. The great quake was about to strike, and the Assyrian army would soon arrive.
How Does a Trap Work?
Verse 5 asks two more questions:
5 Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all?
The answer to both of these questions is NO. Birds do not get trapped without bait, and traps do not spring up without a bird triggering it.
The implication is that Israel was a bird that was being baited and trapped. We find the same metaphor in Hosea 7:11,
11 So Ephraim has become a silly dove, without sense; they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria.
Ephraim was the leading tribe of Israel, so Hosea uses Ephraim to refer to the entire House of Israel. The prophet infers that the Israel-dove is “silly,” not having intelligence or reason. This was made clear when Israel sought the help of Egypt and relied on their military power to save them from divine judgment.
The result? God led them into a trap. Fleshly assistance from the great horses of Egypt was the bait. When Israel took the bait, the trap was sprung. Assyria was God’s trap which put Israel into captivity.
Isaiah spoke of this as well, saying in Isaiah 31:1,
1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!
The horses from Egypt looked good when the Assyrians were threatening them. But Egypt was just the bait to trap Israel by its own fleshly desire. Verse 3 continues,
3 Now the Egyptians are men, and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit; so the Lord will stretch out His hand, and he who helps will stumble and he who is helped will fall, and all of them will come to an end together.
Once the silly dove was captured, she was taken to Assyria, and the cage was known to historians as the land of Gamir, or Gamirra.
When is a Trumpet Blown?
Now we come to the final point that Amos was making in these questions. In verse 6 he asks:
6 If a trumpet is blown in the city, will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city, has not the Lord done it?
Amos was blowing a prophetic trumpet by preaching a word of warning to Israel. If he had blown a physical trumpet, the people might have trembled in response, knowing that they were in danger. But he had blown a spiritual trumpet by his words of warning, and the people had not taken heed.
Look at the sequence of questions now, and see how Amos has built up to his main point.
First, God understood that no one would hear the word of warning unless He made an appointment to meet with the priestly leaders at Bethel. God sent Amos to make an appointment with the leaders of Israel, but no one responded.
Second, Amos was sent with a message like a lion roaring. That means the prey had already been captured. Israel was already “dead meat” on account of their rebelliousness against God. The “young lion” was growling, because it already was eating its prey.
Third, Israel had already sprung the bird trap, and so in the eyes of God, the Assyrians had already captured Israel like a bird in a net.
Even so, because the prophesied event had not yet occurred in the earth, there was still time to repent and to change (or at least postpone) this captivity. So Amos blew the trumpet to warn the people. The people did not take him seriously, however, and even treated him with hostility.