Amos Table of  Contents

Main Table of Contents


Minor Prophets: Major Messages

Chapter Four of Amos

Amos 4:1-3

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor,
Who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, ‘Bring wine, let us drink!’
The Lord God has sworn by His holiness:
Behold, the days shall come upon you
When He will take you away with fishhooks,
And your posterity with fishhooks.
You will go out through broken walls,
Each one straight ahead of her,
And you will be cast into Harmon,
Says the Lord.”

Passages from the Writings


·        “Concerning those who pervert the doctrine of the church, that they will also fall into falsities in outermost things, vers. 1-3...”

AC 5198[3]

·        “...that by ‘kine’ are signified truths of the natural may be seen from the passages in which they are mentioned....” Amos 4:1 is cited.

AC 2842[6]

·        “In Amos...Jehovah swearing by His...‘great name’ His ‘holiness’...signifies the confirmation there is in Jehovah or the Lord. A confirmation by Jehovah can be given only from Himself.” Amos 4:2 is cited.

AC 7192

·        Note: When the Lord said, “I am Jehovah”...this signifies confirmation from the Divine which is irrevocable...for nothing can be confirmed by Jehovah...except by Himself: it cannot be confirmed by heaven, because this is far beneath Him, still less by anything in the world; but in order that there may be Divine confirmation which is eternal and irrevocable, it must be by the Divine Itself.”

AR 439

·        Note: The New King James translation says, “He will take you away with fishhooks.” In the Writings, this verse is worded “...they shall take you away with stings.”

·        “By ‘stings’ are signified falsities from evil, doing hurt....” Amos 4:2 is cited.

AR 474

·        This number contains an explanation of the Lord swearing by His holiness. “...the Divine truth testifies...from itself and by itself.” Amos 4:2 and 6:8 are cited.

AE 513[14]

·        “In Amos...‘they shall draw you out with hooks, and your posterity with fish-hooks’...signifies leading away and alienating from truths by means of acute reasonings from falsities and fallacies; it is said of those who abound in knowledges because they have the Word and the prophets; such are here meant by ‘the kine of Bashan in the mountain of Samaria.’”

·        Note: In a prior number to the quote above, there is an interesting quote about the meaning of “hooks.” “...if the spiritual is not dominant...both thoughts and affections are wondering, and thus man is destitute of the intelligence that should lead and rule...then every falsity and every evil has power to draw them over to their side, and thus wholly destroy them, is signified by ‘Let him draw out all with the hook’....” (Habakkuk 1:15)

AE 560[4]

·        “...falsities are signified by ‘sharp instruments’ in Amos: Behold the days will come upon you in which they will draw you out with barbs, and your posterity with fishhooks (iv. 2). ‘To draw out with barbs’ signifies to lead away from truths by knowledges (scientifica) from the Word and from the world falsely applied; and ‘to draw out with fishhooks’ signifies to lead away from truths by the fallacies of the senses, from which the sensual man reasons.”

AE 608[2]

·        In Amos iv. 2, it is said that the Lord “hath sworn by His holiness.” AE 608[2] explains that this signifies “...confirmation, asseveration and simple verity, or that it is true....”

AC 4926[6]

·        “In Amos: They shall draw out your posterity with fish-hooks. Ye shall go forth through the breaches, every one straight before her; and ye shall throw down the palace (iv. 2, 3); ‘to go forth through the breaches’ denotes falsities from reasonings; the ‘palace’ is the Word, consequently the truth of doctrine which is from good. And as by ‘breaches’ is signified the falsity which comes into existence by the separation of good and truth...” 

Derived Doctrine


  • “ ‘Bashan’ the external of the church, thus the natural, was signified, for Bashan was outside the land of Canaan where the church was.” (AE 163[8])

Oppressing the Poor and Crushing the Needy

  • Oppressing the poor and crushing the needy is reasonably straightforward in its meaning. This represents a withholding or destruction of truths so that the spiritually poor, internally and externally, have no care or sustenance. Crushing is a restriction or holding down of the conatus or endeavor to grow spiritually.

Asking Husbands to Bring Wine and Let Us Drink

  • Since this verse is not explained, we must make an attempt to get some application. Were the wives (affections) seeking a rational wisdom from their husbands? When there is a request to drink wine, it signifies a wish to investigate what belongs to faith. (AC 1071) Is this what they were requesting? Was the reference to the wives, “cows of Bashan,” a derogatory term?

Going out Through Broken Walls, Each Straight Ahead of Her

  • The breach in the wall represents “falsity from reasonings” and the “separation of good and truth.” (AC 4926)
  • The word “straight” usually has a positive representation of leveling, smoothing out the rough places, preparation to receive the Lord (AE 405[36]), turning the evil of ignorance into good (AC 3527[3]). There has to be a significance here that indicates Providence is going to bring good out of their disorder.
  • Could the Lord be saying that all of their games of pretense and misuse of the Word will be plainly laid out before them? Their participation in the breaching of the Word made the Lord’s truth rough, uneven, and treacherous for anyone to use. The time was at hand for a change. The Lord in His Providence saw the spiritual need to bring the Word back to His level, even, and smooth state so that people could be brought out of the evil of ignorance to receive the Lord.

Being Cast into Harmon

  • We have no reference in the Writings to a place called Harmon. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible has a short article on Harmon that has some interesting historical comments and conjecture that might shed some light on our study:

“The name Harmon appears (in Amos) and then nowhere else in the Bible, and no place by this name is known.” The article suggests various names or meanings for the word Harmon:

1.      The Palace
2.      Beyond the mountains of Armenia
3.      The mountains of Romman
4.      Behind the wall of Samaria
5.      Naked
6.      Devoted to destruction 

Putting It All Together

1. Our references from the Writings tell us that the “kine” represent those who abound in knowledges because they had the Word and the prophets. Instead of using that abundance wisely for the advancement of their spiritual uses, they turned the abundance to further their own interests.

2. They alienated themselves from truth with their “acute reasonings.” Their logic was “wondering.” They used truth as they saw fit. The consequences of this approach drew them over to the side of evil and destroyed truth. They got “hooked” on the painful barbs, or fish-hooks, of the sensual man’s short-sighted reasoning.

3. Such a careless disregard for the Word leaves the spiritually poor oppressed, and it crushes a healthy sense of one’s needy state.

Doctrine intended to offer protection is like a formidable wall; when it is not maintained, it develops breaches in it. Pulled out by the ‘hooks” of wandering, the residents of the city are carried off to that uncertain place of Harmon. They become estranged from their beloved place. They are taken outside Samaria’s walls. They are “spiritually naked” and seem “devoted to destruction.”

Read and Review

Read Amos 4:1-3.

Read the summary from P&P.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

1.      Do any of the prophecies in this section seem appropriate for things we are experiencing now? In our present day idiom, we describe being obsessed or addicted as being “hooked.” Our affections want something so badly we can hardly concentrate on other things. Our thoughts return again and again to the thing we want. If it is a selfish “hook,” will doctrine pull the hook out? Will the walls of doctrine hold firm? Do breaches begin to show up? Can they be mended?

2.      Have we ever gotten hooked on some “wandering” sensual reasoning that carried us off to an unknown place? The unknown doesn’t give us a clue as to where we are, and we don’t know how to get back to the safe city and the protective walls of the church. What can you do when you are lost in this way?  How can you help someone else who is lost?

3.      In the section titled “Passages From the Writings,” look at the quote from AC 7192. How do you understand this teaching? “...confirmation from the Divine which is irrevocable...” And then it ends with this: “in order that there may be Divine confirmation which is eternal and irrevocable, it must be by the Divine itself.” How might we apply this to life?

4.      Can you think of situations in which “acute reasonings” have led you or someone you know astray?  Why are these reasoning so dangerous?  What makes us vulnerable to them?  How can we guard against them?  How might these reasonings be similar to the mental processes we call “mind games”?

Amos 4:4-6

“Come to Bethel and transgress,
At Gilgal multiply transgression;
Bring your sacrifices every morning,
Your tithes every three days.
Offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven,
Proclaim and announce the freewill offerings;
For this you love,
You children of Israel!
Says the Lord God.
Also I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities.
And lack of bread in all your places;
Yet you have not returned to Me,
Says the Lord.”

Passages from the Writings


·        “...that they arrange a worship in externals according to the statutes, which will be similar [to real worship], yet only in the outermost things, vers. 4-6... ”

AC 1453[3&4]

·        “...‘Bethel’ signifies knowledges....That the ark of Jehovah was in Bethel, and that the sons of Israel came thither and inquired of Jehovah...also that the king of Assyria sent one of the priests whom he brought from Samaria, and he dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear Jehovah.... After Jeroboam had profaned had an opposite representation....” Amos 3:14, 15; 4:5-7 are cited.

AC 2165[5&6]

·        “...‘bread’ is the Lord, it belongs to the celestial things which are of love.... therefore they who are not in love and charity have not the Lord with them, and thus are not gifted with the good and happy things that in the internal sense are signified by ‘bread.’...In the Prophets also the celestial things of love are signified by ‘bread’....”  Amos 4:6 and 8:11 are cited as examples. 

AC 9052[3]

·        “In Amos ...‘emptiness of teeth’ denotes scarcity of truth; and ‘lack of bread,’ scarcity of good....‘the teeth’ in the opposite sense, signify the falsity, which destroys truth...”  Amos 4:6 is cited.

AE 556[12]

·        “In Amos...‘Emptiness of teeth in the cities’ stands for a scarcity of truth in doctrines in the life.”  Amos 4:6 is cited. 

AE 556[20]

·        “Because the teeth correspond to the ultimates of man’s intellectual life, which are called sensual, and these when separated from the truths of the interior understanding, which are called spiritual, are in the falsities of ‘teeth in the Word signify also ultimate truths....” Amos 4:6 is cited. 

Derived Doctrine


  • There are a myriad of ways transgressions are acted out against the Lord: Disobedience, being treacherous, being obstinate, breaking the Commandments, or implementing a form of cunning and deceit that mimics innocence and truth. Each of these actions is a choice of evil that is contrary to the Lord’s good and truth. “To see and understand that a thing is evil, and still do it, makes a person guilty.” (AC 9069)


  • “...signifies the doctrine of natural truth, which is serviceable for introduction into the church....” (AE 700[14])

At Gilgal Multiply Transgressions

  • In the positive sense, multiply “...signifies the fruitfulness of the rational man when it submits itself to the sovereign control of the interior man when adjoined to good...unless the rational submits either suffocates, or rejects, or perverts the things that flow in; and this is still more the case when they flow into the sensuous knowledges of the memory.” (AC 1940[1&3])

Sacrifice Every Morning

  • The Writings remind us that sacrifice means to offer up, or part with, something that blocks or hinders the soul. Sacrificing such obstacles aids our efforts to submit our interior person to the control of the Lord. The minute directions of what and how to sacrifice were not recorded so vicarious atonement might be achieved, but to represent the care needed when a “sacrifice” is offered to the Lord so that our thoughts and affections might be worthily set before Him each day. What are we to give up? We are to give up the proprium that would turn its back on the Lord and set itself up as the object of worship.
  • If our sacrifices are to be accepted by the Lord, there needs to be the ‘morning’ state of illustration; a state of new clarity; a state of brightness and new beginnings.  These are the goals to be sought each day so we may move from ignorance to enlightenment. See AC 5097.

 Tithes Every Three Days

  • We are taught in various places that “tithes” represent remains and that “three” denotes what is holy. See AC 902 and also the following quote:  “[Tithes are]...the goods and truths which are stored up by the Lord in man’s interiors, and which goods are called ‘remains’....” (AC 3740)

Offering a Sacrifice of Thanksgiving with Leaven

  • In AC 9287, we read about keeping a feast of thanksgiving and unleavened things. The latter represents “purification from falsities” and that this was a state of worship from a glad mind on account of “liberation from damnation.”
  • Leavening things, on the other hand, represent evil and falsity rendering spiritual things impure and profane. See AC 2342. Leavening causes things to ferment or to bring one to the state of combat.

Announcing Freewill Offerings

  • What kind of offerings? Meat? First Fruits? Heave offerings? Gifts? This prophecy doesn’t specify. The emphasis seems to fall on the word freewill. Offering represents some form of worship. What seems to be at issue here is the spirit of the giving or worshiping. Is it being offered as an obligation, or is it a willing or spontaneous act of worship? There is a passage in TCR 430 where payment of tribute and taxes seem to capture the spirit of the difference between freewill and duty bound offerings:
    • “Those who are spiritual pay these with one disposition of heart, and those who are merely natural with another. The spiritual pay them from good will, because they are collected for the preservation of their country, and for its protection and the protection of the church, also for the administration of government officials....Those, therefore, to whom their country and also the church are the neighbor, pay their taxes willingly and cheerfully....But those to whom their country and the church are not the neighbor pay them unwillingly and with resistance; and at every opportunity defraud and withhold; for to such their own household and their own flesh are the neighbor.”
  • Freewill offerings would spring from the heart as a form of love and appreciation for all of the Lord’s benefits. The duty-bound would go through the motions to appear appreciative, but within their hearts they would resist and resent the inconvenience of the ritual, not feeling that the Lord and the church are the neighbor to be loved.

Clean Teeth

  • Note what the Writings say about “cleanness of teeth.” Please note this does not mean their teeth were toothbrush clean. The Writings, in AC 9052[2] and AE 556[12] teach us that this means “emptiness of teeth” or to be missing teeth, so we must see this as being representative of the scarcity of truth and scarcity of doctrine.

Putting It All Together

1. Having gone through most of the correspondences in these verses, we must now go back and begin with what we were taught in P&P: “...they arrange a worship in externals according to the statutes, which will be similar to real worship, yet only in the outermost things...”

Jeroboam profaned Bethel and brought about an opposite representation of spiritual knowledges. What example past or present might illustrate this for us?

2. When the Word says that they transgressed Bethel, it means that they transgressed the knowledges of the Word. When the Word says that they multiplied the transgressions of Gilgal, it means that they twisted the introductory natural truths so badly that they misled those hearing them, and the lies prevented them from offering the kind of sacrifices, each day, that would have given them the insights necessary to amend their lives.

3. The multiplicity of falsity prevented the remains from serving the inner man. Instead of offering an unleavened sacrifice of thanksgiving (purification from falsities and a celebration of liberation from damnation), they were offering the sacrifice of leaven that represents evil and falsity rendering spiritual things impure and profane.

4. Giving to the Lord, and the temple, was for show. Those donating lavishly looked at their gifts as earning meritorious mercy from the Lord. Their use of the sacrifices was not for the Lord out of grateful hearts. Sadly, it only served their need for peer recognition. This seems to explain why the Lord said to them, “For this you love, you children of Israel.”

5. The “great emptiness” message comes through the unfolding of these verses. The lack of teeth prevented them from eating and chewing foods that would have been better for them; the lack of bread in all of their palaces told them of the Lord’s absence; and yet, they seemed to have no awareness of these deficiencies because they failed to correct them and return to the Lord.

6. Worship requirements were being met to fill the laws, and it appeared that they were just like the “real thing,” but they were worshiping with emptiness of teeth and no bread.

Read and Review

Read Amos 4:4-6.

Read the summary from P&P.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

1.      These verses introduce the idea of bringing sacrifices every morning and tithes every three days. What might this mean to us? In what ways do you do some or all of this?

2.      Is the use of leavening always bad? Don’t we need to be brought to the point of combat so we may remove impurities? How does this teaching fit with what the Writings tell us about the nature of temptation?

3.      Freewill offerings. There are times we question the wisdom of expenditures made for the church. To demonstrate our disfavor with a person or policy, we might withhold some of our future support as a sign of protest. Is this ever appropriate?  Why, or why not? Have we ever justified it by saying that we will spend that money on our needs because we are also the neighbor? Should we feel guilty for not being more generous or cheerful about offering our gifts to the church?

4.      Think about chewing food without teeth. Some have little confidence in their thinking skills, so they fail to think for themselves. They rely on the thinking or opinions of others. If we were to offer an analogy, we might say they have no teeth and are satisfied with prepared foods that resemble “baby food” instead of chewing things over for themselves. What are some reasons why this happens?  Why is it dangerous?

How would we characterize our generation, or the current time? Are we toothless, with a scarcity of truth and a scarcity of doctrine?  Is this a choice?

Is there also a lack of bread in our midst? Remember, that means a scarcity of the Lord’s love.

5.      How aware might we be of the times the Lord called us out of our transgressions and we failed to hear or come out of them? Is our conscience tuned in to the Lord, or is it overwhelmed with the noise of other values?

Amos 4:7-8

“I also withheld rain from you,
When there were still three months to the harvest.
I made it rain on one city,
I withheld rain from another city.
One part was rained upon,
And where it did not rain the part withered.
So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water,
But they were not satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me,
Says the Lord.”

Passages From the Writings


·        “...that some truths will remain, when the rest have become falsities, whence the truths have no power, vers. 7, 8...”

AC 382[2]

·        “In Amos...where by the ‘part of the field on which it rained’ is signified the doctrine of faith from charity; and by the ‘part’ or ‘piece’ ‘of the field on which it did not rain,’ the doctrine of faith without charity.” Amos 4:7-8 is cited.

AR 496

·        “That ‘rain’ signifies the Divine truth from heaven, appears from these passages...” Amos 4:7-8 is cited.

AE 644[9&10]

·        “...the Lord...always flows in both with the evil and with the good...but the cause is with the man of the church, that he does not receive any influx of Divine truth, for the man who does not receive closes up with himself the interiors of his mind...‘to command the clouds that they rain no rain’ signifies that no influx of Divine truth from heaven is the source of spiritual intelligence...‘no rain’ signifies that no such intelligence is given...because of the evils and falsities that refuse to receive and that reject it.” Amos 4:7-8 is cited as one example.

AE 532[8]

·        “In Amos...This treats of the lack of truth at the end of the church, when those who desire truth from spiritual affection will not find any truth in the doctrines, wherever they may search, and therefore it is said, ‘two three cities wandered unto one city to drink waters, yet they were not satisfied;’ ‘two three cities’ signifying those who are in the affection of truth from good, ‘city’ signifying the truth of doctrine; ‘to draw waters’ signifies to learn truths; ‘to wander’ signifies to search; and ‘not to be satisfied’ signifies not to find truth which in itself is truth; it is said ‘two three cities,’ because ‘two three’ signifies those who are in good and in truth therefrom.”  Amos 4:8 is cited.

Derived Doctrine


  • “...‘harvest’ signifies the last state of the church preceding the Last Judgment, when the Lord explores every one and separates...” (AE 908)
  • Almost all of AE 911[1-18] is a repetition that “harvest” signifies the last state of the church. In AR 645, “harvest” signifies the church with respect to divine truth because corn is harvested and corn is used to make ‘bread’ and bread signifies the good of the church.

Almost everything we need to look toward a summary was given to us, so we will not include more derived doctrine here.

Putting It All Together

1. When falsity is the mainstay of a church, it belittles the power of truth. Think of it this way: If everyone in the world were insane, their insanity would appear to be sanity. The sane person trying to teach or live out the truth would be viewed as a “lunatic,” and his actions would be drawn into question and found unacceptable. Could this be analogous to what the faithful remnant in Israel experienced?

2. The Lord who loves all lets His rain fall upon the just and the unjust evenly. It is not the Lord who withholds the rain. Some will not allow His rain to fall into their city. They close off their minds to the Divine truth. Spiritually, they wither. They choose to resist the Lord’s “rain” and consequently fail to quench their parched souls with the living water that only the Lord can give.

3. For a few in Israel, there was a vague sense that something was missing from their lives. They searched and found water in another city, but that water could not satisfy their thirst. Why? Could it have been that they sought water from others and not the Lord? Is it an example of what the Word teaches us, that we can’t borrow truth from someone else? Is it like the example of David not being able to wear Saul’s armor? 

4. Lastly, we have the wistful refrain “yet you have not returned to Me...” There was a spiritual thirst, but a collective “amnesia” as to where that thirst could be quenched. The Israelites were so caught up in the rush of external prosperity and peace that they did not know how withered they were. What would it take to snap them out of their spiritual lethargy?

Read and Review

Read Amos 4:7-8.

Read the summary from P&P.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

1.      Are there any questions here? The spiritual sense clearly outlines that the Israelite cities had no rain because they rejected the Lord.

2.      I wonder about those who went to another city for water. Does it seem “unfair” that they ended up not being satisfied? Don’t they get some credit for looking in some other city? Could this search for water in another city represent lazy thinking and the willingness to borrow from the minds of others without consulting the Lord’s Word?  How might it compare to the people we mentioned in the last lesson who did not want to chew their food (think for themselves)?

The Lord will not leave anyone thirsty if they truly seek His living water. What might have kept the Lord from “raining on their city”? Were they representative of those who make moral judgments in the “light” of popular opinions?

3.      Can you remember a situation where your concept of what was right, sane, and reasonable was made to look unreasonable, insane, and wrong? How does one deal with that experience?

4.      Think about all of the activities or lifestyles that at one time were viewed as disorderly and are now tolerated. Things that Swedenborg called “unspeakable evils” are now called “viable alternative lifestyles.”  Were people wrong in the past? Were we narrow-minded?  Have we found new truths in the Word to change our understanding on these issues?  Or have we drawn unsatisfactory water from other cities that won’t sate the thirst?

Amos 4:9

“I blasted you with the blight and mildew.
When your gardens increased,
Your vineyards,
Your fig trees,
And your olive trees,
The locust devoured them;
Yet you have not returned to Me,
Says the Lord.”

Passages From the Writings


·        “...that afterwards all things of the church have been falsified, ver. 9...”

AC 9277[3] 

·        “In Amos...‘vineyards’ denote the goods of faith; and ‘olive trees’ the goods of love; the punishment for not receiving these goods is signified by ‘the caterpillar devouring the olive trees’.”  Amos 4:9 is cited. 

AC 9277[3]

·        “...‘the fig tree’ denotes natural good; ‘the vine,’ spiritual good; ‘the olive,’ celestial good....”

AC 9331[5]

·        “That falsities and evils in the extremes-that is, in the external sensuous of the man of the church-are signified by the various kinds of insects...for the subject treated of is the perversion of the truth and good of the church... which are destroyed by such insects...” Amos 4:9 is cited. 

AC 10261[8]

·        “...the ‘fig tree’ signifies the good of the external church...but the ‘vine’ the good of the internal spiritual church, and the ‘olive’ the good of the internal celestial church.” Amos 4:9 is cited. 

AE 403[8]

·        “In Amos...‘Gardens’ signify all things of the church that constitute intelligence and wisdom; ‘vineyards’ spiritual goods and truths; ‘fig trees’ natural goods and truths; ‘olive trees’ celestial goods and truths; ‘the palmer-worm’ means the falsity that destroys....” Amos 4:9 is cited. 

AE 638[20]

·         “In Amos...‘Gardens’ signify such things as belong to spiritual intelligence; ‘blasting and mildew’ signify evil and falsity in what is most external, or from the corporeal-sensual...the ‘palmer-worm’ signifies falsity destroying good.” Amos 4:9 is cited.

·        That “...a ‘vineyard’ signifies the spiritual church is evident from the passages in the Word...” Amos 4:9 is cited. 

Derived Doctrine

The Insect

Note: The locust, the caterpillar, the worm, and the palmer-worm are the various names we find used in the translations for the insect that devoured the vineyard, the fig tree, and the olive trees.

  • AE 543[8] says ‘locust’ and the ‘caterpillar’ have the same signification...‘locust’ signifies the falsity of the sensual man, and the ‘caterpillar’ its evil....”
  • “The falsity of evil, which is in the good that is from our own, is compared to ‘a worm’ because the case with them is similar; for falsity also gnaws and thus torments.” (AC 8481) “...the palmer-worm means the falsity that destroys...” (AE 403[8])


  • Webster’s Dictionary defines this word as breathing; a violent gust of wind; or a sudden stream or discharge of air.  AC 8286 says that when predicated of the Lord, “...‘blowing with the nostrils’ or ‘breathing,’ is signified to be angry....”  It would seem that this is the sense of understanding we should follow with “I blasted you with blight and mildew.”


  • Turning to Webster’s Dictionary again, we read that a blight is “A disease or injury to a plant that results in a withering, cessation of growth, and death of parts, as leaves, without rotting.”   


  • “...a thin, whitish growth produced on organic matter, and on plants by fungi...”
  • As we know from experience, that thin layer of white is one form of fungi; another is the blackish layer of fungi. Both forms of fungi do harm to plants.

I’m sure there is some spiritual correspondence for this. Could the following application have some merit for us to consider?

A lie is a lie whether it is a “white lie” or a “black lie,” and eventually, it will put some kind of blight on our moral character and injure our first efforts to do good. Withering, cessation of growth, and the death of many a good intention are experiences we all have felt and regretted. 

Putting It All Together

1. P&P says that “...all things of the church have been falsified.”

2. Therefore, it follows that the representations in this story of the things of the church (vineyards, fig trees, and olive trees) should be shown undergoing some affliction. When the things of the church are falsified, the garden with all spiritual intelligence is a victim. The loss of celestial, spiritual, and natural good shows the demise of their love. When obedience is lost, the person in the church doesn’t hear, see, or submit to the urges of the Word. Spiritual insights are warped and made meaningless. The heart that is absent from the Lord turns cold and is inclined to follow the urges of self, the sensual or corporeal interests. To people in that state, such as the children of Israel in this story, it appears that the Lord is angry and blasting. Blight and mildew attack the growth (or lack thereof), and the locust, caterpillar, worm, or palmer-worm destroy the spiritual garden.

3. “Yet you have not returned to Me.” Notice that this is the second time in this chapter that the same phrase is given to the Israelites, and it will be used again in verse 10. Like a patient and loving parent, the Lord wants them to see the consequences of their actions. The Lord wants to face them with reality. What will it take for them to see what they are doing to themselves? What more could the Lord have done for them? And yet, instead of having a vineyard that produced sweet grapes, they produced sour grapes not fit for much of anything.

4. What we can anticipate, from the historical perspective, is that the people of the church eventually will turn, and project on the Lord anger and disregard for their condition. They will act as if this spiritual blight came on them suddenly with no warning. They will see and remember the great “blast” as a manifestation of His sudden anger and impatience with human beings.  With anguished voices, they will cry out: “Why, O Lord have you visited us with such direful punishment?”

Read and Review

Read Amos 4:9.

Read the summary from P&P.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

1.      Does this verse prepare us to think about our gardens, vineyards, fig trees, and olive trees? How can we assess the state of our gardens, etc.?

2.      The blight, the mildew, and the worms that attack and seek to destroy the church: Can you put a face on them? Is there some form of “spiritual spray” to protect the tree of life?

3.      The Writings liken the worm to the proprium. It is a worm that is within and gnaws its way out and thus torments. Fruit trees have to be sprayed when the blossom appears, to rid the blossom of the worm. Otherwise, the fruit will be eaten from within. Is there a message here for us?

4.      What is your impression of the Lord’s words, “And yet you have not returned to Me...”?

5.      The external church, the internal spiritual church, and the internal celestial church: Are you able to differentiate the meanings of these terms? How about effect, cause, and end? That is a reverse order of what should be for the church. We are taught that all order flows from End to Cause to Effect. Could it significant that philosophical “proofs of God” often reversed the method of finding God?  They each start their effort by looking from the effects to cause to end.

Amos 4:10-11

“I sent among you a plague after the manner of Egypt;
Your young men I killed with a sword,
Along with your captive horses;
I made the stench of your camps come up into your nostrils;
Yet you have not returned to Me,
Says the Lord.
I overthrew some of you,
As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah,
And you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning;
Yet you have not returned to Me,
Says the Lord.”

Passages From the Writings


·        “...and that, lastly, they were profaned through sensual scientifics, which have spread to all things of the church, so that scarcely anything was left, vers. 10, 11;”

AC 2799[14&19]

·        “In Amos...‘in the way of Egypt’ denotes the memory-knowledges which vastate, when they reason from them on Divine things; the ‘captivity of the horses’ denotes the intellectual faculty deprived of its endowment....That a ‘sword’ in the opposite sense signifies falsity combating...a ‘sword’ also signifies the punishment of falsity....” Amos 4:10 is cited. 

AC 7102[8]

·        “In Amos...‘the pestilence in the way of Egypt’ denotes the vastation of good by means of falsities, which are ‘the way of Egypt;’ ‘I have slain your young men with the sword, with the captivity of the horses,’ denotes the vastation of truth. (By ‘young men’ are signified truths, and by ‘horses’ things of the intellect...)” Amos 4:10 is cited.

AC 7102[9&10]

·        “...‘pestilence’ denotes adulterated good....‘pestilence’ denotes every kind of evil and its damnation.” 

AC 7161[2]

·        “ ‘odor’ denotes all that which is grateful to the Lord, so ‘stink’ denotes that which is ungrateful to the Lord, consequently ‘stink’ denotes aversion, and also abomination....which are of falsity and evil.” Amos 4:10 is cited. 

AC 7505

·        “In Amos...where ‘the pestilence in the way of Egypt’ denotes the vastation of good and truth by means of falsities, which are ‘the way of Egypt;’ ‘your young men have I slain with the sword, with the captivity of horses’ denotes the vastation of truth; ‘young men’ denotes truths, and ‘horses’ intellectual things...” Amos 4:10 is cited. 

AC 7668[3]

·        “‘...young men’ the original tongue denote intelligence, thus its truth, in Amos...where ‘the way of Egypt’ denotes memory-knowledges perverted; the ‘young men’ who were slain,’ the truths thence destroyed; ‘the captivity of the horses,’ the intellectual seduced.” Amos 4:10 is cited.

AC 10458

·        “...the vastation of truth is here treated of, and when this is vastated, the ‘camp’ signifies hell....‘pestilence’ denotes vastation...‘way’ denotes truth, and in the opposite sense falsity...‘Egypt’ denotes what is external, and also hell...‘a sword’ denotes falsity fighting against truth...‘young men’ denote the truths of the church...‘to be slain’ denotes to perish spiritually...‘captivity’ denotes the privation of truth...‘horses’ denote an understanding which is enlightened...‘a stink’ denotes what is abominable exhaling from hell.... From this it is evident that in this sense a ‘camp’ denotes hell....” Amos 4:10 is cited.

AR 862

·        This number has a reference to Amos 4:10 and only indicates that ‘camp’ signifies falsities and evils.

AC 2220[2]

·        “In Amos...where Samaria is treated of, by which is signified the perverted spiritual church, and which in respect to evils in general contrary to the goods of charity is called ‘Sodom,’ and in respect to falsities in general contrary to the truths of faith is called ‘Gomorrah;’ and in respect to called the ‘overthrowing of God.” Amos 4:11 is cited. 

AR 502

·        “...‘Sodom’ is the love of dominating from self-love.... These loves and their evils are signified by ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’....” Amos 4:11 is cited.

Derived Doctrine

A Firebrand Plucked from the Burning

·        AE 559[8] explains that “A ‘smoking fire-brand’ signifies the lust of falsity and consequent wrath against the truths and goods of the church.”

·        AC 6952 also explains that “...‘smoking firebrands’ denote wrath.”

Putting It All Together

1. With so much given to us regarding these verses, where should we start tying together a workable theme? My attention was drawn to the words “memory knowledges.”

The memory of each person is unique and has wonderful and necessary facts stored up for our usage now and later.  The five senses gather impressions, note contrasts, give us the ability to cognitively follow certain logical cause-and-effect relationships. The Writings talk about the scientifics and truths in a person’s memory cohering into “bundles” or forms of information that are arranged according to the person’s loves. (See AC 5881.) Briefly, the memory is like a gateway by which the Lord may work the wonderful miracles of elevating the mind into the light of continuous and discrete degrees. So much more may be said about the potential of the things in one’s memory.

2.  But the internal sense indicates that something is not right with the “memory knowledges” referred to in this story. There are words like “pestilence,” “killed with the sword,” “captivity,” “stench,” “overthrown,” “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and “firebrand” that tell us that these memory knowledges are not interested in being useful or of service to the Lord.  Instead, these memory knowledges are intent on the “...overthrowing of God.” (AC 2220[2])

3. Continuous and discrete degrees require a “conatus” that seeks conjunction with the Lord. In The Doctrine of the Lord 102, we read: “...with one in whom there is nothing reciprocal [conjunction] is not possible....”  Real conjunction must involve reciprocation, return, and mutuality.

4. Our text tells us that Israel involved its memory knowledges in the things of sensual scientifics and corporeal knowledges. In other words, they were only interested in what served immediate use in the world or for their bodily enjoyment. AC 4618 teaches us that the corporeal memory serves only the temporal, and like the temporal, it perishes at death.

Sadly, the scientific and corporeal caused a stench or stinking in the “camp.” Their intelligence was slain, and their thoughts were like an abomination “exhaling from hell.”

5. The reference to the Israelites being a firebrand denotes what kind of wrath against God they had within their hearts. The Lord tried to pluck them out of the burning hatred, but “Yet you have not returned to Me.” The “stick” represented the “power” or usefulness of natural good being destroyed because their ends were for themselves and not the neighbor.

Read and Review

Read Amos 4:10-11.

Read the summary from P&P.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

1.      What part of AC 10458 did you find most helpful in explaining the meaning of these verses?

2.      What is a corporeal memory knowledge? Can you think of anything specific to describe one of these? Can a corporeal memory knowledge be turned into a useful thing? What about the scientific memory knowledges?

3.      Why would the Lord have these forms of memory knowledges die off when we die?

4.      Have you ever had a discussion with someone who was totally committed to the corporeal memory knowledges? What is the feeling? How did you do with the discussion?

5.      The “stink” of the camp is a graphic form of imagery, and I think we can relate to what is being suggested. Hell is full of unclean thoughts, intentions, festering, etc. Is the Lord trying to scare us into shunning these things, or is this a good form of “tough love?” How does imagery like this help us?

6.      Again, we have that poignant phrase: “Yet you have not returned to Me.” Like many of the wonderful stories I have heard about the innocent participatory enthusiasm of children, my heart wants to respond, “Yes Lord, I have heard You, and I will return!” Amen, which means: So may it ever be. What is it inside of us that responds to the Lord this way?  How can we foster this response in ourselves?                                                                    

Amos 4:12-13

“Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel;
Because I will do this to you,
Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!
For behold,
He who forms mountains,
And creates the wind,
Who declares to man what his thought is,
And makes the morning darkness,
Who treads the high places of the earth-
The Lord God of hosts is His name.”

Passages From the Writings


·        “...An exhortation that they should turn to the Lord, vers. 12, 13.”

AE 405[3]

·        “In Amos...God is here called ‘the Former of the mountains’ because ‘mountains’ signify the goods of love, and ‘the Creator of the spirit’ because ‘spirit’ signifies life from such goods; and because through these He gives intelligence to man it is added, ‘and declareth unto man what is his thought,’ for the intelligence that man has is of his thought, which flows in from the Lord through the good of love into his life, so ‘to declare’ here means to flow in.”  Amos 4:12, 13 are cited. 

Doctrine of the Lord 49

·        “That by ‘spirit’ is meant the life of one who is regenerate, which is called spiritual life....” Amos 4:13 is cited. 

Derived Doctrine

 “Therefore will I do to you...” and “because I will do this to you...”

  • The Writings have an interesting comment on such phrases as these when predicated of the Lord: “...‘doing’ or ‘do to you’ [when]...predicated of God...[refers to His] providence...for whatever is of the Divine Providence is certain to be the event....” (AC 5284)

Prepare to Meet your God

  • We have no direct teachings on the meaning of this exhortation. John the Baptist told the people to “Prepare ye the way of the Lord...” which signifies “ prepare one’s self for goods to enter...” (AC 3142)  “In the precise degree in which man prepares his understanding by means of truths from the Word does he adapt his understanding to receive faith from God, and precisely as he prepares his will by means of works of charity does he fit his will for the reception of love from God.... One prepares himself to receive God and to be conjoined with Him by living in accordance with the Divine order...” (TCR 110[5])

Making the Morning Darkness

  • Churches go through various states. “Its first state is...of innocence, consequently of love to the Lord, which state is called ‘morning;’ the second state is a state of light; the third is a state of light in obscurity, which is its ‘evening;’ and the fourth is a state of no love and hence of no light, which is its ‘night.’ (AC 10134[9])

The Lord God “…treads the high places of the earth....”

  • In AC 85, there is an explanation of “being uplifted over the lofty things of the earth.” (Isa 58:13,14) This represents “...the quality of the celestial man...he acts not according to his own desire, but according to the good pleasure of the Lord, which is his ‘desire.’”
  • Could this represent the truth that the Lord is above the highest thoughts human beings can conceive? The lofty ideas and concepts of earth will not influence the workings of Providence. The Lord will not be swayed by human prudence. He acts according to the Divine laws of His order, and that is above the “lofty things of earth.”
  • The Lord told us about this in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways...For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Putting It All Together

1. P&P tells us that these closing verses are an exhortation that the Israelites should turn to the Lord.

2. The Lord reminds all that His Providence will act. All that His order has planned will take place. Good and truth will prevail. Therefore, preparation needs to be a priority for all of the Lord’s people.

In the precise degree the understanding and will prepare for the Lord, to that degree will He enter in and conjoin Himself with us.  “Prepare to meet thy God” is not a “hell-fire and damnation” sermon. It is a well-reasoned reminder that we need to put first things first.

3. Making the morning into darkness seems as if it were an act of the Lord. It is a statement about our changing states. Have we moved from the morning state of innocence to no love, no light, and therefore darkness?               

Read and Review

Read Amos 4:12, 13.

Read the summary from P&P.

Questions to Stimulate Reflection

1.      The Lord knows what our thoughts are before we speak them. Why then does He let us come to Him with specific requests for help? Why do we have to perform self-examination? Wouldn’t it be better for the Lord to tell us what we need to overcome and then go inside of our affections and “disconnect” all related and contributing factors?

2.      Do we have an effective “prophet” to call us back to the Lord? Might it be a regular study of the Word? Church services? Doctrinal classes? We need some objective source against which to compare our progress, or lack thereof, and from which we can learn about pertinent issues. What do you think would bring about the best results for you?

3.      The “earth” of the human mind made remarkable advances, but the Lord is beyond the comprehension of people and angels.  In spite of this, we tend to “limit” the Lord by doubting His Providence. Therefore, these verses pose the question: how can we imitate the celestial man so that we too may “...act not according to [our] own desire, but according to the good pleasure of the Lord....”?

4.      The answer seems to be: Take charge of our spiritual life. Be alert. Be responsible for our choices and actions. Check out our intentions. In all things, pull the reigns on the sensual and corporeal priorities so the Lord’s good pleasure may do the leading.

5.      Preparation is a “sweeping” out of the house, opening the blinds of the house so the hells are exposed and the light of heaven welcomed. Can we do this without the usual rationalizations? Like little children, will we try to deflect responsibilities by making odious comparisons? “So and so does this....” “If that ‘pillar of the church’ does such and such and I don’t, then I don’t have to worry about my regeneration right now.” “Do you know what so and so did? Wasn’t that stupid?” Such ridicule dulls the voice of the conscience and insulates us from hearing the “Former” of the mountains and the creator of our “spirit” telling us the things we need to hear and know.   How much do we try to excuse with the statement “To err is human.”?

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