God requires repentance (5:1-15)
The prophet again recalls past warnings that the people had consistently ignored. He sees vividly that the result of the people’s stubbornness will be the destruction of Israel. Samaria will be conquered and most of Israel’s army wiped out (5:1-3).
What God wants is not an increase in religious ceremonies but a turning in heart and life to him. He does not want processions to religious holy places (which, in any case, will be destroyed) but the administration of civil justice that is fair to all (4-7). The all-powerful God will punish those who build up their power through oppressing others (8-9).
When corrupt people are accused by the poor of being dishonest, they respond with increased hatred and cruelty. They use their power to force the poor into greater hardship, then with the money they have dishonestly gained they build bigger and more luxurious houses and gardens. They are able to do all this without fear of opposition, because they bribe government officials and no one dares to speak out against them (10-13. The ‘gate’ in an ancient eastern city was the business and community centre, the place where people gathered to talk and where the city elders gave judgments in disputes). The people of Israel will escape God’s punishment only if they change their ways individually and restore justice in their society (14-15).
The day of the Lord (5:16-27)
God’s terrible judgment will result in grief and mourning throughout the nation, in city and country areas alike (16-17). This intervention of God in judgment is commonly called the day of the Lord.
Israelites thought that this day would be one of victory and rejoicing for them because their enemies would be destroyed. Amos tells them that when God acts in judgment, he will act against all the wicked, and Israel will be the first to suffer. There will be no way of escape, no place of safety, when God’s judgment falls (18-20).
Amos repeats that the remedy for the people’s troubles is not to increase their religious rituals and ceremonies, but to change their conduct. Feasts and sacrifices are of value only when the offerers are doing God’s will in their daily lives. They must behave with justice and uprightness towards their fellows if their religious exercises are to be acceptable to God (21-24).
The people’s sacrifices, besides being offered without any thought of moral holiness or obedience, were corrupted through false religion. This was not the way Israelites offered sacrifices in the time of Moses. God will now punish Israel. Their sacrifices will cease, and they, with their foreign gods, will be taken into captivity (25-27).