” Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”” (Amos 4:1, NIV)
Bashan was known as a highly fertile area. Jeremiah 50:19 and Micah 7:14 both anticipate a day when God’s people will once again be able to metaphorically feed in Bashan. Bashan is well known in the surrounding areas for the hefty cattle reared in the region (Deut. 32:14, Ezk. 39:18).
The “fat cows of Bashan” were a group of wealthy women. Now, there is a lot of cultural distance between contemporary North America and Ancient Israel, but in both cultures being called a ‘fat cow’ is not a term of endearment. This phrase illustrates the wealth they enjoy. They are as well fed as the hefty cattle that graze the fertile fields of Bashan.
Photo by Vicky Frank.
Their sin was not identified as their wealth.
Their sin was how they attained their wealth. These women are described by their ‘oppression of the poor’ as they ‘crush the needy’. Though not explicitly mentioned here, my assumption is that their accumulation of wealth in some way oppressed the poor. This is not simply a statement of how they handled wealth, but how they attained it. Typically, those who care for the poor while they attain wealth will do the same when they have wealth (Luke 16:10).
Their sin was their attitude in wealth. In wealth they domineer. Their worldview has evolved into an “us” and “them” mentality. They are deserving. They are significant. They are important. They are valuable. All because of their wealth.
Their sin was their neglect of the poor in wealth. Amos 4:6 indicates that God placed hungry mouths in the presence of these women with the hope that they would return themselves back into the presence of God. D. Stuart, says :
The implication is that a spiritual renewal for these women, returning to God, would involve providing for the needs of the poor. Generally, helping the poor does not require emptying oneself of wealth, but rather being open hearted and handed to the poor. But this is a whole new topic for a future post (see my comments below under concluding remarks).
Here are some lessons for us today:
- We should strive to earning our money in ways that serve and bless others. I talk about this a little bit in Turning a Hobby into a Source of Income. It is spiritually difficult, physically demanding, and emotionally unfulfilling to make money at the expense of someone else. For many people if they cannot identify the service in their occupation they cannot enjoy their occupation. Recognize that this does not exclude jobs in large companies and organizations. There is a growing trend to view such organizations as evil and greedy corporations. Some think we the people are the victims of their sprawling power. Yet, consider an organization like Exxon Mobile. Do you prefer to have gasoline or not to have gasoline? Personally, my car runs much better on a full tank. While I might not always be happy about the prices, I always have an option to choose if I will use that service or not. It is a service because I always have the choice if I will or will not use their product. They serve me by offering me a way to operate my vehicle. The moment they stop offering people a product they want (serving them) they will cease to remain in business.
- We should analyze our attitudes towards our wealth and towards the poor. What do you deserve? How should others act around you? What things are you too successful to help with? What is a waste of your time? By answering these questions you can get an insight into your attitude.
- Remember the poor. In Gal. 2:10 Paul mentions that he was asked to remember the poor while ministering to the Gentiles. Paul, in the right spirit, said that was the very thing he was eager to do. In our wealth we must not neglect or ignore the poor.
Concluding remarks: As a Bible student and teacher, I find it extremely difficult to deal with some biblical teachings in a blog format. I know my comments can never be exhaustive. You came to read some points about the topic, not an entire dissertation. I recognize that there are many unmentioned scripture passages and principles. I have not included those for the sake of simplicity and brevity. I just hope I have “you”, the reader, properly identified :).