The conflict of true prophets and false priests

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. . . Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.” Amos 7:10, 12-13

The first thing we notice here is that Amaziah is not playing around. He immediately sends word that Amos is “raising a conspiracy” against the king himself. He is telling the king there is great danger and what Amos is doing cannot be tolerated. Amaziah goes on to address Amos directly to get out of Israel and go back to Judah.

There are three things here we should understand:

1)      Amaziah the priest was not much concerned for the king or his kingdom, but really his concern was his own influence and power. Adam Clarke tells us that Amaziah was an idolatrous priest who was established by the king to maintain the worship of golden calves. If we look back at I Kings 12 we see that Jeroboam (the first Jeroboam) instituted calf worship in Bethel. So, this false priest had the stamp of governmental authority to maintain idol worship and Amos had just become a threat to his priestly power.

2)      The priest tells Amos to go back to Judah and earn his bread there. This simple statement tells us much about Amaziah. The priest insinuates that Amos will likely starve in Israel and not be able to make a living prophesying. Merrill Unger makes this point, “Amaziah mistakenly made his own selfish religious professionalism the basis of his overbearing appeal to a true prophet of the Lord, as if one’s own interest were paramount in service for God.” In other words, for Amaziah speaking the words of God is nothing more than food on the table.

3)      Amaziah was a priest of compromise. Unger notes, “Amaziah’s words reek with compromise… He had the audacity to forbid the Lord’s prophet to prophesy.” It speaks about this in Amos 2:12, where the prophets were commanded not to prophesy in Israel.

Francis Andersen, a premier scholar of the Hebrew Bible, says the central issue of the book of Amos is  “the rejection of the word of true prophesy by the highest representative of the nation’s religious life, and the prophet’s refusal to desist.” The question is, which type of leader will you be – a true prophet or a false priest?