The second chapter of Amos continues his prophetic denunciation of the nations surrounding Israel. Moab would be punished by God for its treatment of the body of the king of Edom. It was burned by the king of Moab, and in response the Lord would send an army against Moab that would destroy its strongholds and its ruling class and it would cease to exist as a nation.
The next nation that is rebuked by Amos is Judah, the country from which he came. It is important to note that a preacher cannot show favoritism to his own countrymen when God’s message has to be declared. Their sinfulness was different from the previous nations that he mentioned. To Judah had been given the law of God, but they had rejected it and practiced false religion instead (this may not have involved false gods; instead merely lukewarm participation in the right method may have been their practice). God’s punishment on Judah will be very similar to that which Moab would receive, except that no total destruction of Judah’s royal house is mentioned (after all, it would have to remain even in very diluted form in order for the Messiah to come from that royal line).
So far, the listeners of Amos in Israel would not have shown any negative response to what he had said about the fate of those other nations. After all, it is very easy to be self-righteous during a sermon that describes other people. But things would have changed after he started to detail the sins of Israel (vv. 6-8). The sins of Israel that are mentioned include selling the righteous into slavery, mistreatment of the poor, sexual immorality at the pagan shrines and drunkenness at their religious feasts. Or, in other words, opposition to God’s people, indifference to the poor and enjoyment of immorality. Those sins are not confined to ancient Israel.
Why did they engage in such practices? Because they had a bad memory (vv. 9-12). They had forgotten that it was the Lord who had defeated the previous inhabitants of the land and given it to them under Joshua; they had forgotten that it was the Lord who had defeated Egypt and delivered them from slavery there; and they had forgotten that the Lord had sent special messengers to them to call them back to him in repentance.
Therefore, Israel also would be punished with her neighbours (vv. 13-16). This would happen even although she had a powerful army. The message of Amos here is that greater privileges bring greater responsibility and greater judgements if the privileges are ignored.