The fearless prophet Amos was sent by Yahweh to the northern kingdom of Israel in the days of the Divided Kingdom. He cried out against the idolatry there. In this prosperous (albeit short-lived) time when Jeroboam II reigned (8th century BC), Amos also rebuked the luxury-loving women in Israel who cared nothing about God and His will: “Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.” (Amos 4:1, KJV).
The word kine as used in the KJV is old English; it is archaic plural for “cow.” The ESV renders the text, “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, that we may drink!'”
The women were not left in doubt as to the meaning of the imagery–they were behaving with no more concern for spiritual matters than a bunch of fat cows!
The background for Amos’ reference to cows of Bashan takes us back to Numbers 21, when Israel conquered the land of Og of Bashan, north and east of the Jordan (as well as the land of Sihon, to the south of Bashan). Then Numbers 32 tells how two and one half tribes (Reuben, Gad, and 1/2 tribe of Manasseh) asked that they might settle on the eastern side of the Jordan. That request was granted (conditioned upon the men of war helping with the conquest of Canaan). The reason given for the request: these lands “were ideal for cattle” (v.1, NET).
The women Amos addressed did not live in Bashan, east of the Jordan. The text refers to their being in Samaria, which was the capital of Israel. But they were acting like cattle in that place which was so noted for its cattle.
Today I was in what was the OT land of Bashan when I photographed these cattle. I was put in mind of our text in Amos.
I do not know how the women in Israel responded to the preaching of Amos. We do know that the nation as a whole did not listen, and God would soon allow the Assyrians to destroy the northern kingdom. One can hope that at least some individuals may have responded appropriately and repented. Though they may have felt insulted, in reality Amos was their friend, their best friend.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).