What was the importance of the horns of the altar (Amos 3:14)?

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The horns of the altar

The horns of the altar were projected from the four upper corners of the altar in God’s temple. They were part of the altar itself, not additions to it. To these horns the priest touched his finger, dipped in the blood of the sin offering (Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 8:15; 9:9; 16:18). And offerings awaiting sacrifice were sometimes bound to them (Psalm 118:27).

In addition, criminals seeking refuge and protection sometimes clung to the horns of the altar in order to receive asylum (1 Kings 1:50, 51; 2:28). In his graphic picture of the second advent of our Savior and Lord, the prophet Habakkuk (ch. 3:4) saw “horns coming out of his hand”; “there,” in the prints of the nails in Christ’s hand, “was the hiding of his power.”

The meaning of horns

The word qeren, “horn,” originally designated the horn of an animal (Deuteronomy 33:17). Animal with horns uses them to attack other animals or defend itself. For this reason horns are symbolic of strength (1 Samuel 2:1, 10; Psalms 75:10; 112:9). In this sense, David referred to God as “the horn of my salvation” (2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 18:2; Luke 1:69).

The word “horn” is also symbolic of the power of God’s chosen people (Psalms 148:14; Ezekiel 29:21; etc.). Thus, a “horn” became symbolic of national power, and is generally used by the prophets to mean that (Jeremiah 48:25; Daniel 8:3; 7:11; Revelation 12:3).

Amos 3:14

God said, “The horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground” (Amos 3:14). During Amos’s day, the Israelites backslid and built altars to false gods. These altars were built with horns at the corners, similar to the altar in Jerusalem. It was Jeroboam I who first built an apostate altar, which was followed by others (1 Kings 12:26–33). These altars were built in Dan and Bethel.

So, the Lord declared that the horns of the altars would “fall off” as a judgment for their apostacy. The prophet here foretold that these means of idolatry will share in the destruction of the idolaters. And the Lord added, “‘I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished.” So thorough will the divine judgement be that all except a small remnant of Israel will be involved in it. “As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear, so shall the people of Israel who dwell in Samaria be rescued, with the corner of a couch and part of a bed” (v.12).

The Lord, through the prophecy of Amos, called His people to repent that they may avoid His sure punishment, symbolized by the removal of the horns of the altar. But Israel didn’t heed the warnings of the Lord, Consequently, they reaped the fruits of their idolatry.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

This answer is also available in: हिन्दी

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