THE BOOK OF AMOS

Amos was a sheepbreeder of Tekoa in Judah, who delivered his oracles in the Northern Kingdom during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786–746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the great cult center of Bethel, from which he was finally expelled by the priest in charge of this royal sanctuary (7:1017). The poetry of Amos, who denounces the hollow prosperity of the Northern Kingdom, is filled with imagery and language taken from his own pastoral background. The book is an anthology of his oracles and was compiled either by the prophet or by some of his disciples.

The prophecy begins with a sweeping indictment of Damascus, Philistia, Tyre, and Edom; but the forthright herdsman saves his climactic denunciation for Israel, whose injustice and idolatry are sins against the light granted to her. Israel could indeed expect the day of the Lord, but it would be a day of darkness and not light (5:18). When Amos prophesied the overthrow of the sanctuary, the fall of the royal house, and the captivity of the people, it was more than Israelite officialdom could bear. The priest of Bethel drove Amos from the shrine—but not before hearing a terrible sentence pronounced upon himself.

Amos is a prophet of divine judgment, and the sovereignty of the Lord in nature and history dominates his thought. But he was no innovator; his conservatism was in keeping with the whole prophetic tradition calling the people back to the high moral and religious demands of the Lord’s revelation.

Amos’s message stands as one of the most powerful voices ever to challenge hypocrisy and injustice. He boldly indicts kings, priests, and leaders (6:1; 7:9, 1617). He stresses the importance and the divine origin of the prophetic word (3:38); one must either heed that word in its entirety or suffer its disappearance (8:1112). Religion without justice is an affront to the God of Israel and, far from appeasing God, can only provoke divine wrath (5:2127; 8:410). The Lord is not some petty national god but the sovereign creator of the cosmos (4:13; 5:8; 9:56). Amos alludes to historical forces at work through which God would exercise judgment on Israel (6:14). Several times he mentions deportation as the fate that awaits the people and their corrupt leaders (4:3; 5:5, 27; 7:17), a standard tactic of Assyrian foreign policy during this period. Through the prophetic word and various natural disasters (4:612) the Lord has tried to bring Israel to repentance, but to no avail. Israel’s rebelliousness has exhausted the divine patience and the destruction of Israel as a nation and as God’s people is inevitable (2:4, 1316; 7:89). As it is presented in this book, Amos’s message is one of almost unrelieved gloom (but see 5:1415). A later appendix (9:1115), however, ends the book on a hopeful note, looking beyond the judgment that had already taken place in fulfillment of Amos’s word.

The Book of Amos may be divided as follows:

  1. Editorial Introduction (1:12)
  2. Oracles against the Nations (1:32:16)
  3. Threefold Summons to Hear the Word of the Lord (3:15:9)
  4. Three Woes (5:76:14)
  5. Symbolic Visions (7:19:10)
  6. Epilogue: Restoration Under a Davidic King (9:1115)

I. EDITORIAL INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER 1

1The words of Amos, who was one of the sheepbreeders from Tekoa,a which he received in a vision concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.* 2He said:

The LORD roars from Zion,*

and raises his voice from Jerusalem;

The pastures of the shepherds languish,

and the summit of Carmel withers.b

II. ORACLES AGAINST THE NATIONS*

Aram

3Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Damascus, and now four—*

I will not take it back—

Because they threshed Gilead

with sledges of iron,

4I will send fire upon the house of Hazael,

and it will devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.* c

5I will break the barred gate of Damascus;

From the Valley of Aven* I will cut off the one enthroned,

And the sceptered ruler from Beth-eden;

the people of Aram shall be exiled to Kir,d says the LORD.

Philistia

6Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Gaza, and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because they exiled an entire population,

handing them over to Edom,

7I will send fire upon the wall of Gaza,

and it will devour its strongholds;

8From Ashdod I will cut off the one enthroned

and the sceptered ruler from Ashkelon;

I will turn my hand against Ekron,

and the last of the Philistines shall perish,

says the Lord GOD.

Tyre

9Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Tyre, and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because they handed over an entire population to Edom,

and did not remember their covenant of brotherhood,*

10I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre,

and it will devour its strongholds.

Edom

11Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Edom, and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because he pursued his brother* with the sword,

suppressing all pity,

Persisting in his anger,

his wrath raging without end,

12I will send fire upon Teman,

and it will devour the strongholds of Bozrah.*

Ammon

13Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of the Ammonites, and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because they ripped open pregnant women in Gilead,e

in order to extend their territory,

14I will kindle a fire upon the wall of Rabbah,*

and it will devour its strongholds

Amid war cries on the day of battle,

amid stormwind on the day of tempest.

15Their king shall go into exile,

he and his princes with him, says the LORD.

* [1:1] The earthquake: a major earthquake during the reign of Uzziah (ca. 783–742 B.C.), so devastating that it was remembered long afterwards (cf. Zec 14:5). See the description of an earthquake in Amos’s final vision (9:1).

* [1:2] Significantly, the roar comes to the Northern Kingdom from Jerusalem. This verse, perhaps an editorial remark, sets the tone of Amos’s message.

* [1:32:16] All the nations mentioned here may have been part of the ideal empire of David-Solomon (cf. 1 Kgs 5:1; 2 Kgs 14:25). Certain standards of conduct were expected not only in their relations with Israel but also with one another.

* [1:3] For three crimes…and now four: this formula (N, N+1) is frequent in poetry (e.g., Prv 6:1619; 30:1819). The progression “three” followed by “four” here suggests a climax. The fourth crime is one too many and exhausts the Lord’s forbearance.

* [1:4] Hazael…Ben-hadad: kings of the Arameans whose capital was Damascus (v. 5); they fought against Israel (2 Kgs 13:3) and had long occupied the region of Gilead (v. 3) in Transjordan.

* [1:5] Valley of Aven: lit., “valley of wickedness,” perhaps a distortion of a place name in Aramean territory, identity unknown. Beth-eden: an Aramean city-state on the Euphrates, about two hundred miles northeast of Damascus, called Bit-adini in Assyro-Babylonian texts. Kir: cf. 9:7; probably to be identified with the city of Emar on the Euphrates, a major Aramean center in the Late Bronze Age. One text from this site calls the king of Emar “the king of the people of the land of Kir.”

* [1:9] Did not remember their covenant of brotherhood: standard diplomatic language of this period, meaning “violated the treaty.” The violation may not have been against Israel itself but against a fellow “subject” nation of the ideal Davidic-Solomonic empire (cf. 2:1).

* [1:11] Pursued his brother: “brother” here may denote a fellow vassal or subject of Israel.

* [1:12] Teman…Bozrah: two of the chief cities of Edom; cf. Jer 49:20.

* [1:14] Rabbah: now called Amman, the modern capital of Jordan.

a. [1:1] Zec 14:5.

b. [1:2] Jer 25:30; Jl 4:16.

c. [1:4] 2 Kgs 13:37; Hos 8:14.

d. [1:5] 2 Kgs 16:9.

e. [1:13] 2 Kgs 8:12; 15:16.

CHAPTER 2

Moab

1Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Moab, and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because he burned to ashes*

the bones of Edom’s king,

2I will send fire upon Moab,

and it will devour the strongholds of Kerioth;

Moab shall meet death amid uproar,

battle cries and blasts of the ram’s horn.

3I will cut off the ruler from its midst,

and all the princes I will slay with him, says the LORD.

Judah

4* Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Judah, and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because they spurned the instruction of the LORD,a

and did not keep his statutes;

Because the lies* which their ancestors followed

have led them astray,

5I will send fire upon Judah,

and it will devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.

Israel

6Thus says the LORD:

For three crimes of Israel,* and now four—

I will not take it back—

Because they hand over the just for silver,

and the poor for a pair of sandals;b

7They trample the heads of the destitute

into the dust of the earth,

and force the lowly out of the way.

Son and father sleep with the same girl,*

profaning my holy name.

8Upon garments taken in pledge

they recline beside any altar.* c

Wine at treasury expense

they drink in their temples.

9Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorites before them,

who were as tall as cedars,

and as strong as oak trees.

I destroyed their fruit above

and their roots beneath.d

10It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt,

and who led you through the desert for forty years,

to occupy the land of the Amorites;

11I who raised up prophets among your children,

and nazirites* among your young men.

Is this not so, Israelites?—

oracle of the LORD.

12But you made the nazirites drink wine,

and commanded the prophets, “Do not prophesy!”e

13Look, I am groaning beneath you,

as a wagon groans when laden with sheaves.

14Flight shall elude the swift,

and the strong shall not retain strength;f

The warrior shall not save his life,

15nor shall the archer stand his ground;

The swift of foot shall not escape,

nor shall the horseman save his life.

16And the most stouthearted of warriors

shall flee naked on that day—

oracle of the LORD.

* [2:1] He burned to ashes: to the peoples of the Near East, burning the bones of the dead was a particularly heinous crime, as it was believed to cause the spirits of these dead to wander without any hope of interment in their graves, where they could rest in peace.

* [2:48, 12] Unlike the crimes of the nations detailed in this section, which are wrongs against other nations, those of Judah and Israel named here are violations of the Lord’s demands.

* [2:4] The lies: false gods worshiped by the Judahites.

* [2:6] Israel: Amos’s audience would applaud his condemnation of foreign kingdoms in the foregoing seven oracles, especially of Judah. But now he adds an eighth, unexpected oracle—against Israel itself. This is the real “punch line” of this whole section, to which the preceding oracles serve mainly as introduction.

* [2:7] Son and father sleep with the same girl: the crime condemned here may be the misuse of power by the rich who take unfair advantage of young women from the ranks of the poor and force themselves on them, thus adding oppression to the sin of impurity.

* [2:8] Upon garments…any altar: creditors kept the garments taken as pledges from the poor instead of returning them to their owners before nightfall as the law commanded (Ex 22:25; cf. Dt 24:12). Wine…in their temples: lavish feasts for the rich, serving the finest wines in great abundance (see 6:47) and funded by the treasuries of local temples (e.g., at Dan and Bethel). The Hebrew in this verse is difficult. Another possible translation would be: “And the wine of those who have been fined / they drink in the house of their god.”

* [2:11] Nazirites: see note on Nm 6:221. Oracle of the LORD: a phrase used extensively in prophetic books to indicate divine speech.

a. [2:4] Is 5:24.

b. [2:6] Am 8:6; Sir 46:19.

c. [2:8] Dt 24:1213.

d. [2:9] Nm 21:2132; Dt 2:2437; Jb 18:16; Hos 9:16.

e. [2:12] Am 7:13; Nm 6:14; Is 30:10; Jer 11:21.

f. [2:14] Ps 33:16.

III. THREEFOLD SUMMONS TO HEAR THE WORD OF THE LORD

CHAPTER 3

First Summons

1Hear this word, Israelites, that the LORD speaks concerning you,

concerning the whole family I brought up from the land of Egypt:

2You alone I have known,*

among all the families of the earth;a

Therefore I will punish you

for all your iniquities.

3* Do two journey together

unless they have agreed?

4Does a lion roar in the forest

when it has no prey?

Does a young lion cry out from its den

unless it has seized something?

5Does a bird swoop down on a trap on the ground

when there is no lure for it?

Does a snare spring up from the ground

without catching anything?

6Does the ram’s horn sound in a city

without the people becoming frightened?

Does disaster befall a city

unless the LORD has caused it?b

7(Indeed, the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.)

8The lion has roared,

who would not fear?c

The Lord GOD has spoken,

who would not prophesy?

9Proclaim this in the strongholds of Assyria,*

in the strongholds of the land of Egypt:

“Gather on the mount of Samaria,

and see the great disorders within it,

the oppressions within its midst.”*

10They do not know how to do what is right—

oracle of the LORD

Storing up in their strongholds

violence and destruction.

11Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:

An enemy shall surround the land,

tear down your fortresses,

and pillage your strongholds.

12Thus says the LORD:

As the shepherd rescues from the mouth of the lion

a pair of sheep’s legs or the tip of an ear,

So shall the Israelites escape,

those who dwell in Samaria,

With the corner of a couch

or a piece of a cot.*

13Hear and bear witness against the house of Jacob—

an oracle of the Lord GOD, the God of hosts:

14On the day when I punish Israel for its crimes,

I will also punish the altars of Bethel;

The horns of the altar shall be broken off

and fall to the ground.* d

15I will strike the winter house

and the summer house;

The houses of ivory shall lie in ruin,

and their many rooms shall be no more—

oracle of the LORD.

* [3:2] You alone I have known: precisely because Israel enjoyed a special status among the nations of the world in the eyes of the Lord (but see 9:7) it was called to a high degree of fidelity to God. Because Israel has failed in this expectation, it must experience God’s punishment.

* [3:38] The metaphors in these sayings illustrate the principle of cause and effect, and lead up to the conclusion in v. 8.

* [3:9] Assyria: following the Greek version, the Hebrew text has “Ashod.” It is supposed that this was a copyist’s error: “Assyria” seems intended, in order to parallel “Egypt” in the next line.

* [3:9] With a keen sense of irony, Amos invites the most powerful oppressors in Israel’s memory, past and present—Egypt and Assyria—to see and marvel at the great oppression and injustice being wrought within Samaria by the people of Israel.

* [3:12] The “escape” is clearly a disaster, not a deliverance.

* [3:14] On Bethel, see also 4:4; 5:56; and 7:13. The prophet is condemning the religiosity and formalism of the worship by Israel’s leaders.

a. [3:2] Gn 18:19; Dt 7:6.

b. [3:6] Jl 2:1.

c. [3:8] Am 1:2.

d. [3:14] Am 9:1; 1 Kgs 13:15.

CHAPTER 4

Second Summons

1Hear this word, you cows of Bashan,*

who live on the mount of Samaria:

Who oppress the destitute

and abuse the needy;

Who say to your husbands,

“Bring us a drink!”

2The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness:

Truly days are coming upon you

when they shall drag you away with ropes,

your children with fishhooks;

3You shall go out through the breached walls

one in front of the other,

And you shall be exiled to Harmon—*

oracle of the LORD.

4Come to Bethel* and sin,

to Gilgal and sin all the more!

Each morning bring your sacrifices,

every third day your tithes;

5Burn leavened bread as a thanksgiving sacrifice,

proclaim publicly your voluntary offerings,

For so you love to do, Israelites—

oracle of the Lord GOD.

6Though I made your teeth

clean of food in all your cities,

and made bread scarce in all your dwellings,

Yet you did not return to me—

oracle of the LORD.a

7b And I withheld the rain from you

when the harvest was still three months away;

I sent rain upon one city

but not upon another;

One field was watered by rain,

but the one I did not water dried up;

8Two or three cities staggered to another to drink water

but were not satisfied;

Yet you did not return to me—

oracle of the LORD.

9I struck you with blight and mildew;

locusts devoured your gardens and vineyards,

the caterpillar consumed your fig trees and olive trees;

Yet you did not return to me—

oracle of the LORD.c

10I sent upon you pestilence like that of Egypt;d

with the sword I killed your young men and your captured horses,

and to your nostrils I brought the stench of your camps;

Yet you did not return to me—

oracle of the LORD.

11I overthrew you

as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah;

you were like a brand plucked from the fire,e

Yet you did not return to me—

oracle of the LORD.

12Therefore thus I will do to you,* Israel:

and since I will deal thus with you,

prepare to meet your God, O Israel!

13The one who forms mountains and creates winds,

and declares to mortals their thoughts;

Who makes dawn into darkness

and strides upon the heights of the earth,

the LORD, the God of hosts, is his name!

* [4:1] Cows of Bashan: the pampered women of Samaria; Bashan was a region east of the Sea of Galilee, famous for its rich pasture and fattened herds.

* [4:3] Harmon: or perhaps “Mount Mon”; an unidentified site, probably far to the north of Israel, under the control of Assyria.

* [4:4] Come to Bethel: Amos’s invitation to the people to come and “sin” at two of the major religious centers in Samaria is sarcastic. His point is that sacrifice and worship without justice is an abomination to the God of Israel; cf. 5:2124.

* [4:12] Therefore thus I will do to you: this climax of vv. 612, announcing the sentence the Lord intends to pass on Israel, is open-ended.

a. [4:6] Wis 12:2, 10.

b. [4:7] Jer 14:16.

c. [4:9] Dt 28:22; Jl 1:4; 2:25; Hg 2:17.

d. [4:10] Dt 7:15; 28:27.

e. [4:11] Gn 19:2425; Zec 3:2.

CHAPTER 5

Third Summons*

1Hear this word which I utter concerning you,

this dirge, house of Israel:

2She is fallen, to rise no more,

virgin Israel;

She lies abandoned on her land,

with no one to raise her up.a

3For thus says the Lord GOD

to the house of Israel:

The city that marched out with a thousand

shall be left with a hundred,

Another that marched out with a hundred

shall be left with ten.

4For thus says the LORD*

to the house of Israel:

Seek me, that you may live,b

5but do not seek Bethel;

Do not come to Gilgal,

and do not cross over to Beer-sheba;

For Gilgal shall be led into exile

and Bethel shall be no more.

6* Seek the LORD, that you may live,

lest he flare up against the house of Joseph* like a fire

that shall consume the house of Israel, with no one to quench it.

8The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,

who turns darkness into dawn,

and darkens day into night;

Who summons the waters of the sea,

and pours them out on the surface of the earth;c

9Who makes destruction fall suddenly upon the stronghold

and brings ruin upon the fortress,

the LORD is his name.

IV. THREE WOES

First Woe

7Woe to those who turn justice into wormwood

and cast righteousness to the ground,

10They hate those who reprove at the gate

and abhor those who speak with integrity;

11Therefore, because you tax the destitute

and exact from them levies of grain,

Though you have built houses of hewn stone,

you shall not live in them;

Though you have planted choice vineyards,

you shall not drink their wine.d

12Yes, I know how many are your crimes,

how grievous your sins:

Oppressing the just, accepting bribes,

turning away the needy at the gate.

13(Therefore at this time the wise are struck dumb

for it is an evil time.)

14Seek good and not evil,

that you may live;

Then truly the LORD, the God of hosts,

will be with you as you claim.

15Hate evil and love good,

and let justice prevail at the gate;

Then it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,

will have pity on the remnant of Joseph.e

16Therefore, thus says the LORD,

the God of hosts, the Lord:

In every square there shall be lamentation,

and in every street they shall cry, “Oh, no!”

They shall summon the farmers to wail

and the professional mourners to lament.

17And in every vineyard there shall be lamentation

when I pass through your midst, says the LORD.

Second Woe

18Woe to those who yearn

for the day of the LORD!*

What will the day of the LORD mean for you?

It will be darkness, not light!f

19As if someone fled from a lion

and a bear met him;

Or as if on entering the house

he rested his hand against the wall,

and a snake bit it.

20Truly, the day of the LORD will be darkness, not light,

gloom without any brightness!

21* g I hate, I despise your feasts,

I take no pleasure in your solemnities.

22Even though you bring me your burnt offerings and grain offerings

I will not accept them;

Your stall-fed communion offerings,

I will not look upon them.

23Take away from me

your noisy songs;

The melodies of your harps,

I will not listen to them.

24Rather let justice surge like waters,

and righteousness like an unfailing stream.

25h Did you bring me sacrifices and grain offerings

for forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?i

26Yet you will carry away Sukuth,* your king,

and Kaiwan, your star-image,

your gods that you have made for yourselves,j

27As I exile you beyond Damascus,

says the LORD,

whose name is the God of hosts.

* [5:117] These verses form a chiastic section beginning and ending with a lament over Israel (vv. 2, 1617) and containing a double appeal to “seek” the Lord (vv. 4, 14). This editorial arrangement gives the whole section a negative cast, in effect nullifying the only hopeful verse in Amos (v. 15). Israel is as good as dead.

* [5:45] For thus says the LORD…Bethel shall be no more: these two verses continue the sarcasm of 4:45, verses in which Amos invites the people to come and “sin” at Bethel and Gilgal. The cult cities of Samaria should have been places where God could be “sought” but, because of the sins of the Northern Kingdom, these cities would cease to exist.

* [5:6] These verses have been rearranged to achieve the proper sequence according to the best possible manuscript tradition. Cf. the Textual Notes accompanying the translation.

* [5:6] House of Joseph: the kingdom of Israel or Northern Kingdom, the chief tribes of which were descended from Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph; cf. 5:15; 6:6.

* [5:18] The day of the LORD: first mentioned in Amos, this refers to a specific time in the future, known to the Lord alone, when God’s enemies would be decisively defeated. The common assumption among Israelites was that the Lord’s foes and Israel’s foes were one and the same. But Amos makes it clear that because the people have become God’s enemies by refusing to heed the prophetic word, they too would experience the divine wrath on that fateful day. However, during the exile this expression comes to mean a time when God would avenge Israel against its oppressors and bring about its restoration (Jer 50:27; Ez 30:35).

* [5:2127] The prophet does not condemn cultic activity as such but rather the people’s attempt to offer worship with hands unclean from oppression of their fellow Israelites (cf. Ps 15:25; 24:34). But worship from those who disregard justice and righteousness (v. 24) is never acceptable to the God of Israel. Through the Sinai covenant the love of God and the love of neighbor are inextricably bound together.

* [5:26] Sukuth: probably a hebraized form of Assyro-Babylonian Shukudu (“the Arrow”), a name of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. It was associated with the god Ninurta, who was widely worshiped in Mesopotamia. According to 2 Kgs 17:30 the cult of Sirius was introduced into Samaria by deportees from Babylonia. Kaiwan: a hebraized form of an Akkadian name for the planet Saturn, also worshiped as a deity in Mesopotamia.

a. [5:2] Am 8:13.

b. [5:4] Hos 5:6; 10:12.

c. [5:8] Am 9:6; Jb 9:9; 38:31.

d. [5:11] Am 9:14; Dt 28:30; Zep 1:13.

e. [5:15] Jl 2:14; Rom 12:9.

f. [5:18] Jer 14:16; Jl 2:12, 11; Zep 1:1418.

g. [5:2124] Is 1:1017; Jer 6:20.

h. [5:2526] Acts 7:4243.

i. [5:25] Jer 7:2126.

j. [5:26] 2 Kgs 17:30; Jer 2:28.

CHAPTER 6

Third Woe

1Woe to those who are complacent in Zion,

secure on the mount of Samaria,

Leaders of the first among nations,

to whom the people of Israel turn.

2Pass over to Calneh and see,

go from there to Hamath the great,

and down to Gath* of the Philistines.

Are you better than these kingdoms,

or is your territory greater than theirs?

3You who would put off the day of disaster,

yet hasten the time of violence!

4Those who lie on beds of ivory,

and lounge upon their couches;

Eating lambs taken from the flock,

and calves from the stall;

5Who improvise to the music of the harp,

composing on musical instruments like David,

6Who drink wine from bowls,

and anoint themselves with the best oils,

but are not made ill by the collapse of Joseph;

7Therefore, now they shall be the first to go into exile,

and the carousing of those who lounged shall cease.

8The Lord GOD has sworn by his very self—

an oracle of the LORD, the God of hosts:

I abhor the pride of Jacob,

I hate his strongholds,

and I will hand over the city with everything in it;a

9Should there remain ten people

in a single house, these shall die.

10When a relative or one who prepares the body picks up the remains

to carry them out of the house,

If he says to someone in the recesses of the house,

“Is anyone with you?” and the answer is, “No one,”

Then he shall say, “Silence!”

for no one must mention the name of the LORD.* b

11Indeed, the LORD has given the command

to shatter the great house to bits,

and reduce the small house to rubble.

12Can horses run over rock,

or can one plow the sea with oxen?

Yet you have turned justice into gall,

and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood,c

13You who rejoice in Lodebar,

and say, “Have we not, by our own strength,

seized Karnaim* for ourselves?”

14Look, I am raising up against you, house of Israel—

oracle of the LORD, the God of hosts—

A nation* that shall oppress you

from Lebo-hamath even to the Wadi Arabah.

* [6:2] Calneh…Hamath…Gath: city-states overcome by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C., whose fate should be a lesson to the Israelites. The prophet castigates the leaders for being more intent on pursuing a luxurious lifestyle (vv. 1, 46) than reading the signs of the times.

* [6:10] In this desperate situation there seems to be a profound fear of the Lord, who is the cause of the deaths (cf. 3:6).

* [6:13] Lodebar…Karnaim: two towns recaptured from Judah by Israelite forces during the reign of Jeroboam II (see 2 Kgs 14:25). Some mockery of at least the first of these victories is probably intended by the prophet here, as Lodebar can be translated “nothing.”

* [6:14] A nation: Assyria. Lebo-hamath…Wadi Arabah: the territorial limits of Solomon’s kingdom, north and south respectively, as re-established by Jeroboam II (see 2 Kgs 14:25).

a. [6:8] Is 28:14; Jer 51:14.

b. [6:10] Zep 1:7.

c. [6:12] Am 5:7.

V. SYMBOLIC VISIONS

CHAPTER 7

First Vision: The Locust Swarm

1This is what the Lord GOD showed me: He was forming a locust swarm when the late growth began to come up (the late growth after the king’s mowing*). 2When they had finished eating the grass in the land, I said:

Forgive, O Lord GOD!

Who will raise up Jacob?

He is so small!

3The LORD relented concerning this. “This shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

Second Vision: The Rain of Fire

4This is what the Lord GOD showed me: He was summoning a rain of fire. It had devoured the great abyss and was consuming the fields. 5Then I said:

Cease, O Lord GOD!

Who will raise up Jacob?

He is so small!

6The LORD relented concerning this. “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.

Third Vision: The Plummet

7a This is what the Lord GOD showed me: He was standing, plummet in hand, by a wall built with a plummet.* 8The Lord GOD asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” And I answered, “A plummet.” Then the LORD said:

See, I am laying the plummet

in the midst of my people Israel;

I will forgive them no longer.

9The high places of Isaac shall be laid waste,

and the sanctuaries of Israel made desolate;

and I will attack the house of Jeroboam with the sword.

Biographical Interlude: Amos and Amaziah

10Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos has conspired against you within the house of Israel; the country cannot endure all his words. 11For this is what Amos says:

‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,

and Israel shall surely be exiled from its land.’”

12To Amos, Amaziah said: “Off with you, seer, flee to the land of Judah and there earn your bread by prophesying! 13But never again prophesy in Bethel;b for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” 14Amos answered Amaziah, “I am not a prophet,* nor do I belong to a company of prophets. I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamores,c 15but the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’d 16Now hear the word of the LORD:

You say: ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,

do not preach against the house of Isaac.’

17Therefore thus says the LORD:

Your wife shall become a prostitute in the city,

and your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword.

Your land shall be parcelled out by measuring line,

and you yourself shall die in an unclean land;

and Israel shall be exiled from its land.”

* [7:1] The king’s mowing: the first harvesting of the crops apparently belonged to the king as a kind of tax.

* [7:7] A plummet: with this vision, the pleas of the prophet (vv. 16) disappear, and disaster is announced. One use of the plummet in ancient times was to see how far out of line a wall or building had become, to determine whether it could be repaired or would have to be torn down. Like a structure that had become architecturally unsound, Israel was unsalvageable and would have to be demolished (cf. 2 Kgs 21:13; Is 34:11; Lam 2:8).

* [7:14] I am not a prophet: Amos reacts strongly to Amaziah’s attempt to classify him as a “prophet-for-hire” who “earns [his] bread” by giving oracles in exchange for payment (cf. 1 Sm 9:310; Mi 3:5). To disassociate himself from this kind of “professional” prophet, Amos rejects outright the title of nabi’ (“prophet”). By profession he is a herdsman/sheepbreeder and a dresser of sycamore trees, but God’s call has commissioned him to prophesy to Israel.

a. [7:78] Jer 1:1114.

b. [7:13] Am 2:12.

c. [7:14] Am 1:1; 2 Sm 7:8.

d. [7:15] Am 3:8.

CHAPTER 8

Fourth Vision: The Summer Fruit

1This is what the Lord GOD showed me: a basket of end-of-summer fruit.* 2He asked, “What do you see, Amos?” And I answered, “A basket of end-of-summer fruit.” And the LORD said to me:

The end has come for my people Israel;

I will forgive them no longer.

3The temple singers will wail on that day—

oracle of the Lord GOD.

Many shall be the corpses,

strewn everywhere—Silence!a

4Hear this, you who trample upon the needy

and destroy the poor of the land:

5“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,

“that we may sell our grain,

And the sabbath,

that we may open the grain-bins?

We will diminish the ephah,*

add to the shekel,

and fix our scales for cheating!b

6We will buy the destitute for silver,

and the poor for a pair of sandals;c

even the worthless grain we will sell!”

7The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:

Never will I forget a thing they have done!

8Shall not the land tremble because of this,

and all who dwell in it mourn?

It will all rise up and toss like the Nile,

and subside like the river of Egypt.d

9On that day—oracle of the Lord GOD

I will make the sun set at midday

and in broad daylight cover the land with darkness.

10I will turn your feasts into mourning

and all your songs into dirges.

I will cover the loins of all with sackcloth

and make every head bald.

I will make it like the time of mourning for an only child,

and its outcome like a day of bitter weeping.e

11See, days are coming—oracle of the Lord GOD

when I will send a famine upon the land:

Not a hunger for bread, or a thirst for water,

but for hearing the word of the LORD.

12They shall stagger from sea to sea

and wander from north to east

In search of the word of the LORD,

but they shall not find it.f

13On that day, beautiful young women and young men

shall faint from thirst,

14Those who swear by Ashima of Samaria,* g

and who say, “By the life of your god, O Dan,”

“By the life of the Power of Beer-sheba!”

They shall fall, never to rise again.

* [8:12] End-of-summer fruit…the end has come: the English translation attempts to capture the wordplay of the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “fruit picked late in the season” is qayis, while the word for “end” is qes.

* [8:5] Ephah: see note on Is 5:10.

* [8:14] Ashima of Samaria: a high-ranking goddess worshiped in Hamath, whose cult was transplanted by the people of that city when they were deported to Samaria by the Assyrians (2 Kgs 17:30). The Power of Beer-sheba: possibly an epithet of a deity worshiped in Beer-sheba, either a syncretistic form of the worship of Israel’s God or of another god. Dan…Beer-sheba: the traditional designation for the northern and southern limits of Israel to which the Israelites made pilgrimages.

a. [8:3] Am 6:10.

b. [8:5] Dt 25:13; Hos 12:8.

c. [8:6] Am 2:6.

d. [8:8] Am 1:1; 9:1, 5.

e. [8:10] Tb 2:6; Zec 12:10.

f. [8:12] Hos 5:6.

g. [8:14] 2 Kgs 17:30.

CHAPTER 9

Fifth Vision: The Destruction of the Sanctuary

1I saw the Lord standing beside the altar. And he said:

Strike the capitals

so that the threshold shakes!

Break them off on the heads of them all!

Those who are left I will slay with the sword.

Not one shall get away,

no survivor shall escape.* a

2Though they dig down to Sheol,

even from there my hand shall take them;

Though they climb to the heavens,

even from there I shall bring them down.b

3Though they hide on the summit of Carmel,

there too I will hunt them down and take them;

Though they hide from my gaze at the bottom of the sea,

there I will command the serpent* to bite them.c

4Though they go into captivity before their enemies,

there I will command the sword to slay them.

I will fix my gaze upon them

for evil and not for good.

5The Lord GOD of hosts,

Who melts the earth with his touch,

so that all who dwell on it mourn,

So that it will all rise up like the Nile,

and subside like the river of Egypt;d

6Who has built his upper chamber in heaven,

and established his vault over the earth;

Who summons the waters of the sea

and pours them upon the surface of the earth—

the LORD is his name.e

7Are you not like the Ethiopians to me,

O Israelites?—oracle of the LORD

Did I not bring the Israelites from the land of Egypt

as I brought the Philistines from Caphtor

and the Arameans* from Kir?

8See, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on this sinful kingdom,

and I will destroy it from the face of the earth—

But I will not destroy the house of Jacob completely—

oracle of the LORD.

9For see, I have given the command

to sift the house of Israel among all the nations,

As one sifts with a sieve,

letting no pebble fall to the ground.

10All sinners among my people shall die by the sword,

those who say, “Disaster will not reach or overtake us.”f

VI. EPILOGUE: RESTORATION UNDER A DAVIDIC KING

11* On that day I will raise up

the fallen hut of David;

I will wall up its breaches,

raise up its ruins,

and rebuild it as in the days of old,g

12That they may possess the remnant of Edom,

and all nations claimed in my name—

oracle of the LORD, the one who does this.

13Yes, days are coming—

oracle of the LORD

When the one who plows shall overtake the one who reaps

and the vintager, the sower of the seed;

The mountains shall drip with the juice of grapes,

and all the hills shall run with it.h

14I will restore my people Israel,

they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities,

Plant vineyards and drink* the wine,

set out gardens and eat the fruits.i

15I will plant them upon their own ground;

never again shall they be plucked

From the land I have given them—

the LORD, your God, has spoken.

* [9:1] This vision may describe the destruction of the temple at Bethel and the fulfillment of the oracle in 3:14, linking God’s judgment upon Israel with the “punishment” of the altars of Bethel. This dramatic event (perhaps to be identified with the earthquake mentioned in 1:1) symbolizes the end of the Northern Kingdom as the Lord’s people, the consequence of their steadfast refusal to heed the prophetic word and return to the God of Israel.

* [9:3] The serpent: a name for the primeval chaos monster, vanquished by God at the time of creation but not annihilated. He was a personification of the sea, another primary archetype of chaos in the ancient Near East.

* [9:7] The Ethiopians…the Philistines…the Arameans: although Israel’s relationship to the Lord was special, even unique in some respects (3:2), Israel was not the only people on earth that God cared for. Striking here is the reference to divine intervention in the history of the Philistines and Arameans, not unlike the Lord’s saving intervention to bring Israel out of Egypt. Caphtor: the island of Crete.

* [9:1115] These verses are most likely an editorial supplement to Amos, added to bring the book into harmony with the positive thrust of the prophetic books in general, especially those written after the exile, when the final edition of Amos was probably completed. The editors would have seen the destruction of Samaria in 722/721 B.C. as the fulfillment of Amos’s prophecies, but in this epilogue they express the view that destruction was not the Lord’s final word for Israel. In Acts 15:1517, James interprets this passage in a messianic sense. The fallen hut of David: the Davidic kingdom, which included what later became the divided Northern and Southern Kingdoms. All nations claimed in my name: lit., “all nations over whom my name has been pronounced.” This idiom denotes ownership.

* [9:14] Rebuild…inhabit…plant…drink: in this era of restoration, the Lord nullifies the curse of 5:11, which uses these same four verbs, and turns it into a blessing for Israel.

a. [9:1] Am 2:1316.

b. [9:2] Ps 139:712; Jb 20:6.

c. [9:3] Jb 7:12; Is 27:1.

d. [9:5] Am 8:8.

e. [9:6] Am 5:8.

f. [9:10] Jer 5:12; 23:17.

g. [9:11] Acts 15:1617.

h. [9:13] Jl 4:18.

i. [9:14] Is 65:2122.