Amos

Intro and Chapters 1-4

Introduction
    Amos was from Judah, but he went to the northern kingdom to prophesy when their king was Jeroboam II (786-746 BC). Thus, the prophetic activity of Amos must be dated to the middle decades of the eighth century BC.1 The first verse of the book also tells us that it was during the reign of Uzziah in the southern kingdom, but because he became a leper, his son, Jotham took over around 650 BC, so we know that Amos must have prophesied prior to that. Mays also considers the earthquake mentioned in the first verse to have been in 760 BC, 2 and believes that the phrase “two years before the earthquake” suggest that his prophetic activity could only have lasted one year at the most.3 It appears that excessive wealth had led to the development of a decadent life style (2:8; 4:1; 6:1-6), and their sins included sexual immorality (2:7) and idolatry (8:14); but there is particular condemnation of the exploitation of the poor and defenseless by the rich, and the rampant judicial corruption (2:7; 5:10-12).
Introduction Footnotes
1. Mays 1969:1.
2. He refers to the excavations at Hazor: Y. Yadin et al., Hazor II, An Account of the Second Season of Excavations, 1956, 1960, pp. 24ff., 36f. Stuart (1987:283) says in a similar vein that the absence of any mention of a successor to Jeroboam II or Uzziah in 1:1 “suggests that Amos was not active as a prophet beyond the 750's.”
3. Mays 1969:2.


Chapter 1

Prophecies concerning the destruction of the enemies of Israel

    1. The words of Amos, who was one of the sheep1 men of Tekoa, who saw2 (visions) concerning Israel in the time of Uzziah, the king of Judah, and in the time of Jeroboam, son of Joash, the king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 3
    2. And Yahweh said, He will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem he will employ his voice, and the dwelling places of the shepherds will mourn, and the top of Carmel will dry up.
    3. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not restore it, because they have threshed Gilead with sharp instruments of iron.
    4. So I will send fire upon the house of Hazael,4 and it will consume the spacious buildings of Ben-Hadad. 5
    5. And I will break the bolt of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from Bikath-Aven,6 and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden, and the people of Syria will go into exile in Kir7 says Yahweh.
    6. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of Gaza,8 and for four, I will not restore them, because they carried (people) into complete captivity,9 to hand (them) over to Edom.
    7. So I will send fire into the wall of Gaza, and it will consume its spacious buildings.
    8. And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him who holds the scepter from Ashkelon, and I will bring my hand back upon Ekron, 10 and the remnant of the Philistines will be lost, said the Lord Yahweh.
    9. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not restore them, because they delivered Edom into complete captivity, and did not remember the covenant of brothers. 11
    10. So I will send fire into the wall of Tyre, and it will consume its spacious buildings.
    11. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not restore them, because they pursued their brother with a sword, and obliterated their mercy, but they seized their anger forever and retained their fury eternally.
    12. So I will send fire into Teman,12 and it will consume the spacious buildings of Bozrah.
    13. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not restore them, because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead so that they might enlarge their borders.
    14. So I will set a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it will consume its spacious buildings with a shout in the day of war, (and) with a tempest in the day of the tornado.
    15. And their king will go into exile, he and his princes together, says Yahweh.
Back to Top
Chapter Top

1. The word nkd refers to a type of sheep with abundant wool. These were the type of sheep that Mesha, the king of Moab sent to the king of Israel (II Kings 3:4).
2. The word used here is not the normal word for “to see,” but rather hazah, which is used in the context of seeing a vision. In fact, it is from the same root as the Hebrew word for a supernatural vision.
3. Rashi suggests this is the same earthquake that made the doorposts rattle in Isa. 6:4.
4. In I Kings 19:15 the Lord instructs Elijah to anoint Hazael king over Syria (Aram). He reigned approximately 842-800 BC.
5. Ben-Hadad III was the son of Hazael, and is mentioned in II Kings 13:3,24.
6. Rashi says this is the name of a city in Syria.
7. After Tiglath-pileser III took Damascus ca. 732 BC, he exiled the people to Kir according to II Kings 16:9. This was probably not the Kir-hareseth (or Kir-heres) in Moab, because when the Assyrians carried off the northern tribes of Israel, it was to put them along the northern reaches of the Assyrian Empire as a buffer zone between the Assyrians and the barbarians to the north. It is therefore likely that this Kir was also northeast of Damascus somewhere, and some people suspect it was northeast of Armenia on the river Kur, which unites with the Araxes and flows into the Caspian Sea. Kerak in Jordan has also been suggested, but that is unlikely, because putting the refugees there would not serve any purpose for the Assyrians in terms of a buffer.
8. Gaza was a Philistine city at the time, and as mentioned in the history section, they were in league with the Syrians against Assyria. It has been suggested that the Philistines may have raided Judean (and perhaps northern) villages in order to seize captives who could be sold into slavery through the agency of the Edomites.
9. Literally, “they carried a whole captivity captive . . .”
10. Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron were also all Philistine cities.
11. Rashi says that this refers to the agreement between Solomon and Hiram (see I Kings 5:12 and 9:13).
12. According to Eusebius (Onomasticon), Teman was a town about 15 miles from Petra.
Back to Top
Chapter Top

Chapter 2

Warnings for Moab, Judah and Israel

    1. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not restore them, because they burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.1
    2. So I will send fire upon Moab, and it will consume the spacious buildings of Kerioth, and Moab will die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of a trumpet.2
    3. And I will cut off a judge from her midst, and I will slay all her leaders with him.3
    4. Thus says Yahweh: For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not restore them,4 because they rejected the instruction of Yahweh, and did not keep his ordinances, and the lies which their fathers followed have misled them.
    5. So I will send fire upon Judah, and it will consume the spacious buildings of Jerusalem.
    6. Thus says Yahweh: for three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not restore them, because they have sold the righteous man for money, and the poor man for shoes,
    7. That trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the earth, and they have perverted the way of the humble, and a man and his father go in to the (same) girl in order to profane my holy name.
    8. And they recline5 upon garments taken in pledge beside every altar, and they drink the wine of those who have been fined in the house of their gods.
    9. And I have destroyed the Amorites from before them, whose height is like the height of cedars, and their strength is like the oaks, and I destroyed their fruit above and their roots below.
    10. And I brought you (all) out of the land of Egypt, and I went with you in the desert for forty years, to (help you) inherit the land of the Amorites.
    11. And I raised up some of your sons to be prophets, and some of your young men to be Nazarites. Is this not so, Oh children of Israel? Says Yahweh.
    12. But you gave the Nazarites wine to drink,6 and you commanded the prophets saying, Do not prophesy!
    13. Behold, I will be troublesome among you, like a wagon full of sheaves is a troublesome. 7
    14. And escape will not be available to the swift, nor will the strong man increase his might, or the warrior deliver himself.
    15. And he who holds the bow will not stand, nor will the fleet-footed be delivered, nor will the horseman deliver himself.
    16. And the stout-hearted among the warriors will flee naked on that day says Yahweh.
Back to Top
Chapter Top

1. Cf. Isa. 33:12. Rashi reports that the king of Edom once fell into the hands of the king of Moab, and the latter burned his bones and used that lime for plaster on the walls of his house.
2. i.e. shofar. which was used mainly in battle at that time.
3. It is odd that Moab is referred to as feminine in this verse except for this preposition, which has a masculine ending.
4. Since we know that the Lord will indeed eventually restore Judah, this pronouncement must indicate a temporary withdrawal of his protection.
5. Rashi clarifies that this reclining is for the purpose of dining.
6. Nazarites were not to drink alcohol during their period of separation. See Num. 6 for their restrictions. Rashi adds that they gave wine to the Nazarites so that the Nazarites would not be able to instruct them, for a drunken man is forbidden to instruct.
7. The Hebrew is very confusing, because of the words מעיק and תעיק. They exist in modern Hebrew (with the meaning of “to oppress,” and that value is used in the Chabad translation, creating a somewhat nonsensical sentence), but not in biblical Hebrew. These words did, however, exist in Aramaic. Therefore I used the Syriac version of this verse, and it seems to fit the context. A creaking wagon can indeed be a nuisance, or “troublesome,” and in the same way, God will continue to pester Israel until they repent.
Back to Top
Chapter Top

Chapter 3

The Lord will being about his judgments on Israel

    1. Listen to this message, which Yahweh has spoken concerning you, Oh children of Israel, concerning the entire family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
    2. You alone have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit all your iniquities upon you.
    3. Will two walk together unless they have met by appointment?
    4. Will a lion roar in the forest if he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out from his den unless he has taken something?
    5. Will a bird fall into a bird trap on the ground if nothing has lured him there? Will a bird trap ascend from the ground and not capture anything at all?
    6. Will a trumpet1 be sounded in a city and the people not quake? Will there be misery in a city and Yahweh has not done it?2
    7. For the Lord Yahweh will do nothing unless he has revealed his secret to his servants, the prophets.
    8. A lion has roared; who is not afraid? The Lord Yahweh has spoken; who will not prophesy?
    9. Announce in the spacious buildings in Ashdod, and in the spacious buildings in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble upon the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults in its midst, and those who are oppressed in its midst.
    10. But they do not know how to act correctly, says Yahweh, who store up violence and plunder in their spacious buildings.
    11. Therefore, thus says the Lord Yahweh: (There is) an adversary, (and he is) around the land, and he will bring down your strength from you, and your spacious buildings will be spoiled.
    12. Thus says Yahweh: As the shepherd delivers from the mouth of the lion two legs, or part of an ear, so will the children of Israel dwelling in Samaria be delivered (whether) in the corner of a bed, or in a silken couch. 3
    13. Hear and bear witness in the house of Jacob, says the Lord Yahweh, the God of the Heavenly Hosts.
    14. For on the day that hold Israel accountable for their transgressions, I will also punish (them for) the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar will be cut off and fall to the ground.
    15. And I will strike the winter house upon the summer house, and the houses of ivory will be lost, and the great houses will come to an end, says Yahweh.
Back to Top
Chapter Top

1. That is, a shofar, which is the ram's horn that was originally used mainly in war, but later in religious ceremonies. This reference suggests that at the time of Amos it was still associated with battle, hence it causes fear when it is heard.
2. If the misery refers to the punishment that is coming upon the people, then the verse makes sense. On the other hand, if the “misery” (or “evil”) is more generic, then the second part of the verse could also be translated as “Will there be misery in a city and Yahweh has done nothing?”
3. This last phrase could also be translated as “and in Damascus is the couch.”
4. Winter house? Summer house? This makes one wonder whether the upper floor of a house could be referred to as a winter house, because the inhabitants stayed downstairs in the summer, where it was shadier and therefore cooler, while spending their time upstairs in the winter, where it was better exposed to sunlight and therefore warmer?
Back to Top
Chapter Top

Chapter 4

Yahweh sends judgments upon his people, but they do not return to him.

    1. Hear this message, Oh cows1 of Bashan,2 which are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.
    2. The Lord Yahweh has sworn by his holiness that behold, days are coming upon you that he will carry you on shields, and your posterity in fishing boats. 3
    3. And you will go out through the breaches (in the walls), each woman straight ahead, and you will be cast4 upon (Mount) Hermon. 5
    4. Come to Bethel and transgress, to Gilgal6 and transgress even more, and bring your sacrifices in the morning, every three days your tithing. 7
    5. And burn thank offerings of leaven,8 and call out the free-will offerings. Announce (them), for that is what you love, Oh children of Israel, says the Lord Yahweh.
    6. I have even given you cleanness of teeth9 in all your cities, and a lack of bread in all your places, but you have not returned to me, says Yahweh.
    7. And I even withheld the rain from you when there were still three months until the harvest, and I caused rain to fall on one city, while I caused it not to rain on another city. One field receives rain, while a field that does not receive rain, what is in it withers.
    8. And (the people of) two or three cities wander into one city to drink water, but they are not quenched, and yet you have not returned to me, says Yahweh.
    9. I have smitten you with a blight and with mildew. The locusts are devouring the increase of your gardens, and your vineyards, and your fig trees, and your olive trees, yet you have not returned to me, says Yahweh.
    10. I sent a pestilence upon you after the manner of Egypt. I slew your young men with the sword when your horses were captured. And I raised a stench (of corpses) in your camps, even up to your nostrils, yet you did not return to me, says Yahweh.
    11. I overthrew some of you like God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a fire-brand delivered from the burning, yet you did not return to me, says Yahweh.
    12. Therefore thus will I do to you, Oh Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, Oh Israel.
    13. For behold, he forms mountains and creates wind, and declares to man what his thoughts are. He turns dawn into darkness and tramples upon the cultic places of the earth. Yahweh, the God of the Heavenly Hosts is his name.
Back to Top
Chapter Top

1. Rashi says this refers to the wives of the princes and officers.
2. For information on Bashan, see the footnote to Isa. 2:13.
3. This refers to a type of small boat, like a row boat.
4. The verb is pointed as a active transitive, but the passive form fits better (cf. BDB sub הרמון). This verse is not at all clear, and multiple variations in the translation have been suggested. Instead of Mt. Hermon, some have even suggested Armenia. Chabad translates “. . . you shall cast off the haughtiness . . .”
5. Mount Hermon is also mentioned in I Chron. 5:23, so it would not be anachronistic to translate harmon here as Hermon, even though others (such as in the KJV) may assume that the somewhat similar word for “palace” ('armon) is meant.
6. The exact location of Gilgal is not known. According to Joshua 4:19 it was on the eastern border of Jericho.
7. Cf. Lev. 19:6-7.
8. He continues – sarcastically – to tell them to do things which they know are forbidden. The injunction against leaven is found in Ex. 23:18 and 34:25.
9. “Cleanness of teeth” is actually a bad thing. As Rashi points out, it means that they have no meat to eat, because meat gets in between the teeth, and then they are not clean.
Back to Top
Chapter Top


Back to Top