the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Whedon's Commentary on the Bible Whedon's Commentary
by Daniel Whedon
The Person of the Prophet.
AMOS is the name of the prophet whose book occupies in the Hebrew as well as in the English Bible third place among the Minor Prophets; in LXX. second place, following Hosea. It may be regarded as settled, however, that with the possible exception of the authors of a few prophetic fragments we have in Amos the first of the literary prophets, the prophets records of whose discourses have been preserved. The exceptions are Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:12, which Isaiah himself refers to as something having been delivered “in time past” (Isaiah 16:13), and Micah 4:1-4 (see at the close of Micah 4:5; compare Isaiah 2:2-4). As a result, the Book of Amos is of great importance in the study of the religious development of Israel, as a witness to the beliefs current among the Hebrews in the eighth century B.C.
The name of the prophet Hebrews ‘Amôs means burdened, or burden-bearer; it must not be confused, as was done by the Greek and Latin fathers, with ‘Amos, the name of the father of Isaiah, which comes from an entirely different root in Hebrew.
About the personal history of Amos we know only what the book tells us. Where he was born we are not told; his home was in Tekoa (Amos 1:1), which has been sought in different parts of Palestine but is undoubtedly to be identified with the modern Teku’a, on the high ground of Judah; about twelve miles south of Jerusalem and six miles south of Bethlehem. Jerome speaks of Tekoa as abounding in shepherds with their flocks, the soil being too sandy and dry to be cultivated for grain. Amos was not a prophet by education or profession, nor did he enter the prophetic office by way of the prophetic guilds. His occupation was that of a herdsman (Amos 1:1; Amos 7:14) Hebrews nokedh, the keeper of a certain species of sheep called among the Arabs nakad. It is a sheep small and stunted in growth, with short legs and ill-formed face, but esteemed on account of its choice wool. Its lack of beauty has given rise to a saying, “More homely than a nakad.” In Arabic the nakkad is the keeper of this kind of sheep, and the Hebrew nokedh is a word of similar import. The same term is applied in 2 Kings 3:4, to King Mesha of Moab, Eng. “sheep master.” in Amos 7:14, Amos calls himself a “tender of cattle,” Hebrews boker, a word which occurs only here and may be a mistake for nokedh, the two resembling each other quite closely in Hebrew; or boker must be used in the general sense “herdsman” (so English versions).
Amos calls himself also boles shikemim (Amos 7:14) A.V., “a gatherer of sycomore fruit”; R.V., “a dresser of sycomore trees.” “As you will still find everywhere on the border of the Syrian desert shepherds nourishing a few fruit trees round the chief well of their pasture, in order to vary their milk diet, so in some low oasis in the wilderness of Judaea, Amos cultivated the poorest but the most easily grown of fruits, the sycomore” (G.A. Smith). Balas in Ethiopic means fig; in Arabic also it denotes a certain species of fig. In Hebrew, it may be inferred, it denoted the similarly shaped fruit of the sycomore; and the verb derived from it must signify to deal with, to handle, or to dress the fruit of the sycomore.
The shikemah, “sycomore,” or “fig mulberry tree,” not our sycamore, grew abundantly in southern Palestine. It attains the size of a walnut tree, has wide-spreading branches, and on account of its shade is often planted by the wayside (Luke 19:4). The fruit grows on little sprigs rising directly out of the stem, in clusters like grapes. It is like a small fig in shape and size, insipid and woody in taste. It is infested with a small insect, and, unless the fruit is punctured to allow the insect to escape, it does not become eatable. With the insect escapes a bitter juice, and then the fruit ripens and becomes eatable, though never very palatable. The operation of puncturing the fruit is probably meant in the case of Amos. LXX. renders “to prick,” or, “to nip.”
The sycomore does not grow at so high a level as Tekoa in Judah, and this fact has been urged against locating the home of Amos there; but there is no necessity for supposing that his sycomore trees were located in Tekoa, or even in the immediate neighborhood of the town. Tekoa was situated on a detached hill, about twenty-seven hundred feet high; eastward this hill slopes down to the wilderness of Judah; to the southeast there is a deep valley running to the Dead Sea. Somewhere in these lower parts, where a milder temperature prevailed, these groves may have been located.
Both occupations were rather humble. Amos may have partly or entirely owned the flocks and the trees, but the statement that he “followed the flock” (Amos 7:14) indicates that he was not a wealthy sheepmaster; yet he must have been prosperous enough to employ an assistant when he journeyed to Beth-el; for it is not likely that he took the flocks with him, or that he disposed of them before undertaking the journey. The language of the prophecy and the favorite figures bear witness that Amos was a countryman accustomed to life in the open air (Amos 2:13; Amos 3:4-5; Amos 3:12; Amos 4:2; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8; Amos 6:12; Amos 7:1-3; Amos 9:5-6; Amos 9:9, etc.).
It was while following his daily occupation that the divine call reached him (Amos 7:15); but the call did not find him unprepared. He belonged to the “right-minded minority” among the Hebrews that in spite of all influences to the contrary retained its faith and loyalty to Jehovah. With an open mind and a quickened conscience he undoubtedly often meditated upon the things of God as he dwelt in the solitude of the desert. Accustomed to the simpler life of the herdsman, he would feel more keenly the extravagance, luxury, and corruption of the aristocracy. Compelled to defend himself and his flock against the dangers of the desert, he would not easily shrink back from the dangers confronting a prophet of Jehovah. Carefully watching every shadow and noise, not knowing how soon a wild beast would rush upon him from the apparent quietness, he readily developed the vigilance and power of discernment which kept him from being deceived by the superficial piety and prosperity of his countrymen.
The influence of the lonely shepherd life in shaping Amos into a “vessel meet for the Master’s use” cannot be easily overestimated. But Amos did not receive his training exclusively in the solitude of the desert. “As a wool grower Amos must have had his yearly journeys among the markets of the land; and to such were probably due his opportunities for familiarity with northern Israel, the originals of his vivid pictures of her town life, her commerce, and her worship at the great sanctuaries.” To these sights Amos brought from the desert a penetrating vision, a quickened conscience, and keen powers of discernment. “He saw the raw facts the poverty, the cruel negligence of the rich, the injustice of the rulers, the immoralities of the priests. The meaning of these things he questioned with as much persistency as he questioned every suspicious sound or sight upon the pastures of Tekoa. He had no illusions; he knew a mirage when he saw one. Neither the military pride of the people, fostered by recent successes over Syria, nor the dogmas of their religion, which asserted Jehovah’s swift triumph over the heathen, could prevent him from knowing that the immorality of Israel meant Israel’s political downfall. He was one of those recruits from common life by whom religion and the state have always been reformed. Springing from the laity and very often from among the working classes, their freedom from dogmas and routine, as well as from the compromising interests of wealth, rank, and party, renders them experts in life to a degree that almost no professional priest, statesman, or journalist, however honest or sympathetic, can rival. Into politics they bring facts, but into religion they bring vision.”
Such a man, prepared, under the divine providence, by hisvery occupation, was Amos when he heard the call of Jehovah. A man of his character cannot refuse to obey the divine voice. He left his flocks and sycomore groves and journeyed to Beth-el, the religious center of the northern kingdom. There under the shadow of the royal sanctuary (Amos 7:13) he delivered his God-given message of warning and exhortation. How long he remained at Beth-el we do not know. Finally Amaziah, the chief priest, aroused by the announcement of the overthrow of the sanctuaries and of the dynasty of Jeroboam, accused Amos of treason and bade him return to his own home and make a living there. Amos was not frightened so easily; he defended his action and repeated his message of judgment.
Of Amos’s later life we know nothing. But in view of the well-planned disposition of his prophecies, and in view of the reference “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1) showing that the words were not written until after, the earthquake had occurred it is reasonable to suppose that after he had completed his prophetic ministration he returned to Tekoa, took up his former occupation, and at his leisure arranged his prophecies in their present form in writing, or at least, that they were written down under his direction. A late Christian tradition, whose origin is obscure, asserts that Amos was frequently struck by Amaziah, and that finally he was fatally wounded by the latter’s son, because the prophet rebuked him for worshiping the “calves,” that Amos survived until he reached his own land, died there, and was buried with his fathers. Jerome and Eusebius affirm that in their days the tomb of Amos was shown at Tekoa.
The Time of the Prophet.
1 . Date. According to Amos 1:1, Amos prophesied (1) while Jeroboam was king of Israel, and Uzziah king of Judah. The longest possible reign that may be ascribed to Uzziah covers approximately 789-737 B.C.; that of Jeroboam II, 782-741. According to this note the ministry of Amos falls between 782 and 741 B.C. That Jeroboam was still upon the throne is implied in Amos 7:9-10. (2) “Two years before the earthquake.” This earthquake is spoken of also in Zechariah 14:5, as having occurred in the days of Uzziah, but its exact date is not known. No more direct information concerning the date of Amos is found anywhere in the Old Testament, but the date may be fixed more definitely by inference. In 2 Kings 14:25, it is said of Jeroboam II that he restored “the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah.” In Amos 6:14, Amos predicts that an enemy will afflict Israel “from the entrance of Hamath unto the brook of the Arabah.” From this we may safely infer that the conquests of Jeroboam had already taken place when Amos arose. Besides, the tone of the entire book places it beyond doubt that the evil consequences of the prosperity resulting from the successful undertakings of Jeroboam had made themselves felt in a marked degree when Amos was called to his prophetic work. We may not be far out of the way, then, if we place the activity of Amos after the middle of Jeroboam’s reign, about 760-755 B.C.
2 . Condition of the Country. The period in which Amos arose as a prophet of Jehovah was one of great external prosperity for both Israel and Judah. Israel had but very recently recovered from a state of extreme depression. During the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz it had suffered very severely from the Syrians. Hazael took all the territory east of the Jordan (2 Kings 10:32-33); and of Jehoahaz’s reign it is said that “the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael, continually” (2 Kings 13:3). And again, “He left not to Jehoahaz of the people save fifty horsemen, and ten chariots, and ten thousand footmen; for the king of Syria destroyed them” (verse 7).
Israel seemed on the verge of destruction; but it revived once more. Under the successor of Jehoahaz, Joash (or Jehoash), the fortunes of Israel began to turn. He “took again out of the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken out of the hand of Jehoahaz his father by war. Three times did Joash smite him, and recovered the cities of Israel” (2 Kings 13:25). In part, at least, these victories may have been due to the fact that at about this time the forces of Syria were needed for the defense of their home land against a powerful enemy in the southeast, the Assyrians. The success of Israel continued under Jeroboam II; he became a saviour of Israel (2 Kings 14:27), recovered all the territory that had been lost, and added to Israel’s territory in every direction; he even captured Damascus (2 Kings 14:23-29). As a result of these successes in war, the revival of commerce, and the new development of the internal resources Israel rose to a pitch of power and prosperity greater than the nation had enjoyed since the division of the kingdom.
But the prosperity was accompanied and followed by grave evils. The brief record in the Book of Kings does little more than give an outline of the external history. The internal social, moral, and religious conditions appear more plainly in the writings of the eighth century prophets, Amos and Hosea in Israel, Isaiah and Micah in Judah.
The Book of Amos presents a vivid picture of the prosperity in Israel. The luxury of the rich, made possible by increased wealth, met the eyes of the simple herdman on every hand. The palaces built of “hewn stone” (Amos 5:11), some of them “paneled with ivory” (Amos 3:15), the pretentious summer residences and winter residences (Amos 3:15), the extravagant interior finish (Amos 3:12; Amos 6:4), all were to him evidence that the former simplicity and stability were threatened with extinction. He could not avoid seeing or hearing the drunken revelries (Amos 6:5-6), nor could he be blind to the mad extravagance which found satisfaction only in possessing the choicest and best of everything, the chief oils (Amos 6:6), the most delicate meats (Amos 6:4), the best music (Amos 6:5). The sanctuaries shared in the general prosperity. The chief sanctuary at Beth-el was under royal patronage (Amos 7:13), it was thronged with worshipers (Amos 9:1); other sanctuaries were diligently visited (Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5; Amos 8:14); offerings and tithes were brought regularly and in abundance; feasts were celebrated with all possible pomp (Amos 4:4-5; Amos 5:21-23).
A nation so prosperous and so zealous in the fulfillment of its religious obligations might well be called blessed. But the prophet was not deceived by the superficial prosperity; he saw the dark side of the nation’s life with equal clearness. The wealth and luxury of the rich were obtained by violence and robbery (Amos 3:10); by oppression of the poor and needy, who were driven into actual slavery by their cruel creditors (Amos 2:6-7; Amos 8:6); by dishonest trading, in which every possible advantage was taken of the unsuspecting buyer (Amos 8:4-6); by exacting presents and bribes (Amos 5:11-12). Women were no better than men; to satisfy their appetites they urged their husbands to greater cruelties (Amos 4:1). Public and private virtue had almost completely died out. The corruption of the courts of justice was notorious (Amos 5:7; Amos 5:10; Amos 5:12; Amos 6:12); the poor could get no satisfactory hearing, justice was bought and sold (Amos 5:12). Immoralities were practiced without shame (Amos 2:7). Trades-men were impatient at the interruption of their greedy pursuits by the sacred days (Amos 8:5). Humane feelings were smothered (Amos 2:8). The situation was the more hopeless because the leaders, who should have been the protectors and guardians of the people, were the leaders in vice and crime (Amos 6:1-6), and were indifferent to the “affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:6). Those who attempted to reprove the wrong and uphold the right were despised and abhorred (Amos 5:10; Amos 7:10-13). With this flagrant disregard of all human and divine law there went, strangely enough, a feeling of absolute security and self-righteousness. The great mass of people believed that in view of their painstaking observance of the external ceremonial they had a claim upon the divine favor, and that Jehovah was bound to be with them and to protect them from all harm (Amos 5:14). This deplorable religious, social, and moral condition was all due to a false conception of the character of Jehovah (see below, p. 207). “When men corrupt the image of God in their hearts, they forthwith proceed to the debasing of themselves, and then to such enmity and strife that the bonds of society are wholly broken.”
In the midst of the social abuses, the moral corruption, and the religious self-contentment the message of Amos fell like a thunderbolt.
The Book of the Prophet.
1 . General. It was suggested (p. 195) that Amos himself may have put his prophecies into writing, but that admission does not decide what was the extent of the book as it came from the hand of the prophet (see below, pp. 213ff.); nor does it prove that he embodied in the book the utterances as they were spoken originally. He may have omitted in writing some things which he had spoken; on the other hand, he may have added things not spoken previously. At any rate, the words of Kirkpatrick seem quite justified: “The book bears evidence of more orderly and systematic arrangement than would be likely to have characterized the spoken prophecies.”
That the prophecies were arranged in the chronological order of their delivery may be doubted, but a logical arrangement is clearly visible. In broad outline the development of the thought is as follows: The book opens with threats of judgment against the surrounding nations, against Judah, and especially against Israel; these are followed by a presentation of the reasons for the judgment; five visions of the execution of the judgment; and after a brief reference to the effects upon both godly and ungodly the book closes with a description of the exaltation and glory of the remnant that will escape the judgment.
Opinions concerning Amos’ style have changed greatly since Jerome called him “rude in speech but not in knowledge.” A few quotations will illustrate the estimate placed by modern scholarship upon the literary skill of the prophet: “He deserves to rank among the first of the sacred writers.” “He is very little inferior to the best Old Testament writers.” It would be difficult to form a better brief characterization of the style of the Book of Amos than that by Driver: “The style of Amos possesses high literary merit. His language… is pure, his syntax is idiomatic, his sentences are smoothly constructed and clear. The even flow of his language contrasts remarkably with the short, abrupt clauses which his contemporary Hosea loves [see p. 38]. Amos’s literary power is shown in the regularity of structure which often characterizes his periods, as Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:6 (a cleverly constructed and impressive introduction of the prophet’s theme, evidently intended to lead up to Israel, Amos 2:6 ff.), Amos 4:6-11 (the fivefold refrain), and in the visions (Amos 7:1; Amos 7:4; Amos 7:7; Amos 8:1; Amos 9:1); in the fine climax (Amos 3:3-8); in the balanced clauses, the well-chosen images, the effective contrasts, in such passages as Amos 1:2; Amos 3:2; Amos 5:2; Amos 5:21-24; Amos 6:7; Amos 6:11; Amos 8:10; Amos 9:2-4, as well as in the ease with which he manifestly writes, and the skill with which his theme is gradually developed.”
2 . Contents. The Book of Amos falls naturally into three divisions: Chapters 1, 2, the Prologue; chapters 3-6, a series of discourses; chapters 7-9, a series of visions, interrupted by a piece of narrative and short remarks on the same subjects as are discussed in chapters 3-6.
After the title (Amos 1:1), giving the name, home, occupation, and approximate date of the prophet, and the preface (Amos 1:2), announcing in general terms the approach of judgment, Amos proceeds to announce the wrath of God upon the surrounding nations “for three transgressions and for four,” upon Damascus (Amos 1:3-5), Philistia (Amos 1:6-8), Phoenicia (Amos 1:9-10), Edom (Amos 1:11-12), Ammon (Amos 1:13-15), Moab (Amos 2:1-3), Judah (Amos 2:4-5). Having gained the good will of his hearers by declaring the doom of their enemies, he breaks into a message of denunciation and judgment against Israel, for whose temporal and spiritual well-being Jehovah had made extraordinary efforts (Amos 2:6-16). The condemnation is chiefly an account of two transgressions: oppression of the poor, and immorality and self-indulgence practiced in the name of religion. These verses (Amos 2:6-16) may be called the thesis of the whole book.
The second main division (chapters 3-6) contains several discourses expanding and justifying the indictment and sentence in Amos 2:6-16. The first discourse (Amos 3:1 to Amos 4:3) is intended primarily for the ruling classes. The prophet calls attention to the special favors received by Israel from Jehovah, and implies that these favors carried with them unusual opportunities and obligations. Since Israel failed to embrace these, Jehovah is bound to visit upon the neglectful people all their iniquities (Amos 3:1-2). This startling announcement made it necessary for the prophet to defend his message and authority. He does this by a series of illustrations showing that every effect presupposes a cause (Amos 3:3-6); on the same principle his prophesying presupposes a commission, a call to prophesy (Amos 3:7-8). Having presented his credentials, he continues the message of denunciation and judgment. He summons the surrounding nations, who possess much less moral and religious light than the Hebrews, to testify against Israel, to decide whether, according to their lower standards, the judgment is not merited (Amos 3:9-10). The sentence is declared just; therefore Jehovah will speedily send an avenger, who will lay waste the corrupt city and the sanctuaries of the land so that only a small remnant shall escape (Amos 3:11-15). The noble women of Samaria who, in order to satisfy their unholy appetites, urge their husbands to greater exactions and more cruel oppression, must share the punishment; they will be driven into exile (Amos 4:1-3).
The second discourse (Amos 4:4-13) is addressed to the people at large. In an ironical vein Amos exhorts them to persist in their heartless ceremonial worship, “for this pleaseth you,” implying that Jehovah takes no delight in it (Amos 4:4-5). By a long series of calamities Jehovah has sought to make plain his dissatisfaction with their conduct, and to bring them to their senses, but in vain (Amos 4:6-11), hence he will strike a final blow (Amos 4:12-13).
The next address (Amos 5:1-17) contains lamentations, exhortations, reproofs, and threats of ruin. It opens with a dirge over the downfall of Israel (Amos 5:1-3). This fate is merited because the people have utterly disregarded the demands of Jehovah; they have sought him by a ritual which he does not value, and have spurned the virtues which he prizes (Amos 5:4-10). Improvement seems out of the question, therefore swift judgment will overtake them (Amos 5:11-13); nevertheless, sincere repentance may yet result in the salvation of at least a remnant (Amos 5:14-15). The prophet seems to be conscious that such a hope is vain; at any rate, he reiterates the announcement of doom (Amos 5:16-17).
In Amos 5:18-27 follows a new section, whose theme is the darkness and despair of the day of Jehovah. It begins with a startling woe upon those who are anxious for that day to come. They will be disappointed, for instead of being a day of salvation and triumph it will be a day of terror and disaster (Amos 5:18-20). This is due to the fact that they are enemies of Jehovah, their service is an abomination to him, for it is utterly opposed to his requirements (Amos 5:21-25); therefore the terrors of Jehovah will fall upon them (Amos 5:26-27).
In Amos 6:1-14, the final discourse in the second main division of the book, a woe is pronounced upon the luxurious, the self-confident, and the proud. In Amos 6:1, the prophet turns to the leaders of the people, who, reveling in their wealth and luxury, were perfectly content with the present state of things, and were absolutely indifferent to the ruin threatening the people. For this indifference they shall surely be carried into exile “with the first that go captive” (Amos 6:1-7). The whole city and nation shall be given up to destruction, because they have perverted truth and righteousness and have placed their confidence exclusively in their own resources (Amos 6:8-14).
The third main division (Amos 7:1 to Amos 9:15) consists principally of visions picturing the execution of the judgment threatened in chapters 3-6. The first two visions the swarm of locusts, and the devouring fire describe calamities whose terrors are already felt, and which threaten complete annihilation, but Jehovah, at the intercession of the prophet, averts the final catastrophe (Amos 7:1-6). The third vision the master builder with the plumb line does not picture the calamity itself, but presents Jehovah as decreeing the utter destruction of the people (Amos 7:7-9). The three visions are followed by an historical section (Amos 7:10-17), in which Amos relates his experience in Beth-el; how Amaziah attempted to drive him from the sanctuary there, how he refused to be silent, and how he reiterated and expanded his previous threats. The fourth vision the basket of summer fruit announces that the time of mercy is past: “The end has come upon… Israel” (Amos 8:1-3). To this vision are added fresh denunciations and threats (Amos 8:4-14), intended especially for the greedy merchants. The fifth vision the smitten sanctuary differs in form from the preceding four, but its purpose is the same: it declares that Jehovah is determined to make an end of the “sinful kingdom” (Amos 9:1-6). The prophet combats again the misapprehension that the people’s former choice by Jehovah is a guarantee of permanent security (Amos 8:7-8). Once more he announces judgment, this time emphasizing its disciplinary purpose, and promising the preservation of a sound kernel (Amos 8:9-10).
The book closes with promises of a bright future to this faithful remnant. The dynasty of David will be restored to power (Amos 8:11), the surrounding nations will be reconquered (Amos 8:12), extreme fertility will bless the soil (Amos 8:13), the exiles will be restored to their own land, there to live forever in prosperity and joy (Amos 8:14).
TITLE THE ORIGIN OF THE BOOK. Amos 1:1.
A. THE PROLOGUE THE APPROACHING JUDGMENT Amos 1:2 to Amos 2:16.
I. THE PREFACE JEHOVAH’S TERRIBLE MANIFESTATION Amos 1:2
II. THE SINS AND PUNISHMENTS OF SIX NON-ISRAELITISH NATIONS Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:3
1. Syria Amos 1:3-5
2. Philistia Amos 1:6-8
3. Phoenicia Amos 1:9-10
4. Edom Amos 1:11-12
5. Ammon Amos 1:13-15
6. Moab Amos 2:1-3
III. THE SIN AND PUNISHMENT OF JUDAH Amos 2:4-5
IV. THE SIN AND PUNISHMENT OF ISRAEL Amos 2:6-16
B. DISCOURSES OF WARNING AND EXHORTATION Amos 3:1 to Amos 6:14.
I. CONDEMNATION OF THE RULING CLASSES Amos 3:1 to Amos 4:3
1. Failure to recognize responsibilities brings punishment Amos 3:1-2
2. The prophet’s authority Amos 3:3-8
3. Summons of the surrounding nations to testify against Israel Amos 3:9-10
4. Sentence of doom Amos 3:11-15
5. The heartless luxury and self-indulgence of the noble ladies Amos 4:1-3
II. ISRAEL’S FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THE DIVINE JUDGMENTS Amos 4:4-13
1. A mistaken religious zeal Amos 4:4-5
2. Seven unheeded chastisements Amos 4:6-11
(1) Famine Amos 4:6
(2) DroughtAmos 4:7-8; Amos 4:7-8
(3) Blasting and mildewAmos 4:9; Amos 4:9 a
( 4) Locusts Amos 4:9 b
( 5) Pestilence Amos 4:10 a
( 6) WarAmos 4:10; Amos 4:10 b
( 7) EarthquakeAmos 4:11; Amos 4:11
3. Threat of a final destructive blow Amos 4:12-13
III. ADDRESS CONTAINING LAMENTATIONS, EXHORTATIONS, REPROOFS, AND THREATS OF RUIN Amos 5:1-17
1. Dirge over the downfall of Israel Amos 5:1-3
2. Justification of the judgment; exhortation to repentance Amos 5:4-10
3. Israel’s moral depravity demands retributionAmos 5:11-13; Amos 5:11-13
4. Renewed exhortations Amos 5:14-15
5. The imminent doom and universal lamentation Amos 5:16-17
IV. THE DARKNESS AND DESPAIR OF THE DAY OF JEHOVAH Amos 5:18-27
1. The day of Jehovah a day of calamity and ruin Amos 5:18-20
2. The people’s worship an abomination to Jehovah Amos 5:21-25
3. Threat of an exile to a far-distant region Amos 5:26-27
V. WOE UPON THE LUXURIOUS, THE SELF-CONFIDENT, AND THE PROUD Amos 6:1-14
1. Condemnation of the self-satisfied, indifferent nobles Amos 6:1-7
2. Extent of the terrible judgment Amos 6:8-14
C. FIVE VISIONS PICTURING THE EXECUTION OF THE JUDGMENT, WITH INTERLUDES Amos 7:1 to Amos 9:15.
I. THREE RELATED VISIONS Amos 7:1-9
1. The swarm of locusts Amos 7:1-3
2. The devouring fire Amos 7:4-6
3. The master builder with the plumb line Amos 7:7-9
II. HISTORICAL SECTION THE EXPERIENCE OF AMOS AT BETH-EL Amos 7:10-17
III. THE FOURTH VISION THE BASKET OF SUMMER FRUIT Amos 8:1-3
IV. EXPLANATORY DISCOURSE Amos 8:4-14
1. The greedy merchants of Israel Amos 8:4-6
2. Figurative description of the impending judgment and of the resulting lamentation Amos 8:7-10
3. Some effects of the judgment Amos 8:11-14
(1) Eagerness for the word of Jehovah Amos 8:11-12
(2) Destruction of the beauty and strength of the nation Amos 8:13-14
V. THE FIFTH VISION THE SMITTEN SANCTUARY, WITH APPLICATION Amos 9:1-6
VI. JEHOVAH NOT A RESPECTER OF PERSONS, BUT A RESPECTER OF CHARACTER Amos 9:7-10
VII. THE EPILOGUE PROMISES OF A BRIGHTER FUTURE Amos 9:11-15
1. Restoration of the Davidic dynasty Amos 9:11
2. Conquest of the surrounding nations Amos 9:12
3. Extraordinary fertility of the soil Amos 9:13
4. Return of the exiles and their re-establishment in the Promised Land Amos 9:14-15
The Teaching of Amos.
For convenience’ sake the teaching of Amos may be discussed under two heads: 1. The Theology of Amos, that is, the prophet’s conception of Jehovah, the God of Israel; 2. Amos’s conception of Israel, the people of Jehovah.
1 . The Theology of Amos. Amos is an uncompromising monotheist; he believes that there is but one true God, namely, Jehovah, whose prophet he knows himself to be. That Jehovah was the only God of Israel had been taught by religious leaders since the days of Moses; some may have had a glimpse even of the larger truth that he is the God of the whole world; Amos has no doubts on this point. Jehovah is to him, in a special sense, the God of Israel, but he also controls the destinies of other nations (Amos 9:7; Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:3). He is nowhere called the “God of Israel,” and there is no suggestion anywhere that Amos believed in the existence of other gods. True, he nowhere teaches the dogma of monotheism, but, as Cheyne says, “He is to all intents and purposes an ethical monotheist.” So also Marti: “No one can fail to observe how in this belief of Amos monotheism is present in essence even if not in name.” Concerning the nature and character of this one God Amos teaches: (1) He is a person. Jehovah “swears by himself” (Amos 6:8; compare Amos 4:2). He is capable of every emotion and volition of which a person is capable: he “repents” (Amos 7:3); he communicates with others (Amos 3:7); he “issues commands” (Amos 9:3-4); he determines upon lines of action (Amos 7:3; Amos 6:8); he “hates” and “abhors” (Amos 5:21-22; Amos 6:8). (2) He is all-powerful. The omnipotence of Jehovah is seen in creation. Jehovah created the heavens and the earth and all the hosts of them (Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:6). But Amos is not a deist; his God did not withdraw when the universe was created; he is still supreme, and his hand controls all the laws and forces of nature. He changes darkness into light, and light into darkness, whether in the ordinary course of nature or by an eclipse. He “calleth for the waters of the sea and poureth them out upon the face of the earth”; he withholds rain, sends locusts, causes blasting and mildew, pestilence and earthquakes (Amos 4:6-11; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8; Amos 8:9; Amos 9:5-6). An even stronger proof of the supreme power of Jehovah is the fact that he determines the destiny of the nations, of Israel (Amos 2:9-11; Amos 9:7), of the Ethiopians, the Philistines, and the Syrians (Amos 9:7; compare Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:3). He directs the movements of the Assyrian world power and uses it to execute judgment (Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:3; Amos 2:13 ff; Amos 4:2-3; Amos 5:27; Amos 6:14, etc.). The supreme majesty and power of Jehovah is expressed also in the divine titles used by the prophet: “The Lord Jehovah” (twenty times); “Jehovah, the God of hosts” (Amos 4:13; Amos 5:14-15; Amos 6:8; Amos 6:14; compare Amos 5:27); “the Lord, Jehovah of hosts” (Amos 9:5); “the Lord Jehovah, the God of hosts” (Amos 3:13); “Jehovah, the God of hosts, the Lord” (Amos 5:16). See on Hosea 12:5. (3) The omnipresence of Jehovah is at least implied in chapters 1 and 2 (compare Amos 9:8), and is unambiguously taught in Amos 9:2 ff., one of the most terrible, and at the same time most sublime, passages in the book. (4) The same passage implies the divine omniscience. Jehovah knows the abode of the fugitive sinners. Omniscience is needed also that he may declare “unto man what is his (man’s) thought” (Amos 4:13). (5) Another very important element in the theology of Amos is his conception of Jehovah as an ethical being. Righteousness is the chief attribute of Jehovah. This truth did not originate with Amos, but his contemporaries seem to have forgotten the teaching of Amos’s predecessors; they believed that Jehovah was partial to them, no matter how sinful their conduct (Amos 5:14), and that he took no delight in foreigners, no matter how good and sincere they might be. This false idea of Jehovah the prophet sought to remove, in part by pointing out that Jehovah’s sway extends over the whole known world, but more especially by emphasizing that in the administration of his government he is guided by ethical principles. He deals with the nations of the earth, Israel included, according to their attitude toward him (Amos 3:1-2; Amos 7:7-9; Amos 8:1-3; Amos 9:8, and passim). The popular misapprehension of the character of Jehovah found expression in a mistaken religious zeal; the people thought that so long as external religious requirements were met the favor of Jehovah was assured (Amos 4:5); but, says Amos, a righteous God can take no delight in such superficial ceremonies; he hates them; they are an abomination to him (Amos 4:4-5; Amos 5:5; Amos 5:21 ff.). That Jehovah is no respecter of persons, but of character, is implied also in the obedience with which Amos responded to the divine call (Amos 7:15; compare Amos 3:8). Jehovah chooses his workmen regardless of rank or occupation. (6.) The persistent emphasis upon the righteousness of Jehovah gives to the message of Amos a stern and severe tone, nevertheless, it is not correct to say, as has been done, that Amos saw only the stern side of the divine character, that he thought of God exclusively as the righteous king and merciless judge. True, the word “love,” or “loving-kindness,” a favorite word with Hosea, is not found in the Book of Amos, but there is evidence that the prophet conceived Jehovah to be a merciful God. He was not afraid to intercede twice on behalf of the sinful nation (Amos 7:2; Amos 7:5), and he held out the hope that under certain conditions Jehovah might be “gracious to a remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:15). On the other hand, his promise of salvation (Amos 9:9) was due less to his conception of Jehovah as a merciful God than to his conviction that Jehovah was righteous and just; fairness and justice demanded the preservation of the faithful.
To what extent Amos condemned the “calf” worship of Jehovah at Beth-el and Dan as such it may be difficult to say. The condemnation of the local sanctuaries (Amos 3:14; Amos 4:4-5; Amos 5:4; Amos 8:14) may have been due to the corruption prevalent at these places, and not to a desire to express disapproval of that form of worship. On the other hand, the passages may be interpreted as implying a repudiation of “calf” worship as such. A.B. Davidson, for many years a close student of Hebrew prophecy, may be right when he says: ‘“Those passages (Amos 3:14; Amos 4:4-5; Amos 5:4) appear to carry in them a repudiation of the calves.… If the prophet’s language be not a verbal protest against the calf worship it is because it is a great deal more; it is a protest which goes much deeper than the calves and is directed to something behind them. The calves and the whole ritual service, as it was practiced, were but symptoms of that which gave offense to the prophet, which was the spirit of the worship, the mind of the worshipers, the conception of Deity which they had in worshiping and to which they offered their worship.”
2 . Amos’s Conception of Israel. The prophet’s teaching concerning Israel is intimately connected with his theology; indeed, it is “but a reflection of his doctrine, or a deduction from it.” (1) Fundamental is the conviction that Israel is the people of Jehovah. He chose the sons of Abraham and delivered them from Egypt; he led them in the wilderness and established them in the promised land. He has an interest in Israel such as he has in no other people (Amos 2:9-10; Amos 3:1-2). (2) The Israelites, being the people of Jehovah, should reflect the character of their God; otherwise intimate fellowship between God and people is not possible (Amos 3:2; Amos 5:4; Amos 6:14; Amos 5:24). (3) To enable Israel to know the will of God and reflect his character Jehovah revealed himself to them through prophets and Nazirites (Amos 2:11; Amos 3:7), through the law (Amos 2:4 of Judah), through Amos (Amos 3:8; Amos 7:15), and through the acts of his providence (Amos 4:6-11). In this manner he favored Israel beyond all other nations; but the prophet makes it also clear that these special privileges brought increased responsibilities and obligations. (4) These responsibilities the people failed to meet; consequently they fell far short of the divine ideal for them. Righteousness was trampled under foot (Amos 5:7); the poor and needy were mercilessly oppressed (Amos 2:6-7; Amos 3:10; Amos 5:11-12, etc.); the name of Jehovah was dishonored by the immoral practices connected with the worship (Amos 2:7-8); the whole worship was carried on in a manner that made it an abomination to him (Amos 5:21-25). From beginning to end the prophecy abounds with pictures of Israel’s disregard of the divine purpose for them. (5) Israel’s utter corruption is responsible for the threats of judgment so frequent in the book. The very righteousness of Jehovah demanded that he should execute judgment upon the sinful kingdom (Amos 9:8; Amos 2:13-16; Amos 3:14-15). Ordinarily the prophet speaks of the judgment as taking the form of a foreign invasion and an exile (Amos 3:11; Amos 4:3; Amos 5:27; Amos 6:14, etc.), which will result in the destruction of Israel as a nation. (6) Though Amos looked for the passing away of the nation, he expected the preservation of a remnant (Amos 5:15; Amos 9:9). Around this remnant centers his hope for the future. It is worthy of note that the prophet’s picture of this remnant’s glorification is one of temporal felicity, and that it does not include a personal Messiah, though the future glory is connected with the dynasty of David. The latter is to be restored to influence and power, and under its leadership the surrounding nations are to be reconquered. The soil is to be blessed with extreme fertility, and in the enjoyment of extraordinary prosperity the restored nation is to be established forever. A very simple picture indeed. With much truth says Kirkpatrick of the prophet Amos, “He is still the representative of a rudimentary stage of the prophetic revelation, to be enlarged, developed, spiritualized by his successors.”
The same author points out the following as the most important permanent moral and religious truths in the Book of Amos: (1) Justice between man and man is one of the divine foundations of society; (2) Privilege implies responsibility; (3) Failure to recognize responsibility will surely bring punishment; (4) Nations, and, by analogy, individuals, are bound to live up to the measure of light and knowledge granted to them; (5) The most elaborate worship is but an insult to God when offered, by those who have no mind to conform to his demands.
The Place of Amos in the Religious Development of Israel.
The significance of Amos and of the other eighth century prophets for the development of pure Jehovah religion cannot easily be overestimated. During that century the religion of Jehovah was confronted by two serious dangers. One of these arose out of the new prosperity which had come to Israel under Jeroboam II. The moral and religious conditions in Israel at the time of Amos have already been discussed (pp. 197ff.); it remains only to say a few words concerning the real significance of this condition of affairs. It meant that the great mass of people had an entirely false conception of the character of Jehovah. If this misconception was suffered to continue the religion of Jehovah was destined to sink to the level of that of the surrounding nations; true religion would be lost to the world. The other danger arose from the steady advance of the Assyrian armies. The Assyrians seemed invincible, and nearer and nearer did they come to Israel. Would Jehovah protect his people? If he failed to do so, was it not because the gods of the invaders were stronger than he? If he could not save his worshipers, was it worth while to remain loyal to him? Upon a correct answer to these and similar questions, which would inevitably arise, hung the faith of the Hebrews. In this crisis the eighth century prophets saved Israel’s faith by placing in a clearer light than ever before the true character of Jehovah. They pointed out that he was holy and righteous; that the nation was guilty in his sight; that his very character compelled him to punish them; that he was using the Assyrian world power as an instrument of scourging; and that the ultimate purpose of God in all this was to purify his people, in order to prepare them for the carrying out of his gracious purpose. The emphasis of the divine holiness and righteousness was to counteract the internal religious danger; the emphasis of the control exercised by Jehovah over the Assyrians was to show that the victories of the Assyrians did not prove the superiority of their deities, that Jehovah was still supreme.
Amos was the first of the four great prophets to restate the true conception of Jehovah; and with him opened an era of constructive thought hardly surpassed in the world’s history. It is not without reason, therefore, that Cornill exclaims, “Amos is one of the most wonderful appearances in the history of the human spirit”; or that G.A. Smith says, “The Book of Amos opens one of the greatest stages in the religious development of mankind”; or that W. Robertson Smith calls Amos “the founder of a new type of prophecy.” Nevertheless, though these eulogies are well merited, it is not correct to say, as has been done at times, that Amos “marks an entirely new departure in the religious history of Israel” in other words, that he is the original founder of Yahwism, the religion of Jehovah. The entire tone of the book, as well as specific references, refute this idea. Amos regards himself as a reformer, not as an innovator. He evidently assumes that the people might have known Jehovah and his will, for he represents their wrongdoing not as the result of intellectual ignorance, but as due to the stubbornness of their hearts (Amos 2:12); he is not conscious of preaching a new faith, but he strives to recall the people to allegiance to Jehovah, from whom they have wandered. Besides, Amos refers to former prophets (Amos 2:11; compare Amos 3:7), and apparently he considers himself the legitimate successor of these. A.B. Davidson expresses the true view when he says: “The springs at least of all prophecy can be seen in the two prophets of northern Israel; but the rains which fed those fountains fell in the often unrecorded past.” Another evidence that Amos was preceded by a line of prophets is presented by the theological style and terminology of the Book of Amos. It is almost incredible that a pioneer in this field should use as fluent style and as fixed terminology as does the author of this book. Is it not much more rational to believe that the prophets alluded to in Amos 2:11, developed gradually what may be called a prophetic style?
In this connection may be noted briefly Amos’s knowledge of the nation’s history, laws, and religious practices. The prophet manifests a very remarkable familiarity with events in the early history of his people. As illustrations may be mentioned the history of Jacob and Esau (Amos 1:11), “Moab shall die with tumult” (Amos 2:2; compare Numbers 24:17), the Exodus (Amos 2:10), the wanderings in the desert (Amos 2:10; Amos 5:25), the stature of the Amorites (Amos 2:9), the fame of David as musician (Amos 6:5). This humble countryman is thoroughly familiar with the history of his nation and understands its religious significance; but what is more, he presupposes the same familiarity in his hearers and readers; otherwise his appeals would frequently be without force. He is also acquainted with some of the laws contained in the Pentateuch. In Amos 2:8, he condemns the breach of the law concerning pledges (Exodus 22:26). Judah he accuses of rejecting the law of Jehovah and his statutes (Amos 2:4). The existence of a fully developed and well-ordered ceremonial is presupposed in the book. The offering of “leavened” sacrifices is condemned (Amos 4:5); new moons and Sabbaths were observed by abstaining from ordinary labor (Amos 8:5); feasts were kept and solemn assemblies were held (Amos 5:21; Amos 8:10); sacrifices, burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, and freewill offerings were presented to Jehovah (Amos 5:22; Amos 4:5); tithes were paid (Amos 4:4).
This familiarity is certainly remarkable, and from it some have argued that Amos was familiar with the Pentateuch in its present form. But this sweeping inference is not warranted by the facts. Not a single statement of Amos proves or even implies the existence of the Pentateuch in its present form. One may go even farther and say that there is nothing in the Book of Amos to place it beyond doubt that any part of the Pentateuch was known to the prophet in written form. The only thing beyond question is that much of the material found in the Pentateuch was common property of the people in the eighth century B.C. Beyond this point we are in the realm of conjecture and speculation. Nevertheless, if Amos committed his own prophecy to writing (p. 195), it is at least possible, or even probable, that he was acquainted with some written documents. There may have been, there probably were, in existence some historical documents or some writings of a legal character from which the prophet gathered his historical and legal information; but their extent or exact contents cannot be determined from the Book of Amos. Hosea 8:12, makes it certain that in the eighth century B.C. written laws were in existence, but this passage also leaves undecided the extent of the legal system.
The Integrity of the Book of Amos.
As in the case of Hosea, until quite recently no doubts were raised concerning the integrity of the Book of Amos. Ewald said: “This little book forms a whole complete in itself and left Amos’s hands just as we have it. The heading alone is probably from another, but in any case from an early, hand.” Hitzig also seems to have been convinced that there are no interpolations in the book. Duhm, in 1875, questioned the authorship of Amos 2:4-5; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:5-6, on the ground that these passages interrupt the connection. However, the additional statement that the last three passages presuppose Job makes it probable that he was influenced also by theological considerations. Nearly all commentators who have written since the publication of Duhm’s doubts have rejected some parts of the book as later interpolations. Wellhausen added to the passages questioned by Duhm; and Cheyne, in the Introduction to W.R. Smith’s The Prophets of Israel, rejected altogether about twenty verses; this number he increased to over thirty in his more recent article “Amos” in the Encyclopaedia Biblica. The reasons advanced are largely theological, as in the case of Amos 1:2; Amos 2:4-5; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:5-6; Amos 9:8-15, and historical, as in connection with Amos 1:6-12; Amos 6:2. Abruptness in transition is also argued against some passages, and, as in the case of Hosea, some consider all references to Judah out of place in a message to the northern kingdom.
Of the most widely known recent writers on Amos, Driver, after examining carefully the objections urged against Amos 2:4-5; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:5-6; Amos 9:8-15, reaches the conclusion that in no case are the arguments convincing. G.A. Smith rejects Amos 9:8-15, and he suspects the passages questioned by Duhm as well as Amos 1:11-12; Amos 5:14-15; Amos 6:2; Amos 8:13. Taylor (Hastings’s Dictionary of the Bible, article “Amos”) declares, “There is good reason for thinking that the following passages are later additions: Amos 1:1-2; Amos 2:4-5; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 6:2; Amos 9:5; Amos 9:8-15.” Nowack rejects Amos 1:11-12; Amos 2:4-5; Amos 2:15 b, Amos 2:16 a; Amos 3:14 b; Amos 4:12 b, Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 5:13-15; Amos 5:26; Amos 6:2; Amos 6:9-10; Amos 7:1 b; Amos 8:6; Amos 8:8; Amos 8:11-12; Amos 9:5-6; Amos 9:8-15. Marti, who questions more passages than any other writer, rejects (1) all references to Judah (Amos 2:4-5; Amos 3:1 b; Amos 6:1, in part); (2) certain historical additions (Amos 1:6-12; Amos 2:10; Amos 2:12; Amos 5:25-26; Amos 6:2); (3) theological glosses (Amos 1:2; Amos 3:7; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 5:13; Amos 8:8; Amos 8:11-14; Amos 9:5-6); (4) the Messianic promise (Amos 9:8-15); (5) some expressions and phrases of minor importance (for example, in Amos 3:3; Amos 4:7). President Harper, in the most recent commentary on Amos, considers as secondary Amos 1:1-2; Amos 1:9-12; Amos 2:4-5; Amos 2:12; Amos 4:7 b, Amos 4:8 a, Amos 4:13 a, d; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 5:18 b, Amos 5:22 b; Amos 6:2; Amos 6:9-11 a; Amos 7:1 d, 8a; Amos 8:2 a, Amos 8:6, Amos 8:11 a; Amos 9:5-6; Amos 9:8 c, Amos 9:9-15.
The objections raised against some of these passages seem so inconclusive and far-fetched that they require no refutation. Others receive due consideration in the comments. There are a few passages, however, that are rejected with such unanimity that they deserve more extended discussion. These passages are, Amos 1:6-12; Amos 2:4-5; Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:5-6; and Amos 9:8-15.
1 . Amos 9:8-15, is a picture of the glories of the Messianic age. Its authenticity has been questioned as persistently as that of any portion of Amos. The objections are due, in part at least, to the assumption widely held at the present time, though without good reason, that the pre-exilic period was without Messianic hopes. “In the exile, therefore, we must locate the beginnings of what we may call the Messianic hope” (H.P. Smith, Old Testament History, p. 338). For a discussion of this point the reader may turn to the introductory remarks on Hosea 2:14-23, and Introduction, pp. 35, 36; also Amos 5:15. In this connection are to be considered only the specific objections raised against the authenticity of the verses. (1) The linguistic argument may be omitted since the data are not sufficiently numerous or clear to be decisive (compare Introduction to Joel, p. 137). (2) The second objection may be stated as follows: The sentiment of Amos 9:8-15, is foreign to Amos; everywhere else he predicts utter destruction, here a bright future; such abrupt change would weaken the rest of his message. “Such hopes,” it is said, “would be natural and legitimate to people who were long separated from their devastated land, and whose punishment and penitence were accomplished, but are they natural to a prophet like Amos?” In reply it may be said: (a) The promises contained in Amos 9:8-15, are not for all. This the first hearers must have understood as readily as the unbiased modern reader can see it. Chapter Amos 9:8-10, states positively that only a remnant shall be saved, while “the sinners of my people shall die by the sword.” A promise following a statement of this kind cannot be understood as intended for all. But if intended only for the faithful, how can it weaken Amos’s message of judgment? Must it not rather prove an encouragement to the faithful and an incentive to some of the “sinners” to cast their lot with the righteous? (b) It is not true that Amos holds out no hope anywhere else. In Amos 5:15, he speaks of the possibility that a remnant may be preserved. True, Amos 5:15, is rejected by some, but on insufficient grounds, the chief reason being that its testimony is troublesome. But even if Amos 5:15, is omitted the testimony of Amos 7:2; Amos 7:5, remains. (c) Chapter Amos 9:7, cannot be the conclusion of the book or of a discourse. Harper retains 8a, and this provides a suitable close; but it does not follow that 8b-15 is not a part of the original; it provides an even more appropriate conclusion of the book. The subject resolves itself into the more general question whether or not all Messianic predictions are later attempts to modify the severity of the earlier prophets. Proofs to sustain this position are still wanting. (3) A third objection is based upon the expressions in verse 11, which seem to presuppose that the awful calamity has already fallen. But, it is said, there is nothing in the history of Israel before the time of Amos that could be described in such extravagant language; only the exile satisfies the language; hence the expressions must come from the exilic or postexilic period. Is this conclusion warranted? True, the English reads “is fallen,” making the fall a thing of the past, but the Hebrew has the participle, which leaves it undecided whether the event lies in the past, or in the present, or in the future. As a result there is no reason why the expressions of verse 11 should not be interpreted as referring to a future overthrow of the dynasty of David. That Amos expected a great calamity to fall upon Judah is clear from Amos 2:4-5; on the other trend, in view of his lofty conception of the character of Jehovah it seems incredible that he should rest satisfied with announcing judgment without a ray of hope for anyone. Other prophets did not do it. It is certainly worthy of note that Jeremiah and Ezekiel, whose denunciations were as severe as those of Amos, and whose conviction that Judah and Jerusalem would fall was unwavering, should draw, while the destruction of the city was still future, the brightest pictures of the restoration. But even in the days of Amos the dynasty of David had lost much of its splendor. Well might the prophet wish for a restoration “as in the days of old.” The division subsequent to the death of Solomon had robbed Judah and the dynasty of David of much prestige and power and was greatly deplored by Isaiah (Amos 7:17); again, only about a generation before Amos, Judah had suffered great humiliation (2 Kings 14:13; 2 Kings 14:15). In view of these facts the testimony of Amos 9:11, cannot be regarded as conclusive. (5) A further objection claims that a promise made to Judah exclusively has no place in a prophetic book intended for Israel. This objection rests upon a misapprehension. The promise is not for Judah exclusively, but for the “kernel” preserved out of “the sinful kingdom,” Israel. All that can be said is that the exaltation is connected with the dynasty of David; but this is an essential element of the Messianic hope from the time of David.
There may still be room for uncertainty, but the objections cannot be considered conclusive. Some of the chief difficulties would vanish completely if we could assume that these verses were not a part of the message as spoken at Beth-el, but that they were added when Amos put his prophecies into writing and prepared them for a wider circle.
2 . Amos 4:13; Amos 5:8-9; Amos 9:5-6, are similar in character and import and may be considered together. The objections raised against the authenticity of these verses are: (1) Lack of connection with their contexts. Amos 4:12, it is said, forms a natural conclusion; verse 13 adds nothing to the utterance. Closer study, however, shows that verse 13 is by no means without significance. If it does nothing else, it serves to secure a reverent hearing for the prophetic message (see in loco). At any rate, the fact that a passage may be omitted without disturbing the context is not sufficient reason for denying its originality. The same may be said of Amos 9:5-6. With Amos 5:8-9, the situation is different, for there the thought of the prophet seems interrupted, though this is denied by Mitchell. May not in this case the difficulty be due to a disarrangement of the text? (See in loco.) (2) A second objection is that “such ejaculations in praise of Jehovah’s creative power are not elsewhere met with in Hebrew prophecy before the time of the exile.” That similar ejaculations become more frequent in the exilic and postexilic period must be admitted (Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Job 9:8-9, etc.), but is this sufficient reason for denying the verses to Amos? It cannot be denied that the passages are in the style and spirit of Amos. Is it unthinkable that a prophet whose heart was deeply moved should burst forth in sublime doxologies? Certainly they serve an important purpose (see in loco). W.R. Smith finds no difficulty in accepting the passages as coming from Amos. “That such an appeal takes an ejaculatory form is not surprising under the general conditions of prophetic oratory, and in each case the appeal comes in to relieve the strain of intense feeling at a critical point in the argument.” Even a keen critic like Kuenen sees no reason for denying the verses to Amos. (3) G.A. Smith states an additional objection, which to him seems the strongest, in the words: “Jehovah is his name (which occurs in two passages) or Jehovah of hosts is his name (which occurs in at least one) is a construction which does not happen elsewhere in the book, except in a verse where it is awkward, and where we have already seen reason to doubt its genuineness (Amos 5:27). But still more, the phrase does not occur in any other prophet, till we come down to the oracles which compose Isaiah 40-66.” (In Jeremiah, where the expression occurs eight times, he thinks it due to later interpolations.) When we compare these phrases with other similar divine titles in the Book of Amos (see pp. 206f.) the weakness of this objection becomes apparent. Later writers who reject the passages have added no new arguments to substantiate their position. In view of this inconclusiveness of the arguments it may be safer to heed the cautious remark of G.A. Smith: “At the same time, a case which has failed to convince critics like Robertson Smith and Kuenen cannot be considered conclusive, and we are so ignorant of the conditions of prophetic oratory at this period that dogmatism is impossible.”
3 . To show the inconclusiveness of the case against Amos 2:4-5, it is only necessary to state the objections. The most complete summary of these is found in Harper: (1) The similarity in form puts the section into the same category with Amos 1:9-10, and Amos 1:11-12, and any doubt which attaches to these oracles must attach also to this. (2) The introduction of this oracle removes entirely the force of the surprise which the Israelites would have felt. (3) It is impossible to suppose that Amos would have treated Judah so cursorily, and in a manner so like that in which he treated other nations. (4) The terms of Judah’s sin are of a Deuteronomic character and of later origin. (5) The style is tame, vague, and weak. (6) The term Israel in Amos 2:6-16, includes Judah (Amos 2:10). (7) The concluding formula “saith Jehovah” is lacking. (8) The sin described as transgression of the “instruction” and the “statutes” of Jehovah was too indefinite, not so flagrant as to call for its introduction in this place; in fact, unlike any charges made elsewhere by Amos, and out of harmony with the formula “for… transgressions,” since it could not be specified as one of the three or four.
A few brief remarks on these objections must suffice: (1) The first objection is better discussed in connection with Amos 1:6-12. (2) The verses make a very appropriate transition from the surrounding nations to Israel. (3) There was no more need for dealing with Judah at length than in the case of the surrounding nations, since Amos was sent to Israel (Amos 7:15); on the other hand, it would be strange if a citizen of the south had been completely silent concerning his home. (4) The resemblance with Deuteronomy is not very close. A comparison with Isaiah 5:24, and Exodus 18:16, both older than the now generally received date of Deuteronomy, shows the weakness of the objection. (5) Objections (5) and (8) belong together. That the indictment is indefinite is true; but why should it be made definite? It was specific enough to serve the prophet’s purpose, which seems to have been to make specific charges only against Israel. (6) Does Israel in Amos 2:10, or anywhere else in Amos 2:6-16, include Judah? How else could the prophet have expressed himself conveniently, had he desired to confine himself to the northern kingdom? (7) Were this a later insertion, it is almost beyond doubt that an imitator would have added the closing formula. The omission may be due to a copyist.
4 . Amos 1:6-12. Several recent writers agree in rejecting Amos 1:9-12; to these verses Marti adds Amos 1:6-8. Wellhausen, one of the first to question Amos 1:9-10, advanced three reasons: (1) The indictment against Tyre is the same as that against Gaza. (2) Nothing is said concerning the other Phoenician cities. (3) The closing formula “saith Jehovah” is absent. Later writers have added two further objections: (4) The metrical structure is different from that of the preceding oracles. (5) If the geographical order prevailed as elsewhere from north to south verses 9, 10 would have to precede 6-8. Against Amos 1:11-12, Wellhausen urged: (1) It is strange that Amos says nothing about Sela, the capital of Edom, while mentioning Bozrah and Teman. The latter take the place of the former only in exilic and postexilic literature. (2) In the time of Amos Israel had no ground for complaint against Edom; the latter had suffered more from the former than Israel from Edom. A change came at the time of the exile. (3) The description of Edom’s crime is more vague than in the undoubted sections. To these objections Harper adds (4) the similarity of structure when compared with Amos 1:9-10; Amos 2:4-5.
Marti is the only commentator to reject Amos 1:6-8. (Cheyne, in Critica Biblica, rejects verse 8, because it is out of harmony with his Yerachmeelite theory.) The chief objection urged by Marti is the non-mention of Gath among the cities of the Philistines, which silence, he thinks, presupposes the destruction of Gath; but since this city was not destroyed until 711 (see in loco), Amos 1:6-8, cannot be earlier than 711, which is subsequent to the death of Amos. The similarity of Amos 1:6-10, with Joel 3:4-6, leads him to believe that the verses in Amos are dependent on Joel; consequently he makes the Amos passage even later than Joel, whom he dates about 400 B.C. He concludes: “The word against the Philistines is, therefore, a product of the activity of the scribes… of a later century. Amos, as a true prophet, was represented as having foreseen, like Ezekiel (Ezekiel 25:15-17), the fate of the Philistines, whose realization was expected at that time as a preparation for the dawn of the Messianic age.”
In reply to Marti it may be said that the dependence of the Amos passage upon Joel is by no means certain (see Joel, p. 136), and that the silence concerning Gath may be explained satisfactorily without assuming its destruction (see on Amos 1:8). Some of the objections against the other verses (Amos 1:9-12) are based upon unwarranted assumptions. (1) Why must Amos express all his denunciations in the same metrical form? Dissimilarity can be made a ground for rejection only on the basis of an unproved theory of the metrical structure of the prophetic books (see on Hosea, pp. 36, 37). (2) How can we know that Amos intended to follow the geographical order? (3) Must Amos use in every case the closing formula “saith Jehovah”? (4) The indictment against Tyre is not identical with that against Gaza. Why may not the two have been guilty of similar crimes? (5) In no case does the prophet mention all the cities of a land; only the more prominent are mentioned in each case. Tyre being the most prominent city in Phoenicia, its mention was sufficient. In Moab Kerioth alone is named; in Ammon, Rabbah. (6) If a prophet desired to describe the hostility between Edom and Israel during the greater part of their history rather than a specific outbreak of this hostility, could he have used more appropriate language than that of Amos 1:11? That Edom’s attitude at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem would justify the condemnation of verse 11 (compare Obadiah 1:10-14; Psalms 137:7) more than any other known manifestation of Edom’s hatred may be readily admitted; but it must always be borne in mind that we are not in possession of complete historical records concerning the relations between Israel and Edom. Nevertheless, there is enough said and implied in the Old Testament to indicate that at no time even when temporarily united against the same foes the feeling between Israel and Edom was very cordial. It is equally certain that the fault was not always with Israel (compare Numbers 20:14-21; 2 Kings 8:20-22). (7) The only objection remaining is the mention of Bozrah and Teman instead of Sela. There is no reason for thinking that Sela was ever superseded by Bozrah or Teman as the capital of Edom; but if at a later period Bozrah and Teman might be mentioned as representative cities of Edom, in the place of the capital, why not at an earlier period? Besides, Sela is mentioned but rarely in the prophetic writings, if at all (Isaiah 16:1; Isaiah 42:11); Cheyne considers the word always a common noun, and goes so far as to say that no city bearing the name of Sela is mentioned in the Old Testament. If this is true the objection vanishes; whether it is true or not, Sela may have been selected as the capital because of its location (Obadiah 1:3), though Edom had other more prominent cities.
In conclusion, it may be said that the question of integrity is one of evidence. The possibility of later insertions cannot be denied; but it is too much to say that the arguments advanced against the authenticity of any portion of Amos are conclusive. Later investigation may increase their force and add to their number, but at present there is still room for difference of opinion even among scholars.