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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Amos 5

 

 

Verses 1-3

1-3. A dirge.

Hear ye this word — Compare Amos 3:1; Amos 4:1.

Lamentation — Hebrews kinah. A technical term for a dirge in memory of a departed friend. It is not a spontaneous expression of grief, but a formal composition, long or short, artificially constructed. These dirges are composed in a peculiar meter, the so-called kinah verse, in which the lines are longer than ordinarily in Hebrew poetry, each consisting of two parts, of which the second is a little shorter than the first, the ratio being about 3 to 2. The lament is contained in Amos 5:2-3; Amos 5:3 giving the explanation of Amos 5:2. The kinah meter is observed only in Amos 5:2; it may be restored approximately in Amos 5:3 by omitting the introductory words and “to the house of Israel” at the close. While it is not possible to reproduce exactly the meter of the Hebrew, the following rendering of Amos 5:2-3 (with the omissions suggested) indicates approximately the character of the kinah compositions: —(a) Fallen, no more shall she rise, (b) virgin Israel, (a) Flung down on her own ground (b) no one to raise her.

(a) The city that goeth forth a thousand (b) shall have left a hundred, (a) And she that goeth forth a hundred (b) shall have left ten.

Virgin of Israel — “The earliest extant example of the personification of a nation or community as a woman.” Later such personifications became quite common (Jeremiah 18:13; Jeremiah 31:4; Jeremiah 31:21; compare Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 37:22, etc.; see on Hosea 2:2).

Is fallen — The prophetic perfect. The calamity is still future, but the prophet is so certain of its coming that he sings the dirge as if the nation had already died. The wounds inflicted are so grievous that she cannot rise, nor is there anyone to help her up.

Forsaken — R.V., “cast down.” The verb implies the use of force — flung down — and the abandonment to destruction (Ezekiel 29:5; Ezekiel 32:4). Amos 5:3 indicates the nature of the calamity that will reduce Israel to such sore straits; her fighting force is to be reduced to one tenth of its present numbers.

Went out — To battle.

A thousand — A city that can furnish a thousand fighting men must be of considerable size.

An hundred — A smaller town. Great and small cities shall suffer alike.

Justification of the judgment, and exhortation to repentance, 4-10. That Amos believed in the possibility of a universal “return” of Israel is nowhere stated or implied; that he hoped for some salutary effects of his preaching cannot be doubted; it is implied in Amos 5:15, and in the fact that he continues his exhortation to “seek Jehovah.” Who of the people would repent and who would persist in rebellion he could not know; therefore he must exhort all that he may “save some.” This he does in Amos 5:4 ff. At the same time his exhortation supplies the justification for the divine judgment; they have done the things that are not acceptable to God, and have left undone the things in which he takes delight. Notwithstanding the abruptness of transition from 1-3 to 4 the logical connection between the two parts is not difficult to see. In 1-3 the prophet bemoans the humiliation of Israel. He would have been unfit to act as a messenger of Jehovah had not the contemplation of this fate moved him to compassion and aroused a longing that the terrible calamity might be averted. In the anxiety of his heart he bursts forth in a new exhortation, hoping that, perchance, he may yet succeed in bringing at least some to repentance, and thus avert the doom. Harper interprets Amos 5:4-5 as injunctions given in the past, disobedience to which furnishes the reasons for the disaster described in Amos 5:2-3; and he makes Amos 5:6 the beginning of Amos’s exhortation. This interpretation is less natural; it certainly is no improvement over the one commonly accepted.


Verse 4-5

4, 5. The prophet begins again with the solemn “Thus saith Jehovah.”

Seek ye me, and ye shall live — Hebrews “Seek ye me, and live”; that is, If ye seek me ye shall surely live (G.-K., 110f.). Return to Jehovah will save them from the threatened calamity. To seek the Deity has a twofold meaning in the Old Testament: (1) To go to the shrine to offer sacrifice (Amos 5:5), or to consult the oracle (Genesis 25:22; 1 Samuel 9:9, etc.); (2) to enter into fellowship with the Deity in love and obedience (Hosea 10:12; Isaiah 9:13, etc.). In the latter sense Amos uses it here.

Seek not Beth-el — See on Amos 3:14. Nominally they went to the sanctuaries to “seek” Jehovah (see preceding comment); in reality their desire was to participate in the joyous festivals celebrated there under the guise of religion. Such worship could awaken no response in Jehovah.

Gilgal — See on Amos 4:4.

Beer-sheba — Also a very ancient sanctuary (Genesis 21:14; Genesis 26:25; Genesis 46:1). Israelites desirous of visiting it had to pass over their borders and the borders of Judah, for it was located in the extreme south, in the Negeb. The long journeys were undertaken probably only on special occasions. The character of the worship at Beer-sheba, in all probability, differed but little from that at the other Hebrew sanctuaries. Its ruins are represented by the modern Bir-es-Seba’, about fifty miles south-southwest of Jerusalem, about twenty-eight miles southwest of Hebron. These sanctuaries can offer no permanent refuge, for they also are doomed (compare Isaiah 1:29-31). It is difficult to reproduce the paronomasia which is very marked in 5b, Gilgal galoh yigleh and Beth-el (beth) aven. “Gilgal shall taste the gall of exile” (G.A. Smith). “Beth-el (the house of God) shall become Beth-aven (the house of naught).” Wellhausen offers a striking translation: “Gilgal wird zum Galgen gehen, und Beth-el wird des Teufels werden” (Gilgal will go to the gallows, and Beth-el will become the devil’s).

Come to naught — Hebrews aven. See on Hosea 4:15.

In Amos 5:6 the exhortation is repeated with a few changes. Jehovah is used instead of me, as if Amos were taking up the exhortation uttered previously by Jehovah himself. A new motive for obedience is introduced. Obedience will mean life; disobedience — what? (Compare Isaiah 1:20.)

Lest he break out — A forceful verb, equivalent to cleave, penetrate.

Like fire — The point of comparison is destructiveness.

Joseph — As the ancestor of Ephraim and Manasseh, the two most powerful tribes of the north (Hosea 13:1), Joseph stands here for Israel, that is, the northern kingdom (Amos 5:15; Amos 6:6). Hosea uses in the same sense Ephraim (Amos 5:3; Amos 6:4, etc.). House of Joseph — house of Israel — kingdom of Israel.

And devour it — An unexpected change in the original from masculine to feminine, as if from now on fire were the subject. This makes the construction harsh; therefore Nowack suggests a slight emendation: “lest he will kindle the house of Joseph with fire, which will devour.…” The conflagration will prove disastrous, for there is no one to quench it (Isaiah 1:31; Jeremiah 4:4). Jehovah alone could do it, but he is sending the fire.

In Beth-el — Literally, for Beth-el; LXX., “for the house of Israel.” While this is the thought expected here, it is not necessary to suppose that the present Hebrew text is incorrect. Beth-el, as the religious center, might represent the entire kingdom.

The transition from Amos 5:6-7 ff. is again abrupt, and the logical connection between the two parts has been variously explained. The most natural explanation is to regard Amos 5:7 a justification of the prophet’s earnest exhortation to seek Jehovah. The exhortation is needed, for at present they are not seeking him in a manner that will enable them to find him; far from it, they are doing the very things that will cause him to hide his face. As in Amos 2:7, the participial construction is used, which is reproduced correctly in English by the relative clause connected with the subject implied in seek (Amos 5:6): “You who are living such godless and immoral lives, seek Jehovah.”

Wormwood — A plant having a bitter juice (Deuteronomy 29:18; Proverbs 5:4), unpalatable and, when drunk to excess, noxious. In Scripture it is always used as a symbol of that which is unpleasant and bitter (Amos 6:12; Jeremiah 9:15).

Judgment — R.V., “justice”; here the administration of justice. Under normal conditions this is desirable and of great value, but they have changed its character so that it has become undesirable and bitter.

Leave off righteousness in the earth — More accurately, R.V., “cast down righteousness to the earth,” instead of “establishing” it (Amos 5:15). Righteousness — justice, equity (2 Samuel 8:15; Jeremiah 22:3). This they trample under foot, while they exalt violence and oppression. Primarily these are crimes committed by those in authority, but all have become corrupt (compare Isaiah 3:12), so that the description fits all.

The next two verses (8, 9) resemble closely Amos 4:13. Like the latter, and for similar reasons, they are denied to Amos (see Introduction, pp.

217ff). In this instance the objections derive additional weight from the fact that the interruption of the thought is more apparent, Amos 5:10 being the natural continuation of Amos 5:7. Whether from Amos or not, the verses, like Amos 4:13, present a reason why the listeners should receive the prophetic message with reverence and ready obedience. Assuming that they are authentic, two ways seem open for removing the apparent interruption in thought: (1) It is proposed to change the order, so as to read 7, 10, 8, 9, which would require no alteration in the text itself. True, this would make the transition from 10 to 8 abrupt, but no more so than at present, from 7 to 8. (2) Another possibility is to place 8, 9 after 6, in apposition to Jehovah in 6, followed by 7, 10. If this is done, 7, 10 cannot be connected very well with the preceding, but must be interpreted as introducing a new thought. To make the beginning more natural, it is proposed to prefix “Woe” (compare Amos 5:16; Amos 6:1): “Woe unto those who turn.…” A few commentators deny that the thought is interrupted. Mitchell, for example, seeks to show the logical connection between 7 and 8ff. in the following paraphrase: “Ye oppressors (Amos 5:7), know ye not that Jehovah, whose mercy ye have spurned, is the maker and ruler of all things (Amos 5:8), a mightier than the mightiest (Amos 5:9)? Therefore, ye enemies of righteousness (Amos 5:10), because ye trample… (Amos 5:11).” Absolute certainty on this point is impossible.


Verses 8-10

8. The seven stars — R.V., “Pleiades”; literally, a cluster, that is, of stars.

Orion — Hebrew, literally, a fool, a name that may embody an ancient mythological notion, namely, that this star is some fool who dared to rebel against the majesty of the deity, and who in punishment was chained in the sky. The two constellations attracted notice also among the early Greeks, partly on account of their brilliancy and partly “because their risings and settings with the sun marked the seasons.” The two represent the whole host of stars as a striking manifestation of Jehovah’s creative power (Job 9:9; Job 38:31).

Turneth the shadow of death — R.V. margin, “deep darkness.” The etymology of the word is not quite certain. If it is a compound word it is literally “shadow of death”; if it is derived from a root found in Arabic and Assyrian, but not otherwise in Hebrew, it means simply “darkness” — so LXX. Whatever the etymology, the darkness is the darkness of night, which Jehovah turns into day. With equal ease he turns the day into night.

Calleth for the waters of the sea — A poetic description of the giving of rain (Amos 9:6); the waters hear the divine voice and immediately they respond. The natural phenomena enumerated are all evidences of the supreme power of Jehovah. It is less natural to see in the expressions references to extraordinary phenomena, such as eclipses of the sun or the flood.

Jehovah is his name — With a similar statement close the doxologies in Amos 4:13, and Amos 9:6; here it should stand at the close of Amos 5:9. Is its presence at the close of Amos 5:8 another evidence of a possible disarrangement of the verses, or is Amos 5:9 a later addition either by Amos or by some one else? From the manifestation of the divine power in nature the prophet passes, in Amos 5:9, to their manifestation in God’s dealings with men.

That strengtheneth the spoiled — Better, R.V., “that bringeth sudden destruction”; margin, more literally, “that causeth destruction to flash forth.”

Against the strong — Who are able to withstand ordinary foes.

The spoiled shall come — Better, R.V., “destruction cometh”; as a result of the divine manifestation.

Against the fortress — The defenses in which the strong put their trust, and which in time of ordinary danger serve as a place of refuge. LXX., “he bringeth destruction” instead of “destruction cometh,” which is preferable.

Amos 5:10 continues the accusation of Amos 5:7, presenting other evidences of the corruption which impels the prophet to exhort so earnestly. They persecute those who take a stand for the right.

Rebuketh — R.V., “reproveth.”

In the gate — The principal public place in an ancient Oriental town, where court was held and justice administered (Amos 5:12; Amos 5:15; Deuteronomy 25:7; 1 Kings 22:10). The rebuke is that uttered in connection with the administration of justice, chiefly by the judge, who condemns unjust practices and silences false accusers, but also by anyone who rises in defense of the right (Isaiah 29:21).

Speaketh uprightly — In defense of those accused unjustly.

Abhor — A stronger word than hate.


Verses 11-13

11-13. Israel’s moral depravity demands speedy judgment. The sin which arouses the indignation of the prophet most is the oppression of the poor (Amos 2:6-7). In punishment the unjustly gained possessions will be withdrawn.

Therefore — Introduces the sentence, as in Amos 3:11; Amos 4:12.

Your treading is upon the poor — R.V., “ye trample upon the poor.” A figure of excessive cruelty (compare Amos 2:7).

Take from him burdens [“exactions”] of wheat — This corn tax does not refer to bribes given to corrupt judges, but to “presents which the poor fellahin had to offer to the grasping aristocrats” in order to secure permission to retain at least a part of their products (1 Samuel 25:7 ff.).

Hewn stone — In ancient times the houses of the Israelites were built of baked or sun-dried bricks; the use of hewn stone, a sign of wealth and luxury, may have been introduced during the prosperous eighth century B.C. The means which enabled the rich to build these houses were acquired by oppression (Micah 3:10). But Jehovah will drive them from the magnificent palaces.

Pleasant vineyards — The vineyards in the fruit of which they expected to take delight. In these expectations also they will be disappointed (Deuteronomy 28:30; Deuteronomy 28:38-39; Isaiah 5:8-10; Zephaniah 1:13; compare Amos 9:14). In order to secure a more perfect parallelism, consisting of three sentences, each having a protasis and an apodosis, Hitzig suggests as a better translation for the first two clauses, “Forasmuch, therefore, as ye trample upon the poor, ye shall take presents from him of wheat”; that is, you will become so poor that you will be compelled to accept alms from him who is now poor.

In justification of this sentence the prophet continues, in Amos 5:12-13, the description of the deplorable condition, the maladministration of justice receiving the severest condemnation. In Amos 5:12 the translation of R.V. is to be preferred: “For I know how manifold are your transgressions, and how mighty are your sins — ye that afflict the just, that take a bribe, and that turn aside the needy in the gate from their right.” The popular idea was that Jehovah took little or no notice of their conduct (Hosea 7:2); he assures them that he knows both the magnitude and the multitude of their sins.

Afflict — G.A. Smith, “browbeat.”

Just — See on righteous (Amos 2:6).

Bribe — The Hebrew word so translated is used ordinarily in the sense of ransom, the price paid for a life (Exodus 21:30). Numbers 35:31, forbids the taking of a ransom for the life of a murderer. In the light of this passage the words of Amos are thought by some to be a condemnation of the judges who allow rich murderers to escape capital punishment on the payment of an illegal ransom. It is not impossible, however, that here, as in 1 Samuel 13:3, the word is used in the more general sense suggested by the English bribe, an illegal gift presented to the judge to secure exemption from merited punishment of any sort. Turn aside the poor [“needy”] — Discrimination was shown against the needy, who were unable to offer bribes (Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 10:2; compare Isaiah 1:17; Exodus 23:6, etc.).

In the gate — See on Amos 5:10.

Marti thinks that Amos 5:13 bears every mark of a later interpolation, but without good reason, for the verse fits admirably, not as a reiteration of the announcement of judgment but as an additional indication of the hopelessness of the present situation. No longer are any attempts made to bring about a reformation.

The prudent — The worldly wise, who knows when he is well off, and who is interested primarily in his own welfare. There is no indication that Amos approves the attitude of these prudent men; he simply states a fact. He himself, caring first of all for the interests of the people, does not and cannot keep silent (Amos 3:8; Amos 7:15).

Shall keep silence — Better, does keep silent; does not lift up his voice in rebuke or exhortation, because he fears the hostility of the powerful.

In that time — R.V., “such a time” — as described in Amos 5:12.

An evil time — Not only because exhortation is futile, but also because personal inconvenience and suffering come to him who attempts to stem the tide.


Verse 14-15

14, 15. In spite of the apparent hopelessness, the prophet renews his appeal, declaring that, if the exhortation is heeded, Jehovah may yet be gracious to a remnant of Joseph.

Seek good — Practically the same as “seek Jehovah” (Amos 5:6; compare Amos 5:4). Jehovah is found by him who is anxious about doing good (Isaiah 1:16-17; Micah 6:8).

Not evil — As they were doing (Amos 5:12).

Live — See on Amos 5:4.

And so — If you seek good.

Jehovah, the God of hosts — See on Amos 3:13.

With you — To bless and protect.

As ye have spoken — See general remarks on Amos 3:1; Amos 4:3 (p. 207; compare Amos 5:18; Micah 3:11). The exhortation is repeated and explained in even stronger terms in Amos 5:15. A complete transformation is needed.

Hate the evil — Not uprightness (Amos 5:10).

Love the good — The morally good instead of an elaborate ceremonial (Amos 5:5; Amos 4:5), or actual wrongdoing (Amos 3:10).

Establish judgment [“justice”] — Enthrone it, instead of trampling it upon the ground (Amos 5:7). This phase of right doing demanded special emphasis in the days of Amos.

In the gate — The place of judgment (Amos 5:10), where it was most persistently outraged (Amos 5:12). If the warning is heeded Jehovah may yet save from utter annihilation.

Joseph — See on Amos 5:6.

Remnant — The prophet undoubtedly has in mind the remnant mentioned frequently in the prophetic writings, of whose future glorification speaks Amos 9:11-15. All the prophets are convinced of the certainty of judgment; and all believe that out of it will be saved a penitent, faithful few, the holy seed (Isaiah 6:13), which will grow into a new nation of God. Some writers suppose, though without warrant, that the use of the term implies that Israel had already been reduced, at the time of such use, to a remnant, that is, a fragment of its former prestige and power (see general remarks on Hosea 2:14-23, and Introduction, pp. 35ff.).

The prophet continues in Amos 5:16-17 as if the people had declared their determination to persist in rebellion, and he proceeds to announce once more the imminent doom.

Therefore — Because of their corruption and unwillingness to heed the warning. Again weight is given to the announcement by the accumulation of divine titles (Amos 3:13).

Wailing… mourning — For the slain (see on Joel 1:13). This wailing will be heard everywhere, in city and country.

Streets — Better, R.V., “the broad ways”; literally, wide places, that is, in the open squares in the cities, especially near the gates (Nehemiah 8:1), where the people were accustomed to gather.

Highways — Literally, as R.V., “streets,” of cities and villages.

Alas! alas! — Hebrew, Ho! ho! probably the usual cry of lamentation.

They shall call — The subject is indefinite — (he) shall be called (G.-K., 144f.).

Husbandman — Who is at work in the fields. He is called to mourn for some loved one. Evidently the judgment is expected to fall suddenly.

And such as are skillful of lamentation to wailing — Literally, and wailing unto those who are skillful of lamentation. In either case the verb “they shall call” must be supplied. The English translators are probably correct in suspecting the accidental transposition of two words. The skillful of lamentation are the professional mourners, ordinarily women, hired, whenever a death occurs, to sing songs of mourning (Jeremiah 9:17; Matthew 9:23). The word lamentation used here is a more general term than that in Amos 5:1.

Vineyards — Where joy and gladness are ordinarily looked for (Judges 9:27; Isaiah 16:10). The whole land will become a land of mourners. Why this lamentation?

Pass through — In judgment (compare Exodus 12:12).


Verses 18-20

18-20. The day of Jehovah a day of calamity and ruin.

Woe — Introduces frequently announcements of judgment (Isaiah 5:8 ff; Isaiah 10:1, etc.). In the light of Amos’s general attitude it becomes exceedingly doubtful that it “implies commiseration rather than denunciation” (Driver).

Desire — Literally, desire for themselves, because they expect it to be a day of triumph.

Day of Jehovah — See on Joel 1:15.

To what end — R.V., “Wherefore would ye have.” A question of amazement that they should desire that day. What good will it be when it does come? The prophet does not leave them in uncertainty as to what they may expect. Would it not be wiser to shrink from it?

Darkness — A picture of calamity and distress (compare Joel 2:2; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 8:22, etc.).

Light — A picture of prosperity and salvation.

The awful character of the day of Jehovah is described in Amos 5:19 by illustrations familiar to the prophet and easily understood by the people. Though one danger may be avoided, another is sure to come; escape is absolutely out of the question.

Lion — See on Hosea 5:14.

Bear — See on Hosea 13:8. From the one the peasant escapes to meet the other; from him he seeks refuge in the house, only to meet his doom there.

Serpent — Here is meant, probably, the small adder (Psalms 91:13; Isaiah 11:8), which sometimes hides in the cracks and crevices of old walls, and which “is one of the few serpents that manifest an aggressive disposition” (Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 308). Being disturbed by the terrified fugitive it comes forth to inflict a deadly bite. Amos 5:20 is an emphatic restatement, in the form of a rhetorical question, of the truth that the day of Jehovah is one of utter darkness and despair; there is in it not one ray of light and hope.


Verses 18-27

THE DARKNESS AND DESPAIR OF THE DAY OF JEHOVAH, Amos 5:18-27.

The new section opens with a startling woe upon those who desire the day of Jehovah. They will be sorely disappointed, for it will be a day of terror and disaster (18-20). It cannot be otherwise since, in truth, they are enemies of Jehovah. Their service is an abomination to him, because it is not in accord with his requirements (21-25). As a result the terrors of Jehovah, in the form of an exile, will fall upon them (26, 27).


Verses 21-25

21-25. The popular service is an abomination to Jehovah. The prophet represents Jehovah as out of sympathy with and even hostile to the popular worship. In what sense this is to be understood see on Hosea 6:6.

Hate,… despise — Exceedingly strong expressions of displeasure. The emphasis throughout is on the pronoun. Their practices are an abomination to Jehovah.

Feast days — See on Hosea 2:11.

Will not smell — R.V., “will take no delight.” The metaphor is based upon the primitive material conception that the Deity literally smelled the sweet odor of the sacrifice. He indicated his displeasure by refusing to smell it (compare Genesis 8:21; Isaiah 11:3; Leviticus 26:31).

Solemn assemblies — See on Joel 1:14; compare on Hosea 2:11, where a different Hebrew word is used. The prophet next enumerates the most common and most popular kinds of sacrifice which Jehovah despises.

Burnt offerings — See on Hosea 6:6.

Meat offerings — R.V., “meal offerings.” See on Joel 1:9 (compare Leviticus 2:1 ff.; Numbers 15:1 ff).

Peace offerings — Margin, “thank offerings.” Not the same word as in Amos 4:5. They are the offerings prompted by a desire to restore peace, to renew intimate fellowship with God, after, in some manner, it had become interrupted (Leviticus 3:1 ff; Leviticus 7:15 ff.).

Fat beasts — Only the choicest animals were used for sacrifice. The joyful music accompanying the sacrifices also was displeasing to Jehovah.

From me — Literally, from upon me. It is oppressing Jehovah like a heavy burden (Isaiah 1:14).

Noise — The use of this word implies a feeling of disgust. “The best music becomes mere noise when, for any reason, it ceases to appeal to him who hears it.”

Songs — Songs and music were undoubtedly a part of religious celebrations from an early period, but their exact nature among the Hebrews in pre-exilic times is not definitely known.

Viols — Our knowledge of musical instruments in ancient times is very fragmentary. The instrument named here is probably a harp-shaped instrument with strings. Josephus says that in his day it had twelve strings (compare Psalms 33:2) and was played with the fingers. Here it represents all musical instruments used in connection with worship (compare Encyclopaedia Biblica, article “Music”).

Amos 5:24 is to be interpreted not as a threat, that the righteous judgment of Jehovah will sweep over the land with the destructiveness of a flood, but as an exhortation. In the place of a meaningless ceremonial Jehovah desires a righteous life (Isaiah 1:10-17).

Judgment [“justice”]… righteousness — Practiced in the ordinary relations of life (see on Amos 5:7).

Run — R.V., “roll”; literally, roll itself; that is, manifest itself continually.

As waters — Great masses of water; a picture of abundance and continuity.

A mighty stream — R.V. margin, “ever-flowing.” The allusion is to a perennial stream. In nearly all the rivers of Palestine the flow of water is interrupted during the dry season. It is not to be thus with the practice of justice and righteousness; it is to go on unobstructed and uninterrupted forever.

Lack of space will not permit even to enumerate the different views held by commentators concerning Amos 5:25-26. The interpretation suggested here is the one in most complete accord with the context. In Amos 5:25 Amos points out, by the use of a rhetorical question, the absurdity of the people’s attempt to secure the favor of Jehovah by their heartless ceremonial worship; sacrifice is not an essential element in worship at all.

Sacrifices — Animal sacrifices.

Offerings — R.V. margin, “meal offerings.” The same word as in Amos 5:22, here all offerings not consisting of animals. The two cover all forms of sacrifice (Isaiah 19:21; Psalms 40:6).

In the wilderness — During the wanderings preceding the conquest of Canaan (Numbers 14:33-34; Joshua 5:6).

Have ye offered [“Did ye bring”] — The answer expected is an emphatic No! And yet, the prophet would say, during these forty years Jehovah was as near to you as at any time in your history (Amos 2:9-10). If so, his presence and favor cannot depend upon the bringing of numerous sacrifices (Jeremiah 7:22), hence you are mistaken when you expect your present elaborate ritual to secure for you the divine favor. Sacrifice antedates the time of Moses, and that some sacrifices were offered during the desert wanderings cannot be doubted. But this is not a contradiction of the statement of Amos, for his question does not necessarily imply a denial of the bringing of all sacrifice. The demands of the language are satisfied if his words are interpreted as meaning that during the desert wanderings the people did not conform to a ritual as elaborate as that practiced in his own day; and such interpretation satisfies also the demands of his argument.


Verse 26-27

26, 27. The sentence. The translation of Amos 5:26 and its relation to the context are matters of much dispute. Does it refer to the past, the present, or the future? Should it be rendered “ye have borne,” or “ye bear,” or “ye shall bear”? Is it a condemnation of past or present idolatry, or a threat of judgment? Is the text correct, or has it suffered in transmission? Are the words translated tabernacle and shrine common or proper nouns? Is Amos 5:26 to be connected with 25 or with 27? These and similar questions are responsible for the greatest variety of opinion among interpreters. To the present writer it seems best to connect Amos 5:26 with 27 as a threat of judgment, and to translate, with R.V. margin, “ye shall take up.” This is in harmony with the prophet’s reasoning and is supported by Hebrew usage. He believes also that the order of the words in LXX. is to be preferred, and that the first word, A.V., “But,” R V., “Yea,” should be rendered “Therefore,” which is permissible. The transposition of the words suggested by LXX. results in a more satisfactory connection for the relative clause and in a smoother reading throughout. Amos 5:26, then, may be rendered, “Therefore ye shall take up the tabernacle of your king, and the shrine of your star-god, your images which ye made to yourselves.” Some, taking greater liberties with the text, propose as the original, “Ye shall lift up the shrine of your king and the image of your god, which ye have made for yourselves.”

Tabernacle… shrine — Both these nouns occur only here in the Old Testament; hence the exact meaning is doubtful. The former resembles very closely the common Hebrew word for tabernacle, and it has been customary, from very early times, to regard it as a synonym of the same. With the meaning of this word fixed, the laws of parallelism required that in the next line a word of similar import should be read; hence the rendering shrine, though the most important of the ancient versions take the second as a proper noun. If this translation is adopted king must be understood as a poetic synonym of god (but compare Acts 7:43); and the thought is that they will be compelled to carry the shrines of the false gods with them into exile.

In more recent times, as a result of archaeological discoveries, it has become customary to interpret both words as proper nouns, names of Assyrian deities. In order to do this the vocalization of the Hebrew must be changed, though the consonantal text may remain the same. Schrader was the first to identify the first word — Hebrews sikkuth — with the Assyrian sakkut, a name of the god Ninib. Oppert recognized in the second — Heb, kiy-yun — the Assyrian kaiwan, the name of the planet Saturn. Ninib is the god of Saturn, and the two names have been found together on a Babylonian tablet (see Encyclopaedia Biblica, article “Chiun”). These identifications are accepted by nearly all modern commentators, and Amos 5:26 is now commonly rendered, “Therefore ye shall take up (to carry into exile) Sakkut your king and Kaiwan your star-god, the images which you made to yourselves.” This translation sees here an implied condemnation of Assyrian idolatry, which had been introduced into Palestine and had helped to corrupt Hebrew religion. The “host of heaven” was worshiped in Israel before the fall of Samaria (2 Kings 17:16); however, 2 Kings 17:31, places the introduction of Assyrian religious practices subsequent to the deportation of the northern tribes. That similar customs had been adopted before the time of Amos, as the above interpretation assumes, cannot be asserted with absolute certainty, nor can it be denied. The future may throw additional light on the interpretation of this much-discussed verse.

Amos 5:27 continues the threat.

Therefore will I — Better, literally, and I will.

Go into captivity — See Amos 4:3; Amos 7:17.

Beyond Damascus — The place is not named, but the expression implies a far-distant country. Armenia (see on Amos 4:3) was beyond Damascus, and far distant from Palestine. Acts 7:43, reads, “beyond Babylon.”

Jehovah,… The God of hosts — See on Amos 4:13.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/amos-5.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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