The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Amos 5

Amo 5:1

LAMENT: Heb "qinah". A dirge was a lament that was sung at the funeral of a friend, relative, or prominent person (eg, 2Sa 1:17-27; 3:33,34; 2Ch 35:25). The prophets used the dirge to prophesy the death of a city, people, or nation (Jer 7:29; 9:10,11,17-22; all of Lam; Eze 19; 26:17,18; 27:2,32; 28:12; 32:2). Amos announced Israel's death at the height of its prosperity under Jeroboam II.

Amo 5:2

FALLEN IS VIRGIN ISRAEL, NEVER TO RISE AGAIN: The human phase of the Northern Kingdom of Israel is now to be irrevocably closed.
Fallen" in funeral songs usually means "fallen in battle" (2Sa 1:19,25,27; 3:34; Lam 2:21).

NO ONE TO LIFT HER UP: No one came to her aid, even Yahweh (Jdg 6:13; 2Ki 21:14; Isa 2:6).

Amo 5:4

SEEK ME AND LIVE: Yahweh invited the Israelites to seek Him so they might live. Even though national judgment and death were inevitable, individuals could still live. Announcements of impending judgment almost always allow for the possibility of individual repentance (Jer 18:1-10).

Amo 5:5

BETHEL WILL BE REDUCED TO NOTHING: Or "to Aven" (nought, vanity, nothingness). A play on words: ref to Beth Aven (the other name for Bethel, given derisively: cp Hos 4:15; 10:5). "Aven" (nothing) often referred to the powerless (ie non-existent) idols of the Gentile nations (cf Isa 41:22-24,28,29).

Amo 5:7

YOU WHO TURN JUSTICE INTO BITTERNESS AND CAST RIGHTEOUSNESS TO THE GROUND: A total contempt for what was right (cp Pro 1:3; 2:9; 8:20; 21:3; Isa 1:21; 5:7; 28:17). Right conduct was the proper action, and justice was the result, but the Israelites had despised both in their courts.

Amo 5:8

HE WHO MADE THE PLEIADES AND ORION, WHO TURNS BLACKNESS INTO DAWN AND DARKENS DAY INTO NIGHT: Since Yahweh made the Pleiades and Orion, constellations of stars, He could bring His will to pass on earth too. The rising of the Pleiades before daybreak heralded the arrival of spring and the rising of Orion after sunset signaled the onset of winter. Since Yahweh brings light out of darkness in the morning and darkens the day at night, He could easily change the fate of Israel from prosperity to adversity.

"The prophet first draws the attention of Israel to the living God who stands behind nature, determining all its movements. The atheist is rebuked by this view of things. The thought of the prophet is full of God; nature does not deny God -- it demonstrates Him. God is. Those who identify God with nature until they confound the personal God with the laws and forces of the world, are also rebuked by the text. Nature is not God. 'He maketh the seven stars and Orion.' And the view that nature is independent of God is equally repudiated. On the contrary, the teaching of Amos is that God acts through nature. The people of Israel are summoned to look up and to behold the supreme, self-existent God, standing before and above the world, acting upon it, acting through it, with sovereign sway. He maketh the seven stars and Orion, and all the rest. But the argument of Amos goes farther than this; he argues that God rules in the midst of the nations just as He rules in the midst of nature, and we must see His hand in human affairs as we see it in the rising and setting of stars, in the ebbing and flowing of seas. He setteth up kings and captains, and casteth them down; He smites the splendour of nations into desolation; and again He restores their greatness and joy. The argument of the prophet proceeds on the assumption that a Divine purpose, a vast design, runs through all the evolutions of nature and all the movements of history' (BI).

Amo 5:10

IN COURT: Lit, "in the gate" (AV) -- the ANE scene of judgment and public witness: cp Deu 16:18; 17:5; 21:19; 25:7; Rth 4:1,10; Job 29:7; 31:21.

Amo 5:11

YOU TRAMPLE ON THE POOR AND FORCE HIM TO GIVE YOU GRAIN: Thru various "legal" devices, the rich got the better of the poor financially, until they were forced to "lease" their land to the rich. Then they imposed high rents and taxes of grain on the poor to keep them tenants on the land (cp, generally, Exo 23:2,6).

Amo 5:13

THEREFORE THE PRUDENT MAN KEEPS QUIET IN SUCH TIMES, FOR THE TIMES ARE EVIL: Life had become so corrupt that keeping quiet about these abuses of power had become the only prudent thing to do. If a person spoke out against them, he could count on feeling the wrath of the powerful.

Amo 5:14


THEN THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY WILL BE WITH YOU, JUST AS YOU SAY HE IS: Cp Num 23:21; Deut 20:4; 31:8; Jdg 6:12; Isa 8:10; Zeph 3:15,17.

Amo 5:15

HATE EVIL, LOVE GOOD: In the permissive and tolerant society in which we live, it is quite hard to hate evil in the way that we clearly should do in order to please God: Psa 34:14; 36:4; 37:27; 97:10; 119:104; 139:21,22; Rom 7:15,16,22; 8:7; 12:9; 1Th 5:21,22; 3Jo 1:11.

THE COURTS: Lit, "the gates", as in v 10.

Amo 5:17

"FOR I WILL PASS THROUGH YOUR MIDST," SAYS THE LORD: Earlier God had passed through Egypt with similar devastating results (cf Exo 11:4-7; 12:12,13).

Amo 5:18

Vv 18,19: Two hunters came across a bear so big that they dropped their rifles and ran for cover. One man climbed a tree while the other hid in a nearby cave. The bear was in no hurry to eat, so he sat down between the tree and the cave to reflect upon his good fortune. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the hunter in the cave came rushing out, almost ran into the waiting bear, hesitated, and then dashed back in again. The same thing happened a second time. When he emerged for the third time, his companion in the tree frantically called out, "Woody, are you crazy? Stay in the cave till he leaves!" "Can't," panted Woody, "There's another bear in there."

A similar kind of dilemma will someday come upon the godless. They will find trouble in the very place they run for safety (Amo 5:18). According to the prophet Amos, these people may be religious, and even long for the coming of the Lord, without realizing that His arrival will present for them the greatest problem of all -- judgment of their wrongdoing.

THAT DAY WILL BE DARKNESS, NOT LIGHT: As the pillar of cloud was darkness to Egypt, but light to Israel (Exo 14:20). God would judge His people before He blessed them: see Jer 46:10; Joel 3:1-17; Zeph 3:8; Zech 14:1-3. Cp idea, 1Th 5:3.

Amo 5:19

IT WILL BE AS THOUGH A MAN FLED FROM A LION ON TO MEET A BEAR, AS THOUGH HE ENTERED HIS HOUSE AND RESTED HIS HAND ON THE WALL ONLY TO HAVE A SNAKE BITE HIM: The coming day of the Lord would mean inescapable tragedy for Israel. The Israelites may have thought they had escaped one enemy, but they would have to face another. They might think they were secure and safe in their homeland, but deadly judgment would overtake them in that secure environment. There would be no safe haven from God's coming judgment.

Amo 5:20

WILL NOT THE DAY OF THE LORD BE DARKNESS, NOT LIGHT -- PITCH-DARK, WITHOUT A RAY OF BRIGHTNESS?: A brighter day of the Lord was also coming (Amo 9:11-15; Jer 30:8-11; Hos 2:16-23; Mic 4:6,7; Zeph 3:11-20), but first a dark one would appear. The Israelites wanted to hasten the good day of the Lord, but they wanted to forget about the bad one. This prophecy found fulfillment when the Assyrians overran Israel and took most of the people into exile in 722 BC. Likewise, the later tribulation period for Israel, which will precede her millennial day of blessing, will be similar to what Amos predicted here.

Amo 5:21

I HATE, I DESPISE YOUR RELIGIOUS FEASTS; I CANNOT STAND YOUR ASSEMBLIES: The Israelites enjoyed participating in the religious festivals and assemblies in which they professed to worship Yahweh. But He hated their worship assemblies, because the people were not worshipping Him from their hearts. They were only going through the motions of worship. And what good is such "worship" without at least the commitment to personal purity and holiness?

Amo 5:23

In vv 23,24 the singular pronoun "your" appears indicating that the call is for individuals to repent.

Amo 5:24

LET JUSTICE ROLL ON LIKE A RIVER, RIGHTEOUSNESS LIKE A NEVER-FAILING STREAM!: "Instead of a constant stream of blood flowing from sacrifices, and an endless stream of verbal and ritual praise from His people, He wanted these ethical qualities to flow without ceasing from them. The Israelites were inundating Him with rivers of religiosity, but He wanted rivers of righteousness. This is the key verse in the book since it expresses so clearly what God wanted from His people. It is a clear statement of the importance of moral and ethical righteousness over mere ritual worship. 'With Hos 6:6 and Mic 6:8 this text stands as one of the great themes in prophetic literature with regard to the nature of sacrifices and true religion. God is not pleased by acts of pomp and grandeur but by wholehearted devotion and complete loyalty' (Smith)" (Const).

Amo 5:25


Amo 5:26

YOU HAVE LIFTED UP THE SHRINE OF YOUR KING, THE PEDESTAL OF YOUR IDOLS, THE STAR OF YOUR GOD -- WHICH YOU MADE FOR YOURSELVES: "During the wilderness wanderings the Israelites had also carried shrines of their king. This may refer to unauthorized shrines honoring Yahweh or, more probably, shrines honoring other deities (cf Acts 7:42,43). 'Sikkuth, your king' probably refers to Sakkut, the Assyrian war god also known as Adar. 'Kiyyun, your images' probably refers to the Assyrian astral deity also known as Kaiwan or Saturn. Amos evidently ridiculed these gods by substituting the vowels of the Hebrew word for 'abomination' (shiqqus) in their names (Anderson and Freeman). 'The star of your gods [or god]' probably refers to the planet Saturn that represented Kiyyun (Mays; Stephen's quotation of v 26 in Acts 7:42,43 was from the LXX, which interpreted these names as references to pagan idols.) They may have carried pedestals for their images of various idols including astral deities. Many scholars believe the Israelites conceived of the golden calf as a representation of that on which Yahweh rode, a visible support for their invisible God (another view is that the golden calf represented Yahweh Himself). The bull in Egyptian iconography was a symbol of strength and power. Jeroboam I had erected bulls at Dan and Bethel in Israel and had revived this idolatrous form of worship. Amos pointed out that Israel had always mixed idolatry with the worship of Yahweh, so Israel's worship of Him had been hypocritical throughout her history. (Certainly at times the Israelites worshipped God exclusively and wholeheartedly, but throughout their history there had been these instances of syncretistic hypocrisy)" (Const).

YOUR GOD: LXX has "Rephan". Poss related to "Raphion" = the "giant", the constellation of Orion (v 8).

Amo 5:27

Amos 5:27.

BEYOND DAMASCUS: They did go into exile in Assyria, to the northeast of Damascus, after 722 BC. (cp Amo 4:3).

This becomes "beyond Babylon" in Acts 7:43. Implying a second captivity -- one for Israel (here), and one for Judah (in Acts 7).
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