Superscription. The superscription introduces the book and characterizes it as a prophetic book. It associates the book with Amos, sets its world in the monarchic period, specifically in the days of Uzziah and Jeroboam of the 8th century BCE, and provides additional information about Amos. The v. tells the readers that Amos was a herdsman, a sheep and cattle breeder
(see also 7.14
). As such, Amos was a relatively wealthy man (cf. Mesha, 2 Kings 3.4
). He was not a poor shepherd, as is at times erroneously claimed. He was from Tekoa, a Judahite town about 8km (5 mi) south
of Bethlehem. He prophesied concerning Israel: The meaning is ambiguous; it certainly points to the Northern Kingdom to the exclusion of Judah, but particularly from the
perspective of a postmonarchic readership, it points to “the LORD's people” (e.g.,
) who stand in a covenantal relationship with the LORD, and as such to both the former kingdoms, northern and southern, as well as to the much later intended readership of the
book. The temporal reference to two years before the earthquake (cf. Zech. 14.5
) enhances the verisimilitude, that is, the quality of appearing to be true or real, of the temporal frame and the reliability
of the authorial voice in the book, since the imagery in
may be understood as earthquake imagery. Further, since earthquakes were seen as acts of God, it suggests an additional divine
validation of the message of the book.
Motto and theophany. The book is unique in opening with a motto, a short, general thematic statement that is meant to (re)focus how the book should
be understood. Its general imagery follows that of many theophanic reports. It is common in these reports to depict a manifestation
of the deity's power as leading to an upheaval in the natural world. Further, the LORD is likened to a lion (cf. Hos. 5.14; 11.10; 13.7
), a relatively common motif in the ancient Near East. But one detail in the text is of utmost importance: The lion roars from Zion. The Jerusalem‐centric message is abundantly clear, and the book presents itself as a work that conveys the message of that
roaring lion from Zion, namely Jerusalem. Carmel is a fertile, mountainous area in the Northern Kingdom (southeast of modern Haifa), but the Heb word “carmel” refers also
to farmland (cf. Isa. 32.15
) or an orchard (and particularly to a vineyard). The general character of the pastures of the shepherd supports and plays on the broader meaning. The geographical reference is not meant to restrict the horizon of the text to
particular region of the Northern Kingdom.
Reports of announcements of judgment against the nations. The unit is kept together not only by its unifying theme, but also by a careful balance between repetition and differentiation
among the different subunits. Nations other than Israel and Judah are condemned for transgressions against other nations;
Judah for the rejection of God's teaching and Israel for actions against God's teaching. (The nations mentioned here are neighbors
of Israel/ Judah. Assyria, for instance, is not mentioned.) Rhetorically, the readers are sucked into this passage, eagerly
anticipating the punishment of their neighbors, until the prophecy is turned against them as well. While Judah and Israel
are condemned for covenant infractions, their neighbors are condemned for violating basic norms of decency.
The “it” in I will not revoke it is anticipatory, i.e., it points to the following decree of punishment.
Hazael and Ben‐hadad are the names of two kings of Aram Damascus (see 2 Kings 8.7–15; 13.22–25
). The territory of the kingdom of Aram Damascus (or simply Aram, as often in the Bible) partially overlaps that of Syria
today. Vale of Aven and Beth‐eden: Although Beth‐eden points to an area near the Euphrates River, the wordplay is clear; the first name means “valley of disaster,
nothingness” (or valley of delusion; cf. 5.5
), the second “house of bliss.” Within the book of Amos, Kir is the place of origin for the Arameans (see 9.7
). Its whereabouts are unknown, but 2 Kings 16.9
reports that the Assyrians deported the Arameans to Kir, after they put an end to the kingdom of Aram.
Gaza here represents all the Philistine cities. Three others are mentioned by name, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron. The same four cities are mentioned in the same order in Zeph. 2.4
Tyre, situated in Lebanon of today, along with Sidon, two of the most important Phoenician cities for many centuries.
Cf. Obad. 10–14
. Edom was situated in the area south of the Dead Sea. The last lines of the v. translated, “and destroyed his womenfolk,
because his anger raged unceasing and he kept his wrath forever.”
Teman and Bozrah are elsewhere situated in Edomite territory (cf. Isa. 34.6; 63.1; Jer. 49.7; Obad. 9
Gilead was a region north of Ammon. It was a disputed area that changed hands several times in the monarchic period. From the perspective
of the Bible it was Israelite territory, though not always under Israelite control. Rabbah, the capital of Ammon, is situated within the area of today's Amman. On the imagery, cf. 2 Kings 8.12; Isa. 13.16; Hos. 10.14; 14.1; Nah. 3.10; Ps. 137.9
The kingdom of Moab was east of the Dead Sea, within the territory of present‐day Jordan. Ruth, for instance, was a Moabite woman (see book of
Many Jewish readers understood the Teaching [Heb “torah”] of the LORD
as a reference to the Torah (see Hos. 4.6 n.
). The same holds true for, among others, Hos. 8.1, 12
. For the pair “teaching” (Torah, “torah”) and “decrees” or “statutes” (“ḥukim”) see, for instance, Deut. 17.19; Isa. 24.5; Mal. 3.22; Ezra 7.10; Neh. 9.13; 2 Chron. 19.10; 33.8; and cf. Exod. 18.16, 20; Lev. 26.46; Deut. 4.8
Who is Israel here? Does Israel mean only the Northern Kingdom? On the surface, the answer seems positive; for Israel is set
as a nation other than Judah, see vv. 5–6. V. 10
, however, which refers to the exodus, suggests a broad understanding of Israel. The text plays with the ambiguity of the
term Israel and allows and even encourages the readership of the book—which lives in the postmonarchic period (that is, the
Jews, the “remnant of Judah”)— to identify with the Israel of the book; they are their ancestors and their fate is important
to them. The main transgressions are of a social nature and involve the oppression of the powerless. Sexual and cultic behaviors
are also explicitly mentioned.
This begins the haftarah (prophetic reading) for the Torah portion concerned with the sale of Joseph, most likely reflecting
an interpretive tradition that Joseph was the just person sold for [the price of] a pair of sandals.
On garments taken in pledge, cf. Deut. 4.17; Job 22.6; 24.3–4
and contrast this element and the entire description of the sinners here with the one of the pious son in Ezek. 18.15–17
The summary of the LORD's dealings with Israel is meant to contrast the faithfulness of the patron of Israel (i.e., the LORD) with the long history of unfaithfulness of the patron's client (i.e., Israel). The readers of the book know that such a
pattern of behavior calls for the punishment of the client (Israel) and provides just grounds for punishment of the latter.
But is the LORD going to revoke the status of Israel? The answer of the book of Amos is a clear no.
Nazirites drink wine: The Nazirite vow forbade the consumption of wine or any derivation of grapes (Num. 6.3; Judg. 13.7
The description of the warrior men points at an upside‐down order caused by divine intervention. It parallels the one caused
by human intervention (i.e., prophets who do not talk, Nazirites who drink). The term translated as unarmed means lit. “naked” (see translators' note b).
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