Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges


§ 1. Personal life of Amos

Amos, as we learn from the title of his book, was one of the “shepherds from Tekoa,” i.e., it would seem, one of a settlement of herdmen who had their home at Tekoa, and who, as the word used implies, reared a special breed of sheep, of small and stunted growth, but prized on account of their wool. From Amos 7:14 it appears further that he was employed also in the cultivation of sycomore trees[66]. Teḳoa—now Taḳu‘a—was a village situated on a hill, six miles S. of Bethlehem and 12 miles S. of Jerusalem, in the centre of a barren and desolate region, bounded on the south-west and north by limestone hills, while on the east the land slopes away over 18 miles, first of wild moorland—the ‘wilderness,’ or pasture-ground, of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 20:20)—and afterwards of bleak an rugged hills—the desolate ‘Jeshîmon’ (1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:24)—down to the Dead Sea, some 4000 feet below. The sycomore does not grow at so high a level as Tekoa; and hence we must suppose that Amos carried on his occupation as a sycomore-dresser in some sheltered nook in the lower part of the ‘wilderness of Judah’ (Joshua 15:61-62), where the milder temperature of the Jordan-valley prevailed. Where Amos was born we are not, indeed, expressly told; he was at any rate bred, and lived the greater part of his life, in the atmosphere of the moorland and the desert; and the days spent by him amid these wild surroundings left, we may be sure, their impress upon his character, sharpened his powers of observation, inured him to austerity of life, made him the keen and unflinching censor of the vices which flourish in the lap of luxury.

[66] On the probable nature of his duties, in this capacity, see the note ad loc.

How Amos came to be a prophet he tells us himself. He was no prophet by education or profession: he did not belong to one of those prophetic guilds, of which we read especially in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 4:1, &c.), and to which young Israelites, especially if warmed by religious enthusiasm, were in the habit of attaching themselves. On the contrary, the manner in which he disclaims connexion with such prophets implies that they were not always men actuated by the highest motives: they were men who earned their living by their profession, they were often therefore not, in the strict sense of the term, independent: subserviency to their patrons was a temptation which they were unable to resist: they were too ready merely to echo sentiments which they knew would win them popularity, and to ‘prophesy’ in accordance with the fee that they expected to receive. Amos was none of these. He was a simple countryman, a man no doubt of a religious frame of mind, who often in the solitude of the moorland meditated on the things of God, but one whose regular business was with his flocks on the hills, or among the sycomores in the dale; and he was actually following his shepherd’s occupation at the moment when he became conscious of the summons to be a prophet,—“And Jehovah took me from after the flock: and Jehovah said unto me, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” In obedience to the summons, Amos left his native country of Judah, and visited the sister kingdom of Israel, then in the height of prosperity, to which it had been raised by the successes of Jeroboam II. He repaired to Beth-el, which was the chief national sanctuary, under the particular patronage of the king, and there, in the presence, we may suppose, of the crowds thronging the Temple, uttered the unwelcome words which roused Israel from its self-satisfied security, and sounded, only too clearly, the knell of its approaching doom. One after another, the discourses which he delivered closed with the same ominous outlook of disaster and exile; at last, when he named the reigning monarch personally (“And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword,” Amos 7:9), his words excited the alarm and opposition of Amaziah, the priest of Beth-el, who sought accordingly to obtain his expulsion from the country. It does not seem that this endeavour was successful: at any rate, Amos repeated his previous predictions in still more pointed and emphatic terms (Amos 7:17), besides uttering fresh prophecies of similar import (Amos 8:1 to Amos 9:10). Of Amos’s personal life no further particulars are recorded in his book; but in view of the well-planned disposition of his prophecies, it is reasonable to suppose that, after he had completed his prophetic ministrations at Beth-el, he returned to his native home, and there at leisure arranged his prophecies in a written form.

§ 2. Contents of Amos’s prophecy

The Book of Amos falls naturally into three parts, chs.1–2, 3–4, 7–9:10, with an epilogue, Amos 9:11-15.

The first part, chs. 1–2, is introductory. After the exordium (Amos 1:2), which describes under a fine image Jehovah’s power over Palestine, Amos takes a survey of the principal nations bordering on Israel—Damascus, the Philistines, Tyre, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, Judah—for the purpose of shewing that, as none of these will escape retribution for having violated some generally recognized principle of humanity or morality, so Israel, for similar or greater sins (Amos 2:6-8), aggravated in its case by an ungrateful forgetfulness of Jehovah’s benefits (Amos 2:9-12), will be subject to the same law of righteous government: a terrible military disaster will ere long overtake the nation, in which its bravest warriors will flee panic-stricken and helpless (Amos 2:13-16).

The second part (chs. 3–6.) consists of three discourses, each introduced by the emphatic Hear ye this word (Amos 3:1, Amos 4:1, Amos 5:1). The general aim of this part of the book is to expand and enforce what has been said with reference to Israel in Amos 2:6-16 (1) In ch. 3 Amos begins by disillusioning the Israelites. Jehovah’s choice of Israel is not, as they imagine, the unconditional guarantee of its security: on the contrary, He takes in consequence the greater cognizance of its sins (Amos 3:1-2). Hard as this judgement is the prophet does not pass it idly; for no event happens in nature without a proper and sufficient cause; and the appearance of a prophet with such a message is an indication that Jehovah has sent him (Amos 3:3-8). The heathen themselves can bear witness that the sins of Samaria are such as deserve judgment (Amos 3:9-10). The foe is at the door; and so sudden will be the surprise that of the wealthy nobles of Samaria only a scanty remnant will escape, and altars and palaces will be in ruins together (Amos 3:11-15). (2) In ch. 4 Amos first rebukes the ladies of Samaria for their heartless self-indulgence and cruelty: they also, when the city is captured by the foe, will be forced to quit their luxurious homes and join the procession of exiles (Amos 4:1-3): after this, he turns to the people at large, ironically bidding them persevere unremittingly in their ritual, since they trust to it to save them (Amos 4:4-5), expressing surprise that they should have neglected the five-fold warning—famine, drought, blasted crops, pestilence, earthquake (Amos 4:6-11), and ending with hinting darkly (Amos 4:12) at the more extreme measures which Jehovah will shortly be compelled to adopt. (3) Ch. 5–6 consists of three sections, Amos 5:1-17, Amos 5:18-27, Amos 6:1-14, each drawing out, in different terms, the moral grounds of Israel’s impending ruin, and ending with a similar outlook of invasion or exile. (a) In Amos 5:1-17 the prophet sings his elegy over Israel’s fall (Amos 5:1-3): God had demanded obedience, judgement, and mercy; Israel had persistently run counter to His demands (Amos 5:4-13): His last invitation to amendment he knows, too truly, it will only decline (Amos 5:14 f.); so he closes (Amos 5:16 f.) with a picture of the lamentation and mourning with which the land will soon be full, through the havoc wrought in it by the foe. (b) Ch. Amos 5:18-27 is a rebuke addressed to those who desired the ‘Day’ of Jehovah, as though that could be anything but an interposition in their favour. Jehovah’s ‘Day,’ the prophet retorts, so long as the people continue in their present temper, will be a day, not of deliverance but of misfortune; and Jehovah, instead of sparing them for their zealous discharge of ceremonial observances, will consign them to exile “beyond Damascus” for their disregard of moral obligations, (c) Ch. 6 is a second rebuke, addressed to the leaders of the nation, who, immersed in a life of luxurious self-indulgence, are heedless of the unsound condition of the body politic (Amos 6:1-6); exile is the goal in which their indifference will land them (Amos 6:7); a vision of invasion, with its terrible concomitants, rises before the prophet’s eye (Amos 6:8-10), which the nation’s boasted strength will be powerless to avert (Amos 6:11-14).

The third part of the book extends from Amos 7:1 to the end. Ch. 7–9:10 consists of a series of five visions, interrupted in Amos 7:10-17 by an account of the altercation which took place between Amos and Amaziah at Beth-el. The visions are followed, in each case, by longer or shorter explanatory comments; and their aim is to reinforce, under an effective symbolism, the truth which Amos desired to impress, that the judgement, viz.,. which he had announced as impending upon Israel, could now no longer be averted, and that though Jehovah had once and again (Amos 7:3; Amos 7:6) “repented” of His purpose, He could do so no more: the time for mercy had now passed by. The visions are (1) the devouring locusts (Amos 7:1-3); (2) the consuming fire (Amos 7:4-6); (3) the plumb-line (Amos 7:7-9); (4) the basket of summer-fruit (Amos 8:1-3), followed by a renewed denunciation of Israel’s sin, and of the judgements which, in His indignation, Jehovah will in consequence bring upon the land (Amos 8:4-14); (5) the smitten sanctuary, and destruction of the worshippers (symbolizing the nation), Amos 9:1-6, followed by an argument (similar to that of Amos 3:2), designed to shew that, though its righteous members may be spared, Israel as a nation cannot expect to be treated by a different moral standard from other nations (Amos 9:7-10).

Ch. Amos 9:11-15 forms an epilogue, containing the promise of a brighter future. The dynasty of David, though now humbled, will be reinstated in its former splendour and power (Amos 9:11-12); and the blessings of peace will be shared in perpetuity by the entire nation (Amos 9:13-15).

§ 3. Circumstances of the age of Amos

The period in which Amos prophesied is fixed by the title, the testimony of which is supported by the internal evidence of the book, and the mention in Amos 7:10-11 of Jeroboam (II.), as king of Israel at the time of the prophet’s visit to Beth-el. It is true, we cannot define precisely the year in Jeroboam’s reign in which Amos made thus his first appearance as a prophet; for though the same title states that this was “two years before the earthquake,” and though the memory of “the earthquake in the days of king Uzziah” survived till long afterwards (Zechariah 14:5), it is not mentioned in the historical books, and we are consequently ignorant of the year in which it occurred. But we shall hardly be far wrong if we place the ministry of Amos in the latter part of Jeroboam’s reign, i.e., probably, between 760 and 750 b.c.; for from the whole tenor of his book it cannot be doubted that the successes which gave Israel its prosperity and opulence had been already gained. The material and moral condition in which Israel thus found itself gives the clue to Amos’s prophecy.

The reign of Jeroboam II., though passed by briefly in the historical books (2 Kings 14:23-29), was one of singular external prosperity for the northern kingdom. Jeroboam II. was the fourth ruler of the dynasty founded (b.c. 842) by Jehu (2 Kings 9-10). Under both Jehu and his successor, Jehoahaz, Israel had suffered severely at the hands of the Syrians. Already under Jehu (2 Kings 10:32 f.) Hazael had succeeded in wresting from Israel all its territory east of Jordan; under Jehoahaz (b.c. 815–802) Israel was if possible still more humiliated; throughout his whole reign Hazael continued its vexatious oppressor, inflicting upon its armies defeats, in which (to use the expressive metaphor of the historian) he “made them like dust in threshing” (2 Kings 13:7), and gaining possession of various cities (ib. 2 Kings 13:25). The details given in the Book of Kings are meagre; but the terms in which the narrator speaks make it evident how seriously by these losses the strength of Israel, was impaired (2 Kings 13:3-4; 2 Kings 13:7; 2 Kings 13:22; cf. 2 Kings 14:26 f.). Under Jehoash (b.c. 802–790) the tide turned. Ben-hadad succeeded Hazael on the throne of Damascus; and from him Jehoash, encouraged by Elisha’s dying charge, recovered the cities which his father had lost (2 Kings 13:14-19; 2 Kings 13:24-25). Jeroboam II. (b.c. 790–749) was yet more successful. “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering in of Hamath unto the sea of the Arábah” (2 Kings 14:25), i.e. from the far north[67] to the Dead Sea, besides gaining other successes (Joel 3:28). The old limits of its territory were thus regained, and Israel could again breathe freely, and devote itself to the arts and enjoyments of peace. The book of Amos exhibits to us the nation reposing in the ease which had thus been won for it. But some years would obviously be required ere the full fruits of Jeroboam’s successes could be reaped; and hence we are justified in assigning the prophecy of Amos to the later years of his reign.

[67] See the note on Amos 6:2.

The book of Amos presents a vivid picture, of the social condition of Israel at the time. On the one hand, we see the material prosperity which Israel now enjoyed. Wealth abounded; and those who possessed it lived in self-indulgence and luxury. They had their winter houses and their summer houses (Amos 3:15); they had houses built solidly of hewn stone (Amos 5:11) and panelled with ivory (Amos 3:15); they had couches inlaid with the same costly material, upon which they reclined anointed with rich perfumes, feasting upon delicacies, drinking wine ‘in bowls,’ and listening to strains of varied music (Amos 6:4-6): there was many a ‘palace’ and ‘great house,’ we may be sure, in which, during these happy days of Israel’s prosperity, the sound of ‘revelry’ was often to be heard (Amos 6:7-8; Amos 6:11). The temples, especially that at Beth-el, which was under royal patronage (Amos 7:13), were well-appointed, and thronged with worshippers (Amos 9:1): pilgrims flocked to the principal sanctuaries, Beth-el, Gilgal, and even Beer-sheba, in the south of Judah (Amos 4:4, Amos 5:5, Amos 8:14) [68] tithes and other dues were regularly paid; voluntary offerings were ostentatiously rendered (Amos 4:4 f.); a splendid, and no doubt impressive ceremonial was punctiliously maintained (Amos 5:21-23). The nation felt itself secure: it judged itself to be under the special favour and protection of its God (Amos 3:2 a, Amos 5:18); it could contemplate the future without apprehension (Amos 6:1; Amos 6:3; Amos 9:10); it could say, in proud consciousness of its newly-won powers, “Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?” (Amos 6:13).

[68] Comp. also Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:1; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:11.

On the other hand, we see also the darker side of the picture, the moral deterioration resulting from the continuance of unbroken prosperity. The affluence of the wealthy was not obtained as the result of their own honest toil, but was wrung, by injustice and oppression, from the hard-worked fellahin, the poor cultivators of the soil, who lived penuriously, and had as much as they could do to keep body and soul together. The book of Amos is full of allusions to the sufferings inflicted upon the poor by the hard-hearted aristocracy, by remorseless creditors, by avaricious and dishonest traders, by venal judges. Justice was sold to the highest bidder; for the sake of some trifling article, the value of which he could not pay, the debtor was sold into slavery; the sufferings and misfortunes of the poor were viewed with complacency (Amos 2:6-8); in the capital itself might ruled over right, and the palaces of the nobles were stored with the gains of violence and robbery (Amos 3:9-10); even the women cooperated with their husbands in unscrupulous exactions, that they might have the means of indulging in a carouse (Amos 4:1); justice, so-called, was simple injustice; the claims of innocence were listened to with impatience; presents and bribes were openly demanded (Amos 5:7; Amos 5:10-12; Amos 6:12), violence reigned supreme (Amos 6:3); the rapacious merchants longed for the time when the sabbath or the new moon would be past, in order that they might resume their dishonest practices, and make fresh profits out of the helplessness of the poor (Amos 8:4-6). Immorality, moreover, was shamelessly practised (Amos 2:7),—often, if we may complete’ the picture by what Hosea tells us (Amos 4:13, 14), in accordance with a strange usage, common to many Semitic peoples, and introduced no doubt into Israel from the Canaanites or Phœnicians, under the cloak of religion. The ceremonial observances, so sumptuously and lavishly maintained at the sanctuaries, were no guarantee, Amos plainly indicates, of the moral or religious sincerity of the people (Amos 5:21-24). The nobles of Samaria, immersed in their own pleasures, were selfishly indifferent to the welfare of the nation of which they were the responsible leaders: they were satisfied with the external semblance of strength and soundness which it presented; they had no eye for the inner flaws which the prophet’s keener vision too truly perceived; and they were heedless of the future (Amos 6:6)[69].

[69] Hosea, writing a few years after Amos, draws substantially the same picture, though, as Hosea 4-14, dates from the period of anarchy and misrule which prevailed after the death of Jeroboam II., it contains even darker traits. Let the reader compare, for instance, Hosea 4:1-2; Hosea 4:10-14; Hosea 6:6-10; Hosea 7:1-7; Hosea 11:2; Hosea 12:7-8.

Such were the sins and vices which were rampant in Israel, and which Amos denounced with undisguised indignation and plainness of speech[70]. In eloquent and emphatic periods he lays his indictment against the leaders of the nation, and sets forth the principles and conduct which Jehovah demands. And not less distinctly does he indicate what the end will be. A nation in which there was so much moral unsoundness, and whose leaders were so deficient in the first qualities of statesmanship, could not be expected to meet danger with a firm front, or to pass safely through a political crisis; and a disaster, which wisdom and forethought might have averted, would, as things were, be only precipitated. Accordingly each section of his prophecy, almost each paragraph, ends with the same outlook of invasion, defeat, or exile[71]: Jehovah, he says, in one of the passages which speak most distinctly (Amos 6:14), is ‘raising up’ against Israel a nation which will ‘afflict’ them ‘from the entering in of Hamath unto the wâdy of the Arábah’; and they will be taken into exile ‘beyond Damascus’ (Amos 5:27). Already the Assyrians were not far off; and within a generation Amos’ words were fulfilled to the letter. Upon Jeroboam’s death party spirit broke out unchecked: Zechariah, his son, after a six months’ reign, was murdered in a conspiracy headed by Shallum ben Jabesh (2 Kings 15:8-10). There followed a period of anarchy, which may be illustrated from the vivid pages of Hosea (Hosea 7:3-7; Hosea 8:4), one king following another with the form but hardly the reality of royal power, and the aid of Assyria and Egypt being alternately invoked by rival factions (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9; Hosea 12:1). Shallum after a month was dethroned by Menáhem ben Gadi, a brutal and unscrupulous usurper, who sought to strengthen his position by buying the support of the Assyrian monarch Pul (Tiglath-pileser), 2 Kings 15:14; 2 Kings 15:16-20. Menahem reigned-some 8 or 10 years, and was succeeded by his son Pekahiah, who after a brief reign of two years was assassinated in his palace in Samaria by Pekah ben Remaliah and a band of 50 Gileadite desperadoes (ib. 2 Kings 15:22-25). Pekah was unfriendly to the Assyrians; and in Isaiah 7 we read how, allying himself with the old enemy of his nation, the Syrians, he joined them in an invasion of Judah, for the purpose of forcing Ahaz to join an anti-Assyrian coalition. But the onward movement of Assyria could not be checked: Ahaz threw himself into the hands of Tiglath-pileser, with the result that the Assyrian king invaded Israel and carried off into exile the inhabitants of the northern tribes and of Gilead (2 Kings 15:29). Almost at the same time Hoshea ben Elah, with the support and connivance of Tiglath-pileser[72], conspired against Pekah, and slew him (ib. 2 Kings 15:30). Hoshea, however, had not been many years upon the throne before he broke with his protectors, and contracted an alliance with So (or Sěvè), king of Egypt. Shalmaneser, who had succeeded Tiglath-pileser in 728 b.c., took measures forthwith to punish his rebellious vassal, and laid siege to Samaria: it held out for three years, when it capitulated, in 722 b.c., to Sargon. Large numbers of Israelites were deported by Sargon to different parts of the Assyrian empire; and the kingdom of Israel was brought to its close (2 Kings 17:1-6)[73].

[70] G. A. Smith points out the analogies between the age of Amos and the fourteenth century in England, the century of Langland and Wyclif. Then, as in the Israel of Amos’ day, a long and victorious reign was drawing to its close, city life was developing at the expense of country life, the rich and poor were forming two distinct classes, there was a national religion, zealously cultivated and endowed by the liberality of the people, with many pilgrimages to popular shrines, but superstitious, and disfigured by grave abuses; and then also prophecy raised its voice, for the first time fearless in England, in the verses of Langland’s Vision of Piers the Plowman, which denounce and satirize the same vices in Church and State, and enforce the same principles of religion and morality (Book of the Twelve, p. 42, cf. pp. 145, 162, 167).

[71] Amos 2:14-16; Amos 3:11; Amos 3:14-15; Amos 4:3; Amos 5:3; Amos 5:16 f.; Amos 5:27; Amos 6:7 f., 14; Amos 7:9; Amos 7:17; Amos 8:3; Amos 8:10; Amos 8:14; Amos 9:4; Amos 9:10.

[72] We learn this fact from the annals of Tiglath-pileser (Schrader, K.A.T.2 p. 260; or the writer’s Isaiah, p. 8).

[73] Cf. Schrader, K.A.T.2 p. 274; Isaiah, p. 44.

§ 4. Characteristic teaching of Amos

Amos is the earliest of the prophets whose writings we possess, and his book is a short one: nevertheless it is surprisingly full of acute observation of men and manners, and of teaching, at once profound and lofty, on the things of God. The shepherd of Tekoa, it is evident, was far more than might have been imagined, to judge from his birth and surroundings: he was no rustic, in the ordinary sense of the word; he was a man of natural quickness and capacity, able to observe, to reflect, and to generalize, conscious of the breadth and scope of moral and spiritual realities, and capable of expressing his thoughts in dignified and impressive language. And the circumstances of his position,—on the one hand the empty and silent desert world in which as a rule he moved, where every stir of life aroused to greater vigilance, and conduced to form a habit of instinctively marking and reflecting upon the slightest occurrence; on the other the opportunities for observing life and character which from time to time his occupation probably afforded him,—quickened, we may reasonably suppose, the faculties which he naturally possessed, and fitted him to convey the more effectually the sacred message with which he was entrusted. The contrast, which to us seems almost an incongruity, between the mental aptitudes of the prophet, and the humble circumstances of his life, is explained for us by Prof. W. Robertson Smith:—

“The humble condition of a shepherd following his flock on the bare mountains of Tekoa has tempted many commentators, from Jerome downwards, to think of Amos as an unlettered clown, and to trace his ‘rusticity’ in the language of his book. To the unprejudiced judgement, however, the prophecy of Amos appears one of the best examples of pure Hebrew style. The language, the images, the grouping are alike admirable[74]; and the simplicity of the diction, obscured only in one or two passages by the fault of transcribers, is a token, not of rusticity, but of perfect mastery over a language, which, though unfit for the expression of abstract ideas, is unsurpassed as a vehicle for impassioned speech. To associate inferior culture with the simplicity and poverty of pastoral life is totally to mistake the conditions of Eastern society. At the courts of the Caliphs and their Emirs the rude Arabs of the desert were wont to appear without any feeling of awkwardness, and to surprise the courtiers by the finish of their impromptu verses, the fluent eloquence of their oratory, and the range of subjects on which they could speak with knowledge and discrimination. Among the Hebrews, as in the Arabian desert, knowledge and oratory were not affairs of professional education, or dependent for their cultivation on wealth and social status. The sum of book learning was small; men of all ranks mingled with that Oriental freedom which is so foreign to our habits; a shrewd observation, a memory retentive of traditional lore, and the faculty of original reflection took the place of laborious study as the ground of acknowledged intellectual pre-eminence. In Hebrew, as in Arabic, the best writing is an unaffected transcript of the best speaking; the literary merit of the book of Genesis, or the history of Elijah, like that of the Kitâb el Aghâny, or of the Norse Sagas, is that they read as if they were told by word of mouth; and in like manner the prophecies of Amos, though evidently re-arranged for publication, and probably shortened from their original spoken form, are excellent writing, because the prophet writes, as he spoke, preserving all the effects of pointed and dramatic delivery, with that breath of lyrical fervour which lends a special charm to the highest Hebrew oratory” (Prophets of Israel, pp. 125–7).

[74] Comp. below, p. 116.

Amos is, however, not more conspicuous on account of his literary power than for the breadth of human interest, embracing both acute observation, and wide historical knowledge, which his writings display. Not only does he evince minute acquaintance with the social condition of the northern kingdom, he possesses information respecting far more distant peoples as well. “The rapid survey of the nations immediately bordering on Israel—Syria, Philistia, Edom, Ammon, Moab—is full of precise detail as to localities and events, with a keen appreciation of national character. He tells us how the Philistines migrated from Caphtor, the Aramaeans from Kir (Amos 9:7). His eye ranges southward along the caravan route from Gaza through the Arabian wilderness (Amos 1:6), to the tropical lands of the Cushites (Amos 9:7). In the west he is familiar with the marvels of the swelling of the Nile (Amos 8:8, Amos 9:5), and in the distant Babylonian east he makes special mention of the city of Calneh (Amos 6:2; comp. Genesis 10:10[75]).”[76] The circumstances to which he may have owed this range of knowledge are suggestively indicated by Prof. George Adam Smith:—

[75] See, however, the note on Amos 6:2.

[76] Prophets of Israel, p. 127 f.

“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 of familiarity with Northern Israel, the originals of his vivid pictures of her town-life, her commerce, and the worship at her great sanctuaries. One hour westward from Tekoa would bring him to the high-road between Hebron and the north, with its troops of pilgrims passing to Beer-sheba[77]. It was but half-an-hour more to the watershed and an open view of the Philistine plain. Bethlehem was only six, Jerusalem twelve miles from Tekoa. Ten miles further, across the border of Israel, lay Beth-el with its temple, seven miles further Gilgal[78], and 20 miles further still Samaria the capital, in all but two days’ journey from Tekoa. These had markets as well as shrines; their annual festivals would be also great fairs. It is certain that Amos visited them; it is even possible that he went to Damascus, in which the Israelites had at the time their own quarters for trading[79]. By road and market he would meet with men of other lands. Phœnician pedlars, or Canaanites as they were called, came up to buy the home-spun for which the housewives of Israel were famed[80]—hard-faced men, who were also willing to purchase slaves, and haunted even the battle-fields of their neighbours for this sinister purpose. Men of Moab, at the time subject to Israel; Aramean hostages; Philistines who held the export trade to Egypt,—these Amos must have met and may have talked with; their dialects scarcely differed from his own. It is no distant, desert echo of life which we hear in his pages, but the thick and noisy rumour of caravan and market-place; how the plague was marching up from Egypt[81]; ugly stories of the Phoenician slave-trade[82]; rumours of the advance of the awful Power, which men were hardly yet accustomed to name, but which had already twice broken from the North upon Damascus[83].… Or, at closer quarters, we see and hear the bustle of the great festivals and fairs—the solemn assemblies, the reeking holocausts, the noise of songs and viols[84]; the brutish religious zeal kindling into drunkenness and lust on the very steps of the altar[85]; the embezzlement of pledges by the priests; the covetous restlessness of the traders, their false measures, their entanglement of the poor in debt[86]; the careless luxury of the rich, their banquets, buckets of wine, ivory couches, pretentious, preposterous music[87]. These things are described as by an eye-witness. Amos was not a citizen of the Northern Kingdom, to which he almost exclusively refers; but it was because he went up and down in it, using those eyes which the desert air had sharpened, that he so thoroughly learned the wickedness of its people, the corruption of Israel’s life in every rank and class of society” (The Book of the Twelve Prophets, i. 79–81).

[77] Amos 5:5, Amos 8:14.

[78] See the footnote on Amos 4:4.

[79] 1 Kings 20:34.

[80] Proverbs 31:24 (see R.V. marg.).

[81] Amos 6:10.

[82] Amos 1:9.

[83] b.c. 803 and 773 (Schrader, K.A.T.2 pp. 215 f., 483): cf. before, in 843, ib. p. 210.

[84] Amos 5:21 ff.

[85] Amos 2:7-8.

[86] Amos 8:4 ff.

[87] Amos 6:1; Amos 6:4-7.

The breadth of Amos’ thought is apparent at once in the fundamental element in his theology, his conception of Jehovah. He is Jehovah of Hosts, i.e. (see p. 231) the God who has untold forces and powers at His command, in other words, the All-Sovereign (παντοκράτωρ), or the Omnipotent He is further the Creator, the Maker of Orion and the Pleiades (Amos 5:8), of the massive mountains, and the subtle wind (Amos 4:13): “He is the mover in all the movements which we observe: He turneth the darkness into the morning, and maketh the day dark into night; He calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth (Amos 5:8, Amos 4:13, Amos 9:5); His angry breath withers up Carmel (Amos 1:2); He withholds rain, sends locusts, mildew, pestilence, and overthrow (Amos 4:6-11); He touches the earth and it melts, and rises up and sinks (in the oscillations of the earthquake), like the Nile of Egypt (Amos 8:8, Amos 9:5). Secondly, He puts forth His power equally in the rule of the nations, moving them upon the face of the earth and according to His will, like pawns upon a board, bringing Israel from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir (Amos 9:7). And as He brought the Syrians from Kir, He sends them back whence they came (Amos 1:5), and Israel He causes to go into captivity beyond Damascus (Amos 5:27). It is at His command that the Assyrian comes up and overflows the land like a river; it is He that breaks for him the bar of Damascus (Amos 1:5), and launches him upon the sinful kingdom of Samaria, causing him to afflict it from” the far north to the wâdy of the Arábah, “the border of Edom (Amos 6:14). And the omnipresence of His power is expressed in ch. 1–2, where He smites one nation after another, all the peoples of the known world, and in such passages as Amos 9:8, ‘Behold the eyes of the Lord Jehovah are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth’; and particularly in the terrible passage (Amos 9:4 f.), where His wrath is represented as pursuing the sinners of the people, and plucking them out of every refuge, heaven, Sheol, the top of Carmel, the bottom of the sea, captivity among the nations; for He sets His eyes upon them for evil and not for good. And His glance penetrates equally into the spirit of men, for ‘He declareth unto man what is his meditation’ (Amos 4:13)[88].”

[88] A. B. Davidson, “The Prophet Amos,” in the Expositor, March 1887, p. 172 f.

The practical applications which Amos makes of the principle of Jehovah’s sovereignty are strongly opposed to what were the popular views. The people, headed by their leaders, were singularly blind to the signs of the times. The successes of Jeroboam II. Dazzled them: they took it as a visible token that Jehovah was on their side; His favour, they further supposed, was definitely secured by the sacrifices and other offerings which streamed into the various sanctuaries: for themselves, they were immersed in pleasure, they were heedless of their own moral shortcomings, they had no thought for the difficulties which at any moment might arise in consequence of the action of Assyria; they trusted to an approaching “Day of Jehovah” to rid them of all their foes (Amos 5:18). The source of this infatuated condition of the nation lay in two fundamental misapprehensions of the character of Jehovah. They thought of Him too exclusively as interested solely in the affairs of Israel; and they neglected, entirely His ethical character. Both these misapprehensions Amos sets himself to combat. To the first he opposes the truth that Jehovah is God of the whole world, and not of Israel alone[89]. Jehovah cannot be thought of as having no interest or purpose beyond Israel. If He brought Israel up out of Egypt, He none the less brought the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir (Amos 9:7). It is He also who ‘raises up’ (Amos 6:14) the Assyrian power; and the real question is not what He will do on behalf of Israel alone, but how He will use this power in His government of the world at large. And that depends upon ethical grounds. Jehovah deals with the nations of the earth according to their righteousness; and punishes their sins without partiality. This is the gist of the survey of nations in ch. 1–2. On each its doom is passed, because the measure of its transgressions is full; and of each some representative offence is then signalized. Jehovah, then, evinces a practical regard not for Israel only, but for its neighbours as well. And these nations, it is to be observed, are judged not for offences committed specifically against Israel’s God, but because they have broken some dictate of universal morality, have violated some precept of the natural law of humanity and mercy written on men’s hearts[90]. Damascus and Ammon are condemned for their inhuman treatment of the Gileadites; the Phœnicians and Philistines for the part taken by them in the barbarous slave-trade; Edom for the unrelenting blood-feud with which he persecutes his brother; Moab, for a sin which had no reference to Israel, but was a grave offence against natural piety, the violation of the bones of the king of Edom. And He judges Israel by the same standard. “The prophet’s opposition to the popular conception is pointedly formulated in a paradox, which he prefixes as a theme to the principal section of his book (Amos 3:2):—‘Us alone does Jehovah know,’ say the Israelites, drawing from this the inference that He is on their side, and of course must take their part. ‘You only do I know,’ Amos represents Jehovah as saying, ‘therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities[91]’.” Jehovah, then, makes no exception in Israel’s favour on account of its special relation to Himself: on the contrary, He judges it, if possible, the more promptly and severely. He treats it with no greater regard than the distant Cushites (Amos 9:7). Israel is bound by exactly the same principles of common morality which are binding upon other nations; and Jehovah will be Israel’s God only in so far as that same morality is practised in its midst. The elementary duties of honesty, justice, integrity, purity, humanity, are what He demands: the observances of religion, when offered in their stead, He indignantly rejects (Amos 5:21-24). And in the practice of these elementary duties of morality, Israel is sadly deficient. Amos’ entire book may be described as an indictment of the nation for their persistent disregard of the moral law: its motto, as Wellhausen has truly remarked, might well be the verse just quoted (Amos 3:2). And so Jehovah will not stand by Israel to defend it, as the common people, and even their leaders, fondly supposed; His “Day,” when it appears, will be “darkness, and not light, even very dark, and no brightness in it” (Amos 5:20). His moral being will vindicate itself in a terrible manifestation of righteous judgement, and Israel will be consigned into exile “beyond Damascus” (Amos 5:27).

[89] The title ‘God of Israel,’ so common in many of the prophets, is never, it has been observed, used by Amos.

[90] W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. 134.

[91] Wellhausen, Hist. of Israel, p. 471.

The people, as has just been said, were sufficiently ready to discharge, in place of moral duties, the external offices of religion. In their eyes moral deficiencies were a matter of indifference, provided the formal routine of festival-keeping and sacrifice was properly performed. It was this, they persuaded themselves, which assured Jehovah’s favour, and it was something which was far easier to observe than the restraints of morality. The more gifts they offered to Jehovah, the more frequently they made pilgrimages to His shrines, the better satisfied they supposed He would be; their moral delinquencies He could afford to disregard. This strange delusion was deeply rooted in Israel’s heart: all the great prophets attack it[92]; and Amos, the first of the canonical prophets, as forcibly and unsparingly as any. While on the one hand he exposes relentlessly the avarice, the dishonesty, the inhumanity, the immorality, so rampant in the nation, on the other hand he points derisively to the zeal with which they practise ceremonial observances: it is but “transgression” (Amos 4:4): sacrifice, least of all sacrifice offered by impure hands, is not the unconditional avenue to Jehovah’s favour (Amos 5:25): He ‘hates,’ He ‘rejects’ Israel’s pilgrimages; He will pay no regard to their offerings, He even shuts His ear to their praises (Amos 5:21-23). And because, in spite of all warnings (Amos 4:6-11), Israel still refuses to respond to these His demands, He can contemplate with equanimity the ruin of its sanctuaries (Amos 3:14, Amos 5:5, Amos 7:9); He can even command it Himself, and pursue to death the scattered worshippers wherever they may hide themselves, for He sets His eye upon them “for evil, and not for good” (Amos 9:1-4).

[92] See the note on Amos 5:27, at the end.

There is a note of austerity in the terms in which Amos speaks. It is true, the message which he bears is a hard one: but his younger contemporary Hosea had substantially the same message to bring; and yet there is a marked difference in the tone in which he delivers it Hosea’s whole soul goes out in affection and sympathy for his people; he would give his all to reclaim it, if only it were possible; every line, almost, testifies to the reluctance with which he sadly owns the truth that the prospect of amendment is hopeless. Hosea’s own nature is one of love; and Jehovah is to him pre-eminently the God of love, who has cherished his ‘son’ with tenderness and affection, who is grieved by the coldness with which His love has been requited, but who still loves His nation even at the time when He finds Himself obliged to cast it from Him[93]. Hosea has as clear a sense as Amos has both of Israel’s shortcomings (e.g. Amos 4:1-2), and of Jehovah’s claims; but his recognition of both is tinged throughout by a deep vein of sympathy and emotion. With Amos all this is different. With Amos God is the God of righteousness: he himself is the apostle of righteousness; he is the preacher, whose moral nature is moved by the spectacle of outraged right, but who does not unbend in affection or sympathy: on the contrary, he announces Israel’s doom with the austere severity of the judge. Partly this may have been due to the circumstances of Amos’ life: for he visited Israel as an outsider, and could not therefore feel the ties of kindred as Hosea felt them; he had, moreover, all his life been breathing the clear air of the moor, in which he had learnt to appreciate the rough honesty of the shepherd, but had discovered no excuse for the vices of the wealthy. But chiefly, no doubt, the strain in which Amos spoke was due to a difference of disposition. Amos’ nature was not a sensitive or emotional one; it was not one in which the currents of feeling ran deep: it was one which was instinct simply with a severe sense of right And so, though he sings his elegy over Israel’s fall (Amos 5:2), and twice intercedes on its behalf, when he becomes conscious that the failing nation is unable to cope effectually with calamity (Amos 7:2; Amos 7:5; comp. also Amos 5:15), as a rule he delivers unmoved his message of doom. Amos and Hosea thus supplement each other; and a comparison of their writings furnishes an instructive illustration of the manner in which widely different natural temperaments may be made the organs of the same Divine Spirit, and how each, just in virtue of its difference from the other, may be thereby the better adapted to set forth a different aspect of the truth[94].

[93] See W. R. Smith, Prophets, Lect. iv.; or Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, pp. 117–138.

[94] In a later generation Jeremiah differs in temperament from Isaiah very much as Hosea differs from Amos.

Amos is a spiritual prophet. It is true, he does not polemize against the material representations of Jehovah, the calves of Beth-el, with the vehemence of Hosea (Hosea 8:4-6; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 13:2); but he clearly apprehends the true essence of a spiritual religion. The question of the day was, not whether Baal or Jehovah was to be Israel’s God, but what was the true conception to be formed of Jehovah and His requirements? Was He to be conceived as a God who delighted in the service which Israel rendered Him, an unspiritual worship, the essence of which lay in a routine of ritual observances, in which the morality of the worshipper was a matter of indifference, and which was infused, certainly to some extent, perhaps largely, with heathen elements? Or was He to be conceived as “a purely spiritual Being, to whom sacrifices of flesh were inappreciable, and whose sole desire was righteousness, being Himself, as might be said, the very ethical conception impersonated”? The antagonism between these two conceptions is unambiguously felt and expressed by Amos. Jehovah distinguishes between the true worship of Himself and that offered to Him at Israel’s sanctuaries: “Seek ye me, and ye shall live: but seek not Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and cross not over to Beer-sheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Beth-el shall come to trouble” (Amos 5:4-5). If Jehovah be ‘sought’ rightly, life is the reward: if he be sought as too many of the Israelites sought him, the ultimate issue can be but disaster. The prophet’s reprobation of the worship carried on at the sanctuaries is also apparent from the complacency with which he views their approaching ruin (Amos 3:14, Amos 4:4, Amos 7:9, Amos 8:14, Amos 9:1): the spirit of the worship, the temper of the worshippers, the conception of Deity which they had in worshipping, and to which they offered their worship, all were equally at fault[95]. How Jehovah may be ‘sought’ in the way that He approves may be sufficiently inferred from the practices which Amos represents Him as disapproving; but it is also indicated explicitly. “Seek good and not evil, that ye may live; and so Jehovah, the God of hosts, will be with you, as ye say. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgement in the gate: it may be that Jehovah, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:14-15). A just and humane life was the sum of Jehovah’s requirements (cf. Micah 6:8); but few and simple as those requirements seemed to be, they remained for Israel an unattainable ideal.

[95] Comp. further Paton, Journ. of Bibl. Lit., 1894, p. 87 ff.

It remains only to summarize briefly the permanent lessons of the Book. The Book of Amos teaches, with singular clearness, eloquence, and force, truths which can never become superfluous or obsolete. “The truths that justice between man and man is one of the divine foundations of society; that privilege implies responsibility, and that failure to recognise responsibility will surely bring punishment; that nations, and by analogy individuals, are bound to live up to that measure of light and knowledge which has been granted to them; that the most elaborate worship is but an insult to God when offered to God by those who have no mind to conform their wills and conduct to His requirements:—these are elementary but eternal truths[96].”

[96] Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, p. 104 f. On the influence of Assyria in widening the outlook of the prophets, and in developing and strengthening their theological convictions, see G. A. Smith, The Twelve Prophets, pp. 50–58, 92; and comp. Wellh., Hist., p. 472.

§ 5. Some literary aspects of Amos’ book

In view of the early date of Amos, it is worth noticing that his book implies the existence of a recognized theological terminology, and of familiar ideas to which he could appeal. The prophetic style, which in his hands appears already fully matured, had no doubt been formed gradually: among the prophets to whom he alludes (Amos 2:11, Amos 3:7) may well have been some who were his literary predecessors. As regards the earlier history of Israel, Amos knows of the traditions which described Edom as Israel’s “brother” (Amos 1:11), and told of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Amos 4:11); he mentions the Exodus (Amos 2:10, Amos 9:7), the traditional ‘forty years’ in the wilderness (Amos 2:10, Amos 5:25), the gigantic stature of the Amorites (Amos 2:9-10 : cf. Numbers 13:28; Numbers 13:32-33), whom Jehovah destroyed from before the Israelites; he alludes to the prophets and Nazirites who had been raised up in former years, to provide Israel with moral and spiritual instruction, and to be examples of abstemious and godly living (Amos 2:11); he knows of the fame of David as a musician (Amos 6:5), and alludes to his conquests of the nations bordering on Israel (Amos 9:11 f.; cf. 2 Samuel 8:1-14)[97]. He is moreover acquainted with various established religious usages and institutions. Thus he alludes to the “direction” (Tôrâh) and “statutes” of Jehovah, which he charges Judah with rejecting; to (sacred) “slaughterings” (Amos 4:4, Amos 5:25), or as they are termed in Joel 3:22, “peace-offerings”; to tithes (Amos 4:4), thanksgiving-and freewill-offerings (Amos 4:5); to a law prohibiting the offering of leaven upon the altar (ibid.; cf. Exodus 23:18); to pilgrimages, solemn religious gatherings, burnt-offerings, meal-offerings, songs and lyres, heard in the services of the sanctuaries (Amos 5:21-23; Amos 5:25, cf. Amos 9:1); to the distinction between “clean” and “unclean” (Amos 7:17; cf. Hosea 9:3); to new moons and sabbaths, as days marked by abstinence from secular labour (Amos 8:5)[98]. The general tenor of Amos’ teaching (see the note on Amos 2:4, and p. 231) makes it probable that by Jehovah’s “direction” (Tôrâh, law) he means, at least principally, spiritual and moral teaching, uttered whether by priests or prophets, in Jehovah’s name[99]; the “statutes” will have been, no doubt, ordinances of elementary morality, and of civil righteousness, such as those embodied in the Decalogue, and the “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 20:1-17, Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33; cf. Exodus 34:10-26), the neglect of which by Israel he himself so bitterly deplores, and which, hardly a generation later, Isaiah shews to have been scarcely less neglected in Judah (Isaiah 1:16-23).

[97] Whether Amos drew his information on the facts mentioned in the Pentateuch from a written source, or from oral tradition, cannot be definitely determined: the expression in Amos 4:11, for example, is a stereotyped one (see the note), and we do not know who first coined it; there is however a verbal coincidence between Amos 2:9 and Joshua 24:8 (“E”), which deserves to be noted. But (upon independent grounds) it is not questioned that certainly J, and probably E as well, was in existence before Amos’ time. The collection of laws included in the “Book of the Covenant” (Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33) is also certainly older than the age of Amos.

[98] The bearing of some of these allusions on the date of the priestly parts of the Hexateuch (“P”) is a subject which cannot be properly considered by itself, but forms part of a larger question, the consideration of which does not belong to a commentary upon Amos. The writer must be content therefore to refer to what he has said upon it (in connexion with similar allusions elsewhere) in his Introduction to the Literature of the O.T. p. 136 (ed. 6, p. 143). There can be no doubt that many of the institutions and usages codified in P were established in Amos’ time; but it is a question whether all were, and whether such as were then established were observed with the particular formalities which they exhibit as codified in P.

[99] It is, of course, clear from allusions in Deut. (Deuteronomy 24:8), and elsewhere, that some traditional lore relating to ceremonial usages was possessed by the priests: the only point that is here doubtful is whether it is alluded to by Amos in Amos 2:4.

A law in the “Book of the Covenant,” which is presupposed with tolerable distinctness by Amos, is Exodus 22:26 f. (the garment of a poor debtor, taken in pledge, to be restored at nightfall); cf. Amos 2:8, where the heartless creditors are described as stretching themselves on garments taken in pledge beside every altar. Amos’ denunciations of the cruelty of the upper classes towards the poor, of bribery and the perversion of justice, in passages such as Amos 2:6-7, Amos 4:1, Amos 5:7; Amos 5:10 ff., Amos 6:12, Amos 8:14 are also thoroughly in the spirit of Exodus 22:21-24; Exodus 23:6-9; but the terms in which he speaks are not special enough to establish a definite allusion; and he might have adopted similar language, from his own natural sense of right, even had no such laws been known to him. In Amos 2:7 the use of the expression ‘to profane my holy name’ perhaps shews an acquaintance with the collection of moral precepts which now forms part of the “Law of Holiness” (Leviticus 17-26; see Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 19:12; Leviticus 20:3; Leviticus 21:6; Leviticus 22:2; Leviticus 22:33); but possibly this coincidence is due to accident. Commercial dishonesty is condemned alike in Leviticus 19:35 f. and in Amos 8:5 f.: there is no law on this subject in the Book of the Covenant.

The style of Amos possesses high literary merit. His language—with a few insignificant exceptions, due probably to copyists—is pure, his syntax is idiomatic, his sentences are smoothly constructed and clear. The even flow of his discourse contrasts remarkably with the short, abrupt clauses which his contemporary Hosea loves. Amos’ literary power is shewn 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 2:7 ff.)[100], Amos 4:6-11 (the five-fold refrain), and in the visions, Amos 7:1; Amos 7:4; Amos 7:7, Amos 8:1; 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. In his choice of figures he is evidently influenced by the surroundings amid which his life was passed. “The significance of the phenomena of nature, familiar to one whose life was spent in the open air, impressed itself deeply upon him (Amos 4:13, Amos 5:8, Amos 9:5-6).” The blighted pastures and mountain-forests (Amos 1:2); “the wagon loaded with sheaves (Amos 2:13); the young lion in its den growling over its prey (Amos 3:5 b)”; the net springing up and entrapping the bird (Amos 3:6); the lion’s awe-inspiring roar (Amos 3:8); “the remnants of the sheep recovered by the shepherd out of the lion’s mouth (Amos 3:12)”; the fish drawn helplessly from their native element by hooks (Amos 4:2); “cattle-driving (Amos 4:3); the bear more formidable to the shepherd than even the lion (Amos 5:19); ploughing (Amos 6:12); the locusts devouring the aftermath (Amos 7:1-2); the basket of summer-fruit (Amos 8:1-2); corn-winnowing (Amos 9:9); supply him with imagery, which he uses with perfect naturalness, as might be expected from one who had been brought up to the calling of a shepherd and husbandman[101].”

[100] The strophes (if they may be so termed) are not perfectly symmetrical in structure. In Amos 1:10; Amos 1:12, Amos 2:5, the refrain (consisting of two members) closes the oracle; in Amos 1:4; Amos 1:7, it is followed by a whole verse (of four members); in Amos 1:14, Amos 2:2, it forms the first half of a verse consisting of four members, which is then followed by another verse consisting of two members. In view of the lack of absolute uniformity which often prevails in the Hebrew ‘strophe’ (comp. the writer’s Introduction, p. 344 f.), it is precarious to base upon this irregularity, as is done by W. R. Harper (American Journ. of Theol. 1897, p. 140 ff.), textual and critical inferences.

[101] Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, p. 89.

The authenticity of the Book of Amos, as a whole, is above suspicion: it bears too manifestly the marks of the age to which by its title it is ascribed for doubt on this point to be possible. There are however particular passages in the Book which partly on the ground that they interrupt the sequence of thought, but chiefly on account of their supposed incompatibility with either the historical or the theological conditions of the age of Amos, have been regarded by many recent critics as later additions to the original text of the prophecy. Duhm in 1875[102] questioned thus Amos 2:4-5, Amos 4:13, Amos 5:8-9, Amos 9:5-6[103]; Wellhausen[104] rejects in addition Amos 1:9-12, Amos 3:14 b, Amos 5:26, Amos 6:2, Amos 8:6; Amos 8:8; Amos 8:11-12, Amos 9:8-15; Prof. Cheyne[105] rejects Amos 1:2, Amos 2:4-5, Amos 4:13, Amos 5:8-9; Amos 5:26, Amos 8:11-12, Amos 9:5-6; Amos 9:8-15; and Prof. G. A. Smith at least suspects Amos 1:11-12 (p. 129 f.); Amos 2:4-5 (p. 135 f.); Amos 4:13, Amos 5:8-9, Amos 9:5-6 (p. 201–6); Amos 5:14-15 (p. 168 f.); Amos 6:2 (p. 173, n. 2); Amos 8:13 (p. 185); and decidedly rejects Amos 9:8-15 (p. 190–195; cf. p. 308 f.).

[102] Theologie der Propheten, p. 119.

[103] So Stade, Gesch. i. 571; Cornill, Einleitung, 1891, § 25 (ed. 3, 1896, § 29), No. 4.

[104] In his translation and notes in Die kleinen Propheten (1892).

[105] Introduction to the 2nd ed. (1895) of W. R. Smith’s Prophets of Israel, pp. xv–xvi. On Amos 5:26, Amos 9:8-15, see more fully his note in the Expositor, Jan. 1897, pp. 42–47.

Of these passages, Amos 2:4-5 is questioned, partly on account of its Deuteronomic style[106], partly because of the general and conventional character of the indictment brought in it against Judah, which contrasts strongly with the forcible and specific charges laid against the other nations in the survey. The resemblances with Deut. are not, however, particularly close[107]: and phrases approximating to those used in it must have been current previously: indeed, as W. R. Smith observed (in 1882)[108] “to reject the Tôrâh (or direction) of Jehovah” is shewn by Isaiah 5:24 to have been a pre-Deuteronomic expression; and “the statutes of God and His Tôrâh appear together just as here in the undoubtedly ancient narrative [belonging to the Pentateuchal E], Exodus 18:16,” where also the reference is similarly to the ordinances of civil righteousness. It would have been strange, had Amos excepted Judah in his survey of the nations which had incurred Jehovah’s displeasure (cf. Amos 3:1, Amos 6:1): the terms of the indictment are no doubt general; but both counts in it are supported by the testimony of Isaiah , 20-30 years afterwards, Isaiah 5:7-24; Isaiah 2:6-8; Isaiah 2:18; Isaiah 2:20; and Amos may have desired to reserve the more pointed and definite charges in order to lay them against Israel.

[106] The composition of Deut. being assigned to the 7th cent. b.c.

[107] To keep Jehovah’s statutes (חֻקִּים) occurs often in Deut. and passages written under its influence, though usually with the addition of a synonym, e.g. commandments or testimonies (as Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 6:17; Deuteronomy 7:11; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 26:17, 1 Kings 3:14; 1 Kings 8:58; 1 Kings 9:4; and several times with חֻקּוֹת); also Exodus 15:26, in a passage belonging probably to the compiler of “JE,” who approximates in style to Deut. (see the writer’s Introduction, p. 91, ed. 6, p. 99). If however ‘Jehovah’s statutes’ be a pre-Deuteronomic expression (Exodus 18:16), to ‘keep’ them is a phrase which might be so naturally employed that it is hardly possible to infer Deuteronomic influence from its occurrence, especially when it is not accompanied by that diffuseness of style which is a general characteristic of Deuteronomic writers. To walk (or go) after (הלך אחרי) = to follow is a common idiom (Genesis 24:5; Genesis 24:39, 2 Kings 6:19, etc.), frequent, it is true, in a religious sense, in Deuteronomic writers (Deuteronomy 4:3; Deuteronomy 6:14; Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 11:28; Deuteronomy 13:3 [2], Deuteronomy 28:14; Jdg 2:12; Jdg 2:19; 1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:10; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 2:23; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 7:9, al.: followed usually, except where some specific deity is mentioned, by other gods), but also occurring earlier (1 Kings 18:21; Hosea 2:7; Hosea 2:15 [5, 13], Hosea 11:10, prob. also Hosea 5:11 [שָׁוְא for צָו]. Lie, and cause to err, are not Deuteronomic expressions. There is a presumption that, had Amos 2:4 been written by a Deuteronomic hand, the Deuteronomic style would have been more strongly marked. The clause “and their lies … did walk” disturbs certainly the symmetry of the verse, and might easily therefore be regarded as a gloss: but we lack the requisite guarantee that Amos himself designed all his verses to be perfectly symmetrical (cf. p. 116, note).

[108] Prophets of Israel, p. 398 f. (ed. 2, p. 399 f.). The argument was endorsed by Kuenen, Onderzoek, ii. (1889), § 71. 6 (cf. i. § 10. 4).

The three passages Amos 4:13, Amos 5:8-9, Amos 9:5-6, so finely descriptive of the Divine Omnipotence, are rejected, partly because the idea of Jehovah’s creative power does not otherwise become generally prominent in Hebrew literature until the period of the Exile, and such ejaculations in praise of it are in the manner of the later style of Isaiah 40-66 (Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 42:5, Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 45:18; cf. Job 9:8-9), partly because Amos 4:13 and Amos 9:5-6 are not closely connected with the argument of the context, and may be omitted without interfering with it, while Amos 5:8-9 actually interrupts it. W. R. Smith replied (ibid.) that these doxologies, though not closely connected with the movement of the prophet’s argument in detail, nevertheless harmonize entirely with its general scope: the doctrine of Jehovah’s lordship over nature is in agreement with Amos’ teaching elsewhere (Amos 4:7 ff., Amos 7:1; Amos 7:4, Amos 9:3), and might naturally be appealed to by him as proof that the Divine purposes were wider and higher than the mass of the people believed; and the ejaculatory form of the appeal, especially at critical points of the prophet’s discourse, is “not surprising under the general conditions of prophetic oratory.” Kuenen (ibid.) expressed himself satisfied by these arguments, adding that though such doxologies were certainly more frequent in the literature of the exilic and post-exilic age, it was too venturesome on this ground to allow them no place whatever in the pre-exilic literature[109]. It must, however, be borne in mind, in estimating the view of those who reject these verses as the work of Amos that, as G. A. Smith (p. 206) remarks, the real question in a case like the present is one not of authenticity, but only of authorship: there is a “greater Authenticity” than that which consists in a passage being the work of a particular author, which these verses undeniably exhibit; “no one questions their right to the place which some great spirit gave them in this book—their suitableness to its grand and ordered theme, their pure vision, and their eternal truth.”

[109] G. A. Smith’s additional argument, drawn from the fact that verses or clauses closing with the refrain ‘Jehovah (of hosts) is his name,’ are not met with otherwise, except in Amos 5:27 (where the words are said to stand awkwardly), until the period of the exile or later (Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 51:15 b (= Jeremiah 31:35 b), Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 10:16 (= Jeremiah 51:19), Isaiah 32:18, Jeremiah 33:2, Jeremiah 46:18 (om. LXX.) = Jeremiah 48:15 (om. LXX.) = Jeremiah 51:57, Jeremiah 50:34) does not seem to be cogent. There is really no ground for suspecting the last words of Amos 5:27 (cf. with memorial for name, Hosea 12:6); and so far at least as regards Amos 4:13 (cf. Amos 9:5 a ‘Jehovah of the hosts’), the unusual form ‘Jehovah, God of hosts’ (exactly as in Amos 5:14-16; Amos 6:8; and with ‘God of the hosts,’ Amos 3:13, Amos 6:14, Hosea 12:6) is a presumption in favour of Amos’ authorship, Amos 5:8-9 (see ad loc.) may be misplaced. See further the forcible remarks of Paton, l.c., p. 84 ff.

In the case of Amos 9:8-15, the authorship of Amos has been questioned on three main grounds. (1) The contrast which the passage presents with the rest of the book. In the rest of the book the outlook for Israel is one of unmitigated disaster: the threat of the nation’s destruction is absolute and final (Amos 5:2); the judgement lights on all (Amos 9:1-4) without distinction. Here, on the contrary (Amos 9:8-10), the righteous in Israel are not to perish; exile does not destroy, it only sifts. “Has Amos, then, entirely forgotten himself?” In Amos 9:11-15 the contrast is still greater. The “fallen hut” of David is to be restored; and Israel will dwell again upon its own land in peace and plenty. Is this, it is asked, consistent with the grim earnestness of Amos 9:1-4? Can Amos have thus suddenly blunted the edge of his threats? Having done his best to dispel every popular vision of a brighter future, and affirmed in the strongest terms that moral qualifications are the indispensable condition of Jehovah’s regard, can he have drawn a picture of Israel’s future, in which there is no moral feature whatever, and which consists simply of a promise of political restoration, of supremacy over surrounding nations, and of material prosperity? “Such hopes would be natural and legitimate to a people who were long separated from their devastated and neglected land, and whose punishment and penitence were accomplished; but are they natural to a prophet like Amos?” Has not a prophet of some later generation brightened the unrelieved darkness of the picture, as Amos left it, by adding to it his own inspired hopes,—hopes that were consistent with his point of view, though they were not so with that of Amos?

These arguments are forcible: but it may be doubted whether there are not considerations which detract from their cogency. It is evident that the most prominent social feature of the day was the corruption of the middle and upper classes; this, in Amos’ eyes, determined the fate of the northern kingdom. Accordingly, in the body of his prophecy, wishing to produce an impression upon his hearers, he makes it his main theme, and shews how it will end in national ruin. There must, however, have been in Israel at least a minority of the faithful servants of Jehovah; to these, at the close of his prophecy, Amos directs his thoughts, and correcting the unqualified doom which he had previously pronounced, he excepts them in Amos 9:8-10, not indeed from the judgement of exile, with its attendant sufferings, but from that of death. As regards Amos 9:11-15 it stands to reason that the Israel which is there represented as restored is not the corrupt Israel of Amos’ own day: it is the Israel which, though he does not expressly say so, is implicitly conceived by him as worthy of being reinstated in its ancient home, i.e. it is “the nation purged of transgressors” (W. R. Smith), the purified, ideal Israel of the future. The corrupt majority has been swept away; and even the minority, in spite of their faithfulness, escape only by the skin of their teeth, and only after having been “shaken to and fro” among the nations: and a promise of restoration, addressed under such circumstances to the latter, cannot be justly regarded either as rehabilitating the illusions which Amos had previously combated, or as neutralizing the judgements which he had previously pronounced. And if it be thought that the promise is introduced abruptly, then it should be remembered that the prophets, in their pictures of the ideal future, never pause to reflect upon the slow and gradual historical process, by which alone in reality a nation’s character can ever be materially changed; they represent the regeneration of society as taking place almost instantaneously, or being preceded, at most, by a crisis weeding out its unworthy members (e.g. Isaiah 1:26; Isaiah 4:2-6). The prophets are poets, guided frequently by impulse and emotion rather than by strict logic: the pictures which they draw are thus often partial (hence the absence here of any express notice of the moral qualities of the restored people), and mediating links are often omitted. In the present instance, the salvation of the faithful Israelites in Amos 9:8-10 at least facilitates the transition. The picture is an ideal one, and cannot have corresponded with the actual reality; but the arguments alleged under this head do not constitute sufficient grounds for denying it to Amos. The undeveloped form of the representation, connected indeed with the house of David, but without, for instance, any thought of a personal Messiah, might rather be deemed a feature supporting its antiquity. And for a prophet to close the entire volume of his prophecies without a single gleam of hope for a happier future, is very much opposed to the analogy of prophecy: Jeremiah and Ezekiel, for instance, blame Judah not less unsparingly than Amos blames Israel; but both nevertheless draw ideal pictures of the restored nation’s future felicity.

(2) Affinities of language and ideas which the verses display with works of a later age. Under this head may be noticed, for instance[110], Joel 3:9, the wide dispersion of Israel; Joel 3:11 to fence up the breaches (נָּדַר פֶּרֶץ), as Isaiah 58:12; ruins (הֲרִסֹת), cf. הֲרִסֻת Isaiah 49:19 (R.V. that hath been destroyed: lit. of ruin); as in the days of old (כִּימֵי עוֹלָם), as Micah 7:14, Malachi 3:4, cf כִּימֵי קֶדֶם Isaiah 51:9, Jeremiah 46:26; Joel 3:13 התמוגנ to melt, be dissolved, as Nahum 1:5, Psalm 107:26 (not elsewhere in this conj.); Joel 3:14 turn the captivity (שׁוּב שְׁבוּת), used at any rate mostly of the restoration from the Babylonian exile; waste cities (עָרִים נְשַׁמּוֹת), as Isaiah 54:3 (cf. Jeremiah 33:10, Ezekiel 36:35), the promise generally as Isaiah 65:21; Joel 3:15 the antithesis, plant, and not pluck up (נתשׁ), as in Jer. (Jeremiah 24:6, Jeremiah 42:10; cf. Jeremiah 1:10, Jeremiah 18:7; Jeremiah 18:9, Jeremiah 31:28, Jeremiah 45:4; to pluck up, also, in the same connexion, Deuteronomy 29:28, 1 Kings 14:15, Jeremiah 12:14-15; Jeremiah 12:17; Jeremiah 31:40, 2 Chronicles 7:20 [altered from cut off in 1 Kings 9:7]); thy God, said in the consolatory manner of Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 66:9).

[110] Cf. Cheyne, Expositor, Jan. 1897, p. 46 f.

The aggregation of expressions otherwise, for the most part, occurring first in Jeremiah and later writers is, no doubt, remarkable: in themselves, however, the phrases used are not linguistically suggestive of lateness; and the question is whether, it being granted that Amos might have contemplated (like other prophets) not only the exile of his people, but also its restoration, they do more than give expression to that idea under forms which might have naturally presented themselves to him.

There remain however (3) the strong expressions in Joel 3:11, the “fallen hut” of David, its “breaches,” and “ruins.” What can these be fairly interpreted as denoting? Do they refer to the dismemberment which David’s empire had sustained, by the defection of the Ten Tribes, and to the humiliation which it had more recently experienced under Amaziah, when Jehoash dismantled 400 cubits of the wall of Jerusalem, and carried off to Samaria all the treasures of the Temple and the palace, together with many hostages (2 Kings 14:13 f.)? The latter occurrence must have taken place some 30 years before Amos prophesied; and under the vigorous rule of Uzziah, Amaziah’s successor, Judah appears to have quickly recovered itself and to have been again flourishing and prosperous (cf. Isaiah 2:7; 2 Chronicles 26:9-15). Isaiah, however (Amos 7:17), viewed the defection of the Ten Tribes as almost the acme of national disaster; and Amos, as a Judaean, may have done the same. Or is this an adequate explanation of the figures employed in Joel 3:11? Do they not rather imply the overthrow of David’s dynasty? And, if so, does the passage refer to the future ruin of Judah, which Amos (if Amos 2:4-5 be really his) certainly expected (cf. Amos 3:1, Amos 6:1)? This is possible; but if it had been that which the prophet had in view, would not his prophecy have contained some more explicit announcement of the antecedent “fall” of David’s hut? As it is, its fall (upon this explanation) is not Predicted, but presupposed, as having already occurred. Is the reference therefore to the actual overthrow of David’s dynasty, which took place at the time of the Babylonian exile? That, it must be owned, is the explanation which does fullest justice to the strong figures used in Joel 3:11, the “fallen hut,” the “breaches,” and the “ruins.” If it be correct, it will imply that Joel 3:11-15 were an addition made to the original prophecy of Amos during the Exile, by a prophet who wrote, to a certain extent[111], under the literary influence of Jeremiah. At the same time, it is difficult to feel confident that these considerations are decisive; so that, on the whole, especially in view of what was urged at the top of p. 122, the second of the alternatives proposed (that the future ruin of Judah is referred to) is probably the one which may most reasonably be acquiesced in.

[111] Cf. on Joel 3:14-15 above. Behold the days come (Amos 5:13) is a phrase used twice besides by Amos, but also frequently by Jeremiah (see the note on Amos 4:2).

The principal Commentaries on Amos are those of G. Baur (1847); Ewald in his Prophets (ed. 2, 1867); Hitzig in his Minor Prophets (ed. 3, 1863; ed. 4, revised by Steiner, 1881); Keil, also in his Minor Prophets (ed. 2, 1888); Pusey (in his Minor Prophets, 1861); J. H. Gunning, De godspraken van Amos (1885); H. G. Mitchell (Boston, U.S.A., 1893); G. A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, i. (1896), pp. 61–207. See also Duhm, Die Theologie der Propheten (1875), pp. 109–126; W. R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel (1882, ed. 2, 1895, pp. 120–143, 187 f., 394 ff.); Farrar, Minor Prophets, pp. 35–68; A. B. Davidson, in the Expositor, March and September 1887; Kuenen, Onderzoek, ed. 2, 1889, §§ 70–71; Kirkpatrick, The Doctrine of the Prophets, 1892, pp. 81–106; Wellhausen, Hist. of Israel, pp. 470–474 (= pp. 81–89 of the Sketch of the History of Israel, 1891, originally published as the art. “Israel” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ed. 9), and in Die kleinen Propheten übersetzt, mit Noten, 1892; R. Smend, Alttest. Religions-geschichte, 1893, p. 159 ff.; J. J. P. Valeton, Amos en Hosea (Nijmegen, 1894); L. B. Paton in the Journal of Biblical Literature (Boston, U.S.A.), 1894, pp. 80–90 (“Did Amos approve the calf-worship at Beth-el?”); K. Budde in Semitic Studies in memory of Alexander Kohut, 1897, pp. 106–110 (on Amos 1:1 a: takes מתקוע closely with עמום, as Jdg 12:8, &c.; and regards אשר היה בנקדים, i.e. ‘who was once of the herdmen,’ viz. before he became a prophet, as originally a gloss based upon Amos 7:14, pointing in support of this view to the inelegant sentence which the clause in question produces, standing immediately before another relative clause, the אשר of which refers back past it to דברי).

Of the other passages enumerated above (p. 117), on Amos 1:11-12 see the note ad loc. With our imperfect knowledge of the minuter historical conditions of the age, the difficulties attaching to Amos 5:26 and Amos 6:2 can hardly be said to constitute a sufficient ground for denying their authenticity. And the imperfect connexion with the context, which is the ground on which most of the remaining passages have been suspected, is not sufficiently marked to justify a conclusion adverse to Amos’ authorship.

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