New American Bible Revised Edition

* [1:1] The earthquake: a major earthquake during the reign of Uzziah (ca. 783–742 B.C.), so devastating that it was remembered long afterwards (cf. Zec 14:5). See the description of an earthquake in Amos’s final vision (9:1).

* [1:2] Significantly, the roar comes to the Northern Kingdom from Jerusalem. This verse, perhaps an editorial remark, sets the tone of Amos’s message.

* [1:3–2:16] All the nations mentioned here may have been part of the ideal empire of David-Solomon (cf. 1 Kgs 5:1; 2 Kgs 14:25). Certain standards of conduct were expected not only in their relations with Israel but also with one another.

* [1:3] For three crimes…and now four: this formula (n, n + 1) is frequent in poetry (e.g., Prv 6:16–19; 30:18–19). The progression “three” followed by “four” here suggests a climax. The fourth crime is one too many and exhausts the Lord’s forbearance.

* [1:4] Hazael…Ben-hadad: kings of the Arameans whose capital was Damascus (v. 5); they fought against Israel (2 Kgs 13:3) and had long occupied the region of Gilead (v. 3) in Transjordan.

* [1:5] Valley of Aven: lit., “valley of wickedness,” perhaps a distortion of a place name in Aramean territory, identity unknown. Beth-eden: an Aramean city-state on the Euphrates, about two hundred miles northeast of Damascus, called Bit-adini in Assyro-Babylonian texts. Kir: cf. 9:7; probably to be identified with the city of Emar on the Euphrates, a major Aramean center in the Late Bronze Age. One text from this site calls the king of Emar “the king of the people of the land of Kir.”

* [1:9] Did not remember their covenant of brotherhood: standard diplomatic language of this period, meaning “violated the treaty.” The violation may not have been against Israel itself but against a fellow “subject” nation of the ideal Davidic-Solomonic empire (cf. 2:1).

* [1:11] Pursued his brother: “brother” here may denote a fellow vassal or subject of Israel.

* [1:12] Teman…Bozrah: two of the chief cities of Edom; cf. Jer 49:20.

* [1:14] Rabbah: now called Amman, the modern capital of Jordan.

* [2:1] He burned to ashes: to the peoples of the Near East, burning the bones of the dead was a particularly heinous crime, as it was believed to cause the spirits of these dead to wander without any hope of interment in their graves, where they could rest in peace.

* [2:4–8, 12] Unlike the crimes of the nations detailed in this section, which are wrongs against other nations, those of Judah and Israel named here are violations of the Lord’s demands.

* [2:4] The lies: false gods worshiped by the Judahites.

* [2:6] Israel: Amos’s audience would applaud his condemnation of foreign kingdoms in the foregoing seven oracles, especially of Judah. But now he adds an eighth, unexpected oracle—against Israel itself. This is the real “punch line” of this whole section, to which the preceding oracles serve mainly as introduction.

* [2:7] Son and father sleep with the same girl: the crime condemned here may be the misuse of power by the rich who take unfair advantage of young women from the ranks of the poor and force themselves on them, thus adding oppression to the sin of impurity.

* [2:8] Upon garments…any altar: creditors kept the garments taken as pledges from the poor instead of returning them to their owners before nightfall as the law commanded (Ex 22:25; cf. Dt 24:12). Wine…in their temples: lavish feasts for the rich, serving the finest wines in great abundance (see 6:4–7) and funded by the treasuries of local temples (e.g., at Dan and Bethel). The Hebrew in this verse is difficult. Another possible translation would be: “And the wine of those who have been fined / they drink in the house of their god.”

* [2:11] Nazirites: see note on Nm 6:2–21. Oracle of the Lord: a phrase used extensively in prophetic books to indicate divine speech.

* [3:2] You alone I have known: precisely because Israel enjoyed a special status among the nations of the world in the eyes of the Lord (but see 9:7) it was called to a high degree of fidelity to God. Because Israel has failed in this expectation, it must experience God’s punishment.

* [3:3–8] The metaphors in these sayings illustrate the principle of cause and effect, and lead up to the conclusion in v. 8.

* [3:9] Assyria: following the Greek version, the Hebrew text has “Ashod.” It is supposed that this was a copyist’s error: “Assyria” seems intended, in order to parallel “Egypt” in the next line.

* [3:9] With a keen sense of irony, Amos invites the most powerful oppressors in Israel’s memory, past and present—Egypt and Assyria—to see and marvel at the great oppression and injustice being wrought within Samaria by the people of Israel.

* [3:12] The “escape” is clearly a disaster, not a deliverance.

* [3:14] On Bethel, see also 4:4; 5:5–6; and 7:13. The prophet is condemning the religiosity and formalism of the worship by Israel’s leaders.

* [4:1] Cows of Bashan: the pampered women of Samaria; Bashan was a region east of the Sea of Galilee, famous for its rich pasture and fattened herds.

* [4:3] Harmon: or perhaps “Mount Mon”; an unidentified site, probably far to the north of Israel, under the control of Assyria.

* [4:4] Come to Bethel: Amos’s invitation to the people to come and “sin” at two of the major religious centers in Samaria is sarcastic. His point is that sacrifice and worship without justice is an abomination to the God of Israel; cf. 5:21–24.

* [4:12] Therefore thus I will do to you: this climax of vv. 6–12, announcing the sentence the Lord intends to pass on Israel, is open-ended.

* [5:1–17] These verses form a chiastic section beginning and ending with a lament over Israel (vv. 2, 16–17) and containing a double appeal to “seek” the Lord (vv. 4, 14). This editorial arrangement gives the whole section a negative cast, in effect nullifying the only hopeful verse in Amos (v. 15). Israel is as good as dead.

* [5:4–5] For thus says the Lord…Bethel shall be no more: these two verses continue the sarcasm of 4:4–5, verses in which Amos invites the people to come and “sin” at Bethel and Gilgal. The cult cities of Samaria should have been places where God could be “sought” but, because of the sins of the Northern Kingdom, these cities would cease to exist.

* [5:6] These verses have been rearranged to achieve the proper sequence according to the best possible manuscript tradition. Cf. the Textual Notes accompanying the translation.

* [5:6] House of Joseph: the kingdom of Israel or Northern Kingdom, the chief tribes of which were descended from Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph; cf. 5:15; 6:6.

* [5:18] The day of the Lord: first mentioned in Amos, this refers to a specific time in the future, known to the Lord alone, when God’s enemies would be decisively defeated. The common assumption among Israelites was that the Lord’s foes and Israel’s foes were one and the same. But Amos makes it clear that because the people have become God’s enemies by refusing to heed the prophetic word, they too would experience the divine wrath on that fateful day. However, during the exile this expression comes to mean a time when God would avenge Israel against its oppressors and bring about its restoration (Jer 50:27; Ez 30:3–5).

* [5:21–27] The prophet does not condemn cultic activity as such but rather the people’s attempt to offer worship with hands unclean from oppression of their fellow Israelites (cf. Ps 15:2–5; 24:3–4). But worship from those who disregard justice and righteousness (v. 24) is never acceptable to the God of Israel. Through the Sinai covenant the love of God and the love of neighbor are inextricably bound together.

* [5:26] Sukuth: probably a hebraized form of Assyro-Babylonian Shukudu (“the Arrow”), a name of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. It was associated with the god Ninurta, who was widely worshiped in Mesopotamia. According to 2 Kgs 17:30 the cult of Sirius was introduced into Samaria by deportees from Babylonia. Kaiwan: a hebraized form of an Akkadian name for the planet Saturn, also worshiped as a deity in Mesopotamia.

* [6:2] Calneh…Hamath…Gath: city-states overcome by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C., whose fate should be a lesson to the Israelites. The prophet castigates the leaders for being more intent on pursuing a luxurious lifestyle (vv. 1, 4–6) than reading the signs of the times.

* [6:10] In this desperate situation there seems to be a profound fear of the Lord, who is the cause of the deaths (cf. 3:6).

* [6:13] Lodebar…Karnaim: two towns recaptured from Judah by Israelite forces during the reign of Jeroboam II (see 2 Kgs 14:25). Some mockery of at least the first of these victories is probably intended by the prophet here, as Lodebar can be translated “nothing.”

* [6:14] A nation: Assyria. Lebo-hamath…Wadi Arabah: the territorial limits of Solomon’s kingdom, north and south respectively, as re-established by Jeroboam II (see 2 Kgs 14:25).

* [7:1] The king’s mowing: the first harvesting of the crops apparently belonged to the king as a kind of tax.

* [7:7] A plummet: with this vision, the pleas of the prophet (vv. 1–6) disappear, and disaster is announced. One use of the plummet in ancient times was to see how far out of line a wall or building had become, to determine whether it could be repaired or would have to be torn down. Like a structure that had become architecturally unsound, Israel was unsalvageable and would have to be demolished (cf. 2 Kgs 21:13; Is 34:11; Lam 2:8).

* [7:14] I am not a prophet: Amos reacts strongly to Amaziah’s attempt to classify him as a “prophet-for-hire” who “earns [his] bread” by giving oracles in exchange for payment (cf. 1 Sm 9:3–10; Mi 3:5). To disassociate himself from this kind of “professional” prophet, Amos rejects outright the title of nabi’ (“prophet”). By profession he is a herdsman/sheepbreeder and a dresser of sycamore trees, but God’s call has commissioned him to prophesy to Israel.

* [8:1–2] End-of-summer fruit…the end has come: the English translation attempts to capture the wordplay of the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for “fruit picked late in the season” is qayis, while the word for “end” is qes.

* [8:5] Ephah: see note on Is 5:10.

* [8:14] Ashima of Samaria: a high-ranking goddess worshiped in Hamath, whose cult was transplanted by the people of that city when they were deported to Samaria by the Assyrians (2 Kgs 17:30). The Power of Beer-sheba: possibly an epithet of a deity worshiped in Beer-sheba, either a syncretistic form of the worship of Israel’s God or of another god. Dan…Beer-sheba: the traditional designation for the northern and southern limits of Israel to which the Israelites made pilgrimages.

* [9:1] This vision may describe the destruction of the temple at Bethel and the fulfillment of the oracle in 3:14, linking God’s judgment upon Israel with the “punishment” of the altars of Bethel. This dramatic event (perhaps to be identified with the earthquake mentioned in 1:1) symbolizes the end of the Northern Kingdom as the Lord’s people, the consequence of their steadfast refusal to heed the prophetic word and return to the God of Israel.

* [9:3] The serpent: a name for the primeval chaos monster, vanquished by God at the time of creation but not annihilated. He was a personification of the sea, another primary archetype of chaos in the ancient Near East.

* [9:7] The Ethiopians…the Philistines…the Arameans: although Israel’s relationship to the Lord was special, even unique in some respects (3:2), Israel was not the only people on earth that God cared for. Striking here is the reference to divine intervention in the history of the Philistines and Arameans, not unlike the Lord’s saving intervention to bring Israel out of Egypt. Caphtor: the island of Crete.

* [9:11–15] These verses are most likely an editorial supplement to Amos, added to bring the book into harmony with the positive thrust of the prophetic books in general, especially those written after the exile, when the final edition of Amos was probably completed. The editors would have seen the destruction of Samaria in 722/721 B.C. as the fulfillment of Amos’s prophecies, but in this epilogue they express the view that destruction was not the Lord’s final word for Israel. In Acts 15:15–17, James interprets this passage in a messianic sense. The fallen hut of David: the Davidic kingdom, which included what later became the divided Northern and Southern Kingdoms. All nations claimed in my name: lit., “all nations over whom my name has been pronounced.” This idiom denotes ownership.

* [9:14] Rebuild…inhabit…plant…drink: in this era of restoration, the Lord nullifies the curse of 5:11, which uses these same four verbs, and turns it into a blessing for Israel.

Read Chapters

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Bible Hub

Amos 1
Top of Page
Top of Page