LAMENT: Heb "qinah". A dirge was a lament that was sung
at the funeral of a friend, relative, or prominent person (eg, 2Sa 1:17-27;
3:33,34; 2Ch 35:25). The prophets used the dirge to prophesy the death of a
city, people, or nation (Jer 7:29; 9:10,11,17-22; all of Lam; Eze 19; 26:17,18;
27:2,32; 28:12; 32:2). Amos announced Israel's death at the height of its
prosperity under Jeroboam II.
FALLEN IS VIRGIN ISRAEL, NEVER TO RISE AGAIN: The human
phase of the Northern Kingdom of Israel is now to be irrevocably
Fallen" in funeral songs usually means "fallen in battle" (2Sa
1:19,25,27; 3:34; Lam 2:21).
NO ONE TO LIFT HER UP: No one came to her aid, even
Yahweh (Jdg 6:13; 2Ki 21:14; Isa 2:6).
SEEK ME AND LIVE: Yahweh invited the Israelites to seek
Him so they might live. Even though national judgment and death were inevitable,
individuals could still live. Announcements of impending judgment almost always
allow for the possibility of individual repentance (Jer 18:1-10).
BETHEL WILL BE REDUCED TO NOTHING: Or "to Aven"
(nought, vanity, nothingness). A play on words: ref to Beth Aven (the other name
for Bethel, given derisively: cp Hos 4:15; 10:5). "Aven" (nothing) often
referred to the powerless (ie non-existent) idols of the Gentile nations (cf Isa
YOU WHO TURN JUSTICE INTO BITTERNESS AND CAST RIGHTEOUSNESS
TO THE GROUND: A total contempt for what was right (cp Pro 1:3; 2:9; 8:20;
21:3; Isa 1:21; 5:7; 28:17). Right conduct was the proper action, and justice
was the result, but the Israelites had despised both in their courts.
HE WHO MADE THE PLEIADES AND ORION, WHO TURNS BLACKNESS
INTO DAWN AND DARKENS DAY INTO NIGHT: Since Yahweh made the Pleiades and
Orion, constellations of stars, He could bring His will to pass on earth too.
The rising of the Pleiades before daybreak heralded the arrival of spring and
the rising of Orion after sunset signaled the onset of winter. Since Yahweh
brings light out of darkness in the morning and darkens the day at night, He
could easily change the fate of Israel from prosperity to adversity.
"The prophet first draws the attention of Israel to the living
God who stands behind nature, determining all its movements. The atheist is
rebuked by this view of things. The thought of the prophet is full of God;
nature does not deny God -- it demonstrates Him. God is. Those who identify God
with nature until they confound the personal God with the laws and forces of the
world, are also rebuked by the text. Nature is not God. 'He maketh the seven
stars and Orion.' And the view that nature is independent of God is equally
repudiated. On the contrary, the teaching of Amos is that God acts through
nature. The people of Israel are summoned to look up and to behold the supreme,
self-existent God, standing before and above the world, acting upon it, acting
through it, with sovereign sway. He maketh the seven stars and Orion, and all
the rest. But the argument of Amos goes farther than this; he argues that God
rules in the midst of the nations just as He rules in the midst of nature, and
we must see His hand in human affairs as we see it in the rising and setting of
stars, in the ebbing and flowing of seas. He setteth up kings and captains, and
casteth them down; He smites the splendour of nations into desolation; and again
He restores their greatness and joy. The argument of the prophet proceeds on the
assumption that a Divine purpose, a vast design, runs through all the evolutions
of nature and all the movements of history' (BI).
IN COURT: Lit, "in the gate" (AV) -- the ANE scene of
judgment and public witness: cp Deu 16:18; 17:5; 21:19; 25:7; Rth 4:1,10; Job
YOU TRAMPLE ON THE POOR AND FORCE HIM TO GIVE YOU
GRAIN: Thru various "legal" devices, the rich got the better of the poor
financially, until they were forced to "lease" their land to the rich. Then they
imposed high rents and taxes of grain on the poor to keep them tenants on the
land (cp, generally, Exo 23:2,6).
THEREFORE THE PRUDENT MAN KEEPS QUIET IN SUCH TIMES, FOR
THE TIMES ARE EVIL: Life had become so corrupt that keeping quiet about
these abuses of power had become the only prudent thing to do. If a person spoke
out against them, he could count on feeling the wrath of the powerful.
SEEK GOOD, NOT EVIL, THAT YOU MAY LIVE: Cp vv
THEN THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY WILL BE WITH YOU, JUST AS YOU
SAY HE IS: Cp Num 23:21; Deut 20:4; 31:8; Jdg 6:12; Isa 8:10; Zeph
HATE EVIL, LOVE GOOD: In the permissive and tolerant
society in which we live, it is quite hard to hate evil in the way that we
clearly should do in order to please God: Psa 34:14; 36:4; 37:27; 97:10;
119:104; 139:21,22; Rom 7:15,16,22; 8:7; 12:9; 1Th 5:21,22; 3Jo 1:11.
THE COURTS: Lit, "the gates", as in v 10.
"FOR I WILL PASS THROUGH YOUR MIDST," SAYS THE LORD:
Earlier God had passed through Egypt with similar devastating results (cf Exo
Vv 18,19: Two hunters came across a bear so big that they
dropped their rifles and ran for cover. One man climbed a tree while the other
hid in a nearby cave. The bear was in no hurry to eat, so he sat down between
the tree and the cave to reflect upon his good fortune. Suddenly, and for no
apparent reason, the hunter in the cave came rushing out, almost ran into the
waiting bear, hesitated, and then dashed back in again. The same thing happened
a second time. When he emerged for the third time, his companion in the tree
frantically called out, "Woody, are you crazy? Stay in the cave till he leaves!"
"Can't," panted Woody, "There's another bear in there."
A similar kind of dilemma will someday come upon the godless.
They will find trouble in the very place they run for safety (Amo 5:18).
According to the prophet Amos, these people may be religious, and even long for
the coming of the Lord, without realizing that His arrival will present for them
the greatest problem of all -- judgment of their wrongdoing.
THAT DAY WILL BE DARKNESS, NOT LIGHT: As the pillar of
cloud was darkness to Egypt, but light to Israel (Exo 14:20). God would judge
His people before He blessed them: see Jer 46:10; Joel 3:1-17; Zeph 3:8; Zech
14:1-3. Cp idea, 1Th 5:3.
IT WILL BE AS THOUGH A MAN FLED FROM A LION ON TO MEET A
BEAR, AS THOUGH HE ENTERED HIS HOUSE AND RESTED HIS HAND ON THE WALL ONLY TO
HAVE A SNAKE BITE HIM: The coming day of the Lord would mean inescapable
tragedy for Israel. The Israelites may have thought they had escaped one enemy,
but they would have to face another. They might think they were secure and safe
in their homeland, but deadly judgment would overtake them in that secure
environment. There would be no safe haven from God's coming judgment.
WILL NOT THE DAY OF THE LORD BE DARKNESS, NOT LIGHT --
PITCH-DARK, WITHOUT A RAY OF BRIGHTNESS?: A brighter day of the Lord was
also coming (Amo 9:11-15; Jer 30:8-11; Hos 2:16-23; Mic 4:6,7; Zeph 3:11-20),
but first a dark one would appear. The Israelites wanted to hasten the good day
of the Lord, but they wanted to forget about the bad one. This prophecy found
fulfillment when the Assyrians overran Israel and took most of the people into
exile in 722 BC. Likewise, the later tribulation period for Israel, which will
precede her millennial day of blessing, will be similar to what Amos predicted
I HATE, I DESPISE YOUR RELIGIOUS FEASTS; I CANNOT STAND
YOUR ASSEMBLIES: The Israelites enjoyed participating in the religious
festivals and assemblies in which they professed to worship Yahweh. But He hated
their worship assemblies, because the people were not worshipping Him from their
hearts. They were only going through the motions of worship. And what good is
such "worship" without at least the commitment to personal purity and
In vv 23,24 the singular pronoun "your" appears indicating
that the call is for individuals to repent.
LET JUSTICE ROLL ON LIKE A RIVER, RIGHTEOUSNESS LIKE A
NEVER-FAILING STREAM!: "Instead of a constant stream of blood flowing from
sacrifices, and an endless stream of verbal and ritual praise from His people,
He wanted these ethical qualities to flow without ceasing from them. The
Israelites were inundating Him with rivers of religiosity, but He wanted rivers
of righteousness. This is the key verse in the book since it expresses so
clearly what God wanted from His people. It is a clear statement of the
importance of moral and ethical righteousness over mere ritual worship. 'With
Hos 6:6 and Mic 6:8 this text stands as one of the great themes in prophetic
literature with regard to the nature of sacrifices and true religion. God is not
pleased by acts of pomp and grandeur but by wholehearted devotion and complete
loyalty' (Smith)" (Const).
DID YOU BRING ME SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS FORTY YEARS IN
THE DESERT, O HOUSE OF ISRAEL?: No, they did not! -- as becomes plain in v
YOU HAVE LIFTED UP THE SHRINE OF YOUR KING, THE PEDESTAL OF
YOUR IDOLS, THE STAR OF YOUR GOD -- WHICH YOU MADE FOR YOURSELVES: "During
the wilderness wanderings the Israelites had also carried shrines of their king.
This may refer to unauthorized shrines honoring Yahweh or, more probably,
shrines honoring other deities (cf Acts 7:42,43). 'Sikkuth, your king' probably
refers to Sakkut, the Assyrian war god also known as Adar. 'Kiyyun, your images'
probably refers to the Assyrian astral deity also known as Kaiwan or Saturn.
Amos evidently ridiculed these gods by substituting the vowels of the Hebrew
word for 'abomination' (shiqqus) in their names (Anderson and Freeman). 'The
star of your gods [or god]' probably refers to the planet Saturn that
represented Kiyyun (Mays; Stephen's quotation of v 26 in Acts 7:42,43 was from
the LXX, which interpreted these names as references to pagan idols.) They may
have carried pedestals for their images of various idols including astral
deities. Many scholars believe the Israelites conceived of the golden calf as a
representation of that on which Yahweh rode, a visible support for their
invisible God (another view is that the golden calf represented Yahweh Himself).
The bull in Egyptian iconography was a symbol of strength and power. Jeroboam I
had erected bulls at Dan and Bethel in Israel and had revived this idolatrous
form of worship. Amos pointed out that Israel had always mixed idolatry with the
worship of Yahweh, so Israel's worship of Him had been hypocritical throughout
her history. (Certainly at times the Israelites worshipped God exclusively and
wholeheartedly, but throughout their history there had been these instances of
syncretistic hypocrisy)" (Const).
YOUR GOD: LXX has "Rephan". Poss related to "Raphion" =
the "giant", the constellation of Orion (v 8).
BEYOND DAMASCUS: They did go into exile in Assyria, to
the northeast of Damascus, after 722 BC. (cp Amo 4:3).
This becomes "beyond Babylon" in Acts 7:43. Implying a second
captivity -- one for Israel (here), and one for Judah (in Acts 7).