Study of the Prophets Class #4 Amos (Cont.)

Class #4: Amos

This week we pick up at Chapter 4:6. It would seem that G-d giving the people “cleanliness of teeth in all your cities” would be a good thing. However, when taken in context with the rest of the sentence, we see that the cleanliness of teeth will be caused by a lack of food. Amos continues with the words of HaShem as he delineates all the ways in which He will punish the people. Note that HaShem is speaking in the past tense. However, we must understand, these punishments are yet to come in the future. Also note in verse 11 the use of pronouns “I” and “G-d.” I have overturned among you as G-d overturned Sodom and Gomorrah; you were like a brand salvaged from burning; yet you did not return to Me- the word of HaShem.” Once again we see that indeed our G-d is One. Yahshua is identified as HaShem; “I”; and then He refers to himself in the role of G-d.” We can clearly see how YHVH/Yahshua assumes the specific role as He chooses for His particular purpose at the time. In this verse He is speaking in the past as in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and also in the future. Let’s put these punishments in perspective, again comparing them to the catastrophic events occurring in our world today.
According to Abaranel’s interpretation, verse 7 is interpreted in this way: “I brought rain in the early months of the year, so that it was necessary to take seeds that had been stored to plant. However, HaShem would then hold the rains during the three months prior to the harvest, when they are crucial to the growth of the crops (Radak), thereby causing the loss of the crops and the seeds (Abaranel). SO that the people could no attribute the drought to natural causes much as our scientists do today with El Nino and La Nina phenomenon, HaShem states he will bring rain on one city, while keeping another dry. This will make the people see that they are the ones being punished. Even within one town, there will be areas that receive rain due to the merit of their owners, while other areas will remain dry. This provides hope for true believers in this day and age who may fear being consumed in a nuclear holocaust. HaShem can save anyone out of any circumstance as evidenced by repeated narratives in the Torah, including this one. He knows His own.
Verses 8-10 are self-explanatory, possibly with the exception of the last part of verse 10. The statement “ I have raised the stench of your camps even unto your own nostrils” can be interpreted as the bodies of the youths that are to be killed will lay rotting in the sun, raising such an odor that all who pass by will become nauseated as they follow the same path in an effort to alleviate their hunger.
In verse 12 HaShem concludes this paragraph by reaffirming these things will befall the Northern Kingdom. He then makes an interesting statement “prepare [to go] toward your G-d, O Israel.” There are several interpretations of this verse. According to Rashi and Radak, the verse means that because the people have not responded and returned to HaShem, he will bring upon them everything He stated in the previous verses. Having received the warnings of the prophets, it will behoove the people if they prepare themselves through repentance and obedience in order to receive HaShem. Others see this as a sarcastic challenge by HaShem to meet Him in battle since He made known to them all that is about to befall them.
Verse 13 reminds us that each of us will be held accountable for our deeds. G-d will recall them to us when we stand before Him.
Chapter 5
Verse 1: G-d laments the destruction that is about to take place in the Northern Kingdom. Since the people did not listen to His command and follow His instructions, He instead tells them to listen to his words of lamentation over what is about to happen because of their sins.
Verse 2: Foretells the reality that the 10 Tribes of Israel will never stand as an independent entity in the future. Even in the time of their redemption at the coming of Yahshua, they will be reunited with Judah as part of the Davidic kingdom under Messiah’s rule. Radak interprets this verse as alluding to the exile of the populace by the king of Assyria. They will not return to their homeland for many generations, whereas Judah returned to the Land of Israel 70 years after the Babylonian exile.
Verse 3 tells of the reality that the devastation will leave them beyond repair. The majority will be destroyed by the sword or from hunger; those who remain will be sent into exile.
Verse 4: HaShem beseeches the people to seek Him and live; that there is no other place to find refuge. He repeats the call in verse 6 lest His ager consume the entire House of Joseph and kill all those in Samaria who worshipped their gods in Beth-el.
Verse 7-8: Not only are the people about to be punished for their idolatrous ways, but the officers and judges distorted justice to meet their own agendas, thereby rendering justice as wormwood (bitterness) to the oppressed. Rather than pursuing righteousness as G-d commanded, they chose to engage in corruption, leaving righteousness to be trodden upon the ground. In verse 8 Amos seeks to get the people to “listen-up” and face the magnitude of their sins. He tries to make then see that they had abandoned the One who created the celestial bodies and light and darkness. Indeed G-d states in Isaiah 45:7 this very truth. The reference to Pleiades and Orion refer to these two clusters of stars, created by G-d, which affect the earth at appropriate times. The Pleiades cluster of starts within the constellation Taurus, appears in the winter; the constellation Orion, in the summer (Berachos 58b).
Verse 9 should serve as another warning for the United States who interestingly still considered herself the greatest nation on Earth. Just as G-d constantly alters the forces of nature to accomplish His will, He will overturn the status of nations and people. He will fortify a weak nation with the strength to defeat the Northern Kingdom in this case; and I submit He will use a non-believing nation in accomplishing His will for the United States because of her rebellious arrogance and rejection of G-d’s instructions. Indeed, it is a sad reality that a country that was once observant at least to some degree of G-d’s instructions/commands, has fallen to the point where His words are not even allowed in public places. The parallel to what was happening in the Northern Kingdom at the time of Amos to America is undeniable.
Verse 10: The people leave HaShem no option other than to destroy them. They are fully aware of His commands and instructions, yet they are rebellious and arrogant. They hate those who rebuke them by the gates for their corruption of justice and oppression of the less fortunate. They despise those who reprove them concerning the matters between man and G-d. They trample upon and oppress the poor, and they robbed the man who carried a load of grain all the way to his home for his sustenance, taking advantage of his inability to defend himself. Therefore, the houses of hewn stone that were constructed with monies and resources acquired dishonestly will be taken from them and they will not live in them. Nor will the vineyards stolen from the poor provide them with wine. Rather, these corrupted people will be sent into exile by the enemy. Rashi interprets “the grain that you sold for a heavy burden” to mean that the unjust officials raised the price of grain, forcing the poor to buy it on credit with interest. Sound familiar? Indeed, many had to sell their possessions and property in order to pay for the basic food staples. Verse 12 is self-explanatory; HaShem reiterating the sins of the people of which He is well aware.
Verse 13: Even those who would normally rebuke the unjust are silent for fear of being killed for speaking up. Therefore, with no basis to expect the people will repent, their destruction has been decreed. Another interpretation holds that the prudent man did not and will not speak up because he knows the officials and courts are so corrupted that there can be no justice or repentance. This idea is reflected in Yahshua’s teaching about being as cunning as a servant and as innocent as a dove (Matt. 10:16). This is why the word prudent is used in this verse. A third interpretation posits that this verse means that the wise man will remain silent and not question the justice of what he is about to witness. He will understand that the people have brought the impending destruction upon themselves (Rash; Mahari Kara).
Verse 14-15: How longsuffering is our G-d. Even in the midst of what is about to happen, He beseeches the people to “seek good and not evil, so that you may live, and HaShem, G-d of Legions, will indeed be with you as you said. Despise evil and love good, and establish justice by the gate; then perhaps HaShem, G-d of Legions, will grant favor to the remnant of Joseph.” If one overcomes all the hurdles and persists in heartfelt repentance, HaShem accepts it. Then G-d will be with those who repent and follow His ways. Most assuredly there were some who would repent and turn back to G-d after the calamities that would befall them. Sometimes G-d uses sever measures to call us up and out of Egypt. The “remnant of Joseph” refers to the kingdom of Ephraim, the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, which was established by Jeroboam from the tribe of Ephraim.
Verse 16-18: “Woe unto those who desire the day of HaShem.” In other words, woe to those who respond with a cynical attitude to the L-rd that His day is coming. Much as we see today, there were those who sarcastically said “Let Him hurry.” (Is. 5:19). This clearly revealed their disbelief in the impending doom. In other words, why do these people challenge G-d as if His day was something to desire? The Day of the L-rd was not something to look forward to then, and it is not something to look forward to in our future. Know that when it arrives, it will be a time of darkness and tragedy; not one of celebration and joy. This passage provides us with a parallel text that refers to the future Day of the L-rd spoken of by the prophets and in the Brit Chadashah that many people mistakenly think will be a time of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10; Acts 2:20) . We must read ALL of G-d’s Word to understand the terminology and significance of these specific times.
Yet, there are other interpretations of the Day of the L-rd. Others explain that the “Jewish people” were well aware that there would come a “Day of HaShem” when His glory would be reveals to the world (Joel 3:4). Therefore, they anxiously awaited the day when the enemies of G-d would be destroyed and the Jewish nation would once again be restored. In this context, the question is asked because why would nations other than the Jewish nation rejoice when those who do not follow the ways of G-d will be destroyed in the End of Days. As long as people persist in their present behaviors, he Day of HaShem’s glory will be one of darkness and gloom, with no light of salvation to come (Malbim).
Abarbanel interprets this verse as directed to Judah. Because of the deep chasm that existed between the two kingdoms, the people of Judah eagerly awaited the punishment that was about to his the Northern Tribes. They were aware of the prophecy of Amos because he was from Judah. To this Amos declared: Why do you desire this time of retribution upon the Ten Tribes? Don’t think you will receive any benefit, for it will only be a day of darkness and not one that will result in joy and light to you. It is amazing how people seem to like seeing others suffer in some way. Even as children, we often see one child telling on another just to see him/her punished. It is indeed an animal desire to “rise above”, “conquer”, or otherwise perceive ourselves as being more righteous than others. This is just one aspect of our evil inclination (yetzer hara) that we must strive to overcome.
If the people will not heed the warning and repent, HaShem will carry out the decree already issued. So great will be the punishments that the people will fill the public squares in mourning and the women and children in the yards behind their houses will respond to the mourning with woeful cries. They will include the farmhands in their mourning since all the blight and drought will negate all the work in the fields. The vineyards will also be filled with lamentation because the vines will not have any grapes. HaShem will pass through the midst of the people to afflict them (Radak).
Up to this point, Amos prophesied specifically to the people of the Northern Kingdom and not to Judah in the Southern Kingdom. Starting at verse 18, he shifts to addressing the Southern Kingdom of Judah. There are various opinions on exactly where the shift takes place. According to Abrabanel, verse 18 is where the shift takes place. Radak was of the opinion that the shift occurred later in verse 21. Rashi, on the other hand, maintained that the entire chapter involved the Northern Kingdom of the Ten tribes.
Next week we will continue with Chapter 5 and pick up with verse 19.
Shalom v’brachas,
R. Tamah Davis