Study of the Prophets Class 7: Amos (Cont.)
We start at Chapter 8 this week, after learning what G-d has in store for Amaziah, the priest of Beth-el who tried to dissuade Amos from his mission. Now Amos elaborates on the theme of the end of the Northern kingdom as decreed by HaShem. However, some commentators assign the first three verses of Chapter 8 as an extension of the words against Amaziah. I do not subscribe to this opinion because of the words in Verse 2 “The end has come for My people Israel; I will no longer continue to forbear them…” I submit this clearly speaks of the Northern Kingdom of Israel as Israel is specifically mentioned and not Judah or Amaziah. In Verse 2, Amos sees a basket of fully ripened fruit. This indicates that the growing period has ended and it is now time for the fruit to be plucked and consumed. So too, the period of sovereignty for the Northern Kingdom ended and they shall now be “plucked” (sent in exile). Unlike the previous vision of the plumb line, which depicted the conquest of only parts of the land, this prophecy portrays the final destruction of the nation (Abarbanel). HaShem makes it clear that He will no longer withhold the punishment He decreed.
Verse 3 indicates that there will be so many dead bodies that the people will cry that they be removed.
Verse 4 is essentially self- explanatory. There were and are today, many people who look at the L-r’ds designated times with impatience and disdain, wanting to “get them over with” so that can go about business as usual, if they obey them at all. The people looked forward to the time of grain harvesting to pass so that people would need to go to them and buy more. During the time of harvest, the people had all the grain they needed in the fields. Furthermore, there were and are those who are unjust in everything they do; deceiving and manipulating scales and people for their own benefit. “Reduce the ephah and increase the shekel, and distort scales of deceit.” The people would reduce the ephah measurement by which they sold and demand a large shekel-coin in payment (Radak). And when exchanging the produce for other goods, they would alter the scales to distort the weighing in their favor (Abarbanel). “To purchase the poor with silver” indicates these crooked businesspeople would continue their dishonest business practices until the buyers were so poor that they would be forced to sell their fields and vineyard’s or even sell themselves into slavery (Radak; Abarbanel). Some would become so destitute, they would sell themselves for the price of a pair of shoes. “And the refuse of grain we will sell.” This statement hits home once again as we see the dramatic increase in food prices. In this prophecy, the crooked business people gave the buyers the refuse that is separated when grain is put through the sieve. This was normally given to domestic birds, but the buyers were forced to buy it anyway because they could not afford the actual grain (Rashi; Radak).
In Verse 7 we see the use of the name “Jacob” indicating the connotation of “supplanter.” HaShem swears that He will never forget all their deeds. Verse 8 indicates that the level of sin is so high at this time in the Northern Kingdom, that even the land in the natural order of things cannot stand it. Just as the natural order of human interaction as mandated by G-d turned totally corrupt, so will the system of nature respond in kind with upheaval and disruption, destroying its inhabitants. Although we are not in the Tribulation period yet, it is obvious that this is beginning to come to pass. All we need do is look at the intensity and frequency of the recent disasters in the world such as the tsunami in Japan, the tsunami in Indonesia, and hurricanes Katrina and Sandra, just to name a few. In the book of Revelation, we see several references to the same type of natural phenomenon orchestrated by G-d In the Pulpit Commentary of Revelation 16:20 we read:
Verse 20. – “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. This continues the description of the earthquake in ver. 18, the parenthesis concerning Babylon occurring owing to the mention of the destruction of the city (cf. the account given under the sixth seal). Such convulsions of nature generally, in biblical descriptions, accompany the near approach of the last judgment. Some writers interpret the islands and mountains of kingdoms” (cf. Revelation 17:9, 10). In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible we read:
“And every island fled away,….” This may be understood either of the dissolution of the world, the present heavens and earth, when there will be no more sea, Revelation 21:1 and so consequently no islands:
“and the mountains were not found; for the earth and the heaven will be fled away at the appearance of Christ the Judge, and there will be no place found for them,” Revelation 20:11 and new heavens, and a new earth, without sea or mountains, will succeed: or rather this may signify the utter extirpation of all the antichristian powers in every shape, whether on islands or on the continent; for this day of the Lord will be upon every high mountain and hill, to bring them low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted, Isaiah 2:14 and may particularly respect the dissolution of monasteries, and the plundering them of their riches and revenues. Again, the consistency of G-d’s Torah supports what I maintain is a fact that only G-d could write such a comprehensive and error-free (in the original Hebrew and Aramaic) history of Israel using the hand of man to pen His Word.
The land will move out of its place due to the great earthquake. Revelation 16:18 describes another that will happen at the judgements of G-d, more severe than man has ever experienced. The statement “[Water] will rise like the river over all of it, and it will push aside and submerge[the land] as does the River of Egypt” is interpreted allegorically by Abarbanel; an interpretation with which I agree simply because G-d promised there would never be another flood such as that in the days of Noach. Abarbanel understand this verse as a description of the overrunning of the land by armies of Sennacherib.
Verse 9 describes a situation in which sunset occurs at midday. When the time comes to punish the people of Israel, disaster will come suddenly in the midst of their perceived prosperity and tranquility (Rashi). Darkness will be spread above and below.
Verse 10 provides another ominous prophecy for our future. In order to demonstrate that the people’s idolatry was and is the cause of their and our country’s downfall, we will be punished on the days that non-observant people set aside as holy; thereby turning them into days of mourning. The songs that are sung during times of merriment will be turned into lamentations for all who die at that time. Upon their loins, which the people gird to run to their idol worship, HaShem states He will bring sackcloth and that their heads that they bow down to false idols will be smitten with baldness. The level of mourning will be as intense as that of a father who lost his only son, for very few would survive the holocaust that was about to engulf them (Ashlich). But unlike the mourning for an individual that may heal over time, the calamities that are about to occur will end in bitterness (Ashlich), because they were about to be exiled.
Finally, we read yet another prophecy that has future application to our world. I believe this prophecy will come to fruition after the Rapture of true believers, when only the 144,000 from the Twelve Tribes are left to witness to Judah. Read Verses 11-14 carefully and prayerfully as we consider what is in the future of the global community:
“Behold, days are coming- the word of the L-rd/HaShem/Elohim- when I will send hunger into the land; not hunger for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of HaShem. [People] will travel from seas to sea, and from north to east; they will wander about to seek the word of HaShem, but they will not find it. On that day, the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst- those who swear by the idol of Samaria and say, ‘By the life of your god, Dan,’ and ‘By the life of the Beer-sheba rites’; and they will fall and will not rise again.”
This narrative along with the entire book of Amos should cause us to evaluate our relationship to G-d and diligently seek to improve it while there is still time as described in Isaiah 55:6:
“Seek Adonai while he is available, call on him while he is still nearby.”
Next week we will study Chapter 9, the last in this book.
Rabbi Tamah Davis