Amos: 6-9

Amos continues his condemnation of Israel and Samaria’s pride and hubris in chapter 6, especially that of their rulers and great men, who ignore regional threats, pervert justice, and instead amuse themselves with luxury.  It is this bad attitude to which Amos attributes the coming destruction. 

Indeed, governments and people are best able to defend themselves when they remain alert, observant, and humble.  Slothfulness and willful blindness never did anyone any favors.
In chapter 7, we learn that Amos had delivered his prophecy to Israel in person at the worship center at Beit El (hence, his explicit renunciation of that location), where the king of Israel (Yerovam [Jeroboam] II) chose to worship.  The priest, Amaziah, accused Amos of treachery against the crown, and then warns Amos to cease his prophecies and return to the south.  Amos refuses the “cease and desist” warning and condemns the priest and his family, but nonetheless returns to Yehudah. Yermiyahu (Jeremiah 26) reported a similar reception in the southern kingdom, after delivering his prophecies both in a valley dedicated to idolatry and human sacrifice and at the gate of the (defiled) Temple.

In chapter 8, Amos resumes the delivery of his message.  First, he launches into greater detail regarding the wrongs of the people, most of which fall into the broad categories of blasphemy and oppression of the poor.  I find fascinating Amos’s interest in connecting those two particular issues (mentioned in my last post as well, and consistent with the message of chapter 6).  In this case, he specifically cites impatience with holy days (the Shabbatot and the Rosh Chodeshim [new months]) and their interference with business in connection with using false balances and other forms of dishonest dealing.  And for these crimes, Amos foretells the following:

“And on that day,” declares HaShem,
“I will make the sun go down at noon,
And darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
And all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist
And baldness on every head;
I will make it like the mourning for an only son
And the end of it like a bitter day.”
-Amos 8:9-10

Verse ten is what indicates that verse nine is not to be taken literally.  The darkness is partially metaphorical, emotional, and psychological, like the “darkness” one would associate with the death of one’s only heir.  Indeed the following verses go into greater and more literal detail.  There will be drought and famine, that will cause people, not only to suffer, but to be displaced.  There will be no grain to sell, with or without false measures.  All of these things (including literal darkness and mourning) came to pass and were reported by Yoel in his own time. 

During the Exile, people would seek out HaShem’s Word, but there were no prophets, a prophecy later repeated by Yermiyahu and Yehezkiel (Ezekiel).  Those who had previously scorned HaShem’s holy days and commandments found themselves scorned by Him, as explained, by Yoel.  Indeed, according to both Amos and Yoel, the kingdom of Israel would be utterly destroyed, and only the righteous among the whole house of Yakov survived, albeit scattered.  This prophecy was born out in the Assyrian and Chaldean conquests, with the remnant returning under Persian rule, and returning chastened and eager to make amends (as described by Yoel, Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah).
In the Persian period, the “booth of David” (the Temple, referring to the dedication of the First Temple, which occurred during Sukkot according to 1 Melechim [Kings] 8:1-11, and was for a building erected on a threshing floor) was indeed raised back up and repaired.  

As Amos foretold, all the nations under Persian dominion were made to contribute to the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, and the Judean province was rebuilt and flourished in peace, prosperity, and prominence (see Ezra and Nehemiah).  Unfortunately, the permanence of that golden age was averted by the return of HaShem’s people to misdeeds and idolatry.

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