Amos was a Judean prophet who went to Bethel of Israel at the time of Assyrian Expansion in order to expose the exploitation of the poor and the distortions of religious practice that thrived in the relative security and economic prosperity of the privileged class in Israel and resulted in wide gap between the rich and the poor (Bandstra, p287). In the book of Amos, Amos, as a prophet called directly by God, not a professional prophet belonging to the prophetic guild (Bandstra, p288; Dr. Lester’s lecture: Prophecy A), condemned the morality of the countries in Syria-Palestine territories with oracles starting with “Thus says the Lord” speaking in the first person, “I”, and Israel is the last target of his condemnation.
Amos 2:6-16; 5:10-17; 6:1-8; 8:4-9:4, show Amos’s prophecy with an apocalyptic vision on Israel in terms of the elements of each word, ‘prophecy’ and ‘apocalypse’ presented in Bandstra and Stanley. Bandstra suggests that “the basic function of biblical prophecy was to analyze political policies and social conditions in light of Yhwh’s demands of justice, loyalty, and faith in him” and that what biblical prophets predicted was “basically extrapolations from the present state affairs into the future, based on their knowledge of what God demanded. If the people would not change their errant ways, then the future would hold nothing but trouble for them. If they repented, then the grim scenario would be averted.” (p195) For the latter part of what biblical prophets predicted, Amos’s prediction uses, “the form of vision,” to describe what God said to him about his plan for the future of Israel using imaginative imagery”(Sheol, sea-serpent, in Amos 9:1-4), which is one of the common features of apocalyptic literature suggested by Bandstra (p443) and Stanley (p482-484). Thus, I add ‘with an apocalyptic vision’ to the title of this blog.
Amos 2:6-16; 5:10-17; 6:1-8; 8:4-9:4, describe what is wrong with Israelite society, what will happen to the people of Israel if they don’t change their ways, and whether there is anything that they can do avoid this fate.
What does Amos say is wrong with Israelite society?
Bandstra suggests that Amos is very sensitive to the matters of social welfare in Israel and condemned the privileged class of Israel for their abusing and increasing their wealth at the expense of the poor (p289). Stanley also asserts that Amos delivered his message of condemnation of the privileged class, the king and the wealthy elites, in the name of YHWH; the rich are living a luxurious life ignoring the poor and needy (5:12, 6:1, 4-6), making money by abusing them (2:6-8, 5:11-12, 8:4, 8:6), and engaging in deceitful business practices (8:5-6).
Amos also accused the wealthy’s arrogance of self-satisfaction (6:1-7) which will result in God’s judgment (6:8). In addition, as Stanley suggests (p 429-430), Amos criticizes the wealthy’s losing sight of the social dimension of Israel’s covenant relationship with Yahweh, which reflects a deeper spiritual sickness reducing religion to the proper observance of public rituals, which Amos persists Yahweh is disgusted (Dr. Lester’s lecture: Prophecy B) For the wealthy who may consider their wealth and success as signs of divine favor, Amos’s condemnation would have sounded like the agitation of a madman from Judah. Thus, Amos was ordered to stop his prophecy (Amos 2:12), which implies the wealthy would not listen to Amos’s prophesy and God’s judgment would be with them.
What will happen to the people of Israel if they don’t change their ways?
Amos warns the privileged class of Israel that if they don’t change their ways, there shall be the judgment of Yahweh. The Harper Collins Study Bible explains that in 2:13-16, the Lord announces judgment against Israel in the form of a military catastrophe in which the army is routed and even the most courageous flee away naked (p1220); in 5:16-17, there shall be wailing everywhere and mourning songs announce the death of Israel and professional mourners shall be called (p1223); in 6:7, the leaders will lead the way into exile and in 6:8, The Lord solemnly swears to hand over (deliver up) the city and its inhabitants to its enemies (p1224); in 8:7-8, the Lord will intervene against the land, the earth (p1226); in 8:9-14, the coming day of the Lord (5:18-20) will be a time of darkness, mourning, famine, and thirst (p1226-1227); in 9:1-4, Amos’s fifth vision is reported as the most severe judgment, that is, God’s order for the total destruction of the people and no escape for the Lord is possible, even in death or captivity (p1227). In this fifth vision, as mentioned before, we can see an element of apocalyptic literature using an imaginary in which Amos sees Yahweh standing by the altar instead of showing an object, constructing a lesson around it and issuing an order to “smash the pillar capitals”(Bandstra, p293).
These are Amos’s prophecy which is warning the people of Israel, specifically the privileged class, to repent and change their ways of living following God’s way in their morality and faith.
Is there anything that they can do to avoid this fate?
As Stanley suggests, Amos calls on the wealthy elites of Israel “seek good and not evil, that you may live” and provides the possibility that “the Lord, the God of host, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph “(5:14-15), which implies that there is still hope. However, Amos’s fifth vision described in 9:1-4 appears to show his expectation of little real hope for the people of Israel, the king and the wealthy elites. (p430) According to Stanley, the message of hope at the end of the book (9:9-15) seems to be added later, which reflects “the circumstances and hopes of the Exile, but it should not be credited to Amos” (p 430).