Make Option 01: (Exercise 87 in Stanley.) Read Amos 2:6-16; 5:10-17; 6:1-8; 8:4-9:4. In about 750-1000 words, what does Amos say is wrong with Israelite society? What will happen to the people of Israel if they don’t change their ways? Is there anything that they can do to avoid this fate?
The Book of Amos is a piece of prophetic literature found in the Bible. Amos is the earliest of the prophetic books and we see trends, started in Amos that continue throughout the other prophetical books in the Hebrew Bible (New Interpreter’s Bible, 339). Amos makes a lot of predictions about the end of time and the fate of Israel if she does not change her ways. Amos discusses the problems with Israelite society and specifically cites that the people do not care for the poor or the afflicted and abuse and oppress them; the elite fine the poor to death and then use the money from the fines for immoral acts, the people commit sexual immorality, etc. (Amos 2:6-8).
Amos prophesies in chapter eight that Israel will rise, like the waters of the Nile, be tossed around, and then sink back to its normal height, like the waters of the Nile (Amos 8:7-9). Amos also prophesies that YHWH will not forget the deeds done in Israel (Amos 8:7). Based on this statement from YHWH, I understand it to mean that YHWH will not forget the heinous acts done in the city and the city will always suffer because of it. However, in previous chapters YHWH seems to be wanting them to change their ways and repent (“Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.” Amos 5:14). YHWH might intend to do harm to the entire nation of Israel at this point, but might realize that taking out the entire city would be punishing the righteous, the poor, the afflicted, etc. that have not committed the crimes YHWH is angry about. The crimes YHWH seems to be angry about are the crimes of the elite, not the poor. Many of the crimes YHWH is citing as injustices are crimes selling the needy, fining the poor and using the money for lavish expenditures, etc. These are crimes the poor simply could not participate in, white collar crimes, if you will. This makes the entire passage more confusing, because if there are some committing the crimes, but not all, how can YHWH righteously punish all the people of Israel. However, on the flip side, Amos makes the statement for YHWH that YHWH will not forget the deeds that have been done in Israel, which leads into the prophesy about Israel being risen, tossed aside, and sunk back down.
One idea is that the prophesy about what will happen to Israel is a metaphor. YHWH specifically uses the Nile as an example of what will happen to Israel. Every year the Nile floods its banks, then goes back to its normal water table after a few months. The Nile could have been chosen to be used as a metaphor for the constant rise and fall of Israel (like the constant rising and falling of the Nile). What YHWH, through Amos, could be trying to say is that the suffering Israel will incur is suffering of the rise and fall of it as a prominent nation. For example, when we have white collar crimes occur today (think the whole Bernie Madoff fiasco), how does the government punish them? They take away their money and put them in a high security prison (granted it is for white collar crimes, but they still can’t eat gold leaf, look it up, the governor of California had it sprinkled on all of the food for his recent Oscar’s party). YHWH might be trying to do this with the nation of Israel. Allowing it to rise and fall keeps the people from becoming overly rich and greedy and allows for the nation to “restart” itself every time it falls. Regardless of how Israel will be destroyed by YHWH, it seems from the text that it will occur in some shape, form, or fashion and the people need to be repentant, even though it does not seem YHWH will change its mind at this point. The people of Israel angered YHWH by their greedy ways and by taking advantage of the poor and marginalized (why can’t these people ever get it together?!) and it seems from the statement that YHWH will not forget the deeds done in Israel, that the nation is going to be destroyed because of their sinful ways.
The Book of Amos seems to have inspired other prophetic literature, all with a common theme: “The end is coming!” Even though the Book of Amos is one of the least popular prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible, it still served as the ground work for all of the other prophetic books (New Interpreter’s Bible, 339-340).