Class #3 Amos
Last week we left of just as Amos was about to tell the Northern Kingdom of Israel what was about to befall her for her numerous sins. Keep in mind that her sins were considered more severe than the same sins committed by the nations around her because the Israelites knew better; they are part of G-d’s Chosen to set the example for the rest of the world. Yet, they were behaving no better than the pagans around them! Amos Chapter 3 begins with a reminder from G-d of who they are and what is about to happen to them. Sadly, we can apply this concept of accountability to anyone who considered themselves part of Israel; true believers; from both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
Chapter 3:3: Do two people walk together unless they had [so] arranged? Does a lion roar in the forest, if it has no kill? Does a young lion send forth his voice from his lair, unless he has captured [prey]? Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground, if it does not have a snare? Does the trap rise from the ground, unless it has entrapped? Is the shofar ever sounded in a city and the people not tremble? Can there be misfortune in a city, if HaShem had not brought it? For the L-rd HaShem/Elohim will not do anything unless He has revealed His secret to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared; who will not fear? The L-rd HaShem/Elohim has spoken; who will not prophesy?”
What do all these metaphors symbolize? The first is easy. If two people arrive a specific location for the same reason at the same time, it is evident that it is no coincidence. Using the same analogy and more easily evidenced today than ever before in history, the words of the prophets are coming true as G-d had them prophesy. G-d is telling the people that it is useless to tell the prophets not to prophesy because the events will indeed come to pass despite the people’s futile attempts to stop them. It is as if the people believed if the prophets did not prophesy, the events would not happen. I like to call this the ostrich mentality; if you stick your head in the sand, all is well!
A lion does not roar in victory if it has not killed anything. This concept can be applied to Nebuchadnezzar’s triumphant cry when he conquers the Jewish nation. We note at the end of the paragraph that HaShem is the Lion that has roared; therefore the events that are about to happen are a “done deal.”
The statement about the young ion has several interpretations. One is that G-d is asking the people if they believe His roar is less significant than that of a mature lion. Another view posits that this statement is similar to the previous about the lion in the forest. Rashi interprets the verse as referring to the spirit of prophesy that the Ruach instills in the prophet. Does HaShem call and send prophets to prophesy if there is no prey? Does He speak harshly unless the people have been caught in sin?
The statement about the bird infers that there is no reason to set a trap without something to catch the intended prey. Furthermore, do we think we can commit transgressions against HaShem without being caught in a web of punishment due to our own carelessness?
Does a trap rise from the ground unless something has set it off? Also, can we possibly commit sins without being caught up in the grasp of the Adversary? Another interpretation is as follows: a bird would seem incapable of being caught as it flies. Yet, man has the ability to lure and trap them. Certainly then, G-d Who is above all is capable of defeating the most arrogant and rebellious of people? Furthermore, the enemy will be sent to conquer the Jewish people and G-d will not rise to depart until His vengeance is complete.
Those who hear the shofar that sounds a warning of impending attack should cause trembling and fear, rather than apathy and arrogant disregard. The shofar is sounded for many other reasons such as joy or to call to assembly. But if there is no reason for joy or assembly, the sounding should be great cause for concern.
“Can there be misfortune…” With this phrase, the prophet arrives at the point of all the previous metaphors. Just as each of the previous conditions can only occur with the proper cause, so too can punishment come upon the people [and us] only because of the appropriate cause. In this case, it was absolute rebellion and arrogance against G-d and His Torah. Bad enough would it be if the Israelites were acting out in isolation, but their behavior surely affected many others who may have been watching this people and looking for differences in their behavior as G-d’s Chosen People. It must have brought great satisfaction to the surrounding nations to see that the Israelites were acting no different than they; justifying their actions in their minds. The people would recognize that all that was about to befall them was a result of their own actions by the fact it was foretold by the prophets.
The next verse as the others, calls out through the ages for repentance and a turning to the G-d of Israel. HaShem in His kindness and mercy, shares His plans with the prophets to give the people an “extra” warning beyond His repeated admonishments and instructions in His Torah. Now that His plans have been revealed to the prophets and throughout the Old and “New” Testaments, why do we as the Israelites then, not take heed and seek His ways?
Indeed a Lion has roared and will roar again (Rev. 5:5). Just as no one can ignore the roar of a lion, it is also unreasonable to demand that the prophets ignore HaShem’s call to prophesy.
Verse -11 is self- explanatory. The Northern Kingdom of Israel is about to suffer the punishment of G-d. Verses 12 can be explained as follows: When a lion comes and pulls a sheep from the herd, it is not afraid of a shepherd who only has a staff with which to chase him. Therefore, the shepherd is only able to save parts of the sheep that the lion would eat last, such as the legs, and the cart ledge of the ear that the lion does not eat. These are the only evidenced left that a disaster occurred and of the innocence of the shepherd that he was negligent.
The next sentence has profound meaning that provides further support for the fact that only a remnant will be saved in the future, just as it was during the time of which Amos spoke. See Romans 9:27 of the very same prophesy spoken of by Isaiah. In the prophecy of Amos we read “So shall be saved the Children of Israel who dwell in Samaria…” These are the Ten Tribes who relied on Hezekiah, king of Judah, and upon Judah, and escaped with them. “the corner of a bed and the edge of a couch.” According to Rashi, this teaches that only one of eight would be saved, as there are four corners to a bed, and a portion of a corner, as intimated by the word meaning “of a corner”, is interpreted as an eighth. Where was the remainder of the bed? It was in Damascus. This refers to the many Jews who found refuge in Damascus at the beginning of the Assyrian conquest.
Who were the Assyrians? They were one of the great powers of ancient Mesopotamia, rivals of the Babylonians. Their empire, which lasted from the 20th to the seventh centuries B.C., was centered on the cities of Assur, Nineveh and Arbela in what is now northern Iraq. Their religion revolved around worship of three major gods, one for each of the empire’s central cities. The Assyrians had a strong economy and powerful military that allowed them to dominate various surrounding countries. The ancient Kingdom of Israel was west of Assyria and the relationship between the Israelites and Assyrians vacillated from friendly to hostile. The Assyrians were brutal fighters, seldom showing any mercy to its victims. By the eight century BCE, the Northern Kingdom was absorbed by the Assyrian Empire, but the city of Samaria in the south remained independent for another 10 years before it was defeated. Eventually, some Israelites were forcibly resettled to other parts of the Assyrian Empire, being scattered as G-d said they would be for their rebellion and sins against Him, becoming “lo ami” not a people.” The Southern Kingdom remained allied with Assyria until the empire was defeated by Babylon in 612 BCE. Interestingly, G-d used Assyria for His purpose of punishing the Israelites, then punished Assyria for their brutal aggression. Our G-d keeps His Word and always punishes the unjust.
After castigating the men of the Northern Kingdom, G-d now addresses the women. Remember, G-d is an equal opportunity G-d!
Verse 1 “Hear this prophecy, yu cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the destitute, who say to their lords, ‘bring, so we may drink!”
Interpretations by RaDak and Arbanel help us with understanding the meaning of this phrase: “Listen to my words, o wives of the princes and officers, who are self-indulgent and beautiful from pampering, like the cows who graze in the bountiful fields of Bashan. You are responsible for your husbands oppressing the poor and the needy to satisfy your demands for more luxuries and pleasures. Who was Radak? David Kimhi (1160–1235), also known by the Hebrew acronym as the RaDaK (רד”ק) (Rabbi David Kimhi), was a medieval rabbi, biblical commentator, philosopher, and grammarian. Kimhi is probably best known today for his biblical commentaries on the books of the Prophets. He also wrote commentaries on the books of Genesis, Psalms, and Chronicles. His biblical work mirrors his grammarian work, and focuses on issues of language and form as well as upon content. He explains words on the basis of their grammatical construction and their etymological development. His commentary also includes homiletic and philosophical material, niqqud (vocalization), rabbinic tradition of the reading, and literal meaning of the words. He also addresses key issues such as the authorship of the various books and the historical eras in which the prophets were active, as well as other historical and geographical questions.
Arbanel Isaac ben Judah Abravanel (1437–1508), commonly referred to just as Abravanel, also spelled Abarbanel or Abrabanel, was a Portuguese Jewish statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and financier. Abravanel wrote many works during his lifetime which are often categorized into three groups: exegesis, philosophy, and apologetics. His philosophy dealt with the sciences and how the general field relates to the Jewish religion and traditions, and his apologetics defends the Jewish idea of the coming of the Messiah. Abravanel’s exegetic writings were different from the usual biblical commentaries because he took social and political issues of the times into consideration. He believed that mere commentary was not enough, but that the actual lives of the Jewish people must be deliberated on as well when discussing such an important topic as the Bible. He also took the time to include an introduction concerning the character of each book he commented on, as well as its date of composition, and the intention of the original author, in order to make the works more accessible to the average reader. In his introductions to the books of the prophets, which are much more comprehensive than those of his predecessors, he deals with the content of the books, the division of the material, their authors and the time of their compilation, and also drew comparisons between the method and style of the various prophets. The major characteristic that separated Abravanel from his predecessors was his unflagging commitment toward using the Scripture as a means of elucidating the status quo of his surrounding Jewish community; as a historical scholar, Abravanel was able to contemporize the lessons of the historical eras described in the Scripture and apply them successfully in his explanations of modern Jewish living. Abravanel, who had himself taken part in the politics of the great powers of the day, believed that mere consideration of the literary elements of Scripture was insufficient, and that the political and social life of the characters in the Tanakh must also be taken into account. Due to the overall excellence and exhaustiveness of Abravanel’s exegetical literature, he was well respected and looked to for later Christian scholarship, which often included the tasks of translating and condensing his works.
Verse 2 describes what will become of the women and their daughters. They will be carried off as plunder and the daughters will be taken off in fishing boats, a fate usually reserved for captive prostitutes; a fate unbefitting for the families of princes and noblemen.
Verse 3. There will be so many breaches in the walls of the city that a woman will not need to go to the gate of the city in order to escape. She may be able to flee through a hole in the wall directly in fort of where she was living or standing. Furthermore some interpretations addressing the haughtiness of the women as wanton women already in the harems of the captors, will come and take the captive Israelite women into the harem to become prostitutes, thereby removing any sense of haughtiness by that time.
In verse 4-5 G-d seems to “dare” the sinning Israelites to defy Him with their sin and worship of false gods. He confronts them with some of their specific sins. Rashi interprets it this way “Go ahead and pursue your idolatrous ways, until the measure of your transgressions is filled [and my wrath is poured out upon you]. Abarvanel interprets it this way: “ Now that you have been warned of the evil that is about to befall you, go ahead and continue to serve your false gods’; let us see if they will help you.” At G-d’s direction, Amos quotes the lenient practices that were sanctioned by the idolatrous priests in their rituals. They were having sacrifices brought every morning when the Torah states that offerings cannot be left overnight. However, according to their worship of the false gods, these dieties allowed them to leave the offerings overnight and consume them the next morning. The tithes for three days were in defiance of the Torah which demands that the tithe-offerings of the livestock are to be consumed within two days. “Burn thanksgiving offerings of leavened bread…” The Torah prohibits the offering of leavened bread upon the Altar, but their altars accepted them. “And announce and publicize voluntary offerings…” The Torah states that you may not delay the fulfillment of vows but the Israelites were given permission to bring their pledged offerings whenever they were “able.”
Does this not sound familiar in our world today? Are not the majority of Clergy people allowing behaviors that are forbidden in G-d’s Torah for the sake of bragging rights about how many “members” they have and for money? The Sabbath has been changed .Pagan holidays are still practiced, even attaching a religious motif to them; completely forbidden by the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Eating forbidden food , teaching the people that the Old Testament is “outdated” or no longer applicable because Jesus came and did away with the Laws of God; His Father! This is pure idiocrasy and can make no sense to the most basic logical thought. Cheating people in business; committing adultery behind so-called “closed doors”, donning religious attire[if they still do] on Sunday of all days, and standing before a congregation assuring them that all their sins are forgiven forever and that they are saved. This could not be further from the truth (Romans 3:25; 2 Peter 1:9). These scriptures are just two of many that support the entirety of G-d’s Word that warns us if we do not follow (action) what we profess (trust and belief in the entire[Old and New Testaments} of G-d, that we will suffer the same consequences as foretold by Yahshua Himself, and His prophets. Let us take heed while there is still time and be a blessing to the nations as the example for G-d we were chosen to be.
We will pick up at Chapter 4, Verse 6 next week.
R. Tamah Davis