Friday 17 May 2024

Bible Book:

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.” (v. 4)

Amos 8:1-14 Friday 17 May 2024

Psalm 135:13-21


We continue to explore Amos today, as we have done most of this week. This 8th century BC prophet was sent to the kingdom of Israel at a crucial time in its history, just before its conquest by the might Assyrian empire. Much of the book speaks about the inescapable fate of the people, describing in often quite graphic terms the terrible consequences of the impending conflict. We may find these verses hard to read, especially in the light of current conflicts in the Middle East and across the world.

The passage begins with the fourth in a series of visions that began in chapter 7. It is probable that 7:10-17 was added to the text later, so it would have followed sequentially.

It is the hardest of the visions to understand as it probably relies on a word play in the original Hebrew on the words for ‘basket of summer fruit’ (probably figs) and ‘the end’. It is a reminder that Amos did not speak English and that we are always reliant on the hard work of interpreters and scholars to engage with our ancient scriptures.

The text then goes on to explain, as Amos has done before (eg 5:7), why this punishment has come upon Israel. The people have forgotten their covenant with God and their responsibilities under the holy law, preferring corruption and dishonesty (8:5-6). The prophet then goes on to spell out in detail the consequences of their actions, particularly the rejection of Amos by Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, who angrily tells this Judean wanderer: “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there” (7:12). This is one cause of the ‘drying up’ of the word of God (8:11-12). Those who cry out to other, false, gods at the cultic sites in Dan (in the north), Samaria (in the centre) and Beer-sheba (in the south), will be among the first to experience this spiritual drought (8:13-14).

To Ponder:

  • How should we approach passages of scripture like the vision of the basket of summer fruit (8:1-3), when we cannot fully understand its language?
  • Should we interpret the disaster that befell Israel as a direct consequence of the injustice practised by some? What might the consequences of such a reading be?
  • Amos warns about a famine of “hearing the words of the Lord” (8:11). Should we understand this as God not speaking or the people not listening, or something else?

Bible notes author: The Revd Geoffrey Farrar
Geoffrey Farrar is the Superintendent Minister of the Richmond & Hounslow Circuit in south-west London. He has pastoral charge of Barnes, Putney and Roehampton churches. He is currently studying for a (very) part-time PhD at the nearby University of Roehampton, looking at the impact of the Maccabean Revolt on responses to Jesus. He lives in Putney with his partner and their adopted son.

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