Amos – Amos 5:1
1 Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel:
2 The virgin of Israel has fallen;
She will rise no more.
She lies forsaken on her land;
There is no one to raise her up.
3 For thus says the Lord God:
“The city that goes out by a thousand
Shall have a hundred left,
And that which goes out by a hundred
Shall have ten left to the house of Israel.”
Last time I fully intended to dig into Amos chapter five and ended up leading my readers on a bit of a rabbit trail. Hopefully some will find the detour useful. Although I quoted Amos 5:1, I did not comment on it. I will try to stay on track.
Please remember that chapter five is not a stand-alone unit of scripture. It is instricibly attached, at very least, to the previous chapter and probably to all of the preceding chapters in this short book. You will find it helpful to read chapters four and five together before embarking upon a closer examination of chapter five.
If I could live my life avoiding any news of tragedy or sadness I would gladly do so. I’m not interested in hearing about things that fill my heart with sadness. My natural tendency is to draw back from such information and avoid it. It is no different for me when I encounter God’s word. I have to discipline myself to read the whole word of God. When I come across, “Hear this word which I take up against you”, my thought is, “awe man, I don’t want to read this!” But avoiding the passage will only serve to limit our overall understanding of not only the Word of God, but God Himself. So here we go!
So what observations can we make in Amos 5:1? The very first word tells us an imperative or command is to follow. The people being addressed are commanded to hear, or we might say listen up, pay attention!
Next we need to identify the antecedent to the pronoun “I”. Ultimately we understand that the book of Amos is God addressing the Northern Kingdom Israel. Keep in mind however, that Yahweh did not speak to the people directly. Amos was God’s chosen mouthpiece and I believe the antecedent here is the prophet Amos because he says, “Hear this word which I take up against you…” It seems to be a picture of one person, God handing a message to another person, Amos. Amos “took up” this word against them.
The author then identifies a unique characteristic about this imminent word, it is a lamentation. When we look up the word lamentation in a Hebrew Lexicon we discover it to be a funeral song or dirge. This may indicate that the prophet sang the current passage via a mournful melody. God was certainly determined to get the people to pay attention and take seriously His Word of judgement.
I’ll make one more observation in the first verse. Once again the prophet clearly identifies the recipients of this prophetic word. It is the “House of Israel”. When you read “House of Israel” do you hear Northern kingdom? If so, that would be understandable, but I believe inaccurate. At the risk of sounding like Mr. Obvious, let me just say that words mean things. In other words, God used particular words to communicate a particular meaning. He did not say, “Northern kingdom” or “Samaria”, He said “House of Israel”. Remember that the twelve tribes of Israel made up the house of Israel. By putting these three words together it seems likely that God has identified this particular prophecy as being to the entire nation of Israel (both the Northern and Southern kingdoms).
Let’s determine to not just cherry pick our way through the Bible, only looking for the passages and stories that make us feel good. Let’s fight to read, study and embrace the whole Word of God.
God truly is worthy of all of our praise worship and obedience!
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
June 28, 2018 (11:23 pm)
I agreed with all of your meanings of words except the antecedent to “I”in the passage. It is really not a big matter and it doesn’t change any meaning to the passage. But it seems to me that Amos and the other prophets are repeating the exact words of God and He wants the prophets like Amos to express what He said with using “I”as meaning the Lord said this. Oh well, I am probably wrong as usual? I definitely had a hard time stating my own case in a succinct and understandable manner.
June 29, 2018 (7:51 am)
I appreciate your comment. We know that ultimately it is God communicating the message through His prophet. Most of the time it is impossible to separate the prophet’s voice from God’s voice – they are perfectly synchronized. One way to look at it is every prophetic message has an Author/author. The upper case Author is always God, and it is His message delivered through the lower case author, God’s prophet. Often times when we read the Word of God we consider the delivered message and miss the means by which it was delivered. It’s rewarding to consider now God delivered His Holy Word. The perfect flawless God of the universe chooses to entrust His Word to frail and flawed men, using their personalities, abilities, capacities, etc, all without diluting what He wants to say. It give me one more opportunity to be amazed by God.