Amos 4

1Listen to this message, you cows of Bashan
The expression cows of Bashan is used by the prophet to address the wealthy women of Samaria, who demand that their husbands satisfy their cravings. The derogatory language perhaps suggests that they, like the livestock of Bashan, were well fed, ironically in preparation for the coming slaughter. This phrase is sometimes cited to critique the book’s view of women.
who live on Mount Samaria!
Heb “the ones who” (three times in this verse).
oppress the poor;
you crush the needy.
You say to your
Heb “their.”
“Bring us more to drink!”
Some commentators relate this scene to the description of the marzeah feast of 6:3–6, in which drinking played a prominent part (see the note at 6:6).

2 The sovereign Lord confirms this oath by his own holy character:
Heb “swears by his holiness.”
The message that follows is an unconditional oath, the fulfillment of which is just as certain as the Lord’s own holy character.

“Certainly the time is approaching
Heb “Look, certainly days are coming upon you”; NRSV “the time is surely coming upon you.”

when you will be carried away
Heb “one will carry you away”; NASB “they will take you away.”
in baskets,
The meaning of the Hebrew word translated “baskets” is uncertain. The translation follows the suggestion of S. M. Paul (Amos [Hermeneia], 128), who discusses the various options (130–32): “shields” (cf. NEB); “ropes”; “thorns,” which leads to the most favored interpretation, “hooks” (cf. NASB “meat hooks”; NIV, NRSV “hooks”); “baskets,” and (derived from “baskets”) “boats.” Against the latter, it is unlikely that Amos envisioned a deportation by boat for the inhabitants of Samaria! See also the note on the expression “fishermen’s pots” later in this verse.

every last one of you
Or “your children”; KJV “your posterity.”
in fishermen’s pots.
The meaning of the Hebrew expression translated “in fishermen’s pots” is uncertain. The translation follows that of S. M. Paul (Amos [Hermeneia], 128), who discusses the various options (132–33): “thorns,” understood by most modern interpreters to mean (by extension) “fishhooks” (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV); “boats,” but as mentioned in the previous note on the word “baskets,” a deportation of the Samaritans by boat is geographically unlikely; and “pots,” referring to a container used for packing fish (cf. NEB “fish-baskets”). Paul (p. 134) argues that the imagery comes from the ancient fishing industry. When hauled away into exile, the women of Samaria will be like fish packed and transported to market.
The imagery of catching fish in connection with the captivity of Israel is also found in Jer 16:16 and Hab 1:14.

3 Each of you will go straight through the gaps in the walls;
Heb “and [through the] breaches you will go out, each straight ahead.”

you will be thrown out
The Hiphil verb form has no object. It may be intransitive (F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos [AB], 425), though many emend it to a Hophal.
toward Harmon.”
The meaning of this word is unclear. Many understand it as a place name, though such a location is not known. Some (e.g., H. W. Wolff, Joel and Amos [Hermeneia[, 204) emend to “Hermon” or to similarly written words, such as “the dung heap” (NEB, NJPS), “the garbage dump” (NCV), or “the fortress” (cf. NLT “your fortresses”).

The Lord is speaking!

Israel has an Appointment with God

4 “Go to Bethel
Bethel and Gilgal were important formal worship centers because of their importance in Israel’s history. Here the Lord ironically urges the people to visit these places so they can increase their sin against him. Their formal worship, because it was not accompanied by social justice, only made them more guilty in God’s sight by adding hypocrisy to their list of sins. Obviously, theirs was a twisted view of the Lord. They worshiped a god of their own creation in order to satisfy their religious impulses (see 4:5: “For you love to do this”). Note that none of the rituals listed in 4:4–5 have to do with sin.
For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3.
and rebel!
The Hebrew word translated “rebel” (also in the following line) could very well refer here to Israel’s violations of their covenant with God (see also the term “crimes” in 1:3 [with note] and the phrase “covenant transgressions” in 2:4 [with note]; 3:14).

At Gilgal
See the note on Bethel earlier in this verse.
rebel some more!
Bring your sacrifices in
Or “for.”
the morning,
your tithes on
Or “for.”
the third day!
5 Burn a thank offering of bread made with yeast!
For the background of the thank offering of bread made with yeast, see Lev 7:13.

Make a public display of your voluntary offerings!
Heb “proclaim voluntary offerings, announce.”

For you love to do this, you Israelites.”
The sovereign Lord is speaking!
6 “But surely I gave
The Hebrew construction is emphatic (pronoun + verb). It underscores the stark contrast between the judgments that the Lord had been sending with the God of blessing Israel was celebrating in its worship (4:4–5).
you no food to eat in any of your cities;
you lacked food everywhere you live.
Heb “But I gave to you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of food in all your places.” The phrase “cleanness of teeth” is a vivid way of picturing the famine Israel experienced.

Still you did not come back to me.”
The Lord is speaking!
7 “I withheld rain from you three months before the harvest.
Rain…three months before the harvest refers to the rains of late March-early April.

I gave rain to one city, but not to another.
One field
Heb “portion”; KJV, ASV “piece”; NASB “part.” The same word occurs a second time later in this verse.
would get rain, but the field that received no rain dried up.
8 People from
The words “people from” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
two or three cities staggered into one city to get
Heb “to drink.”
but remained thirsty.
Or “were not satisfied.”

Still you did not come back to me.”
The Lord is speaking!
9 “I destroyed your crops
Heb “you.” By metonymy the crops belonging to these people are meant. See the remainder of this verse, which describes the agricultural devastation caused by locusts.
with blight and disease.
Locusts kept
The Hiphil infinitive construct is taken adverbially (“kept”) and connected to the activity of the locusts (NJPS). It also could be taken with the preceding sentence and related to the Lord’s interventions (“I kept destroying,” cf. NEB, NJB, NIV, NRSV), or it could be understood substantivally in construct with the following nouns (“Locusts devoured your many orchards,” cf. NASB; cf. also KJV, NKJV).
devouring your orchards,
Or “gardens.”
vineyards, fig trees, and olive trees.
Still you did not come back to me.”
The Lord is speaking!
10 “I sent against you a plague like one of the Egyptian plagues.
Heb “in the manner [or “way”] of Egypt.”

I killed your young men with the sword,
along with the horses you had captured.
I made the stench from the corpses
Heb “of your camps [or “armies”].”
rise up into your nostrils.
Still you did not come back to me.”
The Lord is speaking!
11 “I overthrew some of you the way God
Several English versions substitute the first person pronoun (“I”) here for stylistic reasons (e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
Heb “like God’s overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah.” The divine name may be used in an idiomatic superlative sense here, in which case one might translate, “like the great [or “disastrous”] overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is described in Gen 19:1–29.

You were like a burning stick
Heb “like that which is burning.”
snatched from the flames.
Still you did not come back to me.”
The Lord is speaking!
12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel.
Because I will do this to you,
prepare to meet your God, Israel!
The Lord appears to announce a culminating judgment resulting from Israel’s obstinate refusal to repent. The following verse describes the Lord in his role as sovereign judge, but it does not outline the judgment per se. For this reason F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman (Amos [AB], 450) take the prefixed verbal forms as preterites referring to the series of judgments detailed in vv. 6–11. It is more likely that a coming judgment is in view, but that its details are omitted for rhetorical effect, creating a degree of suspense (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 149–50) that will find its solution in chapter 5. This line is an ironic conclusion to the section begun at 4:4. Israel thought they were meeting the Lord at the sanctuaries, yet they actually had misunderstood how he had been trying to bring them back to himself. Now Israel would truly meet the Lord – not at the sanctuaries, but face-to-face in judgment.

13 For here he is!
Heb “For look, the one who.” This verse is considered to be the first hymnic passage in the book. The others appear at 5:8–9 and 9:5–6. Scholars debate whether these verses were originally part of a single hymn or three distinct pieces deliberately placed in each context for particular effect.
formed the mountains and created the wind.
He reveals
Or “declares” (NAB, NASB).
his plans
Or “his thoughts.” The translation assumes that the pronominal suffix refers to God and that divine self-revelation is in view (see 3:7). If the suffix refers to the following term אָדַם (’adam, “men”), then the expression refers to God’s ability to read men’s minds.
to men.
He turns the dawn into darkness
Heb “he who makes dawn, darkness.” The meaning of the statement is unclear. The present translation assumes that allusion is made to God’s approaching judgment, when the light of day will be turned to darkness (see 5:20). Other options include: (1) “He makes the dawn [and] the darkness.” A few Hebrew mss, as well as the LXX, add the conjunction (“and”) between the two nouns. (2) “He turns darkness into glimmering dawn” (NJPS). See S. M. Paul (Amos [Hermeneia], 154), who takes שָׁחַר (shakhar) as “blackness” rather than “dawn” and עֵיפָה (’efah) as “glimmering dawn” rather than “darkness.”

and marches on the heights of the earth.
The Lord, the God who commands armies,
Traditionally, “God of hosts.”
is his name!”
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