Bible Scholars BEWARE, I probably butchered this more than necessary because I was typing quickly and in short spurts in between working. I was just trying to tell my friend what I was doing in class. It’s a little irreverent and i didn’t go into deep detail of everything, and I don’t want to hear how I might be blaspheming thank you very much. This is MY opinion, and MY interpretation after only one week of study. So,without further ado, here is me explaining Amos 1-2 to my friend Sonja on Instant Messenger (slightly cleaned up for clarity):
Okay, Sooooo…. Amos was a shepherd in the north of Judah, and Judah was just south of Israel. Judah and Israel had a covenant of brotherhood formed during the time of Solomon, so one could say they are friendly nations. Surrounding Judah and Israel were a bunch of other Mediterranean nations, so it’s one portion of the continent and it’s divided up into larger and smaller kingdoms. Amos is given a vision by God. I assume vision because the text says these are the words of Amos that he saw regarding Israel, but my personal understanding of that would be he was given supernatural knowledge in his head. So Amos travels from his home in Judah to Israel. It would be sort of like someone from Canada coming to the USA to deliver a message to our leaders about God’s words. And all of these surrounding nations are kind of at war with each other to more and less extents. Anyway, so Amos tells Israel.. “Here is what God says… Because of the many transgressions of the people of … (let’s use places we’re familiar with) say, Cuba, I will not revoke the punishment, because this is what they did, and he lists out some great atrocity, so this is what I’m going to do to them. I will send fire and destroy their cities and peoples. They will be utterly destroyed.” And, of course we Americans all hate Cuba so we say YEA!!! Go God! Then he says the same thing about Brazil, and we say to ourselves, ok, Brazil is kinda way down there, but those people are barbaric and he’s going to punish them. Right on God! Then he says the same thing about Colombia, and we go yeahhhhh, those Colombians are a bunch of killers and slave traders. Woot God! So in all Amos delivers news from God about 6 of the surrounding nations and how horrible they are and how he’s going to destroy them and we say Yay God! You are the MAN! Okay, now Amos reports on Canada (his homeland), and God says well they haven’t been following my laws and statutes so i’m going to destroy them too. So, apparently not following the laws and statutes is as bad as all these other things in those nations that don”t know this God. Basically the people he is talking to have heard all about these nations they hate getting destroyed, and now they’ve heard about this nation they kinda like getting destroyed. Now Amos repeats the same “formula” of “thus says the lord, for these transgressions I will not revoke the punishment, because you have done all these things (and lists them out) I will destroy you, only NOW he’s talking about Israel! And, the wrongs that Israel has committed are not atrocities against other men (which the first 6 were), and they are not just disregarding the statutes (like Judah, the 7th), they are about not following God, about ignoring the things that God has told them over and over are important to Him, the people close to his heart, that they are AGAIN following false gods, they do crimes against the poor, the needy, the righteous, defiling his temple etc. “led astray by the same lies as your ancestors”. So, for my analogy: imagine this guy is coming from Canada to tell us these things about all these surrounding nations, and now “oh wait, now he’s talking about US” and the complaints aren’t that we are mass slaughtering or working the slave trade or any of the major atrocities against man, the complaints are that WE are taking advantage and trampling on the needy, the poor, the righteous, the hungry, that we (the leaders) are greedy, selfish, gluttonous, overbearing, betraying God, and defiling God’s name.
God said “I took you from Egypt, I rescued you from this and that, I gave you this land of milk and honey, i raised your children as prophets, and you denied them”, so God says he will crush them, the strong will be made weak, the swift will not get away, etc. Now, AFTER chapter 2, at some point in the book, he relents and says he will only crush the sinners, the righteous and repentant he will let live, but the part i thought was so super interesting was the parallel to today’s USA. Not to compare USA to Ancient Israel or the Americans to the Ancient Israelites. That would be incorrect. But to notice the similarities in our willingness to castigate the other countries, and then treat our own people poorly, and go to war, and to use God’s name injudiciously. Amos could be read as a parable, or a warning, to our own leaders. I love that he talks about all the other nations first and brings the Israelites into complicit agreement: “yeah, those dirty dogs! destroy them! oh wait….! ummmm but we… well God, we can explain…. “. Of course, THAT is not in the text. There is no discussion of the Israelites reaction in the first two chapters of Amos, but we know from reading ahead that the Israelites become angry and scorn and dismiss Amos, but what we also know about the text from history and other texts is that Israel and those surrounding countries were not friends; they were enemies to a large extent, so we can know by knowing human nature, that they were probably cheering God on, and then got caught, hoisted on their own petard as it were.
The teacher is so right! When you sit with the text for long enough, it “opens up”, and you make connections that you couldn’t see on the first reading (and second and third), which makes it both tedious and exciting! But the fact that i can tell you the essentials of what happened in two chapters of a book about a fairly minor prophet from 750 BC approximately…. that amazes me! That i can restate it into a story that you can follow and understand! I don’t really think you can do that unless you have really read and understood the text. I think the poetic nature of the original Hebrew manuscripts makes it hard for us to follow. Even if we could understand the Hebrew, we’d probably still have trouble following it because we don’t talk that way, we have a different cultural perspective and all. So, yeah that class is definitely going to kill me, but i love it!