Bible blog 2188

AMOS 8

“The end has come for my people”

Here is what Adonai God showed me: there in front of me was a basket of end of summer fruit. He asked, “‘Amos, what do you see?” I answered, “A basket of end of summer fruit.” Then Adonai said to me,

The end has come for my people,
I will never again overlook their offenses.
When that time comes, the songs in the temple
will be dirges,” says Adonai God.
“There will be many dead bodies;
everywhere silence will reign.”

Listen, you who swallow the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
You say, “When will New Moon be over,
so we can market our grain?
and Shabbat, so we can sell wheat?”
You measure the grain with a light ounce
but the silver in heavy pounds
fixing the scales, so that you can cheat,
buying the needy for silver
and the poor for a pair of shoes,
and sweeping up the refuse of the wheat to sell!”
Adonai swears by Ya‘akov’s pride,
“I will forget none of their deeds, ever.
Won’t the land tremble for this,
and everyone mourn, who lives in the land?
It will all rise, just like the Nile,
be in turmoil and subside, like the Nile in Egypt.

“When that time comes,” says Adonai God,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your festivals into mourning
and all your songs into wailing;
I will make you all put sackcloth around your waists
and shave your heads bald in grief.
I will make it like mourning for an only son
and its end like a bitter day.

11 The time is coming,” says Adonai God,
“when I will send famine over the land,
not a famine of bread or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of Adonai.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea
and from north to east, running back and forth,
seeking the word of Adonai;
but they will not find it.
13 When that time comes, young women and men
will faint from thirst.
14 Those who swear by the sin of Shomron,
who say, ‘As your god, Dan, lives,’
and, ‘As the Way of Be’er-Sheva lives’ —
they will fall and never get up again.”

The pun used by Amos “qayetz” summer fruit “qeytz” end, can only be clumsily translated into English, but it carries the implication of being ripe for destruction. The sins of Israel have ripened to the point at which God no longer has compassion for his people. Before the terrible punsihment God reminds Israel of the terrible injustices permitted in its society. In particular the crime of using false measures is singled out because it deprives the poor of a just reward of their labour. The simile of the Nile suggests that wealthy Israel will swell up then dry up completely. Then the revellers will be struck with bitter grief. One has the uncomfortable suspicion that Amos will not be very grieved at this outcome.

Then comes the prophet’s surprising prediction of a new kind of famine: the sorrowing people will look for a word of comfort or wisdom from God through his prophets but there will be none. God will have delivered his word through the enemy who is destroying them. The idols that were so popular with the people will be shown as useless in that crisis.

We may perhaps feel a little disturbed by the undisguised satisfaction that Amos takes in the prospect of this disaster. If we think however of a contemporary prophet of climate change, looking ahead to the disaster which will befall deniers like Mr Trump, we may understand Amos better: the result of Israel’s careless affluence is so clear to him, that he cannot sympathise with those who reject his warning.

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