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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Amos 5

Amos 3-6. Fuller Statement of Israel’ s Sin and Doom.— There are three main sections, each beginning “ Hear ye this word” ( Amos 3:1, Amos 4:1, Amos 5:1).

Verses 1-17

Amos 5:1-17 . The Impending Punishment.— The prophet gives his next few words the form of a dirge ( kî nah, Amos 5:1). This ( Amos 5:2) is characterised by the peculiar kî nah-metre, consisting of three beats or stresses followed by two. In the prophetic vision Israel appears as already overthrown irretrievably. She lies forsaken on the ground, and nothing can raise her. How she has come to this pass is explained in the following verse ( Amos 5:3). Her army is almost annihilated in war. This must inevitably happen if Israel will not take warning, but there is still time to seek Yahweh and live ( Amos 5:4). Let the corrupt worship at Bethel and Beersheba be forsaken ( Amos 5:5), for “ Gilgal shall taste the gall of exile” (G. A. Smith), and Bethel (“ the house of God” ) shall become (Beth) aven” (“ the house of idols,” Harper). If Yahweh is still forsaken ( Amos 5:6), He will burst forth like an unquenchable fire against Israel (represented here as the House of Joseph and as Bethel). The prophet then seems to add a description of the House of Joseph. But it is better to place Amos 5:7 after Amos 5:9, prefixing the words “ Alas for!” Amos 5:8 f. then comes in more suitably as a description of Yahweh, who is mentioned in Amos 5:6. He it is ( Amos 5:8) who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turneth “ deep darkness” into morning and darkeneth day into night, etc. Warning is next given to those who pervert or dethrone justice and righteousness, and ( Amos 5:10) hate and abominate anyone who reproves them. The prophet then reverts to Israel’ s oppression of the poor. Those who trample down and rob the poor ( Amos 5:11) will never inhabit the luxurious houses they build for themselves; they will never enjoy the wine of the delightful vineyards they plant. Their crimes are manifest to Yahweh ( Amos 5:12). They afflict the righteous, take bribes, and thrust aside the poor when these present themselves at the place of justice ( Job 5:4 *, Psalms 127:5 *). One who has an insight into the days of calamity that are coming would prefer to keep silent (this is preferable to the usual interpretation that in times so evil the prudent will keep silent). The prophet pauses, hesitating to describe the catastrophe, and before he proceeds to do so, he utters another call to repentance ( Amos 5:14 f.). The description follows in Amos 5:16 f. On all sides shall be heard the sounds of wailing and lamentation for the dead.

Amos 5:3 . to the house of Israel: omit, as mistaken insertion from Amos 5:4.

Amos 5:5 . Harper thinks that by ‘â ven (see mg.) we are to understand Beth-aven.

Amos 5:8 . the Pleiades (Heb. kî mah) and Orion (Heb. kesî l) . In Arabic kû mat means “ a heap.” This suggests that Heb. kî mah denotes a cluster of stars. This cluster is usually understood to be the Pleiades. M. A. Stern and others, however, think that another term, ‘ ayish ( cf. Job 38:32), denotes the Pleiades (see EBi., s.v. “ Stars” ). In that case kî mah may, as Stern suggests, denote Canis major with its bright star Sirius. The root of the word translated “ Orion” perhaps denotes primarily, “ to be thick, fat.” Orion seems to be thought of as a dull-witted, obstinate giant. Since the word kesî l means also “ fool,” it is thought that there is some allusion to a myth in which a giant strove with God and was chained to the sky for his impiety.

Amos 5:9 . Render perhaps, “ Who causeth (LXX ‘ distributeth’ ) destruction (reading shebher for shodh) to burst forth upon the strong, and brings (reading yâ bhî’ ; cf. LXX) ruin upon the fortress.”

Amos 5:16 . Or “ and the husbandmen shall summon to mourning” (so Harper).

Verses 18-27

Amos 5:18-27 . Israel’ s Delusions.— The prophet resumes the subject of Israel’ s delusions, how she disregards the essential conditions of real welfare. In Amos 5:18-20 he deals with a peculiar example of this, the conception or rather misconception of “ the day of Yahweh.” The current belief was that when “ the day of Yahweh” dawned, He would surely vindicate His people and punish their foes. Amos urges that this belief is a serious and unfortunate mistake, and conceives “ the day of Yahweh” as a day of reckoning for His own people. “ What good will it do you? Yahweh’ s day is a day of darkness and not light” (Harper). The prudent course would be at once to seek God and live. Simply to long and pray for the day of Yahweh is to flee from one danger and fall into another which may be more deadly ( Amos 5:19). After disposing of this peculiar delusion, the prophet denounces again ( Amos 5:21-27) a merely formal observance of religious rites and ceremonies. These are really hateful and despicable to Yahweh, if they are combined with a denial of justice and righteousness in everyday life ( Amos 5:24). When Israel wandered in the wilderness forty years, she received remarkable tokens of Yahweh’ s care and favour. And yet there was no elaborate ritual, or, if there was, it could not in the circumstances be practised ( Amos 5:25). ( Amos 5:24 f. may be regarded as a parenthesis.) Amos 5:26 is supposed to resume the denunciation of vain or false worship and Amos 5:27 to indicate the penalty. Amos 5:26 is difficult. RV seems to assume that the reference is to the past, and that Siccuth and Chiun were idols. But these two words are probably the names of an Assyrian deity, and should be read Sakkuth and Kê wâ n. The verse will then refer to the future, and is not so much a further denunciation of false worship as a prediction of what will happen to the Israelites and their idols. In that case it should be regarded as an editorial insertion. Sakkut and Kaiwâ n are Assyrian by-names of the god Saturn, and are found together in Assyrian texts. If Amos 5:26 is deleted, Amos 5:27 pronounces the penalty incurred by false piety. Therefore— because of such idle practices— I will carry you away into exile.

Amos 5:20 . even very dark, and no brightness in it: Kent, “ yea, murky darkness, without a ray of light in it.”

Amos 5:21 . Translate, “ I hate, I despise your pilgrim feasts” ( cf. Ar. hajja, “ to make a pilgrimage to Mecca,” “ and I will not accept (lit. ‘ smell’ with acceptance) your festivals” (דṣ?â râ h here a synonym of hâ g, not a technical term as in Deuteronomy 16:8, Leviticus 23:36).

Amos 5:23 . viols: render “ harps.”

Amos 5:24 . Better, “ and let right roll on like waters, and righteousness like a perennial stream.”

Amos 5:26 . Yea, ye have borne, etc.: rather, “ yea, ye will bear.” The “ star of your god,” or better, “ your star-god,” is probably a gloss. Riessler, following LXX, would read melek for malkekem (“ your king” ). This gives Sakkuth-melek, for which he compares Adar-melek and Anam-melek in 2 Kings 17:31.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Amos 5". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.