New English Translation
Death is Imminent
3 The Sovereign Lord says this:
4 The Lord says this to the family[i] of Israel:
“Seek me[j] so you can live!
5 Do not seek Bethel.[k]
Do not visit Gilgal.
Do not journey down[l] to Beer Sheba.
For the people of Gilgal[m] will certainly be carried into exile,[n]
and Bethel will become a place where disaster abounds.”[o]
6 Seek the Lord so you can live!
Otherwise he will break out[p] like fire against Joseph’s[q] family;[r]
the fire[s] will consume
and no one will be able to quench it and save Bethel.[t]
7 The Israelites[u] turn justice into bitterness;[v]
they throw what is fair and right[w] to the ground.[x]
8 But there is one who made the constellations Pleiades and Orion;
he can turn the darkness into morning
and daylight[y] into night.
He summons the water of the seas
and pours it out on the earth’s surface.
The Lord is his name!
9 He flashes[z] destruction down upon the strong
so that destruction overwhelms[aa] the fortified places.
10 The Israelites[ab] hate anyone who arbitrates at the city gate;[ac]
they despise anyone who speaks honestly.
11 Therefore, because you make the poor pay taxes on their crops[ad]
and exact a grain tax from them,
you will not live in the houses you built with chiseled stone,
nor will you drink the wine from the fine[ae] vineyards you planted.[af]
12 Certainly[ag] I am aware of[ah] your many rebellious acts[ai]
and your numerous sins.
You[aj] torment the innocent, you take bribes,
and you deny justice to[ak] the needy at the city gate.[al]
13 For this reason whoever is smart[am] keeps quiet[an] in such a time,
for it is an evil[ao] time.
14 Seek good and not evil so you can live!
Then the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies just might be with you,
as you claim he is.
15 Hate what is wrong, love what is right.
Promote[ap] justice at the city gate.[aq]
Maybe the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies will have mercy on[ar] those who are left from[as] Joseph.[at]
“In all the squares there will be wailing,
in all the streets they will mourn the dead.[aw]
They will tell the field workers[ax] to lament
and the professional mourners[ay] to wail.
17 In all the vineyards there will be wailing,
for I will pass through[az] your midst,” says the Lord.
The Lord Demands Justice
18 Woe[ba] to those who wish for the day of the Lord!
Why do you want the Lord’s day of judgment to come?
It will bring darkness, not light.
19 Disaster will be inescapable,[bb]
as if a man ran from a lion only to meet a bear,
then escaped into[bc] a house,
leaned his hand against the wall,
and was bitten by a poisonous snake.
20 Don’t you realize the Lord’s day of judgment will bring[bd] darkness, not light—
gloomy blackness, not bright light?
21 “I absolutely despise[be] your festivals!
I get no pleasure[bf] from your religious assemblies.
22 Even if you offer me burnt and grain offerings,[bg] I will not be satisfied;
I will not look with favor on your peace offerings of fattened calves.[bh]
23 Take away from me your[bi] noisy songs;
I don’t want to hear the music of your stringed instruments.[bj]
24 Justice must flow like torrents of water,
righteous actions[bk] like a stream that never dries up.
25 You did not bring me[bl] sacrifices and grain offerings during the forty years you spent in the wilderness, family[bm] of Israel.
26 You will pick up your images[bn] of Sikkuth,[bo] your king,[bp]
and Kiyyun,[bq] your star god, which you made for yourselves,
27 and I will drive you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord.
He is called the God of Heaven’s Armies.
- Amos 5:1 tn Heb “Listen to this word which I am about to take up against you, a funeral song.”
- Amos 5:1 tn Heb “house.”
- Amos 5:2 tn Or “young lady.” The term “Israel” is an appositional genitive.
- Amos 5:2 tn Or “with no one to lift her up.”
- Amos 5:3 tn The word “soldiers” is supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Amos 5:3 tn Heb “The one.” The word “town” has been used in the translation in keeping with the relative sizes of the armed contingents sent out by each. It is also possible that this line is speaking of the same city of the previous line. In other words, the contingent sent by that one city would have suffered a ninety percent casualty loss.
- Amos 5:3 tn The word “soldiers” is supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Amos 5:3 tn Heb “for/to the house of Israel.” The translation assumes that this is a graphic picture of what is left over for the defense of the nation (NEB, NJB, NASB, NKJV). Others suggest that this phrase completes the introductory formula (“The sovereign Lord says this…”; see v. 4a; NJPS). Another option is that the preposition has a vocative force, “O house of Israel” (F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos [AB], 476). Some simply delete the phrase as dittography from the following line (NIV).
- Amos 5:4 tn Heb “house.”
- Amos 5:4 sn The following verses explain what it meant to seek the Lord. Israel was to abandon the mere formalism and distorted view of God and reality that characterized religious activity at the worship sites, as well as the social injustice that permeated Israelite society. Instead the people were to repent and promote justice in the land. This call to seek the Lord echoes the challenge in 4:13 to prepare to meet him as he truly is.
- Amos 5:5 sn Ironically, Israel was to seek after the Lord, but not at Bethel (the name Bethel means “the house of God” in Hebrew).
- Amos 5:5 tn Heb “cross over.”sn To worship at Beer Sheba, northern worshipers had to journey down (i.e., cross the border) between Israel and Judah. Apparently, the popular religion of Israel for some included pilgrimage to holy sites in the South.
- Amos 5:5 tn Heb “For Gilgal.” By metonymy the place name “Gilgal” is used instead of referring directly to the inhabitants. The words “the people of” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Amos 5:5 tn In the Hebrew text the statement is emphasized by sound play. The name “Gilgal” sounds like the verb גָּלָה (galah, “to go into exile”), which occurs here in the infinitival + finite verb construction (גָּלֹה יִגְלֶה, galoh yigleh). The repetition of the “ג” (g) and “ל” (l) sounds draws attention to the announcement and suggests that Gilgal’s destiny is inherent in its very name.sn That the people of Gilgal would be taken into exile is ironic, for Gilgal was Israel’s first campsite when the people entered the land under Joshua and the city became a symbol of Israel’s possession of the promised land.
- Amos 5:5 tn Heb “disaster,” or “nothing”; cf. NIV “Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”sn Again there is irony. The name Bethel means “house of God” in Hebrew. How surprising and tragic that Bethel, the “house of God” where Jacob received the inheritance given to Abraham, would be overrun by disaster.
- Amos 5:6 tn Heb “rush.” The verb depicts swift movement.
- Amos 5:6 sn Here Joseph (= Ephraim and Manasseh), as the most prominent of the Israelite tribes, represents the entire northern kingdom.
- Amos 5:6 tn Heb “house.”
- Amos 5:6 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.
- Amos 5:6 tn Heb “to/for Bethel.” The translation assumes that the preposition indicates advantage, “on behalf of.” Another option is to take the preposition as vocative, “O Bethel.”
- Amos 5:7 tn Heb “Those who”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity. In light of vv. 11-13, it is also possible that the words are directed at a more limited group within the nation—those with social and economic power.
- Amos 5:7 tn There is an interesting wordplay here with the verb הָפַךְ (hafakh, “overturn, turn”). Israel “turns” justice into wormwood (cf. 6:12), while the Lord “turns” darkness into morning (v. 8; cf. 4:11; 8:10). Israel’s turning is for evil, whereas the Lord’s is to demonstrate his absolute power and sovereignty.
- Amos 5:7 tn Heb “they throw righteousness.”
- Amos 5:7 sn In v. 7 the prophet begins to describe the guilty Israelites but then interrupts his word picture with a parenthetical, yet powerful, description of the judge they must face (vv. 8-9). He resumes his description of the sinners in v. 10.
- Amos 5:8 tn Heb “darkens the day into night.”
- Amos 5:9 tn The precise meaning of the Hebrew verb בָּלַג (balag, translated here “flashes”) is uncertain.
- Amos 5:9 tn Heb “comes upon.” Many prefer to repoint the verb as Hiphil and translate, “he brings destruction upon the fortified places.”
- Amos 5:10 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- Amos 5:10 sn In ancient Israelite culture, legal disputes were resolved in the city gate, where the town elders met.
- Amos 5:11 tn Traditionally, “because you trample on the poor” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV, NLT). The traditional view derives the verb from בּוּס (bus, “to trample”; cf. Isa. 14:25), but more likely it is cognate to an Akkadian verb meaning “to exact an agricultural tax” (see H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena [SBLDS], 49; S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 172-73).
- Amos 5:11 tn Or “lovely”; cf. KJV, NASB, NRSV “pleasant,” NAB “choice,” NIV “lush.”
- Amos 5:11 tn Heb “Houses of chiseled stone you built, but you will not live in them. Fine vineyards you planted, but you will not drink their wine.”
- Amos 5:12 tn Or “for.”
- Amos 5:12 tn Or “I know” (so most English versions).
- Amos 5:12 tn Or “transgressions,” “sins.” See the note on the word “crimes” in 1:3 and on the phrase “covenant violations” in 2:4.
- Amos 5:12 tn Heb “Those who.”
- Amos 5:12 tn Heb “turn aside.” They “turn aside” the needy by denying them the justice they deserve at the city gate (where legal decisions were made, and therefore where justice should be done).
- Amos 5:12 sn Legal disputes were resolved in the city gate, where the town elders met.
- Amos 5:13 tn Or “the wise”; or “the prudent.” Another option is to translate “the successful, prosperous” and understand this as a reference to the rich oppressors. See G. V. Smith, Amos, 169-70. In this case the following verb will also have a different nuance, that is, the wealthy remain silent before the abuses they perpetuate. See the note on the verb translated “keeps quiet” later in this verse.
- Amos 5:13 tn Or “moans, laments,” from a homonymic verbal root. If the rich oppressors are in view, then the verb (whether translated “will be silenced” or “will lament”) describes the result of God’s judgment upon them. See G. V. Smith, Amos, 170.
- Amos 5:13 tn If this is a judgment announcement against the rich, then the Hebrew phrase עֵת רָעָה (ʿet raʿah) must be translated, “[a] disastrous time.” See G. V. Smith, Amos, 170.
- Amos 5:15 tn Heb “set up, establish.” In the ancient Near East it was the responsibility especially of the king to establish justice. Here the prophet extends that demand to local leaders and to the nation as a whole (cf. 5:24).
- Amos 5:15 sn Legal disputes were resolved in the city gate (see the note in v. 12). This repetition of this phrase serves to highlight a deliberate contrast to the injustices cited in vv. 11-13.
- Amos 5:15 tn Or “will show favor to.”
- Amos 5:15 tn Or “the remnant of” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); cf. CEV “what’s left of your people.”
- Amos 5:15 sn Joseph (= Ephraim and Manasseh), as the most prominent of the Israelite tribes, represents the entire northern kingdom.
- Amos 5:16 tn Heb “Therefore.” This logical connector relates back to the accusation of vv. 10-13, not to the parenthetical call to repentance in vv. 14-15. To indicate this clearly, the phrase “Because of Israel’s sins” is used in the translation.
- Amos 5:16 tn Or “the Lord.” The Hebrew term translated “sovereign One” here is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
- Amos 5:16 tn Heb “they will say, ‘Ah! Ah!’” The Hebrew term הוֹ (ho, “ah, woe”) is an alternate form of הוֹי (hoy), a word used to mourn the dead and express outwardly one’s sorrow. See 1 Kgs 13:30; Jer 22:18; 34:5. This wordplay follows quickly, as v. 18 begins with הוֹי (“woe”).
- Amos 5:16 tn Or “farmers” (NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT).
- Amos 5:16 tn Heb “those who know lamentation.”sn Professional mourners are referred to elsewhere in the OT (2 Chr 35:25; Jer 9:17) and ancient Near Eastern literature. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 180.
- Amos 5:17 sn The expression pass through your midst alludes to Exod 12:12, where the Lord announced he would “pass through” Egypt and bring death to the Egyptian firstborn.
- Amos 5:18 tn The term הוֹי (hoy, “woe”) was used when mourning the dead (see the note on the word “dead” in 5:16). The prophet here either engages in role playing and mourns the death of the nation in advance or sarcastically taunts those who hold to this misplaced belief.
- Amos 5:19 tn The words “Disaster will be inescapable” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
- Amos 5:19 tn Heb “went” (so KJV, NRSV).
- Amos 5:20 tn Heb “Will not the day of the Lord be.”
- Amos 5:21 tn Heb “I hate”; “I despise.”
- Amos 5:21 tn Heb “I will not smell.” These verses are full of vivid descriptions of the Lord’s total rejection of Israelite worship. In the first half of this verse two verbs are used together for emphasis. Here the verb alludes to the sense of smell, a fitting observation since offerings would have been burned on the altar ideally to provide a sweet aroma to God (see, e.g., Lev 1:9, 13, 17; Num 29:36). Other senses that are mentioned include sight and hearing in vv. 22-23.
- Amos 5:22 tn Heb “burnt offerings and your grain offerings.”
- Amos 5:22 tn Heb “Peace offering[s], your fattened calves, I will not look at.”
- Amos 5:23 tn In this verse the second person suffixes are singular and not plural like they are in vv. 21-22 and vv. 25-27. Some have suggested that perhaps a specific individual or group within the nation is in view.
- Amos 5:23 tn The Hebrew word probably refers to “harps” (NASB, NIV, NRSV) or “lutes” (NEB).
- Amos 5:24 tn Traditionally, “righteousness.”
- Amos 5:25 tn Heb “Did you bring me…?” This rhetorical question expects a negative answer. The point seems to be this: Since sacrifices did not characterize God’s relationship with Israel during the nation’s formative years, the people should not consider them to be so fundamental. The Lord places a higher priority on justice than he does on empty ritual.sn Like Jer 7:22-23, this passage seems to contradict the Pentateuchal accounts that indicate Israel did offer sacrifices during the wilderness period. It is likely that both Amos and Jeremiah overstate the case to emphasize the relative insignificance of sacrifices in comparison to weightier matters of the covenant. See R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 428.
- Amos 5:25 tn Heb “house.”
- Amos 5:26 tn This word appears in an awkward position in the Hebrew, following “Kiyyun.” It is placed here for better sense.
- Amos 5:26 tn The Hebrew term סִכּוּת (sikkut) apparently refers to Sakkuth, a Mesopotamian star god identified with Ninurta in an Ugaritic god list. The name is vocalized in the Hebrew text after the pattern of שִׁקּוּץ (shiqquts, “detestable thing”). See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 195-96. Some English versions, following the LXX, translate as “tent” or “shrine” (NEB, NIV), pointing the term as סֻכַּת (sukkat; cf. 9:11).
- Amos 5:26 tc LXX, Vulgate, and Acts 7:43 read “Moloch” (cf. KJV). The Hebrew consonants are the same for both “king” and “Moloch” (מֹלֶךְ; molekh).
- Amos 5:26 tn The Hebrew term כִּיּוּן (kiyyun) apparently refers to the Mesopotamian god Kayamanu, or Saturn. The name, like “Sikkuth” in the previous line, is vocalized in the Hebrew text after the pattern of שִׁקּוּץ (shiqquts, “detestable thing”). See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 195-96. Some versions translate as “pedestal” (NEB, NIV), relating the term to the root כּוּן (kun).