Just what I expected, more visions of gloom and destruction. Ho-hum. And guess what else? The people have sinned, and Yahweh’s gonna punish them. Surprised? Their sins include selling people into slavery (what’s the big deal? Yahweh has never minded that before), breaking a peace treaty, showing no mercy in battle (why would Yahweh have a problem with that? Did he ever show any mercy?), and ripping pregnant women open with swords (so what? Didn’t Yahweh himself just do that himself in Hosea 13?) Nevertheless, god will send fire to burn down all the palaces and fortresses – that’ll teach those sinners!
More of the same, except this time the sins include desecrating the bones of a deceased king, corrupting the lord’s name, fathers and sons sleeping with the same woman, and persuading Nazarites to drink wine. Good grief!
God tells the Israelites that they are singled out for punishment for their sins because they are his special people (v 2). So he doesn’t care about the world in general, or anyone outside of his little closed group. But hasn’t that been pretty obvious all along? Then, back to our regularly scheduled rant…
Amos tries to warn the idle rich of the punishment that is about to be inflicted upon them. They will be led away with hooks in their noses! (v 2) In v 6-11 we get to an unusual type of rant. You know how parents yell at their teenagers – the ‘after all we’ve done for you, why do you misbehave and disrespect us’ rant? Well, Yahweh does it in reverse. He yells “after all the ways I’ve punished you – starved you, caused droughts, blighted your crops, sent plagues, and destroyed your cities, why do you misbehave and disrespect me?” Seriously, is that the way he thinks it works? The guy needs to study psychology 101. But no, instead he plans to up the ante and inflict all of these disasters and more upon his special people (v 12).
God warns of the devastating mortality rates expected in battle – 90%. Well why doesn’t he do anything to stop it? Or is that just another of his ‘punishments’? Probably, because this statement precedes more threats.
There’s some bad astronomy in the KJV of v 8, masked in modern translations which substitute ‘Pleiades’ for ‘seven stars’. (Pleiades is a star cluster that contains thousands of stars, not just the seven visible to the naked eye). Resume rant….
It gets worse in v 18, where god tells those who are waiting for the day of the Lord to be careful what they wish for, as there will be terror, not joy (and then he provides examples). Like a petulant child, he tells the Jews that he will not accept their peace offerings or noisy hymns of praise; instead he wants revenge (v 21-26). Interestingly, there are a few tidbits of good advice in this chapter, but Yahweh warps even those. For example, v 14 “Do what is good and run from evil so that you may live!” No, do what is good because you’re a decent person – not just out of fear! And why doesn’t he take his own advice, anyway?
Does v 24 sound familiar? Apparently Martin Luther King Jr quoted it several times – during the Montgomery bus boycott, in his “I’ve been to the mountain top” speech the night before he died, and most famously, in the ‘I have a dream’ speech:
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
Here is the video of that stirring speech. This quote starts at 9:15 and the ‘I have a dream’ section starts at 12:10.