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Amos 9:1-15 | Werner Bible Commentary

Amos 9:1-15

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Amos saw the “Lord” standing in relation to the altar. Likely the designation “Lord” here applies to the “angel of YHWH.” (Compare Exodus 3:2, 4; Judges 6:12-16.) The Hebrew preposition ‘al, like the corresponding Greek preposition epí, often means “on.” In this context, however, it appears that the “Lord” was in a position above, by, or at the altar. The definite article precedes the word for “altar,” suggesting that a specific altar is meant. In view of the earlier mention of the prophesying of Amos at Bethel (7:13), the reference probably is to the altar there. As the divine judgment would affect all the people of the kingdom of Israel, the altar at Bethel may also be representative of the sites for idolatrous worship that existed in the entire realm. (9:1)

The one whom the Lord told to “strike the capital” (“strike the atonement place” [LXX]) is not identified. It could prophetically apply to the specific agency that would be used to accomplish this act. Striking the “capital” probably applies to striking the top of the major supporting columns, which would result in a violent shaking of the “thresholds” or, according to the rendering of the Septuagint, the “gateways” or “entrances” of the sanctuary. (9:1)

The command to “cut them off” or “break them off” on the “heads of all of them” could mean to cause the capitals and the pillars to break in pieces and to fall on the heads of the people at the sanctuary. A number of translations make this basic significance explicit in their interpretive renderings. “Strike the tops of the Temple columns so hard that the foundation will shake. Smash the columns so the roof will crash down on the people below.”(NLT) “Strike the tops of the Temple columns so hard that the foundation will shake. Break them off and let them fall on the heads of the people.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Smash the top of the pillars so that even the bottom of the doors will shake. Make the pillars fall on the people’s heads.” (NCV) “Strike the tops of the temple pillars. Then the heavy stones at the base of the entrance will shake. Bring everything down on the heads of everyone there.” (NIRV) “Then make the pieces fall on the people below.” (CEV) The Septuagint reads, “Cut through into the heads of all,” which could mean that the falling pieces were to crash down on the heads of the people, smashing their skulls. (9:1)

The divinely decreed judgment on any who might escape was that they would be slain with the sword, perishing during an enemy invasion. No one would succeed in fleeing to safety; no one would survive. (9:1)

If anyone were to dig down into the lowest part of the earth, into “Sheol” (“Hades” [LXX]) or the realm of the dead, YHWH is represented as taking them with his hand, not permitting them to escape. He would bring them down if they went up to the “heavens.” Their going up to the heavens refers to ascending high mountains. When low-lying clouds cover their tops, the mountains appear as though they are reaching into the sky. Accordingly, those who climb to the highest elevations could be referred to as going up to the “heavens.” (9:2)

Israelites might escape to the mountain range of Carmel and try to hide in one of the caves at the top of the range, but there would be no concealment from YHWH. He would search for them and, upon finding them, take them out from there. If it were possible for them to hide from his sight at the bottom of the sea, they would not succeed. He would command the “serpent” (“dragon” [LXX]), and it would bite them. (9:3; for pictures of and comments about Carmel, see Carmel.)

In the case of the surviving Israelites whom their enemies would take into exile, YHWH would command the sword to be wielded against them, and they would be killed. The people had seriously transgressed against him and, therefore, his eyes would be directed against them, resulting in “bad” or harm for them and not in “good.” His attention would not lead to their enjoying a state of peace and well-being. (9:4)

The Lord YHWH, the God of hosts (“Lord, Lord God, the Almighty” [LXX]) or the God with hosts of angels in his service, is represented as “touching the earth” or the land of the Israelites, doing so in expression of his punitive judgment against his wayward people. This would result in “melting” the land, probably alluding to the cumulative effect of severe storms. The heavy downpours can saturate the soil, resulting in mudslides. These mudslides make it appear as if hillsides and mountain slopes are melting. Apparently in view of the devastation, the inhabitants of the land would mourn. The unstable situation coming to exist in the land through enemy conquest is likened to the rising of the “Nile, all of it,” when flooding, and then sinking again as the “Nile of Egypt” (Nile of Mizraim) returns to its usual water level. The sinking could also include the drop in the water level during times of drought. (9:5)

Amos appears to represent YHWH as building his sanctuary in the heavens. After the Hebrew word for “heavens,” the expression that follows is the plural of ma‘aláh, meaning “ascent,” “step,” or “stair,” and the corresponding noun in the Septuagint is anabasis (“ascent”). The mention of “stairs” or an “ascent” seems to suggest that the edifice is being portrayed as a stepped structure consisting of progressively smaller platforms that terminate in the highest heaven, God’s lofty dwelling place. (9:6)

There is a measure of uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew word ‘aguddáh that is found in the next phrase. In other contexts, ‘aguddáh denotes “bunch” (Exodus 12:22), “bond” (Isaiah 58:6), “band,” “troop,” or “company” (2 Samuel 2:25). None of these basic meanings fit the context of the phrase in the book of Amos. Numerous translators have here rendered ‘aguddáh as “vault.” God “arches the vault of the sky over the earth” (REB), “founds his vault upon the earth” (NRSV), “builds his mansions in the heavens, supporting his vault on the earth.” (NJB) In their interpretive renderings, other translations have linked the phrase more directly to the entire edifice that God builds. “He built his palace in the heavens and let its foundations rest on the earth.” (CEV) “The upper stories of the LORD’s home are in the heavens, while its foundation is on the earth.” (NLT) “The LORD builds his upper rooms above the skies; he sets their foundations on the earth.” (NCV) “The Lord builds his palace high in the heavens. He lays its foundation on the earth.” (NIRV) In the Septuagint, the reference is to God’s “founding his promise on the earth.” This could be understood to indicate that he firmly establishes his promise on the earth by making it known and then fulfilling it. (9:6)

God is next referred to as the one who summons the “waters of the sea” and then pours them out in the form of rain “upon the face [or surface] of the earth.” He is identified by his unique name YHWH, revealing that he is the God who has made his name known. The Septuagint reads, “the Lord God, the Almighty.” (9:6)

Because the Israelites proved to be unfaithful to him, YHWH came to view them as being no different than the “sons of the Cushites” or the “Ethiopians” (LXX), a people from an entirely different line of descent (through Noah’s son Ham, not through his son Shem as were the Israelites). The fact that the Israelites had at one time been in Egypt before becoming permanent residents in the land of Canaan did not in itself make them his people. Philistines (“allophyles” [LXX], those of another tribe) resided along the Mediterranean coast in the same land and had come from “Caphtor,” which is commonly understood to have been Crete. Archaeological discoveries of attractively painted Mycenaean-style pottery appears to confirm this. The Septuagint reads “Cappadocia,” which is the name of a region in the eastern part of Asia Minor. Aramaeans or “Syrians” (LXX) who lived in Damascus and the surrounding region had come from Kir (a place that has not been identified with any known location). Because YHWH permitted the Philistines and the Aramaeans to transfer their residence to other locations, he is represented as having brought them there, just as he led the Israelites out of Egypt to Canaan. (9:7; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

The Lord YHWH was fully aware of the waywardness of the Israelites. As expressed through Amos, his eyes were upon the “sinful kingdom” (“kingdom of sinners” [LXX]), the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel whose first monarch, Jeroboam, instituted idolatrous calf worship. Therefore, by means of a conquering enemy power, YHWH determined to “destroy it [the sinful kingdom] from the face [surface] of the ground.” Nevertheless, he promised “not utterly to destroy the house of Jacob.” He would let a remnant of the people of Israel (the descendants of Jacob) survive. (9:8; see the Notes section.)

YHWH would give the command “and shake the house of Israel among the nations as one shakes with a sieve.” Shaking a sieve with its contents of winnowed grain serves to separate the valuable grain from everything that needs to be discarded. According to the Hebrew text, the result of the sifting is that not a “pebble” (tseróhr) would “fall to the earth” or to the ground. In other contexts, the Hebrew word tseróhr refers to a “bundle” but is here commonly understood to mean “pebble.” Translators have interpretively represented the “pebble” either as a “true kernel” (NLT) or as a “tiny stone” (NCV). Whereas the thought of separation is retained, the difference lies in what remains in the sieve after the sifting is completed, either trash or valuable grain. (9:9)

In the Septuagint, there is no mention of a sieve. The reference is to God’s winnowing the “house of Israel among all the nations in the manner [threshed grain] is winnowed with a winnowing shovel.” The result would be that “by no means” would a “crushed thing [sýntrimma] fall on the earth” or on the ground. In this case, the Greek word sýntrimma could refer to a small piece like a crumb or to a crushed kernel. (9:9; see the Notes section.)

The sifting or winnowing of the Israelites among the nations would include their being submitted to oppression and suffering. Nevertheless, a refined remnant would come through the hard experiences, and this remnant would be like the barley, wheat, or other grain that remains after the sifting or winnowing process has been completed. (9:9)

YHWH decreed, “All the sinners of my people will die by the sword,” indicating that those who had conducted themselves contrary to his commands could expect to perish in war. They, however, thought themselves secure, apparently believing that as God’s people this could not possibly happen to them. They were basically saying that “evil” or “calamity” would not “draw near” and “meet” them like an unrestrained robber. (9:10; see the Notes section.)

At a future time after the devastation of the land of Israel and the exile of survivors, YHWH promised to “raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its [literally ‘their’] breaches.” A “booth” or “tent” can serve as a shelter and, therefore, like the designation “house” may apply to the royal house of David and could also include the realm over which the dynasty ruled. Upon sinking into obscurity, the royal house of David, and thus also the entire realm, would resemble a dilapidated booth. Restoration of the Davidic dynasty to its former glory would require the repair of all the “breaches” that resulted from its fall and existed in the whole realm under its previous dominion. The word of YHWH revealed that this would be the case. He promised to raise up the ruins of the “booth” and to rebuild it as it had been a long time ago. (9:11)

After the “booth of David” is restored, God’s people Israel would be in a position of ascendancy in relation to other nations. The Edomites were the most closely related people to the Israelites, for they had descended from Esau or Edom, the twin brother of Jacob, the forefather of the Israelites. Nevertheless, the Edomites repeatedly warred against them, and King David succeeded in making them tributary to him. (2 Samuel 8:13, 14) In keeping with the divine promise, the restoration of the “booth of David” is also linked to the restoration of royal authority over Edom, which restoration is prophetically described as Israel’s taking possession of the “remnant of Edom,” or of those who would remain of the Edomites as survivors of divine judgment. (9:12)

Additionally, according to his doing or the outworking of his purpose, YHWH would have his people possess “all the nations” who have his name called upon them. For people of the nations to have God’s name called upon them would mean that he recognized them as belonging to him. Accordingly, they would come to be part of the true Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob whom YHWH acknowledged as his devoted people. Members of this genuine Israel would come to possess the people of non-Israelite nations because these non-Israelites would become their fellow citizens. (9:12; compare Romans 11:17-24, where the reference is to non-Jews who, as branches of a wild olive tree, are grafted into the cultivated olive tree that represents the genuine Israel.)

In the Septuagint, no mention is made of Edom but the reference is to “seeking” on the part of “those remaining of the men,” or of the people, “and all the nations” who have God’s name called upon them. Although the extant text of the Septuagint does not say whom or what they “might seek,” the quotation from Amos found in verses 16 and 17 of Acts 15 identifies the “Lord” as the one whom they may seek out. This seeking would be with the desire to have his approval. Those “remaining of the men” may refer to those of Israel whom God recognizes as his own. (9:12; see the Notes section.)

According to the application of the prophetic words found in the book of Acts (15:16, 17), the end of the fallen state of the “booth of David” began to be fulfilled when Jesus appeared on the earthly scene as the promised Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ. The prophetic message about restoration is framed in language relating to literal rebuilding. It is conveyed in a manner that would have been understandable to those who first heard it and to those who came to know about it in the centuries that passed prior to its fulfillment. The reality, however, is far grander, for Jesus, the heir of King David by reason of his earthly descent in that royal line, is far greater than David ever was. He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings with full divinely granted authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 19:16) His reign will bring an end to the ruin that human sinfulness has brought about, and all who become his loyal subjects will be completely liberated from sin and come to enjoy the never-ending standing of God’s approved children. (9:12)

The flourishing state of God’s people is represented in terms of extraordinarily plentiful harvests. “Days,” or a time, would come when the “man plowing” would overtake (literally, “draw near” or “approach”) the “one reaping” and the “one treading grapes” the “one sowing the seed.” (9:13)

After the the early rain had softened the ground in the month of Tishri or Ethanim (corresponding to mid-September to mid-October), plowing would begin. The barley harvest started in the month of Nisan or Abib (mid-March to mid-April). This harvest continued in the following month, and the wheat harvest occurred during the month of Sivan (mid-May to mid-June). The Hebrew text indicates that the harvest would be so abundant that it would take much longer than usual, not having been completed when the time for plowing arrived. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “threshing” of the grain would overtake the “vintage.” (9:13)

During the late summer, men would trample the grapes in the press to extract the juice for making wine, and the wheat would be sown in the month of Heshvan or Bul (mid-October to mid-November). According to the Hebrew text, men would still be treading the grapes when the time for sowing arrived. The Septuagint rendering refers to the “grape” as “becoming dark” or ripening “in the sowing” or in the season when sowing is done. This rendering points to an unusually long grape-growing season. (9:13)

“Mountains,” or the vineyards planted on the mountain slopes, would yield grapes in such plenty that the mountains are portrayed as dripping with new wine, and the liquid from the grapes is depicted as being so abundant that it would melt the hills, the flowing of the grape juice being comparable to the heavy rains that can cause mudslides and make the hills appear as though they are melting. The Septuagint does not mention the melting of hills, but refers to them as being “thickly planted” (sýmphytos, an adjective that describes something that is planted together or that grows together). (9:13)

The Israelites who found themselves in captivity or exile would be restored to their land. They would rebuild the desolated cities and resume agricultural operations, planting vineyards and partaking of the wine made from the grape juice, and cultivating gardens and eating the fruit or produce. After the fall of Babylon, the Persian conqueror Cyrus granted permission to the Israelites to return to their land. The “booth of David,” however, remained in a neglected state. Men of the royal line of David did not begin ruling as kings over the repopulated land. Therefore, when regarded from the standpoint of the rebuilding of that “booth of David” as it related to Jesus, the Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ in the line of David, there proved to be a far more remarkable return from captivity. Those who responded in faith to him were liberated from enslavement to sin and the condemnation to which it leads. (John 8:31-36) As God’s approved children and loyal servants of their King, Jesus Christ, they came to be richly blessed, benefiting from their loving care, concern, and safeguarding. (9:14)

The secure state of those whom YHWH recognizes as his people would not end. He is represented as planting them on their land and assuring them that they would not be uprooted from their land, the land he had given to them. Accordingly, members of the true Israel can be certain of his protective care as citizens of the realm where he is Sovereign and rules by means of his Son, Jesus Christ. The assurance concludes with the solemn words, “says YHWH your God” (the “Lord God, the Almighty” [LXX]). (9:15)


In verse 7, the Hebrew designation for “Kir” is qir. The middle consonant is yod (Y), which letter can be confused with the very similar consonant waw (W). When the yod is replaced with a waw, the word becomes the root for a verb meaning “to make a hole.” This is the apparent reason for the Septuagint rendering bóthros (“ditch,” “pit,” or “hole”).

The Hebrew text of verse 8 contains two forms of the verb meaning “destroy” to express the thought of an utter or complete destruction. In the Septuagint, the rendering is, “Only I will not remove the house of Jacob to the end” or completely.

In verse 9, the expression “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.” The same two Greek words are found twice in verse 10, indicating that sinful Israelites were confident that calamity would by no means draw near and would by no means come upon them.

When the waw (W) is omitted from the consonantal spelling of the Hebrew designation for “Edom,” the name is changed to the word for “man.” This may explain the reason for the Septuagint rendering “men” (the plural of ánthropos, which noun is also found in the quotation from Amos 9:12 in Acts 15:17).