notes on 1:2

Form

This verse is poetry with strong rhythm (three word-units in each stich) and parallelism. It contains praise of the Almighty God, and reads like a small part of a hymn.

It is strongly similar to three others in Amos (4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6) and these hymnic fragments seem important in structuring the book.

The verse is introduced by "he said", this is not typical of prophetic books (it is not a messenger formula), but is found introducing a theophanic hymn (Dt 33:2).

zionFunction

It is strange for a prophet, addressing a Northern audience, to use language focused on Zion. Indeed if this verse was spoken by Amos to Israelite hearers, he must be trying to persuade them that Jerusalem is the only true place to worship God - but there is no sign of this in the rest of the book. Amos criticises the worship of the Northern kingdom, but because luxurious worship goes hand in hand with injustice, not because it happens outside Jerusalem.

More likely, these words were never addressed to Northern hearers, but that they serve as a "motto" or epigraph to the book. Reading like a verse of a hymn, they may well not even be his composition, books often have epigraphs quoting other authors. As such the verse reflects powerfully Amos' message, not of the importance of Zion, but of Adonai's fearsome power.

Thunder and lightening by Labrcajun @ Webshots

Language

The phrase translated "give voice" elsewhere is sometimes used of a lion's roar Jer 2:15; 12:8; Am 3:4; or of proclamation Jer 4:16; 22:20. Its force is suggested, too, by its use describing weeping in extreme distress Num 14:1 (cf. Jer 48:34). It sometimes refers to the fearful sound of the waters of the deep Jer 51:55; Hab 3:11 and, using qol "voice" in the plural, with the sense of "to thunder" Ex 9:23; 1 Sam 12:17-18; 2 Sam 22:14 (Jer 10:12; 51:16 suggest that the singular may mean "to thunder" as well). In Joel 2:11 Adonai "thunders" at the head of his army.

The wording of this verse is especially close to Jer 25:30 and to Joel 4:16. The similarity is so close that commentators have debated who is quoting whom:

Am 1:2    Adonai roars from Zion, 

           and from Jerusalem gives voice;

          the shepherds' pastures mourn,

           and Carmel's crest dries.

Joel 4:16 Adonai roars from Zion,

           and from Jerusalem gives voice;

           and the heavens and the earth shake.

          But Adonai is a shelter for his people,

           a stronghold for the people of Israel. 

Jer 25:30 Adonai roars from on high,

           and from his holy habitation utter his voice;

          he roars mightily against his fold,

           a shout, like those treading grapes,

            against all the inhabitants of the earth.

In view of the similarity, especially of the first distich, but also of the difference it seems more probable that each prophet is referring to some (otherwise lost) worship song, though perhaps adapting the material for his own use.
 

This picture of the Carmel ridge and the fertile plain of Jezreel comes from McMath

Imagery

Amos also likens Adonai to a lion in 3:8. In view of the fearsome message he proclaims, and the awesome power of the creator God, this picture summarises one strand of Amos' thought.
The "shepherds' pastures" and "Carmel" speak of fertility and prosperity. However, the other words deny this. The shepherds' pastures "mourn", and even the crest of Carmel "dries".

In the face of the creator's anger the world withers in mourning. It is quite srtriking that here the land is responsive (Hayes) and right at the start oif the book is among the small "cast of characters" by this second verse we have been introduced to Amos, who has visions, and so speaks to deliver a message, Adonai who roars, and the land which responds to these voices, up to this point the audience is implied only and makes no response.

 


 

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos , if you have reached it as a standalone page, to view it in context, go to www.bible.gen.nz © Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2010, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.