notes on 8:1-3

Form

(see on 7:1-3, and on the series as a whole).

Like the previous vision in 7:7-9, the center pin of this speech is a pun. The visionary component, and the words it suggests through punning, are less specific, but no less final than the previous vision. Verse 3, however, adds both detail - even the temple songs become dirges - and finality - ending "Hush!"

Language and Imagery

v.1

Again my lord Adonai showed something to the prophet, this time not a wondrous vision of himself, but simply a "basket of fruit". Like Jeremiah's almond branch (Jer 1:11f.) this could have been physically present, but could have been what we think of as a "vision".

קָיִץ qayits, is not the general word for fruit, but is used of summer and of the fruits which ripen at the end of summer. This has led some commentators to conclude that Amos' visions relate to different seasons. This makes some sense. The first (7:1) relates to the winter, and this one to summer's end. However the others are less firm in their seasonal placement.

v.2

Adonai asks Amos, "What do you see?" This question is posed in these words seven times in the Bible. Always asked by God (or his angel), of a prophet, about a vision (Jer 1:11, 13; 24:3; Am 7:8; 8:2; Zech 4:2; 5:2). Except in Zechariah the answer focuses on one element of what has been described.
Here when Amos answers, "a basket of fruit" (kelub qayits כְּלוּב קָיִץ) the objects themselves carry no meaning. Rather, a pun between qayits (fruit) and qets (end) stimulates the message.

A pun on qayits / qets "summer (fruit)/end" is also found perhaps in the Gezer calendar (a 10th century list of agricultural tasks) where the last line reads either "month of the end" or "month of summer (fruit)".

In this vision, the punishment on Israel is explicitly both final ("the end") and definite ("I will not again pass them by").

v.3

The punishment described comes in two parts. First the temple songs will be turned to mourning. This shocking announcement leaves the hearer ignorant of the cause.

The messenger formula intervenes and delays.

The reason is at last given in staccato bursts. Even more literally it reads:

many | the corpses
every-place
thrown out
shush!

The effect is deliberately harsh and shocking.

Amos' use of silence is interesting, on each occasion the silence is unnatural. Twice the interjection "hush" in connection with corpses. In 6:10 forbidding the use of Adonai's name, and here probably forbidding the wails that usually accompany death. The third was in 5:13 where the "sensible" keep silent in the face of oppression!


 

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, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.