notes on 9:5-6

Form

These verses are poetry with strong rhythm and parallelism. Of the 8 stichs in the body 4 begin with a participle, in Hebrew. This feature and the contents make this piece strongly similar to two others in Amos (4:13; 5:8-9).

From these similarities we conclude that these are three fragments of a hymn (probably a well known psalm quoted here) that Amos uses to punctuate the book. Another piece (1:2) is very similar but some believe it did not come from the same hymn.

Language and Imagery

v.5

Calling God "my Lord" while by no means unique to Amos is typical. It is far more common in Amos and Ezekiel (>16% of verses the average for the Bible is 1.8%).

Amos also makes a feature of calling Adonai God "of armies" - Am 3:13; 4:13; 5:14, 15, 16, 27; 6:8, 14; 9:5 - note how the expression clusters the second and the last are in the hymnic fragments 4 uses are in close proximity to the Adonai's Day piece in 5:18ff. This seems appropriate as the expression probably dates back to thought of Adonai as the war-god of the Hebrew tribal confederation (cf. 1 Sam 17:45).

I have chosen to render the qal of מוג as "tremble" - as the LXX translators did - because other biblical usages (Ps 46:6; 75:3; Nah 1:5; 2:7) suggest a parallel to the Arabic maga "surge, totter". This then suggests earthquake imagery in the lines that follow. Compare the parallel in 8:8, where the use of "Nile" language to speak of an earthquake is discussed.

The differrences between 8:8 and 9:5 fits the words in each context. In 8:8they respond to the oppressions revealed in the preceding verses, here they introduce another hymn fragment following the horrific warnings that precede.

v.6

Is somewhat difficult to translate, the text at the beginning is either:
difficult - "stair/stairs" seems an odd choice of thing for God to construct in the sky...
or corrupt - the MT (kethib and qere) and LXX other ancient versions differ in having singular or plural and one Greek version, Symmachus, has "upper room".
I have rendered "stairway" because there is almost no textual evidence for the alternative, the expression presumably has some meaning or connotation that we no longer recognize.

The next line also contains a problematic word אֲגֻדָּה the root is only found 4 times in the Bible, the other places though quite varied, seem to be connected through the idea of "connection". This fits with later Hebrew and Aramaic where the root means "tie together". Commentaries offer other suggestions, but my best guess here is that the notion is that the "vault" of the sky ties together the world.

That Adonai builds a dwelling for himself in the sky though rare in the Bible is similar to talk of other gods in the Ancient Near East.

The next pair of lines typifies the ambiguity of the use of hymnic material in Amos. Does pouring the water of the sea over the face of the land refer to life-giving rain, or to the flood?

 


 

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.