The unity of Amos (Amos 9)

Image result for the prophet amos in the bible

Illustration: Amos, the shepherd prophet

Some scholars have argued that the latter part of Amos 9 is stylistically inferior to the rest of the book and that the book of Amos is actually a haphazard collection of writings from various authors that was compiles many years after the time of the prophet (Amos himself lived during the eighth century B.C.). In particular, many scholars believe that Amos did not write 9:11-15. However, this perspective denies the inherent unity that permeates this book. The linguistic and structural elements of Amos create a solid, cohersive work of literature. Indications of the book’s integration are as follows:

Precise structure allows the work to be divided into logical sections, as outlined below:

  • Amos 1-2 describes judgement on eight nations with the pattern “For three sins… even for four...”
  • Amos 3:1-15 has an introduction and three parts; each begins with a lion metaphor (verses 4, 8, 12)
  • Amos 4:1-13 describes deficits in Israel: The women lacked compassion, the shrines lacked holiness and the land lacked rain and crops.
  • Amos 8:7-9:15 is held together by parallels that not only shows this as coherent text but imply that 9:11-15 belongs with the preceding text:
  • Amos 8:7-8 Yahweh swears an oath not to forget Israel’s sins (verse 7); the land will rise (heave) like the Nile (verse 8).
  • Amos 8:9-14 “In that day” (verse 9) there will be darkness and famine for Israel (verses 10-14).
  • Amos 9:1-10 Yahweh stands on the altar and makes a solemn declaration to pursue Israelites wherever they flee (verses 1-4; this parallels God’s oath in 8:7) and says that Samaria will rise like the Nile (verses 5-10); this parallels 8:8).
  • Amos 9:11-15 “In that day” (verse 11; this parallels 8:9) there will be deliverance for Israel and abundant harvest (9:13; this parallels the famine in 8:11).

The book employs inclusion, a literary device whereby the first and last sections (in this case, chapters 1 and 9) share several literary connections. For example:

  • Amos 1:2 refers to Carmel, which is not mentioned again until 9:3.
  • Judah, “David’s fallen tent” (verse 11), would be restored and rebuilt. This parallels the mention of “Zion” (Jerusalem) in 1:2.

Other parallels in vocabulary, literary technique and theme between chapter 9 and the rest of the book demonstrate that the text of Amos is indeed unified linguistically and artistically from beginning to end.


 

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