61 minutes | Jul 29, 2021

No Escape

No Escape The fourth vision in Amos 8:1-3 indicates no escape for Israel. Amos saw a basket of summer fruit. In the previous visions Amos observed someone doing something, expressed with a participle. Here the participle is missing, but the object being viewed follows the alert word “behold” (hinnê) as in the other visions. In the third vision-report the name of the object seen and the word explained are the same (ʾănāk, “plumb line”). Here the object seen (qāyiṣ, “ripe fruit”) and the word explained (qēṣ, “end”) only have a similar sound. THE VISION REVEALED (8:1) 8:1 The fourth vision-report contains a full introductory formula. The reader/listener learns that Amos saw what God enabled him to see. The name of the object refers in other contexts both to the season (Gen 8:22; Amos 3:15) and to the fruit of the season (2 Sam 16:1). Since “basket” precedes the word here, reference must be to the fruit. The fruit leads to no escape from Yahweh’s wrath. THE LORD’S QUESTION (8:2a) 8:2a In the third vision-report a full introduction to the question is used, “And the LORD asked me” (7:8). Here the introduction is only one word in the Hebrew text, “he asked” (wāyyōʾmer). The question is the same as before, “What do you see, Amos?” THE PROPHET’S RESPONSE (8:2b) 8:2b Amos was clear-eyed. He saw precisely what God showed him, “a basket of ripe fruit (qāyiṣ).” THE LORD’S EXPLANATION (8:2c) 8:2c The Lord’s explanation employs a wordplay as in the almond rod vision in Jeremiah 1:11–12. The Lord’s words are literally, “The end [qēṣ] has come for my people Israel.” Based on the prediction that temple songs would turn to “wailing” (Amos 7:3) as a result of the end coming (cf. v. 9), the message must be that the end of Israel’s life as a nation had come. The Lord’s explanation closes with the same announcement found in the third vision-report that Israel’s day of grace was over: “I will spare them no longer.” There is no escape. Just as nonvisionary material (7:10–17) follows the third vision in 7:7–9, so also this section of nonvisionary material follows the fourth vision in 8:1–3. Since the internal structure of the first four visions shows that they are paired, it is appropriate that the external structure should confirm that visions three and four go together. The indictment of Israel’s greedy merchants follows a summons to hear. For them there is no escape from the wrath of God. Charges of wrongdoing closely parallel earlier accusations (2:6–7; 4:1; 5:10–12). These charges give the reason for the coming destruction announced in the vision-reports and in the judgment, oracles associated with those reports. SOCIAL INJUSTICE (8:4) 8:4 “Hear this” is a herald’s summons to his audience to give heed to the message about to be announced (cf. 3:1; 4:1; 5:1; Ps 49:1 [Heb., v. 2]). By “trample” he referred to the harsh and unjust treatment of unprotected members of society (vv. 4–6). “Do away with” is literally “cause to cease.” It is from the root šbt and perhaps is a play on the word šabbāt, “Sabbath,” in v. 5. It is an infinitive in Hebrew (as are the verbs “skimping,” “boosting,” “cheating,” and “buying” in vv. 5–6) suggesting effect if not intent. Such harsh policies toward the poor were the opposite of the Lord’s. Rather than eliminating the poor, Israel’s law called for an open hand of generosity to be extended to them (Deut 15:7–11; Ps 72:12–13). To be on God’s side, God’s people must choose the side of the poor and needy. God requires his people to work for the best interests of the unprotected members of society, which included orphans, widows, aliens, and the poor (Deut 10:14–22; 24:19–21). The greedy merchants sought genocide of the poor. They had become eviler than Hitler’s henchmen in World War II. SUPERFICIAL WORSHIP (8:5a) 8:5a Amos quoted the merchants to reveal their basic attitude toward worship. They choose to escape but there would be no escape from their doom.
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