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II. The Overall Message of The Book

II. The Overall Message of The Book

The dominant message of the book of Amos is the proclamation of judgment upon Israel by Yahweh their God because of their oppression of the poor. The book of Amos accuses them of “sell[ing] the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals” (2:6); of crushing the needy (4:1); of abusing the legal processes held in the town gate for the improper acquisition of large estates (5:10-11); and of indulging in merrymaking, all the while taking no responsibility while the community was breaking apart (6:1-7). Because Israel promoted so much injustice, Yahweh's judgment was near at hand. His wrath would send burning, destroying fire (1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5). Israel would suffer military defeat and be led into exile (2:13-16; 3:9-11; 4:1-3; 5:27; 6:7). Indeed, Israel itself would cease to be: the end of Israel is proclaimed in the text (8:2), and the metaphor of death is applied to Israel (5:2, 16-17; 6:9-10; 8:1-3).

Amos criticizes his hearers' confidence that the sanctuaries and their sacrificial cult would gain them Yahweh's approval. Amos uses the very language of the cult itself, but with satirical tone, to poke fun at his hearers' reliance upon the sanctuaries, to show that Yahweh desires justice and righteousness more than sacrifice, and to proclaim the end of the cultic centers (see 4:4-5; 5:4-7, 21-24). He even announces the eclipse of the remembrance of Yahweh's name (6:9-10) and the hearing of Yahweh's word (8:11-12)—undoubtedly a consequence of Yahweh's bringing Israel to an end.

The message is dominantly one of judgment and destruction. Only at the book's end (9:7-15) do we find a clear note of hope, and that seems to be directed primarily to Judah.