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III. Postscript: From Judgment To Salvation (9:7–15)

The postscript to the book of Amos consists of two major parts (vv. 7-10 and 11-15). The first of these begins by questioning whether Israel truly is different in Yahweh's estimation from other peoples:

“Are not you Israelites

the same to me as the Cushites?”

declares the Lord.

“Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt,

the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?”

(v. 7)

The answer is that they have no special standing: Yahweh's eyes are on the sinful kingdom, whether it be Israel or another nation, and he will destroy that kingdom from the earth (v. 8a). Thus far the message of death of 5:1-9:6 remains without qualification. But v. 8b softens what has previously been asserted; Yahweh will destroy the sinful kingdom, whether it be Israel or another, except that he will not completely destroy the house of Jacob. Indeed he will shake them among the nations as one shakes with a sieve so that a pebble shall not fall to the ground (v. 9). There will manifestly be death by the sword, as in 9:4, but now it is said that only sinners will die.

The claim that only sinners will die appears to be a deliberate softening of the message of the death of all Israel. This difference, together with the expectation that the falling dynasty of David will be raised up, has led many scholars to argue that 9:8b-15 was added over a century later to the prophecies of Amos in order to speak to the fall of Judah during the collapse of the Davidic dynasty in the south (586 b.c.) through conquest by Babylon. Only here and in 1:2 is Jerusalem or the southern dynasty and its demise the primary object of attention. Elsewhere the focus is almost exclusively on the northern kingdom and its fate during the time of Jeroboam, well over a century prior to the fall of the Davidic royal house to the Babylonians. Whether or not the ending of the book is of later origin, it is clear that compilers of the book in its present form saw hope for the chosen people of God beyond the collapse of the northern kingdom in 721 b.c. through its continuation in Judah. And the prophecies in this regard convey a divine promise that Judah and its royal house will survive the deportation to Babylon, will be raised up, and will once again be a fertile and prosperous land (9:11-15). Yahweh's devastating destruction of Israel, completed by the defeat of the northern kingdom in 721 B.C., was indeed an expression of his righteous judgment against injustice, but the house of Israel is expected to take on new life through Jerusalem and its Davidic king who, unlike Israel, will survive the exile to Babylon and will prosper in their promised land.

Bibliography

Coote, R. B. Amos Among the Prophets. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1981.

Knierim, R. “‘I Will Not Cause It to Return’ in Amos 1 and 2,” in Canon and Authority. Edited by G. W. Coats and B. O. Long. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977, 163-75.

Koch, K. Amos: untersucht mit den Methoden einer strukturalen Formgeschichte. 3 vols. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1976.

Mays, J. L. Amos: A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969.

Reventlow, H. G. Das Amt des Propheten bei Amos. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962.

Wolff, H. W. Amos the Prophet: The Man and His Background. Translated by F. R. McCurley. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1973.

_______. Joel and Amos. Translated by W. Janzen, S. D. McBride, Jr., and C. A. Muenchow. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977.