Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
AMOS CHAPTER 3
Chapter 3 vv 1-10 make up a single Parshah Pethuhah, a section in itself. In the previous section Amos had castigated the people for ordering their prophets not to prophesy. Now he tells them that the prophets are the true servants of God to whom He reveals what is to come in advance, and that their prophecies of doom will surely come about.
V 1: The prophet urges the people to HEAR, understand and internalize the word of God that he will speak. Amos explicitly addresses the ENTIRE FAMILY of Israel - the kingdom of Judah and the Ten Tribes.
V 2: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth". This text offers a crucial insight into the deepest mystery of the world, why Israel suffers more than all the other nations, as history clearly testifies until this very day. In the words of RaDaK (ad loc.): "It is because I know and love you and have chosen you from all the peoples that I will therefore punish you for all your sins, because you have seen and known all My signs and wonders that I performed on your behalf, and you know I have benefited you. Justice therefore demands that I punish you for your sins. For when the servants who minister directly before the king disobey his orders, he shows greater anger towards them than he does towards those who are not so close to him. God pays little attention to the nations of the world regardless of whether they do good or evil except when their wrongdoing is very serious as in the case of the generation of the flood. But in the case of Israel , He punishes them for all their sins precisely because they are close to Him."
Vv 3-6 contain a series of seven interrelated rhetorical questions leading to the inevitable conclusion that the doom foretold by the prophets will come about.
1. "Can two walk together unless they be agreed?" (v 3): Before I punish you, I make it known through My prophets in case it might bring you to repent. If I did not make myself known to and "meet" the prophet and reveal My secret to him in order to reprove you, how could he have fabricated his prophecies, for how could he have known what I am going to do? Know that I have sent him (RaDaK).
2. "Will a lion roar in the forest when he has no prey?" (v 4) The holy spirit in the mouth of the prophet is the "roar of the lion". Just as the lion only roars when he has his prey, so the prophets only prophesy doom when the decree has been made. The lion also alludes to Nebuchadnezzar (Rashi).
3. "Will a young lion cry out from his lair if he has taken nothing?" (v 4). The lion does not roar before he has his prey in order not to give it a warning in time for it to escape (RaDaK).
4. "Can a bird fall in a snare upon the earth where there is no trap for it?" (v 5): The enemy will not leave you alone and go away empty-handed (RaDaK).
5. "Does a snare spring up from the earth and have taken nothing at all?" (v 5). How can it be that you sin yet your sins will not be a snare for you? (Rashi).
6. "Shall a shofar be sounded in the city and the people not be afraid?" When the watchman warns the people of an onslaught of enemies, the people become filled with fear. So you should have feared on hearing the warnings of the prophets.
7. "Shall evil befall a city and the Lord has not done it?" When the evil comes, you will know that it has been sent by God as the penalty for not heeding His prophets.
Vv 9-10: The prophet calls on the Philistines and Egyptians to come to witness the coming tumult in Shomron, capital of the Ten Tribes, as a result of their oppression and robbery.
Verse 11 begins a new Parshah Pethuhah which continues until the end of the present chapter (Amos 3:11-15). This is followed by two Parshah Sethumah's in ch. 4 vv 1-9 and vv 10-13. As discussed in previous commentaries, the break between a Parshah Sethumah ("closed section") and the section that precedes it is less absolute than in the case of a Parshah Pethuhah ("open section"). Thus Amos 3:11-4:13 is a single long prophecy broken into three sections. The overall message - following on from the previous section vindicating God's prophets - is that the doom they are foretelling will definitely come upon the sinful people unless they repent.
V 11: The enemies are poised all around the land, ready to bring down the arrogant nation.
V 12: When a lion snatches a lamb, the shepherd tries to retrieve at least a mere couple of bones or a piece of ear, even though they are of no use whatever, in order to prove to his master that the lamb was taken as prey and that he did not steal it (Metzudas David). The metaphor comes to emphasize how absolute the destruction of the kingdom of the Ten Tribes would be. Only the few members of the Ten Tribes who attached themselves to the House of Judah would survive (see Rashi).
Vv 13-15: The first section of this prophecy concludes with the warning that the coming doom will destroy Jeraboam's idolatrous altar of Beith El together with the opulence of Shomron, whose inhabitants were so wealthy that they had separate winter and summer houses.
The prophecy that began in Amos 3:11 now continues with a new section (Parshah Sethumah), Amos 4:1-9. This is the middle section of this prophecy.
Verse 1: The "fat cows of Bashan that are on Mt Shomron" are literally the wives of the oppressive lords of the kingdom as well as being a metaphor for the very lords themselves, who evidently corrupted justice and robbed and exploited the poor and weak in order to satisfy their demanding wives.
V 2: The fat cows and their daughters will be taken into exile in cramped, undignified fishing boats.
V 3: The population will go out into exile through the many breaches in the city walls. Targum Yonasan interprets Harmon as a reference to the "Mountains of Darkness" beyond which the Ten Tribes were taken into exile.
Vv 4ff where the prophet tells the people to go to Beith El to transgress are like a man telling a villain, "Keep on, keep on. until your measure is filled " (Rashi).
".bring your offerings THE NEXT MORNING and your tithes AFTER THREE DAYS". The prophet sarcastically mocks the idolaters for changing the Torah laws of sacrifice for their own convenience [just as the "Reform" movement has done]. Thus the Torah says "the sacrifice shall NOT remain overnight until the morning" (Ex. 34:25) while the animal tithe must be consumed within TWO days. The idolaters would "Offer a thanksgiving sacrifice of LEAVEN", while the Torah specifically forbids this (Lev. 2:14; Rashi on Amos 4:5).
Vv 6ff depict how God has already sent chastisements to the people in the form of famine (v 6), drought (vv 7-8), crop failure and pests (v 9) yet they have not repented. The refrain, "yet you have not returned to Me" is repeated three times in this section (vv 6, 8 and 9).
The depiction of drought in verse 7 - with some suffering more than others - is cited in Talmud Sanhedrin 97a as one of the signs of the period immediately prior to the coming of Mashiah.
Verses 10-13 are a Parshah Sethumah which constitutes the third and closing section of the prophecy that began at Amos 3:11. This section echoes the previous section in repeating twice the refrain following the evocation of the steadily intensifying punishments: ".yet you have not returned to Me says HaShem!" (vv 10 and 11).
V 12: "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" The coming evil can still be averted if the people will repent. This verse is quoted as the Biblical source of the requirement to prepare oneself for prayer - by cleansing the body of its waste products and dressing respectfully (Berachos 23a, Shabbos 10a).
V 13: This verse is one of the sublime prophetic evocations of the greatness of God, who not only creates the grandest aspects of the universe (mountains, winds) but even knows the tiniest details of man's private conversations with his very wife - when one dies, God lays out all his deeds and words before him (Chagigah 5b). "He will turn the dawn of the Tzaddikim into radiant light and the light of the wicked into gloomy darkness" (Rashi). "He treads on the high places of the earth" - he brings down the haughty and arrogant (Rashi).
MAY GOD TURN OUR HEARTS TO HIM, RESTORE US TO OUR LAND AND BUILD THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM QUICKLY IN OUR TIMES. AMEN.
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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