AMOS 436 AMOS numerical formula: "For three crimes of Damascus [or Gaza, or Tyre, etc., as the case may be], and for lour, I will not revoke the doom"; it next sets forth the chief indictment; and finally pronounces the penalty. The heathen nations are doomed not because of their ignorance of the true God, but because of their breaches of the elementary and unwritten laws of natural humanity and good faith. As regards Juda and Israel, they will share the same doom because, although they were especially cared for by the Lord who drew them out of Egypt, con- quere"d for them the land of Chanaan, and gave them prophets and Nazarites, yet they have committed the same crimes as their pagan neighbours. Israel is rebuked more at lengtli than Juda, and its utter destruction is vividly described. The second part (chaps, iii-vi) consists of a series of addresses which expand the indictment and the sentence against Israel set forth in ii, 6-16. Amos's indictment lje:irs (1) on the social disorders prevalent among the upper classes; (2) on the heart- less luxury and self-indulgence of the wealthy ladies of Samaria; (3) on the too great confidence of the Israelites at large in their mere external discharge of religious duties which can in no way secure them against the approaching doom. The sentence itself assumes the form of a dirge over the captivity which awaits the unrepenting transgressors, and the com- plete surrender of the country to the foreign enemy. The third section of the book (chaps, vii-ix, 86.), apart from the historical account of Amasias's op- position to Amos (vii, 10-17), and from a discourse (viii, 4-14) similar in tone and import to the ad- dresses contained in the second part of the prophecy, is wholly made up of visions of judgment against Israel. In the first two visions — the one of devour- ing locusts, and the other of consuming fire — the foretold destruction is stayed by divine interposi- tion; but in the third vision, that of a plumb-line, the destruction is permitted to become complete. The fourth vision, like the foregoing, is symbolical; a basket of summer fruit points to the speedy decay of Israel; while in the fifth and last the prophet beholds the Lord standing beside the altar and threatening the Northern Kingdom with a chastise- ment from which there is no escape. The book con- cludes with God's solemn promise of the glorious restoration of the House of David, and of the won- derful prosperity of the purified nation (ix, 8c-15). III. Literary Fe.-itures of the I5ook. — It is universally admitted at the present day that these contents are set forth in a style of "high literary merit". This literary excellence might, indeed, at first sight appear in strange contrast with Amos's obscure birth and humble shepherd life. A closer study, however, of the prophet's writing and of the actual circumstances of its composition does away with that apparent contrast. Before Amos's time the Hebrew language had gradually passed through several stages of development, and had been culti- vated by several able writers. Again, it is not to be supposed that the prophecies of Amos were de- livered exactly as they are recorded. Throughout the book the topics are treated poetically, and many of its literary features are best accounted for by admitting that the prophet spared no time and labour to invest his oral utterances with their present elaborate form. Finally, to associate inferior culture with the simplicity and relative poverty of pastoral life would lie to mistake totally the conditions of Eastern society, ancient and modern. For among the Hebrews of old, jis among the Arabs of the present day, the sum of book-learning was neces- sarily small, and proficiency in knowledge and oratory was chiefly dependent not on a professional education, but on a shrewd observation of men and things, a memory retentive of traditional lore, and the faculty of original thought. IV. Authorship and Date. — Apart from a few recent critics, all scholars maintain the correctness of the traditional view which refers the book of Amos to the Judean prophet of that name. They rightly think that the judgments, sermons, and visions which make up that sacred writing centre in a great message of doom to Israel. The con- tents read like a solemn denunciation of the in- curable wickedness of the Northern Kingdom, like a direct prediction of its impending ruin. The same scholars regard likewise the general style of the book, with its poetical form and striking simplicity, abruptness, etc., as proof that the work is a literary unit, the various parts of which should be traced back to one and the same mind, to the one and holy prophet, whose name and period of activity are given in the title to the prophecy, and whose authorship is repeatedly affirmed in the body of the book (cf. vii, 1, 2, 4, 5, 8; viii, 1, 2; ix, 1, etc.). To con- firm the traditional view of Jews and Christians in regard to authorship and date, the two following facts have also been brought forth: first, ao was to be expected from a shepherd like Amos, the author of the prophecy uses throughout imagery drawn mainly from rural life (the wagon loaded with sheaes, the young lion in its den growling over its prey, the net springing up and entrapping the bird, the rem- nants of the sheep recovered liy the shepherd out of the lion's mouth, cattle-driving, etc.); in the second place, there is a close agreement between the state of the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam II, as de- scribed by Amos, and that of the same Kingdom as it is made known to us in the fourth book of Kings and the ])rophecy of Osee which is commonly ascribed to the same (the eighth) century B. c. It is true that Amos's authorship of numerous passages, and notably of ix, 8c-15, has been and is still seriously questioned by some leading critics. But in regard to most, if not indeed to all such passages, it may be confidently affirmed that the arguments against the authorship are not strictly conclusive. Besides, even though the later origin of all these passages should be conceded, the traditional view of the authorship and date of the book as a whole would not be materially impaired. V. Religious Teachings of Amos. — Two facts contribute to give to the religious doctrine of Amos a special importance. On the one hand, his prophe- cies are wellnigh universally regarded as authentic, and on the other, his work is probably the earliest prophetical writing which has come down to us. So that the book of Amos furnishes us with most valuable information concerning the beliefs of the eighth century B.C., and, in fact, concerning those of some time before, since, in delivering the Divine message to his contemporaries, the prophet alwaj's takes for granted that they are already familiar with the truths to which he appeals. Amos teaches a most pure monotheism. Throughout his book there is not so much as a reference to other deities than the God of Israel. He often speaks of "the Lord of Hosts ", meaning thereby that God has untold forces and powers at His command; in other words, that He is omnipotent. His descriptions of the Divine attributes show that according to his mind God is the Creator and Ruler of all things in heaven and on earth; He governs the nations at large, as well as the heavenly bodies and the elements of nature; He is a personal and righteous God who punishes the crimes of all men, whether they belong to the heathen nations or to the chosen people. The prophet repeatedly inveighs against the false notions which his contemporaries had of God's relation to Israel. He does not deny that the Lord is their God in a special manner. But he argues that His benefits to them in the past, instead
Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/492
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