These verses are with 5:4-6 the only places in the book where Amos issues a warning. The threats here are conditional. Elsewhere, even if the possibility of pardon and reprieve may be implied, they are not offered by the prophet's words. There are verbal links too between these two passages.
"Seek" is often a religious word. One seeks a god in prayer and worship as well as when one inquires for guidance from a diviner or prophet. Here the sense is to follow or practice goodness.
"Evil": notice how Amos plays with the words he uses. In v.13 people were told to silence their protests "for it is an evil time". Here the "evil" is unmasked as what those accused in fact seek.
The accused have claimed that Adonai is with them (presumably regularly in their services and ceremonies). This will only be true if they cease to seek evil and rather learn to seek good.
However loving good means hating evil. Notice again that in v.10 Amos accused that they hate anyone "who reproves in the gate".
The verb "set up" (ytsg) usually suggests that its object is being displayed in some way. Usual translations such as "establish justice, maintain justice" etc. do not seem to catch this nuance. The gate is above all a public place, so rendering "set up justice in the gate" or "display justice in the gate" seems better.
"Remains of Joseph" שְׁאֵרִית יוֹסֵף
(sherit yoseph) echoes the sound sounds very
like 5:6 "house of Joseph" בֵּית יוֹסֵף (bayit yoseph), which like other similar expressions in Amos (house of Israel; house of Jacob and house of Isaac) refers to the Northern Kingdom through the great ancestor's name.
Here though, the meaning and especially the emotional flavor is very different. The remains are what is "left over" after harvesting, or war and disaster.
In the next chapter of Amos (6:6) sound שֵׁבֶר יוֹסֵף (sheber
yoseph) and meaning "ruin of Joseph" have changed again - and
not for the better. The closing words of 5:14-15
prepare us for what follows.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.