Following לָכֵן "therefore", and containing a statement of what will happen, these verses are a judgment, though without an accompanying accusation. Both sections of judgment oracle are found on their own in this way from time to time in the prophetic books.
The most striking feature of this two verse unit is the preponderance of words related to mourning. This shows up in English but is even more striking in Hebrew (ignoring the introductory formula, there are a dozen words of which 6 are concerned with mourning (misped x 3; ho x2 and 'ebel):
In all the squares - wailing; in every street they'll say, "Alas! Alas!" and call the farmers to mourning, those skilled in wails, to wailing; 17 in all the vineyards - wailing, for I will pass among you. Says Adonai.
The "square inside the gate at Tel Beersheba
The squares were larger spaces between the buildings in a city. The most common was immediately inside the gate, so the reference here provides a link to what preceded.
It is paralleled with "street" thus suggesting the whole city - the two words are a conventional pair: Pr 1:20; 5:16; 7:12; 22:13; Is 15:3; Jer 5:1; 9:21 (MT v.20); Nah. 2:4 (MT v.5).
Mourning for the dead, with wailing and visible signs (like ashes on the head) was common across the Ancient Near East. In most of these cultures professional mourners (skilled in mourning) were employed to augment the effect.
Mentioning farmers & vineyards in parallel to squares & streets also suggests completeness. Not only the city but also the countryside will be given over to mourning.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.