notes on 5:3


Whether Adonai's words which begin here continue the funeral song has been questioned. The reasoning is explained by Wolff (p.237); the particle "ki" which introduces the verse suggests a logical link; the formula that follows presents the speech as an oracle - presumably a judgment.

However, the rhythm suggests a lament, beginning 3:2 and continuing with short lines. The pattern of verbal forms here: participle followed by prefix form (imperfect), can give the prefix form a present sense. (Waltke & O'Connor, 630-631) The particle כִּי often introduces a quotation of someone's speech.

So here the particle marks the change from Amos speaking in his own name, to Adonai's speech and the verse is not a judgment but a funeral song.

The hiphil of sha'ar usually has an active sense ("leave/spare"), and as Hayes points out we would expect a niphal here. However, his suggestion that "spare" = "supply", though fitting his thesis concerning the date and situation of Amos, does not convince as a meaning of the verb. (Hayes, 156-157)

Language and Imagery

Despite Hayes suggestion (above) the picture seems to be of war, each city supplying men for the army. Israel had only a small standing force, most were levies of farmers and the like called to fight as the need arose. However, only one tenth of those who "march out" return. I have however followed Andersen & Freedman (476) who recognise that the most natural way to read the Hebrew (with no repetition of "the city" in the second part) is to understand successive decimations.

The numbers are not to be understood literally, a "thousand" is the unit supplied by a clan, a "hundred" possibly by a family.

Such total destruction would mean the end of Israel as a state, hence the place of this picture in a funeral song over the "Maid of Israel".



This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.