notes on 5:8-9


These verses are poetry with strong rhythm and parallelism. In verse 8 each stich in Hebrew begins with a participle (except for the last "Adonai is his name!"), while v.9 also starts with a participle. This feature and the contents make this piece strongly similar to two others in Amos 4:13; 9:5-6 (1:2 is similar in some ways, but also distinct from the other three passages).

These similarities, together with the fragmentary nature of the pieces if one reads them alone suggest that Amos is here quoting an existing hymn.

The reason why fragments of a hymn have been included here is discussed elsewhere.

It is clear that reading such fragments in the cotext of the book of Amos gives them a different meaning from what they would have had when used in Israel's worship.

Language & Imagery

That Adonai is maker of "Pleiades and Orion" is a striking claim, for the stars, like the Sun and Moon, were gods for other cultures of the day and particularly for the mighty Assyrian conquerors.

This hymn speaks clearly of the creator-God who provides the cycle of day and night. But, again typically in this book of reversals he also darkens day and spreads the waters of the sea over the land in un-creation.

"The one who flashes destruction" may well carry overtones of smiling. Being directed, against the "stronghold" and the "fortress", certainly implies that the powerful (`oz may mean "glory") and their power will be destroyed in Israel.

History of the Text

Many commentators perceive no difficulty in relating 5:8 to 5:9 as part of the same section of the same hymn. Verse 8 expresses Adonai's lordship of creation, while verse 9 earths this in the world of human affairs (history).

However, some like Wolff (216) noting thematic and possibly stylistic differences see v.9 as a secondary expansion.

I am aware that v.9 does not share many of the thematic features common to the other hymnic fragments, but noticing also its stylistic similarity and how close its themes are to the oracles of Amos, I prefer to imagine it being composed at the point when the hymnic material first entered the Amos collection. This would fit also with its structural function as a balance to 5:8 in the chiasm of 5:1-17.

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

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