'adon master (longer entry)

אָדוֹן 'adon "master" the Hebrew word 'adon means "lord, master, sir" it is used to indicate the inferiority of the speaker and/or their respect for the addressee. In Amos 4:1 it is used to speak of the "husbands" of the oppressive and haughty women of Samaria's hill.

It is often written אֲדֹנָי Adonai in this case it either has the personal pronoun added "my lord", or referring to God, it is a kind of intensive plural perhaps even distinguishing divine from human usage.

It is my feeling that Amos' use of this form suggests that here, at least, it should be rendered "my lord".

The combination adonai yhwh "my lord Adonai" is especially common in Amos and Ezekiel in the history books it occurs particularly in David's prayer when Nathan tells him of God's promise of a dynasty (2 Sam 7:18-29).
In the translation "Adonai" is used to represent the Hebrew consonants which form the God's personal name (יהוה yhwh), this name was too holy to risk profaning it and so was not pronounced by Jews. Instead it became the custom to read the word "adonai" = Lord.

In the text, to remind the reader to do this, the consonants of the name have the vowels of "lord" giving the impossible form "Jehovah". The one thing we know for sure is that this was not how God's own name was pronounced - Yahweh is a better guess.

To respect this sensibility, yet also indicate that a personal name is being used (not a title "lord") I have used "Adonai", which in English sounds like a name.


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

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