Structure of the Book

The presence of fragments of hymnic material interspersed through the book has led scholars to attempt to discern reasons for their positioning. The most far-reaching attempts were made by De Waard & Smalley and by the team led by Klaus Koch .

De Waard & Smalley, envisage the whole book as structured by chiasm, and as including three chiastic sections. So they see the fragments occurring just after the beginning and just before the end of each section (table reproduced from de Waard & Smalley, 195):

 [Part I Israel's guilt; the prophet's responsibility] 1.1--5.3
A a  Prologue: the prophet 1.1-2a
B  b  The power of God to punish [hymn] 1.2b
C   c  Israel's special guilt among the nations 1.3--3.2
D    d  The prophet's role and commission 3.3--4.2
E   c  Israel doesn't learn God's lessons 4.4-12
-  b  The power of God to create [hymn] 4.13
F a'  Lament for Israel (conclusion) 5.1-3
[Part II Possibility of Salvation; Israel's peril] 5.4-15
G    d'  Seek God and avoid destruction 5.4-6
H   c'  Warning to sinners 5.7
I  b   The power of God to create [hymn] 5.8
I'  b   The power of God to punish [hymn] 5.9
H'   c'  Warning to sinners and righteous 5.10-13
G'    d'  Seek good and obtain mercy 5.14-15
[Part I' Israel's guilt and punishment; the prophet's involvement] 5.16--9.15
F' a'  Lament for Israel (introduction) 5.16-17
E'   c  Israel relies of false security 5.18--6.14
D'      f  The prophet's experiences: visions 7.1-9
   d  The prophet's role and commission 7.10-17
     f  The prophet's experiences: visions 8.1-3
C'   c"  The punishment of Israel 8.4--9.4
B'/B'' (b  the power of God to punish and create [hymn]) 9.5-6
A' a  Epilogue: punishment and recreation 9.7-15
  Figure 5. a,.a' = opening/closing section; b = hymn to the power of God; c, c' c" = Israel's guilt and punishment; d = the prophet's role and commission; d' = the prophet's positive message; f = the prophet's vision experiences.


Their presentation of the book is interesting and almost seems to work. However, there are problems, as they recognize ( de Waard & Smalley,193-4). In particular, and concerning the hymnic fragments the absence of one between 5:17 and 5:18 is troublesome in such a complex pattern.

This led me to examine the issue from the other end. Instead of thinking of a "missing" hymnic fragment between 5:17 and 18 look at what is there. 5:18-20 is the only piece in the book to speak overtly of Adonai's Day, it is also structurally and thematically distinct from what follows. Could the hymnic fragments be texts about Adonai's Day?

Whatever its background or nature, from the texts that mention Adonai's Day we know that this was a time when God was expected to "come" and intervene in power. Themes of water, darkness & light, and possibly of creation are present. These are exactly the themes of the hymnic fragments in Amos.

In this light we have the fragments, with the other Adonai's Day text (5:18-20 ), dividing the book into three parts:

1:1    Title
1:2    Adonai's Day Hymn
1:3-4:12  1:3-2:16
  3:1-15  Prophet & message
4:13    Adonai's Day Hymn
5:1-17    "The turning point"
5:18-20    Adonai's Day
5:21-9:4    5:21-6:14
  7:1-8:3  Prophet & message
9:5-6    Adonai's Day
9:7-15    Conclusion




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

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