Adonai's Day יוֹם יְהוָה 

Similar References
Day of Reversal
Eschatology, Worship or War?
Adonai's Day Outside Amos
Adonai's Day and the Structure of the Book of Amos

Only one passage in Amos uses the phrase יוֹם יְהוָה "Adonai's day" (5:18-20 ), yet there are similar references in other places (see below), which together with thematic and structural links to other passages suggest this "day" is a major theme of the book.

Similar references

The phrase "on that day" ( בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא bayom hahu) occurs at 2:16 ; 8:3, 9, 13 ; 9:11. Each time, a reversal is described, and what happens (will happen) "on that day" is surprising. The phrases "evil time" 5:13 ; "evil day" 6:3 and "bitter day" 8:10 (notice the cotext, speaking as at 5:18ff . of darkness and light) also seem related. In 3:14 Adonai says: "on the day when I punish" (bayom).

Even a surface reading of the book shows that the notion of a day of reversal, brought about by Adonai, upon his people and on the whole world is a regular theme, as well as the passages cited above cf. 1:14.

When things are not what they seem: A Day of Reversal

Reversal dominates the one passage where the expression "Adonai's Day" occurs. In Am 5:18-20 the reader is made aware of a difference of perspective between the speaker and the audience.

18 Alas to you who desire Adonai's day!
What is Adonai's day to you?
It's darkness, not light!

Sunset over the Golan Heights by McMath

The question in the second stich already suggests this. The construction "why/what | something | to someone" is used also in Gen 25:32 where translations like "What benefit is a birthright to me?" are offered. The prophet here suggests that Adonai's Day is worthless, or - as we shall see - worse, yet in the preceding stich he addresses those who "desire" or even "lust after" this day. The question does not remain open for long, it is answered in the next stich: "It's darkness, not light!"

Whatever the exact connotation of " darkness " and "light " here, it is evident that Amos declares Adonai's Day to be the opposite of what is expected. The parable in v.19 confirms this:

19 Like someone escaping a lion,
who meets a bear;
and entering his house, leans a hand on the wall,
and a snake bites him.

The final verse of the piece repeats and intensifies the reversal.

20 Isn't Adonai's day darkness, not light,
gloom with no brightness in it?

Eschatology, Worship or War?: The Sitz im Leben of Adonai's Day

Studies interested in the background from which talk of Adonai's Day comes typically look in one of three directions:

That warfare alone provides the background for the use of the term seems unlikely. Two of the biblical passages presumed to be oldest (Am 5 and Is 2) contain little or no battle imagery. The cotext in Amos is cultic and in Isaiah concerns judgment on the proud without explicit reference to battle.

Yet, other passages do use military imagery. The use of the expression "Midian's Day" (Is 9:4 [9:3 in Hebrew]) also points this way. Meir Weiss suggested that the "day" was a theophany, a proposal which fits much of the evidence and can link elements of the other approaches.

The arguments for a cultic setting center around the cultic cotext of the earliest passage, in Amos, and on the way in which talk of this day fits with our understanding of the autumn festival in Ancient Israel. Talk of rain, sovereignty, storms etc. all can be understood in this way. On this understanding war imagery where it occurs is a byproduct of the thought of divine sovereignty.

This discussion is well summarized by Barstad (89-110).

Adonai's Day Outside Amos

Though the expression "Adonai's day" יוֹם יְהוָה  is not frequent in the prophets, there are many other references which seem to speak of the same concept suggesting its importance in their thought. If, however, we begin looking only at the explicit uses, it is already clear that this "day" involves:

Apparently also it is particularly directed against the "heathen" (Obad 15). However, most of the prophets (like Amos) seem to turn this idea upside down, and suggest Adonai pays special attention to punishing the chosen people!

This summary has only referred to texts using the expression "Adonai's day", if one looks more widely at passages referring to such a "day" this picture is confirmed and strengthened.

Thus Amos' use of the concept fits well with the later prophetic usage.



This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.