Israel will fall and rise again
God hunts sinful Jews1I had a vision. I saw the LORD standing beside an altar. He told me:
Hit the top of the pillars, at the capitals.
Collapse the building onto the people.
Anyone who survives will face the sword.
No one will get away.
No one will survive.
2They can dig a foxhole into the land of the dead
But I’ll snatch them out of the grave.
They can climb to the sky and fly to the stars,
But I’ll pull them back down to the dirt.
3They can hide in the hills of Mount Carmel,
But I’ll hunt them, find them, and catch them.
They can dive deep in the belly of the sea,
But I’ll send a snake to bite them.
4Some will leave, driven away as captives.
But I’ll command the swords that drive them.
And I’m looking to hurt the captives.
I’m not interested in helping them.
The earth shakes, the people mourn5The LORD is the God of everyone.
He can melt the earth with a touch.
He has the power to make the world mourn.
He can make the earth shake.
It’ll rise like the Nile, Then sink like the Nile.
6He builds a home in the sky
Nested on the foundation of earth.
He calls for water he made for the sea
Then he pours it onto the earth.
His name is LORD.
Israel is nothing special to God7Israel, what makes you think you’re special? 
Are you better than the Ethiopians?
I’ll grant you that I brought you out of Egypt.
So what? I brought Philistines out of Crete
And Arameans out of Kir.
8The LORD God sees Israel sinning.
I’ll wipe this nation off the earth.
But I won’t kill all of Jacob’s descendants.
That’s what the LORD says.
9I’m going to shake Israel and the nations
Like you shake grain kernels through a sieve.
Its screen will trap all the pebbles and trash.
None of it will slip through and escape.
10My people will die by the sword if
A. They’re sinners
B. They say, “Nothing bad will happen to us.”
After the end, a new beginning11There’s coming a day
When I’ll resurrect David’s kingdom
From a mound of ruins and broken rocks
To the good old days of glory.
12They’ll take back Edom’s land
And all the lands that call me LORD.
This is what the LORD says
And this is what he’ll do.
13There’s a day coming when bumper crops
Extend harvesting into next season’s plowing,
With harvesters bumping into plowers,
And grape-stompers splashing farmers planting seed.
Wine will pour down the mountains,
And flow through the hills.
14I’ll give back to Israel all they lost.
I’ll rebuild their homes and cities.
They’ll plant their vineyards,
Drink their wine.
They’ll plant their gardens,
Eat fruit and veggies.
15I’ll plant the people in their land.
They won’t be uprooted again.
This is their land.
I gave it to them.
That’s what the LORD says,
The LORD your God.
Amos doesn’t say which altar. Is it the one at Jerusalem or Bethel or Dan, or maybe some other location? Amos doesn’t say. Maybe he didn’t know. Or perhaps he wanted Jews in both countries, Israel and Judah, to think it was their altar.
Literally, “from the belly of Sheol.” Sheol is a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
Not just any snake. The word can—and in this context, probably does—mean the legendary and mythological serpent from ancient stories about when creation was still in chaos. Amos likely used this popular story to illustrate his point, not to teach mythology. Stories from various cultures describe serpents of chaos, sometimes described as dragons. On the other hand, the Hebrew word here can also simply mean a snake, in this case probably poisonous.
The Nile River usually rises every autumn, when rains in Central Africa start draining into streams that feed the Nile River. The usually gentle floods irrigate Egypt’s riverside farmland and pastures. Later, the river level drops back and shrinks in the summer. The rising and sinking of the Nile River may illustrate God’s power over his creation, which includes the people of Israel and Judah.
The meaning of the Hebrew word for “foundation” is uncertain. “Foundation” is an educated guess based on the context here.
“LORD,” usually printed in all capital letters, is a name of God that appears around 7,000 times in many English editions of the Christian Bible. That makes it the most common way of referring to God. The lower-case “Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew word Adonai. It refers to God as our master, our life coach, or the boss. He’s in charge of us, and we try to obey him. “LORD” is the spelling most Bibles use when the writer refers to the name of God. Moses asked God what his name was, and God said Moses should tell the Israelite ancestors of the Jews that his name is “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). In the original Hebrew language, the name is spelled with only consonants—no vowels. It’s an ancient shorthand, to save hides used to make scrolls. The name is YHWH. Without knowing which vowels, most scholars have settled on YAHWEH, pronounced YAH-way. God’s name is so sacred to many Jews that they refuse to speak it. Instead, they’ll use names that describe the character of God, such as Adonai, which means “my Lord.” They won’t even write the name. In English, they’ll spell the name G-d.
The Jewish people of Israel might have answered that by saying God told their ancestors they were God’s chosen people, different from other nations, and uniquely devoted to God. To which God might say, “Past tense.” A nation that ignores God is just another sinful nation, as Amos seems to present God’s message.
Literally the people of “Cush.” People called these black tribes Nubians. The tribes weren’t well-known yet. Amos apparently used that to illustrate Israel was just another group of people. The nation was nothing special anymore.
The land was Caphtor, location unknown. The name also shows up in ancient writings of Egypt and Syria. Many scholars guess it refers to the islands of Crete or Cyprus. Some say it was Cilicia, a region along Turkey’s southern coast on the Mediterranean Sea.
Arameans, better known to us as Syrians, came from an unidentified place called Kir. The point seems to be that Israel, like the neighbors they hate, came from another land. Israel is just another nation that wants nothing to do with God.
Today’s Jewish people descended from Jacob. His 12 sons produced families that grew into the 12 tribes of Israel. Assyrian invaders destroyed the cities of Israel in 722 BC and exiled many survivors—to keep them from resurrecting their nation. Those northern tribes that formed Israel never regrouped or reconstituted their nation.
The pebbles and trash seem to represent sinful Israel.
Well, that’s not what it sounds like Amos said a minute ago, with God wiping Israel off the map and all. Yet it’s what happened. The northern Jewish nation of Israel never came back from exile, at least not in large numbers that could resurrect Israel. The southern Jewish nation of Judah did, however, return 50 years after Babylon in 586 BC defeated them, destroyed their cities, and deported them to what is now Iraq. They never did restore the good old days and earn the bragging rights of King David and his son King Solomon. Solomon’s authority and power stretched all the way to the Euphrates River, through Syria and to the southern banks of today’s Turkey.
People of Edom descended from Esau, oldest brother of Jacob. Israelites in Israel and Judah—ancestors of today’s Jewish people—descended from Jacob. The ancient kingdom of Edom was south of the Dead Sea, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan. This was the homeland of Esau, brother of Jacob. The Edomite fortress city of Petra, carved out of solid rock, is a popular tourist attraction.
Literally, “All the nations called by my name.”
Bible writers talk about a “day of the LORD” or “on that day” or “day of visitation” or “there’s a time coming.” It’s a day that can go in one of two directions. It can be a good day—a day God comes to save his people. It’s something to look forward to. Some scholars trace the idea back to what happened when God came to Egypt and with 10 plagues, he freed the Israelites. But it can also be a fearful day to people at odds with God. To them, it is Judgment Day. But to people on good terms with God, his arrival for Judgment Day or any other reason is welcome. The prophet Joel describes it in graphic terms as a terrible day when invaders destroy sinful Jerusalem (Joel 1:15; 2:11). Obadiah uses the phrase that way as well. But to God’s people, the “day” is the day of salvation (Joel 2:32).
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