Amos 5

The Word Made Fresh

1I mourn for you, Israel!
2Fallen, and never again to rise is the virgin, Israel.
Her own people have forsaken her. No one will raise her up.
3The LORD God says that the city that was once a thousand strong
will have no more than a hundred remaining.
And the town that once could march a hundred
will have but ten remaining.
4The LORD says to Israel, “Seek after me and survive!
5But don’t look to Bethel for help,
and don’t approach Gilgal or Beer-Sheba;
Gilgal is destined for exile and Bethel has nothing to offer.”
6Instead, search for the LORD to preserve your life,
or God will attack the house of Joseph like a raging fire,
a fire that will devour Bethel; a fire that cannot be quenched.
7For you have turned justice to worthless wormwood
and brought righteousness down to the dirt.
8The One who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns the darkness into sunrise and sunset into night,
who summons the sea and pours it on the earth –
the One known as the LORD
9bursts out against the strong with destructive force
that the fortresses cannot withstand.
10They hate the one who argues for justice
and abhor the one who speaks the truth.
11So, you who trample the poor and take their grain from them.
You built houses of shaped stones
but will never live in them.
You planted lovely vineyards, but will never drink the wine.
12You see, I know all your mistakes and how great your sin has
You punish the righteous. You take bribes.
You push the needy aside.
13Those who are wise will remain silent in such a time as this,
for this is an evil time.
14Therefore, search for good, not evil, and you will live.
The LORD God of multitudes will be with you as has been said.
15Hate evil. Love good. Enforce justice in your courts.
Perhaps the LORD God of multitudes
will favor the remnant of Joseph.
16The LORD God of multitudes says
there will be weeping in every corner.
In every street they will cry out, “Alas! Alas!”
Those who farm will be summoned to mourn,
and those who weep will be summoned to tears.
17“There will be wailing in every vineyard
when I pass through your midst,” says the LORD.
18“Woe to you who long for the Day of the LORD.
Why do you want that day to come?
It is in darkness, not light.
19It will be as if you ran from a lion and was met by a bear;
or as if you entered a house and leaned against the wall
and was bitten by a snake.
20The day of the LORD is darkness, isn’t it? Not light!
It is filled with shadow and has no brightness.
21I hate your festivals. I despise them.
I take no delight in your solemn gatherings.
22You offer grain and burnt offerings,
but I do not accept them.
I have no regard for your sacrifices of fatted animals.
23Take away the noise of your singing.
I won’t listen to your harps and other instruments.
24Instead, send justice to roll down like a waterfall,
and send righteousness to flow like an eternal river.
25Didn’t you bring sacrifices and offerings to me those forty years you were in the wilderness, family of Israel? 26But now you raise up your pagan king and your star gods, and the graven images you made for yourselves. 27That is why I am sending you away, far beyond Damascus,” says the LORD God the Almighty.


1-3: Amos begins the predictable prophetic lament over Israel, mourning their destruction before the fact. All the cities, large and small, will be decimated, with only 10% of the people remaining.

4-5: Amos bids them to seek the LORD; but not at Bethel and Gilgal and Beer-Sheba where their pagan shrines are.

6-7: Now the plea indicates that the disaster might still be avoided if they will only seek the LORD. He directs his plea toward both the judicial leaders and the religious leaders.

8-9: This is a common feature of the prophetic lament, a description of God’s sovereignty over the heavens and the earth and the seas.

10-13: Amos charges the wealthy and powerful with cheating and stealing.

14-15: Again, he begs them to turn back to the ways approved by God.

16-17: The coming punishment will visit all of Israelite society, city and country, field and vineyard.

18-20: The “day of the LORD” has apparently become a misappropriated term by (probably) the priests in charge of the religious life of the people. Amos and his ilk warn the people about the coming day of the LORD and the unfaithful priests pretend it will be a time of life and light. Amos sets them straight.

21-24: His accusations continue and escalate. Now he is denouncing the ritual practices in which the people engage; the solemn assemblies, the offerings, the singing, and the musical instruments. Instead, he says, justice and righteousness are what God wants from them, and he pictures these qualities as a sweeping flood that will cleanse the land.

25-27: The Hebrew text mentions Kaiwan and Sakkuth, probably the names of Assyrian deities (Assyria is never directly mentioned in Amos), or perhaps should be translated as nouns that mean “pedestal” and “shrine.” It is clear, however, that their worship of other gods is at the heart of the judgment against them.


Amos is relentless in his description of the people’s faithlessness. Are we, too, entering a time when true faith will be hard to find? And if so, what is our role in preserving the faith?