believe that Amos, an otherwise unknown shepherd from the village of Tekoa
in Judah, delivered his one public utterance in Israel's sanctuary city
of Beth-El in the year 849 bce. This address was a wide-ranging denunciation
of the evils of life in the northern kingdom of Israel.
Amos is not a pleading or beseeching prophet. Through him "the Lord roars from Zion" [Amos 1: 2] against the exploitation of the poor by the rich, the persecution of truth-sayers by ruling authorities and the perversion of ritual into a mask for privilege and power. God appears as a roaring lion whose head is intertwined with that of His prophetic messenger. [3.8] "Take away from Me the noise of your songs," [5 :23] he cries, condemning the arrogant assumption that He can be bribed with flattering words.
In a deeper sense sound also represents an attempt to drown out the silence in which alone man's conscience can be heard. At the base of the window a rock group, composed of singers, a guitarist and two trombone players, symbolizes the cacophany of contemporary life. Noise also pours out of the open mouths of the bear-like man (seen embracing a lascivious female figure) and of the lurid visage whose eyes are covered with sun-glasses. The face in the form of a television screen, again with open mouth, caricatures the incessant stream of sound which assails the ears and mind in our day.
While the smoke-stacks of the noisy factories next to the rock band pollute the air with hissing fumes, the Lord roars out His proclamation that He will pour fire upon the fortresses and palaces of all the kingdoms which feed upon the misery of their neighbors. (Between the television set and the lion head, two figures turn away from this wrath in sudden fright.) Destruction will be visited not only upon Damascus, Gaza, Tyre and the other great cities of the Near East, but also upon the capitals of Israel and Judah, for they too are guilty of cruel violations of the moral law. [Chapters 1 and 2]
The Lord is not the God of Israel alone. He is the master of all nations and the very Lord of Creation. He it was who formed the distant constellations, the Pleiades and Orion (the glowing circles which surround the heads of the lion and Amos). [5 : 8] He will show no favor to Israel. He will pour his blazing wrath upon all who "turn justice into wormwood and cast righteousness to the ground." [5: 7] He will not grant forgiveness in exchange for sacrifices, "solemn assemblies," the chanting of hymns, the commonplace manifestations of religion. [5 :21-22] Israel cannot elude the crushing embrace of the lion and the bear through such transparent deceptions.
only deliverance, the only escape, the only hope is for the people to determine
to (Hebrew: ) "Let justice weld up as waters, And righteousness as a mighty
stream." [5:24] Amos is unyielding and unrelenting in his insistence on
this single definition of God's will "Seek good, and not evil, That you
may live. And so the Lord, The God of hosts, Will be with you, As you say."