The Theologian, R.E Clements, wrote that Amos held no hope for the future of Israel: I disagree.
Clements summary does not do justice to the full message of Amos’ writings. Although his book is by far predominately about judgement; but like many of the prophets, he writes about Salvation as a result of Judgement. Amos seems to be a reformer, with a specific focus on the cult of worship. Once more he views things through the lens of the Sinai Covenant. This desire for reform, indicates that Amos understands there will be something left to enact that reform on. He is a shrewd forth-teller, and is aware of the calamity that Israel will face.
For Amos the judgement that shall fall upon the people is entirely of their own making. The worship of the people has become divorced from concerns of justice and righteousness. Amos clearly understands both the horizontal and vertical aspects of the 10 commandments and seeks to bring Israel back in line with them.
In defence of Clements statement, we can look at the judgements found in Chapter 7. They paint a bleak picture. The judgement will be not only on the people, but on the land, the worship system and the Royal household. Each of these elements is central to the identity of the Israelite people.
At first Amos takes on his role as prophet and seeks to intercede for the people, on his first vision of the Locust. However, even here we see a small glimmer of hope in that Yahweh withdraws his judgement.
His second vision, fire, Amos intercedes for a stay of execution; again there is hope as Yahweh grants his prayer.
His 3rd vision, is perhaps the basis of Clements statement. The plumb line shows that Yahweh is past the point of accepting repentance, even Amos does not ask for a lifeline. The judgement is inevitable; the oracle of Judgement in 7:9 targets the shrine at Bethel and the royal household.
The basket of summer fruit is the nail in the coffin indicating the finality of the judgement, this is word play in Hebrew signifying the end. The following oracle speaks of festivities turning to funeral mourning and death on all sides. The instrument of Judgement is set as the foreign military forces of Assyria. Total destruction and the leading away of people into exile- the visceral picture of hooks being used to drag them off like cattle.
Chapter 8:4-14 indicates a total abandonment from Yahweh, his withdrawal of revelation (11-12), his impatience over Holy days and sacrifice he now despises (4-7). If that is not enough the land will rise up itself, seemingly against the people: the earthquake that Amos had previously mentioned (2:13, 3:14-15) marks the final blow, accompanied with a solar eclipse to hammer the point home.
The 5th Vision then a change of tone
As the lord stands beside the alter, Amos tells us that after the destruction, even those who are left, not one will get away, none will escape. (9:1) The judgement is both thorough and inescapable.
A hymn to the creator follows, then there is a much brighter epilogue beginning in 9:11. The sudden change of atmosphere left many scholars suspicious this was a later addition. However, in context of the other prophets, Isaiah, Hosea, Micah and Jeremiah all contained some hope: the same hope previously mentioned, salvation after judgement. Amos’ hope may only be for the remnant in Judah but it remains a sign that does not align with Clement’s thesis.
The Salvation Promises
V11-12 we are told that ‘in that day’ there will be a restoration of David’s realm; this would presumably include the land of the Northern kingdom too. The phrase ‘in that day’ seems to be an inversion of Amos’ previously mentioned ‘day of the Lord’ which he had told the people of Israel they had first misunderstood, yet here, it seems to be viewed as a positive once more.
Judah’s Davidic Dynasty- that is ‘David’s fallen tent’ did not collapse until the Babylonian exile in 586bc. This is dated after Amos so is not likely how he interprets the restoration. For Amos, there is a hint of a coming Messianic age, but he seems to link it to the pre-monarchic period when David championed the poor. In this age, it will not be a place of palaces and he links it to the simplicity of tent life in Leviticus 23:42.
The second salvation promise is linked to the land and a superabundant fertility. He tells us in v13 that farmers will struggle to keep up with the demands due to the abundance going so far as to say the mountains will be awash with wine. The most positive line is v15 which promises no more Exile for the people.
It seems that Clements overstated the horrors spoken by Amos.