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Amos 5:4-6

Context

5:4 The Lord says this to the family 1  of Israel:

“Seek me 2  so you can live!

5:5 Do not seek Bethel! 3 

Do not visit Gilgal!

Do not journey down 4  to Beer Sheba!

For the people of Gilgal 5  will certainly be carried into exile; 6 

and Bethel will become a place where disaster abounds.” 7 

5:6 Seek the Lord so you can live!

Otherwise he will break out 8  like fire against Joseph’s 9  family; 10 

the fire 11  will consume

and no one will be able to quench it and save Bethel. 12 

1 tn Heb “house.”

2 sn The following verses explain what it meant to seek the Lord. Israel was to abandon the mere formalism and distorted view of God and reality that characterized religious activity at the worship sites, as well as the social injustice that permeated Israelite society. Instead the people were to repent and promote justice in the land. This call to seek the Lord echoes the challenge in 4:13 to prepare to meet him as he truly is.

3 sn Ironically, Israel was to seek after the Lord, but not at Bethel (the name Bethel means “the house of God” in Hebrew).

map For location see Map4 G4; Map5 C1; Map6 E3; Map7 D1; Map8 G3.

4 tn Heb “cross over.”

sn To worship at Beer Sheba, northern worshipers had to journey down (i.e., cross the border) between Israel and Judah. Apparently, the popular religion of Israel for some included pilgrimage to holy sites in the South.

5 tn Heb “For Gilgal.” By metonymy the place name “Gilgal” is used instead of referring directly to the inhabitants. The words “the people of” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

6 tn In the Hebrew text the statement is emphasized by sound play. The name “Gilgal” sounds like the verb גָּלָה (galah, “to go into exile”), which occurs here in the infinitival + finite verb construction (גָּלֹה יִגְלֶה, galoh yigleh). The repetition of the “ג” (g) and “ל” (l) sounds draws attention to the announcement and suggests that Gilgal’s destiny is inherent in its very name.

sn That the people of Gilgal would be taken into exile is ironic, for Gilgal was Israel’s first campsite when the people entered the land under Joshua and the city became a symbol of Israel’s possession of the promised land.

7 tn Heb “disaster,” or “nothing”; NIV “Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”

sn Again there is irony. The name Bethel means “house of God” in Hebrew. How surprising and tragic that Bethel, the “house of God” where Jacob received the inheritance given to Abraham, would be overrun by disaster.

8 tn Heb “rush.” The verb depicts swift movement.

9 sn Here Joseph (= Ephraim and Manasseh), as the most prominent of the Israelite tribes, represents the entire northern kingdom.

10 tn Heb “house.”

11 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Heb “to/for Bethel.” The translation assumes that the preposition indicates advantage, “on behalf of.” Another option is to take the preposition as vocative, “O Bethel.”



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