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181

CHAPTER X

DOOM OR DISCIPLINE?

Amos viii. 4-ix.

We now enter the Third Section of the Book of Amos: chaps. vii.-ix. As we have already treated the first part of it—the group of four visions, which probably formed the prophet's discourse at Bethel, with the interlude of his adventure there (vii.-viii. 3)344344   See Chapter VI., Section 3.—we may pass at once to what remains: from viii. 4 to the end of the book. This portion consists of groups of oracles more obscure in their relations to each other than any we have yet studied, and probably containing a number of verses which are not from Amos himself. They open in a denunciation of the rich, which echoes previous oracles, and soon pass to judgments of a kind already threatened, but now with greater relentlessness. Then, just as all is at the darkest, lights break; exceptions are made; the inevitable captivity is described no more as doom, but as discipline; and, with only this preparation for a change, we are swept out on a scene, in which, although the land is strewn with the ruins that have been threatened, the sunshine of a new day floods them; the promise of restoration is given; Nature182 herself will be regenerated, and the whole life of Israel planted on its own ground again.

Whether it was given to Amos himself to behold this day—whether these last verses of the book were his "Nunc Dimittis," or the hope of a later generation, which found his book intolerably severe, and mingled with its judgments their own new mercies—we shall try to discover further on. Meanwhile there is no doubt that we start with the authentic oracles of the prophet. We know the ring of his voice. To the tyranny of the rich, which he has so often lashed, he now adds the greed and fraud of the traders; and he paints Israel's doom in those shapes of earthquake, eclipse and famine with which his own generation had recently become familiar. Note that in this first group Amos employs only physical calamities, and says nothing of war and captivity. If the standard which we have already applied to the growth of his doctrine be correct, these ought therefore to be counted among his earlier utterances. War and captivity follow in chap. ix. That is to say, this Third Section follows the same line of development as both the First and the Second.


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