11. Israel: G-D'S Eternal Children
Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O House of Israel: "The virgin of Israel has fallen and shall not rise; forsaken on her land, there is none to raise her up."
Amos is predicting the exile of the Ten Tribes of Israel to Assyria (see glossary), as he continues to elaborate:
Thus says the L-rd, G-d: "The city that went forth a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went forth a hundred shall have ten left for the House of Israel."
These Ten Tribes will never regain their former glory as a separate kingdom. They will, however, return to the Holy Land in the Messianic Era and be reunited with the two tribes of Judah (see glossary). At that time, a Judean king (the Messiah) from the House of David will reign over the entire nation:
"For behold, days are coming, says the L-rd, when I will bring back the captivity of My people, Israel and Judah, says the L-rd, and I will cause them to return to the land I gave their fathers, and they shall possess it."
Ezekiel 39:25, 27, 29
Therefore thus says the L-rd, G-d: "Now I will bring back the captivity of Jacob and have mercy upon the whole House of Israel....When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them from their enemies' lands....I will not hide My face from them anymore, when I pour out My Spirit upon the House of Israel," says the L-rd, G-d.
Amos concludes his book with this theme:
Amos 9:11, 14-15
"On that day I will raise up the fallen tabernacle of David and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old....I will restore the captivity of My children, Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them....I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be uprooted from their land, which I have given them," says the L-rd, your G-d.
Then said the L-rd to me: "Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My soul would not turn toward this people; send them out of My sight and let them go forth."
And many nations shall pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor: "Why has the L-rd done thus to this great city?" Then they will answer: "Because they forsook the covenant of the L-rd, their G-d, and worshipped other gods, and served them."
And you [tribe of Judah], even you will cease [to dwell in the land of] your heritage, which I gave you, and I will make you serve your enemies in the land you do not know, for in My anger you have kindled a fire that shall burn forever.
These verses are not to be taken literally. They were meant to impress upon the Jews the dire need to repent. In fact, Israel is not to serve its enemies, it is to be served by them:
Foreigners shall build your walls, and their kings shall minister to you, for in My wrath I smote you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Your gates shall be open continually, day and night they shall not be shut; in order that men may bring you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led [in procession]. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.
In the Hebrew Bible, "forever" is to be understood as everlasting only when accompanied by other words to this effect, such as:
This day [Passover] shall be for you a memorial, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the L-rd; throughout your generations you shall celebrate it as an ordinance forever.
Without this accompaniment, "forever" just means a long time:
And if the servant shall plainly say: "I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go free...." [Then] he shall serve him forever.
I Samuel 1:22, 28
But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband: "As soon as the child [Samuel] is weaned, I will bring him, in order that he may appear before the L-rd and abide there forever." "Therefore I lend him to the L-rd; as long as he lives, he is lent to the L-rd. And he bowed down to the L-rd there."
And He said: "Go and say to this people: "Hear indeed, but do not understand; see indeed, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and repent and be healed." Then I said: "How long, O L-rd?" and He said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without men, and the land is utterly desolate. And [until] the L-rd removes men far away and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will again be consumed like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it loses its leaves, so is the holy seed its stump."
The curse outlined in bold was temporary, as is evident from the passage following it. It lasted only until the ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled to Assyria:
II Kings 17:22-23
The children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam, which he had committed, they did not depart from them. Until the L-rd removed Israel from His sight, as He had spoken via all His servants, the Prophets. Thus, Israel was exiled from its own land to Assyria until this day.
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin were the "tenth" (of the population) remaining. As the text foretells, they also were later "consumed," i.e., exiled to Babylon:
II Kings 25:11
And Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, exiled the rest of the people who were left in the city, and the deserters who had deserted to the King of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude.
The New Testament (Matthew 13:14-15) cites the verse under discussion as "proof" that the Jews are cursed from recognizing Jesus as the Messiah!
The chariots of G-d are myriads, even thousands upon thousands; the L-rd is among them, Sinai in holiness.You ascended on high, you have taken captives, you have received gifts for man, in order that even rebels may dwell with G-d.
These verses, written in the past tense, refer to the revelation at Mount Sinai:
The "gifts" for mankind were the Ten Commandments given to Moses:
The L-rd said to Moses: "Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone with the Law and the Commandment, which I have written for their instruction."
He received them among those who made the golden calf:
Exodus 32:15, 19
And Moses turned and descended from the mountain, and the two Tablets of the Testimony were in his hand....As soon as he came near the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing.
"Dwell with G-d" echoes:
And I will dwell among the children of Israel and be their G-d.
Other verses in Psalms 68 confirm that the subject of the verse under discussion is indeed Moses on Mount Sinai:
O G-d, when You went forth before Your nation, when You marched through the wilderness, Selah. The earth quaked, the heavens dropped at the presence of G-d; even Sinai [trembled] at the presence of G-d, the G-d of Israel.
This is alluding to:
And the L-rd went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, in order that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night did He remove from before the people.
And Mount Sinai smoked in every part because the L-rd descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.
Ignoring these allusions, the New Testament paraphrases the verse under discussion as a prophecy foretelling Jesus:
But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore, he said: "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
Thus says the L-rd: "A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentations and bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children she refuses to be comforted over her children, because they are no more.
This verse under discussion continues:
And they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, says the L-rd, and your children shall return to their border.
This verse is referring to the ten lost tribes of Israel, who did not return to the Holy Land after being exiled to Assyria, but are destined to do so in the Messianic Era. Hence, the Prophet continues:
Set up way marks for yourself, make yourself signposts, and set your heart towards the highway, the road upon which you went, return, O virgin of Israel, return to these, your cities.The New Testament (Matthew 2:16) claims that Herod, the governor of Judah sought the life of baby Jesus whom he considered a threat to his throne. Therefore, to ensure that Jesus would be among them, Herod supposedly killed "all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under." Thus, "fulfilling" our verse under discussion.