Up to this point the text of Amos has announced judgment. The “day of the Lord,” which Israel thought would bring redemption (Amos 5:18), is a divine visitation that will bring disaster (evil) to Israel (Amos 3:14; 5:20; 8:9). Amos 9:11-15, however, announces a startling reversal.
The contrast is pronounced. Whereas “in that day” of judgment Israel’s youth will “faint for thirst” as the nation experiences mourning (Amos 8:13; cf. 8:10), “in that day” of the rebuilding of the “tent of David” the ruins will be repaired (Amos 9:11). “Behold, the days are coming” declares God, but the days entail very different scenarios. Whereas some “days are coming” in which Israel will hear no word from the Lord (Amos 8:11), the “days are coming” in which the fortunes of Israel will be fully restored (Amos 9:13-14). The text parallels the language (“that day” as well as “days are coming”) but contrasts the results.
Despair, at the end of Amos, has turned to hope. Bad news (disastrous curses) has become good news (blessings). What happened? Why this movement here at the end of the book of Amos?
Some suggest that this is an exilic or post-exilic addition to the message of Amos. The reference to David suggests that Judah’s exile and the destruction of Jerusalem lies in the background. Others suggest that Amos has previously given us some indications of hope. For example, there is remnant language in Amos 9:9 as well as the promise that God would not totally destroy “the house of Jacob” (Amos 9:8). Whatever the case may be, the canonical text of Amos ends with hope (and that text dates at least prior to the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible several hundred years before Christ).
Hope changes everything. It means that God is not finished with Israel and that God will remember his covenant promises to Abraham despite their sins. And hope is inclusive. The text of Amos is quoted by the James in Acts 15 in defense of the inclusion of the Gentiles with the new faith community called the “church.” Both texts, Amos 9:11-15 and Acts 15:15-18, demand attention. I will address Amos 9:11-15 in this post and address Acts 15:15-18 in the next.
In broad strokes, the hoped announced is clear. At some point in the unspecified future Yahweh will rebuild the “tent of David” so that they might “possess” the land given them and prosper in it. it is a promise of restoration where the “tent of David” is rebuilt, the land replanted, and prosperity abounds.
Amos 9:13-15 is a clear portrayal of the restored fortunes of Israel. They will settle in their land again and plant their crops. They will “rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them.” This is the land that Yahweh gave to them and they will never be “uprooted” from it again. Their prosperity is overwhelming. As soon as they begin to reap their crops, the sower (plowman) will begin his work again. Though the harvest and sowing are separated by months, it will appear that they will overlap–both in terms of grain and grapes. The image that the mountains will “drip sweet wine” and the hills will “all flow with it” provides a luxurious metaphor. The prosperity of this restored Israel will far exceed the luxury and prosperity that Israel knew under Jeroboam II.
The more difficult text is Amos 9:11-12. Several questions arise, including how the text is applied in Acts 15 (which I shall leave for my next post). Two primary questions emerge from the text itself: (1) the meaning of the “tent of David” and (2) what it means to “possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations” called by the name of Yahweh.
The relation between the two questions is clear. The “tent of David” is restored so that or with the result that Israel will “possess the remnant of Edom…” One leads to the other or we might say that one is done for the purpose of the other. Whether purpose or result it is at least an intended result as it is Yahweh who will do it (much like the determination of God in Isaiah 9:6).
But what is the “tent of David”? The introduction of “David” brings Judah into view rather than the northern kingdom alone. The text of Amos has not totally ignored Judah. Indeed, Judah’s own destruction is envisioned in Amos 2:4-5. Yet, the introduction of David (for the first time!) is unanticipated. The “tent of David” raises the interpretative horizon beyond the immediacy of the northern kingdom and points us toward a future for the whole of the nation (as under the past Davidic kingdom).
Most identify the “tent of David” with the Davidic dynasty or the “house” of David. In other words, it refers to the Davidic kingdom, reign, or throne, perhaps even the Davidic empire that subjugated the “nations” mentioned in Amos 1-2. This has merit, but the term “tent,” or “booth,” or “hut” does not really suit this interpretation. Nowhere else is the Davidic dynasty referred to as a “tent,” though it is often called a “house” (1 Samuel 7:11, 13, 15, 27). Further, “tent” has broader ramifications here. It involves walls breached, ruins, and something to “rebuild.” It seems to refer to a city or at least something surrounded by walls.
Another alternative, which seems more likely to me, is that the “tent of David” refers to the temple, its walls, and the city in which it resided, that is, Jerusalem (cf. Dunne, WThJ  363-367]. The Hebrew term often refers to the “booths” that worshippers would build during the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). Sometimes the term refers to Yahweh’s heavenly dwelling (cf. “canopy” in Psalms 18:11; 31:20) as well as the “canopy” that will cover Mt. Zion (Isaiah 4:5-6) . Jerusalem itself is identified as “booth” in Isaiah 1:8. Here David’s “booth” (worship dwelling) functions “as a synecdoche for all of Jerusalem” (Dunne, 367) which is the dwelling place of God. This, of course, would not exclude dynastic overtones or even a broader inclusion of the Davidic kingdom. But the focus is on the rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem as a center of worship among the rebuilt cities of the land.
God’s rebuilding project will result in Israel’s possession of the “remnant of Edom” and “all the nations” called by Yahweh’s name. But what does that mean? Up to this point in Amos, both Edom and all the nations are hostile to Israel (cf. Amos 1). Assyria is on the verge of enslaving Israel. Edom, as Israel’s ancient archenemy, symbolizes the nations themselves. The future, however, will reverse this picture. Israel will “possess” the nations.
The critical question is the meaning of “possession.” Some think it Amos envisions a military conquest. Israel’s restoration will include the reconquest of the land promised them through Abraham. This land will include the territories of the nations noted in Amos 1-2 and thereby restore the Davidic and Solomonic proportions of Israel’s empire. To “possess” the land, therefore, is to seize control over it.
But there is another option.The possessed nations are those who are called by Yahweh’s name. “Possession” is closely link to the Hebrew term for “inheritance” or “heir.” The language may point to the reality that nations will also share in the inheritance of the land and thus fulfill the promise to Abraham since he is the “heir of the cosmos” (Romans 4:13).
To be called by the name of Yahweh is equivalent to covenant relationship (cf. Deuteronomy 28:10; Jeremiah 15:16; 25:29; 2 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 13:16), and there is only one example of its militaristic use (2 Samuel 12:28 where it is Joab’s name rather than Yahweh’s at issue). Rather than conquering the nations of Amos 1-2 the promise envisions their inclusion in the Abrahamic land promise as well as worshipping Yahweh at the temple in Jerusalem. This is what we see in other prophetic literature (Isaiah 25:6; 56:6-8; 66:23; Zechariah 14:16-19 among many others).
Amos 9:11-15 offers hope not only to Israel but to the nations. The restoration of the “tent of David” will result in the inclusion of the nations. They too will be called by the name of Yahweh. When those days arrive the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord and the meek will inherit the earth (land). The Abrahamic land promise will be fulfilled when the whole earth becomes the Lord’s both in fact as well as by right. Both Israel and the nations will enjoy the land, the blessings of the covenant, and the presence of Yahweh as the “tent of David” is restored.
But what is this “tent of David”? Does it refer to a literal temple rebuilt in the land of Palestine as some expect? Or does it refer to an eschatological temple in the new creation, the new Jerusalem? I’ll save that one for the next post.