These verses are a judgment oracle, yet with some interesting divergence from the typical form.
Those "called to hear" are not the accused, but "heralds" who themselves call the witnesses for the "trial".
Some suggest a regular form of "prophetic lawsuit" speech, where the prophet, on behalf of God, summons the people for their breach of the divine covenant (cf. Is 3:13ff.; Jer 2:9ff.; Hos 4:1ff.; 12:2ff.[MT 3]; Mic 6:1ff.). Whether or not such a form existed, it is clear that in Amos the imagery of a court is often present. As Sinclair noticed, it is particularly strong in these verses.
אַרְמְנוֹת (citadel) recurs 4 times in these 3 verses, clearly it is a significant motif. The citadel was a fortified palace or temple complex which served as base for the rulers of the city, and place of refuge in time of war.
First the proclamation is made to the Philistine then to Egyptian citadels, calling their inhabitants to assemble as witnesses (v.9), for in Samaria the powerful used their citadels as "storehouses" for violence and destruction. As a result both strongholds and citadels would be plundered by enemy troops.
Despite those who would prefer a neater balancing of Egypt with Assyria the MT which pairs a Philistine city with Egypt has the advantage of listing two of Israel's powerful ancient enemies as the present witnesses against her.
Ashdod was the most northerly of the Philistine cities, and had perhaps recently been conquered by Uzziah, king of Judah (2 Chron 26:6) thus making it ironically appropriate here.
Egypt appears several times in Amos, often with explicit reference to the tradition of slavery and freedom through Adonai's act in Exodus. Here it is part of Amos' ironic condemnation of those Israelites who subject their compatriots to slavery and oppression comparable to the worst inflicted by foreign overlords.
Notice the accumulation of words describing this state "confusion, oppression, violence and destruction".
Like the oracle against Israel in 2:6ff these verses point in two directions:
In this case the punishment fits not only the crime, but is related to the witnesses too, for an enemy will encompass the land and strip the citadels of their plunder.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.