Despite the syntactic link, mentioned above scholars notice that verse 13 is different from those that surround it. Its style and "shape" are those of a proverb, and its choice of words also suggests the teaching of the wise. It was wisdom teachers rather than prophets or priests who prescribed "sensible" behavior. Other features of the language of Amos have also suggested a connection with wisdom.
Despite suggestions that Amos may have had instruction in a wisdom school, this proverb is interesting because its surface meaning is strongly at odds with the story of the book.
In both style and content Amos' speech is harsh, unyielding and critical - he never fails to speak out against what he sees as wrong. The one story in the book presents Amos in conflict with Amaziah. Amaziah politely invites Amos to exercise discretion and speak in Judah rather than in Israel's royal temple at Bethel. Amos' response is blistering.
Can you imagine how such a person would reply to anyone who dared suggest "at a time like this a sensible person keeps quiet; for it is an evil time"? So then, how can one imagine these words on Amos' own lips!? Evidently the proverb is ironic.
Far from counseling restraint in the face of injustice committed by the powerful, Amos pours scorn on oppression which must be maintained by silencing those who would speak with integrity.
That the "sensible" keep silent in the face of oppression is an irony that fits well with Amos' use of silence elsewhere.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.