The response of Amos (Am 7:14-7:15)

“Then Amos answered Amaziah.

‘I am no prophet.

I am not a prophet’s son.

But I am a herdsman.

I am a dresser

Of sycamore trees.

Yahweh took me

From following the flock.

Yahweh said to me.

‘Go!

Prophesy to my people Israel!’”

Amos responded that he was not a professional prophet, nor the son of a prophet, nor part of any prophetic group. He was a simple shepherd or herdsman. He loved to take care of sycamore trees. Yahweh had taken him away from his flock and told him to prophesize to the people of Israel. Remember that King David was also a shepherd. Obviously, that was considered a badge of honor to be a lowly shepherd, something that Jesus of Nazareth would also mention.

Title of this book (Am 1:1-1:1)

“The words of Amos,

Who was among

The shepherds of Tekoa.

This is what he saw

Concerning Israel,

In the days of King Uzziah

Of Judah.

This was

In the days of King Jeroboam,

The son of King Joash,

Of Israel,

Two years

Before the earthquake.”

This book was written by the prophet Amos. Apparently, he was a shepherd from Tekoa, a small village in Judah. However, he seemed to be talking about the powerful northern kingdom of Israel when King Jeroboam II (783-743 BCE), the son of King Joash (798-783 BCE), was the king of Israel. At that same time, the king of Judah was King Uzziah (781-740 BCE). This all took place 2 years before the earthquake. However, it is difficult to precisely date this earthquake, but it could probably be around 760-750 BC.

The scattered sheep (Ezek 34:5-34:6)

“The sheep

Were scattered,

Because there was

No shepherd.

Thus,

They became food

For all the wild animals.

My sheep

Were scattered.

They wandered

Over all the mountains.

They wandered

On every high hill.

My sheep

Were scattered

Over all the face

Of the earth.

There was no one

To search

For them.

There was no one

To seek

For them.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that his sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd to lead them. Thus, these sheep became food for all the wild animals, perhaps an allusion to the attacks of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The sheep of Israel and Judah were scattered, so that they wandered into the mountains and the high hills, perhaps an allusion to the high places of idol worship. His sheep were scattered all over all the face of the earth, perhaps an allusion to the captivity. Finally, there was no leader or shepherd to go out to search and look for them. They were the lost sheep of Israel.

The purge (Ezek 20:36-20:38)

“‘As I entered

Into judgment

With your ancestors

In the wilderness

Of the land of Egypt,

So I will enter

Into judgment

With you.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘I will make you pass

Under the staff.

I will bring you

Within the bond

Of the covenant.

I will purge out

The rebels

Among you.

I will purge out

Those who transgress

Against me.

I will bring them out

Of the land

Where they reside,

As aliens.

But they shall not

Enter

The land of Israel.

Then you will know

That I am Yahweh.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that he had judged their ancestors in the Egyptian wilderness. Now, he was going to judge them. They would have to pass under the staff of the shepherd who counted sheep. He was going to bring them under the covenant again. He was going to purge out the rebels among them, anyone who had transgressed against him. He was going to go to all the countries where they had lived as aliens. Although he was going to take them out of these countries, they were not guaranteed a place in Israel. They had to know that he was Yahweh.

Young stag (Song 2:16-2:17)

Female lover

“My beloved is mine.

I am his.

He pastures his flock among the lilies.

Until the day breathes,

Until the shadows flee,

Turn!

My beloved!

Be like a gazelle.

Be like a young stag

Upon the rugged clef mountains.”

This young female lover explains that her lover is hers and she is his. He is the shepherd among the lilies. Her beloved is once again, as earlier, a gazelle and a young stag in the rugged mountains. Is she the rugged mountains? Why did they have to wait until the day began or the shadows fled?

Wise sayings (Eccl 12:11-12:12)

“The sayings of the wise are like goads.

They are like nails firmly fixed.

These collected sayings were given

By one shepherd.

My child!

Beware of anything beyond these.

Many books have no end.

Much study is a weariness of the flesh.”

These wise sayings of Qoheleth were like goads that were sticks used to prod cattle and other animals to make them move. These goads were a stimulus to our mind. Thus we have the saying to goad them on. These collected sayings are like sharp nails. Here we have the allusion to the sayings of a shepherd, something that followers of Jesus will emphasis in the New Testament. Then this writer warns the readers about adding more proverbs. He warned that many books never have an end. He also remarked that a lot of study can make people weary. So watch out for too much time spent studying.

Prayer for deliverance (Ps 80:1-80:2)

To the choirmaster, according to Lilies, a testimony of Asaph, a psalm

“Give ear!

O shepherd of Israel!

You lead Joseph like a flock!

You are enthroned upon the cherubim!

Shine forth

Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh!

Stir up your might!

Come to save us!”

Psalm 80 is another choral psalm of Asaph, a transcriber or author of psalms at the time of David and Solomon, a Temple singer at the time of Solomon during the transport of the Ark of the Covenant.  This psalm is set to the tune of the lilies, much like Psalm 45 and Psalm 69. This is an attempt of the northern tribes of Israel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh to have God come to their aid. Notice the importance of Joseph here. Remember that those northern Israel tribes were sent to captivity before the people in Jerusalem and Judah. This psalmist wanted the shepherd of Israel to listen and shine before the northern tribes. The God of Israel sat on the cherubim in the holy of holies. He wanted God to stir up his might and thus save them from their captivity.

Sheol for all (Ps 49:14-49:15)

“Like sheep

They are appointed for Sheol.

Death shall be their shepherd.

Straight to the grave they descend.

Their form shall waste away.

Sheol shall be their home.

But God will ransom my soul

From the power of Sheol,

He will receive me.”

Selah

Once again we have the theme of the shepherd. This time death, not Yahweh, is the shepherd. Death leads all of us sheep directly to the grave, where we waste away. Our homes will be Sheol, the ill-defined underground afterlife. However, we do have an exception. The psalmist believes that God will rescue him from the eternal power of Sheol. God will ransom his soul with his belief in an eternal afterlife with God. With that, it is time for another musical interlude pause of Selah.

The good shepherd (Ps 23:1-23:3)

A psalm of David

Yahweh is my shepherd.

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths,

For the love of his name.”

This is the famous Psalm 23 of David that places Yahweh as the good shepherd. This “The Lord is my shepherd” is rather short compared to the preceding psalm. There is no other indication in the title other than that this is a psalm of David. David was himself a shepherd so that this is an easy amplification of his own role. Yahweh as shepherd makes sure that David does not lack anything. David as a sheep has lovely green pastures to lie down in. He has still water to drink. This restores his soul. The good shepherd leads him on the right paths. The love of the name of Yahweh drives him. The good shepherd keeps the sheep from going astray.

Judith reveals her plan to General Holofernes (Jdt 11:16-11:19)

“When I, your slave, learned all this,

I fled from them.

God has sent me to accomplish with you

Things that will astonish the whole world,

Whenever people shall hear about them.

Your servant is indeed God-fearing.

I serve the God of heaven day and night.

Therefore, my lord, I will remain with you.

Every night your servant will go out into the valley.

I will pray to God.

He will tell me when they have committed their sins.

Then I will come and tell you.

Then you may go out with your whole army.

Not one of them will be able to withstand you.

Then I will lead you through Judea,

Until you come to Jerusalem.

There I will set your throne.

You will drive them like sheep that have no shepherd.

No dog will as much as growl at you.

This was told me to give me foreknowledge.

It was announced to me.

I was sent to tell you.”

The plan is simple. God sent me to you so that you might astonish the whole world. Judith had fled from the Israelites because the God of heaven and earth had sent her. Every night, she would go out into the valley to pray. God would then tell her when they have sinned. Then she would come and tell the general. Next his army would destroy them because they would not be able to withstand him. She would lead him through Judea to Jerusalem, where she would put General Holofernes on a throne in Jerusalem. He would drive the Israelites out like sheep without a shepherd. Even the dogs would not growl at him. All this was revealed to Judith so that she could help him. Judith continued with her plans of grandeur for General Holofernes. Now it is not simply this little town but the city of Jerusalem as the ultimate goal of this expedition. Judith indicated that she was a prophet to whom God spoke. She was willing to share her knowledge with him.