Is Amos Using Metaphors in Amos 8:9?

In Amos 8, the Lord gives Amos a prophecy concerning Israel. One sign that Amos spoke of is found here in Amos 8:9.

“In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.

Amos 8:9 (NIV)

Some think that Amos uses a metaphor here. The daylight represents a time of prosperity, and the darkness suddenly ends that prosperity. Others claim that Amos is being literal and predicting an eclipse. Indeed, two eclipses occurred around Amos’ time that he might have spoken about. One on June 15, 763 B.C., and another on February 9, 784 B.C.

The book of Amos opens with this insight.

The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

Amos 1:1 (NIV)

There’s evidence that the earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 happened around 750 B.C., which fits within Amos’ timeline. This earthquake was centered around what is present-day Northern Israel (ICR, 2010). What’s surprising is that people seem surprised that an event discussed in the Bible happened.

When I think about Amos 8:9 and whether or not Amos was using a metaphor, I can’t help but think of the earthquake in Amos 1:1. Although the dates don’t align perfectly, since we’re talking about thousands of years ago, I believe that Amos didn’t use a metaphor in Amos 8:9 and, instead, he was talking about an eclipse.

Considering that Amos 8 is about the judgment to come on Israel because of their greed and idolatry, it makes more sense for the Lord to use an event that would get their attention, like a total eclipse, instead of an assassination or other political issue.

As I think about people looking for “evidence” of things mentioned in the Bible, I’m reminded that we are saved by faith. Now, if someone comes along and says, “Hey, there really was an earthquake in Amos’ time!” We can say that we knew that all along because it’s in the Bible.


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