Divine Judgment Against Israel and Judah   Leave a comment

Above:  Clarke County Jail, Athens-Clarke County, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

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READING AMOS, PART III

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Amos 2:4-16

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Introduction

The Books of Amos, Hosea, Micah, and First Isaiah (Chapters 1-23, 28-33), in their final forms, bear the evidence of editing and updating as late as after the Babylonian Exile.  Isaiah 36-39, frequently classified as part of First Isaiah, is verbatim from 2 Kings 18:13-20:19, except for Isaiah 38:9-20 (King Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving).  One may reasonably argue that Amos 2:4-5 (the condemnation of Judah) is not original to the first draft of the Book of Amos, given that the prophet had a mandate to prophesy against the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.

The words of Amos, a sheepherder from Tekoa, who prophesied concerning Israel….”

–Amos 1:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, we read the final draft of the Book of Amos, last updated to speak to exiles in Persian-occupied Judea.  Therefore, the final draft is the one we ponder and apply to today.

In Amos 1:3-2:3, God, through the prophet (and subsequent writers), had condemned Gentile neighbor nations of Israel and Judah for crimes that were anti-human or against nature.  The covenant did not apply to these nations, but certain standards did.  And God held these nations accountable.  The covenant did apply to Israel and Judah, though.

The motif from Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1 repeats in 2:4, 6:

For three crimes of _____, and now four–

I will not take it back-….

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Divine patience has its limits.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

Judah (2:4-5)

The (southern) Kingdom of Judah had “spurned the instruction of the LORD, and did not keep his statutes….”

That kingdom fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 B.C.E.

Israel (2:6-16)

The identity of Israel in Amos 2:6-16, in its final form, is ambiguous.  Israel seems to be the Northern Kingdom at first, given the prophet’s mandate.  Yet, in 2:10f, Israel refers to the Jewish people.  2:6-16, probably in this form since after the Babylonian Exile, applies the text to the Jews of that time.

The condemnations are timeless.  They include economic injustice, exploitation of human beings, slavery, judicial corruption, and other offenses against the common good.  Some details are specific to time and place.  For example, consider 2:7b:

Son and father sleep with the same girl,

profaning my holy name.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

She may be a cultic prostitute, as in Hosea 4:14, in violation of Deuteronomy 23:17.  Or she may be a bond-servant whose rights father and son trample by making her their concubine, in violation of Exodus 21:8.  Sexual promiscuity (in violation of Deuteronomy 27:20; Leviticus 18:8, 15, 17; and Leviticus 20:10f) is another matter in this verset.  This promiscuity violates an oath made in the name of YHWH.  One may recognize applications of Amos 2:7b in various contexts today.

Upon garments taken in pledge

they recline beside my altar.

Wine at treasury expense

they drink in their temple.

–Amos 2:8, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A debtor used a garment as collateral for a loan.  Exodus 22:26-27 protected the rights of debtors:

If you take your neighbour’s cloak in pawn, return it to him by sunset, because it is his only covering.  It is the cloak in which he wraps his body; in what else can he sleep?  If he appeals to me, I shall listen, for I am full of compassion.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The wine in Amos 2:8b was wine gained from fines debtors paid to creditors.  Exodus 21:22 and Deuteronomy 22:19 permitted imposing fines as a form of reparation for injury.  The rich were exploiting the poor and manipulating the rules at cultic festivals of YHWH.  They were making a mockery of sacred rituals.  Hosea, a contemporary of Amos, addressed such behavior in Hosea 6:4-6.

But they, to a man, have transgressed the covenant.

–Hosea 6:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.E.

Conclusion

The condemnations in Amos 2:6-8 remain relevant, unfortunately.

  1. Human trafficking is a major problem.  I live in Athens, Georgia, to the northeast of Atlanta, a hub of the slave trade, of a sort.
  2. In the United States of America, the federal minimum wage is not a living wage.
  3. Judicial corruption continues to exist.  Often, wealthy defendants fare better than impoverished ones.  “How much justice can you afford?” is frequently an honest and germane question.  Many innocent people bow to prosecutors’ pressure and plead guilty to lesser offenses to avoid certain conviction and a stiffer sentence for a greater legal charge.
  4. Bail, frequently not necessary, is a burden on impoverished defendants.
  5. The exploitation of human beings, as a matter of corporate and government policies, remains endemic.
  6. Sexual promiscuity, to which human nature is prone, remains ubiquitous.
  7. Women are frequently vulnerable to powerful men.
  8. Idolatry is another persistent problem.
  9. Injustice is individual, collective, and systemic.

If he appeals to me, I shall listen, for I am full of compassion.

–Exodus 22:27b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine mercy for the oppressed may take the form of judgment for the oppressors.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DE CHARGÉ AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS OF TIBHIRINE, ALGERIA, 1996

THE FEAST OF EUGENE DE MAZENOD, BISHOP OF MARSEILLES, AND FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSIONARIES, OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE

THE FEAST OF FRANZ JÄGGERSTÄTTER, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND MARTYR, 1943

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH ADDISON AND ALEXANDER POPE, ENGLISH POETS

THE FEAST OF SAINT MANUEL GÓMEZ GONZÁLEZ, SPANISH-BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1924; AND SAINT ADILO DARONCH, BRAZILIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ALTAR BOY AND MARTYR, 1924

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