Monday, April 21, 2008

a man named Amos...

From Sunday's lesson from Amos 1:1-2:6, entitled "Seven even Eight Woes—for Seven even Eight Countries"...

Things to know about Amos:
-He was probably a shepherd overseer-- and if so,
he was relatively wealthy (at least by rural/Judah standards), but very familiar with the simple/poor life (in contrast to Israel's city life of which he was so critical).

-He was the
first of the prophets to the northern kingdom, Israel (to be recorded in print). He was preceded by Jonah (who prophesied to Nineveh/Assyria) and followed closely by Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah.

-He prophesied in a time of
peace/security, prosperity, and (surprising) popularity of religion-- at least its rituals (a theme also portrayed in Hosea). Given Old Covenant theology, they thought they were protected by God and immune to judgment-- what the NIV Study Bible describes as "politically secure but spiritually smug".

-His dominant theme is
a call to righteousness and especially, social justice. Justice can be defined in terms of process or in classifying certain types of sins. On the latter, one would distinguish rape, theft and murder (for example) vs. eating too much pie-- in other words, doing direct and significant harm to others.

Because of this emphasis Amos is popular and not-so-popular depending on the religious circles in which one runs. In this, I see Amos as the Revelation of the OT: it is either ignored (in politically conservative circles) or over-emphasized with odd inferences (in politically liberal circles).

Two other things...

The literary device,
"for three sins of X, even for four..." is cool. Given that three is taken as figurative for completeness, four is taken as going beyond that-- i.e., enough and then more than enough. The phrase implies the extent of their wickedness, their failure to repent, and the (limited) extent of God's mercy and longsuffering. (See: Job 5:19, Ps 62:11-12, Pr 6:16-19, 30:15-31's 4x, Mic 5:5).

The most interesting thing about the first chapter or so is the structure of 1:3-2:5. Amos prophesies against seven of Israel's neighbors, wrapping up with Judah-- before turning to his primary audience.

Why this
chronology? It would attract more people to listen to what would be a difficult message. He might win some to his later message by softening them up with conviction of others' sins. In his tactfulness and creativity, his approach parallels Nathan's confrontation of David post-Bathsheba. You can almost hear the people shouting "Amen!" as Amos rips into the pagans. But then as he turns toward Judah and then Israel, you can picture a sobriety coming over the crowd.

Finally, it's interesting to note that this is
similar to Paul’s approach in Romans 1:18-28 vs. 1:28-2:1, 2:5. Interestingly, conservatives often miss this point, ending their reading of Romans in 1:28-- when Paul seems to be setting up his audience in a very Amos-like fashion.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home