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2. For Worship, Justice.

Amos v.

In the next of these groups of oracles Amos continues his attack on the national ritual, and now contrasts it with the service of God in public life—the relief of the poor, the discharge of justice. But he does not begin with this. The group opens with an elegy, which bewails the nation as already fallen. It is always difficult to mark where the style of a prophet passes from rhythmical prose into what we may justly call a metrical form. But in this short wail, we catch the well-known measure of the Hebrew dirge; not so165 artistic as in later poems, yet with at least the characteristic couplet of a long and a short line.

Hear this word which I lift up against you—a Dirge, O house of Israel:—

Fallen, no more shall she rise,

Virgin of Israel!

Flung down on her own ground,

No one to raise her!

The Virgin, which with Isaiah is a standing title for Jerusalem and occasionally used of other cities, is here probably the whole nation of Northern Israel. The explanation follows. It is War. For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: The city that goeth forth a thousand shall have an hundred left; and she that goeth forth an hundred shall have left ten for the house of Israel.

But judgment is not yet irrevocable. There break forthwith the only two promises which lighten the lowering darkness of the book. Let the people turn to Jehovah Himself—and that means let them turn from the ritual, and instead of it purge their civic life, restore justice in their courts and help the poor. For God and moral good are one. It is seek Me and ye shall live, and seek good and ye shall live. Omitting for the present all argument as to whether the interruption of praise to the power of Jehovah be from Amos or another, we read the whole oracle as follows.

Thus saith Jehovah to the house of Israel: Seek Me and live. But seek not Bethel, and come not to Gilgal, and to Beersheba pass not over—to come to Beersheba one had to cross all Judah. For Gilgal shall taste the gall of exile—it is not possible except in this clumsy way to echo the prophet's play upon words, "Ha-Gilgal galoh yigleh"—and Bethel, God's house, shall become an166 idolatry. This rendering, however, scarcely gives the rude force of the original; for the word rendered idolatry, Aven, means also falsehood and perdition, so that we should not exaggerate the antithesis if we employed a phrase which once was not vulgar: And Bethel, house of God, shall go to the devil!301301   Cf. LXX.: Βαιθὴλ ἔσται ὡς οὐχ ὑπάρχουσα. The epigram was the more natural that near Bethel, on a site now uncertain, but close to the edge of the desert to which it gave its name, there lay from ancient times a village actually called Beth-Aven, however the form may have risen. And we shall find Hosea stereotyping this epigram of Amos, and calling the sanctuary Beth-Aven oftener than he calls it Beth-El.302302   The name Bethel is always printed as one word in our Hebrew texts. See Baer on Gen. xii. 8. Seek ye Jehovah and live, he begins again, lest He break forth like fire, O house of Joseph, and it consume and there be none to quench at Bethel.303303   Wellhausen thinks at Bethel not genuine. But Bethel has been singled out as the place where the people put their false confidence, and is naturally named here. LXX.: τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραήλ. ...304304   Ver. 7 is plainly out of place here, as the LXX. perceived, and therefore tried to give it another rendering which would make it seem in place: ὁ ποιῶν εἰς ὕψος κρίμα, καὶ δικαιοσύνην εἰς γὴν ἔθηκεν. So Ewald removed it to between vv. 9 and 10. There it begins well another oracle; and it may be that we should insert before it הוי, as in vv. 18, vi. 1. He that made the Seven Stars and Orion,167305305   Literally the Group and the Giant. כימה, Kimah, signifies group, or little heap. Here it is rendered by Aq. and at Job ix. 9 by LXX. Ἀρκτοῦρος; and here by Theod. and in Job xxxviii. 31, the chain, or cluster, of the group Πλειάδες. The Targ. and Pesh. always give it as Kima, i.e. Pleiades. And this is the rendering of most moderns. But Stern takes it for Sirius with its constellation of the Great Dog, for the reason that this is the brightest of all stars, and therefore a more suitable fellow for Orion than the dimmer Pleiades can be. כסיל, the Fool or Giant, is the Hebrew name of Ὠρίων, by which the LXX. render it. Targum ניפלא. To the ancient world the constellation looked like the figure of a giant fettered in heaven, "a fool so far as he trusted in his bodily strength" (Dillmann). In later times he was called Nimrod. His early setting came at the time of the early rains. Cf. with the passage Job ix. 9 and xxxviii. 31. that turneth the murk306306   The abstract noun meaning deep shadow, LXX. σκιά, and rendered shadow of death by many modern versions. into morning, and day He darkeneth to night, that calleth for the waters of the sea and poureth them out on the face of the earth—Jehovah His Name. He it is that flasheth out ruin307307   So LXX., reading שׁבר for שׁד; it improves the rhythm, and escapes the awkward repetition of שׁד. on strength, and bringeth down308308   So LXX. destruction on the fortified. This rendering of the last verse is uncertain, and rightly suspected, but there is no alternative so probable, and it returns to the keynote from which the passage started, that God should break forth like fire.

Ah, they that turn justice to wormwood, and abase309309   Possible alternative: make stagnant. righteousness to the earth! They hate him that reproveth in the gate—in an Eastern city both the law-court and place of the popular council—and him that speaketh sincerely they abhor. So in the English mystic's Vision Peace complains of Wrong:—

"I dar noughte for fere of hym · fyghte ne chyde."310310   Vision of Piers Plowman, Passus IV., l. 52. Cf. the whole passage.

Wherefore, because ye trample on the weak and take from him a present of corn,311311   Uncertain; Hitzig takes it as the apodosis of the previous clause: Ye shall have to take from him a present of corn, i.e. as alms. ye have built houses of ashlar,312312   See above, p. 33. but ye shall not dwell in them; vineyards for pleasure have ye planted, but ye shall not drink of their wine. For I know how many are your crimes, and how forceful168313313   Cf. "Pecca fortiter." your sins—ye that browbeat the righteous, take bribes, and bring down the poor in the gate! Therefore the prudent in such a time is dumb, for an evil time is it indeed.

Seek good and not evil, that ye may live, and Jehovah God of Hosts be with you, as ye say He is. Hate evil and love good; and in the gate set justice on her feet again—peradventure Jehovah God of Hosts may have pity on the remnant of Joseph. If in the Book of Amos there be any passages, which, to say the least, do not now lie in their proper places, this is one of them. For, firstly, while it regards the nation as still responsible for the duties of government, it recognises them as reduced to a remnant. To find such a state of affairs we have to come down to the years subsequent to 734, when Tiglath-Pileser swept into captivity all Gilead and Galilee—that is, two-thirds, in bulk, of the territory of Northern Israel—but left Ephraim untouched. In answer to this, it may, of course, be pointed out that in thus calling the people to repentance, so that a remnant might be saved, Amos may have been contemplating a disaster still future, from which, though it was inevitable, God might be moved to spare a remnant.314314   As, for instance, the prophet looks forward to in iii. 12. That is very true. But it does not meet this further difficulty, that the verses (14, 15) plainly make interruption between the end of ver. 13 and the beginning of ver. 16; and that the initial therefore of the latter verse, while it has no meaning in its present sequence, becomes natural and appropriate when made to follow immediately on ver. 13. For all these reasons, then, I take vv. 14 and 15 as a parenthesis, whether from Amos himself or from a later writer who can tell? But it ought to be kept in169 mind that in other prophetic writings where judgment is very severe, we have some proof of the later insertion of calls to repentance, by way of mitigation.

Ver. 13 had said the time was so evil that the prudent man kept silence. All the more must the Lord Himself speak, as ver. 16 now proclaims. Therefore thus saith Jehovah, God of Hosts,315315   God of Hosts, perhaps an intrusion (?) between אדני and יהוה. Lord: On all open ways lamentation, and in all streets they shall be saying, Ah woe! Ah woe! And in all vineyards lamentation,316316   I have ventured to rearrange the order of the clauses, which in the original is evidently dislocated. and they shall call the ploughman to wailing and to lamentation them that are skilful in dirges—town and country, rustic and artist alike—for I shall pass through thy midst, saith Jehovah. It is the solemn formula of the Great Passover, when Egypt was filled with wailing and there were dead in every house.

The next verse starts another, but a kindred, theme. As blind as was Israel's confidence in ritual, so blind was their confidence in dogma, and the popular dogma was that of the Day of Jehovah.

All popular hopes expect their victory to come in a single sharp crisis—a day. And again, the day of any one means either the day he has appointed, or the day of his display and triumph. So Jehovah's day meant to the people the day of His judgment, or of His triumph: His triumph in war over their enemies, His judgment upon the heathen. But Amos, whose keynote has been that judgment begins at home, cries woe upon such hopes, and tells his people that for them the day of Jehovah is not victory, but rather insidious, importunate, inevitable death. And this he describes as a man who has lived, alone with wild beasts, from170 the jungles of the Jordan, where the lions lurk, to the huts of the desert infested by snakes.

Woe unto them that long for the day of Jehovah! What have you to do with the day of Jehovah? It is darkness, and not light. As when a man fleeth from the face of a lion, and a bear falls upon him; and he comes into his home,317317   Lit. the house. and, breathless, leans his hand upon the wall, and a serpent bites him. And then, as if appealing to Heaven for confirmation: Is it not so? Is it not darkness, the day of Jehovah, and not light? storm darkness, and not a ray of light upon it?

Then Amos returns to the worship, that nurse of their vain hopes, that false prophet of peace, and he hears God speak more strongly than ever of its futility and hatefulness.

I hate, I loathe your feasts, and I will not smell the savour of your gatherings to sacrifice. For with pagan folly they still believed that the smoke of their burnt-offerings went up to heaven and flattered the nostrils of Deity. How ingrained was this belief may be judged by us from the fact that the terms of it had to be adopted by the apostles of a spiritual religion, if they would make themselves understood, and are now the metaphors of the sacrifices of the Christian heart.318318   Eph. v. 2; etc. Though ye bring to Me burnt-offerings and your meal-offerings I will not be pleased, or your thank-offerings of fatted calves, I will not look at them. Let cease from Me the noise of thy songs; to the playing of thy viols I will not listen. But let justice roll on like water, and righteousness like an unfailing stream.

Then follows the remarkable appeal from the habits of this age to those of the times of Israel's simplicity. Was it flesh- or meal-offerings that ye brought Me in the171 wilderness, forty years, O house of Israel?319319   No one doubts that this verse is interrogative. But the Authorised Eng. Ver. puts it in a form—Have ye brought unto Me? etc.—which implies blame that they did not do so. Ewald was the first to see that, as rendered above, an appeal to the forty years was the real intention of the verse. So after him nearly all critics, also the Revised Eng. Ver.: Did ye bring unto Me? On the whole question of the possibility of such an appeal see above, pp. 100 ff., and cf. Jer. vii. 22, which distinctly declares that in the wilderness God prescribed no ritual to Israel. That is to say, at the very time when God made Israel His people, and led them safely to the promised land—the time when of all others He did most for them—He was not moved to such love and deliverance by the propitiatory bribes, which this generation imagine to be so availing and indispensable. Nay, those still shall not avail, for exile from the land shall now as surely come in spite of them, as the possession of the land in old times came without them. This at least seems to be the drift of the very obscure verse which follows, and is the unmistakable statement of the close of the oracle. But ye shall lift up ... your king and ... your god, images which you have made for yourselves;320320   Ver. 26 is very difficult, for both the text and the rendering of all the possible alternatives of it are quite uncertain. (1) As to the text, the present division into words must be correct; at least no other is possible. But the present order of the words is obviously wrong. For your images is evidently described by the relative clause which you have made, and ought to stand next it. What then is to be done with the two words that at present come between—star of your god? Are they both a mere gloss, as Robertson Smith holds, and therefore to be struck out? or should they precede the pair of words, כיון צלמיכם, which they now follow? This is the order of the text which the LXX. translator had before him, only for כון he misread רֵיפָן or רֵיוָן: καὶ ἀνελάβετε τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ Μωλὸχ καὶ τὸ ἄστρον τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑμῶν Ῥαιφάν [Ῥεφάν, Q], τοὺς τύπους αὐτῶν [om. AQ] οὓς ἐποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς. This arrangement has the further evidence in its favour, that it brings your god into proper parallel with your king. The Hebrew text would then run thus:—
    [כוכב אלהיכם] ונשאתם את סכות מלככם ואת
כיון צלמיכם אשר עשיתם לכם

    (2) The translation of this text is equally difficult: not in the verb ונשאתם, for both the grammar and the argument oblige us to take it as future, and ye shall lift up; but in the two words סכות and כיון. Are these common nouns, or proper names of deities in apposition to your king and your god? The LXX. takes סכות as = tabernacle, and כיון as a proper name (Theodotion takes both as proper names). The Auth. Eng. Ver. follows the LXX. (except that it takes king for the name Moloch). Schrader (Stud. u. Krit., 1874, 324; K.A.T., 442 f.) takes them as the consonants of Sakkut, a name of the Assyrian god Adar, and of Kewan, the Assyrian name for the planet Saturn: Ye shall take up Sakkut your king and Kewan your star-god, your images which... Baethgen goes further and takes both the מלך of מלכיכם and the צלם of צלמיכם as Moloch and Ṣelam, proper names, in combination with Sakkut and Kewan (Beitr. z. Sem. Rel., 239). Now it is true that the Second Book of Kings implies that the worship of the host of heaven existed in Samaria before its fall (2 Kings xvii. 16), but the introduction into Samaria of Assyrian gods (among them Adar) is placed by it after the fall (2 Kings xvii. 31), and besides, Amos does not elsewhere speak of the worship of foreign gods, nor is the mention of them in any way necessary to the argument here. On the contrary, even if Amos were to mention the worship of idols by Israel, would he have selected at this point the Assyrian ones? (See, however, Tiele, Revue de l'Histoire des Religions, III., p. 211, who makes Koun and the planet Keiwan purely Phœnician deities.) Some critics take סכות and כיון as common nouns in the construct state. So Ewald, and so most recently Robertson Smith (O.T.J.C., 2): the shrine of your king and the stand of your images. This is more in harmony with the absence from the rest of Amos of any hint as to the worship of idols, but an objection to it, and a very strong one, is that the alleged common nouns are not found elsewhere in Hebrew. In view of this conflicting evidence it is best therefore to leave the words untranslated, as in the text above. It is just possible that they may themselves be later insertions, for the verse would read very well without them: And ye shall lift up your king and your images which you have made to yourselves.
and I will carry you away into exile far172 beyond Damascus, saith Jehovah—God of Hosts is His Name!321321   The last clause is peculiar. Two clauses seem to have run into one—saith Jehovah, God of Hosts, and God of Hosts is His Name. The word שמו = His Name, may have been added to give the oracle the same conclusion as the oracle at the end of the preceding chapter; and it is not to be overlooked that שמו at the end of a clause does not occur elsewhere in the book outside the three questioned Doxologies iv. 13, v. 8, ix. 6. Further, see below, pp. 204 f. So this chapter closes like the previous, with173 the marshalling of God's armies. But as there His hosts were the movements of Nature and the Great Stars, so here they are the nations of the world. By His rule of both He is the God of Hosts.


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