« Prev Chapter XI. Common-sense and the Reign of Law Next »

196

CHAPTER XI

COMMON-SENSE AND THE REIGN OF LAW

Amos iii. 3-8; iv. 6-13; v. 8, 9; vi. 12; viii. 8; ix. 5, 6.

Fools, when they face facts, which is seldom, face them one by one, and, as a consequence, either in ignorant contempt or in panic. With this inordinate folly Amos charged the religion of his day. The superstitious people, careful of every point of ritual and very greedy of omens, would not ponder real facts nor set cause to effect. Amos recalled them to common life. Does a bird fall upon a snare, except there be a loop on her? Does the trap itself rise front the ground, except it be catching something—something alive in it that struggles, and so lifts the trap? Shall the alarum be blown in a city, and the people not tremble? Daily life is impossible without putting two and two together. But this is just what Israel will not do with the sacred events of their time. To religion they will not add common-sense.

For Amos himself, all things which happen are in sequence and in sympathy. He has seen this in the simple life of the desert; he is sure of it throughout the tangle and hubbub of history. One thing explains another; one makes another inevitable. When he has illustrated the truth in common life, Amos claims it for especially four of the great facts of the time. The sins of society, of which society is careless; the physical197 calamities, which they survive and forget; the approach of Assyria, which they ignore; the word of the prophet, which they silence,—all these belong to each other. Drought, Pestilence, Earthquake, Invasion conspire—and the Prophet holds their secret.

Now it is true that for the most part Amos describes this sequence of events as the personal action of Jehovah. Shall evil befall, and Jehovah not have done it?... I have smitten you.... I will raise up against you a Nation.... Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel!363363   iii. 6b; iv. 9; vi. 14; iv. 12b. Yet even where the personal impulse of the Deity is thus emphasised, we feel equal stress laid upon the order and the inevitable certainty of the process. Amos nowhere uses Isaiah's great phrase: a God of Mishpat, a God of Order or Law. But he means almost the same thing: God works by methods which irresistibly fulfil themselves. Nay more. Sometimes this sequence sweeps upon the prophet's mind with such force as to overwhelm all his sense of the Personal within it. The Will and the Word of the God who causes the thing are crushed out by the "Must Be" of the thing itself. Take even the descriptions of those historical crises, which the prophet most explicitly proclaims as the visitations of the Almighty. In some of the verses all thought of God Himself is lost in the roar and foam with which that tide of necessity bursts up through them. The fountains of the great deep break loose, and while the universe trembles to the shock, it seems that even the voice of the Deity is overwhelmed. In one passage, immediately after describing Israel's ruin as due to Jehovah's word, Amos asks how could it have happened otherwise:—

198

Shall horses run up a cliff, or oxen plough the sea? that ye turn justice into poison, and the fruit of righteousness into wormwood.364364   vi. 12. A moral order exists, which it is as impossible to break without disaster as it would be to break the natural order by driving horses upon a precipice. There is an inherent necessity in the sinners' doom. Again, he says of Israel's sin: Shall not the Land tremble for this? Yea, it shall rise up together like the Nile, and heave and sink like the Nile of Egypt.365365   viii. 8. The crimes of Israel are so intolerable, that in its own might the natural frame of things revolts against them. In these great crises, therefore, as in the simple instances adduced from everyday life, Amos had a sense of what we call law, distinct from, and for moments even overwhelming, that sense of the personal purpose of God, admission to the secrets of which had marked his call to be a prophet.366366   iii. 7: Jehovah God doeth nothing, but He hath revealed His secret to His servants the prophets.

These instincts we must not exaggerate into a system. There is no philosophy in Amos, nor need we wish there were. Far more instructive is what we do find—a virgin sense of the sympathy of all things, the thrill rather than the theory of a universe. And this faith, which is not a philosophy, is especially instructive on these two points: that it springs from the moral sense; and that it embraces, not history only, but nature.

It springs from the moral sense. Other races have arrived at a conception of the universe along other lines: some by the observation of physical laws valid to the recesses of space; some by logic and the unity of Reason. But Israel found the universe through the199 conscience. It is a historical fact that the Unity of God, the Unity of History and the Unity of the World, did, in this order, break upon Israel, through conviction and experience of the universal sovereignty of righteousness. We see the beginnings of the process in Amos. To him the sequences which work themselves out through history and across nature are moral. Righteousness is the hinge on which the world hangs; loosen it, and history and nature feel the shock. History punishes the sinful nation. But nature, too, groans beneath the guilt of man; and in the Drought, the Pestilence and the Earthquake provides his scourges. It is a belief which has stamped itself upon the language of mankind. What else is "plague" than "blow" or "scourge"?

This brings us to the second point—our prophet's treatment of Nature.

Apart from the disputed passages (which we shall take afterwards by themselves) we have in the Book of Amos few glimpses of nature, and these always under a moral light. There is not in any chapter a landscape visible in its own beauty. Like all desert-dwellers, who when they would praise the works of God lift their eyes to the heavens, Amos gives us but the outlines of the earth—a mountain range,367367   i. 2; iii. 9; ix. 3. or the crest of a forest,368368   ii. 9. or the bare back of the land, bent from sea to sea.369369   viii. 12. Nearly all his figures are drawn from the desert—the torrent, the wild beasts, the wormwood.370370   v. 24; 19, 20, etc.; 7; vi. 12. If he visits the meadows of the shepherds, it is with the terror of the people's doom;371371   i. 2. if the vineyards or orchards, it is with the mildew and200 the locust;372372   iv. 9 ff. if the towns, it is with drought, eclipse and earthquake.373373   iv. 6-11; vi. 11; viii. 8 ff. To him, unlike his fellows, unlike especially Hosea, the whole land is one theatre of judgment; but it is a theatre trembling to its foundations with the drama enacted upon it. Nay, land and nature are themselves actors in the drama. Physical forces are inspired with moral purpose, and become the ministers of righteousness. This is the converse of Elijah's vision. To the older prophet the message came that God was not in the fire nor in the earthquake nor in the tempest, but only in the still small voice. But to Amos the fire, the earthquake and the tempest are all in alliance with the Voice, and execute the doom which it utters. The difference will be appreciated by us, if we remember the respective problems set to prophecy in those two periods. To Elijah, prophet of the elements, wild worker by fire and water, by life and death, the spiritual had to be asserted and enforced by itself. Ecstatic as he was, Elijah had to learn that the Word is more Divine than all physical violence and terror. But Amos understood that for his age the question was very different. Not only was the God of Israel dissociated from the powers of nature, which were assigned by the popular mind to the various Ba'alim of the land, so that there was a divorce between His government of the people and the influences that fed the people's life; but morality itself was conceived as provincial. It was narrowed to the national interests; it was summed up in mere rules of police, and these were looked upon as not so important as the observances of the ritual. Therefore Amos was driven to show that nature and morality201 are one. Morality is not a set of conventions. "Morality is the order of things." Righteousness is on the scale of the universe. All things tremble to the shock of sin; all things work together for good to them that fear God.

With this sense of law, of moral necessity, in Amos we must not fail to connect that absence of all appeal to miracle, which is also conspicuous in his book.

We come now to the three disputed passages:—

iv. 13:—For, lo! He Who formed the hills,374374   LXX. the thunder. and createth the wind,375375   Or spirit. and declareth to man what His376376   I.e. God's; a more natural rendering than to take his (as Hitzig does) as meaning man's. mind is; Who maketh the dawn into darkness, and marcheth on the heights of the land—Jehovah, God of Hosts, is His Name.

v. 8, 9:—Maker of the Pleiades and Orion,377377   See above, pp. 166 f. n. turning to morning the murk, and day into night He darkeneth; Who calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them forth on the face of the earth—Jehovah His Name; Who flasheth ruin on the strong, and destruction cometh down on the fortress.378378   Text of last clause uncertain; see above, p. 167.

ix. 5, 6:—And the Lord Jehovah of the Hosts, Who toucheth the earth and it rocketh, and all mourn that dwell on it, and it riseth like the Nile together, and sinketh like the Nile of Egypt; Who hath builded in the heavens His ascents, and founded His vault upon the earth; Who calleth to the waters of the sea, and poureth them on the face of the earth—Jehovah379379   LXX. Jehovah of Hosts. His Name.

These sublime passages it is natural to take as the202 triple climax of the doctrine we have traced through the Book of Amos. Are they not the natural leap of the soul to the stars? The same shepherd's eye which has marked sequence and effect unfailing on the desert soil, does it not now sweep the clear heavens above the desert, and find there also all things ordered and arrayed? The same mind which traced the Divine processes down history, which foresaw the hosts of Assyria marshalled for Israel's punishment, which felt the overthrow of justice shock the nation to their ruin, and read the disasters of the husbandman's year as the vindication of a law higher than the physical—does it not now naturally rise beyond such instances of the Divine order, round which the dust of history rolls, to the lofty, undimmed outlines of the Universe as a whole, and, in consummation of its message, declare that "all is Law," and Law intelligible to man?

But in the way of so attractive a conclusion the literary criticism of the book has interposed. It is maintained380380   First in 1875 by Duhm, Theol. der Proph., p. 119; and after him by Oort, Theol. Tjidschrift, 1880, pp. 116 f.; Wellhausen, in locis; Stade, Gesch., I. 571; Cornill, Einleitung, 176. that, while none of these sublime verses are indispensable to the argument of Amos, some of them actually interrupt it, so that when they are removed it becomes consistent; that such ejaculations in praise of Jehovah's creative power are not elsewhere met with in Hebrew prophecy before the time of the Exile; that they sound very like echoes of the Book of Job; and that in the Septuagint version of Hosea we actually find a similar doxology, wedged into the middle of an authentic verse of the prophet.381381   Hosea xiii. 4 To these arguments against the genuineness of the three famous203 passages, other critics, not less able and not less free, like Robertson Smith and Kuenen,382382   Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. 399; Kuenen, Hist. Krit. Einl. (Germ. Ed.), II. 347. have replied that such ejaculations at critical points of the prophet's discourse "are not surprising under the general conditions of prophetic oratory"; and that, while one of the doxologies does appear to break the argument383383   v. 8, 9. of the context, they are all of them thoroughly in the spirit and the style of Amos. To this point the discussion has been carried; it seems to need a closer examination. .. We may at once dismiss the argument which has been drawn from that obvious intrusion into the Greek of Hosea xiii. 4. Not only is this verse not so suited to the doctrine of Hosea as the doxologies are to the doctrine of Amos; but while they are definite and sublime, it is formal and flat—"Who made firm the heavens and founded the earth, Whose hands founded all the host of heaven, and He did not display them that thou shouldest walk after them." The passages in Amos are vision; this is a piece of catechism crumbling into homily.

Again—an argument in favour of the authenticity of these passages may be drawn from the character of their subjects. We have seen the part which the desert played in shaping the temper and the style of Amos. But the works of the Creator, to which these passages lift their praise, are just those most fondly dwelt upon by all the poetry of the desert. The Arabian nomad, when he magnifies the power of God, finds his subjects not on the bare earth about him, but in the brilliant heavens and the heavenly processes.

204

Again, the critic who affirms that the passages in Amos "in every case sensibly disturb the connection,"384384   Cornill, Einl., 176. exaggerates. In the case of the first of them, chap. iv. 13, the disturbance is not at all "sensible"; though it must be admitted that the oracle closes impressively enough without it. The last of them, chap. ix. 5, 6—which repeats a clause already found in the book385385   Cf. viii. 8.—is as much in sympathy with its context as most of the oracles in the somewhat scattered discourse of that last section of the book. The real difficulty is the second doxology, chap. v. 8, 9, which does break the connection, and in a sudden and violent way. Remove it, and the argument is consistent. We cannot read chap. v. without feeling that, whether Amos wrote these verses or not, they did not originally stand where they stand at present.

Now, taken with this dispensableness of two of the passages and this obvious intrusion of one of them, the following additional fact becomes ominous. Jehovah is His Name (which occurs in two of the passages),386386   v. 8; ix. 6, though here LXX. read Jehovah of Hosts is His Name. or Jehovah of Hosts is His Name (which occurs at least in one),387387   iv. 13. See previous note. is a construction which does not happen elsewhere in the book, except in a verse where it is awkward and where we have already seen reason to doubt its genuineness.388388   v. 27. See above, pp. 172 f. n.: cf. Hosea xii. 6. But still more, the phrase does not occur in any other prophet, till we come down to the oracles which compose Isaiah xl.-lxvi. Here it happens thrice—twice in passages dating from the Exile,389389   xlvii. 4 and liv. 5. and once in a passage suspected by some to be of still later205 date.390390   xlviii. 2: cf. Duhm, in loco, and Cheyne, Introduction to the Book of Isaiah, 301. In the Book of Jeremiah the phrase is found eight times; but either in passages already on other grounds judged by many critics to be later than Jeremiah,391391   x. 16; xxxi. 35; xxxii. 18; l. 34 (perhaps a quotation from Isa. xlvii. 4); li. 19, 57. or where by itself it is probably an intrusion into the text.392392   xlvi. 18, where the words צבאות שמו fail in LXX.; xlviii. 15 b, where the clause in which it occurs is wanting in the LXX. Now is it a mere coincidence that a phrase, which, outside the Book of Amos, occurs only in writing of the time of the Exile and in passages considered for other reasons to be post-exilic insertions—is it a mere coincidence that within the Book of Amos it should again be found only in suspected verses?

There appears to be in this more than a coincidence; and the present writer cannot but feel a very strong case against the traditional belief that these doxologies are original and integral portions of the Book of Amos. At the same time a case which has failed to convince critics like Robertson Smith and Kuenen cannot be considered conclusive, and we are so ignorant of many of the conditions of prophetic oratory at this period that dogmatism is impossible. For instance, the use by Amos of the Divine titles is a matter over which uncertainty still lingers; and any further argument on the subject must include a fuller discussion than space here allows of the remarkable distribution of those titles throughout the various sections of the book.393393   But I have room at least for a bare statement of these remarkable facts:—
    The titles for the God of Israel used in the Book of Amos are these: (1) Thy God, O Israel, אלהיך ישראל; (2) Jehovah, יהוה; (3) Lord Jehovah, אדני יהוה; (4) Lord Jehovah of the Hosts, צבאות אדני יהוה; (5) Jehovah God of Hosts or of the Hosts, יהוה אלהי צבאות or הצבאות.

    Now in the First Section, chaps. i., ii., it is interesting that we find none of the variations which are compounded with Hosts, צבאות. By itself יהוה (especially in the phrase Thus saith Jehovah, יהוה כה אמר) is general; and once only (i. 8) is Lord Jehovah employed. The phrase, oracle of Jehovah, נְאֻם יהוה, is also rare; it occurs only twice (ii. 11, 16), and then only in the passage dealing with Israel, and not at all in the oracles against foreign nations.

    In Sections II. and III. the simple יהוה is again most frequently used. But we find also Lord Jehovah, אדני יהוה (iii. 7, 8; iv. 2, 5; v. 3, with יהוה alone in the parallel ver. 4; vi. 8; vii. 1, 2, 4 bis, 5, 6; viii. 1, 3, 9, 11), used either indifferently with יהוה; or in verses where it seems more natural to emphasise the sovereignty of Jehovah than His simple Name (as, e.g., where He swears, iv. 2, vi. 8, yet when the same phrase occurs in viii. 7 יהוה alone is used); or in the solemn Visions of the Third Section (but not in the Narrative); and sometimes we find in the Visions Lord, אדני, alone without יהוה (vii. 7, 8; ix. 1). The titles containing צבאות or אלהי צבאות occur nine times. Of these five are in passages which we have seen other reasons to suppose are insertions: two of the Doxologies—iv. 13, יהוה אלהי צבאות and ix. 5, אדני יהוה הצבאות (in addition the LXX. read in ix. 6 יהוה צבאות), and in v. 14, 15 (see p. 168) and 27 (see p. 172), in all three יהוה אלהי צבאות. The four genuine passages are iii. 13, where we find יהוה אלהי הצבאות preceded by אדני; v. 16, where we have יהוה אלהי צבאות followed by אדני; vi. 8, צבאות יהוה אלהי, and vi. 14, יהוה אלהי צבאות. Throughout the last two sections of the book נְאֻם is used with all these forms of the Divine title.

206

But if it be not given to us to prove this kind of authenticity—a question whose data are so obscure, yet whose answer fortunately is of so little significance—let us gladly welcome that greater Authenticity whose undeniable proofs these verses so splendidly exhibit. No one questions their right to the place which some great spirit gave them in this book—their suitableness to its grand and ordered theme, their pure vision and their eternal truth. That common-sense,207 and that conscience, which, moving among the events of earth and all the tangled processes of history, find everywhere reason and righteousness at work, in these verses claim the Universe for the same powers, and see in stars and clouds and the procession of day and night the One Eternal God Who declareth to man what His mind is.


« Prev Chapter XI. Common-sense and the Reign of Law Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |