Notes on Amos 8:1-14

February 22, 2007 at 9:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Verses 1-3 of chapter 8 recount Amos’ vision of the fruit basket
while the remainder of the chapter (vss 4-14) contain an oracle against
greed. This oracle ends with a statement that those who swear by the
false altar (which the prophet has already condemned in 3:14-15; 7:9)
will fall. This leads into the final vision which opens chapter 9, for there we see the Lord standing by the altar about to be destroyed.

8:1-3

1) Here is what the Lord showed to me: a basket of ripe summer fruit.

2) “What is it you are seeing, Amos,” he asked. “I see a basket of ripe summer fruit,” was my response. Then said the Lord to me:

“The end is upon my people Israel; no more will I turn back my punishment.

3) The songs of the temple shall be turned into wailings on
that day, says the Lord God. “Many shall be the bodies of the dead,
strewn about everywhere. Silence!”
(My translation)

In the vision the prophet is shown a basket containing kelub qayis: literally, “summer fruit.” The Hebrew is a reference to the fruit (kelub) that is harvested as the rainy season at the end of summer (qayis) begins. The meaning of the vision becomes apparent when a word play in the Hebrew text is seen. Amos sees qayis fruit and the Lord responds that the qes (the
end) has come for Israel. Though the two words are from different roots
they do sound alike and, furthermore, something that is ripe has reached the end
of a process. This is why many modern translations read something like
this: “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no
longer.” (NIV) Many scholars speculate that Amos went to the northern
sanctuary at the time of the Sukkoth (Tabernacles) festival which celebrated the end of the summer harvest.

The Lords command for silence at the end of verse
three is, in context, highly ironic. The call to silence was often done
in a theophanic context; that is to say, in contexts where God
manifests his presence in the Jerusalem temple at the time of sacrifice
(see Hab 2:20; Zech 2:17). Having had a funeral dirge sung over her
because of her false worship at false temples (see 5:1-6 and my notes)
the Lord now declares that their songs of worship will become wails of
mourning due to the dead strewn about the land. Such a number of bodies
would make the land ritually unclean, an unfit place to worship God.
God will reveal his presence in Israel not by manifesting his presence
on a false altar in a false temple, but rather, by destroying them.

8:4-6

4) Hear this, you who walk all over the needy and bring to destruction the poor of the land!

5) You say, “when will the new moon be past, so that we may
sell our crops? When will the sabbath be done, so that we may market
the wheat and make the ephah small while making great the shekel; and
so that we might weigh with false scales.

6) So that we might by the lowly for silver, and the poor for the price of a pair of sandals. And so that we may sell even the
refuse of the wheat. (My translation)

The oracle opens with a typical prophetic “call to attention” formula: Hear this.
The oracle is directed against those who abuse those of lowly means and
recalls the prophet’s original indictment of Israel (see 2:6-16). It
also recalls the sarcastic remarks God made concerning their
hypocritical worship in 4:4-5. Here the two elements of greed and
hypocritical worship are combined. Whether or not the subjects of the
oracle were actually thinking the thoughts attributed to them is
irrelevant. By their practices they were showing contempt for God and
right worship regardless of what their intentions were.

The new moon marked the first day of the month on
the Hebrew calendar and a special temple sacrifice was to be done for
it (Numbers 28:11-15). The text suggests that the people of the
Northern Kingdom did no work or commerce on this day though the law of
Moses nowhere legislated such a thing. All forms of work and commerce
were forbidden on the sabbath except, apparently, in the
case of dire necessity. The subjects of the oracle are shown adhering
to the devotions only grudgingly, anxiously waiting for the special
days to be over so that they can begin their cheating business as
usual. The purpose of Sabbath and the worship of God is lost upon them.
The ephah was a very ancient standard of measurement for
dry good, particularly grain. It is equal to slightly more than twenty
and three-quarter quarts. How exactly the ephah was to be made small is unknown. Presumably the grain was mixed with the refuse of the wheat to attain the ephah measure. The shekel was a standard for weighing out silver and gold. Making great the shekel is
something of an ironic term. A shekel was a standard of weight by which
gold and silver were measured out. One made the shekel great by
diminishing its weight. A business man could then weigh out what
appeared to be the agreed upon price for a poor man’s wholesale goods.
Since the shekel was made “greater” by becoming lighter, the poor man’s
profit was less since it took less gold on the balance scale
to equal a shekel that had been tampered with. Thus from the cheating
businessman’s perspective, a lighter shekel is a greater shekel. False
scales and the cheating of people in the area of commerce was strongly
condemned in the Bible, suggesting that it was a common abuse .
Deuteronomy calls those who engage in such practice “an abomination in
the sight of the Lord” (see Dt 25:13-16). Priests and kings were
responsible for ensuring that these practices not take place.

8 :7
By the pride of Jacob has the Lord sworn: “Surely, none of their deeds will I forget.” (My translation)

The Lord is usually shown swearing an oath in reference to himself
or his holiness since there is nothing greater than him. Here,
ironically, he swears by the pride of Jacob. Men swear
oaths by things that are greater than themselves (such as God’s name);
here the implication is that Jacob (the northern kingdom) thinks itself
greater than God because by its deeds it flaunts his commands. By
swearing an oath in their name to punish them for their deeds God is
sarcastically criticizing their presumed greatness (pride).

8:8

Shall not the land tremble because of this, while all
who dwell upon it mourn as it rises up and is turbulent before sinking
back again like the river of Egypt?

Because of the
peoples deeds (vs 7) the land will be hit with an earthquake (see 1:1).
In an earthquake the land rises up and is turbulent, like a river in
flood.

8:9-10

9) And it shall come to pass on that day, says the Lord God,
that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the
earth in the clear of day.

10) And I will turn your
feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentations; and I will
bring sackcloth onto all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I
will make it as the mourning for an only son, and bring them to the end
of a bitter day.
(ASV. This book is in the public domain. I’ve modified the text slightly)

The comparison of the earthquake to the river Nile in Egypt was no
mistake. God had promised Israel that if it did not obey him he would
afflict them with the plagues of Egypt (see Dt 28:60). One of those
plagues (the ninth) was darkness (Exodus 10:21-29). The tenth was the death of the firstborn and the mourning
that accompanied it (Ex 11). The wearing of sackcloth was a traditional
sign of mourning (1 Kings 20:31), as was the shaving of the head (Micah
1:16). As has already become clear, the worship of the northern kingdom
is tainted. False feasts and songs of worship, if not repented of, can only lead to mourning and lamentation. It
should also be remembered that the vision of the fruit basket with
which chapter 8 began was explained as signifying that the temple songs
would be turned to mourning as the land became littered with bodies
(8:2-3).
8:11-12

11) Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord
God, when I will send a famine upon the land, not a famine of bread,
nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.

12) And
they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east;
they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord and not find it.
(ASV. I’ve changed the translation somewhat)

Behold, days are coming is a formulaic prophetic
expression announcing a coming event. The event announced here is
calamitous, an absence of the word of God, here meaning prophecy. This
absence is compared to famine and drought, two major punishments God
had promised the people they could avoid by heeding his word (see Dt
28). The drought and famine which the people were apparently already
experiencing as a warning (Amos 1:1; 4:6-7) did not lead to the heeding
of the prophetic call to repentance (Amos 2:11-12). God’s patience is
nearing its end and too late the people will realize their folly. The
Chroniclers judgement concerning Judah in 587 BC could just as easily
been directed against Israel in Amos’ day (see 2 Chron 36:15-16).

8:13-14

13) In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst.
14) They
that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, ‘As thy god, O Dan, liveth;’
and, ‘As the way of Beer-Sheba liveth;’ they shall fall, and never rise
up again.

This passage builds upon the theme of drought and famine and upon the theme of mourning and death as well.

In verse 7 the lord swore an oath not to forget the deeds of pride
done by the northern kingdom, here the oracle ends with the demise of
those in the northern kingdom who swear falsely by the sin of Samaria, a reference to the false shrine and bull shaped altar at Bethel on Mount Samaria. As thy god, O Dan, liveth is an oath formula. Dan
was the tribe which dwelt in the extreme north of Israel and a
settlement of the same name was located on the northern frontier. At
this settlement their was a false shrine (see 1 Kings 12:29). Beer-Sheba is in the southern kingdom of Judah. What the oath formula related to it intends is unknown. The phrase “from Dan to Beer-Sheba
was a proverbial statement designating the entire promised land.
Perhaps the reference to Beer-Sheba here is meant to reflect the
apparent attitude of the northern kingdom that sacrifice to God can be
offered anywhere, rather than in Jerusalem alone

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Amos lesson 1 (updated)

February 7, 2007 at 9:58 pm (Uncategorized)

THE PROPHET AMOS WORKSHEET
Lesson 1
PART A. HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL INTRODUCTION

1) Read Deuteronomy 17:14-20.

  • a) What are the people forbidden here?
  • b) The king is forbidden 6 things, what are they?
  • C) What must the king do regarding the book of the law?

2) Read Deuteronomy 18:9-20.

  • a) What is required of the people in regard to legitimate prophets?

3) Read Deuteronomy 28.

  • a) Name two or three of the blessing which are most meaningful or appealing to you. Explain why?
  • b) Name two or three of the curses that would most terrify you. Explain why?
  • c) Do your actions correspond to the blessings you find most meaningful/appealing? (Personal reflections need not be shared)

4) Read 1 Kings 11.

  • a) Compare verses 1-10 of this chapter with Deuteronomy 17:14-20. What things forbidden the king did King Solomon do?
  • b) What is the reason given for the rebellion of Jeroboam, son of Nebat (see 1 Kings 11:26-34). [Note: Jeroboam, son of Nebat is often called Jeroboam I by modern scholars; this is to distinguish him from a second Jeroboam who reigned as king during the time of Amos.]

PLEASE NOTE THAT AFTER THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM OF DAVID THE NEW NORTHERN KINGDOM RETAINED THE NAME ISRAEL, WHILE THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM BECAME KNOWN AS JUDAH.

5) Read Deuteronomy 12:1-14.

  • a) Where did Solomon end up building this sanctuary/temple?

6) Read 1 Kings 12:1-13:3.

  • a) What was the sin of Jeroboam I?
  • b) What is propehcied against him and his sin?

Lesson 1
PART B. CHAPTERS 1 & 2

1) Read 1: 1.

  • a) What do you think the purpose of the superscrition is?
  • b) What (NOT WHO) is the focus of the superscription?

2) Read 1:2.

  • a) Scholars call this verse the keynote to the book of Amos. What does this keynote suggest about the content of the book?
  • b) What is being prophecied in this particular verse?
  • c) Which of the introductory readings given above does this verse remind you of?
  • d) What image does the word “roaring” conjure up for you?

3) Read 1:3-2:5.

  • a) Does the stereotypical formula employed by the prophet in these oracles have any effect on you? If yes, what is the effect? (Note: remember these oracles were originally spoken).
  • b) Imagine you are one of the Jews of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who heard Amos preach; what do you think your reaction to the condemnation of your fellow Jews in the Kingdom of Juday would have been? (Note: the two kingdoms sometimes worked closely together and at other times warred with one another. In Amos’ day they were at peace but Judah was in vassalage to Israel)

4) Read 2:6-16.

  • a) What sets the condemnation of Israel apart from all the other oracles?
  • b) Does it surprise you that Israel receives such a strong condemnation in comparison to the Pagans? Explain why or why not?
  • b) Which introductory readings given in PART A relate to this passage?
  • c) What do the verses 13-16 suggest concerning the punishment to come upon Israel?

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Amos lesson 1

February 7, 2007 at 9:55 pm (Uncategorized)

    a)  What is required of the people in regard to legitimate prophets?

3)  Read Deuteronomy 28.

    a)  Name two or three of the blessing which are most meaningful or appealing to you.  Explain why?
    b)  Name two or three of the curses that would most terrify you.  Explain why?
    c)  Do your actions correspond to the blessings you find most meaningful/appealing? (Personal reflections need not be shared)

4)  Read 1 Kings 11.

    a)  Compare verses 1-10 of this chapter with Deuteronomy 17:14-20.  What things forbidden the king did King Solomon do?
    b)  What is the reason given for the rebellion of Jeroboam, son of Nebat (see 1 Kings 11:26-34).  [Note: Jeroboam, son of Nebat is often called Jeroboam I by modern scholars; this is to distinguish him from           a second Jeroboam who reigned as king during the time of Amos.]
                    
PLEASE NOTE THAT AFTER THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM OF DAVID THE NEW NORTHERN KINGDOM RETAINED THE NAME ISRAEL, WHILE THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM BECAME KNOWN AS JUDAH.

5)  Read Deuteronomy 12:1-14.

    a)  Where did Solomon end up building this sanctuary/temple?

6)  Read 1 Kings 12:1-13:3.
   
    a)  What was the sin of Jeroboam I? 
    b)  What is propehcied against him and his sin?

Lesson 1
PART B.  CHAPTERS 1 & 2

1)  Read 1: 1.

    a)  What do you think the purpose of the superscrition is?
    b)  What (NOT WHO) is the focus of the superscription?

2)  Read 1:2.

    a)  Scholars call this verse the keynote to the book of Amos.  What does this keynote suggest about the content of the book?
    b)  What is being prophecied in this particular verse?
    c)  Which of the introductory readings given above does this verse remind you of?
    d)  What image does the word “roaring” conjure up for you?

3)  Read 1:3-2:5.

    a)  Does the stereotypical formula employed by the prophet in these oracles have any effect on you?  If yes, what is the effect?  (Note:  remember these oracles were originally spoken).
    b)  Imagine you are one of the Jews of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who heard Amos preach; what do you think your reaction to the condemnation of your fellow Jews in the Kingdom of Juday would have                 been?  (Note:  the two kingdoms sometimes worked closely together and at other times warred with one another.  In Amos’ day they were at peace but Judah was in vassalage to Israel)

4)  Read 2:6-16.

    a)  What sets the condemnation of Israel apart from all the other oracles?
    b)  Does it surprise you that Israel receives such a strong condemnation in comparison to the Pagans?  Explain why or why not?
    b)  Which introductory readings given in PART A relate to this passage?
    c)  What do the verses 13-16 suggest concerning the punishment to come upon Israel?

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TOTALITARIAN TOLERANCE

January 31, 2007 at 12:25 am (Uncategorized)

(I’d like to quote an article from LifeSiteNews.com and follow it with some brief thoughts)

British PM ~ No Religious Exemption Forcing Provision of Goods and Services to Gays

MP’s will not be allowed free vote on issue

By Hilary White

LONDON, January 29, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – British Prime Minister
Tony Blair has announced today that there will be no exemptions
possible for Catholic adoption agencies who attempt to refuse services
to homosexual partners.

“I start from a very firm foundation. There is no place in our society
for discrimination,” Blair said. “That’s why I support the right of gay
couples to apply to adopt like any other couple.”

“While views obviously differ, everyone is agreed that above all the
interests of the children and particularly the most vulnerable children
must come first,” he added.

Blair is expected to announce a “transition period” after the SOR’s
come into general effect to allow Churches to become accustomed to
compromising their beliefs. Blair said the rules will not come “fully”
into force until the end of 2008. In the meantime, Catholic agencies,
he said, had a “statutory duty” to refer homosexual couples to other
agencies. Blair also added that the House of Commons Labour MP’s would
not be allowed a free vote on the issue.

The PM’s decision has been expected since last week to be in line with
his cabinet who, it was said, were appalled and in a state of near
revolt over the possibility that he would allow Catholics to act
according to their religious principles.

Blair’s announcement comes in the midst of what some are calling the
most serious Church/state crisis in Britain in a century. It also comes
at the end of Blair’s long tenure as Prime Minister and leader of his
party with polls showing slipping support for Labour.

The recently-passed Equality Act’s Sexual Orientation Regulations
(SOR’s) specify that no one may “discriminate” against homosexuals in
the provision of goods and services, including in religious schools,
adoption and social aid agencies, hotels or rental facilities.

Last week, the head of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, Cormac
Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, addressed a letter to MP’s saying that
Catholic adoption agencies, that handle the bulk of the “difficult”
cases of child adoptions, would be forced to close instead of allow the
government to coerce their religious conscience.

The controversy between the government and the Catholic Church over the
impending implementation of the SOR’s had by the weekend descended into
name-calling with some British MP’s dusting off some of Britain’s
nearly-forgotten traditional anti-clerical and anti-papal slurs.

Cardinal Murphy O’Connor responded today saying he was “deeply
disappointed” at the decision. “We are, of course, deeply disappointed
that no exemption will be granted to our agencies on the grounds of
widely held religious conviction and conscience,” he said.

“We look to the forthcoming Parliamentary debate to address some of the
fundamental issues centred on the well-being of the child, whose needs
must always be put first.”

British Catholics can expect little from a change in government. The
head of the opposition Tories, David Cameron, announced that he also
does not favour an exemption for Catholic or other religious agencies
or services. He said, however, that his party members would have a free
vote.

The opt-out proposal had the support of some Jewish and Muslim groups,
as well as the Church of England’s leadership, Archbishop of Canterbury
Rowan Williams and John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, Archbishop of York.

“I start from a very firm foundation. There is no place in our society
for discrimination,” Blair said. Apparently, this Pontius Pilatician doesn’t seem to understand that to discriminate means “to choose.” In its classical meaning it referred to an act of judgement in accordance with right reason and morality. To act towards or choose one thing over another for any reason is to engage in a form of discrimination. What classifies the act as just or unjust discrimination is the morality (or lack thereof) underlying it. Mister Blair talks about the firm foundation he starts from, that there can be no discrimination in his society, yet it is clear his statement is a begging of the question.

“The controversy between the government and the Catholic Church over the
impending implementation of the SOR’s had by the weekend descended into
name-calling with some British MP’s dusting off some of Britain’s
nearly-forgotten traditional anti-clerical and anti-papal slurs.” How firm is the foundation Mister Blair claims to start from when many of those pushing for the SOR’s act clearly are doing so to feed their anti-Catholic bigotries?

“While views obviously differ, everyone is agreed that above all the
interests of the children and particularly the most vulnerable children
must come first.” This is just so much horse manure. The SOR’s act has nothing to do with the interests of children up for adoption, its only concern is the interests of the gay lobby. Here is some testimony from people who are (or did) growing (or grew) up with parents involved in same sex relations. Most are between the ages of 6 and 25. And here are some medical findings.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this: “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual
tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively
disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted
with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of UNJUST
discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (2358. Emphasis mine) Is it unjust not to allow two people of the same sex to adopt a child and thus form an un-natural family? Is it unjust not to allow a same sex couple to adopt a child because, as is well known, same sex relations tend to be much more volatile than heterosexual ones; not to mention much more promiscuous as well? For more stats and figures see HERE.

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Amos 3:7-15

January 20, 2007 at 1:30 am (Uncategorized)

Vs 7 Certainly the Lord God does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.

In
order to keep the people on the straight and narrow, and to ensure that
they did not forget him and commit idolatry, God had, through Moses,
promised the people that he would raise up prophets to guide and
instruct them (see Deut 18:9-22). Recall, however, that the people of
the Northern Kingdom had rejected the prophets sent to them (see Amos
2:12). The people therefore are without excuse: “for if any man will not listen to my words which the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it.” (Deut 18:19).

Vs 8 A lion has roared-who does not fear? The Lord God has spoken-who does not prophecy?

The
reference to a lion roaring recalls the keynote verse in 1:2. There we
saw that God, the shepherd of his flock, Israel, had become their worst
nightmare. Like a lion with its prey he had roared (see 3:4) and there
was drought upon the land. Not only was he roaring through natural
calamities, but also through his prophets-who will not be afraid?
As will be seen in 4:6-11, the people were apparently not afraid. As
will be seen in Amos 7:12-13, they will seek to silence the prophecies
of Amos, but to no avail.

A prophetic threat proclaimed 3:9-12

Vs
9 Proclaim this in the strongholds of Ashdod, likewise in the
strongholds of the land of Egypt, saying: “gather yourselves upon the
mountain of Samaria, witness the great upheavals within her, and the
oppression in the midst of her.”

Vs 10 For they do not know how to do what is right, says the Lord, treasuring in their strongholds extortion and theft.

During the reign of Omri, Samaria
became the capitol of the Northern Kingdom, as such it could stand as a
name for the entire kingdom, and such is the case here. As we have
seen, the leaders of Israelite society had become corrupt, greedy, and
oppressive towards the poor (2:6-8). Also, they had rejected the
prophets and the nazarites (2:11-12), no doubt because these people
troubled their already guilty consciences.

God tells the prophet to proclaim to the pagan stronghold (i.e. fortified city) of Ashdod and to the strongholds in the pagan nation of Egypt that they are to gather and witness the sins which Samaria/Israel has stored up in her strongholds.

There is intense irony here. In telling the prophet to “Proclaim” something to the pagans God uses the Hebrew word shama
(shaw-mah) in what is known as its hiphil form in which it means to
tell or proclaim something. This same word, in its Qal form means to
listen or hear. In this later form the word was spoken everyday by
devout Jews in their morning prayer known as the shema:

“Hear,
O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall
love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and all your soul, and
with all your strength. Take these words to heart which I enjoin on you
today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and when
abroad, whether you are busy or at rest…”
(Deut 6:4-7)

By
“hearing the statutes and decrees” of the Lord the people were to give
evidence of their “wisdom and intelligence to the nations” (see Deut
4:1-8); but this they have not done. As a result, pagan nations are
called upon to witness the sins in Israel. The implication is that
Israel has become as bad as, if not worse than, the pagans.

Vs
11 Therefore, thus says the Lord, an enemy shall encompass your land,
and shall take from you your strength, and plunder your stronholds.

A
generation after the preaching of Amos this prophetic warning would
become reality when, in 722 BC, Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom
and sent the people into exile. Their cities, land, and the ill-gotten
booty they “treasured in their strongholds” (vs 10) would be given over
to an enemy, just as the prophet Moses had warned them (see Deut 28).
The reference to lost strength repeats a warning from 2:14.

Vs
12 Thus says the Lord: As a shepherd grabs from the lion’s mouth two
legs, or a portion of an ear, so shall the sons of Israel be saved with
a corner of a couch, or a portion of a bed.

Again we see
the image of the lion. A shepherd who wrestles over a sheep with a lion
who has taken it as prey is likely to come away with very little for
his efforts. Against the Assyrian menace a remnant of the people of
Israel will survive, but without their pampered luxury symbolized by
the couch and bed. Their “good life” extorted from the poor will come
to an end. (Note: in Assyrian art the king, and sometimes his army, is symbolized by a lion).

Vs 13 Here this and bear testimony against the house of Jacob, says the Lord God, the God of Hosts:

Vs
14 For on the day I bring punishment upon Israel for his crimes I will
also bring punishment upon the altars of Bethel, the horns of the altar
I will cut off so that they fall to the ground.

Vs 15 The
winter-house and the summer-house I will smite; and the ivory-houses
shall perish, and their many houses shall be brought to an end, says
the Lord.

It is uncertain to me whether God calls upon
the prophet to bear witness in vs 13 or if it is Ashdod and Egypt who
are being spoken to (see vs 9). The term House of Jacob
could refer to the entire chosen people but here it must certainly
refers to the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom. This is borne out in
vs 14 which speaks of the destruction of the altars at Bethel, which
was in the Northern Kingdom.

Bethel was a sacred spot in Israel.
Jacob himself, the father of the twelve tribes (see Gen 30-31) founded
a sanctuary there (Gen 28). It was also at Bethel (also called
Paddanaram) that God renewed the covenant promise he had originally
made to Abraham (Gen 35:1-15). But God had chosen Jerusalem as the
place for his temple to the exclusion of all other places; therefore,
when Jeroboam I, the first king of the new Northern Kingdom,
established a shrine at Bethel, it was seen as an abomination (see 1
kings 12:26-13:3). Worse, the altar was in the shape of a bull, the
figure of an Egyptian deity. By the time of Amos’ preaching (circa 760
BC), the “sin of Jeroboam,” as it was called, had been in existence for
about a century and a half. Bethel and its altars would indeed be
destroyed. This in fact took place in 722 BC.

The wealthy people
of Israel lived luxurious lives. In the summer they stayed their homes
in Israel. Archaeology tells us that the homes of the wealthy during
the time of Amos were magnificent, with the walls and floors being
inlaid with ivory. Not content with these, they also had winter homes
to the south, in the kingdom of Judah, where the weather during the
winter months was somewhat milder. These too will be destroyed

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Amos 4:1-13

January 20, 2007 at 1:07 am (Uncategorized)

(Please consult POST MENU PAGE for earlier notes on Amos and other books of Scripture)

The prophet continues his prophetic sermon detailing the punishment to be brought upon Israel.

Amos 4:1-3

Vs
1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who dwell on the mount of Samaria,
who press upon the poor, weigh down heavily on the needy, and who say
to your husbands: “Bring, that we may consume!”

The over-wealthy, over-fed, over-pampered women of Israel (i.e. the Mount of Samaria) are her compared contemptuously to the cows of Bashan. Bashan is a reference to the plains of Bashan located in the trans-Jordan region east of the Sea of Galilee, on the banks of the Yarmuk River. The area today known as the Golan Heights. This rich, fertile plain was famous for its well fed cattle (see Deut 32:14; Psalm 22:13).

Recall that in the initial indictment of Israel by Amos (2:6-16),
the nation was condemned because “they trample the head of the poor
into the dust of the earth” (2:7 RSV); kind of like cattle on a
stampede. Here the women of Samaria are accussed of pressing and
weighing down on the needy; a similar image. Apparently, the opulent
lifestyle they demand of their husbands has helped encourage the
mistreatment of the poor, and for this they are condemned. They demand
that drink be brought to them, reminding us of the wine extorted from
the poor as legal penalties levied by unjust courts (see 2:8).

Vss
2-3 The Lord has sworn by his holiness, “Behold, days are coming upon
you when you will be taken away with hooks, the very last of you with
fish hooks. Out through the breached walls you shall go straightaway
and you will be cast onto the dung-hill,” says the Lord.

The nation will face a military invasion (2:14-16)
which will lead to the the capture of the capitol of Israel, Samaria,
when its fortified walls are breached by the enemy (obviously Assyria).
Rings were sometimes put into the noses of animals as part of their
domestication, for it made them easier to control. A hook on a pole or
rope would be inserted into the ring in order to lead the animal around
(see Job 40:25-26).
Ancient Assyrian art depicts people captured by Shalamanezer III being
roped together and led away in single file lines. For more on the use
of rings and hooks in the treatment of prisoners click here.

Amos 4:4-5 A reproach for hypocritical worship

Vs 4
“Come to Bethel, and transgress; come to Gilgal, and multiply your
transgressions; bring your sacrifices morning after morning, bring your
tithes every third day;
Vs 5
offer a thanksgiving sacrifice of that which is leavened, announce your
free-will offrings, make them public: For this you love to do, O people
Israel,” says the Lord God.

God is here, through his
prophet, engaging in some sarcasm. The words are in the form of typical
priestly instruction concerning the Torah. The priests were supposed to
teach and exhort the people to worship God rightly. God, apparently
imitating the Northern preists, exhorts the people to false worship.
The sarcasm is intended to highlight the sin being committed under the
guise of true worship.

Morning sacrifices
were to be offered at the temple in Jerusalem; not the shrines of
Bethel and Gilgal. The very fact that the people are offering these
sacrifices anywhere other than the Jerusalem temple is itself a sin, no
matter how well intended they might have been.

Bring your tithes every third day.
The Jews were expected to pay an annual (once a year) tithe for the
upkeep of the temple and another tithe every three years for the good
of the poor, widows, and orphans. We saw in Chapter 2 that the people
had no concern for the poor and destitute. The tithes “every third day”
is probably more of a sarcsam than a fact. You can be meticulous about
paying your tithes, you can even pay more than was required, but if it
is done out of hypocrisy it will do you no good.

Some would
interpret these words as a condemnation of ritual worship, but nothing
could be further from the truth. No where do the prophets condemn
rituals which were ordered by God himself. Rather, they often condemn
formalism, a going thru the motion of ritual for hypocritical purposes.

Thanksgiving sacrifices
were supposed to be made known and celebrated publicly, for what was
being celebrated was God’s blessing upon an individual (see Psalm 22:23-32 and Psalm 116:17-19). Again, however, such things were not suppossed to be for self-aggrandisment.

The sarcastic command to come to Bethel, and transgress; come to Gilgal, and multiply your transgressions
is followed, in verses 6-11 by a series of critiques. God will detail a
number of his punishments he brought upon Israel which went unheeded by
the people

Vs
6 “I gave you cleaness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread
in all your places, yet you did not return to me,” says the Lord.
Vs
7 “And I also witheld the rain from you when there were yet yet three
months to the harvest; I sent rain upon one city, and sent no rain upon
another city, one field would be rained upon, and the field on which it
did not rain withered;
Vs 8 So two or three cities wandered to one
city to drink water, and were not satisfied; yet you did not return to
me,” says the Lord.
Vs 9 “I smote you with blight and mildew; I laid
waste your gardens and your vineyards; your fig trees and olive trees
the locust devoured; yet you did not reurn to me,” says the Lord.
Vs
10 “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I slew
your young men with the sword; I carried away your horses; I made the
stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to
me,” say the Lord.
Vs 11 “I overthrew some of you as when God
overthrew sodom and Gomor’rah, and you were as a brand plucked out of
the burning; yet you did not return to me,” says the Lord. (Revised Standard Version)

These
verses, in the form a a litany (the repeated “yet you did not return to
me”) continue the sarcasm begun in verse 4. The people think -or worse,
pretend- to be seeking God by “coming” to Gilgal and Bethel but in fact
, for all their religiousity, they have not returned to the Lord. (See
Hosea 6:1-11)

When God made his covenant with his people he had
warned them not to forget him or worship falsely (Exodus 23:23-26). To
this the people agreed (Exodus 24:3). But God, thru Moses, also made it
clear that the people would sin against him and as a result be punished
with things like drought, lack of food, war, and locust plagues (see
Deuteronomy chapters 28-29 and the Song of Moses in Deut 32). God also
promised, however, that if they sincerely repented they would once
again enjoy his favor (see Deut 30). This Deuteronomistic theology
stands behind Amos 4.

Verse 11 makes reference to the overthrow of Sodom and Gomor’rah. These two cities are the quintessential symbols of evil and of God’s subsequent punishment. Genesis 19 says that God overthrew
these cities. This same word is used by Amos in verse 11. It means
literally “turned upside down” and is an obivious reference to an
earthquake (see Amos 1:1). The image of a brand plucked from the fire suggests that even though God showed mercy towards the unrepentant -even this did not move the people to repent. So God says:

Vs
12 “So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! and since I
will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel:
Vs 13
Him who formed the mountains and created the winds, and declares to man
his thoughts; who made the dawn and the darkness, and strides upon the
heights of the earth: the Lord, the God of Hosts by name.” (New
American Bible)

Having punished them in the past he will now do it again.

The words prepare to meet your God caps the irony and sarcasm begun in verse 4. The people Come to Gilgal and Bethel and worship God falsely. This is not a return to
God. Having failed to come and meet the merciful God of the covenant as
repentant sinners they must now prepare to meet the covenant God of
justice.

Also, the Hebrew verb translated as prepare is used elsewhere in the bible for the preparation of a sacrifice (Ezra 3:3); and the verb translated as to meet
is often used in reference to prayer(the verb can be translated as
“call upon,” or “invoke.” See Gen 12:8; Psalm 79:6; Jer 10:25). The
people had sought God thru illegitimate sacrifice and prayer and now
they’re going to meet him; but not in a way they expected or wanted.

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Amos 3:1-15

January 20, 2007 at 1:04 am (Uncategorized)

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FIRST THESSALONIANS: INTRO AND OUTLINE

August 15, 2006 at 1:11 am (FIRST THESSALONIANS, Uncategorized)

First, here is a map to help you get your bearings concerning where Thessalonica was located. And here is another.

Here you will find a brief history of the city. You need only read under the headings: HELLENISTIC ERA and ROMAN ERA.

For a good summary of Paul’s second missionary journey as narrated in Acts go here. And read Acts 15:36-18:22.

 

 

OUTLINE TO FIRST THESSALONIANS

The letter has three parts. Each part is divided into three subsections which are written concentrically. Concentricism is a literary device which forms parallels around a center. It is usually outlined like this:

A1) WATER

B1) SAND

 

C) SKY

 

B2) SAND

A2) WATER

 

The above outline reflects a five-fold structure. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians has a three-fold structure:

PART 1 (1:1-2:16) Salutation and thanksgiving for the Thessalonians reception of the word.

A1) THANKSGIVING for their RECEIVING THE WORD. (1:1-10)

B) Paul’s ministry among them. (2:1-12)

A2) Another THANKSGIVING for their RECEPTION OF THE WORD. (2:13-16)

 

PART 2 (2:17-3:19) Paul wants to return to them.

A1) PAUL WANTS TO RETURN TO THESSALONICA. (2:17-20)

B) He sends timothy instead. (3:1-8)

A2) PAUL WANTS TO RETURN TO THESSALONICA. (3:9-13)

 

PART 3 (4:1-5:28) Moral life and the second coming

A1) EXHORTATION TO LIVE MORALLY, [SEX AND LOVE] (4:1-12)

B) The second coming and resurrection of the just. (4:13-5:11)

A2) EXHORTATION TO LIVE MORALLY, [RESPECT AND PEACE] (5:12-28)

 

By writing in this fashion Paul show the unity of his thought. What he says about the reception of the word in part 1 is to be seen as closely connected to what he says concerning his ministry among them. In part 3 the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the just is to be seen in relation to Christian morality.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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