Monday, February 21, 2011

o house of israel: fallen

as I'm not christian it's not often that I indulge in biblical exegesis, except for class. this is a short piece I've been working at that I'm somewhat proud of (as I would argue everyone ought to be at least somewhat proud of everything he or she produces).

“O House of Israel: Fallen”
Exegesis of Amos 5:1-14

Identifying his audience as the peoples of Judah (2:4) and Israel (2:6) and Amos as Yahweh’s prophet (most recently in 4:11), the Amos author, midway through his denunciation of them turns to lamentation “take[n] up over [the] house of Israel” (5:1). Unlike his contemporary author in Hosea 4:15, Amos mourns his peoples’ fall, calling them “maiden Israel, forsaken… with no one to raise her up” (:2b), sounding a rueful note for a people soon to return to exile.

Amos prophesies doom for the nation that has turned away from its former glory and for which there is only punishment (3:2). But Amos’ funerary lamentation holds out hope for “maiden Israel”: “Seek me and live…Seek the Lord and live…” (4b and 6a). You, that is Israel, “that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground” (:7), “[s]eek good and not evil, that you may live…” (:14a) This call is reminiscent of the earlier command of Deuteronomy 30:19: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life…”

Yahweh, who created the stars in their courses (:8a) and operates the world for the people’s benefit (:8a & b), and who operates justly (:9), takes offense at the misuses that Israel and Judah have put their strength: they have trampled “on the poor and take from them [unjust] levies of grain…[they] afflict [and bribe] the righteous…and push aside the needy…” (:11a & :12b). Amos, “the one who reproves in the gate…the one who speaks the truth” (:10), who knows “how many are your transgressions, and how great are your sins” (:12), knows “the prudent will keep silent in such…an evil time” (:13); but he can’t remain so. Yahweh still cherishes Yahweh’s people (foreshadowing the visions of :7-9) and gives them via Amos’ lamentation an opportunity for repentance if only they will “Seek the Lord and live…”

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