Thursday, March 04, 2010

Reflections on Amos

Continuing my very late reflections on the last of my third year modules, we reach Amos. The Amos module is translation and close textual exegesis of the Hebrew text of the whole of the canonical book, taught by Hector Morrison. Very briefly, highlights included:
  • Discussion of the canonical form of the book; Amos' words are introduced by a narrator; in chapter 7 Amos' visions are related in the first person, and his conflict with Amaziah in the third person. How were these sources and oracles, proclaimed against the Israelite elite (perhaps in a cultic setting), eventually set in their canonical form?
  • Amos' profession: was he a poor shepherd or a wealthy landowner? Not only was Amos a sheep-keeper but also a sycamore fig farmer - diversification is the key to succesful farming! Or was he actually a seasonal manual labourer who moved between both? The former view has some merit.
  • The plumb line. Or not? In 7:7, what exactly is the import of the vision? Whatever it is, it seems almost certain that it is not a plumb-line that is in view. Rather, it seems as if the weakness of the wall is in view here, anak being the material in mind. Dealing with a hapax like this just reinforces the difficulties that can often be encountered in the art of translation.
  • Of course, the huge theme is judgement - contectualized amongst the nations, but also crystallized against Israel's apostasy. Yahweh's indictment of the war crimes of the surrounding nations speaks in our world to the accountability of leaders and soldiers engaged in conflict. The indictment of the northern kingdom in the midst of their material prosperity speaks to the Church in the west, where wealth can so easily displace genuine, countercultural worship.
  • The Day of Yahweh - this prophetic leitmotif rises here in Amos. Discussion as to its origin is fascinating, including the classic treatment by Von Rad.
As always, much more could be said...