December 26, 2011

Amos 7.10->

Then Amaziah, the Priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam King of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ''Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.' "

And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go! Flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophecy there. But never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the King's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom!"

Then Amos answered Amaziah, "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees. And the Lord took me from following the flock; and the Lord said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel!'

"Now therefore hear the word of the Lord:

You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel
and do not preach against the house of Isaac,'

Therefore thus says the Lord:
'Your wife shall be a harlot in the city
and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword
and your land shall be parceled out by line.
You yourself shall die in an unclean land
and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.' "

5 Comments:

At 9:24 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Okay, now we're getting a bit of drama: Amaziah is saying: "You can't prophesy like that and keep your job around this establishment; better go home to your boss in Jerusalem..."

but Amos responds, "I'm not working for you, or for that other faction: You don't get to dictate my lines, because I'm working for the Big Guy who's been sponsoring your cushy institutional career, and by the way, you're fired."

So, how much of what we read in these texts is priestly realpolitik ala people like Amaziah, how much is the gnarly straight Word of people like Amos? Evidently these national temples contain a mixture-- And (I'd expect) there's a mix of opportunism & genuine devotion in most of the personnel, probably in what most of them are willing to believe and write. We've seen this sort of conflict of interest in Micaiah's story, & Jeremiah will also encounter it in his time, somewhat later.
---

But who is this "Jeroboam?" The original Jeroboam, and his dynasty, have been massacred some long time before Amos, but Jeroboam II is his contemporary.

Notice in the wikipedia article: "Archaeological evidence confirms the biblical account of his reign as the most prosperous that Israel had yet known. By the late 8th century BC the territory of Israel was the most densely settled in the entire Levant, with a population of about 350,000. This prosperity was built on trade in olive oil, wine, and possibly horses, with Egypt and especially Assyria providing the markets."

Wes Howard-Brook has it that during this period, Israel, with the support of an alliance with Assyria, is so prosperous that Judah is paying them tribute. Amos is a sheep rancher from south of Judah, probably up north in Israel delivering some of that tribute. But this alliance with a stronger power will, eventually, prove to be a trap.

Wikipedia adds: "Jeroboam's reign was also the period of the prophets Hosea, Joel, Jonah and Amos, all of whom condemned the materialism and selfishness of the Israelite elite of their day." Was this "materialism & selfishness" an accidental feature of Israel's prosperity?--

Or is this merely the kind of condition that ruling elites call "prosperity": a state of raging inequality in which they can build up large fortunes via great cost and suffering for their poorer neighbors?

 
At 9:27 PM, Blogger Random Arrow said...

Therefore!

Now what’s Amaziah to do?

“Pretty please?”

 
At 9:40 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Ahab was able to get off with an apology.

But while you can expect a certain amount of cynicism from a king, a high priest is under a different jurisdiction.

Amaziah's job entails maintaining the appearance of friendly relations between Israel's God and Israel's secular ruler. If Amaziah admits that Amos has him dead to rights, his career is still in ruins. It would have been the smartest move he could have made, but not an easy one.

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger Random Arrow said...

Beats me how the prosperous economy and land grabs happened if half the stuff Amos says was true. I mulled on this a few days ago. Bonaparte felt he got a great deal in selling Louisiana for funds to build a navy to mop up the British. Two superpowers preoccupied with each other. So if Assyrians are distracting Syrians from raiding Israel – with or without a purchase (tribute?), the borders are ripe for expansion. Or at least the text of Amos pays a little tribute to that era.

 
At 10:24 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Amos doesn't deny that certain Israelites are living well... but he does say that they're gaining the wealth that supports them in luxury via unjust behavior, disregard of certain obligations entailed in serving as YHWH's People.

What kind of Torah existed in his time, whether in Israel or Judah, is an open question. Our Torah is a late version of something that (far as we know) was first assembled in Babylon about 100 years later. What we've seen in the stories in Samuel & Kings... implies a sort of folk-Torah, a set of customs and expectations from before the monarchy(ies), but with significant differences. Not even a king could take away a person's family lands, not without the sort of repercussions found in Naboth's story. But by Amos' time, people with different expectations are in charge.

 

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