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Literary Criticism-Amos 5:18-25

What are the prophetic forms in the passages and how does amos use them to convey his message.

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The forms of prophesy, following Sweeney (1998) are several. The primary form is that of judgment. It is not Amos,' but God's speaking through Amos as an instrument. Yet the issues are clear. As Israel (whether northern or southern) becomes relatively powerful, makes alliances with violent pagan states and begins trading with the ultra-pagan city of Tyre and her allies, everything changes. All is reduced to money, social status and, soon, hedonism. In a nutshell, this is the entire purpose of Amos.

Sweeney argues that another form of prophetic utterance is a "proof saying." This is a solemn announcement that the sins, of which the northerners were clearly guilty, carry a punishment that is commensurate with adultery. This common metaphor suggests that by leaving Yahweh and seeking after Moloch, the Devourer of Children, the patron of Tyre, Israel has left the embrace of its lawful "husband" and gone into the well-used bed of the whore. The fact that pagan states in the Middle East had ritualized prostitution that served as the atrium of the temple-bank, this metaphor is not all that distant from the fact.

It is an utterance of impending doom, what some call a "woe" speech. Amos is very clear, and, significantly, is reinforced by non-Israelite sources. This sort of prophetic method serves as almost a mechanized form of punishment. The nature of the sin, the refusal to heed calls for repentance, and worse, the persecution of the prophets in general generates the punishment that, outside of an extreme turn to repentance, is automatic. In fact, nothing is truly automatic in Israel in its relationship to the Creator.

The non-Israelite sources for Israel's sin are many. Harper (1901) cites several that are of significance: He cites several Assyrian inscriptions from the era of Tiglath-pileser that show the northern kingdom making alliances with him against Egypt. Alliances, as Solomon learned, include the official reception of the pagan gods of the empire as equal to Yahweh. In other words, since Moloch and other bloodthirsty gods are patrons of Assyria and elsewhere (under different names), the acceptance of these in the Temple was a form of blasphemy that rarely goes without the most extreme punishment. Here, Yahweh is demoted to being a consort of the gods of more powerful states. Needless to say, the wealthy were quite interested in this for of ecumenism for the sake of protecting their power.

The point here is that there is also a theo-political and moral judgment in Amos. Political alliance, which Isaiah will make the centerpiece of his own judgment, means that the protection of God is not sufficient. Faith is gone. The gods of Assyria, since they seem to protect an immense and feared multi-national empire, serve to protect the wealthy far more than Yahweh, who seems to just send ignorant, dirty peasants like Amos to yell at us. In other words, the Law in Deuteronomy does not justify class stratification and the resulting arrogance. Moloch might work better, AND we get prostitutes in the bargain (Harper, 1901).

The repentance of Nineveh in Jonah (ch 5 and 6) shows that God's punishment can ...

Solution Summary

The prophetic forms in the passages are provided. How the amos uses them to convey his message are determined.