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Sin in Israelite writing

This solution deals with how sin is conceived in some prophetic books of the Bible. Actually, the idea of sin is very perceived in Israel and that explains why the special day of "Yom Kippur is very important. In this solution we treat Amos', Hosea's, Micha's, 1st Isaiah's (1-39), Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's definition of sin.
Though the main idea of sin and its consequences may appear the same in the whole of the Old Testament, the particularities of each prophet differs. Taking a closer look throws a light on our understanding of it.

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The great annual celebration of the Jews called "Yom Kippur" which means "the atonement day" expresses the Jewish conception of sin. It is the most solemn religious celebration of ancient Israel to the extent that Lev 16:21 calls it the solemn Sabbath. Israelites felt the need of being revived, cleansed and experiencing a new beginning through the forgiveness of their sins.

The Old Testament writers were not interested in a theoretical or philosophical discussion of sin but in the concrete sense of it and in its consequences. The measure of sin is the character of God himself. Since holiness is the essential quality of YHWH, sin is the exact opposite. It is a violation that could be religious/cultic, political or social. Sin is a breach of relationship between two parties. There are essentially four Hebrew words that express the idea of sin: hatha, peshaa, avon, rashaa. Let's take a look at the comprehension of sin by these prophets.

Amos: Right from the beginning of his prophetic book, the prophet portrays the idea of sin. In his visions, he shows very well that transgressions are not without consequences or punishments. Most of the crimes he accused Israel of in the opening complaints appear particularly dreadful. It is so because Yahweh's holy name and his altar are at stake. Thus it becomes clear that the fifth vision should use destruction of the temple as symbol of the beginning of the end for the people (3:14, 5:5, 7:9). The evidence of sin is so clear that from afar what is going could be detected: violence is taking over the throne. From the insistence that to hate or abhor evil is to seek YHWH, love good and publicly do what is right, one could understand that sin means abandoning God. There must have already been an ethical component in the popular religion of his day, for he places a stress on it. For him seeking God is equal to survival, therefore abandoning him is equal to destruction. Sin destroys. We can call 5:10-13 his definition of sin. Even religious observances and ritual praxis without a true spirit and moral practice are considered transgressions (4:4; 5:21-27). In other words, if the people continue to live in sinful ways they have no future, no protection and no guarantee for remaining in their land. In those verses where sins are greatly stressed one can also see a way of escape.

Hosea: Sin in Hosea is seen as an act of unfaithfulness to which Hosea's marriage is a symbol. God loved Israel as a husband will love his wife and cared so much for her, in return he received infidelity. Hosea's life and ...

Solution Summary

The solution deals with the way six different prophets elaborated the idea of sin. Actually, the strong conception of sin and its consequences could be deducted from the annual religious celebration of the "Yom Kippur" = "Day of Expiation". If the necessity for a space or a worshiping day reserved for cleansing never arose, the people would never have felt the need or the utility of being free from sin in order to worship God. Most prophets actually stressed the need for a clean heart as the necessary condition for a good rapport with YHWH. The presence of the "Yom Kippur" tells a lot about the notion of sin in Israel. Nevertheless, this solution will deal precisely with the definition of sin in Amos, Hosea, Micha, and 1st Isaish (1-39), Jeremiah and Ezekiel. In the definition we will also read the conception each prophet has of sin.