notes on 4:1-3

Form

These verses form a judgment oracle, v.1 is a call to hear, and as in 3:1 larger than usual. This verse also begins a new section of the book. In 4:1, however, the enlargement is less striking, not least because the "call to hear" contains explicit as well as implicit accusation.

The call is followed by an oath formula introducing the judgment.

Language and Imagery

v.1 The picture drawn in v.1 would have been vivid for the first hearers/readers of Amos. Bashan was renowned for its sleek cattle, and Samaria was the home of Israel's king and the elite he gathered round him.

It still is vivid in the capital cities of many countries today. The women of the elite are sleek, well fed and groomed, and even in cultures that traditionally give women a subordinate role their peremptory commands are heard and mimicked by those they oppress.

The text of verses 2-3 is problematic, but the image is clear, the survivors of military conquest are led out from the city.

Hooks were not used to catch fish, this was done with baskets and nets, so presumably the hooks served to land or transport the catch. In this case, mention of "fish-hooks" compares the remnant of proud Samaria to gaffed fish being carried home. Contemporary Assyrian sources tell of prisoners being led away from a fallen city by thread through the lower lip, a cruelty to which this verse could refer.

Function

In 2:6-16 and 3:9-15 Israel and its elite have been accused of oppression, disorder and abuse of power. Chapter 4 begins with two oracles which show that it is the whole of the life of the nation which is rotten, not merely some parts.

4:1-3 claims that women as much as men are culpable while (see below) 4:4-5 attacks the national religion.


This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos , if you have reached it as a standalone page, to view it in context, go to www.bible.gen.nz
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.