notes on 4:4-5

Text

There are two small questions over the text and translation of v.5.

Some translators render "unleavened (bread)" while others prefer "leavened (bread)". Both are possible readings of the Hebrew, depending on how one understands the preposition attached to the word. Either could fit, since while Lev 2:11 forbids the use of leavened bread for the מנחה "offering"; Lev 7:11-13 prescribes BOTH sorts of bread. In either case the point in Amos is not whether the sacrifice ritual is performed correctly, but its reason and motive!

The LXX has a very different text, but this is widely recognised (following Rudolph, 158) to be a misreading rather than an independent textual witness.

Form

The shape of this speech is like that of a priestly torah (see function). Yet by changes to its setting, and its wording, it clearly indicates ironic intent.

Language and Imagery

The wording of the first line signals the ironic intent of this speech. The name "Bethel" means "God's house", but the hearers are invited to "enter" and to "rebel"!

The second line reinforces this with reference to Gilgal another ancient sanctuary that also has long links to the history of this people with Adonai.

Thereafter it seems that exaggerated religious observance is being counseled. (Here with many translators I render "each" morning and "every" three days.)

The "sacrifice" is probably to be thought of as a special annual sacrifice like that of Hannah and Elkanah (1 Sam 1:3, 7, 21). Some traditions speak of a three yearly tithe (Dt 14:28; 26:12-15); on tithes at Bethel see Gen 28:22.

As well as exaggerated frequency for the obligatory offerings, Amos "encourages" the multiplication of voluntary gifts ("thank offerings" and "freewill offerings") and the advertising of this generosity, his implication being that there is little point in giving, he implies, if people do not know of your generous nature!

Function

The priestly "torah", being mimicked here, ends with a reason or motive for following the instructions given. Most often this is based in the very nature of Adonai. To see this look at the law of the Jubilee in Lev 25. The instructions close: "For to me the people of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." (v.55). The next verse provides a neat short sample of such instructions followed by a reason:

"You shall make for yourselves no idols
and erect no carved images or pillars,
and you shall not place figured stones in your land, to worship at them;

     
for I am the LORD your God.

Amos' "torah" suggests that these actions be performed because "that is what you love, people of Israel".


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.