notes on 5:11-12

Form

On the linking words see above. Except for their placement at the start, the shape of this verse is typical of a judgment oracle.

Language and Imagery

Although the precise language of trampling the poor does not occur elsewhere in Amos, at 2:7 and 8:4 similar imagery is used.

The combination of taking as a present uses irony to draw attention to the injustice being done. The powerful not only extort wheat (a basic food) from the poor, but accept it as a "present", which given the cotext of v.10 (set in the gate) suggests a bribe. (Such euphemisms are common in unjust and corrupt societies, "cooperate" meant bribe in Mobutu's Zaire. "Rationalization" is a key term in some freemarket business plans, meaning close factories or move the work to somewhere where labor is cheaper.)

To build in ashlar ("cut stone") was expensive. The profits of the elite were spent on quality and display. Likewise their vineyards are not merely functional (e.g. planted with choice vines as in Is 5:2) but pleasant too!

There are numerous verbal links between 5:11

 and 9:14.
So, since you trample on the poor  I will return the exiles of my people Israel,
and take wheat as a `present' from him,
you have built houses of cut stone,  and they shall build the ruined cities
but you won't inhabit in them;  and inhabit them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,  they shall plant vineyards
but you won't drink their wine.  and drink the wine,
   and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

The later verse neatly and very closely "undoes" the punishment declared by the first (see detailed comment on 9:11-15.

Amos' language is not only ironic referring to "mighty sins" but also strong "numerous rebellions".

These final lines summarize the picture that has just been presented the righteous are oppressed, bribes are taken and the poor stand no chance before the authorities in the gate.

 


 

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.