notes on 5:25-27

Text

The text of v.26 is problematic, a literal translation reads something like:

"You will carry off Sikkut your king and Kiyun, your images, the star of your gods, which you have made for yourselves."

The LXX reads:

"You took up the tent of Moloch, and the star of your god Raephan, the images of them that you made for yourselves."

This understands סִכּוּת as סכת so a word "tent", not a name and מלך as a name "Moloch" rather than a word "king".

This rather different reading suggests that the text may have been disordered or difficult at the time the LXX was translated. So I have tried to stick fairly closely to the MT.

A possible cause of such disruption would be an explanatory remark added by a scribe in the margin that was later copied into the text. Perhaps just the word "star" (for later readers who did not know that the reference was to star gods) and for some reason the word image was also written as a plural. The text would then have read:

 "You will carry off Sikkut your king
      and Kiyun your image,
  your gods which you have made for ourselves."

This is conjecture. What is evident is that the text is difficult yet that its overall thrust is not.

Form

The construction and rhetoric of this saying is unusual.

The question at the start seems to require a positive answer. Few are willing to suggest that Amos is privy to an otherwise unknown tradition that the Israelites did not offer sacrifices during the wilderness period. The form of the question itself is open-ended.

So then, how is this question related to the statement that follows?

Some have read the verb as a continuous not a future, making v.26 an accusation. However a future reading fits the syntax better. In that case vv.26-27 are a judgment speech and v.25 is an introduction.

There is a strong contrast between "bringing" sacrifices, and "taking up" idols, and these foreign "gods" that tempt them will be part of the experience of the exile, which will punish their current unfaithfulness.

Language and Imagery

Both "sacrifice" and "offering" are vague words. Together they refer to almost any religious activity.

The period of forty years in the wilderness is a tradition that is used in strikingly different ways by biblical authors. Some focus on Israel's moaning (Ps 95:7d ff.; Josh 5:6); Hosea can describe it as Israel's honeymoon with Adonai (Hos 2:14 [MT v.16]) for it was a time of divine providence (Neh 9:21).

"Sikkuth" and "Kiyun" may both refer to the god Saturn.

The names have different vowels in Hebrew. To increase the sarcastic effect, Sikkuth סִכּוּת sounds like shiqquts סִכּוּץ "detestable" and Kiyun is given the same vowels.

That idols are made by human hands, is a regular part of biblical polemic against idolatry.

Exile is frequently mentioned by Amos as part of the coming judgment. Here the destination is fairly precise. "Beyond Damascus" must mean in Mesopotamia, as a result of resurgent Assyrian activity.

"Adonai God of armies" occurs 12 times in the Bible, 6 of them within a few verses of Amos (Am 4:13; 5:14, 15, 16, 27; 6:8).

The indication that "Adonai... is his name" only occurs in Amos in the hymnic fragments Am 4:13; 5:8, 9:6 and here. This is one of many signs that the hymnic material is closely related to this section of the book.

 


 

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.