I :: Historical Context :: SOCIAL JUSTICE
Homer Hailey once said, “back of all moral, social, and political corruption, there lies a basic cause: religious decay and apostasy”. The Prophecies of Amos were written in a time this statement reflects all too well. The Life in the Spirit Study Bible describes the nation of Israel, under Jeroboam II, as being in its “zenith”: it had expanded its borders the farthest the nation had ever seen, no one was waring with the nation, and their economy was doing very well. When Israel expanded its borders, it basically took a monopoly on the most popular trade route in the region, the King’s Highway. And like any identity with a monopoly, they took advantage of it, and added fees to the route.
As Amos himself states in chapter three, the Israelites began living a life of luxury: some owned two houses (3:15), some built stone mansions (5:11), some had houses of ivory (3:15), and some are described as lying on beds inlaid with ivory (6:4). Unfortunately, this was only a small minority, and the wealthy got greedy and started manipulating the poor and taking what they had, leaving the poor poorer. Pride was a common thing among the wealthy, and they became religious in their activities forgetting the God behind the activities (5:21), and therefore becoming corrupt and unjust.
II :: Textual Analysis :: AMOS 2:6-8
The first part of these verses accused the Israelites of selling out justice with bribes or intimidation. Proverbs 17:23 states that “a wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back to pervert the ways of justice”, a fair lesson that the people of Israel would have done good to remember. Later in the book of Amos it relates that the oppressed couldn’t even get a defense in many situations: the nation had lost all compassion for those in need. Then the second part of these verses discuss all out injustice and cruelty to the poor in regards to taking garments. The “clothes (begadim) are the large outer garments which formed poor men’s dress by day and cover by night…” and commonly were used as security deposits in this era. Exodus 22:26 and Deuteronomy 24:12 both, address this issue and state that the garment must be returned by nightfall so that the man could be protected from the weather. But, “the powerful in Israel were spreading the clothes out as beds for themselves beside the altars, in a show of empty, merciless piety”. They used other people’s source for protection as a means of comfort to lay on.
There are two trains of thought when it comes to Amos’s reference to sandals. The first suggests that a pair of sandals means little or nothing, referring to the fact that sandals are common, used for trampling the dirt, and so forth.4 This idea would translate into putting even less worth on already poor people. The other train of thinking would say that in this time period, sandals were becoming a sort of trend, and various types of them were extremely expensive.3 This would translate into the idea of all out materialist mindsets taking anything they could get there hands on for better shoes.
Another issue that presents itself in these verses is the sacrifice of purchased wine from stolen money to their (lower case) god. It indicates that the people lost the mindset of working and enjoying the fruits of their labour. According to the Pulpit Commentary, the land at the time was very fertile, and extremely good for growing grapes.3 The Law of Moses required them to offer up the first fruits of this land up to God. But, they themselves did not attend to these fields. This meant that there was no fruit being grown, and no fruit left no first fruits, and no sacrifice to God. So they purchased wine but unfortunately, it was again bought with money stolen from people who were probably already without much: a grave situation. And when they finally had their “sacrifice” they offered it up to their own god, not the Lord their God.
Cited: Hailey, Homer: A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1972.
KJV Bible Commentary (Libronix Digital Library): Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1997.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W: The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version (Libronix Digital Library): T Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1997.
Spence, HDM & Exell, JS: Pulpit Commentary (Ages Digital Christian Library: Vol. 12).Rio, WI: Ages Software Inc, 2005.
Stamps, DC (Ed): Life in the Spirit Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.
 Stamps, DC (Ed): Life in the Spirit Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.
 Spence, HDM & Exell, JS: Pulpit Commentary (Ages Digital Christian Library: Vol. 12).Rio, WI: Ages Software Inc, 2005.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W: The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. T Nelson Publishers: Nashville, 1997.
KJV Bible commentary: Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1997.
Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W.: The Nelson study Bible : New King James Version. 1997
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