The Exodus in Amos

Pyramids in Egypt from McMath

The first appearance of the theme is at 2:10. This reminder of God's saving act is set, in a series of such statements, between the accusations of vv.6-8 and the punishment of vv.13-16. This cotext recodifies the notion of exodus, from a promise of God's continued blessing, into a grounds for his punishment.

Although the next appearance of the theme at 3:1 seems a straightforward statement of the divine salvation tradition (Heilsgeschichte), the theme is once again recodified by its cotext. Verse two restates the motif of a special relationship to God making this relationship the grounds for the judgment. Here the deformation of the genre goes hand in hand with this process of recodification of traditions.

The recodification of the concept "Egypt" is further extended in v.9. If in v.1 it was the alien land of hard taskmasters from which the LORD rescued his people, in v.9 Egypt becomes a witness for the LORD against his people.

In these examples the text takes for granted the essentials of the traditional presentation of the Exodus and deforms that tradition by its recodification through the cotext provided. 9:7 does this, but also acts differently. The verse begins with the shocking suggestion that the "children of Israel" mean no more to the LORD than the "children of Cush". The very notion of election is undermined. At first glance the parallel question provides a counter argument:

"Are you not like the children of Cush to me, children of Israel?...
Did I not bring Israel up from the land of Egypt?"

Only to confirm the undermining of this notion with two additions to the question:

"and the Philistines from Caphtor
and the Arameans from Kir?"

Such reinterpretation of traditional materials is a typical and frequent phenomenon in the prophets. The material reinterpreted include theological themes, literary motifs and forms, quotations, and religious practices. This way of proceeding is often deeply ironic. The changes of understanding brought about have rhetorical intent.


This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.