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Amos 2:6

Context
God Will Judge Israel

2:6 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Israel has committed three covenant transgressions 1 

make that four! 2  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 3 

They sold the innocent 4  for silver,

the needy for a pair of sandals. 5 

1 tn For this translation see the note at 2:4.

2 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Israel, even because of four.”

sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3. Only in this last oracle against Israel does one find the list of four specific violations expected based on the use of a similar formula elsewhere in wisdom literature (see Prov 30:18-19, 29-31). This adaptation of the normal pattern indicates the Lord’s focus on Israel here (he is too bent on judging Israel to dwell very long on her neighbors) and emphasizes Israel’s guilt with respect to the other nations (Israel’s list fills up before the others’ lists do). See R. B. Chisholm, “‘For three sins...even for four’: the numerical sayings in Amos,” BSac 147 (1990) 188-97.

3 tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.

4 tn Or “honest” (CEV, NLT). The Hebrew word sometimes has a moral-ethical connotation, “righteous, godly,” but the parallelism (note “poor”) suggests a socio-economic or legal sense here. The practice of selling debtors as slaves is in view (Exod 21:2-11; Lev 25:35-55; Deut 15:12-18) See the note at Exod 21:8 and G. C. Chirichigno, Debt-Slavery in Israel and the Ancient Near East (JSOTSup). Probably the only “crime” the victim had committed was being unable to pay back a loan or an exorbitant interest rate on a loan. Some have suggested that this verse refers to bribery in legal proceedings: The innocent are “sold” in the sense that those in power pay off the elders or judges for favorable decisions (5:12; cf. Exod 23:6-7).

5 tn Perhaps the expression “for a pair of sandals” indicates a relatively small price or debt. Some suggest that the sandals may have been an outward token of a more substantial purchase price. Others relate the sandals to a ritual attached to the transfer of property, signifying here that the poor would be losing their inherited family lands because of debt (Ruth 4:7; cf. Deut 25:8-10). Still others emend the Hebrew form slightly to נֶעְלָם (nelam, “hidden thing”; from the root עָלַם, ’alam, “to hide”) and understand this as referring to a bribe.



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