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Amos 2:6-8

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 

2:7 They trample 6  on the dirt-covered heads of the poor; 7 

they push the destitute away. 8 

A man and his father go to the same girl; 9 

in this way they show disrespect 10  for my moral purity. 11 

2:8 They stretch out on clothing seized as collateral;

they do so right 12  beside every altar!

They drink wine bought with the fines they have levied;

they do so right in the temple 13  of their God! 14 

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.

6 tn Most scholars now understand this verb as derived from the root II שָׁאַף (shaaf, “to crush; to trample”), an alternate form of שׁוּף (shuf), rather than from I שָׁאַף (shaaf, “to pant, to gasp”; cf. KJV, ASV, NASB).

7 tn Heb “those who stomp on the dirt of the ground on the head of the poor.” It is possible to render the line as “they trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the ground,” thereby communicating that the poor are being stepped on in utter contempt (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 79-80). The participial form הַשֹּׁאֲפִים (hashoafim) is substantival and stands in apposition to the pronominal suffix on מִכְרָם (mikhram, v. 6b).

sn The picture of the poor having dirt-covered heads suggests their humiliation before their oppressors and/or their sorrow (see 2 Sam 1:2; 15:32).

8 tn Heb “they turn aside the way of the destitute.” Many interpreters take “way” to mean “just cause” and understand this as a direct reference to the rights of the destitute being ignored. The injustice done to the poor is certainly in view, but the statement is better taken as a word picture depicting the powerful rich pushing the “way of the poor” (i.e., their attempt to be treated justly) to the side. An even more vivid picture is given in Amos 5:12, where the rich are pictured as turning the poor away from the city gate (where legal decisions were made, and therefore where justice should be done).

9 sn Most interpreters see some type of sexual immorality here (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT), even though the Hebrew phrase הָלַךְ אֶל (halakhel, “go to”) never refers elsewhere to sexual intercourse. (The usual idiom is בוֹא אֶל [bo’ ’el]. However, S. M. Paul (Amos [Hermeneia], 82) attempts to develop a linguistic case for a sexual connotation here.) The precise identification of the “girl” in question is not clear. Some see the referent as a cultic prostitute (cf. NAB; v. 8 suggests a cultic setting), but the term נַעֲרָה (naarah) nowhere else refers to a prostitute. Because of the contextual emphasis on social oppression, some suggest the exploitation of a slave girl is in view. H. Barstad argues that the “girl” is the hostess at a pagan מַרְזֵחַ (marzeakh) banquet (described at some length in 6:4-7). In his view the sin described here is not sexual immorality, but idolatry (see H. Barstad, The Religious Polemics of Amos [VTSup], 33-36). In this case, one might translate, “Father and son go together to a pagan banquet.” In light of this cultic context, F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman argue that this is a reference to a specific female deity (“the Girl”) and correlate this verse with 8:14 (Amos [AB], 318-19).

10 tn Or “pollute”; “desecrate”; “dishonor.”

11 tn Heb “my holy name.” Here “name” is used metonymically for God’s moral character or reputation, while “holy” has a moral and ethical connotation.

12 tn The words “They do so right” are supplied twice in the translation of this verse for clarification.

13 tn Heb “house.”

14 tn Or “gods.” The Hebrew term אֱלֹהֵיהֶם (’elohehem) may be translated “their gods” (referring to pagan gods), “their god” (referring to a pagan god, cf. NAB, NIV, NLT), or “their God” (referring to the God of Israel, cf. NASB, NRSV).



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