Friday, April 15, 2016

Evil in the city - Amos 3

Amos announces that privilege comes to an end for the rich in Samaria. Is it a time when privilege will come to a conclusion for us? The prophets are about power, inequity, and consequences, destructive or not.

Traditionally, the translations for Amos 3:6 seem to prefer "is there evil in the city and Yahweh has not done it?".

I am being stubbornly rigid in my translation here. There are two interrogative sentence forms: the traditional begun by ה and the response, begun by אם. When there are a sequence of questions in two forms, I sometimes render (translation is always destructive) the second form as 'if', meaning that the second form of question is an answer to the first. It's not important. Verse 6 could be also a pair of rhetorical questions.

But what is important is the implied theology that God does evil. This is a false theology in this context. It is true that we wrestle with God as Jacob does, but this Amos is not Isaiah whose question penetrates further.

Here is the verse for Amos 6, the two conditional answers responding to the four rhetorical questions of verses 4 and 5.
and below is the one for Isaiah 45:7, a series of active participles showing the work of Yahweh in the active life of the world. This is the negative of the series of active participles of Psalm 146. 
The implications of Isaiah undermine our capacity to understand what we call God. The Amos passage does not seem the same to me, so I have rendered it as closer to consequential actions reflecting the sin of humanity. It is not too difficult to think through Isaiah similarly but perhaps that is too simple. Ezekiel 28:16 came up this week and has similar implications for the traders of today.
In the abundance of your trading they have filled your centre with violence and you have sinned,
and you are profaned from the hill of God and I will have you perish, cherub overshadowing, from the centre of the stones of fire.
In the abundance of our trading, we may well sin too as the stronger and more deceptive become richer at the expense of those they exploit. Panama anyone? Or just listen to the sound of the British parliamentarian Duncan "their real point is that they hate anyone who has got a hint of wealth in them ... we risk seeing a House of Commons which is stuffed full of low-achievers" - with such supporters, who needs an enemy? When I first heard this broadcast I was sure he was opposition and speaking tongue-in-cheek. May be a rich man, but high achiever? I doubt it.

Verse 10 is the conclusion of the prophet - the incompetence of the rich:
And they do not know to do the straightforward, an oracle of Yahweh,
those with a treasury of violence and devastation within their citadels.
Anybody listening to the prophets these days? Does Yahweh have a hand in the destruction that permeates the world?

Is there destruction in the translation and Bob has not done with it? Destruction is creative I guess. By the way, my rendering of verse 6 is disputed by those who know better than I, but in my opinion the parallels are broken by the structure of verse 6 with its leading ים. Is this if? or a strong negative? or an implied question (not in the same form as the prior questions at all), or when?

Continued here. (with a table of word recurrence for עשה).

Amos 3 Fn Min Max Syll
שִׁמְע֞וּ אֶת הַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֧ר יְהוָ֛ה עֲלֵיכֶ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל
עַ֚ל כָּל הַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֧ר הֶעֱלֵ֛יתִי מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם לֵאמֹֽר
1 Hear this matter that Yahweh spoke about you, the children of Israel,
about all the families that I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying,
3c 4C 22
רַ֚ק אֶתְכֶ֣ם יָדַ֔עְתִּי מִכֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּח֣וֹת הָאֲדָמָ֑ה
עַל כֵּן֙ אֶפְקֹ֣ד עֲלֵיכֶ֔ם אֵ֖ת כָּל עֲוֺנֹֽתֵיכֶֽם
2 C Solely you I have known from all the families of humanity,
therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities.
3e 4C 15
הֲיֵלְכ֥וּ שְׁנַ֖יִם יַחְדָּ֑ו
בִּלְתִּ֖י אִם נוֹעָֽדוּ
3 Can two walk together,
if they are not compatible?
3e 4A 7
הֲיִשְׁאַ֤ג אַרְיֵה֙ בַּיַּ֔עַר וְטֶ֖רֶף אֵ֣ין ל֑וֹ
הֲיִתֵּ֨ן כְּפִ֤יר קוֹלוֹ֙ מִמְּעֹ֣נָת֔וֹ בִּלְתִּ֖י אִם לָכָֽד
4 Does a lion roar in the forest and it has no prey?
Will a young lion give its voice from its den if it has caught nothing?
3e 4C 13
הֲתִפֹּ֤ל צִפּוֹר֙ עַל פַּ֣ח הָאָ֔רֶץ וּמוֹקֵ֖שׁ אֵ֣ין לָ֑הּ
הֲיַֽעֲלֶה פַּח֙ מִן הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה וְלָכ֖וֹד לֹ֥א יִלְכּֽוֹד
5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth and there is no trap for it?
Does one bring up a snare from the ground and have caught nothing?
3e 4C 15
אִם יִתָּקַ֤ע שׁוֹפָר֙ בְּעִ֔יר וְעָ֖ם לֹ֣א יֶחֱרָ֑דוּ
אִם תִּהְיֶ֤ה רָעָה֙ בְּעִ֔יר וַיהוָ֖ה לֹ֥א עָשָֽׂה
6 C When a shophar sounds in the city and the people are not apprehensive.
When there is evil in the city and Yahweh fails to act.
3e 4C 15
כִּ֣י לֹ֧א יַעֲשֶׂ֛ה אֲדֹנָ֥י יְהוִ֖ה דָּבָ֑ר
כִּ֚י אִם גָּלָ֣ה סוֹד֔וֹ אֶל עֲבָדָ֖יו הַנְּבִיאִֽים
7 B For my lord Yahweh will not do any thing,
except he uncovers his deliberation to his servants the prophets.
3c 4C 12
אַרְיֵ֥ה שָׁאָ֖ג מִ֣י לֹ֣א יִירָ֑א
אֲדֹנָ֤י יְהוִה֙ דִּבֶּ֔ר מִ֖י לֹ֥א יִנָּבֵֽא
8 A lion roared, who will not fear?
My lord Yahweh spoke, who will not prophesy?
3e 4C 8
הַשְׁמִ֙יעוּ֙ עַל אַרְמְנ֣וֹת בְּאַשְׁדּ֔וֹד וְעַֽל אַרְמְנ֖וֹת בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם
וְאִמְר֗וּ הֵאָֽסְפוּ֙ עַל הָרֵ֣י שֹׁמְר֔וֹן וּרְא֞וּ מְהוּמֹ֤ת רַבּוֹת֙ בְּתוֹכָ֔הּ וַעֲשׁוּקִ֖ים בְּקִרְבָּֽהּ
9 Broadcast over the citadels in Ashdod and over the citadels in the land of Egypt,
and say, Gather yourselves on the mountains of Samaria and see manifold discomfort in her midst and the oppressed within her.
3e 4C 21
וְלֹֽא יָדְע֥וּ עֲשׂוֹת נְכֹחָ֖ה נְאֻם יְהוָ֑ה
הָאֽוֹצְרִ֛ים חָמָ֥ס וָשֹׁ֖ד בְּאַרְמְנֽוֹתֵיהֶֽם
10 And they do not know to do the straightforward, an oracle of Yahweh,
those with a treasury of violence and devastation within their citadels.
3d 4A 13
לָכֵ֗ן כֹּ֤ה אָמַר֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה צַ֖ר וּסְבִ֣יב הָאָ֑רֶץ
וְהוֹרִ֤ד מִמֵּךְ֙ עֻזֵּ֔ךְ וְנָבֹ֖זּוּ אַרְמְנוֹתָֽיִךְ
11 Therefore thus says my Lord Yahweh, There will be trouble both surrounding the earth,
and bringing down from you your strength, and looting your citadels.
3e 4C 16
כֹּה֮ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָה֒ כַּאֲשֶׁר֩ יַצִּ֨יל הָרֹעֶ֜ה מִפִּ֧י הָאֲרִ֛י שְׁתֵּ֥י כְרָעַ֖יִם א֣וֹ בְדַל אֹ֑זֶן
כֵּ֣ן יִנָּצְל֞וּ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל הַיֹּֽשְׁבִים֙ בְּשֹׁ֣מְר֔וֹן בִּפְאַ֥ת מִטָּ֖ה וּבִדְמֶ֥שֶׁק עָֽרֶשׂ
12 ~ Thus says Yahweh, As the shepherd delivers from the mouth of the lion two shanks or the ligament of an ear,
so the children of Israel will be delivered, those who settled in Samaria in a quarter couch and a Damascan bed.
3c 4B 28
שִׁמְע֥וּ וְהָעִ֖ידוּ בְּבֵ֣ית יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב
נְאֻם אֲדֹנָ֥י יְהוִ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֥י הַצְּבָאֽוֹת
13 Hear, and testify, house of Jacob,
an oracle of my Lord Yahweh the God of hosts.
3e 4B 11
כִּ֗י בְּי֛וֹם פָּקְדִ֥י פִשְׁעֵֽי יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עָלָ֑יו
וּפָֽקַדְתִּי֙ עַל מִזְבְּח֣וֹת בֵּֽית אֵ֔ל וְנִגְדְּעוּ֙ קַרְנ֣וֹת הַמִּזְבֵּ֔חַ וְנָפְל֖וּ לָאָֽרֶץ
14 ~ For in the day of the visiting of the transgressions of Israel on him,
I will visit the altars of the house of God and the horns of the altar will be chopped off and will fall on the earth.
3d 4B 12
וְהִכֵּיתִ֥י בֵית־הַחֹ֖רֶף עַל־בֵּ֣ית הַקָּ֑יִץ
וְאָבְד֞וּ בָּתֵּ֣י הַשֵּׁ֗ן וְסָפ֛וּ בָּתִּ֥ים רַבִּ֖ים נְאֻם־יְהוָֽה
15 And I will strike the autumn house with the summer house,
and the ivory houses will perish and many houses will come to a conclusion. An oracle of Yahweh.
3d 4B 13

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