Davies on Amos 5:25 (and Other Issues)

I started W.D. Davies’ 1974 book, The Gospel and the Land: Early Christianity and Jewish Territorial Doctrine.

There were a variety of interesting items in my latest reading of this book: Davies’ view that Christian biblical scholarship neglected the importance of the land of Israel in the Hebrew Bible; a rabbinic notion that being buried in the land of Israel atoned for one’s sins, and another rabbinic notion that one had to be buried in the land of Israel to be resurrected; Babylonian Talmud Kethuboth 110b-111a, which says that those who walk four cubits in Israel are guaranteed a place in the World to Come, but also that it is a transgression of a positive commandment for a Jew in Babylon to go to the land of Israel; a statement in Mishnah Kiddushin 1:9-10 that one can only observe religious duties that depend on the land of Israel in the land of Israel, except for the laws regarding Orlah fruit, Diverse Kinds, and (in the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer) new produce; how different countries (i.e., Greece, Israel) viewed themselves as the center of the earth, and that even British maps during the time of the British empire put Britain at the center; G.W. Coats’ view that the stories of the Israelites’ murmuring in the wilderness were Jerusalem’s polemic against Northern Israel, which asserts that Northern Israel forfeited its rights through rebelling in the wilderness; etc.

In the remainder of this post, I’ll talk about Davies’ discussion of Amos 5:25, which states (in the King James Version): “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?”  This was an important verse for Julius Wellhausen because he believed that it supported his argument that the priestly writings in the Pentateuch were later than the prophets, as Amos represents a view that the Israelites did not offer sacrifices in the wilderness, contra (say) the Book of Leviticus.  But Davies does not think that Amos 5:25 “questioned the Mosaic origin of the sacrificial system” (page 80).

First, Davies says that “The prophet was aware of material in the Book of the Covenant—-which combines cultic and moral requirements” (page 80).  Davies tells the reader to compare Amos 2:8 with Exodus 22:25-47, and Amos 4:5 with Exodus 23:18.  Let’s do that.

Amos 2:8 states about those who transgressed God’s law (in the KJV): “And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.”  I could only find Exodus 22:25-31 (since the chapter goes up to v 31), and it talks about pledges and giving God firstfruits and juices from the winepress.  There appear to be differences between these passages: Amos 2:8 is about drinking the wine of the condemned in the sanctuary, whereas Exodus 22 concerns people offering to God the firstfruits of their own wine.  But I think that I can understand Davies’ point.

Amos 4:5 states regarding the transgressors: “And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD.”  Exodus 23:18 has: “Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning.”  Davies’ point is probably that the transgressors in Amos 4:5 are offering a sacrifice with leaven and are being too open with the sacrifices (somehow), whereas Exodus 23:18 commands them to avoid offering their sacrifices with leaven and not to allow any of the sacrificial fat to be left over in the morning.

Davies’ point is that the prophet Amos appears to be aware of the Book of the Covenant, and so Amos 5:25 does not contradict the Book of the Covenant’s claim that God through Moses commanded sacrifices.

Regarding Davies’ view on the meaning of Amos 5:25, Davies presents different options.  First, he suggests that the passage means, “Was it only sacrifices and offerings that you offered to me in the wilderness and not also moral obedience?”  Second, Davies says that Amos 5:25 could be saying that the Israelites indeed did offer sacrifices to God in the wilderness, but they also observed the moral demands of the covenant, and so Amos is exhorting the Israelites of his day to imitate the piety of the wilderness Israelites in Moses’ day.  Third, because Amos 5:26 refers to Israelite idolatry, Davies speculates that Amos 5:25 may be saying that the Israelites did not offer to God sacrifices in the wilderness, but instead they sacrificed to other gods.

I talked in this post a while back about Niels Peter Lemche’s view that Amos 5:25 is a Deuteronomistic addition to Amos, since the verse does not fit its context and reflects Deuteronomistic ideas.  But Davies believes that Amos 5:25 fits its context, in that it either follows v 24’s emphasis on the importance of righteousness, or is part of the condemnation of idolatry that appears in v 26.  But I have to admit that v 25 appears a little awkward in Amos 5.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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