The book of the prophet Amos addresses a crisis, but it is not entirely clear which crisis it addresses. Towards the end of the eighth century BCE, during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel, the crisis took the form of the Neo-Assyrian Empire’s westward expansion into the Levant. This is the historical context in which the prophecy of Amos is set, but there are a number of problems assuming this Assyrian crisis to be the crisis addressed by the book. Amos presupposes, for example, the destruction of Samaria and the exile of Israel, and the oracle against Judah (Amos 2:4–5) — if indeed it is a later insertion — undermines this assumption. The presupposition of the fall of Samaria and the possible Judah insertion point to a later crisis — the Babylonian crisis of the late sixth century.
Tag Archives: Destruction of Samaria
Writing the Torah | Exodus 17:14
Some scholars have argued that scribes would have used papyrus and hides, materials which would not typically survive long enough to make it to the archaeological record. This argument does have some merit, given that we do have evidence of their use in the region from as early as the late Old Kingdom period in Egypt (c. 2300 BCE). Yet, Professor Israel Finkelstein from Tel Aviv University in Israel makes the salient point that it is unlikely a literate society with a scribal culture capable of producing material comparable to what we find in the Hebrew Bible would not also leave evidence of writing on seals, ostraca, and inscriptions. That we find nothing of this nature in Israel or Judah before the eighth century would strongly indicate that these were pre-literate societies before this time.
Yahweh Roars from Zion | Amos 1:2
What we have in Amos 1:2 is not a simple statement of divine authority; that these judgements come from Yahweh, but an ideological statement of Judah and Jerusalem that they come from the correct Yahweh — the Yahweh of Jerusalem. We can thus imagine that it was somewhere in this clash of Yahwistic symbols that the germ was planted of the aniconic Yahweh of later Judaism. Where both Samaria and Jerusalem — and many other Yahwistic temples in Israel and Judah — had visual representations of their god, this conflict between the bull-Yahweh of Samaria and the lion-Yahweh of Judah ultimately assisted in the process which ended with the complete prohibition of graven images of Yahweh or any other god (Deuteronomy 5:8–9).