notes on 3:1-2

This short unit begins something new.

2:13-16 is a conclusion (despite the arguments of De Waard & Smalley) and the climax of the oracles against the nations.

3:1-2 is a short unit which begins something new.

3:3-8 is a series of questions that coheres well, and sounds so different from vv.1-2.


These verses contain the elements typical of a Judgment Oracle:


Yet, its shape is unusual.

The "call to hear" is longer than the oracle it introduces (about 16 words to 11 in the MT).

It starts with a simple imperative phrase: "Hear this message that Adonai has spoken against you,"

The "message/word" is specified in more detail than the normal: "this word" or "the word of the Lord" (4:1; 7:16. 5:1 is a special case, where the relative clause is needed to explain why a dirge follows the formula rather than an oracle).

The simple "you" is also explained and described:

first with the brief "people of Israel",
then at some length and more theologically: "the whole family that I brought out of the land of Egypt".

Pyramids in Egypt from McMath

The construction of verse 2 is ironic. in that it seems to speak positively of the people of Israel whereas the first part of a judgment oracle usually contained the reasons for the judgment, (i.e. an accusation of wrongdoing) with a following "therefore" which introduces the punishment (Hos 4:1-3).

There is no accusation in the first part of this oracle however. It occurs in the second part together with the punishment! Both are expressed in a brief clause of a verb with its two complements: "I will punish you for all your guilt." So, the rhetorical shape of the oracle is deformed.

The sentence structure is irregular also. The reason for the judgment is not the "guilt" of v.2b but rather the very fact of election v.2a, which precedes the logical link "therefore". Israel is punished because Israel is the chosen family!

Usual shape of judgment Oracles

Shape of Am 3:1-2

Call to hear, with address   










Call to hear, 


with address




Israel is a chosen people


Punishment & Accusation




Wolff (176) notes that syntax, and choice of vocabulary in verse 1, place "a strong accent ... on the act of Yahweh's speaking".

Changes of person, "he" to "I", are not rare in the prophets, and here the change serves to promote the congruence of divine and prophetic words, as "Adonai has spoken" becomes "I brought".


The shape and expression of this short oracle has been deformed. This makes the language somewhat "heavy", but draws attention to the claim that this message comes from God, and to his relationship and history with his people Israel.

Comment on the whole chapter.


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