"Israel" in Amos

The term "Israel" has a number of uses. Excluding eschatological (for example in the New Testament where the Christian community is claimed to be the "new Israel") and individual usage (that is where the patriarch Jacob is meant) there are two common geo-political senses in which the word is used in the Bible:

These uses need to be distinguished. Amos uses the term "Israel" 30 times, so it is important to know what he means by it. It is clear in most cases that the word "Israel" on its own (1:1 twice; 2:6; 3:14; 4:12 twice; 7:9, 10, 11, 16, 17; 9:7) means the Northern Kingdom, for example in 2:6 the presence of a parallel oracle against Judah in 2:4-5 makes it certain that "Israel" means only Jeroboam's kingdom.

In Amos where "Israel" means the north it refers to the kingdom and its people, while it is likely that "House of Israel" (3:1; 5:1, 3, 4, 25; 6:1, 14; 7:10; 9:9) focuses on the king and the Israelite State.

By contrast the expressions "my people Israel" (7:8, 15; 8:2; 9:14) and "children of Israel" (2:11; 3:1, 12; 4:5; 9:7) focus on the notion of Israel as people of God, and one must closely examine the contexts in which these expressions are used to judge their exact reference.

The position I have presented is closer to Wolff p.164 than to the full and thorough discussion in Andersen & Freedman p.98ff.

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© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.