Messenger formulae in 3:9-15

These verses proclaim punishment. Verse twelve distinguishes itself by its content and it begins with a messenger formula. Another concludes the section (v.15). Beginning or ending a section or a speech unit are habitual uses of these formulae.

However, elsewhere in this passage, their usage is not normal. As Andersen and Freedman (p.404) note:

The elaborate proposals in BH3 for trimming the one in v.13, deleting the one in v.15, and moving the one in v.10 into v.9, as well as dismembering v.12 and relocating the parts before v.9 and after v.13, draw attention to the problems but do not solve them.

All in all, there are five such formulae in seven verses. A concentration like this is rare, but not unique, in the prophetic corpus.

The placing of these formulae is even more notable here than their frequency:

The formula (נְאֻם־יְהוָה ne'um yhwh) in v.10 occurs in the middle of a phrase. In v.11, there is a second formula, for this same oracle, introducing the judgment. It is separated from the previous one by only half a line. Just a line and a half later comes the formula introducing v.12. This enlarged formula
נְאֻם־אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה אֱלֹהֵי הַצְּבָאוֹ (v.13) is unique.

Clearly these exaggerated uses of messenger formulae demand explanation. It is not necessary to propose textual corruption (as BHK, and to a lesser extent BHS and Wolff 190, 199 do), for which there is little evidence. Rather, one can see in this strange usage a deliberately intrusive rhetorical device.

Thus, the strange positioning and abundance of messenger formulae stress the nature of the prophet's declaration as "message". By their striking use, the speaker points to another (Adonai) as the source of his message.

Comment on the whole chapter.


This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

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