The Prophetic Critique of the Priority of the Cult: A Study of Amos 5:21-24 and Isaiah 1:10-17
The eighth century B.C. saw the rise of the so-called writing prophets, when the books of Amos, Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah began to be compiled. Amos 5:21-24 and Isaiah 1:10-17 contain severe criticism of the practices and celebrations of Israel's cult. Amos delivers his oracle in the northern temple at Bethel; Isaiah prophesies in the (southern) Temple in Jerusalem. Both prophets' missions occur at about the same time, contain approximately the same message with regard to the cult, and purport to be a direct quotation from Yhwh, and each one negates the centrality of the cult. This dissertation examines and analyzes these two texts, and focuses specifically on their critique of the priority given to the cult by their audiences vis-à-vis other aspects of the divine/human relationship.The study begins with a survey of the cult and critique of the cult in ancient Israel and establishes the place and significance of the cult particularly in preexilic Israel and Judah. It then explores the internal and external situation of Israel and Judah in the eighth century on the basis of the relevant biblical and extra-biblical sources. A close reading of Amos 5:21-24 and Isa 1:10-17 determines the problem addressed by the prophets: that justice and righteousness must permeate the lives of the Israelites; and according to Yhwh such behavior is more important and necessary than the practice of the cult. This message, which promotes compassion towards one's neighbors as indicative of one's regard for Yhwh, flows throughout the OT passages that contain criticism of the cult and highlights its importance. That Amos and Isaiah proclaim similar messages during the same time period, although in different temples, emphasizes the importance of just and righteous behavior for Israelite society.
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