What Is Cush Doing in Amos 9:7? The Poetics of Exodus in the Plural

in Vetus Testamentum
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Most scholars believe that Cush is mentioned in Amos 9:7 because it is a remote place, and that Cush’s geographical distance is thus the point of its comparison with Israel in this verse. The present essay argues instead that the verse displays a complex poetic structure (comparable to, but not identical with, aspects of staircase parallelism, synonymous-sequential parallelism, and sorites) which connects Cush to the exodus activities of Yahweh mentioned later in the verse. A Cushite “migration” that is akin to those of Israel, the Philistines, and Aram, can be found in the 25th Dynasty, which is contemporaneous with the horizon of the prophet Amos and his book.

What Is Cush Doing in Amos 9:7? The Poetics of Exodus in the Plural

in Vetus Testamentum




See e.g. Hans Walter WolffJoel and Amos: A Commentary on the Books of the Prophets Joel and Amos (Hermeneia; trans. Waldemar Janzen, S. Dean McBride, Jr., and Charles A. Muenchow; ed. S. Dean McBride, Jr.; Philadelphia: Fortress1977) 347; Gene Rice “Was Amos a Racist?” JRT 35 (1978): 35-44 (42); Adamo “Amos 9:7-8 in an African Perspective” 82; James Luther Mays Amos: A Commentary (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster 1969) 157; Andersen and Freedman Amos 872; Shalom M. Paul Amos: A Commentary on the Book of Amos (Hermeneia; ed. Frank Moore Cross; Minneapolis: Fortress 1991) 282.


Rice“Was Amos a Racist” 40. See further §5 below.


See James BarrThe Semantics of Biblical Language (London: Oxford University Press1961) who calls the confusion of a specific word with a fulsome concept “illegitimate totality transfer.”


Dennis PardeeUgaritic and Hebrew Poetic Parallelism: A Trial Cut (‘nt 1 and Proverbs 2) (VTSup 39; Leiden: Brill1988).


WatsonClassical Hebrew Poetry150.


P. D. Miller Jr.“Synonymous-Sequential Parallelism in the Psalms,” Bib 61 (1980): 256-60 (256).


See KugelThe Idea of Biblical Poetry1 23 42 58.


Greenstein“Two Variations of Grammatical Parallelism” 87-105. Note also idem “One More Step on the Staircase” 77-86.


Greenstein“Two Variations” 97. On re- and suspended analysis in Hebrew poetry see also Watson Classical Hebrew Poetry 151-52 n. 109; and David J. A. Clines “The Parallelism of Greater Precision: Notes from Isaiah 40 for a Theory of Hebrew Poetry” in New Directions in Hebrew Poetry (ed. Elaine R. Follis; JSOTSup 40; Sheffield: JSOT 1987) 77-100. See also the insightful remarks of T. V. F. Brogan “Line” in The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics 694-97 esp. 695: “In reading the mind makes projections in that pause [provided by the line break] based on what has come before about what word is most likely to appear at the beginning of the next l[ine] expectations which a masterful poet will deliberately thwart forcing rapid rereading; in Milton such error is the emblem of man’s postlapsarian state.”


WatsonClassical Hebrew Poetry154. Cf. Greenstein “Two Variations” 102.


See among others H. J. Katzenstein“Philistines (History),” ABD 5:326-28; John Strange Caphtor/Keftiu: A New Investigation (Acta Theologica Danica 14; Leiden: Brill 1980) 75-76.


For discussion see Henry O. Thompson“Kir,” ABD 4:83-84; Andersen and Freedman Amos 883.


See e.g. J. J. M. Roberts“Isaiah’s Egyptian and Nubian Oracles,” in Israel’s Prophets and Israel’s Past: Essays on the Relationship of Prophetic Texts and Israelite History in Honor of John H. Hayes (eds. Brad E. Kelle and Megan Bishop Moore; LHBOTS 446; New York: T & T Clark2006) 201-209. Cf. also Hayes Amos 219 who thinks that Isa 7:18-19 refers to an Ethiopian invasion of Palestine in late 743 or early 733.


On this point see John BartonThe Theology of the Book of Amos (OTT; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2012) 71-76 esp. 73: “So if there is anything in Amos that must go back to the prophet himself this is surely it.”


Note J. Alberto SogginThe Prophet Amos: A Translation and Commentary (London: SCM1987) 6: ca. 760; Andersen and Freedman Amos 19: ca. 765-55; Mays Amos 2: before 760 (date of earthquake); Jörg Jeremias The Book of Amos: A Commentary (OTL; trans. Douglas W. Stott; Louisville: Westminster John Knox 1998) 1-2: 760-750; Hayes Amos: ca. 750; Paul Amos 1: prior to 745 (pre-Assyrian); Wolff Joel and Amos 89-90: “around 760.” For a perspective that views the book as coming from multiple points in the prophet’s life (including post-745) see Menahem Haran “The Historical Background of the Prophecies of Amos” in Birkat Shalom: Studies in the Bible Ancient Near Eastern Literature and Postbiblical Judaism Presented to Shalom M. Paul on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday (2 vols.; eds. Chaim Cohen et al.; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2008) 1:251-59. See also the next two notes.


HolterYahweh in Africa124-25.


MaysAmos157; cf. Andersen and Freedman Amos 874.


E.g. Smith“A New Perspective on Amos 9.7a” 36-47; Yair Hoffman The Doctrine of the Exodus in the Bible (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University 1983) 36 n. 37 (Hebrew). Note also Rice “Was Amos a Racist” 39 n. 4 who cites older scholars who erroneously thought the Cushites migrated from Arabia to Africa. W. C. van Wyk “Die Kusiete in Amos 9:7” HervTS 22 (1967): 38-45 was unavailable to me though he apparently argues that the reference is to Cushites who were delivered from Egyptian bondage. (Thanks to Christopher B. Hays who also brought this to my attention adding the possibility that Cushite rulers may have freed their countrymen who had been formerly enslaved in the Delta kingdoms.) Cf. Andersen and Freedman Amos 872; and for data regarding escaped slaves in Egypt see Abraham Malamat “The Exodus: Egyptian Analogies” in Exodus: The Egyptian Evidence (eds. Ernest Frerichs and Leonard H. Lesko; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 1997) 15-26.


See the discussions in Rice“Was Amos a Racist” 35-44 esp. 39-42; Adamo “Amos 9:7-8 in an African Perspective” 82 84; idem Africa and the Africans in the Old Testament (San Francisco: International Scholars Publications 1997); Sadler Can a Cushite Change His Skin 41-43 46 150-52; Smith “A New Perspective on Amos 9.7a” 38 44-45; Philip Lokel “Previously Unstoried Lives: The Case of Old Testament Cush and its Relevance to Africa” in Let My People Stay! Researching the Old Testament in Africa (ed. Knut Holter; Nairobi: Acton 2006) 177-90; and esp. Holter Yahweh in Africa 117-18: “we—as interpreters of Amos 9:7 who live in a postcolonial era—should ask ourselves whether the relatively strong tradition within Old Testament interpretation of seeing slavery or other expressions of humiliation wherever the African nation of Cush occurs may possibly reflect a western colonial understanding of Africa and Africans.”



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