The first thing that we learn about God in the Book of Amos is this: Every social injustice is an attack against God.
This is the context in which we are to understand the Israelites’ social injustice. What we are about to read in Amos 2:6–7 should be seen as more than just an earthly problem; it is in fact a spiritual problem. So, let us dive into this text and, as we analyze God’s words and spoken images, let the weight of this dual problem sink in.
Beginning in verse 6, Israel is described as a people who treat the innocent as objects to be traded.
There are people who are barely in debt, but who have been falsely accused of being in greater debt. In other words, people who have taken small loans are treated as if they are thousands of dollars in debt. The equivalent today would be someone who has $100 in credit card debt, but their punishment is a lifetime in jail. How crazy would that be! This sort of injustice is happening in ancient Israel and the result is what we would call ‘debt slavery.’ This meant that these people were slaves until they paid off all their debts. All the while, the other Israelites do not say a word. They just pass by. People are being unjustly treated and forced into slavery and no one does anything about it. Essentially, people with power are committing acts of human trafficking and they are doing it all for silver and no one is holding them accountable.
But the horror does not end there. In Amos 2:7a, the prophet uses a common, yet salient image to convey the depths of Israel’s sins: a pair of sandals.
Those with influence are pictured as wearing the poor as footwear, and then with those footwear trampling the ground. The imagery portrays Israel as walking all over the weak and the poor. The oppressed are nothing more than dust to walk on. Does this image not make you cringe?
Moreover, Israel’s disregard for the vulnerable extends even to the point where they will not allow the poor access to improvement.
We see this in verse 7b. The afflicted are impeded of progress. They are denied education, jobs, and even legal justice. They cannot turn anywhere! This the sad state of Israel during the 8th century BC.
However, the story does not end there. The injustices only get worse in Amos 2:7a. It is not just the poor who are taken advantage of. Young women are also vulnerable. Amos does not spare details to portray this dark reality, beginning with a father and a son having sex with the same woman. If that’s not disgusting enough, their sexual advances are with a young, virgin girl. Obviously, Israel has a problem with sexual purity, but their greater problem is their lack of protection for vulnerable women. Israel has no concern for the safety of young girls. These girls are being sexually violated against their wills. We see this today and it is enraging!
The result, unsurprisingly, is that God’s holy name is polluted.
Let us turn to verse 7d. The horrendous actions of the men have desecrated God’s holy name. God’s name has been smeared and spat on. Whenever a young girl was sexually violated, God’s name was profaned. This is how serious this injustice is! This is how serious God takes these sins! But it’s not only the rape and sexual sins that the text has in view. No, everything from verses 6 and 7 profane God’s name. All of these sociological ills and injustices pollute God’s name. We will unpack this reality more tomorrow, but we want to let these ideas just sink in more today. Do we realize that maltreatment against the poor, the young and the vulnerable is actually a sin against God? Do we know that when they hurt, God hurts? Do we see the deeper spiritual reality that this sort of earthly evil unleashes?