Amos – Chapter 2

How Do You Oppress a Wagon?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

We said in the previous chapter that G-d will forgive the nations three sins, but not four. The fourth, unforgivable sin of Moav was that they burned the bones of the king of Edom and treated them disrespectfully. (This may refer to the incident between Moav and Edom in II Kings chapter 3.) G-d will send a fire to Moav and the people will die in battle. G-d will cut off their king and his officers.

And what about Judah? What’s their fourth, intolerable sin? They rejected G-d’s Torah and did not keep His laws. They follow the false prophets. G-d will send a fire into Judah to consume Jerusalem.

Israel, the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes, also has an irredeemable fourth sin: their courts were not just. They accepted bribes to condemn the innocent. They spend their time conspiring to cheat the poor out of their possessions and to defile girls. They take the collateral of the poor who have borrowed from them and use it to make couches for their own comfort; they fine people and buy wine with the money – all in the service of their idols!

It was G-d who destroyed the mighty Amorites and brought the Jewish nation out of Egypt to inherit their land. He gave the Jews prophets to lead them on the proper path and teachers who devoted themselves exclusively to the study of Torah. (Here the prophet uses the word nazir, Nazirite, but not in its usual sense.) You gave these Nazirites wine to drink (forbidden to literal Nazirites) and stopped the prophets from relating their prophesies. G-d will oppress the people like a wagon full of sheaves is oppressed. (What does it mean to oppress a wagon full of sheaves? The wagon is figuratively oppressed by the heavy weight of the sheaves.) The fast will not escape by running, the strong will lose their strength, and the mighty will not even be able to save themselves. Archers, runners and the cavalry will all be useless. Brave warriors will run away empty-handed on that day, says G-d.

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