Amos and the Officialdom in the Kingdom of Israel: The Socio-Economic Position of the Officials in the Light of the Biblical, the Epigraphic and Archaeological Evidence

By Moore, Michael S. | Journal of Biblical Literature, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Amos and the Officialdom in the Kingdom of Israel: The Socio-Economic Position of the Officials in the Light of the Biblical, the Epigraphic and Archaeological Evidence


Moore, Michael S., Journal of Biblical Literature


Amos and the Officialdom in the Kingdom of Israel: The Socio-Economic Position of the Officials in the Light of the Biblical, the Epigraphic and Archaeological Evidence, by Izabela Jaruzelska. Seria Socjologia 25. Poznan: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza, 1998. Pp. 240. N.P.

This book examines the functions and behaviors of the royal state officials to whom the book of Amos presumably alludes in 3:9-11, 12b-15; 4:1-3; 5:11; and 6:1-7. The author, a sociologist/biblicist at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland, addresses this study to the ways and means by which state officials financially prosper during the gilded age of northern Israel under Jeroboam II. Relying heavily on materialistic sociological models (K. Marx, M. Weber, S. Kozyr-Kowalski), this study presupposes sharp distinctions between the phenomenon of ownership and the right of property, between direct and indirect means of production, and between upper and lower classes in the ancient world. Its goal is to explain the "putative enrichment" (p. 13) of Israel's state officials by determining first and foremost the social matrix out of which they operate: "Once position within the social division of labour... and the socio-economic ownership of means of production and labour power has been determined, the identification of classes and social estates can proceed" (p. 21).

Thus, where T. N. D. Mettinger (Solomonic State Officials: A Study of the Civil Government Officials of the Israelite Monarchy [Lund: Gleerup, 1971]) overviews the work of civil servants in the united monarchy, and J. A. Dearman (Property Rights in the Eighth Century B.C. [Atlanta: Scholars, 1988]) asks pertinent questions about eighthcentury officials generally, Jar-uzelska brings to the text of Amos a remarkable amount of archaeological and epigraphic data to formulate more specific questions about more specialized functionaries. This study is dominated by the redactoral hypotheses of Hans Walter Wolff, the epigraphic and historical work of Andre Lemaire, and the sociological theories of Jaruzelska's Doktorvater, Stanislaw Kozyr-Kowalski (also of Adam Mickiewicz University).

Following a clear, brief introduction, chapter I offers an engaging sociohistorical analysis of eighth-century Israel. Highlighting state-economy relationships, Jaruzelska sidesteps religious questions entirely (without dismissing them as unimportant, p. 198). Chapter 2 attempts to list eighth-century Israel's "most important economic developments," addressing factors such as agricultural production (including viticulture and oil production) and international trade (particularly with Phoenicia, and, to a lesser extent, southern Arabia). A highlight of the chapter is its fascinating socioeconomic discussion of the Samaria ivories.

Chapter 3 presents the biblical, epigraphic, and archaeological evidence proper. Extrapolating from the Solomonic data, Jaruzelska supplements it with an enormous amount of epigraphical data gathered by A. Lemaire and other epigraphers in order to visualize more precisely the power-contours of Jeroboam II's "cabinet" (p. 101). It is an ambitious goal-one which the author admits can generate only a "tentative" portrait (p. 198). Yet even with the present lack of data, the picture painted here is nevertheless based on a painstaking synthesis of a large amount of hard-to-find information. Nothing quite like this is available anywhere else in contemporary Amos studies. One of its most important accomplishments is its successful move beyond the simplistic "charisma"-vs..office" dichotomies of a previous scholarly age, and for this alone Jaruzelska should be praised.

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