Amos 6:5-7

You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.

The ruin of Joseph. Apparently this is just a reference to Israel as a whole, taking the one brother as a stand in for the twelve (Birch, 228). I find it significant, however, that Joseph was the brother envied by the eleven—or, at least Leah’s six sons—and sold into slavery. In Amos’ time, when he receives this word, most of the people of Israel are in exile in Assyria and Egypt. Yet the upper classes are able to maintain a measure of prosperity and wealth still in the land. They thus flaunt their wealth without concern for their ruined homeland which needs rebuilding, and more importantly, their poor brother and sister—their brother sold into slavery.

Birch calls this a pattern of “conspicuous consumption” (227). It would have been visible and obvious to anyone watching that Israel’s wealthy were enjoying themselves on the backs of their own poor. This seems not too different a way of life than today, where our privilege allows us to enjoy our guitars, wine and shampoos while most of the world lives in desolate poverty. Joseph is ruined and our exile may not be too many days away.

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