Covenant in the 8th Century Prophets

 

The eighth century BCE features four “writing” prophets—Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah. Remarkably, they have almost nothing to say explicitly about the Sinai covenant.  Nevertheless, handbooks continue to say that the prophets indicted Israel for breach of covenant.  That may well be true for Jeremiah in the 7th century, but the following passages make this very doubtful for the 8th century.

 

Amos 1   9 Thus says the LORD: For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they delivered entire communities over to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of kinship. (This refers to an international agreement/treaty or common human ethical standards and surely not to Sinai).

 

Hosea 2  18 I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety. (This future covenant between Israel and the wild animals, who may be stand ins for hostile enemy nations)

 

Hosea 6   7 But at Adam (a location near where the Jabbok flows into the Jordan) they transgressed covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. (It is quite unclear what is meant in this passage by the word covenant)

 

Hosea 8:1  Set the trumpet to your lips! One like a vulture is over the house of the LORD, because they have broken my covenant, and transgressed my law.[1] (This is the only clear reference in the 8th century prophets to the Sinai covenant, but it is widely held to be a Deuteronomistic addition.  Hence 7th century or later)

 

Hosea 10   4 They utter mere words; with empty oaths they make covenants; so litigation springs up like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field (clearly not a reference to the Sinai covenant).

 

Hosea 12:1  Ephraim herds the wind, and pursues the east wind all day long; they multiply falsehood and violence; they make a treaty with Assyria, and oil is carried to Egypt. (treaty with Assyria)

 

Isaiah 24  5 The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. (This is from the Isaianic apocalypse that dates to the 6th century or later)

 

Isaiah 28   15 Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement; when the overwhelming scourge passes through it will not come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter"; (This refers to a treaty with Egypt)

 

Isaiah 28  18 Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through you will be beaten down by it. (treaty with Egypt)

 

Isaiah 33:8   8 The highways are deserted, travelers have quit the road. The treaty is broken, its oaths are despised, its obligation is disregarded. (treaty of Hezekiah with Assyria)

 

Micah.  The word “covenant” is never used.



[1] Hosea 8   12 Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions (note plural), they are regarded as a strange thing.