Social Justice Project #8

What does the Bible say about justice?

Part 6: The Minor Prophets: Amos

In the Hebrew Scriptures, prophets spoke for God, delivering His message to the two nations of Judah and Israel. They called the people to return to God and described the future penalty for failure to do so.

Sixty-two times in the seventeen prophetic books justice is mentioned. Amos from the southern kingdom of Judah and worked in agriculture and animal husbandry. He was sent by God to prophesy against the northern kingdom of Israel in the eighth century before Christ. Justice is a prominent theme in his book, having been mentioned five times, mainly in chapter five. There, God pronounces judgement over Israel for her many crimes (v. 12), one of which is turning “justice (judgement) into wormwood.” The leaders of the nation turn aside the poor and prevent them from receiving justice (v. 12). Yahweh does offer them the chance to turn from their ways (v. 14-15), and establish justice at the city gate. However, the Day of the Lord will become extremely bad for those people.

Amos 5:24 is often used as an admonition about justice. “But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:24, HCSB). The Hebrew word used for justice is mispat, which, as we have noted before, has multiple meanings. In the context of the passage, “judgment” seems to be the better interpretation, coming at the end of God’s pronouncement of the Day of the Lord. God’s judgement and righteousness, as prophetic realities, will come to the nation for their sin and idolatry, in spite of the people’s attempt to placate God.

Each of the uses are consistent with our definition of justice.

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