Original Research - Special Collection: UP Faculty of Theology Centenary Volume One

Shades of irony in the anti-language of Amos

William Domeris
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3292 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3292 | © 2016 William Domeris | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 December 2015 | Published: 26 August 2016

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William Domeris, South African Theological Seminary, Bisho Area; Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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The rhetoric of Amos includes a wonderful mixture of humour and threat, sarcasm and irony, hyperbole and prediction. Holding the fabric of this conversation together is Amos’s place within the prophetic minority – the Yahweh-only party (his anti-society). Making use of sociolinguistics, and particularly the idea of anti-language, I take a closer look at Amos, including his use of overlexicalisation, insider-humour and all the shades of irony one might expect. Typically of a member of an anti-society, Amos exaggerates the differences between insider and outsider, in this case, speaking of ‘ivory houses’, ‘the cattle of Bashan’ while appealing to his successful attempts to save the rich from the wrath of God. The offenses of the outsiders are sometimes crystal clear and at other times shrouded in metaphor, and so too is the fate of these people. In reading Amos, we are constantly in danger of falling victim to the persuasive power of his rhetoric. We are drawn into the world of Amos, quickly accepting his boundaries and the ideology of his anti-society, his depiction of reality and his stark caricature of the rich. The rhetoric is persuasive and the irony is divisive forcing a choice of black and white, believer and unbeliever, rich and poor, oppressors and oppressed. We struggle to swim against the current and instead long to respond to Amos’s invitation to live (Am 5:5) – perhaps even to discover that elusive hope at which the book hints:

Most of history has been the forging of structures of security and appropriate loyalty symbols, to announce and defend one’s personal identity, one’s group, and one’s gender issues and identity. (Rohr 2011:4)


Prophets; Amos; language; metaphor; socio-linguistic; religion; symbols; Israel; Judaism


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