After Yahweh gave up on the nations, Yahweh experiments with a single individual of believing; Abraham’s believing withstands many a trial. Yahweh is the owner of the land, Abraham was called to. Yahweh is empowered to set conditions or residency requirements for those who would reside in it, like a landlord. Yahweh is seeking replacement tenants who are going to follow the moral rules of residence that Yahweh has established for his land. Yahweh’s promise to Abraham is formalized in a ritual ceremony called a suzerainty covenant. The patriarchical covenant, which is a covenant in which a superior party, a suzerain dictates the terms of a political treaty usually, and an inferior party obeys them. The arrangement primarily serves the interest of the suzerain, and not the vassal or the subject. So Yahweh is making a land grant to a favored subject, and there’s an ancient ritual that ratifies the oath. In this kind of covenant, the parties to the oath would pass between the split carcass of a sacrificial animal, as if to say, that they agree they will suffer the same fate as this animal, if they violate the covenant. Abraham cuts sacrificial animals in two, and Yahweh, but only Yahweh, passes between the two halves. Only Yahweh seems to be obligated by the covenant, obligated to fulfill the promise that he’s made. Abraham doesn’t appear to have any obligation in return. In this case, it is the subject, Abraham, and not the suzerain, Yahweh, who is benefited by this covenant, and that’s a complete reversal of this ritual ceremony. Their is a moral justification for the grant of land to Abraham, the current inhabitants of the land are polluting it, filling it with bloodshed and idolatry. And when the land becomes so polluted, completely polluted, it will spew out its inhabitants. That process, Yahweh says, isn't complete; so Abraham's offspring through Isaac, they are going to have to wait, the lease isn’t up yet.
Abraham is obedient to Yahweh in a way that no one has been up to this point, but ultimately, the model of blind obedience is rejected, too. When Abraham prepares to slaughter his own son, Yahweh sees that blind believing can be as destructive and evil as disobedience, so Yahweh relinquishes his demand for blind obedience. The only relationship that will work with humans is one in which there is a balance between unchecked independence and blind obedience, and Yahweh seems to finally have found the working relationship with humans that he has been seeking since their creation, with a man named Jacob. When Jacob undergoes a change in name, Israel, meaning one who wrestles, who struggles with Yahweh; Yahweh and humans lock in an eternal struggle, neither prevailing, yet both forever changed by their encounter with one another.
Yahweh’s salvation of his people from Egypt, not the Christian sense of personal salvation from sin; that’s anachronistically read back into the Hebrew Bible. It’s not there. Salvation in the Hebrew Bible does not refer to an individual's deliverance from a sinful nature. This is not a concept that is found in the Hebrew Bible. Salvation refers instead, to the concrete, collective, communal salvation from national suffering and oppression, particularly in the form of foreign rule of enslavement. Remember Jacob’s sons; Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers, his decent into Egypt, set the stage, not only for the reformation of his brothers’ characters, but for the descent of all of the Israelites into Egypt, so as to survive widespread famine; threat of famine is overcome by the relocation to Egypt. Yahweh says to Jacob, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I myself will also bring you back.” So in short, there seems to be a plan afoot. Israel’s descent to Egypt sets the stage for the rise of a pharaoh who, didn’t know Joseph, and all that he had done for Egypt. And this new pharaoh will enslave the Israelites, and so embitter their lives, that their cry will rise up to heaven. Yahweh as Israel’s redeemer and savior, is Yahweh’s physical deliverance of the nation from the hands of her foes. But the physical redemption of the Israelites is going to reach its climax in the covenant that will be concluded at Sinai.
Yahweh’s redemption of the Israelites, is a redemption for a purpose, for at Sinai, the Israelites will become Yahweh’s people, bound by a covenant. The covenant concluded at Sinai is referred to as the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant differs radically from the Noahide and the patriarchal covenants, because here Yahweh makes no promises beyond being the patron or protector of Israel; and also, in this covenant, he set terms that require obedience to a variety of laws and commandments. The Mosaic covenant is neither unilateral, it’s a bilateral covenant, involving mutual, reciprocal obligations, nor is it unconditional like the other two. It is conditional; the first bilateral, conditional covenant. If Israel doesn’t fulfill her oblations by obeying Yahweh’s torah, his instructions, and living in accordance with his will, as expressed in the laws and instruction, then Yahweh will not fulfill his obligation of protection and blessing towards Israel.
Vehement denunciation moral decay and social injustice of the period, leading up to the fall of the northern kingdom and southern kingdom of Israel. A prophet criticizes the sins of the nation, he is critical of everyone, the middle class, the government, the king, the establishment, the priesthood; they’re all plagued by a superficial kind of piety. Amos, and all the prophets, the idea of covenant prescribes a particular relationship with Yahweh, but not only with Yahweh; also with one’s fellow human beings. The two are interlinked. It is a sign of closeness to Yahweh that one is concerned for Israel’s poor and needy. The two are completely interlinked. Amos denounces the wealthy. He denounces the powerful and the way they treat the poor. The crimes that are denounced, are crimes that are prevalent in any society in any era. The crimes that are denounced as being utterly unacceptable to Yahweh, infuriating Yahweh to the point of destruction of the nation, are the kinds of crimes we see around us everyday, taking bribes, improper weights and balances, lack of charity to the poor, indifference to the plight of the debtor. Injustice is sacrilege, the ideals of the covenant are of utmost importance. These prophets are called the standard bearers of the covenant, harking back to the covenant obligations. And without these, without the ideals of the covenant, the fulfillment of ritual obligations in and of itself is a farce. Morality is not just an obligation equal in importance to the cult or religious obligations, but that morality is perhaps superior to the cult. What Yahweh requires of Israel is morality and not cultic service. The prophets raised morality to the level of an absolute religious value, and they did so because they saw morality as essentially divine. The essence of Yahweh is his moral nature. Moral attributes are the essence of Yahweh himself, one strives to be Yahweh-like by imitating his moral actions. The prophets insisted that morality was a decisive, if not the decisive factor in the nations’ history; Israel’s acceptance of Yahweh’s covenant placed certain religious and moral demands on her.
One sin is singled out as being historically decisive for the nation. Other sins are punished, absolutely. But only one is singled out as historically decisive for the nation, and that is the sin of idolatry, particularly the idolatry of the royal house. The tragic history of the two kingdoms as essentially a sequence of idolatrous aberrations, which were followed by punishment. And this cycle continued until finally there had to be complete destruction. While it is certainly true that moral sins and other religious sins in Israel were punishable, it is really only the worship of other gods that brings about national collapse, national exile. Idolatry was what provoked Yahweh to drive the nation into exile. The prophets are claiming that the nation is doomed because of commonplace wrongs, because of bribe-taking, because of false scales and false weights that are being used in the marketplace. For the prophets, the national catastrophes are just punishment for sin, but not just the sin of idolatry, for all sins no matter how petty, no matter how venial, because all sins violate the terms of the covenant code, which is given specially to Israel. And the terms of the covenant-being vassals to the sovereign Yahweh means treating co-vassals in a particular way, and it is breach of covenant not to do that. The prophets were harking back to an older tradition, to ancient traditions about Israel and its covenant relationship, traditions according to which Israel’s redemption and election entailed moral obligations.
The prophets warned that unless they changed, the people were going to suffer the punishment that was due them. And, in fact, the people were very foolish to be eagerly awaiting or eagerly expecting what was popularly known as the Day of Yahweh. And so the prophets refer to the Day of Yahweh as if it were a popular conception out there in the general culture. It was a popular idea at the time that on some future occasion, Yahweh would dramatically intervene in world affairs and he would do so on Israel’s behalf. Yahweh would lead Israel in victory over her enemies. They would be punished. Israel would be restored to her full and former glory. And that day, the Day of Yahweh, in the popular mind, was going to be a marvelous day, a day of victory for Israel, triumph for Israel and a day of vengeance on her enemies. The people are very confident that this is going to be a day of light, a day of blessing, a day of victory. But the prophets, according to them, if there is no change, then this Day of Yahweh is not going to be some glorious thing that the people should be eagerly awaiting. It’s not going to be a day of triumph for Israel. It will not be a day of vengeance on her enemies. It’s going to be a dark day of destruction. It is going to be a day of doom, when Yahweh will finally call his own people to account. The prophets transformed the popular image of the Day of Yahweh from one of national triumph, to one of national judgment.