Where the world comes to study the Bible

Amos 7

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Visions of the Locusts Five Visions of God's Judgment and a Prophecy of Restoration
(7:1-9:15)
A Vision of Locusts The Visions
(7:1-9:10)
      First Vision: The Locusts
7:1-3 7:1-3 7:1-3 7:1-3
Visions of the Fire   A Vision of Fire Second Vision: the Drought
7:4-6 7:4-6 7:4-6 7:4-6
Visions of the Plumb Line   A Vision of a Plumb Line Third Vision: the Plumb-Line
7:7-9 7:7-9 7:7-9 7:7-9
Amaziah's Complaint Amos and Amaziah Amos and Amaziah Amaziah Challenges Amos' Right to Prophesy
7:10-13 7:10-17 7:10-11 7:10-17
    7:12-13  
7:14-17   7:14-17  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentarywhich means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Chapters 7-9 form the last literary unit. The book can be broken into three divisions: (1) judgments against the nations; (2) judgments against Judah and Israel; and (3) the visions of Amos.

1. The visions of Amos can be outlined.:

a. chapter 7, three visions

b. chapter 8, one vision

c. chapter 9, one vision.

2. Judgment Visions

a. Locust, 7:1-3

b. Fire (possibly famine, cf. 4:6-8; 8:11-13), 7:4-6

c. Plumb line (possibly weak fortifications), 7:7-9

d. Summer fruit, 8:1-3

e. Earthquake, 9:1-2 (also possibly 8:7-10)

3. It is surely possible that these visions were the very means of God's prophetic call to Amos from shepherd to prophet. The prophet calls for mercy (visions 1 & 2), but the reality of rebellion, idolatry, and unrepentance demanded judgment. Israel must be told so they will know it is not YHWH's weakness or lack of compassion, but their sin that has brought this on them (also a warning to Judah).

 

B. Amos 7:10-17 is unique because

1. it gives biographical information about Amos (notice how many of the visions are related to agriculture)

2. it is written in the third person while other sections of the book are in the first person

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:1-3
 1Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, He was forming a locust-swarm when the spring crop began to sprout. And behold, the spring crop was after the king's mowing. 2And it came about, when it had finished eating the vegetation of the land, that I said,
 "Lord God, please pardon!
 How can Jacob stand,
 For he is small?"
 3The Lord changed His mind about this.
 "It shall not be," said the Lord.

7:1 "Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold" This introduction shows the relatedness of the visions (cf. 7:1,4,7; 8:1, but not 9:1-10).

▣ "He was forming" These visions and judgments were from God Himself (BDB 427, KB 428, Qal PARTICIPLE, MASCULINE SINGULAR).

▣ "a locust-swarm" This type of plague is mentioned in Exod. 10:12ff. It was specifically one of the curses mentioned in Deut. 28:38-42, if God's people did not keep his commandments. There are over twelve different words in the Hebrew language translated "locusts," which shows the fear and commonness of this plague. It is uncertain if these words refer to types of locust or stages of their growth (cf. Joel 1:4; 2:25).

▣ "the spring crop began to sprout" This is literally "the latter growth" (BDB 545). It is uncertain if this refers to grass or grain. It is also uncertain if it is a second growth or a replanting. This would have been sometime after April. The later rain had to occur before the seeds would sprout. If this crop was lost there would be no crop until the next year!

▣ "after the king's mowing" This is literally "shearings" (BDB 159). This phrase is not meant to teach that the king received the first mowing as a tax on the land. This allotment for the king is mentioned only here in the entire OT. The phrase was meant to be a way to date this event in the spring.

7:2 "finished" This VERB (BDB 477, KB 476, Piel PERFECT) has the connotation of "to complete" or "destroy" (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 641). Here it functions in both senses.

▣ "that I said" The Prophets often serve as intercessors (cf. Exod. 32:11; Jer. 15:1; 18:20; Ezek. 9:8; Dan. 9:15-19), although usually they speak to the covenant people on God's behalf.

▣ "Lord God" This is Adon and YHWH (cf. Jer. 14:7,20,21; Ezek. 9:8; 11:13). See Special Topic: The Names for Deity at 1:2.

▣ "please pardon" This (BDB 669, KB 757) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. This word is always used for God's forgiveness of humans (see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 135-136).

Amos, the prophet of social justice, has become the patron of mercy! The hammer of the message of judgment has mellowed at the consequences of judgment!

It is noteworthy that Amos asked God to pardon. One wonders if this means (1) let the judgment pass or (2) forgive their sin so there is no need for judgment. Amos makes this same request for the first two visions. However Amos meant the prayer, YHWH took it in sense #1. When the third and fourth visions come there is no mercy because there has been no repentance! The time of respite was not used for spiritual renewal, but further rebellion. Patience and mercy have turned into wrath (cf. 7:8,9; 8:7,10,11)!

7:2,5 "Jacob. . .For he is small" Notice that the prophet's appeal is to the nation's "need" not to their "covenant relationship." The Lord had promised that Abraham's seed would be as (1) the stars of heaven (e.g., Gen. 15:5); (2) the sand of the seashore (e.g., Gen. 22:17); and (3) the dust of the earth (e.g., Gen. 13:16), but now there were so few!

7:3

NASB, TEV"The Lord changed His mind about this"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB"The Lord relented concerning this"

This Arabic root means "to breathe heavy" (BDB 636, KB 688, Niphal PERFECT). This is an anthropomorphic metaphor. The root of this word expresses deep feelings (see Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 87-88). The prophet Nahum carries this term in his name. God is often spoken of in the Bible as changing His mind or relenting (cf. v. 6; Gen. 18:22-32; Num. 14:11-20; Josh. 7:6-13; II Kgs. 22:19-20; Ps. 106:45; Jer. 18:1-16; 26:3,13,19; Jonah 3:10). God is affected by (1) our prayers and (2) His character of compassion and love (cf. Exod. 3:7; Jdgs. 2:18; Hosea 11:8-9; Joel 2:13-14; Amos 5:15). However, this should not be understood in the sense that God's nature or purpose vacillates. It does not change (cf. Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8; James 1:17).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:4-6
 4Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, the Lord God was calling to contend with them by fire, and it consumed the great deep and began to consume the farm land.
 5Then I said,
 "Lord God, please stop!
 How can Jacob stand, for he is small?"
 6The Lord changed His mind about this.
 "This too shall not be," said the Lord God.

7:4

NASB"contend"
NKJV"conflict"
NRSV
(footnote)"a judgment"
TEV"preparing to punish"
NJB"summoning"

This term (BDB 936) in this context refers to a legal case against Israel (e.g., Hos. 4:1; 12:2; Mic. 6:1-2).

▣ "by fire" Fire is often used as a symbol of judgment (e.g., 2:5). In this agricultural context the fire may refer to the scorching heat of the sun or the plants being defoliated by the locusts. If so, the great deep may be a reference to available water (i.e., springs, rivers, rain, etc., cf. 1:2; 4:6-8).

SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE

▣ "the great deep" This refers to the underground water source of rivers (cf. Gen. 1:2; 7:11; 49:15; Ps. 36:6; Isa. 51:10). This is a mythological term from the earliest known Mesopotamian nations, Sumer and Babylon, but in the OT it has been totally stripped of its mythological connotation.

In this context it refers to God's allowing foreign invaders to destroy Israel.

7:5 "please stop" This (BDB 292, KB 292) is another Qal IMPERATIVE. However, notice this time the prophet did not appeal for forgiveness, but for the cessation of judgment. YHWH is merciful, but there is an end to His patience (cf. v. 8; 8:1).

7:6 See note at 7:3.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:7-9
 7Thus He showed me, and behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand. 8The Lord said to me, "What do you see, Amos?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said,
 "Behold I am about to put a plumb line
 In the midst of My people Israel.
 I will spare them no longer.
 9The high places of Isaac will be desolated
 And the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste.
 Then I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword."

7:7 "the Lord was standing by a vertical wall" This seems to imply a wall of loose stones removed from the fields. With time these stones shifted their positions and became unstable and unsafe.

▣ "a plumb line" This is the only use of this particular term (BDB 59, KB 71) in the OT. It was a construction tool (cord with metal weight at the end) used to test the perpendicular alignment of buildings or walls. It is used metaphorically here to express judgment because mankind has deviated from the standard of God (cf. II Kgs. 21:13; Isa. 28:17; 34:11; Lam. 2:8).

Although most English translations accept "plumb line" as the implied contextual meaning, it is possible to argue for "tin" as the proper translation of this Akkadian loan word. If so, then the imagery would be that of a tin wall, thereby, a metaphor of "apparent protection" (i.e., a wall of weak metal, tin). Several prophets used metal imagery (cf. Jer. 15:20; Ezek. 4:3).

Whichever it is, this is a vision of judgment. Israel thinks she is militarily secure and spiritually orthodox, but she is not!

7:8 "I will spare them no longer" Literally "I will never (BDB 414, KB 418, Hiphil IMPERFECT) again pass by (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal INFINITIVE) them." Amos realizes the depth of Israel's rebellion and ceases to intercede on her behalf.

7:9 "high places. . .sanctuaries" The "high places" (BDB 119) refer to the local fertility worship sites ("will be desolated," BDB 1030, KB 1053, Niphal PERFECT), while "the sanctuaries" (BDB 874) refer to the national shrines ("will be laid waste," BDB 351, KB 349, Qal IMPERFECT) at the cities of Dan and Bethel, started by Jeroboam I (922 b.c.).

"the house of Jeroboam" This refers to Jeroboam I, who led the rebellion of the Northern Ten Tribes in 922 b.c. against Solomon's son, Rehoboam, over the issue of forced labor and taxation. The true issue was the king's oppressive demands on the people in order to support his opulent Oriental court (cf. I Kgs. 11).

"the sword" The sword (i.e., war) is to be paralleled with the severity of the locust swarm of v. 1. and the consuming fire of v. 4.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:10-13
 10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is unable to endure all his words. 11For thus Amos says, 'Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.'" 12Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying! 13But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence."

7:10-17 This account of an encounter between God's spokesman and the leader of the Bethel sanctuary breaks into the context of several judgments:

1. locusts, 7:1-3

2. fire or famine, 7:4-6 (cf. 8:11-13)

3. plumb line, 7:7-9

4. summer fruit, 8:1-3

5. earthquake, 9:1-2 (possibly 8:7-10)

 

7:10 "Amaziah the priest" This was the chief priest (Targums) of the national golden calf shrine at Bethel. Here we see the dilemma of the people when confronted by two representatives of God. The Priest and the Prophet both claim to speak for God, both claim to have His authority.

▣ "Jeroboam" This refers to Jeroboam II (cf. 1:1), the current king of Israel. As is often the case the exact dates of his reign vary from scholar to scholar:

1. John Bright, 786-746 b.c.

2. E. J. Young, 783-743 b.c.

3. R. K. Harrison, 782/81-753 b.c.

There are several problems connected to dating OT events:

1. the only clear link between secular history and the OT is the battle of Charchemish in 605 b.c.

2. the reigns of the kings overlap (co-reigns)

3. the Babylonians and Palestinians date the reign of their kings differently (i.e., count or do not count first partial year).

 

▣ "Amos has conspired against you" Amaziah accused Amos of political treason ("conspired," BDB 905, KB 1153, Qal PERFECT, for examples of the use of this term see II Sam. 15:12; II Kgs. 11:14; 15:15). Near Eastern kings were very conscious of their prophet's words and popularity among the populace and feared any negative prediction.

"the land is unable to endure all his words" Amos is speaking at Bethel. All the geographical directions of the book are given from the position of Bethel. However, this phrase implies that Amos spoke in many locations in the north, not just Bethel.

The VERB "endure" (BDB 465, KB 463, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is used of enduring YHWH's wrath (cf. Joel 2:11; Jer. 10:10). The Israelites were listening to Amos!

7:11 "For thus Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword'" This refers to Jeroboam II. Amaziah slightly misquoted Amos, but in reality it was the essence of his message.

"Israel will certainly go from its land into exile" This was a staggering judgment pronouncement. The Promised Land is no longer under YHWH's protection! No, quite the opposite; it is under YHWH's attack. Israel had allowed the confiscation of the land allotments (by the wealthy, powerful, and influential) of her farmers and now YHWH revoked His promise!

The Exile of Israel is mentioned several times by Amos (cf. 4:2-3; 5:5,27; 6:7; 7:17; 9:4,14).

7:12 "Go. . .flee away" These are both Qal IMPERATIVES ("go" BDB 229, KB 246, "flee" BDB 137, KB 156). There is a third Qal IMPERATIVE later in the verse, "eat" (BDB 37, KB 46). Amaziah wants Amos to get out of the sanctuary, the city, and the country!

"you seer" Amaziah called Amos a seer possibly because of his public proclamation of his visions. It was a synonym for "prophet."

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DIFFERENT HEBREW TERMS FOR PROPHET

▣ "flee away to the land of Judah" Possibly Amaziah was charging Amos with being prejudiced against Israel or a meddling foreigner.

"there eat bread and there do your prophesying" Apparently, some prophets were supported by the state, while others lived on the freewill offerings of the people to whom they preached. Amaziah was accusing Amos of preaching for money. Amos seems to answer in v. 14 that he already had a source of income.

7:13 "for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence" It is obvious that Amaziah was expressing the truth ironically when he states this is not God's sanctuary but the king's. The reference here is, of course, to one of the national shrines set up by Jeroboam I that became the site of the official state religion of the Northern Ten Tribes. It was later corrupted by Ahab and Jezebel (cf. I Kgs. 18-21) into the worship of the fertility gods of Canaan.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:14-17
 14Then Amos replied to Amaziah, "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs. 15But the Lord took me from following the flock and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.' 16Now hear the word of the Lord: you are saying, 'You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.' 17Therefore, thus says the Lord, 'Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a measuring line and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.'"

7:14 "I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet" Amos was asserting God's call to speak not to a profession (cf. v. 15), a VERB must be supplied in this statement. The PRESENT TENSE fits this context, but not v. 15. It could be translated, "I was not a prophet." Implication, but now I am.

This statement by Amos seems to contrast "prophet" with "son of a prophet." If so, the distinction would be between a person called to speak for God as an individual versus a person called by God to be a part of a group of prophets (i.e., Samuel, I Sam. 10:5,6,10; 19:20; I Kgs. 20:35; II Kgs. 2:3-7; 4:38; 6:1). In the latter case "son" would refer to a member of a group, not a family.

▣ "for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs" See full notes in Introduction. In this context it may function as a way of showing Amos' wealth or occupation. He did not need to prophesy to eat!

7:15 "took me from following the flock" This VERB (BDB 542, KB 534, Qal IMPERFECT) has a strong theological connotation of God's sovereign choice and action (e.g., Exod. 6:7; Deut. 4:20,34; II Sam. 7:8; I Kgs. 11:37; Jer. 43:10). God called Amos to speak for Him!

This is a play on the word "shepherd," used metaphorically for (1) God Himself; (2) Israel's leaders; and (3) by implication, the nation. Israel and Judah as a whole were God's sheep.

"Go prophesy to My people Israel" There are several IMPERATIVES in this context.

1. "Go," BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. "Prophesy," BDB 612, KB 659, Niphal IMPERATIVE

3. "Hear," v. 16, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE

 

▣ "My people Israel" This is a Covenant phrase (cf. 7:8,15; 8:2) using Jacob's new name (cf. Gen. 32:28).

7:16 This is Amos characterizing Amaziah's words, which were opposite of YHWH's.

▣ "against the house of Isaac" This is the only use of this phrase in the OT. It may be parallel to "house of Jacob" (cf. 3:13) or "house of Israel" (cf. 5:1,3,4,25; 6:1). It was a disparaging comment by Amaziah about Amos' preaching in the north.

7:17 Amos says this priest's wife will be publicly raped (and become a common prostitute), his children killed, his property divided among others, and he, himself, will go into exile for life in Assyria. He will be an example of what will happen to all of Israel's leaders.

In a real sense these judgments on Amaziah meant that neither he nor his descendants would be priests.

1. Wife will be unfit for marriage to a priest (cf. Deut. 22:23-24).

2. No children will survive him.

3. He dies in a foreign land unable to pass on his priestly credentials.

(See David A. Hubbard, Joel and Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentary, p. 217).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does God change His mind? How?

2. How is repentance related to forgiveness?

3. How do you know who truly speaks for God? (Prophet, Priest, or Sage)

4. Is God's judgment eschatological or temporal?