Symbolic Visions of Judgment
1 The sovereign Lord showed me this: I saw#tn Heb “behold” or “look.” him making locusts just as the crops planted late#sn The crops planted late (consisting of vegetables) were planted in late January-early March and sprouted in conjunction with the spring rains of March-April. For a discussion of the ancient Israelite agricultural calendar, see O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 31-44. were beginning to sprout. (The crops planted late sprout after the royal harvest.#tn Or “the mowings of the king.”sn This royal harvest may refer to an initial mowing of crops collected as taxes by the royal authorities.) 2 When they had completely consumed the earth’s vegetation, I said,
“Sovereign Lord, forgive Israel!#tn “Israel” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
How can Jacob survive?#tn Heb “stand” (so ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).
He is too weak!”#tn Heb “small.”
3 The Lord decided not to do this.#tn Or “changed his mind about this.” “It will not happen,” the Lord said.
4 The sovereign Lord showed me this: I saw#tn Heb “behold” or “look.” the sovereign Lord summoning a shower of fire.#tc The Hebrew appears to read, “summoning to contend with fire,” or “summoning fire to contend,” but both are problematic syntactically (H. W. Wolff, Joel and Amos [Hermeneia], 292; S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 230-31). Many emend the text to לרבב אשׁ, “(calling) for a shower of fire,” though this interpretation is also problematic (see F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos [AB], 746-47). It consumed the great deep and devoured the fields.
5 I said, “Sovereign Lord, stop!
How can Jacob survive?#tn Heb “stand.”
He is too weak!”#tn Heb “small.”
6 The Lord decided not to do this.#tn Or “changed his mind about this.” The sovereign Lord said, “This will not happen either.”
7 He showed me this: I saw#tn Heb “behold” or “look.” the sovereign One#tn Or “the Lord.” The Hebrew term translated “sovereign One” here and in the following verse is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay). standing by a tin#tn The Hebrew word אֲנָךְ (’anakh, “tin”) occurs only in this passage (twice in this verse and twice in the following verse). (Its proposed meaning is based on an Akkadian cognate annaku.) The tin wall of the vision, if it symbolizes Israel, may suggest weakness and vulnerability to judgment. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 233-35. The symbolic significance of God holding tin in his hand and then placing tin among the people is unclear. Possibly the term אֲנָךְ in v. 8b is a homonym meaning “grief” (this term is attested in postbiblical Hebrew). In this case there is a wordplay, the אֲנָךְ (“tin”) of the vision suggesting the אֲנָךְ (“grief”) that judgment will bring upon the land. See F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos (AB), 759. Another option is to maintain the meaning “tin” and understand that the Lord has ripped off a piece of the tin wall and placed it in front of all to see. Their citadels, of which the nation was so proud and confident, are nothing more than tin fortresses. The traditional interpretation of these verses (reflected in many English versions) understands the term אֲנָךְ to mean “lead,” and by extension, “plumb line.” In this case, one may translate: “I saw the sovereign one standing by a wall built true to plumb holding a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ I said, ‘A plumb line.’ The sovereign one then said, ‘Look, I am about to place a plumb line among my people…’” According to this view, the plumb line symbolizes God’s moral standards by which he will measure Israel to see if they are a straight or crooked wall. wall holding tin in his hand. 8 The Lord said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” I said, “Tin.” The sovereign One then said,
“Look, I am about to place tin among my people Israel.
I will no longer overlook their sin.#tn Heb “And I will no longer pass over him.”
9 Isaac’s centers of worship#tn Traditionally, “the high places” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “pagan shrines.” will become desolate;
Israel’s holy places will be in ruins.
I will attack Jeroboam’s dynasty with the sword.”#tn Heb “And I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with a sword.”
Amos Confronts a Priest
10 Amaziah the priest of Bethel#map For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3. sent this message#tn The direct object of the verb translated “sent” is elided in the Hebrew text. The words “this message” are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons. to King Jeroboam of Israel: “Amos is conspiring against you in the very heart of the kingdom of Israel!#tn Heb “in the middle of the house of Israel.” The land cannot endure all his prophecies.#tn Heb “words.” 11 As a matter of fact,#tn Or “for.” Amos is saying this: ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly be carried into exile#tn See the note on the word “exile” in 5:5. away from its land.’”
12 Amaziah then said to Amos, “Leave, you visionary!#tn Traditionally, “seer.” The word is a synonym for “prophet,” though it may carry a derogatory tone on the lips of Amaziah. Run away to the land of Judah! Earn your living#tn Heb “Eat bread there.” and prophesy there! 13 Don’t prophesy at Bethel#map For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3. any longer, for a royal temple and palace are here!”#tn Heb “for it is a temple of a king and it is a royal house.” It is possible that the phrase “royal house” refers to a temple rather than a palace. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 243.
14 Amos replied#tn Heb “replied and said.” The phrase “and said” is pleonastic (redundant) and has not been included in the translation. to Amaziah, “I was not a prophet by profession.#tn Heb “I was not a prophet nor was I the son of a prophet.” The phrase “son of a prophet” refers to one who was trained in a prophetic guild. Since there is no equative verb present in the Hebrew text, another option is to translate with the present tense, “I am not a prophet by profession.” In this case Amos, though now carrying out a prophetic ministry (v. 15), denies any official or professional prophetic status. Modern English versions are divided about whether to understand the past (JB, NIV, NKJV) or present tense (NASB, NEB, NRSV, NJPS) here. No,#tn Heb “for.” I was a herdsman who also took care of#tn Heb “gashed”; or “pierced.”sn For a discussion of the agricultural background, see O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 128-29. sycamore fig trees.#sn It is possible that herdsmen agreed to care for sycamore fig trees in exchange for grazing rights. See P. King, Amos, Hosea, Micah, 116-17. Since these trees do not grow around Tekoa but rather in the lowlands, another option is that Amos owned other property outside his hometown. In this case, this verse demonstrates his relative wealth and is his response to Amaziah; he did not depend on prophecy as a profession (v. 13). 15 Then the Lord took me from tending#tn Heb “from [following] after.” flocks and gave me this commission,#tn Heb “and the Lord said to me.” ‘Go! Prophesy to my people Israel!’ 16 So now listen to the Lord’s message! You say, ‘Don’t prophesy against Israel! Don’t preach#tn The verb, which literally means “to drip,” appears to be a synonym of “to prophesy,” but it might carry a derogatory tone here, perhaps alluding to the impassioned, frenzied way in which prophets sometimes delivered their messages. If so, one could translate, “to drivel; to foam at the mouth” (see HALOT 694 s.v. נטף). against the family of Isaac!’
17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says:
‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the streets#tn Heb “in the city,” that is, “in public.”
and your sons and daughters will die violently.#tn Heb “will fall by the sword.”
Your land will be given to others#tn Heb “will be divided up with a [surveyor’s] measuring line.”
and you will die in a foreign#tn Heb “[an] unclean”; or “[an] impure.” This fate would be especially humiliating for a priest, who was to distinguish between the ritually clean and unclean (see Lev 10:10). land.
Israel will certainly be carried into exile#tn See the note on the word “exile” in 5:5. away from its land.’”