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Background and Literary Considerations

  • The verses we study this week have occasioned significant debate as to their authorship. Some have argued that everything belongs to the eighth-century prophet who finally got around to some positive news! Others feel that verses 9:8b (second half) – 15 represent notes added much later, mostly from the time of the Babylonian exile in the sixth century. In either case, the issue is not about the inspiration of the passage; it is in the Bible and therefore inspired, whoever wrote it. But the discussion focuses on the drastic change in tone in the middle of verse 8 from “I will destroy it from the surface of the ground” to “except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” and on some of the content of the verses at the end of this chapter. Interesting questions. Would decisions here make a difference in how we view the prophet Amos and his basic message?
  • Amos, in my opinion not only the first of the writing prophets, but one of the most creative and profound, is a striking individual of courage and convictions. Now that we have completed our study of the book, how would you boil down the message into one sentence?

Relevant Biblical Passages

  • Amos 9:8b – The second half of verse 8 is brief, but telling in terms of a shift of tone in the book. There is hope! Not all is lost. What to make of this shift?
  • Amos 9:9-10 – Verses 9 and 10 speak of shaking and sifting out sinners among the nations, likely a reference to exile. Affected are those arrogantly claiming immunity from disaster. Interestingly, Jesus alluded to this passage in his speech to Peter about Satan’s wish to sift him as wheat (Luke 22:31).
  • Amos 9:11-12 – Two elements of this passage have for some recommended a later date than the eighth century B.C.– 1) the reference to the booth (dynasty?) of David (of much more interest to Judah than Israel) that is fallen (at the time of the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century?) and 2) possessing “the remnant of Edom.” The latter, when taken with the intense hatred generated by the Edomites as they followed the Babylonians through Jerusalem, looting and demolishing the city at the time of its destruction in 587/6 (Psalm 137; Ezekiel 35, Obadiah). Whatever the case, the rule of David’s line will be reestablished and control of the hated Edomites regained. Interestingly, this passage is quoted in the remarkable story of early church conflict and resolution in Acts 15:16-17. Compare these references closely. Seems something intriguing happened on the way from the Old Testament to the New (through the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, interestingly). What is the point in both places?
  • Amos 9:13-15 – Absolutely incredible fertility returns to the land of Israel in these verses–the autumn plowing begins before the end of harvest, the crops are so full and prosperous! Fortunes are restored, cities rebuilt, fertility returned, stability secured in the land. The prophets were connected with the real world of everyday life and it was here that God promised a return to the good old days of prosperity and success.

Contributions to Study of Amos and the Bible

  • Now that we have completed our study of Amos, how should we evaluate this prophet? What made him tick? What concerned him the most?

Lessons for Life

  • In 25 words or less, what would Amos, in the spirit of his message to eighth-century Israel, say to a church full of Christians today? Would you like to be there? Would this depend on your own position in life and experiences with people who like to control and bully others?
  • Today’s world is different from that of ancient Israel. How should/would/could we communicate the basic message of Amos to today’s society? Would we use different methods to say the same things? How might we live prophetically, in order to restore justice and prevent injustices around us–at home, in the work place, at school, in church?

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