Background and Literary Considerations
- Again, we come in this lesson to a “vision report,” the third in a series of five. Given Amos’ penchant for surprising us with reversals of expectations, how should we prepare for this next report? Is Amos going to convey us up in glorious hope out of despair, or will he dash us further into a downward spiral toward destruction and judgment? We have witnessed some hope in the first two visions–that God would repent of his intentions and forgive Israel in vision report #1 and that he would repent and at least cease destroying Israel in the second report. Any progression here? Upward? Downward?
- The language of this vision report has to do with construction in the ancient world, some to which we can relate today quite easily. Most household inhabitants would want a building which was safe to live in, which was built well and could withstand the earth tremors this part of the world experienced every so often. Especially was this the case with houses constructed of stone. It wasn’t as problematic for the homes of the wealthy who could afford cut stone, laid in courses and mortared together nicely. For the poor farmers, only round field stones were used, creating a dangerous situation to begin with, even if chinked with small stones and built three feet thick. If these walls were out of plumb, occupants could expect major problems in the event of natural or human-generated trauma.
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Amos 7:7-9 (Vision Report #3) – If there was any possibility of hope in the first two vision reports, what has happened to the possibility of positive expectations in #3? What does the presence of a plumb line suggest when placed against the wall of Israel? What kind of assessment is being undertaken here? What is being judged? Who is being judged? Is there a difference between righteous and wicked? Or is there a sense of corporate responsibility at work, in other words that all of Israel is being held accountable for the core sins of some? This is certainly part of the Old Testament’s world view.
What does it mean that God will never pass Israel by again? Compare the use of the word and its use here (ëavar used with le – see Lesson 6) with that in Amos 5:17 and 8:2. Is the message that God has shown mercy in the past, but no longer? Is there here any indication of God’s change of heart? Has hope for a future with God come to nothing? Is this the end of the story–or does it get worse? Where is hope now?
- Amos 7:10-17
These verses provide a biographical interlude between the third and fourth vision reports. Any suggestions as to why it is placed here? Do we need some kind of diversion from the way the vision reports are going? Would it be too much to hang them all together? Perhaps this story fits here because of the reference to Jeroboam at the end of vision report #3. Or do they give us, with their treatment of an encounter between Amos, prophet from the south, and the priest of Israel, Amaziah, an idea of why Amos is so serious in these reports? Is somehow the priest to blame for Israel’s troubles with God? The verses tell us a lot about Amos, how Amaziah felt about him, what Amos thought of that, and what would happen to the priest–and his wife!
Contributions to Study of Amos and the Bible
- What do these verses tell us about how serious God is about Israel’s being out of line? Is the problem still related to social justice or is there greater focus on appropriate worship?
Lessons for Life
- What can we learn from these verses about the standards which govern life under God? How are they important and why?