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Relationship to Amos. The relationship of Chapters 7-9 to the rest of Amos is discussed at Amos.
Story. Chapters 7-9 consist of a series of five visions, two in which the Lord spares Israel, two in which he no longer spares Israel, and one in which a remnant is spared and eventually restored.
- Amos 7a: Vision of locusts: Israel spared thus far.
- Amos 7b: Vision of fire: Israel spared thus far.
- Amos 7c: Vision of plumbline: Israel no longer spared, priests.
- Amos 8: Vision of basket of summer fruit: Israel no longer spared, merchants.
- Amos 9: Vision of Lord in Judgment: only a remnant spared and restored.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 7-9 include:
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- Vision #3 of plumbline: Israel no longer spared, priests (Chapter 7c)
- Vision #4 of basket of summer fruit: Israel no longer spared, merchants (Chapter 8)
- Vision #5 of Lord in Judgment: only a remnant spared and restored (Chapter 9)
- Each of the last three sections (#3-5) begins with a vision (7:7-9; 8:1-3; 9:1-4). In sections #3-4 this is followed by a description of wicked behavior, first disrespect for the Lord by attempting to make his prophet stop prophesying (#3 7:10-13), then social injustice by deceitful merchants who prey upon the poor (#4 8:4-6). This is contrasted in the final section with a hymn praising the omnipotent Lord God (#5 9:5-6). Each section then describes what the omnipotent Lord will do to the wicked. (7:14-17; 8:7-8; 9:7-10). Many commentators treat the closing restoration prophecy at the close of section #5 (9:11-15) as a tiny but separate major division of Amos. But there is no reason not to see it as parallel to the scattering prophecy at the close of the section #4 (8:9-14). When read together, sections #4-5 tell that the Lord is loyal to Israel, and that the destruction Amos spends so many words describing and justifying will be followed by the restoration of a remnant. This is in fact a principal message of Isaiah just a few years later.
- Amos 7-9: Lord God. The term “Lord God” emphasizes the Lord’s omnipotence and sovereignty over all the earth. Amos uses this term twenty times, twelve in just this last division. The Lord may impose judgment as he sees fit. But also in this last division, the Lord finally refers to Israel as “my people” (7:8, 7:15; 8:2; 9:10, 9:14). And in the final prophecy of restoration, the last four words of Amos are, for the first time, “the Lord thy God” (9:15). Israel is the Lord’s people, but it will not receive special treatment unless it qualifies through righteous.
Amos 7a-7b / Amos 7:1-6: Visions #1-2
- In these two visions the Lord threatens Israel’s food supply with locusts (most often a threat in spring) and fire (possibly drought, most often a threat in summer). In each case Amos pleads on behalf of Israel: Israel is small, and if such punishment is inflicted, who will be left as a remnant to arise? In each case the Lord withdraws the threatened punishment.
- Although Amos threatens Israel in his prophecies, he does so only because that is the word given to him by the Lord. “The Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (3:8). The prophet is really on the side of the people as their advocate before the Lord. This is a type of Christ’s role as judge at the final judgment.
Amos 7c / Amos 7:7-17: Vision #3
- Amos 7:8: Passing through. This is the third of five visions in chapters 7-9. Beginning with this third vision, the Lord says “I will not pass by them [Israel] any more,” (7:8) but will instead pass through them (5:17).
- Amos 7:8-9: Plumbline. Plumblines were used for construction and surveying to measure out lines on land (see 7:17). Israel’s land will be divided up by a conqueror, its sanctuaries will be laid waste, and the house of the current king Jeroboam II will be smitten with the sword (7:8-9).
- Amos 7:10-17: Amos disputes with Amaziah at Bethel. Bethel was the principal religious sanctuary in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and was “the king’s chapel.” The resident priest at Bethel, Amaziah, dislikes Amos' prophecy of doom. He sends a report to King Jeroboam II that Amos is preaching against both king and country (7:10-11). He also personally tells Amos not to prophesy against the country, the king and the king’s chapel - at the king’s chapel. He tells Amos to go back home to the Southern Kingdom of Judah and earn his living as a prophet there (7:12-13).
- Amos responds that he is not a professional prophet, he earns his living in agriculture, and he preaches only because the Lord called him (7:14-15). Further, in response to this request by the official priest that he not prophesy the word given to him by the Lord, he prophesies yet more: not only will Israel go into captivity, but Amaziah’s his children will die by the sword and his wife will become a harlot (7:16-17).
Amos 8 / Amos 8:1-14: Vision #4
- Amos 8:1-14: Overview. Again the Lord says that he will no more pass by his people Israel any more. Summer is now at an end. The NIV translation renders this passage: “A basket of ripe fruit, I answered. Then the Lord said to me, The time is ripe for my people Israel, I will spare them no longer.” Israel is ripe in iniquity and the time of forbearance is over (8:1-2). In that day there will be many dead bodies, and the songs at the temple will be howlings of mourning (8:3).
- Israel’s merchant class is singled out. They drive hard bargains with the poor. They observe religious limits on commerce with grudging and without religious feeling. They employ false balances for dishonest gain. They place the poor in servitude. And they pass off product of poor quality (8:4-6). Their practices consist of what the market will tolerate, not what is just.
- The Lord therefore swears that he will rise up against Israel as an overwhelming flood (8:7-8).
- In that day there will be only darkness and bitter mourning in Israel (8:9-10). And the days come that the prophets will no longer prophesy (as requested by the king’s priest Amaziah), and the people will be scattered and will wander to and fro seeking in vain for the word of the Lord (8:11-12). Though painful, this will purge Israel of idolaters so that scattered Israel becomes purified (8:13-14).
- Amos 8:1-3: Summer fruit. The Word Biblical Commentary notes that the Hebrew word for "summer fruit" sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for end. This is similar to "tin" sounding like "moan" in Hebrew in Amos 7:7-9, thus there seems to be a pattern where Amos moves from what is seen to what the pronunciation of the object sounds like.
Amos 9 / Amos 9:1-15: Vision #5
- Amos 9:1-15: Overview. In this final vision Amos sees the Lord himself standing upon the altar. It is not clear whether this occurs at Bethel or at the Jerusalem temple (9:1). A lintel is the beam across the top of a doorway. The shaking of supporting posts suggests the earthquake that occurred two years after Amos’ ministry (9:2; 1:1).
- Here the Lord does not say that he will spare no longer, but that he will spare no one. Those taken captive will be killed. Those that escape will be hunted down, whether they flee to heaven, hell, the bottom of the sea, or the top of Mount Carmel in the wilderness (9:1-4). None shall escape.
- Amos 9:5-6 are a hymn, again describing the Lord’s omnipotence (compare the hymns at 4:13 and 5:8-9) and again invoking the imagery of a flood (compare 8:8 following the previous vision). The sovereign Lord God is free to judge Israel as he will.
- But though the Lord will thoroughly destroy the sinful kingdom, yet “I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob.” A remnant will be preserved and sifted among the nations. “But all the sinners of my people shall die by the sword” (9:7-10). Again the scattering of Israel is a purging process that leaves a purified remnant worthy of blessing and restoration. In section #4 the prophecy of destruction followed a description of wicked behavior. Here in section #5 the prophecy of restoration follows a description of righteous behavior in the form of a hymn.
- In that day, when Israel is purified, the Jerusalem temple will be rebuilt and converted gentiles will seek there after the Lord (see Acts 15:13-21 where Paul's opponents did not complain that he was misquoting). The days come that those taken captive will return, the waste cities will again be inhabited, the land will be fruitful, and “they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God” (9:11-15).
- Amos 9:1: That the posts may shake. A connection between door posts and speaking is made here and in Isa. 6:4 where the moving posts are also evidence of the Lord's presence. Here the Lord tells Amos to smite the lintel (top) of the door whereas in Isa. 6:4 "the posts of the door moved at the voice of [a seraph] that cried." The movement of these posts might be taken as a "parting of the veil" in which case the shaking of the posts here, in contrast to the more subdued term move in Isa. 6:4, may suggest God's wrath. (Cf. shake in Isa. 13:13; 14:16; 24:18.)
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Prompts for life application
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Prompts for further study
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- Amos 8:11: Famine of hearing the word. What might be the "famine...of hearing the words of the LORD"?
- Amos 9:1: Cutting. What is the Lord telling Amos to cut in 9:1, and what might this mean?
- Amos 9:2: Digging to hell. Climbing to heaven is a familiar image, but what about digging to hell in 9:2? Where does this come from?
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Translations and Lexicons.
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