Amos 7

1 This is what the Lord the Ruler showed me.

He was preparing a large number of locusts.

This was after the king had taken his share of the harvest.

It was the time when the second crop had just begun to grow.

2 The locusts ate everything that grew in the country.

After that I said, ' Lord the Ruler, forgive us! Jacob cannot continue to live! He is so small!'

3 So the Lord changed his mind about this.

'This will not happen', the Lord said.

Verse 1 The patience of God is over. He will send his locusts as a judgement. The time of this picture is late spring. There was an earlier crop. The king took a share from this crop. However, we know very little about the circumstances of this. The harvest from the second crop was for the farmers. So if the locusts ate this second crop, there would be no food left.

Verse 2 Prophets often saw the future. Amos saw what might happen. Amos saw that the people were going to starve. Very few people or animals could live. Amos therefore stood between God and the people. He prayed for Israel. He prayed that God would not send this punishment. But he did not remind God about his covenant with Israel although he had done this before. This was because Israel had too many sins.

Verse 3 God has plans. But it is always possible that he can change his plans. This can happen when people pray to him (Genesis 18:22-32; Joshua 7:6-13; Jonah 3:10). Neither God nor Amos wanted the people to die.

A Picture of Fire

4 The Lord the Ruler showed these things to me.

I saw him preparing to punish his people by fire.

The fire dried up the great deep and destroyed the land.

5 Then I said, ' Lord God, please stop!

Jacob cannot continue to live. He is so small!'

6 So the Lord changed his mind about this.

'This too will not happen', the Lord the Ruler said.

Verse 4 Amos now has another picture from God. God is going to send fire. But it is not a natural fire. It can even burn water. The great deep is deep water. This came up as streams and rivers. Fire can often be a sign of judgement in the Bible (Joel 1:19-20; 2:3, 5, 30).

Verses 5-6 These verses are similar to verses 2-3. Amos cries out 'Stop!' He uses the same reason as he used before. The fire will destroy everything. In the same way as before, God listens. He changes his mind. The fire will not happen.

A Picture of a Plumb Line

7 This is what he showed me.

The Lord was standing by a wall.

He had a plumb line in his hand.

This plumb line showed that the wall was quite straight.

8 The Lord asked me, 'Amos, what do you see?' 'A plumb line', I replied.

Then the Lord said, 'Look, I will put a plumb line among my people Israel.

I will not stop myself from punishing them.

9 I will destroy the places where the family of Isaac worship.

I will ruin the holy places of Israel.

I will attack and kill Jeroboam's family with my sword.'

Verse 7 Amos now has a third picture. God compares Israel to a wall. A plumb line is a builder's tool. It is a piece of string with a weight on the end. A plumb line shows if a wall is straight or not. God himself 'built' Israel. He led Israel in the beginning. He made standards for his people. These were the laws he gave to Moses. There was therefore no reason for the Israelites to fail.

Verse 8 God compared this straight wall with Israel. He is not pleased with what he saw. The Israelites were not following his standards. They were not 'straight' any more. He had no more patience with them. So he would punish them. The Hebrew says that God will not 'pass by them'. Instead, he will see their sin. This reminds us of the Passover (Exodus 12:23). The Israelites found shelter because of the blood. Now, however, there would be no escape.

Verse 9 God would even destroy the ' holy places'. Actually, they were not very holy. They were important places for false religion. People worshipped Baal and other gods. They worshipped God at these places. But they worshipped him as if he were a Baal. Isaac had a connection with Beersheba (Genesis 26:33; 28:10). This was also a place of worship in the time of Amos. People thought that this connection made the worship legal.

Amos and Amaziah

10 Then Amaziah, the priest at Bethel, sent this message to Jeroboam, king of Israel: 'Amos is making plans against you. He is trying to make the people fight against you. We refuse to hear any more of what he says. 11 Amos is saying: "Jeroboam will die by the sword. The Israelites will go into exile, away from their own country".' 12 Then Amaziah said to Amos: 'Get out, you prophet! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and prophesy there. 13 But do not prophesy any more at Bethel. This is the place where Jeroboam worships. This is the nation's temple.'

Verse 10 Amos has a hard message for Israel. The leaders thought that this message was too hard. They did not want to hear it. Amaziah was probably the chief priest at Bethel at this time. Certainly, he hated the attack on Israel's religion. So he appealed to the king. This was because the king controlled nearly all the religion in Israel. In fact, the first King Jeroboam almost made a new religion. But this religion was not true to God's covenant. Amaziah said that Amos was trying to destroy the government. But this was not true.

Verse 11 Amaziah said another thing that was not true. Amos did not say that Jeroboam would die because of a strong attack. In fact, Jeroboam died in a peaceful way (2 Kings 14:29). Clearly, Amos said that Israel would go into exile (5:5; 6:8, and other verses). He repeated the prophecy in 7:17.

Verse 12 Amaziah hoped that Amos would return to Judah. Then his prophecies would not make the leaders in Israel so nervous. Amaziah tried to say that Amos could earn more money in Israel. Prophets needed to receive gifts of money. So it was easy for Amaziah to attack Amos in this way.

Verse 13 Amaziah received his authority from Jeroboam. This was the reason that the prophets attacked the royal authority. Amaziah said that the temple at Bethel was the king's temple. It was a special place. Amaziah looked after this temple. Therefore, Amaziah thought that he had the authority to decide things. He thought that he was able to tell Amos to go to Judah.

14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, 'I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd. I also took care of sycamore fig trees.' 15 But the Lord took me from looking after sheep. He said to me: "Go and prophesy to my people Israel." 16 So listen to the Lord's message: "You tell me not to prophesy against Israel. You tell me not to give a message against Isaac's family."

17 Therefore this is what the Lord says:

"Your wife will become a prostitute in the city.

People will kill your sons and daughters with the sword. They will divide your land and give it to other people.

And you will die in a foreign country.

The people in Israel will certainly go into exile.

They will have to leave their own country".'

Verse 14 It is not clear what the Hebrew means in this verse. Perhaps Amos means that he does not belong to a group of prophets. We cannot be sure. But he certainly spoke a message from God, and this certainly made him a prophet. The Hebrew word for ' shepherd' is different from the word in 1:1. We do not find this word anywhere else in the Old Testament. It might mean that he looked after other animals too. Perhaps this means that Amos did not need to receive money as a prophet. So he did not want people to pay him.

Verse 15 Amos describes how God chose him to be a prophet. God chose David, who was also a shepherd, in the same way. It was only God who chose kings and prophets. Perhaps Amos wanted Amaziah to compare him with David.

Verse 16 Therefore Amaziah was actually asking Amos not to obey God! Amos mentions both Israel and Isaac. All Israel, both north and south (including Judah) was part of God's plan. Amaziah was opposing the real king. The real king was God.

Verse 17 Amos now said that four bad things would happen to Amaziah.

1\) Amaziah's wife would become a prostitute. This could happen if another country defeated Israel. Amaziah and his wife might then have to separate.

2\) His children would die fighting against a foreign army.

3\) The enemy would take his land and give it to other people. 'The land' probably does not refer to the personal land of Amaziah. It probably refers to the country of Israel.

4\) He would go into exile and die there. The Hebrew for 'foreign country' means 'a land that is not clean'. Amaziah would hate to live in a country where people had other gods. Exile would be the final judgement of God.