Thursday 16 May 2024

Bible Book:

"See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel." (v. 8)

Amos 7:1-17 Thursday 16 May 2024

Psalm 135:1-7


Our reading today follows on from previous ones this week and comes from the book of the prophet Amos in the Old Testament. Amos, a shepherd or herdsman from a town near Jerusalem (Amos 1:1), was called to prophesy in the 8th century BC. In these verses, we hear about some of the visions that Amos received from God, as well as his encounter with the priest Amaziah.

The three visions are among the most famous parts of this short book. The first seemingly took place around February or March, when people were preparing the first of the three annual harvests, which would have been given as a tribute to the king (7:1). A swarm of locusts at this time would have been a disaster and Amos acts like Moses and other prophets, asking God to spare the people (Exodus 32:11-14). This is almost unique in the book, with Amos usually being called to prophecy unavoidable doom to a nation about to be destroyed by the Assyrians (7:17).

The second includes the same refrain as the first concerning Jacob (7:2, 5), which usually refers to the southern kingdom of Judah, not Israel, suggesting that these verses may have been written later. The third vision uses a rare Hebrew word meaning ‘lead’, which is usually translated as ‘plumb-line’ but may have another meaning.

The latter half of the reading contains one of the few narrative sections in the book, the rest being poetry. It refers to an encounter between Amos, the prophet from Judah, and the leadership of the northern kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam (7:9) had rebelled against Solomon’s son Rehoboam several centuries beforehand, and the kingdoms had been split ever since (1 Kings 12:1-24). To strengthen his rule, Jeroboam had erected a golden calf at the ancient sanctuary of Bethel and ordered his people to worship there, not at the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:25-33). The priest Amaziah’s rejection of the southern prophet’s words marks an important turning point in the book (7:16). The kingdom’s inevitable doom, described in graphic terms (7:17), is now sealed.

To Ponder:

  • How do you respond to the seemingly unavoidable nature of the disaster that Amos is called upon to announce in today’s passage (7:16-17)?
  • What lessons might we want to learn from how the prophet from Judah is treated by those in power in Israel?
  • How do these verses speak to conflicts and divisions we see across our world today?

Bible notes author: The Revd Geoffrey Farrar
Geoffrey Farrar is the Superintendent Minister of the Richmond & Hounslow Circuit in south-west London. He has pastoral charge of Barnes, Putney and Roehampton churches. He is currently studying for a (very) part-time PhD at the nearby University of Roehampton, looking at the impact of the Maccabean Revolt on responses to Jesus. He lives in Putney with his partner and their adopted son.

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