notes on 7:1-3

There are some difficulties of translation in verse two, however they have little effect on its overall impact.

Form

Amos contains a sequence of five descriptions of visions (7:1-3; 7:4-6; 7-9; 8:1-3; 9:1-4). The genre and shape of all the five are discussed together elsewhere. Broadly speaking their only significant difference from "vision accounts" in other prophetic books is their almost total lack of detail in visual description.

The five also form a series with clear progression in their shaping.

These comments apply also to: 7:4-6; 7-9; 8:1-3; 9:1-4.

Language and imagery

Locust from Clack.

v.1

Locusts were a pest in the Ancient Near East, Joel 1:1-12 provides a vivid description of the devastation they could inflict. The migratory locust is a form of grasshopper, which grows wings when the population density becomes too great (ABD, Zoology, Fauna, Animal Profiles, F, 1).

Traveling in huge swarms, they can glide for over 100kms on the wind. These swarms strip trees and grasses overnight, taking off for a new feeding ground as the sun rises. The Romans are said to have called them "land burners". Packer & Tenney (242) show two pictures taken 15 minutes apart, in the first a tree in full leaf, which is in the second stripped bare.

Drawing of the "Gezer Calendar"

The late sowing, is known from the Gezer Calendar, and is likely to have taken place in Winter. Here this planting has begun to grow. So the time is spring, and vegetation is into its last growth before the dry months of summer.

The king's mowings is not a custom otherwise known, and elsewhere the word traditionally rendered "mowing" means "shearing" sheep. However, as Andersen & Freedman (742) note it is likely that mention of the king is not incidental. Even royal food and prosperity was attacked by these locusts.

v.2

Suppose they finished... here the vision ends and the prophet's imagination takes over, if such a swarm of locusts were to complete their devastation famine is sure.

Please as is fitting when pleading with God to revoke a deserved punishment, Amos adds a polite form to his request.

(The rest of the comment on this verse applies also to v.5 below.)

Forgive this word is concerned with sin against God, not with human forgiveness.

Jacob in Amos always refers to the Northern Kingdom (3:13; 6:8; 7:2, 5; 8:7;
9:8). Calling Israel small at this time must have rankled with Amos' hearers, for under Jeroboam II her boundaries were roughly as extensive as in the time of Solomon or even David's empire. Compared to Egypt or the quiescent Assyria, however, "small" is accurate.

v.3

Adonai took pity: Amos' intercession was successful; God changed his plans to punish Israel. This claim requires two sorts of comment:

theological - can it be said that a perfect God changes his mind?
historical - on the role of prophets interceding.

Set at this point in the book of Amos, just before the conflict with Amaziah, in a chapter that mirrors the focus on the prophet's authority and duty to speak in chapter 3, Amos' successful intercession is significant.

The great (founding?) prophets Moses and Samuel were reputed to have successfully interceded for Israel. This is exactly what Amos does here and in 7:4-5. Amos is shown to be a true prophet.


 

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos , if you have reached it as a standalone page, to view it in context, go to www.bible.gen.nz
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.