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Prophets find God’s message in every word and turn of phrase. Lo-debar and Karnaim were two cities recaptured by Jeroboam II, king of Israel, after a foreign ruler had annexed them as part of his kingdom (2 Kings 10:32–36). When Jeroboam won back the region, the people celebrated (2 Kings 14:23–29); but Jeroboam was out of step with God, so the joy was short-lived. That’s where the names of the two cities become interesting. In Hebrew Lo-debar means “no thing”; Karnaim means “horns,” and horns are a symbol of strength. In a bit of sarcasm, the prophet quips that those who celebrate the retaking of Lo-debar are celebrating “nothing,” while those who claim the victory at Karnaim have only their horn, their own strength, to thank. God will have none of it.

This is what the Eternal Lord showed me: He brought a swarm of locusts when the crops had begun to sprout in late spring (after the king’s portion of the hay had been cut). When I saw the locusts devour everything green in the land that belonged to the farmers, I spoke.

Amos: O Eternal Lord, please forgive us!
        How will Jacob’s descendants survive this?
    The nation is so small.

The Eternal relented and showed mercy.

Eternal One: What you have seen will not be.

Then the Eternal Lord showed me this: He called for a rain of fire, and it devoured the deep abyss and began to devour the land itself.

Amos: O Eternal Lord, please no! Not this!
        How will Jacob’s descendants survive this?
    The nation is so small.

And the Eternal again relented and showed mercy.

Eternal One: This will not happen either.

Then He showed me this: The Lord was standing by a wall built with a plumb line, and in His hand was a plumb line.

Eternal One: What do you see, Amos?

Amos: A plumb line.

Eternal One: Watch what I’m about to do! I am going to put a plumb line
        up against My people Israel to see what is straight and true,
    And I will not look the other way any longer.
    The high places of Isaac will be destroyed
        and the religious shrines of Israel reduced to ruin,
    And with sword in hand, I will bring down the house of Jeroboam the king.

10 Then Amaziah, the priest at the royal shrine in Bethel, sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel.

Amaziah’s Message: Amos is plotting conspiracy against you in the very heart of the land of Israel. You must act. The land cannot bear any more of his speeches. 11 For this is what Amos is saying:

Amos: Jeroboam is going to die by the sword,
        and the people of Israel will be captured and led away into exile far from home.

Amaziah’s Message: 12 I told Amos, “Listen, seer—run for the land of Judah; earn your living and spread your prophesies there, 13 but don’t ever show your face and try to prophesy at Bethel again because it is the king’s sanctuary and a temple for this kingdom.”

14 But Amos persisted.

Amos: I am not a professional prophet, or even the son of one. You shouldn’t be afraid of me; I am just a man who followed my herds and gathered the fruit from the sycamores 15 until the Eternal spoke to me, as I was minding my flock.

Eternal One: Go and speak My words to the people of Israel!

16 So now listen to what the Eternal has to say, you who say,
    “Don’t prophesy against Israel,
Or predict the downfall of Isaac’s descendants.”
17 The Eternal One says this:

Eternal One: Your wife will be reduced to selling herself in the streets,
        your sons and daughters will die by the sword,
        your land will be measured out to others,
    You yourself will end your days in an impure land,
        and Israel will be sent into exile far from home.

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