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Symbolic Visions of Judgment

The Sovereign Lord showed me this: I saw[a] him making locusts just as the crops planted late[b] were beginning to sprout. (The crops planted late sprout after the royal harvest.[c]) When they had completely consumed the earth’s vegetation, I said,

“Sovereign Lord, forgive Israel![d]
How can Jacob survive?[e]
He is too weak!”[f]

The Lord decided not to do this.[g] “It will not happen,” the Lord said.

The Sovereign Lord showed me this: I saw[h] the Sovereign Lord summoning a shower of fire.[i] It consumed the great deep and devoured the fields. I said,

“Sovereign Lord, stop!
How can Jacob survive?[j]
He is too weak!”[k]

The Lord decided not to do this.[l] The Sovereign Lord said, “This will not happen either.”

He showed me this: I saw[m] the Lord[n] standing by a tin[o] wall holding tin in his hand. The Lord said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” I said, “Tin.” The Lord then said,

“Look, I am about to place tin[p] among my people Israel.
I will no longer overlook their sin.[q]
Isaac’s centers of worship[r] will become desolate;
Israel’s holy places will be in ruins.
I will attack Jeroboam’s dynasty with the sword.”[s]

Amos Confronts a Priest

10 Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent this message[t] to King Jeroboam of Israel: “Amos is conspiring against you in the very heart of the kingdom of Israel![u] The land cannot endure all his prophecies.[v] 11 As a matter of fact,[w] Amos is saying this: ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly be carried into exile[x] away from its land.’”

12 Amaziah then said to Amos, “Leave, you visionary![y] Run away to the land of Judah. Earn your living[z] and prophesy there! 13 Don’t prophesy at Bethel any longer, for a royal temple and palace are here.”[aa]

14 Amos replied[ab] to Amaziah, “I was not a prophet by profession.[ac] No,[ad] I was a herdsman who also took care of[ae] sycamore fig trees.[af] 15 Then the Lord took me from tending[ag] flocks and gave me this commission,[ah] ‘Go! Prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 So now listen to the Lord’s message! You say, ‘Don’t prophesy against Israel! Don’t preach[ai] against the family of Isaac!’

17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says:

‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the streets[aj]
and your sons and daughters will die violently.[ak]
Your land will be given to others[al]
and you will die in a foreign[am] land.
Israel will certainly be carried into exile[an] away from its land.’”


  1. Amos 7:1 tn Heb “behold” or “look.”
  2. Amos 7:1 sn The crops planted late (consisting of vegetables) were planted in late January-early March and sprouted in conjunction with the spring rains of March-April. For a discussion of the ancient Israelite agricultural calendar, see O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 31-44.
  3. Amos 7:1 tn Or “the mowings of the king.”sn This royal harvest may refer to an initial mowing of crops collected as taxes by the royal authorities.
  4. Amos 7:2 tn “Israel” is supplied in the translation for clarity.
  5. Amos 7:2 tn Heb “stand” (so ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).
  6. Amos 7:2 tn Heb “small.”
  7. Amos 7:3 tn Or “changed his mind about this.”
  8. Amos 7:4 tn Heb “behold” or “look.”
  9. Amos 7:4 tc The Hebrew appears to read, “summoning to contend with fire,” or “summoning fire to contend,” but both are problematic syntactically (H. W. Wolff, Joel and Amos [Hermeneia], 292; S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 230-31). Many emend the text to לרבב אשׁ, “(calling) for a shower of fire,” though this interpretation is also problematic (see F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos [AB], 746-47).
  10. Amos 7:5 tn Heb “stand.”
  11. Amos 7:5 tn Heb “small.”
  12. Amos 7:6 tn Or “changed his mind about this.”
  13. Amos 7:7 tn Heb “behold” or “look.”
  14. Amos 7:7 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here and in the following verse is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
  15. Amos 7:7 tn The Hebrew word אֲנָךְ (ʾanakh), “tin,” occurs only in this passage (twice in verse 7 and twice in verse 8). The meaning “tin” is based on its Akkadian cognate annaku. The traditional interpretation of these verses (reflected in many English versions) assumed that אֲנָךְ meant “lead.” Since lead might be used for a plumb line, and a plumb line might be used when building wall, the “lead” wall was assumed to be a wall built “true to plumb” while God holds a “lead” weighted plumb line in his hand. In this view the plumb line represents a standard of evaluation. This understanding developed before Akkadian was deciphered and the type of metal clearly identified for annaku. (In Hebrew “lead” is עֹפֶרֶת; ʿoferet.) Realizing that אֲנָךְ (ʾanakh) means “tin” has lead to other proposed interpretations. Some view the tin wall and piece of tin as symbolic. If the tin wall of the vision symbolizes Israel, it may suggest weakness and vulnerability to judgment. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 233-35. Another option understands the Lord to have ripped off a piece of the tin wall and placed it in front of all to see. Their citadels, of which the nation was so proud and confident, are nothing more than tin fortresses. Various proposals depend on selecting some quality about tin and suggesting a role for that in this context. However, it is more likely that this is a case of a sound play like the next vision in Amos 8:1-2 (see also Jer 1:11-14). With the presentation technique of a sound play, the vision is not the prophecy, only the occasion for the prophecy. God gets the prophet to say a certain sound and then spins the prophecy off that. See the note at 7:8.
  16. Amos 7:8 sn The next vision clearly shows the technique of using a sound play. In 8:1 and 7:7 (cf. Jer 1:11-14) God shows the prophet an object, then asks what he sees. When the prophet responds, the last word becomes the jumping off point for the prophetic word. Based on the similar structure to the vision in 8:1-2 we expect a sound play here as well. But exactly how it works is uncertain. Possibly the term אֲנָךְ (ʾanakh) in v. 8b is a homonym meaning “grief” (this term is attested in post-biblical Hebrew). In this case God is saying that he will put grief in the midst of Israel, meaning that he is sending judgment. Judgment was also threatened in the first two visions of Amos 7. See F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos (AB), 759. Another possibility is that אֲנָךְ is supposed to sound like a pronominal suffix on the verb. While it would not fit the normal verb paradigm exactly, it is close to how a second person masculine singular suffix could sound (more typical of the pausal second masculine singular suffix on nouns or prepositions). In this case God is saying to Amos, “I am about to place you in the midst of Israel.” In the next section of the chapter, Amos relates how God sent him to preach to Israel (7:15). Amaziah the priest rejects Amos’ message, leading to God declaring the “end” (8:2) for Israel.
  17. Amos 7:8 tn Heb “And I will no longer pass over him.”
  18. Amos 7:9 tn Traditionally, “the high places” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); cf. NLT “pagan shrines.”
  19. Amos 7:9 tn Heb “And I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with a sword.”
  20. Amos 7:10 tn The direct object of the verb translated “sent” is elided in the Hebrew text. The words “this message” are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.
  21. Amos 7:10 tn Heb “in the middle of the house of Israel.”
  22. Amos 7:10 tn Heb “words.”
  23. Amos 7:11 tn Or “for.”
  24. Amos 7:11 tn See the note on the word “exile” in 5:5.
  25. Amos 7:12 tn Traditionally, “seer.” The word is a synonym for “prophet,” though it may carry a derogatory tone on the lips of Amaziah.
  26. Amos 7:12 tn Heb “Eat bread there.”
  27. Amos 7:13 tn Heb “for it is a temple of a king and it is a royal house.” It is possible that the phrase “royal house” refers to a temple rather than a palace. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 243.
  28. Amos 7:14 tn Heb “replied and said.” The phrase “and said” is pleonastic (redundant) and has not been included in the translation.
  29. Amos 7:14 tn Heb “I was not a prophet nor was I the son of a prophet.” The phrase “son of a prophet” refers to one who was trained in a prophetic guild. Since there is no equative verb present in the Hebrew text, another option is to translate with the present tense, “I am not a prophet by profession.” In this case Amos, though now carrying out a prophetic ministry (v. 15), denies any official or professional prophetic status. Modern English versions are divided about whether to understand the past (JB, NIV, NKJV) or present tense (NASB, NEB, NRSV, NJPS) here.
  30. Amos 7:14 tn Heb “for.”
  31. Amos 7:14 tn Heb “gashed”; or “pierced.”sn For a discussion of the agricultural background, see O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 128-29.
  32. Amos 7:14 sn It is possible that herdsmen agreed to care for sycamore fig trees in exchange for grazing rights. See P. King, Amos, Hosea, Micah, 116-17. Since these trees do not grow around Tekoa but rather in the lowlands, another option is that Amos owned other property outside his hometown. In this case, this verse demonstrates his relative wealth and is his response to Amaziah; he did not depend on prophecy as a profession (v. 13).
  33. Amos 7:15 tn Heb “from [following] after.”
  34. Amos 7:15 tn Heb “and the Lord said to me.”
  35. Amos 7:16 tn The verb, which literally means “to drip,” appears to be a synonym of “to prophesy,” but it might carry a derogatory tone here, perhaps alluding to the impassioned, frenzied way in which prophets sometimes delivered their messages. If so, one could translate, “to drivel; to foam at the mouth” (see HALOT 694 s.v. נטף).
  36. Amos 7:17 tn Heb “in the city,” that is, “in public.”
  37. Amos 7:17 tn Heb “will fall by the sword.”
  38. Amos 7:17 tn Heb “will be divided up with a [surveyor’s] measuring line.”
  39. Amos 7:17 tn Heb “[an] unclean”; or “[an] impure.” This fate would be especially humiliating for a priest, who was to distinguish between the ritually clean and unclean (see Lev 10:10).
  40. Amos 7:17 tn See the note on the word “exile” in 5:5.