Amos 7 – Two Plagues & The Nimrud Ivories

Finger Pointing UpMaybe that’s why ivory is so expensive now.1

Anyway, the people didn’t like the prophet Isaiah, they didn’t like the prophet Jeremiah, and they obviously don’t like Amos, so let’s take a look at…

Amos 7
Two Plagues

1 Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth; and, lo, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.

“Shewed unto me” – introduces reports of visions that convey God’s message through things seen as well as heard.

2 And it came to pass, that when they had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord GOD, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.

“By whom shall Jacob arise?” –  mass starvation would afflict all the people.

“Jacob” – Israel.

3 The LORD repented for this: It shall not be, saith the LORD.

2 One of the Nimrud ivories
One of the Nimrud ivories, made in Egypt, depicting two Egyptians facing each other.

“The LORD repented” – in response to the prophetic intercession, but forgiveness is not offered.

4 Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.

“Great deep” – probably the Mediterranean Sea.

5 Then said I, O Lord GOD, cease, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise? for he is small.

6 The LORD repented for this: This also shall not be, saith the Lord GOD.

7 Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.

8 And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more:

7:8-9 – in vv. 1-6 God proposed wholesale punishments amounting to total destruction, but relented at Amos’s prayer – though without promise of forgiveness.  Now the Lord is no longer open to such intercession.3

“Plumbline” – God’s people had been built according to God’s standards, they were expected to be true to those standards, but were completely out of plumb when tested.

“My people” – here, for the first time in the book of Amos, the Lord calls Israel “my people.”

9 And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.

“High places…sanctuaries…house” – the centers of religious and political pretentious and of self-righteous pride would be wiped out.

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words.

11 For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land.

4 Carved ivory from Nimrud showing a bull striding through a field of lotus flowers 8th – 7th century B.C.
Carved ivory from Nimrud showing a bull striding through a field of lotus flowers, 8th – 7th century B.C.

12 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there:

13 But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.

14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit:

15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.

16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac.

17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be a harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.

The Nimrud Ivories

Amos 6:4 spoke of “beds inlaid with ivory’ and attested to the availability of ivory in Israel, as well as to the high esteem in which it was held.

5 Ivory plaque
Ivory plaque from Nimrud held at the British Museum. The plaque still has traces of its original gold leaf and paint.

Indeed, though out the Near East elephant ivory was treasured as a medium for artwork.  A large collection of carved ivories was discovered in the palace area of Nimrud, an Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris.

Six thousand carved, decorated pieces known as the Nimrud Ivories date from the 9th to 7th Century B.C. were discovered in the city of Nimrud in modern day Iraq and excavated by the British Institute for Study of Iraq.

These ivory carvings were artistic masterpieces in the form of human figures, animals (both real and mythological), plants and abstractions.  Many of these carved pieces were originally covered in gold.

On the other hand, many of the objects were used for practical purposes.  For example, one ivory piece was the handle of a fly-whisk or a fan, and another carving was used as a blinder for a horse.

6 Plaque 8th 7th century B.C.
Plaque 8th-7th century B.C.

In 1961, fragments of an ivory plaque was unearthed at Nimrud.  Surprisingly, in light of how far removed this site if from Israel, this plaque had a Hebrew inscription.  Because of the broken condition of the find, a complete and certain translation is impossible.

Even so, the plaque appears to contain the phrases, “the great king” (evidently referring to the king of Assyria) and “may Yahweh shatter.” 

The plaque dates to around 750 B.C. and was either part of the tribute given to the Assyrians or taken as booty by the Assyrian army after the Assyrians had destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C.

…Prophets in the Bible and Pagan Nations.

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