Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.
Amo 7:1 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, he was forming locusts when the latter growth was just beginning to sprout, and behold, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
Amo 7:2 When they had finished eating the grass of the land, I said, “O Lord GOD, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
Amo 7:3 The LORD relented concerning this: “It shall not be,” said the LORD.
Amo 7:4 This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, the Lord GOD was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land.
Amo 7:5 Then I said, “O Lord GOD, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”
Amo 7:6 The LORD relented concerning this: “This also shall not be,” said the Lord GOD.
Amo 7:7 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.
Amo 7:8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them;
Amo 7:9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”
In Amos 7:3, the context is that God wants to judge Israel for wickedness. God first begins forming locusts, but Amos intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents. Then God begins calling fire on Israel. Amos again intercedes (“please forgive!”), and God repents again. Then God shows Amos a plumb line (used for demolishing buildings), and declares against Israel. The first part might have a period of time implied between pronouncements. It seems to be implied that Amos is recounting a history of his intercessions for Israel.
God is described as having begun to build a judgment by locusts. This is an action that God never finishes. Amos intercedes and God repents. The same series of events occur again after God begins preparing fire as judgement of Israel. Again, God never finishes what He began. Again the prophet intercedes and God repents. This passage would be odd in light of total omniscience of future events. Why would God begin activities He knows He will never complete? Why even delay punishment knowing that He would eventually punish anyways. The delayed punishment seems not to have borne any fruit.
This series of events is reminiscent of the potter and the clay parable found in Jeremiah 18. God begins shaping a pot, the pot is marred, and God makes the vessel into another object. In the Jeremiah passage as well as the Amos passage, God is not completing His original intentions. In contrast, the Jeremiah repentance is in respond to repentance in the people (either repentance to or from evil). In Amos, the repentance is due to the intercession by a valued individual apart from any repentance of the people.
This passage is not about Negative Theology, but God’s long-suffering and people exhausting His patience. This passage is written to communicate God’s excessive steps to reach Israel, steps which bare no fruit.