John T. Willis

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Preaching Methods in Amos

I suppose every preacher or teacher uses various methods to communicate their thoughts and motivations and goals. A careful study of the Book of Amos reveals several "preaching or teaching" methods that Amos used to communicate his audiences. Here are some introductory suggestions.

I. Repetition. Repetition has always been a powerful means of communication. When the speaker or writer repeats certain words or expressions or ideas, the hearer or reader soon gets the thoughts the speaker or writer intends to emphasize. Here are a few examples of repetition in the Book of Amos.
a. All eight oracles concerning the nations in Amos 1-2 begin with the expression:
"Thus says the Lord:
For three transgression of xxx
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment." 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6. Further, several of these oracles conclude with the expression "says the Lord"--1:5, 8, 15; 2:3, 16.
b. The summons or call "Hear this word" starts 3:1; 4:1; and 5:1.
c. The statement: "Yet you did not return to me, says the Lord" occurs five times in Amos 4:6-13 (verses 6, 8, 9, 10, 11).
d. "Seek" occurs three times in strategic places in 5:1-17 (verses 4, 6, 14).
e. The introductory statement, "This is what the Lord God showed me" or something very similar occurs five times in the visions recorded in Amos 7-9: see 7:1, 4, 7; 8:1; 8:1.
f. "I will never again pass by them" occurs significantly in 7:8 and 8:2.
g. "On that day" occurs often in the Book of Amos; for example, 8:2, 9; 9:11.
h. "Justice" and "righteousness" are a recurring theme throughout the Book of Amos.

II. Questions. Searching questions play a major role throughout the Book of Amos. Here are a few examples.
a. 3:3-6.
b. 5:20.
c. 6:2-3.
d. 6:13.
e. 7:2, 5.
f. 8:5, 8.
g. 9:7.

III. Sarcasm. The use of clever sarcasm brings out the wrongs of the hearers. Amos 4:4-5. Compare Job 12:2.

IV. Word Plays. Word plays are in Hebrew.
a. "Summer fruit" in the vision "Basket of summer fruit" is qayits in Hebrew. "End" in this same vision is qets. 8:1-2. The hearer cannot miss the slight difference of tone.
b. A modern English example might be: James says to Sue: "Your shirt is blue." Sue replies: "Yes, and I am blue, because I just blew the test I just took."

V. Recurring Themes. Here are a few.
a. Lion and sheep. God is the lion, and Israel is the sheep the lion will devour. 1:2; 3:7-8, 12; 5:18-20.
b. Trust in military strength rather than in God. 2:13-16; 6:13-14.
c. Corrupt commercial practices. 2:6-8; 5:10-12; 8:4-6.
d. Trust in rich houses and furniture and jewelry. 3:15; 5:11; 6:4-7.
e. Samaria. 3:9, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 8:14.
f. Recurring song or poem. 4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6.

As we work through the Book of Amos, we will encounter with these and additional "preaching or teaching methods" of this prophet. By being aware of these methods, one hopefully will better understand the message and intention of Amos' proclamations.

Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

f. Bethel. 3:14; 4:4; 5:5-6; 7:13


  • John, I realize you may be writing your blog more for your students, but do you mind a question from a colleague? In teaching Amos to my own students, I find it helpful to think about Amos 1-2 chronologically, as if Amos warms up his audience by preaching about everybody else's sins before he hits them with their own. But is there any historical or exegetical basis for thinking that the oracles against the nations (I call it the "God's Wrath World Tour") are among Amos's earliest sermons? I cannot perceive any reason for thinking this except for the canonical shape of the book, and of course the book of Jeremiah shows this is not a good guide to chronology. Do you mind sharing your thoughts about this?

    By Blogger Christopher Heard, at 5:07 PM  

  • Hey Dr. Willis! I loved your post about Chiang Mai and Phayao. Ann and Derran are very dear to us and I know they will be delighted to be mentioned by you! Give our love to Mrs. Evelyn and take me to New Zealand with you!

    Shanta and Ken Murray

    By Blogger Shanta, at 6:49 PM  

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