John T. Willis

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Imperative

Throughout the Bible, the hearer or reader inevitably encounters the "imperative." An imperative is a command or an entreaty or an exhortation. One must determine the exact meaning in each context. For serious students of the Bible, one must learn Greek and Hebrew or at a minimum consult good commentaries and scholarly articles on this matter.

One example will illustrate the issue and the importance.

I. The imperative can be singular or plural. The English hearer or reader cannot make the difference without reading the Greek or Hebrew or consult good commentaries and sometimes note carefully the context.

II. Micah 6:1-2 illustrates the flow of the context.

III. Micah 6:1a: "Hear now what Yahweh is saying." The word here is PLURAL. Thus, the prophet Micah is addressing a group of people, not an individual. Micah is telling that group what Yahweh is saying.

IV. Micah 6:1b-c: "Rise, plead your court case before the mountains
and let the hills hear your voice."
The imperatives "rise" and "plead" are singular [note also that "your" in the next line is a singular pronoun]. Thus, now Yahweh is speaking to Micah [one person], instructing the prophet Micah to plead Micah's court case before the mountains and the hills of Judah. Micah assumes the role of a lawyer supporting the plaintiff Yahweh. Here the mountains and hills are "witnesses" to the validity of Yahweh's accusation through the prophet Micah.

V. Micah 6:2: "Hear O mountains the court case of Yahweh
and enduring foundations of the earth;
for Yahweh has a court case with [agains] his people,
and with Israel he will contend."
"Hear" is the plural imperative. You probably see in the context here that "mountains" and "enduring foundations" is plural. NOW, the prophet Micah is obediently responding to Yahweh instructions to Micah in verse 1b-c. Micah addresses the "witnesses," the mountains and the enduring foundations. The reason is that Yahweh has a court case with his people Israel, and Yahweh has charged Micah to deliver Yahweh's court case here.

As one studies the Bible, watch for the imperative. In each verse, in each text, the imperative may be singular or plural. Learn Hebrew and Greek, or consult good commentaries. One misses important divine truths in the Bible when missing the imperative.

This is a "technical" blog. I apologize. But when we study the Bible, certain issues call for discussion. Give me YOUR insights. Study good commentaries and scholarly articles. This will greatly improve one's understanding of the Bible and inspire individuals to grow and mature.

John Willis

Amos in His Context

With this blog, we take a journey through the Book of Amos. To get a rather broad perspective, first we will attempt to ascertain a perspective of the general setting or context of Amos and his times.

I. According to Amos 1:1, Amos was among the shepherds of Tekoa, a small town approximately 10 miles south of Jerusalem, thus in South Judah. This is significant because Amos did most of his prophetic efforts in North Israel, especially Bethel. At one point in his career, Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, commanded Amos to go back home to his southern town and quick preaching in North Israel. Amos 7:10-13. Tekoa was an observation post in this portion of South Judah (Jeremiah 6:1). One of David's "mighty men" was from Tekoa (2 Samuel 23:26). Joab brought a wise woman from Tekoa to give David a court case to convince David to accept Absalom back into his good stead (2 Samuel 14:1-24). King Rehoboam of Judah designated Tekoa as one of his fortified sites in Judah (2 Chronicles 11:5-12). The village of Tekoa supplied laborers to refortify in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:5, 27). Historically, then, Tekoa played a significant role in Judean life in OT times.

II. Amos 1:1 locates the prophetic preaching of Amos during the reigns of Uzziah king of Judah (783-742 B. C.) and Jeroboam II king of North Israel (786-746 B. C.), adding the phrase "two years before the earthquake," which many scholars think this occurred in approximately 750 B. C. Zechariah 14:4-5 refer to this significant event. Apparently, Amos did his work about this time, given a few years before and/or after.

III. 2 Kings 14:23-29 explain that the territory of Israel was as large and powerful as Israel had been during the reign of Solomon (see 1 Kings 4:21, 24), the only time in Israel's history when this country was this large. 2 Chronicles 26:6-8 says that king of Uzziah of Judah successfully overthrew the Philistines and the Arabs. This allowed the Israelites to have a major trade route extending from Egypt in the south to Assyria in the northeast. People in power became very rich and influential and dominant. This is a major issue addressed by Amos in this book.

IV. Various references throughout the book of Amos indicate a booming economy in this period of time. Archaeological discoveries support this picture. Herding sheep was an important industry. Staples were wheat, barley, olives, dyeing and weaving, minint and metallurgy, the perfume industry, and building impressive houses.

V. As we study the Book of Amos, we find repeatedly that there was a minority class in Israel possessing large land areas. The ruling class, wealthy landowners, rich merchants, and powerful moneylenders dominated the people to the hurt of the poor and disadvantaged. The king and his associates established a strong military force or army. Leisure and luxury were characteristic among the rich.

VI. All of these issues led to a corrupt society, in which there arose a sharp social distinction between those in power and those in poverty. Inevitably, we will address these issues in detail as we work through the Book of Amos.

Like all books of the Bible, the Book of Amos is a very ancient book, but its message is as relevant and up-to-date as the morning newspaper. You will immediately see how our society is very much like the society of Israel in the eighth century B.C., and the corruption and injustices prevalent in the days of Amos also exist today. I hope that all of us can benefit greatly from this study.

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

John Willis


Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving Day is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in Canada and the United States. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general. The traditional "First Thanksgiving" is the celebration that occurred at the site of the Plymouth Plantation in 1621, which occurred early in the history of what would become one of the original thirteen colonies which became the United States. This thanksgiving, modeled after celebration commonplace in contemporary Europe, is generally regarded as America's first. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. Hence, this year, Thanksgiving Day is 26 November
2009. This celebration has been an annual tradition since 1863, and became a federal holiday in 1941. Thanksgiving was historically a religious observation to give thanks to God. The first Thanksgiving feast in 1621 lasted three days providing enough food for 53 pilgrims and 90 Indians. The traditional Thanksgiving menu often features turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. On the first feast, turkey was any type of fowl that the pilgrims hunted. Pumpkin pie was not on the menu because there were no ovens for baking, but they did have boiled pumpkin. Cranberries were not introduced at this time. Due to the diminishing supply of flour there was no bread of any kind. The foods included in the first feast included duck, geese, venison, fish, lobster, clams, swan, berries, dried fruit, pumpkin, squash, and many more vegetables.

Evelyn and I always enjoy and celebrate Thanksgiving annually. We always invite our family. Some come, some do not. We include families who are isolated. This year, so far we have fifteen people. Hopefully others will come. All are welcome.

Thanksgiving is the cornerstone of biblical faith. How can any human being ignore our complete dependence on a higher power=God? Paul asked simply: "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). The ability to see, to hear, to smell, to understand, to walk, to breathe, etc., etc., is a precious gift of God. The ONLY RESPONSE to all of these free gifts of God is to fall down before him and be thankful.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:15-17:
"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were call in the one body. And BE THANKFUL. Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER through him."

In 1990, Dennis L. Jernigan wrote this moving song:

For all that You've done, I will thank You.
For all that You're going to do.
For all that You've promised, and all that you are
is all that has carried me through.
Jesus, I thank You!
And I thank You, thank You, Lord,
And I thank You, thank You, Lord.
Thank You for loving and setting me free,
Thank You for giving Your life just for me.
How I thank You.
Jesus, I thank You,
Gratefully thank You, Thank You!

We should all be grateful to God every day for all He continually does for us. I hope YOU are thankful to God. Share your thanksgiving with everyone around. God Bless You.

John Willis