Translation problems in Amos 7:2

The beginning of Am 7:2 poses major problems for translators, in a very literal rendering it might read something like:

"and it was when/if they finished eating the greenery of the land, and I said..."

The problem is that the aspects of the verbs in this construction may suggest that the locusts have finished eating, in that case unless God reverses the flow of time his change of heart in v.3 is too late (Andersen & Freedman, 742-3).

The difficulty stems from understanding אִם 'im as introducing a temporal clause - "when". However more often אִם 'im introduces a conditional clause - "if". Waltke & O'Connor speak of this construction - וְהָיָה אִם vehaya 'im- as "introducing a situation that is only more or less loosely connected with the preceding situation" it seems that in this case it introduces a supposition: "suppose they finished eating... so I said"

Another phrase posing problems in both v.2 & v.5 reads literally "Who Jacob will rise/stand up". Several approaches are taken to resolve this:

  1. Instead of יקום yaqum "rise" read יקים yaqim "raise" (hiphil) as the LXX seems to have done.
  2. Read מִי mi not as "who" but simply as the sign of a question "Can Jacob rise?" - however this is a late Hebrew usage (Paul 229, n.26).
  3. Read מִי mi "who" in the sense of "as whom" (Wolff 292, Paul 229) = "how is Jacob to stand/survive" (on "rise" = "survive" see Paul 229, n.28).

The last option is more often chosen.




This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.