The first verse in Amos gives readers much information concerning this prophet. It gives us the prophet's name, his location, one of his occupations, kings of the northern and southern kingdoms at this time, his audience, and date
of his prophecy. Amos 1:1 states, "The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake."
       First, we find the call of Amos in Amos 7:15: And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.  Since Amos 1:1 is so precise in saying that it occurred two years before the earthquake and also took place in the days of Uzziah and Jeroboam, most scholars date the prophecy at around 760-755 B.C. (according to Al Maxey at this site). This earthquake was a very severe one in Uzziah's day that was remembered for centuries after. Even Zechariah 14:5 makes reference to it: And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains... like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah... (14:5). The setting of his prophecy is Bethel, a city in the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and can be found in Amos 4:4 and 7:13.
       Amos's intended audience is Israel, the
northern kingdom. The protagonist knew of the people of Israel's prevalent sins at this time and was able to use Amos to prophesy to them and warn them to change their sinful ways before God's wrath would strike. According to Al Maxey, there were several factors which led to the prophecy:

1. This was a time when the fortunes of the northern kingdom (Israel) had reached one of their highest points of prosperity and peace. Jeroboam was able to extend his borders almost to those of the old Davidic kingdom. There was also peace with the southern kingdom (Judah). 
2. It was a time of great economic well-being and national strength. 
3. There was a complete lack of social concern in the land. The rich would stop at nothing to increase their profits, including economic exploitation of the poor. Even the legal system was corrupted, and the poor had no recourse even in the courts.

Adding to the second point, Amos tells us that the Israelites had "winter houses," "summer houses," and "houses of ivory" (3:15). They also had "houses of well-hewn stone" (5:11). They reclined on "beds of ivory" (6:4), sprawled on couches, ate and drank to their fill, anointed  themselves with the finest oils, were surrounded by music (6:4-7). In  short, they were "at ease in Zion" (6:1). His major concern was that the people would be too comfortable in their time of prosperity, get caught up in sin, and forsake God.
As far as literary features in Amos, readers can note several instances of imagery when Amos describes his visions. Examples are: 
Amos 7:1 - Thus hath the Lord GOD showed unto me; and, behold, he formed grasshoppers in the beginning of the shooting up of the latter growth...
Amos 7:4 - Thus hath the Lord GOD showed unto me: and, behold, the Lord GOD called to contend by fire, and it devoured the great deep, and did eat up a part.
Amos 7:7 - Thus he showed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
Amos 8:1 - Thus hath the Lord GOD showed
unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit.
Amos 9:1 - I saw the Lord standing upon the
Both personification and metaphors can be seen in 5:24 - But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.
Parallelism can be seen in 5:10 - They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.

       His writings propel the theme of redemption because his message suggests that if the people of Israel will repent and turn from their sins against Him, they will be forgiven, redeemed, and shown mercy by God's
promise to renew the land and restore the temple; and I believe the main theme of Amos to be chastisment and offer of redemption through repentence. I believe this theme is best summarized in Amos 5:14-15 which states, "Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may  be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph."
Amos was a  shepherd and a herdsman, but a fact about Amos that I found to be highly
interesting was that he was also "a gatherer of sycamore fruit" (7:14).
Accordng to Al Maxey, "this was the wild fig which exuded a ball of sap when nipped at the right season, and which hardened into a sort of edible fruit which the lower classes were able
to afford. This tree was found at a lower altitude
than Tekoa, so Amos undoubtedly had to do some traveling (perhaps down to the Dead Sea
region) to tend these trees."
        Other interesting facts are that his name means "burden" or "burden-bearer," and
there is no other Amos listed in the Bible.

Throughout our readings thus far, I have come across the names of so many gates. The Sheep Gate, the Fish Gate, the Valley Gate, the Fountain Gate, the Water Gate, and the Horse Gate are just a few that I've encountered while reading; and I can't forget what is perhaps my favorite, and Mrs. Foster's and Brad's favorite, the Dung Gate. While reading through Jeremiah this week, I came upon yet another gate, the Potsherd Gate. I feel like this is the millionth gate I've read about, and I have a feeling it won't be the last one I read about, so I must ask these questions: Why are there so many gates? What purpose do they serve? Why do they have funny names? Also, what gates made it to modern day Jerusalem?

Time and time again throughout the story of Job, Job's three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, make speeches to Job. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a fourth friend steps in and is given six consecutive chapters to present yet another speech to Job. However, at the end of the story, God chastises all of Job's friends except Elihu. Why was he exempt? Was there something special about his speech that God liked?

Esther 2:14 - In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king
again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.

I don't know why this scene never stood out to me before. After the king banishes Vashti, the virgins of the land are taken to the king's palace, placed in a harem, given beauty treatments, forced spend a night with the king to see in whom he most delights, and are placed in a second harem under the care of a eunuch who oversees the concubines. It is not unfair to assume that the king had relations with the virgins upon becoming aware of these circumstances.

Did Esther and the rest of the virgins sleep with the king? My sources say yes.

1 Samuel 20:5 - "David said to Jonathan, 'Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening.'"

1 Samuel 20:18 - "Then Jonathan said to him, 'Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty.'"

As I was reading this passage, I wondered, "What's so great about a new moon, and who cares whether or not David shows up for supper on the new moon?" As we have studied in the Bible thus far, nothing insignificant is placed within the text. Surely there is some purpose for these passages also. So, let's find out what the big deal is...

Judges 1:6 - "Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes."

I could not even get through the first chapter of Judges without coming across some gore. Of course, there have already been several instances of violence throughout our readings, but this one made me ponder, "Why?" More than that, it made me wonder if perhaps there was significance in cutting off thumbs and big toes. To my satisfaction, there was...

    When I started reading the story of Balaam, I got kind of excited because I've read and heard about the talking donkey a lot. But even though I'm familiar with the Bible and it's stories, I sometimes forget the finer details like the following verses about Balaam:

"And God... said to [Balaam], 'If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.' So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God's anger was kindled because he went, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as his adversary." (Numbers 22: 20-22)

    If the Lord had just given him permission, why was he angry with Balaam when he left? Not only was he angry, but he was an "adversary" to him. Here are some theories...

Okay. I'm sure everyone who read through Exodus remembers this scene:

"At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses' feet with it and said, 'Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!' So he let him alone. It was then that she said, 'A bridegroom of blood,' because of the circumcision."

When I came across this part of Exodus, my response was like Dana's last year after she read about goat breeding in Genesis: "WHAAAAT?" Strangely enough, I don't remember reading this passage last year. What on earth does it mean, and is it of any significance to the story of Moses?

     Mostly everyone is familiar with the "serpent" who is introduced to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. I wonder if he was actually a serpent, in the way we think a serpent to look, before he was cursed by the LORD God. My first reason for pondering this is because the serpent talks. He smooth talks Eve into partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Serpents don't talk. After he is cursed by the LORD God, there is no more dialogue from the serpent. He doesn't say, "Oh shoot! I've been cursed." The only other time in the Bible when an animal talks is in Numbers 22:28, and that was only through the Lord's power. However, anything can happen in a piece of literature. Good grief, if Harry Potter can fly and make magical things happen with a flick of this wand, I think a serpent can talk. Next, and more legitimate, is my second reason. When the LORD God curses the serpent, he says, "Because you have done  this... on your belly you shall go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life." Why would he curse a creature already on his belly to be on his belly for the rest of his life? That would hardly be a curse at all. This observation of Genesis leads me to believe that the serpent wasn't a serpent before he was cursed. But, let's see what some sources have to say.