I shall plump for ‘tin’

I am struggling with my sermon for tomorrow. I wanted to talk about the plumb line of Amos 7. 7–8 (I will be using the lectionary texts Amos 7.7–17 and Luke 10.25–37). The problem is that I have become convinced by the argument that the Hebrew word translated ‘plumb line’ should really be rendered ‘tin’. Of course this cannot be found in any English translation. At DBC we use the NRSV which reads:

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by”.

Douglas Stuart translates the same passage in his commentary on Hosea-Jonah (Word Biblical Commentary 31):

This is what (Yahweh) showed me: He was standing on a tin wall and he had some tin in his hand. Yahweh said to me, “What do you see, Amos?” I said, “Tin.” (Yahweh) said, I am going to put tin [moaning] within my people Israel, I will no longer pass him by.”

Perhaps we should use Stuart’s translation for our Old Testament reading and ditch the NRSV this week? Either way, I am plumping for ‘tin’ and hoping I can make it as memorable an image as the plumb line ever would have been. We will see!

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