2 tn This term is traditionally translated “plumb line” (so NASB, NIV, NLT; cf. KJV, NRSV “plummet”), but it is more likely that the Hebrew בְּדִיל (bedil) is to be derived not from בָּדַל (badal), “to divide,” but from a root meaning “tin.” This finds support in the ancient Near Eastern custom of placing inscriptions on tin plates in dedicatory foundation deposits.
3 tn The Hebrew word אֲנָךְ (ʾanakh), “tin,” occurs only in this passage (twice in verse 7 and twice in verse 8). The meaning “tin” is based on its Akkadian cognate annaku. The traditional interpretation of these verses (reflected in many English versions) assumed that אֲנָךְ meant “lead.” Since lead might be used for a plumb line, and a plumb line might be used when building wall, the “lead” wall was assumed to be a wall built “true to plumb” while God holds a “lead” weighted plumb line in his hand. In this view the plumb line represents a standard of evaluation. This understanding developed before Akkadian was deciphered and the type of metal clearly identified for annaku. (In Hebrew “lead” is עֹפֶרֶת; ʿoferet.) Realizing that אֲנָךְ (ʾanakh) means “tin” has lead to other proposed interpretations. Some view the tin wall and piece of tin as symbolic. If the tin wall of the vision symbolizes Israel, it may suggest weakness and vulnerability to judgment. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 233-35. Another option understands the Lord to have ripped off a piece of the tin wall and placed it in front of all to see. Their citadels, of which the nation was so proud and confident, are nothing more than tin fortresses. Various proposals depend on selecting some quality about tin and suggesting a role for that in this context. However, it is more likely that this is a case of a sound play like the next vision in Amos 8:1-2 (see also Jer 1:11-14). With the presentation technique of a sound play, the vision is not the prophecy, only the occasion for the prophecy. God gets the prophet to say a certain sound and then spins the prophecy off that. See the note at 7:8.