“Heerrmmennutics”…and How You Can Use It

27 Mar

When I signed up for Hermeneutics, I have to say I was totally excited and intimidated. The “how awesome will knowing how to interpret the bible thought” waged war with the “umm, that seems really impossible for little ole me thought.” I mean I’m studying these Berean classes on my own and not in some higher learning institute under a professor who has certificates and diplomas as wallpaper. I mean I was amused at the humming noise I made just by saying “Heerrmmennutics.” Yes, I know I’m easily amused. Entertainment is cheaper that way.

So here I was little ole me jumping into the world of biblical interpretation. Imitated and in over my head cause I couldn’t hear past the humming…and you know, I found out that it’s pretty common sense principles that every person should learn to apply in their daily bible study.

First you might ask, well why should I learn to interpret the bible? Isn’t that why we go to church and listen to sermons and pastors? Well, yes we do but you know, “God helps those who help themselves!” Hezekiah 6:1

Oh wait, that’s not actually in the bible. In fact Hezekiah isn’t even a real book. Funny how many people quote that “scripture” and fully believe they are correctly applying the word of God to their lives.

We have been given the extremely graceful and prosperous gift to actually own a bible for our own personal use. In fact, it’s sad to say but in America most “Christians” own probably 3-5 plus the 80,000 translations on our handy dandy smart phone. We also have been blessed with the mind to set down and study and meditate on God’s word. To use it for our own growth and relationship with Christ. We also have the best teacher available and that is the Holy Spirit to guide us in what we read and absorb.

So you might wonder next, ok where do I begin? Do I just pick a verse? There’s a bunch of them, where do I start?

It’s important to keep a verse in context of it’s passage and book. To know the historical setting behind a book or passage. To know why the author wrote it in the first place. And then to figure out how to apply it correctly to your life today.

For this outline example I’m going to use the book of Amos. I’ll be honest, I’ve read it but couldn’t have told you before today really much about Amos.

First answer five questions about the author.

  1. Who was he?
    Amos. He was a herdsman from Tekoa in southern Judah during the reign of King Jeroboam II. He was given a special call from God to go speak to Northern Israel. We find this info in 1:1 but for the record I did many google searches. Now it’s a good idea to to own a good study bible (they normally list this info in brief detail at the beginning of a book) or to own some kind of biblical study software but I’m writing this to help you in a most down to earth way. So I used the internet to search for this. (NOTE: don’t rely on one source, check several and make sure they are all saying the same thing and that they are a reliable source) I’ll attach the several links of study I used at the end of this. ALSO READ THE BOOK.
  2. When did he write the book?
    The events in Amos took place in the middle of the 8th century BC. The book is dated between 767 and 753 BC.
  3. What setting was he in?
    This was written during a time when both Israel and Judah were experiencing political stability and prosperity. This materialistic comfort led to self-indulgence and immorality.
  4. What relationship did he have with those he wrote to?
    We aren’t given much here. He was a herdsman in the southern part of Judah so he was possibly a fellow countryman to some.
  5. What was his purpose?
    His prophecies were a warning to the people of Israel that their mistreatment of the poor and religious corruption would bring on the wrath of God. He makes a call for repentance. 
Then answer three questions about the audience of the book.
  1. Who were they?
    Mostly Northern Israel but some believe that parts were directed at Southern Judah as well.
  2. What was their city or town like?
    The middle of the 8th century B.C., was a time of great prosperity, for Israel as well as Judah. Under Jeroboam, Israel had given back the control of the international trade routes: the highway through Transjordan, and the rod to the sea through the valley of Jezreel and through the coastal plain. According to II Kings 14:25, the frontiers of Israel had been reestablished from Lebo Hamat in the north, to the Arabian Sea (the Dead Sea), to the south. On its part, Judah, under Uzziah, recovered Elath (seaport on the Gulf of Aqaba), and southwest at the expense of the Philistines. Israel and Judah thus achieved a new political and military strength, but the religious situation was in a lamentable state: Idolatry was rampant; rich people lived luxuriously while the poor were oppressed; there was generalized immorality; the legal system was corrupt. The people believed that prosperity was a sign of GOD‘s blessings. {1}
  3. What was their social status? (Jews? Wealthy? Slaves? Educated?)
    They were Jews experiencing a time of prosperity.
Then look at the historical-cultural background.
  1. Historical Details
    Jeroboam II, the son of Joash (or Jehoash, 798-782 BC), reigned over Israel longer than anyone, even though he followed the evil example of his namesake, Jeroboam I (2 Kings 14:23-24). His reign of forty-one years included eleven years in which he ruled along with his father, Joash.Jeroboam II ruled in the city of Samaria (2 Kings 14:23). Archaeological evidence suggests that Joash and Jeroboam II undertook a reconstruction project in the royal temple; over 60 invoices or labels for oil and wine that had been sent to the royal store were found in 1910. These illustrate the riches and opulence of the royal house in Israel during Jeroboam II’s reign.Large numbers of carved decorative plaques and panels of ivory were also found in the ruins of Samaria, a reminder of the wealth of the northern kingdom in its latter days. Pictures of various gods have been carved on the ivories, which indicates the influence of the pagan societies of Syria, Assyria, and Egypt.The prophet Jonah, son of Amittai, had prophesied that Jeroboam II would take power (2 Kings 14:25). Although Jeroboam’s reign was late in the history of the northern kingdom, God still sought to show his love for Israel during this time (2 Kings 14:26-28). The northern kingdom reached its greatest extension since the time of Solomon as the result of God’s care for Israel during Jeroboam’s reign. The boundaries stretched from Hamath on the Orontes River in the north to the Gulf of Aqaba, with its cities of Elath and Ezion-geber, in the south. But Israel’s prosperity did not save it from war and political problems. The extensive corruption in government and the degenerate spiritual state of the people propelled Israel into its final days. Jeroboam’s own life must have been in danger from conspirators; Amaziah, a priest at Bethel, even accused the prophet Amos of conspiring to kill Jeroboam (Amos 7:8-17). Amos actually did prophesy the destruction of Israel and the fall of Jeroboam’s kingdom, and perhaps the king felt the word of God to be a threat.

    Economic depression, immorality, political weakness, and government corruption hastened the fall of Israel. The rich landowners, including Jeroboam II, had oppressed the less wealthy citizens and had forced small landowners to migrate from their farms to the cities. {2}

  2. Cultural Details
    We know that they are Jews. They know the Law.Economic concerns was the mistreatment of the poor. (Amos 5:11-12 NASB) “Therefore, because you impose heavy rent on the poor And exact a tribute of grain from them, Though you have built houses of well-hewn stone, Yet you will not live in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, yet you will not drink their wine. [12] For I know your transgressions are many and your sins are great, You who distress the righteous and accept bribes, And turn aside the poor in the gate.”Political matters: Israel was greed. They taxed and oppressed the poor.Religious concerns. They were being idolatrous. Creating false rituals. (Amos 5:21-24 NASB) “”I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. [22] “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. [23] “Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. [24] “But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

    The priests were being corrupted and were not from the Levitical line. (Amos 2:12 NLT) “But you caused the Nazirites to sin by making them drink wine, and you commanded the prophets, ‘Shut up!’

Once we have established an understanding of the background and purpose behind the book, we can read and understand what the book of Amos is really all about and how to apply it to our modern life.
Ch.1 and 2: These chapters start out condemning the nations surrounding Israel. They were corrupt, they mistreated people for years. God had had enough. The Israelites could see this and were like, “Yeah, right on. Preach it!”
Ch.3-6: Then Amos brings it home and they are forced to realize they haven’t been any better. Worse yet, they knew better. Remember they had the Law. Ch.5 is a plea to repent.
Ch.7-9: These chapters are visions that Amos had. Some where God relents and others where he does not. There is a brief interjection in chapter 7 where Amaziah the priest of Bethel commands Amos to go home and preach there. Amos replies that he is not a professional prophet but a simple herdsman called by God to deliver this message. (Amos 7:14 NLT) But Amos replied, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one. I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees.
Applications to our lives today.
  1. Obeying/learning from our mistakes and repenting.
    Israel had a covenant with God, yet they were making the mistakes that the surrounding nations were making. As Christians we have a covenant with God and should not make the same mistakes as the world. When we do we should immediately repent of it and not blatantly keep on indulging in the sin.
  2. Don’t put false security  in prosperity.
    Israel mistook riches as a sign of God’s blessings. Whereas God surely blesses and we should be grateful for his provision, remember that just because you have a full stomach doesn’t mean we are free from sin. Daily examine your life to make sure you are living in accordance with the word of God.
  3. You don’t have to be a professionally trained person to do the will of God. 
    Amos was a herdsman. He was a layperson. I think this is a perfect application to end this with because it’s pretty much what this whole post has been about. You don’t have to be trained to let God use you. You should study and rely on the Spirit to guide you in applying these principles and correctly interpreting the word of God in your daily bible studies. Meditate on scripture. Pray over it. Seek what God is saying to you. And learn from teachers and pastors and others.
I hope this has helped eased the imitation of hermeneutics. I’m still amused at how it tickles my nose to say that. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to tag on. Below are some links that helped me in finding the information above. The question outline came from my Berean course: BIB121 Intro to Hermeneutics
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One Response to ““Heerrmmennutics”…and How You Can Use It”

  1. TJ March 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    I like this way of interpreting. Many people just read and go from there. But there is more to it. An “about the author” section is very important to many books because it connects the reader to the work and the Bible is no different. Knowing the author and setting helps us further understand why these things they were writing about were so important to them and later, to us.

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