There are two groups of tools: primary and secondary.
Primary tools are those that deal only with objective, verifiable facts. A Bible Atlas is an example. If your atlas says that Beersheba is north of Dan it is wrong and this can be shown to be so.
Secondary tools take the facts and offer opinions based upon them. To say that the climate of Dan, up near the mountains, is more agreeable than that of Beersheba on the edge of the desert is an opinion. As a fair-skinned Englishman I get very uncomfortable in the sun so I would not enjoy a long stay in Beersheba. But others may disagree. Secondary material needs to be handled with care.
Our research should start with primary data and the very best place is, of course, the Bible. Within the Bible our starting point must be the Book of Amos. Please remember that the purpose of this exercise is to understand how to research and write an essay rather than the actual content of said essay. Ideally I would like you to go and read Amos but I realise that this may take longer than we can justify in this Unit.
(Incidentally, this is why I decided on Amos as our example and not Isaiah!) Amos has nine chapters so it should not take too long to read. At this stage a superficial reading just to become familiar with the general content of the book is sufficient. Remember that if your Bible has useful features such as an outline and headings this material is secondary. Most of the time it will be helpful or, at worst, harmless but there can be bad examples out there, so use this secondary material with caution.
Having read Amos we want to find out if he appears in any other books. If your Bible has cross-references you may want to follow them up and see. If your Bible does not include cross-references use mine. I am referring to the Eyre and Spottiswoode Study Bible. This is based on the text of the Revised Standard Version with “Introductions, Annotations, Topical Headings, Marginal References, and Index Prepared and Edited by Harold Lindsell, Ph.D., D.D.” in 1964. (“Ph.D.” means that Lindsell is a Doctor of Philosophy and “D.D.” a Doctor of Divinity, so he is a clever man – although never infallible. It is not usual to include academic qualifications in a bibliographic entry. “Eyre and Spottiswoode” were English book publishers. The company is now owned by the Cambridge University Press. In America, this Study Bible edition of the RSV was published by Harper and is often known as the Harper Study Bible.) Dr Lindsell supplies three cross-references for Amos 1:1. They are 2 Samuel 14:2; 2 Kings 14: 23-29; and Zechariah 14:5. Read all of them and decide whether you need to make a note of any.
- 2 Samuel 14:2 is a reference to the town of Tekoa and probably not relevant to Amos.
- 2 Kings 14:23-29 refers to King Jeroboam of Israel, the king at the time of Amos.
- Zechariah 14:5 is a reference to the same earthquake that is mentioned in Amos 1.