Handbook of Amos



Apostasy and Wickedness of Israel
Certain Doom
Restoration
Future Glory of David's Kingdom

    This prophecy seems to have been delivered on a visit to Bethel (7:10-14), about 30 years before the Fall of Israel.
    Amos was a prophet of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, with a message to Israel, the Northern Kingdom, in the reigns of Uzziah king of Judah (787-735 B.C.), and Jeroboam II king of Israel (790-749, 1:1). The "earthquake" (1:1), Josephus says, was co-incident
with the imposition of Uzziah's leprosy (II Chronicles 26:16-21), according to which, Amos' prophecy was about 751 B.C.
    Jeroboam's reign had been very successful. The kingdom had been considerably enlarged (II Kings 14:23-29). Israel was in the high tide of prosperity; but brazen in its Idolatry, and reeking in moral rottenness; a land of Swearing, Stealing, Injustice, Oppression, Robbery, Adultery and Murder.
    It had been some 200 years since the Ten Tribes had set up the Northern Kingdom, with Calf-Worship as its religion (1 Kings 12:25-33). During part of this time Baal-Worship also had been adopted, and many of the abominable of Canaanite Idolatry were still rampant. Meantime God had sent Elijah, and Elisha and Jonah. But to no avail. Israel hardened in its Idolatry and Wickedness, was now speeding on to its ruin, when God sent Amos and Hosea in a final effort to stay the nation in its mad dash for death.   

Amos' Contemporaries
    Amos, as a boy, probably had known Jonah, and may have heard him tell of his visit to Nineveh. Possibly, too, he may have known Elisha, and may have heard him tell of his association with Elijah, Jonah and Elisha were passing off the stage as Amos was coming on, Joel also may have been his contemporary, or near predecessor. It may have been Joel's plague of locusts to which he referred (4:9), Hosea was a co-worker with Amos. He may have been in Bethel at the time of Amos' visit. They, no doubt, knew each other well, and may often have compared notes on the messages God had given them. Hosea was the younger, and continued his work after Amos was gone. Then, too, just as Amos was closing his work, Isaiah and Micah were beginning theirs.


Chapters 1, 2. Doom of Israel and Neighbor Nations 

    Amos starts with a general impeachment of the whole region, eight nations, Syria, Philistria, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel. Then centers his attention on Israel. He arraigns each under the same formula, "for three transgressions, yea, for four," specifying their particular transgressions. "Captivity," is one of the key words of the book (1:5, 15; 5:5, 27; 6:7; 7:9, 17). Within 50 years these
predictions were fulfilled.
    Tekoa (1:1), the home of Amos, was 10 miles south of Jerusalem, 5 miles from Bethlehem, on an elevation of 2700 feet, in the bleak pasture lands overlooking the wilderness of Judea, in the same region where, it is thought, John the Baptist, 8 centuries later, grew to manhood. Amos would now be called a layman, for he was not a
priest or professional prophet (7:14), but a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees. The sycamore was a species of fig of poor quality, a cross between fig and mulberry.        
   The "earthquake" (1:1), must have been very severe, for it was remembered for 200 years (Zechariah 14:5), and likened ominously unto Judgment Day.


Chapter 3. The Luxurious Palaces of Samaria

    Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, was situated on a hill 100 feet high, in a vale of surpassing beauty, surrounded on three sides by mountains, as impregnable as it was beautiful. Its palatial residences had been built out of the blood of the poor (2:6, 7; 3:10; 5:11; 8:4-7)-with a heartlessness that would shock even heathen Egyptians and Philistines (9-10).
    Bethel (14), where Amos was speaking (7:13), was the religious center of the Northern Kingdom, 12 miles north of Jerusalem, where Jeroboam I set up a Golden Calf (l Kings 12:25-33),, which was still there (Hosea 13:2). To this degenerate center of Idolatry came Amos with final warning.


Chapter 4. "Prepare to Meet Your God"

    Pampered Ladies of Samaria (1-3), were living in sumptuous indulgence on gains squeezed out of the poor. "Cows of Bashan" (1), fatted animals, waiting for slaughter. Within a few years they were taken away "with hooks" (2). Assyrians literally lead their captives with hooks through the lip.
    Israel's Religiosity (4-5). Pitiless in their cruelty, yet intensely religious. What a satire on religion!
    God's Repeated Efforts (6-13), to save them, had been in vain. Time for the nation to meet its God had come.


Chapter 5. The Day of God.

    A lament over the fall of Israel (1-3); another appeal to turn to God (4-9): another denunciation of their evil ways (10-27). Verses 18-26 seem to indicate that they were willing to turn and offer sacrifices to God instead of to the Calf. But what Amos wanted
was, not sacrifices, but a Reformation in their Manner of Life. Turn, O Sinner, Turn. Why will you Die?


Chapter 6. The Captivity

    Over and over Amos contrasts the voluptuous ease, palatial luxury, and feeling of security, of the leaders and the rich, with the intolerable sufferings about to befall them.


Chapter 7. Three Visions of Destruction

    The Locusts (Grasshoppers, AV) (l-3), symbolizing destruction of the land. Amos interceded. God relented.
    The Fire (4-6). Another symbol of coming destruction. Again Amos interceded. Again God relented.
    The Plumb-Line (7-9). The city measured for destruction. Twice God had relented. But no more. He had punished and punished, and forgiven and forgiven. Their case was hopeless.
    The Bethel Priest (10-17). How long Amos was at Bethel is not known. But his repeated denunciations and warnings were shaking the land (10). The priest reported it to Jeroboam.-But Amos grew bolder and bolder, telling the priest that he hinrself would be a captive.


Chapter 8. The Basket of Summer Fruit

    Another symbol that the sinful kingdom was ripe for ruin. And a reiteration of the causes: Greed, Dishonesty and Merciless brutality toward the poor. Over and over, under many figures, the Bible makes it plain that there is no possible way to escape the consequences of persistent sin.


Chapter 9. Future Glory of David's Kingdom

    Further Prediction of Captivity (1-8). Within 30 years it came to pass, and the apostate kingdom ceased to exist.
    The restored Throne of David (8-15). An ever-recurrent prophetic vision of radiant days beyond the gloom. Amos lived near Bethlehem, the city of David. He took it to heart that the Ten Tribes had renounced the Davidic Throne, which God had ordained for his people, and for 200 years had obstinately declined to return to its fold. His last word: In coming days David's Kingdom, which they had despised, will recover, and rule, not over one nation only, but over a World of Nations, in Eternal Glory.