Reading 0,24 - 9 Chapters - 146 verses - 4,217 words
Amos was from Tekoa (1:1), a small town about 6 miles south of Bethlehem and 11 miles from Jerusalem. He was not a man of the court like Isaiah, or a priest like Jeremiah. He earned his living from the flock and the sycamore-fig grove (1:1; 7:14-15). Whether he owned the flocks and groves or only worked as a hired hand is not known. His skill with words and the strikingly broad range of his general knowledge of history and the world preclude his being an ignorant peasant. Though his home was in Judah, he was sent to announce God's judgment on the northern kingdom (Israel). He probably ministered for the most part at Bethel (7:10-13; see note on Ge 12:8), Israel's main religious sanctuary, where the upper echelons of the northern kingdom worshiped.
The book brings his prophecies together in a carefully organized form intended to be read as a unit. It offers few, if any, clues as to the chronological order of his spoken messages--he may have repeated them on many occasions to reach everyone who came to worship. The book is addressed also to the southern kingdom (hence the references to Judah and Jerusalem).
Date and Historical Situation
According to the first verse, Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (792-740 B.C.) and Jeroboam II over the Israel (793-753). The main part of his ministry was probably carried out c. 760-750. Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity and had reached new political and military heights (cf. 2Ki 14:23-15:7; 2Ch 26). It was also a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgence in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures and oppression of the poor. As a consequence, God would soon bring about the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom (722-721).
Israel at the time was politically secure and spiritually smug. About 40 years earlier, at the end of his ministry, Elisha had prophesied the resurgence of Israel's power (2Ki 13:17-19), and more recently Jonah had prophesied her restoration to a glory not known since the days of Solomon (2Ki 14:25). The nation felt sure, therefore, that she was in God's good graces. But prosperity increased Israel's religious and moral corruption. God's past punishments for unfaithfulness were forgotten, and his patience was at an end--which he sent Amos to announce.
With Amos, the messages of the prophets began to be preserved in permanent form, being brought together in books that would accompany Israel through the coming debacle and beyond. Since Amos was a contemporary of Hosea and Jonah, see Introductions to those books.
Theological Theme and Message
The dominant theme is clearly stated in 5:24, which calls for social justice as the indispensable expression of true piety. Amos was a vigorous spokesman for God's justice and righteousness, whereas Hosea emphasized God's love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. Amos declared that God was going to judge his unfaithful, disobedient, covenant-breaking people. Despite his special choice of Israel and his kindnesses to her during the exodus and conquest and in the days of David and Solomon, his people continually failed to honor and obey him. The shrines at Bethel and other places of worship were often paganized, and Israel had a worldly view of even the ritual that the Lord himself had prescribed. They thought performance of the rites was all God required, and, with that done, they could do whatever they pleased--an essentially pagan notion. Without commitment to God's law, they had no basis for standards of conduct. Amos condemns all who make themselves powerful or rich at the expense of others. Those who had acquired two splendid houses (3:15), expensive furniture and richly furnished tables by cheating, perverting justice and crushing the poor would lose everything they had.
God's imminent judgment on Israel would not be a mere punitive blow to warn (as often before, 4:6-11), but an almost total destruction. The unthinkable was about to happen: Because they had not faithfully consecrated themselves to his lordship, God would uproot his chosen people by the hands of a pagan nation. Even so, if they would repent, there was hope that "the LORD God Almighty (would) have mercy on the remnant" (5:15; see 5:4-6, 14). In fact, the Lord had a glorious future for his people, beyond the impending judgment. The house of David would again rule over Israel--even extend its rule over many nations--and Israel would once more be secure in the promised land, feasting on wine and fruit (9:11-15). The God of Israel, the Lord of history, would not abandon his chosen people or his chosen program of redemption.
The God for whom Amos speaks is God of more than merely Israel. He also uses one against another to carry out his purposes (6:14). He is the Great King who rules the whole universe (4:13; 5:8; 9:5-6). Because he is all-sovereign, the God of Israel holds the history and destiny of all peoples and of the world in his hands. Israel must know not only that he is the Lord of her future, but also that he is Lord over all, and that he has purposes and concerns that reach far beyond her borders. Israel had a unique, but not an exclusive, claim on God. She needed to remember not only his covenant commitments to her but also her covenant obligations to him. (See further the prophecy of Jonah.)
Amos Interpretive Challenges
In 9:11, the Lord promised that He “will restore David’s dallen shelter.” At the Jerusalem Council, convened to discuss whether Gentiles should be allowed into the church without requiring circumcision, James quotes this passages (Ac 15:15, 16) to support Peter’s report of how God had taken “a people for his name from the Gentiles” (Ac 15:14). Some have thus concluded that the passage was fulfilled in Jesus, the greater Son of David, through whom the dynasty of David was reestablished.
The Acts reference, however, is best seen as an illustration of Amos’s words and not the fulfillment. The temporal allusions to a future time (“in that day,” 9:11), when Israel will “possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations” (9:12), when the Lord will “plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them” (9:15), all make it clear that the prophet is speaking of Messiah’s return at the Second Advent to sit upon the throne of David (cf. Isa 9:7), not the establishment of the church by the apostles.
God's character in Amos
God is holy - 4:2
God is providents - 3:6
Christ in Amos
The references to Christ in the book of Amos point to the permanent restoration of Israel. The Lord speaks through Amos, declaring, "I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them" (9:15). Israel's complete restoration and recovery of the land will only be fulfilled during the second advent of Christ the Messiah.