The book of Amos records that years after Amos received the visions contained therein, an earthquake struck the area (1:1). Josephus, the Jewish historian, believed that the earthquake happened at the same time as Uzziah's seizure of the role of High Priest and his subsequent bout with leprosy. Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah, Micah and Hosea. Under Jeroboam II the kingdom of Israel reached the zenith of its prosperity. The gulf between rich and poor widened at this time. Amos was called from his rural home to remind the rich and powerful of God's requirement for justice (e.g. 2:6-16). He claimed that religion that is not accompanied by right action is anathema to God (5:21ff.), and prophesied that the kingdom of Israel would be destroyed (e.g. 5:1-2; 8:2).
Amos' message was, perhaps understandably, unwelcome in Israel. Not only was he a foreigner from the southern kingdom, but his prophecies of doom were completely at odds with the prevailing political climate of hope and prosperity. Israel under the leadership of Jeroboam II had extended its territory into modern day Syria, taking advantage of the nation's weakness after a recent defeat by the Assyrians. Assyria, the major threat to Israel's power, had withdrawn itself temporarily due to internal strife, allowing Israel to flourish politically and economically. The nation's resultant affluence, however, was the main focus of Amos's mission as a prophet, and soon after Jeroboam came to power in 781 BC, Amos was called to speak to the people of the Northern Kingdom. He was continually in conflict with the governing authorities, as demonstrated in the narrative by way of a conversation between Amos and Amaziah, a priest of Bethel. The priest, loyal to Jeroboam, accuses Amos of stirring up trouble and conspiring against the king, and commands him to stop prophesying. Amos responds with an oracle: “Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will certainly go into exile, away from their native land."( )
The oracle predicted that many of Israel's neighbors (including Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab),would suffer because they broke "the international moral code overseen by the Lord", and Judah and Israel would suffer the most because they knew God, yet rebelled (2006 Harper Collins Study Bible footnotes, 1218).
Much of the prophecy of Amos is directed at the heartlessness of wealthy merchants who ignore the plight of the poor, the lack of justice for the righteous, and the emptiness of religious ritual apart from true faith. Amos is a classical prophet, concerned with the well-being of the people and the purity of the faith. He does not have the millennial apocalyptic views of later prophets, nor does he rely on esotericism or mystical signs. The prophecy of Amos is clear and direct. He ends his message with a proclamation of hope and restoration for the people of Israel if they mend their ways: "The days are coming, declares the LORD, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, no more to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God. ( )
Amos uses a simple language on one level, being straightforward and direct with the messages he has received from God, not only for Israel and Judah, but also for the surrounding nations. However, Amos also utilizes many agricultural metaphors most likely drawn from his experiences in agriculture. Note the agricultural imagery in Amos 7: "This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king's share had been harvested and just as the second crop was coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, 'Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!
On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, Amos' feast day is celebrated on June 15 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, June 15 currently falls on June 28 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is commemorated along with the other minor prophets in the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 31.
- Anderson, Bernhard W. & Foster R. McCurley The Eighth Century Prophets: Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah Wipf and Stock: 2003. ISBN 1592443540
- Rosenbaum, Stanley Ned Amos of Israel: A New Interpretation Georgia: Mercer University Press: 1990. ISBN 0865543550
This entry incorporates text from the public domain Easton's Bible Dictionary, originally published in 1897.
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