- The name Amos means “load burden.”
- No one else in the Bible bears that name.
- All we know of Amos is found in his writings.
- He came from a place called Tekoa, situated in the southern kingdom of Judah.
- Tekoa is both a village and a territory.
- The village was 12 miles south of Jerusalem.
- The territory extended about 20 miles eastward to the shores of the Dead Sea.
- Amos denied being a prophet, or at least a full time prophet. (Up to that point, prophets were professionals and usually members of guilds or bands. Amos worked alone.)
- He was in the sheep business, maybe owning or managing a herd. The word is not the typical one for “shepherd.”
- He was also a cattleman, possibly managing herds in addition to his sheep.
- He was also a fruit farmer of some sort. He called himself a “fig slitter,” which describes a process of slitting figs early in their growth to make them sweeter and softer. Maybe he provided this service to others.
- Working three jobs meant he was financially independent and didn’t need to prophesy to earn money.
- His jobs probably required some traveling, which is how he ended up in Israel (the northern kingdom).
- Amos claimed he was “called” by God, i.e. divinely appointed.
- His ministry was to both the northern and southern kingdoms.
- Scholars think his entire ministry might have only lasted a year or two (some even think it was a matter of weeks!). It probably began in 770-760BCE.
- He was essentially the first prophet of his kind. Scholars call him the first “writing prophet.”
- First and foremost, though, he was a businessman who was called to do God’s work – speaking to individuals in a foreign country. (Guess how happy they would have been for a foreigner to come to town and tell them how to live?)
- Issues of righteousness and God’s justice dominate his message.
- As a businessman, he probably dealt with the well to do, but he could see beneath the surface.
- A society is not only measured by its economic prosperity, but also by its moral values. He saw that the poor were ignored and unable to get justice through the courts. They were barely surviving while a wealthy few enjoyed all the resources. (Some scholars think the core of his message is just as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.)
- He saw that the gross inequities between rich and poor would invite God’s judgment because God requires justice. As partners in God’s covenant, they had responsibilities to each other. The way they dealt with each other would impact their relation to God.
- Additionally, he could see the emptiness of their worship, the hypocrisy in thinking that God would be content if they made a big show (regardless of the condition of their hearts).
- He prophesied at some point at the royal sanctuary in Bethel.
- The High Priest at Bethel (servant to the king) accused him of treason for speaking against the king and the country.
- It is not recorded that Amos actually said King Jeroboam would die by the sword, but he did preach against the royal household and certainly stirred up some of the people.
- Amaziah (High Priest) represented those who liked the status quo, and enjoyed the privileges that went with it.
- Amaziah basically told him to go back to Judah (Get out of Israel and stay out!).
- This is when Amos said God had commissioned him and no human could silence him.
- He also pronounced judgment against Amaziah and his whole household.
- Twice Amos successfully interceded on behalf of Israel, and disasters were averted (visions of locusts and fire.)
- In two other visions, it became apparent that punishment was inevitable (plumb line and ripe fruit).
- Of course Amos was preaching to a nation that was enjoying unparalleled prosperity, and the leaders probably didn’t believe a word he was saying. (The destruction he prophesied occurred in 722BCE – forty or fifty years down the road.) It is not known how the poorer people responded.
- Most of Amos’ work, then, is quite gloomy.
- Some scholars think someone else added the flicker of hope at the end of the book, believing that Amos would never have done that. (We will never know for sure, but the ending does anticipate a restored relationship with God.)
- There is no information regarding the death of Amos.
Achtemeier, Elizabeth. "Minor Prophets I." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996.
Birch, Bruce. "Hosea, Joel, and Amos." Westminster Bible Companion. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1997.
Craigie, Peter. "Twelve Prophets." Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984.
McComiskey Thomas. The Minor Prophets." Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.
Stuart, Douglas. "Hosea-Jonah." Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1987.