Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Twenty-Third  Study.—The Prophecy of Amos.

[The material of this " study " is furnished by Professors Burroughs. It is edited by Professor Harper.]



1. The progress of written prophecy is best observed by

(1) studying this prophecy as it manifests itself, in its entirety, in the northern kingdom, and

(2) passing to the study of its manifestation in the kingdom of Judah. Of the two remaining prophets of Israel, the prophetic activity of Amos extended over a so much shorter period than that of Hosea, that, aside from any consideration of priority in regard to date, it seems best to make a study of the former prophet first.

2. The essential characteristics of O. T. prophecy are best discovered by noting the peculiar features of each individual prophecy, as in turn it comes before us, and then combining these features to form our general conception. A study of prophecy can alone give one the true idea of prophecy.

3. The development of Messianic prophecy is intimately associated with the progress of written prophecy. Messianic prophecy should be studied, not in detached passages, but as an organic whole, standing in vital relation to prophecy in general. Each prophet has his own peculiar position, and contributes his part, directly or indirectly, to the unfolding of the general Messianic idea.


1. Read the Book of Amos and gain a general conception of its contents,

(1) using the Revised Version,

(2) noting passages which at first seem obscure.

2. Re-read,

(1) making a careful analysis of each chapter, together with a statement of its line of thought,

(2) from a review of these analyses, writing out the general contents of the book, and

(3) determining whether in this reading the passages which at first seemed difficult now appear more intelligible.

3. Divide its contents, successively, into

(1) the literal and the symbolic, or allegorical, parts;

(2) the announcement of judgment, and the promise of blessing;

(3) the introductory portion (the announcement of the divine judgment upon the neighbors of Israel), the body of the prophecy (the denunciation of Israel), and the concluding portion (the Messianic blessing which is to come through the house of David).

4. Take up the several sections of the last named division, and consider them separately:

(1) The introductory portion. (a) How many and which nations are denounced? and in what order? In what three divisions may they be classed? (b) For what are these denounced? Consider the specific charges made against them severally, e. g., 1:3; 1:6; 1:9; 1:11; 1:13, etc. (c) What is the general character of these transgressions? (d) From what religious centre, as the seat of the earthly divine manifestation, do these denunciations go forth? 1:2; cf. Joel 3:16,17. (e) What, therefore, may be inferred as to the character of these judgments? Are they theocratic? Do they, also, stand in special relation to the moral condition of the peoples denounced? Is there a relation, in the mind of the prophet, between their theocratic and their ethical character? (f) What is the purpose of this introductory portion? What its relation to what follows? Is a prophetic argument here found? If so, what is it? See 3:1,2, etc.

(2) The body of the prophecy.

(a) Consider the literal portion. What description is here given of the moral condition of the northern kingdom? What of the religious condition? What specific charges are brought against it? See 2:6-8,11; 5:4-7; 8:11-14; cf. 2:4, etc. Are the moral condition and the religious condition of the kingdom brought into relationship to one another? Is there a parallel, therefore, between the judgments announced in the introductory portion and those declared against Israel? If so, briefly state it.

(b) Gather up and place together the several predictions regarding individuals, the reigning dynasty, the sacred shrines, the kingdom, e. g. 7:11; 7:14-17; 7:9; 5:27, etc. Is the prophet's message in these a mere unconditional announcement of what is to be? Or, is it a setting forth of the principles of the divine government in definite applications? How far, apparently, is the hope entertained, in the prophet's mind, that what has been uttered may possibly, or to some extent, not come to pass? Does he, to any degree, even speak in order that the evil, in its full extent, may not come to pass? See 5:14,15; 7:3,6, etc. Contrast, however, the dying away of the hopes of the prophets of the northern kingdom with the hopes of the prophets of Judah, particularly those of the earlier time. See, e. g., 4:6-13; 9:1-8, etc.

(c) Consider the symbolic portion.

(1) How many and what visions have we here? How may the first four be distinguished from the last? How the first and second from the third and fourth?

(2) What do the visions represent? Are any of them to be taken as representations of actual judgments? Are they symbolical of different aspects of the divine judgment? If so, what are these aspects severally?

(3) How would you briefly interpret this portion of the book, as a whole?

(3) The concluding portion. What is the substance of the prophet's word of hope? Will the judgment be total destruction? 9:9. How is the redemption of the future to come about ? 9:11. What is here assumed regarding Judah? Why does all hope, in the prophet's thought, gather about the southern kingdom and the dynasty of David? How is the future blessing portrayed? How is this prediction interpreted from the N. T. point of view? See Acts 15:13-18. For a fuller consideration of this Messianic passage, see special topics below.

(4) As the result of the above study, what seems to be the message of the prophet, as disclosed in the book? And how would you briefly state it so as to cover all the essential contents of the book?

(5) Formulate the features of prophetic activity and utterance which have especially impressed themselves upon you, during this study? How has your conception of "the prophet" been modified by them?

(6) What special points have occurred to you, in your study, as deserving of or demanding more painstaking investigation? Arrange these topics in what appears to you to be the order of their importance. Compare your list with the special topics which follow, and see whether it is comprehended by them. Before proceeding to a study of these topics, consider such passages as still remain doubtful to your mind, making use of a commentary, if necessary.


1. The Prophet Amos; his Period; the Style of his Prophecy.

(1) What statements have we regarding the prophet's home, occupation, and call to prophesy? 1:1; 7:14,15. Where was Tekoa? Cf. for a similar mission, 1 Kgs. 13:1 seq. How do the allusions to out-of-door life, found in the book, agree with the account which Amos gives of himself? See 1:3; 2:13; 3:4,5; 4:2, 7,9; 5:8,19; 6:12; 7:1; 8:1,2; 9:9, etc. Does the prophet, however, appear to be a man without information or intelligence? What is your estimate of him from your previous study ?

(2) What statements are made as to the time of the prophet? 1:1; cf. Zech. 14:5. For a description of the character and movements of the times, politically considered, see the previous "studies." Consulting the chronological statements made in these "studies," fix, relatively, the date B. C. of the prophet.

(3) How would you characterize, generally, the style of Amos, as you find it in the English Bible? How would you compare it with that of the book of Jonah?

2. The Relations of the Prophet Amos to the Worship and Religion of the Northern Kingdom.

(1) What conceptions do you obtain, from the study of the Book of Amos, of the worship of the northern kingdom,

(a) as regards its character,

(b) as regards the spirit of those engaging in it? Does the prophet denounce both? And in what particulars?

(2) What appears to be the standard by which the prophet would judge the religious life of his day, whether found in Judah or Israel? See 2:4, cf. Hosea 8:1; 2:11,12; 7:14, cf. Isaiah 1:10.

(3) What is the result of your comparison of the following Pentateuchal passages:2 1:11 with Gen. 27:41; 2:10 with Deut. 8:2; 2:11,12with Num. 6:3; 3:2 with Deut. 7:6 and 10:15; 3:13,14 with Deut. 8:19; 4:4 with Deut. 14:28 and 26:10; 4:5 with Lev. 7:13 and 23:17; 4:9 with Lev. 26:14-16 and Deut. 28:22; 4:10 with Deut. 28:27,60; 4:11 with Deut. 29:23; 5:11 with Deut. 28:30; 5:22 with Lev. 3:1,6; 6:6 with Gen. 37:25; 9:4 with Deut. 28:65; 9:13 with Lev. 26:5, etc.?

3. The Messianic Prophecy of Amos.3 What is meant by the tabernacle (cottage or hut) of David'? Cf. 2 Kgs. 14:13. What is foreseen regarding its state? Who will acknowledge its sceptre? What blessings are promised? Cf. Gen. 49; Lev. 26:5; Ps. 72; Joel 3:18. Have we here, for the contemporaries of the herdsman of Tekoa, " a prophecy respecting the divine kingdom, setting forth its establishment under historical, local and political limitations?" Have we, for the Christian church, " the fulfillment of this prophecy in the erection of the kingdom of Christ ......and the gathering in of the Gentiles?" Acts 15:16.

4. Comparison of the Books of Jonah and Amos. Does a study of the prophecy of Amos render more clear and emphatic the message of Jonah in its relation to Israel? Notice the following points of comparison:

(1) The prophetic word in Nineveh, and the prophetic word in Bethel; its reception contrasted.

(2) The indirect rebuke of Jonah; the indirect and direct denunciation of Amos.

(3) The repentance of Nineveh; no woe denounced, in Amos, upon Assyria.

(4) The Ninevites receive voluntarily the divine message; the Gentiles, in Amos, spiritually subjugated by the covenant people; the Messianic future through the fulfillment of the divine promise to David. See 2 Sam. 7, "study " eighth.


1) The efforts of the student should be concentrated upon the text of the several prophetical books. Their contents and the self-presentation of their truths,-these are the matters to be especially sought after. To one who constantly holds this thought prominent in the mind, the reading of carefully selected literature will be helpful. The following books will be found of value: Delitzsch, " . T. History of Redemption," T. & T. Clark, pp. 102-117, (world empire and prophetism factors in redemptive history; the Messianic idea separated from the present); von Orelli, " O. T. Prophecy," T. & T. Clark, pp. 191-196, 224-228 (general character of prophecy in pre-exilian period; prophets of Assyrian period in the northern kingdom); Briggs, "Messianic Prophecy," C. Scribner's Sons, pp. 160-163, (Messianic ideas of the earlier prophets; Amos); Geikie, "Hours with the Bible," James Pott & Co., vol. 4, pp. 192-213. Among commentaries may be mentioned Keil, "The Minor Prophets;" Lange, " Minor Prophets;" Amos, by Otto Schmoler and T. W. Chambers. Other literature will present itself in the use of the foregoing.

2) For a special study of Amos 5:25,26, see O. T. STUDENT, April, 1886, "The Interpretation of Amos 5:25,26," Prof. F. B. Denio. For a full consideration of the question of the prophets of Israel in relation to the pentateuchal legislation, see "The Prophets of Israel," by Prof. W. Robertson Smith, together with ' Moses and the Prophets," by Prof. W. Henry Green.

3) See especially Briggs, "Messianic Prophecy," pp. 161-163; von Orelli, "O. T. Prophecy," pp. 224-228; Delitzsch, "Messianic Prophecies," p. 59.