1. Author and Time of Writing
The prophet Amos (= to lade, to burden, Burden-bearer) originated from Tekoa a town in Judah, south of Jerusalem. He was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 1:1; 7:14). In his way of speaking one can recognize Amos’ knowledge of farming life (Amos 2:13; 3:12; 4:9; 5:8; 6:12; 7:1-2). Amos ministered according to his own indication during the time of king Uzziah of Judah (791 – 740 BC) and king Jeroboam II of Israel (793 – 753 BC). The times of absolute monarchy of these two kings coincided from 767 – 753 BC so that Amos’ ministry is to find during this period mainly.
The kingdom of Israel at that time had been divided into two parts for 170 years already. Jeroboam I had introduced an own idol-worship with the worship of two calves both in Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:25-33). The Baal-worship was also popular in Israel. Looking outwardly at the kingdom of Israel it was prospering under Jeroboam II as never before. During that time (around 30 to 40 years before the ten tribes were led away into Assyrian captivity) Amos came to Bethel and pronounced his serious warnings and prophecies. But Amaziah the priest blackened him with the king and urged him to return to Judah (Amos 7:10-13).
Amos was a contemporary of Hosea. While Hosea only prophesied regarding Israel Amos also prophesied concerning the neighbouring nations of Israel.
We find two quotations from the book of Amos in the Acts of the Apostles: Amos 5:25-27 in Acts 7:42-43 and Amos 9:11 in Acts 15:16.
2. Purpose of Writing
The words of Amos reveal Jehovah’s mercy towards an unworthy people. The kings and inhabitants of the northern kingdom had turned their back on Jehovah and therefore could no longer be entitled to His promises. And yet they thought that no evil could come upon them, as they were the people of God. In their hearts they were far away from Jehovah. Selfishness, ostentation, immorality and oppression of the poor were the order of the day. Justice had become worthless. Into this situation Amos appears with the warning of God’s judgment.
He does not mention the Assyrians by name but he clearly prophesies the leading away into captivity under Shalmaneser in 722 BC (Amos 5:5.27; 6:7.9; 7:17). Besides speaking serious warnings Amos also speaks of the glorious future of the people under Messiah son of David in the millennium (chap. 9:11-15). Thus he testifies to Jehovah’s faithfulness, which will be manifested in latter days towards his restored people of Israel (Amos 9:14).
Amos’ message mainly concerns the northern kingdom of Israel but Judah (the southern kingdom) is mentioned as well and also the neighbouring nations of Israel (their enemies).
The first two chapters form the introduction to the whole book. The imminent judgment of God over the neighbouring nations as well as Israel and Judah is announced. Then follow three speeches to the people in chap. 3 – 6 each beginning with “hear this word”. Upon that follows a fourth speech introduced with the word “woe”. From chap. 7 onwards five visions of the prophet are described and finally the restoration of the earthly people of God and the blessings of the millennium.
3. Overview of Contents
I. Amos 1 – 2: Announcement of Judgment over Neighbouring Nations as well as Judgment over Judah and Israel
II. Amos 3 – 6: Judgments over the whole of Israel
III. Amos 7:1 – 9:10: Five Visions concerning Israel
IV. Amos 9:11 - 15: Close: The Coming Kingdom of Peace