The nobility in Israel had obtained great wealth and prosperity. They proved idolatrous and oppressive. Times seemed good. Who wanted to hear the doom-and-gloom message of the pesky southerner Amos?
Amos is the thirtieth book in most English Bibles; in the Hebrew Bible it is part of the Nevi’im, the Prophets; in the Greek Septuagint Amos is the second of the Duodecim (Latinized; Dodeka in Greek), “the Twelve.” Amos is most likely the earliest of the Twelve, prophesying in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam (II) king of Israel (ca. 793-739 BCE; likely in the middle of this period). Amos is sent to prophesy to Israel but is a Judahite from Tekoa; he is not a prophet by trade but a herdsman and dresser of sycamore figs (Amos 1:1, 7:14-15). Amos warns Israel of the danger of the imminent Day of YHWH despite, and in many ways on account of, the seeming good times they were enjoying.
After being introduced to Amos (Amos 1:1), Amos provides his opening declaration: YHWH roars from Zion, and the land withers (Amos 1:2). He then sets forth, in a rhythmic pattern, denunciations of the nations, primarily on account of what they have done to Israel: Aram, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab (Amos 1:3-2:3). Judah is then denounced for idolatry and not observing the law of YHWH (Amos 2:4-5). Finally, according to the same pattern, Israel is denounced for oppression of the poor, sexual immorality, and idolatry (Amos 2:5-8). Even though God brought them out of Egypt and dispossessed the Amorite, having sent prophets and Nazirites, yet Israel has rejected the prophets and sought to profane the Nazirites, and judgment in war is coming (Amos 2:9-16).
Amos then presents YHWH’s word against Israel (Amos 3:1-4:13). YHWH has known only Israel of the nations; that is why they will be punished (Amos 3:2). Through many examples Amos illustrates how YHWH informs the prophets of what He will do and is ultimately responsible for the devastation to come (Amos 3:3-8). Neighboring nations are summoned to see the destruction of Israel (Amos 3:9-10): Israel will be devastated by a foreign nation, with barely a remnant left, and all the wealth of the nobility will be plundered (Amos 3:11-15). Amos then speaks against the wealthy women of Israel, denouncing them for their wanton materialism, warning them of their impending slavery (Amos 4:1-3); he sarcastically “encourages” further transgression at the altars of Israel, since Israel believes they will be rescued by the multitude of their sacrifices, yet it will be to no avail (Amos 4:4-5). Amos then sets forth how YHWH sent warnings, plagues, famines, and opponents to Israel, and yet they still have not turned to Him; thus they should prepare to meet their God in judgment (Amos 4:6-13)!
Amos laments over the fallen virgin Israel, for only a tenth will remain (Amos 5:1-3). Amos exhorts Israel to seek YHWH and live, not through the temples of Israel, but to do good and not evil, the opposite of the current condition; YHWH is the Creator, and thus He can destroy (Amos 5:4-15). Days of lamentation and mourning are coming (Amos 5:16-17). Some among Israel seem to desire the Day of YHWH: they should not, for it is darkness and bleak; judgment is coming despite their sacrifices and religious observances, for they have not done justice or righteousness (Amos 5:18-24). They will be exiled beyond Damascus (Amos 5:25-26).
Amos declares woe upon the nobility of Israel: are they greater than the other nations which have been destroyed (Amos 6:1-4)? Those who now feast will be cast into exile (Amos 6:5-7). YHWH abhors Israel’s pride: a nation will be raised up against them, and they will be afraid to even mention the name of YHWH (Amos 6:8-14).
YHWH then shows Amos a series of visions: locusts, a judgment by fire, and a plumb line. Neither the locust nor the fire would come, but YHWH would not pass by Israel, and the house of Jeroboam would see the sword (Amos 7:1-9). Perhaps on account of this last vision Amaziah the priest informed Jeroboam of these things and told Amos to return to Judah (Amos 7:10-13). Amos explains how he is no prophet but called by YHWH and pronounces judgment on Amaziah and his family (Amos 7:14-17).
YHWH shows Amos a basket of summer fruit, illustrating the nearness of the end for Israel (Amos 8:1-3). Amos condemns those who oppress the poor, trade on the Sabbath, and act corruptly: they will mourn and lament (Amos 8:4-10). A famine of the word of YHWH will come upon the land (Amos 8:11-14).
Amos then saw the Lord beside the altar, calling for its destruction (Amos 9:1-2). Israel will be destroyed no matter where they seek to turn; YHWH is Lord (Amos 9:3-6). If a people sin, God will destroy them in their pride (Amos 9:7-10). Yet the day will come upon which YHWH will raise up a descendant of David to rebuild Israel, and great prosperity will come again to God’s people (Amos 9:11-15).
Israel did not want to listen to Amos’ message, and all of what he promised came true. By 721 BCE the Kingdom of Israel was no more; within the next century they were all in exile beyond Damascus. Judah would soon follow. Yet the days would come when God fulfilled His promise through Amos, raising up Jesus of Nazareth, building His Kingdom, Israelites and Gentiles together (cf. Acts 15:14-18). Let us pursue justice and righteousness in the Kingdom of God and be saved!
Ethan R. Longhenry