Bible Book Number 30—Amos
Place Written: Judah
Writing Completed: c. 804 B.C.E.
1. Who was Amos?
NOT a prophet nor the son of a prophet but a raiser of sheep and a nipper of figs of sycamore trees—this was Amos when Jehovah called him and sent him to prophesy not only to his own nation of Judah but particularly to the northern kingdom of Israel. He was one of the prophets referred to at 2 Kings 17:13, 22, 23. He came from Tekoa in Judah, about ten miles [16 km] south of Jerusalem and about a day’s journey from the southern border of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel.—Amos 1:1; 7:14, 15.
2. How may the time of Amos’ prophecy be determined?
2 The opening verse of his prophecy states that it was during the days of Uzziah the king of Judah and of Jeroboam II the son of Joash, the king of Israel, that he began his career as prophet, two years before an earthquake of unusual note. This places the prophecy within the 26-year period from 829 to about 804 B.C.E., during which the reigns of these two kings overlapped. The prophet Zechariah mentions the disastrous earthquake in the days of Uzziah, at which time the people fled in fear. (Zech. 14:5) The Jewish historian Josephus states that an earthquake occurred at the time Uzziah presumptuously attempted to offer up incense in the temple. However, it seems that the earthquake that Amos mentioned occurred earlier in Uzziah’s reign.
3. (a) Why was Amos’ message of woe timely? (b) How did he magnify Jehovah’s sovereignty?
3 The name Amos means “Being a Load” or “Carrying a Load.” While he carried messages burdened with woe to Israel and Judah (and also to numerous heathen nations), he also bore a message of comfort concerning the restoration of Jehovah’s people. There was every reason for pronouncing a burden of woe in Israel. Prosperity, luxurious living, and licentiousness were the order of the day. The people had forgotten the Law of Jehovah. Their apparent prosperity blinded them to the fact that like overripe fruit, they were already in the process of decay leading to destruction. Amos prophesied that in just a few short years, the ten-tribe kingdom would go into exile beyond Damascus. In this he magnified the righteousness and sovereignty of Jehovah, whom he refers to 21 times as the “Sovereign Lord.”—Amos 1:8.
4. The fulfillment of what prophecies testifies to the authenticity of Amos?
4 The fulfillment of this and other prophecies attests to the authenticity of Amos. The prophet also foretold that the enemy nations round about Israel—the Syrians, the Philistines, the Tyrians, the Edomites, the Ammonites, and the Moabites—would all be devoured by the fire of destruction. It is a matter of history that each of these enemy strongholds was in time broken. The ways of Judah and Israel were even more reprehensible because they left Jehovah for the practice of false worship. The last stronghold of Israel, the fortified city of Samaria, after being besieged by the Assyrian army under Shalmaneser V, fell in the year 740 B.C.E. (2 Ki. 17:1-6) Judah did not learn from what happened to her sister nation, and thus she was destroyed in 607 B.C.E.
5. How does archaeology confirm the record in Amos?
5 Amos condemned Israel for its luxurious living, for the rich were defrauding the poor to build their “houses of ivory,” in which they wined and dined sumptuously. (Amos 3:15; 5:11, 12; 6:4-7) Archaeologists have uncovered the evidence of this prosperity. Numerous ivory objects were found in the excavation of Samaria. The Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land states: “Two main groups can be distinguished: 1. Plaques carved in high relief, . . . 2. Plaques carved in low relief, and decorated with insets of precious stones, colored glass, gold foil, etc. . . . The ivories are considered as products of Phoenician art, and they were probably used as inlays in the palace furniture of the Israelite kings. The Bible mentions the ‘ivory house’ which Ahab built (1 Kings 22:39) and the ‘beds of ivory,’ symbolizing the life of luxury led in Samaria in the words of reproof of Amos (6:4).”*
6. What clinches the authenticity of Amos?
6 That the book of Amos belongs in the Bible canon there can be no doubt. Clinching its authenticity are Stephen’s paraphrase of three verses at Acts 7:42, 43 and James’ quotation from the book at Acts 15:15-18.—Amos 5:25-27; 9:11, 12.
CONTENTS OF AMOS
7. Amos warns of Jehovah’s judgments against what nations?
7 Judgments against the nations (1:1–2:3). “Jehovah—out of Zion he will roar.” (1:2) Amos proceeds to warn of His fiery judgments against the nations. Damascus (Syria) has threshed Gilead with iron threshing instruments. Gaza (Philistia) and Tyre have handed over Israelite captives to Edom. In Edom itself mercy and brotherly love have been lacking. Ammon has invaded Gilead. Moab has burned the bones of the king of Edom for lime. Jehovah’s hand is against all these nations, and he says: “I shall not turn it back.”—1:3, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13; 2:1.
8. Why is Jehovah’s judgment also proclaimed against Judah and Israel?
8 Judgment against Judah and Israel (2:4-16). Nor will Jehovah turn his anger back from Judah. They have transgressed by “rejecting the law of Jehovah.” (2:4) And Israel? Jehovah annihilated the formidable Amorites for them and gave them the good land. He raised up Nazirites and prophets among them, but they made the Nazirites break their vow and commanded the prophets: “You must not prophesy.” (2:12) Therefore Jehovah is making their foundations sway like a wagon loaded with newly cut grain. As for their mighty men, they will flee naked.
9. What proves that Jehovah has spoken, and against whom does Amos specially prophesy?
9 The accounting with Israel (3:1–6:14). By his use of striking illustrations, Amos emphasizes that the fact of his prophesying, in itself, proves that Jehovah has spoken. “For the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets. . . . The Sovereign Lord Jehovah himself has spoken! Who will not prophesy?” (3:7, 8) Amos does specially prophesy against the luxury-loving despoilers dwelling in Samaria. Jehovah will snatch them off their splendid couches, and their houses of ivory will perish.
10. Of what does Jehovah remind Israel, and what day of woe is due to come?
10 Jehovah recounts his chastisements and corrections of Israel. Five times he reminds them: “You did not come back to me.” Therefore, O Israel, “get ready to meet your God.” (4:6-12) Amos takes up a prophetic dirge: “The virgin, Israel, has fallen; she cannot get up again. She has been forsaken upon her own ground; there is no one raising her up.” (5:2) However, Jehovah, the Maker of wonderful things in heaven and earth, keeps calling Israel to search for him and keep living. Yes, “search for what is good, and not what is bad, to the end that you people may keep living.” (5:4, 6, 14) But what will the day of Jehovah mean to them? It will be a day of woe. Like a torrent it will sweep them into exile beyond Damascus, and the ivory-decked houses of their sprawling feasts will be turned to rubble and debris.
11. By what authority does Amos insist on prophesying against Israel?
11 Amos prophesies in spite of opposition (7:1-17). Jehovah shows his prophet a plummet set in the midst of Israel. There will be no further excusing. He will devastate the sanctuaries of Israel and rise up against the house of Jeroboam II with a sword. Amaziah the priest of Bethel sends to Jeroboam, saying: “Amos has conspired against you.” (7:10) Amaziah tells Amos to go to Judah to do his prophesying. Amos makes clear his authority, saying: “Jehovah proceeded to take me from following the flock, and Jehovah went on to say to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” (7:15) Amos then foretells calamity for Amaziah and his household.
12. What famine is foretold for Israel, but with what glorious promise does the prophecy end?
12 Oppression, punishment, and restoration (8:1–9:15). Jehovah shows Amos a basket of summer fruit. He condemns Israel’s oppression of the poor and swears “by the Superiority of Jacob” that they will have to mourn on account of their bad works. “‘Look! There are days coming,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and I will send a famine into the land, a famine, not for bread, and a thirst, not for water, but for hearing the words of Jehovah.’” (8:7, 11) They will fall to rise up no more. Whether they dig down into Sheol or climb up to the heavens, Jehovah’s own hand will take them. The sinners of his people will die by the sword. Then, a glorious promise! “In that day I shall raise up the booth of David that is fallen, and I shall certainly repair their breaches. . . . I shall certainly build it up as in the days of long ago.” (9:11) So prosperous will the regathered captives become that the plowman will overtake the harvester before he can gather in his bumper crops. Permanent will be these blessings from Jehovah!
13. How may we today benefit from Amos’ warnings?
13 Bible readers today can benefit by noting the reason for the warnings that Amos proclaimed to Israel, Judah, and their near neighbors. Those who reject the law of Jehovah, defraud and oppress the poor, are greedy and immoral, and practice idolatry cannot have Jehovah’s approval. But Jehovah forgives those who turn away from such things and repent, and to them he shows mercy. We are wise if we separate from corrupting associations in this evil world and heed Jehovah’s admonition: “Search for me, and keep living.”—5:4, 6, 14.
14. Did the Jews of Stephen’s time benefit from Amos’ reminders?
14 At the time of his martyrdom, Stephen cited Amos. He reminded the Jews that it had been Israel’s idolatry with foreign gods, such as Moloch and Rephan, that had brought on the captivity. Did those Jews benefit by hearing Amos’ words repeated? No! Enraged, they stoned Stephen to death and so placed themselves in line for further calamity at the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 C.E.—Amos 5:25-27; Acts 7:42, 43.
15. What prophecies of restoration are beneficial to consider?
15 It is beneficial to consider the fulfillment of the many prophecies of Amos, not only those that were fulfilled in the punishment of Israel, Judah, and the other nations but also the prophecies of restoration. True to Jehovah’s word through Amos, the captives of Israel returned in 537 B.C.E. to build and inhabit their desolated cities and plant their vineyards and gardens.—Amos 9:14; Ezra 3:1.
16. How did James indicate a fulfillment of Amos 9:11, 12 in connection with the Christian congregation?
16 However, there was a glorious and upbuilding fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy in the days of the apostles. In discussing the gathering of non-Israelites into the Christian congregation, James, under inspiration, makes clear that this was foretold in the prophecy at Amos 9:11, 12. He indicates that the ‘rebuilding of the booth of David that had fallen down’ finds fulfillment in connection with the Christian congregation, “in order that those who remain of the men may earnestly seek Jehovah, together with people of all the nations, people who are called by my name, says Jehovah.” Here, indeed, was the Scriptural support for the new development, as related by Simon Peter—that God was taking out of the nations “a people for his name.”—Acts 15:13-19.
17. What prosperity and permanence does Amos foretell in connection with God’s Kingdom?
17 Jesus Christ, the Head of this Christian congregation, is elsewhere identified as the “son of David” who inherits “the throne of David his father” and rules forever. (Luke 1:32, 33; 3:31) Thus the prophecy of Amos points forward to the fulfillment of the covenant with David for a kingdom. Not only do the concluding words of Amos give a marvelous vision of overflowing prosperity at the time of raising up “the booth of David” but they also underline the permanence of God’s Kingdom: “‘And I shall certainly plant them upon their ground, and they will no more be uprooted from their ground that I have given them,’ Jehovah your God has said.” Earth will abound with everlasting blessings as Jehovah fully restores “the booth of David”!—Amos 9:13-15.
1978, Jerusalem, page 1046.