AMOS, BOOK OF
The prophecy of this Hebrew book of the Bible was directed primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel. Apparently it was first delivered orally during the reigns of Jeroboam II and Uzziah, kings of Israel and of Judah respectively, whose periods of kingship overlapped between 829 and 803 B.C.E. (Amos 1:1) By about 803 it was committed to writing, presumably after the prophet returned to Judah. For details about the prophet himself, see AMOS No. 1.
The canonicity of this book or its claim to a rightful place in the Bible has never been questioned. From early times it has been accepted by the Jews, and it appears in the earliest Christian catalogues. Justin Martyr of the second century C.E. quoted from Amos in his Dialogue with Trypho. The book itself is in complete agreement with the rest of the Bible, as shown by the writer’s many references to Bible history and the laws of Moses. (Amos 1:11; 2:8-10; 4:11; 5:22, 25; 8:5) Christians of the first century accepted the writings of Amos as inspired Scripture, as, for example, the martyr Stephen (Acts 7:42, 43; Amos 5:25-27), and James the half brother of Jesus (Acts 15:13-19; Amos 9:11, 12), who pointed to fulfillment of some of the prophecies.
Other historical events likewise attest to the truthfulness of the prophet. It is a matter of history that all the heathen nations condemned by Amos were in due time devoured by the fire of destruction. The highly fortified city of Samaria itself was besieged and fell in 740 B.C.E., and the conquering Assyrian army took the inhabitants “into exile beyond Damascus,” as foretold by Amos. (Amos 5:27; 2 Ki. 17:5, 6) Judah to the south likewise received her due punishment when she was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. (Amos 2:5) And true to Jehovah’s word through Amos, captive descendants of both Israel and Judah returned in 537 to rebuild their homeland.—Amos 9:14; Ezra 3:1.
Biblical archaeology also confirms Amos as a truthful historian of his time, when, in describing the ostentatious luxury of the rich, he referred to their “houses of ivory” and “couches of ivory.” (Amos 3:15; 6:4) Commenting on some of these findings, one authority says: “It is of much interest that numerous ivories were found in excavation of Samaria. These are mostly in the form of plaques or small panels in relief and presumably were once attached to furniture and inlaid in wall paneling.” (Light from the Ancient Past, Finegan, 1959, pp. 187, 188) Another authority says “The famous Samaria ivories include thousands of fragments. . . . These small objects, fashioned in the 9th or 8th centuries B.C., put moderns in touch with what . . . the protesting prophet Amos knew of the ‘ivory houses’ and the ivory-trimmed furnishings and paneled palaces of King Ahab (Amos 3:15; 6:4). These ivory fragments, among the most valuable finds in the costly excavations in Samaria, once formed borders and inlay for couches, thrones, and stools.”—Harper’s Bible Dictionary, 1952, p. 295.
Jehovah’s spirit moved Amos to employ simple, direct, picturesque language in a dignified manner befitting a prophet of God. Simple words, powerful words, words full of meaning, were chosen so both the high and the low could understand and get the sense of what he said. He used a variety of illustrations, some with rural flavor, to give vitality and force to his message. (Amos 2:13; 4:2; 9:9) Historical events are accurately recalled. (1:9, 11, 13; 4:11) Allusions are made to familiar practices and customs of the people. (2:8; 6:4-6) The whole is a well-ordered composition with definite form and purpose.
As one of Jehovah’s servants Amos magnified the Word and Name, the righteousness and sovereignty of the Almighty. Twenty-one times he refers to “Lord Jehovah,” in addition to the sixty-four other times he uses the Divine Name. He describes how “the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of the armies” is infinitely great, that nothing is beyond His reach or power. (Amos 9:2-5) Even the sun, moon, constellations and the elements are subject to Jehovah’s commands. (5:8; 8:9) It is, therefore, a small matter for God to demonstrate his supremacy over the nations.—1:3-5; 2:1-3; 9:7.
In keeping with the meaning of his name, Amos bore a weighty message laden with woe and denunciation against the pagan nations as well as Judah and Israel. He also carried a comforting message of restoration in which those faithful to Jehovah could put their hope.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. The approaching judgment (1:1–2:16)
A. Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab (1:1–2:3)
1. Syria, Philistia and Tyre for cruel treatment to Israel
2. Edom (related through Esau), Ammon (related through Lot), for hatred and mistreatment of their brother Israelites; Moab for burning the bones of the king of Edom for lime
B. Judah and Israel for revolts and gross violations of God’s law (2:4-16)
II. Publishing the judgment (3:1–6:14)
A. Jehovah reveals judgment, warns through his prophets (3:1–4:3)
1. As a horn blown and a lion’s roar, the news will make the people afraid
2. The judgment is sure to come, with great calamity
B. Israel unrepentant, rebellious despite Jehovah’s disciplinary acts (4:4-13)
C. The woes due the house of Israel (5:1–6:14)
1. Jehovah’s kind appeal for Israel to do good ignored
2. Israel will find no way to turn for escape
3. Their sacrifices and songs Jehovah will not accept
4. Princes of Samaria live luxuriously, putting calamitous day out of mind; therefore they will go into exile at the head of the exiles
5. Destruction to be thorough
III. Visions and prophecies show Israel’s end near (7:1–8:14)
A. Figurative locust desolation, stayed by prophet’s intercession (7:1-3)
B. Symbolic destructive fire also stayed (7:4-6)
C. The plummet; no further excusing of Israel, so Amos does not intercede (7:7-9)
D. Priest of Bethel commands Amos to stop prophesying, Amos prophesies calamity for him when the destruction comes (7:10-17)
E. A basket of summer fruit, signifying Israel’s near end (8:1-3)
F. The famine for hearing the words of Jehovah (8:4-14)
IV. Destruction of the sinful kingdom and reconstruction of booth (royal house) of David (9:1-15)
A. No place of hiding for sinners (9:1-10)
B. Prosperity and permanent security for regathered captives (9:11-15)
See the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pp. 148-151 on the prophecy of Amos.