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  1. Summary of Amos
  2. Outline of Amos
  3. Background of Amos
  4. Introductory Issues in Amos
  5. Theological Themes in Amos
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Lesson 3 of5
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Background of Amos

The Book of Amos is the oldest of the four books that come to us from prophets who were active during the eighth century B.C.E. (the others are Hosea, Micah, and Isaiah). This does not mean that there were not other prophets active during that time or before. Rather, these are the only prophets whose words survived to reach us.

Amos most likely had a very short prophetic ministry, perhaps as short as a year. This probably occurred around the year 760 B.C.E., when Jeroboam II was king of Israel. During this time, the people of Israel were divided into two kingdoms. The northern kingdom was known as Israel (also poetically as Ephraim, Jacob, and Isaac); its capital was Samaria. The southern kingdom was known as Judah (also poetically as Zion); its capital was Jerusalem.

Amos was a prophet from Tekoa, a town in the southern kingdom of Judah. He was not a professional prophet or a member of a prophetic guild, but a farmer (“herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees,” 7:14). God called him and sent him north to prophesy in what to him would have been the foreign country of Israel. Other details about Amos, including his fate, are unknown.

The time during which Amos prophesied was a time of relative peace and prosperity for the kingdom of Israel and her neighbors. During that time, the small countries such as Israel and Judah experienced no threat from the major empires of the region such as Egypt or Assyria, although that would soon change (see Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III). Amos contended that the prosperity of the wealthy of that society was built upon the backs of the poor.

Amos announced God’s condemnation of both Israel and the surrounding nations for their greed, injustice, brutality, and particularly for the oppression of the poor by the wealthy. Amos did not announce a new morality. Like the other prophets, his message was fundamentally conservative in that he called people to obey the laws of Moses. Amos also condemned the rote worship life of the people, proclaiming that ritual observance alone does not mask injustice. God wants justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream. The people’s injustice is seen as a sign of their rejection of the Lord. One cannot worship the Lord and lead a life of injustice; to do so is to reject the Lord.

Nevertheless, a promised restoration concludes the book, giving hope to readers.