Lesson 1 of5
In Progress

Summary of Amos


The book of Amos is a collection of prophetic messages delivered by the prophet Amos. The book also includes a narrative description of an event in Amos’s life and a few fragments of hymns, which have been interspersed throughout the book (probably by an editor). Most of Amos’s messages are announcements of God’s anger with and impending judgment on Israel (the northern kingdom). Amos also announces God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbors, including Judah. Amos’s messages focus on Israel’s oppression of the poor and lack of justice. Amos consistently criticizes Israel’s worship life, which has deteriorated to rote ritual observance disconnected from daily life. The prophet draws on both Israel’s history and its moral/legal tradition to support his condemnations of the people’s actions.


The messages of Amos insist that God’s relationship with people includes all of their lives. Amos insists that because of injustice and oppression, God’s anger has been provoked and judgment will come. The judgment that Amos announced was not a final judgment, but a part of God’s relationship with the people. This message of God’s anger and judgment remains relevant for people of faith today. Because God still loves people, God still is provoked to anger when people cause others to suffer.


Amos is the thirtieth book in the Old Testament. It is third among the so-called “minor” (or shorter) prophets, the twelve books that make up the final portion of the Old Testament.


Most of the messages in the book of Amos were spoken by Amos. We do not know if he wrote them down himself; it is likely that his words were collected by followers who were convinced that Amos spoke for God. It is likely that an editor placed Amos’s messages in the present order and composed the narrative description of the clash with Amaziah (7:10-15). It is also likely that the editor placed fragments of three hymns within these chapters (4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6) during the editorial shaping of the book.


Amos most likely spoke his messages sometime around the year 760 B.C.E. Sometime after that, the messages of Amos were collected, edited, and copied. It is not clear when this process was completed, but it is likely that it was finished before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.


The book of Amos is about God’s passion for justice, anger with injustice, and judgment as an ongoing part of God’s relationship with the people.


The prophetic messages in the book of Amos are to be read both individually and together as a group. As individual messages, the reader should isolate a speech and understand what it says and how it applies to life today. Using the notes in a study Bible will help readers understand Amos’s metaphors, references to history and tradition, and references to social practices of his time. To comprehend the message of the book, readers should understand that the judgment that Amos proclaimed was neither a departure from God’s history of dealing with the people nor an end to that history, but an ongoing part of it.