Date: Eighth Century B.C.
Amos prophesied just 30 years before Israel fell to the Assyrians (722 B.C.). The 50 years preceding Amos were a time of relative calm and prosperity for both Israel and Judah. In the midst of that apparent prosperity, however, an inner sickness was developing. The poor were being oppressed, the weak were intimidated, justice was ignored. Religion was a pretense, corruption a way of life.
Amos was not technically a prophet. Rather, God called him to leave his occupation as a shepherd and tree farmer in order to make God’s will known to Israel. The fact that he was from a small town in the South and was not formally educated made his mission to the North difficult. He courageously pointed out that God was not impressed with outward pietistic show, devoid of moral content. Amos stuck to his calling in the midst of adversity.
Theological Themes in the Book of Amos
Amos depicted God as the ruler of history, past, present, and future as righteous, patient, and long-suffering, impartial. God seeks fellowship with his people and demands a righteous life on their part. Amos points out the grace that God had shown to Israel. He selected Israel for special blessing; he gave them the Law; he established a place of worship in the temple and gave them the sacrificial system; he fought their battles; he worked miracles; he led them through the wilderness; he prepared a place for them in Canaan; he sent them prophets and special leaders; he gave them wealth, food, clothes, and homes; he caused business and commerce to flourish. And he gave them his Word.
Amos catalogued the sins of Israel: cruelty, genocide, dishonesty, anger, greed, lawlessness, sexual excess, desecration of the dead, rejection of the prophets, violence, robbery, selfishness, injustice, deceit, and pride.
Amos drew attention to the judgment to come. He pointed out that God weeps over people’s sins, takes no delight in judgment, and offers repentance if they want it. But he is clearly not optimistic about the prospects of Israel’s actually repenting.
Finally, Amos tells the people of Israel what God requires. They are not to bring more sacrifices or offerings to the temple, but they are to seek justice, good, honesty, and the well-being of all their people.
Outline for the Book of Amos
- Judgment on the nations Amos 1:1-2:16
- Three prophetic sermons Amos 3:1-6:14
- The visions of Amos 7:1-8:8
- Epilogue Amos 8:9-9:15