INTRODUCTION TO Amos
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Before analyzing the test of any book of the Bible, it is well to learn the historical background.
Also, it is best to make a "skyscraper" view of its general contents. Accordingly, this introduction is divided into two parts: background and survey.
- Most scholars believe Amos wrote this book.
- Amos may be short for Amasiah (2 Chron. 17:16) meaning "the Lord carries" or "the Lord upholds".
- Amos was either a common shepherd and worked in sycamore-fig groves (1:1, 7:14-15) or he was their owner when the Lord called him. The only other Old Testament use of the Hebrew word for shepherd here is in reference to the king of Moab (2 Kings 3:4) where it is translated "raised sheep".
- Amos was not a trained prophet (7:14) meaning he didn't receive income from his ministry. He ministered in Bethel just within (7:10-13) Samaria though he was from Judah. Bethel was one of two main religious centers and the place where all Israel civil and social leaders went to worship.
- Amos ministry was for only a short time. The Lord called him while in Judah to go to Israel. He went to Israel's capital, Samaria and preached. Then he went to the religious center, Bethel to preached. After only a few short years they escorted him out of Israel. He returned to his hometown in Judah and recorded the word of the Lord that he had received.
- Amos' ministry was just after Joel and Jonah's ministry. Amos might have known Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, and even Jonah. He probably knew of other prophets located in the northern kingdom's (aka Samaria, Israel, Ephraim) school of prophets even though Amos was not a processional prophet.
- Tekoa, Amos' hometown, was a small town about 6 miles (10km) south of Bethlehem and 11 miles (17km) from Jerusalem. Tekoa means "a place to set up a tent". (2 Samuel 23:26; 2 Chronicles 11:5-6, 20:20-22; Nehemiah 3:5) Bethlehem and the surrounding towns including Tekoa was known for pasture lands for shepherds. A few scholars believe that Amos was actually from a Tekoa in the North, near Galilee. They believe that it is more probable that Amos was from the North because it has conditions more suitable for the cultivation of sycamore figs than the Tekoa of the South.
- Date and Place of Writing
- The earthquake mentioned in 1:1 was in approximately 755 B.C.
- Elisha finished his ministry about forty years before Amos.
- Uzziah was king of Judah mentioned in 1:1 reigned from 779-740 B.C. He was a godly king for most of his reign, until the very end.
- Jeroboam II king of Israel mentioned in 1:1 reigned from 793-743 B.C. He was not a godly king in the Lord's eyes.
- A remarkable event happened just before Amos' ministry. Joaboam II extended the boarders of Israel (the northern kingdom) to its size as was during Solomon's reign (past Damascus). The victories the Lord God gave through Jeroboam II came when Damascus was defeated by the Assyrians in 797 B.C. (2 Kings 14:26-27) Damascus had prior to this dominated and controlled the northern kingdom. (2 Kings 13:7) After their victories instead of thanking their God who had given the victory and encouraging words through Elisha and Jonah, Israel and her king became proud and complacent. (Amos 6:1, 5:18-20) They even started to look for the Lord to destroy even more nations and thus make them the world power. Amos' message of coming destruction must have seemed laughable to the Israelites.
- Israel at the time was politicly secure, spiritually smug, and extended its boarders to the size of Solomon's days in fulfilment of Elisha's (2 Kings 13:17-19) and Jonah's (2 Kings 14:25) prophecies.
- Amos addresses the nations surrounding Israel in the first two chapters. The rest of the book addresses Israel.
- Since this book concerns the coming Day of the Lord is is also appropriate to our generation for Jesus coming is very soon.
- Occasion and Purpose
- Amos starts out with the pronouncement of judgement on six nations that surround Judah and Israel. Then it pronounces judgement on Judah and then finally Israel. As prosperity and security increased so did idolatry and sin. Moral, ethical, and spiritual corruption had slowly crept in until it was at it's peak. God's past punishment for unfaithfulness were forgotten, and his patience was at an end -which he sent Amos to announce.
- The book concentration is on the Lord's message to Israel; a final chance to repent and then when they didn't repent, the coming judgement on Israel.
- Form and Style
Amos is a prophet book; a series of small messages delivered to God's people.
Amos is written in poetic form similar to other prophetic books. The messages are organized according to subject rather then when they were delivered.
- Place Among the Old Testament Books
- Amos is one of the smaller books of the Old Testament with nine chapters. Scholars have placed it with the other eleven minor prophets.
- Just because scholars have classified twelve of the prophetic books as minor does not mean that their message is any less important than the four major prophets. In fact the New Testament quotes the minor prophets more than the major prophets.
The Lord sent Amos when the people of Israel have reached a low point in their devotion to the God of Israel -the people have become greedy and have stopped following and adhering to their values. The wealthy elite are becoming rich at the expense of others. Peasant farmers who once practiced subsistence farming are being forced to farm what is best for foreign trade, mostly wine and oil. (Amos 6:6) Amos, Joel and Obadiah were the first prophets to use the phrase "the day of the Lord" (aka "in that day" and "in the last days") referring to the Lord's coming and judgment.
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