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Amos, overview

The Man: Amos was a native of the little village of Tekoa, a few miles south of Bethlehem in Judah. He is described as a herdsman (Amos 1:1; 7:14: in two different words which probably mean, respectively, a keeper of sheep and a keeper of oxen), as well as a gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 7:14: probably figs); this sounds very much like a lowly farm worker. Many of the metaphors used by Amos in his prophecy reflect this humble background, and the natural surroundings which apparently had a profound effect on him (Amos 1:2; 2:9; 3:4-5; 5:19,20,24; 6:12; 7:1-6; 8:1; 9:3-15). [It is possible that, instead of a humble herdsman, Amos was a cattle-driver or "trader" of livestock, an occupation which might explain his traveling between Judah in the south and Israel in the north.]

The Times: The historical period covered by the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel is very significant. Jeroboam II (who reigned c 783-743 BC) led a great revival of Israel's political power, casting off the Syrian yoke from Israel and extending her borders even beyond those achieved by Solomon (2Ki 14:25,28). Simultaneously in the south Judah was "benefiting" from a similar political revival. Uzziah conquered the Philistines and the Arabians, took tribute from Ammon, fortified Jerusalem, and built walled cities for defense of his borders (2Ch 26:6-15). Of course, political developments in a wider field, under the hand of God, were the real explanation. The period 800 to 750 BC was marked by Assyrian involvements to its north and internal struggles in Egypt. This left Israel and Judah with more or less free hands to become, for a short while at least, dominant powers in the land of Canaan. The effects of these "successes" were disastrous in both civil and religious life. Owing to increased control of important trade routes, wealthy classes emerged in the people of Israel. The poor were increasingly oppressed, and the rich lived lives of immoral self-indulgence. Civil justice was corrupted; the spirit of the Law of Moses was abandoned, even while nominal worship of Jehovah flourished. Their God was with them! or so it seemed: had He not given them wonderful prosperity? But it was all a delusion. The "sepulchre" was whitewashed on the outside, but inside were "dead men's bones": greed, dishonesty, licentiousness.


Judgments against the nations: Amos 1:1–2:16

Introduction: Amos 1:1–2

Judgment of neighboring nations: Amos 1:3 – 2:3

Judgment of Judah and Israel: Amos 2:4–16

Three oracles of judgment against Israel: Amos 3:1 – 5:17

A declaration of judgment: Amos 3:1–15

The depravity of Israel: Amos 4:1–13

A lamentation for Israel's sin and doom: Amos 5:1–17

Two oracles of woe against Israel: Amos 5:18 – 6:14

Woe against Israel's perverted religion: Amos 5:18–27

Woe against Israel's complacent pride: Amos 6:1–14

Five visions of judgement against Israel: Amos 7:1 – 9:10

The devouring locusts: Amos 7:1–3

The flaming fire: Amos 7:4–6

The plumb line: Amos 7:7–17

The basket of ripe fruit: Amos 8:1–14

The judgment of the Lord: Amos 9:1–10

The promise of Israel's restoration: Amos 9:11–15

"For Three Sins, and for Four": The most distinctive feature of Amos' prophecy is the eight-fold repetition of: "This is what the LORD says: 'For three sins of ______ , even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.' " ("Three... and four" does not necessarily mean "seven"! In Hebrew, a three-fold repetition suggests finality: ie "I will overturn, overturn, overturn..." in Eze 21:27. So "three sins" would be the fullness of transgression, and "four sins" would be a wretched excess -- implying the God had waited far too long to exercise His wrath!) This formula introduces divine statements of judgment about Israel (the northern kingdom) in Amos 2:6-8, and Judah (the southern kingdom) in Amos 2:4,5, as well as six Gentile nations surrounding God's people:
  1. Damascus, or Syria (Amos 1:3-5);
  2. Gaza, or Philistia (Amos 1:6-8);
  3. Tyre, in Lebanon (Amos 1:9,10);
  4. Edom (Amos 1:11,12);
  5. Ammon (Amos 1:13-15); and
  6. Moab (Amos 2:1-3).
Why these nations? Because, during the general period of Israel's (and Judah's) expansion and prosperity, the Jews had allowed themselves to become very much like the idolatrous, immoral nations around them (Amos 3:14-4:2; 6:1-6; 8:11-13). And so the time of God's judgments upon the Gentile nations would also see severe chastening of Israel and Judah. But there would be this difference: God's people, or rather a remnant of God's people, would survive the severe judgments and emerge stronger, their faith having been tested so that they learn once again to trust in the Lord their God (Amos 3:1,2; 9:9).

Coming Judgments: The judgments Amos had in mind were probably those to be brought upon Israel and Judah by the Assyrians, and then the Babylonians. These soon-to-be-powerful nations are not mentioned by Amos at all, but their approaching shadow looms over his message. When they finally came, then the smaller nations, whom Israel had thought they need not fear, rose up against Israel -- Syria, Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Ammon joining themselves with first the Assyrian and later the Babylonian against their ancient enemy Israel. The result of God's judgments was the carrying away into captivity (Amos 5:18-20,27).

The Return: But the promise of Amos was that, after the captivity had run its course, the tested and chastened remnant of Abraham's seed would be brought back to the Land. The almost unrelieved burden of Amos' earlier message gives way, in his very last utterance, to a message of hope and renewal (Amos 9:11-15).

Multiple Fulfillments

  1. Israel prospering in their own land in the Last Days,
  2. but surrounded by Arab nations,
  3. and practically indistinguishable from them in character and conduct,
  4. is subjected to attack by Assyria/Babylon....
  5. ...and also by Edom, Moab, Ammon, Syria, and the Philistines,
  6. loses all it has worked for and accumulated,
  7. and is carried away in another captivity,
  8. out of which a remnant turns to God and is saved (by calling upon the Messiah!),
  9. so that God will bring them back once again to their own Land,
  10. this time in righteousness as well as prosperity!
And so, in the near future, for the first time, will Amos' very last words be truly and completely fulfilled: " 'I will plant Israel in their own land, NEVER AGAIN TO BE UPROOTED FROM THE LAND I HAVE GIVEN THEM,' says the LORD your God" (Amos 9:15).

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