The Historic Context
The book of Amos was written after Jonah and Joel and before Hosea, Micah and Isaiah in the reigns of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam II king of Israel (Amos 1:1), precisely two years before a great earthquake. This earthquake was so destructive, it was still remembered 200 years later (Zechariah 14:4-5). Zechariah likens this to the great earthquake that will split the Mount of Olives at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to this earth, (see Amos 6:11; 8:8; 9:5).
As a result of wars between Assyria and Syria, these nations had loosened their grip over Israel. Although Israel had been weakened by the oppression of Assyria, king Jeroboam II profited by reconquering territories previously held under Solomon (2 Kings 14:25), accruing riches and exploiting the poor in society.
These days of opulence can be seen throughout the book of Amos: Amos 3:15 the rich lived in summer and winter houses; Amos 5:11 they built houses of costly materials with lush gardens and splendid vineyards; Amos 6:1 this upper-class enjoyed a life of ease and luxury; Amos 6:4 a lifestyle of couching and feasting on good food; Amos 6:5 they experimented in new music; Amos 6:6 and had so much in life that these rich became remote to other’s needs. However, divine judgment would soon come on the nation.
Amos was a prophet, a shepherd like Moses and David, a herdsman of cattle and a cultivator of sycamore-fig trees, Amos 7:14. The book of Amos is graced with illusions to country life, Amos 3:4,12; 4:7-9; 7:1-2; 8:1-2 etc. His name meaning burden or carrier of burdens, evokes his vocation: he carried the weight of divine justice in the face of the unfaithfulness of his people. Although an inhabitant of Tekoa, south of Jerusalem, he repeatably addresses the kingdom of the north, provoking the displeasure of Amaziah, priest of the centre of idolatry in Bethel (Amos 7:10-13; 1 Kings 12:29).
The General Theme
In severe terms, Amos proclaims the judgments of God on six nations surrounding Israel and Judah. He then concentrates on Judah, followed by particular denunciations of Israel for their immorality and their dishonesty in business affairs Amos 2:6-16, as well as the decline in their spiritual life Amos 5:25-26, Acts 7:42-43. Israel is compared to a basket of summer fruit ready for divine judgment Amos 8:1-2. Amos holds out hope and appeals to the people to change their lives and find God again, to return to Him, Amos 5:4,6,8,14 and be part of the wonderful Messianic reign yet to come, Amos 9:13-15; Acts 15:13-17.
The Key Verse
Amos 4:12 Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel
- Section 1 chapters 1–2
Eight prophecies on the nations: Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah and Israel, all introduced in the same manner.
- Section 2 chapters 3–6
Denunciation of the past, present and future sins of Israel.
- Section 3 chapters 7:1–9:10
Five visions illustrating future divine judgment: grasshoppers, fire, plumbline, summer fruit, altar.
- Section 4 chapter 9:11-15
Five promises concerning the restoration of Israel after judgment: monarchy, extended territory, prosperity, return of captives and security.