What is the general theme of Amos?
Amos may have delivered the prophecies of this book at different places in the northern kingdom, such as Samaria and Bethel. It is certain only that he fulfilled some of his prophetic ministry at Bethel (Amos 7:12-13). Unlike the messages of earlier prophets (with the possible exception of Joel), the words of Amos were preserved in writing like those of his contemporaries Isaiah and Hosea. It was essential that these great covenant lawsuit messages be preserved both as reminders of Israel's history and for the promises of restoration and redemption they contained.
Amos attacks two major areas of sin commonly indicted by the prophets: idolatry and social injustice. Israel's root problem was its false religion - having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Tim. 3:5). Although Israel maintained the ritual formalities of the law, and even exceeded them (Amos 4:4-5), idolatry was commonplace (2 Kings 17:9-17; Amos 5:26) as were violence and injustice (Amos 2:6-8; 4:1).
The God we encounter in Amos is the same Creator who made man in his image. He is God, and there is no other. He does not tolerate idolatry, which in reality is the worship of demons (Deut. 32:16-17; 1 Cor. 10:20). The Lord is sovereign and is able to raise up one nation against another in judgment (Amos 1:3 through 2:3), and this is a process that will continue until his return. God is also the judge of his covenant people, Israel, and willing to raise up another nation against them (Amos 6:14). But for all this, he is a loving God who desires the life, not the death, of his people. Above all, he desires that they should, "Seek me and live." (Amos 5:4; 1 Tim. 2:3, 4).
The Lord sent warnings to Israel in the form of hunger, thirst, blight, locusts, plagues, and military defeat, but the people had refused to see his hand in these (Amos 4:6-11). Judgment must follow (Amos 4:12 through 5:20), and this punishment is portrayed in a series of verbal and visionary prophecies predicting wholesale destruction and exile. But the Lord chastises those he loves, and his judgment is really a sign of faithfulness to his covenant people. He promises to restore the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down (Amos 9:11), and the ultimate future of his people is portrayed in a concluding description that resembles Eden in its fruitfulness and blessedness (Amos 9:13-15).
ReferenceWhitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. (1995). Reformation Study Bible. Nashville: T. Nelson.
Dr. Joseph R. Nally, D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).