Overview of the Book of Amos

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Overview of the Book of Amos

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Overview of the Book of Amos

Author: The prophet Amos.

Purpose:

To reveal the severity of divine judgment for covenant infidelity in Israel and Judah and to declare the hope of a great restoration after the approaching destruction and exile.

Date: 760-750 B.C.

Key Truths:

  • Just as the Gentile nations would be judged for their wickedness, so Israel and Judah would be judged by Assyrian aggression because of their sins.
  • God's case against Israel was undeniable and the cause of much trouble for Israel both in nature and in war.
  • Amos' visions of the future confirmed that Samaria would be destroyed by Assyrian aggression.
  • Although Israel and Judah would be judged along with the other nations, after the exile they would be exalted above their Gentile neighbors.

Author:

Amos was from Tekoa (Amos 1:1), a village about ten miles south of Jerusalem and six miles from Bethlehem in Judah. He was a shepherd (Amos 1:1), livestock breeder (see note on Amos 7:14) and dresser of sycamore-fig trees (Amos 7:14). His rural background notwithstanding, Amos clearly knew much about international history (Amos 1:3-2:3). He was also familiar with the law of God and the history of God's covenant people. He had not studied to be a prophet (Amos 7:14), but the Lord sovereignly called him to be one. He spoke primarily to the northern kingdom (Amos 7:15) but also addressed the sins of Judah (Amos 2:4-5; cf. Amos 9:11).

Time and Place of Writing:

According to Amos 1:1, Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah (792-740 B.C.) and Jeroboam II of Israel (793-753 B.C.). Amos probably delivered most, if not all, of the oracles of this book in the Northern Kingdom. It is certain that he fulfilled some of his prophetic ministry at Bethel (Amos 7:10-17). From his descriptions of the circumstances of Israel, most interpreters conclude that these oracles were delivered during the decade of great prosperity during the reign of Jeroboam II (760-750 B.C.). During the reign of Jeroboam, there was peace between Judah and Israel. The king had restored the boundaries of Israel in accordance with the prophecy of Jonah son of Amittai (2 Kings 14:25). The Northern Kingdom had become wealthy and was enjoying a false sense of security made possible by the weakness of Egypt, Babylon and especially Assyria, which had entered a temporary decline after the death of Adad-Nirari III (805-783 B.C.). Israel faced no serious threat from Assyrian armies for about 40 years. It was most likely during this time that Amos fulfilled his prophetic mission.

Original Audience:

Amos directed his ministry to the Northern Kingdom (Israel). At the time, many Israelites were maintaining and even exceeding the ritual requirements of the law (Amos 4:4-5). Yet the true worship of God was mixed with idolatry Amos (Amos 5:26; 2 Kings 17:14-17), which led to various forms of violence and injustice (Amos 2:6-8; 4:1). Although the Lord had already sent warnings to Israel in the form of hunger, thirst, blight, locusts, plagues and military defeat, his people had refused to see his hand in these events and had failed to repent (Amos 4:6-11).

Purpose and Distinctives:

Amos vigorously challenged Israel's idolatry and social injustice, declaring that syncretistic worship denied the most basic truths about Israel's God. The Lord alone is sovereign over all that he has created (Amos 4:13; 5:8; 9:5-6). He is the one true God over the nations. As such, he is able to turn nation against nation (Amos 1:3-2:3) and to judge his covenant people through the aggression of other nations (Amos 6:14). But for all of this, he is a loving God who desires the life, not the death, of his people (Amos 5:4).

Amos indicated that because Israel had not repented, even after being judged (Amos 4:6-11), the Lord would bring more severe judgment, ending in wholesale destruction and exile (Amos 4:12-5:20). Shortly after Amos predicted that Israel would fall to the Assyrian Empire, his predictions began to be fulfilled. Under Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727 B.C.), Assyria gained strength and expanded to the north and west. Judah soon became an Assyrian vassal. Syria, located between Israel and Assyria, became part of the Assyrian Empire (2 Kings 16:7-9).

Tiglath-Pileser III was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.), who continued his father's policy of westward expansion, forcing Hoshea, the last king of the northern kingdom, to become his vassal (2 Kings 17:3). Hoshea rebelled and mistakenly hoped for help from Egypt (2 Kings 17:4). As a result, Shalmaneser V of Assyria began a siege of Samaria, and the Israelite capital fell to his successor, Sargon II, in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:5-6).

The Lord chastises those he loves, and his judgment was a sign of his commitment to his covenant people as a whole. Amos therefore affirmed God's promise never to utterly forsake his covenant people. Amos declared that after the exile "David's fallen tent" (Amos 9:11) would be restored, the royal line would conquer the nations (Amos 9:12) and God's people would be blessed beyond measure (Amos 9:13-15).

Christ in Amos:

Amos' prophecies reveal Christ in three ways.

(1) The major theme of Amos-judgment against the nations and the unfaithful of Israel and Judah-foreshadows the judgment that comes in Christ. The New Testament teaches that Christ will judge those who turn against God (John 5:21-27; Rom. 2:12-16), including people in covenant with God (Heb. 10:26-30; 1 Pet. 4:17; Rev. 2:4-5, 14-16, 20-23; 3:1-3, 15-19). Christ ultimately fulfills the theme of judgment in Amos.

(2) Amos 9:11-15 speaks of the restoration promised to Israel and Judah after exile. Following the pattern laid down by Moses (Lev. 26:1-46; Deut. 4:15-31; 28:1-68), Amos announced that the exile would be followed by a time of great blessings for God's people. After the failures of those who returned to the land in 539 B.C., these restoration prophecies began to be fulfilled. The New Testament explains the initial fulfillment of these restoration prophecies in the giving of the Spirit as the down payment for the believers' inheritance in Christ's first coming (Eph. 1:14), as well as their final fulfillment in the new heavens and the new earth when Christ returns (Rev. 21:1).

(3) Amos spoke of the restoration of "David's fallen tent" - his David's royal dynasty (Amos 9:11). This prediction indicated that sometime after the exile, a son of David would lead the people of God to victory over the nations (Amos 9:12) and secure for them eternal safety (Amos 9:15). This prophecy is fulfilled by Jesus, the final, royal Son of David (Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:32-33; Rev. 22:16). Jesus rose to the throne of the house of David in his resurrection and ascension (Acts 2:25-36). He reigns now and engages in holy war against the nations through the Gospel (Acts 15:13-19; 1 Cor. 15:23-25). Ultimately, he will defeat all of his enemies and consummate the already initiated and continuing divine Kingdom when he returns in glory (Acts 2:34-36; Rev. 19:11-21; 21:1-22:5).

Notes from the NIV Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Dr. Richard Pratt, ed. (Zondervan, 2003).

Introduction Material:

Introduction to the Prophetic Books

Copyright:

Copyright, Authors, and Theological Editors of the SORSB

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is Co-Founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries who served as Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary and has authored numerous books.