Amos

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Home > The Old Testament > Amos

Subpages: Chapters 1-2  •  3-5a  •  5b-6  •  7-9

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Summary[edit]

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Relationship to Old Testament. Amos is one of the "Minor Prophets" of the Old Testament. The relationship of Amos to the Old Testament as a whole, and to the other minor prophets in particular, is discussed at Old Testament: Organization.

Story. The book of Amos consists of four major sections.

  • Chapters 1-2: Woe to the nations, leading up to Israel. Amos teaches that guilty nations get punished, whether those nations are the enemies of Israel or are Israel itself. And the Northern Kingdom of Israel is guilty of social injustice and empty religious ceremony.
  • Chapters 3-5a: The Lord’s longsuffering with Israel. Amos reiterates the Lord’s loyalty to Israel and recounts the chastisements that have failed to bring Israel back to him. In the pivotal final speech of this division Israel is invited to seek the Lord and live. And in the climactic central verse of that speech Amos states that the Northern Kingdom must either seek the Lord or fall.
  • Chapters 5b-6: Woes pronounced upon Israel.
  • Chapters 7-9: Visions of Israel threatened, punished, then restored.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Amos include:

  • Wickedness and destruction. The central question presented by Amos is whether the Northern Kingdom of Israel will seek the Lord and live. If not, then as stated in the third and fourth divisions, Israel will be destroyed (Chapters 5-6b, Chapters 7-9) except for a remnant that will eventually be restored (3:11-12; 9:7-15).
  • Scattering and gathering. Amos does not merely predict that the Northern Kingdom will be afflicted, but that it will completely disappear (5:6; 9:1-4). This is a significant statement: that after hundreds of years in the promised land, God’s covenant protection is about to end for most of the tribes of Israel. Amos takes care to explain that it is not the Lord’s power or loyalty that have changed, but rather Israel’s claim upon that power and loyalty. The Lord has been loyal (Chapters 2 and 3). He has tried repeatedly to bring Israel back (Chapter 4). He would still welcome Israel back today (Chapter 5a). And in the future, after Israel is sifted and cleansed, it will again be established in the Promised Land (Chapter 9).
  • Righteousness is better than sacrifice. Amos also teaches that the forms of religious ceremony are worthless unless accompanied by righteous living (5:4-13, 21-27).

Historical setting[edit]

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The prophet Amos was a shepherd and gatherer of sycamore fruit at Tekoa, a small town 5 miles southeast of Bethlehem in the Southern Kingdom of Judah (7:14-15). But two years before a large earthquake occurred, while Uzziah ruled in Judah and Jeroboam II in Israel (1:1; also Zechariah 14:5), Amos received the word of the Lord and went on a preaching trip to the Northern Kingdom, probably to the Northern capital Samaria (Amos 3-6) and the Northern Kingdom's principal religious sanctuary at Bethel (Amos 7) (Map), probably during 768-753 BC.[1]

Jeroboam II was a wicked king. But the great powers of the region, Egypt and Assyria, were occupied with problems in other directions. Syria, Israel's larger neighbor to the north, was also recovering from a recent invasion by Assyria. Because these larger powers were otherwise occupied, Jeroboam II enjoyed military success and was able to expand the Northern Kingdom’s borders. The kingdom appeared prosperous, secure and ascendant. CITE. The destruction that Amos prophesied (7:7-9) could thus be easily dismissed by his audience in the Northern Kingdom. But in 723 BC,[2] three or four decades after Amos' ministry, Assyria moved southward again and conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Unable to invoke the Lord’s protection, the Northern Kingdom was destroyed and its people were carried off to become the Lost Ten Tribes.

A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel, including Amos, is found at Old Testament: Historical Overview.

Discussion[edit]

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Accountability of Israel[edit]

While Amos does favor Israel over foreign nations, he does so less than most other prophets. For example, Moab is not punished for mistreating Israel, but for mistreating Edom (2:1-3). The prophecies against the foreign nations have nothing to do with Israel’s deliverance, but emphasize the punishment that likewise awaits Israel (Amos 1-2). And the foreign nations are called as witnesses against Israel’s iniquity (3:9-10).

Righteousness is better than sacrifice[edit]

Amos teaches that the forms of religious ceremony are worthless unless accompanied by righteous living (5:4-13, 21-27).

Wickedness and destruction[edit]

In the first major division (Chapters 1-2), Amos teaches that guilty nations get punished, whether those nations are the enemies of Israel or are Israel itself. And the Northern Kingdom of Israel is guilty of social injustice and empty religious ceremony.

In the second division (Chapters 3-5a), Amos reiterates the Lord’s loyalty to Israel and recounts the chastisements that have failed to bring Israel back to him. In the pivotal final speech of this division (Verses 5:1-17) Israel is invited to seek the Lord and live. And in the climactic central verse of that speech Amos states that the Northern Kingdom must either seek the Lord or fall (5:6).

The central question presented by Amos is whether the Northern Kingdom of Israel will seek the Lord and live. If not, then as stated in the third and fourth divisions, Israel will be destroyed (Chapters 5-6b, Chapters 7-9) except for a remnant that will eventually be restored (3:11-12; 9:7-15).

Amos does not merely predict that the Northern Kingdom will be afflicted, but that it will completely disappear (5:6; 9:1-4). This is a significant statement: that after hundreds of years in the promised land, God’s covenant protection is about to end for most of the tribes of Israel. Amos takes care to explain that it is not the Lord’s power or loyalty that have changed, but rather Israel’s claim upon that power and loyalty. The Lord has been loyal (Chapters 2 and 3). He has tried repeatedly to bring Israel back (Chapter 4). He would still welcome Israel back today (Chapter 5a). And in the future, after Israel is sifted and cleansed, it will again be established in the Promised Land (Chapter 9).

Scattering and gathering[edit]

Moses warned the children of Israel that, if their descendants were wicked, they would not continue to possess the Promised Land of Canaan but would be scattered, and they would only be gathered back to the Promised Land again after repenting (Deut. 4:25-31; 28:64-68; 30:1-10). Amos, some time during about 768-753 BC,[3] was the first prophet to warn that Israel had finally arrived at that day of judgment and scattering. The Northern Kingdom of Israel did not heed Amos's warning and was scattered less than fifty years later in 723 BC[4] during the ministry of Isaiah. See the broader discussion of the Covenant of Scattering and Gathering at Isaiah.

Misc[edit]

Hymns. There are three hymns in Amos (4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6).

Complete outline and page map for Amos[edit]

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I. Woe to the nations, leading up to Israel (Chapters 1-2)

  • Woe to: unrelated nations for treatment of Israel (Chapter 1a)
  • Damascus (Syria) for threshing Gilead (1:3-5)
  • Gaza (Philistia) for delivering captivity to Edom (1:6-8)
  • Tyre (Phoenicia) for delivering captivity to Edom (1:9-10)
  • Woe to: related nations for treatment of Israel (Chapter 1b-2a)
  • Edom (Esau) for pursuing brother Jacob with the sword (1:11-12)
  • Ammon (Lot) for seeking to conquer Gilead (1:13-15)
  • Moab (Lot) for mistreating Edom (2:1-3)
  • Woe to: Israel and Judah for breaking the covenant (Chapter 2b)
  • Judah for not keeping the law of the Lord (2:4-5)
  • Israel for social injustice and idolatry despite past blessing (2:6-16)
  • mistreating the poor (2:6b-7a)
  • sexual immorality, including at pagan altars (2:7b-8)
  • Lord gave Israel Canaan (2:9-10)
  • Lord gave Israel prophets and Nazarites (2:11)
  • Israel rejected the gift of Nazarites and prophets (2:12)
  • Israel will lose the gift of Canaan when it is overcome (2:13-16)

II. The Lord’s longsuffering with Israel (Chapters 3-5a)

  • Hear word: Lord loved only Israel, but it was wayward (Chapter 3)
a. Lord has loved only Israel, so will punish (3:1-2)
b. Lord has roared through his prophets, take heed (3:3-8)
b. Gentiles called as witnesses of oppression in Israel (3:9-10)
a. adversary will destroy Israel, all but a remnant (3:13-15)
  • Hear word: Lord chastised Israel, but it did not return (Chapter 4)
  • Lord will carry away those who glut on oppressing the poor (4:1-3)
  • Israel transgresses even in its religious ceremonies (4:4-5)
  • past chastisement has not caused Israel to return (4:6-12)
  • hymn: greatness and condescension of the Lord (4:13)
  • Hear word: Lord still invites Israel to seek him, else destruction (Chapter 5a)
a. funeral lament for the virgin of Israel (5:1-3)
b. seek the Lord, not idolatry (5:4-5)
c. seek the Lord, or the Northern Kingdom will fall (5:6)
b. seek the Lord, not social injustice (5:7-13)
a. seek the Lord, or Israel will lament (5:14-17)

III. Woes pronounced upon Israel (Chapters 5b-6)

  • Woe to: those who trust in religious ceremony (Chapter 5b)
a. woe to those who seek Day of Lord, they will be hurt by it (5:18-20)
b. the Lord despises empty religious ceremony (5:21-23)
b. the Lord seeks righteousness but finds idolatry (5:24-26)
a. therefore you will go into captivity beyond Syria (5:27)
  • Woe to: those who trust in their own strength (Chapter 6a)
a. woe to those who trust in the strength of Samaria (6:1-2)
b. who enjoy plenty but do not see Israel’s sickness (6:3-6a)
b. but do not recognize Israel’s moral sickness (6:6b)
a. therefore you will be among the first to go captive (6:7)
  • Lord has sworn destruction: upon Israel (Chapter 6b)
a. the Lord hates and will deliver up the proud and their spoil (6:8)
a. Israel shall be destroyed (6:9-11)
b. Israel has become a rocky, fruitless field (6:12-13)
a. the Lord will raise up a nation against Israel (6:14)

IV. Visions of Israel threatened, punished, then restored (Chapters 7-9)

  • Vision of locusts: Israel spared thus far (Chapter 7a) (7:1-3)
  • Vision of fire: Israel spared thus far (Chapter 7b) (7:4-6)
  • Vision of plumbline: Israel no longer spared, priests (Chapter 7c)
a. vision of the plumbline: Israel no longer spared (7:7-9)
b. Amaziah tries to stop Amos prophesying (7:10-13)
c. Amos prophesies more woe on Amaziah and Israel (7:14-17)
  • Vision of basket of summer fruit: Israel no longer spared, merchants (Chapter 8)
a. vision of the basket of summer fruit: Israel no longer spared (8:1-3)
b. deceitful merchants not care for Lord nor fellow Israelites (8:4-6)
c. the land will tremble and be overrun as by a flood (8:7-8)
d. in that day scattered, famine of Lord’s word (8:9-14)
  • Vision of Lord in Judgment: only a remnant spared and restored (Chapter 9)
a. vision of the Lord in judgment at the altar: none spared (9:1-4)
b. hymn: Lord is omnipotent sovereign (9:5-6)
c. Lord will destroy all sinners but save a remnant (9:7-10)
d. in that day restore David, bless with plenty (9:11-15)

Unanswered questions[edit]

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Prompts for life application[edit]

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Prompts for further study[edit]

This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the link above and to the right to edit or add content to this heading. →

Resources[edit]

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Translations and Lexicons.

Related passages that interpret or shed light on Amos.

  • JST (Joseph Smith Translation - explained). The JST made changes to the following verses in Amos. Most changes can be seen at lds.org by selecting 'Show Footnotes' and then clicking on those footnotes. This list is complete:[5]

References cited on this page.

  • Steinmann. Andrew E. From Abraham to Paul: A Biblical Chronology. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. (ISBN 0758627998). BS637.3 .S74 2011.
  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 216-17. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009. (ISBN 1606411314) BX8630.A2 2009.

Other resources.

  • Finley, Thomas J. Joel, Amos, Obadiah: The Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press, 1990. (ISBN 0802492622) BS1575.3 .F56 1990.
  • Guenther, Allen R. Hosea, Amos: Believers Church Bible Commentary. Scottdale, Pennsylvania; Waterloo, Ontario: Herald Press, 1997. (ISBN 0836190726) BS1565.3 .G84 1997.
  • Nyman, Monte S. The Twelve Prophets Testify of Christ, p. 207. In A Witness of Jesus Christ: the 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Old Testament, p. 200-222. Richard D. Draper, ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990. (ISBN 0875793622) BS1171.2 .S67 1989.
  • Ogden, D. Kelly. The Book of Amos. In Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4, p. 52-60. Kent P. Jackson, ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983. (ISBN 087579789X) BS1171.2 .A15 1993.
  • Smith, Billy K. and Frank S Page. Amos, Obadiah, Jonah: The New American Commentary, Vol. 19B. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995. (ISBN 0805401423) BS1585.3 .S64 1995.
  • Smith, Gary V. Amos: A Mentor Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing, 1989. Revised edition, Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, IV20 ITW, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1998. (ISBN 1857922530) BS1585.3 .S63 1998.

Notes[edit]

Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 151.
  2. The date of the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom is often stated to be 721 BC or 722 BC, but the date of 723 BC appears to be more accurate. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 136, 141, 156.
  3. Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 151.
  4. Again see, Steinmann, From Abraham to Paul, 136, 141, 156.
  5. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 216-17.

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