THE BOOK OF AMOS: A BRIEF OVERVIEW

The prophet Amos, a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit, was from the Southern Kingdom, but Jehovah sent him to prophesy to the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Amos 1:1; 7:14,15). His powerful message was just what God’s people needed to hear. Their spiritual and national well- being depended on accepting it and applying God’s word in their lives.

Historical setting: The word of the Lord came to Amos in the days of two kings: King Uzziah was on the throne in Judah while Jeroboam II (the son of Joash) ruled in Israel (Amos 1:1). That would make the historical date to be about B.C. 760. Amos was a contemporary with Hosea and perhaps overlapped with the time of the work of Jonah, Isaiah, and Micah.

During the reign of King Jeroboam II, Israel was prosperous, strong militarily, and at peace. On the spiritual side of matters, however, with their material prosperity many developed pride and a false sense of security. It was a time when the people seemed to have little desire to turn to the Lord and serve Him.

Some key thoughts: It is not difficult to grasp a number of the forceful thoughts set forth by Amos.

(1) What was it that the Lord wanted to see in His people? Through Amos, the God of righteousness called on His people to return to Him (4:6-10), seek Him and live (5:4,6), seek good and live (5:14), hate evil and love good (5:15), as well as carry out justice and righteousness (5:7,24).

(2) Sin ran rampant in Israel (also identified as “Samaria” by Amos and other prophets – 3:12; 4:1; 6:1). Instead of being the holy nation that God wanted Israel to be (Exodus 19:5,6), He described Israel as “the sinful kingdom” (9:8) and spoke of the people’s “manifold transgressions” and “mighty sins” (5:12). How sad! So despicable were Israel’s conduct and stubborn refusal to acknowledge their mistakes and return to God that He rejected their worship, including their offerings, saying, “I hate, I despise your feast days . . . I will not accept them” (5:22).

What had the inhabitants of the Northern Kingdom done that was so horrible? It was an accumulation of widespread, ongoing rebellion and corruption. Among other things, they mistreated the poor of the land (2:6; 4:1; 5:11; 8:4,6), perverted the way of the humble (2:7), charged the prophets not to prophesy (2:12), worshiped idols (3:14; 8:14), took bribes (5:12), and dealt deceitfully with others (8:5). In addition, some were eaten up with materialism and reveled in their luxurious living (3:15; 4:1; 6:1,4-6). If we did not know better, we would think that Amos was preaching directly to modern-day societies!

(3) Captivity was on the way. Amos began by calling for judgment on the Gentile nations round about Israel (1:3-2:3), he next called for judgment on Judah (2:4,5), then finally he called for the punishment of Israel (2:6,14-16). Israel’s punishment would be her due “fruit” for rejecting the Lord’s plea to repent and return to Him. Amos’ message to Israel was, “He will take you away” (4:2), or as God Himself warned, “Therefore I will send you into captivity” (5:27). Again, the country prophet from Tekoa declared this about Israel and its king: “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive from their own land” (7:11). That captivity came about in B.C. 722/721 when the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom and deported many Israelites. It was all so avoidable! That is correct: Israel could have avoided destruction and captivity if the people had humbled themselves and submitted to the great I AM. The choice was theirs.

A Pointer to the Messianic/new covenant era: In Amos 9:11,12 it is written: “On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does this thing.” To whom or what do these words apply? Thankfully, we do not have to guess.

In about A.D. 49/50, the apostles and elders came together in Jerusalem to discuss matters pertaining to keeping the law of Moses and fleshly circumcision (Acts 15:1-6). After Peter, Barnabas, and Paul addressed the assembled saints, James (not the brother of John, but most likely the younger brother of Jesus) spoke. He referred to what Peter had said that day about the conversion of Gentiles (15:7-11,13,14). James then stated, “And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written” (15:15). He then quoted Amos’ prophecy (Amos 9:11,12), applying it to the conversion of the Gentiles. To whom were the Gentiles being converted in the first century? To the Christ. By what means were the Gentiles being converted to Jesus? God’s grace and gospel. To what were the converted/saved Gentiles added? To the church (Acts 2:47). Thus, Amos’ reference to “the tabernacle of David” had nothing to do with the rebuilding of a physical structure; rather, those words pointed to the days when Gentiles would be saved via Jesus and the gospel and be brought into the church, where they would be one in the Lord with the Jews.

As we study Amos, we marvel at his courageous proclamation of truth and God’s awesome character.

— Roger D. Campbell

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