1. Syria—capital city, Damascus (1:1-5).
Eight Nations Denounced (1-6).
"Prepare to meet your God as he comes in judgment, you people of Israel!" (Amos 4:12).
Born in Tekoa of Judah, Amos was called to prophesy in Israel. At Bethel he denounced the prevailing sins and predicted the Assyrian captivity at a time when outward prosperity made the prediction extremely improbable.
Key Fact: Prophet from Judah to Israel
Occupation: Herdsman, fruit grower, prophet (Amos 7:14-15)
Total Bible References: 7
Key References: Amos 1-9
"Prepare to meet your God as he comes in judgment, you people of Israel!" (Amos 4:12).
- The name Amos means "burden." As Middle Eastern names are usually meaningful, this name may have referred to his unwelcome birth, or been given as a prophecy of his future ministry to describe his burdened heart over Judah and Israel’s sin.
- He was from the little town of Tekoa, some five miles from Bethlehem in Judea.
- Amos was a herdsman (1:1; 7:14, 15) and a gatherer of sycamore fruit (7:14). He had not graduated from the school of the prophets, but was called by God to become a layman evangelist.
- He was called to be a prophet to the whole house of Jacob (3:1, 13), but chiefly to the northern kingdom (7:14, 15) at the main sanctuary at Bethel (7:10). Here he conducted his "Greater Samaritan Revival Campaign," and thundered away on the subjects of sin, separation, and sanctification.
- Amos ministered during the reigns of Uzziah (King of Judah) and Jeroboam II (King of Israel), beginning his ministry some two years before a mighty earthquake had struck Palestine (1:1). This earthquake was so severe that Zechariah (a later Hebrew prophet) referred to it some 250 years later. (See Zech. 14:5.) Josephus, the Jewish historian, tells us the earthquake happened at the time when God punished King Uzziah with leprosy for his intrusion into the office of the priesthood. (See 2 Chron. 26:16-21.)
- At the time of Amos’ ministry, Israel, under powerful King Jeroboam II, was at its zenith of success. (See 2 Ki. 14:25.) But along with the nation’s prosperity had come religious perversion!
- This nation had often harassed Israel, especially under Ben-hadad I and King Hazael. (See 2 Ki. 10:32, 33; 1 Ki. 20:1; 2 Ki. 6:24.)
- God would thus:
2. Philistia—capital city, Gaza (1:6-8).
Philistia’s four chief cities, Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron were to be judged because they sold Israelites into slavery to Edom. (See 2 Chron. 21:16, 17; Joel 3:4-8.)
3. Phoenicia—capital city, Tyre (1:9, 10).
4. Edom—capital cities, Teman and Bozrah (1:11, 12).
- Teman was located southeast of Petra, and Bozrah was in north central Edom.
- Even though the Edomites and Israelites were closely related (one people from Esau, the other from Jacob, see Gen. 25:30), Israel had suffered grievously at the hands of Edom. (See also Mal. 1:2; Obad. 1:1-21.)
- Their strongholds would thus be burned.
5. Ammon—capital city, Rabbah (1:13-15).
- The Ammonites, descendants of Lot’s youngest daughter (Gen. 19:38) had committed cruel crimes, ripping open pregnant Israelite women with their swords during their expansion wars in Gilead.
- God would thus destroy their cities and enslave their people.
6. Moab—capital city, Kirioth (2:1-3).
- These people (from Lot’s older daughter, Gen. 19:37) had, among other crimes, desecrated the tombs of the kings of Edom, with no respect for the dead. (See 2 Ki. 3:26, 27.)
- Moab would be defeated in battle and its palaces burned.
7. Judah—capital city, Jerusalem (2:4, 5).
- Judah had rejected the Word of God, and disobeyed the God of the Word.
- They had hardened their hearts as their fathers had done.
8. Israel—capital city, Samaria (2:6-16).
- They had perverted justice by accepting bribes.
- They had sold the poor into slavery, trading them for a pair of shoes.
- Both fathers and sons were guilty of immorality with the same harlot.
- They were lounging in stolen clothing from their debtors at religious feasts.
- They had offered sacrifices of wine in the Temple, which had been purchased with stolen money.
- They were absolutely unthankful for God’s past blessings.
- They caused Nazarites to sin by tempting them to drink wine.
- Because of all this, God would:
- Make them groan as a loaded-down wagon would groan.
- Cause their swiftest warriors to stumble in battle.
The Whole Home of Jacob (both Israel and Judah) (3:1-6:14).
- Jacob’s punishment must equal her past privileges (3:1-3)
"Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
- God was issuing them one final warning through his prophets (3:7).
- Jacob’s enemies are called upon to attest to her wickedness (3:9).
- Her women had become cruel and demanding (4:1-3).
- Her formal and empty religious ceremonies had become an insult to divine holiness (4:4, 5; 5:21-26).
- They had surrounded themselves with gross luxury, with ivory beds to lie upon, and the choicest food to eat (6:4).
- They thought more of worldly music than their own Messiah (6:5).
- They had drunk wine by the bucketful, perfumed themselves with sweet ointments, and totally neglected the poor and needy (6:6).
- God had tried everything to bring his people to their senses (4:6-13). But they had refused. Thus, their former Savior would now become their Judge.
"Therefore, thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel" (4:12).
- One final invitation is extended by God (5:4-15).
"Seek him who maketh the... stars... and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord is his name."
- This invitation was rejected and judgment would fall.
- Jacob would be consumed as a lion devours a sheep (3:12).
- There would be crying in the streets and every road (5:16).
- In that day they would be like a man who escaped from a lion, only to meet a bear. They would be as one who leans against a wall in a dark room and puts his hand upon a snake! (5:19).
- Ninety percent of their soldiers would fall in battle (5:3).
Five Visions Announced (7-9).
1. The locust plague (7:1-3).
- In a vision God revealed to Amos his intentions to destroy all the main crops that sprang up after the first mowing.
- Amos interceded for Israel and a merciful God changed his course of action.
2. The vision of the great fire (7:4-6).
- Amos saw a destructive fire, the heat from which was so fierce that it consumed the very waters of Palestine. This was to fall upon the land to punish sin.
- Again the prophet pied for mercy, and again God set aside this deserved judgment.
3. The vision of the plumb line (7:7-16).
- Amos viewed the Lord as he stood beside a wall built with a plumb line to see if it was straight.
- God informed Amos:
- That he would continue testing Israel with the plumb line of heavenly justice.
- That he would no longer turn away from punishing.
- That he would destroy the dynasty of Jeroboam II by the sword. This, of course, literally happened (as do all of God’s prophecies). Jeroboam II was succeeded by his son Zechariah, who was assassinated by a rebel named Shallum after a reign of only six months. (See 2 Ki. 15:10-12.) God would later use this same plumb line on Judah during the days of wicked King Manasseh. (See 2 Ki. 21:13-15.)
- At this point in his preaching ministry, Amos was confronted by Amaziah, the chairman of the Bethel ministerial association, who quickly issued two messages.
- One was to King Jeroboam II, warning him against the "Bible banging" activities of Amos.
- The other was to Amos himself, ordering him to leave Bethel and go back to his own land of Judah.
Amos quickly responded that, in spite of his lowly background (he was not a prophet, nor a prophet’s son) he had been called by God and would not allow any middle-of-the-road spokesman to stop him. Amos then related to Amaziah from the Lord one of the most terrifying prophecies ever pronounced upon a human being, because of the false priest’s attempts to silence God’s true prophet.
- Amaziah’s wife would become a common Bethel street prostitute.
- His sons and daughters would be killed.
- His land and possessions would be divided up.
- He, himself, would die as a captive in a heathen land.
4. The vision of the basket of summer fruit (8:1-14).
- The meaning of this vision: God showed Amos a basket filled with ripe fruit, explaining that it symbolized Israel, which was now ripe for judgment.
- The reason for this judgment vision. The cruel and totally materialistic merchants of the northern kingdom had:
- robbed the poor (by selling them moldy food) and trampled upon the needy
- longed for the Sabbath to end and various religious holidays to be over that they could once again start cheating, using their weighted scales and undersized measures
- made slaves of the poor, buying them for their debt of a piece of silver or a pair of shoes
- The results of this judgment vision:
- The riotous sound of singing in the Temple would be turned to weeping.
- Dead bodies would be scattered everywhere.
- Fearful heavenly signs would occur:
"And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day" (8:9). This frightening punishment will have its ultimate fulfillment during the coming great tribulation. (See Mt. 24:22, 29.)
- There would be no comforting words from God (8:11, 12).
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it."
5. The vision of the Lord at the altar (9:1-15).
- The condemnation of Israel’s transgressors (9:1-10).
"Though they dig into hell [sheol] there shall mine hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there will I bring them down; and though they hide themselves in the top of [mount] Carmel, I will search and take them out from there; and though they be hidden from my sight in the bottom of the sea, there will I command the serpent and he shall bite them" (9:2, 3).
- The restoration of David’s Tabernacle
- The Davidic monarchy was in a degraded condition with ten out of the twelve tribes refusing to give homage to it. But during the glorious millennium all this would change. James quotes Amos 9:11, 12 at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:14-17) and bases an important decision upon it, namely, should saved Gentiles be circumcised? His answer was a resounding no!
- The blessings of this restored monarchy (under Christ, the rightful seed of David) would be manifold:
- The harvest time will scarcely end before the farmer starts again to sow another crop.
- The terraces of grapes upon the hills of Israel will drip sweet wine.
- Israel’s faithful will have their fortunes restored and be permanently regathered in the glorious land.
He first spoke to me on that hillside overlooking Tekoa as I tended my sheep. He instructed me to pay a visit to my northern relatives and denounce their sins as well as the sins of Judah and six pagan nations. All would be severely punished. That in itself was awesome, but those five accompanying visions were almost overwhelming! They seemed to appear without pause, like so many flashes of lightning. (Amos 1:1-3:3)
All five visions dealt with God's judgment. What a relief when the locust plague and that all-consuming fire were both averted because of his grace. But this would not be the case with the remaining three. Of course, the vision that caused the most difficulty for me personally was that of the plumb line. He talked about "testing his people with a plumb line," then went on to say he would "bring the dynasty of King Jeroboam to a sudden end." (Amos 7:1-9)
Needless to say, this kind of talk against Jeroboam infuriated his puppy-dog priest at Bethel. He demanded that I go back home and prophesy in Judah! Well, I quickly responded to this religious phony. I pointed out that although I was not an official prophet, nor even the son of a prophet, I would nevertheless oblige him by a few choice predictions. I warned him that, as a result of his godlessness, his wife would become a harlot, his land would be confiscated, and he himself would die as a captive in a foreign land. What a miserable future he faces! (Amos 7:12-17)
But it will all have a happy ending, as God revealed to me on that little hillside: "I will bring my exiled people of Israel back from distant lands, and they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them again. . . . Then they will never be uprooted again." (Amos 9:14-15)
Spiritual Lesson from Amos
- God used a theologically untrained "layman" as one of his most effective prophets (Amos 7:14). Usefulness in God's service has more to do with the condition of the heart than with natural abilities or professional credentials (see Matthew 11:25; Acts 4:13; 1 Cor. 1:27). As far as God is concerned, the two greatest "abilities" are availability and dependability! (See Isaiah 6:8; 1 Cor. 4:1-2.)