("a burden".) Of Tekoah, in Judah, six miles S.E. of Bethlehem. A shepherd (probably owning flocks) and dresser of sycamore fig trees; specially called of the Lord to prophesy, though not educated in the prophets' schools (Amos 1:1; Amos 7:14-15). These personal notices occur only as connected with the discharge of his prophetic function; so entirely is self put in the shade by the inspired men of God, and God is made the one all-absorbing theme. Though of Judah, he exercised his ministry in the northern kingdom, Israel; not later than the 15th year of Uzziah of Judah, when Jeroboam II. (son of Joash) of Israel died (compare 1 Kings 14:23 with 1 Kings 15:1), in whose reign it is written he prophesied "two years before the earthquake"; compare Zechariah 14:5. Allusions to the earthquake appear in Amos 5:8; Amos 6:11; Amos 8:8; Amos 9:1; Amos 9:5.
The divine sign in his view confirmed his words, which were uttered before, and which now after the earthquake were committed to writing in an orderly summary. The natural world, being from and under the same God, shows a mysterious sympathy with the spiritual world; compare Matthew 24:7; Matthew 27:50-54. Probably Amos prophesied about the middle of Jeroboam's reign, when his conquests had been achieved (Amos 6:13-14; compare 2 Kings 14:25-27), just before Assyria's first attack on Israel, for he does not definitely name that power: Amos 1:5; Amos 5:27 (Hosea 10:6; Hosea 11:5). The two forces from God acted simultaneously by His appointment, the invading hosts from without arresting Israel's attention for the prophet's message from God within the land, and the prophets showing the spiritual meaning of those invasions, as designed to lead Israel to repentance.
This accounts for the outburst of prophetic fire in Uzziah's and his successors' reigns. The golden calves, the forbidden representation of Jehovah, not Baal, were the object of worship in Jeroboam's reign, as being the great grandson of Jehu, who had purged out Baal worship, but retained the calves. Israel, as abounding in impostors, needed the more true prophets of God from Judah to warn her. Her prophets often fled to Judah from fear of her kings. Oppression, luxury, weariness of religious ordinances as interrupting worldly pursuits, were rife: Amos 8:4-5; Amos 3:15. The king's sanctuary and summer palace were at Bethel (Amos 7:13); here Amos was opposed by Amaziah for his faithful reproofs, and informed against to Jeroboam. (See AMAZIAH.) Like the prophet in 1 Kings 13, Amos went up from Judah to Bethel to denounce the idol calf at the risk of his life.
Calf worship prevailed also at Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba, in Judah (Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5; Amos 8:14), blended with Jehovah's worship (Amos 5:14; Amos 5:21-26); 2 Kings 17:32-33, compare Ezekiel 20:39.
The book is logically connected, and is divisible into four parts. Amos 1:1 to Amos 2:13; the sins of Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, the neighbors of Israel and Judah Amos 2:4 to Amos 6:14; Israel's own state and consequent punishment; the same coasts "from the entering in of Hamath," which Jeroboam has just recovered from Syria, shall be "afflicted," and the people carried into "captivity beyond Damascus" (Amos 5:27). Amos 7:1-9:10; Amos's visions of grasshoppers devouring the grass, and fire the land and deep, both removed by his intercession; the plumb line marking the buildings for destruction; Amaziah's interruption at Bethel, and foretold doom; the basket of summer fruits marking Israel's end by the year's end; the Lord standing upon the altar, and commanding the lintel to be smitten, symbolizing Israel's destruction as a kingdom, but individually not one righteous man shall perish.
Amos 9:11-15; David's fallen tabernacle shall be raised, the people re-established in prosperity in their own land, no more to be pulled out, and the conversion of the pagan shall follow the establishment of the theocracy finally; compare Amos 9:12 with Acts 15:17. Reference to agricultural life and the phenomena of nature abounds, in consonance with his own former occupation, an undesigned propriety and mark of truth: Amos 1:3; Amos 2:13; Amos 3:4-5; Amos 4:2; Amos 4:7; Amos 4:9; Amos 5:18-19; Amos 6:12; Amos 7:1; Amos 9:3; Amos 9:9; Amos 9:13-14. The first six chapters are without figure; the last three symbolical, with the explanation subjoined. He assumes his readers' knowledge of the Pentateuch, and that the people's religious ritual (excepting the golden calves) accords with the Mosaic law, an incidental confirmation of the truth of the Pentateuch.
Stephen (Acts 7:42) quotes Amos 5:25-27; and James (Acts 15:16) quotes Amos 9:11. Philo, Josephus, the Talmud, Justin Martyr, the catalogues of Melito, Jerome, and the council of Laodicea, confirm the canonicity of Amos. His use of the names Adonai (Lord) and God of hosts marks that Jehovah, Israel's covenant God, is universal Lord. Characteristic and peculiar phrases occur: "cleanness of teeth," i.e., want of bread (Amos 4:6); "the excellency of Jacob" (Amos 6:8; Amos 8:7); "the high places of Isaac" (Amos 7:9), "the house of Isaac" (Amos 7:16); "he that createth the wind" (Amos 4:13). Hosea, his contemporary, survived him a few years.
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