We continue to stress the fact that the minor prophets are called such because of the short books of the Bible that they represent, not their importance. The Book of Amos is a great illustration of that. Though not the shortest book of the Old Testament, it only consists of nine chapters, and with the exception of chapter 5, none of them contain more than 17 verses (chapter 5 has a whopping 27). But we could take many more pages to comment on this book than would suit the purpose of this series (that purpose being to present a general overview of each of the books of the minor prophets).
The best place to begin is in the very first verse of the book, which tells us that Amos was one of the shepherds of Tekoa. Situated about 20 kilometers south of Jerusalem, Tekoa was referred to in 2 Samuel 14 as the place that the wise woman came from – the one that Joab used to deceive David, convincing him to let Absalom come home. The same verse tells us that Amos made these prophecies during the days of Uzziah, king of Judah and Jeraboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel during the two years before “the earthquake.”
Before we get to the matter of the earthquake, let us address the date of the reigns of these two kings. Estimates of the reigns of these two kings range from about 800 B.C down to Uzziah’s death in about 739 B.C., leaving us with about a 60 year period when the prophecies could have occurred. Then there is the matter of this earthquake. The one mentioned is obviously one that was great in magnitude, as it was eventful enough to be used as a time reference here, and it is mentioned also in Zechariah 14:5. Excavations around Hazor in 1955 revealed evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century B.C. (some estimates are at 750 B.C. with a possible variance of 30 years). More than 50 years later, earthquake damage was still being discovered. More information can be found in this article at ICR.ORG and this article at the Jewish Virtual Library.
The book addresses the people of the northern kingdom, Through verse 5 of chapter 2, the judgment of the Lord against Israel’s enemies (which the people expected) is prophesied. But what they did not expect, and had not counted on, was the judgment that would come to them for their injustice to the poor, and their pretense of worship to the Lord while they were actually doing nothing of the sort (the sarcasm in Amos 4:1-5 underscores this point). The Lord’s patience with them has come to an end (Amos 8:1-2). But He speaks in chapter 9 of a time when restoration will occur (note Amos 9:11, which is cited in Acts 15:16).
During this time, the northern kingdom was experiencing much prosperity, which they translated as a sign that God was pleased with them, and was blessing them. Amos’s message to them was exactly the opposite. A great deal of their wealth had been accumulated by their oppression of the poor. And their worship was more like an attempt at manipulating events in much of the same way that pagans worshiped their “gods.” Amos’s message was most unwelcome because it made the prediction that the “day of the Lord,” that they were expecting to usher in their further rise to power, would actually bring the end of their kingdom.
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.