Introduction to Amos
According to the first verse, Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah over Judah (792-740 B.C.) and Jeroboam II over the Israel (793-753). After the reign of Solomon the Kingdom of Israel was split into two kingdoms. The Northern 10 tribes were called Israel (nick-named Ephraim) and the Southern two tribes were called Judah. In the North the religious shrines had become centers of vice and by Amos’s day the people had become pagan at heart. The Dan and Bethel shrines were about calf worship and Idolatry. Into this situation God chose as his spokesman a simple shepherd and itinerant orchard worker who was an enthusiastic Jehovah worshiper. He was from the working class of people but he understood human nature. This Tekoan shepherd launches out in his prophecy like a boiling pot he takes on such issues as social injustice and economic issues. His messages touched people, politics and purses. This commentary will explore the messages of Amos about the various Nations.
HIGHLIGHTS OF AMOS
Amos was like a roaring lion. This true man of God takes on the establishment. Ritualism had supplanted religion. They sneered at the thought of a rugged country man pouring out his messages like muriatic acid on a concrete floor. His messages were plain and simple he likens their escape to a shepherd yanking back a leg or an ear from a lion’s mouth, or to a person escaping with only a table leg or a corner of a blanket. His messages were bad news. He portrays God as being sick and fed up with their brand of religion.
KEYS TO OPEN AMOS
The people Amos addressed had plenty of “religion.” They went regularly to shrines for worship (sex and religious shrines). They looked forward to “the day of the LORD,” when God would fulfill all their expectations for their country. But Amos brought unexpected bad news from God: “I hate, I despise your religious feasts” (5:21). God didn’t want sacrifice or singing. He demanded justice. Amos listed all Israel’s neighbors, announcing God’s judgment for their crimes against humanity. Israelites liked this kind of talk; they felt superior to all these nations. But having caught the Israelites’ attention, Amos circled like a rabbit being chased by a beagle hound and dramatically tracked down Israel. God would judge Israel too. The people, their beautiful homes, their sacred altars all would be destroyed.
SURVEY OF THE BOOK
Amos declared that God was going to judge his unfaithful, disobedient, covenant-breaking people. The shrines at Bethel and other places of worship were pagan. Their brand of religion was pagan to the core. It was also a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgence in luxurious living, immorality, corruption of judicial procedures and oppression of the poor. As a consequence, God would soon bring about the Assyrian captivity of the northern kingdom. Society and religion were as bankrupt as Fanny Mae. It was a day when there was expansion, freedom, activity, prosperity, and peace. The rich gained their wealth by injustice and oppression. Wealth abounded, life of luxury and good music, rich furnishings and banquets, ease and extravagance was contrasted with misery and suffering of the poor and slaves. Sex and religious shrines abounded, songs, offerings, attendance, elaborate ceremonies, since they controlled the crucial trade routes, merchants piled up big profits. Luxuries became readily available─new stone houses, ivory-inlaid furniture, top-grade meat and fine wine, the best body lotions. Gross immorality was aided and abetted by religious leaders, instead of plain living, they knew extravagance, carousals, lolling on soft couches, and idling precious time away while their country was going to ruin.
Amos was not a man of the court like Isaiah, or a priest like Jeremiah. He earned his living from the flock and the sycamore-fig grove. His skill with words and knowledge of history leaves us breathless. Though his home was in Judah, he was sent to announce God’s judgment on the northern kingdom (Israel). He ministered for the most part at Bethel, Israel’s main religious sanctuary, where the upper class of the northern kingdom worshiped. Perhaps because he was a farmer, Amos used a plain writing style, filled with strong country language. Amos predicted that Israel would be punished, and this commentary will explore all of his predictions. After King Jeroboam, the government deteriorated. Five kings took the throne in the next 13 years; four were assassinated. In 30 years Israel was permanently dismantled by Assyrian armies they were deported beyond the Euphrates River and never heard from again. Amid such peace and prosperity, one lone voice scraped like a wire brush on raw flesh. Amos spoke bluntly with a farmer’s vocabulary, calling the city socialites “cows”
Their religious system was centered on two calf-idols. But Amos wasted little breath on that. He focused on the facts that met his eyes and ears in every marketplace: oppression of the poor, dishonest business, bribery in court, privilege bought with money. God showed himself through Amos that he must be master over all of life, including business affairs. Main text is from the King James Version and some quotes are from the New American Standard 1977 Version.