The title of the book comes from its writer, Amos. Amos is the first prophet whose name also serves as the title of the corresponding biblical book in which his story is found. The prophet’s name means “burden-bearer” or “load-carrier.” He was unassuming, but bold and fearless when called to bear witness against the evils of his day. He was not known for his sympathy or warmth, but for his sense of justice and pride.
Amos’ hometown was Tekoa a village in Judah, about ten miles south of Jerusalem. He was a shepherd and a grower of sycamore fig trees (Amos 1:1; 7:14). Amos seems to have been a prosperous and influential Judahite, but there is no indication that he was a priest or had any connection with the royal family or the ruling classes in his land. Amos’ natural surroundings had a profound effect on him and his writing style and composition. (Amos 1:2; 2:9; 3:4-5; 5:19-20, 24; 6:12; 7:1-6; 8:1; 9:3-15). He seemed to be just a humble peasant engaging and being obedient to his command from God “Go, prophesy to my people Israel” (Amos 7:15).
Amos prominently uses repetition (Amos 1:3, 4, 5), summary quotation (Amos 4:1; 6:13; 8:5 – 6; 9:10) and irony Amos 4:1). He illustrates a very close covenant with the Mosaic law and the history of the people to whom he belonged. His style also shows great rhetorical power, great depths of thought and truly poetic expressions.
Amos gives us a splendid example of inspiration. The Lord called him, gave him the message, and filled the simple shepherd with the wisdom from above so that he burst out in these eloquent utterances. At the same time the Lord in using his as His mouthpiece did not set aside his personality, he uses his idiom, and the truth of God is expressed through him in the terms of nature, with which he, as a child of nature, was so familiar.
Date of Writing
Amos prophesied during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel (793 – 753 BC) and King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (792 – 740 BC), specifically “two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). This would place the events of the book in the middle of the eighth – century BC, a date around 760 BC may be more accurate.
His book is the third book in the twelve minor prophets according to Hebrew order (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). They are called “minor prophets” not because their ministries were somehow less important, but because their written accounts in the Scriptures are much shorter than the “major prophets” (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Jeremiah).
To Whom the Book Were Written
Amos directed his message to the wealthy people who oppressed the poor. His primary audience was the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. God raised him up to announce judgment on Israel because of her covenant unfaithfulness and rebellion against His authority. These people were wealthy and enjoyed great luxury. However, they were morally, religiously and politically corrupt. Amos prophesied because the people of Israel were at the summit of worldly prosperity, but rapidly filling up the measure of their sins. Amos announced the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, but he also predicted that the Lord would preserve a remnant that was repentant. He would restore this remnant to political prominence and covenant blessing and, through them, draw all nations to Himself. Amos announced a warning to the residents of the Northern Kingdom, but he also held out hope.
Occasion/Purpose for the Writing
Under the reign of Jeroboam II the Northern Kingdom of Israel reached its peak of power and wealth. There was a great external prosperity. We find that the prophet mentions the rich, their great wealth and luxury, their arrogant pride and self-security and the oppression of the poor. Amos reveals God’s mercy towards such unworthy people. They had turned their backs on God and therefore, could no longer be entitled to his...