Amos (a’mos; burden) was one of the twelve Hebrew minor prophets. He was a native of Tekoa, a village about six miles south of Bethlehem. He was a herdsman and never trained in any school of prophets. He claimed to be a prophet, called by the Lord to prophesy concerning Israel during the reigns of Uzziah, King of Judah, and Jeroboam II, King of Israel (c. 786-746 BC). The exact time of Amos’ appearance is uncertain, but it was during the period when the two kingdoms were at the summit of their prosperity. As a result of Jeroboam’s successes against the Moabites and Midianites, the borders of the northern kingdom reached their widest extent since the Solomonic Era (2 Kings 14:25; Amos 6:14). Fiery denunciation of luxurious living, the idolatry and moral depravity of Israel were the subject of the rustic prophet from the mountain top Judaen village of Tekoa. But besides the warning of judgment and final captivity of the backslidden people, the prophet snatches a magnificent glimpse of the yet-future millennial kingdom (Amos 9:11-15).
The Book of Amos is considered one of the earliest prophetic books that falls into three parts. The first part contains judgments on the surrounding nations: Damascus, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab (Amos 1:1-2:3), upon Judah (Amos 2:4, 5), and upon Israel herself (Amos 2:6-16). The second part renders the divine indictment of the whole family of Jacob (Amos 3:1-9:10) including three denunciatory sermons (Amos 3:1-6:15) and the symbolic visions (Amos 7:1-9:10). The third part holds the prophecies for the future kingdom, the blessing of the restored Israel (Amos 9:11-15) embracing the Messiah’s return and the establishment of an earthly Messianic reign (Amos 9:11, 12), millennial prosperity (Amos 9:13), and the restoration of the Jewish nation (Amos 9:14, 15).
Amos’ prophesizing was against idleness, luxury, and oppression in general, and idolatry in particular. It was directed toward both Judah and Israel. He was an itinerant prophet attracting universal attention. He prophesied God’s condemnation for Israel as well as its restoration. Amos particularly spoke out against social injustice: “For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes” (Amos 2:6).
He not only aroused universal attention but ire as well. He was charged with conspiracy against King Jeroboam, and threatened by the high priest of Bethel, Amaziah. After fulfilling his mission, he returned to Judah. The circumstances of his death are unknown. A.G.H.
Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 40-41
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 60