Book of Amos

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The Book of Amos is the third of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the second in the Greek Septuagint tradition.[1] Amos, an older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah,[2] was active c. 750 BC during the reign of Jeroboam II[2] (788–747 BC) of Samaria (aka. Northern Israel),[3] making Amos the first prophetic book of the Bible to be written. Amos lived in the kingdom of Judah but preached in the northern kingdom of Israel.[2] His major themes of social justice, God's omnipotence, and divine judgment became staples of prophecy.[2]


Quote from Amos on an Israeli stamp: "And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them."

According to Michael D. Coogan, the structure of Amos is as follows:[4]

  • Oracles against the nations (1:3–2:6)
  • Oracle concerning prophecy (3:3-8)
  • Addresses to groups in Israel
    • Women of Samaria (4:1–3)
    • Rich people in Samaria (6:1–7)
    • Rich people in Jerusalem (8:4–8)
  • Five visions of God's judgment on Israel, interrupted by a confrontation between Amos and his listeners at Bethel (7:10–17):
    • Locusts (7:1–3)
    • Fire (7:4–6)
    • A plumb line (7:7–9)
    • A basket of fruit (8:1–3)
    • God beside the altar (9:1–8a)
  • Epilogue (9:8b–15)


The book opens with a historical note about the prophet, then a short oracle announcing Yahweh's judgment (repeated in the Book of Joel).[5] The prophet denounces the crimes committed by the gentile (non-Jewish) nations, and tells Israel that even they have sinned and are guilty of the same crimes, and reports five symbolic visions prophesying the destruction of Israel.[6] Included in this, with no apparent order, are an oracle on the nature of prophecy, snippets of hymns, oracles of woe, a third-person prose narrative concerning the prophet, and an oracle promising restoration of the House of David, which had not yet fallen in the lifetime of Amos.[5]


Amos prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II of Israel, and of Uzziah of Judah, which places him in the first half of the 8th century BC. According to the book's superscription (Amos 1:1) he was from Tekoa, a town in Judah south of Jerusalem, but his prophetic mission was in the northern kingdom. He is called a "shepherd" and a "dresser of sycamore trees", but the book's literary qualities suggest a man of education rather than a poor farmer.[7]

Scholars have long recognized that Amos utilized an ancient hymn within his prophecy, verses of which are found at 4:13, 5:8–9, 8:8, and 9:5–6.[8] This hymn is best understood as praising Yahweh for his judgment, demonstrated in his destructive power, rather than praise for creation.[9] Scholarship has also identified 'Sumerian City Lament' (SCL) motifs within Amos and particularly the hymn, offering the possibility that Amos used SCL as a literary template for his prophecy of Jerusalem's destruction.[10] The Amos hymn has also been discussed in terms of a 'covenant curse' which was used to warn Israel of the consequences of breaking the covenant, and in particular a 'Flood covenant-curse' motif, first identified by D.R. Hillers.[11] Recent scholarship has shown Amos's hymn is an ancient narrative text, has identified a new verse at 7.4; and has compared the hymn to the Genesis Flood account and Job 9:5–10.[12]


The central idea of the book of Amos is that God puts his people on the same level as the surrounding nations – God expects the same purity of them all. As it is with all nations that rise up against the kingdom of God, even Israel and Judah will not be exempt from the judgment of God because of their idolatry and unjust ways. The nation that represents Yahweh must be made pure of anything or anyone that profanes the name of God; his name must be exalted.

Amos is the first prophet to use the term "the Day of the Lord."[13] This phrase becomes important within future prophetic and apocalyptic literature. For the people of Israel "The Day of the Lord" is the day when God will fight against his and their enemies, and it will be a day of victory for Israel. However, Amos and other prophets include Israel as an enemy of God, as Israel is guilty of injustice toward the innocent, poor, and young women.[14] To Amos "The Day of the Lord" will be a day of doom.

Other major ideas proposed in the book of Amos include: justice and concern for the disadvantaged, and that Yahweh is God of all nations (not just Israel), and is likewise the judge of all nations, and is also a God of moral righteousness. Also that Yahweh created all people, and the idea that Israel's covenant with God did not exempt them from accountability for sin; as well as that God elected and liberated Israel so that he would be known throughout the world. And that if God destroys the unjust, a remnant will remain, and that God is free to judge whether to redeem Israel.


  1. ^ Sweeney 2000, p. unpaginated.
  2. ^ a b c d Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  3. ^ Finkelstein, Israel. The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel. Atlanta: SBL, 2013. Ancient Near East Monographs, Number 5. p. 4.
  4. ^ Coogan, Michael (2009). A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. p. 256.
  5. ^ a b Coogan 2008, p. 84.
  6. ^ O'Brien 1990, pp. 26–27.
  7. ^ Carroll & Daniel 2003, p. 690.
  8. ^ H.W. Wolff, Joel und Amos (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 215.
  9. ^ P. Carny, ‘Doxologies: A Scientific Myth’, Hebrew Studies 18 (1977), pp. 149–59 (157)
  10. ^ J. Radine, The Book of Amos in Emergent Judah (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010)
  11. ^ D.R. Hillers, ‘Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets’ (unpublished PhD dissertation); Rome Pontical Biblical Institute, 1964
  12. ^ G. Cox, "The ‘Hymn’ of Amos: An Ancient Flood Narrative." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Vol 38.1 (2013): pp. 81–108
  13. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009). p. 260
  14. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009. pp. 258–59.


External links[edit]

Online translations of Book of Amos:

Book of Amos
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Old Testament