The book of Amos records the prophetic oracles of judgment given by this prophet during his period of activity in the northern kingdom of Israel in the middle of the eighth century b.c. Amos describes himself (in a brief autobiographical reference in 7.14,15) as “a herdman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit,” but says that God “took me as I followed the flock” and commanded, “Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” Even though Amos was from Tekoa, ten miles south of Jerusalem, he is called to go north to Bethel to proclaim his warnings and doom-laden prophesies before the royal sanctuary there. Most of his warnings of judgment to come are directed at the northern kingdom, but he also warns of judgment coming for Judah, Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. Amos stresses to the priest at the king's chapel that he has no ulterior motives. To be sure that he is not perceived as one of those kinds of prophets who are in it for the money and will say whatever is wanted, Amos points to his lack of credentials: “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son” (7.14). He seeks only to obey God's call to speak truth to power.
The first half of the eighth century b.c. was a time of unprecedented prosperity for the northern kingdom, but God was outraged that this wealth was all built on dishonesty and greed, on disregard and maltreatment of the poor and helpless. Amos remarks that while some there are luxuriating on ivory-carved couches, others are being forced by extreme poverty to sell their children or themselves into slavery to survive. God, he declares, can also see through the insincere piety and worship of the prosperous, and speaks God's words to them: “I hate, I despise your feast days…. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs…. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (5.21-24). This call for justice and righteousness to flow is probably the most quoted passage from Amos. In the final chapters (7–9), several of Amos' prophetic visions vividly depict the coming doom. In one, God holds a plumb line showing that the kingdom is like a wall that is completely out of alignment (with God's standards), and in another, a basket of ripe fruit suggests a people ripe for conquest. His oracles warn them to wake up before God scatters them into distant exile (7.17), a terrifying word for people who feel content living in the land of promise. For the faithful, his final message (9.11-15) is one of hope and restoration.
Messages of Judgment against Israel and Its Neighboring Lands (1.1—6.14)
Visions of Israel's Doom and of Renewal (7.1—9.15)
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