Book of Amos

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Amos [Hebrew: עָמוֹס] is a book of the Bible written by Amos (prophet), one of the twelve minor Prophets of the Old Testament. Amos likely lived in the 8th century BC, under the reign of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam II king of Israel according to the first verse of the book.[1] Amos was a herdsman and sheep breeder from Tekoa, whom lived in Judah. Later on, Amos was commanded by God to prophesy to Israel and its king, and so Amos left Judah to go to Israel and prophecy there just as God commanded him.

The entire Book of Amos narrates the words of God, Amos, and Amaziah (whom was an opponent of Amos).

Overview

Mosaic of a lion in Jerusalem with biblical verse "The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem" (Amos 1:2) inscribed on it

The Book of Amos is a prophetic book, where God delivers many prophecies for Amos to speak to Israel and its king, Jeroboam. The narrative can be considered in the following; Amos 1:1-2 (Introduction), Amos 1:3-6:14 (Prophecies), Amos 7:1-7:9 (First, Second and Third Vision), Amos 7:10-7:17 (Amaziah's Opposition), Amos 8:1-9:6 (Fourth and Fifth Vision), Amos 9:7-10 (God's Judgement), Amos 9:11-15 (God's Restoration).

Context

Authorship

Amos identifies himself as the author of the Book of Amos in the first verse of this book.

Amos 1:1: The words of Amos, who was one of the sheep breeders from Tekoa—what he saw regarding Israel in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam son of Jehoash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

Amos immediately identifying himself as the author of the book, as well as his status as a sheep breeder and from the city of Tekoa, allows us to understand the name and occupation of the author of the Book of Amos. Little else can be known about Amos besides this, aside from God's prophecies given to Amos to prophecy against Jeroboam and Israel.

Dating

The Book of Amos was written under the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah and Jeroboam II, king of Israel.[2] William F. Albright placed the reign of Uzziah between 783-742 BC,[3] and the reign of Jeroboam II between 786 - 746 BC.[4] According to Albright's chronology, this would limit the composition of the Book of Amos between 783-746 BC, between the end to mid-8th century BC. The second feature of the Book of Amos that allows it to be strongly dated is at the end of the Amos 1:1, which says "two years before the earthquake." This earthquake noted by Amos is a verifiable earthquake, that was found by geologists to have occurred at 750 BC +/- 30.[5] The third feature of the Book of Amos that allows a date to be found is Amos 6:2, which says;

"Go over to Calneh and look, And go from there to Hamath the great, Then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are they better than these kingdoms, Or is their territory greater than yours?"

In this verse, the Israelite's are being warned that Calneh, Hamath and Gath, all cities greater than their own, have been destroyed, and that the same could happen to them. Aren Maeir, director of excavations at Tell es-Safi (biblical Gath) revealed that the city of Gath was destroyed in the late 9th/early 8th century BC.[6] Because Calneh and Hamath also have destruction layers in the late 9th/early 8th centuries BC, Aren Maier concluded that Amos 6:2 could not have been written long after the near-simultaneous destruction of these three cities for the destruction of their memory would have quickly faded in the coming decades, and so the Book of Amos had to be composed during the early 8th century BC.[7]

Narrative

Five Visions

Amos is given five visions by God, which are documented through Amos 7:1-9 and 8:1-9:6. These five visions are a collective prophecy that God reveals to Amos, where the people of Israel will be ultimately destroyed for their sins and wickedness against God. In the first vision (Amos 7:1-3), God promises that locusts will destroy the crops and vegetation of Israel. The first vision of Amos is similar to the eighth plague against pharaoh and Egypt in Exodus 10:1-20, where God sends locusts against Egypt. In the second vision (Amos 7:4-6), God promises that Israel will be judged with fire, and that the fire of God will consume Israel's land. In the third vision (Amos 7:7-9), God promises that the idolatrous areas of worship, where the Israelite's will worship pagan gods rather than Yahweh, will be torn down and destroyed. In the fourth vision (Amos 8:1-14), God promises famine and drought over the land of Israel. In the fifth vision (Amos 9:1-6), the visions of Amos reach their limit in severity, and God finally promises that the people of Israel will fall by the sword, and no one who flees, whether they flee to death or heaven, will be able to escape the grasp of God and His coming judgement upon the people of Israel. The prophecies of Amos would be fulfilled hundreds of years later during the Babylonian Exile, where the Israelite's are slain by the Babylonians, and exiled from the land of Israel for seventy years.

Amaziah

Amaziah is a figure who appears in the Book of Amos between Amos 7:10-17.[8] The narrative goes as follows;

Amos 7:10-17: Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent word to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you right here in the house of Israel. The land cannot endure all his words, 11 for Amos has said this: ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will certainly go into exile from its homeland.’” Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Go away, you seer! Flee to the land of Judah. Earn your living and give your prophecies there, but don’t ever prophesy at Bethel again, for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” So Amos answered Amaziah, “I was not a prophet or the son of a prophet; rather, I was a herdsman, and I took care of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’” Now hear the word of the Lord. You say: Do not prophesy against Israel; do not preach against the house of Isaac. Therefore, this is what the Lord says: Your wife will be a prostitute in the city, your sons and daughters will fall by the sword, and your land will be divided up with a measuring line. You yourself will die on pagan soil, and Israel will certainly go into exile from its homeland.

Amos is prophesying to Israel in Bethel, and a man named Amaziah, who is said to be a priest from Bethel, hears the prophecies of Amos and sends word to Jeroboam II, king of Israel regarding these prophecies and what Amos is saying about both him and Israel. Then, Amaziah directly confronts Amos, and tells him to flee to Judah and to take his prophecies there, but never prophesy in Bethel again. Amos responds by stating that he was merely a herdsman, and was told by Yahweh to prophesy to Israel. Then, God delivers curses onto Amaziah for attempting to make Amos stop prophesying, after God commanded Amos to do so. God's curses on Amaziah include the death of his children, his wife entering into prostitution, Amaziah's own death on pagan soil, and a promise that Israel will certainly be exiled.

References

  1. Amos 1
  2. Mays, James Luther. Amos: a commentary. Westminster John Knox Press, 1969, p. 1
  3. Albright, William Foxwell. "The chronology of the divided monarchy of Israel." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 100 (1945): p. 21
  4. Ibid.
  5. Austin, Steven A., Gordon W. Franz, and Eric G. Frost. "Amos's earthquake: An extraordinary Middle East seismic event of 750 BC." International Geology Review 42.7 (2000): 657-671.
  6. Namdar, Dvory, et al. "The 9th century BCE destruction layer at Tell es-Safi/Gath, Israel: integrating macro-and microarchaeology." Journal of Archaeological Science 38.12 (2011): 3471-3482.
  7. Maeir, Aren M. "The Historical Background and Dating of Amos VI 2: An Archaeological Perspective from Tell eṣ-Ṣâfī/Gath." Vetus Testamentum (2004): 319-334.
  8. Amos 7:10-17