Philippe R. Sterling
God is faithful to His covenant promises in bringing about cursing and blessing.
Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam king of Israel. The common years of their reigns were 767 to 753 BC. Amos was a herder of sheep and grower of sycamore figs from Tekoa near Bethlehem (1:1 and 7:14). He was from Judah and God sent him to prophesy against the Northern kingdom of Israel.
Literary Structure and Content
Superscription: Amos received visions and prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel (1:1).
God calls Amos to leave his homeland of Judah and go to the northern kingdom of Israel to preach a harsh message of judgment. Israel is prosperous, full of social injustice, religious hypocrisy, and arrogance.
I. Eight Warnings of Impending Judgment: God will judge the nations and His nation for their sins (1:2—3:8)
A. Theme: The LORD roars from Zion (1:2).
B. Eight Roars of Impending Judgment: Amos declares God’s judgments against the nations and against
His nation for unrighteousness (1:3—2:16).
The eight judgments each begin with the words “For three transgressions . . . and for four”. The phrase indicates God’s patient delay of judgment over repeated acts of evil that are piled on the judgment scale and then one tips the scale making God’s judgment unavoidable. The oracles expose the fourth sin. The fourth sin leads God to say to the nation “I will not turn away its punishment”. What sins arouse God’s inevitable temporal judgment? Amos uses the effective technique of drawing his audience’s attention by first focusing on the sins of the surrounding nations and then focusing on them.
1. The Nations: God will judge the nations for their sins against humanity.
a. The Roar against Damascus: God will judge Damascus for cruelly treating prisoners (1:3-5).
b. The Roar against Philistia: God will judge Gaza for selling people into slavery (1:6-8).
c. The Roar against Tyre: God will judge Tyre for selling people into slavery (1:9-10).
d. The Roar against Edom: God will judge Edom for its smoldering resentment of Israel (1:11-12).
e. The Roar against Ammon: God will judge Ammon for its violence against women and children in
the womb (1:13-15).
f. The Roar against Moab: God will judge Moab for desecrating the remains of the dead (2:1-3).
2. God’s Nation: God will judge His people for their sins against Him, His covenant and His commandments.
a. The Roar against Judah: God will judge Judah for not keeping His commandments (2:4-5).
b. The Roar against Israel: God will judge Israel for exploiting the poor and refusing to heed His
II. Three Writs of Indictment and Wailing and Woe: God brings judgment upon Israel for its ignorance
of righteousness, insincere worship, and unethical behavior (3:1—6:14).
A. Ignorance of How to Do Good – Hear this Word: God brings judgment upon Israel because of ignorance
of how to do what is right (3:1-15).
Note the seven rhetorical questions in verses 3-6.
Amos brings warning of God’s impending judgment in verses 7-8: Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken! Who can but prophesy?
B. Insincere Worship – Hear this Word: God brings judgment upon Israel because of social injustice
and insincere worship (4:1-13).
God repeatedly disciplines with the hope of bringing about repentance. But Israel does not return to Him – “Yet you have not returned to Me” (4:6, 8, 9, 10, 11). Now the nation must prepare to meet God in judgment – “Prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (4:12). Amos uses three doxologies to introduce God (4:13; 5:8; 9:6-7).
First Doxology: For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the LORD God of hosts is His name (4:13).
C. Unethical Acts – Hear this Word: God brings judgment upon Israel because of unethical behavior (5:1-15).
Amos sings a funeral song for Israel (5:1-3). She will soon go into exile.
Second Doxology: He who made the Pleiades and Orion and changes deep darkness into morning, who also darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is His name (5:8).
God notes the prevailing unethical behavior of the people (5:10-13). They hate justice. They hate truth. They impose heavy rent on the poor. They pervert righteousness. God exhorts the nation to seek Him that they may live (5:4). If they seek good and not evil, God may yet be gracious (5:14-15).
D. Wail of the Nation – Alas: God notes that the people will lament on the day that He judges them and
sends them into exile (5:16-27).
The nation will wail at God’s judgment. They misunderstand the Day of the LORD (5:18). God rejects insincere religious ritual. He takes heed of righteous behavior – Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (5:24).
E. Woe to the Nation – Woe: God announces woe upon the nation for it will go into exile (6:1-14).
The nation has a misplaced confidence in its wealth and ease – Woe to those who are at ease in Zion . . . those who recline on beds of ivory (6:1, 4). God will deliver up the nation to captivity.
III. Five Visions of Judgment: Amos describes five visions of God’s coming judgment of Israel (7:1—9:10)
A. Locust Swarm – Judgment Turned: Amos sees a locust swarm about to devour the land and asks God
to pardon; and God draws back the judgment (7:1-3).
B. Consuming Fire – Judgment Turned: Amos sees a fire that began to consume the farm land and asks God
to stop; and God draws back the judgment (7:4-6).
C. Lord’s Plumb-line: Amos sees God with a plumb-line and God says He will no longer withhold
God is like a building inspector of the house of Israel. The plumb line reveals that the walls are completely out of alignment. The house must be demolished.
Interlude – Opposition of Amaziah: Amaziah priest of Bethel tries to stop Amos from speaking and Amos delivers a prophecy of judgment against Amaziah (7:10-17).
D. Basket of Summer Fruit: Amos sees a basket of ripe summer fruit indicating that Israel was ripe for
E. The Lord at the Altar: The worship of the northern kingdom will not save them from judgment for it
has become like a foreign nation to God (9:1-10).
God stands by the altar at Bethel which falls upon the heads of the people. God will search out and destroy all the fugitives. Israel is no better than a foreign nation.
Third Doxology: The Lord God of hosts, the One who touches the land so that it melts, and all those who dwell in it mourn, and all of it rises up like the Nile and subsides like the Nile of Egypt; the One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and has founded His vaulted dome over the earth, He who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth, the Lord is His name (9:5-6).
IV. Five Promises of Restoration: God promises to restore the nation (9:11-15).
Amos closes the book with a ray of hope. God will one day reestablish the line of David and restore the nation to the land in a messianic age of blessing.
A. Restoring House of David: God will reinstate the Davidic line (11).
B. Rule over the Nations: God will restore the nations under the rule of Israel (12).
C. Renewal of the Land: God will make the land extraordinarily fruitful (13).
D. Return to the Land: God will restore Israel to the land (14).
E. Reestablished Forever: God will forever root Israel on the land (15).
Theological Reflection and Application
God is sovereign over the world. He is the judge of the nations. He will not tolerate unrighteousness on the part of any nation. God is not merely the God of Israel or Judah, but has basic standards for human relations and will not forever tolerate any nation’s barbarity and brutality. He holds all nations accountable.
What sins arouse God’s judgment? Human cruelty rouses God’s anger. God punishes disregard for the value and dignity of human life. The primary sins of Israel were exploiting the poor and refusing to hear the Word of God. What might be our fourth transgression today?
Amos asks, Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (3:3) God called Israel to walk with Him. He delivered them out of Egypt. He met them at Sinai to begin to walk with them as His holy nation. He clearly defined the terms of that walk in the covenant and in the commandments. The destination of the walk was not just the Promised Land, but companionship with Him through history. Israel ceased to walk with God and was sent into exile. God will one day restore the nation on its land.
The image of the Christian life is a walk with Christ, As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Col 2:6). Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called (Eph 4:1-2). How’s your walk? God has spoken. Have we heeded?
Amos concludes the book with the promise of messianic restoration and blessing. God will rebuild the fallen booth of David in the days to come (9:11). Jesus is the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5). He is the judge of the nations.