Notes on Amos

Amos lived during the same epoch as Hosea, as both prophets were active in the Northern Kingdom of Israel (“Samaria”), during the reign of Jeroboam II, though Amos is not explicitly described as a prophet in the text (neither he nor his father are described as prophets). He is believed to have been an older contemporary of both Hosea and Isaiah. The book of Amos is the third book of the “Minor Prophets” in the Tanakh. Amos is one of the shortest books in the Bible, along with other “Minor Prophets”, such as Joel.

Amos is described as a “herdsman” and a “a gatherer of sycamore fruit” (7:14) from Tekoa, a rural town south of Jerusalem. He begins by condemning the surrounding nations of Israel, and then he turns to forecasting the doom of Judah and Israel for disregarding the laws of God. In particular, he condemns Samaria for neglecting its care for the poor. He echoes the images of harlots and a divorce expressed in Hosea. In the end of the text, a latter interpolation is included prophesying hope and redemption for Israel, wherein not every Israelite will be slaughtered, and vineyards destroyed, and olive trees cut down and so on. The fault of Israel lies in Israel’s turning away from the laws of God, hence why the Northern Kingdom will fall first, and Jerusalem will eventually be sacked by the Babylonians, and the Jews enslaved.

An ancient Hebrew hymn can be found in certain verses of Amos, in chapters 4, 5, 8, and 9. Reading the latter writings of the Tanakh reminds me of the “fire and brimstone” sermons found in early American theology (a la Jonathan Edwards’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God) due to their apocalyptic and often explosive moralizing about the downfall of their nation.

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