The Book of Amos

Amos was not what some may call a ‘full-time theologian’, but he was a shepherd (1:1) and a dresser of sycamore figs (1:1; 7:14). While Amos lived in Tekoa, a town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem, God called him to prophesy to the Northern kingdom (1:1; 7:15).

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Author and Date

Amos ‘was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son’, but the LORD said to him, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel’ (7:14-15), which Amos did during the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam II, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake (Amos 1:1; cf. 2 Kings 14-15; Zechariah 14:5). Amos probably wrote this book sometime between 760 to 755 BC (cf. Rooker 2011:431). The name ‘Amos’ means ‘burden-bearer’ or ‘load-carrier’ (Constable 2017:1) and this is quite apt, because God gave this herdsman a burdensome load as Amos ministered during a time when Israel told prophets of God not to prophesy (Amos 2:11-12).

Audience and Purpose

Amos prophesied during a time when Israel was economically prosperous (8:5) with a so-called upper class (4:1-3) who built expensive houses (5:11; 6:4) while exploiting the poor (2:6-7; 8:4). Moreover, both Judah and Israel had the Law of the LORD (2:4) and even appeared religiously prosperous as it attended holy days in Bethel (not in Jerusalem?) and brought sacrifices (4:4; 5:5, 21-23). It also built, however, idolatrous shrines in Gilgal, Dan and Beersheba and worshipped Baal in Bethel (2:8; 3:14; 5:5; 8:14). But God who is righteous, the LORD is his name (5:8), sees through the injustices and superficiality of it all and pronounces judgement not only on the nations (1:3-2:3), but also on Judah (2:4-5) and Israel (2:6-9:10). The first purpose of Amos is therefore to call the Northern kingdom (Israel) to repent, to seek the LORD and then to grow in sanctification by obeying the Mosaic Covenant. Since we know they did not repent, eventually the Northern kingdom was taken captive by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The second purpose, albeit after 9 chapters and 10 verses of divine warnings to Israel and the nations, is that God promises the remnant of Israel and believers from other nations that He will bring restoration in the Messianic kingdom (9:11-15).


After a brief introduction (1:1-2), the LORD roars from Zion, announcing eight oracles against the nations (1:3-2:16). God provides five reasons for these coming judgements: three ‘hear this’ (3:1; 4:1; 5:1) and two ‘woe’ judgments (5:18; 6:1), followed by a ‘therefore’ (3:11; 4:12; 5:11, 16; 6:7) which states the nature of the judgement to come. According to Jelinek (2014:1347-1351), the five reasons for judgement on Israel (and Judah) are because they had oppressed the innocent (3:1-15), economically exploited the needy and the poor (4:1-13), refused to repent when warned (5:1-17), Israel had hypocritical worship (5:18-27) and they ignored or disbelieved the prophet’s warnings while living in ease and comfort (6:1-14). God then showed Amos in five visions how these judgements could look like: first, the vision of the locust swarm (7:1-3); second, the vision of a fire (7:4-6); third, the vision of the plumb line (7:7-17); fourth, the vision of the basket of summer fruit (8:1-14); and fifth, the vision of the Lord beside the altar (9:1-10). In the final five verses of Amos, God promises to restore the Davidic house (9:11-15).

Dorsey (1999:285) proposes the following chiastic structure to outline the Book of Amos:
A Coming judgement upon Israel and nations 1:1-2:16
Sevenfold condemnation of the wealthy; inescapability of judgement; theme like exodus; topic like ‘top of Carmel’
B Prophet’s compulsion: Coming destruction of Israel & cult at Bethel 3:1-15
When the LORD speaks, his prophets must prophesy; royal houses and Bethel’s altars will be destroyed
    C Condemnation of wealthy Israelite women: empty religious activity 4:1-13
    Cows of Bashan in the mountain of Samaria; wealthy women who idly drink; women will go into exile; empty religious activities which Israel loves; the LORD is coming, turning morning into darkness
      D Centre: Call to repentance, and lament 5:1-17
    C’ Condemnation of wealthy Israelite men: empty religious activity 5:18-6:14
    Those secure in the mountain of Samaria; wealthy men who drink wine; men will go into exile first; empty religious activities which God hates; Day of the LORD will be darkness, not light
B’ Prophet’s compulsion: Visions of judgement & destruction of cult at Bethel 7:1-8:3
LORD has spoken, so Amos prophesies; prophecy at Bethel: God will destroy house of Jeroboam
A’ Coming judgement upon Israel but also future restoration among nations 8:4-9:15
Sevenfold condemnation of the wealthy; inescapability of judgement; theme like exodus; topic like ‘top of Carmel’

Each of the elements of the above seven-fold structure may itself also be structured. Dorsey (1999:281) identified the following structure for the proposed centre of the Book of Amos:
A Lamentation over fallen Israel 5:1-3
B Call to repentance (seven verbs of exhortation) 5:4-6a
    C Condemnation of Israel’s injustice 5:6b-7
      D Centre: Hymn of the LORD’s power 5:8-9
    C’ Condemnation of Israel’s injustice 5:10-13
B’ Call to repentance (seven verbs of exhortation or promise) 5:14-15
A’ Coming lamentation 5:16-17

Relevance and Conclusion

How should we prepare to meet our God (cf. 4:12)? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, who walk by the Spirit (Romans 8:1). On the day of Christ, however, believers in Jesus will have the works they performed since they became believers judged (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). The Book of Amos is a sobering reminder that God is not only sovereign (4:13; 5:8) and holy (4:2), but also just. Believers can look forward to the Messianic kingdom (cf. Amos 9:11-15) and then the eternal state, but we must also prepare to meet our Lord and Saviour.



Cone, C.C, N.d., Overview of Amos. Available at:

Constable, T.L., 2017, Notes on Amos, 2017 edition.

Dorsey, D.A., 1999, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids.

Jelinek, J.A., 2014, ‘Amos’, in M. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (eds.), The Moody Bible Commentary, pp. 1341-1356, Moody Publishers, Chicago.

Rooker, M.F., 2011, ‘The Book of Amos’, in E.H. Merrill, M.F. Rooker & M.A. Grisanti, The World and the Word, pp. 430-438, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville.

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