From the Editor’s Notebook: Minor Prophets, Amos

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Outline Studies of the Minor Prophets

Amos: The Book of National Accountability

Key Word: Punishment.

Message: “National Sin means National Judgment” (Robert Lee).1 Or, as Eric W. Hayden has stated, “The Patience of God in Punishment.”2

Key Verses: 3:1-2; 4:12.

“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God” (4:12) .


In the Hebrew language the name Amos means “to carry a burden.” Amos was a rustic, a herdman from the region of Tekoa, an area of barren hill country some six miles SE of Bethlehem, overlooking the Dead Sea. Like Elisha, he was called to the prophetic office while pursuing his daily round of activities and duties. He made no claim to be either a prophet or a prophet’s son (see 7:14-15). He was not of the schools of men, having had no professional training, but was a herdman and dresser of fruit trees. Though of Judea and called by God to be a prophet to the whole house of Jacob (3:1, 13), his ministry was chiefly to the northern kingdom (7:14-15) at the main sanctuary at Bethel (7:10). His ministry took place in the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II in Israel (c. 782-753 B.C.) and during the reign of Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah (c. 791-740 B.C.), thus placing Amos’ preaching about 765-750 B.C. His call was at a time when both kingdoms were experiencing economic boom accompanied by luxurious living, moral corruption and abounding idolatry. It was against these sins that Amos directed his fiery oratory, the book affording ample application to modern times. He was contemporary with Hosea and Jonah, and possibly with Joel if a later date is accepted for Joel’s ministry.

What we know about Amos’ life is found in 1:1 and 7:14 & 15, yet from the content of his prophecy much can be learned concerning the manner of his life. He was an outdoorsman, a herdman, a dresser of fruit trees. This last description means that he was a “nipper” or “pincher” of the wild fig which is ripened by puncturing and eaten only by the poorest. Throughout his book he retains a wholesome naturalness, sharpness of mind and a deep appreciation of nature. In his illustrations he speaks of the bird in the nest, two men meeting in the desert, a shepherd snatching from the mouth of a lion two legs and the piece of an ear, sycamore trees, grasshoppers, a basket of summer fruit, a wagon loaded with shelves, cattle-driving, corn-winnowing, and other picturesque references. Although Amos had no formal training, his freshness, vigor, vividness and simplicity of speech are unsurpassed by any of his successors, his language reminding readers of James and Jude in the New Testament.

An unknown source has attributed the following statement to a past prince of expositors, Alexander MacLaren: “If one fancies a godly Scottish Highlander sent to the West End of London, or a Bible-reading New England farmer’s man sent to New York’s ‘Upper Ten,’ one will have some notion of this prophet, the impression made, and the task laid upon him.”


1. The Eight Burdens —Declamations (1-2)

2. The Three Sermons —Proclamations (3-6)

3. The Five Visions —Revelations (7-9)

Notable Notes

Amos was the prophet of woe. He had a stern message for a luxury-loving and self-indulgent age, his particular burden being one concerning punishment. His prophecy reveals that national sin issues in national judgment and, while the sin of individuals will be judged at the Great White Throne, nations of the world are judged in the course of time. History thoroughly confirms this, although it is recognized from Scripture that there is a specific end-time judgment of the Gentile nations in preparation for the millennial reign of Christ (Matt. 25:31-46).

Amos, like Nehemiah, was a model worker for God, and by a thoughtful reading of his book we readily note his:

1. Humility.

2. Industry.

3. Wisdom.

4. Perception.

5. Faithfulness.

6. Steadfastness (see 7:10-17).

7. Authority (“Thus saith the Lord”).

8. Success (7:10).

“Two years before the earthquake” (1:1), Amos began his prophetic ministry at Bethel. He foretold this earthquake which must have been of exceptional severity (see 5:8; 6:11; 8:8; 9:5, for Zechariah speaks of it almost 300 years later as an event well remembered (Zech. 14:5).

Amos charged Israel with the sins of greed, injustice, drunkenness, immorality, profanity and oppression (2:6-12). They sought to excuse themselves on the ground that they were God’s chosen people (3:2), and in turn Amos replied that their relation to God was an aggravation of their offence. Though at the peak of prosperity, the nation was nevertheless on the brink of disaster. In the midst of Israel’s compromise and corruption Amos proclaimed the sovereignty of God, the God of all creation (1:2; 4:13; 5:8).

The preaching of Amos soon aroused the anger of Amaziah the priest of Bethel (7:10-13), who in turn reported him to Jeroboam, complaining that Amos was a danger to national security. He even took it upon himself to order Amos out of the country. To Amaziah’s face, Amos declared that regardless of his humble background and lack of formal education, he could foresee the day when Amaziah’s wife would be “an harlot in the city,” a victim of the invader’s lust, and Amaziah himself dying as a captive in a heathen land.

Of Amos and his preaching, W. Graham Scroggie has commented: “The threats of doom are interspersed with exhortations to ‘seek the Lord’ (five times), and with the promise of a better day to dawn (ix. 11-15). Things to regard specially in this Book are its style, figures of speech, autobiographical material, the political and religious situation at home and abroad, the story of Amaziah’s opposition, and references to places and peoples.”3

Amos depicted the destruction of Israel in five ways:

1. Locusts (7:1).

2. Fire (7:4).

3. A Plumb Line (7:7).

4. A Basket of Summer Fruit (8:1) .

5. Spiritual Famine (9:1).

One of Amos’ great challenges was: “Prepare to meet thy God” (4:12) .

The only time the word “chapel” is mentioned in the Bible is in 7:13 (KJV).

James quotes the words of Amos 9:11 & 12 in Acts 15:15 & 16, seeing the fulfillment of these words in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the book of Amos the LORD JESUS CHRIST is revealed as the HEAVENLY HUSBANDMAN.

A Special Note

We regret that the November-December 1985 issue of “Food for the Flock” was so late in reaching our readers. The serious illness of two key employees at Midland Printers Company Ltd. was the reason for the long delay. While a few of our printer’s clients were not kindly disposed toward this inconvenience, the editor on behalf of all of us used this circumstance to communicate a spirit of Christian courtesy and understanding, the same having been received with much appreciation by the owner of Midland Printers, Mr. Herbert J. Henderson.

1 Robert Lee, The Outlined Bible.

2 Eric W. Hayden, Preaching through the Bible, p. 134.

3 W. Graham Scroggie, Know Your Bible, I, p. 164.