Amos was a shepherd of Tekoa in Judah, who exercised his ministry during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the great cult center of Bethel, from which he was finally expelled by the priest in charge of this royal sanctuary. The poetry of Amos, who denounces the hollow prosperity of the northern kingdom, is filled with imagery and language taken from his own pastoral background. The book is an anthology of his oracles and was compiled either by the prophet or by some of his disciples.
The prophecy begins with a sweeping indictment of Damascus, Philistia, Tyre, and Edom; but the forthright herdsman saves his climactic denunciation for Israel, whose injustice and idolatry are sins against the light granted to her. Israel could indeed expect the day of Yahweh, but it would be a day of darkness and not light. When Amos prophesied the overthrow of the sanctuary, the fall of the royal house, and the captivity of the people, it was more than Israelite officialdom could bear. The priest of Bethel drove Amos from the shrine-but not before hearing a terrible sentence pronounced upon himself.
Amos is a prophet of divine judgment, and the sovereignty of Yahweh in nature and history dominates his thought. But he was no innovator; his conservatism was in keeping with the whole prophetic tradition calling the people back to the high moral and religious demands of Yahweh’s revelation. In common with the other prophets, Amos knew that divine punishment is never completely destructive; it is part of the hidden plan of God to bring salvation to men. The perversity of the human will may retard, but it cannot totally frustrate, this design of a loving God. The last oracle opens up a perspective of restoration under a Davidic king.
The Book of Amos may be divided as follows:
Epilogue: Messianic Perspective (⇒ Amos 9:8c-15)
11 The words of Amos, a shepherd from Tekoa, which he received in vision concerning Israel, in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake:
2 The LORD will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem raise his voice: The pastures of the shepherds will languish, and the summit of Carmel wither.
32 Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they threshed Gilead with sledges of iron,
43 I will send fire upon the house of Hazael, to devour the castles of Ben-hadad.
54 I will break the bar of Damascus; I will root out those who live in the Valley of Aven, And the sceptered ruler of Beth-eden; the people of Aram shall be exiled to Kir, says the LORD.
6 Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Gaza, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they took captive whole groups to hand over to Edom,
7 I will send fire upon the wall of Gaza, to devour her castles;
8 I will root out those who live in Ashdod, and the sceptered ruler of Ashkelon; I will turn my hand against Ekron, and the last of the Philistines shall perish, says the Lord God.
9 5 Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Tyre, and for four I will not revoke my word; Because they delivered whole groups captive to Edom, and did not remember the pact of brotherhood,
10 I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre,to devour her castles.
11 6 Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because he pursued his brother with the sword, choking up all pity; Because he persisted in his anger and kept his wrath to the end,
12 7 I will send fire upon Teman, and it will devour the castles of Bozrah.
13 Thus says the LORD: For three crimes of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke my word; Because they ripped open expectant mothers in Gilead, while extending their territory,
14 8 I will kindle a fire upon the wall of Rabbah, and it will devour her castles Amid clamor on the day of battle and stormwind in a time of tempest.
15 Their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes with him, says the LORD
1  The earthquake: which according to Hebrew tradition marked the crime of Uzziah when he attempted to offer incense in the temple (⇒ 2 Chron 26:16-21). Zechariah mentions it several centuries later (⇒ Zechariah 14:5).
2  For three crimes . . . four: crime after crime, an indefinite number; cf ⇒ Amos 1:6. The series of judgments on the foreign nations shows that the Lord demands the observance of the moral order everywhere; Israel and Judah, despite their privileged position, are no exception. I will not revoke my word: God will not withdraw his threat of punishment against each of these nations. They threshed Gilead: the people of Aram under King Hazael had devastated Gilead; cf ⇒ 2 Kings 10:32-33.
3  Fire: devastation caused by the Assyrians (⇒ Amos 1:7, ⇒ 10, ⇒ 12, ⇒ 14; ⇒ 2:2, 5); cf ⇒ 1 Sam 15:18. Hazael and Ben-hadad: kings of the Arameans whose captial was Damascus (⇒ Amos 1:5); they fought against Israel (⇒ 2 Kings 13:3), and had long occupied the region of Gilead (⇒ Amos 1:3) in Transjordan.
4  Bar of Damascus: the beam securing the main gate of the city against invaders, symbol of its defenses. Valley of Aven (“vale of wickedness”) and Beth-eden (“house of pleasure”): Aramean territory from southwest to northeast.
5  Pact of brotherhood: Hiram of Tyre had made a pact with Solomon and called him brother (⇒ 1 Kings 5:12; ⇒ 9:13).
6  Pursued his brother: the Edomites were descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob (Genesis 25-27); nevertheless they constantly nourished enmity against Jacob’s descendants, the Israelites.
8  Rabbah: now called Amman, the modern capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.