Amos is the first of our prophetic writings, apparently authored by the prophet himself (though a few passages are questionable, and I’ll talk about those when I get to them).

It seems that the name Amos means “burden.” It’s seems a rather convenient name for a prophet to have, and it makes me wonder if perhaps he took it up as a sort of nom-de-prophète. Or, of course, it could just be a coincidence.

Based on the information provided in the book, Amos was active during the reign of Jeroboam II. My study Bible dates it around 760-750 BCE.

Amos comes from the small village of Tekoa, which was in Judah. Though he’s called a shepherd, a herder, and a “dresser of sycamore trees” (Amos 7:14), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a labourer himself. If we take him as the author of the book, and using some other clues, it seems more likely that he would have instead been the owner of agricultural estates.

Despite being from Judah, the vast majority of his prophetic career (at least the parts of it we know about) was dedicated to Israel. At some point, he moved up to the Israelite sanctuary in Bethel and preached there until he was kicked out and forced to return to Judah, which is where it seems that he wrote the Book of Amos. We’ll get to read about his conflict with religious authorities, embodied by the priest Amaziah, in Amos 7.

Structure

All the commentaries I’m finding point to three distinct parts:

  • In chapters 1-2, Amos condemns Israel’s neighbours.
  • In chapters 3-6, he provides an indictment of Israel herself, focusing on sin and injustice.
  • In chapters 7-9, Amos foretells Israel’s doom.