Amos wrote his book about 25 years before the fall of Israel. In it we are visiting the city of Bethel, where King Jeroboam II has his private chapel, and Amaziah is his priest. The nation is enjoying peace and prosperity; in fact, they are living in luxury.
Amos was God's man for his time. He was a simple shepherd from Tekoa, a hill country town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem, and a dresser of sycamore fruit. He was called to be a prophet to the whole house of Jacob (chapter 3:1), but chiefly to the Northern Kingdom at the main sanctuary in Bethel. He met with the opposition of the high priest, and was reported to Jeroboam II by him. Amos reduced his prophecies to writing shortly after he returned to Tekoa. He began his message by looking around at the nations and announcing eight judgments.
Verse 2 of chapter 1 makes it clear that God is roaring in wrath, like a lion leaping on its prey. Amos begins with Syria and accuses her of cruelty in war. He then points to Philistia and condemns her for the sin of slavery. The Phoenicians are next, and they are judged for cruel slavery and the selling of slaves. Israel's old enemy Edom is accused of not showing pity, but maintaining a constant hatred. Ammon is judged for her violent crimes and selfish greed; Moab for her cruelty to Edom; and Judah for rejecting the Law of God.
Perhaps it pleased the people of Israel as they listened to Amos condemn their neighbors, but judgment number eight was reserved for Israel. In chapter 2:6-16 the prophet names the sins of the people of Israel; and, in verse 13, he says he is pressed by the burden of that sin.
Having announced judgment to the nations. Amos now explains why judgment is coming. We must remember that Israel was enjoying a time of peace, prosperity, and religious revival. People were attending religious services and bringing generous offerings. However, God does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart. Amos knew the hearts of the people were far from God.
In chapters 3, 4, and 5 Amos brings three sermons to the people. He prefaces each sermon with, "Hear this word." The first message is one of explanation (chapter 3:1-15); the second message is one of accusation (chapter 4:1-13); and the third message is one of lamentation (chapters 5:1--6:14).
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