AMOS - INTRODUCTION
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
Amos means to lade, to
burden; and Tekoa a trumpet blast: to thrust. The word used for
herdmen in 1:1 denotes a sheep breeder rather than a shepherd; and in 7:14 he
describes himself also as a herdman, literally a cattleman, and as a dresser
of sycamore trees, or preparer of sycamore fruit, though it seems that he was
the employer or at least manager of those who did this work, so that he is
generally considered to have been relatively well off.
His command of language also
indicates that he was educated, and therefore not poor.
Though he himself was from
Judah, his ministry, which lasted for just about a year, was to Israel, the
ten northern tribes, and is estimated to have been in c. 760 B.C., for the
earthquake mentioned in 1:1 is believed to have occurred in that year. He
prophesied during the reign of Uzziah in Judah, and of Jeroboam II in Israel;
and Bethel, the principal center of idolatry where one of the golden calves
had been set up, appears to have been the place where most of his ministry was
The time was one of great
material prosperity, but, as almost invariably, of corresponding spiritual
penury, for it seems that material prosperity, and independence of God, are
Siamese twins. And also, as always, independence of God was accompanied by
proliferation of evil, and it was against that moral corruption that Amos
inveighed, and foretold the judgment with which it would be punished, his
prophecy being but the affirmation of the warning given Israel in Dt 28:15-68.
Judgment upon Israel for their
flagrant sin was the essence of his message; but the warning isn’t limited to
Israel: it applies also to our twenty-first century world which has duplicated
their sin in even fuller measure; and as God’s judgment destroyed them so will
it also destroy today’s nations in the impending Tribulation.
There was no possibility of
reprieve for Israel, or for any of the other nations mentioned. They had
crossed over the invisible line which separates God’s mercy from His wrath;
and so has our twenty-first century world. Nothing can avert the coming
Tribulation judgments which will devastate the earth prior to Christ’s return
to inaugurate His millennial kingdom, for rebellion against God, and the
resultant moral corruption, are as great today as then.
While the nations plunge on to
their inescapable doom, there is, however, still individual personal salvation
available to every man who will confess himself a sinner, repent, and accept
the Lord Jesus Christ as his savior. The man who rejects or just neglects
that salvation is of all fools the greatest, for he who refuses to see that
God’s past judgments are nothing less than previews of those even more
terrible which are about to envelop the earth, is incapable of rational
thinking. Israel’s history is the prewritten history of the whole world. But
as it was in the days of Amos, so is it also today. They were too busy with
the world’s business, pleasures, and sin, to heed the prophet’s warnings; and
today’s society, equally busy with the same sinful distractions, is equally
heedless of warning.
Nor was their rejection of the
warning merely passive. They hated both the message and the messengers, and
sought by every means in their power to cut off both. And so is it today, the
only difference being that the opposition is more subtle. Exposure and
denunciation of sin have been made illegal by the simple expedient of
legalizing the sin. Consider just a few examples. Fornication and adultery
are covered up by the wholesale slaughter of unborn infants through “legalized
abortion.” “An affair” is the euphemism which assigns legality and
respectability to adultery and fornication. The sanctity of marriage has been
made a travesty by “living together on trial,” and by divorce.
Contraceptives made available
to our youth through our schools, not only promote the gratification of lust,
but cause chastity to be laughed at as old fashioned.
Homosexual activity, which God
in both Old and New Testaments declares to be a capital offence, has been
legalized, and denunciation of the evil made illegal!
The biblical account of
creation may not be taught in our schools, but God Himself is made a liar by
the teaching instead of the unproven, unscientific and puerile theory
of evolution, which is rejected by the vast majority of legitimate scientists.
Every heathen religion may be
freely discussed in our schools, but not Christianity. Prayer, and the
reading of the Bible have been outlawed in our schools.
Our legal system has become a
travesty through which plea bargaining, and hair-splitting definitions of the
law by high priced lawyers, win acquittal for the wealthy, and leave the poor
virtually defenseless in our law courts.
We have, in fact, become a
moral cesspool, the worldwide distribution of our moral filth, through films
and TV, disgusting and angering heathen nations with far higher moral
standards, who bitterly deplore the moral corruption of their young people
through our films and TV.
Our dress standards are
dictated by a handful of depraved designers, so that every year sees nudity
becoming more of a reality. Look, for example, at plunging necklines, exposed
midriffs, skin-tight clothing, bathing suits that leave little to the
imagination, skirts and dresses so skimpy or with such long slits as to leave
no doubt of their being designed to arouse male passion.
Consider our popular
literature: the best sellers are those whose vulgarity and sexual explicitness
are disgusting to all but the depraved tastes of the majority of the
In the repeated phrase found
throughout the first two chapters of Amos, “For three transgressions ... and
for four,” God is declaring in dramatic metaphor the truth that Israel and the
nations of that day had filled their cup of iniquity to overflowing. The
iniquity of today’s world is more correctly described as a raging tide than an
Before beginning our verse by
verse study of the book, it may be helpful to review briefly what had led up
to the deplorable state which had provoked God’s wrath, and ensured His
Following Solomon’s death, the
nation divided into two parts, Judah (Judah and Benjamin) in the south,
remaining loyal to the house of David as represented by Solomon’s son Rehoboam;
the other ten tribes (Israel) in the north, giving their allegiance to
Jeroboam I. He, fearing that the return of those ten tribes to Jerusalem to
worship, would eventually result also in the return of their allegiance to
Rehoboam, set up a golden calf in Dan in the north, and another in Bethel in
the south, and established his own order of priests, under the pretext of
making it more convenient for Israel to worship in those two places rather
than making the journey to Jerusalem.
It isn’t surprising therefore
that the worship of the ten northern tribes (Israel) soon degenerated into a
travesty which preserved the outward form of the worship of Jehovah, but which
included also the worship of Baal and other Canaanite gods, and involved all
the accompanying gross licentiousness which was part of that so-called
worship. The result was that the Divine regulations governing all their
business and social activities were also quickly abandoned, so that they
weltered in every form of evil. The rich oppressed the poor, and stopped at
nothing to get richer, the corruption of the judges facilitating this
plundering of the poor, and making a mockery of justice.
The immorality facilitated by
the religious prostitutes (male and female) associated with the worship of the
Baalim, quickly infected all society, until the nation had become as described
by Isaiah, “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness
in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been
closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment,” Isa 1:6. Only the
spiritually blind will refuse to acknowledge that the same symbolic picture
describes our twenty-first century world.
The result was that a holy
God, Whose pleas for repentance had been rejected and mocked, Whose warnings
had been ignored, Whose patience had been exhausted, was now about to do “His
strange work,” Isa 28:21, i.e., execute judgment! Today’s world has likewise
fitted itself for the same fate.