Amos - Introduction
Amos speaks against the Northern Kingdom of Israel with a severity not exceeded in the stern denunciations delivered by other prophets.
The narrative of his confrontation with Amaziah the priest of Bethel ( 7.10–17 ) in the time of Jeroboam II places him in the vicinity of 750 B.C.E. At that time Israel was in the midst of a prosperity which would end with its devastating conquest by the Assyrians about 722. But along with the high prosperity there had arisen a social and moral corruption which appeared especially abominable to Amos, a native of the poorer Southern Kingdom of Judah and a shepherd and grower of sycamore figs ( 7.14 ). Though in his view other nations were wicked ( 1.3–2.5 ), Israel was so deeply guilty of “monstrous sins” ( 5.12 ) that her doom, determined by the deity, was sealed and irrevocable.
Verses or passages here and there soften the otherwise unrelieved sternness of the words of Amos (for example, 5.14 ) by suggesting that a change of heart might still occur in time to save Israel from the divine judgment to come. Other passages (for example, 5.15 ) hold out at most a forlorn hope for Israel. More optimistically, the latter half of 9.8 and 9.13–15 assert that God's will to sustain Israel surpasses Israel's ability to go wrong. Such hopeful passages are often interpreted as additions to the book from a later hand. The “doxologies” in 4.13; 5.8–9 ; and 9.5–6 are sometimes also considered to be additions.
Although by his own statement ( 7.14 ) he was not the usual prophet, a striking series of visions ( 7.1–9; 8.1–3; 9.1–4 ) appear to reflect the personal experiences which culminated in his prophetic ministry, and determined the content of his message.