We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result


The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible What is This? Provides accessible, authoritative coverage for all major topics pertaining to the study of the Books of the Bible.


The name Amos (‘amôs) derives from the Hebrew root ‘ms, which means “to bear, carry.” The name could be understood in an active (“the one who bears [the word of God]”) or passive sense (“borne [by God]”), but any decision would be speculative. The prophet's name could be a shortened version of a longer theophoric name, like Amasiah (2 Chr 17:16).

The superscription says that Amos came from Tekoa in Judah (1:1), a town about ten kilometers southeast of Bethlehem, which today is identified with Khirbet Tequ‘a. Although his profession is usually translated as “shepherd,” the term used here, nōqēd, is not the typical one used of shepherds (rôʿēh). This less common term occurs elsewhere in the Bible only at 2 Kings 3:4, and its association there with King Mesha of Moab and evidence from Ugarit suggest that the prophet was not an ordinary sheep herder. Amos 7:14 adds that he was a herdsman (bôqēr) and worked with sycamore trees (these do not grow in the region of Tekoa). If this information is reliable, then Amos may have owned cattle and several properties, confirming the impression that he may have been a person of some means. He was not a prophet by profession but had been divinely commissioned to deliver a word of judgment to Israel.

Amos is one of the twelve Minor Prophets, appearing between Joel and Obadiah in the book of the Twelve Prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Lexical and thematic interconnections between these three books suggest that their ordering is not accidental (see, e.g., Amos 1:2 and Joel 3:16 [Heb. 4:16]; Amos 9:12 and Obadiah). The Septuagint (LXX), however—perhaps reflecting a more historical perspective—locates Amos between Hosea and Micah as one of the three eighth-century minor prophets. The Greek text itself differs little from the Hebrew version.

Authorship and Composition.

Approaches to the authorship of Amos and the authenticity of its contents can be divided into three broad categories. First, there are those who contend that the present shape of the book is the result of a long editorial process. A second group defends its general authenticity or unity. A third proposal, developed around the turn of the twenty-first century, locates the production of the book in the postexilic era.

Efforts to reconstruct the history of the formation of Amos began in the latter half of the nineteenth century. At that time and in the early decades of the twentieth century, scholars tried to identify what they considered to be the ipsissima verba (the actual words) of the prophets. This basic core was deemed the most important material of the prophetic books and the subsequent additions of lesser value. With the rise of form and tradition criticism, the focus shifted to specific structural patterns and theological emphases as criteria for establishing editorial stages. The commentary by Wolff (1977) stands out as an example of such approaches. He argues for six phases of production: two separate collections of oracles traceable to the prophet, supplements from a “school of Amos,” Bethel and Deuteronomistic redactions, and a closing postexilic announcement of blessing (9:11–15). Wolff assumes that Amos was a consistent prophet of doom, whose message of an immanent, inescapable judgment of God was directed primarily to the northern kingdom of Israel. Thus, the mention of Judah (2:4–5; 6:1), the doxologies (4:13; 5:8–9; 9:5–6), and the hope of restoration after the judgment (9:11–15) cannot be assigned to the prophet himself. In Wolff's perspective, the editors were creative theologians who actualized earlier messages for their own later contexts.

Another avenue of research into the possible prehistory of the text attempts to coordinate the production of the book with the process of arranging the book of the Twelve. As mentioned earlier, according to some scholars, the Minor Prophets are interconnected by catchwords. Similar phraseology also might imply mutual influence between prophetic books. Jeremias (1998), for instance, thinks that Amos 4:4 and 8:14 shaped Hosea 4:15 and that Hosea 8:14 echoes the judgment language of the oracles against the nations (Amos 1–2). On the other hand, he sees Amos's thematic dependence on Hosea in Amos 2:6–8; 3:2; 5:25; 6:8; and 7:9. Jeremias proposes a four-stage redaction of the text of Amos that evolved into its present shape as the book of the Twelve was being compiled. The most elaborate illustration of this interrelated process of compilation hypothesis is the twelve-stage theory proposed by Rottzoll (1996; cf. Schart 1998).

Other scholars maintain the authenticity of all or most of the book, although their approaches and their underlying rationales vary. Some argue along biographical lines and connect the different parts of the book to diverse experiences of the prophet. Apparent incongruities, such as the juxtaposition of announcements of divine punishment with the hope of escape (5:1–6, 14–17) or of restoration (9:1–4, 9–15), are explained as reflecting discrete moments in the life of Amos. The hypothesis is that over the course of his ministry the prophet moved from trusting that the Northern Kingdom would respond to his warnings and avoid destruction to the settled conviction that the nation was doomed (Andersen and Freedman 1989). Others, like Paul (1991), contend that comparative ancient Near Eastern linguistic and historical data and a reevaluation of what has been considered to be later Deuteronomic material can substantiate an eighth-century B.C.E. date for almost the entire book. New archeological discoveries provide further confirmation. For example, recent excavations at Gath (Tell es-Safi) belie doubts concerning a destruction of Gath in the decades preceding the prophet's ministry (see 6:2). Previously, the standard critical position identified this event with the campaign of Sargon II in 712–711, too late for Amos's ministry. There is evidence, too, for more widespread literacy than previously thought during the monarchical period and therefore for the possibility that prophecies could have been recorded at the time of or soon after the delivery of oracles. This information contradicts the common scholarly view that prophets could not write, that their words must have circulated orally for some time, and that this oral period was the first stage of an extended history of composition.

Literary approaches in particular assume the unity of the book. These studies can be combined with historical interests or focus exclusively on the literary aspects of Amos. In either case, the artistry of form and language communicates an intricate theological argument that suggests a consistent authorial hand instead of a multilayered text emended by a series of unrelated redactors over several centuries. The quality and extent of the book's literary nature may even suggest that it was designed as a coherent literary work from the start. In literary approaches, proposals about the text's history of production are perceived to be inevitably speculative and to use circular arguments. For example, historical critics define what an eighth-century prophet could and could not believe in order to establish the dates of the book's contents; redaction critics say the book's editors have adeptly concealed their handiwork, yet these same scholars confidently distinguish different phases of editing. Those few critics who do recognize unifying literary elements often assign them to the final stages of the text's composition. Literary approaches to Amos challenge all these perspectives.

Those who view Amos as part of the canon of the Christian church often champion the final form of the book as well. The canonical form is, after all, the only text that Christians, past and present, have read and used for worship and the daily practice of their faith. In this faith-based perspective, there is the conviction that one may hear the divine word in the book of Amos. Even within some academic circles there has been a call to recover the requisite skills for theological readings and to appreciate precritical interpretations.

A third approach to the book's authorship and authenticity argues that it comes from scribal circles in the province of Yehud (Judah) in the latter part of the Persian period (fifth–fourth century B.C.E.). The contention is that the necessary conditions for producing and disseminating a work like Amos occurred only after the return from exile among educated elites in Jerusalem. Scribes would have edited and embellished archival material from and about prophets to engage the issues of their own day. These interpretative efforts, it is said, yielded polished works possessing the authority of those ancient spokespersons. This attribution allowed scribes to criticize the affairs of their society anonymously yet in a powerful way (Linville 2008).

This third perspective is representative of a broader trend that assigns the production of much of the Hebrew Bible to the Persian period. However, several problems with this perspective arise in relationship with a prophetic book like Amos. First, even though there are similarities in language and thought across the prophetic corpus, it is difficult to believe that a set group of scribes in a single time and place created material with such clear differences in style, literary features, and theological emphases. Second, this position rests on the conviction that literacy was quite limited in the eighth century (the historical setting of the prophet according to 1:1) and restricts the writing of these sorts of texts to scribal groups in the Persian period. Many now contest this narrow perspective on literacy (see above). Moreover, the increased verification of historical referents (events, people, places) and greater awareness of the socioeconomic realities of the context portrayed in Amos also create problems for a Persian-period setting for their production. To state that older elements are present and only served to add realism to later scribal work minimizes the amount and significance of these “earlier” data. Furthermore, the harsh denunciation of ritual and of kings by name is hard to reconcile with a postexilic milieu. At that time, life revolved in many ways around the Temple, and the monarchy was only a memory. Finally, the claim that elites in Jerusalem expressed their ideologies and evaluations of their context through the voice of prophetic personae, even when it meant contradicting their own status and the risk of these texts being used against them, is harder to accept than to affirm what these books communicate straightforwardly: that the words of the prophets confronted the political elite and religious authorities of their own time. In the case of Amos, this would have been the eighth century.

In conclusion, even though much scholarship remains committed to various hypotheses about the formation of the book of Amos, there are sound reasons for accepting its general authenticity. The contents fit an eighth-century historical setting. Its literary artistry invites readers to analyze Amos as a literary work, which, as will become evident below, makes a stinging critique of the religion and politics of the northern kingdom of Israel.

Historical Context.

The superscription (1:1; cf. also 7:9–11) places the prophet during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel (788–747 B.C.E.) and Uzziah/Azariah of Judah (785–733), Interestingly, Amos is not mentioned in the corresponding section of the Deuteronomistic History (2 Kgs 14:23—15:7), but neither are Hosea and Micah. The second item in the title verse that can help date the prophet is the phrase “two years before the earthquake.” This natural disaster may be alluded to in 6:9–11; 8:8; and 9:1, 5 (cf. 3:14–15). It must have been a memorable earthquake, since it is also mentioned in Zechariah 14:5. Studies, including seismic research, typically assign the earthquake in question to between 760 and 750 B.C.E.

The international context of the prophet's message revolves around the status and strength of the Assyrian Empire and Aram/Syria, the northern kingdom of Israel's immediate neighbor to the north. Syria had been a principal foe in the second half of the ninth century (2 Kgs 5–6; 10:32–33), but it suffered a series of reverses that extended from the Assyrian king Adad-Nirari III's campaigns of 805–803 into the first quarter of the eighth century. Assyria had entered into a period of decline after the death of this king in 783. Beset with internal problems, the empire did not reassert itself in the region until after Tiglath-pileser III assumed the throne in 745. This state of affairs allowed the northern kingdom to retake territory and to reestablish its military and economic strength (2 Kgs 14:25, 32).

It appears that Amos prophesied when the northern kingdom of Israel's prominence and success were waning. The oracles in chapter one and other passages (4:10; 6:3, 13) suggest that Israel recently had experienced defeat on the battlefield. These setbacks are said to have come from God's hand, and Amos announces that a more comprehensive downfall by an unnamed enemy was on the horizon (3:11; 6:14). This prediction would be fulfilled historically by Assyria in 722, at which time the northern kingdom became a province of the Assyrian Empire.

The socioeconomic realities were problematic, too. Oppression permeated the society (3:9–10; 5:7, 10), and the judicial system was corrupt (5:12, 15). Many had fallen unfairly in arrears and were being sold into debt slavery (2:6–8; 8:4–6), even as others enjoyed comfortable homes, plentiful food, and fine wine (3:15; 4:1; 5:11; 6:1, 4–6). Sociological approaches have attempted to understand with more precision the mechanisms of exploitation in ancient Israel that lie behind these indictments. Some propose that the prophet's target was a form of rent capitalism, in which peasants are dependent on an urban elite to whom they become increasingly indebted. Others argue for a tributary mode of production, where economic and social power resides primarily with the state (in this case, the monarchy). Another option is the violation of the patron-client relationship, with its hierarchical view of society and mutual obligations. Each of these proposals can find some basis in the text, but there are not enough data, either textual or archaeological, to identify with certainty the socioeconomic system of ancient Israel. Nevertheless, an important contribution of these studies is that they alert the reader to the possible concrete realities that motivated the prophetic invective.

Structure and Stylistic Features.

The book of Amos divides into three main sections. These can be further subdivided by theme, genre, or structure.

The Preface (1:1–2)

I. The Oracles against the Nations (1:3—2:16)

A. The Oracle against Surrounding Nations (1:3—2:3)

B. The Oracle against Judah (2:4–5)

C. The Oracle against Israel (2:6–16)

II. The Words of God and the Prophet (3:1—6:14)

A. Divine Exposure of Israel's Guilt (3:1—4:13)

1. The End of Samaria and Bethel (3:1—4:3)

2. The Disconnect between Religion and Reality (4:4–13)

B. Lament for the Death of Israel (5:1—6:14)

1. The Demand to Seek God and the Good (5: 1–17)

2. Woe to a Religion without Ethics (5: 18–27)

3. Woe to the Delusion of Wealth and Power (6: 1–14)

III. Visions of Israel's Future (7:1—9:15)

A. Three Visions of Disaster (7: 1–9)

Expansion: The Confrontation at Bethel (7: 10–17)

B. A Vision of Religious Failure (8: 1–3)

Expansion: The Cost of Religious Perversion (8: 4–14)

C. A Vision of Divine Sovereignty in Judgment (9: 1–6)

Expansion: The Hope beyond the Ruins (9: 7–15)

The book is primarily poetic in form and possesses a rich literary artistry. There is abundant use of similes (2:9; 3:12; 5:6, 19–20, 24; 8:8; 9:9), metaphors (e.g., 1:2; 4:1), wordplays (e.g., 6:13; 8:1–2), rhetorical questions (2:11; 3:3–6, 8; 5:20, 25; 6:2, 12; 9:7), and merism (9:2–4). Many passages reflect classic form-critical categories, such as the messenger formula (“thus says the LORD”; e.g., 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13), the judgment speech (e.g., 4:1–2; 7:16–17), the proclamation formula (“Hear this”; 3:1; 4:1; 5:1; 8:4), and the woe-cry (5:18–20; 6:1–7). There are chiasms of line-length (e.g., 3:7) and longer (5:1–17; 5:18–27; 6:1–14), and some scholars contend that the entire book is organized as a chiasm, the center of which is the phrase “The LORD is his name” in 5:8. The oracles against the nations (1:3—2:16) employ the x//x + 1 graded numerical saying (“For three transgressions of… // and for four… ”). Series of five (e.g., the refrain of 4:6–11; participles in 4:13; visions in chapters 7–9) and seven items (e.g., categories of soldiers in 2:14–16; questions in 3:3–6; verbs in 2:6–8, 5:8–9; rituals in 5:21–23) are another particular characteristic of this prophetic book.

This rhetorical variety is matched by the book's cohesiveness and interconnectedness. For instance, the oracles against the nations have the same introductory formula; the first six are grouped in pairs by structural features and linked lexically by the repetition of key terms. Chapters three through five each open with a call to hear, and the first four visions begin in similar fashion (7:1, 4, 7; 8:1). A number of concepts and vocabulary find their echo in later passages. These include the themes of the lion (1:2; 3:4, 8, 12), mourning (1:2 [“mourn” instead of “wither”]; 5:1, 16–17), the heights of Carmel (1:2; 9:3), the destruction of strongholds (1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5; 3:9–11; 6:8), the fire of judgment (1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2; 7:4), the abuse of the indebted poor (2:6; 8:6), sanctuaries and rituals (2:8; 3:14; 4:4–5; 5:4–6, 21–26; 7:9–13; 8:3, 10; 9:1), the silencing of the prophetic word (2:11–12; 7:10–13), sinful self-indulgence (4:1; 6:3–6), the reversal of day and night (5:8, 13, 18, 20; 8:9), and the upheaval of the earth (8:8; 9:5; cf. 1:1). Even the final verses (9:11–15), which many scholars consider a later addition, resonate with earlier material at least by way of contrast: destruction, hunger, thirst, and exile will be replaced by the rebuilding of homes, bountiful plenty for all, and the return to the land.


There are several ways to analyze the message of the book. One attempts to determine the theological traditions that informed this prophet's message. Three such traditions that have typically been identified are public rituals, covenant and law, and wisdom.

The book of Amos has many allusions to the public worship. Sanctuaries and religious rituals are consistently condemned and their judgment foretold (3:14; 4:4–5; 5:4–6, 21–24; 8:3–6; 9:1). The single biographical scene occurs at a temple, probably the principal sanctuary at Bethel, where the priest Amaziah rebukes Amos and tells him to leave Israel (7:10–17). On the basis of these passages and a particular interpretation of the term nōqēd (1:1), some scholars have supposed that Amos must have been connected in some way with the priestly establishment, perhaps as the keeper of temple herds or as a prophet within temple precincts. Others have pointed to language that could signal a ritual setting, such as a covenant renewal ceremony (4:4–13) or New Year festival (5:18–20).

A second hypothesis is that Amos based his message on the covenant at Sinai, appealing to the covenant curses of rejection of worship, agricultural disaster, invasion, and exile (Lev 26, Deut 28). This view also claims that it is possible to establish a correspondence between Israel's transgressions and stipulations in the Law (cf., e.g., 2:6; 8:4–6 with Exod 21:1–11; Lev 25:39–40; Deut 15:1–18) and that the prophet utilized a covenant lawsuit form to denounce the nation (3:1—4:13).

A third group attempts to ground this prophetic message in wisdom (whether from royal or rural clan circles). These scholars connect with the worldview of wisdom such items as the graded numerical sequence of the oracles against the nations (cf. Prov 30:15–16, 18–19, 21–31); the didactic and rhetorical questions of 2:11, 3:3–8 and 6:12 (cf. Job 6:5–6; 8:11; Prov 30:4); terminology (the “right” of 3:10; cf. Prov 8:8; 24:26); the concern for the poor; the woe cries (Prov 23:29; Hab 2:6–19); and the exhortations of 4:4–5 and 5:4–6, 14–15 (cf. Prov 4:4; 13:20).

The fact that each of these emphases has a basis in the text makes clear that no single theological tradition can be claimed as the only framework for the book. Amos would have had a rich and varied theology at his disposal. The book also turns one of Israel's most venerable historical traditions on its head. The Exodus from Egypt, which was the epitome of God's concern for his people and foundational to the conviction of their unique standing among the nations, is used not to encourage the people but to accuse them. The LORD indeed had acted on their behalf in redeeming them from Egypt (2:10), but that event was the very reason that they more than any other people were to be held accountable (3:1–2). Furthermore, Israel's was not the only history in which God had been involved (9:7). Thus, any hope of escape from judgment was self-deluding (9:8–10).

Some scholars discern distinct messages for each hypothetical layer of redaction, but it is possible (and important) to appreciate that the canonical shape of the book offers a consistent word, a biting condemnation of eighth-century Israel. The summary oracle of 1:2 sets the tone for the rest of the book. The fact that the LORD roars from Zion undermines from the very start the sociopolitical and religious world of the northern kingdom. Moreover, a literary reading would not agree with those who say that the punishment announced in the Israel oracle is a surprise revelation at the end of the oracles against the nations (2:6–16); the reader already knows that the nation stands condemned: “the top of Carmel dries up” (1:2B). The oracles of the first two chapters make plain that Israel (and Judah) is like any other nation but is even more guilty because of its special history with God.

The place from which God roars in 1:2 is Zion/Jerusalem, not Samaria or Bethel. In the ancient world, the national ideology identified the chief god with the royal house. Amos 1:2 thus discloses that the North's monarchy is illegitimate and bereft of divine favor. Amaziah rightly recognizes that the prophet's religious critique is tantamount to conspiracy against the crown (7:9–13). What is more, the future beyond the coming judgment lies with the southern monarchy and the line of David, not with the dynasty of Jeroboam (9:11–15). The description in chapter 9 does not contain a developed eschatology, but rather the general hope of any people longing for a better existence; hence, there is no need to postulate a late date. It pays to recall that the prophet from Tekoa is no naive or narrow-minded nationalist. Judah, too, has sinned (2:4; 6:1) and, like the other nations, will be judged (2:5).

Amos' condemnation of Israel is fundamentally religious. One aspect of the religious dimension is political. The LORD does not support the northern regime, nor does he approve of its official worship. Another element of the prophet's critique is social and economic. Amos denounces the oppression of the poor, and this too is related to his censure of the public rituals. In the prophet's view, worship was divorced from ethical standards, and this is unacceptable to God (5:4–6, 21–23; 8:4–6). If the condemnation of the entire nation in these passages is taken at face value, then the problematics of religion in Israel are even more insidious. That is, everyone—the various elites and the disenfranchised—crowds the sanctuaries to worship the national deity. Both those who benefit from the status quo and those who are its victims celebrate the God of Israel. This religion, to borrow a Marxist concept, is the opiate of an exploiting and exploited people and deserves the reproach of the prophet.

This focus on the religious life of Israel corresponds to the concentration on the person of God in the book. References to divine speech underscore that God is sovereign. The oracles against the nations start with “Thus says the LORD.” The phrase “says the LORD” (2:11; 3:10; 4:3; 6:8; 8:3; 9:7), the command to heed his word (3:1; 4:1; 5:1; 7:16), and his oaths (4:2; 6:8; 8:7) reinforce that God is in control of the fate of all nations and every individual.

The centrality of the LORD is most evident in the number of times that the divine name appears. Yahweh (“the LORD”), whether by itself or in combination with other epithets (especially “God of hosts”), occurs some eighty times in the nine chapters of the book. The “hymnic” passages (4:13; 5:8–9; 9:5–6) all climax with the statement “The LORD is his name.” The second of these is what some believe to be the centerpiece of the chiasm that spans the whole book (5:8). These three passages communicate that God is the omnipotent creator (cf. 7:1–6) who judges the nations (1:3—2:16; 3:11; 4:2; 5:1–3, 27; 6:14; 7:9; 9:8–10). He can change light to darkness, shake the earth, and cause the Nile River to rise and fall. In the future he will bring an earthquake (1:1; 3:14–15; 6:9–11; 8:8; 9:1, 5). Other names for God are 'ădōnāy (“the LORD”), which appears by itself three times, and 'ĕlōhîm (God), which is used by itself twice. The final verse declares that one day the LORD will be “your God.” The deity who had decreed the nation's downfall would once again be in proper relationship with the people. The seriousness of the scrutiny of religious life is conveyed by the repeated announcement of the destruction of the sanctuaries (3:14; 5:5; 8:3; 9:1). Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that the vision of the future does not contain a temple (9:11–15). The LORD will not tolerate false views of himself that are religiously manipulated to sanctify a society that defies the divine demands. Even so, to say that Amos advocated a faith without ritual in favor of an “ethical monotheism” is to misunderstand the essence of the prophetic critique.

Two other topics deserve mention. First, some scholars (e.g., Wolff) state that Amos, unlike Hosea, was not concerned with syncretism and that possible allusions to other deities are later additions. Sakkuth and Kaiwan in 5:26, however, apparently refer to astral deities. In addition, the worship of such gods is attested earlier than the eighth century, and religious influences did spread beyond political boundaries. Verse 8:14 may refer to other gods or to different manifestations of Yahweh in diverse places (cf. 2:8), such as happened with Baal. If the latter, this might suggest that Israel had a distorted understanding of Yahweh.

The second issue is the text's subversion of national pride and pretense. As mentioned above in regard to the historical background, the northern kingdom had been powerful for a time. Now that hegemony was collapsing. Several of the oracles against the nations allude to Israel's military reversals, and 2:14–16 list seven kinds of soldiers who will all fail—perfect defeat. The repeated announcement of the demolition of strongholds and the mocking wordplay at 6:13 (“Lo-debar” means “no-thing”) also debunk the myth of military strength. The third vision offers a compelling picture of a nation in decline (7:7–9). The term 'ănāk, often translated as “plumb line,” actually means “tin.” What the prophet is shown are walls of tin. From a distance they could give the illusion of strength, but in reality they are to be destroyed along with the “sanctuaries of Israel” and the “house of Jeroboam.” In the near future Israel will experience terrible loss (2:14–15; 3:11—4:3; 5:1–3, 16–17; 6:14; 8:3, 9–10; 9:4, 9–10) and exile (4:3; 5:27; 6:7; 7:16–17). Punishment, however, is not the final word. A life of peace and prosperity under a different government, in a different region (the South), lies in the future (9:11–15).

Reception History.

The book of Amos has often been a significant resource for those who decry oppression. Such uses of Amos, though sometimes interested in the original meaning, are especially committed to reading the prophetic text from and for those in their own context who suffer. They find in this prophetic word a fund for the critique of systemic abuse of the vulnerable by those in power and for the denunciation of religious faith divorced from ethics. Its sharp tone even legitimizes anger in the condemnation of such behavior.

Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted Amos 5:24 in his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. Various liberation theologies from around the globe (Latin American; African; and African American and Hispanic in the United States) often appeal to Amos as a champion of social justice. Some feminist approaches, however, offer more ambiguous assessments. They contend that the book does not understand adequately the gendered nature of poverty. Others disparage what are deemed to be unacceptable perspectives, such as the belief in a God who brings indiscriminate punishment so that even the innocent endure loss.

These interpretations, both positive and critical, highlight the challenge of attempting to engage the prophetic text with actual life situations, especially now. They force readers to consider the potential power of the Bible to inform and empower communities who bear the hardships of systemic injustice. After reading Amos, it is difficult not to be encouraged to reflect with great gravity upon socioeconomic and political realities in the light of faith, the nature of acceptable worship, and the person and demands of God in the world even today.

[See also HOSEA.]



  • Andersen, Francis I., and David Noel Freedman. Amos: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 24A. New York: Doubleday, 1989. Detailed, with an eye to literary and theological features.
  • Garrett, Duane A. Amos: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text. Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible. Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2008. Word-by-word analysis that is sensitive to literary matters.
  • Harper, William Rainey. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Amos and Hosea. International Critical Commentary 18. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1905. A classic commentary representative of earlier scholarship dedicated to discerning the authentic words of the prophet.
  • Jeremias, Jörg. The Book of Amos: A Commentary. Translated by D. W. Stott. Old Testament Library. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1998. Original German published in 1995. Combines reconstruction of the book's redaction with the production of the Book of the Twelve; critical commentary with some literary sensibilities.
  • King, Philip J. Amos, Hosea, Micah: An Archaeological Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988. Explains cultural and religious backgrounds.
  • Linville, James R. Amos and the Cosmic Imagination. Society for Old Testament Study Monograph Series. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2008. Literary focus and an analysis from the perspective of Persian period authorship.
  • Paul, Shalom M. Amos: A Commentary on the Book of Amos. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1991. Locates the book within its ancient linguistic and historical context.
  • Rudolph, Wilhelm. Joel–Amos–Obadja–Jonah. Kommentar zum Alten Testament 13, vol. 2. Gütersloh, Germany: Gerd Mohn, 1971. Standard, moderately critical commentary.
  • Smith, Gary V. Amos: A Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1989. Highly readable study of the canonical form of the book with interest in the book's enduring theological message.
  • Wolff, Hans Walter. Joel and Amos: A Commentary on the Books of the Prophets Joel and Amos. Translated by W. Janzen, S. D. McBride Jr., and C. A. Muenchow. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977. English translation of Dodekapropheten, 2: Joel und Amos, first published in 1969. The premier form-critical study.


  • Auld, A. Graeme. Amos. Old Testament Guides. London: T. & T. Clark, 2005. Originally published in 1986. Survey of Amos research with creative suggestions for future study.
  • Barstad, Hans M. The Religious Polemics of Amos: Studies in the Preaching of Am 2,7B–8; 4,1–13; 5,1–27; 6,4–7; 8,14. Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 34. Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1984. Argues that Amos' primary critique was against the worship of Baal.
  • Carroll R., M. Daniel. Amos—The Prophet and His Oracles: Research on the Book of Amos. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2003. Comprehensive survey of Amos research with extensive bibliographies. Includes work by non-Western and minority authors.
  • Carroll R., M. Daniel. Contexts for Amos: Prophetic Poetics in Latin American Perspective. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series 132. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992. Literary reading of Amos 3–6, with an eye to contextualization into Latin America.
  • Houston, Walter J. Contending for Justice: Ideologies and Theologies of Social Justice in the Old Testament. Rev. ed. London: T. T. Clark, 2008. Surveys social science approaches. Argues for the patronage system as the best explanatory model.
  • Möller, Karl. A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament: Supplement Series 372. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003. Literary approach that contends that the book reflects engagement between both Amos and his audience and between the book's redactors and its Judaean readership.
  • Rottzoll, Dirk U. Studien zur Redaktion und Komposition des Amosbuche. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 243. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1996. Exhaustive study designed to reconstruct the stages of composition of Amos and the book of the Twelve.
  • Schart, Aaron. Die Entstehung des Zwölfprophetenbuchs: Neuarbeitungen von Amos im Rahmen schriftenübergreifender Redaktionsprozesse. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 260. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1998.
  • Sicre, José Luis. “Con los pobres de la tierra”: La justicia social en los profetas de Israel. Madrid: Cristiandad, 1984. Highlights passages concerned with social issues.

M. Daniel Carroll R.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2021. All Rights Reserved. Cookie Policy | Privacy Policy | Legal Notice