Introduction to Amos
Although Amos lived in Judah, he was greatly exercised about Israel’s increasing departure from the true faith in Jehovah, and so directed his prophecy mostly against the northern kingdom. He was a contemporary of Hosea, probably somewhat older.
Amos makes a special point of the fact that he had been merely a shepherd, rather than a priest or trained prophet when God called him to the prophetic ministry (Amos 7:14-16). His prophecies included divine judgments on various other nations (Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab) before turning his attention to the sins of Judah and Israel. His judgments were envisioning not only Israel, but “the whole family” that God had brought out of Egypt (Amos 3:1). They were directed especially at the northern kingdom, Amos firmly predicting that Israel was destined for captivity in Assyria (Amos 5:7; 6:9; 7:17).
Nevertheless, despite the imminent judgments, Amos closes on a great note of hope and assurance, promising the ultimate restoration of all the children of Israel in the Davidic kingdom, a prophecy that James cites in the New Testament as well (Acts 15:15-18).
1:1 among the herdmen. See Amos 9:11. Amos had not been trained as a prophet, nor was he a priest or a king. He was a mere shepherd and fruit-picker (Amos 7:14), yet God called him and used him. God gave him both the eloquence and courage necessary for his strong prophetic ministry, especially directed to the ten-tribe northern kingdom of Israel, but including also the whole nation. Note his warning to both the people of Zion and Samaria (Amos 6:1) and his promise concerning the future “tabernacle of David.”
1:1 the earthquake. This earthquake must have been very severe, for it was still cited in the days of Zechariah, three hundred years later (Zechariah 14:5). More geologic studies have recently confirmed the intensity of this earthquake.
1:2 roar from Zion. As in many of the prophecies, there often is both a near fulfillment and a far fulfillment in view. The use of “roar” in this type of context usually looks forward to the great “day of the Lord” (Zechariah 14:1) yet to come in the last days (compare Isaiah 42:13; Jeremiah 25:30; Joel 3:16; etc., especially the latter).
1:2 his voice from Jerusalem. Even though Amos was in Israel at Bethel (Amos 7:10-13), he knew that God would center His work at Jerusalem, when He would “roar out of Zion.”
1:3 three transgressions. This formula is repeated seven times against seven nations surrounding Israel (Syria, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah, in Amos 1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4, respectively) before finally focussing on Israel (Amos 2:6). It probably implies a great number of transgressions in each case—three being sufficient to incur God’s wrath, with four causing it to spill over.
1:4 a fire. A “fire” from God is promised to each offending nation (Amos 1:4,7,10,12,14; 2:2,5) around Judah, implying severe destruction. The nations later implementing these fires were Assyria, Babylonia, Persia and Greece, but there may also be a secondary reference to the “fire on Magog” and his confederate nations around Israel in the last days (Ezekiel 39:6).
1:4 house of Hazael. Hazael and Ben-Hadad were kings of Syria who invaded Israel during the reign of Ahab, in the times of Elijah and Elisha. Both names have been found on archaeological inscriptions dating from this period, recognizing their importance as Kings of Syria.
1:5 captivity unto Kir. According to II Kings 16:9, this prophecy was explicitly fulfilled when Tiglath-Pileser III temporarily aided Israel against the Syrians. The Syrians had originally come from Kir, according to Amos 9:7, but its actual location is unknown.
1:6 Gaza. Gaza, along with Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron (Amos 1:8), were the main cities of the Philistines.
1:8 Philistines shall perish. Although the land of Palestine was named after the Philistines, the present-day Palestinians are not descendants of the Philistines. The Philistines, as prophesied, have perished.
1:9 transgressions of Tyrus. On Tyre’s destruction, see notes on Ezekiel 26.