John T. Willis

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Introducing the Book of Amos--Amos 1:1-2

As we begin the Book of Amos, there are several matters which call for discussion, so we will deal with only two verses in this blog. Look at Amos 1:1-2, and we will work through these two verses.

I. The expression "The words of Amos" in verse 1a is striking, and is identical to the expression "The words of Jeremiah" in Jeremiah 1:1. "The word of the Lord [Yahweh]" in Jeremiah 1:2 comes from Yahweh to Jeremiah, and then Jeremiah has the responsibility to declares his words to his audiences. Hence, "The words of Amos" means something like "The Story of Amos," "Amos' Record," "Amos' Report." (See F. I. Andersen and David Noel Freedman, Amos (Anchor Bible, Vol. 24A), pp. 184-185.

II. "Who WAS among the shepherds of Tekoa" indicates first that Amos was no longer there when he did his prophetic career. This was his roots, but now he is doing a different task. "Shepherds" here is a unique term, Hebrew noqedim, refers to one who takes care of "speckled" sheep and goats. Some scholars think this term means Amos was a rich shepherd of a high grade of sheep and goats. But the evidence for this is very scarce. This was simply a particular type of sheep and goats. In a previous blog, Tekoa is a village approximately 5 miles southeast of Bethlehem. So, Amos was apparently born and raised in Judah, not in North Israel.

III. The Hebrew word "saw" is hazah, which is cognate with the noun hazon, meaning "vision." Amos 7:12 indicates Amos was a "seer" or a "visionary." Amos 7:1,
4, 7; 8:1; 9:1 describe "visions" of Amos. This assumes that God revealed his messages to Amos in visions or dreams of the night, not by oral words. In other passages in the Bible, of course, God reveals his messages by oral words.

IV. Amos 1:1 states that Amos proclaimed his messages some to Israel and some to Judah, not to Israel alone. Hence, Amos 2:4-5 contains an oracle concerning Judah, while 2:6-16 contains an oracle concerning North Israel.

V. Amos 1:1 identifies Amos' prophetic work during the reigns of Jeroboam II king of North Israel (786-746 B. C.) and Uzziah of Judah (783-742 B. C.). During their reigns, North Israel and Judah enjoyed the wealthest and most powerful nations on North Israel and Judah in history, equivalent to the days of Solomon.

VI. Amos 1:1 mentions a significant "earthquake" in this time, and Zechariah 14:4-5 alludes to this event. Archaeologists and biblical scholars have not determined the date of this event for sure. Excavations at Hazor and Samaria indicate the earthquake in 760 B. C. Hence, it would seem reasonable to date the prophetic work of Amos between 760 and 750 B. C. This is close, but not exact.

VII. Turning to Amos 1:2, "And he said" refers to Amos in the third person. So some composer of the Book of Amos refers to the man Amos.

VIII. "The Lord roars" is lion language. God appears as a lion. The "roar" or "growl" of the lion symbolizes Yahweh "uttering his voice," as the second lines shows. As previously indicated, the metaphor of a "lion" and "sheep" and "shepherds" runs through the Book of Amos. "God's "roar" from heaven is thunder--Psalms 29;
68:33; 77:18; Jer. 25:30, and this causes earthquakes (see 2 Samuel 22:14; Psalms 18:13; 46:6; see Amos 8:8; 9:5, 9).

IX. Yahweh roars from "Zion," that is, "Jerusalem." This is extremely significant. Jerusalem is God's city, and thus God works from and speaks out of Jerusalem. Even though most of the oracles in the Book of Amos come from North Israel and perhaps some other nations, God speaks from Jerusalem.

X. The statement "the pastures of the shepherds wither
and the top of Carmel dries up"
may refer to the disasters described in Amos 4:6-11.
Mount Carmel is near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea well into North Israel. This is where Elijah made his conflict with the prophets of Jezebel--1 Kings 18. Isaiah 33:9; 35:2 mentions Carmel along with Sharon, Lebanon, and Bashan.

There is a great deal of information in these two verses. I hope this will be helpful as we work through the Book of Amos.

Share YOUR insights and responses with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


Post a Comment

<< Home