Welcome to our Bible Study Series on the Minor Prophets.
This is – Amos, Justice on Social Injustice
Click on the link above for the study session. Find the notes below.
Amos, Justice on Social Injustice:
- We’re back in the Northern Kingdom. Last week we learned that Hosea & Joel served around the same time but in different kingdoms. Hosea was a prophet in the North with the message of loyal love, and Joel in the South with the message on the Day of the Lord.
- Amos complements the first two books by emphasizing the devastating social consequences of corrupt worship. This is probably why these Minor Prophets appears in the order they do. However, we turn our attention to the Lord’s Justice on the various injustices of Israel and the surrounding nations.
1. Amos’ Setting:
- Amos was not a “professional” prophet (7:14) like the more numerous institutional prophets of his day. From his rustic background at Tekoa, six miles south of Bethlehem in the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Amos was called by God to go to the Northern Kingdom to be His spokesman (7:15).
- The name “Amos” is derived from the Hebrew terms meaning “lift a burden.” Thus, the name means “Burden” or “Burden-bearer.” And Amos lived up to the meaning of his name by bearing up under his divinely given burden of declaring judgment to rebellious Israel.
- Now Amos was a common man whose occupation was herding sheep, with supplementary income from tending sycamore fruit (figs) (7:14). Amos also lived a disciplined life, and his knowledge of the wilderness often surfaces in his messages (cf. 3:4-5, 12, 5:8,19; 9:9). Amos was from the country, but he was well educated in the Scriptures.
- So God gripped him and divinely commissioned to bring his prophetic burden to Israel (3:8; 7:15). Amos’ keen sense of morality and justice is obvious, and his objective judgement of Israel’s spiritual condition was not well received, especially since he was from Judah.
- His moral feelings were shocked by the perversions of Israel’s worship that he observed at Bethel, one of the great national shrines. Bethel was the residence of the king of Israel and a centre of idolatry. His frontal attack on the greed, injustice, and self-righteousness of the people of the Northern Kingdom made his words unpopular.
- Amos appears on the scene, according to 1:1, during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah (767–739 B.C.), and Jeroboam, king of Israel (782–753 B.C.), two years before the a great earthquake, (1:1) thus
leaving a possible timeframe from 767 to 753 B.C.
- The prophecy of 7:9–11 seems to indicate a time late in the reign of Jeroboam and a probable date of writing is 760–753 B.C. Now over two hundred years later, Zechariah referred to this earthquake in Uzziah’s reign (14:5).
- Be mindful, that at this time, Israel was really experiencing a time of prosperity. King Uzziah reigned over a prosperous and militarily successful Judah. And in the north, king Jeroboam II ruled Israel in a time of economic and military prosperity.
- But during these years, Assyria, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt were relatively weak. Amos anticipates the 722 B.C. Assyrian captivity of Israel (7:11) and indicates that at the time of writing, Jeroboam II was not yet dead. Thus, the people of Israel found it hard to imagine
the coming disaster predicted by Amos—a disaster that occurred barely three decades later. Astronomical calculations indicate that a solar eclipse took place in Israel on June 15, 763 B.C. This event was probably fresh in the minds of Amos’ hearers.
2. Amos’ Purpose:
- The Prophecies against the nations obviously had grasping effect, whose sum was the absolutely inescapable judgment of Israel, but it poses a problem for the interpreter. What was the need to speak of or to nations that could not hear and consequently could not respond to the prophet’s warning or word of judgment, whether in repentance of self-defence?
- There seems to have been no external purpose involved, that is, Amos had no motive that might benefit the nations outside of Israel. His purpose was aimed solely at Israel. The foreign nations are illustrations of Yahweh’s irrevocable judgment. In fact, the oracles do not contain a direct address to the nations but speak of them in the third person and may constitute a different aspect of the problem.
- Now the book of Amos can divided into four sections:
- 1) eight prophecies of judgement (chs. 1-2)
- 2) three sermons on Israel’s sin (chs. 3–6)
- 3) five visions of punishment (7:1–9:10)
- 4) five promises on the restoration of Israel (9:11–15)
3. Amos’ Message:
- The book of Amos is basically a message of judgment. Amos begins with a series of accusations against the seven neighbours of Israel, including Judah, and upon Israel herself (chs. 1 and 2). Each foreign nation is to be punished for specific offenses either against Israel
or some other nation.
- This judgment on the nations teaches that God is a universal monarch
and all nations must answer to Him for their mistreatment of other nations and peoples. The preaching of Amos stresses the righteousness and justice of God and His requirement that righteousness and justice characterize the human relationships of His people as well.
- The rich are condemned because of their oppression of the poor and for their religious hypocrisy. Religion is more than observing feast days and holding sacred assemblies; true religion demands righteous living, and the way people treat their neighbours reveals their relationship with God. But Amos ends the book on a note of consolation. After exile and judgment, God will restore His people to the land and bless them.
4. The Book’s Application:
- So the message is clear: There is no greater authority that can supersede that of the Almighty God. God stands above all first in judgement and finally in grace. The power is God’s. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the world – Amos 5: 8-9.
- God has taken the initiative in the covenantal relationship that was fundamental to Israel’s welfare – “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth.” – 3: 2. It was God who brought Israel out of Egypt – 3:2, 2: 10a, 9: 7, He led them through the wilderness for forty years – 2: 10b, destroyed the awesome Amorites before them – 2: 9, and raised up prophets and Nazirites among them – 2: 11.
- Now in addition, Amos introduced the Day of the Lord – 5: 18-20 after announcing the doom of Israel. But then in 9: 11-15 there is the message of hope and life. It has always been and it will always be part of God’s dealing with His people. He never leaves a vacuum. When He punishes, He also restores. He is the Righteous God but also the God of Love and compassion.
- This introduces the clearest anticipation of Christ in Amos. Christ has all authority to judge 1:1-9: 10, but He will also restore His people – 9:11-15.
- Therefore, let’s end with the major teachings in this book:
- God judges us for the way we treat others
- Positions of privilege bring greater responsibility
- External practice of religion without practical righteousness is worthless
- Social injustice is sin
- God’s holiness demands that sin be punished
- Forgetting God in times of prosperity is sin
- Knowing the right thing to do and not doing it is sin
- It is easy to become spiritually lazy when things are going well
- Severe sin may cause the famine of the Word of God