The purpose of this paper is to provide the reader with a background for the book of Amos. The author, audience, date, place of writing, occasion and purpose, and the literary genre of the book of Amos will be explored. The study is conducted using internal evidence from the book of Amos and other respected external sources.
Verse one of the book of Amos may yield confusion concerning the author – “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake…” (Amos 1:1). Looking at this verse, the reader’s first thought is that someone other than Amos himself wrote or at least compiled the material in this book. If there was an editor other than Amos himself, it is possible that he was a companion of Amos (Pfeiffer 62). Regardless, the material itself comes from Amos whether it was compiled or not.
Very little is known about Amos. He is not mentioned in any other book of the Bible (Allen 81). It is unknown when he was born, how old he was when God called him, how long he preached, how many years he lived, or how he died. Jewish tradition alleges that Amos died as a martyr. Some suggest that Uzziah killed him; others suggest Amaziah, the priest who opposed him at Bethel. It is unknown if any of these are true (Yates 7).
All the information about him comes from this one little book. His name means “burdened” or “burden-bearer” (Allen 81). He lived in Tekoa, a village in Judah about 11 miles south of Jerusalem and 18 miles west of the Dead Sea (Allen 81). Amos refers to himself as a shepherd and care keeper of sycamore-fig trees (Amos 1:1; 7:14).
Amos was probably more of a sheep breeder rather than just a simple shepherd. This would suggest that Amos was not among the poor but, rather, among people of some means. The reader must abandon any thinking that Amos was a poor, country shepherd (New 135).
As Amos dressed sycamore-fig trees, he would have traveled enough to experience different lifestyles. The sycamore figs grew only in lowlands and coastal plains where the frost could not kill them. Since Amos lived in Tekoa, he would have had to travel to Israel frequently (Mills 25).
Amos also denounced the social and religious corruption and warned of God’s coming judgment (Alexander 444). He was not a social reformer but a prophet obediently announcing the words of the LORD (Jensen 196). He was mandated to go prophesy to Israel (Amos 7:15). He makes the point that he was not a professional paid prophet (Amos 7:14). Amos knew that there was much discontentment in Israel, and he could see the moral decay of God’s people (Yates 11).
According to Amos 1:1, the audience was the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This was confirmed by the encounter with Amaziah (Amos 7:10–17). Judah was also included among the nations under God’s judgment – likely included in Amos’ reference to the “entire family” (Amos 3:1-2).
In Amos’ time, two classes of people had...