Amos [Ā'mos]—burden-bearer or one with a burden.
1. This prophet of “judgment,”; which is the key word of the book he wrote, was a citizen of Tekoa, west of the Dead Sea (Amos 1:1; 7:8-16; 8:2).
Although he was one of the oldest of the prophets, we know little about Amos save what he himself tells us. He does not appear to have belonged to any rank or influence. The opposite is the case, seeing he styles himself a herdsman (Amos 7:14). He was no “professional prophet, speaking for a living.” Amos did not belong to the order of the prophets, nor had he been educated in the school of the prophets. The prophetic office was thrust upon him (Amos 7:14, 15). When the call came he exchanged the life of a shepherd and cultivator of sycamore trees for that of a prophet.
The desert life of Amos exercised great formative influences upon him. With time to think and pray, he was qualified to form clear judgments. The art of the seer is not cultivated in crowds.
Contemporary with Hosea, Amos prophesied in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah and in the time of Jeroboam. Most of the prophets confined their message in the main to Israel, but to Amos, Israel was only one of the nations. He took in a whole range of various nationalities and indicted them for their sins and proclaimed the judgment of God alike upon nations and individuals.
Amos pronounced judgment upon the oppression of the poor, commercial dishonesty, selfish indulgence and idolatrous worship, and was the first prophet to predict the captivity of Israel, and to announce God’s rejection of His chosen people. The great lessons of the Book of Amos are:
I. Sin is sin in all its blackness, against the bright background of God’s grace.
II. Mere ritual is not pleasing to God. The very worship of Israel was sin (Amos 4:4, 5; 5:21-24). Israel thought of God as a vain monarch, pleased with gifts and empty phrases. Amos had nothing but utter contempt for forms of religion that did not disturb one’s conscience or change one’s life.
III. The greatest perils, both of nations and men, lie not in poverty, but in prosperity.
IV. God’s dealings with men are for their discipline, not their doom. Discipline, however, if unheeded, only hastens doom and determines destiny. Thus Amos is rightly called “the prophet of divine law.”
2. An ancestor of Joseph, husband of Mary, our Lord’s mother (Luke 3:25).