The material in Amos, for the most part, was originally delivered orally and later written down and preserved by an ongoing group of disciples. Narratives about prophets, such as Elijah, present prophets as speakers rather than as writers. Thus there is every reason to assume the same for Amos. The written text of Amos, however, is far more than a random collection of originally oral sayings. It exhibits a definite structure.
Section I of the book (see outline below) begins with a superscription (1:1) that provides information about Amos's origin, his vocation, and the date of his prophetic activity. Prophetic books often begin with superscriptions (Isa 1:1; Jer 1:1-3; Hos 1:1; Joel 1:1; Am 1:1; Mic 1:1; Na 1:1; Hab 1:1; Zep 1:1; Mal 1:1). Then comes a report of Yahweh's roaring from Zion (1:2).
The main body of the book (section II) consists of A (1:3-4:13), in which Israel is often called “people of Israel” (2:11; 3:1, 12; 4:5); and B (5:1-9:6), which uses “house of Israel” more consistently than any other name (5:1, 4, 25; 6:14). Parts A and B are characterized by “repetitional compositions” (1:3-2:16 for A; 7:1-9:4 for B). Each of these compositions exhibits considerable repetition in form and language: 1:3-2:16 (A) contains a series of similarly worded oracles against various nations, e.g., “for three crimes of X and for four I will not cause it to return” (see 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6) and “I will send a fire” (1:4, 7, 10, 12; 2:2, 5; cf. 1:14). The vision reports in part B (7:1-9:4) also exhibit a series of similarly worded units, e.g., “This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me” (see 7:1, 4, 7; 8:1); “I said, ‘forgive/cease, how can Jacob stand’” (see 7:2, 5); and “What do you see?” (7:8; 8:2).
Not only are repetitional compositions shared by both A and B, but also both contain compositions introduced by “Hear this word” (3:1; 5:1). Neither of these compositions (3:1-4:12 for A; 5:1-6:14 for B) exhibits the structural and linguistic homogeneity of the repetitional compositions. Finally, A and B close with hymnlike doxologies that praise Yahweh for his power as Creator (4:13; 9:5-6).
The repetitional compositions are placed in reversed sequence in A and B. In A the repetitional composition comes first (II.A.1.a), while in B it appears in second place II.B.1.b). A similar reversal may be observed for the compositions beginning with “Hear this word.” In B it comes first (II.B.1.a), but in A it comes second (II.A.1.b).
The postscript (section III [9:7-15]) moves from announcement of judgment (v. 8a) to qualification of the scope of the judgment (vv. 8b-10) to outright announcement of salvation (vv. 11-15). And the spotlight has shifted from Israel to Judah. Exactly what this signifies remains to be seen, but for now we observe the book closing as it began, with focus on Jerusalem and Judah in sections I and III and on Israel in section II.
Starting your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus is easy. You’re already logged in with your Bible Gateway account. The next step is to enter your payment information. Your credit card won’t be charged until the trial period is over. You can cancel anytime during the trial period.
Click the button below to continue.
You’ve already claimed your free trial of Bible Gateway Plus. To subscribe at our regular subscription rate of $3.99/month, click the button below.
It looks like you’re already subscribed to Bible Gateway Plus! To manage your subscription, visit your Bible Gateway account settings.
Now that you've created a Bible Gateway account, upgrade to Bible Gateway Plus, the ultimate online Bible reading & study experience!
Bible Gateway Plus equips you to answer the toughest questions about faith, God, and the Bible. There's no software to install; it's all integrated seamlessly into your Bible Gateway experience. Try it free for 30 days!
Three easy steps to start your free trial subscription to Bible Gateway Plus.