Amos: The Farmer Prophet

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Amos
The Farmer Prophet


Judgments on nations, Judgments on Israel, Visions, Future restoration.

Background: At the height of power for the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam II, approx. 760 BC, Amos preaches impending judgments
Theme: Impending judgment due to social injustice, moral decline, and spiritual apostasy
Outline: Judgments on Nations, 3 judgments on Israel, 5 Visions, Future Restoration
Key Verse: "But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel!'" (Amos 7:15)

Background
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SummaryQuestions

The Bible Knowledge Commentary(Vol I, Old Testament) is an excellent resource and is referred to as the BKC.

Background

Amos preached during the height of power for the divided kingdoms. In keeping with the first verses about Damascus, the Assyrians conquered this city of the Syrians who had dominated the region. In this vacuum of power, Judah and Israel expanded their borders and wealth.

As you read this book, note the following themes:

* The prophesies against foreign nations comes closer until finally judgement is also pronounced on Judah and Israel, who would have cheered the prophesies against their enemies. Incidentally, some of those nations were punished by the Babylonians, the same as Judah.

* Several specific sins and types of moral decline are mentioned, including oppression of the poor, sexual immorality, idolatry, and the mixture of sin while holding to a form of godliness. Do these characterize our modern and prosperous society?

* Three doxologies or words of glory occur which describe the LORD in majestic terms. Although appropriate to the context of Amos, they are also timeless descriptions of the LORD we serve.

* When told to earn his living by preaching elsewhere, Amos declares himself to be a herdsman and keeper of trees. It is a powerful statement of a layman called by the LORD.

I. Introduction (1:1-2)

1:1 This earthquake was possibly in 760 BC, and not a later one in the year of Uzziah's death (when Isaiah was called, Isa 6).

II. Roar of Judgment (1:3-2:16)

1:3 Assyria conquered Damascus, capital of Syria.

1:6-8 Ashkelon was conquered by the Assyrians in 734 and 701 (after conquering Samaria), and Gaza and Ashdod were conquered by Babylon around the time of Jerusalem's fall.

1:9-10 Tyre would be dominated by Assyria, besieged by Babylon, and finally conquered by Alexander the Great (332 BC).

1:10 This historical note referring to 2000 of the people of Tyre being crucified reminds us that both the Greeks and Romans used this form of punishment against cities that refused to capitulate in battle and also against rebels.

1:11-12 Edom had already rebelled against Judah (2 Kings 8:20-22) by this time. They would also betray the Jews escaping from the fall of Jerusalem during the conquest by Babylon centuries later. They would be conquered by Assyria in 732, and again in Roman times.

1:13-15 This nation was also conquered by Nebuchadnezzar.

2:1 The specific crime of burning the bones was the deliberate desecration of a corpse. This verse does not necessarily condemn the practice of an honorable cremation.

2:4-5 The specific sin of Judah was idolatry, but the sins of Israel included injustice, oppression of the poor, immorality, idolatry, and the forbidding of true prophesy ("don't preach to me").

III. Reasons for Judgment (3-6)

3:2 The call to a special position was also a call to a responsibility. Because of Israel's special relation to the LORD, she would be judged for ALL of her sins.

3:7 A revealing verse about the institution of the prophets and their purpose. "Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets."

3:12 A shepherd would be able to safely retrieve a bone or part of an ear after the wild animal had gorged itself on the main body of the sheep and either leaves or is no longer interested in fighting. This would be evidence of the dead animal killed (proving the shepherd did not sell it or steal it).

3:13-15 In a similar manner, in medieval times church buildings were considered a place of sanctuary or safety for fugitives. This is the custom behind The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which Quasimodo proclaims sanctuary for Esmeralda.

4:1 The oppression of the poor is coupled with a drunken and indulgent lifestyle.

4:4 Sin is mixed with the outward observance of religion.

4:6 The LORD brought hardships on His people as discipline, to bring them to repentance.

4:13 The first of three doxologies. "He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals his thoughts to man, he who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth-- the LORD God Almighty is his name." (NIV)

5:4 The LORD, even when sending words of judgement, calls Israel to repent and live.

5:8-9 The second of three doxologies. "(he who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns blackness into dawn and darkens day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land-- the LORD is his name-- he flashes destruction on the stronghold and brings the fortified city to ruin)" (NIV).

5:18-19 The Israelites, just like many Christians, looked forward to "the Day of the LORD". They looked for a glorious kingdom and blessing for God's people, without considering that the faithless in Israel would face judgement in that day along with the sinners of other nations.

6:1 These prophesies came in a time of security and complacency.

IV. Results of Judgment (7:1-9:10)

7:1-9 The visions of locust and fire represent judgements that God set aside upon Amos' prayer. The plumb line is used by a builder to build a straight wall. Presumably, a leaning wall would be torn down. The plumb line would be God's written and spoken word, including the Torah or record of the covenant written by Moses.

7:10-13 An additional reason for the founding of state sanctuaries in the Northern Kingdom was to prevent the men of Israel from taking the pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. They would gather at the new sanctuaries instead, in direct violation of the LORD's command to assemble in Jerusalem.

7:12 The sinners of Israel claimed that Amos only preached for his own gain, to make a living.

7:14-15 Amos was not a professional prophet by either training or birth. God chose him, as He chooses men today, and sent him to proclaim His word. One application of these verses may be made to the selection of ministers today. Although training in ministry and the careful use of Scripture is of great importance, the primary consideration should be evidence that the LORD has chosen a man in this capacity. Along with checklists of qualifications (including those in Timothy and Titus), much prayer is needed for spiritual discernment in making such a selection. Another application is that the goal of ministry should not be career advancement, status, or wealth. The goal is service to our LORD and His people. Conversely, the congregation should provide sufficiently for the ministers so that they may be free from excessive concern about making ends meet. A third application is that we do not need to be professional clergy to serve the LORD effectively. Every member of the Body of Christ has been given a spiritual gift and God has prepared good works for him to walk in. It is the job of the elder/pastors to prepare the members to do the work of the ministry. The whole congregation is to minister.

8:5-6 This is a reference to dishonest merchants, who would use one set of weights when buying and another when selling, instead of measuring both the same.

8:9 This may be an end time event (very literal interpretation) or simply a figure for conquest and exile. In favor of a figure is the fact that Israel, as the Northern Kingdom, comprised the 'lost tribes' and is not identifiable today. This is unlike the Southern Kingdom of Judah for which Jews were named during their later exile to Babylon.

9:1 This is the Northern Kingdom of Israel, as seen by the reference to Carmel. The reference to an altar would either be the altar at Bethel (not the one at Jerusalem in the Southern Kingdom) or the nation of Israel itself.

9:5-6 The third and final doxology. "The Lord, the LORD Almighty, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn-- the whole land rises like the Nile, then sinks like the river of Egypt-- he who builds his lofty palace in the heavens and sets its foundation on the earth, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out over the face of the land-- the LORD is his name." (NIV)

9:7 Those of Israel who are faithless, who desert the LORD, will be treated as pagans by the LORD.

V. Restoration after Judgment (9:11-15)

9:9-12 Exile is like a sieve. Dust will be shaken through the holes, but good grain will be kept. The faithless will be lost in exile and assimilated, but the faithful remnant will survive with their identity as God's people. This refers not only to the exile of Babylon and the restorations in Ezra's day, but also to the exile of Jews in present times and a present or future restoration.

9:13-15 '"The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. 14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. 15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them," says the LORD your God.' (NIV)

Great prosperity, with a harvest so immense that it cannot be taken in before it is time to plant the next crop. The return from exile was NOT fulfilled in the time of Ezra, because they would "never again be uprooted from the land". This was not true of the return in Ezra's day, therefore a future restoration of Israel is in view. Although Christians may (or may not) share in this time of blessing, there will be Jews restored in that day.

Summary:

The layman, Amos, received a call from the LORD to prophesy against Israel in a time of great prosperity and security. In these times of wealth, the poor were oppressed, the LORD forgotten, and moral principles deserted. Interspersed with judgement are three doxologies describing the power and glory of the LORD. The book ends with a promise of a surviving remnant which will be replanted in the land forever.

Questions:

1. What was the sin of Judah? What were the sins of Israel?

2. How would Israel have reacted to the prophesies against their enemies?

3. How did Amos describe the LORD in his doxologies?

4. How did Amos become a prophet?


Please send comments or suggestions to ron@iStudyBible.com
Updated April 2010

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