Background and Literary Considerations
- Amos 1:2-2:16 introduce us to three major speech forms in Amos: a sermon, speeches or oracles against foreign nations (OAN) and the “numerical” proverb. Delivered evidently at the sanctuary at Bethel, the sermon caught everyone’s attention because of Amos’ use of several OAN – against all the surrounding nations before leveling the guns against Israel itself.
- Given the fact that all prophetic books, except Hosea, utilize OAN (for example, Isa 13-23; Jer 46-51; Ezek 25-32, 35, 38-39; all of Nahum and Obadiah, etc.), there must be some importance to them, but they were probably only for Israel and not to be delivered to the foreign nations. Likely, they were sung on military and political occasions to rally the troops and give encouragement to Israel that God would take care of their enemies and protect them so they could prosper. Thus, they were normally positive and hopeful, in the face of foreign threats. What did Amos do with this sermon full of them? How would the crowd have responded initially to this visiting preacher from the south as their enemies were being ticked off and disposed of? What about as the sermon comes to its conclusion with a scathing speech against Israel?
- Numerical proverbs – for three ___ and for four, … – were popular in ancient Israel. For some grand examples, read Proverbs 30. Here you will capture the flavor of this speech form and their intended impact.
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Amos 1-2 (Sermon)
scorching introduction to the God whose words melt Mt. Carmel
Damascus (Syria) will burn because of what kind of crime?
Gaza (Philistia) will burn because of what kind of crime?
Tyre (Phoenicia) will burn because of what kind of crime?
Edom will burn because of what kind of crime?
Ammon will burn because of what kind of crime?
Moab will burn because of what kind of crime?
Judah (enemy to the south) will burn because of what kind of crime?
Israel (the audience) faces judgment for what kind of crimes?
- What seems to be consistent about these crimes? To what degree are they of a social nature? Should this tell us something about Amos’ preaching and what he wants to communicate? Given the devastating ironic blow at the end (blasting Israel for a series of sins of social injustice), how should we envision the role and function of a prophet? Any reason for the order of nations listed?
Contributions to Study of Amos and the Bible
- Why did the prophets spend so much of their time with OANs? Why one sixth of Isaiah? The whole of Nahum and Obadiah? In what ways would these have been encouraging?
- What would it have been like to stand at Bethel, listening to (not reading privately) Amos preach this sermon with its poetic creativity and dramatic ironic twist at the end, leveling both barrels at the Israelite worshipers? How should we relate to the destructive elements here?
Lessons for Life
- What does Amos have to tell us about how we treat other people?