Background and Literary Considerations
- Amos, the person – What can we know from the book itself and from the world of the eighth century B.C. which might help us understand this person better? With the help of a good Bible dictionary, check out the words in Amos 1:1 and Amos 7:14 with which he describes his occupation. Was he a poor country bumpkin without any benefits of education or was he a sheep-breeder and land owner who traveled widely and knew well how to write poetry?
- Amos, the prophet – The first of the so-called “writing prophets,” Amos cuts new territory. How might we construct from the book a job description for Amos, the prophet? What personality demands would it take? What does he actually do? Is this fun? Would you like Amos as your regular pastor? Why? What literary skills does Amos possess?
- Amos, the book – How is the book of Amos organized? Is there an outline we could use? Some have suggested more than one author for the book–any evidences for this? Any examples in the book of powerful poetic imagery or writing skill and finesse? Does this make any difference in the way we understand and appreciate Amos?
- Amos, the message – if you could put the message of Amos into 15 words or less, what would it be? Draw this from the book itself and not from what we hope or wish the message might be, as if we had written the book. Amos is quite capable of speaking for himself! How does this relate to the two major prophetic concerns in the Bible: worship God properly and treat your fellow human beings with respect and dignity, especially those who cannot help themselves?
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Amos 1:1 – Amos was a shepherd or sheep-breeder. What do either of these terms say about Amos the person? They may be at opposite ends of the socio-economic scale.
- Amos 7:10-17 – Amos was a herdsman and dresser of sycamore fig trees. What would these terms tell us about him? In addition, several terms show up in this passage to describe his prophetic role: seer, prophet, sons of the prophets. Amos resists some of these titles. Why? It might be worthwhile checking them out in a Bible dictionary, especially the term: sons of the prophets.
Contributions to Study of Amos and the Bible
Responsible Bible study today should ask the following questions:
- What DID these words (of Amos or whatever biblical writer) mean to the people who first heard them?
- What, then, DO they mean to us today?
- How, then, are we changed or affected by them?
We will understand and appreciate the book of Amos more if we can somehow enter the world of Amos and revisit the time of his preaching. To quote a book on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mountain, “Understanding what the words of Jesus meant to those who heard them, we may discern in them a new vividness and beauty, and may also gather for ourselves their deeper lessons” (E.G. White, Mount of Blessings, 1).
Lessons for Life
- What would it mean to take Amos seriously? To pattern our lives after his? To stand up for the underdog?