PROPHET AMOS

Introduction

Amos is one of the prophets God sent to Israel to warn the people because of their evil life.

Politically, the Nation of Israel had become rich. There grew classer, the rich and the poor. The rich started oppressing the poor.

Socially, there was still the rich – poor gap. The rich exploited the poor. Merchants sold bad food, expensive and used false measurer. Religiously, the Israelites had turned away from God and were worshiping false gods. Syncretism was practiced. Priests were paid and God’s prophets were rejected.

It is in this situation that Amos was called.

He is called through visions.

Amos is one of the canonical or writing prophets. The book of Amos is a temptation of oracles spoken by the prophet on different occasions. Note that after the death of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was split into two and rules by Rehoboam and Jeroboam. The northern Kingdom; called Judah was ruled by Rehoboam and was inhabited by two tribes. The southern kingdom called Israel was ruled by Jeroboam and was inhabited by 10 tribes. Amos came from Judah and prophesied in Israel.

Topic Learning Outcomes. By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  1. Analyse Prophet Amos work in Israel
  2. Describe the call of Amos
  3. Explain the teaching of Amos
  4. Relate relevance of Amos teaching to Christianity today

 

LESSON ONE: Prophet Amos work in Israel

Read Amos 1:1

Learning outcomes. After reading this lesson, you should:

  1. Describe the call of Amos
  2. Describe the socio, political and economic situation in Israel during the time of Prophet Amos
  3. Explain religious situation in Israel

 

The call of Amos (AMOS 1:1,3:8,7:10 – 15)

Prophet Amos was born in a village called Tekoa in Judah, the southern kingdom. Before his call, Amos was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. He was not a professional prophet. But God called him to be a prophet. He received his call in form of a vision around 758 BC. Amos responded to God’s call with obedience. He felt a deep compulsion to prophesy (Amos 3:8). God directed him to give his message to the people of Israel, the northern kingdom (Amos 7:15). He was asked to speak the will of Yahweh. He was also to fore tell punishment if Israelites did not repent their sins. His message was opposed, and challenged by Amaziah the priest of Bethel.

Religion. Israelites worshipped Yahweh and other gods. Idolatry was also present. This form of worship is called Syncretism . There was religious hypocrisy. Like today, there was an emphasis on external observances of religious practices and less concern for internal observances. The priests were paid for religious work. Those who couldn’t pay did not have religious ceremonies. They were offered at the expense of the poor. The prophets of God were rejected.

Social – economic – political situation. When Amos prophesied, King Jeroboam ruled Israel, the northern kingdom while King Uzziah ruled Judah. Amos was sent to prophesy to the people of Israel in the northern kingdom. He concentrated his work mainly in Bethel and Samaria – the capital city of Israel and the main centres of worship.

When Amos started his prophesy, there was peace and prosper in Israel and Judah. Both kingdoms were wealthy. However, the wealth did not reach the poor. This was because the wealth and power were in the hands of the king, his family, his officials, and wealthy merchants. As a result, Israel citizens were divided into two classes; the rich and the poor.

Unfortunately, the rich people owned big luxurious houses. They drunk wine, and used the most expensive perfumes. They acquired their wealth at the expense of the poor. They oppressed and exploited the poor. The merchants of trade for example, were dishonest in their trade businesses. They sold bad wheat to unsuspecting customers and overcharged customers by measuring with false scales. Because of the inflated prices, the poor borrowed money from the rich at high interest rates to buy basic things like food. Hence, there was massive bribery and corruption in society and law courts.

As a result the poor lacked basic necessities or needs like food, shelter, and clothing. It was at this time when God sent Amos to give prophesy to Israel.

SAQ. How did the rich oppress the poor in Israel?

 

LESSON TWO: VISIONS OF AMOS

Read AMOS 7: 1 – 9, 8:1 – 3. 9:1 – 4)

Vision is a picture we have in our mind. It is a future to come. Amos was shown many visions by God.

Lesson outcomes. After reading these verses in Amos you should be able to: –

  1. Analyse all the visions and
  2. State the message of each vision
  3. Summaries things that God condemned through Amos

 

  1. The vision of the locusts (Amos 7:1 – 3 )

Amos saw a swarm of locusts being sent by God to destroy all plants and food crops in the land. The locusts were, a sign of disaster, which God was going to send to Israel as a punishment for their disobedience. Amos cried to God to forgive the people. God heard and changed his mind.

 

  1. The vision of a great fire (Amos 7:4 – 6)

Amos saw a vision of a supernatural fire that burnt up the land. He asked God to forgive the people and God listened. The punishment was stopped.

 

  1. The vision of a crooked wall/ the plumb line (Amos 7:7 – 9)

Amos saw the Lord standing beside the wall checked it with a plumb line. The wall represented the Israelites. They stopped observing the laws of their covenant with God. God found Israelites disobeying the covenant. God promised to destroy holy places of Israel..

 

  1. The vision of a basket of ripe fruits (Amos 8:1 – 3)

In this vision, Amos saw a basket of ripe fruits. Fruits are harvested at the end of the summer. This meant that Israel was ripe for punishment for her refusal to turn to God. Amos did not pray for forgiveness. God would no longer withhold His judgment. Time for repentance was over.

 

  1. The vision of the destruction of the altar. Read Amos 9:1 – 4.

Amos saw the Lord standing by the altar. The Lord ordered the destruction of the temple. The shrines of Dan and Bethel were destroyed because they were the centres of idolatry. No one would escape punishment no matter where they hide.

 

Summary of issues that God pointed out to Israel through Prophet Amos

  1. Lack of social justice

There was lack of social justice and responsibility by the king of Israel. Social justice means dealing with other people fairly. It implies showing concern for the needs of others.

  1. Lack of responsibility. This refers to the rulers and people of Israel being accountable for their actions.

In modern life, it is doing ones duty and fulfilling ones obligation to God and others.

  1. Practice of hypocritical religion in Israel. The Israelites were insincere in their worship. They made

empty sacrifices. They worshipped idols as well as God. They profaned the name of God (Yahweh). They made idols of Baal and offered sacrifices to them. They worshipped other gods. This is syncretism and God does not allow worship of any other God but himself.

  1. God’s judgment against Israel and other nations. God promised to destroy Israel and leave a remnant of them for restoration.
  2. Oppressions of the poor by the rich

God condemned King Jeroboam rule of Israel because of the oppression of the poor, government corruption and bribery of king’s officials. These officials sold the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals (shoes) i.e. its like practising slavery. The rich trampled on the poor, despised them and placed no value on the poor. The poor gave their garments as security for loan. This was contrary to God’s commandments. The garment was supposed to be returned back to the owner before sunset. The Samaritan women were ‘fat like the well fed cows of Bashan’ led luxurious lives and were very unkind to the poor. The rich took an excessive share of the harvest from the farmers. Rulers loved luxury and were arrogant. They loved material things and showed pride in material possessions. They used expensive perfumes.

  1. Corruption and bribery. The judges were corrupt. They accepted bribes. There was a conspiracy between the rich and the judges against the poor
  2. Pride in materials possessions

The capital city of Israel was Samaria. It was built on a mountain called Bethel, which was also a place of worship. There was prosperity in the land. The Israelites prided themselves in their riches and materials possessions. Amos told them God would destroy their wealth.

  1. This is telling lies, cheating or using unjust means to get certain things. The wealthy merchants waited impatiently for the end of the holy days so that they could engage in lucrative businesses. They cheated the poor by using false scales. They sold bad wheat to the poor. They mixed good and bad grains and sold them to unsuspecting people.
  2. Sexual immorality

Sexual immorality was prevalent or common in Israel. For example a father and son would have sex with the same girl. There was temple (cultic) prostitution. There was dishonesty; sexual immorality. This sexual behaviour made the temple unholy.

  1. Drunkenness

They Israelites spent time drinking when the poor lacked the basic needs. They engaged in excessive drinking of wine. They even forced the Nazarites to drink wine. They accepted drunkenness.

  1. Profaning the name of the God

Israelites did not respect the name of God. They committed sin. They forced Nazirites to drink wine; forcing it down their throats yet they knew that Nazirites were people set aside and chosen by God to serve God. This act showed contempt of God’s commands. Nazirites were not supposed to drink wine or cut their hair. Israelites did this to show their contempt of the Lord,

  1. Hypocritical Religion and Idolatry in Israel

Hypocrisy is pretending to be something different from the person one is. It is also saying one thing, and doing another thing. For example, Israelites did a lot of religious rites according to the laws of Moses and yet majority of them were unjust, corrupt and oppressed the poor. They observed the external religious activities while their hearts were corrupt and insincere. Amos condemned Israelites for this hypocrisy, characterized by insincere worship, and mixture of religious beliefs leading to diverse practices of religion i.e. syncretism. This is a combination or mixture of Israelites’ monotheism (Yahwehism) and worship of idols and other gods especially Baal, the gods of their neighbours.

  1. Empty sacrifices

The Israelites made elaborative offerings and sacrifices. Yet God was interested only in sincere worship and free will offerings and not mere sacrifices, and tithes. ‘Take away from me the noise of your songs’ (Amos 5:21 – 23).

 

LESSON THREE. GOD’S JUDGMENT AGAINST ISRAEL AND OTHER NATIONS

Read Amos chapter 1 and 2

Learning outcomes. After studying this lesson, you should be able to:

  • State the sins committed by Israel and other nations
  • Identify how God punished Israel and other nations
  1. She committed several crimes, which were condemned by Prophet Amos. Read lesson two again before you go on and list down crimes that were pointed out by Amos. Okay, you have seen that Israel committed crimes of injustice, disobedience to God, breaking their covenant with God, idolatry, hypocrisy among other sins mentioned above. Israel was punished for these crimes. Punishments were severe. Israelites would be exiled forcibly and painfully. Earthquakes, famines, fires, oppression from foreign kings, epidemics and divine silence, would destroy their kingdom and holy places.
  2. Its capital was Damascus. Syria committed war crimes. The soldiers were excessively cruel in times of war. They murdered their prisoners brutally. For this cruelty, their punishment was to be severe. Their palaces would be destroyed by fire and the people would be exiled in Kir.
  3. Gaza and philistines. Their crime was capturing other people and selling them into slavery. For this sin, God’s punishment was destruction of their city by divine fire. It would burn down the wall of Gaza city and destroy it. God would have no more association with them.
  4. Their Crime was violation of a treaty of friendship they had made. They broke it by capturing a “whole nation into exile in the land of Edom”. The punishment was …God would send fire to destroy city of Tyre and its fortress (Amos 1:9-10).
  5. Her people were descendants of Esau. Yet Edom was ruthless to the Israelite to whom they were closely related. For this crime of ruthlessness, the punishment was … God would destroy them by fire
  6. Ammon committed crime of brutal killings. The people of Ammon attacked and killed their neighbours. They “ripped open pregnant woman in Gilead” (vs. 13). God’s punishment was destruction of the fortress and wall of the city of Rabbah by fire. “Their king and his officers will go into exile: (vs. 15).
  7. The people of Moab; their crime was mishandling the body of the king of Edom. They burned his bones to ashes. God’s punishment was destruction of the city of Kerioth by divine fire. The people, their rulers and leaders would be killed in battle.
  8. Their crimes were (1) failure to obey God’s commands and (2) despising god’s teaching.
  9. Samaria, Egypt and Ashdod. Their crime was dishonesty and “filling their mansions with things taken by crime and violence” (Amos 3:10). Women of Samaria committed the crime of drunkenness, oppressing the weak and poor. The punishment for all these countries is destruction of their land, mansions and army. But a remnant will not go to captivity, and shall not be destroyed. Amos said the remnants are like … 2 legs, or a piece of an ear of a sheep rescued from the mouth of a lion (Amos 3:12)
  1. Amaziah the priest of Bethel. He strongly opposed Amos and told him to go back and prophesy in Judah. Amos told Amaziah God sent him to Israel. His punishment for opposing God’s messenger was.. Amaziah’s wife would be a harlot, his children will die in the war, his land will be given to others, and Amaziah will die in a foreign land (Amos 7: 14-17).

Lessons to learn from God’s judgment of Israel and other nations

The Assyrians attacked Israel, occupied their land and exiled others. God is universal, God hates sin God is concerned about the welfare of his people God is merciful and spares a remnant

  1. Israel’s election (Amos 2:9 – 11, 3:1 – 2, 9:7

Election: is an act of choosing a person or group of people for a purpose or action. Israel’s election refers to God’s choice of the Israelites out of the entire human kind to be his people. God chose them to serve him, be a Holy nation and to be the light of the world. God made a covenant with the Israelites. In the covenant they agreed to live a holy life. In return, God looked after them. He led them out of Egypt to the wilderness and finally to Canaan. God chose His prophets from the Israelites and raised Nazirites.

Despite God’s favour, the Israelites rebelled and sinned against God. And although Israelites were reminded that God cared for other nations equally and are to be punished if they disobeyed God; and that they were neither superior, nor better than other nations, they disobeyed God several times.

  1. The day of the lord Amos taught that the day of the lord would be a day of severe judgment for sins. It is not a time of happiness, joy or victory. It is a day of darkness, terror, disaster, gloom, wailing, flooding, mourning, defeat, punishment, famine for food and God’s word.
  2. The Remnant and Restoration. Remnant means a small number of survivors. These are the Israelites who will remain after the entire nation is punished. They are also those who returned to Jerusalem after the exile.

Restoration is an act of reinstating things / persons to their former state or position. Amos informed the Israelites that God was still looking after them, and waiting for their repentance. The nation of Israel would not be destroyed completely. God would preserve the few righteous ones. He would raise the fallen dynasty of David. People would be restored back to their land to rebuild their cities. There was to be a great harvest and grapes shall overflow.

  1. Duty of Christians. Christians are the selected people of God. As the chosen ones, they should one, live holy lives and two, use their position to serve God and others. Three, Christians have a moral responsibility to spread God’s word, four, care for the needy and five, be the light of the world.
  2. The Day of the lord. Read Amos 5:18-20, 6:3-5, 8:7-13. in the Old Testament, the day of the Lord is the day that Yahweh would make Israel victorious against other nations. On this day the Israelite believed that God would establish his rule over and with Israel. The day of the Lord was also believed to be the day when Israel would be prosperous, would have favour with God, and the just would triumph over the wicked. In the New Testament, the day of the lord is also the Day of Judgment (Parousia). It is the day of the second coming of Christ. On that day, everyone will be judged. Christians believe that it is the day that Christ will come for His bride (the church). Those who had obeyed the laws of God shall be received by Christ and given the reward of the eternal life. On that day, God’s kingdom shall be established and Christ will reign forever.
  3. Relevance of Amos teachings to Christians today. The messages of the prophecy of Amos are relevant to Christians today. This is because God is universal. He chose Israel but still punished her for her disobedience, and sins just as He punished other nations like Syria and Gaza. The message that God hates hypocrisy is very clear. Thus Christians should truthful and practice what they preach. They must worship God in sincerity. Other messages are: Justice. Christians should be just / fair in dealing with others.

Self – Indulgence. Christians should not pursue luxury and self-indulgence when others lack the basic needs.

Bribery. Christians should condemn bribery and corruption, and uphold justice.

Punishment. Christians should bear in mind that God will punish every evil.

Wealth. When Israel became wealthy, they departed from the covenant with God. Christians should share their wealth with the needy and acquire their wealth justly

Hypocritical religion. Amos taught about hypocrisy in religion. This was for example offering empty sacrifices. Christians have to learn to be sincere, to be concerned about their internal well being and soul more than outward observances of religion.

Drunkenness. Christians should not engage in activities that can divert their faith from God. If that happens, they should learn to be Repentant.

Revision exercise

  1. List the visions that Amos saw
  2. Explain the evils that Amos condemned in his teachings
  3. Give reasons why prophet Amos condemned idol worship in Israel
  4. List evils in the society today that Amos would condemn
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