|« Amorites||Amos||Amphilochius, Saint »|
The third of the minor prophets, originally a herdsman and farmer of Tekoa (a town twelve miles s.s.e. of Jerusalem), and destitute of a prophetical education (Amos i. 1, vii. 12, 14-15). The Fathers wrongly identified him witht he father of Isaiah (Amoz), because his name in the Septuagint is identical with that of Isaiah’s father. He prophesied in the Northern Kingdom during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah (777-736 B.C.) and Jeroboam II. in Israel (781-741), when Israel was at the very height of its splendor (i. 1, vii. 10-11). His prophecies were apparently all given in one year, specified as “two years before the earthquake,” a momentous but undatable event (i. 1; cf. Zech. xiv. 5; Josephus, Ant., IX. x. 4, gives a fabulous story). The place was Beth-el, the greatest sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom. His plain speaking led to the charge of conspiracy, and he was compelled to return to Judah (Amos vii. 10-12). Nothing more is known of him.
The Book of Amos.
The Book of Amos, after the opening verse, is divisible into three parts: (1) Chaps. i. 2–ii. 16, describing the judgments of God upon Damascus (i. 3-5), Philistia (i. 6-8), Tyre (i. 9-10), Edom (i. 11-12), Ammon (i. 13-15), Moab (ii. 1-3), Judah (ii. 4-5), and Israel (ii. 6-16). (2) Chaps. iii.–vi., a series of discourses against the Northern Kingdom threatening punishment and judgment. The subdivision of this section is a matter of dispute. The prophet sets forth in his usual rhetorical manner the moral and religious degeneracy of the people. (3) Chaps. vii.–ix., beginning with three successive threatening visions (vii. 1-3, 4-6, 7-9). These were made the basis of the complaint against Amos of Amaziah, high priest at Beth-el, to the king Jeroboam II., and hence resulted his banishment (vii. 10-13). Before he goes, however, he insists upon the reality of his call (vii. 14-15), and foretells the sad fall of the high priest and his family (vii.16-17). Chaps. vii., viii., and ix. contain two visions and their explanations. The first is of threatening content, but the second (ix. 1-7) adds a promise of salvation for a faithful remnant and of the universal sway of religion and prosperity (ix. 8-15). The book gives only an abstract of the prophet’s complete discourses.
The style of Amos is rhetorical. His figures, analogies, and similes are excellent, though at times surprising (cf. iii. 3-6; iv. 2; v. 7; xiii. 11-14). The 158 notion that Amos borrows his similes chiefly from his early mode of life, and thus betrays his extraction, is generally accepted; but it is hardly well founded when the variety of them is observed (cf. ii. 13; iii. 4, 5, 8, 12; vi. 12; viii. 8; ix. 5; and the visions of vii. 1 and viii. 1). On the other hand, the Hebrew of Amos is abnormal, but it is uncertain how much belongs to the author himself. The integrity and genuineness of the book are generally acknowledged; only i. 9-11; ii. 4, 5; iii. 14b; iv. 13; v. 8, 9; viii. 6, 8, 11, 12; ix. 5, 6, 8-15, partly on account of the contents, partly on account of the connection, have been regarded as glosses by modern critics (Duhm, Stade, Giesebrecht, Cornill, Schwally, Smend, Wellhausen).
The modern school of Biblical scholars regard the Book of Amos as the oldest written testimony to that activity of the prophets of the eighth century B.C. whereby the religion of Israel was given a more ethical and spiritual character. It is therefore important to note its contents and presuppositions. Two evils in the moral and religious conditions of the Northern Kingdom receive the prophet’s severe condemnation, viz., the reprehensible conduct of the high and mighty (ii. 6-7a; iii. 10; iv. 1; v. 7, 11-12; viii. 4-6), and the perverted religious forms and observances (ii. 7b-8; v. 26; viii. 14). The latter, with their idolatrous representations of the deity, were specially offensive to a pious Judean, who believed that Yahweh dwelt on Zion and not in visible form. Reliance upon the offerings, gifts, feasts, and processions of Beth-el and the other sanctuaries as a means of securing Yahweh’s favor was a terrible mistake, which could only bring the most direful consequences (iv. 4-13; v. 4-6, 21-24; ix. 1-8). The true way to serve Yahweh was to become like him and to practise goodness and righteousness (v. 14, 24). The prophet makes no claim to new ideas concerning Yahweh or his relations to the world in general and to Israel in particular. What he has to say upon these topics is all assumed as already known to the pious. It is the idolatrous worship, with its attendant evils, which he reprobates and wishes to correct.
Bibliography: Besides the works mentioned in the article Minor Prophets, consult: W. R. Harper, Amos and Hosea, in International Critical Commentary, New York, 1905 (gives a full list of the important literature, clxxviii-clxxxix.); G. Baur, Der Prophet Amos erklärt, Giessen, 1847; J. H. Gunning, De godspraken van Amos, Leyden, 1885; K. Hartung, Der Prophet Amos nach dem Grundtexte erklärt, in Biblische Studien, iii., Freiburg, 1898; H. G. Mitchell, Amos, an Easy in Exegesis, Boston, 1893, 1900; J. J. P. Valeton, Amos en Hosea, Nijmwegen, 1894 (Germ. transl., Giessen, 1898, an excellent work); S. R. Driver, Joel and Amos, in Cambridge Bible, 1897; S. Oettli, Amos und Hosea, zwei Zeugen gegen die Anwendung der Evolutionstheorie auf die Religion Israels, in Beiträge zur Förderung Christlichen Theologie, v. 4, Gütersloh, 1901.
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