From about the middle of the 9th century B.C., Assyria was beginning to develop as a world power. At the end of the 9th century, it went into decline for about 60 years, it was probably during that period that Jonah had gone to Assyria.
This period of weakness gave Israel and Judah a chance to strengthen their own positions. The period of Assyrian weakness coincided with the reign of Uzziah and Jeroboam II. Both of these kings brought prosperity to their nation.
The territories were enlarged, trade increased, and material wealth was enjoyed by the rich. However, the death of Jeroboam II and the succession to the throne of Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria brought to an end this period of prosperity for Israel. Tiglath-Pileser III embarked on a policy of conquest which included Israel.
So from the time of the death of Jeroboam II, Israel very quickly collapsed until in 722 B.C. they were finally taken away into captivity by the Assyrians. It was during the period of prosperity that Amos brought his message to Israel. Although he was from Judah, his message was for the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
The affluent society in which the rich got richer and the poor get poorer. Some people were living in luxury, Amos 3:15 / Amos 6:4-7. A society characterised by social injustice, Amos 2: 6-8 / Amos 5:11-12 / Amos 8:4. There was also religious corruption, Amos 4:4-5 / Amos 8:4-6.
Amos himself is the author and his name appears seven times through his book, Amos 1:1 / Amos 7:8 / Amos 7:10 / Amos 7:11 / Amos 7:12 / Amos 7:14 / Amos 8:2.
The name Amos means ‘carrier’ or ‘burden bearer’. He was from the village of Tekoa, which was about five miles south of Nazareth. This was a rugged environment, a mountainous region.
By occupation Amos was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees, Amos 7:14, the sycamore tree bore a fig-like fruit. This fruit had to be pierced in order for it to ripen.
The message of Amos shows us that God is a God of righteousness and holiness. God’s holiness demands that He punishes Israel for her wickedness.
Amos 1:1 gives us the details of the date. In the days of Uzziah, 792-740 B.C. and Jeroboam II, 793-753 B.C. (according to Chronology of the Hebrew Kings by E.R. Thiele.
The date of the earthquake is uncertain but it must have been a significant earthquake because it is mentioned in Zechariah 14:5, the book is generally dated around 760 B.C.
The book begins with ‘the words of Amos’, who was one of the shepherds of Tekoa, he was a humble farmer, Amos 7:14.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the earthquake.
‘Some scholars believe that this earthquake was the one mentioned by Josephus who gave the account of a very great earthquake in the reign of Uzziah, an earthquake so great that it was remembered generations afterwards when Zechariah referred to it, Zechariah 14:5. That earthquake, according to Josephus, made a breach in the temple, ruined the gardens and palace of the king, and occurred simultaneously with the smiting of Uzziah with leprosy. It cannot be dated exactly.’
Amos saw a vision, in which he sees the wickedness of Israel. Joel says something similar in Joel 3:16. The Lord roars, this pictures God as a roaring lion who is about to pounce on the prey.
We see the extent of this judgment in the pastures of the shepherds drying up and the top of Carmel withers. This is a picture of mourning.
Amos now declares God’s judgment on seven of Israel’s neighbours. Each judgment begins in the same way, ‘this is what the Lord says’. So the Lord’s hand is behind this.
The next sentence in each case starts, ‘for three sins of even for four’, this signifies a full and complete number of sins. In other words, sin has multiplied, so much so that God’s patience has run out, He is going to act against them and He will not reverse the punishment.
Damascus, the capital of Syria, will not escape the judgment of God. It was about 135 miles northeast of Jerusalem. Their sin is specified, ‘she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth’. Gilead was occupied by the half-tribe of Manasseh.
The threshing sledges were used for the threshing of grain, so we see the excess cruelty of the Syrians. They weren’t threshing grain, they were threshing the people. The Syrians are being condemned for their excessive cruelty, 2 Kings 10:32-33 / 2 Samuel 12:31.
Amos says that God will send a fire upon the house of Hazael. Elisha wept as he talked to Hazael because he knew that Hazael would replace Ben Hadad, Isaiah 17:1-3 / Jeremiah 49:23-27 / Zechariah 9:1-4, as king of Syria, that is, Aram, and that, as king, he would bring harm to the Israelites, 2 Kings 8:7-15.
Hazael murdered Ben Hadad and took over as king. He himself had a son that he called Ben Hadad, 2 Kings 13:3 /2 Kings 13:24-25. The names mentioned by Amos are the representatives of the ruling house, he warns them of God’s judgment to come.
Because the gate of Damascus will be broken down, this would open up the way for the invasion. Aram was conquered by Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria during the reign of Judah. This judgement was fulfilled in 732 B.C. when the Syrians fell to the Assyrians. 2 Kings 16:9.
Gaza was one of the Philistine cities and they had continually been an enemy of the Israelites from the time they were established in the land of promise. They took captive whole communities of people and they were involved in a slave trade with Edom, 2 Chronicles 21:16 / Joel 3:4.
God’s judgment is coming to Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron, all the main cities of Philistia, all will suffer. The completeness is shown in the words, ‘till the last of the Philistines are dead’. The judgment against them is going to be harsh, they would perish as a people.
Tyre is the representative city here. It was an important trading centre and port, Ezekiel 27:12-25. There are two aspects here to remember.
1. They were guilty of the same sin as the Philistines, the slave trade with Edom.
2. They did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. Even on this, there are some differences of opinion as to the ‘brotherhood’.
In 1 Kings 5:1-12, we read of the disagreement between Hiram, king of Tyre, and Solomon, 1 Kings 9:12-13. We must note that a covenant is not specified.
Again we read the warning that God’s judgment is coming. Because Tyre lived in luxury and trusted in their trade, they will be destroyed by fire. They came under the control of the Assyrians, then the Babylonians. Finally, the city of Tyre was destroyed by Alexander the Great in 332 BC.
Edom, the descendants of Esau, is going to be punished because of their hatred and cruelty. They were continually at odds with their brother, Jacob. Judgment is coming upon the cities of Teman and Bozrah, chief cities of Edom, Genesis 36:33.
God’s judgment against them was to make the Edomites cease to exist as a nation of people.
Ammon is being condemned because of their excessive cruelty, 1 Kings 11:7. They ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead, in order to extend the borders. This practice of ripping open pregnant women is mentioned in, 2 Kings 15:16.
Dean, in his commentary, says the following, concerning the ‘walls of Rabbah’.
‘The massive walls, some of which remain in ruins, rise from the precipitous sides of the cliff. I bent over them and looked sheer down about three hundred feet into one wady, and four hundred feet into the other. I did not wonder at its having occurred to King David that the leader of a charge against these ramparts would have met with certain death, consequently assigning the position to Uriah!’
Rabbah will be consumed by fire and the king and the people will go into exile, Ezekiel 21:28-32. They too would cease to exist as a nation.