The only place the name Amos appears in the Old Testament is in this book. The name means “burden” or “burden-bearer.” He lived up to the meaning of his name by bearing up under the burden of declaring judgment to rebellious Israel.
Amos wrote this book at a time of economic growth and prosperity. Business was booming and boundaries were bulging, but below the surface, greed and injustice were festering.
This book gives us God’s perspective on some social issues. It tells us how God feels when the wealthy and the powerful exploit the poor and the defenseless. Amos spoke passionately about God’s concern for the poor and he urged a returning to the Lord.
The leadership and military conquests of Jeroboam II had enabled Israel to flourish. But while everything seemed fine on the surface, the moral fiber of the nation was disintegrating.
This message was for the people of Israel, the northern kingdom. Amos was from Judah, the southern kingdom, and he challenged their materialism and low morality that they learned from their pagan neighbors. His prophecy was God’s last appeal to Israel, warning them to repent before it was too late.
Amos came from the rural area of Tekoa in Judah, twelve miles south of Jerusalem, where he tended a special breed of small sheep that produced wool of excellent quality.
He prophesied “in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel” (1:1). He anticipated the 722 B.C. Assyrian captivity of Israel (7:11).
The basic theme of the book is the coming judgment of Israel because of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of His covenant people. God graciously sent Amos as a reformer to warn the people of their fate if they refused to repent. But they rejected his plea, and the course of judgment could not be altered.
A clear anticipation of Christ is found at the end of the book. He has all authority to judge (1:1-9:10), but He will also restore His people (9:11-15).
A suggested outline for the book consists of four divisions: