Commentary on the Book of Amos


Like many of the other prophets we actually know very little about the historical figure known as the prophet Amos. In the opening verse of the book, he says that he was a sheepherder from Tekoa, a small village about 12 miles southeast of Jerusalem, and according to the ancient Jewish historian Josephus, visible from Bethlehem.

We have some idea of when he preached and prophesied because he puts himself in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam, son of Joash, in Israel. Amos places himself as beginning his work “two years before the earthquake.”

This earthquake was so large that Zechariah writing two centuries later refers to it. Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews tells the story of the prideful King Uzziah insisting on offering incense to the Lord rather than deferring to the priests.  At that point, he wrote, “a great earthquake shook the ground, and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it; and fell upon the King’s face; insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately. And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west.”

Archaeologists state that evidence of an earthquake exists because of the type of destruction from the period and in other cities and towns in the region. Amos lays the cause of the earthquake on the sins of Judah and Israel to the north. 

He went north to Samaria where he confronted the king and the corruption that was destroying the kingdom. Amos commented on the disparity between rich and poor and chastised the king for permitting idol worship.  

Following his confrontation with Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, he is banished back to Judah where he continues his prophecies. Like Hosea, there is a promise of God’s mercy and restoration if Israel returns to the Lord.

There is a traditional site of Amos’ tomb, a cave in Tekoa, in the Occupied Territories, now near an Israeli Jewish settlement called Gush Etzion. Jerome (347–420) wrote of visiting the site around 400 CE.  ​​​​​​​