A warning from Amos

Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: "Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying: "'Jeroboam will die by the sword, and Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.'" 12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, "Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom." 14 Amos answered Amaziah, "I was neither a prophet nor a prophet's son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go, prophesy to my people Israel.' 16 Now then, hear the word of the LORD. You say, "'Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the house of Isaac.' 17 "Therefore this is what the LORD says: "'Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will certainly go into exile, away from their native land.'” (Amos 7:10-17)

The Old Testament lesson from Amos announces the coming of the Lord’s judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel. After King Solomon’s reign, the nation of Israel was divided in two. Solomon’s son Rehoboam and David’s descendants ruled the two southern tribes called Judah, and Jeroboam ruled the 10 northern tribes of Israel. Ever since Jeroboam set up shrines on high places and offered sacrifices at his newly established temple at Bethel, Israel had worshiped false gods, lived immorally, judged corruptly and oppressed the poor. The reference to Jeroboam dying by the sword is not to him personally but to his house or line.

Amos did not go to the school of the prophets nor did he have any connection with the prophets. Amos was a shepherd and a harvester of sycamore figs. The Hebrew word for shepherd is not found anywhere else in the Old Testament and may imply that Amos also herded cattle. The sycamore tree was a large tree used for timber and also yielded fruit like figs. Amos said this is in response to Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, who claimed that he was making such predictions in order to “earn his bread” or “make a living.”

Amaziah wanted to silence Amos because he believed what Amos was saying was false and because his words went against national interest and threatened the security of the king and the kingdom. He purposely stated the perceived threat in the harshest form to provoke the king’s wrath. He hoped to persuade the prophet Amos to stop prophesying about the impending tragedy in Israel and leave the country. He suggested that in Judah he could earn a living and prophesy without interruption.

Amos prophesied  during the time of King Uzziah in Judah and King Jeroboam II of Israel from about 790—740 B.C., but chiefly during 760-750 B.C. Both kingdoms were enjoying times of great prosperity and had reached new military heights. But while Israel was politically secure, it was also spiritually smug. Israel’s prosperity increased its religious and moral corruption and God’s patience was coming to an end. God sent Amos to warn the Israelites that they would be taken into exile and removed from their land.

These verses serve as a warning to God’s people that America is not immune from God’s wrath. Though times appear to be prosperous once again, the weakening religious devotion to God and spiritual immorality are signs that God will judge this country for its wickedness. In our personal lives, let us never become complacent with paying lip service to God but repent of our lack of devotion and increase the expressions of our faith in Christ in our daily lives.


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