The Book of Amos is the third of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the second in the Greek Septuagint tradition.[1] According to the Bible, Amos was an older contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah,[2] and was active c. 750 BC during the reign of Jeroboam II[2] (788–747 BC) of Samaria (Northern Israel),[3] while Uzziah was King of Judah. Amos is said to have lived in the kingdom of Judah but preached in the northern Kingdom of Israel[2] with themes of social justice, God's omnipotence, and divine judgment became staples of prophecy.[2] In recent years, scholars have grown more skeptical of The Book of Amos’ presentation of Amos’ biography and background.[4] It is known for its distinct “sinister tone and violent portrayal of God.”[5]


Quote from Amos on an Israeli stamp: "And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them."
Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 846: Amos 2 (LXX)

According to Michael D. Coogan, the Book of Amos can be structured as follows:[6]


The book opens with a historical note about the prophet, then a short oracle announcing Yahweh's judgment (repeated in the Book of Joel).[7] The prophet denounces the crimes committed by the gentile (non-Jewish) nations, and tells Israel that even they have sinned and are guilty of the same crimes, and reports five symbolic visions prophesying the destruction of Israel.[8] Included in this, with no apparent order, are an oracle on the nature of prophecy, snippets of hymns, oracles of woe, a third-person prose narrative concerning the prophet, and an oracle promising restoration of the House of David, which had not yet fallen in the lifetime of Amos.[7]


Amos prophesied during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah; this places him in the first half of the 8th century BC. According to the book's superscription (Amos 1:1) he was from Tekoa, a town in Judah south of Jerusalem, but his prophetic mission was in the northern kingdom. He is called a "shepherd" and a "dresser of sycamore trees", but the book's literary qualities suggest a man of education rather than a poor farmer.[9]

Scholars have long recognized that Amos utilized an ancient hymn within his prophecy, verses of which are found at 4:13, 5:8–9, 8:8, and 9:5–6.[10] This hymn is best understood as praising Yahweh for his judgment, demonstrated in his destructive power, rather than praise for creation.[11] Scholarship has also identified 'Sumerian City Lament' (SCL) motifs within Amos and particularly the hymn, offering the possibility that Amos used SCL as a literary template for his prophecy of Jerusalem's destruction.[12] The Amos hymn has also been discussed in terms of a 'covenant curse' which was used to warn Israel of the consequences of breaking the covenant, and in particular a 'Flood covenant-curse' motif, first identified by D.R. Hillers.[13] Recent scholarship has shown Amos's hymn is an ancient narrative text, has identified a new verse at 7.4; and has compared the hymn to the Genesis Flood account and Job 9:5–10.[14]


The central idea of the book of Amos is that God puts his people on the same level as the surrounding nations – God expects the same purity of them all. As it is with all nations that rise up against the kingdom of God, even Israel and Judah will not be exempt from the judgment of God because of their idolatry and unjust ways. The nation that represents Yahweh must be made pure of anything or anyone that profanes the name of God; his name must be exalted.

Amos is the first prophet to use the term "the Day of the Lord".[15] This phrase becomes important within future prophetic and apocalyptic literature. For the people of Israel "The Day of the Lord" is the day when God will fight against his and their enemies, and it will be a day of victory for Israel. However, Amos and other prophets include Israel as an enemy of God, as Israel is guilty of injustice toward the innocent, poor, and young women.[16] To Amos "The Day of the Lord" will be a day of doom.

Other major ideas proposed in the book of Amos include justice and concern for the disadvantaged, and that Yahweh is God of all nations (not just Israel), and is likewise the judge of all nations, and is also a God of moral righteousness. Also that Yahweh created all people, and the idea that Israel's covenant with God did not exempt them from accountability for sin; as well as that God elected and liberated Israel so that he would be known throughout the world. And that if God destroys the unjust, a remnant will remain, and that God is free to judge whether to redeem Israel.


  1. ^ Sweeney 2000, p. unpaginated.
  2. ^ a b c d Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  3. ^ Finkelstein, Israel. The Forgotten Kingdom: The Archaeology and History of Ancient Israel. Atlanta: SBL, 2013. Ancient Near East Monographs, Number 5. p. 4.
  4. ^ Couey, J. Blake. The Oxford Handbook of the Minor Prophets. p. 424–436. 2021. “In more recent scholarship, one finds greater skepticism about historical reconstructions of Amos’s prophetic career. The superscription and Amaziah narrative are increasingly viewed as late, which raises questions about their historical validity (Coggins 2000 72, 142–143; Eidevall 2017, 3–7). The vision reports may also belong to later stages of the book’s development (Becker 2001; Eidevall 2017, 191–193). Doubts about the existence of a united monarchy under King David undermine arguments that Amos advocated for a reunified Davidic kingdom (Davies 2009, 60; Radine 2010, 4). These questions reflect larger scholarly trends, in which prophetic books are increasingly viewed as products of elite scribes. Even if they reflect historical prophetic activity, one cannot uncritically equate the prophet with the author. There may in fact have been no “writing prophets,” in which case Amos loses one source of his/its traditional prestige as the first of this group. Further complicating the matter, the portrait of prophets like Amos as proclaimers of judgment contrasts starkly with surviving records of prophetic activity from other ancient Near Eastern cultures, in which prophets consistently support the state (Kratz 2003)”
  5. ^ Noted in the conclusion of Couey, J. Blake. The Oxford Handbook of the Minor Prophets. p. 424–436. 2021.
  6. ^ Coogan, Michael (2009). A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. p. 256.
  7. ^ a b Coogan 2008, p. 84.
  8. ^ O'Brien 1990, pp. 26–27.
  9. ^ Carroll & Daniel 2003, p. 690.
  10. ^ H.W. Wolff, Joel und Amos (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 215.
  11. ^ P. Carny, ‘Doxologies: A Scientific Myth’, Hebrew Studies 18 (1977), pp. 149–59 (157)
  12. ^ J. Radine, The Book of Amos in Emergent Judah (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010)
  13. ^ D.R. Hillers, ‘Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets’ (unpublished PhD dissertation); Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1964
  14. ^ G. Cox, "The ‘Hymn’ of Amos: An Ancient Flood Narrative." Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Vol 38.1 (2013): pp. 81–108
  15. ^ Coogan, M., A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009). p. 260
  16. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2009. pp. 258–59.


Online translations of Book of Amos:

Book of Amos Minor prophets Preceded byJoel Hebrew Bible Succeeded byObadiah ChristianOld Testament