Monday

26 May 2014

"The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake." (v. 1)


Background

Who was Amos?

The first verse of the book which bear his name seem to give the answer. He "was among the shepherds of Tekoa". The only other biographical information come in Amos 7:14-15 where he describes himself as "no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees".

But what does this mean?

Whilst many take the view that he was a shepherd, verse 1 expresses this in a very strange way - "was among the shepherds", rather than "was a shepherd". It is possible that he was some sort of sheep farmer or sheep breeder who sometimes followed the flock (as herdsman (Amos 7:14) would seem to imply). Added to this "as a dresser of sycamore trees" (or as the Revised English Bible says "a fig grower"), it might be that he was a farmer with some sort of property or land to his name. This in turn may suggest that Amos was a man of substance and education.

But how much does this matter?

What is evident is that Amos is described in secular terms and is keen to stress that he is neither "a prophet, nor a prophet's son". In doing so he offers a divine insight of the outsider, proclaiming that God is both righteous and just, in an time of great prosperity and indulgence (with the inevitable corruption that goes alongside it).

(This sense of being an outsider is increased as Amos' home was Tekoa - a town about 10 miles south of Jerusalem, in the kingdom of Judah. Yet the prophecies Amos offers are directed to the northern kingdom of Israel. Although not a foreigner (the kingdom were too closely linked for him to be considered as such), he was an outsider to the Israelites.)


To Ponder

  • When have you heard the words of an outsider speak truths with a clarity that you have not seen before?
  • How important is it to know someone's background when reading or hearing what they are offering?
  • Who are the figures like Amos that you listen to today? What do they say? And how much attention do you pay to them?


Bible notes author: 
Ken Kingston

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