Amos was one of the shepherd’s of Tekoa, a desert region five miles south of Bethlehem in Judah. Although he was from the southern kingdom, Amos performed most of his ministry in the northern kingdom. He ministered during the reign’s of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam the II in Israel. This was a time of affluence, luxury and moral laxity in the northern kingdom.
The people’s affluence had grown because Samaria developed as a trade stop-off for caravans. The locals’ new-found riches brought a desire for more. The businessmen became impatient with the limitations placed on them by the Sabbath restrictions. The rich had become oppressive and corrupt, the courts were unjust and the religious services consisted only of idolatry. It was into this atmosphere that the prophet Amos was commissioned to go north to Samaria and warn of judgment.
In chapter 7, Amos sees the Lord standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb with a plum line in His hand. The Lord told Amos He was setting a plumb line among His people of Israel and would spare them no longer. Amos then took this message to the northern kingdom. The message was the Lord would rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, accused Amos of being a traitor and not having the people’s best interest at heart.
The northern kingdom was enjoying great prosperity and the last thing its leaders wanted to hear was this lifestyle was wrong. The fact that the poor were being oppressed and corruption had invaded business showed that their concern was for the sanctuary of their earthly king, not the sanctuary of the great king, the Lord.
Amos answers Amaziah’s charge, saying “I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs. But the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel.’ Now therefore hear the word of the Lord.”
Amos’ prophecy points to the Israelites being taken away from their land into exile. In 722 B.C.. Shalmaneser the Assyrian besieged Samaria and. after three brutal years. the northern kingdom came to an end.
David Bilderback is a Greeley resident.