Amos was a shepherd and a farmer. He was not a trained religious leader. He was not a recognized prophet, and he did not sit with the elders or the sons of the elders. He had no credentials that might make others listen to him. Amaziah, the King of Judah, challenged him, and he answered, “Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘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.’” Guzik comments, “The way God used Amos reminds us of the way He used the twelve disciples of Jesus—common, workingmen used to do great things for God.”[1] Amos, the keeper of sheep and the dresser of fig-trees, did what God told him to do and said what God told him to say. The opening verse introduces him and the time of his ministry. It says, “The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.”

It looks like Amos is speaking to the northern kingdom, Israel, with its capital in Samaria. But the Septuagint suggests it was written to Jerusalem which is the capital of the southern kingdom. There is a lot we could say on both sides of that issue, but it seems to me that if the writer goes out of his way to mention the kings at the time of both Israel in the north and Judah in the south, we can easily conclude that it was for both kingdoms. The message is relevant to both nations as well as to us in the 21st Century. He spoke during the reign of Uzziah in the southern kingdom of Judah and during the reign in the north of Jeroboam II, who was Joash’s son. Their reigns overlapped for fifteen years, from 767 BC to 753 BC. He spoke to them soon after a catastrophic event occurred that was remembered by all.

Amos’ message is dated two years before the earthquake. Zechariah, the prophet concludes his warning on the coming of the day of the Lord with the picture of a great earthquake that will split the Mount of Olives in half. Then in Zechariah 14:5, he says, “And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” Bentley helps put this in perspective for us. He writes, “On 11th September 2001 a man-made disaster changed the modern world. On that day a group of evil terrorists flew two airliners into the Twin Towers of New York. When that awful thing happened the whole world knew about it—and many people even watched these dreadful events unfolding before their eyes.” He goes on to say that the news media did a survey and found that 73% of those surveyed admitted that this event “has changed everything forever.” This must have been the effect that the earthquake had on Judah and Israel. It was etched in the memory of the people of the region.

Bentley goes on to say the earthquake “…also served as a ‘divine reinforcement of the words of judgment.’”[2] In 2004 an earthquake that reached 9 on the Richter scale brought massive tsunamis in its aftermath and killed 230 thousand people in 14 different countries in Indonesia. There have been lesser earthquakes around the world all the result of sin. Let me explain. Sin brought God’s curse upon the whole earth. Hayford explains, “All aspects of the curse are the result of man’s fall and not the design of God’s original creation order. God cannot be blamed for what mankind has allowed to invade an originally perfect order. The whole spectrum of fallen-brokenness is due to the impact of sin, which separated this planet and its inhabitants from our Creator. Harmful things are judgments, because they are a part of sin’s tragic impact on what God made.”[3]

[1] Guzik, David. 2000. Amos. David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible. Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

[2] Bentley, Michael. 2006. Opening up Amos. Opening Up Commentary. Leominster: Day One Publications.