Many people think Amos was a poor, uneducated farmer before he became a prophet. But a closer look at his life uncovers some stunning insights into this man’s abilities.
There are many misconceptions about Amos that need to be clarified.
“The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake” (Amos 1:1). The word herdmen (nôqêd in Hebrew) is defined as “a cattle-owner, owner of flocks” (see Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).
The word herdmen is used only one other place in the Old Testament: “And Mesha king of Moab was a sheepmaster, and rendered unto the king of Israel an hundred thousand lambs, and an hundred thousand rams, with the wool” (2 Kings 3:4). The word sheepmaster is translated from the same Hebrew word nôqêd. Mesha, the king of Moab, was a breeder of animals on a large scale—a “sheepmaster”—not a poor shepherd. This king gave the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams.
So both Amos and King Mesha undoubtedly owned their own herds of animals.
Also, the words herdmen and sheepmaster can refer to keepers of “a kind of sheep which have excellent wool” (Gesenius’ Lexicon). That means it would have been a well-financed endeavor.
In Amos 7, Amos records himself as saying, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (verse 14-15). Here the word herdman (verse 14) is bôqer in Hebrew.
Here is what the Anchor Bible Dictionary says about Amos and these different words: “He was variously described as a nôqêd, ‘shepherd’ (1:1), a bôqer, ‘cattleman’ (7:14), and a bôles, ‘gouger [of sycamore figs]’ (7:14). …
“Thus, we would argue that Amos was not a royal or cultic figure but one of the ‘ăm-ha’arĕs, the well-to-do class of citizens who owned cattle, sheep and goats. …
“This interpretation of Amos’s vocation clears up the problem of understanding nôqêd and bôqer together. Nôqêd has generally been interpreted as a herder or breeder of small animals (sheep and goats), while bôqer has been reserved for one who breeds large animals (cattle) …. It has been argued that the terms are incongruous, that poor farmers did not have the resources to breed and tend both small and large domestic animals. … Amos was rich enough to own sheep, goats and cattle.
“Finally, although the poor did eat sycamore figs, the fruit was mostly used for cattle fodder. Thus, the description of Amos as a bôles may refer to his ownership of sycamore orchards as a feed crop rather than to the specific act of cutting the figs.”
We can clearly see that Amos was not a poor sheepherder or sharecropper. He was a very successful rancher and farmer.
Amos the Poet
“Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron” (Amos 1:3). The Anchor Bible Dictionary relates about this verse: “‘For three transgressions … and for four …,’ a poetic technique that provided a formal structure to the whole ….”
“For three transgressions … and for four” means the accumulative effect of evil. The whole book follows this pattern. It is written in an intricate poetic style. That is an ability that even most writers today do not have.
Amos used the most powerful language he possibly could have. Why? Because it was God’s message! The message did not come from man—it came from God! “The language is rich and the literary features abundant in the book of Amos. In addition to the literary structures (chiasm [creates a counterbalancing effect in linking phrases], alternation) … Amos uses a number of other features to formulate his message. The use of divine appellatives [giving of names or common nouns], the alternation between first and third person, and between second and third person with reference to addresses, and the creation of sound patterns all aid in knitting together the larger structure …. Amos is fond of progressive numerical formulas, using them to structure at least three sections of the book …” (ibid).
Does this poetic technique sound like Amos was an uneducated man? Quite the contrary.
Amos the Historian
“Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron: But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad. I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the Lord” (Amos 1:3-5).
“The sayings and oracles of Amos convince us that he was cognizant of the history of Judah, Israel, and their neighbors (1:3-2:16). He knew about the cultic and political centers of Israel and Judah and their practices (Jerusalem—2:5, 6:1; Samaria—3:9, 4:1, 6:1; Bethel—3:14, 4:4, 5:5-6, 7:13; Gilgal—4;4, 5:5, Beersheba—5:5, 8:14; Dan—8:14). Amos was also aware of the social hierarchy and power structures that existed. The variety of his literary structures and his heightened rhetoric convince us that he was a gifted orator. All these factors lend credence to the view that Amos was a very gifted, highly educated individual, not a poor shepherd. It is romantic but highly unreasonable to think that the lofty motifs and grand oration of the book of Amos came from an uneducated manual laborer” (ibid).
Amos knew about the ruthless warfare of Damascus against Israel. This enemy had often inflicted torture on the people of Israel.
Amos also knew the history of Israel’s other enemies. He was using his historical knowledge to build a verbal bomb! Even worse destruction was about to come upon ancient Israel. That history was a type of the destruction coming upon modern Israel. God revealed to Amos a vision of nuclear warfare unleashed on our peoples.
Amos knew about the Israelites’ history with God. He knew how God expected them to treat their neighbors. “And Amos’s description of the elaborate marzeah banquets held by the rich (6:4-7) and his reference to the rich women of Israel as the ‘cows of Bashan’ (4:1), fattened on their wealth and security, do not suggest a long-established decline. Thus, we can assume that Israel’s domination of Gilead and the King’s Highway led to a prosperity that enveloped the royal family and prominent members of society but did not trickle down to the poor. It is this uneven distribution of wealth in the eighth century that set the atmosphere for the social crimes that Amos so violently abhorred. …
“Furthermore, they considered their wealth and security as evidence that Yahweh was pleased. …
“Yet the people had turned the official view around and were reasoning in reverse: Their prosperity proved that they were righteous. The distinction, while a fine one, is nevertheless important: The obligation of the covenant was to pursue righteousness and justice; prosperity would follow as a by-product of God’s pleasure. The pursuit of wealth rather than righteousness was an unacceptable shortcut, and wholly abhorrent to Yahweh, according to the prophet. … ‘One’s conduct in the marketplace must always conform to one’s attitude in the holy place ….
“And Israel’s did not. Amos decried the social injustice, the oppression of the poor, and the lack of any moral or ethical values on the part of the rich and powerful. According to Amos, the spokesman of Yahweh, Israel was a violent, oppressive and exploitative society. The poor had to sell themselves into slavery to pay off trivial debts (2:6; 8:6). The rich falsified weights and measures (8:5) and traded dishonestly (8:6). Even the courts, the last bastion of hope for the poor, were corrupt. Judges were bribed to cheat the poor out of what little they had (2:7; 5:10, 12). In fact, Israel was no longer capable of acting with justice (3:10; cf. 5:7, 24; 6:12). Truth and honesty were now hated (5:10)” (ibid).
Let’s not forget that this is an end-time book for the people of Israel today!
Amos understood how the courts were supposed to protect the poor and administer true justice. Instead, the courts were shamefully corrupt—just as many of them are today. We could not get justice from the courts when we fought to continue proclaiming Mr. Armstrong’s writings free. And they were rightfully ours all along. The great God had to intervene to give us justice.
America and Britain are still prosperous, but that is not because of their righteousness. A television commentator said several years ago that “America is righteous and good.” But not by God’s standard. We are evil and deeply corrupted. And our nations are being cursed by God.
Amos the Prophet
“Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words” (Amos 7:10). Amos faced the high priest and Jeroboam, king of Israel—the highest levels of government. Why? Because “the land is not able to bear all his words.” Amos was an eloquent orator with courage. Otherwise his words would not have impacted the people so deeply—reaching all the way to the king. The fact that the high priest was there indicates he must have also stirred up the religious people. Dire prophecies were being fulfilled—which made his message even more painful.
With his ability, education and godly power, Amos roared out of Zion!
“And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel” (verse 15). Amos didn’t decide on his own to deliver God’s message. God took him from his prosperous ranch and said, “Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.”
He had no religious credentials—“I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son” (verse 14). But he was ready to be God’s prophet. He had some dynamic, God-given revelation to proclaim. And some of it he didn’t even get out of the Bible. Here is one such prophecy: “Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land” (verses 16-17). God had to directly give him this chilling prophecy.
As God’s enemies worked to destroy Amos’s message, Amos got frighteningly stronger in his prophesying! He was falsely accused of conspiring against the king (verse 10). His fiery prophecy only grew in intensity. Amos wrote this book around 765–750 b.c.Hastings’ Bible Dictionary wrote that King Assurdanil and an Assyrian colossus were causing alarm. I believe that to be true, because a modern-day Assyria is going to conquer modern Israel.
The European Union is currently comprised of 28 nations, led by Germany—the modern name for ancient Assyria. But the Bible says there will only be 10 kings to attack and destroy America, Britain and the nation of Judah (Israel). What world-shaking crisis is going to reduce the EU from 28 nations to 10?
This implies a crisis of monstrous proportions! Mr. Armstrong thought it would be the collapse of the Western world’s economic system—mainly the American dollar. The U.S. national debt is growing by the trillions. We joke about it—but it is no joke. That problem alone is enough to destroy our economy! Then the euro would take over. (It is also conceivable that the euro could collapse and provoke a serious crisis. Would the German mark then be used as currency for the 10 kings? Only time will tell.) Only 10 hard-core nations or kings will remain in the EU. The beast will then be ready to attack the biblical nations of Israel in their worst economic calamity ever. That will lead to their worst suffering ever.
This is the kind of warning message Amos delivered. And it is the message the pcg must deliver.
Israel’s Last Chance to Repent
The nations of Israel look upon God as being extremely hard. But it is they who have become hardened in their sins. And that applies many times over to God’s own rebellious Church! God inspired the most powerful message ever delivered by God’s Church to this world. God restored all things through Mr. Armstrong (Matthew 17:10-11), who preached the gospel around the world (Matthew 24:14). But the nations of Israel refused to heed the message. They rejected God’s warning to repent. Then God’s own people destroyed that work, saying “Prophesy not” (Amos 2:11-12).
Then God raised up a remnant of His people to “prophesy again” (Revelation 10:11; Amos 3:7-8). Now that takes us back to Amos 7: “But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (verse 13). Here the king and high priest warn God’s loyal remnant to “prophesy not again.” This message was prophesied before in staggering power for over 50 years. But the message delivered by Mr. Armstrong was rejected. Also, God had already prophesied that He would warn them one last time, even though they were unworthy of such mercy (verse 8). This is God’s final warning before He destroys America, Britain and the nation of Judah.
Now God has “set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel.” Our peoples have been “weighed in the balances, and … found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). Now God is precisely measuring our peoples by His standard of righteousness and justice—with a plumbline. Our peoples are under God’s fierce scrutiny—and condemnation.
I repeat, this is our last chance to hear God’s warning message and repent! Our peoples will heed or God will punish them until they do. This decision to destroy is irreversible! This is the only way to deal with people so hardened in their abominable sins.
Amos had to have exceptional courage and eloquence to deliver such a message. But let’s not forget, this message is for today. And the punishment upon the nations of Israel is unparalleled in man’s history! The pcg must have Amos’s strong courage to deliver God’s message. That is why God called each one of us. And we have such a short time to do a powerful work.
The Great Tribulation is almost here. Shortly thereafter, Jesus Christ will return. David will be resurrected to rule over the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 30:7-9). Christ is about to usher in the greatest paradise ever imagined.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 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, saith the Lord thy God” (Amos 9:13-15).
This is not a hopeless message! It is a message filled with hope. This end-time crisis of all crises is leading directly to the return of Christ. We are about to see this planet literally explode in prosperity and joy. Then God will teach all mankind about its purpose—why we are here on Earth. If we repent, we are destined to have a super-splendid life in God’s Family forever!
Let’s work and plan for the greatest event ever to occur in the whole universe—the imminent return of Jesus Christ! May God speed that day!