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Book of the Twelve Prophets of the Tanakh Old Testament
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"Little" ( Book of the Twelve Prophets )

Amos ( Hebrew עמוס) was a socially critical prophet from the southern kingdom of Judah , who in the 8th century BC In the northern kingdom of Israel . The book ascribed to him belongs to the Twelve Prophets in the Tanakh , the Hebrew Bible . Amos is the first of the prophets whose words were recorded and handed down in book form ( scriptural prophecy ).


According to Amos 1,1  EU, the prophet worked during the reign of two kings: from Uzziah , who ruled the southern kingdom of Judah from 767 to 740 BC. And Jeroboam II , who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel from 781 to 742 BC. Ruled. The additional information about an earthquake is dated to 763 BC. Chr.

Amos probably worked in the second half of Jeroboam II's reign, ie 760–750 BC. He stood up against the corruption of judges and priests and the exploitation of the rural population by the royal court and the upper class of Samaria . It belongs with Hosea , Micha , Obadja and the first Isaiah to the time of the 8th century BC. When a deep political crisis and endangerment of the state structures of Israel by the new great power Assyria became apparent. The Assyrians had already subjugated the Arameans and their capital Damascus , but initially made no further attempts to expand their sphere of influence. So the northern kingdom under Jeroboam II experienced a heyday.

As it controlled the trade routes between Assyria and Egypt , the country experienced an economic boom. Jeroboam II apparently tried to use this to expand his power and administrative apparatus. To this end, he imposed high taxes on the rural population and increasingly appropriated lands to the royal court that had previously belonged to free independent farmers. The population growth accelerated the development towards a socially divided society. Only a minority had a share in the prosperity, which was mainly at the expense of small farmers ( dallim ) who had to go into debt and then lost their land and thus their livelihoods.

In addition, urbanization had increasingly replaced the previous clan and tribal structures : the formerly independent, now impoverished and landless smallholders had to work as farm workers for large landowners and the urban upper class. In addition to the royal family, it mainly included the priesthood .

The sharp criticism of the prophecy of Amos and later prophets, which was independent of the places of worship, referred to this class society.

Origin of the Prophet

Amos was a cattle and sycamore tree breeder after Am 1.1  EU and 7.14 EU . His sermons are particularly critical of the behavior of large landowners towards the dependent poor. Most of the sermons were directed against waste, fraud, hypocrisy, bribery, injustice and oppression against the poor.

Amos is the first prophet whose calling has been handed down in writing: He himself reports that he was herding sheep in the village of Tekoa (20 km south of Jerusalem) in the neighboring Judah desert when YHWH "took" him from there and instructed him to do so Northern Kingdom of Israel to proclaim his word. So he was not one of the officiating court prophets there, with whom he then came into conflict, and was also not associated with any northern Israeli opposition, but was rather distant towards them based on his origins. However, some exegetes suspect that Tekoa was located in Galilee , since Amos knew the northern Israelite cult practice better than the exegetes believe a shepherd from the southern kingdom of Judah would.

Regardless of the question of his origin, however, his preaching was directed from the outset to all of Israel, against its cult and its social conditions. Because "Israel" continued to stand for the totality of the chosen people of all Israelites even after the division of the kingdom .

Structure of the book

The book of Amos is manageable and, compared to other books of the prophets, is particularly clearly structured:

  • Am 1f  EU : Eight Words of Judgment to Israel's Neighboring Peoples and Israel ( Cycle of Judgments )
  • On 3.1–6.14  EU : Judgment on Israel (and on 8.4–14  EU )
  • On 7.1–9.10  EU : I-reports of visions; inserted in it (on 7.10–17 EU ) the encounter between Amos and the priest Amasja, who is loyal to the king and close to the rule, as well as various addenda
  • On 9.11–15  EU : Exile appendix: Word of salvation for Israel from the reconstruction of the ruined hut of David .

Chapters 1 and 2: Words of Judgment to the Nations

The words of judgment to the neighboring peoples concern Damascus (Aram) and the royal house of Hazael , Gaza , Tire , the Edomites , Ammonites , Moabites and the southern kingdom of Judah. They are all structured in the same way and together make up a kind of poem. Every single word of judgment consists of:

  1. introductory message formula
  2. Declaration of irrevocability
  3. Charge / proof of guilt
  4. Notice of punishment
  5. final messenger formula.

For example on 2.1-3  EU :

  1. Introductory message formula: Thus says the Lord:
  2. Declaration of irrevocability: Because of the three crimes Moab committed, because of the four, I am not taking it back:
  3. Indictment / proof of guilt: Because Moab burned the bones of the King of Edom to lime,
  4. Denunciation: therefore I am sending fire against Moab; it devours the palaces of Kerijot, and Moab perishes in the turmoil, with the cry of war, with the sound of the horns. I destroy the ruler in Moab and kill all his great men with him,
  5. Final formula of the messenger: says the Lord.

It is noticeable that the Moabites are not to be judged because of an offense against Israel, but against the Edomites: For Amos, YHWH is Lord of the history of all peoples and orders them also to do justice, which is now called international law .

The three stanzas against Tire, Edom and Judah were not inserted until the time of exile. Thus the Völkersagh cycle originally consisted of five stanzas. The final, longer saying against Israel is a kind of preceding summary of the following detailed cult and social criticism against the Northern Reich:

“I will not spare them because they sell the innocent for money and the poor for a pair of shoes. […] And at all altars they feast on the garnished garments and drink wine from the money of the punished in the house of their God […] ”

The resulting court announcement refers to the earthquake mentioned at the beginning and announces a destructive foreign power from which none of the able-bodied Israelites will escape.

Chapters 3–6: main part

The main part on 3–6 opens with a liability that is unique in the Bible:

"From all generations on earth I have known you alone, that is why I will also visit you in all of your sins."

Israel's election in the exodus from Egypt is not a privilege among the peoples and no guarantee of salvation, but justifies God's judgment on him. This central statement, which attacks the security of election, which is misunderstood as a guarantee of salvation, takes up the original conclusion of the Book of Amos ( Am 9.7-10  EU ):

“Have I not brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, and also the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir ? See, God's eyes are on the corrupted kingdom that I may destroy it from the face of the earth […]. All sinners of my people who say, 'Disaster will not be so near nor meet us', should die by the sword. "

In rhetorical questions indicated at 3.3 to 8  EU vocation experience of Amos, which urged him to proclaim the word of God: The lion roars, who was not there to fear? YHWH is speaking, who shouldn't prophesy? This is followed by the great accusation speech against the upper class in Samaria (Am 3–4). The foreigners should bear witness to the injustice that is happening in Israel ( Am 3.10  EU ): They collect treasures of iniquity and robbery in their palaces. The coming distress will destroy both the places of worship - Bethel is called , later also Gilgal , Be'er Scheva , Dan - as well as the winter and summer residences of the royal family ( Am 3:14  EU )). He attacks the rich women who are served by slaves and who snatch them as “fat cows” ( Am 4.1  EU ): They would be deported on hooks like fish bait ( Am 4.1  EU ). He ironically urges the people to make even more sacrifices and thus pile guilt on themselves. Because in all the pious hustle and bustle, God's unmistakable warnings - hunger, drought, crop failures, plague, defeats in war - disregarded: "Yet you do not turn back to me!" Therefore, it should be prepared for the encounter with the creator of the elements, the Amos calls YHWH Zebaot .

Theology of the Book of Amos

Cult criticism and social criticism

The sometimes-to-find exegetical division of words Amos' in cult critical and socially critical so only operant may be, it is but that all the people of Israel given by YHWH country for which the fulfillment of the fathers promise is thanked in the cult celebrations - at places of worship, the as the symbols of land acquisition and land granting are considered completed history of salvation and in which, according to ancient Israelite tradition, YHWH was particularly present: YHWH was not presented as a “transcendental” God in heaven , but as an all-pervasive power that is almost personally present in holy places . (The same lexeme miqdasch stands for the concrete sanctuary and the abstract holiness of YHWH, just as it was completely unproblematic when YHWH appeared next to the altar in Bethel in the first prophecy ).

Hence, it seems to have been the greatest sacrilege for Amos that those who disregarded YHWH's commandments and the obligations imposed on them drove their fellow nationals into poverty or enslavement by taking their land from them, in Bet-El and on met other places of worship to solemnly thank YHWH for the land given to the people.

The criticized did not approach YHWH hypocritically at the shrines, but rather celebrated a festival that had long since degenerated into a hollow rite , in which the inner contradiction could no longer be experienced. Bet-El, from which the “ festering calamity ” ( awän ) spread across the country, was ultimately an example of a corrupt cult.

This position of Amos shows that it is neither a criticism of the cult as such nor a democratization of the Israelite state structure. (For example, the king in his special position of power also retained a special responsibility for which he was called to account by YHWH). Rather, Amos criticizes the violation of the obligations inherent in election , promise and land granting , which had to be understood as a "blatant (conscious) rebellion" ( pascha ) against YHWH and thus the perceived downfall of the people of Israel as a punishment from God (or at least as the termination of the Exclusivity of the position of Israel).

Theological focus

The prophecy of the Book of Amos is the message of the coming God, who wants to save the society "founded" by him - through repentance or judgment. Its aim is that people can enjoy the gifts of the earth and the results of their labor together in messianic peace. So the truth of the biblical God is determined by the truth of social coexistence. That is why the Book of Amos records in criticism and vision the utopia of the biblically attested beginnings of Israel. Because the realization of law and justice is a lived covenant of God.

Single motifs

  • Israel (2.4f EU ) and Judah (2.6–8 EU ) are convicted of ritual offenses, the other peoples (1.3–2.3 EU ), however, for things that would count as war crimes today and that are not specific directed against Israel or Judah, for example: “Thus says the Lord: […] Because they slashed the pregnant women in Gilead when they wanted to expand their territory, therefore I set fire to the walls of Rabba; it eats up his palaces [...] 'Your king must go into exile, he and all his great ones', says the Lord. "( Am 1.13-15  EU )
  • Amos refers to the belief tradition of Israel. God is mainly referred to by him as YHWH, YHWH the Lord and YHWH Zebaot.
  • The book contains a threat from God, according to which he wants to “let the country become dark in broad daylight” (8.9 EU ). During Amos's lifetime, in 763 BC, The so-called Assyrian solar eclipse , which is of great importance for the dating of the events of the ancient Orient; it was almost total in Israel too.


The scope of the prophecies extended from Dan via Bet-El as the center of Israel to Be'er Sheva . YHWH saw Amos Bethel and (less significantly) Gilgal exposed to particularly intense afflicting work . In a second circle, Beersheba (which was Judean) and Dan were named. Only Jerusalem appeared among the larger sanctuaries of people to have been expressly considered.

According to tradition, Amos only appeared in the northern capital of Samaria and then in the national shrine Bet-El , before he disappeared back to Judah , reported by the high priest Amaziah to King Jeroboam II, and apparently wrote down his story. This path of Amos from north to south would suggest that Amos comes from Galilee (K. Koch).

During his public and traditional appearance, Amos distinguished himself several times from the professional prophets of the places of worship, who had to make a living from their activities. Such a nabi - often several were united in groups or a cultic institution - was economically forced to prophesy . Amos, on the other hand, described himself as a chosä , a seer appointed by YHWH with an otherwise secured livelihood.


The book was revised - possibly several times - in the generations after Amos' appearance. Original words of Amos are most likely accepted in the short individual words in Am 3–6 EU . But also for visions in Am 7–9 (especially the first four) a connection with the historical Amos is still considered possible.

722 BC In BC the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians : They kidnapped large parts of the population. Other groups fled the northern kingdom to neighboring Judah and Jerusalem. They probably took the written words of Amos with them and passed them on in Judah, where they influenced the theology of the books of the Old Testament that were created there, which is why subsequent generations were reminded of God's covenant with Israel and his justice through Amos' words .




  • Hans Walter Wolff : Dodecapropheton. Volume 2: Joel and Amos . (Biblical Commentary 14). 4th edition. Neukirchener Verlag, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2004, ISBN 3-7887-2026-3 (scientific commentary).
  • Ulrich Dahmen , Gunther Fleischer: The books Joel and Amos . New Stuttgart comment 23.2. Verlag Kath. Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-460-07232-6 .
  • Richard James Coggins: Joel and Amos . New Century Bible Commentary. Academic Press, Sheffield 2000, ISBN 1-84127-095-4 .
  • Jörg Jeremias : The Prophet Amos. (ATD 24/2), Göttingen 1995.
  • Claudia Sticher: Justice like a never-ending stream. The book of Amos. Verlag Kath. Bibelwerk, Stuttgart 2012, ISBN 978-3-460-32125-0 (short commentary with a new translation).


  • Watson E. Mills: Amos, Obadiah . Bibliographies for biblical research, Old Testament series 21b. Mellen Biblical Press, Lewiston NY, et al. a. 2002, ISBN 0-7734-2514-4 (Bibliography on Amos).
  • Henry O. Thompson: The Book of Amos. An Annotated Bibliography . ATLA Bibliographies 42. Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Md. 1997, ISBN 0-8108-3274-7 .

Individual studies


Hermann Koch (religious educator) : When the lion roars. The story of Amos, the man who did not want to be a prophet. Stuttgart 1966.

Web links

Commons : Amos  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Erhard Gorys, Andrea Gorys: Holy Land: a 10,000 year old cultural land between the Mediterranean, Red Sea and Jordan. DuMont Reiseverlag, 2006, ISBN 3-7701-6608-6 , pp. 31 and 274.