IF we might be allowed to make a conjecture at the quality of our prophet's sermons by the signification of his name, we must conclude that they contain heavy tidings and grievous judgments coming upon them to whom he is sent to preach; Amos in the Hebrew coming from a word which signifies to burden, to lay a weight or load on one. But we have a surer rule to judge the contents of his prophecy by. He is by some ancient writers, erring in this point, said to be the father of Isaiah; but besides that Isaiah was contemporary with Amos, which fairly argues it unlikely that Isaiah should be Amos's son, Amoz the father of Isaiah is quite another name, different from Amos, both in letters wherewith each is spelt, and in signification also. And if Isaiah were of the royal line, (as some say he was,) nephew to either Amaziah or Uzziah by a brother, it cannot be conceived how Amos, a plain herdsman of Tekoa, should be his father. It is certain he was either by birth, or education, or employment, or in all these respects, of the tribe of Judah, and as certain that by an immediate call from God he was taken off the herdsman's work and made a prophet, Amo_7:14-15. He did in deed, as he professed in word, come from the Lord, and in his name delivered his message to all those whom God sent him unto. And pursuant hereto he preacheth first against those nations who were borderers, and had been bitter, oppressive, and old adversaries to Israel and Judah, Amo_1:3, to the end, and Amo_2:1-3. By this express course, declaring future just executions upon Syria, Palestine, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, and Moab, the prophet doth much prevent the prejudices which Israel and Judah might have had against his person and doctrine. Now he may more freely and plainly reprove and threaten the sins of God's own people, since he hath so plainly reproved and threatened their enemies; and they who easily believed him a prophet in his predictions against foreigners, must in reason as easily believe him a prophet in his reproofs and predictions against themselves. He doth bestow the far greater part of his discourses on Israel, or the kingdom of the ten tribes, to whom he was principally sent; yet he doth prophesy against Judah also; and to both he is very sharp in his reproofs, impartial in his censures, earnest in his persuasions to repent, very full in his encouragements to this duty, and demonstratively evident in his charging sin upon them. He had Isaiah, Joel, and Hosea contemporary with him, though it appear not how long.
He is in many places sententious and concise, which makes the passages the more obscure. Though he do bring with him many things from his country employment in his reproofs, allusions, and arguments, yet fitted with admirable skill, and beautified with an unimitable eloquence, and fortified with that loftiness of style that proclaims itself to be from Him who gave man both judgment, fancy, and tongue, which is an intrinsic character of divinity in our prophet's writing. He was a person of most undaunted resolution, of a prudent conduct, and of spotless integrity, as appears by the contest he had with Amaziah chief of the priests of Beth-el, Amo_7:10, &c.
He lived when Judah's affairs were tolerably well and prosperous, but when Israel's were in the highest meridian, when they thought themselves secure against all the dangers he foretold: Uzziah had pretty well recovered Judah, and settled it; Jeroboam had highly advanced Israel's fame, riches; and power. With their growth in these, sin grew as fast and as exorbitant, and called for judgments, which our prophet foretells very plainly in express words, Amo_7:11, Amo 17, and in very significant hieroglyphics, Amo 7 Amo 8 Amo 9. He foretells the earthquake, Amo_1:1; an emblem of those civil dissensions which shook their foundations, and half ruined them before the Assyrian conquered and captivated them. Which miseries lasted through an interregnum of eleven years, say some; to be sure through the reign of Zachariah, Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea, in whose time all these miseries were swallowed up in a greater, their perpetual captivity, which came upon them about fifty-four or sixty-five years after the death of Jeroboam the Second, near to whose court and within their hearing Amos preached many, perhaps most of his sermons; and therefore you may observe his reproofs, threats, and predictions seem to be calculated for that court, which was highly guilty of the sins he reproved, and were called to repent of them, which because they did not, they did deeply suffer both in the civil wars under those four usurpers and conspirators, Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, and most deeply in the Assyrian captivity. In the annotations you will find there is some reference to those times, with somewhat more particular application of the prophetic text to the circumstances of times he aimed at, than hath been by any learned pen I have happened to peruse; and would the brevity to which these annotations are bound have borne a larger account of those times, and a fuller accommodation of them to the prophetic discourses, I do not doubt but the truth of the prophet's charge, reproof, threats, and predictions against Israel would appear to every reader. Lastly, our prophet, as others, closeth the sad tragedy of this fleshly, sinning Israel with promise of a spiritual state under the Messiah, full of grace and peace.