Amos ("burden, burden-bearer") was a herdsman and a dresser of fig-trees, an inhabitant of Tekoah, a small fortified town in Judea, lying on the borders of the Wilderness of Judea, about nine miles south of Jerusalem, when the Lord called him to be a prophet in the midst of the northern kingdom. He went to Bethel, the chief center of idolatrous calf-worship in the ten tribes, and there testified to the truth. His fearlessness in reproving the manifold transgression of Israel was bitterly resented by the chief priests of Bethel, who made every effort to have Amos driven out of their land.
Amos prophesied during the reign of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel, some time in the first half of the eighth century before Christ. His book reflects the conditions of his day and age. The kingdom outwardly showed a great extent and a corresponding prosperity, but there was also a corresponding corruption on the moral side, with the pride of the wealthy aiming at the oppression of the poor, with luxury and dissipation, with idolatry and shameless profligacy on all sides. Amos therefore became a preacher of repentance and punishment, the fundamental thought of his book being that of the coming judgment.
The book of Amos is most readily divided into two parts, Chapters 1-6 and 7-9. In the first part, Chapters 1 and 2 are in the nature of a general introduction with a prophecy concerning the judgment upon neighboring nations; then follow three prophetic announcements, which, with a steadily mounting indignation, picture the impending destruction of the kingdom and the captivity of its inhabitants. The second part of the book contains visions which picture the threatened punishment in vivid flights of oratory, until the end comes with a beautiful Messianic prophecy.