Isaiah and the Book of Amos Essay
The book of Amos is short, exciting, snappy and full of themes which make out for a popular war movie. It sits uniquely amongst the other books of the Bible and in particular amongst the prophets. Several distinguishing features about the life of Amos and his ministry mark this book out from the other books in the Bible. Amos is the first of “writing prophets” of the eight century. He breaks from the tradition of previous prophets. Amos wasn’t called to be a prophet and didn’t come from the lineage of any prophets. Amos was a wealthy sheepbreeder, Judean from the town of Tekoa and the owner of a sycamore orchard.
The ministry of the minor prophet Amos took place around 760 BC. The Lord God plucks Amos out and says, “Go, prophesy to My people Israel. ” However, what makes Amos’ calling unique is that unlike the early prophets who dedicated their whole lives to their prophetic calling, Amos only serves as a prophet for a limited time. Amos’ message is mainly directed at nations rather than individual people. His message is a judgment against Israel and the surrounding nations. However, what makes the message unique is that Israel has never heard such a message before: God is going to bring an end upon His people Israel.
Amos is not sent to merely expose the sin – but to tell them that they were going to be wiped out. No amount of repentance could reverse Gods judgement against Israel. The nation’s sin has become so severe that it can only be corrected by the complete removal of those who had sinned against God. “Amos is a prophet of total judgment, announcing the death of the northern kingdom. He is not a social reformer but an exposer of rebellion againt God. He is not a humanitarian but a herald of God’s coming action. ” (Amos 8:2) 1 What was it that the nations did to recieve such judgment upon itself?
To answer the question I will deal with why Amos brought such a message to the people of God. In particular I will focus upon the topic of justice and how it was violated according to God’s standards. In the covenant made with God, Israel had promised to reflect God’s justice, mercy, love and righteousness. They were meant to bring honour to Gods name and praise Him as the one God over all the earth. However, the people of God break this covenant and refuse to obey and follow God. Therefore as a consequence of Israel’s disobedience, God punishes Israel in the same way as the other nations.
Israel was to be considered and judged like the other nations. Israel had deliberately disobeyed God. As a result of this they were no longer seen by God as holy. “Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me, O children of Israel? ” (Amos 9:7)” Righteousness was meant to be a way of life for God’s people, but this was neglected also. God’s people were required as part of the covenant to show mercy and help the poor and oppressed. They were required to create a just society according to what God had commanded them. However the system God had put in place with them in the covenant was in ruins.
The elders of the communinty were being corrupted and only catering for the rich and accepting bribes from the wealthy. While the poor suffered and were poverty stricken the wealthy prospred and tread on the poor. You could almost say they were obsessed with wealth, so much so that some even had two houses one for winter and one for summer. This created a strong feeling of opression amongst the poor and is a definite example of the social injustice we see in Amos. However, Amos’ indictment is not only against the people of Israel and Judah, but also against foreign nations too.
As a result of Israel refusing to obey God, Israel is now seen as joining the same rebellion of the foreign nations. Therefore Amos begins by highlighting the sin and rebellion of the foreign nations also, which Israel in the end is included in. Another major theme which Amos addresses is the social injustice of a particular sex. The women in this instance are now the subject of the prophet’s judgement. In chapter 4:1-3 Amos preaches to get his message across using quite strong language. He calls the women “cows of Bashan” who live on the mountains of Samaria. Nowhere else in the Old Testament are women called cows.
However, the women, similar to the men have also become an offense to God. They, like cows have become lazy and unthinking and are only concerned with eating, living, grazing off the produce of the land . Isaiah wrote in the eighth century BCE, almost two hundred years before the fall of Jerusalem. 2 He spoke to the people of Judah, and warned them of God’s unhappiness. They had become lazy and accepted all kinds of social injustice. When Isaiah wrote, the people were reaching the point of no return because of their rejection of God and their refusal to give up their wrong religious practices and their oppression of the poor.
In the opening chapter Isaiah tells the people: “When you stretch out your hands, I will turn my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers I shall not listen; your hands are full of blood. Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow (Isaiah, 1:15 and 17)” Isaiah also spoke out against injustice and makes use of the image of a vineyard where grapes are pressed, the injustices committed against the people, are, in God’s eyes, similar to pressing their faces in the same way that grapes are squished.
Isaiah says in chapter 5: “But the Lord of Hosts is exalted by justice, and the holy God shows himself holy by righteiousness (Isaiah, 5:16)”3 The message in the book of Isaiah on social justice is very similar to the message of Amos. They both spoke against the injustices that they saw. They warned the people that if they did not return to the correct form of worship laid out by Moses and that knowledge of God was achieved through doing justice and by pleading the cause of the oppressed. 4 What is most important about the prophetic writings is their forthtelling.
The prophets spoke out against the social conditions that they saw and the ways in which people dealt with each other. When they dealt unjustly then God did not want their worship because it was not real. Religion only meant something if its effects could be seen, if their life and acts were just, and of just dealings with others. The prophets warned the people that God would punish them if they did not heed his call to repent. They did not just bring the news of judgement, they told also of how God loved the people, he would forgive them if they returned to him, but if they did not then the prophets warned that only a remnant would be saved.