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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Amos

- Amos

by Joseph Benson

THE BOOK OF AMOS.

ARGUMENT.

AMOS was a herdsman of Tekoa, a small town about four miles southward of Jerusalem, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. Rural employments, however, were general and honourable among his countrymen. When he says, “I was no prophet, neither was I the son of a prophet,” Amos 7:14, he seems to distinguish himself from those who were educated in the schools instituted by Samuel. God, however, constituted him a prophet, and sent him, in the reign of Jeroboam the son of Joash, to utter his prophecies in the kingdom of Israel, in which he seems to have dwelt, (see Amos 7:12,) though born and brought up in the tribe of Judah. He appears to have been cotemporary with Hosea; although it is likely he began to prophesy before him, and continued in his office a much shorter time. Some have confounded him with Amoz, the father of Isaiah; but their names, in the original, are very different, and their families too of a different character; for Isaiah was a courtier, Amos a countryman. St. Jerome gives this character of him, that “though he was rude in speech, yet not in knowledge.” And many, following the authority of St. Jerome, have spoken of him as if he were quite rude and ineloquent, and destitute of all the embellishments of composition. The matter, however, is far otherwise. Let any person, who has candour and perspicacity enough to judge, not from the man, but from his writings, open the volume of his predictions, and he will find that this shepherd is not a whit behind the very chief of the prophets. He will agree, that as, in elevation of sentiments and loftiness of spirit, he is almost equal to the greatest; so in splendour of diction, elegance of expression, and beauty of composition, he is scarcely inferior to any. The same celestial Spirit, indeed, actuated Isaiah and Daniel in the court, and Amos in the sheepfolds; constantly selecting such interpreters of the divine will as were best adapted to the occasion; and sometimes, from the mouths of babes and sucklings, perfecting praise: occasionally employing the natural eloquence of some, and occasionally making others eloquent. See Bishop Lowth, De Sacra Poesi Hebræorum, Prælec. 21. “He borrows,” says Archbishop Newcome, “many images from the scenes in which he had been engaged; but he introduces them with skill, and gives them force and dignity by the eloquence and grandeur of his manner. We shall find in him many affecting and pathetic, many elegant and sublime passages. No prophet has more magnificently described the Deity; or more gravely rebuked the luxurious; or reproved injustice and oppression with greater warmth, and a more generous indignation.” He begins with predictions of ruin to the Syrians, Philistines, Tyrians, Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites. He next inveighs against the idolatry, the oppression, carnal confidence, wantonness, selfishness, and obstinacy of Israel and Judah; and threatens them with distress, ravage, captivity, and desolation, on account thereof; and particularly predicts, that the family of Jeroboam, however then prosperous, should be quickly cut off by the sword. He concludes his work with a prophecy of the Jews’ return from Babylon; of the gathering of the Gentiles to Christ; and of the conversion of Israel and Judah; and their restoration to, and establishment in their land, in the beginning of the glorious millennium. It is probable he lived to see a great part of his predictions fulfilled, namely, in the civil wars that took place in Israel, and the captivity of the ten tribes.