Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Amos, the Book of, one of the twelve Minor Prophets in the ot (Hosea through Malachi). The Hebrew prophet of the eighth century b.c., Amos, to whom it is attributed, was a native of Tekoa in Judah and was active in the northern kingdom of Israel. He identifies himself as a shepherd and ‘a dresser of sycamore trees’ (Amos 7:14; cf. also 1:1), who was called to prophesy against Israel. On the basis of the superscription to the book (1:1), which places him in the reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam, and historical allusions among his speeches, his work can be dated ca. 750 b.c. Thus he is the earliest of the prophets whose words have been handed down in writing.


The Book of Amos

I. Superscription and motto (1:1-2)

II. Prophetic speeches (1:3-6:14)

A. Prophecies against the nations and Israel (1:3-2:16)
B. Prophecies of punishment (3:1-6:14)

III. Vision reports and prophecies (7:1-9:15)

A. Three vision reports (7:1-9)
B. Story of prophetic conflict (7:10-17)
C. Two vision reports and prophecies of punishment (8:1-9:8)
D. Prophecies of salvation (9:9-15)

The book of Amos is the third of the twelve so-called Minor Prophets. Its nine chapters consist mainly of short prophetic speeches, most of them addressed to the people of Israel as a whole. There are, however, other genres, including vision reports, an account of the prophet’s encounter with Amaziah, the priest of Bethel (7:10-17), and three hymnic passages (4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6). Following the introductory superscription and the book’s motto (1:1-2), the first major section of the book is a collection of prophetic speeches (1:3-6:14). The first part of that section (1:3-2:16) is a series of very similar prophecies of punishment, first against Israel’s neighbors and then against Israel itself. The remainder of that section (3:1-6:14) is a collection of various prophecies of punishment. The second major section of the book (7:1-9:15) is organized around a series of five vision reports, which are filled out with other prophetic announcements and into which the report of Amos’s encounter with Amaziah is inserted.

Most of the material in the book seems to stem from an authentic Amos tradition, handed down and eventually written down by those who succeeded the prophet. However, the concluding announcements in 9:8c-15 and the hymnic passages (4:13; 5:8-9; 9:5-6) were probably added later, during the time of the Babylonian exile. A few other verses, including 2:4-5 and 3:7, probably also are secondary.

The form and style of the prophet’s speeches reveal his understanding of the prophetic role and message. While there are a few well-known sayings in which he calls for change on the part of the addressees (5:4-7, 14-15, 21-24), virtually all of the speeches are announcements of judgment or prophecies of punishment. They are very brief addresses in which Amos speaks in the name of God to announce that Israel’s God is about to intervene to punish the people, an individual, or a group for their sins. His message is a simple one: God will soon bring disaster in the form of military defeat and exile upon Israel. The sins that have led to this judgment are social injustice, such as depriving the poor of their rights, and religious arrogance. There is, in fact, relatively little in his message that had not been known before through the religious traditions of Israel. Distinctive are his message that the end has now come, his stress on the obligations of a people elected by God (cf. 3:1-2), and his assumption that other nations have both been the objects of divine care (9:7) and are subject to God’s punishment (1:3-2:3).


All glossary terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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