by Francis Foulkes ©


'In the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam, the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake' (1: 1b).

When we read the Old Testament prophets there are some things that we can understand easily because they apply just as directly to us in our time as they did to people in the times when the prophets lived. We can take such words as those of Isaiah 55:6-7. Wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, they call us to 'seek the Lord', to forsake evil, and 'return to the Lord' to find His mercy and pardon. In other things, however, we need to understand all that we can of the times in which the prophets lived. Then we can better understand their message and apply it to ourselves. For this reason we want to study now the important features of the times in which Amos lived.

a. The kings of Israel and Judah.

This verse says first of all that the times when Amos preached were the times when Jeroboam was king of Israel and Uzziah was king in Judah. There were three kings, Saul, David and Solomon, who ruled Israel before the Jewish kingdom was divided into two. After Solomon's death at the end of the 10th century B.C. there was the southern kingdom of Judah over which Rehoboam was king and the northern kingdom of Israel over which Jeroboam I was king. The next century was the time when Jehoshaphat and Joash were kings in Judah, and Omri, Ahab and Jehu were kings in Israel, and Elijah and Elisha were the great prophets whom God sent to the people. Then in the eighth century there were these two kings mentioned in the first verse of Amos. Jeroboam II reigned over Israel for 41 years (see 2 Kings 14:23-29) and Uzziah (who was also called Azariah) reigned over Judah for 52 years (2 Kings 15:1-7). They were both at the height of their power in the period 780-750 B.C., and it was within this time that Amos did his work as a prophet. In the times of Elijah and Elisha the Syrians to the north of Israel constantly attacked Israel and often defeated them (see 2 Kings 10:32-33, 13:22-25). Then some years before the time of Amos, the powerful army of Assyria to the east defeated Syria, but did not at this stage attack Israel. So the people of Israel enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity greater than they had known for a long time. There was plenty of trade, and Israel controlled some of the great trade routes on which the traders went, north and south, east and west. The country became rich.

b. The conditions of the times

Because Israel was at peace in the times of Amos and riches increased, people built fine buildings and used costly ivory in doing so (see 3:15 and 6:4). But not all were rich. In fact some became richer and richer while others became poorer. The rich lived in luxury and idleness such as Amos describes in 4:1 and 6:4-6. It is true that they still went to the sanctuaries to worship God, but they did not really serve and obey Him in their lives (see 4:4-5 and 5:4-5). Nor had they any care for the needs of the poor (6:6); rather they cheated them in the markets (8:5), prevented them from getting justice in the courts by bribing the magistrates (5:12), took their land and even caused them to be sold as slaves (2:6 and 8:6). Amos came up to the cities of Israel from his simple life as a shepherd in Tekoa, and he saw the luxurious life of the rich and their oppression of the poor. He came as a man who knew the mighty power of the God of creation, His truth and holiness. He knew that the righteous God must bring judgment on these people who had a special knowledge of God and yet had turned away from Him and showed no love for their fellow-men. Amos knew that it was a time of crisis for Israel. Either they must turn back to God in repentance, or they must suffer under His judgment. So Amos brought the message of God to the people who lived corruptly in those days. It is because the conditions of our times and of our countries are often like those of Amos that God has a special message for us still through Amos.


1900 B.C.

The call of Abraham
The family of Jacob (Israel) in Egypt
1280 B.C.

The Exodus from Egypt (under Moses)
The time spent in the wilderness
The occupation of Canaan (Joshua)
The judges
1050 B.C.

The beginning of the kingdom of Israel
930 B.C.

The division of the kingdom into two parts:
Israel (Northern)        Judah (Southern)
  Jeroboam I                 Rehoboam
    Baasha                        Asha
850 B.C.

Ahab          The time of     Jehoshaphat
                    Elijah and
                     Elisha as
Jehu             prophets             Joash
760 B.C.

Jeroboam II   The time             Uzziah
                     of Amos
721 B.C. Downfall of Israel (Conquered by the Assyrians)

c. Two years before the earthquake

The other thing that this verse says about the time in which Amos preached is that it was 'two years before the earthquake'. We do not know the exact date of this earthquake, but we do know that it was still remembered generations after Amos lived, because Zechariah 14:5 speaks of the way that the people 'fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.' We can be sure that this first verse of Amos speaks of the earthquake not just in order to give us the date when Amos prophesied. It had a greater importance than that. Amos prophesied that God would act in such a way that the buildings of Israel would shake and be shattered (9: 1), and the whole land would tremble and even rise up and fall like a river, like the Nile in Egypt (8: 8 and 9: 5). When people experienced that in the earthquake two years after Amos had been preaching, they knew that he had spoken from God, and that the words he had spoken were true. Deuteronomy 18:22 gives a test to help people to know the true prophet from the false prophet; it is that if a prophet says that a will happen and it does happen, then he speaks truly God. Indeed not all prophecy is fore-telling, telling beforehand what is going to happen; much prophecy is retelling, telling forth the word of God to show what men should do now in obedience to Him. In Amos we have much that is forth-telling, but we also have foretelling.

He said that the kingdom of Israel would fall, and it did fall within 40 years. But he also said that the land would be shaken, and when two years after he had spoken there was a mighty earthquake, the people knew that God spoken through Amos. So his words have been kept and what he spoke to people in those prosperous days of Jereboam ll and Uzziah speaks still to us today.


Lord, help us, we pray, in our personal lives and the life of our nation. In days of trouble may we trust Your power to save and keep us. In days of success and prosperity may we not forget You; for You alone are our life and our strength. AMEN.

For further thought and study. 1. Using the references given above get for yourself a clearer picture of the times in which Amos lived.

2. We cannot usually test the truth of teaching and preaching today by the test of prophecy that was given in Deuteronomy 18:22. Can we find help by the tests that are given in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 1 John 4:1-6?