The Herdman of Tekoa
Amos 1:1
The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah…

The prophet was by birth and residence a citizen of Judea. He belonged to the district of Tekoa, a small town some twelve miles south of Jerusalem, perched on a high hill, looking away eastwards across a waste of barren hills to the Dead Sea peeping through their interstices, and the lofty tableland of Moab bounding the horizon beyond. It stands on the edge of the desert, where the fringes of agriculture thin away into a wilderness of rock and sand, broken only by scattered patches of scanty pasturage. The town can never have been much more than a prosperous village; but the adjacent soil is fruitful and kindly, and its oil and honey became celebrated for their excellence. For strategic purposes, it was fortified by Rehoboam, and it had the advantage of lying in a region intersected by some of the busiest highways of commerce. Its inhabitants might see much and hear more, and, in connection with trading caravans, be drawn into travel and become acquainted with the world and its doings. The place was thus, in several ways, not unsuitable for the training of a prophet; and it is arbitrary to argue, as two or three scholars have recently done, because there is now no sycamore culture in the district, and because Amos possesses an intimate knowledge of the north, that therefore we must look for another Tekoa somewhere in Samaria Spite of a floating tradition to the contrary, which still survives in popular circles, the literary merits of the Book of Amos must be rated very high. The general information of the writer is comprehensive and minute. He can paint in detail the religious customs, the social conditions, the local circumstances and vicissitudes of every part of the northern kingdom. With the geography and history, the alliances and feuds, trade relations, national institutions, and aspirations of the neighbouring nations, he is thoroughly familiar. He is possessed of profound ideas about nature, providence, the movements of races, and their place and function in the ,world's government. For breadth of survey, for strength and massiveness of conception, alike in morals and in religion, he is not surpassed by any of the prophets. He is a poet, orator, philosopher, statesman. But in those days and in his social environment, he might be all this without being a man of books and cities. Native genius, interest in the traditions of his people, intercourse with passing caravans, personal visits to distant parts, and a spirit awake to the presence and working of God in human history, past, present, and future, — these were influences potent enough to educate the man, and admirably adapted to prepare the way for the prophet. And this school was equally open to him, whether he was a poor man, living by his labour, now in one service, now in another, or a prosperous sheep-master and wealthy owner of fig orchards. remarks that Amos was "rude in speech, but not in knowledge"; and Jewish tradition has been pleased to credit him with a stutter or impediment of speech. This is probably the origin of a mistaken idea that his book is badly written, or at least betrays the rusticity of its author. On the contrary; the Hebrew of Amos ranks among the purest and most powerful compositions of the Old Testament. His language is choice and melodious, possibly in a few peculiar spellings recording a provincial pronunciation, or more likely the slips of the copyists' pens. His style is terse, dramatic, and simple, but very pointed and forcible. He loves brief uninvolved sentences, though occasionally carried away into passionate appeal or lyrical outbursts of poetic delineation. He indulges much in question, apostrophe, and exclamation. He is an orator more than an artist, or a bard. With all his simplicity we find traces of paranomasia, rhythmic arrangement, and rhetorical construction. His exposition abounds in rich and varied imagery derived from nature, and striking illustrations taken from everyday life. The ordered arrangement, compact style, and general literary finish of his book suggest slow, careful, and leisurely construction, while the fire of its invective, the impetus of its appeals, and the terrible directness of its denunciation prove it the record and embodiment of speech originally orally delivered On the surface Amos may seem to make too much of mere morality, but it is only an appearance. With him, to do right is to serve God, and the motive must be the love of God and of our neighbour.

(W. G. Elmslie, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel 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.

WEB: The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel 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.

Lessons from the Prophecy of Amos
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