To engage the learners in a study of the Scripture text:
Before using the discussion questions below, share the following background information from the Standard Lesson Commentary (SLC):
Amos was one of the many prophets whom God raised up during the period of the divided monarchy (931–722 BC) in Old Testament history. His ministry took place during the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel (Amos 1:1). Commentators generally refer to this Jeroboam as Jeroboam II to distinguish him from the Jeroboam who was the first king of northern Israel after the nation divided.
No kings of Israel were considered good or godly. This is an important reason the northern kingdom fell under God’s judgment much sooner than did the southern kingdom of Judah. Prophets like Amos came on the scene to sound the alarm and warn of coming judgment. Amos himself seemed an unlikely candidate for the prophetic task. He was a simple shepherd and fruit farmer from Judah, but God sent him to shepherd his wayward people of Israel.
A major factor in the spiritual decline of northern Israel was the idolatry encouraged by Jeroboam I when he set up golden calves to be worshipped in the towns of Bethel and Dan. He did so to keep residents of the northern kingdom from traveling to Jerusalem, worshipping at the temple, and reaffirming their allegiance to the house of David. Bethel was still quite active as a pagan shrine in Amos’s day, nearly 200 years later. The spiritual danger posed by that center of idolatry, only 11 miles north of Jerusalem, was immense. Amaziah functioned as a “priest” in this context.
Have your group read Amos 7:10-13.
- What was the nature of Amos’s “conspiracy” against King Jeroboam?
- Why did Amaziah want Amos to leave Israel?
- In what way was Amaziah condescending toward Amos in verses 12 and 13?
Point out the following from the SLC: “Seer” was the term commonly used before the designation “prophet” replaced it. The older term reflects how a prophet is empowered by the Lord to “see” what others cannot, whether in a spiritual sense or by means of visions. In Amos’s case, Amaziah seems to use the term seer sarcastically; otherwise he would not demand that Amos stop prophesying in northern Israel.
To “earn your bread” in Judah may imply that Amos will be fed or paid better in his homeland than he currently is in the northern kingdom. Perhaps Amaziah believes that prophets are interested in nothing more than earning a livelihood.
Have your group read Amos 7:14-17.
- How did Amos view himself vocationally? How is that relevant in regard to Amaziah’s message?
- What qualified Amos to do what he was doing in Israel?
- What subtle but significant difference is there between how Amaziah introduces his words in verse 11 and how Amos introduces his words in verses 16 and 17?
Point out the following from the SLC: Amaziah’s quotation of Amos begins with “This is what Amos is saying.” The usual way to preface a prophet’s message is with the phrase “the Lord says” or some variation of it. That is how Amos responds to Amaziah in verses 16 and 17. Amaziah sees nothing authoritative in Amos’s message; he’s just spouting his own words, not the Lord’s.
- As a result of rejecting the word of the Lord, what would the consequences be for the people of Israel in general and for Amaziah in particular?
Point out the following from the SLC: The Scriptures provide no record of the fulfillment of this prophecy against Amaziah. Even so, we can be sure it was fulfilled, since it is “the word of the Lord” (v. 16). History records the fate of Israel when it falls to Assyria in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:6).
Note: The SLC doesn’t comment directly on Amos’s prediction that Amaziah’s wife “will become a prostitute.” Apparently she would be forced into prostitution to survive after Amaziah was taken into exile, their children were killed, and their land was confiscated.
- What lessons should we take away from this passage of God’s Word?
To encourage personal application:
Let’s look back at key Scriptures from the last two months of lessons. Read through the verses and choose one or two characters or statements that resonate with your own life or sense of God’s call. Then share your thoughts with the group.
- Barak said to [Deborah], “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” — Judges 4:8
- “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” — Judges 6:15
- Jephthah said to them, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why do you come to me now, when you’re in trouble?” — Judges 11:7
- Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” — Exodus 3:11
- “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” — Isaiah 6:5
- “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” — Jeremiah 1:6
- “Go now to your people in exile and speak to them. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says,’ whether they listen or fail to listen.” — Ezekiel 3:11
- Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” — Amos 7:14