Amos 3; 7-9; Joel 2-3

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

This week’s Sunday School lesson covers parts of the writings of two more of the “minor prophets” (see last week’s post for details): Amos and Joel.


In the actual order of books in the Old Testament, Joel comes right before Amos, although in the SS lesson plan, they choose to talk about Amos first (I’m saying this just in case you went looking for the book of Joel after Amos!).  But because the lesson emphasizes prophecy, the writers of the curriculum likely chose to start the lesson with Amos to emphasize the above quoted passage, Amos 3:7.  I’ll follow the lesson plan’s order to avoid confusion, however, in order of the biblical books, at least, Joel comes first.

Amos served as a prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel from approximately 765 – 750 BC, before the Assyrian Conquest of Israel and the Babylonian Exile of Judah.  While we don’t know exactly when this took place, it is said (Amos 1:1) that he began his role as prophet ”two years before the earthquake” that occurred during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel.  This great earthquake is also mentioned in Zech 14:5

Amos was from Tekoa, just ten miles south of Jerusalem.  Before his ministry, he had worked as a farmer and shepherd.  Unlike Isaiah, he was not familiar with the royal court, nor of prominent priestly circles like Jeremiah. He was a man of humble origins called by God (see Amos 7:14–15) to fulfill an important role — to be the mouthpiece of God to call King Jeroboam and the northern tribes to repentance and thus avoid an imminent doom.  Amos leaves his village in Judah to preach in Bethel, a holy site in the North that had become a royal sanctuary for the kings of Israel.

Regarding Joel, we aren’t told much about him in the biblical record.  Because of this lack of information, scholars have widely debated when Joel served as prophet, and dates range from a hundred years before the Assyrian Conquest (722 BC) to 100+ years after the Babylonian Exile (597 BC).  So the placement of the book of Joel before Amos in our Bibles is based more on tradition and thematic elements than on any exact dating.   Due to the foregoing reasons, there’s not much we can say about Joel besides the statement that his father’s name was Pethuel (Joel 1:1).  Joel’s name (alternatively: Jael, Jah-El, Yahoel, etc.) means ”Yah(weh) is God”.   

Prophecies of Amos

I won’t attempt to comment on the whole book of Amos, but will concentrate on the chapters the lesson covers.  Overall, the book of Amos presents his prophecies against the northern tribes, calling them, in no uncertain terms, to repent of their evil or face destruction.

The website summarizes the theme and purpose of the book nicely:

The divine message given to Amos was primarily one of judgment, though it ends with words of hope. Amos warned that the Lord God, the sovereign Ruler of the universe, would come as a Warrior to judge the nations that had rebelled against His authority. Israel in particular would be punished for her violations against God’s covenant. Amos sought to bring the prosperous and materialistic northern tribes under Jeroboam to repentance as the only escape from imminent judgment. In the process, the book demonstrates God’s hatred of evil because of His holiness and that His justice must act against Israel’s sin for He cannot allow it to go unpunished.

However, even though the nation would be destroyed, God would still preserve a repentant remnant and one day this remnant would be restored to their covenant blessing and political prominence when the Lord would then also draw all nations to His Himself.

The content of Amos’ prophecies was common among the many prophets called at that time to preach to Israel.  Amos prophesies not only against Israel, but against various nearby nations that needed to likewise repent. The repetition of this call by a number of other pre-exilic prophets simply underscores the idea that God will give plenty of warning before his judgments come upon a people.  The multiple witnesses sent to Israel before its destruction is a good example of God’s mercy and love for his people.  In this light, I cite again Amos 3:7:

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

I think we are right to interpet this to refer to the pattern of God calling prophets throughout the world’s history in order to reveal his will and his judgments.  One of the most interesting words in this verse is the word “secret”, which is a translation of the Hebrew word sod.  The early Hebrew notion of sod referred to the heavenly council of God (see Ps. 89:8; Jer. 23:18; Job 15:8).  This divine assembly was understood to be presided over by Yahweh, accompanied by the lesser divine beings (later termed “angels”).  Entrance to this assembly was very exclusive — it could be deemed a “secret” council.  The relationship of this divine council to prophesy was in the sense that prophets were understood to receive their message while being present in the heavenly court (often via a heavenly ascent).  Examples of this can be see in Isa. 6, Jer. 23:18, and 1 Kgs. 22:19–22.  The prophet received his calling and his mission while standing before the blazing throne of God.  It was the same for Amos — we read, for example, in Amos 9:1, that the prophet saw the Lord standing upon the altar. In later usage, the name of the council (sod) became synonymous with the message (or “secret”) that was borne away from it by the prophet. (For an interesting and concise blog post on the Divine Council, see here).

In chapter 3 of Amos, the message that the Lord sends Israel through his prophet is very clear: because of their wickedness, an “adversary” (Amos 3:11) would come and conquer their land, wiping out palaces and sanctuaries, and carrying many of its inhabitants.  We know that these words were fulfilled not long afterwards with the Assyrian Conquest.

In chapter 7, we hear this message repeated again, speaking out directly against the king.  Here the priest of Bethel, obviously loyal to the wicked king, comes out and tells Amos to go home, and reports his words to the king.  I couldn’t help but see in this a parallel to the Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi, who speaks out against the wicked king Noah, and is reviled against by the king’s priests.  Like Abinadi, Amos does not go home, but boldly continues on with his message, and curses the priest and his family along with the rest.  

We often cite Amos 8:11–12 as a foretelling of the great apostasy that would come to the early Christian church. 

11 ¶ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:

12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.

From the context of the chapter, it seems that these verses are referring to an imminent situation, perhaps involving the loss of prophecy in Israel due to the Assyrian destruction. However, these verses are certainly applicable to future periods of apostasy as well  — like many OT prophecies, we should understand them to often have multiple possible fulfillments.

Despite the prophecies of “doom and gloom” the Lord also reveals through Amos that Israel will some day be restored to the lands of their inheritance and to favor with the Lord (see ch. 9).  This, again, is the frequent message of the prophets, that although Israel would be scattered and feel abandoned for a time, the Lord would some day redeem them and gather them in again.

Prophecies of Joel

The book of Joel, although only three short chapters in length, is a very interesting book.  It contains many elements from the ancient New Year Festival, which I briefly discussed in my Jewish New Year post.  We see in Joel’s prophecies the themes of the Day of the Lord (which some scholars equate with the ancient New Year’s Day), where the Lord is recognized as King and when he pronounces his judgments on mankind.  As they would have done for the ancient festival, Joel calls all into a solemn assembly, a gathering at the house of the Lord (Joel 1:14).  This was a day to cry to the Lord for the salvation of the people from corruption and destruction. 

Chapter 2 calls for the blowing of the trumpet, as would have been done at the New Year.  There are so many elements in this chapter that are in line with New Year traditions that I don’t have time to go into them here.  The point that I want to bring out, however, is that what is being described in Joel is something that ancient Israelites would recognize as the scenario that was presented to them each year in their annual New Year celebrations.  This was all done as they were assembled at the temple grounds.  While the history of God’s intervention to save Israel was a major theme, it appears that the festival also served to present what God would do for Israel in the future.  This is why the themes of the festival are so much in line with the words of the prophets.  This was the history of humankind, past, present, and future, that the Lord always gave to his prophets who were called in the divine council. 

Chapter 3 gets very specific about the great war that will ensue after the Jews have been gathered back to Jerusalem.  All the nations of the earth will be gathered for war at the “valley of Jehoshaphat” (which can be interpreted as the valley of “Yahweh’s judgment”).  Here the heathen nations will be judged by the God of Israel.  Yahweh will come to defend his people.  We read in Joel 3:16–17:

16 The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.

17 So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.

After the judgment of the wicked is carried out, the land will be abundantly blessed and a fountain will come forth from the house of the Lord.  Again, the ancient themes of the New Year are echoed here — that after the danger and destruction, the Lord would redeem the land and bring in an age of renewal and peace. The Lord will reign in Zion with his righteous people.

Continue reading at the original source →