The Title of the Book of Amos

Amos 1:1-2


An initial heading precedes the actual spoken prophecies of Amos. It includes a superscription (1:1) and a statement that seems to encapsulate the heart of the warnings of the prophet (1:2). These introductory verses reveal basic information about the author, audience, date and message. It is important to recognize that this material is not part of the highly structured prophecies against the nations (1:3-2:16). Instead, it stands apart from the immediate context and functions as an introduction to the whole book. This is due to the fact that the title was placed at the beginning of the book during the editing stage when the spoken messages of the prophet were being put into writing. The time lag between the original proclamations by Amos and their first appearance in some written form is unknown, but the prophecies included in the book are full of a vigor and aggressiveness that carries the stamp of prophetic originality and divine authority. ‘Two years before the earthquake’ may indicate that the oral messages were spoken approximately two years before they were put into their present written form. When the earthquake that Amos predicted happened, it authenticated Amos as a true prophet and encouraged people to preserve his words in writing., 36 also believes the earthquake gave new importance to Amos’ earlier words.


Amos 1:1-2points to the historical and literary background of the book and the prophet. The content of 1:1 – ‘words of Amos ... in the days of Uzziah, King of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam, son of Joash, King of Israel’ – gives the historical setting of the book. The reference to God in Zion in 1:2 coincides with the prophet’s location in Judah after his deportation from Israel (7:12-13) and reveals something of his Judean theological background.

The literary practice of introducing a written document with information concerning its author, date and addressee was not unknown in the ancient Near East (ANE). This kind of data appears in historical documents, 199; ‘The prince, count ... royal secretary, Nebneteru, son of the mayor, visier, mouth of Nekhen, Nesaramun, born of Muthetepi, says’, in M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, III (Berkeley: Un. of California, 1980), 19; Assyrian examples: ‘I, Ashur-nasir-apli, strong king ... in my accession year’, in A. K. Grayson, Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, II (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1976), 119; Palestinian examples in the Samaria Ostracon: ‘In the tenth year. To Gaddiyau from Azzo’, in ANET, 321. W. G. Lambert, ‘Ancestors, Authors, and Canonicity’, JCS 11 (1957), 1, connects the superscriptions at the beginning of prophetic books to Akkadian colophons at the end of a literary piece, but the colophons refer more to the scribe or owner, not to the author, date or title of the document., wisdom and prophetic texts, and letters. 420). Letters from Egypt (ANET, 475), Mari (ANET, 482), and Sumer (ANET, 480) give the author and addressee but often do not have a reference to a date. These examples are not strictly parallel to the type of literature found in Amos, but they illustrate the general pattern that was used. Some biblical examples are similar (Prov. 30:1 ‘The words of Agur’; 1 Kings 11:41 ‘The words of Solomon’), but other prophetic superscriptions are the clearest parallels (Jer. 1:1 ‘The words of Jeremiah’).

Amos 1:2 does not give biographical or chronological data and its style is distinct from 1:1. The style of poetry employed is sometimes associated with hymnic material (Ps. 50:1-3) 21. and the content related to theophany accounts or cultic ceremonies. WMANT 10 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1965), 142-57; J. L. Crenshaw, ‘Amos and the Theophany Tradition’, ZAW 80 (1968), 203-15; A. Bentzen, ‘The Ritual Background of Amos 1:2-2:16’, OTS 8 (1950), 95-7. Wolff demonstrates that 1:2 differs in many ways from the formal characteristics of some theophanies, 116-18. and Rudolph finds the announcement of judgment on God’s own land to be contrary to the purpose of those theophanies which picture God’s presence as a guarantee of his protection of the land. 118-119; Rudolph, Amos, 117. Stuart, Hosea - Jonah, 300-301, considers this a ‘curse announcement’ against fertility drawn from Lev 26:19. But there are theophany appearances in Micah 1:2-4 and Nahum 1:3-5 that do predict judgment, thus Amos’ use of this form is not that unusual.