The other day I posted some tips to help you understand the prophetic books. In this post I will demonstrate why using these tips is essential, and why our Bibles come with maps.
Amos begins, “The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel…” Most people just skip over this but this verse tells us a couple of important things. Get out a detailed map of Israel around 760 BC and find Tekoa. Where is it? It’s near Bethlehem in Judah. This means that Amos is from the Southern kingdom and is writing to the Northern kingdom (those guys didn’t get along too well).
Let’s move onto the next verse, Amos 1:2 says, “YHWH roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.” Remember what we learned from verse 1. Amos is a southern boy writing to the north. In verse 2, where is YHWH roaring from? The south, right. The northerners set up a false altar in their land, but Amos is saying YHWH’s not there, he’s in the Southern kingdom. He’s roaring in anger from the south so that Carmel withers. Look again at your map and find Carmel. It’s in the north.
The next several paragraphs will make no sense if you don’t use your map. Amos pronounces judgment against Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and Judah. By looking at your map you can see that these are all the peoples surrounding Israel. From 1:3 through 2:5 the Israel readers are thinking “great, judge ’em God.” What Amos is doing is setting them up for his extended judgement discourse of 2:6-16.
Without a map none of this would make sense.