detail of an engraving of Amos the Prophet by Gustav DoreDerivation

  • meaning not clear; perhaps “a burden”


Third among the Minor Prophets, a subject of the Kingdom of Juda, born Thecua, 6 miles south of Bethlehem. In the Book of Amos, which is one of the prophetical books of the Old Testament, he thus describes himself: “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of prophet; but I am a herdsman plucking wild figs. And the Lord took me when I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me: Go, prophesy to my people Israel” (Amos, 7). He toiled for God in the northern kingdom, preaching particularly at Bethel, about 12 miles north of Jerusalem, the king’s sanctuary and center of idolatrous worship. This was within the latter half of the reign of Jeroboam II, 783-743 B.C. (Amos 1 and 7). He describes Israel as reveling in a period of national prosperity, of sinful orgies, and of security from external foes. This fits well with the period when Jeroboam was enjoying the fruits of his victories. Furthermore, the earthquake mentioned in 1:1, and the eclipse in 8:1, suggests proximity with the year 763 B.C.

The prophecy is contained in nine chapters, usually divided in three parts, according to the clues furnished by Amos himself. The first part (1-2) pictures God’s judgment upon the nations encircling Israel, and then upon Israel itself. The second part (3-6) develops God’s judgment upon Israel in three distinct discourses; Saint Augustine calls attention to the power and the eloquence of the lamentation in chapters 5 and 6. The third part (7-9) records five visions; the fifth vision (9:1-10) prepares the glorious perspective of Messianic blessings (verses 11-15).

The book is one of the fairest specimens of Hebrew literature. Its arrangement is simple and artistic, its language plain but forceful, its wealth of imagery delightful and amazing. The reader is struck by the frequent recurrence of identical phrases, as in chapter 1: “For three crimes…and for four…I will send a fire” (3-4, 6-7, 11-10,11-12,13-14, etc;); and in chapter 4: “Yet you returned not to me” (6,8,9, 10, 11). Amos is the prophet of the sovereign Lordship of God over all creation. The canonicity of the book is vouched for by a citation in Tobias (2:6) and two citations in the Acts of the Apostles, where Saint Stephen (Acts 7:42) quotes from Amos 5, and Saint James (Acts 15:16) quotes from Amos, 9. It is used in the Office for Thursday, the fourth week of November, and in the Mass for Wednesday of the Ember Week of September, first lesson (9:13-15). Passages recommended for reading are chapter 1, verse 3, to chapter 2, verse 5, and chapter 4, verses 6-11.

MLA Citation

  • “Amos”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 12 June 2010. Web. 9 December 2021. <>