Amos 1:1

The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

The words of Amos,.... Not which he spoke of or for himself, but from the Lord; all the prophecies, visions, and revelations made unto him, are intended:

who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa; which was not in the tribe of Asher, as Kimchi; nor of Zebulun, as Pseudo-Epiphanius {i}; but in the tribe of Judah, 2 Chronicles 11:5. It lay to the south, and was six miles from Bethlehem. Mr. Maundrell {k} says it is nine miles distant, to the south of it; and, according to Jerom {l}, it was twelve miles from Jerusalem; though he elsewhere {m} says, Thecua, or Tekoa, is a village at this day, nine miles from Aelia or Jerusalem, of which place was Amos the prophet, and where his sepulchre is seen: either there is a mistake of the number, or of Aelia for Bethlehem; the former rather seems to be the case; according to Josephus {n}, it was not far from the castle of Herodium. The Misnic doctors {o} speak of it as famous for oil, where the best was to be had; near to it was a wilderness, called the wilderness of Tekoa; and Jerom {p} says, that beyond it there was no village, nor so much as huts and cottages, but a large wilderness, which reached to the Red sea, and to the borders of the Persians, Ethiopians, and Indians, and was full of shepherds, among whom Amos was; whether he was a master herdsman, or a servant of one, is not said. The word is used of the king of Moab, who is said to be a "sheepmaster", 2 Kings 3:4; he traded in cattle, and got riches thereby; and so the Targum here renders it,

"who was lord or master of cattle;''

and Kimchi interprets it, he was a great man among the herdsmen; and so it was a piece of self-denial to leave his business, and go to prophesying; but rather he was a servant, and kept cattle for others, which best agrees with Amos 7:14; and so is expressive of the grace of God in calling so mean a person to such a high office. The word used signifies to mark; and shepherds were so called from marking their sheep to distinguish them, which seems to be the work of servants; and, in the Arabic language, a kind of sheep deformed, and of short feet, are so called:

which he saw concerning Israel; or, against Israel {q}, the ten tribes, to whom he was sent, and against whom he prophesied chiefly; for he says very little of Judah. Words are more properly said to be spoken or heard; but here they are said to be seen; which shows that not bare words are meant, but things, which the prophet had revealed to him in a visionary way, and he delivered; see Isaiah 2:1;

in the days of Uzziah king of Judah; who was also called Azariah, 2 Kings 15:1;

and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel; so he is called to distinguish him from Jeroboam the son of Nebat; this king was the grandson of Jehu; he was, as Jerom says, before Sardanapalus reigned over the Assyrians, and Procas Sylvius over the Latines:

two years before the earthquake; which was well known in those times, and fresh in memory. Zechariah speaks of it many years after, from whom we learn it was in the days of Uzziah, Zechariah 14:5. The Jewish writers generally say that it was when Uzziah was smote with leprosy for invading the priest's office; and was in the year in which he died, when Isaiah had a vision of the glory of the Lord, and the posts of the house moved, Isaiah 6:1; and with whom Josephus {r} agrees; who also relates, that the temple being rent by the earthquake, the bright light of the sun shone upon the king's face, and the leprosy immediately seized him; and, at a place before the city called Eroge, half part of a mountain towards the west was broken and rolled half a mile towards the eastern part, and there stood, and stopped up the ways, and the king's gardens; but this cannot be true, as Theodoret observes; since, according to this account, Amos must begin to prophesy in the fiftieth year of Uzziah; for he reigned fifty two years, and he began his reign in the twenty seventh year of Jeroboam, 2 Kings 15:1; who reigned forty one years, 2 Kings 14:23; so that Uzziah and he were contemporary fourteen years only, and Jeroboam must have been dead thirty six years when it was the fiftieth of Uzziah; whereas they are here represented as contemporary when Amos began to prophesy, which was but two years before the earthquake; so that this earthquake must be in the former and not the latter part of Uzziah's reign, and consequently not when he was stricken with the leprosy.

{i} De Vita Prophet. c. 12.
{k} Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 88.
{l} Proem. in Amos & Comment. in Jer. vi. 1.
{m} De locis Hebr. in voce Elthei, fol. 91. B.
{n} De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 9. sect. 5.
{o} Misn. Menachot, c. 8. sect. 3.
{p} Proem. in Amos.
{q} larvy le "contra Israelem", so some in Drusius.
{r} Antiqu. l. 9. c. 10. sect. 4.