Old Testament Lesson 35 (Amos 3–7; Joel 2–3)


The Book of Amos

Amos is one of the 12 prophets of the Old Testament with shorter books referred to as “minor prophets” (by no means meaning their messages were of lesser import). Amos prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah and Jeroboam II, king of Israel. He ministered to the people of the Northern Kingdom from about 800 to 750 BC, approximately 30 years prior to the end of the kingdom’s existence in 721 BC.

Professor D. Kelly Ogden said the prophet’s preaching is also dated (beginning) at “two years before the earthquake” . . . This earthquake, the only one explicitly mentioned in the Old Testament, was apparently so severe that it was used for some time to date historical events. It was of such unusual intensity and inflicted such devastation that the memory of it survived for more than two and a half centuries. In Zechariah 14:5 this earthquake serves as a pattern for extremely intense and destructive earthquakes [in latter days] . . . [It] caused damage over a wide area . . . Yigael Yadin dated the earthquake to approximately 760 BC.”1

Amos’ Call from the Lord

Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa, now a hilltop of ancient ruins about 6 miles southeast of Bethlehem and 12 miles from Jerusalem. The Hebrew name Amos means “bearer” or “burden” and refers to the weighty warning he was to carry to the kingdom of Israel. His ministry was among those of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Amos 1:1 Amos received his instructions by vision.

Amos 7:14–15 Amos described his call from the Lord while prophesying against Amaziah, a priest in the kingdom of Israel, who sought to divert him from his mission.

Amos 7–9 The last three chapters of Amos describe 5 visions Amos had. The fifth starts with the words “I saw the Lord” (Amos 9:1). Each had a symbolic meaning, showing that the Lord would bring the kingdom of Israel to an end if they did not repent.

(1) A swarm of locusts (Amos 7:1–3)
(2) Devouring fire (Amos 7:4–6)
(3) The master builder with the plumbline (Amos 7:7–9)
(4) The basket of summer fruit (Amos 8)
(5) The smitten sanctuary (Amos 9:1–6).

Amos 7:10,12–13 These prophecies of Amos, apparently given in Bethel, offended the political and religious leaders of Israel, and Amaziah denounced him.
— Amaziah factitiously calls Amos a “seer”, and in the process defines what a seer is—one who sees the future (v. 12).

Amos Condemns Israel’s Neighbors

● Amos 1:3—2:1 Amos began his ministry by first warning Israel’s neighboring nations (10 nations and 26 cities) of the punishments that were coming if they did not repent.

Amos Condemns Israel

Amos 3:1–2 The Lord greatly blesses the righteous and if they become wicked they are punished.

Amos 2:1—4:10 Amos condemns Israel for her many sins:
— Treading on the poor, making merchandise of human beings (Amos 2:6–7).
— Buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes (Amos 5:11; 8:6).
— Prostitution committed in holy sanctuaries (Amos 2:7).
— Corrupted court and legal processes, perverted judgment, despising the righteous and afflicting the just (Amos 2:8; 5:7–12; 6:12).
— Seeking to pollute Nazarites by getting them to drink wine (Amos 2:11–12).
— Violence and robbery (Amos 3:10; 6:3).
— The wealthy enjoying winter houses and summer “cabins”—Ivory-decorated and cut-stone houses and palaces, while the poor lived in hovels (Amos 3:15; 5:11; 6:8, 11).
— The unrighteous, unfeeling women of Israel (“kine of Bashan”) were gratifying themselves at the expense of the poor and the needy (Amos 4:1). They asked their husbands to bring them wine bought with money squeezed from their victims. Amos compares them to fat and well-fed cows (“kine”).
— Hypocrisy in ordinances (Amos 4:4–5; 5:21–23).
— Disdain of honest judges (Amos 5:10).
— Bribery (Amos 5:12).
— The righteous keep silent—they do not condemn evil (Amos 5:13–15).
— Shallow, hypocritical festivities and ritual performances (Amos 5:21–22).
— Luxurious living, music, and reveling while some were suffering (Amos 5:23; 6:4–7).
— Idolatry (Amos 5:26; 8;14).
— Too much ease in Zion—beds of ivory, plentiful food, and music—all while destruction hangs over their heads (Amos 6:1–6).
— Gluttony and revelry (Amos 6:4–7).
— Pride, vainglory, and a false sense of security (Amos 6:8, 13).
— Drunkenness (Amos 8:4).
— Deceitful business practices, and desecration of the spirit of the Sabbath (Amos 8:5–6).

Israel’s Predicted Punishments

Amos 4:6–13 Punishments that God sent Israel to induce them to repent:
— Rains were withheld, causing famine (vv. 6–8).
— Blight and mildew consumed crops (v. 9).
— War and pestilence (v. 10).
— Earthquakes devastated pastures, gardens, and cities (v. 11).
— None of these punishments caused Israel to repent

● Punishments that will come because they did not repent:
— Israel will fall and rise no more (Amos 5:2).
— Only a tenth would remain (Amos 5:3).
— Gilgal will go into captivity and Bethel will be nothing (Amos 5:5).
— There will be wailing and mourning (Amos 5:16–17).
— They will “go into captivity beyond Damascus” (Amos 5:27).
— Few will escape; the destruction will be great (Amos 6:8–11).
— Locusts will devour their grains (Amos 7:1).
— Drought will devour the land generally (Amos 7:4).
— King Jeroboam will die by the sword (Amos 7:11).
— The priest Amaziah’s family will suffer greatly for their wickedness (Amos 7:12–17).
— Amos compares Israel to harvested fruit, ripening for destruction (Amos 8:1–12).
— Destruction was inescapable because Israel had not repented (Amos 9:1–5).

Amos 8:11–12 There will also be a spiritual famine—no word of God to guide them.

— This prophecy was fulfilled by the fact that there was no prophet to speak the word of the Lord from Malachi till the coming of John the Baptist (400 years).

— It was fulfilled again when Christ’s Church was destroyed and His Apostles killed. There was another spiritual famine upon the earth which lasted from about 100 AD until the time of the Restoration in 1820.

— Roger Williams, pastor of the oldest Baptist Church in America, resigned his position because: “There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance; nor can there be until new Apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church, for whose coming I am seeking.”2

Amos Prophesies of Israel’s Captivity

● Metaphors of Captivity:
— There will be no escape from their enemies (Amos 2:14–16).
— It will like a lion, bear, or serpent catching up with a fleeing man (Amos 5:19).
— It will be like a lion devouring an animal and leaving only pieces (Amos 3:12).
— They will be like a bird trapped in a snare (Amos 3:5).
— They will be carried away like fish caught on a hook (Amos 4:2), or . . .
— Like fish caught in a sieve (Amos 9:9).

● Direct Descriptions of Captivity:
— Their temples and houses will be destroyed (Amos 3:11–15).
— “I will take you into exile beyond Damascus” (Amos 5:27).
— The wicked will be the first of those to go into exile (Amos 6:7).
— Israel must go into exile away from his land” (Amos 7:11).
— “Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land” (Amos 7:17).
— There will be many killed, with their bodies stacked up (Amos 8:1–3).
— There will be darkness, lamentations, and mourning (Amos 8:9–10).
— They will be killed, taken captive, and “sifted” among all nations (Amos 9:1–4, 8–10).

● Amos’ prophecies were literally fulfilled.

Amos Prophesies of a Latter-day Gathering

Amos 9:7–11 “I will sift the house of Israel among all nations.”
— Israel could not expect deliverance simply because they were the chosen people (v. 7).
— Israel would be destroyed, except for a remnant of Jacob whom the Lord would preserve because of his mercy (v. 8).
— The gathering of the righteous remnant will be such that not one worthy soul will be unnoticed (v. 9).
— The Lord will establish his work, even to the raising of the temple in Jerusalem to its proper place (v. 11n).

Amos 9:11–15 Though Israel will be punished for their rebellion, they will eventually be restored. This restoration is now in progress. Because these last five verses of the book of Amos paint a wholly different scene—restoration to the land and prosperity in it—some scholars claim these verses were not written by Amos but by a later disciple. But there is a pattern visible in Hebrew literature of pronouncing curses, judgments, and destruction followed by a message of hope.

— Moses (Lev. 26:40–46), Isaiah (Isa. 40–66), Micah (Micah 4–5), and Joel (Joel 2:25–26; 3:1) all did the same thing.
— Every righteous soul who has taken upon himself the name of the Lord—be he Israelite or Gentile—will be brought into the kingdom (v. 12).
— Israel will be gathered back into the kingdom of God, inheriting every blessing promised to the righteous, with no fear of losing them again (vv. 14–15).

Amos 8:7–10 Amos describes some of the circumstances associated with the 2nd Coming of Christ.


When Was the Book of Joel Written?

The book of Joel gives us no information about when the book was written—it is completely removed from the context of the time and place in which it was written. Commentators have dated the book anywhere from the ninth to the fifth centuries BC. Linguistic clues suggest that the dialect of Hebrew preserved in Joel is consistent with that of other documents from early in the post-Exilic period: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Joel can then be dated to around 500 BC, making it one of the last of the prophetic books.

Joel’s apocalyptic style makes his fundamental message very clear: God will bring judgment upon the world, destroying evil and blessing the righteous with millennial peace and happiness.

Joel is also a major source of information on the battle of Armageddon.

The Book of Joel

Joel uses an occasion of dire famine and suffering to reflect on the perennial famine of truth among the unrighteous down through the generations of time. Such a famine will be relieved through the eventual restoration of the Lord’s Kingdom on earth—a day when vision and prophesy will again be made manifest among the faithful and penitent and the Lord will reign supreme.

Great Destruction of Judah in Joel’s Day

Joel 1:1–4 The stages of development in the life of a locust portray Judah’s future:
— The palmerworm is the Hebrew gazam, which means “gnawer.”
— The locust is in Hebrew arbeth, which means “many.”
— The cankerworm is the Hebrew yeleq, which means “licker”
— The caterpillar is the Hebrew chasil, which means “consumer”

Joel 1:5–7 The wine, the lion, the vine, and the fig tree:
— Judah had become drunken with the wine of iniquity and would weep and howl.
— he vine and the fig tree represent the finest that the Lord had given his people.
— he lion symbolizes the invaders who, like a lion, would devour them.
— tree is barked by stripping the bark from the trunk, which kills the tree.

Joel 1:8–30 More images of Judah’s coming destruction:
— Their field was wasted; they were no longer a fruitful people (vv. 10, 12).
— Girding is putting on sackcloth, mouring their great tragedy (v. 13).
— Judah’s destruction and scattering will end temple worship (v. 16).
— “The seed [being] rotten under their clods” refers to when sprouts are bitten off by the locusts and the seed simply rotted away (v. 17).

— Sidney B. Sperry said, “In the mind of the writer no doubt remains that Joel foresaw the dispensation in which we live and God’s judgments upon the world. This he expressed in figures that would be easily understood by his people. So acutely and painfully were the judgments that Joel saw impressed upon his mind that he cried out in anguish—as if he were present—to the people of our day to repent and escape God’s wrath.”3

Joel Promises Future Blessings to Israel

Joel 2:12–17 Israel is called to repentance.

— “Rend your heart, and not your garments” refers to tearing clothes during times of sorrow, grief, or despair (v. 13). The Lord is telling men to come before him with broken hearts and contrite spirits

Joel 2:18–23, 27 The Lord promises to bless Israel abundantly.

Joel 2:28–32 Latter-day blessings of the Lord’s people.

— Moroni quoted these verses to Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823, saying “this was not yet fulfilled, but was soon to be” (JS-History 1:41).

Joel 3:17 Jerusalem will become holy after the great battle—no strange god nor impure people will be permitted to enter or pass through the city.

Joel 3:18 The fountain that comes forth “of the house of the Lord” is the same one discussed in detail in Ezekiel 47:1–12.

Joel 3:19–21 “The hills shall flow with milk” means the riches of heaven: Judah will know her God, and he will own his people; they will build their Jerusalem and inhabit it in peace.


Joel’s Prophecies of Great Destruction

Joel 2:1–10 The great army of Gog will fight against the army of the Lord (see also Ezekiel 38:8–9; Revelation 9:1–10).

— Like the locusts that devour the crops and cover the heavens with blackness because of their numbers, so “a great people and a strong” shall descend upon the land of Israel (v. 2; Revelation 20).

— The land of Israel will be beautiful—like the Garden of Eden (v. 3).
— The horses symbolize war (v. 4).
— The chariots symbolize a very powerful army (v. 5).
— “The earth shall quake before them”

— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “Here we have a great, terrible army, marching with unbroken ranks and crushing everything before it, finding the garden like Eden before them, leaving the wilderness behind, causing mourning, causing suffering; and so the prophet raises the warning voice, and that voice is to us, (v. 10). . . that we might turn unto the Lord and rend our hearts. . . . And then . . . the Lord says that He will take that great army in hand, that He also has an army. His army is terrible, just as terrible as the other army, and He will take things in hand.

“When I say the other army, the Lord’s army, do not get an idea He is thinking about England or the United States. He is not. He is not thinking about any earthly army. The Lord’s army is not an earthly army, but He has a terrible army; and when that army marches, it will put an end to other armies, no matter how terrible they may be; and so He says in these closing words I have read to you that He would do this thing. He would drive this terrible northern army into the wilderness, barren and desolate, with his face towards the east sea and his hinder part towards the utmost sea. He would do that, and then He would bless His people—having references, of course, to Israel.”4

● These events will strike fear into the hearts of Jerusalem’s inhabitants.
— The siege against the city will be very severe.
— The relentless army will overrun the land of Israel.
— The city walls will be breached and the houses plundered (v. 9).
— The armaments used against the invaders will be ineffectual (v. 8).

Joel 3:1–2, 12–14 The battle will end at the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Decision)—the Kidron Valley.

— This refers to the last days. The last clause could be translated “when I will bring again the exiles of Judah and Jerusalem.”

— Israel will receive a change in her fortunes, and retribution will come upon her enemies in the Valley of Jehoshaphat—the “Valley of Decision”. Most likely this is the Kidron Valley, a narrow valley between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives (D&C 45:47–49; 133:19–21).

— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “We find Joel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, all proclaiming that in this last day, the day when the sun shall be darkened and the moon turned to blood and the stars fall from heaven, that the nations of the earth would gather against Jerusalem. All of them speak of it; and when that time comes, the Lord is going to come out of His hiding place.”5

— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “In the coming day—a dire, dread, damning day—woes without measure will fall upon men. Pestilence, plagues, and death will stalk the earth. The kings of the earth and of the whole world will gather to fight the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Their command center will be at Armageddon, overlooking the valley of Megiddo. All nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. Two hundred thousand warriors and more—two hundred million men of arms and more—shall come forth to conquer or die on the plains of Esdraelon and in all the nations of the earth. At the height of this war, the Lord Jesus will put his foot on the Mount of Olives and save his ancient covenant people. Of all this we are aware.”6

Joel 3:10 Plowshares will be beaten into swords—the opposite of Millennium conditions.

Joel 3:15–16 The sun will be darkened and the moon turned to blood.

D&C 43:17–20 The final warning before the great day.

D&C 43:21–22 Thunder and lightening.

D&C 43:23–26 What might have been, if only . . .


1.  In Kent Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [1964].
2. Picturesque America, 502.
3.  The Voice of Israel’s Prophets [1953], 297.
4.  The Signs of the Times, 160–161.
5.  The Signs of the Times, 170.
6.  The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [1982], 476.