How to Read Amos

The Book of Amos

Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application.  

Amos is a compilation of sermons, poems and visions that explores the relationship between God’s justice and mercy, while envisioning what true worship should embody. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the book of Amos, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this video. 

Now that you have an overview of Amos in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Amos. Read about the Lord’s coming mercy in Amos 9:11–15. See how God tempers his judgement with mercy as He works out his great plan. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Amos 9:11–15.

Amos 9:11-15 (ESV)

The Restoration of Israel

11“In that day I will raise up

the booth of David that is fallen

and repair its breaches,

and raise up its ruins

and rebuild it as in the days of old,

12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom

and all the nations who are called by my name,”

declares the Lord who does this.

13“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord,

“when the plowman shall overtake the reaper

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed;

the mountains shall drip sweet wine,

and all the hills shall flow with it.

14 I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel,

and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;

they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,

and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.

15 I will plant them on their land,

and they shall never again be uprooted

out of the land that I have given them,”

says the Lord your God.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: God will restore the line of David and the nations called by His name.

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Amos 9:11–15? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) God will restore the line of David and the nations called by His name. (Interpretation) God will put a new King on the Throne, a Messiah. All nations will be part of His Kingdom.

Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Amos 9:11–15? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Amos? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: God promises to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham’s family, Israel. God promises David that one of his descendants will sit on his throne forever. God judges His people for their sin and injustice. He promises that one day He will mercifully restore a remnant, send a King from David’s line, and graft in people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Jesus comes to earth, a descendant of David. Jesus is the Messiah. Followers of Jesus are told to make disciples of every tribe, tongue, and nation. His eternal Kingdom will never end. Jesus will rule forever, and the new people of God will worship Him forever. 

Contextualize: What themes does Amos 9:11–15 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of Amos? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the earlier books of the Bible?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: I still live in a sinful world and my own heart is still broken with sin. Though I experience the consequences and effects of sin, I can hope in God’s promise to one day restore all things to Himself, and usher in a New Kingdom with a King who will reign forever. I can take comfort in the fact that God keeps His promises, and that He is continually working this plan of restoration and redemption. One day, that new Kingdom will be my reality, as well as the reality of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Apply: How does the truth from Amos 9:11–15 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Amos to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps us wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.  

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Amos, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Amos this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice. 

To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.