The Political World of Hosea and Amos
The prophecies of Hosea and Amos are part of a collection of books known as the trei asar (The Twelve) or the Minor Prophets. Both prophets were active during the eighth century B.C.E. during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel and Uzziah of Judah. Hosea apparently continued beyond this period through the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah.
Despite the essentially “religious” nature of prophecy, an understanding of the prevailing political and economic circumstances is a vital element in deciphering the prophets’ message. The first half of the eighth century B.C.E. brought a period of relative stability and prosperity to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for some segments of society at least. The relative weakness of Syria meant that Israel was no longer harried, nor subject to the payment of tribute, and Jeroboam extended the nation’s borders. Likewise in Judah, Uzziah enjoyed a long reign of relative peace and prosperity.
The end of the Jehu dynasty in the North came with the assassination of Jeroboam’s son Zechariah after a merely a year on the throne. Subsequently the kingdom descended into chaos. Between the death of Jeroboam and the fall of Samaria (the capital city) in 722, Israel had six kings, all but one of whom was assassinated. Beginning in 743 B.C.E., the westward sweep of the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III contributed significantly to this chaos. The shifting patterns of foreign alliances, revolt against vassal status and return to payment of tribute are reflected in the book of Hosea.
Amos: “Neither a Prophet nor the Son of a Prophet”
Amos is introduced as a noked ( a shepherd or breeder of sheep) from Tekoa, a village in Judah. Elsewhere he is described as a cattleherder and a tender of sycamore trees. There has been much speculation as to the meaning of Amos’ statement that he is neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. (One possibility is that he was making it clear that he was not part of the circle of “professional” prophets, many of whom were attached to the courts of kings.)