Please read INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHETICAL BOOKS if you have not already done so.
Book of Amos
Here is where Amos fits within the historical narrative of the Bible:
2 Chr. 25-26: 796-750 (2 Kings 14-15)
784-772 - JONAH 1-4 (Northern)
760-750 - AMOS 1-9 (Northern)
Amos prophesied during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel (793-753 B.C.) and Uzziah/Azariah of Judah (790-739 B.C.).
Amos had to convince the prosperous and peaceful northern kingdom that their end was near. They were doing well on the outside, but inside there was idolatry, injustice, immorality, greed, and oppression of the poor.
The message of God through Amos is loud and clear: "Prepare to meet your God, O Israel!"
Amos was a shepherd and keeper of fig trees from Tekoa (Remember the woman from Tekoa in 2 Samuel 14:1-23?) which was ten miles south of Jerusalem, in the southern kingdom of Judah. Yet God called him to prophesy to the northern kingdom! Idols were worshiped at Bethel which was supposed to be the religious center of the north.
Amos uses metaphors out of his experience as a shepherd and farmer when talking about a loaded cart (2:13), roaring lion (3:8), mutilated sheep (3:12), pampered cows (4:1), and a basket of fruit (8:1, 2).
Amos aimed his prophetic guns at six neighboring nations. I am sure that Judah and Israel cheered to hear God's judgement on the surrounding nations not realizing that their turn was soon coming.
The six nations were:
Syria - God had used Syria to punish Israel (2 Kings 10:32-33; 13:1-9), but they had gone too far. God said He would send fire several times in the first two chapters (1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14; 2:2, 5). Fire represents the holiness and judgement of God (Deuteronomy 4:11, 24, 36; Hebrews 12:29). God did judge Syria just as Amos prophesied. King Hazael's dynasty ended (1:4), his son, Ben-Hadad was defeated (1:4), Damascus lost its power (1:5), and the Assyrians eventually overpowered Syria and took them into captivity.
Philistia - The cities mentioned in this section are the five key Philistine cities (Joshua 13:3). Philistia raided Jewish cities, made the people slaves, and sold them to Edom, the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother. It was terrible for a brother to enslave another brother! This prophecy was fulfilled during the days of Uzziah (2 Kings 18:7-8). The Assyrians under Sargon and Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar took the Philistines into exile and slavery.
Phoenicia - There had been a "brotherly covenant" between Tyre in Phoenicia and Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon (1 Kings 5:1ff), but they also sold Jews into slavery. This prophecy was fulfilled when Alexander the Great wiped Tyre off the face of the earth (Ezekiel 26:5, 14) in 322 B.C.
Edom - These are descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob (Genesis 25:19-28; 27). Like the two brothers, these nations were always fighting. Temen and Bozrah were once strong cities that no longer exist. Romans attacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and destroyed the remaining Edomite (Idumean) people.
Ammon - These were the descendants of Lot through an incestuous relationship with his younger daughter (Genesis 19:30-38). They had always fought with Israel (Deuteronomy 23:3-6; Judges 10:6-8; 1 Samuel 11; 2 Kings 8:12; 15:16), and Amos's prophecy was fulfilled when the Assyrians invaded in 734 B.C..
Moab - This nation is not mentioned until the beginning of Amos 2, but it fits here better. Like the Ammonites, these were the descendants of another of Lot's incestuous relationship, only this one was with the older daughter (Genesis 19:30-38). There had been animosity between this nation and Israel since they did not let the Jews pass through their land when returning to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 23:3-4; Judges 11:17). Their king also hired Balaam to curse them (Numbers 22-24). They also led Israel into idolatry (Numbers 25:1-3). We do not know which king's remains were treated disrespectfully, but we do know they they were defeated by the Assyrians and the nation of Moab does not exist today.
Please pray for the people of modern day Syria today!
Here is an article to inform your prayers: http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/whats-happening-syria-2
2014 Update: The above article is updated up through July 2012, but it gives important background information. The situation continues to deteriorate with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) wreaking havoc on this land. Please continue to inform your prayers and pray for this dire situation. Syria has 3,000,000 refugees in three years. Our Syrian neighbors have lost 21 members of their extended family.
If you feel led to pray further, please download this:
30 Day Prayer Guide for Syrian Children
Lord, we pray for You, Jesus, prince of prince, to bring peace to Syria today. Amen.