A great step in the transition of the tribal god—the god who had so long been served with sacrifices and ceremonies, the Yahweh of the earlier Hebrews—to a God who would punish crime and immorality among even his own people, was taken by Amos, who appeared from among the southern hills to denounce the criminality, drunkenness, oppression, and immorality of the northern tribes. Not since the times of Moses had such ringing truths been proclaimed in Palestine.
Amos was not merely a restorer or reformer; he was a discoverer of new concepts of Deity. He proclaimed much about God that had been announced by his predecessors and courageously attacked the belief in a Divine Being who would countenance sin among his so-called chosen people. For the first time since the days of Melchizedek the ears of man heard the denunciation of the double standard of national justice and morality. For the first time in their history Hebrew ears heard that their own God, Yahweh, would no more tolerate crime and sin in their lives than he would among any other people. Amos envisioned the stern and just God of Samuel and Elijah, but he also saw a God who thought no differently of the Hebrews than of any other nation when it came to the punishment of wrongdoing. This was a direct attack on the egoistic doctrine of the “chosen people,” and many Hebrews of those days bitterly resented it.
Said Amos: “He who formed the mountains and created the wind, seek him who formed the seven stars and Orion, who turns the shadow of death into the morning and makes the day dark as night.” And in denouncing his half-religious, timeserving, and sometimes immoral fellows, he sought to portray the inexorable justice of an unchanging Yahweh when he said of the evildoers: “Though they dig into hell, thence shall I take them; though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down.” “And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I direct the sword of justice, and it shall slay them.” Amos further startled his hearers when, pointing a reproving and accusing finger at them, he declared in the name of Yahweh: “Surely I will never forget any of your works.” “And I will sift the house of Israel among all nations as wheat is sifted in a sieve.”
Amos proclaimed Yahweh the “God of all nations” and warned the Israelites that ritual must not take the place of righteousness. And before this courageous teacher was stoned to death, he had spread enough leaven of truth to save the doctrine of the supreme Yahweh; he had insured the further evolution of the Melchizedek revelation.
Hosea followed Amos and his doctrine of a universal God of justice by the resurrection of the Mosaic concept of a God of love. Hosea preached forgiveness through repentance, not by sacrifice. He proclaimed a gospel of loving-kindness and divine mercy, saying: “I will betroth you to me forever; yes, I will betroth you to me in righteousness and judgment and in loving-kindness and in mercies. I will even betroth you to me in faithfulness.” “I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away.”
Hosea faithfully continued the moral warnings of Amos, saying of God, “It is my desire that I chastise them.” But the Israelites regarded it as cruelty bordering on treason when he said: “I will say to those who were not my people, ‘you are my people’; and they will say, ‘you are our God.’” He continued to preach repentance and forgiveness, saying, “I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely, for my anger is turned away.” Always Hosea proclaimed hope and forgiveness. The burden of his message ever was: “I will have mercy upon my people. They shall know no God but me, for there is no savior beside me.”
Amos quickened the national conscience of the Hebrews to the recognition that Yahweh would not condone crime and sin among them because they were supposedly the chosen people, while Hosea struck the opening notes in the later merciful chords of divine compassion and loving-kindness which were so exquisitely sung by Isaiah and his associates.