All of the prophetic books of the Bible begin with a superscription identifying a prophet. We are told their name, and usually when they were active. We are often given genealogical or other information about the prophet, and often told the recipients of their messages too. These messages are often described as "words", and/or as a vision or as being seen (in three cases the word משָּׁא burden" is used). The superscription is always in the third person, and often reads as if written at some time later than the prophet being spoken of, for example by listing the reigns, or in the case of Amos through the description "two years after the earthquake" - which suggests some longer time has now elapsed since the earthquake in question. (The presence of these features is shown in the table below.)
Other books, such as Daniel (which contains among other things Daniel's visions of the future) do not contain these elements. Three things stand out in these superscriptions that perhaps help define the nature of prophetic books:
Isaiah: The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Jeremiah: The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.
Ezekiel: Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river Chebar that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.
Hosea: The word of the LORD that came unto Hosea the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel.
Joel: The word of the LORD that came to Joel the son of Pethuel.
Amos: The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.
Obadiah: The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom:
Jonah: Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying:
Micah: The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morashtite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
Nahum: The burden of Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite.
Habakkuk: The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.
Zephaniah: The word of the LORD which came unto Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.
Haggai: In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying:
Zechariah: In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying:
Malachi: The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi.
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.