The English translation of the Hebrew word messiach means "anointed" so a "messiah" is someone who has been anointed. In ancient Israel, kings and other important functionaries were anointed with oil as a sign of consecration to office.  During the period of monarchy all kings were messiach. At least one pagan, Cyrus, the Persian conqueror, was designated as Adonai's Messiah in this way (Is 45:1 ).

The hope of a coming "Messiah" who would set things right, as God's agent upon earth, grew both as a reaction to existing kings, who fail to live up to the ideal set for them, and following the exile that ended the Hebrew kingdoms, as a hope of restoration. (Sometimes these hopes were more spiritual, sometimes more political.) 

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos , if you have reached it as a standalone page, to view it in context, go to
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.