Chronologically, I am reading II Kings and II Chronicles and the various prophets who tried to come alongside the rulers and people of the day. Today begins Amos' swing at bat.
Verse 1 is an intro that covers many of the overview points covered in my previous post:
- Amos is from Tekoa
- My NASB uses the phrase "among the sheepherders" for his profession; but it sound like, from all commentaries I read before beginning, that he was a sheep breeder or a master sheepherder who had others under his leadership. (I accidentally typed leadersheep. That made me laugh.)
- He received visions concerning Israel.
- He lived in the time of Uzziah in Judah (where he was from), and Jeroboam II in Israel (where he was sent).
- More specifically, this happened two years before "the earthquake". That's interesting. Looking forward to learning more about that. (The Ryrie Study Bible footnote states that both Zechariah and Josephus mention this and it refers to when Uzziah sinned in the Temple, trying to act like a priest.)
Verse 2 are his opening comments and they are chilling, or should have been but for the hard hearts at the time.
And he said, "The Lord roars from Zion, and from Jerusalem He utters His voice; and the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn, and the summit of Carmel dries up."Amos 1:2
We often sing of the Lord, specifically Jesus, as a Lion; but it's always in my mind that He is Aslan and He is for me. To think of the Lord roaring and Him being the opposing force should stop you in your tracks as you beg for mercy.
The Ryrie footnote states that lions roar as they leap on prey.
One last thought on the Lord roaring from Zion. Our church just finished studying Revelations and my ladies bible study just finished a study on Ruth that dove into the Kinsman Redeemer and our Blood Avenger. All of that to say, this reference to the Lion roaring from Zion has as much to do the the end times as it does the end of Israel. I have to keep reminding myself that they are us. Every generation needs to consider if the Bridegroom is on the way in their time. I need to look at these prophets through the lens of what they tells us about our lives if we are in the end times.
Ryrie also translates Carmel as gardenlands, meaning the prosperity being enjoyed by Judah and Israel at the time. Having you pasture lands go bad means no meat because you cannot feed your animals. And having your gardens dry up means no vegetables because...well, no garden. I know I say this a lot but this once again should remind us to look around and take note that all we need to live seems to magically be provided around us. We cannot take this provision for granted. It's not magic; it's the universal grace of our Lord. And it can be taken away. We didn't earn it and we don't deserve it. Living life His way is His purgative to ask of us.
Beginning in verse three and continuing through Chapter 2, it looks like Amos has specific prophesies for specific cities, nations, and people.
Thus says the LordAmos 1:3a
These four words preface every subsection of these two chapters. Each new prophesy is predicated on this statement. Not just a citation of where the words come from, but an emphasis on their reliability and durability. He is truth and cannot be wrong. These words are true and as strong as a contract.These four words should stop us in our tracks and cause us to listen somberly. The Lord is speaking and there's no taking it back, undoing it, or questioning it.
Damascus is the capita of Syria, with whom Israel had constant trouble. The prophesy refers to their transgressions and confirms that He will not revoke their punishment. Their home will be set on fire, overrun, cut off from their land, and exiled.
Specifically, in verse three, the Ryrie Study Bible footnote states that the three...four transgressions refers to their rebellions, and to the fact that they actually used "threshing sledges" to mangle the bodies of their prisoners.
We may get squeamish at our Blood Avenger and the massive, bloody battles coming in the end times; but we have to remember that this is the kind of cruelty and injustice that He is coming against. We hear of real evil caused by nations and even individuals, even caused by family members and those we should be able to trust. And we might not be able to defend ourselves in the moment; but God is keeping track and He will avenge against evil.
The prophesy Also starts out by referring to their transgressions and confirms that He will not revoke their punishment. Having read this intro for a second group of people, it occurs to me that the Lord is making it clear that He does revoke punishment. I think that's really interesting. It's stark to read that they ran out of grace; but encouraging to read that God has it to give.
According to a Rryie, Gaza was a trade city of Philistia that trafficked in slaves, selling many Israelites to Edom- their enemy. According to Encyclopedia Britannica (online), Ashdod was a port city that should have been Israel's but was never subdued by them. It belonged to Philistine. And the same for Ashlelon, Cannan's oldest and largest seaports. This makes sense for a trade town. For the one holding the scepter to lose access to the port was an economic death sentence. Combined with the Lord setting it all on fire, it's bad. But then add on whatever is specifically meant by the Lord "unleashing His power on Ekron- there is no wonder why not even the remnant will survive.
Wiersbe says that the word "fire" means judgement. Also Wiersbe points out that, while slavery was an accepted practiced, it was governed by laws to protect how slaves were treated and it was regarding slaves obtained in warfare- not kidnapping people to sell, like cattle.
Similar to the other two prophesies, Tyre has multiple transgressions and so God will revoke their punishment. Their citadels and walls are to be burned. Tyre is a Phoenician city.
Interestingly, their transgressions are around delivering up and entire population to Edom and not remembering the covenant of brotherhood.
This covenant went back to Hiram, between David and Solomon, according to Ryrie. This seems to have started when King Hiram of Tyre send the cedars and supplies to build David's home (II Samuel 5:11). Then Solomon asked for supplies for his building of the Temple and his palace, in exchange for an annual delivery of wheat and such. Then, eventually, Solomon gave Hiram cities, despite God prohibition that the land never be sold or given away. (I Kings 5:1-12; 9:13) Somewhere in the midst of that, Tyre must have agreed to never sell Hebrew slaves.
To me it's worth noting that God was watching these contracts between men and held them for many generations after the original signers were dead. We must be so careful to whom we give our word. God is watching.
It starts the same, "Thus says the Lord". And the three/four transgressions with God not revoking their punishment.
However, to my ear, the tone is slightly different when he catalogues their transgressions:
- Because he pursued his brother with a sword
- while he stifled his compassion
- His anger tore continually
- he maintained his fury forever
Don't get me wrong, the outcomes are the same, burned cities and citadels. But what God has against Edom is different. More personal. Damascus, Philistia, and even Tyre, sinned against humanity, with torture, slavery, and other crimes. And so did Edom. But what God catalogues here are not those kinds of transgressions, but very personal charges. Taking up swords against the family in anger and without compassion.
Edom derived from Esau and the anger and fury survived all of those generations.
God holds us accountable to how we handle our past. Even when we are taken advantage of. Even when we are wronged and even robbed. We have to lean on Him and trust in who He is and deal with our past. Or future generations will still be taking up the sword in our name.
This is the last prophesy in chapter 1. It starts the same. It also refers to historic events; although much closer in time. Elisha predicted Hazael would do these grotesque things and they came to pass.
So the Lord promises fires, and storms, and exile for the kings and princes.
I decided to fold Moab in here, because the next two prophesies are Judah and Israel, and it made sense to me to keep all of the other cities and nations separate.
Be Concerned, Warren Wiersbe (Commentary on Minor Prophets)
Wiersbe points out that Amos would see some of the same things today as he did in his time- a radically changing society.
In a footnote, Wiersbe points out that some people might question Amos' authority to pass judgement on the gentile nations, since they had not been given God's law; but Wiersbe points to Romans 1:18-2:16 in which the Lord tells us that we're accountable to natural law written on our hearts. The things these gentile groups were doing was so aberrant, every man knows they are wrong.
Wiersbe explains the odd phrase used ta the beginning of each nation's prophesy, "for three transgressions and for four", as a Jewish idiom that means- an infinite number that has come to an end. In other words, God's patience had run out. And they didn't even know it--despite the signs and prophesies. That's good for us to keep in mind. It may look like evil is going unpunished; but evil's time runs out when the Lord's patience ends.
At the end of this section, Wiersbe points out that God expected the gentiles to listen to His prophet and change. Or, at a minimum, learn that God's Word is true. That's an interesting point. Sometimes I am hesitant to share my faith because some part of me believes that unbelievers just don't want to hear it. But God they are still God's creation, made in His image, and their hearts will resonate with natural law and recognize the voice of their maker. Otherwise, why send Amos (or us) at all?
The MacArthur Bible Commentary
MacArthur points out that Amos probably started his prophesies regarding the gentiles to gain more of a hearing. Israel would be happy to hear of the destruction of their enemies through God's judgement. I thought that was an interesting point and made sense to me. There wasn't any recorded resistance to Amos until he turns his focus to Judah and Israel.
I think an application of this truth is that we, as Christians, have to be willing to hear criticism and then check it against the Word. It's easy to "throw stones" at the unbelieving world and all of its sin; but we get squeamish at the thought of questioning one another. If done in love, it's helping take a speck from our brother's eye. And it's worth remembering, sometimes we may be the one with a speck that needs to be considered.