For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

1:1.  “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.”

“... which he saw concerning Israel” means that his message was conveyed to him from God by means of visions.

Uzziah was a good king whose prosperous fifty-two year reign over Judah is recorded in 2 Ch 26.  Jeroboam the son of Joash, on the other hand, during his forty-one reign over Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, see 2 Ki 14:23-24.

The earthquake referred to is generally believed to have occurred in 720 B.C., the resultant widespread devastation being viewed by some as simply a preview of the far more catastrophic judgments that will leave today’s world in ruins as described in the book of Revelation.

1:2.  “And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.”

Zion is that part of Jerusalem which was a fortress (citadel) held by the Jebusites until the days of David, the first mention of the name Zion being found in 2 Sa 5:6-9 which records that David named it also “the city of David” after wresting it from Jebusite control.  The name Zion was eventually applied to Mount Moriah the site upon which the Temple was built.  It is frequently used in Scripture to designate the whole city of Jerusalem.

The Lord’s roaring (as of a lion leaping on its prey and making escape impossible) is associated with His judgmental anger exercised when His patience has been exhausted and there is no hope of mercy, and here it is followed by the withering of the lush pastures of Mount Carmel, so that the sheep die, causing the shepherds to mourn.  Carmel, meaning fruitful field, is synonymous with fertility, so that the message of its withered pastures is that if Carmel withers what hope is there for the rest of the country! 

Corresponding to the rich pastures about to be withered was the affluence which Israel had enjoyed, but which had resulted in her arrogant disregard of God, so that He was about to take away in judgment everything that had been meant for her blessing, but which had produced instead ungrateful rebellion.

We are reading this prophecy with blinded eyes if we fail to see that the same conditions prevail in our modern world, and will bring down also the judgment of the God Whose patience we have so sorely tried, and finally exhausted.  The terrible Tribulation age judgments are about to be poured out on a world that has not just ignored God, but that has brazenly defied Him.

1:3.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:”

Damascus was the capital of Syria (Aram) which was a bitter foe of Israel (see 2 Ki 10:32-33; 13:3-7), and had been particularly cruel in its harassment of Gilead which lay just to the south on the eastern side of the Jordan river, and was therefore particularly vulnerable.  The threshing of Gilead with threshing instruments of iron is a graphic figure of speech denoting the harshness of Syria’s treatment of the people of Gilead.  Some suggest that the threshing was also literal, having reference to a cruel practice of actually sawing victims in two, or of dragging heavy iron- or stone-toothed threshing sledges over their naked bodies.

Keeping in mind that the consummate sin of Israel, and of the world, was their treatment of the Lord Jesus Christ, who can forget what was done to Him at the time of His so-called trial and crucifixion, fulfilling what was written, “The plowers plowed upon my back: they made long their furrows,” Ps 129:3; “... his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,” Isa 52:14. 

“For three transgressions ... and for four” is a symbolic way of indicating repeated transgressions (rebellions) for which God was about to punish them.

Some understand the term “For three transgressions ... and for four,” to mean seven, the biblical number of completeness, and indicating that they had exhausted God’s patience by filling their cup of iniquity to the brim.

The word “transgressions” is related to the idea of revolt against just authority; and some understand the references in Amos to be to the revolt of the nations against God’s covenant made with the human race through Noah in Ge 9:5-6, in which He emphasized the dire consequences of taking human life, “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” 

This suggestion has much to commend it, for throughout the book of Amos it was primarily the wanton shedding of blood that provoked God’s judgment on the Gentile nations, while in the case of Israel she had in addition violated the covenant made between her and Jehovah at Sinai through Moses, the terms of which embraced much more than forbidding bloodshed. 

It is to be noted also that while the nations were not actually included in the Mosaic covenant, Ro 2:14-15 makes it clear that their consciences make them aware of wrongdoing, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.”  As Bernard Osborne has aptly commented in his book The Prophecy of Amos, “They (the nations) were without special revelation, but not without moral accountability.”  The same writer adds the further instructive comment that, “The first two nations are characterized by gross cruelty, and the general relationships of life are violated.  That the second pair are brothers adds an extra dimension to their cruelty.  The particular relationships of life are being violated.  In the third pair cruelty was wreaked on the unborn babe, destroying thereby the future, and on a corpse, thus desecrating the past.  Here violation was done to the special claims of life, the attitude of the strong to the weak.”

We can’t read this comment relative to the unborn without remembering that here in America, under cover of the euphemism “legalized abortion,” countless unborn infants are slaughtered simply to cover up fornication and adultery, while the same infanticide is practiced in China in the name of population control.  It is doubtful also whether there has ever been an age in which there has been such desecration of the wholesome values held by past generations. 

1:4.  “But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces (fortifications) of Ben-hadad.”

1:5.  “I will break also the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the plain of Aven, and him that holdeth the scepter from the house of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith the Lord.”

Hazael had become king of Syria by murdering his master, king Ben-hadad II, see 2 Ki 8:7-15, and here God declares His intention to destroy Hazael and his son Ben-hadad III.  This judgment was executed in 732 B.C., see 2 Ki 16:5-9, God using the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III as His instrument.  Aven and Eden, places in the vicinity of Damascus, were associated particularly with the licentious worship of Venus, and with sun worship.

Kir is believed to be the name of the place in Mesopotamia from which the Syrians (Aramaens) had come originally.

1:6.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom.”

The Amplified translation of the latter part of this verse reads, “... because [as slave traders] they carried away captive the whole Jewish population [of defenseless Judean border villages] - of which none were spared, none left behind - and delivered them up to Edom’s slave trade.”

The mention of the other principal Philistine cities in verse 8 makes it clear that Gaza is used here representatively of all Philistia.

The crime which so angered God was not the selling into slavery of captives taken in war, but deliberate raiding for the sole purpose of capturing slaves for sale to the Edomite slave traders - a particularly cruel fate for the captured Israelites since the Edomites were their inveterate enemies.

“... because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom.”  We can’t read this without remembering what was done to the Lord, “And they that laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled,” Mt 26:57; “And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate,” Mt 27:2

1:7.  “But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof:”

1:8.  “And I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth the scepter from Ashkelon, and I will turn mine hand against Ekron: and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the Lord God.”

The fulfillment of this came in 743 BC when the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser subdued Gaza and most of Philistia, placing them under tribute.  In 711 BC their refusal to continue paying tribute brought the destruction of Ashdod; and for the same reason, brought the attack on Ashkelon and Ekron by Sennacherib in 701 BC.  The final destruction of the Philistines came at the hand of the Maccabees in the period 168-134 B.C.

The Bible Knowledge Commentary makes the following comment relative to the omission here of Gath from the list of Philistine cities, “The omission of the fifth, Gath, may be due to its ruined condition at the time of Amos because of the batterings of Hazael in 815 B.C. and Uzziah in 760 B.C. (cf.  Kings 12:17; 2 Chron. 26:6; Amos 6:2).”

1:9.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and remembered not the brotherly covenant:”

1:10.  “But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyrus, which shall devour the palaces thereof.”

The Amplified translation of the latter half of verse 9 reads, “... because they [as middlemen] delivered up a whole [Jewish] population to Edom, and did not [seriously] remember their brotherly covenant.”

Nothing is known of the occasion when Tyre delivered up a whole Jewish population to the Edomites who were slave traders; but the “brotherly covenant” is generally considered to have been that made between Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre, as recorded in 1 Ki 5:12.

Tyre was the principal city of Phoenicia, and it seems that the Phoenicians had acted as middlemen in handing over to the Edomite slave traders all the Jews of a particular area who had been captured in a slave-taking raid or in a general attack.  The enormity of their crime centered on the fact that they had done this with total disregard for the covenant that had been made between Solomon and Hiram, and which apparently had not been abrogated.

The foretold destruction of Tyre came in stages. Nebuchadnezzar besieged it for thirteen years (587-574 BC), and  Alexander the Great, after a seven-month siege, destroyed it in 332 B.C., when 6,000 Tyrians were slain, 2,000 crucified, and 30,000 sold as slaves.  It was rebuilt, however, and existed in the Lord’s day, the present day city of Sur standing on the original site.

This rebuilding would indicate that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Word relative to the destruction of some of these cities won’t occur until the Tribulation

1:11.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom (Esau), and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever:”

The specific instance alluded to here is unknown, but Edom’s enmity towards Israel is proverbial, being mentioned in other Scriptures, e.g., Nu 20; 2 Chr 28:17; Ps 137:5; Jer 49:7-22; Ez 25:12-14; and Obadiah; and what made his sin the more heinous was the fact that he was related to Israel by blood, for Esau and Jacob (Israel) were brothers.

1:12.  “But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”

Teman and Bozrah were the two principal cities of Edom, and are used here to designate the whole land, which was conquered by Assyria c. 736 BC, and had become a virtual desert by the fifth century B.C., see Mal 1:1-4.

1:13.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they might enlarge their border:”

The Ammonites were descended from Ben-ammi, Lot’s incestuously begotten younger son, and were therefore related to Israel, who on their journey from Egypt to Canaan were forbidden by God to interfere with the Ammonites, “And when thou comest nigh over against the children of Ammon, distress them not, nor meddle with them: for I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon any possession: because I have given it unto the children of Lot for a possession,” Dt 2:19.  It might have been expected therefore that the Ammonites would have remembered that kindness, but they didn’t, and in attempting to enlarge their borders, used unbelievable cruelty against the two and a half tribes who had settled in Gilead, east of the Jordan.  In one raid on Gilead, or perhaps in many, they had ripped open pregnant women in what is generally believed to have been a systematic attempt to wipe out the Gileadites altogether so that they, the Ammonites could seize their land.

1:14.  “But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour the palaces thereof, with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind:”

1:15.  “And their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together, saith the Lord.”

However forgetful Ammon might be relative to the kindness shown them by God and His people, God does not forget, and in His own perfect time will call every offender to judgment.

Rabbah was the capital city of the Ammonites, and in its destruction God bids the observer see the destruction of the whole kingdom, the instrument of that destruction being Nebuchadnezzar, for though Ammon continued to exist thereafter, it was of little importance, and by the time of the Romans had disappeared from history.  The tempest and the whirlwind are both frequently used scriptural symbols of God’s judgmental wrath.

[Amos 2]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough