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

2:1.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime.”

The Moabites were also related to Israel, Moab being the incestuously begotten son of Lot by his elder daughter, Ge 19:37.

Though the specific event is not known, the burning of the bones of the king of Edom is believed to have been connected with the event mentioned in 2 Ki 3 which records the attack upon Moab by Israel, Judah, and Edom, in the course of which the king of Moab offered up his own son as a burnt offering, an act which apparently so horrified the kings of Judah and Edom that they withdrew, thus compelling Israel also to end the siege.  Tradition has it that the Moabites then retaliated by attacking Edom, and either burning the king of Edom alive, or taking his bones from his tomb and burning them to lime.  The reference here to that act indicates that it is fact rather than mere tradition.

2:2.  “But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kirioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet:”

2:3.  “And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the Lord.”

Kirioth was the capital of Moab, and the destruction foretold here was executed by Nebuchadnezzar early in the sixth century BC., for though Ammon continued thereafter, it was drastically weakened and of little importance, having disappeared entirely from history by the time of the Romans.

2:4.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the Lord, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers hath walked:”

Having revealed the judgments that were about to overtake the Gentile nations, the prophet now addresses Judah, assuring them that they too had rebelled against God, their sin being the more heinous because to them He had revealed His will in the law given at Sinai, something He had not done with the Gentiles.  In spite of having been given that explicit revelation, Judah had deliberately rejected it, and had turned from Jehovah to worship the false gods of their heathen neighbors.  “their lies” may refer to the false teaching of their leaders, which had first led them to bow down to the Baals of Canaan, but it is to be noted also that kazab, the word for false god, means literally “a lie or something deceptive.”

“... after the which their fathers hath walked” declares that their idolatry wasn’t something new.  It was of long standing.  They had had time in which to repent, but they preferred the licentious worship of the Baalim to that of the pure and holy activity connected with the worship of Jehovah.

It is possible that in Judah God is presenting us with a symbolic picture of the true Church as it is today, for only the spiritually blind will fail to see that many genuine believers are guilty of great disobedience.  Immorality and divorce are becoming as common among Christians as among the unconverted.  Many Christian businessmen are no more to be trusted than are their unconverted fellows.  What passes for worship in the average congregation is a travesty of the scriptural order; and as for idolatry, many Christians while keeping up the pretense of worshiping God, are just as ardent devotees of Mammon, Education, Pleasure, etc., as are their unconverted neighbors.

If we doubt that the vast majority of those comprising the true Church today are suffering the judgments of God, we have only to look at the unhappy state of their lives, their failure to be effective witnesses for Christ, and the few genuine converts being made.  Little or no time is given to prayer and serious Bible study, with the result that Christians are powerless, and as ignorant of the ways and will of God as are the unconverted around them.

2:5.  “But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces (citadels) of Jerusalem.”

Nebuchadnezzar was God’s instrument to execute that judgment by destroying Jerusalem and carrying the people captive to Babylon in 586 BC as recorded in 2 Ki 24-25.  That destruction, however, was but the foreshadowing of a second, which came in AD 70 when Jerusalem was again destroyed, by the Romans under Titus, that destruction being also a preview of that which is yet to occur in the fast approaching Tribulation when Jerusalem will again be surrounded by armies, but delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ returning in power and glory to judge the nations, and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

Relative to the application of the preceding verse to the true Church, it is significant that the emphasis here is upon the destruction of the palaces (citadels) of Jerusalem, and not of the people.  The citadels may represent the local churches, and no one can deny that within the lifetime of this present generation, congregations have shrunk in size, and diminished also in number, nor does the condition of the Church offer any hope that things will improve, the Lord Himself asking, “... when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Lk 18:8.

2:6.  “Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;”

Finally the prophet addresses Israel, the ten northern tribes, and whereas he mentioned only one offence when addressing each of the other nations, he declares Israel to be guilty of eight great sins, one more than seven the number of completeness, i.e., they had filled their cup of iniquity to overflowing: (1) they perverted judgment, (2) they sold the poor into slavery for failure to repay even a small debt, (3) they trampled roughshod over the poor, (4) father and son lay with the same woman, (5) they dressed themselves in clothing forfeited by penniless debtors, (6) they offered in the Temple wine forfeited by or bought with the money of bankrupt debtors, (7) they corrupted the Nazarites, and (8) they forbade the prophets to declare God’s truth.

Israel’s sin was compounded by virtue of her having been given a fuller revelation of God’s requirements, and as always, increased knowledge carries with it increased responsibility.

Before continuing our study it is necessary to note that as Judah may be a type of the true Church, so may Israel be a type of the professing mass of apostate Christendom, so that the judgments foretold relative to Israel are also foreshadowings of those about to fall on Christendom in the coming Tribulation.

First, God charged them with having perverted justice by accepting bribes, forbidden in Dt 16:18-20; and secondly, with having sold the poor into slavery for a debt as trifling as the price of a pair of sandals, see e.g., 2 Ki 4:1, doing this in defiance of God’s command given in Dt 15:7-11.

An honest appraisal of our so-called “Christian” society reveals that its justice systems are as venal as was that of the Israel addressed by Amos; nor is the oppression of the poor any less.

2:7.  “That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name.”

The NEB translates the first part of this verse, “They grind the heads of the poor into the earth, and thrust the humble out of their way,” and some commentators take this to be descriptive of the misery of the victims of perverted justice.

The second part of the verse relates to brazen immorality on the part of the Jews, which caused God’s name to be dishonored.  The reference is generally understood to be to the use of cultic prostitutes, the clear implication being that Israel was involved in the licentious worship of the Baalim.

Comment on the brazen immorality of the “Christian” nations would be redundant; and as noted in our introduction, the worship of money, education, pleasure, etc., is no less idolatry than was Israel’s veneration of literal idols.

2:8.  “And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.”

This describes their reclining, in garments forfeited by penniless debtors, while they reveled at feasts in connection with their worship of false gods, drinking or offering in idolatrous worship, wine also bought by money obtained as fines from those falsely accused, or seized from debtors too poor to repay a debt.

Some also understand their laying themselves down, to refer to sexual activity with cultic prostitutes.

God forbade the keeping overnight of a garment given in pledge for a debt, see Dt 24:12-13. 

“... in the house of their god” may refer to a heathen temple, or it may be God’s angry ironic disavowal of any relationship with people who had corrupted His pure order of worship by an intermingling of the vile practices mentioned.

An honest examination of Christendom’s so-called worship, in the light of the order set forth in Scripture, reveals it to be a hypocritical travesty.

2:9.  “Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.”

Amorite means sayer, a meaning which is particularly significant in connection with the use of the name here as a synonym for Canaanite.  They were a powerful people occupying land east and west of the Jordan, their name being applied generally to all the tribes of Canaan.  God was reminding rebel Israel that it was He Who had given her all that had formerly belonged to the Canaanites, and in that reminder was also warning her that He was now about to dispossess her, for her iniquity was greater than theirs.

While the references to their height and strength may be metaphoric, literality can’t be dismissed in view of what is written in Nu 13:32, where the spies sent to search out Canaan, reported that, “... all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.”

“... I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath,” is the equivalent of the modern term “I destroyed them root and branch,” i.e., the destruction was complete: neither ancestor nor descendant remained.  This was God’s reminder that it was His power that had destroyed the Canaanites, so that Israel might inherit the land.  But it is to be remembered that Canaanite means trafficker, which, combined with his occupation of land that God intended Israel to enjoy, presents him as a type of those who traffic in spiritual truth for personal gain, and who occupy a place that God intends for born-again believers only.  The significance of their being also called Amorites sayers lies in the fact that these spiritual traffickers are they who say they are Christians, but who are in fact the enemies of God and His people.  Canaan occupied by Canaanites, is a clear typological picture of that section of our modern world which claims to be Christian, but which misuses spiritual things for temporal gain.  (Canaan occupied by Israelites, is a typological picture of the spiritual sphere into which the new birth introduces spiritual Israelites, i.e., genuine believers).  As God destroyed the Canaanites, so will He also destroy their spiritual counterparts: those who constitute professing but apostate Christendom; and it is that truth that is being declared ultimately in His foretold destruction of the Israel addressed by Amos.

2:10.  “Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.”

He further reminded her of her former state.  She had been the bondslave of the Egyptians from whom He had delivered her by miraculous power, breaking their power and impoverishing them by His plagues, the last of which slew all their firstborn, their final destruction coming when He drowned their armies in the Red Sea when they in their folly pursued their former slaves.

And having delivered Israel, He had led her for forty years through the wilderness, finally bringing her into Canaan with its milk and honey, and driving out the enemy from before her.

2:11.  “And I raised up your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites.  Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the Lord.”

In His love and gracious kindness toward Israel Jehovah had added blessing to blessing.  In addition to those already mentioned, He had revealed His mind and will to chosen ones of their sons to be His prophets, not only to their fellow Israelites, but to all nations, His revelations to them constituting our Bible.  In addition He had chosen some of them to be set apart from others (Nazarite means separated), as sanctified vessels for His service, the allusion possibly being to the separation of Aaron and the Levites to be His priests.

His question “Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel?” was rhetorical: they couldn’t deny the truth He had just declared.

2:12.  “But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.”

One of the requirements of Nazariteship was that the man or woman drink no wine, see Nu 6:1-21, the spiritual significance of this being that since wine, in a bad sense, represents sinful pleasures, those who would walk in obedience to God, must keep themselves separate from the world’s sinful pleasures.  But under the metaphor of Israel’s having given the Nazarites wine to drink, we are being pointed to the depravity of the priesthood, as for example in the days of Eli, see 1 Sa 2:12-25. 

Christendom has also given the Nazarites wine to drink, as a review of the history of apostate Christendom reveals all too clearly.  It was early in her experience that the apostate church replaced the spiritually gifted ministers listed in Eph 4:11, with theologically educated clerics - many of whom lacked spiritual life - and who were all too ready to join their congregations in a giddy round of social activities, so that they who should have been teaching others the need of separation from the frivolity of a sinful world, quickly became the Christianized counterparts of Israel’s wine-bibbing Nazarites, literally and figuratively

Relative to the prophets, Israel’s evil treatment of them is too well attested to need comment, see, e.g., Mt 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”  By every means in their power they sought to silence God’s messengers.  Nor is it any different in Christendom.  As long as the preachers pronounce polite platitudes all is well, but let one of them preach the truth as declared in Scripture, and almost invariably he finds himself unemployed.

2:13.  “Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.”

Translations of this verse differ widely, the NEB, e.g., rendering it, “I (Jehovah) groan under the burden of you...” while the RSV, and TAYLOR translate it, “I will press you down in your place...” and “I will make you groan...” respectively.  The one that seems to make most sense, however, is the AMPLIFIED which combines these three, and renders it, “Behold, I am pressed under you, and I will press you down in your place, as a cart presses that is full of sheaves.”

God was grieved by their wickedness and their refusal to repent, so that He was left with no alternative but to execute judgment.

2:14.  “Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself:”

There would be no escaping God’s wrath.  The swift would be unable to run fast enough; the strong would be weak; and the mightiest warrior powerless against His judgmental anger.

2:15.  “Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself.”

The most skillful archer; the fastest runner; even the horsemen, would all alike be unable to escape the wrath of the God Whose patience they had exhausted, a position relative to which it is written, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Heb 10:31.  He who will not fall into God’s hand in repentant belief, in God’s time, and thus save himself, must then fall into His hand as an unrepentant rebel, and perish eternally.

2:16.  “And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day saith the Lord.”

Taylor translates this verse, “The most courageous of your mighty men will drop their weapons and run for their lives that day.”  It is one thing to defy a God Who is unseen; quite another to stand in His presence having human might exposed for the puny thing it is in the blaze of His omnipotence.

Relative to the fulfillment of the judgments foretold by Amos, Dr Tatford quotes Pusey as follows, “There followed, under Tiglath-Pileser, the fulfilment of the prophecy as to Damascus and Gilead.  Under Sargon was fulfilled the prophecy on the ten tribes.  That on Judah yet waited 133 years and then was fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar.  A few years later, and he executed God’s judgments foretold by Amos on their enemies Moab, Ammon, Edom, Tyre.  Kings of Egypt, Assyria, and the Macedonian Alexander fulfilled in succession the prophecy as to Philistia.”

[Amos 3]


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