AMOS CHAPTER 1: TOLERATED SINFULNESS
What is described?
What literally happened?
What is revealed about God’s character?
AMOS 1:1-15 (ESV)
VERSES 1-2: The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds 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. And he said: “The Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.”
Amos 1 begins by identifying the prophet and placing him in history (See the first post about Amos). It also places the imagery of God laying out His judgment and words like a roaring lion. The roaring lion melts everyone who hears it. Same with those that hear about the judgment of God. Chapter 1 contains words of warning for #1 Damascus, #2 Gaza and the Philistines, #3Tyre, #4Edom, and #5the Ammonites.
It is important to note the “three transgressions… for four” statements in each of the sections. This phrase is communicating figuratively from God to us that there are a great number of sins and transgressions being considered. It means the evil of these folks is full and overflowing. This phrase speaks much about God’s patience when it comes to sin. God is patient with all people and all nations and cultures. Patience is a key characteristic of YHWH.
VERSES 3-5: Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with threshing sledges of iron. 4 So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-Hadad. 5 I will break the gate-bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven, and him who holds the scepter from Beth-Eden; and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,” says the Lord.
When the Promised Land was divided among the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh received territory to the east of the Jordan which is Gilead (a mountainous region so ‘Ramoth Gilead’ means ‘Heights of Gilead’… all the same thing). If you sing hymns in church, Mount Pisgah’s lofty heights are in Gilead. Later, Ramoth Gilead fell to Damascus, and King Ahab attempted to retake the city for Israel, but he died (1 Kings 22:1–36) and King Jehoram later made it a possession of Israel after winning battles. Damascus mistreated the people of Israel in Gilead smashing them like an iron thresher pounds grain into dust.
Judgment of God comes upon them for these sins. 2 Kings 16:9 is the fulfillment of this doom: “And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin” (ESV).
VERSES 6-8: Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they carried into exile a whole people to deliver them up to Edom. 7 So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, and it shall devour her strongholds. 8 I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod, and him who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn my hand against Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,” says the Lord God.
Gaza was the principal city of the Philistines (5 cities total) and a representative of their sins. The event referred to may be the invasion of Judah by the Philistines and others in the time of Joram, mentioned in 2 Chronicles 21 when perhaps captive Judaeans were delivered to the Edomites. Gaza was conquered by Sennacherib of Assyria when he invaded Judea in the time of Hezekiah and then also by Pharaoh Neco (Jeremiah 47:1). Outside the Biblical text also historically by Alexander the Great (the remnant mentioned in verse 8), who spent more than two months in the siege.
Zephaniah 2:4 agrees with Amos: “For Gaza shall be deserted, and Ashkelon shall become a desolation; Ashdod’s people shall be driven out at noon, and Ekron shall be uprooted” (ESV).
VERSES 9-10: Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they delivered up a whole people to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. 10 So I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, and it shall devour her strongholds.
There were good relations between King David and King Solomon and the rulers of Tyre. This good relationship seems to have been forgotten by Tyre with slaves traded to Edom. Isaiah 23 says the same as Amos about Tyre. Psalm 83:5-8 records that Tyre ended up in an alliance against the People of Israel and they followed through with evil deeds. Ezekiel 26 also has words against Tyre.
There is a general morality (described in Genesis, days of Noah) that was being ignored by these nations. Murder was happening. A slave trade was happening. The treaties between nations were being broken and ignored. Long-standing relationships were set aside sinfully. They revoked morality and transgressed by not treating people as the image of God. God would not revoke His judgment against them… either.
What happened to Tyre? They historically gave tribute to Assyria but rebelled and King Sargon and King Nebuchadnezzar attacked them. Jeremiah 47:4 recounts they were in dire straits. Zechariah 9 also predicts they will come to dust and fire and ruin and did so under Alexander the Great.
VERSES 11-12: Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity, and his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever. 12 So I will send a fire upon Teman, and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.”
The nation(s) of Edom were never friendly to Israel and always sided against them in conflicts. In Psalm 83, Edom heads the list of Israel’s enemies. The beginnings of this can be seen in the rift between Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom) in Genesis. The entire Book of Obadiah is dedicated to prophecy against this nation.
Specifically, in these verses, we see a great evil of broken extended family ties (example: 1 Kings 9:13) and a huge issue of slavery (2 Chronicles 28:17). Again, notice that God took down the defenses of Edom and would make them vulnerable. An example of this might be 1 Kings 22:47 which recounts there was no king in Edom and they were vulnerable in that way.
King Nebuchadnezzar was the instrument of Edom’s destruction and Jeremiah 49:17 is clear that this people group would be utterly destroyed.
VERSES 13-15: Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border. 14 So I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour her strongholds, with shouting on the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind; 15 and their king shall go into exile, he and his princes together,” says the Lord.
Ammonites were related to the Israelites in that their beginning came from the incestual birth of Ammon from Lot and one of his daughters (Genesis 19). They were often enemies of Israel in Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 2 Kings, Hosea, and Jeremiah. Jeremiah 49:1-3 is a specific prophecy, like Amos, against Ammon. As in some other situations, King Nebuchadnezzar was the instrument of their destruction (Jeremiah 27, 49) who fell before his invading armies.
SUMMARY & APPLICATION: What is revealed about God’s character?
Sinfulness is tolerated by the holy God Almighty until He doesn’t tolerate it. Where is that line? We don’t know. We sometimes say, ‘God’s patience’ is eternal,’ but that is not necessarily true. These nations had sins piled upon each other and it was not for one thing, but for countless ways they turned their backs on YHWH.
When God says He will send fire, it means God will take out your defenses (excuses, bad attitudes, false beliefs about grace, self-centeredness, comparisons, moral justifications) and allow His judgment to come. You will be transparent before Him and you will be laid bare before Him. God will burn it all down. Repent, and take advantage of the opportunity given. Take it serious. As we read Amos, we will see all the prophets agreeing with one another about the results of the sinfulness of the nations.
If you get nothing else from this passage, notice the repeated phrase that God is patient with all people and all nations and cultures. Patience is a key characteristic of YHWH. Yet, it is not limitless (as we sometimes think). See God clearly and how He deals with people. Respond relationally to God in how He loves you… these are examples of people who did not respond. This is the same character of Jesus Christ (see Luke 13:3-5). Thankfully, in Christ, the permanent payment for sin has been made and a person can abide in Christ and so abide in His patience and mercy.
How then shall we live?
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