1
Introduction
1 The following is a record of what Amos prophesied.#tn Heb “The words of Amos.” Among the prophetic books this opening phrase finds a parallel only at Jer 1:1 but is not that uncommon in other genres (note, e.g., Prov 30:1; 31:1; Eccl 1:1; Neh 1:1). He#tn Heb “who.” Here a new sentence has been started in the translation for stylistic reasons. was one of the herdsmen from Tekoa. These prophecies about Israel were revealed to him#tn Heb “which he saw concerning Israel.” during the time of#tn Heb “in the days of.” King Uzziah of Judah and#tn The Hebrew text repeats, “and in the days of.” This phrase has not been repeated in the translation for stylistic reasons. King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.#sn This refers to a well-known earthquake that occurred during the first half of the 8th century b.c. According to a generally accepted dating system, Uzziah was a co-regent with his father Amaziah from 792-767 b.c. and ruled independently from 767-740 b.c. Jeroboam II was a co-regent with his father Joash from 793-782 b.c. and ruled independently from 782-753 b.c. Since only Uzziah and Jeroboam are mentioned in the introduction it is likely that Amos’ mission to Israel and the earthquake which followed occurred between 767-753 b.c. The introduction validates the genuine character of Amos’ prophetic ministry in at least two ways: (1) Amos was not a native Israelite or a prophet by trade. Rather he was a herdsman in Tekoa, located in Judah. His mere presence in the northern kingdom as a prophet was evidence that he had been called by God (see 7:14-15). (2) The mighty earthquake shortly after Amos’ ministry would have been interpreted as an omen or signal of approaching judgment. The clearest references to an earthquake are 1:1 and 9:1, 5. It is possible that the verb הָפַךְ (hafakh, “overturn”) at 3:13-15, 4:11, 6:11, and 8:8 also refers to an earthquake, as might the descriptions at 2:13 and 6:9-10. Evidence of a powerful earthquake has been correlated with a destruction layer at Hazor and other sites. Its lasting impact is evident by its mention in Zech 14:5 and 2 Chr 26:16-21. Earthquake imagery appears in later prophets as well (cf. D. N. Freedman and A. Welch, “Amos’s Earthquake and Israelite Prophecy,” Scripture and Other Artifacts, 188-98). On the other hand, some of these verses in Amos could allude to the devastation that would be caused by the imminent military invasion.
God Will Judge the Surrounding Nations
2 Amos#tn Heb “he;” the referent (Amos) has been specified in the translation for clarity. said:
“The Lord comes roaring#sn The Lord, in his role of warrior-king, is compared to a lion. See 3:4, 8. out of Zion;
from Jerusalem#map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. he comes bellowing!#tn Heb “gives his voice.”
The shepherds’ pastures wilt;#tn Lexicographers debate whether there are two roots אָבַל (’aval), one signifying “mourn” and the other “be dry,” or simply one (“mourn”). The parallel verb (“withers”) might favor the first option and have the meaning “wilt away.” It is interesting to note, however, that the root appears later in the book in the context of lament (5:16; 8:8, 10; 9:5). Either 1:2 is a possible wordplay to alert the reader to the death that will accompany the judgment (the option of two roots), or perhaps the translation “mourns” is appropriate here as well (cf. KJV, NASB, NKJV, NJPS; see also D. J. A. Clines, “Was There an ’BL II ‘Be Dry’ in Classical Hebrew?” VT 42 [1992]: 1-10).
the summit of Carmel#sn Carmel was a region known for its abundant plants and trees. See Isa 33:9; 35:2; Jer 50:19. withers.”#sn Loss of a land’s fertility is frequently associated with judgment in the OT and ancient Near Eastern literature.
3 This is what the Lord says:
“Because Damascus has committed three crimes#tn Traditionally, “transgressions” or “sins.” The word refers to rebellion against authority and is used in the international political realm (see 1 Kgs 12:19; 2 Kgs 1:1; 3:5, 7; 8:22). There is debate over its significance in this context. Some relate the “rebellion” of the foreign nations to God’s mandate to Noah (Gen 9:5-7). This mandate is viewed as a treaty between God and humankind, whereby God holds humans accountable to populate the earth and respect his image as it is revealed in all people. While this option is a possible theological explanation of the message in light of the Old Testament as a whole, nothing in these oracles alludes to that Genesis passage. J. Barton suggests that the prophet is appealing to a common morality shared across the ancient Near East regarding the conduct of war since all of the oracles can be related to activities and atrocities committed in warfare (Amos’s Oracles against the Nations [SOTSMS], 39-61). The “transgression” then would be a violation of what all cultures would take as fundamental human decency. Some argue that the nations cited in Amos 1-2 had been members of the Davidic empire. Their crime would consist of violating the mutual agreements that all should have exhibited toward one another (cf. M. E. Polley, Amos and the Davidic Empire). This interpretation is connected to the notion that Amos envisions a reconstituted Davidic empire for Israel and the world (9:11-15). Ultimately, we can only speculate what lay behind Amos’ thinking. He does not specify the theological foundation of his universal moral vision, but it is clear that Amos believes that all nations are responsible before the Lord for their cruelty toward other human beings. He also assumes that even those who did not know his God would recognize their inhumane treatment of others as inherently wrong. The translation “crimes” is general enough to communicate that a standard (whether human or divine) has been breached. For a survey of the possible historical events behind each oracle, see S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia).
make that four!#tn Heb “Because of three violations of Damascus, even because of four.”sn The three…four style introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2. Based on the use of a similar formula in wisdom literature (see Prov 30:18-19, 29-31), one expects to find in each case a list of four specific violations. However, only in the eighth oracle (against Israel) does one find the expected fourfold list. Through this adaptation and alteration of the normal pattern the Lord indicates that his focus is Israel (he is too bent on judging Israel to dwell very long on her neighbors) and he emphasizes Israel’s guilt with respect to the other nations. (Israel’s list fills up before the others’ lists do.) See R. B. Chisholm, “For Three Sins…Even for Four: The Numerical Sayings in Amos,” BSac 147 (1990): 188-97. – I will not revoke my
decree of judgment.#tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The pronominal object (1) refers to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 46-47. Another option (2) is to understand the suffix as referring to the particular nation mentioned in the oracle and to translate, “I will not take him [i.e., that particular nation] back.” In this case the Lord makes it clear that he does not intend to resume treaty relations with the nation in view. See M. L. Barré, “The Meaning of lá ásŒybnw in Amos 1:3-2:6,” JBL 105 (1986): 622.
They ripped through Gilead like threshing sledges with iron teeth.#tn Heb “they threshed [or “trampled down”] Gilead with sharp iron implements” (NASB similar).sn Like threshing sledges with iron teeth. A threshing sledge was made of wooden boards embedded with sharp stones or iron teeth. As the sledge was pulled over the threshing floor the stones or iron teeth would separate the grain from the stalks. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 64-65. Here the threshing metaphor is used to emphasize how violently and inhumanely the Arameans (the people of Damascus) had treated the people of Gilead (located east of the Jordan River).
4 So I will set Hazael’s house#tn “Hazael’s house” (“the house of Hazael”) refers to the dynasty of Hazael.sn Hazael took the throne of Aram in 843 b.c. and established a royal dynasty. See 2 Kgs 8:7-15 and W. Pitard, Ancient Damascus, 145-60. on fire;
fire#tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity. will consume Ben Hadad’s#sn Ben-hadad may refer to Hazael’s son and successor (2 Kgs 13:3, 24) or to an earlier king (see 1 Kgs 20), perhaps the ruler whom Hazael assassinated when he assumed power. fortresses.
5 I will break the bar#sn The bar on the city gate symbolizes the city’s defenses and security. on the gate of Damascus.
I will remove#tn Heb “cut off.” the ruler#tn Heb “the one who sits.” Some English versions take the Hebrew term in a collective sense as “inhabitants” (e.g., KJV, NKJV, NASB, NRSV). The context and the parallel in the next clause (“the one who holds the royal scepter”), however, suggest that the royal house is in view. For this term (יוֹשֵׁב, yoshev), see N. K. Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh, 512-30. from Wicked Valley,#tn Heb “valley of wickedness.” Though many English versions take the Hebrew phrase בִקְעַת־אָוֶן (biq’-at ’aven) as a literal geographical place name (“Valley of Aven,” so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), it appears to be a derogatory epithet for Damascus and the kingdom of Aram.
the one who holds the royal scepter from Beth Eden.#tn Many associate the name “Beth Eden” with Bit Adini, an Aramean state located near the Euphrates River, but it may be a sarcastic epithet meaning “house of pleasure.”
The people of Aram will be deported to Kir.”#sn According to Amos 9:7, the Arameans originally came from Kir. The Lord threatens to reverse their history and send them back there.
The Lord has spoken!
6 This is what the Lord says:
“Because Gaza#sn Gaza was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gath). It was considered to mark the southern limit of Canaan at the point on the coast where it was located (Gen 10:19). has committed three crimes#tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.
make that four!#tn Heb “Because of three violations of Gaza, even because of four.”sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3. – I will not revoke my decree of judgment.#tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.
They deported a whole community#tn Heb “[group of] exiles.” A number of English translations take this as a collective singular and translate it with a plural (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV). and sold them#tn Heb “in order to hand them over.” to Edom.
7 So I will set Gaza’s city wall#sn The city wall symbolizes the city’s defenses and security. on fire;
fire#tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity. will consume her fortresses.
8 I will remove#tn Heb “cut off.” the ruler#tn Heb “the one who sits.” Some translations take this expression as a collective singular referring to the inhabitants rather than the ruler (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT). from Ashdod,#sn Ashdod was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashkelon, Ekron, Gaza, and Gath).
the one who holds the royal scepter from Ashkelon.#sn Ashkelon was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashdod, Ekron, Gaza, and Gath).
I will strike Ekron#sn Ekron was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, and Gath). with my hand;#tn Heb “I will turn my hand against Ekron.” For other uses of the idiom, “turn the hand against,” see Ps 81:14; Isa 1:25; Jer 6:9; Zech 13:7.
the rest of the Philistines will also die.”#tn Heb “and the remnant of the Philistines will perish.” The translation above assumes that reference is made to other Philistines beside those living in the cities mentioned. Another option is to translate, “Every last Philistine will die.”
The sovereign Lord has spoken!
9 This is what the Lord says:
“Because Tyre has committed three crimes#tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.
make that four!#tn Heb “Because of three violations of Tyre, even because of four.”sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3. – I will not revoke my decree of judgment.#tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.
They sold#tn Heb “handed over.” a whole community#tn Heb “[group of] exiles.” A similar phrase occurs in v. 6. to Edom;
they failed to observe#tn Heb “did not remember.” a treaty of brotherhood.#sn A treaty of brotherhood. In the ancient Near Eastern world familial terms were sometimes used to describe treaty partners. In a treaty between superior and inferior parties, the lord would be called “father” and the subject “son.” The partners in a treaty between equals referred to themselves as “brothers.” For biblical examples, see 1 Kgs 9:13; 20:32-33.
10 So I will set fire to Tyre’s city wall;#sn The city wall symbolizes the city’s defenses and security.
fire#tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity. will consume her fortresses.”
11 This is what the Lord says:
“Because Edom has committed three crimes#tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.
make that four!#tn Heb “Because of three violations of Edom, even because of four.”sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3. – I will not revoke my decree of judgment.#tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.
He chased his brother#sn It is likely that “brother” refers here to a treaty partner (see the note on the word “brotherhood” in 1:9). However, it is possible, if Israel is in view, that Edom’s ancient blood relationship to God’s people is alluded to here. Cf. NCV, NLT “their relatives, the Israelites.” with a sword;
he wiped out his allies.#tn Or “He stifled his compassion.” The Hebrew term רָחֲמָיו (rakhamayv) is better understood here (parallel to “brother/treaty partner”) as a reference to “allies” which Edom betrayed. An Aramaic cognate is attested (see DNWSI 2:1069-70). See M. Fishbane, “The Treaty Background of Amos 1:11 and Related Matters,” JBL 89 (1970): 313-18; idem, “Critical Note: Additional Remarks on rh£myw (Amos 1:11),” JBL 91 (1972): 391-93; and M. Barré, “Amos 1:11 reconsidered,” CBQ 47 (1985) 420-27. Some argue that the clause is best translated as “and destroyed his womenfolk.” רַחַם (rakham) means “womb”; the plural here would be a metonymy for “women” and could establish a parallel with the atrocity of 1:13. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 64-65.
In his anger he tore them apart without stopping to rest;#tn Heb “his anger tore continually.” The Hebrew verb טָרַף (taraf, “tear apart”) is often used of an animal tearing apart its prey. The word picture here is that of a vicious predator’s feeding frenzy.
in his fury he relentlessly attacked them.#tn Traditionally, “he kept his fury continually.” The Hebrew term שְׁמָרָה (shÿmarah) could be taken as a Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular with 3rd person feminine singular suffix (with mappiq omitted), “he kept it” (NASB, NKJV, NRSV). It is also possible in light of the parallelism that שָׁמַר (shamar) is a rare homonym cognate to an Akkadian verb meaning “to rage; to be furious.” Repointing the verb as שָׁמְרָה (shamÿrah, third person feminine singular), one could translate literally, “his fury raged continually” (NIV, NJPS).
12 So I will set Teman#sn Teman was an important region (or perhaps city) in Edom. on fire;
fire#tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity. will consume Bozrah’s#sn Bozrah was a city located in northern Edom. fortresses.”
13 This is what the Lord says:
“Because the Ammonites have committed three crimes#tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.
make that four!#tn Heb “Because of three violations of the Ammonites, even because of four.”On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3. – I will not revoke my decree of judgment.#tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.
They ripped open Gilead’s pregnant women#sn The Ammonites ripped open Gilead’s pregnant women in conjunction with a military invasion designed to expand their territory. Such atrocities, although repugnant, were not uncommon in ancient Near Eastern warfare.
so they could expand their territory.
14 So I will set fire to Rabbah’s#sn Rabbah was the Ammonite capital. city wall;#sn The city wall symbolizes the city’s defenses and security.
fire#tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity. will consume her fortresses.
War cries will be heard on the day of battle;#tn Heb “with a war cry in the day of battle.”
a strong gale will blow on the day of the windstorm.#tn Heb “with wind in the day of the windstorm.”sn A windstorm is a metaphor for judgment and destruction in the OT (see Isa 29:6; Jer 23:19) and ancient Near Eastern literature.
15 Ammon’s#tn Heb “their”; the referent (Ammon) has been specified in the translation for clarity. king will be deported;#tn Heb “will go into exile.”
he and his officials#tn Or “princes” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NLT); TEV “officers”; CEV “leaders.” will be carried off#tn The words “will be carried off” are supplied in the translation for clarification. together.”
The Lord has spoken!
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