Amos 1 – Judgment on the Nations
A. The man and his message.
1. (1) Amos the man.
The words of Amos, who was among the sheepbreeders 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.
a. The words of Amos: This book of the prophet Amos is the only mention we have of this man in the Old Testament. The books of 1 and 2 Kings or 1 and 2 Chronicles do not mention this prophet, and he should not be confused with Amoz, the father of Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 1:1).
i. The name Amos means burden or burden bearer. Since most of the prophecies of Amos concern coming judgment on either the nations surrounding Israel or judgment on Israel itself, he was a man with a burden.
b. Who was among the sheepbreeders of Tekoa: It seems that Amos had no “formal” theological or prophetic training, though there was a “school of the prophets” known as the sons of the prophets at that time (1 Kings 20:35, 2 Kings 2:3-15, 2 Kings 4:1, 2 Kings 4:38). Amos was a simple man, a farmer, who had been uniquely called to ministry.
i. Amos spoke of his background and calling in Amos 7:14-15: I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet, but I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’
ii. Amos uses an unusual word to describe his occupation. Instead of calling himself a “shepherd,” the literal ancient Hebrew calls Amos a “sheep raiser.” Amos probably chose this title to emphasize the fact that he really was a shepherd, and that he did not mean “shepherd” in a symbolic, spiritual sense. The way God used Amos reminds us of the way He used the twelve disciples of Jesus – common, workingmen used to do great things for God.
iii. Amos was from Tekoa, a city about ten miles from Jerusalem. It seems that he delivered his prophetic message at Bethel (Amos 7:13), one of the southernmost cities of Israel – not very far from Tekoa.
c. Which he saw concerning Israel: Amos was primarily a prophet to Israel, though he will speak to many nations. He served in the days of the divided monarchy (the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash). Most researchers date the ministry of Amos somewhere between 760 b.c. and 750 b.c.
i. When Amos served as a prophet, the people of God had been divided into two nations for more than 150 years. The southern nation was known as Judah, and the northern nation was still known as Israel. Through the period of the divided monarch Judah saw a succession of kings, some godly and some ungodly (Uzziah was one of the better kings of Judah). The northern nation of Israel saw nothing but a succession of wicked kings. Jeroboam the son of Joash was one of the better kings among these wicked men – especially in a political and military sense – but he was still an ungodly man (2 Kings 14:23-29).
ii. For most of its history, the northern kingdom of Israel struggled against Syria – her neighbor to the north. But around the year 800, the mighty Assyrian Empire defeated Syria, and neutralized this power that hindered Israel’s expansion and prosperity. With Syria in check, Israel enjoyed great prosperity during the reign of Jeroboam II.
d. Two years before the earthquake: “We have no independent record of this earthquake, so that phrase is no help to us in dating.” (Boice)
2. (2) The message of Amos.
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.”
a. The Lord roars from Zion: Amos brings a message of judgment. The first two chapters of Amos describe the judgment of the Lord, first against Gentile nations then against Judah and Israel.
b. And utters His voice from Jerusalem: Israel – in direct disobedience to God – established rival centers of worship in Dan, Bethel, and Gilgal. When Amos says that the Lord speaks from Jerusalem, he reminds all of Israel where the center of true worship is.
c. The pastures of the shepherds mourn: Since Amos was a shepherd himself (Amos 7:14) he knew how the judgment of God could effect the land. If God withheld rain, sent plagues, or allowed conquering armies to come upon the land, it made the pastures of the shepherds mourn.
d. The top of Carmel withers: Carmel was a prominent mountain in the north of Israel, the site of Elijah’s dramatic confrontation with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:19-40). Since Elijah served before the time of Amos, it may be that Amos is reminding Israel of this victory of the Lord God over idolatry.
B. Judgment on the nations.
1. (3-5) Judgment on Damascus, the capital of Syria.
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron. But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Ben-Hadad. I will also break the gate bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from the Valley of Aven, and the one who holds the scepter from Beth Eden. The people of Syria shall go captive to Kir,” says the Lord.
a. For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment: This “formula” will introduce God’s announcement of judgment against each nation. It doesn’t mean that Damascus only committed three sins, and then God thought of a fourth; it simply has the idea of “sin upon sin upon sin.”
b. Because they have threshed Gilead with implements of iron: The region of Gilead belonged to Israel, and God will judge Damascus and the Syrians for coming against the land of God’s people, and coming with such complete destruction that it is as if a deep plow had been run through the land.
i. “Threshing sledges with iron prongs or teeth are probably a figure of speech implying extreme cruelty and utter thoroughness in the treatment of those who opposed.” (Hubbard)
c. The people of Syria shall go captive to Kir: This was fulfilled in 2 Kings 16:9, which describes when the Assyrians attacked Syria because King Ahaz of Judah paid them. So the king of Assyria heeded him; for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and took it, carried its people captive to Kir, and killed Rezin. (2 Kings 16:9)
2. (6-8) Judgment on Gaza, a city of the Philistines.
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom. But I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza, which shall devour its palaces. I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and the one 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.
a. Because they took captive the whole captivity to deliver them up to Edom: Gaza was a city of the Philistines, on the coast to the west of Israel and Judah. Because they came against God’s people and did deliver them up to Edom, God will bring judgment against Gaza and the other cities of the Philistines (Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron).
b. The whole captivity: “The condemnation here is not against slavery in and of itself, just as the previous oracle was not against war in and of itself. The crime is not that soldiers were enslaved after being taken in battle, which was the standard practice, but that the Philistines used their temporary supremacy to enslave whole populations – soldiers and civilians, men and women, adults and children, young and old – for commercial profit. Gaza did not even need the slaves. She merely sold them to Edom for more money.” (Boice)
3. (9-10) Judgment on Tyre, a city of Lebanon.
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Tyre, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom, and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. But I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre, which shall devour its palaces.”
a. Because they delivered up the whole captivity to Edom: Since the city of Tyre (of Lebanon, to the north of Israel) sinned against God’s people like the Philistines did (Amos 1:6-8), they will receive like judgment (fire upon the wall of Tyre).
b. A fire upon the wall of Tyre: The walls of a city were her defense and strength. If the walls were burnt, the city was defeated.
4. (11-12) Judgment on Edom.
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever. But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”
a. Because he pursued his brother with the sword: The people of Edom descended from Essau, the brother of Jacob (later named Israel). In this way, the Lord can speak of the people of Edom as brother to the people of God, in that they share common ancestors in Abraham and Isaac. God promises judgment against Edom because they attacked Judah (2 Kings 8:20-22).
b. And cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever: Edom held on to anger and wrath when they should have long before put it away. For this, the judgment of God is coming against them. We need to learn to give our anger and wrath to God, and let Him be our avenger.
5. (13-15) Judgment on Ammon.
Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of the people of Ammon, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their territory. But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour its palaces, amid shouting in the day of battle, and a tempest in the day of the whirlwind. Their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together,” says the Lord.
a. Because they ripped open the women with child in Gilead: The area of Gilead belonged to Israel, and suffered attacks not only from Syria (Amos 1:3), but also from their neighbor to the west, Ammon. We could say that Ammon sinned against the future by killing babies in the womb.
b. Their king shall go into captivity, he and his princes together: Because of their attacks against Israel, God promises judgment again Ammon.
© 2001 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission