Amos 1-2:3 The Stage Is Set And The Nations Are Judged.
Tekoa, Amos’ home, was five miles south of Bethlehem. Like Isaiah and Micah who would follow after him, this was a word which he saw (1:1). “He was a man of several trades: shepherd (1:1), livestock breeder, and dresser of sycamore trees (7:14)” (NGSB. p.1392). He knew the geopolitical world in which he lived, and its history (1:3-2:3), and was also familiar with the history of the LORD’s covenant people. He had not studied to be a prophet (7:14), even though he was well acquainted with the law. His calling was a sovereign one from the LORD. His ministry occurred during the reigns of Uzziah or Azariah of Judah (792-740 Cf. II Chr. 26:1-23), and Jeroboam II of Israel (793-753), with his focus primarily on the latter (7:15), although also addressing the sins of the former (2:4-5; 9:11).
“During Jeroboam’s reign there was peace between Judah and Israel. He had restored the boundaries of Israel in accordance with the prophecy of Jonah son of Amittai (2 Kin. 14:25). The northern kingdom had become wealthy and was enjoying a false sense of security, encouraged by the weakness of Egypt, Babylon, and especially Assyria” (Ibid. p.1392). However, under Tiglath-Pileser III (745-727) Assyria gained strength and Judah would become a vassal, with Damascus, “which had stood between Israel and Assyria, became part of the Assyrian empire” (Ibid. p.1392). T-P II was succeeded by his son Shalmaneser V (727-722) who forced Hoshea, king of Israel to become his vassal. However, the latter, relying on Egypt, rebelled and Israel fell with the loss of the capital of Samaria in 722 (II Kgs. 17:3-6).
Like Isaiah and Hosea, Amos also used the structure of the lawsuit to lay the LORD’s charges against His covenant people, focused on both idolatry and social injustice. Israel practiced its ritual formalities, while practicing violence and injustice (2:6-8; 4:1). Amos’ theology goes back to creation, the Maker of heaven and earth contrasted with Israel’s demonic idolatry (Dt. 32:16-17 Cf. I Cor. 10:20). In His sovereign providence, he raised up one nation after another in judgment (1:3-2:3), which ought to have served as warnings to His covenanted people. This word which Amos saw, was from the LORD who roared from Zion (v. 2 Cf. Joel 3:16), and a roar is not something which a sheepbreeder wanted to hear. It would be as fearful a thing as an earthquake, one of significance (Cf. Zech. 14:5).
The refrain through these beginning judgments of “three transgressions and for four” was a way of saying many-it wasn’t just for one or two transgressions, even though the prophet does focus on one or two of the big ones of each. Each of these nations tailored their sin as it were, fashion in their own place and time. Damascus would be punished for threshing Gilead, but the very thing one would not want on a threshing floor, namely fire, would come upon Hazeal the king of Syria, destroying the palaces of the nobility. Fittingly, “the Valley of Aven” literally means “the Valley of Wickedness,” an area near Lebanon for sun worship, and the judgment would also extend to the outskirts of Beth Eden, 200 miles NE of Damascus. Syria would be taken captive in exile to Kir, their original home (9:7).
Gaza took “captive the whole captivity” to deliver them to the descendants of Esau whose history was one of breaking “the covenant of brotherhood” (vv. 6, 9). But Gaza would also suffer fire reaching to its palaces, with the inhabitants from Ashdod and Ashkelon also being cut off, even to the perishing of their remnant (vv. 7-8). Tyre, because they aided in the delivering of the captive covenanted people to Edom, would also suffer fire reaching all the way to its palaces (vv. 9-10). Edom, who “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood,” pursuing his brother with the sword, casting off all pity, being consumed with anger and wrath, would also suffer fire that would reach to its palaces (v. 12). So we see this continued refrain of the consuming fire of judgment reaching all the way to their palaces, their leadership.
Ammon, for ripping “open the women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their territory,” would also suffer fire reaching to its palaces (vv. 13-14a). Ammon would suffer that which they sought to inflict on the captive covenanted people. Their king would himself go into captivity, along with their princes, thus losing all their territory (vv. 14b-15). Moab will also suffer fire reaching to its palaces, because even though they came upon Edom, they did so with their own brand of wickedness, burning “the bones of the king of Edom to lime (v. 1). “According to Hebrew tradition, these are the bones of the Moabite king Mesha. Such burning indicated special contempt” (NGSB. p.1396 Cf. II Kgs. 3:4, 26-27). Consequently, unlike Ammon, Moab’s leaders, its judges and princes, would not be spared.