Amos Speaks Again


Tucked away among over 8,000 posts currently available on the website is a series of articles in a category called “The Prophets Speak Again”.  This category contains commentaries on the so-called minor prophets.  (The major prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The minor prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. They're not called minor because they're less important, but because their books are shorter.)

I've tried to relate the writings of these prophets to our times and that's why the category is called “The Prophets Speak Again”.  So far I've posted commentaries on  Joel, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Habakkuk.  You can access these commentaries by selecting “Articles” on the menu bar at the top of the home page, and then scrolling down the Browse by Category list on the left until you reach “The Prophets Speak Again”.  It's the second from the bottom.   Click on it to access a directory of all the commentaries in the category.  Select the one you want and start reading.

I say all this to announce the beginning of a series on the book of Amos, which will become part of this category.  Let's begin with a little background.

Introducing Amos

Although Amos lived in a small town just south of Bethlehem and about eleven miles from Jerusalem, the Lord called him to be a prophet to the Northern Kingdom. His term of office, so to speak, lasted from 760 to 750 BC.  This made him a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea, Micah, and probably Jonah.  

The division of Israel into two kingdoms had taken place nearly two hundred years earlier, but both the north and south were enjoying great prosperity.  In the Northern Kingdom, it was a time of idolatry,  luxurious living, personal extravagance, and immorality.  The justice system had become corrupt and the poor were being oppressed.  Having abandoned their commitment to God's law, the people no longer had any basis for standards of conduct.

As their prosperity increased, the ruling class had become politically secure and spiritually smug, thinking it was a sign of God's favor. They had ignored His warnings and His patience was at an end.  He was sending Amos to announce that the coming judgment wouldn't just be another warning.  This time it would bring the end of the kingdom. 

This similarity with our times is why I believe the message Amos brought to the Northern Kingdom will have relevance to America, and indeed the whole world, today. Let's begin. 

Amos 1

The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.

He said:

“The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up,
and the top of Carmel withers.”
(Amos 1:1-2)

Amos worked as a shepherd in his home town of Tekoa and saw a vision of the coming judgment.  From the driest part of the land to the greenest, the Lord's judgment would be as severe as if a drought had afflicted them.

Judgment on Israel’s Neighbors

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth, I will send fire upon the house of Hazael that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.  I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden. The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,” says the Lord. (Amos 1:3-5)

The Lord had Amos begin with a series of pronouncements upon Israel's traditional enemies that will take us through chapter 1 and into chapter 2, when He will inform Israel that they will not escape His anger. 

Damascus was the capital of Aram. The Arameans had brutally mistreated the people of Gilead, Israel's territory east of the Sea of Galilee. A number of years earlier the Lord had sent Elijah to anoint Hazael king over Aram (1 Kings 19:15).  Ben-Hadad was his son and successor.  Aven can mean wickedness or emptiness and Eden means pleasure or delight.  These are most likely references to Damascus.  The Lord is promising to destroy the king who rules from there and send the people into exile. This prophecy was fulfilled in 732 BC by the Assyrians.  (Note: Damascus was not destroyed at the time so this cannot be seen as a fulfillment of Isaiah 17:1.)      

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom, I will send fire upon the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses. I will destroy the king of Ashdod and the one who holds the scepter in Ashkelon.  I will turn my hand against Ekron, till the last of the Philistines is dead,” says the Sovereign Lord. (Amos 1:6-9)

 

Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron were four of the five major cities of the Philistines.  The fifth one was Gath, where Goliath had lived, and had already been conquered.  The Land of Edom is in southern Jordan today. The Philistines had apparently overrun entire villages on the trade route between Gaza and Edom and sold the inhabitants to the Edomites as if they were livestock. The Philistines were finally wiped out to the last person by the Babylonians in 604 BC.

This is what the Lord says: 

“For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood, I will send fire upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses” (Amos 1:7-10)

Tyre, a Phoenician city that still exists in modern Lebanon, was also engaged in the wholesale trade of Jewish captives. Tyre had enjoyed friendly relations with Israel since the days of David,  and when Solomon began construction on the Temple he made a treaty with Hiram, the King of Tyre, to provide  wheat and olive oil in exchange for the famous cedars of Lebanon. This friendship ended when Hiram's grandson became king and began his slave trading enterprise.   

Tyre was a city built partly on the mainland and partly on an island off shore. In Ezekiel 26:3 the Lord promised to bring many nations against Tyre, like the sea casting its waves.  Assyria had been the first, but it was Nebuchadnezzar who demolished the mainland portion of Tyre during a 15 year seige (586-571 BC).  Alexander the Great completed the conquest of Tyre by using the ruins of the mainland portion to build a causeway to the remaining island fortress and destroying it in 332 BC. 

Much of modern Lebanon was originally part of the Promised Land.  In the Millennium it will once again belong to Israel. 

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked, I will send fire upon Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah” (Amos 1:11-12).

Edom was another name for Esau, the brother of Jacob.  The strife created by Jacob's trickery in stealing Esau's birthright festered through the generations.  Finally King David subdued the Edomites and after that Edom was under Israel's control, although not happily.

When the Edomites heard of Nebuchednezzar's intention to conquer Judah, they colluded with the Babylonians to help make Judah's defeat certain and made plans to steal their land. God was not pleased by this and promised to make Edom a desolate waste (Ezekiel 35:1-15).  After defeating Judah the Babylonians turned on the Edomites and slaughtered them.   Teman and Bosrah were major cities of Edom, near Petra in today's southern Jordan.  In Jeremiah 49:18 God swore that Edom would be overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah were overthrown and no one will live there.

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath.  Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders, I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah that will consume her fortresses amid war cries on the day of battle, amid violent winds on a stormy day. Her king will go into exile, he and his officials together,” says the Lord (Amos 1:13-15).

Ammon's greed for land led to a program of genocide against the Gideonites.  Rabbah was the name for the city now known as Ahman, the capital of Jordan.  This prophecy was fulfilled by the Assyrians, but did not result in the disappearance of the Ammonites.  Later, like their cousins the Moabites, the Ammonites assisted in Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Judah, for which the Lord promised to exterminate them (Ezekiel 25:7).  But in Jeremiah 49:6 He said the Ammonites will be restored in the latter days.

Amos 2

This is what the Lord says:

“For three sins of Moab, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he burned, as if to lime,
the bones of Edom’s king, I will send fire upon Moab that will consume the fortresses of Kerioth. Moab will go down in great tumult amid war cries and the blast of the trumpet. I will destroy her ruler and kill all her officials with him,” says the Lord.
(Amos 2:1-3)

There are two possibilities here. This passage apparently refers to the only time when Edom and Moab were not on the same side against Israel.  2 Kings 3:9 says the kings of Judah, Israel, and Edom were united against the king of Moab who had refused to pay the tribute he owed to the King of Israel.  When it became obvious that he was losing the ensuing battle, the King of Moab became so enraged that he took 700 swordsmen and went after the King of Edom.  Failing to capture him, the King of Moab either captured the King of Edom's son and heir to the throne and offered him as a burnt offering to his god, or else he dug up the remains of a past king of Edom and burned them instead.  Either way it was a great offense against the Lord and the Moabites were utterly defeated.  Later they were taken captive by the Babylonians and soon disappeared from the world scene.  But Jeremiah 48:47 tells us the fortunes of Moab will also be restored in the latter days. 

Along with Edom and Ammon, Moab has reappeared as the kingdom of Jordan, the only nation in the Middle East that will escape the clutches of the anti-Christ in the end times (Daniel 11:41). 

A Reasonable Faith

It was learning about the unfailing fulfillment of prophecies like these that brought me to the foot of the cross.  I reasoned that a God who could predict and then perform like this has to be who He claims to be and it was safe to put my trust in Him. 

In Isaiah 46:9-10 He said,  “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.”

And from Isaiah 48:3,6, “I foretold the former things long ago,my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them?

Later I would learn that no other so-called holy book offers this kind of proof. And if so many prophecies He foretold about our past have come to pass, doesn't it make sense that those He foretold  about our future will come to pass as well? Think about it.

From our study of Psalm 83 you can recognize several familiar names. But remember, the prophecies of Amos 1 were fulfilled at various times over a period of 400 years, not in a single battle.  Therefore we can't see them as a fulfillment of Psalm 83.  Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel also prophesied the conquest of these next door enemies of Israel, but none of their prophecies match with Psalm 83 either. Damascus was not destroyed as Isaiah 17 requires, and both Jeremiah and Daniel speak of the re-emergence of Edom, Moab and Ammon in the last days.  Clearly the Battle of Psalm 83 is yet to come.

 Next time we'll begin looking at what the Lord had Amos say to Israel, and it won't be pretty.  See you then.  02-16-13