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Bible Commentaries
Amos 1

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verses 1-15


It seems that Amos announced most, if not all, of his message in Bethel, an important religious and commercial centre near Israel’s southern border (see 7:10). He gained the attention of his audience by first announcing God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbours. This news no doubt pleased his hearers, but for Amos it was part of his build-up to the climax, which announced God’s judgment on Israel.
The first three nations that Amos condemned were foreign nations unrelated to Israel. The next three were relatives of Israel, thus bringing the judgment nearer. (Edom was descended from Esau; Ammon and Moab were descended from Lot.) Judgment became uncomfortably close when Israel’s sister nation Judah was condemned. Finally, Israel was condemned. The announcement of judgment was longer for Israel than for any other nation. Yet it was only an introduction to the series of messages concerning Israel that fills up the rest of the book.

Judgment on Israel’s neighbours (1:1-2:5)

Amos dates his prophecy according to a local earthquake that was well known to his original readers but is not mentioned in the biblical record. He is a shepherd but his announcement of judgment is like the roar of a lion. He is the mouthpiece for God, who declares from his dwelling place in Jerusalem that this judgment will affect all Israel. Lowland pastures and fertile hill country alike will dry up under the force of God’s action (1:1-2).
The words that God uses to introduce each announcement of judgment - ‘for three sins and for four I will not turn away from punishment’ - show that the nation has sinned again and again, and can no longer escape punishment. God has been patient, to give sinners the opportunity to repent, but when they refuse to repent, judgment becomes inevitable. Sin has overflowed; judgment must fall.

Syria (capital: Damascus) is condemned to destruction and captivity because of its unrestrained cruelty. Under the kings Hazael and Ben-hadad, Syria tortured and butchered its victims by the most brutal methods (3-5; cf. 2 Kings 8:12-13; 2 Kings 10:32-33; 2 Kings 13:3,2 Kings 13:7,2 Kings 13:22). Philistia captured cities and sold entire populations as slaves - men, women and children. In punishment Philistia’s own chief cities (Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron) will be destroyed (6-8). The Phoenician city of Tyre, the leading commercial centre of the region, will also be conquered and burnt to the ground. It deceived its treaty partners, and bought and sold slaves as it would any other merchandise (9-10).

Edom is condemned for savagely attacking Israel without any thought for the blood relation between the two nations (11-12). Ammon (capital: Rabbah) also will suffer a devastating judgment, because it mercilessly killed whole populations, including defenceless women and children, merely to expand its territory (13-15). Moab, which bordered Ammon to the south, will be invaded by foreign armies. In an overwhelming judgment from God its cities will be burnt and its leaders killed, because it acted with uncontrolled hatred towards an enemy (2:1-3).

The six nations previously mentioned did not have God’s law so they are not condemned by that law. They are condemned for ignoring the knowledge of right and wrong that God has put in the hearts of all people. Their inhumanity and cruelty are inexcusable (cf. Romans 2:12-15). But Judah did have God’s law. It is condemned for disobeying that law and going its own way (4-5).

Bibliographical Information
Fleming, Donald C. "Commentary on Amos 1". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/amos-1.html. 2005.
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