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The Prologue to the Prophecies of Amos consists of a series of denunciations of the surrounding peoples. The ground of the awful threatenings is the word of Jehovah made known to the prophet. The reason for the doom predicted on such high authority, is the resistance and cruelty that were offered by these nations to the theocratic people, and, still more, their own moral offences, condemned by universal conscience. The denunciations begin with a judgment upon Syria, the age-long enemy of Judah, sometimes confederate with Israel. Then he passes to Philistia, which had been a thorn in the side of Israel and Judah from the days of the Judges till his own. Then he directs his gaze upon Phœnician cities, the emporium of the most extensive commerce in the world, Next he passes in review other three tribes, or nations, more closely related to Israel in blood, language, and proximity, and which, nevertheless, had often manifested an undying hatred of the covenanted people. After this Judah, his own tribe, does not escape. Lastly, the prophet gathers up all his strength to denounce Israel, then at the height of prosperity and splendour.
(1) See Introduction.
(2) Roar.—The prolonged thunder-peal, or lion’s roar, of the Divine voice, reverberates from the theocratic metropolis of Zion, to the luxuriant slopes of the noble Carmel, which forms the southern promontory of the Bay of Acre. The “pastures of the Shepherds” remind us of Psalms 23:0, and refers us to the prophet’s own home in the wilderness of Tekoah. The same expression “head (or ‘top’) of Carmel” occurs in 1 Kings 18:42, and in Amos 9:3. Compare the modern name Ras-el-Kerum. The whole country from south to north is summoned to listen to the Divine voice.
CURSE ON DAMASCUS.
(3) Three transgressions . . .—This form of transgression, which occurs eight times in the prologue, is not an arithmetical, but a strongly idiomatic phrase, signifying “multiplied or repeated delinquencies” (Henderson).
Turn away . . .—Rather, will not turn it back—i.e., the sore judgment I have purposed. (Comp. 2 Kings 10:32-33.)
(4) I will send a fire . . .—Compare Jeremiah 49:27, where this language is repeated at a time when punishment had fallen for a while on Damascus, and she had become, as Isaiah predicted, “a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1).
(5) I will break . . .—The “bar” means the bolt of iron or brass with which the city was defended. But it is possible that it may be used of persons, i.e., princes or leaders (comp. Hosea 4:18; Hosea 11:6); and this seems confirmed by the parallelism. The plain or valley cleft between Libanus and Antilibanus is still called by the Arabs by a name closely resembling the rendering in the margin, “the valley.” It is probable that the word rendered “vanity,” (aven) is simply a Masoretic reading, and not what Amos intended. It is better to follow the LXX. and read the word On (as in Ezekiel 30:17), the reference being to the Temple of Baalbec, then in ruins, the Syrian Heliopolis. (Comp. Hosea 4:15.) The site of Beth-eden (house of Eden) cannot be satisfactorily determined. Kir is the region of the river Cyrus, or, perhaps, the E. of the Upper Euphrates (see Amos 9:7). (2 Kings 16:9, we see fulfilment of this doom.)
 On the other hand the Masoretic reading seems to have been suggested (if not confirmed) by Amos 5:5, where LXX. read aven.
CURSE ON PHILISTIA.
(6-8) The marginal reading is more literal, and points to the special bitterness of the proceedings of Philistia, here represented by Gaza as the principal city (comp. 2 Chronicles 21:16-17, which implies a veritable sack of Jerusalem). The extreme barbarity from which Judah suffered was that her children were delivered up to the implacable enemy Edom. (Comp. the language of Joel 3:4-6.) This may have occurred in the border warfare, in which defenceless Judæan villages were overpowered, and the inhabitants sold to the Oriental tribes through the medium of the Edomites. The utter fall of Philistian independence is depicted (comp. Amos 6:2). The cities here mentioned are often referred to in the books of Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, and by the prophet Zephaniah.
CURSE ON TYRUS.
(9) The brotherly covenant.—The “covenant of brethren” (margin) was the league made between Hiram and David, and afterwards between Hiram and Solomon (2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Kings 5:1; 1 Kings 5:12). This ancient covenant was forgotten in Phœnicia’s mercantile cupidity, and Tyre was tempted to sell Hebrew captives to Greeks and Idumeans. (Comp. Isaiah 23:0; Ezekiel 26:0, and the special excursus in the Speaker’s Commentary.)
CURSE ON EDOM.
(11) Edom.—Comp. the prophecy of Obadiah and Isaiah 34:5. See also Dict. of the Bible, art. “Edom.” All through their history Edom sided with the enemies of Israel. (Comp. 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:14; Psalms 60:9; and 2 Chronicles 21:8-10.)
Cast Off.—It would be better to render stifled. In the following clause read “And his indignation rended continually, and his wrath lurked ever on the watch.” But another punctuation of the Hebrew original yields a different sense. “As for his wrath, he hath kept it for ever” (almost as E.V.). This corresponds closely with Jeremiah 3:5.
(12) Teman.—According to Genesis 36:11, a name for a grandson of Esau. The district and chief town of this name are often referred to in the Prophets (Jeremiah 49:7-8; Ezekiel 25:13; Habakkuk 3:3; Obadiah 1:8-9). The wisdom and might of the Temanites were well known, and Eliphaz the Temanite was one of the sage interlocutors of the Book of Job. It was situated, according to Burckhardt and Robinson, south of the Wady Musa.
Bozrah.—Referred to in Jeremiah 49:13; Jeremiah 49:22; Micah 2:12; Isaiah 34:6; Isaiah 63:1. Quite distinct from Bozrah in Moab (Jeremiah 48:24). The former is situated south of the Dead Sea, identified by Robinson and Burckhardt with the village of El Buseireh in Jebal.
CURSE ON AMMON.
(13) Ammon.—See art. in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible. The precise event of atrocious cruelty is not mentioned in the historical books; but the barbarous modes of warfare which prevailed in those days are darkly conveyed in 1 Samuel 11:2; 2 Kings 15:16; Hosea 13:16, &c., and in Assyrian inscriptions passim.
(14) Jeremiah gives a vivid account of the impending doom of Ammon, quoting and expanding this very passage (Jeremiah 49:1-3).
(15) Their king.—Not as Syrian and Vulg. read the original, Malcam or Milcom, i.e., Moloch. E.V. is supported by LXX., Targ., and context of the passage. So far we find the prophet denouncing the sin which trifles with blood, covenants, and ancient agreements, and recognising the responsibilities of race; but closer inspection shows in this, and in Amos 2:0, that the prophet condemns all violations of those natural laws and rights of which he regards Jehovah as custodian and executor.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Amos 1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14