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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Amos 1

 

 

Introduction

Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:5. The Sins of Israel's Neighbours.—According to the present arrangement the prophet begins by arraigning Israel's neighbours. This arrangement may not be original. Yet it is quite likely that he deliberately chose to make a denunciation of the sins of Israel's neighbours lead up gradually to a sudden and even sterner denunciation of the sins of Israel itself. Whether his original denunciations included those of Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Judah is another question. The present series is confused. A more natural order would be: Aram, Ammon, Moab, Israel (see below). The sins of such peoples are illustrated by certain typical examples.


Verse 1-2

Amos 1:1 f. Superscription and Motto.—In the present form of the book we find prefixed to the oracles, probably by a post-exilic editor, some brief particulars as to the person of the prophet, the date of his ministry, and the key-note of his message. The prophet belonged to the Southern Kingdom. He was one of the shepherds of Tekoa (mod. Tekü‘a), a high-lying town, 6 miles S. of Bethlehem (p. 31)—certain shepherds (nôkědîm) who bred or tended a peculiar kind of sheep having short legs and ugly faces but valued highly for their choice wool (cf. for their stunted growth the Arabian proverb "viler than a nakad," and see Chenery, Assemblies of Al Harǐri, i. 452f.). Mesha, king of Moab, is described as a breeder of this kind of sheep (2 Kings 3:4).

The prophet received his Divine messages, or rather beheld them (1) in prophetic vision (cf. Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16), in the reigns of Jeroboam II (782-743 B.C.) and Uzziah (c. 782-737 B.C). More precisely the period is said to have been two years before the earthquake." But neither here nor in Zechariah 14:5 (cf. Josephus, Ant. IX. x. 4) do the references to this earthquake help us to determine the precise date of the prophet's activity. Though he belonged to Judah, he was chiefly, if not entirely (so apparently Amos 1:1), concerned about the Northern Kingdom ("concerning Israel").

What in a few words is the key-note of the prophet's utterances, the motto of his book? This is given in 2, words adopted and adapted by the post-exilic editor from Joel 3:16. When a lion roars, the sound portends a rush upon its prey; when the thunder peals, the crash heralds the havoc of a storm. So, when Yahweh, from His earthly abodes, roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem, the smiling pastures (cf. Joel 2:22, Psalms 65:12) of the shepherds will darken and fade (mourn) and the beautiful hills of Carmel (cf. Isaiah 35:2, Jeremiah 50:19, Ca. Amos 7:5) parch with fear.

Amos 1:1. Translate "who was one of the shepherds of Tekoa."

Amos 1:2 a is subordinate to Amos 1:2 b. Translate, "whenever Yahweh roars . . . the pastures of the shepherds will mourn," etc.


Verses 3-5

Amos 1:3-5. Damascus.—It is Yahweh who speaks by the mouth of the prophets. The mention of Damascus, the capital of the Aramaean or Syrian kingdom, would at once arrest attention, for until recently Israel had been engaged in a severe struggle (p. 69) with this kingdom (Damascus stands here for the whole region). Damascus, then, had committed sins (lit. rebellions) not once or twice or thrice, but again and again (three, yea, four). It might look as though an earlier threat of punishment had been forgotten by Yahweh and the sentence of doom revoked. But such was not the case ("I will not turn it back," a formula repeated in Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9; Amos 1:11; Amos 1:13; Amos 2:1; Amos 2:4; Amos 2:6). For it is typical of the brutal crimes of the Syrians that they threshed Gilead "with sharp threshing instruments of iron (or basalt)." When this barbarity was perpetrated is not known. It may have been done by Hazael when he conquered Gilead in the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz (2 Kings 10:32 f; 2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:7; for the same kind of barbarity cf. 2 Samuel 12:31, Proverbs 20:26). But in any case, in punishment of their brutality Yahweh (Amos 1:4) will send fire (a symbol of war; cf. Deuteronomy 4:24, Judges 9:20) into the house of Hazael, i.e. the dynasty founded by that usurper (2 Kings 8:15), and it shall devour the paces of Benhadad, i.e. Hazael's son and successor, Benhadad III (2 Kings 13:24). The inhabitants (Amos 1:5) of the valley of Aven, the broad plain that stretched between the two ranges of Lebanon and Hermon (cf. Joshua 11:17; the Coele-Syria of the Greeks, modern el-Bekâ‘), will be cut off from their pleasant abode. The same fate will befall the rulers of "those who hold the sceptre" at Beth-eden (mg.), probably the Assyrian Bît-adini, a district on both sides of the Euphrates about 200 miles NNE. of Damascus. Damascus itself will suffer; its defences, depicted as the "bars" which secured the gates of the city (cf. Deuteronomy 3:5, Nahum 3:13), will be broken. Then the people of Syria (Aram), or those who are left of them, will go into exile to Kir, that is, to their original home (Amos 9:7). 2 Kings 16:9 also tells us that the Syrians were deported to Kir, after Tiglath-pileser IV had attacked Damascus and slain Rezin, its king (732 B.C.). Its situation is unknown. It is possible that the name should be pronounced Kor, and has some connexion with the Karians mentioned by Arrian (III. viii. 5) along with the Sittakenians (Winckler, Forsch., ii. 254ff.).

Amos 1:3. threshing instruments: boards armed underneath with bits of stone or iron (Thomson, i. 150ff.; Driver, pp. 130, 227).

Amos 1:4. palaces: we must not be misled by the word, which sometimes means "fortress" or "citadel" (1 Kings 16:18).

Amos 1:5. the inhabitant: mg. may be correct, "him that sitteth."—Aven: LXX has On for Aven (lit. wickedness, idolatry). On is the Egyptian name for Heliopolis in Egypt, and in Ezekiel 30:17 it is pointed Aven. Possibly the name On was applied also to Baalbek in Syria, since this too was called Heliopolis as being another centre of sun-worship.—holdeth the sceptre: or possibly, "upholds the people" (lit. the tribe, another meaning of shebet; cf. LXX).


Verses 6-8

Amos 1:6-8. Philistia.—Philistia was another name to strike terror. The country is well represented by Gaza (Amos 1:6), the southernmost and largest city of the Philistines (p. 28), an emporium of trade and the centre of the slave-traffic. A typical instance of brutality is found in the carrying away of a "whole deportation" to deliver it (or them) over to Edom The reference may be to some raid in which the Philistines procured slaves for the Edomites to sell again. But Edom may, as elsewhere, be a mistake for Aram, and the reference may be to some episode in Hazael's campaign (2 Kings 12:18; so Orelli). Three more Philistine cities (p. 28) are mentioned (Amos 1:7 f.) as representatives of Philistia: Ashdod, Gr. Azotus, a strong fortress-city 21 miles NNE. of Gaza, on the caravan-route between Gaza and Joppa; Ashkelon, on the coast, about half-way between Gaza and Ashdod; and Ekron, the northernmost of the five chief cities of the Philistines, about 12 miles NE. of Ashdod.


Verses 9-11

Amos 1:9 f. On Tyre.—Possibly an exilic or post-exilic insertion. The mention of the Phœnicians would not evoke such hostile feelings, but they too had repeatedly perpetrated crimes that called aloud for punishment. The whole land is here represented by its chief city, Tyre. Tyre is charged with committing a sin similar to that of Gaza. But the Tyrians simply "deliver up (or over) "the captives to Edom (or to Aram; see on Amos 1:7). It is added that they "did not remember the covenant of (between) brothers," possibly the league between Hiram and Solomon (1 Kings 5:12; 1 Kings 9:13 f.), but more probably some later alliance formed with other Phœnician towns.

Amos 1:11 f. Edom.—Edom in later times was regarded as a bitter foe. In the time of Amos it was hardly a name to strike terror. Still, certain acts of cruelty may well have given it a bad name. The Edomites, after the migration from Mesopotamia, inhabited originally the mountainous region extending from the SE. shore of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akabah. Here (Amos 1:11) Edom is accused of having pursued his brother with the sword and of having "stifled (lit. destroyed) his compassion (or pity)." His anger tore perpetually and his wrath raged for ever (see below). The statements hardly seem to fit any period before the Exile. The hostility of the Edomites became marked and effective at the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (Psalms 137:7, Lamentations 4:21 f.), Amos 1:11 f. may therefore be an exilic or post-exilic addition. Teman seems to have been a district, and apparently Bozrah was a city of some importance.

Amos 1:11. Translate, "and his anger did tear perpetually, and his wrath rage for ever."


Verses 13-15

Amos 1:13-15. The Ammonites.—The Ammonites were old enemies. Originally they had pressed Israel from the S. and E. as the Aramæans had done from the N. Then they occupied the territory E. of the Jordan from Jabbok to the Arnon. Jephthah defeated and David completely overthrew them (Judges 11:32, 2 Samuel 12:31). According to Amos, their warfare, at least on one occasion, was characterised by great cruelty. They ripped up the pregnant women of Gilead in order to exterminate their enemy (Amos 1:13). Such barbarous practices are referred to elsewhere in the OT (2 Kings 8:12, Hosea 13:16, Nahum 3:10, etc.). Amos foresees that the Ammonites will meet with the punishment they deserve. Rabbah (Amos 1:14) their capital (cf. 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26; 2 Samuel 12:29, Jeremiah 49:2*), a city about 25 miles NE. of the N. end of the Dead Sea, will suffer the ravages of war. The war-cry of the enemy, the wild cry of attack or the triumphant shout of victory, will be heard. The onrush and onslaught of the enemy will sweep on with a crash like the tempest in times of tornado. So great will be the overthrow that Milcom (so read for "their king" in Amos 1:15), the national god of the Ammonites, will be carried away into captivity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Amos 1:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/amos-1.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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