Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Amos 1: 1-5

Judgment on Neighbor Nations
1The words of Amos, who was among the sheepherders from Tekoa,
which he envisioned in visions concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah,
and in the days of Jeroboam son of Joash, king of Israel,
two years before the earthquake.
2He said, "The LORD roars from Zion
And from Jerusalem He utters His voice;
And the shepherds' pasture grounds mourn,
And the summit of Carmel dries up."
3Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Damascus and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.
4"So I will send fire upon the house of Hazael
And it will consume the citadels of Ben-hadad.
5"I will also break the gate bar of Damascus,
And cut off the inhabitant from the valley of Aven,
And him who holds the scepter, from Beth-eden;
So the people of Aram will go exiled to Kir,"
Says the LORD.

Amos wastes no time in establishing his position in coming to the writing of this book. He is a sheepherder who has received a series of visions during the time of the reigns of two kings--Uzziah of Judah (Southern Kingdom) and Jeroboam of Israel (Northern Kingdom). Amos even records that his writings covered the days before a major earthquake in the area, which historians have said occurred around 755 B.C.

As mentioned in the Introduction last week, God is not happy with Israel. Prosperous with earthly treasures and idol worship, God calls Amos from his home in Tekoa, part of Judah, to deliver a discouraging message to Israel. He paves the way for Amos by providing him with judgments brought against Israel's neighbors. ("Somebody else is getting punished? OK, I'll listen," said Israel.)

Verse 2 establishes God's voice in the writing, as He is "roaring" from Zion and, through Amos, from Jerusalem. Sounding similar to Joel in the pronouncement of a famine, Amos warns that the pastures will cry (God's flock will mourn) and Carmel (see above), a lush, bountiful mountain range in northern Israel, will dry up.

With verse 3, Amos begins using literary phrasing that will repeat itself throughout these eight messages of judgment:

"For three transgressions of _______ and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because _________."

My study Bible explains the phrasing as being a rhetorical device which features a mathematical equation of a sort. I'm reminded of Jesus' example of forgiveness: 70 times seven, meaning always! The idea is similar in Amos, except he is referring to countless incidences of sin with no revocation of punishment. In the verses we're looking at this week, God's judgment is falling on Damascus, the capital city of Syria.

And with that mention, it's time for a map! Because the text becomes more challenging in the basic reading without an understanding of where, and who or what is where.

Syria [Aram] is in the dark peach on the map, with Damascus at the top. Why is God punishing Syria? Because they brutally attacked Gilead, part of Israel which borders Syria.

"Therefore, her young men will fall in her streets,
And all the men of war will be silenced in that day," declares the LORD of hosts.
"I will set fire to the wall of Damascus,
And it will devour the fortified towers of Ben-hadad."
--Jeremiah 49: 26-27

It wasn't always the case that Israel was protected. A few kings prior, God was turning Israel over to Hazael and Ben-hadad--father and son kings of Syria, respectively (II Kings 13). Yet, here, we read that God turns the tables on Syria in judgment (vs. 4). He will break down the bars of the city gate and remove the people from their sinful environment. The valley of Aven is translated "valley of wickedness." My study Bible says this may refer to Baalbek, which was the center of sun worship in an area north of Damascus. Beth-eden means "House of pleasure" and was located in eastern Syria across from the Euphrates River, putting it closer to Iraq.

The bottom line, end of verse 5, "So the people of Aram [Syria] will go exiled to Kir."

"So the king of Assyria listened to him [Ahaz, king of Judah]; and the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and captured it, and carried the people of it away into exile to Kir, and put Rezin [king of Syria at the time] to death."

--II Kings 16:9 [not that God was happy with Judah at this moment, but a prophecy spoken forth by God's called is one to be fulfilled--method of which is God's choosing!]

What strikes me is how quickly God's prophecy through Amos was fulfilled--just two or three kings down the road from when he delivered it! I'm also struck with the fact that I need to do more studying in Kings and Chronicles one day, because I'm constantly referring back to the annals of Biblical history in reading Amos. Great to make these connections, but I'm treading water in a sea of facts (and similar sounding names!). It's all good!!

Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon are next on the chopping block....'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Amos 1: 6-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).