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Amos 1:3

Context

1:3 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Damascus has committed three crimes 1 

make that four! 2  – I will not revoke my

decree of judgment. 3 

They ripped through Gilead like threshing sledges with iron teeth. 4 

Amos 1:6

Context

1:6 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Gaza 5  has committed three crimes 6 

make that four! 7  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 8 

They deported a whole community 9  and sold them 10  to Edom.

Amos 1:9

Context

1:9 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Tyre has committed three crimes 11 

make that four! 12  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 13 

They sold 14  a whole community 15  to Edom;

they failed to observe 16  a treaty of brotherhood. 17 

Amos 1:11

Context

1:11 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Edom has committed three crimes 18 

make that four! 19  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 20 

He chased his brother 21  with a sword;

he wiped out his allies. 22 

In his anger he tore them apart without stopping to rest; 23 

in his fury he relentlessly attacked them. 24 

Amos 1:13

Context

1:13 This is what the Lord says:

“Because the Ammonites have committed three crimes 25 

make that four! 26  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 27 

They ripped open Gilead’s pregnant women 28 

so they could expand their territory.

1 tn Traditionally, “transgressions” or “sins.” The word refers to rebellion against authority and is used in the international political realm (see 1 Kgs 12:19; 2 Kgs 1:1; 3:5, 7; 8:22). There is debate over its significance in this context. Some relate the “rebellion” of the foreign nations to God’s mandate to Noah (Gen 9:5-7). This mandate is viewed as a treaty between God and humankind, whereby God holds humans accountable to populate the earth and respect his image as it is revealed in all people. While this option is a possible theological explanation of the message in light of the Old Testament as a whole, nothing in these oracles alludes to that Genesis passage. J. Barton suggests that the prophet is appealing to a common morality shared across the ancient Near East regarding the conduct of war since all of the oracles can be related to activities and atrocities committed in warfare (Amos’s Oracles against the Nations [SOTSMS], 39-61). The “transgression” then would be a violation of what all cultures would take as fundamental human decency. Some argue that the nations cited in Amos 1-2 had been members of the Davidic empire. Their crime would consist of violating the mutual agreements that all should have exhibited toward one another (cf. M. E. Polley, Amos and the Davidic Empire). This interpretation is connected to the notion that Amos envisions a reconstituted Davidic empire for Israel and the world (9:11-15). Ultimately, we can only speculate what lay behind Amos’ thinking. He does not specify the theological foundation of his universal moral vision, but it is clear that Amos believes that all nations are responsible before the Lord for their cruelty toward other human beings. He also assumes that even those who did not know his God would recognize their inhumane treatment of others as inherently wrong. The translation “crimes” is general enough to communicate that a standard (whether human or divine) has been breached. For a survey of the possible historical events behind each oracle, see S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia).

2 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Damascus, even because of four.”

sn The three…four style introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2. Based on the use of a similar formula in wisdom literature (see Prov 30:18-19, 29-31), one expects to find in each case a list of four specific violations. However, only in the eighth oracle (against Israel) does one find the expected fourfold list. Through this adaptation and alteration of the normal pattern the Lord indicates that his focus is Israel (he is too bent on judging Israel to dwell very long on her neighbors) and he emphasizes Israel’s guilt with respect to the other nations. (Israel’s list fills up before the others’ lists do.) See R. B. Chisholm, “For Three Sins…Even for Four: The Numerical Sayings in Amos,” BSac 147 (1990): 188-97.

3 tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The pronominal object (1) refers to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 46-47. Another option (2) is to understand the suffix as referring to the particular nation mentioned in the oracle and to translate, “I will not take him [i.e., that particular nation] back.” In this case the Lord makes it clear that he does not intend to resume treaty relations with the nation in view. See M. L. Barré, “The Meaning of lá ásŒybnw in Amos 1:3-2:6,” JBL 105 (1986): 622.

4 tn Heb “they threshed [or “trampled down”] Gilead with sharp iron implements” (NASB similar).

sn Like threshing sledges with iron teeth. A threshing sledge was made of wooden boards embedded with sharp stones or iron teeth. As the sledge was pulled over the threshing floor the stones or iron teeth would separate the grain from the stalks. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 64-65. Here the threshing metaphor is used to emphasize how violently and inhumanely the Arameans (the people of Damascus) had treated the people of Gilead (located east of the Jordan River).

5 sn Gaza was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, and Gath). It was considered to mark the southern limit of Canaan at the point on the coast where it was located (Gen 10:19).

6 tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.

7 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Gaza, even because of four.”

sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3.

8 tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.

9 tn Heb “[group of] exiles.” A number of English translations take this as a collective singular and translate it with a plural (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV).

10 tn Heb “in order to hand them over.”

11 tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.

12 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Tyre, even because of four.”

sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3.

13 tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.

14 tn Heb “handed over.”

15 tn Heb “[group of] exiles.” A similar phrase occurs in v. 6.

16 tn Heb “did not remember.”

17 sn A treaty of brotherhood. In the ancient Near Eastern world familial terms were sometimes used to describe treaty partners. In a treaty between superior and inferior parties, the lord would be called “father” and the subject “son.” The partners in a treaty between equals referred to themselves as “brothers.” For biblical examples, see 1 Kgs 9:13; 20:32-33.

18 tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.

19 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Edom, even because of four.”

sn On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3.

20 tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.

21 sn It is likely that “brother” refers here to a treaty partner (see the note on the word “brotherhood” in 1:9). However, it is possible, if Israel is in view, that Edom’s ancient blood relationship to God’s people is alluded to here. Cf. NCV, NLT “their relatives, the Israelites.”

22 tn Or “He stifled his compassion.” The Hebrew term רָחֲמָיו (rakhamayv) is better understood here (parallel to “brother/treaty partner”) as a reference to “allies” which Edom betrayed. An Aramaic cognate is attested (see DNWSI 2:1069-70). See M. Fishbane, “The Treaty Background of Amos 1:11 and Related Matters,” JBL 89 (1970): 313-18; idem, “Critical Note: Additional Remarks on rh£myw (Amos 1:11),” JBL 91 (1972): 391-93; and M. Barré, “Amos 1:11 reconsidered,” CBQ 47 (1985) 420-27. Some argue that the clause is best translated as “and destroyed his womenfolk.” רַחַם (rakham) means “womb”; the plural here would be a metonymy for “women” and could establish a parallel with the atrocity of 1:13. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 64-65.

23 tn Heb “his anger tore continually.” The Hebrew verb טָרַף (taraf, “tear apart”) is often used of an animal tearing apart its prey. The word picture here is that of a vicious predator’s feeding frenzy.

24 tn Traditionally, “he kept his fury continually.” The Hebrew term שְׁמָרָה (shÿmarah) could be taken as a Qal perfect 3rd person masculine singular with 3rd person feminine singular suffix (with mappiq omitted), “he kept it” (NASB, NKJV, NRSV). It is also possible in light of the parallelism that שָׁמַר (shamar) is a rare homonym cognate to an Akkadian verb meaning “to rage; to be furious.” Repointing the verb as שָׁמְרָה (shamÿrah, third person feminine singular), one could translate literally, “his fury raged continually” (NIV, NJPS).

25 tn Traditionally, “transgressions” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV) or “sins” (NIV). For an explanation of the atrocities outlined in this oracle as treaty violations of God’s mandate to Noah in Gen 9:5-7, see the note on the word “violations” in 1:3.

26 tn Heb “Because of three violations of the Ammonites, even because of four.”
On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1-2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3.

27 tn Heb “I will not bring it [or “him”] back.” The translation understands the pronominal object to refer to the decree of judgment that follows; the referent (the decree) has been specified in the translation for clarity. For another option see the note on the word “judgment” in 1:3.

28 sn The Ammonites ripped open Gilead’s pregnant women in conjunction with a military invasion designed to expand their territory. Such atrocities, although repugnant, were not uncommon in ancient Near Eastern warfare.



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