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Amos 1:3--2:6

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 

1:4 So I will set Hazael’s house 5  on fire;

fire 6  will consume Ben Hadad’s 7  fortresses.

1:5 I will break the bar 8  on the gate of Damascus.

I will remove 9  the ruler 10  from Wicked Valley, 11 

the one who holds the royal scepter from Beth Eden. 12 

The people of Aram will be deported to Kir.” 13 

The Lord has spoken!

1:6 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Gaza 14  has committed three crimes 15 

make that four! 16  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 17 

They deported a whole community 18  and sold them 19  to Edom.

1:7 So I will set Gaza’s city wall 20  on fire;

fire 21  will consume her fortresses.

1:8 I will remove 22  the ruler 23  from Ashdod, 24 

the one who holds the royal scepter from Ashkelon. 25 

I will strike Ekron 26  with my hand; 27 

the rest of the Philistines will also die.” 28 

The sovereign Lord has spoken!

1:9 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Tyre has committed three crimes 29 

make that four! 30  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 31 

They sold 32  a whole community 33  to Edom;

they failed to observe 34  a treaty of brotherhood. 35 

1:10 So I will set fire to Tyre’s city wall; 36 

fire 37  will consume her fortresses.”

1:11 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Edom has committed three crimes 38 

make that four! 39  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 40 

He chased his brother 41  with a sword;

he wiped out his allies. 42 

In his anger he tore them apart without stopping to rest; 43 

in his fury he relentlessly attacked them. 44 

1:12 So I will set Teman 45  on fire;

fire 46  will consume Bozrah’s 47  fortresses.”

1:13 This is what the Lord says:

“Because the Ammonites have committed three crimes 48 

make that four! 49  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 50 

They ripped open Gilead’s pregnant women 51 

so they could expand their territory.

1:14 So I will set fire to Rabbah’s 52  city wall; 53 

fire 54  will consume her fortresses.

War cries will be heard on the day of battle; 55 

a strong gale will blow on the day of the windstorm. 56 

1:15 Ammon’s 57  king will be deported; 58 

he and his officials 59  will be carried off 60  together.”

The Lord has spoken!

2:1 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Moab has committed three crimes 61 

make that four! 62  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 63 

They burned the bones of Edom’s king into lime. 64 

2:2 So I will set Moab on fire, 65 

and it will consume Kerioth’s 66  fortresses.

Moab will perish 67  in the heat of battle 68 

amid war cries and the blaring 69  of the ram’s horn. 70 

2:3 I will remove 71  Moab’s leader; 72 

I will kill all Moab’s 73  officials 74  with him.”

The Lord has spoken!

2:4 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Judah has committed three covenant transgressions 75 

make that four! 76  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 77 

They rejected the Lord’s law; 78 

they did not obey his commands.

Their false gods, 79 

to which their fathers were loyal, 80 

led them astray.

2:5 So I will set Judah on fire,

and it will consume Jerusalem’s fortresses.” 81 

God Will Judge Israel

2:6 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Israel has committed three covenant transgressions 82 

make that four! 83  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 84 

They sold the innocent 85  for silver,

the needy for a pair of sandals. 86 

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 tn “Hazael’s house” (“the house of Hazael”) refers to the dynasty of Hazael.

sn Hazael took the throne of Aram in 843 b.c. and established a royal dynasty. See 2 Kgs 8:7-15 and W. Pitard, Ancient Damascus, 145-60.

6 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

7 sn Ben-hadad may refer to Hazael’s son and successor (2 Kgs 13:3, 24) or to an earlier king (see 1 Kgs 20), perhaps the ruler whom Hazael assassinated when he assumed power.

8 sn The bar on the city gate symbolizes the city’s defenses and security.

9 tn Heb “cut off.”

10 tn Heb “the one who sits.” Some English versions take the Hebrew term in a collective sense as “inhabitants” (e.g., KJV, NKJV, NASB, NRSV). The context and the parallel in the next clause (“the one who holds the royal scepter”), however, suggest that the royal house is in view. For this term (יוֹשֵׁב, yoshev), see N. K. Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh, 512-30.

11 tn Heb “valley of wickedness.” Though many English versions take the Hebrew phrase בִקְעַת־אָוֶן (biq-ataven) as a literal geographical place name (“Valley of Aven,” so NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT), it appears to be a derogatory epithet for Damascus and the kingdom of Aram.

12 tn Many associate the name “Beth Eden” with Bit Adini, an Aramean state located near the Euphrates River, but it may be a sarcastic epithet meaning “house of pleasure.”

13 sn According to Amos 9:7, the Arameans originally came from Kir. The Lord threatens to reverse their history and send them back there.

14 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).

15 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.

16 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.

17 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.

18 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).

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

20 sn The city wall symbolizes the city’s defenses and security.

21 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

22 tn Heb “cut off.”

23 tn Heb “the one who sits.” Some translations take this expression as a collective singular referring to the inhabitants rather than the ruler (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT).

24 sn Ashdod was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashkelon, Ekron, Gaza, and Gath).

25 sn Ashkelon was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashdod, Ekron, Gaza, and Gath).

26 sn Ekron was one of the five major Philistine cities (along with Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, and Gath).

27 tn Heb “I will turn my hand against Ekron.” For other uses of the idiom, “turn the hand against,” see Ps 81:14; Isa 1:25; Jer 6:9; Zech 13:7.

28 tn Heb “and the remnant of the Philistines will perish.” The translation above assumes that reference is made to other Philistines beside those living in the cities mentioned. Another option is to translate, “Every last Philistine will die.”

29 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.

30 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.

31 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.

32 tn Heb “handed over.”

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

34 tn Heb “did not remember.”

35 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.

36 sn The city wall symbolizes the city’s defenses and security.

37 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

38 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.

39 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.

40 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.

41 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.”

42 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.

43 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.

44 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).

45 sn Teman was an important region (or perhaps city) in Edom.

46 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

47 sn Bozrah was a city located in northern Edom.

48 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.

49 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.

50 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.

51 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.

52 sn Rabbah was the Ammonite capital.

53 sn The city wall symbolizes the city’s defenses and security.

54 tn Heb “it”; the referent (the fire mentioned in the previous line) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

55 tn Heb “with a war cry in the day of battle.”

56 tn Heb “with wind in the day of the windstorm.”

sn A windstorm is a metaphor for judgment and destruction in the OT (see Isa 29:6; Jer 23:19) and ancient Near Eastern literature.

57 tn Heb “their”; the referent (Ammon) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

58 tn Heb “will go into exile.”

59 tn Or “princes” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NLT); TEV “officers”; CEV “leaders.”

60 tn The words “will be carried off” are supplied in the translation for clarification.

61 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.

62 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Moab, 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.

63 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.

64 sn The Moabites apparently desecrated the tomb of an Edomite king and burned his bones into a calcined substance which they then used as plaster (cf. Deut 27:2, 4). See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 72. Receiving a proper burial was very important in this culture. Desecrating a tomb or a deceased individual’s bones was considered an especially heinous act.

65 sn The destruction of Moab by fire is an example of a judgment in kind – as the Moabites committed the crime of “burning,” so the Lord will punish them by setting them on fire.

66 sn Kerioth was an important Moabite city. See Jer 48:24, 41.

67 tn Or “die” (KJV, NASB, NRSV, TEV); NAB “shall meet death.”

68 tn Or “in the tumult.” This word refers to the harsh confusion of sounds that characterized an ancient battle – a mixture of war cries, shouts, shrieks of pain, clashes of weapons, etc.

69 tn Heb “sound” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV).

70 sn The ram’s horn (used as a trumpet) was blown to signal the approaching battle.

71 tn Heb “cut off” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NAB “root out”; NCV “bring to an end.”

72 tn Heb “the leader [traditionally, “judge”] from her midst.”

73 tn Heb “her”; the referent (Moab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

74 tn Or “princes” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NLT); TEV, CEV “leaders.”

75 tn This is the same Hebrew term that is translated “crimes” in the previous oracles (see at 1:3). The change to “covenant transgressions” reflects the probability that the prophet is condemning the nation of Israel for violating stipulations of the Mosaic Law.

76 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Judah, 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.

77 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.

78 tn Or “instruction”; NCV “teachings.”

79 tn Heb “lies.” This may very well be a derogatory term for idols (perhaps also at Ps. 40:4 [Heb 40:5]). Elsewhere false gods are called “vanities” (Deut 32:21; 1 Kgs 16:13, 26) and a delusion (Isa 66:3). In no other prophetic passages, however, are they called “lies.” The term could refer to the deceptions of false prophets (note Ezek 13:6-9; cf. Hab 2:3). See F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos (AB), 301-6.

80 tn Heb “after which their fathers walked.” The expression “to walk after” is an idiom meaning “to be loyal to.” See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 75-76.

sn Here the idolatry of the parents carried over to the children, who persisted in worshiping the idols to which their fathers were loyal.

81 map For the location of Jerusalem see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

82 tn For this translation see the note at 2:4.

83 tn Heb “Because of three violations of Israel, 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. Only in this last oracle against Israel does one find the list of four specific violations expected based on the use of a similar formula elsewhere in wisdom literature (see Prov 30:18-19, 29-31). This adaptation of the normal pattern indicates the Lord’s focus on Israel here (he is too bent on judging Israel to dwell very long on her neighbors) and 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.

84 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.

85 tn Or “honest” (CEV, NLT). The Hebrew word sometimes has a moral-ethical connotation, “righteous, godly,” but the parallelism (note “poor”) suggests a socio-economic or legal sense here. The practice of selling debtors as slaves is in view (Exod 21:2-11; Lev 25:35-55; Deut 15:12-18) See the note at Exod 21:8 and G. C. Chirichigno, Debt-Slavery in Israel and the Ancient Near East (JSOTSup). Probably the only “crime” the victim had committed was being unable to pay back a loan or an exorbitant interest rate on a loan. Some have suggested that this verse refers to bribery in legal proceedings: The innocent are “sold” in the sense that those in power pay off the elders or judges for favorable decisions (5:12; cf. Exod 23:6-7).

86 tn Perhaps the expression “for a pair of sandals” indicates a relatively small price or debt. Some suggest that the sandals may have been an outward token of a more substantial purchase price. Others relate the sandals to a ritual attached to the transfer of property, signifying here that the poor would be losing their inherited family lands because of debt (Ruth 4:7; cf. Deut 25:8-10). Still others emend the Hebrew form slightly to נֶעְלָם (nelam, “hidden thing”; from the root עָלַם, ’alam, “to hide”) and understand this as referring to a bribe.



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