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Amos 1:2--2:3

Context
God Will Judge the Surrounding Nations

1:2 Amos 1  said:

“The Lord comes roaring 2  out of Zion;

from Jerusalem 3  he comes bellowing! 4 

The shepherds’ pastures wilt; 5 

the summit of Carmel 6  withers.” 7 

1:3 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Damascus has committed three crimes 8 

make that four! 9  – I will not revoke my

decree of judgment. 10 

They ripped through Gilead like threshing sledges with iron teeth. 11 

1:4 So I will set Hazael’s house 12  on fire;

fire 13  will consume Ben Hadad’s 14  fortresses.

1:5 I will break the bar 15  on the gate of Damascus.

I will remove 16  the ruler 17  from Wicked Valley, 18 

the one who holds the royal scepter from Beth Eden. 19 

The people of Aram will be deported to Kir.” 20 

The Lord has spoken!

1:6 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Gaza 21  has committed three crimes 22 

make that four! 23  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 24 

They deported a whole community 25  and sold them 26  to Edom.

1:7 So I will set Gaza’s city wall 27  on fire;

fire 28  will consume her fortresses.

1:8 I will remove 29  the ruler 30  from Ashdod, 31 

the one who holds the royal scepter from Ashkelon. 32 

I will strike Ekron 33  with my hand; 34 

the rest of the Philistines will also die.” 35 

The sovereign Lord has spoken!

1:9 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Tyre has committed three crimes 36 

make that four! 37  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 38 

They sold 39  a whole community 40  to Edom;

they failed to observe 41  a treaty of brotherhood. 42 

1:10 So I will set fire to Tyre’s city wall; 43 

fire 44  will consume her fortresses.”

1:11 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Edom has committed three crimes 45 

make that four! 46  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 47 

He chased his brother 48  with a sword;

he wiped out his allies. 49 

In his anger he tore them apart without stopping to rest; 50 

in his fury he relentlessly attacked them. 51 

1:12 So I will set Teman 52  on fire;

fire 53  will consume Bozrah’s 54  fortresses.”

1:13 This is what the Lord says:

“Because the Ammonites have committed three crimes 55 

make that four! 56  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 57 

They ripped open Gilead’s pregnant women 58 

so they could expand their territory.

1:14 So I will set fire to Rabbah’s 59  city wall; 60 

fire 61  will consume her fortresses.

War cries will be heard on the day of battle; 62 

a strong gale will blow on the day of the windstorm. 63 

1:15 Ammon’s 64  king will be deported; 65 

he and his officials 66  will be carried off 67  together.”

The Lord has spoken!

2:1 This is what the Lord says:

“Because Moab has committed three crimes 68 

make that four! 69  – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. 70 

They burned the bones of Edom’s king into lime. 71 

2:2 So I will set Moab on fire, 72 

and it will consume Kerioth’s 73  fortresses.

Moab will perish 74  in the heat of battle 75 

amid war cries and the blaring 76  of the ram’s horn. 77 

2:3 I will remove 78  Moab’s leader; 79 

I will kill all Moab’s 80  officials 81  with him.”

The Lord has spoken!

1 tn Heb “he;” the referent (Amos) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

2 sn The Lord, in his role of warrior-king, is compared to a lion. See 3:4, 8.

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

4 tn Heb “gives his voice.”

5 tn Lexicographers debate whether there are two roots אָבַל (’aval), one signifying “mourn” and the other “be dry,” or simply one (“mourn”). The parallel verb (“withers”) might favor the first option and have the meaning “wilt away.” It is interesting to note, however, that the root appears later in the book in the context of lament (5:16; 8:8, 10; 9:5). Either 1:2 is a possible wordplay to alert the reader to the death that will accompany the judgment (the option of two roots), or perhaps the translation “mourns” is appropriate here as well (cf. KJV, NASB, NKJV, NJPS; see also D. J. A. Clines, “Was There an ’BL II ‘Be Dry’ in Classical Hebrew?” VT 42 [1992]: 1-10).

6 sn Carmel was a region known for its abundant plants and trees. See Isa 33:9; 35:2; Jer 50:19.

7 sn Loss of a land’s fertility is frequently associated with judgment in the OT and ancient Near Eastern literature.

8 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).

9 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.

10 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.

11 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).

12 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.

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

14 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.

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

16 tn Heb “cut off.”

17 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.

18 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.

19 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.”

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

21 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).

22 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.

23 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.

24 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.

25 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).

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

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

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

29 tn Heb “cut off.”

30 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).

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

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

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

34 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.

35 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.”

36 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.

37 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.

38 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.

39 tn Heb “handed over.”

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

41 tn Heb “did not remember.”

42 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.

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

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

45 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.

46 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.

47 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.

48 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.”

49 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.

50 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.

51 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).

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

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

54 sn Bozrah was a city located in northern Edom.

55 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.

56 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.

57 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.

58 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.

59 sn Rabbah was the Ammonite capital.

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

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

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

63 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.

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

65 tn Heb “will go into exile.”

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

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

68 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.

69 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.

70 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.

71 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.

72 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.

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

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

75 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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