Amos 1

The Word Made Fresh

1Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa, saw a vision during the reigns of King Uzziah of Judah and King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel. This was two years before the earthquake.

2He made this announcement:
The LORD roars from Zion, thundering from Jerusalem.
The shepherds’ pastures dry up
and the peak of Mt. Carmel withers.
3This is what the LORD says:
“I will not remove punishment from Damascus,
not for three sins or for four.
For they have harvested Gilead, threshing with iron sledges.
4I will send fire upon the house of Hazael,
and it will burn down the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.
5I will break the bars of the gate of Damascus,
and forbid those who live in the valley of Aven,
and the one who rules Beth-Eden.
The people of Aram will be exiled to Kir,” says the LORD.
6The LORD says,
“For three or even four sins of Gaza
I will not belay the punishment,
for they carried whole towns into exile,
giving them over to Edom.
7So, I will send a fire over the walls of Gaza,
a fire that will consume all its fortresses.
8I will seal off the people who live in Ashdod,
and the one who rules in Ashkelon.
I will turn against Ekron,
and those who remain in Philistia will perish,” says the LORD God.
9The LORD says,
“For three or even four sins of Tyre
I will not belay the punishment,
for they handed whole towns over to Edom
and forgot that they had claimed to be family.
10Therefore I will send fire up the very walls of Tyre –
a blaze that will devour all its fortresses.”
11The LORD says this:
“For three and even four sins of Edom
I will not rescind their punishment.
He pursued his brother with swords and dismissed all pity.
He hung on to his anger and continued to be filled with wrath.
12So, I’m going to send a fire on Teman
and completely destroy the fortresses of Bozrah.”
13The LORD says this:
“For three and even four sins of the Ammonites
I will not rescind their punishment.
To enlarge their own territory
they even cut open pregnant women in Gilead.
14So, I will start a fire on the wall of Rabbah,
a fire that will devour all its fortresses.
There will be shouting on the day of battle
and a great whirlwind storm.
15Then their king will be exiled along with all his officials,”
says the LORD.


1: Uzziah was king of Judah (the southern kingdom) from 783 to 742 B.C., and Jeroboam king of Israel (the northern kingdom) from 785 to 745 B.C. Thus, we have a fairly narrow date for the prophecies of Amos. He introduces himself as a shepherd from Tekoa, a region 10 or so miles south of Jerusalem. Later, however, we will find him in Israel defending himself to King Jeroboam, declaring that he is merely a herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees, and protesting that he is not a prophet even though God has called him to prophesy (7:14-16). He seems then to have been active in both Judah and Israel before the fall of Israel, and the book that bears his name is therefore the earliest among all the prophetic books in spite of its late position in the Old Testament.

2: Amos pronounces an oracle of judgment: God roars from Zion, so it is obvious that whether he is an Israelite or a Judean he is a worshiper of the God whose temple is in Jerusalem.

3-5: Now he launches into a series of seven oracles, beginning with Damascus and ending with Judah and Israel, saving the lengthiest one for Israel (2:6-16). Each oracle begins with an indictment for four transgressions, introduced by the formula, “for three and even four sins I will …” Hazael and Ben-hadad were kings of Damascus and enemies of both Israel and Judah. The valley of Aven and Beth-Eden are unknown and the location of Kir is uncertain, but King Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria did exile the people of Damascus there in 732 B.C.

6-8: The Philistine confederation is next, and four of the five Philistine cities are mentioned, omitting only Gath which may have been part of Ashdod by Amos’ time. The reference to exiling communities to Edom is undocumented elsewhere, and may refer to a brief alliance between the Philistines and the Edomites — two nations between which Judah was located.

9-10: Tyre is condemned also for delivering entire communities to the Edomites. Some scholars speculate that there may have been an active slave trade to provide labor for Edom’s famous copper mines. If so, the slave trade may have involved the Philistines and Tyreans raiding towns in Judah and Israel to supply slaves to Edom.

11-12: Edom is next. Tradition has it that Edom was settled by Jacob’s brother Esau (see Genesis 36:8), but after the destruction of Jerusalem the Edomites mounted raids to plunder the Judeans at will, thus the charge that Edom “pursued his brother with swords.”

13-15: Ammon shared the Jordan River as a border with both Israel and Judah. They had originally occupied Gilead, the territory east of the Jordan River just below the Sea of Galilee, but were expelled by King Saul (1 Samuel 1:1-11). Amos denounces them here for the particularly horrible crime of murdering pregnant women. It is a bit curious that only the king and his officials are said to be going into exile.


War is indeed hell, and we should always enter a conflict for the purpose of defending ourselves or assisting an ally or a weak nation against a superior foe acting as a bully; never for enriching ourselves. That applies also to arguments between two of us.