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Saturday, September 13, 2014

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“Amos,” meaning “a burden bearer” was an eighth century humble Judean shepherd in Tekoa, who was neither the son of a prophet nor trained to be one (7:14). He was called by God to prophesy against Israel regarding the behavior of her religious and political leaders who did evil in the sight of the Lord. This was at a time when both Israel and Judah were prosperous during the reigns of Uzziah, the king of Judah, and Jeroboam, the king of Israel. He was to prophesy not only against Israel but also Judah (v.1). Feeling safe from foreign enemies and confident in its own strength, Israel did not see any danger or destruction. But the fruits of prosperity—pride, luxury, selfishness, oppression—were ripening plentifully in both kingdoms. Amos was stirred by the luxury and the sins which he vividly describes in detail. He rebukes the sins that sprang from material prosperity, the extravagances, the revelries, the debauchery of the rich, who were able to do this by oppressing the poor and by perverting judgment, through bribery and extortion. Very graphically Amos expresses the Lord’s displeasure—the Lord roars, and the entire land—pastures and Mt. Carmel, will mourn (v.2). Verses 3-15 present God’s judgment on Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom and Ammon also.

Damascus (vv. 3-5), the beautiful, prosperous and well fortified capital city of the Syrian kingdom, and representative of all Syria, would experience God’s judgments for her intentional and incurable wrongdoings, particularly for “threshing” people as grain is threshed with iron sledges (v.3, NLT). God warns that He will send fire and destroy Hazael and his son (Heb. ben) Hadad, their entire dynasty and the city of Damascus with all its magnificent royal palaces. The bars securing the city gate will be broken for the enemy to enter, the people will be slaughtered in the Valley of Aven, and finally the people of Syria will be taken captive. All this was fulfilled when the king of Assyria went up against Damascus and took it. 

Gaza, the city of the Philistines, was to experience indictment for enforcing migration and slavery. God decided to send fire upon the walls of Gaza to devour its palaces. The inhabitants of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron would be slaughtered. Gaza was conquered by the king of Egypt and by Alexander the Great. Ashdod was captured by Uzziah, then by Sargon II.  God will wipe away those that try to wipe away His people.

Judgment is pronounced upon Tyre (vv. 9-10), the chief city of the Phoenicians, for handing over captives to the Edomites. Because of this they were held responsible for the cruelties the Jews suffered. The mainland of Tyre was taken by Sennacherib, later the island belonging to Tyre by Esarhaddon, and finally Tyre was destroyed by Alexander the Great. In God’s sight a person is as guilty of the crime he assists as the crime he himself may commit.

Then Amos denounces the three nations related by blood to Israel—Edom, Ammon, and Moab. The unbrotherly attitude of Edom, the descendants of Esau, toward the descendants of Jacob, and the hostility of the Ammonites toward Israel, was condemned by Amos. It is bad to hate an enemy, worse to hate a friend, and still worse to hate a brother. May God help us to love one and all.

Deepati Vara Prasad, Ph.D.
Watchman Publishing House, India