This is my attempt to help in reading the Minor Prophets. Today we hit on Oracles against the Nations (1:3-2:16).
Amos is speaking for Yahweh and judgements/condemnations that start off are against foreign nations (Aram, Philistia, & Phoenicia). The would have been met with applause by the hearers. He then moves in relative nations (Edom, Ammon, & Moab), then judgment against Israel’s sister nation (Judah). Finally, after spending 20 verses on those first 7 oracles, he drops 10 verses on Israel.
We have the narrowing in of judgement. We have something like this – consider for a moment that the Ancient Near East is now the Modern ‘Western’ World. The first three judgements would be some countries in Europe, perhaps German, France and Spain. The next three would be England, Ireland and Scotland and the seventh Canada.
So, you’re hearing all this, and you great with it as he moves down the line. You are probably even cheering along, shouting “amen, screw France”, “England gets what it deserves”, “suck it Canada (where Amos is from)” and then he hits you. Not only that, but spends the longest amount of time on your judgment.
The oracles break down into five parts (WBC) :
- Intro – Yahweh said
- Certainty of deserved punishment
- Evidence – the crimes committed
- Punishment (curses)
- Postscript – “Yahweh said”
Numerical sayings are common on OT lit (especially proverbs), often using the formula X, X+1 (Tyndale). The number of sins is likely to be taken symbolically, as three generally represented ‘fullness’ in the OT, with the fourth being ‘overflow.’ That is, they are sinful, but this ‘fourth’ sin, the one listed, is the last straw that causes Yahweh to bring his Wrath. As in, they have exceeded God/s tolerance.
“I will not revoke the punishment/turn back my wrath” Likely means Yahweh will have no peace, no treaty with the nation listed. Their rebellious nature has turned Yahweh against them, and there is no turning back, there will be no mercy.
Fire – quite destructive in the desert. Corresponds to total desolation.
It should be read as something like –
Because Atlanta is so sinful/rebellious and due to X (the specified crime) there can be nothing but punishment and consequence. Followed by a list of the punishments.