Reader’s Guide to Amos (1:3-2:5)

Editor – I posted the wrong section last week. This goes first, obviously. Read through these oracles and then read my previous post, it will make that post seem more coherent. I’ve updated links in this post to reflect the screw up.

 

Three weeks ago, I outlined how to read the first oracles of Amos. Today, I want to point out some notes that are helpful in understanding what is going on as you read. This covers Amos 1:3-2:5 and contains the seven oracles against other nations. The best way to use this would be to go read my previous post about the structure of the oracles, then read through verses themselves while using these notes when words, phrases, or places are unfamiliar. Hope it helps.

Aram (1:3-5)
Damascus is the capital of Aram.
Modern version read “threshed Gilead” older manuscripts such as those at Qumran or the LXX inserts ‘the pregnant women.” Threshing was/is the process of removing seed from stalk. So, if this accusation is literal, it is quite heinous. Threshing spikes were used to increase the efficacy in the threshing.
Hazael was king of Aram. He assumed the throne by killing Ben-Hadad (son of Hadad, a storm god). Interestingly, Hazael’s son, once king, assumed the name Ben-Hadad. It’s unclear which Amos is referring to, but points to more than a single person or event, but rather a geo-political group.
“Gate-bar” in movies after the hero comes ridding in through the gates of the fortress after escaping the (following, attacking, pursuing) foe, they shut the giant wooden gates and then lay are large wood/iron bar across to prevent the doors from being opened. Yahweh will destroy this bar, which not only shows his power, but leaves them unable to protect themselves by shutting the gate again.
Valley of Aven and Beth Eden are places in the region of Aram. The one ‘sitting’ and one who ‘holds the scepter’ are the rulers of the area. The message is, all of Aram, not just Damascus and all those in charge, so that no other family takes over rule.
Kir is unknown, but is possibly the place the Arameans came from. Either way, they are exiled and no longer have a land their own.

Philistia (1:6-8)
Gaza was the most prominent and powerful city in the region. Ashdod, Ashkelon and Ekron are all areas of Philistia.
“Exiled a whole people” not just the soldiers/prisoners of war. Instead, they took whole towns communities, men women and children and sold them into slavery.

Phoenicia (1:9-10)
Tyure was the strongest Phoenician City.
“Forgot the covenant of brotherhood” the broke the treaty with someone, we do not know whom.
Same crime and punishment as to Philisia.

Edom (1:11-12)
Edom was the purchaser of the slaves sold. It also rounds out the compass (Damascus to the Northeast, Tyre to the Northwest, Gaza to the South West) as it lay Southeast. This shows the sweeping range of Yahweh (Ammon and Moab are to the east, the Mediterranean Sea, due west).
Teman and Bozrah are places
See introductory note on Edom.

Ammon (1:13-15)
Rabbah was the only major city.

Moab (2:1-3)
“Burned as if to lime” has two possible means, though both could apply. One, they burned the bones of the dead, which would prevent (in their minds) the resurrection. Two, they used the ash to make whitewash, which is extreme disrespect for the dead.
Kerioth is probably mentioned because of its value as a cultish center, that, housed a shrine for the Moabite deity, Chemosh – Tyndale.

Judah (2:4-5)
There is a shift here, the crime isn’t against humanity or international treaties being broken, it is against the Law (Tora) of Yahweh. Also, the target isn’t really foreign anymore. It is now on God’s people (NAC) and the hearers would have noticed this shift and likely become nervous.

Bibliography:
Hosea-Jonah, Volume 31 (Word Biblical Commentary)
Amos, Obadiah, Jonah: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (The New American Commentary)
Joel and Amos (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)

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