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Bible Study, The Minor Prophets: Amos, chapter 1 and 2

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
      Which includes Amos 5 : 24
            “But let justice roll down like waters,
                  and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (ESV)

Amos Background
      The book was not written by Amos. That is made clear in the first sentence, and in verse two (which we'll talk about then). But verse one it does tell us what Amos did for a living, and where he did it (which we will get into in the verse), before he started his second career, which evidently consumed the rest of his life. It is also interesting that the opening passage does not state “the Word of God Came to...”, it waits a couple of verses for that.
      Verse one also pretty much nails down the time when Amos began his work as a prophet. That we will cover here to save time later.
      We have the King of Judah Uzziah also known as Azariah from 2 Kings 4, and Jeroboam son of Joash in Israel.
      First the Good King. Uzziah became king when he was a teenager, and ruled for over fifty years, from (give or take, remember what we've said about OT dates) 765 to 730. One of the things that Uzziah's reign is known for is its earthquake, for which significant archaeological evidence has been found. See links below.
      Now the Bad Kings. The book specifies Jeroboam the son of Joash, which makes him J2, and puts his reign in the 780 to 750 range.
      So between the verifiable historic event, and the two kings, we have a pretty good idea of when Amos worked, now as to when his words were written down, that's anybody's guess.

      His main message is aimed at the Northern Kingdom, but as we'll see, before that he manages to condemn just about everybody else in the region, including Judah, then he levels his guns at Israel. Some outlets call Amos "the Prophet of Social Justice" and there is good reason, which you'll see as we go.

Chapter 1

      The words of Amos, who was “ban·no·qe·dim” (among the sheep tenders (dedicated caretakers)) of Tekoa....
      A village in Judah listed in some versions of Joshua 15: 59, and 1 Chronicles 2 and 4, as well as 1 Maccabees 9:33 (1611), the actual location of which is still open to debate, there's a link to one possible site below:
“Then Ionathan and Simon his brother, and all that were with him, perceiuing that, fled into the wildernes of Thecoe, and pitched their tents by the water of the poole Asphar.”
      .... which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah (we've already talked about the kings and the earthquake)

      “way·yo·mar” (and he said (it is written about Amos's message, in the third person)) YHWH from Zion “yis 'ag” (roars (of a lion)) and from Jerusalem “yit ten” (gives / 'puts forth') “qo w lo” (His voice / sound), and we·”’a·be·lu” (mourn / lament) the pastures of the “ha·ro·‘im” (shepherds / tenders (a different word than in verse 1)), and “we·ya·bes” (dries up) the 'summit of Mount Carmel'.

      Mount Carmel, known by the various names in the link below, is more than just 'a hill', it is a mountain range with some of its limestone cliff faces that are over 1000 feet tall that marches along the coastline of Israel for fifteen miles. Even today, when the sides of the mountain turn brown, it is a sign that all is not well in Israel, see links below.

      “koh” (thus) “'a mar” (says / speaks) YHWH, for three “pis 'e” (rebellion / sin / transgression / trespass) of Damascus, for four not “’a·si ben·nu” (turn away / return) because they have “du·sam” (threshed) “ba·ah·ru·so·wt” (impliments / 'tools) of “hab·bar·zel” (iron (not steel)) Gilead.
      It was Gilead that was threshed with iron.
      The literary device of “three.... four” is something that repeats, a lot, in Amos. Three 'sins' was seen as God's limit, the fourth would bring punishment. It is also seen in Proverbs 30, four times! Also see Exodus 20 : 5, Deuteronomy 5 : 9 and related.

      The translations are good on the fire. This also repeats in the coming verses. We'll have a bit of a geography class as we go.
      Hazael was the king of Damascus as mentioned in 2 Kings chapters 8 through 13. Ben-hadad is mentioned in 1 Kings 18 and appears to be another local king. However, at last count there were at least three Ben-hadads, covering a period of a couple of hundred years. However, they, and Hazael are known real persons from about the time covered in the book of Amos.

      And I will break “be·ri·ah” (gate bar) of Dammeseq, “we·hik·rat·ti” (cut off / eliminate) those that dwell in the Valley of Aven... 'which includes the king.'
      Aven is also known as Bethel,
      Kir appears to be Kerak, a region and city in Moab.

6 The translations are good in this coming section:
      Thus says YHWH, (three and four, again) against Gaza, for taking captives and sending them to Edom (another foreign kingdom).

      .... Gaza (city, on the Mediterranean), totally burn up “’ar·me·no·w·te·ha” (citadels / fortifications).

      “we·hik·rat·ti” ('violent' amputation), remember that word, it comes back as well.
      at the time Ashkelon and Ashdod were Philistine cities on the coast, north of Gaza City, all were, and are, south of today's Tel Aviv.
      Ekron has been archaeologically identified north east from the others at el Miqne, the word “we·’a·be·du” means 'perish / be destroyed / vanish', it did.

      “three and four” Tyre (on the coast in today's Lebanon between Haifa and Beirut), 'for captives to Edom'. Not “za·ke·ru” (remember / call to mind) “be rit” (covenant / pledge) of “'a him” (brothers).
      The rulers and people of Tyre have forgotten their relationship with God's people, and sold them into slavery as well.

      See verse 7, change city to Tyre.

      Scene changes to Edom, “three and four....” because “ra·de·pow” (pursued / ran after) with a sword “'a hiw” (brother), “we·si·het” (corrupted / cast away (implies intentional act)) “ra·ha·maw” (compassion), “way·yit·rop” (torn to pieces / 'shredded') “la 'ad” (into the future / perpetually) anger, and His “we·‘eb·ra·tow” (fury/ wrath) kept “ne sah” (everlasting).

      See verse 7, now we're in Edom, due south of Judah. The city identified as Bozrah, may be the old city of Busaira southeast of the Dead Sea, which had been the Edomite capital.

      “three and four” 'sons of Ammon' (the land across the Jordan that was originally given to the Tribe of Benjamin) because of the pregnant women “biq 'am” ('violently' cut open)

      This may some side story to either Judges 11 or 21, but most likely it is something not otherwise recorded in the Bible.

      ... the 'shouting', 'battle' and 'whirlwind' of the translations is pretty close to the Hebrew.
      This time the fire is in Rabbah, the Ammonite capital, located near the present city of Amman, Jordan.

      Paraphrase: 'and it will be a bad day to be king, or prince, in Ammon,' says YHWH
      The term “mal·kam” can be taken as a generic reference to a king, or it could be translated as Moloch (Molech) which was one of the pagan gods in the area, see Leviticus 18 in reference to his fire.

Chapter 2

      “three and four”, Moab (due east of the Dead Sea, south of Ammon, north of Edom).
      The reference of burning the bones of the King of Edom 'into lime' may be a reference to a practice seen in 2 Kings 23. Or it could be a non-Biblical instance, such as in the preceding verses. In either case, one of the things done with bones so burnt was mixing them in with natural dry lime and then turning it into plaster with a touch of water and using it as whitewash for walls.

      “send fire”, this time to Kerioth (Kirioth), in Moab, however, the word is plural, so it may mean a group of settlements or a region. A town by the same name is mentioned in Jeremiah 48.
      ... “u met” (be executed / slain) “be·sa·’o·wn” (clash / uproar / 'noise of war')

      'cut off' “so·pet” (judge / judgment) ... “sa re ha” (rulers) says YHWH

      “three and four”, Judah, because “ma·’o·sam” (rejected / despised / refused) the Law of YHWH and “we·huq·qaw” (His statutes / 'commandments') not “sa·ma·ru” (observed / kept / guarded), and “way·yat·‘um” (led to wander / astray) “kiz·be·hem” (with lies / deception (implies intentional act)), 'which followed after their fathers'.

      the fire consumes the citadels and palaces of Jerusalem

      “three and four”, Israel, because they “mik ram” (sell) for “bak·ke·sep” (silver / money) “sad diq” (the lawful / just / righteous) and the “we·’eb·yo·wn” (poor / needy (impoverished)) “na·‘a·la·yim” (literally: a pair of shoes)-

      “has·so·’a·pim” (pant / breathe heavily) after “'a par” (dust / dirt) of the earth “be ros” (the head) “dal lim” (low status/ weak / 'poor') and the journey of the “‘a·na·wim” (humble / afflicted) - “yat tu” (bend / 'pervert') a man and his father 'with same maid', to “hal·lel” (pollute / desecrate) my name “qad·si” (sacred / holy)
      See 1 Corinthians 5, although this could be a reference to the temple prostitutes we had a 'date' with in the focus section in Hosea 4.

      'on clothes taken in pledge'....
      This one goes back to the Exodus law, see chapter 22 beginning at verse 25. Followed up by Deuteronomy 24 : 12. They appear to be breaking this one by giving the garments so taken to the pagan alters for whatever reason (we will not speculate on the idea of their leaving their clothes in the temple due to a 'meeting' with the 'working girls' in the previous verse).
      ... wine of the “‘a·nu·sim” (penalty / a fine 'imposed by a court' (some authorities would assess a penalty, tribute, or taxes, that could be paid 'in kind' instead of 'in cash')) drink in the house of their “’e·lo·he·hem” (it is the term for 'god', but here it is used to denote a pagan god, or perhaps even a foreign ruler, not YHWH)

      The translations are good on the 'trees' being killed from above and below.
      The term “Amorite” is most likely a generic term for Canaanite, as seen in Joshua, especially chapter 10. There is also a reference to one of their kings as 'something special' in Deuteronomy 3 : 11.
      As to whether or not they were giants, as is implied by the verse, let's look at that for a moment.
      Various sources report that the average man was somewhere between 5 feet 1 and 5'5” during Old Testament times. And remember that King Saul was made king because he stood “head and shoulders” above everybody else, and was perhaps six feet tall. Therefore, if you had a race that was of an “average height” that was something over six foot with the occasional individual taller than that, they would appear to be 'giants', and would not have to be Goliath.

      History lesson.

      Sons as prophets and, young men “lin·zi·rim” (as Nazirites) 'is this not true, sons of Israel?'
      The Nazirites were instituted under the vows (which is what the word means) in Numbers 6, and are well represented by Samson, of course, and Samuel in 1 Samuel 1 : 11. The vow included not drinking ANYTHING from a grape, never cutting their hair, and not even being in the neighborhood of a dead human. The vow was usually taken for a specific period of time. Other Nazirites are mentioned in 1 Maccabees 3: 46 and following (1611, see link below):

“Wherefore the Israelites assembled themselues together, and came to Maspha ouer-against Ierusalem; for in Maspha was the place where they prayed aforetime in Israel.
Then they fasted that day, and put on sackecloth, and cast ashes vpon their heads, and rent their clothes:
'And laide open the booke of the Law, wherein þe heathen had sought to paint the likenesse of their images.
They brought also the Priestes garments, and the first fruits, and the tithes, and the Nazarites they stirred vp, who had accomplished their dayes.
Then cried they with a loud voice toward heauen, saying, What shall we doe with these, and whither shall wee cary them away?'”

      But they gave the Nazirites wine, and told the prophets “don't”.

      The translations are all somewhat different, but convey the same idea. And all are within the tone of the Hebrew.

14 - 15
      Paraphrase: the swift cannot run, the strong will not be, and the mighty won't be able to save himself. The bowman will fall. The fast runner, and horseman won't escape.
      Meaning: you're depending on yourself, not a good plan in the long run.

      And the strong men shall flee naked in that day, says YHWH.
      This could well be a reference to any of the several instances in history where soldiers shed their uniforms and melted into the countryside when a battle is going badly. One of the most famous of these is during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 where both Napoleon and the Czar's forces had deserters that numbered into the tens of thousands. See link below.

end 2

Selected Sources for this book:

Might be Amos's hometown: Tekoa, might not be. Nobody knows for certain.

Amos' earthquake

Also known as Antelope-Nose, Har Karmel, Holy Headland, Jebel Kurmul, Mar Elyas, Mount of User, Rosh-Kedesh


Memorial stone of the battle from 1 Kings 20: the Melqart-Stele of King Ben-Hadad II: 845 BC

As mentioned above: 1 Maccabees 3 in the Original KJV:

Those 'deserters' we mentioned:

"Among the French casualties, 100,000 are thought to have been killed in action, 200,000 to have died from other causes, 50,000 to have been left sick in hospitals, 50,000 to have deserted, and 100,000 to have been taken as prisoners of war..... Russian casualties have been estimated at 200,000 killed, 50,000 dispersed or deserting, and 150,000 wounded."

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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