Amos 1

The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Teqoa`, which he saw concerning Israel during the time of Uzziah, king of Judah, and during the time of Jarob`am son of Jo’ash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

He said:

YHWH roars from Zion, and from Jerusalem his voice comes forth;
The pastures of the shepherds will dry up, and the top of Mount Carmel will wither.

Thus says YHWH:
For three transgressions of Damascus, because of four I will not relent:
Because they trampled down Gil`ad with iron sledges.
So I will send fire against the house of Haza’el, and it will consume the castles of Ben-Hadad;
I will smash the bar of Damascus and cut off its inhabitants from the Aven Valley, and the one who holds the staff of the house of `Eden;
and the people of Aram will go into exile to Qir—
says YHWH.

Thus says YHWH:
For three transgressions of `Azzah, because of four I will not relent:
Because they carried into exile a whole people to deliver them over to Edom.
So I will send fire against the walls of `Azzah, and it will consume her castles.
I will cut off the inhabitants from ‘Ashdod, and the one who holds the staff from ‘Ashqelon;
And I will return my hand upon `Eqron, and the remnant of the Philistines will perish—
says Lord YHWH.

Thus says YHWH:
For three transgressions of Zor, because of four I will not relent:
Because they delivered into exile a whole people to Edom, and did not remember the covenant with their brothers.
So I will send fire against the walls of Zor, and it will consume her castles.

Thus says YHWH:
For three transgressions of Edom, because of four I will not relent:
Because he pursued his brother with the sword and shattered his compassion;
And his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever.
So I will send fire against Teman, and it will consume the castles of Bozrah.

Thus says YHWH:
For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon, because of four I will not relent:
Because they ripped open pregnant women at Gil`ad, so that they might enlarge their border.
So I will kindle a fire against the walls of Rabbah, and it will consume her castles
with a trumpet in the day of battle and a tempest in the day of storm.
And their king will go into exile, he and his princes together—
says YHWH.

——————————————————

Technically, this cycle of condemnation continues through chapter 2. 2:1-3 concerns the sins of Moab; 2:4-5 condemns the transgressions of Judah; but the longest indictment is saved for Israel (2:6-16).

Tonight, I’m fascinated with chapter 1. After the superscription (1:1) and the opening statement of judgment (1:2), the prophet speaks five oracles against the nations. The nations are Assyria (Dameseq), Philistia, Tyre (Zor), Edom and Ammon. Each strophe (paragraph) follows a similar pattern: the statement of "three—no, four—transgressions," the charges, and the consequences.

Like a little baby, I love repetition. The repetition within this poem forms a structure that limits the poet’s options. For many years scholars thought that structure most often hinders creativity; recently, some have shown that self-imposed limits can heighten a poet’s creativity by forcing him to dig deeper for different sorts of expression. In this poem, as in others, the striking similarities naturally point the reader to the differences.

1) The first and second lines are almost the same in each strophe; however, the first, second and fifth strophes contain three lines of consequences, but the third and fourth contain only one line of consequence. The fourth strophe contains an extra line (C) of charges against Edom.
2) Each of the consequences includes castles/strongholds being torn down. However, the first and fourth strophes name the city in the genitive (Ben-Hadad, Bozrah).
3) In the first four "consequence" lines, the poet uses שלח ("to send") with "fire"; only in the fifth strophe does he use יצת ("to kindle").
4) The first strophe uses "house"; three use "walls," and one specifies the city of Teman.

On its face, this poem seems like a sort of vengeful, xenophobic rant against all these neighboring countries. However, this notion is undercut by two factors. First, the poet comes down the hardest on his own people in the next chapter. It would be sort of like Chapelle finishing off his routine with a bunch of black-dude jokes. Second, the poet condemns actions, not people per se. These nations committed atrocities or treachery against their neighbors, and they deserve what they get.

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About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, exiled to the land of Phillies fans…an Old Testament professor and former liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth…eldest sibling to three, brother-in-law to Josh and Hannah…uncle to Marshall.
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One Response to Amos 1

  1. Susan Giffone says:

    That was helpful. I have never really looked at scripture as literature, except in the case of poetic forms with which I was vaguely familiar. There are apparently plenty of from with which I am unfamiliar! You are helping me to a greater understanding. I like your very readable explanation. You may turn out to be a very effective prof!

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