Monday, August 31, 2015

Reflections on Micah 5

 Micah 05  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jerusalem, enemy troops have surrounded you; they have struck Israel's ruler in the face with a stick.
  2. Bethlehem Ephrath, you are one of the smallest towns in the nation of Judah. But the LORD will choose one of your people to rule the nation-- someone whose family goes back to ancient times.
  3. The LORD will abandon Israel only until this ruler is born, and the rest of his family returns to Israel.
  4. Like a shepherd taking care of his sheep, this ruler will lead and care for his people by the power and glorious name of the LORD his God. His people will live securely, and the whole earth will know his true greatness,
  5. because he will bring peace. Let Assyria attack our country and our palaces. We will counterattack, led by a number of rulers
  6. whose strong army will defeat the nation of Assyria. Yes, our leaders will rescue us, if those Assyrians dare to invade our land.
  7. A few of Jacob's descendants survived and are scattered among the nations. But the LORD will let them cover the earth like dew and rain that refreshes the soil.
  8. At present they are scattered, but later they will attack, as though they were fierce lions pouncing on sheep. Their enemies will be torn to shreds, with no one to save them;
  9. they will be helpless, completely destroyed.
  10. The LORD said: At that time I will wipe out your cavalry and chariots,
  11. as well as your cities and your fortresses.
  12. I will stop you from telling fortunes and practicing witchcraft.
  13. You will no longer worship the idols or stone images you have made-- I will destroy them,
  14. together with the sacred poles and even your towns.
  15. I will become furious and take revenge on the nations that refuse to obey me.

Chapter 5 begins with a statement to Judah in verse 1 of what to expect in the near future. She would soon be under siege and slash herself in grief over her loses. But then, beginning in verse 2 Micah shifts to a more distant future and then a very distant future. Verse 2 is an obvious reference to Christ's birth. He is the coming ruler over Israel who will be her salvation. With Israel's rejection of Him, however, Christ will abandon her until a much later time when, like a woman in labor, she will go through a time of extreme trials.

But then there will be a national regathering of Israel and Christ "will stand and shepherd" the regathered Israel. At that time Israel will finally live securely. There will be peace and nations such as Assyria, who was one of Israel's enemies in Micah's time, will be unable to harm the nation. At that time Israel will be the blessing to all people that God intended the nation to be. She will be to many people "like dew from the Lord."

Furthermore, Israel, at that time, will be a dominant power, "like a lion among animals of the forest." Also, during that time, Israel will finally lose her dependence on military might and her lust for other gods. Her dependence and loyalty will be on the Lord alone. And the Lord will "take vengeance" on those nations that "have not obeyed" Him.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reflections on Micah 4

 Micah 04  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. In the future, the mountain with the LORD's temple will be the highest of all. It will reach above the hills, and every nation will rush to it.
  2. People of many nations will come and say, "Let's go up to the mountain of the LORD God of Jacob and worship in his temple." The LORD will teach us his Law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him.
  3. He will settle arguments between distant and powerful nations. They will pound their swords and their spears into rakes and shovels; they will never again make war or attack one another.
  4. Everyone will find rest beneath their own fig trees or grape vines, and they will live in peace. This is a solemn promise of the LORD All-Powerful.
  5. Others may follow their gods, but we will always follow the LORD our God.
  6. The LORD said: At that time I will gather my people-- the lame and the outcasts, and all into whose lives I have brought sorrow.
  7. Then the lame and the outcasts will belong to my people and become a strong nation. I, the LORD, will rule them from Mount Zion forever.
  8. Mount Zion in Jerusalem, guardian of my people, you will rule again.
  9. Jerusalem, why are you crying? Don't you have a king? Have your advisors gone? Are you suffering like a woman in childbirth?
  10. Keep on groaning with pain, you people of Jerusalem! If you escape from your city to the countryside, you will still be taken as prisoners to Babylonia. But later I will rescue you from your enemies.
  11. Zion, because of your sins you are surrounded by many nations who say, "We can hardly wait to see you disgraced."
  12. But they don't know that I, the LORD, have gathered them here to grind them like grain.
  13. Smash them to pieces, Zion! I'll let you be like a bull with iron horns and bronze hoofs. Crush those nations and bring their wealth to me, the LORD of the earth.

As was typical with God's message of judgment to Israel, there was also a message of hope and restoration. Because of the nation's sins judgment would come, but God had no intention of doing away with Israel altogether. So Micah paints a picture of how things will be at some point in the future. This future will be what God has intended for Israel from the beginning but was not possible under the original covenant He had with the nation. This covenant actually made the point that man is powerless to keep any set of rules sufficiently enough to save himself. Therefore it was necessary for God to send His Son who would pay the penalty of sin on man's behalf for he cannot keep from sinning and death is his only alternative apart from Christ's sacrifice.

Although God was preparing to bring destruction and exile upon both Judah and Israel, "In the last days," both nations would again be united and would prosper. At that time, people of the world will be drawn to Israel and make their way "to the mountain of the Lord," The word of the Lord will go out from Jerusalem and everyone will be taught in His ways. Under the Lord's rule worldwide peace will finally occur and nations will "beat their swords into plows . . . Nation will not take up the sword against nation." Instead of making war, people will enjoy peace with no fear of aggression. Until that time, the idea of worldwide peace is just a fantasy. Man is not at peace even with his neighbor, who he knows, how will he have peace with other nations whom he does not know?

Israel, whom the Lord had injured and scattered, will be gathered and once again made into a strong nation. But the Lord will rule them "from this time on and forever."

Meanwhile, however, Judah must suffer "so that anguish grips you like a woman in labor." She would be taken away to Babylon and eventually rescued from there by the Lord's hand. A further aggression will threaten the nation when "many nations" will assemble against her. But these nations who gather against Israel do not realize that the Lord will be behind their gathering for the purpose of "threshing" them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflections on Micah 3

 Micah 03  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Listen to me, you rulers of Israel! You know right from wrong,
  2. but you prefer to do evil instead of what is right. You skin my people alive. You strip off their flesh,
  3. break their bones, cook it all in a pot, and gulp it down.
  4. Someday you will beg the LORD to help you, but he will turn away because of your sins.
  5. You lying prophets promise security for anyone who gives you food, but disaster for anyone who refuses to feed you. Here is what the LORD says to you prophets:
  6. "You will live in the dark, far from the sight of the sun, with no message from me.
  7. You prophets and fortunetellers will all be disgraced, with no message from me."
  8. But the LORD has filled me with power and his Spirit. I have been given the courage to speak about justice and to tell you people of Israel that you have sinned.
  9. So listen to my message, you rulers of Israel! You hate justice and twist the truth.
  10. You make cruelty and murder a way of life in Jerusalem.
  11. You leaders accept bribes for dishonest decisions. You priests and prophets teach and preach, but only for money. Then you say, "The LORD is on our side. No harm will come to us."
  12. And so, because of you, Jerusalem will be plowed under and left in ruins. Thorns will cover the mountain where the temple now stands.

Judah's leaders, both secular and religious, came into Micah's cross-hairs as he took aim at their predatory nature with the people. They did not have the people's best interest in mind as they encouraged them to ignore God's warnings of coming judgment if they did not change their ways. "God surely will not do those things," they counseled, "for you are His special people." Prophesying what the people wanted to hear profited the prophets both monetarily and for prestige. It was themselves they were thinking of with their false prophesy.

Micah likened these leaders to hunters who bagged their game then skinned them and stripped off the flesh. These leaders, however, went even further to break up their bones and cook them in a pot. This pictured their treatment of the people. A day would come when these false prophets would need God's help, but when they reached out to Him, He would turn away from them because of their sins. This blackout from God's word was likened to living in the dark far from the light of the sun. Jesus also depicted those who were far from God as living in darkness.

As Micah continues into verses 9-12 we get an expanding picture of these godless leaders of Judah. They were not servants of God but rather prophets for hire, preaching and teaching for profit. Furthermore, the message they preached perverted rather than promoted the teachings of God. But it wasn't just that they encouraged the sins of the people - they led in it. They made "cruelty and murder a way of life in Jerusalem." Though the people were not innocent, it would be especially because of the actions of these leaders that "Jerusalem will be plowed under and left in ruins. Thorns will cover the mountain where the temple now stands."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reflections on Micah 2

 Micah 02  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Doomed! You're doomed! At night you lie in bed, making evil plans. And when morning comes, you do what you've planned because you have the power.
  2. You grab any field or house that you want; you cheat families out of homes and land.
  3. But here is what the LORD says: "I am planning trouble for you. Your necks will be caught in a noose, and you will be disgraced in this time of disaster."
  4. When that happens, this sorrowful song will be sung about you: "Ruined! Completely ruined! The LORD has taken our land and given it to traitors."
  5. And so you will never again own property among the LORD's people.
  6. "Enough of your preaching!" That's what you tell me. "We won't be disgraced, so stop preaching!"
  7. Descendants of Jacob, is it right for you to claim that the LORD did what he did because he was angry? Doesn't he always bless those who do right?
  8. My people, you have even stolen clothes right off the backs of your unsuspecting soldiers returning home from battle.
  9. You take over lovely homes that belong to the women of my nation. Then you cheat their children out of the inheritance that comes from the LORD.
  10. Get out of here, you crooks! You'll find no rest here. You're not fit to belong to the LORD's people, and you will be destroyed.
  11. The only prophet you want is a liar who will say, "Drink and get drunk!"
  12. I, the LORD, promise to bring together the people of Israel who have survived. I will gather them, just as a shepherd brings sheep together, and there will be many.
  13. I will break down the gate and lead them out-- then I will be their king.

Judah had stooped to the same practices as her northern brothers in Israel and now lay on their beds dreaming up schemes to confiscate the property of others to increase their own wealth. Once a person was without property he had no means of providing for himself and would end up enslaved to another to pay his debts or to have a source of food and shelter. What made this behavior of greater concern for Israel was that it was forbidden in the Mossaic Covenant which highlighted a principle of God's kingdom. God had delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and did not want Israel forcing slavery on its own people.

The principle involved is that what God has done for us He expects us to do for others. This principle is taught also in a parable told by Jesus in which a king was settling accounts and discovered a servant who owed him a great amount of money which he could not pay. The servant begged him to be patient and he would pay the debt. So rather than extending the time he had to repay the debt, the king forgave the debt all together. But then the servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a small amount of money and demanded it be paid. When the fellow servant begged his patience he was not willing to extend the kindness he had been given and he threw the fellow servant into prison. When the king heard of this he summed the servant whom he had forgiven the large debt and handed him over to the jailers.

The parable teaches that as God has forgiven us, we should extend that same forgiveness to others. Whatever God has done for us He wants us to do for others. In the case of Judah, God had blessed the nation by delivering the people from slavery and giving them a land to call their own. He expected them to extend a similar blessing to others, but instead they were robbing people of their property. So now their enemies were about to come and take their property from them.

False prophets in Judah told Micah to quit preaching such things. These things were not going to happen. But Micah responded by saying that his words were good not bad for those who walk uprightly. It was not Micah but those who wanted to shut him up who were the enemies of the people. It would be as if they were participants with those who invaded the country and forced women from their homes and took away the blessing of Israel. Those who protested Micah's preaching did not belong in Israel for it was not a place for those who defiled because they brought destruction on the nation. They did not want the truth that Micah preached but would rather follow a preacher who invented lies, preaching to them about wine and beer.

The tone softens, though, as we come to verses 12-13. Becoming even tender, Micah explained what God was about to do through the coming judgment. Yes, the people would be punished and would suffer and would be taken away into exile, but on a larger scale, God was using it as a means to gather all of Israel as He would gather sheep in a pen to regroup them and make them safe once again. Their imprisonment in exile would serve as this pen for God's sheep, Israel. As sheep leave the pen, once danger has passed, following behind their shepherd, so Israel would eventually leave their exile now following their King, the Lord, as their leader.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reflections on Micah 1

 Micah 01  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I am Micah from Moresheth. And this is the message about Samaria and Jerusalem that the LORD gave to me when Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were the kings of Judah.
  2. Listen, all of you! Earth and everything on it, pay close attention. The LORD God accuses you from his holy temple.
  3. And he will come down to crush underfoot every pagan altar.
  4. Mountains will melt beneath his feet like wax beside a fire. Valleys will vanish like water rushing down a ravine.
  5. This will happen because of the terrible sins of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. Samaria has led Israel to sin, and pagan altars at Jerusalem have made Judah sin.
  6. So the LORD will leave Samaria in ruins-- merely an empty field where vineyards are planted. He will scatter its stones and destroy its foundations.
  7. Samaria's idols will be smashed, and the wages of temple prostitutes will be destroyed by fire. Silver and gold from those idols will then be used by foreigners as payment for prostitutes.
  8. Because of this tragedy, I go barefoot and naked. My crying and weeping sound like howling wolves or ostriches.
  9. The nation is fatally wounded. Judah is doomed. Jerusalem will fall.
  10. Don't tell it in Gath! Don't even cry. Instead, roll in the dust at Beth-Leaphrah.
  11. Depart naked and ashamed, you people of Shaphir. The town of Bethezel mourns because no one from Zaanan went out to help.
  12. Everyone in Maroth hoped for the best, but the LORD sent disaster down on Jerusalem.
  13. Get the war chariots ready, you people of Lachish. You led Jerusalem into sin, just as Israel did.
  14. Now you will have to give a going-away gift to Moresheth. Israel's kings will discover that they cannot trust the town of Achzib.
  15. People of Mareshah, the LORD will send someone to capture your town. Then Israel's glorious king will be forced to hide in Adullam Cave.
  16. Judah, shave your head as bald as a buzzard and start mourning. Your precious children will be dragged off to a foreign country.

Micah's message concerns both Israel, the Northern kingdom represented by its capital city, Samaria, and Judah, the Southern kingdom represented by its capital city, Jerusalem. The primary focus of his message relates, however, to Judah. As the book opens, things had gotten bad enough in the two nations that the Lord God leaves "His place" to come down and deal with their sin. The Lord will be a witness against them and will then become the judge who declares their verdict and carries out their punishment.

Both Samaria and Jerusalem had high places where the people worshiped pagan fertility gods. The reference in verse 7 to the wages of a prostitute has a dual connotation. One is of the two nations "prostituting" themselves to other gods as they were unfaithful to God. Their covenant relationship to God was viewed as a marriage and any involvement they had with other gods was seen as unfaithfulness to this marriage relationship. Thus their repeated involvement with pagan gods portrayed them as prostitutes.

The second connotation to a prostitute was to the pagan temple prostitutes who were a part of the fertility rites of the pagan worship. The wages paid these prostitutes were then given back to the temple as "temple gifts." When the Assyrians destroyed Israel, these gifts would be taken and used again in pagan worship in Assyria where the Israelites taken there into exile would be forced to participate. By then, the people may have seen the error of their unfaithful ways, but would have no choice to worship God.

As Micah gives a lament in verses 8-16 over the destruction of Samaria, he calls on several towns of Judah to mourn for Samaria. In each case, what Micah calls on the town to do is related to a characteristic of the town. Reading the passage from The Message helps to see the descriptive terms for each town:

"Don't gossip about this in Telltown. Don't waste your tears. In Dustville, roll in the dust. In Alarmtown, the alarm is sounded. The citizens of Exitburgh will never get out alive. Lament, Last-Stand City: There's nothing in you left standing. The villagers of Bittertown wait in vain for sweet peace. Harsh judgment has come from GOD and entered Peace City. All you who live in Chariotville, get in your chariots for flight. You led the daughter of Zion into trusting not God but chariots. Similar sins in Israel also got their start in you. Go ahead and give your good-bye gifts to Good-byeville. Miragetown beckoned but disappointed Israel's kings. Inheritance City has lost its inheritance. Glorytown has seen its last of glory." (1:10-15 The Message)            

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflections on Amos 9

 Amos 09  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I saw a vision of the LORD standing by the temple altar, and he said, "Shake the columns until the tops fall loose, and the doorposts crumble. Then make the pieces fall on the people below. I will take a sword and kill anyone who escapes.
  2. "If they dig deep into the earth or climb to the sky, I'll reach out and get them.
  3. If they escape to the peaks of Mount Carmel, I'll search and find them. And if they hide from me at the bottom of the ocean, I'll command a sea monster to bite them.
  4. I'll send a sword to kill them, wherever their enemies drag them off as captives. I'm determined to hurt them, not to help them."
  5. When the LORD God All-Powerful touches the earth, it melts, and its people mourn. God makes the earth rise and then fall, just like the Nile River.
  6. He built his palace in the heavens and let its foundations rest on the earth. He scoops up the ocean and empties it on the earth. His name is the LORD.
  7. Israel, I am the LORD God, and the Ethiopians are no less important to me than you are. I brought you out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete and the Arameans from Kir.
  8. My eyes have seen what a sinful nation you are, and I'll wipe you out. But I will leave a few of Jacob's descendants. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  9. At my command, all of you will be sifted like grain. Israelites who remain faithful will be scattered among the nations. And the others will be trapped like trash in a sifter.
  10. Some of you are evil, and you deny that you will ever get caught. But you will be killed.
  11. In the future, I will rebuild David's fallen kingdom. I will build it from its ruins and set it up again, just as it used to be.
  12. Then you will capture Edom and the other nations that are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken, and my words will come true.
  13. You will have such a harvest that you won't be able to bring in all of your wheat before plowing time. You will have grapes left over from season to season; your fruitful vineyards will cover the mountains.
  14. I'll make Israel prosper again. You will rebuild your towns and live in them. You will drink wine from your own vineyards and eat the fruit you grow.
  15. I'll plant your roots deep in the land I have given you, and you won't ever be uprooted again. I, the LORD God, have spoken!

The God of Israel who had been the nation's protector was about to become the nation's avenger. In this final vision the Lord gave Amos, the Lord was beginning His judgment in the sanctuary in Bethel as the people were gathered to make their sacrifices. But their worship was a sham and the Lord was striking them at the heart of the issue, the fact that they had turned away from Him even though they hypocritically kept up appearances by practicing the worship rituals.

In the vision the Lord caused the building to collapse on the people gathered there killing most of them. Those that did not die from the building collapse He would kill with the sword. To emphasize that there was no escape for the people, the Lord highlighted that as Creator of the universe there was no where they could go to escape Him, whether they dug a hole in the ground, climbed up to heaven, went to the top of a mountain or went to the bottom the sea. Judgment was certain.

The Lord planned to "totally destroy the house of Jacob," that is, the nation of Israel. But there was a remnant He would spare. Those who had been faithful to Him. He was about to shake Israel as one shakes a sieve, and separate the sinners from the righteous. Not a pebble, that is, the sinners, would fall to the ground. Those who had perpetrated the sins of Israel would not escape the Lord's judgment. Had we wondered what would happen to those being oppressed by the rich in Israel we get our answer here. God was angry about the injustice in Israel and planned to punish the nation, but what would happen to those who were innocent to whom the injustice was being applied? They would be sifted out and spared from the destruction. However, this does not mean they would not be affected by it. Though their lives may be spared, life as they knew it would no longer exist. The nation would fall and cities would be destroyed. The people would be marched away into exile. This part the innocent would not likely escape.

Once Israel has received the full punishment for her sins, the Lord would take back up the fulfillment of His purpose for the nation, which was to bless all people through them. Israel would be restored and once again become prosperous. It will not be necessary for people to unjustly oppress others in order to prosper. God will prosper them - everyone. Furthermore, David's lineage would again rule over Israel, and the nation would again be united.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Reflections on Amos 8

 Amos 08  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD God showed me a basket of ripe fruit
  2. and asked, "Amos, what do you see?" "A basket of ripe fruit," I replied. Then he said, "This is the end for my people Israel. I won't forgive them again.
  3. Instead of singing in the temple, they will cry and weep. Dead bodies will be everywhere. So keep silent! I, the LORD, have spoken!"
  4. You people crush those in need and wipe out the poor.
  5. You say to yourselves, "How much longer before the end of the New Moon Festival? When will the Sabbath be over? Our wheat is ready, and we want to sell it now. We can't wait to cheat and charge high prices for the grain we sell. We will use dishonest scales
  6. and mix dust in the grain. Those who are needy and poor don't have any money. We will make them our slaves for the price of a pair of sandals."
  7. I, the LORD, won't forget any of this, though you take great pride in your ancestor Jacob.
  8. Your country will tremble, and you will mourn. It will be like the Nile River that rises and overflows, then sinks back down.
  9. On that day, I, the LORD God, will make the sun go down at noon, and I will turn daylight into darkness.
  10. Your festivals and joyful singing will turn into sorrow. You will wear sackcloth and shave your heads, as you would at the death of your only son. It will be a horrible day.
  11. I, the LORD, also promise you a terrible shortage, but not of food and water. You will hunger and thirst to hear my message.
  12. You will search everywhere-- from north to south, from east to west. You will go all over the earth, seeking a message from me, the LORD. But you won't find one.
  13. Your beautiful young women and your young men will faint from thirst.
  14. You made promises in the name of Ashimah, the goddess of Samaria. And you made vows in my name at the shrines of Dan and Beersheba. But you will fall and never get up.

Amos' vision of the summer fruit provides both a word picture and a play on words. With the word picture we imagine fruit that is ripe and will soon spoil and become rotten. For years the Lord had been telling the nation that judgment was coming if the people did not repent. That judgment was now ripe and ready for picking. As for the play on words, the Hebrew word for "summer fruit" looks and sounds like the word for "end." Amos used the word for "summer fruit" (hayitz) to lead to saying "the end is come." (hatz) "Israel, like summer fruit, has ripened for judgment.

Though the passage does not go further with the comparison, verse 3 lends itself to taking the word picture a step further. If we imagine the fruit trees with ripe fruit hanging on them and the fruit ripening and dropping to the ground, lying there to rot, we have a picture of the "Many dead bodies, thrown everywhere."

While Israel's bent toward worshiping other gods was often the focus of God's wrath, in this case it was their gross injustice with their fellow Israelites. The rich became rich dishonestly and had no qualms about the suffering they caused as a result. They used dishonest weights and inferior products to increase their profits and decrease the ability of the poor to purchase what they needed. When the poor could no longer pay, the rich bought them up into slavery for almost nothing or took their land, or both.

When the end came it would be a day of terror. The land would quake, rising and falling in waves like the Nile, and there would be an eclipse of the sun, darkening the land in the middle of the day. Death would come on the land in droves, though we are not told how it would come. Every family would grieve the death of a family member. No one who survived that day would go without mourning. Everyone would be wearing sackcloth and have their head shaved in mourning. The bitterness of that day would be like the bitterness of losing an only son.

Having been brought to their knees from the grief and terror of that day, the people would finally seek God. But then they would be faced with a famine. Not a famine of food and water, but of hearing God's word. God would have gone silent and now they would be alone in their grief. They shunned the word of the Lord when it was available to them and now when they wanted to hear it, it was no longer available to them.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reflections on Amos 7

 Amos 07  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD God showed me that he is going to send locusts to attack your crops. It will happen after the king has already been given his share of the grain and before the rest of the grain has been harvested.
  2. In my vision the locusts ate every crop in the land, and I said to the LORD, "Forgive me for asking, but how can the nation survive? It's so weak."
  3. Then the LORD felt sorry and answered, "I won't let it be destroyed."
  4. The LORD showed me that he is going to send a ball of fire to burn up everything on earth, including the ocean.
  5. Then I said, "Won't you please stop? How can our weak nation survive?"
  6. Again the LORD felt sorry and answered, "I won't let it be destroyed."
  7. The LORD showed me a vision of himself standing beside a wall and holding a string with a weight tied to the end of it. The string and weight had been used to measure the straightness of the wall.
  8. Then he asked, "Amos, what do you see?" "A measuring line," I answered. The LORD said, "I'm using this measuring line to show that my people Israel don't measure up, and I won't forgive them any more.
  9. Their sacred places will be destroyed, and I will send war against the nation of King Jeroboam."
  10. Amaziah the priest at Bethel sent this message to King Jeroboam of Israel, "Amos is plotting against you in the very heart of Israel. Our nation cannot put up with his message for very long.
  11. Here is what he is saying: 'Jeroboam will be put to death, and the people will be taken to a foreign country.' "
  12. Then Amaziah told me, "Amos, take your visions and get out! Go back to Judah and earn your living there as a prophet.
  13. Don't do any more preaching at Bethel. The king worships here at our national temple."
  14. I answered: I'm not a prophet! And I wasn't trained to be a prophet. I am a shepherd, and I take care of fig trees.
  15. But the LORD told me to leave my herds and preach to the people of Israel.
  16. And here you are, telling me not to preach!
  17. Now, listen to what the LORD says about you: Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, your sons and daughters will be killed in war, and your land will be divided among others. You will die in a country of foreigners, and the people of Israel will be dragged from their homeland.

In chapter 7 we see a characteristic in the prophet Amos that we may overlook with the prophets. Since they were often God's messengers of judgment we may view them as judgmental themselves and without mercy or compassion for the people. But we see compassion with Amos in these verses. God allowed Amos to see, through visions, the destruction He planned for Israel. The first was a swarm of locusts that the Lord planned to send at the time the first crop of the spring season began to sprout. In the vision the locusts devoured the vegetation. Israel would be left without food and would starve. But Amos pleaded with the Lord to "please forgive" for Israel could not survive this. The Lord relented and did not send the locusts.

In a second vision, the Lord planned fire to be the instrument of destruction for Israel. This fire is interpreted by some to represent an invasion by an a warring army. Others see it as a drought, and still others as referring literally to a fire that roars across the nation. In this scenario the summer heat is intensified, drying up the streams, and then the fire comes with no barriers of water to stop it, and it rages on unchecked until it devoured the land. Seeing the devastation of fire through the vision, Amos pleaded with God to "please stop" for how will Israel survive? God also relented from using fire as the instrument of destruction.

Then came the third vision. In this one, Amos saw a plumb line used to determine if a wall was truly vertical. A wall that was "out of plumb," or rather was leaning, would be torn down and rebuilt. The plumb line for Israel would most likely have been the covenant law, and against this measure Israel was found to be "leaning." The nation did not measure up and would need to be torn down and rebuilt. The instrument of destruction for this task, according to verse 9, was the sword of an invading army. This would no doubt eliminate an invading army as the instrument of destruction represented by fire in the second vision. Giving Amos no opportunity to plead for mercy on behalf of Israel, the Lord said, "I will no longer spare them."

At some point Amos voiced what he had seen in this third vision and Amaziah the priest of Bethel heard him. Amaziah sent word to the king, Jeroboam, saying that Amos "has conspired against you." In saying this, Amaziah was attributing the message to Amos rather than to the Lord, and he considered a conspiracy rather than a warning as if Amos planned to lead an invasion. Besides alerting the king to Amos' message, Amaziah told Amos to leave, go back to Judah and prophesy there. He was inferring that Amos was self-motivated to give these prophesies and these were his messages rather than from the Lord. But Amos told him it was his idea to prophesy for he was minding his own business, herding sheep and growing figs, when the Lord told him to "Go, prophesy to My people Israel."

Because Amaziah tried to stop him rather than take seriously the message he delivered, he and his family would not be spared from the coming destruction. Amaziah's sons and daughters would fall by the sword, his land divided up among others, his wife driven to survive as a prostitute, and he would be taken prisoner into exile. He would die in exile on pagan soil.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Reflections on Amos 6

 Amos 06  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Do you rulers in Jerusalem and in the city of Samaria feel safe and at ease? Everyone bows down to you, and you think you are better than any other nation. But you are in for trouble!
  2. Look what happened to the cities of Calneh, powerful Hamath, and Gath in Philistia. Are you greater than any of those kingdoms?
  3. You are cruel, and you forget the coming day of judgment.
  4. You rich people lounge around on beds with ivory posts, while dining on the meat of your lambs and calves.
  5. You sing foolish songs to the music of harps, and you make up new tunes, just as David used to do.
  6. You drink all the wine you want and wear expensive perfume, but you don't care about the ruin of your nation.
  7. So you will be the first to be dragged off as captives; your good times will end.
  8. The LORD God All-Powerful has sworn by his own name: "You descendants of Jacob make me angry by your pride, and I hate your fortresses. And so I will surrender your city and possessions to your enemies."
  9. If only ten of you survive by hiding in a house you will still die.
  10. As you carry out a corpse to prepare it for burial, your relative in the house will ask, "Are there others?" You will answer, "No!" Then your relative will reply, "Be quiet! Don't dare mention the name of the LORD."
  11. At the LORD's command, houses great and small will be smashed to pieces.
  12. Horses can't gallop on rocks; oceans can't be plowed. But you have turned justice and fairness into bitter poison.
  13. You celebrate the defeat of Lo-Debar and Karnaim, and you boast by saying, "We did it on our own."
  14. But the LORD God All-Powerful will send a nation to attack you people of Israel. They will capture Lebo-Hamath in the north, Arabah Creek in the south, and everything in between.

Amos delivered another woe. Although most of his messages were directed to Israel, the Northern kingdom, this woe was directed to both Northern & Southern kingdoms. Woe to "those who are at ease in Zion" (Jerusalem in the Southern kingdom) and woe to "those who feel secure on the hill of Samaria." (the capital of the Northern kingdom) The Lord's disgust, though, seems to have been more with the Northern kingdom, Israel. The prominent people of Israel considered themselves to be the most notable people of the foremost nation. They were at the pinnacle and nothing could touch them.

God had a message for them, though. Go to Calneh or to Hamath. Both had been just as great as Israel and were now in ruins. They, too, thought themselves to be impenetrable, but they were not. In their complacency these notables of Israel lay on their ivory inlaid beds in drunken stupors while improvising songs on their harps and shutting out any thought of unpleasantness such as a coming "reign of violence." These notables, the first of the first, would be privileged to also be the first to go into exile.

Israel took pride in what should have been disgusting to them, and the Lord loathed this pride. It drove Him to bring on Israel an unthinkable destruction. The devastation of Samaria would be so complete that any survivors would avoid mentioning the Lord's name for fear it would attract His attention to a survivor He had overlooked.

Israel had done the unimaginable by turning justice into poison. The judicial system, designed to protect, had become a poison. To illustrate how unimaginable it was, Amos had them try to picture horses running on rocky crags or oxen plowing perpendicular cliffs. As preposterous as these were, so was what they had done to the judicial system.

The Lord was raising up a nation against the house of Israel which would tear down everything Israel took pride in. This included territory such as Lo-debar and Karnaim which Israel prided herself in capturing, saying, "Didn't we capture Karnaim for ourselves by our own strength?" The Lord, who had enabled them to capture these territories would take them away and they would see just how strong they really were.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reflections on Amos 5

 Amos 05  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Listen, nation of Israel, to my mournful message:
  2. You, dearest Israel, have fallen, never to rise again-- you lie deserted in your own land, with no one to help you up.
  3. The LORD God has warned, "From every ten soldiers only one will be left; from a thousand troops, only a hundred will survive."
  4. The LORD keeps saying, "Israel, turn back to me and you will live!
  5. Don't go to Gilgal or Bethel or even to Beersheba. Gilgal will be dragged away, and Bethel will end up as nothing."
  6. Turn back to the LORD, you descendants of Joseph, and you will live. If you don't, the LORD will attack like fire. Bethel will burn to the ground, and no one can save it.
  7. You people are doomed! You twist the truth and stomp on justice.
  8. But the LORD created the stars and put them in place. He turns darkness to dawn and daylight to darkness; he scoops up the ocean and empties it on the earth.
  9. God destroys mighty soldiers and strong fortresses.
  10. You people hate judges and honest witnesses;
  11. you abuse the poor and demand heavy taxes from them. You have built expensive homes, but you won't enjoy them; you have planted vineyards, but you will get no wine.
  12. I am the LORD, and I know your terrible sins. You cheat honest people and take bribes; you rob the poor of justice.
  13. Times are so evil that anyone with good sense will keep quiet.
  14. If you really want to live, you must stop doing wrong and start doing right. I, the LORD God All-Powerful, will then be on your side, just as you claim I am.
  15. Choose good instead of evil! See that justice is done. Maybe I, the LORD All-Powerful, will be kind to what's left of your people.
  16. This is what the LORD has sworn: Noisy crying will be heard in every town and street. Even farmers will be told to mourn for the dead, together with those who are paid to mourn.
  17. Your vineyards will be filled with crying and weeping, because I will punish you. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  18. You look forward to the day when the LORD comes to judge. But you are in for trouble! It won't be a time of sunshine; all will be darkness.
  19. You will run from a lion, only to meet a bear. You will escape to your house, rest your hand on the wall, and be bitten by a snake.
  20. The day when the LORD judges will be dark, very dark, without a ray of light.
  21. I, the LORD, hate and despise your religious celebrations and your times of worship.
  22. I won't accept your offerings or animal sacrifices-- not even your very best.
  23. No more of your noisy songs! I won't listen when you play your harps.
  24. But let justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry.
  25. Israel, for forty years you wandered in the desert, without bringing offerings or sacrifices to me.
  26. Now you will have to carry the two idols you made-- Sakkuth, the one you call king, and Kaiwan, the one you built in the shape of a star.
  27. I will force you to march as captives beyond Damascus. I, the LORD God All-Powerful, have spoken!

Amos took up the wail of a death lament, mourning Israel's demise in advance. To a nation at the height of prosperity it must have been like reading one's own obituary. Israel had fallen by the sword and there was no one to "raise her up." Ninety percent of Israel's army would be killed as they went up against the invader, assuring their defeat. The people had abandoned the Lord and now the only One who could help them had abandoned them.

There was an alternative, though. They could yet seek the Lord and live. This statement, "Seek Me and live," is more than a statement of cause and effect, as if saying, "if you will seek me, I will save you and you will live." Instead, it is a statement of what is. Life is found in the Lord. Where He is, there is life. Seek Him, for when you have Him you will have life.

The God of Israel, the One Israel had spurned, the One who was foretelling Israel's destruction, is the One who controls the daily cycle of daylight and dark, and controls seasons of springtime and winter. He controls also the elements of nature, cycling water which evaporates from the sea to form clouds which then drain their water upon the land. This sovereign God was fully aware of Israel's sin and the wise person would offer no defense for his actions, but would instead keep silent. The only appropriate response to the Lord's accusations against Israel was to change one's ways and to "Hate evil and love good." With this response there was yet a chance the Lord would be gracious and withdraw the coming judgment.

It was time Israel corrected her theology. She thought being "religious" was all that was required of her. They thought that as long as they went through the motions of worship, the God of Israel was on their side as their defender. But through Amos God told them that they had always been deficient in their ways. Even when they wandered in the wilderness on their exodus from Egypt, the people had brought their sacrifices and offerings to the Lord, but not their hearts. Often their hearts were with other gods.

A renewal of religious fervor would not forestall the coming judgment. Their feasts and solemn assemblies and offerings were detestable to the Lord. Increasing these observances without turning their hearts to Him would only anger Him more. The path they were on was "exile beyond Damascus."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reflections on Amos 4

 Amos 04  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. You women of Samaria are fat cows! You mistreat and abuse the poor and needy, then you say to your husbands, "Bring us more drinks!"
  2. I, the LORD God, have sworn by my own name that your time is coming. Not one of you will be left-- you will be taken away by sharp hooks.
  3. You will be dragged through holes in your city walls, and you will be thrown toward Harmon. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  4. Come to Bethel and Gilgal. Sin all you want! Offer sacrifices the next morning and bring a tenth of your crops on the third day.
  5. Bring offerings to show me how thankful you are. Gladly bring more offerings than I have demanded. You really love to do this. I, the LORD God, have spoken!
  6. I, the LORD, took away the food from every town and village, but still you rejected me.
  7. Three months before harvest, I kept back the rain. Sometimes I would let it fall on one town or field but not on another, and pastures dried up.
  8. People from two or three towns would go to a town that still had water, but it wasn't enough. Even then you rejected me. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  9. I dried up your grain fields; your gardens and vineyards turned brown. Locusts ate your fig trees and olive orchards, but even then you rejected me. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  10. I did terrible things to you, just as I did to Egypt-- I killed your young men in war; I let your horses be stolen, and I made your camp stink with dead bodies. Even then you rejected me. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  11. I destroyed many of you, just as I did the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. You were a burning stick I rescued from the fire. Even then you rejected me. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  12. Now, Israel, I myself will deal with you. Get ready to face your God!
  13. I created the mountains and the wind. I let humans know what I am thinking. I bring darkness at dawn and step over hills. I am the LORD God All-Powerful!

The last verse of chapter 3 clued us in that God was fed up with the rich in Israel you had built winter houses and summer houses and elaborately designed them with inlaid ivory and such. It wasn't just the flaunting of wealth that bothered Him but also that they had gotten it by oppressing the poor.

Now, in the first verses of chapter 4 this proclamation of judgment against those who got rich unjustly and flaunted it continued, taking aim especially at the rich women of Bashan whom Amos referred to as "cows." They, or possibly their henpecked husbands, oppressed the poor and crushed the needy to get what they had. These women continually insisted their husbands bring them wine to drink as they pampered themselves. Judgment for these women would be especially harsh. When the invading army came, they would be dragged out with hooks through breaches in the wall made by the invaders as they broke through the wall into the city. They would then be marched into exile.

Amos mocked their hypocritical religious activity in verses 4 & 5. As they loved to flaunt their wealth, they also loved to flaunt their religious observance. But it was the appearance of religious piety and not the spirit of it that they loved. It was the spirit and not the observance, however, that the Lord wanted. He hated this hypocrisy, and it was made worse by taking place at Bethel, an unauthorized place of worship. In addition to all this, their sacrifices and tithes were made possible with the wealth they had gotten by oppressing the poor. This made it even more distasteful to the Lord. Therefore, they were told to keep going there with their sacrifices and tithes and keep flaunting their rebellion along with their wealth and their fake religious observance.

Amos' prophesy was given as the last straw for Israel. God had attempted through numerous means to bring Israel back to Him, but the nation had refused. To paraphrase an often used quote, "People are like tea bags, you don't know know what is in them until they get into hot water." God had repeatedly put Israel in hot water to bring about a return to Him, but it didn't work. They just kept returning to their rebellious ways. He sent them drought and famine, blight and locusts, war and destruction, yet they did not return to the Lord. Rather than making them better, these difficulties no doubt made them bitter.

Verse 12 says that as a result of what God was going to do them, they should "prepare to meet your God!" Ironically, Israel had not met God through their hypocritical worship observances so they would meet Him through the judgment He brought on them.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reflections on Amos 3

 Amos 03  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. People of Israel, I rescued you from Egypt. Now listen to my judgment against you.
  2. Of all nations on earth, you are the only one I have chosen. That's why I will punish you because of your sins.
  3. Can two people walk together without agreeing to meet?
  4. Does a lion roar in the forest unless it has caught a victim? Does it growl in its den unless it is eating?
  5. How can anyone catch a bird without using a net? Does a trap spring shut unless something is caught?
  6. Isn't the whole city frightened when the trumpet signals an attack? Isn't it the LORD who brings disaster on a city?
  7. Whatever the LORD God plans to do, he tells his servants, the prophets.
  8. Everyone is terrified when a lion roars-- and ordinary people become prophets when the LORD God speaks.
  9. Here is a message for the leaders of Philistia and Egypt-- tell everyone to come together on the hills of Samaria. Let them see the injustice and the lawlessness in that city.
  10. The LORD has said that they don't even know how to do right. They have become rich from violence and robbery.
  11. And so the LORD God has sworn that they will be surrounded. Enemies will break through their defenses and steal their treasures.
  12. The LORD has promised that only a few from Samaria will escape with their lives and with some broken pieces of their beds and couches. It will be like when a shepherd rescues two leg bones and part of a sheep's ear from the jaws of a lion.
  13. The LORD God All-Powerful told me to speak this message against Jacob's descendants:
  14. When I, the LORD, punish Israel for their sins, I will destroy the altars at Bethel. Even the corners of the altar will be left in the dirt.
  15. I will tear down winter homes and summer homes. Houses decorated with ivory and all other mansions will be gone forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!

Amos had already announced Israel's judgment in chapter 2, now, in chapter 3, he says that it is certain, it is not without cause, and it will be the more severe because of Israel's special relationship with God.
God had chosen no other people of the earth besides Israel with whom to have a special relationship. Because of this relationship Israel would not go unpunished because of her iniquities. But also because of this relationship, God would not bring judgment without revealing it through the prophets, and thus this prophesy through Amos.

As a piece of music begins softly and builds in volume, a series of cause and effect statements are given which begin innocently: "Can two walk together without agreeing to meet?" From this statement they build in intensity to this:  "If a disaster occurs in a city, hasn't the LORD done it?"  (3:3, 6) As a lion roars just before it charges its prey, so God had "roared," and "who will not fear?" (3:8)

The chapter began with the cause and effect statements concluding with the effect that disaster was coming to Israel. Now, beginning with verse 9, we are given the cause, "The people are incapable of doing right." (3:10) Israel had become so violent and destructive that even the neighboring pagan nations did not match it. The were called to come and observe the extent to which Israel had arrived.

An enemy was going to surround the nation and destroy it. If Israel thought she would be saved from the coming destruction, she needed to rethink that. Any salvation would be like that of a shepherd who came to the rescue of a sheep caught in a lion's mouth. All he could save were a leg and piece of an ear. This was all that was left. So it would be for Israel. There would be nothing left of the nation to "save" except for pieces.

A special target of the Lord's destruction would be "the altars of Bethel," which were the places of pagan worship Israel had engaged in, and the opulence of those who had built elaborate houses off of ill-gotten gain. All of this would come to an end, so declared the Lord.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Reflections on Amos 2

 Amos 02  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD said: I will punish Moab for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They made lime from the bones of the king of Edom.
  2. Now I will send fire to destroy the fortresses of Kerioth. Battle shouts and trumpet blasts will be heard as I destroy Moab
  3. with its king and leaders. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  4. The LORD said: I will punish Judah for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They have rejected my teachings and refused to obey me. They were led astray by the same false gods their ancestors worshiped.
  5. Now I will send fire on Judah and destroy the fortresses of Jerusalem.
  6. The LORD said: I will punish Israel for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They sell honest people for money, and the needy are sold for the price of sandals.
  7. They smear the poor in the dirt and push aside those who are helpless. My holy name is dishonored, because fathers and sons sleep with the same young women.
  8. They lie down beside altars on clothes taken as security for loans. And they drink wine in my temple, wine bought with the money they received from fines.
  9. Israel, the Amorites were there when you entered Canaan. They were tall as cedars and strong as oaks. But I wiped them out-- I destroyed their branches and their roots.
  10. I had rescued you from Egypt, and for forty years I had led you through the desert. Then I gave you the land of the Amorites.
  11. I chose some of you to be prophets and others to be Nazirites. People of Israel, you know this is true. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  12. But you commanded the prophets not to speak their message, and you pressured the Nazirites into drinking wine.
  13. And so I will crush you, just as a wagon full of grain crushes the ground.
  14. No matter how fast you run, you won't escape. No matter how strong you are, you will lose your strength and your life.
  15. Even if you are an expert with a bow and arrow, you will retreat. And you won't get away alive, not even if you run fast or ride a horse.
  16. You may be brave and strong, but you will run away, stripped naked. I, the LORD, have spoken!

The judgment Amos spoke against Moab may be the only one among the six nations he addressed who was not guilty of a crime against Israel. Moab was guilty of burning "to lime the bones of the king of Edom." (2:1) Though this offense may seem a bit strange to us, it is thought by some it involved the capture of the son of the king of Edom who they offered as a burnt offering upon the city wall. Whatever the actual offense, it did not please the Just Judge of the universe. Moab would be destroyed as a result.

Judah next entered the cross hairs as judgment was aimed at the nation. While the other nations mentioned had broken a more generic covenant by shedding blood, Judah had broken a more specific covenant in which they were to be God's special people and He was to be their God with no other godly allegiances. But Judah had not kept the Lord's statutes and had been led astray by the lies of her ancestors to worship idols, resulting in being consumed by fire. These events led to the nation's exile in Babylon.

Finally it was Israel's turn to receive the prophet's attention, directing God's judgment on them. As with Judah, Israel had broken her covenant with the Lord by worshiping idols. This was the most basic stipulation of Israel's covenant with God. It was the one on which all the other stipulations were founded. God had personally put in place every piece of the puzzle forming the Israelite nation, the final piece coming into place as God brought the people out of Egyptian slavery and enabled them to overthrow the Amorites and other nations inhabiting the land of Canaan, making possible Israel's possession of the land as her own. Worshiping other gods was an insinuation that they were responsible for Israel's good fortunes rather than God. This was an extreme offense to God.

Having broken this basic covenantal stipulation, Israel's other sins spread like a cancer. Worship of other gods was not concerned about moral issues and Israel soon lost her concern as well. Social injustice spread as did legal perversion, sexual immortality, and mistreatment of fellow Jews over the misuse of collateral. God was about to crush Israel "as a wagon full of sheaves crushes grain." No one would escape the coming devastation regardless of their prowess. God had declared it and it would happen. As Judah would be exiled into Babylon, Israel would be led away into Assyria. Though Judah, the southern kingdom, would eventually return to her homeland and the nation partially restored, Israel's exile would be the end of the northern kingdom.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Reflections on Amos 1

 Amos 01  (Contemporary English Version)
  1. I am Amos. And I raised sheep near the town of Tekoa when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. Two years before the earthquake, the LORD gave me several messages about Israel,
  2. and I said: When the LORD roars from Jerusalem, pasturelands and Mount Carmel dry up and turn brown.
  3. The LORD said: I will punish Syria for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They dragged logs with spikes over the people of Gilead.
  4. Now I will burn down the palaces and fortresses of King Hazael and of King Benhadad.
  5. I will break through the gates of Damascus. I will destroy the people of Wicked Valley and the ruler of Beth-Eden. Then the Syrians will be dragged as prisoners to Kir. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  6. The LORD said: I will punish Philistia for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They dragged off my people from town after town to sell them as slaves to the Edomites.
  7. That's why I will burn down the walls and fortresses of the city of Gaza.
  8. I will destroy the king of Ashdod and the ruler of Ashkelon. I will strike down Ekron, and that will be the end of the Philistines. I, the LORD, have spoken!
  9. The LORD said: I will punish Phoenicia for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They broke their treaty and dragged off my people from town after town to sell them as slaves to the Edomites.
  10. That's why I will send flames to burn down the city of Tyre along with its fortresses.
  11. The LORD said: I will punish Edom for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. They killed their own relatives and were so terribly furious that they showed no mercy.
  12. Now I will send fire to wipe out the fortresses of Teman and Bozrah.
  13. The LORD said: I will punish Ammon for countless crimes, and I won't change my mind. In Gilead they ripped open pregnant women, just to take the land.
  14. Now I will send fire to destroy the walls and fortresses of Rabbah. Enemies will shout and attack like a whirlwind.
  15. Ammon's king and leaders will be dragged away. I, the LORD, have spoken!

The prophesy of Amos is directed at six nations besides Judah and Israel. While the judgments against Judah and Israel related to breaking their covenant with the Lord, those against the other six nations related to their treatment of Judah and Israel. Some theologians say that these nations, too, had broken a covenant with God, meaning the covenant God made with all mankind following the flood of Noah's day. In that covenant, God said. "Whoever sheds man's blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image." (Genesis 9:6) These nations had definitely shed man's blood, and Amos' prophesy speaks of their own blood being shed.

The first nation at whom Amos directed his attention was Aram whose capital city was Damascus which is named in this judgment. Their sin was harsh treatment of Gilead, one of the Israelite tribes. They had threshed Gilead much as wheat was threshed with a heavy sledge. Punishment of Damascus would begin with fire, as was the case with the other six non-Jewish nations. Fire would consume the king's palace and citadels, the city gates would be torn down and the invading army would flood into the city and the people of Aram would be exiled.

Next in Amos' prophesy was Philistine whose major cities included Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron, which are mentioned in this judgment. The sin of the Philistines was their exiling of whole communities and handing them over to Edom, which amounted to slave trading. As with Aram, judgment would begin with fire annihilating their cities. The Lord would completely destroy Philistine.

The judgment on Tyre points to the nation of Phoenicia. Tyre's sin of slave trading with whole communities of exiles went even further than did that of Gaza, for the people of Tyre broke a treaty with the people they took captive. It was a treaty of brotherhood which likely united them against their enemies and made a pact not to turn on each other. It was probably Israel with whom they had their treaty. But tyre broke it, attacking these people, taking them exile, and handing them over to another nation as slaves. Tyre's judgment was much like that of Gaza. The city of Tyre was to be burned and the people taken captive. Alexander the Great did this in 332 b.c., killing 6,000 people outright, crucifying another 2,000, and selling 30,000 as slaves.

Amos turned his prophetic judgment next against Edom. Edom had been a persistent antagonist of Israel carrying over from the hatred of one brother, Esau, against another brother, Jacob, who had tricked Esau out of his birthright. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau and persistently carried on this hatred toward Israel which consisted of the descendants of Jacob. Edom did not simply harbor hatred toward Israel, but pursued it at every opportunity they had to inflict injury on Israel. The fulfillment of this judgment on Edom turned the nation into a wasteland.

The sin of the Ammonites was different from the other nations mentioned in Amos' prophesies. Though the nation may have also exiled people and sold them into slavery, the sin at which this judgment was aimed was the nation's practice of ripping open pregnant women, killing defenseless women and unborn children. These acts had no defense as necessary acts of war, they were plain and simple acts of terror. Nor did their warfare involve self-preservation. They engaged in war simply to extend their borders.

As for Ammon's punishment, Rabbah, their leading city, would be set afire by their attackers and a violent wind would fan the flames, consuming everything. Their king and officials would be taken captive.