Am 1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa-what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel.
The words of Amos – ‘He was a native of Tekoa (1:1; cf. 2 Sam 14:2 2 Chron 11:6), situated about 16 km S of Jerusalem. The surrounding countryside yielded pasture for the flocks, to tend which was part of Amos’ calling (1:1). In addition, he was a fig farmer (Trees, Sycomore; 7:14). The significance of this information is that Amos had no background in prophetic activity: he had not previously considered himself a prophet, nor was he trained in the prophetic schools (7:14f.). We know from 1:1 that he lived during the reigns of Uzziah, king of Judah (779-740 BC) and Jeroboam II, king of Samaria (783-743 BC). Uzziah and Jeroboam II reigned concurrently for 36 years (779-743).’ (NBD) The key thing about Amos, then, was his ordinariness. How many other instances are there of ordinary people being called to extraordinary tasks? Think of the disciples; in, of Christ himself (Isa 53). Think of those Christians who have achieved much for the kingdom of God with formal training or recognition.
The earthquake – The same event seems to be recalled in Zec 14:5. Josephus also refers to it, Josephus, and relates it to Uzziah’s sin in acting as a priest. (2 Chron 26:16)
Am 1:2 he said: “The LORD roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.”
“The Lord roars…” – This expression also occurs in Joe 3:16, suggesting that Amos was this phrase from the earlier prophet as a starting-point for his own work.
‘Like a good open-air preacher, Amos gathers hearers by telling them what would arouse their enthusiasm – the judgment about to fall on hated foes. Imperceptibly, however, he moves their attention from pagan nations (e.g. Damascus in 1:3) to ‘cousin’ nations (e.g. Edom in 1:11; cf. Gn. 36:1), then to the ‘sister’ nation Judah (2:4), and finally the crowd finds itself listening to its own condemnation (2:6). Though judgment is pronounced throughout in parallel terms (sending ‘fire’), the ground of judgment changes. The nations around are brought to trial for ‘crimes against humanity’ (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1), things conscience should have warned them not to do; but Judah (2:4) and Israel (2:11-12) are judged for abandoning revealed truth. The cardinal sin of the LORD’s people is to depart from the LORD’s word. Their cardinal virtue is obedience to revelation.’ (NBC)
Am 1:3 This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Damascus, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth,”
“For three sins…even for four” – ‘The numerical idiom, three … four, here and throughout this series of oracies (cf. Ps 62:11 Pr 30:15, etc.) basically suggests that three transgressions would have been sufficient for divine judgment to fall, but the fourth transgression puts the matter beyond doubt. It suggests the patience of a God who waits beyond the point where action is merited, who longs for repentance and leaves space for it (Gn. 15:16; 2 Pet. 3:8f), who never acts without evidence (Gn. 18:21) but in whose eyes there are the ‘fourth sins’ which are truly intolerable to him so that, when they are committed he will not turn back his wrath (lit. ‘turn it back’, cf. Nu 23:20 Isa 14:27).’
“She threshed Gilead” – ‘The Syrians (Arameans) of Damascus literally threshed and mangled the bodies of prisoners under heavily studded threshing sledges.’ (Ryrie) This barbarity in war was the ‘fourth’ sin of Damascus, which the Lord would not overlook.
Amos 1:4 I will send fire upon the house of Hazael that will consume the fortresses of Ben-Hadad.
Amos 1:5 I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden. The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,” says the LORD.
Am 1:6 This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Gaza, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she took captive whole communities and sold them to Edom,”
Gaza – ‘They were so obsessed with the profit motive that no other consideration mattered – no plea of age or sex, of child for parent or parent for child. The saleable were sold; market forces alone mattered, to the exclusion of humanity.’ (Motyer, NBC, who adds, ‘No word could be more timely than this of Amos for our present generation.’) The ‘fourth sin’ here is, then, using people as mere commodities.
Amos 1:7 I will send fire upon the walls of Gaza that will consume her fortresses.
Amos 1:8 I will destroy the king of Ashdod and the one who holds the scepter in Ashkelon. I will turn my hand against Ekron, till the last of the Philistines is dead,” says the Sovereign LORD.
Am 1:9 This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Tyre, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because she sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood,”
Tyre – The sin here is described in similar terms to that of Gaza, but with the added comment that the Tyrians had committed breaches of covenant. Failure to honour solemn undertakings is a ‘fourth sin’, which the Lord will not overlook.
Amos 1:10 I will send fire upon the walls of Tyre that will consume her fortresses.”
Am 1:11 This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Edom, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion, because his anger raged continually and his fury flamed unchecked,”
The ‘fourth sin’ of Edom was a ceaseless hostility against neighbouring states. ‘Historically, the bitterness between Esau and Jacob reached back to the original brothers (Gn. 27:41). In Nu. 20:14ff. hostility became open and a pattern for the future was established. Saul found it necessary to go to war; (1 Sam 14:47) David conquered and annexed Edom – the only king to do so. (2 Sam 8:14) Solomon faced rebellion from Edom (1 Kings 11:14ff:,25???) as did Jehoram a century later. (2 Kings 8:20) Fifty years on, Amaziah was fighting Edom.’ (2 Kings 14:7,10) (NBC)
Amos 1:12 I will send fire upon Teman that will consume the fortresses of Bozrah.”
Am 1:13 This is what the LORD says: “For three sins of Ammon, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. Because he ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to extend his borders,”
The ‘fourth sin’ of Ammon was inhuman brutality meted out against those who most needed mercy (pregnant women and their unborn children).
Amos 1:14 I will set fire to the walls of Rabbah that will consume her fortresses amid war cries on the day of battle, amid violent winds on a stormy day.
Amos 1:15 Her king will go into exile, he and his officials together,” says the LORD.