PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Judgment on the Nations
|Indictment of Neighboring Peoples; Israel and Judah
|God's Judgment on Israel's Neighbors
|Judgment of the Neighboring Nations and on Israel Itself
|Judgment on Judah||Judah||Judah|
|Judgment on Israel||God's Judgment on Israel||Israel|
READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:1-3
1Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Moab and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.
2So I will send fire upon Moab
And it will consume the citadels of Kerioth;
And Moab will die amid tumult,
With war cries and the sound of a trumpet.
3I will also cut off the judge from her midst
And slay all her princes with him," says the Lord.
2:1 The literary judgment formula of chapter one continues through chapter two (cf. 1:3).
▣ "Moab" These were also relatives of the Israelis through Lot (cf. Gen. 19:30-38). The country is in the trans-jordan area just north of Edom between the Arnon and Zered Rivers.
▣ "because he burned the bones of the king of Moab to lime" These actions (i.e., 1) opening the grave; 2) removing the remains; 3) burning them; 4) mixing them to make mortar [for buildings] or plaster [for whitewashing walls]) were seen as way to humiliate and to affect negatively one's place/rest in the afterlife. This purposeful violation of that which was culturally sacred and taboo shows the level of animosity. This does not refer to cremation as a way of disposing of a dead body, but to a later desecration! It does, however, give me a chance to discuss modern concerns about cremation.
Cremation was an abominable practice to all the Near Eastern people. It is only mentioned in the Bible in connection with great crimes (cf. Gen. 28:24; Lev. 20:14; 21:9; Josh. 7:15,25). Apparently out of hatred Moab burned the king of Edom's bones and mixed them with mortar to build buildings or plaster to whitewash walls (Targums). Lime (BDB 966, cf. Isa. 33:12) was an ingredient of mortar and plaster (whitewash).
It is possible that this act is a metaphor for complete destruction (i.e., Vulgate). It is difficult to interpret VERBS that have both literal and metaphorical uses. This is especially true of poetic passages, as in the book of Amos.
2:2 "I will send fire" This phrase refers to
1. YHWH's judgment
2. the literal burning of cities
It is a recurrent phrase in Amos 1:4,7,10,12,14; 2:2,5 and Hosea 8:14. Fire is often sent as a cleansing agent and a symbol of God's presence! See Special Topic: Fire at 7:4.
▣ "the citadels" See note at 1:4.
▣ "Kerioth" This is a region's or city's name. The NEB, following the LXX, translated it as "towns" (because of the DEFINITIVE ARTICLE, cf. Jer. 48:41), but the revision of the NEB, called the REB, puts the place name back into the translation (i.e., "the palaces of Kerioth"). This city is also mentioned in Jer. 48:24,41. This city (possibly Kir, cf. Isa. 15:1) had a major shrine to the Moabite fertility god, Chemosh (cf. The Mesha Stone L.12; I Kgs. 11:33).
▣ "with war cries" See note at 1:14. War cries and trumpet blasts are often used as signals in battle. The phrase in some contexts refers to the sound of confusion and fear during battle.
▣ "the sound of the trumpet" Trumpets were used to direct troops in the field. See note at 1:14.
2:3 "the judge" This is used in the sense of monarch. The king acted as judge (cf. Micah 5:2), as God's representative (cf. Gen. 18:25; Jdgs. 11:27; Ps. 50:6; 75:7; 94:2; Isa. 33:22). The parallel phrase, "all her princes," refers to the royal family. Moab will be totally destroyed as a nation (cf. Mal. 1:2-5).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:4-5
4Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Judah and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they rejected the law of the Lord
And have not kept His statutes;
Their lies also have led them astray,
Those after which their fathers walked.
5So I will send fire upon Judah
And it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem."
2:4 "Judah" The charges against Judah are theological (rejection of YHWH's covenant, i.e., Mosaic Laws) not social. The charges would have been denied by Judah, but apparently the same sins against YHWH which characterized Israel were also in Judah (cf. Jer. 3:6-10; Ezek. 23:1-49).
▣ "they rejected the law of the Lord" The VERBAL "rejected" (BDB 549, KB 540, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is used in two seemingly opposite senses:
1. to reject or refuse someone or something (i.e., here, God's law)
2. for God refusing to reject His people. They reject Him and His covenant, prophet, and worship, but He, the covenant God, punishes them, but does not fully reject them.
The paradox is clearly seen in a series of texts from Jer. 6:30; 7:29; 14:19; and 31:37! In Amos (cf. 2:4; 5:21) and Hosea (cf. 4:6 [twice]; 9:17) YHWH rejects a generation of His people because of their willful rejection of Him and His law (cf. Hos. 4:6; 8:1,12)! All of Israel's descendants were never right with God, only those who exercised faith, repentance, and obedience!
▣ "their lies also have led them astray" This term "lies" (BDB 469) means "lie," "falsehood," or "deceptive thing." NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 619, characterizes it well, "emphasizes an action or word that is false, a lie, because it somehow violates God's character, word, or deed, as expressed in himself, his prophet or his creations." Psalm 40:5 and the NIV reflect this concept. The "lies" refer to false teaching and the worship of false gods (cf. Hab. 2:18). This same concept is carried over in the NT where in I John the "lie" refers to unbelief in Jesus, the ultimate sin and covenant incompatibility.
▣ "their fathers walked" This is an idiomatic way of asserting that this generation, as well as previous generations, faithfully worshiped the fertility gods of Canaan (i.e., Ba'al and Asherah/Astarte).
2:5 This is a reference to the Babylonian Exile that will befall Judah in the days ahead (i.e., 586-539 b.c.).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:6-8
6Thus says the Lord,
"For three transgressions of Israel and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals.
7These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless
Also turn aside the way of the humble;
And a man and his father resort to the same girl
In order to profane My holy name.
8On garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar,
And in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.
2:6 "Israel" Amos got the attention of the audience by first proclaiming judgment against the surrounding enemies, then by proclaiming judgment on Israel's brothers (Judah), but now he shocked them by turning to God's judgment of them!
▣ "Because they sell the righteous for money" Because of the allusion to slavery by Edom, the Philistines (cf. 1:6), and the Phoenicians (cf. 1:9), this is probably a reference to selling their countrymen into slavery. The term "sell" (BDB 569, KB 581, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is used in two senses: (1) persons kidnaped to be sold as slaves or (2) to sell oneself to a creditor for a period of time. It is certain that this is a reference against those who were wealthy, who abused the socially ostracized and needy (cf. Prov. 14:31; 17:5).
The term "righteous" here is used in parallel with "the needy" (v. 6), "the helpless" (v. 7), and "the humble" (v. 7). So in this context (and remember context determines meaning) it does not have a theological orientation, but a social one. Righteous people are related to YHWH and His law and thereby treat their covenant partners appropriately. Righteousness in Amos has a vertical and a horizontal aspect. In Hosea the term takes on a more religious (theological or vertical aspect) orientation (cf. Hosea 2:19; 10:12; 14:9. In context it is often related to hesed (i.e., covenant faithfulness).
Because this context has a legal/judicial flavor, the term probably refers to the defendant in a legal trial who cannot afford to bribe the judge!
▣ "And the needy for a pair of sandals" This may be interpreted literally as meaning (1) people bought and sold for a very small amount (cf. 8:6) or (2) a court procedure (i.e., the exchanging of shoes, cf. Ruth 4:7, see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, p. 169) to give some legality to these scandalous enslaving practices of the rich.
The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 228, has a significant statement related to the social concept of "needy," "poor," and "poverty."
"Where western thinking stresses the economic aspect of poverty, the ANE understood poverty in the context of shame and honor. So the possession of land, power, economic security, and social states made a person rich, and the absence of these factors made a person poor."
There is much discussion about the translation of this term (BDB 983, KB 1375, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE) in v. 7: (1) the NASB and NKJV imply that the rich begrudged (i.e., "gasp for air" KB 1375 or "pant after" BDB 983 I, e.g., Job 7:2; Ps. 119:131; Eccl. 1:5) the small amount of dust the poor placed on their heads in mourning (hyperbole) or (2) the NRSV, following the Septuagint, and the Vulgate translate this term "to trample" (BDB 983 II, e.g., 8:4; Ps. 56:2; Ezek. 36:3), which seems to imply the affluent's humiliation and domination of the poor. In this context "the righteous," "the needy," "the helpless," and "the humble" refer not to the perennially poor, but the recently exploited middle class farmers or merchants who had been forced to borrow money and thereby lost their tribal lands, income, pride, and social position. For a good discussion of the rich and poor in the OT see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 72-74. Because of the term's use in 8:4 the second option seems best.
NASB"turn aside the way of the humble"
NKJV"pervert the way of the humble"
NRSV"push the afflicted out of the way"
TEV"push the poor out of the way"
NJB"thrust the rights of the oppressed to one side"
The VERB (BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil IMPERFECT) is used several times in Amos.
1. In 2:7 and 5:12 it refers to abuses of the legal system caused by the wealthy's bribery of the judges (e.g., Exod. 23:6; Deut. 16:19; 24:17; 27:19; I Sam. 8:3; Prov. 17:23; Isa. 10:2; Lam. 3:35).
2. In 2:8 it refers to the wealthy reclining on the garments taken from the poor as pledges for a debt.
The basic meaning of the term is to "stretch out" or "spread out." In the first example above the judges stretched their hands for a bribe. In the second example the garments of the poor are spread out so that the wealthy can sit on them or possibly lie on them, which would refer to cultic prostitution.
▣ "a man and his father resort to the same girl" The term for girl (BDB 655) here is not the normal term for cult prostitute, although that may be what this is referring to (cf. Deut. 23:18; for historical setting see Hos. 4:12-14). It could also refer to the "selling" of a poor, young maiden, whereby she would be used as a concubine by all the men in one family (cf. TEV). This would violate (1) Lev. 18:8; 20:11; Deut. 22:30; 27:20 and (2) Exod. 21:7-11. Since the context is the abuse of the poor and helpless, then the second option seems best.
There have been several other interpretations. One cannot be specific about the precise nature of some of these violations, but the overall context is very clear. Humans, even covenant people, are sinful and violate God's laws! God does not take sin and sinners lightly, especially those who should have known Him (i.e., Judah and Israel). We reap what we sow in direct proportion to the light (and power) we have!
▣ "In order to profane My holy name" These acts were flaunted at the shrines (golden calves of Jeroboam II) in Bethel and Dan (cf. v. 8). They had the appearance of legality and religious approval, but everyone knew what was happening!
This VERBAL (BDB 320 III, KB 319, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) is used in several senses in the Piel form:
1. to defile sexually, Lev. 19:29; 21:9,15
2. to defile ceremonially, Lev. 19:8; 21:12,23; 22:9,15
3. to defile God's name, Lev. 18:21; 19:12; 20:3; 21:6; 22:2,32; Jer. 34:16; Ezek. 20:39; 36:20-23; Amos 2:7
The cultic acts of the Israelites were polluting, defiling, and profaning the very God they claimed to worship and serve! They flagrantly ignored the Mosaic legislation for personal gain and pleasure!
It is obvious that Amos (like all of the prophets) judged actions in light of the Mosaic Law.
1. 2:4 uses the terms "the law of the Lord" and "His statutes" to refer to the Mosaic legislation.
2. 2:7 relates to Lev. 18:8,15; 20:11-12
3. 2:8 relates to Deut. 24:12-13
4. 2:9-11 relates to Gen. 15:12-21
5. 2:11-12 relates to Num. 6
2:8 "On the garments taken as pledges they stretch out beside every altar" The rich were taking and keeping (prohibited in Exod. 22:26-27; Deut. 24:12-13) the sleeping garments (outer cloaks) of the poor as a pledge for loans (see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, p. 171, cf. Exod. 21:7,26-28; Lev. 25:39-40; Deut. 24:10-13,17; Prov. 20:16; 27:13). This may relate to cultic prostitution mentioned in v. 7 or a cultic meal connected to the worship of fertility gods.
The phrase, "every altar," shows the idolatrous nature of the worship being offered to Ba'al (male) and Asherah (female), who were local fertility gods with an altar in each and every community. YHWH had only one official altar (i.e., Mt. Moriah). Jeroboam I had established two alternate sites at Bethel and Dan to prevent his people (i.e., the northern tribe) from returning to Jerusalem for feast days.
▣ "in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined" There are two possible interpretations: (1) in the cultic centers of Dan and Bethel the rich were becoming intoxicated on the revenue they illegally extracted from the poor or (2) the temple taxes were being used to promote drunkenness and sexual practices.
Some translations translate Elohim as "their gods" or "their god" (NJB, NAB, NIV), but the context implies a reference to YHWH (NASB, NRSV, TEV, JPSOA, NET). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at 1:2.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:9-16
9"Yet it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them,
Though his height was like the height of cedars
And he was strong as the oaks;
I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below.
10It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt,
And I led you in the wilderness forty years
That you might take possession of the land of the Amorite.
11Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets
And some of your young men to be Nazirites.
Is this not so, O sons of Israel?" declares the Lord.
12But you made the Nazirites drink wine,
And you commanded the prophets saying, 'You shall not prophesy!'
13Behold, I am weighted down beneath you
As a wagon is weighted down when filled with sheaves.
14Flight will perish from the swift,
And the stalwart will not strengthen his power,
Nor the mighty man save his life.
15He who grasps the bow will not stand his ground,
The swift of foot will not escape,
Nor will he who rides the horse save his life.
16Even the bravest among the warriors will flee naked in that day," declares the Lord.
2:9-12 This is a historical rendition of the gracious acts of God, which sets the stage for Israel's judgment. God's people's violations of His covenant are not new, but perennial (cf. Neh. 9; Acts 7).
2:9 "it was I who destroyed the Amorite before them" This is "holy war" terminology referring to YHWH fighting on behalf of His people (notice the FIRST PERSON SINGULAR PRONOUN in vv. 9,10.13). The victory belonged to Him (e.g., "hornets," Exod. 23:28; Deut. 7:20; Josh. 24:12; "hail stones," John. 10:11).
▣ "though his height" This may simply be a metaphor of power (BDB 147) using trees (cedars can grow up to 100' high) or possibly a literal reference to the physical height of some of the Amorites, Og of Bashan and the Anakim of Hebron (cf. Num.13:28, 33; Deut. 1:28; 9:2; Josh. 11:21-22).
▣ "I even destroyed his fruit above and his root below" This is an idiom or proverb of total destruction, here used of the Amorite people. Verses 9-10 refer to the Exodus and Conquest.
2:10 "It was I who brought you up from the land of Egypt" The deliverance was prophesied to Abraham (cf. Gen. 15:12-21). This special covenant relationship with the descendants of the Patriarchs is affirmed by the national group in Exod. 19-20. But collectively they turned away and rejected YHWH's covenant (cf. Hos. 13:4-6). Israel was more responsible because she had so much more spiritual light (cf. Luke 12:48).
▣ "I led you in the wilderness forty years" This is a reference to the wilderness wandering period. The term "forty" is a round number in the OT. Here it refers to the thirty eight years of travel from Kadesh-Barnea to the Promised Land (by way of the trans-jordan).
▣ "That you might take possession of the land of the Amorite" This refers to God's promise to Abraham in Gen. 15:12-21. Notice the term "Amorite" refers to all Canaan in v. 16 and to one of several indigenous tribes in v. 21. See note at v. 9.
2:11-12 "I raised up some of your sons to be prophets. . .Nazirites" God's special choice of these spiritual leaders showed His special care for Israel. But Israel caused these men (and possibly women, cf. Num. 6:2) to sin (cf. v. 12). They were God's gift, but His people perverted their giftedness!
"Nazirites" are described in Num. 6. They could be male or female (cf. v. 2). There were several unique guidelines for their calling to continue:
1. cannot eat any product from the grapevine, vv. 3-4
2. cannot cut his/her hair, v. 5
3. cannot touch a dead body (i.e., funerals of loved ones), vv. 6-7
This special vow (temporary [e.g., Num. 6:13-20; Acts 18:18; 21:23] or life long [Jdgs.13:7; I Sam. 1:1; Luke 7:33]) was a way for people who were not priests or Levites to dedicate themselves to YHWH in a special sense! It is also significant that in a male-dominated culture ancient Israelites allowed female Nazirites (and prophetesses).
For a good brief discussion see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 2, pp. 466-467.
2:11 "Is this not so" God challenges them to affirm the trustworthiness of His words of condemnation. But this is also a sorrowful, personal message from their God! The phrase "sons of Israel" has Abrahamic covenant implications. God still loves and cares for His people (His true people reflect His character!).
▣ "declares the Lord" This is a special phrase for God's revelation (cf. 2:11, 16; 3:10,13,15; 4:1,5-6, 8-11; 6:6, 14; 9:7-8,12,13).
2:13 There are two ways to understand this verse.
1. It refers to YHWH being weighed down (as an overloaded wagon) by His people's sin (from Arabic root, cf. Isa. 43:24; and the NASB, NKJV, NET, NIV, REB translations).
2. It refers to YHWH "pressing down" (i.e., judging) His people (from Arabic root, cf. Isa. 28:27-28; and the NRSV, TEV, NJB translations or "slowing," JPSOA).
The differences relate to which root the VERBS derive (BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil PERFECT and Hiphil IMPERFECT). In this case certainty is impossible.
The UBS, A Translator's Handbook on the Book of Amos, suggests a translation that follows option #2, where the people of Israel groan under God's judgment like an overloaded cart, pp. 55-56.
2:14-16 This described the panicked retreat of the Israeli army before the Assyrians. YHWH had been with them in the Exodus and Conquest, but now His presence was for judgment, not deliverance! He strikes fear and panic into the hearts of Israel's best soldiers. This is an exact reversal of "Holy War"!
2:16 "the warriors will flee naked" This refers to the throwing off of all armor and all unnecessary clothing so that the soldiers could retreat even faster.
▣ "in that day" This phrase, "in that day" or "on that day," is a way for the eighth century prophets to speak of God's visitation (presence), both for judgment and restoration.
This pattern is typical of the prophets. God is going to act against sin in time, but He also offers a day of repentance and forgiveness to those who change their hearts and actions! God's purpose of redemption and restoration will be accomplished! He will have a people who reflect His character. The purpose of creation (fellowship between God and humanity) will be fulfilled!
NASB"declares the Lord"
NKJV, NRSV"says the Lord"
TEV"The Lord has spoken"
This literary unit (1:3-2:16) repeats the term "says" (BDB 55, KB 65, Qal PERFECT), showing that these judgments are from YHWH, not Amos.
A parallel form (BDB 610 and 217 CONSTRUCT) is in 2:11 and 2:16 (e.g., 3:13; 4:3; 6:8,14; 8:3,9,11). Amos believed that YHWH Himself had spoken a clear message to him and he faithfully passes it on.
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