Amos 21This is what the Lord says:
“Because Moab has committed three crimes ▼ –
make that four! ▼
▼ Heb “Because of three violations of Moab, even because of four.”▼ – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. ▼
They burned the bones of Edom’s king into lime. ▼
▼ The Moabites apparently desecrated the tomb of an Edomite king and burned his bones into a calcined substance which they then used as plaster (cf. Deut 27:2, 4). See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 72. Receiving a proper burial was very important in this culture. Desecrating a tomb or a deceased individual’s bones was considered an especially heinous act.
2 So I will set Moab on fire, ▼
▼ The destruction of Moab by fire is an example of a judgment in kind – as the Moabites committed the crime of “burning,” so the Lord will punish them by setting them on fire.
and it will consume Kerioth’s ▼ fortresses.
Moab will perish ▼
▼ Or “die” (KJV, NASB, NRSV, TEV); NAB “shall meet death.”in the heat of battle ▼
▼ Or “in the tumult.” This word refers to the harsh confusion of sounds that characterized an ancient battle – a mixture of war cries, shouts, shrieks of pain, clashes of weapons, etc.
amid war cries and the blaring ▼
▼ Heb “sound” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV).of the ram’s horn. ▼
▼ The ram’s horn (used as a trumpet) was blown to signal the approaching battle.
3 I will remove ▼
▼ Heb “cut off” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NAB “root out”; NCV “bring to an end.”Moab’s leader; ▼
▼ Heb “the leader [traditionally, “judge”] from her midst.”
I will kill all Moab’s ▼
▼ Heb “her”; the referent (Moab) has been specified in the translation for clarity.officials ▼
▼ Or “princes” (KJV, NAB, NASB, NLT); TEV, CEV “leaders.”with him.”
The Lord has spoken!
4 This is what the Lord says:
“Because Judah has committed three covenant transgressions ▼ –
make that four! ▼
▼ Heb “Because of three violations of Judah, even because of four.”▼ – I will not revoke my decree of judgment. ▼
They rejected the Lord’s law; ▼
▼ Or “instruction”; NCV “teachings.”
they did not obey his commands.
Their false gods, ▼
▼ Heb “lies.” This may very well be a derogatory term for idols (perhaps also at Ps. 40:4 [Heb 40:5]). Elsewhere false gods are called “vanities” (Deut 32:21; 1 Kgs 16:13, 26) and a delusion (Isa 66:3). In no other prophetic passages, however, are they called “lies.” The term could refer to the deceptions of false prophets (note Ezek 13:6–9; cf. Hab 2:3). See F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos (AB), 301-6.
to which their fathers were loyal, ▼
▼ Heb “after which their fathers walked.” The expression “to walk after” is an idiom meaning “to be loyal to.” See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 75–76.▼
▼ Here the idolatry of the parents carried over to the children, who persisted in worshiping the idols to which their fathers were loyal.
led them astray.
5 So I will set Judah on fire,
and it will consume Jerusalem’s fortresses.” ▼
God Will Judge Israel6 This is what the Lord says:
“Because Israel has committed three covenant transgressions ▼ –
make that four! ▼
▼ Heb “Because of three violations of Israel, even because of four.”▼
▼ On the three…four style that introduces each of the judgment oracles of chaps. 1–2 see the note on the word “four” in 1:3. Only in this last oracle against Israel does one find the list of four specific violations expected based on the use of a similar formula elsewhere in wisdom literature (see Prov 30:18–19, 29–31). This adaptation of the normal pattern indicates the Lord’s focus on Israel here (he is too bent on judging Israel to dwell very long on her neighbors) and emphasizes Israel’s guilt with respect to the other nations (Israel’s list fills up before the others’ lists do). See R. B. Chisholm, “‘For three sins...even for four’: the numerical sayings in Amos,” BSac 147 (1990) 188-97.– I will not revoke my decree of judgment. ▼
They sold the innocent ▼
▼ Or “honest” (CEV, NLT). The Hebrew word sometimes has a moral-ethical connotation, “righteous, godly,” but the parallelism (note “poor”) suggests a socio-economic or legal sense here. The practice of selling debtors as slaves is in view (Exod 21:2–11; Lev 25:35–55; Deut 15:12–18) See the note at Exod 21:8 and G. C. Chirichigno, Debt-Slavery in Israel and the Ancient Near East (JSOTSup). Probably the only “crime” the victim had committed was being unable to pay back a loan or an exorbitant interest rate on a loan. Some have suggested that this verse refers to bribery in legal proceedings: The innocent are “sold” in the sense that those in power pay off the elders or judges for favorable decisions (5:12; cf. Exod 23:6–7).for silver,
the needy for a pair of sandals. ▼
▼ Perhaps the expression “for a pair of sandals” indicates a relatively small price or debt. Some suggest that the sandals may have been an outward token of a more substantial purchase price. Others relate the sandals to a ritual attached to the transfer of property, signifying here that the poor would be losing their inherited family lands because of debt (Ruth 4:7; cf. Deut 25:8–10). Still others emend the Hebrew form slightly to נֶעְלָם (ne’lam, “hidden thing”; from the root עָלַם, ’alam, “to hide”) and understand this as referring to a bribe.
7 They trample ▼
▼ Most scholars now understand this verb as derived from the root II שָׁאַף (sha’af, “to crush; to trample”), an alternate form of שׁוּף (shuf), rather than from I שָׁאַף (sha’af, “to pant, to gasp”; cf. KJV, ASV, NASB).on the dirt-covered heads of the poor; ▼
▼ Heb “those who stomp on the dirt of the ground on the head of the poor.” It is possible to render the line as “they trample the heads of the poor into the dust of the ground,” thereby communicating that the poor are being stepped on in utter contempt (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 79–80). The participial form הַשֹּׁאֲפִים (hasho’afim) is substantival and stands in apposition to the pronominal suffix on מִכְרָם (mikhram, v. 6b).▼
they push the destitute away. ▼
▼ Heb “they turn aside the way of the destitute.” Many interpreters take “way” to mean “just cause” and understand this as a direct reference to the rights of the destitute being ignored. The injustice done to the poor is certainly in view, but the statement is better taken as a word picture depicting the powerful rich pushing the “way of the poor” (i.e., their attempt to be treated justly) to the side. An even more vivid picture is given in Amos 5:12, where the rich are pictured as turning the poor away from the city gate (where legal decisions were made, and therefore where justice should be done).
A man and his father go to the same girl; ▼
▼ Most interpreters see some type of sexual immorality here (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NLT), even though the Hebrew phrase הָלַךְ אֶל (halakh ’el, “go to”) never refers elsewhere to sexual intercourse. (The usual idiom is בוֹא אֶל [bo’ ’el]. However, S. M. Paul (Amos [Hermeneia], 82) attempts to develop a linguistic case for a sexual connotation here.) The precise identification of the “girl” in question is not clear. Some see the referent as a cultic prostitute (cf. NAB; v. 8 suggests a cultic setting), but the term נַעֲרָה (na’arah) nowhere else refers to a prostitute. Because of the contextual emphasis on social oppression, some suggest the exploitation of a slave girl is in view. H. Barstad argues that the “girl” is the hostess at a pagan מַרְזֵחַ (marzeakh) banquet (described at some length in 6:4–7). In his view the sin described here is not sexual immorality, but idolatry (see H. Barstad, The Religious Polemics of Amos [VTSup], 33–36). In this case, one might translate, “Father and son go together to a pagan banquet.” In light of this cultic context, F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman argue that this is a reference to a specific female deity (“the Girl”) and correlate this verse with 8:14 (Amos [AB], 318-19).
in this way they show disrespect ▼
▼ Or “pollute”; “desecrate”; “dishonor.”for my moral purity. ▼
▼ Heb “my holy name.” Here “name” is used metonymically for God’s moral character or reputation, while “holy” has a moral and ethical connotation.
8 They stretch out on clothing seized as collateral;
they do so right ▼
▼ The words “They do so right” are supplied twice in the translation of this verse for clarification.beside every altar!
They drink wine bought with the fines they have levied;
they do so right in the temple ▼
▼ Heb “house.”of their God! ▼
▼ Or “gods.” The Hebrew term אֱלֹהֵיהֶם (’elohehem) may be translated “their gods” (referring to pagan gods), “their god” (referring to a pagan god, cf. NAB, NIV, NLT), or “their God” (referring to the God of Israel, cf. NASB, NRSV).
9 For Israel’s sake I destroyed the Amorites. ▼
▼ Heb “I destroyed the Amorites from before them.” The translation takes מִפְּנֵי (mippeney) in the sense of “for the sake of.” See BDB 818 s.v. פָּנֻה II.6.a and H. W. Wolff, Joel and Amos (Hermeneia), 134. Another option is to take the phrase in a spatial sense, “I destroyed the Amorites, [clearing them out] from before them [i.e., Israel]” (cf. NIV, NRSV).
They were as tall as cedars ▼
▼ Heb “whose height was like the height of cedars.”
and as strong as oaks,
but I destroyed the fruit on their branches ▼
▼ Heb “his fruit from above.”
and their roots in the ground. ▼
▼ Heb “and his roots from below.”
10 I brought you up from the land of Egypt;
I led you through the wilderness for forty years
so you could take the Amorites’ land as your own.
11 I made some of your sons prophets
and some of your young men Nazirites. ▼
Is this not true, you Israelites?”
The Lord is speaking!
12 “But you made the Nazirites drink wine; ▼
you commanded the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy!’
13 Look! I will press you down,
like a cart loaded down with grain presses down. ▼
▼ The precise meaning of this verse is unclear. Various suggested meanings have been proposed (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 94): (1) One option is to relate the verb to an Arabic verb, meaning “to hinder; to hamper,” and translate, “I am making you immobile, like a cart filled with grain is immobile.” In this case, the Lord refers to Israel’s inability to escape his coming judgment (see vv. 14–16; NJPS). (2) Another view relates the verb to a different Arabic verb meaning “to cut in pieces,” translating “I will cut you in pieces as a cart cuts in pieces [the earth],” referring to the ruts and rifts in the ground caused by an earthquake. (3) Some relate the verb to an Arabic root meaning “to groan” with the idea that the Lord causes the ground underneath Israel to groan (cf. NLT). (4) The translation connects the verb to an Aramaism signifying to “press down” (cf. NIV, NRSV). Some English versions translate the verb in an intransitive sense as “I am weighted down” (cf. NASB, NKJV) or “I groan beneath you” (NEB). For this last option, see F. I. Andersen and D. N. Freedman, Amos (AB), 334.
14 Fast runners will find no place to hide; ▼
▼ Heb “and a place of refuge will perish from the swift.”
strong men will have no strength left; ▼
▼ Heb “the strong will not increase his strength.”
warriors will not be able to save their lives.
15 Archers ▼
▼ Heb “the one who holds the bow.”will not hold their ground; ▼
▼ For the idiom of “holding [or “standing”] one’s ground” in battle, there is a similar phrase in Ezek 13:5; also related is the expression “to hold one’s own against” (or “to withstand”) in Judg 2:14; 2 Kgs 10:4; Dan 8:7 (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 97). Other options include “will not endure” or “will not survive.”
fast runners will not save their lives,
nor will those who ride horses. ▼
▼ The last two lines read literally, “The one fast in his feet will not rescue [his life], and the rider of the horse will not rescue his life.” The phrase “his life” does double duty in the parallelism and should be understood in both lines.
16 Bravehearted ▼
▼ Or “the most stouthearted” (NAB); NRSV “those who are stout of heart.”warriors will run away naked in that day.”
The Lord is speaking!
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