Against Moab (Am 2:1-2:3)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘For three transgressions

Of Moab,

And for four,

I will not revoke

The punishment.

Because he burned to lime

The bones

Of the king of Edom.

So,

I will send a fire

On Moab.

It shall devour

The strongholds

Of Kerioth.

Moab shall die

Amid uproar,

Amid shouting,

Amid the sound

Of the trumpet.

I will cut off

The ruler

From its midst.

I will kill

All its officials with him.’

Says Yahweh.”

Moab was the ancient enemy of Israel on the southeast side of the Jordan River. According to Genesis, chapter 19, the Moabites were the descendants of Lot through the incest he had with his daughter. Yahweh, via Amos, invoked the same language as he had used against Damascus, the Philistines, Tyre, Edom, and Ammon. He also used the same non-forgiving numeric formula of 3 and 4, as in Proverbs, chapter 30. The Moabites apparently burned the bones of the king of Edom in lime. Edom was their southern neighbors, so that this was a terrible insulting crime. Thus, Yahweh was going to punish the people of Moab by devouring their fortresses at Kerioth. Moab was going to die in a great tumult, with uproars, shouts, and trumpets. Yahweh would kill their ruler and all their officials. This clearly was an oracle of Yahweh, via Amos.

Against Ammon (Am 1:13-1:15)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘For three transgressions,

Of the Ammonites,

And for four,

I will not revoke

The punishment.

Because they ripped open

Pregnant women

In the Gilead.

They wanted to enlarge

Their territory.

So,

I will kindle a fire

Against the wall of Rabbah.

Fire shall devour

Its strongholds,

With shouting

On the day of battle.

There will be a storm

On the day of the whirlwind.

Their king

Shall go into exile,

He with his officials together.’

Says Yahweh.”

Ammon was east of the Jordan River, between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee in the old Gad territory. According to Genesis, chapter 19, the Ammonites were the descendants of Lot through the incest he had with his daughter. Yahweh, via Amos, invoked the same language as he had used against Damascus, the Philistines, Tyre, and Edom. He used the same numeric formula of 3 and 4, as found in Proverbs, chapter 30. These Ammonites had killed pregnant women in the Gilead, the Israelite territory on the east side of the Jordan River, because they wanted to take over that territory. Thus, Yahweh was going to send fire down on Rabbah, the capital city that is today the capital of Jordan, Amman. This fire would destroy all their fortresses, like a storm or whirlwind. The king and all its officials would go into exile.

Against Edom (Am 1:11-1:12)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘For three transgressions

Of Edom,

And for four,

I will not revoke

The punishment.

Because he pursued

His brother

With the sword.

He cast off all pity.

He maintained

His anger perpetually.

He kept his wrath forever.

So,

I will send a fire

On Teman.

It shall devour

The strongholds of Bozrah.’”

Edom was southeast of Judah and south of the Dead Sea. Yahweh, via Amos, invoked the same language as he had used against Damascus, the Philistines, and Tyre. He used the same numeric formula of 3 and 4, like in Proverbs, chapter 30. Edom was considered a brother of Israel, because its founder was Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Edom had tried to kill the Israelites with a sword. They had no pity, since they were perpetually angry. Thus, Yahweh was going to send fire down on Teman, either a tribe or small village in Edom. He was also going to devour the fortress in Bozrah, the capital city of Edom, in present day Jordan.

Against Tyre (Am 1:9-1:10)

“Thus says Yahweh.

‘For three transgressions

Of Tyre,

And for four,

I will not revoke

The punishment.

Because they delivered

Entire communities

Over to Edom.

They did not remember

The covenant of brotherhood.

So,

I will send a fire

On the wall of Tyre.

This fire shall devour

Its strongholds.’”

Tyre was the northern port city in the old Israelite territory of Asher. Yahweh, via Amos, invoked the same language as against Damascus and the Philistines. He used the same numeric formula of 3 and 4, that was in Proverbs, chapter 30. He was not going to forgive. The city of Tyre, like the city of Gaza, was involved in the slave trade with Edom. They did not understand the universal covenant or treaty of all people who are really brothers or somehow related. They abused other humans as slaves. Thus, Yahweh was going to send a fire, just like that at Gaza, to devour their strongholds.

The false alliance with Assyria (Hos 5:13-5:14)

“Ephraim saw

His sickness.

Judah saw

His wound.

Then Ephraim

Went to Assyria.

He sent

To the great king.

But he is not able

To cure you.

He was not able

To heal your wound.

I will be

Like a lion

To Ephraim.

I will be

Like a young lion

To the house of Judah.

I myself

Will tear.

I will go away.

I will carry off.

None shall rescue.”

Ephraim and Judah saw that they were not in a good place, since they were sick and wounded. King Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria had taken over the northern half of Israel. Then the king of Israel, King Pekah (737-732 BCE) made an alliance with the king of Aram, the area around Damascus, or southern Syria. However, this did not help. Therefore, Yahweh was going to be a lion against Ephraim, and a young lion against Judah. Meanwhile, Yahweh was going to tear himself away. He was not going to rescue them.

The tribe of Dan (Ezek 48:1-48:1)

“These are the names

Of the tribes.

You will begin

At the northern border,

On the Hethlon road,

From Lebo-hamath,

As far as Hazar-enon,

The border

Of Damascus

With Hamath

To the north.

This will extend

From the east side

To the westside.

This shall be

One portion

Of Dan.”

According to Joshua, chapter 19, Dan had a small territory between Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah. However, it was wiped out, so that they ended up with a small territory between Manasseh and Naphtali near the Syrian border. Thus, the tribe of Dan here gets this northern territory, close to Damascus. It was not clear how many from the tribe of Dan were still around.

The northern border (Ezek 47:15-47:17)

“This shall be the boundary

Of the land.

On the north side,

From the Great Sea

By way of Hethlon

To Lebo-hamath

of Hamath,

On to Zedad,

Berothah,

Sibraim.

Sibraim lies between

The border of Damascus

With Hamath.

It shall go as far

As Hazer-hatticon,

That is on the border

Of Hauran.

So,

The boundary shall run

From the sea

To Hazar-enon,

That is north of the border

Of Damascus,

With the border of Hamath

To the north.

This shall be the north side.”

Ezekiel started with a longer description of the northern border than what was found in Numbers, chapter 34. Obviously, this northern border started with the sea, the Mediterranean Sea on the northwest side. However, it extends further north into Syria on the north side of Damascus. There was no indication where the Sea and the land met in the north, just the listing of a series of towns like Hethlon, Lebo-hamath, Zedad, Berothah, and Sibraim that are difficult to determine exactly where they are. The northeastern border was Hazar-enon, as in Numbers. Hamath was the capital of upper Syria, while Damascus as the capital of lower Syria. Thus, this northern Israelite boundary was between these 2 Syrian cities.

Damascus (Ezek 27:18-27:18)

“Damascus traded

With you

For your abundant goods.

Because

Of your great wealth

Of every kind,

Wine of Helbon,

With white wool.”

Damascus was the inland capital of the Assyrian empire. They also traded with Tyre because of the abundance of goods and wealth of both cities. Damascus had good wine from Helbon, about 13 miles north of Damascus, as well as white wool.

Against Damascus (Jer 49:23-49:27)

“Concerning Damascus.

‘Hamath is confounded.

Arpad is confounded.

They have heard bad news.

They melt in fear.

They are troubled

Like the sea

That cannot be quiet.

Damascus has become feeble.

She turned to flee.

Panic seized her.

Anguish has taken hold of her.

Sorrows have taken hold of her,

As a woman in labor.

How the famous city is forsaken!

The joyful town!

Therefore her young men

Shall fall

In her squares.

All her soldiers

Shall be destroyed,

On that day.’

Says Yahweh of hosts!

‘I will kindle a fire

At the wall of Damascus.

It shall devour

The strongholds of Ben-hadad.’”

Damascus had been under the control of the Assyrians since around 740 BCE, before the fall of the northern Israelites to Assyria in 724 BCE. Now the Babylonians were taking over for the Assyrians. The two other cities mentioned with Damascus, were Hamath and Arpad. Hamath was in upper Syria with Arpad nearly a 100 miles further north. These northern towns were upset and troubled over the news about southern Damascus. They felt like they were on troubled waters and could not be quiet. Damascus itself was weak and in panic. This former joyful town saw people fleeing with panic. Once again they had become weak like women in labor. Their young men were dying in the squares since the soldiers had been killed. The soldiers also died. There was a huge fire that destroyed the walls and royal buildings of Ben-hadad. King Ben-hadad was a 9th century BCE king of Damascus who had some battles with King Asa of Judah and King Omri of Israel, in 1 Kings, chapter 20. However, there were 2 other kings with the same name, so that it clearly referred to the royal palaces or fortresses in Damascus. Once again there is no mention of a restoration for Damascus.

Against the Ammonites (Jer 49:1-49:2)

“Concerning the Ammonites!

Thus says Yahweh!

‘Has Israel no sons?

Has he no heir?

Why then has Milcom

Dispossessed Gad?

Why has he dispossessed

His people?

Why has he settled

In its cities?’”

The Ammonites, like the Moabites, were considered the descendants of the incest of Lot with his second daughter from the story in Genesis, chapter 19. The country of Ammon was north of Moab, but south of Aram and Damascus.  The country of Ammon existed from about the 10th century to the 4th century BCE in what would have been the Gad territory as outlined in Joshua chapter 13. Today it is part of the country of Jordan. Yahweh seems upset at Ammon. Did not Israel have sons and heirs to live in this Gad territory? Milcom, the god of the Ammonites, was a lot like Molech, the god of the Moabites. Some believe it was the same god with slightly different spellings for each country. This god Milcom had dispossessed the people of Yahweh and settled in their cities. In the Septuagint Greek translation, this is chapter 30, not chapter 49 as here.