The terrible punishment (Am 6:12-6:14)

“Do horses run

On rocks?

Does one plow the sea

With oxen?

But you have turned

Justice

Into poison.

You have turned

The fruit of righteousness

Into wormwood.

You who rejoice

In Lo-debar!

You who say,

‘Have we not

By our own strength

Taken Karnaim

For ourselves?’

Indeed,

I am raising up

Against you

A nation.

O house of Israel!’

Says Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

They shall oppress you

From Lebo-Hamath

To the Wadi Arabah.”

Amos asked whether horses could run on rocks? Do you send oxen to plow the sea? While this may seem stupid, it is not sillier than turning justice into poison or the sweetness of righteousness into the bitterness of wormwood, which the Israelites had done. While the Israelite King Jeroboam II (783-743 BCE) had captured Lo-debar and Karnaim on the west side of the Jordan, that happiness would come to an end. They thought that they had done it by themselves. Now Yahweh, the God of heavenly armies, was going to send the Assyrians to wipe out the northern kingdom of the house of Israel, from its northern border in Syria at Lebo-Hamath to the southern border of the Wadi Arabah. Yahweh, the God of heavenly hosts, would put an end to the northern kingdom of Israel.

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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 Moab (Ezek 25:8-25:8)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘Moab said.

‘The house of Judah is

Like all the other nations.’”

Instead of a very long diatribe against Moab, as in Jeremiah, chapter 48, and Isaiah, chapters 15 and 16, Ezekiel has only a few short comments. Moab was the country directly east of the Dead Sea on the other side of the Jordan River. The Moabites, like the Ammonites, had been involved in many quarrels and battles with the Israelites, since they had a strange biblical relationship. The Moabite kingdom lasted from around the 13th century BCE to around the 4th century BCE, where today it is also the country of Jordan, like Ammon. The Moabites were the descendants of Lot’s incest with his oldest daughter as in Genesis, chapter 19. In the Book of Ruth, chapter 4, the Moabites were friendly, as Ruth, a Moabite, had a son named Obed, who turned out to be the grandfather of King David via his son Jesse.   For a while, Moab was part of the Kingdom of Israel, until they revolted. Here the complaint against Moab was that they said that Judah was like the other countries and not unique.

Rabbah (Ezek 25:5-25:5)

“I will make Rabbah

A pasture for camels.

Ammon shall be

A fold for flocks.

Then you will know

That I am Yahweh.”

Rabbah was the capital of Ammon. Thus the capital city would become a pasture for camels. The current capital of Jordan is Amman where Rabbah once was. Ammon would just become a place for animals to graze. They would learn that Yahweh was in charge.

 

The destruction of Bozrah (Jer 49:13-49:13)

“Says Yahweh.

‘I have sworn

By myself

That Bozrah

Shall become

An object

Of horror,

Of ridicule,

Of a waste,

Of cursing.

All her towns

Shall be

Perpetual wastes.’”

Bozrah was the capital city of Edom in northern Edom, modern day Jordan.   Yahweh swore to himself that this capital of the Edomites would become an object of horror, a place of ridicule and a waste, as well as a cursed place. All its surrounding towns would become perpetual waste sites.

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.

Ishmael captured the people of Mizpah (Jer 41:10-41:10)

“Then Ishmael

Took captive

All the rest of the people

Who were in Mizpah.

This included

The king’s daughters

With all the people

Who were left at Mizpah.

Nebuzaradan,

The captain of the guard,

Had committed them

To Governor Gedaliah,

The son of Ahikam.

Ishmael,

The son of Nethaniah,

Took them captive.

He set out to cross over

To the Ammonites.”

As Ishmael had killed so many people already, there were not too many people left in Mizpah. Thus Ishmael took the remaining people captive. Of special mention were the daughters of King Zedekiah. The Babylonians had killed the king’s sons, but the captain of the troops, Nebuzaradan, committed the daughters of the king to the care of the new governor, Gedaliah. Thus the remaining people and these young women set out as captives to go to Ammon, on the other side of the Jordan. Ishmael must have had some kind of deal with the king of the Ammonites, since King Baalis of Ammon was mentioned in the last chapter.