Amos opens with an introduction of who he is. It’s interesting who he is not, which is a denoted prophet. In fact, he’s just a shepherd (Tekoa is a town just south of Jerusalem, so it’s in Judah. I remember Israel is in the north and Judah to the south by the order of the first letter of their names in the alphabet. “I” is first, it’s on top of “J”, which is on the bottom.) Either way, his target is Israel in the days of Uzziah (which makes him a bit of a contemporary of Isaiah, who has the famous scene in Isaiah 6 where he gets the vision in heaven in the year Uzziah dies.)
Make no mistake, Amos brings the heavy. In the first chapter he’s basically going to lay out some consistently patterned judgment upon the nations that surround Israel. They suck, and God’s people will be glad to hear what Amos is saying here. (They shouldn’t get too comfortable, they don’t know it yet but their time has also come, God is sick of their stuff, too.)
Amos establishes that it is God we’re hearing from by giving a picture of him “roaring from Zion”. The very earth weeps at this and the mountain where the gods of the world were defeated soundly (Mt. Carmel, it’s where God whooped upon Baal with Elijah calling the fire down). You know there’s going to be some business going down with this opening salvo.
Here we go: Syria sucks (north of Israel, and we know it’s them, Damascus is their capital) because they have ransacked and torn through Gilead, a part of Israel. So God will judge them and it will land on the King (Ben-Hedad) who has no means to protect himself from God’s wrath in this area. The towns referenced and people referenced here show that God intimately knows who he is dealing with and bringing judgment upon. They shall be sent back to Kir (their original land) and out of the lands where they have stuck their nose where it doesn’t belong.
Next, Philistia sucks (on the Mediterranean coast, just west of Judah), because they were in cahoots with the Edomites and booted people out of their land. Again, God responds with judgment/fire and the breaking of any protections the Philistines believe they have, and their leaders will be dealt with harshly (again, they are called out by name).
Next, Tyre sucks (north of Philistia, west of Israel) for basically the same reason Philistia sucks, they were in cahoots with Edom. (The Edomites were Esau’s descendants, by the way.) In addition, Tyre seemed to have agreements with these people (close enough to be considered a “covenant of brotherhood”), that they ignored in this cahootery with Edom. Poor form. So, fire to the wall of Tyre and strongholds devoured. Pretty consistent here.
Then there’s Edom, a merciless group of hooligans who openly treated their “brothers” (Israel), in anger and without pity. We don’t get kings named here, just cities (Teman and Bozrah), but the gist is the same, fire and devouring of strongholds.
Finally for chapter 1, the Ammonites (just east of Israel). They suck because they have “ripped open pregnant women in Gilead” in an attempt to gain land. As expected, God responds with fire and devouring of strongholds. Kings are back in view here and they he will be exiled, along with his sons.
The reason I opened with Assyria as a backdrop is because God will use the Assyrians, at a time when these nations believed Assyria was losing power, as the means to keep the promises our man Amos is making now.
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