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Whedon's Commentary on the Bible Whedon's Commentary
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ whe/ amos-1.html. 1874-1909.
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Amos 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
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THE PROLOGUE THE APPROACHING JUDGMENT, CHAPS. 1, 2.
Substance and form combine to prove that chapters 1 and 2 constitute one connected whole. Following the title (Amos 1:1) and the preface (Amos 1:2) comes a preparatory section (Amos 1:3 to Amos 2:5), leading up to the central thought, the condemnation of Israel (Amos 2:6-16). Every listener would give his assent that the surrounding non-Israelitish nations, Damascus (Amos 1:3-5), Philistia (Amos 1:6-8), Phoenicia (Amos 1:9-10), Edom (Amos 1:11-12), Ammon (Amos 1:13-15), and Moab (Amos 2:1-3), were deserving the wrath of Jehovah; they would even agree that Judah, since the division more or less hostile to the north, merited punishment (Amos 2:4-5). Hence these denunciations would awaken a ready response and win the good will of the prophet’s hearers. Having accomplished this, he burst forth in Amos 2:6-16, in the message for which he had been preparing the way, denunciation and judgment upon Israel. By their silent consent to the condemnation of the other nations they had pronounced the sentence of doom upon themselves.
It is to be noted that Amos is not partial to Israel; he does not condemn the surrounding nations exclusively for sins committed against Israel, but for sins against commonly recognized principles of humaneness and morality (Amos 2:1). The guilt of Israel is greater because of its special privileges. Even in this section Amos emphasizes the two central truths of his theology, that Jehovah is God over all, and that he governs all in righteousness.
1. Title. Each prophetic book has a title, sometimes brief (Obadiah 1:1), sometimes running through several verses (Jeremiah 1:1 ff.). This title indicates the name, home, occupation, and approximate date of the author, and the nation in whose interest he prophesied.
Words of Amos Of the other prophetic books only Jeremiah contains a similar expression, “words of Jeremiah,” that is, the prophecies are assigned primarily to their human author; everywhere else it is stated or implied that the primary author is God: “The word of Jehovah” (Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1, etc.); “The vision of Isaiah” (Amos 1:1; compare Obadiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1), granted by Jehovah; “The burden” (Habakkuk 1:1, compare Nahum 1:1; Malachi 1:1), imposed by Jehovah. It does not follow, however, that the utterances of Amos and Jeremiah are less divine than those of the other prophets (compare Jeremiah 1:2, “to whom the word of Jehovah came”; Amos 1:1, “which he saw”; Amos 1:3, “Thus saith Jehovah,” compare Amos 7:14). A rabbinical tradition says that the peculiarity is due to and is a rebuke of the fault-finding spirit of Amos and Jeremiah.
Herdmen Literally, nakad-keepers (see p. 192).
Tekoa See p. 191.
Israel The northern kingdom, to which Amos was sent (Amos 7:15).
He saw See on Habakkuk 1:1. On the chronological data see pp. 195f. The relative clause “who was among the herdmen (of Tekoa)” is thought by some to be a later, though historically reliable, addition.
2. Preface. A verse by itself, containing a general announcement of judgment. It is but loosely connected with its context; hence it has been claimed that Amos borrowed it from Joel. This cannot be, since Joel is later than Amos. The more recent commentators regard the verse a late interpolation in Amos, dependent on Joel 3:16. Proof of this is lacking; it is equally possible that the passage in Joel is dependent on Amos, especially since the thought of the former is an expansion and exaggeration of that of the latter. Harper advances six reasons against the authenticity of the verse, but not one of them carries conviction. As a preparation for the more detailed delineation of judgment, which is the substance of the book, the verse is not inappropriate. A Judaean prophet would naturally consider Zion the center of Jehovah’s activity; Carmel, which feels the heaviest blow, is a locality in the north, whither Amos was sent.
Roar The figure is that of a lion roaring as he leaps upon his prey; therefore a herald of imminent destruction.
Utter his voice Thunder (Psalms 18:13; Psalms 46:6, etc.), proclaiming the breaking forth of a destructive tempest. Both phrases express the idea of God’s manifestation in awful judgment (compare Jeremiah 25:30).
Zion… Jerusalem The earthly habitation of Jehovah, from which his manifestations proceed.
2 b calls attention to the consequences of the divine manifestation.
Habitations R.V., “pastures” (Joel 2:22; Psalms 23:2). A pastoral term, equivalent to homestead, including both land and dwellings.
Mourn Partly in consternation (Amos 8:8; Amos 9:5) when they hear the roar of Jehovah, partly in grief over the destruction wrought and impending.
Top of Carmel In Hebrew with the article, “the Carmel,” that is, “the garden land.” A mountain ridge in Israel, about twelve miles long, varying in height from five hundred to eighteen hundred feet, running from southeast to northwest, and projecting into the Mediterranean. It is famous because of the events described in 1 Kings 18:0. Its name was given to it on account of its beauty and fertility (Amos 9:3), which in a measure it still retains. Its top is filled with luxuriant growth of every kind.
Wither Or, dry up. No more vivid picture of destruction could be painted (Isaiah 33:9; Nahum 1:4). “As the blood runs cold through terror, so Amos pictures the sap of the plants and trees as ceasing to flow when Jehovah’s thunder is heard pealing over the land” (compare Joel 3:16).
3-5. The sin and punishment of Damascus.
Thus saith Jehovah A solemn formula repeated before each denunciation (Amos 1:6; Amos 1:9; Amos 1:11; Amos 1:13; Amos 2:1; Amos 2:4; Amos 2:6). The prophet desires to make it plain that in all he says he is the spokesman of Jehovah (compare Zechariah 1:3).
Three… four There is no reason for thinking that Amos had in mind three or four specific transgressions which exhausted the patience of Jehovah, as Kimchi undertook to show: (1) the campaign against Baasha (1 Kings 15:18 ff.), (2) against Ahab (1 Kings 20:1 ff.), (3) against Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:3), (4) against Ahaz of Judah (2 Kings 16:5-6). The last one took place about twenty-five years after this prophecy was delivered. The numbers must be explained as ascending enumeration (see on Hosea 6:2); the prophet wants to say that the measure of their guilt is more than full.
Transgressions More correctly, rebellions.
Damascus The capital of Syria, here representing the whole country. The beginnings of the hostility between Israel and Syria may be traced to the days of Solomon, when Rezon established himself in Damascus and became “an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 11:23-25). The Syrian power increased steadily, until in the ninth century B.C. Syria became the most powerful nation in western Asia and seriously troubled Israel. In Amos’s days its prestige had begun to decline, Jeroboam II having waged successful war against Damascus (2 Kings 14:25-26; compare 2 Kings 13:25).
I will not turn away the punishment thereof Literally, I will not turn it back. The object must be supplied from the context. Since it is left so indefinite there has been great difference of opinion with regard to it. The more important interpretations are, “I will not convert it,” that is, Damascus; “I will not revoke it,” that is, the wrath of Jehovah, or the resulting sentence of judgment, or a threat uttered at an earlier period and now recalled by Amos. The English translation gives a correct interpretation by adding “punishment.”
Because Introduces a typical example of the transgressions of Damascus.
Threshed Literally, tread down. One primitive method of threshing was to make animals tread out the grain with their feet (Micah 4:13; Deuteronomy 25:4). Even when other methods of threshing were adopted the term was retained.
With threshing instruments of iron The threshing machines to which reference is here made are described by Thomson in The Land and the Book, ii, p. 315, as follows: “The most common mode of threshing is with the ordinary slab, called mowrej, which is drawn over the floor by a horse or yoke of oxen, until not only the grain is shelled out, but the straw itself is ground up into chaff. To facilitate this operation bits of rough lava (or iron teeth, Isaiah 41:15-16) are fastened into the bottom of the mowrej, and the driver sits or stands upon it.… The Egyptian mowrej is a little different from this, having rollers which revolve on the grain, and the driver has a seat upon it.… In the plains of Hamath I saw this machine improved by having circular saws attached to the rollers.” Whether the prophet means that the Syrians actually used these instruments to torture captives, or whether he simply uses the expressions to give a vivid description of cruelties of every sort is not certain (compare 2 Kings 13:7; Proverbs 20:26).
Gilead In the narrow sense, the east Jordan territory between the Yarmuk and the Arnon (Deuteronomy 3:13), in the broader sense, the whole Hebrew territory east of the Jordan; so here, equivalent to “inhabitants of Gilead.” Gilead, being nearest to Syria, would suffer first in the case of a Syrian invasion. The prophet may have in mind the invasion under Hazael during the latter half of the ninth century (compare 2 Kings 8-13).
4, 5. Jehovah cannot endure the perpetration of such cruelties. The form which the announcement of judgment takes is practically the same in each case (Amos 1:7; Amos 1:10; Amos 1:12; Amos 1:14; Amos 2:2; Amos 2:5; compare Hosea 8:14).
Fire Symbol of war and its horrors.
House of Hazael Not “dynasty,” but “palace” or “city” or “land” of Hazael (compare Hosea 8:1; Hosea 9:15). Hazael usurped the throne of Damascus about 843 B.C. (2 Kings 8:7 ff.); he was the contemporary of Kings Joram, Jehu, and Jehoahaz, and inflicted heavy defeats upon all three. Since he was the founder of the then ruling dynasty, Amos calls Syria “the house of Hazael,” just as Israel is called in Assyrian inscriptions “the house of Omri.”
Ben-hadad Three kings of Damascus by that name are definitely known, two preceding Hazael, the third his son and successor (2 Kings 13:3; 2 Kings 13:25). The allusion may be to the third, who in time was nearest to Amos, though it is not likely that he was then on the throne. However, it is not impossible that the reigning monarch bore the same name. Some suggest that Hazael and Ben-hadad are mentioned simply as typical, representative names of Syrian kings without reference to any particular monarch; still others think that Ben-hadad (that is, the son of the deity Hadad) was a title of the Syrian kings as Pharaoh was of the Egyptian rulers.
Bar The bar of iron or bronze used to fasten the gates of ancient cities; here a symbol of defense in general. No human defenses can stand against the wrath of Jehovah.
Inhabitant R.V. margin, “him that sitteth on the throne” (Isaiah 10:3) the ruler; which is preferable, in view of the parallel, “him that holdeth the scepter” the reigning monarch (Judges 5:14). The rulers will be smitten; only in the last clause of Amos 1:5 is the fate of the people indicated.
The plain [“valley”] of Aven R.V. margin, “of Vanity,” or Idolatry. LXX. reads “On” for “Aven,” which presupposes a different vocalization of the same Hebrew consonants. This reading, indecisive though it may be in view of the LXX. rendering of the same word in Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5; Hosea 10:8, pointed the way to the now almost universally accepted explanation. The word translated “valley” is used even to-day as a proper noun, denoting the valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon (Joshua 11:17), in Arabic el-Buka’a. In this valley, about sixty miles north-northeast of Dan, are located the ruins of Baal-bek, the ancient Heliopolis, formerly, as its name indicates, a center of sun worship. According to two ancient authorities, Macrobius and Lucian, sun worship was introduced in the Syrian Heliopolis from Heliopolis in Egypt. The Egyptian name of Heliopolis in Egypt is Aunu, Hebrews On (Genesis 41:45; Genesis 41:50; Genesis 46:20). This name may have been brought, with the sun worship, from Egypt to Syria, and at one time Heliopolis in Syria may have been known as On. If this is the correct interpretation, instead of “valley of Aven” we should read Buka’a-On, or “valley of On,” the valley around the city On. Intentionally the word was changed by Amos or a later copyist into “vanity” to express contempt for the worship practiced there.
The house of Eden Margin, “Beth-eden,” making the two words the name of a locality. A village Edhen is located about twenty miles northwest of Baal-bek, which may have served as a summer residence to the Syrian kings. Though the place mentioned by Amos has often been identified with this village, it is more likely that he has in mind a district mentioned frequently in the Assyrian inscriptions and called Bit-adini. This district is about two hundred miles north-northeast of Damascus on both sides of the Euphrates (2 Kings 19:12; Ezekiel 27:23), and may have been at one time a vassal state of Damascus. If this is the correct interpretation, the prophet says that the chief ruler in Damascus as well as the vassal princes will be smitten by the divine judgment, while the people will be carried into exile.
Kir Amos 9:7, makes Kir the original home of the Syrians. According to 2 Kings 16:9, the prediction was fulfilled in less than a generation; but it is to be noted that LXX. in the passage in Kings omits “Kir.” Tiglath-pileser III states that he took Damascus (in 732), and that he carried a large proportion of its inhabitants into exile, but the place of exile is omitted. Kir is mentioned again in Isaiah 22:6. Concerning its location opinions vary. It has been identified most commonly with a district of Armenia, near the river Kur, which flows into the Caspian Sea; but this district does not appear to have been a part of Assyria in the days of Tiglath-pileser. At least ten other identifications have been proposed, not one of which can be considered entirely satisfactory.
Amos does not state by whom he expected the judgment to be executed; nevertheless, it is very probable that he was thinking of the Assyrians, the most powerful nation in his day. As a matter of history, after several unsuccessful attempts the Assyrians, under Tiglath-pileser, finally did overthrow the Syrian power in 732, captured Damascus, put to death King Rezin, and carried thousands of its inhabitants into exile.
6-8. The sin and punishment of Philistia.
Three… four See on Amos 1:3.
Gaza The southernmost city of Philistia and splendidly located for trade; about fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem, and three miles from the sea. Being just on the edge of the desert, it became a commercial center, commanding the caravan routes to Syria, to Egypt, and to Arabia. Its present population is said to number about eighteen thousand. Here the city represents the whole of Philistia; it is possible, however, that Gaza was most guilty; its location would naturally make it the center of slave trade with Edom.
The whole captivity R.V., “the whole people”; literally, an entire captivity. The meaning is that they spared neither sex nor age; they took the entire population of the places attacked. The reference is probably not to a national invasion (2 Chronicles 21:16-17), but to raids undertaken for the specific purpose of securing slaves.
Deliver them up to Edom The Edomites probably resold the slaves. The same charge is brought against Tyre (Amos 1:9), and a similar charge against both in Joel 3:4-6. It is not stated here that the communities attacked were Hebrew. On Edom see Amos 1:11.
Fire As in Amos 1:4.
Inhabitant See on Amos 1:5.
Ashdod About twenty-one miles north-northeast of Gaza, about three miles from the seacoast, a strong fortress on the caravan route from Gaza to Joppa. It suffered from an Egyptian siege about 650 B.C., but recovered and was a place of importance at the time of Nehemiah; now a small village called Esdud.
Holdeth the scepter The chief cities of the Philistines each had its own king (see below and on Joel 3:4).
Ashkelon Was located on the seacoast, about halfway between Gaza and Ashdod; it is mentioned on the Tel-el-Amarna tablets (about 1400 B.C.), now an insignificant place called Askelan.
Turn mine hand against As long as God leaves man to himself his hand is said to rest; to turn his hand is to take an active interest in man’s affairs, either to save or to punish (Isaiah 1:25; Zechariah 13:7); here to punish.
Ekron An inland city, about twelve miles northeast of Ashdod, and nearer to the territory of Judah than any of the other cities; it was the seat of an oracle (2 Kings 1:2), but otherwise it is of little importance in the Old Testament; now Akir, on the railway from Joppa to Jerusalem.
The remnant All in the districts enumerated who escape the destruction announced and the inhabitants of the parts of Philistia not included in the four districts mentioned. Philistia was divided into five city states, independent in times of peace, usually united in times of war; four of these centers are named here. Why not the fifth, Gath? If it was still prominent in Amos’s day it must be included in the remnant; there certainly was no reason why Amos must mention it by name; and the omission does not prove, as some think, that the city was already destroyed (2 Kings 12:17; see further on Amos 6:2).
The four cities mentioned suffered severely from the Assyrians subsequent to the delivery of this threat. Gaza was attacked by Tiglath-pileser in 734 and was compelled to pay a heavy tribute. Ashdod refused in 711 to pay tribute imposed at an earlier date; in punishment the city was reduced and its inhabitants exiled. In 701 both Ashkelon and Ekron joined in the revolt against Sennacherib and were severely dealt with. However, all four cities seem to have become again more or less powerful; all are named as tributaries to the later Assyrian kings, Esar-haddon and Ashur-banapal (compare Nehemiah 4:7; Nehemiah 13:23-24; Zechariah 9:5-7).
Saith the Lord Jehovah A reiteration, for the sake of emphasis, of the truth that Amos was commissioned by Jehovah to deliver this message. The Lord Jehovah is a favorite expression in Amos and Ezekiel; it is used rarely in the other prophetic books. Lord calls attention to Jehovah’s supremacy. On the authenticity of this oracle see pp. 221f.
9, 10. The sin and punishment of Phoenicia. Tyrus [“Tyre”] The most important of the cities of Phoenicia, representing here the entire nation (see on Joel 3:4; Zechariah 9:2). The crime condemned is similar to that of Philistia.
They delivered up the whole captivity [“people”] See on Amos 1:6. If the last clause of Amos 1:9 is a condemnation of a second crime, independent of the slave trade, it may be correct to say that “the Phoenicians are not charged with taking captives, as are the Philistines (Amos 1:6), but with delivering them, that is, acting as agents for those who actually took them.” However, the last clause of Amos 1:9 may be a circumstantial clause, “without remembering the brotherly covenant.” If so, the two are brought into closer relation, and the crime condemned is most probably the taking and selling of slaves in violation of some sacred agreement.
The brotherly covenant Literally, and margin, “the covenant of brethren.” This is commonly interpreted of the covenant between Solomon and Hiram of Tyre (1 Kings 5:1 ff.; compare Amos 9:13). Against this interpretation Driver urges with some justice, “It is scarcely likely that the crowning offense of Tyre should be forgetfulness of a treaty entered into nearly three hundred years previously.” If the two clauses are connected, the breaking of the covenant and the taking or delivering of slaves sustain some relation to each other; when the slave raids were undertaken the breaking of a covenant was involved. It is nowhere stated that the slaves were Hebrews, or that the covenant was a covenant with Israel. Amos 2:1, makes it certain that Amos’s denunciations were not limited to sins against the chosen nation. Hence it is not unreasonable to suppose that the slaves were taken from other Phoenician or from Canaanitish communities with which the Tyrians sustained treaty relations, the breaking of which constituted the breach of the “brotherly covenant.” Tyre, being a commercial city, would find it advantageous to maintain friendly relations with its neighbors, which might be sealed by treaties, as in the case of Israel. For selfish purposes these sacred treaties were broken, and this treachery called forth the severe denunciation of the prophet. It is mere assumption to say that the covenant between Hiram and Solomon “had an especial provision against selling them (that is, captured Jews) away from their own land.”
Other prophets agree with Amos in foretelling the doom of Tyre (Isaiah 23:0; Jeremiah 25:22; Ezekiel 26-28; Joel 3:4; Zechariah 9:3-4); but it was a long time before the ruin of Tyre was accomplished. The Tyrian policy, to purchase peace by the payment of heavy tribute rather than to encounter the Assyrian armies, postponed the disaster for centuries. This policy had its origin even before the time of Amos. Ashur-nasir-pal of Assyria (885-860) received tribute from Tyre and other Phoenician cities. Shalmaneser II (in 842, 839) and Tiglath-pileser III (in 734) also received tribute. Shalmaneser IV is said to have attacked the city; he was defeated on sea and a siege from the land side, after having been maintained for five years, had to be raised. Sennacherib and Esar-haddon appear to have been no more successful; but in 664 Ashur-banapal took the city by storm. It soon regained its prestige, and at a later time Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city; the siege continued for thirteen years, and its outcome is in doubt (Ezekiel 29:18). The heaviest blow fell in 332, when, after a siege of seven months, the city fell before Alexander the Great. In the taking of the city six thousand are said to have perished by the sword, two thousand to have been crucified, and thirty thousand women, children, and slaves to have been sold. It recovered rapidly and played an important role until 1291 A.D., when it fell permanently into the hands of the Saracens. Now its site is covered by an insignificant Arab village. “After having been the mother of colonies and the mistress of the seas, bearing her merchandise into otherwise unvisited lands and adjusting the supply and demand of the world, Tyre is now content, at the close of her career, to be a stagnant village in stagnant Turkey.” On the authenticity of this oracle see pp. 220ff.
11, 12. The sin and punishment of Edom.
Edom The Edomite territory was located south and southeast of the Dead Sea and east of the Arabah, the deep depression connecting the southern end of the Dead Sea with the Gulf of Akabah (see on Amos 6:14). During the exile the Edomites (Idumaeans) crossed this depression and settled in southern Judah. Edom was not as fertile as Palestine or Moab, though it is described as possessing, in the days of Moses, fields, vineyards, wells, and a highway (Numbers 20:17-19). With the exception of a few places the land was not suitable for agriculture, and it yielded scarcely enough for the keeping of flocks. As a result the Edomites became desert robbers, forcing a living from the caravans passing through their territory and from the neighboring more fertile regions. They were the dread of the Hebrews during the desert wanderings (Numbers 20:14 ff.) and during a large part of their national history.
His brother Israel (see on Obadiah 1:10).
Pursue… with the sword An apt characterization of the relation between Israel and Edom throughout their entire history (Numbers 20:0; Obadiah 1:10-14; Psalms 137:7; compare Joel 3:19; Malachi 1:2-5). This hostility merited the greater condemnation because the two nations were related so intimately. It is not necessary to suppose that the prophet had in mind any specific outbreak, though analogy with the other denunciations would point in that direction. A revolt against Judah is mentioned in 2 Kings 8:20-22; but others, unrecorded in the Old Testament, may have been undertaken against Israel.
Cast off all pity Margin, “corrupted his compassions.” Other translations are unnatural and need not be mentioned. Corrupt is used in the sense of suppress, or stifle, the natural instinct of compassion which may be expected to exist between brothers.
His anger did tear perpetually Or, in his anger he did tear perpetually; that is, his anger did not exhaust itself in one outbreak (Job 16:9; Psalms 7:2). Peshitto and Vulgate favor an emendation which gives a smoother parallelism, and is accepted by most modern scholars, “and he cherished his anger perpetually” (Jeremiah 3:5; compare Nahum 1:2; Psalms 103:9).
Kept his wrath forever Time was not allowed to dissipate it; carefully it was nursed. Such conduct calls for judgment.
Teman Mentioned again in Jeremiah 49:7; Obadiah 1:9; Job 2:11, etc. According to Eusebius and Jerome, Teman was a district of Edom, but also a village about fifteen miles from the capital, Petra. The direction from Petra is not certain; in Ezekiel 25:13, however, it is mentioned as being in the opposite direction from Dedan; the latter was in the southeast; Teman, therefore, must have been in the northwest or north or northeast. Since no walls are mentioned (compare Amos 1:7; Amos 1:10; Amos 1:14, etc.), it is thought that the reference here is to the district.
Bozrah Named again in Genesis 36:33; Jeremiah 49:13, etc.; not the city bearing the same name mentioned in Jeremiah 48:24. It is identified with the modern el-Busaireh, a small village surrounded by extensive ruins, about thirty-five miles north of Petra and about twenty miles southeast of the Dead Sea. The capital of Edom in Amos’s day was Sela, the later Petra (see on Obadiah 1:3).
The fulfillment of this oracle also may be traced in part in the later history of Edom. With other states in western Asia, Edom paid homage to Tiglath-pileser III, after having paid tribute to an earlier king, Adad-nirari III (about 800 B.C.). Of later kings Sennacherib, Esar-haddon, and Ashur-banapal enumerate the Edomites among their vassals; evidently they were never able, though they made frequent attempts, to free themselves from the Assyrians, while the prestige of the latter endured. Edom became a part of Nebuchadnezzar’s domain (Jeremiah 27:3-4). During the exile the Edomites crossed the Arabah and settled in southern Judah. At the time of Malachi Edom seems to have been desolate (Amos 1:3-4); and toward the close of the fourth century B.C. Arabian tribes established themselves permanently in the territory of Edom. After the Mohammedan conquests the Edomite cities disappeared entirely. On the authenticity of this oracle see pp. 220ff.
13-15. The sin and punishment of Ammon.
Children of Ammon Ammonites (compare “Children of Israel” Israelites). The Ammonites, like the Moabites and Edomites, were closely related to the Hebrews. Their territory was east of the Jordan, north-northeast of Moab. The more desirable districts along the river were occupied in the earlier days by the Amorites and later by the Hebrews; as a result the Ammonites had to be content with the less desirable districts bordering on the desert. Consequently they were dependent upon their flocks, and never passed over entirely to an agricultural life. They possessed few large cities, and as a people they stood midway between the wandering Arab tribes of the desert and the settled agricultural peoples of Palestine.
Gilead Immediately west of Ammon (see on Amos 1:3).
Ripped up the women with child The Ammonites came frequently into hostile contact with the Hebrews (Judges 11:32; 1 Samuel 11:11; 2 Samuel 12:31). After the division Ammon became tributary to Israel, but remained so only a little while. To the very end it manifested a spirit of hostility (2 Kings 24:2; Jeremiah 40:14; Nehemiah 2:10). From the definiteness of the accusation it may be inferred that the prophet has in mind a particular event, though it is impossible to identify it with certainty; some connect it with the invasion of Israel by Hazael (2 Kings 13:3; compare Amos 8:12). That the Ammonites were capable of the most inhuman practices is seen from 1 Samuel 11:2. The special form of cruelty condemned was not unknown in ancient times, even in Israel (2 Kings 15:16; Hosea 13:6; compare Nahum 3:10; Isaiah 13:16). It is frequently spoken of in Arabic literature in connection with inter-tribal border warfare.
Enlarge their border The cruelties could not be excused on the ground of self-defense; they were practiced in the pursuit of a policy of conquest.
Kindle In all the other passages “send.”
Rabbah The capital of Ammon (Ezekiel 25:5; Deuteronomy 3:11), and the only city of the Ammonites mentioned in the Old Testament. It is situated at the head of the Jabbok, about twenty-five miles northeast of the Dead Sea. By Ptolemy Philadelphus (about 250 B.C.) its name was changed to Philadelphia; its ruins now bear the name Amman.
Shouting Not the cry of despair of the defeated Ammonites, but the joyful shouts of the victorious conquerors (Joshua 6:5; Jeremiah 4:19, etc.).
Tempest… whirlwind A figurative description of the onward sweep of the hostile armies; nothing can withstand. King and princes will be carried into exile.
Their king… his princes On the latter see Hosea 3:4. The reading “his princes,” analogy with the other oracles (Amos 2:3), the absence of all reference to idolatry in the preceding denunciations, and the LXX. and Targum favor the present Hebrew reading, “their king”; on the other hand, in Jeremiah 49:3, which seems to be dependent upon this passage, Vulgate and Peshitto read in the place of “their king,” “Milcom,” which is the name of the national deity of Ammon (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:33). If the same reading is adopted here, as is done by some, his princes becomes equivalent to his (Milcom’s) priests. In Jeremiah, where “his priests” is added, Milcom (R.V., “Malcam”) is probably correct; here the present Hebrew text is preferable.
The later history of Ammon is shrouded in obscurity; hence it is not easy to trace the fulfillment of this oracle. From the time of Tiglath-pileser III the Ammonites are mentioned in inscriptions as paying tribute to the Assyrian kings. Jeremiah prophesied against them (Jeremiah 49:1-6; compare also Ezekiel 25:1-7). In the time of Nehemiah they were still hostile to the Jews (Nehemiah 2:19); and even at a later period they are spoken of as enemies of the Jews ( 1Ma 5:30-43 ). Justin Martyr speaks of them as still numerous, but Origen states that they had become merged into the Arab tribes.