Amos, Part 3 - Christogenea on Talkshoe 02-15-2013

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The opening remarks to this program are not directly related to the subject matter, and are therefore published at the Christogenea Forum

The Prophecy of Amos, Part 3 - Christogenea on Talkshoe 2-15-2013

The prophecy of Amos begins with oracles against both Israel and Judah, and also against the Edomites, Syrians, Moabites and Ammonites and certain of their cities. We have already discussed the fates of many of these places, and presented much of what can be seen of the contemporary history of these places from ancient Assyrian inscriptions. This helps to demonstrate that the Biblical account of the history of this period certainly is true, and also to show that these prophecies indeed had the beginning of their fulfillment in the years subsequent to the time of the prophet. Here we shall commence with Amos chapter 2, continuing with the utterances against Moab, continuing with our theme from the last two segments.

Since this second chapter of Amos opens with an oracle against Moab, and the reason given for Moab's punishment was a hideous act performed by Mesha, king of Moab (cf 2 Kings chapter 3), we are going to begin by presenting the famous Moabite Stone. The following text is from Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, James Pritchard, editor, published in 1969 by Princeton University Press, pp. 320-321:

The Moabite Stone

This important inscription was discovered intact in 1868; it was subsequently broken by the Arabs and in 1873 it was taken to the Louvre. The best publication is found in Dussaud, Les monuments palestiniens et judaiques (Musée du Louvre), 1912, pp. 4 - 22, with a magnificent photograph of the stela and a good bibliography. The work of Smend and Socin, Die lnschrift des Königs Mesa von Moab (1886), which was long standard, is not reliable, as was pointed out in detail by Renan and Clermont-­Ganneau; see especially Lidzbarski, Ephemeris, I, pp. 1 - 10. The most recent competent translation is that of Gressmann, AOT, pp. 440 - 42. On the question of the authenticity of the text, which was strangely disputed for a long time (in spite of the fact that no forger of that time could possibly have divined the correct forms of letters in the ninth century B.C.), cf. Albright, JQR, xxxv, 1945, pp. 247 - 250.

For details of translation which depend on recent discoveries see especially Poebel, Das appositionell bestimmte Pronomen (Chicago, 1932), pp. 7 - 11; Albright, BASOR, 89, p. 16. n. 55. There are a number of words which were formerly obscure but which have now been found in other Northwest-Semitic in­scriptions.

The date of the Mesha Stone is roughly fixed by the reference to Mesha, king of Moab, in II Kings 3:4, after 849 B.C. However, since the contents of the stela point to a date toward the end of the king's reign, it seems probable that it should be placed between 840 and 820, perhaps about 830 B.C. in round numbers.

I (am) Mesha, son of Chemosh - [ ... ], king of Moab, the Dibonite - my father (had) reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned after my father, - (who) made this high place for Chemosh in Qarhoh [ ... ] because he saved me from all the kings and caused me to triumph over all my adversaries. As for Omri, (5) king of Israel, he humbled Moab many years (lit., days), for Chemosh was angry at his land. And his son followed him and he also said, "I will humble Moab." In my time he spoke (thus), but I have triumphed over him and over his house, while Israel hath perished for ever! (Now) Omri had occupied the land of Medeba, and (Israel) had dwelt there in his time and half the time of his son (Ahab), forty years; but Chemosh dwelt there in my time.

And I built Baal-meon, making a reservoir in it, and I built (10) Qaryaten. Now the men of Gad had al­ways dwelt in the land of Ataroth, and the king of Israel had built Ataroth for them; but I fought against the town and took it and slew all the people of the town as satiation (intoxication) for Chemosh and Moab. And I brought back from there Arel (or Oriel), its chieftain, dragging him before Chemosh in Kerioth, and I settled there men of Sharon and men of Ma­harith. And Chemosh said to me, "Go, take Nebo from Israel!" (15) So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking it and slaying all, seven thousand men, boys, women, girls and maid-servants, for I had devoted them to destruction for (the god) Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took from there the [ ... ] of Yahweh, dragging them before Chemosh. And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and he dwelt there while he was fighting against me, but Chemosh drove him out before me. And (20) I took from Moab two hundred men, all first class (warriors), and set them against Jahaz and took it in order to attach it to (the district of) Dibon.

It was I (who) built Qarhoh, the wall of the forests and the wall of the citadel; I also built its gates and I built its towers and I built the king's house, and I made both of its reservoirs for water inside the town. And there was no cistern inside the town at Qarhoh, so I said to all the people, "Let each of you make (25) a cistern for himself in his house!" And I cut beams for Qarhoh with Israelite captives. I built Aroer, and I made the highway in the Arnon (valley); I built Beth-bamoth, for it had been destroyed; I built Bezer - for it lay in ruins - with fifty men of Dibon, for all Dibon is (my) loyal dependency.

And I reigned [in peace] over the hundred towns which I had added to the land. And I built (30) [ ... ] Medeba and Beth-diblathen and Beth-baal-meon, and I set there the [ ... ] of the land. And as for Hauronen, there dwelt in it [ . . . . And] Chemosh said to me, "Go down, fight against Hauronen. And I went down [and I fought against the town and I took it], and Chemosh dwelt there in my time ....

The Moabite Stone is with all certainty an authentic discovery, which is but one of many that prove beyond doubt that the ancient kingdoms of the Hebrew Bible indeed existed as the Bible describes them. Of course, some critics would scoff, those who would have us believe that the Bible is nothing but a fairy tale. But when the books of the Bible were first written, the men who wrote and preserved its pages down through time could by no means have known that we would dig such ancient inscriptions out of the ground so many centuries after they had been buried. This inscription, along with many others, verify the historicity of the Bible for us in ways that cannot be honestly disputed.

The Moabites had been subjected to Israel by King David, as it is related in 2 Samuel chapter 8. In the time of King Ahab, in the period of the divided kingdom, Moab was subject to Israel. It is reported in 2 Kings chapter 1 that Moab revolted after the death of Ahab, however there it only says “Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.” The Moabite Stone obviously tells us the extent of that revolt, from the Moabite point of view.

2 Chronicles chapter 20 describes a battle between Jehoshaphat king of Judah and the Moabites, Ammonites and inhabitants of Mount Seir where Judah is victorious. That battle was before Ahaziah was king of Israel (2 Chronicles 20:35), and Joram (Jehoram) followed Ahaziah as king. Therefore the events of 2 Chronicles chapter 20 preceded those of 2 Kings chapter 3 by at least a couple of years, for Ahaziah had a relatively short reign. The events described on the Moabite Stone must have happened around the same time as those described in 2 Chronicles chapter 20, but they are only briefly characterized in 2 Kings chapter 1. Later, in 2 Kings chapter 3, Mesha the king of Moab, the same king of the Moabite Stone, went to battle against Joram (Jehoram) and Jehoshaphat, the kings of Israel and Judah, and an unnamed king of Edom was allied with them.

2 Kings 3:21-27: “21 And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. 22 And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: 23 And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil. 24 And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country. 25 And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it. 26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.”

Note here that the Second Book of Kings states that the king of Moab took and offered only “his son” as a burnt offering. Josephus seems to clarify this passage, where in his interpretation the pronoun “his” in the phrase “his eldest son” indeed refers to the King of Moab:

Antiquities 9:38-43 (9.3.2, in part): 38 But when the Moabites heard that the three kings were coming upon them, and made their approach through the wilderness, the king of Moab gathered his army together presently, and commanded them to pitch their camp upon the mountains, that when the enemies should attempt to enter their country, they might not be concealed from them. 39 But when at the rising of the sun they saw the water in the torrent, for it was not far from the land of Moab, and that it was of the colour of blood, for at such a time the water especially looks red, by the shining of the sun upon it, they formed a false notion of the state of their enemies, as if they had slain one another from thirst; and that the river ran with their blood. 40 However, supposing that this was the case, they desired their king would send them out to spoil their enemies; whereupon, they all went in haste, as to an advantage already gained, and came to the enemy's camp, as supposing them destroyed already; but their hope deceived them; for as their enemies stood around them, some of them were cut to pieces, and others of them were dispersed, and fled to their own country; 41 and when the kings fell into the land of Moab, they overthrew the cities that were in it, and spoiled their fields, and marred them, filling them with stones out of the brooks, and cut down the best of their trees, and stopped up their fountains of water, and overthrew their walls to their foundations; 42 but the king of Moab, when he was pursued, endured a siege, and seeing his city in danger of being overthrown by force, made a sally, and went out with seven hundred men, in order to break through the enemy's camp with his horsemen, on that side where the watch seemed to be kept most negligently; and when, upon trial, he could not get away, for he came upon a place that was carefully watched, he returned into the city, and did a thing that showed despair and the utmost distress; 43 for he took his oldest son, who was to reign after him, and lifting him up upon the wall, that he might be visible to all the enemies, he offered him as a whole burnt offering to God, whom, when the kings saw, they pitied the distress that was the occasion of it, and were so affected, in way of humanity and pity, that they raised the siege, and everyone returned to his own house.

Here is 2 Kings 3:26-27 once again: “26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.”

The account is not provided in Chronicles. Now Josephus may have simply been expounding upon his interpretation of the Scripture which we have at 1 Kings 3:26-27. We shall see that this interpretation seems to disagree with the words of Amos which open this chapter:

KJV Amos 2:1 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:

So did the Moabite King Mesha burn his own son in sacrifice? Or is it possible that the pronoun “his” in 2 Kings 3:27 refers to the king of Edom, and did he burn the son of the king of Edom, captured in battle, he who would have been the king of Edom? In any case, Amos 2:1 certainly seems to be in conflict with the usual interpretations of 2 Kings 3:26-27. The Dead Sea Scrolls fragments of Amos do not shed any light on the topic, and Josephus disagrees with Amos.

While most modern versions, and Brenton's Septuagint English, read part of 2 Kings 3:27 much like the King James Version does, that because of the human sacrifice of the King of Moab “there was great indignation against Israel”, the Septuagint Greek of 2 Kings 3:27 has a word, μετάμελος, which means regret, and not indignation. The Greek says “great regret came upon Israel”. The reading of the Geneva Bible seems to support this, where it says “so that Israel was sore grieved”.

Firstly, it makes no sense that anyone should have indignation against Israel, if Israel was at war with Moab and the king of Moab took it upon himself to do such a horrible thing as to sacrifice his own son. Secondly, neither would it make sense that Israel was grieved at the sight of an enemy destroying itself, no matter the horror of the crime. Human sacrifice was not unheard of at this time, it is spoken of quite often. So the pronoun is misunderstood in 2 Kings 3:27 and “his” refers instead to the king of Edom. Israel would indeed be grieved if such a thing happened to an ally. Next we shall examine as to why.

Why would Israel grieve for the King of Edom? And why would Yahweh care for the king of Edom? Because the king of Edom at the time was an Israelite, and not an Edomite. This time in 2 Kings chapter 3 is still the time of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and under his rule Edom was subject to Judah. Therefore in 1 Kings 22: 47 we read “There was then no king in Edom, a deputy was king.” This appointed deputy sitting as king was the king of 2 Kings chapter 3, who joined under the kings of Judah and Israel to go to war with Moab. It is this appointed king, or his son, on behalf of whom Yahweh takes issue with Moab here in Amos. Now it can be argued whether we could expect the son of the appointed king to maintain the appointment of his father after him. After the death of Jehoshaphat, Edom rebelled against Judah and made a king of their own, which is described in 2 Kings chapter 8.

All of this illustrates the many problems we have understanding the very concise and abbreviated books of the Kings and Chronicles of Israel and Judah which have been left to us. These which we have are not the original records, but are abbreviated copies made at later dates. That is fully evident where throughout these books the perspective changes from the present to the reflective. They are not necessarily wrong, but they are often exceedingly abbreviated. While the Moabite Stone gives an entire account of Moab's earlier rebellion and insurrection against Israel and Judah, the text of 2 Kings chapter 1 recorded those same events with but one line, where it opens with the statement “Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.” This is compensated in a small part in 2 Chronicles chapter 20. So it is here that Amos provides an account of the human sacrifice conducted by the king of Moab that is quite different than the usual interpretation of that event as it is recorded in 2 Kings chapter 3. We may prefer to follow the prophet in this instance.

2 But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet: 3 And I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD.

There were two ancient Biblical cities named Kerioth. The first was in Judah by the border of Edom and is apparently mentioned only in Joshua 15:25. The second is in Moab, and is mentioned here and twice in Jeremiah chapter 48 where that prophet also records an oracle against Moab. So from Jeremiah it is readily apparent that the prophecy of Amos against Kerioth was not fulfilled in the days after the Assyrian invasions. Kerioth is not found today, although there are some assumptions concerning its former location.

From Jeremiah chapter 48:20-25, 40-44: “20 Moab is confounded; for it is broken down: howl and cry; tell ye it in Arnon, that Moab is spoiled, 21 And judgment is come upon the plain country; upon Holon, and upon Jahazah, and upon Mephaath, 22 And upon Dibon, and upon Nebo, and upon Bethdiblathaim, 23 And upon Kiriathaim, and upon Bethgamul, and upon Bethmeon, 24 And upon Kerioth, and upon Bozrah, and upon all the cities of the land of Moab, far or near. 25 The horn of Moab is cut off, and his arm is broken, saith the LORD.... 40 For thus saith the LORD; Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab. 41 Kerioth is taken, and the strong holds are surprised, and the mighty men's hearts in Moab at that day shall be as the heart of a woman in her pangs. 42 And Moab shall be destroyed from being a people, because he hath magnified himself against the LORD. 43 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, shall be upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the LORD. 44 He that fleeth from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that getteth up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for I will bring upon it, even upon Moab, the year of their visitation, saith the LORD.”

Moab was listed as being tributary to the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III, who ruled from 744 to 727 BC., and again to Sargon II, who ruled from 721 to 705 BC (ANET, pp. 282, 287). It was still a tributary in the reigns of Esar-Haddon, from 680 to 669 BC , and Ashurbanipal, from 668 to 633 BC (ANET, pp. 291, 294, 298).

There is a passage in the Septuagint, which is not found in the Masoretic Text, which interpolates 2 Chronicles 36:5 and which relates that Moab was subject to and allied with the Babylonian invaders of Judaea: “Joachim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and his mother's name was Zechora, daughter of Nerias of Rama. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers did. In his days came Nabuchodonosor king of Babylon into the land, and he served him three years, and then revolted from him. And the Lord sent against them the Chaldeans, and plundering parties of Syrians, and plundering parties of the Moabites, and of the children of Ammon, and of Samaria; but after this they departed, according to the word of the Lord by the hand of his servants the prophets. Nevertheless the wrath of the Lord was upon Juda, so that they should be removed from his presence, because of the sins of Manasses in all that he did, and for the innocent blood which Joakim shed, for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; yet the Lord would not utterly destroy them.”

Moab seems to have disappeared as a national identity, but not as an ethnic one, in either the later Babylonian or the early Persian periods. Nehemiah, who as it can be established was governor of Judaea under the Persians until 490 BC, in his book mentions the presence of Ammonites, but Moabites are not mentioned in a contemporary context. Discussing Lot, the ancestor of the Moabites and Ammonites, Josephus says “The former of whom was the father of the Moabites, which is even still a great nation [in the ethnic sense - WRF]; the latter was the father of the Ammonites; and both of them are inhabitants of Coelosyria.” Later Josephus counted the inhabitants of both Gilead and Moab as “Arabians” (Antiquities, 13:374). Discussing the period of Alexander the Great, Josephus again mentions the land of Moab and relates that it is at that time a possession of the King of Arabia (Antiquities, 13:382. 397).

The next part of the prophecy of Amos contains oracles against Judah and Israel. These will be presented at length in the next segment of this presentation. First, I would like to discuss some of the historical evidence of these ancient kingdoms. We have just seen the attestation of the text of the ancient Moabite Stone. In it we see the tribe of Gad mentioned explicitly, and in the same location that the Hebrew Bible places them.

Where the Moabite Stone says “Now the men of Gad had al­ways dwelt in the land of Ataroth, and the king of Israel had built Ataroth for them”, the Biblical Book of Numbers at 32:1-4 states “1 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; 2 The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation, saying, 3 Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon, 4 Even the country which the LORD smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle, and thy servants have cattle:” This same inscription also mentions the Israelite king Omri, as the Assyrian inscriptions also often do.

The Greek historian of the first century BC, Diodorus Siculus, mentioned Moses as a historical figure, and the Exodus as a historical event. He also accounted Moses as a founder of cities (Library of History, 40.3.3-8). He explained that Moses was a law-giver, and compared him to other famous ancient law-givers, such as the Cretan Minos, the Spartan Lycurgus, Zalmoxis of the Getae, the Egyptian Sasychia, and the Persian Zarathustra (Library of History, 1.94.2). Now while he considered some of the laws attributed to Moses to be barbaric [or misanthropic] and even xenophobic [or actually misoxenic, hostile to strangers], he nonetheless fully accepted their historicity (Library of History, 34/35.1.3), and from multiple historical sources of his own.

What is also evident, is that Diodorus Siculus accepted the Exodus account as a significant part in the greater story of the founding of what we would call Western Civilization. Diodorus quoted from the earlier historian Hecataeus of Abdera, the Greek historian and skeptic philosopher of the 4th century BC, who gave a strange account of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt from an ostensibly Egyptian viewpoint, where he says that “the aliens were driven from the country, and the most outstanding and active among them banded together and, as some say, were cast ashore in Greece and certain other regions; their leaders were notable men, chief among them being Danaus and Cadmus. But the greater number were driven into what is now called Judaea ... The colony was headed by a man called Moses, outstanding both for his wisdom and for his courage” (Library of History, 40.3.1-3).

Strabo, another Greek historian, considered Moses to be a historical figure, wrote about him at length, and described him as being a pious and devout founder of a civil society in Judaea, centered around Jerusalem (Geography, 16.2.35-37). Like Diodorus Siculus, Strabo also counted Moses among those of his own list of esteemed prophets, law-givers and philosophers whom he attributed with the beginnings of what we would again call Western Civilization, where he listed him notably among those of the Romans, Greeks, Assyrians, Persians, Getae and others (Geography, 16.2.39).

Surely, the Greeks considering themselves to be a generally quite blond and fair people, neither Diodorus Siculus nor Strabo could have possibly thought of Moses or the people of Judaea or of Mesopotamia to have been brown-skinned aliens, especially since the people of the Exodus (as both Danaus the Egyptian and Cadmus the Phoenician were accounted by Diodorus Siculus) were explicitly esteemed to have been the forebears or even the founders of much of the civilization of the Greeks! Furthermore, regardless of what they thought about the miracles or the religious aspects of the Biblical literature, the great Greek philosophers and historians nevertheless accepted the historicity of the Biblical narrative. One day, we shall indeed shut the mouths of all of our detractors, and as Joseph Goebbels often said, we shall one day grab the jews by the throat and shut their lying mouths.” As Goebbels also said, “One day all of the lies will collapse under their own weight, and the truth will again triumph!”

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