Amos, Part 5 - Christogenea on Talkshoe 03-01-2013

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The Prophecy of Amos, Part 5 - Christogenea on Talkshoe 3-1-2013

Over the past four segments of this presentation on the prophecy of Amos, we have discussed the ancient Mesopotamian inscriptions and their evidences of the existence of and the demise of the ancient kingdoms of Damascus, Ammon, Moab, Edom, and then Judah. In the past two segments of this, we also witnessed some of the Greek historical attestations of the founding of the ancient Kingdom of Israel by Moses, as it was recounted by both Strabo the Geographer and Diodorus Siculus. Discussing the oracle of Amos against Judah last week, we saw three ancient witnesses attesting to the facts and circumstances concerning the history of the ancient Kingdom of Judah as they are outlined in the Old Testament. These were the Lachish Ostraca, the Taylor Prism containing the Annals of Sennacherib, and various Babylonian inscriptions attesting to the presence of the household of Jehoiachin the King of Judah in captivity in Babylon. All of these things are more than sufficient proof witnessing to the historicity of the books of the Old Testament. Here we shall see further evidence from ancient inscriptions verifying the truth of the historical circumstances found in the writings of the Bible, and of this prophet.

6 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; 7 That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name: 8 And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god. 9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. 10 Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. 11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD. 12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not. 13 Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves. 14 Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself: 15 Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself. 16 And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.

Later in this presentation we shall discuss the religious and prophetic aspects of this chapter of Amos and the oracles against Judah and Israel. Today, in keeping with the theme of the last four segments of this presentation, we shall examine some of Biblical history in concert with the Assyrian inscriptions attesting to the demise of ancient Israel, which is alluded to by the prophet here.

In this passage from Amos we see reference to the Exodus from Egypt and the destruction of the Amorites before the children of Israel are presented as examples of God's favor for them. The Amorites, called both Martu and Amurru in the ancient inscriptions, were a once-powerful people who dwelt to the west of Babylonia. In some of the earliest known sources, the inscriptions of ancient Sumer which date as far back as the first half of the third millennium BC, which is over 500 years before the time of Abraham, the Martu were the rather nomadic people who occupied the lands to the west of Babylonia, including what we know today as southern Syria, Lebanon and the northern parts of ancient Israel. In an inscription of the Sumerian king Ibbi-Sin they are listed as allies in the Sumerian cause against the Elamites (ANET pp. 480-481), the people who were later known as Persians. The Akkadian name for the Martu was Amurru, and they were the Amorites of Scripture. There are a couple of extant copies, one in Akkadian and one in Hittite, of a treaty between the Amorite king Duppi-Tessub and the Hittite king Mursilis I, who is presumed to have ruled Hatti from circa 1620 to 1590 BC. The treaty contained mutual defense clauses against both the Egyptians and the Hurrians. While Bible students know there were originally ten tribes occupying the land of Canaan, which is evident from Genesis chapter 15, the Amorites certainly must have been the dominant tribe. While Genesis 15 distinguishes some of the tribes of the Canaanites, Genesis chapter 10 indicates that they are indeed to be reckoned with the Canaanites. So it is evident that for many centuries in antiquity, the Martu, or Amurru, were indeed a powerful nation, and that the Bible is indeed accurate concerning the location and the strength of these people. Later, in the Egyptian inscriptions of the 14th and 13th centuries BC, notably those from Pharaoh Seti I and Ramses II, the “land of Amurru” remained the name which was used to describe the former land of the Amorites, including much of the land of Canaan (ANET pp. 254, 256), land which was by that time inhabited by Israelites. In the poetry of ancient Ugarit, which mostly concerns their idols Baal and Anath, there is mention of Amorite crafts where there is a line translated “Gorgeous bowls shaped like small beasts like those of Amurru” (ANET, p. 132).

Joshua chapter 24, Judges chapter 11 and other scriptures describe the displacement of the Amorites by the children of Israel. However like the other Canaanite tribes, the children of Israel failed to obliterate them completely, as they were instructed to do. There were still Amorites which remained even up to the time when the Israelites were deported by the Assyrians. From 2 Chronicles 8:7-8: “7 As for all the people that were left of the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not of Israel, 8 But of their children, who were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel consumed not, them did Solomon make to pay tribute until this day.”

In the later Assyrian inscriptions, those of the era of the Assyrian invasions of Palestine, one can see that the “land of Amurru” is greatly reduced from its former size, which certainly establishes the Biblical assertions that the Israelites had displaced the Amorites and others of the Canaanite tribes which inhabited the land. The Amurru and their land is mentioned in an inscription of Tiglath-pileser I, who presumably ruled Assyria from 1114 to 1076 BC, a time not long before that of Saul and David, where the exact extent of what he considered the “country of Amurru” to be is unclear, however it clearly bordered the Mediterranean Sea (ANET, p. 275). In an inscription of Ashurnasirpal, who ruled from 883 to 859 BC, the Amurru are mentioned in a list of tributaries which included Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Arvad, and other cities which are therefore distinguished from those of the Amorites (ANET, p. 276).

Therefore the Biblical assertion that the children of Israel displaced the Amorites and other tribes of the Canaanites certainly seems to be accurate, even if Assyrian and Egyptian inscriptions concerning the “land of Amurru” dating from the second millennium BC do not distinguish the Amorites who were originally the principal tribe of the land from the Hebrew Israelites who later occupied much of the same land. The Amarna Letters do describe some of the Hebrew invasions of the Levant in the 14th century BC.

The first mention of an Israelite in the Assyrian inscriptions seems to be that of King Ahab, “Ahab the Israelite”, in an inscription of Shalmaneser III, who presumably ruled Assyria from 858 to 824 BC. Ahab was said to have provided ten thousand foot soldiers to a coalition army from mostly Syrian cities which fought against the Assyrians (ANET, p. 279). The account is not in our Scriptures. The earliest concern over the expansion of Assyria which is recorded in Scripture seems to be that of the prophet Jonah, whose ministry was no later than the early years of Jeroboam II, who was the king of Israel from perhaps 793 to 752 BC. This dating of Jonah is established at 2 Kings 14:25, where it says of Jeroboam II that “25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher.” Solomon was said to have first taken Hamath, and to have built cities in it, in 2 Chronicles 8:3-4. Hamath is nearly 120 miles north of Damascus. For the same coalition to which Ahab had contributed soldiers, the Assyrian inscriptions say that the city of Hamath had also contributed ten thousand soldiers. So there is a clearly a struggle between Israel and Assyria for control of the areas to the north of Palestine, which we can determine from the Bible and the inscriptions.

In the Assyrian inscriptions which follow, the name Israel is always Hu-um-ri, or Humria, which should be pronounced in our tongue as Khumri. That the H is actually a Kh is evident in many Assyrian words. For instance elsewhere in the Assyrian inscriptions we see Hilakku for Kilikia (i.e. ANET, p. 284), or as the Biblical Habor river is in modern times spelled Khabur.

From another, much later inscription of Shalmaneser III, we see “The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri (Hu-um-ri); I received from him silver, gold, a golden saplu-bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king, (and) wooden puruhtu” (ANET, p. 281). The Bible does not mention this tribute which Jehu had made to the Assyrians. The same inscription states that Tyre and Sidon were also under tribute to Assyria at this time, during which Assyria was frequently at war with the kings of the various cities of Syria.

In an inscription of Adad-nirari III, who presumably ruled Assyria from 810 to 783 BC, Israel is listed among the states which became tributary to Assyria upon an expedition of this king to Palestine. Here is part of a longer list of tributaries provided in the inscription: “...from the banks of the Euphrates, the country of the Hittites, Amurru-country in it full extent, Tyre, Sidon, Israel (Hu-um-ri), Edom, Palestine (Pa-la-as-tu), as far as the shore of the Great Sea of the Setting Sun, I made them all submit to my feet, imposing upon them tribute” (ANET, p. 281) Neither is this tribute, which was probably in the reigns of either Jehoash, or early in that of Jeroboam II, explicitly mentioned in our Scriptures. In the time of Jehoahaz, who preceded this Jehoash as king of Israel, it is said in Scripture that Israel was oppressed by the Syrians for his entire reign (2 Kings 13). Damascus was also taken by Adad-nirari III in this same campaign.

From an inscription of Tiglath-pileser III, who ruled Assyria from 744 to 727 BC, translated by D. D. Luckenbill: “...the towns of the Upper Sea, I brought under my rule. Six officers of mine I installed as governors over them. [ … the town of R]ashpuna which is (situated) at the coast of the Upper Sea, [the towns …]nite, Gal'za, Abilakka which are adjacent to Israel (Bît Hu-um-ri-a) [and the] wide (land of) [Naphta]li, in its entire extent, I united with Assyria. Officers of mine I installed as governors upon them.” (ANET, p. 283) Now this inscription is fragmented, and the word Naphtali is assumed because only the end of the word is legible in the inscription. However it may be the only viable reading which fits the context.

What we have just witnessed from Assyrian inscriptions, is that the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III, who ruled from 810 to 783 BC, went on a long military campaign with a great army and subjected under tribute Syria and Israel and all the nations of the Levant. Then over 40 years later, Tiglath-pileser III once again gathered a large army and went out and conquered these same places. We are not told in the surviving inscriptions exactly why they had to be re-subjected to the Assyrians, but it is obvious that such is what had occurred. However we do have the answer in our Bibles. For roughly corresponding with the 40-plus years between these two Assyrian kings is the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel.

Jeroboam II regained all of these lands from the Assyrians and placed them back under the control of Israel. That is why Tiglath-pileser III had to launch a new campaign and regain Assyrian dominion! Here is the Biblical account, from 2 Kings 14:23-29: “23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash king of Judah Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel began to reign in Samaria, and reigned forty and one years. 24 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD: he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the LORD God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gathhepher. 26 For the LORD saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel. 27 And the LORD said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, and all that he did, and his might, how he warred, and how he recovered Damascus, and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, for Israel, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? 29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, even with the kings of Israel; and Zachariah his son reigned in his stead.”

Adad-nirari III conquers the land under a wicked Israelite king, Jeroboam II ascends and recovers it for Israel. A few decades later Tiglath-pileser III launches a new campaign and gets it back for Assyria. Here is the struggle for what was then basically the center of what we may call Western Civilization. The Bible is a history book, even though it is recorded from what may be termed a religious perspective, and there is no doubt about it once it is studied from the proper perspective.

Putting the world in perspective, while all of this is transpiring, the Ionians were conquering the Phoenician cities of Anatolia, and gained hegemony over Miletus and the rest of Caria. Rome, the so-called “eternal city”, is not even on the maps. The traditional founding of Rome is 753 BC, so the city is just now being founded. Where did the Romans come from? They came from Troy, from the east, according to all of their own legends and those of the Greeks. The Trojans in turn were said to have come from the Mediterranean isles. All of Italy was settled from the east, by Minoans, Lydians, Trojans, and Greeks. After Rome was founded, according to Livy, they sent men to Athens to study the laws of Solon, which formed the basis of the first Roman laws. Carthage, according to the reckoning of Josephus from the now-lost chronicles of ancient Tyre, is only about a hundred years old at this time, having been founded about 850 BC. Where did the Carthaginians come from? They came from Tyre, from the east, according to all of the histories of the Levant and of the Greeks. At this time the coasts of Spain and the isles of Britain were known only as Phoenician outposts. The Phocians, who were Ionian Greeks, had not yet founded Marseilles. In 750 BC, the earliest surviving Greek poets had not even begun to write, yet by the time of Herodotus, three hundred years later, Athens would represent the new center of Western Civilization.

Continuing from the same inscription of Tiglath-pileser III: “As to Hanno of Gaza (Ha-a-nu-ú-nu Ha-az-za-at-a-a) who had fled before my army and run away to Egypt, [I conquered] the town of Gaza, … his personal property, his images … [and I placed (?)] (the images of) my [ … gods] and my royal image in his own palace … and declared (them) to be (thenceforward) the gods of their country. I imposed upon th[em tribute]. [As for Menahem I ov]erwhelmed him [like a snowstorm] and he … fled like a bird, alone, [and bowed to my feet (?)]. I returned him to his place [and imposed tribute upon him, to wit:] gold, silver, linen, garments with multicolored trimmings, … great … [I re]eived from him. Israel (literally: “Omri-land” Bît Humria) … all its inhabitants (and) their possessions I led to Assyria. They overthrew their king Pekah (Pa-qa-ha) and I placed Hoshea (A-ú-si-”) as king over them. I received from them 10 talents of gold, 1000(?) talents of silver as their [tri]bute and brought them to Assyria.” (ANET, pp. 283-284)

Here in the annals of Tiglath-pileser III we witness the beginnings of the deportations of the Israelites to the cities of Assyria. The information in this ancient Assyrian inscription concerning Gal'za, Abilakka, and Naphtali, the beginnings of the deportations of the Israelites, and the events surrounding the kings Pekah and Hoshea, is very much in agreement with the account from 2 Kings 15:29-30, albeit from a somewhat different point of view: “29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel came Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and took Ijon, and Abelbethmaachah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naphtali, and carried them captive to Assyria. 30 And Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah.”

Note that this Assyrian inscription also details the custom of an imperial power imposing its own gods on the subjected people which is evident here in this inscription. It is practically the same custom which imperial Rome had later followed, in placing the images of their emperor in the temples of subject peoples, and expecting those peoples to sacrifice to those images. It is the same custom which the medieval Catholic Church began, and which the Protestant churches have continued, in forcing their own corrupted forms of Christianity onto the world's alien peoples. Today, American imperialism also imposes its own gods on the peoples of the world. Therefore they all wear Levi's, eat McDonald's, and enforce laws forbidding anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

From an inscription of Sargon II, who ruled Assyria from 721 to 705 BC: “(Property of Sargon, etc., king of Assyria, etc.) conqueror of Samaria (Sa-mir-i-na) and of the entire (country of) Israel (Bît-Hu-um-ri-a) who despoiled Ashdod (and) Shinuhti, who caught the Greeks who (live on islands) in the sea, like fish, who exterminated Kasku, all Tabali and Cilicia (Hilakku), who chased away Midas (Mi-ta-a) king of Musku, who defeated Musur (Mu-şu-ri) in Rapihu, who declared Hanno, king of Gaza, as booty, who subdued the seven kings of the country Ia', a district in Cyprus (Ia-ad-na-na), (who) dwell (on an island) in the sea, at (a distance of) a seven-day journey.” (ANET, p. 284) Here we see Assyria not only once again conquering the Levant, but also extending its reach into Anatolia. This Midas is not the famous Midas of Greek legend, who was about a hundred years later and the king of Phrygia. Rather, the name seems to have been popular in Anatolia. However the Tabali and Musku can certainly be associated with the Japhethite Tubal and Meshech of Scripture, of Genesis chapter 10 and Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, and they dwelt on the coasts of the Black Sea. Cilicia and Cyprus were at this time populated with Phoenicians.

From another quite fragmented inscription of Sargon II: “At the begi[nning of my royal rule, I … the town of the Sama]rians [I besieged, conquered] (2 lines destroyed) [for the god … who le]t me achieve (this) my triumph.... I led away as prisoners {27,290 inhabitants of it (and) [equipped] from among [them (soldiers to man)] 50 chariots for my royal corps. … [The town I] re[built] better than (it was) before and [settled] therein people from countries which [I] myself [had con]quered. I placed an officer of mine as governor over them and imposed upon them tribute as (is customary) for Assyrian citizens.” (ANET, p. 284)

From yet another inscription witnessing the same events: “I besieged and conquered Samaria (Sa-me-ri-na), led away as booty 27,290 inhabitants of it. I formed from among them a contingent of 50 chariots and made remaining (inhabitants) assume their (social) positions. I installed over them an officer of mine and imposed upon them the tribute of the former king....” (ANET, pp. 284-285)

The primary Biblical record of this event is found in 2 Kings 17:1-6: “1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea the son of Elah to reign in Samaria over Israel nine years. 2 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, but not as the kings of Israel that were before him. 3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, and gave him presents. 4 And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea: for he had sent messengers to So king of Egypt, and brought no present to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year: therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. 5 Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”

That the Assyrians brought in people from other places which they had conquered, and settled them in Samaria, as the inscription states, is attested to at 2 Kings 17:24: “And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof.”

The account in 2 Kings 17 is recapitulated in part at 2 Kings 18:9-12: “ 9 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah king of Israel, that Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. 10 And at the end of three years they took it: even in the sixth year of Hezekiah, that is the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11 And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: 12 Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.”

In 2 Kings the Assyrian king who did these things is called Shalmaneser, while in the Assyrian inscriptions he is Sargon II. This apparent conflict is easily remedied once it is realized that all of these Assyrian kings had multiple names, most of which were merely titles in the Akkadian language, and not the personal given names to which we are accustomed. The use of names such as Darius and Ahasuerus (or Artaxerxes) in other Scriptures and in ancient inscriptions further illustrates this point.

From another inscription of Sargon II, from the first year of his rule as King: “Iamani from Ashdod, afraid of my armed force (literally: weapons), left his wife and children and fled to the frontier of M[usru] which belongs to Meluhha (i.e., Ethiopia) and hid (literally: stayed) there like a thief. I installed an officer of mine as governor over his entire large country and its prosperous inhabitants, (thus) aggrandizing (again) the territory belonging to Asshur, the king of the gods. The terror(-inspiring) glamor of Ashur, my lord, overpowered (however) the king of Meluhha and he threw him (i.e. Iamani) in fetters on hands and feet, and sent him to me, to Assyria. I conquered and sacked the towns of Shinuhtu (and) Samaria, and all Israel (literally: “Omri-land” Bît-Hu-um-ri-ia). I caught, like a fish, the Greek (Ionians) who live (on islands) amidst the Western Sea.” Later in the rule of Sargon, the year after it was first taken and not recorded in the Bible, was another revolt at Samaria which was again put down forcibly by the Assyrians (ANET, p. 285).

From another inscription of Sargon II, from the fifth year of his rule as King of Assyria: “Upon a trust(-inspiring oracle given by) Ashur, I crushed the tribes of Tamud, Ibadidi, Marsimanu, and Haiapa, the Arabs who live, far away, in the desert (and) who know neither overseers nor official(s) and who had not (yet) brought their tribute to any king. I deported their survivors and settled (them) in Samaria.” (ANET, p. 286) It is no wonder that the Judahites who returned from Babylon would later despise the Samaritans. However the Scripture also demonstrates that a significant number of Israelites who managed to escape captivity remained in Samaria, and history attests that a significant number of the people brought into Samaria by the Assyrians were Adamic people from elsewhere in Mesopotamia and adjoining lands. Yet it is clear that there were also many Canaanites and other so-called Arabs, a word which at that time can designate people of mixed tribes regardless of their exact nature, or the word may have been used as a geographical designation as the Romans later used it - for the translator did not specify.

The Assyrian king Esar-haddon, who ruled from 680 to 669 BC, was also often occupied with seditions against the empire in Tyre, Sidon, and the lands of former Israel, and he was still importing aliens into Samaria, and therefore we see at Ezra 4:2 the following: “Then they [meaning certain of the Samaritans] came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.” Of course, the Judahites rejected the proposal and dealt with much political strife on account of it. This occurred in the time of Cambyses the king of Persia.

In one of the inscriptions cited earlier, Sargon II boasted of being the “conqueror of Samaria”. In one of his later inscriptions, he boasted of himself as “... the subduer of the country of Judah which is far away, the uprooter of Hamath, the ruler of which - Iau'bidi - he captured personally” (ANET, p. 287). The next king, a few short years later, was Sennacherib who conquered Judah, and the records insist that he had at least several hundred thousand troops with him when he besieged Jerusalem. Sargon must have considered it no small feat to be “subduer of Judah”, or “uprooter of Hamath”, or “conqueror of Samaria”, as we have seen him boast in his inscriptions cited here. These are large and powerful cities, as we have seen in the Assyrian inscriptions of Shalmaneser III, who ruled Assyria from 858 to 824 BC, that Ahab was able to lend 10,000 foot soldiers to a confederacy which fought against that king, and Hamath also lent 10,000 foot soldiers to that same cause. The Scripture did not even mention Ahab's loan of such a large army to such a cause, and therefore it could not have been considered a significant act. Likewise, Hamath, nearly 120 miles north of Damascus, was a vassal state to Israel for most of the history of Israel, which is evident in several places in Scripture. The tenor of the Assyrian inscriptions certainly helps to prove that Israel was every bit the great nation-state that the Bible purports it to have been. The narrative of the Assyrian inscriptions certainly helps to prove that the Bible is an important and historically accurate book.

Now to briefly discuss the religious reasons for the punishment of Israel and Judah, as they are uttered by Amos. There were, of course, many other reasons illustrated in the books of Hosea, and in Isaiah, and some of the other prophets.

4 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have despised the law of the LORD, and have not kept his commandments, and their lies caused them to err, after the which their fathers have walked: 5 But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.

Judah was primarily chastised here for having despised the law of Yahweh their God and not keeping His commandments. Scriptural evidence of this is found in 2 Chronicles, chapters 34 and 35, where the later reforms of the young king Josiah are described. Unfortunately, Josiah's reforms did not extend past his own reign, and are a classic example of “too little, too late”.

2 Chronicles 34: “1 Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. 2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left. 3 For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images. 4 And they brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he brake in pieces, and made dust of them, and strowed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them. 5 And he burnt the bones of the priests upon their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. 6 And so did he in the cities of Manasseh, and Ephraim, and Simeon, even unto Naphtali, with their mattocks round about. (it is 628 BC, and not all of the children of Israel were deported by the Assyrians, there were certainly a remnant of those who had escaped.) 7 And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem. 8 Now in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he had purged the land, and the house, he sent Shaphan the son of Azaliah, and Maaseiah the governor of the city, and Joah the son of Joahaz the recorder, to repair the house of the LORD his God. 9 And when they came to Hilkiah the high priest, they delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites that kept the doors had gathered of the hand of Manasseh and Ephraim, and of all the remnant of Israel, and of all Judah and Benjamin; and they returned to Jerusalem. 10 And they put it in the hand of the workmen that had the oversight of the house of the LORD, and they gave it to the workmen that wrought in the house of the LORD, to repair and amend the house: 11 Even to the artificers and builders gave they it, to buy hewn stone, and timber for couplings, and to floor the houses which the kings of Judah had destroyed. 12 And the men did the work faithfully: and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites, of the sons of Merari; and Zechariah and Meshullam, of the sons of the Kohathites, to set it forward; and other of the Levites, all that could skill of instruments of musick. (Here it is readily evident just how far into disrepair the ancient Temple of Yahweh had fallen!) 13 Also they were over the bearers of burdens, and were overseers of all that wrought the work in any manner of service: and of the Levites there were scribes, and officers, and porters. 14 And when they brought out the money that was brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found a book of the law of the LORD given by Moses. 15 And Hilkiah answered and said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah delivered the book to Shaphan. 16 And Shaphan carried the book to the king, and brought the king word back again, saying, All that was committed to thy servants, they do it. 17 And they have gathered together the money that was found in the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hand of the overseers, and to the hand of the workmen. 18 Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. 19 And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes. 20 And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king's, saying, 21 Go, enquire of the LORD for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LORD, to do after all that is written in this book. 22 And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college:) and they spake to her to that effect. 23 And she answered them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me, 24 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah: 25 Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched. 26 And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to enquire of the LORD, so shall ye say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel concerning the words which thou hast heard; 27 Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD. 28 Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again. 29 Then the king sent and gathered together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30 And the king went up into the house of the LORD, and all the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests, and the Levites, and all the people, great and small: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant that was found in the house of the LORD. 31 And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. 32 And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33 And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the LORD their God. And all his days they departed not from following the LORD, the God of their fathers.”

So we see that on account of Josiah's reforms, Jerusalem was spared destruction during the time of Josiah only, but that the punishment of Jerusalem uttered by prophets such as Amos would not be curtailed. Much of this promised punishment upon Judah had occurred long before Josiah, when in approximately 701 BC Sennacherib the King of Assyria had taken 46 fenced cities of Judah, destroyed most of them, and deported over 200,000 of their inhabitants to lands far in the north.

However the destruction of Jerusalem, and also - although it is little-discussed by Bible expositors - the destruction of mainland Tyre and some of the others of the remaining cities of the Levant, was not to happen until the rise of the Babylonian empire which had replaced that of the Assyrians, and the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II. Jerusalem was finally destroyed circa 586-585 BC.

6 Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; 7 That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name: 8 And they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god. 9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. 10 Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. 11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD. 12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not. 13 Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves. 14 Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself: 15 Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself. 16 And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.

Although Yahweh their God had led them out of the captivity in Egypt, and had shown them his favor by destroying the ancient nations of Canaan, and specifically that of the Amorites, so that they may have their land, the children of Israel still could not deal justly with their own people.

Here the children of Israel, contrary to Judah, are not really chastised for not keeping Yahweh's laws and commandments. While they had indeed long forsaken those, that was probably inevitable as soon as the original Kingdom of David and Solomon was split into twain. At that time, the king that Yahweh Himself anointed over Israel had commanded the ten northern tribes to forsake the worship at Jerusalem, and he led them off into paganism.

After the death of Solomon and the division of the Kingdom, Rehoboam the son of Solomon sought to prevent it, yet Yahweh commanded him not to prevent it. At that time did Jeroboam, the newly anointed King of Israel, change the worship of the people to paganism. Here is the synopsis, from 2 Kings 12:22-31: “22 But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, 24 Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD. 25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. 26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. 31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.”

While of course the pagan worship was not right in the eyes of God, it was nevertheless inevitable. Yet Israel is chastised here in Amos because “they lay themselves down upon clothes laid to pledge by every altar, and they drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god”, references to the fornication committed in their paganism. They were also chastised for the manner in which they treated their fellows, selling the righteous and the poor into slavery, abandoning brotherly love.

They also gave the Nazarites wine to drink, meaning that those who would be righteous before God, they resented and corrupted, forcing them to comply with the general immorality of the nation. We see those same circumstances throughout the West today, that if one desires to act righteously, he is resented and persecuted by society.

In addition to these things, Amos here chastises the children of Israel because they forbid the prophets from prophesying. That they did not want the prophets to speak the truth and to teach the Word of God. From Isaiah chapter 30, speaking to the children of Israel: “1 Woe to the rebellious children, saith the LORD, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my spirit, that they may add sin to sin ... 8 Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: 10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: 11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. 12 Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: 13 Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.” Today the forbidding of men from speaking the truth is called “political correctness”.

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