The Ammonite Oracle
Amos 1:13 says,
13 Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of the sons of Ammon and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they ripped open the pregnant women of Gilead in order to enlarge their borders.”
The nation of Ammon, after whom the modern city of Amman, Jordan was named, was descended from the son of Lot named Ammon. When God rained fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot escaped the destruction at the last minute. Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled first to Zoar, but when Zoar too was in danger of being destroyed, they fled further up the mountain to a cave (Gen. 19:30).
Looking out over the land, it appeared to them that the whole world had been destroyed by fire, and that they were the only survivors. Lot’s two daughters were afraid that they would never be able to get married and have children. So they decided to have children by their father, Lot.
But to do so, they had to give Lot plenty of wine to drink, for otherwise, he probably would not have agreed to this plan. Their plot worked, and soon both daughters were pregnant. One gave birth to Moab, “of father,” and the other gave birth to Ammon, “son of relative or kindred.” In both cases, their names testified of their incestuous beginnings.
We do not know for sure what war against Gilead that Amos was referencing. Most likely Ammon allied with Hazael of Syria in making war on Israel and that Syria (as the stronger party) got all the credit for the war. Amos says that the war was fought “to enlarge their borders,” which was the usual reason that nations fought each other in those days.
Elisha had prophesied earlier to Hazael himself in 2 Kings 8:12,
12 I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel; their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up.
In the next verse, Hazael responded with some indignation, saying, “But what is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” This may indicate that he was not such a cruel king. Those acts of cruelty may, in fact, have been done by his allies from Ammon. The actual fulfillment of this war was recorded two chapters later in 2 Kings 10:32, 33,
32 In those days the Lord began to cut off portions from Israel; and Hazael defeated them throughout the territory of Israel; 33 from the Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites and the Reubenites and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of the Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan.
Ammon itself is not mentioned in that passage, but it is likely that they were allied with Hazael of Syria. Seeing that Hazael himself was quite indignant that Elisha would attribute such cruelty in his prophecy, it is also likely that the Ammonites were the ones who actually did this atrocity. Elisha attributed this atrocity to Syria, which led the war, but after its actual fulfillment, Amos was more specific in attributing it to Ammon.
So Amos says in Amos 1:14, 15,
14 “So I will kindle a fire on the wall of Rabbah, and it will consume her citadels amid war cries on the day of battle and a storm on the day of tempest. 15 Their king will go into exile, he and his princes together,” says the Lord.
Rabbah was the capital of the Ammonites, and this judgment was fulfilled when the Assyrians invaded the Israelite tribes on the other side of the Jordan River. History shows that Tiglath-Pileser (745-727 B.C.), known in Scripture as King Pul (2 Kings 15:19), conquered and deported the Israelite tribes living there, as well as the Ammonites.