Amos, Missionary to Israel, Part 3
Issue No. 351
Amos 1:9, 10 prophesies against Tyre, saying,
9 Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of Tyre and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they delivered up an entire population to Edom and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood. 10 So I will send fire upon the wall of Tyre, and it will consume her citadels.”
The cause for divine judgment is the same as we saw earlier with Gaza, the Philistine city (Amos 1:6). Just as Gaza had engaged in slave traffic in the south, so also Tyre had engaged in slave traffic in the north of Israel. In both cases, Amos implies that they had sold many Israelites into slavery—in fact, entire populations of towns or cities.
Scripture does not record these conquests, but it is certain that they were common in those days. According to biblical law, slavery was only allowed in payment of debt or as a divine judgment. Even then, God imposed some basic rules and limitations on slavery. It is clear that court-mandated slavery was not to be a permanent condition, unless it was by the uncoerced consent of the slave.
But in those days (and even today), fleshly-minded nations sought to enrich themselves at the expense of others. For this reason, they often raided towns and nations, stealing wealth and enslaving whole populations. What seemed right to them was a matter of severe condemnation from the God of Israel. It is clear that God held those nations accountable to His law, even though they were largely ignorant of His law. Being a non-Israelite was no excuse.
The Covenant of Brotherhood
Amos 1:9 says also that Tyre “did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.” Was there a covenant between Israel and Tyre? Yes, for it was made between Solomon and Hiram of Tyre. 1 Kings 5:12 says,
12 And the Lord gave wisdom to Solomon, just as He promised him; and there was peace between Hiram and Solomon, and the two of them made a covenant.
Amos 1:9 calls it “a covenant of brotherhood,” or a covenant of brethren. In other words, the two nations were to treat each other as brothers by not seeking to enslave each other. Other than that, we are given no details. Later, after Solomon gave Hiram a few cities in Galilee as payment for the building projects, Hiram thought that these cities were largely worthless. So we read in 1 Kings 9:13,
13 And he said, “What are these cities which you have given me, my brother?” So they were called the land of Cabul to this day.
Cabul means “binding,” in the sense of being limited or sterile. The word is related to kevel, “fetters.” So the land that Solomon gave to Hiram was quite unproductive. So Hiram calls Solomon “my brother,” as if to remind him that this is not the way a brother ought to be treated. After all, Hiram had been David’s friend as well. In fact, his carpenters and stonemasons had built David’s house (2 Sam. 5:11). So Hiram had been a long-time friend of Israel.
Solomon’s stinginess seems to have undermined the good will that Hiram felt toward Solomon, and this may have been one of the reasons that later kings of Tyre felt justified in enslaving Israelites living in the northern part of Israel. Whatever the case, the king of Tyre broke the covenant of brotherhood with Israel.
Solomon used “forced laborers” in the construction of the temple (1 Kings 5:13), overseen by Adoniram (1 Kings 5:14). Hiram himself also sent his “servants” (1 Kings 5:9) to help with the building project. Each had their own slaves, but neither enslaved the other at that time.
We are not told the circumstances of Solomon’s “forced laborers.” Were they enslaved lawfully or unlawfully? If Solomon was truly wise in those days, it seems likely that he would have used lawful slaves, those who had sold themselves to pay debts, or who had been sold by the law into slavery to pay restitution for a sin-debt.
The Destruction of Tyre
The prophecy against Tyre was fulfilled when King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city after taking the city of Jerusalem. It took thirteen years to take the city, and even then, he was unable to take the island portion of the city that lay just off the coast.
However, Ezekiel, who probably lived to see the destruction of Tyre, prophesied that the city would be razed to the ground (Ezekiel 26:4) and that it would become “a place for the spreading of nets” (Ezekiel 26:5). This did not happen in his day, but 150 years later, when Alexander the Great conquered the island.
Alexander built a causeway from the mainland to the island, using the debris and rubble from the destroyed city on the mainland. His troops literally cast the entire city into the sea, fulfilling Ezekiel 26:4,
4 And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. 5 She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken…
As a prophetic sign, Tyre evolves into a representation of Mystery Babylon, which is also cast into the sea (Rev. 18:21). Both Tyre and Babylon were merchant cities, and they represent prophetically the commerce of our time that is based on the Uniform Commercial Code. This is a set of man-made laws that allow usury, perpetuate debt, and disregard God’s law of Jubilee.
In fact, the modern commercial system of Mystery Babylon has again delivered up an entire population (nearly the whole earth) into the hands of modern Edom, as Amos says. Although the original cities of Tyre and Babylon have long ago faded from importance, the spirit of mammon has continued to this day in new forms of economic and political slavery. For this reason, Amos’ prophecy about Tyre is still relevant to us today. Modern Tyre will soon be destroyed.
The Edomite Prophecy
Amos 1:11, 12 says,
11 Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword, while he stifled his compassion; his anger also tore continually, and he maintained his fury forever. 12 So I will send fire upon Teman, and it will consume the citadels of Bozrah.”
Edom, “red,” was Esau’s nickname (Gen. 36:1). The feud between Jacob and Esau began with the dispute over the birthright. Both brothers were at fault, but in the end Jacob paid restitution for his sin against his brother. Yet the feud never ended, because Esau did not have a heart of forgiveness, nor did he ever accept the fact that God always intended for Jacob to have the birthright (Gen. 25:32).
The main problem was that Jacob obtained the birthright in an unlawful manner—by lying to his father in a clear case of identity theft (Gen. 27:21-24). That sin, of course, had to be judged before the birthright could truly be fulfilled in the earth. The long and sordid history of that judicial process is discussed fully in my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.
After Moses brought Israel out of Egypt, they spent 40 years in the wilderness. Then when the time approached for Israel to enter the land of Canaan, God told them to enter the land through the east side just north of the Dead Sea. But to get there, Israel had to pass through the land of Edom.
Israel sent messengers to ask for safe passage through Edom, but the Edomites responded harshly and sent troops. We read in Numbers 20:18-21,
18 Edom, however, said to him, “You shall not pass through us, lest I come out with the sword against you.” 19 Again, the sons of Israel said to him, “We shall go by the highway, and if I and my livestock do drink any of your water, then I will pay its price. Let me only pass through on my feet, nothing else. 20 But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against him with a heavy force, and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.
This was not a “brotherly” way to act.
Yet Israel was instructed in the law to treat Edomites as brothers. Deut. 23:7 says,
7 You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land.
This command to Israelites also applied to Edomites in their treatment of Israelites. The law is impartial in its judgments. Hence, the prophecy in Amos 1:11 condemns Edom for its perpetual hatred for Jacob. The solution, of course, is for Edomites to have a change of heart and to repent of their evil doings.
In other words, Edomites, like all nations, are required to be begotten by the Spirit of God, so that they can receive a new nature and receive a new identity in Christ. But as long as they identify themselves with their fleshly forefathers and maintain their fleshly claim upon the birthright, they will continue to slide toward judgment.
The Ammon Prophecy
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 Amman, Jordan was named, were descendants of 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 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 would not have agreed to this plan. Their plot worked, however, 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 to their incestuous beginnings.
We do not know for sure what war 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.
This war took place later, as recorded in 2 Kings 10:32, 33. Ammon is not mentioned, but it is likely that they fought 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. As allies of Syria, Elisha attributed this atrocity to Syria, 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 Ammon.
The Moab Prophecy
Amos 2:1 says,
1 Thus says the Lord, “For three transgressions and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime. 2 So I will send fire upon Moab, and it will consume the citadels of Kerioth; and Moab will die amid tumult, with war cries and the sound of a trumpet. 3 I will also cut off the judge from her midst, and slay all her princes with him,” says the Lord.
Nations fought each other all the time, and most of the time they violated the laws of war (Deut. 20). There is no specific law against burning the bones of an opposing king, but God took offense when Moab did this to the Edomite king to dishonor him and erase his memory from history.
This reveals first that not all laws of war are written down in Scripture. Second, it reveals that God intended to hold Moab accountable for violating His laws of war. Ammon was cruel, but Moab sought to disgrace its opponent. Both actions brought rebuke from Amos and from God Himself.
The Wycliffe Bible Commentary adds,
“The Targum [Jewish translation and explanation] indicates that the king of Moab used the powder to plaster his house.”
If this is what happened, then perhaps God’s anger was directed more at this particular excess. So even as Moab used fire to burn the bones of the king of Edom, so also God said He would “send fire upon Moab” to consume their citadels—including the king’s house that had been plastered with the ashes or dust of the king of Edom.
The law of Illegitimate Birth
Moab and Ammon were born of incest from Lot and his two daughters. From this incestual beginning came two nations named for their original progenitor by whose name they are known. According to the law in Deut. 23:2, 3,
2 No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the Lord; none of his descendants even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly [kahal] of the Lord. 3 No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly [kahal] of the Lord; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly [kahal] of the Lord.
This was not a permanent ban, but should be viewed as a curse upon the nation that lasted ten generations. Of course, such generational curses can be reversed by claiming the blood of Christ for cleansing. I suspect that many people today are descended from illegitimate sons whose circumstances of birth are long forgotten.
Yet I do not want to give the impression that their situation is hopeless or that they must await the tenth generation to become part of the assembly (church). The Hebrew word kahal is the equivalent of the Greek word ekklesia, usually translated “church.”
The Story of Ruth, the Moabitess
The story of Ruth is pertinent here, because she was from Moab, who was born of incest and therefore illegitimately according to biblical law. It appears that Ruth was the tenth generation from the son of Lot named Moab. Hence, it is significant that she would come to Judah and essentially “enter the assembly of the Lord.”
To calculate the generations of Ruth from Moab, we have to compare her with other generations which are recorded in Scripture. Moab was the son of Lot, who was a contemporary of Abraham. The Bible counts generations in its genealogical tables: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah. Hence Judah was the third generation from Abraham. Judah too was involved in a form of incest with Tamar, his daughter-in-law (Gen. 38).
Like Moab, Judah too came under a ten-generation curse, but his began three generations later. As a result of his actions, Judah’s calling to provide Israel with a king could not be fulfilled until his tenth generation. David was the tenth generation, and he was crowned king.
But we see also that Ruth the Moabitess married Boaz, the seventh in the lineage from Judah. She herself was the tenth from Moab, but she married Boaz, the seventh in the line of Judah. Judah still had to swait three more generations before the king could come to the throne.
Hence, if the generations of Ruth were about the same length as the generations of Judah, we can assume that Ruth was the tenth generation from Moab, even as David was the tenth from Judah.
Ruth’s Identity Change
I believe that Ruth was a biblical example to show us how this law applies not only historically but prophetically as well. The law in Deut. 23:2, 3 was not meant to ban all those of illegitimate birth from being part of the church, but to show how one man’s actions can affect generations of his descendants.
As for Ruth herself, God sent a famine in the land of Judah so that Naomi would be driven to Moab. There her son would marry Ruth. Ruth later changed her identity from Moabite to Israelite. In Ruth 1:16 she says, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God,” foreshadowing the greater truth of the New Covenant change of identity from being children of flesh to the children of God.
It also shows that being a child of Abraham or being an Israelite is not a matter of race or genealogy, but of faith. By faith Ruth joined “the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). From then on, she and her children were Israelites that enjoyed all the rights and privileges of citizenship.
This example also shows that when the prophets speak against nations as a whole, it does not mean that individuals within that nation are doomed. Everyone has opportunity to change his/her citizenship. Paul says in Phil. 3:20,
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Again, Paul says in Col. 1:13,
13 For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son.