Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron: But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.
— Amos 1:3-4
On arrival in Israel, Amos launches immediately into his prophesy, delivered with a repetitive, pulsating rhythm, coloured with dramatic images of a roaring God devouring homes and palaces. This was probably more akin to street theatre than to a mumbling street-corner evangelist. The Book of Amos may be the most powerfully poetic book of the Old Testament, and Amos maybe the first street rapper. Listen.
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Gaza, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they carried away captive the whole captivity, to deliver them up to Edom: But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof...
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Tyrus, and for four...
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of Edom, and for four...
Thus saith the Lord; For three transgressions of the children of Ammon, and for four...1
Amos's clever device of condemning Israel's neighbouring nations, cutting them down to size one after the other would likely have attracted a cheering crowd excited to hear Israel's enemies being put in their place. He keeps this chant going for Rabbah and Moab, before coming closer to home.
Amos recognises the trait we all have in times of difficulty: self-righteousness—seeking someone else to blame, finding another worse than ourselves to alleviate our own guilt. The more we can get people on our side the more righteous we might become. Amos uses this to draw the crowd to him before delivering the message he is really there to deliver. It's a clever and effective device.
1 Extracts from Amos 1:6-13