by Francis Foulkes ©


'Thus says the Lord: "For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because he pursued his brother with the sword, cast off all pity and his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath for ever. So I will send a fire upon Teman, and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah. Thus says the Lord 'For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have ripped up women with child in Gilead, that hey might enlarge their border. So I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah, and it shall devour her strongholds, with shouting in the day of battle with tempest in the day of the whirlwind; and their king shall go into exile, he and his princes together," says the Lord. Thus says the Lord; "For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom. So I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth, and Moab shall die amid uproar, amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet; I will cut off the ruler from its midst, and will slay all it's princes with him," says the Lord' (1:11-2: 3)

We have, seen that the Edomites were descended from Esau the brother of Jacob who was an ancestor of Israel, and they lived to the south-east of Israel. Just north of them were the Moabites and north of them again were the Ammonites. Genesis 19:37-38 speaks of Moab and Ammon as sons of Lot, who was the nephew of Abraham. So they were related to Israel, as Semitic people, but they were not under the special covenant and law that Israel had, going back to the times of Abraham and Moses. In fact they had often been bitter enemies of Israel. But with these people, as with Syria and the Philistines and the Phoenicians, their sins which the prophet spoke against as under God's judgment, were sins against the laws that they knew in their hearts. They were the sins of burning hatred, of terrible cruelty, and of fierce insult and abuse.

a. The hatred of Edom

Right back in the old days Jacob deceived Esau and Esau was filled with hatred towards Jacob and determined to kill him (Genesis 27:41). In the years and centuries that followed there may have been many ways in which Jacob's people, Israel offended against Esau's people, Edom; but Edom's sin was in refusing to forgive Israel. When we live and work side by side with others, whether nations or individuals, we often wrong one another. If we wish to continue to live together in peace and co-operation we must forgive and accept forgiveness. The Edomites refused to forgive. They kept on pursuing Israel. They refused to have pity and 'let their anger go on and on. That kind of anger and bitterness burns up and destroys the angry and bitter person himself more than it harms anyone else. Such anger is under God's judgment too, because when we are continually angry about the wrong doings of others, we refuse to see our own. We forget the ways that we sin against God, and the ways that we wrong others. In God's judgment on Edom there would be the fire of enemy invasion. It would come on Teman in the north and also on Bozrah, Edom's great city 30 miles from the Dead Sea, and its 'strongholds'. And it did. The lasting lesson from Edom, the lesson that both the Old and the New Testaments teach us, is that only the forgiving can find forgiveness and can enjoy peace and true security.

b. The cruelty of Ammon

The sin of Ammon was barbaric cruelty (1 Samuel 11:1-2 gives us an example of this). They had no pity on anyone, man, woman or child. They had dealt savagely with those who more than others deserve tenderness and care, pregnant women and unborn children; and what they did was not even in war in a just cause, but simply to 'enlarge their border', to add to the land that they held. They wanted so much to increase their power and possessions, that they no longer cared about human life nor did they worry about the suffering that they caused. Many wars have been fought for no greater purpose, and with the same cruelty. In peace time also, for the sake of power in politics or gain in trade, many have caused great and cruel suffering to others.

Sometimes those who have fought cruelly to 'enlarge their border', have enlarged it for a little while; and those who have taken advantage of others in peace to increase their power or wealth have gained power or wealth for a little while. Then like Ammon, they have had to answer to God and have come under His judgment. The message of God's word concerning Ammon was that they too would suffer 'the fire' of enemy invasion. The 'strongholds' of Rabbah, their chief city, would be destroyed. Their power would be lost completely. As they had come like a tempest on others, so they would be overwhelmed. As they had caused others to suffer, they would suffer their king and princes who had been so powerful would be slaves to another nation and would go into exile. And they did, when the Assyrians came against them.

c. The insult and abuse of Moab

Among Semitic peoples, like Israel and Judah, Moab and Ammon, the dead were buried; they were only burned under extreme circumstances as in the time of plague to do anything to the dead body the greatest possible insult and abuse To harm his body was like pursuing him and causing him trouble even beyond death. It is clear to us in Christ that we cannot harm a person who has died by desecrating his lifeless body in those times people's thought and understanding was different. It is the intention and purpose of the Moabites that is rebuked. They wanted to bring such insult and abuse on Edom, and so 'they burned to lime' (that is to ash' -New English Bible) 'the bones of the King of Edom' whom they had taken in war (2 Kings 3 - may tell of the time of warfare between Moab and Edom when this happened). Again the word of the Lord through Amos was that such sin would not go unpunished they had used fire to insult Edom. The fire of enemy invasion would come on their land, and the 'strongholds' of Kerioth, their capital, would be destroyed. They had fought with bitterness against others. The bitterness and horror of war, with all its 'uproar', would come on them. They had insulted the king of Edom. So their ruler would be cut off, all their princes put to death and their land left without a leader. In fact it was not long before judgement came. God used the Assyrians, whom Isaiah (10:5) called the 'rod of God's anger'. They were the means by which His judgments came on other nations; and He used them to bring Moab, as well as Edom and Ammon, to the ground. In these three sections we see the sins, not of individuals but of nations. We can easily see the sins of various nations of the world today, sins of selfishness, godlessness, racism. We should also try to see what are the particular weaknesses of our people, our tribe, our family, and turn from them. Then we will realise how we need to look for ways in which not only we ourselves individually but the life of our family and our nation may be made strong and pure and true.


Lord, help us to be able to see our individual lives and our national life as others see us, and even more as You see us. May we use the gifts and opportunities. You have given us, and turn from everything that spoils our lives so that through us Christ may be exalted, for His great Name's sake. AMEN.

For further thought and study. 1. What is the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ on the results of a person's unwillingness to forgive others? See especially Matthew 6:12, 15, 18:21-35. What does the apostle Paul say about the right and wrong place of anger in Ephesians 4:26-27?

2. How do you think that people of other countries see the strengths and weaknesses of your nation? What can Christians do, individually or together, that will affect the life of their country for good? How should we speak out against sins that we see in our own nation or in other nations?

Notes. 1. We read of the Edomites and their relationships with Israel in Numbers 20:14-21, 1 Samuel 14:47, 2 Samuel 8:13-14, 1 Kings 11:14-25, 2 Kings 3, 8:16-22, 14:1-7, 2 Chronicles 28:16-17 and Psalm 137. Prophecies concerning Edom are found in Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14, Joel 3:19 and the little book of Obadiah. Because of the great hostility of Edom to the Jews after the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. some have thought that this prophecy concerning Edom that we have found in the book of Amos was written in the spirit of Amos, to make the prophet's message apply to a later situation. This could be true, but we know so little of the relations between Israel and Edom in the days of Amos that we cannot say that it would not apply then.

2.For other references to Ammon and its relationships with Israel, see Deuteronomy 23:3-6, Judges 3:12-14, 10:6-11:33, 1 Samuel 11, 2 Samuel 8:11-12, 10:1-19. 12:26-31, 2 Chronicles 20, 26:8, 27:5. For prophecies concerning Ammon, see Jeremiah 49:1-6, Ezekiel 21:28-32, 25:1-7 and Zephaniah 2:8-11.

3.We read of Moab in Number 22:1-25:9, Judges 3:12-30, the book of Ruth, 1 Samuel 22:3-4, 2 Samuel 8:2, 2 Kings 1:1, 3:4-27 and 13:20; and for prophecies concerning Moab see Isaiah 15-16, Jeremiah 48, Ezekiel 25:8-11, Daniel 11:41 and Zephaniah 2:8-11.