Thus saith the Lord
Lest it should be thought that the words that Amos spoke were his own, and he spake them of himself, this and the following prophecies are prefaced in this manner; and he begins with the nations near to the people of Israel and Judah, who had greatly afflicted them, and for that reason would be punished; which is foretold, to let Israel see that those judgments on them did not come by chance; and lest they should promise themselves impunity from the prosperity of these sinful nations; and to awaken them to a sense of their sin and danger, who might expect the visitation of God for their transgressions; as also to take off all offence at the prophet, who began not with them, but with their enemies: for three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn
away [the punishment] thereof;
Damascus was an ancient city; it was in the times of Abraham, ( Genesis 15:2 ) . It was the "metropolis" of Syria, ( Isaiah 7:8 ) ; and so Pliny calls it, "Damascus of Syria" F21. Of the situation of this place, and the delightfulness of it, (See Gill on Jeremiah 49:25); and of its founder, and the signification of its name, (See Gill on Acts 9:2); to which may be added, that though Justin F23 says it had its name from Damascus, a king of it before Abraham and Israel, whom he also makes kings of it; and Josephus
F24 would have Uz the son of Aram the founder of it, to which Bochart
F25 agrees; yet the Arabic writers ascribe the building of it to others; for the Arabs have a tradition, as Schultens F26 says, that there were Canaanites anciently in Syria; for they talk of Dimashc the son of Canaan, who built the famous city of Damascus, and so it should seem to be called after his name; and Abulpharagius F1 says, that Murkus or Murphus, as others call him, king of Palestine, built the city of Damascus twenty years before the birth of Abraham: from this place many things have their names, which continue with us to this day, as the "damask" rose, and the "damascene" plum, transplanted from the gardens that were about it, for which it was famous; and very probably the invention of the silk and linen called "damasks" owes its rise from hence. It is here put for the whole country of Syria, and the inhabitants of it, for whose numerous transgressions, signified by "three" and "four", the Lord would not turn away his fury from them, justly raised by their sins; or the decree which he had passed in his own mind, and now made a declaration of, he would not revoke; or not inflict the punishment they had deserved, and he had threatened. The sense is, that he would not spare them, or have mercy on them, or defer the execution of punishment any longer; he would not forgive their transgressions. So the Targum,
``I will not pardon them.''De Dieu refers it to the earthquake before mentioned, that God would not turn away that, but cause it to come, as he had foretold, for the transgressions of these, and other nations after spoken of; but rather it refers to Damascus; and so some render it, "I will not turn", or "convert it" F2; to repentance, and so to my mercy; but leave it in its sins, and to my just judgments. Kimchi thinks that this respects four particular seasons, in which Damascus, or the Syrians, evilly treated and distressed the people of Israel; first in the times of Baasha; then in the times of Ahab; a third time in the days of Jehoahaz the son of Jehu; and the fourth in the times of Ahaz; and then they were punished for them all: because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron;
``the inhabitants of the land of Gilead,''as the Targum; this country lay beyond Jordan, and was inhabited by the Reubenites and Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh; who were used in a very cruel manner, by Hazael king of Syria, as was foretold by Elisha, ( 2 Kings 7:12 ) ; not literally, as in ( 2 Samuel 12:31 ) ; but by him they were beat, oppressed, and crushed, as the grain of the threshingfloor; which used to be threshed out by means of a wooden instrument stuck with iron teeth, the top of which was filled with stones to press it down, and so drawn to and fro over the sheaves of corn, by which means it was beaten out, to which the allusion is here; (See Gill on 1 Corinthians 9:9). This was done by Hazael king of Syria, who is said to destroy the people, and make them "like the dust by threshing", ( 2 Kings 10:32 2 Kings 10:33 ) ( 2 Kings 13:3 2 Kings 13:7 ) .
F21 Nat. Hist. l. 36. c. 8.
F23 E Trogo, l. 36. c. 2.
F24 Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 4.
F25 Phaleg. l. 2. c. 8.
F26 Apud Universal History, vol. 2. p. 280.
F1 Hist. Dynast. p. 13.
F2 (wnbyva al) "non convertam eam", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius.