Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Threshing People

Sin in full bloom.

Amos 1:3–5 (ESV)

Thus says the LORD:

            “For three transgressions of Damascus,
                        and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
            because they have threshed Gilead
                        with threshing sledges of iron.
            So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael,
                        and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.
            I will break the gate-bar of Damascus,
                        and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,
            and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden;
                        and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,”
                                                            says the LORD.

Now God turns his wrath towards specific peoples and judges them for their sins. He will save the people of Israel and Judah for last. First up is Damascus, which is a synecdoche for the nation of Syria.

The numbers three and four are not meant to be literal. Syria’s sins are much more than three, or four, or even their sum. The three-to-four expression means that the transgressions are multiple, and even more.

The threshing metaphor is especially disturbing. Back then, threshing grain (separating the hulls from the nutritious inner part) involved dragging a heavy threshing sledge over the grain. This crushed the grain, cracking and loosening the hulls.

It’s not exactly clear what the Syrians did to the people of Gilead to evoke such brutal imagery, but it must have been torture.

And so, the punishment will fit the crime. We’re spared the details, but exile means that those who survive the conquering (which may be few) will be enslaved.

There is no clearer evidence of sin than the creative nature of torture. People are at their most inventive when they endeavor to make others suffer. Sin in full blossom turns ordinary people into geniuses.

I won’t list the torture devices used throughout history—you have enough horrible images stored in your head already—but many of them are nothing short of brilliant.

Except that they make no sense apart from the nature of sin. No animal does anything like this. Carnivores typically kill quickly. The rare exceptions (such as a cat toying with a mouse) do not involve long term pain, but rather instinctive indecisiveness over how to respond to movement.

We, on the other hand, are just plain evil.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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