Thus says the LORD:
“For three transgressions of Moab, and for four,
I will not turn away its punishment,
Because he burned the bones of the king of Edom to lime.
But I will send a fire upon Moab,
And it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth;
Moab shall die with tumult,
With shouting and trumpet sound.
And I will cut off the judge from its midst,
And slay all its princes with him,”
Says the LORD.
This English translation here doesn’t do justice to how nasty Moab’s crime is. Aramaic translations of the Old Testament (called Targums) suggest that the lime from burning the king of Edom’s bones was used in construction.
Bone ash is primarily calcium oxide (CaO), also known as quicklime. Regular limestone is calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Cement is made by heating limestone to drive out the carbon, yielding quicklime. Quicklime (cement) is the binding agent in concrete and mortar.
However, back then, they would have just used quicklime to make plaster. Some Targums indicate that’s what they did with the bones of the king of Edom.
That’s about as far from a dignified burial as you can get.
Notice that Moab’s crime wasn’t against the people of Israel; they did this to the Edomites (at least to the king of Edom). This shows that God is concerned with justice, not just justice for the people of Israel.
The punishments in Amos 1:3–2:3, which depict God’s judgement against five neighbors of Israel, reveal a pattern. A great wave of terror is coming, in the form of the Assyrian army.
But Amos’s prophesy takes this out of the hands of Assyria. They are not really the ones punishing these five nations; God is. The Assyrians are merely the agents of God’s wrath.
Of course, the Assyrians will deserve God’s wrath for doing this. Thus, we get an exceeding complex lesson in God’s sovereignty. As chapter three of the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” He ordains everything. Just as God punished Pharaoh for his hard heart—though God had hardened it—He will punish the Assyrians for the actions that fulfill these prophesies.
If this troubles you, good. It’s complex but righteous. Seek to understand it.
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:
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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.