See Amos 1:3-4

1 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. 4 So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.

2 Kings 13:1-7 tells us in verse 3 that God "gave them (Israel) continually into the hand of Hazael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael" for the sins of Jehoahaz. God then delivered Israel from Syria, but Israel persisted in their sin (v. 4-6).

In Amos 1:3-5, Syria is punished for "threshing Gilead." I am trying to understand why God is punishing Syria for attacking Israel after it appears that God seemed to cause ("gave them into the hand" is how ESV translates it) Syria to attack Israel as punishment for their sins.

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    – agarza
    Commented Mar 7 at 14:58
  • Good question... hope to see many more for you, @Bible Student Commented Mar 7 at 19:13
  • In simplified terms, if a salesman persuades you to buy something, thus causing you to buy it, does that mean you did not choose to buy it? If a salesman knows you will want something and makes it available for you to purchase, does that mean you did not choose to buy it.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Mar 8 at 10:56
  • When undercover police use a sting to catch a criminal, we still punish the criminal.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Mar 8 at 10:59
  • There is a similar issue in the story of the Exodus. God repeated hardens Pharaoh's heart, and so God sends another plague. Do you expect OT God to be fair?
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Mar 8 at 19:56

3 Answers 3


The puzzle is answered by the similar case of Assyria, which is explained in Isaiah ch10.

On the one hand, Assyria was the instrument of God's punitive judgment on his own people Israel; "Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger, the staff of my fury. Against a godless nation I send him and against the people of my wrath I command him." (vv5-6).

But Assyria was not conscious of this commission, and their conscious motivation was malicious; "But he does not so intend, and his mind does not so think, but it is in his mind to destroy and to cut off all nations not a few" (v7).

Therefore it is legitimate to punish them afterwards for their conscious malice, and their pride against the God of Israel; "Shall the axe vaunt itself over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?... Therefore the Lord of Hosts will... [etc.]" (v13).

That seems to be the pattern. The alien instruments of God's anger, like Syria and Assyria and Babylon, receive their commisssion unconsciously. They are acting consciously for reasons of their own, and they are prone to be over-enthusiastic in their work and exceed their commission. That's why the Lord retaliates against them later.


Although most of the book of Amos is taken up with God warning the nation of Israel of his impending judgment on them, and why he is bringing it, the first chapter, through to 2:3, foretells God's particular judgments on particular nations that fought against Israel.

Assyria's capital, Damascus, is singled out for going beyond what they should have done (threshing God's people with instruments of iron). Yes, God used them to dish out his judgment on disobedient Israel and Judah, but they went too far. They went beyond what God required, due to the hatred in their heart for God's people. They took the opportunity to smash the nation. Their hatred was insatiable. THAT was why they, in turn, received God's judgment later on. Likewise with Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Tyre, Edom, Bozra and the children of Ammon.

This is also gleaned from the other prophets who were contemporaries of Amos. It was also recorded of Babylon, that she went too far. Hence, God raised up Cyrus to overthrow proud Babylon in one night. That's in Daniel and elsewhere.


This is an excellent question and not easy to answer. Not only did God support Syria's attack against Israel, he even sent the prophet Elisha to anoint Hazael (1 Kings 19:15) in the first place. There are basically three ways to explain the apparent confusion or contradiction here. The first is to admit that prophets such as Amos had a different viewpoint than the author of the Book of Kings. The second is to understand the House of Hazael's punishment as a result of its doing something other than what God wanted him to do. The third is to see Hazael's dynasty as the "left hand of God" who was used to punish Israel but still had to be suffer the consequence of his evil acts.

Different viewpoints

The hypothesis that Hosea and the Book of Kings represent different viewpoints is supported by the fact that, as the OP points out, Hazael had acted in accord with God's will in attacking Israel. It is also supported by other biblical examples. For example according the Book of Hosea, the House of Jehu was punished for the bloodshed at Jezreel (Hosea 1:4), even though that bloodshed seems to have been God's will according the Books of Kings. (2 Kings 9:7)

Ben-Hadad overstepped

The second hypothesis holds that Hazael did what he was supposed to by attacking Israel, but his son Ben-Hadad went further than he was supposed to. (The narrative is confusing because there was more than one king named Ben-Hadad.) Ben-Hadad's forces had committed atrocities and mass slaughter:

7 Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time. (NIV)

The "Left hand of God"

Hazael and Ben-Hadad, despite being used by God to punish Israel, were also evil pagan rulers and were punished accordingly. @Stephen Disraeli's answer is an example of this approach. A similar example may be seen in Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who was used by God to punish Judah yet is a wholly evil character in the Book of Judith and later Jewish tradition. We may also think of Judas Iscariot, who was instrumental in God's plan for Jesus (according to many Christians) and yet Jesus said of him that "it would be better for that man if he had not been born." (Matthew 26:24)

  • For those having trouble with your use of the term, viewpoint, it doesn't necessarily mean contradiction. Different people could be viewing the same thing from a different angle.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Mar 8 at 22:55

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