Why does Amos keep repeating 'for three sins . . . even for four' in chapters 1-2?


Amos 1:1 - 2:16

ESV - 1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 2 And he said: "The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers.

Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

Community answers are sorted based on votes. The higher the vote, the further up an answer is.

Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
The phrase "for three sins . . . even for four" is a common phrase in Amos (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6). Used a total of eight times in the book, these words play a special role in the way Amos c...

July 01 2013 2 responses Vote Up Share Report

Stringio Adam Johns
I'm not an expert in numerology, nor do I put a lot of confidence in the certainty of that study, but I like numbers, and I think more often than not, the meanings of numbers can teach us something in certain situations... 

That said, I've heard, read and seen in Scripture that the number 3 relates to divinity and # 4 can relate to things that are earthly, so one of the things that Amos' phrase triggered in my mind was the phrase Moses used in Deuteronomy 30:19 "Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make." 

I personally believe that the depth of Scripture allows for more than one application or meaning at times, and I believe that using Scripture to interpret Scripture is the best way to find these other potential meanings/applications. 

There is danger anytime Scripture is used for "private interpretation" as Peter clearly explained was not supposed to happen (2 Peter 1:20), so we must look at these passages in Amos and ask, where else in Scripture can we look to gain more understanding. I personally think Deuteronomy 30 is one place we can look!

September 15 2014 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Paul Gerardi Engineer, Student of the Word - living and written
We don't have to get into numerology to understand this repeated statement in Amos.
Amos is delivering an indictment from God against the (now divided) nation of Israel. This is a legal process, and requires witness and testimony. God's Law was codified for the people of Israel, and delivered through Moses. This is where we discover the rules concerning witnesses: "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established."(Deuteronomy 19:15)

In Jewish Law and tradition, two witnesses was the minimum that could establish a testimony of wrongdoing, three witnesses was a testimony that was sure, and if there were more witnesses, well then the matter was incontestable.

God delivers His indictment through the prophet Amos with the idiom "for three transgressions and for four", which in a more modern English vernacular would be "there are the requisite amount of testimonies to be a sure indictment, and even if you would seek to excuse one of those testimonies...there are more we can bring forward."

July 25 2018 1 response Vote Up Share Report

Mini Billy P Eldred
I am not an expert in sayings in Biblical times so all I can offer is an opinion. 

I read this passage as more than one or two. Or as three or more. We live in a different culture and deal with large numbers almost daily. I don't believe that would apply to his time. Something simple we can understand as a substitute when there is no exact translation available is a good aid in helping to understand the meaning.

August 31 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Add your Answer

All answers are REVIEWED and MODERATED.
Please ensure your answer MEETS all our guidelines.

What makes a good answer? ▼

A good answer provides new insight and perspective. Here are guidelines to help facilitate a meaningful learning experience for everyone.

  1. Adhere to the eBible Statement of Faith.
  2. Your answer should be complete and stand-alone.
  3. Include supporting arguments, and scripture references if possible. Seek to answer the "why".
  4. Adhere to a proper tone and spirit of love and understanding.
  5. For more info see The Complete Guide to eBible
  1. 4000 characters remaining