Amos 6 - Outline of Amos (Book Notes menu page)
Israel's Arrogant Self-satisfaction to be Cut Down...
1. Woe to them [that are] at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria,
[which are] named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!
2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and see;
and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines:
[be they] better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?
Woe to them that are at ease in Zion... -
This 'woe' is pronounced upon those who dwelt in a false sense of peace. (The previous 'woe,' in 5:18, was pronounced upon their false profession of desire for the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.)
     Zion is Jerusalem. The LORD is again addressing "the whole house of Israel" (3:1).
...which trust in the mountain of Samaria...-
The northern kingdom of Israel was at the peak of its power, and living in prosperity and peace, under king Jeroboam II. Other nations, including the southern kingdom of Judah, had allied themselves with Samaria for protection from mutual enemies.
     But the northern kingdom of Israel was corrupt and ripe for judgment (4:1-3).
The cities, mentioned in v.2, had already been taken by the Assyrians.
Should Israel think that they were morally better than these gentile cities, and therefore less deserving of judgment?
Were Israel's defenses better able to protect their territory, than these conquered cities?
  • Calneh {Calno}, was located in the kingdom of Eden, which was immediately to the north of Syria (Amos 1:5). The Assyrians had traveled 350 miles west from their capital of Nineveh to conquer this city, overcoming the forces of Eden and Syria. Jerusalem was 350 miles south of Calneh. [Calneh was about 15 miles north of Aleppo, which is a center of conflict as these notes are being written.]
  • 'Hamath the great' was a strong city in northern Syria, about 230 miles north of Jerusalem. 'Hamath' means 'fortress.' It was a secure and well defended city. Both Calneh and Hamath fell to Assyria, during the reign of Shalmaneser III (c. 854-846 BC).
  • Gath, was a Philistine city, about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem. Gaza was another 20 miles southwest of Gath (Amos 1:6-8). Gath was destroyed by Hazael king of Syria in 815 BC, and again by king Uzziah of Jerusalem in 760 BC (2Kin 12:17; 2Chr 26:6).
Since these well prepared cities had previously fallen, Samaria and Jerusalem should not consider themselves invulnerable. But being 'at ease,' they did not take the warning seriously.
3 Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;
4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches,
and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;
5 That chant to the sound of the viol,
[and] invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;
6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments:
but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.
Ye that put away the evil day...
They acknowledged that judgment might come, some day, in the distant future. But they were not concerned, because they did not expect it to come in their lifetime. Their attitude was similar to that of king Hezekiah, when shortly after Israel went into captivity to Assyria, Isaiah foretold the captivity of Jerusalem to Babylon, but not in his lifetime (Isa 39:5-8). But unlike Hezekiah, they had no word from the LORD concerning a delay in judgment.
...and cause the seat of violence to come near.
Confident that they were secure, they hastened the coming of their calamity by their sinful indulgences.
  • illicit sex - 'that lie on beds... and stretch themselves...'-
    The word 'stretch' connotes unrestrained activity.
  • extravagant luxury - '...beds of ivory...'-
    King Ahab of Israel had furnished his palace with ivory.
  • selfish gluttony - ' lambs... calves...'- They preferred the tender young animals,
    which they confiscated from the flocks and stalls of their rightful owners.
  • pre-occupation with musical entertainment -
    They thought they were following in the steps of David.
    But they were out of step with his heart. His music was for the purpose of glorifying God. Their music, would have been the outflow of sinful hearts obsessed with sex, drugs and ungodly lifestyles (like the 'wine, women and song' of the world, today).
  • extreme drunkenness - '...drink wine in bowls...' - (not in cups) They drank to excess.
  • obsession with a beautiful body - '...anoint themselves with chief ointments...'-
    They only used the best facial cremes. They were deeply concerned about maintaining soft skin and a youthful appearance. They willingly paid for quality make-up, and spent time gazing in the mirror, at their minor blemishes.
    But they were not 'grieved' {lit., sickened} by the 'affliction' {ie., fracture, ruin, shattering} of the people of Israel.
7 Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive,
and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.
8. The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts,
I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces:
therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.
Therefore... shall they go captive...
Due to their arrogant disregard for the LORD's warnings, and their persistence in sinful fleshly indulgences, the wealthy leaders would be the first to be taken captive. The revelry of their orgies would be taken away.
The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself...
Their judgment was determined by the One whose Word is sure. In swearing by Himself, He emphasized the certainty of His decree. It could not be changed, diverted or avoided.
...I abhor the excellency {HB=ga'own, exaltation, majesty, pride} of Jacob... I will deliver up the city...
Elsewhere, the phrase 'the Excellency of Jacob' refers to the LORD and to Israel's Messiah (eg., Amos 8:7; Psa 47:4). But they had exchanged His excellency for that which the LORD hates (Psa 106:34-40; Rom 1:21-23).
     Their exultation and pride was in the licentious liberties which took place within the security of their 'palaces' {HB='armown, fortresses}.
     Therefore, the LORD was about to 'deliver up' {HB=cagar, lit., 'shut up'} the fortress. The city gates would be locked with its people inside, as the enemy besieged its walls.
9 And it shall come to pass,
if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die.
10 And a man's uncle shall take him up,
and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house,
and shall say unto him that [is] by the sides of the house,
[Is there] yet [any] with thee? and he shall say, No.
Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue:
for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD.
...if there remain ten men... they shall die...-
During the siege, hunger, thirst and devastating plagues would overtake them. (The Assyrian siege of Samaria lasted for 3 years. The Babylonian siege of Jerusalem lasted eighteen months.)
     Whole households would die. Body disposal would fall to the next of kin. Because of the overwhelming number of deaths, burial would be impractical. Bodies would be burned.
     Those who remained alive, recognizing their calamity as judgment from the LORD, would fear to mention His name lest they offend Him further.
11 For, behold, the LORD commandeth,
and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.
...the LORD commmandeth...- He has issued the order. His purpose will be accomplished.
His judgment would destroy the king's palaces and also the peasants' dwellings.
His judgment would also fall upon both houses of Israel: the great house (Samaria, with the ten tribes of the northern kingdom) and the small house (Jerusalem, with the two tribes of the sourthern kingdom). v.1
12 Shall horses run upon the rock {HB=sela', lofty craggy rock, a natural fortress}?
will [one] plow [there] with oxen?
for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:
These two questions demonstrate the foolishness of Israel's actions.
  • Horses cannot run on solid rock, because they will slip and fall.
  • Solid rock cannot be plowed, no matter how many oxen you have.
This word for 'rock' is sometimes translated 'perverseness' (Prov 11:3; 15:4).
The national leaders had been running the government on the ground of their perversions.
They would fall.
  • You have turned judgment {justice} into gall {bitterness}...-
    Those, who sought the courts for relief from their oppressors, were bitterly disappointed. Amos 5:7
  • ...and [you have turned] the fruit of righteousness into hemlock {poison}.-
    Those, who did what was right, suffered great loss under the corrupt system. Amos 5:11-13
13 Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought,
which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?
14 But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation,
O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts;
and they shall afflict you
from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.
Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought...
Israel's leaders 'rejoiced' {ie., 'made merry'}, as they assured themselves that they were secure in their own military power {'the horns of their own strength'}, under the command of king Jeroboam II (v.1). But their self-confidence was an empty hope.
...behold, I will raise up against you a nation...-
Being raised up by the LORD for this purpose, this nation's advance would be irresistable. The enemy nation, which the LORD would send upon them, would overflow the whole land, from its northern extreme to its southern extreme.
  • 'The entering in of Hemath' is the approach to a long valley which led to Hemath (Hamath), a major city of Syria. The access to this valley was several miles north of Dan (Israel's northernmost city).
  • The location intended by 'the river of the wilderness' is uncertain. But the word for 'wilderness' {HB='arabah} refers to the rift valley which includes the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, and extends south to the Red Sea. The northern end of the Dead Sea (and the terminus of the Jordan River) was near the southern border of the northern kingdom. However, if the length of the rift valley is intended, both kingdoms would be encompassed.
  • The probable sense is that the enemy would take all of the territory which Jeroboam II had secured. (See 2Kin 14:23-25, where "the sea of the plain {HB='arabah}" is the Dead Sea.) 'The mountain of Samaria' (v.1) would be destroyed. 'The horns of their strength' would be broken.

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