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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Amos 6

Verse 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!

Woe to them that are at ease in Zion. The Hebrew expresses reckless ease and carelessness [ hasha'ªnaniym (H7600)]. Compare Isaiah 32:9-11, "Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters," etc. Also, Luke 6:24-25, "Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."

And trust in the mountain of Samaria - which was so strong that it resisted the Assyrian king three years before it was taken (2 Kings 17:5-6). Amos foretells woe alike to Judah and to Israel.

Which are named chief of the nations - i:e., you nobles, so eminent in influence that your names are celebrated among the chief nations (Ludovicus de Dieu). Hebrew, 'Men designated by name among the first-fruits of the nations' - i:e., men of note in Israel, the people chosen by God as first of the nations, (Exodus 19:5: cf. Numbers 24:20, "Amalek, was the first of the nations.") (Piscator.) literally, 'the named of the chief of nations' - i:e., those who in Israel, which, by the distinguishing grace of God, was chief of the nations, were themselves named (Pusey). Amos refers by contrast to Numbers 1:16, "There were the renowned of the congregation, princes of the tribes of their fathers, heads of thousands in Israel." How sadly degenerate are those of name and princely station in Israel now!

To whom the house of Israel came - i:e., the princes, to whom the Israelites used to repair for the decision of controversies, recognizing their authority (Maurer). Israel came to them for judgment, but they thought only of their luxury and "ease." I prefer to refer "which" to the antecedent "Zion" and "Samaria;" these were "named" or esteemed "chief" strongholds among the pagan "nations" to whom the house of Israel came, when it entered Canaan; Amos 6:2 accords with this.

Verse 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?

Pass ye unto Calneh - on the east bank of the Tigris. Once powerful, but recently subjugated by Assyria (Isaiah 10:9, "Is not Calno as Carchemish?" Ezekiel 27:23 calls it "Canneh." It was one of the four cities built by Nimrod in the land of Shinar, and formed "the beginning of his kingdom" (Genesis 10:10). The Assyrian king Shamasiva was probably its conqueror, as he is mentioned in the cuneiform inscriptions as having taken above 200 towns in Babylonia (Rawlinson, 'Herodotus,' 1: 464), about B.C. 794.

And from thence go ye to Hamath - subjugated by Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25). Also by Assyria subsequently, And from thence go ye to Hamath - subjugated by Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25). Also by Assyria subsequently, (2 Kings 18:34, "Where are the gods of Hamath?") Compare Amos 6:14, below "They shall afflict you from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness."

Then go down to Gath - subjugated by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6). The name means 'wine-press,' implying that it was situated in a vine-abounding country.

Be they better than these kingdoms? - No. Their so recent subjugation renders it needless for me to tell you they are not. And yet they once were: still they could not defend themselves against the enemy. How vain, then, your secure confidence in the strength of Mount Zion and Mount Samaria! How ungrateful too your conduct is! The pagan cities were destroyed. Israel, guiltier than they, is spared still. But, now that she has become more paganish than the pagan themselves, she must not expect to escape judgment anymore than they. He takes cities respectively east, north, and southwest of Israel, to show that, look in whatever quarter they will, there are cases of warning to them before their eyes, (cf. Nahum 3:8, "Art thou better than populous No?")

Verse 3

Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;

Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near - "put far away," literally, with aversion. They assigned it a distance [the force of the lª-]: hamªnadiym (H5077) lªyom. Ye persuade yourselves that "the evil day" foretold by the prophets is "far off," though they declare it near (Ezekiel 12:22; Ezekiel 12:27: cf. Amos 6:27 ). Ye in your imagination put it far off, and therefore bring near violent oppression, suffering it to sit enthroned, as it were, among you (Psalms 94:20). The notion of judgment being far off has always been an incentive to the sinner's recklessness of living (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13; Matthew 24:48). That very recklessness brings near the evil day which he puts far off. 'Ye bring on fever by your intemperance, and yet would put it far off' (Calvin).

Verse 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;

That lie - (see Amos 2:8).

Upon beds of ivory - i:e., adorned or inlaid with ivory (Amos 3:15).

And stretch themselves - literally, pour themselves out, unnerved and relaxed, in luxurious self-indulgence.

And eat the lambs out of the flock - picked out as the choicest for their owners' selfish gratification. And eat the lambs out of the flock - picked out as the choicest for their owners' selfish gratification.

Calves out of the midst of the stall - stall-fed, to fatten them.

Verse 5

That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of musick, like David;

That chant - [ paaraT (H6527)], literally, mark distinct sounds and tones. The corresponding Arabic root means to anticipate another: then hurry and negligence; a hurried flow of unmeaning words, in which the rhythm was everything, the sense nothing: much like most glees (Pusey). So in the main Gesenius, to scatter and pour out words at random. The Hebrew [ pereT (H6528)] means particular grains that fall at the vintage: hence, others take it of singing with words particularly and minutely adapted to the sound of the viol.

To the sound of the viol - the lyre or lute.

And invent to themselves instruments of music, like David - they fancy they equal David in musical skill (1 Chronicles 23:5; Nehemiah 12:36). They defend their luxurious passion for music by his example: forgetting that he pursued this study when at peace and free from danger, and that for the praise of God; but they pursue it for their own self-gratification, and that when God is angry and ruin is imminent. David introduced into the temple-service the stringed instruments the kinowr (H3658) (the lyre) and the nebel (H5035) (the harp), in addition to the cymbals. Whence these, as distinguished from the trumpets, are called "the instruments of David." Compare 2 Chronicles 29:25-26; 1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 15:19-21; 1 Chronicles 15:24. David in early youth was famed for his skill on the harp (1 Samuel 16:16; 1 Samuel 16:18; 1 Samuel 16:23). As David improved the existing instruments, elevating their character, so as to be adapted to the temple-worship, so these degenerate Israelites changed them, lowering their character so as to be adapted to the service of sensuality.

Verse 6

That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

That drink wine in bowls - in the large vessels or basins in which wine was mixed; not satisfied with the smaller cups in which it was ordinarily drunk, after having been poured from the large mixer [mizrªqeey]. The Hebrew expresses bowls used for sprinkling the blood of sacrifices. The rich seem to have robbed the idolatrous altar of these bowls to drink their wine from.

And anoint themselves with the chief ointments - i:e., the most costly; not for health or cleanliness, but wanton luxury. But they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph - literally, the breach - i:e., the national wound or calamity of the house of Joseph (Psalms 60:2; Ezekiel 34:4), resembling in this the heartlessness of their forefathers, the sons of Jacob, toward the afflicted Joseph, "eating bread," while their brother lay in the pit without water, and then selling him to Ishmaelites. "The breach of Joseph" was owing to the Lord, who "brake out like fire in the house of Joseph" (Amos 5:6).

Verse 7

Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.

Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive. As they were first among the people in rank (Amos 6:1), and anointed themselves "with the chief ornaments" (Amos 6:6), so shall they be among the foremost in going into captivity.

And the banquet - literally, the merry-making shout of revellers; from an Arabic root, to cry out. In the Hebrew, mirzach (H4797), here, there is an allusion to bªmizrªqeey (H4219) bowls (Amos 6:6). The harsh guttural sounds express the discordant screams of the revellers.

Of them that stretched themselves - on luxurious couches (Amos 6:4).

Verse 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.

I abhor the excellency of Jacob - (Psalms 47:4). The sanctuary, which was the great glory of the covenant-people (Vatablus). (Ezekiel 24:21.) Or else, the priesthood, and kingdom, and dignity conferred on them by God. These, saith God, are of no account in my eyes toward averting punishment (Calvin).

And hate his palaces - as being the storehouses of "robbery" (Amos 3:10; Amos 3:15). How sad a change from God's love of Zion's gates (Psalms 87:2) and palaces (Psalms 48:3-13), owing to the people's sin! "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." "God is known in her palaces for a refuge."

Therefore, will I deliver up the city - literally, 'I will shut up,' implying the straitness of the coming sieges, so that there should be no going out or coming in (Pusey). Collectively, both Zion and Samaria (Amos 6:1).

With all that is therein - literally, its fullness: all that fills it: the multitude of men and of riches in it (cf. Psalms 24:1). With all that is therein - literally, its fullness: all that fills it: the multitude of men and of riches in it (cf. Psalms 24:1).

Verse 9

And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die.

If there remain ten men in one house ... they shall die - (Leviticus 26:26; Zechariah 8:23). If as many as ten remain in a house (a rare case, and only in the scattered villages, as there will be scarcely a house in which the enemy will leave any), they shall all, to a man, die of the plague-a usual concomitant of war in the East (Jeremiah 24:10; Jeremiah 44:13; Ezekiel 6:11). In the mention of the ten men there may be an allusion to Sodom. God promised He would not destroy the city if ten righteous men were found in it (Genesis 18:32). In the city of Samaria even ten in one house, who survived the chastizement, turned to God; therefore there was to be a general destruction.

Verse 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.

A man's uncle shall take him up. The nearest relatives had the duty of burying the dead (Genesis 25:9; Genesis 35:29; Judges 16:31, "His (Samson's) brethren, and all the house of his father, came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him"). No nearer relative was left of this man than an uncle.

And he that burneth him - the uncle, who is also at the same time the one that burneth him (one of the "ten," Amos 6:9). Burial was the usual Hebrew mode of disposing of their dead. The custom of interring in a common burial-place implied their belief in the coming resurrection. But in cases of necessity, as when the men of Jabesh-gilead took the bodies of Saul and his three sons from the walls of Bethshan, and burned them, to save them from being insulted by the Philistines, burning was practiced. So in this case, to prevent contagion. Here it heightens the sadness of the picture that there was not admissible the decent mode of interment, but that a mode had to be adopted most alien to their feelings and religion-namely, burning, and this by the one who loved the dead most, the uncle [ dowdow (H1730), implying love; as amita is akin to amata], now that father and brothers were gone.

To bring out the bones out of the house - "the bones," i:e., the dead body (Genesis 50:25). Perhaps here there is an allusion in the phrase to the emaciated condition of the body, which was little else but skin and bones.

And shall say unto him that is by the sides of the houses - i:e., to the only one left of the ten in the interior of the house (Maurer): cf. note, Isaiah 14:13, "in the sides of the north."

Is there yet any with thee? And he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue; for we may not 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. After receiving the reply that none is left besides the one addressed, when the man outside fancies the man still surviving inside to be on the point, as was customary, of expressing devout gratitude to God who spared him, the man outside interrupts him, 'Hold thy tongue; for there is not now cause for mentioning with praise (Joshua 23:7) the name of Yahweh;' for thou also must die; as all the ten are to die, to the last man (Amos 6:9; cf. Amos 8:31 ). Formerly ye boasted in the name of Yahweh, as if ye were His special people; now ye shall be silent, and shudder at His name as hostile to you, and as one from whom ye wish to be hidden (Revelation 6:16). (Calvin.) The one survivor was sick, and in the remote corner of the house. None else was left. All, even the bodies, had now been removed. One alone remained of all the throng that once filled with sounds of merry-making the luxurious mansion. Even he is silenced, when he ventures to speak of God, as though hope from God is now utterly gone.

Verse 11

For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.

For, behold, the Lord commandeth, and he will smite. His word of command, when once given, cannot but be fulfilled (Isaiah 55:11). His mere word is enough to smite with destruction.

The great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts - He will spare none, great or small (Amos 3:15). Jerome interprets the great house as Israel and the small house as Judah; the former being reduced to breaches or ruins-literally, drops; the latter, though injured with clefts or rents, which threaten its fall, is yet still for a time permitted to stand.

Verse 12

Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:

Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock. In turning judgment (justice) into gall (poison) and righteousness into hemlock (or wormwood, bitter and noxious), ye act as perversely as if one were to make horses to run upon a rock, or to plow with oxen there (Maurer). As horses and oxen are useless on a rock, so ye are incapable of fulfilling justice (Grotius). Or else, Ye impede the course of God's benefits, because ye are as it were a hard rock on which His favour cannot run. 'Those that will not be tilled as fields shall be abandoned as rocks' (Calvin). On "gall," see note, Amos 5:7.

Verse 13

Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?

Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought - i:e., in your vain power, decaying empire, and fleeting riches.

Which say, Have we not taken to us horns? - i:e., acquired power, so as to conquer our neighbours-namely, under Jeroboam lI, "who restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain" (2 Kings 14:25). Horns are the Hebrew symbol of power, being the instrument of strength in many animals (Psalms 75:10, "All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off: but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted"). So Zedekiah the false prophet, in allusion to Deuteronomy 33:17 ("His (Ephraim's) horns are like the horns of unicorns; with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth"), "made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith the Lord, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them."

Verse 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.

And they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hamath - the point of entrance for an invading army (as Assyria) into Israel from the north; specified here, as Hamath had been just before subjugated by Jeroboam II (Amos 6:2). The boundaries are virtually the same as those mentioned, 2 Kings 14:25, as restored to Israel by Jeroboam II, "from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain" - i:e., the Dead Sea, into which "the river of the wilderness," here mentioned flows. Do not glory in your recently acquired city, because it shall be the starting-point for the foe to afflict you. How sad the contrast to the feast of Solomon, attended by a congregation from this same Hamath, the most northern boundary of Israel, to the Nile, the river of Egypt, the most southern boundary!

Unto the river of the wilderness - i:e., to Kedron, or that part of it which empties itself into the northern bay of the Dead Sea below Jericho (2 Chronicles 28:15), which city was at the southern boundary of the ten tribes (Maurer). To the river Nile, which skirts the Arabian wilderness, and separates Egypt from Canaan (Grotius). If this verse includes Judah as well as Israel (cf. Amos 6:1, Zion and Samaria), Grotius' view is correct; and it agrees with 1 Kings 8:65, "Solomon held a feast, and all Israel ... from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt." The Hebrew expression is, 'the river of the Arabah' - i:e., the deep and extraordinary depression, called the Ghor, extending from the lake of Gennesareth to the Red Sea. The Dead Sea is called by Moses "the sea of the Arabah," or "sea of the plain" (Deuteronomy 3:17): it divides the Arabah into two, the valley of Jordan above, and the Arabah, extending from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. Hitzig and Pusey understand "the river of the wilderness," or Arabah, here, to be the river forming the southern boundary of Moab, called, in Isaiah 15:7, "the brook of the willows," Hebrew, 'Nachal Ha' Arabim,' now called in its upper part Wadiel-Ahsa, and then Wadi-es-Safieh, dividing Moab from Idumea. This river, flowing from east to west, and so forming the southern boundary of Moab, turns to the north in the Ghor, or Arabah, and flows into the southern extremity of the Dead Sea. So that Moab's southern boundary was now become Israel's southern border, and Israel had no enemy west of the Euphrates.

Remarks:

(1) Reckless "ease" is the sure fore-runner of "woe" (Amos 6:1). The careless are in danger wherever they are; but they are in especial danger "in Zion." Vain confidence, in the midst of religious privileges, neglected or abused, incurs the weightiest condemnation. They who rely on any strength outside of God shall be as the Israelites, who "trusted in the mountain of Samaria," and whose trust awfully disappointed them.

(2) Those of high name in Israel, which was once "chief of the nations" in all that is really good for man, had sadly degenerated, in the days of Amos, from those that were the "renowned of the congregation" in the days of Moses. "Israel came" to them for judgment; but they only thought of their own self-indulgence and luxury. As Amalek was anciently "first of the nations" in enmity to the people of God, so Israel was "first of the nations" by the special grace and choice of God. But now Israel's princes, ungratefully forgetting all God's distinguishing favours, were among the foremost in disregard of God. If, then, God spared not Calneh, Hamath, and Gath, so much less favoured than Israel, how can Israel hope to escape, seeing that she is guiltier than they? Sinners would, if they could, "put the evil day far away" from them. It would throw a terrible gloom over the pleasures of sin if they were to let the thought of speedy judgment enter their minds. But as they are determined to "cause violence" toward the creatures of God to "come near," they put as far off as possible the day of God's judgment. But thereby they only bring the latter the nearer.

(3) Israel's violence within her land brought upon her violence from without. The Assyrian enemy was God's executioner of wrath upon her. The retribution upon her was in kind. Enthroning violence, they enthroned their own scourge. When men put God away they invite the enemy of God: and in bringing near Satan they bring near their own eternal ruin.

(4) Luxury and self-indulgence are the sins specified here which God condemns (Amos 6:4-5). How prevalent these sins are now among professing Christians, and yet how little censured among us! It is well said, 'Debased music is a mark of a nation's decay, and promotes it.' Many gain a reputation by "inventing to themselves instruments of music" (Amos 6:5) and musical compositions, of a style enervating and effeminate, void of all that ennobles the mind and elevates the soul to its Maker. David consecrated the powers of vocal and instrumental melody to God, its highest and best object. The degenerate Israelites of Amos' days tried to justify their desecration of it, to minister to luxury and sensuality, by the example of David. Are the mawkish love songs, and sensational novels, and immodest dancing of our days, one whit more justifiable? Paul's rule to Christians (Colossians 3:16) is, "Admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord." Let us herein not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

(5) Luxury and hear tless selfishness often go hand in hand. The Israelites drank "wine in bowls," showing the same zeal for the service of their god, their belly (Philippians 3:19), as their pious ancestors did for the service of Yahweh, for which these good men willingly had given their massive silver bowls. None but "the chief ointments" would satisfy their extravagance of expenditure upon their own persons. "But," saith the prophet feelingly, "they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph" (Amos 6:6). They were true children of the unnatural brothers who "sat down to eat bread" (Genesis 37:24-25), after they had cast Joseph into the pit. They "saw the anguish of his soul when he besought them, and would not hear" (Genesis 42:21). Absence of natural feeling for one's kindred, one's country, and one's kind is one of the sad results of sensuality. Self-indulgence shuts out the thought of others' suffering, lest its own ease should be disturbed.

(6) Israel's chiefs were foremost in selfish luxury; so, in just retribution, were they to be foremost in penal suffering. (6) Israel's chiefs were foremost in selfish luxury; so, in just retribution, were they to be foremost in penal suffering. As they had had a bad preeminence, so should they have a painful preeminence. The drunken shout of the banquet should be "removed," along with themselves (Amos 6:7). As God had by oath confirmed His election of Israel, so by oath He now confirmed His rejection of them (Amos 6:8). "The excellency" which God had given to "Jacob," their pious ancestor, was now turned by them into self-glorification, which God abhors. The palaces which God had delighted in He now hated, because of sin, and was about to deliver up to the enemy.

(7) They who do not reverently fear God in prosperity slavishly fear Him in adversity. Unconcern gives place to despair. Conscience reminds sinners of their disregard of God heretofore, so that their feeling is, "We may not make mention of the name of the Lord" (Amos 6:10). How different is the experience of the godly, to whom their God "giveth songs," even "in the night" of suffering! (Job 35:10.) Let all remember that, if they will not call on the name of the Lord in life, in death it will be of no avail to make mention of His name.

(8) When God gives the command of wrath He will surely execute it (Amos 6:11). They who turn the sweets of justice into the gall of unrighteousness and oppression have as little reason to expect real profit from it as a husband-man would have to expect a crop from "plowing upon the rock" (Amos 6:12). It would be easier to turn nature from its course than to turn God's retributive laws from their awards of good to the righteous, and evil to transgressors.

(9) Sinners "rejoice in a thing of nought" (Amos 6:13). Their greatest seeming gain brings with it their greatest loss; because it deprives them of God, the only satisfying good. Our prayer, therefore, should be, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way" (Psalms 119:37).

(10) Israel ascribed to herself, the acquisition of power and territory which God had given her under Rehoboam II, according to the inspired prophecy of Jonah (2 Kings 14:25). "Have we not," said they, "taken to us horns by our own strength?" (Amos 6:13.) Therefore God threatens to "raise up" a nation against her which, while following its own will, should execute His purpose of judgment on His people. The whole scene of Israel's triumphs should be the very scene of her shame and woe, "from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness" (Amos 6:14). When men gave not the glory of their blessings to God, it is but just that they should be deprived of them. Let us take warning, and seek to be clothed with humility, and glory not so much in God's gifts as in God Himself.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Amos 6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/amos-6.html. 1871-8.