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The wantonness of Israel, and their incorrigibleness, shall be plagued with desolation.
Before Christ 787.
Amos 6:1. Woe to them that are at ease— Houbigant reads very properly, Woe to them that despise Sion; for there was a perpetual rivalship between Sion and Samaria; and it is plain from the whole series, not only of this verse, but of the whole chapter, that the prophet addresses the men of Israel, and not of Judah.
Amos 6:2. Be they better than these kingdoms?— Are these kingdoms better than yours? Houbigant.
Amos 6:4. That lie upon beds of ivory— This and the following verses give us an idea of a rich and flourishing state, abounding in luxury, and enjoying all the pleasures and delights of a long peace; which was the situation of the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam the second. Instead of lambs, we may read choice lambs.
Amos 6:6. That drink wine in bowls— See the note on Psalms 75:8. Proverbs 23:31.Song of Solomon 8:2; Song of Solomon 8:2. Upon a review of which it may be doubted, whether the drinking wine in bowls above spoken of is to be understood of the quantity drunk, or of the magnificence of the vessels made use of. The other particulars seem rather to refer to the magnificence of their repasts, than the quantity consumed; and St. Jerome, on Proverbs 21:17., speaks of a shell, the porcelain of those ancient times, as a piece of luxury in drinking; which he calls sorbitiunculae delicatae, and contrita olera, opposing this implement to a cup. May not then the prophet's complaint be similar to that of this father of the Christian. church, and relate rather to the magnificence of the drinking vessel, than to the quantity which they drank? Erasmus, in his notes on St. Jerome, tells us, that Virgil speaks of the like piece of grandeur:
Ut concha libat, et sarrano indormiat ostro:
To drink in bowls which glitt'ring gems enchase, To loll on couches, &c. DRYDEN.
Though the common reading is gemma, a gem, instead of concha, a shell. "I have seen," says the author of the Observations, "very beautiful and highly valued vessels, made of shells; and the Red Sea, which is celebrated for producing some of the finest sea-shells in the world, being near Judaea, gave an opportunity to the ancient Jews of introducing vessels of this kind among their other precious utensils. Nor are they now esteemed only by our European virtuosi; the people of the East also value them. Thus shells were sent along with fruit, for a present to Dr. Pocock, when at Tor, near mount Sinai." See Observations, p. 194.
But they are not grieved, &c.— "They are not touched with compassion for the evils and misfortunes of their brethren. They can behold without concern the sufferings wherewith the poor are burthened. They themselves, rioting in the midst of luxury, feel none of those pressures which lie so heavy on the necks of the indigent and mean." The prophet alludes to the sufferings of Joseph, which his brethren not only occasioned, but disregarded. See Calmet.
Amos 6:7. And the banquet, &c.— And the mirth, &c. But Houbigant reads it, And the noise of the luxurious shall be taken away.
Amos 6:10. And a man's uncle, &c.— And a man's near kinsman—or he that burns him. The prophet describes here a pestilence which was to ravage Israel. "If there remain ten men in a house, they shall die one after another, and perform, as far as possible, the last duties to each other successively; and as they die they shall be burned in the house without any other ceremony, and their bones shall be borne to the grave of their forefathers." In those times, as appears from several places of Scripture, the dead bodies of the Hebrews were burned. But after the captivity, the custom of interring, and sometimes of embalming, was resumed again. See Calmet. Houbigant renders the last clause, For it availeth not to call upon the name of the Lord; as he is determined upon a total desolation of great and small; Amo 6:11 where the expression is proverbial; though some understand by the great house, the kingdom of Israel; and by the little one, that of Judah. But the whole prophesy evidently respects the kingdom of Samaria only.
The latter part of Amo 6:11 may be read, He will smite the great house with ruins, and the smaller house with breaches.
Amos 6:12. Shall horses run, &c.— Shall horses run upon the sharp rock, or shall it be plowed with oxen? Because ye have turned, &c. As much as to say, "You pervert the use of things: for judgments are appointed to support and comfort the oppressed, and you use them in order to oppress; as if any one should abuse oxen for the ploughing of a barren rock." See Houbigant.
Amos 6:13. Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought— That is, in idols. Have we not taken to us horns? &c. That is to say, "Rendered ourselves strong and powerful? Elevated ourselves in glory and authority?"
Amos 6:14. I will raise up against you a nation, &c.— By this nation, is meant the Assyrians. The kingdom of Judah is plainly understood in this verse, because in the time of Amos its extent was as here described. See Amos 6:2.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, When sinners are most secure, and at ease, then will the terrible woes of God suddenly surprise them. We have here,
1. A description of their pride, security, and sensuality.
[1.] They were puffed up with confidence in their wealth and fortresses, and imagined that they would be their defence from the judgments threatened. They are at ease in Zion, wallowing in affluence; and trust in the mountain of Samaria, the city by art and nature being strongly fortified; which are named chief of the nations, the principal persons of Judah and Israel, who dwelt in Zion and Samaria; to whom the house of Israel came, for judgment; or these cities were the capitals of the two nations, and thither the people resorted. Yet, illustrious and great as Zion and Samaria were, they need not look far to find other places as distinguished in the annals of fame, but now reduced to ruins; such as Calneh, Genesis 10:10. Hamath the great, and Gath, 2Ki 12:17 chief cities of kingdoms greater than Israel and Judah, and their territories more extensive; and if they fell from their towering height of pride, let not Zion and Samaria be secure. Note; (1.) Greatness is too apt to beget pride. (2.) The falls of others should be our warning.
[2.] They promised themselves impunity in their iniquities—ye that put far away the evil day, keeping it out of their thoughts, lest it should damp their joys; or flattering themselves with long years of indulgence, unaffected with judgments which appeared so distant, or perhaps never would come; and cause the seat of violence to come near, asking with injustice and oppression, on the presumption of not being called to account for their transgressions. Thus the hope of impunity emboldens sinners to commit iniquity.
[3.] They sunk into sensuality, and abused their abundance to minister to their indolence, luxury, and carnal delights. They lie upon beds of ivory, &c.; not that the conveniencies of life are in themselves evil, or, temperately used, forbidden; the sin was, in being luxurious in their furniture, and placing their affections on these things, abusing them to intemperance, squandering their time and wealth which should be otherwise employed, and racking their inventions for new amusements; a conduct peculiarly criminal, when the miseries of the land called for mourning and humiliation; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph; either for the breaches which the nation had sustained, or the greater evils that threatened; or they did not sympathise with those of their brethren who were in trouble, too intent upon their own pleasures to care about the pains of others. Note; (1.) They who live in a round of dissipation and amusements are as effectually alienated from God, as if they were sunk in grosser excesses. (2.) When pleasure is made the grand pursuit and happiness, every thought and object are shunned which would intrude serious reflection.
2. For these things God denounces a woe against them. Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed: they shall experience an awful change. The chief in sin shall be the first in suffering; their palaces shall be turned into houses of bondage, their indolence into hard servitude, their bowls of wine and fatted calves shall be exchanged for bread and water: from beds of ivory they shall be reduced to lie on the cold earth, and their music shall be lost in groans.
2nd, As the sins of Israel cried for vengeance, we find it bound upon them by the tremendous oath of God who cannot lie. And woe unto the sinner concerning whom he shall thus swear to pour forth upon him the fierceness of his indignation.
1. He declares his abhorrence of them, and his determined purpose to deliver them into the hands of their enemies. Their excellency, their cities, fortresses, and treasures, on which they prided themselves, and their palaces built by unrighteousness, are hateful, and under a curse, doomed to be the prey of an invading foe; when their capital, with all therein, should be besieged and taken. Note; They who are the objects of God's hatred are miserable indeed!
2. The pestilence or famine shall devour those whom the sword has spared. If ten men escape in one house, they shall all die, and a man's nearest relation shall be obliged to do the last offices to the dead corpse, the mortality being so universal. And when he that burneth goes round to bring out the bones of the dead, (to such skeletons were they probably reduced who died by famine,) and shall ask of the last survivor that is in the house, Is there yet any with thee? he shall say, No. Then he without shall reply, Hold thy tongue, for we may not make mention of the name of the Lord. Either this is the language of their impenitence, discouraging all humbling applications to God; or of their despair, as if their case was hopeless, and it was in vain to pray; or of their repentance, forbidding the survivor to murmur, since all their sufferings were no more than their sins had justly provoked.
3. Their houses shall be destroyed. He will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts; neither rich nor poor shall escape: since both are involved in guilt, he commands execution to pass on them alike; for he is no respecter of persons.
4. All methods which could be taken for their good would be utterly fruitless, as if one should attempt to plough and harrow a rock; so hardened and impenetrable were their hearts. The past labours of the prophets had been ineffectual, and their future ones promised no better success; for they persisted in their wicked ways; ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock; instead of rendering justice to the injured, they but aggravated their oppression by their unrighteous decisions, under the formalities of law—ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, in their idols, their wealth, their power, which, against God's judgments, would afford no more protection than a straw against the stroke of the battle-axe; which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength? have we not obtained victory over our enemies by our own arm, and are we not able in self-sufficiency to stand our ground against every foe? Such, was the language of their proud hearts, and they dared utter these vain boastings to God's great dishonour. Note; (1.) Prosperity necessarily increases the pride of those who forget God. (2.) They who flatter themselves with the conceit of their own goodness, and the strength of their own resolutions, rejoice in a thing of nought.
5. Their whole land shall be subdued and destroyed. The Lord the God of Hosts, against whom they had behaved so exceeding proudly, he that hath the armies of heaven and earth at his command, will send a nation against them, the Assyrians, to afflict them with all the miseries of a destructive war, and at last to carry them captive into a strange land, from the entering-in of Hamath unto the river of the wilderness; from one end of Judah to the other, 2Ki 14:25 for when God begins, he can make an end; and he never wants instruments of vengeance to execute his righteous judgments.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Amos 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter