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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Amos 6

 

 

Verses 1-14

Amos 6

4. Woe to the Secure who think that the Day of the Lord is far off

1Woe to the secure[FN1] in Zion,

And to the careless in the mountain of Samaria!

To the princes of the first of nations,

To whom the house of Israel comes!

2Pass over[FN2] to Calneh and see,

And go thence to Hamath the great,

And go down to Gath of the Philistines;

Are they better than these kingdoms,

Or is their territory greater than your territory?

3Ye who put far off the evil day,

And bring near the seat of violence;

4Who lie upon beds of ivory

And stretch themselves upon their couches,

Who eat lambs out of the flock,

And calves from the fattening stall:

5 Who trill[FN3] to the sound of the harp,

Like David, they invent string instruments,[FN4]

6 Who drink wine out of sacrificial bowls,[FN5]

And anoint themselves with the best oils,

And do not grieve for the hurt of Joseph.

7 Therefore now shall they go captive at the head of the captives,

And the shout[FN6] of the revellers shall depart.

8 The Lord Jehovah hath sworn by himself,

Saith Jehovah, God of hosts,

I abhor the pride of Jacob[FN7]

And hate his palaces,

And will give up the city and the fullness thereof.

9 And if ten men are left in one house they shall die.

10 And his cousin[FN8] and his burier shall lift him up,

To carry his bones out of the house,

And shall say to the one in the inmost recess of the house,

“Is there still any one with thee?” and he says, “Not one,”

Then shall he say, “Be still,

For we must not call upon Jehovah’s name.”

11For behold, Jehoyah commands, and men smite the great house[FN9] into ruins

And the small house into pieces.

12Do horses indeed run upon the rock,[FN10]

Or do men plough there with cattle,

That ye have turned justice into poison,

And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood?

13Ye who rejoice in a thing of nought,[FN11]

Who say, “With our own strength we have taken to us horns.”

14For, behold, I raise up over you, O house of Israel,

Saith Jehovah, God of hosts, a nation,[FN12]

And it shall oppress you from the entrance Hamath to the brook of the desert.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Amos 6:1-6. A sharp censure of the thoughtless revelry of the heads of the nation. The woe points back to the similar exclamation in Amos 5:18. There a woe was pronounced upon those who mistakenly desired the day of the Lord, as if it would bring to them prosperity. Here the question is of the confident who bestowed no thought at all upon that day. Amos 6:1, in Zion: shows that the rebuke includes Judah also, although the subsequent description refers especially to the great men “in the hill of Samaria.” And as these are the distinguished in the nation, so the nation itself is called the first or most exalted of all nations, naturally enough, since it was the chosen, peculiar people of God. These princes are further described as those to whom the house of Israel comes, i. e., for counsel and direction. Justly remarks Hengstenberg (Auth. Pent., i148), that thus “the chief men were reminded that they were the successors of those ‘princes of the tribes’ who were formerly thought worthy to be joined with Moses and Aaron in managing the affairs of the chosen people.”

Amos 6:2. How high they stood, is now shown by the fact that Israel, at whose head they were placed, was not inferior in prosperity or greatness to the mightiest heathen states. [He bids them look east, north, and west, and survey three neighboring kingdoms. Calneh (Calno in Isaiah, Calneh in Ezekiel), was built by Nimrod in the land of Shinar ( Genesis 10:10) but is not mentioned again in Scripture until this place. Afterwards it became celebrated under the name of Ctesiphon. Julian’s generals held it impregnable, being built on a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Tigris. Hamath the great was the capital of the Syrian kingdom of that name on the Orontes. Gath was one of the five chief cities in Philistia, and in David’s time the capital of the whole country.] Than these kingdoms, namely, Judah and Israel. Others say that the prophet speaks of destroyed cities, and that the Israelites are reminded of their fate as intimating that the same was in store for themselves (so Luther). This view would commend itself to favor, were it not opposed to the fair construction of the words. It might be allowed, if the double question, are they better, etc, admitted of an affirmative answer, namely, yes they are better. But this plainly cannot be. Bauer indeed sees this, and accordingly explains thus: “Observe these heathen states. Their lot is not better, their power not greater than yours; rather they have fallen while you by God’s grace still stand; if you apostatize from Jehovah, the same fate will befall you.” But how could any one speak of a power which was overthrown as “not greater” than one still standing? A comparison in respect to greatness can be made only with a still existing power. [Pusey adopts Bauer’s view, but Wordsworth and Keil agree with Schmoller in making the verse simply an expansion of the statement in Amos 6:1, that Israel is first of the nations, unexcelled by any of their heathen neighbors.]

Amos 6:3 begins the further explanation of the careless security charged in Amos 6:1. Regarding the evil day, i. e., day of judgment as far off, they cause violence to erect its throne nearer and nearer among them. [Pusey follows Jerome, Grotius, Newcome, and others in referring the throne of violence to the rule of Assyria, which the people brought nearer to them while they were thinking to put it far off. But the former reference is much more natural.]

Amos 6:4. To oppression they added luxurious sensuality (cf. Amos 2:8; Amos 3:12).

Amos 6:5. Like David they employed themselves in inventing musical instruments, but with a very different aim.

Amos 6:6. They used the best oils, at a time when there was abundant cause for mourning in the breach, i. e., the overthrow of Joseph. [The custom of anointing was usually suspended in time of mourning, 2 Samuel 14:2. But these so far from grieving employed the most costly unguents.]

2. Amos 6:7-10. These verses announce the punishment. The phrase at the head of the captives, contains a bitter irony. The princes should maintain their preëminence even in the procession of captives.

[The oath here is like that in Amos 4:2, except that it is by himself instead of by his holiness, but the sense is the same, for the nephesh of Jehovah, i. e., his inmost self or being, is his holiness. Keil.]

Amos 6:9-10. Ten, that Isaiah, many; but even of the many not one shall escape. This is made plainer by what follows.

Amos 6:10. When on the death of the ninth, a relative comes to the house to bury the dead, he will ask the last one, the tenth, who has retired into a remote corner to save his life, whether there is any one still with him, i. e., alive. On receiving the reply, None, he calls out to him, Silence! (literally ‘St), i. e., he interrupts him quickly lest he may utter Jehovah’s name, and by attracting Jehovah’s attention, bring down a judgment upon himself. The words, there must be no mention of the Lord’s name, are spoken, not by Amos but by the kinsman, and they do not express despair but fear. The deaths mentioned occur partly by the sword and partly by famine, both in consequence of the conquest and overthrow of the city.

[ Amos 6:11. The For assigns the reason of the fearful destruction. It is the Lord’s command, and his arm reaches rich and poor alike, “regum turres ac pauperum tabernas.”]

3. Amos 6:12-14. Upon rocks can neither horses run nor man plough. What is the force of this comparison? Either the attempt to do one or the other of these things is represented as something preposterous, and the meaning Isaiah, Even so preposterous is your turning justice into poison, etc.; or it is represented as something impossible, and the sense Isaiah, Is then the impossible possible, that you turn justice, etc, and do you think you can escape unpunished, and even attain prosperity? That ye turn, etc, cf. Amos 5:7. Fruit of righteousness is said, because unrighteousness is compared with a bitter fruit.

Amos 6:13. With our strength, taken, as if the whole originated with themselves. Horns, the usual symbol of strength, here—means of over—coming foes.

[For its exact place, see Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Amer. ed. p987]. The brook of the desert, the southern boundary, is the present Wady el-Ahsi, which separated Moab from Edom at the lower extremity of the Dead Sea. [Israel’s strength had of late been increasing steadily. Jehoash had thrice defeated the Syrians and recovered several cities. What he began, Jeroboam continued during a reign of forty-one years, until he had completely restored all the ancient boundaries of the kingdom. Amos here declares that the whole region of their triumphs should be one scene of affliction and woe. This was fulfilled after some forty-five years at the invasion of Tiglath Pileser. Pusey.]

DOCTRINAL AND MORAL

1. “Israel the first among the nations.” Again and again is the lofty position of Israel emphasized, i. e., its peculiar enjoyment of the divine favor, which was shown even in its outward relations, its power and influence as compared with surrounding nations. In these respects it could measure itself with any of them. This was not the highest motive of action, yet it should have sufficed to confirm them in fidelity to God. For the penalty of unfaithfulness was the loss of their position hitherto, a fall below other nations and a shameful end.

2. But alas, prosperity only led to self-will, and rendered them arrogant and secure. There is a striking picture in Amos 6:4-6 of an insolent, presumptuous community in which every thought of danger is drowned. The internal evils of the national life are not seen, nor is it observed how all tends steadily downward to destruction. Alas, the higher ranks here precede with their example. Instead of becoming pillars of the state by their position and culture, they help to undermine it. No wonder then that when the crash comes, they are most deeply affected and meet a frightful end.

3. The judgment which the prophet everywhere speaks of is conquest and overthrow by a foreign enemy. From this we may learn the right conception of war. It is natural to consider it a heavy calamity, since it involves the loss of fortune and life to thousands, and sometimes the downfall of entire states. But while it is true that on this account we must desire its general cessation, yet the declamations against it of the so called friends of peace are vain, proceeding, if not always yet generally, from a mind which comprehends little or nothing of the divine government of the world. In spite of all these well-meant performances, war neither will nor can cease in this world, i. e., so long as sin still exists. For it is necessary as a means of inflicting the divine chastisement upon sin. Through it God executes the judgments which, being required by his righteousness, are therefore indispensable and irresistible,—not so much upon individuals as upon nations and states which are considered as collective persons. Such acts are either processes of purification, or when the measure of iniquity is full and the time has come, works of destruction. On this ground even a war which subjectively is altogether wrong, as a war of conquest, may still be objectively justified, in so far as it is a means of executing God’s righteous wrath upon a people. On the other hand we can conceive how a war undertaken only in self-defense, and therefore righteous in itself, may yet fail of the issue one would expect. It comes as a judgment upon a people ripe for such a process, and therefore no defense avails. In other cases it does avail, and a deserved punishment overtakes the for eager for conquest. But even then the war, by the distress it causes and the sacrifices it requires, proves a serious time of sifting for the victor. Hence it is right and proper to maintain beforehand an earnest conflict against sin, lest such a heavy scourge as war should become necessary. But when such a point is reached, it becomes Christians not to utter empty declamations against war nor womanish complaints over it, but humbly to bow beneath God’s hand and patiently bear their sorrows, so that thus may spring up the fruit of a new spirit well pleasing to God. For even the destruction of a nation is so far stayed that at least “a remnant” is left to undertake a new life. And the more the kingdom of God prevails among men to the overthrow of sin, the less needful will be the frightful scourge of war; but the complete reign of peace will come only when the first earth and the first heavens are passed away and all things become new. The horrors of war may and should aid in keeping alive and intense our longing for that blissful period.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Amos 6:1. Woe to the secure. Security and vain confidence, the common faults of man! He is blind to his danger. He reels around the abyss without perceiving it, and at last would plunge headlong, were it not that God startles him with judgments. It is this that renders such strokes necessary. They are therefore to be deemed gracious Acts, since they are intended to save from a total overthrow. But alas, how many refuse to heed them! First of nations. What an honor! But so much the worse if such a divine favor is not properly recognized, so much the greater the responsibility and the guilt. [The author applies this thought directly to his own nation, in view of God’s recent dealings with the German people. But surely it is equally applicable to our own favored land. If our territorial extent, our material development, our liberal institutions, our final welding together in the furnace of the war for the Union, have made us first of nations, this fact should not generate vain confidence and a stupid sensuality, but rather awaken a lively gratitude and a generous obedience to the Ruler of nations, the God of hosts.]

Amos 6:2. Pass over to Calneh, etc. A comparison with others less favored than ourselves is always wise when it prompts to humility and thankfulness. “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” Alas, often all the thanks God receives for giving us more than to others, is that we forget Him the more.

[ Amos 6:3. Who put far off the evil day. The thought that the Lord has a day in which to judge Prayer of Manasseh, frets or frightens the irreligious, and they use different ways to get rid of it. The strong harden themselves, and distort or disbelieve the truth. The weak and voluptuous shut their eyes to it, like the bird in the fable, as if what they dread would cease to be, because they cease to see it. (Pusev). Henderson quotes a parallel from Claudian, *In Entrop., ii50–54.

Sed quam cœcus inest vitiis amor! omne futurum

Despicitur, suadentque brevem prœsentia fructum,

Et ruit in vetitum damni secura libido

Dum mora supplicii lucro, serumque quod instat,

Creditur.”

Amos 6:5. Who trill to the sound of the harp. An artificial effeminate music Which relaxes the soul, frittering the melody and displacing the power of divine harmony by tricks of art, is meet company for giddy, thoughtless, heartless versifying. Debased music is a mark of a nation’s decay, and promotes it. Like David they invent, etc. The same pains which David employed on music to the honor of God, they employed on their light, enervating, unmeaning music, and, if they were earnest enough, justified their inventions by the example of David. Much as people have justified our degraded, sensualizing, immodest dancing by the religious dancing of Holy Scripture. (Pusey.) See Bishop Sanderson, Lectures on Conscience, iii. § 13.

Amos 6:6. Drink wine out of sacrificial bowls. The first princes of the tribes ( Numbers 7:13 ff.) showed their zeal for God by offering massive silver bowls for the service of the tabernacle; the like zeal had these princes for their own god, their belly, using the huge sacred vessels for their compotations. Like swine in the trough, they immersed themselves in their drink, “swimming in mutual swill.”[FN13] (Ibid.) Anoint themselves, etc. In this crisis, when the divine wrath was about to break out upon the nation, and they ought to have been sitting in sackcloth and ashes, they were curious to procure the best ointment for their own use. Roman patricians, in Cicero’s days, cared only for their own fish-ponds that their tables might be well supplied with mullets and other fish, while their country was in danger of being overwhelmed with a flood; they “thought only of the cock-boat of their own fortunes when the vessel of the state was going to wreck.”.… Here is another prophetic warning for our selfish luxury. (Wordsworth.)

Grieve not for the hurt of Joseph. Joseph, the ancestor of Ephraim, the head of the ten tribes, was afflicted by his own brethren, who saw the anguish of his soul and were not moved by his tears; and when they had sold him to the Ishmaelites, sat down in heartless indifference “to eat bread” ( Genesis 37:23). So their descendants, the Jews, feasted at the Passover after they had killed the true Joseph ( John 18:28). How many dwell in ceiled houses and sing to the sound of the harp and feast on the richest dainties, and care nothing for the sorrows of Christ and his Church! (Wordsworth.)

Amos 6:7. Go at the head of the captives. Preëminence in rank or wealth is often followed by preeminence in sorrow and shame. As the Wisd. of Sol. says (6:6): “For mercy will soon pardon the meekest, but mighty men shall be mightily tormented.”

Amos 6:8. The Lord hath sworn, etc. Our oaths mean, “As God is true and avenges untruth, what I say is true.” So God says, “As I am God, this is true.” God then must cease to be God if He did not hate oppression. (Pusey.)

Amos 6:9. Ten righteous men in Sodom would have saved that city. Here ten were left in one house after the siege was begun, but they did not turn to God; and therefore all were taken or destroyed.

Amos 6:10. We must not call upon Jehovah’s name. Things have come to a fearful pass when a man trembles at God’s name because he fears and must fear his wrath, and hence instead of turning to Him would rather flee away. This is a frightful exhibition of the power of an evil conscience. There must be a broken heart before a man can turn in prayer for forgiveness to the God whom his sins have offended. [He who has obstinately abused the intellectual powers given him by God, to cavil at God’s truth, will be forsaken by Him at last, and will not be able to utter his name. (Wordsworth.)]

Amos 6:11. Jehovah commands, and men smile, etc. When a people is ripe for judgment, a human conqueror acts only as a divine instrument. God’s judgment strikes equally the high and the low.

[ Amos 6:12. Do horses run upon rocks, etc. It is more easy to change the course of nature, or the use of things of nature, than the course of God’s providence or the laws of his just retribution. They had changed the sweet laws of justice into the gall of oppression, and the healthful fruit of righteousness into the life-destroying poison of sin. Better to have ploughed the rock with oxen for food. For now where they looked for prosperity, they found not barrenness but death. (Pusey.)

Amos 6:13. Who rejoice in, etc. How striking, to rejoice in a non-thing! Yet this is the way with men. How much of that in which they trust is a mere nonentity! It seems to be something, and still is nothing. With our own strength, etc. Such is the language of arrogant self-confidence. But God alone is strength, and only through Him are we strong.

Amos 6:14. I raise up, etc. No foe could ever invade us, if the Lord did not raise Him up. War, therefore, is not an accident, but a providential dispensation. [Pharaoh, Hadad, Rezon, the Chaldees, are all expressly said to have been raised up by the Lord ( Exodus 9:16; 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:23; Habakkuk 1:6).]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Amos 6:1.—בֹטְהִים comes from the intransitive form, and is equivalent here to its use in Isaiah 32:9-11. Mount of Sam. is not the object of trust (as in E. V.) but the place where the careless security is cherished. נִקֻבֵי, a Mosaic word ( Numbers 1:17), = specified by name, chosen, distinguished.

FN#2 - Amos 6:2.—עִברוּ, Pass over, because the Euphrates must be crossed in going to Calneh.

FN#3 - Amos 6:5.—הַכֹּרְטִים, ἁπ. λεγ. perhaps = פָרַד, to divide. According to Fürst it is here = to break out, especially in song. Keil interprets it to strew around, i. e., words, and thinks it describes the singing as frivolous nonsense. Meier renders it “to jingle.” [Pusey understands it as meaning “a hurried flow of unmeaning words in which the rhythm is everything, the sense nothing.” The rendering in the text, trill, is from Wordsworth.]

FN#4 - Amos 6:5.—כְלֵי שִׁיר, lit, instruments of music, seems, from a comparison of 2 Chronicles 34:12 with 2 Chronicles 29:26-27, and 1 Chronicles 23:5, to denote stringed instruments. [So Keil and Pusey.] הַשַׁב, to invent, devise.

FN#5 - Amos 6:6.—מִזרָקִים, lit. sprinkling vessels, always elsewhere denotes bowls used in the temple service. Exodus 38:3; Numbers 4:14; 2 Chronicles 4:8.

FN#6 - Amos 6:7.—מִרְזַח constr. of מַרְזֵחַ, a loud cry, here of joy. סְרוּחִים as in Amos 6:4, the stretched out, i.e, at a banquet = the revellers. Fürst assumes a second root of the same radicals, to which he gives the meaning, to be bad, to stink, and metaph, to be corrupt, and renders here, the degenerate. [This seems quite needless.]

FN#7 - Amos 6:8.—גְּאוֹן, the pride of Jacob, i. e., everything of which he is proud. הְסִגִיר to give up, i. e., to the enemy. “The city,” means Samaria, and “its fullness,” whatever it contains.

FN#8 - Amos 6:10.—דּוֹדוֹ, lit., uncle, here denotes any kinsman. מְסָ‍ֽרְפוֹ, lit, burner. As the Israelites were wont to bury and not burn their dead, it is supposed that the multitude of corpses compelled the latter course. עצָמִים, bones, here = body, as Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32; 2 Kings 13:21.

FN#9 - Amos 6:11.—הַבַּיִת, the singular is used indefinitely = every house, great and small. Cf3:15

FN#10 - Amos 6:12.—Meier points בַּבְּקָרִים, thus, בַּבָּקָר יָם. Does man plough the sea with oxen? [But this is a mere conjecture].

FN#11 - Amos 6:13.—לֹא־דָבָר a not-thing, somewhich which does not exist, namely, the strength mentioned in the next clause.

FN#12 - Amos 6:14.—Few instances are found in Hebrew in which the object of a verb is so far removed from it, as גּוֹי is from טֵקְים. Henderson. הַעְַרָבָה is the well known Arabah, the deep and remarkable depression, now called the Ghor, which extends from the lake of Gennesareth to the Dead Sea.]

FN#13 - Thomson, Autumn.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Amos 6:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/amos-6.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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