For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

6:1.  “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!”

Since Zion is another name for Jerusalem it is clear that the warning given by Amos was to Judah as well as to Israel.  Both parts of the nation were carelessly complacent, never dreaming that judgment was about to overtake them, though that of Judah would be about a hundred and thirty years after Israel’s destruction.

Zion means parched place, reminding us that the city which was synonymous with the presence of God, and with his blessing, was becoming also a spiritually “parched place.”  The very same forces which had brought Israel to the brink of ruin, were working also in Judah, and would bring upon it the same Divine judgment.

There is no place specifically known as “the mountain of Samaria,” but a mountain is one of the biblical symbols of a king or a kingdom, see Dan 2:34,35,44,45, so clearly the reference is symbolic, and is to the governors of Israel, the ten northern tribes, of which Samaria was the capital.

“... which are named chief of the nations,” obviously refers to the chief men of Israel, they in their complacent folly regarding Israel as the invincible chief of all the nations.

“... to whom the house of Israel came,” is literally, “to whom the house of Israel resort,” i.e., the people of Israel had absolute confidence in their overconfident leaders.  But God’s word to the complacent nation was “Woe!”  The storm of His judgment was about to break on their guilty heads.

And so is it with Christendom and the rest of today’s world.  Their complacence is about to give place to consternation, as it is written, “... the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.  For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape,” 1 Thes 5:2-3.

6:2.  “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?”

In Ge 10:10 Calneh is listed as one of the cities founded by Nimrod, but some scholars question whether this is the city referred to here, and suggest that the reference is, not to one, but to several cities, the RSV translation being, “all of them in the land of Shinar.”  Others understand the reference to be to Kullani in northern Syria, a city captured by Tiglath-pileser III about 731 BC.

Exact identification of the city is relatively unimportant: the lesson being that this great city, which apparently had also once been considered impregnable, had been vulnerable, and had fallen.

Hamath had also been a great city, but it too had been conquered; and likewise Gath, a principal Philistine city.  Each in its day had been greater and more powerful than Samaria, but each had been overcome.  Israel might have profited by considering what had befallen these once great cities, but she apparently had failed to read the lesson of history, much less to apply it!

Christendom and the world have been equally delinquent in studying the lesson of history, much less in applying it, and the result will be that they too will be suddenly and unexpectedly overtaken by Divine judgment.  The lesson, however, is personal and individual as well as corporate, and he is utterly devoid of wisdom who ignores the truth that, “... whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning...” Ro 15:4.

6:3.  “Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat (abode) of violence to come near;”

They in their folly deluded themselves that the evil foretold by the prophet was for a far distant future time, and had no reference to them.  They took no account of the fact that their own wickedness was guaranteeing the coming of violence, for concerning the God against Whom they so blatantly sinned it is written, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity,” Hab 1:13.  That same God was about to replace their false peace with violence.

A foretaste of the coming violence was experienced, in fact, in the thirty years preceding Israel’s captivity by Assyria, for 2 Kings 15-17 records the intrigue and ruthless violence of a succession of kings who seized the throne by murdering their predecessors.

6:4.  “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;”

They rested or slept on costly beds inlaid with ivory, and sprawled luxuriously and drunkenly at table, eating the best food that money could buy, all unaware of the drastic changes the judgment of God was about to bring upon them.

6:5.  “That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David;”

Music too played a big part in their idle lives, so much so that they imagined themselves to be veritable Davids both in composing songs, and in inventing musical instruments.  Little did they know that their singing was soon to become wailing.

Relative to the difference between this music and that of David, the Liberty Bible Commentary makes the following appropriate comment, “David’s music was inspired by God and directed man’s heart to praise Him; their music turned man’s heart away from God to their own lusts.  David’s music made man’s heart sensitive to God; theirs made man’s heart insensitive to God.”  Another has added the further pertinent remark that, “Debased music is a mark of a nation’s decay, and promotes it.”  It is ominously significant that today’s music so-called is indeed debased.

6:6.  “That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments; but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.”

They drank costly wines without measure, gulping from bowls rather than goblets; and anointed themselves with the most expensive perfumes, but never gave a thought to the ruin their godless living had brought upon Joseph (Israel).

In regard to anointing, the late Dr Tatford has written, “Anointing was commonly suspended at times of mourning (2 Sam 14:2), but there was no sorrow on the part of these people and they therefore demanded the best unguents.  Yet this was the time when they should have been mourning.”

6:7.  “Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.”

They who were foremost in iniquity were soon to be at the top of the line of those led captive into Assyria.  They who fared sumptuously every day, were soon to find themselves subsisting on slaves’ rations doled out by their Assyrian masters.  Instead of sprawling luxuriously at loaded tables, they would snatch meager allotments of coarse food in the brief times their taskmasters assigned for eating, in order to keep them alive to work.

6:8.  “The Lord God hath sworn by himself, saith the Lord the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency (pride) of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.”

Its being said that God had sworn by Himself, is simply another way of declaring the inevitability of the coming judgment.  The “excellency” of Jacob is better rendered the “pride” of Israel.  Because the nation had made itself abhorrent to God, He was about to destroy it.

6:9.  “And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die.”

Some understand this to mean that those who survived the warfare would die of the plague, which often accompanies war.  Another translation is, “If there are as few as ten of them left, and even one house, they too will perish” - Taylor.  No matter how obscure the meaning of “ten men in one house,” what is clear is that there will be no survivors when God executes judgment.

6:10.  “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.”

This describes the death of whole families, so that there would be no relative nearer than an uncle left to dispose of the bodies; and in an attempt to prevent the spread of the plague the method of disposal would be burning rather than burial - a method normally reserved for the bodies of criminals, see Le 20:14; 21:9.  Furthermore the question addressed to a survivor in a house relative to the presence of any other survivors, would be accompanied by the strict admonition not to mention the name of the Lord, lest it draw His attention and bring death to the others.

We little understand what a fearful thing it is to incur the wrath of the Almighty!

6:11.  “For, behold, the Lord commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.”

The Lord’s anger would extend to the very houses: the great ones would be reduced to ruins; and the small ones to rubble.

These terrible judgments give a little preview of those that  will devastate the Tribulation age earth.

6:12.  “Shall horses run upon the rock?  will one plough there with oxen?  for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock.”

Taylor translates this verse, “Can horses run ...? Can oxen plow the sea?  Stupid even to ask, but no more stupid than what you do when you make a mockery of justice, and corrupt and sire (sour?) all that should be good and right.”  (“sire” appears to be a misspelling of “sour”).  Horses running on rocks will be injured, and ploughs used among rocks will be broken.  The lesson being taught is that as violation of natural law brings disaster, so also does violation of moral law, and rebel Israel was about to suffer the consequences of that violation.

6:13.  “Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?”

The RSV translation of this verse is, “... you who rejoice in Lo-debar (which means nothing), who say, Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim (which means double horn [symbol of strength]) for ourselves?”  The prophet mocked their imagined greatness, for Lo-debar and Karnaim were great only in their eyes because they had conquered them.  They had rejoiced in worthless things, and claimed that it was their own power which had made them great.  Christendom today makes the same proud but idle boast, and thus invites the same certain judgment.

6:14.  “But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the Lord the God of hosts (armies); and they shall afflict (oppress) you from the entering in of Hemath (Hamath) unto the river of the wilderness.”

They who boasted of their imagined strength and greatness were about to learn how puny both were when confronted with the Divine omnipotence.  The God they brazenly defied - in spite of the outward form of submission represented by their meaningless ritualistic worship - was about to bring upon them a foe, before whom they would be as sheep in the jaws of wolves.  To the uttermost borders of the land they would become the prey of the Assyrian who would carry them into bondage similar to that which they had experienced in Egypt, and from which Jehovah had delivered them.  But there would be no deliverance from this coming bondage.  The sinful nation had exhausted God’s patience.  The wicked generation would die in Assyria.  Nor will there be any deliverance for this even more wicked generation of Christendom in the impending Tribulation era, of which the Assyrian ravagement of Israel is but a foreshadowing.  Those who survive its horrors will be banished into hell by the Lord returned in power and glory to inaugurate His millennial kingdom.  Only believers, Jews and Gentiles, will pass out of the Tribulation into the millennial kingdom.

The location of the stream designated as “the river of the wilderness” is uncertain, but may be the Arnon, or a smaller river flowing into the south-east end of the Dead Sea.

[Amos 7]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough