Amos 6

 

This sixth chapter denounces:

 

o       the careless lives of the chiefs of Israel, who, reveling  in luxury,

believed not in the coming judgment (vs.1-6).

 

o       therefore they shall go into captivity, and the kingdom shall be utterly

overthrown (vs. 7-11), because:

 

o        they act iniquitously and are self-confident (vs. 12-14).

 

Vs. 1-6.  With a second woe the prophet denounces the chiefs of the whole nation,

who were quite satisfied with the present state of things, and, reveling in luxury,

feared no coming judgment.

 

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!” Them that are at ease in Zion; living in fancied security and

self-pleasing (Isaiah 32:9,11; Zephaniah 1:12). Judah is included in the denunciation,

because she is equally guilty; the whole covenant nation is sunk in the same

dangerous apathy. Septuagint, toi~v ejxouqenou~si Siw>n tois exouthenousi

Zion - them that set at naught Zion.” The same rendering is found in the

Syriac, and can be supported by a small change in the Hebrew. It may have

been intended thus to confine the announcement to Israel alone, in conformity

with the prophet’s chief scope. But he has introduced mention of Judah elsewhere,

as ch.2:4; 6:5; 9:11, and his sense of his own people’s careless ease may well

lead him to include them in his warning.  Trust in the mountain of Samaria.

The city was deemed impregnable, and it kept the Assyrians at bay for three years

before it was finally taken (II Kings 18:9, etc.; see notes on ch.3:9 and 4:1). Another

rendering, not so suitable, is, the careless ones upon the mountain of

Samaria. The point, however, is the supposed impregnability of the city

which occasioned a feeling of perfect security. Which are named chief of

the nations; rather, to the notable men of the chief of nations; i.e. the

principal men of Israel, which had the proud title of the chief of the nations

because it was beloved and elected of God, and was designed to keep alive

true religion, and to set an example to the rest of the world (Exodus19:5;

Numbers 1:17; Deuteronomy 4:20; II Samuel 7:23).  Septuagint, ajpetro>ghsan

ajrca<v ejqnw~n apetrogaesan archas ethnon - they plucked the chiefs of the

nations,” where the verb is a mistaken rendering. To whom the house of

Israel came; or, come. Resort for counsel and judgment (II Samuel

15:4), and who ought therefore to be patterns of righteousness and equity.

The rendering of the Vulgate, ingredientes pompatice domum Israel,

“entering with pomp into the house of Israel” (which does not agree with

the present Hebrew text), implies that these chieftains carried themselves

haughtily in the congregation of Israel.

 

 

            The Danger of Prosperity (v. 1)

 

When there is unvarying prosperity and people experience no change in their

situation, there is a tendency to forget God.  People calculate on uniformity. As life

has been, so they easily assume it will be. A smiling world is a dangerous tranquillizer.

Even the godly experience this (Psalm 119:67), and the direct purpose of adversity is

to prevent it (II Corinthians 4:17-18). An unbroken run of prosperity is most unfavorable

to spiritual life and liveliness.

 

  • Companionship of the ungodly. “He that walketh with wise men shall be

wise,” etc. Character propagates itself — begets character in its own

likeness. Familiarity with sin breeds tolerance of it. A sinful example is a

temptation to sin. So long as men not impeccable instinctively imitate each

other, association with the wicked must, to a certain extent, corrupt. The

more corrupt any society is, the lower will be the spiritual tone of the Church

in it. All Israel were not alike guilty, nor alike secure. Many were innocent,

no doubt, of the special national sins; and there is no reason to suppose

that they all were recklessly at ease in Zion. But it is certain that the

security of many was due to the hardening influence of the sins become

familiar to his mind.

 

  • Sin. This is not an occasion merely, but a cause, and the most fruitful

cause of all. Sin both blinds and hardens. The more sin we commit the less

do we see of its consequences, the less do we fear what we can see, and

the further are we from an appreciative knowledge of God in those

characters which lead inevitably to the punishment of it. The climax of

security is more than likely to correspond to the extreme of wickedness. It

was so with Israel. Never was she more corrupt, yet never was she more

recklessly at ease, than when these words were spoken.

 

 

Characteristics of Evil Men

 

  • They are preoccupied.  Spiritual things ought to get our first and best and

continuous attention (Matthew 6:33; 26:41; Luke 13:24). But they do not.

The CARELESS “eats and drink, and marry, and are given in marriage”

(Luke 17:27), and so events come on them unawares. The householder

relaxes his vigilance, and as a result his house is broken into (Matthew 24:43).

The wise virgins as well as the foolish sleep (Matthew 25:5), and the bridegroom

comes on them unawares. The security is foolish in proportion to the interests

involved, and criminal in proportion to the number and plainness of

AROUSING CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

  • They are blind.  The natural man is blind in spiritual things (I Corinthians

2:14). He does not see:

 

Ø      the beauty of spiritual qualities (Isaiah 53:2), nor

Ø      the SELF-EVIDENTNESS  of spiritual principles, nor

Ø      the inviolability of spiritual deliverances, nor

Ø      the grounds of spiritual assurance, nor

Ø      the EVIDENCES OF APPROACHING DIVINE ACTION.

 

 He sees neither what has been, nor what is, nor what is coming. Accordingly,

he is secure and at ease in THE VERY TEETH OF DANGER!

 

  • They are presumptuous.  Men do not adequately realize sin as to either

its guilt or danger. They live in it equably and calmly, as if it were the normal

thing. They anticipate no evil and no disturbance. They reckon on being

spiritual fixtures, and on the perpetual maintenance of the STATUS

QUO.   They do not mean to turn, nor take account of being disturbed;

but assume that there will be “NO CHANGES”  forevermore.

Character is become stereotyped, conscience is silent, and the quiet of

strong delusion is within them and all around.  (II Thessalonians 2:10-12)

 

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. Go and compare your condition with that of other countries, from the

furthest east to the north, to your own neighbors — has not God done more for

you than for them? Nothing is said about the destruction of the three capitals,

nor is Samaria threatened with similar ruin. Rather the cities are contemplated as

still flourishing and prosperous (though by this time they had suffered at their

enemies’ hands), and Israel is bidden to remember that she is more favored than

they. Calneh, one of the five great Babylonian cities, is probably the Kul-unu

 of the inscriptions, a town in Southern Babylonia, whose site is unknown. In

Genesis 10:10 and Isaiah 10:9 the Septuagint calls it Chalanne or Chalane; in the

present passage they mistake the Hebrew, and render, dia>bhte pa>ntev

diabaete pantes - pass ye all by.”  St. Jerome identifies it with Ctesiphon, on

the east bank of the Tigris. Others find in it Nopher or Nipur, the modern Niffer,

some sixty miles southeast of Babylon. As one of the oldest cities in the world,

ranking with Babel, Erech, and Accad, it was well known to the Israelites.

Hamath the great; Septuagint, jEmatrabba> - Ematrabba - This was the

principal city of Upper Syria, and a place of great importance. In after years it

was called Epiphania, after Antiochus Epiphanes (Genesis 10:18; Numbers 34:8;

Isaiah 10:9). It fell in Sargon’s reign, B.C. 720; afterwards it lost its independence,

and was incorporated in the Assyrian empire. Gath of the Philistines. One of

their five chief cities, and at one time the principal (I Chronicles 18:1). The site is

placed by Porter at Tell-es-Safi, an isolated hill; standing above the broad

valley of Elah, and “presenting on the north and west a white precipice of

many hundred feet.” Dr. Thomson (‘The Land and the Book,’ p. 215, etc.)

considers Gath to be the same city as Betogabra, Eleutheropolis, and the

modern Beit Jibrin, which is some few miles south of Tell Safi. He thinks

the site of Tell Safi is not adapted for the seat of a large city, and he saw

few indications of ancient ruins there; whereas Beit Jibrin has in and around

it the most wonderful remains of antiquity to be found in all Philistia. It had

probably declined in importance at this time (see note on ch. 1:6), but its

old reputation was still remembered. It was taken by Uzziah, but seems not

to have remained long in his possession (II Chronicles 26:6). In the year

B.C. 711 Sargon reduced Ashdod and Gath, which he calls Gimtu

Asdudim, i.e. Gath of the Ashdodites. Be they better? Have they received

more earthly prosperity at God’s hands than you? Is their territory greater

than yours? No. How ungrateful, then, are you for all my favors (compare

Jeremiah 2:5-11)!

 

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. They assigned a distant

date to the time of punishment and calamity; they would not look it in the

face or contemplate it as approaching and ready to come upon them.

Septuagint, oiJ ejrco>menoi eijv hJme>ran ka>khn – hoi erchomenoi eis

Haemeran kakaen -  Ye who are coming unto the evil day.” The

Alexandrian manuscript has oiJ eujco>menoi – hoi euchomenoi - ye who

pray for” (ch.5:18), with which the Syriac seems to agree. The

Vulgate (as Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion), taking the verb

passively, renders, qui separati estis in diem malum. But it is best to

translate it as above, in the sense of “repelling,” “putting away with

aversion,” as in Isaiah 66:5. And cause the seat of violence to come

near. They erected the throne (shebheth, “the sitting,” or “enthroning”) of

violence in their midst, made themselves the subjects and slaves of

wickedness and oppression. The Septuagint, mistaking shebheth for shabbath

translates, Oi Jejggi>zontev kai< ejfapto>menoi sabba>twn yeudw~n

hoi eggizontes kai ephaptomenoi sabbaton pseudon -  “Ye who are

 drawing near and clinging to false sabbaths.”

 

 

The Procrastinator (v.3)

 

Men will try to use a foolish device to accomplish the impossible, but to

the wise, a foolish thing  is never attempted for a wise reason or in a wise

way. (I once saw on a church marquee in Elizabethtown, Kentucky,

There is no right way to do the wrong thing!  - CY – 2013)

Some do not practically believe that the evil day is coming at all.

They minimize their own guilt, which is the provoking cause. They magnify the

considerations which bear in the direction of postponement. They ignore

THE SURE WORD OF GOD which denounces inevitable suffering on sin. The

result is an amount of ignorance or skepticism about the matter sufficient

to prevent its exercising any practical effect. It is believed in a vague and

heedless way, but not so as to lead to appropriate, nor in fact to any, action.

They know the evil day is coming. They know that, when it  comes,

IT WILL INVOLVE THEM in its calamities. But they hope events will take

some happy turn. and something indefinite, but highly convenient, will occur, which

will change the issue, and prevent the crisis from touching them (Isaiah 28:15). All

sinners persist in the life of sin, yet HOPE  somehow or other, to ESCAPE

HELL!  Some endeavour not to think about it at all. They purposely divert

their attention from the subject. They refuse to “consider their latter end.”

They busy themselves about other things. They insanely act as if the danger

would be annihilated by being ignored. Into this snare of the devil many

fall. They cannot see the nearness of the evil day who refuse to look at the

matter. Blinder and more stupid than the ox or the ass is the people that

will not consider (Isaiah 1:3).

 

By sticking his head in the ground, like the proverbial ostrich, all that the

procrastinator gains is A HERITAGE OF WOE!   (v. 1) - It is evident:

 

  • He cannot prevent it. God makes His own arrangements and keeps to

them. We cannot resist His power. We cannot change His purpose. His

word on any matter is the last word, and fixes it once for all. What He has

spoken, and as He has spoken, must come to pass.  (Matthew 24:35)

 

  • Neither can he postpone it. The justice, goodness, and wisdom that

combine in fixing an event enter also into the timing of it. All possible

considerations are taken into account, and infinite power no more surely

does the thing He means than at the time He means. It would be as

wise to attempt and as easy to accomplish the defeat of God’s purposes

as their postponement. Our mental and active attitude are alike inoperative

as to both.

 

He disqualifies himself for facing it. “Be ye also ready” is THE

DIVINE PRESCRIPTION in reference to the unrevealed date of the

day of God. (Matthew 24:44).  PREPARE and WATCH are

equally essential conditions of meeting the day of God in safety. Willful

delusion about the event means woeful injury by it. Men ought to be

prepared for what is sure to come, and when it comes be in expectation of

it. “BE YE ALSO READY!”

 

 

Man’s Evil Day (v. 3)

 

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

near.” This is another denunciation addressed to the great men in Zion and

Samaria. They are said  to keep the day of calamity afar off, and bring the

seat of violence near. Three remarks are suggested by these words:

 

  • ALL MEN HAVE AN “EVIL DAY” IN THEIR FUTURE. Even the

holiest men, men whose path through life has been most calm and

prosperous, have to expect certain calamities that befall all. There are trials

common to all men, whatever their condition or character — afflictions,

bereavements, infirmities; these await most men (Ecclesiastes 9:11). 

There is one evil day, however, for us all. Death is in many respects an

evil day,” but for the Christian, Jesus said it was “the passing from

death unto life”  (John 5:24).  For the sinner, what mysterious sufferings

it involves! What privileges and pleasures it terminates! What disruptions

it produces! Sinner, thy death will be an evil day; and it is before thee,

and it is nearer now than ever.

 

  • SOME MEN ADJOURN IN THOUGHT THIS “EVIL DAY.” They

put far away the evil day.” Ungodly men put this evil day so far on in the

course of time that they seldom discern it and never realize it. It is a mere

speck, seldom visible on the horizon of many years of unclouded sunshine.

Why do men adjourn in thought this evil day?

 

Ø      Not because they have any doubt as to its advent. No day is

more certain. Sooner shall all the wheels of nature be stopped than

the sun of this day fail to break on every eye. “It is appointed to

 men once to die, but after this THE JUDGMENT.”

(Hebrews 9:27)

 

Ø      Not because they lack reminders of its approach. Every physical

pain, every tolling knell, every funeral procession (I attended one

yesterday, the burial of Agnes Haskins, 97 – Jan. 19,2013 – CY),

every graveyard — all remind us almost every moment that our evil

day is coming. Why, then, adjourn the thought? The reason is found:

 

o       In the strength of our material attachments.

o       In our dread of the mysterious.

o       In our lack of interest in the spiritual and material.

o       In our conscious want of preparation for the scenes of

retribution.

 

  • NONE WHO ADJOURN THIS “EVIL DAY” IN THOUGHT CAN

DELAY IT IN FACT. “And cause the seat of violence to come near.”

Perhaps what is meant here is that these men so ignored their coming

calamities that by their conduct they hastened them on. Ignoring the evil

day, they pursued such a course of:

 

Ø      injustice,

Ø      falsehood,

Ø      dishonesty,

Ø      sinful indulgence, and

Ø      impiety as served to bring it nearer.

 

Thus the more they put it off in thought THE NEARER IT DREW

 because they became more self-destructive in their conduct. A general

truth is suggested here, viz. that a man who adjourns all thought of his

 end will pursue such a course of conduct as will hasten its approach.

Some men imagine that by thinking upon death they will hasten its advent;

hence their dread of making wills.  But such is not the fact. He who keeps the

evil day in view:

 

Ø      rightly regards it,

Ø      prepares for it,

Ø      will render such a practical obedience to the laws of health as

to delay rather than hasten it. “

 

Lord, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts

 unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

 

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 upon beds of ivory; couches inlaid with

ivory (see note on ch.3:15) at meals. The prophet substantiates his

denunciation by describing their selfish luxury and debauchery. Stretch

themselves literally, are poured out; Septuagint, kataspatalw~ntev

- kataspatalontes - wantoning.Out of the midst of the stall. Calves put

up to be fattened.  They do this presumably not on festivals, when it would have

been proper and excusable, but every day.

 

Luxury is perhaps a temptation to many, if not to us all. The course of religion in

the soul is just the progress of a warfare between flesh and spirit (Romans 7:23).

To this warfare there is one uniform issue — the triumph of the spiritual principle.

(God has made man a trinity – a body, soul and spirit and He meant for the spirit to

rule the flesh! – CY – 2013).   But victory is not won without a struggle. The spiritual

principle waxes strong only under culture. The flesh gets weak only by being crucified.

If it be let alone it will grow strong, much more if it is indulged and fed. Hence

“fullness of bread and abundance of idleness” (Ezekiel 16:49) are a revealed

occasion of spiritual declension; and God was lightly esteemed and forsaken when

Jeshurun “waxed fat, and grew thick” (Deuteronomy 32:15).   Luxury will leave

its mark on all the Churches in indolence and self-indulgence and  A LOWERED

SPIRITUAL TONE.  (The Church at Laodecia, a case in point -Revelation 3:14-22)

 

Familiarity with sin breeds tolerance of it. A sinful example is a temptation to sin.

(Think of the role of x-rated movies, HBO, MTV, pornography, etc., plays in

the lives of the ungodly.  If allowed into one’s life, it will even permeate the godly! –

CY – 2013). So long as men not impeccable instinctively imitate each

other, association with the wicked must, to a certain extent, corrupt. The more

corrupt any society is, the lower will be the spiritual tone of the Church

in it. All Israel were not alike guilty, nor alike secure. Many were innocent,

no doubt, of the special national sins; and there is no reason to suppose

that they all were recklessly at ease in Zion. But it is certain that the

security of many was due to HARDENING INFLUENCE OF SIN becoming

familiar to his mind.  Sin both blinds and hardens. The more sin we commit the less

do we see of its consequences, the less do we fear what we can see, and

the further are we from an appreciative knowledge of God in those

characters which lead inevitably to the punishment of it. The climax of

security is more than likely to correspond to the extreme of wickedness. It

was so with Israel. NEVER WAS SHE MORE CORRUPT, yet never was

she more RECKLESSLY AT EASE  than when these words were spoken.

 

5 “That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves

instruments of music, like David;” That chant. The word parat

 (a[pax lego>menon hapax - means rather “to prattle,” “to sing idle

 songs,” as the Revised Version translates it. The reading of the Septuagint

varies between ejpikratou~ntev epikratountes -  excelling,” and

ejpikrotou~ntev epikrotountes - the latter of which words might mean

applauding.Viol (see note on ch.5:23). Invent to themselves instruments

 of music, like David. As David devised stringed instruments and modes of

singing to do honor to God and for the service of his sanctuary (see I Chronicles

15:16; 23:5; II Chronicles 29:26-27; and the supernumerary psalm at the end

of the Psalter in the Septuagint), so these debauchees invented new singing and

playing to grace their luxurious feasts. The Septuagint rendering, which Jerome calls

sensus pulcherrimus,” is not to be explained by the present Hebrew text, however

true to fact it may be considered, JWv eJsthko>ta ejlogi>santo kai< oujc wJv

feu>gonta Hos hestaekota elogisanto kai ouch hos pheugonta -  Regarded

 them as abiding and not as fleeting things.”

 

6 “That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief

ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.”

Wine in bowls (misraqim); sacrificial bowls; used in libations

of wine and in the sprinkling of blood (compare Exodus 38:3;

Numbers 7:13; I Chronicles 28:17; II Chronicles 4:8,22; Zechariah 9:15;

14:20). These vessels the luxurious and sacrilegious princes employed in their

feasts, proving thus their impiety and their excess (compare Daniel 5:2-6).

Septuagint, oiJ pi>nontev to<n diulisme>non oi+non – hoi pinontes ton

Diulismenon onion -  who drink strained wine.” The chief ointments.

Such as were used in Divine service (Exodus 30:22-25), and nowhere

else. If they had felt as they ought to feel in this time of rebuke and sorrow,

they would, like mourners, have refrained from anointing themselves (Ruth 3:3;

II Samuel 14:2); but, on the contrary, they are not grieved for the affliction

of Joseph. The coming ruin of the ten tribes affects them not; in

their selfish voluptuousness they have no sympathy with calamity and

suffering, and SHUT THEIR EYES TO THE COMING EVIL!   

“The affliction of Joseph” is probably a proverbial expression derived from

 the narratives in Genesis 37:25, and 40:14, 23; compare 42:21).

 

Men are brothers (Acts 17:26), and owe a mutual regard for each other’s concerns

(Philippians 2:4). Suffering is evil, and the proper relation toward those enduring it is

sympathy (I John 3:17). God pities the afflicted, and compassion in Him is the reason

and measure of its dutifulness in us (Matthew 9:36; Luke 10:33-37). We cannot

disregard the sufferings of men without sinning against God and against humanity.

This type of behavior leads to atheism on the one hand, and misanthropy on the

other. Adam failed in regard for God, Cain in regard for his brother. But both

transgressions arose out of the one sinful character of selfishness. Adam violated

God’s command because he preferred his own way; Cain destroyed Abel’s life

because he thought less of it than of his own wounded self-love. And all

men, in proportion as they are sinful, are selfish, inconsiderate, and misanthropic.

Love is of God, and rules where God dwells. Where God dwells not we have

men “living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus

3:3).  Selfishness and disregard of others’ happiness is the very mark and token of

a corrupt nature and A CORRUPT SOCIETY!

 

In vs. 7-11 follows the announcement of punishment for the crimes mentioned above:

 

o       the people shall go into captivity;

o       they shall be rejected of God, and

o       given over to utter ruin.

 

7 “Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive,

and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.”

With the first. They shall have a preeminence indeed, being the first to go into

 captivity. St Jerome, “Vos qui primi estis divitiis, primi captivitatis sustinebitis

jugum, secundum illud quod in Ezechiele scriptum est: ‘a sanctuario meo incipite’”

(Ezekiel 9:6). With the first; literally, at the head, with reference doubtless to

v. 1. The banquet (mirzakh); the screech of revelers. The word is used of the

scream of mourners in Jeremiah 16:5; here of the cries and shouts of feasters at

a banquet.  Them that stretched themselves on couches, as v. 4. The

Septuagint, reading differently, has. “They shall depart into captivity from the

dominion of princes, and the neighing of horses shall be taken away from Ephraim.”

From this passage of Amos St. Augustine takes occasion to show that the

most untrained of the prophets possessed eloquence and literary skill (‘De

Doctr. Christ.,’ 4:7).

 

 

Wantonness the Way to Woe (vs. 1-7)

 

God’s thoughts are not as ours. He sees things all round; we see but one

side of them. He sees the inner reality of things; we see but their outward

semblance. He sees the tendency and ultimate result of things; we but guess

their probable tendency, knowing nothing of distant results whatever.

Hence, in their estimates of life and of good, “the wisdom of men is

foolishness with God” (I Corinthians 3:19).  The passage before us is an

illustration of this The conditions of being desiderated by carnal wisdom are here

declared utterly baneful, its calculations fallacious, and its canons of judgment false.

We see here:

 

  • THE GREATNESS OF THE WICKED. This is no uncommon sight

(Psalm 37:35), nor one whose lesson is hard to read (Psalm 92:7).

 

Ø      Israel was first of the nations. (v. 1.) In its palmy days, and even

now, it would have compared favorably with the neighboring heathen

states (v. 2). It had the power of unique knowledge. It had the greatness

of a unique culture. It had the glory of a unique Divine connection

(Exodus 19:5; II Samuel 7:23). With an equal numerical, financial, and

Territorial strength, it held, in virtue of these advantages, a preeminence

above any other people. Its wealth and magnificence were the admiration

of even Oriental sovereigns (I Kings 10.); its armies, under normal

circumstances, could hold their own with any of the time (I Samuel 15:

1-8); and the white wings of its commerce gleamed on every sea. In

spite of national unfaithfulness and rebellion and wickedness, God’s

promise to Abraham to make of him “a great nation” had been,

in the fullest sense, accomplished.  (Genesis 12:2)

 

Ø      These were the chiefs of Israel. (v. 1.) They were magistrates, rulers,

and judges of the people. They occupied the position of princes, and the

house of Israel came to them for the regulation of its affairs. “They were

the descendants of those tribe princes who had once been honored to

conduct the affairs of the chosen family along with Moses and Aaron,

and whose light shone forth from that better age as brilliant

examples of what a truly theocratical character was.” This

was a proud position, and it had brought the usual amount of

 arrogance with it.

 

  • THE SECURITY OF THE GREAT. “Woe to the secure!” Conscious

strength makes men and nations feel secure. As to Israel:

 

Ø      They were secure in religious privilege. “In Zion.” They presumed

on their covenant relation. They ignored its sanctions, disregarded its

responsibilities, and took it as a guarantee of immunity, even in sin.

Religion is only good as a whole. To have its privileges without its

spiritual character leads through carnal security to carnal

 indulgence, and so to a condition worse than to be destitute of both.

 

Ø      They were secure in strategic strength. “And to the careless upon

the mountain of Samaria.” Samaria was a strong place, a mountain

fortress, situated in a rich valley. It held out against Benhadad, King

of Syria, defying assault, and escaping reduction even by famine

(II Kings 7.). To Shalmaneser, long afterwards, it only yielded after

a three years’ siege (II Kings 17:5-6). Man naturally looks for

victory to “the big battalion.” This is reasonable in the case of a

human enemy, but mere fatuity if the enemy be God.

 

Ø      They were secure in self-deception. “Put far away the evil day.”

Security, beaten out of one retreat, betakes itself to another. Trust in

our earthly resources will ultimately fail. Security in external religious

advantages will some day be broken also by a rude awaking. But the

Fabian policy still prevails, and proves an almost impregnable last resort.

“It cannot be for a long while yet” is an argumentative device that

seldom fails to reassure.

 

  • THE WANTONNESS OF THE SECURE. The idea of immunity is an

encouragement to sin. Among Israel’s sins were:

 

Ø      Indolence. “Stretch themselves upon their couches.” This is the

first temptation of wealth. Work has ceased to be necessary, and

the easily acquired habit of idleness very soon develops indolence

of disposition.  HAVING NOTHING TO DO LEADS TO

DOING NOTHING and when a man does nothing for a while

he wants to go on with it.  (One of the bad characteristics of

Sodom was “abundance of idleness.”  (Ezekiel 16:49)

 

Ø      Luxury. “Lie upon beds of ivory;” “Eat lambs,” etc. Luxury is

a direct result of indolence. Having nothing else to occupy their

attention, men concentrate it on themselves. They make it the

business of their life to coddle themselves, with the inevitable result

of becoming harder to please. As the appetite is pampered

it becomes more dainty, and must be tempted with luxury after

luxury, if any measure of relish would be retained.

 

Ø      EFFEMINACY.   “Who trill to the sound of the harp” (v.5). The

tendency of luxury is to UNMAN!   On the discontinuance of

manly exercises follows closely THE LOSS OF MANLY

QUALITIES.   Pampering the body weakens body and

mind both, and prepares the way for occupations that will be in

character.  Effeminacy grows fastest when NURSED IN

THE LAP OF LUXURY.  The Israel that was too fastidious

to lie on anything but an ivory couch, or too dainty to touch

coarser fare than “the fatted calf,” was too enervated in a

little while for any manlier pastime than trilling to a harp.

 

Ø      Profanity. “Drink wine out of sacrificial bowls.” “The

pleasures of sin” are only “for a season.” They quickly wear

out. Zest and relish fail, and SATIETY and DISGUST

follow!   Hence the tendency of indulgence to become

more and more extravagant and eccentric. IT IS AN

ATTEMPT TO STIMULATE FAILING POWERS OF

ENJOYMENT BY PRESENTING NEW SENSATIONS.

THEN the natural heart is essential ENMITY AGAINST

GOD!   Accordingly, in the case of a thoroughly perverted nature,

when a sinful indulgence has ceased to give pleasure as indulgence,

it will continue to do so as sin. ISRAEL HAD NOW FALLEN

AS LOW AS THIS!   Sensual indulgence began to pall, and it

took a fresh lease of enjoyableness by becoming sacrilegious.

(Note the experience of the modern sensualist and the drug

user – CY – 2013)

 

Ø      Heartless egotism. “And do not grieve for the hurt of Joseph.”

SIN IS ESSENTIALLY SELFISH  and THE SIN OF

SELF-INDULGENCE SUPREMELY SO!   The happiness,

and even the lives, of others are as nothing in the balance

against lust. Let who may suffer, let what may happen, THE

SENSUALIST WILL INDULGE!  To such a person

 PHILANTHROPY and PATRIOTISM are alike

IMPOSSIBLE!  He will “not grieve for the hurt of Joseph”

even when HE IS HIMSELF RESPONSIBLE FOR IT!

 He could play comfortably “WHILE THE UNITED

STATES BURNS!

 

Ø      Increasing violence.And bring near the seat of violence.”

(Notice what role violence is now playing in America.  Note

America’s hypocrisy at twenty school children killed in Newtown,

Connecticut recently, while ignoring the million children killed in

the U.S. in 2012 – CY – 2012)  As destruction becomes more

imminent, the violence that provokes it becomes more extreme.

This is sometimes due to:

 

o       the blindness that will not see; sometimes

o       to the recklessness that does not care; sometimes

o       to the malignity that, forecasting overthrow, would do

all the evil possible before it comes.

 

In any case it is aggravated and judgment-hastening sin.

 

  • THE DOOM OF THE WANTON. Here, as elsewhere, punishment

answers to crime, both as to degree and kind.

 

Ø      Cherished indulgence should be interrupted. “The shouting

of the revelers will depart” (v. 7). This is about the first step in

retributive punishment. The criminal’s enjoyment comes to be

centered in his sin, and TO INTERUPT IT IS A SHARP

BLOW! The retributive measure to which lust is most

of all amenable is to put a stop to indulgence. (Think how

syphilis, gonorrhea and AIDS incapacitate the instruments

used in such behavior – compare Romans 1:27; Proverbs 5:11 –

CY – 2013).  Deprive the oppressor of his power, the extortioner

of his opportunity, the drunkard of his drink, and already the work

of taking vengeance on him is well begun.

 

Ø      Apposite hardship should be inflicted. “Shall go captive.” As

Captives they should endure oppression, not inflict it. For indulgence

would be substituted privation in every form. They would make a more

just acquaintance with luxury by having the means of it WRUNG

 OUT of  their own helplessness and misery. It is no doubt along

these lines that ETERNAL REWARD  and PUNISHMENT are

arranged.  Heaven will be the perfect exercise and enjoyment of all

that is pure and spiritual in desire and taste. HELL among other things,

will be the cutting off forever of sinful sources of enjoyment, for

THE WICKED HAD LEARNED TO LIVE!

 

Ø      Those who had been first among the nations should be first

among the captives. This is only fitting. The guilt of any evil movement

culminates in its ringleaders, and “first in transgression, first in

 punishment,” is a maxim of natural justice. Those who ORGANIZE

AND OFFICER A WICKED MOVEMENT  are THOSE ON

WHOM JUSTICE WILL LAY THE EARLIEST AND

HEAVIEST HAND.

 

God does not hate men, God loves men but hates men’s sins!  THE SQUARING

OF A SINNER’S ACCOUNT WITH GOD IS OF NECESSITY A BITTER

 EXPERIENCE!  God can neither err, nor lie! HE DOES WHAT AND

WHEN HE PROMISES!  (Numbers 23:19) - In default of a greater, God swears

by Himself (Hebrews 6:13). He is “the true God,” and a “God of truth.”   He is

“ABUNDANT IN TRUTH”  (Exodus 34:6). An oath in His name has the highest

sanction possible, and assumes its most solemn form. GOD’S OATH IN HIS OWN

NAME IS AS SURE AS HIS EXISTENCE    is, in fact, a putting of His

existence in pledge for the word of His mouth.

 

 

Thoughts on a Dissolute Life (vs. 4-7)

 

  • A luxurious and dissolute Life is a shameful misuse of precious

opportunities.

 

  • A luxurious and dissolute life is morally debasing and degrading.

 

  • A luxurious and dissolute life on the part of the great is a bad example

to the community at large.

 

  • A luxurious and dissolute life renders the great insensible to the

afflictions of the poor and the oppressed.

 

  • A luxurious and dissolute life often involves a speedy and

fearful retribution.

 

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.” Hath sworn by Himself

(nephesh); in anima sua (Vulgate), “by His soul;” a concession to human language

(compare ch. 4:2; Jeremiah 51:14; Hebrews 6:13, 17-18). God thus shows that the

threat proceeds from Him, and is immutable. The excellency; the pride

(u[brin hubrin -  Septuagint; superbiam, Vulgate); that of which Jacob is proud

(Hosea 5:5), as, for instance, his palaces, built by exaction, maintained

in voluptuous luxury. Will deliver up to the enemy for destruction

(Deuteronomy 32:30; Obadiah 1:14).

 

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. If these escape

death in war, they shall die of famine and pestilence in the three years’ siege of

Samaria (II Kings 17:5). If the prophet is still referring to the rich chieftains, ten

would be only a poor remnant of the inhabitants of their palaces. The Septuagint

adds, very unnecesarily, Kai< uJpoleifqh>sontai oiJ kata>loipoi – Kai

hupoleiphthaesontai hoi kataloipoi -  And those remaining shall be left behind.”

 

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.”  The prophet gives an instance of the

terror and misery in that common calamity. He depicts a scene where

the nearest surviving kinsman comes into the house to perform the funeral rites

for a dead man. And a man’s uncle; better, and when a mans kinsman;

the apodosis being at the end of the verse, “Then shall he say.Dod is sometimes

rendered “beloved,” but usually “father’s brother,” but it may mean any near relation

upon whom, in default of father and brethren, would devolve the duty of

burying the corpse. Septuagint, el oijkei~oi aujtw~n oikeioi autonhis

relative - propinquus suus (Vulgate). And he that burneth him; literally,

and his burner. This is the same person as the kinsman. the butler; but for

some reason, either from the number of deaths, or from the pestilence, or

from the distance of the burying place, which would be out of the city and

inaccessible in the blockade, he cannot lay the body in the grave, and is

forced to take and burn it. Though the Jews generally buried dead bodies,

cremation was sometimes used, both in honor or emergency (I Samuel 31:12)

and in punishment (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9). The bones; i.e. the corpse, as in

Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32; and II Kings 13:21; Keil. The kinsman takes it up

to bring it out of the house to burn it. Him that is by the sides of the house;

him that is in the innermost parts of the house; qui in penetralibus domus est

(Vulgate). This is the last living person, who had hidden himself in the most remote

chambers (see I Kings 22:25);  or it may be a messenger whom the kinsman had

sent to search the house.  He asks him — Is there yet any with thee? Is there any

one left alive to succor, or dead to bury? And he shall say, No; Vulgate, et

 respondebit, Finis est. Then he (the kinsman) shall say, Hold thy tongue (Has!);

Hush! He stays the man in the inner chamber from speaking; and why? For we may

 not make mention of the name of the Lord; Vulgate, et non recorderis nominis

Domini. Some, as Pussy, Schegg, and Gandell, see here the voice of

despair. It is too late to call upon God now; it is the time of vengeance. We

rejected him in life; we may not cry to him in death. St. Jerome refers the

prohibition to the hardness of heart and unbelief of the people, who even in

all this misery will not confess the name of the Lord. Keil says, “It indicates

a fear lest, by the invocation of the name of God, his eye should be drawn

towards this last remaining one, and he also should fall a victim to the

judgment of death.” Others again think that the notion in the mind of the

impious speaker is that Jehovah is the Author of all their calamities, and

that he is impatient at the very mention of his name. The simplest

explanation is the first, or a modification of it The person addressed is

about to pray or to call on God in his distress. “Be silent,” says the

speaker; “we can no longer appeal to Jehovah as the covenant God; by

naming Him we call to His remembrance how we have broken the covenant,

violated our relation to Him; therefore provoke Him not further by making

mention of His name.”

 

Notice that the solitary survivor is no nearer faith in God than those who have

 been destroyed. He does not cast himself on God’s mercy. He does not even in that

dreadful hour seek God’s face. His stupid but thoroughly characteristic impulse is to

hide away from His presence (Revelation 6:12-17).  Apart from Divine grace,

SIN COMMITTED DRIVES MEN AWAY FROM GOD (Genesis 3:8),

and punishment approaching DRIVES FURTHER STILL (Revelation 6:16).

In prosperity the wicked will not even fear God; in adversity, if they fear, THEY

STILL REFUSE TO TRUST HIM!

 

11 “For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and He will smite the great

house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.”  The Lord

 commandeth, and He will smite. The expression, thus taken,

implies that God executes His commands through the ministers of His

judgment; but it may well be rendered, “and men shall smite” (compare

ch. 9:9). Breaches… clefts. The great palace requires a breach to

bring it to the ground; the little hut is ruined by a small rent or cleft. All

houses, great and small, shall be smitten. Possibly Israel and Judah are

signified respectively by “the great house” and “the little house” (compare

ch.9:11); and their treatment by the Assyrians may be thus symbolized.

 

In vs. 12-14, the prophet shows the folly of these evil doers who think in their own

strength to defy judgment and to resist the enemy whom God is sending against them.

Sin often brings present gain, but it IT NEVER PAYS AT THE END!

“Cursed is he that maketh flesh his arm” (Jeremiah 17:5)  SIN IS AT

THE BOTTOM OF SELF-DEIFICATION!

 

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? Can horses gallop safely

over places covered with rocks and stones? Will one plough there with

oxen? Do men plough the rock with their oxen? The answer, of course, is

“No.” Yet your conduct is equally foolish, your labor is equally lost.

Some, dividing the words differently, translate, “Does one plough the sea

with oxen?” which reminds one of the Latin proverb, “Litus arare bubus.”

Thus Ovid, ‘Ep. Heroid,’ 5:115 —

 

“Quid facis OEnone? Quid arenae semina mandas?

Non protecturis litora bubus aras.”

 

The husbandman does not attempt impracticable things. He knows there is no fertility

in a bare rock — no soil for crop, no bed for seed, no furrow for plough; and so he

cultivates the good soil, and leaves the rock alone. To till the rock is utter futility!

It is lost time, lost labor and broken implements.  One cannot seek safety by

wrongdoing. GOOD CANNOT COME OUT OF EVIL BY NATURAL

 GENERATION!

 

For ye have turned; or, that ye have turned. Judgment into gall (see

note on ch.5:7). Hemlock. Some plant with an acrid juice. Ye turn

the administration of justice, which is “the fruit of righteousness,” into the

bitterest injustice and wrong. It were “more easy,” says Pusey, “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.”

 

13 “Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not

taken to us horns by our own strength?” In a thing of nought; a nothing

a thing which does not really exist, viz. your prosperity and power. Horns; symbols

of strength (Deuteronomy 33:17; I  Kings 22:11); the idea being derived from

the wild bull, the strongest animal of their fauna. Their boast was a consequence of

the successful wars with the Syrians (II Kings 14:25- 28). The prophet proceeds to

demolish their proud vaunt.

 

Human life is a vapor on the hill, a bubble on the stream, a ripple on the wave,

a meteor in the sky, an unsubstantial thing that passes and leaves no trace.

God, the “I Am,” is essential Existence. He alone hath immortality, exists

of Himself and from Himself. The existence of creatures is derived, AN

EXISTENCE FROM GOD AND IN HIM!  “In Him we live and move

and have our being”  (Acts 17:28).

 

Of human pride, well says the poet:

 

“What the weak head with strangest bias rules

Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools.

                                    (Alexander Pope)

 

Our pride  misreads altogether the proportions of things. It has an overwhelming

estimate of self. “Thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to

think (Romans 12:3), and “thinking God to be altogether such a one as

ourselves,” (Psalm 50:21), and the transfer of trust from heaven to earth, is not

alone natural, but inevitable.  Mistaken opinion associates itself with

mistaken action, and this in turn will produce UNDESIRED RESULTS!

The soul makes SHIPWRECK of itself.  God’s help is despised and God’s

right is spurned!

 

“Beware of too sublime a sense

Of your own worth and consequence.

The man who deems himself so great,

And his importance of such weight,

That all around, in all that’s done,

Must move and act for him alone,

Will learn in school of tribulation

The folly of his expectation.”

                        (William Cowper)

 

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 Hamath unto the river of the wilderness.”

I will raise up (compare I Kings 11:14, 23; Habakkuk 1:6, where see note).

A nation. The Assyrians. From the entering in of Hamath. A district in the

upper part of Coele-Syria, hod. El-Bukaa, the northern boundary of the kingdom

of Israel (Numbers 34:8; see on v. 2). The river of the wilderness; rather,

the torrent of the Arabah, which is the curious depression in which the Jordan

flows, and which continues. though now on a higher level, south of the Dead Sea,

towards the Gulf of Akaba. The torrent is probably the Wady es Safieh, just south

of the Dead Sea. The limits named define the territory which Jeroboam recovered

(II Kings 14:25). The Septuagint gives, tou~ ceima>rjrJou tw~n dusmw~ntou

Cheimarrou ton dusmon -  the torrent of the west.”

 

 

The Hand of God Seen in National Retribution (v. 14)

 

Coming when it did, this prophecy was an unmistakable proof of Divine

foresight. Samaria was rejoicing and boasting because of a temporary

victory obtained by her arms. The kingdom of Israel had taken horns, and

by its own strength had pushed back the foe from the borders. This was the

moment appointed for Amos to utter the faithful warning contained in this

verse. Subsequent events proved the predictive authority from which this

language proceeded. The advance of Assyria (I Kings 17:5-23) soon reminded

the unbelieving and impenitent of the warning to which they had been

indifferent. But we are chiefly concerned to trace the truths and to draw

the lessons regarding Divine government upon earth, which this prediction

so strikingly unfolds.

 

 

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