Amos 6

CHAPTER VI

The prophet reproves his people for indulging themselves in

luxurious ease, and forming alliances with their powerful

idolatrous neighbours, 1.

He asks if their lands or their lot be better than their

own, 2,

that they should choose to worship the gods of the heathen,

and forsake Jehovah. Then follows an amplification of the sin

which the prophet reproves, 3-6;

to which he annexes very awful threatenings, confirmed by the

oath of Jehovah, 7, 8.

He next particularly specifies the punishment of their sins by

pestilence, 9-11;

by famine, or a drought that should harden the earth so that it

could not be tilled, 12;

and by the sword of the Assyrians, 14.

NOTES ON CHAP. VI

Verse 1. Wo to them that are at ease in Zion] For

hashshaanannim, "who dwell at ease," it has been proposed to

read hashshaanannim, "who confidently lean," the two words

differing only in one letter, an ain for an aleph.

They leaned confidently on Zion; supposing that, notwithstanding

their iniquities they should be saved for Zion's sake. Thus the

former clause will agree better with the latter, "leaning upon

Zion," and "trusting in the mountain of Samaria." Those that are

at ease may mean those who have no concern about the threatened

judgments, and who have no deep concern for the salvation of their

own souls. Houbigant would read, "Wo to them who despise Zion, and

trust in Samaria." So the Septuagint, reading soneim,

hating, instead of shaanannim, being at rest, tranquil.

Calmet first proposed this conjecture; Houbigant follows him.

Are named chief] Newcome renders, "That are named after the

chief of the nations;" and observes, that the Hebrew word

nekubey is an allusion to marking a name or character by

punctures. See on Isa 44:5. They call themselves not after

their ancestors, but after the chief of the idolatrous nations

with whom they intermarry contrary to the law.

Perhaps the words here rather refer to the mountains and their

temples, than to the people. The mountain of Zion, and the

mountain of Samaria, were considered the chief or most

celebrated among the nations, as the two kingdoms to which they

belonged were the most distinguished on the earth.

Verse 2. Pass ye unto Calneh] This is, says Calmet, the

Ctesiphon on the river Tigris.

Hamath] The same as Emesa. Hamath was a city on the Orontes,

in Syria.

Gath] A well-known town, and head of one of the five seignories

of the Philistines.

Be they better] You have no more reason to expect exemption from

the consequences of your sins than they had. They have been

punished; so shall you. Why then will ye trust in their gods, that

could not save their own cities?

Verse 3. Ye that put far away the evil day] Wo to you who will

not consider the day of approaching vengeance; but continue in

your iniquity, and harden your hearts. Ye bring your iniquities

nearer, and still suppose your punishment to be at a greater

distance.

Verse 4. That lie upon beds of ivory] The word hoi, wo, is

understood at the beginning of each of the first, third, fourth,

fifth, and sixth verses. The beds mentioned here may be either

sofas to recline on at table, or beds to sleep on; and these

among the ancients were ornamented with ivory inlaid. They were

called lectos eburatos by Plautus, lectos eburnos by Horace,

"ivory beds." Probably those ornamented with shells, or

mother-of-pearl, may be intended. Several works of this kind may

be still seen in Palestine and other places. I have before me a

cross brought from Jerusalem, incrusted all over with

mother-of-pearl, and various figures chased on it.

There must have been a great deal of luxury and effeminacy among

the Israelites at this time; and, consequently, abundance of

riches. This was in the time of Jeroboam the second, when the

kingdom had enjoyed a long peace. The description in the fourth,

fifth, and sixth verses, is that of an Asiatic court even in the

present day.

Verse 5. And invent to themselves instruments of music, like

David] See Clarke on 1Ch 23:5; and

see especially Clarke's note on "2Ch 29:25".

I believe that David was not authorized by the Lord

to introduce that multitude of musical instruments into the Divine

worship of which we read, and I am satisfied that his conduct in

this respect is most solemnly reprehended by this prophet; and I

farther believe that the use of such instruments of music, in the

Christian Church, is without the sanction and against the will

of God; that they are subversive of the spirit of true devotion,

and that they are sinful. If there was a wo to them who invented

instruments of music, as did David under the law, is there no wo,

no curse to them who invent them, and introduce them into the

worship of God in the Christian Church? I am an old man, and an

old minister; and I here declare that I never knew them productive

of any good in the worship of God; and have had reason to believe

that they were productive of much evil. Music, as a science, I

esteem and admire: but instruments of music in the house of God I

abominate and abhor. This is the abuse of music; and here I

register my protest against all such corruptions in the worship of

the Author of Christianity. The late venerable and most eminent

divine, the Rev. John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an

elegant poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music

being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists said, in his

terse and powerful manner, "I have no objection to instruments of

music in our chapels, provided they are neither HEARD nor SEEN." I

say the same, though I think the expense of purchase had better be

spared.

The word happoretim, which we render chant, and the

margin quaver, signifies to dance, to skip, &c. In the sight of

such a text, fiddlers, drummers, waltzers, &c., may well tremble,

who perform to excite detestable passions.

Verse 6. That drink wine in bowls] Perhaps the costliness of the

drinking vessels, more than the quantity drank, is that which is

here reprehended by the prophet. Drinking vessels of the most

costly materials, and of the most exquisite workmanship, are still

in use; and as to precious ointments and perfumes among the Jews,

we have a proof that the contents of one small box was worth three

hundred denarii, at least seven pounds ten shillings sterling. See

the case in the Gospel, Joh 12:5, and the note there.

Verse 7. With the first that go captive] The house of Israel

shall be carried into captivity before the house of Judah.

Verse 8. The Lord God hath sworn by himself] benaphsho,

by his soul, his being, existence.

Verse 9. Ten men-they shall die.] ALL shall be cut off by the

sword, or by captivity, or by famine.

Verse 10. A man's uncle shall take him up] Bp. Newcome says,

this obscure verse seems to describe the effects of famine and

pestilence during the siege of Samaria. The carcass shall be

burnt, and the bones removed with no ceremony of funeral rites,

and without the assistance of the nearest kinsman. Solitude shall

reign in the house; and if one is left, he must be silent, (see

Am 8:3,) and retired, lest he be plundered of his scanty

provision! Burning the body, and then collecting the ashes, and

putting them into an urn, was deemed the most honourable mode of

burial.

Verse 11. He will smote the great house with breaches] The great

and small shall equally suffer; no distinction shall be made; rich

and poor shall fall together; death has received his commission,

and he will spare none. Horace has a sentiment precisely like

this, Carm. Lib. i., Od. iv., v. 13.

Pallida mors aequo pulsat pede pauperum TABERNAS,

Regumque TURRES.

With equal pace impartial fate

Knocks at the palace as the cottage gate.

But this may refer particularly to the houses of the poor in

Eastern countries; their mud walls being frequently full of

clefts; the earth of which they are built seldom adhering

together because of its sandiness.

Verse 12. Shall horses run upon the rock] First, they could not

do it, because they were unshod; for the shoeing of horses with

iron was not then known. Secondly, If they did run on the rock,

it would be useless to their owner, and hurtful to themselves.

Thirdly, And it would be as useless to plough on the rock with

oxen; for there it would be impossible to sow with any advantage.

Fourthly, Just as useless and injurious would it be to put gall in

the place of judgment, and hemlock in the place of righteousness.

You have not only been labouring in vain for yourselves, but you

have also been oppressive to others; and for both ye shall suffer.

Verse 13. Ye which rejoice in a thing of naught] In your idols:

for an idol is nothing in the world.

Have we not taken to us horns] We have arrived to power and

dignity by our strength. Horns were the symbols of power and

authority. So Horace:-

Vina parant animos: tum pauper cornua sumet.

"Wine repairs our strength, and furnishes the

poor with horns."

At such times they think themselves as great as the greatest.

Verse 14. I will raise up against you a nation] The Assyrians

under Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmaneser, who subdued the

Israelites at various times, and at last carried them away captive

in the days of Hosea, the last king of Israel in Samaria.

From the entering in of Hamath (on the north) unto the river of

the wilderness.] Besor, which empties itself into the sea, not far

from Gaza, and was in the southern part of the tribe of Simeon.

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