Amos 6

The Party is over for the Rich

On the Hebrew term הוֹי (hoy; “ah, woe”) as a term of mourning, see the notes in 5:16, 18.
to those who live in ease in Zion,
Zion is a reference to Jerusalem.

to those who feel secure on Mount Samaria.
They think of themselves as
The words “They think of themselves as” are supplied in the translation for clarification. In the Hebrew text the term נְקֻבֵי (nequvey; “distinguished ones, elite”) is in apposition to the substantival participles in the first line.
the elite class of the best nation.
The family
Heb “house.”
of Israel looks to them for leadership.
Heb “comes to them.”

2 They say to the people:
The words “They say to the people” are interpretive and supplied in the translation for clarification. The translation understands v. 2 as the boastful words, which the leaders (described in v. 1) spoke to those who came to them (v. 1b). Some interpret v. 2 differently, understanding the words as directed to the leaders by the prophet. Verse 2b would then be translated: “Are you (i.e., Israel and Judah) better than these kingdoms (i.e., Calneh, etc.)? Is your border larger than their border?” (This reading requires an emendation of the Hebrew text toward the end of the verse.) In this case the verse is a reminder to Judah/Israel that they are not superior to other nations, which have already fallen victim to military conquest. Consequently Judah/Israel should not expect to escape the same fate. Following this line of interpretation, some take v. 2 as a later addition since the Assyrians under Tiglath-pileser III conquered Calneh, Hamath, and Gath after the time of Amos’ ministry. However, this conclusion is not necessary since the kingdoms mentioned here had suffered military setbacks prior to Amos’ time as well. See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 201–4.

“Journey over to Calneh and look at it!
Then go from there to Hamath-Rabbah!
Or “Great Hamath” (cf. NIV); or “Hamath the great” (cf. KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV); the word “rabbah” means “great” in Hebrew.

Then go down to Gath of the Philistines!
Are they superior to our two
Heb “to these,” referring to Judah and Israel (see v. 1a).
Is their territory larger than yours?”
Both rhetorical questions in this verse expect the answer “no.” If these words do come from the leaders, then this verse underscores their self-delusion of power (compare 6:13). The prophet had no such mistaken sense of national grandeur (7:2, 5).

3 You refuse to believe a day of disaster will come,
Heb “those who push away a day of disaster.”

but you establish a reign of violence.
Heb “you bring near a seat of violence.” The precise meaning of the Hebrew term שֶׁבֶת (shevet, “seat, sitting”) is unclear in this context. The translation assumes that it refers to a throne from which violence (in the person of the oppressive leaders) reigns. Another option is that the expression refers not to the leaders’ oppressive rule, but to the coming judgment when violence will overtake the nation in the person of enemy invaders.

4 They lie around on beds decorated with ivory,
Heb “beds of ivory.”

and sprawl out on their couches.
They eat lambs from the flock,
and calves from the middle of the pen.
5 They sing
The meaning of the Hebrew verb פָּרַט (parat), which occurs only here in the OT, is unclear. Some translate “strum,” “pluck,” or “improvise.”
to the tune of
Heb “upon the mouth of,” that is, “according to.”
stringed instruments;
The stringed instruments mentioned here are probably harps (cf. NIV, NRSV) or lutes (cf. NEB).

like David they invent
The meaning of the Hebrew phrase חָשְׁבוּ לָהֶם (khoshvu lahem) is uncertain. Various options include: (1) “they think their musical instruments are like David’s”; (2) “they consider themselves musicians like David”; (3) “they esteem musical instruments highly like David”; (4) “they improvise [new songs] for themselves [on] instruments like David”; (5) “they invent musical instruments like David.” However, the most commonly accepted interpretation is that given in the translation (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 206–7).
musical instruments.
6 They drink wine from sacrificial bowls,
Perhaps some religious rite is in view, or the size of the bowls is emphasized (i.e., bowls as large as sacrificial bowls).

and pour the very best oils on themselves.
Heb “with the best of oils they anoint [themselves].”

Yet they are not concerned over
Or “not sickened by.”
the ruin
The ruin of Joseph may refer to the societal disintegration in Israel, or to the effects of the impending judgment.
of Joseph.
7 Therefore they will now be the first to go into exile,
Heb “they will go into exile at the head of the exiles.”

and the religious banquets
Religious banquets. This refers to the מַרְזֵחַ (marzeakh), a type of pagan religious banquet popular among the upper class of Israel at this time and apparently associated with mourning. See P. King, Amos, Hosea, Micah, 137–61; J. L. McLaughlin, The “Marzeah” in the Prophetic Literature (VTSup). Scholars debate whether at this banquet the dead were simply remembered or actually venerated in a formal, cultic sense.
where they sprawl on couches
Heb “of the sprawled out.” See v. 4.
will end.
8 The sovereign Lord confirms this oath by his very own life.
Heb “swears by his life”; or “swears by himself.”

The Lord, the God who commands armies, is speaking:
“I despise Jacob’s arrogance;
I hate their
Heb “his,” referring to Jacob, which stands here for the nation of Israel.
I will hand over to their enemies
The words “to their enemies” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
the city of Samaria
Heb “the city”; this probably refers to the city of Samaria (cf. 6:1), which in turn, by metonymy, represents the entire northern kingdom.
and everything in it.”
9 If ten men are left in one house, they too will die. 10When their close relatives, the ones who will burn the corpses,
The translation assumes that “their relatives” and “the ones who will burn the corpses” are in apposition. Another option is to take them as distinct individuals, in which case one could translate, “When their close relatives and the ones who will burn the corpses pick up…” The meaning of the form translated “the ones who burn the corpses” is uncertain. Another option is to translate, “the ones who prepare the corpses for burial” (NASB “undertaker”; cf. also CEV). See S. M. Paul, Amos (Hermeneia), 215–16.
pick up their bodies to remove the bones from the house, they will say to anyone who is in the inner rooms of the house, “Is anyone else with you?” He will respond, “Be quiet! Don’t invoke the Lord’s name!”
This verse is notoriously difficult to interpret. The Hebrew text literally reads, “And he will lift him up, his uncle, and the one burning him, to bring out bones from the house. And he will say to the one who is in the inner parts of the house, ‘Is there [anyone] still with you?’ And he will say, ‘Be quiet for not to invoke the name of the Lord.’” The translation assumes that the singular pronominal and verbal forms throughout the verse are collective or distributive. This last sentence has been interpreted in several ways: a command not to call on the name of the Lord out of fear that he might return again in judgment; the realization that it is not appropriate to seek a blessing in the Lord’s name upon the dead in the house since the judgment was deserved; an angry refusal to call on the Lord out of a sense that he has betrayed his people in allowing them to suffer.

11 Indeed, look! The Lord is giving the command.
Or “is issuing the decree.”

He will smash the large house to bits,
and the small house into little pieces.
12 Can horses run on rocky cliffs?
Can one plow the sea with oxen?
Heb “Does one plow with oxen?” This obviously does not fit the parallelism, for the preceding rhetorical question requires the answer, “Of course not!” An error of fusion has occurred in the Hebrew, with the word יָם (yam, “sea”) being accidentally added as a plural ending to the collective noun בָּקָר (baqar, “oxen”). A proper division of the consonants produces the above translation, which fits the parallelism and also anticipates the answer, “Of course not!”

Yet you have turned justice into a poisonous plant,
and the fruit of righteous actions into a bitter plant.
The botanical imagery, when juxtaposed with the preceding rhetorical questions, vividly depicts and emphasizes how the Israelites have perverted justice and violated the created order by their morally irrational behavior.

13 You are happy because you conquered Lo-Debar.
Heb “those who rejoice over Lo-Debar.”
Lo-Debar was located across the Jordan River in Gilead, which the Israelite army had conquered. However, there is stinging irony here, for in Hebrew the name Lo-Debar means “nothing.” In reality Israel was happy over nothing of lasting consequence.

You say, “Did we not conquer Karnaim
Karnaim was also located across the Jordan River. The name in Hebrew means “double horned.” Since an animal’s horn was a symbol of strength (see Deut 33:17), the Israelites boasted in this victory over a town whose very name symbolized military power.
by our own power?”
14 “Look! I am about to bring
Or “raise up” (KJV, NASB); NIV “stir up.”
a nation against you, family
Heb “house.”
of Israel.”
The Lord, the God who commands armies, is speaking.
“They will oppress
Once again there is irony in the divine judgment. The oppressive nation itself will suffer oppression. The verb “oppress” (לָחַץ, lakhats) in this verse is not the same as that used in 4:1 (עָשַׁק, ’ashaq).
you all the way from Lebo-Hamath
Or “from the entrance to Hamath.” The Hebrew term לְבוֹא (levo’) can either be translated or considered a part of the place name.
to the Stream of the Arabah.”
Lebo-Hamath refers to the northern border of Israel, the Stream of the Arabah to its southern border. See 2 Kgs 14:25. Through this invader the Lord would reverse the victories and territorial expansion Israel experienced during the reign of Jeroboam II.

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