Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The prophet utters the second woe over the careless heads of the nation, who were content with the existing state of things, who believed in no divine judgment, and who revelled in their riches (Amo 6:1-6). To these he announces destruction and the general overthrow of the kingdom (Amo 6:7-11), because they act perversely, and trust in their own power (Amo 6:12-14). Amo 6:1. "Woe to the secure upon Zion, and to the careless upon the mountain of Samaria, to the chief men of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel comes! Amo 6:2. Go over to Calneh, and see; and proceed thence to Hamath, the great one: and go down to Gath of the Philistines: are they indeed better than these kingdoms? or is their territory greater than your territory? Amo 6:3. Ye who keep the day of calamity far off, and bring the seat of violence near." This woe applies to the great men in Zion and Samaria, that is to say, to the chiefs of the whole of the covenant nation, because they were all sunk in the same godless security; though special allusion is made to the corrupt leaders of the kingdom of the ten tribes, whose debauchery is still further depicted in what follows. These great men are designated in the words נקבי ראשׁית הגּוים, as the heads of the chosen people, who are known by name. As ראשׁית הג is taken from Num 24:20, so נקבי is taken from Num 1:17, where the heads of the tribes who were chosen as princes of the congregation to preside over the numbering of the people are described as men אשׁר נקּבוּ בּשׁמות, who were defined with names, i.e., distinguished by names, that is to say, well-known men; and it is used here in the same sense. Observe, however, with reference to ראשׁית הגּוים, that in Num 24:20 we have not הגּוים, but simply ראשׁית גּוים. Amalek is so called there, as being the first heathen nation which rose up in hostility to Israel. On the other hand, ר הגוים is the firstling of the nations, i.e., the first or most exalted of all nations. Israel is so called, because Jehovah had chosen it out of all the nations of the earth to be the people of His possession (Exo 19:5; cf. Sa2 7:23). In order to define with still greater precision the position of these princes in the congregation, Amos adds, "to whom the house of Israel cometh," namely, to have its affairs regulated by them as its rulers. These epithets were intended to remind the princes of the people of both kingdoms, "that they were the descendants of those tribe-princes who had once been honoured 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" (Hengstenberg, Dissertations, i. p. 148). To give still greater prominence to the exalted calling of these princes, Amos shows in Amo 6:2 that Israel can justly be called the firstling of the nations, since it is not inferior either in prosperity or greatness to any of the powerful and prosperous heathen states. Amos names three great and flourishing capitals, because he is speaking to the great men of the capitals of the two kingdoms of Israel, and the condition of the whole kingdom is reflected in the circumstances of the capital. Calneh (= Calno, Isa 10:9) is the later Ctesiphon in the land of Shinar, or Babylonia, situated upon the Tigris opposite to Seleucia (see at Gen 10:10); hence the expression עברוּ, because men were obliged to cross over the river (Euphrates) in order to get there. Hamath: the capital of the Syrian kingdom of that name, situated upon the Orontes (see at Gen 10:18 and Num 34:8). There was not another Hamath, as Hitzig supposes. The circumstance that Amos mentions Calneh first, whereas it was much farther to the east, so that Hamath was nearer to Palestine than Calneh was, may be explained very simply, from the fact that the enumeration commences with the most distant place and passes from the north-east to the south-west, which was in the immediate neighbourhood of Israel. Gath: one of the five capitals of Philistia, and in David's time the capital of all Philistia (see at Jos 13:3; Sa2 8:1). The view still defended by Baur - namely, that Amos mentions here three cities that had either lost their former grandeur, or had fallen altogether, for the purpose of showing the self-secure princes of Israel that the same fate awaited Zion and Samaria - is groundless and erroneous; for although Calneh is spoken of in Isa 10:9 as a city that had been conquered by the Assyrians, it cannot be proved that this was the case as early as the time of Amos, but is a simple inference drawn from a false interpretation of the verse before us. Nor did Jeroboam II conquer the city of Hamath on the Orontes, and incorporate its territory with his own kingdom (see at Kg2 14:25). And although the Philistian city Gath was conquered by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:60, we cannot infer from Ch2 26:6, or from the fact of Gath not being mentioned in Amo 1:6-8, that this occurred before the time of Amos (see at Amo 1:8). On the other hand, the fact that it is placed by the side of Hamath in the passage before us, is rather a proof that the conquest did not take place till afterwards.
Amo 6:2 states what the princes of Israel are to see in the cities mentioned, - namely, that they are not better off (טובים denoting outward success or earthly prosperity) than these two kingdoms, i.e., the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, and that their territories are not larger than theirs. It is very evident that this does not apply to cities that have been destroyed. The double question ה ... אם requires a negative answer. Amo 6:3. assigns the reason for the woe pronounced upon the sinful security of the princes of Israel, by depicting the godless conduct of these princes; and this is appended in the manner peculiar to Amos, viz., in participles. These princes fancy that the evil day, i.e., the day of misfortune or of judgment and punishment, is far away (מנדּים, piel of נדה = נדד, to be far off, signifies in this instance not to put far away, but to regard as far off); and they go so far as to prepare a seat or throne close by for wickedness and violence, which must be followed by judgment. הגּישׁ שׁבת, to move the sitting (shebheth from yâshabh) of violence near, or better still, taking shebheth in the sense of enthroning, as Ewald does, to move the throne of violence nearer, i.e., to cause violence to erect its throne nearer and nearer among them.
This forgetfulness of God shows itself more especially in the reckless licentiousness and debauchery of these men. Amo 6:4. "They who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves out of the fattening stall. Amo 6:5. Who prattle to the tune of the harp; like David, they invent string instruments. Amo 6:6. Who drink wine out of sacrificial bowls, and anoint themselves with the best oils, and do not afflict themselves for the hurt of Joseph." They lie stretched, as it were poured out (סרחים), upon beds inlaid with ivory, to feast and fill their belly with the flesh of the best lambs and fattened calves, to the playing of harps and singing, in which they take such pleasure, that they invent new kinds of playing and singing. The ἁπ. λεγ. pârat, to strew around (cf. peret in Lev 19:10), in Arabic to throw many useless words about, to gossip, describes the singing at the banquets as frivolous nonsense. כּלי שׁיר, articles or instruments of singing, are not musical instruments generally, but, as we may see from Ch2 34:12, compared with Ch2 29:26-27, and Ch1 23:5, the stringed instruments that were either invented by David (e.g., the nebel), or arranged by him for the sacred song of the temple, together with the peculiar mode of playing them; in other words, "the playing upon stringed instruments introduced by David." Consequently the meaning of Amo 6:5 is the following: As David invented stringed instruments in honour of his God in heaven, so do these princes invent playing and singing for their god, the belly. The meaning to invent or devise, which Baur will not allow to חשׁב, is established beyond all doubt by Exo 31:4. They drink thereby out of sacrificial bowls of wine, i.e., drink wine out of sacrificial bowls. שׁתה with ב, as in Gen 44:5. Mizrâq, in the plural mizrâqı̄m and mizrâqōth, from zâraq, to sprinkle, was the name given both to the vessels used for the sprinkling of the blood, and also to the bowls made use of for pouring the libation of wine upon the table of shew-bread (Ch2 4:8). This word is applied by Amos to the bowls out of which the gluttons drank their wine; with special reference to the offering of silver sacrificial bowls made by the tribe-princes at the consecration of the altar (Numbers 7), to show that whereas the tribe-princes of Israel in the time of Moses manifested their zeal for the service of Jehovah by presenting sacrificial bowls of silver, the princes of his own time showed just as much zeal in their care for their god, the belly. Mizrâqı̄m does not mean "rummers, or pitchers used for mixing wine." Lastly, Amos refers to their anointing themselves with the firstling of the oils, i.e., the best oils, as a sign of unbridled rejoicing, inasmuch as the custom of anointing was suspended in time of mourning (Sa2 14:2), for the purpose of appending the antithesis ולא גחלוּ, they do not afflict or grieve themselves for the ruin of Israel. Shēbher, breach, injury, destruction. Joseph signifies the people and kingdom of the ten tribes.
Announcement of Punishment. - Amo 6:7. "Therefore will they now go into captivity at the head of the captives, and the shouting of the revellers will depart." Because these revellers do not trouble themselves about the ruin of Israel, they will now be obliged to wander into captivity at the head of the people (cf. Kg1 21:9), when the approaching shebher occurs. בּראשׁ גּלים is chosen with direct reference to ראשׁית שׁמנים, as Jerome has observed: "Ye who are first in riches will be the first to bear the yoke of captivity." Serūchı̄m also points back to Amo 6:4, "those who are stretched upon their couches" - that is, the revellers; and it forms a play upon words with mirzach. מרזח signifies a loud cry, here a joyous cry, in Jer 16:5 a cry of lamentation.
This threat is carried out still further in Amo 6:8-11. Amo 6:8. "The Lord Jehovah hath sworn by Himself, is the saying of Jehovah, the God of hosts: I abhor the pride of Jacob, and his palaces I hate; and give up the city, and the fulness thereof. Amo 6:9. And it will come to pass, if then men are left in a house, they shall die. Amo 6:10. And when his cousin lifts him up, and he that burieth him, to carry out the bones out of the house, and saith to the one in the hindermost corner of the house, Is there still any one with thee? and he says, Not one; then will he say, Hush; for the name of Jehovah is not to be invoked. Amo 6:11. For, behold, Jehovah commandeth, and men smite the great house to ruins, and the small house into shivers." In order to show the secure debauchees the terrible severity of the judgments of God, the Lord announces to His people with a solemn oath the rejection of the nation which is so confident in its own power (cf. Amo 6:13). The oath runs here as in Amo 4:2, with this exception, that instead of בּקדשׁו we have בּנפשׁו in the same sense; for the nephesh of Jehovah, His inmost being or self, is His holiness. מתאב, with the guttural softened, for מתעב. The participle describes the abhorrence as a continued lasting feeling, and not a merely passing emotion. גּאון יעקב, the loftiness or pride of Jacob, i.e., everything of which Jacob is proud, the true and imaginary greatness and pride of Israel, which included the palaces of the voluptuous great men, for which reason they are placed in parallelism with גאון יע. This glory of Israel Jehovah abhors, and He will destroy it by giving up the city (Samaria), and all that fills it (houses and men), to the enemies to be destroyed. גאון יע, to give up to the enemy, as in Deu 32:30 and Oba 1:14; not to surround, to which וּמלאהּ is unsuitable. The words not only threaten surrounding, or siege, but also conquest, and (Amo 6:11) the destruction of the city. And then, even if there are ten in one house, they will all perish. אנשׁים: people, men. Ten in one house is a large number, which the prophet assumes as the number, to give the stronger emphasis to the thought that not one will escape from death. This thought is still further explained in Amo 6:10. A relative comes into the house to bury his deceased blood-relation. The suffix to נשׂאו refers to the idea involved in מתוּ, a dead man. Dōd, literally the father's brother, here any near relation whose duty it was to see to the burial of the dead. מסרף for משׂרף, the burner, i.e., the burier of the dead. The Israelites were indeed accustomed to bury their dead, and not to burn the corpses. The description of the burier as mesârēph (a burner) therefore supposes the occurrence of such a multitude of deaths that it is impossible to bury the dead, whose corpses are obliged to be burned, for the purpose of preventing the air from being polluted by the decomposition of the corpses. Of course the burning did not take place at the house, as Hitzig erroneously infers from להוציא עצמים; for עצמים denotes the corpse here, as in Exo 13:19; Jos 24:32, and Kg2 13:21, and not the different bones of the dead which remained without decomposition or burning. The burier now asks the last living person in the house, who has gone to the very back of the house in order to save his life, whether there is any one still with him, any one still living in the house beside himself, and receives the answer, אפס (Adv.), "Nothing more;" whereupon he says to him, has, "Be still," answering to our Hush! because he is afraid that, if he goes on speaking, he may invoke the name of God, or pray for the mercy of God; and he explains his words by adding, "The name of Jehovah must not be mentioned." It is not Amos who adds this explanation, but the relation. Nor does it contain "the words of one who despairs of any better future, and whose mind is oppressed by the weight of the existing evils, as if he said, Prayers would be of no use, for we too must die" (Lievl., Ros.). לא להזכּיר, "it is not to (may not) be mentioned," would be unsuitable as an utterance of despair. It rather indicates the fear lest, by the invocation of the name of God, the eye of God should be drawn towards this last remaining one, and he also should fall a victim to the judgment of death. This judgment the Lord accomplishes not merely by a pestilence which breaks out during the siege, and rages all around (there is no ground for any such limitation of the words), but also by sword and plague during the siege and conquest of the town. For the reason assigned for the threat in Amo 6:11 points to the latter. כּי links the words to the main thought in Amo 6:11, or even Amo 6:10: "When the Lord delivers up the city and all that fills it, they will all perish; for, behold, He commands, orders the enemy (the nation in Amo 6:14), and it will smite in pieces the houses, great and small." The singular הבּית is used with indefinite generality: every house, great and small (cf. Amo 3:15).
This judgment also, they, with their perversion of all right, will be unable to avert by their foolish trust in their own power. Amo 6:12. "Do horses indeed run upon the rock, or do men plough (there) with oxen, that ye turn justice into poison, and the fruit of the righteousness into wormwood? Amo 6:13. They who rejoice over what is worthless, who say: with our strength we make ourselves horns! Amo 6:14. For, behold, I raise over you, O house of Israel, is the saying of Jehovah, the God of hosts, a nation; and they will oppress you from the territory of Hamath to the brook of the desert." To explain the threat in Amo 6:11, Amos now calls attention in Amo 6:12, under two different similes, to the perversity with which the haughty magnates of Israel, who turn right into bitter wrong, imagine that they can offer a successful resistance, or bid defiance with their own strength to the enemy, whom the Lord will raise up as the executor of His judgment. The perversion of right into its opposite can no more bring salvation than horses can run upon rocks, or any one plough upon such a soil with oxen. In the second question בּסּלע (on the rock) is to be repeated from the first, as the majority of commentators suppose. But the two questions are not to be taken in connection with the previous verse in the sense of "Ye will no more be able to avert this destruction than horses can run upon rocks," etc. (Chr. B. Mich.). They belong to what follows, and are meant to expose the moral perversity of the unrighteous conduct of the wicked. For הפכתּם וגו, see Amo 5:7; and for ראשׁ, Hos 10:4. The impartial administration of justice is called the "fruit of righteousness," on account of the figurative use of the terms darnel and wormwood. These great men, however, rejoice thereby in לא דבר, "a nothing," or a thing which has no existence. What the prophet refers to may be seen from the parallel clause, viz., their imaginary strength (chōzeq). They rested this hope upon the might with which Jeroboam had smitten the Syrians, and restored the ancient boundaries of the kingdom. From this might they would take to themselves (lâqach, to take, not now for the first time to create, or ask of God) the horns, to thrust down all their foes. Horns are signs and symbols of power (cf. Deu 33:17; Kg1 22:11); here they stand for the military resources, with which they fancied that they could conquer every foe. These delusions of God-forgetting pride the prophet casts down, by saying that Jehovah the God of hosts will raise up a nation against them, which will crush them down in the whole length and breadth of the kingdom. This nation was Assyria. Kı̄ hinnēh (for behold) is repeated from Amo 6:11; and the threat in Amo 6:14 is thereby described as the resumption and confirmation of the threat expressed in Amo 6:11, although the kı̄ is connected with the perversity condemned in Amo 6:12, Amo 6:13, of trusting in their own power. Lâchats, to oppress, to crush down. On the expression לבוא חמת, as a standing epithet for the northern boundary of the kingdom of Israel, see Num 34:8. As the southern boundary we have נחל הערבה instead of ים הערבה (Kg2 14:25). This is not the willow-brook mentioned in Isa 15:7, the present Wady Sufsaf, or northern arm of the Wady el-Kerek (see Delitzsch on Isaiah, l.c.), nor the Rhinokorura, the present el-Arish, which formed the southern boundary of Canaan, because this is constantly called "the brook of Egypt" (see at Num 34:5; Jos 15:4), but the present el-Ahsy (Ahsa), the southern border river which separated Moab from Edom (see at Kg2 14:25).