Amos 3:12
Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.
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(12) Taketh out . . . taken out.—Should be (as in margin) delivereth . . . be delivered. The agricultural image, used by Amos, is very impressive. The shanks and pieces of the ear, worthless portions, saved from the lion’s jaws, represent the remnants of Samaria’s population that shall escape.

In Damascus in a couch.—Some would render “in Damascus on that of (i.e., corner of) a couch,” Damascus corresponding to Samaria in the parallel clause. But this construction is very questionable, and it would be much simpler and safer to adopt the reading of most Hebrew texts, and render on a couch’s damask (so Gesenius and Ewald), referring to the silken (?) or white woollen fabric for which Damascus, even in that early age, was famous. The relations between Syria and Israel at this moment were intimate. The meaning is that even the noblest and wealthiest will be regarded, if saved, as worthless salvage.

Amos 3:12. As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, &c. — When a lion hath for some time ravaged the flock, but is at last frighted away by the noise of the shepherds and their dogs, or by darts and other offensive weapons thrown at him, then all that, in such a case, the shepherd can hope to save will be but some poor remains of the prey that the lion hath seized. And thus shall it be at the taking of Samaria: only a small remainder of the inhabitants shall escape the search of their enemies, though they try to hide themselves in their most retired apartments. In the corner of a bed — In some dark corner behind a bed; and in Damascus — Supposing some of them have fled thither; in a couch — Some few of the poor may escape when the enemy finds them sick upon their couches. But the marginal reading, on the bed’s feet, is thought by some to give a better sense: or, as the word rendered Damascus also signifies a corner, the clause may be properly rendered, In the side or corner of a couch, an interpretation approved by Aben Ezra. See Buxtorf.

3:9-15 That power which is an instrument of unrighteousness, will justly be brought down and broken. What is got and kept wrongfully, will not be kept long. Some are at ease, but there will come a day of visitation, and in that day, all they are proud of, and put confidence in, shall fail them. God will inquire into the sins of which they have been guilty in their houses, the robbery they have stored up, and the luxury in which they lived. The pomp and pleasantness of men's houses, do not fortify against God's judgments, but make sufferings the more grievous and vexatious. Yet a remnant, according to the election of grace, will be secured by our great and good Shepherd, as from the jaws of destruction, in the worst times.As the shepherd taketh - (Rather, rescueth) out of the mouth of the lion two legs (Properly, the shank, the lower part of the leg below the knee, which in animals is dry, and bone only and worthless) "or apiece" (the tip) "of an ear, so" (that is, so few and weak, so bared and spoiled, a mere remnant,) "shall the children of Israel be taken out" (rather, "rescued") "that" now "dwell" at ease "in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus" , in "a couch," or rather "in Damascus, a couch." Now, that soft, rounded, oblong, hill of Samaria, was one large luxurious couch, in which its rich and great rested securely, propped and cushioned up on both sides, in, what is still the place of dignity, "the corner of a bed," or "Divan," that is, the inner corner where the two sides meet. Damascus also, which Jeroboam had won for Israel, was a canopied couch to them, in which they stayed themselves. It is an image of listless ease and security, like that of these whom the false prophetesses lulled into careless stupidity as to their souls; "sewing pillows to all armholes," or "wrists" Ezekiel 13:18, whereon to lean in a dull inertness.

In vain! Of all those who then dwelt at ease and in luxury, the Good Shepherd Himself should rescue from "the lion," (the enemy, in the first instance the Assyrian,) a small remnant, in the sight of the enemy and of man of little account, but precious in the sight of God. The enemy would leave them perhaps, as not worth removing, just as, when the lion has devoured the fat and the strong, the shepherd may recover from him some slight piece of skin or extremity of the bones. Amos then, as well as Joel (see the note at Joel 2:32), preaches that same solemn sentence, so repeated throughout the prophets, "a reimnant" only "shall be saved." So doubtless it was in the captivity of the ten tribes, as in the rest. So it was in Judah, when certain "of the poor of the land" only were "left behind vinedessers and for farmers" 2 Kings 25:12; Jeremiah 52:16. In the Gospel, "not many wise men after the flesh not many mighty, not many noble were called" 1 Corinthians 1:26, but "God chose the poor of this world, rich in faith James 2:5, and the Good Shepherd rescued from the mouth of the lion those whom man despised, yet who "had ears to hear."

After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, a poor remnant only escaped. Rup.: "The spirit of prophecy foresaw both captivities, the end whereof was to confirm the faith, not in one place only but in all the earth, and so a slight remnant was "rescued from the mouth of the lion," that is, from the slaughter of the destroyers, and permitted to live, that through them, as a witness and monument, the justice of God might be known from age to age, and the truth of the Scriptures might be everywhere, borne about by them, still witnessing to Christ the Son of God, who is known by the law and the prophets. Hapness remnants, so "taken out" for the good of others, not their own!" As these remnants of the animal show what it was which the lion destroyed, yet are of no further profit, so are they now a memorial of what they once were, what grace through their sins they have lost.

Rib.: "Many souls will perish because they trust in their own strength, and no more call on God to have mercy on them than if they could rise of themselves and enter the way of salvation without God. They trust in the power of their friends, or the friendship of princes, or the doctrines of philophers, and repose in them as in a couch of Damascus. But Christ, the Good Shepherd, will rescue out of the mouth of "the lion," who "goeth about seeking, whom he may devour," what is last and of least esteem in this world, who have anything whereby the Good Shepherd can hold them. The "legs" signify the desire to go to hear the Word of God; the extremity of the ear, that obedience was not wholly lost. For if any begin even in part to obey the word of God which he hath heard, God, of His fatherly mercy, will help him and lead him on to perfect obedience. The legs also denote desire , whereby, as by certain steps, the soul approacheth to God or departeth from Him. Yet if a soul would be saved, desires suffice not; but if to these obedience to the heavenly commands be added, it shall be rescued from the mouth of the lion."

12. shepherd—a pastoral image, appropriately used by Amos, a shepherd himself.

piece of … ear—brought by the shepherd to the owner of the sheep, so as not to have to pay for the loss (Ge 31:39; Ex 22:13). So if aught of Israel escapes, it shall be a miracle of God's goodness. It shall be but a scanty remnant. There is a kind of goat in the East the ears of which are a foot long, and proportionally broad. Perhaps the reference is to this. Compare on the image 1Sa 17:34, 35; 2Ti 4:17.

that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed—that is, that live luxuriously in Samaria (compare Am 6:1, 4). "A bed" means here the Oriental divan, a raised part of the room covered with cushions.

in Damascus in a couch—Jeroboam II had lately restored Damascus to Israel (2Ki 14:25, 28). So the Israelites are represented as not merely in "the corner of a bed," as in Samaria, but "in a (whole) couch," at Damascus, living in luxurious ease. Of these, now so luxurious, soon but a remnant shall be left by the foe. The destruction of Damascus and that of Samaria shall be conjoined; as here their luxurious lives, and subsequently under Pekah and Rezin their inroads on Judah, were combined (Isa 7:1-8; 8:4, 9; 17:3). The parallelism of "Samaria" to "Damascus," and the Septuagint favor English Version rather than Gesenius: "on a damask couch." The Hebrew pointing, though generally expressing damask, may express the city "Damascus"; and many manuscripts point it so. Compare for Israel's overthrow, 2Ki 17:5, 6; 18:9-12.

In brief, this verse foretells how few and with what difficulty they shall escape who are not swallowed up of the approaching judgments, and it is elegantly expressed in the following similitude.

As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth; as the shepherd doth hardly rescue a small part of a sheep or lamb, when the lion hath seized and torn it.

The lion; the fiercest, strongest, and boldest creature, not a bear or wolf.

Two legs; which are parts the ravening lion less regardeth and last eateth;

or a piece of an ear, less considerable than the legs.

So shall the children of Israel, some of the children of Israel, or some of the ten tribes, but the poorer, meaner, and more worthless of them,

be taken out that dwell in Samaria; shall escape when Samaria is taken.

In the corner of a bed; lying in some dark corner, and on a piece of a bed, as the poor do in most places.

In Damascus; the chiefest city of Syria, taken by Tiglath-pileser much about the time when he wasted Israel in aid of Ahaz against Rezin and Pekah.

In a couch; some few of the poorer among them also shall escape, pitied by the enemy when he findeth them weakly and sick upon their couch.

Thus saith the Lord, as the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion,.... Or what the lion has left, to show to his master that it had been seized and torn by a beast of prey; for otherwise it is a most daring thing, and not usual, for a shepherd to take anything out of a lion's mouth, though David did: and here it is said to be not a whole sheep, or a lamb, but

two legs, or a piece of an ear; the body of the creature being devoured by the lion, only some offal left he cared not for; two shanks of the legs that had no flesh upon them, and the gristle of the ear, as the Targum; having satisfied his hunger with the best of it: signifying hereby that only a few of the Israelites should escape the enemy, and those poor and insignificant, he made no account of; and this in a miraculous manner, it being like taking anything out of the mouth of a lion, to which a powerful enemy is compared, and particularly the king of Assyria, Jeremiah 50:17;

so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria; only a few of them, and those the poorest; and their escape will be next to a miracle, when the city will be taken; even such as are weak and sickly, or faint hearted: being

in a corner of a bed; who either through sickness lie there, or slothfulness, danger being near; or through poverty, having only a corner or a piece of a bed to lie on; or through cowardice they hid themselves in one part of it:

and in Damascus in a couch; or "in a bed of Damascus" (h); the chief city in Syria, taken much about the same time as Samaria was; and where some of the Israelites might betake themselves, and think themselves secure as persons laid on a couch: or at the bed's feet (i), as some render it; or "in a corner of a couch" (k), as before. The Targum paraphrases it,

"that dwell in Samaria, in the strength of power, trusting in Damascus.''

(h) "in sponda Damasci", Tigurine version; "in grabbato Damasci", so some in Drusius; "in lectis Damascenis", Castalio; so Abendana. (i) "In crure spondae", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Tarnovius. (k) "Angulo grabati", Pagninus; "in angulo strati", Montanus. So R. Sol. Urbin. Ohel Moed, fol. 75. 1.

Thus saith the LORD; As the shepherd taketh {m} out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in {n} Damascus in a couch.

(m) When the lion has satisfied his hunger, the shepherd finds a leg or a piece of an ear, to show that the sheep have been torn by his teeth.

(n) Where they thought to have had a sure stronghold, and to have been in safety.

12. So sudden will be the surprise, so overwhelming the numbers of the foe, that of the luxurious nobles of Samaria only an insignificant remnant will escape with their bare lives: all the rest will be swept away by the foe.

As the shepherd taketh &c.] better, rescueth (R.V.). A shepherd would bring such remains of a missing animal to his master, as evidence that it had really been torn by beasts (Exodus 22:13; cf. Genesis 31:39). The comparison, which is suggested no doubt by the experiences of Amos’ shepherd life, illustrates forcibly both the scant numbers and the shattered condition of the survivors, besides hinting at the formidable powers of the assailant.

be taken out] be rescued.

that sit in Samaria in the corner of a divan] The grandees of Samaria are represented as sitting luxuriously in the cushioned corners of their divans. In Assyria the king reclined, or sat up, on a couch beside the table, leaning his weight upon his left elbow, and having his right hand free and disposable (see the representation in Rawlinson’s Anc. Monarchies, ed. 4, i. 493). In the modern oriental houses of the wealthy (Van Lennep, Bible Customs in Bible Lands, p. 460, referred to by Mitchell), ‘a divan,’ or cushioned seat, about a yard in width, extends along three sides of the principal room, while a row of richly woven stuffed cushions lines the wall behind, and forms a support for the back: the seat of honour is the inmost corner of the divan, opposite the door. In some such luxurious state the magnates of Samaria sat in Amos’s day. The framework of the seat was often inlaid with ivory (Amos 6:4).

and in Damascus in a couch] The Hebrew text can hardly be right; nor, as pointed, is the Heb. word here found (d’mésheḳ) identical with that for Damascus (damméseḳ). Most moderns render and on the damask (whence R.V. silken cushions) of a couch. This rendering yields an excellent sense; but it cannot be regarded as certain: for (1) it is doubtful whether, in the time of Amos, Damascus was yet celebrated for the manufacture which in modern European languages is called after it: (2) in Arabic also, the name of the material (dimaḳs), which has been appealed to in support of this explanation, differs from that of the city (Dimaḳsh); hence it is very questionable whether it really derives its name from it. It is considered by Fränkel, Aram. Fremdwörter im Arabischen, p. 40, to be varied by metathesis from midaḳs, a form which also occurs, and which in its turn is derived from the Syr. mîtaḳs, which is the Greek μέταξα. Whatever uncertainty there may be about the word, it must, however, either be, or be the corrupt representative of, a term either synonymous or parallel with corner, in the preceding clause.

Verse 12. - The prophet shows that the chastisement is inevitable, and that only the smallest remnant, the most worthless among the inhabitants, and they with much difficulty, can escape. The illustration from a common incident in a shepherd's life is very natural in Amos. Taketh; better, rescueth. So below, shall be taken out; shall be rescued. The usual explanation is that a shepherd attacks the lion which has seized one of his sheep (comp. 1 Samuel 17:34, etc.), and rescues from it the most worthless parts - "a couple of shank bones or a bit, or tip, of an ear." But as an attack on a lion would be an abnormal act of courage on the part of a shepherd, and the comparison is with things likely and usual, it is probable that the meaning is that the shepherd finds only these poor remnants after the lion has left his prey. So such a poor remnant shall be rescued from the ten tribes of Israel. That dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed; that sit at ease, lounging in the cosiest corner of the divan, an image of indolent ease and careless security in the face of impending judgment. And in Damascus in a couch; LXX., καὶ ἐν Δαμασκῷ: Vulgate, et in Damasci grabato. The Syriac and Jewish Versions agree in considering the word "Damascus" to be a proper name. The other modern rendering takes it to mean the material which we call "damask," or something similar. Hence our Revised Version gives, "on the silken cushions of a bed;" and others, "on the damask of a couch." Dr. Pusey retains the old rendering, on the grounds that there is no evidence to prove that the manufactures for which Damascus was celebrated in after time existed at this period, its exports being then wine and white wool (Ezekiel 27:18), and that the Arabic word dimakso (which critics have cited as connected with the term "damask") has nothing to do with Damascus, and meant raw, not manufactured, "silk." He translates, "in Damascus, a couch," and explains this to mean that Damascus, which Jeroboam II had won for Israel (2 Kings 14:28), "was a canopied couch to them, in which they stayed themselves." This agrees with the ancient Jewish interpretation, which explains the clause to mean that the Israelites would some day depend for help on the Syrians represented by Damascus A third exposition, favoured by the Latin Vulgate, makes the words to mean, "on a couch of Damascus;" i.e. a Syrian couch of a costly and luxurious nature. This comes to the same as the modern rendering given, above and seems to be the easiest explanation of the expression. The difficulty depends chiefly on the punctuation of the word דמשך; or them may be some corruption in the text. What the LXX. meant by their rendering is problematical,Κατέναντι τῆς φυλῆς καὶ ἐν Δαμασκῷ, "The children of Israel who dwell in Samaria in the presence of the tribe and in Damascus." Amos 3:12Thus do they bring about the ruin of the kingdom. Amos 3:11. "Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, An enemy, and that round about the land; and he will hurl down thy glory from thee, and thy palaces are plundered. Amos 3:12. Thus saith Jehovah, As the shepherd delivers out of the mouth of the lion two shin-bones or an ear-lappet, so will the sons of Israel deliver themselves; they who sit on the corner of the couch and on the damask of the bed." The threat is introduced in the form of an aposiopesis. צר, enemy, וּסביב הארץ, and indeed round about the land ( ו explic. as in Amos 4:10, etc.; and סביב in the construct state construed as a preposition), i.e., will come, attack the land on all sides, and take possession of it. Others regard צר as an abstract: oppression (from the Chaldee); but in this case we should have to supply Jehovah as the subject to והוריד; and although this is probable, it is by no means natural, as Jehovah is speaking. There is no foundation, on the other hand, for the remark, that if tsar signified the enemy, we should either find the plural צרים, or הצּר with the article (Baumgarten). The very indefiniteness of tsar suits the sententious brevity of the clause. This enemy will hurl down the splendour of Samaria, "which ornaments the top of the mountain like a crown, Isaiah 28:1-3" (Hitzig: עז, might, with the subordinate idea of glory), and plunder the palaces in which violence, i.e., property unrighteously acquired, is heaped up (Amos 3:10). The words are addressed to the city of Samaria, to which the feminine suffixes refer. On the fall of Samaria, and the plundering thereof, the luxurious grandees, who rest upon costly pillows, will only be able to save their life to the very smallest extent, and that with great difficulty. In the simile used in Amos 3:12 there is a slight want of proportion in the two halves, the object of the deliverance being thrown into the background in the second clause by the passive construction, and only indicated in the verb, to deliver themselves, i.e., to save their life. "A pair of shin-bones and a piece (בּדל ἁταξ λεγ.), i.e., a lappet, of the earth," are most insignificant remnants. The grandees of Samaria, of whom only a few were to escape with their life, are depicted by Amos as those who sit on costly divans, without the least anxiety. פּאת מטּה, the corner of the divan, the most convenient for repose. According to Amos 6:4, these divans were ornamented with ivory, and according to the verse before us, they were ornamented with costly stuffs. דּמשׂק comes from דמּשׂק, Damascus, and signifies damask, an artistically woven material (see Ges. Thes. p. 346). This brings the visitation of God to an end. Even the altars and palaces are to be laid in ruins, and consequently Samaria will be destroyed.
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