Amos 5:19
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
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(19) Your escape will be impossible. You will avoid one calamity, only to fall into a worse.

5:18-27 Woe unto those that desire the day of the Lord's judgments, that wish for times of war and confusion; as some who long for changes, hoping to rise upon the ruins of their country! but this should be so great a desolation, that nobody could gain by it. The day of the Lord will be a dark, dismal, gloomy day to all impenitent sinners. When God makes a day dark, all the world cannot make it light. Those who are not reformed by the judgments of God, will be pursued by them; if they escape one, another stands ready to seize them. A pretence of piety is double iniquity, and so it will be found. The people of Israel copied the crimes of their forefathers. The law of worshipping the Lord our God, is, Him only we must serve. Professors thrive so little, because they have little or no communion with God in their duties. They were led captive by Satan into idolatry, therefore God caused them to go into captivity among idolaters.As if a man, did flee from a lion - The Day of the Lord is a day of terror on every side. Before and behind, without and within, abroad under the roof of heaven, or under the shelter of his own, everywhere is terror and death. The Syrian bear is said to have been more fierce and savage than the lion. For its fierceness and voracity Daniel 7:5, God made it, in Daniel's vision, a symbol of the empire of the Medes. From both lion and bear there might be escape by flight. When the man had "leaned his hand" trustfully "on the wall" of his own house, "and the serpent bit him," there was no escape. He had fled from death to death, from peril to destruction. 19. As if a man did flee … a lion, and a bear met him—Trying to escape one calamity, he falls into another. This perhaps implies that in Am 5:18 their ironical desire for the day of the Lord was as if it would be an escape from existing calamities. The coming of the day of the Lord would be good news to us, if true: for we have served God (that is, the golden calves). So do hypocrites flatter themselves as to death and judgment, as if these would be a relief from existing ills of life. The lion may from generosity spare the prostrate, but the bear spares none (compare Job 20:24; Isa 24:18).

leaned … on the wall—on the side wall of the house, to support himself from falling. Snakes often hid themselves in fissures in a wall. Those not reformed by God's judgments will be pursued by them: if they escape one, another is ready to seize them.

As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him: here proverbially is expressed the continuance and succession of evils one after another; it will be a long calamity, when your civil dissensions waste you first, next God’s armies of locusts and palmer-worms, and the Assyrians too, until all ends in final captivity; you may escape one, but shall fall into another calamity, and worse than that you escaped; abroad your miseries shall be like a lion or bear.

Or went into the house; at home you may hope for safety from such open dangers, but there other kind of mischief shall meet you.

And leaned his hand on the wall; weary and faint, shall think to ease and support himself.

And a serpent bit him; whose biting infuseth a deadly poison, which suddenly corrupts the whole mass of blood, and kills the man. If conspirators at home be lions, the Assyrians will be as bears to you.

As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him,.... That is, should the day of the Lord come as they desired, they would not be the better for it; it would be only going from one trouble to another, like escaping Scylla, and falling into Charybdis: or as if a man, upon the sight of a lion, and at his yell, should take to his heels, and flee "from the face" of him, as the phrase is (i), and a bear, a less generous, and more cruel and voracious creature, especially when: bereaved of its whelps, should meet him, and seize him: or should: he get clear of them both,

or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him; should he get into a house, and so escape the lion and the bear, and lean upon the wall of the house to support and ease him, being out of breath in running from these creatures; yet a serpent lurking in the wall of an old house bites him, and the venom and poison of it issues in his death; so he gains nothing by fleeing from the lion, or escaping the bear. These proverbial expressions signify that the Israelites would be no gainers by the day of the Lord, but rather fall into greater evils, and more distressing calamities. Some Jewish writers interpret the lion and the bear of Laban and Esau; the lion (they say (k)) is Laban, who pursued after Jacob to take away his life; the bear is Esau, who stood in the way to kill all that came, the mother with the children; but are much better interpreted of the Chaldeans, Persians, and Grecians, by Jerom; whose words are,

"fleeing from the face of Nebuchadnezzar the lion, ye will be met by Ahasuerus, under whom, was the history of Esther; or the empire of the Assyrians and Chaldeans being destroyed, the Medes and Persians shall arise; and when upon the reign of Cyrus ye shall have returned, and at the command of, Darius shall have begun to build the house of the Lord, and have confidence in the temple, so as to rest in it, lean your weary hands on its walls; then shall come Alexander king of the Macedonians, or Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, who shall abide in the temple, and bite likes serpent, not without in Babylon, and in Susa, but within the borders of the holy land; by which it appears that the day ye desire is not a day of light and joy, but of darkness and sorrow.''

The interpretation is pretty and ingenious enough, since the characters of the lion, bear, and serpent, agree with the respective persons and people mentioned; Nebuchadnezzar is often compared to a lion, Jeremiah 4:7; and the Babylonian and Chaldean monarchy is represented by one in Daniel 7:4; and the Persian monarchy by a bear, Daniel 7:5; to which the Persians are compared, the Jews say (l), because they eat and drink like a bear, are as fat as bears, and hairy like them, and as restless as they; and so the Persians were noted for their luxury and lust, as well as their cruelty; and, wearing long hair, are called hairy persons in the Delphic oracle, which Herodotus (m) interprets of them; See Gill on Daniel 7:5; and Antiochus may not unfitly be compared to a serpent; see See Gill on Daniel 8:23; See Gill on Daniel 8:24; See Gill on Daniel 8:25; See Gill on Daniel 11:23; but what is to be objected to this sense is, that the words are spoken to the ten tribes, or Israel, who were carried captive by the Assyrians; and not the two tribes, or the Jews, who fell into the hands, first of the Chaldeans, then the Persians, and then the Grecians, particularly into the hands of Antiochus; see Daniel 7:4.

(i) "a facie", V. L. Pagninus; "a faciebus", Montanus; "a conspectu", Mercerus. (k) Pirke Eliezer, c. 37. fol. 41. 1.((l) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 72. 1. & Avoda Zara, fol. 2. 2. (m) Erato, sive l. 6. c. 19. Vid. Calliope, sive l. 9. c. 81.

As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
19. Examples of a condition beset by perils, in which men escape from one danger, only to fall into another, perhaps worse.

a bear] Bears are now found only in the far north of Palestine, about Mount Hermon, but they were once common in all parts of the country, and were dangerous both to human beings (2 Kings 2:24; Lamentations 3:10) and to sheep (1 Samuel 17:34): the bear is coupled with the lion, also, in Lamentations 3:10.

and entered into the house &c.] taking refuge from the bear, and encountered there an unsuspected danger, being bitten by a serpent which had concealed itself in a crevice of the wall.

Verse 19. - Amos explains the dangers of this judgment day by illustrations drawn from pastoral life, equivalent to the rushing from Charybdis into Scylla. Every place is full of danger - the open country, the shelter of the house. Jerome applies the passage to the fate of the kingdom in general: "Fugientibus vobis a facie Nabuchodonosor leonis occurrent Medi, Persae, demum Antiochus Epiphanes, qui moretur in templo et vos instar colubri mordeat, nequaquam foris in Babylone, sed intra terminos terrae sanctae." Amos 5:19The first turn. - Amos 5:18. "Woe to those who desire the day of Jehovah! What good is the day of Jehovah to you? It is darkness, and not light. Amos 5:19. As if a man fleeth before the lion, and the bear meets him; and he comes into the house, and rests his hand upon the wall, and the snake bites him. Amos 5:20. Alas! is not the day of Jehovah darkness, and not light; and gloom, and no brightness in it?" As the Israelites rested their hope of deliverance from every kind of hostile oppression upon their outward connection with the covenant nation (Amos 5:14); many wished the day to come, on which Jehovah would judge all the heathen, and redeem Israel out of all distress, and exalt it to might and dominion above all nations, and bless it with honour and glory, applying the prophecy of Joel in ch. 3 without the least reserve to Israel as the nation of Jehovah, and without considering that, according to Joel 2:32, those only would be saved on the day of Jehovah who called upon the name of the Lord, and were called by the Lord, i.e., were acknowledged by the Lord as His own. These infatuated hopes, which confirmed the nation in the security of its life of sin, are met by Amos with an exclamation of woe upon those who long for the day of Jehovah to come, and with the declaration explanatory of the woe, that that day is darkness and not light, and will bring them nothing but harm and destruction, and not prosperity and salvation. He explains this in Amos 5:19 by a figure taken from life. To those who wish the day of Jehovah to come, the same thing will happen as to a man who, when fleeing from a lion, meets a bear, etc. The meaning is perfectly clear: whoever would escape one danger, falls into a second; and whoever escapes this, falls into a third, and perishes therein. The serpent's bite in the hand is fatal. "In that day every place is full of danger and death; neither in-doors nor out-of-doors is any one safe: for out-of-doors lions and bears prowl about, and in-doors snakes lie hidden, even in the holes of the walls" (C. a. Lap.). After this figurative indication of the sufferings and calamities which the day of the Lord will bring, Amos once more repeats in v. 20, in a still more emphatic manner (הלא, nonne equals assuredly), that it will be no day of salvation, sc. to those who seek evil and not good, and trample justice and righteousness under foot (Amos 5:14, Amos 5:15).
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