Amos 6:1
Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Trust.—The word for “trust” is a participle, and we should translate as the parallelism indicates: the confident (or complacent) dwellers in the mountain of Samaria; i.e., the upper luxurious classes, “the chief of the first of nations,” meaning the rulers, to whom Israel, the supreme and highly-favoured nation, comes up for judgment and for guidance in all civil affairs. These are now summoned to listen to the rebuke of the Divine Judge.

Amos

THE CARCASS AND THE EAGLES

Amos 6:1 - Amos 6:8
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Amos prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam, the son of Joash. Jeroboam’s reign was a time of great prosperity for Israel. Moab, Gilead, and part of Syria were reconquered, and the usual effects of conquest, increased luxury and vainglory, followed. Amos was not an Israelite born, for he came from Tekoa, away down south, in the wild country west of the Dead Sea, where he had been a simple herdsman till the divine call sent him into the midst of the corrupt civilisation of the Northern Kingdom. The first words of his prophecy give its whole spirit: ‘The Lord will roar from Zion.’ The word rendered ‘roar’ is the term specially used for the terrible cry with which a lion leaps on its surprised prey {Amos 3:4, Amos 3:8}. It is from Zion, the seat of God’s Temple, that the ‘roar’ proceeds, and Amos’s prophecy is but the echo of it in Israel.

The prophecy of judgment in this passage is directed against the sins of the upper classes in Samaria. They are described in verse 1 as the ‘notable men . . . to whom the house of Israel come,’ which, in modern language, is just ‘conspicuous citizens,’ who set the fashion, and are looked to as authorities and leaders, whether in political or commercial or social life. The word by which they are designated is used in Numbers 1:17 : ‘Which are expressed by name.’ The word ‘carried back the thoughts of the degenerate aristocracy of Israel to the faith and zeal of their forefathers’ {Pusey, Minor Prophets, on this verse}. Israel, Amos calls ‘The first of the nations.’ It is singular that such a title should be given to the nation against whose corruption his one business is to testify, but probably there is keen irony in the word. It takes Israel at its own estimate, and then goes on to show how rotten, and therefore short-lived, was the prosperity which had swollen national pride to such a pitch. The chiefs of the foremost nation in the world should surely be something better than the heartless debauchees whom the Prophet proceeds to paint. Anglo-Saxons on both sides of the Atlantic, who are by no means deficient in this same complacent estimate of their own superiority to all other peoples, may take note. The same thought is prominent in the description of these notables as ‘at ease.’ They are living in a fool’s paradise, shutting their eyes to the thunder-clouds that begin to rise slowly above the horizon, and keeping each other in countenance in laughing at Amos and his gloomy forecasts. They ‘trusted in the mountain of Samaria,’ which, they thought, made the city impregnable to assault. No doubt they thought that the Prophet’s talk about doing right and trusting in Jehovah was very fanatical and unpractical, just as many in England and America think that their nations are exalted, not by righteousness, but by armies, navies, and dollars or sovereigns.

Amos 6:2 is very obscure to us from our ignorance of the facts underlying its allusions. In fact, it has been explained in exactly opposite ways, being taken by some to enumerate three instances of prosperous communities, which yet are not more prosperous than Israel, and by others to enumerate three instances of God’s judgments falling on places which, though strong, had been conquered. In the former explanation, God’s favour to Israel is made the ground of an implied appeal to their gratitude; in the latter, His judgments on other nations are made the ground of an appeal to their fear, lest like destruction should fall on them.

But the main points of the passage are the photograph of the crimes which are bringing the judgment of God, and the solemn divine oath to inflict the judgment. The crimes rebuked are not the false worship of the calves, though in other parts of his prophecy Amos lashes that with terrible invectives, nor foul breaches of morality, though these were not wanting in Israel, but the vices peculiar to selfish, luxurious upper classes in all times and countries, who forget the obligations of wealth, and think only of its possibilities of self-indulgence. French noblesse before the Revolution, and English peers and commercial magnates, and American millionaires, would yield examples of the same sin. The hardy shepherd from Tekoa had learned ‘plain living and high thinking’ before he was a prophet, and would look with wondering and disgusted eyes at the wicked waste which he saw in Samaria. He begins with scourging the reckless security already referred to. These notables in Israel were ‘at ease’ because they ‘put far away the evil day,’ by refusing to believe that it was at hand, and paying no heed to prophets’ warnings, as their fellows do still and always, and as we all are tempted to do. They who see and declare the certain end of national or personal sins are usually jeered at as pessimists, fanatics, alarmists, bad patriots, or personal ill-wishers, and the men whom they try to warn fancy that they hinder the coming of a day of retribution by disbelieving in its coming. Incredulity is no lightning-conductor to keep off the flash, and, listened to or not, the low growls of the thunder are coming nearer.

With one hand these sinners tried to push away the evil day, while with the other they drew near to themselves that which made its coming certain-’the seat of violence,’ or, rather, ‘the sitting,’ or ‘session.’ Violence, or wrongdoing, is enthroned by them, and where men enthrone iniquity, God’s day of vengeance is not far off.

Then follows a graphic picture of the senseless, corrupting luxury of the Samaritan magnates, on which the Tekoan shepherd pours his scorn, but which is simplicity itself, and almost asceticism, before what he would see if he came to London or New York. To him it seemed effeminate to loll on a divan at meals, and possibly it was a custom imported from abroad. It is noted that ‘the older custom in Israel was to sit while eating.’ The woodwork of the divans, inlaid with ivory, had caught his eye in some of his peeps into the great houses, and he inveighs against them very much as one of the Pilgrim Fathers might do if he could see the furniture in the drawing-rooms of some of his descendants. There is no harm in pretty things, but the æ³´hetic craze does sometimes indicate and increase selfish heartlessness as to the poverty and misery, which have not only no ivory on their divans, but no divans at all. Thus stretched in unmanly indolence on their cushions, they feast on delicacies. ‘Lambs out of the flock’ and ‘calves out of the stall’ seem to mean animals too young to be used as food. These gourmands, like their successors, prided themselves on having dainties out of season, because they were more costly then. And their feasts had the adornment of music, which the shepherd, who knew only the pastoral pipe that gathered his sheep, refers to with contempt. He uses a very rare word of uncertain meaning, which is probably best rendered in some such way as the Revised Version does: ‘They sing idle songs.’ To him their elaborate performances seemed like empty babble. Worse than that, they ‘devise musical instruments like David.’ But how unlike him in the use they make of art! What a descent from the praises of God to the ‘idle songs’ fit for the hot dining-halls and the guests there! Amos was indignant at the profanation of art, and thought it best used in the service of God. What would he have said if he had been ‘fastened into a front-row box’ and treated to a modern opera?

The revellers ‘drink wine in bowls’ by which larger vessels than generally employed are intended. They drank to excess, or as we might say, by bucketfuls. So the dainty feast, with its artistic refinement and music, ends at last in a brutal carouse, and the heads anointed with the most costly unguents drop in drunken slumber. A similar picture of Samaritan manners is drawn by Isaiah 28:1 - Isaiah 28:29, and obviously drunkenness was one of the besetting sins of the capital.

But the darkest hue in the dark picture has yet to be added: ‘They are not grieved for the affliction {literally, the ‘breach’ or ‘wound’} of Joseph.’ The tribe of Ephraim, Joseph’s son, being the principal tribe of the Northern Kingdom, Joseph is often employed as a synonym for Israel. All these pieces of luxury, corrupting and effeminate as they are, might be permitted, but heartless indifference to the miseries groaning at the door of the banqueting-hall goes with them. ‘The classes’ are indifferent to the condition of ‘the masses.’ Put Amos into modern English, and he is denouncing the heartlessness of wealth, refinement, art, and culture, which has no ear for the complaining of the poor, and no eyes to see either the sorrows and sins around it, or the lowering cloud that is ready to burst in tempest.

The inevitable issue is certain, because of the very nature of God. It is outlined with keen irony. Amos sees in imagination the long procession of sad captives, and marching in the front ranks, the self-indulgent Sybarites, whose pre-eminence is now only the melancholy prerogative of going first in the fettered train. What has become of their revelry? It is gone, like the imaginary banquets of dreams, and instead of luxurious lolling on silken couches, there is the weary tramp of the captive exiles. Such result must be, since God is what He is. He has sworn ‘by Himself’; His being and character are the pledge that it will be so as Amos has declared. How can such a God as He is do otherwise than hate the pride of such a selfish, heartless, God-forgetting aristocracy? How can He do otherwise than deliver up the city? God has not changed, and though His mills grind slowly, they do grind still; and it is as true for England and America, as it was for Samaria, that a wealthy and leisurely upper class, which cares only for material luxury glossed over by art, which has condescended to be its servant, is bringing near the evil day which it hugs itself into believing will never come.

Amos 6:1. Wo to them that are at ease in Zion — Who are secure, as the margin reads, continuing in their sins, fearless of God’s judgments, and resolved to indulge themselves in that voluptuousness and ease which their riches give them an opportunity of enjoying, notwithstanding the evident tokens of God’s displeasure against the whole nation, both Israel and Judah. For these and the following words contain a threatening against both kingdoms, although the chief design of this prophecy is against the kingdom of Israel. Because the word שׁאננים, which our translation renders at ease, signifies also to be insolent, therefore the LXX. translate the clause, Ουαι τοις εξουθενουσι Σιων, Wo unto them that despise Zion, in which sense the words may fitly belong to the ten tribes, who despised Zion, and the temple, though God had chosen it to place his name there. And trust in the mountain of Samaria — In the strength of their capital city, built on the hill of Samaria. Which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came — “Zion, or Jerusalem, and Samaria, were the chief seats of the two kingdoms, whither there was the greatest resort of the whole nation. The Chaldee interprets it, ‘Who give names to their children, according to the names of the chief of the heathen, to whom the house of Israel apply themselves for protection.’ Thus, in later times, some of the Jews took the names of Alexander, Antipater, Agrippa, and the like, to compliment some great men among the Greeks or Romans of those names.” — Lowth.

6:1-7 Those are looked upon as doing well for themselves, who do well for their bodies; but we are here told what their ease is, and what their woe is. Here is a description of the pride, security, and sensuality, for which God would reckon. Careless sinners are every where in danger; but those at ease in Zion, who are stupid, vainly confident, and abusing their privileges, are in the greatest danger. Yet many fancy themselves the people of God, who are living in sin, and in conformity to the world. But the examples of others' ruin forbid us to be secure. Those who are set upon their pleasures are commonly careless of the troubles of others, but this is great offence to God. Those who placed their happiness in the pleasures of sense, and set their hearts upon them, shall be deprived of those pleasures. Those who try to put the evil day far from them, find it nearest to them.Woe to them that are at ease - The word always means such as are recklessly at their ease, "the careless ones," such as those whom Isaiah bids Isaiah 32:9-11, "rise up, tremble, be troubled, for many days and years shall ye be troubled." It is that luxury and ease, which sensualize the soul, and make it dull, stupid, hard-hearted. By one earnest, passing word, the prophet warns his own land, that present sinful ease ends in future woe. "Woe unto them that laugh now: for they shall mourn and weep" Luke 6:25. Rup.: "He foretells the destruction and captivity of both Judah and Israel at once; and not only that captivity at Babylon, but that whereby they are dispersed unto this day." Luxury and deepest sins of the flesh were rife in that generation (see John 8:9; Romans 2:21-24; Luke 11:39, Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:14, Matthew 23:23, Matthew 23:26), which killed Him who for our sakes became poor.

And trust in the mountain of Samaria - Not in God. Samaria was strong (see the note above at Amos 3:9), resisted for three years, and was the last city of Israel which was taken. "The king of Assyria came up throughout all the land and went up to Samaria, and besieged it 2 Kings 17:5. Benhadad, in that former siege, when God delivered them 2 Kings 7:6, attempted no assault, but famine only.

Which are named the chief of the nations - Literally, "the named of the chief of the nations," that is, those who, in Israel, which by the distinguishing favor of God were "chief of the nations," were themselves, marked, distinguished, "named." The prophet, by one word, refers them back to those first princes of the congregation, of whom Moses used that same word Numbers 1:17. They were "heads of the houses of their fathers Numbers 1:4, renowned of the congregation, heads of thousands in Israel Numbers 1:16. As, if anyone were to call the Peers, "Barons of England," he would carry us back to the days of Magna Charta, although six centuries and a half ago, so this word, occurring at that time , here only in any Scripture since Moses, carried back the thoughts of the degenerate aristocracy of Israel to the faith and zeal of their forefathers, "what" they ought to have been, and "what" they were. As Amalek of old was "first of the nations" Numbers 24:20 in its enmity against the people of God , having, first of all, shown that implacable hatred, which Ammon, Moab, Edom, evinced afterward, so was Israel "first of nations," as by God. It became, in an evil way, "first of nations," that is, distinguished above the heat by rejecting Him.

To whom the house of Israel came, or have come - They were, like those princes of old, raised above others. Israel "came" to them for judgment; and they, regardless of duty, lived only for self-indulgence, effeminacy, and pride. Jerome renders in the same sense, "that enter pompously the house of Israel," literally, "enter for themselves," as if they were lords of it, and it was made for them.

CHAPTER 6

Am 6:1-14. Denunciation of Both the Sister Nations (Especially Their Nobles) For Wanton Security—Zion, as Well as Samaria: Threat of the Exile: Ruin of Their Palaces and Slaughter of the People: Their Perverse Injustice.

1. named chief of the nations—that is, you nobles, so eminent in influence, that your names are celebrated among the chief nations [Ludovicus De Dieu]. Hebrew, "Men designated by name among the first-fruits of the nations," that is, men of note in Israel, the people chosen by God as first of the nations (Ex 19:5; compare Nu 24:20) [Piscator].

to whom … Israel came—that is, the princes to whom the Israelites used to repair for the decision of controversies, recognizing their authority [Maurer]. I prefer to refer "which" to the antecedent "Zion" and "Samaria"; these were esteemed "chief" strongholds among the heathen nations "to whom … Israel came" when it entered Canaan; Am 6:2 accords with this.The voluptuousness of Israel, Amos 6:1-6, shall be punished with desolation, Amos 6:7-11. Their perversion of justice and vain confidence shall end in affliction, Amos 6:12-14.

Woe! this compriseth many and great sorrows, all that God intends against these sinners.

To them that are at ease; who live in abundance, eat, drink, sleep, and are secure, that think to-morrow shall be as this day, and neither fear nor believe the threatened judgments of God. Zion, by a synecdoche put for the kingdom of the two tribes, and principally the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Zion; the ten tribes were hitherto threatened, now the prophet warns the two tribes.

And trust in the mountain of Samaria; woe to them also who rely upon the strength, wealth, and policy of the king, princes, cities, and kingdom of Samaria or Israel!

Which, which two cities, Zion and Samaria, are named chief of the nations; accounted chief cities among the known cities of that part of the world. Others refer this passage to the nobles, wise men, and great men of each place, men that were heads among their own people.

To whom the house of Israel came; to which places all Israel had recourse; so the two tribes went up to Zion, the ten tribes went to Samaria: or, to whom, i.e. to which nobles and rulers, the people of each kingdom did go on all occasions for judgment, counsel, or refuge.

Woe to them that are at ease in Zion,.... Or "secure" (c) there; which was a strong hold, the city of David, the seat of the kings of Judah; where their court was kept, and the princes and chief men resided and thought themselves safe, the place being well fortified with walls, towers, and bulwarks: or "at ease"; that is, in easy, prosperous, comfortable circumstances of life; as Job was before his troubles, and others he mentions, Job 16:12; though to be in such a state is not criminal, but a blessing of Providential goodness, for which men should be thankful, and make use of it aright: but "woe to the rich in Zion" (d), as the Vulgate Latin Version renders it, when they have nothing else but temporal riches; this is all their portion, and the whole of their consolation, Luke 6:24; when they trust in these uncertain riches, and consume them on their lusts, as described in the following verses; are unconcerned at the troubles of others, and give them no relief, but despise them, Job 12:5; and even are thoughtless about their own future state, and put away the evil day far from them, Luke 12:19; and such are they who like Moab are at ease from their youth as to their spiritual state, Jeremiah 48:11; never had any true sight of sin, or sense of danger; never complain of a body of sin, or are concerned about sins of omission or commission; nor troubled with the temptations of Satan, and have no fears and doubts about their happiness; and such there be who yet are in Zion, or in a church state, which Zion often signifies; and being there, trust in it, and in the privileges of it, and so are secure, and at ease; such are the foolish virgins and hypocrites, who place their confidence in a profession of religion, in being church members, and in their submission to external ordinances, and so cry Peace, peace, to themselves, when, destruction is at hand: and are moreover at ease, and wholly unconcerned about the affairs of Zion, both temporal and spiritual, and especially the latter; they do not trouble themselves about the doctrines they hear, whether truth or error; and about the success of them, whether they are made useful for conversion and edification; and about the continuance of a Gospel ministry, and a succession in it; and about the discipline of the church of God, and the walk of professors; or about what trials and afflictions are like to come upon the churches; or about the judgments of God in the earth; and therefore such carnal secure persons are either called upon to awake out of their sleep, and come off of their beds of ease, and shake off their vain confidence and carnal security; for the word may be rendered "ho" (e), as a note of calling, as in Isaiah 55:1; or a threatening of calamity is denounced upon them, that the day of the Lord should come upon them as a thief in the night, or as a snare upon them that dwell on earth, and they be surprised with the midnight cry, and with the terrors of devouring flames, as the foolish virgins and hypocrite's in Zion will, Matthew 25:6. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "who despise Zion", or "neglect" her; and the word is sometimes used of insolent persons, and to express their insolence; see Isaiah 37:29; and so may be understood, not of the Jews in Jerusalem, but of the ten tribes, as the following clause; who despised Zion, the city of solemnities, the temple; and, the worship of God there, and set up the calves at Dan and Bethel, and worshipped them; and therefore a woe is denounced upon them;

and trust in the mountain of Samaria; in the city of Samaria, built on a mountain, a strong fortified city, where they thought themselves safe; the royal city of the kings of Israel, the head of Ephraim, and the metropolis of the ten tribes, who here are intended: though the words may be rendered, and the sense given a little different from this, as woe to the "confident" ones that ate in Samaria (f); not that put their trust in Samaria, but dwell there; but, however, are confident in their own strength, wealth, and might. The Targum is,

"that trust in the fortress of Samaria;''

see 1 Kings 16:24;

which are named the chief of the nations; the persons at ease in Zion, and trusted in Samaria, were the principal men of both nations, Judah and Israel; or these cities of Zion and Samaria were the chief of the said nations: Zion, Which was near Jerusalem, and includes it, was the metropolis of Judea; as Samaria was the head city of Ephraim, or the ten tribes. The Targum is, that

"put the name of their children, as the name of the children of the nations;''

as the Jews did in later times, giving their children the names of Alexander, Antipater, &c.

to whom the house of Israel came; meaning not to the seven nations, of which the two named cities were chief, into which Israel entered, and took possession of, and dwelt in; for Samaria never belonged to them, but was built by Omri king of Israel, long after the entrance of the Israelites into the land of Canaan, 1 Kings 16:24; but the cities of Zion and, Samaria, into which the whole house of Israel came, or had recourse unto, at certain times: the ten tribes came to Samaria, where their kings resided, the court was kept, and the seats of judgment were; and the two tribes came to Zion, to Jerusalem, to the temple there, to worship the Lord.

(c) "secure sedentibus", Munster; "securos", Mercerus, Castalio, Burkius. (d) "Opulentis", Tigurine version. (e) "heus", Piscator, Tarnovius, Burkius. (f) "confidentibus qui habitant in monte Samariae", Liveleus; "securis qui habitant in monte", Samariae, Drusius.

Woe to {a} them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, {b} which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!

(a) The Prophet threatens the wealthy, who did not regard God's plagues, nor threatenings by his Prophets.

(b) These two cities were famous from their first inhabitants the Canaanites: and seeing that before they did not avail those that were born here, why should you think that they should save you who were brought in to dwell in other men's possessions?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Woe to them that, &c.] Ah! they that.… and that, &c., as Amos 5:18. are at ease] Cf. Isaiah 32:9 (“rise up, ye women that are at ease”), Isaiah 32:11. The word (though it may be used in a good sense, ib. Isaiah 32:18; Isa 32:20) denotes, in such a context as die present, those who are recklessly at ease, and live on in tranquillity and contentment, insensible to real danger.

in Zion] For the allusion to Judah, cf. Amos 2:4-5.

trust] are secure (R.V.), viz. without sufficient ground: in parallelism with ‘at ease,’ just as in Isaiah 32:9; Isaiah 32:11 (A.V., R.V., careless).

the men of mark of the first of the nations] i.e. the nobles of Samaria, who are described as the cream of a nation, which was itself (partly by its prosperity, partly by its theocratic privileges: cf. Jeremiah 3:19; Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:15) the first of the nations. But the expression first of the nations may be used in irony, to reflect Israel’s own opinion of itself: so Wellh. and G. A. Smith. Men of mark (R.V. notable men) is lit. marked, marked out: elsewhere the same verb is rendered expressed (sc. by name, opposed to the unnamed crowd); cf. Numbers 1:17, 1 Chronicles 12:31; 1 Chronicles 16:41, 2 Chronicles 28:15 (in all “expressed by name”).

to whom the house of Israel come] viz. for judgement (Exodus 18:16; 2 Samuel 15:4). They hold a position of responsibility, they are raised above their fellow-citizens, and have to administer justice to them, and yet they are heedless of the interests entrusted to them and live only for themselves (Amos 6:3 ff.).

Verses 1-6. - With a second woe the prophet denounces the chiefs of the whole nation, who were quite satisfied with the present state of things, and, revelling in luxury, feared no coming judgment. Verse 1. - Them that are at ease in Zion; living in fancied security and self-pleasing (Isaiah 32:9, 11; Zephaniah 1:12). Judah is included in the denunciation, because she is equally guilty; the whole covenant nation is sunk in the same dangerous apathy. Septuagint, τοῖς ἐξουθενοῦσι Σιών, "them that set at naught Zion." The same rendering is found in the Syriac, and can be supported by a small change in the Hebrew. It may have been intended thus to confine the announcement to Israel alone, in conformity with the prophet's chief scope. But he has introduced mention of Judah elsewhere, as Amos 2:4; Amos 6:5; Amos 9:11, and his sense of his own people's careless ease may well lead him to include them in his warning. Trust in the mountain of Samaria. The city was deemed impregnable, and it kept the Assyrians at bay for three years before it was finally taken (2 Kings 18:9, etc.; see notes on Amos 3:9 and Amos 4:1). Another rendering, not so suitable, is, the careless ones upon the mountain of Samaria. The point, however, is the supposed impregnability of the city which occasioned a feeling of perfect security. Which are named chief of the nations; rather, to the notable men of the chief of nations; i.e. the principal men of Israel, which had the proud title of the chief of the nations because it was beloved and elected of God, and was designed to keep alive true religion, and to set an example to the rest of the world (Exodus 19:5; Numbers 1:17; Deuteronomy 4:20; 2 Samuel 7:23). Septuagint, ἀπετρόγησαν ἀρχὰς ἐθνῶν, "they plucked the chiefs of the nations," where the verb is a mistaken Tendering. To whom the house of Israel came; or, come. Resort for counsel and judgment (2 Samuel 15:4), and who ought therefore to be patterns of righteousness and equity. The rendering of the Vulgate, ingredientes pompatice domum Israel, "entering with pomp into the house of Israel" (which does not agree with the present Hebrew text), implies that these chieftains carried themselves haughtily in the congregation of Israel. Amos 6:1The 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 (Amos 6:1-6). To these he announces destruction and the general overthrow of the kingdom (Amos 6:7-11), because they act perversely, and trust in their own power (Amos 6:12-14). Amos 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! Amos 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? Amos 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 Numbers 24:20, so נקבי is taken from Numbers 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 Numbers 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 (Exodus 19:5; cf. 2 Samuel 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 Amos 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 ( equals Calno, Isaiah 10:9) is the later Ctesiphon in the land of Shinar, or Babylonia, situated upon the Tigris opposite to Seleucia (see at Genesis 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 Genesis 10:18 and Numbers 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 Joshua 13:3; 2 Samuel 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 Isaiah 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 2 Kings 14:25). And although the Philistian city Gath was conquered by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:60, we cannot infer from 2 Chronicles 26:6, or from the fact of Gath not being mentioned in Amos 1:6-8, that this occurred before the time of Amos (see at Amos 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.
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