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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Amos 6

Verses 3-14

II. PROPHETIC MESSAGES THAT AMOS DELIVERED 1:3-6:14

The Book of Amos consists of words (oracles, Amos 1:3 to Amos 6:14) and visions (chs. 7-9), though these sections also contain short sub-sections of other types of material.

5. The fifth message on complacency and pride ch. 6

In this lament Amos announced again that Israel would fall under God’s judgment.

Verse 1

The prophet began this message by announcing coming woe (Heb. hoy, cf. Amos 5:18). Those who felt at ease in Zion (Jerusalem) and secure in Samaria were the subjects of his message. Those who felt comfortable in Samaria, partially because it stood on a high hill that was easily defensible, were the distinguished men. They regarded Israel, and Judah, as the foremost of the nations of their day. They were the men to whom the rest of the house of Israel (the people of the Northern Kingdom) came for advice and or justice.

"With masterly irony, Amos addressed the self-satisfied rich, secure in their affluence (Amos 6:1; cf. Luke 6:24-25; Luke 12:13-21)." [Note: McComiskey, p. 317.]

"God doesn’t look at the talent of national leaders, the extent of a nation’s army, or the prosperity of its economy. God looks at the heart, and the heart of the two Jewish kingdoms was far from the Lord." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 360.]

This is the last reference to the people of Zion in this message; from now on Amos spoke only of the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps he referred to the Judean leaders because they were also guilty of the same sins (cf. Isaiah 32:9-11), but God had not decreed destruction against them yet.

Verses 1-3

The boastful complacency of Israel’s leaders 6:1-3

Verse 2

Amos challenged these proud leaders to visit other cities that had once considered themselves great. Calneh (or Calno, Isaiah 10:9) and Hamath were city-states in northern Aramea. Shalmaneser III of Assyria had overrun them in 854-846 B.C., but Israel controlled them in Amos’ day. Gath had been a notable city in Philistia, but it had fallen before King Hazael of Aram in 815 B.C. and again to King Uzziah of Judah in 760 B.C. Presently Judah controlled it. Samaria was no better than those city-states, and their territories were larger than Samaria’s. Yet they had fallen to foreign invaders. What had happened to them could happen to Samaria even though the people of Israel believed that Yahweh would protect it.

Verse 3

The leaders of Samaria dismissed the possibility that calamity would overtake their city. But they were really hastening the day of terror (or seat of violence) by refusing to acknowledge and repent of their sins. Amos raised the possibilities as questions, but the answers were obvious.

The 31 years following King Jeroboam II’s reign saw increasingly worse conditions for Israel (cf. 2 Kings 15:8 to 2 Kings 17:6). Six kings reigned, three of whom seized power by political coup and assassination. Fear and violence marked this period (cf. 2 Kings 15:16).

Verses 4-6

Amos described the luxury and self-indulgence that characterized the leaders of Samaria during his day. They reclined on very expensive beds inlaid with ivory. They sprawled, implying laziness or drunkenness, on couches. They ate the best, most tender meat obtainable.

"Ordinary citizens probably ate meat only three times a year, at the annual festivals." [Note: Smith, p. 118.]

They imitated great King David by composing and improvising songs and inventing musical instruments, but they entertained themselves rather than praising God. They consumed wine by the bowlful rather than in cups (cf. Philippians 3:19). And they spent much time and money anointing their bodies with oils and lotions to preserve and enhance their appearance. Instead they should have been mourning over the moral weakness and decadence of their nation that would lead to its ruin.

"Too many Christians are laughing when they should be weeping (James 4:8-10) and tolerating sin when they should be opposing it (1 Corinthians 5:2)." [Note: Wiersbe, p. 362.]

Verses 4-7

The luxurious indulgence of the Samaritans 6:4-7

Verse 7

Amos announced that these luxuriant leaders would go into captivity at the head of the people of Israel. Their banquets would cease, and they would lounge on their soft couches no longer.

Money and material possessions are not wrong in themselves, but the love of them leads to all types of evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10; James 5:1-6).

Verse 8

The prophet announced further that sovereign Yahweh of hosts, even He, had sworn by Himself (cf. Amos 4:2; Amos 8:7). This was a solemn warning because God can swear by no one greater than Himself (cf. Hebrews 6:13-14). He loathed the pride of Jacob. "Jacob" here refers to the Northern Kingdom (cf. Amos 3:13), and "the pride of Jacob" is probably the city of Samaria. [Note: See Hayes, p. 188.] In their self-confidence, these leaders resembled their forefather Jacob. The Lord also hated their fortified mansions from which they oppressed the poor and needy (cf. Amos 3:9-10).

"The mighty fortress is their god. Its security and power make God’s protection and blessing irrelevant crutches in the real world of economic and political influence." [Note: G. Smith, Amos: A Commentary, p. 207.]

Therefore Yahweh would fight against them and deliver up Samaria and all it contained to an enemy.

Verses 8-14

The complete devastation of Samaria 6:8-14

Verses 9-10

So thorough would be the overthrow that even if 10 men took refuge in one house they could not preserve their own lives. If the uncle of one of the dead rulers came to bury his nephew, or if a less interested undertaker did so, those still alive and hiding in the house would beg him not to reveal their presence. "Undertaker" is literally "one who burns him." Since cremation was not acceptable in ancient Israel, the reference may be to burning corpses during a plague that would accompany the destruction of Samaria. They would beg him not even to mention the name of Yahweh in anger, lament, or praise, because to do so might draw His attention to them and result in their deaths. As bad as the situation was they could not bring themselves to seek the Lord for help.

Verse 11

Yahweh was going to command the utter destruction of all houses in Samaria, small and great. Not only would the people of the city die (Amos 6:9-10), but the houses of the rich and poor would also perish.

Verse 12

It was as unnatural for Israel’s leaders to live as they did as it was for horses to run on rocky crags or oxen to plow rocks. Horses normally ran on rock-free ground, and oxen plowed fields from which farmers had removed the rocks. Yet these leaders had replaced justice with corrupt courtroom decisions that had killed the defendants just as though they had taken poison. Righteousness in the rulers should have resulted in grace for the dependent that would have been sweet to their taste, but the treatment they received instead was bitter to their souls.

Verse 13

The leaders felt very proud and confident because under Jeroboam II Israel had recaptured some territory that it had formerly lost to Aram (cf. 2 Kings 14:25). This included the town of Lo-debar in Transjordan (cf. 2 Samuel 9:4; 2 Samuel 17:27). Amos, however, cleverly made light of this feat by mispronouncing the city "Lo-dabar," which means "not a thing." They had taken nothing of much value. The people were also claiming that they had taken the town of Karnaim (lit. a pair of horns, symbols of strength) by their own strength. It was not they but Yahweh, however, who had strengthened them to achieve this victory over a symbolically strong town. Really Karnaim was quite insignificant.

Verse 14

The almighty, sovereign Yahweh announced that He would raise up a nation against the Northern Kingdom. He was the really strong one. Once again God’s people would fall under the control of a foreign oppressor, as they had done in the past (cf. Exodus 3:9; Judges 2:18; Judges 4:3; Judges 6:9; Judges 10:11-12; 1 Samuel 10:17-18). This enemy would afflict the Israelites throughout the length and breadth of their nation, from Hamath in the north to the brook (or sea, cf. 2 Kings 14:25) of the Arabah in the south (the Dead Sea). This nation, of course, proved to be Assyria.

In summary, the reasons for Israel’s coming judgment that Amos identified in these five messages were legal injustice, economic exploitation, religious hypocrisy, luxurious self-indulgence, and boastful complacency. These sins involved unfaithfulness to Yahweh, the supreme, all powerful Lord of Israel with whom the Israelites lived in covenant relationship. Though national judgment was inevitable, individuals who repented could escape punishment.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Amos 6". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/amos-6.html. 2012.