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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Amos 6

Amos 6:0


Israel's Sinfulness and God's Punishment(Amos 3:1-14)Israel Warned and Threatened(Amos 3:2-14)
Warning to Zion and SamariaThe Destruction of IsraelAgainst the Self-Indulgent and Their False Sense of Security
Amos 6:1-2Amos 6:1-3Amos 6:1-7Amos 6:1-7
Amos 6:3-7
Amos 6:4-7The Punishment: Plague, Earthquake, Invasion
Amos 6:8-11Amos 6:8Amos 6:8Amos 6:8-11
Amos 6:9-10Amos 6:9-10
Amos 6:11-14Amos 6:11-12
Amos 6:12-14Amos 6:12-14
Amos 6:13
Amos 6:14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 6:1-3 1Woe to those who are at ease in Zion And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria, The distinguished men of the foremost of nations, To whom the house of Israel comes. 2Go over to Calneh and look, And go from there to Hamath the great, Then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are they better than these kingdoms, Or is their territory greater than yours? 3Do you put off the day of calamity, And would you bring near the seat of violence?

Amos 6:1 “Woe” The pronunciation of the word sounds like exasperated or sorrowful feelings. This term (BDB 222) characterizes the book of Lamentations (cf. Amos 5:24). The Prophets often used the literary form (a 3-2 beat) of a funeral dirge to express the disapproval of God and His coming judgment. This term is recurrent in Isaiah (cf. negative in Isaiah 1:4, Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 5:8, Isaiah 5:11, Isaiah 5:18, Isaiah 5:20, Isaiah 5:21, Isaiah 5:22; Isaiah 10:1; Isaiah 17:12; Isaiah 18:1; Isaiah 28:1; Isaiah 29:1, Isaiah 29:15; Isaiah 30:1; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 33:1; Isaiah 45:9, Isaiah 45:10; neutral in Isaiah 10:5; and positive in Isaiah 55:1) and Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 22:13, Jeremiah 22:18; Jeremiah 23:1; Jeremiah 30:7; Jeremiah 34:5; Jeremiah 47:6; Jeremiah 48:1; Jeremiah 50:27).

This INTERJECTION is followed by a series of PARTICIPLES, which carries the “woe” thought with each of them (Amos 6:1-7).

“to those who are at ease” There is no VERB. This phrase is used as a SUBSTANTIVE. It has the prophetic connotation of “careless, wanton, arrogant” (BDB 983, cf. Isaiah 32:9, Isaiah 32:11; Zechariah 1:15; and Psalms 123:4). It was not their leisure or wealth or social status that was the problem, but their trust in these things instead of God.

The group is characterized in several ways in the next few verses:

1. those who feel secure, Amos 6:1b

2. you who put away the evil day, Amos 6:3

3. those who lie on beds of ivory, Amos 6:4

4. those who improvise (sing idle songs), Amos 6:5

5. those who drink wine from sacrificial bowls, Amos 6:6

All of these phrases have the DEFINITE ARTICLE plus a PARTICIPLE.

“in Zion” This seems to be parallel to “in the mountain of Samaria” (the capital of the Northern Ten Tribes). However, Zion is one of the seven hills of Jerusalem. Therefore, this could mean

1. covenant people as a whole, Amos 3:1; Amos 6:8

2. Judah and Israel were both sinful and guilty

3. a literary parallel, but with no distinction intended

See Special Topic: Moriah, Salem, Jebus, Zion, Jerusalem.

“The distinguished men” This is literally “pierced men” (BDB 666; KB, 718, Qal PARTICIPLE). The Arabic root means “one who scrutinizes” (i.e., leaders). This seems to refer to (1) former leaders with whom Israel was trying to make security agreements to protect themselves from the judgment of God (i.e., Assyrian exile) or (2) what these wealthy leaders thought of themselves (cf. Amos 6:13; NET Bible; Tyndale Commentary).

Amos 6:2 Depending on how one interprets Amos 6:1, this verse would be

1. Amos' words to the arrogant leadership of the covenant people (Judah and Israel) similar to Amos 9:7. However, this involved some textual emendations (cf. UBS, Handbook, #31, p. 289).

2. the leaders' comments to the people (cf. NET Bible, Tyndale commentary).

“Calnah” This was a fortified city in Syria (cf. Isaiah 10:6), which was destroyed by Tiglath-pileser III in 738 B.C. It became a proverb of the coming exile of Israel. It was on this occasion that the king of Israel, Menahen, began to give tribute to Assyria.

“Hamath” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, p. 33, has a good brief comment.

“A city in Syria, the southern border of which often became part of the formula for the northern idealized border of Israel (cf. 1 Kings 8:65; 1 Chronicles 13:5). The city was an object of the Assyrian conquest (Isaiah 36:19), and some of its inhabitants were exiled and settled in Israel (2 Kings 17:24).”

It was located about 150 miles north of the city of Dan on the Orantes River.

“Gath” The Philistines established five city-states in southwest Judah on the coastal plain. Four of those cities are mentioned earlier in Amos 1:6-8 (Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron). Gath is also mentioned in Micah 1:10. It was later destroyed by the Assyrians.

Amos 6:3 The wealthy leaders were “putting off” (BDB 622, KB 672, Piel PARTICIPLE; this VERB appears only here in this form and only twice in the OT, cf. Isaiah 66:5) the day of God's visitation by (1) divination or (2) trying to ignore (cf. TEV) the covenant consequences of Deut. 27-29. The irony is that by their very acts they were hastening the day!

“the seat of violence” This could refer to (1) the leaders of Israel or (2) the coming invasion of Assyria. “Seat” is understood as “throne,” which is a metaphor for “reign.”

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 6:4-7 4Those who recline on beds of ivory And sprawl on their couches, And eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall, 5Who improvise to the sound of the harp, And like David have composed songs for themselves, 6Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph. 7Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles, And the sprawlers' banqueting will pass away.

Amos 6:4-6 This describes the elaborate drunken banquets of the self-indulgent rich.

Amos 6:4 “sprawl” The term (BDB 710, KB 756) is used again in Amos 6:7. It has a negative connotation. It is parallel to “recline” (BDB 1011, KB 1486), which may have been an unusual way to eat at this time in Palestine. If so, then both denote new, foreign, and non-traditional actions (i.e., pagan influence on Israeli leaders).

Amos 6:5 “like David have composed songs” This is a historical allusion to David's musical background.

1. David himself

a. played for Saul, 1 Samuel 16:16, 1 Samuel 16:23; 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:9

b. appointed Levitical singers, 1 Chronicles 6:31; 1 Chronicles 15:1-43; 1 Chronicles 25:1-31; 2 Chronicles 29:25-30

2. examples of David's music

a. 2 Samuel 22:0

b. most of first two books of Psalm (cf. Psa. 72:72)

(1) MT asserts 73 psalms

(2) LXX asserts 84 psalms

(3) Vulgate asserts 53 psalms

c. called “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (cf. 2 Samuel 23:1)

The VERB “improvise” (BDB 827, KB 967, Qal PARTICIPLE) is uncertain in meaning. It appears only here in the OT. In later Hebrew it means “break off” or “divide” (e.g., fruit that drops off the tree or bush). The translation “compose” or “improvise” comes from the Arabic root.

It is just possible in this context that these revelers are desecrating

1. David's melodies, poems

2. the instruments used in the temple

Amos 6:6

NASB“sacrificial bowls” NKJV, NRSV“bowls” TEV, NJB“by the bowl full”

This is not so much an expression of the sacrilegious use (cf. Daniel 5:2) of sacred utensils (cf. Exodus 24:6-8; Numbers 7:13) as it is an expression of their drunkenness (“bowls, not cups”; REB, “you drink wine by the bowlful”). Some see this as a magical practice based on Isaiah 65:11.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Biblical Attitudes Toward Alcohol and Alcoholism Abuse

“they anoint themselves with the finest of oils” Putting oil on one's face and arms was a sign of gladness. Their actions are in contrast to the next line of poetry. They should have been grieving over the ruin of their nation.

“the ruin of Joseph” Joseph married an Egyptian. They had two children who were adopted by Jacob (Israel, cf. Genesis 48:8-22). Although the Messianic line came through Judah, Joseph received the “double inheritance” of the oldest child. Joseph's two sons became the two largest tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. They were part of the ten northern tribes who broke away from Solomon's son, Rehoboam, in 922 B.C. and started a new state under Jeroboam I. This new state was known by several titles:

1. Israel (Jacob's new name)

2. Samaria (capital)

3. Ephraim (largest tribe)

Amos 6:7 This refers to God's judgment on these who cared only for themselves, but claimed to know God! Their judgment is the exact reversal of their lifestyles! First in extravagance and revelry; first in exile!

“banqueting” This term (BDB 931, KB 634) is found only twice in the OT (here and Jeremiah 16:5). The Jeremiah text (and one Ugaritic text) links this term with a self-indulgent feast for the dead! If so, the sarcasm of Amos' statement is obvious.

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 6:8-11 8The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself, the LORD God of hosts has declared: “I loathe the arrogance of Jacob, And detest his citadels; Therefore I will deliver up the city and all it contains.” 9And it will be, if ten men are left in one house, they will die. 10Then one's uncle, or his undertaker, will lift him up to carry out his bones from the house, and he will say to the one who is in the innermost part of the house, “Is anyone else with you?” And that one will say, “No one.” Then he will answer, “Keep quiet. For the name of the LORD is not to be mentioned.” 11For behold, the LORD is going to command that the great house be smashed to pieces and the small house to fragments.

Amos 6:6-11 The UBS, Handbook for Translators, p. 131, makes a good point that these verses parallel Amos 5:21-24. With God's wrath (cf. Amos 6:8; Amos 5:24) comes God's judgment!

Amos 6:8 “The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself” See note at Amos 4:2. The VERB “swear” (BDB 989, KB 1396) is used several times in Amos referring to YHWH swearing

1. by His holiness, Amos 4:2

2. by Himself, Amos 6:8

3. by the pride of Jacob, Amos 8:7 (sarcasm, irony, or regret)

“the LORD God of hosts” See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY. The repetition of these two names denoting YHWH makes this an emphasized pronouncement.

“I loathe the arrogance of Jacob” The VERB (BDB 1060 II, KB 1672, Piel PARTICIPLE) is a rare (only here in the OT) but powerful term of rejection (see all the versions). BDB has “loathe,” KB has “to make repulsive, desecrate.” It is parallel to “hate” (BDB 971, KB 1338, cf. Amos 5:21).

The term “arrogance” (BDB 144) means “exaltation,” “majesty,” or “excellence.” It is used in a positive sense toward Israel in Psalms 47:4. In this context it refers to Amos 6:4-6. See sarcastic parallel in Amos 8:7. Israel's inappropriate “pride” receives God's judgment (cf. Hosea 5:5; Hosea 7:10)!

Amos 6:9-10 This is prose, not poetry.

Amos 6:9 “ten men” This number was important to the Jews because it was the minimum number required for worship (ten men were required to start a synagogue in Babylon) and other social events, possibly even military groups. Because of the use of the number ten, this judgment verse may relate to Amos 5:3.

Amos 6:10 This verse seems to describe the siege of Samaria, the capital of Israel. There will be so many people dead and the plague so rampant that bodies will be burned indiscriminately (cf. Amos 8:3).

“one's uncle, or his undertaker” There are many questions about this phrase.

1. Are there two people or one?

2. What does the word (BDB 976) translated “undertaker” by the NASB, but literally means “he who burns,” mean?

For question #1 the phrase refers to two different people who talk together in the rest of the verse (i.e., so there is no survivor in the recesses of the house).

For question #2 there have been many theories:

1. one who burns deceased bodies

2. embalming or anointing the dead with spices

3. one who burns incense on behalf of the dead

4. one who burns a sacrifice on behalf of the dead

5. a parallel term for a near Kgs. The first term would mean a near kin on the mother's side and the second term a near kin on the father's side.

For me #1 or #5 seems best. But #4 could be linked to the banquet for the dead in Amos 6:6.

“Keep quiet. For the name of the LORD is not to be mentioned” This is a theological affirmation of who sent the invasion. The aftermath of judgment causes a holy reverence for YHWH, missing so long in Israel. The phrase “keep quiet” (BDB 245, a Hebrew INTERJECTION) is used in contexts of YHWH's presence (cf. Habakkuk 2:20; Zephaniah 1:7; Zechariah 2:13) and judgment (cf. Amos 8:3). See Special Topic: “The Name” of YHWH.

Amos 6:11 This is the concluding point of Amos 6:8-11. Judgment (by a foreign nation, i.e., Assyria) will fall on great and small (i.e., all the population). No one will escape (cf. Amos 5:18-20).

“to pieces. . .to fragments” The first term's (KB 1249) meaning is uncertain:

1. used of rain droplets (Song of Song of Solomon 5:2)

2. chopped food

3. to shatter or grind

The second term (KB 149) means to break open (cf. Psalms 141:7), like a wall (cf. Isaiah 22:9). The VERB form implies a tearing into pieces (Piel). David Allan Hubbard, Joel and Amos (Tyndale OT Commentaries), asserts that these two terms fit an earthquake better than an invasion. He also lists the other places in Amos where he thinks the texts fit an earthquake (cf. Amos 1:1; Amos 2:13; Amos 8:8; Amos 9:1-6), p.198.

Verses 12-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 6:12-14 12Do horses run on rocks? Or does one plow them with oxen? Yet you have turned justice into poison And the fruit of righteousness into wormwood, 13You who rejoice in Lodebar, And say, “Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves? 14For behold, I am going to raise up a nation against you, O house of Israel,” declares the LORD God of hosts, “And they will afflict you from the entrance of Hamath To the brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 6:12 These first two questions are somewhat difficult in Hebrew, but it is obvious they refer to unnatural acts. All these rhetorical questions expect a “no” answer. It was also unnatural for God's people to turn justice into poison!

“Do horses run on rocks” “Rocks” (BDB 700) refers to large boulders or possibly to horses running up cliffs or over crags. The answer is obviously no.

“does one plow them with oxen” It is possible to change the MT's vowels to read “plow the sea” (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB). This is accomplished by taking the plural ending of “oxen” as a separate word, “sea.” This fits the context better. As 12a, it is meant to be an impossible act. All four questions expect a “no” answer!

“justice. . .fruit of righteousness” See note at Amos 5:12.

Amos 6:13 “You who rejoice” This Hebrew phrase implies arrogance and pride over two military victories. Israel was proud and confident in her military, but God will destroy Israel by a greater military power (cf. Amos 6:14, the Assyrians)! The Assyrians will come from the same geographical direction as these two cities mentioned, the north.

“Lodebar” This was a city on the eastern side of Jordan in the area of Gilead. The term (BDB 520) means “a nothing.”

“Have we not by our own strength taken Karnaim for ourselves” This is apparently another city in the trans-jordan area. The term (BDB 902) means “a pair of horns,” which would denote its power. These cities were both captured by Jeroboam II (782-753 B.C.).

The theological implication of the phrase is that Israel, by her own military power, captured this city, which goes against the concept of holy war. It was YHWH's power and strength (e.g., Exodus 13:3, Exodus 13:14, Exodus 13:16) that enabled His people to win in battle. This claim is another sign of Israel's arrogance and covenant ignorance.

Amos 6:14 “I am going to raise up a nation against you” This refers to Assyria.

“from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Arabah” This is the traditional boundary of the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 34:7-8; Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25). Judah would also be affected!


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did God reject the sacrifices of the northern tribes?

2. Why is God's creative act emphasized? (Amos 6:8-9)

3. Why is Amos 5:25-26 so difficult to interpret?

4. Is Amos condemning wealth and the sacrificial system or something else? What?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Amos 6". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.