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3. "At Ease in Zion."

Amos vi.

The evil of the national worship was the false political confidence which it engendered. Leaving the ritual alone, Amos now proceeds to assault this confidence. We are taken from the public worship of the people to the private banquets of the rich, but again only in order to have their security and extravagance contrasted with the pestilence, the war and the captivity, that are rapidly approaching.

Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion322322   In Zion: "very suspicious," Cornill. But see pp. 135 f.—it is a proud and overweening ease which the word expresses—and that trust in the mount of Samaria! Men of mark of the first of the peoples—ironically, for that is Israel's opinion of itself—and to them do the house of Israel resort!...174323323   I remove ver. 2 to a note, not that I am certain that it is not by Amos—who can be dogmatic on such a point?—but because the text of it, the place which it occupies, and its relation to the facts of current history, all raise doubts. Moreover it is easily detached from the context, without disturbing the flow of the chapter, which indeed runs more equably without it. The Massoretic text gives: Pass over to Calneh, and see; and go thence to Hamath Rabbah, and come down to Gath of the Philistines: are they better than these kingdoms, or is their territory larger than yours? Presumably these kingdoms are Judah and Israel. But that can only mean that Israel is the best of the peoples, a statement out of harmony with the irony of ver. 1, and impossible in the mouth of Amos. Geiger, therefore, proposes to read: "Are you better than these kingdoms—i.e. Calneh, Hamath, Gath—or is your territory larger than theirs?" But this is also unlikely, for Israel's territory was much larger than Gath's. Besides, the question would have force only if Calneh, Hamath and Gath had already fallen. Gath had, but it is at least very questionable whether Hamath had. Therefore Schrader (K.A.T., 444) rejects the whole verse; and Kuenen agrees that if we are to understand Assyrian conquests, it is hardly possible to retain the verses. Bickell's first argument against the verse, that it does not fit into the metrical system of Amos vi. 1-7, is precarious; his second, that it disturbs the grammar, which it makes to jump suddenly from the third person in ver. 1 to the second in ver. 2, and back to the third in ver. 3, is not worth anything, for such a jump occurs within ver. 3 itself. Ye that put off the day of calamity324324   Davidson, Syntax, § 100, R. 5. and draw near the sessions of injustice325325   שׁבת חמם; LXX. σαββάτων ψευδῶν, on which hint Hoffmann renders the verse: "you that daily demand the tribute of evil (cf. Ezek. xvi. 33), and every Sabbath extort by violence." But this is both unnecessary and opposed to viii. 5, which tells us no trade was done on the Sabbath. שבת is to be taken in the common sense of sitting in judgment (rather than with Wellhausen), in the sense of the enthronement of wrong-doing.—an epigram and proverb, for it is the universal way of men to wish and fancy far away the very crisis that their sins are hastening on. Isaiah described this same generation as drawing iniquity with cords of hypocrisy, and sin as it were with a cart-rope! That lie on ivory diwans and sprawl on their couches—another luxurious custom, which filled this rude shepherd with contempt—and eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall326326   To this day, in some parts of Palestine, the general fold into which the cattle are shut contains a portion railed off for calves and lambs (cf. Dr. M. Blanckenhorn of Erlangen in the Mittheilungen u. Nachrichten of the D.P.V., 1895, p. 37, with a sketch). It must be this to which Amos refers.—that175 is, only the most delicate of meats—who prate or purr or babble to the sound of the viol, and as if they were David himself invent for them instruments of song;327327   Or perhaps melodies, airs. who drink wine by ewerfuls—waterpotfuls—and anoint with the finest of oil—yet never do they grieve at the havoc of Joseph! The havoc is the moral havoc, for the social structure of Israel is obviously still secure.328328   Of course, it is possible that here again, as in v. 15 and 16, we have prophecy later than the disaster of 734, when Tiglath-Pileser made a great breach or havoc in the body politic of Israel by taking Gilead and Galilee captive. But this is scarcely probable, for Amos almost everywhere lays stress upon the moral corruption of Israel, as her real and essential danger. The rich are indifferent to it; they have wealth, art, patriotism, religion, but neither heart for the poverty nor conscience for the sin of their people. We know their kind! They are always with us, who live well and imagine they are proportionally clever and refined. They have their political zeal, will rally to an election when the interests of their class or their trade is in danger. They have a robust and exuberant patriotism, talk grandly of commerce, empire and the national destiny; but for the real woes and sores of the people, the poverty, the overwork, the drunkenness, the dissoluteness, which more affect a nation's life than anything else, they have no pity and no care.

Therefore now—the double initial of judgment—shall they go into exile at the head of the exiles, and stilled shall be the revelry of the dissolute—literally the sprawlers, as in ver. 4, but used here rather in the moral than in the physical sense. Sworn hath the Lord Jehovah by Himself—'tis the oracle of Jehovah176 God of Hosts: I am loathing329329   מתאב for מתעב. the pride of Jacob, and his palaces do I hate, and I will pack up a city and its fulness.330330   Some words must have dropped out here. For these and the following verses 9 and 10 on the pestilence see pp. 178 ff.... For, behold, Jehovah is commanding, and He will smite the great house into ruins and the small house into splinters. The collapse must come, postpone it as their fancy will, for it has been worked for and is inevitable. How could it be otherwise? Shall horses run on a cliff, or the sea be ploughed by oxen331331   So Michaelis, בְּבָקָר יָם for בִּבְקָרִים.that ye should turn justice to poison and the fruit of righteousness to wormwood! Ye that exult in Lo-Debar and say, By our own strength have we taken to ourselves Ḳarnaim. So Grätz rightly reads the verse. The Hebrew text and all the versions take these names as if they were common nouns—Lo-Debar, a thing of nought; Ḳarnaim, a pair of horns—and doubtless it was just because of this possible play upon their names, that Amos selected these two out of all the recent conquests of Israel. Karnaim, in full Ashteroth Karnaim, Astarte of Horns, was that immemorial fortress and sanctuary which lay out upon the great plateau of Bashan towards Damascus; so obvious and cardinal a site that it appears in the sacred history both in the earliest recorded campaign in Abraham's time and in one of the latest under the Maccabees.332332   Gen. xiv. 5; 1 Macc. v. In the days of Eusebius and Jerome (4th century) there were two places of the name: one of them doubtless the present Tell Ashtara south of El-Merkez, the other distant from that fourteen Roman miles. Lo-Debar was of Gilead, and probably lay on that last rampart of the province northward, overlooking the Yarmuk, a strategical point which must have177 often been contested by Israel and Aram, and with which no other Old Testament name has been identified.333333   Along this ridge ran, and still runs, one of the most important highways to the East, that from Beth-Shan by Gadera to Edrei. About seven miles east from Gadera lies a village, Ibdar, "with a good spring and some ancient remains" (Schumacher, N. Ajlun, 101). Lo-Debar is mentioned in 2 Sam. ix. 45; xvii. 27; and doubtless the Lidebir of Josh. xiii. 26 on the north border of Gilead is the same. These two fortresses, with many others, Israel had lately taken from Aram; but not, as they boasted, by their own strength. It was only Aram's pre-occupation with Assyria now surgent on the northern flank, which allowed Israel these easy victories. And this same northern foe would soon overwhelm themselves. For, behold, I am to raise up against you, O house of Israel—'tis the oracle of Jehovah God of the hosts334334   With the article, an unusual form of the title. LXX. here κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων.a Nation, and they shall oppress you from the Entrance of Hamath to the Torrent of the 'Arabah. Every one knows the former, the Pass between the Lebanons, at whose mouth stands Dan, northern limit of Israel; but it is hard to identify the latter. If Amos means to include Judah, we should have expected the Torrent of Egypt, the present Wady el 'Arish; but the Wady of the 'Arabah may be a corresponding valley in the eastern watershed issuing in the 'Arabah. If Amos threatens only the Northern Kingdom, he intends some wady running down to that Sea of the 'Arabah, the Dead Sea, which is elsewhere given as the limit of Israel.335335   2 Kings xiv. 25. The Torrent of the 'Arabah can scarcely be the Torrent of the 'Arabim of Isa. xv. 7 for the latter was outside Israel's territory, and the border between Moab and Edom. The LXX. render Torrent of the West, τῶν δυσμῶν.

178

The Assyrian flood, then, was about to break, and the oracles close with the hopeless prospect of the whole land submerged beneath it.


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