Woes upon Samaria and Zion
Amos 6:1 says,
1 Woe 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.
It is interesting that Amos addresses this to the leaders in both Zion and Samaria. Zion was the seat of government in Jerusalem over the southern house of Judah, while Samaria was the government of Israel in the northern house of Joseph.
Amos’ main focus was upon Samaria and the northern tribes, but he makes it clear that Judah was not exempt from divine judgment. Hence, the term, “beyond Damascus,” refers to both captivities, but moreso to the house of Israel who was to be exiled to Assyria. Judah’s captivity would take them in an arc north of the desert to Babylon, which was ultimately due west.
Amos 6:2 continues,
2 Go over to Calneh and look, and go from there to Hamath the great, then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are they [Zion and Samaria] better than these kingdoms, or is their territory [or “borders”] greater than yours?
The laws of God apply equally to all nations. The answer is that Israel and Judah are no better—nor any worse—than the other nations who are in idolatry. All are accountable to God, although the other nations might use ignorance as an excuse.
Calneh was a city on the Tigris River, built by Nimrod in the land of Shinar (Gen. 10:10). Hamath was north of Damascus, not far from the coast, directly east of Cyprus. Gath was a city in the southern part of Philistia. Amos uses these as random samplings of foreign cities, each with its own gods, to show that God holds all nations accountable to worship Him as King and to obey His law.
Amos 6:3 goes on, saying,
3 Do you put off the day of calamity, and would you bring near the seat of violence?
These leaders of Zion and Samaria acted as if the day of calamity (judgment) could be “put off” indefinitely. Shortsighted, these leaders showed no concern about the future of the nation, as long as they themselves were able to live lives of luxury.
Amos 6:4-6 describes this luxury,
4 Those 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, 5 who improvise to the sound of the harp, and like David have composed songs for themselves, 6 who drink wine from [over-sized] sacrificial bowls while they anoint themselves with the finest of oils, yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.
The rich and powerful were concerned only with their own personal comfort and luxurious life style, as if they were deserving of it, while the rest of the nation could go into ruin. Things have not changed to this day, for this is always the tendency of human nature. Wealth and power only bring human nature to the surface, and this is why the overcomers are truly the only ones qualified to rule the earth under Christ.
Because of their pursuit of personal comfort at the expense of obedience to God, judgment was sure to come, for Amos 6:7 says,
7 Therefore, they will now go into exile at the head of the exiles, and the sprawlers’ banqueting will pass away.
The Hebrew word translated “sprawlers” is sarakh, “to pour out, to be redundant, hang over, to be unrestrained, to exceed, sprawl.” Amos paints a picture of excessive luxury, living beyond the means of most people. All of that, he says, “will pass away” and come to an end.
God’s Vow of Judgment
Amos 6:8 ends this section by saying,
8 The Lord God has sworn by Himself, the Lord God of hosts has declared: “I loathe the arrogance [gaown, “the majesty, pomp, pride”] of Jacob, and I detest his citadels; therefore, I will deliver up the city and all it contains.”
Note that God calls Israel by the old name, “Jacob,” as if to say that the nation was not living up to its name Israel. Jacob means “deceiver, supplanter,” showing the human nature of both Jacob as an individual and his descendants as a nation. As long as they remained in that Jacob state of arrogance and self-deception, they were unworthy of the name Israel. It is as if God was refusing to recognize them by that name.
Verse 6 says, “The Lord God has sworn by Himself.” When God makes a vow or an oath, it is established legally in a court of law, and there is no turning back. Hence, when Amos heard God swear an oath to bring judgment upon Samaria, there was no way to reverse course, for the word of God cannot be broken.
This seems to have been the point of no return, where it was decided in the courts of heaven that the people had lost any further opportunity to repent. The nation had reverted fully back to its Jacob way of life, and this could not be reversed.
Similarly, Judah and Jerusalem reached the same point of no return in Jer. 7:15, 16, when the prophet was told to stop praying for that nation, “for I do not hear you.” It is a serious matter when a nation reaches such a point.