16 May 2018Amos 6:1-14
“Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory, and lounge on their couches, and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall.” (v. 4)
Psalm: Psalm 63:1-8
When I first read this passage from Amos it brought to mind well-worn images of over-indulgent Romans in television dramas lounging on couches, being fed with grapes whilst fanned with giant palm branches by lowly servants.
But this is Israel, not Rome. And Amos is calling out the excesses of the nobility – the idle luxury and self-satisfied complacency which is apparently prevalent in the royal courts.
Amos criticises not just the court of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Samaria but also the Southern Kingdom’s court in Jerusalem (Zion) (verse 1). He also refers to the smaller cities of Calneh, Hamath and Gath (famous for Goliath) (verse 2) and uses them as comparisons, for those who live in Samaria and Jerusalem may well think they are beyond this type of judgement – but in reality, they are no better than anyone living anywhere else. Yet they are fatally distracted by smugness and lazy feasting. As we can tell from the language, Amos is seriously unimpressed.
He goes so far as to use the imagery of funerals to describe the fate of these idle noblemen and women of Samaria in particular (“the pride of Jacob” (v. 8)). Death shall come and the outcome will be catastrophic.
The strange allusion to ten people in a house may be explained by this suggestion from Harry Mowvley in his commentary Amos and Hosea (Peterborough, Epworth Press, 1991). He suggests that Amos is drawing a picture of what will happen when the Northern Kingdom is finally overrun: “It seems as though the small army unit had retreated to its quarters, but had been pursued and its soldiers killed there. Relatives or friends began to search the premises for survivors, one standing outside and the other going in to the farthest corners.”
As no survivors could be found, silence is the only appropriate response (verse 10). This is another descriptive passage in which Amos alludes to the coming judgement of God.
- How would you translate these verses in the context of the society/community in which you live today?
- Who are the modern-day prophets speaking challenging words to the complacent?