Summary: Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2001 Year C Amos 6 : 1a, 4-7 Title: “Danger of prosperity being placed before God.”
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost September 30, 2001 Year C
Title: “Danger of prosperity being placed before God.”
Amos is prophesying in the northern kingdom, whose capital is Samaria, shortly before its fall to the Assyrians. Many Israelites, certainly the prominent ones, will be exiled. Although this doom looms on the horizon, the prominent people of the land fail to see it. Their focus is on enjoying the present prosperity. Amos preaches pretty much to deaf ears as well as blind eyes. He warns them that their behavior has consequences; their neglect and exploitation of the poor will be the cause of their downfall and that of the nation.
In verse one, Alas for those who are at ease, “Alas” is a warning, not a wish for calamity or a curse.
In Zion: Zion is the mountain in the southern kingdom, Judah, on which Jerusalem, its capital, is built. This is a poetic way of addressing the whole southern kingdom by reference to its capital mount. Whether Amos so addressed the south or whether this was later adjusted to apply to the south at the time of the Babylonian exile, what is said of the northern kingdom, Israel, is also true of the south.
Mount of Samaria: Samaria was the capital of Israel, the northern kingdom, and, like all cities, was built on a mountain for defensive purposes. So, the complacent and over-confident of both north and south are addressed through their mountainous capitals. The height, prominence or preeminence of these mounts gives a false sense of being protected from the foe.
Leaders of a nation favored from the first: The Hebrew has “the notable men of the first of the nations to whom the house of Israel come.” Israel was the “first” or “head” of the nations because God had chosen her. So she was preeminent among the nations, high like the mountain her capital was built on. The notable men, the ones the rest of the people looked to and came to for just dealings, were doubly preeminent since they ruled as first or head in a nation that was herself first.
In verse two, Calneh…Hamath…Gath! Are you better than these kingdoms? : Calneh is probably a city-state in the north of Syria. Hamath was on the Orontes River and was in Amos’ day the capital of a Syrian kingdom bordering on Israel’s northern frontier. Gath was a Philistine city-state west of Judah. Exactly what is the prophet’s point is not clear. Some think this is a later insertion addressed to Judah by a later prophet citing examples of kingdoms already destroyed by Assyria. If so, the point would be that Judah should not expect to escape destruction when all the kingdoms around her have fallen. She will be no exception. If, however, this verse is pre-722BC and these city-state, petty kingdoms are being cited to say that Israel is indeed bigger and better than they, then the point would be that the people erroneously thought they would be exempt from destruction by Assyria because of her divine election as well as her being larger in size than all the surrounding kingdoms. Whichever the case, the prophet warns that nothing will stop the inevitable.