Amos 6 – Captivity Inevitable & Sacred Cats

Wow, they really loved their cats.  I prefer cats over dogs, but I wouldn’t worship or even mummify one.

This image shows the archaeological site at Jerusalem’s Mt. Zion, beneath the city’s (Turkish) wall. The site reveals many layers of the city’s cultural history, including a first-century mansion, which was then in Jerusalem’s elite district.

Wednesday we looked at the Samaria Ivories, so let’s take a look at…

Amos 6
Captivity Inevitable

1 Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nations, to whom the house of Israel came!

“In Zion…in the mountain of Samaria” – although Amos spoke primarily to Israel, Judah (Zion) also deserved his rebuke for Israel properly comprised all 12 tribes.

2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great: then go down to Gath of the Philistines: be they better than these kingdoms? or their border greater than your border?

Perhaps Calneh and Hamath had fallen in Jeroboam II’s campaign (2 Kgs 14:28) and the wall of Gath had been broken down by Uzziah (2 Chr 26:6).  These words may have been spoken by the “house of Israel” who when they came before their notables flattered their vanity and thus reinforced their arrogant complacency.

Painting by Rembrandt
Uzziah , also known as Azariah was a king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah
He is one of the kings mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
Uzziah was sixteen when he became king of Judah and reigned for fifty-two years.

3 Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near;

4 That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall;

5 That chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David;

6 That drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.

7 Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed.

8 The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein.

9 And it shall come to pass, if there remain ten men in one house, that they shall die.

10 And a man’s uncle shall take him up, and he that burneth him, to bring out the bones out of the house, and shall say unto him that is by the sides of the house, Is there yet any with thee? and he shall say, No. Then shall he say, Hold thy tongue: for we may not make mention of the name of the LORD.

6:10-11 – a fearful scene: Apparently a survivor is cowering inside the house, the relative forbidding him even to pray because God’s wrath had fallen on the city.

“He that burneth” – “The undertaker.”  Reference may be to burning a memorial fire in the honor of the dead.  Cremation was not generally practiced, being reserved primarily for serious offenders.

11 For, behold, the LORD commandeth, and he will smite the great house with breaches, and the little house with clefts.

Orontes RiverThe Orontes or Assi is a northward-flowing river which begins in Lebanon and flows through Syria and Turkey before entering the Mediterranean Sea. In ancient times, it was the chief river of the Levant region and the site of several major battles.

12 Shall horses run upon the rock? will one plow there with oxen? for ye have turned judgment into gall, and the fruit of righteousness into hemlock:

13 Ye which rejoice in a thing of nought, which say, Have we not taken to us horns by our own strength?

“Thing of nought” – Hebrew Lodebar, a place name.

“Taken to us horns” – Hebrew Karnaim, a place name.  these two places may have been regained from Hazail by Jehoash then taken by the Assyrians soon after Amos’s day – beginning the sequence of events that would lead to the loss of all territory conquered by Jeroboam II.

14 But, behold, I will raise up against you a nation, O house of Israel, saith the LORD the God of hosts; and they shall afflict you from the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness.

“From the entering in of Hemath unto the river of the wilderness” – from the Orontes River in north Lebanon to the Dead Sea – thus the whole land.

Sacred Cats

The temple was filled with statues of Bastet, a once fearsome lion-headed goddess whose image changed over time to a domesticated cat. She was also the daughter of Ra, the sun god.

Many animals figured prominently in Egyptian culture and mythology, but no domesticated animals was held in higher esteem than the cat.

The Egyptian term for cat was miu, a name probably derived from their mewing sound.  A female cat was miut, which was also a term of endearment for girls like “kitten.”

Cats were praised for controlling vermin and its ability to kill snakes such as cobras, the domesticated cat became a symbol of grace and poise. The goddess Mafdet, the deification of justice and execution, was a lion-headed goddess.

The cat goddess Bast (also known as Bastet) eventually replaced the cult of Mafdet, and Bast’s image softened over time and she became the deity representing protection, fertility, and motherhood.

Mummified cat

As a revered animal and one important to Egyptian society and religion, some cats received the same mummification after death as humans. Mummified cats were given in offering to Bast.

In 1888, an Egyptian farmer uncovered a large tomb with mummified cats and kittens. This discovery outside the town of Beni Hasan had eighty thousand cat mummies, dating to 2000-1000 B.C.

According to Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, who wrote in later times, anyone who killed a cat in Egypt was “condemned to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not.”

…The Nimrud Ivories.