This verse is one of the few in Amos to pose serious textual difficulties. These focus on the last word, עָרֶשׂ 'ares which already the LXX seems just to have transliterated ίερεις hiereis, and on the meaning of the phrase which in a simplistic literal translation reads something like:
"so they be rescued the children of Israel, who live in Samaria, in a corner of a couch and in Damascus a bed"
The issues are complex, and discussed well in the heavier commentaries (e.g. Andersen & Freedman, 408-410; Wolff, 196-198). In view of this complexity and that the problem was already insoluble at the time of the early Greek translators we can hardly hope for a solution today. The NEB offers the most attractive option: reading "a chip from the leg of a bed" ובד־מצק for ובדמשׁק the one letter emended has a similar sound to the MT reading.
To demonstrate that they were not to blame for the loss, shepherds tried to retrieve a fragment of animals taken by predators (Gen 31:39). Such tokens were of value only to the shepherd. Amos suggests that Israelites living in Samaria can expect to "rescue", just a few fragments of furniture from all their fine mansions (cf. v.15)!
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.