Amos 5:19

19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.

Read Amos 5:19 Using Other Translations

As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.
In that day you will be like a man who runs from a lion— only to meet a bear. Escaping from the bear, he leans his hand against a wall in his house— and he’s bitten by a snake.

What does Amos 5:19 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Amos 5:19

As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him
That is, should the day of the Lord come as they desired, they would not be the better for it; it would be only going from one trouble to another, like escaping Scylla, and falling into Charybdis: or as if a man, upon the sight of a lion, and at his yell, should take to his heels, and flee "from the face" of him, as the phrase is F9, and a bear, a less generous, and more cruel and voracious creature, especially when: bereaved of its whelps, should meet him, and seize him: or should: he get clear of them both, or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent
bit him;
should he get into a house, and so escape the lion and the bear, and lean upon the wall of the house to support and ease him, being out of breath in running from these creatures; yet a serpent lurking in the wall of an old house bites him, and the venom and poison of it issues in his death; so he gains nothing by fleeing from the lion, or escaping the bear. These proverbial expressions signify that the Israelites would be no gainers by the day of the Lord, but rather fall into greater evils, and more distressing calamities. Some Jewish writers interpret the lion and the bear of Laban and Esau; the lion (they say F11) is Laban, who pursued after Jacob to take away his life; the bear is Esau, who stood in the way to kill all that came, the mother with the children; but are much better interpreted of the Chaldeans, Persians, and Grecians, by Jerom; whose words are,

``fleeing from the face of Nebuchadnezzar the lion, ye will be met by Ahasuerus, under whom, was the history of Esther; or the empire of the Assyrians and Chaldeans being destroyed, the Medes and Persians shall arise; and when upon the reign of Cyrus ye shall have returned, and at the command of, Darius shall have begun to build the house of the Lord, and have confidence in the temple, so as to rest in it, lean your weary hands on its walls; then shall come Alexander king of the Macedonians, or Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, who shall abide in the temple, and bite likes serpent, not without in Babylon, and in Susa, but within the borders of the holy land; by which it appears that the day ye desire is not a day of light and joy, but of darkness and sorrow.''
The interpretation is pretty and ingenious enough, since the characters of the lion, bear, and serpent, agree with the respective persons and people mentioned; Nebuchadnezzar is often compared to a lion, ( Jeremiah 4:7 ) ( 50:17 ) ; and the Babylonian and Chaldean monarchy is represented by one in ( Daniel 7:4 ) ; and the Persian monarchy by a bear, ( Daniel 7:5 ) ; to which the Persians are compared, the Jews say F12, because they eat and drink like a bear, are as fat as bears, and hairy like them, and as restless as they; and so the Persians were noted for their luxury and lust, as well as their cruelty; and, wearing long hair, are called hairy persons in the Delphic oracle, which Herodotus F13 interprets of them; (See Gill on Daniel 7:5); and Antiochus may not unfitly be compared to a serpent; see (See Gill on Daniel 8:23); (See Gill on Daniel 8:24); (See Gill on Daniel 8:25); (See Gill on Daniel 11:23); but what is to be objected to this sense is, that the words are spoken to the ten tribes, or Israel, who were carried captive by the Assyrians; and not the two tribes, or the Jews, who fell into the hands, first of the Chaldeans, then the Persians, and then the Grecians, particularly into the hands of Antiochus; see ( Daniel 7:4 Daniel 7:5 ) ( Ezra 1:1 ) .
FOOTNOTES:

F9 (ynpm) "a facie", V. L. Pagninus; "a faciebus", Montanus; "a conspectu", Mercerus.
F11 Pirke Eliezer, c. 37. fol. 41. 1.
F12 T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 72. 1. & Avoda Zara, fol. 2. 2.
F13 Erato, sive l. 6. c. 19. Vid. Calliope, sive l. 9. c. 81.
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