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Bible Commentaries
Amos 8

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


C. Two more visions of impending judgment chs. 8-9

Amos received two more visions from that Lord that he continued to preach to the Israelites in spite of Amaziah’s threats.

1. The basket of summer fruit ch. 8

The vision with which this chapter opens (Amos 8:1-3) gave rise to three prophetic oracles that follow and expound it (Amos 8:4-14).

Verses 1-2

The sovereign Lord showed Amos a basket of summer fruit. Amos saw what God enabled him to see. The Lord asked him what he saw (cf. Amos 7:8), and the prophet replied that he saw a basket of ripe summer fruit (Heb. qayis). Normally this would have been a pleasant sight associated with the joys and provisions of harvest. Then Yahweh told him that Israel was also ripe (Heb. qes), but ripe for judgment. The Lord would spare the Israelites no longer. Like the fruit in the basket, Israel also needed to be consumed soon.

"Just as the final fruit of the summer signaled the end of the harvest season, so God’s ’end’ for Israel was now at hand. God would judge the religious hypocrisy and greed of the people." [Note: Charles H. Dyer, in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 760.]

"The Lord takes into his confidence those whom he desires to understand his words and his works (cf. Amos 3:7; Genesis 18:17-19)." [Note: Niehaus, p. 467.]

Verses 1-3

The vision proper 8:1-3

Verse 3

When judgment came, the singing in the royal palace would turn to wailing and lamenting. There would be many dead bodies lying around from the enemy’s slaughter, and those people who remained alive would dispose of them in silence because it would be such a terrible sight. Like so much rotten fruit, the dead Israelites would be thrown out.

Verse 4

Amos called those who oppressed the needy and tried to exterminate them to hear him (cf. Amos 5:11). Israel’s law called God’s people to extend an open hand of generosity to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7-11; cf. Psalms 72:12-13), but the stingy Israelites were trying to eliminate them.

Verses 4-6

The sins of the people 8:4-6

Non-visionary material followed the third vision (Amos 7:7-9), and non-visionary material follows the fourth vision (Amos 8:1-3).

Verses 5-6

These oppressors were eager for the monthly festivals and the weekly Sabbaths to end so they could get back to work cheating their fellow countrymen to make big profits. These holidays were days of rest and worship, but the Israelite workaholics did not enjoy them, though they observed them as good religious people. They were anxious to enslave the needy in their debt so they could control them and use them for their own selfish ends (cf. Amos 2:6). Archaeologists have found at Tirzah the remains of shops from the eighth century that contain two sets of weights, one for buying and one for selling. [Note: Mays, p. 144.] Tirzah was the first capital of Israel (1 Kings 14:17; 1 Kings 15:21; 1 Kings 15:33; et al.).

"These people regarded cereals and human beings equally as stock for sale. Their practices were both dishonest and inhumane." [Note: Andersen and Freedman, p. 804.]

Merchandising was their priority, not worshipping. Profit was their god, and they willingly sacrificed more important things for it. People who focus intently on what they will do after worship is over do not engage in true worship or enter into the spirit of worship. [Note: Wolff, p. 326.]

Verse 7

For the third time in this book Amos said that Yahweh took an oath (cf. Amos 4:2; Amos 6:8). This time He swore by the pride of Jacob. This may be a reference to Samaria (cf. Amos 6:8) or to Israel’s arrogant attitude. [Note: Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p. 400.] Some interpreters take it as a reference to God Himself (cf. 1 Samuel 15:29). [Note: See Thomas J. Finley, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, pp. 302-3.] The NIV capitalized "Pride" as a title of God. In this case, God vowed never to forget any of the sinful Israelites’ unrighteous deeds.

Verses 7-10

The wailing of the sufferers 8:7-10

The following two passages (Amos 8:7-14) describe more fully the two results of God’s judgment mentioned earlier, namely, wailing and silence (cf. Amos 8:3).

Verse 8

Because of the sins just described the land would quake from the Lord’s approach and the large enemy army that He would lead against Israel. Perhaps a literal earthquake did occur, but probably trembling with fear is in view (cf. 2 Samuel 7:10). All the inhabitants would mourn over the coming destruction. The waves of terror and destruction would be like the rising and falling of the Nile River.

"Since the rise and fall of the Nile usually extended over a few months, some national upheaval lasting a considerable period of time is implied by the analogy. Sometimes the flooding of the Nile was highly destructive. Amos may have been comparing the destructiveness of social injustice, civil strife, economic exploitation, and religious shallowness in Israel to the destruction caused by the inundation of the Nile. The flooding of the Nile occurred repeatedly, as did the social, civil, economic, and religious problems of society." [Note: B. Smith, p. 148.]

Verse 9

On the day of judgment sovereign Yahweh would send darkness over the land. This may refer to an eclipse of the sun, or it may be a figurative description of the coming judgment as an unnaturally bad day. I prefer the metaphorical interpretation since this whole chapter contains many metaphors. The figure of the sun going down at noon was particularly appropriate since Jeroboam’s reign was the zenith of Israel’s prosperity, power, and glory.

Verse 10

Then Yahweh would turn their festivals into funerals and their melodious singing into mourning. The people would wear sackcloth and shave their heads as signs of their grief. Mourning would come because judgment had come. It would be as sad a time as the death of an only son. The death of an only son meant the extinguishing of hope for the future and the losing of provision for one’s old age. The end of that day would be bitter indeed.

Verse 11

As part of His judgment, God would withhold His words from His people. This would be like a famine, not of physical food and drink but of spiritual food. God’s words provide spiritual nourishment and refreshment, so when they are not available people suffer spiritually (cf. Matthew 4:4).

The Israelites had rejected the Lord’s words to them (Amos 2:11-12; Amos 7:10-13), so He would not send them to them any longer (cf. 1 Samuel 3:1; 1 Samuel 28:6). This is a fearful prospect. If we do not listen to the Word of God, we may not be able to hear the Word of God (cf. Luke 17:22; John 7:34). This does not mean that God would remove all copies of His Word from them but that when they sought a word of help, advice, or comfort from Him they would not get it (cf. King Saul). Prophets would not bring God’s words to them.

Verses 11-14

The silence of Yahweh 8:11-14

The few remaining Israelites would be silent as they disposed of the corpses of their fellows (Amos 8:3), but God would also be silent in that day of judgment.

Verses 12-13

The Israelites would grope all over the land for some word from Yahweh, a word of explanation, forgiveness, or hope, but they would not be able to find one. Even beautiful virgins and strong young men would faint from lack of spiritual refreshment. These types of individuals would have the greatest strength and could look the hardest and longest, but even they would find nothing. Their deaths would also mean the cutting back of the nation since they could not provide children.

Verse 14

The apostate Israelites who swore in the name of their favorite pagan deities would fall never to rise again because their idols would not uplift them. Amos described the prominent idol in Samaria as Samaria’s guilt or shame. One of the idols they worshipped in Samaria was Ashimah (cf. 2 Kings 17:29-30), which Amos apparently alluded to here. From Dan to Beersheba, throughout the whole Promised Land, the Israelites would seek some word from Yahweh, but they would find none to meet their need. In view of other prophecies of Israel’s restoration, the prediction that the Israelites would fall and not rise again must have a limited scope. That generation as a whole would not survive the coming judgment, but presumably individuals could repent and escape.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Amos 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/amos-8.html. 2012.
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