Amos 8:1-2. Behold a basket of summer fruit — This symbolically denoted that Israel’s sins were now ripe for judgment, and that as the fruit, when it is ripe, is taken from the trees, so, their iniquity being now ripe, they should be taken off the land in which they dwelt. The two Hebrew words, קוצ, kaits, summer fruit, and קצ, kets, an end, have an affinity in their sound. Such paronomasias occur in other passages of Scripture: see Isaiah 24:17; Jeremiah 1:11. Instead of summer fruit, Houbigant reads, “autumnal fruit, or, fruit of the last season of the year; and so in the next verse, where, instead of the end, he reads the last end, in order to keep up the allusion, and the play of the words in the original: whereby is signified, that as after the autumnal fruits, no others are produced from the earth, or gathered from the tree, so should it come to pass, that the kingdom of Israel should no more produce any fruit, nor reflourish in the following years. After Jeroboam II. all things became worse and worse, till the kingdom of Israel was totally destroyed:” see Jeremiah 24.
Amos 8:3. And the songs of the temple shall be howlings, &c. — Houbigant renders it, And the singers of the palace shall howl, the word היכל, signifying palace as well as temple; and as Amos prophesied against Israel, not against Judah, the temple, properly so called, could not be meant here. There shall be many dead bodies in every place — In cities, towns, and the country; in all places shall the bloody effects produced by the enemies’ sword, and by famine and pestilence, be seen. They shall cast them forth with silence — The enemy will make such slaughter among the people, and the dead will be so numerous, that there will be no opportunity of using public mournings, or lamentations, at funerals, as had been usual in other cases; but the friends of the deceased will be glad to hurry them to their graves with as much silence and privacy as possible.
Amos 8:4-6. Hear, O ye that swallow up the needy — That greedily and cruelly devour such as would have been objects of your compassion, had you been just and merciful as well as rich and great. He alludes to the greater fish swallowing up the lesser. To make the poor of the land to fail — Either to root them out or to enslave them. Saying, When will the new- moon be gone — This was one of their solemn feasts, the use of which they retained with their idolatrous worship; that we may sell corn — It seems they were prohibited during this feast, and probably in their other solemn feasts, from every kind of traffic, even the selling of corn; and these covetous wretches thought the time during which they were so restrained long and tedious, wishing to be again at liberty to trade and get gain. Making the ephah small, and the shekel great — The ephah was the measure whereby they sold corn, &c., containing about one of our bushels. This they made smaller than the just standard, and so cheated in the quantity of what they sold. The shekel was the money they received for the price of their goods, and by weighing this by too heavy a weight, they diminished its real value, and so cheated also in the sum they received. So that both ways they over-reached those that dealt with them, who received less of what they bought than it was their right to receive, and paid more than they ought to pay for it. That we may buy the poor for silver — That we may, by these unjust dealings, soon get the poor so much into our debt, that they may not be able to discharge it, but be obliged to surrender themselves to us as slaves, and that for a very trifling consideration in reality. So that these avaricious and merciless men wished the new-moon and sabbaths to be over, that they might go to market, as it were, and buy the poor; and when these poor owed but for a very trifling article, as suppose a pair of shoes, they would take advantage against them, and make them sell themselves to pay the debt. Or, to buy any thing for a pair of shoes, was a proverbial expression to signify getting it at a very vile, or low price. It was the custom of those times when a man could not discharge his debts, for him to surrender up himself and family to his creditor as bond-servants. By this the rich increased their power, as well as their wealth; and such was their inhumanity, that they practised every art of fraud and extortion to reduce the needy to this miserable condition. Yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat — Not content with defrauding in the measure and price, ye mix the chaff, or refuse, such as is not fit to make bread, and sell it together with the wheat. This was another kind of oppression; corrupted wares were sold to those that were necessitous.
Amos 8:7. The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob — That is, by himself; Surely I will never forget any of their works — God is said to remember men’s sins when he punishes them. We may learn by this passage, and many others in Scripture, that however slightly men may think of it, God takes particular notice of, and will certainly punish, all extortions and over-reachings in trade, and more particularly when they are used in regard of the poor. They shall have judgment without mercy, who have showed no mercy. It is to be wished that persons would always consider themselves as the fathers of the poor, when they deal with them; and rather give them measure pressed down and running over, than mete to them with a scanty hand.
Amos 8:8. Shall not the land tremble — Shall not the state, or government, and all the people of the land, be terribly afraid, and greatly troubled; for this — This, that you have done, O house of Israel, in sinning, and this that God will do in punishing? And every one mourn that dwelleth therein — Shall not all be deeply concerned and distressed, since all have sinned and deserved punishment, and all will suffer in the approaching calamity? Certainly they shall. Observe, reader, those that will not tremble and mourn as they ought for national sins, shall be made to tremble and mourn for national judgments; those that look unconcerned upon the sins of oppressors, which should make them tremble, and upon the miseries of the oppressed, which should make them mourn, God will find out a way to make them tremble at the fury of those that oppress them, and mourn for their own losses and sufferings by it. And it shall rise up wholly as a flood — The LXX. read, with a very small alteration in the Hebrew points, και αναβησεται ως ποταμος συντελια, Destruction shall rise up like a flood; that is, the judgment, the calamity of a hostile invasion by the Assyrians, shall be like an inundation, which in a short time overflows a whole country. And it shall be cast out and drowned — The inhabitants of the land shall be cast out of their possessions, or the land itself shall be overwhelmed as by the flood, or rather, the river of Egypt, that is, as Egypt is by the inundation of the river Nile. Thus the Chaldee paraphrase: He shall make a king come up against it [the land] with a numerous army like a flood, and he shall drive out the inhabitants thereof, and [the land itself]
shall be drowned as when the flood of Egypt [overflows.]
Amos 8:9. I will cause the sun to go down at noon — Calamitous times are often expressed in the Scriptures by the failing of the light of the sun, and the day’s being overspread with darkness. So Israel’s sun did begin to go down, as at noon, under the dark cloud of conspiracies and civil wars by Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, till it entirely set, and total darkness came on through the Assyrian invasions by Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmanezer, and by the entire desolation and destruction of the country produced thereby. And I will darken the earth — By bringing a thick cloud of troubles and afflictions over it; in the clear day — When they think all is safe, well settled, and hopeful.
Amos 8:10. I will turn your feasts into mourning — God commanded the Jews to celebrate their festivals with joy and gladness; but this it would be impossible for them to do under such melancholy circumstances and manifestations of the divine displeasure. And all your songs into lamentation — The particular psalms and hymns which used to be sung at the great festivals are here alluded to. And I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins — All sorts of persons shall put on mourning. And baldness upon every head — Shaving the head and beard was a sign of the greatest sadness. I will make it as the mourning, rather, as in the mourning of [or for] an only son — That is, a most heavy mourning; for the death of an only son generally occasions the severest grief; and the end thereof as a bitter day — A sorrowful day, which you shall wish you had never seen, shall succeed your dark night. In other words, the calamities shall increase more and more; so that the last part of these grievous times shall be far more distressing than any that had preceded. This undoubtedly was the case, as the carrying them into captivity would occasion a separation of friends from friends, children from parents, wives from husbands, than which it is not easy to conceive any thing more deplorable.
Amos 8:11. Behold the days come, saith the Lord — This is spoken of events which were yet at some distance. That I will send a famine in the land, not of bread, &c., but of hearing the words of the Lord — When Amos prophesied, and for a considerable time after, there were several prophets, and abundant opportunities of hearing the word of the Lord, in season and out of season: they had precept upon precept and line upon line. Prophecy was their daily bread; but they despised it as Israel did the manna in the wilderness; and therefore God threatens that he would hereafter deprive them of this privilege. It appears that there were not so many prophets in the land of Israel, about the time that their destruction came upon them, as there were in the land of Judah; and after the ten tribes were carried away captive, they saw not their signs; there were no more any prophets among them; none to show them How long; Psalms 74:9. The Jewish church also, after Malachi, had no prophets for many ages. Now, 1st, This was the departure of a great part of their glory: what especially made their nation great and high was, that to them were committed the oracles of God: but when these were taken from them their beauty was stained, and their honour laid in the dust. 2d, This was a token of God’s highest displeasure against them: surely he was angry indeed with them, when he would no more speak to them as he had done; and had abandoned them to ruin, when he would no more reprove them for their sins, and call them to repentance by his messengers. 3d, This made all the other calamities that were upon them truly melancholy; that they had no prophets to instruct and comfort them from the word of God, nor to give them any hopeful prospect. We should say at any time, and shall be compelled to say in a time of trouble, that a famine of the word of God is, of all others, the sorest famine — the heaviest judgment. It is not improbable that this threatening was intended to look further than to the judgment now referred to, even to the blindness which has in part happened to Israel, in the days of the Messiah, and the veil that is on the hearts of the unbelieving Jews. They reject the gospel, and the ministers of it, which God sends to them, and covet to have prophets of their own, as their fathers had; but they shall have none, the kingdom of God being taken from them and given to another people.
Amos 8:12-13. And they shall wander from sea to sea — From the sea of Tiberias to the great sea, from one border of the country to another. And from the north even to the east — The prophet omits naming the south, because the idolaters, to whom he directs his discourse, would choose to inquire anywhere rather than of the true prophets of the Lord, who dwelt in the tribe of Judah, which was situated to the south of the ten tribes. They shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord — To inquire if there be any prophet, any prophecy, any message from God, any divine direction what course to take in their distress — any encouragement to expect deliverance from their calamities, and happier times. In that day shall the fair virgins, &c. — They who are in the bloom of their youth and in the strength of their age, shall faint, and be dispirited like those that want necessary refreshment.
Amos 8:14. They that swear by the sin of Samaria — That is, by the calf which Jeroboam set up as an object of worship at Beth-el, not far from Samaria, committing a great sin in so doing, and making Israel to sin. Swearing, according to the sense in which the word is here taken, is a solemn invocation of the name of God, and an appeal to him; and, as such, is a proper part of divine worship, (see Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20,) and therefore ought not to be given to idols. And say, Thy God — Or, As thy God, O Dan, liveth — That is, who say in the way of an oath, As the god who is worshipped in Dan liveth: at Dan was placed another of Jeroboam’s calves. And, The manner of Beer-sheba liveth — The LXX. render it, the god of Beer-sheba liveth; expressing the sense rather than the words of the original. The way or manner signifies the same with the way of worship; so that the people swore by the religion of Beer-sheba, or the manner of worship used there, which they looked upon as sacred. Thus the Papists swear by the mass: but they who thus give that honour to idols which is due to God alone, will find the God whom they thus affront is made their enemy. And they shall fall, &c. — And the gods they serve cannot raise them up; so that without better help they shall never rise again.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Amos 8". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany