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Bible Commentaries
Amos 8

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Amos 8:0


Five Visions of God's Judgment and a Prophecy of Restoration(Amos 7:1-15)The Visions(Amos 7:1-10)
Vision of Summer FruitFourth VisionA Vision of a Basket of FruitFourth Vision: The Basket of Ripe Fruit
Amos 8:1-3Amos 8:1-3Amos 8:1-2aAmos 8:1-3
Amos 8:2-3
The Indictment of IsraelIsrael's DoomAgainst Swindlers and Exploiters
Amos 8:4-10Amos 8:4-6Amos 8:4-6Amos 8:4-7
Amos 8:7-8Amos 8:7-10
Amos 8:8
Prediction of Punishment: Darkness and Mourning
Amos 8:9-10Amos 8:9-10
Famine and Drought of the Word of God
Amos 8:11-14Amos 8:11-12Amos 8:11-14Amos 8:11-12
Fresh Prediction of Punishment
Amos 8:13-14Amos 8:13-14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 8:1-3 1Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. 3The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day,” declares the Lord GOD. “Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence.”

Amos 8:1 “Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold” This phrase was used to introduce the first three visions in chapter 7. Because of its recurrent use it shows that the visions are related (cf. Amos 7:1, Amos 7:4, Amos 7:7; Amos 8:1).

“a basket of summer fruit” There is a word play in the Hebrew text between the word for “fruit” (BDB 884) and the word for “end” (BDB 893, cf. Daniel 8:17, Daniel 8:19; Daniel 11:40; Daniel 12:4, Daniel 12:6) in Amos 8:2. These two words would have been pronounced the same way (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 920). Summer fruit (BDB 884) is the last fruit of the season, which over ripens very quickly in the heat and was an appropriate metaphor for the spiritual rottenness of the Israeli nation. They were over-ripe for judgment!

Amos 8:2 “‘The end has come for My people Israel'“ The VERB (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal PERFECT) denotes that the covenant between YHWH and Abraham's descendants will be abrogated with the northern tribes.

The pain of YHWH can be sensed in the covenant phrase, “My people Israel”( cf. Hosea 11:1-4, Hosea 11:8), but it will not be completely abrogated. There is hope (cf. Amos 9:7-15; Hosea 11:9-11).

To allow the appearance of the covenant to continue would be cruel. YHWH's judgment, as painful as it was, was an act of love with a real potential of restoration!

“will spare them no longer” This phrase is very emphatic. Literally, it is “I will never (BDB 414, KB 418, Hiphil IMPERFECT) again pass by them” (BDB 716, KB 778, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT).

The Covenant is broken (cf. Amos 7:8)! His people have rejected Him by the amalgamation with Canaanite fertility worship for the last time. In Genesis 15:16 the Amorites of the Promised Land were rejected because of their godless lifestyle. Now God's own people are being turned out because of their similar godless lifestyle. God's patience coming to an end is also seen in Jeremiah 15:5-9 and Ezekiel 7:2-9.

Amos 8:3 “The songs of the palace” The term “songs” (BDB 1010) is FEMININE PLURAL, which may denote the irony that the female singers at court would become the professional mourners. But, there were so many bodies that the only sound was silence! (For a brief discussion of mourning rites see Roland deVaux, Ancient Israel, vol. 1, pp. 56-61.)

There is a possibility of two translations: (1) “palace” (TEV, NJB, cf. Amos 6:5) or (2) “shrine” or “temple” (NKJV, NRSV, NET, NIV, cf. Amos 5:23). Because of Amos 8:10 (cf. Amos 5:23) option #2 seems best.

“will turn to wailing” The VERB (BDB 410, KB 413, Hiphil PERFECT) occurs several times in the section of Jeremiah dealing with judgment on the surrounding nations (cf. Jeremiah 47:2; Jeremiah 48:20, Jeremiah 48:31, Jeremiah 48:39; Jeremiah 49:3; Jeremiah 51:8). He seems to follow Isaiah's usage (cf. Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 14:31; Isaiah 15:2, Isaiah 15:3; Isaiah 16:7[twice]; Isaiah 23:1, Isaiah 23:6, Isaiah 23:14). A good translation of this outcry over death and destruction could be “wail,” “howl,” “shriek.”

The eighth century minor prophets used it several times in relation to YHWH's coming judgment.

1. Hosea 7:14

2. Joel 1:5, Joel 1:11, Joel 1:13

3. Amos 8:3

4. Micah 1:8

“in that day” This was a standardized metaphor of judgment used so often in the eighth century prophets. YHWH will visit His people for blessing (cf. Amos 9:11, Amos 9:13) or cursing (cf. Amos 1:14; Amos 2:16; Amos 3:14; Amos 4:2; Amos 5:8, Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20; Amos 6:3; Amos 8:3, Amos 8:9, Amos 8:10, Amos 8:11, Amos 8:13). See full note at Amos 2:16.

“they will cast them forth in silence” This refers to abnormal burial practices (i.e., no professional wailing nor any wailing at all) because of war and siege. This phrase is related to Amos 6:10 (the same INTERJECTION is used, BDB 245, “hush”).

Verses 4-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 8:4-6 4Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, 5saying, “When will the new moon be over, So that we may sell grain, And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger, And to cheat with dishonest scales, 6So as to buy the helpless for money And the needy for a pair of sandals, And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?”

Amos 8:4 “Hear” This is the Hebrew term Shema (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal IMPERATIVE). It means “to hear so as to do.” It is the key term of the significant prayer of Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (cf. Amos 3:1, Amos 3:13; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:1).

Verse Amos 8:4 refers to subjugation (“trample” or “crush” BDB 983, KB 1375, Qal PARTICIPLE) of the poor (‘the needy” parallel to “the humble of the land” and “the helpless. . .the needy,” cf. Amos 8:6) by the rich and politically powerful (cf. Amos 2:7; Amos 5:11, Amos 5:12).

Amos 8:5 The wealthy, powerful, and influential could not wait for the religious assemblies (i.e., “new moon,” cf. Numbers 28:11; 2 Kings 4:23 and “sabbath,” cf. Exodus 31:13-17) to be over so they could instigate their illegal, improper, and unjust schemes toward the poor: (1) to make the bushel smaller; (2) the shekel bigger; (3) use dishonest scales; and (4) sell the husk of the wheat (those grain heads that fell in the dirt, BDB 655, or under-developed grain that fell through the sieve, cf. Amos 9:9) with the wheat. All of these refer to cheating the poor when they buy food (cf. Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; Proverbs 20:10).

The VERBS “sell” (BDB 991, KB 1404) and “open” (BDB 834, KB 986) are both COHORTATIVE. These merchants' desire to exploit is so strong that their actions are the commands of their own hearts.


“the new moon” This refers to the ancient custom of observing a religious holiday at the first of the month (cf. Numbers 28:11; 2 Kings 4:23). Remember, the Jews went by the lunar calendar.

“dishonest scales” This CONSTRUCT (BDB 24, 941) denotes unfair and dishonest commercial enterprises, especially against the poor (cf. Micah 6:10-11). God hates this falsehood (cf. Proverbs 11:1). It is never “business is business” with God or His people! Exploitation reveals a heart of self, greed, and fallenness.

Amos 8:6 This verse gives an example of how poor people who could not buy food were forced to sell themselves or their families into slavery for a small amount (i.e., “a pair of sandals,” cf. Amos 2:6).

These wealthy merchants sank so low as to sell grain mixed with husk, dirt, pebbles, etc. With profits from these fraudulent sales they purchased more slaves! Therefore, the poor paid for the exploitation of the poor!

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 8:7-10 7The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob, “Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds. 8Because of this will not the land quake And everyone who dwells in it mourn? Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile, And it will be tossed about And subside like the Nile of Egypt. 9It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon And make the earth dark in broad daylight. 10Then I will turn your festivals into mourning And all your songs into lamentation; And I will bring sackcloth on everyone's loins And baldness on every head. And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son, And the end of it will be like a bitter day.

Amos 8:7 “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob” In Amos YHWH swears several times as a way to show that His words are true:

1. “The LORD God has sworn by His holiness,” Amos 4:2

2. “The LORD God has sworn by Himself,” Amos 6:8

3. “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob,” Amos 8:7

This phrase has several possibilities: (1) God's glory in the descendants of Jacob (cf. 1 Samuel 15:29). The TEV translates this as “The LORD, the God of Israel, has sworn” ; (2) since no where else does God swear by another person, this may mean, “the LORD, of whom Israel is so proud, has sworn” (UBS, Handbook, p. 165); or (3) that the people of Jacob had become so permanently wicked that God could swear by their settled condition (cf. Amos 6:8).

“I will never forget any of their deeds” This is a very strong and emphatic statement.


2. a Qal IMPERFECT VERB, “to forget” (BDB 1013, KB 1489)

3. the NOUN “everlasting,” “perpetuity” (BDB 664)

These exploitative merchants will answer for the crimes against both their covenant brothers and sisters and their covenant God!

Amos 8:8 This question expects a “yes” answer. This verse is apparently using the imagery of (1) an earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 or (2) the destruction caused by the annual flooding of the Nile River in Egypt (cf. Amos 9:5; Jeremiah 46:7-8). Because this VERB (BDB 176, KB 204, Niphal PERFECT) is used to describe Jonah being driven from the presence of YHWH (cf. Jonah 2:4), it may be a metaphor for exile from the Promised Land (cf. Amos 9:1-4, Amos 9:5). This same word was used of YHWH driving the Canaanites out of the Promised Land, but now Israel is being removed for her sins and idolatry!

Amos 8:9 This verse has been understood in several ways: (1) eschatological language like Isaiah 13:10; Joel 2:2; Joel 3:15; Micah 3:6; (2) a reference to the plagues on Egypt, which form the basis of the curses of Deut. 27-29; or (3) a literal reference to an eclipse (cf. Amos 5:18-20).

In a sense the cosmic chaos of creation is recurring. The ideal setting of YHWH fellowshipping with mankind has again been disrupted. Nature is seen as being in chaos (cf. Romans 8:19-22).

It is ironic that water can be for destruction (i.e., flood) or a symbol of God's blessing (cf. Amos 5:24). Mankind will experience one or the other! For an interesting discussion of the word “sea” see NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 461-466.

“make the earth dark in broad daylight” This VERB (BDB 364, KB 361, Hiphil PERFECT) refers to God's action. It may reflect the plague of darkness in Egypt (cf. Exodus 10:21-22; Psalms 105:28). Here it refers to God bringing darkness, both literal (cf. Amos 5:8) and figurative (cf. Amos 8:11-12). Israel's light is darkened (cf. Jeremiah 13:16).

Amos 8:10 This is a series of mourning rites (i.e., funeral songs, sackcloth, baldness) over God's judgments of Israel's worship times. Their worship will be turned to bitter mourning, like the death of an only son (cf. Jeremiah 6:26; Zechariah 12:10).

“baldness” Because of Israel's connection with the Canaanite fertility cults, this could refer to “shaving” (cf. Moab, Isaiah 15:2; Jeremiah 48:37; Philistia, Jeremiah 47:5; and Phoenicia, Ezekiel 27:31), all of which had cultic connotations (cf. Leviticus 21:5).

But it could also refer to the pulling out of the hair of the head as a sign of mourning (cf. Micah 1:16; Ezekiel 7:18). See Special Topic: Grieving Rites.

“a bitter day” This word (BDB 600) is used at the grief over a death (cf. Amos 5:16-17). They were expecting just the opposite (cf. Amos 5:18-20)! This is a veiled reference to “that day,” “the day of the LORD.” See note at Amos 2:16.

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Amos 8:11-14 11”Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD. 12People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, But they will not find it. 13In that day the beautiful virgins And the young men will faint from thirst. 14As for those who swear by the guilt of Samaria, Who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan,' And, 'As the way of Beersheba lives,' They will fall and not rise again.”

Amos 8:11 This may be the OT origin of one part of Jesus' beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:6) and possibly a reference to Matthew 4:4, where Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. Israel thought she had all she needed, but what all of us really need is fellowship with God!

Amos 8:12 This shows a frantic but futile search for God. What a shocking metaphor! God has been seeking mankind in love, but there will come a day when they will not be able to find Him. Humans were created to need fellowship with God (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). Hell is the removal of the possibility of being with Him!

“from sea to sea” For a speaker in Palestine, this would refer to the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea. It is not very far physically, but it signifies from one end of the country to the other.

Amos 8:13 Even the young and strong will not be able to find God. Exhausted young people are a metaphor for YHWH's judgment (cf. Isaiah 51:20).

Amos 8:14 “the guilt of Samaria” This refers to the golden calves (cf. 1 Kings 12:28; Hosea 8:5-6; Hosea 10:5) set up at the cities of Dan and Bethel by Jeroboam I (922 B.C.). They were meant to rival the temple in Jerusalem as a worship site for YHWH. All of the kings of the northern tribes are condemned by the prophets because of these shrines.

There is another possible understanding of this text based on the Masoretic Text. It has the phrase, “the Ashima of Samaria” (cf. 2 Kings 17:30). If so, this then would refer to the female fertility goddess of Canaan. Whichever reference is correct, it reflects the improper worship of the Northern Ten Tribes, Israel.

“'As the way of Beersheba lives'“ This is an unusual reference. Beersheba is a city located in southern Judah. It was referred to earlier in Amos 5:5. Possibly the journey itself or the route with its cultic associations or the term “way” is idiomatic of a ritual or teaching. Exactly how or what is involved in this idolatry is uncertain.

It is just possible that a geographical emphasis is what is referred to (i.e., Dan to Beersheba, cf. Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20), which would parallel Amos 8:12. These covenant people committed idolatry throughout the Promised Land, but now they will frantically seek for YHWH again throughout the land, but will not find Him!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Amos 8". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/amos-8.html. 2021.
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