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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Amos 8

 

 

Verse 1

Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. Behold a basket of summer fruit - "summer fruit;" Hebrew, Kaitz. In Amos 8:2, "end" is in the Hebrew Keetz. The similarity of sounds implies that, as the summer is the end of the year, and the time of the ripeness of fruits, so Israel is ripe for her last punishment, ending her national existence. As the fruit is plucked when ripe from the tree, so Israel from her land. The fruit-gathering, like our 'crop', was called from cutting; so also the word end is from the same root [ qaatsats (Hebrew #7112), cutting off].


Verse 2

And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.

The end is come - (Ezekiel 7:2; Ezekiel 7:6).

I will not again pass by them anymore. Amos resumes the thread of his discourse, interrupted by Amaziah, with the very same words (Amos 7:8-9), "I will not again pass by them anymore," etc.


Verse 3

And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.

The songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day - (Amos 5:23). The joyous hymns in the temple of Judah (or, rather, in the Bethel 'royal-temple,' Amos 7:13, "the king's chapel," or sanctuary; because the allusion is to Israel, not Judah, throughout this chapter) shall be changed into howlings. Grotius translates, 'the palace,' instead of "the temple;" cf. Amos 6:5 as to the songs there. But Amos 5:23; Amos 7:13, favour the English version.

They shall cast them forth with silence - not as margin, 'be silent' [chaac]. It is an adverb, silently (Maurer). But Pusey and Henderson translate it literally, 'He casts forth, hush!' Each casts forth those dear to him, as "dung on the face of the earth" (Jeremiah 8:2). Grief is too strong for words-living and dead are hushed as the grave. There shall be so great slaughter as even to prevent the bodies being buried with customary rites (Calvin). There shall be none of the usual professional mourners (Amos 5:16), but the bodies will be cast out in silence. Perhaps also it is meant, terror both of God (cf. Amos 6:10) and of the foe shall close their lips.


Verse 4

Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,

Hear this. The nobles needed to be urged thus, as hating to hear reproof.

O ye that swallow up the needy - or, gape after, i:e., pant for their goods, as the wild beast pants for his prey. So the word is used, "earnestly desireth," Job 7:2, margin, 'gapeth after.'

Even to make the poor of the land to fail. So those "that lay field to field until there be no place, that they (themselves) may he placed alone in the midst of the earth" (Isaiah 5:8). The Hebrew text (Kethibh) better reads 'the meek' for "the poor" (the Qeri' reading) - i:e., those not poor only, but who, through poverty and affliction, are poor in spirit also.


Verse 5

Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?

When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? So greedy are they of unjust gain that they cannot spare a single day, however sacred, from pursuing it. They are strangers to God, and enemies to themselves, who love market days better than Sabbath days; and they who have lost piety will not long keep honesty. The new moon (Numbers 10:10) and Sabbath were to be kept without working or trading (Nehemiah 10:31).

And the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat - literally, 'open out' stores of wheat for sale.

The ephah - containing three seahs, or above three pecks.

Making ... small - making it below the just weight to purchasers.

And the shekel great - taking from purchasers a greater weight of money than was due. Shekels used to be weighed out in payments (Genesis 23:16). The shekel was a fix weight by which, up to the captivity, money was weighed (Jeremiah 32:9, "I weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver"). Thus they committed a double fraud against the law (Deuteronomy 25:13-14).

Falsifying the balances by deceit. Taken from Hosea 8:7, "the balances of deceit;" contrasted with just weights (cf. Proverbs 11:1, "A false balance is abomination to the Lord; but a just weight is his delight;" Proverbs 20:23, "Divers weights are an abomination unto the Lord; and a false balance is not good").


Verse 6

That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?

That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes - i:e., that we may compel the needy for money, or any other thing of however little worth, to sell themselves to us as bondmen, in defiance of Leviticus 25:39; the very thing which brings down God's judgment (Amos 2:6, "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes").

The poor , [ daliym (Hebrew #1800)] - literally, 'the afflicted.'

Yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat - which contains no nutriment, but which the poor eat at a low price, being unable to pay for flour.

The refuse - literally, the falling; what fell through the sieve, the bran, or the unfilled grain. With this they adulterated the meal which they sold.


Verse 7

The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.

The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob - i:e., by Himself, in whom Jacob's seed glory (Maurer); or, by the spiritual privileges of Israel, the adoption of Israel as His special people (Calvin), the temple, and its Shekinah-symbol of His presence. Compare Amos 6:8, "I abhor the excellency of Jacob," where it means Yahweh's temple (cf. Amos 4:2).

Surely I will never forget - I will not pass by without punishing (Amos 8:2; Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:9).


Verse 8

Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.

Shall not the land tremble for this ... and it shall rise up wholly as a flood. But I prefer Maurer's view. Literally, 'as the river' [kaa'or, the Egyptian name for the Nile, or one of its canals]. The land will, as it were, be wholly turned into a flooding river-a flood being the image of overwhelming calamity (Daniel 9:26, "The end thereof (of the city and the sanctuary) shall be with a flood").

And it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt - it shall be swept away and overwhelmed, as the land adjoining the Nile is by it when flooding. The same image and words are used in Amos 9:5. The Nile rises generally twenty feet. The waters then "cast out" mire and dirt (Isaiah 57:20).


Verse 9

And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:

In that day ... I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.

"Darkness" made to rise "at noon" is the emblem of great calamities (Jeremiah 15:9; Ezekiel 32:7-10). Archbishop Usher refers the prophecy to an eclipse of the sun in the feast of Pentecost, 791 BC the feast of tabernacles, 771 BC and the Passover, 771 BC But Micah 3:6, "The sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them," shows that the image is that of a sudden reverse (Pusey).


Verse 10

And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.

And I will bring up ... baldness upon every head - a sign of mourning (Isaiah 15:2, "On all their heads shall be baldness;" Jeremiah 48:37; Ezekiel 7:18).

I will make it as the mourning of an only son - "it," i:e., the earth (Amos 8:9). I will reduce the land to such a state that there shall be the same occasion for mourning as when parents mourn for an only son (Jeremiah 6:26, "Make thee mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation;" similarly as was their mourning on account of their national overthrow, such shall be their mourning for the sin that caused it, at the eve of their national and spiritual restoration; Zechariah 12:10, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born").


Verse 11

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord - a just retribution on those who now will not hear the Lord's prophets, nay, even try to drive them away, as Amaziah did (Amos 7:12); they shall look in vain, in their distress, for divine counsel, such as the prophets now offer (Ezekiel 7:26; Micah 3:7). Compare as to the Jews' rejection of Messiah, and their consequent rejection by Him (Matthew 21:43); and their desire for Messiah when too late (Luke 17:22, "The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it; John 7:34, "Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, there ye cannot come;" John 8:21). So the prodigal, when he had sojourned awhile, in the "far off country, began to be in want" in the "mighty famine" which arose in that land (Luke 15:14; cf. 1 Samuel 3:1, "The word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision" (in the period before Samuel arose); 1 Samuel 7:2). It is remarkable, the Jews' religion is almost the only one that could be abolished against the will of the people themselves, on account of its being dependent on a particular place-namely, the temple. When that was destroyed, the Mosaic ritual, which could not exist without it, necessarily ceased. Providence designed it, that, as the Law gave way to the Gospel, so all men should perceive it was so, in spite of the Jews' obstinate rejection of the Gospel.


Verse 12

And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

They shall wander from sea to sea - i:e., from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean, from east to west.

Wander - literally, reel, like drunken men, bewildered wandering.

And from the north even to the east - where we might expect 'from north to south.' But so alienated was Israel from Judah, that no Israelite even then would think of repairing southward - i:e., to Jerusalem-for religious information. The circuit is traced as in Numbers 34:3, etc., except that the south is omitted. Their seeking the word of the Lord would not be from a sincere desire to obey God, but under the pressure of punishment.


Verse 13

In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.

In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst - namely, thirst for hearing the words of the Lord, being destitute of all other comfort. If even the young and the strong faint, how much more the infirm (Isaiah 40:30-31).


Verse 14

They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.

They that swear by the sin of Samaria - namely, the calves, made in imitation of the golden calf made by Aaron at the people's request, and afterward burnt, stamped upon, and ground small as dust, and east into the brook out of the mount, by Moses (Deuteronomy 9:21; Hosea 4:15). "Swear by" means to worship (Psalms 63:11, "Every one that sweareth by Him shall glory").

Thy God, O Dan, liveth - the other golden calf at Dan (1 Kings 12:26-30).

Liveth ... liveth - rather, 'May thy god. O Dan, live ... may the manner of Beer-sheba live.' Or, 'As (surely as) thy god, O Dan, liveth.' This is their formula when they swear; not 'May Yahweh live!' or 'As Yahweh liveth!'

The manner - i:e., as "the way" is used, Psalms 139:24; Acts 9:2; the mode of worship.

Remarks:

(1) Amos resumes the thread of his prophecy just at the point where it was broken off by the interruption of Amaziah. To contend with God is vain, and only reveals the impotence of the puny rebel that lifts himself up against his Almighty King. As the last vision-namely, that of the plumb-line (Amos 7:7-8) - declared the certainty of the coming end, so the vision here of the basket of summer fruit declares its nearness. The fruit gathering closed the whole harvest. So the whole course of God's mercies, chastisements, and providential warnings were now completed in the case of Israel: as He saith respecting the sister kingdom of Judah, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?" (Isaiah 5:4.) As in holiness so in sin, there is a sowing, a growth, and a maturity. After the appointed cycle of heavenly influences has acted for the due time, the harvest time comes. As believers are then ripe for glory (Mark 4:27-29), so are unbelievers ripe for shame and punishment. The long period of God's patience and forbearance toward sinners at last terminates, and judgment ensues.

(2) "The songs" of the idol temple at Bethel were to be turned into "howlings," as if the mirthful song of sinners were suddenly to change into a shriek of agony and death. Such shall be the abrupt transition from the world's present mirthfulness and levity, amidst its manifold virtual idolatries, to the "weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth," and the everlasting death which await all that live without God in the world.

(3) Oppression of the poor, and especially of those that are poor in spirit (Amos 8:4), is one of God's leading charges against His people. Riches gained by the ruin of the poor will bring sure ruin on those who got them. Such oppressors of their fellow-men, and pursuers of gain at all costs, have little care for the ordinances of God. They keep the Sabbath in a kind of outward form, in order to lull conscience; their heart is not in it, but in their covetousness or pleasures. Impatient for its close, their inward feeling, if they would confess the truth to themselves, is, "When will the sabbath be gone, that we may sell wheat," and our other wares? (Amos 8:5;) when will church-service be over, that we may be our own masters again? "Behold, what a weariness is it!" (Malachi 1:13.) They "pant after" the goods of others, and therefore long for the end of holy ordinances. How different from the feeling of the true worshipper, "My soul thirsteth for God, the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalms 42:2.)

(4) False weights and measures are an abomination to the Lord, and utterly vitiate all words of prayer. They who have not common honesty have no particle of true piety. Such sins perpetuate themselves, the sin of today necessitating that of tomorrow, in order to escape detection. What a host of frauds cry out to God against us as a nation! At how little worth, for the most part, with a few honourable exceptions, is the poor labourer estimated, while the competition of trade makes gain at any cost the sole ruling principle, without regard to the soul of man, made in the image of God! Our adulterations of every article or food far exceed anything practiced in Israel. They sold, indeed, "the refuse of the wheat," which, although void of much nutriment, was still wholesome (Amos 8:6). Many modern adulterations are even poisonous.

(5) Darkness is gloomiest when it comes suddenly in the middle of daylight (Amos 8:9). Such was to be the sudden doom of Israel in the midst of its prosperity. Pekah, their king, after a peaceful and prosperous reign of seventeen years, in an evil hour for him, joined with Rezin of Damascus in an attempt to extirpate the line of David, by setting up over Judah a Syrian, the son of Tabeal (Isaiah 7:6). Ahaz, in his conscious weakness, called in the Assyrian king to his aid: so Tiglath-pileser came against Israel, and carried off the tribes beyond Jordan. And in the reign of the following king of Israel, Hoshea, the Assyrian Shalmaneser completed the work of destruction, and Israel's 'sun went down at noon.'

(6) During the last three hours of our Saviour's agony on the cross, the same thing took place as in the case of Israel, His type. 'The sun went down at noon, and in the clear day,' while the antitypical Israel (Isaiah 49:3) hung on the cross. Thus the Passover feast, then being held, was clouded over with darkness, a foreshadowing of the "mourning" into which all the Jewish feasts were "turned," when shortly afterward their temple was destroyed and their nation dispersed. Then the "mourning" was indeed as that for "an only son" (Amos 8:10). As at Israel's deliverance out of Egypt, in every Egyptian house there was bitter mourning for the first-born son of each family, so in Israel herself, now that for her Egyptian-like sins she was to be delivered up to the enemy, there was to be "as the mourning of," or for, "an only son," in whom the parents themselves seemed anew to live (Pusey). So, as was their mourning at their national overthrow, such shall be their mourning also for the sin which caused it, at the eve of their spiritual and national restoration, "They shall mourn for the Lord, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one is in bitterness for his first-born" (Zechariah 12:10).

(7) Men virtually say in their hearts as to the Gospel bread of life, as Israel of old said of the manna (Numbers 21:5) "Our soul loatheth this light bread." The Sabbath day and Sabbath work are now a burden to them; and they are weary of both as dull, because thereby for a brief time their worldly pursuits are brought to a stand-still. But such men are blind to their own interests all the time. The day is fast coming when "God will send ... not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11); and then they shall feel, too late, how much sorer a judgment the want of the bread and water of life is than the curtailment of earthly gains, luxuries, and necessaries for the body. 'He that will not when he may, when he will shall have nay.' Let us value our religious privileges, strive to profit by them, and fear lest we sin them away.

(8) How graphically the state of Israel now and for ages past is described in Amos 8:12, "They shall wander (or reel as men at their wit's end) from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." If, instead of going southward to Judah to seek its subdual, Pekah and Israel had gone there to seek God in the temple at Jerusalem, where He had appointed His worship to be, they would have escaped the calamity inflicted by the Assyrian Tiglath-pileser. The source of all their misery was their abandonment of God (Amos 8:14). Even the strength of the young must "faint" if they will not wait on God, the sole Renewer of all strength (Amos 8:13). Let us then wait on Him continually, and "seek the word of the Lord" while we have it (Amos 8:12); so shall we go on from strength to strength; until we reach the abode of everlasting security and bliss!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Amos 8:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/amos-8.html. 1871-8.

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