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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
Amos 8

 

 

Verse 1

AMOS CHAPTER 8

By a basket of summer fruit is showed the near approach of Israel’s end, Amos 8:1-3. Their oppression of the poor shall cause their joy to be turned into mourning, Amos 8:4-10. A famine of God’s word threatened, Amos 8:11-14.

Thus hath the Lord God showed unto me: and behold: see Amos 7:1,4,7.

A basket; a hook, say some, with which the gatherer might either pull down the bough, or pull off the ripe fruit; or a basket into which the ripe fruit gathered was put to be carried away.

Summer fruit; not the early ripe fruit, but that which, as it needed, so had the whole summer’s heat to ripen it, and was gathered in at the end of the summer.


Verse 2

Amos, what seest thou? the like question you have Amos 7:8, which see.

A basket of summer fruit: see Amos 8:1. Then said the Lord unto me: the meaning of this hieroglyphic not being very plain in itself, the Lord doth here explain it in the following words.

The end of God’s patience towards Israel, of their peace, growth, and glory; the end of their ripening, they are now as fruit fully ripe, in the end of the year, fit to be gathered.

My people Israel; so they were once, so they boast themselves, so the nations about them account Israel to be the people of God.

I will not again pass by them any more: see Amos 7:8. God had with admirable patience spared and tried, but now he will with just severity punish, neither pardon nor spare.


Verse 3

The songs; which were composed by choicest wits, and set to sweetest tunes, and chanted out by most skilful singers to the best musical instruments.

Of the temple; either to take in Judah, and foretell the desolation of their temple; or else, by an irony, the idol temples; or else of the palace, as the word in the Hebrew. All court mirth and jollity, balls and music entertainments.

Shall be howlings, Heb. shall howl; be turned into the hideous out cries of undone and despairing men.

In that day; when God shall execute his judgments threatened, as he did begin on the death of Jeroboam, and continued that day of vengeance till Shalmaneser finished the work in the ruin of Samaria and its captivity.

Saith the Lord God: this is added to assure Israel that what Amos did foretell should be accomplished, for God spake it.

There shall be many dead bodies; so there were when Shallum slew Zachariah, so there were when Menahem slew Shallum, when he came with his army against Samaria, when he ripped up the women with child in Tiphsah, 2 Kings 15:16, and when other usurpers pressed through blood and treason to the crown; beside the howlings when Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmaneser cruelly wasted all.

In every place; in cities, towns, and country, in palaces and temples too, in all which the bloody effects of enemies’ swords, the wastes of famine and pestilence, should be seen.

They, who howl, who see this,

shall cast them forth with silence; either shall secretly bury them, so some, or, to rid themselves of that trouble, shall cast them out wherever they can, with silence, that none may observe them; so great calamitous mortality, that the living suffice not to bury the dead; or so great cruelty by the enemy used against them, that they dare not bury them, or if they do, it must be undiscerned: see Amos 6:10.


Verse 4

Though the prophet had several times told them what were the sins for which God would thus punish Israel, yet on a repeated threat he repeateth the rehearsal of the sins which draw down these judgments on their heads.

Hear this, attend, and consider it,

O ye that swallow up, greedily and cruelly devour, that do, like the greater fish, swallow up the lesser fry: in this one word the prophet includeth all the methods of their cruel oppression, wasting tho poor.

The needy; such as were objects of your mercy, had you been just and honest, as well as rich and great.

Even to make the poor of the land to fail; either to root them out, or to enslave them, while their necessities force them to sell themselves for bread.


Verse 5

When will the new moon be gone? ye that could wish there were nothing to interrupt your marketing, your irreligious impatience, and your eagerness after the world, look on solemn times of Divine worship as very burdensome; such was the first day of every month, and the weekly sabbath.

That we may sell corn: no servile work might be done on new moons, no markets kept, or corn brought forth publicly to be sold.

And the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat? they were also bound very religiously to observe the sabbath, and on that day they might not buy or sell; now they are weary of the sabbath, as of the new moon, and on the same account wish it over: here was irreligious gaping after gain.

Making the ephah small; the ephah was a measure for dry things, and contained about half a bushel and one pottle English measure. Now these covetous corn-merchants measured the corn they sold by an ephah that was too little, the poor buyer had not his due.

And the shekel great: they weighed the money which they received, and these rich men had no more pity and justice, than to make their shekel weight greater than the standard; so the poor were twice oppressed in the same way, had less than was their right, and paid more than they ought to pay; and thus they undid the poor, and ate him up.

And falsifying the balances by deceit; deceitfully pervert the balances, that the money or shekel weighed, though of full weight, yet appeared too light on the balance, and they who paid it were forced to add more silver to it.


Verse 6

That we may-buy the poor: either it speaks the aim of these men in oppressing the poor thus, that they might at last buy their persons for servants and drudges, or else it speaks the reason why they would have new moons and sabbaths over, that they might to market to buy the poor.

For silver, i.e. a little silver, at under value, as Amos 2:6.

The needy for a pair of shoes: this explains the former, and shows us that these cruel oppressors lay in wait for the needy to buy them for a very trifle; when these poor owed but for a very little and cheap commodity, as suppose a pair of shoes, these merciless men would take the advantage against them. and make them sell themselves to pay the debt. All which practices are most directly against the law of God.

Sell the refuse; that which is fitter for hogs to month, or for horses to eat, the poor must either buy at dear rate or starve; and this another kind of oppression, corrupted wares at excessive rates, sold to those that were necessitous.


Verse 7

The Lord; who changeth not, whose words and purposes are immutably true and stedfast, who hath often told you, that unless you repent he will punish for your sins, now he hath sworn it, and sends you word by me, that he hath in most solemn and irrevocable manner determined, published, and expressly declared that he will visit all your sins upon you.

By the excellency of Jacob; by himself, for God cannot swear by any greater, and he is called the excellency of Jacob, Psalms 47:4.

Surely, Heb. If; if I am a God, I will remember and punish.

I will never forget, or let pass unpunished; I will never remit the punishment by an act of pardon, nor ever omit to punish by an act of forgetfulness.

Any of their works; not one of all those their abominable injustices and irreligion, not one of these cruelties.


Verse 8

Shall not the land tremble? either literally, are not such sins and judgments enough to shake the very foundations of the earth? Or, metonymically, the land for the people of it, as after in the verse, they that dwell therein.

For this; this that you have done, O house of Israel, in sinning, and this that God will do in punishing, enough to melt the earth, as Psalms 46:6.

And every one mourn; since every one hath sinned too much, and every one shall suffer in this approaching calamity, every one at the news may well mourn and lament;

that dwelleth therein; in the land of Israel.

It shall rise up wholly as a flood; or, by an interrogation, shall it not? i.e. shall not the judgment, the invading troops of Assyria, the displeasure of God, rise and grow as a mighty, wasting flood? or else thus, the whole land shall rise up; soaked in these judgments, it shall seem to swell and grow greater, ready, like a hydropic, to burst asunder: or else it is a hypallage, the land shall rise up, i.e. the flood shall rise over the land; or, which I rather incline to, the whole judgment shall rise as a flood.

It shall be cast out; the land, the state, people, and what they have, shall be, as in a shipwreck, or mighty flood which breaks all down before it, tossed in the surges and waves;

and drowned as by the flood of Egypt; and at last, by the continuance of this tempest, drowned all as the overflowing on Nilus doth drown all the plains of Egypt.


Verse 9

It shall come to pass, most certainly it will be,

in that day, when God begins to execute these his just and severe judgments on the ten tribes.

I will cause; the great, just, holy, and terrible God, who is provoked by these sins, and hath denounced these judgments, my hand shall be evident in it.

The sun; literally, say some, but erroneously; by sun I understand rather the settled state of their prosperity under their present government in the house of Jehu; or it may refer particularly to their king and court, which Jeroboam at his death left like the sun at noon in the height of their glory, as all know who know the history of those times.

To go down at noon; so Israel’s sun did as at noon set under the dark cloud of home-bred conspiracies and civil wars by Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, till the midnight darkness drew on by Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmaneser.

I will darken; bring a thick cloud of troubles and afflictions.

The earth; the common people, the whole body of the nation; so the sun speaks the royalty, nobility, and great ones of this kingdom, by an allusion well known in Scripture, and the earth speaks the common sort of people; and all are here threatened.

In the clear day; when they did think (as in Jeroboam’s time) all was safe, sure, and well settled, far from the night of sorrow and trouble, then will God bring all this he threateneth upon them.


Verse 10

I will turn your feasts, religious, though idolatrous in your temples, see Amos 8:3, and your ordinary civil feasts in your palaces, into mourning: see Amos 8:3.

And all your songs into lamentation: this ingemination doth assure the thing, and forebode the sadness of their state.

I will bring up sackcloth; as all inwardly shall be sadness, so all that appears outwardly shall speak their sorrow and sadness.

Upon all loins; all sorts of persons should put on this mourning, and gird it close to their loins that it might afflict them the more, a custom very general in those times and places.

Baldness upon every head; partly pulling off the hair of the head through anguish, or shaving the head and beard in sign of greatest sadness, as the Eastern people did: see Micah 1:16.

As the mourning of an only son: this is accounted the greatest mourning, and seems proverbially to express such mourning, Jeremiah 6:26 Zechariah 12:10, which see; so God will afflict this people with greatest sorrows, and fill them with greatest mourning.

The end; you may hope these troubles will be over, and come to an end, but that will be little to your comfort; a bitter day, which you shall wish you had never seen, shall succeed your dark night, as indeed it doth to this day.


Verse 11

Behold; note well what now I shall declare to you, and consider it.

The days come, saith the Lord God; surely, speedily, and according to the threats of God.

I will send a famine in the land; by a signal hand of Divine displeasure it shall appear to be from God, that such a famine cometh upon them of Israel.

Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water: a spiritual famine joined with a corporal famine; their bodies were pined with famine, destitute of bread and water; and this God sent too. but the famine of the soul is worse and more grievous.

But of hearing the words; either the written word which Israel had among them till their captivity, but afterwards should ever want both it and those who should interpret it to them, or else the word of prophecy; now they despise it, though they have it, but then they shall desire it, and have it not. They shall hunt after prophets, to tell them when their troubles shall end, though now they hate prophets who warn them, that their troubles might not begin: now Israel despiseth a prophet’s counsel, then they shall hunt for it, but not have a prophet to give them counsel, as Psalms 74:9.


Verse 12

They shall wander from sea to sea; search all places for a prophet or a preacher from the Syrian or Midland Sea to that of Tiberias, to the Dead Sea, and to the Red Sea.

From the north even to the east; that mountainous tract whither persecuted Elijah fled, and perhaps other prophets in like circumstances retired; proverbially, they shall search all corners for a prophet.

They shall run to and fro; shall diligently and speedily, on every report that a prophet is, on hearsays, in such or such a place, hasten thither, as Ahab in his search for Elijah, 1 Kings 18:10.

To seek the word of the Lord; hoping to hear some good news of an end of their miseries from God by a prophet.

And shall not find it; they persecuted and slew such as foretold the beginning of this misery, and now it is come they shall neither hear the news nor see the hopes of an end. God did tell them it would be utter ruin, and no prophet of God can tell them any better news.


Verse 13

It is probable these in their strength and rigour would seek earnestly to know what end they might expect, whether they should outlive this famine of the word, and the famine of bread and water, but both should faint with thirst and hunger; neither finding the word of the Lord for their comfort, they should faint with despair, nor finding bread and water, should faint and die with weakness: so Israel should be extinguished.


Verse 14

They that swear by; who now do, as formerly they have done, trust in, sacrifice to, and swear by; who are obstinate idolaters, and trust to those lies.

The sin, that which was the sin, the occasion of the sin,

of Samaria, the calves at Dan and Beth-el.

And say, think, profess, and swear too,

Thy god, O Dan, liveth; the idol at Dan is the true and living God.

The manner of, the idols at, Beer-sheba, to which the zealous, mad, and bigoted idolaters in Israel made their pilgrimages.

They shall fall, be consumed by famine, sword, and captivity,

and never rise up again; never return out of captivity, nor recover of this consumption.

 


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Amos 8:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/amos-8.html. 1685.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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