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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Amos 8

 

 

Verses 1-3

The Vision Of Approaching Judgment (Amos 8:1-3).

Amos 8:1

‘ Thus the Lord YHWH showed me, and, behold, a basket of summer fruit.’

Once more we have emphasis on ‘the Lord YHWH’. The One Who was Lord over all was going about His work, and he showed Amos a basket of summer-fruit, the final harvest of the agricultural year before the rains came and the whole cycle began again.

Amos 8:2

‘And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then YHWH said to me, “The end is come on my people Israel. I will not again pass by them any more.” ’

He then drew Amos’s attention the basket of summer fruit by asking him what he saw. And naturally Amos’s answer was, a basket of summer fruit. YHWH (note the softening of the Name when speaking to His servant) then explained the significance of the basket of summer fruit. Just as the basket of summer fruit was an indication of the end of the agricultural year, so also was it an indication in this case that His people Israel were also approaching their end. The time of harvest was near. YHWH would not pass by them any more, They were about to be brought to account. The lesson was reinforced by a play on words between ‘summer fruit’ (qayits) and ‘end’ (qets).

Amos 8:3

‘And the songs of the temple (palace) will be wailings in that day, says the Lord YHWH. The dead bodies will be many. In every place will they cast them forth with silence.”

And it would not be pleasant. The joyous songs of their temple would become wailings in that day (compare Amos 9:1). Compare how in Amos 7:9 their sanctuaries would be laid waste. All joy would have gone from their worship, for they would have nothing to rejoice about. The word also means ‘palace’ and it may therefore equally indicate that the royal house and its adherents, and the houses of the rich, would have no causes for celebration, indeed, in view of what would happen to the house of Jeroboam (Amos 7:9), and the kings who followed, and to their riches, they would be in mourning. This was the word of the Lord YHWH. And there would be an overabundance of dead bodies as many would be slain. And those who cast them, out so that they could be collected by the body-gatherers (who came into service when circumstances resulted in a profusion of deaths), would do so in awed silence, not even wailing for the dead because they would not want to draw attention to them, or to themselves. It was possible that they might be the next to suffer YHWH’s judgments. Compare for this silence in such circumstances Amos 6:10.


Verses 1-14

The Fourth Vision - The Vision Of The Basket Of Summer Fruit Indicating That Israel Were About To Be Harvested (Amos 8:1-14).

In his fourth vision Amos was shown a basket of summer fruit (e.g. figs and pomegranates). This was an indication that the end was near for His people Israel (the gathering of summer fruit came at the end of the agricultural year prior to the Feast of Tabernacles, in or around September). No longer would He overlook their sins. No longer would He hold back His judgment on them. Their singing of Psalms would be turned into wailings, many would die prematurely, and there would be no mourning for the dead, for men would be fearful because it was YHWH Who would have done it (Amos 6:10). And it would all be because they had been so taken up with growing rich that they had forgotten YHWH’s requirement for compassion, and mercy towards the poor and needy, and had rather sought to squeeze them dry.

The only thing that they would therefore be able to look forward to would be trembling, and mourning, and weeping (just as they had made the poor tremble and mourn and weep), and it would appear as though the world was collapsing. Even the day would appear to be shortened. And worst of all they would have no access to those who proclaimed the word of YHWH.


Verses 4-7

The Reason For The Judgment (Amos 8:4-7).

One reason for this judgment is now clearly stated (we have already been told, and will be told again, that it was partly because of false and debased worship - e.g. Amos 8:14 ). It was because they had become so selfish, inconsiderate and uncaring of others (apart from their own circles), that God would never be able to forget it. What is described is an equally vivid picture of our own day. They took advantage of the needy by deception, and brought the poor into even deeper poverty and misery by their ways.

Amos 8:4-6

“Hear this, O you who would swallow up the needy, and cause the poor of the land to fail, saying,

‘When will the new moon be gone,

That we may sell grain?

And the sabbath,

That we may set forth wheat,

Making the ephah small,

And the shekel great,

And dealing falsely with balances of deceit?

That we may buy the poor for silver,

And the needy for a pair of shoes,

And sell the refuse (sweepings) of the wheat?’ ”

There is here a devastating denunciation of their hypocrisy. They were very religious, for they faithfully observed the holy days. But the truth was that they could not wait for holy days to be over so that they could once again get on with their deceitful dealings. The new moon day (Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11), at the commencement of each ‘month’ (moon period), and the Sabbaths, were recognised feast days on which secular activities were forbidden. But as soon as these days were over they began again their trading for huge profits, selling wheat and other grain to city dwellers at extortionate prices, and mixing it with sweepings. They gave under weight (the ephah was a volume measurement but could be made to vary), and charged exorbitantly (the ‘shekel’, which was the weight used to weigh up how much silver was given, was made heavier than it should have been, thus requiring more silver to reach the target price). They put the poor and needy under heavy burdens, even literal bondage, for trivial amounts of ‘money’, the equivalent of a pair of shoes (compare Amos 2:6), or a small amount of silver (the nearest equivalent to ‘money’ that they had). And they could not wait to get rid of their poor quality wheat on the unsuspecting, mixing the relatively good with what was swept up from the threshingfloor or from the floor of the barn. (No doubt they argued that it was ‘just business’). All this was in direct contravention of YHWH’s covenant (see Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-15), and contrary to the generosity and compassion that YHWH required from His people (e.g. Deuteronomy 15:1-11).

Amos 8:7

‘YHWH has sworn by the pride of Jacob, “Surely I will never forget any of their works.” ’

But Amos wanted them to know that they would not get away with it. YHWH saw all that they did, and Himself measured it up, and He swore by the wealth that they had built up that He would never forget anything of what they had done. (None of us should ever forget that all that we do is also similarly ‘audited’ by God. We shall receive for what we have done, whether good or bad - 2 Corinthians 5:10). There was to be no ‘easy forgiveness’. The time for forgiveness was past. Like them we also can treat God’s forgiveness too lightly. We equally need to remember that God will not easily forget what we do, unless there is true repentance, and that even when we do receive forgiveness it is only at the great cost of the sufferings of Jesus Christ on our behalf (1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18).

For ‘the pride of Jacob’ compare Amos 6:8. It represented all that they had built up for themselves and prided themselves in. They were proud of what they had ‘achieved’ and did not realise that it was forfeit because YHWH saw how it was done, and swore by it that they would have to face up to the consequences. Compare ‘the glory of the children of Israel’ in Isaiah 17:3, where the idea was that it represented their possessions and was a fading glory.


Verses 8-14

The Consequences Of The Judgment (Amos 8:8-14).

For these people there would be a heavy price to pay because of their sins. The land would tremble and all its inhabitants mourn. For YHWH was about to bring about earth shaking events which would turn everything upside down.

Amos 8:8

‘Will not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn who dwells in it? Yes, it will rise up wholly like the River; and it will be troubled and sink again, like the River of Egypt.’

The trembling of the land might have in mind the coming earthquake (Amos 1:1), but it certainly also included the trembling of the inhabitants of the land in the face of what was coming. All concerned would be in mourning. The situation is likened to the rise and fall of the Nile in its devastating effects when it rose beyond the norm, bringing much destruction and increased unpleasant consequences. It engulfed the land, and then withdrew leaving unpleasant consequences in its wake. While the plagues of Egypt had been exceptional, many of them were amplifications of what the Nile waters regularly brought on Egypt, although to a more limited extent. This was quite apart from the benefit that it brought which was not in mind here. It may also be that Amos specifically had in mind the judgments of Exodus, and was here reminding the people of them.

Amos 8:9-10

“And it will come about in that day,

Says the Lord YHWH,

That I will cause the sun to go down at noon,

And I will darken the earth in the clear day.

And I will turn your feasts into mourning,

And all your songs into lamentation,

And I will bring sackcloth on all loins,

And baldness on every head,

And I will make it as the mourning for an only son,

And the end thereof as a bitter day.”

‘In that day’ or ‘about that time’ refers to any fixed time of YHWH’s judgments. This is not specifically referring to ‘the end times’, even though the end times may follow this pattern. The catastrophic events relating to the sun could at various times arise as a result of the effects of a severe earthquake causing dust storms, or a volcano seriously erupting with its debris darkening the sky, or be the results of invasion, with the smoke of the destructive fires blotting out the sun. An eclipse of the sun, one of which occurred in 763 BC, may also have been indicated. It portrayed exceptionally severe judgment, which would result in deep mourning (compare Deuteronomy 28:29). Thus the feasts that they had treated so lightly (Amos 8:5) would now become feasts of mourning, their joyous songs would become lamentations, they would clothe themselves with sackcloth (compare Isaiah 22:12; Joel 1:8; Joel 1:13; Jonah 3:5) and shave their heads (compare Job 1:20; Deuteronomy 21:12-13; Jeremiah 41:5; Jeremiah 48:37), all as an indication of their complete misery. Indeed the mourning would be so bitter that it would be similar in depth to that of mourning the premature death of an only son. It would be a bitter day for them all.

Amos 8:11

“Behold, the days come, says the Lord YHWH, 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 YHWH.”

And the land which had been so much the land where people could hear the word of YHWH through priests, preachers and prophets, would be bereft of such priests, preachers and prophets. People would not know where to look in order to feed on the word of God (they had no copies of the Scriptures of their own. They were dependent on those who were taught in the word or received YHWH’s revelation). This too would be a consequence of the destruction of Samaria and its repopulation by foreign peoples, and of their own exile.

Amos 8:12

“And they will wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east. They will run to and fro to seek the word of YHWH, and will not find it.”

The picture is of people searching desperately for the word of God. When they had had it they had despised it. Now that they were bereft of it they sought it desperately, but usually in vain. The word of God would no longer be available in what had been God’s inheritance.

The reference to north and east may suggest that ‘sea to sea’ indicated west (the Great Sea) and south (the sea of Egypt or the Dead Sea). But the phrase usually indicates ‘worldwide’ (Psalms 72:8; Zechariah 9:10), and north and east may have indicated places where they might have expected to find wisdom.

Amos 8:13

“In that day will the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst.”

And those among them who were usually so full of life, the beautiful virgins and the stalwart young men, would instead be fainting for thirst and desperate to cling onto life. All joy and pleasure would have been taken from them. It would be a dreadful day indeed when hope was taken away from those who were of an age when life should have been full of hope.

Amos 8:14

“Those who swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god, O Dan, lives,’ and, ‘As the way of Beer-sheba lives’. They will fall, and never rise up again.”

And all this would in the end be because of ‘the sin of Samaria’, in other words their false basis of worship, their syncretism of Yahwism with Baalism, and their watering down of the requirements of YHWH (compare 1 Kings 15:26; 1 Kings 15:34 and often in Kings). Their folly is brought out in supposed words of the worshippers. Instead of worshipping the living, eternal Creator of heaven and earth, they had worshipped what they saw as a local god limited to Dan or a watered down teaching connected with Beersheba which was idolatrous (Dan and Beersheba may be mentioned because they represented the northernmost and southernmost parts of the land outside of which YHWH was not worshipped. But even this they had defiled and despoiled). The ‘they’ may refer to the gods in question or to the worshippers. Both would fall and never rise again (interestingly in contrast to One Who did die and rise again, our Lord Jesus Christ and all who are His).

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Amos 8:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/amos-8.html. 2013.

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Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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