Amos 2:6
Thus saith the LORD; 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;
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(6) Transgressions of Israel.—The storm of Divine threatening which had swept over the whole political horizon gathers, at last, over Israel. The sins and ingratitude of the people are aggravated by a recital of the Divine Mercy. By comparing this verse with Amos 8:6, it is clear that the Jewish interpreters (followed by Keil) were incorrect in charging this sin upon corrupt judges, who, by bribery, would deliver unjust judgments against the righteous. The sin consists in the perverse straining of the law, which allowed an insolvent debtor to sell himself into bondage to redeem a debt (comp. 2Kings 4:1; also Leviticus 25:39). In this case the debtor was a righteous man in sore straits for no fault of his own. Render, on account of a pair of sandals. A paltry debt, equivalent, in worth, to a pair of sandals, would not save him from bondage at the hands of an oppressive ruler (see Introduction).

Amos 2:6-7. For three transgressions of Israel — Amos, having first prophesied against the Syrians, Philistines, &c., who dwelt in the neighbourhood of the twelve tribes, and who had occasionally become their enemies and oppressors; and having thus not only taught his countrymen that the providence of God extended to other nations, but conciliated attention to himself by such interesting predictions; “he briefly mentions the idolatries and consequent destruction of Judah, and then passes on to his proper subject, which was to reprove and exhort the kingdom of Israel, and to denounce judgments against it. The reason why that kingdom was particularly addressed seems to have been, that Pul invaded it in the reign of Uzziah, 2 Kings 15:19; and that in less than half a century after the first Assyrian invasion, it was subverted by Shalmaneser, 2 Kings 17:6.” — Newcome. Because they sold the righteous for silver, &c. — They perverted the cause of the righteous; and gave forth unjust sentences against them for bribes of the smallest value, even for a pair of shoes or sandals. That pant after the dust of the earth — That is, silver and gold, white and yellow dust: they covet it earnestly, and levy it on the heads of the poor by their unjust exactions. The Vulgate, however, gives another sense to this sentence. Qui conterunt super pulverem terræ capita pauperum: who tread down the heads of the poor into the dust of the earth: that is, they throw them into the dust and then trample upon them. And turn aside the way of the meek — From right and justice. They contrived to do injuries to those who they knew were mild and patient, and would bear injuries; invading their rights, and obstructing the course of justice. Observe, reader, the more patiently men bear the injuries that are done them, the greater is the sin of those that injure them, and the more occasion they have to expect that God will do his people justice, and take vengeance for them. And a man and his father will go in to the same maid — Or, young woman; to profane my holy name — To the great reproach of my name and religion: being such an instance of fornication as is scarce heard of among the more civilized heathen, as St. Paul observes, 1 Corinthians 5:1.

2:1-8 The evil passions of the heart break out in various forms; but the Lord looks to our motives, as well as our conduct. Those that deal cruelly, shall be cruelly dealt with. Other nations were reckoned with for injuries done to men; Judah is reckoned with for dishonour done to God. Judah despised the law of the Lord; and he justly gave them up to strong delusion; nor was it any excuse for their sin, that they were the lies, the idols, after which their fathers walked. The worst abominations and most grievous oppressions have been committed by some of the professed worshippers of the Lord. Such conduct leads many to unbelief and vile idolatry.For three transgressions of Israel, and for four - In Israel, on whom the divine sentence henceforth rests, the prophet numbers four classes of sins, running into one another, as all sins do, since all grievous sins contain many in one, yet in some degree distinct:

(1) Perversion of justice;

(2) oppression of the poor;

(3) uncleanness;

(4) luxury with idolatry.

They sold the righteous for silver - It is clear from the opposite statement, "that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes," that the prophet is not speaking of judicial iniquity, but of actual buying and selling. The law allowed a Hebrew who was poor to sell himself , and a Hebrew to buy him until the year of release; yet this too with the express reserve, that the purchaser was forbidden to "serve himself with him with the service of a slave, but as a hired servant and a sojourner stroll he be with thee" Leviticus 25:39-40. The thief who could not repay what he stole, was to "be sold for his theft" Exodus 22:2-3. But the law gave no power to sell an insolvent debtor. It grew up in practice. The sons and daughters of the debtor Nehemiah 5:5, or "his wife and children" Matthew 18:25, nay even the sons of a deceased debtor 2 Kings 4:1, were sold. Nehemiah rebuked this sharply. In that case, the hardness was aggravated by the fact that the distress had been fomented by usury. But the aggravation did not constitute the sin. It seems to be this merciless selling by the creditor, with Amos rebukes. The "righteous" is probably one who, without any blame, became insolvent. The "pair of shoes," that is, sandals, express the trivial price, or the luxury for which he was sold. They had him sold "for the sake of a pair of sandals," that is, in order to procure them. Trivial in themselves, as being a mere sole, the sandals of the Hebrew women were, at times, costly and beautiful (Sol 7:1; Ezra 10; Judith 16:9). Such a sale expressed contempt for man, made in the image of God, that he was sold either for some worthless price, or for some needless adornment.

6. Israel—the ten tribes, the main subject of Amos' prophecies.

sold the righteous—Israel's judges for a bribe are induced to condemn in judgment him who has a righteous cause; in violation of De 16:19.

the poor for a pair of shoes—literally, "sandals" of wood, secured on the foot by leather straps; less valuable than shoes. Compare the same phrase, for "the most paltry bribe," Am 8:6; Eze 13:19; Joe 3:3. They were not driven by poverty to such a sin; beginning with suffering themselves to be tempted by a large bribe, they at last are so reckless of all shame as to prostitute justice for the merest trifle. Amos convicts them of injustice, incestuous unchastity, and oppression first, as these were so notorious that they could not deny them, before he proceeds to reprove their contempt of God, which they would have denied on the ground that they worshipped God in the form of the calves.

For three transgressions: see Amos 1:3.

Israel; the kingdom of the ten tribes, under the government of Jeroboam the Second at this time, against which the prophet was chiefly sent, though he began with Syria and others, by the threats against which nations he prepared both Judah and Israel to hearken and consider.

I will not turn away the punishment: see Amos 1:3.

They; those who by the appointment of the law had power to hear and decide causes between man and man; judges and witnesses, like the corrupt judges,

sold, for bribes were their aim, and they would at any time sell justice to the highest bidder.

The righteous; the innocent, or those who had a just and righteous cause, for the prophet here speaks of the justness of the cause, not of the exact justice or absolute righteousness of the person.

For silver: money was the most current and prevailing commodity with these judges, but money’s worth would do the feat too, if money were out of the way.

The poor: when poor men went to law with poor men before these judges, and the thing they contended for was of small value, the contenders too had light purses, and could not give a considerable bribe;

a pair of shoes, a very poor bribe, expressed here proverbially, would sway with these judges, who gaped still after somewhat of gain from all.

Thus saith the Lord, for three transgressions of Israel,.... The ten tribes rent from the house of David in the times of Rehoboam, and who departed from the true worship of God, and set up calves at Dan and Bethel:

and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; the following part of this prophecy is taken up in pointing at the sins and punishment of Israel; now the prophet is come to the main business he was sent to do:

because they sold the righteous for silver; meaning not any particular person, as Joseph sold by his brethren, for in that they were all concerned, Judah as well as the rest; nor Christ, as others (q), sold for thirty pieces of silver; since the persons here charged with it, and the times in which it was done, will not agree with that case; but the sense is, that the judges of Israel were so corrupt, that for a piece of money they would give a cause against a righteous man, and in favour of an unjust man that bribed them:

and the poor for a pair of shoes; that is, for a mere trifle they would pervert justice; if two men came before them with a cause, and both poor; yet if one could but give a pair of shoes, or anything he could part with, though he could not give money; so mean and sordid were they, they would take it, and give the cause for him, however unjust it was.

(q) Vid. Galatin. Cathol. Ver. Arcan. l. 4. c. 24.

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of {c} 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 {d} shoes;

(c) If he did not spare Judah unto whom his promises were made, much more he will not spare this degenerate kingdom.

(d) They esteemed most vile bribes more than men's lives.

6. sold the righteous for sliver] The venal Israelitish judges, for a bribe, pronounced the innocent guilty, i.e. ‘sold’ them for a consideration to any one whose advantage it might be to have them condemned: in a civil case, by giving judgement in favour of the party really in the wrong, in a criminal case, by condemning the innocent in place of the guilty. Righteous is used here not in an ethical, but in a forensic sense, of one ‘righteous’ in respect of the particular charge brought against him, exactly as Deuteronomy 25:1. Corrupt justice, that most common of Oriental failings, is the sin which Amos censures first; the sin which legislators in vain strove to guard against (Exodus 23:6-8; Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:18-20), and which prophet after prophet in vain attacked (Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:14 f., Isaiah 5:23, Isaiah 10:1 f.; Micah 3:9-11; Micah 7:3; Jeremiah 5:28; Jeremiah 22:3; Ezekiel 22:29; Malachi 3:5): the great men, the nobles, in whose hands the administration of justice rests, abuse their office for their own ends, are heedless of the rights of the helpless classes (the “needy,” the “poor,” and the “meek”), and sell justice to the highest bidder.

and the poor] R.V. the needy (exactly as Jeremiah 5:28; Jeremiah 22:16 al., in the A. V.); a different word from that rendered poor in Amos 2:7.

for the sake of a pair of sandals] named as an article of trifling value. The reference in this clause is not, it seems, to the unjust judge, but to the hard-hearted creditor who, if his debtor could not pay the value of some trifling article, was forthwith sold by him into slavery (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25). In the use of the word sell, there is a slight ‘zeugma’: for it is used figuratively in the first clause, and literally in the second.

Amos 2:6-16. The sin of Israel, and its punishment

6–16. At last Amos comes to Israel. The Israelites might listen with equanimity, or even with satisfaction, whilst their neighbours’ faults were being exposed: but they now find that precisely the same standard is to be applied to themselves. The stereotyped form is not preserved after the first verse; both the indictment and the punishment being developed at much greater length than in the case of any of the previous nations. The indictment (Amos 2:6-8) consists of four counts: 1. maladministration of justice; 2. oppression of the poor; 3. immorality; 4. inordinate self-indulgence, practised in the name of religion—all, in view of the signal favours conferred by Jehovah upon Israel in the past, aggravated by ingratitude (Amos 2:9-12). The judgement, viz. defeat and flight before the foe, follows in Amos 2:13-16.

Verses 6-16. -

3. Summons and general denunciation of Israel for injustice, cruelty, incest, luxury, and idolatry. Verse 6. - They sold the righteous for silver. The first charge against Israel is perversion of justice. The judges took bribes and condemned the righteous, i.e. the man whose cause was good. Pusey thinks that the literal selling of debtors by creditors, contrary to the Law (Exodus 21:7; Leviticus 25:39; Nehemiah 5:5), is meant (comp. Amos 8:6 and Matthew 18:25). The needy for a pair of shoes. For the very smallest bribe they betray the cause of the poor (comp. Ezekiel 13:19); though, as sandals were sometimes of very costly materials (Song of Solomon 7:1; Ezekiel 16:10; Judith 16:9), the expression might mean that they sold justice to obtain an article of luxury. But the form of expression is opposed to this interpretation. Amos 2:6After this introduction, the prophet's address turns to Israel of the ten tribes, and in precisely the same form as in the case of the nations already mentioned, announces the judgment as irrevocable. At the same time, he gives a fuller description of the sins of Israel, condemning first of all the prevailing crimes of injustice and oppression, of shameless immorality and daring contempt of God (Amos 2:6-8); and secondly, its scornful contempt of the benefits conferred by the Lord (Amos 2:9-12), and threatening inevitable trouble in consequence (Amos 2:13-16). Amos 2:6. "Thus saith Jehovah: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I shall not reverse it, because they sell the righteous for money, and the poor for a pair of shoes. Amos 2:7. They who pant after dust of the earth upon the head of the poor, and bend the way of the meek: and a man and his father go to the same girl, to desecrate my holy name. Amos 2:8. And they stretch themselves upon pawned clothes by every altar, and they drink the wine of the punished in the house of their God." The prophet condemns four kinds of crimes. The first is unjust treatment, or condemnation of the innocent in their administration of justice. Selling the righteous for silver, i.e., for money, refers to the judges, who were bribed to punish a man as guilty of the crime of which he was accused, when he was really tsaddı̄q, i.e., righteous in a judicial, not in a moral sense, or innocent of any punishable crime. Bakkeseph, for money, i.e., either to obtain money, or for the money which they had already received, viz., from the accuser, for condemning the innocent. בּעבוּר, on account of, is not synonymous with ב pretii; for they did not sell the poor man merely to get a pair of sandals for him, as the worst possible slave was certainly worth much more than this (cf. Exodus 21:32); but the poor debtor who could not pay for a pair of shoes, i.e., for the merest trifle, the judge would give up to the creditor for a salve, on the strength of the law in Leviticus 25:39 (cf. 2 Kings 4:1).

As a second crime, Amos reproves in v. 7a their thirst for the oppression of the quiet in the land. דּלּים, ταπεινοί, and ענוים, πραεῖς. The address is carried on in participles, in the form of lively appeal, instead of quiet description, as is frequently the case in Amos (cf. Amos 5:7; Amos 6:3., 13, Amos 8:14), and also in other books (cf. Isaiah 40:22, Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 19:11). In the present instance, the article before the participle points back to the suffix in מכרם, and the finite verb is not introduced till the second clause. שׁאף, to gasp, to pant, to long eagerly for earth-dust upon the head of the poor, i.e., to long to see the head of the poor covered with earth or dust, or to bring them into such a state of misery, that they scatter dust upon their head (cf. Job 2:12; 2 Samuel 1:2). The explanation given by Hitzig is too far-fetched and unnatural, viz., that they grudge the man in distress even the handful of dust that he has strewn upon his head, and avariciously long for it themselves. To bend the way of the meek, i.e., to bring them into a trap, or cast them headlong into destruction by impediments and stumblingblocks laid in their path. The way is the way of life, their outward course. The idea that the way refers to the judgment or legal process is too contracted. The third crime is their profanation of the name of God by shameless immorality (Amos 2:7); and the fourth, desecration of the sanctuary by drinking carousals (Amos 2:8). A man and his father, i.e., both son and father, go to the girl, i.e., to the prostitute. The meaning is, to one and the same girl; but 'achath is omitted, to preclude all possible misunderstanding, as though going to different prostitutes was allowed. This sin was tantamount to incest, which, according to the law, was to be punished with death (cf. Leviticus 18:7, Leviticus 18:15, and Leviticus 20:11). Temple girls (qedēshōth) are not to be thought of here. The profanation of the name of God by such conduct as this does not indicate prostitution in the temple itself, such as was required by the licentious worship of Baal and Asherah (Ewald, Maurer, etc.), but consisted in a daring contempt of the commandments of God, as the original passage (Leviticus 22:32) from which Amos took the words clearly shows (cf. Jeremiah 34:16). By lema‛an, in order that (not "so that"), the profanation of the holy name of God is represented as intentional, to bring out the daring character of the sin, and to show that it did not arise from weakness or ignorance, but was practised with studious contempt of the holy God. Begâdı̄m chăbhulı̄m, pawned clothes, i.e., upper garments, consisting of a large square piece of cloth, which was wrapt all around, and served the poor for a counterpane as well. If a poor man was obliged to pawn his upper garment, it was to be returned to him before night came on (Exodus 22:25), and a garment so pawned was not to be slept upon (Deuteronomy 24:12-13). But godless usurers kept such pledges, and used them as cloths upon which they stretched their limbs at feasts (yattū, hiphil, to stretch out, sc. the body or its limbs); and this they did by every altar, at sacrificial meals, without standing in awe of God. It is very evident that Amos is speaking of sacrificial feasting, from the reference in the second clause of the verse to the drinking of wine in the house of God. עמוּשׁים, punished in money, i.e., fined. Wine of the punished is wine purchased by the produce of the fines. Here again the emphasis rests upon the fact, that such drinking carousals were held in the house of God. 'Elōhēhem, not their gods (idols), but their God; for Amos had in his mind the sacred places at Bethel and Dan, in which the Israelites worshipped Jehovah as their God under the symbol of an ox (calf). The expression col-mizbēăch (every altar) is not at variance with this; for even if col pointed to a plurality of altars, these altars were still bāmōth, dedicated to Jehovah. If the prophet had also meant to condemn actual idolatry, i.e., the worship of heathen deities, he would have expressed this more clearly; to say nothing of the fact, that in the time of Jeroboam II there was no heathenish idolatry in the kingdom of the ten tribes, or, at any rate, it was not publicly maintained.

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