Amos 5:11
For as much therefore as your treading is on the poor, and you take from him burdens of wheat: you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine of them.
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(11) Burdens of wheat.—i.e., Ye take gifts of sifted corn, as a contribution to your own luxury, and which the poor man was not bound to offer, and only would offer to purchase your good will. Therefore your pomp and luxury shall be of no avail. Such is God’s judgment on indifference to the wants and feedings of the poor.

Amos 5:11-13. Forasmuch, therefore, as your treading is upon the poor — It appears by this, that their acts of oppression were more than ordinarily proud and tyrannical. They were the effect of fraud executed with insolence, as the word treading, and the subsequent clause, added in explanation of it, signify. And ye take from him burdens of wheat — This expresses the most grievous inhumanity, implying that they took from the poor their very sustenance by acts of injustice and violence. Ye have built houses of hewn stone, but shall not dwell in them — God often threatens to deprive men of the enjoyment of their ill-gotten substance. For I know your manifold transgressions and mighty sins — Your daring impieties, your sins of the first magnitude, such as idolatry and oppression, reproved in the foregoing part of this chapter. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time — So great is the corruption of manners, and such the insolence of power, that the prudent man, though he be virtuous, and abhor such doings, yet will incline to be silent, perceiving that his speaking by way of reproof or exhortation to others will only bring danger on himself, and be of no real use.5:7-17 The same almighty power can, for repenting sinners, easily turn affliction and sorrow into prosperity and joy, and as easily turn the prosperity of daring sinners into utter darkness. Evil times will not bear plain dealing; that is, evil men will not. And these men were evil men indeed, when wise and good men thought it in vain even to speak to them. Those who will seek and love that which is good, may help to save the land from ruin. It behoves us to plead God's spiritual promises, to beseech him to create in us a clean heart, and to renew a right spirit within us. The Lord is ever ready to be gracious to the souls that seek him; and then piety and every duty will be attended to. But as for sinful Israel, God's judgments had often passed by them, now they shall pass through them.Forasmuch therefore - (Since they rejected reproof, he pronounces the sentence of God upon them,) "as your treading is upon the poor." This expresses more habitual trampling on the poor, than if he had said, "ye tread upon the poor." They were ever trampling on those who were already of low and depressed condition. "And ye take from him burdens of wheat, presents of wheat." The word always signifies presents, voluntary , or involuntary , what was carried, offered to anyone. They received "wheat" from the poor, cleansed, winnowed, and "sold the refuse Amos 8:6, requiring what it was wrong to receive, and selling what at the least it was disgraceful not to give. God had expressly forbidden to "lend food for interest" Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19. It may be that, in order to evade the law, the interest was called "a present."

Ye have built house of hewn stone - The houses of Israel were, perhaps most commonly, built of brick dried in the sun only. As least, houses built of hewn stone, like most of our's, are proverbially contrasted with them, as the more solid with the more ordinary building. "The white bricks are fallen down, and we will build with hewn, stones" Isaiah 9:10. And Ezekiel is bidden to dig through the wall of his house Ezekiel 12:5, Ezekiel 12:7. Houses of stone there were, as appears from the directions as to the unhealthy accretions, called the leprosy of the house Leviticus 14:34-48. It may be, however, that their houses of "hewn stone," had a smoothed surface, like our "ashlar." Anyhow, the sin of luxury is not simply measured by the things themselves, but by their relation to ourselves and our condition also; and wrong is not estimated by the extent of the gain and loss of the two parties only, but by the injury inflicted.

These men, who built houses, luxurious for them, had wrung from the poor their living, as those do, who beat down the wages of the poor. Therefore they were not to take possession of what was their own; as Ahab, who by murder possessed himself of Naboth's vineyard, forfeited his throne and his life. God, in the law, consulted for the feeling which desires to enter into the fruit of a man's toil. When they should go to war they were to proclaim, "what man" is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard and hath not eaten of it? let him go. and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it" Deuteronomy 20:5-6. Now God reversed all this, and withdrew the tender love, whereby He had provided it. The words, from their proverbial character, express a principle of God's judgments, that wrong dealing, whereby a man would secure himself or enlarge his inheritance, destroys both. Who poorer than our Lord, bared of all upon the Cross, of whom it had been written, "They persecuted the poor helpless man, that they might slay him who was vexed at the heart" Psalm 109:15, and of whom the Jews said, "Come let us kill Him, that the inheritance may be ours?" Matthew 21:38. They killed Him, they said, "lest the Romans take away our place and nation" John 11:48. "The vineyard was taken from them;" their "place" destroyed, their "nation" dispersed.

11. burdens of wheat—burdensome taxes levied in kind from the wheat of the needy, to pamper the lusts of the great [Henderson]. Or wheat advanced in time of scarcity, and exacted again at a burdensome interest [Rabbi Salomon].

built houses … but not dwell in them … vineyards, … but not drink wine of them—according to the original prophecy of Moses (De 28:30, 38, 39). The converse shall be true in restored Israel (Am 9:14; Isa 65:21, 22).

Your treading; their oppression was more than ordinarily proud and tyrannous, expressed here by treading. It was very heavy on the poor, an effect of fraud, and executed with tyrannical insolence, as the word and its paraphrase imports.

Is upon the poor, who have not power to withstand your violence, nor money to buy your friendship.

Ye take from him, receive when offered, and ye force them to offer, you extort from the poor,

burdens of wheat; great quantities of best wheat, on which the poor should live, either making bread of it to feed them, or else making money of it to serve other occasions. It is not said what burden, but probably as much as the poor man was able to carry.

Ye have built houses; perhaps these corrupt judges had built for their children; so one greedy and ravenous judge might build as many houses as he had sons, or these judges being many, had built many houses.

Of hewn stone; intimating the greatness, beauty, and strength of them, and they flatter themselves that they and their posterity shall long dwell at ease and multiply in these goodly houses.

But ye shall not dwell in them; you by oppression build, but God will by his just hand, and by the Assyrians’ violence, turn you out of those houses, and make you captives in a land where your enemies please to carry you, you shall find that, Deu 28:30, fulfilled on you.

Pleasant vineyards; most desirable for situation, for fruitfulness, for sweetness and goodness of the grape; every way delightful.

But ye shall not drink wine of them; either they shall not bear, or the enemy shall devour, or you shall be carried away into captivity. The threat, Deu 28:39, shall be executed. Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor,.... This seems to be spoken to the princes, judges, and civil magistrates, as Kimchi observes; who oppressed the poor and needy, and crushed them to the ground, trampled upon them, stripped them of the little substance they had, and left them destitute; exercising a cruel and tyrannical power over them, they having none to stand by them, and deliver them:

and ye take from him burdens of wheat; which perhaps he had been gleaning in the field, and was carrying home for the support of his family; or which he had gotten with great labour, and was all he had in the world: this they took away from him, for the payment of pretended debts, or lawsuits; or as not in right belonging to him, but taken out of fields where he should not have entered:

ye have built houses of hewn stones; in a very grand and pompous manner for themselves and their children, with money they had extorted from the poor, and got by oppression and injustice:

but ye shall not dwell in them; at least but a very short time; for quickly and suddenly the enemy will come and turn you out of them, and destroy them, which would be a just retaliation for their spoiling the houses of the poor:

ye have planted pleasant vineyards: well situated, and filled with the choicest vines, which promise a large produce of the best wine:

but ye shall not drink wine of them; for before the grapes are fully ripe they should be either taken away by death, or be carried captive, and others should dwell in their houses, and drink the wine of their vineyards.

Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and {g} ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.

(g) You take both his money and also his food, with which he should live.

11. The penalty for such unjust oppression of the poor is the oppressors’ own disappointment and spoliation: the houses and vineyards on which they lavished their money, and from which they expected much enjoyment, will be violently taken from them.

Therefore, because ye trample upon the poor, and take from him exactions of wheat] The allusion is not specially to bribes exacted of the poor as the price of justice, but to the presents which the poor fellahin had to offer to the grasping aristocrats, out of the hard-won produce of their toil.

ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them, &c.] For the form of the threat, comp. Deuteronomy 28:30; Deuteronomy 28:38-39; Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13; and contrast the promise of Amos 9:14. Houses of ‘hewn stone’ are houses of exceptional solidity and beauty, such as might be built by the wealthy (cf. Isaiah 9:10).Verse 11. - Therefore. Because ye refuse reproof, and oppress the poor. Your treading is upon the poor; ye trample upon. The Hebrew word boshes is found nowhere else, and is variously explained. Septuagint, κατεκονδύλιζον, "smote with the fists;" so the Syriac; Vulgate, diripiebatis, with which the Chaldee agrees. Keil, Schegg, and most modern commentators explain the word, by a slight dialectical variation, as equivalent to conculcare. Burdens of wheat; rather, tribute, exactions of wheat, or presents like enforced "benevolences." They exacted such gifts before they would do justice to the poor. Or it may refer to interest for money or victuals lent, which took the form of presents in order to evade the Law (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:37; Deuteronomy 23:19). Septuagint, δῶρα ἐκλεκτά: Vulgate, praedam electam, the Hebrew word bar meaning either "wheat" or "elect." Hewn stone. Houses thus built were a mark of luxury and wealth, sun-dried brick being the usual material employed (comp. Isaiah 9:10; Ezekiel 12:5, 7). Ye shall not dwell in them. This is the punishment of their evil doings, according to the threat in Deuteronomy 28:30, 39. The people shall be banished and the land desolated (Micah 6:15; Zephaniah 1:13). After the prophet has set before the sinful nation in various ways its own guilt, and the punishment that awaits it, viz., the destruction of the kingdom, he concludes his addresses with a call to thorough conversion to the Lord, and the promise that the Lord will bestow His grace once more upon those who turn to Him, and will bless them abundantly (Hosea 14:1-8). Hosea 14:1. (Heb. Bib. v. 2). "Return, O Israel, to Jehovah thy God; for thou hast stumbled through thy guilt. Hosea 14:2. Take with you words, and turn to Jehovah; say ye to Him, Forgive all guilt, and accept what is good, that we may offer our lips as bullocks. Hosea 14:3. Asshur will not help us: we will not ride upon horses, nor say 'Our God' any more to the manufacture of our own hands; for with Thee the orphan findeth compassion." There is no salvation for fallen man without return to God. It is therefore with a call to return to the Lord their God, that the prophet opens the announcement of the salvation with which the Lord will bless His people, whom He has brought to reflection by means of the judgment (cf. Deuteronomy 4:30; Deuteronomy 30:1.). שׁוּב עד יי, to return, to be converted to the Lord, denotes complete conversion; שׁוּב אל is, strictly speaking, simply to turn towards God, to direct heart and mind towards Him. By kâshaltâ sin is represented as a false step, which still leaves it possible to return; so that in a call to conversion it is very appropriately chosen. But if the conversion is to be of the right kind, it must begin with a prayer for the forgiveness of sin, and attest itself by the renunciation of earthly help and simple trust in the mercy of God. Israel is to draw near to God in this state of mind. "Take with you words," i.e., do not appear before the Lord empty (Exodus 23:15; Exodus 34:20); but for this ye do not require outward sacrifices, but simply words, sc. those of confession of your guilt, as the Chaldee has correctly explained it. The correctness of this explanation is evident from the confession of sin which follows, with which they are to come before God. In כּל־תּשּׂא עון, the position of col at the head of the sentence may be accounted for from the emphasis that rests upon it, and the separation of ‛âvōn, from the fact that col was beginning to acquire more of the force of an adjective, like our all (thus 2 Samuel 1:9; Job 27:3 : cf. Ewald, 289, a; Ges. 114, 3, Anm. 1). Qach tōbh means neither "accept goodness," i.e., let goodness be shown thee (Hitzig), nor "take it as good," sc. that we pray (Grotius, Ros.); but in the closest connection with what proceeds: Accept the only good thing that we are able to bring, viz., the sacrifices of our lips. Jerome has given the correct interpretation, viz.: "For unless Thou hadst borne away our evil things, we could not possibly have the good thing which we offer Thee;" according to that which is written elsewhere (Psalm 37:27), "Turn from evil, and do good." שׂפתינוּ ... וּנשׁלּמה, literally, "we will repay (pay) as young oxen our lips," i.e., present the prayers of our lips as thank-offerings. The expression is to be explained from the fact that shillēm, to wipe off what is owing, to pay, is a technical term, applied to the sacrifice offered in fulfilment of a vow (Deuteronomy 23:22; Psalm 22:26; Psalm 50:14, etc.), and that pârı̄m, young oxen, were the best animals for thank-offerings (Exodus 24:5). As such thank-offerings, i.e., in the place of the best animal sacrifices, they would offer their lips, i.e., their prayers, to God (cf. Psalm 51:17-19; Psalm 69:31-32). In the Sept. rendering, ἀποδώσομεν καρπὸν χείλεων, to which there is an allusion in Hebrews 13:15, פּרים has been confounded with פּרי, as Jerome has already observed. but turning to God requires renunciation of the world, of its power, and of all idolatry. Rebellious Israel placed its reliance upon Assyria and Egypt (Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11; Hosea 8:9). It will do this no longer. The riding upon horses refers partly to the military force of Egypt (Isaiah 31:1), and partly to their own (Hosea 1:7; Isaiah 2:7). For the expression, "neither will we say to the work of our hands," compare Isaiah 42:17; Isaiah 44:17. אשׁר בּך, not "Thou with whom," but "for with Thee" ('ăsher as in Deuteronomy 3:24). The thought, "with Thee the orphan findeth compassion," as God promises in His word (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18), serves not only as a reason for the resolution no longer to call the manufacture of their own hands God, but generally for the whole of the penitential prayer, which they are encouraged to offer by the compassionate nature of God. In response to such a penitential prayer, the Lord will heal all His people's wounds, and bestow upon them once more the fulness of the blessings of His grace. The prophet announces this in Isaiah 44:4-8 as the answer from the Lord.
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