Amos 8:9
And it shall come to pass in that day, said the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Darken the earth.—The darkening of the sun at noon-day gives an image of confusion and terror (comp. Amos 5:20). The eclipse of the sun that is here alluded to (see Excursus C), like the earthquake in the preceding verse, is employed as a powerful image of national calamity, the extinction of the royal house, and perhaps the final overthrow of Israel. (Comp. Jeremiah 15:9; Ezekiel 32:7-10.)

EXCURSUS C (Amos 8:9).

That an eclipse is here referred to, and employed as a figure to express the overwhelming calamities which were to darken Israel, can hardly admit of doubt, when we compare the similar figurative use of the earthquake in the preceding verse. But to what eclipse does the prophet refer? Mr. J. W. Bosanquet has attempted to identify it with a very special one, mentioned in the Assyrian annals:—“In the eponymy of Bursagale, prefect of Gozan, the city of Asshur revolted, and in the month Sivan the sun was eclipsed.” This has been calculated by Hind to have occurred on June 15, 763 B.C. (So Rawlinson, Schrader, G. Smith, &c., as against Oppert’s view, which is untenable.) If this eclipse was in the mind of the prophet, it is a fact of considerable importance in chronology. On the whole, however, it is more probable that the prophet was thinking of an earlier eclipse, which took place in 784 B.C., Feb. 9. It was a total eclipse, the time of totality being about 1 p.m. at Jerusalem, thus exactly corresponding with the phraseology of this verse. So remarkable a phenomenon would naturally stamp itself for many years upon the mind of the people, and this vivid impression the prophet summons to his aid in foreshadowing the calamities of the last time.

Amos 8:9. I will cause the sun to go down at noon — Calamitous times are often expressed in the Scriptures by the failing of the light of the sun, and the day’s being overspread with darkness. So Israel’s sun did begin to go down, as at noon, under the dark cloud of conspiracies and civil wars by Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, till it entirely set, and total darkness came on through the Assyrian invasions by Pul, Tiglath-pileser, and Shalmanezer, and by the entire desolation and destruction of the country produced thereby. And I will darken the earth — By bringing a thick cloud of troubles and afflictions over it; in the clear day — When they think all is safe, well settled, and hopeful.8:4-10 The rich and powerful of the land were the most guilty of oppression, as well as the foremost in idolatry. They were weary of the restraints of the sabbaths and the new moons, and wished them over, because no common work might be done therein. This is the character of many who are called Christians. The sabbath day and sabbath work are a burden to carnal hearts. It will either be profaned or be accounted a dull day. But can we spend our time better than in communion with God? When employed in religious services, they were thinking of marketings. They were weary of holy duties, because their worldly business stood still the while. Those are strangers to God, and enemies to themselves, who love market days better than sabbath days, who would rather be selling corn than worshipping God. They have no regard to man: those who have lost the savour of piety, will not long keep the sense of common honesty. They cheat those they deal with. They take advantage of their neighbour's ignorance or necessity, in a traffic which nearly concerns the labouring poor. Could we witness the fraud and covetousness, which, in such numerous forms, render trading an abomination to the Lord, we should not wonder to see many dealers backward in the service of God. But he who thus despises the poor, reproaches his Maker; as it regards Him, rich and poor meet together. Riches that are got by the ruin of the poor, will bring ruin on those that get them. God will remember their sin against them. This speaks the case of such unjust, unmerciful men, to be miserable indeed, miserable for ever. There shall be terror and desolation every where. It shall come upon them when they little think of it. Thus uncertain are all our creature-comforts and enjoyments, even life itself; in the midst of life we are in death. What will be the wailing in the bitter day which follows sinful and sensual pleasures!I will cause the sun to go down - Darkness is heaviest and blackest in contrast with the brightest light; sorrow is saddest, when it comes upon fearless joy. God commonly, in His mercy, sends heralds of coming sorrow; very few burst suddenly on man. Now, in the meridian brightness of the day of Israel, the blackness of night should fall at once upon him. Not only was light to be displaced by darkness, but "then," when it was most opposite to the course of nature. Not by gradual decay, but by a sudden unlooked-for crash, was Israel to perish. Pekah was a military chief; he had reigned more than seventeen years over Israel in peace, when, together with Rezin king of Damascus, he attempted to extirpate the line of David, and to set a Syrian, one "on of Tabea" Isaiah 7:6, on his throne. Ahaz was weak, with no human power to resist; his "heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest are moved with the wind" Isaiah 7:2. Tiglath-pileser came upon Pekah and carried off the tribes beyond Jordan 2 Kings 15:29. Pekah's sun set, and all was night with no dawn. Shortly after, Pekah himself was murdered by Hoshea 2 Kings 15:30, as he had himself murdered Pekahiah. After an anarchy of nine years, Hoshea established himself on the throne; the nine remaining years were spent in the last convulsive efforts of an expiring monarchy, subdual to Shalmaneser, rebellious alliance with So, king of Egypt, a three years' siege, and the lamp went out 2 Kings 17:1-9.

And I will darken the earth at noon-day - To the mourner "all nature seems to mourn." "Not the ground only," says Chrysostom in the troubles at Antioch , "but the very substance of the air, and the orb of the solar rays itself seems to me now in a manner to mourn and to shew a duller light. Not that the elements change their nature, but that our eyes, confused by a cloud of sorrow, cannot receive the light from it's rays purely, nor are they alike impressible. This is what the prophet of old said mourning, 'Their sun shall set to them at noon, and the day shall be darkened.' Not that the sun was hidden, or the day disappeared, but that tile mourners could see no light even in mid-day, for the darkness of their grief." No eclipse of the sun, in which the sun might seem to be shrouded in darkness at mid-day, has been calculated which should have suggested this image to the prophet's mind.

It had been thought, however, that there might be reference to an eclipse of the sun which took place a few years after this prophecy, namely, Feb. 9. 784, b.c. the year of the death of Jeroboam II. This eclipse did reach its height at Jerusalem a little before mid-day, at 11:24 a.m..

An accurate calculation, however, shows that, although total in southern latitudes, the line of totality was, at the longitude of Jerusalem or Samaria, about 11 degrees south Latitude, and so above 43 degrees south of Samaria, and that it did not reach the same latitude as Samaria until near the close of the eclipse, about 64 degrees west of Samaria in the easternmost part of Thibet . : "The central eclipse commenced in the southern Atlantic Ocean, passed nearly exactly over Helena , reached the continent of Africa in Lower Guinea, traversed the interior of Africa, and left it near Zanzibar, went through the Indian Ocean and entered India in the Gulf of Gambay, passed between Agra and Allahabad into Tibet and reached its end on the frontiers of China." The eclipse then would hardly have been noticeable at Samaria, certainly very far indeed from being an eclipse of such magnitude, as could in any degree correspond with the expression, "I will cause the sun to go down at noon."

Ussher suggests, if true, a different coincidence. "There was an eclipse of the sun of about 10 digits in the Julian year 3923 (791 b.c.,) June 24, in the Feast of Pentecost; another, of about 12 digits, 20 years afterward, 3943, 771 b.c., Nov. 8, on the Day of the Feast of Tabernacles; and a third of more than 11 digits, on the following year 3944, May 5, on the Feast of the Passover. Consider whether that prophecy of Amos does not relate to it, "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."

Which, as the Christian fathers have adapted in an allegorical sense to the darkness at the time of our Lord's Passion in the Feast of the Passover, so it may have been fulfilled, in the letter, in these three great eclipses, which darkened the day of the three festivals in which all the males were bound to appear before the Lord. So that as, among the Greeks, Thales, first, by astronomical science, predicted eclipses of the sun , so, among the Hebrews, Amos first seems to have foretold them by inspiration of the Holy Spirit." The eclipses, pointed out by Ussher, must have been the one total, the others very considerable . Beforehand, one should not have expected that an eclipsc of the sun, being itself a regular natural phaenomenon, and having no connection with the moral government of God, should have been the subject of the prophet's prediction.

Still it had a religious impressiveness then, above what it has now, on account of that wide-prevailing idolatry of the sun. It exhibited the object of their false worship, shorn of its light and passive. If Ussher is right as to the magnitude of those eclipses in the latitude of Jerusalem, and as to the correspondence of the days of the solar year, June 24, Nov. 8, May 5, in those years, with the days of the lunar year upon which the respective feasts fell, it would be a remarkable correspondence. Still the years are somewhat arbitrarily chosen, the second only 771 b.c., (on which the house of Jehu came to an end through the murder of the weak and sottish Zechariah,) corresponding with any marked event in the kingdom of Israel. On the other hand, it is the more likely that the words, "I will cause the sun to go down at noon," are an image of a sudden reverse, in that Micah also uses the words as an image, "the sun shall go down upon the prophets and the day shall be dark upon" (or, "over") "them" Micah 2:6.

9. "Darkness" made to rise "at noon" is the emblem of great calamities (Jer 15:9; Eze 32:7-10). 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. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God,.... When this deluge and desolation of the land shall be, now spoken of:

that I will cause the sun to go down at noon: or to he so dark as if it was set; as at the time of our Lord's crucifixion, to which many of the ancient fathers refer this prophecy, though it has respect to other times and things. Jarchi interprets it of the kingdom of the house of David. It doubtless designs the kingdom of Israel, their whole policy, civil and ecclesiastic, and the destruction of it; particularly their king, princes, and nobles, that should be in great adversity, and that suddenly and unexpectedly; it being a fine sunshine morning with them, and they in great prosperity, and yet by noon their sun would be set, and they in the utmost darkness and distress;

and I will darken the earth in a clear day; the land of Israel, the people of it, the common people, who should have their share, in this calamity and affliction; and though it had been a clear day with them, and they promised themselves much and long felicity, yet on a sudden their light would be turned into darkness, and their joy into sadness and sorrow.

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

(g) In the midst of their prosperity, I will send great affliction.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. Celestial wonders, which Amos pictures as accompanying the day of retribution (comp. Isaiah 13:10; Joel 2:10, Joel 4:15). It is possible that the imagery is borrowed from an eclipse of the sun; and one which occurred June 15, b.c. 763, has been thought of as having suggested it. According to von Oppolzer’s chart[192], the centre of totality of this eclipse passed through Asia Minor at about 38–39˚ N.; and it may therefore be reasonably inferred that it was visible in the latitude of Jerusalem (31˚ 46′ N.) as a fairly large partial eclipse. (To go down is lit. to go in, as regularly in Heb., when said of the sun.)

[192] In his elaborate “Canon der Finsternisse” (particulars of 8000 solar eclipses from b.c. 1207 to a.d 2161, with 160 charts, exhibiting their tracks), in vol. 52 (1887) of the Denkschriften of the Vienna Academy. The eclipse is mentioned in the Assyrian annals (G. Smith, Eponym Canon, pp. 46, 47); and its course has also been calculated independently (ib. p. 83).Verse 9. - I will cause the sun to go down at noon. This is probably to be taken metaphorically of a sudden calamity occurring in the very height of seeming prosperity, such as the fate of Israel in Pekah's time, and Pekah's own murder (2 Kings 15:29, 30; see also 2 Kings 17:1-6). A like metaphor is common enough; e.g. Joel 2:2: 3:15; Micah 3:6; Job 5:14; Isaiah 13:10; Jeremiah 15:9. Hind calculates that there were two solar eclipses visible in Palestine in Amos's time, viz. June 15, B.C. 763, and February 9, B.C. 784. Some have suggested that the prophet here predicts the latter in the year of Jeroboam's death; but this, it is discovered, would have been so partial as hardly to be noticeable at Samaria. And it is improbable that such natural phenomena, unconnected with God's moral government, should be the subject of the prophet's prediction (Pusey). Doubtless a sudden reverse is signified (comp. Matthew 24:29, etc.), expressed in terms rendered particularly appropriate by some late and well remembered eclipse. The Fathers note here how the earth was darkened at the Passion of our Lord. (Heb. ch. 3). Outpouring of the Spirit of God, and Announcement of Judgment.

(Note: Among other special expositions of these verses, see Hengstenberg's Christology, vol. i. p. 326ff. translation.)

Joel 2:28. "And it will come to pass afterwards, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions. Joel 2:29. And also upon the men-servants and maid-servants I will put out my Spirit in those days." As 'achărē-khēn points back to bâri'shōn in Joel 2:23, the formula vehâyâh achărē-khēn describes the outpouring of the Spirit as a second and later consequence of the gift of the teacher for righteousness. שׁפך, to pour out, signifies communication in rich abundance, like a rain-fall or water-fall. For the communication of the Spirit of God was not entirely wanting to the covenant nation from the very first. In fact, the Spirit of God was the only inward bond between the Lord and His people; but it was confined to the few whom God endowed as prophets with the gift of His Spirit. This limitation was to cease in the future.

(Note: "There is no doubt that the prophet promises something greater here than the fathers had experienced under the law. We know that the grace of the Holy Spirit flourished even among the ancient people; but the prophet promises here not what the faithful had formerly experienced, but something greater. And this may be gathered from the verb 'to pour' which he employs. For שׁפך does not mean merely to give in drops, but to pour out in great abundance. But God did not pour out the Holy Spirit so abundantly or copiously under the law, as He has since the manifestation of Christ." - Calvin.)

What Moses expressed as a wish - namely, that the people were all prophets, and the Lord would put His Spirit upon them (Numbers 11:29) - was to be fulfilled in the future. Rūăch Yehōvâh is not the first principle of the physico-creaturely life (i.e., not equivalent to rūăch Elōhı̄m in Genesis 1:2), but that of the spiritual or ethical and religious life of man, which filled the prophets under the Old Testament as a spirit of prophecy; consequently Joel describes its operations under this form. "All flesh" signifies all men. The idea that it embraces the irrational animals, even the locusts (Credner), is rejected with perfect justice by Hitzig as an inconceivable thought, and one unheard-of in the Bible; but he is wrong in adding that the Old Testament does not teach a communication of the Spirit of God to all men, but limits it to the people of Israel. A decided protest is entered against this by Genesis 6:3, where Jehovah threatens that He will no longer let His Spirit rule bâ'âdâm, i.e., in the human race, because it has become bâsâr (flesh). Bâsâr, as contrasted with rūăch Yehōvâh, always denotes human nature regarded as incapacitated for spiritual and divine life. Even in this verse we must not restrict the expression "all flesh" to the members of the covenant nation, as most of the commentators have done; for whatever truth there may be in the remark made by Calovius and others (compare Hengstenberg, Christol. i. p. 328 transl.), that the following clause, "your sons, your daughters, your old men, your young men, and men-servants and maid-servants," contains a specification of כּל־בּשׂר, it by no means follows with certainty from this, that the word all does not do away with the limitation to one particular nation, but merely that in this one nation even the limits of sex, age, and rank are abolished; since it cannot be proved that the specification in Joel 2:2 and Joel 2:3 is intended to exhaust the idea of "all flesh." Moreover, as the prophecy of Joel had respect primarily to Judah, Joel may primarily have brought into prominence, and specially singled out of the general idea of kol-bâsâr in Joel 2:28 and Joel 2:29, only those points that were of importance to his contemporaries, viz., that all the members of the covenant nation would participate in this outpouring of the Spirit, without regard to sex, age, or rank; and in so doing, he may have looked away from the idea of the entire human race, including all nations, which is involved in the expression "all flesh." We shall see from Joel 2:32 that this last thought was not a strange one to the prophet. In the specification of the communication of the Spirit, the different forms which it assumes are rhetorically distributed as follows: to the sons and daughters, prophesying is attributed; to the old, dreams; to the young, sights or visions. But it by no means follows from this, that each of these was peculiar to the age mentioned. For the assertion, that the Spirit of God only manifests itself in the weakened mind of the old man by dreams and visions of the night; that the vigorous and lively fancy of the youth or man has sights by day, or true visions; and lastly, that in the soul of the child the Spirit merely works as furor sacer Tychs., Credner, Hitzig, and others), cannot be historically sustained. According to Numbers 12:6, visions and dreams are the two forms of the prophetic revelation of God; and נבּא is the most general manifestation of the prophetic gift, which must not be restricted to the ecstatic state associated with the prophesying. The meaning of this rhetorical individualizing, is simply that their sons, daughters, old persons, and youths, would receive the Spirit of God with all its gifts. The outpouring of the Spirit upon slaves (men-servants and maidens) is connected by vegam, as being something very extraordinary, and under existing circumstances not to be expected. Not a single case occurs in the whole of the Old Testament of a salve receiving the gift of prophecy. Amos, indeed, was a poor shepherd servant, but not an actual slave. And the communication of this gift to slaves was irreconcilable with the position of slaves under the Old Testament. Consequently even the Jewish expositors could not reconcile themselves to this announcement. The lxx, by rendering it ἐπὶ τοὺς δούλους μου καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς δούλας μου, have put servants of God in the place of the slaves of men; and the Pharisees refused to the ὄχλος even a knowledge of the law (John 7:49). The gospel has therefore also broken the fetters of slavery.

Judgment upon all nations goes side by side with the outpouring of the Spirit of God. Joel 2:30. "And I give wonders in the heavens and on earth, blood, fire, and pillars of smoke. Joel 2:31. The sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of Jehovah, the great and terrible (day), comes. Joel 2:32. And it comes to pass, every one who shall call upon the name of Jehovah will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem will be fugitives, as Jehovah hath said, and among those that are left will be those whom Jehovah calls." With the word ונתתּי, Joel 2:3 is attached to Joel 2:2 as a simple continuation (Hitzig). The wonders which God will give in the heavens and upon earth are the forerunners of judgment. Mōphethı̄m (see at Exodus 4:21) are extraordinary and marvellous natural phenomena. The wonders on earth are mentioned first, in Joel 2:30; then in Joel 2:31 those in the heavens. Blood and fire recal to mind the plagues which fell upon Egypt as signs of the judgment: the blood, the changing of the water of the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:17); the fire, the balls of fire which fell to the earth along with the hail (Exodus 9:24). Blood and fire point to bloodshed and war. Timrōth ‛âshân signifies cloud-pillars (here and in Sol 3:6), whether we regard the form timrōth as original, and trace it to timrâh and the root tâmar, or prefer the reading תּימרות, which we meet with in many codices and editions, and take the word as a derivative of yâmar equals mūr, as Hengstenberg does (Christol. i. p. 334 transl.). This sign has its type in the descent of Jehovah upon Sinai, at which the whole mountain smoked, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a smelting-furnace (Exodus 19:18). We have not to think, therefore, of columns of cloud ascending from basons of fire, carried in front of caravans or armies on the march to show the way (see at Sol 3:6), but of pillars of cloud, which roll up from burning towns in time of war (Isaiah 9:17). Joel 2:31. In the heavens the sun is darkened, and the moon assumes a dull, blood-red appearance. These signs also have their type in the Egyptian plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21.). The darkening and extinction of the lights of heaven are frequently mentioned, either as harbingers of approaching judgment, or as signs of the breaking of the day of judgment (it was so in Joel 2:2, Joel 2:10, and is so again in Joel 3:14 : see also Isaiah 13:10; Isaiah 34:4; Jeremiah 4:23; Ezekiel 32:1-8; Amos 8:9; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25). What we have to think of here, is not so much periodically returning phenomena of nature, or eclipses of the sun and moon, as extraordinary (not ecliptic) obscurations of the sun and moon, such as frequently occur as accompaniments to great catastrophes in human history.

(Note: Compare O. Zoeckler, Theologia Natural. i. p. 420, where reference is made to Humboldt (Kosmos, iii.-413-17), who cites no fewer than seventeen extraordinary cases of obscuration of the sun from the historical tradition of past ages, which were occasioned, not by the moon, but by totally different circumstances, such as diminished intensity in the photosphere, unusually large spots in the sun, extraneous admixtures in our own atmosphere, such as trade-wind dust, inky rain, and sand rain, etc.; and many of which took place in most eventful years, such as 45 b.c., a.d. 29 (the year of the Redeemer's death), 358, 360, etc.)

And these earthly and celestial phenomena are forerunners and signs of the approaching or bursting judgment; not only so far as subjective faith is concerned, from the impression which is made upon the human mind by rare and terrible phenomena of nature, exciting a feeling of anxious expectation as to the things that are about to happen,

(Note: Calvin has taken too one-sided and subjective a view of the matter, when he gives the following explanation of Joel 2:31 : "What is said here of the sun and moon - namely, that the sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood - is metaphorical, and signifies that the Lord will fill the whole universe with signs of His wrath, which will paralyze men with fear, as if all nature were changed into a thing of horror. For just as the sun and moon are witnesses of the paternal favour of God towards us, while they give light in their turns to the earth, so, on the other hand, the prophet affirms that they will be the heralds of an angry and offended God.... By the darkness of the sun, the turning of the moon into blood, and the black vapour of smoke, the prophet meant to express the thought, that wherever men turned their eyes, everywhere, both above and below, many things would meet the eye that would fill them with terror. So that it is just as if he had said, that there had never been such a state of misery in the world, nor so many fierce signs of the wrath of God." For example, the assertion that they "are metaphorical expressions" cannot possibly be sustained, but is at variance with the scriptural view of the deep inward connection between heaven and earth, and more particularly with the scriptural teaching, that with the last judgment the present heavens and present earth will perish, and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth will ensue. Moreover, the circumstance that a belief in the significance of these natural phenomena is met with in all nations, favours their real (not merely imaginary) connection with the destinies of humanity.)

but also in their real connection with the onward progress of humanity towards its divinely appointed goal, which may be explained from the calling of man to be the lord of the earth, though it has not yet received from science its due recognition and weight; in accordance with which connection, they show "that the eternal motion of the heavenly worlds is also appointed by the world-governing righteousness of God; so that the continued secret operation of this peculiar quality manifests itself through a strong cosmico-uranian symbolism, in facts of singular historical significance" (Zoeckler, l. c.).

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