Amos 8
Pulpit Commentary
Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit.
Verses 1-14. - § 5. In the fourth vision, the basket of summer fruit, the Lord shows that the people is ripe for judgment. Explaining this revelation, Amos denounces the oppression and greed of the chieftains (vers. 4-10), and warns them that those who despise the Word of God shall some day suffer from a famine of the Word (vers. 11-14). Verse 1. - A basket of summer fruit; Septuagint, ἄγγος ἰξευτοῦ, "a fowler's vessel;" Vulgate, uncinus pomorum, which Jerome explains," Sicut uncino rami arborum detrahuntur ad poma carpenda, ita ego proximum captivitatis tempus attraxi." The word chelub is taken to mean "a basket of wickerwork;" it is used for "a cage" in Jeremiah 5:27, but is found nowhere else. The gathering of fruit was the last harvest of the year, and thus fitly typified the final punishment of Israel. This is set forth by the play on the word in the next verse.
And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.
Verse 2. - The end (kets). This is very like the word for "fruit" (kaits). Pass by (see note on Amos 7:8). Ver. 3 - The songs of the temple; Septuagint, τὰ φατνώματα τοῦ ναοῦ, "the pannels of the temple;" Vulgate, cardines templi. These versions point to a different reading. It is better rendered, "the songs of the palace," referring to the songs of the revellers mentioned already (Amos 6:5). These shall be changed into howlings of lamentation for the dead which lie around (comp. ver. 10). There shall be many dead bodies. The Hebrew is more forcible: "Many the corpses: in every place he hath cast them forth. Hush!" The Lord is represented as casting dead bodies to the ground, so that death is everywhere; and the interjection "hush!" (comp. Amos 6:10) is an admonition to bend beneath the hand of an avenging God (comp. Zephaniah 1:7). Orelli takes it as an expression of the apathy that accompanies severe and irremediable suffering - suffering too deep for words. The Greek and Latin versions take this onomatopoetic word has! "hush!" as a substantive. Thus the Septuagint, ἐπιῥῤίψω σιωπήν, "I will cast upon them silence;" Vulgate, projicietur silentium - an expressive rendering, but one not supported by grammatical considerations.
And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.
Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,
Verse 4. - The prophet, by admonishing the grandees of their iniquities, which they will not cast away, shows how ripe they are for judgment. That swallow up; better, that pant after (Amos 2:6, 7), like a beast after its prey, eager to devour. Even to make the poor of the land to fail; and cause the meek of the land to fail. They grasp at the property of the unresisting poor, adding field to field, and impoverishing them in various ways, to root them out of the land.
Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?
Verse 5. - When? expresses impatience and desire, as in the hymn -

"Thy joys when shall I see?" The new moon. The first day of the month was a holiday, on which all trade was suspended. It is not mentioned in Exodus, Leviticus, or Deuteronomy; but its observance is enjoined in Numbers 28:11, and various notices of this occur in later Scriptures; e.g. 1 Samuel 20:5; 2 Kings 4:23; Hosea 2:11; Colossians 2:16. These greedy sinners kept the festivals, indeed, but they grudged the time given to them, and considered it as wasted. The sabbath. Compare the difficulties with which Nehemiah had to contend in upholding the sanctity of the sabbath (Nehemiah 10:31; Nehemiah 13:15-22). May set forth; literally, open; so Septuagint, καὶ ἀνοίξομεν θησαυρόν. The word expresses the opening of the granaries and storehouses. The ephah, by which corn was measured (see note on Micah 6:10). This they made small, and so gave lees than was paid for. The shekel. The weight by which money was weighed. This they made great, and thus gained too high a price for the quantity of corn. Coined money of determined value seems not to have been used before the return from Captivity, all payments of fixed amount previous to that period being made by weighing (comp. Genesis 23:16; Genesis 33:19; Genesis 43:21; Exodus 30:13; Isaiah 46:6). Falsifying the balances by deceit; better, as in the Revised Version, dealing falsely with balances of deceit. To increase their gains they falsified their scales or used fraudulent weights (see Leviticus 19:36). Thus they cheated the poor probably in three ways - by small measure, exorbitant price, and light weight.
That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?
Verse 6. - Buy the poor for silver (comp. Amos 2:6). The probable meaning is that they so reduced the poor marl by their exactions and injustice, that he was compelled to pay his debt by selling himself into slavery (Leviticus 25:39; Deuteronomy 15:12). For a pair of shoes. For the smallest debt they would deal in this harsh manner. The refuse; literally, that which fell through the sieve; Septuagint, Ἀπὸ παντὸς γεννήματος ἐμπορευσόμεθα, "We will trade in every kind of produce;" Vulgate, Quisquilias frumenti vendamus, "Let us sell the refuse of corn."
The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.
Verse 7. - Such crimes as these, which sap the very foundations of social life, shall meet with vengeance. The Excellency of Jacob. This is a title of God himself, as in Hosea 5:5; Hosea 7:10, where it is rendered "pride." Thus the Lord is said to swear by his holiness (Amos 4:2), by his soul (Amos 6:8; comp. 1 Samuel 15:29). So here he swears by himself, who is the Glory and Pride of Israel; as truly as he is this, he will punish. The Vulgate treats the sentence differently, Juravit in superbium Jacob, i.e. "The Lord hath sworn against the pride of Jacob," against the arrogancy with which they treat the poor, and trust in their riches, and deem themselves scours. So the Septuagint, Ὀμνύει Κύριος κατὰ τῆς ὑπερηφανίας Ἰακώβ I will never forget, so as to leave unpunished. Literally, if I forget, equivalent to a most decided denial, as Hebrews 4:8, 5, etc. "Nec mirum est, si Deus jurare dicatur; quum dormientibus dormiat et vigilantibus vigilet; hisque qui sibi thesaurizaverunt iram in die irae dicatur irasci " (St. Jerome).
Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt.
Verse 8. - Shall not the land tremble for this? "This" is the coming judgment, or the oath with which God announced it in the previous verse and the prophet asks, "Shall not the land tremble as with an earthquake when the Lord comes to judgement?" The LXX., rendering ἐπὶ τούτοις, takes the reference to be to the "works" or sins of the people (ver. 7); but the thought in these two verses is the punishment of the transgressions, not the transgressors themselves. And it shall rise up wholly as a flood (ch. 9:5). The LXX., pointing differently, renders, Καὶ ἀναβήσεται ὡς ποταμὸς συντέλεια, "And destruction shall come up as a river;" the Vulgate, Et ascendet quasi fluvius universus; it is best, however, to refer both clauses to the Nile: "Yea, it shall rise up wholly like the river" - the land shall heave and swell like the waters of the Nile at its annual rising. And it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt; better, it shall be tossed up and sink again, like the river of Egypt - a picturesque comparison, which would allude to a phenomenon well known to the Israelites. It is as though the whole earth were turned into a sea, tossing and labouring under a tempestuous wind (comp. Isaiah 24:4).
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day:
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.
And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.
Verse 10. - I will turn your feasts into mourning, etc. (comp. ver. 3: Amos 5:16, 17; Lamentations 5:15; Hosea 2:11; Tobit 2:6). Sackcloth. A token of mourning (1 Kings 20:31; Isaiah 15:3; Joel 1:8, 13). Baldness. On shaving the head as a sign of mourning, see note on Micah 1:16; and comp. Job 1:20; Isaiah 3:24; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 47:5; Ezekiel 7:18). I will make it; Ponam eam (Vulgate); sc. terram. But it is better to take it to refer to the whole state of things mentioned before. The mourning for an only son was proverbially severe, like that of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:12, etc.; comp. Jeremiah 6:26; Zechariah 12:10). And the end thereof as a bitter day. The calamity should not wear itself out; it should be bitter unto the end. Septuagint, Θήσομαι... τοὺς μέτ αὐτοῦ ὡς ἡμέραν ὀδύνης, "I will make... those with him as a day of anguish."
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, 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 the LORD:
Verse 11. - This shall be the bitterness at the end; they had rejected the warnings of the prophets (Amos 7:12, etc.); now the Word of God and the light of his teaching should fail them. Famine. When the light of God's revelation is withdrawn, their longing for the Word, however sore and great, shall remain unsatisfied, like that of Saul (1 Samuel 28:6). They may grieve like the psalmist, "We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet; neither is there among us any that knoweth how long" (Psalm 74:9); but it will be in vain (see a similar punishment threatened, Lamentations 2:9; Ezekiel 7:26; Micah 3:7).
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
Verse 12. - They shall wander; literally, they shall reel. The verse implies the eagerness of their unsatisfied desire, which seeks everywhere for the revelation which for their sin is denied them. From sea to sea. This expression is taken, by Keil and others, to mean here "all the world over," as Psalm 72:8; Micah 7:12; Zechariah 9:10; but it is probably used by the prophet in a more restricted sense, as it would not be natural for him to refer in the first place to the seeking of the words of God beyond the limits of the Holy Land. Therefore "from sea to sea" means from the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean; and from the north even to the east - from the north round again to the east, the south not being mentioned, because there alone was the true worship of God to be found, and they refused to seek it there (Pusey). Of course, according to the wide scope taken by prophecy, which is not exhausted by one fulfilment, we may see here the fate of the Jews to the present time hopelessly seeking Messiah and the Word of God, never finding that which they once recklessly rejected. By some error the LXX. render, Σαλευθήσονται ὕδατα ἀπὸ τῆς θαλάσσης κ.τ.λ., unless they mean, "They shall be tossed as waters," etc.
In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.
Verse 13. - This verse is parallel to the preceding. The thirst, spiritual and physical, shall affect the fair virgins and young men - those in all the freshness, beauty, and vigour of youth. Shall faint; literally, shall be veiled, covered, expressive of the feeling of faintness, when the sight grows dim and a mantle of darkness drops over one (Jonah 4:8). If the strongest thus fail, much more will the rest succumb to the threatened calamity.
They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.
Verse 14. - They who trusted in idols shall find no help in them. They who swear by. Those who reverence and worship, as Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20. The sin of Samaria. The golden calf at Bethel (comp. Deuteronomy 9:21; Hosea 8:5, 6). Septuagint, κατὰ τοῦ ἱλασμοῦ Σαμαρείας, "by the propitiation of Samaria." Thy god, O Dan, liveth; i.e. as thy god liveth, by the life of thy god. This was the other calf erected at Dan, near the source of the Jordan, in the extreme north (1 Kings 12:29). The manner of Beersheba liveth; Septuagint, Ζῆ ὁ θεός σου βηρσαβεέ, "Thy god, O Beersheba, lives." Some commentators, ancient and modern, think that the actual road which led to Beersheba is here meant, and would translate, "As the way to Beersheba liveth," "By the life of the way to Beersheba," as Mohammedans swear by the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it is best to take the word rendered "manner" in the sense of "way," as ὁδὸς is used in Acts (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9, 23) for mode of worship, or form of religion, the ritual, or use of the service there. (For Beersheba, see note on Amos 5:5.) From Dan to Beersheba is just a hundred and forty-four miles. They shall fall, etc. This was partially fulfilled by the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and the deportation of its inhabitants; and its truth to this day is demonstrated by the fate of the Jews who will not receive Jesus as the promised Messiah.

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