The near approach of the ruin of Israel. (1-3) Oppression reproved. (4-10) A famine of the word of God. (11-14)
Verses 1-3 Amos saw a basket of summer fruit gathered, and ready to be eaten; which signified, that the people were ripe for destruction, that the year of God's patience was drawing towards a conclusion. Such summer fruits will not keep till winter, but must be used at once. Yet these judgments shall not draw from them any acknowledgement, either of God's righteousness or their own unrighteousness. Sinners put off repentance from day to day, because they think the Lord thus delays his judgments.
Verses 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!
Verses 11-14 Here was a token of God's highest displeasure. At any time, and most in a time of trouble, a famine of the word of God is the heaviest judgment. To many this is no affliction, yet some will feel it very much, and will travel far to hear a good sermon; they feel the loss of the mercies others foolishly sin away. But when God visits a backsliding church, their own plans and endeavours to find out a way of salvation, will stand them in no stead. And the most amiable and zealous would perish, for want of the water of life, which Christ only can bestow. Let us value our advantages, seek to profit by them, and fear sinning them away.
Amos 8:1-14 . VISION OF A BASKET OF SUMMER FRUIT SYMBOLICAL OF ISRAEL'S END. RESUMING THE SERIES OF SYMBOLS INTERRUPTED BY AMAZIAH, AMOS ADDS A FOURTH. THE AVARICE OF THE OPPRESSORS OF THE POOR: THE OVERTHROW OF THE NATION: THE WISH FOR THE MEANS OF RELIGIOUS COUNSEL, WHEN THERE SHALL BE A FAMINE OF THE WORD.
1. summer fruit--Hebrew, kitz. In Amos 8:2 "end" is in Hebrew, keetz. The similarity of sounds implies that, as the summer is the end of the year and the time of the ripeness of fruits, so Israel is ripe for her last punishment, ending her national existence. As the fruit is plucked when ripe from the tree, so Israel from her land.
2. end--( Ezekiel 7:2 Ezekiel 7:6 ).
3. songs of . . . temple--( Amos 5:23 ). The joyous hymns in the temple of Judah (or rather, in the Beth-el "royal temple," Amos 7:13 ; for the allusion is to Israel, not Judah, throughout this chapter) shall be changed into "howlings." GROTIUS translates, "palace"; compare Amos 6:5 , as to the songs there. But Amos 5:23 , and Amos 7:13 , favor English Version.
they shall cast them forth with silence--not as the Margin, "be silent." It is an adverb, "silently." There shall be such great slaughter as even to prevent the bodies being buried [CALVIN]. There shall be none of the usual professional mourners ( Amos 5:16 ), but the bodies will be cast out in silence. Perhaps also is meant that terror, both of God (compare Amos 6:10 ) and of the foe, shall close their lips.
4. Hear--The nobles needed to be urged thus, as hating to hear reproof.
swallow up the needy--or, "gape after," that is, pant for their goods; so the word is used, Job 7:2 , Margin.
to make the poor . . . to fail--"that they (themselves) may be placed alone in the midst of the earth" ( Isaiah 5:8 ).
5. So greedy are they of unjust gain that they cannot spare a single day, however sacred, from pursuing it. They are strangers to God and enemies to themselves, who love market days better than sabbath days; and they who have lost piety will not long keep honesty. The new-2moons ( Numbers 10:10 ) and sabbaths were to be kept without working or trading ( Nehemiah 10:31 ).
set forth wheat--literally, "open out" stores of wheat for sale.
ephah--containing three seahs, or above three pecks.
making . . . small--making it below the just weight to purchasers.
shekel great--taking from purchasers a greater weight of money than was due. Shekels used to be weighed out in payments ( Genesis 23:16 ). Thus they committed a double fraud against the law ( Deuteronomy 25:13 Deuteronomy 25:14 ).
6. buy . . . poor for silver . . . pair of shoes--that is, that we may compel the needy for money, or any other thing of however little worth, to sell themselves to us as bondmen, in defiance of Leviticus 25:39 ; the very thing which brings down God's judgment ( Amos 2:6 ).
sell the refuse of . . . wheat--which contains no nutriment, but which the poor eat at a low price, being unable to pay for flour.
7. Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob--that is by Himself, in whom Jacob's seed glory [MAURER]. Rather, by the spiritual privileges of Israel, the adoption as His peculiar people [CALVIN], the temple, and its Shekinah symbol of His presence. Compare Amos 6:8 , where it means Jehovah's temple (compare Amos 4:2 ).
never forget--not pass by without punishing ( Amos 8:2 , Hosea 8:13 , 9:9 ).
8. the land . . . rise up wholly as a flood--The land will, as it were, be wholly turned into a flooding river (a flood being the image of overwhelming calamity, Daniel 9:26 ).
cast out and drowned, &c.--swept away and overwhelmed, as the land adjoining the Nile is by it, when flooding ( Amos 9:5 ). The Nile rises generally twenty feet. The waters then "cast out" mire and dirt ( Isaiah 57:20 ).
9. "Darkness" made to rise "at noon" is the emblem of great calamities ( Jeremiah 15:9 , Ezekiel 32:7-10 ).
10. baldness--a sign of mourning ( Isaiah 15:2 , Jeremiah 48:37 , Ezekiel 7:18 ).
I will make it as . . . mourning of an only son--"it," that is, "the earth" ( Amos 8:9 ). I will reduce the land to such a state that there shall be the same occasion for mourning as when parents mourn for an only son ( Jeremiah 6:26 , Zechariah 12:10 ).
11. famine of . . . hearing the words of the Lord--a just retribution on those who now will not hear the Lord's prophets, nay even try to drive them away, as Amaziah did ( Amos 7:12 ); they shall look in vain, in their distress, for divine counsel, such as the prophets now offer ( Ezekiel 7:26 , Micah 3:7 ). Compare as to the Jews' rejection of Messiah, and their consequent rejection by Him ( Matthew 21:43 ); and their desire for Messiah too late ( Luke 17:22 , John 7:34 , 8:21 ). So, the prodigal when he had sojourned awhile in the "far-off country, began to be in want" in the "mighty famine" which arose ( Luke 15:14 ; compare 1 Samuel 3:1 , 7:2 ). It is remarkable that the Jews' religion is almost the only one that could be abolished against the will of the people themselves, on account of its being dependent on a particular place, namely, the temple. When that was destroyed, the Mosaic ritual, which could not exist without it, necessarily ceased. Providence designed it, that, as the law gave way to the Gospel, so all men should perceive it was so, in spite of the Jews' obstinate rejection of the Gospel.
12. they shall wander from sea to sea--that is, from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean, from east to west.
from . . . north . . . to . . . east--where we might expect "from north to south." But so alienated was Israel from Judah, that no Israelite even then would think of repairing southward, that is, to Jerusalem for religious information. The circuit is traced as in Numbers 34:3 , &c., except that the south is omitted. Their "seeking the word of the Lord" would not be from a sincere desire to obey God, but under the pressure of punishment.
13. faint for thirst--namely, thirst for hearing the words of the Lord, being destitute of all other comfort. If even the young and strong faint, how much more the infirm ( Isaiah 40:30 Isaiah 40:31 )!
14. swear by the sin of Samaria--namely, the calves ( Deuteronomy 9:21 , Hosea 4:15 ). "Swear by" means to worship ( Psalms 63:11 ).
The manner--that is, as "the way" is used ( Psalms 139:24 , Acts 9:2 ), the mode of worship.
Thy god, O Dan--the other golden calf at Dan ( 1 Kings 22:26-30 ).
liveth . . . liveth--rather, "May thy god . . . live . . . may the manner . . . live." Or, "As (surely as) thy god, O Dan, liveth." This is their formula when they swear; not "May Jehovah live!" or, "As Jehovah liveth!"