For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

8:1.  “Thus hath the Lord God showed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit”

8:2.  “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.”

The summer fruit was gathered at the end of the harvest, and the truth being presented is that which is explicitly stated in the words of another prophet whom God had sent to warn Israel, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved,” Jer 8:20. 

Another characteristic of summer fruit was that it was ripe, and on the verge of spoiling, so that God was presenting Amos with yet another graphic picture of Israel.  Because she had exhausted His patience, He  was about to cast her away as one would rotten fruit.  He was about to destroy her.  Countless times in the past He had “passed by them,” that is, had pardoned their sin and withheld punishment; but His mercy, instead of producing repentance, had instead begotten insensitivity to sin, and mockery of Him.  The apostate nation had ignored all the warnings of the prophets, as summed up in the words of Ge 6:3, “My spirit shall not always strive with man....” and of Pr 29:1, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”  Israel had left God with no alternative but to destroy her, as does everyone who rejects the salvation procured at such cost at Calvary.

8:3.  “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.”

The true temple was in Jerusalem, the edifices erected at such centers as Bethel, being merely palace-like structures which accommodated the idolatrous rituals that passed for worship in Israel.  Singing and instrumental music played a prominent part in that ritual, but both were about to cease.  The singing of the choirs was to be turned to wailing for the dead, the number of which would become so great that even the customary wailing would cease, and the bodies would be unceremoniously cast away unburied, like rotten fruit.

8:4.  “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,”

8:5.  “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 of deceit?”

In their greedy grasping for money they cared nothing about the methods they employed.  Whether by bribing venal judges to render unjust decisions against the poor, charging exorbitant prices for the necessities of life, using false balances, or selling adulterated and inferior products, they ground the poor into the dust.

The hypocrisy of their religious activities is betrayed in their begrudging the time they were required to take from business to observe the sabbath, and the monthly feast of the new moon, etc.  And the crookedness of their business methods is announced in God’s having recorded that not only had they failed to follow the NT principle set forth in Lk 6:38, giving “good measure, pressed down, and running over,” but they hadn’t even met the legal requirement recorded in Dt 25:13-16, “Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.  Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small.  But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land.... For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

No great spiritual insight is needed to see that this is exactly the character of Christendom today.  Less than a generation ago business places were closed on the Lord’s day, but now it has become just the same as the other days of the week.  A little quick visit to “church” is considered adequate to fulfill one’s “religious” obligation - and as early as possible in the day so that there is more time for business and pleasure.  Note for example, that virtually all Roman Catholic “churches” now have Saturday afternoon or evening “mass” so that all of the Lord’s day is “free” for business and fun.  Also less than a generation ago every “church” had a Lord’s day evening “service,” but now that is the very rare exception rather than the rule.

And what has society profited by this new found “freedom”? Nothing!  With God’s day of rest ignored the frazzled multitudes have become victims of proliferating physical and mental disorders, while abandonment of the Divine order is tearing society apart.

In response to the anticipated objection that sabbath keeping was a requirement of the law, and that we are no longer “under the law, but under grace,” Ro 6:14, I would point out that God’s appointment of the sabbath predated the giving of the Law.  He instituted it in Ge 2:2-3 when He had completed refurbishing the earth, and Himself set the example by resting on that day.  Relative to this present age of grace it is to be noted that the divinely designated day of rest is the first day of the week (Sunday), rather than as under the Law, the seventh day, Saturday.

8:6.  “That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?”

Their grasping greed didn’t stop at dishonest business practices: for a debt as small as a piece of silver, or the price of a pair of sandals, they would make a slave of the poor debtor, and thus enrich themselves by his compelled service.  This cruel buying was matched also by equally cruel selling: to the poor they sold moldy wheat that no one else would buy, because the poor man’s poverty left him no alternative but to buy the inferior product.

8:7.  “The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works.”

The Amplified translation of this verse is, “The Lord has sworn by [Himself Who is] the glory and pride of Jacob...”  Jacob here, of course, being Israel, the propriety of the synonym being related to the character of Jacob before his conversion when his name was changed to Israel.  As Jacob, he represents the flesh, and the Israel to whom Amos had been sent was marked completely by the sinful activity of the flesh.  There was no excellency connected with Jacob any more than there is with the deeds of the flesh.  The excellency was God’s, and it became Jacob’s only when he ceased to be Jacob and became Israel.  The same principle applies to believers.  Prior to being saved we had no excellency, but at the moment of conversion the excellency of Christ was imputed to us.

That same Lord of excellent majesty and greatness took note of all that was done in Israel, and He was about to requite it as it deserved.  He was about to destroy them, using the Assyrian as His implement.  He also takes note of all that is done in Christendom today, and is also about to destroy the whole iniquitous system by means of the terrible impending Tribulation judgments.

We too who are believers, ought to remember that He also takes note of all we do, and will bestow an appropriate recompense on that soon coming day when we stand before Him at the Bema to render an account of the things done here while in the body.  A cause for eternal thanksgiving is that all our wrongdoing has already been judged, the Lord Himself having borne that judgment at Calvary, leaving for His appraisal at the Bema only the good we have done, His recompense being the bestowal of a reward beyond our ability to grasp with finite minds, as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him,” 1 Cor 2:9.

8:8.  “Shall not the land tremble for this, and everyone 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.”

The coming judgment will cause trembling and mourning throughout the land.  It will come like the violent overflowing of the Nile in flood time, and will sweep multitudes down to death, and the remainder into captivity in Assyria.

The last three words of this verse are also translated as “the river of Egypt,” and in this connection it is to be noted that “the Nile” and “the river of Egypt” are not always synonymous, the latter name referring, not to the Nile, but to the very much smaller stream marking Israel’s southern boundary, and flowing into the sea out of the desert north of Egypt.  It may be therefore that the picture being presented here is of Israel, under God’s judgment, being like the Nile in flood time, tossed and agitated by reason of the Assyrian invasion, but then drastically reduced in number by reason of the slaughter, becoming, in the land of their conqueror, like the little river of Egypt, rather than the Nile.

Some understand the trembling of the land to be the literal shaking of the ground caused by earthquakes.

8:9.  “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:”

This clearly goes beyond anything that occurred during either the Assyrian invasion or the Diaspora of AD70, and points to what will be in the now imminent Tribulation, see Joel 2:2,10,31; 3:14-15; Am 5:18,20; Zep 1:14-15; Mt 24:29; Mk 13:24; Lk 21:25; Re 8:12.

8:10.  “And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring 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.”

The appointed feasts, which God had intended to be times of rejoicing, would be remembered with bitter mourning as they languished in captivity; and the songs of rejoicing which had accompanied the keeping of those feasts, would be exchanged for dirges.

The festive garments worn during those celebrations would be exchanged for sackcloth, and their heads, instead of being anointed with oil, would be shaved as a sign of sorrow, even though God had forbidden such shaving, see Dt 14:1.  Nor would the bitter mourning that normally accompanied the death of an only son even begin to compare with the sorrow that would be theirs as slaves of the Assyrians.  Their captivity would be a time of bitter despair, for there would be no hope of deliverance, God’s sentence being that they perish in that alien land.

There is particular propriety in the mourning being similar to that for an only son, for such a death was the equivalent of the cutting off of the line of the bereaved.  The generation addressed by Amos was to suffer that bitter experience: they were about to be cut off.

Equally bitter will be the eternal remorse of those who are carried by death down to the torment of hell.

8:11.  “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:”

In the land of their captivity God’s voice would not be heard.  What bitter remorse was to be theirs who had refused to listen to that voice when in their own land which He had given them!  Terrible irony!  He Whose voice they had refused to hear, would then refuse to speak.  And so will it be with all who suddenly find themselves cut off for ever from the sound of that voice which on earth had repeatedly warned them of the need to repent and be saved, but which they will never hear again save as it thunders the final terrible command following the judgment of the great white throne, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” Mt 25:41.

This threat was literally fulfilled in what are commonly referred to as the four hundred silent years, that is the long period between the ministry of Malachi, and that of the Lord Himself.

8:12.  “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.”

“... from sea to sea” is taken by some to be from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea; and “north even to the east,” to be from Dan to Beersheba, meaning that they would wander throughout the length and breadth of the land seeking a word from God, but in vain.

Since, however, they will have been carried out of the land, it seems more likely that the reference here also goes beyond the Assyrian captivity, and describes the lot of Israel following the Diaspora of AD70, which scattered them amongst the nations.  For the past two thousand years they have literally wandered across the earth from sea to sea; and while the “north even to the east” may also be literally descriptive of their wanderings, it is possible that it may also have a spiritual significance, for the north is the direction that speaks of human wisdom; and the east, of departure from God, in which case the truth being declared then is that they have sought, in vain, to know God by the process of natural reasoning, and have as a result wandered farther and farther away from Him.

It might have been expected that “from the north even to the east” would have been “from the north even to the south,” but it isn’t, and the mention of the east rather than the south is ominously significant, for the east is the biblical direction that speaks of sin and departure from God, while the south is always associated with faith.  Language couldn’t be clearer.  Faith was the essential thing missing in Israel, for without faith it is impossible to know God.

In addition to that spiritual lesson, however, another truth being declared is that southward lay Jerusalem, the city that was synonymous with the presence of God, and sinful Israel didn’t want to hear His word.

And as with Israel, so with Christendom, for who will deny that men today, attempting to understand God by means of human wisdom, have wandered farther and farther away from Him, attributing His creationary work to evolution; assigning His Word to the realm of mythology; denying the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; rejecting the existence of hell; and denying the need of salvation.  That false wisdom has led men into a fanciful world of ever expanding frontiers, which gives liberty to lust, but from which they will plunge to eternal destruction, to bewail eternally the folly that impelled them to mock faith, and enthrone human wisdom.

8:13.  “In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst.”

From the misery of captivity, Israel would watch her young people dying from lack of spiritual drink, the living water which is available only to faith, that thirst of death being the result of the parents’ refusal to teach their children the knowledge of God.

The sad truth is that the youth of this present evil generation of Christendom are dying from the same spiritual thirst, and for the same reason.  Professedly Christian parents have failed to teach their children the knowledge of God; and in their frenzied pursuit of the things of this world, have been indifferent to the fact that now His name may not be mentioned in our schools, nor His Word read there, nor He addressed in prayer!  And with the knowledge of God expelled from our schools, the void is filled with the puerile, unscientific theory of evolution (which true scientists utterly reject), is taught as fact!

How true and far reaching were the words of the prophet, and how accurate the comment that the history of Israel is but the symbolic prewritten history of the world!

8:14.  “They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beer-sheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.”

“... to swear by” means simply “to worship,” i.e., Israel’s idolatrous worship was offered at the shrines located in Samaria, Dan, Beer-sheba, and other places scattered throughout the land.

Taylor has translated this verse, “And those who worship the idols of Samaria, Dan, and Beersheba shall fall and never rise again.”

Some other translations, e.g., the Amplified and NEB, mention Ashimah as being the goddess of Samaria, she being mentioned in 2 Ki 17:30 as the goddess worshiped by the men of Hamath.  Relative to this Dr Tatford has written, “It has, however, been suggested that he referred to the goddess Ashimah, who was worshiped at Hamath (2 Ki 17:30) and possibly elsewhere.  The Elephantine papyri of Egypt of a couple of centuries later designate her as Asham-Bethel and it is known that she was worshiped by the Jewish colony at Elephantine.  On the other hand the reference may have been to the Canaanite goddess Ashera.”

Relative to their swearing “by the sin of Samaria, the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown commentary makes the following interesting comment, “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!’”

In essence, the truth being declared is that all who know not God will perish.  But how is He to be known?  By a process so simple that even a child can understand it, yet it is that very simplicity which has induced many to reject it.  Such is the perversity of human nature that man considers worthless any method of salvation that doesn’t require him to do some “good work.”  But God’s simple, soul-saving way is this: I must be willing (1) to admit that I am a sinner without one shred of righteousness, (2) to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ loved me enough to die in my guilty place, for my sins, and (3) to believe that in response to that faith, God pardons all my sin, and will receive me into heaven.  He who will not be saved by this simple formula, will never be saved, but will instead have to endure the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire, Re 20:11-15.

[Amos 9]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough