Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Ripeness of Israel for Judgment - Amo 8:1-14
Under the symbol of a basket filled with ripe fruit, the Lord shows the prophet that Israel is ripe for judgment (Amo 8:1-3); whereupon Amos, explaining the meaning of this vision, announces to the unrighteous magnates of the nation the changing of their joyful feasts into days of mourning, as the punishment from God for their unrighteousness (Amo 8:4-10), and sets before them a time when those who now despise the word of God will sigh in vain in their extremity for a word of the Lord (Amo 8:11-14).
Vision of a Basket of Ripe Fruit. - Amo 8:1. "Thus did the Lord Jehovah show me: and behold a basket with ripe fruit. Amo 8:2. And He said, What seest thou, Amos? And I said, A basket of ripe fruit. Then Jehovah said to me, The end is come to my people Israel; I will not pass by them any more. Amo 8:3. And the songs of the palace will yell in that day, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah: corpses in multitude; in every place hath He cast them forth: Hush!" כּלוּב from כּלך, to lay hold of, to grasp, lit., a receiver, here a basket (of basket-work), in Jer 5:27 a bird-cage. קיץ: summer-fruit (see at Sa2 16:1); in Isa 16:9; Isa 28:4, the gathering of fruit, hence ripe fruit. The basket of ripe fruit (qayits) is thus explained by the Lord: the end (qēts) is come to my people (cf. Eze 7:6). Consequently the basket of ripe fruit is a figurative representation of the nation that is now ripe for judgment, although qēts, the end, does not denote its ripeness for judgment, but its destruction, and the word qēts is simply chosen to form a paronomasia with qayits. לא אוסיף וגו as in Amo 7:8. All the joy shall be turned into mourning. the thought is not that the temple-singing to the praise of God (Amo 5:23) would be turned into yelling, but that the songs of joy (Amo 6:5; Sa2 19:36) would be turned into yells, i.e., into sounds of lamentation (cf. Amo 8:10 and 1 Maccabees 9:41), namely, because of the multitude of the dead which lay upon the ground on every side. השׁליך is not impersonal, in the sense of "which men are no longer able to bury on account of their great number, and therefore cast away in quiet places on every side;" but Jehovah is to be regarded as the subject, viz., which God has laid prostrate, or cast to the ground on every side. For the adverbial use of הס cannot be established. The word is an interjection here, as in Amo 6:10; and the exclamation, Hush! is not a sign of gloomy despair, but an admonition to bow beneath the overwhelming severity of the judgment of God, as in Zep 1:7 (cf. Hab 2:20 and Zac 2:13).
To this vision the prophet attaches the last admonition to the rich and powerful men of the nation, to observe the threatening of the Lord before it is too late, impressing upon them the terrible severity of the judgment. Amo 8:4. "Hear this, ye that gape for the poor, and to destroy the meek of the earth, Amo 8:5. Saying, When is the new moon over, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may open wheat, to make the ephah small, and the shekel great, and to falsify the scale of deceit? Amo 8:6. To buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, and the refuse of the corn will we sell." The persons addressed are the השּׁאפים אביון, i.e., not those who snort at the poor man, to frighten him away from any further pursuit of his rights (Baur), but, according to Amo 2:6-7, those who greedily pant for the poor man, who try to swallow him (Hitzig). This is affirmed in the second clause of the verse, in which שׁאפים is to be repeated in thought before להשׁבּית: they gape to destroy the quiet in the land (ענוי־ארץ = ענוים, in Amo 2:7), "namely by grasping all property for themselves, Job 22:8; Isa 5:8" (Hitzig). Amo 8:5 and Amo 8:6 show how they expect to accomplish their purpose. Like covetous usurers, they cannot even wait for the end of the feast-days to pursue their trade still further. Chōdēsh, the new moon, was a holiday on which all trade was suspended, just as it was on the Sabbath (see at Num 28:11 and Kg2 4:23). השׁבּיר שׁבר, to sell corn, as in Gen 41:57. פּתח בּר, to open up corn, i.e., to open the granaries (cf. Gen 41:56). In doing so, they wanted to cheat the poor by small measure (ephah), and by making the shekel great, i.e., by increasing the price, which was to be weighed out to them; also by false scales (‛ivvēth, to pervert, or falsify the scale of deceit, i.e., the scale used for cheating), and by bad corn (mappal, waste or refuse); that in this way they might make the poor man so poor, that he would either be obliged to sell himself to them from want and distress (Lev 25:39), or be handed over to the creditor by the court of justice, because he was no longer able to pay for a pair of shoes, i.e., the very smallest debt (cf. Amo 2:6).
Such wickedness as this would be severely punished by the Lord. Amo 8:7. "Jehovah hath sworn by the pride of Jacob, Verily I will not forget all their deeds for ever. Amo 8:8. Shall the earth not tremble for this, and every inhabitants upon it mourn? and all of it rises like the Nile, and heaves and sinks like the Nile of Egypt." The pride of Jacob is Jehovah, as in Hos 5:5 and Hos 7:10. Jehovah swears by the pride of Jacob, as He does by His holiness in Amo 4:2, or by His soul in Amo 6:8, i.e., as He who is the pride and glory of Israel: i.e., as truly as He is so, will He and must He punish such acts as these. By overlooking such sins, or leaving them unpunished, He would deny His glory in Israel. שׁכח, to forget a sin, i.e., to leave it unpunished. In Amo 8:8 the negative question is an expression denoting strong assurance. "For this" is generally supposed to refer to the sins; but this is a mistake, as the previous verse alludes not to the sins themselves, but to the punishment of them; and the solemn oath of Jehovah does not contain so subordinate and casual a thought, that we can pass over Amo 8:7, and take על זאת as referring back to Amo 8:4-6. It rather refers to the substance of the oath, i.e., to the punishment of the sins which the Lord announces with a solemn oath. This will be so terrible that the earth will quake, and be resolved, as it were, into its primeval condition of chaos. Râgaz, to tremble, or, when applied to the earth, to quake, does not mean to shudder, or to be shocked, as Rosenmller explains it after Jer 2:12. Still less can the idea of the earth rearing and rising up in a stormy manner to cast them off, which Hitzig supports, be proved to be a biblical idea from Isa 24:20. The thought is rather that, under the weight of the judgment, the earth will quake, and all its inhabitants will be thrown into mourning, as we may clearly see from the parallel passage in Amo 9:5. In Amo 8:8 this figure is carried out still further, and the whole earth is represented as being turned into a sea, heaving and falling in a tempestuous manner, just as in the case of the flood. כּלּהּ, the totality of the earth, the entire globe, will rise, and swell and fall like waters lashed into a storm. This rising and falling of the earth is compared to the rising and sinking of the Nile. According to the Parallel passage in Amo 9:5, כּאר is a defective form for כּיאר, just as בּוּל is for יבוּל in Job 40:20, and it is still further defined by the expression כּיאור מצרים, which follows. All the ancient versions have taken it as יאור, and many of the Hebrew codd. (in Kennicott and De Rossi) have this reading. Nigrash, to be excited, a term applied to the stormy sea (Isa 57:20). נשׁקה is a softened form for נשׁקעה, as is shown by שׁקעה in Amo 9:5.
"And it will come to pass on that day, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, I cause the sun to set at noon, and make it dark to the earth in clear day. Amo 8:10. And turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation: and bring mourning clothes upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and make it like mourning for an only one, and the end thereof like a bitter day." The effect of the divine judgment upon the Israelites is depicted here. Just as the wicked overturn the moral order of the universe, so will the Lord, with His judgment, break through the order of nature, cause the sun to go down at noon, and envelope the earth in darkness in clear day. The words of the ninth verse are not founded upon the idea of an eclipse of the sun, though Michaelis and Hitzig not only assume that they are, but actually attempt to determine the time of its occurrence. An eclipse of the sun is not the setting of the sun (כּוא). But to any man the sun sets at noon, when he is suddenly snatched away by death, in the very midst of his life. And this also applies to a nation when it is suddenly destroyed in the midst of its earthly prosperity. But it has a still wider application. When the Lord shall come to judgment, at a time when the world, in its self-security, looketh not for Him (cf. Mat 24:37.), this earth's sun will set at noon, and the earth be covered with darkness in bright daylight. And every judgment that falls upon an ungodly people or kingdom, as the ages roll away, is a harbinger of the approach of the final judgment. Amo 8:10. When the judgment shall burst upon Israel, then will all the joyous feasts give way to mourning and lamentation (compare Amo 8:3 and Amo 5:16; Hos 2:13). On the shaving of a bald place as a sign of mourning, see Isa 3:24. This mourning will be very deep, like the mourning for the death of an only son (cf. Jer 6:26 and Zac 12:10). The suffix in שׂמתּיה (I make it) does not refer to אבל (mourning), but to all that has been previously mentioned as done upon that day, to their weeping and lamenting (Hitzig). אחריתהּ, the end thereof, namely, of this mourning and lamentation, will be a bitter day (כ is caph verit.; see at Joe 1:15). This implies that the judgment will not be a passing one, but will continue.
And at that time the light and comfort of the word of God will also fail them. Amo 8:11. "Behold, days come, is the saying of the Lord Jehovah, that I send a hungering into the land, not a hungering for bread nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Jehovah. Amo 8:12. And they will reel from sea to sea; and from the north, and even to the east, they sweep round to seek the word of Jehovah, and will not find it." The bitterness of the time of punishment is increased by the fact that the Lord will then withdrawn His word from them, i.e., the light of His revelation. They who will not now hear His word, as proclaimed by the prophets, will then cherish the greatest longing for it. Such hunger and thirst will be awakened by the distress and affliction that will come upon them. The intensity of this desire is depicted in Amo 8:12. They reel (נוּע as in Amo 4:8) from the sea to the sea; that is to say, not "from the Dead Sea in the east to the Mediterranean in the west," for Joe 2:20 and Zac 14:8 are not cases in point, as the two seas are defined there by distinct epithets; but as in Psa 72:8 and Zac 9:10, according to which the meaning is, from the sea to where the sea occurs again, at the other end of the world, "the sea being taken as the boundary of the earth" (Hupfeld). The other clause, "from the north even to the east," contains an abridged expression for "from north to south and from west to east," i.e., to every quarter of the globe.
"In that day will the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst. Amo 8:14. They who swear by the guilt of Samaria, and say, By the life of thy God, O Dan! and by the life of the way to Beersheba; and will fall, and not rise again." Those who now stand in all the fullest and freshest vigour of life, will succumb to this hunger and thirst. The virgins and young men are individualized, as comprising that portion of the nation which possessed the vigorous fulness of youth. עלף, to be enveloped in night, to sink into a swoon, hithp. to hide one's self, to faint away. הנּשׁבּעים refers to the young men and virgins; and inasmuch as they represent the most vigorous portion of the nation, to the nation as a whole. If the strongest succumb to the thirst, how much more the weak! 'Ashmath Shōmerōn, the guilt of Samaria, is the golden calf at Bethel, the principal idol of the kingdom of Israel, which is named after the capital Samaria (compare Deu 9:21, "the sin of Israel"), not the Asherah which was still standing in Samaria in the reign of Jehoahaz (Kg2 13:6); for apart from the question whether it was there in the time of Jeroboam, this is at variance with the second clause, in which the manner of their swearing is given, - namely, by the life of the god at Dan, that is to say, the golden calf that was there; so that the guilt of Samaria can only have been the golden calf at Bethel, the national sanctuary of the ten tribes (cf. Amo 4:4; Amo 5:5). The way to Beersheba is mentioned, instead of the worship, for the sake of which the pilgrimage to Beersheba was made. This worship, again, was not a purely heathen worship, but an idolatrous worship of Jehovah (see Amo 5:5). The fulfilment of these threats commenced with the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, and the carrying away of the ten tribes into exile in Assyria, and continues to this day in the case of that portion of the Israelitish nation which is still looking for the Messiah, the prophet promised by Moses, and looking in vain, because they will not hearken to the preaching of the gospel concerning the Messiah, who appeared as Jesus.