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By a basket of summer fruit is shewed the propinquity of Israel's end. Oppression is reproved. A famine of the word threatened.
Before Christ 787.
Amos 8:1. A basket of summer fruit— Of autumnal fruit; or, "Of the last season of the year." Houbigant; and so in the next verse, where, instead of the end, he reads the last end, keeping up the allusion, and the expressive play of the words קצ keits, and קיצ kaiits, in the original: whereby is signified, that as, after the autumnal fruits, no others are produced from the earth, or gathered from the tree; so it shall come to pass that the kingdom of Israel shall no more produce any fruit, nor re-flourish in the following years. After Jeroboam the second all things became worse and worse, till the kingdom of Israel was totally destroyed. See Jeremiah 24:0.
Amos 8:3. And the songs of the temple— And the singers of the palace shall howl, &c. Houbigant. As Amos prophesies against Israel, not against Judah, the temple cannot be meant here. See Amo 8:8-9 of the preceding chapter.
Amos 8:4. O ye that swallow up the needy— Ye that tread down the poor, and oppress the meek of the land. Houbigant.
Amos 8:5. The new moon, &c.— Of that month wherein the fruits of the year were used first to be sold. By the sabbath the Chaldee understands the sabbatical year; for, as Grotius observes, that year being past, they who had not money enough to provide for themselves before the year, were compelled to buy the necessaries of life at a very high price from those who had laid up stores.
Amos 8:7. Hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob— Or, "By those benefits by which he had conferred honour and distinguished privileges upon Jacob and his posterity." In this place excellency is taken in a good sense; as if the Lord had said, "As I have caused the sons of Jacob to abound with glory and honour, so will I not forget their crimes."
Amos 8:8. And shall rise up, &c.— And destruction shall rise up like a flood; and it shall be dissolved and drowned as by the river of Egypt. The prophet here refers to the great earthquake, whereof he spoke at the beginning of this book.
Amos 8:9-10. And it shall come to pass, &c.— Times of calamity are frequently expressed by the failing of the light of the sun, and the day's being overspread with darkness. Archbishop Usher has observed, that about eleven years after the time when Amos prophesied, there were two great eclipses of the sun; one at the feast of tabernacles, the other some time before the passover; so that the text may probably be understood of that darkness, used here to typify the dreadful calamities of Israel. We have heretofore observed, that the eastern poets use a variety of expressions very similar to those of the sacred writers. See Ezekiel 20:47. Aboul-Farrage Sangiari, a Persian who lived at the time of the irruption of the Tartars under Genghiz-Khan, gives this description of those miserable days: "It was a time in which the sun arose in the West; every kind of joy was then banished from the world, and men appeared to be made for no other end but suffering. In all countries through which I have passed, I either found nobody at all, or met only with distressed wretches." Just so the prophet threatens that God would make the sun go down at noon, &c. The sun's going down at noon, and its rising in the West, are different expressions, but of the same import, and serving to illustrate one another; for they both signify how extremely short their time of prosperity would be, how unexpectedly it would terminate, and for how long a time it would be succeeded by suffering, of which darkness was often made the emblem. See Observations, p. 322.
Amos 8:11. I will send a famine— The prophet here foretels that it should come to pass, that when they were suffering by famine they should inquire for prophets from whom they might hear the word of God; but that no prophets should be found; or if there were any, they should have nothing to deliver them from God, who, during their calamity, would keep a profound silence. See Houbigant.
Amos 8:12. They shall wander from sea to sea, &c.— From the west to the south. Houbigant.
Amos 8:14. They that swear by the sin of Samaria— The calf set up at Beth-el by Jeroboam. Instead of, The manner of Beer-sheba, Houbigant reads very properly, Thy god, O Beer-sheba! Compare chap. Amos 5:5.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The prophet is called upon to attend to another vision, and, lo! a basket of summer fruit stood before him, an emblem of that people ripe for destruction, and ready to be devoured by their enemies.
1. Their end is come: they have been suffered, like fruit, to grow till they were fully ripe, and now are to be spared no longer: God's patience is wearied out, and their ruin determined. Though God bears long, the impenitent sinners' fate will come at last.
2. Their ruin will be terrible. The songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God; the places where their idols' praises resounded, now shall be filled with shrieks and groans; and there shall be many dead bodies in every place, slain by the sword, the famine, or the pestilence: they shall cast them forth with silence; without any funeral solemnity, or expression of grief, as if the dead were happier than the living; or sullenly submitting, because they cannot help themselves; or bidding others be silent, and not take the least notice of what might dishearten the besieged, or encourage their enemies. Note; (1.) Sinful mirth will end in bitter mourning. (2.) God's judgments do often but harden the hearts of the impenitent.
2nd, A people whose iniquities were so flagrant may expect the judgment that they have provoked.
1. Their sins were heinous. They swallow up the needy by oppression and iniquity; even to make the poor of the land to fail, starving them for want of necessary food. So addicted were they to covetousness, that, though they kept up the form of religion, they were tired and weary of the service, longing for the sacred hours of the sabbath and new moons to be gone, that they might resume their work and merchandise, which met with this unwelcome interruption; nor did they make any conscience how they got their wealth, so they did but get it. They sold by a small measure, making the ephah small; but, when they received money, they would use their own weights, making the shekel great, refusing to take it unless it weighed more than it ought; and falsified the balances by deceit, that so the scale might always hang in their favour: and by such fraudulent practices they so impoverished their poor neighbours, that they were forced to sell themselves to these oppressive masters; they buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, to such necessities were they reduced: yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat; making them take the corn which was not fit for bread, and exacting their own price for it. Note; (1.) Covetousness is destitute of all bowels and mercies. (2.) To a worldly man the sabbath is an irksome day; and, when he is employed in religious duties, his heart goeth after his covetousness; and even on his knees the thoughts of business thrust out the thoughts of God. (3.) He who is destitute of true piety can never be an honest man.
2. Their ruin is sure and terrible, confirmed by the oath of God, who saith, Surely I will never forget any of their works, but remember them in terrible judgment: they shewed no mercy, and they shall find none. And woe to the miserable sinner who is under such a curse! Shall not the land tremble for this? as weary to bear such miscreants upon it, and ready to swallow them up by an earthquake; see chap. Amos 1:1.; and every one mourn that dwelleth therein, shocked at this inhumanity, or confounded at the judgments sent upon the transgressors? It shall rise up wholly as a flood, the calamity overwhelming the land, as Egypt was covered with the overflowing of the Nile. 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; in the midst of their prosperity their whole kingdom, with the princes and nobles, shall be destroyed suddenly and unexpectedly: or when these oppressors were in the midst of life and prosperity, death should at a stroke close their eyes in darkness, and send them to the grave. And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; when, their temples destroyed, their country desolate, themselves captives, every sound of joy would be banished, and with every expressive sign of bitter woe they would bewail their hopeless miseries, as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day, no prospect remaining of the removal of these calamities. Note; (1.) Riches got by rapine will in the end bring ruin. (2.) They who will not tremble for the sins of the land shall be made to tremble when the threatened judgment comes. (3.) However high the oppressor may be seated, the flood of God's wrath shall overwhelm him. (4.) The sinner's mirth will end in mourning; and God sometimes is pleased to arrest him in the midst of his career of prosperity, and by a sudden stroke to send him into darkness.
3rdly, We have had already heavy temporal judgments denounced; but we have also,
1. A spiritual judgment threatened; a famine not of bread nor of water, but of hearing the words of the Lord; from the time of their last captivity, no more prophets shall appear to them; having rejected God and his Christ, in vain will they seek for prophets of their own, and pine away in their iniquities, rejected and destitute, as they are this day. Note; (1.) The word of God is the food of immortal souls. (2.) They who have abused the means of grace that they have enjoyed, are justly punished by having them removed. (3.) Among the heaviest curses of God upon a place or nation, is the taking from them the light of truth, and abandoning them to the blindness and hardness of their own hearts:
2. The ringleaders in idolatry are doomed to destruction. They that swear by the sin of Samaria, impious and profane, glorying in their shame, and swearing by their idols which they should have detested, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth, and the manner of Beer-sheba liveth; making their adjurations by the hated deities there placed, and the worship performed to them; even they shall fall, and never rise up again; driven into a captivity from which they never have returned.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Amos 8". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent