STUDY NINE: AMOS 8:1 – 14

© Rosemary Bardsley 2021

Chapter 8 commences with a fourth vision. This is followed by a short list of accusations against Israel and a longer list of things that the Lord will do by way of judgement.

A. THE BASKET OF RIPE FRUIT – 8:1 – 3

It is a simple vision with a simple meaning given – the time is ripe for judgement because Israel is ripe for judgement, that is, for destruction. [Various Bible teachers say that there is a play on words here: ‘ripe fruit’ is kitz; the ‘end’ is ketz.] God again says that will spare them no longer; he will not pass by them any more, as he has already affirmed in the vision of the plumb line (7:8).

In explaining the vision, God mentions three things:

Songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Whether in the temples of their idols, or in the temple in Jerusalem, there will be no joyous songs of praise. Only the loud howling/yelling of great distress.

There will be terrible carnage. Many, many people will die.

People will be overwhelmed by the greatness of the judgement and destruction. As in 6:8 people will not dare to speak about what has happened. There they commanded each other ‘Hush! We must not mention the name of the LORD.’ So here people exhort each other with this one word - ‘Silence!’

Keil/Delitzsch comment: “The word is an interjection here, as in Amos 6:8, 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 Zephaniah 1:7.”

 

B. THE ACCUSATIONS AGAINST ISRAEL – 8:4 – 6

The accusations against Israel describe the people the Lord is addressing, the people he calls to ‘Hear this you who ...’.

Keil/Delitzsch comment on these verses:

“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. The persons addressed are ... those who greedily pant for the poor man, who try to swallow him. This is affirmed in the second clause of the verse ... they gape to destroy the quiet in the land....“namely by grasping all property for themselves.” (Hitzig). Amos 8: 5 & 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. ... the new moon, was a holiday on which all trade was suspended, just as it was on the Sabbath. ... 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 and by bad corn (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, 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 (see Amos 2:6)”.

Read verses 4 – 6. Find the phrases that indicate:
Mistreatment of the poor and needy

 

 

Hypocritical observance of New Moons and Sabbaths

 

Dishonest business practices

 

 

Injustice

 

 

The previous accusations of mistreatment of the poor and needy, inclusive of bribery in the courts of law (compare 2:6, 7a), are repeated and intensify. The mistreatment of the poor and needy is so intense, God now speaks of two additional, but related wicked practices.

[1] Their hypocritical observance of rest days required by the Sinai Covenant. Here again we see the syncretism that we saw earlier – an outward show of worshipping the LORD, that went hand in hand with the idolatry everywhere evident. The Sinai Covenant required both monthly (New Moon festivals) and weekly (Sabbaths) rest days, on which no labour or trading was permitted. Though lacking any heart for the Lord, they still maintained an outward demonstration of obedience to him. But all the time they were outwardly keeping to the physical rest of the Sabbaths and New Moons they were inwardly annoyed at these interruptions to their money-making businesses. They were anxious for these Sabbaths to end so they could resume their practices of ripping off the poor.

[2] Their deliberate dishonesty. They are guilty of skimping the amounts, inflating prices, using deliberately dishonest scales, and including the chaff with the grain. All of this is in direct disobedience of the covenant requirements.

Integrity has always been demanded of God’s people.

Read these verses. What does God say about integrity?
Exodus 20:15 – 16

 

Leviticus 19:35 – 36

 

Deuteronomy 25:13 – 15

 

Psalm 51:6

Proverbs 6:17, 19

 

Proverbs 16:11

Proverbs 20:10, 23

Ephesians 4:25

Ephesians 4:28

 

But here in Israel Amos brings not only the accusation of social injustice, not only accusations relating to idolatrous worship, but also accusations of deliberate, calculated dishonesty, aimed at making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

 

C. WHAT GOD WILL DO IN JUDGEMENT – Amos 8:7 – 14

God begins his statement of what he will do in judgement upon Israel by stating another oath. In 4:2 he swore by his holiness. In 6:8 he swore by himself. Now he swears ‘by the Pride of Jacob’ – 8:7.

C.1 The Pride of Jacob – 8:7
The ‘Pride of Jacob’ in verse 7 is God himself.

In 6:8 God referred to ‘the pride of Jacob’ as something that he abhorred – their self-confidence, their presumptuous sense of immunity from God’s judgement, the self-deceit associated with their syncretistic worship.

But now God swears by ‘the Pride of Jacob’ – he himself, their King, clothed in majesty. He is the One who had given them existence and identity. He is the One who, had they remained faithful to him, would have been their eternal source of all that is excellent, all that is praiseworthy, all that is glorious. In rejecting him they rejected the One who would otherwise have been their glory. Had they remained faithful to him, their association with him would have endowed them with glory, a glory derived from the glory of him who is their God and King.

Study these verses. What do they teach about God being the glory of his people?
Psalm 3:3

Psalm 8:5

Psalm 62:5 – 7

Psalm 89:17

Psalm 106:20

Isaiah 28:5

Isaiah 43:7

Isaiah 60:1, 2, 19

Jeremiah 2:11

Colossians 1:27

Hebrews 2:10

 

C.2 I will never forget anything they have done ... 8:7
For those who turn to God in repentance and faith there is full and free forgiveness. This is true both in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Check these verses. What do they teach about God’s forgiveness?
Exodus 34:6, 7a

 

Psalm 32:1, 2

Psalm 103:8 – 12

 

Psalm 130:1 – 4

 

Isaiah 43:25

Micah 7:18, 19

 

Ephesians 1:7, 8

 

1John 1:8 – 10


But when there is no repentance – no acknowledgement of either God or of sin, then there is also no forgiveness. Instead of God’s gracious forgiveness there is God’s justice. And just as no sin is omitted from his forgiveness, so also no sin is omitted from his judgement. He remembers them all. The delay in judgement does not indicate that God has not seen the sins; it does not indicate that God has overlooked the sins; it does not mean that God has forgotten the sins.

What evidence is there of this in these verses?
Psalm 90:7, 8

Jeremiah 14:10

Matthew 12:36, 37

Luke 11:47 – 51

Revelation 18:24

Revelation 19:2

Revelation 20:12, 13

 

C.3 The impending judgements – 8:8 – 14
The judgements, when they come, will be extensive and severe.

What do you learn about the judgements in these verses:
Verse 8:

 

Verse 9:

Verse 10:

 

 

Verses 11 – 12:

 

Verses 13 – 14:

 

Now answer these questions:
Which of these judgements relate to the Israelites’ false worship?

 

What do you consider is the worst of the impending disasters? Explain your answer.

 

 

Notes:
[1] Did you notice in verse 14 that God refers to ‘They who swear by the shame of Samaria’? This is in stark contrast to verse 7, where God swears ‘by the Pride of Jacob’, which we saw above was God himself. The ‘shame of Samaria’ is a reference to the false gods and false worship embraced by Israel. Notice the contrast between ‘Pride’ and ‘Shame’. They have exchanged the God who would have been their glory, for gods who bring them only shame.

Similarly the two other oaths in verse 14 – one in the name of the ‘god’ of Dan, and the other in the name of the ‘god’ of Beersheba. Notice that these two oaths refers to these ‘gods’ as living – ‘as surely as your god lives’, ‘as surely as the god of Beersheba lives’. These oaths are evidence of Israel’s ignorance of God, the living God, who alone is God. They have exchanged the only living, creator God for gods made by human hands, gods that have no power to help or to save. In saying that these ‘gods’ live they are totally deluded and deceived.

[2] The famine of hearing the word of the LORD. Surely this is the worst of God’s judgements – to not hear the word of God, to search for God’s word, but never find it.

[Have you remembered that (1) that in 2:4 God accuses Judah of rejecting the law of the LORD, and (2) in 2:11 & 12 God accuses the people of having commanded the prophets (whom God had raised up) not to prophesy? They rejected God’s word ... now he withholds his word from them.]

Study these verses. What do they say about this failure to hear/find the word of God?
1Samuel 28:6, 15

Isaiah 6:8 – 12

 

Ezekiel 7:26

Micah 3:4 – 7

 

Matthew 13:10 – 15

 

Romans 1:24, 26, 28 (in the context of 1:18 – 32)

 

With the above verses in mind, think about these questions:
Is there a famine of hearing the word of God because God withholds his word, or is it because the people do not recognize the word of God when they physically hear it? Or could both of these be true at different times?

 

 

What connection is there between failure to hear/find the word of God and the wrong beliefs about God that direct and limit a person’s thoughts and understanding?

 

In the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13, what are the four responses to the word of God? Was the word of God not spoken, or was it spoken, but not really heard for various reasons?

 

 

How is fact of God withholding his word the ultimate expression of his preliminary judgements?

 

 

REFLECTION
What have you learned about God from this study – who he is and what he does?

 

 

What have you learned about the right human response to God?

 

 

What have you learned about the wrong human response to God?

 

 

What have you learned about right and wrong treatment of your fellow humans?

 

 

What is your personal response to the word of God?

 

 

What difference would the removal of God’s word make to your life?

 

 

What relevance does this chapter have for your church and your country today?