A. Rotting and corruption in Israel.
1. (1-3) The basket of summer fruit.
Thus the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. And He said, “Amos, what do you see?” So I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me:
“The end has come upon My people Israel;
I will not pass by them anymore.
And the songs of the temple
Shall be wailing in that day,”
Says the Lord GOD—
“Many dead bodies everywhere,
They shall be thrown out in silence.”
a. A basket of summer fruit: This was fruit that was ripe, and would not keep long. Just as the time is short for summer fruit, so the time was short for Israel.
i. In the original Hebrew, the prophet’s point was far more emphatic because he used a play on words that is difficult to communicate in English. “The overt connection between the vision and Israel’s fate was in the word-play based on the similar sounds [between summer and end]… The point of this vision, then, is the finality of judgment.” (Hubbard)
ii. “So when Amos replies to the Lord that he sees a basket of ripe qayis, God replied ‘Qes!’ An end is to come upon Israel.” (Boice)
b. The end has come upon My people Israel.… many dead bodies everywhere, they shall be thrown out in silence: Ripe fruit is close to being thrown out, and a similar judgment will come upon rotten Israel.
2. (4-6) Dishonesty and cheating the poor in Israel.
Hear this, you who swallow up the needy,
And make the poor of the land fail,
“When will the New Moon be past,
That we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
That we may trade wheat?
Making the ephah small and the shekel large,
Falsifying the scales by deceit,
That we may buy the poor for silver,
And the needy for a pair of sandals–
Even sell the bad wheat?”
a. Who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail: Amos returned to his familiar theme of justice, decrying those in Israel who made their money from the unjust treatment of the poor and vulnerable.
b. When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? Israel kept the New Moon and Sabbath, but only outwardly. Inside, they rejected these special days appointed by God and they couldn’t wait until they were over.
c. Making the ephah small and the shekel large: There was chronic corruption and cheating in the business world, and God saw it and was angry. When they sold wheat (sometimes bad wheat), they used a small measure. When they bought or gave change, they used a large measure for the shekel.
i. Cheating and dishonesty in business is not a small sin, nor is it a sin excused of necessity. God sees it and takes account.
B. How God will judge Israel.
1. (7-8) The certainty of judgment.
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their works.
Shall the land not tremble for this,
And everyone mourn who dwells in it?
All of it shall swell like the River,
Heave and subside
Like the River of Egypt.
a. Surely I will never forget any of their works: This reminds us that time can never erase sin. We often feel that if we, or if others, forget the sins of our youth, then God must forget about them also, but that is not the case. Only the atoning work of Jesus can cover sin, not time.
i. We can make a contrast between Amos 8:7 and Hebrews 6:10: For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. God does not forget the good works of His people, and He does not forget the evil works of those who reject Him.
b. All of it shall swell like the River, heave and subside like the River of Egypt: Amos knew that the Nile River rose and fell regularly. He pictured the land and people of Israel so shaken by judgment that they would heave and subside like the rising and receding of the Nile River.
2. (9-10) The extent of judgment.
“And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon,
And I will darken the earth in broad daylight;
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
And all your songs into lamentation;
I will bring sackcloth on every waist,
And baldness on every head;
I will make it like mourning for an only son,
And its end like a bitter day.”
a. That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight: Because of the reference to celestial catastrophe, many think Amos now looked forward to the circumstances surrounding the ultimate day of the LORD.
i. Though, some think Amos only referred to an eclipse. “Two such eclipses have been calculated to have occurred in Amos’ lifetime: one in 784 B.C., the other in 763 B.C.” (Hubbard)
b. I will make it like mourning for an only son: Amos tried to capture the depth of the mourning with this metaphor. We also remember the connection to Zechariah 12:10, which describes repentant Israel’s humble return to the Messiah in the last days: And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
3. (11-14) The famine of hearing the word of God.
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD,
“That I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine of bread,
Nor a thirst for water,
But of hearing the words of the LORD.
They shall wander from sea to sea,
And from north to east;
They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD,
But shall not find it.
In that day the fair virgins
And strong young men
Shall faint from thirst.
Those who swear by the sin of Samaria,
‘As your god lives, O Dan!’
And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives!’
They shall fall and never rise again.”
a. I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: Most people think the worst kind of famine is a famine of bread, but Amos reminded Israel that the worst kind of famine is a famine…of hearing the words of the LORD.
i. Notice carefully the nature of this famine. It is not a lack of God’s word, but a famine…of hearing the words of the LORD. “The condition described is that of being deaf to the words of Jehovah, not able to hear them. It is not a case of God withholding His revelation; but of people being in such a state that they do not see it, do not hear the words.” (Morgan)
ii. It is true that there may come times when there is a famine of God’s word, either through neglect or unfaithfulness. But that isn’t what Amos meant here. This was a problem with the hearer, not with the preacher. The preacher may have his own problems and the hearer as well may have his.
iii. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 describes the right way to hear the word of God: When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
iv. “We may question ourselves, whether we feed enough on God’s Word. If we would grow strong, we must feed, not on condiments and sweetmeats, not on tit-bits and scraps, not on versicles and pious sentences; but on the strong meat of the Word, on the doctrines, histories, types of Scripture. Oh for more hunger and thirst for these!” (Meyer)
v. Since it is true that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4), then it is true that a famine of hearing God’s word is ultimately worse than a famine of bread.
b. They shall wander…seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it: When we push away God’s word for a long time, we may find ourselves in the place where we shall not find it even if we wanted to.
i. We remember that the ability to hear God’s word and benefit by it is a gift from God, and a gift not to be despised.
ii. Jesus alluded to this principle in the parable of the soils and the sower: Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him (Mark 4:24-25). When we seek God, it generally becomes easier to find Him. When we push away God, it generally becomes more difficult to hear and receive His word.
c. Those who swear by the sin of Samaria.… shall fall and never rise again: God promised that the idolaters of Israel would face judgment, and it would be lasting judgment.