The prophet is not the mouthpiece of a channelled spirit but rather a relational representative of God. The
Amos 8 (Author’s translation)
1 This is what Adonay YHVH (Mercy) showed me, and behold, now, pay attention, a basket of summer fruit. 2 And He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” And YHVH said to me, “The goal (extremity) has come to My people Yisrael. I will not increase perpetually to pass over him. 3 And there will be wailing songs at a temple in that day,” declares Adonay YHVH. “Many will be the corpses; in every place thrown, silent!” 4 Hear, listen, receive, comprehend, understand you who inhale the needy, and put an end to the humble of the land (of Israel), 5 Saying, “When will the new moon pass over, and we’ll sell grain; and the Sabbath, and we’ll open the wheat, to make smaller the ephah (measure) and greater the shekel, and to pervert with deceitful scales, 6 In order to acquire for silver the weak, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and they sell the chaff from the wheat?” 7 Thus has sworn YHVH on the majesty of Yaakov (Israel), “Indeed, I will never forget any of their works. 8 On account of this will the land (of Israel) not tremble, and everyone who lives in it mourn? And a flood will rise up on all, and cast out and subside like the Nile of Egypt. 9 And it will come to pass in that day,” declares Adonay YHVH, “And I will make the sun go down in the noon, and I will make the darkness to the land (of Israel) in the day light. 10 And I will overthrow your festivals to mourning, and all your songs to songs of mourning; and I will ascend upon all the loins of those in sackcloth, and upon every head baldness. And I will place (appoint) it like the mourning for a solitary one, and the end of it will be like a day of bitterness. 11 “Behold, now, pay attention, days are coming,” declares Adonay YHVH, “And I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, because it will be from hearing, listening to, receiving the words of YHVH. 12 And they will tremble, wander from sea (body of water) to sea (body of water) and from the north and to the east; they will roam to and fro to seek the Word, Essence, Substance of YHVH, and will not find Him. 13 In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst. 14 Those who swear by the offense, sin, guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, Dan,’ and, ‘Life in the way of Beersheba,’ they will fall and not rise perpetually (again, going round).”
Amos 8 (Line Upon Line)
1 Koh This is what hir’aniy Adonay the Lord YHVH (Mercy) showed me, ve’hineih and behold, now, pay attention, keluv a basket kayitz of summer fruit.
1 This is what Adonay YHVH (Mercy) showed me, and behold, now, pay attention, a basket of summer fruit.
As a continuation of the previous series of prophetic warnings the mechanism for revelation to Amos continues to be that of open visions. “The Master of Mercy showed me…”
"The last of the summer fruit;'' -Targum
While there are some exceptions the majority of the summer fruit collected just prior to autumn (fall) in the land of Israel is less hydrated and often not as good as the fruit harvested earlier in the season. The latter fruit was fully ripe and in some cases over ripe and therefore a metaphor denoting that Israel was ripe, even over ripe for destruction. The metaphor further infers that Israel would soon be quickly devoured by her enemies and enter a winter of exile.
2 Vayomer And He said, “Mah-atah What do you roeh see, Amos (burden)?” Va’omar And I said, “Keluv A basket kayitz of summer fruit.” Vayomer And YHVH said eilay to me, “Ba hakeitz The goal (extremity) has come el-amiy to My people Yisrael. Lo osiyf I will not increase od perpetually (going round) avor to pass over lo him.
2 And He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” And YHVH said to me, “The goal (extremity) has come to My people Yisrael. I will not increase perpetually to pass over him.
The conversation continues between HaShem and His prophet Amos. The prophet is not the mouthpiece of a channelled spirit but rather a relational representative of God. The questioning, like that which has gone before, is yet another opportunity for the disciple (Amos) to better understand the visual mashal (parable). Amos answers by describing what he sees and HaShem explains the remez, hint at deeper meaning.
“The goal (extremity) has come to My people Yisrael.”
This verse does not mean that God is finished with Israel or ending her kingdom, if it did, it would make the subsequent return from exile and the lineage of the King Messiah redundant. The text is simply saying that the natural consequence of Israel’s sin is about to reach its goal. From the view of the Omniscient Creator it “Has (already) come”.
“I will not increase perpetually to pass over him.”
HaShem had passed over Israel in Egypt because of the sign of the blood of the Pesach (Passover) Lamb on the doors of the homes of the Israelites, a symbol denoting God’s redemptive covering over the entire household. However, Israel had been practicing its own versions of the festivals and not properly applying the blood of the sacrifices. Nor had Israel been properly keeping Pesach. Therefore, HaShem would now cease to pass over Israel’s apostate homes and instead allow the angel of death to come against them. “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin” (Lev. 17:11-14 Heb. 9:22).
3 Veheiyliylu And there will be wailing shiyrot songs heiychal at a temple bayom hahu in that day,” neum declares Adonay YHVH. “Rav hapeger Many will be the corpses; bechol-makum in every place hishlich thrown, has silent!”
3 And there will be wailing songs at a temple in that day,” declares Adonay YHVH. “Many will be the corpses; in every place thrown, silent!”
This refers to the apostate temple at Bethel (a temple) rather than the Temple in Jerusalem. The context is a revelation of warning to the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom. The songs will be turned to wailing in response to the coming calamity.
The Targum understands the Hebrew “heiychal” as “palace/house” and reads “at that time they shall howl in their homes, instead of singing.”
The point being that in the primary place of apostate worship and throughout the homes of the northern tribes songs of rejoicing will be turned into songs of wailing.
“Many will be the corpses; in every place thrown, silent!”
As is the case earlier in the scroll of Amos (6:10) the number of dead will be so great that proper interment will not be possible. The silence refers to a lack of traditional funeral invocations and prayers. Alternatively, in keeping with the Jewish commentator Kimkhi’s interpretation, the silence is commanded by those shifting the bodies as an admonishment not to blaspheme God in response to the number of dead.
“one of them that casts them forth shall say to his companion, be silent;” -Kimkhi commentary on Amos 8:3
Kimkhi’s interpretation is consistent with Amos 6:10:
“10 And a man’s uncle will lift him up and burn him, and bring out bone substance from the house, and say to the one who is at the sides of the house, “Is anyone else with you?” And that one will say, “None.” Then he will answer, “Keep silent!” For the name of YHVH the Lord is not remembered.” -Author’s translation
4 Shimu Hear, listen, receive, comprehend, understand zot hashoafiym you who inhale evyon the needy, velashbiyt and put an end to aniyei-aretz the humble of the land (of Israel),
4 Hear, listen, receive, comprehend, understand you who inhale the needy, and put an end to the humble of the land (of Israel),
Yet again the dishonourable actions of those in power are pointed out. Their treatment of the needy and weak is likened to inhaling and consuming something. The phrasing “inhale the needy” reflects the imagery of a person suffering desperate thirst after a draught who upon finding water gulps it down, even if it means fighting off other dehydrated people to do so.
They have caused the deaths of the humble. The Hebrew “evyon” refers to the physically poor and needy, while the Hebrew “aniyei” refers to those who practice spiritual humility. Those wicked people among the powerful members of the northern tribes are responsible for heinous injustice both practically and spiritually speaking. The fruit of their hearts (centre of being) manifests in abhorrent actions.
“The land” in question is not just any land. The Hebrew “Ha’aretz” is synonymous with “Israel” as the noun applies to the land. Therefore, it is right to read “you who inhale the needy, and put an end to the humble of the land of Israel,” which can also be understood as “you who inhale the needy, and put an end to the humble, thus destroying your own inheritance.”
5 Leimor Saying, “Matay When will ya’avor hachodesh the new moon pass over, venashbiyrah and we’ll sell shever grain; vehashabat and the Sabbath, veniftechah-bar and we’ll open the wheat, lehaktiyn to make smaller the eifah ephah (measure) ulhagdiyl and greater the shekel, ulaveit and to pervert mozneiy mirmah with deceitful scales,
5 Saying, “When will the new moon pass over, and we’ll sell grain; and the Sabbath, and we’ll open the wheat, to make smaller the ephah and greater the shekel, and to pervert with deceitful scales,
Both Rosh Chodesh (Head of the month) and the weekly Shabbat (Sabbath) are holy consecrated days of worship on which Israel is commanded to refrain from ordinary work (Num. 28:11; 2 Kings 4:23). The inference here is that the people were spending these holy days planning their next opportunity to profit rather than focusing their attention on the worship of YHVH and practicing the regular rest which He had commanded. Added to this is the fact that even when they focused on worship they were practicing apostate worship that syncretised pagan practice.
The Targum renders “ya’avor hachodesh” as “the month of grain”. From which it seems that the Jewish commentators Kimkhi and Ben Melekh deduce that the text is speaking of the month of harvest, a time when the poor would glean from the edges of the fields according to the command of Torah and thus receive the food that sustained them. This verse then would be inferring that the powerful landowners were at that time eager for the harvest to finish so that they could profit from the poor by selling them grain they couldn’t afford in order to bring them into bondage as slaves. In this context the slaves would be fellow Israelites. The Torah forbids Israelites from owning one another as perpetual slaves. The slavery of Torah was intended as a type of social welfare system. It was a way of helping the poor out of a cycle of poverty (Ex. 21:2, 26-27). However, in the time of Amos this was not what was happening. Israelites were enslaving other Israelites for a pittance and abusing them.
Based on the definite article, the Targum and Yarkhi interpret “hashabat” (the Sabbath) to refer to the Sh’mita (seventh year Sabbath) [Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:4] when there was no ploughing, sowing, or reaping, and therefore no selling of grain. Instead the Torah commands Israel to live off of what the earth brings forth of itself. This of course was a year when Israelite indentured servants were released and when the rich and poor alike were equally subject to the provision of the earth. This also meant there was to be no opportunity for profiteering during the Sh’mita.
“we’ll open the wheat, to make smaller the ephah and greater the shekel, and to pervert with deceitful scales,”
The ephah was a measure of grain and the shekel a weight used to access the value of the measure. This latter part of the verse refers to actions that were in direct contradiction to the Torah, which reads:
“13 You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. 15 A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.” -Deut. 25:13-16 ESV
6 Liknot In order to acquire bakesef for silver daliym the weak, ve’evyon and the needy ba’avur for na’alayim a pair of sandals, umapal bar nashbiyr and they sell the chaff of the wheat?”
6 In order to acquire for silver the weak, and the needy for a pair of sandals, and they sell the chaff of the wheat?”
Not only were their weights dishonest, they were intentionally deceiving the poor in order to buy them as slaves, not in order to help them as the Torah intended but in order to subjugate them.
The valuation of a needy person’s life was “a pair of sandals”. Thus the prophet’s words come in full circle:
“Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—” -Amos 2:6 ESV
7 Nishba Thus has sworn YHVH bigon on the majesty of Yaakov (Israel, follower), “Im-eshcach lanetzach Indeed, I will never forget kol-ma’aseiyhem any of their works.
7 Thus has sworn YHVH on the majesty of Yaakov (Israel, follower), “Indeed, I will never forget any of their works.
The “Majesty of Yaakov” is YHVH. Therefore, this is simply another way of saying that God has sworn by Himself. God cannot swear by anything or anyone else because there is nothing and no one greater than Him.
“The Majesty of Yaakov” is the counterpoint to “the pride of Yaakov” (Amos 6:8). Israel’s pride has led to her destruction, but through discipline her Majesty (YHVH) will restore her.
“The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds, and I will deliver up the city and all that is in it.” -Amos 6:8 ESV
“Indeed, I will never forget any of their works.”
This refers specifically to evil actions. “Their works” are the works of wickedness described in verses 4 through 6. Unrepented evil deeds are not forgotten (forgiven). Where God says elsewhere “I will remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:12) it is a way of conveying to human beings who are subject to forgetfulness that God chooses to forgive (forget) the repentant and has provided the means (blood atonement) for the removal of guilt. It is impossible for an Omniscient God to forget in the normal sense of the word.
8 Ha’al On account of zot this lo-tirgaz ha’aretz will the land (of Israel) not tremble, ve’aval kol-yosheiv bah and everyone who lives in it mourn? Ve’altah cha’or kulah And a flood will rise up on all, venigreshah and cast out venishke’ah and subside kiyor mitzrayim like the Nile of Egypt.
8 On account of this will the land (of Israel) not tremble, and everyone who lives in it mourn? And a flood will rise up on all, and cast out and subside like the Nile of Egypt.
“On account of this”
On account of the wicked actions described in verses 4 to 6 the tides of consequence will bring back on the wicked that which they have sowed in the lives of others.
“will the land (of Israel) not tremble”
This is a reference to the earthquake prophesied in Amos 1:1. Additionally the land is affected spiritually by the actions of the wicked.
The shed blood of the innocent cries out from the ground (metaphorically speaking) and the Torah explains that only the blood of those who have shed the blood of the innocent can atone for it (Gen. 9:6; Num. 35:33).
“And a flood will rise up on all, and cast out and subside like the Nile of Egypt.”
The Targum understands this to refer to the invading armies of the king of Assyria.
“a king shall come up against it with his army, large as the waters of a river, and shall cover it wholly, and expel the inhabitants of it, and shall plunge as the river of Egypt;” -Targum
The prophet Yishayahu (Isaiah), who learned Torah from Amos according to one Jewish tradition, uses the same imagery:
“therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks,” -Isaiah 8:7 ESV
9 Vehayah And it will come to pass bayom hahu in that day,” neum declares Adonay YHVH, “Veheiveitiy hashemesh And I will make the sun go down ba’aharayim in the noon, veha’chashachtiy and I will make the darkness la’aretz to the land (of Israel) beyom in the day or light.
9 And it will come to pass in that day,” declares Adonay YHVH, “And I will make the sun go down in the noon, and I will make the darkness to the land (of Israel) in the day light.
This is interpreted in a number of ways. First it can refer to an eclipse, second, to a sky thick with the descending arrows of an invading force, third, it can be understood as a metaphor for the demise of the northern kingdom in the midst of her prosperity, the sun representing prosperity and the darkness at noon, sudden destruction and grief.
10 Vehafachtiy And I will overthrow chageiychem your festivals le’eivel to mourning, vechol-shiyreiychem and all your songs lekinah to songs of mourning; veha’aleiytiy and I will ascend al-kol-matenayim upon all the loins of those sak in sackcloth, veal-kol-rosh and upon every head karechah baldness. Vesamtiyha And I will place (appoint) it ke’eivel like the mourning yachiyd for a solitary one, ve’achariytah and the end of it will be keyom like a day mar of bitterness.
10 And I will overthrow your festivals to mourning, and all your songs to songs of mourning; and I will ascend upon all the loins of those in sackcloth, and upon every head baldness. And I will place (appoint) it like the mourning for a solitary one, and the end of it will be like a day of bitterness.
“And I will overthrow your festivals to mourning”
We note that HaShem is not overthrowing His festivals (moadiym: appointed times) but the syncretised apostate festivals (chagiym) of the people, hence “your festivals
“I will ascend upon all the loins of those in sackcloth, and upon every head baldness.”
All of the people from the rulers to the lowliest will be affected by the coming discipline. The reference to bald heads is not to natural or even stress related baldness but to the practice of shaving one’s head in grief. In other words everyone will have their heads shaved in grief, all will be affected, the sin of the majority at times affects even the innocent. It is often the case that our personal sin affects the community.
“like the mourning for a solitary one”
The suffering that the people will experience is likened to the suffering experienced by parents who lose an only child.
11 “Hineih Behold, now, pay attention, yamiym days baiym are coming,” neum declares Adonay YHVH, “Vehishlachtiy And I will send ra’av a famine ba’aretz in the land, lo-ra’av not a famine lalechem of bread velo-tzama or a thirst lamayim for water, kiy because im it will be lishmoa from hearing, listening to, receiving eit the divreiy words of YHVH.
11 “Behold, now, pay attention, days are coming,” declares Adonay YHVH, “And I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, because it will be from hearing, listening to, receiving the words of YHVH.
The “Hineih” refrain continues, “Pay attention, the days of discipline are fast approaching…”
“not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, because it will be from hearing, listening to, receiving the words of YHVH.”
The famine that is coming will not be a famine of bread and water but a famine of being cut off (temporarily) from the Bread of Life and Living Waters of God.
While the prophets of HaShem are prophesying, His word is available even to the wilfully rebellious, however, the time is fast approaching when He will withhold His Word. His warnings have been frequent and prolific but the time will come when at the point of Israel’s greatest physical suffering He will be silent.
12 Venau And they will tremble, wander miyam from sea (body of water) ad to yam sea (body of water) umitzafon and from the north vead-mizrach and to the east; yeshottu they will roam to and fro levakeish to seek et-devar the word, essence, substance of YHVH, velo and will not yimtza’u find Him.
12 And they will tremble, wander from sea (body of water) to sea (body of water) and from the north and to the east; they will roam to and fro to seek the Word, Essence, Substance of YHVH, and will not find Him.
The Hebrew “Yam” can refer to any “body of water”, and can therefore be understood here in a number of ways. From the Mediterranean to the Galilee, or from the Galilee to the Red Sea etc. Needless to say, the general meaning is easily gleaned. The people of Israel will look for the Word of HaShem in every part of the land and in every place of their exile from the earliest days of their discipline, but, at least for a time, they will not find Him. We note that the Hebrew text uses masculine and feminine words when referring to both subjects and objects. In this case the Word of the LORD is “Him” (John 1).
13 Bayom hahu In that day tit’alafnah habetulot hayafot vehabachuriym the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint batzama from thirst.
13 In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
Even those perceived to be the healthiest members of society will faint from both physical and spiritual thirst. The children will suffer the natural consequences of their parents’ sins. Once again, our individual actions affect not only ourselves but also the community, and then generationally. The current western political trend toward hyper liberalism (the purveyor of secular immorality) will only serve to further pollute the generations to come. The proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases that have resulted from the so called sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies continue to proliferate exponentially in today’s society, some 40 odd years after the “sexual revolution”.
14 Hanishbaiym Those who swear be’ashmat by the offense, sin, guilt shomeron of Samaria, ve’ameru and say, ‘Heiy eloheycha As your god lives, Dan (judge),’ vecheiy and, ‘Life derech Be’er-shava in the way of Beersheba (well of oath, seven, blessing),’ venafelu they will fall velo-yakumu and not rise od perpetually (again, going round).”
14 Those who swear by the offense, sin, guilt of Samaria, and say, ‘As your god lives, Dan,’ and, ‘Life in the way of Beersheba,’ they will fall and not rise perpetually (again, going round).”
“The offense of Samaria” is the calf at Bethel, which was near Samaria. Two calves were made by king Jeroboam in order to draw the attention of the northern tribes away from the God appointed place of worship in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26-33). Jeroboam had said of these calf idols, “Behold your elohiym (gods) oh Israel”. Jeroboam at the time the calves were set up mirrored the idolatrous actions of Aaron and Israel at Sinai (Exodus 32).
The connection here in the prophecy of Amos is to the inception of Israel’s rebellion and therefore likens the behaviour of the northern tribes at this time in history to the abhorrent rebellion of Israel at Sinai. Not only had Israel made an image of a calf god, they had also given it the name Elohiym and credited this inanimate idol with the miracles of God which had delivered them from Egyptian bondage.
The prophet Hosea also refers to this:
“I have spurned your calf, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence?” -Hosea 8:5 ESV
“and say, ‘As your god lives, Dan,”
This refers to the second of the two calves (1 Kings 12:29) made by Jeroboam, which was located in the territory of the tribe of Dan.
‘Life in the way of Beersheba,’
This refers to those from the tribe of Simeon who made the long journey from Beersheba to the territory of Dan at the northern border of the territory of Judah to worship the calf idol there rather than going to worship the calf idol in Bethel, and ultimately, rather than going to Jerusalem to the God appointed location of worship.
“they will fall and not rise perpetually”
Those who have practiced the aforementioned idolatry will die and not practice their idolatry again in the land of Israel. This does not mean an end to Israel, rather it means an end to those who are guilty of the aforementioned idolatry. Discipline is coming, as is redemption. There is hope for Israel.
Copyright 2022 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.