Amos 8

More Visions and Messages of Judgment

1The sovereign Lord showed me this: I saw
Heb “behold” or “look.”
a basket of summer fruit.
The basket of summer fruit (also in the following verse) probably refers to figs from the summer crop, which ripens in August-September. See O. Borowski, Agriculture in Iron Age Israel, 115.

2 He said, “What do you see, Amos?” I replied, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end
There is a wordplay here. The Hebrew word קֵץ (qets, “end”) sounds like קָיִץ (qayits, “summer fruit”). The summer fruit arrived toward the end of Israel’s agricultural year; Israel’s national existence was similarly at an end.
has come for my people Israel! I will no longer overlook their sins.
Heb “I will no longer pass over him.”

3 The women singing in the temple
Or “palace” (NASB, NCV, TEV).
will wail in that day.”
The sovereign Lord is speaking.
“There will be many corpses littered everywhere!
Heb “Many corpses in every place he will throw out.” The subject of the verb is probably impersonal, though many emend the active (Hiphil) form to a passive (Hophal): “Many corpses in every place will be thrown out.”
Be quiet!”
4 Listen to this, you who trample
See the note on the word “trample” in 2:7.
the needy,
and do away with
Or “put an end to”; or “exterminate.”
the destitute in the land.
5 You say,
“When will the new moon festival
Apparently work was prohibited during the new moon festival, just as it was on the Sabbath.
be over,
Heb “pass by.”
so we can sell grain?
When will the Sabbath end,
The verb, though omitted in the Hebrew text, is supplied in the translation from the parallel line.
so we can open up the grain bins?
Heb “sell grain.” Here “grain” could stand by metonymy for the bins where it was stored.

We’re eager
Here and in v. 6 the words “we’re eager” are supplied in the translation for clarification.
to sell less for a higher price,
Heb “to make small the ephah and to make great the shekel.” The “ephah” was a unit of dry measure used to determine the quantity purchased, while the “shekel” was a standard weight used to determine the purchase price. By using a smaller than standard ephah and a heavier than standard shekel, these merchants were able to increase their profit (“sell less for a higher price”) by cheating the buyer.

and to cheat the buyer with rigged scales!
Heb “and to cheat with deceptive scales”; NASB, NIV “dishonest scales”; NRSV “false balances.”
Rigged scales may refer to bending the crossbar or shifting the center point of the scales to make the amount weighed appear heavier than it actually was, thus cheating the buyer.

6 We’re eager to trade silver for the poor,
Heb “to buy the poor for silver.”
The expression trade silver for the poor refers to the slave trade.

a pair of sandals
See the note on the word “sandals” in 2:6.
for the needy!
We want to mix in some chaff with the grain!”
Heb “The chaff of the grain we will sell.”

7 The Lord confirms this oath
Or “swears.”
by the arrogance of Jacob:
In an oath one appeals to something permanent to emphasize one’s commitment to the promise. Here the Lord sarcastically swears by the arrogance of Jacob, which he earlier had condemned (6:8), something just as enduring as the Lord’s own life (see 6:8) or unchanging character (see 4:2). Other suggestions include that the Lord is swearing by the land, his most valuable possession (cf. Isa 4:2; Ps 47:4 [47:5 HT]); that this is a divine epithet analogous to “the Glory of Israel” (1 Sam 15:29); or that an ellipsis should be understood here, in which case the meaning is the same as that of 6:8 (“The Lord has sworn [by himself] against the arrogance of Jacob”).

“I swear
The words “I swear” are not in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied in the translation because a self-imprecation is assumed in oaths of this type.
I will never forget all you have done!
Or “I will never forget all your deeds.”

8 Because of this the earth
Or “land” (also later in this verse).
will quake,
It is not clear whether the speaker in this verse is the Lord or the prophet.

and all who live in it will mourn.
The whole earth
Heb “all of it.”
will rise like the River Nile,
The MT reads “like the light” (כָאֹר, khaor; note this term also appears in v. 9), which is commonly understood to be an error for “like the Nile” (כִּיאוֹר, kior). See the parallel line and Amos 9:5. The word “River” is supplied in the translation for clarity. If this emendation is correct, in the Hebrew of Amos “Nile” is actually spelled three slightly different ways.
The movement of the quaking earth is here compared to the annual flooding and receding of the River Nile.

it will surge upward
Or “churn.”
and then grow calm,
Or “sink back down.” The translation assumes the verb שָׁקַע (shaqa’), following the Qere.
like the Nile in Egypt.
The entire verse is phrased in a series of rhetorical questions which anticipate the answer, “Of course!” (For example, the first line reads, “Because of this will the earth not quake?”). The rhetorical questions entrap the listener in the logic of the judgment of God (cf. 3:3–6; 9:7). The rhetorical questions have been converted to affirmative statements in the translation for clarity.

9 In that day,” says the sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun set at noon,
and make the earth dark in the middle of the day.
Heb “in a day of light.”

10 I will turn your festivals into funerals,
Heb “mourning.”

and all your songs into funeral dirges.
I will make everyone wear funeral clothes
Heb “I will place sackcloth on all waists.”
Mourners wore sackcloth (funeral clothes) as an outward expression of grief.

and cause every head to be shaved bald.
Heb “and make every head bald.” This could be understood in a variety of ways, while the ritual act of mourning typically involved shaving the head (although occasionally the hair could be torn out as a sign of mourning).
Shaving the head or tearing out one’s hair was a ritual act of mourning. See Lev 21:5; Deut 14:1; Isa 3:24; 15:2; Jer 47:5; 48:37; Ezek 7:18; 27:31; Mic 1:16.

I will make you mourn as if you had lost your only son;
Heb “I will make it like the mourning for an only son.”

when it ends it will indeed have been a bitter day.
Heb “and its end will be like a bitter day.” The Hebrew preposition כְּ (kaf) sometimes carries the force of “in every respect,” indicating identity rather than mere comparison.

11 Be certain of this,
Heb “behold” or “look.”
the time is
Heb “the days are.”
coming,” says the sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land –
not a shortage of food or water
but an end to divine revelation!
Heb “not a hunger for food or a thirst for water, but for hearing the words of the Lord.”

12 People
Heb “they”; the referent (people) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
will stagger from sea to sea,
That is, from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Dead Sea in the east – that is, across the whole land.

and from the north around to the east.
They will wander about looking for a revelation from
Heb “looking for the word of.”
the Lord,
but they will not find any.
It is not clear whether the speaker in this verse is the Lord or the prophet.

13 In that day your
Heb “the.”
beautiful young women
Or “virgins.”
and your
Heb “the.”
young men will faint from thirst.
It is not clear whether the speaker in this verse is the Lord or the prophet.
14These are the ones who now take oaths
Heb “those who swear.”
in the name of the sinful idol goddess
Heb “the sin [or “guilt”] of Samaria.” This could be a derogatory reference to an idol-goddess popular in the northern kingdom, perhaps Asherah (cf. 2 Chr 24:18, where this worship is labeled “their guilt”), or to the golden calf at the national sanctuary in Bethel (Hos 8:6, 10:8). Some English versions (e.g., NEB, NRSV, CEV) repoint the word and read “Ashimah,” the name of a goddess worshiped in Hamath in Syria (see 2 Kgs 17:30).
of Samaria.
They vow,
Heb “say.”
‘As surely as your god
Your god is not identified. It may refer to another patron deity who was not the God of Israel, a local manifestation of the Lord that was worshiped by the people there, or, more specifically, the golden calf image erected in Dan by Jeroboam I (see 1 Kgs 12:28–30).
lives, O Dan,’ or ‘As surely as your beloved one
The MT reads, “As surely as the way [to] Beer Sheba lives,” or “As surely as the way lives, O Beer Sheba.” Perhaps the term דֶּרֶךְ (derekh, “the way”) refers to the pilgrimage route to Beersheba (see S. M. Paul, Amos [Hermeneia], 272) or it may be a title for a god. The notion of pilgrimage appears elsewhere in the book (cf. 4:4–5; 5:4–5; 8:12). The translation above assumes an emendation to דֹּדְךְ (dodekh, “your beloved” or “relative”; the term also is used in 6:10) and understands this as referring either to the Lord (since other kinship terms are used of him, such as “Father”) or to another deity that was particularly popular in Beer Sheba. Besides the commentaries, see S. M. Olyan, “The Oaths of Amos 8:14Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel, 121–49.
lives, O Beer Sheba!’
But they will fall down and not get up again.”
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