Amos 8:1-14

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Amos reported that YHWH showed him a “basket of summer fruit [qáyits].” The Hebrew word qáyits means “summer,” but in this context denotes the produce of summer. “Summer fruit” could include grapes, figs, pomegranates, and dates. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the basket or container was that of a “fowler” (ixeutés, which word is also found Amos 3:5). (8:1)

When YHWH asked him what he saw, Amos replied, “A basket of summer fruit” (a “basket of a fowler” [LXX]). After this interchange, YHWH revealed its significance to the prophet, “The end [qets] has come upon my people Israel. I will not again add [time] to pass them by.” The link to the basket of qáyits (“summer fruit”) is conveyed through a wordplay with qets (“end”). Just as the harvest marked the end of the agricultural cycle and a ripe basket of summer fruit would not last long, so the people of the kingdom of Israel would not long remain on their land. YHWH would cease to tolerate their wayward conduct. He would not be extending time to pass them by or to spare them from punitive judgment. (8:2)

The Septuagint rendering does not include a wordplay. The word for “fowler” (ixeutés) bears little resemblance to the word péras, meaning “end,” “limit,” or “boundary.” Nevertheless, a bird that came to be in a fowler’s container had met its end. Accordingly, the Septuagint rendering may be regarded as preserving a similar thought. (8:2)

The declaration of the Lord YHWH regarding the “songs” at the temple was that these would be replaced with sounds of howling. In view of the earlier reference to Bethel, the word that may be rendered “temple” probably designates the sanctuary that functioned as the center for calf worship. In that “day” or at that time, the people would howl or wail because of the calamity that had befallen them. Many of the Israelites would be slaughtered by the invading military force, and the corpses would be cast either everywhere or outside the city. According to the rendering of the Septuagint, the slain would be in every place. The concluding word “hush” may indicate that, because of the many who would perish, a hush or silence would come over the site that had once been filled with activity. In the Septuagint, God is identified as the one who “will cast silence,” bringing an end to the hustle and bustle of the location. (8:3)

Those who are called upon to “hear” are corrupt wealthy Israelites. The Hebrew word sha’aph describes their ruthless treatment of someone poor. If linked to shuph, sha’aph may be understood to mean “trample” or “crush.” The corresponding word in the Septuagint is a participial form of ektríbo, meaning “wipe out” or “destroy.” Both the Hebrew and the Greek words indicate that the oppressive measures of the wealthy brought ruin to the poor. The oppressors caused the needy of the land to “cease.” Deprived of every vestige of dignity, the oppressed were treated as if they were nothing. In their helpless state, they appeared as persons who did not exist. (8:4)

The corrupt Israelites are portrayed as waiting impatiently for the new moon festival to end so that they could resume selling grain. Their impatience is expressed as a question, “When will the new moon [festival] be over …?” The same question includes the Sabbath, as these Israelites wanted to get back to their commercial business as soon as possible. According to the Septuagint rendering, they would then be “opening storehouses.” Their observance of the new moon festival and the Sabbath proved to be merely an outward show. (8:5)

When transacting business, Israelite oppressors engaged in dishonest practices. They made the “ephah [a dry measure equal to about 20 dry quarts or 22 liters] small,” apparently using smaller than standard containers to measure amounts of grain for the buyers. For the fraudulently reduced amount, they collected payment in excess of the price charged for a standard ephah measure of grain. A shekel was the basic unit of weight, requiring that the purchase price in silver be determined by weight. The defrauders made the “shekel great,” using a weight that was heavier than a standard shekel when establishing the purchase price. They dealt deceitfully with their scales, using other than standard weights when buying or selling. (Compare Proverbs 20:23.) Their scales may also have been rigged in other ways to cheat everyone with whom they did business. (8:5)

As victims of oppression and fraud, needy Israelites were reduced to a state of extreme poverty and either had to sell themselves into slavery or were forced to do so on account of debts they could not repay. Corrupt wealthy Israelites would callously buy poor fellow Israelites for silver and “someone poor for sandals.” Buying a needy person “for sandals” could mean that the wealthy considered the individual as having no greater value than the purchase price for a pair of sandals. Another possible meaning is that the wealthy would buy a poor man for the small debt he owed, a debt comparable to what a pair of sandals would cost. Besides using deceptive weights and measures to defraud those who bought grain from them, corrupt Israelites sold grain of the poorest quality — “refuse.” According to the Septuagint rendering, they would trade in “every [kind] of produce.” (8:6)

YHWH is represented as swearing by the “pride of Jacob,” declaring, “I will never forget all their deeds.” The expression “pride of Jacob” could refer to the God in whom Jacob, the forefather of the Israelites, took pride. (Compare Genesis 31:53, where the apparent meaning of Jacob’s swearing by the “Fear of his father Isaac” is swearing by the God whom Isaac feared as his devoted servant.) If the words “pride of Jacob” are thus to be understood, YHWH is identified as the one who swears by his own person, as he could not swear by anyone greater. (Compare Hebrews 6:16-18.) The wording of the Septuagint, however, could be translated to mean swearing “against the arrogance of Jacob.” This could indicate that the oath-bound words that follow are directed against the Israelites because of their haughtily refusing to trust in YHWH. Another possible meaning for the expression “pride of Jacob” is that the arrogance of the Israelites was so firmly entrenched that it could furnish a basis for YHWH’s oath-bound words that he would not forget their deeds. (8:7)

The fact that YHWH would never forget all the deeds of the Israelites indicated that he would punish them for their wayward course. They had repeatedly acted contrary to his commands, building up a record of evil deeds. (8:7)

In view of YHWH’s not forgetting the deeds of the Israelites, they would experience severe punitive judgment. This is expressed by means of a question, “Will not the land tremble and all those dwelling in it mourn?” With invading armies trampling through the land and devastating it, the land could be represented as trembling. On account of humiliating defeat and much loss of life, all the survivors would lament. The trembling of the land appears to be poetically depicted as being comparable to the rising of the water of the Nile at flood stage. It then becomes very turbulent (“tossed about”). As the flooding subsides, the Nile of Egypt “sinks again” to the usual water level. (8:8)

“In that day” of judgment, the Lord YHWH would make the “sun set at noon” and “darken the earth” or land on a clear day (literally, “day of light”). These words revealed that the time of judgment would be a period of great gloom, with all hope for relief being eclipsed. It would be comparable to night coming in the middle of the day, with darkness enshrouding the whole land. According to the reading of the Sepuagint, “the light will darken upon the earth [land] in the day[time].” (8:9)

YHWH would turn the joyous festivals of the Israelites into a time of mourning and all their songs into lamentation. Because of what he would allow the people to experience from enemy military forces, he is represented as causing them to attire themselves as mourners. They would wear sackcloth, a rough cloth commonly made from goat’s hair on the bare skin of their loins, and shave their hair, making themselves bald in expression of their grief and pain. The intensity of the sorrow that YHWH would cause them to experience is likened to the mourning associated with the death of an only son. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the mourning for a “beloved one.” It concludes with the thought that God would make those “with him like a day of pain.” This could be understood to mean that the ones closest to the beloved one would sorrow as in a day or time of pain or great grief. (8:10; see the Notes section regarding “beloved one.”)

In the Masoretic Text, the final thought is that YHWH would make the “end of her like a bitter day.” This may mean that for the grieving “mother” (possibly representing the people of Israel) the culmination would prove to be like a day of great pain or grief, with no hope in sight. (8:10)

Amos made known that YHWH had declared that days would come when he would send a famine into the land. This famine would not be one for lack of “bread” or food and it would not result in a thirst for water. It would be a famine for hearing the “words of YHWH.” The Israelites were fully aware of the ruin to harvests and the precarious water shortages that resulted from droughts and military sieges. (Compare 1 Kings 17:1, 6, 7; 18:1-5; 2 Kings 6:24, 25.) In the distressing days or time to come, they would experience a famine for hearing the “words [word (LXX)] of YHWH.” They would long for some message of hope or a revelation about what they needed to do to escape calamity. Repeatedly they had disregarded YHWH’s words through his prophets. During the time of distress, they would keenly feel the effect of not receiving any message that could have helped or comforted them. The situation would prove to be comparable to what happened to King Saul when facing a formidable Philistine military force and receiving no divine message to guide him. (1 Samuel 28:5, 6) (8:11)

The yearning of the people for the word of YHWH is portrayed like a desperate search for food in a time of famine. They are depicted as “shaking” (nu‘), staggering or wandering from “sea to sea” (from the Mediterranean Sea on the west coast to the Dead Sea in the east), and from the northern boundary of the land to the southern boundary. Although searching everywhere, anxiously running to and fro, they would not find the word of YHWH. In the Septuagint, the people are referred to as running from north to east, and two words for “not,” which may be rendered “by no means,” emphatically express that they would not find the “word of the Lord.” (8:12; see the Notes section for additional comments about the Septuagint rendering.)

During the time of calamity, beautiful virgins and young men, though in possession of greater stamina than the aged, would become faint from thirst. They would be weak and helpless. With even young persons having lost all hope, the plight of the rest of the people would indeed be dire. (8:13)

The next prophetic words reveal the outcome of YHWH’s judgment against those who continue engaging in idolatrous practices. According to the Hebrew text, the noun ’ashmáh is associated with their swearing and is linked to the city of Samaria. This noun means “guiltiness,” and the corresponding designation in the Septuagint denotes “atonement” or “propitiation” (hilasmós’ashám). (8:14)

At the site of idolatrous calf worship in the city of Dan, the Israelites, when swearing, said, “Your god [is] alive (or “your gods [are] alive”) and, according to the Septuagint rendering, “Your god lives.” In this manner, they appear to have taken oaths by the life of the god or gods. They used the same words in relation to the “way of Beer-sheba.” The Septuagint, however, does not include a word for “way” but reads, “Your god lives, O Beersabee.” As the idolaters of the kingdom of Israel are being addressed, it appears unusual that Beer-sheba in the southern part of the kingdom of Judah would be mentioned. Beer-sheba appears to have been a major cultic site, and so the people may have sworn by the sacred way that led to the city. Another possibility is to understand the mention of Dan and Beer-sheba to embrace the entire territory of Israel and thus swearing by the “way of Beer-sheba” could refer to swearing by the life of the deities revered at any of the many sites devoted to idolatrous worship located throughout the land. (8:14)

Israelite idolaters everywhere would experience a fall or crash from which they would not be able to rise again. Their punitive judgment would be final, with no hope of recovery. In the Septuagint, the thought about their not rising is expressed emphatically with two words for “not” and may be rendered, “will by no means rise again.” (8:14)


In verse 10 of the Septuagint, the phrase that includes the expression for “beloved one” is obscure. This phrase may be translated, “and I will set him like the mourning for a beloved one.” It is unclear to whom or to what the pronoun “him” has reference. The Greek word thrénos (“lamentation”) found in this verse is masculine gender. Therefore, the meaning of the phrase possibly is that God would cause the lamentation of the people to be like the mourning for a beloved one.

In the Septuagint, the opening words of verse 12 are, “And the waters will be agitated [form of saleúo] as far as the sea.” This rendering does not depart as significantly from the Hebrew text as might appear. The Hebrew verb nú‘a, like the Greek verb saleúo, can mean “shake” or “tremble.” In Hebrew, the consonants for the expression “from sea” are identical to those for “water.”