Through eight chapters, Amos has been repeating the same message to the people of Israel. You have disobeyed God, and turned away from Him.a Return to Him!
Stop taking advantage of your neighbors and return to Him!
Put away your immorality and return to Him!
Put away your idols and return to Him!
Care for the poor and return to Him!
And if you refuse to obey Him – if you refuse to return to Him — He will come back in judgment. Your wealth will be taken away, your houses torn down, and your people will be killed. Your nation will be destroyed as you are carried away as prisoners to a foreign land. Do not ignore the Lord’s warnings!
The Lord promised severe punishment for those who refused to listen to Him. But the worst judgment, above all, is the judgment of His silence. If you refuse to listen to the Lord, He will stop calling. You will search for Him and try to find Him, but He will have gone from you.
While we may not fear national exile, this message to ancient Israel is just as important for us in the 21st century. God has been warning His people throughout Amos’ messages. Now the judgment has reached a climax with four final statements:
“The end has come!”
You despised God’s standards!
“I will not forget!”
“I will be silent!”
The End Has Come!
This is what the Lord GOD showed me: behold, a basket of summer fruit. And he said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me,
“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass by them.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
declares the Lord GOD.
“So many dead bodies!”
“They are thrown everywhere!”
Chapter 8 starts with Amos’ fourth vision, depicting Israel as a basket of fruit. Israel is ripe for judgment and the time for mercy is past.b He will no longer pass by them, meaning that He will no longer delay their judgment.
The delay is past, the end has come.
The next scene is graphic and disturbing — instead of songs of praise in the temple there will be loud wailing over the massacre of the people therein. The shock of the dead bodies is everywhere, rendering the people unable to speak.
“The temple songs would be changed to woeful cries of anguish and despair, and the dead bodies of the despisers of God’s message would fill the cities and be cast out in silence.” – Ironside1
You Despise God’s Standards!
Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”
They trampled on the poor and needy, cheated them in their sales, traded them as worthless slaves, and despised the Sabbath rest, as it prevented them from furthering their aims.
Their business was dishonest, as they overcharged for their wheat and grain sales, and included the useless husks (the “chaff”) with the good wheat.2 They despised the Sabbath, longing only for the days of rest to be over so that they could make more money. And finally, they trample the poor, buying them as slaves for the least amount possible (“a pair of sandals”). Compare this to the judgment in Amos 2:6.
God had set His standards for how to treat their fellow man and His sabbath (see here), but they cared only for their own gain, disregarding His law.
“The first tablet of the law has to do with our relationship to God and the second tablet with our relationship to others, and Israel had rebelled against both. They did not love God, and they did not love their neighbors (Matt. 22:36-40).” – Wiersbe2
I Will Not Forget!
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Shall not the land tremble on this account,
and everyone mourn who dwells in it,
and all of it rise like the Nile,
and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?”
They thought that no one was watching, but God saw their deeds and will not forget. The entire land will tremble because of their atrocities, and His punishment will come like a flood.c d
The reference to the land trembling could be poetic, since they had corrupted the entire land with their wickedness, but there was also a literal fulfillment. Two years after Amos’ message, the nation of Israel was struck by a major earthquake (Amos 1:1). Jesus also promised earthquakes as part of God’s judgments at the end of the age (Matthew 24:7).
“God does not forget. He remembers everything, and one day we must answer for the wrongs we have done.” – Boice5
“And on that day,” declares the Lord GOD,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and 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 the mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.
The sun will be darkened on the day of judgment and their excitement will turn to mourning. They will grieve as if they had lost a child, lost in despair and bitterness.
This prediction in Amos may have been fulfilled in the short-term as the Lord punished wicked Israel,e but this passage also shows how Israel will respond to Jesus Christ when He returns at the end of the age. Jesus promised that the sun would be darkened on His return (Matthew 24:29). The Lord also promises that Israel will also bitterly mourn for Him when He returns (Zechariah 12:10).
I Will Be Silent!
“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“when 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, to seek the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it.
The worst judgment of all will fall on His disobedient people. A local famine would devastate the nation, but the Lord promises something much worse — He promises His silence. They despised God’s word, so He will no longer speak to them.
This is a terrible warning. If you continue to reject God’s word, He will stop speaking to you. When we close our ears to Him, His warnings cease.
This warning is not only for disobedient Israel, but for all those who would close their ears to Him. God has promised that if we persist in rejecting Him, He will stop calling. There is no more sober warning than knowing that the Lord has departed from you! This is the warning of John 12:37-40 (see here).
“In that day the lovely virgins and the young men
shall faint for thirst.
Those who swear by the Guilt of Samaria,
and say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’
and, ‘As the Way of Beersheba lives,’
they shall fall, and never rise again.”
There will be no escape. The young and healthy will faint, and the religious ones will fall, never to rise again.
The people were too steeped in their idol worship (headed by the shrines in Dan and Beersheba) to listen to the Lord. Instead, they make their vows by their idols, the “guilt of Samaria”.
God gave this warning to the ancient Israelite people, that they would meet His silence if they persisted in ignoring Him. Again and again the prophets gave this warning, and the history of Israel shows that it has come to pass. They rejected Him, therefore God turned from them (see Romans 9:31-33).
Yet even today, we also have the same warning. Just as the Israelites risked God’s silence when they closed their ears to Him, so will we have the same fate when we ignore the Lord calling us. The New Testament repeats these warnings, that when we refuse to believe Him, He will no longer give us the ability to hear Him. And He will turn away from us, no longer to be found (see here).
Sadly, it doesn’t take much effort to see, in our modern American culture, how people have blinded themselves to God’s warnings. Under the name of tolerance and equality, the voices from our culture would silence anyone who dares to claim God‘s laws or His standards. You must be delusional to believe in an invisible God, or “intellectually backward” to doubt the dogma of evolution. Our country is in the middle of “Pride Month”, where people are encouraged to celebrate their gender choices, sexual desires, and immoral lifestyles. Even many churches have bowed to the cultural pressure, wanting to show themselves as “loving and inclusive”.
But somewhere along the struggle, God‘s message has been drowned out. When I look at Amos‘s message to a successful, religious, and inclusive people, I see how much it rings true today. The people of Amos’s day were very religious and they showed extreme devotion to God. But they added to their worship, including tolerance for their idols and their own comfortable lifestyles. They removed anything that would cause disagreement and then thought they were pleasing to God. It is a sad commentary on Israel’s history how they had turned away from God for their own comfort.
We can sit back and curse the darkness about how our culture has departed from God, but the greater concern is how this affects the church. It is the church, not the nation, that comprises God’s people today. Are we listening to Him? Do we compromise our worship of the One True God by making allowances for the world? Do we show compassion for the lost world around us?
Do we continue to seek God and His Word?
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 H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries: The Minor Prophets, Amos 8, A FAMINE OF THE WORD
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: Old Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Amos 8, pages 1433-1434
 Frank E. Gaebelein, Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 7, Zondervan, 1985, Amos 8, pages 324-326
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary, Thomas Nelson, 2005, Amos 8, pages 998-999
 James Montgomery Boice, The Minor Prophets, Baker Books, 2002, Five Visions, Amos 7:1-19; 8:1-9:10, pages 213-221
[a] The Israelites believed that they were in God’s favor because of their nationality and their religious practices. But in reality they were far from God. Throughout the book of Amos, we see that the people were:
- Rejecting God’s law (2:4-5)
- Silencing the righteous, and forcing the devout to disobey (2:6,12)
- Enslaving the needy (2:6, 8:6)
- Trampling and oppressing the poor (2:7, 4:1, 5:11-12, 8:4)
- Without compassion (6:6)
- Legally corrupt, including taking bribes (2:8, 5:12)
- Cheating one another (8:5-6)
- Immoral (2:7)
- Worshiping idols (2:8, 4:4-5, 5:25-27)
- Forgetting God (2:9-11)
- Violent and unable to do right (3:10)
- Lazy and complacent (4:1-3)
- Refusing to listen (4:6-13, 5:10)
- Proud (6:1,8)
- Dishonoring the Sabbath (8:5)
[b] “The Hebrew word translated ‘summer’ or ‘ripe’ in verse 1 (qayis) is similar to the word translated ‘end’ in verse 2 (qes).” – Wiersbe2
[c] The phrase, “the pride of Jacob” is used twice in the book of Amos, but with two different meanings:
- Amos 6:8 says, “The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts: ‘I abhor the pride of Jacob and hate his strongholds’”. In this context, the pride of Jacob is a reference to the nation of Israel and her national pride.
- Amos 8:7 says, “The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob”. In this context, the pride of Jacob is the Lord’s glory, as He is swearing by Himself.3
[d] “For Israel’s sins the land had to tremble, and its people were to be carried away as by the overflowing river of Egypt, when the sun should go down at noon and the earth be darkened in the clear day. It is a poetic figure for utter desolation; the result of their grasping selfishness, their heartless misconduct toward the poor, and God’s displeasure upon their ways.” – Ironside1
[e] There was a solar eclipse in 763 B.C.4 We don’t know if this eclipse is related to Amos’ prophecy, but it would have occurred shortly after Amos’ message. For more information about the time of Amos’ ministry, see the study here.