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Amos was a missionary from Judah to Israel, giving them a final warning to repent before divine judgment was to destroy the nation. They refused, and two years later the nation was struck by a massive earthquake that destroyed their defenses and allowed the Assyrians to conquer them easily.
Category - Bible Commentaries
We have now studied the first three visions given to Amos in the seventh chapter of his book: the locusts, the fire, and the plumb line. We are then given a fourth vision in chapter 8, a vision which is set apart from the previous three.
Amos 8:1-3 says,
1 Thus the Lord God showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit. 2 And He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the Lord said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. 3 The songs in the palace will turn to wailing in that day,” declares the Lord God. “Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence.”
How would a basket of fruit depict the end of Israel? The vision was understood to mean that the fruit of Israel’s sin was ripe and the harvest time had come. The destruction of Israel was imminent insofar as God was concerned, but in earthly time, Israel still had a few decades before the nation was actually destroyed.
Amos was perhaps the earliest of the prophets during the divided kingdom. He prophesied in Bethel, as we saw from Amos 7:10, during the reign of Jeroboam II, who was succeeded by nine more kings of Israel. Jeroboam II came to the throne in Israel toward the end of Elisha’s ministry (2 Kings 13:13, 14, 20).
With no immediate threat from Assyria, the high priest of Bethel fully believed that Amos was a false prophet. But God usually brings warning far in advance when the first seeds of destruction are sown. Because men usually walk by sight, they fail to heed the early warning.
God’s purpose for an early warning is to reverse course before the seed of judgment grows into a large tree. The larger the tree, the more difficult it is to get rid of it. It is easier to dig up the seed now than it is to chop down the tree later.
Unfortunately, because most men walk by sight and not by faith, they do not believe the prophetic warnings. The judgment is too far away for short-sighted men to be concerned. Hence, they doom a later generation by their negligence and unbelief.
Life goes on as usual until disaster strikes. Amos 8:5, 6 says,
5 saying, “When will the new moon be over, so that we may buy grain, and the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market, to make the bushel [ephah] smaller and the shekel bigger, and to cheat with dishonest scales, 6 so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and that we may sell the refuse [chaff] of the wheat?”
The people observed the new moon celebrations but their hearts were not into it, for they treated these as mere rituals. They were anxious to get on with their lives and considered new moons and sabbaths to be interruptions of commerce.
Their commerce was dishonest, violating the law of equal weights and measures. They made “the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger.” Their scales were dishonest as well.
The law says in Lev. 19:35, 36,
35 You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
If a man wanted to buy an ephah of wheat, the shop keeper would measure the sale with a smaller ephah to cheat the buyer. Buyers would add less valuable metal to their shekels to increase their weight and thereby cheat those who sold wheat to them.
Commerce thrives on honesty, but when men search for ways to cheat, the first thing they do is to degrade the standard of weights and measures. Today, of course, all the money systems of the world cheat everyone by a slow but constant erosion of the value of the money. This erosion is known as “inflation,” because prices seem to go up steadily.
In actuality, the value of the money is deflated, and the result is that savings are constantly depleted through what is known as “the inflation tax.” The modern system of Mystery Babylon is designed to cheat the average person through an unjust monetary system.
The cause of this is largely due to the fact that today’s money is not wealth but debt. Debt has been monetized. For every dollar a person holds, someone else owes a dollar. Hence, money is backed by debt. The only way for a dollar to be created and circulated is for someone to borrow it into existence at interest. Because of the interest on every debt, there is always more debt than money in existence, making it impossible to ever pay back all of the debts. That is slavery.
That is why God’s law forbids usury, or interest on money—at least when doing commerce within one’s own country. Usury forces unjust weights and measures upon a currency in order to postpone the day of reckoning.
Life in ancient Israel employed unjust weights and measures in one way, but today the whole world does it in a more refined manner so that most of the people do not realize that they are being robbed daily.
Amos says that Israel’s dishonest and unlawful ways of doing commerce resulted in human slavery, “to buy the helpless for money.” Apparently, slaves were so abundant in those days that “the needy” could be purchased or traded “for a pair of sandals.”
Amos was using an idiom to tell us that slaves were “a dime a dozen,” as we would say today. Certainly, it shows how slavery was a normal part of life in the land of Israel in that time, whereas God’s law seeks liberty for all law-abiding citizens.
Finally, Amos condemns the people for selling chaff (“refuse”) instead of wheat—indigestible food. Anything for a buck!