by Francis Foulkes ©


'Thus 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," says the Lord God: "the dead bodies shall be many; in every place they shall be cast out in silence.' Hear this, you who trample upon 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 refuse of the wheat?" 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 every one 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?" "And on that day," says 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 upon all loins 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." ' (8:1-10)

In chapter 7 we read of three visions through which God spoke to Amos. Here we have another vision. We have read a good deal about the reasons for God's judgment of Israel; here it is made even more clear how the rich and powerful oppressed the poor and needy, and how because of this God would bring His judgment on them. Amos has spoken in the earlier chapters of the ways in which that judgment would come; he has more to say of that here.

a. The vision of God's judgment

As Amos had seen the locusts attacking the crops, as he had seen the fire, and then the man with the plumb line, so now he saw, as 'the Lord God showed' him, 'a basket of summer fruit'. What do you think when you see a basket full of ripe fruit? Perhaps sometimes you think, `This is the height of the season for this fruit; the season will soon be over.' Or perhaps, 'If this fruit is not eaten now, it will soon be rotten'. That seems to have been the thought of Amos, 'The end of the summer is near', or `the end of the fruit'. And such a thought would have formed easily in his mind because the word in his Hebrew language for 'summer fruit' was qayits, and the word for 'end' was like it, qets. As he looked at the basket of summer fruit he thought of his own people and God spoke to him, 'The end has come upon my people Israel'. God repeated what He had said in the vision of the man with the plumb line (in 7:8), '1 will never again pass by them'. Israel was ripe for judgment. Judgment must come on them.

b. The reasons for God's judgment

Amos has spoken of the oppression of the poor by the rich, the corruption of justice and the taking of bribes (see 2:6-8, 4:1, 5:10-12 and 6:4-6). Here we see a still clearer picture of the rich traders of Israel. They 'trample upon the needy, and bring the poor of the land to an end'. They profess to be religious; they keep the Sabbath and the festival of the new moon, but all the time they are thinking, 'When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? and the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale?' And their thought was not just of honest trading and money-making that they wanted to get back to; they were dishonest in their trading. They made the `ephah' measure of the corn they sold smaller than it should have been, and the 'shekel' weight for weighing out the money that the customers paid larger than it should have been; and in addition, they had deceitful balances for weighing. So they had three ways of cheating people. Always the poor suffered most, and sometimes to pay their debts they had to sell themselves as slaves. The same thing is said as in 2:6 (see Notes there) these rich people bought 'the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals'. Yet another thing they did, they sold to the poor 'the refuse of the wheat', that came from the sweepings of the floor (Phillips) and was only good enough to be thrown to the animals. Riches had made these traders hard and cruel in the way they treated the poor, and becoming hard and cruel, they had become dishonest too. As they did these things, they might have said, or thought, 'God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it' (Psalm 10:11). But His word to them through Amos, a word given in great power and sworn with an oath was, `Surely I will never forget any of their deeds'. He would certainly call them to give account to Him for what they had done.

c. The ways God's judgment would come

Amos has said a number of times already that judgment must come through enemy invasion and with great loss of life (see 2:14-16, 3:11-15, 5:16-17, 27, 6:8-14 and 7:8-9). What he says in verse 3 is very like what he has said already (in 6:9-10), 'The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day ... the dead bodies shall be many; in every place they shall be cast out in silence'. But there would be more than enemy invasion. The very land would tremble beneath them and rise up like the Nile in flood, be shaken and fall again. It is not surprising that when a great earthquake came two years after Amos had spoken, people saw the fulfilment of his words, and realised that he had indeed spoken from God (see Study 2). He said that there would be other signs in nature too. God would 'darken the earth in broad daylight'. This may have been a prophecy like 5:20 about the day of the Lord being darkness and not light (see also Isaiah 8:22, Jeremiah 15:9 and Micah 3:6). In the year 763 B.C., however, there was an eclipse of the sun, which may (like the earthquake) have been seen as a strange fulfilment of the word that Amos had spoken. (On the other hand, some think that the eclipse had taken place when Amos spoke these words, and that the experience led him to say that God's judgment would be like the darkening of the sun in an eclipse.) In all of these ways God's judgment would come on Israel, and it would be a 'bitter day' for them. Their feasts would be turned 'into mourning' and all their 'songs into lamentations', and they would want to show all the signs of sorrow, the wearing of sackcloth, and 'baldness' or the cutting off of their hair, signs of a grief so great as to be 'like the mourning for an only son'. All their joy and feasting had been empty joy (compare 6:4-6), joy in which they forgot God and neglected the needs of their people. Therefore that joy was to be changed to bitter sorrow and loss.


The words of Jesus to His disciples who were willing to suffer for Him were, 'You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.... You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you' (John 16:20, 22)

For further thought and study. 1. With these verses compare what is said in Leviticus 19:35-36, Deuteronomy 25:13-16, Proverbs 11:1, 16:11, 20:10, 23 and Micah 6:10-15 about God's demand for honesty in business dealings. What dishonest practices in trade and business to-day do you think are, in the eyes of God, like those which are denounced in the book of Amos?

2. With verse 7 contrast Psalm 103:10-12 and Jeremiah 31:34. When is it true that God will never forget man's sin? On the other hand when is it true that He will remember it no more?

Notes. 1. It may be right to translate the first part of verse 3 as the New English Bible does, 'The singing women in the palace shall howl . . .', and then to show how the original Hebrew has three short clauses to follow, 'So many dead men, flung out everywhere! Silence!'

2. For the festival of the 'new moon' (verse 5) that was kept in Israel (the beginning of the month) see Leviticus 23:23-25, Numbers 10:10, 28:11-15, Isaiah 1:13-14 and Hosea 2:11.

3. 'The pride of Jacob' by which the Lord swears in verse 7 is probably 'the glory of Jacob' (Phillips), the greatness and blessing that He gave Israel and intended His people to have.

4. It has often been said that we should see a fulfilment of verse 9 in the way that at the time when Jesus died on the cross there was darkness over the whole land (Mark 15:33). At least there is a connection between the two. As Amos saw it, darkness would be the judgment of God on Israel because they had rejected the light that they might have had. When our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, God brought darkness to show to men that they were rejecting Him who was sent to be the Light of the world, the sinless Son of God who came to be men's Saviour and Lord. The darkness showed them what they had done through their pride and envy and rebellion against God - they nailed His own Son to the cross. As Isaac Watts' hymn puts it:
'Well might the sun in darkness hide,
And shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man, the creature's sin.'