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The Basket of Fruit


This is what the Lord G od showed me—a basket of summer fruit. 2He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the L ord said to me,

“The end has come upon my people Israel;

I will never again pass them by.


The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”

says the Lord G od;

“the dead bodies shall be many,

cast out in every place. Be silent!”



Hear this, you that trample on the needy,

and bring to ruin the poor of the land,


saying, “When will the new moon be over

so that we may sell grain;

and the sabbath,

so that we may offer wheat for sale?

We will make the ephah small and the shekel great,

and practice deceit with false balances,


buying the poor for silver

and the needy for a pair of sandals,

and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”



The L ord 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 lives in it,

and all of it rise like the Nile,

and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?



On that day, says the Lord G od,

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 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.



The time is surely coming, says the Lord G od,

when I will send a famine on the land;

not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,

but of hearing the words of the L ord.


They shall wander from sea to sea,

and from north to east;

they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the L ord,

but they shall not find it.



In that day the beautiful young women and the young men

shall faint for thirst.


Those who swear by Ashimah of Samaria,

and say, “As your god lives, O Dan,”

and, “As the way of Beer-sheba lives”—

they shall fall, and never rise again.


And he assails by name the princes of the people, Hear this, he says, ye who tread upon or swallow up the poor The Prophets, as we have already stated, did not without reason direct their discourses to the chief men, though the common people were nearly as much involved in the same guilt. It is certain that the state of the people of Israel was then so corrupt, that all, from the highest to the lowest, were become degenerated and none were free from blame. But as more guilt belongs always to leaders, this is the reason why the Prophets treated them with more sharpness and severity: for many of the common people go astray through thoughtlessness or ignorances or are led on by others, but they who govern, pervert what is just and right, and then become the originators of all kinds of licentiousness. It is no wonder then that the Lord by his Prophets inveighed so sharply against them; and this is now the object of the Prophet in saying, Hear this: for there is an emphasis in the expression, when he bids them to hear; it was either because they did not sufficiently observe their sins, and were wholly deaf, or because they in vain contended with God; for hypocrites think that by evasion they can escape judgment. Hear, he says, ye who devour the miserable, and destroy the poor of the land. We see here some difference marked, and that the Prophet does not generally and indiscriminately summon the common people and the princes to God’s tribunal; but turns his discourse to the princes only. It now follows —

The Prophet goes on here with the same subject; for this could not apply to the whole people, but only to the plunderers who were able to oppress the miserable and the poor among the common people, and who had a great abundance of corn: the same we see at this day, — a few men in time of want have provisions hoarded up, so that they as it were put to death miserable men by reducing them to want. Since then the few rich held the whole people in a state of famine, the Prophet says here, “Do you think that God deals too rigidly or too cruelly with your inasmuch as ye have hitherto been killing men with misery and want?” Were any one to object, and say, that the slaughter which the Prophet has already threatened was to be common to the whole people, and that therefore it is now improperly stated, that the wrongs done to the people were brought on them by a few men: to this I answer, that there were other vices among the people which required to be corrected, and this we have already seen, and shall see again in other parts; but it was necessary to make a beginning with the proud men, who, relying on their own dignity, thought themselves exempt and free from the common lot. Hence it was necessary to close their mouths: and further, the Prophet did not spare others in their turn. But we see to what extent of mad folly haughty men, and such as possess worldly riches and powers would run, were not the Lord to restrain and check them. This is the reason why the Prophet now especially addresses them.

Ye therefore say, When will pass the month, that we may sell corn? Some take חדש, chedash, month, for the new-moon; and it is sometimes so taken and this interpretation is probable; for immediately follows the word, Sabbath. When then will pass the month, and when will pass Sabbath, that we may be able to sell our corn? As it was not lawful to carry on business either on the Sabbath or on the new-moon, whenever they rested but one day, they thought that so much time was lost to them; for we see that the avaricious grow weary, as their cupidity ever excites them, for they are like an oven: and since they are thus hot, if an hour is lost they think that a whole year has passed away; they calculate the very moments of time. “How is it,” they say, “there is no merchant coming? I have now rested one day, and I have not gained a farthing.” As then the avaricious are so extremely careful, it is probable that the Prophet here refers to this disease of the mind, as though he said, “You have no rest, no relaxation. God has commanded his people to rest on every new-moon; and his will also is, that you should abstain from every work on the seventh day: ye think it is time as lost, for ye get no gain.” But another exposition is equally probable, which is this, — that they expected corn to be every month dearer; as those robbers in our day gape for gain, who from every quarter heap together corn, and thus reduce us to want; they look forward, month after month, and think that some calamity may happen to increase the price of corn; frost or rain may come, some disaster may take place; when the spring passes away, there may come some hail or mildew; in short, they are, as it were, laying in wait for some evil. This meaning does not ill suit this place; at the same time they refer it to the intercalary month, which being an addition, prolongs time, so that the year becomes longer: and what follows, respecting the Sabbath corresponds well with this view; as the word is to be taken in another sense than of the seventh day, for we know that on every seventh year there was no sloughing, no cultivation of the land, among the Jews; and the corn was then dearer, when there was no crop. Thus then there was a prey as it were provided for the avaricious and the extortioners.

When then will pass the Sabbath, that we may open our storehouses? They closed their storehouses, until the whole year, without cultivation or produce or harvest, had passed away; and then they opened their storehouses, or at least it was the time when they in a great measure opened them. Since then they so cruelly dealt with the people, the Prophet justly reproves them, and shows that God did not too rigidly treat theme but recompensed them with such a reward as they merited. Other matters we shall defer to the next Lecture.

Here still he speaks of the avarice of the rich, who in time of scarcity held the poor subject to themselves and reduced them to slavery. He had spoken before of the Sabbaths, and he had spoken of deceitful balances; he now adds another kind of fraud, — that by selling the refuse of wheat, they bought for themselves the poor. We indeed know what is the influence of poverty and pressing want, when men are oppressed with famine; they would rather a hundred times sell their life, than not to rescue themselves even by an invaluable price: for what else is food but the support of life? Men therefore will ever value their life more than all other things. Hence the Prophet condemns this iniquity — that the rich gaped for such an opportunity. They saw that corn was high in price; “Now is the time for the poor to come into our possession, for we hold them as though they were ensnared; so then we can buy them for a pair of shoes.” But the other circumstance increases this iniquity, — that they sold the refuse of the wheat; and when they reduced to bondage the poor, they did not feed them; they mingled filth and offscourings with the wheat, as it is wont to be done; for we know that such robbers usually do this, when want presses upon the common people; they sell barley for wheat, and for barley they sell chaff and refuse. This kind of wrong is not new or unusual, as we learn from this passage. Now follows a denunciation of punishment —

God, having made known the vices of the rich, now shows that he would be their judge and avenger: for were they only reproved, they would not have cared much, like the usurer mentioned by Horace, who said, “The people may hiss me, but I felicitate myself.” So also these robbers were wont to do, when they were filled: though the whole people exclaimed against them, though God thundered from heaven, they laughed everything to scorn; for they were utterly destitute of every shame; and they were also become hardened; and insatiable cupidity had so blinded and demented them, that they had cast aside every care for what was right and becoming. Since it was so, God now declares that they could not escape punishment; and that this threatening might more effectually penetrate into their hearts, the Prophet makes use of an oath in the name of God, Jehovah, he says, hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob

An old interpreter has rendered the words, “He has sworn against the pride of Jacob:” but he did not sufficiently consider the design of the Prophet; for he speaks not here of vice, but of that dignity which the Lord had conferred on the posterity of Abraham; for we have before seen this expression, ‘I abhor the excellency of Jacob.’ Some give this rendering, “I abhor the pride of Jacob,” as though God were speaking there of perverse haughtiness. But he, on the contrary, means, that the Israelites were deceived, for they thought themselves safe and secure, because they were introduced into great favor by a singular privilege. “This,” the Lord says, “will profit them nothing: I have hitherto been kind and bountiful to the children of Abraham; but I now abhor this whole dignity.” So also he says now in this place, Jehovah hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob. They were proud of their dignity which yet was the free gift of God, hence God interposes a form of oath, the fittest to reprove their presumption. Some at the same time give this translation, “By myself, (at least they give this explanation,) by myself have I sworn:” for God was the glory of Jacob. Others think that by this word, גאון, gaun, is designated the sanctuary; for this was the excellency of Jacob, because God had chosen it as a habitation for himself in the midst of his people: hence, also, He is often said to dwell between the cherubim; not that he was inclosed in the sanctuary, but because the people perceived there his presence, his favor, and his power. But I rather understand by the term, excellency, in this place, the adoption, by which God had separated for himself that people from the rest of the world. Sworn then hath Jehovah. How? By the excellency of Jacob: and thus he glances in a severe manner at the ingratitude of the people, as they did not own themselves to be in every respect bound to God; for they had been peculiarly chosen, when yet other nations in many things excelled them. It was doubtless an invaluable favor for that ignoble people to have been chosen to be God’s peculiar possession and heritage. Hence the Prophet now rightly introduces God as being angry; and the form of the oath is suited to set forth the people’s ingratitude: “What! do ye now rise up against me, and elevate your horns? By what right? Under what pretext? Who are ye? I chose you, and ye truly repay me with this reward, — that though ye owe me all things, ye seek to defraud me of my right. I therefore swear by the excellency of Jacob, — I swear by the benefits which I conferred on you, — that I will not allow that which is justly precious in my sight to be disgracefully profaned. Whatever then I have hitherto bestowed on you, I will return on your own heads, and, as ye deserve, ye shall miserably perish.” This is the meaning.

We hence see that the oath which the Prophet uses, ought to be applied to the present case. He says, I shall never forget all your works, that is, none of your works shall be passed by unpunished. For though conscience sometimes disturbs hypocrites yet they think that many things may be concealed; and if the hundredth part, or at farthest the tenth, must be accounted for, they think this to be quite enough: “Why! God may perhaps observe this or that, but many faults will escape him.” Since then hypocrites thus heedlessly deceive themselves, the Prophet says, “Nothing can ever be hid from my sight; nay, as I now know all their works, I will show that all their sins are recorded in my books, in my memory, so that all things shall at last be called to an account.” It now follows —

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