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8. A Basket of Ripe Fruit

Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. 2And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more. 3And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence.

4Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, 5Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? 6That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? 7The Lord hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. 8Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. 9And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: 10And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day.

11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: 12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. 13In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. 14They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.

The Prophet speaks here metaphorically of the punishments which were then to the people nigh at hand: and as prosperity and success deceived the Israelites, the Prophet makes use of this significative mode of speaking: “Ye congratulate yourselves on account of your wealth and other things which delight you, as though God could not turn light into darkness; and as God spares you, ye think that it will ever be the same with you; but God can, he says, turn light into darkness: a dark night therefore will overtake you even at mid-day.” We now understand why the Prophet employed this figurative expression, — that God would obscure the sun, or cause it to go down, and would on a clear day send darkness to obscure the earth. It was not, it is certain, the eclipse of the sun; and the Prophet did not mean this. But these figurative expressions must be first noticed, and then we must see what they import.

Were any one disposed to lay-hold on what is literal and to cleave to it, his notions would be gross and insipid, not only with regard to the writings of the Prophets, but also with regard to all other writings; for there is no language which has not its figurative expressions. There is then in this passage a remarkably significative mode of speaking, — that God would make the sun to go down or to become cloudy at mid-day. But we must especially notice the design of the Prophet, which was to show, that the Israelites trusting in their prosperity, thought themselves to be beyond the reach of danger; hence their security and hence their torpor, and at length their perverseness and their contempt of God: since then the Prophet saw that they abused the benefits of God, he says, “What! the Lord indeed has caused your sun to rise; but cannot he make it to set, yea, even at mid-day? Ye now exult in its light; but God will suddenly and unexpectedly send darkness to cover your heads.” There is then no reason for hypocrites to flatter themselves, when God smiles on them and treats them indulgently; for in this manner he invites them to repentance by the sweetness of his goodness, as Paul says in the second chapter to the Romans. But when he sees them stubbornly wanton, then he turns his benefits into punishments. This then is what the Prophet means: “God,” he says, “will make the sun to set at mid-day, and will darken the clear day.” Let us go on —

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