Amos 8:4
Hear this, O you that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Ye that swallow up . . .—Better, ye that pant (or are greedy) for the very ashes on their heads.

Make . . . to fail.—Literally, make . . . to cease: i.e., destroy.

Amos 8:4-6. Hear, O ye that swallow up the needy — That greedily and cruelly devour such as would have been objects of your compassion, had you been just and merciful as well as rich and great. He alludes to the greater fish swallowing up the lesser. To make the poor of the land to fail — Either to root them out or to enslave them. Saying, When will the new- moon be gone — This was one of their solemn feasts, the use of which they retained with their idolatrous worship; that we may sell corn — It seems they were prohibited during this feast, and probably in their other solemn feasts, from every kind of traffic, even the selling of corn; and these covetous wretches thought the time during which they were so restrained long and tedious, wishing to be again at liberty to trade and get gain. Making the ephah small, and the shekel great — The ephah was the measure whereby they sold corn, &c., containing about one of our bushels. This they made smaller than the just standard, and so cheated in the quantity of what they sold. The shekel was the money they received for the price of their goods, and by weighing this by too heavy a weight, they diminished its real value, and so cheated also in the sum they received. So that both ways they over-reached those that dealt with them, who received less of what they bought than it was their right to receive, and paid more than they ought to pay for it. That we may buy the poor for silver — That we may, by these unjust dealings, soon get the poor so much into our debt, that they may not be able to discharge it, but be obliged to surrender themselves to us as slaves, and that for a very trifling consideration in reality. So that these avaricious and merciless men wished the new-moon and sabbaths to be over, that they might go to market, as it were, and buy the poor; and when these poor owed but for a very trifling article, as suppose a pair of shoes, they would take advantage against them, and make them sell themselves to pay the debt. Or, to buy any thing for a pair of shoes, was a proverbial expression to signify getting it at a very vile, or low price. It was the custom of those times when a man could not discharge his debts, for him to surrender up himself and family to his creditor as bond-servants. By this the rich increased their power, as well as their wealth; and such was their inhumanity, that they practised every art of fraud and extortion to reduce the needy to this miserable condition. Yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat — Not content with defrauding in the measure and price, ye mix the chaff, or refuse, such as is not fit to make bread, and sell it together with the wheat. This was another kind of oppression; corrupted wares were sold to those that were necessitous.8:4-10 The rich and powerful of the land were the most guilty of oppression, as well as the foremost in idolatry. They were weary of the restraints of the sabbaths and the new moons, and wished them over, because no common work might be done therein. This is the character of many who are called Christians. The sabbath day and sabbath work are a burden to carnal hearts. It will either be profaned or be accounted a dull day. But can we spend our time better than in communion with God? When employed in religious services, they were thinking of marketings. They were weary of holy duties, because their worldly business stood still the while. Those are strangers to God, and enemies to themselves, who love market days better than sabbath days, who would rather be selling corn than worshipping God. They have no regard to man: those who have lost the savour of piety, will not long keep the sense of common honesty. They cheat those they deal with. They take advantage of their neighbour's ignorance or necessity, in a traffic which nearly concerns the labouring poor. Could we witness the fraud and covetousness, which, in such numerous forms, render trading an abomination to the Lord, we should not wonder to see many dealers backward in the service of God. But he who thus despises the poor, reproaches his Maker; as it regards Him, rich and poor meet together. Riches that are got by the ruin of the poor, will bring ruin on those that get them. God will remember their sin against them. This speaks the case of such unjust, unmerciful men, to be miserable indeed, miserable for ever. There shall be terror and desolation every where. It shall come upon them when they little think of it. Thus uncertain are all our creature-comforts and enjoyments, even life itself; in the midst of life we are in death. What will be the wailing in the bitter day which follows sinful and sensual pleasures!Here ye this, ye that swallow - Or, better in the same sense, "that pant for the needy;" as Job says, "the hireling panteth for the evening" Job 7:2. They "panted for the poor," as the wild beast for its prey; and "that to make the poor" or (better, as the Hebrew text,) "the meek" , those not poor only, but who, through poverty and affliction, are "poor in spirit" also, "to fail." The land being divided among all the inhabitants, they, in order "to lay field to field" Isaiah 5:8, had to rid themselves of the poor. They did rid themselves of them by oppression of all sorts. 4. Hear—The nobles needed to be urged thus, as hating to hear reproof.

swallow up the needy—or, "gape after," that is, pant for their goods; so the word is used, Job 7:2, Margin.

to make the poor … to fail—"that they (themselves) may be placed alone in the midst of the earth" (Isa 5:8).

Though the prophet had several times told them what were the sins for which God would thus punish Israel, yet on a repeated threat he repeateth the rehearsal of the sins which draw down these judgments on their heads.

Hear this, attend, and consider it,

O ye that swallow up, greedily and cruelly devour, that do, like the greater fish, swallow up the lesser fry: in this one word the prophet includeth all the methods of their cruel oppression, wasting tho poor.

The needy; such as were objects of your mercy, had you been just and honest, as well as rich and great.

Even to make the poor of the land to fail; either to root them out, or to enslave them, while their necessities force them to sell themselves for bread. Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy,.... Like a man that pants after a draught of water when thirsty; and, when he has got it, greedily swallows it down at one gulp; so these rich men swallowed up the poor, their labours, gains, and profits, and persons too; got all into their own hands, and made them bondsmen and slaves to them; see Amos 2:7; these are called upon to hear this dreadful calamity threatened, and to consider what then would become of them and their ill gotten riches; and suggesting, that their oppression of the needy was one cause of this destruction of the land:

even to make the poor of the land to fail; or "cease" (a); to die for want of the necessaries of life, being obliged to such hard labour; so unmercifully used, their faces ground, and pinched with necessity; and so sadly paid for their work, that they could not live by it.

(a) "ad cessare faciendum", Mercerus; "et facitis cessare", Munster, Drusius.

Hear this, O ye that {c} swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail,

(c) By stopping the sale of food and necessary things which you have gotten into your own hands, and so cause the poor to spend quickly that little that they have, and at length because of need to become your slaves.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Hear this] Amos 3:1, Amos 4:1, Amos 5:1.

that pant after the needy] i.e. who are eager to destroy them: the word has the same figurative sense in Psalm 56:1-2; Psalm 57:3; cf. also above Amos 2:7 (Jerome renders, as there, perhaps rightly, that crush).

and are for making[190] the poor of the land to cease] viz. by their eagerness to take every advantage, and to secure everything for themselves,—as they might do, for instance, by exacting the labour of the poor without proper pay (Jeremiah 22:13; Micah 3:10), or by building large palaces, or amassing large estates (Isaiah 5:8; Micah 2:2), and so depriving their less fortunate neighbours of the means of livelihood, or compelling them to seek a home elsewhere, or even to sell themselves into slavery. In the present instance, however, their inconsiderate treatment of the poor took the form of commercial dishonesty, Amos 8:6-7.

[190] For the Heb. idiom employed, see the writer’s Heb. Tenses, § 206; Davidson, Heb. Syntax, § 96 R. 4; or Ges.-Kautzsch (ed. 25 or 26), § 114. 2 R. 5.

4–6. Amos indignantly turns to the rapacious merchants of Israel, rebuking them for their avarice, their dishonesty, and their meanness.

4–14. A fresh denunciation of Israel’s sin, followed by a fresh picture of the impending calamities.Verse 4. - The prophet, by admonishing the grandees of their iniquities, which they will not cast away, shows how ripe they are for judgment. That swallow up; better, that pant after (Amos 2:6, 7), like a beast after its prey, eager to devour. Even to make the poor of the land to fail; and cause the meek of the land to fail. They grasp at the property of the unresisting poor, adding field to field, and impoverishing them in various ways, to root them out of the land. Effects of the rain. Joel 2:24. "And the barns become full of corn, and the vats flow over with new wine and oil. Joel 2:25. And I repay to you the years which the locust has eaten, the licker, and the devourer, and the gnawer, my great army which I sent among you. Joel 2:26. And ye will eat, eat and be satisfied, and praise the name of Jehovah your God, who hath done wondrously with you; and my people shall not be put to shame to all eternity. Joel 2:27. And ye will know that I am in the midst of Israel, and I((am) Jehovah your God, and none else, and my people shall not be put to shame to all eternity." Joel 2:24 is practically the same as Joel 2:19, and the counterpart to Joel 1:10-12. השׁיק from שׁוּק, to run, hiphil only here and Joel 3:13, to run over, to overflow; pilel, Psalm 65:10, shōqēq, to cause to overflow. יקבים, the vats of the wine-presses, into which the wine flows when trodden out; here it also applies to the vats of the oil-presses, into which the oil ran as it was pressed out. Through these bountiful harvests God would repay to the people the years, i.e., the produce of the years, which the locusts ate. The plural, shânı̄m, furnishes no certain proof that Joel referred in ch. 1 to swarms of locusts of several successive years; but is used either with indefinite generality, as in Genesis 21:7, or with a distinct significance, viz., as a poetical expression denoting the greatness and violence of the devastation. On the different names of the locusts, see at Joel 1:4. It is to be observed here that the copula stands before the last two names, but not before yeleq, so that the last three names belong to one another as co-ordinates (Hitzig), i.e., they are merely different epithets used for 'arbeh, the locusts.
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