Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:II.
CURSE ON MOAB.
(1) Comp. Isaiah 15, 16, Isaiah 25:10-12, and Jeremiah 48 Translate “burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom.” The historical reference is obscure. (See 2Kings 3:26-27.) Whether Moab was guilty of desecrating royal tombs, or offering the heir of the king of Edom in sacrifice, cannot be determined. When Moab took revenge upon Edom, the latter was subject to Jehoram.
But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet:(2) Kirioth.—This properly signifies a group of towns, but here refers to a single large town in Moab, the modern Kureiât. (Comp. Jeremiah 48:24.)
CURSE ON JUDAH.
Great privileges have met with mad and foolish despite. Exalted to the highest heaven of possibility, Judah has despised the “Law of the Lord,” instead of preserving, with sacred reverence, His ordinances and institutions.
Their lies.—i.e., their false deities, which they have treated as divine. “The lies after which the fathers walked deceived the children. The children canonise the errors of their fathers. Human opinion is as dogmatic as revelation” (Pusey).
But I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.(5) Judah.—Such high privilege does not involve immunity from punishment. Judah shall be chastised with the same penalty as Edom, Philistia, Ammon, and Moab.
(6) Transgressions of Israel.—The storm of Divine threatening which had swept over the whole political horizon gathers, at last, over Israel. The sins and ingratitude of the people are aggravated by a recital of the Divine Mercy. By comparing this verse with Amos 8:6, it is clear that the Jewish interpreters (followed by Keil) were incorrect in charging this sin upon corrupt judges, who, by bribery, would deliver unjust judgments against the righteous. The sin consists in the perverse straining of the law, which allowed an insolvent debtor to sell himself into bondage to redeem a debt (comp. 2Kings 4:1; also Leviticus 25:39). In this case the debtor was a righteous man in sore straits for no fault of his own. Render, on account of a pair of sandals. A paltry debt, equivalent, in worth, to a pair of sandals, would not save him from bondage at the hands of an oppressive ruler (see Introduction).
That pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father will go in unto the same maid, to profane my holy name:(7) Dust of the earth on the head of the poor.—Can only mean, as Ewald and Keil interpret: they long to see the poor reduced to such distress that dust is thrown on their heads in token of grief. The meek are defrauded as being too weak to claim their own. The latter part of the verse points to the sensuality of the popular worship, the word “maid” being really the prostitute (Heb. k’dēshah) who was devoted to the lustful ritual of Ashera. This obsccnity is regarded by the prophet as part of a deliberate act of desecration to the name of the Holy One of Israel. Moreover, the relation of “father” and “son” was thereby sullied and degraded. (Comp. Leviticus 18:8; Leviticus 18:15; Leviticus 20:11.)
 Kuenen, Religion of Israel, vol. 1, pp. 92, 93.
In the house of their god.—Probably here, as in the previous verse, we are to understand the high places of syncretic, or heathenish, Jehovah worship as referred to. “They drank the wine of the amerced. Where? ‘In the house of their God.’ What hardheartedness to the wilfully forgotten poor is compensated by a little church-going! (Pusey.)
Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.(9) Destroyed I.—Emphasis belongs to the pronoun “I.” The Amorites proper occupied the S.W. coast of the Dead Sea. Their formidable stature and power were attributed occasionally to all the inhabitants of the land. (Joshua 24:18; Judges 6:10.) They were absorbed before the time of Amos.
Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite.(10) Forty years.—The forty years’ wandering was a punishment for fickleness and cowardice, but during the incidence of this judgment, of which we have only one or two events recorded in the Book of Numbers, God was disciplining and organising a tribe of restless wanderers into a nation. (Deuteronomy 32:9-13.)
And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD.(11, 12) God added to the mercies of His providence, the transcendent blessings of special revelation. The prophets of Israel were numerous, and renowned, and exposed to frequent persecution, e.g., the cases of Micaiah, Elijah, and others. “The Nazarite vow to abstain from wine, which, in the earliest case, that of Samson, appears a life-long vow, was undoubtedly a religious protest against Canaanite civilisation in favour of the simple life of ancient times.” (W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. 84.) The Nazarite was, moreover, a link between the prophet and the priest, upon whom, without hereditary rank or sacerdotal rite, great privileges were bestowed. The assault upon both is highly characteristic of the disloyalty of Israel.
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.(13) I am pressed.—Baur, Pusey, and Speaker’s Commentary support this rendering of the Heb. mē‘îq, the corresponding form in the next clause also being taken in the intransitive (i.e., passive sense). But it is unlikely that God, in this passage, should declare Himself “crushed” under the weight of Israel’s sin, for in the context it is Israel, and not God, who is described as the victim, Moreover, grammatical usage is against the rendering of mē‘îq as passive; nor does it favour Ewald’s, as well as Keil’s, interpretation “press you down” Translate (see margin) Behold, I am pressing down beneath you (literally, your place), just as the waggon, filled up with sheaves, presses down. Jehovah, in the awful judgment which He inflicts, is symbolised by the heavily-laden waggon. The expression “beneath you” suggests that the evil is not confined to the present. Israel, the nation weighted with the doom of past iniquities, bequeathes a yet more crushing load to future generations. If the text is sound, this appears the only satisfactory rendering of a difficult passage.
Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself:(14) This doom Amos darkly foreshadows to be invasion and military overthrow, with all its attendant calamities.
Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself.(15) Is omitted in some of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS., but without authority.