The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday is from the book of the prophet Amos as contained in the Book of the Twelve (The Twelve Minor Prophets). The text is Amos 8:4-7 and is a section inserted by the prophet between his fourth vision (8:1-3) and his fifth vision (9:1-4). Remember, Amos is a prophet from the Southern Kingdom who is carrying out his prophetic ministry in the Northern Kingdom. This leads to some interesting dynamics, especially in regards to worship and its location. The Northern Kingdom has set up worship centers in Dan and Bethel. This is contrary to the words of the Torah—worship is to be centralized at the Tabernacle and now the Temple in Jerusalem. Certainly, it was politically expedient for the leader(s) of the Northern Kingdom to establish worship sites within their boundaries and not in Jerusalem. This has led to many abhorrent practices.
However, in our pericope, this is not the main issue Amos is addressing. The leaders and the power players of the Northern Kingdom have been caught up in what we might term as rampant materialism and consumerism. While there is nothing new under the sun here, the ones who suffer because of this focus are the poor, the needy and the outcasts. Those wishing to turn a quick profit have oppressed the less fortunate. They have cheated with their scales and weights and they have even gone so far as to enslave their own countrymen… for as little as a pair of sandals. The LORD God is not pleased.
It is good to remember the ministry and work of the Messiah at this point. He is the One who will come to reach out and heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, free the prisoners, etc. In other words, the work of the coming Messiah is the polar opposite to what is being done by the leaders of the Northern Kingdom. And, as we read of this work being carried out by Jesus in the New Testament, we clearly see the reality.
The irony is pointed out by Reed Lessing in his Amos Commentary in the Concordia Commentary Series: “By treating their fellow Israelites as commodities, the merchants of Amos’ day denied their core identity as Yahweh’s people. Those once oppressed in Egypt became the oppressors of their own countrymen” (p. 514). Thanks to Lessing and his excellent commentary are due!
As is the case here and in other texts like this, the Law flows easily. The problem is clearly laid out and the condemnation is pronounced strongly. However, how does one preach the Gospel? Perhaps this is why those responsible for appointing the pericope chose to add verse seven. God does not forget these wicked deeds… which means He remembers the poor, the needy and the outcasts who have suffered from these deeds. The LORD sends His Son who targets those who are trampled and downtrodden. He comes for all, but He specifically includes the less fortunate.
8:4 הַשֹּׁאֲפִים (hash-sho-a-Fim) root: שּׁאף (shaw-af) Qal, participle: “to trample; to crush; to tread on; to gasp; to pant; to swallow up” “You who trample upon” See also 2:7.
אֶבְיוֹן (ev-Yon) “poor; needy” See also 2:6 and 8:6.
וְלַשְׁבִּית (ve-lash-Bit) root: שׁבת (shaw-bath) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to remove; to put away; to destroy” Note that the Qal form refers to the Sabbath rest.
ענוי עֲנִיֵּי (an-vei a-ni-yei) The root of both is ענה (aw-nah) meaning “to oppress” Here it is translated in either the Kethib or the Qere as “an oppressed person; an oppressed one”
8:5 מָתַי (ma-Tai) “when?”
יַעֲבֹר (ya-a-Vor) root: עבר (aw-bar) Qal, imperfect: “to be past; to be over”
וְנַשְׁבִּירָה (ve-nash-Bi-rah) root: שׁבר (shaw-bar) Hiphil, cohortative: “to buy grain; to offer grain for sale”
שֶּׁבֶר; (She-ver) “grain; corn” Corn is not used in the sense of “maize” but rather as an inclusive term for grain (wheat; barley; etc).
וְנִפְתְּחָה> (ve-nif-te-chah) root: פתח (paw-thakh) Qal, cohortative: “to open” “so we may open grain (bins; stores)
לְהַקְטִין. (le-hak-Tin) root: קטן (kaw-tone) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to make something small; to cause something to be small” This is the only occurrence of this form in the Old
וּלְהַגְדִּיל (u-le-hag-Dil) root: גדל (gaw-dal) Hiphil, infinitive construct: “to make something large; to make heavier”
וּלְעַוֵּת (u-le-av-Vet) root: עוּת (aw-vath) Piel, infinitive construct: “to make crooked; to bend”
מֹאזְנֵי מִרְמָה (moz-Nei mir-Mah) “balances of fraud; dishonest scales; false balances”
8:6 לִקְנוֹת (lik-Not) root: קנה (kaw-naw) Qal, infinitive: “to purchase; to buy; to acquire”
דַּלִּים: (dal-Lim) from: דל: (dal) “poor; helpless”
נַעֲלָיִם (na-a-La-yim) “sandals; a pair of sandals” Note the dual form used here.
וּמַפַּל (u-map-Pal) “that which is discarded; refuse; chaff” This noun is used only here and in Job 41:23.
נַשְׁבִּיר: (nash-Bir) root: שׁבר (shaw-bar) Hiphil: “to sell grain; to offer grain for sale”
8:7 בִּגְאוֹן יַעֲקֹב (big-on ya-a-Kov) “by the pride of Jacob” There is some discussion as to the identification of, “the pride of Jacob” (see Lessing, p. 519). In my opinion, the best option is the pride of Jacob is Yahweh Himself. Thus, as we see in other cases, Yahweh swears by Himself.
אִם-אֶשְׁכַּח לָנֶצַח (im esh-Kach la-Ne-tzach) “I will not forget forever (all their deeds)” The use of “Jacob” to the Northern Kingdom audience indicates the LORD is the LORD of them as well as the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Amos 8:4-7.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Amos 8:4-7