Amos 2:6
Thus said the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes;
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2:1-8 The evil passions of the heart break out in various forms; but the Lord looks to our motives, as well as our conduct. Those that deal cruelly, shall be cruelly dealt with. Other nations were reckoned with for injuries done to men; Judah is reckoned with for dishonour done to God. Judah despised the law of the Lord; and he justly gave them up to strong delusion; nor was it any excuse for their sin, that they were the lies, the idols, after which their fathers walked. The worst abominations and most grievous oppressions have been committed by some of the professed worshippers of the Lord. Such conduct leads many to unbelief and vile idolatry.For three transgressions of Israel, and for four - In Israel, on whom the divine sentence henceforth rests, the prophet numbers four classes of sins, running into one another, as all sins do, since all grievous sins contain many in one, yet in some degree distinct:

(1) Perversion of justice;

(2) oppression of the poor;

(3) uncleanness;

(4) luxury with idolatry.

They sold the righteous for silver - It is clear from the opposite statement, "that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes," that the prophet is not speaking of judicial iniquity, but of actual buying and selling. The law allowed a Hebrew who was poor to sell himself , and a Hebrew to buy him until the year of release; yet this too with the express reserve, that the purchaser was forbidden to "serve himself with him with the service of a slave, but as a hired servant and a sojourner stroll he be with thee" Leviticus 25:39-40. The thief who could not repay what he stole, was to "be sold for his theft" Exodus 22:2-3. But the law gave no power to sell an insolvent debtor. It grew up in practice. The sons and daughters of the debtor Nehemiah 5:5, or "his wife and children" Matthew 18:25, nay even the sons of a deceased debtor 2 Kings 4:1, were sold. Nehemiah rebuked this sharply. In that case, the hardness was aggravated by the fact that the distress had been fomented by usury. But the aggravation did not constitute the sin. It seems to be this merciless selling by the creditor, with Amos rebukes. The "righteous" is probably one who, without any blame, became insolvent. The "pair of shoes," that is, sandals, express the trivial price, or the luxury for which he was sold. They had him sold "for the sake of a pair of sandals," that is, in order to procure them. Trivial in themselves, as being a mere sole, the sandals of the Hebrew women were, at times, costly and beautiful (Sol 7:1; Ezra 10; Judith 16:9). Such a sale expressed contempt for man, made in the image of God, that he was sold either for some worthless price, or for some needless adornment.

Thus saith the Lord, for three transgressions of Israel,.... The ten tribes rent from the house of David in the times of Rehoboam, and who departed from the true worship of God, and set up calves at Dan and Bethel:

and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; the following part of this prophecy is taken up in pointing at the sins and punishment of Israel; now the prophet is come to the main business he was sent to do:

because they sold the righteous for silver; meaning not any particular person, as Joseph sold by his brethren, for in that they were all concerned, Judah as well as the rest; nor Christ, as others (q), sold for thirty pieces of silver; since the persons here charged with it, and the times in which it was done, will not agree with that case; but the sense is, that the judges of Israel were so corrupt, that for a piece of money they would give a cause against a righteous man, and in favour of an unjust man that bribed them:

and the poor for a pair of shoes; that is, for a mere trifle they would pervert justice; if two men came before them with a cause, and both poor; yet if one could but give a pair of shoes, or anything he could part with, though he could not give money; so mean and sordid were they, they would take it, and give the cause for him, however unjust it was.

(q) Vid. Galatin. Cathol. Ver. Arcan. l. 4. c. 24.

Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of {c} Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of {d} shoes;

(c) If he did not spare Judah unto whom his promises were made, much more he will not spare this degenerate kingdom.

(d) They esteemed most vile bribes more than men's lives.

In the next verse the punishment is still further defined, and also extended to Judah. Hosea 10:11. "And Ephraim is an instructed cow, which loves to thresh; and I, I have come over the beauty of her neck: I yoke Ephraim; Judah will plough, Jacob harrow itself." Melummâdâh, instructed, trained to work, received its more precise definition from the words "loving to thresh" ('ōhabhtı̄, a participle with the connecting Yod in the constructive: see Ewald, 211, b), not as being easier work in comparison with the hard task of driving, ploughing, and harrowing, but because in threshing the ox was allowed to eat at pleasure (Deuteronomy 25:4), from which Israel became fat and strong (Deuteronomy 32:15). Threshing, therefore, is a figurative representation not of the conquest of other nations (as in Micah 4:13; Isaiah 41:15), but of pleasant, productive, profitable labour. Israel had accustomed itself to this, from the fact that God had bestowed His blessing upon it (Hosea 13:6). But it would be different now. עברתּי על, a prophetic perfect: I come over the neck, used in a hostile sense, and answering to our "rushing in upon a person." The actual idea is that of putting a heavy yoke upon the neck, not of putting a rider upon it. ארכּיב not to mount or ride, but to drive, or use for drawing and driving, i.e., to harness, and that, as the following clauses show, to the plough and harrow, for the performance of hard field-labour, which figuratively represents subjugation and bondage. Judah is also mentioned here again, as in Hosea 8:14; Hosea 6:11, etc. Jacob, in connection with Judah, is not a name for the whole nation (or the twelve tribes), but is synonymous with Ephraim, i.e., Israel of the ten tribes. This is required by the correspondence between the last two clauses, which are simply a further development of the expression ארכיב אף, with an extension of the punishment threatened against Ephraim to Judah also.
6. Israel—the ten tribes, the main subject of Amos' prophecies.

sold the righteous—Israel's judges for a bribe are induced to condemn in judgment him who has a righteous cause; in violation of De 16:19.

the poor for a pair of shoes—literally, "sandals" of wood, secured on the foot by leather straps; less valuable than shoes. Compare the same phrase, for "the most paltry bribe," Am 8:6; Eze 13:19; Joe 3:3. They were not driven by poverty to such a sin; beginning with suffering themselves to be tempted by a large bribe, they at last are so reckless of all shame as to prostitute justice for the merest trifle. Amos convicts them of injustice, incestuous unchastity, and oppression first, as these were so notorious that they could not deny them, before he proceeds to reprove their contempt of God, which they would have denied on the ground that they worshipped God in the form of the calves.

For three transgressions of Israel, etc. - To be satisfied of the exceeding delinquency of this people, we have only to open the historical and prophetic books in any part; for the whole history of the Israelites is one tissue of transgression against God. Their crimes are enumerated under the following heads: -

1. Their judges were mercenary and corrupt. They took bribes to condemn the righteous; and even for articles of clothing, such as a pair of shoes, they condemned the poor man, and delivered him into the hands of his adversary.

2. They were unmerciful to the poor generally. They pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the poor; or, to put it on the head of the poor; or, they bruise the head of the poor against the dust of the earth. Howsoever the clause is understood, it shows them to have been general oppressors of the poor, showing them neither justice nor mercy.

3. They turn aside the way of the meek. They are peculiarly oppressive to the weak and afflicted.

4. They were licentious to the uttermost abomination; for in their idol feasts, where young women prostituted themselves publicly in honor of Astarte, the father and son entered into impure connections with the same female.

5. They were cruel in their oppressions of the poor; for the garments or beds which the poor had pledged they retained contrary to the law, Exodus 22:7-26, which required that such things should be restored before the setting of the sun.

6. They punished the people by unjust and oppressive fines, and served their tables with wine bought by such fines. Or it may be understood of their appropriating to themselves that wine which was allowed to criminals to mitigate their sufferings in the article of death; which was the excess of inhumanity and cruelty.

2:6 Shoes - The smallest bribe, exprest here proverbially.
Amos 2:5
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