|Faith Strengthened||Chapter 31||Part 1|
Amos 2:6, "Thus saith the Lord, For three transgressions of Israel, and for four I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous and the poor for the value of a pair of shoes."
Some Christians writers have attributed this prophecy to the fate of Jesus, who was sold for thirty pieces of silver; and they have asserted that the fourth transgression being the sale of their righteous One will never be pardoned to Israel, and the consequence of this sin has been our present captivity.
Refutation.—The interpretation betrays a want of due appreciation of the connecting sentences, and the parallel sayings by other prophets. The above verse means, that a casual concurrence of the three crimes—idolatry, incest, and homicide—was not the primary cause of Israel’s expulsion from the Holy Land, but the chief cause was the universal depravity that prevailed throughout the nation, of which the mercenary leaders of the people gave the iniquitous example. The prophet Amos says, therefore (chapter 5:12), "They persecute the just, they take a bribe, and oppress the poor in the gate." The word צַדִּיק (righteous) used there has no reference to the man who leads a godly life, but only to the man whose cause is unimpeachable before the tribunal of justice, and in whose favor the sentence of the judges ought to be given. The word צַדִּיק here is of the same signification as in Exodus 23:8, where it is said, that the bribe given to the judge, "perverteth the words of the righteous." The expression, "For they oppress the needy for a pair of shoes," means, that the judge, for the most insignificant bribe, turns the scale of justice, and deprives the poor hapless man of his right, by pronouncing in favor of the guilty who offers the bribe. The prophet also inveighs against rich sinners. Amos 8:4, "Hear this, O ye who swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be gone that we may sell the corn, and the Sabbath that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances of deceit: that we may buy the poor for ourselves, and the needy for a pair of shoes, yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?" This passage is, in wording and sense, closely related to that of chapter 2, and both convey the idea of an iniquitous proceeding in buying and selling. We notice, in the above quotation, that the new moon was then more strictly observed, and ordinary pursuits were suspended, and, judging from the admonitions of the prophets, it would appear that they indulged in convivial and social entertainments. Compare with this 1 Samuel 20:5, beginning with "Tomorrow is new moon," and the second book of Kings 4:23, "Why goest thou today to him [to the prophet], since it is neither new moon, nor Sabbath;" as the injustice described in the Book of Amos relates merely to the mercenary conduct of the superiors in legal decisions, and to the groveling disposition of buyers and sellers in their several dealings, it must be deemed utterly futile to construe those words of Amos as alluding to the history of their Savior. Besides, if the prophet had intended to make any allusion to Jesus, he ought to have ascribed the transgression to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who alone resided in the Holy Land in the days of Jesus, while the ten tribes were scattered among their enemies, and could take no part whatever in the proceedings against Jesus.
Nor can it be asserted that the expression, "And for the fourth transgression will not turn aside the punishment thereof," conveys the announcement, that Israel will never be pardoned for the sale of Jesus, for we find the very same mode of expression applied to the transgressions of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, etc., who had no concern whatever in the sale of Jesus. When we read Scripture with proper attention we arrive at the very opposite conviction to the opinion of the Christians respecting our eternal condemnation. See, for instance, the following passages: Psalm 130:8, "And He will redeem Israel from all their sins." Jeremiah 33:8, "And I will cleanse them from all their iniquities which they committed against me, and I will pardon all their iniquities with which they sinned and rebelled against me." In the same book (chapter 50:20) we read, "In those days and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and not be seen; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found; for I shall forgive all whom I shall cause to remain."