To enlarge their coffers, merchants opened their shops for business the minute the Sabbath and holy days passed. They used nonstandard weights and measures to cheat their customers of a few ounces of grain. Some cheated the people to the point that they had to sell themselves into slavery to pay their debts! At the end of the day, the businessman would sweep up the bad wheat berries left on the floor, and sell them to the poor as first-quality wheat when business resumed in the morning!
Their problem lay in their personal attitude toward sin and holiness. God looked at their hearts and saw nothing of His righteousness and holiness. Whenever He finds a lack of these elements in His people, He becomes very concerned. The Israelites manifested their godless attitude in their domineering ways, their penchant to exploit, and their insatiable feeding of their own indulgences. Although God appears to attack mainly the rich and powerful throughout the book, the poor and needy probably had the same attitude but lacked the power to carry it out. Thus, God will punish both "the great house"—the rich—and "the little house"—the poor (Amos 6:11).
Israel's attitude toward the things of God was one of total disrespect and indifference. When Jesus cleansed the Temple (John 2:13-16), one thing that angered Him was how the priests disqualified the peoples' sacrifices without legitimate grounds, forcing them to buy animals far above fair market value. Sincere worshippers would have no choice but to pay fifteen or twenty times the normal price for another sacrificial animal that the priests had already proclaimed acceptable. The Israelites of Amos' day exhibited the same attitudes in their normal business practices.
The sin that underpinned these attitudes is covetousness, causing them to turn everything in life to self-advantage. As in America, competition was the lifeblood of the people, the vitality of the nation, and they felt they had no alternative but to lie, cheat, and steal to keep their "competitive edge." "The end justifies the means" was their motto. God says that they did not have to approach business this way. The nation was very wealthy—there was enough for everyone.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part One)
These verses give an interesting insight into how far the Israelites may have gone in adding to God's commands about the new moons.
There is a small chance that the new moon in question is the Feast of Trumpets. But if it is not Trumpets, it sets up an interesting situation: As the Israelite's ruling class wallowed in wealth, it drifted farther and farther from a true worship of God. In practicing some stringent traditions that God had nowhere commanded, they had attached their own ideas to His law!
This strict observance did not at all impress God favorably! Totally out of harmony with God's aim of "justice run[ning] down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24), they missed the intent of God's law entirely! He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 12:7).
These verses strongly imply that the Israelites did not conduct business during the new moon, but God never commands such a restrictive practice. Clearly, the day was different from common days because of God's assignment of special offerings. But in their occasional bursts of zeal (Romans 10:1-3), the Israelites apparently believed that if the little God required of them was good, then more would be better!
In theory it sounds good, but we are given a twofold warning in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6 that we should not add to His Word. This casts grave doubts on following the Israelitish tradition.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The New Moons
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Amos 8:5: