on Amos 8 :5
When will the new moon be gone - This was kept as a kind of holy day, not by Divine command, but by custom. The Sabbath was strictly holy; and yet so covetous were they that they grudged to give to God and their own souls this seventh portion of time! But bad and execrable as they were, they neither set forth their corn, nor their wheat, nor any other kind of merchandise, on the Sabbath. They were saints then, when compared to multitudes called Christians, who keep their shops either partially or entirely open on the Lord's day, and buy and sell without any scruples of conscience. Conscience! alas! they have none; it is seared as with a hot iron. The strong man armed, in them, is quiet, for all his goods are in peace.
Making the ephah small, and the shekel great - Giving short measure, and taking full price; or, buying with a heavy weight, and selling with one that was light.
Falsifying the balances - Having one scale light, and the other weighty; one end of the beam long, and the other short. A few months ago I detected a knave with such balances; with a slip of his finger along the beam he altered the center, which made three ounces short weight in every pound. He did it so dexterously, that though I knew he was cheating, or, as the prophet expresses it, was falsifying the balances by deceit, it was some time before I could detect the fraud, and not till I had been several times cheated by this accomplished knave. So we find that though the knaves of ancient Israel are dead, they have left their successors behind them.
on Amos 8 :5
When will the new moon be gone? - They kept their festivals, though weary and impatient for their close. They kept sabbath and festival with their bodies, not with their minds. The Psalmist said, "When shall I come to appear before the presencc of God?" Psalm 42:2. These said, perhaps in their hearts only which God reads to them, "when will this service be over, that we may be our own masters again?" They loathed the rest of the sabbath, because they had, thereon, to rest from their frauds. He instances "the new moons" and "sabbaths," because these, recurring weekly or monthly, were a regular hindrance to their covetousness.
The "ephah" was a measure containing 72 Roman pints or nearly 1 1/10 of an English bushel; the shekel was a fixed weight, by which, up to the time of the captivity 2 Samuel 18:12; 1 Kings 20:39; Jeremiah 32:9, money was still weighed; and that, for the price of bread also Isaiah 55:2. They increased the price both ways, dishonestly and in hypocrisy, paring down the quantity which they sold, and obtaining more silver by fictitious weights; and weighing in uneven balances. All such dealings had been expressly forbidden by God; and that, as the condition of their remaining in the land which God had given them. "Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Thou shalt not have in thy house divers measures, a great and a small. But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight; a perfect and just measure shalt thou have, that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" Deuteronomy 25:13-15.
Sin in wrong measures, once begun is unbroken. All sin perpetuates itself. It is done again, because it has been done before. But sins of a man's daily occupation are continued of necessity, beyond the simple force of habit and the ever-increasing dropsy of covetousness. To interrupt sin is to risk detection. But then how countless the sins, which their poor slaves must needs commit hourly, whenever the occasion comes! And yet, although among us human law recognizes the divine law and annexes punishment to its breach, covetousness sets both at nought. When human law was enforced in a city after a time of negligence, scarcely a weight was found to be honest. Prayer went up to God on "the sabbath," and fraud on the poor went up to God in every transaction on the other six days. We admire the denunciations of Amos, and condemn the makebelieve service of God. Amos denounces us, and we condemn ourselves. Righteous dealing in weights and measures was one of the conditions of the existence of God's former people. What must then be our national condition before God, when, from this one sin, so many thousand, thousand sins go up daily to plead against us to God?
on Amos 8 :5
8:5 When - Ye that could wish there were nothing to interrupt your marketing, that look on solemn times of worship as burdensome, such was the first day of every month, and the weekly sabbath. Small - So the ephah being too little, the poor buyer had not his due. The shekel great - They weighed the money which they received, and had no more justice, than to make their shekel weight greater than the standard; so the poor were twice oppressed, had less than was their right, and paid more than they ought to pay.