Make . . . to fail.—Literally, make . . . to cease: i.e., destroy.
Set forth wheat.—The original signifies the opening of the sacks, or granaries, where the wheat was stored. The greedy mercantile class is referred to. The ephah, which was a dry measure (= three English pecks), was “made small,” so that a smaller quantity might be sold. The shekel was the weight against which the precious metal was weighed. If this were fraudulently augmented, more of the gold or silver than was due was demanded for the impoverished ephah.
Falsifying the balances . . .—More accurately, falsifying the deceitful balances, so that the very symbol of justice became the implement of committing injustice. This is frequently condemned in the Law and Prophets (Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:15; Proverbs 11:1; Micah 6:11).
EXCURSUS C (Amos 8:9).
That an eclipse is here referred to, and employed as a figure to express the overwhelming calamities which were to darken Israel, can hardly admit of doubt, when we compare the similar figurative use of the earthquake in the preceding verse. But to what eclipse does the prophet refer? Mr. J. W. Bosanquet has attempted to identify it with a very special one, mentioned in the Assyrian annals:—“In the eponymy of Bursagale, prefect of Gozan, the city of Asshur revolted, and in the month Sivan the sun was eclipsed.” This has been calculated by Hind to have occurred on June 15, 763 B.C. (So Rawlinson, Schrader, G. Smith, &c., as against Oppert’s view, which is untenable.) If this eclipse was in the mind of the prophet, it is a fact of considerable importance in chronology. On the whole, however, it is more probable that the prophet was thinking of an earlier eclipse, which took place in 784 B.C., Feb. 9. It was a total eclipse, the time of totality being about 1 p.m. at Jerusalem, thus exactly corresponding with the phraseology of this verse. So remarkable a phenomenon would naturally stamp itself for many years upon the mind of the people, and this vivid impression the prophet summons to his aid in foreshadowing the calamities of the last time.
 From chap. 5:5 we infer that Beersheba, lying far south on the borders of Judah (twenty-five geographical miles south of Hebron), was a famous religious centre, so that inhabitants of the northern kingdom were in the habit of “crossing the frontier” in order to pay their vows, or enquire at this high place.