Let us look at that verse in both translations.

  • KJV – Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.
  • NIV – Now then, I will crush you as a cart crushes when loaded with grain.

It is obvious that there is a large difference in these two translations concerning Amos 2:13.  Perhaps the context will help us understand this verse.  In the first two chapters of this book, Amos delivers the words of God’s judgment on eight nations, including the nation of Israel (2:6-8).  Each judgment begins with the words, “For three transgressions of ____, and for four I will not turn away the punishment thereof…”  This shows us the grave sins of these nations and the Lord’s righteousness in judging them.  It illustrates that the measure is full, and that the judgment cannot be avoided.

Because I am not a student of the Hebrew language, I will quote the words of John Calvin on Amos 2:13:

“The verb עיק, oik, in Hebrew is often transitive, and it is also a neuter. This place then may admit of two interpretations. The first is, that God was pressed under the Israelites, as a wagon groans under too much weight; and so God expostulates by Isaiah, that he was weighed down by the Israelites, ‘Ye constrain me,’ he says, ‘to labor under your sins’ (Isaiah 1:14) The sense then, that God was pressed down under them, may be viewed as not unsuitable: and yet the more received interpretation is this, “Behold, I will bind you fast as a wagon is bound.” I am, however, more inclined to take the first meaning, — that God here reprehends the Israelites, because he had been pressed down by them: for תחתיכם, tacheticam, properly signifies, “Under you,” which some render, but strainedly, “Is your place:” for when the verb is transitive, they say, that תחתיכם, tacheticam, must be rendered “In your place:” but this is frigid and forced; and the whole passage will run better, if we say, “I am bound fast under you, as though ye were a wagon full of sheaves; (21) ” that is, “Ye are to me intolerable.” For God carried that people on his shoulders; and when they loaded him with the burden of iniquities, it is no wonder that he said that they were like a wagon — a wagon filled with many sheaves: “Ye are light as wind, but ye are also to me very burdensome, and I am forced at length to shake you off:” and this he afterwards shows.”

I tend to agree with Mr. Calvin’s words and reasoning concerning this verse.  Either way we look at it, we see the weight of the sins of Israel and that they had become intolerable to the Lord.  Later, the Lord delivers a stern warning to Israel in Amos 4:12, “Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.” 

However, the Lord is such a gracious God.  How thankful we should be for that.  He offers forgiveness to Israel if they will repent and turn to Him.  Let’s read Amos 5:4-14, “For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live: But seek not Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beer-sheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Beth-el shall come to nought. Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Beth-el. Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name: That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress. They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly. Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.”

May we rejoice in the realization that, “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:22-23).  (CC)  (553.6)