The capital of the Northern kingdom of Israel was Samaria. The city was located on a hill at the bottom of which, today, archeologists have found a number of its ruins. As Amos tells us, through nefarious business and political practices, the upper crust had virtually enslaved the poor of the land—much as we see in dictatorships today. All of this followed King Jeroboam’s rebellious reign, in which he determined to set up a rival religion to Jehovah, that would keep his people from traveling to Jerusalem. Rather than follow God’s directions about the true temple, sacrifices, and priesthood, he set up his own temples, festivals, altars, images of golden calves, high place shrines, and non-levitical priesthood. This was a mongrel religion with mixtures of truth and paganism. Much like a present-day cult, there was enough similarity to the real thing that the people were easily duped. Besides, as he told them, why travel all the way to Jerusalem to worship when you can do here, right at home in Bethel or Gilgal? They needed little persuasion, but flocked to these religious centers.
God was incensed that these things happened, ”roared from Zion,” and sent a southern, country boy to the North to warn them that He was going to destroy the land by the invasion of a people from far beyond Damascus. Because they refused to heed the last warning that He issued through Amos, the disaster soon came. The Assyrians swept down from the North, devastated the land, and utterly destroyed the countryside, the temple, the palace, and the city, rolling the massive stones of the latter down the hill. Women who had lived in drunken revelry, were literally (as archeological reliefs show) led captive by fishhooks implanted in their lips, and the few men who survived were sold into slavery in far away lands. But they constituted a slim remnant. Unlike the later deportation of the Southern kingdom where there were three sizeable returns to their land after their later exile, the remnant of the ten tribes (which were never “lost’) dribbled back in small groups, especially during the 270-year period following the reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem, when the 70 year period of Babylonian captivity was over. They became incorporated into the tribe of Judah (as the presence of Anna, of the tribe of Asher in New Testament times shows; Luke 2: 36). And from the time of their incorporation into the tribe of Judah, they—as all Israel from then on—were called “Jews,” a name derived from the word Judah.
The book of Amos is a book of doom! It is worth reading in a time like our own, when our country is quickly slipping into many of the same sinful practices found in ancient Samaria. The wealth of the period was immense—ivory inlay in beds and other furniture has been found, with sheets of ivory stored to be used for such purposes in the future—just as the Book of Amos describes. The totally illegitimate priesthood, of course, was incensed by the preaching of this country bumpkin, and ordered Amos to return to Tekoa, his own land. But Amos preached on, predicting the destruction of those who opposed—as happened (members of the faux high priest’s family were killed along with him, and his wife became a harlot). God devastated the land, which was never satisfactorily rebuilt. Today, a little village remains, along with a nearly-defunct religious group called Samaritans, all that is left of the “Samaritans” of Jesus’ day who were of foreign extraction deported from other lands.
Why am I writing such things? As a simple warning to those few who will read this blog, urging them to repent on behalf of the nation, implore God for help, and serve Him as never before. There may yet be time before God pours out His wrath upon an ungrateful nation that possesses so much and yet cares so little—about others and about God! Amos commented on the false perception of the Israelites who expected God to intervene, and destroy all of their enemies in a great “Day of the Lord.” Instead, said Amos, I’ll teach you what the Day of the Lord really will be—a day of gloom and destruction all right, but not for your enemies–for you! God is coming in judgment for sure, so “Prepare to meet your God!”
But they would not listen. No one stood in the gap and, thereby, stayed the hand of God through repentance and prayer. In today’s growingly grim situation, will you?