Amos the Prophet The historical background A wandering people At the start of what is a series looking at some of the prophets of Israel, it might be helpful to do a little history which gives us a feel of the background. When I recently visited Israel and went in to the desert, it was interesting to note the Bedouin still living there in tents in a very primitive way. I wondered if the reaction to these roaming people was the same as the reaction in England to gypsies. Here in England the wandering gypsy is a figure of loathing and resentment. I was surprised therefore that these wandering tribes of people were actually held in quite high regard. My Jewish guide said to me ‘They live like Abraham used to live.’ King David This was of course how the Jewish people came into existence, from these wandering tribes a nation was formed, and they had as their King David. He himself was drawn from a humble background as a shepherd, yet he was to bring together a nation in a remarkable way. He unified the tribes and he brought the centre of religious worship to Jerusalem. It was to Jerusalem that he brought the Ark of the Covenant. King Solomon Then when he died it was the son of David, Solomon who was given the honour of fulfilling his father’s dream, to build in Jerusalem a Temple, in which to house the Ark of the Covenant . Solomon was the Son of David and Bathsheeba, from that liaison which was so wrong and which resulted in the death of her husband to satisfy the lust of the king. Solomon was noted for his wisdom. It was he who ruled that a baby should be cut in half because two women claimed the child to be theirs. When one woman protested and said that in such circumstances she would rather the child be taken by the other woman, Solomon then knew which mother was lying. Solomon was visited by The Queen of Sheeba, he set up trade and became famous. However his reign had a large cost for the people. His great temple and development cost the people in taxes and hard labour, which they resented. The nation divides If the people thought that Solomon was a hard king, his son Rehoboam was worse. The northern tribes rebelled and the kingdom became divided. (1 Kings 12:16) The Jewish nation was no longer a united people. Now there was Israel with ten tribes in the North and the smaller Southern Kingdom, Judah, with two tribes in the South . Under Rehoboam the Northern Kingdom succumbed to pagan influence and a succession of rebellions and coups led to the eventual defeat of the Northen Kingdom at the hands of the Assyrians. The Northern Kingdom never broke free from pagan influence. In Judah the dynasty of King David continued but the future was always bleak, surrounded by powerful enemies. Eventually they were conquered by the Babylonians who destroyed the Temple and took the people away into captivity.
The Prophets The Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament were much different from the world of the early Christians where Greek philosophy was of such influence. Whereas Greek Philosophy was interested in the world of forms and ideas, disinterested in the physical and tangible, the Jewish prophets stood rather in the cauldron of world events, acutely aware of what was going on around them, immersed in the politics of the day. Note how their works are introduced by linking them to the reigns of kings (Amos 1:1, Mic 1:1 Hos 1:1, Is 1:1). This is important, it gives us a glimpse of how immersed these men were in world events, they were not religiously introspective. For them events happened for a purpose, even an almond tree or a boiling pot were significant. They came onto the world stage and they believed that events going on around them were not mere chance, they were part of the active working of a God in history. Their God was one who had led them out of Israel and drowned the Egyptian army. Their God was one who had delivered their enemies into their hands and who had helped them conquer the land. There were always prophets in...
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