Back to Bethel?
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
(King James Version)
What has Bethel have to do with this most unusual famine?
The point made in the previous post in the Anastasis series, Famine, was that one of God's judgements is silence.
These verses are the theme of Anastasis, the Forbidden Book Concealed - the first book of the trilogy The Forbidden Book and the Upside Down Kingdom .
Here is the back story on these verses and what I have learned researching the prophet, Amos.
Who was Amos?
Not that much is known about him. He was a Jew living in the southern kingdom of Judah and an Old Testament prophet. Before the Lord called him, he was a herdsman and gatherer of sycamore fruit (Amos 7:14).
Where was he from?
Amos was from Tekoa (Amos 1:1), about six miles southeast of Bethlehem, a hilly ridge overlooking the desert wilderness down to the edge of the Dead Sea.
When did he prophesy?
He prophesied from about 776 – 763 B.C. during the reigns of Jeroboam II, king of Israel, and Uzziah, king of Judah, two years before the earthquake (Amos 1:1). Two hundred years later, Zechariah 14:5 mentions this same earthquake during the time of Amos.
Amos was also a contemporary of Jonah, Hosea, and later Micah.
Where did he preach?
The Lord called Amos to minister in the northern kingdom where he preached at the king’s chapel in Bethel (Amos 7:13).
Some background on Bethel:
* Bethel is about 12 miles north of Jerusalem.
* Map: http://bibleatlas.org/bethel.htm
* Bethel means "House of God" from the Hebrew word "beth" for "house" and "el" for "God."
* Its original name was Luz for light (Genesis 35:6.)
Bethel is first mentioned in Genesis 12:8, after Abram (later known as Abraham) was called out of Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan.
Bethel had become quite significant to Abraham’s grandson Jacob. When Jacob was fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, he fell asleep on a stone and had a dream of a ladder, reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. (Hence, from here is derived the term "Jacob’s Ladder.")
Above the ladder, the Lord restates the promises made to Abraham and Isaac, to give Jacob the land and bless his descendants. When Jacob awoke quite awed by the vision, he anointed the stone with oil and called the place "Bethel." (Genesis 28:10-18)
Back to Bethel:
Coming back to Bethel had a greater significance twenty years later. Jacob was fleeing the wrath of his relatives, again. He was surrounded - his father-in-law on one side and his brother Esau on the other.
Feeling distressed in this tightening vise of converging enemies, Jacob suffered a fitful, but memorable night. He wrestled with the Angel of the Lord who changed his name to Israel – God wrestler. Then, Jacob found deliverance from his dilemma as his father-in-law’s anger was abated and Esau had long forgiven him (Genesis 32).
After his latest family feuds came to a resolution, Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi slaughtered the house of Shechem to avenge the rape of their sister. (Genesis 34) With a foul reputation in the land and great fear of retribution for the murders, Jacob returned to Bethel:
And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.
(King James Version)
Jacob built an altar to God as he and his house put away their strange gods, cleaned up their act, and got their hearts right with the God of his fathers. (Genesis 35)
Jacob's return to Bethel is read in the first part of the video clip below:
To this day, "Back to Bethel" is a picture of those who come back to God after leaving Him and getting in the world.
Now, fast forward about one thousand years ...
Jacob, whose name had been changed to Israel, had many descendants. They multiplied to become the great kingdom of Israel and came to a zenith under David and Solomon. (II Samuel 2 – 24; I Kings 1-11; I Chronicles 11 – 29; II Chronicles 1–9)
Under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, a bloodless civil war (a revolt over high taxes) broke out led by Jeroboam I. Israel split in two – the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. (I Kings 12 - 13; II Chronicles 10 - 11)
Judah retained Jerusalem as its capital; Israel’s first capital was Bethel (I Kings 12). Here, Jeroboam I erected two golden calves, one in Dan, the other in Bethel. (I Kings 12:28-29)
Remember the problem the children of Israel had with those golden calves when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and was on the mountain getting the Law? (Exodus 32)
Here is Hollywood's version from The Ten Commandment (1956) :
You would think after all that drama Moses had finished off those golden calves and their worship.
Those golden calves made a big comeback … back at Bethel.
The leader of the rebellion, Jeroboam I had put up the golden calves and instituted his own priests (as the Levites were the ones under the Law of Moses) for political reasons. He did this to keep the people from going back to Jerusalem to worship and getting any ideas about reuniting with the southern kingdom. (I Kings 12:27) This act is often referred to as the sin of Jeroboam (I Kings 13:32-34)
Back to the Bethel? ... Not!
Instead of putting away idols, like the house of Jacob did in Genesis, these children of Israel were putting up idols and worshipping them, from Jeroboam I to Jeroboam II. Instead of coming back to God, like Jacob had done, they were turning their backs on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Bethel was a place where those, though very religious, were far from God.
During Amos’s time:
When Jeroboam II was on the throne, the northern kingdom was at its zenith. Bethel was the center of culture and of organized religion. Judaism was in apostasy as the worship the golden calf was reinstituted, where Amaziah was the priest at Bethel (Amos 7:10).
The king’s chapel at the king’s court was the center of golden calf worship. (Amos 7:13)
The Message of Amos:
In the northern kingdom, Amos first launches into the sins and God’s judgment of their neighboring kingdoms –Syria, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, and Moab. (Amos 1:3 – 2:3) The people didn’t mind that, especially hearing about someone else’s sins. And they didn’t seem to mind that much when he started in the sins of the southern kingdom of Judah (Amos 2:4 - 5)
Then, Amos launched into the sins of Israel - Immorality, Blasphemy, Iniquity– past, present, future. (Amos 2:4 – 6:4). They didn’t like it.
The priest at Bethel, Amaziah deliberately misquoted Amos to King Jeroboam to stir up more trouble. (Amos 7:10 - 11) Then, the priest of the golden calf derided Amos and told him to go away. (Amos 7:12 - 13)
At the time, Amos’s warnings of judgment seemed ridiculous as the northern kingdom under Jeroboam II was the zenith of its power (II Kings 14:23 – 27). But fifty years later, the northern kingdom would be destroyed by the Assyrians, carried into captivity about 740 BC. (II Kings 17)
And hence the ten tribes in the north have become known as "the ten lost tribes of Israel."
The Forbidden Book Concealed?
In the time frame of this historical fiction - the late 14th century - the Bible has been suppressed - especially in the common language of the people. There is a Famine in the land ... a spiritual famine of the Bread of Life ... for many years.
With the pending of the Forbidden Book, will the people long to go back to Bethel? And if so, which one?
* The Bethel of repenting and turning back to the God?
* The Bethel of idolatry?
Come and find out.
Whatever course a man or woman chooses in whatever age ....
Even the Dark Ages could not extinguish the Light.
The site where free sample chapters can be downloaded and where this eBook can be bought and delivered via wireless:
* Amazon.com (for Kindle)
* Barnes and Noble (Nook)
For previous posts in this series:
Anastasis (part 3) - Famine (2012)
Anastasis (part 2) - standing up (2011)
Anastasis (part 1) - The Forbidden Book Concealed (2011)
For posts on similar subjects:
Easter - The Sign of the Prophet Jonah (2011)
Memorize this! (2011)
Beverly Hillbillies and Amos - country folk in the big city (2010)
Photo from Wikipedia Commons: Amos, the prophet