Should they continue to mourn (Zech 7:2-7:3)

“Now the people of Bethel

Had sent Sharezer

And Regem-melech,

With their men,

To entreat

The favor of Yahweh.

They were to

Ask the priests

Of the house of Yahweh of hosts,

With the prophets,

‘Should I mourn?

Should I practice abstinence

In the fifth month,

As I have done

For so many years?’”

The people of Bethel, from the old northern kingdom of Israel sent a couple of representatives to Jerusalem.  The two men were Sharezer and Regem-melech, both with Assyrian sounding names.  They had come to Jerusalem to find favor with Yahweh.  Thus, they went to his priests and prophets.  They wanted to know if they still had to mourn and abstain in the 5th month of the year as they had done for many years.  Apparently, the 5th month was when the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 587 BCE.  Was the time of mourning for the old Temple over?

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No escape (Am 9:1-9:1)

“I saw Yahweh

Standing beside the altar.

He said.

‘Strike the capitals

Until the thresholds shake!

Shatter them

On the heads

Of all the people.

Those who are left,

I will kill

With the sword!

Not one of them

Shall flee away!

Not one of them

Shall escape.’”

The final vision of Amos was when he saw Yahweh standing beside the altar, presumably the altar at Bethel in Samaria.  Yahweh said to Amos that he was going to strike the capitals or the tops of the columns so that the thresholds or the rest of the support systems would shake.  In fact, they would all tumble and shatter on the heads of the people there.  Anyone left over, Yahweh was going to kill with the sword.  No one would get away or escape from this false temple at Bethel.

Amos was told to leave Israel (Am 7:11-7:13)

“Thus Amos has said.

‘Jeroboam shall die

By the sword!

Israel must go

Into exile

Away from his land!’

Amaziah said

To Amos.

‘O seer!

Go!

Flee away

To the land

Of Judah!

Earn your bread there!

Prophesy there!

But never again prophesy

At Bethel!

It is the king’s sanctuary.

It is a temple

Of the kingdom.’”

Amos had said that King Jeroboam II would die by the sword. Amos had also said that Israel would go into exile. Thus, Amaziah, the main priest at Bethel, told Amos to go back to Judah. There he could earn his keep and prophesize. However, he was to never again prophesize at Bethel, since that was the king’s sanctuary, the temple for the northern kingdom of Israel. This northern priest wanted Amos to go south to Judah, since he did not like what Amos was saying.

Seek Yahweh (Am 5:4-5:6)

“Thus says Yahweh

To the house of Israel.

‘Seek me!

Live!

But do not seek Bethel!

Do not enter into Gilgal!

Do not cross over to Beer-sheba!

Gilgal shall surely go into exile!

Bethel shall come to nothing!

Seek Yahweh!

Live!

Otherwise,

He will break out

Against the house of Joseph,

Like fire.

It will devour Bethel,

With no one to quench it.’”

Amos has Yahweh tell the house of Israel to seek him, so that they might live. However, they were not to seek Yahweh at the religious places of the idols at Bethel or Gilgal, since nothing would come of that. They were not to go to Beer-sheba either, which was south of Judah, like a resort place. Instead, they were to seek out Yahweh, so that they could live. Yahweh was going to break out against the house of Joseph, Ephraim, and devour Bethel, the capital city, with a fire that no one could put out.

The future destruction of Israel (Am 3:13-3:15)

“‘Hear!

Testify

Against the house of Jacob!’

Says Yahweh God!

The God of hosts!

‘On the day

That I punish Israel

For its transgressions,

I will punish

The altars of Bethel.

The horns of the altar

Shall be cut off.

They shall fall

To the ground.

I will tear down

The winter house,

As well as the summer house.

The houses of ivory

Shall perish.

The great houses

Shall come to an end.’

Says Yahweh.”

Amos has this oracle of Yahweh, the God of many hosts or heavenly armies, about the future destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. Yahweh wanted them to hear and testify against the house of Jacob. On the day that he was going to punish them, he was going to destroy the altars at Bethel, the holy shrine, with its altar horns. He also was going to tear down the many great houses in Israel, including the winter and summer homes of the officials of the northern kingdom, even the ivory houses.

The example of Jacob (Hos 12:2-12:6)

“Yahweh has an indictment

Against Judah.

He will punish Jacob

According to his ways.

He will repay him

According to his deeds.

In the womb,

He tried to supplant

His brother.

In his manhood,

He strove with God.

He strove

With the angel.

He prevailed.

He wept.

He sought his favor.

He met him

At Bethel.

There God spoke

with him.

Yahweh!

The God of hosts!

Yahweh is his name!

But as for you,

Return to your God!

Hold fast

To love!

Hold fast

To justice!

Wait continually

For your God.”

Here Hosea referred to the stories about Jacob in Genesis, chapters 25, 28, 32, and 35. Somehow, this is an indictment against Judah and not Israel. Jacob should have been punished and repaid for his bad deeds. He had tried to supplant his brother. He actually tricked his father, but there is no mention of that. He wrestled with God or an angel, and won. Yet he wept and sought out God at Bethel. There, God spoke to him to tell him that his name was Yahweh. He wanted Jacob, Judah, Israel, and Ephraim to hold fast to love and justice. They were to continually wait for God.

War will come to Israel (Hos 10:13-10:15)

“You have plowed wickedness.

You have reaped injustice,

You have eaten

The fruit of lies.

Because you have trusted

In your power,

You have trusted

In the multitude

Of your warriors.

Therefore,

The tumult of war

Shall arise

Against your people.

All your fortresses

Shall be destroyed.

As Shalman destroyed

Beth-arbel

On the day of battle.

Mothers were dashed

In pieces,

With their children.

Thus,

It shall be done to you!

O Bethel!

O house of Israel!

Because of your great wickedness.

At dawn,

The king of Israel

Shall be utterly cut off.”

Israel had plowed in wickedness, so that now they were going to reap injustice. They had eaten the fruit of their lies. They had trusted in their own power and their many warriors. Thus, the fury of war was going to come upon them and their people. All their fortresses would be destroyed, like Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel. Although it is difficult to find the exact battle, there is conjecture that this was the 8th century Moabite Shalman who invaded Beth-arbel or Irbid, that was west of the Sea of Galilee. In that battle, mothers with children were destroyed. Thus, the same was going to happen to Israel and Bethel because of their wickedness.  The king of Israel would be wiped out also.