This book was written by the prophet Amos. Apparently, he was a shepherd from Tekoa, a small village in Judah. However, he seemed to be talking about the powerful northern kingdom of Israel when King Jeroboam II (783-743 BCE), the son of King Joash (798-783 BCE), was the king of Israel. At that same time, the king of Judah was King Uzziah (781-740 BCE). This all took place 2 years before the earthquake. However, it is difficult to precisely date this earthquake, but it could probably be around 760-750 BC.
Jeremiah warns the people of Benjamin, who were just north of Judah and Jerusalem. He wanted them to sound the trumpet at Tekoa, which was about 12 miles south of Jerusalem. Meanwhile at Beth-haccherem, about 2 miles south of Jerusalem, they were to raise a signal. There would be an attack on Jerusalem. The problem was that evil and great destruction was coming from the north. Zion and her lovely pastures would be threatened by shepherds who would surround them with pitched tents. This was an allusion to the armies and kings that were going to surround the towns and fields of Judah.
“When Bacchides learned of this, he tried to kill him. But Jonathan and his brother Simon, and all who were with him, heard of it. They fled into the wilderness of Tekoa and camped by the water of the pool of Asphar. Bacchides found this out on the Sabbath day. He with all his army crossed the Jordan.”
The Syrian General Bacchides heard about Jonathan and tried to kill him. Jonathan was joined by his brother Simon as they fled to the wilderness of Tekoa, which was about 16 miles southeast of Jerusalem. The pool of Asphar was about 3 miles further south of Tekoa. General Bacchides found them on the Sabbath as he crossed the Jordan River with his army.
“They rose early in the morning. They went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they went out, King Jehoshaphat stood and said.
‘Listen to me.
O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem!
Believe in Yahweh your God,
Thus you will be established.
Believe his prophets.’
When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to Yahweh and praise him in holy splendor. They went before the army, saying.
‘Give thanks to Yahweh,
For his steadfast love endures forever.’”
Once again we have a beautiful prayer to Yahweh. King Jehoshaphat reminds the people of Judah and Jerusalem to believe and trust in Yahweh. They had to believe in his prophets. He appointed Levites to sing, which they did with the lovely refrain that the steadfast love of Yahweh endures forever. They gave thanks for the everlasting love of God.
“King Rehoboam resided in Jerusalem. He built cities for defense in Judah. He built up Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron. There were fortified cities in Judah and in Benjamin. He made the fortresses strong. He put commanders in them. They had stores of food, oil, and wine. He also put large shields and spears in all the cities. He made them very strong. So he held Judah and Benjamin.”
There is no other source for this material here. Certainly some of these 15 cities already existed. This was a defensive gesture. He seems to have fortified them with shields, spears, food, commanders, and troops. These cities became strong fortresses against any enemy. Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, just 6 miles south of Jerusalem. Etam was about 2 miles southwest of Bethlehem. Tekoa was about 6 miles south of Bethlehem. Beth-zur was on the main road between Jerusalem and Hebron, about 4 miles north of Hebron, which was about 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Adullam was about 16 miles southwest of Jerusalem and about 10 miles west of Bethlehem. Gath was 1 of the 5 major cities of the Philistines that has been lost, but was on the west side of Judah. Mareshah was also in western Judah, while Ziph was in southern Judah. Adoraim only appears here but probably is a lost southwest town near the sea. Lachish was about 15 miles west of Hebron, probably close to Azekah. Zorah and Aijalon were western cities that were originally in the territory of Dan. About a half of these cities were within 20 miles of Jerusalem. Most of the fortified cities were in the south and west since the Dead Sea was on the east and Benjamin and northern Israel was to the north.
“Ashhur, father of Tekoa, had two wives, named Helah and Naarah. The four sons of Naarah were Ahuzzam, Hepher, Temeni, and Haahashtari. The sons of Helah were Zereth, Izhar, and Ethnan.”
Ashhur was the son of Caleb, when he had sex with his father’s wife after his father’s death. Ashhur’s son Tekoa is really a place rather than a person as mentioned in 2 Samuel, chapter 14. Otherwise we know very little about Ashhur and Tekoa other than in chapter 2 of this book. Ashhur had 2 wives who bore him 7 sons. The 2 wives, Helah and Naarah, only appear here, but there is a place named Naarah in Joshua, chapter 16. This is the only mention of Ahuzzam, Temeni, and Haahashtari. However, Hepher appears as the name of 3 different people. Perhaps this Hepher is the same as the one mentioned in Numbers, chapter 26, and Joshua, chapter 17. Hepher is the man who gave the name to the family of the Hepherites. He is the one who only had daughters and no sons, but he was the son of Gilead. Zereth and Ethnan are only mentioned here. There was a more famous Izhar, who was a Levite uncle of Moses and Aaron mentioned in Numbers, chapters 3 and 16, whose family became known as the Izeharites.
“After the death of Hezron, Caleb went in to Abijah, the wife of Hezron his father, and she bore him Ashhur, the father of Tekoa.”
Caleb seems to have a dominant role in this genealogy. He had sex with his father’s wife after his father Hezron had died. They had a son named Ashhur, whose name only appears here in 1 Chronicles. However, Ashhur’s son Tekoa is more famous as a place rather than a person. Tekoa is where Joab found a wise woman in 2 Samuel, chapter 14, to go to King David. Otherwise we know very little about Tekoa.