We know now who we are dealing with as we begin to study the prophets of the divided kingdom. I must make passing reference here to the fact that the men we are discussing are not the only prophets mentioned biblically. Prophecy and prophets are recurring themes throughout the Bible. These men are not even the only Biblical prophets mentioned in the histories of the divided kingdom. I have intentionally left out Elijah and Elisha because they were not writing prophets though they wore the prophet’s mantle.
But the men we will study have the unique ability to speak into our current world situation across the ages as few others do.
As we begin we must not only know who they were but what the world they lived in was like. In that way we have a basis for applying the words of judgment they spoke to their country to ours. It is logical to say if God judged Israel for… then He may also judge us for….
So what was the world of the divided kingdom like?
With Solomon’s death in 931 B.C. the strength and unity of the Kingdom of Israel quickly began to fell apart.
The Kingdom fell into a state of civil war which persisted in one form or another for the next two hundred years. Just for comparison’s sake the Civil War in the U.S. lasted 5 years. While there was not constant warfare there was at least civil tension as existed between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War for that entire period.
Morals declined greatly during this period:
The society quickly became pluralistic promoting the worship of other gods. At certain points God was worshipped as one among a pantheon of gods and at other times the worship of Jehovah was outlawed completely. His Ten Commandments were removed from public life to the extent that when a copy was dug out of the archives during the reign of young King Josiah and read Josiah was awestruck at how far the nation had fallen from their National God. He had not heard the Ten Commandments read in his entire life! Further many of the Jews began to believe the true god of Heaven was a goddess and worshipped “The Queen of Heaven” as the primary deity.
Money and prosperity became the determining factor for political decisions instead of morality. The Sabbath was discarded so that trade relations could be improved. Years of Jubilee in which creditors were supposed to return the property of debtors freely into their hands and in which slaves were to be set free were cancelled. Cheating patrons out of their money became so commonplace most of the prophets make at least some allusion to the treachery of businessmen and the exploitation of the poor.
Unsavory political alliances were made to protect the national interest instead of trusting national safety to God. When Assyria and Babylon threatened neither Israel nor Judah turned to God. Instead they turned to Pharoah in Egypt the very country which had enslaved them in the past.
The priesthood and the monarchy became corrupted. Scandals concerning religious and political leaders became commonplace even expected.
The fabric of the family began to fall apart. Sexual promiscuity encouraged by pagan worship practices resulted in the breakdown of marriage. At certain points ritual infanticide took place in order to worship false gods in a practice called Molech. At one point even King Manasseh of Judah allowed his son to be burned alive in worship to false gods in the valley of Hinnom. Over all there was a general lack of respect for human life.
Now where have I seen a society resembling this one?
Tomorrow we will begin with the first of the prophets of the divided kingdom to see what he has to say to us!
Tomorrow don’t miss Amos!