When King Solomon died, the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and they revolted.
Jeroboam, a banished leader of Solomon’s court, led the rebellion and when Rehoboam refused to work out the grievances of the northern tribes, those tribes declared their independence and proclaimed Jeroboam King of a newly formed Kingdom of Israel on the land occupied by the northern tribes and set up his capital in Shechem and later Samaria. (Kings I, 12:1-20)
Rehoboam remained the king of a much smaller kingdom, renamed Judea (Yehuda) which was based on the tribal lands of Judah and Benjamin with the capital in Jerusalem. These two kingdoms remained separate states for over two hundred years.
The northern tribes continued to make the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem and Jeroboam feared they would switch back to their old allegiance to Rehoboam in Jerusalem.
27. If this people go up to sacrifice in the house of God [the Temple] in Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me, and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.
28. And the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said to [the northern tribes], It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.
29. And he set one in Beth-El, and the other he placed in Dan.
30. And this thing became a sin; for the people went to worship before the one, as far as Dan.
Jeroboam succeeded in controlling his population by disconnecting them from the Temple in Jerusalem. By doing that he was separating them from God, and re-instituted the practice of worshiping the golden calf. Now their worship was empty of meaning, and their sacrifices connected them to a statue, a false intermediary, not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This cultist practice continued with his son King Jeroboam II. He had extended his Kingdom and amassed great material wealth for himself and his population. Jeroboam had emptied the society of their relationship with God and replaced it with a secularized “Judaism.” The prophets at the time, Hosea, Joel, Jonah and Amos all saw the disaster that would befall the northern kingdom if they didn’t reconnect to their true mission. They admonished them for worshiping “golden calves” and not making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Amos was the leader of this group of prophets in admonishing the Northern Kingdom and beseeching them to change their ways — give up the pagan practices… they will only lead you to a material life. True eternal life can be achieved only if you reconnect to your God, the Eternal. To show that eternal life is what you are striving for, you must show your commitment by seeking out a relationship with God by making the spiritual pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.
4. For thus says God to the house of Israel, Seek Me, and you shall Live;
5. But do not seek Beth-El, and do not enter into Gilgal, or pass over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Beth-El shall come to nothing.
6. Seek God, and you shall live; lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and none will be there to quench it in Beth-El. (Amos 5:4-6)
The people did not listen to Amos and by abdicating their relationship to God and their worship of Him at the Temple in Jerusalem, they made themselves vulnerable to their enemies. Eventually the Assyrians conquered them, and exiled the 10 northern tribes.
Now we can understand why our enemies from within and without are trying to distance the Jewish people from God’s Temple in Jerusalem and preventing us from worshiping Him there. That is the secret to our life as an eternal nation. Without it we are vulnerable to the “fire” of our enemies.
Now we can also understand the civil strife in the Land between the citizens who are placing priority on a Jewish State (Judah) and those who put priority on the secular democratic State of Israel. Same ideologies, same names, but different players.
May the Jewish people all listen to the words of the prophet Amos and make our national mission to seek out our God in Jerusalem, so that we merit to rebuild the Holy Temple and see the reign of the Kingdom of David soon in our days.