In the small book of Amos, found in the last 100 pages of the Old Testament, written about the mid-eighth century, are some verses that apply to fortresses. Amos, was a shepherd sent to tell Israel of God’s anger toward their sins. He starts the book by harshly condemning Israel’s neighbors. Seven times in the first two chapters he says this, “The people have sinned again and again and I will not forget it. I will not let them go unpunished anymore. So I will send fire and its fortresses will be destroyed.” (Amos 1:4, 7, 10, 12, 14, 2:2, 2:5) In the third chapter the Lord turns his condemnation to the people of Israel.
The first three nations were condemned to be destroyed because of sins they had committed against Israel. (Amos 1:4, 7, 9) The others had committed cruel crimes; (Amos 1:11, 13, 2:1) all causing God to bring destruction upon them. The people of Judah, part of God’s people, had rejected the laws of the Lord, refusing to obey Him. (Amos 2:4) Israel had a longer list of sins against them: they had sold honest and poor people out; they didn’t help the helpless, they denied justice to the oppressed, committed adultery, they stole from their debtors, and they gave God offerings that came from stolen money. (Amos 1:6-8) And because of these sins, their fortresses were going to be destroyed.
Fortress is defined as a fortified place, a place of security. Security is defined as freedom from apprehension. A confidence of safety, freedom from danger or risk; or that which secures or makes safe. Amos tells us that the fortresses established in Israel were full of sin. They were full of wealth taken by theft and violence. (Amos 3:10-11) The people were secure in fortresses that they had built. God wanted them to realize that their security came from Him. God had been their protector, rescuer, and He had destroyed their enemies. (Amos 2:9-12)
The protection and security of Israel and Judah was really all about God. But the people thought it was all about them. While God was being patient, hoping they would repent and realize He was their security, the people were busy getting rich and depending upon their own strength; building their armies and everything else they thought they needed to be secure.
Take a look around. On what do we as a nation depend? Is it our wealth? Is it our ability to buy our way out of trouble? Is it is our strength? God destroyed the neighbors of Israel for their sins, and then Israel and Judah were destroyed for their sins of forgetting God and making other things besides God their fortress. But in all seven cases, the fortress, their place of security, was destroyed.
God promises many benefits to those who run to Him as their fortress. But here we see that He promises destruction to those whose fortress is anything but Him. Their sins were different, but the consequences were similar—their fortress, that thing that they depended upon to keep them secure, was to be torn down.
In the book Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, are many facts concerning the warfare and weapons of this ancient civilization.
In Old Testament times properly conducted warfare was tied to defending and promoting justice and righteousness.
Whenever wars were fought under God’s leadership, they were considered “holy” wars; they were for the purpose of establishing Israel in the Promised Land or protecting them from foreign invasions. In a properly conducted “holy” war God promised His protection of the warriors. (Deut. 20:1-4)
Israel’s enemies were God’s enemies, and the people were called on to trust Him, rather than their own strength, for victory. (Judges 5:31) When they did this, God fought on their side, kept them from bodily harm, and sometimes used the forces of nature against the enemy.
If God was to fight with and for His people, they were to be ritually clean. (Deut. 23:9-14) Because they were to be completely separate from anything having to do with sin and pollution, God gave them strict instructions on what they were to do, and the people in turn made strong vows to the Lord. (1 Samuel 21:4-5, 2 Samuel 11:11) The people and their cause were to be holy, for God would fight only in a war that was holy and just.
Fortifications were used extensively in Palestine, as material for building strong and thick walls was readily available. The defenders would often begin their stand outside the wall, then go inside the city and stand on the walls and fight with arrows, spears, javelins, and stones to keep the attackers away. The attackers would use battering rams to attack the fortresses, or try to burn through or hack through the city gates. The siege was complicated and costly in human life and money.
As the years progressed and weapons became stronger and able to shoot further distances, the fortresses became stronger. When Israel did this, it showed their continual lack of trust in the God of Israel in their looking for help in human strength and weaponry, and brought on them the condemnation of the prophets. God warned the people about trusting in their fortresses. (Jeremiah 5:17)
Babylon finally managed to conquer Judah by taking all her fortresses and besieging and taking Jerusalem.
God is serious about us not trusting in him as our protector, our refuge, and our fortress. Just read what he says to the women about what they were doing...
“Listen to me, you 'fat cows' of Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and who are always asking your husbands for another drink!" The Sovereign Lord has sworn this by his holiness, “The time will come when you will be led away with hooks in your noses! Every last one of you will be dragged away like a fish on a hook! You will leave by going straight through the breaks in the wall; you will be thrown from your FORTRESSES. I, the Lord, have spoken! (Amos 4:1-3)
God said he brought hunger to every city and famine to every town, He kept the rain from falling, ruining all their crops, He struck their farms with blight and mildew, He sent plagues against them, He killed their young men in war, He destroyed some of their cities, but still they wouldn’t turn to Him. So God was bringing further disaster. (Amos 4:4-13)
May we women behind cowboys call on Jesus Christ to be our fortress, the rock of our salvation. May we cry out to God for help and may we live in the shelter of the Most High. May the Lord alone be our refuge, our place of safety, may He be our God and we trust Him. (Psalm 91)
"God, Will You Be My Fortress?"