Amos 5 – The Call to Repentance & Ancient Board Games

ThinkingI had no idea that they had game boards way back then, I new the Indians had board games, but not the Egyptians of old.

Our technology today is amazing.  Yet, the ideas came about from Ancient man.  They didn’t have cell phones or computers, but for example, there was The Antikythera mechanism an ancient analog computer that was designed to calculate astronomical positions.

1 The Antikythera mechanism
The Antikythera mechanism

It was recovered in 1900–1901 from the Antikythera wreck, but its significance and complexity were not understood until a century later. Jacques Cousteau visited the wreck in 1978 but, although he found new dating evidence, he did not find any additional remains of the Antikythera mechanism.

The construction has been dated to the early 1st century B.C. Technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the 14th century A.D., when mechanical astronomical clocks began to be built in Western Europe.

When I think about Egyptians, the Israelites, the Canaanites, and the rest of Ancient Man I can only laugh and feel sorry for the atheists because even though  all of them worshiped false gods, at least they knew there was a god above them.

Everything we have today all falls back on Ancient Man’s thoughts and ideas, so I wonder how anyone  today is able to believe that we were not created?  That there is not a God?  That being You of course and only You.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1).2

“And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Gen 1:26).

And then You came down as Jesus:

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…” (1 Tim 3:16).

And again, Ancient Man told everyone about that:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6).

Of course, most of Ancient Man were pagans and sometimes they did have some ridiculous beliefs, for example…


Amos 5
The Call to Repentance

3 Human settlement
Human settlement in the area dates from the Copper Age. The inhabitants lived in caves, crafting metal tools and raising cattle.

Findings unearthed at Tel Be’er Sheva, an archaeological site a few kilometers east of modern day Beersheba, suggest the region has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC.[5] The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.

1 Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.

2 The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up.

“Is forsaken” – left like a dead body in the field.

3 For thus saith the Lord GOD; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel.

4 For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:

5 But seek not Beth-el, nor enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beer-sheba: for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Beth-el shall come to nought.

4 City Hall of Beer sheba today
City Hall of Beer-sheba today

“Beer-sheba” – located in the south of Judah, it also had evidently become a place of pilgrimage and idolatry.  All shrines where the worship of God was abused would be destroyed.

6 Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Beth-el.

The places of idolatry were doomed; yet if Israel turned to God there was hope for her as a nation.  Otherwise the people would be destroyed.

“House of Joseph” – the northern kingdom of Israel, dominated by the tribe of Ephraim, descendants of Joseph.

“Beth-el” – the main religious center of the northern kingdom.  The god the Israelites worshiped there would be powerless to save the place when the true God brought His judgment.

7 Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,

5 The southern section
The southern section of the site is seen above, with a view towards the east (Jordan valley). This is the “heel” of the footprint. Around the footprint is a 2M wide path, which seems like a ceremonial route.

It is speculated that the priests circled around the footprint during the gathering, as in a ritual procession.

“Ye who turn judgment to wormwood” = they corrupted the procedures and institutions of justice (the courts), making them instruments of injustice (“wormwood” was  synonym for bitterness = injustice; see Prov 5:4; Lam 3:19).

Turning God’s order upside down is inevitable in a society that ignores His law and despises true religion.

8 Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:

5:8-9 – as in 4:13, a brief hymn is inserted (see 9:5-6).  Here Amos highlights the contrast between “those who turn” good into bad and the one “who…changes” night into day and governs the order of the universe – and whose power can smash the  walls His people hide behind.

“Orion” – a group of zeven stars (part of the constellation Taurus).

“Death into the morning…day dark with night” – the orderly sequence of day and night.

9 That strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.

10 They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.

6 A closer view of the altar
A closer view of the altar is seen on the following photo. Note that it has a round shape, which is a unique shape since the archaeologist expected a square altar which was more common.

Continues the sentence begun in v. 7.  This poetic paragraph is continued and completed in vv. 12b-13, which (in the Hebrew) uses the third person, while the preceding passage (vv. 11-12a) uses the second person.

The indictment of vv. 7, 10, 12b-13 is therefore more objective and descriptive, while that of vv. 11-12a is more direct and pointed.

11 Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.

12 For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.

13 Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

“Prudent” – he knows he cannot change the state of affairs, and therefore only awaits judgment.

14 Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.

7 Rigel is the brightest star
Rigel is the brightest star in the constellation. With an apparent visual magnitude of 0.18, it is also the sixth brightest star in the sky. Even though it does not have the designation alpha, it is almost always brighter than Betelgeuse, Alpha Orionis. Rigel is really a star system composed of three stars.

15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord, saith thus; Wailing shall be in all streets; and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husbandman to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing.

“Streets…highways…husbandman…vineyards” – all will be affected by God’s punishment.  Even farmers, usually too busy for such things, would join the professional mourners in lament, and mourning would overflow from the cities to the vineyards.

When the holy God “will pass through” (as He did in Egypt, Ex 12:121), punishment for the unholy and unjust will be in escapable (cf. Isa 6:5).

17 And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD.

18 Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.

“Day of the LORD” – the time when God will show Himself the victor over the world, vindicating His claims to be the Lord over all the earth.  Israel expected to be exalted as His people and longed for that day to come.

Amos warned that the day would come, but not as Israel expected – it would be a day of “darkness, and not light” for her, because she had not been faithful to God. (cf. “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” and variations in 1 Cor 1:8, 3:12-15, 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14; Phil 1:6, 2:16.

Amos speaks primarily of an imminent and decisive judgment on Israel, not exclusively of the last day.

19 As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.

8 According to ancient Greek
According to ancient Greek mythology, Orion was the giant son of Neptune and the greatest hunter the world had ever known. After being slain by Scorpius (the scorpion), the legendary warrior was placed in the heavens and is represented by the brilliant constellation which bears his name.

Although his figure is imaginary, the bright stars of Orion have been depicted in their proper positions, brightnesses and colors.

20 Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it?

21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.

5:21-23 – these three verses summarize and reject the current practice of religion in Israel.  The institutions were not wrong in themselves; it was the worshipers and the ways they worshiped that were wrong.

The people had no basis on which to come to God, because their conduct reflected disobedience to His law.

22 Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.

23 Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols.

24 But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.

25 Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?

26 But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.

The obscure language of this verse speaks of Israel idolatry, but whether it was in the wilderness long ago or more recently in the promised land, or both, is not clear.  The proper names are derived from Akkadian and refer to idolatrous objects of worship.

The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) represents somewhat different text, which is followed by Acts 7:42-43).

27 Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the LORD, whose name is The God of hosts.

This punishment is the final one – exile from the God-given land to remote foreign places.

Ancient Board Games

Judging by scenes like the one at the left – from the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, principal wife of Ramses II – Egyptians could think of few better ways to spend eternity than by playing Senet, possibly the oldest board game.

9 Queen Nefertiti
Queen Nefertiti plays Senet on a board similar to the one below that was found in King Tut’s tomb, equipped with a sliding compartment to hold its wooden pieces.

Nefertiti’s unseen opponent may represent a challenge she must overcome in spirit before achieving the glorious afterlife awaiting her.

Senet sets like the one shown to the right, with boards divided into 30 squares and pieces like those used in later times for chess, have been found in Egypt tombs dating back 5,000 years.

The game took on great meaning for players, who saw it as fateful contest that could determine their future in this life and the next.  In a text called the Satirical Papyrus, a lion is shown playing Senet with an antelope and appears to be gloating, as if anticipating victory over its prey.

An Egyptian hieroglyph that depicts Senet board means “to endure.”  Indeed, to win a Senet in the afterlife was to defeat death and endure forever.

Senet was one of the most popular games of Egypt. Senet is also featured in a painting from the tomb of Merknera (3300–2700 B.C.).  Another painting of this ancient game is from the Third Dynasty tomb of Hesy (c. 2686–2613 B.C.).  It is also depicted in a painting in the tomb of Rashepes (c. 2500 B.C.).

By the time of the New Kingdom in Egypt (1550–1077 B.C.), it had become a kind of talisman for the journey of the dead. Because of the element of luck in the game and the Egyptian belief in determinism, it was believed that a successful player was under the protection of the major gods of the national pantheon: Ra, Thoth, and sometimes Osiris.

10 A Senet gameboard
A Senet gameboard and game pieces from the KV62 tomb of Tutankhamun, originally from Thebes

Consequently, Senet boards were often placed in the grave alongside other useful objects for the dangerous journey through the afterlife and the game is referred to in Chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead. The game was also adopted in the Levant and as far as Cyprus and Crete but with apparently less religious significance.


Mehen is a board game that was played in ancient Egypt. The game was named in reference to Mehen, a mythological snake-god.

Evidence of the game of Mehen is found dating from approximately 3000 B.C. and continues until 2300 B.C. Some of the best evidence appears during the Old Kingdom, in a picture in the tomb of Hesy-Ra.

11 One example of Mehen.
One example of Mehen.

It is depicted in tombs of about 700 B.C., but the board seems to have been misinterpreted as a vase, presumably because an Old Kingdom relief was copied by someone not familiar with the game itself.

It is known that the board depicts a game rather than being a religious object due to studies of paintings in tombs, and game boards and equipment found. None of the associated objects fit neatly within the segments of the snake. The rules and methods of play are completely unknown.

The Royal Game of Ur

The Royal Game of Ur, also known as the Game of Twenty Squares, refers to an ancient game represented by two game boards found in the Royal Tombs of Ur in Iraq by Sir Leonard Woolley in the 1920s.

12 Royal Game of Ur
Royal Game of Ur

The two boards date from the First Dynasty of Ur, before 2600 B.C., thus making the Royal Game of Ur one of the oldest examples of board gaming equipment found, although Senet boards found in Egyptian graves predate it as much as 900 years.

The Ur-style Twenty Squares game board was also known in Egypt as Asseb, and has been found in Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s tomb, among other places. Discovery of a tablet partially describing the gameplay has allowed the game to be played again after over 2000 years, although reconstructions of the detailed rules have differed widely.

…Sacred Cats.

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