“But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship them. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.’ ” Acts 7:42, 43 (NAS)
This quote by Steven as recorded by Luke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, comes primarily from the book of Amos, chapter five.
Here’s the passage: “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus, says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.” Amos 5:25-27 A cursory reading of the Amos text and what Steven cited demonstrates some differences in words or phrases. Amos appears to have called the idolatrous objects by their Akkadian (traced back to the cities or districts of Nimrod in the land of Shinar, Gen. 10:10) proper names. Steven was quoting from the Septuagint (Greek) translation of Amos (which is how we get Molech and Rompha) and appears to have substituted Babylon for Damascus. Most commentators say Steven quoted it this way since the final exile of the remnant of Israel (Judah) was to Babylon completing the LORD’s prophecy by Amos concerning Israel’s deportation as a whole. That would stand to reason since at least one contemporary prophet of Amos’ day, Isaiah, also prophesied of the Babylonian captivity. Perhaps that’s the reason the Spirit moved Steven to say “as it is written in the book of the prophets.” The point of the inspired utterances from both Amos and Steven was the ease with which the people of Israel fell into idolatry and turned back to the gods of Egypt, which were nothing more than the gods of ancient Shinar under a different name. If you study the story of Nimrod, you’ll find he was the one who was principal in leading man in rebellion against the LORD after the flood with succeeding generations culminating in the tower of Babylon escapade. A good read on the subject of ancient pagan gods and how through time and different cultures their names have changed while their representation (sun god, fertility god, etc.) has remained the same is The Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop. The book of Revelation speaks symbolically of the church being in the wilderness, “a place prepared by God, so that there she might be nourished” (Rev. 12:6) The type, the physical nation of Israel, was brought into the wilderness and provided for there through the manna. The LORD also provided for their spiritual needs by having the tabernacle with them (as Steven referenced in Acts 7:44). Everything, one might say, pertaining to life and godliness was provided them on their journey, yet they lapsed into idolatry. Why? The answer seems to lie in the people’s response to persecution and temptation. The LORD did not insulate them from every attack or demonic influence. The journey was not over, the promised land hadn’t been breached and the LORD was still interested in seeing who really wanted the land and true fellowship with Him. There was a tendency for Israel to want to turn to another source for help when things didn’t go as they’d like, either doubting what He had provided or thinking maybe that the Lord hadn’t provided enough (The Jews problems in Jesus day as well). How about us, the true (spiritual) nation of the LORD our God? The Lord continues to lovingly cajole us, reminding us that by faith, we dwell in heavenly Jerusalem, that in Christ, we have all things as joint heirs. But our faith has not become sight. Your adversary, the Devil, understands that. He still utilizes attacks and temptations to seduce you into some form of idolatry. We, like the type, the physical nation of Israel, have not been insulated either from these influences. The question is still the same, do we want heaven? Do we want fellowship with the LORD for an eternity? Do we believe that in this spiritual wasteland of a wilderness called the world that He’s able to nourish us? Or do we need the tabernacle of government, the star of the god of worldliness? May it never be!