All Interpretation of the English Bible
THE DIVIDED KINGDOM
by B. H. CARROLL
Late President of Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas
Edited and compiled by
J. B. Cranfill
Grand Rapids, Michigan
New and complete edition
Copyright 1948, Broadman Press
Reprinted by Baker Book House
with permission of
First Printing, September 1973
Second Printing, September 1976
PHOTOLITHOPRINTED BY GUSHING - MALLOY, INC.
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
I General Introduction
II The Disruption and Some General Observations
III The Beginnings of the Two Kingdoms
IV The Reign of Asa and the Parallel Fortunes of Israel
V The Reign of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah
VI The Reign of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah (Cont.)
VII The House of Omri
VIII Elijah Alone Against the World
IX Elisha, the Successor of Elijah
X Gathering Up the Fragments that Nothing Be Lost
XI The Story of Naaman, the Siege of Samaria, and the Death of Jehoram (of Judah)
XII The Reigns of Ahaziah (of Judah), Jehoram (of Israel)
and the Rise of the House of Nimshi
XIII From the Rise of Jehu to the Reign of Jehoash and the Corresponding History of Judah
XIV The Reigns of Jehoash and Jeroboam (of Israel) and of Amaziah and Uzziah (of Judah)
XV The Reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, and Thaz (of Judah)and Zechariah,
Shallum, Pekahiah, and Peka (of Israel)
XVI The Reigns of Hoshea (of Israel) and Hezekiah (of Judah)
XVII The Reign of Hezekiah
XVIII The Reigns of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah
XIX The Downfall of Judah and Jerusalem
XX Ezra and Nehemiah -- An Introduction
XXI The Return and Reorganization Under Zerubbabel
XXII Ezra and His Great Reformation
XXIII The Expedition of Nehemiah and His Work of Rebuilding
XXIV The Reading of the Law and Resettlement of the Cities
XXV The Story of Esther
XXVI An Introduction to the Postexilian Prophets and an interpretation of Haggai.
XXVII The Book of Zechariah
XXVIII The Book of Zechariah (Continued)
XXIX The Book of Zechariah (Continued)
XXX The Book of Zechariah (Concluded)
XXXI The Book of Malachi
XXXII The Book of Malachi (Continued)
It is well to name some general helps available and valuable to every ordinary student of the English Bible whose literary attainments are limited. For university graduates and riper scholars a much more extended bibliography would be appropriate. The helps here named should be in every preacher's library.
1. Wood's Hebrew Monarchy. This, in some respects, is a better textbook than Crockett's Harmony, because it places beside the texts the parallel passage from the Prophets and other books, giving a broader view of the subject, but it is an English book and has to be imported from England, and so costs a great deal more than Crockett's, which is a splendid book. If I were a young preacher, I certainly would send for Wood's Hebrew Monarchy and master it.
2. Edersheim's "History of Israel." This is the best general help. It is scholarly, conservative, and spiritual. The edition published in about nine small volumes, is easily handled, and volumes V and VI are the ones to use in this study.
3. Stanley's "Jewish Church." This is a very lively discussion of this history. It follows mainly Ewald's History of Israel, and hence, to a considerable extent, is poisoned with the German radical criticism. It is not nearly so conservative or safe as Edersheim. It would perhaps be better to leave it out, if the reader's general knowledge is not pretty well extended.
4. Geikie's "Hour with the Bible," in six volumes. Volume IV is the one for this study. The chief value of this book is its intimate acquaintance with the archeology of the surrounding nations. Geikie is a radical critic, and I do not class him at all with Edersheim, but I get a good deal of benefit from the book.
5. Hengstenberg's "History of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament," in two volumes. Volume II is the one to study as collateral help. Hengstenberg was the chaplain of the emperor of Germany, a prominent teacher in the Theological Department of the Berlin University, and is one of the few Germans who did not go wild on radical criticism. I became .so much attached to him that I ordered all of his books. He has a commentary on four or five of the prophets and on the Psalms, and he has a magnificent discussion on the Christology of the Old Testament. But his work bearing on this study is in the second volume of his history of the kingdom of God in the Old Testament.
6. People's Bible History. This is a very modern work, edited by the great Northern Baptist preacher, George C. Lorimer. William E. Gladstone wrote the introduction to the book. It gives a brief and valuable discussion of all the periods of Bible history. About one of the poorest of them is the one written by a Methodist preacher on this part here. I do not mean to say that this is bad it is good but it is about the poorest among a great many great documents.
Now a word about commentaries. The Cambridge Bible is good on both Kings and Chronicles. That commentary is published in very small, handy volumes. Some of the volumes of the Cambridge commentary are utterly poisoned by radical criticism, but the volumes on Kings and Chronicles are both good.
Sometimes, but not nearly so often, I recommend a volume of the "Expositor's Bible," but I cannot do it on this period. That is written by Canon Farrar of England, and while he has written some splendid New Testament books such as the Life of Christ and the Life of Paul yet, we may skip anything on the Old Testament written by Farrar and never lose anything; he is a semi-infidel on the Old Testament. So I never refer to the "Expositor's Bible" for help on this section of the Bible.
There is a little commentary that I particularly recommend. It is so brief, so clear, so scholarly, and withal so conservative that I advise the reader to consult it. It is Murphy on Chronicles. I especially commend this one.
On this period the reader may profitably consult other commentaries. Not in every particular, but in general, I recommend the following: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown. It is about the briefest commentary on the whole Bible I ever saw, but very critical, scholarly, and generally very sound. Second, the Bible (or Speaker's) Commentary, generally very good. Third, the Pulpit Commentary, which is very voluminous, and certain volumes of it better than others, but on the whole it is a very valuable commentary for a preacher to have, particularly the homiletical part of it. Fourth, one that I never leave out, is the Comprehensive Commentary, the basis of which is Matthew Henry. That is an old commentary, edited by a Baptist, named Jenkins. These old commentaries are generally far more spiritual than the modern commentaries. They are, of course, not up-to-date in some things, but we get the heart of the matter in them, and that is the main thing, because an irreverent commentary however scholarly, hurts spirituality. Not so, Matthew Henry.
Now, having mentioned the general helps and the commentaries, I will mention the histories that have been favorites of mine. First, I mention Rollins' Ancient History on this period. For instance, Egypt, Phoenicia, Assyria, Babylon. Rollins looks at history from the standpoint of God and God's government of the nations.
The second general history, and I will mention only one other, is not so old as Rollins' history. It is written by a conservative critic, George Rawlinson on "The Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient World" and all of them touching the kingdom of God. Those five are Chaldea, Assyria, Babylonia, Media, and Persia, besides special histories of Egypt, Phoenicia, and Parthia.
I repeat here some observations given in our study on the Hebrew monarchy. They bear particularly on the part of the history supplied by Chronicles. There are certain peculiarities of Chronicles which distinguish it, not only from the books of Samuel and Kings, but from all the other books before the destruction of the monarchy. I wish to make these matters plain for the object of this introduction is simply to show how to study.
First, the book of Kings was written by contemporary historians concerning the current events of the theocratic Jewish monarchy in which the civil and religious powers were united. It was necessary, therefore, for Kings to give the history of both the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom, of the ten tribes and the Kingdom of Judah, and also to set forth the work of the prophets in both kingdoms. Chronicles was written, or rather compiled, by Ezra, long after most of the events narrated therein, and from the viewpoint of a spiritual, rather than of a worldly kingdom, seeing that the worldly monarchy was ended forever. The viewpoint in Chronicles is very different from the viewpoint in Kings; before one word of Chronicles was written, or rather compiled, the monarchy was gone, never to be restored. Unless therefore, the kingdom idea is to be abandoned altogether, this new history must stress the spiritual idea of the kingdom, and hence prepare the way for the Messiah's spiritual kingdom to succeed David's. From the viewpoint of Chronicles the state ruler is a foreigner, a Persian, later to be a Greek, and still later, a Roman. Hence, it is on a line with the kingdom idea of the prophets on the exilian and the postexilian periods, particularly Daniel.
Chronicles has little to say of the Northern Kingdom, in fact, it does not touch it at all except at the few points of special contact with the Southern Kingdom. So we do not look to Chronicles to learn about the history of the ten tribes. Chronicles does not stress the ten tribes in their losing, but it does stress every return from the ten tribes of Judah. We will notice that as one of the greatest peculiarities of the book. The object is to show that the ten tribes were not lost; a remnant was saved and returned to Judah.
Now, as the theocratic, worldly monarchy is dead forever, the book of Chronicles is needed to commence at the beginning of time and trace, through the Davidic line, the true conception of the Messiah's approaching kingdom. Hence, Chronicles commences with Adam, just as if there were no other history at all. Its first nine chapters are devoted to giving the genealogy down to David, then it gives at length the glorious reigns of David and Solomon, with which we do not have anything to do in this discussion. Only the last part of it is devoted to the history of Judah after the ten tribes had revolted and that is the part we have for consideration in this discussion.
Hence, the book of Chronicles largely supplements all past history of the Jews by the introduction of very new matter. In Chronicles are found twenty whole chapters and twenty-four parts of chapters that are not found anywhere else in the Bible. To be exact, I give the parts of the book that cannot be found anywhere else:
1 Chronicles 2:18-55; 3:19-24; 9; 11:41-47; 12; 15:1-26; 16; 22-29.
2 Chronicles 6:40-42; 11:5-53; 12:4-8; 13:3-21; 14:3-15; 15:1-15; 16:7-10; 17-19; 20:1-30; 21:2-4; 11-19; 24:15-22; 25:5-10, 12-16; 26:5-20; 27:4-6; 28:5-25; 29:3-36; 30-31; 32:22-23, 26-31; 33:11-19; 34:3-7; 35:2-17, 25; 36:11-23.
These passages show the differences in matter between Chronicles and all previous Old Testament histories. When we study a book we ought to know the object in view, and how it is distinguished from other books. On the way to a convention once I happened to refer to this enormous supplementary character of the book of Chronicles, and a preacher present stated that he knew I was mistaken, and I told him that if he had ever taught it as I bad, word by word, he would not challenge my statement.
I have referred to the book of Chronicles as a compilation by Ezra long after most of the history had passed away. Now a very important matter to determine is, What were Ezra's sources of material for compiling this book? Of course, he had before him all the canonical books written before his time every book written from Genesis to the end of Kings historical, poetical, and prophetic. Ezra was living when the Old Testament ended, and indeed according to good tradition he put together the whole of the Old Testament in the form we now have it. The end of Chronicles is the beginning of Ezra and Nehemiah. But if twenty complete chapters and twenty-four parts of chapters are found nowhere else, what is his source for this considerable supplementary matter? The compiler himself refers, for the events of David's reign, to records by Samuel, Nathan, and Gad. For the reign of Solomon he refers to records by Nathan, the prophecy of Abijah and the visions of Iddo, the Seer. For the other reigns he refers to records by Iddo, Shemaiah, Jehu the son of Hanani, Isaiah, and others. So the radical critics never made a greater mistake in their lives than when they supposed that the Jewish nation was not abundantly supplied with contempory records. No other nation in the world ever had such a systematic preservation of contemporaneous literature as the Jews.
I must speak somewhat of the causes which led to the disruption of the kingdom. The kingdom was established in Saul, who reigned forty years; then followed David, forty years and Solomon, forty years. There was a period of 120 years of the united kingdom, all of which we discussed in the period of Hebrew monarchy.
The most glorious reign of any monarch known to history was the reign of Solomon. It filled the vision of the world. Its empire extended from a branch of the Nile to the Euphrates. The nations of the world sent their princes and their wise men to look upon his glory and to hear his wisdom. He had the sea commerce of the world in two directions: First, from Joppa, Tyre, and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, and he traded even with the British Isles; and then from Eziongeber, a port on the Arabian Gulf, his fleets went to the far east. From Egypt on the Nile to the Euphrates there were two great caravan routes, passing through Damascus and from Tyre another caravan route extending across into Arabia. Jerusalem was made the center and entrepot of these mighty tides of commerce by land and sea. And yet, in a few days after he died, the kingdom went to pieces.
We are to study this divided kingdom, and before we take up the history of the divided kingdom, I will point out some of the causes remote and near, that brought about so great a collapse in so short a time. There are no accidents in history; no man can put his finger on any historic name or event and tell just where it started. He does not know how far back he will have to go, nor can he tell just where it will stop. But the philosophy of history consists in seeing the reasons of things. I emphasize as the first cause the long-standing jealousy between the two great tribes, Ephraim and Judah. When Jacob went to bless Joseph's children, though he was blind, he crossed his hands in order to get his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger son, and in his blessing on the tribes, at the end of Genesis, we find a forecast of the power of the children of Joseph. And when Moses gives his blessing, at the end of Deuteronomy, he forecasts Judah and Ephraim. And in the history of the judges we see the pride of Ephraim continually coming to the front. In Saul's time, Ephraim supported Saul after God rejected him, and supported his son, Ishbosheth, after God had committed the kingdom to David. Ephraim prevented the consolidation of the kingdom under David for quite a while, but it finally came into line. Now, that long-standing Jealousy between Ephraim and Judah finally fruited into the division of the kingdom.
Second, the reluctance of the northern tribes to give up their holy places after Jerusalem was made, by David, the capital of the whole country. For instance, there was Shechem, a holy place in Abraham's time, and the schools of the prophets, most of them at least, were located in the territory of the ten tribes. Gibeon, where Solomon worshiped, was in the territory of the ten tribes; Shiloh, where the ark rested so long was there. When a capital was selected which lay mostly in the tribes of Benjamin and partly in the tribe of Judah, this being the central site (the Temple was built there), it discounted all the other holy places, and those who had been accustomed to other places had a jealousy of Jerusalem.
Third, the memory of previous rebellions against the house of David still lived. Sheba's rebellion was evidently alive, for we will see in the next chapter that the seceding tribes adopt the very divisive war cry of Sheba. When Absalom rebelled the ten tribes sided with him. These are all remote causes. Now I will give you some nearer causes, and we commence with Solomon. In the first place, Solomon departed from the Mosaic Law of the Kingdom given in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. We can never understand the Jewish monarchy unless we fix on our hearts that paragraph in Deuteronomy which gives the law of the Kingdom: "He shall not multiply wives," and Solomon had about a thousand in all, wives and concubines, a pretty big violation there. "He shall not multiply horses," and yet we read the account of the palatial residences of Solomon's horses and chariots. "He shall not inter-marry with Canaanites." Look at the list of some of Solomon's wives. "He shall have a copy of the Pentateuch [the law] made and keep it by him and read it and meditate on it every day." Look at the number of times he violated that Pentateuch.
The second offensive thing that Solomon did was to enforce labor, that is, he drafted the population for labor and with enforced labor and very onerous taxes he erected many imposing public structures apart from the Temple. His own palace it took thirteen years to build. Then the enormous food supply for his court table and his laborers was a grievous tax. A summons had to go out all over the land: "You must furnish so many oxen," etc., and it tells the number of oxen they ate at Solomon's table every day. The people liked public improvements, but when those improvements were all put up in one end of the country, at Jerusalem mainly, these other places felt that they were taxed out of house and home to build up another part of the country.
Third, there was a cosmopolitan atmosphere about the court of Solomon, which gendered a foreign spirit, alien to the simplicity of the isolated mission of Israel. Then, Solomon erected places of worship for his heathen wives and in Jerusalem at that. And judgment was pronounced on him for it. God foretold him through a prophet that the kingdom would be divided, but not in his day, and that he would lose ten of the tribes. Now, we come to the last observation that I want to make on the causes. Let the reader get first, a mental map, and then a mental history of the nations surrounding Solomon's kingdom. They have a great deal to do with the division of the kingdom.
Then let us look at Egypt first. Solomon tried to secure peace with Egypt by marrying a daughter of Pharaoh. But a new Pharaoh, Shishak, of a different dynasty, becomes king of Egypt, and every man in Solomon's kingdom that gets disgruntled flees to Egypt, and that king nourishes them, just as the kings of France would receive the house of the banished Stuarts and take care of them, all the time prepared to use them in an invasion of England. We cannot understand this period unless we know Egypt.
Then on the Mediterranean coast was Phoenicia, Tyre, and Sidon. The darkest hour for religion in the history of the world since the flood comes from Phoenician influence) as we :shall see a little later. Then, just north, is Syria, coming into power in this period, and we will trace the rise of Syria. Then south was Edom, the children of Esau, and then Midian, the children of Abraham by Keturah; then the Ishmaelites, the children of Abraham by Hagar; then the descendants of Lot's incest with his daughters, the Ammonites and the Moabites, on the southwest.
Now, with that circle of enemies, always ready to take advantage, it is very important that the kingdom stand together, for if it ever divides we will see in a moment that Judah has to fortify itself south and west to protect against Egypt and Philistia. When the Northern Kingdom is mad at Judah it makes friends with Egypt, and Judah will rally itself with Syria. So each kingdom will be ready to persuade the outside enemy of the other to step on its tail in case of war.
1. What general helps commended?
2. What commentaries?
3. What histories?
4. Distinguish between Kings & Chronicles, bringing out clearly the peculiarities of Chronicles as to viewpoints, beginning and supplementary matter.
5. What are the sources of material for Chronicles, particularly for the supplementary matter?
6. How long had the monarchy lasted before the division, and what reigns?
7. Give a summary of Solomon's kingdom as to its glory, extent, caravan trade, and commerce.
8. Enumerate the causes, remote and near, of the sudden collapse and division of the kingdom.
9. What the contiguous nations contributing to the danger of Solomon's kingdom and necessitating union in order to safety and what the special danger from each?
THE DISRUPTION AND SOME GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
1 Kings 12:1-24; 2 Chronicles 10:1 to 11:4
At the close of the introductory chapter we were considering the causes of the division, remote and near. I had not quite concluded that subject. The one man most to blame for this division was Solomon. The overruling cause was God. This was announced to Solomon, 1 Kings 11:9-13, as follows: "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, God of Israel, which had appeared. unto him twice. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and. will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen." Mark that one tribe.
God's purpose was announced to Jeroboam with the conditions, 1 Kings 11:27-40, "And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the labor of the house of Joseph. And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king. And it came to pass at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field. And Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces [mark the 12 pieces]. And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (but he shall have one tribe, for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel) because that they have forsaken me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh, the God of Moab, and Milcom, the god of the children of Ammon; and they have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life, for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: but I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel."
Now mark the conditions: "And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that which is right in mine eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and will build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not forever. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon."
In pursuance of this overruling of God, an enemy did he raise up from the south against Solomon, 1 Kings 11:14, 21-22: "And the Lord raised up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the king's seed in Edom. And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country. Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country? And he answered, Nothing: howbeit let me depart in any wise." When Joab made war on Edom and almost extirpated the nation, one little boy this boy Hadad was saved. His mother and some friends got him into Egypt, and there he wag raised up. Now, that is enemy number two; Jeroboam was the first.
An enemy was also raised up from the north by the Lord. In 1 Kings 11:23, 25 we read: "And God raised up another adversary unto him, Rezon the son of Eliada, which had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah. And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Syria." Mark the rise of the Syrian government on the north; we will have a good deal to do with it in the history in connection with this man Rezon and his successors. Now, here are three men, and when a man has three deadly enemies he must walk prudently. From this northern enemy arose the Syrians.
The immediate occasion of the division was a great popular assembly of the whole nation, called to meet at Shechem, one of the holy places in the tribe of Ephraim, to consider the question of the kingdom; the immediate cause of the disruption took place at that popular assembly, which we will bring out more particularly. The law of selecting kings was as follows: First, God must appoint him. Second, the people in popular assembly must approve. That was not an absolute monarchy: it was both a monarchy and a democracy. The great congregation of Israel, the Jewish ecclesia or church, had a potential voice in public affairs. The proof of this is seen in the fact that the popular assembly approved Saul, David and Solomon, after God had appointed them. The reader will find that a great popular assembly met at Mizpeh (1 Sam. 10:17-21), and in that assembly the people ratified God's choice of Saul as king. Then when God made David king a great popular assembly came together at Hebron (2 Sam. 5:1-3; 1 Chron. II: 1-3) and ratified the divine choice. When Solomon was made king this popular assembly was held at Gihon (1 Kings 1:3840). So we see that these assemblies were customary in order to commit the people by voluntary act to God's appointment. We find in Exodus 19 that the popular assembly voted to enter into covenant with God. So we must not consider this convocation at Shechem as an irregular or unusual proceeding. Shechem, the place of the assembly, was a notable place in Jacob's time, and long after Jacob. It has long been a holy place and was situated in the hill country of Ephraim.
When Solomon died the tribes sent to Egypt for Jeroboam to come back. I have showed the great capacity and industry of this spokesman. He belonged to the tribe of Ephraim; and the prophet of the tribe of Ephraim at Shiloh had announced to him that he would be king of the ten tribes. Inasmuch as he had been assessor and collector over Ephraim and Manasseh, he had ample opportunity to get acquainted with the people, to know exactly what their burdens were under the Solomon rule, and they admired him very much. So it was quite natural that when this great assembly was held in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim, Jeroboam should be brought back to be the spokesman. And I am surprised in view of the prophecy made by Ahijah that the tribes were so temperate in that public meeting.
The proposition of the tribes to Rehoboam was as follows: "If you will lighten somewhat the burdens put on us by your father, we will serve you and will ratify your divine nomination as king." They had a real grievance; Solomon had imposed onerous taxes for the purpose of luxury) vainglory, and to pamper his heathen wives. It was a very just grievance; and they proposed only that the burden be lightened somewhat. Now, we may not expect a popular assembly to consent to being governed by a man who disregards their interests. Rehoboam said, "I will take it under advisement three days." That was a very wise thing to do. So he utilized the three days in seeking advice. First, he applied to the old men, the counsellors of his father. That also was a thoughtful thing to do. Action belongs to young men, but counsel belongs to old men; old men have more experience, and they are not apt to think that they have the world in a sling as young men are wont to do.
The parallel texts show a verbal difference in the counsel of the old men. 1 Kings 12:7 says, "If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and will serve them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever." That is, the old men counseled reciprocal service; the king must serve the people if he wants the people to serve him. Now the idea of serving does not appear in the Chronicles' account, but the "good words" does; about the serving 2 Chronicles 10:7 says, "If thou be kind unto these people, and please them, and speak good words then they will be thy servants," but I stand upon what is said in Kings. No man need expect to be a ruler of a free people in a tyrannical sense; he is not there for his own good: he is there to serve the people, and whether he be a policeman, a constable, a judge, a legislator, a governor, or president, if he does not render equitable service to the people, he is not entitled to the respect of the people. That goes with all offices; that is the principle, and those were wise old men who gave that advice.
Now, if he had said to those people, "It is evident that these burdens on you are too heavy, and that the kingdom is not carried on sufficiently in your interest, and you have as much right to the protection of the king as he has to expect your cooperation," the matter would have been ended. But Rehoboam, raised up in that cosmopolitan, luxurious court of his father, in which the very air of the foreigner was breathed, and imbued with the ideas of Oriental despotism absorbed even in his youth, turned away from these old men and went to the young courtiers, the young fellows brought up with him, and said, "What do you say that I should reply to this popular assembly?" If ever on earth the folly of youth appears, it is in the suggestion of these young men. They looked on a king as a despot, as absolutely owning the people under him. Their counsel virtually was this: "Do not commence your reign with compromise and weak conciliation. Be a master. Speak roughly. Tell them plainly you will add to, instead of lightening, their yokes; that your little finger will be heavier than your father's loins, and whereas he chastized them with whips you will chastize them with scorpions."
What is the meaning of "chastize with scorpions"? There were two kinds of whipping: one with scourges, generally made with twisted leather or rods. The other was a stiff handle with ten or twelve leather thongs attached to it, pointed with pieces of wire crooked like fish hooks at the end of each piece of leather, like the "cat-o'-nine-tails" in the navy, or the Russian Knout. To strip a man and bring that iron-pointed whiplash down on his naked back, every stroke would cut into his flesh in ten or twelve places. That is whipping with a scorpion.
The reply of the ten tribes when that scorpion whip was held up was the very war cry of Sheba's rebellion: "What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents O Israel: now see to thine own house, David." Well, that is a very natural response. Any popular assembly would have responded like that. Patrick Henry said that the colonies had exhausted every method of seeking redress of grievances; that they had prostrated themselves at the foot of the throne; that they had tried petition and argument, and in response to their petitions they had been spurned from the foot of the throne; instead of favors, fleets and armies had been sent to darken the waters and overshadow the land. What was their reply to a tyrannical throne? It was an appeal to arms from New England to Georgia. So Israel departed to their own tents.
The first attempt to enforce union was when Rehoboam sent his deputy, Hadoram, to go right on and collect the tribute, and when this collector came to enforce collections, they simply stoned him to death; that was their reply. The second attempt was when Rehoboam assembled an army of 180,000 men like England assembled her armies but before the battle commenced God's prophet, Shemaiah, came and forbade this war against their brethren, and announced that this division was of the Lord; that he overruled it. Thus the voice of God prevented an attempt to coerce a union.
The revolting ten tribes were Ephraim, Manasseh, Reuben, Gad, Dan, Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin. Now doubtless some one will come back at me with the question: How is that? Benjamin was a part of the army Rehoboam raised. Yes, part of Benjamin was living in Judean cities a small part of the tribe lived in Jerusalem but the bulk of the tribe of Benjamin went with the ten tribes. Now there is Judah on one side and those ten tribes on the other side; that makes eleven tribes. Where is the twelfth tribe, Simeon? My answer is that his territory was inside of the territory of Judah, and when we say Judah we mean Judah and Simeon. How, then, does the division go? On one side is Judah including Simeon and a part of Benjamin, the city of Jerusalem and five miles around it to the north, including such of the ten tribes as dwelt in the territory of Judah. They came down to the Temple service, and finding it convenient, made their homes there. The record says in 2 Chronicles 10:17, "But as for the children of Israel that dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them." So there were two tribes and certain parts of tribes in Judah.
Now, that still does not account for one tribe. There were originally thirteen tribes, but God took the tribe of Levi to himself and made up the original number of twelve tribes by giving Joseph two tribes Ephraim and Manasseh. What about the tribe of Levi? My answer is that the tribe of Levi was distributed in the Levitical cities all over the whole territory. That was God's tribe, and we will learn in the next chapter that the Levites went with the tribe of Judah, solid. Indeed we learn a remarkable piece of Judaic history in the next chapter with reference to these Levitical cities. When Jeroboam established his government and worship and created a priesthood out of the common people anybody the Levites who were distributed in all the cities all over the country, abandoned the ten tribes and sided with Judah forever. So now we have Judah, Levi, Simeon, a part of Benjamin and a resident part of the population of Israel living in Judah. In the following history we will see large secessions from Israel to Judah.
The ten tribes got all of that big territory east of the river Jordan, including Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh; then they got from the northern point of the Dead Sea straight across the Mediterranean Sea, allowing Judah about five miles north of Jerusalem. Even Jericho fell to the ten tribes. There remained to Judah a little bit of a county affair; it was only five miles from Jerusalem to the northern line, and only about twenty miles in any other direction that they were enabled to hold. Rehoboam's circuit of fifteen fortified cities really delimited on the south and west. Most of the schools of the prophets were in the Northern Kingdom. But all through this history we will see that there is a steady stream of the ten tribes coming back to Judah. That is one of the things that Chronicles particularly notices.
The period of the divided kingdom was about 253 years. Only one dynasty reigned in Judah, the line of David; there were never any changes. There were nine dynasties in Israel. The ten tribes were always changing. They commenced with Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and his son, and then all his family was killed. The second was Baasha and his son, Elah, and they were all killed; third, Zimri, and he was killed; fourth, Omri; there were two claimants, a man named Tibni contested with Omri. Omri had three successors in his family, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram. The fifth dynasty was Jehu. He killed every man, woman, and child that belonged to the family of Omri. Jehu had the longest dynasty of any of the northern kings: Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II and Zechariah. The sixth dynasty was Shallum. He held the fort but one month. The seventh dynasty was Manahem and his son Pekahiah, succeeded him. The eighth dynasty was Pekah: he was killed. The ninth dynasty, and the last, was Soshea, and he was led away into captivity. Note the great difference: there was no settled government of the ten tribes throughout the period of all the 253 years, and not a good king. There were only three dynasties of the Northern Kingdom which were history makers: the dynasties of Jeroboam I, Omri, and Jehu. We will have a great deal to do with those three dynasties.
Certain prophets are named, some of whom wrote canonical books of the Bible. In the Northern Kingdom the following prophets are named: Ahijah, Jehu, Elijah, Micaiah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Oded. Three of them wrote Bible books: Jonah, Amos, and Hosea. Some of the prophets north and south are unnamed. The prophets of the Southern Kingdom before the fall of Israel, who are named, were Shemaiah, Iddo, Azariah, Hanani, Jehu, Jahaziel, Eliezer, Obadiah, Joel, Zechariah (not the postexilian prophet), Isaiah, and Micah. Of these four wrote canonical books: Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah. In Israel where were the schools of the prophets they far exceeded by the hundreds. In both kingdoms they were the very life of the nation. They were the historians, poets, orators, reformers the very voice of God to the conscience of king and people.
The difference in the attitude of the prophets in the two kingdoms toward the kings is very marked. In the Northern Kingdom every prophet was against the kings, except one and he only a part of the time. The Northern Kingdom was always against God, and the prophets were always for God, and we see a fight between the prophets and the kings. Now, in the Southern Kingdom, four-fifths of the time the prophets and the kings worked together. That is a remarkable difference. The one notable exception in the Northern Kingdom was Elisha. Of the prophets named Jonah was a foreign missionary. Here the question of the ten tribes comes up. Were the ten tribes lost and what is the proof? I say the proof is found in the secessions from Israel to Judah and the later references to the several tribes. Hosea and Amos of the Northern Kingdom foretold the recovery of the ten tribes. See Hosea 1:10-11; 3:4-5; Amos 9:7-15.
One comment closes the record of most of the northern kings: "And he walked in the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin." We will find a sin bigger than the sin of Jeroboam after a while in the Northern Kingdom.
Judah had great advantages. First, it had the Temple and its services and its feasts. Second, it had the priests and Levites, we may say, the teachers; they were the great scholars. Third, it had the undying promise of God that the line of David should never fail.
1. What one man was most to blame for the division of the Kingdom?
2. What was the overruling cause?
3. How was this announced to Solomon?
4. How was God's purpose announced to Jeroboam, and what conditions thus stated?
5. In pursuance of this overruling of God, what enemy did he raise up from the south against Solomon and what of his history?
6. What enemy was raised up from the north by the Lord?
7. What nation arose from this northern enemy?
8. What was the immediate occasion of the division?
9. What law of selecting kings?
10. What proof that this was the law of selecting kings?
11. Who was the spokesman of the ten tribes in this popular assembly and what his special qualifications for this duty?
12. What proposition of the ten tribes to Rehoboam, what his immediate answer and what the wisdom of such a course?
13. What counsel of the old men and what its merits?
14. How did Rehoboam regard this counsel and what course did he pursue?
15. What is meant by "chastize with scorpions"?
16. What was the reply of the ten tribes to the threat of chastisement with scorpions and what example in modern history?
17. What was Rehoboam's first attempt to enforce union and what was the result?
18. What was his second attempt and what its result?
19. What the revolting tribes and of what did Judah consist? Explain fully.
20. What were the geographical limits of the two divisions?
21. To which side were adherents always coming from the other side?
22. How long the period of the divided kingdom?
23. How many and what dynasties in Judah?
24. How many and what dynasties in Israel?
25. What three dynasties of Israel were history makers?
26. What prophets are named in each kingdom and who of them wrote canonical books of the Bible?
27. What difference in the attitude of the prophets in the two kingdoms towards the kings?
28. What one notable exception in the Northern Kingdom?
29. Which of the prophets named was a foreign missionary?
30. Were the ten tribes lost and what the line of argument?
31. What prophets of the Northern Kingdom foretold the recovery of the ten tribes and what the passages?
32. What one comment closes the record of most of the northern kings?
33. What great advantages had Judah?
THE BEGINNINGS OF THE TWO KINGDOMS
1 Kings 12:25 to 15:8; 2 Chronicles 11:5 to 13:22
The theme of this section is the beginnings of the two rival kingdoms, or the measures adopted by the rival kings to establish their respective kingdoms. This is a period of twenty-four years and covers the reigns of Jeroboam and his son Nadab) kings of Israel, and of Rehoboam and his son Abijah, kings of Judah.
The initial measure adopted by Jeroboam to establish his kingdom was as follows: First, he built a city at Shechem, where the great popular assembly was held, and which was and had been since Jacob's time, a holy place. That, he made his capital. Second, as a large part of his territory, including two and a half tribes, was across the Jordan, he built another city and fortified it at Penuel, so as to command the fords of the Jordan, and this secured his kingdom on both sides of this river. Third, he established his residence at Tirzah, first mentioned in the book of Joshua, and in Solomon's Song we have the expression: "As beautiful as Tirzah." It was also in the hill country of Ephraim, and it was a beautiful mountain palace.
The initial measure of Rehoboam was to fortify and supply with provisions, garrisons, and munitions of war, fifteen cities on the southern and western frontiers, for a defense mainly against Egypt. A new dynasty had come to the front in Egypt. Shishak was a very formidable and vigorous opponent, not to be compared with the weak dynasty with which Solomon made an alliance by marriage. This Shishak was really a great man. Egypt was the power that Rehoboam and Judah feared.
Other measures of Jeroboam were political expedients in, order to keep the ten tribes from going to Jerusalem to the great feasts. He saw what had been the great power of Jerusalem and its Temple and worship as a unifying force, and he said to himself, "If my people go every year to Jerusalem they will imbibe its spirit, and the result will be that they will ultimately turn back to Rehoboam the king of Judahδ and will kill me. Now, how am I to stop this annual pilgrimage of my people to Jerusalem?" And these were the expedients that he devised: First, he established calf worship. He had two molten calves put up, viz: one at Dan, in the extreme upper part of his territory and one at Bethel, the place where Jacob was converted and a holy place. It will be remembered that when the tribe of Dan left the territory allotted to them, they migrated to the very northern part of the country, captured the places there, and worshiped the images they had taken there from Micah. There had been, then, ever since the times of the judges, a place of worship at Dan, but it was an image worship.
Second, he established a new order of priesthood. He refused to permit the Levites and their priests, left in the citiesin his territory, to minister for him; he was afraid of them. And so he created a new order of priesthood by taking any man from any tribe that pleased him and making him a priest. Third, he made a new feast to take the place of the Feast of Tabernacles. That feast the Jews generally attended, and millions would go every year, and they would dwell in tents. Now, he determined to have a feast to take the place of the Feast of Tabernacles, and as the season of the year was later in the northern part of the country, he made his feast just one month later than that of Tabernacles, as the record tells us: "He ordained a feast devised in his own heart." The Feast of Tabernacles was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and he put his feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, just a month later.
Fourth, he established high places for worship of wooden images. In the book of Judges we learn how Gideon cut down the groves, that is, the forest of images. However, Jeroboam established what is called in the Revised Version, "he-goat worship." What is meant by it? Among the Greeks it was the worship of Pan. Pan is an image with a man's face and the form of a goat; these he-goats are sometimes called satyrs. These are heathen minor deities, and allusion is made to them in the book of Leviticus. They are sometimes called devils, and that is what they really were, i. e., demons: it was a kind of demon worship. Now, for his priesthood he made houses at Dan and at Bethel, and in all of these high places, and there this he-goat, or demon worship, was carried on. These were his political expedients.
The calf worship that he established was a mixture of calf and Jehovah worship. When Moses stayed up in the mountain so long, the people asked Aaron to mold a calf for them to worship, as a symbol of Jehovah. It was not an entire abandonment of Jehovah worship, but it was the worship of Jehovah under the symbol of a calf, and they said of that calf that Aaron made, "Behold the god that brought you up out of the land of Egypt." That was an express violation of the commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven or molten image, in the likeness of anything in the heaven above or the earth beneath, and bow down and worship before it."
This fundamental innovation in religion weakened his kingdom and strengthened Judah. Now, 2 Chronicles 11:16-17 tells us as follows: "And after them, out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the Lord, the God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, strong, three years: for they walked three years in the way of David and Solomon."
The priests and the Levites were the teaching forces, as well as the guides in religion. When they banish religious teachers from a kingdom, or expatriate its best men, they do a great harm to that kingdom; they take away those who have the power to keep up the religious idea. That was a tremendous loss to the nation of Israel. These were laymen, too, the best people of the land. As I have already said, one of the peculiarities of the book of Chronicles is to record every secession from Israel back to Judah, and we will come to many a one before we get through, and thus we will see that a remnant of the ten tribes was saved.
Now, it weakened Jeroboam in the following ways: It completely separated his people from God; second, it perpetuated a sin for 253 years that readily ate out the heart of the religious nature of the people and caused their ultimate downfall. Two passages of Scripture show how far-reaching the effect of this sin was. 1 Kings 14, commencing at v. 15 reads as follows: "The Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers. . . . And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he hath sinned, and wherewith he has made Israel to sin." Now, when we come to the end of the period of the divided kingdom, we will find the other passage, 2 Kings 17:21-23. This passage accounts for the downfall of the ten tribes. Commencing at v. 21: "For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam, the son of Nabat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin. And the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight. . . . So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria, unto this day." Now, we cannot overemphasize the magnitude of a sin that destroys a nation, and I do not know any sin but the sin of Adam more far-reaching in its consequences than the sin of Jeroboam.
How often at the end of a reign of an Israelitish king does this refrain come: "He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin"? We may say that this was the inscription on the tomb of every Israelitish king, not one of them a good man. I used to say that sin is like Bermuda grass, indestructible, and that no man can commit a single sin; that it is a great breeder, it makes other sins. I have used this illustration: A hunter may think that he sees just one quail, but when he flushes him there is always a pair or a covey. And I have used this passage from Longfellow's "Hiawatha" to show the multiplying power of sin: Never swoops the soaring vulture Oil his quarry in the desert, on some Sick or wounded bison, but another vulture watching From his high aerial lockout Sees the downward plunge and follows. And a third pursues the second; Coming from the invisible ether, first a speck, And then a vulture, till the air is dark with pinions.
All have witnessed the way in which buzzards flock to a car-cass. From these illustrations we get some conception of this multiplying power of sin. And I repeat that aside from the sin of Adam, no sin described in the Bible as I can now recall, has such a long fearful sweep as the sin of Jeroboam. Jehovah announced his displeasure by sending a man out of Judah, a man of God, it does not give his name and he came to Bethel on the day that the worship of the calf was to commence, and came into the presence of Jeroboam who was about to officiate as high priest and used these words (what solemn words they are): "Oh, Altar, Altar, Thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he sacrifice the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall they burn upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken: Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out." How long before that was fulfilled? We have to turn forward to the reign of Josiah to find an exact fulfilment of it.
Let us see how Jeroboam received this announcement of the prophet of God. In 1 Kings 13:4 we have these words: "And it came to pass, when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Beth-el, that Jeroboam put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him." And his hand which he put forth toward the prophet became rigid (he could not move it) and it dried up. There he stood with that dried up, shriveled arm. He then begged the prophet to pray for him, and the prophet prayed for him and the hand was healed.
The tragic end of the nameless prophet was as follows: Jeroboam asked this prophet to be his guest. He declined because God had told him not to go into anybody's house, and not to tarry in that place, but to come straight back when he had delivered his message. The prophet refused to accept the invitation of Jeroboam. But there was an old man in Bethel, who was himself a prophet, there were schools of the prophets established over the land. Now, this prophet heard of the miracles performed by the prophet from Judah and sent after the man of God, urging him to come back and take bread with him. The nameless prophet said, "I have been commanded not to do that." The other said, "I also am a prophet, and bid you to come back," and he went back, and then came the warning to him that he should die. On leaving the house a lion met him and smote him from the ass upon which he was riding and killed him. The lion did not eat him he was not mangled but the people found his dead body there.
I shall never forget that when I was a little bit of a child this was the Sunday school lesson, "The Fate of the Disobedient Prophet." There was a picture of it in the Sunday school book. The old prophet that lived there at Bethel took him and buried him in a secret place, that his bones should not fall under the denunciation he had himself given. The old prophet said to his children, "When I die, bury me by the side of this man of God; I do not want my bones taken up and burned on that altar."
Jeroboam did not relent in his purpose on the announcement of this prophecy and its marvelous sign, for that very day the altar split wide open and the ashes fell out; and then there was the miracle of staying his hand, but he did not repent and give up his evil purpose. The record says, "After this thing Jeroboam returned not away from his evil ways, but made again from among all the people priests of the high places; whosoever would, he consecrated him that there might be priests of the high places. And this thing became a sin unto the house of Jeroboam," and he destroyed it off the face of the earth. So this sin not only destroyed the people ultimately, but it destroyed him and all of his house. His policy in the main accompanied his object. The record tells us that the people, the main body of them, quit going to Jerusalem, but joined in this idolatrous worship that Jeroboam had prescribed. The effect on Jeroboam himself was destructive. The record says that the Lord smote him and all of his house perished not a man, woman, or child was left. This is voiced by Jehovah himself, and the occasion of it was that his son was sick, and he told his wife to go to the prophet, Ahijah, who had announced to him that he would get ten tribes in the division of the kingdom. He told his wife to disguise herself, and take presents with her, and go and ask that prophet that the child might live. But the Spirit of God informed the prophet of the disguise before the woman got there, and he met her with this terrible announcement: "And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, that because of this evil I will cut off every man child, him that is shut up and him that is left out, and I will utterly sweep away the house of Jeroboam, as a man sweepest away refuse, and him that dieth in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the fields shall the fowls eat. The Lord hath spoken. Rise and get thee to thine own house, and when thy feet enter into the city the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, for he alone of Jeroboam's family shall come to the grave." He is the only one of the family that shall ever receive burial. And then he goes on to say that this sin would destroy the entire nation. This is one of the most solemn utterances in the Bible.
The next measure adopted by Jeroboam to establish himself was an alliance with Shishak. It will be remembered that he fled to Egypt in the days of Solomon, and married into the family of this very Shishak. He made an alliance with Shishak to invade Judah, of which we will speak presently. Jeroboam himself reigned twenty-two years; his son reigned after him two years; his dynasty, therefore, lasted twenty-four years. Rehoboam and his son Abijah, and his son Asa, came to the throne before Jeroboam died. The attitude of the two kingdoms toward each other was war continually, all the days of Jeroboam's life and the life of his son. But Rehoboam prospered three years just as long as the people remained faithful unto God. His sin and the sin of his people we find in 1 Kings 14:2224, and some of it is awful. Let us look at it: "And Judah did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord;... For they also built them high places on every high hill and under every green tree; and there were also Sodomites in the land: they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord drove out before the children of Israel."
This sin was punished. The record tells us that Shishak, the king of Egypt, invaded the land with a vast army, with much cavalry and many chariots of war. He easily broke through those fifteen cities of defense and came up to Jerusalem, and as his armies surrounded Jerusalem Rehoboam and all the peopie prayed to God and repented of their sins. Mark this difference between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. And God delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. But Shishak carried away all of those rich treasures that had been gathered by Solomon; the golden shields he took away with him, and made the land tributary to Egypt.
Archeology throws some light on this invasion of Shishak. Not a great while ago, in uncovering the ruins of the temple of Karnak on the Nile, there was found the inscription of Shishak on his return from this invasion. It shows what cities he captured, and how he had taken away the treasures from Jerusalem. But the important light that it throws on the period is this: Among the cities captured it gives the names of the Levitical cities in Israel. He did not destroy any of the cities of Jeroboam, but all the Levitical or Canaanite cities that remained faithful to Judah he captured. That is shown in the inscriptions such of them as are discernible. Is it not strange that after thousands of years the spade keeps turning up proof of the truth of the Bible? When archeology first commenced the radical critics said that it would destroy the Bible. Inscriptions on monuments, deep carvings in rock that the dust of centuries has settled upon, are brought to light and demonstrate that this book does not deal in lies. We need to fear nothing as having the power to destroy the testimony of this book.
The length of Rehoboam's reign was seventeen years; that of his son was three years. The great event in Abijah's reign was the war with Jeroboam. He raised an army of 4,000,000 men and went into Ephraim and met Jeroboam with 8,000,000 men, and Jeroboam divided his forces into two parts, to take them on two sides. But before the battle commenced there was a prelude that to me has always been interesting. We find it in 2 Chronicles 13:4-12, as follows: "And Abijah stood up upon Mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel; ought ye not to know that Jehovah the God of Israel, gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, even to him and his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up, and rebelled against his Lord. And there were gathered unto him worthless men, base fellows, that strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of Jehovah in the land of the sons of David; and ye are a great multitude) and there are with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made you for gods. Have ye not driven out the priests of Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the people of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods. But as for us, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and we have priests ministering unto Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites in their work; and they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burnt offerings and sweet incense: the shewbread also they set in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of Jehovah our God; but ye have forsaken him. And, behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with the trumpets of alarm to sound an alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against Jehovah, the God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper."
That was a very hard message, and in the battle which followed Abijah's army killed more Israelites than there were in his own army he had only 40,000 men and he killed half a million. The effect of this battle was terrific. The record tells us that Jeroboam never recovered from that battle. But Abijah was a very strong man, yet not as faithful to Jehovah as he boasts to Jeroboam.
The state of affairs at the end of the twenty-four years was as follows: Jeroboam was dead, smitten of God; his son, after an inglorious reign of two years, was murdered by Baasha, and only one of the family of Jeroboam ever received burial; Baasha killed every one of them that was alive. Now, in the other kingdom, Asa, one of the greatest of the kings of Judah, had come to the throne, and that is the way they stand at the end of the twenty-four years.
1. What was the time period of this chapter, who were the kings of Israel and Judah and the time each reigned respectively?
2. What were the initial measures adopted by Jeroboam to establish his kingdom?
3. What was the initial measure of Rehoboam and why this particular measure?
4. What other measures, or political expedients, adopted by Jeroboam?
5. What was the calf worship which he established?
6. What was the effect of this fundamental innovation and how do you account for it?
7. What was the sad refrain at the end of the reign of each of the Israelitish kings? Illustrate.
8. How did Jehovah show his displeasure and what was the fulfilment of the prophecy of the "nameless prophet"?
9. How did Jeroboam receive the message and what the result?
10. Relate the tragic story of the nameless prophet.
11. What was the effect of this great demonstration on Jeroboam?
12. Did his policy in the main accomplish his object?
13. What was the effect on Jeroboam himself?
14. How was this voiced by Jehovah and what the occasion of it?
15. What was the next measure adopted by Jeroboam to establish himself?
16. How long did Jeroboam reign, how many kings of Judah during his reign, how long his dynasty and what its end?
17. What was the attitude of the two kingdoms toward each other?
18. How long did Rehoboam prosper?
19. What was his sin and the sin of his people?
20. How was this sin punished?
21. What light does archeology throw on the invasion of Shishak?
22. What was the length of Rehoboam's reign, how long his son's reign and what great event of Abijah's reign?
23. What was the effect of the battle between Abijah and Jeroboam?
24. What were the characteristics of Abijah?
25. What was the state of affairs in each kingdom, respectively, at the end of twenty-four years?
THE REIGN OF ASA AND THE PARALLEL FORTUNES OF ISRAEL
1 Kings 15:9-22; 2 Chronicles 14:1 to 16:14
In the introductory chapter I mentioned certain helpful books. Three of them I rename as very helpful on this lesson: Hengenstenberg's "Kingdom of God in the Old Testament," Vol. II; Geikie's "Hours with the Bible," Vol. IV; Edersheim's "History of Israel," Vol. V. On this section we need not look at Josephus. He has something to say about it, but it is worth very little. My advice is to master thoroughly 2 Chronicles 1416; the Chronicles record is far better than the record in Kings.
The time period of Asa's reign is 955 B.C. to 914, forty-one years, and the contemporaneous kings of Israel, and the dynasties are as follows: Jeroboam and his son Nadab, first dynasty; Baasha and his son Elah, second dynasty; Zimri, third dynasty ωhe reigned just a week; Omri and his son Ahab, fourth dynasty. For a while there was a contestant against Omri, Tibni by name, but this contest lasted only three years.
The general character of Asa is: "And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father" (meaning his forefather). So we have a long and good reign, and it is a wonder that, while about half the kings of Judah were bad kings, the reign of the good men extended 200 years of the 253; so, that at least four to one, in time, Judah was governed by good men.
A great blessing marked the beginning of his reign. The record tells us that there were ten years of peace, resulting mainly from the great victory of his father, Abijah, gained over Jeroboam the son of Nebat. It is a great blessing when we have a peaceful opportunity to set in order a church or a nation, or to prepare for a great enterprise wisely.
This peace interval was graciously employed as follows: First, he put down idolatry in all its forms throughout his kingdom. Second, he fortified many cities, and the record tells us that he made Jehovah his chief defense. Well does that psalm say, "He laboreth in vain to build a house except the Lord build the house; and they watch in vain to keep a city except the Lord keep the city." Third, he raised and disciplined an army consisting of 300,000 spearmen of the tribe of Judah, that is, they had long lances and heavy targets; a target is simply a big shield. Also he had 280,000 slingers and archers. These had a little shield, and carried bows and slings. They were of the tribe of Benjamin. That certainly shows that by this time the bulk of the tribe of Benjamin was standing with Judah. The Benjaminites were left-handed and were great archers and slingers. At one place back of us in the history we learned that they could sling stones a great distance with great accuracy. David was an adept with the sling himself. That is a big contingent from Benjamin, 280,000.
The second great event of his reign was the great victory over Zerah, the Ethiopian, who invaded Judah with a million men and three hundred chariots of war. The battle was fought at Maresha, a place between Hebron, a southern Jewish town, and Ashdod, an old Philistine town in the south.
Some say that this great number, a million men, is not credible, but we must remember that in those days, when war was made, the whole available male population went into the army like Indian tribes and later we learn that Xerxes led three million men against the Greeks though by measurement, not count, only 1,800,000 of them were soldiers. And we learn still later in the interbiblical period, that the last Darius, king of Persia, at the battle of Arbela, had 1,400,000 men. The record says, "Zerah the Ethiopian." The word in the Hebrew is "Cushite." We get "Ethiopian" in our text from the Septuagint Version. The Greeks called the Cushites "Ethops," which meant browned black in the sun. But where were the Cushites? In the northern part of Arabia, from which place they crossed the narrow intervening sea to Africa, and established themselves in what is now called upper Egypt the Nile runs north toward the Mediterranean Sea; then upper Egypt would be southern Egypt. 1 Kings 16:8 tells us that there were Lybians in the army, as well as Ethiopians, and we know that Lybia in Africa is on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, west of the mouth of the Nile. Quite a number of my commentaries say that Zerah was the same as Ozorchon, the son of Shishak. But that is not quite clear to my mind. I do know from one of my histories that about 944 B.C., the Cushites, when they crossed over the intervening seas, invaded Egypt, and then passed back into Asia. We will have to leave it that way.
Asa's appeal to Jehovah when he saw this great host, and how God responded to him are found in 2 Chronicles 14:11: "And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, there is none to help beside thee . . . O Lord our God; for we rely on thee, and in thy name are we come out against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee." I gave that to a professor of homiletics once and asked him to analyze it as he would a sermon, and he said that I put the question to him only to give me an opportunity to tell him how to do it. Well, now, let's analyze that: "There is none beside God who can help the weak against the mighty", that is a fine start for a prayer, the announcement of a great doctrine. "We rely upon thee", that is faith. "And in thy name we come out against this multitude", that identifies the people's case with God himself. "Therefore, Lord, let no man prevail against thee." It was a fine prayer, and the response was that the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.
There were mighty results of this victory. The record says that there fell of the Ethiopians so many that they could not recover themselves, for they were destroyed before the Lord, and before his hosts; or as the margin puts it, "so that none remained alive." That must have been a terrific slaughter. The second result was that they carried away very much booty. Of course, the arms would be gathered up, the jewels and the camp equipage, and the munitions of war. Notice that these Egyptians fled toward Egypt, by the lower road toward Gerar; and so they smote all the cities about Gerar; and the fear of the Lord came upon them) and they spoiled all the cities, and they carried away sheep in abundance and camels.
Verse 15 says, "They smote also the tents of the cattle." Now, what does that mean? It means that following such an army were herds of cattle for feeding the army, and the "tents" would be the shelters of the herdsmen. To smite the tents of the cattle is to smite the herdsmen that drove the cattle. Stonewall Jackson, in one of his hungry days, when his men were half-starved, having heard that Banks was coming with immense supply trains and herds of cattle, said, "This army can whip any army that has a herd of cattle along."
The warning of the prophet Azariah, who went to meet Asa returning from that great battle, we find in 2 Chronicles 15:1-7. The time we need to be most watchful is in the moment of a great victory. When the times are hard, when we are pressed to the wall, we are apt to be humble and look to God; but when it looks like everything is going our way, the danger is that we will be puffed up. Now the prophet of God met that army coming, with all those spoils and said, "Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you while you be with him; if ye seek him he will be found of you; if ye forsake him he will forsake you." What a warning, that! "God is with you while you are with God; but if you turn away from God, he will turn away from you." Notice verse 3 of that warning: "Now for long seasons Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law. But when in their distress, they turned unto the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them. And in those days there was no peace to him that went out: nor to him that came in. but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the land. And they were broken in pieces, nation against nation, city against city; for God did vex them with all adversity." .Here I raise this question: Is that a prophecy of future events, or is it a historical retrospect quoted to enforce the text, "If you are with God, he is with you, if you forsake him, he will forsake you"? It may surprise the reader that some commentaries construe it as prophecy: "For a long time Israel will be without the true God." Henstenberg, one of my favorites, takes that position, but he is mistaken, I think: the tense forbids it. The prophet is enforcing his exhortation by the past history of the people, well known to those whom he addressed. Then I raise another question: If a retrospect, what events of the past verify it? My answer is that if we look to the period of the judges alone we may find every particular verified. Deborah says that before she came to the front the highways were not travelled; they were not safe; that the people were scattered; and in the time of Samson it is said that the Israelite was not only not allowed to have arms, but he must go to a Philistine to get permission to sharpen his ax or goad, on his grindstone, and that tribe was against tribe. There is abundant historical verification, looking at it as a retrospect. We are in a bad fix when we have to go to the enemies of religion to get a grindstone to sharpen our ax. One of Israel's later prophets foretells a similar condition. It is in the prophecy of Hosea. (See Hosea 4:1-5).
There is a remarkable date in 2 Chronicles 15:19 and 16:1, when compared with 1 Kings 16:8: "And there was no more war unto the fifth and thirtieth year of the reign of Asa." Now we know that another war comes before that date, so what about this date? I give you my method of reconciling the difficulty: the word "reign" in this passage should be translated "kingdom" (which is a good translation), "And there was no more war unto the fifth and thirtieth year of the kingdom of Asa." That means from Rehoboam's time, and that exactly corresponds with the facts, as may be demonstrated, because the very next war we are going to tell about occurred before the thirty-fifth year of Asa's reign, and the man who conducted the war was dead before we get to the thirty-fifth year of Asa, and the cause of the war is an event of this section.
Azariah's prophecy is attributed to Oded, in 1 Chronicles 15:8, thus: "And when Asa heard these words of the prophecy of Oded the prophet." Above he is called Azariah, the son of Oded. My solution of this difficulty is that the father, himself a prophet, may have sent a son to deliver the prophecy.
Now let us look at the elements of the second great reformation under Asa: "And he put away the Sodomites out of the land; he took courage and put away all the abominations out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from the hill country of Ephraim [his father had captured them in the war with Jeroboam]; and he renewed the altar of the Lord which was before the porch of the Lord. And he brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated and he himself had dedicated, silver and gold and vessels. And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and them that sojourned with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. So they gathered themselves together in Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa." And there was a great convocation including multitudes from Israel, and the record says that the object of that great convocation was to renew the covenant with God, and solemnly take oath that they would not only seek Jehovah alone, but would put to death him that suggested the worship of a false god. His grandmother, the queen regent, Maacah, the granddaughter of Absalom, had been the occasion of this idolatry, and had herself set up idols. He not only destroyed the idols of his grandmother, but he removed her from her position as queen regent in the realm. He burnt the idol that she worshiped, and poured out the ashes into the brook Kidron. This is a great reformation, and the result is expressed thus: "And they sware unto the Lord with a loud voice, and with shouting and with trumpets, and all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought him with their whole desire, and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about." It is a solemn thing when one assembles a-great convocation, and submits to the people the true worship of God, and induces them to enter into a covenant before God to follow him, and to turn aside from idols. Whenever anyone does that in any community, whenever he brings about such a result as that, already he has become one of earth's great reformers.
Now let us take up the occasion and reason of the war of Baasha, king of Israel, against Asa and the step taken in view of this reason, thus: "And Baasha, King of Israel, went up against Judah, and built Ramah, that he might not suffer anyone to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah." We have just learned the fact which disturbed Baasha: "For they fell to Asa out of Israel in abundance, when they saw the Lord his God was with him." Now, the king of Israel, when he saw that immense secession of his people going over to Judah, determined to make war to stop it. The step that he took was to build Ramah within five miles of Jerusalem, and to fortify it, so that it would command the entrance into Jerusalem.
Asa freed himself from this attack of Baasha, by taking the treasuries, even the sacred treasures out of Jerusalem, the Temple, and sending them as tribute to Benhadad, the king of Syria, whose country lay north of the ten tribes, and making an alliance with him, "to step on the tail of this army invading him." Note that 1 Kings 15:19 and 2 Chronicles 16:3, both commence this way: "There is a league between me and thee, between my father and thy father", or, "there is a league between me and thee as there was between my father and thy father." How shall we explain that? Notice that the words, "there is" are in italics: that shows that the translators supplied those words. Let us supply better words: "Let there be a league between thee and me as there was between my father and thy father." There was no league extant between Asa and Benhadad; on the contrary Benhadad had leagued with Baasha; and he says, "Now let there be a league between me and thee, and break your league with Baasha." The result of the bribe was that Benhadad marched an army against Israel, the ten tribes, took many of their cities, and Baasha had to leave Ramah and his fortifications and go back to fight for his own country. Asa disposed of Baasha's fortifications at Ramah, by having these fortifications taken down, and the material used in building two fortifications, or cities, that were to protect Jerusalem and hold these roads. There is an ancient and also a far future tragic event associated with Ramah. The ancient event was the death of Jacob's wife, Rachel, at that place, and the great mourning that followed it. The far distant future event was the slaughter of the innocents at Bethlehem by Herod, where the New Testament says, "The voice of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted because they were not."
The sin of Asa's alliance with Benhadad and how Jehovah announced his displeasure, are found in 2 Chronicles 16:7-9: "And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa, king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and hast not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thy hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim a huge host, with chariots and horsemen exceeding many? Yet, because thou didst rely on the Lord, he delivered them into thine hand? For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly; for from henceforth thou shalt have wars." Washington, President of the "United States, in his farewell address said, "Beware of entangling alliances." Well, Asa made such an entangling alliance, which proved very harmful to him; it would have been far better if he had relied upon Jehovah and whipped both of them.
Asa's added transgression was to put the prophet in prison who rebuked him. Now, when one gets mad at the truth being told to him and confesses that it is the truth; and when he tries to put away the truth by imprisoning the people who tell the truth, he should remember this: "The word of God cannot be bound." One may imprison the speaker, but the word of God that he told cannot be bound. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time. Of course, when one goes wrong in one thing, he will likely add another wrong. (I omit all the references to Israel just now because I have reserved for a later discussion the House of Omri).
A disease overtook Asa in his old age: "And in the ninth and thirtieth year of his reign, Asa was diseased in his feet; and his disease was exceeding great." I suppose he had the gout. Anyhow, the gout comes to people who live luxuriously and especially those who drink much port wine are sure to have it. 2 Chronicles 16:12-13 seems to veil a sarcasm against the physicians: "Asa was diseased in his feet . . . yet in his disease he sought not Jehovah, but to the physicians. And Asa slept with his fathers." The New Testament has a similar passage, concerning the afflicted woman who "had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse" (Mark 5:26). I sometimes quote these passages when joking with my friends, the doctors. Dr. Broadus well says that nothing better could have been expected from the medical practice of that day. An intelligent modern physician would laugh to scorn the remedies prescribed by physicians of New Testament times, much less Asa's more distant days. The old-time symbol of a physician was a duck that looked like it was just about to say, "quack." The practice was a mixture of magic, witchcraft, and superstition, like the old granny's remedies in Edward Eggleston's Hoosier Schoolmaster.
In 2 Chronicles 16:14 we have the last reference to Asa: "And they buried him in his own sepulchre, which he had hewn out for himself in the city of David, and laid him in the bed which was filled with sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art: and they made a very great burning for him." Was he cremated? Some commentaries quote this to show how early the cremation of bodies commenced. But that is not the thought at all. He is following the Egyptian method of having the body embalmed. They put him in a bed of sweet odors and divers kinds of spices prepared by the apothecaries' art. The burning was the burning of incense at the mouth of the tomb. It was not the cremation of the body. The object was to preserve the body so it would not decay.
1. What is the theme of this section and what helps especially commended?
2. What was the time period of Asa's reign, who the contemporaneous kings of Israel, and how many and what dynasties?
3. What was the general character of Asa and how do the kings of Judah compare with those of Israel?
4. What great blessing marked the beginning of his reign and how was it obtained?
5. How was it utilized?
6. What was the second great event of his reign and where did it take place?
7. Is the great number of men given here credible and what is the proof?
8. What is the origin, meaning and application of the name "Ethiopian"?
9. Where were the Cushites?
10. What is the proof that this was also an Egyptian army?
11. Who, then, according to some, was this man, Zerah?
12. Give and analyze Asa's appeal to Jehovah when he saw the great host and God's response to him.
13. What were the mighty results of this victory?
14. What is the meaning of "tents of the cattle"?
15. Analyze the warning of the prophet, Azariah, who went to meet Asa returning from the great battle.
16. Is that a prophecy of future events or is it a historical retrospect, quoted to enforce the text?
17. If a retrospect, what events of the past verify it? Explain and illustrate.
18. Cite a passage from one of Israel's later prophets who foretells a similar condition.
19. Explain the remarkable date in 2 Chronicles 15:19 and 16:1, comparing with 1 Kings 16:8.
20. Winy is Azariah's prophecy attributed to Oded in 1 Chronicles 15:8?
21. Give an account of the second great reformation of Asa.
22. What was the occasion and reason for the war of Baasha, king of Israel, against Asa, and what step taken in view of this reason?
23. How did Asa. free himself from this attack of Baasha? Explain fully his words to Benhadad.
24. How did Asa dispose of Baasha's fortifications at Ramah?
25. What ancient and what far distant future events associated with Ramah?
26. What was sin of Asa's alliance with Benhadad and how did Jehovah announce his displeasure?
27. What was Asa's added transgression?
28. What disease overtook Asa in his old age?
29. What is the author's sarcasm relative to Asa's sickness and death?
30. What was the last reference to Asa and what the meaning of "a great burning for him"?
THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT, KING OF JUDAH
2 Chronicles 17-20; 1 Kings 22:1-61
The reader will observe that I omitted in the last chapter any special reference to the contemporaneous affairs in Israel, in the close of the reign of Asa, and do now limit this chapter to the record in 2 Chronicles 17-20. This limitation is to secure unity in the discussion of the two great kings of Judah: Asa and Jehoshaphat; and for the same purpose two or three later chapters will be devoted exclusively to the great house of Omri in Israel, and its battle royal with Elijah, the Tishbite.
I pause here to remark that there are some matters so very critical in this section, that I am not willing to trust myself in an offhand statement of the meaning, and so every word of this chapter is written out beforehand, just as I want it to stand verbatim, et liberatum, et punctuatim.
The glorious seven-teeenth chapter of 2 Chronicles has no parallel in Kings, and well illustrates the valuable supplementary character of the later history. The history opens with Jehoshaphat devising military measures of defense against Israel. He placed regular garrisons in all the fortified cities of Judah, established and garrisoned new military posts in all the territory captured from Ephraim by his father, Asa, and grandfather, Abijah. This was the very beginning of his reign.
His moral measures of defense are far more sublime. They constitute a great lesson worthy of study in all subsequent ages. On this section, therefore, we must place our greatest emphasis. What, then, were these moral measures of defense adopted by Jehoshaphat?
(1) "He walked in the first ways of his father David" David, the ideal king, not Solomon, was his model. And the first ways of David are followed, not the last. Thus, his pattern was his lost illustrious ancestor, the man after God's own heart, and he at his best, not at his worst. We would do well while finding a perfect ideal in Jesus, to select some human model that reflects our highest ideals of manhood or womanhood. For instance, how many young preachers say in their hearts, "I will keep my eyes on William Carey, or on Adoniram Judson, or on Charles Spurgeon"?
(2) "He sought not unto Baalim" that is the Hebrew plural, like Seraph Seraphim; cherub cherubim; so Baal Baalim. "He sought not unto Baalim, but sought unto the God of his fathers." He whom one worships is more important than whom he makes his model. To him Jehovah alone was God. He counted as nothing Baalim, that is, the male and the female deities. Baalim being plural) that signified Baal, the male) and Astoreth the female. Astoreth has its own plural, Astoroth, and is about the same as the Venus of the Romans, or the Aphrodite of the Greeks. Baal and Ashtoreth, under some name or form, represented the world's debased and sensual idolatry.
(3) The record tells us that he refused to find in Israel an example for his people, which under the house of Omri, turned to these infamous Phoenician deities, the Baalim-Baal and Ashtoreth.
(4) The record says that his heart was lifted up in the ways of Jehovah. That is a strong expression in the original. It is not a perfunctory service; he gloried in it; his heart exulted in it; his fervor glowed like a furnace.
(5) In such a spirit and zeal there could be no compromise; hence the record says, "He took away the high places and the Asherim out of Judah." "The high places," that is, the top of the hills, even when Jehovah was the object of worship, detracted from the central place of worship in Jerusalem with its holy Temple, and its glorious unifying services and feasts. The Asherim were symbolized in wooden columns that sometimes stood like groves, as when Gideon went out and cut down a grove of them in one night. The Asherim stood as a perpetual temptation to superstition and idolatry.
(6) He made abundant and systematic provision for the instruction of the people of God in the Pentateuch, "The book of the law of Jehovah." Princes, priests, and Levites, were constituted as itinerant teaching corps. Up and down, to and fro, through all the land this great traveling faculty carried and taught the one great textbook, the Law of Moses. The word of God was not bound. Its precepts were brought by the mightiest and most honorable in the land into every village and home. And as the priests and Levites of all the tribes were assembled into one tribe, magnifying the teaching force of that tribe, Judah, under this itinerant system of instruction) became one great religious university an itinerant theological seminary.
(7) He established a graded judicial system for the determination and enforcement of civil, criminal, and ecclesiastical law (10:5-8) and here is his charge to the judges of the lower courts: "Consider what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but Jehovah; and he is with you in the judgment you render. Now, therefore, let the fear of Jehovah be upon you; take heed and do it; for there is no iniquity with Jehovah our God, nor respect of persons nor taking of bribes." I would like to read that to all the judges of the lower courts of the United States. Here is what he says in his charge to the Supreme Court, the head of the judicial system in Jerusalem: "In the fear of Jehovah ye shall do faithfully, and with a perfect heart. And whensoever any controversy shall come to you from your brothers that dwell in the villages and cities, between blood and blood [that is, if it is a murder case], between the law [in its principles] and [their expression in] commandments) statutes, and ordinances, ye shall warn them that they be guilty toward Jehovah and so wrath come upon you [the judges] and your brethren [the appellants]. This do ye and ye shall not be guilty. Deal courageously and Jehovah be with the good in your judgment." I would like to read that to our state and national supreme courts.
I pause here to remark, first, that the civil and criminal code of Moses surpasses the codes of Lycurgus, Solon, Justinian, or Napoleon, and as a foundation it underlies all of the best of modern law among the most civilized nations. I was boarding once with a very brilliant lawyer, and he asked if I could give him a digest of the Mosaic law, civil and criminal. I told him he would find it in Hitchcock's Analysis, and I made him a present of the book. I said to him, "Now, when you read this let your quick mind answer this question as you go over its constitution, the decalogue, or each statute. How much of your law does the principle of this statute underlie?" When he got through he said, "I find that all the best of our laws, at least in their principle, come from Moses."
Now, imagine the effect of such a trained force of teachers going over Judah teaching that law, and then such a judicial system interpreting and enforcing that law. I repeat again that mere human law, separated from the idea of responsibility to God, can never challenge respect nor be righteously enforced. The most shameful thing of modern civilization is that we cannot get Juries to render a verdict according to the law given by the judge and the evidence given by the witnesses. To this add the law's delay, the wrangling of the paid attorneys, and the wonder is explicable that the people dread the courts more than anything else. A man in Fort Worth recently remarked to his family: "If ever I am murdered I charge you to ask the grand jury not to indict the murderer; don't you have anything to do with the prosecution. For, if the murderer is never prosecuted, murder is all that comes to me. But if you put the case in the courts with the lawyers trying to justify the murderer, there will not be a shred of my reputation left. Not content with murdering my body, they will murder my good name."
(8) He did not isolate himself from his people, living luxuriously in a palace and leaving subordinates to watch over the affairs of the kingdom. But the text says that "he dwelt at Jerusalem, and went out again among the people from Beersheba [the most southern part] to the hill country of Ephraim [the most northern part] and brought them back unto Jehovah the God of their fathers." When kings become missionaries like that, and the princes become itinerant teachers like that, happy is the land.
(9) He organized and trained a vast militia corps, or war reserve, not indeed as a standing army, but ready at all times to respond to a call to arms in any emergency. Judging from the muster roll given in the record, it must have included like the German Landwehr, all the male population capable of bearing arms. There were three army corps from Judah, numbering respectively 300,000, 280,000, and 200,000: total from Judah 780,000. There were two corps from Benjamin, respectively, 200,000 and 180,000: total from Benjamin, 380,000: grand total from the two, 1,160,000 men, and all of them with a full quota of officers. The world never saw anything like the German system of war, as developed in 1870, between Germany and France. The very minute that Emperor William I signed his name to the declaration of war, that minute Von Moltke, the commander-in-chief, touched a button that rang a bell, and over a million men responded to it in twenty-four hours: and every man knew his company, colonel, regiment, major general, his division, his starting point, his line of travel) the system was so perfect.
Murphy's Commentary on Chronicles thus explains this immense number of Jehoshaphat's militia. He says, "First, every man fit to bear arms is enumerated. Second, Judah at this time included Simeon, part of Dan, and the auxiliaries from the Philistines and Arabs who were tributary; and Benjamin included the cities of Ephraim that were annexed to the Southern Kingdom. Third, many Israelites had, on religious grounds, attached themselves to the kingdom of Judah (15:9). Hence, there were three captains, or marshals, in Judah: one for Judah proper, one for Dan and the auxiliary Philistines, and one for Simeon and the auxiliary Arabs. There were two for Benjamin, one for Benjamin proper and one for the annexed part of Ephraim. Moreover, in the text (v. 16) Amasiah is described as a volunteer in the service of the Lord, and had under his command, no doubt, a body of volunteers from the north." The explanation by Murphy is very plausible in view of the context.
Now, that this 1,160,000 was a militia reserve is evident from the fact that it is contradistinguished from the regular army garrisoning the fortified cities.
The glorious results of these measures are thus set forth in the text: first, Jehovah was with Jehoshaphat, and established his kingdom; second, fear of Jehovah fell on all the kingdoms that were round about Judah, so they made no war on Jehoshaphat; third, all Judah brought to Jehoshaphat tribute; fourth, some of the Philistines brought to Jehoshaphat presents and silver for tribute; fifth, the Arabs brought him flocks of 15,400 rams and goats; sixth, and Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and waxed great exceedingly, and built in Judah castles and cities of stone, and he had many works in the cities of Judah.
If just here the record ended with "And Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers," we would have before us a faultless monarch; but as no man is perfect, fidelity to history requires that we pluck three roses from his wreath of glory, to wit:
First, beginning with chapter 18 the record says that "he made affinity" with the infamous Ahab, king of Israel. Thus by marrying his son and successor to Athaliah, the murderous daughter of Ahab and the wicked Jezebel, which led his son into idolatry, and into the shame that denied him burial with his fathers, and, as I think, into the loss of his soul, he later corrupted the kingdom of Judah and brought the seed of David down to one helpless baby, and helped to bring the kingdom of God nearer to destruction than at any period since the flood. That will be evident when we come to discuss Elijah the Tishbite.
Second, this marriage led him to visit Ahab (chapter 18) in Samaria, where he was beguiled to join Ahab in his disastrous war, that did not concern Judah, against the king of Syria. That war is set forth from 18:2 to 19:1.
Third, later in his reign he joined himself with Ahaziah, the wicked son of the wicked Ahab, to build ships at Eziongeber, "to go," as the text says, "to Tarshish" (but I say, "to go to Orphir"), thus seeking to revive the old commerce of Solomon (20:35-37).
I here raise this question on 2 Chronicles 20:35-37: Why build a fleet at Eziongeber to reach Tarshish? Eziongeber is at the head of the gulf of Akaba, a part of the Red Sea. Tarshish is in Spain, and to reach Spain the fleet would have to circumnavigate Africa to reach Tarshish from Eziongeber. Jonah took shipping at Joppa to reach Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). Solomon reached Tarshish from the Phoenician ports of Tyre and Sidon. The explanation of this difficulty is that "Tarshish" is a model of a ship called Tarshish and the text in 2 Chronicles 20:36 is corrupted, it should read, "Ships of Tarshish" instead of "Ships to go to Tarshish."
These three acts of Jehoshaphat, which were the three roses plucked from the wreath of his fame, a.ll deserve special treatment. The disastrous marriage, the most important one, will be considered in a later chapter on Elijah the Tishbite. The other two evils will be considered now. RAMOTH-GILEAD
The second evil was accepting the invitation of Ahab to visit him in Samaria. He was there beguiled into making an alliance with Ahab to go to war against Benhadad, the king of Syria, for the recovery of Ramothgilead, a town east of the Jordan.
I will relate now a part of the history which precedes this (but which we have not yet treated, as I am reserving the history of the house of Omri for a special chapter), that Ahab had captured the king of Syria and ought to have killed him, but let him go on the pledge that he would give up Ramothgilead, which he had stolen from Ahab. But when free he would not give it up, and now Ahab is considering the reconquest. We will now continue the discussion of chapter 18.
While royally entertained in Samaria by Ahab, the host embarrassed his guest by proposing joint action in the recovery of Ramoth-gilead, still held against treaty stipulations by the king of Syria. On the impulse of the moment the enticed guest responded) "I am as thou art, and my people as thy people, and we will go with thee in this war." Sober reflection, however, imposed a condition which is stated in the next verse: "Inquire, first I pray thee, for the word of Jehovah," i.e., "I will go with you if Jehovah says so; inquire for the word of Jehovah." We must put this condition to the credit of the beguiled but pious Jehoshaphat.
What followed is most difficult to understand in several particulars, greatly perplexing the commentators, and calls for careful exposition. The reader should read attentively the whole paragraph of 2 Chronicles 18:4-27, and then note:
(1) Jehoshaphat demands an inquiry for the word of Jehovah, not for the word of Baal.
(2) Then, of course, the prophets who respond must be the prophets of Jehovah, not Baal's prophets.
(3) Four hundred prophets, assembled by Ahab, when asked: "Shall we go to Ramothgilead to battle or shall we forbear?" unanimously responded, "Go up; for God will deliver it into the hand of the king."
(4) Jehoshaphat is not satisfied: the promptness of assembling 400 prophets, the readiness and the unanimity of their response, or something in their bearing, awakened suspicion on his part that something was wrong. Hence his question: "Is there not here a prophet of Jehovah besides, that we may inquire of him?" Now, does he imply by that question that the 400 are not Jehovah's prophets at all, or does the "besides" mean that they were Jehovah's prophets, but that he wants another one?
(5) Ahab's reply evidently claims that the 400 are Jehovah's prophets, but admits that there is one there in the city whom he hates, because he uniformly prophesies evil and not good against Ahab.
(6) Jehoshaphat's rejoinder, "Let not the king say so," plainly intimates his continued dissatisfaction, and he insists on hearing this other prophet, Micaiah, the son of Imlah. In the meanwhile, while waiting for Micaiah to be brought, Zedekiah, the leader of the 400 prophets recalled the famous promise of Moses concerning Joseph (Deut. 33:17), and put on the symbolic horns promised there, and acted out the manner in which the Syrian king would be gored to death, with all the other prophets shouting, "Go up to Ramothgilead and prosper." This dramatic action must have made an impression. Now the reader must not take my word for the horns promised by Moses, but let him turn back and read what Moses said. Evidently Zedekiah takes what Moses said concerning the children of Joseph, Manasseh, and Ephraim, to show that he is giving a true prophecy; he puts on those iron horns and shows just how the Ephraim bull will gore the Syrian king to destruction. It must have been a funny scene.
(7) The method of sending for Micaiah and disposing of him after he is heard, implies that he was in prison in the city at the time, and is remanded back to prison because he would not prophesy smooth things to Ahab.
(8) The officer hinted to him, while bringing him before the king, to conform his reply to that of the four hundred like I have known sheriffs, when bringing in a witness, to whisper how he had better testify; to make a confession and to imply what he is going to say with what the 400 said, clearly shows how this officer, at least, was aware that the prophets around Ahab must prophesy as the king wished. It seems to place Ahab's conception of the prophetic office on a line with Balak's when he sent for Balaam to come and curse Israel: that a king's money or a king's favor could get just what he wanted from the subservient oracle. Or, it is on a line with any fortuneteller, who will gauge his forecast of the fortunes according to the fee, or according to his fear of the inquirer.
(9) We find it hard to reconcile Micaiah's grand reply to the officer, that he would not prophesy anything except as Jehovah gave it, 1 say, we find it difficult to harmonize that grand reply to the officer with his first reply to Ahab, which is exactly in harmony with what the 400 advised. Now, was that first reply to Ahab sarcasm, and meant to be so understood? Did it mean: "You do not want to hear the truth, and you know it; you want to hear only what is pleasing, and I give it to you"? Or, does it mean that when a man incorrigibly insists upon being deluded, then Jehovah sends him a delusion? The last seems to be the true explanation and puts his reply in harmony with his reply to the officers. But Ahab evidently understands it according to the first explanation) and so he presumptuously demands Jehovah's true attitude toward the proposed expedition. Thus adjured, Micaiah turns a flood of light on the whole situation. He commences by recounting a vision of all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. Ahab's side remark to Jehoshaphat did not stay him. He draws a vivid heaven counterpart over the earth scene. On earth, as our text tells us, the throned kings are sitting in the open space in the gates of Samaria, surrounded by a throng of courtiers, and inquiring, "Shall we go up to Ramothgilead?" Now, above this the prophet's vision sees Jehovah and his session of angels considering what answer to the question shall heaven inspire, and the means of that inspiration. More than once I have taught my students two great lessons, both illustrated right here: First, that evil angels, including Satan himself, must at intervals attend the convocations of angels on the summons of Jehovah, and must report at Jehovah's inquisition where they have been and what they have seen and done in regard to God's people, and must limit their deeds to what Jehovah permits (see Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7).
What then do they directly, since it is by the permission of God, he does indirectly. Second, that when Pharaoh continues to harden his heart, then will Jehovah himself harden it; that when men continue to shut their eyes to the truth, then Jehovah afflicts them with judicial blindness; and when men incorrigibly prefer delusion to the truth, then Jehovah sends them a strong delusion that they may believe a lie and be damned (see 2 Thessalonians 2:11; Isaiah 66:4).
Now, in this convocation of angels Jehovah inquires for an angelic messenger, who will delude Ahab to his ruin. A lying angel responds, "I will inspire Ahab's prophets to answer him in a way that will destroy him," and Jehovah tells him to go and do it. Yes, the 400 prophets were inspired, but they were inspired of Satan to say, "Go up to Ramothgilead and prosper." Had these 400 been faithful to their prophetic office, and not subservient to Ahab's wishes, they would not have become the dupes of Satan; they would have tried the spirits attempting to inspire them, and would have been able to discern the evil kind. Micaiah thus exposes the source of the spiritual suggestion governing Zedekiah and the 400. They were conscious that an outside spirit was telling them to say what they said, and they supposed it to be Jehovah, but Micaiah shows from whom that inspiration comes.
1. What was the length of Jehoshaphat's reign?
2. Why in the latter part of Asa's reign and all of Jehoshaphat's does the author omit temporarily all scriptures that relate exclusively to Israel?
3. At the beginning of his reign, what were Jehoshaphat's measures of defense against Israel?
4. State in order the moral measures of defense.
5. Give an account of his militia organization and Murphy's explanation.
6. Give in order the glorious results of that measure.
7. What the meaning of 2 Chronicles 18:1, "he made affinity with Ahab"?
8. What, then, were the three acts of his life, condemned of Jehovah and which detract from his glory?
9. What were the results of the first act?
10. Tell how he was beguiled into the second act.
11. What condition did Jehoshaphat exact?
12. Were the 400 subservient prophets of Ahab prophets of Baal or of Jehovah?
13. Did they speak by inspiration?
14. What promise had Moses made concerning the tribes of Joseph, and how did Zedekiah act out what seemed to be a fulfilment?
15. Judging from Ahab's hatred of Micaiah, what must have been his conception of the prophetic office?
16. Where was Micaiah when sent for?
17. What suggestion did the officer make to him while conducting him before Ahab and what does this prove?
18. What was his reply to the officer and how do you harmonize it with his first reply to Ahab?
19. When adjured to give Jehovah's attitude toward the proposed expedition what his reply?
20. What two great truths concerning God's supreme rule have been diligently taught by the author and what the Scripture proof and application of both to Micaiah's revelation?
21. Who then inspired the 400 and why permitted?
22. Give dramatic setting of the earth scene and the heaven scene.
23. May men now be inspired by an evil spirit?
24. What is the condition of mind that makes one susceptible to such inspiration as evidenced in the 400?
25. What is the New Testament provision that enables a Christian to discern between an evil and a good inspiration?
THE REIGN OF JEHOSHAPHAT, KING OF JUDAH (CONTINUED)
In the preceding chapter we considered the marvelous prophecy of Micaiah, the son of Imlah, explaining how the 400 prophets of Ahab were deluded. The difficulties of that partakelar paragraph are so great that many commentaries skip it altogether they do not try to expound it. Even the Speaker's Bible" commentary, merely gives the text but does not give a word of exposition. Even my great favorite, Hengstenberg, from whom I supposed that I could get some help, passes it with a single allusion. Now, to me, there do not appear such great difficulties.
The questions of difficulty are these: Were these 400 men really the prophets of Jehovah? They were the prophets of Jehovah in the sense that they represented the calf worship in Israel: they pretended under the calf worship to still worship Jehovah. Another difficulty is Jehovah's permitting and even directing an evil spirit to inspire these 400 men to bring about the ruin of Ahab, a moral difficulty that is more seeming than real. It is on par with the existence of all evil in the world. A little child, for instance, asked the question: "Mama, is God greater than the devil?" "Yes." "Then why doesn't he kill the devil?" In other words, it is simply the inquisition into Jehovah's permission of moral evil in the world, and his inclusive government over everything, good and bad, in which he makes the wrath of man to praise him, and overrules the evil of both men and demons.
There are some other difficulties graver to my mind in the section before us. One is, to reconcile the text of certain places in Kings with the corresponding text in Chronicles. That appears in the records of events near the end of Jehoshaphat's reign. And a still greater difficulty is to reconcile the text of both of them with the Septuagint Version. The Septuagint Version is not inspired, and it follows its own sweet will every now and then in dealing with matters. Sometimes it makes marvelously good hints and sometimes it simply follows Jewish legends and traditions.
We are now to consider the effect of Micaiah's exposure of Zedekiah, the leader of the 400 prophets, on Ahab and on Jehoshaphat. We have Zedekiah's effort to break the force of Micaiah's exposure and that prophet's response, as follows: "Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?" i.e., "since you say that an evil spirit inspired us, and that Jehovah inspired you, I put it to the test by this blow. Which way went the spirit of Jehovah from me and to you?" In other words, "Here are 400 of us, all conscious of inspiration, knowing that we speak from some impulse outside of ourselves. You stand up there by yourself and say that a lying spirit inspired us, and that Jehovah inspired you." To that Micaiah says, "Behold, thou shalt see on the day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself." That means: "You wait until after the battle is over, and the army is defeated and Ahab is slain, and you are running to hide, and then you will know which one of us is speaking from Jehovah." All this seemed to have little effect on Ahab and Jehoshaphat.
Josephus accounts for the little effect of Micaiah's exposure on Ahab and Jehoshaphat (for we see they went right ahead into the war, both of them, notwithstanding Micaiah's marvelous representation of the scene in heaven on this day) thus: "When Zedekiah smote Micaiah he challenged his credentials by calling for a sign: If you represent Jehovah, paralyze my hand that smote your cheek, as the prophet of God dried up the hand of Jeroboam at the altar. And if you cannot accredit what you say by a miracle of that kind, then it is because you are false and we are true.' " Of course, I do not know where Josephus gets his information about that, certainly not from the Bible. But it is interesting to know that this is the way this Jewish writer accounts for it, and Josephus is following the tradition of his people in thus accounting for it. What he says at least accounts for Jehoshaphat's disregard of Micaiah. What Ahab said to Micaiah and his response are as follows: "And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son; and say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with the water of affliction, until I come in peace." So Ahab did not believe what Micaiah said because he did not want to believe it. Micaiah made this noble response: "If thou returneth at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me." He appeals to the old prophetic test: If a prophet shall foretell an event and it does not come to pass, then that prophet is a lying prophet, but if his word is fulfilled, then he is a true prophet.
A certain clause is wanting in the Septuagint and a conjecture is based on it in view of Micah 1:2. This is the clause that is not in the Septuagint: "And he said, Hear, ye peoples, all of you." That is, Micaiah appeals to both the men of Israel and to the men of Judah to listen to the text. Now, these words were not in the Septuagint, but they are in the Hebrew of both Chronicles and Kings. The conjecture based on it is exceedingly idle. Micah 1:2 uses precisely these words: "Hear, ye peoples, all of you," and so the conjecture is that Micah the prophet, whose book we have, is the same as the Micaiah here. But Micah the prophet belongs to a much later date. It was customary for the prophets to appeal to the people to bear witness to what they said.
There seems to have been no effect on Jehoshaphat. It was at his instance that Micaiah was called in; now he had heard Micaiah, but notwithstanding what he says, he goes right on to the war with Ahab. He must have been influenced by Zedekiah's smiting Micaiah. So Jehoshaphat leads a force of Judab into this battle, but I do not see a word anywhere that tells us just what that force was. There is certainly no summons to any of the tribes of Judah. It may be that Jehoshaphat simply took with him into the battle the guard that he had with him when he came to make this visit and in the absence of any historical notice I suppose that this is so. Ahab made a proposition to Jehoshaphat before they went into the battle. The text says this: "And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself and go into the battle, and put thou on thy robes." Now, the Septuagint says, "put thou on my robes." And I think the Septuagint is right. And the Septuagint in a later verse says (where these captains center on Jehoshaphat), "it seemed to them that it was the king of Israel." Now the seeming could be only by external uniform; they would not have any other way of knowing. So, then his proposition was: "I will go into the battle disguised, and you put on my robes . . . you seem to be Ahab."
Readers of romance will recall in Scott's famous novel, Quentin Durward, that when the Wild Boar of Ardennes had captured the city of Ghent, and the Duke of Burgundy and Louis of France were coming to oust him, he disguised himself and had a number of men put on his garb, and also had a number of others put on the garb of the noted French knight, Dunoia, in order to make the Burgundians think that the French were fighting against them instead of with them. Readers of Shakespeare will recall that when Henry IV fought his battle with "Hotspur" Percy and Douglas, a number of men had on the armor of Henry IV, and that Douglas killed several of them, thinking he was killing the king. Now, that was Ahab's expedient, and I think Jehoshaphat was a very simple fellow to agree to it.
There are at least two reasons why Ahab disguised himself: First, there seemed to be a lingering fear that maybe Micaiah was right, and that the result of this battle would be that Israel would be without a shepherd, and he thought to thwart that prophecy, and in disguise thought to lessen the danger. And the other reason appears immediately after, as follows: "Now, the king of Syria had commanded the two and thirty captains of his chariots, saying, Fight with neither small nor great, save only with the king of Israel." Ahab had doubtless learned that special directions had been given to the Syrian officers to single him out. Jehoshaphat did not know it, but Ahab did. "Now, brother Jehoshaphat, my ally, put on my robe, and go into the fight; I will disguise myself."
The king of Syria had made an improvement in his army since the last battle with Ahab. We have not had that part of the history yet because we have not considered the house of Omri particularly, and I will say this: that in the first battle in which he was defeated by Ahab, the Syrian king let the thirty-two subsidiary kings command their own forces, and kings are not necessarily good captains. Anyway, they turned tail and fled, and lost him the battle. So this time he substituted war men to command these troops. At the beginning of all wars we may notice that favorites have positions, but after they lose a few battles, and matters get desperate, the success of the war demands that only real generals be put in command. So, instead of thirty-two kings, he has thirty-two real soldiers commanding.
The result, then, to Jehoshaphat of this expedient of Ahab was that it put him in extreme danger. These thirty-two captains of the chariots turning not to the right nor to the left, struck at nobody else but Jehoshaphat, supposing him to be Ahab the king of Israel.
In vv. 31-32 of the Chronicles account, it is said that when the Syrian captains centered on Jehoshaphat, "He cried out" and they turned away. Now, on that account there are two questions: First, what was his cry and to whom; and second, what caused those captains to turn away from him? Was it an impulse from Jehovah, as v.31 gives it, or was it the mere fact that they perceived that the man they were after was not the king of Israel, as the next verse says? One commentator says, "When he saw them coming around him he cried out, I am not your man," or that he cried out, "Rally around me, men of Judah." But that was not his cry. My own answer is that he cried to God, and Jehovah's response is recorded in v. 31: "But Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him." They themselves were not conscious of that divine impulse, and they turned away because they believed that this was not the man they were after, as the next verse says. We frequently see these two forces combined: God overruling, and the natural human impulse governing at the same time.
The Vulgate, the Latin Version made in the fourth century, A.D., by Jerome, says that Jehoshaphat cried unto Jehovah. It says, "clamavit ad Dominum," "He cried out to the Lord," and certainly the context supports the Latin Version.
The text says that the expedient of Ahab failed to save him: "And a certain man drew his bow at a venture and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness, wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand and carry me out of the host; for I am sore wounded."
May we attribute Ahab's death to chance, fate, or providence? That is, to chance because the man that shot did not know he was shooting at him, but drew his bow at a venture? Or, may we attribute it to fate, as Josephus says, "Fate, the inevitable, found Ahab out without his robes"? Or, may we attribute it to providence because of Micaiah's words in w. 16, 19? Micaiah said the result of that battle would be that Israel would be without a shepherd; and v. 19 represents Jehovah as saying, "Who will go and entice him to Ramothgilead that he may fall?"
Now, this question probes all the philosophies of the world as to the cause of things. The Epicureans say, "Chance" that the world itself is the result of a fortuitous concourse of atoms. This is also the theory of modern evolution as expounded by such radicals as Haeckel and others all design eliminated. Zeno, the stoic, says that everything happens according to fate, inexorable fate. The Bible says that with God, there is neither chance nor fate, but that providence overrules all things. So far as the archer himself is concerned he, in his simplicity, shot an arrow in the battle; we might say that it was an accident, so far as he was concerned, that he killed Ahab; but it was no accident so far as God was concerned, and it was not blind, inexorable fate; it was all according to the great purpose of God, who had foreseen it and foretold it.
There is a connection of providence with this death of Ahab, as shown by a previous prophecy, and by the history of the fulfilment of that prophecy, and there is an additional degradation which this imposes on the dead Ahab. Elijah the Tishbite, as we will show in a subsequent discussion, when he met Ahab in Naboth's vineyard (Naboth through false testimony, having been put to death in order that Ahab might obtain possession of his property) said to Ahab, that as the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, so would they lick up his blood at the very same place. A passage from 1 Kings gives the fulfilment: "So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood: (now the harlots washed themselves there;) according unto the word of the Lord which he spake." That parenthetical remark is the additional degradation: "Now the harlots washed themselves there" those obscene women that worshiped Ashtaroth; that was their place of bathing. Now, in this place, in the very pool, where these women bathed, shall your blood go, and the dogs shall lick up your blood. So, there is evident connection between that and the man drawing the bow at a venture, the arrow striking Ahab between the breastplate and the lower part of his armor. The history says that his blood ran down into the chariot, and that he stayed there in the chariot until the evening, when he died, and they took him, dead, in that chariot back to Samaria, and after he was taken out of the chariot they drove it to Naboth's vineyard, where this pool was, and the dogs came and licked up his blood, and the blood ran into the very pool in which the harlot worshipers of Ashtaroth bathed. That recalls the question, Did he die by chance, or by fate, or by providence?
Jehovah announced his displeasure at this alliance of Jehoshaphat with Ahab: "And Jehu the son of Hanani the Seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the wicked, and love them that hate the Lord? for this thing wrath is upon thee from before the Lord. Nevertheless, there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast put away the Ashtaroth out of the land, and hast set thine heart to seek God." So God disapproved that alliance.
This wrath was fulfilled. In the same connection we see that the Moabites revolted against Israel when Israel lost the battle of Ramothgilead, and counting Israel a negligible quantity in view of this defeat, they warred with Judah. A conspiracy was made between the Moabites, the Ammonites, and other tribes beyond the Ammonites, reaching into the Arabian Desert all those wild hordes of people. A confederacy was made to strike secretly at Jehoshaphat; they became an ally of the house of Israel. That is the way the wrath came.
Now, in Chronicles 20:1 we have this statement: "And it came to pass after this, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them some of the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle." Now, we must account for the "and with them some of the Ammonites," after just saying "the children of Ammon." That is a corruption of the text. In one manuscript it reads: "The children of Moab, the children of Ammon, and others besides the Ammonites," and in another verse of that chapter it says, "The children of Moab, the children of Ammon, and the children of Mount Sier," which would mean the Edomites.
The story of that wrath is intensely interesting. This Ammonite confederacy, coming south of the Dead Sea where their approach would not be observed, had gained the western shore of the Dead Sea at Engedi, and before anybody knew they were at hand, they were within a few miles of Jerusalem. Whereupon Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast, got all the people to come up before Jehovah and pray, and one of the most remarkable prayers in the world is the prayer of Jehoshaphat to Jehovah to avert this wrath. He appealed to God as the ruler of the universe. He then appealed to him as the friend of Abraham (that is the first place in the Bible where Abraham is called the friend of God, though we find it in the New Testament and in Isaiah). He then appealed to God on the score of the covenant with David. He piles up the reasons. He then appealed because they had built him this Temple for his service, and this vast confederacy is formed to come and take away the place that God had given to these people in the land of Canaan. Then he adds, "When we would come into this country you would not let us smite the children of Edom and of Ammon and of Moab, and now they are manifesting their gratitude by turning on us." It was a great gathering. One of the sons of Asaph, Jahaziel, answered for Jehovah. He says, "You will be delivered: it will not be your battle, you will not have to strike a blow. You simply stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. Do not go out like you are going to battle, but put your singers in front, and let them go singing praises to God. Go to a certain point, and you will overlook the destruction of this great host." The destruction of the host is accounted for by an ambush that some of the Edomites, tributary to Judah, had laid. While some of the Edomites were working with the king of Moab, others of them still faithful to Judah, laid the ambush and when they attacked, the Moabites and the Ammonites thought the same ones in their army would be against them, and they killed all of them. And when they had killed the Edomites in their own army, they began killing one another. It was a regular "Kilkenny cat fight," like an Irish wake. They turned their hands against each other until the whole army was destroyed, and Judah simply stood on the hill singing praises to God. The spoils that they gathered from the battle were immense, and when they came back they came back praising God. It was a marvelous demonstration of divine power. Psalm 83 commemorates this alliance with Moab and Ammon and these other nations. The Moabite Stone furnishes a remarkable confirmation of the Scripture story. It tells of this very king of Moab, and how he revolted against Israel, and how many cities he captured from Israel.
1. What can you say of the treatment of the difficulties in the account of Micaiah and the 400 prophets by the commentaries?
2. What are the questions of difficulty here and what is the solution of each respectively?
3. How did Micaiah expose Zedekiah, the leader of the 400 prophets, and what was the effect on Ahab and Jehoshaphat?
4. How does Josephus account for the little effect on Ahab and Jehoshaphat and what do you think of his account?
5. What did Ahab say to Micaiah and what was his response?
6. What clause is wanting in the Septuagint, what conjecture is based upon it in view of Micah 1:2 and what was the reply to such conjecture?
7. What was the effect on Jehoshaphat and what force did he lead into the battle?
8. What proposition did Ahab make to Jehoshaphat before they went into battle, what light from the Septuagint and what illustrations from profane history and literature?
9. Why did Ahab disguise himself?
10. What improvement had the king of Syria made in his army since the last battle with Ahab and what the result of this in view of the expedient of Ahab?
11. Explain Jehoshaphat's cry in 2 Chronicles 18:31 and the result of this cry.
12. What light on this from the Vulgate?
13. How did the expedient of Ahab fail to save him?
14. May we attribute the death of Ahab to chance, fate, or providence? Discuss.
15. What was the connection of providence with the death of Ahab as shown by a previous prophecy and the fulfilment of it and what the additional degradation imposed on the dead Ahab?
16. How did Jehovah show his displeasure at this alliance of Jehoshaphat with Ahab?
17. In what event was this wrath fulfilled?
18. Who were the "Ammonites" of 2 Chronicles 20:17? Explain.
19. Tell the story of the averted wrath of God here.
20. What psalm commemorates the alliance of Moab and Ammon with the other nations?
21. What testimony of the Moabite Stone?
THE HOUSE OF OMRI
There were three dynasties only in Israel which were makers of history. First, the dynasty of Jeroboam; second, the dynasty of the house of Omri, which we are now to discuss; third, the dynasty of the house of Jehu. All of the rest of them we might put in a parenthesis no history in them.
Only two of all the kings of Israel were appointed by Jehovah, viz.: Jeroboam and Jehu. The rest of them came to the throne, usually as the Praetorian Guard at Rome elected the Caesars the army elected the king of Israel, and as soon as one was so declared by the army, he killed off all the family of his predecessor that is the record of it. Only two of them had a dynasty that extended beyond a second generation.
The scriptural sources for a sketch of Omri, the sixth king of Israel are very short: 1 Kings 16:15-28, and half of a sentence in the prophecy of Micah (6:16) two paragraphs in history and half of a sentence in prophecy. From this brief history we see that he was in command of the army of Israel besieging a Philistine city, when the news was brought that his fellow commander, Zimri, at Tirzah, had murdered the king, slain all of his family and usurped the throne. That is the news that came to Omri's camp, whereupon his army instantly proclaimed Omri king. He gave up the siege and marched hastily to Tirzah, one of the capitals of the nation, took that city, and then one week from the time that Zimri murdered the king he committed suicide by retiring into the palace and setting it on fire the palace became his funeral pyre. Half of the people made Tibni king, and after four years of civil war between Tibni and Omri, Tibni perished and Omri became sole ruler of the ten tribes.
His personal reign was only twelve years, but in that time he achieved these momentous things: First, he established a dynasty that held the throne of Israel for about forty-five years, and controlled the foreign policy of the house of Judah for the same length of time, and dominated the throne of Judah for fourteen years, and attracted more attention among the foreign nations than any other man since Solomon's time. Second, he built the city of Samaria which, in one way or another, became the rival of Jerusalem for a thousand years, even up to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Every visiting traveler has been impressed by it. All books on the Holy Land have much to say about Samaria.
Third, he enacted statutes of idolatry that corrupted Israel unto the downfall of the kingdom, a period of 200 years. Micah 6:16 tells us about that.
Fourth, by marrying his son Ahab to Jezebel, the princess of Tyre (or Sidon, as it is indifferently called, Tyre and Sidon being close together in the Phoenician kingdom), he prepared the way for Baal worship in both kingdoms, and for bringing the true religion to the lowest ebb since the flood.
Fifth, he inaugurated the unusual policy of alliance, instead of war, with the house of Judah, and that policy prevailed throughout his dynasty, Israel and Judah never being at war during the several reigns of the dynasty of Omri, and in this way he controlled the foreign policy of Judah, brought that nation into sin continually, and into conflicts with its prophets. There was no king of Judah that reigned during the dynasty of Omri that did not fall into some sin through this policy of alliance inaugurated by Omri.
There are other sources of material for a sketch of this remarkable man, about whom our Bible says so little, viz.: The Syrian, Assyrian, Moabite, and Tyrian records, inscribed on tablets and obelisks, all of which speak of Omri, and have more to say about him than the Bible does. Travelers in the Holy Land verify every geographical and topographical allusion in the history of his life. Two noted Greek historians give the history of Ethbaal, king of Tyre, as father-in-law of Ahab, and the date of their history perfectly harmonizes with the days of Omri and Ahab. Moreover, the Tyrian historians throw a very valuable sidelight on the Bible history. They show that Ethbaal, the father of Jezebel, was the high priest of the Ashtoreth (or Astarte, or Venus) and his daughter being raised in that temple, in that atmosphere, it is easy to account for her religious fanaticism in favor of Baal worship. In Vergil, Dido recounts to Aeneas her migration from Tyre, and how it led to the founding of Carthage. That Dido of Vergil was a very close kinswoman to Jezebel. I think Jezebel was the great-aunt of Dido.
Now, there is a piece of history, which I have referred to before, that is about as remarkable as any in the world. About nine hundred years before Christ a contemporary of the Omri dynasty inscribed on a stone references to Omri and Ahab, and after it had been buried more than 2,500 years it was recently dug up. I give here a translation from the first part of it, and the very man that wrote it will appear in the next chapter. Indeed we have already considered him in the life of Jehoshaphat. He is Mesha, king of Moab, that invaded Judah he is the man that wrote it. I shall never forget the interest stirred up by the discovery of the Moabite Stone. Infidels had been confidently trusting the spade to overturn the Bible, and lo! this stone confirmed it. Mesha set up that stone about twenty-five years after Omri died. Here is a part of the inscription, following the translation of Ginsburg, the archeologist as quoted by Rawlinson:
"I, Mesha, am son of Chemoshgad, king of Moab, the Dibonite. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned after my father. And erected this stone at Karcha, a stone of salvation, for he saved me from all dispoilers, and let me see my desire on all mine enemies. And Omri, king of Israel, oppressed Moab many days, for Chemosh was angry with his land. His son succeeded him, and he also said, I will oppress Moab. In my days he said, Let us go and I will see my desire on him and his house: and Israel said I will destroy it forever.
Now, Omri took the land of Medeba and occupied it, he and his son, and his son's son, forty years. And Chemosh had mercy on it in my days."
Now, when Ahab was killed in the battle of Ramoth-gilead, Moab rebelled and sustained their rebellion permanently against Israel. We have already seen somewhat of this, and will see more. I often wonder as I read of the various excavations at Nineveh and Babylon, and on the Nile, and among the Canaanite states, what a marvelous providence that God permitted these buried inscriptions to come to light just at the time assault was being made upon the integrity of his Book. When I was a young fellow I heard a great infidel say, "Books? Moses write books? Why, there were no books in the times of Moses." Not a very great while after his lecture the spade turned up Canaanite library cities older than Moses. The books were only clay tablets, of course, piled up there in public libraries. One of these remarkable archeological monuments, now familiar to all students, is called the Black Obelisk, inscribed by an Assyrian. It names particularly the house of Omri. The obelisk makes interesting reading for a sidelight on this section.
The character of Omri is described in 1 Kings 16:25-26: "And Omri did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, and dealt wickedly above all that were before him." We will find soon that his son surpasses in wickedness, but just now he is more wicked than any previous one, "For he walked in all the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sins wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger with their vanities." Here I raise the question as to the scriptural meaning of "vanities." We find many times in the Old Testament. the word, "vanities," and it nearly always refers to vain objects of worship. It is not the vanity in female attire, nor in the apparel of dudes, but it is vain objects of worship.
He sought affinity with the Phoenicians by marrying his son Ahab to Jezebel because he was a great politician. He had little conscience, and no religion, but the kingdom that he dreaded was Syria, lying just north of him. Later in the history the dread shifts to Assyria 'with its capital at Nineveh on the Tigris river. But in Omri's time the foe to dread was Syria with its capital at Damascus. Now, he could not afford to have a strong enemy south of him, and another enemy west of him, all the time dreading that great enemy north of him, and so, as a shrewd politician, he secured peace effectively with the Phoenicians on the west and of Judah on the south, both ratified by marriages.
The character of Ahab, his son who succeeded him, is described in 1 Kings 16:30-33; 21:25-26, as follows: "And Ahab the son of Omri did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord above all that went before him. And he went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made Asherah; and Ahab did yet more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him." They were getting worse, and the next passage says, "But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to do that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites did, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel."
Now, there is a remarkable sentence: "Whom Jezebel stirred up." Ahab could have been a moderately good man with a good wife, for he was a notoriously weak man. But his wife was a strong woman, a woman of as strong character as is known to history. She wound him round her little finger: She was the boss of that house; an exceedingly imperious woman, raised as the proud princess, the daughter of the high priest of Astarte, and she determined that her religion should be the religion of Ahab and of Judah. She was utterly unscrupulous. A weak man if bossed by a good wife, may become passably good, but if the wife be both strong and evil, he will do more harm than if the evil came from himself. As Bismarck once said to a young diplomat who extenuated a mistake because it was not a crime: "You have done worse than commit a crime; you have blundered."
Another incident bears relation to his irreverent character. This we find in 1 Kings 16:34: "In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho; he laid the foundation thereof with the loss of Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof with the loss of his youngest son Segub; according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by the hand of Joshua the son of Nun." Now, in the history of Joshua we find that when he destroyed Jericho, he pronounced this curse on it: "Whoever shall rebuild Jericho shall lay its foundation in the blood of his firstborn." Ahab and Omri were builders; they built cities. So this Hiel in his day, that lived at Bethel, one of the cities of calf worship, concluded to rebuild the city of Jericho, which commanded the fords of Jordan, and was an exceedingly strong place. The Bible does not tell how, but in some way, God fulfilled the prophecy on him. Maybe in laying the foundation a stone crushed his first-born. Anyhow, before he got through with the building, all of his sons were dead.
The following lessons may be deducted from this incident: First, never embark on an enterprise that will cost you your dearest. I put my finger on that passage once and said to a church member who was keeping a retail liquor store, "You will lay the foundation of your financial success in the blood of your children." Not more than a week after that two drunken men in that saloon got to fighting and his son was killed, accidentally shot in the fight. Be careful that you do nothing that will entail a curse on your boy or the sweet little girl to come after you. I think it is a great lesson.
Another great lesson is to note how remarkable is the word of God. Ages had passed away since the blowing of rams' horns when the walls of Jericho fell down, and Joshua lifted up his hands and pronounced that curse on the man who should rebuild it. And that word of God lay there quiescent in ambush, but rose up to life and smote to death the children of a man that many centuries after tried to fight Jehovah's dictum. Julian, the apostate Roman emperor, read the prophecy about the walls of Jerusalem. He sneeringly put his finger on the passage in the prophecy, and said, "I will show you that this prophecy is a liar." He sent a vast number of men to go and rebuild the wallω1 am simply quoting Gibbon the infidel historian and fire came out and devoured the men so that they left off the building of the wall. And consequently, when Julian was dying he used this language: "Thou Galilean, hast conquered," referring to Jesus. That reminds us of the passage in Acts: Herod slew James and imprisoned Peter, and put on a robe and made himself out to be God. The record says that the worms ate up Herod, but the word of God prevailed and multiplied. So we do not need to be very uneasy, fearing the destruction of the word of God.
The next wicked act of Ahab belongs to the history here, but is recorded elsewhere. It is found in 1 Kings 19: "And Elijah said, And the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, torn down thine altars, and have slain thy prophets with a sword. And I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away." That was one of the bitterest religious persecutions known in the history of the world.
I close this chapter with a touching incident of this great persecution. It is found in 1 Kings 18: "Now Obadiah, the master of the household of Ahab, feared the Lord greatly, for it was so that when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and fed them with bread and water." That verse is like an oasis in the desert, that little incident, and when we read the history of the Albigenses, the Waldenses, the Hugenots, the Dutch, and the Scotch, and of any other people, suffering religious persecution, we find some brave, bold man or woman that harbors these fugitives from the vengeance of the persecuting power; that opens the door to them; feeds them and takes care of them, though done under the penalty of death. It was the custom of the popes, when persecuting a people, to put a curse on any who sheltered them: "No man shall shelter him, no man shall give him a loaf of bread to eat, or even a drop of cold water." But this Obadiah, the master of the household of Ahab, in his heart, loved Jehovah. Now, when it comes to secreting men in two caves, fifty in each, and secretly getting food to them, knowing that everything he did put his life in hazardω1 say, it is better to know of a man of that sort than to know of the conquests of military heroes his record is worthy of going into history. There are many things in history we could afford to leave out, but we want everything of that kind on record.
In this great extremity, a mighty instrument of protest and reformation did the Lord raise up. He is the hero of the next chapter: "Elijah the Tishbite."
1. What three dynasties only of Israel were makers of history?
2. How many of all the kings of Israel were appointed by Jehovah?
3. How did the rest of them come to the throne?
4. What are the scriptural sources for a sketch of Omri, the sixth king of Israel, and how did his house arise?
5. What other sources of material for a sketch of Omri, and what is the additional information?
6. What was the character of Omri?
7. What is the meaning of "vanities" as used here and most everywhere else in the Old Testament?
8. Why did Omri seek affinity with Phoenicia and Judah by marriage and how was it affected?
9. What was the character of Ahab, his son, and what the greatest influence in his life for evil?
10. What other incident bears relation to his irreverent character?
11. What lessons may be deduced from this incident?
12. What was the next wicked act of Ahab?
13. Relate a touching incident of this great persecution?
14. In this great extremity what mighty instrument of protest ?
ELIJAH ALONE AGAINST THE WORLD
1 Kings 17:1 to 81:29
Elijah the Tishbite is the most dramatic personage in all history. He has left an ineffaceable impress on the imagination of the men of all times. He appears on the stage of action suddenly, rarely, startlingly, and disappears as suddenly and dramatically for long intervals of time, in which he is completely hidden from public sight. The ordinary life of the man never becomes commonplace because never familiar by association with the people. His successor lived much in a city, and never in seclusion, so that his everyday life was in the full glare of publicity. This intensely dramatic way of appearing, when coupled with his strange garb, stern manners and ascetic life, naturally impresses the imagination. We are not disappointed in the reasonable expectation that such a career would breed many traditions. Long after he passed away we find the Jews continually expecting his return. At the observance of the passover the door is left open that Elijah may enter if he should suddenly come, and a vacant chair is reserved for him at the circumcision of a child. When lost goods are discovered and the owner cannot be found, they are set aside until Elijah comes to identify the owner. In New Testament times, the Jews, unable to account for Jesus of Nazareth, supposed that he was Elijah, and when Christ cried out in the extreme agony of his crucifixion they supposed he was crying for Elijah.
In harmony with his marvelous career, we find the biblical period of his history the richest in homiletical value of all the scriptures. All the great preachers in the world have found thrilling themes in the incidents of Elijah's life, and not only the great preachers, but the preachers generally throughout the ages have gone into this deep rich mine for sermon themes. Perhaps no man in all the ministry' and throughout all the ages entirely omitted the life of Elijah in selecting topics for pulpit discussions. It would be quite easy to name at least. fifty texts for sermons in this part of the Bible. The Scripture books which treat of this remarkable man are 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Malachi, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Romans and James. The intense interest in his career is just as fresh and strong in our own time as in previous ages. Such long continued interest cannot wholly arise from the dramatic setting of his life. There must be some profounder reason for his unshaken hold on the imagination and thought of the religious world. We find that interest arising from the great world crisis of his time and his method of meeting it. Once only before, and never since, has true religion been in such danger of utter extinction as in Elijah's time. We may therefore properly inquire: What were the elements of this crisis and what effective measures employed by him in meeting its necessities?
Briefly stated, the elements of this crisis were:
1. Ahab's marriage with Jezebel, the Tyrian princess.
2. The marriage of Jezebel's daughter with Jehoram, prince royal of Judah.
3. The consequent unhallowed alliance between Judah and Israel.
4. The consequent establishment of Baal worship in both kingdoms.
5. The consequent and extraordinary persecution of the true religion and its prophets in both kingdoms.
6. The same murderous extinction of the seed royal of David by Athaliah's husband, the daughter of Jezebel until one child alone is left of all the male progeny of David.
7. The consequent eminent hazard of the extinction of the true religion in the world.
Elijah himself thus expresses the situation: "The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life to take it away." It is true, in the great depression of his mind following his flight from Jezebel, while under the juniper tree he prayed that he might die, feeling that his life had been a failure, that he exaggerated through ignorance his extreme loneliness. Some of the prophets had been saved alive by Obadiah, and the Almighty whose omniscience can read the hearts of the people in the most secret hiding places, assured him that there was a remnant according to grace of 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. But he knew nothing of this secret following of Jehovah. His voice was the only voice in the whole wide world lifted up in favor of Jehovah, so that with some measure of truth he might well say: "Alone, alone, alone, one man against the world." In the days of Noah the remnant was even smaller than in the days of Elijah, but there has never been a period since his time when the true religion was reduced to as few flickering sparks.
After the revolt of the ten tribes under Jeroboam and the establishment of the dynasty of Omri and the marriage of Ahab, Omri's son, with Jezebel, the Tyrian princess, and the adoption of her Baal worship in the place of the worship of Jehovah, the doom of the ten tribes was fixed, and all the) voices of the prophets could only briefly delay the swiftly coming ruin. One weak woman brought about the fall of the race, and this strong, cruel woman, Jezebel, could nearly bring about a second destruction. And when she had succeeded through her daughter, Athaliah, in establishing the Baal worship in Judah as well as in Israel, both streams of the national life became intensely corrupt. We are accustomed to admire the heroism of any sixteenth century reformer, who dared to lift his voice against the prevailing religious corruption of Romanism, but in no period of either pagan or papal persecution have the Christians been reduced to such small numbers and such scanty influence as in the days of Elijah. Neither Savonarola, nor Huss, nor Jerome, nor Prague, nor the Waldenses, nor Luther, nor Calvin, nor John Knox nor the Dissenters in the days of the Stuarts nor John Bunyan, nor Spurgeon was ever subjected to the extreme loneliness that afflicted the heart of Elijah. It is easy to go with the multitude, or even stand against the multitude if only a few stalwart friends unflinchingly support us, but when one man has to put himself against the whole world, the swelling tide of public opinion, the inquisition of hate, the devouring power of persecution with no reserve to fall back on except his own unconquerable spirit; then when such a man stands like a rock against which the billows dash themselves in vain, he is a hero indeed. No man can make such a stand apart from the divine call and support. In his case, as in the case of all trials of religious heroes, the Scripture is fulfilled: "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord lifteth up a standard against him." In our admiration of this man's greatness and in our gratitude for the redemption wrought through his heroic courage and fidelity, we should not lose sight of the God-prompted measures employed by him to effectively stem the encroaching tide of evil.
Briefly speaking, these were:
1. In his meeting with Ahab he startles the irreligious world with the announcement of a drought of three and a half years, which should not be broken except at his word, and then as suddenly as the drop of the curtain hides the arena of a theater from the sight of the people, he disappears and is lost to public view until the time comes for the breaking up of the drought. His name is unknown to history up to this sudden appearance with this awful denunciation. We know nothing of his father or his mother, or his kindred, or any of the early stages of his life. He emerges from total obscurity to stand as the mouthpiece of Jehovah, and then to be swallowed up into that obscurity for three and a half years more. The ravens knew the place of his retirement and furnished him food in his solitude, and a widow in the borders of Jezebel's home country sheltered him from human sight. He had said that at his word only the drought should be broken; he was gone and no one knew where, and the consuming drought kept up its burning logic of opposition to idolatry. No soothsayer, no diviner, no rainmaker, no god of the heathen could even fleck the burning sky with a spot of cloud. While the ground parched and the water courses dried up, and all vegetation withered, and even kings spent their time in finding enough water to support the cattle of the royal household, well might the world wonder when this dramatic man would reappear and speak the word for rain to come. May we not account for Ahab's worldwide search for him, by the desire that he would come and break up the drought by a word, before the nation perished? This measure was exceedingly effective in stemming the tide of irreligion, and in destroying public confidence in the powerless heathen gods.
The method of his own nourishment during the famine of the drought adds much to the character of the test between opposing deities. Jehovah miraculously provides for his prophet. There is nothing too hard for him. He may employ ravens or widows as instruments. We may not attempt to shut out a miracle by different vowel pointing of the word "raven." The word is "ravens" and not angels, nor merchants, nor Arabs. These birds probably nested in the caves where Elijah went, and may have brought the food for their young. But that conjecture could not meet the Septuagint rendering: "They brought him bread in the morning and flesh in the evening." The God whose spirit assembled the animals in the ark could influence ravens. Elijah is called the first apostle to the Gentiles because of his saving sojourn with the widow of Zarephath. The fact that Jezebel's own country nourished the prophet adds emphasis to the test between opposing deities and as history counts it this widow is higher than Jezebel. The saving of the widow's son led to her own salvation: many widows in Israel perished, but electing love reached out its saving hand to this widow in Jezebel's country, as it did again in our Lord's day. Jewish tradition represents this restored boy as becoming a follower of Elijah and identifies him with the prophet Jonah, the second foreign missionary.
Toward the end of this drought period, when its lessons of preparation have been well learned, and when messengers had vainly sought for Elijah throughout the habitable world, he reappears with all the dramatic power of his first appearance, and his second meeting with Ahab introduces his next effective measure of opposition to the irreligious life of his time.
2. He openly challenges Ahab to bring all the prophets of Baal together to put themselves against him alone in order to determine which god had the power to break this drought. The earth had never before seen such a single public test of the power of opposing deities. Elijah thus puts the case: "And Elijah came unto all the people and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. But the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them, therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood and put no fire under; and I will dress the other bullock and lay it on wood and put no fire under, and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord; and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken." Thousands of sermons have been preached on these thrilling words of Elijah. The first one my own boyish mind can recall was by my own father upon this theme. The demonstration of Elijah was complete, and all the people said, "Jehovah, he is God." In spite of their wickedness they found it impossible to blot out from their memories and from the memories of the race this great demonstration of divine power. And while the great reformation thus introduced seemed to be short-lived for these people, yet we, nearly 3,000 years later, feel the impress of the triumph of that day. Very rarely in a Bible story does a man of God indulge in sarcasm. The literature of the world cannot surpass this mockery of the false prophets of a false god: "And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awaked." Certain heathen authors have imitated Elijah's mockery of false gods; for example:
"Jove went yesterday across the ocean to banquet with the Ethiopians." HOMER. Jove on his couch reclined his awful head, And Juno slumbered on the golden bed.
"It is no wonder that the temple of Diana was burned; since she was absent at the time, employed in bringing Alexander into the world." PLUTARCH.
"'Tis plain that the gods are not at home, and probably have taken a voyage to attend the feasts of Ethiopia's blameless race, for they are in the habit of inviting themselves as guests to those honest folks." (Lucian, Testimony of the Ages, p. 307.) Fire from heaven having attested the truth of Elijah and demonstrated the falsehood of Baal, the lying prophets were all slain at the word of Elijah and in the presence of the panic-stricken Ahab, Elijah went up to the top of Carmel, overlooking the sea, and prayed seven times for rain. What a lesson on the importunity of prayer, and what a text for another sermon on the little cloud no larger than a man's head at first, but rapidly darkening the heavens, and oh, the rain, the blessed rain that followed! At the word of Elijah the drought was broken. Though a man of like passions with ourselves, so great was his power of prayer, his pleadings attracted and condensed the clouds of the heavens, and the rain fell in torrents. The parched earth rejoiced under its downpour, the dying roots of vegetation revived, and burst forth in blade and bloom and fruit, and even men were not unmindful in at least their temporary gratitude for the relief that came to assuage their burning thirst. In every subsequent drought and thirst men remember Elijah and pray as Elijah prayed that God might relieve the suffering world. The lesson is titanic and far-reaching in its influence. It demonstrates that man's extreme need is God's opportunity. It uncovered to all human sight a throne of grace approached by human and suffering suppliants. Hundreds of thousands in the passing ages have Carmel to look on the sight of those great happenings. They put their feet where the old altar of Jehovah stood, which Jezebel destroyed, and Elijah here reconstructed. Even Tacitus, the Roman historian, ages afterward speaks of Garmel's strange altar. These same thousands have climbed Carmel's crest, and marked the crest where Elijah, looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, by importunate prayer, called up the cloud.
It is true that at this high tide of this reformation, the daring and cruel Jezebel affrighted Elijah, and shook for the first and only time in his history his self-reliant spirit, and drove him in abject fear to another and distant retirement. But not even Jezebel could blot out the lesson. The wilderness has swallowed Elijah like the brook Cherith once hid him from sight. Under the juniper tree he may wish to die. In the cave of Horeb he would hear the howling of the storm, feel the shock of the earthquake, see the devouring fire, and listen again to the still small voice of God. Men may say that Elijah was defeated, that he was thoroughly panic-stricken. He is gone, but he will come again out of the silence of the desert, and the opposition will hear his voice again.
The record of this disappearance of Elijah is more marvel-ous than the first. That despair under the juniper tree; that voice of God: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" that deep sleep; that angel food in the strength of which he fasted forty days, like Moses before him and his Lord after him all in that same desert, the visit to Sinai, and the voice again: "What doest thou here, Elijah?" the theme of so many sermons. Spurgeon says of himself that when a boy, seeing a deacon in a questionable place, put his finger on his shoulder and startled him with, "What doest thou here, Elijah?"
3. Just as suddenly as on the previous occasion he appears before Ahab in Naboth's vineyard, and evokes from the trembling lips of the startled king: "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" How grim is his response: "I have found you." And then comes the next measure to stem the tide of irreligion. As an oracle of God he denounced the doom of the house of Ahab. It shall perish root and branch; man, woman, nor child shall be left, and Jezebel) though she may array herself in royal apparel and paint her face and attire her head, yet shall the dogs eat her flesh. The word that had shut up the heavens, the word that had opened the heavens; that word now pronounces the downfall of this entire iniquitous house as certain and irrevocable. There is not space to rehearse the details of the execution of this doom. The records show that not a word of Elijah failed. The whole house of Ahab is blotted out and that lesson has power today. Even men who mock at God and deny the supernatural, and wade through blood to attain the goal of a tyrant's ambition, yet tremble when they read the record of the fall of the house of Ahab. The miser, the covetous man who is an idolater, the individual land grabber, and the corporation thief of national territory may well cherish the experience of Elijah when in the vineyard of Naboth. The quiver of Elijah is not yet empty; another shaft is fitted to his bow of Death.
4. The son of Ahab is on the throne, and he is sick unto death. He had not forgotten the power of the word of Elijah. Let all sons of tyrants remember it. There is ever some weak or broken lattice to cause a fall that brings on the sickness unto death. And this man would inquire of Baal whether he would recover, but from out of his obscurity Elijah intercepts the messenger of inquiry and sends him back with the message of death. The affrighted man inquires of the messenger the appearance of the man who sends him this awful message: "What manner of man was he that came up to meet you and told you these words?" And they answered him: "He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about the loins, and he said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite.'" The message was more impressive than the garb of the one who sent it and both are always recognizable by tyrants. The unhappy king seeks to arrest the prophet, but when two companies of fifty men have been consumed by fire, the man of God appears before the dying tyrant: "Thus saith Jehovah, forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to enquire of Baalzebub the God of Ekron, is it because there is no God in Israel to enquire of his word? therefore, thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." So he died according to the word of Jehovah which Elijah had spoken. How significant this terrible lesson! Not even the sick and dying shall inquire of another God but Jehovah! It was a lesson worthy of association with the lessons of the drought and the rain, and the fire from heaven, and of the vineyard of Naboth. Some men for a time, may forget this lesson, but mankind as a rule never forgets it. The oracles of the heathen have been abandoned to the moles and bats. The lesson of Elijah falls from many lips since his time, and we hear it thus from the lips of Isaiah: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto the wizards that chirp and mutter; should not a people seek unto their God? On behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." But the effective measures of Elijah have not reached their climax. The leaven of the Baal worship had spread through Jezebel's daughter to the neighboring kingdom of Judah, and while Elijah's mission was to Israel, or to the ten tribes, yet he has a measure for the kindred nations.
5. And this is his letter to Jehoram, king of Judah, the husband of Jezebel's daughter. We have known Elijah as a man of deeds and of mighty words. We have not known him as a writer, but we do know that in this one case where he could not appear in person before the king of Judah, he wrote a letter, which, though not delivered until after his going away, yet found its object and was a posthumous bolt of lightning. This is the letter: "And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah; but hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab; and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thyself: behold, with a great plague will the Lord smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: and thou shalt have great sickness by disease of the bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness, day by day." This word was as much a missive of death as the word to Ahaziah, and is a demonstration that Elijah, though alone against the world, is still triumphant in the great war against the house of Ahab and the Baal worship. Ahab, Jezebel, Ahaziah, and Jehoram, are gone. Jezebel's daughter and all the other offenders will follow later.
6. The sixth measure, God-prompted, which Elijah employed was even more powerful than the preceding ones. It is the measure of perpetuity. He is already informed that the time is at hand when he must leave the earth, and before leaving he must take steps to provide for the full prosecution of his work. This measure consists of a triple anointment. He anoints Elisha to be his own successor. He anoints Hazael, king of Syria, to afflict the idolatrous Israelites, and he anoints Jehu, king of Israel, to be his executor of all the remnants of the house of Ahab, so that his translation from this world to the one above does not put a stop to the effectiveness of the redemption of his race, and to the growth of the true religion. It seems to me however great things one may achieve in the short time of his earthly life, they cannot possibly be equal in effectiveness to those measures which provide for the successors and the perpetuity of the good work when one is gone. Only those who can leave behind them others to take up the work where they left it and who, through organizing power, can provide for an endless succession of workers only these are the great men of the world. It matters little if Christ is crucified if he left apostles and if these were empowered to institute a larger ministry, so that Paul might commit his work to Timothy, and Timothy in turn to faithful men after him, and thus secure a perpetuity of ministers. Whitefield was a great orator in his day, but his day passed. Wesley was a great organizer, and through his organization he lived long after Whitefield passed away.
7. Elijah has yet one arrow in his quiver; he will not die at all; God will translate him. Not even the sons of the prophets can find him when they search for him. No spot on earth holds his remains; no tombstone marks his resting place, and thus we come to his last effective measure.
He so went away as to create an expectation of his return. The expectation is voiced in these words of Malachi, which is the closing paragraph of the Old Testament: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
When we come to the New Testament, the angel thus carries on the closing thought of the Old Testament to Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist: "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." The words of our Lord give the interpretation of Malachi's prophecy and of the angelic message to Zacharias. Concerning John the Baptist, Jesus said, "And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah which was to come." "And they asked him saying, Why say the Scribes that Elijah must first come? And he answered and told them, Elijah verily cometh first, and restoreth all things, and how it is written of the son of man, that he must suffer many things and be set at naught. But I say unto you, that Elijah is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him."
We have thus found the elements of the crisis in Elijah's time to be:
(1) Ahab's marriage with Jezebel, the Tyrian princess.
(2) The marriage of Jezebel's daughter with Jehoram, prince royal of Judah.
(3) The consequent unhallowed alliance between Israel and Judah.
(4) The consequent establishment of Baal worship in both kingdoms.
(5) The consequent and extraordinary persecution of the true religion and its prophets in both kingdoms.
(6) The murderous extinction of the seed royal of David by Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, until one child alone is left of all the male progeny of David.
(7) The consequent imminent hazard of the true religion and its prophets in the world.
And we have found Elijah's effective measures of resistance to be:
(1) The sending of the drought at his first meeting with Ahab.
(2) The triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and the breaking of the drought.
(3) His confronting Ahab in the stolen vineyard of Naboth and denouncing the doom of all his house.
(4) His interception of the message of Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, and his denunciation of the doom of the wicked king.
(5) His letter to Jehoram, king of Judah.
(6) His appointment of successors to carry on his work.
(7) His departure from the earth in such a way as to create an expectation of his return in any similar crisis in the world's history.
Such a man not only left his impress in Jewish traditions, but supplied some of the most important New Testament lessons. The most notable of these are the following:
Christ's lesson from Elijah's time in his sermon at Nazareth: "And he said, Verily I say unto you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land) but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city near Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow." This important lesson itself has been the theme of many a timely sermon. The lesson is one of extreme sadness. It carries back the mind to that awful drought when the stock were suffering, and the poor widows suffering most of all. It establishes the truth that any starving, dying woman of Israel could have found relief in an appeal to God's prophet, but only a far-off stranger in Jezebel's country had the faith to make the appeal and be saved from distress.
The next great lesson is the reappearance of Elijah at Christ's transfiguration, where, with Moses, he appears in glory, and communes with the great Redeemer concerning his approaching death at Jerusalem (Matt. 17:34). So that Elijah not only fulfilled the public expectation in coming again in the person of John the Baptist, who had his spirit and his power, but he comes in his own person from the high courts of heaven to confer with our Lord concerning his expiatory death. What a lesson is this when the living apostles are protesting against his death; when the murderers are expecting his death to cut off his influence and stop the progress of his principles I From the realms of the invisible world, the great law giver and the great prophet appear to find in that death the world's only hope of salvation.
Another important New Testament lesson is Paul's use of the remnant of 7,000 in Elijah's day in discussing the great doctrine of "Election" (Rom. 11:2). And what a lesson of comfort this is when we feel our isolation and loneliness; when the reformers in the ages of corruption become discouraged, to look back to Elijah, and see him under the juniper tree wishing he might die in the thought that his life was a failure, and hear the words of God: "I have reserved for myself seven thousand that have not bowed the knee to Baal." In the times of great moral and spiritual corruption we know that there is hidden away, known only to the omniscient sight, many men and women true to what is right, though the great centers of influence become corrupt and though the great leaders turn away from the simple truth as it is in Jesus.
Another important lesson is given by James the brother of our Lord: "Elijah was a man of like passions with us, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months." What a lesson is here for human feebleness and doubt as to the power of prayer, and how much does the world need this lesson! Particularly is it helpful just now when it has become fashionable among the literary great to. decry the power of prayer, when unsanctified science, falsely so-called, rebukes the helpless when they sink down on bended knee in dire extremities, saying, "It is vain to pray: all things move according to natural law. It is useless to cry unto God. What profit shall we have if we pray unto him?"
One other New Testament lesson which I refer to Elijah's time, is very sweet. We find the record of it in Matthew 10:4142. Jesus had been saying that whosoever giveth even a cup of cold water to a disciple in the name of a disciple shall receive a disciple's reward, or whosoever shall receive a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. There seems to be allusion to the words of Elijah addressed to the widow of Sarepta, words spoken in times of famine and drought and thirst: "And give me, I pray thee, a cup of cold water." This lesson speaks to the lowliest and the poorest, those who have the least, and shows the mercy and grace of God in permitting the children of poverty even to find a blessing in helping somewhat the cause of the blessed God.
So that whether we consider the crisis of this man's time or the effective measures adopted by him to stem the tide of religious corruption, or the New Testament lessons borrowed from the record of his life, or consider his period as an inexhaustible mine for digging up precious themes of pulpit power, we find Elijah and his times as supremely worthy of human study in any age. Such are some of the lessons to be learned from the man who stood alone against the world.
1. What is the theme and text of this lesson?
2. How do you account for the ineffaceable impress on the imagination of succeeding generations made by the life of Elijah?
3. Cite some of the traditions suggested by his life.
4. What is the relation of this life to homiletics and what books of Scripture furnish the material for the life of Elijah?
5. What proves that the abiding interest in Elijah is not due exclusively to the dramatic character of that life appealing to the imagination?
6. Give briefly the elements of the world crisis in his time,
7. How does Elijah himself express the situation?
8. How does Jehovah correct the exaggeration of this statement due to ignorance and morbid depression of mind?
9. Cite instances, apart from Jezebel's case, of great harm coming from a woman's influence, and then cite instances of great good resulting from a woman's influence.
10. "There is a Jewish proverb: "When the tale of brick is doubled, then cornea Moses." What scripture embodies the thought?
11. What was Elijah's first measure of meeting the world crisis and how did it fairly test the opposing religions and deities?
12. Why did Ahab send all over the world to find Elijah?
13. How and where did Elijah hide himself during the three and a half years of the drought and how was he nourished?
14. Was his food supply at the brook Cherith brought by angels, Arabs, or birds?
15. What poor woman of this story eclipses Jezebel, and how did this incident add emphasis to the test between opposing deities?
16. Why is Elijah called the first apostle to the Gentiles?
17. What is the proof that this heathen woman was saved by Elijah's ministry?
18. What is the Jewish traditions about this woman's son?
19. What was Elijah's second test?
20. What is the meaning of the word "bait" in "How long halt ye between two opinions?"
21. What heathen authors have imitated Elijah's sarcasm and mockery of a false god?
22. How did Jezebel turn the tables on Elijah?
23. Have you read Henry Ward Beecher's sermon on this panic of Elijah?
24. What great lesson of the juniper tree and the cave in Horeb?
25. What was the third measure of Elijah?
26. What were the great lessons from it?
27. What was the fourth measure?
28. And what was its lesson?
29. What was the fifth measure and its lesson?
30. What was the sixth?
31. What was the seventh and last?
32. Restate the seven elements of the crisis and the seven measures opposing.
33. Cite five New Testament lessons from his life.
ELISHA, THE SUCCESSOR OF ELIJAH
2 Kings 2:13 to 13:21; 2 Chronicles 21:1-20
For the sake of unity, this chapter, like the one on Elijah, will be confined to a single person, Elisha, who was the minister, the disciple, and the successor of the prophet Elijah. "Minister" means an attendant who serves another generally a younger man accompanying and helping an older man. A passage illustrating this service is 2 Kings 3:11: "Elisha, who poured water on the hands of Elijah." We may here recall a situation when no wash basin was convenient, and the water was poured on our hands for our morning ablutions. A corresponding New Testament passage is Acts 13:5: "Paul and Barnabas had John Mark to their minister," that is, the young man, John Mark, attended the two older preachers, and rendered what service he could. Elisha was also a disciple of Elijah. A disciple is a student studying under a teacher. In the Latin we call the teacher magister. Elijah was Elisha's teacher in holy things. Then Elisha was a successor to Elijah. Elijah held the great office of prophet to Israel, and in view of his speedy departure, God told him to anoint Elisha to be his successor, that is, successor as prophet to the ten tribes.
About four years before the death of Ahab, 800 B.C., Elijah, acting under a commission from God, found Elisha plowing, and the record says, "with twelve yoke of oxen." I heard a cowman once say that it was sufficient evidence of a man's fitness to preach when he could plow twelve yoke of oxen and not swear. But the text may mean that Elisha himself plowed with one yoke, and superintended eleven other plowmen. Anyhow, Elijah approached him and dropped his mantle around him. That was a symbolic action, signifying, When I pass away you must take my mantle and be my successor." Elisha asked permission to attend to a few household affairs. He called together all the family, and announced that God had called him to a work so life-filling he must give up the farm life and devote himself to the higher business. To symbolize the great change in vocation he killed his own yoke of oxen and roasted them with his implements of husbandry; and had a feast of the family to celebrate his going into the ministry. It is a great thing when the preacher knows how to burn the bridges behind him, and when the family of the preacher recognizes the fulness and completeness of the call to the service of God.
The lesson of this and other calls is that no man can anticipate whom God will call to be his preacher. He called this man from the plow handles. He called Amos from the gathering of sycomore fruit; he called Matthew from the receipt of custom; he called the fishermen from their nets; he called a doctor in the person of Luke. We cannot foretell; the whole matter must be left to God and to God alone, for he alone may put a man. into the ministry. I heard Dr. Broadus preach a great sermon on that once: "I thank Christ Jesus, my Lord, for that he hath enabled me and counted me faithful, putting me into this ministry, who was before a blasphemer."
Elijah served as a prophet fifty-five years. That is a long ministry. There were six kings of Israel before he passed away, as follows: Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Joash. There were five sovereigns of Judah, to wit: Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah (this one a woman) and Joash. Athaliah was queen by usurpation.
God said to Elijah, "Anoint Elisha to be thy successor; anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, and anoint Hazael to be king of Syria." Now here were two men God-appointed to the position of king, as this man was to the position of prophet, and we distinguish them in this way: It does not follow that because the providence of God makes a man to be king, that the man is conscious of his divine call, like the one who is called to be a preacher. For instance, he says, "I called Cyrus to do what I wanted done: I know him, though he does not know me." The lesson is that God's rule is supreme over all offices. Even the most wicked are overruled to serve his general purposes in the government of the world.
The biblical material for a sketch of Elisha's life is 1 Kings 19:16 to 2 Kings 13:21. Elisha means, "God the Saviour." The Greek form is Elisaios; we find it in the Greek text of Luke 4:27, where our Lord says, "There were many widows in Israel in the days of Elisaios." "Elijah" is Hebrew, and "Elias" is the corresponding Greek word; "Elisha" is Hebrew, and "Elisaios" is the corresponding Greek form.
We will now distinguish between the work of Elijah and Elisha, giving some likenesses and some unlikenesses. In the chapter on Elijah attention has already been called to the one great unlikeness, viz: that Elijah did not live in public sight; he appeared only occasionally for a very short time. Elisha's whole life was in the sight of the public; he had a residence in the city of Samaria, and a residence at Gilgal; he was continually passing from one theological seminary to another; he was in the palaces of the kings, and they always knew where to find him. He had a great deal to do with the home life of the people, with the public life of the people and with the governmental life of the people. There were some points of likeness in their work, so obvious I need not now stop to enumerate them. Elijah's life was more ascetic, and his ministry was mainly a ministry of judgment, while Elisha's was one of mercy.
The New Testament likenesses of these two prophets are as follows: Elijah corresponds to John the Baptist, and Elisha's ministry is very much like the ministry of Jesus in many respects.
There were many schools of the prophets in the days of Elijah and Elisha. Commencing with Jericho we have one; the next was at Bethel; the third at Gilgal not the Gilgal near Jericho but the one in the hill country of Ephraim and there was one at Mount Carmel. These stretched across the whole width of the country four theological seminaries. The history shows us that Elijah, just before his translation, visited every one of them in order, and that Elisha, as soon as Elijah was translated, visited the same ones in reverse order, and there 13 one passage in the text that tells us that he was continually doing this.
I think the greatest work of Elisha's life was this instruction work; it was the most far-reaching; it provided a great number of men to take up the work after he passed away. Indeed the schools of the prophets were the great bulwarks of the kingdom of God for 500 years during the Hebrew monarchy. We cannot put the finger on a reformation, except one, in that five hundred years that the prophets did not start. One priest carried on a reformation we will come to it later. But the historians, the poets, the orators, the reformers, and the revivalists, all came from the prophets. Every book in the Bible is written by a man that had the prophetic spirit. Elisha was the voice of God to the conscience of the kings and the people, and when we study the details of his life we will see that as the government heard and obeyed Elisha it prospered, and as it went against his counsel it met disaster.
We have two beautiful stories that show his work in the homes. One of them is the greatest lesson on hospitality that I know of in the Bible. A wealthy family lived right on the path between the Gilgal seminary and the Mount Carmel seminary. The woman of the house called her husband's attention to the fact that the man of God, Elisha, was continually passing to and fro by their house; that he was a good man, and that they should build a little chamber on the wall to be the prophet's chamber. "We will put a little table in it, and a chair, and a bed, and we will say to him, Let this be your home when you .are passing through." Elisha was very much impressed with this woman's thoughtfulness, and the reason for it. He asked her what he could do for her. But she lived among her own people, wanted no favor from the king nor the general of the army. Elisha's servant suggested that she was childless, so he prophesied to her that within a year she would be the mother of a son. The son was born and grew up to be a bright boy, and, like other boys, followed his father to the field. One hot day when they were reaping and it was very hot in reaping time over there he had a sunstroke and said, "My head! My head!" The father told his servant to take him to his mother as usual, let a child get sick and the daddy is sure to say, "Take him to his mother." I don't know what would become of the children if the mothers did not take care of them when they are sick. But the boy died. The woman had a beast saddled and went to the seminary at Mount Carmel. She knew Elisha was there for he had not passed back. It was a very touching story. Anyhow, Elisha restored the boy to life, and to show how it lingered in his mind, years afterward he sent word to her that there would be a famine of seven years, and she had better migrate until the famine was over. She went away for seven years, and when she came back a land-grabber had captured her home and her inheritance. She appealed the case to Elisha, and Elisha appealed the case to the king, and then the kin~ said, "Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done." When he had heard the full story of this man's work he said, "Let this woman have her home back again, and interest for all the time it has been used by another." This is a very sweet story of family life.
There is another story. One of the "theologs" 1 do not know how young he was, for he had married and had children the famine pressed so debt was incurred, and they had a law then we find it in the Mosaic code that they might make a bondman of the one who would not pay his debts. The wife of this "theolog" came to Elisha and said, "My husband is one of the prophets; the famine has brought very hard times, and my boys are about to be enslaved because we cannot pay the debt." Then he wrought the miracle that we will consider a little later, and provided for the payment of the debt of that wife of the prophet and for the sustenance of them until the famine passed away.
These two stories show how this man in going through the country affected the family life of the people; there may have been hundreds of others. I want to say that I have traveled around a good deal in my days, over every county in this state. It may be God's particular providence, but I have never been anywhere that I did not find good people. In the retrospect of every trip of my life there is a precious memory of godly men that I met on the trip. I found one in the brush in Parker County, where it looked like a "razor-back" hog could not make a living, and they were very poor. I was on my way to an association, and must needs pass through this jungle, and stopped about noon at a small house in the brush, where I received the kindest hospitality in my life. They were God's children. They fixed the best they had to eat, and it was good, too the best sausage I ever did eat. So this work of Elisha among the families pleases me. I have been over such ground, and I do know that the preacher who is unable to find good, homes and good people, and who is unable to leave a blessing behind him in the homes, is a very poor preacher. I have been entertained by the great governors of the state and the generals of armies, but I have never enjoyed any hospitality anywhere more precious than in that log cabin in the jungle.
The next great work of Elisha was the miracles wrought by him. There were two miracles of judgment. One was when he cursed the lads of Bethel that place of idolatry and turned two she-bears loose that tore up about forty of them. That is one judgment) and I will discuss that in the next chapter. Just now I am simply outlining the man's whole life for the sake of unity.
The second miracle of judgment was the inflicting on Gehazi the leprosy of Naaman. The rest of his miracles were miracles of patriotism or of mercy. The following is a list (not of every one, for every time he prophesied it was a miracle): 2 Kings 2:14 tells us that he divided the Jordan with the mantle of Elijah; 2 Kings 2:19, that he healed the bad springs of Jericho, the water that made the people sick and made the land barren, which was evidently a miracle of mercy. The third miracle recorded is in 2 Kings 2:23, his sending of the she-bears (referred to above) ; the fourth is recorded in 2 Kings 3:16, the miracle of the waters. Three armies led by three kings were in the mountains of Edom, on their way to attack Moab. There was no water, and they were about to perish, and they appealed to Elisha. He told them to go out to the dry torrent bed and dig trenches saying, "To-morrow all of those trenches will be full of water, and you won't see a cloud nor hear it thunder." It was a miracle in the sense that he foresaw how that water would come from rain in the mountains. I have seen that very thing happen. Away off in the mountains there may be rain one can't see it nor hear it from where he is in the valley. The river bed is as dry as a powder horn, and it looks as if there never will be any rain. I was standing in a river bed in West Texas once, heard a roaring, looked up and saw a wave coming down that looked to me to be about ten feet high the first wave and it was carrying rocks before it that seemed as big as a house, and rolling them just as one would roll a marble.. So his miracle consisted in his knowledge of that storm which they could not see nor hear. If they had not dug the trenches they would have still had no water for a mountain torrent is very swift to fall. In that place where I was, in fifteen minutes there was a river, and in two or three hours it had all passed away. But the trenches of Elisha were filled from the passing flood.
The fifth miracle is recorded in 2 Kings 4:2-7, the multiplying of the widow's oil, that prophet's wife that I have already referred to. The sixth miracle is recorded in 2 Kings 4:8-37, first the giving and then the restoring to life of the son of the Shunamite. The seventh is given in 2 Kings 4:38, the healing of the poisonous porridge: "Ah, man of God! there is death in the pot," or "theological seminaries and wild gourds." The eighth miracle is found in 2 Kings 5:1-4, the multiplying of the twenty loaves so as to feed 100 men. The ninth, 2 Kings 5:1-4, the healing of Naaman's leprosy, and the tenth, 2 Kings 5:26-27, the inflicting on Gehazi the leprosy of which Naaman was healed.
The eleventh miracle is found in 2 Kings 6:1-7, his making the ax to swim. One of the prophets borrowed an ax to increase the quarters; the seminary was growing and the place was too straight for them, and they had to enlarge it. They did not have axes enough, and one of them borrowed an ax. In going down to the stream to cut the wood, the head of the ax slipped off and fell into the water and there is a text: "Alas, my master, for it was borrowed." The miracle in this case was his suspension of the law of gravity, and making that ax head to swim, so that the man who lost it could just reach out and get it.
Twelfth, 2 Kings 6:8-12, the revealing of the secret thought of the Syrian king, even the thoughts of his bedchamber. No matter what, at night, the Syrian king thought out for the next day, Elisha knew it by the time he thought it, and would safeguard the attack at that point.
Thirteenth, 2 Kings 6:15, his giving vision to his doubtful servant when the great host came to capture them. The servant was scared. Elisha said, "Open this young man's eyes, and let him see that they who are for us are more than those who are against us." What a text! His eyes were opened, and he saw that hilltop guarded with the chariots of God and his angels. We need these eye openers when we get scared.
Fourteenth, the blinding of that Syrian host that came to take him. He took them and prayed to the Lord to open their eyes again. An Irishman reported at the first battle of Manasseh, thus: "I surrounded six Yankees and captured them." Well, Elisha surrounded a little army and led them into captivity.
Fifteenth, 2 Kings 7:6, a mighty host of Syrians was besieging Samaria, until the women were eating their own children, the famine was so great. Elisha took the case to God, and that night, right over the Syrian camp was heard the sound of bugles and shouting, and the racing of chariots, and it scared them nearly to death. They thought a great army had been brought up, and a panic seized them, as a stampede seizes a herd of cattle, and they fled. They left their tents and their baggage: their provisions, their jewels, and the further they went the more things they dropped, all the way to the Jordan River, until they left a trail behind them of the cast-off incumbrances. The word "panic" comes from the heathen god, "Pan," and the conception is that these sudden demoralizations must come from deity. I once saw sixteen steers put an army of 4,000 to flight, and I was one of the men. We were in a lane with a high fence on one side and a bayou on the other side, and suddenly, up the lane we heard the most awful clatter, and saw the biggest cloud of dust, and one of the men shouted, "The cavalry is on us! The cavalry is on us!" and without thinking everybody got scared. A lot of the men were found standing in the bayou up to their necks, others had gone over the fence and clear across the field without stopping. I did not get that far, but I got over the fence.
Sixteenth, 2 Kings 8:2-6, the foreseeing and foretelling of the seven years of famine.
Seventeenth, 2 Kings 8:11, the revelation of the very heart of Hazael to himself. He did not believe himself to be so bad a man. Elisha just looked at him and commenced weeping. Hazael could not understand. Elisha says, "I see how you are going to sweep over my country with fire and sword; I see the children that you will slay; I see the bloody trail behind you." Hazael says, "Am I a dog, that I should do these things?" But Elisha under inspiration read the real man) and saw what there was in the man. One of the best sermons that I ever heard was by a distinguished English clergyman on this subject.
Eighteenth, 2 Kings 13:14, his dying prophecy.
Nineteenth, the miracle from his bones after he was buried. We will discuss that more particularly later.
We have thus seen his great teaching work, his relation to the government, and his miracles.
Now, let us consider some of his miracles more particularly. The Romanists misuse the miracle of the bones of Elisha, and that passage in Acts 19:11-12, where Paul sent out handkerchiefs and aprons, and miracles were wrought by them. On these two passages they found all their teachings of the relics of the saints, attributing miraculous power to a bit of the cross, and they have splinters enough of that "true cross" now scattered about to make a forest of crosses. In New Orleans an' auctioneer said, "Today I have sold to seventeen men the cannon ball that killed Sir Edward Packenham." The greatest superstition and fraud of the ages is the Romanist theory of the miracle working power of the reputed relics of the saints. Some of Elisha's miracles were like some of our Lord's. The enlargement of the twenty loaves to suffice for 100 men reminds us of two miracles of our Lord, and his curing a case of leprosy reminds us of many miracles of our Lord like that. In the Bible, miracles are always numerous in the great religious crises, where credentials are needed for God's people, such as the great series of miracles in Egypt by Moses, the series of miracles in the days of Elisha and the miracles in the days of our Lord.
The greatest of Elisha's work is his teaching work, greater than his work in relation to the government, his work in the families, or his miracles. I think the more far-reaching power of his work was in his teaching. There were spoken similar words at the exodus of Elijah and Elisha. When Elijah went up, Elisha said, "My Father! My Father! The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof!" The same words are used when Elisha died. What does it mean? It pays the greatest compliment to the departed: that they alone were worth more to Israel than all its chariots, and its cavalry; that they were the real defenders of the nation.
At one point his work touched the Southern Kingdom, viz: When Moab was invaded, and he wrought that miracle of the waters, filled the trenches and supplied the thirsty armies. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah was along, and for his sake Elisha saved them.
There are many great pulpit themes in connection with Elisha's history. I suggest merely a few: First, "Let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me" that was his prayer when Elijah was leaving him; second, "The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof"; third, when he came to the Jordan he did not say, "Where is Elijah?" but he smote the Jordan and said, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" for it made no difference if Elijah was gone, God was there yet; fourth, "The oil stayed" not as long as the woman has a vessel to put it in; fifth, the little chamber on the wall; sixth, "Ah, man of God! There is death in the pot" or "theological seminaries and wild gourds" radical criticism, for instance there is death in the pot whenever preachers are fed on that sort of food; seventh, "Is it well with thy husband?" "Is it well?" and I will have frequently commenced a meeting with that text; eighth, Elisha's staff in the hands of Gehazi, who was an unworthy man and the unworthy cannot wield the staff of the prophets; ninth, "Alas, my master, it was borrowed!"; tenth, the Growing Seminary "The place is too straight for us"; eleventh, "Make this valley full of trenches," that is, the Lord will send the water, but there is something for us to do; let us have a place for it when it comes; twelfth, the secret thoughts of the bedchamber are known to God; thirteenth, "They that be with us are more than those that be against us"; fourteenth, "Tell me, I pray thee, all the great works done by Elisha."
These are just a few in the great mine of Elijah or Elisha where we may dig down for sermons. The sermons ought to be full of meat; that is why we preach to feed the hungry. We should let our buckets down often into the well of salvation, for we cannot lower the well, and we may draw up a fresh sermon every Sunday. We should not keep on preaching the same sermon; it is first a dinner roast, then we give it cold for supper, then hash its fragments for breakfast, and make soup out of the bones for the next dinner, and next time we hold it over the pot and boil the shadow, and so the diet gets thinner and thinner. Let's get a fresh one every time.
1. Who was Elisha?
2. What is the meaning of "minister to Elijah"? Illustrate and give corresponding passage in the New Testament.
3. What is the meaning of "Elisha, a disciple of Elijah"?
4. What is the meaning of "Elisha, a successor to Elijah"?
5. Give the date, author, manner, and nature of Elisha's call, his response and how he celebrated the event.
6. What is the lesson of this and other calls? Illustrate.
7. How long his prophetic term of office and what kings of Israel and Judah were his contemporaries?
8. What secular calls accompanied his, how do you distinguish between his and the call of the others and what is the lesson therefrom?
9. What is the biblical material for a sketch of Elisha's life?
10. What is the meaning of his name?
11. What is the Greek and Hebrew forms of his name? Give other examples.
12. What likenesses and unlikenesses of the work of Elijah and Elisha?
13. What New Testament likenesses of these two prophets?
14. How many schools of the prophets in the days of Elijah and Elisha, and where were they located?
15. What was Elisha's great teaching work in the seminaries? Discuss.
16. What was Elisha's part in governmental affairs?
17. What of his work in the families? Illustrate.
18. What two classes of his miracles and what miracles of each class?
19. What is the Romanist misuse of the miracle of Elisha's bones and Acts 19:11-12?
20. What miracles were like some of our Lord's?
21. When and why were Bible miracles numerous?
22. Which of Elisha's works was the greatest?
23. What words spoken at the exodus of Elijah and Elisha and what their meaning?
24. At what point did Elisha's work touch the Southern Kingdom?
25. What New Testament lesson from the life of Elisha?
26. Give several pulpit themes from this section not given by the
27. What is the authors exhortation relative to preaching growing out of this discussion of Elisha?
GATHERING UP THE FRAGMENTS THAT NOTHING BE LOST
The title of this chapter is a New Testament text for an Old Testament discussion. For the sake of unity the last two chapters were devoted exclusively to Elijah and Elisha. It is the purpose of this discussion to call attention to some matters worthy of note that could not very well be incorporated in those personal matters, and yet should not be omitted altogether.
It is true, however, that the heart of the history is in the lives of these two great prophets of the Northern Kingdom. In bringing up the record we will follow the chronological order of the scriptures calling for exposition.
Jehoshaphat's Shipping Alliance with Ahaziah. We have two accounts of this: first, in 1 Kings 22:47-49, and second, in 2 Chronicles 20:35-37. I wish to explain, first of all, the locality of certain places named in these accounts. Tarshish, as a place, is in Spain. About that there can be no question. About Ophir, no man can be so confident. There was an Ophir in the southern part of Arabia; a man named Ophir settled there, but I do not think that to be the Ophir of this section. The Ophir referred to here is distinguished for the abundance and fine quality of its gold. Several books in the Bible refer to the excellency of "the gold of Ophir," and to the abundance of it. Quite a number of distinguished scholars would locate it in the eastern part of Africa. Some others would locate it in India, and still others as the Arabian Ophir. My own opinion is, and I give it as more than probable, that the southeastern coast of Africa is the right place for Ophir. Many traditions put it there, the romance of Rider Haggard, "King Solomon's Mines," follows the traditions. The now well-known conditions of the Transvaal would meet the case in some respects.
Ezion-geber is a seaport at the head of the Gulf of Akaba, which is a projection of the Red Sea. What is here attempted by these men is to re-establish the famous commerce of Solomon. I cite the passages in the history of Solomon that tell about this commerce. In 1 Kings 9:26 we have this record: "And King Solomon made a navy of ships in Eziongeber, which is beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. And Hiram (king of Tyre) sent in the navy his servants, shipmen that had knowledge of the sea, with the servants of Solomon. And they came to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold, four hundred and twenty talents, and brought it to King Solomon." Now, 1 Kings 10:11 reads: "And the navy also of Hiram, that brought gold from Ophir, brought in from Ophir great plenty of Almug trees and precious stones." This "almug-trees" is supposed to be the famous sweet-scented sandalwood. The precious stones would agree particularly with the diamond mines at Kimberly in the Transvaal.
Then, 10:22 reads: "For the king had at sea a navy of Tarshish with the navy of Hiram: Once every three years came the navy of Tarshish, bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks." The ivory and apes would fit very well with the African coast, but we would have to go to India to get the spices, which are mentioned elsewhere, and the peacocks. A three years' voyage for this traffic seems to forbid the near-by Arabian Ophir, and does make it reasonable that the merchant fleet touched many points Arabia, Africa, and the East Indies. It is, therefore, not necessary to find one place notable for all these products gold, jewels, sandalwood, ivory, apes, spices, and peacocks. Solomon, then, established as his only seaport on the south Eziongeber, a navy, manned partly by experienced seamen of Tyre, and these ships would make a voyage every three years. That is a long voyage and they might well go to Africa and to India to get these varied products, some at one point and some at another.
Now Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah (king of Israel) made an alliance to re-establish that commerce. The first difficulty, however, is that the Chronicles account says that these ships were to go to Tarshish, and the Kings account says that they were ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir. My explanation of that difficulty is this: It is quite evident that no navy established at Eziongeber would try to reach Spain by circumnavigating Africa, when it would be so much easier to go from Joppa, Tyre, or Sidon over the Mediterranean Sea to Spain. "Tarshish ships" refers, not to the destination of the ships, but to the kind of ships, that is, the trade of the Mediterranean had given that name to a kind of merchant vessel, called "Ships of Tarshish." And the ships built for the Tarshish trade, as the name "lndianman" was rather loosely applied to certain great English and Dutch merchant vessels. It is an error in the text of Chronicles that these ships were to go to Tarshish. They were Tarshish ships, that is, built after the model of Tarshish ships, but these ships were built at Eziongeber for trade with Ophir, Africa, and India.
Verse 47 of the Kings account needs explanation: "And there was no king in Edom; a deputy was king." The relevancy of that verse is very pointed. If Edom had been free and had its own king, inasmuch as Eziongeber was in Edom, Judah never could have gone there to build a navy. But Edom at this time was subject to Judah, and a Judean deputy ruled over it. That explains why they could come to Eziongeber.
One other matter needs explanation. The account in Kings says, "Then said Ahaziah the son of Ahab unto Jehoshaphat, Let my servants go with thy servants in the ships. But Jehoshaphat would not." Ahaziah attributed the shipwreck of that fleet to the incompetency of the Judean seamen. He did not believe that there would have been a shipwreck if he had been allowed to furnish experienced mariners, as Hiram did. So Kings gives us what seems to be the human account of that shipwreck, viz: the incompetency of the mariners; but Chronicles gives us the divine account, thus: "Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath destroyed thy works. And the ships were broken." How often do we see these two things: the human explanation of the thing, and the divine explanation of the same thing. Ahaziah had no true conception of God, and he would at once attribute that shipwreck to human incompetency, but Jehoshaphat knew better; he knew that shipwreck came because he had done wickedly in keeping up this alliance with the idolatrous kings of the ten tribes.
Let us consider several important matters in connection with the translation of Elijah, 2 Kings 2:1-18. First, why the course followed by Elijah? Why does he go from Carmel to Gilgal and try to leave Elisha there, and from Gilgal to Bethel and try to leave Elisha there, and from Bethel to Jericho and try to leave Elisha there? The explanation is that the old prophet, having been warned of God that his ministry was ended and that the time of his exodus was at hand, wished to revisit in succession all of these seminaries. These were his stopping places, and he goes from one seminary to another. It must have been a very solemn thing for each of these schools of the prophets, when Elisha and Elijah came up to them, for by the inspiration of God as we see from the record, each school of the prophets knew what was going to happen. At two different places they say to Elisha, "Do you know that your master will be taken away to-day?" Now, the same Spirit of God that notified Elijah that his time of departure was at hand, also notified Elisha, also notified each school of the prophets; they knew.
But why keep saying to Elisha, "You stay here at Gilgal; the Lord hath sent me to Bethel," and, "You stay here at Bethel; the Lord hath sent me to Jericho," and "You stay here at Jericho; the Lord hath sent me to the Jordan"? It was a test of the faith of Elisha. Ruth said to Naomi, "Entreat me not to leave thee, nor to forsake thee; for where thou goest, I will go; and God do so to me, if thy God be my God, and thy people my people, and where thou diest there will I die also." With such spirit as that, Elisha, as the minister to Elijah, and as the disciple of Elijah, and wishing to qualify himself to be the successor of Elijah, steadfastly replied: "As the Lord liveth and thy soul liveth, I will not forsake thee." "I am going with you just as far as I can go; we may come to a point of separation, but I will go with you to that point." All of us, when we leave this world, find a place where the departing soul must be without human companionship. Friends may attend us to that border line but they cannot pass over with us.
We have already discussed the miracle of the crossing of the Jordan. Elijah smote the Jordan with his mantle and it divided; that was doubtless his lesson to Elisha, and we will see that he learned the lesson. I heard a Methodist preacher once, taking that as a text, say, "We oftentimes complain that our cross is too heavy for us, and groan under it, and wish to be relieved from it." "But," says he, "brethren, when we come to the Jordan of death, with that cross that we groaned under we will smite that river, and we will pass over dry-shod, and leave the cross behind forever, and go home to a crown to wear."
The next notable thing in this account is Elijah's question to Elisha: "Have you anything to ask from me?" "Now, this is the last time; what do you want me to do for you?" And he says, "I pray thee leave a double portion of thy spirit on me." We see that he is seeking qualification to be the successor. "Double" here does not mean twice as much as Elijah had, but the reference is probably to the first-born share of an inheritance. The first-born always gets a double share, and Elisha means by asking a double portion of his spirit that it may accredit him as successor. Or possibly "double" may be rendered "duplicate," for the same purpose of attenuation. The other prophets would get one share, but Elisha asks for the first-born portion. Elijah suggests a difficulty, not in himself, but in Elisha ; he said, "You ask a hard thing of me, yet if you see me when I go away, you will get the double portion of my spirit," that is, it was a matter depending on the faith of the petitioner, his power of personal perception. "When I go up, if your eyes are open enough to see my transit from this world to a higher, that will show that you are qualified to have this double portion of my spirit." We have something similar in the life of our Lord. The father of the demoniac boy says to our Lord, "If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Jesus replied, "If thou canst! All things are possible to him that believeth." It was not a question of Christ's ability, but of the supplicant's faith.
The next thing is the translation itself. What is meant by it? In the Old Testament history two men never died; they passed into the other world, soul and body without death: Enoch and Elijah. And at the second coming of Christ every Christian living at that time will do the same thing. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, they shall be changed." Now, what is that change of the body by virtue of which without death, it may ascend into heaven? It is a spiritualization of the body eliminating its mortality, equivalent to what takes place in the resurrection and glorification of the dead bodies. I preached a sermon once on "How Death [personified] Was Twice Startled." In the account of Adam it is said, "And he died" and so of every other man, "and he died." Methuselah lived 969 years, but he died. And death pursuing all the members of the race, strikes them down, whether king or pauper, whether prophet or priest. But when he comes to Enoch his dart missed the mark and he did not get him. And when he came to Elijah he missed again. Now the translations of Enoch and Elijah are an absolute demonstration of two things: First, the immortality of the soul, the continuance of life; that death makes no break in the continuity of being. Second, that God intended from the beginning to save the body. The tree of life was put in the garden of Eden, that by eating of it the mortality of the body might be eliminated. Sin separated man from that tree of life, but it is the purpose of God that the normal man, soul and body, shall be saved. The tradition of the Jews is very rich on the spiritual significance of the translation of Enoch and Elijah. In Enoch's case it is said, "He was not found because God took him," and in this case fifty of the sons of the prophets went out to see if when Elijah went to heaven his body was not left behind, and they looked all over the country to find his body. Elisha knew; he saw the body go up.
Now, in Revelation we have the Cherubim as the chariot of God. This chariot that met Elijah at the death station was the chariot of God, the Cherubim. Just as the angels met Lazarus and took his soul up to heaven, and it is to this wonderful passage that the Negro hymn belongs: "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
Elisha cried as the great prophet ascended, "My Father! My rather I The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof," the meaning of which is that thus had gone up to heaven he who in his life had been the defense of Israel, worth more than all of its chariots and all of its cavalry. Now these very words "were used when Elisha died. "My Father! My Father! The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof," signifying that he had been the bulwark of the nation as Elijah had been before him.
As Elijah went up something dropped not his body, but .just his mantle his mantle fell, and it fell on Elisha, symbolic of the transfer of prophetic leadership from one to the other. Now, he wants to test it, a test that will accredit him; so he goes back to the same Jordan, folds that same mantle up just as Elijah had done, and smites the Jordan. But, mark you, he did not say, "Where is Elijah" the man, Elijah, was gone, but, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" and the waters divided and he came over. There he stood accredited with a repetition of the miracle just a little before performed by Elijah, which demonstrated that he was to be to the people what Elijah had been. And this was so evident that the sons of the prophets recognized it and remarked on it: "The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha." It is a touching thing to me, this account of more than fifty of these prophets, as the president of their seminary is about to disappear, came down the last hill that overlooks the Jordan, watching to see what became of him. And they witness the passage of the Jordan they may have seen the illumination of the descent of the chariot of fire. They wanted to go and get the body the idea of his body going up they had not taken in, and they could not be content until Elisha, grieved at their persistence) finally let them go and find out for themselves that the body had gone to heaven.
I have just two things to say on the healing of the noxious waters at Jericho. The first is that neither the new cruse nor the salt put in it healed the water. It was a symbolic act to indicate that the healing would be by the power of God. Just as when Moses cast a branch into the bitter waters of Marah, as a symbolic act. The healing power comes from God. The other re-mark is on that expression, "unto this day," which we so frequently meet in these books. Its frequent recurrence is positive proof that the compiler of Kings and the compiler of Chronicles are quoting from the original documents. "Unto this day" means the day of the original writer. It does not mean unto the day of Ezra wherever it appears in Chronicles, but it means unto the day of the writer of the part of history that he is quoting from. More than one great conservative scholar has called attention to this as proof that whoever compiled these histories is quoting the inspired documents of the prophets.
Perhaps a thousand infidels have referred Elisha's curse to vindictiveness and inhumanity. The word rendered "little children" is precisely the word Solomon uses in his prayer at Gibeon when he says, "I am a little child" he was then a grown man. Childhood with the Hebrews extended over a much greater period of time than it does with us. The word may signify "young men" in our modern use of the term. And notice the place was Bethel, the place of calf worship, where the spirit of the city was against the schools of the prophets, and these young fellowsω1 call them "street Arabs," "toughs," whom it suited to follow this man and mock him: "Go up, thou bald bead; go up, thou bald head." Elisha did not resent an indignity against himself, but here is the point: these hostile idolaters at Bethel, through their children are challenging the act of God in making Elisha the head of the prophetic line. He turned and looked at them and he saw the spirit that animated them saw that it was an issue between Bethel calf worship and Bethel, the school of the prophets, and that the parents of these children doubtless sympathized in the mockery, and saw it to be necessary that they should learn that sacrilege and blasphemy against God should not go unpunished. So, in the name of the Lord he pronounces a curse on them had it been his curse, no result would have followed. One man asks, "What were these she-bears doing so close to Bethel?" The answer is that in several places in the history is noted the prevalence of wild animals in Israel. We have seen how the old prophet who went to this very Bethel to rebuke Jeroboam and turned back to visit the other prophet, was killed by a lion close to the city.
Another infidel question is, "How could God make a she bear obey him?" Well, let the infidel answer how God's Spirit could influence a single pair of all the animals to go into the ark. Over and over again in the Bible the dominance of the Spirit of God over inanimate things and over the brute creation is repeatedly affirmed. The bears could not understand, but they would follow an impulse of their own anger without attempting to account for it.
THE INCREASE IN THE WIDOW'S OIL, 2 KINGS 4:1-7
We have already considered this miracle somewhat in the chapter on Elisha, and now note particularly:
1. It often happens that the widow of a man of God, whether prophet or preacher, is left in destitution. Sometimes the fault lies in the imprudence of the preacher or in the extravagance of his family, but more frequently, perhaps, in the inadequate provision for ministerial support. This destitution is greatly aggravated if there be debt. The influence of a preacher is handicapped to a painful degree, when, from any cause, he fails to meet his financial obligations promptly. In a commercial age this handicap becomes much more serious.
2. The Mosaic Law (Lev. 25:39-41; see allusion, Matt. 18:25) permitted a creditor to make bond-servant of a debtor and his children. For a long time the English law permitted imprisonment for debt. This widow of a prophet appeals to Elisha, the head of the prophetic school, for relief, affirming that her husband did fear God. In other words, he was faultless in the matter of debt. The enforcement of the law by the creditor under such circumstances indicates a merciless heart.
3. The one great lesson of the miracle is that the flow of the increased oil never stayed as long as there was a vessel to receive it. God wastes not his grace if we have no place to put it: according to our faith in preparation is his blessing. He will fill all the vessels we set before him.
We recall this miracle to deepen a lesson barely alluded to in the chapter on Elisha. The seminaries at that time lived a much more simple life than the seminaries of the present time; it did not take such a large fund to keep them up. Elisha said, "Set on the great pot," and one of the sons of the prophets went out to gather vegetables. He got some wild vegetables he knew nothing about here called wild gourd and shred them into the pot, not knowing they were poisonous. Hence the text: O man of God, there is death in the pot." I once took that as the text for a sermon on "Theological Seminaries and Wild Gourds," showing that the power of seminaries depends much on the kind of food the teachers give them. If they teach them that the story of Adam and Eve is an allegory, then they might just as well make the second Adam an allegory, for his mission is dependent on the failure of the first. If they teach them the radical criticism; if they teach anything that takes away from inspiration and infallibility of the divine Word of God or from any of its great doctrines then, O man of God, there is death in the pot" that will be a sick seminary.
In a conversation once with a radical critic I submitted for his criticism, without naming the author, the exact words of Tom Paine in his "Age of Reason," denying that the story of Adam and Eve was history. He accepted it as eminently correct. Then I gave the author, and inquired if it would be well for preachers and commentators to revert to such authorities on biblical interpretation. He made no reply. We find Paine's words not only in the first part of the "Age of Reason," written in a French prison without a Bible before him, but repeated in the second part after he was free and had access to Bibles. I gave this man a practical illustration, saying, "You may take the three thousand published sermons of Spurgeon, two sets of them, and arrange them, one set according to the books from which the texts are taken Genesis 1, 2, 3, etc., and make a commentary on the Bible. By arranging the other set of them in topical order, you have a body of systematic theology." Now this man Spurgeon believed in the historical integrity and infallibility of the Bible, in its inspiration of God, and he preached that, just that. As the old saying goes, "The proof of the pudding is in the chewing of the bag." He preached just that, and what was the result? Thousands and thousands of converts wherever he preached, no matter what part of the Bible he was preaching from; preachers felt called to enter the ministry, orphan homes rose up, almshouses for aged widows, colportage systems established, missionaries sent out, and all over the wide world his missionaries die in the cause. One man was found in the Alps, frozen to death, with a sermon of Spurgeon in his hand. One man was found shot through the heart by bush rangers of Australia, and the bullet passed through Spurgeon's sermon on "The Blood of Jesus." Now, I said to this man, "Get all your radical critics together, and let them preach three thousand sermons on your line of teaching. How many will be converted? How many backsliders will be reclaimed? How many almshouses and orphanages will be opened? How many colportage systems established? Ah! the proof of the pudding is in the chewing of the bag. If what you say is the best thing to teach about the Bible is true, then when you preach, it will have the best results. But does it?"
We have considered Elisha's miracle for providing water for the allied armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom, when invading Moab (2 Kings 3:10-19). We revert to it to note partakelarly this passage: "And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew sword, to break through unto the king of Edom: but they could not. Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great wrath against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land" (2 Kings 3:26-27). On this passage I submit two observations:
1. Not long after this time the prophet Micah indignantly inquires, "Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" The context is a strong denunciation of the offering of human sacrifices to appease an angry deity. The Mosaic law strongly condemned the heathen custom of causing their children to pass through the fire of Molech. Both this book of Kings and Jeremiah denounce judgment on those guilty of this horrible practice. The Greek and Roman classics, and the histories of Egypt and Phoenicia, show how widespread was this awful custom.
2. But our chief difficulty is to expound the words, "There was great wrath against Israel." But what was its connection with the impious sacrifice of the king of Moab? Whose the wrath? The questions are not easy to answer. It is probable that the armies of Edom and Judah were angry at Israel for pressing the king of Moab to such dire extremity, and so horrified at the sacrifice that they refused longer to co-operate in the campaign. This explanation, while not altogether satisfactory, is preferred to others more improbable. It cannot mean the wrath of God, nor the wrath of the Moabites against Israel. It must mean, therefore, the wrath of the men of Judah and Edom against Israel for pressing Mesha to such an extent that he would offer his own son as a sacrifice.
I. On the two accounts of Jehoshaphat's shipping alliance with Ahaziah, 2 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 20, answer:
1. Where is Tarshish?
2. Where is Ophir?
3. Where is Ezion-geber?
4. What is the relevance of v. 47 in Kings?
5. Explain "ships of Tarshish" in Kings, and "to go to Tarshish" in Chronicles.
6. What commerce were they seeking to revive, and what passage from 1 Kings bearing thereon?
7. How does the book of Kings seem to account for the wreck of the fleet, and how does Chronicles give a better reason?
II. On the account of Elijah's translation (2 Kings 2:1-18) answer:
1. Why the course taken by Elijah by way of Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho?
2. How did both Elisha and the schools of the prophets know about the impending event?
3. What was the object of Elijah in telling Elisha to tarry at each stopping place while he went on?
4. What was the meaning of Elisha's request for "a double portion" of Elijah's spirit and why was this a hard thing to ask, i.e., wherein the difficulty? Illustrate by a New Testament lesson.
5. What was the meaning of Elijah's translation, and what other cases, past or prospective?
6. What was the meaning of Elisha's expression, "My Father! My Father! The chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof," and who and when applied the same language to Elisha?
7. How does Elisha seek a test of his succession to Elijah and how do others recognize the credentials?
III. How do you explain the seeming inhumanity of Elisha's cursing the children of Bethel?
IV. On the widow's oil (2 Kings 4:1-7), answer:
1. What often happens to the widow of a prophet or preacher, and what circumstance greatly aggravates the trouble?
2. What is the Mosaic law relative to debtors and creditors?
3. What one great lesson of the miracle?
V. On "Death in the Pot" answer:
1. What the incident of the wild gourds?
2. What application does the author make of this?
3. What comparison does the author make between Spurgeon and the Radical Critics?
VI. On Elisha's miracle, the water supply, answer:
1. What is the allusion in Micah's words, "Shall I give my first-born," etc.?
2. What the meaning of "There was great wrath against Israel"?
THE STORY OF NAAMAN, THE SIEGE OF SAMARIA,
AND THE DEATH OF JEHORAM (OF JUDAH)
2 Kings 5:1 to 8:24
We commence this chapter with the story of Naaman, recorded in 2 Kings 5:1-24, which is a continuation of the record of Elisha's miracles. In this passage we have a very graphic and complete account of two miracles which are especially remarkable in their relation to each other. One was the cure of leprosy and the other was the infliction of leprosy. One was wrought on a foreigner and a man of prominence; the other, on a Hebrew and a servant. The second was consequential on the first and the two together must have given Elisha a great reputation at home and abroad, and at the same time extolled Jehovah as the great God in the surrounding nations.
This Naaman was by nationality a Syrian, by position a captain, a great and honorable man. "He was also a mighty man of valor," one who had rendered valuable services to his country in giving deliverance (Hebrew salvation) from an oppressor. Here arises the question, "What was this deliverance of Naaman?" To this question we find no reply in the Scriptures but there is evidence enough from the Assyrian monuments. Prior to this time an Assyrian monarch had pushed his conquests as far west as Syria bringing this country into subjection, but Syria revolted after a few years and once more gained her independence. It was this deliverance that was wrought by Naaman in which he distinguished himself and won the special favor of the Syrian king.
But Naaman had one serious defect. He was a leper. The way this fact is introduced is most natural, viz.: by the adversative conjunction but. It is true that the conjunction is in italics, showing that the word does not occur in the original, yet the adversative idea is there. It is suggestive of the fact that too often people spoil a splendid recommendation of other people with the introduction of some defect; as, Byron was a great poet but was clubfooted. Or that man is an excellent gentleman but he has one failing, etc. So we go on describing people, saying all the good things we know about them, and then marring their fine reputation by pointing out some fault, altogether unlike the spirit of the inspired historian here in the case of Naaman. This thought is further illustrated in the case of David. Nathan said to him, "Jehovah hath put away thy sin, howbeit," and then follows with a long list of consequences of the sin which would come upon David. We find the adversative conjunction used to introduce good qualities also, as in 2 Chronicles 19:3. After Jehu the prophet had rebuked Jehoshaphat for his sin, he said, "Nevertheless there are good things found in thee," etc. Other examples might be given but these are enough. To sum up what I have said: But may be used adversely to introduce the bad when the good is mentioned first, and to introduce the good when the bad is mentioned first. A fact generally admitted by all, is that both qualities are found in varying ratios in all of us. Therefore we should remember the saying, "There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it scarcely behooves any of us to say anything about the rest of us."
As has already been stated, this defect of Naaman was leprosy, which comes from the Hebrew word meaning a stroke, because the ancients regarded this disease as a stroke from God. Of course it .carried with it the idea of penalty for sin committed, just as the three friends of Job reasoned with respect to his case. They said, "This stroke is from God because of your sins." They thus attributed all afflictions to sin as the cause and to God as inflicting the penalty. The Greek word from which we get our word leprosy means "a scale" and thus indicates a certain characteristic of the disease, viz: that in certain stages of the disease the skin becomes scaly.
There is a most impressive lesson here for us in the instrumentality of this miracle. On some one of their marauding expeditions into northern Israel they had captured a little Jewish maiden who was made servant to Naaman's wife. The beauty and radiance of her life are seen in the few words here said about her. She expressed a most ardent desire that her master might be healed and pointed out the source of such healing as her God, who would effect such a cure through his servant, Elisha, the prophet in Samaria. All this is an expression of affection, the affection of a servant for her master. How sublime such affection under such conditions! A captive maiden, with the loyalty of a child for a parent, reveals to her master the true source of healing. May we not think of this little Jewish maid in her love for and her loyalty to her oppressors, as a kind of type of Christians in their relation to the world? Surely the human instrumentality in this great divine transaction should not be underestimated. Neither can we fail to recognize the human in God's plan for the salvation of the world. This little maid played her part and played it well. Are we doing our part in the great plan of God as well as she?
The transactions from this point in the story are rapid and interesting. Naaman appeals to the Syrian king who in turn sends a letter to Jehoram the king of Israel asking for the recovery of Naaman of his leprosy. This royal courtesy of the Syrian king was misunderstood by the king of Israel, who thought that the king of Syria was seeking a quarrel with him. Just here Elisha intervenes to save the day, by offering to do what Jeroboam in his royalty could not do, viz: to heal Naaman of his loathsome disease. But how simple the prescription! Dip in the Jordan seven times. Why seven? Seven was a symbol of perfection and here symbolized the perfect obedience required upon the part of Naaman. But Naaman was wroth and went away saying, "Behold, I thought, he would surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and recover the leper. Are not . . . the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean?" This reply shows what was in Naaman's mind. He expected Elisha to make a great display, and he seems also to have expected an incantation by which the cure would be effected, but the prophet understood human nature too well to be engulfed into violating the law of his God. The captain's anger was most natural; it was the result of a keen disappointment, but it prepared the way for a hearing from his servants, which resulted in his cure.
There are several lessons here for us: (1) Human nature calls for display. This is true often in the most vital matters, such as the salvation of the soul; (2) May we not find in this incident an illustration of the simplicity of the plan of salvation? Upon this point many stumble. They say, "What shall I do to be saved?" or "What shall I give?" (3) Healing is obtained by taking the remedy: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
It is noteworthy in this connection that the servants of Naaman interceded with him as children begging a father and this influenced him to try the offered remedy. Their reasoning with him was simple and effective: "If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean"? This was sufficient. He went down, dipped himself and was healed. Here arises the question of the virtue of his cure. It was not in the Jordan, nor in the seven dips, but in the power of God. Of course, it came in response to conditions met, just as in the case of all other blessings.
May we not find here a parallel case to the New Testament teaching on baptismal regeneration? Hardly; here the dipping was made a condition of Naaman's healing, but in the New Testament we do not find baptism a condition of salvation, but the conditions of salvation are repentance and faith. However there is this parallel: that God's own prescribed conditions must be met before there is any blessing. In this connection it is well to note also that the word for "dip" here, in the Septuagint, is bapto from which comes the New Testament word "baptize," and that this word means the same as the original Hebrew word, viz: to dip, to immerse. This Old Testament incident is an illustration of the meaning of bapto and baptize and thus confirms the New Testament teaching of baptism by immersion.
Naaman's gratitude for his healing is very beautifully and impressively expressed: (1) He returned from the Jordan to Elisha, a journey of forty or fifty miles out of his way; (2) he offered the prophet the presents which he had brought from Damascus; (3) he embraced the Jehovah religion and made a vow to renounce all other gods but Jehovah; (4) he honored the request of Elisha (as he thought) by his servant, Gehazi. In all this one is reminded of the incident in the New Testament where the one leper returned to thank our Lord for his healing, evidencing the additional blessing of salvation, yet this act of Naaman involved far more trouble and inconvenience than that of the Samaritan leper..
It should also be noted here that Elisha refused his presents, not because he was not worthy to receive them, but to show this heathen man that not all of God's prophets were mercenary, as was the case with the priests of other religions. It sets forth Elisha in a beautiful light. We see here the spirit of self-denial which reminds us of Paul's life and teaching. One could wish that he might always be able to find just such a spirit in the prophets of Jehovah in this twentieth century. Alas, too often the spirit of Gehazi possesses them rather than the spirit of Elisha. But we thank God that the majority are walking in the steps of Elisha.
But what did Naaman mean by wanting "Two mules' burden of earth"? It cannot be definitely known just what was in his mind, but of all the theories proposed, the context seems to have a great bearing on the one which says that he wanted this earth from the land of Israel to erect an altar to Jehovah in the land of Syria or, perchance, to sprinkle it upon a certain area of his own land, thereby making it "holy ground" and suitable for the worship of Jehovah. History tells us that some of the Jews carried earth from their own land when they were carried into captivity to Babylon. This seems to have been the prevailing idea among the Orientals. Yet another matter should be considered here, viz: If Naaman here embraced the Jehovah religion, why should he bow himself down in the house of Rimmon? This seems to be a reference to his work, as an attendant upon the king of Syria, to perform certain duties relative to his master in the house of Rimmon. He seemed to realize that Jehovah was a jealous God, but he was not strong enough to become a martyr to the Jehovah religion. In this we may not judge Naaman too severely, especially in view of the fact that Naaman was a heathen, reared in a heathen religion, and going back to a heathen environment, and may we not confidently expect to meet Naaman in the "Sweet By and By" as one of God's jewels gathered out of a foreign land? One could wish that he might greet this Syrian general and this little Jewish maid along with Elijah's widow of Zarephath, Elisha's Shunammite woman and our Lord's Syro-Phoenician woman on the bright shores of everlasting deliverance.
Over against this cheering picture of Elisha and Naaman hangs the blighting picture of Gehazi, a renegade Jew. With the spirit of avarice he seized his opportunity to get the presents offered his master. His sin was manifold. He was guilty of lying, covetousness, and sacrilege. He lied to Naaman outright in the matter of the presents; he was prompted in it all by the spirit of covetousness; and he committed sacrilege in the ill use he made of the name of his master and in his profane oath. But the eye of the seer was there and he was completely caught. May we not rejoice that justice found her own, or shall we revolt at the severity of the penalty inflicted? If the latter, then must we pass by the case of Ananias and Sapphira and a multitude of others like unto them? We will rejoice rather in the prophetic and apostolic judgments since they are strokes of God through his own appointed executioners. But what of the descendants of Gehazi involved in this penalty? Here comes in the law of heredity which he could escape only by denying himself of the privilege of marriage which he may have done; we do not know. One could wish that he might lift the curtain and see further into the course of Naaman and Gehazi, but we must be content with whatever revelation has disclosed, and dare not to intrude into the precincts of the Most Holy uninvited. Here they pass from our view never to reappear.
Turning to the Scriptures we meet again Benhadad II, king of Syria, who was under treaty with Israel twelve years during which time Ahab furnished troops in a league against Assyria, but now he breaks the treaty and invades Israel according to the prophecy given Ahab when he let Ben-hadad go (1 Kings 20:35-43). What a pity Ahab did not obey the Lord and put an end to him. But we should not have had this great lesson of national sin and its penalty.
This Benhadad comes now, besieges Samaria and causes sufferings in Israel unparalleled in their history. The head of an ass, the most undesirable part of the most undesirable animal, sold for 80 shekels, about $50.00; a kab of doves' dung sold for 5 shekels, about $3.00; and the women killed their own sons and ate them. Such indicates the horrors of this terrible siege. But this is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Deuteronomy 28:56-57, which has three literal fulfilments in the history of the Jewish people, viz: (1) in this instance, the siege of Samaria by Benhadad; (2) in the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and (3) in the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70. The story here of the two women and the appeal of one of them to the king is very pathetic. Who can censure the mother for hiding her son? The mystery is that the other one ever gave up hers. All this shows the dire straights into which they had become because of this siege.
For all this the king of Israel proposes a remedy, viz: that the head of Elisha be taken from his shoulders. But we note the fact that this was contrary to law. An Oriental monarch might do such a thing consistently. Beheading was practiced in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, but it was positively forbidden by the Jewish law. Why should he strike for Elisha when such a calamity came? He evidently thought that Elisha was to blame for their condition. He may have associated this instance with the drought which came at the word of Elijah, or he may have thought that Elisha could work miracles at will and that he purposely refused to relieve the people. However the case may be, it is the common plea of the enemies of God's cause against his agents and ministers. So with an oath he vows to take the head of God's prophet.
But Elisha was not to be so ill-treated. He was a seer and the Spirit of God in him was sufficient for every emergency. He saw the plan before the messenger of vengeance arrived and made counterplans to defeat the whole purpose of the king. The story of this incident is beautifully told in the record: how Elisha stopped the messenger and even his master, and with keen insight into the future made a most interesting prediction, viz: that on the morrow they would be amply supplied at reasonable prices. The messenger was doubtful but this prediction allowed for Elisha a probation and a respite from the wrath of the king.
The fulfilment of this prediction is found in the incident of the lepers, the story of which is given in the record. The lesson of this incident is illustrative of the condition of the sinner: "Why sit we here until we die? If we say we will enter the city, when the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit here, we shall die also . . . if the Syrians kill us, we shall but die." This pictures the state of the sinner and his reasoning when he faces the question of decision: "I can but die; therefore, will I trust him." This text has been used by hundreds of preachers to illustrate the point of decision. There is also another fine text in this connection, viz: "We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace." What a good missionary text! They told it and so should we. The world, like Samaria, is perishing for the necessaries of life, and we know where there is plenty. Let us tell it, lest when the blessed light of God's eternal morning bursts forth upon us our sin of omission will overtake us.
They did tell it, but as is often the case when we preach, they did not believe it. It was received with distrust; they thought the Syrians had set a trap for them and so they sent messengers and chariots after them to ascertain the facts in the case. The report of these messengers was convincing. They pursued the Syrians as far as the Jordan and found garments and vessels scattered all along the way. Evidently the Syrians had gotten a good "scare" but this is easily explained when we take into consideration that it was the Lord's "scare." He made them to hear a great noise of chariots, of horsemen and of a great host. It is no wonder that they ran for their lives. In this connection we find the fulfilment of the prophecy of Elisha to the messenger of vengeance in two important aspects, viz: (1) the price of flour and barley became reasonable; (2) the messenger of vengeance was made gatekeeper by the king and was trodden to death, thus fulfilling Elisha's statement that he should see it with his eyes but should not eat thereof. This must have been a horrible death, to be trampled to death while starving and yet in sight of plenty. We may think of this as illustrating another class of sinners, those who die in sight of plenty and yet because of their previous course in sin are altogether unable to get to the table of God's kingdom. This man died because of his unbelief, 2 Kings 7:2; 7:19f.
The next event according to our study of this section is the death of Jehoram king of Judah and his sad funeral. He had a complication of dreadful diseases, which are mentioned in any good commentary. The sad feature of his funeral is the fact that he was not buried in the usual way in which they buried their kings. He had no burning for him, and was not interred in the sepulchers of the kings. It is sad to have such distinction in one's death. But such must be the lot of those who sin against Jehovah. We may be sure our sins will find us out.
It is well to note that the book of Obadiah falls in this period, and will be studied in the light of this history when we take up the prophets of the Assyrian period.
1. Tell the story of Naaman, the leper.
2. Who was Naaman and what was his standing?
3. What was Naaman's victory for God?
4. What word introduces the defect in Naaman, what play on it and what the lesson?
5. What this defect and why was it considered such a misfortune?
6. What was the instrumentality of his healing and what the lessons?
7. What was Elisha's prescription, what was Naaman's reply, and what the lesson?
8. How was he finally induced to take the remedy and in what was the virtue of his healing?
9. What was the word here in the Septuagint translated "dipped," and what was the bearing on the New Testament usage of the word?
10. What was the effect of this healing on Naaman and how did he show his gratitude?
11. Explain Naaman's request for "two mules' burden of earth" and his bowing himself in the house of Rimmon.
12. How did Gehazi get the reward, what was his sin and what was his punishment?
13. Who was Benhadad and what was his relation to Israel at this time?
14. What indicates the great suffering in the siege of Samaria?
15. What was the king's proposed remedy and what the meaning of it?
16. Give the story of the kings messenger of vengeance and Elishas promise of plenty.
17. Give the story of the four lepers at the gate. What was the lesson?
18. What missionary text in this connection?
19. How was the message of the lepers received, how was it verified, and how were Elisha's promise and prophecy fulfilled?
20. Describe the awful sickness and death of Jehoram, and his sad funeral.
21. What prophetic book has its setting here?
THE REIGNS OF AHAZIAH (OF JUDAH),
JEHORAM (OF ISRAEL) AND THE RISE OF THE HOUSE OF NIMSHI
2 Kings 8:25 to 10:17; 2 Chronicles 22:1-8
In the scriptures cited for this chapter there are some apparent discrepancies which first claim our attention. Second Kings 8:25 says, "In the twelfth year of Jehoram the son of Ahab king of Israel did Ahaziah the son of Jehoram king of Judah begin to reign," while 2 Kings 9:29 says, "And in the eleventh year of Joram the son of Ahab began Ahaziah to reign over Judah." There are two possible solutions of this difficulty: (1) it may be accounted for by their method of reckoning in which they counted the king's "first year" twice; first, from the accession to the end of the civil year and second, from the accession to the same day of the next year; (2) he may have begun to reign with his father as viceroy in the eleventh year and as full king in the twelfth year. Either of these explanations relieves us from the difficulty of an apparent discrepancy.
A second apparent discrepancy occurs in 2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 22:2. The Kings passage says that Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, while the Chronicles passage says that he was forty-two. The latter statement is impossible because his father was only forty years old when he died. So the only explanation of this difference in statement is that it must be an error of the copyist. Twenty-two is more advanced than we would ordinarily expect but it is probable in view of the early marriages in the Orient and also that each prince had, besides his wife, several concubines. That Jehoram had several appears from 2 Chronicles 21:17.
The character of Ahaziah is set forth in the record with the author's accustomed clearness showing some of the antecedent forces that operated in his life. The first thing mentioned is the fact that his mother's name was Athaliah, the daughter (granddaughter) of Omri, who is here mentioned because of his prominence. She was a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, passing on to this king the full benefit of the law of heredity. So we are not surprised that the record says that he walked in the ways of the house of Ahab. The Kings account says, "for he was the son-in-law of the house of Ahab," i.e., he was related to the house of Ahab by marriage. An added reason for this course of Ahaziah is given by the Chronicles account: "for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly . . . for they [the house of Ahab] were his counsellors after the death of his father, to his destruction." Our sympathy goes out to Ahaziah in view of these conditions. How could he, in view of these hereditary traits and special maternal instruction) have done otherwise than to walk in the "ways of the house of Ahab"? Only by the grace of God which is able to overcome all the forces of the past, whether they be hereditary or environmental.
On Elisha's interview with Hazael we need to note: (1) this visit of the prophet to Damascus was perhaps for protection, but it is not definitely known as to why he went there; (2) that Elisha, whatever his reason for going, did not hide himself but was recognized upon his arrival; (3) that in his answer to Hazael he sarcastically told him to tell his master just what Hazael wanted to tell him and then gave him the true revelation of the case; (4) that Hazael did not tell his master all that Elisha said and thus falsified to him, but it was not the fault of the prophet; (5) that Elisha here showed his great heart of sympathy for his people in their sufferings, and (6) that God revealed the future of Benhadad, Hazael and Israel to Elisha, a clear proof of predictive prophecy.
The next topic for our discussion is the aid rendered Jehoram by Ahaziah in the defense of Ramothgilead; then follows the other events leading up to the anointing of Jehu as king over Israel. In the defense of Ramothgilead Ahaziah and Jehoram co-operate, uniting their forces against Hazael, king of Syria. Here Jehoram was wounded. Then the two kings withdrew Ahaziah to Jerusalem and Jehoram to Jezreel to be nursed. Soon after this Ahaziah visited Jehoram there and Just at this time Elisha appears upon the scene and commissions a son of the prophets to anoint Jehu. Thus the events pass in rapid succession leading to the destruction of the house of Ahab. We should note in this connection the striking fact that Jehu was not in the regular line of succession and was one of the two kings of Israel selected by Jehovah.
The circumstances and events of his anointing are graphically told by the author of Kings. The prophet who had been commissioned by Elisha went to Ramothgilead, found the captains sitting, called out Jehu, anointed him, gave him his commission, outlined his work and fled. According to this prophecy Jehu was to avenge the blood of the prophets against the house of Ahab by destroying every man child, as in the case of Jehoram and Baasha, and the dogs were to eat Jezebel in Jezreel. Immediately Jehu returned to the servants, his fellow captains, and made known unto them the prophet's message and they arose at once and proclaimed him king. This involved the duty of preaching righteousness and executing God's orders as sheriff, a very great responsibility and no small task. Later we see that Jehu was equal to the task thrust upon him, and God is abundantly vindicated in making this selection.
The chief characteristic of Jehu's work is, that it is iconoclastic. He was an image smasher, a great revolutionist. Was he pious? Not very pious, i.e. in the sense of reverencing the traditions of the past. He was, perhaps, filial toward his parents; we don't know, but he had full regard for his mission under God. If he was not pious he was religious in that he executed the program that God handed to him through the prophet. To be sure he was not a "sissy" but was a kind of "dare-devil" in spirit, a stern, John the Baptist sort of fellow. Such are the characteristics of the men who have led great revolutionary movements.
The first act of his reign was the slaying of Jehoram which is vividly presented in 2 Kings 9:14-26. The salient points in this story are: (1) Jehu's journey to Jezreel and his approach recognized by the watchman in the tower; (2) Jehoram's messengers to Jehu and his disposition of them; (3) Jehoram and Ahaziah's advance to meet Jehu, Jehoram's greeting and Jehu's reply; (4) Jehu's execution of Jehoram and Ahaziah's escape, and (5) the disposition of the body of Jehoram and the fulfilment of prophecy. The second act of his reign was the slaying of Ahaziah. After the death of Jehoram Jehu pursued Ahaziah who had fled by the way of the "garden house" or perhaps a better translation would be, "Beth-Gan," a town at the foot of the hills bounding the plain of Esdraelon, south of Jezreel, and on the road to Samaria. It is somewhat difficult, but not impossible, to harmonize the Kings account with the Chronicles account of this episode. Omitting the italics in 2 Kings 9:27 and inserting 2 Chronicles 22:9a just after "and he fled to Megiddo," we may conceive of this transaction as follows: Jehu ordered Ahaziah to be smitten at the ascent of Gur, but he fled to Megiddo where he was wounded, then carried to Samaria and concealed but was discovered by the emissaries of Jehu who carried him to Megiddo where Jehu was at this time; then and there Jehu put him to death. Such is a possible combination of the two accounts and removes the difficulty so far as a contradiction is concerned. Second Chronicles 22:7 explains Ahaziah's death as the direct cause of his alliance with Jehoram and his untimely death was a judgment upon him for his idolatry. Murphy (Handbook on Chronicles) explains his hiding in Samaria thus, "And he was about to hide in Samaria," but he was turned aside by his pursuers, was wounded and went to Megiddo where he died. There is one fault with this explanation: it does not provide for the expression, "they caught him and carried him to Jehu," etc. So withal the method of combining, as given above, is more satisfactory.
Here may be raised the question of the morality of the action of Jehu in killing Jehoram and Ahaziah. The answer is simple and easy. It was clearly God's execution, and was therefore nothing more than the stroke of the law. The Jehovah religion was very much endangered by the house of Ahab and these kings, one of Israel and the other of Judah, were branches of that house. If Jehu sinned, it was in the method or spirit in which he did the work, rather than in the taking of the life of these men. That was clearly his commission from Jehovah. He did not sin in this transaction any more than a sheriff does who executes a criminal under the penalty of the law. God had rendered the verdict and appointed Jehu the executioner. But if he used unnecessary cruelty in this execution, or did it in the spirit of vengeance, then we would admit that he sinned, because God has said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay" and no man, mob, or court of men has the right to execute a criminal in the spirit of vengeance. The cruel fate of Jezebel is horrifying and bloodcurdling. Her cunning attempt to thwart her predicted fate is repulsing and disgusting. Upon learning of Jehu's approach, Cleopatra-like, she painted her eyes, attired her head, and from a window saluted her executioner with, "Is it peace?" From Jehu came the prompt and decisive response, "Who is on my side? Throw her down," and down she came with a crash, spattering her blood upon the wall and upon the horses. Then Jehu drove right over her body trampling her underfoot. She was so mangled that the dogs found her body an easy prey and when they went to take her up to bury her there was nothing left except the skull, the palms of her hands and her feet. What a horrible picture, but it was the just recompense for sin. She was the greatest enemy of the Jehovah religion after the days of Pharaoh, and God made Pharaoh an example to the world; so did he make Jezebel, and in Revelation we find her followers given space to repent and then sternly threatened with eternal destruction. All this was according to the prophecy of Elijah, 1 Kings 21:17ff. How definitely and surely God forecasts the fate of the wicked. We should not be deceived. "God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." When one walks the streets of a modern city and beholds the painted faces of our own American women, he is constrained to ask, "Have all our women become Jezebels, and what will the harvest of this generation be?"
Jehu did not stop with the execution of Jehoram, Ahaziah and Jezebel but pursued his destructive work in the judgment on the house of Ahab. The record says that Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria, meaning descendants, sons and grandsons, whom Jehu ordered the elders or rulers of Jezreel to slay. He first challenged them to select one for a king and "put up" their fight, but they declared their allegiance to Jehu. Then he wrote them to execute these sons at once and bring him their heads. This they did, upon which Jehu justified his course by citing a prophecy (1 Kings 21:17ff), and then extended his destructive course so as to include the rest of Ahab's house at Jezreel: his great men, his familiar friends and his priests. What a sweep of destruction in human life! But he did not stop there. The princes of Judah were a menace to his reign and therefore he must dispose of them. This he did in wholesale massacre at the shearing house of the shepherds. These princes royal of Judah were on their way to see their relatives at Samaria when they met Jehu who took them in charge at once and put them to death. Pursuing his course, Jehu met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and after an exchange of greetings he found in this man a suitable companion and associate in his "zeal for the Lord," as Jehu called it.
With Jehonadab originated the Rechabites, taking the name from Rechab, Jehonadab's father. They were descended from a family of the Kenites and were a very sturdy people, with some remarkable characteristics. They drank no wine, built no permanent dwelling houses, planted no vineyards, sowed no seed, but lived in tents and followed the most simple habits of life. In Jeremiah's day they were still holding to the tenets of Jehonadab in teaching and practice and because of their faithfulness in obeying the commandments of Jehonadab, Jehovah promised that Jehonadab should never want a man to stand before him. This promise is being fulfilled to this day. In the vicinity of Medina are to be found today the descendants of the Rechabites with the same characteristics and habits. This is a remarkable fulfilment of promise, but it is just what may come to any people who will keep the commands of Jehovah. He will not suffer his faithfulness to fail, and consistent with his holy nature, "He never denies himself, but he abideth faithful."
Jehonadab's character is not hard to determine in the light of his affiliations. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed. Jehu was a "dare-devil" sort of character, and he found his match in Jehonadab. They were partners and coworkers from this time on and the work of Jehu was the work of Jehonadab.
Jehu's last act of establishing himself on the throne of Israel is recorded in 2 Kings 10:17, and refers, perhaps, to the destruction of the female descendants of Ahab. Thus was finally completed the political revolution which transferred the throne from the house of Omri to that of Nimshi, the fifth of the royal families of Israel.
1. How harmonize the apparent discrepancies in 2 Kings 8:25 and 2 Kings 9:29; 2 Kings 8:26 and 2 Chronicles 22:2?
2. What was the character of Ahaziah and what were the examples of a mother's influence here?
3. Describe the interview of Elisha with Hazael and explain the difficulty of this passage.
4. What were the events which led to the anointing of Jehu as king over Israel? . .
5. What striking fact with reference to Jehus anointing?
6. Recite the circumstances and events of his anointing.
7. According to this prophecy what was Jehu to do and what was to be the fate of Jezebel?
8. How was he made king and what involved in his call to be king?
9. What were the chief characteristics of his work, was he pious, what is the meaning of piety and what kind of character necessary to a resolution.
10. What was the first act of his reign and how was this accomplished?
11. What was the second act of his reign and how was this accomplished?
12. How does Chronicles explain Ahaziah's death?
13. What question of ethics relative to Jehu's slaying Jehoram and Ahaziah and what the explanation?
14. What was Jezebel's fate and what prophecy was fulfilled in her death?
15. What was the judgment on the house of Ahab?
16. What prophecy fulfilled in the judgment on the house of Ahab?
17. What was the judgment on the princes Royal of Judah?
18. Whom did Jehu attach to his support, and what is the origin of the Rechabites and what were their practices?
19. What was the character and work of Jehonadab?
20. What was Jehu's last act in establishing himself on the throne of Israel?
FROM THE RISE OF JEHU TO THE REIGN OF JEHOASH AND THE CORRESPONDING HISTORY OF JUDAH
2 Kings 10:18 to 13:9; 2 Chronicles 22:9 to 24:24.
Israel is now on a rapid decline, while Judah is under the sway of a wicked woman. There are some antecedent facts which relate to the Southern Kingdom, Judah, and the story of her fortunes which we need to review here. In previous chapters we have considered the character and reign of Jehoshaphat. He is described as a good man, a great king, an eminently righteous and successful king, one of the best kings that Judah ever had, and the record tells of the various reforms which he instituted, the cities which he built, the new system of judiciary which he established and the various other great improvements in his kingdom. But Jehoshaphat made three mistakes in his reign:
First, he married his son to the daughter of Jezebel. It was the cause of great disaster to his realm, almost to the extinction of his dynasty and the wrecking of his kingdom. Second, he made an alliance with Ahab to reconquer Ramothgilead, and take it from Syria. The 400 false prophets all promised him victory, but Micaiah prophesied failure, and that prophecy came true as they failed to take Ramothgilead and Ahab was slain, and Jehoshaphat returned home to Jerusalem in partial disgrace. There is no question but that Jehoshaphat lost a great deal of popularity by that mistake and failure.
Third, he made an alliance with Jehoram, son of Ahab, in an attempt to reconquer and subject Moab to the northern realm. But for Elisha who told them to make the valley full of trenches and thus make room for water to flow down that their hosts might have drink he would there have suffered probably an ignominious defeat. Through Elisha and the providence of God he was saved but the expedition proved fruitless. The king of Moab sacrificed his first-born son and great wrath came upon Israel and they retired from the siege and went home and left King Mesha still master of his own country. Shortly before his death we find Jehoshaphat appoints his son Jehoram as king with him and they are joint kings over southern Israel. Jehoram becomes co-regent with Jehoshaphat when thirty-two years of age. Very soon we find the influence of Athaliah his wife. She had him under her control even more than Jezebel had Ahab under her control. She was a vicious, strong-minded, self-willed, determined, and depraved woman. Here is Athaliah's influence. We can almost see Jezebel herself here. Under the influence of this northern woman Jehoram begins his murderous work by shedding the blood of six of his brothers. We find his character described thus: "He had the daughter of Ahab to wife, and he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord." Notice further: "Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and made the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, and led Judah astray." That is, he attempted to lead all southern Israel after the worship of Baal, just as Jezebel had tried to lead all northern Israel after the worship of Baal. Athaliah is her mother's daughter.
All this leads to great troubles. His dynasty is in danger. The first thing we read is that disaster befalls the kingdom. In the same account we have the story of the revolt of Edom, one of his provinces which paid him heavy tribute. He undertakes to put down the rebellion, and, in a desperate conflict the Edomites with their chariots and horsemen having surrounded him, he rises up at night and breaks through the rank of the enemy and saves himself, but Edom passes out of his hands and is lost to his realm, and a large revenue is, of course, lost with it. This is the first stage of the downfall of himself and kingdom.
The next stage is the revolt of Libnah. This Philistine city had been paying tribute no doubt and now revolts against him and secures its freedom and thus another stronghold is cut off from his kingdom. This added to his unpopularity still more.
Shortly after this we have the story of the posthumous message from Elijah the prophet written before the going away of the great servant of God, doubtless preserved by Elisha and now sent to Jehoram. It is the prophet Elijah's message of doom to this wicked king: "Behold, the Lord will smite with a great plague thy people, and thy children and thy wives, and all thy substance," and Jehoram is to be smitten with a horrible and loathsome disease, too loathsome to be mentioned. We don't know what that plague was nor how many people perished because of it. These things would add greatly to the unpopularity of Jehoram throughout his realm.
Another invasion takes place: "And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians, which are beside the Ethiopians: and they came up against Judah, and brake into it, and carried away all the substance that was found in the king's house, and his sons also, and his wives; so that there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest of the sons." They invaded his capital, took his treasures, and his harem, and carried them away, only one son left, Jehoahaz, known more correctly as Ahaziah.
Shortly after this Jehoram falls a prey to his sickness or disease and dies, unlamented, undesired. In some respects a blessed death, that is, to those who were left. He is refused burial in the sepulchers of the kings. They buried him in the City of David but not in the sepulchers of the kings. He is too loathsome to be buried in the sacred burying grounds of the kings of Israel where David was buried. This reign is one of the first fruitages of that ill-fated alliance of Jehoshaphat with the house of Ahab.
Then follows the reign of Ahaziah his son, which lasts about one year. He is a worthy son of his unspeakable mother. We find his record very short and is all a failure and ends in disgrace and murder. The record says that he entered into an alliance with Jehoram, his uncle, of northern Israel to fight against Ramothgilead, and bring it back into subjection out of the hands of Syria. Evidently their onslaught is successful. Ramothgilead is captured and Jehu left in charge of it. Jehoram is wounded and has to return to Jezreel in order that he might be healed, and while he is recovering Ahaziah goes back to Jerusalem, then pays a visit to Jehoram at Jezreel, and while they are at Jezreel we have enacted a scene which we discussed in a previous chapter. Jehoram is slain by an arrow shot from the bow of Jehu. Ahaziah flees for his life and is pursued by Jehu's men, wounded in his chariot, escapes to Megiddo, and there dies. This is the end of the second of the kings of Judah that came under the influence of this unholy alliance of northern Israel.
Now we take up the reign of Athaliah. As soon as Athaliah heard of the death of Ahaziah her son, and knowing that all of Ahaziah's brothers had been captured and taken away by the Arabians and Philistines, and there was no proper heir to the throne excepting her grandsons, the narrative says that she arose and destroyed all the seed royal, that is, all her own grandsons. A woman that would do that is a monster rather than a woman. Fortunately, however, providence interposes. The chief priest of the nation, Jehoiada, a man of great influence and power, had married a sister of Ahaziah, and daughter of Athaliah, and by means of intimacy which this relationship permitted, took the only son of Ahaziah, just one year old, and hid him. Thus the dynasty is preserved.
Now let us look at Jehu's reign. The first great act which he performs is the destruction of Baal and Baal -worshipers, and he does it under false pretense. He does it in a most treacherous manner under the guise of zeal for their religion and he deceives them. He says, "Ahab served Baal little, Jehu shall serve him much," and in that way gains the popularity of all those in favor of Baal worship. In that way he manages to secure the presence of a great host of Baal worshipers, but took pains to see that none of the Jehovah worshipers were there. All the priests of Baal are butchered. That is different from the death of the 450 prophets of Baal and the 450 prophets of Asherah by Elijah at Mount Carmel. That was a fair teat by Elijah, but they failed, and therefore deserved death. This was treachery on the part of Jehu, treachery that was inexcusable, and having done that, he breaks down the altars of Baal, destroys all the Baal worshipers in the capital of Samaria. But that does not imply that there were no Baal worshipers anywhere else in the kingdom for there were Baal cults in various sections still. Although Jehu had destroyed Baal worship as a state religion he institutes one very little better. He is a worshiper of Jehovah but it is a corrupt worship of the calves of Dan and Bethel and he follows in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel to sin. It is awful how all of these men are said to have followed Jeroboam the son of Nebat in that he made Israel to sin. Every one of them does the same thing. There is a sermon on that statement entitled, "The Monotony of Sin." All for generations doing the same thing and they are doing the same thing now; they have been doing the same thing for thousands of years. Jehu's reign is on the whole an evil reign. The religion of Jehovah made little progress under his rule.
Now Athaliah reigns and we have the strange spectacle of a woman on the throne of Judah, the daughter of Jezebel with Phoenician blood in her veins. We would expect that she would try to do what Jezebel did, viz: install, as the state religion of Judah, the worship of Baal, and so she did. There was no persecution of the prophets in southern Israel. She evidently could not do that, but she partly destroyed the Temple, took the sacred vessels out of it, established priests in her own temple of Baal and set up Baal worship, using the vessels that had been dedicated to Jehovah. Shrines were built throughout the whole kingdom, and now southern Judah is in danger of being brought under the sway of Baal as northern Israel was before Elijah appeared upon the scene. But there was one man in the realm raised up by divine providence to save the situation. Jehoiada is the son-in-law of Athaliah, a -man of influence and power, and evidently a man of great wisdom and piety, the foremost counsellor in the realm, the wisest and best man in the kingdom, the high priest. Six years of silence passes, and Jehoiada is wise enough to know how to hold his tongue and hold his wife's tongue all that time. It is something for a man to be able to hold his tongue on such a great secret as he possessed, for six years. When little Joash had grown to be seven years old we find that Jehoiada began to strengthen himself in the kingdom and to mature his plans to set Joash upon the throne and destroy his mother-in-law, Athaliah. The time is ripe for action, the people are evidently dissatisfied with the reign of Athaliah, and are ready for the change. Jehoiada matures his plans with great deliberation, extreme caution and great shrewdness. We can't understand all the details of the situation, the exact relation of the house and the Temple, but we find that he divides the Temple guards and palace guards into three companies, and stations them in separate places surrounding the king, so that he is perfectly safe, and no enemies can get to him. A way is left open by which Athaliah may come into the Temple and any who may follow her, but they will at once be slain as they attempt to pass through. At a given time and a given signal, all the soldiers in their places, the people throng around and raise the shout, Joash is set upon the throne; he is handed the testimony of the law according to the command of Moses, the crown is placed upon his head, and Joash is proclaimed king. Athaliah does not know what is taking place, she hears the noise, rushes forth and pretends to be horrified, tears her clothes and shouts, "Treason! Treason!" Was it treason? How many people there are who know they are in the wrong, and yet when the people turn against them, are ready to cry out like that. They put on an air of injured innocence. Hypocrites! This avails her nothing. She is in the Temple courts and they will not spill Phoenician blood there. "Have her forth between the ranks," says Jehoiada, and as they made way for her she went to the entry of the horse gate and there she is slain. Jehoiada matured his plans as perfectly as Jehu and carried them out almost as quickly and successfully. That ends the reign of Phoenician blood upon the throne of Israel. There is no doubt that most of the people of Israel felt that a great crisis had passed.
Now let us look at the reign of Joash. He reigned for forty years beginning when a boy only seven. Joash was a grandson of Athaliah on his father's side, so there was a little of the Phoenician blood in his veins. It is not all pure Hebrew blood, and as blood will tell sooner or later, we find that his Phoenician, corrupt, heathen blood manifests itself in the life of Joash afterward.
His great religious revolutions and reforms were instituted by Jehoiada. As soon as Joash is made king, Jehoiada renews the covenant thus: "And Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people, and the king, that they should be the Lord's people." That covenant had been broken through Athaliah's introduction of Baal worship, through the breaking up of the Temple services and the defection of the people to Baal. Now Jehoiada must renew the covenant between God and Judah. The covenant made at Sinai had been broken more than once, and had been renewed. He establishes a covenant between the king and the people, and between the king and Jehovah on the basis of the law of Moses. The king is to be representative of Jehovah and must rule as Jehovah directs through his prophets. Now there is a revival of true religion and a reformation is begun. The first thing to be done is to destroy Baal: "And all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord." They carried out a work in southern Israel almost similar to what Jehu did-in northern Israel: the priests of Baal are slain, the temple of Baal is broken down, and the shrines of Baal destroyed, and Baal worship is given a severe blow in southern Israel, but it is not extinguished; there are still Baal worshipers in high places, shrines here and there throughout the country where they carry on this vile and licentious worship of their deity.
The next thing was to reorganize the Temple service: "And Jehoiada appointed the officers of the house of the Lord under the hand of the priests and Levites whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt sacrifices of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David." The reorganization of the Temple service, a reinstitution of the sacrifices of the burnt offerings and thus once more the nation is brought back to the worship of the true God, Jehovah. Again, it is said, "So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet." A brief pointed statement, but there is a history behind it. There must have been turmoil, strife, confusion, bloodshed, and unrest in the city of Jerusalem as this revolution in religion was going on, but Jehoiada's hands have hold of the reigns of power and the city calms down and is quiet. Joash is a good and faithful king so long as he is under the influence of Jehoiada, who did the strange thing to take two wives for Joash, which is very hard to account for.
There were great reforms instituted by Joash. Notice what the king himself institutes. He begins first to repair the Temple that had been broken down during the reign of Athaliah and Jehoram, and in order to do that he must raise money, and to raise money he commands the priests to bring in the revenue which they receive from the people. Under the law of Moses every man of Israel had to pay a shekel or a half-shekel every year. Now the priests or Levites were to receive that money and bring it to the king to be utilized in repairing the Temple. Joash depends upon the honesty of the priests. We see here a very inefficient organization, and it doesn't work. "Howbeit the Levites hastened it not." They pocketed the money. It didn't go into the treasury and therefore the house of the Lord could not be repaired. That scheme failed because the priests lacked honesty and integrity.
Now let us look at Jehu's political relations. We find by consulting Price's The Monuments and the Old Testament, that Jehu was forced to pay heavy tribute to Shalmaneser, king of Assyria. Shalmaneser says himself at that time, "I received tribute of the Tyreans and the Sidonians and of Jehu the son of Omri," in one of his inscriptions and on the back of an obelisk left by Shalmaneser we have pictures of Jehu bringing to him presents of gold, basins of gold, bowls of gold, cups of gold, lead, a royal scepter and staves. Thus we see that Jehu had to pay heavy tribute in order to maintain the integrity of his kingdom after thus securing it. We have no record that Jehu ever fought against Shalmaneser or that Shalmaneser ever fought against Jehu; but Shalmaneser had gained a great victory over Damascus and Syria, and Jehu had to pay him this heavy tribute to keep him away from Israel. Thus Jehu's reign was not all peace and prosperity. He is in a sense under the iron heel of Assyria. We also see from 2 Kings 10:32-33 that Jehu lost all eastern Palestine, which was smitten by Hazael, king of Syria, and thus his kingdom was stripped and there was left to him only a small portion of western Palestine: "In those days the Lord began to cut Israel short; and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, and the Reubenites, and the Manassites, from Aroer, which is by the valley of Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan." Thus Jehu is stripped of all of his possessions east of the Jordan. Though one of the ablest of the monarchs of northern Israel, Jehu was also the one that led Israel into sin, and his kingdom was in worse condition at the end than it was at the beginning.
Now let us take up the reign of Jehoahaz. Jehu reigned twenty-eight years, and was succeeded by Jehoahaz his son, who reigned only seventeen years, and followed in the footsteps of his father and Jeroboam the son of Nebat which made Israel to sin. In the reign of Jehoahaz we read: "And Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel and he delivered them into the hand of Hazael king of Syria, and into the hand of Benhadad the son of Hazael, continually "That means that they were compelled to pay tribute, heavy tribute to their conquerors, which drained them of all their resources and left them little better than slaves.
Jehoiada brings forth a new scheme. He is a wise man, and when he finds this other plan of Joash will not work, he suggests that they make a great chest, or box, and bore a hole in the top of it so that no man can get his hand into it, and place this box beside the altar near the entrance to the house of the Lord where the people come and go so that every man could put his tax into the box. It is not long before they find a large amount of money in it, and they are very careful how it should be counted and paid out, and very careful about the men who are to count it and hand it over to the workmen. We see how they go on with the details of the work, and they found enough money to repair the breaches of the Temple that had been broken down, and to provide the various vessels, the cups of silver, snuffers, basins, trumpets, vessels of gold, or vessels of silver. Then we find that the Temple worship is resumed, and the burnt offerings were offered continually as it had been for several years previous. Then follows an account of the death of Jehoiada, an old man, 130 years old. They buried him in the city of David among the kings as he was a king's son-in-law, and was honored as few other Israelites have been who were not of the royal family.
After his death the bad blood flowing in the veins of Joash is manifest. A change comes; the pressure is off; the wise counsellor is gone, and Joash now begins to show what is his true nature and character. He comes under the influence of the princes of Judah, the upper ten or the upper 400, who secretly or openly preferred the worship of Baal to the worship of Jehovah, possibly because of its licentiousness. Joash is foolish enough to listen to them, sanctions the worship of Baal and of Asherah, turns his back upon the worship of Jehovah. Worse than that, Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, a prophet of God, is raised up to rebuke and reprove Joash for his sin, but Joash commands that Zechariah be stoned to death in the Temple area because he has dared to warn and admonish the king. Base ingratitude. "0, what a falling off was this!" Zechariah's lastwords, "The Lord look upon it and require it," were remembered and recorded, as was the dying statement of Jesus Christ and of Stephen, the martyr. Some scholars think that when Jesus Christ was speaking to the Pharisees about the blood of Zechariah, which should be required of their generation, that he referred to this same Zechariah. Joash has incurred the hostility of the prophets and the worshipers of Jehovah in his realm. The best people of his country conspired against him, and very soon he is put to death. Israel is in a desperate condition during the reign of Jehoahaz. Hazael and Benhadad have assaulted him and-defeated him to such an extent that only fifty horsemen and ten chariots and ten thousand footmen are left. For the king of Syria destroyed them and made them like the dust in the threshing. The kingdom could hardly be lower and exist at all. It is at its lowest ebb. Joash's reign ends in misery and defeat. Hazael whom Elijah had anointed in Damascus, that ruthless monarch of Syria, who has crushed northern Israel under his feet and ground it to dust, advances as far south as Judah and Jerusalem and meets a large army of Joash and defeats it utterly, kills the princes of the people, and sends all the spoil that he captures back to Damascus. Then Hazael goes down to Philistia and takes the strong city of Gath, then he turns his eye upon Jerusalem with its vast treasures and is intending to advance up one of those mountain defiles to the hilltop whereon Jerusalem is situated and conquer the capital and take all its treasures. The only thing Joash can do, is to buy Hazael off. Then Joash strips the Temple of all the hallowed things, takes the gold and the treasure and hands it over to Hazael. Hazael is satisfied, as all he wants is the plunder and the treasure of the Temple, and in this way he got it without fighting for it.
Joash perishes by the hands of his own servants who had become disgusted with him because of his apostasy and evil reign. They buried him with the family in the City of David, but it does not say in the sepulchers of the kings.
1. What was the condition of Israel at this time?
2. What were the antecedent facts in the history of Judah bearing on this period?
3. After the death of Ahaziah who reigned in his stead, how did she get the throne, and how was God's promise to David made sure?
4. What was Jehu's policy and what was his scheme to destroy Baal?
5. What right had Jehu to destroy so many people?
6. What do you think of his method and what did God command in Jehu?
7. How did the Lord reward Jehu for his service and wherein did Jehu fail?
8. Recite the story of how the royal line of David was restored.
9. How did Athaliah meet with her deserts?
10. Who was Joash's mother and what was the bearing on. the life of Joash?
11. What was the character of Jehoiada and what were his works?
12. What was Jehoiada's influence over Joash, what was the spiritual condition of the kingdom of Judah at this time, what strange thing did Jehoiada do and how do you account for it?
13. What command did Joash give and what was his plan for carrying it out?
14. What happened to Israel during the reign of Joash and what was the character of the Syrians.
15. Who succeeded Jehu, what was his character, who oppressed Israel during this time and what were the events in his reign?
16. How did Joashs plan for repairing the Temple work, what was the fault with the plans and what was the lesson?
17. What new plan did they adopt and what custom perhaps originated here?
18. What order did he here reset?
19. What was the lesson here of the value of the preacher to the world?
20. What prophetic book has its setting here?
21. What distinction in Jehoiadas burial?
22. What was his sin of omission; his sin of commission?
23. What indicates Joashs weakness, what were his sins, what was the origin of the high places and groves, and what was the paliation for the sins of Joash?
24. How did the Lord try to bring them back, how did they receive the Lords prophets what special case cited, how did Joash show his ingratitude in his case, and what New Testament use of this incident?
25. What was the judgment executed on Joash and how did he escape?
26. Rewrite the story of Joashs death and contrast this death with that of Jehoiada.
THE REIGNS OF JEHOASH AND JEROBOAM (OF ISRAEL) AND OF AMAZIAH AND UZZIAH (OF JUDAH)
2 Kings 13:10 to 14:29; 2 Chronicles 24:25 to 26:15
Jehoahaz was followed by Jehoash his son who was a better man and an abler man and more successful. He had great encouragement from Elisha to fight with Syria and to redeem his kingdom from the iron grasp of Benhadad. Jehoash was encouraged at the outset. Elisha told him to shoot his arrows against Syria, and three times he smote upon the ground. The prophecy came true. Three times Jehoash smote the Syrian army and recovered the cities taken from his father by Benhadad. In the meanwhile Syria and Damascus had been assaulted by Assyria and were brought almost to the verge of extinction. Assyrian annals tell how the king of Assyria took Damascus and almost destroyed it, and it was largely because Syria was thus weakened by Assyria that Jehoash was able to recover and relieve Israel from its oppression.
Amaziah succeeded Joash on the throne of Judah. His character is described as one who was wicked and lazy, though he was better than the general run of the northern kings. His policy was to destroy the servants who killed his father, but he spared their children in accordance with the positive prohibition found in Deuteronomy 24:16. Here arises a question of the morality of the killing of Achan's sons, Naboth's sons and Ahab's sons. Two causes operated in favor of the exception to this prohibition: (1) the sons were apt to be accessories to the crimes of their fathers and thus incriminate themselves; and (2) the blood feud that was to follow. Then we should consider these cases either under the direct command of God or in the hands of Oriental monarchs.
In 2 Kings 13:20-21, we have recorded the last miracle of Elisha, viz: that in his tomb. This occurred, perhaps, to give special light to the heathen, a testimony to the power of the God of Israel, and to encourage the king and the people with respect to Elisha's unfulfilled prophecies. Close upon this follows the account of the fulfilment of Elisha's dying prophecy and Joash's success over Benhadad (2 Kings 13:23-25). In this we note that, notwithstanding the sins of Israel, God gave them victory over Syria for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; that the "as yet" shows his mercy still extended to Israel; that Hazael, king of Syria) died, and that Benhadad III, his son, reigned in his stead.
We will find that Amaziah in the latter part of his reign committed a very grievous and particular sin that brought a host of evil consequences. The sin committed by him was that, when he proposed to wage war against Edom lying south of his territory, he hired a hundred thousand mercenary soldiers of the Northern Kingdom to aid him in the war, and when an unnamed prophet of God comes and rebukes him, he says, "If I don't take these men now that I have paid for them, I will lose my hundred talents of money." The prophet replied, "The Lord can give you more than that." So he yielded to the protest of the prophet and rejected the services of the men a hundred thousand whom he had already paid for. That of course made the mercenaries very mad. They were not only buoyed up with the hope of their pay but the hope of capturing a great deal of booty in the war, and when they were not permitted to go to the war, on their return home they swept all that part of Judah that lay between them and their own land as dry as if a fire had passed over it. Now Amaziah having committed the sin, first, of relying upon the mercenaries instead of relying upon Jehovah, committed a second sin by importing the gods of Edom for which a prophet rebuked him, and he made him forbear. Stirred up in his mind by these degradations that had been committed upon his people by the hundred thousand mercenaries on their way home and the prophet's rebuke, without consulting God or any prophet he sends a braggadocio challenge to the king of Israel, and says, "Come, set your face up before mine," and the king of Israel replied, "Why should you make this challenge? It will likely prove to be very disastrous to you." Well, Amaziah shook his fist at him and told him to come on and set his face up, and he did come and set his face up, and he wiped the army of Amaziah off the face of the earth in the great battle that followed, and Judah was sorely straightened by that defeat; even Jerusalem was captured, her walls broken down, and all her vast treasures plundered and carried away. All this indicates that Jehoash was one of the most fortunate, most successful, most able, and most kind and benevolent rulers northern Israel ever had, but at the same time southern Israel had a foolish king.
Jehoash was succeeded by Jeroboam II, Jehoash had saved his country from the terrible oppression of Syria, had conquered Judah, had obtained enormous spoils which almost set the kingdom again upon its feet) and ushered in a period of prosperity. He was followed by his grandson Jeroboam il, the greatest of all the monarchs of northern Israel. Jeroboam II was the most successful of all, for in his day nearly all of northern Israel that had previously belonged to Solomon's kingdom was recovered and he reigned to the north as far as Hamath and to the south all the land of the Jordan and reconquered the land on the east side of the Jordan. The kingdom was at the height of its prosperity under Jeroboam II.
There have been four kings of the dynasty of Jehu, and only in the latter part of the reign of the third king, Jehoash, has Israel in any way succeeded in loosing herself from the bonds of oppression at the hand of Syria. The record says, "The Lord gave Israel a saviour, so that they went out from under the hands of the Syrians: and the children of Israel dwelt in their tents as before time." Who was that saviour? Some think probably it was Jehoash, the preceding king and father of Jeroboam II, who was the means of a threefold defeat of the Syrian army. But it may be interpreted as referring to Jeroboam II, the greatest of all the northern kings, who freed his country entirely from the dominion of Syria. Price in The Monuments and the Old Testament, thinks it refers to an Assyrian king, Adad Nirari, who at about this time made an onslaught on the kingdom of Syria and especially the city of Damascus and almost totally destroyed it. In that case he was indeed saviour, in that he destroyed the country that was oppressing Israel. The dynasty of Jehu lasted altogether about 102 years and in that time there were five kings. Jeroboam II is the fourth and greatest of all. He reigned forty-one years, the longest reign in the history of the Northern Kingdom.
In 2 Kings 14:25 reference is made to Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet which was of Gathhepher. This is the time in which Jonah the prophet lived. About this time he made his strange expedition to Nineveh the capital of Assyria, and preached there. He had doubtless preached in northern Israel also. At this time arises also a greater prophet, Amos, and in the pictures which Amos gives we have a vivid and lurid representation of the sins of northern Israel. So the reign of Jeroboam II, though the most glorious in the history of northern Israel, was attended by these two great prophets who pronounced the inevitable and irretrievable doom of the nation. Just as this time occurred the death of Amaziah at the hand of his conspirators and Uzziah his son succeeded him. But according to some authorities there was an interregnum between Uzziah and Amaziah. This conclusion is based upon the following facts as given in the record: First, it says that Amaziah died and that he had reigned fifteen years before Jeroboam II, king of Israel. Kings and Chronicles both say that he reigned twenty-nine years in all and that the last fifteen years of the twenty-nine was contemporaneous with the reign of Jeroboam II. In other words, he died in the fifteenth year of Jeroboam, but 2 Kings 15:1 says that Uzziah his successor did not begin to reign until the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam, so if both statements be correct then Judah had no king from the fifteenth year of Jeroboam to the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam, a period of at least eleven years and possibly twelve. The whole question turns on the accuracy of the text in 2 Kings 15:1 where it says that Uzziah began to reign in the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam. Now, if we accept that text as accurate, then there was an interregnum of eleven years. Josephus does not accept it. He says the number is wrong; that it ought to be in the fourteenth year instead of the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam. But it is quite easy to accept this text, not question it at all, and then we account for that interregnum of eleven years by the extreme youth of Uzziah when Amaziah died. He was only five years old when Amaziah died. They seem to have deferred making him king until he was sixteen. In other words, there was a regency for that period of eleven years. Now, that is the only chronological difficulty in the whole period and it is not a very serious one.
Amaziah's son, Uzziah, at a very tender age became king and he reigned fifty-two years. That is a long period, over half a century. The record about it is very fine on a number of points. While he did not destroy the high places, he did walk in the ways of David so far as relates to the worship of Jehovah in the appointed place in the Temple. He was a great builder of fortifications and towns and cities. One thing said about him constitutes a fine text: He loved husbandry. In his wars he had conquered a fine section of country, very fruitful, all the Philistine country clear on to the entrance of Egypt and that Negeb, or south country, from the days of Isaac was remarkable for the yield of its crops. It is said of Isaac that he reaped a hundredfold, i.e., if he sowed one bushel of wheat, he would reap a hundred bushels from that one. Uzziah devoted a great deal of attention to matters of that kind. He was very successful in his wars, not only against Philistia but against the Arabians and against the Ammonites. He became exalted in his power.
In 2 Kings 14:28-29 we have a summary of the reign of Jeroboam and an account of his death. The condition of Syria during the reign of Jeroboam II was one of weakness and consequent inactivity. The great kings had come and gone, and some weak monarchs sat on the throne which had been almost crushed by Assyria, and was in no position to oppress Israel. This gave Jeroboam II his opportunity. Being a great man, an able general and administrator he carried the boundaries of northern Israel almost as far north as David and Solomon had done, capturing all the northern part that had been taken by Syria. He retook all eastern Palestine as far as the land of Moab, and likewise he recaptured the land of Moab that had revolted and freed itself from the dynasty of Omri. The extent of his kingdom was almost as great as that of David's with the exception, of course) of southern Israel, and with this great extension of his kingdom there was a great influx of wealth and prosperity. The depression of the three reigns preceding was followed by an abundance of prosperity and the result was a corresponding excess of luxury and sin. Their prosperity produced all the evils of civilization, and they went to excess with it. Jeroboam died and after an interregnum of twenty-two years, was succeeded by his son Zechariah. This interregnum is determined by comparing 2 Kings 14:23 and 2 Kings 15:1, 2,8.
1. What was the character of Jehoash?
2. What was Elisha's encouraging prophecy on his deathbed, and what incidents of its delivery?
3. Who succeeded Joash and what was his character?
4. What was his policy, and where in the book of Moses is found the statement which occurs in 2 Kings 14:6 and 2 Chronicles 25:4, and how do you harmonize this passage in Deuteronomy with the killing of Achan's sons, Naboth's sons, and Ahab's sons?
5. What was the last miracle of Elisha and why this miracle?
6. Notwithstanding the sins of Israel what the Lord's dealings with them and why, what change occurred just at this time in Syria, and what prophecy of Elisha was here fulfilled?
7. What were Amaziah's plans against Edom, what was the result of each step taken and what can you say of the cruelty of Judah?
8. How did the Israelitish mercenaries deport themselves when sent back?
9. What was Amaziah's further wickedness, what was his warning and how did he receive it?
10. Recite the account of the war between Amaziah and Jehoash, and what was the parable of Jehoash and its application, what was the result and what is the modern name of stealing?
11. Who succeeded Jehoash and what was his character?
12. What were the possibilities of Jeroboam II, and what did he accomplish for Israel?
13. What prophet comes in here, what was his commission and how did he receive and discharge it?
14. Give an account of the death of Amaziah.
15. What of the interregnum in Judah here and how does the author determine it?
16. Uzziah what was his other name, how was he made king, how long his reign, and how does it compare with the reigns of others?
17. What of his character and prosperity and wherein did he fail?
18. During his prosperous years what (1) of his building of Eloth, (2) of his success of war, (3) of his building and husbandry, (4) of his army, (5) of his fame?
19. Give an account of the death of Jeroboam II.
20. What of the interregnum here in Israel and how determined by the author?
THE REIGNS OF UZZIAH, JOTHAM, AND THAZ (OF JUDAH) AND ZECHARIAH, SHALLUM, PEKAHIAH, AND PEKA (OF ISRAEL)
2 Kings 15:1 to 16:20; 2 Chronicles 26:16 to 28:17
In this chapter we begin with the brief reign of Zechariah who was the last king of the dynasty of Jehu. He was a weakling preceded by four strong men, but himself very inferior to his predecessors. Zechariah reigned only six months, and during that six months we have the same story of sin and corruption repeated as we have had in all the reigns previous to him. He was murdered by a usurper named Shallum, and thus ends the dynasty of Jehu as had been prophesied: that his children to the fourth generation only should sit upon the throne.
Then follows the brief reign of Shallum. The usurper succeeds in removing Zechariah and seizes the throne. His reign is short lived, but during that time we have an even more terrible picture of the condition of the people as described in the book of Hosea, chapters 4 to 14. It is during this period and after, that Hosea gives us the bulk of his prophecy. In Hosea 10:3, referring to one of these revolutions when the dynasty was changed, we find this statement: "Surely now shall they say, We have no king; for we fear not the Lord; and the king, what can he do for us?" which indicates that the people felt themselves without a king. They cared not for God nor for the king. The kingdom was without a head) without a central government, the result of such condition of affairs is the anarchy which he describes. In Hosea 4:1-2 we have a catalogue of the sins of the people: "Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel; for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land; nought but swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery; they break out, and blood toucheth blood." So frequent were the murders that the blood of one is not dried up before another one takes place and there is a continuous stream of blood.
Next comes the brief reign of Menahem, who seized the throne through murder, destroyed all the dynasty preceding him, and the brief statement made in regard to his character would indicate that he was a man, barbarous in his ferocity, a murderer and a relentless freebooter.
The record tells us that when Uzziah was exalted, his heart was lifted up with pride, and he assumed to perform the functions of the priesthood. He thrust himself into the Temple to offer the incense which the law placed in other hands. There the priest met him, bravely stood in the way of that offering, and while the spirit of persistence was upon him, God smote him with leprosy, and from the day that leprosy struck him he had to be isolated from the throne and the people and though he lived years afterward a regency was established by his son, Jotham. It is called Uzziah's reign, but Jotham acted as king until his leprosy killed him.
In 2 Kings 15:19-20 and 1 Chronicles 5:26 we find that Pul, king of Assyria, or the great Tiglath-Pileser, approaches the Northern Kingdom, and Menahem had to pay a large tribute in order to maintain his kingdom, a thousand talents of silver: "And Menahem exacted the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria, so the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land." Thus he was able to maintain his throne and kingdom by paying Tiglath-Pileser a heavy tribute. Then follows the reign of Pekahiah, the son of Menahem. He was a little improvement upon his father. In a short time he was himself butchered by Pekah who seized the throne and established another dynasty. His character was in line with. the other kings of Israel in general: "He departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat."
About this time Uzziah died. It is notable that he was buried "in the field of burial with his fathers, for they said, He was a leper." Just at this time, Isaiah, the greatest of Old Testament prophets, had his vision, and also the prophetic work of Amos and Hosea of Israel and Micah of Judah falls in this period. From these prophets we get a fine description of the customs and practices of this time.
Upon the death of Uzziah, his son Jotham, reigned in his stead. His mother's name was Jerusha, the daughter of Zadok. His character was ahead of any other king in the period except Hezekiah. He didn't put down the high places, but he didn't commit particular sins to aggravate the condition of the people. He carried forward some important building enterprises. He built the upper gate of the Temple, the wall of Ophel, cities in the hill country of Judah and castles and towers in the forest. He was also successful in war with the Ammonites who paid him large tribute.
During the reign of Pekah several things happened. The kingdom was now nearing its end and we read that Pul, the great Assyrian king approached eastern Palestine, conquered it, deported the entire population "and brought them unto Halah, and Habor and Hara, and to the river of Gozan," and there they remained. Tiglath-Pileser was the first of the great Assyrians that inaugurated the system of deporting a rebellious people, thus rendering them powerless to oppose him. He picked them up, and transported them to other countries, and brought in others to take their places, simply transferred whole nations. Thus all eastern Palestine had gone into exile.
We now come to Ahaz and the whole picture is black. He reigned sixteen years and he crowded into that time as much meanness, vileness, as a man can put into sixteen years. Let us glance at the record itself to see some of the things that he did. In the sketch of his character it is said, "He did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord his God, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree." There was a confederacy formed against him to which the prophets give particular notice. The king of Israel and the king of Syria entered into an alliance to destroy Judah. Here the prophet Oded comes in and the record says, "Behold, because the Lord, the God of your fathers, was wroth with Judah, he hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage which hath reached up unto heaven. And now ye purpose to keep the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you: but are there not even with you trespasses of your own against the Lord your God?" You acted as the sword of God against Judah. Ought it not to put you to thinking that God would make some other nation the sword against you? 'Spurgeon has a great sermon on that text: "Are there not even with you trespasses of your own against the Lord your God?" Spurgeon preached his sermon to those harsh censorious people who with an eye of a buzzard can detect anything fowl, or dead, or decaying in the character of other people, and he made this charge in the sermon: "You that condemn others, you who are so ready to pass a harsh and inexorable judgment upon them, are there not even with you some trespasses against the Lord your God?" Our Lord carried out the thought thus: "What judgment ye mete unto others shall be measured unto you." Not only was Ahaz smitten by this confederacy from the north, but the Edomites on the south revolted against him; on every side the enemies came in and smote him.
Now we come to his next sin. Instead of turning to God with repentance and asking the Lord to help him he seeks an alliance with Tiglath-pileser, the king of Assyria, and invites him to smite Syria for a consideration: "Now I will foot the bills." In order to foot the bills he strips the house of God of all of its precious ornaments and with that gold he buys the service of the Assyrian king to smite the Syrians and the Assyrian was ready enough to do the smiting. He had an eye in that direction already and he did smite, but he demanded that Ahaz should come up to Damascus and pay tribute to him.
So we come to the third great sin of Ahaz. When in Damascus he studied the form of the altar of burnt offerings that the idolaters had up there and was very much pleased with it; so before he leaves he sends a plan of it to a certain priest and instructs him to make one just like it, and when he gets home he moves God's altar off to one side, and puts up this heathen altar that he had copied. He didn't stop at that; he shut up the holy place, and closed up all the services of the worship of the true God. That gives some idea of his sins.
In 2 Kings 15:29 we have the account of another terrible deportation by Tiglath-Pileser. He came "and took Ijon, and Abel-beth-maacah, and Janoah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Gilead, and Galilee, all of the land of Naphtali, and he carried them captive to Assyria." Thus we see that northern Israel was stripped of all of its land east of the Jordan and of all its land north of the plain of Esdraelon, and only the hill country of Ephraim was left, about one-tenth perhaps of the entire dominion. So the kingdom is going, falling, being stripped of its possessions gradually.
In 2 Kings 15:30-31, we have an account of the death of Pekah, which was the result of a conspiracy of Hoshea, the son of Remaliah. But between Pekah and Hoshea we find, according to good authority," another interregnum of nine years which is determined by comparing 2 Kings 15:27, 30 and 2 Kings 17:1.
1. Who succeeded Jeroboam II, and what was his character?
2. How long did he reign, what was the manner of his death, and what promise of Jehovah was fulfilled in him?
3. Who succeeded Zechariah and what was the story of his reign and death?
4. Who succeeded Shallum and what was his character?
5. What was Uzziah's sin, what was its punishment and what is meant by "several house"?
6. Who became king regent and what was his special work as such?
7. What invasion of Israel just here and what results?
8. Who succeeded Menahem, what was his character and what the manner of his death?
9. Who succeeded Pekahiah and what was his character?
10. What is notable in the death and burial of Uzziah, what great prophet had his vision in the year of Uzziah's death, and what other prophets came in this period?
11. Who succeeded Uzziah, who his mother and what his character?
12. What was the spiritual condition of his people, what of his building enterprises and what of his conquest and result?
13. What deportation of Israel here, who took them and where, and what the market condition of Judah at this time?
14. Who succeeded Jotham, what was his character, and what horrible thing did he practice?
15. Recite the account of the war between Ahaz and Rezin and Pekah including the account of Isaiah and the work of Oded the prophet.
16. What invasion here of Judah, what was the result and what reason assigned?
17. What distressed condition of Ahaz at this time, to what source did he turn for relief and what result?
18. What second deportation of Israel, who took them and where?
19. Recite the story of Ahaz's sacrilege and its lessons.
20. What of the interregnum
between Pekah and Hoshea and how determined by the author?
THE REIGNS OF HOSHEA (OF ISRAEL) AND HEZEKIAH (OF JUDAH)
8 Kings 16:20 to 17:41; 8 Chronicles 28:27 to 31:21
The reign of Hoshea is another new dynasty since Pekah was murdered; his dynasty has ended and Hoshea comes to the throne. Tiglath-Pileser says in his inscriptions that it was at his instigation that Hoshea rose up against Pekah and murdered him, and that it was upon his word that Hoshea was placed upon the throne and established there. So say the monumental inscriptions. This is the last dynasty and the last king in this awful history of the downfall of Israel. We come now to look at the first six years of the reign of Hezekiah. From this part of his reign we gather the following points:
First of all, let us look at his character as described thus: "He did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made, for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. For he clave to the Lord, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments which the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him and he prospered whithersoever he went forth." On Sunday night when I was a young pastor in Waco, I announced that as my text, "Nehushtan," meaning, "It is only a piece of brass." Moses made the serpent and it served admirably for -the healing of the people, and it was right to wish to keep a memorial of such a marvelous thing as the deliverance from the snakes in the desert, but there is a spirit in the world to worship the antique, to gather relics and to worship them, and so in later days that happened. The serpent that Moses had made became an object of worship. It became one of their gods. Now Hezekiah says, "It is just a piece of brass," and he brake it in pieces. In the sermon I applied that to the misuses that are made of baptism and the Lord's Supper; that when a priest stands over a wafer and mumbles a few words and says to the bread, "Thou art my God," then it is time to say, "It is just a piece of bread"; time to say, "Nehushtan," and when a man magnifies baptism until he finds the remission of his sins in a pool of water, and when it becomes such a sacrament that just to touch a wet finger to the brow of an unconscious babe will make it a member of Christ, then it is time to say, "Nehushtan." That was the direction of my sermon.
Now let us see the great things done by Hezekiah. In his reformation he destroyed those high places throughout the whole country, so that Jehovah only was worshiped. Second, he destroyed not only the brazen serpent but he brought about a widespread spirit of iconoclasm. "Icon" means an image, and "Iconoclast," an image breaker. One of the most notable features of the revolts against the Spaniards and against Rome in the lower countries was that the Iconoclasts came to the front. Crosses, images, anything in the world that men bow down to and worship violates the command, "Thou shall not make unto thee any graven image and bow down before it to worship it"; all these the Iconoclasts broke to pieces. It intensified the bitterness between the Protestants in the Low Country and the Spaniards, and there were periods of Iconoclastic outbreakings in many other countries, but Hezekiah determined so far as he was concerned in the sense of his responsibility to God that no image however sacred in its memory, even as sacred as that of the brazen serpent, should be the object of worship, and to prevent it he would destroy the image. Image worship is exceedingly convenient. History tells us about an ancient people whose god was a piece of dough, flour dough, molded into form. There was this virtue about that god: that in a time of famine they could eat him. Isaiah uses sarcasm where he describes the image worship and how those gods were made; that having eyes they see not, and having ears they hear not. Bob Ingersoll was fond of quoting rather than originating the saying, "A god is the noblest work of man." In other words, he was saying that gods are made by men, and not men by gods. Well, anyhow, the gods that men make are not deities and we should break them as fast as we come to them.
The next thing that he did was to cleanse and renovate the Temple, inasmuch as his father had defiled it by putting in a new altar and closing up the holy place and breaking up all the services. So Hezekiah cleansed the Temple with great formality and publicity, and then reconsecrated it to the service of God. He put all of its furniture back into its proper place. He revised every important part of the worship, even the service of music. He re-established the Levitical choir and the Levitical instruments of praise and the use of the psalter was in existence before Hezekiah's time. Then as the clouds were darkening around the Northern Kingdom, as their doom was impending, he sent out an invitation to all the true worshipers of God in the Northern Kingdom inviting them to come and join him in the great passover to be celebrated according to the law of Moses, and the record tells us that a multitude of the Northern Kingdom did come and align themselves with him in the observance of the Passover, and in connection with that we have this Scripture: "A multitude of the people even men of Ephraim and Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written; but Hezekiah prayed for them saying, The Lord God pardon every one, that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary, and the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people." I call attention to that passage particularly on account of the use made of it by pedobaptists in replying to Baptists on the subject of communion. They say, "You Baptists insist upon the water cleansing before communion; that a man should not partake of the communion unless there has been the previous ablution of baptism. And as the communion was established on a Passover occasion it meant a transition from the Passover of the Old Testament to the Lord's Supper of the New Testament, and as here in the days of Hezekiah were people who did partake of the Passover not according to the law, and God forgave them, so it ought to be in the communion." The Baptist reply to it is, "You should not plead in defense of a custom of historical violation of the law, confessed to be a violation of the law, confessed to be a sin, a sin that had to be presented to God and for which pardon had to be obtained. Your Hezekiah case is against you." So the Baptists have the best of it in this case.
Following that Passover he kept an additional seven days and this is said about it: "So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem. Then the priests and the Levites arose and blessed the people; and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to the holy dwelling place, even unto heaven." To me this account of the reformation wrought by Hezekiah has always been a most interesting section of the Bible to read and a most profitable one. I never read it without being impressed in my mind profoundly with the good that comes in going back to the first principles, in going back to God's written word and there on the strength of that word sending up a petition to the throne of grace for mercy and being convinced that mercy and help and the power of God will come down upon us.
The next item in his reformation is that he restores all the original Levitical services and the whole tithe system for the support of those services. Now that is all I have to say here about the reign of Hezekiah.
We learn from the prophets that three mighty natural events occurred in this period. In 1:1 we have the statement that Amos commenced his prophecy in the second year before the great earthquake. There was an earthquake that figured in the memory of the people for a long time. In Zechariah 14 a much later prophecy, we find a reference to that great earthquake that came to pass during this period. Then in Amos 8:9 we have an account of an eclipse of the sun at midday which took place in this period, about 763 B.C. The sun went down at noon. That eclipse is not only mentioned in the Bible, but we find in the inscriptions on the monuments raised by neighboring nations a reference to that eclipse at that very date. Not only that, but modern astronomers by a mathematical calculation prove that just at that date an eclipse became visible to all parts of Palestine, a total eclipse of the sun.
Another great event that occurred during this period was the visit of the locusts set forth in Joel, one of the most vivid descriptions in human literature. There is much literature on the subject of locust plagues, from Moses' account of them in the plague on Pharaoh to the latest account by travelers in Africa, but Joel's description is the most remarkable in the world, except the one in Revelation which is a plague of symbolic locusts.
In connection with the reigns of Uzziah, Ahaz, and Hezekiah there comes out on the stage the greatest of the prophets. The most evangelistic of all the prophets, Isaiah. The record tells us that he wrote the latter part of the history of Uzziah. Now it is in Isaiah particularly that we find the best description of the moral condition of the people during this period.
Now let us turn to Hoshea and the Northern Kingdom. In order to maintain the integrity of his kingdom, Hoshea pays tribute to Tiglath-Pileser. On the death of Tiglath-Pileser and the ascendancy of Shalmaneser he continues to pay a heavy tribute: "Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria, and Hoshea became his servant and brought him presents," which means the paying of heavy tribute. He might have been secure upon his throne for years had he continued to pay this tribute, but he did not. He began to conspire with Egypt to throw off the yoke of Shalmaneser: "And the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to the king of Egypt, and offered no presents to the king of Assyria as he had done year by year." He conspired with the king of Egypt and refused to pay his tribute to Shalmaneser. This is the occasion of the downfall of Hoshea and of the end of the Northern Kingdom. Shalmaneser at once set in motion his armed force. Samaria is encompassed and besieged, and after a terrible siege with all the horrors attendant upon a siege in that country and age, Samaria fell into the hands of Shalmaneser. Shalmaneser dies and is succeeded by Sargon who captures Samaria and deports the inhabitants, and he says in one of his inscriptions that he carried off 27,290 people and placed them in the land of Assyria, leaving only the poorer classes in the country. This occurred in 722 B.C., the date of the fall of Samaria, and the end of the Northern Kingdom. We have the causes which led to it pictured in the prophecies of Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah. Hoshea's conspiring with Egypt and refusing to pay tribute to Assyria is the occasion for the destruction of the kingdom.
Notice the repeopling of the country: "And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Awa, and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof." Now notice that the population is so scattered that the wild animals increase, the lions become so plentiful that they devour them, and the people feel that they haven't the right god. They do not know the god of these hills, and they want to be taught how to worship him in the right way. So they appeal to the king of Assyria and he sends them a priest to teach them how to worship the good of this land, and the result is that we have a mixture, a conglomeration, a mongrel race, and a mongrel religion, described thus: "Howbeit every nation made gods of their own, and put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt. . . . They feared the Lord and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away." They feared Jehovah whom they thought to be the god of this hill country, but they served other gods. So we have the strange mixture of these people brought from the various parts of Assyria, Jews who were residents of Israel, and all these other various forms of gods mixed up with Jehovah worship, a strange mixture indeed. These were the forerunners, or ancestors of the Samaritans, whom we find in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and in the New Testament. We know something of their attitude toward Israel. They have remained there from the time they were transported by Sargon unto this day, and today there is a colony of them there, about one hundred and seventy people, the remnant of this old mongrel race. They still have their old customs, their patriarchs, the Pentateuch, the law of Moses, and they keep the sabbath even more strictly than the Pharisees did. This closes the history of northern Israel.
1. Who was the last king of Israel and what was his character?
2. Who was king of Judah when Israel was carried into captivity and what was his character?
3. What did he do that no other king had done since the division of the kingdom?
4. What relic of Moses was worshiped by Israel and what did he do with it?
5. In what particulars did his religious reformation consist?
6. What were the essential points in the cleansing of the Temple?
7. Describe the reconsecration service.
8. Describe his keeping of the Passover, (1) as to the preparation, (2) as to celebration, (3) as to other seven days, (4) as to the results.
9. What were the essential points in Hezekiah's further religious
10. What three remarkable events fall within this period and what their significance? .
11. What great prophet comes on the stage here and what was his greatest characteristic? , .
12. What was his relation to Uzziah and to this period of history!
13. What was the condition of Israel at this time, how did Hoshea try to extricate himself and what was the result?
14. Who was the king of Assyria at this time and where did he carry the children of Israel? .
15. What were the sins of Israel for which they were carried away into captivity? . .
16. What were God's efforts to save them from their sins and what were the results?
17. How was Samaria repeopled?
18. What was their idea of God? 19 How did God rebuke the disregard of him by the new inhabitant?
20. What of the mixed character of the religion of the Samaritans?
THE REIGN OF HEZEKIAH
2 Kings 18:7 to 20:21; 2 Chronicles 32:1-33
In the preceding chapter we have briefly considered the first six years of the reign of Hezekiah noting particularly the great religious reformation wrought by him.
Now we are going to consider the reign of Hezekiah after the Northern Kingdom was destroyed. The first thing for us to do is to get clearly before our minds the prevalent political relations of the time. Syria which had been a powerful factor, has gone out of sight, and Assyria with its capital at Nineveh was now the great northern power. We have seen that Assyrian power destroy the Northern Kingdom and in the days of Ahaz we have seen an alliance between Assyria and Ahaz. Ahaz appealed to the Assyrian king to help him against Israel and Syria. Now when the Assyrian king, for his own purpose, entered into this alliance and destroyed both Syria and Israel, he naturally wanted Judah also, and we have seen that Ahaz became tributary to the Assyrian king. Ahaz king of Judah was the father of Hezekiah who inherited from this wicked father this subordination to the Assyrian king paying tribute to him. Now, on the south, Egypt, which had varied fortunes from be-fore the days of Abraham, was once more a great world power; so we see the little kingdom of Judah, with Hezekiah at the head of it, as a grain of corn between an upper and a nether millstone. Judah lies right in the path between Egypt and Assyria. The Assyrian king wanted Judah, not only to guarantee the safety of his possessions in the Northern Kingdom, but also as a base from which to strike his rival, the kingdom of Egypt, and the king of Egypt wanted Judah as a base for striking the king of Assyria. That is the political relation, except that Just now was rising at Babylon a power that would absorb Assyria. It had not come largely to the front yet, but it was coming fast, and when it did come to the front as the world power there was no Assyria, and the two powers then were Egypt and Babylon, and Egypt and Babylon bad Judah in between them. Now that is a glance at the chief political relations.
Subordinate political relations are these: Philistia, of course, never altogether conquered, was there as a thorn in the side of Judah. Edom, or Esau, to the south, was also a thorn in the side of Judah. And various governments of Arabia the Ishmaelitish descendants were ready at any time to strike a blow at Judah. In the same way Moab and Ammon descendants of Lot to the east of the Dead Sea, were ready to strike at Judah. Then there was Tyre and Phoenicia, another great world power, which had been for a long time, ever since the days of Hiram and even before Hiram's time, and the later history of Judah will have much to do with Phoenicia and not on the friendly terms that it had with Phoenicia in the days of David and Solomon.
Now the next thing to look at is the religious status at the time Hezekiah came to the throne. From the beginning the religious status in the Northern Kingdom was bad, and going all the time from bad to worse until purely on religious grounds, turning away from Jehovah, that nation was wiped out, but before it was wiped out, through the marriage of the daughter of Jezebel the queen of the Israelitish kingdom to the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah through that marriage various religious evils came into the Southern Kingdom. Now when Ahaz, a descendant of that unrighteous marriage, came to the throne, he, on becoming tributary to the king of Assyria, became tributary in religion as well as in territory and in political suzerainty. He adopted the gods of the people. We have then this picture: All of the high places where stone pillars and wooden images called "Asherim" were worshiped that had never been abated by the kings of Judah before Hezekiah's time. The worship of Jehovah had ceased in its songs, particularly the Davidic psalter. The door of the Temple was closed. The altar of sacrifice was removed, and the altar of a heathen god was put in its place. All of the regular servants that conducted the religious worship were either degraded from office or persuaded or compelled to become the officiating ministers at the altars of the false religion. Not merely was this so, but Ahaz had erected in the valley of Hinnom an image of Molech, the Ammonite god, and a hideous fellow he was. It was a hollow iron image with a furnace under the bottom of it and with iron arms extended, and when that furnace heated this image red hot they would worship their god by laying naked babies in the arms of that image, and to drown their cries they would beat drums and make all kinds of noise. Ahaz burned one or two of his babies that way.
Now from this valley of Hinnom we get the New Testament idea of the eternal hell, Gehenna. On account of the desecration through the worship of Molech in that valley a later curse made it the ground in which the refuse from the city was dumped and burned, and as the refuse never ceased accumulating, the decaying meats, the rotting bones, the off-scourings, fire had to be kept burning all the time, and wherever there are rotting meats there will be worms; so it became an eternal fire, and an undying worm in that valley which suggested or foreshadowed the description of the real, final hell, Gehenna, in which soul and body are destroyed, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.
Not only was this true, but they had adopted methods of ascertaining the future, sorcery, witchcraft, and in order to get a clear view of either the political or religious situation of the time we must study the contemporary prophets. I give here a passage on that idea of the religious condition from Isaiah 8. He is prophesying concerning this very period: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? on behalf of the living, should any seek unto the dead? To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." The old Mosaic law had taken cognizance of the disposition of the people to make inquisition concerning the future from the alleged spirits of the dead. Just as in modern times people through rappings and mediums and trances try to find out the state of their own departed and their own prospects in the future world. It is an awful offense against God.
In addition to this is another innovation, and I am not right sure that I or anybody else fully understands the significance of it. Ahaz had constructed on the Temple steps that led up to the platform on which a shadow would fall from the sun, a dial, and it has been conjectured by many intelligent commentators that, through that shadow and that dial, he worshiped the signs of the Zodiac. The dial was put there by Ahaz. We find that Dr. Thirtle of England, in a new book entitled, Old Testament Problems, attributes an entire section of the Psalms to an incident in Hezekiah's life connected with this dial of Ahaz.
Just now we want to understand, not only the religious forms of worship, but also the moral condition of the people, and here again we get our best information from the prophets. Passages in Hosea give the immoralities of the contemporary Northern Kingdom, but having also some references to Judah, and likewise in Joel and in Amos, and considerable in Micah. Micah comes in largely in the history of Hezekiah and from his prophecy and Isaiah we find out the fearful religious and moral decadence of the people. But turning aside from other prophets, let us, as an example, consider the picture given of the times by Isaiah. In the first five chapters of Isaiah we have a summary of that condition, religious and moral, during all the period from Uzziah to Hezekiah. That is a part of the book that used this language: "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass its master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. I have smitten them until the whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint, and from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is nothing but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores." Then he gives a description of the leading women of the country. We know that from the women in high society we may get an idea of the depravity of the times. A picture of the ladies of any period is always very helpful to an understanding of that period. Here it is: "The daughters of Zion are haughty, and they walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet." We have read about the old woman That has rings on her fingers, And bells on her toes, So that she makes music Wherever she goes. These women of Judah had tinkling anklets so that every step was a jingle like a cowboy's inch-in-diameter spurs with the tags hanging to them. Isaiah goes on: "Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and Jehovah will lay bare their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, and the cauls, and the crescents; the pendants, and the bracelets, and the mufflers; the head-tires, and the ankle chains, and the sashes, and the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the rings and the nose-jewels; the festival robes, and the mantles, and the shawls, and the satchels; the hand-mirrors, and the fine linens, and the turbans, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet spices there shall be rottenness; and instead of a girdle, a rope; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a robe, a girding of sackcloth; branding instead of beauty." Now wherever that is the case among the ladies of the upper class that land is sick. We may get a view of the men from the prophetic woes denounced by Isaiah. I read these woes to U. S. Senator Coke of Waco (found in Isaiah 5). He asked me to copy for him the one relating to monopoly on land as containing a suggestion that he had never had from any other direction before and that he wanted to use.
Now that picture of woes gives us a conception of the moral condition of the time when Hezekiah began to reign. Idols on every hill, the Temple of God closed, no inquirers at the oracle of God, but looking out for witches and spirit rappers, mediums, and appealing to the dead. That was the awful state of affairs. Now when Hezekiah, the son of the wicked king came, he was more commended of God than any other king in the dynasty of David until Jesus came. It is expressly said that there was none like him before and none like him after, and that he sought the Lord with his whole heart, and when it came to political relations his policy was not diplomacy but obedience to Jehovah. Once or twice in his life he was led to turn somewhat from that but came back quickly to his old original policy, and the best diplomacy in the world is to be true to God and the principles of righteousness. Bismarck startled all the diplomats of Europe by simply telling the truth and announcing in plain language the policy of Germany. None of them believed it. They said, "Of course, he is telling a lie. All diplomats lie," and he couldn't possibly have startled them more than by using absolute candor.
Hezekiah was not only a righteous king, but he was a great poet. Isaiah preserves one of his grand poems at full length, found in Isaiah 38. Not only was he a literary genius but he revived literature. In his day there was a constellation of literary geniuses. He revived all of the great psalter of David, and particularly did he exercise himself to put in order the canon of the Scripture up to his time. A sample is found in Proverbs 25; here we have this statement: "These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah copied out." Now from chapter 25 on, all the books of Proverbs was compiled in the days of Hezekiah, and we find in another reference that which we have briefly considered in a preceding chapter, that in the same way he revised the psalms of the first two books of the psalter. The psalms of David are divided into five books. The first two books of the psalms were used as songs in the Temple in the days of Hezekiah, and the book entitled Problems of the Old Testament, by Dr. Thirtle of England, brings out more light on the days of Hezekiah and his reign than all the commentaries ever written by other men put together. It is an essential contribution to biblical literature. It explains as no other book explains, what are called the songs of degrees in the psalter. But I would have the reader take with more than a grain of salt what Dr. Thirtle's book says of the Cyrus references in the prophecy of Isaiah.
Now taking up our lesson proper, the chief events of the reign of Hezekiah, let us study them seriatim.
In 2 Kings 18:7 it says that he rebelled against the king of Assyria. Ahaz, in order to strengthen and protect himself against the coalition of Pekah king of Israel and Rezin king of Damascus, had appealed to Tiglath-Pileser the king of Assyria for protection. In order to secure that protection from the Assyrian king, Ahaz had to pay a large tribute annually, so that when Hezekiah came to the throne, there was no question but that he had also to pay annual tribute to the king of Assyria to preserve the integrity of his realm. Then he waged a successful war against the Philistines, the old enemies of Israel. They had been gaining in strength for some time. The kingdom of Israel had been somewhat weakened and now Hezekiah attacked them and completely defeated them. Why he did this we are not sure. Probably he did it in order to bring them to unite with him and the other kingdoms in throwing off the yoke of Assyria. It is certain from secular history that Hezekiah seized one of the kings of Philistia and shut him up in prison at Jerusalem because he was friendly to the king of Assyria. We find this in Sennacherib's own account of his relationship with the Philistines. But Hezekiah could not withstand Sennacherib's first invasion, and therefore he became tributary to Assyria, taking the treasures of the Temple, and cutting off the gold from the doors and pillars of the Temple, he gave them to the king of Assyria.
Now we come to consider the crisis in the life of Hezekiah; his sickness, recovery, and songs, 2 Kings 20:1-11. We don't know Just when this occurred, but probably somewhere about 711 or 710 B.C. He had been reigning about fourteen years. "Sick unto death," it says. And from what we see later in verse 7, there was a boil upon him. Bennett, in his book on the diseases of the Bible, says that it was a carbuncle. Some have maintained that it was a cancer. Thirtle believed that it was a form of leprosy. The same Hebrew word is used to describe it as is used to describe the boils on the people of Egypt. There are certain kinds of boils that appear with leprosy. So we are not sure just what the trouble was, but it was something serious. The word comes to Hezekiah, "Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die and not live." Hezekiah felt the effect of these words. It was a staggering blow. It meant that he would be cut off in the middle of his days; it meant that there would be no heir left to the throne of David; it meant that the splendid religious reformation would die out and be lost; it meant that in this critical period of Israel's life the throne would be vacant, and then what would become of the kingdom? Is it any wonder that he turned his face toward the wall and prayed? Now, what is his argument? It is this: that since he had been righteous, since he had obeyed Jehovah, since he had been true, he therefore ought to live to a ripe old age. Hezekiah thought that he was entitled to a long life, and he was in terrible gloom and despair. He presents that argument in his prayer: "Remember now, O Lord I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." The Lord heard that prayer, and as Isaiah was departing and in the midst of the city, the Lord said unto him, "Isaiah, turn again, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the Lord. And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake." That was such a gracious promise to Hezekiah, he could hardly believe it. "In three days you will go up to the house of Jehovah." Hezekiah says, "What sign will there be to assure me?" So Isaiah makes the statement that the sign shall be that the shadow of the dial of Ahaz will go forward ten or backward ten steps or degrees. And Hezekiah replies, "It is nothing for it to go forward ten steps, it will naturally go that way as the sun goes down." "All right," says Isaiah, "the shadow of the steps shall go backward ten degrees." No doubt Hezekiah could see this dial from the window of his palace. Ahaz set this sundial near his palace and evidently some sort of a pillar was arranged, so that the shadow would be cast on so many steps. We do not know how many there were, but there were more than twenty, and as the sun rose it would cast its shadow upon those steps and mark periods of time. As the sun set in the evening the shadow would be cast in a different way, and each step would mark a period of time.
Now if the shadow on those steps was sent backward, that would be a sign sufficient. How could it be possible for the shadow to be thrown backward, as if the sun were rising instead of setting? It can be explained by the laws of refraction, but it was a miracle just the same. Hezekiah saw it and doubtless he was in the Temple worshiping Jehovah in three days. Now let us consider the visitors or the ambassadors from Babylon. The record says, "At that time Merodachbaladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick." The real object was to see the condition of his kingdom, to find out Hezekiah's strength, to find out what treasures he had, and if possible to secure his co-operation in a league against Assyria, for Babylon at this time was nearly independent of Assyria, and was seeking to throw off her yoke entirely. There is no question but what that was the real object. We arc told that Hezekiah showed them all his treasures, and they were well pleased. Isaiah didn't like it and he said, "You are very courteous to them because they have come so far. They didn't come from such a great distance; you may make a league now but before very long the king of Babylon shall come and take your descendants, and all your treasures and people, your children, and shall carry them away." This was, of course, fulfilled literally within almost a hundred years.
Hezekiah accumulates great wealth and engages in many building enterprises: "Hezekiah had exceeding riches and honor." He built him treasuries for all his riches, storehouses for the increase of corn and wine, etc., stalls for beasts and flocks, provided him cities and had possession of flocks and beasts in abundance, strengthened and improved the water works around about Jerusalem making more direct the connection between the waters of Sihon and the city of David. All this indicates that Hezekiah was something like Solomon in his prosperity, wealth and enterprises, as well as in name, fame and honor.
Now we come to the revolt against Assyria and the invasion of Judah by the Assyrian king. As we have already noted, "He rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not." Somewhere about this time Hezekiah made up his mind no longer to pay tribute but to throw off the yoke of Assyria, and of course that means that the king of Assyria would at once take steps to bring him back into subjection. It means also that other nations besides Hezekiah's would throw off the yoke, and Assyria makes a swift march to Palestine along the coast down to Philistia, and there gains a great victory over the Philistines. We see that from his situation there in Philistia he sent an army and captured all the cities and villages of Judah except Jerusalem, and in Sennacherib's own record we have this statement: "But Hezekiah of Judah, who had not submitted to my yoke forty-six of his fenced cities and fortresses, and small towns in their vicinity without number, by breaking them out with battering rams, and the bows of . . . and the strokes of axes and hammers, I besieged and took 200,150 persons, small and great, male and female, horses, mules, asses, camels, large cattle, small cattle, without number, I brought forth from the midst of them, and counted as spoil. As for Hezekiah himself, like a bird in a cage, in Jerusalem, his royal city, I shut him up. I threw up forts against him, and whoever would come out of the gates of the city I turned back. As for Hezekiah himself the fear of the glory of my sovereignty overwhelmed him; and the Arabs and his other allies, whom he had brought to strengthen Jerusalem, the city of his royal residence, deserted him. Thirty talents of gold, and eight hundred talents of silver, . . . great stores of lapis-lazuli,. couches of ivory, arm-chairs of ivory [covered] with elephant's hide, ivory tusks, ussu wood, and the like, an immense treasure, and his daughters, his palace women, men singers, women singers, to Nineveh, my royal city, I made him bring, and for the delivery of the tribute, and rendering homage, he sent his ambassador."
Allowing for the boastfulness of the Assyrian, there is still a great difference between the account of Sennacherib and the sacred writer. In some respects however, they supplement each other.
The Bible account says, "And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold." The difference in the quantity of silver may be accounted for by a difference in the size of the talent. The sacred writer omits the other items including the deportation of over 200,000 inhabitants. He merely says that he came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them. Thus we find fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in an earlier chapter. Assyria is God's hired razor that will shave all the cities of Judah except Jerusalem, and will overwhelm it and overflow it right up to the neck, leaving Jerusalem alone (Isa. 7:20; 8:7-8).
Hezekiah takes great precautions against the onslaught of the Assyrian. When he saw that Sennacherib had come he at once began to strengthen Jerusalem; to see that the water supply was made good. He cut off all the outward sources of water and brought them within the walls of the city, reorganized the army, stirred up his people and made them ready for the attack of the Assyrians. That was a terrible time. The Assyrians were near and what did that mean? The Assyrian with his invincible host! The people would be in a panic all around the country, the strangers and stragglers would come into the city, soldiers would come from there and the couriers would come from the Philistine Plain, and the whole people was in a state of turmoil and anguish.
Very soon word comes that they are coming up the defiles, and quickly the large army of Assyria appears before the walls of Jerusalem, and the choice valleys around are filled with foreign soldiers. Sennacherib sends three of his officers, one of whom was a great diplomat. Hezekiah is within his palace) Isaiah within his home, the army is before the city walls, and three messengers of Hezekiah are at the wall to hear the chief of the officers sent by Sennacherib Rabshakeh. He is an Assyrian, he has been trained in her schools, he knows three languages, he is a master in the art of diplomacy, and here is a great opportunity for him to try his skill; he stands before the walls and makes his speech. Hezekiah's men give him no answer. They have Isaiah's words that Jerusalem should be saved. He had prophesied two or three times that the Assyrian would be destroyed, before he could make his onslaught on Jerusalem.
The officers of Jerusalem said to Rabshakeh, "Don't talk to us in the Jews' language; talk to us in the Syrian language," but Rabshakeh pays no attention to this; he cries out to the shrinking people in the Hebrew language, showing that he is a skilled diplomat and master of several languages. He says to them, "Hearken not to Hezekiah; for thus saith the king of Assyria, Make your peace with me, and come out to me, and eat ye every one of his vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one of the waters of his own cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and of honey." That is a fine stroke of diplomatic reasoning to induce them to surrender. It would have its effect on the multitude. The ambassadors on the walls went back weeping and told Hezekiah. Hezekiah rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, and went to the house of Jehovah. Then he sent for the prophet. What does he say? "This is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of contumely: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth." Faith has come to its trying moment and it seems as if it were going to fail. How many a man's faith has sustained him till the crisis comes and then fails him. Isaiah has been prophesying for years that the Assyrian shall be destroyed. He says, "It is all right. I will put a spirit in him [Sennacherib], and he will hear a rumor and will leave Jerusalem and go out to his own land," He will hear something about the condition of his empire somewhere else and he will start for home. That has been done more than once. Charlemagne once left his campaign in Spain and hurried home because of a rumor that he had heard. Napoleon did this three times ostensibly because of a rumor. He pretended to have retreated from Moscow because he had heard a rumor from Paris.
Sennacherib finds that his schemes fail and that Hezekiah will not surrender. He learns also that Tirhakah, the king of Ethiopia, is coming up against him, and he sends a letter to Hezekiah, "Now there is no use in your trusting in Jehovah. You had better surrender and save your people." Hezekiah takes the letter into the house of God and lays it upon the altar before the Lord. He prays to God, he has faith, he has been buoyed up by Isaiah, that masterful spirit. It is a critical period. Isaiah now speaks one of his fearful prophecies against him: "Woe unto thee that spoilest, and thou was not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they deal not treacherously with thee: when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee." A critical moment in the life of Hezekiah is on, one of the turning points in the history is before us. Isaiah is still prophesying that Israel will be saved and Assyria shall be destroyed. What is the result? Sennacherib with his large army retreats from Jerusalem, is marching toward Egypt to meet Tirhakah who is advancing against him with a large army. He advances toward that awful stretch of country near Pelusium, a place of disease and death, where whole armies have been destroyed by pestilences or overwhelmed in the sands of the desert. The account says an angel of the Lord in one night blew a blast of death over his army, and in the morning 185,000 lay dead, and the rest hurried with Sennacherib at their head, back to Assyria. This is one of the great events of history, and one of the victories of faith. Psalms 46-48 were probably written in commemoration of this event: "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." Beautiful and precious psalms are they. Israel is saved, the Assyrian army is destroyed, one of the turning points in the history of God's people, and in the history of the world has been passed, and all because of one man's faith) one man who believed in God and was steadfast in his faith.
1. What were Judah's chief political relations at the fall of the Northern Kingdom?
2. What subordinate political relations?
3. What religious status in the time of Hezekiah?
4. What New Testament reference to this time? Explain fully.
5. What was their method of ascertaining the future and what prophetic proof?
6. What says the author here about the dial of Ahaz?
7. Where do we find a summary of the condition, religious and moral, from Uzziah to Hezekiah and what conditions therein described?
8. What was Hezekiah's policy? Illustrate.
9. What literary accomplishments of Hezekiah?
10. What book on this section commended?
11. What were Hezekiah's first successes in war?
12. What his disease, how cured and was it a "faith cure'"?
13. What is the meaning of "Set thy house in order"?
14. Is it right to crave to live?
15. Is it right to ask a token of God and what difference between faith and assurance?
16. What scheme of BerodachBeladan and what condition that made the success of the scheme possible?
17. What was Isaiah's rebuke to Hezekiah and what was his prophecy concerning Judah?
18. What precautions of Hezekiah against Sennacherib's second invasion?
19. What were Hezekiah's building enterprises?
20. What was Rabshakeh's message and what the reply?
21. What was Rabshakeh's further insolence and what despair of Hezekiah's ministers?
22. What did Hezekiah do and what result?
23. What was Sennacherib's next step and Hezekiah's response?
24. What was God's answer to Hezekiah and the fulfilment?
THE REIGNS OF MANASSEH, AMON, AND JOSIAH
2 Kings 21:1 to 23-30; 2 Chronicles 33:1 to 35:27
We take up in this chapter the reigns of Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. We saw at the close of the last chapter the complete vindication of Isaiah as a prophet, the miraculous deliverance of Judah and Jerusalem from the hand of the Assyrians by the destruction of the army, and the apparent triumph of the principles of right and of good in the kingdom of Judah, the continued prosperity of the reign of Hezekiah, and the paramount influence of the prophet Isaiah.
One would naturally expect a period of great religious revival and national prosperity to follow such a good king as Hezekiah; that he would leave an heir worthy of his name, also that Judah would now enter upon a long career of prosperity and ascendancy among the nations of the world. But we must not deceive ourselves as to the condition of the people in Judah and Jerusalem. We read in Isaiah a description of the people: "In that day did the Lord God of Hosts, call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: and, behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we may die." There is still an utter absence of faith in Jehovah: "And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts. Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, said the Lord God of Israel." We see by this that the masses of the people were still practically incorrigible in their religious deterioration. "Wherefore, the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men, therefore behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people." These passages give a little glimpse into the inner life of the people. But the magnificent work of Isaiah and the goodness of Hezekiah have had one splendid result, viz: Judah and Jerusalem have been saved from the yoke of the Assyrians. They are now free and for many years they pay no tribute to that foreign power.
Manasseh was twelve years old when he came to the throne and his was the longest reign fifty and five years of any king of Judah. Uzziah reigned fifty-two years altogether. We would expect a good boy to be raised up in such a home as that of Hezekiah, but instead, he was just the opposite of his father in almost every respect, which shows that, perhaps, even in the palace of Jerusalem there was a taint of Baal worship and there were those who adhered to it and taught it to the young prince. The description of Manasseh's reign is terrible. The idolatrous party attains the ascendancy almost as soon as he comes to the throne, and Manasseh begins at once to undo all the work that had been done by Isaiah and Hezekiah. There is a great revival of idolatry. We are reminded of Revelation 20: 1-10, the first resurrection representing a great revival of righteousness throughout the world as if there were life from the dead, and the second resurrection the loosing of Satan ushering in a revival of evil. This is on a small scale the same thing. Notice what Manasseh did: "For he built again the high places which Hezekiah destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made an Asherah" an image representing the female deity, the worship of which was really licentiousness. He worshiped all the hosts of heaven, something apparently new among those kings. Probably this kind of worship was imported from Assyria or from Babylon, quite probably from Babylon. We recall that Ahaz imported something from Damarcus, a new style of altar. Now Manasseh imports the new system of worship of the hosts of heaven from Assyria or Babylon. He built altars in the house of Jehovah, equaling Ahaz in his desecration of that sacred place. He built altars for all the hosts of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord, "And he made his son to pass through the fire, and practiced augury, and used enchantments, and dealt with them that had familiar spirits, and with wizards" went after the fortunetellers, which is about as sure a sign of the deterioration of character as we find. It is a great offense against Almighty God to go to these people to find out his will, when he has given right ways of finding it out. "And he set the graven image of Asherah, that he made, in the house of which the Lord said to David and to Solomon his son. In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name forever." Thus we see the idol worship re-established in Judah with its center in the Temple, and the result is: "And Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, so that they did evil more than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel."
Next we notice the change of rulers in Assyria. Sennacherib was slain by his two sons in an insurrection that was intended to place a new monarch on the throne of Assyria. They escaped, and after five months of insurrection and revolt and disturbance Esarhaddon, another son, took his place upon the throne. We are told in one of the lists of Esarhaddon that Manasseh king of Judah paid him tribute. We are not sure just when Manasseh began to pay tribute, but in one of his western expeditions Esarhaddon must have come close to Judah and Jerusalem, and Manasseh in order to keep his throne, began to pay him regular tribute. How long he did this we are not told, but we know that Esarhaddon conquered Egypt with all the western states of Asia and made them pay tribute, and we know also that when his son succeeded him upon the throne, that was a signal for a general revolt among those nations, and it seems almost certain that Manasseh was one of those who revolted and refused to pay tribute. As a consequence Manasseh was taken captive by the king of Assyria and led away in chains to Babylon. During all this time there were some servants of God, prophets, warning him: "And the Lord spake by his servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold I bring such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, and whosoever hears of it, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will cast off the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies." That was to be the result of Manasseh's idolatry and wicked reign. The doom is settled, the fate of Jerusalem is inevitable. The seeds of idolatry have been sown in the people's hearts, and so grown in their hearts and lives that they are incorrigible and salvation is impossible. It is possible for a nation to go so far into sin that God must withdraw his mercy from it; it is also possible for an individual to go so far that even the Spirit of God cannot stem the tide of evil within him.
As a result of this rebellion Manasseh is taken captive by the king of Assyria, and as a result of his captivity and imprisonment Manasseh comes to himself and repents. When he was in distress "He sought the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers and he prayed unto him." In the Apocrypha we have that prayer. Here is a part of it: O Lord Almighty, that art in heaven, thou God of our fathers, of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed. . . . Thou, O Lord, according to thy great goodness hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against thee: and of thine infinite mercies hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. Thou therefore, O Lord, thou art the God of the just, hast not appointed repentance to the just, to Abraham, and Jacob, which have not sinned against thee. But thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions are multiplied, O Lord: my transgressions are multiplied and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of iniquities. . . . I have provoked thy wrath and done that which is evil in thy sight. I did not thy will neither kept I thy commandments. . . . I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching thee of grace; I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities: but, I humbly beseech thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquities." That prayer may or may not be genuine, but it certainly is a penitent one. It is not an inspired prayer. Manasseh was restored to his kingdom on his pledge of fealty and payment of tribute to the Assyrian monarch, for under no other conditions would an Assyrian king release him and restore him to his kingdom.
Now he seeks to undo in the rest of his life all the evil that he had done. He builds the outer wall of the city of David, which had doubtless been thrown down or injured by the Assyrians. He compassed about Ophel, which is the southeastern division of the city of Jerusalem, put captains in all the fenced cities of Judah, "And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. And he built up the altar of the Lord, and offered thereon sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel." But it was too late. Manasseh died, having to some extent redeemed the evil of his early reign, but was not buried in the sepulchers of the kings. During that terrible revival of idolatry and of evil, there was a severe persecution against all the righteous people, especially the prophets, so severe that the blood of the prophets and righteous people was spilled like water in Jerusalem. During that period, tradition says, Isaiah was sawn asunder. It is a tradition which goes far back, and is probably true. Thus during that terrible persecution in the reign of Manasseh, Isaiah met his death.
Now we take up the reign of Amon, son of Manasseh. He reigned but two years and walked in the footsteps of his father Manasseh, kept up the idolatrous worship, promulgated heathenism, learned no lessons from his father's sins, repentance, remorse, and reformation, and at the end of two years by means of a palace insurrection not an insurrection among the people, but a palace insurrection he was put to death. Why this insurrection came, and why they sought to put Amon to death we do not know. Certainly it could not have been the work of the prophetic class, who were true to Jehovah. That class of men do not murder, and yet what class of people were there who desired the death of Amon since he favored idolatry? We have so little light that we cannot settle the question. The people at once rose up and the murderers of the king were put to death, and Josiah, only eight years old) the son of Amon was put on the throne.
So now we come to the reign of Josiah, the best of all the kings, a man against whom nothing can be said; we have a description of his character: "And he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left.
And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." But in spite of the fact that there was such a king upon the throne, as nearly perfect in character as any king ever was, the sin of Judah still remained, too deep dyed and too great to be forgiven by the Lord, though God defers the evil day till Josiah has passed from the earth. Josiah began in the eighth year of his reign to make reformations in his kingdom, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from all its high places, and the image of Asherah, and the graven images and the molten images, and brake down the altars of Baalim in his presence, and even took the bones of the priests that were buried there, and burned them upon the altars, desecrating them so that they would not use them any more. He carried on a drastic reformation as early as he was able to do so, beginning at sixteen years of age, and when twenty, redoubling his vigor. The next work was to repair the Temple. When twenty-six years of age he gave orders for it to be repaired, and the man that carried on the reformation and renovation of the Temple was Hilkiah of whom we shall speak later. Behind Josiah, working with and among the people, is another great prophet, Jeremiah. No doubt he was one of the powers behind the throne, one of the great forces which inspired Josiah to carry on his work, for in this period Jeremiah was in the first part of his career. So Josiah, helped by Hilkiah and Jeremiah, repaired the Temple, built it, rededicated it, sacrificed and kept the Passover, etc.
While that was going on one of the principal events of his reign occurred. The Temple had been desecrated for nearly forty years. It had been broken down, and now while they were repairing it, clearing away the rubbish from the altars, perhaps into the holy of holies, and to the ark of the covenant, Hilkiah the high priest found a book. It was the book of the Law given by the hand of Moses. Hilkiah at once spoke to Shaphan the scribe and handed the book to him, and Shaphan took it before the king. It is certain that the book discovered there contained the book of Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy (chapters 27-28) contains the curses that would come upon the nation (Israel) if it forsook the law of God. I have no doubt that this section was read before king Josiah, and no monarch could but tremble and shudder if he heard those words of Moses. Josiah rent his clothes, and he sent for the prophetess, Huldah. Josiah remembered that the kingdom had committed all the sins Moses here mentioned. He knew that the evils threatened must inevitably come, and that meant his kingdom and his throne would go down in utter and overwhelming shame.
They went to the prophetess, Huldah, and she said, "These things are true; they shall come to pass," but adds this: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you unto me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah; because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore is my wrath poured out upon this place, and it shall not be quenched. But unto the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel: as touching the words which thou hast heard, because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his word against this place and against the inhabitants thereof, and hast humbled thyself before me, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me, I also have heard thee, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place."
Thus Josiah trembling beneath the terrible curse that must inevitably come, had this assurance, which leaves some hope and courage in his heart, that it would not come in his day, but that he should see peace. Then what does Josiah do? The next thing is to gather together all the elders of all Judah and Jerusalem and have the book read before them. There were probably many idolatrous men among them, but when summoned thus by the king they came and on hearing the book of the law read with curses there pronounced, they concurred with Josiah and the nation thus represented, renewed its covenant with God. The old covenant that had been broken was now renewed and they vowed that they would keep his commandments and testimonies and statutes with all their heart and soul. This was an epoch in the life of Josiah and of the nation and in the life of Jeremiah also, for we find in Jeremiah 11 that it had a great effect upon his preaching. He had been prophesying several years before this, and in chapter II we see that his preaching took a new turn: "Thus saith the Lord, hear ye the words of his covenant, and speak unto the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
This furnished Jeremiah with a text, and he goes forth preaching with marvelous power on the basis of this great covenant renewed because of the finding of the Law. As soon as the Law was found Josiah carried on his reformation even more drastically than before. The work had never been completed. Now Josiah carries it to completion. Notice what he does: brings forth out of the Temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for the worship of Baal and for the Asherah and all the hosts of heaven; put down all the idolatrous priests; brought out the image of Asherah from the Temple; broke down the houses of the Sodomites where they carried on their abominations under the name of religion; degraded the priests that bad been officiating at the high places; defiled Topheth, the place where they had been causing their sons to pass through the fire to the god, Molech; took away the horses that the king of Judah had made and had given to the sun, images of horses representing a part of the idolatrous worship of some of their deities; removed all the altars and destroyed the high places and desecrated them by burning the bones of the priests thereon. It was as drastic and as complete as could be made.
But it is only outward. Josiah didn't turn the people's hearts, and Jeremiah who had been prophesying all this time at last comes to the conclusion the first man in the history of revelation that "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" And the only way that Israel could be saved was to be saved through a new covenant which would write the laws of God upon their hearts and put them in their minds.
In connection with his great reformation Josiah went to the Northern Kingdom and defiled the altar of Bethel in fulfilment of the prophecy of the old man of God who had come up from Judah and warned Jeroboam against his departure from the worship of Jehovah in going after the calves of Dan and Bethel. But he spared the old prophet's monument. Now he kept the Passover as it had not been kept for many years; he gathered together all the people of Israel far and near, even from the north. Notice in verse 7 that he "gave to the children of the people, of the flock, lambs and kids, all of them for the passover." To the poor people who could not afford it, Josiah gave offerings for the passover, "and the princes gave freewill offerings." The Passover was kept, as it had not been kept since the days of Samuel.
Now we would expect this to result in a revival, a long period of blessing and of the true worship of God, but it was only outward; it was not deep in heart; it was not lasting; Josiah did his noblest, and his name is one of the most blessed in all the annals of kings. He tried to prevent the awful doom of Judah, but "the times were out of joint," and the sin of Judah was so deep and terrible that nothing could check it. The tears of Jeremiah, the most pathetic of all the figures in prophetic history, after forty years of effort, failed to do it.
We now come to the death of Josiah. It is quite probable that Josiah had to pay tribute to the kingdom of Assyria during all his reign. Manasseh did, and it is quite probable that Josiah felt himself under obligation to the king of Assyria, and this fact may account for the strange action which led to his death. During this time Egypt had risen to power; a very able king was on the throne, Pharaoh-necoh, and the old time rivalry between Egypt and Assyria had revived. Egypt wanted all the world and Assyria wanted all the land next to hers, and those two great nations, one in the Nile Valley and the other in the Mesopotamian Valley, were always trying to conquer each other. Now Pharaoh-necho was coming up the coast of Palestine to meet the Assyrians. It seems that Josiah felt himself duty bound to help Assyria and check Pharaoh's progress, for he marched out against him to fight a little kingdom, Judah, little more than the city of Jerusalem itself against the king of Egypt. The king of Egypt warned him: "Now, don't you meddle with me. I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war; and God hath commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me: that he destroy thee not." For some reason Josiah determined to fight him and check him on his way. They met in the valley of Esdraelon, then called the valley of Megiddo; the battle was joined; Josiah, though he disguised himself, was wounded by the archers and turned about to flee to Jerusalem and died. He was cut off after a reign of not more than thirty years, in the middle of one of the most glorious and useful reigns that Judah ever witnessed. There was great grief. All Jerusalem and Judah mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah lamented sorely, and we can understand why. Jeremiah wept because he could see plainly the hope of the kingdom was gone, and the doom now was swift and sure. "All the singing men and singing women speak of Josiah in their lamentations until this day," meaning, of course, when this was written. "And they made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations." The book of Lamentations written by Jeremiah, is not referred to here; it must have been a collection of songs of that nature written and preserved. We do not possess them now, as they have been lost. It seemed that the light of Judah had gone out, and the only thing to be done was to wait patiently until the end came, and it came before very long.
1. Give a general statement of the condition of Judah at the end of Hezekiah's reign.
2. What was the result of the work of Isaiah and Hezekiah?
3. Who succeeded Hezekiah, what was his mother's name and what its meaning?
4. What was his character and work?
5. What change in the throne of Assyria during his reign?
6. What was Jehovah's message to Judah through the prophets?
7. Give an account of Manasseh's further crimes, imprisonment, and
8. What was the spiritual condition of the people at this time?
9. What of his repentance and where do we find his prayer recorded?
10. Who succeeded Manasseh and what was his character and death?
11. Who succeeded Amon, and what his character, how old was he when he began to reign and when was he converted?
12. What of his early reformation?
13. What book found m repairing the Temple and what effect of the discovery on Josiah?
14. What great prophet begins his work in this period and what other contemporaneous with him?
15. What prophetess appears here and what were her prophecies?
16. Give an account of the making of the covenant.
17. What was Josiah's further reformation?
18. Why did he send the ashes of the images of Baal to Bethel?
19. What did he do with the powder of Asherah?
20. What was the meaning of "horses given to the sun"?
21. What prophecy fulfilled in Josiah's acts at Bethel?
22. Who was the prophet "that came out of Samaria"?
23. Give an account of Josiah's passover.
24. What circumstances of Josiahs death?
THE DOWNFALL OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM
2 Kings 23:30 to 25:30; 2 Chronicles 36:1-28
We take up now the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem. The causes which led to this downfall are almost identical with the causes which led to the fall of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom: the idolatry and wickedness of the people, their departure from the worship of Jehovah, their apparent determination to pay no attention to the words of the prophets, the conspiracy of the last king, Hoshea, with Egypt and his revolt against the king of Assyria. These were the causes remote and near which led to the fall of Samaria. The same causes operated in bringing about the fall of Judah and Jerusalem: the wickedness, the perverseness, the determination and incorrigibility of the people their refusal to give heed to the voice of the prophets, especially Jeremiah, the conspiracy of the last king with Egypt to form an alliance, and his attempt to throw off the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. These are the remote and near causes which brought about the destruction of the Southern Kingdom.
Let us look at the situation at the death of Josiah. That sad event occurred in the year 608 B.C. It was a death blow to the hopes of the prophets and the prophetic party and all the righteous ones of Judah. It was a death blow to the hopes of the nation, and the sadness and mourning that resulted from the death of Josiah is suggested to us by Zechariah 12:11. Judah never forgot the death of this good king. Zechariah, prophesying of the times of the restoration and messianic age, when all Israel would repent and mourn for their sins, says, "In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon." The mourning of all Israel in the future when it shall repent of its sins and be restored is compared to the mourning of Judah at the death of Josiah.
Now let us glance at the political horizon as well. The great empire of Assyria had reached the climax of its conquests, and its oppressions, and was not hastening to its end. The Babylonian Empire had risen; they had formed a league with the Median Empire, and the two combined, with the help of many other small nations, had at last concentrated their energies upon old Nineveh, and it was soon to be destroyed.
Zephaniah 2:13-14 gives a distinct prophecy of the destruction of Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian Empire. Zephaniah lived probably in the time of Josiah, possibly earlier. Let us read what he says in his prophecy: "And he will stretch out his hand against the north, and destroy Assyria, and will make Nineveh a desolation, and dry like a wilderness. And herds shall lie down in the midst of her, all the beasts of the nations: both the pelican and the porcupine shall lodge in the capitals thereof; their voice shall sing in the windows; desolation shall be in the thresholds: for he hath laid bare the cedar work."
The entire prophecy of Nahum is on this one subject the downfall of Nineveh. Nahum is a poet, who gives a vivid description of the siege and fall of Nineveh. The world rejoiced when old Nineveh was destroyed. That occurred about 607 or 606 B.C.
Now looking more closely at Judah and Jerusalem, our first point is the Egyptian supremacy in Judah. I have called attention to the successes of Pharaohnecho, king of Egypt, and noted that it was to hinder his advance north that Josiah came out against him and was slain. Pharaohnecho pursued his victorious career north as far as the land of Hamath and conquered that country, and extended his kingdom as far north as the Euphrates River, thus subjecting all Syria to his sway and establishing his headquarters at Riblah in the valley of Hamath.
Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, was put on the throne by the people, doubtless because of his popularity. He had a reign of only three months. During these three months he was under tribute to Pharaohnecoh who had conquered all this country, and he made him prisoner and carried him away to Egypt. His older brother, Jehoiakim, was put upon the throne by Pharaoh. Jehoahaz had a brief reign and a very wicked one. His end is unspeakably sad. Jeremiah 22:10-12 gives an account of him.
Jeremiah at this time was a prophet of Judah and Jerusalem, and he was very active. Here is what he says about the end of Jehoahaz: "Weep not for the dead [that means Josiah], neither bemoan him; but weep sore for him that goeth away [Jehoahaz] ; for he shall return no more, nor see his native country. For thus saith Jehovah touching Shallum [another name for Jehoahaz] the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went forth out of this place: He shall not return thither any more; but in the place whither they have led him captive there he shall die, and he shall see this land no more."
In Ezekiel 19:3-8 we have a striking statement also. Ezekiel was in Babylon prophesying to the exiles. He says, "And she brought up one of her whelps [Judah and Jerusalem represented as a lioness]: he became a young lion, and he learned to catch the prey; he devoured men, . . ." It is Ezekiel's description of the capture of Jehoahaz, a young lion that Pharaoh caught and took away to Egypt.
Jehoiakim, two or three years his senior, was placed upon the throne by Pharaoh-necho, paid him tribute doubtless, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He was just the opposite of his father, King Josiah, in almost every particular. It seems remarkable that such good kings as Hezekiah and Josiah should have such bad sons, utterly reprobate sons, &a Manasseh and Jehoiakim, but we see that even today.
Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian, rose up in the year 608 B.C. Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, and the Medes destroyed Nineveh and left her such an utter ruin that the very place of her existence was soon forgotten. It was completely overwhelmed and devastated by the Babylonians and the Medes, who for centuries had been looking for a chance to get a blow at the ferocious Assyrians.
Nabopolassar was in the East undertaking that great work, and his son Nebuchadnezzar was sent to the West to check the advance of the Egyptian king. We have already stated that Pharaohnecho had extended his empire to the Euphrates River, and now he was ready to go farther. Nebuchadnezzar was sent with a large army to check him. They met near Carchemish, 605 B.C., and here one of the great decisive battles of the world was fought. We find an account of this in Jeremiah 46, beginning with the second verse. It was the greatest event of that time: "Against Egypt, came the army of Pharaohnecho king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon smote in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah."
Our next point is the supremacy of Babylon. The result, of course, was that the army of Nebuchadnezzar swept down in hot pursuit of the fleeing Egyptians and all the country was transferred into the hands of the Babylonians again. At once Jehoiakim began to pay tribute. Every nation in this region was compelled to pay heavy tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, the invincible head of the Babylonian army. Thus the allegiance of Judah and Jerusalem was transferred, at it where, in a moment from Egypt to Babylon. Now at that time there occurred a raid of the Babylonians upon Judah and Jerusalem and evidently many of the nobles and princes of the people were taken away. Daniel 1:1 shows that in this raid upon Judah and Jerusalem Daniel with others was among those that were taken to Babylon: "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it." Then it goes on with the story of Daniel and his three friends. This is one of the first deportations leading up to the final downfall. Jeremiah 52:28 is a reference probably to the same deportation by Nebuchadnezzar: "This is the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year three thousand Jews and three and twenty." That may refer to the first one or it may possibly refer to a later one, we cannot be positive as to the chronology.
The next thing we note about Jehoiakim is that he rebels against the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Perhaps he felt that he could make an alliance with Egypt, that old shame which Isaiah denounced, and which was one of the main things that caused the downfall of Samaria. Jehoiakim was evidently conspiring with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar was in the far east engaged in his conquests; Jehoiakim, led on by his nobles and princes, thought he could free himself again from the galling yoke of Babylon and in spite of all Jeremiah's entreaties he was determined to do so. In Jeremiah 36 there is a little story of the prophecies which Jeremiah wrote and which were read in the presence of Jehoiakim as he was sitting in his winter palace before an open fire. When the roll was read to him, he took his penknife and cut it in pieces and threw it into the fire. Nearly all of those present with him seemed to approve of his action; only two or three are said to have begged him not to do it. This is the character of Jehoiakim and his attitude toward Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 22:13-19 we have Jeremiah's own description of Jehoiakim; also a reference to Jehoiakim in 26:20-23.
All this indicates Jehoiakim's character, bold and incorrigibly defiant of God's word and of every principle of right and truth. The result we find in 2 Kings 24:2-4: "And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by the hand of his servants the prophets." They did not destroy it utterly, but they carried away a good many captives and much spoil. Jehoiakim died in the year 598 B.C., and the manner of his death is a mystery. There is some difficulty in reconciling the Bible accounts. In 2 Chronicles 36:6 we find: "Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon." Jeremiah said that he should be cast out, drawn forth out of the city and buried as a beast. In Jeremiah 36:30 we also have a statement similar: "Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost." The explanation possibly is that Nebuchadnezzar found him to be such a traitor and such a wretch and villain that he would not take him to Babylon, but had him slain and his body cast forth as refuse out of the city of Jerusalem.
In the next place we have the brief reign of Jehoiachin. Judah and Jerusalem are still under the yoke of Babylon, but the people rise up and put Jehoiachin on the throne, a boy only eighteen years old, and he reigns but three months. Evidently Nebuchadnezzar found something false or treacherous about him; so he comes to the city and besieges it. Jehoiachin surrenders the city, with all his family, and is taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar and carried in chains to Babylon; there lodged in the palace prison spending the rest of his life in captivity. At last the king of Babylon brings him out from his dungeon, lifts up his head, speaks kindly to him, and gives him a place among the other kings, tributary to Babylon.
Now comes the reign of Zedekiah, last of the kings of Judah. He is made king by Nebuchadnezzar and at the same time there is a great deportation of treasures and of nobles and of artisans from Jerusalem. This is the second deportation, and the most important one of this period. Treasures all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the king's house at Jerusalem all the princes and mighty men, craftsmen and smiths, all the artisans, the best and most skillful minds of Jerusalem, were taken and there was left only the poor and laboring classes. Nebuchadnezzar took away all these because he had a great deal of building to do in his own land, completing the walls of Babylon, and other general work, irrigating the lands of the country, etc. But there is another object in it also, viz: With all the best blood gone, Jerusalem could not offer much resistance.
Afterward Zedekiah rebels, doubtless because he had some hope of a league with Egypt and that he might throw off the yoke of Babylon. Jeremiah 27:12, 17 gives Jeremiah's advice to Zedekiah and all the other small nations telling them in substance: "You keep on yourselves the yoke of Babylon, for that is the only thing that will save your kingdom from destruction." But Zedekiah did not heed Jeremiah any more than Jehoiakim did.
The result is just what we might expect. Nebuchadnezzar sets his army in motion, and in a few years the armies of Nebuchadnezzar are again surrounding the city and this time he means business. Jeremiah pleads with Zedekiah to surrender and take upon himself the yoke of Babylon but the influence of the princes that surround the weak Zedekiah counteracts all the influence of Jeremiah and he goes out on his final rebellion. We find that discussed in Jeremiah 36-37.
But now a ray of hope dawns upon the people of Jerusalem; the siege has been on some time. They hear that the king of Egypt, at last, is coming up to help them. The siege is raised, Nebuchadnezzar moves his army away from Jerusalem in order to meet the Egyptians, but he very soon defeats the Egyptian army and again the walls of Jerusalem are encompassed with his hosts, and Jeremiah (37:5-11) gives what the prophet says about it at the time. The siege was raised, but he warns them against false hopes: "For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire." "The doom is inevitable, if you carry out your principle of rebellion." Zedekiah refuses the advice absolutely and for eighteen months Jerusalem endures the horrors of a siege. The fourth chapter of the book of Lamentations describes this. It speaks about the pitiful mother boiling her own children, and those who have been brought up in scarlet as embracing the dunghills to find something to eat, the nobleman's skin is blackened, going about like a walking skeleton, the babes crying after the mothers' breasts, and the people perishing.
After eighteen months they try to escape by breaking through, and Zedekiah and his army flee down into the valley of the Jordan and are overtaken by the Chaldeans; he is captured and his army scattered. He is brought before Nebuchadnezzar and Zedekiah's last vision is his sons slaughtered before his eyes, and then (according to the Assyrians) he is laid upon his back, a short spear driven through each eye, and Zedekiah's day becomes night, and he sees no more in this world. He is taken to Babylon and there held a prisoner.
Nebuchadnezzar makes a thorough work of the destruction of Jerusalem. He sends his captain, Nebuzaradan, and destroys the entire city, burning up everything that would burn, throwing down everything that can be thrown down, and the best of the people: the priests, the scribes, old and young, young men and maidens, are slain. All these nobles who had been. Zedekiah's advisers in his intrigues with Egypt are slain. They deserved it. Had it not been for them, Jeremiah might have influenced Zedekiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, and thus saved the city and the people. All the treasurers were taken -- everything that was worth anything and what could not be taken was broken to pieces. The description given in 2 Kings 25:13-21.
In connection with that event a large number of the best people of Jerusalem are again deported to Babylon and only the poor are left in the land that they may keep and dress the vineyards. This is the third deportation to Babylon; so the exile from Judah and Jerusalem was a process extending over about twenty years, altogether.
In the meantime, what happens to Jeremiah? Jeremiah 40:1-6, we have an account of the captain of the Babylonians, who took Jeremiah in chains, but he remembered the good services rendered Babylon by Jeremiah in trying to persuade Zedekiah to surrender to Babylon. So he gave Jeremiah the choice of going with him as a prisoner to Babylon where he would be well treated, or remaining at Jerusalem with the remnant of poor people left there. He remained with God's people in his own land.
Next we have the governorship of Gedaliah. Jeremiah had prophesied that the captivity would last only seventy years, and he wrote the captives at Babylon a letter telling them what to do during that period, advising them to remain there and settle down and make the very best of it because seventy years was the appointed time for remaining in captivity. Gedaliah was made governor of the almost completely depopulated land. In a few months he was murdered by one of the Jewish princes that had survived, and others were murdered with him who were loyal to Babylon, and Ishmael and his friends gathered together to take advice. Jeremiah advises them to remain in the land and if they were faithful and true even yet, they would be blessed, but they paid no attention to Jeremiah, fled to Egypt taking Jeremiah with them.
That forty or more years of preaching by Jeremiah was without apparent success, but he stayed with it to the end. Down in Egypt they still worshiped idols and burnt incense to the queen of heaven in spite of all that Jeremiah could do, as is found in Jeremiah 43-44 and at last, according to tradition, the people became so incensed against him that they rose up and stoned him to death. Tradition says that such was the end of Jeremiah and it is quite probable. A picture of Jerusalem is found in Lamentations 1-3. What a picture of the desolation of Judah and Jerusalem! There is nothing superior to it in all literature.
How many deportations of Israel to the Far East were there altogether? The first great deportation was that of Tiglathpileser when he removed all the inhabitants east of the Jordan. The next one was that of Tiglathpileser when he carried away the inhabitants of the northern part of the Northern Kingdom, and the next was the deportation of Sargon after he had captured Samaria; the next one was that of Sennacherib when he came down in the reign of Hezekiah and swept all Judah and carried away two hundred thousand or more inhabitants. Then one was in the time when Daniel was taken away. The next one was in the time of Jehoiachin, and the last one recorded in Kings and Chronicles was at the end of the reign of Zedekiah. So we may reckon that there were several deportations of the Jewish people to the Far East; to Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc. Thus more than a quarter of a million of Jews were deported to various places in central Asia, and some of their descendants, perhaps, are there yet.
The Exile, as we have said, was a process rather than an event. The people were brought into Babylon and there put to use in serving. They helped Nebuchadnezzar build his cities, his great treasuries, they helped to dig canals, as mentioned in Psalm 137: "By the rivers [or canals] of Babylon, we sat down and wept." They helped to irrigate that vast plain between the two rivers.
This captivity did several things for Israel:
1. It permanently cured the nation of its idolatries. I mean that part of the nation that returned after the captivity and built up the Jewish nation at the period of the restoration. The vast multitude that remained in the East adhered to their idolatries.
2. It spiritualized religion. No Temple, no altar, no priesthood, no sacrifices, no holy of holies, no atonement! They were thrown upon their own individual responsibility and individual relation to God, and in this period we have the rise of what we call individualism in religion. We find that discussed at length by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. This is a period when mankind found that it could do without the externals of religion and made it an affair of the heart only, something new in the history of the world.
3. It made the problem of suffering an acute and real one; they were suffering because of their father's sins, and complained about it: "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own sin, every man that eateth sour grapes, his own teeth shall be set on edge." "The soul that sinneth it shall surely die."
4. It enlarged their conception of God. We find the noblest and highest and loftiest conception of God in Isaiah 40-66. These were written to meet the needs of the people in this trying period. God is pictured as the God of the world, the God of history, and the God of nations; God is pictured as raising up Cyrus as his own servant in order that he might conquer and subdue Babylon and let Israel go free.
5. It gave a truer conception of the mission of Israel to the world. Here we have the rise of the idea of the Suffering Servant of God, as the Servant suffering for the sins of Israel. Here we have the conception of Israel as being the means of bringing all the world to a knowledge of God.
The seventy years close. In the closing verses of 2 Chronicles it refers to Cyrus releasing the captives at Babylon, enabling them to return to rebuild their Temple and to restore their nation.
1. What was the religious conditions of Judah at the death of Josiah?
2. What was the political situation?
3. Who succeeded Josiah and how was he made king?
4. What was his character?
5. How was he deposed, what became of him, who succeeded him, how was he made king and what was his character?
6. What was Pharaohnecoh's relation to Judah and who severed this relation?
7. Give an account of Jehoiakim's rebellion and death.