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X. THE EMPIRE OF ISRAEL OR EPHRAIM.
105. JEROBOAM (975—954).
(1 Kings XII.-XIV.; 2 Chron. XIII.)
The kingdom of Judah enjoyed the great advantage of including the capital Jerusalem proudly enthroned upon a fortress of rocks, and of possessing the magnificent Temple, the shrine of the Ark of God. To this one common and sacred spot the entire congregation journeyed three times in the year; and the priests and Levites who officiated within its precincts were looked upon as specially appointed and hallowed for their sacred functions. Jeroboam was well aware of the love and devotion with which the people clung to the revered House of God, and he painfully felt the want of such a religious centre in his northern kingdom. He even apprehended danger for the safety of his throne, and he argued: Now will the kingdom return to the house of David, if this people go up to sacrifice in the House of the Lord at Jerusalem ; then will the heart of this people turn again to their master, to Rehoboam, king of Judah, and they will kill me and go again to Rehoboam, king of Judah.' He dwelt in a city which he built upon the site of the ancient Shechem in Mount Ephraim, and he fortified Penuel as a
defence against his enemies. And in order to procure some substitute for the Temple, he consecrated two places for religious worship-one in Beth-el, an ancient sanctuary even from the time of the early patriarchs, and therefore dear to the people by many associations; and one in Dan, at the northern boundary of the land. In these two towns he publicly introduced the worship of the Egyptian Apis. Setting up two golden calves for idols, he proclaimed, “Behold thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt;' and as priests of this idolatrous service he appointed men, not from the families of Levi, but from any of the tribes of Israel. In imitation of the Feast of Tabernacles celebrated in Jerusalem on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, Jeroboam instituted a festival in the middle of the following month. He went himself to Beth-el to offer the first sacrifices at the new sanctuary. In the presence of the whole congregation he stood before the altar, and was in the act of burning incense to the idol, when suddenly there appeared before him a man of God' from the land of Judah. The prophet, as if impelled by sudden inspiration, addressed the altar itself: “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord ..., Behold the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.' The enraged king, hearing these words, put forth his hands and called out to his servants, * Lay hold of him!' But his hand withered, the altar was rent, and the ashes fell to the ground. The alarmed king exclaimed, · Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God, and pray for me that my hand may be restored to me again.' Upon the prophet's prayer the king's hand was restored. Jeroboam now gratefully entreated the seer to come with him to his palace and refresh himself; but the prophet had been commanded by the Lord to eat no bread and drink no water while on his sacred mission. So he set out on his way back from Beth-el. The whole
story of this prophet is mysterious : we know not the city from whence he came, nor the name he bore, nor the meaning of the awful fate which befell him on his return home. There dwelt in Beth-el an aged prophet, whose sons had been present at the morning's sacrifice, and who had told him of the strange scenes they had witnessed. Desirous to see and to test this prophet of the Lord, the old man saddled his ass, and rode off to overtake the wayfarer. He found him sitting under the branches of a terebinth, and begged of him to return and eat bread with him in his house. He received the same answer which had been given to the king ; but he pressed again, saying, "I am a prophet as thou art, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord saying, “ Bring him back with thee into thy house, that he may eat bread and drink water."' Misled by this feigned vision, the man of Judah went back to Beth-el, and sat down at the table of the old prophet. Whilst eating the meal, he heard the voice of the Lord accusing him of disobedience, and foretelling his punishment, that he should not be buried in the grave of his fathers. He rose to leave Beth-el, and mounted the ass which the aged prophet had given him. A lion met him on the road, seized and killed him, but neither touched his corpse nor harmed the ass: the body of the dead man lay upon the road, and the lion and the ass stood quietly beside him. Travellers brought the report of this strange occurrence to Beth-el. When the old prophet heard it, he at once guessed what had happened, and saddling an ass, he rode forth again, and soon found the body of the man of God. He raised and laid it carefully upon the ass, and brought it back into the city. There he buried it in his own family grave with the repeated cry: “Alas, my brother!' and enjoined upon his sons, that when he died they should bury him by the side of the prophet.
Strange and striking as this episode was, it seems to have made no lasting impression upon Jeroboam ; for we are told that he did not return from his evil ways;
he continued the worship of Apis, and allowed all Israelites indiscriminately to perform the duties of priesthood.
Not long afterwards his son Abijah fell dangerously ill. In his sorrow and alarm he bethought himself of the prophet Ahijah, who had so truly foretold his future greatness in the lifetime of king Solomon. Ahijah resided in Shiloh ; he had probably withdrawn from the sinful court, and looked with no favourable eye upon the misdeeds of the unscrupulous Jeroboam. Nevertheless it was to him that the king bade his wife go in close disguise, with presents of bread, cake, and honey.
Ahijah was now an aged man, and his eyes were fixed and sightless, but he was prepared by the Lord for the visit of the Egyptian princess. When he heard the sound of her feet at his door, he said : Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? but I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.' Then he predicted the death of her child; the mourning of the whole nation for that child, the only member of her race that would be buried and rest in a grave; the utter ruin and extermination of the house of Jeroboam ; the accession of another royal family in Israel; and finally the destruction of the kingdom of Israel itself on account of Jeroboam's idolatry and of the people's wickedness.
With these terrible words still ringing in her ears, the unfortunate queen arose, and returned to the city of Tirzah. As she approached the threshold of her palace, a loud wail announced to her that her child was dead. He was buried and lamented by the whole people.
Jeroboam reigned twenty-two years over Israel, during which time he was repeatedly forced to take arms and fight against neighbouring tribes, and he was succeeded by his son Nadab.
106. NADAB (954953).
[1 KINGS XV. 25—32.]
He did evil in the sight of the Lord,' and followed in the footsteps of his father, whom he resembled in religious perversion and moral corruption. But his career was cut short by an ambitious man of equal depravity. In the second year of his reign, while he was besieging a small town of the Philistines with his whole army, he was insidiously attacked and murdered by Baasha, the son of Abijah, of the tribe of Issachar, who proclaimed himself king of Israel, and was accepted by the people.
107. BAASHA (953—930).
(1 KINGS XV. 33—XVI. 7; 2 CHRON. XVI. 1–6.)
As he had acquired the throne by violence, so he commenced his infamous reign by bloodshed, for he completely destroyed the house of Jeroboam, until not a single member of the former dynasty was left. He took up his residence in Tirzah, and began to build the city of Ramah, on the very confines of Judah, intending it as a key to the rival monarchy. But Asa, the king of Judah, perceiving the danger, concluded a league with Benhadad, the king of Syria, and induced him to make a raid upon the northern provinces of the empire of Israel, hoping to discomfit and to weaken Baasha. Benhadad descended without delay upon the land of Naphtali and the adjoining districts. Baasha alarmed at the sudden appearance of the enemy, left the southern city of Ramah, and entrenched himself in Tirzah. Ramah was now dismantled by king Asa without difficulty, and the building materials were taken
away to be used for the construction of Geba and Mizpah, in Benjamin. The warfare thus