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commenced between Asa and Baasha, lasted during the whole extent of their reigns. Asa was a virtuous monarch ; but Baasha, though valiant and bold, was unrighteous and godless. He was warned by the prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani, that on account of his sins he would be cast off like Jeroboam, and that his house would be utterly destroyed like the house of Nebat. Yet he did not mend his ways, and he carried the kingdom of Israel along with him on the path of depravity. He died in the twenty-fourth year of his reign, and was buried in Tirzah. His son Elah followed him.
108. ELAH AND ZIMRI (930—928).
[1 Kings XVI. 8—22.]
The ill-fated king Elah ruled but two short years. Whilst drinking in his capital Tirzah, at some wild revel in the house of Arzah, his steward, he was suddenly attacked and murdered by Zimri, the captain of his chariots, who aspired to the kingdom and obtained it.
In his seven days' reign, Zimri utterly exterminated the family of Baasha, but he failed to gain the attachment and loyalty of the people. The army was at that time engaged in warfare against the Philistines, and was encamped before Gibbethon. When the men heard what had occurred in Tirzah, they at once proclaimed Omri, their captain, king of Israel. Raising the siege of Gibbethon, they proceeded to Tirzah, which they eventually took. Zimri, seeing himself and the capital in the hands of his opponents, withdrew into the palace, set fire to it with his own hands, and perished in the flames.
A part of the people was in favour of Tibni, the son of Ginath, and proclaimed him king; but Omri finally prevailed, and founded a new dynasty.
109. OMRI (928–918).
(1 Kings XVI. 23—28.]
For six years Omri dwelt in the old capital Tirzah, Then he bought of Shemer for two talents of silver a beautiful hill westward of Tirzah, in the mountain of Ephraim, and on that hill he built the city of Samaria, the rival of Jerusalem, and made it the capital of the north. But he surpassed in deeds of wickedness and cruelty even his worst predecessors, and his name became a curse and a byword in Israel. Under him the kingdom rapidly advanced towards utter degeneracy. Yet he was not without valour; he carried on a successful war against Damascus, and conquered some towns belonging to its territory. He was buried in Samaria, and his son Ahab succeeded him.
110. AHAB (918–897).
[1 Kings XVI. 29 899.] This reign is undoubtedly one of the most eventful in the annals of Israel. It is treated in the sacred narrative with greater detail than many of the preceding and nearly all the subsequent periods, and it is invested with a peculiar interest by being interwoven with the life and work of Elijah, the great prophet of Israel, who stands out clear and prominent among a large number of less distinguished prophets and seers. Ahab himself was a contemptible monarch, more feeble than wicked, and completely under the evil influence of his queen Jezebel, a heathen princess, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of Zidon. Fierce, revengeful, and ambitious, Jezebel easily established her dominion in the kingdom of Israel, and exerted the power of a strong and indomitable will over the wavering and
fickle mind of the king. A fanatic worshipper of Baal, she built high places all over the land, raised altars, and caused countless sacrifices to be burnt to the idols. No less than eight hundred and fifty priests of Baal and Ashtarte sat at her table as her daily guests. On the other hand, she commenced a ruthless persecution of the Hebrew prophets, which continued unabated during her whole reign.
Jezreel, a new city, considerably north of Shechem, in the province of Issachar, delightfully situated in the woody heights of Mount Gilboa, became one of the favourite royal residences.
There rose the palace of queen Jezebel, and there stood probably the famous house of ivory. Many cities sprang up during Ahab's reign ; amongst others Jericho, which Hiel rebuilt from the ruins in which it had lain since the blast of Joshua's trumpets.
During Ahab's reign a terrible calamity fell upon the land, one of the most fearful scourges that can visit an Eastern country.
111. THE PROPHET ELIJAH.
[1 KINGS XVII. 899.] It is in connection with this fearful trial that Elijah, the Tishbite, first came forward as a messenger of God. There is something mysterious and marvellous in the whole account of Elijah. We cannot help being impressed by the story of his solitary life, of his sudden appearances, of his rapid journeys, and his indifference to danger, and above all by the very picture conjured up before us of that stern and grand figure, girt with a leather belt, and wrapped in his long sweeping mantle, which, uplifted like a staff, divided the waters of the
Jordan, or unfolded as a veil hid the mourning face of the prophet.
From Gilead came Elijah to king Ahab with these tidings: “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except according to my word.'
Having uttered this decree, the prophet quietly retired to the brook of Cherith near the river Jordan, and remained in that secluded spot at the command of the Lord. . And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook. But in time the severe drought dried up the springs, and the brook of Cherith gave no more water. Then the Lord bade Elijah arise, and go to Zarephath, one of the northern towns belonging to Zidon, where a certain widow would sustain him. Obedient to the summons, Elijah journeyed northwards, and came to the gate of the city, where he beheld a woman gathering sticks, and he called her, and said, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.' ' As she was going to comply with his request, he called her again, and said, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thy hand.' Then the poor widow answered, “ As the Lord thy God lives, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks, that I may go in, and dress it for
my son, that we may eat it, and die.' And Elijah said to her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first and bring it me, and after that make for thee and thy son. For thus
the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth. The widow did all that Elijah told her, and he dwelt with her for many days. • The barrel of meal did not waste, and the cruse of oil
did not fail, according to the word of the Lord which He had spoken through Elijah.' Suddenly the son of the poor widow fell dangerously ill, and his life was despaired of. The mother came to the prophet in an agony of grief. What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God?' she exclaimed ; "art thou come to me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?'—"Give me thy son,' was Elijah's answer; and he took the child out of her arms, and carried him up into a loft where he himself slept, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried to the Lord, and said, “0 Lord, my God, hast Thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son ?' Then he stretched himself three times upon the child, and cried to the Lord, and said, O Lord, my God, I pray Thee, let this child's soul come unto him again.' His supplication was heard, and the child recovered. He then took him down to his mother, and said, "See, thy son lives. And the widow exclaimed with reverence, “Now, by this I know, that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.'
112. ELIJAH AND THE PRIESTS OF BAAL.
[1 Kings XVIII.) For three years no rain fell in the land of Samaria, and grievous was the famine occasioned by the drought. The grass and the crops were burnt up, and the cattle were starving for want of food. Now Obadiah, the governor of the royal household, was a pious and Godfearing man; during the fierce persecutions of queen Jezebel he had defied her wrath by hiding a hundred true prophets in two of the numerous mountain retreats, and had there supplied them with food and drink. He revered and loved Elijah, whom he longed above all to shield from