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sword of Jehu, shall Elisha slay.' One consolation the prophet carried with him : he learnt that, in the land of Israel, there were, unknown to him, seven thousand true and faithful men, who had never bent their knees to Baal.
So Elijah departed and went northward to Damascus. On his way he found at Abel-meholah, a village in Issachar, Elisha ploughing in the fields with twelve yokes of
He flung his mantle over the shoulder of the youth, who instantly understood the meaning of this symbolical act, left the oxen, followed Elijah, and ministered to him.
114. WAR OF AHAB WITH BENHADAD.
(1 Kings XX.] Benhadad, the king of Syria, tempted by the riches and beauty of Samaria, resolved upon a great war against Israel. He assembled his hosts, and invited moreover thirty-two of the neighbouring chiefs or kings to join him. At the head of an immense army he besieged Samaria, and sent the following insolent suminons to Ahab: “Thy silver and thy gold are mine, thy wives and thy children, even the fairest, are mine.' Abab, as weak and cowardly as ever, answered, My lord, 0 king, according to thy saying I am thine, and all that I have is thine.' But Benhadad wished to provoke Ahab to actual warfare; so he sent him a second and even more insulting message which had the desired effect: he said he would come to the king's palace, search it, and take whatever he liked best. Now Ahab's anger was roused, and he refused to submit to the humiliation. His resistance only called forth the mockery of Benhadad; but the king of Israel rightly said, “Tell him, let not him that girds on his harness boast himself as he that puts it off. To inspire Ahab with courage, a prophet, Elijah perchance, appeared
before him and foretold the success of his arms over the vast Syrian host. The prophet's prediction came true; a portion of the Israelite army, consisting of young nobles, surprised the Syrian chiefs whilst carousing in their tents, and following up the first panic they had created, they discomfited their enemies, who retreated with great loss. Benhadad saved himself by flight on one of his swift Syrian horses. Although he had been utterly defeated, he was persuaded to recommence hostilities in the following spring, and he assembled another army large and splendid as the first. But instead of princes he placed experienced captains at the head of the different divisions of his hosts, and prepared for battle. His counsellors had told him : • The gods of the Israelites are gods of the hills, therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and we shall be stronger than they. He, therefore, went out and encamped in the plain of Aphek, where he was soon met by the Hebrew army, a mere handful compared with his own large numbers—the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country.'
Then again a prophet came to Ahab, foretelling success. For six days the armies faced each other in silence, and on the seventh day they met. A hundred thousand Syrians were slain by the Israelites; the rest escaped to the town Aphek, where many were destroyed by a falling wall Benhadad fled for refuge from house to house ; he still clung to life and to the hope of being spared by Ahab. His followers said to him, 'Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; peradventure he will save thy life. The chiefs acted upon this advice, and when they appeared before
the king of Israel, they addressed him thus : 'Thy servant Benhadad says, I pray thee, let me live.' Ahab answered compassionately, “Is he yet alive? he is my brother.' This was enough; the messengers knew that Benhadad had nothing to fear. They brought him to the king of Israel, whose heart was touched at the sight of the captive monarch; he concluded peace with him, and unwisely allowed him to depart in safety.
115. MURDER OF NABOTH.
[1 KINGS XXI.] Closely adjoining Ahab's palace in Jezreel was a beautiful vineyard belonging to a man of the name of Naboth. This property was coveted by the king, who sent for Naboth, and said to him, Give me thy vineyard that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near my house, and I will give thee for it a better vineyard, or if it seems good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.' But Naboth would not surrender the ground; it was dear to him, because he had inherited it from his fathers, and he refused all offers however tempting. Then Ahab went into his house dejected and displeased: he, the great monarch, had been baulked of his desire by one of his subjects; so he lay upon his bed, and turned away his face and would not eat.' Not long afterwards came Jezebel, fierce and malignant as ever; she pressed Ahab to tell her what troubled him, and when she heard his complaint, she exclaimed indignantly, Dost thou not govern the kingdom of Israel? Arise and eat bread, and let thy heart be merry; I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.'
Then Jezebel wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal, and sent them herself to the elders and nobles of the city. She commanded these chiefs to
115. MURDER OF NABOTH.
proclaim a fast, to set Naboth high among the people, and to bring forward two men to testify that he had uttered blasphemies against God and the king, and then upon their accusations to stone him to death. The elders obediently executed the commands of the ruthless queen; two wicked men were easily found to bear false witness against Naboth; he was declared guilty, and stoned to death before the gates of the city. When this foul deed was accomplished, Jezebel went triumphantly to her husband, and bade him arise and take possession of the vineyard which he had desired, and which Naboth would not sell for money. The weak monarch arose from his couch, and went forth into his ill-gotten vineyard. There he was confronted by that well-known form shrouded in a rough hairy mantle, and he heard again the voice of Elijah the Tishbite: Hast thou killed also and taken possession ? Thus says the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.'
Then Ahab exclaimed in fear, “Hast thou found me, O my enemy?' The answer of Elijah conveyed to the terrified monarch the awful doom which awaited his entire house : The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel; him that dies of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat, and him that dies in the field the fowls of the air shall eat. Ahab, alarmed by these words, was struck with remorse and contrition; he rent his clothes and put sackcloth on his body. “And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbles himself before Me? because he humbles himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.'
116. DEATH OF AHAB.
[1 Kings XXII. 1—40; 2 Chron. XVIII.] Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, had sought a friendly alliance with Ahab. Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab, was given in marriage to Joram, the heir to the throne of Judah, and Jehoshaphat himself paid friendly visits to the king of Israel in Samaria. During one of these visits it occurred to Ahab, that the city of Ramoth Gilead, which had once belonged to the Hebrews, but had been taken from them by the Syrians, ought to be reconquered.
The two kings agreed at once to prepare for war and commence hostilities together; but Jehoshaphat insisted upon first asking the advice of the prophets, as a good augury would strengthen them in their perilous enterprise. Four hundred prophets who appeared at his call, probably prophets of Baal, predicted victory and the safe return of the kings. But Jehoshaphat was not content with their words, and desired to hear the counsel of a prophet of the Lord. Elijah must at that time have been far away, secluded in one of his solitary haunts; for he is not mentioned ; instead of him we hear of Micaiah the son of Imlah, a man who was hated by Ahab for always prophesying evil to him and never good. Yet messengers were sent to bring Micaiah to the city. When the prophet arrived at the gates of Samaria, he beheld, seated side by side on their thrones, the two kings dressed in their robes of state ; before them stood the crowd of prophets, and a large number of people attracted by the scene.
Encouragingly the prophets were exclaiming, 'Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the Lord shall deliver it into the king's hand ;' and Zedekiah, one of Ahab's