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servants, held up two huge horns of iron and said, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou shalt have consumed them.' Then Micaiah was called
upon to speak, and he related a vision which had just been revealed to him. “I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills,' he said, as sheep that have no shepherd, and the Lord said, These have no master, let them return every man to his house.' • Did I not tell thee,' exclaimed Ahab, enraged, to Jehoshaphat, “that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?' Then Micaiah spoke again, but this time the vision which he described was of a grander and more imaginative character. He saw the whole host of heaven, and the Lord Himself upon His throne. He heard the Lord asking His counsellors, ' Who shall persuade Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth Gilead? And one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him! I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets! And the Lord said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also; go forth and do so. Now therefore,' continued the prophet boldly, 'the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord has spoken evil concerning thee.' At these words, the infuriated Zedekiah smote him on the cheek, accompanying the stroke with insulting words; and Ahab bade Amon, the governor of the city, imprison him with bread and water, until he, the king, should return in safety from the war. As Micaiah was led away, he cried again ominous words into Ahab's ears : “ If thou return at all in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me... hearken, 0 people, every one of you!'
Heedless of Micaiah's warning, the kings set out on their expedition. Yet Ahab took the precaution to wear the dress of a common soldier, in order to deceive the
enemy. The king of Syria cared less for the issue of the war than for the capture of Ahab's person. Fight neither with small nor great, he enjoined upon his captains, ' but only with the king of Israel. The royal robes of Jehoshaphat misled for a time the heathen warriors, who took him for Ahab; but they desisted from attacking him as soon as they became aware of their
Yet Ahab, in spite of his disguise, did not escape. A Syrian archer, drawing his bow at random, shot an arrow through one of the joints of the king's armour. When Ahab felt the mortal wound, he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn thy hand, and carry me out of the host, for I am wounded. But struck as he was,
he showed a truly heroic spirit, and would not leave the chariot as long as the battle raged: he stood upright behind his driver, whilst the blood oozed slowly from his wound and covered the chariot. In the evening, when the battle was over and lost, he died, and was brought to Samaria, where he was buried. But the awful words of Elijah were literally fulfilled; for whilst the men were washing the blood-stained chariot in the pool outside the city, the wild dogs that ran in hordes round the walls, came and licked up the blood of the king. When the sad fate of Ahab was known, the army was dispersed with the proclamation, “Every man to his city, and every man to his own country!
Ahab was succeeded by his son Abaziah.
117. AHAZIAH (897—895).
[1 KINGS XXII. 52—54; 2 Kings I.] During this reign, the Moabites rebelled and refused to pay the tribute that had been imposed upon them, and declared themselves free from all allegiance to Israel.
Once whilst looking out of a lattice window in the
upper chamber of his palace in Samaria, the king fell out and became dangerously ill. Always clinging to habits of idolatry, he sent some of his servants to enquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, whether he would recover. The messengers departed, but returned almost immediately. For outside the city they were met by a stranger, who bade them go back to their king with the tidings that he should certainly die. They described the person who had thus spoken to them as a man in a hairy garment, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins.' Ahaziah knew him well. It is Elijah the Tishbite !' he exclaimed. He was anxious to get that stern and unflinching prophet into his power. So he sent after him a captain with a band of fifty men. They descried Elijah upon the top of a mountain, possibly upon one of the crags of Carmel, and they bade him come down and go with them to the king. For all answer fire descended from heaven, and consumed the captain and his fifty men. Again Ahaziah sent out another captain and fifty men, and again fire from heaven destroyed them. For the third time a captain and fifty men came to the foot of the mountain; but the captain went up, threw himself on his knees, and implored Elijah to spare them. Then the prophet came down, and accompanied them to the king. He fearlessly foretold Ahaziah's death, which occurred almost directly after the interview. Ahaziah had no sons, and he was succeeded by his brother Jehoram.
118. ELIJAH'S DISAPPEARANCE AND THE FIRST
MIRACLES OF ELISHA.
[2 Kings II.] Elijah was dwelling at Gilgal with Elisha, when the call came which was to end his earthly labours. Foreboding the Divine will, he said to his devoted follower,
Tarry here, I pray thee, for the Lord has sent me to Beth-el.' But Elisha, with that strong and faithful attachment to his master which he had evinced from the first, was unwilling to leave him at a time when he felt that some great crisis was at hand. So the two went together to Beth-el. There, at that sacred and time-honoured place, were gathered the prophets and seers of the Lord. They also were aware of the mournful event that was about to happen. At the approach of Elijah and Elisha, they came forth from their houses and said to Elisha, “Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to-day ?' And he said, Yes, I know it, hold ye your peace.' Then again Elijah entreated his disciple to leave him, for the Lord had summoned him to Jericho. But Elisha steadily refused to depart from him, and both went on together to the southern town. There the same scene was enacted as at Beth-el—the prophets crowding round the master they were so soon to lose, and telling Elisha the tidings he knew already too well. But Elijah was ordered to go eastward, to the banks of the river Jordan; thither he went with Elisha, who unflinchingly clung to him. They were followed by fifty of the prophets who came with them out of Jericho, and stood watching them at some distance. When Elijah approached the brink of the river, he drew his mantle from his shoulders, and rolling it up like a staff, he smote the waters, which separated, leaving in the midst a dry road over which the two passed. Then Elijah said to Elisha, ' Ask, what shall I do for thee, before I am taken away from thee?' And Elisha said, “I pray thee, let two portions of thy spirit be upon me.' Upon which Elijah replied, “Thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou seest me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so to thee; but if not, it shall not be so.' * And it came to pass, as they still went on and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and
horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha saw his great master no more, and in his bitter grief he rent his garments. Elijah’s mantle had fallen to the ground; he took it, and standing again on the brink of the Jordan, he smote with it the waters, and exclaimed loudly, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah ?' Then the river parted for him again, and he passed over the dry ground. When the prophets saw this from afar, they were convinced that the spirit of Elijah now rested upon Elisha. They came to meet him, and bowed themselves with reverence before him. But they could not believe that Elijah was gone from them for ever. They entreated, therefore, Elisha to let them seek for their master, for peradventure the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.' Elisha at first resisted their desire, but at last he yielded, and the prophets went out on their fruitless search.
Whilst Elisha was at Jericho, the men of the town came to him and said, Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land causes barrenness.' Then Elisha performed another miracle ; he asked for a new cruse filled with salt. This salt he cast into the spring and spoke, Thus says the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from them any more death or barrenness.'
After this the prophet left Jericho, and journeyed back to Beth-el. On his way a crowd of children ran out of the city, mocking him. "Go up, thou bald head, they called out; ‘go up, thou bald head.' For a moment a spirit of revenge
and anger foreign to his nature came over Elisha ; 6 he cursed the children in the name of the Lord. His curse took effect; two bears coming from the wood killed forty-two of the unfortunate children. Elisha proceeded to Mount Carmel, and from thence he went to Samaria.