Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

of Jezebel, and the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel, so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel.'

123. JEHU (884-856).

[2 KINGS X.] Jehu was determined to keep the throne by cunning, and to prevent all open rebellion. Acting in this spirit, he sent a message to all the chiefs and elders of Samaria, and invited them to choose the best and ablest of Ahab's sons to succeed his father as king over Israel. But the rulers feared the astute and audacious usurper. Behold,' they said, “two kings did not stand before him, how then shall we stand?' So they gave their complete allegiance to Jehu. The latter demanded a terrible proof of their sincerity: he bade them slay at once Ahab's seventy sons, and bring their heads to him to Jezreel. The command was obeyed, and the bleeding heads were placed in two ghastly heaps before the gate of the city. In the morning, Jehu went to the gate, and exclaimed before all the people, “You are righteous; behold, I conspired against my master and slew him, but who slew all these?' This was a signal for a general massacre of the house of Ahab, and of all his officers and friends.

After this scene of bloodshed, Jehu left Jezreel and went to Samaria. At the shearing house on the way he met the brothers of Abaziah, king of Judah, and he asked them, “Who are you?' upon which they replied, “ We are the brothers of Ahaziah, and we go down to salute the children of the king and queen.' Jehu exclaimed, “Take them alive!' and with unsparing cruelty he ordered them all, forty-two men, to be slain at the pit of the shearing house. As he approached the city, he met Jehonadab the son of Rechab, whom he knew to be friendly, and he called out to him from his chariot, "Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?' And Jehonadab

answered, “It is.' Then Jehu gave him his hand and let him come up beside him into his chariot, and said, Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.' Burning with this zeal, the new king slew every one of the family of Ahab that was left in Samaria.

Now the ancient dynasty was destroyed, but the priests of Baal were still ministering and holding their sway in the land, and Jehu considered that his power was not secure until he had subdued those powerful enemies. Resolving upon their complete destruction, he had again recourse to a stratagem. He called an assembly of the people and said to them, Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu shall serve him much.' Then he proclaimed a solemn and general festival to be held in honour of Baal, and commanded all the prophets and priests of the god to appear, until the vast temple was completely filled. He bade all of them array themselves in their costliest garments, as if he wished to show singular reverence to their god. Only idolaters were admitted; all who acknowledged the one true God of Israel were carefully excluded. The sacrifices were offered up with unwonted solemnity, and the priests were pouring forth their prayers, when suddenly they beheld eighty armed men enter, who burst in upon the terrified assembly. Priests and worshippers fell by the swords of the fierce warriors. All were slain, the images of the idol were broken, and the temple burnt and razed to the ground.

Jehu was now securely placed upon the throne of Israel, the founder of a new dynasty. But he did not preserve purity of worship; for, though implacable against the followers of Baal, he permitted the idolatry of the golden calves to continue in Dan and Beth-el, and thus followed in the footsteps of the wicked Jeroboam.

In his reign, moreover, the empire of Israel began to be considerably weakened. Hazael, king of Syria, made successful invasions into the eastern districts of Gilead,

and subjected to his dominion the territories of Gad, Reuben, and half Manasseh, fine pasture lands, rich in far-famed cattle. Jehu was unable to recover these valuable possessions; luxury and despotism seem to have destroyed his energy and vigour. He died after a reign of twenty-eight years, and was buried in Samaria. He was succeeded by his son Jehoahaz.

124. JEHOAHAZ (856–840).

[2 Kings XIII. 1-9.] During this unfortunate reign, the Israelites suffered severely from the perpetual attacks of the Syrians. Hazael and his son Benhadad marched victoriously into the northern provinces, made raids upon the country, oppressed the people, and levied heavy imposts. By these constant wars the splendid army of the Israelites melted down to ten thousand footmen, fifty horsemen, and ten chariots. In the midst of their misery and oppression, the Lord sent them help through a hero whose name is, however, not mentioned in the Bible, and they enjoyed a short respite of peace.

But king and subjects were sunk in idolatry, their moral strength was waning, and they could barely maintain their independence.

When Jehoahaz died, he was buried in Samaria, and was succeeded by his son Joash.

125. JOASH (840-825).

[2 Kings XIII. 10—25.] The Moabites and the Syrians recommenced their attacks upon the kingdom of Israel; but Joash, more courageous than his father, determined upon a valiant resistance. It was during this reign that the aged prophet

Elisha fell dangerously ill. The young king came to visit him, and feeling how soon he was to lose his wise and patriotic counsellor, he wept bitterly, exclaiming, O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!' Elisha bade Joash take his bow to the open window and shoot an arrow eastward into the

He himself guided the hands of the king, and exclaimed, 'An arrow of the Lord's deliverance, and an arrow of deliverance from Syria ; for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou hast consumed them.' Then he bade the king take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Joash struck the ground three times; then the prophet said to him angrily, Thou shouldst have struck five or six times, then hadst thou smitten Syria until thou hadst consumed it, whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.'

Elisha died soon afterwards, and he was buried by his loving disciples, probably in the outskirts of Samaria, and was mourned by all Israel. His memory remained dear to the people, and was faithfully handed down from generation to generation. A wonderful power of healing and restoring was attributed even to his sepulchre; for about a year after his death, when some Israelites, engaged in burying one of their kinsmen, were suddenly surprised by a band of Moabites, and in the haste and alarm of the moment cast the body into the grave of the prophet, “the man as soon as he touched the bones of Elisha, revived and stood upon his feet. Elisha was indeed looked upon as the good and healing prophet, as the gentle and benevolent messenger of God. If it be remembered how he sweetened the bitter waters and multiplied the widow's cruse of oil, recompensed the Shunamite and restored her child to life, fed the starving prophets and assisted them in all their wants; how diligently he watched over Israel's welfare, and extended his benefits also to the heathens;

it is easy to understand why the king called him the chariot and horsemen of Israel,' and why his death was felt as an irreparable misfortune.

Elisha's predictions with respect to the Syrians were realised. Joash recovered the eastern cities which his father had lost, and defeated the Syrians in three battles. Provoked to warfare by Amaziah, king of Judah, Joash next turned his arms against the southern kingdom. He was again successful, gaining at Beth-shemesh a complete victory over Amaziah, who fell into his hands. He then marched on Jerusalem, broke down the walls of the city, and entered in triumph. He impiously plundered the Temple of all its gold and silver vessels, seized the treasures of the king's palace, and returned to Samaria with a large number of hostages. . He died in his own city, and was succeeded by his son.

126. JEROBOAM II. (825—784).

[2 Kings XIV. 23-29; Amos, Hosea.] Although Jeroboam obstinately preserved the idolatrous worship of his predecessor, he proved a great and remarkable ruler. He restored his kingdom to much of its former proportions, for he reconquered all the land from the northern district of Hamath southward to the Dead Sea, and took Damascus, the flourishing capital of the Syrians. The Moabites, who had been plundering the kingdom during the preceding reigns, were kept in subjection, and compelled to pay their tribute of flocks and herds.

It was during the reign of the second Jeroboam that the prophet Jonah lived, who is in our minds so intimately associated with the history of Nineveh. At the same time wrote the prophet Amos, the herdsman of Tekoah, who gives us a vivid picture of that age of cor

« AnteriorContinuar »