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Outlines Of Jewish History -Rev. Francis E. Gigot D.D.

I.

JEROBOAM I AND HIS IMMEDIATE SUCCESSORS:

              1. Their Characters and Aims.

 

              2. Political and Religious Organisation of the Kingdom.

 

 

 

II.

THE HOUSE OF AMRI:

              1. Amri (Accession; foundation of Samaria).

 

             

 

              2. Achab:

              Public works.

 

                            The Phenician worship of Baal; persecution of the prophets.

 

                            Elias; the man; his mission and miracles.

 

                            Syrian wars—alliance with Juda.

 

             

 

              3. After the Death of Achab:

              Revolt of Moab (the Moabite stone).

 

                            Translation of Elias. Eliseus succeeds him in the prophetical office.

 

 

 

III.

DYNASTY OF JEHU:

              1. The Accession of Jehu (4 Kings 9–10:28).

 

              2. Relations of Jehu with Syria and Assyria.

 

             

 

              3. Glorious Rule of Jeroboam II:

              The Northern Empire of Solomon restored.

 

                            Prophets of the Time (Jonas, Amos, Osee).

 

 

 

IV.

CLOSING REIGNS:

              1. The Kings: Murderers and profligates.

 

             

 

              2. Final Overthrow of Israel:

              The Assyrian invasions.

 

                            The Ten Tribes led captive to Assyria.

 

§ 1. Jeroboam and His Immediate Successors (Nadab, Baasa and Ela)

1. Their Characters and Aims. Although the Biblical narrative gives us only few details concerning the reign of the founder of the northern kingdom and of his immediate successors on the throne, yet it allows us a sufficient insight into the character and aims of these princes. Now that he is on the throne, Jeroboam shows himself what he ever was, namely, an active, shrewd, ambitious, unscrupulous man. His distinct object is to maintain his kingdom separate from that of Juda (3 Kings 12:26, 27), and he deems good every means conducive to this great aim of his reign. For this purpose, he strengthens his frontiers by building the fortresses of Sichem (west of the Jordan) and Phanuel (east of the Jordan), cultivates the devotion of Ephraim, the most powerful tribe of his realm, by selecting Sichem, one of its cities, for his capital, introduces into his States a religious worship and organization entirely opposed to the pure worship of Jehovah, and actually calls upon the King of Egypt to invade the Holy Land and protect him against the rival kingdom of Juda. Despite the protestations of the prophets of the time, he perseveres to the end in his impious line of action, and sets thereby an example of reckless ambition but too closely followed by his successors on the throne of Israel (3 Kings 12:20–15).

Thus of Nadab, Jeroboam’s son and successor, we read that “he walked in the ways of his father and in his sins, wherewith he made Israel to sin” (3 Kings 15:26); and of Baasa we are told, that having reached the throne by the murder of Nadab, he slew all the members of the house of Jeroboam to secure his own throne against any competitor, began the building of Rama, on the extreme southern frontier of his States, “that no man might go out or come in of the side of Asa, King of Juda,” and persevered to the end in the impious line of conduct of Jeroboam (3 Kings 15:17–21; 27–34; 16:1–6). Finally, Ela, the third successor of Jeroboam, having imitated the unworthy examples of his predecessors on the throne of Israel, was slain, together with all the members of his family, by an ambitious officer named Zambri who occupied the throne only seven days.

2. Political and Religious Organization of the Kingdom. Whilst they were clearly anxious to prevent Israel from reuniting with Juda, Jeroboam and his immediate successors were no less careful to connect the new condition of things with the past history of the Jewish nation. Naturally enough, the division of the country by Solomon into twelve provinces which had been swept away by the very fact of the disruption, was not re-established; but the older division of the nation into tribes appeared again such as it had existed under the first kings, Saul and David. The northern kingdom assumed also the old military character of the original monarchy, and the captain of the army became a personage who at times played no less important a part than either Abner or Joab. Of course, the same general divisions of the army continued, and if the chariots and horses were multiplied and are now so far organized that we read of two divisions of cavalry, each with its distinct commander (3 Kings 16:9), this was but the continuation of what had been partially established by Solomon. As formerly in the court of David there were civil officers destined to increase the prestige of the monarch, so now in the court of Jeroboam and of his successors; and the prophets of Jehovah continue to hold intercourse with the northern kings.

Even in what concerns the religious organization into which the greatest changes were introduced, Jeroboam was anxious that these changes should be connected in the mind of the people with the past history of the nation. The two golden calves he set up at both extremities of the land, in Dan and Bethel, although probably made after the pattern of the calves worshipped in Egypt, were publicly given by him as symbols of the Divine Presence watching over the whole country, and artfully connected with the worship of the golden calf by the nation assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai. Deserted by the Levites who courageously forsook his States, he established a priesthood which, as in olden times, was not confined to any particular tribe, and which would depend on the king as the chief priest, as the Levites and priests had depended on Moses and Josue—and apparently, also, at least to a large extent, on David. Of course, all the rest of the Jewish ritual he preserved most carefully; and if he introduced any change, it was, as in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (the celebration of which he prescribed should take place one month later than in Juda), because of some special reason acceptable to the people at large.

This religious organization of the kingdom of Israel was indeed a clever piece of work. Its innovations were not such as to shock the bulk of the nation ever hankering after a more sensuous form of worship than that offered by the pure worship of Jehovah; and they were calculated to render easier to the subjects of the northern kingdom the satisfaction of their religious instincts by reviving two ancient places of worship within their own borders. Hence it is, that in whatever else his successors differed, they one and all agreed n upholding the new form of worship, which, once established, appeared essential to their national unity.

§ 2. The House of Amri

1. Amri, his Accession, Foundation of Samaria. After the death of Ela, Zambri his murderer was at once recognized as his successor by the court and a part of the people, whilst Amri, the captain of the host, was proclaimed king by the army of Israel. A few days were sufficient for Amri to get rid of this competitor, but it took him no less than four years to subdue Thebri, the rival whom a large party in Israel had elected as successor to Zambri. At length he triumphed, and became the head of a powerful dynasty.

One of his first cares seems to have been to give up Thersa, the city which had for some time taken the place of Sichem as the capital of the northern kingdom, and to select for his own residence a city which would not be stained with so much royal blood. This he found in the “hill of Semer,” about thirty-five miles in a straight line northwest of Jerusalem and six miles northwest of Sichem, which he purchased and on which he built a town called Samaria after the former owner of the site. This was a fine location for a capital; it combined the advantages of “a strong position, rich environs, a central situation and an elevation sufficient to catch untainted the cool healthy breezes of the Mediterranean” (MURRAY’S Handbook), and this is why Samaria ever remained an important city through the various fortunes of the country and its people.

It has also been inferred from passing statements in the sacred narrative that this skilful monarch secured much greater advantages to his people by making peace with the Kings of Juda and Syria (cfr. 3 Kings 20:34). Unfortunately, he was wedded to the religious policy of Jeroboam, and in this direction he seems to have gone even much farther than his predecessors (3 Kings 16:15–27).

2. Achab. As a natural consequence of the peace obtained by Amri, security and prosperity prevailed throughout the northern kingdom during the greater part of the reign of Achab, his son and successor. The new monarch, anxious to signalize his rule by the culture of the arts of peace, built new cities in various parts of his kingdom (3 Kings 22:39), one of which is especially named in the Biblical narrative. This was Jericho, probably raised by Achab from its ruins, in defiance of the curse of Josue (Josue 6:26). To rival Solomon in his outward display, the son of Amri looked about for another royal residence, not to supersede by it Samaria, but in order that no part of the embellishments he contemplated should be ascribed to his father. The city thus favored was Jezrael, which “was planted on a gentle eminence, in the very centre of a rich plain, and commanded the view of Carmel on the west, and the valley of the Jordan on the east” (STANLEY, Lectures on the Jewish Church). There he erected a magnificent palace hard by the city wall and built of ivory (3 Kings 22:39), a style of architecture which was soon imitated by the Israelite aristocracy (Amos 3:15; 6:4).

Having thus followed the example of Solomon in his outward display, Achab imitated him also in his practice of polygamy (3 Kings 20:5), and more unfortunately still in his alliance with the heathen. He was the first northern king whose chief wife was one of the old accursed Chanaanite race. He married Jezabel, the daughter of Ethbaal who had gained the crown of Tyre and Sidon by the murder of his brother, and who united to the royal dignity his former office of high priest of Astarthe (cfr. JOSEPHUS, Antiquities of the Jews, book viii, chapter xiii, § 1).

“The immediate consequence of this ill-fated union was that the religion of Jezabel became the worship of the northern kingdom, Achab built in Samaria a temple to “Baal”—the Sun-god (the producing principle in Nature)—in which he erected not only an altar, but, as we gather from 4 Kings 3:2; 10:27, also one of those pillars which were distinctive of its vile services. As usual, where these rites were fully carried out, he also “made the Ascherah”—Astarthe, the Moon-goddess (the receptive principle in Nature)—so that the Phenician worship was now established in its entirety. As we infer from later notices, there was a “vestry” attached to these temples, where special festive garments, worn on great occasions, were kept (4 Kings 10:22). Achab—or perhaps Jezabel—appointed not less than 450 priests of Baal and 400 of Astarthe, who were supported by the bounty of the queen (3 Kings 18:19; 22:6). The forced introduction of this new worship led to a systematic persecution of the prophets and even of the openly professed worshippers of Jehovah which had their complete extermination for its object (3 Kings 18:13; 19:10; 4 Kings 9:7). These measures were wholly due to the absolute power which Jezabel exercised over Achab, whose undeniable good qualities were sadly marred by fatal weakness, selfishness, uncontrolled self-indulgence, an utter want of religion, and especially the influence of his wife” (3 Kings 21:25) (EDERSHEIM, Bible History, vol. v. pp. 179, 180).

It was at this juncture so critical for the very existence of Jehovah’s worship in the kingdom of Israel, that Elias, one of the most wonderful men of Jewish history, appeared on the scene. Besides the fact that he was born in Thesbi, a town spoken of in the book of Tobias (1:2 in the Septuagint) as belonging to the tribe of Nephtali, we know nothing of the early years of this great prophet of Israel. When we meet him first in the sacred narrative he stands before Achab arrayed in a garment of black camel’s hair and girt about his loins with a leathern girdle. With that strong faith and fearless courage which will accompany him everywhere, he has come to begin his great mission of recalling to the king and to his people that Jehovah is the only true God. He announces that for several years “there shall not be dew nor rain, but according to the words of his mouth,” and then he wandered far from the face of the angered monarch, first to the brook Carith, and next to the Phenician town of Sarephta, experiencing in both places those unmistakable marks of Divine providence in his favor which are recorded in 3 Kings 17 (cfr. also 3 Kings 18:9, 10).

After a lapse of three years, when drought and famine have become well-nigh unbearable, Elias reappears boldly before Achab, and obtains from him that sacrifices should be publicly offered on Mount Carmel for the purpose of determining whether Jehovah or Baal was the true God. The test proved so clearly in favor of Jehovah that the assembled multitude proclaimed with one voice “Jehovah is God, Jehovah is God,” a solemn act of faith which was rewarded by the cessation of the drought, and the effect of which Elias endeavored at once to render permanent by the extermination of the priests of Baal (3 Kings 18). Notwithstanding his heavy blow at Baal-worship in Israel, idolatry soon flourished again in the northern kingdom owing to the supreme influence of Jezabel in religious affairs, and the faithful prophet of Jehovah soon took to flight to escape her revengeful feelings. He therefore went southward to Bersabee, then to Mount Sinai, and his steps were ever accompanied by miraculous proofs of Divine providence in his behalf (3 Kings 19).

Here it should be noticed that the miraculous powers ascribed to Elias by the sacred writer were no less necessary to this great champion of Jehovah in face of the State idolatry of the northern kingdom, than they had been to Moses in his fight against the idolatry of ancient Egypt. Nor were the wonders of which Elias was himself the object less necessary to him than similar miracles had formerly been to Moses, to preserve his life amidst the countless dangers which surrounded him, and to keep up his courage in an almost desperate struggle. Indeed, it seems that under the influence of such Divine intervention in behalf of the person and work of this prophet of Jehovah, Achab relaxed at times the persecution he had started in Israel, and even allowed himself to be guided by the advice of prophets faithful to the true God, as this occurred in the two defensive wars the king had to sustain against Ben-Adad, the King of Syria, and out of which he came victorious. Not so, however, with Jezabel, who ever considered Elias as her own personal enemy, and who never stopped at a crime which might secure the end she had in view, as is clearly evidenced in the well-known story of Naboth and his vine. It was after the murder of this God-fearing man under the false charge of blasphemy, that Elias warned Achab of the violent death which awaited him, and which soon occurred in the third war which the King of Israel, then allied with Josaphat, King of Juda, waged against Syria (3 Kings 20–22:40).

3. After the Death of Achab. The inglorious death of Achab produced an immediate rupture of peaceful relations with Moab, on the southeastern frontier of Israel (4 Kings 1:1; 3:4, sq.). The fact of this rupture is confirmed by the independent testimony of an inscription discovered east of the Jordan in 1868, and now known as the stele of Mesa or the Moabite stone. This inscription is written in the Phenician or old Hebrew character, and speaks not only of Mesa as revolting against the King of Israel, but also of his conquest of several towns east of the Jordan which Ochozias, the son and successor of Achab, was then powerless to defend (4 Kings 1:2, sq.). We learn, indeed, from the Bible that the war against Moab was actively pursued by Joram, the brother and successor of Ochozias, but neither in the sacred narrative nor in the Moabite record are we told the precise manner in which it ended (4 Kings 3:6–27). For a translation of the Moabite inscription, see Records of the Past, new series, vol ii.)

It was apparently but a short time before the death of Ochozias that Elias, who had foretold the death of that prince (4 Kings 1:2, sq.), left this world in the mysterious manner which is described in 4 Kings 2, for it was Eliseus, his successor in the prophetical office, who guided Joram in his expedition against the Moabites, and a little later in his wars against Syria (4 Kings 6, 7). As the dearest disciple of his master, Eliseus inherited “a double portion of his spirit” and also his wonderful power of working miracles, many of which have found place in the inspired record (4 Kings 2:13–8).

§ 3. Dynasty of Jehu

1. Accession of Jehu. Whilst Joram lay critically ill in Jezrael from the severe wounds he had received during the siege of Ramoth Galaad, Eliseus, who knew that the time had come for the long-predicted destruction of the family of Achab, sent “one of the sons of the prophets” to Jehu the captain of the host of Israel still gathered before Ramoth Galaad. The messenger thus despatched was to anoint Jehu in the most secret recess of his house, to announce to him that he was chosen to be Jehovah’s instrument to destroy the house of Achab, and then to fly with all speed. The young prophet discharged perfectly his mission, and the newly-anointed monarch made known without delay to his fellow-officers all that had taken place. These in turn, catching something of the enthusiasm which lighted up the countenance of Jehu, proclaimed him king at once, and leaving strict orders that no one should go out of the camp who was not fully devoted to him, they escorted him on his way to Jezrael.

As the cortege approached the city Joram, King of Israel, and Ochozias, King of Juda (then also in Jezrael) drove out, each in his chariot, to meet Jehu. A few brief words exchanged revealed to Joram the extent of his danger and that of his royal companion, and he at once gave the signal of flight. It was too late. The Israelite monarch, shot to the heart by an arrow from Jehu’s own hand, was flung into Naboth’s vineyard, and the King of Juda overtaken in his flight towards Beth-gan (the modern Jenin) wounded in his chariot, but escaped to Mageddo, some twenty miles distant, where he expired.

These murders were but the prelude of horrible massacres. “Jezabel was flung down from a window in Jezrael and was devoured by dogs. Seventy sons of Achab were put to death in Samaria. The brothers of Ochozias were put to death in the same place. The priests and the worshippers of Baal were enticed into his temple at Samaria, the doors were then blockaded, and the inmates were killed to a man. Thus finished the mighty house of Achab, and the fabric of Phenician idolatry, reared with such care and at such cost, was utterly overthrown” (BLAIKIE, Manual of Bible History, p. 290. 4 Kings 9–10:28).

2. Relations with Syria and Assyria. Of the comparatively long government of Israel by Jehu—he reigned twenty-eight years—the sacred writer gives us but a short record, which stands in striking contrast with his lengthy account of the incidents which accompanied the accession of that prince. He simply tells us that at home, Jehu did not forsake the worship of the golden calves started by Jeroboam, and that abroad, he was unfortunate in his war against the Syrian king, Hazael, who ravaged all the possessions of Israel east of the Jordan (4 Kings 10:29–34). To this scanty information of the Biblical narrative, recent discoveries have added an interesting detail: Jehu is the first Israelite king whose name is distinctly mentioned in an Assyrian inscription. From the obelisk of black marble which Salmanasar II erected at Kouyounjik (near Mosoul), we learn that Jehu paid to the Assyrian monarch a tribute of “silver, gold, bowls of gold, chalices of gold,” etc. (cfr. Records of the Past, new series, vol. iv. p. 52). We are not indeed told the reason for which the King of Israel had to pay this heavy tribute, but it is not improbable that it was because, not feeling able to withstand alone the forces of Hazael, he had summoned to his help Salmanasar II, whose victories against the King of Syria, Hazael, are expressly mentioned on the same obelisk (cfr. Records of the Past, ibid., pp. 44, 45).

3. Glorious Rule of Jeroboam II. Perhaps the most prosperous of all the reigns which the northern kingdom ever knew was that of Jeroboam II, the third successor of Jehu. That prince was indeed the deliverer of Israel from the Syrian yoke whom Jehovah had promised to His people (4 Kings 13:5), for he not only fought bravely against Syrian invaders, as his father Joas and his grandfather Joachaz had done, but actually carried the war into their own country and took Damascus their capital. He next turned his arms against Moab and Ammon and conquered their territory, so that a short time after his accession the dominions of Israel extended again from the source of the Orontes on the north to the Dead Sea on the south.

The whole northern empire of Solomon was thus practically restored, a wonderful result which had been foretold by one of the prophets of the time, Jonas, whose well-known mission to the great city of Ninive is described in the inspired book which bears his name.

Peace and security naturally followed on this territorial extension of Israel (4 Kings 8:5) and together with them a rapid artistic and commercial development set in as we readily infer from the passing allusions to it which we find in the book of Amos, another prophet of this period (cfr. for instance Amos 3:11, 12, 15; 5:11; 6:4, 5, etc.). Unfortunately, “the prosperity of the people passed, in the metropolis of Samaria and in many other parts of the country, into debauchery and excess and then again into pampered effeminacy of morals (Amos 2:7; 4:1–8; 8:13).… Again, the freer intercourse of the people with heathen nations, who had either been conquered or were distinguished by commerce and art, together with the general spread of looseness and intemperance of life, caused an extensive introduction of heathen religions” (EWALD, History of Israel, vol. iv, pp. 125, 126, English translation). All this was, of course, sternly rebuked by Amos, who foretold the destruction of the house of Jeroboam by the sword (Amos 7:9), together with severe punishments upon Israel and, indeed, with the approaching ruin of the northern kingdom (Amos 7:11, 17, etc.). All this is more particularly described, more sternly rebuked by Osee, who probably prophesied during the latter part of Jeroboam’s rule, that is, when the worst effects of a merely material prosperity had become apparent in a generally prevalent drunkenness, debauchery and idolatry (cfr. Osee 4:1, 12, 13, etc.). No wonder that he also threatens the existing dynasty with speedy extinction and the kingdom itself with near destruction (Osee 1:4 sq., etc.).

§ 4. Closing Reigns

1. The Kings: Murderers and Profligates. After the death of Jeroboam II, the kingdom of Israel hastened to its ruin under the rule of murderers and profligates. His son and successor, Zacharias, was murdered after a reign of only six months. His murderer, Sellum, had occupied the throne hardly one month, when he met with the same fate at the hands of one Manahem, who came from Thersa, and who, having committed the most revolting cruelties against his opponents, reigned ten years in Samaria. His son and successor, Phaceia, reigned but two years, after which he was slain by Phacee, one of his captains. Phacee occupied the throne for the comparatively long period of twenty years, but was at length put to death by Osee, the nineteenth and last King of Israel (BLAIKIE, Manual of Bible History, p. 296).

2. Final Overthrow of the Northern Kingdom. It was in the midst of these rapid and bloody changes of rulers that the northern kingdom was repeatedly invaded by such powerful warriors as the Assyrians. The first Israelite king who had to suffer from these terrible enemies was Manahem, whose kingdom was actually invaded by Phul, a prince who is probably identical with Teglathphalasar, and to whom Manahem hastened to proffer submission and tribute to preserve his crown (4 Kings 15:19, 20; 1 Paralip. 5:26; cfr. also VIGOUROUX, Bible et Découvertes Modernes, vol. iv). The next Israelite king whose territory was invaded by Teglathphalasar was Phacee, who had leagued himself with Syria against the kingdom of Juda. In his distress Achaz, King of Juda, had called upon the Assyrian monarch, and in consequence, instead of the easy victory the allied kings of Israel and Syria had hoped for, they were utterly defeated: the northern part of the kingdom of Israel west of the Jordan was laid waste by the conqueror, and a large number of Israelites carried into captivity (4 Kings 15:29; 16:7, sq.; 1 Paralip. 5:26).

Upon the death of Teglathphalasar, Osee, who had succeeded Phacee on the throne of Isreal, thought it an opportune time for withholding the tribute he had hitherto paid to Assyria. Then it was that Salmanasar IV invaded the territory of Israel and received from Osee the solemn promise of an annual tribute. After a time, however, Salmanasar found out that Osee was negotiating with Sua, the King of Egypt, to get rid of his tribute to Assyria, whereupon the Assyrian monarch invaded and ravaged the kingdom of Israel, cast Osee into prison, and laid siege to Samaria. It was during this siege, which lasted upwards of two years, that Salmanasar died, so that it was only under his successor Sargon II (although the Biblical narrative apparently suggests the reverse (4 Kings 17:4–6) that Samaria was captured, and the Israelites carried in large numbers into Assyria. The captives were chiefly placed “in the cities of the Medes,” that is, in one of the easternmost districts of Assyria, and strangers from various parts of Babylonia were brought in to occupy the deserted land of Israel. These new settlers soon joined the worship of Jehovah, “the God of the land,” to that of their own idols, and gradually formed a mongrel race, which was ever hated by the Jews, but more especially in the time of Our Lord (4 Kings 17; John 4:9, 27; 8:48).

Thus ended the kingdom of Israel in 721 B. C. Its destruction should have indeed been a warning to the Jews of the south that they should serve Jehovah with perfect faithfulness and thereby escape a similar fate. But, as we shall see in the next chapter, the people of Juda never clearly realized that Jehovah could forsake Juda as He had done Israel, and they therefore went on their evil ways provoking God to anger, till the Babylonian Captivity came on and made forever of the Jews a monotheistic nation.








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