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prosperity of his nation. Where would have been the glories of Solomon but for the genius and deeds of David? But more than any material greatness are the imperishable lyrics he bequeathed to all ages and nations, in which are unfolded the varied experiences of a good man in his warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil,–those priceless utterances which portray every passion that can move the human soul. He has left bare to the contemplation of all ages all that a lofty soul can suffer or enjoy, all that can be learned from folly and sin, all that can stimulate religious life, all that can console in sorrow and affliction. These experiences and aspirations he has embodied in lyric poetry, on the whole the most exquisite in the Hebrew language, creating a new world of religious thought and feeling, and furnishing the foundation for Christian psalmody, to be sung from age to age throughout the world. His kingdom passed away, but his Psalms remain,–a realm which no civilization can afford to lose. As Moses lives in his jurisprudence, Solomon in his proverbs, Isaiah in his prophecies, and Paul in his epistles, so David lives in those poems that are still the most expressive of all the forms in which the public worship of God is still continued. Such poetry could not have been written, had not the author experienced in his own life every variety of suffering and joy.

The literary excellence of the Psalms cannot be measured by the standard of Greek and Roman lyrics. It is not seen in any of our present forms of metrical composition. It is the mighty soaring of an exalted soul which makes the Psalms so dear to us, and not their artificial structure. They were made to reveal the ways of God to man and the life of the human soul, not to immortalize heroes or dignify a human love. We may not be able to appreciate in English form their original metrical skill; but it is impossible that a people so musical as the Hebrews were kindled into passionate admiration of them, had they not possessed great rhythmic beauty. We may not comprehend the force of the melodic forms, but we can appreciate the tenderness, the pathos, the sublimity, and the intensity of the sentiments expressed. “In pathetic dirges, in songs of jubilee, in outbursts of praise, in prophetic announcements, in the agonies of contrition, in bursts of adoration, in the beatitudes of holy bliss, in the enchanting calmness of Christian life,” no one has ever surpassed David, so that he was called “the sweet singer of Israel.” There is nothing pathetic in national difficulties, or endearing in family relations, or profound in inward experience, or triumphant over the fall of wickedness, or beatific in divine worship, which he does not intensify. He raises mortals to the skies, though he brings no angels down. Never does he introduce dogmas, yet his songs are permeated with fundamental truths, and are a perpetual rebuke to pharisaism, rationalism, epicureanism, and every form of infidel speculation that with “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” As the Psalter was held to be the most inspiring poetry in the palmy days of the Hebrew commonwealth, so it proved the most impressive part of the ritual of the mediaeval Church, and is still the most valued of all the lyrics which Protestantism has appropriated in the worship of God. And how potent, how lasting, how valued is a good song! The psalmody of the Church will last longer than its sermons; and when a song stimulates the loftiest sentiments of which men are capable, how priceless it is, how permanently it is embalmed in the heart of the world! “Thus have his songs become the treasured property of mankind, resounding in the anthems of different creeds, and carrying into every land that same voice which on Mount Zion was raised in sorrowful longings or ecstatic praise.”

What a mighty power the songs of the son of Jesse still wield over the affections of mankind! We lose sight at times of Moses, of Solomon, and of Isaiah; but we never lose sight of David.

Such is the tribute which all nations bring, O warrior, prophet, bard, and sainted king, From distant ages to thy hallowed name, Transcending far all Greek and Roman fame! No pagan gods thy sacred songs invoke, No loves degrading do thy strains provoke. Thy soul to heaven in holy rapture mounts, And joys seraphic in its bliss recounts. O thou sweet singer of a favored race, What vast results to thy pure songs we trace! How varied and how rich are all thy lays On Nature’s glories and Jehovah’s ways! In loftiest flight thy kindling soul surveys The promised glories of the latter days, When peace and love this fallen world shall bind, And richest blessings all the race shall find.



ABOUT 993-953 B.C.

We associate with Solomon the culmination of the Jewish monarchy, and a reign of unexampled prosperity and glory. He not only surpassed all his predecessors and successors in those things which strike the imagination as brilliant and imposing, but he had such extraordinary intellectual gifts that he has passed into history as the wisest of ancient kings, and one of the most favored of mortals.

Amid the evils which saddened the latter days of his father David, this remarkable man grew up. His interests were protected by his mother Bathsheba, an intriguing, ambitious, and beautiful woman, and his education was directed by the prophet Nathan. He was ten years of age when his elder brother Absalom rebelled, and a youth of fifteen to twenty when he was placed upon the throne, during the lifetime of his father and with his sanction, aided by the cabals of his mother, the connivance of the high-priest Zadok, the spiritual authority of Nathan, and the political ascendency of Benaiah, the most valiant of the captains of Israel after Joab. He became king in a great national crisis, when unfilial rebellion had undermined the throne of David, and Adonijah, next in age to Absalom, had sought to steal the royal sceptre, supported by the veteran Joab and Abiathar, the elder high-priest.

Solomon’s first acts as monarch were to remove the great enemies of his father and the various heads of faction, not sparing even Joab, the most successful general that ever brought lustre on the Jewish arms. With Abiathar, who died in exile, expired the last glory of the house of Eli; and with Shimei, who was slain with Adonijah, passed away the last representative of the royal family of Saul. Soon after Solomon repaired to the heights of Gibeon, six miles from Jerusalem,–a lofty eminence which overlooks Judaea, and where stood the Tabernacle of the Congregation, the original Tent of the Wanderings, in front of which was the brazen altar on which the young king, as a royal holocaust, offered the sacrifice of one thousand victims. It was on the night of that sacrificial offering that, in a dream, a divine voice offered to the youthful king whatsoever his heart should crave. He prayed for wisdom, which was granted,–the first evidence of which was his celebrated judgment between the two women who claimed the living child, which made a powerful impression on the whole nation, and doubtless strengthened his throne.

The kingdom which Solomon inherited was probably at that time the most powerful in western Asia, the fruit of the conquests of Saul and David, of Abner and Joab. It was bounded by Lebanon on the north, the Euphrates on the east, Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean on the west. Its territorial extent was small compared with the Assyrian or Persian empire; but it had already defeated the surrounding nations,–the Philistines, the Edomites, the Syrians, and the Ammonites. It hemmed in Phoenicia on the sea-coast, and controlled the great trade-routes to the East, which made it politic for the King of Tyre to cultivate the friendship of both David and Solomon. If Palestine was small in extent, it was then exceedingly fertile, and sustained a large population. Its hills were crested with fortresses, and covered with cedars and oaks. The land was favorable to both tillage and pasture, abounding in grapes, figs, olives, dates, and every species of grain; the numerous springs and streams favored a perfect system of irrigation, so that the country presented a picture in striking contrast to its present blasted and dreary desolation. The nation was also enriched by commerce as well as by agriculture. Caravans brought from Eastern cities the most valuable of their manufactures. From Tarshish in Spain ships brought gold and silver; Egypt sent chariots and fine linen; Syria sold her purple cloths and robes of varied colors; Arabia furnished horses and costly trappings. All the luxuries and riches which Tyre had collected in her warehouses found their way to Jerusalem. Even silver was as plenty as the stones in the streets. Long voyages to the mouth of the Indus resulted in a vast accumulation of treasure,–gold, ivory, spices, gums, perfumes, and precious stones. The nations and tribes subject to Solomon from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, and from Syria to the Red Sea, paid a fixed tribute, while their kings and princes sent rich presents,–vessels of gold and silver, costly arms and armor, rich garments and robes, horses and mules, perfumes and spices.

But the prosperity of the realm was not altogether inherited; it was firmly and prudently promoted by the young king. Solomon made alliances with Egypt and Syria, as well as with Phoenicia, and peace and plenty enriched all classes, so that every man sat under his own vine and fig-tree in perfect security. Never was such prosperity seen in Israel before or since. Strong fortresses were built on Lebanon to protect the caravans, and Tadmor in the wilderness to the east became a great centre of trade, and ultimately a splendid city under Zenobia. The royal stables contained forty thousand horses and fourteen hundred chariots. The royal palace glistened with plates of gold, and the parks and gardens were watered from immense reservoirs. “When the youthful monarch repaired to these gardens in his gorgeous chariot, he was attended,” says Stanley, “by nobles whose robes of purple floated in the wind, and whose long black hair, powdered with gold dust, glistened in the sun, while he himself, clothed in white, blazing with jewels, scented with perfumes, wearing both crown and sceptre, presented a scene of gladness and glory. When he travelled, he was borne on a splendid litter of precious woods, inlaid with gold and hung with purple curtains, preceded by mounted guards, with princes for his companions, and women for his idolaters, so that all Israel rejoiced in him.”

We infer that Solomon reigned for several years in justice and equity, without striking faults,–a wise and benevolent prince, who feared God and sought from him wisdom, which was bestowed in such a remarkable degree that princes came from remote countries to see him, including the famous Queen of Sheba, who was both dazzled and enchanted.

Yet while he was, on the whole, loyal to the God of his fathers, and was the pride and admiration of his subjects, especially for his wisdom and knowledge, Solomon was not exempted from grave mistakes. He was scarcely seated on his throne before he married an Egyptian princess, doubtless with the view of strengthening his political power. But while this splendid alliance brought wealth and influence, and secured chariots and horses, it violated one of the settled principles of the Jewish commonwealth, and prevented that isolation which was so necessary to keep uncorrupted the manners and habits of the people. The alliance doubtless favored commerce, and in one sense enlarged the minds of his subjects, removing from them many prejudices; but the nation was not intended by the divine founder to be politically or commercially great, but rather to preserve the worship of Jehovah. Moreover, the daughter of Pharaoh was an idolater, and her influence, so far as it went, tended to wean the king from his religious duties,–at least to make him tolerant of false gods.

The enlargement of the king’s harem was another mistake, for although polygamy was not condemned, and was practised even by David, it made Solomon prominent among Eastern monarchs for an absurd ostentation, allied with enervating effeminacy, and thus gradually undermined the healthy tone of his character. It may have prepared the way for the apostasy of his later years, and certainly led to a great increase of the royal expenses. The support of seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines must have been a scandal and a burden for which the nation was not prepared. The pomp in which he lived presupposes a change in the government itself, even to an absolute monarchy and a grinding despotism, fatal to the liberties which the Israelites had enjoyed under Saul and David. The predictions and warnings of Samuel were realized for the first time in the reign of Solomon, so that wealth, prosperity, and luxury were but a poor exchange for that ancient religious ardor and intense patriotism which had led the Hebrew nation to victory over surrounding idolatrous nations. The heroic ages of Jewish history passed away when ships navigated by Phoenician sailors brought gold from Ophir and silver from Tarshish, and did not return until the Maccabees rallied the hunted and decimated tribes of Israel against the armies of the Syrian kings.

Solomon’s peaceful and prosperous reign of forty years was, however, favorable to one grand enterprise which David had longed to accomplish, but to whom it was denied. This was the building of the Temple, for so long a time identified with the glory of Jerusalem, and common interest in which might have bound the twelve tribes together but for the excessive taxation which the extravagance and ostentation of the monarch had rendered necessary.

We can form but an inadequate idea of the magnificence of this Temple from its description in the sacred annals. An edifice which taxed the mighty resources of Solomon and consumed the spoils of forty years’ successful warfare, must have been in that age without a parallel in splendor and beauty. If the figures are not exaggerated, it required the constant labors of ten thousand men in the mountains of Lebanon alone to cut down and hew the timber, and this for a period of eleven years. Of ordinary laborers there were seventy thousand; and of those who worked in the quarries and squared the stones there were eighty thousand more, besides overseers. It took three years to prepare the foundations. As Mount Moriah, on which the Temple was built, did not furnish level space enough, a wall of solid masonry was erected on the eastern and southern sides nearly three hundred feet in height, the stones of which, in some instances, were more than twenty feet long and six feet thick, so perfectly squared that no mortar was required. The buried foundations for the courts of the Temple and the vast treasure-houses still remain to attest the strength and solidity of the work, seemingly as indestructible as are the pyramids of Egypt, and only paralleled by the uncovered ruins of the palaces of the Caesars on the Palatine Hill at Rome, which fill all travellers with astonishment. Vast cisterns also had to be hewn in the rocks to supply water for the sacrifices, capable of holding ten millions of gallons. The Temple proper was small compared with the Egyptian temples, or with mediaeval cathedrals; but the courts which surrounded it were vast, enclosing a quadrangle larger than the area on which St. Peter’s Church at Rome is built. It was, however, the richness of the decorations and of the sacred vessels and the altars for sacrifice, which consumed immense quantities of gold, silver, and brass, that made the Temple especially remarkable. The treasures alone which David collected were so enormous that we think there must be errors in the calculation,–thirteen million pounds Troy of gold, and one hundred and twenty-seven million pounds of silver,–an amount not easy to estimate. But the plates of gold which overlaid the building, and the cherubim or symbolical winged figures, the precious woods, the rich hangings and curtains of crimson and purple, the brazen altars, the lamps, the sacred vessels of solid gold and silver, the elaborate carvings and castings, the rare gems,–these all together must have required a greater expenditure than is seen in the most famous temples of Greece or Asia Minor, whose value and beauty chiefly consisted in their exquisite proportions and their marble pillars and figures of men or animals. But no representation of man, no statue to the Deity, was seen in the Temple of Solomon; no idol or sacred animal profaned it. There was no symbol to indicate even the presence of Jehovah, whose dwelling-place was in the heavens, and whom the heaven of heavens could not contain. There were rites and sacrifices, but these were offered to an unseen divinity, whose presence was everywhere, and who alone reigned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, forever and forever. The Temple, however, with its courts and porticos, its vast foundations of stones squared in distant quarries, and the immense treasures everywhere displayed, impressed both the senses and the imagination of a people never distinguished for art or science. And not only so, but Fergusson says: “The whole Mohammedan world look to it as the foundation of all architectural knowledge, and the Jews still recall its glories, and sigh over their loss with a constant tenacity unmatched by that of any other people to any other building of the ancient world.” Whether or not we are able to explain the architecture of the Temple, or are in error respecting its size, or the amount of gold and silver expended, or the number of men employed, we know that it was the pride and glory of that age, and was large enough, with its enclosures, to contain a representation of five millions of people, the heads of all the families and tribes of the nation, such as were collected together at its dedication.

As the great event of David’s reign was the removal of the Ark to Jerusalem, so the culminating glory of Solomon was the dedication of the Temple he had built to the worship of Jehovah. The ceremony equalled in brilliancy the glories of a Roman triumph, and infinitely surpassed them in popular enthusiasm. The whole population of the kingdom,–some four or five millions,–or their picked representatives, came to Jerusalem to witness or to take part in it. “And as the long array of dignitaries, with thousands of musicians clothed in white, and the monarch himself arrayed in pontifical robes, and the royal household in embroidered mantles, and the guards with their golden shields, and the priests bearing the sacred but tattered tabernacle, with the ark and the cherubim, and the altar of sacrifice, and the golden candlesticks and table of shew bread, and the brazen serpent of the wilderness and the venerated tables of stone on which were engraved by the hand of God himself the ten commandments,”–as this splendid procession swept along the road, strewed with flowers and fragrant with incense, how must the hearts of the people have been lifted up! Then the royal pontiff arose from the brazen scaffold on which he had seated himself, and amid clouds of incense and the smoke of burning sacrifice offered unto God the tribute of national praise, and implored His divine protection. And then, rising from his knees, with hands outstretched to heaven, he blessed the congregation, saying with a loud voice, “Let the Lord our God be with us as he was with our fathers, so that all the earth may know that Jehovah is God and that there is none else!”

Then followed the sacrifices for this grand occasion,–twenty thousand oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats were offered up on successive days. Only a portion of these animals was actually consumed on the altar by the officiating priests: the greater part furnished meat for the assembled multitude. The Festival of the Dedication lasted a week, and this was succeeded by the Feast of the Tabernacles; and from that time the Temple became the pride and glory of the nation. To see it periodically and worship in its courts became the intensest desire of every Hebrew. Three times a year some great festival was held, attended by a vast concourse of the people. The command was that every male Israelite should “appear before the Lord” and make his offering; but this of course had its necessary exceptions, as multitudes of women and children could not go, and had to be cared for at home. We cannot easily understand how on any other supposition they were all accommodated, spacious as were the various courts of the Temple; and we conclude that only a large representation of the tribes and families took place, for how could four or five millions of people assemble together at any festival?

Contemporaneous with the building of the Temple, or immediately after it was dedicated, were other gigantic works, including the royal palace, which it took thirteen years to complete, and upon which, as upon the Sacred House, Syrian artists and workmen were employed. The principal building was only one hundred and fifty feet long, seventy-five broad, and forty-five feet high, in three stories, with a grand porch supported on lofty pillars; but connected with the palace were other edifices to support the magnificence in which the king lived with his court and his harem. Around the tower of the House of David were hung the famous golden shields, one thousand in number, which had been made for the body-guard, with other glittering ornaments, which were likened by the poets to the neck of a bride decked with rays of golden coins. In the great Judgment Hall, built of cedar and squared stone, was the throne of the monarch, made of ivory, inlaid with gold. A special mansion was erected for Solomon’s Egyptian queen, of squared stones twelve to fifteen feet in length. Connected with these various palaces were extensive gardens constructed at great expense, filled with all the triumphs of horticultural art, and watered by streams from vast reservoirs. In these the luxurious king and court could wander among beds of spices and flowers and fruits. But these did not content the royal family. A summer palace was erected on the heights of Mount Lebanon, having gardens filled with everything which could delight the eye or captivate the senses. Here, surrounded with learned men, women, and courtiers, with bands of music, costly litters, horses and chariots, and every luxury which unbounded means could command, the magnificent monarch beguiled his leisure hours, abandoned equally to pleasure and study,–for his inquiring mind sought to master all the knowledge that was known, especially in the realm of natural history, since “he was wiser than all men, and spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is on Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall.” We can get some idea of the expenses of his household, in the fact that it daily consumed sixty measures of flour and meal and thirty oxen and one hundred sheep, besides venison, game, and fatted fowls. The king never appeared in public except with crown and sceptre, in royal robes redolent of the richest perfumes of India and Arabia, and sparkling with gold and gems. He lived in a constant blaze of splendor, whether travelling in his gorgeous litter, surrounded with his guards, or seated on his throne to dispense justice and equity, or feasting with his nobles to the sound of joyous music.

To keep up this regal splendor, to support seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines on the fattest of the land, and deck them all in robes of purple and gold; to build magnificent palaces, to dig canals, and construct gigantic reservoirs for parks and gardens; to maintain a large standing army in time of peace; to erect strong fortresses wherever caravans were in danger of pillage; to found cities in the wilderness; to level mountains and fill up valleys,–to accomplish all this even the resources of Solomon were insufficient. What were six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, yearly received (thirty-five million dollars), besides the taxes on all merchants and travellers, and the vast gifts which flowed from kings and princes, when that constant drain on the royal treasury is considered! Even a Louis XIV. was impoverished by his court and palace building, though he controlled the fortunes of twenty-five millions of people. King Solomon, in all his glory, became embarrassed, and was obliged to make forced contributions,–to levy a heavy tribute on his own subjects from Dan to Beersheba, and make bondmen of all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The people were virtually enslaved to aggrandize a single person. The burdens laid on all classes and the excessive taxation at last alienated the nation. “The division of the whole country into twelve revenue districts was a serious grievance,–especially as the high official over each could make large profits from the excess of contributions demanded.” A poll-tax, from which the nation in the olden times was freed, was levied on Israelite and Canaanite alike. The virtual slave-labor by which the great public improvements were made, sapped the loyalty of the people and produced discontent. This forced labor was as fatal as war to the real property of the nation, for wealth is ever based on private industry, on farms and vineyards, rather than on the palaces of kings. Moreover, the friendly relations which Solomon established with the neighboring heathen nations disgusted the old religious leaders, while the tendency to Oriental luxury which outward prosperity favored alarmed the more thoughtful. It was not a pleasant sight for the princes of Israel to see the whole land overrun with Phoenicians, Arabs, Babylonians, Egyptians, caravan drivers, strangers and travellers, camels and dromedaries from Midian and Sheba, traders to the fairs, pedlers with their foreign cloths and trinkets, all spreading immorality and heresy, and filling the cities with strange customs and degrading dances.

Nor was there, in that absolute monarchy which Solomon centralized around his throne, any remedy for all this, save assassination or revolution. The king had become debauched and effeminate. The love of pomp and extravagance was followed by worldliness, luxury, and folly. From agricultural pursuits the people had passed to commercial; the Israelites had become merchants and traders, and the foul idolatries of Phoenicians and Syrians had overspread the land. The king having lost the respect and affection of the nation, the rebellion of Jeroboam was a logical sequence.

I have not read of any king who so belied the promises of his early days, and on whom prosperity produced so fatal an apostasy as Solomon. With all his wisdom and early piety, he became an egotist, a sensualist, and a tyrant. What vanity he displayed before the Queen of Sheba! What a slave he became to wicked women! How disgraceful was his toleration of the gods of Phoenicia and Egypt! How hard was the bondage to which he subjected his subjects! How different was his ordinary life from that of his illustrious father, with no repentance, no remorse, no self-abasement! He was a Nebuchadnezzar and a Sardanapalus combined, going from bad to worse. And he was not only a sensualist and a tyrant, an egotist, and to some extent an idolater, but he was a cynic, sceptical of all good, and of the very attainments which had made him famous. We read of no illustrious name whose glory passed through so dark an eclipse. The satiated, disenchanted, disappointed monarch, prematurely old, and worn out by self-indulgence, passed away without honor or regret, at the age of sixty, and was buried in the City of David; and Rehoboam, his son, reigned in his stead.

The Christian fathers and many subsequent theological writers have puzzled their brains with unsatisfactory speculations whether Solomon finally repented or not; but the Scriptures are silent on that point. We have no means of knowing at what period of his life his heart was weaned from the religion of David, or when he entered upon a life of pleasure. There are some passages in the Book of Ecclesiastes which lead us to suppose that before he died he came to himself, and was a preacher of righteousness. This is the more charitable and humane view to take; yet even so, his moral teachings and warnings are not imbued with the personal contrition that endeared David’s soul to God; they are unimpassioned, cold-hearted, intellectual, impersonal. Moreover, it may be that even in the midst of his follies he retained the perception of moral distinctions. His will was probably enslaved, so that he had not the power to restrain his passions, and his head may have become giddy in his high elevation. How few men could have resisted such powerful temptations as assailed Solomon on every side! The heart of the Christian world cannot but feel that so gifted a man, endowed with every intellectual attraction, who reigned for a time with so much wisdom, who recognized Jehovah as the guide and Lord of Israel, as especially appears at the dedication of the Temple, and who wrote such profound lessons of moral wisdom, would not be suffered to descend to the grave without the divine forgiveness. All that we know is that he was wise, and favored beyond all precedent, but that he adopted the habits and fell in with the vices of Oriental kings, and lost the affections of his people. He was exalted to the highest pinnacle of glory; he descended to an abyss of shame,–a sad example of the infirmity of human nature which all ages will lament.

In one sense Solomon left nothing to his nation but monuments of despotic power, and trophies of a material civilization which implied the decay of primitive virtues. He did not perpetuate his greatness; he did not even enlarge the boundaries of his kingdom. Like Louis XIV. he simply squandered a great inheritance. He did not leave his kingdom morally so strong as it was under David; it was even dismembered under his legitimate successor. The grand Temple indeed remained the pride of every Jew, but David had bequeathed the treasures to build it. The national resources had been wasted in palaces and in court festivities; and although these had contributed to a material civilization, especially the sums expended on fortresses, aqueducts, reservoirs, and roads for the caravans, this civilization, so highly and justly prized in our age, may–under the peculiar circumstances of the Jews, and the end for which, by the Mosaic dispensation, they were intended to be kept isolated–have weakened those simpler habits and sentiments which favored the establishment of their religion. It must never be lost sight of that the isolation of the Hebrew race, unfavorable to such developments of civilization as commerce and the arts, was providentially designed (as is evidenced by the fact of accomplishment in spite of all obstacles) to keep alive the worship of Jehovah until the fulness of time should come,–until the Messiah should appear to establish a new dispensation. The glory and grandeur of Solomon did not contribute to this end, but on the other hand favored idolatrous rites and corrupting foreign customs; and this is proved by the rapid decline of the Jews in religious life, patriotic ardor, and primitive virtues under the succeeding kings, both of Judah and Israel, which led ultimately to their captivity. Politically, Solomon may have added to the temporary power of the nation, but spiritually, and so fundamentally, he caused an eclipse of glory. And this is why his kingdom departed from his house, and he left a sullied name.

Nevertheless, in many important respects Solomon rendered great services to humanity, which redeemed his memory from shame and made him a truly immortal man, and even a great benefactor. He left writings which are still among the most treasured inheritances of his nation and of mankind. It is recorded that he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five. Only a small portion of these have descended to us in the sacred writings, but they doubtless entered into the literature of the Jews. Enough remains, whenever they were compiled and collected, to establish his fame as one of the wisest and most gifted of mortals. And these writings, whatever may have been his backslidings, are pervaded with moral wisdom. Whether written in youth or in old age, on the summit of human glory or in the depths of despair, they are generally accepted as among the most precious gems of the Old Testament. His profound experience, conveyed to us in proverbs and songs, remains as a guide in life through all generations. The dignity of intellect shines triumphantly through all the obscuration of virtues. Thus do poets live even when buried in ignominious graves; thus do philosophers instruct the world even though, like Seneca, and possibly Bacon, their lives present a sad contrast to their precepts. Great thoughts emancipate the soul, from age to age, while he who uttered them may have been enslaved by vices. Who knows what the private life of Shakspeare and Goethe may have been, but who would part with the writings they have left us? How soon the personal peculiarities of Coleridge and Carlyle will be forgotten, yet how permanent and healthy their utterances! It is truth, rather than man, that lives and conquers and triumphs. Man is nothing, except as the instrument of almighty power.

Of the writings ascribed to Solomon, there are three books, each of which corresponds to the different periods of his life,–to his pious youth, to his prosperous manhood, and to his later years of cynicism and despair. They all alike blaze with moral truth, and appeal to universal experience. They present different features of human life, at different periods, and suggest sentiments which most people have realized at some time or another. And if in some cases they are apparently contradictory, like the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, they are equally striking and convincing, and are not more inconsistent than the man himself. Who does not change, and yet remain individually the same? Is there not a change between youth and old age? Do not most great men utter sentiments hard to be reconciled with one another, yet with equal sincerity? Webster enforces free-trade at one time and a high tariff at another, as light or circumstances change. Gladstone was in youth and middle age a pillar of the aristocracy; later he was the oracle of the masses, yet a lofty realism underlay all his utterances. The writings of Solomon present life in different aspects, and yet they are alike true. They are not divine revelations, like the commandments given to Moses amid the lightnings of Sinai, or like the visions of the prophets respecting the future glories of the Church. They do not exalt the soul into inspiring ecstasies like the psalms of David, or kindle a holy awe like the lofty meditations of Job; but they are yet such impressive truths pertaining to human life that we invest them with more than human wisdom.

The Song of Songs, long ascribed to King Solomon, has been attended with some difficulty of explanation. It is a poem liable to be perverted by an unsanctified soul, since it is foreign to our modes of expression. For two hundred years it has been variously interpreted. It was the delight of Saint Bernard the ascetic, and a stumbling-block to Ewald the critic. To many German scholars, who have rendered great services by their learning and genius, it is only the expression of physical love, like the amatory songs of Greece. To others of more piety yet equal scholarship, like Origen, Grotius, and Bossuet, it is symbolic of the love which exists between Christ and the Church. It seems, at least, to be a contrast with the impure love of the heathen world. But whether it describes the ardent affection which Solomon bore to his young Egyptian bride; or the still more beautiful love of the innocent Shulamite maiden for her betrothed shepherd feeding his flock among the lilies, unseduced by all the influences of the royal court, and triumphant over the seductions of rank and power; or whether it is the rapt soul of the believer bursting out in holy transports of joy, like a Saint Theresa in the anticipated union with her divine Spouse,–it is still a noble tribute to what is most enchanting of the great certitudes on earth or in heaven; and it is expressed in language of exquisite and incomparable elegance. “Arise, my fair one, and come away! for the winter is past and gone, and the flowers appear upon the earth, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land. Make haste, my beloved! Be thou like a roe on the mountains of spices, for many waters cannot quench love, nor the floods drown it; yea, were a man to offer all that he hath for it, it would be utterly despised.” How tender, how innocent, how fervent, how beautiful, is this description of a lofty love, at rest in its happiness, in the society of the charmer, exultant in the certainty of that glorious sentiment which nothing can corrupt and nothing can destroy!

If this unique and beautiful Song was the work of Solomon in his early days of innocence and piety, the book of Proverbs seems to be the result of his profound observations when he was still uncorrupted by prosperity, ruling his kingdom with sagacity and amazing the world with his wisdom. How many of those acute sayings were uttered by Solomon we know not, but probably most of them are his, collected, it is supposed, during the reign of Hezekiah. They are written on almost every subject pertaining to ethics, to nature, to science, and to society. Some are allusions to God, and others to the duties between man and man. Many are devoted to the duties of women, applicable to the sex in all times. They are not on a level of the Psalms in piety, nor of the Prophecies in grandeur, but they recognize the immutable principles of moral obligation. In some cases they seem to be worldly-wise,–such as we might suppose to fall from the mouth of Benjamin Franklin or Cobbett,–recognizing worldly prosperity as the greatest of blessings. Sometimes they are witty, again ironical, but always forcible. In some of them there is awful solemnity.

There are no more terrific warnings and exhortations in the sacred writings than are found in the Proverbs of Solomon. The sins of idleness, of anger, of covetousness, of gossip, of falsehood, of oppression, of injustice, of intemperance, of unchastity, are uniformly denounced as leading to destruction; while prudence, temperance, chastity, obedience to parents, and loyalty to truth are enjoined with the earnestness of a man who believes in personal accountability to God. The ethics of the Proverbs are based on everlasting righteousness, and are imbued with the spirit of divine philosophy; their great peculiarity is the constant exhortation to wisdom and knowledge, to which young men are especially exhorted. Like Socrates, Solomon never separates wisdom from virtue, but makes one the foundation of the other. He shows the connection between virtue and happiness, vice and misery. The Proverbs are inexhaustible in moral force, and have universal application. There is nothing cynical or gloomy in them. They form a fitting study for youth and old age, an incentive to virtue and a terror to evil-doers, a thesaurus of moral wisdom; they speak in every line a lofty and comprehensive intellect, acquainted with all the experiences of life. Such moral wisdom would be imperishable in any literature. Such utterances go far to redeem all personal defects; they show how unclouded is a mind trained in equity, even when the will is enslaved by iniquity. What is still more remarkable, the Proverbs never apologize for the force of temptation, and never blend error with truth; they uniformly exalt wisdom, and declare that the beginning of it is the fear of the Lord. There is not one of them which seeks to cover up vice with sophistical excuses; they show that the author or authors of them love moral beauty and truth, and exalt the same,–as many great men, with questionable morals, give their testimony to the truths of Christianity, and utterly abhor those who poison the soul by plausible sophistries,–as Lord Brougham detested Rousseau. The famous writings of our modern times which nearest approach the Proverbs in love of truth and moral wisdom are those of Bacon and Shakspeare.

In striking contrast with the praises of knowledge which permeate the Proverbs, is the book of Ecclesiastes, supposed to have been written in the decline of Solomon’s life, when the pleasures of sin had saddened his soul, and filled his mind with cynicism. Unless the book of Ecclesiastes is to be interpreted as ironical, nothing can be more dreary than many of its declarations. It even seems to pour contempt on all knowledge and all enjoyments. “In much knowledge is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow…. What profit hath a man of all his labor?… There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool…. There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink…. A man hath no pre-eminence over a beast; all go to the same place…. What hath the wise man more than the fool?… There is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in wickedness…. One man among a thousand have I found, but a woman among all those have I not found…. The race is not to the swift, the battle to the strong; neither bread to the wise, nor riches to the man of understanding…. On all things is written vanity.” Such are some of the dismal and cynical utterances of Solomon in his old age. The Ecclesiastes contrasted with the Proverbs is discouraging and sad, although there is great seriousness and even loftiness in many of its sayings. It seems to be the record of a disenchanted old man, to whom all things are a folly and vanity. There is a suppressed contempt expressed for what young men and the worldly regard as desirable, equalled only by a sort of proud disdain of success and fame. There is great bitterness in reference to women. Some of the sayings are as mournful jeremiads as any uttered by Carlyle, showing great scorn of what ninety-nine in one hundred are vain of, and pursue after, as all ending in vanity and vexation of spirit. We can understand how riches may prove a snare, how pleasure-seeking ends in disappointment, how the smiles of a deceitful woman may lead to the chamber of death, how little the treasures of wickedness profit, how sins will find out the transgressor, how the heart may be sad in the midst of laughter, how wine is a mocker, how ambition is Babel-building, how he who pursueth evil pursueth it to his death; we can understand how abundance will produce satiety, and satiety lead to disgust,–how disappointment attends our most cherished plans, and how all mortal pursuits fail to satisfy the cravings of an immortal soul. But why does the favored and princely Solomon, in sadness and bitterness, pronounce knowledge also to be a vanity like power and riches, especially when in his earlier writings he so highly commends it? Is it true that in much wisdom is much grief, and that the increase of knowledge is the increase of sorrow? Can it be that the book of Ecclesiastes is the mere record of the miserable experiences of an embittered and disappointed sensualist, or is it the profound and searching exposition of the vanities of this world as they appear to a lofty searcher after truth and God, measured by the realities of a future and endless life, which the soul emancipated from pollution pants and aspires after with all the intensity of a renovated nature? When I bear in mind the impressive lessons that are declared at the close of this remarkable book, the earnest exhortation to remember God before the dust shall return to the earth as it was, I cannot but feel that there are great moral truths underlying the sarcasm and irony in which the writer indulged. And these come with increased force from the mouth of a man who had tasted every mortal good, and found it all, when not properly used, a confirmation of the impossibility of earth to satisfy the soul of man. The writer calls himself “the preacher,” and surely a great preacher he was,–not to a throng of “fashionable worshippers” or a crowd of listless pleasure-seekers, but to all ages and nations. And if he really was a living speaker to the young men who caught the inspiration of his voice, how terribly eloquent he must have been!

I fancy that I can see that unhappy old man, worn out, saddened, embittered, yet at last rising above the decrepitude of age and the infirmities which sin had hastened, and speaking in tones that could never be forgotten. “Behold, ye young men! I have tasted every enjoyment of this earth; I have indulged in every pleasure forbidden or permitted. I have explored the world of thought and the realm of nature. I have been favored beyond any mortal that ever lived; I have been flattered and honored beyond all precedent; I have consumed the treasures of kings and princes. I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards; I made me gardens and orchards, I made me pools of water; I got me servants and maidens, I gathered me also silver and gold; I got me men-singers and women-singers and musical instruments; whatsoever my eyes desired I kept not from them; I withheld not my heart from any joy,–and now, lo! I solemnly declare unto you, with my fading strength and my eyes suffused with tears and my knees trembling with weakness, and in view of that future and higher life which I neglected to seek amid the dazzling glories of my throne, and the bewilderment of fascinating joys,–I now most earnestly declare unto you that all these things which men seek and prize are a vanity, a delusion, and a snare; that there is no wisdom but in the fear of God.”

So this saddest of books closes with lofty exhortations, and recognizes moral obligations which are in harmony with the great principle enforced in the Proverbs,–that there is no escape from the penalty of sin and folly; that whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. The last recorded words of the preacher are concerning the vanity of life,–that is, the hopeless failure of worldly pleasures and egotistical pursuits in themselves alone to secure happiness; the impossibility of lasting good disconnected with righteousness; the fact that even knowledge, the greatest possession and the highest joy which a man can have, does not satisfy the soul.

These final utterances of Solomon are not dogmas nor speculations, they are experiences,–the experiences of one of the most favored mortals who has lived upon our earth, and one of the wisest. If, measured by the eternal standards, his glory was less than that of the flower which withers in a day, what hope have ordinary men in the pursuit of pleasure, or gain, or honor? Utter vanity and vexation of spirit! Nothing brings a true reward but virtue,–unselfish labors for others, supreme loyalty to conscience, obedience to God. Hence, such profound experience so frankly published, such sad confessions uttered from the depths of the heart, and the summing up of the whole question of human life, enforced with the earnestness and eloquence of an old man soon to die, have peculiar force, and are among the greatest treasures of the Old Testament.

The fundamental truth to be deduced from the book of Ecclesiastes is that whatsoever is born of vanity must end in vanity. If vanity is the seed, so vanity is the fruit. It is, in fact, one of the most impressive of all the truths that appeal either to consciousness or experience. If a man builds a house from vanity, or makes a party from vanity, or gives a present from vanity, or writes a book from vanity, or seeks an office from vanity,–then, as certainly as the bite of an asp will poison the body, will the expected good be turned into a bitter disappointment. Self-love cannot be the basis of human action without alienation from God, without weariness, disgust, and ultimate sorrow. The soul can be fed only by divine certitudes; it can be enlarged only by walking according to the divine commandments.

Confucius, Socrates, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius declared the same truths, but not so impressively. Not for one’s self, not for friends, not even for children alone must one live. There is a higher law still which speaks to the universal conscience, asking, What is your duty? With this is identified all that is precious in life, on earth or in heaven, for time and eternity. Anything in this world which is sought as a good, whose end is selfish, is an impressive failure; so that self-aggrandizement becomes as absurd and fatal as self-indulgence. One can no more escape from the operation of this law than he can take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea. The commonest experiences of every-day life confirm the wisdom which Solomon uttered out of his lonely and saddened soul. If ye will not hear him, be instructed by your own broken friendships, your own dispelled illusions, your own fallen idols; by the heartlessness which too often lurks in the smiles of beauty, by the poison concealed in polished flatteries, by the deceitfulness hidden, beneath the warmest praises, by the demons of envy, jealousy, and pride which take from success itself its promised joys.

Who is happy with any amount of wealth? Who is free from corroding cares? Who can escape anxiety and fear? How hard to shake off the burdens which even a rich man is compelled to bear? There is a fly in every ointment, a skeleton in every closet, solitude in the midst of crowds, isolation in the joy of festivals. The wrecks of happiness are strewn in every path that the world has envied.

Read the lives of illustrious men; how melancholy often are the latter days of those who have climbed the highest! Caesar is stabbed when he has conquered the world. Diocletian retires in disgust from the government of an empire. Godfrey languishes in grief when he has taken Jerusalem. Charles V. shuts himself up in a convent. Galileo, whose spirit has roamed the heavens, is a prisoner of the Inquisition. Napoleon masters a continent, and expires on a rock in the ocean. Mirabeau dies of despair when he has kindled the torch of revolution. The poetic soul of Burns passes away in poverty and moral eclipse. Madness overtakes the cool satirist Swift, and mental degeneracy is the final condition of the fertile-minded Scott. The high-souled Hamilton perishes in a petty quarrel, and curses overwhelm Webster in the halls of his early triumphs. What a confirmation of the experience of Solomon! “Vanity of vanities” write on all walls, in all the chambers of pleasure, in all the palaces of pride!

This is the burden of the preaching of Solomon; but it is also the lesson which is taught by all the records of the past, and all the experiences of mankind. Yet it is not sad when one considers the dignity of the soul and its immortal destinies. It is sad only when the disenchantment of illusions is not followed by that holy fear which is the beginning of wisdom,–that exalted realism which we believe at last sustained the soul of the Preacher as he was hastening to that country from whose bourn no traveller returns.




Evil days fell upon the Israelites after the death of Solomon. In the first place their country was rent by political divisions, disorders, and civil wars. Ten of the tribes, or three quarters of the population, revolted from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and successor, and took for their king Jeroboam,–a valiant man, who had been living for several years at the court of Shishak, king of Egypt, exiled by Solomon for his too great ambition. Jeroboam had been an industrious, active-minded, strong-natured youth, whom Solomon had promoted and made much of. The prophet Ahijah had privately foretold to him that, on account of the idolatries tolerated by Solomon, ten of the tribes should be rent away from, the royal house and given to him. The Lord promised him the kingdom of Israel, and (if he would be loyal to the faith) the establishment of a dynasty,–“a sure house.” Jeroboam made choice of Shechem for his capital; and from political reasons,–for fear that the people should, according to their custom, go up to Jerusalem to worship at the great festivals of the nation, and perhaps return to their allegiance to the house of David, while perhaps also to compromise with their already corrupted and unspiritualized religious sense,–he made two golden calves and set them up for religious worship: one in Bethel, at the southern end of the kingdom; the other in Dan, at the far north.

It does not appear that the people of Israel as yet ignored Jehovah as God; but they worshipped him in the form of the same Egyptian symbol that Aaron had set up in the wilderness,–a grave offence, although not an utter apostasy. Moreover, this was the act of the king rather than of the priests or his own subjects.

Stanley makes a significant comment on this act of the new king, which the sacred narrative refers to as “the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.” He says: “The Golden Image was doubtless intended as a likeness of the One True God. But the mere fact of setting up such a likeness broke down the sacred awe which had hitherto marked the Divine Presence, and accustomed the minds of the Israelites to the very sin against which the new form was intended to be a safeguard. From worshipping God under a false and unauthorized form they gradually learned to worship other gods altogether…. ‘The sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat,’ is the sin again and again repeated in the policy–half-worldly, half-religious–which has prevailed through large tracts of ecclesiastical history…. For the sake of supporting the faith of the multitude, lest they should fall away to rival sects, … false arguments have been used in support of religious truths, false miracles promulgated or tolerated, false readings in the sacred text defended. And so the faith of mankind has been undermined by the very means intended to preserve it.”

For priests, Jeroboam selected the lowest of the people,–whoever could be induced to offer idolatrous sacrifices in the high places,–since the old priests and Levites remained with the tribe of Judah at Jerusalem.

These abominations and political rivalries caused incessant war between the two kingdoms for several reigns. The northern kingdom, including the great tribe of Ephraim or Joseph, was the richest, most fertile, and most powerful; but the southern kingdom was the most strongly fortified. And yet even in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, the king of Egypt, probably incited by Jeroboam, invaded Judah with an immense army, including sixty thousand cavalry and twelve hundred chariots, and invested Jerusalem. The city escaped capture only by submitting to the most humiliating conditions. The vast wealth which was stored in the Temple,–the famous gold shields which David had taken from the Syrians, and those also made by Solomon for his body-guard, together with the treasures of the royal palace,–became spoil for the Egyptians. This disaster happened when Solomon had been dead but five years. The solitary tribe left to his son, despoiled by Egypt and overrun by other enemies, became of but little account politically for several generations, although it still possessed the Temple and was proud of its traditions. After this great humiliation, the proud king of Judah, it seems, became a better man; and his descendants for a hundred years were, on the whole, worthy sovereigns, and did good in the sight of the Lord.

Political interest now centres in the larger kingdom, called Israel. Judah for a time passes out of sight, but is gradually enriched under the reigns of virtuous princes, who preserved the worship of the true God at Jerusalem. Nations, like individuals, seldom grow in real strength except in adversity. The prosperity of Solomon undermined his throne. The little kingdom of Judah lasted one hundred and fifty years after the ten tribes were carried into captivity.

Yet what remained of power and wealth among the Jews after the rebellion under Jeroboam, was to be found in the northern kingdom. It was still exceedingly fertile, and was well watered. It was “a land of brooks of water, of fountains, of barley and wheat, of vines and fig-trees, of olives and honey.” It boasted of numerous fortified cities, and had a population as dense as that in Belgium at the present time. The nobles were powerful and warlike; while the army was well organized, and included chariots and horses. The monarchy was purely military, and was surrounded by powerful nations, whom it was necessary to conciliate. Among these were the Phoenicians on the west, and the Syrians on the north. From the first the army was the great power of the state, its chief being more powerful than Joab was in the undivided kingdom of David. He stood next after the king, and was the channel of royal favor.

The history of the northern kingdom which has come down to us is very meagre. From Jeroboam to Ahab–a period of sixty-six years–there were six kings, three of whom were assassinated. There was a succession of usurpers, who destroyed all the members of the preceding reigning family. They were all idolaters, violent and bloodthirsty men, whom the army had raised to the throne. No one of them was marked by signal ability, unless it were Omri, who built the city of Samaria on a high hill, and so strongly fortified it that it remained the capital until the fall of the kingdom. He also made a close alliance with Tyre, the great centre of commerce in that age, and one of the wealthiest cities of antiquity. To cement this political alliance, Omri married his son Ahab–the heir-apparent to the throne–to a daughter of the Tyrian king, afterward so infamous as a religious fanatic and persecutor, under the name of Jezebel,–one of the worst women in history.

On the accession of Ahab, nine hundred and nineteen years before Christ, the kingdom of Israel was rapidly tending to idolatry. Jeroboam had set up golden calves chiefly for a political end, but Ahab built a temple to Baal, the sun-god, the chief divinity of the Phoenicians, and erected an altar therein for pagan sacrifices, thus abjuring Jehovah as the Supreme and only God. The established religion was now idolatry in its worst form; it was simply the worship of the powers of Nature, under the auspices of a foreign woman stained with every vice, who controlled her husband. For Ahab himself was bad enough, but he was not the wickedest of the monarchs of Israel, nor was he insignificant as a man. It was his misfortune to be completely under the influence of his Phoenician bride, as many stronger men than he have been enslaved by women before and since his day. Ahab, bad as he was, was brave in battle, patriotic in his aims, and magnificent in his tastes. To please his wife he added to his royal residences a summer retreat called Jezreel, which was of great beauty, and contained within its grounds an ivory palace of great splendor. Amid its gardens and parks and all the luxuries then known, the youthful monarch with his queen and attendant nobles abandoned themselves to pleasure and folly, as Oriental monarchs are wont to do. It would seem that he was unusually licentious in his habits, since he left seventy children,–afterward to be massacred.

The ascendency of a wicked woman over this luxurious monarch has made her infamous. She was an incarnation of pride, sensuality, and cruelty; and with all her other vices she was a religious persecutor who has had no equal. We may perhaps give to her, as to many other tiger-like persecutors in the cause of what they call their “religion,” the meagre credit of conscientious devotion in their cruelty; for she feasted at her own table at Jezreel four hundred priests of Baal, besides four hundred and fifty others at Samaria, while she erected two great sanctuaries for the Phoenician deities, at which the officiating priests were clad in splendid vestments. The few remaining prophets of Jehovah in the kingdom hid themselves in caves and deserts to escape the murderous fury of the idolatrous queen. We infer that she was distinguished for her beauty, and was bewitching in her manners like Catherine de’ Medici, that Italian bigot whom her courtiers likened both to Aurora and Venus. Jezebel, like the Florentine princess, is an illustration of the wickedness which is so often concealed by enchanting smiles, especially when armed with power. The priests of Baal undoubtedly regarded their great protectress as one of the most fascinating women that ever adorned a royal palace, and in the blaze of her beauty and the magnificence of her bounty were blind to her innumerable sorceries and the wild license of her life.

The fearful apostasy of Israel, which had been increasing for sixty years under wicked kings, had now reached a point which called for special divine intervention. There were only seven thousand men in the whole kingdom who had not bowed the knee to Baal, and God sent a prophet,–a prophet such as had not appeared in Israel since Samuel; more august, more terrible even than he; indeed, the most unique and imposing character in Jewish history.

Almost nothing is known of the early history of Elijah. The Bible simply speaks of him as “the Tishbite,”–one of the inhabitants of Gilead, at the east of the Jordan. He evidently was a man accustomed to a wild and solitary life. His stature was large, and his features were fierce and stern. His long hair flowed upon his brawny shoulders, and he was clothed with a mantle of sheepskin or hair-cloth, and carried in his hand a rugged staff. He was probably unlearned, being rude and rough in both manners and speech. His first appearance was marked and extraordinary. He suddenly and unannounced stood before Ahab, and abruptly delivered his awful message. He was an apparition calculated to strike with terror the boldest of kings in that superstitious age. He makes no set speech, he offers no apology, he disdains all forms and ceremonies; he does not even render the customary homage. He utters only a few words, preceded by an oath: “As Jehovah the God of Israel liveth, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word.” What arrogance before a king! Elijah, an utterly unknown man, in a sheepskin mantle, apparently a peasant, dares to utter a curse on the land without even deigning to give a reason, although the conscience of Ahab must have told him that he could not with impunity introduce idolatry into Israel.

Elijah doubtless attacked the king in the presence of his wife and court. To the cynical and haughty queen, born in idolatry, he probably seemed a madman of the desert,–shaggy, unwashed, fierce, repulsive. To the Israelitish king, however, with better knowledge of the ways of God, the prophet appeared armed with supernal powers, whom he both feared and hated, and desired to put out of the way. But Elijah mysteriously disappears from the royal presence as suddenly as he had entered it, and no one knows whither he has fled. He cannot be found. The royal emissaries go into every land, but are utterly baffled in their search. The whole power of the realm was doubtless put forth to discover his retreat, and had he been found, no mercy would have been shown him; he would have been summarily executed, not only as a prophet of the detested religion, but as one who had insulted the royal station. He was forced to flee and hide after delivering his unwelcome message.

And whither did the prophet fly? He fled with the swiftness of a Bedouin, accustomed to traverse barren rocks and scorching sands, to a retired valley of one of the streams that emptied into the Jordan near Samaria. Amid the clefts of the rocks which marked the deep valley, did the man of God hide himself from his furious and numerous persecutors. He does not escape to his native deserts, where he would most probably have been hunted like a wild beast, but remains near the capital in which Ahab reigns, in a deeply secluded spot, where he quenches his thirst from the waters of the brook, and eats the food which the ravens deposit amid the steep cliffs he knows how to climb.

The bravest and most undaunted man in Israel, shielded and protected by God, was probably warned by the divine voice to make his escape, since his life was needful to the execution of Providential purposes. He was the only one of all the prophets of his day who dared to give utterance to his convictions. Some four or five hundred there were in the kingdom, all believers in Jehovah; but all sought to please the reigning power, or timidly concealed themselves. They had been trained in the schools which Samuel had established, and were probably teachers of the people on theological subjects, and hence an antagonistic force to idolatrous kings. Their great defect in the time of Ahab was timidity. There was needed some one who under all circumstances would be undaunted, and would not hesitate to tell the truth even to the king and queen, however unpleasant it might be. So this rough, fierce, unlettered man of few words was sent by God, armed with terrible powers.

It was now the rainy season, when rain was confidently expected by the people throughout Palestine. Yet strangely no rain fell, though sixty inches were the usual quantity in the course of the year. The streams from the mountains were dried up; the land, long parched by the summer sun, became like dust and ashes; the hills presented a blasted and dreary desolation; the very trees were withered and discolored. At last even the sheltered brook failed from which Elijah drank, and it became necessary for the man of God to seek another retreat. The Lord therefore sent him to the last place in which his enemies would naturally search for him, even to a city of Phoenicia, where the worship of Baal was the only religion of the land. As in his tattered and strange apparel he approached Sarepta, or Zarephath, a town between Tyre and Sidon, worn out with fatigue, parched with thirst, and overcome with hunger,–everything around him being depressed and forlorn, the rivers and brooks showing only beds of stone, the trees and grass withered, the sky lurid, and of unnatural brightness like that of brass, and the sun burning and scorching every remnant of vegetation,–he beheld a woman issuing from the town to gather sticks, in order to cook what she supposed would be her last meal. To this sad and discouraged woman, doubtless a worshipper of Baal, the prophet thus spoke: “Fetch me, I pray you, a little water in a vessel that I may drink;” and as she turned sympathetically to look upon him, he added, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.”

This was no small request to make of a woman who was herself on the borders of starvation, and of a pagan woman too. But there was a mysterious affinity between these two suffering souls. A common woman would not have appreciated the greatness of the beggar and vagrant before her. Only a discerning and sympathetic woman would have seen in the tones of his voice, and in his lofty bearing, despite all his rags and dirt, an unusual and marked character. She probably belonged to a respectable class, reduced to poverty by the famine, and her keen intelligence recognized at once in the hungry and needy stranger a superior person,–even as the humble friar of Palos saw in Columbus a nobleman by nature, when, wearied and disappointed, he sought food and shelter. She took the prophet by the hand, conducted him to her home, gave him the best chamber in her house, and in a strange devotion of generosity divided with him the last remnant of her meal and oil.

It is probable that a lasting friendship sprang up between the pagan woman and the solemn man of God, such as bound together the no less austere Jerome and his disciple Paula. For two or three years the prophet dwelt in peace and safety in the heathen town, protected by an admiring woman,–for his soul was great, if his body was emaciated and his dress repulsive. In return for her hospitality he miraculously caused her meal and oil to be daily renewed; and more than this, he restored her only son to life, when he had succumbed to a dangerous illness,–the first recorded instance of such a miracle.

The German critics would probably say that the boy was only seemingly dead, even as they would deny the miracle of the meal and oil. It is not my purpose to discuss this matter, but to narrate the recorded incidents that filled the soul of the woman of Sarepta with gratitude, with wonder, and with boundless devotion. “Verily, I say unto you,” said a greater than Elijah, “whosoever shall give a cup of cold water in the name of a prophet, shall in no way lose his reward.” Her reward was immeasurably greater than she had dared to hope. She received both spiritual and temporal blessings, and doubtless became a convert to the true faith. Tradition asserts that her boy, whom Elijah saved,–whether by natural or supernatural means, it is alike indifferent,–became in after years the prophet Jonah, who was sent to Nineveh. In all great friendships the favors are reciprocal. A noble-hearted woman was saved from starvation, and the life of a great man was preserved for future usefulness. Austerity and tenderness met together and became a cord of love; and when the land was perishing from famine, the favored members of a retired household were shielded from harm, and had all that was necessary for comfort.

Meanwhile the abnormal drought and consequent famine continued. The northern kingdom was reduced to despair. So dried up were the wells and exhausted the cisterns and reservoirs that even the king’s household began to suffer, and it was feared that the horses of the royal stables would perish. In this dire extremity the king himself set forth from his palace to seek patches of vegetation and pools of water in the valleys, while his prime minister Obadiah–a secret worshipper of Jehovah–was sent in an opposite direction for a like purpose. On his way, in the almost hopeless search for grass and water, Obadiah met Elijah, who had been sent from his retreat once more to confront Ahab, and this time to promise rain. As the most diligent search had been made in every direction, but in vain, to find Elijah, with a view to his destruction as the man who “troubled Israel,” Obadiah did not believe that the hunted prophet would voluntarily put himself again in the power of an angry and hostile tyrant. Yet the prime minister, having encountered the prophet, was desirous that he should keep his word to appear before the king, and promise to remove the calamity which even in a pagan land was felt to be a divine judgment. Elijah having reassured him of his sincerity, the minister informed his master that the man he sought to destroy was near at hand, and demanded an interview. The wrathful and puzzled king went out to meet the prophet, not to take vengeance, but to secure relief from a sore calamity,–for Ahab reasoned that if Elijah had power, as the messenger of Omnipotence, to send a drought, he also had the power to remove it. Moreover, had he not said that there should be neither rain nor dew but according to his word? So Ahab addressed the prophet as the author of national calamities, but without threats or insults. “Art thou he who troubleth Israel?” Elijah loftily, fearlessly, and reproachfully replied: “I have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father’s house, in that thou hast forsaken the commandments of Jehovah, and hast followed Baalim.” He then assumes the haughty attitude of a messenger of divine omnipotence, and orders the king to assemble all his people, together with the eight hundred and fifty priests of Baal, at Mount Carmel,–a beautiful hill sixteen hundred feet high, near the Mediterranean, usually covered with oaks and flowering shrubs and fragrant herbs. He gives no reasons,–he sternly commands; and the king obeys, being evidently awed by the imperious voice of the divine ambassador.

The representatives of the whole nation are now assembled at Mount Carmel, with their idolatrous priests. The prophet appears in their midst as a preacher armed with irresistible power. He addresses the people, who seemed to have no firm convictions, but were swayed to and fro by changing circumstances, being not yet hopelessly sunk into the idolatry of their rulers. “How long,” cried the preacher, with a loud voice and fierce aspect, “halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be God, _follow_ him; but if Baal be God, then follow _him_.” The undecided, crestfallen, intimidated people did not answer a word.

Then Elijah stoops to argument. He reminds the people, among whom probably were many influential men, that he stood alone in opposition to eight hundred and fifty idolatrous priests protected by the king and queen. He proposes to test their claims in comparison with his as ministers of the true God. This seems reasonable, and the king makes no objection. The test is to be supernatural, even to bring down fire from heaven to consume the sacrificial bullock on the altar. The priests of Baal select their bullock, cut it in pieces, put it on the wood, and invoke their supreme deity to send fire to consume the sacrifice. With all their arts and incantations and magical sorceries, the fire does not descend. They then perform their wild and fantastic dances, screaming aloud, from early morn to noon, “O Baal, hear us!” We do not read whether Ahab was present or not, but if he were he must have quaked with blended sentiments of curiosity and fear. His anxiety must have been terrible. Elijah alone is calm; but he is also stern. He mocks them with provoking irony, and ridicules their want of success. His grim sarcasms become more and more bitter. “Cry with a loud voice!” said he, “yea, louder and yet louder! for ye cry to a god; either he is talking, or he is hunting, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must be awakened.” And they cried aloud, and cut themselves, after their manner, with knives and spears, till the blood gushed out upon them.

Then Elijah, when midday was past, and the priests continued to call unto their god until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, and there was neither voice nor answer, assembled the people around him, as he stood alone by the ruins of an ancient altar. With his own hands he gathered twelve stones, piled them together to represent the twelve tribes, cut a bullock in pieces, laid it on the wood, made a trench around the rude altar, which he filled with water from an adjacent well, and then offered up this prayer to the God of his fathers: “O Jehovah, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hear me! and let all the people know that thou art the God of Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, Jehovah, hear me! that this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back again.” Then immediately the fire of Jehovah fell and consumed the bullock and the wood, even melted the very stones, and licked up the water in the trench. And when the people saw it, they fell on their faces, and cried aloud, “Jehovah, he is the God! Jehovah, he is the God!”

Elijah then commanded to take the prophets of Baal, all of them, so that not even one of them should escape. And they took them, by the direction of Elijah, down the mountain side to the brook Kishon, and slew them there. His triumph was complete. He had asserted the majesty and proved the power of Jehovah.

The prophet then turned to the king, who seems to have been completely subjected by this tremendous proof of the prophetic authority, and said: “Get thee up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” And Ahab ascended the hill, to eat and drink with his nobles at the sacrificial feast,–a venerable symbol by which, from the most primitive antiquity to our own day, by so universal an impulse that it would seem to be divinely imparted, every form of religion known to man has sought to typify the human desire to commune with Deity.

Elijah also went to the top of Carmel, not to the symbolic feast, but in spirit and in truth to commune with God, reverentially hiding his face between his knees. He felt the approach of the coming storm, even when the sky was clear, and not a cloud was to be seen over the blue waters of the Mediterranean. So he said to his servant: “Go up now, and look toward the sea.” And the servant went to still higher ground and looked, and reported that nothing was to be seen. Six times the order was impatiently repeated and obeyed; but at the seventh time, the youthful servant–as some think, the very boy he had saved–reported a cloud in the distant horizon, no bigger seemingly than a man’s hand. At once Elijah sent word to Ahab to prepare for the coming tempest; and both he and the king began to descend the hill, for the clouds rapidly gathered in the heavens, and that mighty wind arose which in Eastern countries precedes a furious storm. With incredible rapidity the tempest spread, and the king hastened for his life to his chariot at the foot of the hill, to cross the brook before it became a flood; and Elijah, remembering that he was king, ran before his chariot more rapidly than the Arab steeds. As the servant of Jehovah, he performs his mission with dignity and without fear; as a subject, he renders due respect to rank and power.

Ahab has now witnessed with his own eyes the impotency of the prophets of Baal, and the marvellous power of the messenger of Jehovah. The desire of the nation was to be gratified; the rains were falling, the cisterns and reservoirs were filling, and the fields once more would soon rejoice in their wonted beauty, and the famine would soon be at an end. In view of the great deliverance, and awe-stricken by the supernatural gifts of the prophet, one would suppose that the king would have taken Elijah to his confidence and loaded him with favors, and been guided by his counsels. But, no. He had been subjected to deep humiliation before his own people; his religion had been brought into contempt, and he was afraid of his cruel and inexorable wife, who had incited him to debasing idolatries. So he hastens to his palace in Jezreel and acquaints Jezebel of the wonderful things he had seen, and which he could not prevent. She was transported with fury and vengeance, and vowing a tremendous oath, she sent a messenger to the prophet with these terrible words: “As surely as thou art Elijah and I am Jezebel, so may God do to me and more also, if I make not thy life to-morrow, about this time, as the life of one of them.” In her unbounded rage she forgot all policy, for she should have struck the blow without giving her enemy time to escape. It may also be noted that she is no atheist, but believes in God according to Phoenician notions. She reflects that eight hundred and fifty of Baal’s prophets had been slain, and that the nation might return to their allegiance to the god of their fathers, who had wrought the greatest calamity her proud heart could endure. Unlike her husband, she knows no fear, and is as unscrupulous as she is fanatical. Elijah, she resolved, should surely die.

And how did the prophet receive her message? He had not feared to encounter Ahab and all the priests of Baal, yet he quailed before the wrath of this terrible woman,–this incarnate fiend, who cared neither for Jehovah nor his prophet. Even such a hero as Elijah felt that he must now flee for his life, and, attended only by his boy-servant, he did not halt until he had crossed the kingdom of Judah, and reached the utmost southern bounds of the Holy Land. At Beersheba he left his faithful attendant, and sought refuge in the desert,–the ancient wilderness of Sinai, with its rocky wastes. Under the shade of a solitary tree, exhausted and faint, he lay down to die. “It is enough, O Jehovah! now take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” He had outstripped all pursuers, and was apparently safe, yet he wished to die. It was the reaction of a mighty excitement, the lassitude produced by a rapid and weary flight. He was physically exhausted, and with this exhaustion came despondency. He was a strong man unnerved, and his will succumbed to unspeakable weariness. He lay down and slept, and when he awoke he was fed and comforted by an angelic visitor, who commanded him to arise and penetrate still farther into the dreary wilderness. For forty days and nights he journeyed, until he reached the awful solitudes of Sinai and Horeb, and sought shelter in a cave. Enclosed between granite rocks, he entered upon a new crisis of his career.

It does not appear that the future destinies of Samaria and Jerusalem were revealed to Elijah, nor the fate of the surrounding nations, as seen by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. He was not called to foretell the retribution which would surely be inflicted on degenerate and idolatrous nations, nor even to declare those impressive truths which should instruct all future generations. He therefore does not soar in his dreary solitude to those lofty regions of thought which marked the meditations of Moses. He is not a man of genius; he is no poet; he has no eloquence or learning; he commits no precious truths to writing for the instruction of distant generations. He is a man of intensely earnest convictions, gifted with extraordinary powers resulting from that peculiar combination of physical and spiritual qualities known as the prophetic temperament. The instruments of the Divine Will on earth are selected with unerring judgment. Elijah was sent by the Almighty to deliver special messages of reproof and correction to wicked rulers; he was a reformer. But his character was august, his person was weird and remarkable, his words were earnest and delivered with an indomitable courage, a terrific force. He was just the man to make a strong impression on a superstitious and weak king; but he had done more than that,–he had roused a whole nation from their foul debasement, and left them quaking in terror before their offended Deity.

But the phase of exaltation and potent energy had passed for the time, and we now see him faint and despondent, yet, with the sure instinct of mighty spiritual natures, seeking recuperation in solitary companionship with the all-present Spirit.

We do not know how long Elijah remained in his dismal cavern,–long enough, however, to recover his physical energies and his moral courage. As he wanders to and fro amid the hoary rocks and impenetrable solitudes of Horeb, he seeks to commune with God. He listens for some manifestation of the deity; he is ready to do His bidding. He hears the sound of a rushing hurricane; but God is not in the wind. The mountain then is shaken by a fearful earthquake; but Jehovah is not in the earthquake. Again the mountain seems to flash with fire; but the signs he seeks are not in the fire. At last, after the uproar of contending physical forces had died away, in the profound silence of the solitude he hears the whisper of a still small voice in gentle accents; and by this voice in the soul Jehovah speaks: “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Was this voice reproachful? Had the prophet been told to flee? Had he acted with the courage of a man sure of divine protection? Had he not been faint-hearted when he wished to die? How does he reply to the mysterious voice? He justifies himself. But strengthened, comforted, uplifted by the exaltation of the consciousness of God’s presence, Elijah feels his resilient powers again upspringing. His courage returns; his perceptions grow sharp again; the inspiration of a new line of action opens up to him. He hears the word of the Lord: “Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass that him who escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu destroy, and him that escapeth the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, who have not bowed the knee unto Baal.”

Elijah still knows that his life is in peril, but is ready, nevertheless, to obey his master’s call. He is not designated as the power to effect the great revolution which should root out idolatry and destroy the house of Omri; but Jehu, an unscrupulous yet jealous warrior, was to found a new dynasty, and the king of Syria was to punish and afflict the ten tribes, and Elisha was to be the mouth-piece of the Almighty in the court of kings. It would appear that Elijah did not himself anoint either the general of Benhadad or of Ahab as future kings,–instruments of punishment on idolatrous Israel,–but on Elisha did his mantle fall.

Elisha was the son of a farmer, and, according to Ewald, when Elijah selected him for his companion and servant, had just been ploughing his twelve yoke of land (not of oxen), and was at work on the twelfth and last. Passing by the place, Elijah, without stopping, took off his shaggy mantle of skins, and cast it upon Elisha. The young man, who doubtless was familiar with the appearance of the great prophet, recognized and accepted this significant call, and without remonstrance, even as others in later days devoted themselves to a greater Prophet, “left all and followed” the one who had chosen him. He became Elijah’s constant companion and pupil and ministrant, until the great man’s departure. He belonged to “the sons of the prophets,” among whom Elijah sojourned in his latter days,–a community of young men, for the most part poor, and compelled to combine manual labor with theological studies. Very few of these prophets seem to have been favored with especial gifts or messages from God, in the sense that Samuel and Elijah were. They were teachers and preachers rather than prophets, performing duties not dissimilar to those of Franciscan friars in the Middle Ages. They were ascetics like the monks, abstaining from wine and luxuries, as Samson and the Nazarites and Rechabites did. Religious asceticism goes back to a period that we cannot trace.

After Elijah had gone from the scenes of his earthly labors, Elisha became a man of the city, and had a house in Samaria. His dress was that of ordinary life, and he was bland in manners. His nature, unlike that of Elijah, was gentle and affectionate. He became a man of great influence, and was the friend of three kings. Jehoshaphat consulted him in war; Joram sought his advice, and Benhadad in sickness sent to him to be healed, for he exercised miraculous powers. He cured Naaman of leprosy and performed many wonderful deeds, chiefly beneficent in character.

Elisha took no part in the revolutions of the palace, but he anointed Jehu to be king over Israel, and predicted to Hazael his future elevation. His chief business was as president of a school of the prophets. His career as prophet lasted fifty-five years. He lived to a good old age, and when he died, was buried with great pomp as a man of rank, in favor with the court, for it was through him that Jehu subsequently reigned. During the life of Elijah, however, Elisha was his companion and coadjutor. More is said in Jewish history of Elisha than of Elijah, though the former was not so lofty and original a character as the latter. We are told that though Elisha inherited the mantle of his master, he received only two-thirds of his master’s spirit. But he was regarded as a great prophet for over fifty years, even beyond the limits of Israel. Unlike Elijah, Elisha preferred the companionship of men rather than life in a desert. He fixed his residence in Samaria, and was highly honored and revered by all classes; he exercised a great influence on the king of Israel, and carried on the work which Elijah began. He was statesman as well as prophet, and the trusted adviser of the king; but his distinguished career did not begin till after Elijah had ascended to heaven.

After the consecration of Elisha there is nothing said about Elijah for some years, during which Ahab was involved in war with Benhadad, king of Damascus. After that unfortunate contest it would seem that Ahab had resigned himself to pleasure, and amused himself with his gardens at Jezreel. During this time Elijah had probably lived in retirement; but was again summoned to declare the judgment of God on Ahab for a most atrocious murder.

In his desire to improve his grounds Ahab cast his eyes on a fertile vineyard belonging to a distinguished and wealthy citizen named Naboth, which had been in the possession of his family even since the conquest. The king at first offered a large price for this vineyard, which he wished to convert into a garden of flowers, but Naboth refused to sell it for any price. “God forbid,” said he, with religious scruples blended with the pride of ancestry, “that I should give to thee the inheritance of my fathers.” Powerful and despotic as was the king, he knew he could not obtain this coveted vineyard except by gross injustice and an act of violence, which even he dared not commit. It would be an open violation of the Jewish Constitution. By the laws of Moses the lands of the Israelites, from the conquest, were inalienable. Even if they were sold for debt, after fifty years they would return to the family. The pride of ownership in real estate was one of the peculiarities of the Hebrews until after their final dispersion. After the fall of Jerusalem by Titus, personal property came to be more valued than real estate, and the Jews became the money lenders and the bankers of the world. They might be oppressed and robbed, but they could hide away their treasures. A scrap of paper, they soon discovered, was enough to transfer in safety the largest sums. A Jew had only to give a letter of credit on another Jewish house, and a king could find ready money, if he gave sufficient security, for any enterprise. Thus rare jewels pledged for gold accumulated among the Hebrew merchants at an early date.

Ahab, disappointed in not being able without a crime to get possession of Naboth’s vineyard, abandoned himself to melancholy. In his deep chagrin he laid himself down on his bed, turned his face to the wall, and refused to eat. This seems strange to us, since he had more than enough, and there was no check on his ordinary pleasures. But covetous men never are satisfied. Ahab was miserable with all his possessions so long as Naboth was resolved to retain his paternal acres. It seems that it did not occur even to this unprincipled king that he could get possession of the coveted vineyard if he resorted to craft and violence.

But his clever and unscrupulous wife came to his assistance. In her active brain she devised the means of success. She saw only the end; she cared nothing for the means. It is probable, indeed, that Jezebel hankered even more than Ahab for a garden of flowers. Yet even she dared not openly seize the vineyard. Such an outrage might have caused a rebellion; it would, at least, have created a great scandal and injured her popularity, of which this artful woman was as tenacious as the Jew was of his property. Moreover, Naboth was a very influential and wealthy citizen, and had friends to support him. How could she remove the grievous eye-sore? She pondered and consulted the doctors of the law, as Henry VIII. made use of Cranmer when he wished to marry Anne Boleyn. They told her that if it could be proved that any one, however high his rank, had blasphemed God and the king, he could legally be executed, and that his property would revert to the Crown. So she suborned false witnesses, who swore at the trial of Naboth, already seized for high treason, that he had blasphemed God and the king. Sentence, according to law, was passed upon the innocent man, and according to law he was stoned to death, and the vineyard according to law became the property of the Crown. Jezebel, who had managed the whole affair, did not undertake the prosecution in her own name; as a woman, she had not the legal power. So she stole the king’s ring, and sealed the indictment with the royal seal.

Thus by force and fraud under skilful technicalities, and by usurpation of the royal authority, the crime was consummated, and had the sanction of the law. Oh, what crimes have been perpetrated in every age and country under cover of the law! The Holy Inquisition was according to law; the early Christian persecutions were according to law; usurpers and murderers have reigned according to law; the Quakers were put in prison, and witches were burned according to law. Slavery was sustained by legal enactments; the rum shops are all under the protection of the law. There is scarcely a public scandal and wrong in any civilized country which the law does not somehow countenance or sustain. All public robbers appeal to legal technicalities. How could city officials steal princely revenues, how could lawyers collect exorbitant fees, if it were not for the law? Neither Ahab nor Jezebel would have ventured to seize Naboth’s vineyard except under legal pretences; false witnesses swore to a lie, and the law condemned the accused. Ahab in this instance was not as bad as his wife. He may not even have known by what diabolical craft the vineyard became his.

But such crimes, striking at the root of justice, cry to heaven for vengeance. On Ahab as king rested the responsibility, and he as well as his more guilty partner was made to pay the penalty. God in his providence avenged the death of Naboth. The whole affair was widely known. As Naboth’s reputed offence was unusual, and the gravest known to the Jewish laws, there was so great a sensation that a fast was proclaimed. The false trial and murderous execution were accomplished “before all the people.” But this very ostentation of legal form made the outrage notorious. It reached the ears of Elijah. The prophet’s keen sense of right detected such an outrageous combination of hypocrisy, covetousness, fraud, usurpation, cruelty, robbery, and murder, that he once more heard the Divine voice which summoned him from his retirement and sent him to the court with an awful message. Suddenly, unannounced and unexpected, the man of God appeared before the king in his newly acquired possession, surrounded by his gardeners and artificers, and accompanied by two of his officers,–Bidkar, and Jehu the son of Nimshi,–destined to be both instrument and witness of the retribution. With unwonted austerity, without preface or waste of words, Elijah broke forth: “Thus saith Jehovah!”–how the monarch must have quaked at this awful name: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs also lick thine, even thine.” The conscience-stricken, affrighted monarch could only say, “Hast thou found me, oh mine enemy!” And terrible was the response: “Yes, I have found thee! and because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord, behold, I will take away thy posterity, and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. And as to thy wife also, saith Jehovah, the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”

When and where, in the annals of the great, has such a dreadful imprecation been uttered? It was more awful than the doom pronounced on Belshazzar. The blood of Ahab and his wife was to be licked up by dogs, their dynasty to be overthrown, and their whole house destroyed. This dire punishment was inflicted probably not only on account of the crime pertaining to Naboth, but for a whole life devoted to idolatry. The sentence was not to be executed immediately,–possibly a time was given for repentance; but it would surely be inflicted at last. This Ahab knew better than any man in his kingdom. He was thrown into the depths of the most abject despair. He rent his clothes; he put ashes on his head and sackcloth on his flesh, and refused to eat or drink. He repented after the fashion of criminals, and humbled himself, as Nebuchadnezzar did, before the Most High God. God in mercy delayed, but did not annul, the punishment Ahab lived long enough to fight the king of Syria successfully, so that for three years there was peace in Israel. But Ramoth in Gilead, belonging to the northern kingdom, remained in the hands of the Syrians.

In the mean time Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whose son Jehoram had married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, and who was therefore in friendly social and political relations with Ahab, came to visit him. They naturally talked about the war, and lamented the fall of Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab proposed a united expedition to recover it, to which Jehoshaphat was consenting; but before embarking in an offensive war against a powerful state, the two monarchs consulted the prophets. It is not to be supposed that they were the priests of Baal, but ordinary prophets who wished to please. False prophets and false friends are very much alike,–they give advice according to the inclinations and wishes of those who consult them. They are afraid of incurring displeasure, knowing well that no one likes to have his plans opposed by candid advisers. Therefore they all gave their voices for war, foretelling a grand success. But one prophet, more honest and bold–perhaps more gifted–than the rest, Micaiah by name, took a different view of the matter. He was constrained to speak his honest convictions, and prophesied evil, and was thrown into prison for his honesty and boldness.

Nevertheless Ahab in his heart was afraid, and had sad forebodings. Knowing his peril, and alarmed at the words of a true prophet, he disguised himself for the battle; but a chance arrow, shot at a venture, penetrated through the joints of his armor, and he was mortally wounded. His blood ran from his wound into the chariot, and when the chariot was washed in the pool of Samaria, after Ahab had expired, the dogs licked up his blood, as Elijah had predicted.

The death of Ahab put an end to the fighting; nor was Jehoshaphat injured, although he wore his royal robes. The Syrian general had given orders to slay only the king of Israel. At one time, however, the king of Judah was in great peril, being mistaken for Ahab; but when his pursuers discovered their mistake, they turned from the pursuit.

It seems that Jezebel survived her husband fourteen years, and virtually ruled the kingdom, for she was a woman of ability. She exercised the same influence over her son Ahaziah that she had over her husband, so that the son like the father served Baal and made Israel to sin.

To this young king was Elijah also sent. Ahaziah had been seriously injured by an accidental fall from his upper chamber, through the lattice, to the court yard below. He sent to the priests of Baal, to inquire whether he should recover or not. But Elijah by command of God had intercepted the king’s messengers, and suddenly appearing before them, as was his custom, confronted them with these words: “Is there no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, the God of Ekron? Now, therefore, say unto the king, Thou shalt not come down from the bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” On their return to Ahaziah, without delivering their message to the god of the Phoenicians or Philistines, the king said: “Why are ye now turned back?” They repeated the words of the strange man who had turned them back; and the king said: “What manner of man was he who came up to meet you?” They answered, “He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather around his loins.” The king cried, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” Again his enemy had found him!

Whereupon Ahaziah sent a band of fifty chosen soldiers to arrest the prophet, who had retired to the top of a steep and rugged hill, probably Carmel. The captain of the troop approached, and commanded him in the name of the king to come down, addressing him as the man of God. “If I am a man of God,” said Elijah, “let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty.” The fire came down and consumed them. Again the king sent another band of fifty with their captain, who met with the same fate. Again the king sent another band of fifty men, the captain of which came and fell on his knees before Elijah and besought him, saying, “O man of God! I pray thee let my life and the lives of these fifty thy servants be precious in thy sight.” And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, “Go down with him; be not afraid of him.” And he arose and went with the soldiers to the king, repeating to him the words he had sent before, that he should not recover, but should surely die.

So Ahaziah died, as Elijah prophesied, and Jehoram (or Joram) reigned in his stead,–a brother of the late king, who did not personally worship Baal, but who allowed the queen-mother to continue to protect idolatry. The war which had been begun by Ahab against the Syrians still continued, to recover Ramoth-Gilead, and the stronghold was finally taken by the united efforts of Judah and Israel; but Joram was wounded, and returned to Jezreel to be cured.

With the advent of Elijah a reaction against idolatry had set in. The people were awed by his terrible power, and also by the influence of Elisha, on whom his mantle fell. It does not appear that the people had utterly abandoned the religion of their fathers, for they had not hesitated to slay the eight hundred and fifty priests of Baal at the command of Elijah. The introduction of idolatry had been the work of princes, chiefly through the influence of Jezebel; and as the establishment of a false religion still continued to be the policy of the court, the prophets now favored the revolution which should overturn the house of Ahab, and exterminate it root and branch. The instrument of the Almighty who was selected for this work was Jehu, one of the prominent generals of the army; and his task was made comparatively easy from the popular disaffection. That a woman, a foreigner, a pagan, and a female demon should control the government during two reigns was intolerable. Only a spark was needed to kindle a general revolt, and restore the religion of Jehovah.

This was the appearance of a young prophet at Ramoth-Gilead, whom Elisha had sent with an important message. Forcing his way to the house where Jehu and his brother officers were sitting in council, he called Jehu apart, led him to an innermost chamber of the house, took out a small horn of sacred oil, and poured it on Jehu’s head, telling him that God had anointed him king to cut off the whole house of Ahab, and destroy idolatry. On his return to the room where the generals were sitting, Jehu communicated to them the message he had received. As the discontent of the nation had spread to the army, it was regarded as a favorable time to revolt from Joram, who lay sick at Jezreel. The army, following the chief officers, at once hailed Jehu as king. It was supremely necessary that no time should be lost, and that the news of the rebellion should not reach the king until Jehu himself should appear with a portion of the army. Jehu was just the man for such an occasion,–rapid in his movements, unscrupulous, yet zealous to uphold the law of Moses. So mounting his chariot, and taking with him a detachment of his most reliable troops, he furiously drove toward Jezreel, turning everybody back on the road. It was a drive of about fifty miles. When within six miles of Jezreel the sentinels on the towers of the walls noticed an unusual cloud of dust, and a rider was at once despatched to know the meaning of the approach of chariots and horses. The rider, as he approached, was ordered to fall back in the rear of Jehu’s force. Another rider was sent, with the same result. But Joram, discovering that the one who drove so rapidly must be his own impetuous captain of the host, and suspecting no treachery from him, ordered out his own chariot to meet Jehu, accompanied by his uncle Ahaziah, king of Judah. He expected stirring news from the army, and was eager to learn it. He supposed that Hazael, then king of Damascus, who had murdered Benhadad, had proposed peace. So as he approached Jehu–the frightful irony of fate halting him for the interview in the very vineyard of Naboth–he cried out, “Is it peace, Jehu?” “Peace!” replied Jehu; “what peace can be made so long as Jezebel bears rule?” In an instant the king understood the ominous words of his general, turned back his chariot, and fled toward his palace, crying, “There is treachery, O Ahaziah!” An arrow from Jehu pierced the monarch in the back, and he sank dead in his chariot. Ahaziah also was mortally wounded by another arrow from Jehu, but he succeeded in reaching Megiddo, where he died. Jehu spoke to Bidkar, his captain, and recalling the dread prophecy of Elijah, commanded the body of Ahab’s son to be cast out into the dearly-bought field of Naboth.

In the mean time, Jezebel from her palace window at Jezreel had seen the murder of her son. She was then sixty years of age. The first thing she did was to paint her eyelids, and put on her most attractive apparel, to appear as beautiful as possible, with the hope doubtless of attracting Jehu,–as Cleopatra, after the death of Antony, sought to win Augustus. Will a flattered woman, once beautiful, ever admit that her charms have passed away? But if the painted and bedizened queen anticipated her fate, she determined to die as she had lived,–without fear, imperious, and disdainful. So from her open window she tauntingly accosted Jehu as he approached: “What came of Zimri, who murdered his master as thou hast done?” “Are there any on my side?” was the only reply he deigned to make, as he looked up to a window of the palace, which was a part of the wall of the city. Two or three eunuchs, looking out from behind her, answered the summons, for the wicked and haughty queen had no real friends. “Throw her down!” ordered Jehu; and in a moment the blood from her mangled body splashed upon the walls and upon the horses. In another instant the wheels of the chariot passed over her lifeless remains. Jehu would have permitted a decent burial, “for,” said he, “she is a king’s daughter;” but before her mangled corpse could be collected, in the general confusion, the dogs of the city had devoured all that remained of her but the skull, the feet, and hands.

So perished the most infamous woman that ever wore a royal diadem, as had been predicted. With her also perished the seventy sons of Ahab, all indeed that survived of the royal house of Omri. And the work of destruction did not end until the courtiers of the late king and all connected with them, even the palace priests, were killed. Then followed the massacre of the other priests of Baal, the destruction of the idolatrous temples, and the restoration of the worship of Jehovah, not only at Samaria, but at Jerusalem, for the revolution extended far and wide on the death of Ahaziah as of Joram. Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, who reigned over Judah, also perished in those revolutionary times.

It is not to be supposed that the relentless and savage Jehu was altogether moved by a zeal for Jehovah in these revolting slaughters. He was an ambitious and successful rebel; but like all notable forces, he may be regarded as an instrument of Providence, whose ways are “mysterious,” because men are not large enough and wise enough to trace effects to their causes under His immutable laws. Jehu was a necessary consequence of Ahab and Jezebel. Jehovah, as the national deity of the Jews, was the natural and necessary rallying cry of the revolt against Phoenician idolatry and foulness. The missionary sermons of those crude days were preached with the sword and the strong arm. God’s revelations of himself and his purposes to man have always been through men, and by His laws the medium always colors the light which it transmits. The splendor of the noonday sun cannot shine clearly through rough, imperfect glass; and so the conceptions of Deity and of the divine will, as delivered by the prophets, in every case show the nature of the man receiving and delivering the inspired message. And yet, through all the turmoil of those times, and the startling contrast between the conceptions presented by the “Jehovah” of Elijah and the “Father” of Jesus, the one grand central truth which the seed of Abraham were chosen to conserve stands out distinctly from first to last,–the unity and purity of God. However obscured by human passions and interests, that principle always retained a vital hold upon some–if only a “remnant”–of the Hebrew race.

The influence of Elijah, then, acting personally through him and his successor Elisha, had caused the extermination of the worship of Baal. But the golden calves still remained; and there was no improvement in the political affairs of the kingdom. It was steadily declining as a political power, whether on account of the degeneracy which succeeded prosperity, or the warlike enterprises of the empires and states which were hostile equally to Judah and Israel. Jehu was forced to pay tribute to Assyria to secure protection against Syria; and after his death Israel was reduced to the lowest depression by Hazael, and had not the power of Syria soon after been broken by Assyria, the northern kingdom would have been utterly destroyed.

It was not given to Elijah to foresee the future calamities of the Jews, or to declare them, as Isaiah and Jeremiah did. It was his mission, and also Elisha’s, to destroy the worship of Baal and punish the apostate kings who had introduced it. He was the messenger and instrument of Jehovah to remove idolatry, not to predict the future destiny of his nation. He is to be viewed, like Elisha, as a reformer, as a man of action, armed with supernatural gifts to awe kings and influence the people, rather than as a seer or a poet, or even as a writer to instruct future generations. His mission seems to have ended shortly after he had thrown his mantle on a man more accomplished than himself in knowledge of the world. But his last days are associated with unspeakable grandeur as well as pathetic interest.

Elijah seems to have known that the day of his departure was at hand. So, departing from Gilgal in company with his beloved companion, he proceeded toward Bethel. As he approached the city he besought Elisha to leave him alone; but Elisha refused to part with the master whom he both loved and revered. Onward they proceeded from Bethel to Jericho, and from Jericho to the Jordan. It was a mournful journey to Elisha, for he knew as well as the sons of the prophets at Jericho that he and his master, and friend more than master, were to part for the last time on earth. The waters of the Jordan happened to be swollen, and the two prophets, and the fifty sons of the prophets–their pupils, who came to say farewell–could not pass over. But the sacred narrative tells us that Elijah, wrapping his mantle together like a staff, smote the waters, so that they were divided, and the two passed over to the eastern bank, in view of the disciples. In loving intercourse Elijah promises to give to his companion as token of his love whatever Elisha may choose. Elisha asks simply for a double portion of his master’s spirit, which Elijah grants in case Elisha shall see him distinctly when taken away.

“And it came to pass, as they still went on and talked, that behold there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, which parted them both asunder. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, ‘My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof !'”–Thou art the chariot of Israel; thou hast been its horsemen! And then there fell from Elijah, as he vanished from human sight, the mantle by which he had been so well known; and it became the sign of that fulness of divine favor which was given to his successor in his arduous labors to restore the worship of Jehovah, “and to prepare the way for Him in whom all prophecy is fulfilled.”




To understand the mission of Isaiah, one should be familiar with the history of the kingdom of Judah from the time of Jeroboam, founder of the separate kingdom of Israel, to that of Uzziah, in whose reign Isaiah was born, 760 B.C.

Judah had doubtless degenerated in virtue and spiritual life, but this degeneracy was not so marked as that of the northern kingdom,–called Israel. Judah had been favored by a succession of kings, most of whom were able and good men. Out of nine kings, five of them “did right in the sight of the Lord;” and during the two hundred and sixteen years when these monarchs reigned, one hundred and eighty-seven were years when the worship of Jehovah was maintained by virtuous princes, all of whom were of the house of David. The reigns of those kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord were short.

During this period there were nineteen kings of Israel, most of whom did evil. They introduced idolatry; many of them were usurpers, and died violent deaths. If the northern kingdom was larger and more fertile than the southern, it was more afflicted with disastrous wars and divine judgments for the sins into which it had fallen. It was to the wicked kings of Israel, throned in the Samarian Shechem, that Elijah and Elisha were sent; and the interest we feel in their reigns is chiefly directed to the acts and sayings of those two great prophets.

The kingdom of Judah, blessed on the whole with virtuous rulers, and comparatively free from idolatry, continually increased in wealth and political power. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, after the rebellion of the ten tribes, seems to have changed somewhat his course of life, although the high places and graven images were not removed; but his grandson Asa destroyed the idols, and made fortunate alliances. Asa’s son Jehoshaphat terminated the civil wars that had raged between Judah and Israel from the accession of Rehoboam, and almost rivalled Solomon in his outward prosperity. Jerusalem became the strongest fortress in western Asia; the Temple service was continued in its former splendor; all that was vital in the strength of nations pertained to the smaller kingdom. The dark spot in the history of Judah for nearly two hundred years was the ascendency gained by Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel, over her husband Jehoram, who introduced the gods of Phoenicia. She seems to have exercised the same malign influence in Jerusalem that Jezebel did in Samaria, and was as unscrupulous as her pagan mother. She even succeeded in usurping the throne, and in destroying the whole race of David, with the exception of Joash, an infant, whom Jehoiada the high-priest contrived to hide until the unscrupulous Athaliah was slain, having reigned as queen six years,–the first instance in Jewish history of a female sovereign.

Both Judah and Israel in these years had the danger of a Syrian war constantly threatening them. Under Hazael, who reigned at Damascus, great conquests were made by the Syrians of Jewish territory, and the capture of Jerusalem was averted only by buying off the enemy, to whom were surrendered the gifts to the Temple accumulating since the days of Jehoshaphat. The whole land was overrun and pillaged. Nor were calamities confined to the miseries of war. A long drouth burned the fields; seed rotted under the clods; the cattle moaned in the barren and dried-up pastures; while locusts devoured what the drouth had spared. Says Stanley: “The purple vine, the green fig-tree, the gray olive, the scarlet pomegranate, the golden corn, the waving palm, the fragrant citron, vanished before them, and the trunks and branches were left bare and white by their devouring teeth,”–a brilliant sentence, by the way, which Geikie quotes without acknowledgment, as well as many others, which lays him open to the charge of plagiarism. Both Stanley and Geikie, however, seem to be indebted to Ewald for all that is striking and original in their histories,–so true is Solomon’s saying that there is nothing new under the sun. The rarest thing in literature is a truly original history.

In this mournful crisis the prophet Joel, who was a priest at Jerusalem, demanded a solemn fast, which the entire kingdom devoutly celebrated, the whole body of the priests crying aloud before the gates of the Temple, “Spare Thy people, O Lord! give not Thine heritage to reproach, lest the heathen make us a by-word, and ask, Where is now thy God?” But Joel, the oldest, and in many respects the most eloquent, Hebrew prophet whose utterances have come down to us, did not speak in vain, and a great religious revival followed, attended naturally by renewed prosperity,–for among the Jews a “revival of religion” meant a practical return from vice to virtue, personal holiness, and the just and wholesome requirements of their law; so that “under Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham, Judah rose once more to a pitch of honor and glory which almost recalled the golden age of David.”

A greater power than that of Syria threatened the peace and welfare of the kingdom of Judah, as it also did that of Israel; and this was the empire of Assyria. During the reigns of David and Solomon this empire was passing through so many disasters that it was not regarded as dangerous, and both of the Jewish kingdoms were left free to avail themselves of every facility afforded for national development. Ewald notices emphatically this outward prosperity, which introduced luxury and pride throughout the kingdom. It was the golden age of merchants, usurers, and money-mongers. Then appeared that extraordinary greed for riches which never afterward left the nation, even in seasons of calamity, and which is the most striking peculiarity of the modern Hebrew. This was a period not only of prosperity and luxury, but of vanity and ostentation, especially among women. The insidious influences of wealth more than balanced the good effected by a long succession of virtuous and gifted princes. I read of no country that, on the whole, was ever favored by a more remarkable constellation of absolute kings than that of Judah. Most of them had long reigns, took prophets and wise men for their counsellors, developed the resources of their kingdoms, strengthened Jerusalem, avoided entangling wars, and enjoyed the love and veneration of the people. Most of them, unlike the kings of Israel, were true to their exalted mission, were loyal to Jehovah, and discouraged idolatry, if they did not root out the scandal by persecuting violence. Some of these kings were poets, and others were saints, like their great ancestor David; and yet, in spite of all their efforts, corruption, and infidelity gained ground, and ultimately undermined the state and prepared the way for Babylonian conquests. Though Jerusalem survived the fall of Samaria for nearly five generations, divine judgment was delayed, but not withdrawn. The chastisement was sent at last at the hands of warriors whom no nation could successfully resist.

The old enemies who had in the early days overwhelmed the Hebrews with calamities under the Judges had been conquered by Saul and David,–the Moabites, the Edomites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Philistines,–and they never afterward seriously menaced the kingdom, although there were occasional wars. But in the eighth century before Christ the Assyrian empire, whose capital was Nineveh, had become very formidable under warlike sovereigns, who aimed to extend their dominion to the Mediterranean and to Egypt. In the reign of Jehoash, the son of Athaliah, an Assyrian monarch had exacted tribute from Tyre and Sidon, and Syria was overrun. When Pul, or Tiglath-pileser, seized the throne of Nineveh, he pushed his conquests to the Caspian Sea on the north and the Indus on the east, to the frontier of Egypt and the deserts of Sinai on the west and south. In 739 B.C. he appeared in Syria to break up a confederation which Uzziah of Judah had formed to resist him, and succeeded in destroying the power of Syria, and carrying its people as captives to Assyria. Menahem, king of Samaria, submitted to the enormous tribute of one thousand talents of silver. In 733 B.C. this great conqueror again invaded Syria, beheaded Rezin its king, took Damascus, reduced five hundred and eighteen cities and towns to ashes, and carried back to Nineveh an immense spoil. In 728 B.C. Shalmanezer IV. appeared in Palestine, and invested Samaria. The city made an heroic defence; but after a siege of three years it yielded to Sargon, who carried away into captivity the ten tribes of Israel, from which they never returned.

Judah survived by reason of its greater military skill and its strong fortresses, with which Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Uzziah had fortified the country, especially Jerusalem. But the fate of western Asia was sealed when Rezin of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, Hiram of Tyre, and the king of Hamath moodily consented to pay tribute to the king of Assyria; the downfall of the sturdy Judah was in preparation.

Greater evils than those of war threatened the stability of the state. In Judah as in Ephraim drunkenness was a national vice, and the nobles abandoned themselves to disgraceful debauchery. There was a general demoralization of the people more fearful in its consequences than even idolatry. Judah was no exception to the ordinary fate of nations; the everlasting sequence–pertaining to institutions as well as nations, to religious as well as merely political communities–was here seen,–“Inwardness, outwardness, worldliness, and rottenness.”

It was in this state of political danger and a general decline in morals, with a tendency to idolatry, that Isaiah–preacher, statesman, historian, poet, and prophet–was born.

Less is said of the personal history of this great man than of Moses or David, of Daniel or Elisha, and it is only in his writings that we see the solemn grandeur of his character. We infer that he was allied with the royal family of David; he certainly held a high position in the courts of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was a man of great dignity, experience, and wisdom, but ascetic in his habits and dress. Although he associated with the great in courts and palaces, a cell was his delight. He was a retiring, contemplative, rapt, austere man, severe on passing follies, and not sparing in his rebukes of sin in high places,–something like Savonarola at Florence, both as preacher and prophet,–and exercising a commanding influence on political affairs and on the people directly, especially during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah. He denounced woes and calamities, yet escaped persecution from the grandeur of his character and the importance of his utterances. He was a favorite of King Hezekiah, and was contemporary with the prophets Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. He lived in Jerusalem, not far from the Temple, and had a wife and two sons. He wrote the life of Uzziah, and died at the age of eighty-four, in the reign of Manasseh. It is generally supposed that although Isaiah had lived in honor during the reigns of four kings, he suffered martyrdom at last. It is the fate of prophets to be stoned when they are in antagonism with men in power, or with popular sentiments. His prophetic ministry extended over a period of about fifty years, and he was continually consulted by the reigning monarchs.

The great outward events that took place during Isaiah’s public career were the invasion of Judah by the combined forces of Israel and Syria in the reign of Ahaz, and the great Assyrian invasion in the reign of Hezekiah.

In regard to the first, it was disastrous to Judah. The weak king, the twelfth from David, was inclined to the idolatries of the surrounding nations, but was not signally bad like Ahab. Yet he was no match for Pekah, who reigned at Samaria, or for Rezin, who reigned at Damascus. Their combined armies slew in one day one hundred and twenty thousand of the subjects of Ahaz, and carried away into captivity two hundred thousand women and children, with immense spoil. The conqueror then advanced to the siege of Jerusalem. In his distress Ahaz invoked the aid of Pul, or Tiglath-pileser II., one of the most warlike of the Assyrian kings, whose kingdom stretched from the Armenian mountains on the north to Bagdad on the south, and from the Zagros chain on the east to the Euphrates on the west. Earnestly did the prophet-statesman expostulate with Ahaz, telling him that the king of Assyria would prove “a razor to shave but too clean his desolate land.” The inspired advice was rejected; and the result of the alliance was that Judah, like Israel, fell to the rank of a subject nation, and became tributary to Assyria, and Ahaz, a mere vassal of Tiglath-pileser. The whole of Palestine became the border-land of the Assyrian empire, easy to be invaded and liable to be conquered.

The consequences which Isaiah feared, took place in the time of Hezekiah, in the actual invasion of Judah by the Assyrian hosts under Sennacherib. Not the splendid prosperity of Hezekiah, little short of that enjoyed by Solomon,–not his allegiance to Jehovah, nor his grand