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on Mount Moriah had been shut up, their sons had fallen by the sword, and their wives and children had been taken captive. “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves.” When he found the children of Israel burning incense to the brazen serpent Moses had made, he brake the image in pieces, calling it Nehushtan, which means a brass bauble. He opened Solomon's temple, and summoned the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves and the house, and make preparations for a great public sacrifice. The people, in obedience to royal command, brought up to the temple seventy bullocks, a hundred rams, and two hundred lambs, for a burntoffering to the Lord. “And when the burnt-offering began, the song of the Lord began also, with the trumpets, and with the instruments ordained by David, king of Israel. This continued till the burnt-offering was finished, when the king and all present with him bowed themselves and worshipped. And Hezekiah rejoiced that God had prepared the people; for the thing was done suddenly." After that, proclamation was made, and messengers sent to all the children of Israel, wherever they could be found, to come up to Jerusalem to keep the great feast of the Passover. The neglect into which the laws of Moses had fallen, is implied by the statement, "for they had not done it of a long time, in such sort as it was written.” The people flocked to Jerusalem in great numbers, and "the king gave the congregation a thousand bullocks, and seven thousand sheep; and the princes gave one thousand bullocks, and ten thousand sheep; and a great number of priests sanctified themselves. So there was great joy, for since the time of Solomon there was not the like in Jerusalem."
Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, reversed all his father had done. "He built up again the high places, which had been broken down.' He reared altars to Baal, and made groves, and worshipped the host of heaven. He observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with wizards, and set a carved image in the House of God.” Afterward, when he was in severe affliction, by reason of the Assyrian armies, he took the idol out of the temple, pulled down the altars he had built to foreign gods, and offered sacrifice and prayer to the God of Israel. But after his death, his son Amon set up the carved images again, and sacrificed to them.
Josiah, son of Amon, succeeded to the throne at eight years of age, and it is said he even then began "to seek after the God of David.” In the eighteenth year of his reign, he sent orders to the High Priest to count over the sums of money which had from time to time been dedicated to the temple of the Lord, and apply the sum to necessary repairs. His messenger returned and announced that the High Priest had obeyed the royal mandate, and had likewise sent by him the Book of the Law, which he said had been found in the temple. It is a very singular fact, and one for which commentators are puzzled to account, that the pious young king seemed entirely ignorant of the existence of such a book. When it was read to him, and he learned that the worship of images was declared to be a great sin, which Jehovah was sure to punish with fierce anger, he rent his clothes with grief and terror. Hulda, a famous prophetess, then dwelt in the college at Jerusalem, and priests were sent to her, to inquire concerning the words of the book. She returned answer to the king that the Lord would surely punish the people for burning incense to other gods; his wrath was kindled against them, and would not be quenched. But she promised that he should not witness the evil, because he had humbled himself before the Lord, and rent his garments, when he heard the denunciations of the Law. Yet if the chief magistrate of the nation was ignorant of the existence of such laws against idolatry, the people surely were not likely to be better instructed than their monarch. Josiah forth with commenced the work of atonement with great zeal. The image of the goddess Ashtoreth was brought out from Jehovah's temple, burned, stamped to powder, and strewn on the graves of those who had sacrificed to her. The horses and chariot of the Sun, which had been placed over the entrance of the temple, were taken down and destroyed. The groves were cut down, and human bones burned on the high places, that they might be so effectually polluted, no one would dare to approach them. From every corner of his kingdom, he hunted out all the priests "who burned incense to Baal, to the Sun and the Moon, and the planets, and all the host of heaven;" and he slew them, and burned their bones on their own altars. He even carried his zeal so far as to send messengers into Samaria, to demolish the altars Jeroboam had erected. After this thorough purgation of the land, he commanded all the people to keep the Passover. The record states: “Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the Judges that judged Israel, nor of the kings of Judah.” “Notwithstanding, the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath. And the Lord said, I will remove Judah out of my sight, as I have removed Israel.”
When the son of Josiah began to reign, " he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Pharaoh carried him captive to Egypt, placed his brother Jehoiakim on the throne, and compelled the kingdom of Judah to pay tribute. Then Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came up against Jerusalem, carried the royal family into captivity, robbed the Lord's House of many treasures, compelled the people to pay tribute to him, and left Zedekiah, a third son of Josiah, to rule over them. Josephus states that king Jehoiakim went out of Jerusalem during the siege, and voluntarily resigned himself and all his family into the hands of the Babylonians, on condition that they would not burn the temple; "on which account, the Jews have celebrated him in all their sacred memorials, and his name has become immortal.” But this is one of many instances in which Josephus states what is not to be found in the Hebrew Sacred Books.
It is recorded of king Zedekiah, that he and the chief priests, and the people, all transgressed very much concerning the worship of other gods, “and polluted the house of the Lord, which he had hallowed in Jerusalem, and des. pised the words of his prophets.” After a reign of eleven years, he ventured to rebel against the king of Babylon, who sent an army upon him, that slaughtered men and maidens, old and young, without mercy. The walls of Jerusalem were utterly demolished, the temple and palaces burned to the ground, and nearly all the inhabitants, who escaped the sword, were carried captive into Babylon; among these was king Zedekiah, who had his eyes put out. This memorable captivity happened four hundred and sixtyseven years after David, and five hundred and eighty-eight years before Christ.
In the course of numerous wars, civil and foreign, the temple of Solomon was repeatedly robbed of its treasures; but they were again renewed by offerings from devotees, according to their wealth and piety. Warlike weapons were thus dedicated after a victory, the same as in Grecian and Phoenician temples; for it is recorded that Jehoiada, the High Priest, armed his followers “with spears and shields, that were in the temple of the Lord.” Shishak, king of Egypt, robbed the temple only thirty-five years after it was built. Asa, king of Judah, took gold and silver from it, to pay the Syrians for helping him against the rival kingdom of Israel. Joash, king of Judah, took valuable offerings from the temple and bribed the king of Syria not to attack Jerusalem. Jehoash, king of Israel, attacked Judah, and carried off all the gold, and silver, and precious vessels, he could find in the temple. Ahaz, king of Judah, took silver, gold, and brass, from the House of the Lord, to procure help from Assyria, to fight against the Syrians. Hezekiah, his successor, being unable to raise sufficient money to pay the required tribute to the king of Assyria, was obliged to strip from the doors and pillars of the temple, the plates of gold, with which he himself had overlaid them. And finally, Nebuchadnezzar despoiled it utterly.
A few of the poorer class of Hebrews, “vine-dressers and husbandmen,” were left to till the soil of their conquered
country, and a mild, just man, named Gedaliah, was appointed to rule over them. Jeremiah the prophet was in favour with Nebuchadnezzar, because he had always advised submission to him, in opposition to a strong party of his own countrymen, who favoured an alliance with Egypt against Babylon. He was offered his choice either to go to Babylon, or remain in his native land. He chose to take up his abode at a city called Mispah, and Gedaliah the governor received orders to protect him, and supply him whatsoever he needed. When the Babylonian army had gone, many fugitive Israelites, who had hidden in mountains and caves, came to Gedaliah at Mispah. He told them that whoever would cultivate the land, and
tribute to Babylon, should be protected, and have assistance in rebuilding their houses and sowing their crops. The justice and humanity of the governor rendered him generally popular; but a near relative of the exiled king being in. vited with others to a feast, treacherously attacked Gedaliah and his Babylonian guards, and slew them. The infant colony, alarmed lest this murder should be revenged upon them, fled into Egypt. Jeremiah prophesied against this proceeding, but the people distrusted his advice, and he followed them into exile. Thus were the last of the Israelites banished from the land of Canaan.
END OF VOL. I.