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rapprochement between Israel and Judah. Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah who seeks to unite the service of Jehovah with the friendship of Ahab, until the ill-fated alliance meets its doom in the battle of Ramoth-gilead. And his son weds a bride of the house of Omri, — the notorious Athaliah, who as queen-mother to Ahaziah establishes the worship of Baal for a time in Jerusalem itself. This whole phase of history culminates in the famous conspiracy of Jehu, who under commission from Elisha extirpates the family of Ahab and Jezebel and the worship of Baal, and as a detail in the process brings death to the allied king of Judah. Throughout this period of the house of Omri biblical history reaches its most vivid picturing. The leading figures stand out with individual distinctness : Ahab, luxury-loving, with a heart never entirely weaned from the old worship, and reaching by a tardy repentance the mercy of not seeing the worst with his own eyes; Jezebel, grim and whole-hearted in her contest on behalf of Baal; Jehoshaphat, the courtly trimmer; Jehu, the “furious driver,' who drives his commission of Divine vengeance through all bounds of fraud and violence; while as representatives of the spiritual forces in antagonism with these, Elijah and Elisha stand out as the giants of prophetic history.
The third period in the history of the northern kingdom is occupied with the house of Jehu, and the usurping kings that followed. Here the two kingdoms fall away from their temporary rapprochement, and their history moves in different directions. In Judah, Athaliah and her worship of Baal are overthrown by the revolution which puts on the throne the youthful Joash, and the high priest Jehoiada is able to make a covenant between the LORD and the king and the people, that they should be the LORD'S people. The lukewarmness of successors, even the personal idolatry of Ahaz, do not seem seriously to infect the people of the southern kingdom. On the other hand, the reigns of Jehu and his successors seem so many stages in the fall of Israel. Under Jehu himself “the LORD began to cut Israel short," and the east of Jordan is lost to the Syrian foe. The Syrian oppression continues during the next reign :
But the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them,
neither cast he them from his presence as yet. Under Jehoash and Jeroboam there is a restoration of the border of Israel
according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which
But when we reach the fourth descendant of Jehu, and his usurping successors, the Assyrian foe appears that is to make an end to the history of the northern kingdom; and the narrative grows into a general review and denunciation of the sins of Israel: their secret service in the cities, and Asherim on every hill; their hardening of the neck against the prophets and seers sent to warn them.
And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified unto them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the nations that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them that they should not do like them. And they forsook all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight: there was none left but the tribe of
Judah only. The book ends with a brief description of the carrying away of northern Israel into captivity at Babylon; and in a tone of scorn tells of the hybrid people left to fill their place in Samaria: a people who “feared the LORD and served their own gods." The tenth book is simple and straightforward in its history, following the Kingdom of Judah to its Captivity. It commences with the glorious reign of Hezekiah, a period dominated by the personality of the prophet Isaiah. After the reign of Manasseh, related without any suggestion of his repentance, and that of Amon, in whom no redeeming feature appears, we reach another great name in Josiah. The one event of the reign is the reformation ensuing upon the discovery of the roll of the law; a reformation too late to save the guilty kingdom, though the righteous king is to be spared the sight of the overthrow. Though it is a prophetess who foretells the coming doom, yet the heroes of this episode are a scribe and a priest, discoverers of the law; and here we seem to have a foretaste of what is to be the history of the future. The troubled reigns which follow are so many stages of the coming captivity.
All three books, though in form regular history, are in their spirit history told from the prophetic point of view; where secular events are treated it is in the barest style of annals, where events touch the controversy between God and his people the narrative rises to the height of epic interest. Taking a general view of the whole, we may see a change of character in the prophetic element of these books. Prophetic action will naturally include miracle, but we now begin to see the miraculous part of it becoming an interest in itself. The “sign of the prophet' is at first the symbolic act — tearing of robe or rending of altar - which serves merely as text for the prophetic message. But gradually
it comes to be the wonder-working act which draws attention for its own sake: the cycle of Elisha stories reads for the most part as a succession of mystic wonders, much like the cycle of Samson with its feats of physical strength: wonders of axe heads swimming, a cruse of oil multiplying, children cursed and destroyed by bears, leprosy healed or returning at the prophet's word. There appears a decadence, not in prophecy itself, but in the attitude of the public mind to prophecy; the wonder of the sign becomes to the on-looking people more than the moral truth which that sign is to convey. When the national corruption has proceeded so far as to use the Divine instrument of its correction for a means of wondering diversion, the ministry of prophecy is nearing its end. So in the far future, when the history of Israel shall have reached its last period, the nation will have become “an evil and adulterous generation that seeketh after a sign.”
The text is that of the Revised Version, the marginal alternatives of that version being often adopted. For the use of it I express my obligations to the University Presses of Oxford and Cambridge. In explanation of the scantiness of the notes I repeat that this work does not profess to be in any way a guide to actual history; it is intended only as a help in the reading of historic literature. For