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CHAPTER XXX.

THE EARLIER KINGS OF JUDAH.

1 Kings xiv. 21-31, xv. 1-24.

The history of "the Jews" begins, properly speaking, from the reign of Rehoboam, and for four centuries it is mainly the history of the Davidic dynasty.

The only records of the son of Solomon are meagre records of disaster and disgrace. He reigned seventeen years, and his mother, the Ammonitess Naamah, occupied the position of queen-mother.515515   According to the LXX. she was a daughter of Hanun, son of Naash, King of Ammon (2 Sam. x. 1). She was, doubtless, a worshipper in the shrine which Solomon had built for her national god, Molech of Ammon, who was the same as the Ashtar-Chemosh of the Moabite stone—the male form of Ashtoreth.516516   Canon Rawlinson, Kings of Israel and Judah. Whether her son was twenty-one or forty-one when he succeeded to the throne we do not know.517517   1 Kings xiv. 21. "A boy and faint-hearted" (2 Chron. xiii. 7). The additions to the LXX. say that he was sixteen, and reigned twelve years. His attempted expedition against Jeroboam was forbidden by Shemaiah;518518   In the LXX. additions it was a little before this occasion (after the revolt) that "Shemaiah the Enlamite" tore his new cloak and gave ten parts to Jeroboam. but314 ineffectual and distressing war smouldered on between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. If Jeroboam sinned by the erection in the old sanctuaries of the two golden calves, Rehoboam surely sinned far more heinously. He not only sanctioned the high places—which in him may have been very venial, since they held their own unchallenged till the days of Hezekiah—but he allowed stone obelisks (Matstseboth) in honour of Baal, and pillars (Chammanim) of the Nature-goddess (Asherah) to be set up on every high hill and under every green tree.519519   The Chammanim were, according to some, pillars to Baal-Hammon. For the Asherim, see Deut. xvi. 21; 2 Kings xxi. 3. They were wooden pillars to Asherah, and were called Asherim just as statues of the Virgin are called "Virgins." Asheroth seem to be various forms of the Nature-goddess herself (2 Chron. xxxiii. 3). Asherah = Ὀρθία. Like the other kings of Judah, Rehoboam had an exaggerated harem, and provided for the young princes by settling them in separate cities as governors. Worse than this, and a proof of the abyss of corruption into which the evil example of Solomon had beguiled the nation, there were found in the land the Kedeshim, the infamous eunuch-ministers of a most foul worship.520520   Jerome compares them to the horrible Galli of the Syrian goddess. LXX., τετελεσμένοι ("initiated"); Aquila, ἐνηλλαγμένοι ("changed"); Theodotion, κεχωρισμένοι ("set apart"); Symmachus, ἑταιρίδες. They were also called "dogs" (comp. Deut. xxiii. 18). In spite of Temple and priesthood, "they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord drave out before the children of Israel."521521   According to the chronicler Rehoboam's defection only began in the fourth year of his reign. Since Rehoboam thus sinned so much more heinously than his northern compeer we can hardly admire the conduct of the Levites, who, according to the chronicler, fled southward in swarms from the innovations of the son of Nebat. The Scylla315 of calf-worship was incomparably less shameful than the Charybdis of these heathen abominations.

Such atrocities could not be left unpunished. Where the carcase is the eagles will gather. In the fifth year of Rehoboam, Shishak, King of Egypt,522522   He was the first king of the twenty-second dynasty of Bubastis or Pibeseth, and succeeded about b.c. 988 in the fourteenth year of Solomon. The Egyptians (Manetho) called him Shesonk (Sesonsochosis) Sasychis, Herod., ii. 136; LXX., Σουσακίμ; Vulg., Sesac. put an end to the shortlived glories of the age of Solomon. Of his reason for invading Palestine we know nothing. It was probably mere ambition and the love of plunder, stimulated by stories which Jeroboam may have brought to him about the inexhaustible riches of Jerusalem. He is the first Pharaoh whose individuality was so marked as to transcend and replace the common dynastic name.523523   He was of alien, perhaps of Assyrian, race. His family had settled at Bubastis, and his grandfather had married the daughter of the Pharaoh. His son Osorkhon also married the Princess Keramat, a daughter of the last Tanite king. Imitating the example of Hir-hor, he combined many offices, and then quietly seized the crown. He was astute enough to seize the opportunity of self-aggrandisement which offered itself when Jeroboam took refuge at his court; but the conjecture that former friendly relations induced Jeroboam to invite the services of Shishak for the destruction of his rival, is rendered impossible if Egyptologists have correctly deciphered the splendid memorial of his achievements which he twice carved on the great Temple of Amon at Karnak. There the most conspicuous figure is the colossal likeness of the king. His right hand holds a sword;524524   Brugsch, Geogr. Inschriften altägyptischer Denkmäler, ii. 58; Lepsius, Denkmäler, iii. 252; Story of the Nations: Egypt, pp. 228-307; Stade, i. 354 (who reproduces the sculptures). They are carved on the wall of a Temple of Amon on the southern side of a smaller temple (built by Rameses III.). Shishak is smiting with his club a number of captive Jews, whom he grasps by the hair. The names of the towns and districts are paraded in two long rows, each name being enclosed in a shield. Amon is delivering them all to his beloved son "Shashonq." These smitten people are described as "the Am of a distant land, and the Fenekh" (Phœnicians). his left grasps by the316 hair a long line which passes round the necks of a troop of thirty-eight mean and diminutive Jewish captives. The smaller figure of the god Amon leads other strings of one hundred and thirty-three captives, and the third king from his left hand bears a name which Champollion deciphered Yudeh-Malk, which he took to mean King of Judah.525525   Lit., "Judah-king." Brugsch thinks it is the name of a town. It cannot mean, as Champollion thought, "King of Judah." If the interpretation were correct, we should here have a picture of the son of Solomon. On the other figures are the names of the cities of which they were kings or sheykhs. Among these are not only the names of southern towns, like Ibleam, Gibeon, Bethhoron, Ajalon, Mahanaim, but even of Canaanite and Levitic cities in the Northern Kingdom, including Taanach and Megiddo.526526   See Shishak in Bibl. Dict. It is extremely difficult to believe that these cities were taken by the Egyptian army in order to help Jeroboam. Shashonq (as the monuments call him) came with a huge and motley army of many nationalities, among whom were Libyans, Troglodytes, and Ethiopians. This host was composed of twelve hundred chariots, sixty thousand horsemen, and a numberless infantry of mercenaries. Such an invasion, though it was little more than an insulting military parade and predatory incursion, rendered resistance impossible, especially to a people enervated by luxury. Shishak came, saw,—and plundered. His chief spoil was taken from the poor317 dishonoured Temple and the king's palace.527527   Josephus says that Shishak did all this ἀμαχητὶ (Antt., VIII. x. 2, 3), but he confuses Shishak with Sesostris (Herod., ii. 102, 106). Judah specially grieved for the loss of the shields of gold which hung on the cedar pillars of the house of the forest of Lebanon,528528   1 Kings x. 17.—apparently both those which Solomon had made, and those which David had consecrated from the spoils of Hadadezer, King of Zobah.529529   LXX., 2 Sam. viii. 7; 1 Kings x. 17. A timely humiliation saved Rehoboam from extinction, but he practically became a vassal of Egypt (2 Chron. xii. 5). Perhaps a great soul would hardly have been consoled by putting mean substitutes in their place. Rehoboam, however, made bronze imitations of them in the guard-room,530530   תָּא (Ezek. xl. 7). and marched in pomp to the Temple preceded by his meanly armed runners,531531   Ratzim; comp. "Celeres," Liv., i. 14. We hear no more of Cherethites and Pelethites. The later kings could not afford to keep up these mercenaries. "as though everything was the same as before." "The bitter irony with which the sacred historian records the parade of these counterfeits," says Stanley, "may be considered as the keynote to this whole period. They well represent the 'brazen shields' by which fallen churches and kingdoms have endeavoured to conceal from their own and their neighbours' eyes that the golden shields of Solomon have passed away from them."532532   Jewish Church, ii. 385. The age of pinchbeck follows the age of gold, and a Louis XV. succeeds Le Grand Monarque.533533   Renan.

Rehoboam had many sons, and he "wisely" (2 Chron. xi. 23) gave them, by way of maintenance, the governorship of his fenced cities. That "he sought for them a318 multitude of wives" was perhaps a stroke of worldly policy, but an unwise and unworthy one. But their little courts and their little harems may have helped to keep them out of mischief. They might otherwise have destroyed each other by mutual jealousies.

Rehoboam was succeeded by his son Abijam. There is a little doubt as to the exact name of this king. The Book of Chronicles calls him Abijah,534534   2 Chron. xii. 16; comp. Abiel (1 Sam. ix. 1). but in 1 Kings xv. 1, 7, 8, he is called Abijam.535535   Abijam seems to mean "father of the sea"; vir maritimus, Gesenius. As the curious form Abijam seems to be unmeaning, it has been precariously conjectured that dislike to his idolatries led the Jews to alter a name which means "Jehovah is my Father."536536   So perhaps, for the same reason, Jehoahaz was shortened into Ahaz. See Canon Rawlinson on 2 Kings xv. 38 (Speaker's Commentary). But Simonis, Onomasticon, regards the final m as intensive. Some doubt also rests on the name of his mother. She is here called "Maacha, the daughter of Abishalom," but in Chronicles "Michaiah, the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah." Maachah was perhaps the granddaughter of Absalom, whose beautiful daughter Tamar (named after his dishonoured sister) may have been the wife of Uriel. In that case her name, Maachah, was a name given her in reminiscence of her royal descent as a great-granddaughter of the princess of Geshur, who was mother of Absalom. All sorts of secrets, however, sometimes lie behind these changes of names. She was the second, but favourite wife of Rehoboam; and Abijam, who was not the eldest son, owed his throne to his father's preference for her.537537   2 Chron. xi. 18-23. Rehoboam had eighteen wives, sixty concubines, twenty-eight sons, and sixty daughters. A fragment of the Stemma Davidis may make things clearer to the reader:— Jesse. | +----------+------------+ Eliab. David. | | | +------+--------+ Abihial. Solomon. Absalom. | | +--+ | | | Abihail = Rehoboam = Maachah. Tamar = Uriel. | | Abijah. Maachah.
    Thus on both sides, as a great-grandson and great-great-grandson, Abijah was descended from David.

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All that we are here told of Abijam is that "his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God," and that "he walked in all the sins of his father"; though "for David's sake his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem";538538   The lamp (LXX., κατάλειμμα; in xi. 36, θέσις) is the sign of home (1 Kings xi. 36; 2 Kings viii. 19. Comp. Psalm xviii. 28, cxxxii. 17). There was, as the chronicler boldly expressed it, "a covenant of salt" between God and the House of David (2 Chron. xiii. 5; comp. Numb. xviii. 19). and that, after a brief reign of three years—i.e., of one year and parts of two others—he slept with his fathers. For "the rest of his acts and all that he did," the historian refers us to the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah: he does not trouble himself with military details. The chronicler, referring to the Commentary of Iddo,539539   Chron. xiii. 22. adds a great deal more. Jeroboam, he says, went out against him with eight hundred thousand men. Abijam, who had only half the number, stood on Mount Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim,540540   Zemaraim was in Benjamin near Bethel (Josh. xviii. 22), apparently Kirbet el-Szomer in the Jordan valley, four miles north of Jericho. and made a speech to Jeroboam and his army. He reproached him with rebellion against his father when he was "young and tender-hearted," and with his golden calves, and320 his non-Levitical priests. He vaunted the superiority of the Temple priests with their holocausts and sweet incense and shewbread and golden candlestick, which priests were now with the army. Jeroboam sets an ambuscade, but at the shout of the men of Judah is routed with a loss of five hundred thousand men, after which Abijah recovers "Bethel with the towns thereof,"541541   2 Chron. xiii. 3-19. So that the golden calf and its chapel and its priests must, if the account be true, have fallen into his power. But it does not seem to have made the least difference. It is certain that "the calf" remained undisturbed till the days of the Assyrian invasion. and Jeshanah and Ephron (or "Ephraim"), completely humbling the northern king until "the Lord smote him and he died." After this Abijah waxes mighty, has fourteen wives, twenty-two sons, and sixteen daughters.

If we had read two accounts so different, and presenting such insuperable difficulties to the harmonist, in secular historians, we should have made no attempt to reconcile them, but merely have endeavoured to find which record was the more trustworthy. If the pious Levitical king of 2 Chron. xiii. be a true picture of the idolater of 1 Kings xv. 3, it is clear that the accounts are difficult to reconcile, unless we resort to incessant and arbitrary hypotheses. But the earlier authority is clearly to be preferred when the two obviously conflict with each other. As it is we can only say that the kings of whom the chronicler approves are, as it were, clericalised, and seen "through a cloud of incense," all their faults being omitted. The edifying speech of Abijah, and his boast about purity of worship, sounds most strange on the lips of a king who—if he "walked in all the sins of his father"—suffered his people to be guilty of a worship grossly idolatrous, including the321 toleration of Bamoth, Chammanim, and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree; and of all the abominations of the neighbouring idolaters,542542   How atrocious these "abominations were" may be seen from the Pentateuch (Lev. xviii. 3-25, xx. 1-23; Deut. xviii. 6-12).—a state of things infinitely worse than the symbolic Jehovah-worship which Jeroboam had set up. Yet such was the strange syncretism of religion in Jerusalem, of which Solomon had set the fatal example, that (as we learn quite incidentally) Abijah seems to have dedicated certain vessels—part of his warlike spoils—to the service of the Temple.543543   1 Kings xv. 15. They were perhaps intended to supply the gaps left by the plundering raid of Shishak.

After this brief and perplexing, but apparently eventful reign, Abijah was succeeded by his son Asa, whose long reign of forty-one years was contemporary with the reigns of no less than seven kings of Israel—Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Tibni, and Ahab.

We are told that—aided perhaps by such prophets as Hanani and Azariah, son of Oded544544   Ewald, iv. 49. (or Iddo)—"he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord." Of this he gave an early, decisive, and courageous proof.

When he succeeded to the throne at an early age his grandmother Maachah still held the high position of queen-mother.545545   Comp. the Madame Mère in the French court. This great lady inherited the fame and popularity of Absalom, and was a princess both of the line of David and of Tolmai, King of Geshur. She was, and always had been, an open idolatress.546546   The LXX. (Vat.) calls her Ana. Asa began his reign with a reformation. He took322 away the contemptible idols (Gilloolim) which his fathers had made, and suppressed the odious Kedeshim; or he at least made a serious, if an unsuccessful, effort to do so.547547   That it was not perfectly successful we see from 1 Kings xxii. 46. As to the high places we have a direct verbal contradiction. Here we are told that "they were not removed," whereas the chronicler says that "he took them away out of all the cities of Judah," but afterwards that "the high places were not taken away out of Israel," in spite of Asa's heart being perfect all his days. The explanation would seem to be that he made a partial attempt to anticipate the subsequent reformation of Hezekiah, but was defeated by the inveteracy of popular custom. He did, however, take the great step of branding with infamy the impure idolatry of the queen-mother, and he degraded her from her rank. She had made an idol, which is significantly called "a fright" or "a horror" (Miphletzeth),548548   The word is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον. It is only applied to this grotesque and obscene figure (1 Kings xv. 13; 2 Chron. xv. 16). to serve as an emblem of the Nature-goddess. It was probably a phallic symbol which he indignantly cut down, and burnt it, where all pollutions were destroyed, in the dry wady of the Kidron.549549   2 Kings xi. 16, xxiii. 4, 6, 12; 2 Chron. xxix. 16, xxx. 14. Vulg., in Sacris Priapi. Jerome (ad Hos., i. 4) calls Maachah's "horror" a Simulacrum Priapi (see Selden, De Dis Syris Syntagma, ii. 5). In the fifteenth year of his reign he dedicated in the Temple "silver and gold and vessels," consecrated by his father and himself for this purpose. He also restored the great altar in the porch of the Temple, which in the course of more than sixty years had fallen into neglect and disrepair.

For ten years the land had rest under this pious king, though war was always smouldering between him323 and Baasha. In the eleventh year, however, according to the chronicler, "Zerach the Ethiopian"550550   2 Chron. xvi. 8. Zarkh, perhaps Osorkhon I. (O-serek-on, "Ammon's darling"), was the feebler successor of Shesonk, Maspero, p. 362; Ewald, iii. 470. Shishak's army also consisted of Sushim and Lubim (2 Chron. xii. 3). attacked him with an army of a million Sushim and Lubim and three hundred chariots, and suffered an immense defeat in the valley of Zephathah, "the watch-tower" at Mareshah.551551   The defeat had important consequences. Egypt did not again attack Palestine till three centuries later, under Pharaoh Nechoh (b.c. 609). The defeat weakened the Bubastite dynasty (Rawlinson, p. 36), though it continued to reign for two centuries. The "invasion" may have been a mere raid. The Pharaohs always seem to have degenerated from the founders of their dynasty, both in personal beauty and intellectual force. It was the sole occasion in sacred history in which an Israelite army met and defeated one of the great world powers in open battle, and it was deemed so remarkable a proof of Divine interposition that Asa, encouraged by the prophet Azariah, invited his people to renew their covenant with God.

More alarming to Asa was the action of Baasha in fortifying Ramah552552   Josh. xviii. 25, now Er-Ram. No great importance can be attached to the dates, which are often self-contradictory. in the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign. This was a veritable ἐπιτειχισμὸς of the most dangerous kind, for Ramah, in the heart of Benjamin, was only five miles north of Jerusalem. If Abijah's signal defeat of Jeroboam and capture of Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron be historical, these towns must not only have been speedily recovered, but Baasha had even pushed towards Jerusalem, five miles south of Bethel. Had Ramah been left undisturbed it would have been a thorn in the side of Judah, as Deceleia was in Attica, and Pylos in Messenia. Asa saw that324 the demolition of this fortress was a positive necessity. Since he was too weak to effect this, he stripped both his own palace and the Temple of the treasures with which he had himself enriched them, and sent them as a vast bribe to Benhadad I., King of Damascus, begging him to renew the treaty which had existed between their fathers, and to invade the kingdom of Baasha. This step shows to what a depth of weakness Judah had fallen, for Benhadad was a son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion (probably Rezon) of Damascus;553553   Ben-Hadad, "son of Hadad," the Sun-god (Macrob., Saturn, i. 24). Tabrimmon, "Rimmon is good." According to Sayce (Hibbert Lectures, p. 42), Rimmon—an Accadian name, which became, in Semitic, Rammânu, "the exalted"—was identified by the Syrians with the Sun-god Hadad, whom Shahmanaser called Dada. In Assyrian Dadu ("dear child") is akin to David and to Dido. so that here we have the great-grandson of Solomon stripping Solomon's Temple of its consecrated vessels wherewith to bribe the grandson of the petty rebel freebooter, whose whole present kingdom had once been a part of Solomon's dominions! The policy was successful. It is easy for us now to condemn it as unpatriotic and short-sighted, but to Asa it seemed a matter of life or death. Benhadad invaded Israel, and mastered its territory in the tribe of Naphtali, from Ijon and Abel-beth-maachah on the waters of Merom554554   Ijon is probably Merj Ayion, "the meadow of the House of Maachah"; called also, Abel-maim, "the meadow of the waters"; "a city and a mother in Israel" (2 Sam. xx. 19); now Abil in the Ard-el-Huleh. down to Chinnereth or the Lake of Gennesareth.555555   See Numb. xxxiv. 11; Josh. xiii. 27. Baasha in alarm abandoned his attempt to blockade Jerusalem, and retired to Tirzah for the protection of his own kingdom. Thereupon Asa proclaimed a levy325 of all Judah to seize and dismantle Ramah, and with the ample materials which Baasha had amassed he fortified Geba to the north of Ramah556556   Josh. xxi. 17; 2 Kings xxiii. 8. and Mizpah (probably Neby Samwyl, to the north of the Mount of Olives), where he also sank a deep well for the use of the garrison.557557   LXX., ἡ σκοπία. Jer. xli. 5-9. Into this well Ishmael flung the corpses of the murdered adherents of Gedaliah. He thus effectually protected the frontier of Benjamin. He built, as Bossuet says, "the fortresses of Judah out of the ruins of those of Samaria," and thus set us the example of making holy use of hostile and heretical materials. We should have thought that the invitation of Benhadad was, in a worldly point of view, brilliantly successful, and that it saved the kingdom of Judah from utter ruin. It involved, however, a dangerous precedent, and Hanani rebuked Asa for having done foolishly.

After a powerful and useful reign Asa was attacked with gout in his feet two years before his death. The chronicler reproaches him for seeking "not to Jehovah but to the physicians" in his "exceeding great disease." If this was a sin, it is one of which we are unable to estimate the sinfulness from this meagre notice. It has been conjectured that it may have some reference to the name Asa, which, if written Asjah, might mean "whom Jehovah heals."558558   Renan, Hist. du Peuple Israel, ii. 248. Comp. Rephaiah. It belongs, however, to the theocratic standpoint of the chronicler, who condemns everything which bears the aspect of a worldly policy. He slept with his fathers in a tomb which he had built for himself, and was buried with unusual magnificence, amid the burning of many spices.

We are not surprised that the historian should not326 mention the invasion of Zerah, since he refers us for the wars f Asa to the Judæan annals. It is much more remarkable that he wholly omits all reference to the prophetic activity of which the chronicler speaks as exercised in this reign. He had evidently formed a very high estimate of Asa, with none of the shadows and drawbacks which in the later annalist seemed to point to a marked degeneracy of character in his later days. On the favourable side the historian does not mention the high and eulogistic encouragement which the king received from Azariah, the son of Oded; nor the multitude which joined him out of Israel; nor the cities which he took from the hill country of Ephraim; nor his restoration of the altar. He even passes over the solemn league and covenant which he made with Judah and Benjamin and many members of the Ten Tribes in his fifteenth year, at a festival celebrated with an immense sacrifice, and with shouting and trumpets and cornets and a great exultant oath.559559   2 Chron. xv. 1-15. On the unfavourable side he does not tell us that Hanani the Seer rebuked him for summoning the help of the Syrians instead of relying on Jehovah; and that Asa "was in a rage because of this thing, and shut up Hanani in the House of the Stocks," and "oppressed some of the people at the same time," apparently because they took part with the prophet.560560   2 Chron. xvi. 9, 10. For none of these events does the chronicler refer us to any ancient authority. They came from separate records, perhaps written in prophetic commentaries and unknown to the compiler of the Kings. But whatever may have been the failings or shortcomings of Asa it is clear that he must be ranked among the more eminent and righteous sovereigns of Judah.


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