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217

CHAPTER XX.

THE AGONY OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM.

  b.c.
Shallum 740
Menahem 740-737
Pekahiah 737-735
Pekah 735-734

2 Kings xv. 8-31

"Blood toucheth blood."—Hos. iv. 2.

"The revolters are profuse in murders."—Hos. v. 2.

"They have set up kings, but not by Me: they have made princes, and I knew it not."—Hos. viii. 4.

"Non tam reges fuere quam fures, latrones, et tyranni."—Witsius, Decaph., 326.

With the death of Zachariah begins the acute agony of Israel's dissolution. Four kings were murdered in forty years. Indeed, within two centuries, at least nine kings—Nadab, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Jehoram, Zachariah, Shallum, Pekahiah, Pekah—had made the steps of the throne slippery with blood. Except in the house of Omri, all the kings of Israel either left no sons or left them to be slain. Amos, by his vision of the basket of summer fruit, had intimated that the sins of Israel were ripe for punishment, and the lesson had been emphasised by the paronomasia of quîts, "summer," and queets, "end."353353   Amos viii. 2. The prophet had singled four out of many crimes as the cause of her ruin. They were (1) greedy oppression of the poor;218 (2) land-grabbing; (3) licentious and idolatrous revelries; (4) cruelty to poor debtors, and rioting on the proceeds of unjust gains. In their drunkenness they even tempted God's Nazarites to break their vows. "Behold," saith Jehovah, "I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves." Even women shared in the common intoxication, and showed themselves utterly shameless, so that Amos contemptuously calls them "fat cows of Bashan upon the mountain of Samaria," whom in punishment the brutal conqueror should drag by the hair out of their ivory palaces, as a fisherman drags his prey out of the water by hooks.354354   Amos iv. 1-3.

Shallum, son of Jabesh, the unknown murderer of Zachariah and the usurper of his throne, suffered the fate of Zimri, and only reigned for one month. If his conspiracy was marked by the odious circumstances of treachery and corruption, which we infer from the allusions of Hosea, Shallum richly deserved the swift retribution which fell upon him. He seems to have destroyed Zachariah by means of his best affections—under the guise of friendship, in the midst of boon companionship. But the slayer of his master had no peace, and from the moment of his fruitless crime the unhappy country seems to have been plunged in the horrors of civil war. Some dim glimpses of the evils of the day are gained from the earlier Zechariah,355355   It is probable that our present Book of Zechariah is composed of the works of three prophets of different dates, each of whom may have borne that name. See my Minor Prophets ("Men of the Bible" Series). just as some dim glimpses of the horrors of Rome in the days of the later Cæsars may be seen in the Apocalypse. The prophet speaks of three shepherds cut off in one219 month, who abhorred God, and His soul was impatient at them.356356   Zech. xi. 8. In 2 Kings xv. 10 the LXX. read καὶ επάταξεν αὐτὸν ἐν κεβλαάμ; and Ewald thinks that "before the people" (קָבָל־צָם) is really a proper name of the third king in one month—"and Kobolam slew him." There is insufficient ground for this; though a similar name is found in Assyrian records.

Just as Galba, Otho, and Vitellius flit across the stage of the Empire amid war and assassinations, so Zachariah and Shallum are swept away by "dagger-thrusts through the purple." Was there a third? Ewald and others think that they detect a shadowy outline of him and of his name in 2 Kings xv. 10. If so, his name was Kobolam, but we know no more of him beyond the fact that "he was, and is not." For the sacred annals are but little concerned with this bloody phantasmagoria of feeble kings, who ruled amid usurpation, anarchy, hostile attacks from without, and civil war within. "Israel," said Hosea, "hath cast off the thing that is good: the enemy shall pursue him. They have set up kings, but not by Me: they have made princes, and I knew it not." "They are all as hot as an oven, and have devoured their judges; all their kings have fallen; there is none among them that calleth upon Me."357357   Hos. viii. 3, vii. 7.

It was perhaps during this distracted epoch that for one moment there was an attempt to place the ruling authority of the nation in the hands of the prophet himself. So it would appear from Zech. xi. 7-14. Of course these chapters may be allegorical throughout, as, in any case, they are in great part. But if so, it becomes more difficult to understand the meaning. What the prophet says is as follows:—

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First, as though he saw the terrible conflagration of the Assyrian tyranny rolling southwards, and felt it to be irresistible, he bids Lebanon open her doors, that the fire may devour her cedars. There is perhaps an allusion to the death of Jeroboam II. in the words, "Howl fir tree, for the cedar is fallen." He sees in vision the forces of devastation raging among the oaks of Bashan, the forest and the vintage, while the shepherds cry, and the ousted lions roar in vain. Then Jehovah bids him feed "the flock of the slaughter"—the flock sold remorselessly by its rich possessors, and slain, and left unpitied, as the people were despoiled by its nobles and its kings. The prophet undertakes the charge of the miserable flock, and takes two staves, one of which he calls "Prosperity," and the other "Union." While he was thus engaged three shepherds were cut off in one month,358358   Zachariah, Shallum, Kobolam (?). whom he loathed, and who abhorred him. But he finds his task hopeless, and flings it up; and in sign that his covenant with the people is broken, he breaks his staff "Prosperity." The nation refused to pay him anything for his services, except a paltry sum of thirty pieces of silver, and these he disdainfully flung into the sacred treasury.359359   Zech. xi. 1-17 (Heb. 13). Then seeing that all hope of union between Israel and Judah was at an end, he broke his staff "Union." Lastly, Jehovah says He will raise up a foolish, neglectful, cruel shepherd who would care for nothing but to eat the flesh of the fat and break the hoofs of the flock. And as for this worthless shepherd, the sword should be upon his arm and in his right eye; his arm shall be dried up, and his right eye utterly darkened.

By this cruel and self-seeking shepherd is probably221 meant Menahem. He had been, according to Josephus, the captain of the guard, and was living at Tirzah, the old beautiful capital of the land. From Tirzah, where he occupied the position of the captain of the chariots, he marched on the ill-supported Shallum. Samaria apparently offered no protection to the usurper. Menahem defeated him and put him to death. Then he proceeded to enforce the allegiance of the rest of the country. An otherwise unknown town of the name of Tiphsach360360   That this was Thapsacus on the Euphrates (1 Kings iv. 24), and that Menahem was in a position to march northward three hundred miles, and offer so deadly and wanton an insult to the might of Assyria, is out of the question. The name means "a ford," and might apply to any town on a river. Thenius thinks the name is a clerical error for Tappuach, between Ephraim and Manasseh (Josh. xvii. 7, 8). ventured to resist him. Menahem conquered it, and perhaps thinking, as Machiavelli thought, that princes had better exhibit their utmost cruelty at first, to deter any further opposition, he let loose his ferocity on the town in a way which created a shuddering remembrance. As though he had been one of the ferocious heathen, who had never been restrained by the knowledge of God, he exhibited the extreme of callous brutality by ripping up all the women that were with child.361361   Josephus says, ὠμότητος ὑπερβολὴν οὐ καταλιπὼν οὐδὲ ἀγριότητος. It is said that the same crime was committed in 1861 by a Mexican bandit. Machiavelli says, "He who violently and without just right usurps a crown must use cruelty, if cruelty becomes necessary, once for all" (De princ., 8). In this he followed the remorseless example of Hazael. Hosea had prophesied that this should be the fate of Samaria;362362   2 Kings viii. 12; Hos. xiii. 16. Amos had denounced the Ammonites for acting thus in the cities of Gilead;222363363   Amos i. 13. Shalmaneser III. had, in b.c. 732, thus avenged himself on the resistance of Beth-Arbel,364364   Hos. x. 14. This allusion is, however, uncertain. Shalmaneser III. is not elsewhere found abbreviated into Shalman. Some suppose him to be a Moabitish king, Salamannu, who was a vassal of Tiglath-Pileser. The LXX., Vulg., etc., identify him with the Zalmunna of Judg. viii. 18. Psalm lxxxiii. 11 renders the word ex domo ejus qui judicavit Baal (i.e., Gideon). Beth-Arbel is either Arbela in Galilee, or Irbid, north-east of Pella. and Assyria was ultimately to meet an analogous retribution,365365   Nah. iii. 10. as also was Babylon.366366   Isa. xiii. 16. But that a king of Ephraim, of God's chosen people, should act thus to his own brethren was a horrible portent, ominous of swift destruction.

And the vengeance came. Menahem reigned, at least in name, for ten years; for the sword which had slain mothers with their unborn infants reduced the stricken people to terrified silence. But at this epoch Assyria woke once more from her lethargy, and became the scourge of God to the guilty people and their guiltier kings. For a whole century the Assyrians had either been governed by kings who had abjured the lust of blood and conquest, or had been too seriously occupied on their own eastern and northern frontiers to intermeddle with the southern kingdoms, or break down the barriers erected by the confederacy of Hamath and Damascus between Nineveh and the weaker principalities of Palestine. But now (b.c. 745) there came to the throne a king who, in Chaldæa, was known by the name of Pul, and in Assyria by the name of Tiglath-Pileser;367367   The two predecessors of Tiglath-Pileser (Tuklat-abal-isarra) were Assurdayan and Assurnirari. and being too formidable for any power to stay his path, he marched against Menahem. Already he was lord of the world from the Caspian to223 the Gulf of Persia; already he had subdued Babylonia, Elam, Media, Armenia, eastward—Mesopotamia and Syria westward. Who was Menahem, the petty usurper of a tenth-rate kingdom, that he should withstand his power or even retard his advance?

The cruel usurper was in no condition to resist him. The brand of Cain was on him and his kingdom. How could the weak, impoverished, harassed troops of Israel stand up in battle against those numberless serried ranks, or withstand their tremendous discipline? If the very name of Persia once struck terror into the brave Greeks before the spell of Persian ascendency was broken at Marathon, Thermopylæ, and Salamis, much more did the name of Assyria make the hearts of the wretched Israelites melt like water. They now for the first time saw those bearded warriors with their broad swords, their tremendous bows, their fierce, sensual faces, their thickset figures. In the language of the prophets we still hear the echo of the fears which they excited by their swift, unfaltering marches, their sleepless vigilance, their girded loins, stout sandals, and barbed arrows.368368   Isa. v. 26-29.

"Their horses' hoofs," says Isaiah, "shall be like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind: their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions; yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and carry it away safe, and there shall be none to deliver. And they shall roar against them in that day like the roaring of the sea; and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and distress, and the light is darkened in the clouds thereof."

Ancient Assyria lay beneath the Snowy Mountains of Kurdistan; and its capital, Nineveh—near Mosul,224 Kouyunjik, and Neby-Junus—lay six hundred miles from the Gulf of Persia. The people spoke, as their descendants still speak, a dialect of Syriac, akin both grammatically and structurally to Hebrew. Assyria was constantly at war with Babylonia; but for the most part the kings of Assyria held Babylon in subjection, and Tiglath-Pileser was a king of the Chaldæans under the name Pul, as well as a king of Nineveh.

Menahem was warrior enough to know how hopeless it was to struggle against these trained forces. He was not even secure on his own throne. He thought it best to offer himself without resistance as a feudatory, if the Assyrian King would confirm his sovereignty. Tiglath-Pileser did not think Menahem worth more trouble, and was graciously pleased to accept by way of bribe a tribute of a thousand talents of silver, or about £125,000. This, however, as we learn from the Eponym Canon, was not all. Menahem had to pay a further tribute year by year. Later on, in 738, Shalmaneser mentions Minik-himmi (Menahem), as well as Rasunnu (Rezin), among his tributaries.

The Assyrian withdrew, and Menahem had to exact this vast sum of money from his miserable subjects. To tax the poor was hopeless. He found that there were some sixty thousand persons who might be reckoned among the wealthier farmers and proprietors,369369   Comp. Job xx. 15; Ruth ii. 1. and from them he at once exacted fifty shekels of silver (more than £3) apiece. Probably they thought that to pay the sum demanded was not too heavy a price for the retirement of these frightful Assyrians, whose forces Tiglath-Pileser did not withdraw until he had the money in hand. The event took place in 738, and Tiglath-Pileser continued to reign till 727. How bitterly225 the burden of foreign tribute was felt appears from Hos. viii. 9, 10, which should perhaps be rendered, "They are gone up to Assyria like a wild ass alone by himself. Ephraim hath hired lovers. And they begin to be minished by reason of the burden of the king of princes." "The king of princes" was the haughty title usurped by Tiglath-Pileser, who said, "Are not my princes all of them kings?" (Isa. x. 8).

All this was a fulfilment of what Hosea had foreseen:—

"Ephraim is oppressed, he is crushed in judgment, because he was content to walk after vanity. Therefore am I unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as rottenness. When Ephraim saw his sickness, and the house of Judah his wound, then went Ephraim to Assyria, and sent unto an avenging king:370370   Hos. v. 11-13. Comp. x. 6: "It [Samaria] shall be carried to Assyria for a present unto King Jareb." Sayce (Bab. and Orient. Records, December 1887) thinks that Jareb may have been the original name of Sargon, and so too Neubauer, Zeitschr. für Assyr., 1886. The Vulg. renders King Jareb ad regem ultorem, and so too Symmachus. Aquila and Theodotion have δικαζόμενον. It may be the name of an unknown king of Assyria, or of Pul, or of Sargon—R.V., margin, "a king that should contend." yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound. For I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the House of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him." The Assyrian was irresistible, because he was the destined instrument of the wrath of God. The "mixing with the heathens" was a sin, and Israel in cooing to Assyria was like a foolish dove; but the day sometimes comes to doomed nations when no course can save them from the fate which they have provoked.371371   Hos. vii. 8-12.

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Not long afterwards Menahem died, and he had sufficiently established his rule to be succeeded as a matter of course by his son Pekahiah. But

"Revenge and wrong bring forth their kind;

The foul cubs like their parents are."

Samaria had fearful object-lessons in the apparently immediate success of murder and rebellion. The prize looked near and splendid: the vengeance might be belated or might not come. Of Pekahiah we are told absolutely nothing but that he reigned two years, with this stereotyped addition, that "he did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah" by continuing the calf-worship.372372   Josephus says, τῇ τοῦ πατρὸς ἀκολουθήσας ὠμότητι. After this brief and uneventful reign, his captain Pekah got together fifty fierce Gileadites, and with the aid of two otherwise unknown friends, Argob and Arieh, murdered Pekahiah in his own harem.373373   2 Kings xv. 25, A.V., "in the palace of the king's house" (armon), rather "fortress." For the character of the Gileadites see 1 Chron. xii. 8, xxvi. 31. Argob was probably so named from the district in Bashan, and Arieh was a fit name for a lion-faced Gadite (1 Chron. xii. 8).

The sacred historian troubles himself but little about these kings. His annals of them are brief to extreme meagreness. Like the prophet, he viewed them as God-abandoned phantoms of guilty royalty.

"They that cry unto me, My God, we, Israel, know thee.

Israel hath cast off that which is good:

The enemy shall pursue him.

They have set up kings, but not by Me;

They have removed them, and I knew it not:

Of their silver and their gold have they made them idols,

That they may be cut off.

He hath cast on thy calf, O Samaria."

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Probably Pekahiah was, as so often happens, the weak son of a vigorous father. The times could not tolerate incapable sovereigns; and the fact that Pekah not only maintained himself on the throne for twenty years,374374   The length of Pekah's reign is most doubtful. If the periods assigned to the reigns in the Northern and Southern Kingdoms be added together up to the Fall of Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii. 9, 10), it will be found that the Southern chronology is twenty years longer than the Northern. G. Smith would alter the text, and make Jeroboam II. reign fifty-one years and Pekah thirty years; others invent an interregnum of eleven years between Jeroboam II. and Zachariah, and an anarchy of nine years before Hoshea's accession; others shorten Pekah's reign to one year. but was able to take active steps of aggression against Jerusalem, seems to show that he was a man of some administrative capacity. If he had not achieved political and military importance, it would hardly have been worth while for a fierce and powerful king like Rezin, the last king of Syria, to form so close an alliance with him. Probably Rezin saw that his throne and his very existence were in danger, and Pekah wished with Rezin's aid to resist to the uttermost the encroachments of Assyria, and escape the burdensome tribute which Menahem had paid. Indeed, it may well be that Pekahiah's passive continuance of this tribute may have been distasteful to the people of the land, and that they condoned or even tacitly aided Pekah's rebellion in order to get rid of it, and to find protection in an abler monarch. It was the last, perhaps the only, chance for the kings of Syria and of Israel. As we hear no more of Hamath as a member of the alliance, we must suppose that it had now been reduced to impotence and vassalage by the all-powerful Assyrian. If, however, there was to be any overbalance228 to the colossal menace of Nineveh, it could only be by a large confederacy; and it may have been the refusal of Jotham to join that confederacy, on the death of his father Uzziah, which caused the joint invasion of Rezin and Pekah to force him to accept their alliance or to suppress him altogether. In that case they might have formed a close alliance with Egypt, and the forces of the united South might, they fancied, prove to be a match for the forces of the North.375375   2 Kings xv. 37.

Whatever designs they may have formed against Jotham, or to whatever extent they may have annoyed him, it was not till the reign of his son Ahaz that they became formidable and ruinous. Of this we shall say more in recounting the reign of Ahaz. All that we need now remark is that their bold aggression on Judah became the cause of utter destruction to them both. They advanced against Ahaz, and overran his helpless country. It was their object to depose the descendant of David, and to crown in his place a certain unnamed "son of Tabeal," whom Ewald supposed to have been a Syrian, but whose name may possibly furnish a specimen of the later Jewish device of Gematria.376376   Vide infra.

It is not impossible that behind these events we may find the efforts and yearnings of a party which cared more for Israel's unity than for David's throne. Such a party may easily have sprung up during the splendid, prosperous reign of Jeroboam II. It has been conjectured by some that the election of Uzziah by the people—delayed, according to one reckoning, for twelve years—was in reality the triumph of the party which229 felt an unquenchable allegiance to David's house. In Deut. xxxiii. Reuben is put before Judah; Jeshurun (i.e., Israel) is magnified far more than Judah; and some Northern shrine in Zebulon, as well as the Temple, is celebrated as a sanctuary.377377   Deut. xxxiii. 19: "They [Zebulon] shall call the peoples unto the mountain: there shall they offer the sacrifices of righteousness." That there were men in Jerusalem who preferred Rezin and Pekahiah to their own king is clearly stated in Isaiah. He compares them to those who prefer a turbid torrent to a soft, sweet stream. "Because," he says, "this people despise the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, and take delight in Rezin and Remaliah's son; now, therefore, the Lord bringeth upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the King of Assyria, and all his glory."378378   Isa. viii. 6, 7. Isaiah seems to have had a contempt for the whole attack. He told Ahaz not to fear for the stumps of those two smoking firebrands Rezin, King of Syria, and the Israelitish usurper, whom he only condescends to call "Remaliah's son." He promises the trembling Ahaz that, since he had faithlessly refused a sign, God would give him a sign. The sign was that the young woman who accompanied Isaiah—perhaps his youthful wife—should bear a son, whose name should be called Immanuel; and that before the child Immanuel—whose designation, "God with us," was an omen of the loftiest hope—should be of an age to distinguish evil from good, the Northern land, which Ahaz abhorred, should be forsaken of both her kings.

The prophecy came true in every particular. Rezin and Pekah swept all before them, and besieged Jerusalem; but they wasted their time in vain before the fortifications which Jotham had strengthened and230 repaired. Obliged to raise the siege, Rezin carried his army southward, and indemnified himself by seizing Elath, by driving out the Judæan garrison, and replacing them with Syrians.379379   Perhaps we should read Edomites (2 Kings xvi. 6). It was the last gleam of Syrian success, before the final overthrow of Damascus which prophecy had often and emphatically foretold.

Pekah also withdrew his forces—no doubt compelled to do so by the step which Ahaz took in his desperation. For now the King of Judah invoked the protection and invited the active interference of Tiglath-Pileser against his enemies—"to save him out of the hand of the King of Syria, and out of the hand of the King of Israel, who were risen up against him."

Rezin and Damascus first felt the might of the Assyrian's conquering arm. The account of his decisive conquest is preserved in the Eponym Canon, and the passages which refer to the defeat of the Syrians will be found in the First Appendix at the end of the volume. It appears from the monuments that Rezin (Rasannu) lost not only his kingdom, but his life.

It is the death-knell of Aramæan greatness, as Amos had foretold.

"Thus saith Jehovah:
For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four,
I will not turn away the punishment thereof;
Because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:
But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael,
Which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad.
And I will break the bar of Damascus,380380   The bar of its city gate.
231And cut off him that sitteth [on the throne] in the Valley of Aven,381381   Bikath-Aven—"The cleft of Aven"—Cœle Syria, or Hollow Syria, still called by the Arabs El-Bukāa. Comp. Josh. xi. 17, xii. 7. Aven—or "Vanity"—is perhaps Heliopolis or Baalbek. Comp. Ezek. xxx. 17.
And him that holdeth the sceptre from Beth-Eden:382382   Perhaps Beit el Jame, "House of Paradise"—about eight hours from Damascus (Porter, Five Years in Syria, i. 313).
And the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir,383383   Kir, in Armenia—the land of their origin (Amos ix. 7).
Saith Jehovah."

Rezin was slain—how we know not; very probably by one of the horrible methods of torture—by being flayed alive, or decapitated, or having his lips and nose cut off—which were practised by these demon-kings of Nineveh.

Nor did Pekah escape. Tiglath-Pileser advanced against the northern part of his dominions, and afflicted the land of Zebulon and Naphtali. Ijon; Abel-beth-Maachah, the city of Elisha; Zanoah, the ancient sanctuary of Kedesh-Naphtali, the home of the hero Barak; Hazor, the former capital of the Canaanitish king Jabin; Gilead; Galilee,—all submitted to him, apparently without striking a serious blow. He dealt with the miserable inhabitants in the way familiar to kings of Assyria. He deported them en masse into a strange country of which they did not understand the language, and in which they were reduced to hopeless subjection, while he supplied their places by aliens from various parts of his own dominions. There could be no securer method of reducing to paralysis all their national aspirations. Strangers in a strange land, they forgot their nationality, forgot their religion, forgot their language, forgot their traditions. Their sole resource was to plunge into material pursuits, and to melt away into indistinguishable obliteration among232 the neighbouring heathen. It was the beginning of the Northern Captivity—of the loss of the Ten Tribes.

As Tiglath-Pileser thus permanently subdued and depopulated the land of the Northern Tribes, it is a Jewish tradition that at this time he carried away the golden "calf" from Dan among his spoils.384384   But, after all, was there a golden calf at Dan? It is scarcely ever alluded to, and the notion that there was one may have arisen (1) from a corruption or mistaken rendering of the text in 1 Kings xii. 29, and (2) from the existence there of the idolatrous ephod. See Klostermann, ad loc.; Isa. ix. 8-17. Scripture does not record the fact, though in Hosea (viii. 5) there may be an allusion to the fate of that at Bethel, whether the right version be "He hath cast off thy calf, O Samaria," or "Thy calf, O Samaria, hath cast thee off."385385   LXX., Ἀποτρίψαι τὸν μόσχον σοῦ, Σαμάρεια; Vulg., Projectus est vitulus tuus, Samaria. Orelli renders it, "Abscheulich ist dein Kalb, O Samaria." In Jer. xlvi. 15 we read (of Egypt), "Why is thy strong one swept away?" where the true reading may be, "Hath Khaph [i.e., Apis], thy chosen one, fled?" LXX., Ἆπις ὁ μόσχος σοῦ, ὁ ἐκλεκτός. So Amos had prophesied that the "god of Dan" and the "way of Beersheba" should fall for evermore (Amos viii. 14). "The workman made it," he continues; "therefore it is not God: for the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces." And again (x. 5): "The people of Samaria shall fear because of the heifer of the House of Vanity: for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the chemarim [i.e., the black-robed false priests thereof] shall tremble for it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed. It [the idol] shall also be carried to Assyria for a present to King Combat."

For a time Pekah escaped; but unsuccess is fatal to a murderous usurper, weakened by the loss and plunder of dominions which he is unable to defend. Instead of wasting time in the siege of a strong city like Samaria, Tiglath-Pileser in all probability stirred up Hoshea, the233 son of Elah, to rise in conspiracy against his master and slay him. For Pekah and Israel seem to have made light of the Northern raid. They said in their pride and stoutness of heart, "The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with new stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars." Such pretence of security was ill-timed and senseless, and Isaiah denounced it. "Therefore," he said, "Jehovah hath set up against Israel the adversaries of Rezin [i.e., the Assyrians], and hath stirred up his enemies; the Syrians on the east, and the Philistines on the west; and they have devoured Israel with open mouth. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still. Yet the people have not turned unto Him that smote them, neither have they sought the Lord of hosts. Therefore Jehovah hath cut off from Israel palm-branch and rush in one day. The elder and the honourable man, he is the head; and the prophet that speaketh lies, he is the tail. For they that lead this people cause them to err, and they that are led of them are swallowed up."386386   Isa. ix. 11-16. With this passage comp. 2 Kings xxiii. 5; Zeph. i. 4; Hos. vii. 9, 10.

The following verses furnish one of the numerous pictures of the anarchy and abounding misery of these evil days. "For wickedness burneth as the fire: it devoureth the briers and thorns; yea, it kindleth in the thickets of the forest, and they roll upwards in thick clouds of smoke. Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts is the land burnt up; the people also are the fuel of fire: no man spareth his brother. And one shall snatch on the right, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: Manasseh,234 Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: and they together shall be against Judah. For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still."

We are told in the Book of Kings that Pekah reigned for twenty years; but some of these later reigns must be shortened to suit the exigencies of known chronological data. It seems probable that he occupied the throne for a much shorter time.387387   Tiglath-Pileser says: "Pakaha, their king, I killed: Ausi [Hoshea] I placed over them. The distant land of Bit-Khumri [the "house of Omri"]—the whole of its inhabitants, with their goods—I carried away to Asshur" (b.c. 734). In this year he mentions Ahaz among his tributaries.

Such was the weakened, harassed, vassal kingdom—the gaunt spectre of itself—to the throne of which, after a period of anarchy and chaos, Hoshea, by conspiracy and murder, succeeded as the miserable feudatory of Assyria.


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