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Israelite conquests. He defeated Ben-hadad, son of Hazael, and won back part of the conquered territory. His son, Jeroboam II, had the longest and most prosperous reign in the annals of the Ten Tribes. He not only regained all the former possessions of Israel, but captured Hamath and Damascus. But this was the end of Israelite prosperity. Two short reigns followed, each ended by an assassination, and then Men'ahem of Tirzah made a vain attempt to renew the glories of Jeroboam II by an expedition to the Euphrates. He captured Thapsacus, but drew upon himself the vengeance of Pul, king of Chaldæa, who invaded his dominions and made Menahem his vassal.
101. In the later years of Israelite history, Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, desolated the country east of the Jordan, and threatened the extinction of the kingdom. Hosh'ea, the last king, acknowledged his dependence upon the Assyrian Empire, and agreed to pay tribute; but he afterward strengthened himself by an alliance with Egypt, and revolted against his master. Shalmaneser came to chastise this defection, and besieged Samaria two years. At length it fell, and the disgraceful annals of the Israelite kingdom came to an end.
102. According to the despotic custom of Eastern monarchs, the people were transported to Media and the provinces of Assyria; and for a time the country was so desolate that wild beasts multiplied in the cities. People were afterward brought from Babylon and the surrounding country to take the places of the former inhabitants.
103. The Kingdom of Judah began its separate existence at the same time with that of revolted Israel, but survived it 135 years. It consisted of the two entire tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with numerous refugees from the other ten, who were willing to sacrifice home and landed possessions for their faith. The people were thus closely bound together by their common interest in the marvelous traditions of the past and hopes for the future.
104. Notwithstanding danger from numerous enemies, situated as it was on the direct road between the two great rival empires of Egypt and Assyria, this little kingdom maintained its existence during nearly four centuries; and, unlike Israel, was governed during all that time by kings of one family, the house of David.
The first king, Rehoboam, saw his capital seized and plundered by Shi ́shak, king of Egypt, and had to maintain a constant warfare with the revolted tribes. Abijam, his son, gained a great victory over Jeroboam, by which he recovered the ancient sanctuary of Bethel and many other towns. Asa was attacked both by the Israelites on the north and the Egyptians on the south, but defended himself victoriously from both. With all the remaining treasures of the temple and palace, he secured the alliance of Ben-hadad, king of Damascus, who, by attacking the northern cities of Israel, drew Baasha away from building the fortress of Ramah. The stones and timbers which Baasha had collected were carried away, by order of Asa, to his own cities of Geba in Benjamin, and Mizpeh in Judah.
105. Jehosh ́aphat, son of Asa, allied himself with Ahab, king of Israel, whom he assisted in his Syrian wars. This ill-fated alliance brought the poison of Tyrian idolatry into the kingdom of Judah. In the reign of Jehoram, who married the daughter of Ahab, Jerusalem was captured by Philistines and Arabs. His son, Ahaziah, while visiting his Israelitish kindred, was involved in the destruction of the house of Ahab; and after his death his mother, Athali'ah, a true daughter of Jezebel, murdered all her grandchildren but one, usurped the throne for six years, and replaced the worship of Jehovah with that of Baal. But Jehoi'ada, the high priest, revolted against her, placed her grandson, Joash, on the throne, and kept the kingdom clear, so long as he lived, from the taint of idolatry.
106. Amaziah, the son of Joash, captured Peʼtra from the Edomites, but lost his own capital to the king of Israel, who carried away all its treasures. Azariah, his son, conquered the Philistines and the Arabs, and reëstablished on the Red Sea the port of Elath, which had fallen into decay since the days of Solomon. During a long and prosperous reign he strengthened the defenses of Jerusalem, reorganized his army, and improved the tillage of the country. But he presumed upon his dignity and the excellence of his former conduct to encroach upon the office of the priests, and was punished by a sudden leprosy, which separated him from human society the
rest of his days. In the reign of Ahaz, his grandson, Jerusalem was besieged by the kings of Israel and Syria, who carried away from Judah two hundred thousand captives. Ahaz invoked the aid of Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, and became his tributary. The Assyrian conquered Damascus, and thus relieved Jerusalem. Ahaz filled the cities of Judah with altars of false gods, and left his kingdom more deeply stained than ever with idolatry.
107. Hezekiah, his son, delivered the land from foreign dominion and from heathen superstitions. He became for a time tributary to Sennacherib, but afterward revolted and made an alliance with Egypt. During a second invasion, the army of Sennacherib was destroyed and his designs abandoned; but the kingdom of Judah continued to be dependent upon the empire.
108. Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, brought back all the evil which his father had expelled. Even the temple at Jerusalem was profaned by idols and their altars, and the Law disappeared from the sight and memory of the people, while those who tried to remain faithful to the God of their fathers were violently persecuted. In the midst of this impiety, Manasseh fell into disgrace with the Assyrian king, who suspected him of an intention to revolt. He was carried captive to Babylon, where he had leisure to reflect upon his sins and their punishment. On his return to Jerusalem, he confessed and forsook his errors, and wrought a religious reformation in his kingdom.
109. His son Amon restored idolatry; but his life and reign were speedily ended by a conspiracy of his servants, who slew him in his own house.
The assassins were punished with death, and Josiah, the rightful heir, ascended the throne at the age of eight years. He devoted himself with pious zeal and energy to the cleansing of his kingdom from the traces of heathen worship; carved and molten images and altars were ground to powder and strewn over the graves of those who had officiated in the sacrilegious rites. The king journeyed in person not only through the cities of Judah, but through the whole desolate land of Israel, as far as the borders of Naphtali and the upper waters of the Jordan, that he might witness the extermination of idolatry. This part of his work being completed, he returned to Jerusalem to repair the Temple of Solomon, which had fallen into ruins, and restore, in all its original solemnity, the worship of Jehovah.
110. In the progress of repairs an inestimable manuscript was found, being no less than the "Book of the Law of the Lord, given by the hand of Moses." These sacred writings had been so long lost, that even the king and the priests were ignorant of the curses that had been pronounced upon idolatry. The tender conscience of the king was overwhelmed with distress as he read the pure and perfect Law, which presented so stern a contrast with the morals of the people; but he was comforted with the promise that he should
be gathered to his grave in peace before the calamities which the Law foretold, and the sins of Judah had deserved, should come upon the kingdom. In the eighteenth year of Josiah's reign a grand passover was held, to which all the inhabitants of the northern kingdom who remained from the captivity were invited. This great religious festival, which signalized the birth of the nation and its first deliverance, had not been kept with equal solemnity since the days of Samuel the prophet. The entire manuscript lately discovered was read aloud by the king himself in the hearing of all the people, and the whole assembly swore to renew and maintain the covenant made of old with their fathers.
B. C. 631-632.
111. The end of Josiah's reign was marked by two great calamities. A wild horde of Scythians, * from the northern steppes, swept over the land, carrying off flocks and herds. They advanced as far as As'calon, on the south-western coast, where they plundered the temple of Astarte, and were then induced to retire by the bribes of the king of Egypt. One trace of their incursion remained a thousand years, in the new name of the old city Bethshan, on the plain of Esdrae'lon. It was named by the Greeks Scythopolis, or the city of the Scythians. This was the first eruption of northern barbarians upon the old and civilized nations of southern Asia and Europe. Later events in the same series will occupy a large portion of our history.
B. C. 609.
112. The other and greater calamity of Josiah's reign arose from a different quarter. Necho, king of Egypt, had become alarmed by the growth of Babylonian power, and was marching northward with a great army. Though in no way the object of his hostility, Josiah imprudently went forth to meet him, hoping to arrest his progress in the plain of Esdraelon. The battle of Megid'do followed, and Josiah was slain. Never had so great a sorrow befallen the Jewish people. The prophet Jeremiah, a friend and companion of Josiah from his youth, bewailed the nation's loss in his most bitter "Lamentation": "The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, was taken in their pits, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen." For more than a hundred years the anniversary of the fatal day was observed as a time of mourning in every family.
113. In the reign of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, Nebuchadnezzar, prince of Babylon, gained a great victory † over Necho, and extended his father's kingdom to the frontier of Egypt. Jehoiakim submitted to be absorbed into the empire, but afterward revolted and was put to death.
Jehoiachin, his son, was made king; but, three months after his accession, was carried captive to Babylon. Zedeki'ah, reigning at Jerusalem,
*See ? 40, p. 23.
The battle of Carchemish. See p. 25.
rebelled and allied himself with Apries, king of Egypt.
Upon this, the
In the second
ever active Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the revolted city. year it was taken and destroyed; the king and the whole nation, with the treasures of the temple and palace, were conveyed to Babylon, and the history of the Jews ceased for seventy years.
The Phrygians, earliest settlers of Asia Minor, were active in tillage and trade, and zealous in their peculiar religion. Lydia afterward became the chief power in the peninsula. At the end of three dynasties, it had reached its greatest glory under Croesus, when it was conquered by Cyrus, and became a province of Persia, B. C. 546.
The first great commercial communities in the world were the Phoenician cities, of which Sidon and Tyre were the chief; their trade extending by sea from Britain to Ceylon, and by land to the interior of three continents. Tyrian dyes, and vessels of gold, silver, bronze, and glass were celebrated. Phoenicia was subject four hundred years to the Assyrian Empire, and became independent at its fall, only to pass under the power of Necho of Egypt, and, in turn, to be subdued by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Baal, Astarte, Melcarth, and the marine deities were objects of Phonician worship.
Syria Proper was divided into five states, of which Damascus was the oldest and most important.
The Hebrew nation began its existence under the rule of Moses, who led his people forth from Egypt, and through the Arabian Desert, in a journey of forty