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and perhaps the earliest in the world. The freshness of the pastures and mountain-sides among which his youth was passed, the assurance of Divine protection amid the singular and romantic incidents of his varied career, the enlargement of his horizon of thought with the magnificent dominion which was added to him in later life, all gave a richness and depth to his experience, which were reproduced in sacred melody, and found their fitting place in the temple service; and every form of Jewish and Christian worship since his time has been enriched by the poetry of David.
89. This great hero and poet was not exempt from common human sins and follies, and the only disasters of his reign sprang directly from his errors. The consequences of his plurality of wives, in the jealousies which arose between the different families of princes, distracted his old age with a succession of crimes and sorrows. His sons Ab'salom and Adoni'jah at different times plotted against him and assumed the crown. Both were punished for their treason, the one by death in battle, the other by the sentence of Solomon after his father's death.
B. C. 1015.
90. Solomon, the favorite son of David, succeeded to a peaceful kingdom. All the neighboring nations acknowledged his dignity, and the king of Egypt gave him his daughter in marriage. The Israelites were now the dominant race in Syria. Many monarchs were tributary to the great king, and the court of Jerusalem rivaled in its splendors those of Nineveh and Memphis.
91. Commerce received a great impulse both from the enterprise and the luxury of the king. Hiram, king of Tyre, was a firm friend of Solomon, as he had been of David his father. Cedars were brought from the forests of Lebanon for the construction of a palace and temple. Through his alliance with Hiram, Solomon was admitted to a share in Tyrian trade; and by the influence of Pharaoh, his father-in-law, he gained from the Edomites the port of Ezion-ge'ber, on the Red Sea, where he caused a great fleet of merchant vessels to be constructed. Through these different channels of commerce, the rarest products of Europe, Asia, and Africa were poured into Jerusalem. Gold and precious stones, sandalwood and spices from India, silver from Spain, ivory from Africa, added to the luxury of the court. Horses from Egypt, now first introduced into Palestine, filled the royal stables. By tribute as well as trade, a constant stream of gold and silver flowed into Palestine.
92. The greatest work of Solomon was the Temple on Mount Moriah, which became the permanent abode of the ark of the covenant, and the holy place toward which the prayers of Israelites, though scattered throughout the world, have ever turned. The temple precincts included apartments for the priests, and towers for defense, so that it has been said that the various purposes of forum, fortress, university, and sanctuary were here combined in one great national building. The superior skill of the
Phoenicians in working in wood and metal, was enlisted by Solomon in the service of the temple. Hiram, the chief architect and sculptor, was half Tyrian, half Israelite, and his genius was held in equal reverence by the two kings who claimed his allegiance. More than seven years were occupied in the building of the temple. The Feast of the Dedication drew together a vast concourse of people from both extremities of the land "from Hamath to the River of Egypt." And so important is this event as a turning point in the history of the Jews, that it constitutes the beginning of their connected record of months and years.
93. The early days of Solomon were distinguished by all the virtues which could adorn a prince. In humble consciousness of the greatness of the duties assigned him, and the insufficiency of his powers, he chose wisdom rather than long life or riches or great dominion, and he was rewarded by the possession of even that which he had not asked. His wisdom became greater than that of all the philosophers of the East; his knowledge of natural history, improved by the collections of rare plants and curious animals which he gathered from all parts of the world, was considered miraculous. (1 Kings iii: 5-15; iv: 29–34.)
94. But prosperity corrupted his character. He introduced the licentious luxury of an Oriental court into the Holy City of David, and even encouraged the degrading rites of heathen worship. His commerce enriched himself, not his people. His enormous and expensive court was sustained by the most exhausting taxes. The great public works which he carried on withdrew vast numbers of men from the tillage of the soil, and thus lessened the national resources.
B. C. 975.
95. The glory of Solomon dazzled the people and silenced their complaints, but on the accession of his son the smothered discontent broke forth. Rehoboam, instead of soothing his subjects by needed reforms, incensed them by his haughty refusal to lighten their burdens. (1 Kings xii: 13, 14.) The greater number of the people immediately revolted, under the lead of Jeroboam, who established a rival sovereignty over the Ten Tribes, henceforth to be known as the Kingdom of Israel. The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to the house of David.
96. THIRD PERIOD. The Kingdom of Israel had the more extensive and fertile territory, and its population was double that of Judah. It
extended from the borders of Damascus to within ten miles of Jerusalem; included the whole territory east of the Jordan, and held Moab as a tributary. But it had no capital equal in strength, beauty, or sacred associations to Jerusalem. The government was fixed first at She'chem, then at Tirʼzah, then at Samaʼria.
97. Its first king, Jeroboam, in order to break the strongest tie which bound the people to the house of David, made golden calves for idols, and set up sanctuaries in Bethel and Dan, saying, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt!" A new priesthood was appointed in opposition to that of Aaron, and many Levites and other faithful adherents of the old religion emigrated into the kingdom of Judah.
98. The people too readily fell into the snare. A succession of prophets, gifted with wonderful powers, strove to keep alive the true worship; but the poison of idolatry had entered so deeply into the national life, that it was ready to fall upon the first assault from without. In the time of Elijah, only seven thousand were left who had not "bowed the knee unto Baal;" and even these were unknown to the prophet, being compelled by persecu tion to conceal their religion.
99. The kings of Israel belonged to nine different families, of which only two, those of Omri and Jehu, held the throne any considerable time. Almost all the nineteen kings had short reigns, and eight died by violence. The kingdom was frequently distracted by wars with Judah, Damascus, and Assyria. Jeroboam was aided in his war with Judah by his friend and patron in days of exile, Shishak, king of Egypt. Nadab, son of Jeroboam, was murdered by Baasha, who made himself king. This monarch began to build the fortress of Ramah, by which he intended to hold the Jewish frontier, but was compelled to desist by Ben-hadad, of Syria, who thus testified his friendship for Asa, king of Judah.
100. Ahab, of the house of Omri, allied himself with Ethbaal, king of Tyre, by marrying his daughter Jez'ebel; and the arts of this wicked and idolatrous princess brought the kingdom to its lowest pitch of corruption. Her schemes were resisted by Elijah the Tishbite, one of the greatest of the prophets, who, in a memorable encounter on Mount Carmel, led the people to reaffirm their faith in Jehovah and exterminate the priests of Baal. (1 Kings xviii: 17-40.) The evil influence of Jezebel and the Tyrian idolatry were not removed from Israel until she herself and her son Jehoram had been murdered by order of Jehu, a captain of the guard, who became first of a new dynasty of kings. Jehu lost all his territories east of the Jordan in war with Hazael, of Damascus, and paid tribute, at least on one occasion, to Asshur-nazir-pal, of Assyria. His son Jehoahaz also lost cities to the Syrian king; but Joash, the grandson of Jehu, revived the
See p. 19.
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