Imagini ale paginilor

fig-tree from Dan even to Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.' Human intelligence had, therefore, accomplished all which prophets had vainly hoped to achieve through the miraculous ; and the Hebrews enjoyed a period of peaceful prosperity, never to be again experienced except as the subjects of alien monarchs, as sagacious as Solomon in placing the skilful tactics of experienced generals above the enthusiastic piety of inspired prophets. In Isa. xxxi. we read : · Woe to them who


down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses and trust in chariots because they are many; and in horsemen because they are strong; but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord.'

Thus, in later generations the prophets, who opposed an Egyptian alliance, renewed the exploded superstition against horses, and to them we assign the cognate passage in Deut. xvii. 16 expressing the same views.

Το these eminent Nâbis it was of much greater importance to give effect to the supposed will of Jehovah than to save their countrymen from being cut down or carried off by the cavalry of the enemy.

To all these social and political benefits, conferred by Solomon on the nation, he added the priceless boon of religious toleration. Anglican Christians periodically solicit divine mercy for the ignorant, supercilious, and hard-hearted people who, under the various denominations of Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics, presume to differ from them in opinion. But Solomon, in his eloquent address to Jehovah, at the dedication of the Temple, solicited a favourable response from the

1 Third Collect, Good Friday.

Hebrew Deity to the prayers of foreign worshippers of alien gods, occasionally attracted towards the Temple at Jerusalem by the reputation of Jehovah : “Moreover concerning a stranger that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake, when he shall come and pray towards this house, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for.' Thus Solomon, three thousand years ago, spoke in advance of the sectarianism of the nineteenth century; for what Christian church or sect could believe in divine acceptance of prayer from the graceless lips of unbaptised Humanity ?

Unhappily for the Hebrew nation, both David and Solomon encouraged the social evil of polygamy by their example. It seems almost incredible that the poet who was capable of feeling and expressing the refined passion poured forth in the Song of Songs, could have fallen into the abyss of sensuality attributed to him by his annalists; but his premature death, weary of all things as utter vanity, indicates a cerebral exhaustion suggestive of excess; and his declining years doubtless furnished sufficient evidence of premature decay to renew the hopes of the prophets, whose intervention now assumed the criminal form of treason against king and country.

In 1 Kings xi. 26 we read of Solomon noticing the energetic qualities of Jeroboam, the son of his servant Nebat, and advancing him to be ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.' This recipient of royal favour was so ungrateful that “he lifted up his hand against the king. And this was the cause that he lifted

up his hand against the king; it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem that the prophet Ahijah, the Shilonite, found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment, and they two were alone in the field; and Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces ; and he said to Jeroboam, Take these ten pieces, for thus saith the Lord the God of Israel, Behold I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel.'

Let us choose whether the obscure prophet, who thus proposed to destroy the happiness of a people, and overthrow the power of an empire, was an envoy of Jehovah, a secret conspirator, or an irresponsible fanatic.

If Ahijah was, indeed, the messenger of an angry God, jealous of a divided worship, did Omniscience select as a religious reformer a traitor to king and country, that he might perpetuate national apostasy by proclaiming the golden calves of Dan and Bethel as the gods of Israel ; and finally hear the appalling denunciations of the same prophet, predicting that his children should be devoured by ravenous dogs and vultures, and the nation rejected because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and made Israel to sin ? '1

How incomprehensible are the views of ancient Hebrew annalists respecting the character of the national Deity, whom they thus depict as violating all his promises to the Chosen Race by refusing to Rehoboam, the grandson of David, a single chance of establishing a

1 1 Kings xiv.

permanent dynasty over the empire of Solomon, in the disruption of which the national hopes of Israel were finally doomed to perish !

If we are, indeed, reading history, to us Ahijah is a dangerous fanatic, Jeroboam a willing traitor, and the occasion—when tempter and tempted stood thus alone in the field—the momentous hour which was finally to determine the fortunes of the Hebrew race for all time.

If Jeroboam had been an honest man and promptly denounced, in the presence of the king, the pernicious fanaticism which menaced dynasty and empire, Solomon might yet have impeached the prophets, destroyed their political influence, and thus changed the future course of ancient and modern history.

Several generations later, when the prophet Amos publicly predicted that Jeroboam II., king of Israel, should die by the sword, 'Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to Jeroboam, king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel.'1 This was, obviously, the rational view of prophetic denunciation ; but prophecy seems then to have been disarmed of its superstitious terrors.

The king received the communication with contemptuous silence, and stultified the prophet by a prosperous reign and peaceful death. As Amos, however, was an irregular practitioner, holding no diploma from the schools of the prophets, perhaps the sacred annalists did not consider it necessary that his predictions should be accurately fulfilled.

Solomon was also warned of the conspiracy against his empire, but too late to prevent the escape of

1 Amos vii,

Jeroboam into Egypt; whence he returned on the death of his royal benefactor, to usurp the throne of Israel, in fulfilment of the supposed will of the Deity.

The sacred annalists apparently intimate that the defection of the ten tribes was caused by the ungracious refusal of Rehoboam to lighten the national burden of taxation; but in 1 Kings xii. 15 we read : “Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.' It mattered not, therefore, whether the son of Solomon was wise or foolish. He, as well as Jeroboam, was a mere cipher in the hands of prophetic destiny. Ahijah the Shilonite had spoken, the cause of the prediction was the idolatry of Solomon, the usurper would establish the worship of golden calves, but let Israel and even her religion perish rather than question the irrevocable decrees of the prophets !

Rehoboam would have willingly fought to preserve the union, but the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord ; ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren, the children of Israel ; return every man to his house, for this thing is from me.'1 We wonder what President Lincoln wonld have said to the prophet who told him it was from the Lord that he should let the Confederates go!

11 Kings xii. 22–24.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »