Kingdom of Israel to its Destruction by Assyria
57.—A General View.
1. Soon after their separation from the Kingdom of Judah; the people of Israel fell into idolatry. It happened thus; Jeroboam said to himself, "If my people go up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, as the law commands, they will soon return to Rehoboam and abandon me." So he made two calves of gold, and setting them up, said to the people, "Go not up to Jerusalem, for your gods are here." The people obeyed him and adored the idols.
2. During his whole reign Rehoboam made war upon Jeroboam; nor was peace ever permanently established between the two kingdoms. So bitter became the strife that frequently the stranger and the pagan were called in to help the weaker side.
For two hundred and fifty-three years Israel, whose capital was at Samaria, maintained a separate existence. During this time Israel had nineteen kings, most of whom came to the throne by violence or by the murder of their predecessors. Disorder, vice, idolatry, reigned supreme.
3. To punish the kings and correct the people, and that He might leave them no shadow of excuse for their wickedness, God, from time to time, raised up saintly men called prophets. These prophets preached and wrought miracles, both in the kingdom of Israel and in the kingdom of Judah.
4. God did everything to save his chosen people; at one time humbling them by the hands of their enemies; at another cheering them on with the promises of the, Redeemer. But they were a perverse and stiff-necked people, nor would they obey. Hence God could say to them, in all justice: "O Israel! thy destruction is from thyself."
Questions to Consider : 57.—How did the people of Israel fall into idolatry? What did Rehoboam do against Jeroboam? How long did the kingdom of Israel last? What was its character? Who were the prophets? What did they do?
58.—God sends the Prophet Elias. [B.C. *850l]
1. Ahab was one of the most wicked of all the kings that ruled over Israel. In concert with his pagan wife Jezabel he built a temple to the god Baal. He appointed four hundred and fifty priests to serve this false god, whilst at the same time he put to death all the priests of the true God he could find in his kingdom.
2. When God saw the wickedness of this king, He sent Elias the prophet to him to tell him no rain should fall in Israel. When Ahab heard this he became exceedingly angry, and secretly sought to put Elias to death. But God bade the prophet go to the torrent of Carith, where the ravens would feed him.
3. Elias did as he was commanded, and night and morning the ravens brought him bread and flesh, and he drank from the torrent. In time the torrent also dried up, when the Lord told Elias to go to Serepta, in the land of the Sidonians, where a widow would feed him.
4. Elias went, and, as he was entering the city, he met the widow, from whom he asked a little water to drink. When she went to bring it Elias called after her to bring him also a little morsel of bread. But she answered, It I have but a handful of meal and a little oil in a cruse. I am gathering a few sticks wherewith to cook it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die."
5. Elias bade her fear not, but to make a cake for him, and then to make one for herself and son: "For her meal would not fail, nor her oil diminish, until rain would fall upon the earth." The woman did as he commanded her, and her meal failed not, nor did her oil diminish.
6. Some time afterwards the widow's son died, and at the prayer of Elias the child was restored to life. When the woman saw what was done she said to Elias: "Now I know you are a man of God."
Questions to Consider : 58.—What is said of Ahab? What did he build? Who came to him? Where did Elias go? How was he fed? Where did God send him? Tell what happened to the widow of Serepta?
59.—Elias and the Priests of Baal.
1. For three years and six months no rain fell in Israel. Again Elias presented himself to Ahab, who with much anger chid him for the distress that was then in the country. But Elias answered him that he had not plunged Israel into its present trouble, but the king himself by his sins and his idolatries.
2. Then Elias bade the king assemble all Israel upon Mount Carmel, and also the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal. Ahab did so, and went himself to the mountain. When they were all assembled Elias made the following proposition:, "I am alone," said he; "the priests of Baal are four hundred and fifty: let two bullocks be given us; let` them choose one and I will choose the other; let them kill their bullock and I will kill mine; and let each of us lay our bullock upon wood, but put no fire under it; then let them call upon their gods and I will call upon my God; and let the God that shall answer by fire be God." The proposition pleased the people.
3. The priests of Baal prepared themselves with great solemnity, and when they had dressed their bullock, laid it on the altar. From morning till noon they called upon Baal, but he heard them not.
Then Elias began to laugh at them, bidding them: "Cry louder; perhaps Baal was asleep; or maybe entertaining himself with a friend; or perhaps he might be on a journey and away from home." They continued to cry all the louder, but no Baal spoke.
4. Elias built an altar also, and dressing his bullock laid it on it. He dug a trench round about the altar and filled it with water; he also poured water on the wood. Then he called upon the Lord to show his power, that the people might be converted.
5. While Elias was yet praying fire came down from heaven and consumed the holocaust, as also the wood and the stones of the altar—nay, the very water in the trench. When the people saw this they fell on their faces and cried out: "The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is the true God!"
Then the priests of Baal were slain, and shortly after rain fell in great abundance.
Questions to Consider : 59.—For how long did no rain fall? What proposal did Elias make? How did the priests of Baal act? What did Elias do? What was the result?
60.—The Vineyard of Naboth.
1. A man named Naboth had a vineyard near the palace of King Ahab. The king wished to buy it, but Naboth would not sell it: so Ahab became very angry. When Jezabel, the queen, heard what had happened, she sent for false witnesses, who accused Naboth "of having blasphemed against God and the king." Naboth was stoned to death, and Ahab took the vineyard.
2. By the command of God, Elias came to Ahab and told him because he had done this wicked thing, and unjustly taken the vineyard of Naboth, the dogs would lick his blood and eat the flesh of Jezabel.
This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. Three years after, Ahab was mortally wounded in battle, and the dogs licked his blood; and some time after that, during the reign of Jehu, Jezabel, by the king's orders, was thrown from a window and trampled to death under the horses' feet. When, some hours afterwards, her friends came to seek for the body, it was found torn to pieces by the dogs.
Questions to Consider : 60.—What is said of Naboth's vineyard? How did Ahab get it? What did Elias tell Ahab? How was the prophecy fulfilled?
61.—The Prophet Eliseus.
1. By God's command Elias chose Eliseus for his successor. When the time drew near that Elias should go to God he strove to escape from Eliseus, but he could not; and, while they were waking together, Elias was parted from Eliseus by a fiery chariot and carried up into heaven by a whirlwind. The mantle of Elias fell upon Eliseus, and he was filled with the spirit and miraculous powers of his master.
2. One day Eliseus was insulted by some rude boys, who mockingly called him "Bald head." The prophet threatened them in the name of the Lord, and at the same instant two bears came from the woods and tore forty of these wicked boys to pieces.
3. On another occasion, Naaman, a distinguished Syrian general, came to Eliseus to be cured of leprosy. When he came to the house where Eliseus was, the prophet sent him word by his servant to go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and he would be clean. Naaman became exceedingly angry, because he thought he had been slighted by the prophet.
4. However, at the earnest advice of his servants, Naaman went, and, bathing seven times in the Jordan, was cured.. When Naaman saw what was done he returned to Eliseus, and acknowledged there was no God but the God of Israel. Then he besought the prophet to take a gift, but he would not.
5. When Naaman was gone, Giezi, Eliseus' servant, ran after him and told him that two sons of the prophet's had just called upon his master, and he had been sent for a talent of silver and two changes of garments. Naaman gave him two talents of silver, and Giezi returned to his master.
6. When Eliseus saw him he asked where he had been. But Giezi denied he had been anywhere. Eliseus became indignant at the lie, and said to him: "My spirit was with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you. Even now you have the silver and garments that were given you. As a punishment for your sin the leprosy of Naaman shall stick to you forever." And Giezi went out a leper, white as snow.
7. After working many miracles, Eliseus died and was buried. Some time after his death a man died, and his friends came to bury him near the grave of Eliseus. But suddenly a band of robbers coming upon them, they threw the dead man into the grave where the body of Eliseus lay. Scarce had the dead man touched the bones of Eliseus when he came to life and stood upon his feet.
This fact proves that even among the Jews God wrought miracles by the relics of His saints.
Questions to Consider : 61.—Who succeeded Elias? How did Elias go up to heaven? What fell upon Eliseus? What happened to the rude boys? Tell the story of Naaman. What happened to Giezi? What happened to the dead man?
62.—Jonas the Prophet.
1. After the death of Eliseus God chose Jonas for His prophet. One day God bade him go to Nineveh and preach penance, for the sins of the people had become very great.
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, and Jonas wished it to perish. Hence he fled to the sea, and embarked aboard a vessel going to Tarshish, thinking he would thus flee from the Lord.
2. When the ship had pushed out from the land God sent a violent storm, so that the vessel was in danger of being lost. They cast lots to see who was the cause of the evil, and the lot fell upon Jonas. Then he told them what he had done, and advised them to cast him into the sea. The sailors cast him overboard, and immediately the sea became calm.
3. The Lord had prepared a great fish—a whale—which swallowed up Jonas. For three days and three nights the prophet was in the whale's belly. Then he prayed to the Lord for help. God heard him, and on the third day the fish vomited him out on dry land.
4. Jonas was a figure of Jesus Christ. Jonas was cast into the sea that, by the loss of one, the crew might be saved. By the sacrifice of Christ the world was redeemed. Jonas was three days in the whale's belly; Christ was three days in the tomb.
5. God said to Jonas a second time: "Go into Nineveh and cry, 'Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed.'" When the people heard these words they believed in God, and, fasting, clothed themselves in sackcloth and ashes. Even the king shared in the general penance, and by proclamation commanded every one to abandon his sins, that perhaps God would spare the city. When God saw the sincerity of their repentance, He heard the prayer of the people and did not destroy the city.
6. Jonas, fearing he might be considered a false prophet, was displeased, and, going, built for himself a booth, outside the walls of the city. During the night the Lord caused an ivy to grow up, that it might shade the prophet from the heat of the sun. Jonas was much pleased; but in the following night God prepared a worm to strike the ivy, and it withered.
7. Then there came a hot, burning wind, while the rays of the sun beat upon the head of the prophet. Scorched by the heat, discouraged and dejected, Jonas wished to die. But the Lord said to him: "You are grieved and dejected for the loss of a miserable ivy that you neither planted nor made to grow: should I not spare Nineveh, a great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand men?"
Questions to Consider : 62.—Where was Jonas sent? What happened to him? How long was Jonas in the whale's belly? How was Jonas a figure of Jesus Christ? What did the people of Nineveh do? How did Jonas act? What did Jonas build? W hat is said of the ivy? What became of Nineveh?
63.—The End of the Kingdom [B.C. 722] of Israel.
1. Nineveh, an idolatrous city, did penance, and found grace with God; but Israel became daily more and more wicked. She set God at defiance, and despised His prophets, until, weary with her crimes, He resolved on her destruction.
2. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Salmanasar, King of Assyria, came with a powerful army, and laid siege to Samaria, the capital of Israel. After three years he took the city, and led the greater portion of the inhabitants captives into Assyria, while those who remained became mixed with the neighboring nations.
3. The religion of the Samaritans was a compound of Judaism and paganism. The people of Judea hated the Samaritans, both because of their religion and because of their revolt. Hence, Our Saviour was called a Samaritan, because the Jews thought they could call a man no worse name.
Those who were led away into captivity never returned, but becoming mixed with the people of Assyria and the surrounding nations, were lost to history, and perished as a people. Not a trace of the ten tribes remains to-day.
Questions to Consider : 63.—Who destroyed Israel? How? What became of the people? What was the religion of the Samaritans? Why was Christ called a Samaritan?