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CHAP. VII.

The Kingdom of Israel, from its Foundation by Jeroboam, to its Dissolution by Shalmaneser King of Assyria.

975.

BC. JEROBOAM had no sooner received the regal title than he rebuilt Penuel, fixed his royal residence at Shechem, and erected two golden calves, one at Dan and the other at Bethel, in order to prevent his new subjects from going to offer their devotions, on any selemn occasion, at Jerusalem. He also built several altars and temples on the high places, and selected some of the vilest of the people to officiate as priests before his idols, because all the Levites had refused to forsake their lawful sovereign.

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Pursuant to the king's proclamation, a prodigious concourse of people assembled at Bethel, and magnificent preparations were made for the dedication of the two calves: but in the midst of the solemnities, a prophet denounced the destruction of the new altar by a future king of Judah, and assured the multitude that the altar itself should immediately exhibit a proof of God's indignation. These words were no sooner uttered than it burst asunder, and the ashes that were upon it fell to the ground. Jeroboam was so violently incensed at this incident, and at the menaces with which it had been accompanied, that he stretched out his hand to cause the prophet to be apprehended; but, to his great surprise, he felt it withered in an instant: upon proper sub

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mision, however, the monarch's hand was restored, and the prophet departed toward his own city.

Notwithstanding this extraordinary event, Jeroboam continued to practise every species of idolatrous abomination, and to debauch his subjects from the worship of the true God. At length, his son being afflicted with a dangerous malady, he sent his wife to enquire of the prophet Ahijah respecting his recovery. Ahijah, though blind with age, knew his visitor immediately, and bade her tell her husband that since he had basely forgotten the author of his greatness, and had filled Israel with the worship of dumb idols, he should not only be deprived of his sick child, but all his posterity should be eventually cut off, and become the prey of dogs and ravens. The king, however, still persisted in his transgression, and continued to defile the land with heathenish superstitions till his death, which happened about twenty-two years after his exaltation to the throne.

Nadab succeeded to the throne of Israel upon the demise of Jeroboam, but nothing remarkable happened during his short reign. He is represented as à profligate prince, who retained all the idolatrous practises of his father; and at the expiration of two years he was killed, at the siege of Gibbethon, by a man named Baasha, of the tribe of Issachar, who boldly seized on the vacant throne, and exterminated the whole race of Jeroboam.

B. C. .930.

Baasha had no sooner obtained possession of the sovereignty, than he began to build a fortress at Ramah, to cut off all communication with the rival kingdom; and formed an alliance with Benhadad, against the king of Judah; but by a well timed expedient of Asa, the Syrian monarch was induced to

abandon his new ally, and the usurper was compelled to leave his important work unfinished. The idolatrous practises of this monarch were of so heinous a nature, and his constant wars with Asa were so displeasing to God, that Jehu, the son of Hanani, was commissioned to tell him, that since he had walked in his predecessor's footsteps, he should also share in his punishment, and be cut off with all his posterity. This awful prediction was soon accomplished in the death of Baasha, and the unhappy fate of his descendants.

Elah succeeded his father in the government; but after an unworthy reign of two years, he was assassinated, at a banquet, by one of his officers, named Zimri, who immediately usurped the crown, and caused every branch of his predecessor's family to be massacred without pity or distinction. However, he did not long enjoy the object of his ambition: for, at the expiration of seven days, he was besieged so closely by Omri, another general officer, that he shut himself up in the royal palace, and setting it on fire, perished in the flames, to avoid a more ignominious death.

Omri, being acquainted with this circumstance, and having gained a decisive victory over Tibni, the son of Ginath, whom one part of the people had elected king, took full possession of the throne; and founded the city of Samaria, which he, afterward, made the metropolis of his dominions. Nothing particular has been recorded concerning his transactions; but he appears to have practised and encouraged all the idolatries which had proved so fatal to his predecessors.

B. C.

Upon the demise of this prince, his son Ahab 918., took possession of the crown, and espoused Jezebel the princess of Zidon, by which imprudent ac

tion a new system of abomination was introduced into Israel, and the worshippers of God were subjected to a cruel persecution. In consequence of these enormities, the prophet Elijah presented himself before Ahab, and threatened him with a severe famine, as a punishment for his disobedience; but the king seems to have been so regardless of the Deity's anger that he persisted in all his impieties, and sought out the prophets of God with such avidity, that Elijah himself was compelled to flee for safety to a lonely place in the vicinage of the river Jordan, where he drank of the brook Cherith, and received a daily allowance of food from some ravens, which his Divine Master had directed to feed him.

After some time, the waters of Cherith being exhausted, and the famine beginning to rage in the land, Elijah was commanded to go to Zarephath, a city of the Zidonians, where Providence had made other provision for his sustenance. Accordingly he travelled thither, and at the entrance of the city requested a widow, who was employed in gathering sticks, to give him a little bread and water. The poor woman replied, in a most pathetic manner, that she had no more than one handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, and that she was about to partake of her last dinner with her two beloved sons, who must, afterwards, inevitably perish with hunger. The prophet, however, repeated his request, and assured her that her hospitality should be amply remunerated: “ for," said he, "the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” Elated by this assurance, the widow conducted Elijah to her house, and rejoiced in the happy accomplishment of his prediction; for while her neighbours groaned

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beneath the heavy pressure of the famine, her cruse of oil flowed spontaneously, and her barrel of meal remained undiminished.

After the prophet had spent some time in this retirement, the son of his hostess sickened and died; and the afflicted mother exclaimed in all the bitterness of anguish, "O thou man of God, art thou come unto me' to call my sins to remembrance, and to slay my son ?" But the Deity vouchsafed to silence her complaints; and to set his seal, a second time, to the mission of her guest; for, on Elijah's taking the child into his own chamber, and interceding with God on his behalf, the corse was restored to life, and the enraptured widow was compelled to acknowledge, "I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth."

At the end of three years, Elijah presented himself to Obadiah, governor of Ahab's house, and commanded him to acquaint the king with his arrival. Obadiah, who was a pious man, and had expressed an extraordinary zeal for God, by saving a hundred of his prophets from Jezebel's fury, was much astonished at this command, and even ventured to remonstrate against carrying it into execution, for," said he, "there is scarcely a kingdom, or nation, from which Ahab has not exacted an oath to bring you to Samaria wherever you might be found." However, on the prophet's solemnly affirming that he would show himself to the king, Obadiah executed the message; and such an interview took place as might naturally be expected between an impious monarch and a person of exemplary sanctity. After mutual invectives, however, Elijah obtained permission to assemble all the Israelites at

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