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Title: Beacon Lights of History, Volume 02 - Jewish Heroes and Prophets
Author: Lord, John, 1810-1894
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Abraham the spiritual father of nations
General forgetfulness of God when Abraham arose
Civilization in his age
Ancestors of Abram
His settlement in Haran
His moral courage
The call of Abram
His migrations
The Canaanites
Abram in Egypt
Separation between Abram and Lot
Abram covenants with God
The mission of the Hebrews
The faith of Abram
Its peculiarities
Trials of faith
God's covenant with Abram
The sacrifice of Isaac
Paternal rights among Oriental nations
Universality of sacrifice
Had Abram a right to sacrifice Isaac?
Supreme test of his faith
His obedience to God
His righteousness
Supremacy of religious faith
Abraham's defects
The most favored of mortals
The boons he bestowed



Early days of Joseph
Envy of his brethren
Sale of Joseph
Its providential results
Fortunes of Joseph in Egypt
The imprisonment of Joseph
Favor with the king
Joseph prime minister
The Shepherd kings
The service of Joseph to the king
Famine in Egypt
Power of Pharaoh
Power of the priests
Character of the priests
Knowledge of the priests
Teachings of the priests
Egyptian gods
Antiquity of sacrifices
Civilization of Egypt
Initiation of Joseph in Egyptian knowledge
Austerity to his brethren
Grief of Jacob
Severity of the famine in Canaan
Jacob allows the departure of Benjamin
Joseph's partiality to Benjamin
His continued austerity to his brethren
Joseph at length reveals himself
The kindness of Pharaoh
Israel in Egypt
Prosperity of the Israelites
Old age of Jacob
His blessing to Joseph's sons
Jacob's predictions
Death of Jacob
Death of Joseph
Character of Joseph
Condition of the Israelites in Egypt
Rameses the Great
Acquisitions of the Israelites in Egypt
Influence of Egyptian civilization on the Israelites



Exalted mission of Moses
His appearance at a great crisis
His early advantages and education
His premature ambition
His retirement to the wilderness
Description of the land of Midian
Studies and meditations of Moses
The Book of Genesis
Call of Moses and return to Egypt
Appearance before Pharaoh
Miraculous deliverance of the Israelites
Their sojourn in the wilderness
The labors of Moses
His Moral Code
Universality of the obligations
General acceptance of the Ten Commandments
The foundation of the ritualistic laws
Utility of ritualism in certain states of society
Immortality seemingly ignored
The possible reason of Moses
Its relation to the religion of Egypt
The Civil Code of Moses
Reasons for the isolation of the Israelites
The wisdom of the Civil Code
Source of the wisdom of Moses
The divine legation of Moses
Logical consequences of its denial
General character of Moses
His last days
His influence



Condition of the Israelites on the death of Joshua
The Judges
Birth and youth of Samuel
The Jewish Theocracy
Eli and his sons
Samuel called to be judge
His efforts to rekindle religious life
The school of the prophets
The people want a king
Views of Samuel as to a change of government
He tells the people the consequences
Persistency of the Israelites
Condition of the nation
Saul privately anointed king
Clothed with regal power
Mistakes and wars of Saul
Spares Agag
Rebuked by Samuel
Samuel withdraws into retirement
Seeks a successor to Saul
Jehovah indicates the selection of David
Saul becomes proud and jealous
His wars with the Philistines
Great victory at Michmash
Death of Samuel
Universal mourning
His character as Prophet
His moral greatness
His transcendent influence



David as an historical study
Early days of David
His accomplishments
His connection with Saul
His love for Jonathan
Death of Saul
David becomes king
Death of Abner
David generally recognized as king
Makes Jerusalem his capital
Alliance with Hiram
Transfer of the Sacred Ark
Folly of David's Wife
Organization of the kingdom
Joab Commander-in-chief of the army
The court of David
His polygamy
War with Moab
War with the Ammonites
Conquest of the Edomites
David's shame and repentance
Edward Irving on David's fall
Its causes
Census of the people
Why this was a folly
Wickedness of David's children
Alienation of David's subjects
The famine in Judah
Revolt of Sheba
Adonijah seeks to steal the sceptre
Troubles and trials of David
Preparation for building the Temple
David's wealth
His premature old age
Absalom's rebellion and death
David's final labors
His character as a man and a monarch
Why he was a man after God's own heart
David's services
His Psalms
Their mighty influence



Early years of Solomon
His first acts as monarch
The prosperity of his kingdom
Glory of Solomon
His mistakes
His marriage with an Egyptian princess
His harem
Building of the Temple
Its magnificence
The treasures accumulated in it
Its dedication
The sacrifices in its honor
Extraordinary celebration of the Festivals
The royal palace in Jerusalem
The royal palace on Mount Lebanon
Excessive taxation of the people
Forced labor
Change of habits and pursuits
Solomon's effeminacy and luxury
His unpopularity
His latter days of shame
His death
Influence of his reign
His writings
Their great value
The Canticles
The Proverbs
Praises of wisdom and knowledge
Ecclesiastes contrasted with Proverbs
Cynicism of Ecclesiastes
Hidden meaning of the book
The writing of Solomon rich in moral wisdom
His wisdom confirmed by experience
Lessons to be learned by the career of Solomon



Evil days fall on Israel
Division of the kingdom under Rehoboam
Jeroboam of Israel sets up golden calves
Other innovations
Egypt attacks Jerusalem
City saved only by immense contribution
Interest centres in the northern kingdom
Ruled by bad kings
Given to idolatry under Ahab
Influence of Jezebel
The priests of Baal
The apostasy of Israel
The prophet Elijah
His extraordinary appearance
Appears before Ahab
Announces calamities
Flight of Elijah
The drought
The woman of Zarephath
Shields and feeds Elijah
He restores her son to life
Miseries of the drought
Elijah confronts Ahab
Assembly of the people at Mount Carmel
Presentation of choice between Jehovah and Baal
Elijah mocks the priests of Baal
Triumphs, and slays them
Elijah promises rain
The tempest
Ahab seeks Jezebel
She threatens Elijah in her wrath
Second flight of Elijah
His weakness and fear
The still small voice
Selection of Elisha to be prophet
He becomes the companion of Elijah
Character and appearance of Elisha
War between Ahab and Benhadad
Naboth and his vineyard
Chagrin and melancholy of Ahab
Wickedness and cunning of Jezebel
Murder of Naboth
Dreadful rebuke of Elijah
Despair of Ahab
Athaliah and Jehoshaphat
Death of Ahab
Regency of Jezebel
Ahaziah and Elijah
Fall of Ramoth-Gilead
Reaction to idolatry
Death of Jezebel
Death of Ahaziah
The massacres and reforms of Jehu
Extermination of idolatry
Last days of Elijah
His translation



Superiority of Judah to Israel
A succession of virtuous princes
Syrian wars
The prophet Joel
Outward prosperity of the kingdom of Judah
Internal decay
Assyrian conquests
Fall of Damascus
Fall of Samaria
Demoralization of Jerusalem
Birth of Isaiah
His exalted character
Invasion of Judah by the Assyrians
Hezekiah submits to Sennacherib
Rebels anew
Renewed invasion of Judah
Signal deliverance
The warnings and preaching of Isaiah
His terrible denunciations of sin
Retribution the spirit of his preaching
Holding out hope by repentance
Absence of art in his writings
National wickedness ending in calamities
God's moral government
Isaiah's predictions fulfilled
Woes denounced on Judah
Fall of Babylon foretold
Predicted woes of Moab
Woes denounced on Egypt
Calamities of Tyre
General predictions of woe on other nations
End and purpose of chastisements
Isaiah the Prophet of Hope
The promised glories of the Chosen People
Messianic promises
Exultation of Isaiah
His catholicity
The promised reign of peace
The future glories of the righteous
Glad tidings declared to the whole world
Messianic triumphs



Sadness and greatness of Jeremiah
Second as a prophet only to Isaiah
Jeremiah the Prophet of Despair
Evil days in which he was born
National misfortunes predicted
Idolatry the crying sin of the times
Discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy
Renewed study of the Law
The reforms of Josiah
The greatness of Josiah
Inability to stem prevailing wickedness
Incompleteness of Josiah's reforms
Necho II. extends his conquests
Death of Josiah
Lamentations on the death of Josiah
Rapid decline of the kingdom
The voice of Jeremiah drowned
Invasion of Assyria by Necho
Shallum succeeds Josiah
Eliakim succeeds Shallum
His follies
Judah's relapse into idolatry
Neglect of the Sabbath
Jeremiah announces approaching calamity
His voice unheeded
His despondency
Fall of Nineveh
Defeat and retreat of Necho
Greatness of Nebuchadnezzar
Appears before Jerusalem
Fall of Jerusalem, but destruction delayed
Folly and infatuation of the people of Jerusalem
Revolt of the city
Zedekiah the king temporizes
Expostulations of Jeremiah
Nebuchadnezzar loses patience
Second fall of Jerusalem
The captivity
Weeping by the river of Babylon



Eventful career of Judas Maccabaeus
Condition of the Jews after their return from Babylon
Condition of Jerusalem
Fanatical hatred of idolatry
Severe morality of the Jews after the captivity
The Pharisees
The Sadducees
Synagogues, their number and popularity
The Jewish Sanhedrim
Advance in sacred literature
Apocryphal Books
Isolation of the Jews
Dark age of Jewish history
Power of the high priests
The Persian Empire
Judaea a province of the Persian Empire
Jews at Alexandria
Judaea the battle-ground of Egyptians and Syrians
The Syrian kings
Antiochus Epiphanes
His persecution of the Jews
Helplessness of the Jews
Sack of Jerusalem
Desecration of the Temple
His piety and bravery
Revolt of Mattathias
Slaughter of the Jews
Death of Mattathias
His gallant sons
Judas Maccabaeus
His military genius
The Syrian generals
Wrath of Antiochus
Desolation of Jerusalem
Judas defeats the Syrian general
Judas cleanses and dedicates the Temple
Fortifies Jerusalem
The Feast of Dedication
Renewed hostilities
Successes of Judas
Death of Antiochus
Deliverance of the Jews
Rivalry between Lysias and Philip
Death of Eleazer
Embassy to Rome
Death of Judas Maccabaeus
Judas succeeded by his brother Jonathan
Heroism of Jonathan
His death by treachery
Jonathan succeeded by his brother Simon
Simon's military successes
His prosperous administration
Succeeded by John Hyrcanus
The great talents and success of John Hyrcanus
The Asmonean princes
Pompey takes Jerusalem
Accession of Herod the Great
He destroys the Asmonean princes
His prosperous reign
Foundation of Caesarea
Latter days of Herod
Loathsome death of Herod
Birth of Jesus, the Christ



Birth and early days of Saul
His Phariseeism
His persecution of the Christians
His wonderful conversion
His leading idea
Saul a preacher at Damascus
Saul's visit to Jerusalem
Saul in Tarsus
Saul and Barnabas at Antioch
Description of Antioch
Contribution of the churches for Jerusalem
Saul and Barnabas at Jerusalem
Labors and discouragements
Saul and Barnabas at Cyprus
Saul smites Elymas the sorcerer
Missionary travels of Paul
Paul converts Timothy
Paul at Lystra and Derbe
Return of Paul to Antioch
Controversy about circumcision
Bigotry of the Jewish converts
Paul again visits Jerusalem
Paul and Barnabas quarrel
Paul chooses Silas for a companion
Paul and Silas visit the infant churches
Tact of Paul
Paul and Luke
The missionaries at Philippi
Paul and Silas at Thessalonica
Paul at Athens
Character of the Athenians
The success of Paul at Athens
Paul goes to Corinth
Paul led before Gallio
Mistake of Gallio
Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians
Paul at Ephesus
The Temple of Diana
Excessive labors of Paul at Ephesus
Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians
Popularity of Apollos
Second Epistle to the Corinthians
Paul again at Corinth
Epistles to the Galatians and to the Romans
The Pauline theology
Paul's last visit to Jerusalem
His cold reception
His arrest and imprisonment
The trial of Paul before Felix
Character of Felix
Paul kept a prisoner by Felix
Paul's defence before Festus
Paul appeals to Caesar
Paul preaches before Agrippa
His voyage to Italy
Paul's life at Rome
Character of Paul
His magnificent services
His triumphant death



The Wailing Wall of the Jews
_After the painting by J.L. Gerome_.

Abraham and Hagar
_After the painting by Adrian van der Werff_.

Joseph Sold by His Brethren.
_After the painting by H.F. Schopin_.

Erection of Public Building in the Time of Rameses
_After the painting by Sir Edward J. Poynter_.

Pharaoh Pursues the Israelites Across the Red Sea
_After the painting by F.A. Bridgman_.

_From the statue by Michael Angelo, Rome_.

David Kills Goliath
_After the painting by W.L. Dodge_.

_From the statue by Michael Angelo, Florence_.

Elijah's Sacrifice Consumed by Fire from Heaven
_After the painting by C.G. Pfannschmidt_.

_From the fresco in the Sistine Chapel, by Michael Angelo_.

A Sacrifice to Baal
_After the painting by Henri Motte_.

The Jews Led Into Babylonian Captivity
_After the painting by E. Bendeman_.

St. Paul Preaching at the Foot of the Acropolis
_After the painting by Gebhart Fügel_.



From a religious point of view, Abraham appears to us, after the lapse
of nearly four thousand years, as the most august character in history.
He may not have had the genius and learning of Moses, nor his executive
ability; but as a religious thinker, inspired to restore faith in the
world and the worship of the One God, it would be difficult to find a
man more favored or more successful. He is the spiritual father equally
of Jews, Christians, and Mohammedans, in their warfare with idolatry. In
this sense, he is the spiritual progenitor of all those nations, tribes,
and peoples who now acknowledge, or who may hereafter acknowledge, a
personal God, supreme and eternal in the universe which He created.
Abraham is the religious father of all those who associate with this
personal and supreme Deity a providential oversight of this world,--a
being whom all are required to worship, and alone to worship, as the
only true God whose right it is to reign, and who does reign, and will
reign forever and ever over everything that exists, animate or
inanimate, visible or invisible, known or unknown, in the mighty
universe of whose glory and grandeur we have such overwhelming yet
indefinite conceptions.

When Abraham appeared, whether four thousand or five thousand years ago,
for chronologists differ in their calculations, it would seem that the
nations then existing had forgotten or ignored this great cardinal and
fundamental truth, and were more or less given to idolatry, worshipping
the heavenly bodies, or the forces of Nature, or animals, or heroes, or
graven images, or their own ancestors. There were but few and feeble
remains of the primitive revelation,--that is, the faith cherished by
the patriarchs before the flood, and which it would be natural to
suppose Noah himself had taught to his children.

There was even then, however, a remarkable material civilization,
especially in Egypt, Palestine, and Babylon; for some of the pyramids
had been built, the use of the metals, of weights and measures, and of
textile fabrics was known. There were also cities and fortresses,
cornfields and vineyards, agricultural implements and weapons of war,
commerce and arts, musical instruments, golden vessels, ornaments for
the person, purple dyes, spices, hand-made pottery, stone-engravings,
sundials, and glass-work, and even the use of letters, or something
similar, possibly transmitted from the antediluvian civilization. Even
the art of printing was almost discovered, as we may infer from the
stamping of letters on tiles. With all this material progress, however,
there had been a steady decline in spiritual religion as well as in
morals,--from which fact we infer that men if left to themselves,
whatever truth they may receive from ancestors, will, without
supernatural influences, constantly decline in those virtues on which
the strength of man is built, and without which the proudest triumphs of
the intellect avail nothing. The grandest civilization, in its material
aspects, may coexist with the utmost debasement of morals,--as seen
among the Greeks and Romans, and in the wicked capitals of modern
Europe. "There is no God!" or "Let there be no God!" has been the cry in
all ages of the world, whenever and wherever an impious pride or a low
morality has defied or silenced conscience. Tell me, ye rationalists and
agnostics! with your pagan sympathies, what mean ye by laws of
development, and by the _necessary_ progress of the human race, except
in the triumphs of that kind of knowledge which is entirely disconnected
with virtue, and which has proved powerless to prevent the decline and
fall of nations? Why did not art, science, philosophy, and literature
save the most lauded nations of the ancient world? Why so rapid a
degeneracy among people favored not only with a primitive revelation,
but by splendid triumphs of reason and knowledge? Why did gross
superstition so speedily obscure the intellect, and infamous vices so
soon undermine the moral health, if man can elevate himself by his
unaided strength? Why did error seemingly prove as vital as truth in all
the varied forms of civilization in the ancient world? Why did even
tradition fail to keep alive the knowledge of God, at least among
the people?

Now, among pagans and idolaters Abram (as he was originally called)
lived until he was seventy-five. His father, Terah, was a descendant of
Shem, of the eleventh generation, and the original seat of his tribe was
among the mountains of Southern Armenia, north of Assyria. From thence
Terah migrated to the plains of Mesopotamia, probably with the desire to
share the rich pastures of the lowlands, and settled in Ur of the
Chaldeans. Ur was one of the most ancient of the Chaldean cities and one
of the most splendid, where arts and sciences were cultivated, where
astronomers watched the heavens, poets composed hymns, and scribes
stamped on clay tablets books which, according to Geikie, have in part
come down to our own times. It was in this pagan city that Abram was
born, and lived until the "call." His father was a worshipper of the
tutelary gods of his tribe, of which he was the head; but his idolatry
was not so degrading as that of the Chaldeans, who belonged to a
different race from his own, being the descendants of Ham, among whom
the arts and sciences had made considerable progress,--as was natural,
since what we call civilization arose, it is generally supposed, in the
powerful monarchies founded by Assyrian and Egyptian warriors, although
it is claimed that both China and India were also great empires at this
period. With the growth of cities and the power of kings idolatry
increased, and the knowledge of the true God declined. From such
influences it was necessary that Abram should be removed if he was to
found a nation with a monotheistic belief. So, in obedience to a call
from God, he left the city of his birthplace, and went toward the land
of Canaan and settled in Haran, where he remained until the death of his
father, who it seems had accompanied him in his wanderings, but was
probably too infirm to continue the fatiguing journey. Abram, now the
head of his tribe and doubtless a powerful chieftain, received another
call, and with it the promise that he should be the founder of a great
nation, and that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed.

What was that call, coupled with such a magnificent and cheering
promise? It was the voice of God commanding Abram to leave country and
kindred and go to a country utterly unknown to him, not even indicated
to him, but which in due time should be revealed to him. He is not
called to repudiate idolatry, but by divine command to go to an unknown
country. He must have been already a believer in the One Supreme God, or
he would not have felt the command to be imperative. Unless his belief
had been monotheistic, we must attribute to him a marvellous genius and
striking originality of mind, together with an independence of character
still more remarkable; for it requires not only original genius to soar
beyond popular superstitions, but also great force of will and lofty
intrepidity to break away from them,--as when Buddha renounced
Brahmanism, or Socrates ridiculed the Sophists of Attica. Nothing
requires more moral courage than the renunciation of a popular and
generally received religious belief. It was a hard struggle for Luther
to give up the ideas of the Middle Ages in reference to self-expiation.
It is exceedingly rare for any one to be emancipated from the tyranny of
prevailing dogmas.

So, if Abram was not divinely instructed in a way that implies
supernatural illumination, he must have been the most remarkable sage of
all antiquity to found a religion never abrogated by succeeding
revelations, which has lasted from his time to ours, and is to-day
embraced by so large a part of the human race, including Christians,
Mohammedans, and Jews. Abram must have been more gifted than the whole
school of Ionian philosophers united, from Thales downward, since after
three hundred years of speculation and lofty inquiries they only arrived
at the truth that the being who controls the universe must be
intelligent. Even Socrates, Plato, and Cicero--the most gifted men of
classical antiquity--had very indefinite notions of the unity and
personality of God, while Abram distinctly recognized this great truth
even amid universal idolatry and a degrading polytheism.

Yet the Bible recognizes in Abram moral rather than intellectual
greatness. He was distinguished for his faith, and a faith so exalted
and pure that it was accounted unto him for righteousness. His faith in
God was so profound that it was followed by unhesitating obedience to
God's commands. He was ready to go wherever he was sent, instantly,
without conditions or remonstrance.

In obedience to the divine voice then, Abram, after the death of his
father Terah, passed through the land of Canaan unto Sichem, or Shechem,
afterward a city of Samaria. He then went still farther south, and
pitched his tent on a mountain having Bethel on the west and Hai on the
east, and there he built an altar unto the Lord. After this it would
appear that he proceeded still farther to the south, probably near the
northern part of Idumaea.

Wherever Abram journeyed he found the Canaanites--descendants of
Ham--petty tribes or nations, governed by kings no more powerful than
himself. They are supposed in their invasions to have conquered the
aboriginal inhabitants, whose remote origin is veiled in impenetrable
obscurity, but who retained some principles of the primitive religion.
It is even possible that Melchizedek, the unconquered King of Salem, who
blessed Abram, belonged to those original people who were of Semitic
origin. Nevertheless the Canaanites, or Hametic tribes, were at this
time the dominant inhabitants.

Of these tribes or nations the Sidonians, or Phoenicians, were the most
powerful. Next to them, according to Ewald, "were three nations living
toward the South,--the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites; then
two in the most northerly country conquered by Israel,--the Girgashites
and the Hivites; then four in Phoenicia; and lastly, the most northern
of all, the well known kingdom of Hamath on the Orontes." The Jebusites
occupied the country around Jerusalem; the Amorites also dwelt in the
mountainous regions, and were warlike and savage, like the ancient
Highlanders of Scotland. They entrenched themselves in strong castles.
The Hittites, or children of Heth, were on the contrary peaceful, having
no fortified cities, but dwelling in the valleys, and living in
well-ordered communities. The Hivites dwelt in the middle of the
country, and were also peaceful, having reached a considerable
civilization, and being in the possession of the most flourishing inland
cities. The Philistines entered the land at a period subsequent to the
other Canaanites, probably after Abram, coming it is supposed
from Crete.

It would appear that Abram was not molested by these various petty
Canaanitish nations, that he was hospitably received by them, that he
had pleasant relations with them, and even entered into their battles as
an ally or protector. Nor did Abram seek to conquer territory. Powerful
as he was, he was still a pilgrim and a wanderer, journeying with his
servants and flocks wherever the Lord called him; and hence he excited
no jealousy and provoked no hostilities. He had not long been settled
quietly with his flocks and herds before a famine arose in the land, and
he was forced to seek subsistence in Egypt, then governed by the
shepherd kings called Hyksos, who had driven the proud native monarch
reigning at Memphis to the southern part of the kingdom, in the vicinity
of Thebes. Abram was well received at the court of the Pharaohs, until
he was detected in a falsehood in regard to his wife, whom he passed as
his sister. He was then sent away with all that he had, together with
his nephew Lot.

Returning to the land of Canaan, Abram came to the place where he had
before pitched his tent, between Bethel and Hai, unto the altar which he
had some time before erected, and called upon the name of the Lord. But
the land was not rich enough to support the flocks and herds of both
Abram and Lot, and there arose a strife between their respective
herdsmen; so the patriarch and his nephew separated, Lot choosing for
his residence the fertile plain of the Jordan, and Abram remaining in
the land of Canaan. It was while sojourning at Bethel that the Lord
appeared again unto Abram, and promised to him the whole land as a
future possession of his posterity. After that he removed his tent to
the plain of Mamre, near or in Hebron, and again erected an altar to
his God.

Here Abram remained in true patriarchal dignity without further
migrations, abounding in wealth and power, and able to rescue his nephew
Lot from the hands of Chedorlaomer the King of Elam, and from the other
Oriental monarchs who joined his forces, pursuing them even to Damascus.
For this signal act of heroism Abram was blessed by Melchizedek, in the
name of their common lord the most high God. Who was this Prince of
Salem? Was he an earthly potentate ruling an unconquered city of the
aboriginal inhabitants; or was he a mysterious personage, without
father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning nor
end of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, an
incarnation of the Deity, to repeat the blessing which the patriarch had
already received?

The history of Abram until his supreme trial seems principally to have
been repeated covenants with God, and the promises held out of the
future greatness of his descendants. The greatness of the Israelitish
nation, however, was not to be in political ascendancy, nor in great
attainments in the arts and sciences, nor in cities and fortresses and
chariots and horses, nor in that outward splendor which would attract
the gaze of the world, and thus provoke conquests and political
combinations and grand alliances and colonial settlements, by which the
capital on Zion's hill would become another Rome, or Tyre, or Carthage,
or Athens, or Alexandria,--but quite another kind of greatness. It was
to be moral and spiritual rather than material or intellectual, the
centre of a new religious life, from which theistic doctrines were to go
forth and spread for the healing of the nations,--all to culminate, when
the proper time should come, in the mission of Jesus Christ, and in his
teachings as narrated and propagated by his disciples.

This was the grand destiny of the Hebrew race; and for the fulfilment of
this end they were located in a favored country, separated from other
nations by mountains, deserts, and seas, and yet capable by cultivation
of sustaining a great population, while they were governed by a polity
tending to keep them a distinct, isolated, and peculiar people. To the
descendants of Ham and Japhet were given cities, political power,
material civilization; but in the tents of Shem religion was to dwell.
"From first to last," says Geikie, "the intellect of the Hebrew dwelt
supremely on the matters of his faith. The triumphs of the pencil or the
chisel he left with contemptuous indifference to Egypt, or Assyria, or
Greece. Nor had the Jew any such interest in religious philosophy as has
marked other people. The Aryan nations, both East and West, might throw
themselves with ardor into those high questions of metaphysics, but he
contented himself with the utterances of revelation. The world may have
inherited no advances in political science from the Hebrew, no great
epic, no school of architecture, no high lessons in philosophy, no wide
extension of human thought or knowledge in any secular direction; but he
has given it his religion. To other races we owe the splendid
inheritance of modern civilization and secular culture, but the
religious education of mankind has been the gift of the Jew alone."

For this end Abram was called to the land of Canaan. From this point of
view alone we see the blessing and the promise which were given to him.
In this light chiefly he became a great benefactor. He gave a religion
to the world; at least he established its fundamental principle,--the
worship of the only true God. "If we were asked," says Max Müller, "how
it was that Abraham possessed not only the primitive conception of the
Divinity, as he has revealed himself to all mankind, but passed, through
the denial of all other gods, to the knowledge of the One God, we are
content to answer that it was by a _special divine revelation_." [1]

[Footnote 1: Chips from a German Workshop, vol. i. p. 372.]

If the greatness of the Jewish race was spiritual rather than temporal,
so the real greatness of Abraham was in his faith. Faith is a sentiment
or a principle not easily defined. But be it intuition, or induction, or
deduction,--supported by reason, or without reason,--whatever it is, we
know what it means.

The faith of Abraham, which Saint Paul so urgently commends, the same in
substance as his own faith in Jesus Christ, stands out in history as so
bright and perfect that it is represented as the foundation of religion
itself, without which it is impossible to please God, and with which one
is assured of divine favor, with its attendant blessings. If I were to
analyze it, I should say that it is a perfect trust in God, allied with
obedience to his commands.

With this sentiment as the supreme rule of life, Abraham is always
prepared to go wherever the way is indicated. He has no doubts, no
questionings, no scepticism. He simply adores the Lord Almighty, as the
object of his supreme worship, and is ready to obey His commands,
whether he can comprehend the reason of them or not. He needs no
arguments to confirm his trust or stimulate his obedience. And this is
faith,--an ultimate principle that no reasonings can shake or
strengthen. This faith, so sublime and elevated, needs no confirmation,
and is not made more intelligent by any definitions. If the _Cogito,
ergo sum_, is an elemental and ultimate principle of philosophy, so the
faith of Abraham is the fundamental basis of all religion, which is
weakened rather than strengthened by attempts to define it. All
definitions of an ultimate principle are vain, since everybody
understands what is meant by it.

No truly immortal man, no great benefactor, can go through life without
trials and temptations, either to test his faith or to establish his
integrity. Even Jesus Christ himself was subjected for forty days to
the snares of the Devil. Abram was no exception to this moral
discipline. He had two great trials to pass through before he could earn
the title of "father of the faithful,"--first, in reference to the
promise that he should have legitimate children; and secondly, in
reference to the sacrifice of Isaac.

As to the first, it seemed impossible that Abram should have issue
through his wife Sarah, she being ninety years of age, and he
ninety-nine or one hundred. The very idea of so strange a thing caused
Sarah to laugh incredulously, and it is recorded in the seventeenth
chapter of Genesis that Abram also fell on his face and laughed, saying
in his heart, "Shall a son be born unto him that is one hundred years
old?" Evidently he at first received the promise with some incredulity.
He could leave Ur of the Chaldees by divine command,--this was an act of
obedience; but he did not fully believe in what seemed to be against
natural law, which would be a sort of faith without evidence, blind,
against reason. He requires some sign from God. "Whereby," said he,
"shall I _know_ that I shall inherit it,"--that is Canaan,--"and that my
seed shall be in number as the stars of heaven?" Then followed the
renewal of the covenant; and, according to the frequent custom of the
times, when covenants were made between individual men, Abram took a new
name: "And God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold my covenant
is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall
thy name be any more Abram [Father of Elevation] but thy name shall be
Abraham [Father of a Multitude], for a father of many nations have I
made thee." We observe that the covenant was repeatedly renewed; in
connection with which was the rite of circumcision, which Abraham and
his posterity, and even his servants, were required scrupulously to
observe, and which it would appear he unreluctantly did observe as an
important condition of the covenant. Why this rite was so imperatively
commanded we do not know, neither can we understand why it was so
indissolubly connected with the covenant between God and Abraham. We
only know that it was piously kept, not only by Abraham himself, but by
his descendants from generation to generation, and became one of the
distinctive marks and peculiarities of the Jewish nation,--the sign of
the promise that in Abraham all the families of the earth should be
blessed,--a promise fulfilled even in the patriarchal monotheism of
Arabia, the distant tribes of which, under Mohammed, accepted the One
Supreme God.

A still more serious test of the faith of Abraham was the sacrifice of
Isaac, on whose life all his hopes naturally rested. We are told that
God "tempted," or tested, the obedient faith of Abraham, by suggesting
to him that it was his duty to sacrifice that only son as a
burnt-offering, to prove how utterly he trusted the Lord's promise; for
if Isaac were cut off, where was another legitimate heir to be found?
Abraham was then one hundred and twenty years old, and his wife was one
hundred and ten. Moreover, on principles of reason why should such a
sacrifice be demanded? It was not only apparently against reason, but
against nature, against every sacred instinct, against humanity, even an
act of cruelty,--yea, more, a crime, since it was homicide, without any
seeming necessity. Besides, everybody has a right to his own life,
unless he has forfeited it by crime against society. Isaac was a gentle,
harmless, interesting youth of twenty, and what right, by any human
standard, had Abraham to take his life? It is true that by patriarchal
customs and laws Isaac belonged to Abraham as much as if he were a slave
or an animal. He had the Oriental right to do with his son as he
pleased. The head of a family had not only absolute control over wife
and children, but the power of life and death. And this absolute power
was not exercised alone by Semitic races, but also by the Aryan in their
original settlements, in Greece and Italy, as well as in Northern India.
All the early institutions of society recognized this paternal right.
Hence the moral sense of Abraham was not apparently shocked at the
command of God, since his son was his absolute property. Even Isaac
made no resistance, since he knew that Abraham had a right to his life.

Moreover, we should remember that sacrifices to all objects of worship
formed the basis of all the religious rites of the ancient world, in all
periods of its history. Human sacrifices were offered in India at the
very period when Abraham was a wanderer in Palestine; and though human
nature ultimately revolted from this cruelty, the sacrifice of
substitute-animals continued from generation to generation as oblations
to the gods, and is still continued by Brahminical priests. In China, in
Egypt, in Assyria, in Greece, no religious rites were perfected without
sacrifices. Even in the Mosaic ritual, sacrifices by the priests formed
no inconsiderable part of worship. Not until the time of Isaiah was it
said that God took no delight in burnt offerings,--that the real
sacrifices which He requires are a broken and a contrite heart. Nor were
the Jews finally emancipated from sacrificial rites until Christ himself
made his own body an offering for the sins of the world, and in God's
providence the Romans destroyed their temple and scattered their nation.
In antiquity there was no objective worship of the Deity without
sacrificial rites, and when these were omitted or despised there was
atheism,--as in the case of Buddha, who taught morals rather than
religion. Perhaps the oldest and most prevalent religious idea of
antiquity was the necessity of propitiatory sacrifice,--generally of
animals, though in remotest ages the offering of the fruits of
the earth.[2]

[Footnote 2: Dr. Trumbull has made a learned and ingenious argument in
his "Blood Covenant" to show that sacrifices were not to propitiate the
deity, but to bring about a closer Spiritual union between the soul and
God; that the blood covenant was a covenant of friendship and love among
all primitive peoples.]

The inquiry might here arise, whether in our times anything would
justify a man in committing a homicide on an innocent person. Would he
not be called a fanatic? If so, we may infer that morality--the proper
conduct of men as regards one another in social relations--is better
understood among us than it was among the patriarchs four thousand years
ago; and hence, that as nations advance in civilization they have a more
enlightened sense of duty, and practically a higher morality. Men in
patriarchal times may have committed what we regard as crimes, while
their ordinary lives were more virtuous than ours. And if so, should we
not be lenient to immoralities and crimes committed in darker ages, if
the ordinary current of men's lives was lofty and religious? On this
principle we should be slow to denounce Christian people who formerly
held slaves without remorse, when this sin did not shock the age in
which they lived, and was not discrepant with prevailing ideas as to
right and wrong. It is clear that in patriarchal times men had,
according to universally accepted ideas, the power of life and death
over their families, which it would be absurd and wicked to claim in our
day, with our increased light as to moral distinctions. Hence, on the
command of God to slay his son, Abraham had no scruples on the ground of
morality; that is, he did not feel that it was wrong to take his son's
life if God commanded him to do so, any more than it would be wrong, if
required, to slay a slave or an animal, since both were alike his
property. Had he entertained more enlightened views as to the sacredness
of life, he might have felt differently. With his views, God's command
did not clash with his conscience.

Still, the sacrifice of Isaac was a terrible shock to Abraham's paternal
affection. The anguish of his soul was none the less, whether he had the
right of life and death or not. He was required to part with the dearest
thing he had on earth, in whom was bound up his earthly happiness. What
had he to live for, but Isaac? He doubtless loved this child of his old
age with exceeding tenderness, devotion, and intensity; and what was
perhaps still more weighty, in that day of polygamous households, than
mere paternal affection, with Isaac were identified all the hopes and
promises which had been held out to Abraham by God himself of becoming
the father of a mighty and favored race. His affection as a father was
strained to its utmost tension, but yet more was his faith in being the
progenitor of offspring that should inherit the land of Canaan.
Nevertheless, at God's command he was willing to make the sacrifice,
"accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead." Was there
ever such a supreme act of obedience in the history of our race? Has
there ever been from his time to ours such a transcendent manifestation
of faith? By reason Abraham saw the foundation of his hopes utterly
swept away; and yet his faith towers above reason, and he feels that the
divine promises in some way will be fulfilled. Did any man of genius
ever conceive such an illustration of blended piety and obedience? Has
dramatic poetry ever created such a display of conflicting emotions? Is
it possible for a human being to transcend so mighty a sacrifice, and
all by the power of faith? Let those philosophers and theologians who
aspire to define faith, and vainly try to reconcile it with reason,
learn modesty and wisdom from the lesson of Abraham, who is its great
exponent, and be content with the definition of Paul, himself, that it
is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen;"
that reason was in Abraham's case subordinate to a loftier and grander
principle,--even a firm conviction, which nothing could shake, of the
accomplishment of an end against all probabilities and mortal
calculations, resting solely on a divine promise.

Another remarkable thing about that memorable sacrifice is, that Abraham
does not expostulate or hesitate, but calmly and resolutely prepares for
the slaughter of the innocent and unresisting victim, suppressing all
the while his feelings as a father in obedience and love to the
Sovereign of heaven and earth, whose will is his supreme law.

"And Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering, and laid it upon Isaac
his son," who was compelled as it were to bear his own cross. And he
took the fire in his hand and a knife, and Isaac said, "Behold the fire
and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" yet suffered
himself to be bound by his father on the altar. And Abraham then
stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son. At this
supreme moment of his trial, he heard the angel of the Lord calling upon
him out of heaven and saying, "Abraham! Abraham! lay not thine hand upon
the lad, neither do thou anything unto him; for now I know that thou
fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from
me.... And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold behind him
was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took
the ram, and offered him up for a burnt-offering instead of his son.
And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham a second time out of
heaven and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because
thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only
son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will
multiply thy seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand upon the
seashore, and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,
because thou hast obeyed my voice."

There are no more recorded promises to Abraham, no more trials of his
faith. His righteousness was established, and he was justified before
God. His subsequent life was that of peace, prosperity, and exaltation.
He lives to the end in transcendent repose with his family and vast
possessions. His only remaining solicitude is for a suitable wife for
Isaac, concerning whom there is nothing remarkable in gifts or fortunes,
but who maintains the faith of his father, and lives like him in
patriarchal dignity and opulence.

The great interest we feel in Abraham is as "the father of the
faithful," as a model of that exalted sentiment which is best defined
and interpreted by his own trials and experiences; and hence I shall not
dwell on the well known incidents of his life outside the varied calls
and promises by which he became the most favored man in human annals. It
was his faith which made him immortal, and with which his name is
forever associated. It is his religious faith looming up, after four
thousand years, for our admiration and veneration which is the true
subject of our meditation. This, I think, is distinct from our ordinary
conception of faith, such as a belief in the operation of natural laws,
in the return of the seasons, in the rewards of virtue, in the assurance
of prosperity with due regard to the conditions of success. Faith in a
friend, in a nation's future, in the triumphs of a good cause, in our
own energies and resources _is_, I grant, necessarily connected with
reason, with wide observation and experience, with induction, with laws
of nature and of mind. But religious faith is supreme trust in an unseen
God and supreme obedience to his commands, without any other exercise of
reason than the intuitive conviction that what he orders is right
because he orders it, whether we can fathom his wisdom or not. "Canst
thou by searching find out Him?"

Yet notwithstanding the exalted faith of Abraham, by which all religious
faith is tested, an eternal pattern and example for our reverence and
imitation, the grand old man deceived both Pharaoh and Abimelech, and if
he did not tell positive lies, he uttered only half truths, for Sarah
was a half sister; and thus he put expediency and policy above moral
rectitude,--to be palliated indeed in his case by the desire to
preserve his wife from pollution. Yet this is the only blot on his
otherwise reproachless character, marked by so many noble traits that he
may be regarded as almost perfect. His righteousness was as memorable as
his faith, living in the fear of God. How noble was his
disinterestedness in giving to Lot the choice of lands for his family
and his flocks and his cattle! How brave was he in rescuing his kinsman
from the hands of conquering kings! How lofty in refusing any
remuneration for his services! How fervent were his intercessions with
the Almighty for the preservation of the cities of the plain! How
hospitable his mode of life, as when he entertained angels unawares! How
kind he was to Hagar when she had incurred the jealousy of Sarah! How
serene and dignified and generous he was, the model of courtesy
and kindness!

With Abraham we associate the supremest happiness which an old man can
attain unto and enjoy. He was prosperous, rich, powerful, and favored in
every way; but the chief source of his happiness was the superb
consciousness that he was to be the progenitor of a mighty and numerous
progeny, through whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed.
How far his faith was connected with temporal prosperity we cannot tell.
Prosperity seems to have been the blessing of the Old Testament, as
adversity was the blessing of the New. But he was certain of this,--that
his descendants would possess ultimately the land of Canaan, and would
be as numerous as the stars of heaven. He was certain that in some
mysterious way there would come from his race something that would be a
blessing to mankind. Was it revealed to his exultant soul what this
blessing should be? Did this old patriarch cast a prophetic eye
beyond the ages, and see that the promise made to him was spiritual
rather than material, pertaining to the final triumph of truth and
righteousness?--that the unity of God, which he taught to Isaac and
perhaps to Ishmael, was to be upheld by his race alone among prevailing
idolatries, until the Saviour should come to reveal a new dispensation
and finally draw all men unto him? Did Abraham fully realize what a
magnificent nation the Israelites should become,--not merely the rulers
of western Asia under David and Solomon, but that even after their final
dispersion they should furnish ministers to kings, scholars to
universities, and dictators to legislative halls,--an unconquerable
race, powerful even after the vicissitudes and humiliations of four
thousand years? Did he realize fully that from his descendants should
arise the religious teachers of mankind,--not only the prophets and
sages of the Old Testament, but the apostles and martyrs of the
New,--planting in every land the seeds of the everlasting gospel, which
should finally uproot all Brahminical self-expiations, all Buddhistic
reveries, all the speculations of Greek philosophers, all the countless
forms of idolatry, polytheism, pantheism, and pharisaism on this earth,
until every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ
is Lord, to the glory of God the Father?

Yet such were the boons granted to Abraham, as the reward of faith and
obedience to the One true God,--the vital principle without which
religion dies into superstition, with which his descendants were
inspired not only to nationality and civil coherence, but to the highest
and noblest teachings the world has received from any people, and by
which his name is forever linked with the spiritual progress and
happiness of mankind.



No one in his senses would dream of adding anything to the story of
Joseph, as narrated in Genesis, whether it came from the pen of Moses or
from some subsequent writer. It is a masterpiece of historical
composition, unequalled in any literature sacred or profane, in ancient
or modern times, for its simplicity, its pathos, its dramatic power, and
its sustained interest. Nor shall I attempt to paraphrase or re-tell it,
save by way of annotation and illustration of subjects connected with
it, having reference to the subsequent development of the Jewish nation
and character.

Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, was born at Haran in Mesopotamia,
probably during the XVIII. Century B.C., when his father Jacob was in
the service of Laban the Syrian. There was nothing remarkable in his
career until he was sold as a slave by his unnatural and jealous
brothers. He was the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob, by his
beloved Rachel, being the youngest, except Benjamin, of a large family
of twelve sons,--a beautiful and promising youth, with qualities which
peculiarly called out the paternal affections. In the inordinate love
and partiality of Jacob for this youth he gave to him, by way of
distinction, a decorated tunic, such as was worn only by the sons of
princes. The half-brothers of Joseph were filled with envy in view of
this unwise step on the part of their common father,--a proceeding
difficult to be reconciled with his politic and crafty nature; and their
envy ripened into hostility when Joseph, with the frankness of youth,
narrated his dreams, which signified his future pre-eminence and the
humiliation of his brothers. Nor were his dreams altogether pleasing to
his father, who rebuked him with this indignant outburst of feeling:
"Shall I and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee on
the earth?" But while the father pondered, the brothers were consumed
with hatred, for envy is one of the most powerful passions that move the
human soul, and is malignant in its developments. Strange to say, it is
most common in large families and among those who pass for friends. We
do not envy prosperous enemies with the virulence we feel for prosperous
relatives, who theoretically are our equals. Nor does envy cease until
inequality has become so great as to make rivalry preposterous: a
subject does not envy his king, or his generally acknowledged superior.
Envy may even give place to respect and deference when the object of it
has achieved fame and conceded power. Relatives who begin with jealousy
sometimes end as worshippers, but not until extraordinary merit, vast
wealth, or overtopping influence are universally conceded. Conceive of
Napoleon's brothers envying the great Emperor, or Webster's the great
statesman, or Grant's the great general, although the passion may have
lurked in the bosoms of political rivals and military chieftains.

But one thing certainly extinguishes envy; and that is death. Hence the
envy of Joseph's brothers, after they had sold him to a caravan of
Ishmaelite merchants, was succeeded by remorse and shame. Their
murmurings passed into lies. They could not tell their broken-hearted
father of their crime; they never told him. Jacob was led to suppose
that his favorite son was devoured by wild beasts; they added deceit and
cowardice to a depraved heartlessness, and nearly brought down the gray
hairs of their father to the grave. No subsequent humiliation or
punishment could be too severe for such wickedness. Although they were
destined to become the heads of powerful tribes, even of the chosen
people of God, these men have incurred the condemnation of all ages. But
Judah and Reuben do not come in for unlimited censure, since these sons
of Leah sought to save their brother from a violent death; and
subsequently in Egypt Judah looms up as a magnanimous character, whom we
admire almost as much as we do Joseph himself. What can be more eloquent
than his defence of Benjamin, and his appeal to what seemed to him to be
an Egyptian potentate!

The sale of Joseph as a slave is one of the most signal instances of the
providence of God working by natural laws recorded in all history,--more
marked even than the elevation of Esther and Mordecai. In it we see
permission of evil and its counteraction,--its conversion into good;
victory over evil, over conspiracy, treachery, and murderous intent. And
so marked is this lesson of a superintending Providence over all human
action, that a wise and good man can see wars and revolutions and
revolting crimes with almost philosophical complacency, knowing that out
of destruction proceeds creation; that the wrath of man is always
overruled; that the love of God is the brightest and clearest and most
consoling thing in the universe. We cannot interpret history without the
recognition of this fundamental truth. We cannot be unmoved amid the
prevalence of evil without this feeling, that God is more powerful than
all the combined forces of his enemies both on earth and in hell; and
that no matter what the evil is, it will surely be made to praise Him
who sitteth in the heavens. This is a sublime revelation of the
omnipotence and benevolence of a personal God, of his constant oversight
of the world which he has made.

The protection and elevation of Joseph, seemingly a natural event in
view of his genius and character, is in some respects a type of that
great sacrifice by which a sinful world has been redeemed. Little did
the Jews suspect when they crucified Jesus that he would arise from his
tomb and overturn the idolatries of nations, and found a religion which
should go on from conquering to conquer. Little did the gifted Burke see
in the atrocities of the French Revolution the overturning of a system
of injustices which for centuries had cried to Heaven for vengeance.
Still less did the proud and conservative citizens of New England
recognize in the cruelties of Southern slaveholders a crime which would
provoke one of the bloodiest wars of modern times, and lead to the
constitutional and political equality of the whites and blacks. Evil
appeared to triumph, but ended in the humiliation of millions and the
enfranchisement of humanity, when the cause of the right seemed utterly
hopeless. So let every one write upon all walls and houses and chambers,
upon his conscience and his intellect, "The Lord God Omnipotent
reigneth, and will bring good out of the severest tribulation!" And this
great truth applies not to nations alone, but to the humblest
individual, as he bows down in grief or wrath or penitence to
unlooked-for chastisement,--like Job upon his heap of ashes, or the
broken-hearted mother when afflicted with disease or poverty, or the
misconduct or death of children. There is no wisdom, no sound
philosophy, no religion, and no happiness until this truth is recognized
in all the changes and relations of life.

The history of Joseph in Egypt in all his varied fortunes is, as I have
said, a most memorable illustration of this cardinal and fundamental
truth. A favorite of fortune, he is sold as a slave for less than twenty
dollars of our money, and is brought to a foreign country,--a land
oppressed by kings and priests, yet in which is a high civilization, in
spite of social and political degradation. He is resold to a high
official of the Egyptian court, probably on account of his beauty and
intelligence. He rises in the service of this official,--captain of the
royal guard, or, as the critics tell us, superintendent of the police
and prisons,--for he has extraordinary abilities and great integrity,
character as well as natural genius, until he is unjustly accused of a
meditated crime by a wicked woman. It is evident that Potiphar, his
master, only half believes in Joseph's guilt, in spite of the
protestations of his artful and profligate wife, since instead of
summarily executing him, as Ahasuerus did Haman, he simply sends him to
a mild and temporary imprisonment in the prison adjacent to his palace.
Here Joseph wins the favor of his jailers and of his brother prisoners,
as Paul did nearly two thousand years later, and shows remarkable gifts,
even to the interpretation of dreams,--a wonderful faculty to
superstitious people like the Egyptians, and in which he exceeds even
their magicians and priests. The fame of his rare gifts, the most prized
in Egypt, reaches at last the ears of Pharaoh, who is troubled by a
singular dream which no one of his learned men can interpret. The Hebrew
slave interprets it, and is magnificently rewarded, becoming the prime
minister of an absolute monarch. The King gives him his signet ring,
emblem of power, and a collar or chain of gold, the emblem of the
highest rank; clothes him in a vestment of fine linen, makes him ride in
his second chariot, and appoints him ruler over the land, second only to
the King in power and rank. And, further, he gives to him in marriage
the daughter of the High Priest of On, by which he becomes connected
with the priesthood.

Joseph deserves all the honor and influence he receives, for he saves
the kingdom from a great calamity. He predicts seven years of plenty and
seven years of famine, and points out the remedy. According to
tradition, the monarch whom he served was Apepi, the last Shepherd
King, during whose reign slaves were very numerous. The King himself had
a vast number, as well as the nobles. Foreign slaves were preferred to
native ones, and wars were carried on for the chief purpose of capturing
and selling captives.

The sacred narrative says but little of the government of Egypt by a
Hebrew slave, or of his abilities as a ruler,--virtually supreme in the
land, since Pharaoh delegates to him his own authority, persuaded both
of his fidelity and his abilities. It is difficult to understand how
Joseph arose at a single bound to such dignity and power, under a proud
and despotic king, and in the face of all the prejudices of the Egyptian
priesthood and nobility, except through the custom of all Oriental
despots to gratify the whim of the moment,--like the one who made his
horse prime minister. But nothing short of transcendent talents and
transcendent services can account for his retention of office and his
marked success. Joseph was then thirty years of age, having served
Potiphar ten years, and spent two or three years in prison.

This all took place, as some now suppose, shortly after 1700 B.C., under
the dynasty of the Hyksos or Shepherd Kings, who had conquered the
kingdom about three hundred years before. Their capital was Memphis,
near the pyramids, which had been erected several centuries earlier by
the older and native dynasties. Rawlinson supposes that Tanis on the
delta was the seat of their court. Conquered by the Hyksos, the old
kings retreated to their other capital, Thebes, and were probably made
tributary to the conquerors. It was by the earlier and later dynasties
that the magnificent temples and palaces were built, whose ruins have so
long been the wonder of travellers. The Shepherd Kings were warlike, and
led their armies from Scythia,--that land of roving and emigrant
warriors,--or, as Ewald thinks, from the land of Canaan: Aramaean
chieftains, who sought the spoil of the richest monarchy in the world.
Hence there was more affinity between these people and the Hebrews than
between them and the ancient Egyptians, who were the descendants of Ham.
Abraham, when he visited Egypt, found it ruled by these Scythian or
Aramaean warriors, which accounts for the kind and generous treatment he
received. It is not probable that a monarch of the ancient dynasties
would have been so courteous to Abraham, or would have elevated Joseph
to such an exalted rank, for they were jealous of strangers, and hated a
pastoral people. It was only under the rule of the Hyksos that the
Hebrews could have been tolerated and encouraged; for as soon as the
Shepherd Kings were expelled by the Pharaohs who reigned at Thebes, as
the Moors were expelled from Spain by the old Castilian princes, it
fared ill with the descendants of Jacob, and they were bitterly and
cruelly oppressed until the exodus under Moses. Prosperity probably led
the Hyksos conquerors to that fatal degeneracy which is unfavorable to
war, while adversity strengthened the souls of the descendants of the
ancient kings, and enabled them to subdue and drive away their invaders
and conquerors. And yet the Hyksos could not have ruled Egypt had they
not adapted themselves to the habits, religion, and prejudices of the
people they subdued. The Pharaoh who reigned at the time of Joseph
belonged like his predecessors to the sacerdotal caste, and worshipped
the gods of the Egyptians. But he was not jealous of the Hebrews, and
fully appreciated the genius of Joseph.

The wisdom of Joseph as ruler of the land destined to a seven years'
famine was marked by foresight as well as promptness in action. He
personally visited the various provinces, advising the people to husband
their harvests. But as all people are thoughtless and improvident, he
himself gathered up and stored all the grain which could be spared, and
in such vast quantities that he ceased to measure it. At last the
predicted famine came, as the Nile had not risen to its usual height;
but the royal granaries were full, since all the surplus wheat--about a
fifth of the annual produce--had been stored away; not purchased by
Joseph, but exacted as a tax. Nor was this exaction unreasonable in
view of the emergency. Under the Bourbon kings of France more than one
half of the produce of the land was taken by the Government and the
feudal proprietors without compensation, and that not in provision for
coming national trouble, but for the fattening of the royal purse.
Joseph exacted only a fifth as a sort of special tax, less than the
present Italian government exacts from all landowners.

Very soon the famine pressed upon the Egyptian people, for they had no
corn in reserve; the reserve was in the hands of the government. But
this reserve Joseph did not deal out gratuitously, as the Roman
government, under the emperors, dealt out food to the citizens. He made
the people pay for their bread, and took their money and deposited it in
the royal treasury. When after two years their money was all spent, it
was necessary to resort to barter, and cattle were given in exchange for
corn, by which means the King became possessed of all the personal
property of his subjects. As famine pressed, the people next surrendered
their land to avoid starvation,--all but the priests. Pharaoh thus
became absolute proprietor of the whole country; of money, cattle, and
land,--an unprecedented surrender, which would have produced a
wide-spread disaffection and revolt, had it not been that Joseph, after
the famine was past and the earth yielded its accustomed harvest,
exacted only one-fifth of the produce of the land for the support of
the government, which could not be regarded as oppressive. As the King
thus became absolute proprietor of Egypt by consent of the people, whom
he had saved from starvation through the wisdom and energy of his prime
minister, it is probable that later a new division of land took place,
it being distributed among the people generally in small farms, for
which they paid as rent a fifth of their produce. The gratitude of the
people was marked: "Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the
eyes of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's slaves." Since the time of
Christ there have been two similar famines recorded,--one in the
eleventh century, lasting, like Joseph's, seven years; and the other in
the twelfth century, of which the most distressing details are given,
even to the extreme desperation of cannibalism. The same cause
originated both,--the failure of the Nile overflow. Out of the sacred
river came up for Egypt its fat kine and its lean,--its blessings and
its curses.

The price exacted by Joseph for the people's salvation made the King
more absolute than before, since all were thus made dependent on the

This absolute rule of the kings, however, was somewhat modified by
ancient customs, and by the vast influence of the priesthood, to which
the King himself belonged. The priests of Egypt, under all the
dynasties, formed the most powerful caste ever seen among the nations
of the earth, if we except the Brahmanical caste of India. At the head
of it was the King himself, who was chief of the religion and of the
state. He regulated the sacrifices of the temples, and had the peculiar
right of offering them to the gods upon grand occasions. He
superintended the feasts and festivals in honor of the deities. The
priests enjoyed privileges which extended to their whole family. They
were exempt from taxes, and possessed one-third of the landed property,
which was entailed upon them, and of which they could not be deprived.
Among them there were great distinctions of rank, but the high-priests
held the most honorable station; they were devoted to the service of the
presiding deities of the cities in which they lived,--such as the
worship of Ammon at Thebes, of Phtha at Memphis, and of Ra at On, or
Heliopolis. One of the principal grades of the priesthood was that of
prophets, who were particularly versed in all matters pertaining to
religion. They presided over the temple and the sacred rites, and
directed the management of the priestly revenues; they bore a
distinguished part in solemn processions, carrying the holy vase.

The priests not only regulated all spiritual matters and superintended
the worship of the gods, but they were esteemed for their superior
knowledge. They acquired an ascendency over the people by their
supposed understanding of the sacred mysteries, only those priests being
initiated in the higher secrets of religion who had proved themselves
virtuous and discerning. "The honor of ascending from the less to the
greater mysteries was as highly esteemed as it was difficult to obtain.
The aspirant was required to go through the most severe ordeal, and show
the greatest moral resignation." Those who aspired to know the
profoundest secrets, imposed upon themselves duties more severe than
those required by any other class. It was seldom that the priests were
objects of scandal; they were reserved and discreet, practising the
strictest purification of body and mind. Their life was so full of
minute details that they rarely appeared in public. They thus obtained
the sincere respect of the people, and ruled by the power of learning
and sanctity as well as by privilege. They are most censured for
concealing and withholding knowledge from the people.

How deep and profound was the knowledge of the Egyptian priests it is
difficult to settle, since it was so carefully guarded. Pythagoras made
great efforts and sacrifices to be initiated in their higher mysteries;
but these, it is thought, were withheld, since he was a foreigner. What
he did learn, however, formed a foundation of what is most valuable in
Grecian philosophy. Herodotus declares that he knew the mysteries, but
should not divulge them. Moses was skilled in all the knowledge of the
sacred schools of Egypt, and perhaps incorporated in his jurisprudence
some of its most valued truths. Possibly Plato obtained from the
Egyptian priests his idea of the immortality of the soul, since this was
one of their doctrines. It is even thought by Wilkinson that they
believed in the unity, the eternal existence, and invisible power of
God, but there is no definite knowledge on that point. Ammon, the
concealed god, seems to have corresponded with the Zeus of the Greeks,
as Sovereign Lord of Heaven. The priests certainly taught a state of
future rewards and punishments, for the great doctrine of metempsychosis
is based upon it,--the transmission of the soul after death into the
bodies of various animals as an expiation for sin. But however lofty
were the esoteric doctrines which the more learned of the initiated
believed, they were carefully concealed from the people, who were deemed
too ignorant to understand them; and hence the immense difference
between the priests and people, and the universal prevalence of
degrading superstitions and the vile polytheism which everywhere
existed,--even the worship of the powers of Nature in those animals
which were held sacred. Among all the ancient nations, however
complicated were their theogonies, and however degraded the forms of
worship assumed,--of men, or animals, or plants,--it was heat or light
(the sun as the visible promoter of blessings) which was regarded as the
_animus mundi_, to be worshipped as the highest manifestation of divine
power and goodness. The sun, among all the ancient polytheists, was
worshipped under various names, and was one of the supremest deities.
The priestly city of On, a sort of university town, was consecrated to
the worship of Ra, the sun. Baal was the sun-god among the polytheistic
Canaanites, as Bel was among the Assyrians.

The Egyptian Pantheon, except perhaps that of Rome, was the most
extensive among the ancient nations, and the most degraded, although
that people were the most religious as well as superstitious of ancient
pagans. The worship of the Deity, in some form, was as devout as it was
universal, however degrading were the rites; and no expense was spared
in sacrifices to propitiate the favor of the peculiar deity who presided
over each of the various cities, for almost every city had a different
deity. Notwithstanding the degrading fetichism--the lowest kind of
Nature-worship, including the worship of animals--which formed the basis
of the Egyptian religion, there were traces in it of pure monotheism, as
in that of Babylonia and of ancient India. The distinguishing
peculiarity of the Egyptian religion was the adoration of sacred
animals as emblems of the gods, the chief of which were the bull, the
cat, and the beetle.

The gods of the Egyptian Pantheon were almost innumerable, since they
represented every form and power of Nature, and all the passions which
move the human soul; but the most remarkable of the popular deities was
Osiris, who was regarded as the personification of good. Isis, the
consort of Osiris, who with him presided at the judgment of the dead,
was scarcely less venerated. Set, or Typhon, the brother of Osiris, was
the personification of evil. Between Osiris and Set, therefore, was
perpetual antagonism. This belief, divested of names and titles and
technicalities and fables, seems to have resembled, in this respect, the
religion of the Persians,--the eternal conflict between good and evil.
The esoteric doctrines of the priests initiated into the higher
mysteries probably were the primeval truths, too abstract for the
ignorant and sensual people to comprehend, and which were represented to
them in visible forms that appealed to their senses, and which they
worshipped with degrading rites.

The oldest of all the rites of the ancient pagans was in the form of
sacrifice, to propitiate the deity. Abraham and Jacob offered
sacrifices, but without degrading ceremonies, and both abhorred the
representation of the deity in the form of animals; but there was
scarcely an animal or reptile in Egypt that the people did not hold
sacred, in fear or reverence. Moral evil was represented by the serpent,
showing that something was retained, though in a distorted form, of the
primitive revelation. The most celebrated forms of animal worship were
the bulls at Memphis, sacred to Osiris, or, as some think, to the sun;
the cat to Phtha, and the beetle to Re. The origin of these
superstitions cannot be traced; they are shrouded in impenetrable
mystery. All that we know is that they existed from the remotest period
of which we have cognizance, long before the pyramids were built.

In spite, however, of the despotism of the kings, the privileges of the
priests, and the degrading superstitions of the people, which introduced
the most revolting form of religious worship ever seen on earth, there
was in Egypt a high civilization in comparison with that of other
nations, dating back to a mythical period. More than two thousand years
before the Christian era, and six hundred before letters were introduced
into Greece, one thousand years before the Trojan War, twelve hundred
years before Buddha, and fifteen hundred years before Rome was founded,
great architectural works existed in Egypt, the remains of which still
astonish travellers for their vastness and grandeur. In the time of
Joseph, before the eighteenth dynasty, there was in Egypt an estimated
population of seven millions, with twenty thousand cities. The
civilization of that country four thousand years ago was as high as that
of the Chinese of the present day; and their literary and scientific
accomplishments, their proficiency in the industrial and fine arts,
remain to-day the wonder of history. But one thing is very
remarkable,--that while there seems to have been no great progress for
two thousand years, there was not any marked decline, thus indicating
virtuous habits of life among the great body of the people from
generation to generation. They were preserved from degeneracy by their
simple habits and peaceful pursuits. Though the armies of the King
numbered four hundred thousand men, there were comparatively few wars,
and these mostly of a defensive character.

Such was the Egypt which Joseph governed with signal ability for more
than half a century, nearly four thousand years ago,--the mother of
inventions, the pioneer in literature and science, the home of learned
men, the teacher of nations, communicating a knowledge which was never
lost, making the first great stride in the civilization of the world. No
one knows whether this civilization was indigenous, or derived from
unknown races, or the remains of a primitive revelation, since it cannot
be traced beyond Egypt itself, whose early inhabitants were more Asiatic
than African, and apparently allied with Phoenicians and Assyrians,

But the civilization of Egypt is too extensive a subject to be entered
upon in this connection. I hope to treat it more at length in subsequent
volumes. I can only say now that in some things the Egyptians were never
surpassed. Their architecture, as seen in the pyramids and the ruins of
temples, was marvellous; while their industrial arts would not be
disdained even in the 19th century.

Over this fertile, favored, and civilized nation Joseph reigned,--with
delegated power indeed, but with power that was absolute,--when his
starving brothers came to Egypt to buy corn, for the famine extended
probably over western Asia. He is to be viewed, not as a prophet, or
preacher, or reformer, or even a warrior like Moses, but as a merely
executive ruler. As the son-in-law of the high-priest of Hieropolis, and
delegated governor of the land, in the highest favor with the King, and
himself a priest, it is probable that Joseph was initiated into the
esoteric wisdom of the priesthood. He was undoubtedly stern, resolute,
and inflexible in his relations with men, as great executive chieftains
necessarily must be, whatever their private sympathies and friendships.
To all appearance he was a born Egyptian, as he spoke the language of
Egypt, had adopted its habits, and was clothed with the insignia of
Egyptian power.

So that when the sons of Jacob, who during the years of famine in
Canaan had come down to Egypt to buy corn, were ushered into his
presence, and bowed down to him, as had been predicted, he was harsh to
them, although at once recognizing them. "Whence come ye?" he said
roughly to them. They replied, "From the land of Canaan to buy corn,"
"Nay," continued he, "ye are spies." "Not so, my lord, but to buy food
are thy servants come. We are all one man's sons; we are true men; thy
servants are not spies." "Nay," he said, "to see the nakedness of the
land are ye come,"--for famine also prevailed in Egypt, and its governor
naturally would not wish its weakness to be known, for fear of a hostile
invasion. They replied, "Thy servants are twelve brothers, the sons of
one man in the land of Canaan; the youngest is this day with our father,
and one is not." But Joseph still persisted that they were spies, and
put them in prison for three days; after which he demanded as the
condition of their release that the younger brother should also appear
before him. "If ye be true men," said he, "let one of your brothers be
bound in the house of your prison, while you carry corn for the famine
of your house; but bring your youngest brother unto me, and ye shall not
die." There was apparently no alternative but to perish, or to bring
Benjamin into Egypt; and the sons of Jacob were compelled to accept the

Then their consciences were moved, and they saw a punishment for their
crime in selling Joseph fifteen years before. Even Reuben accused them,
and in the very presence of Joseph reminded them of their unnatural
cruelty, not supposing that he understood them, since Joseph had spoken
through an interpreter. This was too much for the stern governor; he
turned aside and wept, but speedily returned and took from them Simeon
and bound him before their eyes, and retained him for a surety. Then he
caused their sacks to be filled with corn, putting also their money
therein, and gave them in addition food for their return journey. But as
one of them on that journey opened his sack to give his ass provender,
he espied the money; and they were all filled with fear at this
unlooked-for incident. They made haste to reach their home and report
the strange intelligence to their father, including the demand for the
appearance of Benjamin, which filled him with the most violent grief.
"Joseph is not," cried he, "and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin
away!" Reuben here expostulated with frantic eloquence. Jacob, however,
persisted: "My son shall not go down with you; if mischief befall him,
ye will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to the grave."

Meanwhile the famine pressed, as Joseph knew full well it would, and
Jacob's family had eaten all their corn, and it became necessary to get
a new supply from Egypt. But Judah refused to go without Benjamin. "The
man," said he, "did solemnly protest unto us, saying, Ye shall not see
my face, except your brother be with you." Then Jacob upbraided Judah
for revealing the number and condition of his family; but Judah excused
himself on account of the searching cross-examination of the austere
governor which no one could resist, and persisted in the absolute
necessity of Benjamin's appearance in Egypt, unless they all should
yield to starvation. Moreover, he promised to be surety for his brother,
that no harm should come to him. Jacob at last saw the necessity of
allowing Benjamin to go, and reluctantly gave his consent; but in order
to appease the terrible man of Egypt he ordered his sons to take with
them a present of spices and balm and almonds, luxuries then in great
demand, and a double amount of money in their sacks to repay what they
had received. Then in pious resignation he said, "If I am bereaved of my
children, I am bereaved," and hurried away his sons.

In due time they all safely arrived in Egypt, and with Benjamin stood
before Joseph, and made obeisance, and then excused themselves to
Joseph's steward, because of the money which had been returned in their
sacks. The steward encouraged them, and brought Simeon to them, and led
them into Joseph's house, where a feast was prepared by his orders.
With great difficulty Joseph restrained his feelings at the sight of
Benjamin, who was his own full brother, but asked kindly about the
father. At last his pent-up affections gave way, and he sought his
chamber and wept there in secret. He then sat down to the banquet with
his attendants at a separate table,--for the Egyptian would not eat with
foreigners,--still unrevealed to his brethren, but showed his partiality
to Benjamin by sending him a mess five times greater than to the rest.
They marvelled greatly that they were seated at the table according to
their seniority, and questioned among themselves how the austere
governor could know the ages of strangers.

Not yet did Joseph declare himself. His brothers were not yet
sufficiently humbled; a severe trial was still in store for them. As
before, he ordered his steward to fill the sacks as full as they could
carry, with every man's money in them, for he would not take his
father's money; and further ordered that his silver drinking-cup should
be put in Benjamin's sack. The brothers had scarcely left the city when
they were overtaken by the steward on a charge of theft, and upbraided
for stealing the silver cup. Of course they felt their innocence and
protested it; but it was of no avail, although they declared that if the
cup should be found in any one of their sacks, he in whose sack it
might be should die for the offence. The steward took them at their
word, proceeded to search the sacks, and lo! what was their surprise and
grief to see that the cup was found in Benjamin's sack! They rent their
clothes in utter despair, and returned to the city. Joseph received them
austerely, and declared that Benjamin should be retained in Egypt as his
servant, or slave. Then Judah, forgetting in whose presence he was, cast
aside all fear, and made the most eloquent and plaintive speech recorded
in the Bible, offering to remain in Benjamin's place as a slave, for how
could he face his father, who would surely die of grief at the loss of
his favorite child.

Joseph could refrain his feelings no longer. He made every attendant
leave his presence, and then declared himself to his brothers, whom God
had sent to Egypt to be the means of saving their lives. The brothers,
conscience stricken and ashamed, completely humbled and afraid, could
not answer his questions. Then Joseph tenderly, in their own language,
begged them to come near, and explained to them that it was not they who
sent him to Egypt, but God, to work out a great deliverance to their
posterity, and to be a father to Pharaoh himself, inasmuch as the famine
was to continue five years longer. "Haste ye, and go up to my father,
and say unto him that God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down
unto me, and thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen near unto me, thou
and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks and thy
herds, and all that thou hast, and there will I nourish thee. And ye
shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have
seen; and ye shall haste, and bring down my father hither." And he fell
on Benjamin's neck and wept, and kissed all his brothers. They then
talked with him without further reserve.

The news that Joseph's brethren had come to Egypt pleased Pharaoh, so
grateful was the King for the preservation of his kingdom. He could not
do enough for such a benefactor. "Say to thy brethren, lade your beasts
and go, and take your father and your households, and come unto me; and
I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat
of the land." And the King commanded them to take his wagons to
transport their families and goods. Joseph also gave to each one of them
changes of raiment, and to Benjamin three hundred pieces of silver and
five changes of raiment, and ten asses laden with the good things of
Egypt for their father, and ten she-asses laden with corn. As they
departed, he archly said unto them, "See that ye fall not out by
the way!"

And when they arrived at Canaan, and told their father all that had
happened and all that they had seen, he fainted. The news was too good
to be true; he would not believe them. But when he saw the wagons his
spirit revived, and he said, "It is enough. Joseph my son is yet alive.
I will go and see him before I die." The old man is again young in
spirit. He is for going immediately; he could leap,--yea, fly.

To Egypt, then, Israel with his sons and his cattle and all his wealth
hastened. His sons are astonished at the providence of God, so clearly
and impressively demonstrated on their behalf. The reconciliation of the
family is complete. All envy is buried in the unbounded prosperity of
Joseph. He is now too great for envy. He is to be venerated as the
instrument of God in saving his father's house and the land of Egypt.
They all now bow down to him, father and sons alike, and the only strife
now is who shall render him the most honor. He is the pride and glory of
his family, as he is of the land of Egypt, and of the household
of Pharaoh.

In the hospitality of the King, and his absence of jealousy of the
nomadic people whom he settled in the most fertile of his provinces, we
see additional confirmation of the fact that he was one of the Shepherd
Kings. The Pharaoh of Joseph's time seems to have affiliated with the
Israelites as natural friends,--to assist him in case of war. All the
souls that came into Egypt with Jacob were seventy in number, although
some historians think there was a much larger number. Rawlinson
estimates it at two thousand, and Dean Payne Smith at three thousand.

Jacob was one hundred and thirty years of age when he came to dwell in
the land of Goshen, and he lived seventeen years in Egypt. When he died,
Joseph was about fifty years old, and was still in power.

It was the dying wish of the old patriarch to be buried with his
fathers, and he made Joseph promise to carry his bones to the land of
Canaan and bury them in the sepulchre which Abraham had bought,--even
the cave of Machpelah.

Before Jacob died, Joseph brought his two sons to him to receive his
blessing,--Manasseh and Ephraim, born in Egypt, whose grandfather was
the high-priest of On, the city of the sun. As Manasseh was the oldest,
he placed him at the right hand of Jacob, but the old man wittingly and
designedly laid his right hand on Ephraim, which displeased Joseph. But
Jacob, without giving his reason, persisted. While he prophesied that
Manasseh should be great, Ephraim he said should be greater,--verified
in the fact that the tribe of Ephraim was the largest of all the tribes,
and the most powerful until the captivity. It was nearly as large as all
the rest together, although in the time of Moses the tribe of Manasseh
had become more numerous. We cannot penetrate the reason why Ephraim
the younger son was preferred to the older, any more than why Jacob was
preferred to Esau. After Jacob had blessed the sons of Joseph, he called
his other sons around his dying bed to predict the future of their
descendants. Reuben the oldest was told that he would not excel, because
he had loved his father's concubine and committed a grievous sin. Simeon
and Levi were the most active in seeking to compass the death of Joseph,
and a curse was sent upon them. Judah was exalted above them all, for he
had sought to save Joseph, and was eloquent in pleading for
Benjamin,--the most magnanimous of the sons. So from him it was
predicted that the sceptre should not depart from his house until Shiloh
should come,--the Messiah, to whose appearance all the patriarchs
looked. And all that Jacob predicted about his sons to their remote
descendants came to pass; but the highest blessing was accorded to
Joseph, as was realized in the future ascendency of Ephraim.

When Jacob had made an end of his blessings and predictions he gathered
up his feet into his bed and gave up the ghost, and Joseph caused him to
be embalmed, as was the custom in Egypt. When the days of public
mourning were over (seventy days), Joseph obtained leave from Pharaoh to
absent himself from the kingdom and his government, to bury his father
according to his wish. And he departed in great pomp, with chariots and
horses, together with his brothers and a great number, and deposited the
remains of Jacob in the cave of the field of Machpelah, where Abraham
himself was buried, and then returned to his duties in Egypt.

It is not mentioned in the Scriptures how long Joseph retained his power
as prime minister of Pharaoh, but probably until a new dynasty succeeded
the throne,--the eighteenth as it is supposed, for we are told that a
new king arose who knew not Joseph. He lived to be one hundred and ten
years of age, and when he died his body was embalmed and placed in a
sarcophagus, and ultimately was carried to Canaan and buried with his
fathers, according to the oath or promise he exacted of his brothers.
His last recorded words were a prediction that God would bring the
children of Israel out of Egypt to the land which he sware unto Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob. On his deathbed he becomes, like his father, a
prophet. He had foretold his own future elevation when only a youth of
seventeen, though only in the form of a dream, the full purport of which
he did not comprehend; as an old man, about to die, he predicts the
greatest blessing which could happen to his kindred,--their restoration
to the land promised unto Abraham.

Joseph is one of the most interesting characters of the Bible, one of
the most fortunate, and one of the most faultless. He resisted the most
powerful temptations, and there is no recorded act which sullies his
memory. Although most of his life was spent among idolaters, and he
married a pagan woman, he retained his allegiance to the God of his
fathers. He ever felt that he was a stranger in a strange land, although
its supreme governor, and looked to Canaan as the future and beloved
home of his family and race. He regarded his residence in Egypt only as
a means of preserving the lives of his kindred, and himself as an
instrument to benefit both his family and the country which he ruled.
His life was one of extraordinary usefulness. He had great executive
talents, which he exercised for the good of others. Though stern and
even hard in his official duties, he had unquenchable natural
affections. His heart went out to his old father, his brother Benjamin,
and to all his kindred with inexpressible tenderness. He was as free
from guile as he was from false pride. In giving instructions to his
brothers how they should appear before the King, and what they should
say when questioned as to their occupations, he advised the utmost
frankness,--to say that they were shepherds, although the occupation of
a shepherd was an abomination to an Egyptian. He had exceeding tact in
confronting the prejudices of the King and the priesthood. He took no
pains to conceal his birth and lineage in the most aristocratic country
of the world. Considering that he was only second in power and dignity
to an absolute monarch, his life was unostentatious and his
habits simple.

If we seek a parallel to him among modern statesmen, he most resembles
Colbert as the minister of Louis XIV.; or Prince Metternich, who in
great simplicity ruled Continental Europe for a quarter of a century.

Nothing is said of his palaces, or pleasures, or wealth. He had not the
austere and unbending pride of Mordecai, whose career as an instrument
of Providence for the welfare of his countrymen was as remarkable as
Joseph's. He was more like Daniel in his private life than any of those
Jews who have arisen to great power in foreign lands, though he had not
Daniel's exalted piety or prophetic gifts. He was faithful to the
interests of his sovereign, and greatly increased the royal authority.
He got possession of the whole property of the nation for the benefit of
his master, but exacted only a fifth part of the produce of the land for
the support of the government. He was a priest of a grossly polytheistic
religion, but acknowledged only the One Supreme God, whose instrument he
felt himself to be. His services to the state were transcendent, but his
supremest mission was to preserve the Hebrew nation.

The condition of the Israelites in Egypt after the death of Joseph, and
during the period of their sojourn, it is difficult to determine. There
is a doubt among the critics as to the length of this sojourn,--the
Bible in several places asserting that it lasted four hundred and thirty
years, which, if true, would bring the Exodus to the end of the
nineteenth dynasty. Some suppose that the residence in Egypt was only
two hundred and fifteen years. The territory assigned to the Israelites
was a small one, and hence must have been densely populated, if, as it
is reckoned, two millions of people left the country under the
leadership of Moses and Aaron. It is supposed that the reigning
sovereign at that time was Menephtah, successor of Rameses II. It is,
then, the great Rameses, who was the king from whom Moses fled,--the
most distinguished of all the Egyptian monarchs as warrior and builder
of monuments. He was the second king of the eighteenth dynasty, and
reigned in conjunction with his father Seti for sixty years. Among his
principal works was the completion of the city of Rameses (Raamses, or
Tanis, or Zoan), one of the principal cities of Egypt, begun by his
father and made a royal residence. He also, it appears from the
monuments, built Pithon and other important towns, by the forced labor
of the Israelites. Rameses and Pithon were called treasure-cities, the
site of the latter having been lately discovered, to the east of Tanis.
They were located in the midst of a fertile country, now dreary and
desolate, which was the object of great panegyric. An Egyptian poet,
quoted by Dr. Charles S. Robinson, paints the vicinity of Zoan, where
Pharaoh resided at the time of the Exodus, as full of loveliness and
fertility. "Her fields are verdant with excellent herbage; her bowers
bloom with garlands; her pools are prolific in fish; and in the ponds
are ducks. Each garden is perfumed with the smell of honey; the
granaries are full of wheat and barley; vegetables and reeds and herbs
are growing in the parks; flowers and nosegays are in the houses;
lemons, citrons, and figs are in the orchards." Such was the field of
Zoan in ancient times, near Rameses, which the Israelites had built
without straw to make their bricks, and from which place they set out
for the general rendezvous at Succoth, under Moses. It will be noted
that if Rameses, or Tanis, was the residence of the court when Moses
made his demands on Menephtah, it was in the midst of the settlements of
the Israelites, in the land of Goshen, which the last of the Shepherd
Kings had assigned to them.

It is impossible to tell what advance in civilization was made by the
Israelites in consequence of their sojourn in Egypt; but they must have
learned many useful arts, and many principles of jurisprudence, and
acquired a better knowledge of agriculture. They learned to be patient
under oppression and wrong, to be frugal and industrious in their
habits, and obedient to the voice of their leaders. But unfortunately
they acquired a love of idolatrous worship, which they did not lose
until their captivity in Babylon. The golden calves of the wilderness
were another form of the worship of the sacred bulls of Memphis. They
were easily led to worship the sun under the Egyptian and Canaanitish
names. Had the children of Israel remained in the promised land, in the
early part of their history, they would probably have perished by
famine, or have been absorbed by their powerful Canaanitish neighbors.
In Egypt they were well fed, rapidly increased in number, and became a
nation to be feared even while in bondage. In the land of Canaan they
would have been only a pastoral or nomadic people, unable to defend
themselves in war, and unacquainted with the use of military weapons.
They might have been exterminated, without constant miracles and
perpetual supernatural aid,--which is not the order of Providence.

In Egypt, it is true, the Israelites lost their political independence;
but even under slavery there is much to be learned from civilized
masters. How rapid and marvellous the progress of the African races in
the Southern States in their two hundred years of bondage! When before
in the history of the world has there been such a progress among mere
barbarians, with fetichism for their native religion? Races have
advanced in every element of civilization, and in those virtues which
give permanent strength to character, under all the benumbing and
degrading influences of slavery, while nations with wealth, freedom, and
prosperity have declined and perished. The slavery of the Israelites in
Egypt may have been a blessing in disguise, from which they emerged when
they were able to take care of themselves. Moses led them out of
bondage; but Moses also incorporated in his institutions the "wisdom of
the Egyptians." He was indeed inspired to declare certain fundamental
truths, but he also taught the lessons of experience which a great
nation had acquired by two thousand years of prosperity. Who can tell,
who can measure, the civilization which the Israelites must have carried
out of Egypt, with the wealth of which they despoiled their masters?
Where else at that period could they have found such teachers? The
Persians at that time were shepherds like themselves in Canaan, the
Assyrians were hunters, and the Greeks had no historical existence. Only
the discipline of forty years in the wilderness, under Moses, was
necessary to make them a nation of conquerors, for they had already
learned the arts of agriculture, and knew how to protect themselves in
walled cities. A nomadic people were they no longer, as in the time of
Jacob, but small farmers, who had learned to irrigate their barren hills
and till their fertile valleys; and they became a powerful though
peaceful nation, unconquered by invaders for a thousand years, and
unconquerable for all time in their traditions, habits, and mental
characteristics. From one man--the patriarch Jacob--did this great
nation rise, and did not lose its national unity and independence until
from the tribe of Judah a deliverer arose who redeemed the human race.
Surely, how favored was Joseph, in being the instrument under Providence
of preserving this nation in its infancy, and placing its people in a
rich and fertile country where they could grow and multiply, and learn
principles of civilization which would make them a permanent power in
the progress of humanity!


1571-1451 B.C. [USHER].


Among the great actors in the world's history must surely be presented
the man who gave the first recorded impulse to civilization, and who is
the most august character of antiquity. I think Moses and his
legislation should be considered from the standpoint of the Scriptures
rather than from that of science and criticism. It is very true that the
legislation and ritualism we have been accustomed to ascribe to Moses
are thought by many great modern critics, including Ewald, to be the
work of writers whose names are unknown, in the time of Hezekiah and
even later, as Jewish literature was developed. But I remain unconvinced
by the modern theories, plausible as they are, and weighty as is their
authority; and hence I have presented the greatest man in the history of
the Jews as our fathers regarded him, and as the Bible represents him.
Nor is there any subject which bears more directly on the elemental
principles of theological belief and practical morality, or is more
closely connected with the progress of modern religious and social
thought, than a consideration of the Mosaic writings. Whether as a "man
of God," or as a meditative sage, or as a sacred historian, or as an
inspired prophet, or as an heroic liberator and leader of a favored
nation, or as a profound and original legislator, Moses alike stands out
as a wonderful man, not to the eyes of Jews merely, but to all
enlightened nations and ages. He was evidently raised up for a
remarkable and exalted mission,--not only to deliver a debased and
superstitious people from bondage, but to impress his mind and character
upon them and upon all other nations, and to link his name with the
progress of the human race.

He arose at a great crisis, when a new dynasty reigned in Egypt,--not
friendly, as the preceding one had been, to the children of Israel; but
a dynasty which had expelled the Shepherd Kings, and looked with fear
and jealousy upon this alien race, already powerful, in sympathy with
the old régime, located in the most fertile sections of the land, and
acquainted not merely with agriculture, but with the arts of the
Egyptians,--a population of over two millions of souls; so that the
reigning monarch, probably a son of the Sesostris of the Greeks,
bitterly exclaimed to his courtiers, "The children of Israel are more
and mightier than we!" And the consequence of this jealousy was a
persecution based on the elemental principle of all persecution,--that
of fear blended with envy, carried out with remorseless severity; for in
case of war (and the new dynasty scarcely felt secure on the throne) it
was feared the Hebrews might side with enemies. So the new Pharaoh
(Rameses II., as is thought by Rawlinson) attempted to crush their
spirit by hard toils and unjust exactions. And as they still continued
to multiply, there came forth the dreadful edict that every male child
of the Hebrews should be destroyed as soon as born.

It was then that Moses, descended from a family of the tribe of Levi,
was born,--1571 B.C., according to Usher. I need not relate in detail
the beautiful story of his concealment for three months by his mother
Jochebed, his exposure in a basket of papyrus on the banks of the Nile,
his rescue by the daughter of Pharaoh, at that time regent of the
kingdom in the absence of her father,--or, as Wilberforce thinks, the
wife of the king of Lower Egypt,--his adoption by this powerful
princess, his education in the royal household among those learned
priests to whose caste even the King belonged. Moses himself, a great
master of historical composition, has in six verses told that story,
with singular pathos and beauty; yet he directly relates nothing further
of his life until, at the age of forty, he killed an Egyptian overseer
who was smiting one of his oppressed brethren, and buried him in the
sands,--thereby showing that he was indignant at injustice, or clung in
his heart to his race of slaves. But what a history might have been
written of those forty years of luxury, study, power, and honor!--since
Josephus speaks of his successful and brilliant exploits as a conqueror
of the Ethiopians. What a career did the son of the Hebrew bondwoman
probably lead in the palaces of Memphis, sitting at the monarch's table,
fêted as a conqueror, adopted as grandson and perhaps as heir, a
proficient in all the learning and arts of the most civilized nation of
the earth, enrolled in the college of priests, discoursing with the most
accomplished of his peers on the wonders of magical enchantment, the
hidden meaning of religious rites, and even the being and attributes of
a Supreme God,--the esoteric wisdom from which even a Pythagoras drew
his inspiration; possibly tasting, with generals and nobles, all the
pleasures of sin. But whether in pleasure or honor, the soul of Moses,
fortified by the maternal instructions of his early days,--for his
mother was doubtless a good as well as a brave woman,--soars beyond his
circumstances, and he seeks to avenge the wrongs of his brethren. Not
wisely, however, for he slays a government official, and is forced to
flee,--a necessity which we can hardly comprehend in view of his rank
and power, unless it revealed all at once to the astonished king his
Hebrew birth, and his dangerous sympathies with an oppressed people, the
act showing that he may have sought, in his earnest soul, to break their
intolerable bonds.

Certainly Moses aspires prematurely to be a deliverer. He is not yet
prepared for such a mighty task. He is too impulsive and inexperienced.
It must need be that he pass through a period of preparation, learn
patience, mature his knowledge, and gain moral force, which preparation
could be best made in severe contemplation; for it is in retirement and
study that great men forge the weapons which demolish principalities and
powers, and master those _principia_ which are the foundation of thrones
and empires. So he retires to the deserts of Midian, among a scattered
pastoral people, on the eastern shore of the Red Sea, and is received by
Jethro, a priest of Midian, whose flocks he tends, and whose daughter
he marries.

The land of Midian, to which he fled, is not fertile like Egypt, nor
rich in unnumbered monuments of pride and splendor, with pyramids for
mausoleums, and colossal statues to perpetuate kingly memories. It is
not scented with flowers and variegated with landscapes of beauty and
fertility, but is for the most part, with here and there a patch of
verdure, a land of utter barrenness and dreariness, and, as Hamilton
paints it, "a great and terrible wilderness, where no soft features
mitigated the unbroken horror, but dark and brown ridges, red peaks like
pyramids of fire; no rounded hillocks or soft mountain curves, but
monstrous and misshapen cliffs, rising tier above tier, and serrated for
miles into rugged grandeur, and grooved by the winter torrents cutting
into the veins of the fiery rock: a land dreary and desolate, yet
sublime in its boldness and ruggedness,--a labyrinth of wild and blasted
mountains, a terrific and howling desolation."

It is here that Moses seeks safety, and finds it in the home of a
priest, where his affections may be cultivated, and where he may indulge
in lofty speculations and commune with the Elohim whom he adores;
isolated yet social, active in body but more active in mind, still fresh
in all the learning of the schools of Egypt, and wise in all the
experiences of forty years. And the result of his studies and
inspirations was, it is supposed, the book of Genesis, in which he
narrates more important events, and reveals more lofty truths than all
the historians of Greece unfolded in their collective volumes,--a marvel
of historic art, a model of composition, an immortal work of genius, the
oldest and the greatest written history of which we have record.

And surely what poetry, pathos, and eloquence, what simplicity and
beauty, what rich and varied lessons of human experience, what treasures
of moral wisdom, are revealed in that little book! How sublimely the
poet-prophet narrates the misery of the Fall, and the promised glories
of the Restoration! How concisely the historian compresses the incidents
of patriarchal life, the rise of empires, the fall of cities, the
certitudes of faith, of friendship, and of love! All that is vital in
the history of thousands of years is condensed into a few chapters,--not
dry and barren annals, but descriptions of character, and the unfolding
of emotions and sensibilities, and insight into those principles of
moral government which indicate a superintending Power, creating faith
in a world of sin, and consolation amid the wreck of matter.

Thus when forty more years are passed in study, in literary composition,
in religious meditation, and active duties, in sight of grand and barren
mountains, amid affections and simplicities,--years which must have
familiarized him with every road and cattle-drive and sheep-track, every
hill and peak, every wady and watercourse, every timber-belt and oasis
in the Sinaitic wilderness, through which his providentially trained
military instincts were to safely conduct a vast multitude,--Moses,
still strong and laborious, is fitted for his exalted mission as a
deliverer. And now he is directly called by the voice of God himself,
amid the wonders of the burning bush,--Him whom, thus far, he had, like
Abraham, adored as the Elohim, the God Almighty, but whom henceforth he
recognizes as Jehovah (Jahveh) in His special relations to the Jewish
nation, rather than as the general Deity who unites the attributes
ascribed to Him as the ruler of the universe. Moses quakes before that
awful voice out of the midst of the bush, which commissions him to
deliver his brethren. He is no longer bold, impetuous, impatient, but
timid and modest. Long study and retirement from the busy haunts of men
have made him self-distrustful. He replies to the great _I Am_, "Who am
I, that _I_ should bring forth the Children of Israel out of Egypt?
Behold, I am not eloquent; they will not believe me, nor hearken to my
voice." In spite of the miracle of the rod, Moses obeys reluctantly, and
Aaron, his elder brother, is appointed as his spokesman.

Armed with the mysterious wonder-working rod, at length Moses and Aaron,
as representatives of the Jewish people, appear in the presence of
Pharaoh, and in the name of Jehovah request permission for Israel to go
and hold a feast in the wilderness. They do not demand emancipation or
emigration, which would of course be denied. I cannot dwell on the
haughty scepticism and obdurate hardness of the King--"Who is Jehovah,
that I should obey _his_ voice?"--the renewed persecution of the
Hebrews, the successive plagues and calamities sent upon Egypt, which
the magicians could not explain, and the final extorted and unwilling
consent of Pharaoh to permit Israel to worship the God of Moses in the
wilderness, lest greater evils should befall him than the destruction of
the first-born throughout the land.

The deliverance of a nation of slaves is at last, it would seem,
miraculously effected; and then begins the third period of the life of
Moses, as the leader and governor of these superstitious, sensual,
idolatrous, degraded slaves. Then begin the real labors and trials of
Moses; for the people murmur, and are consumed with fears as soon as
they have crossed the sea, and find themselves in the wilderness. And
their unbelief and impatience are scarcely lessened by the tremendous
miracle of the submersion of the pursuing host, and all successive
miracles,--the mysterious manna, the pillar of cloud and of fire, the
smitten rock at Horeb, and the still more impressive and awful
wonders of Sinai.

The guidance of the Israelites during these forty years in the
wilderness is marked by transcendent ability on the part of Moses, and
by the most disgraceful conduct on the part of the Israelites. They are
forgetful of mercies, ungrateful, rebellious, childish in their
hankerings for a country where they had been more oppressed than Spartan
Helots, idolatrous, and superstitious. They murmur for flesh to eat;
they make golden calves to worship; they seek a new leader when Moses is
longer on the Mount than they expect. When any new danger threatens they
lay the blame on Moses; they even foolishly regret that they had not
died in Egypt.

Obviously such a people were not fit for freedom, or even for the
conquest of the promised land. They were as timid and cowardly as they
were rebellious. Even the picked men sent out to explore Canaan, with
the exception of Caleb and Joshua, reported nations of giants impossible
to subdue. A new generation must arise, disciplined by forty years'
experience, made hardy and strong by exposure and suffering. Yet what
nation, in the world's history, ever improved so much in forty years?
What ruler ever did so much for a people in a single reign? This abject
race of slaves in forty years was transformed into a nation of valiant
warriors, made subject to law and familiar with the fundamental
principles of civilization. What a marvellous change, effected by the
genius and wisdom of one man, in communion with Almighty power!

But the distinguishing labor of Moses during these forty years, by which
he linked his name with all subsequent ages, and became the greatest
benefactor of mind the world has seen until Christ, was his system of
Jurisprudence. It is this which especially demands our notice, and hence
will form the main subject of this lecture.

In reviewing the Mosaic legislation, we notice both those ordinances
which are based on immutable truth for the rule of all nations to the
end of time, and those prescribed for the peculiar situation and
exigencies of the Jews as a theocratic state, isolated from
other nations.

The moral code of Moses, by far the most important and universally
accepted, rests on the fundamental principles of theology and morality.
How lofty, how impressive, how solemn this code! How it appeals at once
to the consciousness of all minds in every age and nation, producing
convictions that no sophistry can weaken, binding the conscience with
irresistible and terrific bonds,--those immortal Ten Commandments,
engraven on the two tables of stone, and preserved in the holy and
innermost sanctuary of the Jews, yet reappearing in all their
literature, accepted and reaffirmed by Christ, entering into the
religious system of every nation that has received them, and forming the
cardinal principles of all theological belief! Yet it was by Moses that
these Commandments came. He is the first, the favored man, commissioned
by God to declare to the world, clearly and authoritatively, His supreme
power and majesty, whom alone all nations and tribes and people are to
worship to remotest generations. In it he fearfully exposes the sin of
idolatry, to which all nations are prone,--the one sin which the
Almighty visits with such dreadful penalties, since this involves, and
implies logically, rebellion against Him, the supreme ruler of the
universe, and disloyalty to Him as a personal sovereign, in whatever
form this idolatry may appear, whether in graven images of tutelary
deities, or in the worship of Nature (ever blind and indefinite), or in
the exaltation of self, in the varied search for pleasure, ambition, or
wealth, to which the debased soul bows down with grovelling instincts,
and in the pursuit of which the soul forgets its higher destiny and its
paramount obligations. Moses is the first to expose with terrific force
and solemn earnestness this universal tendency to the oblivion of the
One God amid the temptations, the pleasures, and the glories of the
world, and the certain displeasure of the universal sovereign which must
follow, as seen in the fall of empires and the misery of individuals
from his time to ours, the uniform doom of people and nations, whatever
the special form of idolatry, whenever it reaches a peculiar fulness and
development,--the ultimate law of all decline and ruin, from which there
is no escape, "for the Lord God is a jealous God, visiting the
iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth
generation." So sacred and awful is this controlling Deity, that it is
made a cardinal sin even to utter His name in vain, in levity or
blasphemy. In order also to keep Him before the minds of men, a day is
especially appointed--one in seven--which it is the bounden duty as well
as privilege of all generations to keep with peculiar sanctity,--a day
of rest from labor as well as of adoration; an entirely new institution,
which no Pagan nation, and no other ancient nation, ever recognized.
After thus laying solemn injunctions upon all men to render supreme
allegiance to this personal God,--for we can find no better word,
although Matthew Arnold calls it "the Power which maketh for
righteousness,"--Moses presents the duties of men to each other, chiefly
those which pertain to the abstaining from injuries they are most
tempted to commit, extending to the innermost feelings of the heart, for
"thou shalt not covet anything which is thy neighbor's;" thus covering,
in a few sentences, the primal obligations of mankind to God and to
society, afterward expanded by a greater teacher into the more
comprehensive law of Love, which is to bind together mortals on earth,
as it binds together immortals in heaven.

All Christian nations have accepted these Ten Commandments, even
Mohammedan nations, as appealing to the universal conscience,--not a
mere Jewish code, but a primary law, susceptible of boundless
obligation, never to be abrogated; a direct injunction of the Almighty
to the end of time.

The Ten Commandments seem to be the foundation of the subsequent and
more minute code which Moses gave to the Jews; and it is interesting to
see how its great principles have entered, more or less, into the laws
of Christian nations from the decline of the Roman Empire, into the
Theodosian code, the laws of Charlemagne, of Ina, of Alfred, and
especially into the institutions of the Puritans, and of all other sects
and parties wherever the Bible is studied and revered. They seem to be
designed not merely for Jews, but for Gentiles also, since there is no
escape from their obligation. They may seem severe in some of their
applications, but never unjust; and as long as the world endures, the
relations between man and man are to be settled on lofty moral grounds.
An elevated morality is the professed aim of all enlightened lawgivers;
and the prosperity of nations is built upon it, for it is righteousness
which exalteth them. Culture is desirable; but the welfare of nations is
based on morals rather than on aesthetics. On this point Moses, or even
Epictetus, is a greater authority than Goethe. All the ordinances of
Moses tend to this end. They are the publication of natural
religion,--that God is a rewarder of virtuous actions, and punishes
wicked deeds. Moses, from first to last, insists imperatively on the
doctrine of personal responsibility to God, which doctrine is the
logical sequence of belief in Him as the moral governor of the world.
And in enforcing this cardinal truth he is dogmatic and dictatorial, as
a prophet and ambassador of the Most High should be.

It is a waste of time to use arguments in the teaching of the primal
principles which appeal to consciousness; and I am not certain but that
elaborate and metaphysical reasoning on the nature and attributes of God
weakens rather than strengthens the belief in Him, since He is a power
made known by revelation, and received and accepted by the soul at once,
if received at all. Among the earliest noticeable corruptions of the
Church was the introduction of Greek philosophy to harmonize and
reconcile with it the truths of the gospel, which to a certain class
ever have been, and ever will be, foolishness. The speculations and
metaphysics of theologians, I verily believe, have done more harm than
good,--from Athanasius to Jonathan Edwards,--whenever they have brought
the aid of finite reason to support the ultimate truths declared by an
infinite and almighty mind. Moses does not reason, nor speculate, nor
refine; he affirms, and appeals to the law written on the heart,--to the
consciousness of mankind. What he declares to be duties are not even to
be discussed. They are to be obeyed with unhesitating obedience, since
no discussion or argument can make them clearer or more imperative. The
obligation to obey them is seen and felt at once, as soon as they are
declared. What he says in regard to the relations of master and servant;
to injuries inflicted on the body; to the respect due to parents; to the
protection of the widow, the fatherless, and the unfortunate; to
delicacy in the treatment of women; to unjust judgments; to bribery and
corruption; to revenge, hatred, and covetousness; to falsehood and
tale-bearing; to unchastity, theft, murder, and adultery,--can never be
gainsaid, and would have been accepted by Roman jurists as readily as by
modern legislators; yea, they would not be disputed by savages, if they
acknowledged a God at all. The elevated morality of the ethical code of
Moses is its most striking feature, since it appeals to the universal
heart, and does not conflict with some of the ethical teachings of those
great lights of the Pagan world to whose consciousness God has been
revealed. Moses differs from them only in the completion and scope and
elevation of his system, and in its freedom from the puerilities and
superstitions which they blended with their truths, and from which he
was emancipated by inspiration. Brahma and Confucius and Socrates taught
some great truths which Moses would accept, but they taught errors
likewise. He taught no errors, though he permitted some sins which in
the beginning did not exist,--such, for instance, as polygamy. Christ
came not to destroy his law, but to fulfil it and complete it. In two
things especially, how emphatic his teaching and how permanent his
influence!--in respect to the observance of the Sabbath and the
relations of the sexes. To him, more than to any man in the world's
history, do we owe the elevation of woman, and the sanctity and blessing
of a day of rest. In the awful sacredness of the person, and in the
regular resort to the sanctuary of God, we see his immortal authority
and his permanent influence.

The other laws which Moses promulgated are more special and minute, and
seem to be intended to preserve the Jews from idolatry, the peculiar sin
of the surrounding nations; and also, more directly, to keep alive the
recognition of a theocratic government.

Thus the ceremonial or ritualistic law--an important part of the Mosaic
Code--constantly points to Jehovah as the King of the Jews, as well as
their Supreme Deity, for whose worship the rites and ceremonies are
devised with great minuteness, to keep His _personality_ constantly
before their minds. Moreover, all their rites and ceremonies were
typical and emblematical of the promised Saviour who was to arise; in a
more emphatic sense their King, and not merely their own Messiah, but
the Redeemer of the whole race, who should reign finally as King of
kings and Lord of lords. And hence these rites and sacrifices, typical
of Him who should offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the
world, are not supposed to be binding on other nations after the great
sacrifice has been made, and the law of Moses has been fulfilled by
Jesus and the new dispensation has been established. We see a
complicated and imposing service, with psalms and hymns, and beautiful
robes, and smoking altars,--all that could inspire awe and reverence. We
behold a blazing tabernacle of gold and silver and precious woods and
gorgeous tapestries, with inner and secret recesses to contain the ark
and the tables of stone, the mysterious rod, the urn of manna, the book
of the covenant, the golden throne over-canopied by cherubs with
outstretched wings, and the mercy-seat for the Shekinah who sat between
the cherubim. The sacred and costly vessels, the candlesticks of pure
and beaten gold, the lamps, the brazen sea, the embroidered vestments of
the priests, the breastplate of precious stones, the golden chains, the
emblematic rings, the ephods and mitres and girdles, the various altars
for sacrifice, the burnt-offerings, peace-offerings, meat-offerings, and
sin-offerings, the consecrated cakes and animals for sacrifice, the
rites for cleansing leprosy and all uncleanliness, the grand atonements
and solemn fasts and festivals,--all were calculated to make a strong
impression on a superstitious people. The rites and ceremonies of the
Jews were so attractive that they made up for all other amusements and
spectacles; they answered the purpose of the Gothic churches and
cathedrals of Europe in the Middle Ages, when these were the chief
attractions of the period. There is nothing absurd in ritualism among
ignorant and superstitious people, who are ever most easily impressed
through their senses and imagination. It was the wisdom of the Middle
Ages,--the device of popes and bishops and abbots to attract and
influence the people. But ritualism--useful in certain ages and
circumstances, certainly in its most imposing forms, if I may say
it--does not seem to be one of the peculiarities of enlightened ages;
even the ritualism of the wilderness lost much of its hold upon the Jews
themselves after their captivity, and still more when Greek and Roman
civilization had penetrated to Jerusalem. The people who listened to
Peter and Paul could no longer be moved by imposing rites, even as the
European nations--under the preaching of Luther, Knox, and Latimer--lost
all relish for the ceremonies of the Middle Ages. What, then, are we to
think of the revival of observances which lost their force three hundred
years ago, unless connected with artistic music? It is music which
vitalizes ritualistic worship in our times, as it did in the times of
David and Solomon. The vitality of the Jewish ritual, when the nation
had emerged from barbarism, was in its connections with a magnificent
psalmody. The Psalms of David appeal to the heart and not to the senses.
The ritualism of the wilderness appealed to the senses and not to the
heart; and this was necessary when the people had scarcely emerged from
barbarism, even as it was deemed necessary amid the turbulence and
ignorance of the tenth century.

In the ritualism which Moses established there was the absence of
everything which would recall the superstitions and rites, or even the
doctrines, of the Egyptians. In view of this, we account partially for
the almost studied reticence in respect to a future state, upon which
hinged many of the peculiarities of Egyptian worship. It would have been
difficult for Moses to have recognized the future state, in the
degrading ignorance and sensualism of the Jews, without associating with
it the tutelary deities of the Egyptians and all the absurdities
connected with the doctrine of metempsychosis, which consigned the
victims of future punishment to enter the forms of disgusting and
hideous animals, thereby blending with the sublime doctrine of a future
state the most degrading superstitions. Bishop Warburton seizes on the
silence of Moses respecting a future state to prove, by a learned yet
sophistical argument, his divine legation, _because_ he ignored what so
essentially entered into the religion of Egypt. But whether Moses
purposely ignored this great truth for fear it would be perverted, or
because it was a part of the Egyptian economy which he wished his people
to forget, still it is also possible that this doctrine of immortality
was so deeply engraved on the minds of the people that there was no need
to recognize it while giving a system of ritualistic observances. The
comparative silence of the Old Testament concerning immortality is one
of its most impressive mysteries. However dimly shadowed by Job and
David and Isaiah, it seems to have been brought to light only by the
gospel. There is more in the writings of Plato and Cicero about
immortality than in the whole of the Old Testament, And this fact is so
remarkable, that some trace to the sages of Greece and Egypt the
doctrine itself, as ordinarily understood; that is, a _necessary_
existence of the soul after death. And they fortify themselves with
those declarations of the apostles which represent a happy immortality
as the special gift of God,--not a necessary existence, but given only
to those who obey his laws. If immortality be not a gift, but a
necessary existence, as Socrates supposed, it seems strange that heathen
philosophers should have speculated more profoundly than the patriarchs
of the East on this mysterious subject. We cannot suppose that Plato was
more profoundly instructed on such a subject than Abraham and Moses. It
is to be noted, however, that God seems to have chosen different
races for various missions in the education of his children. As
Saint Paul puts it, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same
Spirit,... diversities of workings, but the same God who worketh in
all." The Hebrew genius was that of discerning and declaring moral and
spiritual truth; while that of the Greeks was essentially philosophic
and speculative, searching into the reasons and causes of existing
phenomena. And it is possible, after all, that the loftiest of the Greek
philosophers derived their opinions from those who had been admitted to
the secret schools of Egypt, where it is probable that the traditions of
primitive ages were preserved, and only communicated to a chosen few;
for the ancient schools were esoteric and not popular. The great masters
of knowledge believed one thing and the people another. The popular
religion was always held in contempt by the wise in all countries,
although upheld by them in external rites and emblems and sacrifices,
from patriotic purposes. The last act of Socrates was to sacrifice a
cock to Esculapius, with a different meaning from that which was
understood by the people.

The social and civil code of Moses seems to have had primary reference
to the necessary isolation of the Jews, to keep them from the
abominations of other nations, and especially idolatry, and even to make
them repulsive and disagreeable to foreigners, in order to keep them a
peculiar people. The Jew wore an uncouth dress. When he visited
strangers he abstained from their customs, and even meats. When a
stranger visited the Jew he was compelled to submit to Jewish
restraints. So that the Jew ever seems uncourteous, narrow, obstinate,
and grotesque: even as others appeared to him to be pagan and unclean.
Moses lays down laws best calculated to keep the nation separated and
esoteric; but there is marvellous wisdom in those which were directed to
the development of national resources and general prosperity in an
isolated state. The nation was made strong for defence, not for
aggression. It must depend upon its militia, and not on horses and
chariots, which are designed for distant expeditions, for the pomp of
kings, for offensive war, and military aggrandizement. The legislation
of Moses recognized the peaceful virtues rather than the
warlike,--agricultural industry, the network of trades and professions,
manufacturing skill, production, not waste and destruction. He
discouraged commerce, not because it was in itself demoralizing, but
because it brought the Jews too much in contact with corrupt nations.
And he closely defined political power, and divided it among different
magistrates, instituting a wise balance which would do credit to modern
legislation. He gave dignity to the people by making them the ultimate
source of authority, next to the authority of God. He instituted
legislative assemblies to discuss peace and war, and elect the great
officers of state. While he made the Church support the State, and the
State the Church, yet he separated civil power from the religious, as
Calvin did at Geneva. The functions of the priest and the functions of
the magistrate were made forever distinct,--a radical change from the
polity of Egypt, where kings were priests, and priests were civil rulers
as well as a literary class; a predominating power to whom all vital
interests were intrusted. The kingly power among the Jews was checked
and hedged by other powers, so that an overgrown tyranny was difficult
and unusual. But above all kingly and priestly power was the power of
the Invisible King, to whom the judges and monarchs and supreme
magistrates were responsible, as simply His delegates and vicegerents.
Upon Him alone the Jews were to rely in all crises of danger; in Him
alone was help. And it is remarkable that whenever Jewish rulers relied
on chariots and horses and foreign allies, they were delivered into the
hands of their enemies. It was only when they fell back upon the
protecting arms of their Eternal Lord that they were rescued and saved.
The mightiest monarch ruled only with delegated powers from Him; and it
was the memorable loyalty of David to his King which kept him on the
throne, as it was self-reliance--the exhibition of independent
power--which caused the sceptre to depart from Saul.

I cannot dwell on the humanity and wisdom which marked the social
economy of the Jews, as given by Moses,--in the treatment of slaves
(emancipated every fifty years), in the sanctity of human life, in the
liberation of debtors every seven years, in kindness to the poor (who
were allowed to glean the fields), in the education of the people, in
the division of inherited property, in the inalienation of paternal
inheritances, in the discouragement of all luxury and extravagance, in
those regulations which made disproportionate fortunes difficult, the
vast accumulation of which was one of the main causes of the decline of
the Roman Empire, and is now one of the most threatening evils of modern
civilization. All the civil and social laws of the Jewish commonwealth
tended to the elevation of woman and the cultivation of domestic life.
What virtues were gradually developed among those sensual slaves whom
Moses led through the desert! In what ancient nation were seen such
respect to parents, such fidelity to husbands, such charming delights of
home, such beautiful simplicities, such ardent loves, such glorious
friendships, such regard to the happiness of others!

Such, in brief, was the great work which Moses performed, the marvellous
legislation which he gave to the Israelites, involving principles
accepted by the Christian world in every age of its history. Now,
whence had this man this wisdom? Was it the result of his studies and
reflections and experiences, or was it a wisdom supernaturally taught
him by the Almighty? On the solution of this inquiry into the divine
legation of Moses hang momentous issues. It is too grand and important
an inquiry to be disregarded by any one who studies the writings of
Moses; it is too suggestive a subject to be passed over even in a
literary discourse, for this age is grappling with it in most earnest
struggles. No matter whether or not Moses was gifted in a most
extraordinary degree to write his code. Nobody doubts his transcendent
genius; nobody doubts his wonderful preparation. If any uninspired man
could have written it, doubtless it was he. It was the most learned and
accomplished of the apostles who was selected to be the expounder of the
gospel among the Gentiles; so it was the ablest man born among the Jews
who was chosen to give them a national polity. Nor does it detract from
his fame as a man of genius that he did not originate the most profound
of his declarations. It was fame enough to be the oracle and prophet of
Jehovah. I would not dishonor the source of all wisdom, even to magnify
the abilities of a great man, fond as critics are of exalting the wisdom
of Moses as a triumph of human genius. It is natural to worship
strength, human or divine. We adore mind; we glorify oracles. But
neither written history nor philosophy will support the work of Moses as
a wonder of mere human intellect, without ignoring the declarations of
Moses himself and the settled belief of all Christian ages.

It is not my object to make an argument in defence of the divine
legation of Moses; nor is it my design to reply to the learned
criticisms of those who doubt or deny his statements. I would not run
a-tilt against modern science, which may hereafter explain and accept
what it now rejects. Science--whether physical or metaphysical--has its
great truths, and so has Revelation; the realm of each is distinct while
yet their processes are incomplete: and it is the hope and firm belief
of many God-fearing scientists that the patient, reverent searching of
to-day into God's works, of matter and of mind, as it collects the
myriad facts and classifies them into such orderly sequences as indicate
the laws of their being, will confirm to men's reason their faith in the
revealed Word. Certainly this is a consummation devoutly to be wished. I
am not scientist enough to judge of its probability, but it is within my
province to present a few deductions which can be fairly drawn from the
denial of the inspiration of the Mosaic Code. I wish to show to what
conclusions this denial logically leads.

We must remember that Moses himself most distinctly and most
emphatically affirms his own divine legation; for is not almost every
chapter prefaced with these remarkable words, "And the Lord spake unto
Moses"? Jehovah himself, in some incomprehensible way, amid the
lightnings and the wonders of the sacred Mount, communicated His wisdom.
Now, if we disbelieve this direct and impressive affirmation made by
Moses,--that Jehovah directed him what to say to the people he was
called to govern,--why should we believe his other statements, which
involve supernatural agency or influence pertaining to the early history
of the race? Where, then, is his authority? What is it worth? He has
indeed no authority at all, except so far as his statements harmonize
with our own definite knowledge, and perhaps with scientific
speculations. We then make our own reason and knowledge, not the
declarations of Moses, the ultimate authority. As a divine oracle to us,
his voice is silent; ay, his august voice is drowned by the discordant
and contradictory opinions that are ever blended with the speculations
of the schools. He tells us, in language of the most impressive
simplicity and grandeur, that he _was_ directly instructed and
commissioned by Jehovah to communicate moral truths,--truths, we should
remember, which no one before him is known to have uttered, and truths
so important that the prosperity of nations is identified with them, and
will be so identified as long as men shall speculate and dream. If we
deny this testimony, then his narration of other facts, which we accept,
is not to be fully credited; like other ancient histories, it may be and
it may not be true,--but there is no certainty. However we may interpret
his detailed narration of the genesis of our world and our
race,--whether as chronicle or as symbolic poem,--its central theme and
thought, the direct creative agency of Jehovah, which it was his
privilege to announce, stands forth clear and unmistakable. Yet if we
deny the supernaturalism of the code, we may also deny the
supernaturalism of the creation, in so far as both rest on the
authority of Moses.

And, further, if Moses was not inspired directly from God to write his
code, then it follows that he--a man pre-eminent for wisdom, piety, and
knowledge--was an impostor, or at least, like Mohammed and George Fox, a
self-deceived and visionary man, since he himself affirms his divine
legation, and traces to the direct agency of Jehovah not merely his
code, but even the various deliverances of the Israelites. And not only
was Moses mistaken, but the Jewish nation, and Christ and the apostles,
and the greatest lights of the Church from Augustine to Bossuet.

Hence it follows necessarily that all the miracles by which the divine
legation of Moses is supported and credited, have no firm foundation,
and a belief in them is superstitious,--as indeed it is in all other
miracles recorded in the Scriptures, since they rest on testimony no
more firmly believed than that believed by Christ and the apostles
respecting Moses. Sweep away his authority as an inspiration, and you
undermine the whole authority of the Bible; you bring it down to the
level of all other books; you make it valuable only as a thesaurus of
interesting stories and impressive moral truths, which we accept as we
do all other kinds of knowledge, leaving us free to reject what we
cannot understand or appreciate, or even what we dislike.

Then what follows? Is it not the rejection of many of the most precious
revelations of the Bible, to which we _wish_ to cling, and without a
belief in which there would be the old despair of Paganism, the dreary
unsettlement of all religious opinions, even a disbelief in an
intelligent First Cause of the universe, certainly of a personal
God,--and thus a gradual drifting away to the dismal shores of that
godless Epicureanism which Socrates derided, and Paul and Augustine
combated? Do you ask for a confirmation of the truths thus deduced from
the denial of the supernaturalism of the Mosaic Code? I ask you to look
around. I call no names; I invoke no theological hatreds; I seek to
inflame no prejudices. I appeal to facts as incontrovertible as the
phenomena of the heavens. I stand on the platform of truth itself,
which we all seek to know and are proud to confess. Look to the
developments of modern thought, to some of the speculations of modern
science, to the spirit which animates much of our popular literature,
not in our country but in all countries, even in the schools of the
prophets and among men who are "more advanced," as they think, in
learning, and if you do not see a tendency to the revival of an
attractive but exploded philosophy,--the philosophy of Democritus; the
philosophy of Epicurus,--then I am in an error as to the signs of the
times. But if I am correct in this position,--if scepticism, or
rationalism, or pantheism, or even science, in the audacity of its
denials, or all these combined, are in conflict with the supernaturalism
which shines and glows in every book of the Bible, and are bringing back
for our acceptance what our fathers scorned,--then we must be allowed to
show the practical results, the results on life, which of necessity
followed the triumph of the speculative opinions of the popular idols of
the ancient world in the realm of thought. Oh, what a life was that!
what a poor exchange for the certitudes of faith and the simplicities of
patriarchal times! I do not know whether an Epicurean philosophy grows
out of an Epicurean life, or the life from the philosophy; but both are
indissolubly and logically connected. The triumph of one is the triumph
of the other, and the triumph of both is equally pointed out in the
writings of Paul as a degeneracy, a misfortune,--yea, a sin to be wiped
out only by the destruction of nations, or some terrible and unexpected
catastrophe, and the obscuration of all that is glorious and proud among
the works of men.

I make these, as I conceive, necessary digressions, because a discourse
on Moses would be pointless without them; at best only a survey of that
marvellous and favored legislator from the standpoint of secular
history. I would not pull him down from the lofty pedestal whence he has
given laws to all successive generations; a man, indeed, but shrouded in
those awful mysteries which the great soul of Michael Angelo loved to
ponder, and which gave to his creations the power of supernal majesty.

Thus did Moses, instructed by God,--for this is the great fact revealed
in his testimony,--lead the inconstant Israelites through a forty years'
pilgrimage, securing their veneration to the last. Thus did he keep them
from the idolatries for which they hankered, and preserved among them
allegiance to an invisible King. Thus did he impress his own mind and
character upon them, and shape their institutions with matchless wisdom.
Thus did he give them a system of laws--moral, ceremonial, and
civil--which kept them a powerful and peculiar people for more than a
thousand years, and secured a prosperity which culminated in the
glorious reigns of David and Solomon and a political power unsurpassed
in Western Asia, to see which the Queen of Sheba came from the uttermost
part of the earth,--nay, more, which first formulated for that little
corner of the world principles and precepts concerning the relations of
men to God and to one another which have been an inspiration to all
mankind for thousands of years.

Thus did this good and great man fulfil his task and deliver his
message, with no other drawbacks on his part than occasional bursts of
anger at the unparalleled folly and wickedness of his people. What
disinterestedness marks his whole career, from the time when he flies
from Pharaoh to the appointment of his successor, relinquishing without
regret the virtual government of Egypt, accepting cheerfully the
austerities and privations of the land of Midian, never elevating his
own family to power, never complaining in his herculean tasks! With what
eloquence does he plead for his people when the anger of the Lord is
kindled against them, ever regarding them as mere children who know no
self-control! How patient he is in the performance of his duties,
accepting counsel from Jethro and listening to the voice of Aaron! With
what stern and awful majesty does he lay down the law! What inspiration
gilds his features as he descends the Mount with the Tables in his
hands! How terrible he is amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, at
the rock of Horeb, at the dances around the golden calf, at the
rebellion of Korah and Dathan, at the waters of Meribah, at the burning
of Nadab and Abihu! How efficient he is in the administration of
justice, in the assemblies of the people, in the great councils of
rulers and princes, and in all the crises of the State; and yet how
gentle, forgiving, tender, and accessible! How sad he is when the people
weary of manna and seek flesh to eat! How nobly does he plead with the
king of Edom for a passage through his territories! How humbly does he
call on God for help amid perplexing cares! Never was a man armed with
such authority so patient and so self-distrustful. Never was so
experienced and learned a man so little conscious of his greatness.

     "This was the truest warrior
        That ever buckled sword;
      This the most gifted poet
        That ever breathed a word:
      And never earth's philosopher
        Traced with his golden pen,
      On the deathless page, truths half so sage,
        As he wrote down for men."

At length--at one hundred and twenty years of age, with undimmed eye and
unabated strength, after having done more for his nation and for
posterity than any ruler or king in the world's history, and won a fame
which shall last through all the generations of men, growing brighter
and brighter as his vast labors and genius are appreciated--the time
comes to lay down his burdens. So he assembles together the princes and
elders of Israel, recapitulates his laws, enumerates the mercies of the
God to whom he has ever been loyal, and gives his final instructions. He
appoints Joshua as his successor, adds words of encouragement to the
people, whom he so fervently loves, sings his final song, and ascends
the mountain above the plains of Moab, from which he is permitted to
see, but not to enter, the promised land; not pensive and sad like
Godfrey, because he cannot enter Jerusalem, but full of joyous visions
of the future glories of his nation, and breaking out in the language of
exultation, "Who is like unto thee, O people saved by Jehovah, the
shield of thy help and the sword of thy excellency!" So Moses, the like
of whom no prophet has since arisen (except that later One whom he
himself foretold), the greatest man in Jewish annals, passes away from
mortal sight, and Jehovah buries him in a valley of the land of Moab,
and no man knoweth his sepulchre until this day.

     "That was the grandest funeral
        That ever passed on earth;
      But no one heard the trampling,
        Or saw the train go forth,--
      Perchance the bald old eagle
        On gray Bethpeor's height,
      Out of his lonely eyrie
        Looked on the wondrous sight."

       *       *       *       *       *

     "And had he not high honor--
        The hillside for a pall--
      To lie in state, while angels wait
        With stars for tapers tall;
      And the dark rock-pines, like tossing plumes,
        Over his bier to wave,
      And God's own hand, in that lonely land,
        To lay him in the grave?"

       *       *       *       *       *

     "O lonely grave in Moab's land!
        O dark Bethpeor's hill!
      Speak to these curious hearts of ours,
        And teach them to be still!
      God hath his mysteries of grace,
        Ways that we cannot tell;
      He hides them deep, like the hidden sleep
        Of him he loved so well."


1100 B.C.


After Moses, and until David arose, it would be difficult to select any
man who rendered greater services to the Israelitish nation than Samuel.
He does not stand out in history as a man of dazzling intellectual
qualities; but during a long life he efficiently labored to give to the
nation political unity and power, and to reclaim it from idolatries. He
was both a political and moral reformer,--an organizer of new forces, a
man of great executive ability, a judge and a prophet. He made no
mistakes, and committed no crimes. In view of his wisdom and sanctity it
is evident that he would have adorned the office of high-priest; but as
he did not belong to the family of Aaron, this great dignity could not
be conferred on him. His character was reproachless. He was, indeed, one
of the best men that ever lived, universally revered while living, and
equally mourned when he died. He ruled the nation in a great crisis, and
his influence was irresistible, because favored alike by God and man.

Samuel lived in one of the most tumultuous and unsettled periods of
Jewish history, when the nation was in a transition state from anarchy
to law, from political slavery to national independence. When he
appeared, there was no settled government; the surrounding nations were
still unconquered, and had reduced the Israelites to humiliating
dependence. Deliverers had arisen occasionally from the time of
Joshua,--like Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson,--but their victories were
not decisive or permanent. Midianites, Amorites, and Philistines
successively oppressed Israel, from generation to generation; they even
succeeded in taking away their weapons of war. Resistance to this
tyranny was apparently hopeless, and the nation would have sunk into
despair but for occasional providential aid. The sacred ark was for a
time in the hands of enemies, and Shiloh, the religious capital,--abode
of the tabernacle and the ark,--had been burned. Every smith's forge
where a sword or a spear-head could be rudely made was shut up, and the
people were forced to go to the forges of their oppressors to get even
their ploughshares sharpened.

On the death of Joshua (about 1350 B.C.), who had succeeded Moses and
led the Israelites into Canaan, "nearly the whole of the sea-coast, all
the strongholds in the rich plain of Esdraelon, and, in the heart of
the country, the invincible fortress of Jebus [later site of Jerusalem],
were still in the hands of the unbelievers." The conquest therefore was
yet imperfect, like that of the Christianized Saxons in the time of
Alfred over the pagan Danes in England. The times were full of peril and
fear. They developed the military energies of the Israelites, but bred
license, robbery, and crime,--a wild spirit of personal independence
unfavorable to law and order. In those days "every man did that which
was right in his own eyes." It was a period of utter disorder, anarchy,
and lawlessness, like the condition of Germany and Italy in the Middle
Ages. The persons who bore rule permanently were the princes or heads of
the several tribes, the judges, and the high-priest; and in that
primitive state of society these dignitaries rode on asses, and lived in
tents. The virtues of the people were rough, and their habits warlike.
Their great men were fighters. Samson was a sort of Hercules, and
Jephthah an Idomeneus,--a lawless freebooter. The house of Micah was
like a feudal castle; the Benjamite war was like the strife of Highland
clans. Jael was a Hebrew Boadicea; Gideon, at the head of his three
hundred men, might have been a hero of mediaeval romance.

The saddest thing among these social and political evils was a great
decline of religious life. The priesthood was disgraced by the
prevailing vices of the times. The Mosaic rites may have been
technically observed, but the officiating priests were sensual and
worldly, while gross darkness covered the land. The high-priests
exercised but a feeble influence; and even Eli could not, or did not,
restrain the glaring immoralities of his own sons. In those evil days
there were no revelations from Jehovah, and there was no divine vision
among the prophets. Never did a nation have greater need of a deliverer.

It was then that Samuel arose, and he first appears as a pious boy,
consecrated to priestly duties by a remarkable mother. His childhood was
passed in the sacred tent of Shiloh, as an attendant, or servant, of the
aged high-priest, or what would be called by the Catholic Church an
acolyte. He belonged to the great tribe of Ephraim, being the son of
Elkanah, of whom nothing is worthy of notice except that he was a
polygamist. His mother Hannah (or Anna), however, was a Hebrew Saint
Theresa, almost a Nazarite in her asceticism and a prophetess in her
gifts; her song of thanksgiving on the birth of Samuel, for a special
answer to her prayer, is one of the most beautiful remains of Hebrew
poetry. From his infancy Samuel was especially dedicated to the service
of God. He was not a priest, since he did not belong to the priestly
caste; but the Lord was with him, and raised him up to be more than
priest,--even a prophet and a judge. When a mere child, it was he who
declared to Eli the ruin of his house, since he had not restrained the
wickedness and cruelty of his sons. From that time the prophetic
character of Samuel was established, and his influence constantly
increased until he became the foremost man of his nation, second to no
one in power and dignity since the time of Moses.

But there is not much recorded of him until twenty years after the death
of Eli, who lived to be ninety. It was during this period that the
Philistines had carried away the sacred ark from Shiloh, and had overrun
the country and oppressed the Hebrews, who it seems had fallen into
idolatry, worshipping Ashtaroth and other strange gods. It was Samuel,
already recognized as a great prophet and judge, who aroused the nation
from its idolatry and delivered it from the hand of the Philistines at
Mizpeh, where a great battle was fought, so that these terrible foes
were subdued, and came no more into the borders of Israel during the
days of Samuel; and all the cities they had taken, from Ekron unto Gath,
were restored. The subjection of the Philistines was followed by the
undisputed rule of Samuel, under the name of Judge, during his life,
even after the consecration of Saul.

The Israelitish Judge seems to have been a sort of dictator, called to
power by the will of the people in times of great emergency and peril,
as among the Romans. "The Theocracy," says Ewald, "by pronouncing any
human ruler unnecessary as a permanent element of the State, lapsed into
anarchy and weakness. When a nation is without a government strong
enough to repress lawlessness within and to protect from foes without,
the whole people very soon divides once more into the two ranks of
master and servant. In Deborah's songs all Israel, so far as lay in her
circle of vision, was divided into princes and people. Hence the nation
consisted of innumerable self-constituted and self-sustained kingdoms,
formed whenever some chieftain elevated himself whom individuals or the
body of citizens in a town were willing to serve. Gaal, son of Zobah,
entered Shechem with troops raised by himself, just like a condottiere
in Italy in the Middle Ages. As it became evident that the nation could
not permanently dispense with an earthly government, it was forced to
rally round some powerful leader; and as the Theocracy was still
acknowledged by the best of the nation, these leaders, who owed their
power to circumstances, could not easily be transformed into regular
kings, but to exceptional dictators the State offered no strong

And yet these rulers arose not solely by force of individual prowess,
but were expressly raised up by God as deliverers of the nation in times
of peculiar peril. And further, the spirit of Jehovah came upon them,
as it did upon Deborah the prophetess, and as it did still more
remarkably upon Moses himself.

The last and greatest of these extemporized leaders called Judges, was
Samuel. In him the people learned to put their trust; and the national
assembly which he summoned was completely guided by him. No one of the
Judges, it would seem, had his seat of government in any central city,
but where he happened to live. So the residence of Samuel was at his
native town of Ramah, where he married. It would seem that he travelled
from city to city to administer justice, like the judges of England on
their circuits; but, unlike them, on his own supreme authority,--not
with power delegated by a king, but acknowledging no superior except God
himself, from whom he received his commission. We know not at what time
and whom he married; but his two sons, who in his old age shared power
with him, did not discharge their delegated functions more honorably
than the sons of Eli, who had been a disgrace to their office, to their
father, and to the nation. One of the greatest mysteries of human life
is the seeming inability of pious fathers to check the vices of their
children, who often go astray under an apparently irresistible impulse
or innate depravity, in spite of parental precept and example,--thus
seeming to show that neither virtue nor vice can be surely transmitted,
and that every human being stands on his individual responsibility, with
peculiar temptations to combat, and peculiar circumstances to influence
him. The son of a saint becomes mysteriously a drunkard or a fraud, and
the son of a sensualist becomes an ascetic. This does not uniformly
occur: in fact, the sons of good men are more likely to be an honor to
their families than the sons of the wicked; but why are exceptions so
common as to be proverbial?

It was no light work which was imposed on the shoulders of Samuel,--to
establish law and order among the demoralized tribes of the Jews, and to
prepare them for political independence; and it was a still greater
labor to effect a moral reformation and reintroduce the worship of
Jehovah. Both of these objects he seems to have accomplished; and his
success places him in the list of great reformers, like Mohammed and
Luther,--but greater and better than either, since he did not attempt,
like the former, to bring about a good end by bad means; nor was he
stained by personal defects, like the latter. "It was his object to
re-enkindle the national life of the nation, so as to combat
successfully its enemies in the field, which could be attained by
rousing a common religious feeling;" for he saw that there could be no
true enthusiasm without a sense of dependence on the God of battles, and
that heroism could be stimulated only by exalted sentiments, both of
patriotism and religion.

But how was Samuel to rekindle a fervent religious life among the
degenerate Israelites in such unsettled times? Only by rousing the
people by his teachings and his eloquence. He was a preacher of
righteousness, and in all probability went from city to city and village
to village,--as Saint Bernard did when he preached a crusade against the
infidels, as John the Baptist did when he preached repentance, as
Whitefield did when he sought to kindle religious enthusiasm in England.
So he set himself to educate his countrymen in the great truths which
appealed to the inner life,--to the heart and conscience. This he did,
first, by rousing the slumbering spirits of the elders of tribes when
they sought his counsel as a prophet, the like of whom had not appeared
since Moses, so gifted and so earnest; and secondly, by founding a
school for the education of young men who should go with his
instructions wherever he chose to send them, like the early
missionaries, to hamlets and villages which he was unable to visit in
person. The first "school of the prophets" was a seminary of
missionaries, animated by the spirit of a teacher whom they feared and
admired as no prophet had been revered in the whole history of the
nation since Moses.

Samuel communicated his own burning spirit wherever he went, and the
burden of his eloquence was zeal and loyalty for Jehovah. Before his
time the prophets had been known as seers; but Samuel superadded the
duties of a religious teacher,--the spokesman of the Almighty. The
number of his disciples, whom he doubtless commissioned as evangelists,
must have been very large. They lived in communities and ate in common,
like the primitive monks. They probably resembled the early Dominican
and Franciscan friars of the Middle Ages, who were kindled to enthusiasm
by such teachers as Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura. Like them they were
ascetics in their habits and dress, wearing sheepskins, and living on
locusts and wild honey,--on the fruits which grew spontaneously in the
rich valleys of their well-watered country. It did not require much
learning to arouse the common people to new duties and a higher
religious life. The Bible does not inform us as to the details by which
Samuel made his influence felt, but there can be no doubt that by some
means he kindled a religious life before unknown among his countrymen.
He infused courage and hope into their despairing hearts, and laid the
foundation of military enthusiasm by combining with it religious ardor;
so that by the discipline of forty years,--the same period employed by
Moses in transmuting a horde of slaves into a national host of warriors;
a period long enough to drop out the corrupted elements and replace
them with the better trained rising generation,--the nation was prepared
for accomplishing the victories of Saul and David. But for Samuel no
great captains would have arisen to lead the scattered and dispirited
hosts of Israel against the Philistines and other enemies. He was thus a
political leader as well as a religious teacher, combining the offices
of judge and prophet. Everybody felt that he was directly commissioned
by God, and his words had the force of inspiration. He reigned with as
much power as a king over all the tribes, though clad in the garments of
humility. Who in all Israel was greater than he, even after he had
anointed Saul to the kingly office?

The great outward event in the life of Samuel was the transition of the
Israelites from a theocratic to a monarchical government. It was a
political revolution, and like all revolutions was fraught with both
good and evil, yet seemingly demanded by the spirit of the times,--in
one sense an advance in civilization, in another a retrogression in
primeval virtues. It resulted in a great progress in material arts,
culture, and power, but also in a decline in those simplicities that
favor a religious life, on which the strength of man is apparently
built,--that is, a state of society in which man in his ordinary life
draws nearest to his Maker, to his kindred, and his home; to which
luxury and demoralizing pleasures are unknown; a life free from
temptations and intellectual snares, from political ambition and social
unrest, from recognized injustice and stinging inequalities. The
historian with his theory of development might call this revolution the
change from national youth to manhood, the emerging from the dark ages
of Hebrew history to a period of national aggrandizement and growth in
civilization,--one of the necessary changes which must take place if a
nation would become strong, powerful, and cultivated. To the eye of the
contemplative, conservative, and God-fearing Samuel this change of
government seemed full of perils and dangers, for which the nation was
not fully prepared. He felt it to be a change which might wean the
Israelites from their new sense of dependence on God, the only hope of
nations, and which might favor another lapse to pagan idolatries and a
decline in household virtues, such as had been illustrated in the life
of Ruth and Boaz,--and hence might prove a mere exchange of that rugged
life which elevates the soul, for those gilded glories which adorn and
pamper the mortal body. He certainly foresaw and knew that the change in
government would produce tyranny, oppression, and injustice, from which
there could be no escape and for which there could be no redress, for he
told the people in detail just what they should suffer at the hands of
any king whom they might have; and these were in his eyes evils which
nothing could compensate,--the loss of liberty, the extinction of
personal independence, and a probable rebellion against the Supreme
Jehovah in the degrading worship of the gods of idolatrous nations.

When the people, therefore, under the guidance of so-called "progressive
leaders," hankered for a government which would make them like other
nations, and demanded a king, the prophet was greatly moved and sore
displeased; and this displeasure was heightened by a bitter humiliation
when the elders reproached him because of the misgovernment of his own
sons. He could not at first say a word, in view of a demand apparently
justified by the conduct of the existing rulers. There was a just cause
of complaint. If his own sons would take bribes in rendering judgment,
who could be trusted? Civilization would say that there was needed a
stronger arm to punish crime and enforce the laws.

So Samuel, perplexed and disheartened, fearing that the political
changes would be evil rather than good, and yet feeling unable to combat
the popular voice, sought wisdom in prayer. "And the Lord said, hearken
unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee, for they
have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should reign
over them. Now therefore hearken unto their voice; howbeit yet protest
solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall
reign over them." The Almighty would not take away the free-will of the
people; but Samuel is required to show them the perversity of their
will, and that if they should choose evil the consequences would be on
their heads and the heads of their children, from generation to

Samuel therefore spake unto the people,--probably the elders and leading
men, for the aristocratic element of society prevailed, as in the Middle
Ages of feudal Europe, when even royal power was merely nominal, and
barons and bishops ruled,--and said: "This will be the manner of the
king that shall reign over you: He shall take your sons and appoint them
for himself for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run
before his chariots; and he shall appoint captains over thousands and
captains over fifties, and will set them to ear [plough] his ground and
reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the
instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be
confectioners [or perfumers] and cooks and bakers. And he will take your
fields and your vineyards and your olive-yards, even the best of them,
and give them to his servants; and he will take the tenth of your seed
and of your vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants. And
he will take your men-servants and your maid-servants, and your
goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. And he
will take the tenth of your sheep; and ye shall be his servants. And ye
will cry out in that day because of your king which ye have chosen you,
and the Lord will not hear you in that day."

Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they
said, "Nay, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like
all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us,
and fight our battles." It would thus appear that the monarchy which the
people sought would necessarily become nearly absolute, limited only by
the will of God as interpreted by priests and prophets,--for the
theocracy was not to be destroyed, but still maintained as even superior
to the royal authority. The future king was to be supreme in affairs of
state, in the direction of armies, in the appointment of captains and
commanders, in the general superintendence of the realm in worldly
matters; but he could not go contrary to the divine commands as they
would be revealed to him, without incurring a fearful penalty. He could
not interfere with the functions of the priesthood under any pretence
whatever; and further, he was required to rule on principles of equity
and immutable justice. He could not repel the divine voice, whether it
spake to his consciousness or was revealed to him by divinely
commissioned prophets, without the certainty of divine chastisement.
Thus was his power limited, even by invisible forces superior to his
own; for Jehovah had not withdrawn his special jurisdiction over the
chosen people for whom he was preparing a splendid destiny,--that is,
through them, the redemption of the world.

Whether the people of Israel did not believe the predictions of the
prophet, or wished to have a kingly government in spite of its evils, in
order to become more powerful as a nation, we do not know. All that we
know is that they persisted in their demand, and that God granted their
request. With all the memories and traditions of their slavery in the
land of Egypt, and the grinding despotism incident to an absolute
monarchy of which their ancestors bore witness, they preferred despotism
with its evils to the independence they had enjoyed under the Judges;
for nationality, to which the Jewish people were casting longing eyes,
demands law and order as the first condition of society. In obedience to
this same principle the grinding monarchy of Louis XIV. seemed
preferable to the turbulence and anarchy of the Middle Ages, since
unarmed and obscure citizens felt safe in their humble avocations. In
like manner, after the license of the French Revolution the people said,
"Give us a king once more!" and seated Napoleon on the throne of the
Bourbons,--a ruler who took one man out of every five adults to recruit
his armies and consolidate his power, which he called the glory of
France. Thus kings have reigned by the will of the people,--or, as they
call it, by the grace of God,--from Saul and David to our own times,
except in those few countries where liberty is preferred to material
power and military laurels.

The peculiar situation of the Israelites in a narrow strip of territory
which was the highway between Syria and Egypt, likely to be overrun by
Aramaeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians, to say nothing of the
hostile nations which surrounded them, such as Moabites and Philistines,
necessarily made them a warlike people (like the inhabitants of the
Swiss Cantons five or six hundred years ago), and they were hence led to
put a high estimate on military qualities, especially on the general who
led them to battle. They accordingly desired a greater centralized power
than the Judges wielded, which could be exercised only by a king,
intrenched in a strong capital. Their desire for a king was natural, and
almost excusable if they were willing to pay the inevitable price. They
simply wished to surrender liberty for protection and political safety.
They did not repudiate the fundamental doctrine of their religion; they
simply wanted a change of government,--a more efficient administration.

The selection of a king did not rest with the people, however, but with
the great prophet who had ruled them with so much wisdom and ability,
and who was regarded as the interpreter of the will of God.

Samuel, by the direction of God, did not go into the powerful tribe of
Ephraim, which possessed one half of the Israelitish territory, to
select a sovereign, but to the smallest of the tribes, that of
Benjamin,--the most warlike, however,--and to one of the least of the
families of that tribe, dwelling in very humble life. Kish, the
Benjamite, had sent out his son Saul in quest of three asses which had
strayed away from the farm,--a man so poor that he had no money to give
to the seer who should direct his search, as was customary, and was
obliged to borrow a quarter of a shekel from his servant when they went
together to seek the counsel of Samuel. But this obscure youth was "a
choice young man, and a goodly." He had a commanding presence, was very
beautiful, and was head and shoulders taller than any other man of his
tribe,--a man every way likely to succeed in war. Samuel no sooner saw
the commanding figure and intelligent countenance of Saul than he was
assured that this was the man whom the Lord had chosen to be the future
captain and champion of Israel. He at once treated him with
distinguished honor, and made him sit at his own table, much to the
amazement of the thirty nobles who also were bidden to a banquet. The
prophet took the young man aside, conducted him to the top of his
house, anointed him with the sacred oil, kissed him (a form of
allegiance), and communicated to him the will of God. But Saul was only
privately consecrated, and with rare discretion told no man of his good
fortune,--for he had not yet distinguished himself in any way, and would
have been laughed to scorn by his relatives, as Joseph was by his
brothers, had he revealed his destiny.

Nor did Samuel dare to tell the people of the man whom the Lord had
chosen to rule over them, but assembled all the tribes, that the choice
might be publicly indicated. Probably to their astonishment the little
tribe of Benjamin was "taken,"--that is pointed out, presumably by lot,
as was their custom when appealing for divine direction; and out of the
tribe of Benjamin the family of Matri was chosen, and Saul the son of
Kish was selected. But Saul could not be found. With rare modesty and
humility he had hidden himself. When at length they brought him from his
hiding-place Samuel said unto the people, "See ye him whom the Lord hath
chosen, that there is none like him among all the people!" And such was
the authority of Samuel that the people shouted, saying, "God save the
king!"--a circumstance interesting as being the first recorded utterance
of a cry that has been echoed the world over by many a loyal people.

Not yet, however, was Saul clothed with full power as a king. Samuel
still remained the acknowledged ruler until Saul should distinguish
himself in battle. This soon took place. With heroic valor he delivered
Jabesh-Gilead from the hosts of the Ammonites when that city was about
to fall into their hands, and silenced the envy of his enemies. In a
burst of popular enthusiasm Samuel collected the people in Gilgal, and
there formally installed Saul as King of Israel.

Samuel was now an old man, and was glad to lay down his heavy burden and
put it on the shoulders of Saul. Yet he did not retire from the active
government without making a memorable speech to the assembled nation, in
which with transcendent dignity he appealed to the people in attestation
of his incorruptible integrity as a judge and ruler. "Behold, here I am!
Witness against me before the Lord, and before his anointed. Whose ox
have I taken, or whose ass have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Or of
whose hand have I received any bribe to blind my eyes therewith? And
they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us; neither hast
thou taken aught of any man's hand." Then Samuel closed his address with
an injunction to both king and people to obey the commandments of God,
and denouncing the penalty of disobedience: "Only fear the Lord, and
serve Him in truth and with all your heart, for consider what great
things He hath done for you; but if ye shall do wickedly, ye shall be
consumed,--both ye and your king."

Saul for a time gave no offence worthy of rebuke, but was a valiant
captain, smiting the Philistines, who were the most powerful enemies
that the Israelites had yet encountered. But in an evil day he forgot
his true vocation, and took upon himself the function of a priest by
offering burnt sacrifices, which was not lawful but for the priest
alone. For this he was rebuked by Samuel. "Thou hast done foolishly," he
said to the King; "for which thy kingdom shall not continue. The Lord
hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded
him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which
the Lord commanded thee." We here see the blending of the theocratic
with the kingly rule.

Nevertheless Saul was prospered in his wars. He fought successfully the
Moabites, the Ammonites, the Edomites, the Amalekites, and the
Philistines, aided by his cousin Abner, whom he made captain of his
host. He did much to establish the kingdom; but he was rather a great
captain than a great man. He did not fully perceive his mission, which
was to fight, but meddled with affairs which belonged to the priests.
Nor was he always true to his mission as a warrior. He weakly spared
Agag, King of the Amalekites, which again called forth the displeasure
and denunciation of Samuel, who regarded the conduct of the King as
direct rebellion against God, since he was commanded to spare none of
that people, they having shown an uncompromising hostility to the
Israelites in their days of weakness, when first entering Canaan. This,
and similar commands laid upon the Israelites at various times, to
"utterly destroy" certain tribes or individuals and all of their
possessions, have been justified on the ground of the bestial grossness
and corruption of those pagan idolaters and the vileness of their
religious rites and social customs, which unfortunately always found a
temptable side on the part of the Israelites, and repeatedly brought to
nought the efforts of Jehovah's prophets to bring up their people in the
fear of the Lord, to recognize Him, only, as God. It was not easy for
that sensual race to stand on the height of Moses, and "endure as seeing
him who is invisible." They too easily fell into idolatry; hence the
necessity of the extermination of some of the nests of iniquity
in Canaan.

Whether Saul spared Agag because of his personal beauty, to grace his
royal triumph, or whatever the motive, it was a direct disobedience; and
when the king attempted to exculpate himself, inasmuch as he had made a
sacrifice of the spoil to the Lord, Samuel replied: "Hath the Lord as
great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices as in obeying his
voice?... Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than
the fat of rams,--for rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and
stubbornness as an iniquity and idolatry." The prophet here sets forth,
as did Isaiah in later times, the great principles of moral obligation
as paramount over all ceremonial observances. He strikes a blow at all
pharisaism and all self-righteousness, and inculcates obedience to
direct commands as the highest duty of man.

Saul, perceiving that he had sinned, confessed his transgression, but
palliated it by saying that he feared the people. But this policy of
expediency had no weight with the prophet, although Saul repented and
sought pardon. Samuel continued his stern rebuke, and uttered his
fearful message, saying, "Jehovah hath rent the kingdom of Israel from
thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbor of thine that is better
than thou." Furthermore Samuel demanded that Agag, whom Saul had spared,
should be brought before him; and he took upon himself with his aged
hand the work of executioner, and hewed the king of the Amalekites in
pieces in Gilgal. He then finally departed from Saul, and mournfully
went to his own house in Ramah, and Saul saw him no more. As the king
was the "Lord's anointed," Samuel could not openly rebel against kingly
authority, but he would henceforth have nothing to do with the
headstrong ruler. He withdrew from him all spiritual guidance, and left
him to his follies and madness; for the inextinguishable jealousy of
Saul, that now began to appear, was a species of insanity, which
poisoned his whole subsequent life. The people continued loyal to a king
whom God had selected, but Samuel "came no more to see Saul until the
day of his death." To be deserted by such a counsellor as Samuel, was no
small calamity.

Meanwhile, in obedience to instructions from God, Samuel proceeded to
Bethlehem, to the humble abode of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah, one of
whose sons he was required to anoint as the future king of Israel. He
naturally was about to select the largest and finest looking of the
seven sons; but God looketh on the heart rather than the outward
appearance, and David, a mere youth, and the youngest of the family, was
the one indicated by Jehovah, and was privately anointed by the prophet.

Saul, of course, did not know on whom the choice had fallen as his
successor, but from that day on which he was warned of the penalty of
his disobedience divine favor departed from him, and he became jealous,
fitful, and cruel. He presented a striking contrast to the character he
had shown in his early days,--being no longer modest and humble, but
proud and tyrannical. Prosperity and power had turned his head, and
developed all that was evil in him. Nero was not more unreasonable and
bloodthirsty than was Saul in his latter days. Prosperity developed in
Solomon a love of magnificence, in Nebuchadnezzar a towering vanity, but
in Saul a malignant envy of all extraordinary merit, and a sullen
determination to destroy the persons it adorned. The last person in his
kingdom of whom apparently he had reason to be jealous, was the ruddy
and beardless youth whom he had sent for to drive away his melancholy by
his songs and music. Nor was it until David killed Goliath that Saul
became jealous; before this he had no cause of envy, for kings do not
envy musicians, but reward them. David's reward was as extravagant as
that which Russian emperors shower upon singers and dancers: he was made
armor-bearer to the King,--an office bestowed only upon favorites and
those who were implicitly trusted and beloved. Little did the moody and
jealous King imagine that the youth whom he had brought from obscurity
to amuse his melancholy hours by his music, and probably his wit and
humor, would so soon, by his own sanction, become the champion of
Israel, and ultimately his successor on the throne.

In the latter part of the reign of Saul the enemies with whom he had to
contend were the various Canaanitish nations that had remained
unconquered during the hard struggle of four hundred years after the
Hebrews had been led by Joshua to the promised land. The most powerful
of these nations were the Philistines. "Strong in their military
organization, fierce in their warlike spirit, and rich by their position
and commercial instincts, they even threatened the ancient supremacy of
the Phoenicians of the north. Their cities were the restless centres of
every form of activity. Ashdod and Gaza, as the keys of Egypt, commanded
the carrying trade to and from the Nile, and formed the great depots for
its imports and exports. All the cities, moreover, traded in slaves with
Edom and southern Arabia, and their commerce in other directions
flourished so greatly as to gain for the people at large the name of
Canaanites,--which was synonymous with 'merchant,' Even the word
'Palestine' is derived from the Philistines. Their skill as smiths and
armorers was noted; the strength of their cities attest their strength
as builders, and their idols and golden mice and emerods show their
respect for the arts of peace." It is supposed that they had settled in
Canaan about the time of Abraham, and were originally a pastoral people
in the neighborhood of Gesar, or emigrants from Crete. When the
Israelites under Joshua arrived, they were in full possession of the
southern part of Palestine, and had formed a confederacy of five
powerful cities,--Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron. In the time
of the Judges they had become so prosperous and powerful that they held
the Israelites in partial subjection, broken at intervals by heroes like
Shamgar and Samson. Under Eli there was an organized but unsuccessful
resistance to these prosperous and warlike heathen. Under Samuel the
tide of success was turned in Israel's favor at the battle of Mizpeh,
when the Israelites erected their pillar at Ebenezer as a token of
victory. The battle of Michmash, gained by Saul and Jonathan after an
immense slaughter of their foes, was so decisive that for twenty-five
years the Israelites were unmolested. In the latter part of the reign of
Saul the Philistines attempted to regain their ascendency, but on the
death of Goliath at the hand of David they were driven to their own
territories. The battle of Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan were slain,
again turned the scale in favor of the Philistines. Under David the
Israelites resumed the aggressive, took Gath, and completely broke
forever the ascendency of their powerful foes. Under Solomon it would
appear that the whole of Philistia was incorporated with the Hebrew
monarchy, and remained so until the calamities of the Jews gave
Philistia to the Assyrian conquerors of Jerusalem, and finally it fell
into the hands of the Romans. The Philistines were zealous idolaters,
and in times of great religious apostasy they succeeded in introducing
the worship of their gods among the Israelites, especially that of Baal
and Ashtaroth.

Samuel did not live to see the complete humiliation of his nation which
succeeded the bloody battle when Saul was slain; but he lived to a good
old age, and never lost his influence over the Israelites, whom he had
rescued from idolatry and to whom he had given political unity. Although
Saul was king, we are told that Samuel judged Israel all the days of his
life. He died universally lamented. There is no record in the Scriptures
of a death attended with such profound and general mourning. All Israel
mourned for him. They mourned because he was a good man, unstained by
crime or folly; they mourned because their judge and oracle and friend
had passed away; they mourned because he had been their intercessor with
God himself, and the interpreter of the divine will. His like would
never appear again in Israel. "He represents the independence of the
moral law, as distinct from regal and sacerdotal enactments. If a
Levite, he was not a priest. He was a prophet, the first in the regular
succession of prophets. He was also the founder of the first regular
institutions of religious instruction, and communities for the purposes
of education. From these institutions were developed the universities of

In a spiritual and religious sense the prophet takes the highest rank
in the kingdom of God on earth. Among the Hebrews he was the interpreter
of the divine will; he predicted future events. He was a preacher of
righteousness; he was the counsellor of kings and princes; he was a sage
and oracle among the people. He was a reformer, teaching the highest
truths and restoring the worship of God when nations were sunk in
idolatry; he was the mouth-piece of the Eternal, for warning, for
rebuke, for encouragement, for chastisement. He was divinely inspired,
armed with supernatural powers,--a man whom the people feared and
obeyed, sometimes honored, sometimes stoned; one who bore heavy
responsibilities, and of whom were demanded disagreeable duties. We
associate with the idea of a prophet both wisdom and virtue, great gifts
and great personal piety. We think of him as a man who lived a secluded
life of meditation and prayer, in constant communion with God and
removed from all worldly rewards,--a man indifferent to ordinary
pleasures, to outward pomp and show, free from personal vanity, lofty in
his bearing, independent in his mode of life, spiritual in his aims,
fervent and earnest in his exhortations, living above the world in the
higher regions of faith and love, disdaining praises and honors, soft
raiment and luxurious food, and maintaining a proud equality with the
greatest personages; a man not to be bought, and not to be deterred
from his purpose by threatenings or intimidation or flatteries,
commanding reverence, and exalted as a favorite of heaven. It was not
necessary that the prophet should be a priest or even a Levite. He was
greater than any impersonation of sacerdotalism, sacred in his person
and awful in his utterances, unassisted by ritualistic forms, declaring
truths which appealed to consciousness,--a kind of spiritual dictator
who inspired awe and reverence.

In one sense or another most of the august characters of the Old
Testament were prophets,--Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Elijah, Daniel,
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. They either foretold the future, or rebuked
kings as messengers of omnipotence, or taught the people great truths,
or uttered inspired melodies, or interpreted dreams, or in some way
revealed the ways and will of God. Among them were patriarchs, kings,
and priests, and sages uninvested with official functions. Some lived in
cities and others in villages, and others again in the wilderness and
desert places; some reigned in the palaces of pride, and others in the
huts of poverty,--yet all alike exercised a tremendous moral power. They
were the national poets and historians of Judaea, preachers of
patriotism as well as of religion and morals, exercising political as
well as spiritual power. Those who stand out pre-eminently in the
sacred writings were gifted with the power of revealing the future
destinies of nations, and above all other things the peculiarities of
the Messianic reign.

Samuel was not called to declare those profound truths which relate to
the appearance and reign of Christ as the Saviour of mankind, nor the
fate of idolatrous nations, nor even the future vicissitudes connected
with the Hebrew nation, but to found a school of religious teachers, to
revive the worship of Jehovah, guide the conduct of princes, and direct
the general affairs of the nation as commanded by God. He was the first
and most favored of the great prophets, and exercised an influence as a
prophet never equalled by any who succeeded him. He was a great prophet,
since for forty years he ruled Israel by direct divine illumination,--a
holy man who communed with God, great in speech and great in action. He
did not rise to the lofty eloquence of Isaiah, nor foresee the fate of
nations like Daniel and Ezekiel; but he was consulted and obeyed as a
man who knew the divine will, gifted beyond any other man of his age in
spiritual insight, and trusted implicitly for his wisdom and sanctity.
These were the excellences which made him one of the most extraordinary
men in Jewish history, rendering services to his nation which cannot
easily be exaggerated.


1055-1015 B.C.


Considering how much has been written about David in all the nations of
Christendom, and how familiar Christian people are with his life and
writings, it would seem presumptuous to attempt a lecture on this
remarkable man, especially since it is impossible to add anything
essentially new to the subject. The utmost that I can do is to select,
condense, and rearrange from the enormous quantity of matter which
learned and eloquent writers have already furnished.

The warrior-king who conquered the enemies of Israel in a dark and
desponding period; the sagacious statesman who gave unity to its various
tribes, and formed them into a powerful monarchy; the matchless poet who
bequeathed to all ages a lofty and beautiful psalmody; the saint, who
with all his backslidings and inconsistencies was a man after God's own
heart,--is well worthy of our study. David was the most illustrious of
all the kings of whom the Jewish nation was proud, and was a striking
type of a good man occasionally enslaved by sin, yet breaking its bonds
and rising above subsequent temptations to a higher plane of goodness. A
man so elevated, with almost every virtue which makes a man beloved, and
yet with defects which will forever stain his memory, cannot easily be
portrayed. What character in history presents such wide contradictions?
What career was ever more varied? What recorded experiences are more
interesting and instructive?--a life of heroism, of adventures, of
triumphs, of humiliations, of outward and inward conflicts. Who ever
loved and hated with more intensity than David?--tender yet fierce,
brave yet weak, magnanimous yet unrelenting, exultant yet sad,
committing crimes yet triumphantly rising after disgraceful falls by the
force of a piety so ardent that even his backslidings now appear but as
spots upon a sun. His varied experiences call out our sympathy and
admiration more than the life of any secular hero whom poetry and
history have immortalized. He was an Achilles and a Ulysses, a Marcus
Aurelius and a Theodosius, an Alfred and a Saint Louis combined; equally
great in war and in peace, in action and in meditation; creating an
empire, yet transmitting to posterity a collection of poems identified
forever with the spiritual life of individuals and nations. Interesting
to us as are the events of David's memorable career, and the sentiments
and sorrows which extort our sympathy, yet it is the relation of a
sinful soul with its Maker, by which he infuses his inner life into all
other souls, and furnishes materials of thought for all generations.

David was the youngest and seventh son of Jesse, a prominent man of the
tribe of Judah, whose great-grandmother was Ruth, the interesting wife
of Boaz the Jew. He was born in Bethlehem, near Jerusalem,--a town
rendered afterward so illustrious as the birthplace of our Lord, who was
himself of the house and lineage of David. He first appears in history
at the sacrificial feast which his townspeople periodically held,
presided over by his father, when the prophet Samuel unexpectedly
appeared at the festival to select from the sons of Jesse a successor to
Saul. He was not tall and commanding like the Benjamite hero, but was
ruddy of countenance, with auburn hair, beautiful eyes, and graceful
figure, equally remarkable for strength and agility. He had the charge
of his father's sheep,--not the most honorable employment in the eyes of
his brothers, who, according to Ewald, treated him with little
consideration; but even as a shepherd boy he had already proved his
strength and courage by an encounter with a bear and a lion.

Until David was thirty years of age his life was identified with the
fading glories of the reign of Saul, who laid the foundation of the
military power of his successors,--a man who lacked only the one quality
imperative on the vicegerent of a supreme but invisible Power, that of
unquestioning obedience to the divine directions as interpreted by the
voice of prophets. Had Saul been loyal in his heart, as David was, to
the God of Israel, the sceptre might not have departed from his
house,--for he showed some of the highest qualities of a general and a
ruler, until his jealousy was excited by the brilliant exploits of the
son of Jesse. On these exploits and subsequent adventures, which invest
David's early career with the fascinations of a knight of chivalry, I
need not dwell. All are familiar with his encounter with Goliath, and
with his slaughter of the Philistines after he had slain the giant,
which called out the admiration of the haughty daughter of the king, the
love of the heir-apparent to the throne, and the applause of the whole
nation. I need not speak of his musical melodies, which drove the fatal
demon of melancholy from the royal palace; of his jealous expulsion by
the King, his hairbreadth escapes, his trials and difficulties as a
wanderer and exile, as a fugitive retreating to solitudes and caves of
the earth, parched with heat and thirst, exhausted with hunger and
fatigue, surrounded with increasing dangers,--yet all the while
forgiving and magnanimous, sparing the life of his deadly enemy,
unstained by a single vice or weakness, and soothing his stricken soul
with bursts of pious song unequalled for pathos and loftiness in the
whole realm of lyric poetry. He is never so interesting as amid caverns
and blasted desolations and serrated rocks and dried-up rivulets, when
his life is in constant danger. But he knows that he is the anointed of
the Lord, and has faith that in due time he will be called to
the throne.

It was not until the bloody battle with the Philistines, which
terminated the lives of both Saul and Jonathan, that David's reign began
in about his thirtieth year,[3]--first at Hebron, where he reigned seven
and one half years over his own tribe of Judah,--but not without the
deepest lamentations for the disaster which had caused his own
elevation. To the grief of David for the death of Saul and Jonathan we
owe one of the finest odes in Hebrew poetry. At this crisis in national
affairs, David had sought shelter with Achish, King of Gath, in whose
territory he, with the famous band of six hundred warriors whom he had
collected in his wanderings, dwelt in safety and peace. This apparent
alliance with the deadly enemy of the Israelites had displeased the
people. Notwithstanding all his victories and exploits, his anointment
at the hand of Samuel, his noble lyrics, his marriage with the daughter
of Saul, and the death of both Saul and Jonathan, there had been at
first no popular movement in David's behalf. The taking of decisive
action, however, was one of his striking peculiarities from youth to old
age, and he promptly decided, after consulting the Urim and Thummim, to
go at once to Hebron, the ancient sacred city of the tribe of Judah, and
there await the course of events. His faithful band of six hundred
devoted men formed the nucleus of an army; and a reaction in his favor
having set in, he was chosen king. But he was king only of the tribe to
which he belonged. Northern and central Palestine were in the hands of
the Philistines,--ten of the tribes still adhering to the house of Saul,
under the leadership of Abner, the cousin of Saul, who proclaimed
Ishbosheth king. This prince, the youngest of Saul's four sons, chose
for his capital Mahanaim, on the east of the Jordan.

[Footnote 3: Authorities differ as to the precise date of David's

Ishbosheth was, however, a weak prince, and little more than a puppet in
the hands of Abner, the most famous general of the day, who, organizing
what forces remained after the fatal battle of Gilboa, was quite a match
for David. For five years civil war raged between the rivals for the
ascendency, but success gradually secured for David the promised throne
of united Israel. Abner, seeing how hopeless was the contest, and
wishing to prevent further slaughter, made overtures to David and the
elders of Judah and Benjamin. The generous monarch received him
graciously, and promised his friendship; but, out of jealousy,--or
perhaps in revenge for the death of his brother Asahel, whom Abner had
slain in battle,--Joab, the captain of the King's chosen band,
treacherously murdered him. David's grief at the foul deed was profound
and sincere, but he could not afford to punish the general on whom he
chiefly relied. "Know ye," said David to his intimate friends, "that a
great prince in Israel has fallen to-day; but I am too weak to avenge
him, for I am not yet anointed king over the tribes." He secretly
disliked Joab from this time, and waited for God himself to repay the
evil-doer according to his wickedness. The fate of the unhappy and
abandoned Ishbosheth could not now long be delayed. He also was murdered
by two of his body-guard, who hoped to be rewarded by David for their
treachery; but instead of gaining a reward, they were summarily ordered
to execution. The sole surviving member of Saul's family was now
Mephibosheth, the only son of Jonathan,--a boy of twelve, impotent, and
lame. This prince, to the honor of David, was protected and kindly cared
for. David's magnanimity appears in that he made special search, asking
"Is there any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him the
kindness of God for Jonathan's sake?" The memory of the triumphant
conqueror was still tender and loyal to the covenant of friendship he
had made in youth, with the son of the man who for long years had
pursued him with the hate of a lifetime.

David was at this time thirty-eight years of age, in the prime of his
manhood, and his dearest wish was now accomplished; for on the burial of
Ishbosheth "came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron,"
formally reminded him of his early anointing to succeed Saul, and
tendered their allegiance. He was solemnly consecrated king, more than
eight thousand priests joining in the ceremony; and, thus far without a
stain on his character, he began his reign over united Israel. The
kingdom over which he was called to reign was the most powerful in
Palestine. Assyria, Egypt, China, and India were already empires; but
Greece was in its infancy, and Homer and Buddha were unborn.

The first great act of David after his second anointment was to transfer
his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, then a strong fortress in the
hands of the Jebusites. It was nearer the centre of his new kingdom than
Hebron, and yet still within the limits of the tribe of Judah, He took
it by assault, in which Joab so greatly distinguished himself that he
was made captain-general of the King's forces. From that time "David
went on growing great, and the Lord God of Hosts was with him." After
fortifying his strong position, he built a palace worthy of his capital,
with the aid of Phoenician workmen whom Hiram, King of Tyre, wisely
furnished him. The Philistines looked with jealousy on this impregnable
stronghold, and declared war; but after two invasions they were so badly
beaten that Gath, the old capital of Achish, passed into the hands of
the King of Israel, and the power of these formidable enemies was
broken forever.

The next important event in the reign of David was the transfer of the
sacred ark from Kirjath-jearim, where it had remained from the time of
Samuel, to Jerusalem. It was a proud day when the royal hero, enthroned
in his new palace on that rocky summit from which he could survey both
Judah and Samaria, received the symbol of divine holiness amid all the
demonstrations which popular enthusiasm could express. "And as the long
and imposing procession, headed by nobles, priests, and generals, passed
through the gates of the city, with shouts of praise and songs and
sacred dances and sacrificial rites and symbolic ceremonies and bands of
exciting music, the exultant soul of David burst out in the most
rapturous of his songs: 'Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift
up ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in!'"--thus
reiterating the fundamental truth which Moses taught, that the King of
Glory is the Lord Jehovah, to be forever worshipped both as a personal
God and the real Captain of the hosts of Israel.

"One heart alone," says Stanley, "amid the festivities which attended
this joyful and magnificent occasion, seemed to be unmoved. Whether she
failed to enter into its spirit, or was disgusted with the mystic dances
in which her husband shared, the stately daughter of Saul assailed David
on his return to his palace--not clad in his royal robes, but in the
linen ephod of the priests--with these bitter and disdainful words: 'How
glorious was the King of Israel to-day, as he uncovered himself in the
eyes of his handmaidens!'--an insult which forever afterward rankled in
his soul, and undermined his love." Thus was the most glorious day which
David ever saw, clouded by a domestic quarrel; and the proud princess
retired, until her death, to the neglected apartments of a dishonored
home. How one word of bitter scorn or harsh reproach will sometimes
sunder the closest ties between man and woman, and cause an alienation
which never can be healed, and which may perchance end in a
domestic ruin!

David had now passed from the obscurity of a chief of a wandering and
exiled band of followers to the dignity of an Oriental monarch, and
turned his attention to the organization of his kingdom and the
development of its resources. His army was raised to two hundred and
eighty thousand regular soldiers. His intimate friends and best-tried
supporters were made generals, governors, and ministers. Joab was
commander-in-chief; and Benaiah, son of the high-priest, was captain of
his body-guard,--composed chiefly of foreigners, after the custom of
princes in most ages. His most trusted counsellors were the prophets Gad
and Nathan. Zadok and Abiathar were the high-priests, who also
superintended the music, to which David gave special attention. Singing
men and women celebrated his victories. The royal household was
regulated by different grades of officers. But David departed from the
stern simplicity of Saul, and surrounded himself with pomps and guards.
None were admitted to his presence without announcement or without
obeisance, while he himself was seated on a throne, with a golden
sceptre in his hands and a jewelled crown upon his brow, clothed in
robes of purple and gold. He made alliances with powerful chieftains and
kings, and imitated their fashion of instituting a harem for his wives
and concubines,--becoming in every sense an Oriental monarch, except
that his power was limited by the constitution which had been given by
Moses. He reigned, it would seem, in justice and equity, and in
obedience to the commands of Jehovah, whose servant he felt himself to
be. Nor did he violate any known laws of morality, unless it were the
practice of polygamy, in accordance with the custom of all Eastern
potentates, permitted to them if not to their ordinary subjects. We
infer from all incidental notices of the habits of the Israelites at
this period that they were a remarkably virtuous people, with primitive
tastes and love of domestic life, among whom female chastity was
esteemed the highest virtue; and it is a matter of surprise that the
loose habits of the King in regard to women provoked so little comment
among his subjects, and called out so few rebukes from his advisers.

But he did not surrender himself to the inglorious luxury in which
Oriental monarchs lived. He retained his warlike habits, and in great
national crises he headed his own troops in battle. It would seem that
he was not much molested by external enemies for twenty years after
making Jerusalem his capital, but reigned in peace, devoting himself to
the welfare of his subjects, and collecting materials for the future
building of the Temple,--its actual erection being denied to him as a
man of blood. Everything favored the national prosperity of the
Israelites. There was no great power in western Asia to prevent them
founding a permanent monarchy; Assyria had been humbled; and Egypt,
under the last kings of the twentieth dynasty, had lost its ancient
prestige; the Philistines were driven to a narrow portion of their old
dominion, and the king of Tyre sought friendly alliance with David.

In the course of time, however, war broke out with Moab, followed by
other wars, which required all the resources of the Jewish kingdom, and
taxed to the utmost the energies of its bravest generals. Moab, lying
east of the Dead Sea, had at one time given refuge to David when pursued
by Saul, and he was even allied by blood to some of its people,--being
descended from Ruth, a Moabitish woman. The sacred writings shed but
little light on this war, or on its causes; but it was carried on with
unusual severity, only a third part of the people being spared alive,
and they reduced to slavery. A more important contest took place with
the kingdom of Ammon on the north, on the confines of Syria, caused by
the insults heaped on the ambassadors of David, whom he sent on a
friendly message to Hanun the King. The campaign was conducted by Joab,
who gained brilliant victories, without however crushing the Ammonites,
who again rallied with a vast array of mercenaries gathered in their
support. David himself took the field with the whole force of his
kingdom, and achieved a series of splendid successes by which he
extended his empire to the Euphrates, including Damascus, besides
securing invaluable spoils from the cities of Syria,--among them
chariots and horses, for which Syria was celebrated. Among these spoils
also were a thousand shields overlaid with gold, and great quantities of
brass afterward used by Solomon in the construction of the Temple. Yet
even these conquests, which now made David the most powerful monarch of
western Asia, did not secure peace. The Edomites, south of the Dead Sea,
alarmed in view of the increasing greatness of Israel, rose against
David, but were routed by Abishai, who penetrated to Petra and became
master of the country, the inhabitants of which were put to the sword
with unrelenting vengeance. This war of the Edomites took place
simultaneously with that of the Ammonites, who, deprived of their
allies, retreated with desperation to their strong capital,--Rabbah
Ammon, twenty-eight hundred feet above the sea, and twenty miles east of
the Jordan,--where they made a memorable but unsuccessful resistance.

It was during the siege of this stronghold, which lasted a year, that
David, no longer young, oppressed with cares, and unable personally to
bear the fatigues of war, forgot his duties as a king and as a man. For
fifty years he had borne an unsullied name; for more than thirty years
he had been a model of reproachless chivalry. If polygamy and ferocity
in war are not drawbacks to our admiration, certain it is that no
recorded crime or folly that called out divine censure can be laid to
his charge. But in an hour of temptation, or from strange infatuation,
he added murder to adultery,--covering up a great crime by one of still
greater enormity, evincing meanness and treachery as well as ungoverned
passion, and creating a scandal which was considered disgraceful even in
an Oriental palace. "We read," says South in one of his most brilliant
paragraphs, "of nothing like adultery in a persecuted David in the
wilderness, when he fled hither and thither like a chased doe upon the
mountains; but when the delicacies of his palace softened and ungirt his
spirit, then it was that this great hero fell by a glance, and buried
his glories in nocturnal shame, giving to his name a lasting stain, and
to his conscience a fearful wound." Nor did he come to himself until a
child was born, and the prophet Nathan had ingeniously pointed out to
him his flagrant sin. He manifested no wrath against his accuser, as
some despots would have done, but sank to the ground in the greatest
anguish and grief.

Then it was that David's repentance was more marvellous than his
transgression, offering the most memorable instance of contrition
recorded in history,--surpassing in moral sublimity, a thousand times
over, the grief of Theodosius under the rebuke of Ambrose, or the sorrow
of the haughty Plantagenet for the murder of Becket. His repentance was
so profound, so sincere, so remarkable, that it is embalmed forever in
the heart of a sinful world. Its wondrous depth and intensity almost
make us forget the crime itself, which nevertheless pursued him into the
immensity of eternal night, and was visited upon the third and fourth
generation in treason, rebellion, and wars. "Be sure your sin will find
you out," is a natural law as well as a divine decree. It was not only
because David added Bathsheba to the catalogue of his wives; it was not
only because he coveted, like Ahab, that which was not his own,--but
because he violated the most sacred of all laws, and treacherously
stained his hands in the blood of an innocent, confiding, and loyal
subject, that his soul was filled with shame and anguish. It was this
blood-guiltiness which was the burden of his confession and his agonized
grief, as an offence not merely against society and all moral laws, but
also against his Maker, in whose pure eyes he had committed his crimes
of lust, deceit, and murder. "Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned,
and have done this evil in Thy sight!" What a volume of theological
truth blazes from this single expression, so difficult for reason to
fathom, that it was against God that the royal penitent felt that he had
sinned, even more than against Uriah himself, whose life and property,
in a certain sense, belonged to an Oriental king.

"Nor do we charge ourselves," says Edward Irving, "with the defence of
those backslidings which David more keenly scrutinized and more bitterly
lamented than any of his censors, because they were necessary, in a
measure, that he might be the full-orbed man to utter every form of
spiritual feeling. And if the penitential psalms discover the deepest
hell of agony, and if they bow the head which utters them, then let us
keep those records of the psalmist's grief and despondency as the most
precious of his utterances, and sure to be needed by every man who
essayeth to lead a spiritual life; for it is not until a man, however
pure, honest, and honorable he may have thought himself, and have been
thought by others, discovereth himself to be utterly fallen, defiled,
and sinful before God,--not until he can, for expression of utter
worthlessness, seek those psalms in which David describes his
self-abasement, that he will realize the first beginning of spiritual
life in his own soul."

Should we seek for the cause of David's fall, for that easy descent in
the path of rectitude,--may we not find it in that fatal custom of
Eastern kings to have more wives than was divinely instituted in the
Garden of Eden,--an indulgence which weakened the moral sense and
unchained the passions? Polygamy, under any circumstances, is the folly
and weakness of kings, as well as the misfortune and curse of nations.
It divided and distracted the household of David, and gave rise to
incessant intrigues and conspiracies in his palace, which embittered his
latter days and even undermined his throne.

We read of no further backslidings which seemed to call forth the divine
displeasure, unless it were the census, or numbering of the people, even
against the expostulations of Joab. Why this census, in which we can see
no harm, should have been followed by so dire a calamity as a pestilence
in which seventy thousand persons perished in four days, we cannot see
by the light of reason, unless it indicated the purpose of establishing
an absolute monarchy for personal aggrandizement, or the extension of
unnecessary conquests, and hence an infringement of the theocratic
character of the Hebrew commonwealth. The conquests of David had thus
far been so brilliant, and his kingdom was so prosperous, that had he
been a pagan monarch he might have meditated the establishment of a
military monarchy, or have laid the foundation of an empire, like Cyrus
in after-times. From a less beginning than the Jewish commonwealth at
the time of David, the Greeks and Romans advanced to sovereignty over
both neighboring and distant States. The numbering of the Israelitish
nation seemed to indicate a desire for extended empire against the plain
indications of the divine will. But whatever was the nature of that sin,
it seems to have been one of no ordinary magnitude; and in view of its
consequences, David's heart was profoundly touched. "O God!" he cried,
in a generous burst of penitence, "I have sinned. But these sheep, what
have they done? Let thine hand be upon me, I pray thee, and upon my
father's house!"

If David committed no more sins which we are forced to condemn, and
which were not irreconcilable with his piety, he was subject to great
trials and misfortunes. The wickedness of his children, especially of
his eldest son Amnon, must have nearly broken his heart. Amnon's offence
was not only a terrible scandal, but cost the life of the heir to the
throne. It would be hard to conceive how David's latter days could have
been more embittered than by the crime of his eldest son,--a crime he
could neither pardon nor punish, and which disgraced his family in the
eyes of the nation. As to Absalom, it must have been exceedingly painful
and humiliating to the aged and pious king to be a witness of the pride,
insolence, extravagance, and folly of his favorite son, who had nothing
to commend him to the people but his good looks; and still harder to
bear was his rebellion, and his reckless attempt to steal his father's
sceptre. What a pathetic sight to see the old warrior driven from his
capital, and forced to flee for his life beyond the Jordan! How
humiliating to witness also the alienation of his subjects, and their
willingness to accept a brainless youth as his successor, after all the
glorious victories he had won, and the services he had rendered to the
nation! David's history reveals the sorrows and burdens of all kings and
rulers. Outward grandeur and power, after all, are a poor compensation
for the incessant cares, vexations, and humiliations which even the most
favored monarchs are compelled to accept,--troubles, disappointments,
and burdens which oppress both soul and body, and induce fears,
suspicions, jealousies, and animosities. Who would envy a Tiberius or a
Louis XIV. if he were obliged to carry their load, knowing well what
that burden was?

Then again the kingdom of David was afflicted with a grievous famine,
which lasted three years, decimating the people, and giving a check to
the national prosperity; and the Philistines, too, whom he thought he
had finally subdued, renewed their ancient warfare. But these calamities
were not all that the old king had to endure. A new rebellion more
dangerous even than that of Absalom broke out under Sheba, a Benjamite,
who sounded the trumpet of defiance from the mountains of Ephraim, and
who rallied under his standard ten of the tribes. To Amasa, it seems,
was intrusted the honor and the task of defending David and the tribe of
Judah, to which he belonged,--the king being alienated from Joab for the
slaying of Absalom, although it had ended that undutiful son's
rebellion. The bloodthirsty Joab, as implacable as Achilles, who had
rendered such signal services to his sovereign, was consumed with
jealousy at this new appointment, and going up to the new
general-in-chief as if to salute him, treacherously stabbed him with his
sword,--but continued, however, to support David. He succeeded in
suppressing the rebellion by intrigue, and on the promise that the city
should be spared, the head of the rebel was thrown over the wall of the
fortress to which he had retired. Even this rebellion did not end the
trials of David, since Adonijah, the heir presumptive after the death of
Absalom, conspired to steal the royal sceptre, which David had sworn to
Bathsheba he would bequeath to her son Solomon. Joab even favored the
succession of Adonijah; but the astute monarch, amid the infirmities of
age, still possessed a large measure of the intellect and decision of
his heroic days, and secured, by a rapid movement, the transfer of his
kingdom to Solomon, who was crowned in the lifetime of his father.

In all these foul treacheries and crimes within his own household may be
seen the distinct fulfilment of the punishment foretold by Nathan the
prophet, as prepared for David's own "great transgression." God's
providence is unerring, and men indeed prepare for themselves the
retribution which, in spite of sincere repentance, is the inevitable
consequence of their own violations of law,--physical, moral, and
spiritual. God gave David the new heart he longed for; but the evil
seeds sown bore nevertheless evil fruit for him and his children.

Aside from these troubles, we know but little of the latter days of
David. After the death of Absalom, it would seem that he reigned ten
years, on the whole tranquilly, turning his attention to the development
of the resources of his kingdom, and collecting treasure for the Temple,
which he was not to build. He was able to set aside, as we read in the
twenty-second chapter of the Chronicles, a hundred thousand talents of
gold and a million talents of silver,--an almost incredible sum.

If a talent of silver is, as estimated, about £390, or $1950, it would
seem that the silver accumulated by David would have amounted to nearly
two billion dollars, and the gold to a like sum,--altogether four
billions, which is plainly impossible. Probably there is a mistake in
the figures. We read in the twenty-ninth chapter of Chronicles that
David gave to Solomon, out of his own private property, three thousand
talents of gold and seven thousand talents of silver,--together, nearly
$74,000,000. His nobles added what would be equal to $120,000,000 in
gold and silver alone, besides brass and iron,--altogether about
$194,000,000, which is not incredible when we bear in mind that a
single family in New York has accumulated a larger sum in two
generations. But even this sum,--nearly two hundred million
dollars,--would have more than built all the temples of Athens, or St.
Peter's Church at Rome. Whether the author of the Chronicles has
exaggerated the amount of the national contribution for the building of
the Temple or not, we yet are impressed with the vast wealth which was
accumulated in the lifetime of David; and hence we infer that the wealth
of his kingdom was enormous. And it was perhaps the excessive taxation
of the people to raise this money, outside of the spoils of successful
wars, that alienated them in the latter days of David, and induced them
to rally under the standards of usurpers. Certain it is that he became
unpopular in the feebleness of old age, and was forced to abdicate
his throne.

David's premature old age presented a sad contrast to the vigor of his
early days. He was not a very old man when he died,--younger than many
monarchs and statesmen who in our times have retained their vigor, their
popularity, and their power. But the intense labors and sorrows of forty
years may have proved too great a strain on his nervous energies, and
made him as timid as he once was bold. The man who had slain Goliath ran
away from Absalom. He was completely under the domination of an
intriguing wife. He showed a singular weakness in reference to the
crimes of his favorite son, so as to merit the bitter reproaches of his
captain-general. "Thou hast shamed this day," said Joab, "the faces of
all thy servants; for I perceive had Absalom lived, and all of us had
died this day, then it had pleased thee well." In David's case, his last
days do not seem to have been his best days, although he retained his
piety and had conquered all his enemies. His glorious sun set in clouds
after a reign of thirty-three years over united Israel, and the nation
hailed the accession of a boy whose character was undeveloped.

The final years of this great monarch present an impressive lesson of
the vanity even of a successful life, whatever services a man may have
rendered to his country and to civilization. Few kings have ever
accomplished more than David; but his glory was succeeded, if not by
shame, at least by clouds and darkness. And this eclipse is all the more
mournful when we remember not only his services but his exalted virtues.
He was the most successful and the most admired of all the monarchs who
reigned at Jerusalem. He was one of the greatest and best men who ever
lived in any nation or at any period. "When, before or since, has there
lived an outlaw who did not despoil his country?" Where has there
reigned a king whose head was less giddy on a throne, or who retained
more humility in the midst of riches and glories, unless it were Marcus
Aurelius or Alfred the Great? David had an inborn aptitude for
government, and a power like Julius Caesar of fascinating every one who
came in contact with him. His self-denial and devotion to the interests
of the nation were marvellous. We do not read that he took any time for
pleasure or recreation; the heavy load of responsibility and care never
for a moment was thrown from his shoulders. His penetration of character
was so remarkable that all stood in fear of him; yet fear gave place to
admiration. Never had a monarch more devoted servants and followers than
David in his palmy days; he was the nation's idol and pride for thirty
years. In every successive vicissitude he was great; and were it not for
his cruelty in war and severity to his enemies, and his one great lapse
into criminal self-indulgence, his reign would have been faultless.
Contrast David with the other conquerors of the world; compare him with
classical and mediaeval heroes,--how far do they fall beneath him in
deeds of magnanimity and self-sacrifice! What monarch has transmitted to
posterity such inestimable treasures of thought and language?

It is consoling to feel that David, whether exultant in riches and
honors, or bowed down to the earth with grief and wrath, both in the
years of adversity and in his prosperous manhood, in strength and in
weakness, with unfailing constancy and loyalty turned his thoughts to
God as the source of all hope and consolation. "As the hart panteth
after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God!" He has no
doubts, no scepticism, no forgetfulness. His piety has the seal of an
all-pervading sense of the constant presence and aid of a personal God
whom it is his supremest glory to acknowledge,--his staff, his rock, his
fortress, his shield, his deliverer, his friend; the One with whom he
sought to commune, both day and night, on the field of battle and in the
guarded recesses of his palace. In the very depths of humiliation he
never sinks into despair. His piety is both tender and exultant. In the
ecstasy of his raptures he calls even upon inanimate nature to utter
God's praises,--upon the sun and moon, the mountains and valleys, fire
and hail, storms and winds, yea, upon the stars of night. "Bless ye the
Lord, O my soul! for his mercy endureth forever." And this is why he was
a man after God's own heart. Let cynics and critics, and unbelievers
like Bayle, delight to pick flaws in David's life. Who denies his
faults? He was loved because his soul was permeated with exalted
loyalty, because he hungered and thirsted after righteousness, because
he could not find words to express sufficiently his sense of sin and his
longing for forgiveness, his consciousness of littleness and
unworthiness when contrasted with the majesty of Jehovah. Let not our
eyes be fixed upon his defects, but upon the general tenor of his life.
It is true he is in war merciless and cruel; he hurls anathemas on his
enemies. His wrath is as supernal as his love; he is inspired with the
fiercest resentments; he exhibits the mighty anger of Homer's heroes; he
never could forgive Joab for the slaughter of Abner and Absalom. But the
abiding sentiments of his heart are gentleness and magnanimity. How
affectionately his soul clung to Jonathan! What a power of self-denial,
when he was faint and thirsty, in refusing the water which his brave
companions brought him at the risk of their lives! How generously he
spared the life of Saul! How patiently he bore the rebukes of Nathan!
How nobly he treated the aged Barzillai! His impulses were all generous.
He was affectionate to weakness. He had no egotistic ends. He forgot his
own sorrows in the sufferings of his people. He had no pride in all the
pomp of power, although he never forgot that he was the Lord's anointed.

When we pass from David's personal character to the services he
rendered, how exalted his record! He laid the foundation of the
prosperity of his nation. Where would have been the glories of Solomon
but for the genius and deeds of David? But more than any material
greatness are the imperishable lyrics he bequeathed to all ages and
nations, in which are unfolded the varied experiences of a good man in
his warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil,--those priceless
utterances which portray every passion that can move the human soul. He
has left bare to the contemplation of all ages all that a lofty soul can
suffer or enjoy, all that can be learned from folly and sin, all that
can stimulate religious life, all that can console in sorrow and
affliction. These experiences and aspirations he has embodied in lyric
poetry, on the whole the most exquisite in the Hebrew language, creating
a new world of religious thought and feeling, and furnishing the
foundation for Christian psalmody, to be sung from age to age throughout
the world. His kingdom passed away, but his Psalms remain,--a realm
which no civilization can afford to lose. As Moses lives in his
jurisprudence, Solomon in his proverbs, Isaiah in his prophecies, and
Paul in his epistles, so David lives in those poems that are still the
most expressive of all the forms in which the public worship of God is
still continued. Such poetry could not have been written, had not the
author experienced in his own life every variety of suffering and joy.

The literary excellence of the Psalms cannot be measured by the standard
of Greek and Roman lyrics. It is not seen in any of our present forms of
metrical composition. It is the mighty soaring of an exalted soul which
makes the Psalms so dear to us, and not their artificial structure.
They were made to reveal the ways of God to man and the life of the
human soul, not to immortalize heroes or dignify a human love. We may
not be able to appreciate in English form their original metrical skill;
but it is impossible that a people so musical as the Hebrews were
kindled into passionate admiration of them, had they not possessed great
rhythmic beauty. We may not comprehend the force of the melodic forms,
but we can appreciate the tenderness, the pathos, the sublimity, and the
intensity of the sentiments expressed. "In pathetic dirges, in songs of
jubilee, in outbursts of praise, in prophetic announcements, in the
agonies of contrition, in bursts of adoration, in the beatitudes of holy
bliss, in the enchanting calmness of Christian life," no one has ever
surpassed David, so that he was called "the sweet singer of Israel."
There is nothing pathetic in national difficulties, or endearing in
family relations, or profound in inward experience, or triumphant over
the fall of wickedness, or beatific in divine worship, which he does not
intensify. He raises mortals to the skies, though he brings no angels
down. Never does he introduce dogmas, yet his songs are permeated with
fundamental truths, and are a perpetual rebuke to pharisaism,
rationalism, epicureanism, and every form of infidel speculation that
with "the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." As the Psalter
was held to be the most inspiring poetry in the palmy days of the Hebrew
commonwealth, so it proved the most impressive part of the ritual of the
mediaeval Church, and is still the most valued of all the lyrics which
Protestantism has appropriated in the worship of God. And how potent,
how lasting, how valued is a good song! The psalmody of the Church will
last longer than its sermons; and when a song stimulates the loftiest
sentiments of which men are capable, how priceless it is, how
permanently it is embalmed in the heart of the world! "Thus have his
songs become the treasured property of mankind, resounding in the
anthems of different creeds, and carrying into every land that same
voice which on Mount Zion was raised in sorrowful longings or
ecstatic praise."

What a mighty power the songs of the son of Jesse still wield over the
affections of mankind! We lose sight at times of Moses, of Solomon, and
of Isaiah; but we never lose sight of David.

     Such is the tribute which all nations bring,
     O warrior, prophet, bard, and sainted king,
     From distant ages to thy hallowed name,
     Transcending far all Greek and Roman fame!
     No pagan gods thy sacred songs invoke,
     No loves degrading do thy strains provoke.
     Thy soul to heaven in holy rapture mounts,
     And joys seraphic in its bliss recounts.
     O thou sweet singer of a favored race,
     What vast results to thy pure songs we trace!
     How varied and how rich are all thy lays
     On Nature's glories and Jehovah's ways!
     In loftiest flight thy kindling soul surveys
     The promised glories of the latter days,
     When peace and love this fallen world shall bind,
     And richest blessings all the race shall find.



ABOUT 993-953 B.C.

We associate with Solomon the culmination of the Jewish monarchy, and a
reign of unexampled prosperity and glory. He not only surpassed all his
predecessors and successors in those things which strike the imagination
as brilliant and imposing, but he had such extraordinary intellectual
gifts that he has passed into history as the wisest of ancient kings,
and one of the most favored of mortals.

Amid the evils which saddened the latter days of his father David, this
remarkable man grew up. His interests were protected by his mother
Bathsheba, an intriguing, ambitious, and beautiful woman, and his
education was directed by the prophet Nathan. He was ten years of age
when his elder brother Absalom rebelled, and a youth of fifteen to
twenty when he was placed upon the throne, during the lifetime of his
father and with his sanction, aided by the cabals of his mother, the
connivance of the high-priest Zadok, the spiritual authority of Nathan,
and the political ascendency of Benaiah, the most valiant of the
captains of Israel after Joab. He became king in a great national
crisis, when unfilial rebellion had undermined the throne of David, and
Adonijah, next in age to Absalom, had sought to steal the royal sceptre,
supported by the veteran Joab and Abiathar, the elder high-priest.

Solomon's first acts as monarch were to remove the great enemies of his
father and the various heads of faction, not sparing even Joab, the most
successful general that ever brought lustre on the Jewish arms. With
Abiathar, who died in exile, expired the last glory of the house of Eli;
and with Shimei, who was slain with Adonijah, passed away the last
representative of the royal family of Saul. Soon after Solomon repaired
to the heights of Gibeon, six miles from Jerusalem,--a lofty eminence
which overlooks Judaea, and where stood the Tabernacle of the
Congregation, the original Tent of the Wanderings, in front of which was
the brazen altar on which the young king, as a royal holocaust, offered
the sacrifice of one thousand victims. It was on the night of that
sacrificial offering that, in a dream, a divine voice offered to the
youthful king whatsoever his heart should crave. He prayed for wisdom,
which was granted,--the first evidence of which was his celebrated
judgment between the two women who claimed the living child, which made
a powerful impression on the whole nation, and doubtless strengthened
his throne.

The kingdom which Solomon inherited was probably at that time the most
powerful in western Asia, the fruit of the conquests of Saul and David,
of Abner and Joab. It was bounded by Lebanon on the north, the Euphrates
on the east, Egypt on the south, and the Mediterranean on the west. Its
territorial extent was small compared with the Assyrian or Persian
empire; but it had already defeated the surrounding nations,--the
Philistines, the Edomites, the Syrians, and the Ammonites. It hemmed in
Phoenicia on the sea-coast, and controlled the great trade-routes to the
East, which made it politic for the King of Tyre to cultivate the
friendship of both David and Solomon. If Palestine was small in extent,
it was then exceedingly fertile, and sustained a large population. Its
hills were crested with fortresses, and covered with cedars and oaks.
The land was favorable to both tillage and pasture, abounding in grapes,
figs, olives, dates, and every species of grain; the numerous springs
and streams favored a perfect system of irrigation, so that the country
presented a picture in striking contrast to its present blasted and
dreary desolation. The nation was also enriched by commerce as well as
by agriculture. Caravans brought from Eastern cities the most valuable
of their manufactures. From Tarshish in Spain ships brought gold and
silver; Egypt sent chariots and fine linen; Syria sold her purple cloths
and robes of varied colors; Arabia furnished horses and costly
trappings. All the luxuries and riches which Tyre had collected in her
warehouses found their way to Jerusalem. Even silver was as plenty as
the stones in the streets. Long voyages to the mouth of the Indus
resulted in a vast accumulation of treasure,--gold, ivory, spices, gums,
perfumes, and precious stones. The nations and tribes subject to Solomon
from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, and from Syria to the Red Sea,
paid a fixed tribute, while their kings and princes sent rich
presents,--vessels of gold and silver, costly arms and armor, rich
garments and robes, horses and mules, perfumes and spices.

But the prosperity of the realm was not altogether inherited; it was
firmly and prudently promoted by the young king. Solomon made alliances
with Egypt and Syria, as well as with Phoenicia, and peace and plenty
enriched all classes, so that every man sat under his own vine and
fig-tree in perfect security. Never was such prosperity seen in Israel
before or since. Strong fortresses were built on Lebanon to protect the
caravans, and Tadmor in the wilderness to the east became a great centre
of trade, and ultimately a splendid city under Zenobia. The royal
stables contained forty thousand horses and fourteen hundred chariots.
The royal palace glistened with plates of gold, and the parks and
gardens were watered from immense reservoirs. "When the youthful monarch
repaired to these gardens in his gorgeous chariot, he was attended,"
says Stanley, "by nobles whose robes of purple floated in the wind, and
whose long black hair, powdered with gold dust, glistened in the sun,
while he himself, clothed in white, blazing with jewels, scented with
perfumes, wearing both crown and sceptre, presented a scene of gladness
and glory. When he travelled, he was borne on a splendid litter of
precious woods, inlaid with gold and hung with purple curtains, preceded
by mounted guards, with princes for his companions, and women for his
idolaters, so that all Israel rejoiced in him."

We infer that Solomon reigned for several years in justice and equity,
without striking faults,--a wise and benevolent prince, who feared God
and sought from him wisdom, which was bestowed in such a remarkable
degree that princes came from remote countries to see him, including the
famous Queen of Sheba, who was both dazzled and enchanted.

Yet while he was, on the whole, loyal to the God of his fathers, and was
the pride and admiration of his subjects, especially for his wisdom and
knowledge, Solomon was not exempted from grave mistakes. He was
scarcely seated on his throne before he married an Egyptian princess,
doubtless with the view of strengthening his political power. But while
this splendid alliance brought wealth and influence, and secured
chariots and horses, it violated one of the settled principles of the
Jewish commonwealth, and prevented that isolation which was so necessary
to keep uncorrupted the manners and habits of the people. The alliance
doubtless favored commerce, and in one sense enlarged the minds of his
subjects, removing from them many prejudices; but the nation was not
intended by the divine founder to be politically or commercially great,
but rather to preserve the worship of Jehovah. Moreover, the daughter of
Pharaoh was an idolater, and her influence, so far as it went, tended to
wean the king from his religious duties,--at least to make him tolerant
of false gods.

The enlargement of the king's harem was another mistake, for although
polygamy was not condemned, and was practised even by David, it made
Solomon prominent among Eastern monarchs for an absurd ostentation,
allied with enervating effeminacy, and thus gradually undermined the
healthy tone of his character. It may have prepared the way for the
apostasy of his later years, and certainly led to a great increase of
the royal expenses. The support of seven hundred wives and three
hundred concubines must have been a scandal and a burden for which the
nation was not prepared. The pomp in which he lived presupposes a change
in the government itself, even to an absolute monarchy and a grinding
despotism, fatal to the liberties which the Israelites had enjoyed under
Saul and David. The predictions and warnings of Samuel were realized for
the first time in the reign of Solomon, so that wealth, prosperity, and
luxury were but a poor exchange for that ancient religious ardor and
intense patriotism which had led the Hebrew nation to victory over
surrounding idolatrous nations. The heroic ages of Jewish history passed
away when ships navigated by Phoenician sailors brought gold from Ophir
and silver from Tarshish, and did not return until the Maccabees rallied
the hunted and decimated tribes of Israel against the armies of the
Syrian kings.

Solomon's peaceful and prosperous reign of forty years was, however,
favorable to one grand enterprise which David had longed to accomplish,
but to whom it was denied. This was the building of the Temple, for so
long a time identified with the glory of Jerusalem, and common interest
in which might have bound the twelve tribes together but for the
excessive taxation which the extravagance and ostentation of the monarch
had rendered necessary.

We can form but an inadequate idea of the magnificence of this Temple
from its description in the sacred annals. An edifice which taxed the
mighty resources of Solomon and consumed the spoils of forty years'
successful warfare, must have been in that age without a parallel in
splendor and beauty. If the figures are not exaggerated, it required the
constant labors of ten thousand men in the mountains of Lebanon alone to
cut down and hew the timber, and this for a period of eleven years. Of
ordinary laborers there were seventy thousand; and of those who worked
in the quarries and squared the stones there were eighty thousand more,
besides overseers. It took three years to prepare the foundations. As
Mount Moriah, on which the Temple was built, did not furnish level space
enough, a wall of solid masonry was erected on the eastern and southern
sides nearly three hundred feet in height, the stones of which, in some
instances, were more than twenty feet long and six feet thick, so
perfectly squared that no mortar was required. The buried foundations
for the courts of the Temple and the vast treasure-houses still remain
to attest the strength and solidity of the work, seemingly as
indestructible as are the pyramids of Egypt, and only paralleled by the
uncovered ruins of the palaces of the Caesars on the Palatine Hill at
Rome, which fill all travellers with astonishment. Vast cisterns also
had to be hewn in the rocks to supply water for the sacrifices, capable
of holding ten millions of gallons. The Temple proper was small compared
with the Egyptian temples, or with mediaeval cathedrals; but the courts
which surrounded it were vast, enclosing a quadrangle larger than the
area on which St. Peter's Church at Rome is built. It was, however, the
richness of the decorations and of the sacred vessels and the altars for
sacrifice, which consumed immense quantities of gold, silver, and brass,
that made the Temple especially remarkable. The treasures alone which
David collected were so enormous that we think there must be errors in
the calculation,--thirteen million pounds Troy of gold, and one hundred
and twenty-seven million pounds of silver,--an amount not easy to
estimate. But the plates of gold which overlaid the building, and the
cherubim or symbolical winged figures, the precious woods, the rich
hangings and curtains of crimson and purple, the brazen altars, the
lamps, the sacred vessels of solid gold and silver, the elaborate
carvings and castings, the rare gems,--these all together must have
required a greater expenditure than is seen in the most famous temples
of Greece or Asia Minor, whose value and beauty chiefly consisted in
their exquisite proportions and their marble pillars and figures of men
or animals. But no representation of man, no statue to the Deity, was
seen in the Temple of Solomon; no idol or sacred animal profaned it.
There was no symbol to indicate even the presence of Jehovah, whose
dwelling-place was in the heavens, and whom the heaven of heavens could
not contain. There were rites and sacrifices, but these were offered to
an unseen divinity, whose presence was everywhere, and who alone reigned
as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, forever and forever. The Temple,
however, with its courts and porticos, its vast foundations of stones
squared in distant quarries, and the immense treasures everywhere
displayed, impressed both the senses and the imagination of a people
never distinguished for art or science. And not only so, but Fergusson
says: "The whole Mohammedan world look to it as the foundation of all
architectural knowledge, and the Jews still recall its glories, and sigh
over their loss with a constant tenacity unmatched by that of any other
people to any other building of the ancient world." Whether or not we
are able to explain the architecture of the Temple, or are in error
respecting its size, or the amount of gold and silver expended, or the
number of men employed, we know that it was the pride and glory of that
age, and was large enough, with its enclosures, to contain a
representation of five millions of people, the heads of all the families
and tribes of the nation, such as were collected together at its

As the great event of David's reign was the removal of the Ark to
Jerusalem, so the culminating glory of Solomon was the dedication of the
Temple he had built to the worship of Jehovah. The ceremony equalled in
brilliancy the glories of a Roman triumph, and infinitely surpassed them
in popular enthusiasm. The whole population of the kingdom,--some four
or five millions,--or their picked representatives, came to Jerusalem to
witness or to take part in it. "And as the long array of dignitaries,
with thousands of musicians clothed in white, and the monarch himself
arrayed in pontifical robes, and the royal household in embroidered
mantles, and the guards with their golden shields, and the priests
bearing the sacred but tattered tabernacle, with the ark and the
cherubim, and the altar of sacrifice, and the golden candlesticks and
table of shew bread, and the brazen serpent of the wilderness and the
venerated tables of stone on which were engraved by the hand of God
himself the ten commandments,"--as this splendid procession swept along
the road, strewed with flowers and fragrant with incense, how must the
hearts of the people have been lifted up! Then the royal pontiff arose
from the brazen scaffold on which he had seated himself, and amid clouds
of incense and the smoke of burning sacrifice offered unto God the
tribute of national praise, and implored His divine protection. And
then, rising from his knees, with hands outstretched to heaven, he
blessed the congregation, saying with a loud voice, "Let the Lord our
God be with us as he was with our fathers, so that all the earth may
know that Jehovah is God and that there is none else!"

Then followed the sacrifices for this grand occasion,--twenty thousand
oxen and one hundred and twenty thousand sheep and goats were offered up
on successive days. Only a portion of these animals was actually
consumed on the altar by the officiating priests: the greater part
furnished meat for the assembled multitude. The Festival of the
Dedication lasted a week, and this was succeeded by the Feast of the
Tabernacles; and from that time the Temple became the pride and glory of
the nation. To see it periodically and worship in its courts became the
intensest desire of every Hebrew. Three times a year some great festival
was held, attended by a vast concourse of the people. The command was
that every male Israelite should "appear before the Lord" and make his
offering; but this of course had its necessary exceptions, as multitudes
of women and children could not go, and had to be cared for at home. We
cannot easily understand how on any other supposition they were all
accommodated, spacious as were the various courts of the Temple; and we
conclude that only a large representation of the tribes and families
took place, for how could four or five millions of people assemble
together at any festival?

Contemporaneous with the building of the Temple, or immediately after it
was dedicated, were other gigantic works, including the royal palace,
which it took thirteen years to complete, and upon which, as upon the
Sacred House, Syrian artists and workmen were employed. The principal
building was only one hundred and fifty feet long, seventy-five broad,
and forty-five feet high, in three stories, with a grand porch supported
on lofty pillars; but connected with the palace were other edifices to
support the magnificence in which the king lived with his court and his
harem. Around the tower of the House of David were hung the famous
golden shields, one thousand in number, which had been made for the
body-guard, with other glittering ornaments, which were likened by the
poets to the neck of a bride decked with rays of golden coins. In the
great Judgment Hall, built of cedar and squared stone, was the throne of
the monarch, made of ivory, inlaid with gold. A special mansion was
erected for Solomon's Egyptian queen, of squared stones twelve to
fifteen feet in length. Connected with these various palaces were
extensive gardens constructed at great expense, filled with all the
triumphs of horticultural art, and watered by streams from vast
reservoirs. In these the luxurious king and court could wander among
beds of spices and flowers and fruits. But these did not content the
royal family. A summer palace was erected on the heights of Mount
Lebanon, having gardens filled with everything which could delight the
eye or captivate the senses. Here, surrounded with learned men, women,
and courtiers, with bands of music, costly litters, horses and chariots,
and every luxury which unbounded means could command, the magnificent
monarch beguiled his leisure hours, abandoned equally to pleasure and
study,--for his inquiring mind sought to master all the knowledge that
was known, especially in the realm of natural history, since "he was
wiser than all men, and spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is on
Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall." We can get
some idea of the expenses of his household, in the fact that it daily
consumed sixty measures of flour and meal and thirty oxen and one
hundred sheep, besides venison, game, and fatted fowls. The king never
appeared in public except with crown and sceptre, in royal robes
redolent of the richest perfumes of India and Arabia, and sparkling with
gold and gems. He lived in a constant blaze of splendor, whether
travelling in his gorgeous litter, surrounded with his guards, or seated
on his throne to dispense justice and equity, or feasting with his
nobles to the sound of joyous music.

To keep up this regal splendor, to support seven hundred wives and
three hundred concubines on the fattest of the land, and deck them all
in robes of purple and gold; to build magnificent palaces, to dig
canals, and construct gigantic reservoirs for parks and gardens; to
maintain a large standing army in time of peace; to erect strong
fortresses wherever caravans were in danger of pillage; to found cities
in the wilderness; to level mountains and fill up valleys,--to
accomplish all this even the resources of Solomon were insufficient.
What were six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, yearly received
(thirty-five million dollars), besides the taxes on all merchants and
travellers, and the vast gifts which flowed from kings and princes, when
that constant drain on the royal treasury is considered! Even a Louis
XIV. was impoverished by his court and palace building, though he
controlled the fortunes of twenty-five millions of people. King Solomon,
in all his glory, became embarrassed, and was obliged to make forced
contributions,--to levy a heavy tribute on his own subjects from Dan to
Beersheba, and make bondmen of all the people that were left of the
Amorites, Hittites, Perizites, Hivites, and Jebusites. The people were
virtually enslaved to aggrandize a single person. The burdens laid on
all classes and the excessive taxation at last alienated the nation.
"The division of the whole country into twelve revenue districts was a
serious grievance,--especially as the high official over each could make
large profits from the excess of contributions demanded." A poll-tax,
from which the nation in the olden times was freed, was levied on
Israelite and Canaanite alike. The virtual slave-labor by which the
great public improvements were made, sapped the loyalty of the people
and produced discontent. This forced labor was as fatal as war to the
real property of the nation, for wealth is ever based on private
industry, on farms and vineyards, rather than on the palaces of kings.
Moreover, the friendly relations which Solomon established with the
neighboring heathen nations disgusted the old religious leaders, while
the tendency to Oriental luxury which outward prosperity favored alarmed
the more thoughtful. It was not a pleasant sight for the princes of
Israel to see the whole land overrun with Phoenicians, Arabs,
Babylonians, Egyptians, caravan drivers, strangers and travellers,
camels and dromedaries from Midian and Sheba, traders to the fairs,
pedlers with their foreign cloths and trinkets, all spreading immorality
and heresy, and filling the cities with strange customs and
degrading dances.

Nor was there, in that absolute monarchy which Solomon centralized
around his throne, any remedy for all this, save assassination or
revolution. The king had become debauched and effeminate. The love of
pomp and extravagance was followed by worldliness, luxury, and folly.
From agricultural pursuits the people had passed to commercial; the
Israelites had become merchants and traders, and the foul idolatries of
Phoenicians and Syrians had overspread the land. The king having lost
the respect and affection of the nation, the rebellion of Jeroboam was a
logical sequence.

I have not read of any king who so belied the promises of his early
days, and on whom prosperity produced so fatal an apostasy as Solomon.
With all his wisdom and early piety, he became an egotist, a sensualist,
and a tyrant. What vanity he displayed before the Queen of Sheba! What a
slave he became to wicked women! How disgraceful was his toleration of
the gods of Phoenicia and Egypt! How hard was the bondage to which he
subjected his subjects! How different was his ordinary life from that of
his illustrious father, with no repentance, no remorse, no
self-abasement! He was a Nebuchadnezzar and a Sardanapalus combined,
going from bad to worse. And he was not only a sensualist and a tyrant,
an egotist, and to some extent an idolater, but he was a cynic,
sceptical of all good, and of the very attainments which had made him
famous. We read of no illustrious name whose glory passed through so
dark an eclipse. The satiated, disenchanted, disappointed monarch,
prematurely old, and worn out by self-indulgence, passed away without
honor or regret, at the age of sixty, and was buried in the City of
David; and Rehoboam, his son, reigned in his stead.

The Christian fathers and many subsequent theological writers have
puzzled their brains with unsatisfactory speculations whether Solomon
finally repented or not; but the Scriptures are silent on that point. We
have no means of knowing at what period of his life his heart was weaned
from the religion of David, or when he entered upon a life of pleasure.
There are some passages in the Book of Ecclesiastes which lead us to
suppose that before he died he came to himself, and was a preacher of
righteousness. This is the more charitable and humane view to take; yet
even so, his moral teachings and warnings are not imbued with the
personal contrition that endeared David's soul to God; they are
unimpassioned, cold-hearted, intellectual, impersonal. Moreover, it may
be that even in the midst of his follies he retained the perception of
moral distinctions. His will was probably enslaved, so that he had not
the power to restrain his passions, and his head may have become giddy
in his high elevation. How few men could have resisted such powerful
temptations as assailed Solomon on every side! The heart of the
Christian world cannot but feel that so gifted a man, endowed with every
intellectual attraction, who reigned for a time with so much wisdom,
who recognized Jehovah as the guide and Lord of Israel, as especially
appears at the dedication of the Temple, and who wrote such profound
lessons of moral wisdom, would not be suffered to descend to the grave
without the divine forgiveness. All that we know is that he was wise,
and favored beyond all precedent, but that he adopted the habits and
fell in with the vices of Oriental kings, and lost the affections of his
people. He was exalted to the highest pinnacle of glory; he descended to
an abyss of shame,--a sad example of the infirmity of human nature which
all ages will lament.

In one sense Solomon left nothing to his nation but monuments of
despotic power, and trophies of a material civilization which implied
the decay of primitive virtues. He did not perpetuate his greatness; he
did not even enlarge the boundaries of his kingdom. Like Louis XIV. he
simply squandered a great inheritance. He did not leave his kingdom
morally so strong as it was under David; it was even dismembered under
his legitimate successor. The grand Temple indeed remained the pride of
every Jew, but David had bequeathed the treasures to build it. The
national resources had been wasted in palaces and in court festivities;
and although these had contributed to a material civilization,
especially the sums expended on fortresses, aqueducts, reservoirs, and
roads for the caravans, this civilization, so highly and justly prized
in our age, may--under the peculiar circumstances of the Jews, and the
end for which, by the Mosaic dispensation, they were intended to be kept
isolated--have weakened those simpler habits and sentiments which
favored the establishment of their religion. It must never be lost sight
of that the isolation of the Hebrew race, unfavorable to such
developments of civilization as commerce and the arts, was
providentially designed (as is evidenced by the fact of accomplishment
in spite of all obstacles) to keep alive the worship of Jehovah until
the fulness of time should come,--until the Messiah should appear to
establish a new dispensation. The glory and grandeur of Solomon did not
contribute to this end, but on the other hand favored idolatrous rites
and corrupting foreign customs; and this is proved by the rapid decline
of the Jews in religious life, patriotic ardor, and primitive virtues
under the succeeding kings, both of Judah and Israel, which led
ultimately to their captivity. Politically, Solomon may have added to
the temporary power of the nation, but spiritually, and so
fundamentally, he caused an eclipse of glory. And this is why his
kingdom departed from his house, and he left a sullied name.

Nevertheless, in many important respects Solomon rendered great services
to humanity, which redeemed his memory from shame and made him a truly
immortal man, and even a great benefactor. He left writings which are
still among the most treasured inheritances of his nation and of
mankind. It is recorded that he spoke three thousand proverbs, and his
songs were a thousand and five. Only a small portion of these have
descended to us in the sacred writings, but they doubtless entered into
the literature of the Jews. Enough remains, whenever they were compiled
and collected, to establish his fame as one of the wisest and most
gifted of mortals. And these writings, whatever may have been his
backslidings, are pervaded with moral wisdom. Whether written in youth
or in old age, on the summit of human glory or in the depths of despair,
they are generally accepted as among the most precious gems of the Old
Testament. His profound experience, conveyed to us in proverbs and
songs, remains as a guide in life through all generations. The dignity
of intellect shines triumphantly through all the obscuration of virtues.
Thus do poets live even when buried in ignominious graves; thus do
philosophers instruct the world even though, like Seneca, and possibly
Bacon, their lives present a sad contrast to their precepts. Great
thoughts emancipate the soul, from age to age, while he who uttered them
may have been enslaved by vices. Who knows what the private life of
Shakspeare and Goethe may have been, but who would part with the
writings they have left us? How soon the personal peculiarities of
Coleridge and Carlyle will be forgotten, yet how permanent and healthy
their utterances! It is truth, rather than man, that lives and conquers
and triumphs. Man is nothing, except as the instrument of
almighty power.

Of the writings ascribed to Solomon, there are three books, each of
which corresponds to the different periods of his life,--to his pious
youth, to his prosperous manhood, and to his later years of cynicism and
despair. They all alike blaze with moral truth, and appeal to universal
experience. They present different features of human life, at different
periods, and suggest sentiments which most people have realized at some
time or another. And if in some cases they are apparently contradictory,
like the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, they are equally striking and
convincing, and are not more inconsistent than the man himself. Who does
not change, and yet remain individually the same? Is there not a change
between youth and old age? Do not most great men utter sentiments hard
to be reconciled with one another, yet with equal sincerity? Webster
enforces free-trade at one time and a high tariff at another, as light
or circumstances change. Gladstone was in youth and middle age a pillar
of the aristocracy; later he was the oracle of the masses, yet a lofty
realism underlay all his utterances. The writings of Solomon present
life in different aspects, and yet they are alike true. They are not
divine revelations, like the commandments given to Moses amid the
lightnings of Sinai, or like the visions of the prophets respecting the
future glories of the Church. They do not exalt the soul into inspiring
ecstasies like the psalms of David, or kindle a holy awe like the lofty
meditations of Job; but they are yet such impressive truths pertaining
to human life that we invest them with more than human wisdom.

The Song of Songs, long ascribed to King Solomon, has been attended with
some difficulty of explanation. It is a poem liable to be perverted by
an unsanctified soul, since it is foreign to our modes of expression.
For two hundred years it has been variously interpreted. It was the
delight of Saint Bernard the ascetic, and a stumbling-block to Ewald the
critic. To many German scholars, who have rendered great services by
their learning and genius, it is only the expression of physical love,
like the amatory songs of Greece. To others of more piety yet equal
scholarship, like Origen, Grotius, and Bossuet, it is symbolic of the
love which exists between Christ and the Church. It seems, at least, to
be a contrast with the impure love of the heathen world. But whether it
describes the ardent affection which Solomon bore to his young Egyptian
bride; or the still more beautiful love of the innocent Shulamite
maiden for her betrothed shepherd feeding his flock among the lilies,
unseduced by all the influences of the royal court, and triumphant over
the seductions of rank and power; or whether it is the rapt soul of the
believer bursting out in holy transports of joy, like a Saint Theresa in
the anticipated union with her divine Spouse,--it is still a noble
tribute to what is most enchanting of the great certitudes on earth or
in heaven; and it is expressed in language of exquisite and incomparable
elegance. "Arise, my fair one, and come away! for the winter is past and
gone, and the flowers appear upon the earth, and the voice of the turtle
is heard in the land. Make haste, my beloved! Be thou like a roe on the
mountains of spices, for many waters cannot quench love, nor the floods
drown it; yea, were a man to offer all that he hath for it, it would be
utterly despised." How tender, how innocent, how fervent, how beautiful,
is this description of a lofty love, at rest in its happiness, in the
society of the charmer, exultant in the certainty of that glorious
sentiment which nothing can corrupt and nothing can destroy!

If this unique and beautiful Song was the work of Solomon in his early
days of innocence and piety, the book of Proverbs seems to be the result
of his profound observations when he was still uncorrupted by
prosperity, ruling his kingdom with sagacity and amazing the world with
his wisdom. How many of those acute sayings were uttered by Solomon we
know not, but probably most of them are his, collected, it is supposed,
during the reign of Hezekiah. They are written on almost every subject
pertaining to ethics, to nature, to science, and to society. Some are
allusions to God, and others to the duties between man and man. Many are
devoted to the duties of women, applicable to the sex in all times. They
are not on a level of the Psalms in piety, nor of the Prophecies in
grandeur, but they recognize the immutable principles of moral
obligation. In some cases they seem to be worldly-wise,--such as we
might suppose to fall from the mouth of Benjamin Franklin or
Cobbett,--recognizing worldly prosperity as the greatest of blessings.
Sometimes they are witty, again ironical, but always forcible. In some
of them there is awful solemnity.

There are no more terrific warnings and exhortations in the sacred
writings than are found in the Proverbs of Solomon. The sins of
idleness, of anger, of covetousness, of gossip, of falsehood, of
oppression, of injustice, of intemperance, of unchastity, are uniformly
denounced as leading to destruction; while prudence, temperance,
chastity, obedience to parents, and loyalty to truth are enjoined with
the earnestness of a man who believes in personal accountability to God.
The ethics of the Proverbs are based on everlasting righteousness, and
are imbued with the spirit of divine philosophy; their great peculiarity
is the constant exhortation to wisdom and knowledge, to which young men
are especially exhorted. Like Socrates, Solomon never separates wisdom
from virtue, but makes one the foundation of the other. He shows the
connection between virtue and happiness, vice and misery. The Proverbs
are inexhaustible in moral force, and have universal application. There
is nothing cynical or gloomy in them. They form a fitting study for
youth and old age, an incentive to virtue and a terror to evil-doers, a
thesaurus of moral wisdom; they speak in every line a lofty and
comprehensive intellect, acquainted with all the experiences of life.
Such moral wisdom would be imperishable in any literature. Such
utterances go far to redeem all personal defects; they show how
unclouded is a mind trained in equity, even when the will is enslaved by
iniquity. What is still more remarkable, the Proverbs never apologize
for the force of temptation, and never blend error with truth; they
uniformly exalt wisdom, and declare that the beginning of it is the fear
of the Lord. There is not one of them which seeks to cover up vice with
sophistical excuses; they show that the author or authors of them love
moral beauty and truth, and exalt the same,--as many great men, with
questionable morals, give their testimony to the truths of
Christianity, and utterly abhor those who poison the soul by plausible
sophistries,--as Lord Brougham detested Rousseau. The famous writings of
our modern times which nearest approach the Proverbs in love of truth
and moral wisdom are those of Bacon and Shakspeare.

In striking contrast with the praises of knowledge which permeate the
Proverbs, is the book of Ecclesiastes, supposed to have been written in
the decline of Solomon's life, when the pleasures of sin had saddened
his soul, and filled his mind with cynicism. Unless the book of
Ecclesiastes is to be interpreted as ironical, nothing can be more
dreary than many of its declarations. It even seems to pour contempt on
all knowledge and all enjoyments. "In much knowledge is much grief, and
he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.... What profit hath a
man of all his labor?... There is no remembrance of the wise more than
of the fool.... There is nothing better for a man than that he should
eat and drink.... A man hath no pre-eminence over a beast; all go to the
same place.... What hath the wise man more than the fool?... There is a
just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man
that prolongeth his life in wickedness.... One man among a thousand have
I found, but a woman among all those have I not found.... The race is
not to the swift, the battle to the strong; neither bread to the wise,
nor riches to the man of understanding.... On all things is written
vanity." Such are some of the dismal and cynical utterances of Solomon
in his old age. The Ecclesiastes contrasted with the Proverbs is
discouraging and sad, although there is great seriousness and even
loftiness in many of its sayings. It seems to be the record of a
disenchanted old man, to whom all things are a folly and vanity. There
is a suppressed contempt expressed for what young men and the worldly
regard as desirable, equalled only by a sort of proud disdain of success
and fame. There is great bitterness in reference to women. Some of the
sayings are as mournful jeremiads as any uttered by Carlyle, showing
great scorn of what ninety-nine in one hundred are vain of, and pursue
after, as all ending in vanity and vexation of spirit. We can understand
how riches may prove a snare, how pleasure-seeking ends in
disappointment, how the smiles of a deceitful woman may lead to the
chamber of death, how little the treasures of wickedness profit, how
sins will find out the transgressor, how the heart may be sad in the
midst of laughter, how wine is a mocker, how ambition is Babel-building,
how he who pursueth evil pursueth it to his death; we can understand how
abundance will produce satiety, and satiety lead to disgust,--how
disappointment attends our most cherished plans, and how all mortal
pursuits fail to satisfy the cravings of an immortal soul. But why does
the favored and princely Solomon, in sadness and bitterness, pronounce
knowledge also to be a vanity like power and riches, especially when in
his earlier writings he so highly commends it? Is it true that in much
wisdom is much grief, and that the increase of knowledge is the increase
of sorrow? Can it be that the book of Ecclesiastes is the mere record of
the miserable experiences of an embittered and disappointed sensualist,
or is it the profound and searching exposition of the vanities of this
world as they appear to a lofty searcher after truth and God, measured
by the realities of a future and endless life, which the soul
emancipated from pollution pants and aspires after with all the
intensity of a renovated nature? When I bear in mind the impressive
lessons that are declared at the close of this remarkable book, the
earnest exhortation to remember God before the dust shall return to the
earth as it was, I cannot but feel that there are great moral truths
underlying the sarcasm and irony in which the writer indulged. And these
come with increased force from the mouth of a man who had tasted every
mortal good, and found it all, when not properly used, a confirmation of
the impossibility of earth to satisfy the soul of man. The writer calls
himself "the preacher," and surely a great preacher he was,--not to a
throng of "fashionable worshippers" or a crowd of listless
pleasure-seekers, but to all ages and nations. And if he really was a
living speaker to the young men who caught the inspiration of his voice,
how terribly eloquent he must have been!

I fancy that I can see that unhappy old man, worn out, saddened,
embittered, yet at last rising above the decrepitude of age and the
infirmities which sin had hastened, and speaking in tones that could
never be forgotten. "Behold, ye young men! I have tasted every enjoyment
of this earth; I have indulged in every pleasure forbidden or permitted.
I have explored the world of thought and the realm of nature. I have
been favored beyond any mortal that ever lived; I have been flattered
and honored beyond all precedent; I have consumed the treasures of kings
and princes. I builded me houses, I planted me vineyards; I made me
gardens and orchards, I made me pools of water; I got me servants and
maidens, I gathered me also silver and gold; I got me men-singers and
women-singers and musical instruments; whatsoever my eyes desired I kept
not from them; I withheld not my heart from any joy,--and now, lo! I
solemnly declare unto you, with my fading strength and my eyes suffused
with tears and my knees trembling with weakness, and in view of that
future and higher life which I neglected to seek amid the dazzling
glories of my throne, and the bewilderment of fascinating joys,--I now
most earnestly declare unto you that all these things which men seek and
prize are a vanity, a delusion, and a snare; that there is no wisdom but
in the fear of God."

So this saddest of books closes with lofty exhortations, and recognizes
moral obligations which are in harmony with the great principle enforced
in the Proverbs,--that there is no escape from the penalty of sin and
folly; that whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. The last
recorded words of the preacher are concerning the vanity of life,--that
is, the hopeless failure of worldly pleasures and egotistical pursuits
in themselves alone to secure happiness; the impossibility of lasting
good disconnected with righteousness; the fact that even knowledge, the
greatest possession and the highest joy which a man can have, does not
satisfy the soul.

These final utterances of Solomon are not dogmas nor speculations, they
are experiences,--the experiences of one of the most favored mortals who
has lived upon our earth, and one of the wisest. If, measured by the
eternal standards, his glory was less than that of the flower which
withers in a day, what hope have ordinary men in the pursuit of
pleasure, or gain, or honor? Utter vanity and vexation of spirit!
Nothing brings a true reward but virtue,--unselfish labors for others,
supreme loyalty to conscience, obedience to God. Hence, such profound
experience so frankly published, such sad confessions uttered from the
depths of the heart, and the summing up of the whole question of human
life, enforced with the earnestness and eloquence of an old man soon to
die, have peculiar force, and are among the greatest treasures of the
Old Testament.

The fundamental truth to be deduced from the book of Ecclesiastes is
that whatsoever is born of vanity must end in vanity. If vanity is the
seed, so vanity is the fruit. It is, in fact, one of the most impressive
of all the truths that appeal either to consciousness or experience. If
a man builds a house from vanity, or makes a party from vanity, or gives
a present from vanity, or writes a book from vanity, or seeks an office
from vanity,--then, as certainly as the bite of an asp will poison the
body, will the expected good be turned into a bitter disappointment.
Self-love cannot be the basis of human action without alienation from
God, without weariness, disgust, and ultimate sorrow. The soul can be
fed only by divine certitudes; it can be enlarged only by walking
according to the divine commandments.

Confucius, Socrates, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius declared the same
truths, but not so impressively. Not for one's self, not for friends,
not even for children alone must one live. There is a higher law still
which speaks to the universal conscience, asking, What is your duty?
With this is identified all that is precious in life, on earth or in
heaven, for time and eternity. Anything in this world which is sought
as a good, whose end is selfish, is an impressive failure; so that
self-aggrandizement becomes as absurd and fatal as self-indulgence. One
can no more escape from the operation of this law than he can take the
wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea. The
commonest experiences of every-day life confirm the wisdom which Solomon
uttered out of his lonely and saddened soul. If ye will not hear him, be
instructed by your own broken friendships, your own dispelled illusions,
your own fallen idols; by the heartlessness which too often lurks in the
smiles of beauty, by the poison concealed in polished flatteries, by the
deceitfulness hidden, beneath the warmest praises, by the demons of
envy, jealousy, and pride which take from success itself its
promised joys.

Who is happy with any amount of wealth? Who is free from corroding
cares? Who can escape anxiety and fear? How hard to shake off the
burdens which even a rich man is compelled to bear? There is a fly in
every ointment, a skeleton in every closet, solitude in the midst of
crowds, isolation in the joy of festivals. The wrecks of happiness are
strewn in every path that the world has envied.

Read the lives of illustrious men; how melancholy often are the latter
days of those who have climbed the highest! Caesar is stabbed when he
has conquered the world. Diocletian retires in disgust from the
government of an empire. Godfrey languishes in grief when he has taken
Jerusalem. Charles V. shuts himself up in a convent. Galileo, whose
spirit has roamed the heavens, is a prisoner of the Inquisition.
Napoleon masters a continent, and expires on a rock in the ocean.
Mirabeau dies of despair when he has kindled the torch of revolution.
The poetic soul of Burns passes away in poverty and moral eclipse.
Madness overtakes the cool satirist Swift, and mental degeneracy is the
final condition of the fertile-minded Scott. The high-souled Hamilton
perishes in a petty quarrel, and curses overwhelm Webster in the halls
of his early triumphs. What a confirmation of the experience of Solomon!
"Vanity of vanities" write on all walls, in all the chambers of
pleasure, in all the palaces of pride!

This is the burden of the preaching of Solomon; but it is also the
lesson which is taught by all the records of the past, and all the
experiences of mankind. Yet it is not sad when one considers the dignity
of the soul and its immortal destinies. It is sad only when the
disenchantment of illusions is not followed by that holy fear which is
the beginning of wisdom,--that exalted realism which we believe at last
sustained the soul of the Preacher as he was hastening to that country
from whose bourn no traveller returns.




Evil days fell upon the Israelites after the death of Solomon. In the
first place their country was rent by political divisions, disorders,
and civil wars. Ten of the tribes, or three quarters of the population,
revolted from Rehoboam, Solomon's son and successor, and took for their
king Jeroboam,--a valiant man, who had been living for several years at
the court of Shishak, king of Egypt, exiled by Solomon for his too great
ambition. Jeroboam had been an industrious, active-minded,
strong-natured youth, whom Solomon had promoted and made much of. The
prophet Ahijah had privately foretold to him that, on account of the
idolatries tolerated by Solomon, ten of the tribes should be rent away
from, the royal house and given to him. The Lord promised him the
kingdom of Israel, and (if he would be loyal to the faith) the
establishment of a dynasty,--"a sure house." Jeroboam made choice of
Shechem for his capital; and from political reasons,--for fear that the
people should, according to their custom, go up to Jerusalem to worship
at the great festivals of the nation, and perhaps return to their
allegiance to the house of David, while perhaps also to compromise with
their already corrupted and unspiritualized religious sense,--he made
two golden calves and set them up for religious worship: one in Bethel,
at the southern end of the kingdom; the other in Dan, at the far north.

It does not appear that the people of Israel as yet ignored Jehovah as
God; but they worshipped him in the form of the same Egyptian symbol
that Aaron had set up in the wilderness,--a grave offence, although not
an utter apostasy. Moreover, this was the act of the king rather than of
the priests or his own subjects.

Stanley makes a significant comment on this act of the new king, which
the sacred narrative refers to as "the sin of Jeroboam, the son of
Nebat, who made Israel to sin." He says: "The Golden Image was doubtless
intended as a likeness of the One True God. But the mere fact of setting
up such a likeness broke down the sacred awe which had hitherto marked
the Divine Presence, and accustomed the minds of the Israelites to the
very sin against which the new form was intended to be a safeguard. From
worshipping God under a false and unauthorized form they gradually
learned to worship other gods altogether.... 'The sin of Jeroboam, the
son of Nebat,' is the sin again and again repeated in the
policy--half-worldly, half-religious--which has prevailed through large
tracts of ecclesiastical history.... For the sake of supporting the
faith of the multitude, lest they should fall away to rival sects, ...
false arguments have been used in support of religious truths, false
miracles promulgated or tolerated, false readings in the sacred text
defended. And so the faith of mankind has been undermined by the very
means intended to preserve it."

For priests, Jeroboam selected the lowest of the people,--whoever could
be induced to offer idolatrous sacrifices in the high places,--since the
old priests and Levites remained with the tribe of Judah at Jerusalem.

These abominations and political rivalries caused incessant war between
the two kingdoms for several reigns. The northern kingdom, including the
great tribe of Ephraim or Joseph, was the richest, most fertile, and
most powerful; but the southern kingdom was the most strongly fortified.
And yet even in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, the king of
Egypt, probably incited by Jeroboam, invaded Judah with an immense army,
including sixty thousand cavalry and twelve hundred chariots, and
invested Jerusalem. The city escaped capture only by submitting to the
most humiliating conditions. The vast wealth which was stored in the
Temple,--the famous gold shields which David had taken from the Syrians,
and those also made by Solomon for his body-guard, together with the
treasures of the royal palace,--became spoil for the Egyptians. This
disaster happened when Solomon had been dead but five years. The
solitary tribe left to his son, despoiled by Egypt and overrun by other
enemies, became of but little account politically for several
generations, although it still possessed the Temple and was proud of its
traditions. After this great humiliation, the proud king of Judah, it
seems, became a better man; and his descendants for a hundred years
were, on the whole, worthy sovereigns, and did good in the sight of
the Lord.

Political interest now centres in the larger kingdom, called Israel.
Judah for a time passes out of sight, but is gradually enriched under
the reigns of virtuous princes, who preserved the worship of the true
God at Jerusalem. Nations, like individuals, seldom grow in real
strength except in adversity. The prosperity of Solomon undermined his
throne. The little kingdom of Judah lasted one hundred and fifty years
after the ten tribes were carried into captivity.

Yet what remained of power and wealth among the Jews after the rebellion
under Jeroboam, was to be found in the northern kingdom. It was still
exceedingly fertile, and was well watered. It was "a land of brooks of
water, of fountains, of barley and wheat, of vines and fig-trees, of
olives and honey." It boasted of numerous fortified cities, and had a
population as dense as that in Belgium at the present time. The nobles
were powerful and warlike; while the army was well organized, and
included chariots and horses. The monarchy was purely military, and was
surrounded by powerful nations, whom it was necessary to conciliate.
Among these were the Phoenicians on the west, and the Syrians on the
north. From the first the army was the great power of the state, its
chief being more powerful than Joab was in the undivided kingdom of
David. He stood next after the king, and was the channel of royal favor.

The history of the northern kingdom which has come down to us is very
meagre. From Jeroboam to Ahab--a period of sixty-six years--there were
six kings, three of whom were assassinated. There was a succession of
usurpers, who destroyed all the members of the preceding reigning
family. They were all idolaters, violent and bloodthirsty men, whom the
army had raised to the throne. No one of them was marked by signal
ability, unless it were Omri, who built the city of Samaria on a high
hill, and so strongly fortified it that it remained the capital until
the fall of the kingdom. He also made a close alliance with Tyre, the
great centre of commerce in that age, and one of the wealthiest cities
of antiquity. To cement this political alliance, Omri married his son
Ahab--the heir-apparent to the throne--to a daughter of the Tyrian king,
afterward so infamous as a religious fanatic and persecutor, under the
name of Jezebel,--one of the worst women in history.

On the accession of Ahab, nine hundred and nineteen years before Christ,
the kingdom of Israel was rapidly tending to idolatry. Jeroboam had set
up golden calves chiefly for a political end, but Ahab built a temple to
Baal, the sun-god, the chief divinity of the Phoenicians, and erected an
altar therein for pagan sacrifices, thus abjuring Jehovah as the Supreme
and only God. The established religion was now idolatry in its worst
form; it was simply the worship of the powers of Nature, under the
auspices of a foreign woman stained with every vice, who controlled her
husband. For Ahab himself was bad enough, but he was not the wickedest
of the monarchs of Israel, nor was he insignificant as a man. It was his
misfortune to be completely under the influence of his Phoenician bride,
as many stronger men than he have been enslaved by women before and
since his day. Ahab, bad as he was, was brave in battle, patriotic in
his aims, and magnificent in his tastes. To please his wife he added to
his royal residences a summer retreat called Jezreel, which was of
great beauty, and contained within its grounds an ivory palace of great
splendor. Amid its gardens and parks and all the luxuries then known,
the youthful monarch with his queen and attendant nobles abandoned
themselves to pleasure and folly, as Oriental monarchs are wont to do.
It would seem that he was unusually licentious in his habits, since he
left seventy children,--afterward to be massacred.

The ascendency of a wicked woman over this luxurious monarch has made
her infamous. She was an incarnation of pride, sensuality, and cruelty;
and with all her other vices she was a religious persecutor who has had
no equal. We may perhaps give to her, as to many other tiger-like
persecutors in the cause of what they call their "religion," the meagre
credit of conscientious devotion in their cruelty; for she feasted at
her own table at Jezreel four hundred priests of Baal, besides four
hundred and fifty others at Samaria, while she erected two great
sanctuaries for the Phoenician deities, at which the officiating priests
were clad in splendid vestments. The few remaining prophets of Jehovah
in the kingdom hid themselves in caves and deserts to escape the
murderous fury of the idolatrous queen. We infer that she was
distinguished for her beauty, and was bewitching in her manners like
Catherine de' Medici, that Italian bigot whom her courtiers likened
both to Aurora and Venus. Jezebel, like the Florentine princess, is an
illustration of the wickedness which is so often concealed by enchanting
smiles, especially when armed with power. The priests of Baal
undoubtedly regarded their great protectress as one of the most
fascinating women that ever adorned a royal palace, and in the blaze of
her beauty and the magnificence of her bounty were blind to her
innumerable sorceries and the wild license of her life.

The fearful apostasy of Israel, which had been increasing for sixty
years under wicked kings, had now reached a point which called for
special divine intervention. There were only seven thousand men in the
whole kingdom who had not bowed the knee to Baal, and God sent a
prophet,--a prophet such as had not appeared in Israel since Samuel;
more august, more terrible even than he; indeed, the most unique and
imposing character in Jewish history.

Almost nothing is known of the early history of Elijah. The Bible simply
speaks of him as "the Tishbite,"--one of the inhabitants of Gilead, at
the east of the Jordan. He evidently was a man accustomed to a wild and
solitary life. His stature was large, and his features were fierce and
stern. His long hair flowed upon his brawny shoulders, and he was
clothed with a mantle of sheepskin or hair-cloth, and carried in his
hand a rugged staff. He was probably unlearned, being rude and rough in
both manners and speech. His first appearance was marked and
extraordinary. He suddenly and unannounced stood before Ahab, and
abruptly delivered his awful message. He was an apparition calculated to
strike with terror the boldest of kings in that superstitious age. He
makes no set speech, he offers no apology, he disdains all forms and
ceremonies; he does not even render the customary homage. He utters only
a few words, preceded by an oath: "As Jehovah the God of Israel liveth,
there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word."
What arrogance before a king! Elijah, an utterly unknown man, in a
sheepskin mantle, apparently a peasant, dares to utter a curse on the
land without even deigning to give a reason, although the conscience of
Ahab must have told him that he could not with impunity introduce
idolatry into Israel.

Elijah doubtless attacked the king in the presence of his wife and
court. To the cynical and haughty queen, born in idolatry, he probably
seemed a madman of the desert,--shaggy, unwashed, fierce, repulsive. To
the Israelitish king, however, with better knowledge of the ways of God,
the prophet appeared armed with supernal powers, whom he both feared and
hated, and desired to put out of the way. But Elijah mysteriously
disappears from the royal presence as suddenly as he had entered it, and
no one knows whither he has fled. He cannot be found. The royal
emissaries go into every land, but are utterly baffled in their search.
The whole power of the realm was doubtless put forth to discover his
retreat, and had he been found, no mercy would have been shown him; he
would have been summarily executed, not only as a prophet of the
detested religion, but as one who had insulted the royal station. He was
forced to flee and hide after delivering his unwelcome message.

And whither did the prophet fly? He fled with the swiftness of a
Bedouin, accustomed to traverse barren rocks and scorching sands, to a
retired valley of one of the streams that emptied into the Jordan near
Samaria. Amid the clefts of the rocks which marked the deep valley, did
the man of God hide himself from his furious and numerous persecutors.
He does not escape to his native deserts, where he would most probably
have been hunted like a wild beast, but remains near the capital in
which Ahab reigns, in a deeply secluded spot, where he quenches his
thirst from the waters of the brook, and eats the food which the ravens
deposit amid the steep cliffs he knows how to climb.

The bravest and most undaunted man in Israel, shielded and protected by
God, was probably warned by the divine voice to make his escape, since
his life was needful to the execution of Providential purposes. He was
the only one of all the prophets of his day who dared to give utterance
to his convictions. Some four or five hundred there were in the kingdom,
all believers in Jehovah; but all sought to please the reigning power,
or timidly concealed themselves. They had been trained in the schools
which Samuel had established, and were probably teachers of the people
on theological subjects, and hence an antagonistic force to idolatrous
kings. Their great defect in the time of Ahab was timidity. There was
needed some one who under all circumstances would be undaunted, and
would not hesitate to tell the truth even to the king and queen, however
unpleasant it might be. So this rough, fierce, unlettered man of few
words was sent by God, armed with terrible powers.

It was now the rainy season, when rain was confidently expected by the
people throughout Palestine. Yet strangely no rain fell, though sixty
inches were the usual quantity in the course of the year. The streams
from the mountains were dried up; the land, long parched by the summer
sun, became like dust and ashes; the hills presented a blasted and
dreary desolation; the very trees were withered and discolored. At last
even the sheltered brook failed from which Elijah drank, and it became
necessary for the man of God to seek another retreat. The Lord therefore
sent him to the last place in which his enemies would naturally search
for him, even to a city of Phoenicia, where the worship of Baal was the
only religion of the land. As in his tattered and strange apparel he
approached Sarepta, or Zarephath, a town between Tyre and Sidon, worn
out with fatigue, parched with thirst, and overcome with
hunger,--everything around him being depressed and forlorn, the rivers
and brooks showing only beds of stone, the trees and grass withered, the
sky lurid, and of unnatural brightness like that of brass, and the sun
burning and scorching every remnant of vegetation,--he beheld a woman
issuing from the town to gather sticks, in order to cook what she
supposed would be her last meal. To this sad and discouraged woman,
doubtless a worshipper of Baal, the prophet thus spoke: "Fetch me, I
pray you, a little water in a vessel that I may drink;" and as she
turned sympathetically to look upon him, he added, "Bring me, I pray
thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand."

This was no small request to make of a woman who was herself on the
borders of starvation, and of a pagan woman too. But there was a
mysterious affinity between these two suffering souls. A common woman
would not have appreciated the greatness of the beggar and vagrant
before her. Only a discerning and sympathetic woman would have seen in
the tones of his voice, and in his lofty bearing, despite all his rags
and dirt, an unusual and marked character. She probably belonged to a
respectable class, reduced to poverty by the famine, and her keen
intelligence recognized at once in the hungry and needy stranger a
superior person,--even as the humble friar of Palos saw in Columbus a
nobleman by nature, when, wearied and disappointed, he sought food and
shelter. She took the prophet by the hand, conducted him to her home,
gave him the best chamber in her house, and in a strange devotion of
generosity divided with him the last remnant of her meal and oil.

It is probable that a lasting friendship sprang up between the pagan
woman and the solemn man of God, such as bound together the no less
austere Jerome and his disciple Paula. For two or three years the
prophet dwelt in peace and safety in the heathen town, protected by an
admiring woman,--for his soul was great, if his body was emaciated and
his dress repulsive. In return for her hospitality he miraculously
caused her meal and oil to be daily renewed; and more than this, he
restored her only son to life, when he had succumbed to a dangerous
illness,--the first recorded instance of such a miracle.

The German critics would probably say that the boy was only seemingly
dead, even as they would deny the miracle of the meal and oil. It is not
my purpose to discuss this matter, but to narrate the recorded incidents
that filled the soul of the woman of Sarepta with gratitude, with
wonder, and with boundless devotion. "Verily, I say unto you," said a
greater than Elijah, "whosoever shall give a cup of cold water in the
name of a prophet, shall in no way lose his reward." Her reward was
immeasurably greater than she had dared to hope. She received both
spiritual and temporal blessings, and doubtless became a convert to the
true faith. Tradition asserts that her boy, whom Elijah saved,--whether
by natural or supernatural means, it is alike indifferent,--became in
after years the prophet Jonah, who was sent to Nineveh. In all great
friendships the favors are reciprocal. A noble-hearted woman was saved
from starvation, and the life of a great man was preserved for future
usefulness. Austerity and tenderness met together and became a cord of
love; and when the land was perishing from famine, the favored members
of a retired household were shielded from harm, and had all that was
necessary for comfort.

Meanwhile the abnormal drought and consequent famine continued. The
northern kingdom was reduced to despair. So dried up were the wells and
exhausted the cisterns and reservoirs that even the king's household
began to suffer, and it was feared that the horses of the royal stables
would perish. In this dire extremity the king himself set forth from his
palace to seek patches of vegetation and pools of water in the valleys,
while his prime minister Obadiah--a secret worshipper of Jehovah--was
sent in an opposite direction for a like purpose. On his way, in the
almost hopeless search for grass and water, Obadiah met Elijah, who had
been sent from his retreat once more to confront Ahab, and this time to
promise rain. As the most diligent search had been made in every
direction, but in vain, to find Elijah, with a view to his destruction
as the man who "troubled Israel," Obadiah did not believe that the
hunted prophet would voluntarily put himself again in the power of an
angry and hostile tyrant. Yet the prime minister, having encountered the
prophet, was desirous that he should keep his word to appear before the
king, and promise to remove the calamity which even in a pagan land was
felt to be a divine judgment. Elijah having reassured him of his
sincerity, the minister informed his master that the man he sought to
destroy was near at hand, and demanded an interview. The wrathful and
puzzled king went out to meet the prophet, not to take vengeance, but to
secure relief from a sore calamity,--for Ahab reasoned that if Elijah
had power, as the messenger of Omnipotence, to send a drought, he also
had the power to remove it. Moreover, had he not said that there should
be neither rain nor dew but according to his word? So Ahab addressed the
prophet as the author of national calamities, but without threats or
insults. "Art thou he who troubleth Israel?" Elijah loftily,
fearlessly, and reproachfully replied: "I have not troubled Israel, but
thou and thy father's house, in that thou hast forsaken the commandments
of Jehovah, and hast followed Baalim." He then assumes the haughty
attitude of a messenger of divine omnipotence, and orders the king to
assemble all his people, together with the eight hundred and fifty
priests of Baal, at Mount Carmel,--a beautiful hill sixteen hundred feet
high, near the Mediterranean, usually covered with oaks and flowering
shrubs and fragrant herbs. He gives no reasons,--he sternly commands;
and the king obeys, being evidently awed by the imperious voice of the
divine ambassador.

The representatives of the whole nation are now assembled at Mount
Carmel, with their idolatrous priests. The prophet appears in their
midst as a preacher armed with irresistible power. He addresses the
people, who seemed to have no firm convictions, but were swayed to and
fro by changing circumstances, being not yet hopelessly sunk into the
idolatry of their rulers. "How long," cried the preacher, with a loud
voice and fierce aspect, "halt ye between two opinions? If Jehovah be
God, _follow_ him; but if Baal be God, then follow _him_." The
undecided, crestfallen, intimidated people did not answer a word.

Then Elijah stoops to argument. He reminds the people, among whom
probably were many influential men, that he stood alone in opposition
to eight hundred and fifty idolatrous priests protected by the king and
queen. He proposes to test their claims in comparison with his as
ministers of the true God. This seems reasonable, and the king makes no
objection. The test is to be supernatural, even to bring down fire from
heaven to consume the sacrificial bullock on the altar. The priests of
Baal select their bullock, cut it in pieces, put it on the wood, and
invoke their supreme deity to send fire to consume the sacrifice. With
all their arts and incantations and magical sorceries, the fire does not
descend. They then perform their wild and fantastic dances, screaming
aloud, from early morn to noon, "O Baal, hear us!" We do not read
whether Ahab was present or not, but if he were he must have quaked with
blended sentiments of curiosity and fear. His anxiety must have been
terrible. Elijah alone is calm; but he is also stern. He mocks them with
provoking irony, and ridicules their want of success. His grim sarcasms
become more and more bitter. "Cry with a loud voice!" said he, "yea,
louder and yet louder! for ye cry to a god; either he is talking, or he
is hunting, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth and must
be awakened." And they cried aloud, and cut themselves, after their
manner, with knives and spears, till the blood gushed out upon them.

Then Elijah, when midday was past, and the priests continued to call
unto their god until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice,
and there was neither voice nor answer, assembled the people around him,
as he stood alone by the ruins of an ancient altar. With his own hands
he gathered twelve stones, piled them together to represent the twelve
tribes, cut a bullock in pieces, laid it on the wood, made a trench
around the rude altar, which he filled with water from an adjacent well,
and then offered up this prayer to the God of his fathers: "O Jehovah,
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, hear me! and let all the people know
that thou art the God of Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I
have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, Jehovah, hear me! that
this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, and that thou hast
turned their hearts back again." Then immediately the fire of Jehovah
fell and consumed the bullock and the wood, even melted the very stones,
and licked up the water in the trench. And when the people saw it, they
fell on their faces, and cried aloud, "Jehovah, he is the God! Jehovah,
he is the God!"

Elijah then commanded to take the prophets of Baal, all of them, so that
not even one of them should escape. And they took them, by the direction
of Elijah, down the mountain side to the brook Kishon, and slew them
there. His triumph was complete. He had asserted the majesty and proved
the power of Jehovah.

The prophet then turned to the king, who seems to have been completely
subjected by this tremendous proof of the prophetic authority, and said:
"Get thee up, eat and drink, for there is the sound of abundance of
rain." And Ahab ascended the hill, to eat and drink with his nobles at
the sacrificial feast,--a venerable symbol by which, from the most
primitive antiquity to our own day, by so universal an impulse that it
would seem to be divinely imparted, every form of religion known to man
has sought to typify the human desire to commune with Deity.

Elijah also went to the top of Carmel, not to the symbolic feast, but in
spirit and in truth to commune with God, reverentially hiding his face
between his knees. He felt the approach of the coming storm, even when
the sky was clear, and not a cloud was to be seen over the blue waters
of the Mediterranean. So he said to his servant: "Go up now, and look
toward the sea." And the servant went to still higher ground and looked,
and reported that nothing was to be seen. Six times the order was
impatiently repeated and obeyed; but at the seventh time, the youthful
servant--as some think, the very boy he had saved--reported a cloud in
the distant horizon, no bigger seemingly than a man's hand. At once
Elijah sent word to Ahab to prepare for the coming tempest; and both he
and the king began to descend the hill, for the clouds rapidly gathered
in the heavens, and that mighty wind arose which in Eastern countries
precedes a furious storm. With incredible rapidity the tempest spread,
and the king hastened for his life to his chariot at the foot of the
hill, to cross the brook before it became a flood; and Elijah,
remembering that he was king, ran before his chariot more rapidly than
the Arab steeds. As the servant of Jehovah, he performs his mission with
dignity and without fear; as a subject, he renders due respect to rank
and power.

Ahab has now witnessed with his own eyes the impotency of the prophets
of Baal, and the marvellous power of the messenger of Jehovah. The
desire of the nation was to be gratified; the rains were falling, the
cisterns and reservoirs were filling, and the fields once more would
soon rejoice in their wonted beauty, and the famine would soon be at an
end. In view of the great deliverance, and awe-stricken by the
supernatural gifts of the prophet, one would suppose that the king would
have taken Elijah to his confidence and loaded him with favors, and been
guided by his counsels. But, no. He had been subjected to deep
humiliation before his own people; his religion had been brought into
contempt, and he was afraid of his cruel and inexorable wife, who had
incited him to debasing idolatries. So he hastens to his palace in
Jezreel and acquaints Jezebel of the wonderful things he had seen, and
which he could not prevent. She was transported with fury and vengeance,
and vowing a tremendous oath, she sent a messenger to the prophet with
these terrible words: "As surely as thou art Elijah and I am Jezebel, so
may God do to me and more also, if I make not thy life to-morrow, about
this time, as the life of one of them." In her unbounded rage she forgot
all policy, for she should have struck the blow without giving her enemy
time to escape. It may also be noted that she is no atheist, but
believes in God according to Phoenician notions. She reflects that eight
hundred and fifty of Baal's prophets had been slain, and that the nation
might return to their allegiance to the god of their fathers, who had
wrought the greatest calamity her proud heart could endure. Unlike her
husband, she knows no fear, and is as unscrupulous as she is fanatical.
Elijah, she resolved, should surely die.

And how did the prophet receive her message? He had not feared to
encounter Ahab and all the priests of Baal, yet he quailed before the
wrath of this terrible woman,--this incarnate fiend, who cared neither
for Jehovah nor his prophet. Even such a hero as Elijah felt that he
must now flee for his life, and, attended only by his boy-servant, he
did not halt until he had crossed the kingdom of Judah, and reached the
utmost southern bounds of the Holy Land. At Beersheba he left his
faithful attendant, and sought refuge in the desert,--the ancient
wilderness of Sinai, with its rocky wastes. Under the shade of a
solitary tree, exhausted and faint, he lay down to die. "It is enough, O
Jehovah! now take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers." He
had outstripped all pursuers, and was apparently safe, yet he wished to
die. It was the reaction of a mighty excitement, the lassitude produced
by a rapid and weary flight. He was physically exhausted, and with this
exhaustion came despondency. He was a strong man unnerved, and his will
succumbed to unspeakable weariness. He lay down and slept, and when he
awoke he was fed and comforted by an angelic visitor, who commanded him
to arise and penetrate still farther into the dreary wilderness. For
forty days and nights he journeyed, until he reached the awful solitudes
of Sinai and Horeb, and sought shelter in a cave. Enclosed between
granite rocks, he entered upon a new crisis of his career.

It does not appear that the future destinies of Samaria and Jerusalem
were revealed to Elijah, nor the fate of the surrounding nations, as
seen by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. He was not called to foretell the
retribution which would surely be inflicted on degenerate and idolatrous
nations, nor even to declare those impressive truths which should
instruct all future generations. He therefore does not soar in his
dreary solitude to those lofty regions of thought which marked the
meditations of Moses. He is not a man of genius; he is no poet; he has
no eloquence or learning; he commits no precious truths to writing for
the instruction of distant generations. He is a man of intensely earnest
convictions, gifted with extraordinary powers resulting from that
peculiar combination of physical and spiritual qualities known as the
prophetic temperament. The instruments of the Divine Will on earth are
selected with unerring judgment. Elijah was sent by the Almighty to
deliver special messages of reproof and correction to wicked rulers; he
was a reformer. But his character was august, his person was weird and
remarkable, his words were earnest and delivered with an indomitable
courage, a terrific force. He was just the man to make a strong
impression on a superstitious and weak king; but he had done more than
that,--he had roused a whole nation from their foul debasement, and left
them quaking in terror before their offended Deity.

But the phase of exaltation and potent energy had passed for the time,
and we now see him faint and despondent, yet, with the sure instinct of
mighty spiritual natures, seeking recuperation in solitary companionship
with the all-present Spirit.

We do not know how long Elijah remained in his dismal cavern,--long
enough, however, to recover his physical energies and his moral courage.
As he wanders to and fro amid the hoary rocks and impenetrable solitudes
of Horeb, he seeks to commune with God. He listens for some
manifestation of the deity; he is ready to do His bidding. He hears the
sound of a rushing hurricane; but God is not in the wind. The mountain
then is shaken by a fearful earthquake; but Jehovah is not in the
earthquake. Again the mountain seems to flash with fire; but the signs
he seeks are not in the fire. At last, after the uproar of contending
physical forces had died away, in the profound silence of the solitude
he hears the whisper of a still small voice in gentle accents; and by
this voice in the soul Jehovah speaks: "What doest thou here, Elijah?"
Was this voice reproachful? Had the prophet been told to flee? Had he
acted with the courage of a man sure of divine protection? Had he not
been faint-hearted when he wished to die? How does he reply to the
mysterious voice? He justifies himself. But strengthened, comforted,
uplifted by the exaltation of the consciousness of God's presence,
Elijah feels his resilient powers again upspringing. His courage
returns; his perceptions grow sharp again; the inspiration of a new line
of action opens up to him. He hears the word of the Lord: "Go, return on
thy way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when thou comest, anoint
Hazael to be king over Syria, and Jehu the son of Nimshi to be king over
Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat to be prophet in thy room. And it
shall come to pass that him who escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu
destroy, and him that escapeth the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet
I have left me seven thousand in Israel, who have not bowed the knee
unto Baal."

Elijah still knows that his life is in peril, but is ready,
nevertheless, to obey his master's call. He is not designated as the
power to effect the great revolution which should root out idolatry and
destroy the house of Omri; but Jehu, an unscrupulous yet jealous
warrior, was to found a new dynasty, and the king of Syria was to punish
and afflict the ten tribes, and Elisha was to be the mouth-piece of the
Almighty in the court of kings. It would appear that Elijah did not
himself anoint either the general of Benhadad or of Ahab as future
kings,--instruments of punishment on idolatrous Israel,--but on Elisha
did his mantle fall.

Elisha was the son of a farmer, and, according to Ewald, when Elijah
selected him for his companion and servant, had just been ploughing his
twelve yoke of land (not of oxen), and was at work on the twelfth and
last. Passing by the place, Elijah, without stopping, took off his
shaggy mantle of skins, and cast it upon Elisha. The young man, who
doubtless was familiar with the appearance of the great prophet,
recognized and accepted this significant call, and without remonstrance,
even as others in later days devoted themselves to a greater Prophet,
"left all and followed" the one who had chosen him. He became Elijah's
constant companion and pupil and ministrant, until the great man's
departure. He belonged to "the sons of the prophets," among whom Elijah
sojourned in his latter days,--a community of young men, for the most
part poor, and compelled to combine manual labor with theological
studies. Very few of these prophets seem to have been favored with
especial gifts or messages from God, in the sense that Samuel and Elijah
were. They were teachers and preachers rather than prophets, performing
duties not dissimilar to those of Franciscan friars in the Middle Ages.
They were ascetics like the monks, abstaining from wine and luxuries, as
Samson and the Nazarites and Rechabites did. Religious asceticism goes
back to a period that we cannot trace.

After Elijah had gone from the scenes of his earthly labors, Elisha
became a man of the city, and had a house in Samaria. His dress was that
of ordinary life, and he was bland in manners. His nature, unlike that
of Elijah, was gentle and affectionate. He became a man of great
influence, and was the friend of three kings. Jehoshaphat consulted him
in war; Joram sought his advice, and Benhadad in sickness sent to him to
be healed, for he exercised miraculous powers. He cured Naaman of
leprosy and performed many wonderful deeds, chiefly beneficent in

Elisha took no part in the revolutions of the palace, but he anointed
Jehu to be king over Israel, and predicted to Hazael his future
elevation. His chief business was as president of a school of the
prophets. His career as prophet lasted fifty-five years. He lived to a
good old age, and when he died, was buried with great pomp as a man of
rank, in favor with the court, for it was through him that Jehu
subsequently reigned. During the life of Elijah, however, Elisha was his
companion and coadjutor. More is said in Jewish history of Elisha than
of Elijah, though the former was not so lofty and original a character
as the latter. We are told that though Elisha inherited the mantle of
his master, he received only two-thirds of his master's spirit. But he
was regarded as a great prophet for over fifty years, even beyond the
limits of Israel. Unlike Elijah, Elisha preferred the companionship of
men rather than life in a desert. He fixed his residence in Samaria, and
was highly honored and revered by all classes; he exercised a great
influence on the king of Israel, and carried on the work which Elijah
began. He was statesman as well as prophet, and the trusted adviser of
the king; but his distinguished career did not begin till after Elijah
had ascended to heaven.

After the consecration of Elisha there is nothing said about Elijah for
some years, during which Ahab was involved in war with Benhadad, king of
Damascus. After that unfortunate contest it would seem that Ahab had
resigned himself to pleasure, and amused himself with his gardens at
Jezreel. During this time Elijah had probably lived in retirement; but
was again summoned to declare the judgment of God on Ahab for a most
atrocious murder.

In his desire to improve his grounds Ahab cast his eyes on a fertile
vineyard belonging to a distinguished and wealthy citizen named Naboth,
which had been in the possession of his family even since the conquest.
The king at first offered a large price for this vineyard, which he
wished to convert into a garden of flowers, but Naboth refused to sell
it for any price. "God forbid," said he, with religious scruples blended
with the pride of ancestry, "that I should give to thee the inheritance
of my fathers." Powerful and despotic as was the king, he knew he could
not obtain this coveted vineyard except by gross injustice and an act of
violence, which even he dared not commit. It would be an open violation
of the Jewish Constitution. By the laws of Moses the lands of the
Israelites, from the conquest, were inalienable. Even if they were sold
for debt, after fifty years they would return to the family. The pride
of ownership in real estate was one of the peculiarities of the Hebrews
until after their final dispersion. After the fall of Jerusalem by
Titus, personal property came to be more valued than real estate, and
the Jews became the money lenders and the bankers of the world. They
might be oppressed and robbed, but they could hide away their treasures.
A scrap of paper, they soon discovered, was enough to transfer in safety
the largest sums. A Jew had only to give a letter of credit on another
Jewish house, and a king could find ready money, if he gave sufficient
security, for any enterprise. Thus rare jewels pledged for gold
accumulated among the Hebrew merchants at an early date.

Ahab, disappointed in not being able without a crime to get possession
of Naboth's vineyard, abandoned himself to melancholy. In his deep
chagrin he laid himself down on his bed, turned his face to the wall,
and refused to eat. This seems strange to us, since he had more than
enough, and there was no check on his ordinary pleasures. But covetous
men never are satisfied. Ahab was miserable with all his possessions so
long as Naboth was resolved to retain his paternal acres. It seems that
it did not occur even to this unprincipled king that he could get
possession of the coveted vineyard if he resorted to craft
and violence.

But his clever and unscrupulous wife came to his assistance. In her
active brain she devised the means of success. She saw only the end; she
cared nothing for the means. It is probable, indeed, that Jezebel
hankered even more than Ahab for a garden of flowers. Yet even she dared
not openly seize the vineyard. Such an outrage might have caused a
rebellion; it would, at least, have created a great scandal and injured
her popularity, of which this artful woman was as tenacious as the Jew
was of his property. Moreover, Naboth was a very influential and wealthy
citizen, and had friends to support him. How could she remove the
grievous eye-sore? She pondered and consulted the doctors of the law, as
Henry VIII. made use of Cranmer when he wished to marry Anne Boleyn.
They told her that if it could be proved that any one, however high his
rank, had blasphemed God and the king, he could legally be executed, and
that his property would revert to the Crown. So she suborned false
witnesses, who swore at the trial of Naboth, already seized for high
treason, that he had blasphemed God and the king. Sentence, according to
law, was passed upon the innocent man, and according to law he was
stoned to death, and the vineyard according to law became the property
of the Crown. Jezebel, who had managed the whole affair, did not
undertake the prosecution in her own name; as a woman, she had not the
legal power. So she stole the king's ring, and sealed the indictment
with the royal seal.

Thus by force and fraud under skilful technicalities, and by usurpation
of the royal authority, the crime was consummated, and had the sanction
of the law. Oh, what crimes have been perpetrated in every age and
country under cover of the law! The Holy Inquisition was according to
law; the early Christian persecutions were according to law; usurpers
and murderers have reigned according to law; the Quakers were put in
prison, and witches were burned according to law. Slavery was sustained
by legal enactments; the rum shops are all under the protection of the
law. There is scarcely a public scandal and wrong in any civilized
country which the law does not somehow countenance or sustain. All
public robbers appeal to legal technicalities. How could city officials
steal princely revenues, how could lawyers collect exorbitant fees, if
it were not for the law? Neither Ahab nor Jezebel would have ventured to
seize Naboth's vineyard except under legal pretences; false witnesses
swore to a lie, and the law condemned the accused. Ahab in this instance
was not as bad as his wife. He may not even have known by what
diabolical craft the vineyard became his.

But such crimes, striking at the root of justice, cry to heaven for
vengeance. On Ahab as king rested the responsibility, and he as well as
his more guilty partner was made to pay the penalty. God in his
providence avenged the death of Naboth. The whole affair was widely
known. As Naboth's reputed offence was unusual, and the gravest known to
the Jewish laws, there was so great a sensation that a fast was
proclaimed. The false trial and murderous execution were accomplished
"before all the people." But this very ostentation of legal form made
the outrage notorious. It reached the ears of Elijah. The prophet's keen
sense of right detected such an outrageous combination of hypocrisy,
covetousness, fraud, usurpation, cruelty, robbery, and murder, that he
once more heard the Divine voice which summoned him from his retirement
and sent him to the court with an awful message. Suddenly, unannounced
and unexpected, the man of God appeared before the king in his newly
acquired possession, surrounded by his gardeners and artificers, and
accompanied by two of his officers,--Bidkar, and Jehu the son of
Nimshi,--destined to be both instrument and witness of the retribution.
With unwonted austerity, without preface or waste of words, Elijah broke
forth: "Thus saith Jehovah!"--how the monarch must have quaked at this
awful name: "In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall
dogs also lick thine, even thine." The conscience-stricken, affrighted
monarch could only say, "Hast thou found me, oh mine enemy!" And
terrible was the response: "Yes, I have found thee! and because thou
hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord, behold, I will
take away thy posterity, and will make thy house like the house of
Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. And as to thy wife also, saith
Jehovah, the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that
dieth of Ahab in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the
field shall the fowls of the air eat."

When and where, in the annals of the great, has such a dreadful
imprecation been uttered? It was more awful than the doom pronounced on
Belshazzar. The blood of Ahab and his wife was to be licked up by dogs,
their dynasty to be overthrown, and their whole house destroyed. This
dire punishment was inflicted probably not only on account of the crime
pertaining to Naboth, but for a whole life devoted to idolatry. The
sentence was not to be executed immediately,--possibly a time was given
for repentance; but it would surely be inflicted at last. This Ahab knew
better than any man in his kingdom. He was thrown into the depths of the
most abject despair. He rent his clothes; he put ashes on his head and
sackcloth on his flesh, and refused to eat or drink. He repented after
the fashion of criminals, and humbled himself, as Nebuchadnezzar did,
before the Most High God. God in mercy delayed, but did not annul, the
punishment Ahab lived long enough to fight the king of Syria
successfully, so that for three years there was peace in Israel. But
Ramoth in Gilead, belonging to the northern kingdom, remained in the
hands of the Syrians.

In the mean time Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, whose son Jehoram had
married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab, and who was therefore in friendly
social and political relations with Ahab, came to visit him. They
naturally talked about the war, and lamented the fall of Ramoth-Gilead.
Ahab proposed a united expedition to recover it, to which Jehoshaphat
was consenting; but before embarking in an offensive war against a
powerful state, the two monarchs consulted the prophets. It is not to be
supposed that they were the priests of Baal, but ordinary prophets who
wished to please. False prophets and false friends are very much
alike,--they give advice according to the inclinations and wishes of
those who consult them. They are afraid of incurring displeasure,
knowing well that no one likes to have his plans opposed by candid
advisers. Therefore they all gave their voices for war, foretelling a
grand success. But one prophet, more honest and bold--perhaps more
gifted--than the rest, Micaiah by name, took a different view of the
matter. He was constrained to speak his honest convictions, and
prophesied evil, and was thrown into prison for his honesty
and boldness.

Nevertheless Ahab in his heart was afraid, and had sad forebodings.
Knowing his peril, and alarmed at the words of a true prophet, he
disguised himself for the battle; but a chance arrow, shot at a venture,
penetrated through the joints of his armor, and he was mortally wounded.
His blood ran from his wound into the chariot, and when the chariot was
washed in the pool of Samaria, after Ahab had expired, the dogs licked
up his blood, as Elijah had predicted.

The death of Ahab put an end to the fighting; nor was Jehoshaphat
injured, although he wore his royal robes. The Syrian general had given
orders to slay only the king of Israel. At one time, however, the king
of Judah was in great peril, being mistaken for Ahab; but when his
pursuers discovered their mistake, they turned from the pursuit.

It seems that Jezebel survived her husband fourteen years, and virtually
ruled the kingdom, for she was a woman of ability. She exercised the
same influence over her son Ahaziah that she had over her husband, so
that the son like the father served Baal and made Israel to sin.

To this young king was Elijah also sent. Ahaziah had been seriously
injured by an accidental fall from his upper chamber, through the
lattice, to the court yard below. He sent to the priests of Baal, to
inquire whether he should recover or not. But Elijah by command of God
had intercepted the king's messengers, and suddenly appearing before
them, as was his custom, confronted them with these words: "Is there no
God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, the God of Ekron?
Now, therefore, say unto the king, Thou shalt not come down from the bed
on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." On their return to
Ahaziah, without delivering their message to the god of the Phoenicians
or Philistines, the king said: "Why are ye now turned back?" They
repeated the words of the strange man who had turned them back; and the
king said: "What manner of man was he who came up to meet you?" They
answered, "He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather around
his loins." The king cried, "It is Elijah the Tishbite." Again his enemy
had found him!

Whereupon Ahaziah sent a band of fifty chosen soldiers to arrest the
prophet, who had retired to the top of a steep and rugged hill, probably
Carmel. The captain of the troop approached, and commanded him in the
name of the king to come down, addressing him as the man of God. "If I
am a man of God," said Elijah, "let fire come down from heaven and
consume thee and thy fifty." The fire came down and consumed them.
Again the king sent another band of fifty with their captain, who met
with the same fate. Again the king sent another band of fifty men, the
captain of which came and fell on his knees before Elijah and besought
him, saying, "O man of God! I pray thee let my life and the lives of
these fifty thy servants be precious in thy sight." And the angel of the
Lord said unto Elijah, "Go down with him; be not afraid of him." And he
arose and went with the soldiers to the king, repeating to him the words
he had sent before, that he should not recover, but should surely die.

So Ahaziah died, as Elijah prophesied, and Jehoram (or Joram) reigned in
his stead,--a brother of the late king, who did not personally worship
Baal, but who allowed the queen-mother to continue to protect idolatry.
The war which had been begun by Ahab against the Syrians still
continued, to recover Ramoth-Gilead, and the stronghold was finally
taken by the united efforts of Judah and Israel; but Joram was wounded,
and returned to Jezreel to be cured.

With the advent of Elijah a reaction against idolatry had set in. The
people were awed by his terrible power, and also by the influence of
Elisha, on whom his mantle fell. It does not appear that the people had
utterly abandoned the religion of their fathers, for they had not
hesitated to slay the eight hundred and fifty priests of Baal at the
command of Elijah. The introduction of idolatry had been the work of
princes, chiefly through the influence of Jezebel; and as the
establishment of a false religion still continued to be the policy of
the court, the prophets now favored the revolution which should overturn
the house of Ahab, and exterminate it root and branch. The instrument of
the Almighty who was selected for this work was Jehu, one of the
prominent generals of the army; and his task was made comparatively easy
from the popular disaffection. That a woman, a foreigner, a pagan, and a
female demon should control the government during two reigns was
intolerable. Only a spark was needed to kindle a general revolt, and
restore the religion of Jehovah.

This was the appearance of a young prophet at Ramoth-Gilead, whom Elisha
had sent with an important message. Forcing his way to the house where
Jehu and his brother officers were sitting in council, he called Jehu
apart, led him to an innermost chamber of the house, took out a small
horn of sacred oil, and poured it on Jehu's head, telling him that God
had anointed him king to cut off the whole house of Ahab, and destroy
idolatry. On his return to the room where the generals were sitting,
Jehu communicated to them the message he had received. As the discontent
of the nation had spread to the army, it was regarded as a favorable
time to revolt from Joram, who lay sick at Jezreel. The army, following
the chief officers, at once hailed Jehu as king. It was supremely
necessary that no time should be lost, and that the news of the
rebellion should not reach the king until Jehu himself should appear
with a portion of the army. Jehu was just the man for such an
occasion,--rapid in his movements, unscrupulous, yet zealous to uphold
the law of Moses. So mounting his chariot, and taking with him a
detachment of his most reliable troops, he furiously drove toward
Jezreel, turning everybody back on the road. It was a drive of about
fifty miles. When within six miles of Jezreel the sentinels on the
towers of the walls noticed an unusual cloud of dust, and a rider was at
once despatched to know the meaning of the approach of chariots and
horses. The rider, as he approached, was ordered to fall back in the
rear of Jehu's force. Another rider was sent, with the same result. But
Joram, discovering that the one who drove so rapidly must be his own
impetuous captain of the host, and suspecting no treachery from him,
ordered out his own chariot to meet Jehu, accompanied by his uncle
Ahaziah, king of Judah. He expected stirring news from the army, and was
eager to learn it. He supposed that Hazael, then king of Damascus, who
had murdered Benhadad, had proposed peace. So as he approached Jehu--the
frightful irony of fate halting him for the interview in the very
vineyard of Naboth--he cried out, "Is it peace, Jehu?" "Peace!" replied
Jehu; "what peace can be made so long as Jezebel bears rule?" In an
instant the king understood the ominous words of his general, turned
back his chariot, and fled toward his palace, crying, "There is
treachery, O Ahaziah!" An arrow from Jehu pierced the monarch in the
back, and he sank dead in his chariot. Ahaziah also was mortally wounded
by another arrow from Jehu, but he succeeded in reaching Megiddo, where
he died. Jehu spoke to Bidkar, his captain, and recalling the dread
prophecy of Elijah, commanded the body of Ahab's son to be cast out into
the dearly-bought field of Naboth.

In the mean time, Jezebel from her palace window at Jezreel had seen the
murder of her son. She was then sixty years of age. The first thing she
did was to paint her eyelids, and put on her most attractive apparel, to
appear as beautiful as possible, with the hope doubtless of attracting
Jehu,--as Cleopatra, after the death of Antony, sought to win Augustus.
Will a flattered woman, once beautiful, ever admit that her charms have
passed away? But if the painted and bedizened queen anticipated her
fate, she determined to die as she had lived,--without fear, imperious,
and disdainful. So from her open window she tauntingly accosted Jehu as
he approached: "What came of Zimri, who murdered his master as thou hast
done?" "Are there any on my side?" was the only reply he deigned to
make, as he looked up to a window of the palace, which was a part of the
wall of the city. Two or three eunuchs, looking out from behind her,
answered the summons, for the wicked and haughty queen had no real
friends. "Throw her down!" ordered Jehu; and in a moment the blood from
her mangled body splashed upon the walls and upon the horses. In another
instant the wheels of the chariot passed over her lifeless remains. Jehu
would have permitted a decent burial, "for," said he, "she is a king's
daughter;" but before her mangled corpse could be collected, in the
general confusion, the dogs of the city had devoured all that remained
of her but the skull, the feet, and hands.

So perished the most infamous woman that ever wore a royal diadem, as
had been predicted. With her also perished the seventy sons of Ahab, all
indeed that survived of the royal house of Omri. And the work of
destruction did not end until the courtiers of the late king and all
connected with them, even the palace priests, were killed. Then followed
the massacre of the other priests of Baal, the destruction of the
idolatrous temples, and the restoration of the worship of Jehovah, not
only at Samaria, but at Jerusalem, for the revolution extended far and
wide on the death of Ahaziah as of Joram. Athaliah, the daughter of
Jezebel, who reigned over Judah, also perished in those
revolutionary times.

It is not to be supposed that the relentless and savage Jehu was
altogether moved by a zeal for Jehovah in these revolting slaughters. He
was an ambitious and successful rebel; but like all notable forces, he
may be regarded as an instrument of Providence, whose ways are
"mysterious," because men are not large enough and wise enough to trace
effects to their causes under His immutable laws. Jehu was a necessary
consequence of Ahab and Jezebel. Jehovah, as the national deity of the
Jews, was the natural and necessary rallying cry of the revolt against
Phoenician idolatry and foulness. The missionary sermons of those crude
days were preached with the sword and the strong arm. God's revelations
of himself and his purposes to man have always been through men, and by
His laws the medium always colors the light which it transmits. The
splendor of the noonday sun cannot shine clearly through rough,
imperfect glass; and so the conceptions of Deity and of the divine will,
as delivered by the prophets, in every case show the nature of the man
receiving and delivering the inspired message. And yet, through all the
turmoil of those times, and the startling contrast between the
conceptions presented by the "Jehovah" of Elijah and the "Father" of
Jesus, the one grand central truth which the seed of Abraham were chosen
to conserve stands out distinctly from first to last,--the unity and
purity of God. However obscured by human passions and interests, that
principle always retained a vital hold upon some--if only a
"remnant"--of the Hebrew race.

The influence of Elijah, then, acting personally through him and his
successor Elisha, had caused the extermination of the worship of Baal.
But the golden calves still remained; and there was no improvement in
the political affairs of the kingdom. It was steadily declining as a
political power, whether on account of the degeneracy which succeeded
prosperity, or the warlike enterprises of the empires and states which
were hostile equally to Judah and Israel. Jehu was forced to pay tribute
to Assyria to secure protection against Syria; and after his death
Israel was reduced to the lowest depression by Hazael, and had not the
power of Syria soon after been broken by Assyria, the northern kingdom
would have been utterly destroyed.

It was not given to Elijah to foresee the future calamities of the Jews,
or to declare them, as Isaiah and Jeremiah did. It was his mission, and
also Elisha's, to destroy the worship of Baal and punish the apostate
kings who had introduced it. He was the messenger and instrument of
Jehovah to remove idolatry, not to predict the future destiny of his
nation. He is to be viewed, like Elisha, as a reformer, as a man of
action, armed with supernatural gifts to awe kings and influence the
people, rather than as a seer or a poet, or even as a writer to instruct
future generations. His mission seems to have ended shortly after he had
thrown his mantle on a man more accomplished than himself in knowledge
of the world. But his last days are associated with unspeakable grandeur
as well as pathetic interest.

Elijah seems to have known that the day of his departure was at hand.
So, departing from Gilgal in company with his beloved companion, he
proceeded toward Bethel. As he approached the city he besought Elisha to
leave him alone; but Elisha refused to part with the master whom he both
loved and revered. Onward they proceeded from Bethel to Jericho, and
from Jericho to the Jordan. It was a mournful journey to Elisha, for he
knew as well as the sons of the prophets at Jericho that he and his
master, and friend more than master, were to part for the last time on
earth. The waters of the Jordan happened to be swollen, and the two
prophets, and the fifty sons of the prophets--their pupils, who came to
say farewell--could not pass over. But the sacred narrative tells us
that Elijah, wrapping his mantle together like a staff, smote the
waters, so that they were divided, and the two passed over to the
eastern bank, in view of the disciples. In loving intercourse Elijah
promises to give to his companion as token of his love whatever Elisha
may choose. Elisha asks simply for a double portion of his master's
spirit, which Elijah grants in case Elisha shall see him distinctly when
taken away.

"And it came to pass, as they still went on and talked, that behold
there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, which parted them
both asunder. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha
saw it, and he cried, 'My father, my father! the chariot of Israel, and
the horsemen thereof !'"--Thou art the chariot of Israel; thou hast been
its horsemen! And then there fell from Elijah, as he vanished from human
sight, the mantle by which he had been so well known; and it became the
sign of that fulness of divine favor which was given to his successor in
his arduous labors to restore the worship of Jehovah, "and to prepare
the way for Him in whom all prophecy is fulfilled."




To understand the mission of Isaiah, one should be familiar with the
history of the kingdom of Judah from the time of Jeroboam, founder of
the separate kingdom of Israel, to that of Uzziah, in whose reign Isaiah
was born, 760 B.C.

Judah had doubtless degenerated in virtue and spiritual life, but this
degeneracy was not so marked as that of the northern kingdom,--called
Israel. Judah had been favored by a succession of kings, most of whom
were able and good men. Out of nine kings, five of them "did right in
the sight of the Lord;" and during the two hundred and sixteen years
when these monarchs reigned, one hundred and eighty-seven were years
when the worship of Jehovah was maintained by virtuous princes, all of
whom were of the house of David. The reigns of those kings who did evil
in the sight of the Lord were short.

During this period there were nineteen kings of Israel, most of whom did
evil. They introduced idolatry; many of them were usurpers, and died
violent deaths. If the northern kingdom was larger and more fertile than
the southern, it was more afflicted with disastrous wars and divine
judgments for the sins into which it had fallen. It was to the wicked
kings of Israel, throned in the Samarian Shechem, that Elijah and Elisha
were sent; and the interest we feel in their reigns is chiefly directed
to the acts and sayings of those two great prophets.

The kingdom of Judah, blessed on the whole with virtuous rulers, and
comparatively free from idolatry, continually increased in wealth and
political power. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, after the rebellion of
the ten tribes, seems to have changed somewhat his course of life,
although the high places and graven images were not removed; but his
grandson Asa destroyed the idols, and made fortunate alliances. Asa's
son Jehoshaphat terminated the civil wars that had raged between Judah
and Israel from the accession of Rehoboam, and almost rivalled Solomon
in his outward prosperity. Jerusalem became the strongest fortress in
western Asia; the Temple service was continued in its former splendor;
all that was vital in the strength of nations pertained to the smaller
kingdom. The dark spot in the history of Judah for nearly two hundred
years was the ascendency gained by Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel,
over her husband Jehoram, who introduced the gods of Phoenicia. She
seems to have exercised the same malign influence in Jerusalem that
Jezebel did in Samaria, and was as unscrupulous as her pagan mother. She
even succeeded in usurping the throne, and in destroying the whole race
of David, with the exception of Joash, an infant, whom Jehoiada the
high-priest contrived to hide until the unscrupulous Athaliah was slain,
having reigned as queen six years,--the first instance in Jewish history
of a female sovereign.

Both Judah and Israel in these years had the danger of a Syrian war
constantly threatening them. Under Hazael, who reigned at Damascus,
great conquests were made by the Syrians of Jewish territory, and the
capture of Jerusalem was averted only by buying off the enemy, to whom
were surrendered the gifts to the Temple accumulating since the days of
Jehoshaphat. The whole land was overrun and pillaged. Nor were
calamities confined to the miseries of war. A long drouth burned the
fields; seed rotted under the clods; the cattle moaned in the barren and
dried-up pastures; while locusts devoured what the drouth had spared.
Says Stanley: "The purple vine, the green fig-tree, the gray olive, the
scarlet pomegranate, the golden corn, the waving palm, the fragrant
citron, vanished before them, and the trunks and branches were left
bare and white by their devouring teeth,"--a brilliant sentence, by the
way, which Geikie quotes without acknowledgment, as well as many others,
which lays him open to the charge of plagiarism. Both Stanley and
Geikie, however, seem to be indebted to Ewald for all that is striking
and original in their histories,--so true is Solomon's saying that there
is nothing new under the sun. The rarest thing in literature is a truly
original history.

In this mournful crisis the prophet Joel, who was a priest at Jerusalem,
demanded a solemn fast, which the entire kingdom devoutly celebrated,
the whole body of the priests crying aloud before the gates of the
Temple, "Spare Thy people, O Lord! give not Thine heritage to reproach,
lest the heathen make us a by-word, and ask, Where is now thy God?" But
Joel, the oldest, and in many respects the most eloquent, Hebrew prophet
whose utterances have come down to us, did not speak in vain, and a
great religious revival followed, attended naturally by renewed
prosperity,--for among the Jews a "revival of religion" meant a
practical return from vice to virtue, personal holiness, and the just
and wholesome requirements of their law; so that "under Amaziah, Uzziah,
and Jotham, Judah rose once more to a pitch of honor and glory which
almost recalled the golden age of David."

A greater power than that of Syria threatened the peace and welfare of
the kingdom of Judah, as it also did that of Israel; and this was the
empire of Assyria. During the reigns of David and Solomon this empire
was passing through so many disasters that it was not regarded as
dangerous, and both of the Jewish kingdoms were left free to avail
themselves of every facility afforded for national development. Ewald
notices emphatically this outward prosperity, which introduced luxury
and pride throughout the kingdom. It was the golden age of merchants,
usurers, and money-mongers. Then appeared that extraordinary greed for
riches which never afterward left the nation, even in seasons of
calamity, and which is the most striking peculiarity of the modern
Hebrew. This was a period not only of prosperity and luxury, but of
vanity and ostentation, especially among women. The insidious influences
of wealth more than balanced the good effected by a long succession of
virtuous and gifted princes. I read of no country that, on the whole,
was ever favored by a more remarkable constellation of absolute kings
than that of Judah. Most of them had long reigns, took prophets and wise
men for their counsellors, developed the resources of their kingdoms,
strengthened Jerusalem, avoided entangling wars, and enjoyed the love
and veneration of the people. Most of them, unlike the kings of Israel,
were true to their exalted mission, were loyal to Jehovah, and
discouraged idolatry, if they did not root out the scandal by
persecuting violence. Some of these kings were poets, and others were
saints, like their great ancestor David; and yet, in spite of all their
efforts, corruption, and infidelity gained ground, and ultimately
undermined the state and prepared the way for Babylonian conquests.
Though Jerusalem survived the fall of Samaria for nearly five
generations, divine judgment was delayed, but not withdrawn. The
chastisement was sent at last at the hands of warriors whom no nation
could successfully resist.

The old enemies who had in the early days overwhelmed the Hebrews with
calamities under the Judges had been conquered by Saul and David,--the
Moabites, the Edomites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the
Philistines,--and they never afterward seriously menaced the kingdom,
although there were occasional wars. But in the eighth century before
Christ the Assyrian empire, whose capital was Nineveh, had become very
formidable under warlike sovereigns, who aimed to extend their dominion
to the Mediterranean and to Egypt. In the reign of Jehoash, the son of
Athaliah, an Assyrian monarch had exacted tribute from Tyre and Sidon,
and Syria was overrun. When Pul, or Tiglath-pileser, seized the throne
of Nineveh, he pushed his conquests to the Caspian Sea on the north and
the Indus on the east, to the frontier of Egypt and the deserts of Sinai
on the west and south. In 739 B.C. he appeared in Syria to break up a
confederation which Uzziah of Judah had formed to resist him, and
succeeded in destroying the power of Syria, and carrying its people as
captives to Assyria. Menahem, king of Samaria, submitted to the enormous
tribute of one thousand talents of silver. In 733 B.C. this great
conqueror again invaded Syria, beheaded Rezin its king, took Damascus,
reduced five hundred and eighteen cities and towns to ashes, and carried
back to Nineveh an immense spoil. In 728 B.C. Shalmanezer IV. appeared
in Palestine, and invested Samaria. The city made an heroic defence; but
after a siege of three years it yielded to Sargon, who carried away into
captivity the ten tribes of Israel, from which they never returned.

Judah survived by reason of its greater military skill and its strong
fortresses, with which Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Uzziah had fortified the
country, especially Jerusalem. But the fate of western Asia was sealed
when Rezin of Damascus, Menahem of Samaria, Hiram of Tyre, and the king
of Hamath moodily consented to pay tribute to the king of Assyria; the
downfall of the sturdy Judah was in preparation.

Greater evils than those of war threatened the stability of the state.
In Judah as in Ephraim drunkenness was a national vice, and the nobles
abandoned themselves to disgraceful debauchery. There was a general
demoralization of the people more fearful in its consequences than even
idolatry. Judah was no exception to the ordinary fate of nations; the
everlasting sequence--pertaining to institutions as well as nations, to
religious as well as merely political communities--was here
seen,--"Inwardness, outwardness, worldliness, and rottenness."

It was in this state of political danger and a general decline in
morals, with a tendency to idolatry, that Isaiah--preacher, statesman,
historian, poet, and prophet--was born.

Less is said of the personal history of this great man than of Moses or
David, of Daniel or Elisha, and it is only in his writings that we see
the solemn grandeur of his character. We infer that he was allied with
the royal family of David; he certainly held a high position in the
courts of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was a man of great dignity,
experience, and wisdom, but ascetic in his habits and dress. Although he
associated with the great in courts and palaces, a cell was his delight.
He was a retiring, contemplative, rapt, austere man, severe on
passing follies, and not sparing in his rebukes of sin in high
places,--something like Savonarola at Florence, both as preacher and
prophet,--and exercising a commanding influence on political affairs
and on the people directly, especially during the reigns of Ahaz and
Hezekiah. He denounced woes and calamities, yet escaped persecution from
the grandeur of his character and the importance of his utterances. He
was a favorite of King Hezekiah, and was contemporary with the prophets
Hosea, Amos, and Jonah. He lived in Jerusalem, not far from the Temple,
and had a wife and two sons. He wrote the life of Uzziah, and died at
the age of eighty-four, in the reign of Manasseh. It is generally
supposed that although Isaiah had lived in honor during the reigns of
four kings, he suffered martyrdom at last. It is the fate of prophets to
be stoned when they are in antagonism with men in power, or with popular
sentiments. His prophetic ministry extended over a period of about fifty
years, and he was continually consulted by the reigning monarchs.

The great outward events that took place during Isaiah's public career
were the invasion of Judah by the combined forces of Israel and Syria in
the reign of Ahaz, and the great Assyrian invasion in the reign
of Hezekiah.

In regard to the first, it was disastrous to Judah. The weak king, the
twelfth from David, was inclined to the idolatries of the surrounding
nations, but was not signally bad like Ahab. Yet he was no match for
Pekah, who reigned at Samaria, or for Rezin, who reigned at Damascus.
Their combined armies slew in one day one hundred and twenty thousand of
the subjects of Ahaz, and carried away into captivity two hundred
thousand women and children, with immense spoil. The conqueror then
advanced to the siege of Jerusalem. In his distress Ahaz invoked the aid
of Pul, or Tiglath-pileser II., one of the most warlike of the Assyrian
kings, whose kingdom stretched from the Armenian mountains on the north
to Bagdad on the south, and from the Zagros chain on the east to the
Euphrates on the west. Earnestly did the prophet-statesman expostulate
with Ahaz, telling him that the king of Assyria would prove "a razor to
shave but too clean his desolate land." The inspired advice was
rejected; and the result of the alliance was that Judah, like Israel,
fell to the rank of a subject nation, and became tributary to Assyria,
and Ahaz, a mere vassal of Tiglath-pileser. The whole of Palestine
became the border-land of the Assyrian empire, easy to be invaded and
liable to be conquered.

The consequences which Isaiah feared, took place in the time of
Hezekiah, in the actual invasion of Judah by the Assyrian hosts under
Sennacherib. Not the splendid prosperity of Hezekiah, little short of
that enjoyed by Solomon,--not his allegiance to Jehovah, nor his grand
reforms and magnificent feasts averted the calamities which were the
legitimate result of the blindness of his father Ahaz. Sennacherib, the
most powerful of all the Assyrian kings, after suppressing a revolt in
Babylon and conquering various Eastern states, turned his eyes and steps
to Palestine, which had revolted. Hezekiah, in mortal fear, made humble
submission, and consented to a tribute of three hundred talents of
silver and thirty of gold, and the loss of two hundred thousand of his
people as captives, and a cession of a part of his territory,--as great
a calamity as France suffered in the war (1870-71) with Prussia.
Considering the prosperity of the kingdom of Judah under Hezekiah, it is
a difficult thing to be explained that the king could raise but three
hundred talents of silver and thirty of gold, although David had
contributed out of his private fortune, for the future erection of the
Temple, three thousand talents of gold and seven thousand talents of
silver, besides the one million talents of silver and one hundred
thousand talents of gold which he collected as sovereign. It would seem
probable that an error has crept into the estimates of the wealth of the
kingdom under Solomon and under the subsequent kings; either that of
Solomon is exaggerated, or that of Hezekiah is underrated.

Notwithstanding his former defeat and losses, Hezekiah again revolted,
and again was Judah invaded by a still greater Assyrian force. The king
of Judah in this emergency showed extraordinary energy, stopped the
supply of water outside his capital, strengthened his defences, gathered
together his fighting men, and encouraged them with the assurance that
help would come from the Lord, in whom they trusted, and whom
Sennacherib boastfully defied. For the ringing words of Isaiah roused
and animated the hearts of both king and people to a noble courage,
announcing the aid of Jehovah and the overthrow of the heathen invader.
As we have seen, the men of Judah showed their faith in the divine help
by preparing to help themselves. But from an unexpected quarter the
assistance came, as Isaiah had predicted. A pestilence destroyed in a
single night one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian
warriors,--the most signal overthrow of the enemies of Israel since
Pharaoh and his host were swallowed up by the waters of the Red Sea, and
also the most signal deliverance which Jerusalem ever had. The calamity
created such a fearful demoralization among the invaders that the
over-confident Assyrian monarch retired to his capital with utter loss
of prestige, and soon after was assassinated by his own sons. No
Assyrian king after this invaded Judah, and Nineveh itself in a few
years was conquered by Babylon.

The fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians was delayed one
hundred years. But such were the moral and social evils of the times
succeeding the Ninevite invasion that Isaiah saw that retribution would
come sooner or later, unless the nation repented and a radical reform
should take place. He saw the people stricken with judicial blindness;
so he clothed himself in sackcloth and cried aloud, with fervid
eloquence, upon the people to repent. He is now the popular preacher,
and his theme is repentance. In his earnest exhortations he foreshadows
John the Baptist: "Unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." It
would seem that Savonarola makes him the model of his own eloquence.
"Thy crimes, O Florence! thy crimes, O Rome! thy crimes, O Italy! are
the causes of these chastisements. O Rome! thou shalt be put to the
sword, since thou wilt not be converted! O harlot Church! I will stretch
forth mine hand upon thee, saith the Lord." The burden of the soul of
the Florentine monk is sin, especially sin in high places. He sees only
degeneracy in life, and alarms the people by threats of divine
vengeance. So Isaiah cries aloud upon the people to seek the Lord while
he may be found. He does not invoke divine wrath, as David did upon his
enemies; but he shows that this wrath will surely overtake the sinner.
In no respect does he glory in this retribution: he is sad; he is
oppressed; he is filled with grief, especially in view of the prevailing
infatuation. "My people," said he, "do not consider." He denounces all
classes alike, and spares not even women. In sarcastic language he
rebukes their love of dress, their abandonment to vanities, their
finery, their very gait and mincing attitude. Still more contemptuously
does the preacher speak of the men, over whom the women rule and
children oppress. He is severe on corrupt judges, on usurers; on all who
are conceited in their own eyes; on those who are mighty to drink wine;
on those who join house to house and field to field; on those whose
glorious beauty is a fading flower; on those who call good evil and evil
good, that put darkness for light, that take away the righteousness of
the righteous from him. His terrible denunciation and enumeration of
evil indicate a very lax morality in every quarter, added to hypocrisy
and pharisaism. He shows what a poor thing is sacrifice unaccompanied
with virtue. "To what purpose," said he, "is the multitude of
sacrifices? Bring no more vain oblations. Incense is an abomination to
me, saith the Lord. Therefore wash you, make you clean, put away the
evil of your doings; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment,
relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
Isaiah does not preach dogmas, still less metaphysical distinctions; he
preaches against sin and demands repentance, and predicts calamity.

There are two points in his preaching which stand out with great
vividness,--the certain judgments of God in view of sin, retribution on
all offenders; and secondly, the mercy and forgiveness of God in case of
repentance. Retribution, however, is not in Isaiah usually presented as
the penalty of transgression according to natural law; not, as in the
Proverbs, as the inevitable sequence of sin,--"Whatsoever ye sow, that
shall ye also reap,"--but as direct punishment from God. Jehovah's awful
personality is everywhere recognized,--a being who rules the universe as
"the living God," who loves and abhors, who punishes and rewards, who
gives power to the faint, who judges among the nations, who takes away
from Judah and Jerusalem the stay and the staff of bread and water. "To
whom then will ye liken God? Have ye not known, have ye not heard, hath
it not been told you from the beginning? It is He that sitteth upon the
circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers;
that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, that bringeth the princes
to nothing. Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the
everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth,
fainteth not, neither is weary? He giveth power to the faint and weary,
so that they who wait upon Him shall renew their strength, mount up with
wings as eagles, run and not be weary, walk and not faint." Can stronger
or more comforting language be made use of to assert the personality
and providence of God? And where in the whole circuit of Hebrew poetry
is there more sublimity of language, greater eloquence, or more profound
conviction of the evil and punishment of sin? Isaiah, the greatest of
all the prophets in his spiritual discernment, in his profound insight
of the future, is not behind the author of Job in majestic and sublime

Whatever may be the severity of language with which Isaiah denounces
sin, and awful the judgments he pronounces in view of it, as coming
directly from God, yet he seldom closes one of his dreadful sentences
without holding out the hope of divine forgiveness in case of
repentance, and the peace and comfort which will follow. In his view the
mercy of the Lord is more impressive than his judgments. Isaiah is
anything but a prophet of wrath; his soul overflows with tender
sentiments and loving exhortation. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come
to the waters! Come ye, buy and eat! Yea, come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price!... Let the wicked forsake his way, and
the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and
he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly
pardon...Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save;
neither his ear heavy that it cannot hear...Though your sins be as
scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson,
they shall be as wool."

According to modern standards, we are struck with the absence of what we
call art, in the writings of Isaiah. History, woes, promises, hopes,
aspirations, and exultations are all mingled together in scarcely
logical sequence. He exhorts, he threatens, he reproaches, he promises,
often in the same chapter. The transition between preacher and prophet
is very sudden. But it is as prophet that Isaiah is most frequently
spoken of; and he is the prophet of hope and consolation, although he
denounces woes upon the nations of the earth. In his prophetic office he
predicts the future of all the people known to the Hebrews. He does not
preach to _them_: they do not hear his voice; they do not know what
tribulations shall be sent upon them. He commits his prophecies to
writing for the benefit of future ages, in which he gives reasons for
the judgments to be sent upon wicked nations, so that the great
principles seen in the moral government of God may remain of perpetual
significance. These principles centre around the great truth that
national wickedness will certainly be followed by national calamities,
which is also one of the most impressive truths that all history
teaches; and so uniform is the operation of this great law that it is
safe to make deductions from it for the guidance of statesmen and the
teachings of moralists. National effeminacy which follows luxury, great
injustices which cry to heaven for vengeance, and practical atheism and
idolatry are certain to call forth divine judgments,--sometimes in the
form of destructive wars, sometimes in pestilence and famine, and at
other times in the gradual wasting away of national resources and
political power. In conformity with this settled law in the moral
government of God, we read the fate of Nineveh, of Babylon, of Tyre, of
Jerusalem, of Carthage, of Antioch, of Corinth, of Athens, of Rome; and
I would even add of Venice, of Turkey, of Spain. Nor is there anything
which can save modern cities and countries, however magnificent their
civilization, from a like visitation of Almighty power, if they continue
in the iniquity which all the world perceives, and sometimes deplores.
It must have seemed as absurd to the readers of Isaiah's predictions
twenty-five hundred years ago that Babylon and Tyre should fall, as it
would to the people of our day should one predict the future ruin of
Paris or London or New York, if the vices which now flourish in these
cities should reach an overwhelming preponderance, but which we hope may
be wholly overcome by the influence of Christianity and the spirit and
interference of God himself; for He governs the world by the same
principles that He did two thousand years ago,--a fact which seldom is
ignored by any profound and religious inquirer.

I have no faith in the permanence of any form of civilization, or of any
government, where a certain depth of infamy and depravity is reached;
because the impressive lesson of history is that righteousness exalteth
a nation, and iniquity brings it low. Isaiah predicted woes which came
to pass, since the cities and peoples against whom he denounced them
remained obstinately perverse in their iniquity and atheism. Their doom
was certain, without that repentance which would lead to a radical
change of life and opinions. He held out no hope unless they turned to
the Lord; nor did any of the prophets. Jeremiah was sad because he knew
they would not repent, even as Christ himself wept over Jerusalem. No
maledictions came from the pen or voice of Isaiah such as David breathed
against his enemies, only the expression of the sad and solemn
conviction that unless the people and the nation repented, they would
all equally and surely perish, in accordance with the stern laws written
on the two tables of Moses,--for "I, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting
the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, even to the third and
fourth generation;"--yea, written before Moses, and to be read unto this
day in the very constitution of man, physical, mental, spiritual,
and social.

The prophet first announces the calamities which both Judah and
Ephraim--the southern and the northern kingdoms--shall suffer from
Assyrian invasions. "The Lord shall shave Judah with a razor, not only
the head, but the beard,"--thus declaring that the land would be not
only depopulated, but become a desert, and that men should no longer
live by agriculture, or by trade and commerce, but by grazing alone.
"Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious
beauty is a fading flower; it shall be trodden under foot." The sins of
pride and drunkenness are especially enumerated as the cause of their
chastisement. "Woe to Ariel [that is Jerusalem]! I will camp against
thee round about, and lay siege against thee with a mount, and I will
raise forts against thee, and thou shalt be brought down.... Forasmuch
as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with lips do they
honor me, but have removed their heart far from me,"--hereby showing
that hypocrisy at Jerusalem was as prevalent as drunkenness in Samaria,
and as difficult to be removed.

Isaiah also reproves Judah for relying on the aid of Egypt in the
threatened Assyrian invasion, instead of putting confidence in God, but
declares that the evil day will be deferred in case that Judah repents;
however, he holds out no hope that her people may escape the final
captivity to Babylon. All that the prophet predicted in reference to
the desolation of Palestine by Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians, as
instruments of punishment, came to pass.

From the calamities which both Judah and Israel should suffer for their
pride, hypocrisy, drunkenness, and idolatry, Isaiah turns to predict the
fall of other nations. "Wherefore it shall come to pass that when the
Lord hath performed his whole work upon Jerusalem, I will punish the
fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his
high looks.... For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it,
and by my wisdom; for I am prudent, and I have removed the bounds of the
people, and have robbed their treasures, and put down the inhabitants
like a valiant man: and as I have gathered all the earth, as one
gathereth eggs, therefore shall the Lord of Hosts send among his fat
ones leanness, and under his glory He shall kindle a burning like the
burning of a fire." In the inscriptions which have recently been
deciphered on the broken and decayed monuments of Nineveh nothing is
more remarkable than the boastful spirit, pride, and arrogance of the
Assyrian kings and conquerors.

The fall of still prouder Babylon is next predicted. "Since thou hast
said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne
above the stars of God, thou shalt be brought down to hell.... Babylon,
the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldean excellency, shall be
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited,
neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither
shall the Arabians pitch tent there, neither shall the shepherds make
their fold there; but wild beasts of the deserts shall lie there, and
the owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." Both Nineveh
and Babylon arose to glory and power by unscrupulous conquests, for
their kings and people were military in their tastes and habits; and
with dominion cruelly and wickedly obtained came arrogance and pride
unbounded, and with these luxury and sensuality. The wickedest city of
antiquity meets with the most terrible punishment that is recorded of
any city in the world's history. Not only were pride and cruelty the
peculiar vices of its kings and princes, but a gross and degrading
idolatry, allied with all the vices that we call infamous, marked the
inhabitants of the doomed capital; so that the Hebrew language was
exhausted to find a word sufficiently expressive to mark its
foul depravity, or sufficiently exultant to rejoice over its
predicted  \fall. Most cities have recovered more or less from their
calamities,--Jerusalem, Athens, Rome,--but Babylon was utterly
destroyed, as by fire from heaven, and never has been rebuilt or again
inhabited, except by wild beasts. Its very ruins, the remains of walls
three hundred and fifty feet in height, and of hanging gardens, and of
palaces a mile in circuit, and of majestic temples, are now with
difficulty determined. Truly has that wicked city been swept with the
besom of destruction, as Isaiah predicted.

The prophet then predicts the desolation of Moab on account of its
pride, which seems to have been its peculiar offence. It is to be noted
that the sin of pride has ever called forth a severe judgment. "It goeth
before destruction." Pride was one of the peculiarities of both Nineveh
and Babylon. But that which is exalted shall be brought low. A bitter
humiliation, at least, has ever been visited upon those who have
arrogated a lofty superiority. It presupposes an independence utterly
inconsistent with the real condition of men in the eyes of the
Omnipotent; in the eyes of men, even, it is offensive in the extreme,
and ends in isolation. We can tolerate certain great defects and
weaknesses, but no one ever got reconciled to pride. It led to the ruin
of Napoleon, as well as of Caesar; it creates innumerable enemies, even
in the most retired village; it separates and alienates families; and
when the punishment for it comes, everybody rejoices. People say
contemptuously, "Is this the man that made the earth to tremble?" There
is seldom pity for a fallen greatness that rejoiced in its strength, and
despised the weakness of the unfortunate. If anything is foreign to the
spirit of Christianity it is boastful pride, and yet it is one of those
things which it is difficult for conscience to reach, as it is generally
baptized with the name of self-respect.

The next woe which Isaiah denounced was on Egypt, which had played so
great a part in the history of ancient nations. The judgments sent on
this civilized country were severe, but were not so appalling as those
to be visited upon Babylon. With Egypt was included Ethiopia. Civil war
should desolate both nations, and it should rage so fiercely that "every
one should fight against his brother, and every one against his
neighbor, city against city, and kingdom against kingdom." Moreover, the
famed wisdom of Egypt should fail; the people in their distress should
seek to gain direction from wizards and charmers and soothsayers. It
always was a country of magicians, from the time that Aaron's rod
swallowed up the rods of those boastful enchanters who sought to repeat
his miracles; it was a country of soothsayers and sorcerers when finally
conquered by the Romans; it was the fruitful land of religious
superstitions in every age. It was governed in the earliest times by
pagan priests; the early kings were priests,--even Moses and Joseph were
initiated into the occult arts of the priests. It was not wholly given
to idolatry, since it is supposed that there was an esoteric wisdom
among the higher priests which held to the One Supreme God and the
immortality of the soul, as well as to future rewards and punishments.
Nevertheless, the disgusting ceremonies connected with the worship of
animals were far below the level of true religion, and the sorceries and
magical incantations and superstitious rites which kept the people in
ignorance, bondage, and degradation called loudly for rebuke. By reason
of these things the nation was to be still farther subjected to the
grinding rule of tyrants. It was a fertile and fruitful land, in which
all the arts known to antiquity flourished; but the rains of Ethiopia
were to be withheld, and such should be the unusual and abnormal drouth
that the Nile should be dried up, and the reeds upon its banks should
wither and decay. The river was stocked with fish, but the fishermen
should cast their hooks and arrange their nets in vain. Even the workers
in flax (one great source of Egyptian wealth and luxury) should be
confounded. The princes were to become fools; there was to be general
confusion, and no work was to be done in manufactures. Even Judah should
become a terror to Egypt, and fear should overspread the land. To these
calamities there was to be some palliation. Five cities should speak the
language of Canaan, and swear by the Lord of Hosts; and an altar should
be erected in the middle of the land which should be a witness unto the
Lord of Hosts, to whom the people should cry amid their oppressions and
miseries; and Jehovah should be known in Egypt. "He shall smite it, but
he also shall heal it." And when we remember what a refuge the Jews
found in Alexandria and other cities in the no very distant future,
keeping alive there the worship of the true God, and what a hold
Christianity itself took in the second and third centuries in that old
country of priests and sorcerers, producing a Clement, a Cyprian, a
Tertullian, an Athanasius, and an Augustine; yea, that when conquered by
the Mohammedans, the worship of the one true God was everywhere
maintained from that time to the present,--we feel that the mercy of God
followed close upon his justice. Isaiah predicted even the divine
blessing on the land, which it should share with Palestine: "Blessed be
Egypt my people, and Israel mine inheritance."

It is not to be supposed that Tyre would escape from the calamities
which were to be sent on the various heathen nations. Tyre was the great
commercial centre of the world at that time, as Babylon was the centre
of imperial power. Babylon ruled over the land, and Tyre over the sea;
the one was the capital of a vast empire, the other was a maritime
power, whose ships were to be seen in every part of the Mediterranean.
Tyre, by its wealth and commerce, gained the supremacy in Phoenicia,
although Sidon was an older city, five miles distant. But Tyre was
defiled by the worship of Baal and Astarte; it was a city of exceeding
dissoluteness. It was not only proud and luxurious, but abominably
licentious; it was a city of harlots. And what was to be its fate? It
was to be destroyed, and its merchandise was to be scattered. "Howl, ye
ships of Tarshish! for your strength is laid waste, so that there is no
house, no entering in.... The Lord of Hosts hath purposed it, to stain
the pride of glory, and bring to contempt all the honorable of the
earth." The inhabitants of the city who sought escape from death were
compelled to take refuge in the colonies at Cyprus, Carthage, and
Tartessus in Spain. The destruction of Tyre has been complete. There are
no remains of its former grandeur; its palaces are indistinguishable
ruins. Its traffic was transferred to Carthage. Yet how strong must have
been a city which took Nebuchadnezzar thirteen years to subdue! It arose
from its ashes, but was reduced again by Alexander.

Isaiah condenses his judgment in reference to the other wicked nations
of his time in a few rapid, vigorous, and comprehensive clauses.
"Behold, Jehovah emptieth the earth, and layeth it waste, and scattereth
its inhabitants. And it happeneth, as to the people, so to the priest;
as to the servant, so to the master; as to the maid, so to her mistress;
as to the buyer, so to the seller; as to the lender, so to the
borrower; as to the creditor, so to the debtor. The earth has become
wicked among its inhabitants, therefore hath the curse devoured the
earth, and they who dwelt in it make expiation." We observe that these
severe calamities are not uttered in wrath. They are not maledictions;
they are simply divine revelations to the gifted prophet, or logical
deductions which the inspired statesman declares from incontrovertible
facts. In this latter sense, all profound observations on the tendency
of passing events partake of the nature of prophecy. A sage is
necessarily a prophet. Men even prophesy rain or heat or cold from
natural phenomena, and their predictions often come to pass. Much more
to be relied on is the prophetic wisdom which is seen among great
thinkers and writers, like Burke, Webster, and Carlyle, since they rely
on the operation of unchanging laws, both moral and physical. When a
nation is wholly given over to lying and cheating in trade, or to
hypocritical observances in religion, or to practical atheism, or to
gross superstitions, or abominable dissoluteness in morals, or to the
rule of feeble kings controlled by hypocritical priests and harlots, is
it presumptuous to predict the consequences? Is it difficult to predict
the ultimate effect on a nation of overwhelming standing armies eating
up the resources of kings, or of the general prevalence of luxury,
effeminacy, and vice?

Isaiah having declared the judgment of God on apostate, idolatrous, and
wicked nations; having emphasized the great principle of retribution,
even on nations that in his day were prosperous and powerful; having
rebuked the sins of the people among whom he dwelt, and exposed
hypocrisy and dead-letter piety,--lays down the fundamental law that
chastisements are sent to lead men to repentance, and that where there
is repentance there is forgiveness. Severe as are his denunciations of
sin, and certain as is the punishment of it, yet his soul dwells on the
mercy and love of God more than even on His justice. He never loses
sight of reconciliation, although he holds out but little hope for
people wedded to their idols. There is no hope for Babylon or Tyre; they
are doomed. Nor is there much encouragement for Ephraim, which composed
so large a part of the kingdom of Israel; its people were to be
dispersed, to become captives, and never were to return to their native
hills. But he holds out great hope for Judah. It will be conquered, and
its people carried away in slavery to Babylon,--that is their
chastisement for apostasy; but a remnant of them shall return. They had
not utterly forgotten God, therefore a part of the nation shall be
rescued from captivity. So full of hope is Isaiah that the nation shall
not utterly be destroyed, that he names his son Shear-jashub,--"a
remnant shall return." This is his watchword. Certain is it that the
Lord will have mercy on Jacob whom he hath chosen; his promises will not
fail. Judah shall be chastised; but a part of Judah shall return to
Jerusalem, purified, wiser, and shall again in due time flourish as
a nation.

Isaiah is the prophet of hope, of forgiveness, and of love. Not only on
Judah shall a blessing be bestowed, but upon the whole world.
Forgiveness is unbounded if there is repentance, no matter what the sin
may be. He almost anticipates the message of Jesus by saying, "Though
your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow." God's mercy is
past finding out. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters!"
So full is he of the boundless love of God, extended to all created
things, that he calls on the hills and the mountains to rejoice. Here he
soars beyond the Jew; he takes in the whole world in his rapturous
expectation of deliverance. He comforts all good people under
chastisement. He is as cheerful as Jeremiah is sad.

Having laid down the conditions of forgiveness, and expatiated on the
divine benevolence, Isaiah now sings another song, and ascends to
loftier heights. He is jubilant over the promised glories of God's
people; he speaks of the redemption of both Jew and Gentile. His
prophetic mission is now more distinctly unfolded. He blends the
forgiveness of sins with the promised Deliverer; he unfolds the advent
of the Messiah. He even foretells in what form He shall come; he
predicts the main facts of His personal history. Not only shall there
"come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of its
roots," but he shall be "a man despised and rejected, a man of sorrows
and acquainted with grief; who shall be wounded for our transgressions
and bruised for our iniquities, brought as a lamb to the slaughter, cut
off from the living, making his grave with the wicked and with the rich
in his death; yet bruised because it pleased the Lord, and because he
made his soul an offering for sin, and made intercession with the
transgressors." Who is this stricken, persecuted, martyred personage,
bearing the iniquity of the race, and thus providing a way for future
salvation? Isaiah, with transcendent majesty of style, clear and
luminous as it is poetical, declares that this person who is still
unborn, this light which shall appear in Galilee, is no less than he on
whose shoulders shall be the government, "whose name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the
Prince of Peace; of the increase of whose kingdom and peace there shall
be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, to order it,
and to establish it with judgment and justice forever."

Only in some of the Messianic Psalms do we meet with kindred passages,
indicating the reign of the Christ upon the earth, expressed with such
emphatic clearness. How marvellous and wonderful this prophecy! Seven
hundred years before its fulfilment, it is expressed with such
minuteness, that, had the prophet lived in the Apostolic age, he could
not have described the Messiah more accurately. The devout Jew,
especially after the Captivity, believed in a future deliverer, who
should arise from the seed of David, establish a great empire, and reign
as a temporal monarch; but he had no lofty and spiritual views of this
predicted reign. To Isaiah, more even than to Abraham or David or any
other person in Jewish history, was it revealed that the reign of the
Christ was to be spiritual; that he was not to be a temporal deliverer,
but a Saviour redeeming mankind from the curse of sin. Hence Isaiah is
quoted more than all the other prophets combined, especially by the
writers of the New Testament.

Having announced this glorious prediction of the advent into our world
of a divine Redeemer in the form of a man, by whose life and suffering
and death the world should be saved, the prophet-poet breaks out in
rhapsodies. He cannot contain his exultation. He loses sight of the
judgments he had declared, in his unbounded rejoicings that there was to
be a deliverance; that not only a remnant would return to Jerusalem and
become a renewed power, but that the Messiah should ultimately reign
over all the nations of the earth, should establish a reign of peace,
so that warriors "should beat their swords into ploughshares, and their
spears into pruning-hooks." Heretofore the history of kings had been a
history of wars,--of oppression, of injustice, of cruelty. Miseries
overspread the earth from this scourge more than from all other causes
combined. The world was decimated by war, producing not only wholesale
slaughter, but captivity and slavery, the utter extinction of nations.
Isaiah had himself dwelt upon the woes to be visited on mankind by war
more than any other prophet who had preceded him. All the leading
nations and capitals were to be utterly destroyed or severely punished;
calamity and misery should be nearly universal; only "a remnant should
be saved." Now, however, he takes the most cheerful and joyous views. So
marked is the contrast between the first and latter parts of the Book of
Isaiah, that many great critics suppose that they were written by
different persons and at different times. But whether there were two
persons or one, the most comforting and cheering doctrines to be found
in the Scriptures, before the Sermon on the Mount was preached, are
declared by Isaiah. The breadth and catholicity of them are amazing from
the pen of a Jew. The whole world was to share with him in the promises
of a Saviour; the whole world was to be finally redeemed. As recipients
of divine privileges there was to be no difference between Jew and
Gentile. Paul himself shows no greater mental illumination. "The glory
of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it."

In view of this glorious reign of peace and universal redemption, Isaiah
calls upon the earth to be joyful and all the mountains to break forth
in singing, and Zion to awake, and Jerusalem to put on her beautiful
garments, and all waste places to break forth in joy; for the glory of
the Lord is risen upon the City of David. How rapturously does the
prophet, in the most glowing and lofty flights of poetry, dwell upon the
time when the redeemed of the Lord shall return to Zion with songs and
thanksgivings, no more to be called "forsaken," but a city to be renewed
in beauties and glories, and in which kings shall be nursing fathers to
its sons and daughters, and queens nursing mothers. These are the
tidings which the prophet brings, and which the poet sings in matchless
lyrics. To the Zion of the Holy One of Israel shall the Gentiles come
with their precious offerings. "Violence shall no more be heard in thy
land," saith the poet, "wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but
thou shalt call thy walls Salvation and thy gates Praise.... Thy sun
shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself, for the
Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the day of thy mourning shall
be ended.... Thy people shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the
land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I
may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one
a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in its time."

Salvation, peace, the glory of Zion!--these are the words which Isaiah
reiterates. With these are identified the spiritual kingdom of Christ,
which is to spread over the whole earth. The prophet does not specify
when that time shall come, when peace shall be universal, and when all
the people shall be righteous; that part of the prophecy remains
unfulfilled, as well as the renewed glories of Jerusalem. Yet a thousand
years with the Lord are as one day. No believing Christian doubts that
it will be fulfilled, as certainly as that Babylon should be destroyed,
or that a Messiah should appear among the Jews. The day of deliverance
began to dawn when Christianity was proclaimed among the Gentiles. From
that time a great progress has been seen among the nations. First, wars
began to cease in the Roman world. They were renewed when the empire of
the Caesars fell, but their ferocity and cruelty diminished; conquered
people were not carried away as slaves, nor were women and children put
to death, except in extraordinary cases, which called out universal
grief, compassion, and indignation. With all the progress of truth and
civilization, it is amazing that Christian nations should still be
armed to the teeth, and that wars are still so frequent. We fear that
they will not cease until those who govern shall be conscientious
Christians. But that the time will come when rulers shall be righteous
and nations learn war no more, is a truth which Christians everywhere
accept. When, how,--by the gradual spread of knowledge, or by
supernatural intervention,--who can tell? "Zion shall arise and
shine.... The Gentiles shall come to its light, and kings to the
brightness of its rising.... Violence shall no more be heard in the
land, nor wasting and destruction within its borders.... They shall not
hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.... And it shall
come to pass that from one new moon to another, and from one Sabbath to
another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord."

This is the sublime faith of Christendom set forth by the most sublime
of the prophets, from the most gifted and eloquent of the poets. On this
faith rests the consolation of the righteous in view of the prevalence
of iniquity. This prophecy is full of encouragement and joy amid
afflictions and sorrows. It proclaims liberty to captives, and the
opening of the prison to those that are bound; it preaches glad tidings
to the meek, and binds up the broken-hearted; it gives beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit
of heaviness. This prediction has inspired the religious poets of all
nations; on this is based the beauty and glory of the lyrical stanzas we
sing in our churches. The hymns and melodies of the Church, the most
immortal of human writings, are inspired with this cheering
anticipation. The psalmody of the Church is rapturous, like Isaiah, over
the triumphant and peaceful reign of Christ, coming sooner perhaps than
we dream when we see the triumphal career of wicked men. In the temporal
fall of a monstrous despotism, in the decline of wicked cities and
empires, in the light which is penetrating all lands, in the shaking of
Mohammedan thrones, in the opening of the most distant East, in the
arbitration of national difficulties, in the terrible inventions which
make nations fear to go to war, in the wonderful network of
philanthropic enterprises, in the renewed interest in sacred literature,
in the recognition of law and order as the first condition of civilized
society, in that general love of truth which science has stimulated and
rarely mocked, and which casts its searching eye into all creeds and all
hypocrisies and all false philosophy,--we share the exultant spirit of
the prophet, and in the language of one of our great poets we repeat the
promised joy:--

     "Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem, rise!
      Exalt thy towering head and lift thine eyes!
     See a long race thy spacious courts adorn,
     See future sons and daughters yet unborn!
     See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
     Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend!
     See thy bright altars thronged with prostrate kings,
     And heaped with products of Sabaean springs!
     No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,
     Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;
     But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
     One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
     O'erflow thy courts; the Light himself shall shine
     Revealed, and God's eternal day be thine!
     The seas shall waste, the skies to smoke decay,
     Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
     But fixed His word, His saving power remains:
     Thy realm forever lasts; thy own Messiah reigns!"


ABOUT 629-580 B.C.


Jeremiah is a study to those who would know the history of the latter
days of the Jewish monarchy, before it finally succumbed to the
Babylonian conqueror. He was a sad and isolated man, who uttered his
prophetic warnings to a perverse and scornful generation; persecuted
because he was truthful, yet not entirely neglected or disregarded,
since he was consulted in great national dangers by the monarchs with
whom he was contemporary. So important were his utterances, it is matter
of great satisfaction that they were committed to writing, for the
benefit of future generations,--not of Jews only, but of the
Gentiles,--on account of the fundamental truths contained in them. Next
to Isaiah, Jeremiah was the most prominent of the prophets who were
commissioned to declare the will and judgments of Jehovah on a
degenerate and backsliding people. He was a preacher of righteousness,
as well as a prophet of impending woes. As a reformer he was
unsuccessful, since the Hebrew nation was incorrigibly joined to its
idols. His public career extended over a period of forty years. He was
neither popular with the people, nor a favorite of kings and princes;
the nation was against him and the times were against him. He
exasperated alike the priests, the nobles, and the populace by his
rebukes. As a prophet he had no honor in his native place. He uniformly
opposed the current of popular prejudices, and denounced every form of
selfishness and superstition; but all his protests and rebukes were in
vain. There were very few to encourage him or comfort him. Like Noah, he
was alone amidst universal derision and scorn, so that he was sad beyond
measure, more filled with grief than with indignation.

Jeremiah was not bold and stern, like Elijah, but retiring, plaintive,
mournful, tender. As he surveyed the downward descent of Judah, which
nothing apparently could arrest, he exclaimed: "Oh that my head were
waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and
night for the daughter of my people!" Is it possible for language to
express a deeper despondency, or a more tender grief? Pathos and
unselfishness are blended with his despair. It is not for himself that
he is overwhelmed with gloom, but for the sins of the people. It is
because the people would not hear, would not consider, and would
persist in their folly and wickedness, that grief pierces his soul. He
weeps for them, as Christ wept over Jerusalem. Yet at times he is stung
into bitter imprecations, he becomes fierce and impatient; and then
again he rises over the gloom which envelops him, in the conviction that
there will be a new covenant between God and man, after the punishment
for sin shall have been inflicted. But his prevailing feelings are grief
and despair, since he has no hopes of national reform. So he predicts
woes and calamities at no distant day, which are to be so overwhelming
that his soul is crushed in the anticipation of them. He cannot laugh,
he cannot rejoice, he cannot sing, he cannot eat and drink like other
men. He seeks solitude; he longs for the desert; he abstains from
marriage, he is ascetic in all his ways; he sits alone and keeps
silence, and communes only with his God; and when forced into the
streets and courts of the city, it is only with the faint hope that he
may find an honest man. No persons command his respect save the Arabian
Rechabites, who have the austere habits of the wilderness, like those of
the early Syrian monks. Yet his gloom is different from theirs: they
seek to avert divine wrath for their own sins; he sees this wrath about
to descend for the sins of others, and overwhelm the whole nation in
misery and shame.

Jeremiah was born in the little ecclesiastical town of Anathoth, about
three miles from Jerusalem, and was the son of a priest. We do not know
the exact year of his birth, but he was a very young man when he
received his divine commission as a prophet, about six hundred and
twenty-seven years before Christ. Josiah had then been on the throne of
Judah twelve years. The kingdom was apparently prosperous, and was
unmolested by external enemies. For seventy-five years Assyria had given
but little trouble, and Egypt was occupied with the siege of Ashdod,
which had been going on for twenty-nine years, so strong was that
Philistine city. But in the absence of external dangers corruption,
following wealth, was making fearful strides among the people, and
impiety was nearly universal. Every one was bent on pleasure or gain,
and prophet and priest were worldly and deceitful. From the time when
Jeremiah was first called to the prophetic office until the fall of
Jerusalem there was an unbroken series of national misfortunes,
gradually darkening into utter ruin and exile. He may have shrunk from
the perils and mortifications which attended him for forty years, as his
nature was sensitive and tender; but during this long ministry he was
incessant in his labors, lifting up his voice in the courts of the
Temple, in the palace of the king, in prison, in private houses, in the
country around Jerusalem. The burden of his utterances was a
denunciation of idolatry, and a lamentation over its consequences. "My
people, saith Jehovah, have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewn out for themselves underground cisterns, full of rents, that
can hold no water.... Behold, O Judah! thou shalt be brought to shame by
thy new alliance with Egypt, as thou wast in the past by thy old
alliance with Assyria."

In this denunciation by the prophet we see that he mingled in political
affairs, and opposed the alliance which Judah made with Egypt, which
ever proved a broken reed. Egypt was a vain support against the new
power that was rising on the Euphrates, carrying all before it, even to
the destruction of Nineveh, and was threatening Damascus and Tyre as
well as Jerusalem. The power which Judah had now to fear was Babylon,
not Assyria. If any alliance was to be formed, it was better to
conciliate Babylon than Egypt.

Roused by the earnest eloquence of Jeremiah, and of those of the group
of earnest followers of Jehovah who stood with him,--Huldah the
prophetess, Shallum her husband, keeper of the royal wardrobe, Hilkiah
the high-priest, and Shaphan the scribe, or secretary,--the youthful
king Josiah, in the eighteenth year of his reign, when he was himself
but twenty-six years old, set about reforms, which the nobles and
priests bitterly opposed. Idolatry had been the fashionable religion for
nearly seventy years, and the Law was nearly forgotten. The corruption
of the priesthood and of the great body of the prophets kept pace with
the degeneracy of the people. The Temple was dilapidated, and its gold
and bronze decorations had been despoiled. The king undertook a thorough
repair of the great Sanctuary, and during its progress a discovery was
made by the high-priest Hilkiah of a copy of the Law, hidden amid the
rubbish of one of the cells or chambers of the Temple. It is generally
supposed to have been the Book of Deuteronomy. When it was lost, and
how, it is not easy to ascertain,--probably during the reign of some one
of the idolatrous kings. It seems to have been entirely forgotten,--a
proof of the general apostasy of the nation. But the discovery of the
book was hailed by Josiah as a very important event; and its effect was
to give a renewed impetus to his reforms, and a renewed study of
patriarchal history. He forthwith assembled the leading men of the
nation,--prophets, priests, Levites, nobles, and heads of tribes. He
read to them the details of the ancient covenant, and solemnly declared
his purpose to keep the commandments and statutes of Jehovah as laid
down in the precious book. The assembled elders and priests gave their
eager concurrence to the act of the king, and Judah once more, outwardly
at least, became the people of God.

Nor can it be questioned that the renewed study of the Law, as brought
about by Josiah, produced a great influence on the future of the Hebrew
nation, especially in the renunciation of idolatry. Yet this reform,
great as it was, did not prevent the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of
the leading people among the Hebrews to the land of the Chaldeans,
whence Abraham their great progenitor had emigrated.

Josiah, who was thoroughly aroused by "the words of the book," and its
denunciations of the wrath of Jehovah upon the people if they should
forsake his ways, in spite of the secret opposition of the nobles and
priests, zealously pursued the work of reform. The "high places," on
which were heathen altars, were levelled with the ground; the images of
the gods were overthrown; the Temple was purified, and the abominations
which had disgraced it were removed. His reforms extended even to the
scattered population of Samaria whom the Assyrians had spared, and all
the buildings connected with the worship of Baal and Astaroth at Bethel
were destroyed. Their very stones were broken in pieces, under the eyes
of Josiah himself. The skeletons of the pagan priests were dragged from
their burial places and burned.

An elaborate celebration of the feast of the Passover followed soon
after the discovery of the copy of the Law, whether confined to
Deuteronomy or including other additional writings ascribed to Moses, we
know not. This great Passover was the leading internal event of the
reign of Josiah. Having "taken away all the abominations out of all the
countries that belonged to the children of Israel," even as the earlier
keepers of the Law cleansed their premises, especially of all remains of
leaven,--the symbol of corruption,--the king commanded a celebration of
the feast of deliverance. Priests and Levites were sent throughout the
country to instruct the people in the preparations demanded for the
Passover. The sacred ark, hidden during the reigns of Manasseh and Amon,
was restored to its old place in the Temple, where it remained until the
Temple was destroyed. On the approach of the festival, which was to be
held with unusual solemnities, great multitudes from all parts of
Palestine assembled at Jerusalem, and three thousand bullocks and thirty
thousand lambs were provided by the king for the seven days' feast which
followed the Passover. The princes also added eight hundred oxen and
seven thousand six hundred small cattle as a gift to priests and people.
After the priests in their white robes, with bare feet and uncovered
heads, and the Levites at their side according to the king's
commandment, had "killed the passover" and "sprinkled the blood from
their hands," each Levite having first washed himself in the Temple
laver, the part of the animal required for the burnt-offering was laid
on the altar flames, and the remainder was cooked by the Levites for the
people, either baked, roasted, or boiled. And this continued for seven
days; during all the while the services of the Temple choir were
conducted by the singers, chanting the psalms of David and of Asaph.
Such a Passover had not been held since the days of Samuel. No king, not
even David or Solomon, had celebrated the festival on so grand a scale.
The minutest details of the requirements of the Law were attended to.
The festival proclaimed the full restoration of the worship of Jehovah,
and kindled enthusiasm for his service. So great was this event that
Ezekiel dates the opening of his prophecies from it. "It seems probable
that we have in the eighty-fifth psalm a relic of this great
solemnity.... Its tone is sad amidst all the great public rejoicings; it
bewails the stubborn ungodliness of the people as a whole."

After the great Passover, which took place in the year 622, when Josiah
was twenty-six years of age, little is said of the pious king, who
reigned twelve years after this memorable event. One of the best, though
not one of the wisest, kings of Judah, he did his best to eradicate
every trace of idolatry; but the hearts of the people responded faintly
to his efforts. Reform was only outward and superficial,--an
illustration of the inability even of an absolute monarch to remove
evils to which the people cling in their hearts. To the eyes of
Jeremiah, there was no hope while the hearts of the people were
unchanged. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his
spots?" he mournfully exclaims. "Much less can those who are accustomed
to do evil learn to do well." He had no illusions; he saw the true state
of affairs, and was not misled by mere outward and enforced reforms,
which partook of the nature of religious persecution, and irritated the
people rather than led to a true religious life among them. There was
nothing left to him but to declare woes and approaching calamities, to
which the people were insensible. They mocked and reviled him. His lofty
position secured him a hearing, but he preached to stones. The people
believed nothing but lies; many were indifferent and some were secretly
hostile, and he must have been pained and disappointed in view of the
incompleteness of his work through the secret opposition of the
popular leaders.

Josiah was the most virtuous monarch of Judah. It was a great public
misfortune that his life was cut short prematurely at the age of
thirty-eight, and in consequence of his own imprudence. He undertook to
oppose the encroachments of Necho II, king of Egypt, an able, warlike,
and enterprising monarch, distinguished for his naval expeditions, whose
ships doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and returned to Egypt in safety,
after a three years' voyage. Necho was not so successful in digging a
canal across the Isthmus of Suez, in which enterprise one hundred and
twenty thousand men perished from hunger, fatigue, and disease. But his
great aim was to extend his empire to the limits reached by Rameses II.,
the Sesostris of the Greeks. The great Assyrian empire was then breaking
up, and Nineveh was about to fall before the Babylonians; so he seized
the opportunity to invade Syria, a province of the Assyrian empire. He
must of course pass through Palestine, the great highway between Egypt
and the East. Josiah opposed his enterprise, fearing that if the
Egyptian king conquered Syria, he himself would become the vassal of
Egypt. Jeremiah earnestly endeavored to dissuade his sovereign from
embarking in so doubtful a war; even Necho tried to convince him through
his envoys that he made war on Nineveh, not on Jerusalem, invoking--as
most intensely earnest men did in those days of tremendous impulse--the
sacred name of Deity as his authentication. Said he: "What have I to do
with thee, thou King of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but
against the house wherewith I have war; for God commanded me to make
haste. Forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he
destroy thee not." But nothing could induce Josiah to give up his
warlike enterprise. He had the piety of Saint Louis, and also his
patriotic and chivalric heroism. He marched his forces to the plain of
Esdraelon, the great battle field where Rameses II. had triumphed over
the Hittites centuries before. The battle was fought at Megiddo.
Although Josiah took the precaution to disguise himself, he was mortally
wounded by the Egyptian archers, and was driven back in his splendid
chariot toward Jerusalem, which he did not live to reach.

The lamentations for this brave and pious monarch remind us of the
universal grief of the Hebrew nation on the death of Samuel. He was
buried in a tomb which he had prepared for himself, amid universal
mourning. A funeral oration was composed by Jeremiah, or rather an
elegy, afterward sung by the nation on the anniversary of the battle.
Nor did the nation ever forget a king so virtuous in his life and so
zealous for the Law. Long after the return from captivity the singers of
Israel sang his praises, and popular veneration for him increased with
the lapse of time; for in virtues and piety, and uninterrupted zeal for
Jehovah, Josiah never had an equal among the kings of Judah.

The services of this good king were long remembered. To him may be
traced the unyielding devotion of the Jews, after the Captivity, for the
rites and forms and ceremonies which are found in the books of the Law.
The legalisms of the Scribes may be traced to him. He reigned but twelve
years after his great reformation,--not long enough to root out the
heathenism which had prevailed unchecked for nearly seventy years. With
him perished the hopes of the kingdom.

After his death the decline was rapid. A great reaction set in, and
faction was accompanied with violence. The heathen party triumphed over
the orthodox party. The passions which had been suppressed since the
death of Manasseh burst out with all the frenzy and savage hatred which
have ever marked the Jews in their religious contentions, and these were
unrestrained by the four kings who succeeded Josiah. The people were
devoured by religious animosities, and split up into hostile factions.
Had the nation been united, it is possible that later it might have
successfully resisted the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah gave vent
to his despairing sentiments, and held out no hope. When Elijah had
appealed to the people to choose between Jehovah and Baal, he was
successful, because they were then undecided and wavering in their
belief, and it required only an evidence of superior power to bring
them back to their allegiance. But when Jeremiah appeared, idolatry was
the popular religion. It had become so firmly established by a
succession of wicked kings, added to the universal degeneracy, that even
Josiah could work but a temporary reform.

Hence the voice of Jeremiah was drowned. Even the prophets of his day
had become men of the world. They fawned on the rich and powerful whose
favor they sought, and prophesied "smooth things" to them. They were the
optimists of a decaying nation and a godless, pleasure-seeking
generation. They were to Jerusalem what the Sophists were to Athens when
Demosthenes thundered his disregarded warnings. There were, indeed, a
few prophets left who labored for the truth; but their words fell on
listless ears. Nor could the priests arrest the ruin, for they were as
corrupt as the people. The most learned among them were zealous only for
the letter of the law, and fostered among the people a hypocritical
formalism. True religious life had departed; and the noble Jeremiah, the
only great statesman as well as prophet who remained, saw his influence
progressively declining, until at last he was utterly disregarded. Yet
he maintained his dignity, and fearlessly declared his message.

In the meantime the triumphant Necho, after the defeat and dispersion of
Josiah's army, pursued his way toward Damascus, which he at once
overpowered. From thence he invaded Assyria, and stripped Nineveh of
its most fertile provinces. The capital itself was besieged by
Nabopolassar and Cyaxares the Mede, and Necho was left for a time in
possession of his newly-acquired dominion.

Josiah was succeeded by his son Shallum, who assumed the crown under the
name of Jehoaz, which event it seems gave umbrage to the king of Egypt.
So he despatched an army to Jerusalem, which yielded at once, and King
Jehoaz was sent as a captive to the banks of the Nile. His elder brother
Eliakim was appointed king in his place, under the name of Jehoiakim,
who thus became the vassal of Necho. He was a young man of twenty-five,
self-indulgent, proud, despotic, and extravagant. There could be no more
impressive comment on the infatuation and folly of the times than the
embellishment of Jerusalem with palaces and public buildings, with the
view to imitate the glory of Solomon. In everything the king differed
from his father Josiah, especially in his treatment of Jeremiah, whom he
would have killed. He headed the movement to restore paganism; altars
were erected on every hill to heathen deities, so that there were more
gods in Judah than there were towns. Even the sacred animals of Egypt
were worshipped in the dark chambers beneath the Temple. In the most
sacred places of the Temple itself idolatrous priests worshipped the
rising sun, and the obscene rites of Phoenician idolatry were performed
in private houses. The decline in morals kept pace with the decline of
spiritual religion. There was no vice which was not rampant throughout
the land,--adultery, oppression of foreigners, venality in judges,
falsehood, dishonesty in trade, usury, cruelty to debtors, robbery and
murder, the loosing of the ties of kindred, general suspicion of
neighbors,--all the crimes enumerated by the Apostle Paul among the
Romans. Judah in reality had become an idolatrous nation like Tyre and
Syria and Egypt, with only here and there a witness to the truth, like
Jeremiah, the prophetess Huldah, and Baruch the scribe.

This relapse into heathenism filled the soul of Jeremiah with grief and
indignation, but gave to him a courage foreign to his timid and
shrinking nature. In the presence of the king, the princes, and priests
he was defiant, immovable, and fearless, uttering his solemn warnings
from day to day with noble fidelity. All classes turned against him; the
nobles were furious at his exposure of their license and robberies, the
priests hated him for his denunciation of hypocrisy, and the people for
his gloomy prophecies that the Temple should be destroyed, Jerusalem
reduced to ashes, and they themselves led into captivity.

Not only were crime and idolatry rampant, but the death of Josiah was
followed by droughts and famine. In vain were the prayers of Jeremiah to
avert calamity. Jehovah replied to him: "Pray not for this people!
Though they fast, I will not hear their cry; though they offer sacrifice
I have no pleasure in them, but will consume them by the sword, by
famine, and pestilence." Jeremiah piteously gives way to despairing
lamentations. "Hast thou, O Lord, utterly rejected Judah? Is thy soul
tired of Zion? Why hast thou smitten us so that there is no healing for
us?" Jehovah replies: "If Moses and Samuel stood pleading before me, my
soul could not be toward this people. I appoint four destroyers,--the
sword to slay, the dogs to tear and fight over the corpse, the birds of
the air, and the beasts of the field; for who will have pity on thee, O
Jerusalem? Thou hast rejected me. I am weary of relenting. I will
scatter them as with a broad winnowing-shovel, as men scatter the chaff
on the threshing-floor."

Such, amid general depravity and derision, were some of the utterances
of the prophet, during the reign of Jehoiakim. Among other evils which
he denounced was the neglect of the Sabbath, so faithfully observed in
earlier and better times. At the gates of the city he cried aloud
against the general profanation of the sacred day, which instead of
being a day of rest was the busiest day of the week, when the city was
like a great fair and holiday. On this day the people of the
neighboring villages brought for sale their figs and grapes and wine and
vegetables; on this day the wine-presses were trodden in the country,
and the harvest was carried to the threshing-floors. The preacher made
himself especially odious for his rebuke for the violation of the
Sabbath. "Come," said his enemies to the crowd, "let us lay a plot
against him; let us smite him with the tongue by reporting his words to
the king, and bearing false witness against him." On this renewed
persecution the prophet does not as usual give way to lamentation, but
hurls his maledictions. "O Jehovah! give thou their sons to hunger,
deliver them to the sword; let their wives be made childless and widows;
let their strong men be given over to death, and their young men be
smitten with the sword."

And to consummate, as it were, his threats of divine punishment so soon
to be visited on the degenerate city, Jeremiah is directed to buy an
earthenware bottle, such as was used by the peasants to hold their
drinking-water, and to summon the elders and priests of Jerusalem to the
southwestern corner of the city, and to throw before their feet the
bottle and shiver it in pieces, as a significant symbol of the
approaching fall of the city, to be destroyed as utterly as the
shattered jar. "And I will empty out in the dust, says Jehovah, the
counsels of Judah and Jerusalem, as this water is now poured from the
bottle. And I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies
and by the hands of those that seek their lives; and I will give their
corpses for meat to the birds of heaven and the beasts of the earth; and
I will make this city an astonishment and a scoffing. Every one that
passes by it will be astonished and hiss at its misfortunes. Even so
will I shatter this people and this city, as this bottle, which cannot
be made whole again, has been shattered." Nor was Jeremiah contented to
utter these fearful maledictions to the priests and elders; he made his
way to the Temple, and taking his stand among the people, he reiterated,
amid a storm of hisses, mockeries, and threats, what he had just
declared to a smaller audience in reference to Jerusalem.

Such an appalling announcement of calamities, and in such strong and
plain language, must have transported his hearers with fear or with
wrath. He was either the ambassador of Heaven, before whose voice the
people in the time of Elijah would have quaked with unutterable anguish,
or a madman who was no longer to be endured. We have no record of any
prophet or any preacher who ever used language so terrible or so daring.
Even Luther never hurled such maledictions on the church which he called
the "scarlet mother." Jeremiah uttered no vague generalities, but
brought the matter home with awful directness. Among his auditors was
Pashur, the chief governor of the Temple, and a priest by birth. He at
once ordered the Temple police to seize the bold and outspoken prophet,
who was forthwith punished for his plain speaking by the bastinado, and
then hurried bleeding to the stocks, into which his head and feet and
hands were rudely thrust, to spend the night amid the jeers of the crowd
and the cold dews of the season. In the morning he was set free, his
enemies thinking that he now would hold his tongue; but Jeremiah, so far
from keeping silence, renewed his threats of divine vengeance. "For thus
saith Jehovah, I will give all Judah into the hands of the king of
Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon, and slay them with
the sword." And then turning to Pashur, before the astonished
attendants, he exclaimed: "And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thy
house, will be dragged off into captivity; and thou wilt come to
Babylon, and thou wilt die and be buried there,--thou and all thy
partisans to whom thou hast prophesied lies."

We observe in these angry words of Jeremiah great directness and great
minuteness, so that his meaning could not be mistaken; also that the
instrument of punishment on the degenerate and godless city was to be
the king of Babylon, a new power from whom Judah as yet had received no
harm. The old enemies of the Hebrews were the Assyrians and Egyptians,
not the Babylonians and Medes.

Whatever may have been the malignant animosity of Pashur, he was
evidently afraid to molest the awful prophet and preacher any further,
for Jeremiah was no insignificant person at Jerusalem. He was not only
recognized as a prophet of Jehovah, but he had been the friend and
counsellor of King Josiah, and was the leading statesman of the day in
the ranks of the opposition. But distinguished as he was, his voice was
disregarded, and he was probably looked upon as an old croaker, whose
gloomy views had no reason to sustain them. Was not Jerusalem strong in
her defences, and impregnable in the eyes of the people; and was she not
regarded as under the special protection of the Deity? Suppose some
austere priest--say such a man as the Abbé Lacordaire--had risen from
the pulpit of Notre Dame or the Madeleine, a year before the battle of
Sedan, and announced to the fashionable congregation assembled to hear
his eloquence, and among them the ministers of Louis Napoleon, that in a
short time Paris would be surrounded by conquering armies, and would
endure all the horrors of a siege, and that the famine would be so great
that the city would surrender and be at the entire mercy of the
conquerors,--would he have been believed? Would not the people have
regarded him as a madman, great as was his eloquence, or as the most
gloomy of pessimists, for whom they would have felt contempt or bitter
wrath? And had he added to his predictions of ruin, utterly
inconceivable by the giddy, pleasure-seeking, atheistic people, the most
scathing denunciations of the prevailing sins of that godless city, all
the more powerful because they were true, addressed to all classes
alike, positive, direct, bold, without favor and without fear,--would
they not have been stirred to violence, and subjected him to any
chastisement in their power? If Socrates, by provoking questions and
fearless irony, drove the Athenians to such wrath that they took his
life, even when everybody knew that he was the greatest and best man at
Athens, how much more savage and malignant must have been the
narrow-minded Jews when Jeremiah laid bare to them their sins and the
impotency of their gods, and the certainty of retribution!

Yet vehement, or direct, or plain as were Jeremiah's denunciations to
the idol-worshippers of Jerusalem in the seventh century before it was
finally destroyed by Titus, he was no more severe than when Jesus
denounced the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, no more mournful
than when he lamented over the approaching ruin of the Temple. Therefore
they sought to kill him, as the princes and priests of Judah would have
sacrificed the greatest prophet that had appeared since Elisha, the
greatest statesman since Samuel, the greatest poet since David, if
Isaiah alone be excepted. No wonder he was driven to a state of
despondency and grief that reminds us of Job upon his ash-heap. "Cursed
be the day," he exclaims, in his lonely chamber, "on which I was born!
Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man-child
is born to thee, making him very glad! Why did I come forth from the
womb that my days might be spent in shame?" A great and good man may be
urged by the sense of duty to declare truths which he knows will lead to
martyrdom; but no martyr was ever insensible to suffering or shame. All
the glories of his future crown cannot sweeten the bitterness of the cup
he is compelled to drain; even the greatest of martyrs prayed in his
agony that the cup might pass from him. How could a man help being sad
and even bitter, if ever so exalted in soul, when he saw that his
warnings were utterly disregarded, and that no mortal influence or power
could avert the doom he was compelled to pronounce as an ambassador of
God? And when in addition to his grief as a patriot he was unjustly made
to suffer reproach, scourgings, imprisonment, and probable death, how
can we wonder that his patience was exhausted? He felt as if a burning
fire consumed his very bones, and he could refrain no longer. He cried
aloud in the intensity of his grief and pain, and Jehovah, in whom he
trusted, appeared to him as a mighty champion and an everlasting support.

Jeremiah at this time, during the early years of the reign of Jehoiakim,
the period of the most active part of his ministry, was about forty-five
years of age. Great events were then taking place. Nineveh was besieged
by one of its former generals,--Nabopolassar, now king of Babylon. The
siege lasted two years, and the city fell in the year 606 B.C., when
Jehoiakim had been about four years on the throne. The fall of this
great capital enabled the son of the king of Babylonia, Nebuchadnezzar,
to advance against Necho, the king of Egypt, who had taken Carchemish
about three years before. Near that ancient capital of the Hittites, on
the banks of the Euphrates, one of the most important battles of
antiquity was fought,--and Necho, whose armies a few years before had so
successfully invaded the Assyrian empire, was forced to retreat to
Egypt. The battle of Carchemish put an end to Egyptian conquests in the
East, and enabled the young sovereign of Babylonia to attain a power and
elevation such as no Oriental monarch had ever before enjoyed. Babylon
became the centre of a new empire, which embraced the countries that had
bowed down to the Assyrian yoke. Nebuchadnezzar in the pride of victory
now meditated the conquest of Egypt, and must needs pass through
Palestine. But Jehoiakim was a vassal of Egypt, and had probably
furnished troops for Necho at the fatal battle of Carchemish. Of course
the Babylonian monarch would invade Judah on his way to Egypt, and
punish its king, whom he could only look upon as an enemy.

It was then that Jeremiah, sad and desponding over the fate of
Jerusalem, which he knew was doomed, committed his precious utterances
to writing by the assistance of his friend and companion Baruch. He had
lately been living in retirement, feeling that his message was
delivered; possibly he feared that the king would put him to death as he
had the prophet Urijah. But he wished to make one more attempt to call
the people to repentance, as the only way to escape impending
calamities; and he prevailed upon his secretary to read the scroll,
containing all his verbal utterances, to the assembled people in the
Temple, who, in view of their political dangers, were celebrating a
solemn fast. The priests and people alike, clad in black hair-cloth
mantles, with ashes on their heads, lay prostrate on the ground, and by
numerous sacrifices hoped to propitiate the Deity. But not by sacrifices
and fasts were they to be saved from Nebuchadnezzar's army, as Jeremiah
had foretold years before. The recital by Baruch of the calamities he
had predicted made a profound impression on the crowd. A young man, awed
by what he had heard, hastened to the hall in which the princes were
assembled, and told them what had been read from the prophet's scroll.
They in their turn were alarmed, and commanded Baruch to read the
contents to them also. So intense was the excitement that the matter was
laid before the king, who ordered the roll to be read to him: he would
hear the words that Jeremiah had caused to be written down. But scarcely
had the reading of the roll begun before he flew into a violent rage,
and seizing the manuscript he cut it to pieces with the scribe's knife,
and burned it upon a brazier of coals. Orders were instantly given to
arrest both Jeremiah and Baruch; but they had been warned and fled, and
the place of their concealment could not be found.

Jehoiakim thus rejected the last offer of mercy with scorn and anger,
although many of his officers were filled with fear. His heart was
hardened, like that of Pharaoh before Moses. Jeremiah having learned the
fate of the roll, dictated its contents anew to his faithful secretary,
and a second roll was preserved, not, however, without contriving to
send to the king this awful message. "Thus saith Jehovah of thee
Jehoiakim: He shall have no son to sit on the throne of David, and his
dead body will be cast out to lie in the heat by day and the frost by
night; and no one shall raise a lament for him when he dies. He shall be
buried with the burial of an ass, drawn out of Jerusalem, and cast down
from its gates."

No wonder that we lose sight of Jeremiah during the remainder of the
reign of Jehoiakim; it was not safe for him to appear anywhere in
public. For a time his voice was not heard; yet his predictions had such
weight that the king dared not defy Nebuchadnezzar when he demanded the
submission of Jerusalem. He was forced to become the vassal of the king
of Babylonia, and furnish a contingent to his army. But this vassalage
bore heavily on the arrogant soul of Jehoiakim, and he seized the first
occasion to rebel, especially as Necho promised him protection. This
rebellion was suicidal and fatal, since Babylon was the stronger power.
Nebuchadnezzar, after the three years of forced submission, appeared
before the gates of Jerusalem with an irresistible army. There was no
resistance, as resistance was folly. Jehoiakim was put in chains, and
avoided being carried captive to Babylon only by the most abject
submission to the conqueror. All that was valuable in the Temple and the
palaces was seized as spoil. Jerusalem was spared for a while; and in
the mean time Jehoiakim died, and so intensely was he hated and despised
that no dirge was sung over his remains, while his dishonored body was
thrown outside the walls of his capital like that of a dead ass, as
Jeremiah had foretold.

On his death, B.C. 598, after a reign of eight years, his son
Jehoiachin, at the age of eighteen, ascended his nominal throne. He
also, like his father, followed the lead of the heathen party. The
bitterness of the Babylonian rule, united with the intrigues of Egypt,
led to a fresh revolt, and Jerusalem was invested by a powerful
Chaldean army.

Jeremiah now appears again upon the stage, but only to reaffirm the
calamities which impended over his nation,--all of which he traced to
the decay of religion and morality. The mission and the work of the Jews
were to keep alive the worship of the One God amid universal idolatry.
Outside of this, they were nothing as a nation. They numbered only four
or five millions of people, and lived in a country not much larger than
one of the northern counties of England and smaller than the state of
New Hampshire or Vermont; they gave no impulse to art or science. Yet as
the guardians of the central theme of the only true religion and of the
sacred literature of the Bible, their history is an important link in
the world's history. Take away the only thing which made them an object
of divine favor, and they were of no more account than Hittites, or
Moabites, or Philistines. The chosen people had become idolatrous like
the surrounding nations, hopelessly degenerate and wicked, and they
were to receive a dreadful chastisement as the only way by which they
would return to the One God, and thus act their appointed part in the
great drama of humanity. Jeremiah predicted this chastisement. The
chosen people were to suffer a seventy years' captivity, and then city
and Temple were to be destroyed. But Jeremiah, sad as he was over the
fate of his nation, and terribly severe as he was in his denunciations
of the national sins, knew that his people would repent by the river of
Babylon, and be finally restored to their old inheritance. Yet nothing
could avert their punishment.

In less than three months after Jehoiachin became king of Judah, its
capital was unconditionally surrendered to the Chaldean hosts, since
resistance was vain. No pity was shown to the rebels, though the king
and nobles had appeared before Nebuchadnezzar with every mark and emblem
of humiliation and submission. The king and his court and his wives, and
all the principal people of the nation, were sent to Babylon as captives
and slaves. The prompt capitulation saved the city for a time from
complete destruction; but its glory was turned to shame and grief. All
that was of any value in the Temple and city was carried to the banks of
the Euphrates, nearly one hundred and fifty years after Samaria had
fallen from a protracted siege, and its inhabitants finally dispersed
among the nations that were subject to Nineveh.

One would suppose that after so great a calamity the few remaining
people in Jerusalem and in the desolate villages of Judah would have
given no further molestation to their powerful and triumphant enemies.
The land was exhausted; the towns were stripped of their fighting
population, and only the shadow of a kingdom remained. Instead of
appointing a governor from his own court over the conquered province,
Nebuchadnezzar gave the government into the hands of Mattaniah, the
third son of Josiah, a youth of twenty, changing his name to Zedekiah.
He was for a time faithful to his allegiance, and took much pains to
quiet the mind of the powerful sovereign who ruled the Eastern world,
and even made a journey to Babylon to pay his homage. He was a weak
prince, however, alternately swayed by the different parties,--those
that counselled resistance to Babylon, and those, like Jeremiah, that
advised submission. This long-headed statesman saw clearly that
rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, flushed with victory, and with the
whole Eastern world at his feet, was absurd; but that the time would
come when Babylon in turn should be humbled, and then the captive
Hebrews would probably return to their own land, made wiser by their
captivity of seventy years. The other party, leagued with Moabites,
Tyrians, Egyptians, and other nations, thought themselves strong enough
to break their allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar; and bitter were the
contentions of these parties. Jeremiah had great influence with the
king, who was weak rather than wicked, and had his counsels been
consistently followed, Jerusalem would probably have been spared, and
the Temple would, have remained. He preferred vassalage to utter ruin.
With Babylon pressing on one side and Egypt on the other,--both great
monarchies,--vassalage to one or the other of these powers was
inevitable. Indeed, vassalage had been the unhappy condition of Judah
since the death of Josiah. Of the two powers Jeremiah preferred the
Chaldean rule, and persistently advised submission to it, as the only
way to save Jerusalem from utter destruction.

Unfortunately Zedekiah temporized; he courted all parties in turn, and
listened to the schemes of rebellion,--for all the nations of Palestine
were either conquered or invaded by the Chaldeans, and wished to shake
off the yoke. Nebuchadnezzar lost faith in Zedekiah; and being irritated
by his intrigues, he resolved to attack Jerusalem while he was
conducting the siege of Tyre and fighting with Egypt, a rival power.
Jerusalem was in his way. It was a small city, but it gave him
annoyance, and he resolved to crush it. It was to him what Tyre became
to Alexander in his conquests. It lay between him and Egypt, and might
be dangerous by its alliances. It was a strong citadel which he had
unwisely spared, but determined to spare no longer.

The suspicions of the king of Babylonia were probably increased by the
disaffection of the Jewish exiles themselves, who believed in the
overthrow of Nebuchadnezzar and their own speedy return to their native
hills. A joint embassy was sent from Edom, from Moab, the Ammonites, and
the kings of Tyre and Sidon, to Jerusalem, with the hope that Zedekiah
would unite with them in shaking off the Babylonian yoke; and these
intrigues were encouraged by Egypt. Jeremiah, who foresaw the
consequences of all this, earnestly protested. And to make his protest
more forcible, he procured a number of common ox-yokes, and having put
one on his own neck while the embassy was in the city, he sent one to
each of the envoys, with the following message to their masters: "Thus
saith Jehovah, the God of Israel. I have made the earth and man and the
beasts on the face of the earth by my great power, and I give it to whom
I see fit. And now I have given all these lands into the hands of
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to serve him. And all nations shall
serve him, till the time of his own land comes; and then many nations
and great kings shall make him their servant. And the nation and people
that will not serve him, and that does not give its own neck to the
yoke, that nation I will punish with sword, famine, and pestilence, till
I have consumed them by his hand." A similar message he sent to Zedekiah
and the princes who seemed to have influenced him. "Bring your necks
under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, and ye shall live.
Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, Ye shall not
serve the king of Babylon. They prophesy a lie to you." The same message
in substance he sent to the priests and people, urging them not to
listen to the voice of the false prophets, who based their opinions on
the anticipated interference of God to save Jerusalem from destruction;
for that destruction would surely come if its people did not serve the
king of Babylonia until the appointed time should come, when Babylon
itself should fall into the hands of enemies more powerful than itself,
even the Medes and Persians.

Jeremiah, thus brought into direct opposition to the false prophets, was
exposed to their bitterest wrath. But he was undaunted, although alone,
and thus boldly addressed Hananiah, one of their leaders and himself a
priest: "Hear the words that I speak in your ears. Not I alone, but all
the prophets who have been before me, have prophesied long ago war,
captivity, and pestilence, while you prophesy peace." On this, Hananiah
snatched the ox-yoke from the neck of Jeremiah, and broke it, saying,
"Thus saith Jehovah, Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar
from the neck of all nations within two years." Jeremiah in reply said
to this false prophet that he had broken a wooden yoke only to prepare
an iron one for the people; for thus saith Jehovah: "I have put a yoke
of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they shall serve the king
of Babylon.... And further, hear this, O Hananiah! Jehovah has not sent
thee, but thou makest this people trust in a lie; therefore thou shalt
die this very year, because thou hast spoken rebellion against Jehovah."
In two months the lying prophet was dead.

Zedekiah, now awe-struck by the death of his counsellor, made up his
mind to resist the Egyptian party and remain true to Nebuchadnezzar, and
resolved to send an embassy to Babylon to vindicate himself from any
suspicion of disloyalty; and further, he sought to win the favor of
Jeremiah by a special gift to the Temple of a set of silver vessels to
replace the golden ones that had been carried to Babylon. Jeremiah
entered into his views, and sent with the embassy a letter to the exiles
to warn them of the hopelessness of their cause. It was not well
received, and created great excitement and indignation, since it seemed
to exhort them to settle down contentedly in their slavery. The words
of Jeremiah were, however, indorsed by the prophet Ezekiel, and he
addressed the exiles from the place where he lived in Chaldaea,
confirming the destruction which Jeremiah prophesied to unwilling ears.
"Behold the day! See, it comes! The fierceness of Chaldaea has shot up
into a rod to punish the wickedness of the people of Judah. Nothing
shall remain of them. The time is come! Forge the chains to lead off the
people captive. Destruction comes; calamity will follow calamity!"

Meanwhile, in spite of all these warnings from both Jeremiah and
Ezekiel, things were passing at Jerusalem from bad to worse, until
Nebuchadnezzar resolved on taking final vengeance on a rebellious city
and people that refused to look on things as they were. Never was there
a more infatuated people. One would suppose that a city already
decimated, and its principal people already in bondage in Babylon, would
not dare to resist the mightiest monarch who ever reigned in the East
before the time of Cyrus. But "whom the gods wish to destroy they first
make mad." Every preparation was made to defend the city. The general of
Nebuchadnezzar with a great force surrounded it, and erected towers
against the walls. But so strong were the fortifications that the
inhabitants were able to stand a siege of eighteen months. At the end of
this time they were driven to desperation, and fought with the energy
of despair. They could resist battering rams, but they could not resist
famine and pestilence. After dreadful sufferings, the besieged found the
soldiers of Chaldaea within their Temple, a breach in the walls having
been made, and the stubborn city was taken by assault. The few who were
spared were carried away captive to Babylon with what spoil could be
found, and the Temple and the walls were levelled to the ground. The
predictions of the prophets were fulfilled,--the holy city was a heap of
desolation. Zedekiah, with his wives and children, had escaped through a
passage made in the wall, at a corner of the city which the Chaldeans
had not been able to invest, and made his way toward Jericho, but was
overtaken and carried in chains to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar was
encamped. As he had broken a solemn oath to remain faithful, a severe
judgment was pronounced upon him. His courtiers and his sons were
executed in his sight, his own eyes were put out, and then he was taken
to Babylon, where he was made to work like a slave in a mill. Thus ended
the dynasty of David, in the year 588 B.C., about the time that Draco
gave laws to Athens, and Tarquinius Priscus was king of Rome.

As for Jeremiah, during the siege of the city he fell into the power of
the nobles, who beat him and imprisoned him in a dungeon. The king was
not able to release him, so low had the royal power sunk in that
disastrous age; but he secretly befriended him, and asked his counsel.
The princes insisted on his removal to a place where no succor could
reach him, and he was cast into a deep well from which the water was
dried up, having at the bottom only slime and mud. From this pit of
misery he was rescued by one of the royal guards, and once again he had
a secret interview with Zedekiah, and remained secluded in the palace
until the city fell. He was spared by the conqueror in view of his
fidelity and his earnest efforts to prevent the rebellion, and perhaps
also for his lofty character, the last of the great statesmen of Judah
and the most distinguished man of the city. Nebuchadnezzar gave him the
choice, to accompany him to Babylon with the promise of high favor at
his court, or remain at home among the few that were not deemed of
sufficient importance to carry away. Jeremiah preferred to remain amid
the ruins of his country; for although Jerusalem was destroyed, the
mountains and valleys remained, and the humble classes--the
peasants--were left to cultivate the neglected vineyards and cornfields.

From Mizpeh, the city which he had selected as his last resting-place,
Jeremiah was carried into Egypt, and his subsequent history is unknown.
According to tradition he was stoned to death by his fellow-exiles in
Egypt. He died as he had lived, a martyr for the truth, but left behind
a great name and fame. None of the prophets was more venerated in
after-ages. And no one more than he resembled, in his sufferings and
life, that greater Prophet and Sage who was led as a lamb to the
slaughter, that the world through him might be saved.


DIED, 160 B.C.


After the heroic ages of Joshua, Gideon, and David, no warriors
appeared in Jewish history equal to Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers in
bravery, in patriotism, and in noble deeds. They delivered the Hebrew
nation when it had sunk to abject submission under the kings of Syria,
and when its glory and strength alike had departed. The conquests of
Judas especially were marvellous, considering the weakness of the Jewish
nation and the strength of its enemies. No hero that chivalry has
produced surpassed him in courage and ability; his exploits would be
fabulous and incredible if not so well attested. He is not a familiar
character, since the Apocrypha, from which our chief knowledge of his
deeds is derived, is now rarely read. Jewish history resembles that of
Europe in the Middle Ages in the sentiments which are born of danger,
oppression, and trial. As a point of mere historical interest, the dark
ages that preceded the coming of the Messiah furnish reproachless
models of chivalry, courage, and magnanimity, and also the foundation of
many of those institutions that cannot be traced to the laws of Moses.

But before I present the wonderful career of Judas Maccabaeus, we must
look to the circumstances which made that career remarkable
and eventful.

On the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity there was among
them only the nucleus of a nation: more remained in Persia and Assyria
than returned to Judaea. We see an infant colony rather than a developed
State; it was so feeble as scarcely to attract the notice of the
surrounding monarchies. In all probability the population of Judaea did
not number a quarter as many as those whom Moses led out of Egypt; it
did not furnish a tenth part as many fighting men as were enrolled in
the armies of Saul; it existed only under the protection afforded by the
Persian monarchs. The Temple as rebuilt by Nehemiah bore but a feeble
resemblance to that which Nebuchadnezzar destroyed; it had neither
costly vessels nor golden ornaments nor precious woods to remind the
scattered and impoverished people of the glory of Solomon. Although the
walls of Jerusalem were partially restored, its streets were filled with
the débris and ruins of ancient palaces. The city was indeed fortified,
but the strong walls and lofty towers which made it almost impregnable
were not again restored as in the times of the old monarchy. It took no
great force to capture the city and demolish the fortifications. The
vast and unnumbered treasures which David, Solomon, and Hezekiah had
accumulated in the Temple and the palaces formed no inconsiderable part
of the gold and silver that finally enriched Babylonian and Persian
kings. The wealth of one of the richest countries of antiquity had been
dispersed and re-collected at Babylon, Susa, Ecbatana, and other cities,
to be again seized by Alexander in his conquest of the East, then again
to be hoarded or spent by the Syrian and Egyptian kings who descended
from Alexander's generals, and finally to be deposited in the treasuries
of the Romans and the Byzantine Greeks. Whatever ruin warriors may make,
whatever temples and palaces they may destroy, they always spare and
seize the precious metals, and keep them until they spend them, or are
robbed of them in their turn.

Not only was the Holy City a desolation on the return of the Jews, but
the rich vineyards and olive-grounds and wheat-fields had run to waste,
and there were but few to till and improve them. The few who returned
felt their helpless condition, and were quiet and peaceable. Moreover,
they had learned during their seventy years' exile to have an intense
hatred of everything like idolatry,--a hatred amounting to fanatical
fierceness, such as the Puritan Colonists of New England had toward
Catholicism. In their dreary and humiliating captivity they at length
perceived that idolatry was the great cause of all their calamities;
that no national prosperity was possible for them, as the chosen people,
except by sincere allegiance to Jehovah. At no period of their history
were they more truly religious and loyal to their invisible King than
for two hundred years after their return to the land of their ancestors.
The terrible lesson of exile and sorrow was not lost on them. It is true
that they were only a "remnant" of the nation, as Isaiah had predicted,
but they believed that they were selected and saved for a great end.
This end they seemed to appreciate now more than ever, and the idea that
a great Deliverer was to arise among them, whose reign was to be
permanent and glorious, was henceforth devoutly cherished.

A severe morality was practised among these returned exiles, as marked
as their faith in God. They were especially tenacious of the laws and
ceremonies that Moses had commanded. They kept the Sabbath with a
strictness unknown to their ancestors. They preserved the traditions of
their fathers, and conformed to them with scrupulous exactness; they
even went beyond the requirements of Moses in outward ceremonials. Thus
there gradually arose among them a sect ultimately known as the
Pharisees, whose leading peculiarity was a slavish and fanatical
observance of all the technicalities of the law, both Mosaic and
traditional; a sect exceedingly narrow, but popular and powerful. They
multiplied fasts and ritualistic observances as the superstitious monks
of the Middle Ages did after them; they extended the payment of tithes
(tenths) to the most minute and unimportant things, like the herbs which
grew in their gardens; they began the Sabbath on Friday evening, and
kept it so rigorously that no one was permitted to walk beyond one
thousand steps from his own door.

A natural reaction to this severity in keeping minute ordinances, alike
narrow, fanatical, and unreasonable, produced another sect called the
Sadducees,--a revolutionary party with a more progressive spirit, which
embraced the more cultivated and liberal part of the nation; a minority
indeed,--a small party as far as numbers went,--but influential from the
men of wealth, talent, and learning that belonged to it, containing as
it did the nobility and gentry. The members of this party refused to
acknowledge any Oral Law transmitted from Moses, and held themselves
bound only by the Written Law; they were indifferent to dogmas that had
not reason or Scriptures to support them. The writings of Moses have
scarcely any recognition of a future life, and hence the Sadducees
disbelieved in the resurrection of the dead,--for which reason the
Pharisees accused them of looseness in religious opinions. They were
more courteous and interesting than the great body of the people who
favored the Pharisees, but were more luxurious in their habits of life.
They had more social but less religious pride than their rivals, among
whom pride took the form of a gloomy austerity and a self-satisfied

Another thing pertaining to divine worship which marked the Jews on
their return from captivity was the establishment of synagogues, in
which the law was expounded by the Scribes, whose business it was to
study tradition, as embodied in the Talmud. The Pharisees were the great
patrons and teachers of these meetings, which became exceedingly
numerous, especially in the cities. There were at one time four hundred
synagogues in Jerusalem alone. To these the great body of the people
resorted on the Sabbath, rather than to the Temple. The synagogue,
popular, convenient, and social, almost supplanted the Temple, except on
grand occasions and festivals. The Temple was for great ceremonies and
celebrations, like a mediaeval cathedral,--an object of pride and awe,
adorned and glorious; the synagogue was a sort of church, humble and
modest, for the use of the people in ordinary worship,--a place of
religious instruction, where decent strangers were allowed to address
the meetings, and where social congratulations and inquiries were
exchanged. Hence, the synagogue represented the democratic element in
Judaism, while it did not ignore the Temple.

Nearly contemporaneous with the synagogue was the Sanhedrim, or Grand
Council, composed of seventy-one members, made up of elders, scribes,
and priests,--men learned in the law, both Pharisees and Sadducees. It
was the business of this aristocratic court to settle disputed texts of
Scripture; also questions relating to marriage, inheritance, and
contracts. It met in one of the buildings connected with the Temple. It
was presided over by the high-priest, and was a dignified and powerful
body, its decisions being binding on the Jews outside Palestine. It was
not unlike a great council in the early Christian Church for the
settlement of theological questions, except that it was not temporary
but permanent; and it was more ecclesiastical than civil. Jesus was
summoned before it for assuming to be the Messiah; Peter and John, for
teaching false doctrine; and Paul, for transgressing the rules of
the Temple.

Thus in one hundred and fifty or two hundred years after the Jews
returned to their own country, we see the rise of institutions adapted
to their circumstances as a religious people, small in numbers, poor but
free,--for they were protected by the Persian monarchs against their
powerful neighbors. The largest part of the nation was still scattered
in every city of the world, especially at Alexandria, where there was a
very large Jewish colony, plying their various occupations unmolested by
the civil power. In this period Ewald thinks there was a great stride
made in sacred literature, especially in recasting ancient books that we
accept as canonical. Some of the most beautiful of the Psalms were
supposed to have been written at this time; also Apocalypses, books of
combined history and revelatory prophecy,--like Daniel, and simple
histories like Esther,--written by gifted, lofty, and spiritual men
whose names have perished, embodying vivid conceptions of the agency of
Jehovah in the affairs of men, so popular, so interesting, and so
religious that they soon took their place among the canonical books.

The most noted point in the history of the Jews in the dark ages of
their history, for two hundred years after their return from Babylon and
Persia, was the external peace and tranquillity of the country,
favorable to a quiet and uneventful growth, like that of Puritan New
England for one hundred and fifty years after the settlement at
Plymouth,--making no history outside of their own peaceful and
prosperous life. They had no intercourse with surrounding nations, but
were contented to resettle ancient villages, and devote themselves to
agricultural pursuits. They were thus trained by labor and
poverty--possibly by dangers--to manly energies and heroic courage. They
formed a material from which armies could be extemporized on any sudden
emergencies. There was no standing army as in the times of David and
Solomon, but the whole people were trained to the use of military
weapons. Thus the hardy and pious agriculturists of Palestine grew
imperceptibly in numbers and wealth, so as to become once more a nation.
In all probability this unhistorical period, of which we know almost
nothing, was the most fruitful period in Jewish history for the
development of great virtues. If they had no heathen literature, they
could still discuss theological dogmas; if they had no amusements, they
could meet together in their synagogues; if they had no king, they
accepted the government of the high-priest; if they had no powerful
nobles, they had the aristocratic Sanhedrim, which represented their
leading men; if they were disposed to contention, as so many persons
are, they could dispute about the unimportant shibboleths which their
religious parties set up as matters of difference,--and the more minute,
technical, and insoluble these questions were, the fiercer probably grew
their contests.

Such was the Hebrew commonwealth in the dark ages of its history, under
the protection of the Persian kings. It formed a part of the province of
Syria, but the internal government was administered by the
high-priests. After the return from exile Joshua, Joachim, and Eliashib
successively filled the pontifical office. The government thus was not
unlike that of the popes, abating their claims to universal spiritual
dominion, although the office of high-priest was hereditary. Jehoiada,
son of Eliashib, reigned from 413 to 373, and he was succeeded by his
son Johanan, under whose administration important changes took place
during the reign of Artaxerxes III., called Ochus, the last but two of
the Persian monarchs before the conquest of Persia by Alexander.

The Persians had in the mean time greatly degenerated in their religious
faith and observances. Magian rites became mingled with the purer
religion of Zoroaster, and even the worship of Venus was not uncommon.
Under Cyrus and Darius there was nothing peculiarly offensive to the
Jews in the theism of Ormuzd, which was the old religion of the
Persians; but when images of ancient divinities were set up by royal
authority in Persepolis, Susa, Babylon, and Damascus, the allegiance of
the Jews was weakened, and repugnance took the place of sympathy.
Moreover, a creature of Artaxerxes III., by the name of Bagoses, became
Satrap of Syria, and presumed to appoint as the high-priest at Jerusalem
Joshua, another son of Jehoiada, and severely taxed the Jews, and even
forced his way into the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the
Temple,--a sacrilege hard to be endured. This Bagoses poisoned his
master, and in the year 338 B.C. elevated to the throne of Persia his
son Arses, who had a brief reign, being dethroned and murdered by his
father. In 336 Darius III. became king, under whom the Persian monarchy
collapsed before the victories of Alexander.

Judaea now came under the dominion of this great conqueror, who favored
the Jews, and on his death, 323 B.C., it fell to the possession of
Laomedon, one of his generals; while Egypt was assigned to Ptolemy
Soter, son of Lagus. Between these princes a war soon broke out, and
Laomedon was defeated by Nicanor, one of Ptolemy's generals; and
Palestine refusing to submit to the king of Egypt, Ptolemy invaded
Judaea, besieged Jerusalem, and took it by assault on the Sabbath, when
the Jews refused to fight. A large number of Jews were sent to
Alexandria, and the Jewish colony ultimately formed no small part of the
population of the new capital. Some eighty thousand Jews, it is said,
were settled in Alexandria when Palestine was governed by Greek generals
and princes. But Judaea was wrested from Ptolemy Lagus by Antigonus, and
again recovered by Ptolemy after the battle of Ipsus, in 301 B.C. Under
Ptolemy Egypt became a powerful kingdom, and still more so under his
son Philadelphus, who made Alexandria the second capital of the
world,--commercially, indeed, the first. It became also a great
intellectual centre, and its famous library was the largest ever
collected in classical antiquity. This city was the home of scholars and
philosophers from all parts of the world. Under the auspices of an
enlightened monarch, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek,
the version being called the Septuagint,--an immense service to sacred
literature. The Jews enjoyed great prosperity under this Grecian prince,
and Palestine was at peace with powerful neighbors, protected by the
great king who favored the Jews as the Persian monarchs had done. Under
his successor, Ptolemy Euergetes, a still more powerful king, the empire
reached its culminating glory, and was extended as far as Antioch and
Babylon. Under the next Ptolemy,--Philopater,--degeneracy set in; but
the empire was not diminished, and the Syrian monarch Antiochus III.,
called the Great, was defeated at the battle of Raphia, 217. Under the
successor of the enervated Egyptian king, Ptolemy V., a child five years
old, Antiochus the Great retrieved the disaster at Raphia, and in 199
won a victory over Scopas the Egyptian general, in consequence of which
Judaea, with Phoenicia and Coele-Syria, passed from the Ptolemies to the

Judaea now became the battle-ground for the contending Syrian and
Egyptian armies, and after two hundred years of peace and prosperity her
calamities began afresh. She was cruelly deceived and oppressed by the
Syrian kings and their generals, for the "kings of the North" were more
hostile to the Jews than the "kings of the South." In consequence of the
incessant wars between Syria and Egypt, many Jews emigrated, and became
merchants, bankers, and artisans in all the great cities of the world,
especially in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and Egypt, where all
departments of industry were freely opened to them. In the time of
Philo, there were more than a million of Jews in these various
countries; but they remained Jews, and tenaciously kept the laws and
traditions of their nation. In every large city were Jewish synagogues.

It was under the reign of Antiochus IV., called Epiphanes, when Judaea
was tributary to Syria, that those calamities and miseries befell the
Jews which rendered it necessary for a deliverer to arise. Though
enlightened and a lover of art, this monarch was one of the most cruel,
rapacious, and tyrannical princes that have achieved an infamous
immortality. He began his reign with usurpation and treachery. Being
unsuccessful in his Egyptian campaigns, he vented his wrath upon the
Jews, as if he were mad. Onias III. was the high-priest at the time.
Antiochus dispossessed him of his great office and gave it to his
brother Jason, a Hellenized Jew, who erected in Jerusalem a gymnasium
after the Greek style. But the king, a zealot in paganism, bitterly and
scornfully detested the Jewish religion, and resolved to root it out.
His general, Apollonius, had orders to massacre the people in the
observance of their rites, to abolish the Temple service and the
Sabbath, to destroy the sacred books, and introduce idol worship. The
altar on Mount Moriah was especially desecrated, and afterward dedicated
to Jupiter. A herd of swine were driven into the Temple, and there
sacrificed. This outrage was to the Jews "the abomination of
desolation," which could never be forgotten or forgiven. The nation
rallied and defied the power of a king who could thus wantonly trample
on what was most sacred and venerable.

Two hundred years earlier, resistance would have been hopeless; but in
the mean time the population had quietly increased, and in the practice
of those virtues and labors which agricultural life called out, the
people had been strengthened and prepared to rally and defend their
lives and liberties. They were still unwarlike, without organization or
military habits; but they were brave, hardy, and patriotic. Compared,
however, with the forces which could be arrayed against them by the
Syrian monarch, who was supreme in western Asia, they were numerically
insignificant; and they were also despised and undervalued. They seemed
to be as sheep among wolves,--easy to be intimidated and even

The outrage in the Temple was the consummation of a series of
humiliations and crimes; for in addition to the desecration of the
Jewish religion, Antiochus had taken Jerusalem with a great army, had
entered into the Temple, where the national treasures were deposited
(for it was the custom even among Greeks and Romans to deposit the
public money in the temples), and had taken away to his capital the
golden candlesticks, the altar of incense, the table of shew bread, and
the various vessels and censers and crowns which were used in the
service of God,--treasures that amounted to one thousand eight hundred
talents, spared by Alexander. So that there came great mourning upon
Israel throughout the land, both for the desecration of sacred places,
the plunder of the Temple, and the massacre of the people. Jerusalem was
sacked and burned, women and children were carried away as captives, and
a great fortress was erected on an eminence that overlooked the Temple
and city, in which was placed a strong garrison. The plundered
inhabitants fled from Jerusalem, which became the habitation of
strangers, with all its glory gone. "Her sanctuary was laid waste, her
feasts were turned into mourning, her Sabbath into a reproach, and her
honor into contempt." Many even of the Jews became apostate, profaned
the Sabbath, and sacrificed to idols, rather than lose their lives; for
the persecution was the most unrelenting in the annals of martyrdom,
even to the destruction of women and children.

The insulted and decimated Jews now rallied under Mattathias, the
founder of the Asmonean dynasty.

The immediate occasion of the Jewish uprising, which was ultimately to
end in national independence and in the rule of a line of native
princes, was as unpremeditated as the throwing out of the window at the
council chamber at Prague those deputies who supported the Emperor of
Germany in his persecution of the Protestants, which led to the Thirty
Years' War and the establishment of religious liberty in Germany. At
this crisis among the Jews, a hero arose in their midst as marvellous as
Gustavus Adolphus.

In Modin, or Modein, a town near the sea, but the site of which is now
unknown, there lived an old man of a priestly family named Asmon, who
was rich and influential. His name was Mattathias, and he had five
grown-up sons, each distinguished for bravery, piety, and patriotism. He
was so prominent in his little city for fidelity to the faith of his
fathers, as well as for social position, that when an officer of
Antiochus came to Modin to enforce the decrees of his royal master, he
made splendid offers to Mattathias to induce him to favor the crusade
against his countrymen. Mattathias not only contemptuously rejected
these overtures, but he openly proclaimed his resolution to adhere to
his religion,--a man who could not be bribed, and who could not be
intimidated. "Be it far from us," he said, "to forsake law and
ordinances. We will not hearken to the king's words, to turn aside to
the right hand or to the left."

When he had thus given noble attestation of his resolution to adhere to
the faith of his fathers, there came forward an apostate Jew to
sacrifice on the heathen altar, which it seems was erected by royal
command in all the cities and towns of Judaea. This so inflamed the
indignation of the brave old man that he ran and slew the Jew upon the
altar, together with the king's commissioner, and pulled down the altar.

For this, Mattathias was obliged to flee, and he escaped to the
mountains, taking with him his five sons and all who would join his
standard of revolt, crying with a loud voice, "Let every one zealous for
the Law follow me!" A considerable multitude fled with him to the
wilderness of Judaea, on the west of the Dead Sea, taking with them
their wives and children and cattle. But this flight from persecution
speedily became known to the troops that were quartered on Mount Zion, a
strong fortress which controlled the Temple and city, and a detachment
was sent in pursuit. The fugitives, zealous for the Law, refused to
defend themselves on the Sabbath day, and the result was that they all
perished, with their wives and children. Their fate made such a powerful
impression on Mattathias, that it was resolved henceforth to fight on
the Sabbath day, if attacked. The patriots had to choose between two
alternatives,--to be utterly rooted out, or to defend themselves on the
Sabbath, and thus violate the letter of the Law. Mattathias was
sufficiently enlightened to perceive that fighting on the Sabbath, if
attacked, was a supreme necessity, remembering doubtless that Moses
recognized the right of necessary work even on the sacred day of rest.
The law of self-defence is an ultimate one, and appeals to the
consciousness of universal humanity. Strange as it may seem, the Sabbath
has ever been a favorite day with generals to fight grand battles in
every Christian country.

Mattathias, although a very old man, now put forth superhuman energies,
raised an army, drove the persecuting soldiers out of the country,
pulled down the heathen altars, and restored the Law; and when the time
came for him to die, at the age of one hundred and forty-five years,--if
we may credit the history, for Josephus and the Apocrypha are here our
chief authorities,--he collected around him his five sons, all wise and
valiant men, and enjoined them to be united among themselves, and to be
faithful to the Law,--calling to their minds the noted examples from the
Hebrew Scriptures, Abraham, Joseph, Joshua, David, Elijah, who were
obedient to the commandments of God. He did not speak of patriotism,
although an intense lover of his country. He exhorted his sons to be
simply obedient to the Law,--not, probably, in the restricted and
literal sense of the word, but in the idea of being faithful to God,
even as Abraham was obedient before the Law was given. The glory which
he assured them they would thus win was not the _éclat_ of victory, or
even of national deliverance, but the imperishable renown which comes
from righteousness. He promised a glorious immortality to those who fell
in battle in defence of the truth and of their liberties, reminding us
of the promises which Mohammed made to his followers. But the great
incentive to bravery which he urged was the ultimate reward of virtue,
which runs through the Scriptures, even the favor of God. The heroes of
chivalry fought for the favor of ladies, the praises of knights, and the
friendship of princes; the reward of modern generals is exaltation in
popular estimation, the increase of political power, the accumulation of
wealth, and sometimes the consciousness of rendering important services
to their country,--an exalted patriotism, such as marked Washington and
Cromwell. But the reward which the Jewish hero promised was
loftier,--even that of the divine favor.

The aged Mattathias, having thus given his last counsels to his sons,
recommended the second one, Simon, or Simeon, as the future head of the
family, to whose wisdom the other brothers were to defer,--a man whose
counsel would be invaluable. The third brother, Judas, a mighty warrior
from his youth, was appointed as the leader of the forces to fight the
battles of the people,--the peculiar vocations of Saul and of David, for
which they were selected to be kings.

On the death of Mattathias, mourned by all Israel as Samuel was mourned,
at the age of one hundred and forty-five, and buried in the sepulchre of
his fathers at Modin, Judas, called "The Maccabaeus" ("The Hammer," as
some suppose), rose up in his stead; and all his brothers helped him,
and all his father's friends, and he fought with cheerfulness the
battles of Israel. He put on armor as a hero, and was like a lion in his
acts, and like a lion's whelp roaring for prey. He pursued and punished
the Jewish transgressors of the Law, so that they lost courage, and all
the workers of inquity were thrown into disorder, and the work of
deliverance prospered in his hands. Like Josiah he went through the
cities of Judah, destroying the heathen and the ungodly. The fame of his
exploits rapidly spread through the land, and Apollonius, military
governor of Samaria, collected an army and marched against a man who
with his small forces set at defiance the sovereignty of a mighty
monarchy. Judas attacked Apollonius, slew him, and dispersed his army.
Ever afterward he was girded with the sword of the Syrian,--a weapon
probably adorned with jewels, and tempered like the famous
Damascus blades.

Seron, a general of higher rank, the commander-in-chief of the Syrian
forces in Palestine, irritated at the defeat and death of Apollonius,
the following year marched with a still larger army against Judas. The
latter had with him only a small company, who were despondent in view of
the great array of their heathen enemies, and moreover faint from having
not eaten anything that day. But the heroic leader encouraged his men,
and, undaunted in the midst of overwhelming danger, resolved to fight,
trusting for aid from the God of battles; for "victory," said he, "is
not through the multitude of an army, but from heaven cometh the
strength." This resolution to fight against overwhelming odds would be
audacity in modern warfare, which is perfected machinery, making one man
with reliable weapons as good as another, and success to be chiefly
determined by numbers skilfully posted and manoeuvred according to
strategic science; but in ancient times personal bravery, directed by
military genius and aided by fortunate circumstances, frequently
prevailed over the force of multitudes, especially if the latter were
undisciplined or intimidated by superstitious omens,--as evinced by
Alexander's victories, and those of Charles Martel and the Black Prince
in the Middle Ages. The desperate valor of Judas and his small band was
crowned with complete success. Seron was defeated with great loss, his
army fled, and the fame of Judas spread far and wide. His name became a
terror to the nations.

King Antiochus now saw that the subjection of this valiant Jew was no
easy matter; and filled with wrath and vengeance he gathered together
all the forces of his kingdom, opened his treasury, paid his soldiers a
year in advance, and resolved to root out the rebellious nation by a war
of extermination. Crippled, however, in resources, and in great need of
money, he concluded to go in person to Persia and collect tribute from
the various provinces, and seize the treasures which were supposed to be
deposited in royal cities beyond the Euphrates. He left behind, as
regent or lieutenant, Lysias, a man of royal descent, with orders to
prosecute the war against the Jews with the utmost severity, while with
half his forces he proceeded in person to Persia. Lysias chose Ptolemy,
Nicanor, and Gorgias, experienced generals, to conduct the war, with
forty thousand foot and seven thousand horsemen, besides elephants,
with orders to exterminate the rebels, take possession of their lands,
and settle heathen aliens in their place. So confident were these
generals of success that merchants accompanied the army with gold and
silver to purchase the Jews from the conquerors, and fetters in which to
make them slaves. A large force from the land of the Philistines also
joined the attacking army.

Jerusalem at this time was a forsaken city, uninhabited, like a
wilderness; the Sanctuary was trodden down, and heathen foreigners
occupied the citadel on Mount Zion. It was a time of general mourning
and desolation, and the sound of the harp and the pipe ceased throughout
the land. But Judas was not discouraged; and the warriors with him were
bent upon redeeming the land from desolation. They however put on
sackcloth, and prayed to the God of their fathers, and made every effort
to rally their forces, feeling that it was better to die in battle than
see the pollution of the Sanctuary and the evils which overspread the
land. Judas succeeded in collecting altogether three thousand men, who
however were poorly armed, and intrenched himself among the mountains,
about twenty miles from Jerusalem. Learning this, Gorgias took five
thousand men, one thousand horsemen, under guides from the castle on
Mount Zion, and departed from his camp at Emmaus by night, with a view
of surprising and capturing the Jewish force. But Judas was on the
alert, and obtained information of the intended attack. So he broke up
his own camp, and resolved to attack the main force of the enemy,
weakened by the absence of Gorgias and his chosen band. After reminding
his soldiers of God's mercies in times of old, he ordered the trumpets
to sound, and unexpectedly rushed upon the unsuspecting and unprepared
Syrians, totally routed them, pursued them as far as to the plains of
Idumaea, killed about three thousand men, took immense spoil,--gold and
silver, purple garments and military weapons,--and returned in triumph
to the forsaken camp, singing songs and blessing Heaven for the
great victory.

Many of the Syrians that escaped came and told Lysias all that had
happened, and he on hearing it was confounded and discouraged. But in
the year following he collected an army of sixty thousand chosen footmen
and five thousand horsemen to renew the attack, and marched to the
Idumaean border. Here Judas met him at Bethsura, near to Jerusalem, with
ten thousand men, now inspirited by victory, and again defeated the
Syrian forces, with a loss to the enemy of five thousand men. Lysias,
who commanded this army in person, returned to Antioch and made
preparations to raise a still greater force, while the victorious Jews
took possession of the capital.

Judas had now leisure to cleanse the Sanctuary and dedicate it. When
his army saw the desolation of their holy city,--trees growing in the
very courts of the Temple as in a forest, the altars profaned, the gates
burned,--they were filled with grief, and rent their garments and cried
aloud to Heaven. But Judas proceeded with his sacred work, pulled down
the defiled altar of burnt sacrifice and rebuilt it, cleansed the
Sanctuary, hallowed the desecrated courts, made new holy vessels, decked
the front of the Temple with crowns and shields of gold, and restored
the gates and chambers. Judas also fortified the Temple with high walls
and towers, and placed in it a strong garrison, for the Syrians still
held possession of the Tower,--a strong fortress near the mount of
the Temple.

When all was cleansed and renewed, a solemn service of reconsecration
was celebrated; the sacred fire was kindled afresh on the altar,
thousands of lamps were lighted, the sacrifices were offered, the people
thronged the courts of Jehovah, and with psalms of praise, festive
dances, harps, lutes, and cymbals made a joyful noise unto the Lord.
This triumphant restoration was celebrated three years, to the very day,
from the day of desecration; it was forever after--as long as the Temple
stood--held a sacred yearly festival, and called the Feast of the
Dedication, or sometimes, from its peculiar ceremonies, the Feast
of Lights.

The successes of Judas and the restoration of the Temple worship
inflamed with renewed anger the heathen population of the countries in
the near vicinity of Judaea; and there seems to have been a general
confederacy of Idumaeans,--descendants of Esau,--with sundry of the
Bedouin tribes, and of the heathen settled east of the Jordan in the
land of Gilead, and of Phoenicians and heathen strangers in Galilee, to
recover what the Syrians had lost, and to restore idol worship. Judas
had now an army of eleven thousand men, which he divided between himself
and his brother Simon, and they marched in different directions to the
attack of their numerous enemies. They were both eminently successful,
gaining bloody battles, capturing cities and fortresses, taking immense
spoils, mingling the sound of trumpets with prayers to Almighty
God,--heroes as religious as they were brave, an unexampled band of
warriors, rivalling Joshua, Saul, and David in the brilliancy of their
victories. All the Jews who remained true to their faith in the
districts which he overran and desolated, Judas brought back with him to
Jerusalem for greater safety.

Only one misfortune sullied the glory of these exploits. Judas had left
behind him at Jerusalem, when he and Simon went forth to fight the
idolaters, a garrison of two thousand men under the command of Joseph
and Azarias, leaders of the people, with the strict command to remain
in the city until he should return. But these popular leaders, dazzled
by the victories of Judas and Simon, and wishing to earn a fame like
theirs, issued from their stronghold with two thousand men to attack
Jamnia, and were met by Gorgias the Syrian general and completely
annihilated,--a just punishment for military disobedience. The loss of
two thousand men was a calamity, but Judas pursued his victories,
finally turning against the Philistines, who at this point disappear
from sacred history.

In the meantime King Antiochus, who, as already stated, had gone on a
plundering expedition to Persia, was defeated in the attempt, and
returned in great grief and disappointment to Ecbatana. Here he heard
that his armies under Lysias had been disgracefully beaten, and that
Judaea was in a fair way to achieve its independence under the heroic
Judas; and, worse still, that all the pagan temples and altars which he
had set up in Jerusalem were removed and destroyed. This especially
filled him with rage, for he was a fanatic in his religion, and utterly
detested the monotheism of the Jews. So oppressed with grief was this
heathen persecutor that he took to his bed; and in addition to his
humiliation he was afflicted with a loathsome disease, called
elephantiasis, so that he was avoided and neglected by his own servants.
He now saw that he must die, and calling for his friend Philip, made
him regent of his kingdom during the minority of his son, whom he had
left at Antioch.

The Jews were thus delivered from the worst enemy that had afflicted
them since the Babylonian captivity. Neither Assyrians nor Egyptians nor
Persians had so ruthlessly swept away religious institutions. Those
conquerors were contented with conquest and its political
results,--namely, the enslavement and spoliation of the people; they did
not pollute the sacred places like the Syrian persecutor. By the rivers
of Babylon the Jews had sat down and wept when they remembered Zion, but
their sad wailing was over the fact that they were captives in a strange
land. Ground down to the dust by Antiochus, however, they bewailed not
only their external misfortunes, but far more bitterly the desecration
of their Sanctuary and the attempt to root out their religion, which was
their life.

The death of Antiochus Epiphanes was therefore a great relief and
rejoicing to the struggling Jews. He left as heir to his throne a boy
nine years of age; but though he had made his friend Philip guardian of
his son and regent of his kingdom, his lieutenant at Antioch, Lysias,
also claimed the guardianship and the regency. These rival claims of
course led to civil wars between Lysias and Philip, in consequence of
which the Jews were comparatively unmolested, and had leisure to
organize their forces, fortify their strongholds, and prepare for
complete independence. Among other things, Judas Maccabaeus attacked the
citadel or tower on Mount Zion, overlooking the Temple, in which a large
garrison of the enemy had long been stationed, and which was a perpetual
menace. The attack or siege of this strong fortress alarmed the heathen,
who made complaint to the young king, called Eupator, or more probably
to the regent Lysias, who sent an overwhelming army into Judaea,
consisting of one hundred thousand foot, twenty thousand horse, and
thirty-two elephants. But Judas did not hesitate to give battle to this
great force, and again gained a victory. It was won, however, at the
expense of his brother Eleazer. Seeing one of the elephants armed with
royal armor, he supposed that it carried the king himself; and
heroically forcing his way through the ranks of the enemy, he slipped
under the elephant, and gave the beast a mortal wound, so that it fell
to the ground, crushing to death the courageous Maccabaeus,--for the
brothers of Judas, worthy compatriots and fellow-soldiers with him, were
also called by his special name; and although the family name was Asmon,
they are famous as "the Maccabees."

This battle however was not decisive. Lysias advanced to Jerusalem and
laid siege to it. But hearing that Philip had succeeded in gaining
authority at Antioch, he made peace with Judas, and hastily returned to
his capital, where he found Philip master of the city. Although he
recovered his capital, it was only for a short time, since Demetrius,
son of Seleucus, who had been sojourning at Rome, returned to the palace
of his ancestors, and slaying both Lysias and the young king, reigned in
their stead.

With this king the Jews were soon involved in war. Evil-minded men,
hostile to Judas (for in such unsettled times treachery was everywhere),
went to Antioch with their complaints, headed by Alcimus, who wished to
be high-priest, and inflamed the anger of King Demetrius. The new
monarch sent one of his ablest generals, called Bacchides, with an army
to chastise the Jews and reinstate Alcimus, who had been ejected from
his high office. This wicked high-priest overran the country with the
forces of Bacchides, who had returned to Antioch, but did not prevail;
so the king sent Nicanor, already experienced in this Jewish war, with a
still larger army against Judas. The gallant Maccabaeus, however, gained
a great victory, and slew Nicanor himself. This battle gave another rest
for a time to the afflicted land of Judah.

Meanwhile Judas, fearing that the Syrian forces would ultimately
overpower him, sent an embassy to Rome to invoke protection. It was a
long journey in those times. A century and a half later it took Saint
Paul six months to make it. The conquests of the Romans were known
throughout the East, and better known than the policy they pursued of
devouring the countries that sought their protection when it suited
their convenience. At this time, 162 B.C., Italy was subdued, Spain had
been added to the empire, Macedonia was conquered, Syria was threatened,
and Carthage was soon to fall. The Senate was then the ruling power at
Rome, and was in the height of its dignity, not controlled by either
generals or demagogues. The Senate received with favor the Jewish
ambassadors, and promised their protection. Had Judas known what that
protection meant, he would have been the last man to seek it.

Nor did the treaty of alliance with Rome save Judaea from the continued
hostilities of Syria. Demetrius sent Bacchides with another army, which
encamped against Jerusalem, where Judas had only eight hundred men to
resist an army of twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse. We infer
that his forces had dwindled away by perpetual contests. His heart of
hope was now well-nigh broken, but his lion courage remained. Against
the solicitation of his companions in war he resolved to fight;
gallantly and stubbornly contested the field from morning to night, and
at last, hemmed in between two wings of the Syrian foe, fell in
the battle.

The heroic career of Judas Maccabaeus was ended. He had done marvellous
things. He had for six years resisted and often defeated overwhelming
forces; he had fought more battles than David; he had kept the enemy at
bay while his prostrate country arose from the dust; he had put to
flight and slain tens of thousands of the heathen; he had recovered and
fortified Jerusalem, and restored the Temple worship; he had trained his
people to be warlike and heroic. At last he was slain only when his
followers were scattered by successive calamities. He bore the brunt of
six years' successful war against the most powerful monarchy in Asia,
bent on the extermination of his countrymen. And amid all his labors he
had kept the Law, being revered for his virtues as much as for his
heroism. Not a single crime sullied his glorious name. And when he fell
at last, exhausted, the nation lamented him as David mourned for
Jonathan, saying, "How is the valiant fallen!" A greater hero than he
never adorned an age of heroism. Judas was not only a mighty captain,
but a wise statesman,--so revered, that, according to Josephus, in his
closing years he was made high-priest also, thus uniting in his person
both spiritual and temporal authority. It was a very small country that
he ruled, but it is in small countries that genius is often most fully
developed, either for war or for peace. We know but little of his
private life. He had no time for what the world calls pleasures; his
life was rough, full of dangers and embarrassments. His only aim seems
to have been to shake off the Syrian yoke that oppressed his native
land, to redeem the holy places of the nation from the pollutions of the
obscene rites of heathenism, and to restore the worship of Jehovah
according to the consecrated ritual established in the Mosaic Law.

The death of Judas was of course followed by great disorders and
universal despondency. His mantle fell on his brother Jonathan, who
became the leader of the scattered forces of the Jews. He also prevailed
over Bacchides in several engagements, so that the Syrian leader
returned to Antioch, and the Jews had rest for two years. Jonathan was
now clothed with honor and dignity, wore a purple garment and other
emblems of high rank, and was almost an acknowledged sovereign. He
improved his opportunities and fortified Jerusalem. But his prosperous
career was cut short by treachery. He was enticed by the Syrian general,
even when he had an army of forty thousand men,--so largely had the
forces of Judaea increased,--into Ptolemais with a few followers, under
blandishing promises, and slain.

Simon was now the only remaining son of Mattathias; and on him devolved
the high-priesthood, as well as the executive duties of supreme ruler.
He wisely devoted himself to the internal affairs of the State which he
ruled. He fortified Joppa, the only port of Judaea, reduced hostile
cities, and made himself master of the famous fortress of Mount Zion, so
long held in threatening vicinity by the Syrians, which he not only
levelled with the ground, but also razed the summit of the hill on which
it stood, so that it should no longer overlook the Temple area. The
Temple became not only the Sanctuary, but also one of the strongest
fortresses in the world. At a later period it held out for some time
against the army of Titus, even after Jerusalem itself had fallen.

Simon executed the laws with rigorous impartiality, repaired the Temple,
restored the sacred vessels, and secured general peace, order, and
security. Even the lands desolated by the wasting wars with several
successive Syrian monarchs again rejoiced in fertility. Every man sat
under his own vine and fig-tree in safety. The friendly alliance with
Rome was renewed by a present to that greedy republic of a golden
shield, weighing one thousand pounds, and worth fifty talents, thus
showing how much wealth had increased under Judas and his brothers. Even
the ambassadors of the Syrian monarch were astonished at the splendor of
Simon's palace, and at the riches of the Temple, again restored, not in
the glory of Solomon, but in a magnifience of which few temples could
boast,--the pride once more of the now prosperous Jews, who had by
their persistent bravery earned their independence. In the year 143
B.C., the Jews began a new epoch in their history, after twenty-three
years of almost incessant warfare.

Yet Simon was destined, like his brothers, to end his days by violence.
He also, together with two of his sons, was treacherously murdered by
his son-in-law Ptolemy, who aspired to the exalted office of
high-priest, leaving his son John Hyrcanus to reign in his stead, in the
year 136 B.C. The rule of the Maccabees,--the five sons of
Mattathias,--lasted thirty years. They were the founders of the Asmonean
princes, who ruled both as kings and high-priests.

With the death of Simon, the last remaining son of Mattathias, this
lecture properly should end; yet a rapid glance at the Jewish nation,
under the rule of the Asmonean princes and the Idumaean Herod, may not
be uninteresting.

John Hyrcanus, the first of the Asmonean kings, was an able sovereign,
and reigned twenty-nine years. He threw off the Syrian yoke, and the
Jewish kingdom maintained its independence until it fell under the Roman
sway. His most memorable feat was the destruction of the Samaritan
Temple on Mount Gerizim, which had been an eye-sore to the people of
Jerusalem for two hundred years. He then subdued Idumaea, and compelled
the people of that country to adopt the Jewish religion. He maintained a
strict alliance with the Romans, and became master of Samaria and of
Galilee, which were incorporated with his kingdom, so that the ancient
limits of the kingdom of David were nearly restored. He built the castle
of Baris on a rock within the fortifications that surrounded the hill of
the Temple, which afterward was known as the tower of Antonia.

On his death, 105 B.C., Hyrcanus was succeeded by his son
Aristobulus,--a weak and wicked prince, who assassinated his brother,
and starved to death his mother in a dungeon. The next king of the
Asmonean line, Alexander Jannaeus, was brave, but unsuccessful, and died
after an unquiet and turbulent reign of twenty-seven years, 77 B.C. His
widow, Alexandra, ruled as regent with great tact and energy for nine
years, and was succeeded by her son Hyrcanus II. This feeble and
unfortunate prince had to contend with the intrigues and violence of his
more able but unscrupulous brother, Aristobulus, who sought to steal his
sceptre, and who at one time even drove him from his kingdom. Hyrcanus
put himself under the protection of the Romans. They came as arbiters;
they remained as masters. It was when Judaea was under the nominal rule
of Hyrcanus II., driven hither and thither by his enemies, and when his
capital was in their hands, that Pompey, triumphant over the armies of
the East, took Jerusalem after a desperate resistance, entered the
Temple, and even penetrated to the Holy of Holies. To his credit he left
untouched the treasures accumulated in the Temple, but he demolished the
walls of the city and imposed a tribute. Judaea was now virtually under
the dominion of the Romans, although the sovereignty of Hyrcanus was not
completely taken away. On the fall of Pompey, Crassus the triumvir
plundered the Temple of ten thousand talents, as was estimated, and the
fate of Judaea, during the memorable civil war of which Caesar was the
hero and victor, hung in trembling suspense. I will not enumerate the
contentions, the deeds of violence, the acts of treachery, and the
strife of rival parties which marked the tumultuous period in Judaea
while Caesar and Pompey were contending for the sovereignty of the
world. These came to an end at last by the dethronement of the last of
the Asmonean princes, and the accession of the Idumaean Herod by the aid
of Antony (40 B.C.).

Herod, called the Great, was the last independent sovereign of
Palestine. He was the son of Antipater, a noble Idumaean, who had
ingratiated himself in the favor of Hyrcanus II., high-priest and
sovereign, and who ruled as the prime minister of this feeble and
incapable prince. By rendering some service to Caesar, Antipater was
made procurator of Judaea, and appointed his son Herod to the government
of Galilee, where he developed remarkable administrative talents. Soon
after, he was raised by Sextus Caesar to the military command of
Coele-Syria. After the battle of Philippi, Herod secured the favor of
Antony by an enormous bribe, as he had that of Cassius on the death of
Caesar, and was made one of the tetrarchs of the province. In the
meantime his father, Alexander, was poisoned at Jerusalem, and
Antigonus, son of Aristobulus, who had gained ascendency, cut off the
ears of Hyrcanus, and not only deprived him of the office of
high-priest, but usurped his authority. Herod himself proceeded to Rome,
and was successful in his intrigues, being by the favor of Antony made
king of Judaea. But a severe contest was before him, since Antigonus was
resolved to defend his crown. With the aid of the Romans, Herod, after a
war of three years, subdued his rival and put him to death, together
with every member of the Sanhedrim but two. His power was cemented by
his marriage with Mariamne, the beautiful sister of Aristobulus, whom he
made high-priest.

The Asmonean princes were now, by the death of Antigonus, reduced to
Aristobulus and the aged Hyrcanus, both of whom were murdered by the
suspicious tyrant who had triumphed over so many enemies. In a fit of
jealousy Herod even caused the execution of his beautiful wife, whom he
passionately loved, as he had already destroyed her grandfather, father,
brother, and uncle. Supported by Augustus, whom he had managed to
conciliate after the death of Antony, Herod reigned with undisputed
authority over even an increase of territory. He doubtless reigned with
great ability, tyrant and murderer as he was, and detested by the Jews
as an Idumaean. He reigned in a state of magnificence unknown to the
Asmonean princes. He built a new and magnificent palace on the hill of
Zion, and rebuilt the fortress of Baris, which he called Antonia in
honor of his friend and patron, Antony. He also erected strong citadels
in different cities of his kingdom, and rebuilt Samaria; he founded
Caesarea and colonized it with Greeks, so that it became a great
maritime city, rivalling Tyre in magnificence and strength. But Herod's
greatest work, by which he hoped to ingratiate himself in the favor of
the Jews, was the rebuilding of the Temple on a scale of unexampled
magnificence. He was also very liberal in the distribution of corn
during a severe famine. He was in such high favor with Augustus by his
presents and his devotion to the imperial interests, that, next to
Agrippa, he was the emperor's greatest favorite. His two sons by
Mariamne were educated at Rome with great care, and were lodged in the
palace of the Emperor.

Herod's latter days however were clouded by the intrigues of his court,
by treason and conspiracies, in consequence of which his sons, favorites
with the people on account of their accomplishments and their Asmonean
blood, were executed by the suspicious and savage despot. Antipater,
another son, by his first wife, whom he had chosen as his successor,
conspired against his life, and the proof of his guilt was so clear that
he also was summarily executed. In addition to these troubles Herod was
tormented by remorse for the execution of the murdered Mariamne. He was
the victim of jealousy, suspicion, and wrath. One of his last acts was
the order to destroy the infants in the vicinity of Jerusalem in the
vain hope of destroying the predicted Messiah,--him who should be "born
king of the Jews." He died of a loathsome and excruciating disease, in
his seventieth year, having reigned nearly forty years. His kingdom, by
his will, was divided between the children of his later wife, a
Samaritan woman,--the eldest of whom, Archelaus, became monarch of
Judea; and the second, Antipas, became tetrarch of Galilee. The former
married the widow of his half-brother Alexander, who was executed; and
the latter married Herodias, wife of Philip, also his half-brother.

Archelaus ruled Judaea with such injustice and cruelty, that, after
nine years, he was summoned to Rome and exiled to Vienne in Gaul, and
Judaea became a Roman province under the prefecture of Syria. The
supreme judicial authority was exercised by the Jewish Sanhedrim, the
great ecclesiastical and civil council, composed of seventy-one persons
presided over by the high-priest. The Sanhedrim, under the name of chief
priests, scribes, and elders of the people, now took the lead in all
public transactions pertaining to the internal administration of the
province, being inferior only to the tribunal of the governor, who
resided in Caesarea.

Meanwhile the long expectation of the Jews, especially during the reign
of Herod, of a promised Deliverer, was fulfilled, and one claiming to be
the Messiah appeared,--not a temporal prince and mighty hero of war, a
greater Judas Maccabaeus, as the Jews had supposed, but a helpless
infant, born in a manger, and brought up as a peasant-carpenter. Yet he
it was who should found a spiritual kingdom never to be destroyed, going
on from conquering to conquer, until the whole world shall be subdued.
With the advent of Jesus of Nazareth, in which we see the fulfilment of
all the promises made to the chosen people from Abraham to Isaiah,
Jewish history loses its chief interest. The mission of the Hebrew
nation seems to stand accomplished; the conception of one, holy,
spiritual God was kept alive in the world until, in "the fulness of
time," the mighty Romans subdued and united all lands under one rule,
drawing them nearer together by great highroads; the flexible Greek
language gave all peoples a common tongue, in which already the Hebrew
Scriptures had been familiarized among scholars; the life and teachings
of Jesus entered with vital power into the heart and brain of those
devoted followers who recognized him as the Christ,--the revelator of
the universal fatherhood of the One true God; and thenceforward
Christianity becomes the great spiritual power of the world.




The Scriptures say but little of the life of Saul from the time he was
a student, at the age of fifteen, at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the
most learned rabbis of the Jewish Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, until he
appeared at the martyrdom of Stephen, when about thirty years of age.

Saul, as he was originally named, was born at Tarsus, a city of Cilicia,
about the fourth year of our era. His father was a Jew, a pharisee, and
a man of respectable social position. In some way not explained, he was
able to transmit to his son the rights of Roman citizenship,--a valuable
inheritance, as it proved. He took great pains in the education of his
gifted son, who early gave promise of great talents and attainments in
rabbinical lore, and who gained also some knowledge, although probably
not a very deep one, of the Greek language and literature. Saul's great
peculiarity as a young man was his extreme pharisaism,--devotion to the
Jewish Law in all its minuteness of ceremonial rites. We gather from his
own confessions that at that period, when he was engrossed in the study
of the Jewish scriptures and religious institutions, he was narrow and
intolerant, and zealous almost to fanaticism to perpetuate ritualistic
conventionalities and the exclusiveness of his sect. He was austere and
conscientious, but his conscience was unenlightened. He exhibited
nothing of that large-hearted charity and breadth of mind for which he
was afterward distinguished; he was in fact a bitter persecutor of those
who professed the religion of Jesus, which he detested as an innovation.
His morality being always irreproachable, and his character and zeal
giving him great influence, he was sent to Damascus, with authority to
bring to Jerusalem for trial or punishment those who had embraced the
new faith. He is supposed to have been absent from Jerusalem during the
ministry of our Lord, and probably never saw him who was despised and
rejected of men. We are told that Saul, in the virulence of his
persecuting spirit, consented to the death of Stephen, who was no
ignorant Galilean, but a learned Hellenist; nor is there evidence that
the bitter and relentless young pharisee was touched either by the
eloquence or blameless life or terrible sufferings of the
distinguished martyr.

The next memorable event in the life of Saul--at that time probably a
member of the Jewish Sanhedrim--was his conversion to Christianity, as
sudden and unexpected as it was profound and lasting, while on his way
to Damascus on the errand already mentioned. The sudden light from
heaven which exceeded in brilliancy the torrid midday sun, the voice of
Jesus which came to the trembling persecutor as he lay prostrate on the
ground, the blindness which came upon him--all point to the
supernatural; for he was no inquirer after truth like Luther and
Augustine, but bent on a persistent course of cruel persecution. At once
he is a changed man in his spirit, in his aims, in his entire attitude
toward the followers of the Nazarene. The proud man becomes as docile
and humble as a child; the intolerant zealot for the Law becomes broad
and charitable; and only one purpose animates his whole subsequent
life,--which is to spend his strength, amid perils and difficult labors,
in defence of the doctrines he had spurned. His leading idea now is to
preach salvation, not by pharisaical works by which no man can be
justified, but by faith in the crucified one who was sent into the world
to save it by new teachings and by his death upon the cross. He will go
anywhere in his sublime enthusiasm, among Jews or among Gentiles, to
plant the precious seeds of the new faith in every pagan city which he
can reach.

It is thought by Conybeare and Howson, Farrar and others that the new
convert spent three years in retirement in Arabia, in profound
meditation and communion with God, before the serious labors of his life
began as a preacher and missionary. After his conversion it would seem
that Saul preached the divinity of Christ with so much zeal that the
Jews in Damascus were filled with wrath, and sought to take his life,
and even guarded the gates of the city for fear that he might escape.
The conspiracy being detected, the friends of Saul put him into a basket
made of ropes, and let him down from a window in a house built upon the
city wall, so that he escaped, and thereupon proceeded to Jerusalem to
be indorsed as a Christian brother. He was especially desirous to see
Peter, as the foremost man among the Christians, though James had
greater dignity. Peter received him kindly, though not enthusiastically,
for the remembrance of his relentless persecutions was still fresh in
the minds of the Christians. It was impossible, however, that two such
warmhearted, honest, and enthusiastic men should not love each other,
when the common leading principle of their lives was mutually

Among the disciples, however, it was only Peter who took Saul cordially
by the hand. The other leaders held aloof; not one so much as spoke to
him. He was regarded with general mistrust; even James, the Lord's
brother, the first bishop of Jerusalem, would hold no communion with
him. At length Joseph, a Levite of Cyprus, afterward called Barnabas,--a
man of large heart, who sold his possessions to give to the
poor,--recognizing Saul's sincerity and superior talents, extended to
him the right hand of fellowship, and later became his companion in the
missionary journeys which he undertook. He used his great influence in
removing the prejudices of the brethren, and Saul henceforth was
admitted to their friendship and confidence.

Saul at first did not venture to preach in Hebrew synagogues, but sought
the synagogue of the Hellenists, in which the voice of Stephen had first
been heard. But his preaching was again cut short by a conspiracy to
murder him, so fierce was the animosity which his conversion had created
among the Jews, and he was compelled to flee. The brethren conducted him
to the little coast village of Caesarea, whence he sailed for his native
city Tarsus, in Cilicia.

How long Saul remained in Tarsus, and what he did there, we do not know.
Not long, probably, for he was sought out by Barnabas as his associate
for missionary work in Antioch. It would seem that on the persecution
which succeeded Stephen's death, many of the disciples fled to various
cities; and among others, to that great capital of the East,--the third
city of the Roman Empire.

Thither Barnabas had gone as their spiritual guide; but he soon found
out that among the Greeks of that luxurious and elegant city there were
demanded greater learning, wisdom, and culture than he himself
possessed. He turned his eyes upon Saul, then living quietly at Tarsus,
whose superior tact and trained skill in disputation, large and liberal
mind, and indefatigable zeal marked him out as the fittest man he could
find as a coadjutor in his laborious work. Thus Saul came to Antioch to
assist Barnabas.

No city could have been chosen more suitable for the peculiar talents of
Saul than this great Eastern emporium, containing a population of five
hundred thousand. I need not speak of its works of art,--its palaces,
its baths, its aqueducts, its bridges, its basilicas, its theatres,
which called out even the admiration of the citizens of the imperial
capital. These were nothing to Saul, who thought only of the souls he
could convert to the religion of Jesus; but they indicate the importance
and wealth of the population. In this pagan city were half a million
people steeped in all the vices of the Oriental world,--a great influx
of heterogeneous races, mostly debased by various superstitions and
degrading habits, whose religion, so far as they had any, was a crude
form of Nature-worship. And yet among them were wits, philosophers,
rhetoricians, poets, and satirists, as was to be expected in a city
where Greek was the prevailing language. But these were not the people
who listened to Saul and Barnabas. The apostles found hearers chiefly
among the poor and despised,--artisans, servants, soldiers,
sailors,--although occasionally persons of moderate independence became
converts, especially women of the middle ranks. Poor as they were, the
Christians at Antioch found means to send a large contribution in money
to their brethren at Jerusalem, who were suffering from a
grievous famine.

A year was spent by Barnabas and Saul at Antioch in founding a Christian
community, or congregation, or "church," as it was called. And it was in
this city that the new followers of Christ were first called
"Christians," mostly made up as they were of Gentiles. The missionaries
had not much success with the Jews, although it was their custom first
to preach in the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath. It was only the
common people of Antioch who heard the word gladly, for it was to them
tidings of joy, which raised them above their degradation and misery.

With the contributions which the Christians of Antioch, and probably of
other cities, made to their poorer and afflicted brethren, Barnabas and
Saul set out for Jerusalem, soon returning however to Antioch, not to
resume their labors, but to make preparations for an extended missionary
tour. Saul was then thirty-seven years of age, and had been a Christian
seven years.

In spite of many disadvantages, such as ill-health, a mean personal
appearance, and a nervous temperament, without a ready utterance, Saul
had a tolerable mastery of Greek, familiarity with the habits of
different classes, and a profound knowledge of human nature. As a
widower and childless, he was unincumbered by domestic ties and duties;
and although physically weak, he had great endurance and patience. He
was courteous in his address, liberal in his views, charitable to
faults, abounding in love, adapting himself to people's weaknesses and
prejudices,--a man of infinite tact, the loftiest, most courageous, most
magnanimous of missionaries, setting an example to the Xaviers and
Judsons of modern times. He doubtless felt that to preach the gospel to
the heathen was his peculiar mission; so that his duty coincided with
his inclination, for he seems to have been very fond of travelling. He
made his journeys on foot, accompanied by a congenial companion, when he
could not go by water, which was attended with less discomfort, and was
freer from perils and dangers than a land journey.

The first missionary journey of Barnabas and Saul, accompanied by Mark,
was to the isle of Cyprus. They embarked at Seleucia, the port of
Antioch, and landed at Salamis, where they remained awhile, preaching
in the Jewish synagogue, and then traversed the whole island, which is
about one hundred miles in length. Whenever they made a lengthened stay,
Saul worked at his trade as a sail and tent maker, so as not to be
burdensome to any one. His life was very simple and inexpensive, thus
enabling him to maintain that independence so essential to self-respect.

No notable incident occurred to the three missionaries until they
reached the town of Nea-Paphos, celebrated for the worship of Venus, the
residence of the Roman proconsul, Sergius Paulus,--a man of illustrious
birth, who amused himself with the popular superstitions of the country.
He sought, probably from curiosity, to hear Barnabas and Saul preach;
but the missionaries were bitterly opposed by a Jewish sorcerer called
Elymas, who was stricken with blindness by Saul, the miracle producing
such an effect on the governor that he became a convert to the new
faith. There is no evidence that he was baptized, but he was respected
and beloved as a good man. From that time the apostle assumed the name
of Paul; and he also assumed the control of the mission, Barnabas
gracefully yielding the first rank, which till then he had himself
enjoyed. He had been the patron of Saul, but now became his subordinate;
for genius ever will work its way to ascendency. There are no outward
advantages which can long compete with intellectual supremacy.

From Cyprus the missionaries went to Perga, in Pamphylia, one of the
provinces of Asia Minor. In this city, famed for the worship of Diana,
their stay was short. Here Mark separated from his companions and
returned to Jerusalem, much to the mortification of his cousin Barnabas
and the grief of Paul, since we have a right to infer that this
brilliant young man was appalled by the dangers of the journey, or had
more sympathy with his brethren at Jerusalem than with the liberal yet
overbearing spirit of Paul.

From Perga the two travellers proceeded to Antioch in Pisidia, in the
heart of the high table-lands of the Peninsula, and, according to their
custom, went on Saturday to the Jewish synagogue. Paul, invited to
address the meeting, set forth the mystery of Jesus, his death, his
resurrection, and the salvation which he promised to believers. But the
address raised a storm, and Paul retired from the synagogue to preach to
the Gentile population, many of whom were favorably disposed, and became
converted. The same thing subsequently took place at Philippi, at
Alexandria, at Troas, and in general throughout the Roman colonies. But
the influence of the Jews was sufficient to secure the expulsion of Paul
and Barnabas from the city; and they departed, shaking off the dust
from their feet, and turning their steps to Iconium, a city of
Lycaonia, where a church was organized. Here the apostles tarried some
time, until forced to leave by the orthodox Jews, who stirred up the
heathen population against them. The little city of Lystra was the scene
of their next labors, and as there were but few Jews there the
missionaries not only had rest, but were very successful.

The sojourn at Lystra was marked by the miraculous cure of a cripple,
which so impressed the people that they took the missionaries for
divinities, calling Barnabas Jupiter, and Paul Mercury; and a priest of
the city absolutely would have offered up sacrifices to the supposed
deities, had he not been severely rebuked by Paul for his superstition.

At Lystra a great addition was made to the Christian ranks by the
conversion of Timothy, a youth of fifteen, and of his excellent mother
Eunice; but the report of these conversions reached Iconium and Antioch
of Pisidia, which so enraged the Jews of these cities that they sent
emissaries to Lystra, zealous fanatics, who made such a disturbance that
Paul was stoned, and left for dead. His wounds, however, were not so
serious as were supposed, and the next day he departed with Barnabas for
Derbe, where he made a long stay. The two churches of Lystra and Derbe
were composed almost wholly of heathen.

From Derbe the apostles retraced their steps, A.D. 46, to Antioch, by
the way they had come,--a journey of one hundred and twenty miles, and
full of perils,--instead of crossing Mount Taurus through the famous
pass of the Cilician Gates, and then through Tarsus to Antioch, an
easier journey.

One of the noticeable things which marked this first missionary journey
of Paul, was the opposition of the Jews wherever he went. He was forced
to turn to the Gentiles, and it was among them that converts were
chiefly made. It is true that his custom was first to address the Jewish
synagogues on Saturday, but the Jews opposed and hated and persecuted
him the moment he announced the grand principle which animated his
life,--salvation through Jesus Christ, instead of through obedience to
the venerated Law of Moses.

On his return to Antioch with his beloved companion, Paul continued for
a time in the peaceful ministration of apostolic duties, until it became
necessary for him to go to Jerusalem to consult with the other apostles
in reference to a controversy which began seriously to threaten the
welfare of their common cause. This controversy was in reference to the
rite of circumcision,--a rite ever held in supreme importance by the
Jews. The Jewish converts to Christianity had all been previously
circumcised according to the Mosaic Law, and they insisted on the
circumcision of the Gentile converts also, as a mark of Christian
fraternity. Paul, emancipated from Jewish prejudices and customs,
regarded this rite as unessential; he believed that it was abrogated by
Christ, with other technical observances of the Law, and that it was not
consistent with the liberty of the Gospel to impose rites exclusively
Jewish on the Pagan converts. The elders at Jerusalem, good men as they
were, did not take this view; they could not bear to receive into
complete Christian fellowship men who offended their prejudices in
regard to matters which they regarded as sacred and obligatory as
baptism itself. They would measure Christianity by their traditions; and
the smaller the point of difference seemed to the enlightened Paul, the
bitterer were the contests,--even as many of the schisms which
subsequently divided the Church originated in questions that appear to
us to be absolutely frivolous. The question very early arose, whether
Christianity should be a formal and ritualistic religion,--a religion of
ablutions and purifications, of distinctions between ceremonially pure
and impure things,--or, rather, a religion of the spirit; whether it
should be a sect or a universal religion. Paul took the latter view;
declared circumcision to be useless, and freely admitted heathen
converts into the Church without it, in opposition to those who
virtually insisted on a Gentile becoming a Jew before he could become a

So, to settle this miserable dispute, Paul went to Jerusalem, taking
with him Barnabas and Titus, who had never been circumcised,--eighteen
years after the death of Jesus, when the apostles were old men, and when
Peter, James, and John, having remained at Jerusalem, were the real
leaders of the Jewish Church. James in particular, called the Just, was
a strenuous observer of the law of circumcision,--a severe and ascetic
man, and very narrow in his prejudices, but held in great veneration for
his piety. Before the question was brought up in a general assembly of
the brethren for discussion, Paul separately visited Peter, James, and
John, and argued with them in his broad and catholic spirit, and won
them over to his cause; so that through their influence it was decided
that it was not essential for a Gentile to be circumcised on admission
to the Church, only that he must abstain from meats offered to idols,
and from eating the meat of any animal containing the blood (forbidden
by Moses),--a sort of compromise, a measure by which most quarrels are
finally settled; and the title of Paul as "Apostle to the Gentiles" was
officially confirmed.

The controversy being settled amicably by the leaders of the infant
Church, Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, and for a while longer
continued their labors there, as the most important centre of
missionary operations. But the ardent soul of Paul could not bear
repose. He set about forming new plans; and the result was his second
and more important missionary tour.

The relations between Paul and Barnabas had been thus far of the most
intimate and affectionate kind. But now the two apostles
disagreed,--Barnabas wishing to associate with them his cousin Mark, and
Paul determining that the young man, however estimable, should not
accompany them, because he had turned back on the former journey. It
must be confessed that Paul was not very amiable and conciliatory in
this matter; but his nature was earnest and stern, and he was resolved
not to have a companion under his trying circumstances who had once put
his hand to the plough and looked back. Neither apostle would yield, and
they were obliged to separate,--reluctantly, doubtless,--Paul choosing
Silas as his future companion, while Barnabas took Mark. Both were
probably in the right, and both in the wrong; for the best of men have
faults, and the strongest characters the most. Perhaps Paul thought that
as he was now recognized as the leading apostle to the Gentiles,
Barnabas should yield to him; and perhaps Barnabas felt aggrieved at the
haughty dictation of one who was once his inferior in standing.

The choice of Paul, however, was admirable. Silas was a broad and
liberal man, who had great influence at Jerusalem, and was entirely
devoted to his superior.

"The first object of Paul was to confirm the churches he had already
founded; and accordingly he began his mission by visiting the churches
of Syria and Cilicia," crossing the Taurus range by the famous Cilician
Gates,--one of the most frightful mountain passes in the
world,--penetrating thus into Lycaonia, and reaching Derbe, Lystra, and
Iconium. At Lystra he found Timothy, whom he greatly loved, modest and
timid, and made him his deacon and secretary, although he had never been
circumcised. To prevent giving offence to Jewish Christians, Paul
himself circumcised Timothy, in accordance with his custom of yielding
to prejudices when no vital principles were involved,--which concession
laid him open to the charge of inconsistency on the part of his enemies.
Expediency was not disdained by Paul when the means were
unobjectionable, but he did not use bad means to accomplish good ends.
He always had tenderness and charity for the weaknesses of his brethren,
especially intellectual weakness. What would have been intolerable to
some was patiently submitted to by him, if by any means he could win
even the feeble; so that he seemed to be all things to all men. No one
ever exceeded him in tact.

After Paul had finished his visit to the principal cities of Galatia,
he resolved to explore new lands. We next find him, after a long journey
through Mysia of three hundred miles, travelling to the south of Mount
Olympus, at Troas, near the ancient city of Troy. Here he fell in with
Luke, a physician, who had received a careful Hellenic and Jewish
education. Like Timothy, the future historian of the Acts of the
Apostles was admirably fitted to be the companion of Paul. He was
gentle, sympathetic, submissive, and devoted to his superior. Through
Luke's suggestion, Renan thinks, Paul determined to go to Macedonia.

So, without making a long stay at Troas, the four missionaries--Paul,
Silas, Luke, and Timothy--took ship and landed at Neapolis, the seaport
of Philippi on the borders of Thrace at the extreme northern shores of
the Aegean Sea. They were now on European ground,--the most healthy
region of the ancient world, where the people, largely of Celtic origin,
were honest, earnest, and primitive in their habits. The travellers
proceeded at once to Philippi, a city more Latin than Grecian, and began
their work; making converts, chiefly women, among whom Lydia was the
most distinguished, a wealthy woman who traded in purple. She and her
whole household were baptized, and it was from her that Paul consented
against his custom to accept pecuniary aid.

While the work of conversion was going on favorably, an incident
occurred which hastened the departure of the missionaries. Paul
exorcised a poor female slave, who brought, by her divinations and
ventriloquism, great gain to her masters; and because of this
destruction of the source of their income they brought suit against Paul
and Silas before the magistrates, who condemned them to be beaten in the
presence of the superstitious people, and then sent them to prison and
put their feet fast in the stocks. The jailer and the duumvirs, however,
ascertaining that the prisoners were Roman citizens and hence exempt
from corporal punishment, released them, and hurried them out of
the city.

Leaving Timothy and Luke at Philippi, Paul and Silas proceeded to
Thessalonica, the largest and most important city of Macedonia, where
there was a Jewish synagogue in which Paul preached for three
consecutive Sabbaths. A few Jews were converted, but the converts were
chiefly Greeks, of whom the larger part were women belonging to the best
society of the city. By these converts the apostles were treated with
extraordinary deference and devotion, and the church of Thessalonica
soon rivalled that of Philippi in the piety and unity of its converts,
becoming a model Christian church. As usual, however, the Jews stirred
up animosities, and Paul and Silas were obliged to leave, spending
several days at Berea and preaching successfully among the Greeks. These
conquests were the most brilliant that Paul had yet made,--not among
enervated Asiatics, but bright, elegant, and intelligent Europeans,
where women were less degraded than in the Orient.

Leaving Timothy and Silas behind him, Paul, accompanied by some faithful
Bereans, embarked for Athens,--the centre of philosophy and art, whose
wonderful prestige had induced its Roman conquerors to preserve its
ancient glories. But in the first century Athens was neither the
fascinating capital of the time of Cicero, nor of the age of Chrysostom.
Its temples and statues remained intact, but its schools could not then
boast of a single man of genius. There remained only dilettante
philosophers, rhetoricians, grammarians, pedagogues, and pedants, puffed
up with conceit and arrogance, with very few real inquirers after truth,
such as marked the times of Socrates and Plato. Paul, like Luther, cared
nothing for art; and the thousands of statues which ornamented every
part of the city seemed to him to be nothing but idols. Still, he was
not mistaken in the intense paganism of the city, the absence of all
earnestness of character and true religious life. He was disappointed,
as afterward Augustine was when he went to Rome. He expected to find
intellectual life at least, but the pretenders to superior knowledge in
that degenerate university town merely traded on the achievements of
their ancestors, repeating with dead lips the echo of the old
philosophies. They were marked only by levity, mockery, sneers, and
contemptuous arrogance; idlers were they, in quest of some new

The utter absence of sympathy among all classes given over to
frivolities made Paul exceedingly lonely in Athens, and he wrote to
Timothy and Silas to join him with all haste. He wandered about the
streets distressed and miserable. There was no field for his labors. Who
would listen to him? What ear could he reach? He was as forlorn and
unheeded as a temperance lecturer would be on the boulevards of Paris.
His work among the Jews was next to nothing, for where trade did not
flourish there were but few Jews. Still, amid all this discouragement,
it would seem that Paul attracted sufficient notice, from his
conversation with the idlers and chatterers of the Agora, to be invited
to address the Athenians at the Areopagus. They listened with courtesy
so long as they thought he was praising their religious habits, or was
making a philosophical argument against the doctrines of rival sects;
but when he began to tell them of that Cross which was to them
foolishness, and of that Resurrection from the dead which was alien to
all their various beliefs, they were filled with scorn or relapsed into
indifference. Paul's masterly discourse on Mars Hill was an obvious
failure, so far as any immediate impression was concerned. The Pagans
did not persecute him,--they let him alone; they killed him with
indifference. He could stand opposition, but to be laughed at as a
fanatic and neglected by bright and intellectual people was more than
even Paul could stand. He left Athens a lonely man, without founding a
church. It was the last city in the world to receive his
doctrines,--that city of grammarians, of pedants, of gymnasts, of
fencing masters, of play-goers, and babblers about words. "As well might
a humanitarian socialist declaim against English prejudices to the proud
and exclusive fellows of Oxford and Cambridge."

Paul, disappointed and disgusted, without waiting for Timothy, then set
out for Corinth,--a much wickeder and more luxurious city than Athens,
but not puffed up with intellectual pride. Here there were sailors and
artisans, and slaves bearing heavy burdens, who would gladly hear the
tidings of a salvation preached to the poor and miserable. Not yet was
the alliance to be formed between Philosophy and Christianity. Not to
the intellect was the apostolic appeal to be made, but to the conscience
and the heart of those who knew and owned that they were sinners in need
of forgiveness.

Paul instinctively perceived that Corinth, with its gross and shameless
immoralities, was the place for him to work in. He therefore decided on
a long stay, and went to live with Aquila and Priscilla, converted Jews,
who followed the same trade as himself, that of tent and sail making,--a
very humble calling, but one which was well patronized in that busy mart
of commerce. Timothy soon joined him, with Silas. As usual, Paul
preached to the Jews until they repulsed him with insults and blasphemy,
when he turned to the heathen, among whom he had great success,
converting the common people, including some whose names have been
preserved,--Titus, Justius, Crispus, Chloe, and Phoebe. He remained in
Corinth eighteen months, not without difficulties and impediments. The
Jews, unable to vent their wrath upon him as fully as they wished in a
city under the Roman government, appealed to the governor of the
province of which Corinth was the capital. This governor is best known
to us as Gallio,--a man of fine intellect, and a friend of scholars.

When Sosthenes, chief of the synagogue, led Paul before Gallio's
tribunal, accusing him of preaching a religion against the law, the
proconsul interrupted him with this admirable reply: "If it were a
matter of wrong, or moral outrage, it would be reasonable in me to hear
you; but if it be a question of words and names and of your Law, look ye
to it, for I will be no judge of such matters." He thus summarily and
contemptuously dismissed the complaint, without however taking any
notice of Paul. The mistake of Gallio was that he did not comprehend
that Christianity was a subject infinitely greater than a mere Jewish
sect, with which, in common with educated Romans, he confounded it. In
his indifference however he was not unlike other Roman governors, of
whom he was one of the justest and most enlightened. In reference to the
whole scene, Canon Farrar forcibly remarks that this distinguished and
cultivated Gallio "flung away the greatest opportunity of his life, when
he closed the lips of the haggard Jewish prisoner whom his decision had
rescued from the clutches of his countrymen;" for Paul was prepared with
a speech which would have been more valued, and would have been more
memorable, than all the acts of Gallio's whole government.

While Paul was pursuing his humble labors with the poor converts of
Corinth, about the year 53 A.D., a memorable event took place in his
career, which has had an immeasurable influence on the Christian world.
Being unable personally to visit, as he desired, the churches he had
founded, Paul began to write to them letters to instruct and confirm
them in the faith.

The apostle's first epistle was to his beloved brethren, in
Thessalonica,--the first of that remarkable series of theological essays
which in all subsequent ages have held their position as fundamentally
important in the establishment of Christian doctrine. They are luminous,
profound, original, remarkable alike for vigor of style and depth of
spiritual significance. They are not moral essays like those of
Confucius, nor mystic and obscure speculations like those of Buddha, but
grand treatises on revealed truth, written, as it were, with his heart's
blood, and vivid as fire in a dark night. In these epistles we see also
Paul's intense personality, his frank egotism, his devotion to his work,
his sincerity and earnestness, his affectionate nature, his tolerant and
catholic spirit, and also his power of sarcasm, his warm passions, and
his unbending will. He enjoins the necessity of faith, which is a gift,
with the practice of virtues that appeal to consciousness and emanate
from love and purity of heart. These letters are exhortations to a lofty
life and childlike acceptance of revealed truths. The apostle warns his
little flock against the evils that surrounded them, and which so easily
beset them,--especially unchastity and drunkenness, and strifes,
bickerings, slanders, and retaliations. He exhorts them to unceasing
prayer, the feeling of constant dependence, and hence the supreme need
of divine grace to keep them from falling, and to enable them to grow in
spiritual strength. He promises as the fruit of spiritual victories
immeasurable joys, not only amid present evils, but in the glorious
future when the mortal shall put on immortality. Especially and
repeatedly does he urge them to "have also that mind which was in Christ
Jesus," showing itself in humility, willingness to serve others,
unselfish consideration of others, even the preference of others'
interests before their own,--a combination of the homely practical with
the divinely ideal, such as the world had never learned from any earlier
philosophy of life.

Paul at last felt that he must revisit the earlier churches, especially
those of Syria. It was three years since he had left Antioch. But more
than all, he wished to consult with his brethren in Jerusalem, and to be
present at the feast of the Passover. Bidding an affectionate adieu to
his Christian friends, he set out for the little seaport of Cenchrea,
accompanied by Aquila and his wife Priscilla, and then set sail for
Ephesus, on his way to Jerusalem. In his haste to reach the end of his
journey he did not tarry at Ephesus, but took another vessel, and
arrived at Caesarea without any recorded accident. Nor did he make a
long visit at Jerusalem, probably to avoid a rupture with James, the
head of the church in that city, whose views about Jewish ceremonials,
as already noted, differed from his.

Paul returned again to Ephesus, where he made a sojourn of three years,
following his trade for a living, while he founded a church in that city
of necromancers, sorcerers, magicians, courtesans, mimics,
flute-players,--a city abandoned to Asiatic sensualities and
superstitious rites; an exceedingly wicked and luxurious city, yet
famous for arts, especially for the grandest temple ever erected by the
Greeks, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was in the most
abandoned capitals, with mixed populations, that the greatest triumphs
of Christianity were achieved. Antioch, Corinth, and Ephesus were more
favorable to the establishment of Christian churches than Jerusalem
and Athens.

But the trials of Paul in Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor, the most
celebrated of all the Ionian cities,--"more Hellenic than Antioch, more
Oriental than Corinth, more wealthy than Thessalonica, more populous
than Athens,"--were incessant and discouraging, since it was the
headquarters of pagan superstitions, and of all forms of magical
imposture. As usual, he was reviled and slandered by the Jews; but he
was also at this time an object of intense hatred to the priests and
image-makers of the Temple of Diana, troubled in mind by evil reports
concerning the converts he had made in other cities, physically weak and
depressed by repeated attacks of sickness, oppressed by cares and
labors, exposed to constant dangers, his life an incessant mortification
and suffering, "killed all the day long," carrying about him wherever he
went "the deadness of the crucified Christ."

Paul's labors in Ephesus were nevertheless successful. He made many
converts and exercised an extraordinary influence,--among other things
causing magicians voluntarily to burn their own costly books, as
Savonarola afterward made a bonfire of vanities at Florence. His sojourn
was cut short at length by the riot which was made by the various
persons who were directly or indirectly supported by the revenues of the
Temple,--a mongrel mob, brought to terms by the tact of the town clerk,
who reminded the howling dervishes and angry silversmiths of the
punishment which might be inflicted on them by the Roman proconsul for
raising a disturbance and breaking the law.

Yet Paul with difficulty escaped from Ephesus and departed again for
Greece, not however until he had written his extraordinary Epistles to
the Corinthians, who had sadly departed from his teachings both in
morals and doctrine, either through ignorance, or in consequence of the
depravity which they had but imperfectly conquered. The infant churches
were deplorably split into factions, "the result of the visits from
various teachers who succeeded Paul, and who built on his foundations
very dubious materials by way of superstructure,"--even Apollos himself,
an Alexandrian Jew baptized by the Apostle John, the most eloquent and
attractive preacher of the day, who turned everybody's head. In the
churches women rose to give their opinions without being veiled, as if
they were Greek courtesans; the Agapae, or love-feasts, had degenerated
into luxurious banquets; and unchastity, the peculiar vice of the
Corinthians, went unrebuked. These evils Paul rebukes, and lays down
rules for the faithful in reference to marriage, to the position of
women, to the observance of the Lord's Supper, and sundry other things,
enjoining forbearance and love. His chapter in reference to charity is
justly regarded by all writers and commentators as the nearest approach
in Christian literature to the Sermon on the Mount. Scarcely less
remarkable is the chapter on death and the resurrection, shedding more
light on that great subject than all other writers combined in heathen
and Christian annals,--one of the profoundest treatises ever written by
mortal man, and which can be explained only as the result of a
supernatural revelation.

Paul's second sojourn in Macedonia lasted only six months; this time he
spent in going from city to city confirming the infant churches,
remaining longest in Thessalonica and Philippi, where his most faithful
converts were found. Here Titus joined him, bringing good news from
Corinth. Still, there were dissensions and evils in that troublesome
church which called for a second letter. In this letter he sets forth,
not in the spirit of egotism, the various sufferings and perils he had
endured, few of which are alluded to by Luke: "Of the Jews five times
received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once
was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day have I
spent in the deep; in journeyings often; in perils of rivers, in perils
of robbers, in perils from my own race, in perils from the Gentiles, in
perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea,
in perils among false brethren; in toil and weariness, in sleeplessness
often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often; besides anxiety for all
the churches."

It was probably at the close of the year 57 A.D. that Paul set out for
Corinth, with Titus, Timothy, Sosthenes, and other companions. During
the three months he remained in that city he probably wrote his Epistle
to the Galatians and his Epistle to the Romans,--the latter the most
profound of all his writings, setting forth the sum and substance of his
theology, in which the great doctrine of justification by faith is
severely elaborated. The whole epistle is a war on pagan philosophy, the
insufficiency of good works without faith,--the lever by which in later
times Wyclif, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and Saint Cyran overthrew a
pharisaic system of outward righteousness. In the Epistle to the
Galatians Paul speaks with unusual boldness and earnestness, severely
rebuking them for their departure from the truth, and reiterating with
dogmatic ardor the inutility of circumcision as of the Law abrogated by
Christ, with whom, in the liberty which he proclaimed, there is neither
Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, but all
are one in Him. And Paul reminds them,--a bitter pill to the Jews,--that
this is taught in the promise made to Abraham four hundred and fifty
years before the Law was declared by Moses, by which promise all races
and tribes and people are to be blessed to remotest generations. This
epistle not only breathes the largest Christian liberty,--the equality
of all men before God,--but it asserts, as in the Epistle to the Romans,
with terrible distinctness, that salvation is by faith in Christ and not
by deeds of the Law, which is only a schoolmaster to prepare the way for
the ascendency of Jesus.

I need not dwell on these two great epistles, which embody the substance
of the Pauline theology received by the Church for eighteen hundred
years, and which can never be abrogated so long as Paul is regarded as
an authority in Christian doctrine.

I return to a brief notice of Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, which was
made against the expostulations of his friends and disciples in Ephesus,
who gathered around him weeping, knowing well that they never would see
his face again. But he was inflexible in his resolution, declaring that
he had no fear of chains, and was ready to die at Jerusalem for the
name of Jesus. Why he should have persisted in his resolution, so full
of danger; why he should again have thrown himself into the hands of his
bitterest enemies, thirsty for his blood,--we do not know, for he had no
new truth to declare. But the brethren were forced to yield to his
strong will, and all they could do was to provide him with a sufficient
escort to shield him from ordinary dangers on the way.

The long voyage from Ephesus was prosperous but tedious, and on the last
day before the Pentecostal feast, in May, in the year 58 A.D., Paul for
the fifth time entered Jerusalem. His meeting with the elders, under the
presidency of James,--"the stern, white-robed, ascetic, mysterious
prophet,"--was cold. His personal friends in Jerusalem were few, and his
enemies were numerous, powerful, and bitter; for he had not only
emancipated himself from the Jewish Law, with all its rites and
ceremonies, but had made it of no account in all the churches he had
founded. What had he naturally to expect from the zealots for that Law
but a renewed persecution? Even the Jewish Christians gave no thanks for
the splendid contribution which Paul had gathered in Asia for the relief
of their poor. Nor was there any exultation among them when Paul
narrated his successful labors among the Gentiles. They pretended to
rejoice, but added, "You observe, brother, how many myriads of the Jews
there are that have embraced the faith, and they are all zealots for the
Law. And we are informed that thou teachest all the Jews that are among
the Gentiles to forsake Moses." There was no cordiality among the Jewish
elders of the Christian community, and deadly hostility among the
unconverted Jews, for they had doubtless heard of Paul's
marvellous career.

Jerusalem was then full of strangers, and the Jews of Asia recognizing
Paul in the Temple, raised a disturbance, pretending that he was a
profaner of the sacred edifice. The crowd of fanatics seized him,
dragged him out of the Temple, and set about to kill him. But the Roman
authorities interfered, and rescuing him from the hands of the
infuriated mob, bore him to the castle, the tower of Antonia. When they
arrived at the stairs of the tower, Paul begged the tribune to be
allowed to speak to the angry and demented crowd. The request was
granted, and he made a speech in Hebrew, narrating his early history and
conversion; but when he came to his mission to the Gentiles, the uproar
was renewed, the people shouting, "Away with such a fellow from the
earth, for it is not fit that he should live!" And Paul would have been
bound and scourged, had he not proclaimed that he was a Roman citizen.

On the next day the Roman magistrate summoned the chief priests and the
Sanhedrim, to give Paul an opportunity to make his defence in the matter
of which he was accused. Ananias the high-priest presided, and the Roman
tribune was present at the proceedings, which were tumultuous and angry.
Paul seeing that the assembly was made up of Pharisees, Sadducees, and
hostile parties, made no elaborate defence, and the tribune dissolved
the assembly; but forty of the most hostile and fanatical formed a
conspiracy, and took a solemn oath not to eat or drink until they had
assassinated him. The plot reached the ears of a nephew of Paul, who
revealed it to the tribune. The officer listened attentively to all the
details, and at once took his resolution to send Paul to Caesarea, both
to get him out of the hands of the Jews, and to have him judged by the
procurator Felix. Accordingly, accompanied by an escort of two hundred
soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen of the guard, Paul
was sent by night, secretly, to the Roman capital of the Province. He
entered the city in the course of the next day, and was at once led to
the presence of the governor.

Felix, as procurator, ruled over Judaea with the power of a king. He had
been a freedman of the Emperor Claudius, and was allied by marriage to
Claudius himself,--an ambitious, extortionate, and infamous governor.
Felix was obliged to give Paul a fair trial, and after five days the
indomitable missionary was confronted with accusers, among whom appeared
the high-priest Ananias. They associated with them a lawyer called
Tertullus, of oratorical gifts, who conducted the case. The principal
charges made against Paul were that he was a public pest and leader of
seditions; that he was a ringleader of the Nazarenes (the contemptuous
name which the Jews gave to the Christians); and that he had attempted
to profane the Temple, which was a capital offence according to the
Jewish law. Paul easily refuted these charges, and had Felix been an
upright judge he would have dismissed the case; but supposing the
apostle to be rich because of the handsome contributions he had brought
from Asia Minor for the poor converts at Jerusalem, Felix retained Paul
in the hope of a bribe. A few days after, Drusilla, a young woman of
great beauty and accomplishments, who had eloped from her husband to be
married to Felix, was desirous to hear so famous a man as Paul explain
his faith; and Felix, to gratify her curiosity, summoned his
distinguished prisoner to discourse before them. Paul eagerly embraced
the opportunity; but instead of explaining the Christian mysteries, he
reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and retribution,--moral
truths which even intelligent heathen accepted, and as to which the
consciences of both, his hearers must have tingled; indeed, he
discoursed with such matchless boldness and power that Felix trembled
with fear as he remembered the arts by which he had risen from the
condition of a slave, and the extortions and cruelties by which he had
become enriched, to say nothing of the lusts and abominations which had
disgraced his career. However, he did not set Paul free, but kept him a
prisoner for two years, in order to gain favor with the Jews, or to
receive a bribe.

Porcius Festus, the successor of Felix, was a just and inflexible man,
who arrived at Caesarea in the year 60 A.D., when Paul was fifty-eight
years of age. Immediately the enemies of Paul, especially the Sadducees,
renewed their demands to have him again tried; and Festus, wishing to be
just, ordered the second trial. Again Paul defended himself with
masterly ability, proving that he had done nothing against the Jewish
law or Temple, or against the Roman Emperor. Festus, probably not seeing
the aim of the conspirators, was disposed to send Paul back to Jerusalem
to be tried by a Jewish court. To prevent this, as at Jerusalem
condemnation and death would be certain, Paul, remembering that he was a
Roman citizen, fell back on his privilege, and at once appealed to
Caesar himself. The governor, at first surprised by such an unexpected
demand, consulted with his assistants for a moment, and then replied:
"Thou hast appealed unto Caesar, and unto Caesar shalt thou go." Thus
ended the trial of Paul; and thus providentially was the way open to
him, without expense to himself, to go to Rome, which of all cities he
wished to visit, and where he hoped to continue, even under bonds and
restrictions, his missionary labors.

In the meantime, before a ship could be got in readiness to transport
him and other prisoners to Rome, Herod Agrippa II., with his sister
Bernice, came to Caesarea to pay a visit to the new governor.
Conversation naturally turned upon the late extraordinary trial, and
Agrippa expressed a desire to hear the prisoner speak, for he had heard
much about him. Festus willingly acceded to this wish, and the next day
Paul was again summoned before the king and the procurator. Agrippa and
Bernice appeared in great pomp with their attendants; all the officers
of the army and the principal men of the city were also present. It was
the most splendid audience that Paul had ever addressed. He was equal to
the occasion, and delivered a discourse on his familiar topics,--his own
miraculous conversion and his mission to the Gentiles to preach the
crucified and risen Christ,--things new to Festus, who thought that Paul
was visionary, and had lost his balance from excess of learning.
Agrippa, however, familiar with Jewish law and the prophecies concerning
the Messiah, was much impressed with Paul's eloquence, and exclaimed:
"Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian!" When the assembly broke
up, Agrippa said, "This man might have been set at liberty, if he had
not appealed unto Caesar." Paul, however, did not wish to be set at
liberty among bitter and howling enemies; he preferred to go to Rome,
and would not withdraw his appeal. So in due time he embarked for Italy
under the charge of a centurion, accompanied with other prisoners and
his friends Timothy, Luke, and Aristarchus of Thessalonica.

The voyage from Caesarea to Italy was a long one, and in the autumn was
a dangerous one, as in Paul's case it unfortunately proved.

The following spring, however, after shipwreck and divers perils and
manifold fatigues, Paul arrived at Rome, in the year 61 A.D., in the
seventh year of the Emperor Nero. Here the centurion handed Paul over to
the prefect of the praetorian guards, by whom he was subjected to a
merely nominal custody, although, according to Roman custom, he was
chained to a soldier. But he was treated with great lenity, was allowed
to have lodgings, to receive his friends freely, and to hold Christian
meetings in his own house; and no one molested him. For two years Paul
remained at Rome, a fettered prisoner it is true, but cheered by
friendly visits, and attended by Luke, his "beloved physician" and
biographer, by Timothy and other devoted disciples. During this second
imprisonment Paul could see very little outside the praetorian barracks,
but his friends brought him the news, and he had ample time to write
letters. He had no intercourse with gifted and fortunate Romans; his
acquaintance was probably confined to the praetorian soldiers, and some
of the humbler classes who sought Christian instruction. But from this
period we date many of his epistles, on which his fame and influence
largely rest as a theologian and man of genius. Among those which he
wrote from Rome were the Epistles to the Colossians, the Ephesians, and
many pastoral letters like those written to Philemon, Titus, and
Timothy. We know but little of the life of Paul after his arrival at
Rome, for at this point Saint Luke closes his narrative, and all after
this is conjecture and tradition.[4] But the main part of Paul's work
was accomplished when he was first sent to Rome as a prisoner to be
tried in the imperial courts; and there is but little doubt that he
finally met the death he so heroically contemplated, at the hands of the
monster Nero, who martyred such a vast multitude of Paul's

[Footnote 4: There has been much doubt as to whether Paul was martyred
during the three years of this imprisonment, or whether he was
acquitted, left Rome, visited his beloved churches in Macedonia and Asia
Minor, went to preach the gospel in Spain, and was again arrested, taken
to Rome, and there beheaded. The earliest authorities seem to have been
agreed upon the second hypothesis; and this is based chiefly upon a
statement made by Paul's disciple Clement to the effect that the apostle
had preached in "the extremity of the West" (an expression of Roman
writers to denote Spain), and also on the impossibility of placing
certain facts mentioned in the second letter to Timothy and the one to
Titus in the period of the first imprisonment. He was certainly tried,
defended himself, and he may have been at first acquitted.]

At Jerusalem and at Antioch he had vindicated the freedom of the Gentile
from the yoke of the Levitical Law; in his letters to the Romans and
Galatians he had proclaimed both to Jew and Gentile that they were not
under the law, but under grace. During the space of twenty years Paul
had preached the gospel of Jesus as the Christ in the chief cities of
the world, and had formulated the truths of Christianity. What
marvellous labors! But it does not appear that this apostle's
extraordinary work was fully appreciated in his day, certainly not by
the Jewish Christians at Jerusalem; nor does it appear even that his
pre-eminence among the apostles was conceded until the third and fourth
centuries. He himself was often sad and discouraged in not seeing a
larger success, yet recognized himself as a layer of foundations. Like
our modern missionaries, Paul simply sowed the seed; the fruit was not
to be gathered in until centuries after his death. Before he died, as is
seen in his second letter to Timothy, many of his friends and disciples
deserted him, and he was left almost alone. He had to defend himself
single-handed against the capricious tyrant who ruled the world, and who
wished to cast on the Christians the stain of his greatest crime, the
conflagration of his capital. As we have said, all details pertaining to
the life of Paul after his arrival at Rome are simply conjectural, and
although interesting, they cannot give us the satisfaction of certainty.

But in closing, after enumerating the labors and writings of this great
apostle, it is not inopportune to say a few words about his remarkable
character, although I have now and again alluded to his personal traits
in the course of this narrative.

Paul is the most prominent figure of all the great men who have adorned,
or advanced the interest of, the Christian Church. Great pulpit orators,
renowned theologians, profound philosophers, immortal poets, successful
reformers, and enlightened monarchs have never disputed his intellectual
ascendency; to all alike he has been a model and a marvel. The grand old
missionary stands out in history as a matchless example of Christian
living, a sure guide in Christian doctrine. No more favored mortal is
ever likely to appear; he is the counterpart of Moses as a divine
teacher to all generations. The popes may exalt Saint Peter as the
founder of their spiritual empire, but when their empire as an
institution shall crumble away, as all institutions must which are not
founded on the "Rock" which it was the mission of apostles to proclaim,
Paul will stand out the most illustrious of all Christian teachers.

As a man Paul had his faults, but his virtues were transcendent; and
these virtues he himself traced to divine grace, enabling him to conquer
his infirmities and prejudices, and to perform astonishing labors, and
to endure no less marvellous sufferings. His humanity was never lost in
his discouraging warfare; he sympathized with human sorrows and
afflictions; he was tolerant, after his conversion, of human
infirmities, while enjoining a severe morality. He was a man of native
genius, with profound insight into spiritual truth. Trained in
philosophy and disputation, his gentleness and tact in dealing with
those who opposed him are a lesson to all controversialists. His
voluntary sufferings have endeared him to the heart of the world, since
they were consecrated to the welfare of the world he sought to
enlighten. As an encouragement to others, he enumerates the calamities
which happened to him from his zeal to serve mankind, but he never
complains of them or regards them as a mystery, or as anything but the
natural result of unappreciated devotion. He was more cheerful than
Confucius, who felt that his life had been a failure; more serene than
Plato when surrounded by admiring followers. He regarded every Christian
man as a brother and a friend. He associated freely with women, without
even calling out a sneer or a reproach. He taught principles of
self-control rather than rules of specific asceticism, and hence
recommended wine to Timothy and encouraged friendship between men and
women, when intemperance and unchastity were the scandal and disgrace
of the age; although so far as himself was concerned, he would not eat
meat, if thereby he should give offence to the weakest of his
weak-minded brethren. He enjoined filial piety, obedience to rulers, and
kindness to servants as among the highest duties of life. He was frugal,
but independent and hospitable; he had but few wants, and submitted
patiently to every inconvenience. He was the impersonation of
gentleness, sympathy, and love, although a man of iron will and
indomitable resolution. He claimed nothing but the right to speak his
honest opinions, and the privilege to be judged according to the laws.
He magnified his office, but only the more easily to win men to his
noble cause. To this great cause he was devoted heart and soul, without
ever losing courage, or turning back for a moment in despondency or
fear. He was as courageous as he was faithful; as indifferent to
reproach as he was eager for friendship. As a martyr he was peerless,
since his life was a protracted martyrdom. He was a hero, always
gallantly fighting for the truth whatever may have been the array and
howling of his foes; and when wounded and battered by his enemies he
returned to the fight for his principles with all the earnestness, but
without the wrath, of a knight of chivalry. He never indulged in angry
recriminations or used unseemly epithets, but was unsparing in his
denunciation of sin,--as seen in his memorable description of the vices
of the Romans. Self-sacrifice was the law of his life. His faith was
unshaken in every crisis and in every danger. It was this which
especially fitted him, as well as his ceaseless energies and superb
intellect, to be a leader of mankind. To Paul, and to Paul more than to
any other apostle, was given the exalted privilege of being the
recognized interpreter of Christian doctrine for both philosophers and
the people, for all coming ages; and at the close of his career, worn
out with labor and suffering, yet conscious of the services which he had
rendered and of the victories he had won, and possibly in view of
approaching martyrdom, he was enabled triumphantly to say: "I have
fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the
Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day."

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