« AnteriorContinuar »
on the slopes of Esdraelon, in her well-known home, though known to us only through her friendship with a mighty Prophet, is a sample of Israelite life in the north, as true as that of the reaper Boaz or the shepherd Nabal in the south. She manages her husband, she has her servant and her she-ass. Her son goes with his father to the rich cornfields which belong to the house. She leaves her home under the pressure of famine, and goes down to the plains of Philistia. When she returns, and finds a stranger in possession of her cornfields, she insists on restitution, even at the hand of the King himself.
In scenes like these, the freer spirits of the northern kingdom grew up, it may be with a force and freedom which they could hardly have enjoyed equally under the continual pressure of the imperial despotism of Solomon. Although, as time rolled on, the clouds gathered thick over the central region and the capital of the rival kingdom, which hung over it long after the monarchy itself had been destroyed, yet even in its northernmost parts, the furthest removed from the sanctuary at Jerusalem, in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali,' by the way of the sea of Gennesareth, Galilee of the Gentiles,' the circle of a mixed
, population, half Israelite, half heathen, described as a people which sate in darkness, in the very region and shadow of death,' a life and energy was roused which appears nowhere equally in the south. Out of these remote districts came some of the greatest of the Prophets—Elijah, Elisha, Hosea, Jonah. And though, in after times, it was maintained by the proud descendants of Judah that out of Galilee arose no Prophet,' and that from its despised villages "no good thing could come, yet by this benighted region a great light' at last 'was seen '-'a light' sprang up, which more than compensated for twelve centuries of
1 2 Kings iv. 18, 22, viii, 1-6.
darkness. For if Bethlehem of Judah witnessed the Redeemer's birth, if the city of David and Solomon assisted at His death it was the forests and the birds and the flowers of Galilee, the haunts of Elijah and Elisha, the cradle of Jonah and Hosea, that cheered and illustrated the Divine Life, the life of thirty years, which has been the Life and Spirit of Christendom.
The Dis. ruption.
The Disruption of the kingdom was not the work of a day, but the growth of centuries. To the house of Josephthat is, to Ephraim, with its adjacent tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh-had belonged, down to the time of David, all the chief rulers of Israel; Joshua, the conqueror; Deborah the one Prophetic, Gideon the one Regal, spirit, of the Judges; Abimelech and Saul, the first kings; Samuel, the restorer of the state after the fall of Shiloh. It was natural that, with such an inheritance of glory, Ephraim always chafed under any rival supremacy. Even against the impartial sway of its own Joshua,' or of its kindred heroes, Gideon or ? Jephthah, its proud spirit was always in revolt: how much more when the blessing of Joseph seemed to be altogether merged in the blessing of the rival and obscure Judah; when the Lord 'refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe o of Judah, Mount Zion which He had loved.'3 Al these embers of disaffection, which had well-nigh burst into a general conflagration in the revolt of Sheba,' were still glowing: it needed but a breath to blow them into a flame.
It was a year after the death of Solomon, that his son Rehoboam arrived at Shechem for his inauguration. It
Josh. xvii. 14-18. See Lecture XI. : Judg. viii. 1-3, xii, 1–6. Lect. XV.
: Ps. lxxviii. 67.
would seem that the ancient capital had not lost its hold altogether on the country, even after the foundation of Jerusalem. The high spirit of the tribe of Ephraim had been bent, but not broken. Their representatives approached the new King with a firm but respectful statement of their grievances—the enormous exactions of the late king, and the expenditure of the revenues of the kingdom on the royal establishments. The pause before a great catastrophe is always solemn. The sacred historian looks back upon the three days B.c. 985. during which Rehoboam hesitated, with a grief which no partiality to the house of David has been able to suppress. The demands of the nation were just. The accumulated wisdom of the great Solomonian era recommended concession. The old counsellors gave just such advice as might have been found in the Book of Proverbs. Only the insolence of the younger courtiers imagined the possibility of coercing a great people, and hoped that the little finger of the new Prince would be stronger than the loins of his mighty father. It was a doomed Revolution. The King hearkened not
• ' unto the people: for the cause was of God.' The cry
of insurrection was the same that had been raised in the time of David; but with the tremendous difference that now the fatal day was at last come. The sacred names of David and of Jesse had lost their spell. See to thine own house,
David.' It was with one exception a bloodless revolt. The oldest, as he must have been, of that elder generation which had counselled moderation, but the most obnoxious from the office which he held, Adoram, the tax-collector, was sent by the King to quell the insurrection. They regarded him as a common enemy, and he fell under the savage form of execution which was usual for treason and blasphemy.
was stoned to death, and the King fled from Shechem, never to return.
The tribe of Ephraim was once more independent. Who was to fill the vacant throne ? There was one man, who, by his office and his character, had long ago been indicated as the natural successor of Joshua. At the time when Solomon was constructing the fortifications of Millo underneath the citadel of Zion, his sagacious eye discovered the strength and activity of a young Ephraimite who was employed on the works, and he raised him to the
rank of officer over the taxes and labours exacted from JEROBOAM. the tribe of Ephraim.? This was Jeroboam. His father
had died in his youth, but his mother, who had been a person of loose character, 3 lived in her widowhood, trusting apparently to her son for support. Jeroboam made the most of his position. He completed the fortifications, and was long afterwards known as the man who had · enclosed the city of David.'5 In his native place, Zereda or Sarira, he lived in a kind of royal state. Like Absalom before him, in like circumstances, though now on a grander scale, in proportion to the enlargement of the royal establishment itself, be kept three hundred chariots and horses, and was at last perceived to be aiming at the monarchy.
| The account of the life of Jeroboum is given in two versions, so different from each other, and yet each so ancient, as to make it difficult to choose between them. The one usually followed is that contained in the Hebrew text, and in one portion of the LXX. The other is given in a separate account inserted by the LXX. at 1 Kings xi. 43, and xii. 24. This last contains such evident marks of authenticity in some of its details, and is so much more full than the
other, that it will be most conveniently
? 1 Kings xi. 28.
* Her name is variously given as
These ambitious designs were probably fostered by the sight of the growing disaffection of the great tribe over which he presided, as well as by the alienation of the Prophetic order from the house of Solomon.
He was banished by Solomon to Egypt. But his exile only increased his importance. The reigning king was Shisbak, and with him, Jeroboam, like his ancestor Joseph, acquired so much influence, that when, on Solomon's death, he demanded Shishak's permission to return, the Egyptian king, in his reluctance, seems to have offered any gift which could induce Jeroboam to remain, and the consequence was the marriage with Ano, the elder sister of the Egyptian queen, Tahpenes,' and of another princess, who had married the Edomite chief, Hadad. A year elapsed, and a son, Abijah (or Abijam), was born. Then Jeroboam again requested permission to depart, which was granted; and he returned with his wife and child to his native place, Sarira, or Zereda. It is described as a commanding situation, such as Solomon would naturally have chosen, as a fortress to curb the haughty tribe. Now that the great king was gone, this very fortress, strengthened by Jeroboam after his return, became the centre of the disaffected population.
Still there was no open act of insurrection, and it was in Ahijah. this period of suspense, that a pathetic incident darkened the house of Jeroboam. His infant son fell sick. The anxious father sent his wife to inquire of God concerning him. Jerusalem would have been the obvious place to visit for this purpose. But no doubt political reasons forbade. The ancient sanctuary of Shiloh was nearer at hand; and it so happened that a prophet was now residing there, of the highest repute. It was Ahijah—the same who, according to the common version of the story, had already been in com
1 LXX. Thekemina.