Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

5

the hollowness of the ceremonial system, as Julian was by the Christian controversies. All the strange rites of the surrounding nations were practised with an ardour before unknown. The King seems to have formed with Egypt a connection closer than any since the time of Solomon. His son was called Amon,' the only name of an Egyptian divinity that we find in the Jewish annals. He plunged into all the mysteries of sorcery, auguries, and necromancy. The sacred furnace of Tophet was built up on an enlarged scale. He himself undertook the sacrifice of his own children.3 The worship of the heavenly bodies, begun by Abaz, was restored and eagerly followed everywhere. In the gardens and on the flat roofs of the houses were built brick altars, from which little clouds of incense were perpetually ascending. The name of Molech became a common 6 oath. There was a succession of small ? furnaces in the streets, for which the children gathered wood, and in which their parents baked cakes as offerings to Astarte. Even the practice of human sacrifice 8 became general. So bold an intrusion of Paganism could not but involve Return of

Paganism. a displacement of the True Worship. Before this time the two forms of worship, when they had existed in the kingdom of Judah, had flourished side by side. Even Athaliah had not ventured to supersede the Temple-ritual. Not only were the high places in the country restored, but two altars were set up in the two courts of the Temple 10 to the heavenly bodies. In the same sacred precincts was a statue of Astarte. 11 Close by were houses of those who lent themselves to the abominable rites with which that divinity was worshipped,

2 Chr. xxxü. 6; 2 Kings xxi. 6. 2 Jer. vii. 31, xix. 5, 6, xxxii. 35. : 2 Chr. xxxiii. 6. • Jer, viii. 2, xix. 13.

• Zeph. i. 5; Jer. xix. 13; Isa. Lxv. 3.

. Zeph. i. 5.
? Jer. vii, 17, 18.
8 Ibid. xxxii. 35; Ezek. xxiii. 37.
• 2 Kings xxi. 3.
10 Ibid. xxi. 5, xxiii. 12.
11 Ibid. xxi. 7, xxiii, 6.

$

Persecu. tion.

and of the women who wove hangings for the sanctuary.
Vessels too were consecrated in the Temple to the use of
Baal. Manasseh was amongst the Kings of Judah what
Ahab had been amongst the Kings of Israel, the first per-
secutor. The altar in front of the Temple was desecrated.'
The ark itself was removed out of the Holy of Holies. The
name of Jehovah is said to have been erased from all pub-
lic documents and inscriptions. The nation at large was
thoroughly cowed by this fanatical outburst. Only here and
there, in this struggle for life and death, faithful voices were
lifted up. One, whose name has been almost obliterated-
"Hozai—who survived Manasseh's reign and recorded its chief
events-probably launched the terrible invectives which de-
nounced on Jerusalem the doom of Samaria. A reign of
terror commenced against all who ventured to resist the
reaction. Day by day a fresh batch of the Prophetic order
were ordered to execution. It seemed as if 10a devouring
lion were let loose against them. From end to end " of
Jerusalem were to be seen the traces of their blood. The
nobles who took their part were thrown headlong from the
rocky cliffs of Jerusalem." It was in this general massacre
that, according to a Jewish tradition, of wbich, however,
there is no trace either in the sacred books or in Josephus,
the great Prophet of the time, Isaiah, now nearly ninety
years old, was cruelly slaughtered. The story, as given in
the 13 Talmud, brings out an aspect of Isaiah's mission not
altogether alien to the authentic representations of it. It
is the never-ending conflict between the letter and the spirit

.

9

12

Martyrdom of Isaiah,

[blocks in formation]

xxxiii. 18, 19.

8 2 Kings xxi. 10–15.
• Josephus, Ant. x. 3, $1.
10 Jer. ii. 30.
II 2 Kings xxi. 16.
12 Ps. cxli, 7 (see Ewald).

2 Chr. xxxiii. 16. 3 Ibid. xxxv. 3; Jer. iii. 16 (?).

• Rabbinical tradition, quoted by Patrick ad loc.

? Translated the Seers,' 2 Chr.

18 Gemara on Jebamoth iv., quoted in Gesenius, Jesaia, i. 11, 12.

6

The King, as if entrenching himself behind the bulwark of the law, charges the Prophet with heresy. Moses had said,

No man shall see God's face and live.' Isaiah bad said, I saw the Lord.'1 Moses had said, “The Lord is near.' Isaiah had said, "Seek the Lord till ye find him.'? Moses

2 had said, “The number of thy days will I perfect.' Isaiah had said, 'I will add to thy days fifteen years.'3 With a true sense of the hopelessness of a controversy between two wholly uncongenial souls, the Prophet is represented as returning no answer except by the name of God. The hollow cedar-tree or carob-tree, to which he escaped for refuge, closed upon him. They pursued him, and sawed the tree asunder with a wooden saw, till they came to his mouth. Then the blood flowed, and he died.

With this tradition the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews closes the roll of the martyrs of faith in the Jewish history. It was long received in the earlier Christian Churches. The mulberry tree of Isaiah' still marks the alleged spot of the martyrdom in the Kedron valley. The day is observed in the Greek calendar on the 6th of July. In an Apocryphal 5 book of the first century, called the Ascension of Isaiah, the legend grows to vaster dimensions. Isaiah is there represented as foretelling to Hezekiah that Belial will reign in the person of his son, and then restraining Hezekiah from destroying Manasseh in horror. He, with the other prophets, Habakkuk, Micah, Joel, and his son Shear-Jashub, retire to a mountain near Bethlehem, and are thence brought by the false Samaritan Prophet Belkira, descendant of Micaiah's enemy Zedekiah, on the charge of having called Jerusalem Sodom and Gomorrah. With a blaze of Christian predictions and visions, he ascends

[ocr errors]

5

? Isa. vi. 1.
2 Ibid. lv. 6.
3 Ibid. xxxviii. 5.

4 Heb. xi. 37.
• See Gesenius, Jesaia, i. 46-55.

to heaven, and his end thus becomes in the kingdom of Judah, what that of Elijah had been in the kingdom of Israel. But, in fact, the contrast of these legends with the silence of all authentic records on the death of the illustrious Prophet, is one of the best rebukes to the natural craving for signs and wonders. We see what the popular sentiment of the Church has required. We see with how stern a simplicity the Sacred history has denied itself.

The variations respecting the fate of Manasseh himself are more complicated. In the Jewish Church his name was stamped with peculiar infamy. If a noble name had to be replaced by an odious one, that of Manasseh was substituted.' His life in the Book of Kings closes without any relieving trait. It was considered as the turning-point of Judah's sins. The doom was then pronounced irreversible by any subsequent reforms. He was one of the three Kings who had, according to the Jewish tradition, no part in the life to come-Jeroboam, Ahab, Manasseh. Amon, his son, was a counterpart of himself. Both were buried in a sepulchre of their own, outside the city, in the garden of Uzza, called, it may be, from the son of Abinadab, who had perished beneath the walls of Jerusalem, on the first entrance of the ark.3

But, though not in the regular narrative, there was recorded in the sayings of Hozai," and there is still preserved in the Chronicles, a gleam of returning hope even for Manasseh. Although the great Assyrian invasions ceased with the fall of Sennacherib, there is an abrupt and solitary statement of an invasion by Esarhaddon his successor, perhaps in connection with the settlement of the Cuthæan colony in Sa

Amon.

B. O. 642_-640.

Repentance of Manasseh.

2

Judg. xviii. 30. See Lecture XIII. ? 2 Kings xxiv. 3, 4; Jer. xv. 4.

3 2 Kings xxi. 18, 26. See Lecture XXIII.

• Extraordinary as is the omission of the captivity of Manasseh in 2 Kings xxi. 17, the account of it in 2 Chr.

xxxii. 11-13 is confirmed (1) by the reference to Hozai, 2 Chr. xxxi. 18; (2) by the coincidence with the Baby. lonian residence of Esarhaddon (see Rawlinson's Bampton Lecturis, p. 114); (3) by the possible allusion to it in 2 Kings xx. 18.

6

2

maria. His officers, either by surprise or treachery, capture
the King and his brothers, and carry them off to Babylon,
now rapidly rising in importance, though still subject to
Assyria,' and for the first time the residence of an Assyrian
King. Out of this brief and imperfect narrative rose after-
wards the detailed story of his imprisonment, of his repent-
ance, and of his wonderful escape from prison. A Greek
• Prayer of Manasseh ' still remains. Although not admitted
into the secondary books of the canon by the Church of
Rome, it received the sanction of the Apostolical Consti-
tutions, has been adopted by the Lutheran and Anglican
Churches in their apocryphal books, and by its bold and
frank theology won the notice of Bishop ? Butler. However
we réconcile these traditions with the older narrative, they
are valuable as containing the practical expression of the
doctrine already prominent, though remarkable from its con-
trast with the general hardness of the Old Dispensation--
that the Divine mercy far exceeds the Divine vengeance; and
that even from the darkest reprobation the free will of man
and the grace of God may achieve a deliverance. If Man-
asseb could be restored there was no one against whom the
door of repentance and restitution was finally closed.

As the martyr age of Israel had produced the peculiar Doctrine teaching of Elijah, so the martyr age of Judah left its traces of suffering in the peculiar turn henceforth given to its own Prophetical literature. Now, probably, began the first distinct indications of the belief which grew stronger and stronger till it reached its highest point in Christianity ; that the suffering of the righteous is not a mark of God's displeasure; and, almost as a necessary consequence, that there is a better world beyond this scene of dark dess and injustice. Nowbere again do we meet the gloomy view of death that we found in the Psalm

Messiah.

1 2 Chr. xxxiii. 11.
? Analogy, part 2. ch. 6.
3 Ewald (iii. 670, 671) gives this

date to Ps. cxli., xvi., xc., the Book of
Job, and Isa. liii.

« AnteriorContinuar »