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kingdom of Judah, and Rehoboam its king, who, having for a while walked in the ways of his fathers David and Solomon, began at last to depart from them, and to forsake the law of the Lord; a defection which was soon punished by the invasion of Shishak the Egyptian, with a great army, who plundered the treasury of the temple, and of the royal palace; God, upon the repentance and humiliation of his people, limiting their chastisement to this disgrace and loss. Rehoboam, thus strikingly admonished, continued in a better frame of mind during the remainder of his reign, which lasted seventeen years, and was succeeded by that of his son Abijah, memorable only for a victory, granted him for his unhesitating trust in God, over Jeroboam and the men of Israel, although the multitude of the army of his opponents doubled
The war in which this victory took place was carried on between Judah and Israel as two independent kingdoms, and therefore was not contrary to the command of God, which merely forbade Judah from attempting to reunite Israel with itself, as a revolted province, by force of arms. For we can never expect those undertakings to prosper, be they what they may, which are carried on against the declared will of God: to such he has promised no blessing, however eager and diligent we may be in their execution, but has assured us that we shall meet in the end with nothing but discomfiture and disappointment. Abijah, however, though in this instance he stood up manfully for God, was by no means his consistent follower in all things : his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God,* and the example of his unstable father Rehoboam was but too often the object of his imitation. His reign was short, and disturbed by war: he left, however, his With respect to
* 1 Kings xv. 3.
kingdom in a strong and flourishing condition to his son Asa, who governed it prosperously for forty-one years, showing himself zealous as well for the religious improvement, as for the civil aggrandizement of his people. The latter of these he consulted, by carrying on with success two wars, one against Ethiopia, the other against Israel, and by employing the interval of peace in increasing his military force, and strengthening the cities of Judah. the former, he became an active reformer of those idolatrous abuses which had been introduced or encouraged during the reigns of Rehoboam and Abijah, deposing even his own mother from her royal dignity, because she had made an idol in a grove; and carrying on the work of amendment, which he thus began in his own house, in every portion of his dominions. Encouraged the exhortations of the prophet Azariah, he gathered together his subjects, as well as those of Israel who would join him, from all quarters to Jerusalem, and caused them to enter into a covenant, to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul. These were good and pious acts, but truth obliges us impartially to record also the failings of his conduct: in his war with Israel, instead of relying exclusively on God, he bought the assistance of Benhadad, king of Syria; and when reproved for this want of faith he the prophet Hanani, instead of humbling himself, by was wroth with the seer, and shut him up in prison. Also in his last disease, which ended fatally after two years of suffering, “he sought not unto the Lord, but unto the physicians. Human means are not to be rashly neglected, but they are always to be resorted to in subordination to reliance upon God, and to
* 2 Chron. xvi. 12.
prayer for his mercy : commit thy works unto the Lord," saith the wise man's proverb, "and thy thoughts shall be established."*
HISTORY OF ELIJAH-AHAB-JEHOSHAPHAT.
HAY [AVING brought down the history of the kingdom
of Judah to the death of Asa, its third king, I now propose, before giving you any account of Jehoshaphat, his son and successor, to recall your attention for a few moments to the events which had taken place in the mean time within the kingdom of Israel. These, as we might be led to expect from the godless policy of its founder Jeroboam, were of a turbulent and disastrous character: the choice of the men of Israel of sovereigns of their own, without regard to God's promises to the family of David, seemed destined to be punished by an uninterrupted succession of bad and cruel kings. God, in giving them their desires, sent misery withal into their souls; and the eldest son of Jeroboam, a promising young prince, was taken away by an early, though not a violent death, and alone of all his brethren was allowed the decent rites of burial, “because in him there was found some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel.”+ After the death of this young prince, his brother Nadab, a wicked man, became heir of the kingdom, but enjoyed it only two years, being assassinated by Baasha, while laying siege to Gibbethon, a city of the Philistines.
* Prov. xvi. 3; comp. Ecclus. xxxviii. 9–14.
The cruelty of Baasha fulfilled to the utmost the threatenings of God against the family of Jeroboam; he left not any that breathed : but, although exalted out of the dust, and made by the Divine power the prince of Israel, he walked obstinately in the ways
of that wicked king, whose house he had destroyed ; and therefore deserved, and at last received, a like punishment himself, in the destruction of his own race, including Elah his son, who succeeded him on the throne, by Zimri, the captain of his chariots, who murdered the dissolute and helpless prince while he was drinking himself drunk in the house of his steward at Tirzah, and reigned in his stead. Seven days employed by him in the slaughter of Baasha’s descendants, was the whole of Zimri's reign : Omri, at the head of the army, rebelled against him ; and wl he found the rebels too strong for him, he went into the royal palace, and burnt it over him with fire, and died. Omri, though victorious, did not at first obtain peaceable possession of the kingdom : for six years, his rival Tibni was followed by half of the people, till slain in battle, when Omri became king over Israel, and transferred the royal residence from Tirzah to the more celebrated city of Samaria. He was as wicked as the rest, but his son Ahab was worse than all: "it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel, the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him: and he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove : and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all that were before him."*
I have dwelt longer perhaps than may be pleasing upon this sad catalogue of bloodsheddings and crimes: but not, I trust, longer than may be profitable, if you are brought to look upon it as the natural consequence to any people of casting off their God; if you read in it the lesson of everlasting concernment to all the world, that sin evermore carries with it its own increasing punishment, waxing worse and worse, rendering its victims more hateful and abominable, more disposed to hate, to injure, and to devour one another. It was not, however, the purpose of a merciful God to allow the ten tribes of Israel, rebellious though they were, to sink altogether into the abyss of ruin so rapidly as the crimes of their kings had a tendency to hurry them; he interposed a strong check to the growing degeneracy of the nation, by raising up an individual among them, most eminent among the prophets for the austerity of his life, the greatness of his miracles, and the boldness of his character: “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, as the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my
1 Kings xvi. 31.
We learn from the assurance of an apostle of Christ, that this word, in the mouth of Elijah, was a word of prayer : "he was a man,” says St. James,
subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain : and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again ; and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.”+ St. James brings forward this instance as a proof that “ the fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much,''I and as an inducement to Christians to pray for each other, that they might be healed both of their bodily and spiritual diseases. And may you,
• 1 Kings xvii. 1.
# James v, 17, 18.
| Ver. 16.