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The Empires of the Bible from the Confusion of Tongues to the Babylonian Captivity

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    WHEN Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” 1[Page 244] 2 Chronicles 22:10. There was, however, a sister to Ahaziah, who was wife of Jehoiada the high priest. She succeeded in concealing Joash, the infant son of Ahaziah, with his nurse, so that he alone escaped the rage of Athaliah. They afterward smuggled him into the precincts of the temple, where they kept him concealed for six years. During this time Athaliah herself domineered the kingdom.EB 244.1

    2. When Joash was seven years old, Jehoiada took five trustworthy captains of the army and revealed to them the existence of Joash. These five then “went about in Judah” and found such as could be trusted of the Levites out of the several cities, and “the chief of the fathers of Israel,” and brought them to Jerusalem. The five captains also brought into Jerusalem their troops, unarmed and singly. When the organization was complete, Jehoiada brought them all together and revealed his purpose of making Joash king at once. They all agreed to it and made a covenant and entered heartily into the project of seating him upon the throne.EB 244.2

    3. This was no small task, indeed, because they had Athaliah to meet and to deal with, and she was a second Jezebel. The whole scheme, however, was so well conducted that Athaliah did not discover it until it was crowned with success. The troops had been armed from the armory of the temple, and now with the weapons in their hands, they were arrayed at the entrance of the temple. Then, in the temple—EB 244.3

    JOASH was crowned, and the priest anointed him and proclaimed, 878 B. C., “Let the king live.”EB 244.4

    4. When Athaliah heard the noise of the people running and praising the king, she came from her house and entered into the temple; when she saw there the king standing in his place at the entrance of the temple, with the princes and the trumpeters by him, and heard the people rejoicing and sounding with trumpets, and the general rejoicing, she rent her clothes, and cried: “Treason, Treason.” Jehoiada commanded the captains to take her; and they carried her forth from the temple, and slew her at the entry of the horse gate, by the royal palace. Then Jehoiada brought forth the new king to all the people, and required them to enter into a covenant with the king, and the king with the people to be faithful to one another and to the Lord. “And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and brake it down; his altars and his images brake they in pieces thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest appointed officers over the house of the Lord.” 2[Page 245] 2 Kings 11.EB 245.1

    5. Joash remained faithful to his part of the covenant as long as Jehoiada lived; but as soon as the high priest was dead, he joined himself to the princes of Judah, and “they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass.” 3[Page 245] 2 Chronicles 24:18. The prophet Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, reproved him, saying: “Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, He hath forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the Lord.” 4[Page 245] Verses 20, 21.EB 245.2

    6. About a year afterward, a “small company” of the army of Syria invaded Judah and defeated “a very great host” of the troops of Joash, and was advancing upon Jerusalem itself. Then Joash “took all the hallowed things that Jehoshaphat, and Jehoram, and Ahaziah, his fathers, kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own hallowed things, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of the Lord, and in the king’s house, and sent it to Hazael king of Syria: and he went away from Jerusalem.” 5[Page 246] 2 Kings 12:18; 2 Chronicles 24:23, 24.EB 245.3

    7. When the hosts of Syria had returned to their country, the servants of Joash conspired against him and slew him upon his bed, in the house of Millo, B. C. 839, after a reign of forty years.EB 246.1

    8. AMAZIAH was the son of Joash, and he reigned twenty-nine years, 839-810. “As soon as the kingdom was confirmed in his hand, he slew his servants which had slain the king his father. But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” 6[Page 246] 2 Kings 14:5, 6.EB 246.2

    9. In the reverses that had come upon Judah since the days of Jehoshaphat, the kingdom had become so weakened that Amaziah could find throughout all Judah and Benjamin only three hundred thousand men from twenty years old and above, “able to go forth to war, that could handle the spear and shield.” Desiring to make an expedition against Edom, and not having enough men in his own kingdom, he hired of King Jehoash of Israel, one hundred thousand warriors, for one hundred talents of silver. But when the men had reached Jerusalem, and Amaziah was ready to start on his expedition, “there came a man of God to him, saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel, to wit, with all the children of Ephraim. But if thou wilt go, do it, be strong for the battle: God shall make thee fall before the enemy: for God hath power to help, and to cast down. And Amaziah said to the man of God, But what shall we do for the hundred talents which I have given to the army of Israel? And the man of God answered, The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” 7[Page 246] 2 Chronicles 25:7-9.EB 246.3

    10. In obedience to the command of God, the king separated from his army all the warriors of Israel and sent them home again. Then he went with his own force against Edom, and defeated the Edomites in the valley of salt, took the city of Selah (which signifies “the rock”) and called it Joktheel (which means “subdued of God”), and then returned to his own capital. But he brought with him “the gods of the children of Seir, and set them up to be his gods, and bowed down himself before them, and burned incense unto them.” And when the Lord sent a prophet to him to reprove him, he resented the message, and said to the prophet: “Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear; why shouldest thou be smitten? Then the prophet forbare, and said, I know that God hath determined to destroy thee, because thou hast done this, and hast not hearkened unto my counsel.” 8[Page 247] 2 Chronicles 25:14, 16.EB 246.4

    11. The soldiers of Israel whom he had first hired and then sent back home, were very much enraged at this treatment; and, as they returned, they “fell upon the cities of Judah, from Samaria even unto Beth-horon, and smote three thousand of them, and took much spoil.” When Amaziah returned from his expedition and learned of this, he sent a challenge to Jehoash, king of Israel, to come down and fight him, with the result already given in the account of Jehoash, chap 16, par. 7.EB 247.1

    12. When Amaziah had reigned twenty-five years, a conspiracy was formed against him in Jerusalem, and he fled to Lachish; but the conspirators sent after him and slew him at Lachish, and the people chose a king in his stead.EB 247.2

    13. UZZIAH was the son of Amaziah. All the people chose him to be king at the death of his father. He was one of the most able kings that ever ruled in Judah, and reigned fifty-two years, 810-758 B. C. He reconquered the country of the Philistines, and was successful against the Arabians. The Ammonites acknowledged his sovereignty by sending gifts, “and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.” 9[Page 247] 2 Chronicles 26:8.EB 247.3

    14. He strengthened the city of Jerusalem with new towers and fortifications, and “he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also and vine-dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel : for he loved husbandry.” His army was composed of three hundred and ten thousand men “that made war with mighty power.” “And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.”EB 247.4

    15. When he had become thus great and strong, he grew proud of himself, and was not satisfied to be the head of the kingdom, but decided that he would be the head of the religion, too. He therefore took a censer in his hand and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense as a priest. But the high priest and all the assistants rushed in after him and withstood him and said to him: “It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense : go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honor from the Lord God.” 10[Page 248] 2 Chronicles 26:18.EB 248.1

    16. At this he grew angry with the priests, and would offer the incense anyhow; but suddenly, “a great earthquake shook the ground, and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it and fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately; and, before the city at a place called Eroge, one half of the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs and stood still at the east mount, until the roads as well as the king’s gardens were spoiled by the obstruction.”—Josephus. 11[Page 248] “Antiquities,” book ix, chap 10, par.4; Zechariah 14:5; Amos 1:1.EB 248.2

    17. “And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the Lord had smitten him.” He remained a leper to the day of his death, “and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord : and Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.” 12[Page 248] 2 Chronicles 26:20, 21. He was still considered king, but did not exercise any of the offices of king.EB 248.3

    18. In the last years of Uzziah, Isaiah and Micah began to prophesy in Judah. Hosea also prophesied in the reign of Uzziah. “In the year that King Uzziah died,” Isaiah saw the vision of his sixth chapter.EB 249.1

    19. Jotham was the son of Uzziah, and reigned sixteen years, 758-742. “He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah did: Howbeit he entered not into the temple of the Lord. And the people did yet corruptly.” 13[Page 249] 2 Chronicles 27:2. Judah was slowly but steadily drifting into the ways of Israel. Hosea, Isaiah, and Micah, continued to prophesy during the reign of Jotham.EB 249.2

    20. Jotham reduced the Ammonites to a tribute of one hundred talents of silver, ten thousand measures of wheat, and ten thousand measures of barley, for three years. He built cities in the mountains of Judah; in the forests he built castles and towers; and in Jerusalem he built the high gate of the house of the Lord, and “became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”EB 249.3

    21. Ahaz was the son of Jotham, and reigned sixteen years, 742-727. He forsook the right way, and “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.” “And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods.” 14[Page 249] 2 Chronicles 28:2-4, 24, 25.EB 249.4

    22. Then Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel, invaded Judah and besieged Jerusalem, but failed to capture it, and returned to their own land. However, Rezin seized upon Elath and expelled the Jews from it, and restored it to the dominion of Syria. The next year Rezin invaded Judah again, was successful, and carried away a great multitude captive to Damascus.EB 249.5

    23. Pekah also invaded Judah and was successful. He slew one hundred and twenty thousand of the soldiers of Ahaz, and carried captive two hundred thousand “women, sons and daughters,” and with them much spoil, and brought all to Samaria. But at Samaria a prophet of the Lord spoke to Pekah and all the people: “Behold, because the Lord God of your fathers was wroth with Judah, He hath delivered them into your hand, and ye have slain them in a rage that reacheth up unto heaven. And now ye purpose to keep under the children of Judah and Jerusalem for bondmen and bondwomen unto you: but are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God? Now hear me therefore, and deliver the captives again, which ye have taken captive of your brethren : for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you.EB 250.1

    24. “Then certain of the heads of the children of Ephraim, Azariah the son of Johanan, Berechiah the son of Meshillemoth, and Jehizkiah the son of Shallum, and Amasa the son of Hadlai, stood up against them that came from the war, and said unto them, Ye shall not bring in the captives hither: for whereas we have offended against the Lord already, ye intend to add more to our sins and to our trespass: for our trespass is great, and there is fierce wrath against Israel. So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation. And the men which were expressed by name rose up, and took the captives, and with the spoil clothed all that were naked among them, and arrayed them, and shod them, and gave them to eat and to drink, and anointed them, and carried all the feeble of them upon asses, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brethren: then they returned to Samaria.” 15[Page 250] 2 Chronicles 28:1-15.EB 250.2

    25. After this, the Edomites invaded Judah and carried away captives. The Philistines also invaded “the cities of the low country and of the south of Judah,” and took Beth-shemesh and Ajalon and Gederoth and Shoco and Timnah and Gimzo, with a large number of villages, and occupied them and dwelt there. “For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel; for he made Judah naked, and transgressed sore against the Lord.” 16[Page 251] 2 Chronicles 28:17-19.EB 250.3

    26. Closely following upon this, Rezin and Pekah, seeing the weakness of Judah, formed their alliance for the purpose of utterly destroying the house of Ahaz and putting upon the throne of Judah a creature of their own, named Ashariah, the son of a certain Tabeal. “And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.” 17[Page 251] Isaiah 7:2.EB 251.1

    27. Then Isaiah was commanded to go forth and meet Ahaz and say unto him: “Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying, Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal: Thus saith the Lord God, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” 18[Page 251] Isaiah 7:4-9.EB 251.2

    28. But instead of believing the Lord, and trusting to Him as the Lord asked him to do, “Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria,” and submitted himself to his power, “saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria hearkened unto him: for the king of Assyria went up against Damascus, and took it, and carried the people of it captive to Kir, and slew Rezin.” 19[Page 251] 2 Kings 16:7-9.EB 251.3

    29. Then Ahaz went up to Damascus, to pay his respects to Tiglath-Pileser. While there, he happened to see an altar which he very much admired; and he had a pattern of it taken, and sent to Urijah, the priest at Jerusalem, and directed him to have an altar made just like it by the time he reached Jerusalem from Damascus. When he came home, “he approached to the altar and offered thereon.” He removed the brazen altar, the legitimate altar of the Lord, from before the house of the Lord, and commanded Urijah to offer the regular offerings of the Lord upon this heathen altar which he had copied from Damascus, and said he would reserve the brazen altar “to inquire by.” The molten sea which Solomon had erected, Ahaz took down from off the brazen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones, and took away other pieces of the sacred furniture of the house of the Lord, and sent them as presents in token of his submission to the king and the kingdom of Assyria. 20[Page 252] Verses 10-18.EB 252.1

    30. “And Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came unto him, and distressed him, but strengthened him not.... And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: this is that king Ahaz. For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.” 21[Page 252] 2 Chronicles 28:20-23.EB 252.2

    31. Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, began to reign in the last days of 727 B. C. or else on the first day of the year 726, for on the first day of the first month of 726 he “opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them. And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street, and said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place. For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord our God, and have forsaken Him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the Lord, and turned their backs. Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel. Wherefore the wrath of the Lord was upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He hath delivered them to trouble, to astonishment, and to hissing, as ye see with your eyes. For, lo, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. Now it is in mine heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us.” 22[Page 253] Chap. 29:3-10.EB 252.3

    32. The Levites did diligently as they were directed by the king to do; “for the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests.” By the sixteenth day of the first month they had finished the work of cleansing the temple. “Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the showbread table, with all the vessels thereof. Moreover all the vessels, which King Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression, have we prepared and sanctified, and, behold, they are before the altar of the Lord.” Then the king had the sacrifices and offerings of bullocks, rams, lambs, and he goats, brought according to the word of the Lord; and “commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.” “So the service of the house of the Lord was set in order. And Hezekiah rejoined, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.”EB 253.1

    33. As the time had passed by for celebrating the Passover at the right time, the fourteenth day of the first month, the king took “counsel, and his princes, and all the congregation in Jerusalem, to keep the Passover in the second month.” Then it was that the proclamation was made “throughout all Israel from Beer-sheba even unto Dan” that saved the remnant of the ten tribes from slaughter or captivity by the kings of Assyria, as related in the previous chapter. “And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation. And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense they took away [those false altars that Ahaz had set up], and cast them into the brook Kidron.” And as they were celebrating the feast out of season and without due preparation, “Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah and healed and helped the people.”EB 253.2

    34. When they had kept the feast the appointed seven days, “praising the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord,” “they kept other seven days with gladness.” “And all the congregation of Judah, with the priests and the Levites, and all the congregation that came out of Israel, and the strangers that came out of the land of Israel, and that dwelt in Judah, rejoiced. So there was great joy in Jerusalem: for since the time of Solomon the son of David king of Israel there was not the like in Jerusalem. Then the priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to His holy dwelling place, even unto heaven.”EB 254.1

    35. “Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves [Asherim], and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.”EB 254.2

    36. The king also “commanded the people that dwelt in Jerusalem to give the portion of the priests and the Levites, that they might be encouraged in the law of the Lord. And as soon as the commandment came abroad, the children of Israel brought in abundance the first-fruits of corn, wine, and oil, and honey, and of all the increase of the field; and the tithe of all things brought they in abundantly. And concerning the children of Israel and Judah, that dwelt in the cities of Judah, they also brought in the tithe of oxen and sheep, and the tithe of holy things which were consecrated unto the Lord their God, and laid them by heaps. In the third month they began to lay the foundation of the heaps, and finished them in the seventh month. And when Hezekiah and the princes came and saw the heaps, they blessed the Lord, and His people Israel. Then Hezekiah questioned with the priests and the Levites concerning the heaps. And Azariah the chief priest of the house of Zadok answered him, and said, Since the people began to bring the offerings into the house of the Lord, we have had enough to eat, and have left plenty: for the Lord hath blessed His people; and that which is left is this great store. Then Hezekiah commanded to prepare chambers in the house of the Lord; and they prepared them, and brought in the offerings and tithes and the dedicated things faithfully.”EB 254.3

    37. “And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart and prospered.” 23[Page 255] 2 Chronicles 31:1-11, 20, 21.EB 255.1

    38. As Israel is captive, and Judah is paying tribute, to Assyria, we must now turn to the history of that nation.EB 255.2

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