James Frederick McCurdy.

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elaborate centralized administration. Hence, a basis of
unification was afforded, upon wliich the morally weaker
yielded to the stronger by surrendering the social and
religious distinctions upon which depended their political

§ 370. Considering the enormous difficulties of the situ-
ation, the progress of the HebrcAvs in the new settlement
was rapid. Scarcely two hundred years can have elapsed
between the invasion and the founding of the monarchy.
At the latter epoch no considerable Canaanitic settlement
remained intact in the region which formed the historic
soil of Israel. After the passing away of the original
leaders, we hear of but one combination of native commu-
nities against the colonists, and that at a comparatively
early period in the regime of the " Judges." Far more
dangerous were the attacks from without, mostly from
peoples nearl}- akin to the Hebrews. The inherent vitality
of Israel and its internal cohesiveness are shown by the
appearance of successive heroic deliverers, and, better still,
b}' the devotion and loyalty of the masses of the people,
who, in one district or another, rallied around them for the
defence of their newly acquired homes and to vindicate the
supremacy of Jehovah. There is, however, no evidence
that the ideal of a united Israel was ever accomplished
in this whole period. Rather, there is proof of perpetual
tribal jealousy and a mournful record of intermittent
bloody strife. Yet none of the native surrounding races
could singl}- have dislodged or suppressed the Heljrews.
Their subjugation and obliteration were seriously threat-
ened by the better organized half-foreign Pliilistines of
the western border-land.

§ 371. The danger of speedy extinction at last made
clear to all wlio were called by the name of Jehovali


the imperious necessity of permanent combination. In
the transition period from nomadism to settled life, the
combinations of tribes were naturally made more fre-
quently and successfully for defence than for aggression,
and anything like a permanent union could only be
effected on a scale much smaller than the national. More-
over, the tribes thus temporarily united could only follow a
leader of approved wisdom and the gift of command. A
combination of them all against an hereditary powerful
foe could only be led by a king. All the invaders of
Israel before the Philistines had waged a local warfare.
This enemy overstepped their border and aimed to engulf
the whole. The first king was naturally chosen from that
portion of the country which was most vitally interested
in the repulse of the Philistines. But the choice also
determined the destiny of the nation. It gave promi-
nence to the south instead of the north, and thus attached
to the banner of Israel the numerically strong but hitherto
indifferently loyal clans of Judah. The regency of Saul
and Jonathan, though dashed with many failures and final
overthrow, was a distinct advance for Israel. Judah, the
inseparable companion in fortune of Benjamin, was now
ready to lead on the forlorn hope, and that under an
accomplished prince who had been trained in the arts
of war and peace, to be the deliverer and ruler of his
united people. His triumphs over his personal rivals,
over the dreaded Philistines, over ancient and newly
made foes of Israel, gave him and his country power and
renown never equalled before or afterwards. His choice of
Jerusalem as his capital secured the independence of his
kingdom through the wars and tumults of four centuries.
^ 372. But tribal jealousy and sectional feeling were
only allayed and not extinguished. The upward and
forward movement of the whole community had diverted
for awhile the local forces of discontent. They again in-
evitably found expression when the country became quies-
cent and the heroic efforts of self-denjdng patriotism,


which had established a strong and august monarch}^,
gave place to the less exciting business of sustaining
the new institutions. Already in the time of highest
national prosperity an adroit pretender like Absalom found
the smouldering feeling strong enough to be fanned into
a flame, and to be turned almost successfully against his
father's kingship in Judah. The reign of Solomon was
marked at first by great external splendour. But it aggran-
dized Judah and Benjamin at the expense of the northern
tribes, the cultivation of whose interests was demanded
alike by prudence and by justice. The division of the
whole country into revenue districts, instead of obliterat-
ing local distinctions, only aggravated them. At the same
time the foreign states made tributary by David began to
fall off one by one, and the expense of the centralizing
and luxurious government at Jerusalem fell more heavily
upon the over-taxed people. At the death of Solomon
a schism took place under the lead of Ephraim, the
natural centre of the community of Israel. The breach
then made was never healed.^

§ 373. There is a certain measure of propriety in speak-
ing of "united Israel." But the phrase has to be used
with a large reservation. An external political union of
the tribes was just barely accomplished only to be speedily
annulled. Under the Judges it was merely possible in a
loose sense. Indeed, it would seem that all the tribes
were never fully represented in a national council or on
the field of battle. The reigns of David and Solomon
over all Israel lasted but two generations. It is question-
able how far the organization of the kingdom extended.
The census taken by the one, and the territorial redistri-
bution attempted by the other, were doubtless contrived
partly in order to bring within the scope of regular admin-
istration the outlying northern and eastern tribes, whose
associations with their heathen neighbours imperilled, and

1 An excellent essay on "Jeroboam and the Disruption," by Prof. C.
F. Kent, may be found in the Biblical World, July, 1894, p. 38 ff.


at last quite destroyed, their tribal autonomy and their
national loyalty. They failed in their object. Probably
no complete fusion was ever possible. Peaceful federa-
tion for long among any branch of the ancient Semites
seems to have been out of the question. The Hebrews were
the best disposed thereto of all the race ; but with them
also local interests finally triumphed over their own ideal
of national centralization. The notion of a united Israel
is imposing and persistent. A people or a race of endur-
ing memories and tragic fates idealizes its earlier history,
and even in its decline colours the whole horizon of its
national outlook with the reflection of the bright imagined
past. But the idea of Israel as a great political unit is
based not merely on the ephemeral glory of the kingdom
of David. It is the embodiment of the far profounder and
more abiding conception of a religious unity. The real
solidarity of Israel was always the outcome of a common
allegiance and fidelity to Jehovah. It was not more true
that Jehovah, their God, was One, than that they, his
people, should be one also. But this union of heart and
sentiment depended again upon the purity and spiritual-
ity of his worship. In this, also, Israel has idealized its
past. Though pure and spiritual in the ideal cherished
by worthy souls throughout the history of Israel, the con-
stant tendenc}^ of the mass of the people, including as a
rule the governing classes, was to debase his worship, both
after their own ancestral fashion, and after the still more
sensuous and degrading models of the Canaanitish religions.
This, however, did not do away with the sense of obliga-
tion to serve Jehovah, in one tangible method or another.
The Temple and its services in Jerusalem discouraged,
from the very first, idolatrous or symbolic worship. But
the Temple was now no longer Israelitish. It was at once
the centre of the Judaic monarchy and the most power-
ful factor in its conservation and sfrowth. The schis-
matics of Ephraim and its northern allies recognized, as
strongly as did the Judaites, the claims of Jehovah's wor-


ship. The absence of his auspices meant the collapse of
Israel everywhere. Hence the consecration of popular
symbols of Jehovah among the northern tribes, whose
shrines, in the ancient sacred places of their ancestors,
were so distributed as to intercept and influence, in behalf
of the specific Ephraimitish rites, the pofiulation of the
land both near and far. Thus was the fiction of a national
palladium cherished and maintained.

§ 374. The history of Northern Israel in its develop-
ment and decline naturally falls into three main periods.
The first division extends to the dynasty of Omri and the
founding of Samaria ; the second, to the end of the dynasty
of Jehu ; the third, to the fall of the capital. The first
period (925-885 B.C.) is one of disorganization, of blind
struggling, and of confusion. In spite of the advantages
which it had over its southern rival, in a greater popula-
tion, a more seductive worship, and the chances of immu-
nity from exorbitant taxation, its earlier years were marked
by political and industrial misfortune. The elements of a
strong kingdom were present, but there was no real gov-
ernment of the nation as a whole. Indeed, it would be
difficult to define the limits of the nation in this period, or
to point out in what sense a nation really existed. The
outlying tribes at the best held on to the commonwealth
and the institutions of Israel by a very precarious tenure.
Even the more central tribes, with Ephraim as the moral
base of support and the rallying ground, were without a
common state policy, or unity of feeling or of action, or
national spirit, or loyalty to their leaders. It seems, in fact,
that the whole of the nominal Israel never in this period
clung to a single ruler. And while the people did not know
how to obey, the kings were equally unable to govern.
" The manner of the kingdom " that had been propounded
carefully by its inaugurator could in any case be learned
only by experience ; and the scattered, unsociable tribes
and clans and families of Israel were but slow scholars in
this department of political science. So far the kingly


art had been practised almost exclusively in the family of
Judah. Monarchical independence, suddenly asserted by
the northern tribes, found them equally unjDrepared to
enjoy its privileges and to exercise its prerogatives. Jero-
boam's couj) d'etat, justifiable as it may have been under the
conditions, was a j)olitical failure. Monarchy was never
really at home in any section of Israel. Its rare compara-
tive success was only gained through slow adjustment to
the patent consequences of repeated and disastrous fail-
ures. In things political, Israel, like most of the Semites,
learned only under the sting of the lash. The recoil from
Rehoboam's threatened whip of scorpions, while affording
a temporary measure of freedom, brought about in effect a
relapse into semi-anarchy.

§ 375. Evidence of governmental impotence and of
popular distrust abound on every hand. The little rem-
nant of Judah, compact and united, was the superior in
war for the first twenty years after the disruption. The
change of capitals, or rather of royal residences, shows
not only the desperate character of the royal fortunes, but
also, when we consider the functions of a king in Israel,
reveals the difficulty experienced by the people in secur-
ing the redress of social grievances. The facility Avith
which so much of the country north of Esdraelon was
transferred to the Aramseans of Damascus and retained
by them, indicates that a chasm separated Naphtali and
Zebulon from Ephraim, as deep as that which sundered
Ephraim from Judah. The succession of usurpations,
dethronements, and murders which followed the death of
Jeroboam were not so much the occasions as the symptoms
of internal strife and confusion. They might almost seem
to have formed a necessary stage in the development of a
genuine monarchy out of the nucleus of the loosely at-
tached sections and tribes that still held fast to the name
and the traditions of Israel. " Ephraim " was evolved out of
" Israel " through a series of revolutions ; and the confusion
and turmoil that agitated the whole chaotic body politic


were as necessary to the consolidation of the surviving
kingdom as the internal dislocations and upheavals, and
the centrifugal ejection of the future satellites, are an
essential part of the evolution of suns and planets. An
attentive view of the historical conditions will bring us
to see that the " Kingdom of the Ten Tribes " never ex-
isted except as a splendid idealized possibility, and that
from the governmental point of view the course of affairs
in Northern Israel, until the opening of the last period of
decline and collapse, Avas not really a degeneration, but an
advance, however broken and tortuous.

§ 376. The second period (885-784 B.C.) was, accord-
ing to this view of Israel's political career, the epoch of
its real development into a nation. Unity and solidarity
came in fact to each of the kingdoms through their separa-
tion ; and if the two main sections could not be fused
together, it were much better that they should be severed,
and crystallize each around its own centre. Samaria,
founded by the genius and foresight of Omri, became to
the Northern Kingdom what Jerusalem was to the South-
ern. It proved a rallying-place and a sure defence for the
harassed tribes and clans that gathered about Ephraim.
The work of the founder and his successors was essen-
tially to keep intact what had been saved from the disas-
ters succeeding the schism. Their regime was coincident
with the flourishing period of the Aramfeans in Syria,
and also with the first stages of the warfare of the Assyr-
ians upon the liberties of the southwestern states. It is the
conflicts with the Aramaean kingdom of Damascus which
have given its distinctive character, its life and colour, to
the history of the kingdom of Samaria. Already, before the
days of Omri, the northernmost portion of Israel had been
absorbed by the Aramaeans. The worth of the new fortress
of Samaria was put to the test in the strenuous endeavour
to save the central tribes. The Syrian Avars marked the
heroic era of the Northern Kingdom. The dynasty of Omri,
whatever its shortcomings otherwise, was patriotic and


brave. Its greatest struggle was made for the retention of
Israelitish territory beyond the Jordan. There Damascus
was pressing hard from the north, and Moab from the south.
Moab, subjugated by Omri, was lost by Ahab to Israel for-
ever. Gilead and Bashan were the scene of Israel's most
intense struggles and most bitter sufferings. They also
were virtually lost. The Aramseans circumscribed Israel
to its central domain, the territory which might be con-
trolled and defended from the fortress of Samaria. They
would probably have crippled the Hebrews much more
seriously were it not that the Assyrians inflicted upon
them very serious losses on hard-fought battle-fields. The
first great conflict was waged against the eastern invaders
with the help of Israel and other Palestinian states, but
thereafter Damascus bore alone the brunt of numberless
attacks. It was for nearly a century the sentinel and
guardian of Palestine.

§ 377. The policy of the dynasty of Omri was fateful
in other spheres than that of war. Convinced that the
misfortunes and losses and disintegration of Israel were
due to the unattractive simplicity of the services of Jeho-
vah, these rulers sought to invest the national cult with
the pomp and eclat of the dual worship of the Canaanitish
Baal and Astarte, now made more imposing and seductive
than ever under the auspices of the wealthy and luxurious
cities of Phoenicia. The movement was doubtless success-
ful for a time, as far as building up a court party with a
powerful following served to realize the original purpose.
But a deadly, twofold evil was the speedy and inevitable
result. Corruption of morals was promoted by the legiti-
mated vices of the rites of Astarte, and a selfish tyrannical
spirit, the invariable accompaniment of degenerate Oriental
courts, was rapidly developed among the ruling classes.
Another feature of the policy of Ahab, who, through his
Tyrian queen Jezebel, was at once the inaugurator and the
instrument of the Phoenician alliance, was the cultivation
of friendship with the sister kingdom. Such a rapproche-

Cii. I, § 378 ISRAEL AND JUDAH 15

me7it^ desirable in itself, was confirmed by intermarriage
between the kingly houses, which came near engulfing
Judah also in the abominations of Baal-worship. The
excesses of the new regime in Israel were the immediate
occasion of the outburst of prophetic zeal with which the
names of Elijah and Elisha are imperishably associated.
Though primarily the champions of Jehovah and his cause,
their preaching had a very practical popular end. Their
protests against the oppressions of the court, and in behalf
of the outraged liberty of Israelitish freemen, gave life
and force to the uprising against the votaries of Baal
which it was the direct object of their crusade to provoke.
The desperate nature of the evils may be inferred not
merely from the drastic remedy of revolution, but also
from the character of the ill-regulated instrument chosen
to accomplish it.

§ 378. The cleavage of the great schism between Judah
and Israel was not so deep as its immediate consequences
might seem to indicate. The political union had never
been very close, and the hostilities that followed the revolt
of Jeroboam, fierce as they were while they lasted, did not
long prevail over the inherent conditions that made for
harmony and mutual forbearance. The sanguinary wars
that marked the earliest reigns were mainly due to the
recriminations that followed the separation. It was the
successful attacks of the Syrians upon Israel north of Jez-
reel, invoked by their Judaic allies, that aroused the sur-
viving northern tribes to a sense of the folly of fratricidal
war. After the accession of the dynasty of Omri we hear
no more of treaties between Judah and Damascus, and very
rarely of feuds between Israel and Judah. Certainly no quar-
rel was provoked against the southerners by their northern
brothers till Samaria approached her fall. Religious dif-
ferences had little to do at any time with keeping up the
estrangement between the two Hebrew kingdoms. The
practical distinction between the golden bulls at Bethel
and the Ark in the Temple at Jerusalem was for a time not


SO great as might appear. Of spiritual worship there was
little or none connected with either ritual. The priesthood
was, as a rule, subservient to the court, and for twenty
years after the disruption the idolatrous usages introduced
by the degenerate Solomon held uninterrupted sway in
Judah. Then a distinct change for the better was effected
through the reforming zeal of Asa and Jehoshaphat. Be-
hind this there was the silent working of prophetic teach-
ing and the moral influence of the legitimate temple, the
proper seat of the God of Israel. Hence it happened that
when the attempt was made to annex Judah also to the
moral dominion of the Phcenician Baal, the daughter of
Jezebel could not finally prevail against the forces that
made for righteousness and loyalty in Jerusalem. The
best possible evidence of the existence of a strong whole-
some sense of the claims of Jehovah is afforded in the fact
that the revolt against Athaliah was led by a priest. On
the other hand, we gather from the alliances between de-
vout and faithful princes of Judah and the recreant rulers
of Israel, in the days of Elijah and Elisha, that Jehovah was
not nominally discarded in the Northern Kingdom. Cer-
tainly no quarrels rose 'between the two states on account
of religious divergences. The territory embraced in both
was always regarded as Jehovah's land, and its inhabitants
as Jehovah's people. This was the fundamental reason
why the relations between the kingdoms were normally
fraternal and peaceful. Even the inherited enmity between
Amaziah and Joash could not be prolonged or intensified
into a vendetta. It was due to this bond of brotherhood
that the victory of Joash was not followed up by the sub-
jection of his rival's kingdom.

§ 379. The consolidation of Judah was much more
easily and speedily effected than that of Israel ; and its
internal troubles were proportionally much less serious.
But its political role was quite insignificant till the time of
Uzziah. For increase of population and of wealth it could
draw only upon the Philistian plain and the Desert to the


south. After its early successes in war, clue to the unsettle-
ment of the Northern Kingdom, the military inferiority of
Judah became manifest : the Syrians had to be invoked to
save it from the vengeance of Baasha. Shortly after the
disruption, the Egyptians were able to overrun Judah and
enter Jerusalem with but little opposition. Judah be-
came strong and prosperous whenever it was able to hold
as tributary Edom and the surrounding region, which con-
trolled the Red Sea trade and much of the* overland traffic
from Southern Arabia. This Was not fully, though often
partially, accomplished between the days of Solomon and
Uzziah. Edom was the national pendant of a strong mon-
archy to the north, but it was the home of a resolute and
gifted people, the most cultured of the semi-nomadic com-
munities that bordered on Palestine. No wars in which
Judah ever engaged approached those waged against Edom
in bitterness and persistency. Edom was to Judah, in this
and in other ways, what Damascus was to Northern Israel.
§ 380. The overthrow of the dynasty of Omri and the
accession of the line of Jehu mark a momentous epoch in
the fate of Israel. The worship of Baal was suppressed
for a time ; but that of Jehovah was not duly re-estab-
lished. Politically, the revolution was a disastrous failure.
Israel was weakened, and Judah was alienated, to the great
advantage of the Aramaeans. More significant still was
Jehu's submission to Shalmaneser II. Henceforth the
fate of Israel is inextricably intertwined with that of
Assyria. The motives of the great tragedy now become
manifold ; Israel is lifted out of its petty narrowness by
choosing a world-conqueror for its patron, and thus pre-
pares for its own eventual effacement. Jehu's submission
did not even secure respite to his kingdom from the at-
tacks of the Syrians. Damascus was now at the summit
of its power and glory. In spite of intermittent attacks
from the Assyrians, its armies invaded and almost capt-
ured Samaria and ravaged the whole of Palestine. The
destruction of Israel now seemed certain. But repeated


onslaughts of the Assyrians against Damascus succeeded
at last. That great fortress was taken, and Israel was
relieved. Then followed the retirement of the eastern
invaders, overwrought and weary. For Imlf a century
they remained inactive. But they had done their work
upon Damascus. Israel and Judah were free. Their
power and prestige revived, and reached a breadth and
height undreamed of before.

§ 381. The first great literary Prophets illuminate for
us the last period of the Northern Kingdom, and reveal at
the same time the shady side of its transient era of pros-
perity. Both from Amos and from Hosea we gather that
the wide extension of dominion gained by Jeroboam II
had but a brief existence. They give us also good reason
to think that during his later years he was greatly sur-
passed in power and prestige by Uzziah of Judah. But
what is most significant is the revelation we have of the
essential unsoundness of Israel. The end of its troubled
career, precipitated by assaults from without, was accel-
erated and prepared by head and heart sickness within.
Self-indulgence, luxury, and pride ; oppressiveness, greed,
and cruelty, — these, with practical idolatry, were the
symptoms of a moral disease which must soon end in dis-
solution. The earliest Prophets of Judah also turn their
far-gleaming search-light upon the devoted monarchy, and
announce its approaching and well-merited doom. Their
own country is in somewhat similar case ; but the saving-

Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 3 of 39)