John Lord.

Anceint states and empires online

. (page 5 of 55)
Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 5 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

priests simply interpreted the laws ; the priests of Egypt
made them. Their power was chiefly judicial. They had
no means of usurpation, neither from property, nor military
command. They were simply the expositors of laws which
they did not make, which they could not change, and which
they themselves were bound to obey. The income of a
Levite was about five times as great as an ordinary man, and
this, of course, was derived from the tithes. But a greater
part of the soil paid no tithes. The taxes to the leading
class, as the Levites were, can not be called ruinous when
compared with what the Egyptian priesthood received, espe-
cially when we remember that all the expenses connected
with sacrifice and worship were taken from the tithes. The
treasures which flowed into the sacerdotal treasury belonged
to the Lord, and of these the priests were trustees rather
than possessors.

54: The Jews to the Conquest of Canaan. [Chap. t.

Such, in general terms, briefly presented, was the Hebrew
constitution framed by Moses, by the direction of God. It
was eminently republican in spirit, and the power of the
people through their representatives, was great and control-
ling. The rights of property were most sacredly guarded,
and crime was severely and rigidly punished. Every citizen
was eligible to the highest offices. That the people were
the source of all power is proven by their voluntary change
of government, against the advice of Samuel, against the
The Hebrew oracle, and against the council of elders. We look
Constitution. -^ vam ^ £] ie anc i en ^ constitutions of Greece and
Rome for the wisdom we see in the Mosaic code. Under
no ancient government were men so free or the laws so just.
It is not easy to say how much the Puritans derived from the
Hebrew constitution in erecting their new empire, but in
many aspects there is a striking resemblance between the
republican organization of New England and the Jewish

The Mosaic code was framed in the first year after the ex-
odus, while the Israelites were encamped near Sinai. When
the Tabernacle was erected, the camp was broken up, and
the wandering in the desert recommenced. This was con-
tinued for forty years — not as a punishment, but as a disci-
pline, to enable the Jews to become indoctrinated into the
principles of their constitution, and to gain strength and
organization, so as more successfully to contend with the
people they were commanded to expel from Canaan. In this
wilderness they had few enemies, and some friends, and these
were wandering Arab tribes.

We can not point out all the details of the wanderings
under the leadership of Moses, guided by the pillar of fire
and the cloud. After forty years, they reached the broad
valley which runs from the eastern gulf of the Red Sea,
along the foot of Mount Seir, to the valley of the Dead
The wander- Sea. Diverted from a direct entrance into Canaan
Israelites. by hostile Edomites, they marched to the hilly
country to the east of Jordan, inhabited by the Amor-

Chap. V.] Death of Moses. 55

ites. In a conflict with this nation, they gained possession
of their whole territory, from Mount Hermon to the river
Anion, which runs into the Dead Sea. The hills south of
this river were inhabited by pastoral Moabites — descendants
of Lot, and beyond them to the Great Desert were the Am-
monites, also descendants of Lot. That nation formed an
alliance with the Midianites, hoping to expel the invaders
then encamped on the plains of Moab. Here Moses deliv-
ered his farewell instructions, appointed his successor, and
passed away on Mount Pisgah, from which he could see the
promised land, but which he was not permitted to con-
quer. That task was reserved for Joshua, but the complete
conquest of the Canaanites did not take place till the reign
of David.



The only survivors of the generation that had escaped
from Egypt were Caleb and Joshua. All the rest had of-
fended God by inurmurings, rebellion, idolatries, and sundry
offenses, by which they were not deemed worthy to enter
the promised land. Even Moses and Aaron had sinned
against the Lord.

So after forty years' wanderings, and the children of
Israel Avere encamped on the plains of Moab, Moses finally
Non-inter- addressed them, forbidding; all intercourse with

course of the . . ... %. ^.

Jews with other nations, enjoining obedience to (jrod, requir-
tions. ing the utter extirpation of idolatry, and rehearsing

in general, the laws which he had previously given them, and
which form the substance of the Jewish code, all of which
he also committed to writing, and then ascended to the top
of Pisgah, over against Jericho, from which he surveyed all the
land of Judah and ISTapthali, and Manasseh and Gilead unto
Dan — the greater part of the land promised unto Abraham.

Death of ^ e tnen died, at ^ e a g e 0I> 12 ^5 B « C ' ^ 451 an & DO

Moses. man k new t, ne place of his burial.

The Lord then encouraged Joshua his successoi', and the
conquest of the country began — by the passage oA-er the
T . Jordan and the fall of Jericho. The manna,

•Josh an. '

with which the Israelites for forty years had been
miraculously fed, now was no longer to be had, and sup-
plies of food were obtained from the enemy's country.
None of the inhabitants of Jericho were spared except
Rahab the harlot, and her father's household, in reward for

Chap. YL] Joshua. 57

her secretion of the spy which Joshua had sent into the city.
At the city of Ai, the three thousand men sent to take it
were repulsed, in punishment for the sin of Achan, who
had taken at the spoil of Jericho, a Babylonian garment
and three hundred sheckels of silver and a wedge of gold.
After he had expiated this crime, the city of Ai was taken,
and all its inhabitants were put to death. The spoil of the
city was reserved for the nation.

The fall of these two cities alarmed the Hamite nations
of Palestine west of the Jordan, and five kings of the
Amorites entered into a confederation to resist the invaders.
The Gibeonites made a separate peace with the Israelites.
Their lives were consequently spared, but they were
made slaves forever. Thus was fulfilled the pro-
phecy that Canaan should serve Shem.

Meantime the confederate kings — more incensed with the
Gibeonites than with the Israelites, since they were traitors
to the general cause, marched against Gibeon, one of the
strongest cities of the land. It invoked the aid of Joshua,
who came up from Gilgal, and a great battle was fought,
and resulted in the total discomfiture of the five Canaanite
kings. The cities of Makkedah, Libnah, Gizu, Eglon, Hebron,
successively fell into the hands of Joshua, as the result of
their victory.

The following year a confederation of the Northern
kings, a vast host with horses and chariots, was Combination

, . iTT n in n of tli e Ouna-

arrayecl against the Israelites ; but the forces of anites
the Canaanites were defeated at the " Waters of Joshua.
Merom," a small lake, formerly the Upper Jordan. This vic-
tory was followed by the fall of Hazor, and the conquest of
the whole land from Mount Halak to the Valley of Lebanon.
Thirty-one kings were smitten "in the mountains, in the
plains, in the wilderness, in the south country : the Hittites,
the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizites, the Hivites, and
the Jehusites." There only remained the Philistines, whose
power was formidable. The conquered country was divided
among the different tribes, half of which were settled on the

58 The Conquest of Canaan to David. [Chap. vi.

west of Jordan. The tabernacle was now removed to Shilob,
in the central hill country between Jordan and the Mediter-
ranean, which had been assigned to the tribe of Ephraim.
Jacob had prophetically declared the ultimate settlements
of the twelve tribes in the various sections of the conquered
country. The pre-eminence was given to Judah, whose
territory was the most considerable, including Jerusalem,
the future capital, then in the hands of the Jebusites. The
hilly country first fell into the hands of the invaders, while
the low lands were held tenaciously by the old inhabitants
where their cavalry and war chariots were of most avail.

The Israelites then entered, by conquest, into a fruitful
Conquest of land, well irrigated, whose material civilization was
already established, with orchards and vineyards,
and a cultivated face of nature, with strong cities and forti-

Joshua, the great captain of the nation, died about the year

Death of 1426 b. c, and Shechem, the old abode of Abraham

and Jacob, remained the chief city until the fall

of Jerusalem. Here the bones of Joseph were deposited,

with those of his ancestors.

The nation was ruled by Judges from the death of Joshua
for about 330 years — a period of turbulence and

The Judges. . __ . _ ., „

of conquest. Ihe theocracy was in lull force,
administered by the high priests and the council of elders.
The people, however, were not perfectly cured of the sin of
idolatry, and paid religious veneration to the gods of Phce-
nicia and Moab. The tribes enjoyed a virtual independence,
and central authority was weak. In consequence, there
were frequent dissensions and jealousies and encroachments.
The most powerful external enemies of this period were
the kings of Mesopotamia, of Moab, and of Hazor, the
Midianites, the Amalekites, the Ammonites, and the Philis-
tines. The «;reat heroes of the Israelites in their

Their wars. , , _ ■ . _

contests with these people were Othnie, Ehud,
Barak, Gideon, Jepthna, and Samson. After the victories
of Gideon over the Midianites, and of Jepthna over the

Chap. VI] Samuel. 59

Ammonites, the northern and eastern tribes enjoyed com-
parative repose, and when tranquillity was restored Eli seems
to have exercised the office of high priest with extraordinary
dignity, but his sons were a disgrace and scandal, whose
profligacy led the way to the temporary subjection of the
Israelites for forty years to the Philistines, who obtained
possession of the sacred ark.

A deliverer of the country was raised up in the person of
Samuel, the prophet, who obtained an ascendancy

, , , . . , . . Samuel.

over the nation by ins purity and moral wisdom.
He founded. the " School of the Prophets " in Ramah, and to
him the people came for advice. He seems to have exercised
the office of judge. Under his guidance the Israelites recov-
ered their sacred ark, which the Philistines, grievously tor-
mented by God, sent back in an impulse of superstitious
fear. Moreover, these people were so completely over-
thrown by the Irsaelites that they troubled them no longer
for many years.

Samuel, when old, made his sons judges, but their rule
was venal and corrupt. In disgust, the people of Israel
then desired a king. Samuel warned them of the The israei-

ites demand

consequences of such a step, and foretold the a King.
oppression to which they would be necessarily subject ;
but they were bent on having a king, like other nations — a
man who should lead them on to conquest and dominion.
Samuel then, by divine command, granted their request, and
selected Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, as a fit captain to
lead the people against the Philistines — the most powerful
foe which had afflicted Israel.

After he had anointed the future king he assembled the
whole nation together, through their deputies, at Anoint-
Mizpeh, who confirmed the divine appointment. Saul.
Saul, who appeared reluctant to accept the high dignity,
was fair and tall, and noble in appearance, patriotic, warlike,
generous, affectionate — the type of an ancient hero, but
vacillating, jealous, moody, and passionate. He was a man
to make conquests, but not to elevate the dignity of the

60 The Conquest of Canaan to David. [Chap. yi.

nation. Samuel retired into private life, and Saul reigned
over the whole people.

His first care was to select a chosen band of expe-
rienced warriors, and there was need, for the Philistines
His wars gathered together a great army, with 30,000

■with the i . i i t t

Philistines, chariots and 6,000 horsemen, and encamped at
Michmash. The Israelites, in view of this overwhelming
force, hid themselves from fear, in caves and amid the rocks
of the mountain fastnesses. In their trouble it was found
necessary to offer burnt sacrifices ; but Saul, impulsive and
assuming, would not wait to have the rites performed accord-
ing to the divine direction, but offered the sacrifices himself.
By this act he disobeyed the fundamental laws which Moses
had given, violated, as it were, the constitution ; and, as a
penalty for this foolish and rash act, Samuel pronounced his
future deposition; but God confounded, nevertheless, the
armies of the Philistines, and they were routed and scattered.
Saul then turned against the Amalekites, and took their
king, whom he spared in an impulse of generosity, even
though he utterly destroyed his people. Samuel reproved
him for this leniency against the divine command. Saul
attempted to justify himself by the sacrifice of all the ene-
mies' goods and oxen, to which Samuel said, " Hath the
Lord as great delight in burnt sacrifices and offerings as in
obeying the voice of the Lord ? Behold ! to obey is better
than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams ; for rebel-
lion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness as iniquity
and idolatry." Most memorable words ! thus setting virtue
and obedience over all rites and ceremonies — a final answer
to all ritualism and pbariseeism.

The remainder of the life of Saul was embittered by the
consciousness that the kingdom would depart from his
The unhap- house ; and by his jealousy of David, and his un-

piness of , . - . . ., , ,.

Saul. manljr persecution ot him ; m whom he saw his

successor. He was slain, with three of his sons, at the battle
of Gilboa, when the Philistines gained a great victory —
B.C. 1056.

Chap. VI.] Saul. 61

David, meanwhile had been secretly anointed by Samuel
as king over Israel. Nothing could exceed his David
grief when he heard of the death of Saul, and of
Jonathan, whom he loved, and who returned his love with a
love passing that of women, and who had protected him
against the wrath and enmity of his father.

David, of the tribe of Judah, after his encounter with
Goliah, was the favorite of the people, and was rewarded by
a marriage with the daughter of Saul — Michal, The enmity
who admired his gallantry and heroism. Saul too ° au '
had dissembled his jealousy, and heaped honors on the man
he was determined to destroy. By the aid of his wife, and
of Jonathan, and especially protected by God, the young
warrior escaped all the snares laid for his destruction, and
even spared the life of Saul when he was in his power in the
cave of Engecli. He continued loyal to his king, patiently
waiting for his future exaltation.

On the death of Saul, he was anointed king over Judah,
at Hebron : but the other tribes still adhered to „, , ..

' The elevation

the house of Saul. A civil war ensued, during of David,
which Abner, the captain-general of the late king, was
treacherously murdered, and also Ishboseth, the feeble suc-
cessor of Saul. The war lasted seven and a half years, when
all the cribes gave their allegiance to David, who then fixed
his seat at Jerusalem, which he had wrested from the Jebu-
sites, and his illustrious reign began, when he was thirty
years of age, b. c. 1048, after several years of adversity and



We can not enter upon a detail of the conquests of David,
the greatest warrior that his nation has produced. In suc-
The reio-n of cess i ve campaigns, extending over thirty years, he
David. reduced the various Canaanite nations that re-

mained unconquered — the Anialekites, the Moabites, the
Philistines, the Edomites, and the Syrians of Tobah. Hiram,
king of Tyre, was his ally. His kingdom extended from
the borders of Egypt to the Euphrates, and from the valley
of Coelo-Syria to the eastern gulf of the Red Sea. But his
reign, if glorious and successful, was marked by troubles.
He was continually at war ; his kingdom was afflicted with
a plague as the punishment for his vanity in numbering the
people ; his son Amnon disgraced him ; Absalom, his favorite
son, revolted and was slain ; he himself was expelled for a
time from his capital.

But David is memorable for his character, and his poetry,
Character of his romantic vicissitudes of life, and as the founder
of a dynasty rather than for his conquests over
the neighboring nations. His magnificent virtues blended
with faults, his piety in spite of his sins, his allegiance to
God, and his faith in his promises invest his character with
singular interest. In his Psalms he lives through all the gener-
ations of men. He reigned thirty-three years at Jerusalem,
and seven at Hebron, and transmitted his throne to
Solomon — his youngest child, a youth ten years of age, pre-
cocious in wisdom and culture.

The reign of Solomon is most distinguished for the mag-

The reign of nificent Temple he erected in Jerusalem, after the

oomon. designs furnished by his father, aided by the

Chap. VII.] Solomon. 63

friendship of the Phoenicians. This edifice, " beautiful for
situation — the joy of the whole earth," was the wonder of
those times, and though small compared with subsequent
Grecian temples, was probably more profusely ornamented
with gold, silver, and precious woods, than any building
of ancient times. We have no means of knowing its
architectural appearance, in the absence of all plans nis arc hnec-
and all ruins, and much ingenuity has been ex- tural works -
pended in conjectures, which are far from satisfac-
tory. It most probably resembled an Egyptian temple,
modified by Phoenician artists. It had an outer court for
worshipers and their sacrifices, and an inner court for the
ark and the throne of Jehovah, into which the high priest
alone entered, and only once a year. It was erected upon a
solid platform of stone, having a resemblance to the temples of
Paestum. The portico, as rebuilt, in the time of Herod, was
180 feet high, and the temple itself was entered by nine
gates thickly coated with silver and gold. The inner
sanctuary was covered on all sides by plates of gold, and
was dazzling to the eye. It was connected with various
courts and porticoes which gave to it an imposing appearance.
Its consecration by Solomon, amid the cloud of glories
in which Jehovah took possession of it, and the immense
body of musicians and singers, was probably the grandest
religious service ever performed. That 30,000 men were em-
ployed by Solomon, in hewing timber on Mount Lebanon, and
70,000 more in hewing stones, would indicate a very extensive
and costly edifice. The stones which composed the foundation
were of extraordinary size, and rivaled the greatest works of
the Egyptians. The whole temple was overlaid with
gold — a proof of its extraordinary splendor, and it took
seven years to build it.

The palace of Solomon must also have been of great mag-
nificence, on which the resomxjes of his kingdom
were employed for thirteen years. He moreover
built a palace for his wife, the daughter of Pharaoh, composed
of costly stones, the foundation-stones of which were fifteen feet

64 The Jewish Monarchy. [Chap.vii.

in length, surrounded with beautiful columns. But these
palaces did not include all his works, for the courts of the
temple were ornamented with brazen pillars, with elaborate
capitals, brazen seas standing upon bronze oxen, brazen
bases ornamented with figures of various animals, brazen
lavers, one of which contained forty baths, altars of gold,
tables, candelabras, basins, censers and other sacred vessels
of pure gold, — all of which together were of enormous
expense and great beauty.

During the execution of these splendid works, which occu-
pied thirteen years or more, Solomon gave extraordinary
indications of wisdom, as well as signs of s^reat

The wisdom ...

of Solomon, temporal prosperity. His kingdom was the most
powerful of Western Asia, and he enjoyed peace with other
nations. His fame spread through the East, and the Queen
of Sheba, among others, came to visit him, and witness his
wealth and prosperity. She was amazed and astonished at
the splendor of his life, the magnificence of his court, and
the brilliancy of his conversation, and she burst out in the
most unbounded panegyrics. " The half was not told me."
She departed leaving a present of one hundred and twenty
talents of gold, besides spices and precious stones ; and he
gave, in return, all she asked. We may judge of the wealth
of Solomon from the fact that in one year six hundred and
sixty-six talents of gold flowed into his treasury, besides the
spiees, and the precious stones, and ivory, and rare curiosi-
ties which were brought to him from Arabia and India.
The voyages of his ships occupied three years, and it is
supposed that they doubled the Cape of Good Hope. All
his banqueting cups and dishes were of pure gold, and " he
exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and wisdom,"
who made their contributions with royal munificence. In
his army were 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses, which it
would seem were purchased in Egypt.

Intoxicated by this splendor, and enervated by luxury,
Solomon forgot his hio-her duties, and vielded to

Hisapos- CT a .

tasy. the fascination of oriental courts. In his harem

Chap. TIL] Apostacy of Solomon. 65

were 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines, who turned
his heart to idolatry. In punishment for his apostacy, God
declared that his kingdom should he divided, and that his son
should reign only over the single tribe of Judah, which was
spared him for the sake of his father David. In his latter days
he was disturbed in his delusions by various adversaries
who rose up against him — by Hadad, a prince of Edom, and
Rezon, king of Damascus, and Jeroboam, one of his principal
officers, who afterward became king of the ten revolted
tribes. Solomon continued, however, to reign over the united
tribes for forty years, when he was gathered to his fathers.

The apostacy of Solomon is the most mournful fall record-
ed in history, thereby showing that no intellectual power can
rescue a man from the indulgence of his passions and the sins
of pride and vainglory. How immeasurably superior to
him in self-control was Marcus Aurelius, who had „. . ..

' His latter

the whole world at his feet ! It was women who da y s -
estranged him from allegiance to God — the princesses of idola
trous nations. Although no mention is made of his repentance,
the heart of the world w T ill not accept his final impenitence ;
and we infer from the book of Ecclesiastes, written when all
his delusions were dispelled — that sad and bitter and cynical
composition, — that he was at least finally persuaded that the
fear of the Lord constitutes the beginning and the end of all
wisdom in this probationary state. And we can not but feel
that he who urged this wisdom upon the young with so
much reason and eloquence at last was made to feel its power
upon his own soul.

The government of Solomon, nevertheless had proved arbi-
trarv, and his public works oppressive. The mon- The rebei-
arcii whom he most resembled, in his taste for beam.
magnificence, in the splendor of his reign, and in the vexa-
tions and humiliations of his latter days, was Louis XIV.
of France, who sowed the seeds of future revolutions. So
Solomon prepared the way for rebellion, by his grievous
exactions. Under his son Kehoboam, a vain and frivolous,
and obstinate young man, who ascended the throne b. c. 915,

66 The Jewish Monarchy. [Chap. vii.

the revolt took place. lie would not listen to his father's
councillors, and increased rather than mitigated the burdens
of the people. And this revolt was successful: ten tribes
joined the standard of Jeroboam, with 800,000 fighting men.
Judah remained faithful to Rehoboam, and the tribe of Ben-
jamin subsequently joined it, and from its geographical situ-
ation, it remained nearly as powerful as the other tribes,
having 500,000 fighting men. But the area of territory was
only quarter as large.

The Jewish nation is now divided. The descendants
Division of of David reign at Jerusalem; the usurper and
rebel Jeroboam reigns over the ten tribes, at

For the sake of clearness of representation we will first pre-

Online LibraryJohn LordAnceint states and empires → online text (page 5 of 55)