Crawford Howell Toy.

The history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. online

. (page 5 of 15)
Online LibraryCrawford Howell ToyThe history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. → online text (page 5 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


that the people clamored for a change, the elders met together
to consult (1 Sam. viii.), Samuel agreed to their demand, and,
througli liis influence, a Benjaminite named Saul was chosen
king. He proved, on the whole, a very good ruler. He seems
to have united the greater part of the land under his sceptre.
He was for a long time successful in his wars against the enemies
of Israel, including the Philistines (xiv. 47, 48) ; though he fell
in battle against them (xxxi.), they were so weakened by him
that David easily conquered them. He seems to have been a
bluff, frank-souled soldier, generous, impulsive, and self-willed.
He was afflicted with a species of melancholy, a disease that
darkened parts of his life; it is described in the narrative as
possession by an evil spirit from Yah we (1 Sam. xvi. 14). He
was also a decided worshipper of Yah we ; we read nothing of
his serving other gods. He was fiercely zealous against the idol-
atrous wizards and necromancers (xxviii. 3) . But after a while
he quarrelled with Samuel, or rather, Samuel withdrew from
him (xv. 35). Two causes of this disagreement are mentioned: ,
Saul, as head of the nation, once offered a sacrifice himself
instead of waiting for Samuel (xiii. 9-13); and he refused to
destroy the king and the cattle of the Araalekites, as Samuel com-



RELIGION OP ISRAEL. 35

manded (xv.). That is, Samuel, though no longer judge, wished
to retain his former prominence and authority, and desired
that Saul should be as ardent a follower of Yah we as himself ;
Saul, on the other hand, was inclined to be independent. Sam-
uel therefore withdrew and chose another king (David), who
would better carry out his ideas. Saul seems to have been be-
loved by his people, and, notwithstanding his unhappy death,
added no little to his country's prosperity.

4. The Book of SamueL — The history of Samuel and Saul
is given in the first part of the book of Samuel, which is now
printed as a separate book called First Samuel. Samuel was
probably composed by a prophet during the Babylonian Exile
from older writings and traditions.

LITERATURE.

1. On the book of Samuel : commentaries of Tlienius
( " Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch " ), Leipzig, 1864, and
Lange, English translation, New York, 1877.

2. On Israelitish prophecy: R. Payne Smith's "Prophecy
a Preparation for Christ," London and New York, 1871; Kue-
nen's " The Prophets and Prophecy in Israel," English
translation, London, 1877; Ewald's "The Prophets of the
Old Testament," English translation; W. Robertson Smith's
"Prophets of Israel," New York, 1882.

QUESTIONS.

1. How far does the book of Judges carry the history? Where do we
find ourselves in the beginning of the book of Samuel V What religious
worship was carried on at Shiloh ? Who was priest there ? Was he also
judge V What was the political condition of the country? Who were the
Philistines?

2. Who was the groat man of this time ? Where was he born, and where
brought up ? What did lie do when Eli died? Was his religious work val-
uable? Why were the Israelites drawn into the worship of the Canaauite
gods? What did Samuel think of this? What was the Yahwe party?
Why did Samuel found communities of prophets? What was a prophet?
What was a seer ? Were the prophets at first moral teachers ? What use



36 THE HISTORY OP THE

did they make of music ? What good work did thej' perform in later times ?
In Samuel's time were there any such great religious teachers as Amos and
Isaiah V

3. Why did the Israelites wish for a stronger government? What is
meant by a strong government ? Who was chosen king ? Of what tribe
was he J? Was he a good ruler ? Was he successful against his enemies V
Was he a worshipper of YahweV What did he do to the wizards and
witches ? Why did Samuel withdraw from him ? How did Saul die ? Did
he add to his country's prosperity V

4. In what book do we find the history of Samuel and Saul? When was
it written? Whence its name?



LESSON VIT.

DAVID AND SOLOMON.

1. Legends of Great Men. — We have now reached another
great name in the history of Israel — Saul's successor, David.
We shall find that, though he was truly a great man, the ac-
counts of him that have reached us are exaggerated. So it is
with the histories of Moses and Samuel, and so it commonly is
with the lives of great men who lived far back. The people
remember that these men did some remarkable thing, stories
about them grow up from generation to generation, and in
later times all things that are like what they did are ascribed
to them. Moses was believed to have begun the Law, and then
he was believed to be the author of all the laws. It was known
that Samuel had something to do with the prophets and the
king, and so it was supposed that he chose and established the
first king, and was himself a prophet, like Isaiah. David was
a successful warrior and a poet, and was afterwai'ds represented
as having composed half the Psalms of the Old Testament.

2. David as King and Man. — David was born and
reared in the town of Bethlehem, in the tribe of Judah. He
was a shepherd and a warrior, and, while still a youth, distin-
guished himself by his deeds of valor (for the story of Goliath,



RELIGION OF ISRAEL. 37

see 1 Sam. xvii.). It seems that in some way he became
the head of a party opposed to Saul, and he had to leave the
comitry and take refuge with the Philistine king of Gath
(1 Sam. xxvii.). On the death of Said he was declared king-
by the tribe of Judah (probably about B.C. 1040), and after
some years of war established his authority over the whole
laud of Israel. He then began a series of brilliant campaigns,
in which, with his famous general, Joab, he subdued the
Philistines and other neighboring tribes (Edomites, Moabites,
Ammonites) and extended his dominion to the Euphrates
River. He conquered the Syrians, and became an ally of the
Phoenicians (Tyre), but did not come into contact with the
Egyptians and Assyrians, these nations being then elsewhere
occupied. David was thus the founder of a mightj'

empire; in his day there was, perhaps, none mightier. He
made Israel a united people and laid the foundations of its
future history. His method of governing was like that of all
monarchs of that time; kings were then accustomed to do as
they pleased. He was tempted into committing wicked deeds,
as many other kings have been. He was not above the cruel
customs of his day (2 Sam. viii. 2, xii. 31). But he appears to
have repented of his evil when it was brought home to his
conscience (xii. 13), and to have been humble under affliction
(xvi. 11, 12); tliough it must be admitted that his dying
instructions to his son (1 Kings ii. 5-9) were not in the spirit of
the jSTew Testament. We must judge him according to the
light he had.

3. David as Religious Man and Poet. — David, like Saul,
was a devoted worshipper of Yahwe ; and, so far as we know,
never worshipped any of the Canaanite deities. This does not
mean that he thought there was only one God (monotheism).
On the contrary, he seems to have believed that each nation had
its own god, and that in every land one must worship the god of
that land (1 Sam. xxvi. 19). But he preferred the god of his
own country. When he became king and had conquered the
citadel of Jerusalem (Zion), he brought the ark to his new
capital, having made a tent (tabernacle) for it (2 Sam. vi.)



38 THE HISTORY OF THE

In those days the ark was believed to be the special dwelling-
place of Yahwe, and great reverence was paid it (1 Sam. iv.-vi.) ;
it was a small box, but whence it came, and what it contained,
we do not know. (For the contents of the ark in Solomon's
temple, see 1 Kings viii. 9; for later ideas as to what the earlier
ark contained, see Heb. ix. 4, compared with Ex. xvi. 33,
and Num. xvii. 10.) David intended to build a temple for'
Yahwe (2 Sam. vii.), but was so constantly engaged in war that
he did not lind time. The priests, offerings, and feasts, and
other religious arrangements were about the same in his time
as under Samuel and Saul. David was not only a great

warrior, but also an excellent poet; he composed a beautiful
and pathetic elegy on Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. i. 19-27).
Many of the Psalms are ascribed to him in the titles, but we
cannot be sure that he was the author of any of them. In later
times, when he was looked on as the great hero and warrior-poet,
it was natural that he should be represented as the composer
of the hymns of the temple-service.

4. Solomon as King and Sage. — Solomon, David's son
and successor, was the most magnificent of the Israelitish
kings. The period of his reign may be put at about b.c. 1000-
960. He inherited and maintained the empire of his father.
He enriched himself and his people by foreign commerce, and
adorned Jerusalem with splendid buildings. He entered into
marriage alliances with many of the surrounding nations.
But he alienated the northern tribes by heavy taxation, and
prepared the way for the division of the kingdom (see Lesson
VIII.). At the same time he was a patron of literature and
philosophy. He attracted to his court the sages of Israel and
the neighboring peoples, and was himself a sage (1 Kings iv.
30-34, X. 1-13). The wise men of those days spoke chiefly of
matters of every-day life; they gave rules of conduct in the
form of short, striking sayings (proverbs), drawing illustrations
from trees, beasts, birds, reptiles, and fishes (1 Kings iv. 33).
Three books in the Old Testament are ascribed to Solomon:
Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes, but we cannot
regard him as their author. Tlie second and third were com-



RELIGION OF ISRAEL. 39

posed long after his time, and so was much of the first ; but it
is not unlikely that he and the sages of his court uttered and
arranged a good many of these proverbial sayings (called in
Hebrew, mashal, •' similitude").

5. Solomon's Temple. — Solomon was not exclusively de-
voted to the worship of Yahwe; he paid honor to other deities.
His foreign wives had temples for their gods (1 Kings xi. 5-8),
and he joined in their worship; and so, no doubt, did the pec
pie. But he was an Israelite, and fond of splendor, and he built
a magnificent temple to Yahwe on Mount Moriah in Jei-usalem
(1 Kings vi., vii.) This was a very important event in the his-
tory of the religion of Israel. Up to this time there had been
no central place of worship, but now all the people would go to
Jerusalem to worship in the great temple of their own Yahwe.
From this time the outward part of the religion, the ritual,
ceremonial side, began to grow; and we shall see that it did
both good and harm. The priests of the Jerusalem temple
began now to take precedence over other priests, and their
power continued to increase till they became rulers of the nation
(after the Exile). It is not said in the book of Kings that
Solomon's temple was built after the model of the tabernacle
described in Exodus; and, in fact, it is doubtful whether this
latter ever existed.

6. The Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. — The life
of David is given in the two books of Samuel and the two first
chapters of First Kings, and that of Solomon in 1 Kings
iii.-xi. ; and there is another account in Chronicles, 1 Chron.
xi.-xxix. being devoted to David, and 2 Chron. i.-ix. to
Solomon. The difference between the books of Kings and
Chronicles is this:' Kings (which is a continuation of Judges
and Samuel) was written by a prophet during the Babylonian
Exile; it gives the history of both the southern kingdom of
Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel (see Lesson VIII.),
and its object is to show that the nation's prosperity was
in proportion to its obedience to Yahwe ; Chronicles was written
by a priest or a Levite more than two hundred years later, it



40 THE HISTORY OF THE

gives the history of Judah only, and its object is to show that
the nation's prosperity was in proportion to its observance of
the temple-service. Much that Chronicles says of the temple-
service is not reliable. The life of David in Samuel contains
some repetitions and obscurities, but is in the main trustworthy.
The history of Solomon in Kings seems to be somewhat embel-
lished. Such embellishments, however, are simply records of
traditions ; the historical books of the Old Testament (except,
perhaps, Chronicles) are honest endeavors to set forth the facts
of the history.

7. The Chronology. — The chronolog'y of the history of
Israel begins to be firmer in the time of David and Solomon,
thougn it is by no means sure. Before this time the numbers
given in the Old Testament seem to be based on a tradition that
cannot be depended on; so that we have, for example, to try
to fix the date of the Exodus by the help of Egyptian history.
But during the period of the kings, the numbers seem to be
taken from written records, and if we can fix some one point,
as the capture of Babylon by Cyrus, we can then reckon back
to Solomon and David, having the aid of the Assyrian monu-
ments. The date of the accession of Solomon, given above in
the fourth paragraph, is approximately correct; pei'haps within
fifty years

LITERATURE.

1. On David and Solomon: the general histories of Israel
mentioned in former Lessons; articles in cyclopedias and dic-
tionaries. For the legends, Baring-Gould and Weil.

2. On Solomon's temple: Fergusson's " History of Architec-
ture," London, 1874, and his "Temples of the Jews," London,
1878; articles in Bible dictionaries.

3. On the chronology of this period: George Smith's " As-
syrian Canon," London, 1875; Schrader's " Die Keil-inschiften
und das Alte Testament," Giessen, 1883; W. R. Smith's
" Prophets of Israel," sections iv. and v. ; the commentaries on
Kings and Chronicles; articles in dictionaries.



RELIGION OP ISRAEL. 41

4. On the book of Kings: commentaries of Thenius ("Kurz-
gefasstes Exegetisches Handbucli") and Lange, English transla-
tion, New York, 1872; articles in dictionaries.

5. On the book of Chronicles: commentaries of Bertheau
(" Kurzgefasi


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCrawford Howell ToyThe history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. → online text (page 5 of 15)