Crawford Howell Toy.

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

. (page 6 of 15)
Online LibraryCrawford Howell ToyThe history of the religion of Israel : an Old Testament primer .. → online text (page 6 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

there were no such great prophets in Judah as Elijah and Elisha,
we know, from after events, that there must have been a strong
party devoted to Yahwe, and opposed to the Canaanite gods.
And presently we shall see that this party was active and


1. On Elijah and Elisha : the commentaries and histories
above mentioned ; articles in cyclopedias and dictionaries.
Mendelssohn's oratorio, " Elijah," fairly represents the spirit of
the prophet and his work.

2. On the contemporaneous Syrian and Egyptian liistoiy and
the chronology : the works of Duncker, Maspero, Ruwlinson.


3. On the Phoenician history : Movers's " Die Phoenizier,"
Berlin, 1841-56; Duncker.

4. On the religion of Israel : the works of Kuenen and

5. On the Moabite Stone, the inscription on which throws
light on the history of the Omri dynasty and the religion of
Moab, see " Records of the Past," xi. 165.


1. How long did the united kingdom of Israel last V Under what three
kings ? Had the tribes ever Ijeen completely welded into one nation ? How
did Solomon increase the discontent of the northern tribes V How did he
offend the strict worshippers of Yahwe ? What happened when Solomon
died V Who was the first king of the Ten Tribes ?

2. What tribes did the kingdom of Israel embrace ? Was the throne a
stable one ? How many of Jeroboam's family reigned V How many of
Omri's family ? Were the kingdoms of Israel and Judah at first friendly to
each other ? Which was the stronger V In whose time did they form an
alliance V With what other nation did the Israelites have wars ?

3. What two important events took place dnring this period ? Who
established the calf-worship V Where ? Why V What deity did the calf
represent ? Did the people accept this worship ? Was it old Israelitish, or
more probably Canaanitish ? Who introduced the worship of Baal and
Ashera ? Whence did he take it V Did the people readily adopt it V Did
they also worship Yahwe V

4r. Were there people who wished Yahwe alone to be worshipped? Did
diey suffer the calf-worship V To what did they object ? What two men
were the leaders of the Yahwe party V How did they differ from each other
in character and work ? Do you know any of the stories about them ?
Did they succeed in destroying the worship of Baal in Israel ?

5. After Israel withdrew under Jeroboam, what family continued to
reign in Jerusalem over Judah ? Did they have wars V What nation pil-
laged the temple and the palace ? Who was Athaliah ? Did Yahwe con-
tinue to be worshipped in Jerusalem ? Were other gods worshipped ? What
king deposed his motlier for idolatry '? Was there a Yahwe partv in
Judah V




1. The Contrast between the Worships of Israel and
Canaan. — lu the preceding Lessons we have spoken of a conflict
between the Israelitish and the Canaanitish forms of religion ;
in fact, this conflict makes ahnost the whole of the religious
history of the northern kingdom (that is, to B.C. 720, when it
perished). These two religions differed not only in tlie names
of their deities, but also in the character of their worships. It
is doubtful whether Israel (the whole nation), when it entered
Canaan, had any god but Yahwe; and his worship was mostly
grave and severe, — it seems to have included human sacrifices
at one time, but it had no gay and licentious features. The
Canaanitish worship of the Baals, the Ashtaroth, and the Ashe-
ras did have such features; it was bright and joyous, and that
was very well, but it was also sometimes debasing. And there-
fore the prophets of Israel had a good reason, besides their
attachment to their own national deity, for opposing it; we
cannot help sympathizing with them in this. Looking back now
we can see that their opposition to foreign worships was God's
way of bringing Israel to a purer idea of the divine nature, and
it is largely to Israel that we owe such better notions of religion
as we have.

2. Elijah and Ellsha determine to root out Baalism. —

The prophets feared Baalism, and rightly. It was spreading
over all the land ; the people liked it because it was joyous, and
thus they were led by it into sin. In Judah it was popular-, but
in Israel it was adopted by the kings and the nobles, and was on
that account more dangerous. So the prophets Elijah and Elisha
resolved to root it out. They believed that this could not be done
so long as Ahab or any of his descendants sat on the throne, and
therefore they determined to overthrow this family. For that
purpose they selected one of the high oflicers of the army, named


Jehu, whom they knew to be a strict worshipper of Yahwe, and
advised him to revolt against the king (1 Kings xix. 16, 2 Kings
ix. 1-3). The army, they knew, would obey the general, and the
people were not friendly enough to Ahab's family to support it.

3. Jehu's Reform. — The plan was successful. One of Elisha's
prophets anointed Jehu king, the army followed him without a
word, and the dynasty of Omri was destroyed (2 Kings ix., x.).
Jehoram, Ahab's second son, was at that time king of Israel;
he was slain, and his mother, Jezebel, and all of Ahab's family,
and also Ahaziah, king of Judah. This happened about
B.C. 842. Then Jehu set himself to crush out the Baal- worship.
He called a great assembly of all the followers of Baal in the
temple of the god at Samaria, excluded all worshippers of
Yahwe, and slew the Baalites. The kingdom of Israel lasted
about a hundred and twenty years after this, but Baalism
never again raised its head. The calf-worship established by
Jeroboam continued, — it was really a worship of Yahwe ; but
the Cauaanite gods troubled Israel no more as they had done.
Some remnant of their worship there was (Hos. ii. 8), but it
grew feebler and feebler and at last died out completely.

In his religious reform Jehu found an efficient ally in
Jehonadab, the son of Rechab (2 Kings x. 15). These Rechab-
ites were strongly devoted to the worship of Yahwe, and enemies
of all Canaanitish customs. They even refused to live in cities,
fearing the luxury of that sort of life; they dwelt in tents, did
not cultivate the ground, tended cattle, and refrained from
drinking wine. They were still in existence in the days of the
prophet Jeremiah (Jer. xxxv.). No doubt there w^ere many
stanch servants of Yahwe who never bowed the knee to Baal
(1 Kings xix. 18, xviii. 4).

4. The Dynasty of Jehu. — The dynasty of Jehu lasted
about a hundred years. The chronology is uncertain just here;
we provisionally put the accession of Jehu B.C. 842 (it may
have been from twenty to thirty years earlier), and the death
of the last king of his family, Zachariah, B.C. 740. The mili-
tary history of this dynasty was, on the whole, glorious. Under
Jehu and his son, Jehoahaz, the Syrians gained important ad van-


tages over Israel, conquering the territory east of the Jordan
(2 Kings X. 32, 33, xiii. 3). The next king, Joash, was a war-
like prince and subdued Edom and Judah (xiv. 7-14). His sou
and successor, Jeroboam 11. , the greatest Israelitish conqueror
since David, restored the prestige of his country; his kingdom
extended from the Dead Sea on the south to Hamath on tlie
north (xiv. 25), that is, almost to the Euphrates River, whicli
was tlie boundary in David's time. He seems to have oven-un
the Syrian territory. In his reign prophesied the prophets
Amos, Hosea, and Jonah; but the Old Testament book of
Jonah was written later. Jeroboam's son, Zachariah (xv. 8-10)
reigned only a few months ; he was slain by conspirators, and
with him ended the dynasty of Jehu.

The most important political event of this period is the ap-
pearance of the Assyrians on the scene. This people had been
growing in power for several centuries, and, having conquered
their immediate neighbors, had begun to move towards Syria
and Canaan. They had descended as far as Hamath and
defeated the Syrians ; and it was probably in part because the
latter were thus weakened that Jeroboam II. was able to subdue
them (2 Kings xiii. 5). And Israel also felt the strong hand of
the Assyrian. It is mentioned in an inscription of the Assyrian
king Shalmaneser (b.c. S12) that he received tribute from Jehu.
Whether Jehu's descendants also paid tribute to Assyria we do
not know. As yet the great northern power only hovered
threateningly in the distance. The prophets saw the danger
and warned Israel (Amos v. 27, Hos. ix. 3, x. 6, xi. 5); but
the end was not far off.

5. Political History of Judah. — In Judah during this
period there was much disorder and suffering. King Ahaziah
joined his uncle Jehoram, king of Israel, in an unsuccessful
attack on the Syrians at Ramotli in Gilead'; the two kings re-
turned to Jezreel and were both slain by Jehu. Ahaziah's
mother, Athaliah, then seized the throne and put to deatla all
the royal family except Joash, the son of Ahaziah, an infant
a year old, who was concealed in the temple of Yaliwe by his
aunt, the wife of the priest Jehoiada. Having succeeded in



keeping him hidden six years, they made a plot, killed Athaliah,
destroyed tlie temple o^ Baal, and placed the boy Joash ou the
throne (2 Kings xi.). For many years the fortune of war was
against Judah. Joash had to buy off the Syrians with the gold
and silver treasures of the royal palace and the temple of Yah-
we (xii. 17, 18). His son Amaziah was defeated and humbled
by Joash, king of Israel (xiv. 8-11). According to the book of
Chronicles, the next king, Azariah or Uzziah, was more success-
ful, subduing the Philistines, Ammonites, and otlier neighboring
nations (2 Chron. xxvi.); the book of Kings says nothing about
this (2 Kings xv. 1-5). Uzziah was contemporary with the last
of the Jehu dynasty in Israel. The Assyrians had not yet
approached Judah.

6. Religion in Judah. — We have seen that the worship of
Baal was maintained in Jerusalem by the Kings Jehoram and
Ahaziah and Queen Athaliah. It was destroyed by Jehoiada,
and we hear nothing further of it till after the death of Jotham,
the son of Uzziah. Yah we was zealously worshipped ; his temple
at Jerusalem was repaired by Joash (2 Kings xii.). However,
there were high places all over the land where the people sacri-
ficed (xiv. 4, XV. 4, 35). This was not considered wrong at the
time; it was the worship of Yah we. Afterwards it came to be
thought wrong to worship anywhere but at Jerusalem; and so
the writer of the book of Kings, who lived at that later time,
always blames the kings for allowing the high places to stand.
And we can easily see that they would lead to the worship of
other gods than Yahwe. So, for example, Beersheba in Judah
was the seat of an idolatrous worship (Amos viii. 14).


1 . On the political and religious history, see the books already

2. On Assyria: Rawlinson's " Ancient Monarchies," New
York, 1871, vol. ii., 99-121; Smith's " Assyrian Cauon," and
the works of Schrader mentioned above.

3. Racine's " Athalie " will help somewhat in undei'standing
the times, though it is much modernized.



1. What conflict forms the greater part of the history of the religion of
Israel ? What was the difference between the two religions ? Were the
prophets right in opposing Baalism ? Why V

2. What two prophets resolved to destroy the worship of Baal in Israel?
In order to do this, what was necessary ? Whom did they select as their
instriiment ? On what did tiiey count?

3. Was the plan of the prophets successful ? What two kings did Jehu
kill? About what time did this happen? What stratagem did .lelui employ
in order to slay the followers of Baal ? Did Baalism ever trouble Israel after
this ? What ally did Jehu find ? What was the manner of life of the sons
of Rechab ? Why did tliey fear city life ?

4. What is a dj'nasty ? How long did the dynasty of Jehu last ? Was
it in general politically prosperous? Who was the most powerful of its
kings ? How far did his territory extend ? What prophets lived in his
reign? What is the most important political event of this period ? Where
did the Assyrians live ? How far westward and southward had they come ?
Had they weakened the Syrians ? What king of Israel paid tribute to the
Assyrians ? Did the prophets see danger to Israel from Assyria ?

5. During this period what was the condition of affairs in Judah ? After
the death of Ahaziah what woman seized the throne ? Who Avas she ? By
whom was she slain ? Were Joash, Amaziah, and Uzziah successful in war ?
Had the Assyrians j-et approached Judah ?

6. Was the worship of Baal still maintained in Jerusalem ? Was Yahwe
zealously worshipped ? Did the people all over the land sacrifice on high
places ? Why was this not thought wrong at the time? Why was it after-
wards thought wrong? And, in fact, would it be likely to lead to idolatry?
Can you mention one seat of idolatrous worship in Judah? Where is this
mentioned ?



1. Development of Israelitish Literature. — None of the
books of the Old Testament, as we now have them, were com-
posed earlier than the eighth century before Christ (b.c. 800-
700). The Israelites were hardly civilized before the time of


Samuel and David, and not ready to write books for a century
or two later. AVe find that nations usually begin their literary
efforts with poetry, short songs commemorating festivals, battles,
and other remarkable events. Then come annals, brief records
of history and tradition. Next we shall probably find sayings
and discourses of wise men (sages and prophets). Last of all
we have law books, connected histories, long poems, and philo-
sophical discussions. This was, in general, the course of the
literary development of the Israelites, and in the Old Testament
we have its final outcome. First there were short pieces like
the well-song in Num. xxi. 17, 18, and then longer productions,
as in Num. xxi. 27-30, Gen. iv. 23, 24, 2 Sam. i. 19-27,
Judges V. When the kingdom was established, there were
probably attached to the court officers whose duty it was to
record current events (2 Sam. viii. 16, 17). The priests and
the prophets also would occupy themselves with collecting and
writing out the traditions of the early times. It was about at
this stage that the Israelites had arrived when Jeroboam II. was
reigning in the northern kingdom and Uzziah in the southern.
Many traditions had grown up about Abi-aham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and the deliverance from Egypt. Perhaps at this time
short histories of the patriarchs began to be written, and brief
sketches of later times, together with lists of laws. These books
have all perished, but their substance is contained in our present
Pentateuch and historical books.

2. The Different Sorts of Prophets and their Writ-
ings. — It marks an important turning-point in the history
of Israel when the prophets begin to record their discourses.
There had been prophets since the days of Samuel, and they had
spoken much. But what they said had been confined to some
passing occurrence ; they rebuked kings for evil, or predicted
disaster or blessing, or gave counsel in emergencies. The num-
ber of prophets was very great. Obadiah once hid a hundred of
them from Jezebel (1 Kings xviii. 4), and four hundred proph-
esied at one time before Ahab (xxii. 6). They were not all in
the service of Yahwe ; Baal and Ashera had their prophets
(xviii. 19). And the prophets of Yahwe were not all alike.


The predictions and discourses of some, as Zedekiah in 1 Kings
xxii. 11, were the result of mere patriotic enthusiasm, or desire
to please the king ; wliile others, like Micaiah in the same story,
were controlled by moral considerations, and would never prom-
ise Yahwe's favor to any but those who did right. Almost all
the prophets whose writings have been preserved belong to the
latter class. At first no record was kept of prophetic

discourses ; we have no books from Samuel, Nathan, Ahijah,
Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah. This was partly because the
Israelites were not accustomed to writing in those early days,
and partly because the sayings of the prophets were short ,and
disconnected, and related to single, passing occurrences. But
after a while came a different state of things. Israel advanced
in civilization and culture, and composition was more pi-actised.
At the same time the nation came into closer relations with
foreign lands, Egypt, Syria, Assyria. Dangers threatened it
from these great powers. Its future became complicated and
doubtful. Good and wise men began to ask what would become
of their people. Their God, Yah we, was powerful — why, then,
(lid their enemies conquer or harass them ? So they began to
see that God was not only mighty, but also holy and just ; if
his people would prosper, they must be holy also. There arose
men who felt themselves sent by God to deliver this message to
the people, to tell them that they were suffering because they
had forsaken the commandments of the holy Yahwe. They
were the true prophets. Some of them delivered or composed
long and vigorous discourses (sermons, we should call tliem),
and these were written down and preserved.

3. Amos. — The first of the writing prophets in order of
time is Amos (we have nothing from Jonah, 2 Kings xiv. 2.5).
According to the superscription of his book (Amos i.l), he was
a native or resident of Tekoa in the south of Judah, where his
business was to tend cattle ; he was not a menial, but the owner
of herds. There were in those days schools or communities where
men were bred to the profession of prophet, by whicli some of
them used to earn their living ; such men were often venal.
Amos was not one of them. He had no professional education ;


the word of Yahwe came into his soul with such power that he
must needs leave his herds, and go and preach to the people
(Amos vii. li, 15) ; so the Apostle Paul felt (1 Cor. ix. 16).
His prophecies refer to both Israel and Judah ; but he seems to
have gone up to Samaria to live, and to have addressed himself
chiefly to the northern kingdom. It was while Jeroboam II.
was king (about B.C. 780). Israel was comparatively prosperous,
and Judah was in adversity. In both kingdoms there was in-
justice and other wickedness, and in neither was the pui'e wor-
ship of Yahwe maintained ; Israel worshipped him under the
form of a calf at Bethel and Dan, and Judah practised idolatry
at Beersheba and elsewhere.

Amos's words to Israel are stern. After denouncing punish-
ment on Damascus, the Philistines, Tyre, Edom, Amnion, Moab,
and Judah (i., ii.), he turns to Israel, describes its ingratitude,
idolatry, and injustice (ii.-v.), and predicts captivity and other
calamity (vi.-ix.). But at the end (ix. 11-15) he says that Judah
shall be established in prosperity as in the days of old, and Israel
shall be restored to its land, and dwell there forever. Yahwe,
who reveals his secret to his servants the prophets (iii. 7) , will
do this. Yahwe, he says, is lord of all nations, not of Israel
only. Amos's style is vivid and bright. His projihecies (which
were not all delivered at once) were probably collected after
his death.

4. Hosea. — Hosea, who was a younger contemporary of
Amos (about b.c. 775-725), also addresses himself chiefly to
the nortliern kingdom. We know nothing of his origin and life ;
but we can see from his book that he was of a different nature
from Amos. He pleads tenderly with his people to forsake their
evil. His tone is one of loving sorrow. He sees that Israel
must suffer punishment for its sin, but he grieves over the sad
condition of things. He makes prominent Yahwe's love for his
people. He has many references to the old times ; he speaks a
great deal of the patriarch Jacob especially (xii.). With all his
tenderness he can be sharply severe ; he does not try to excuse
the people's sin : " Shall I ransom them from the hand of Sheol?
shall I redeem them from death? Where are thy plagues, O


death ? where thy pestilence, O Sheol? repentance shall be hid
from my eyes " (xiii. 14). In his days Assyria began to threaten
Israel, and he predicts that they shall be conquered and carried
away captive by this people (ix. 3, xi. 5). He closes with a word
of love and jiromise (xiv. 4-8). Some man, who edited his book,
added at the end an exhoi'tation to the reader (xiv. 9).

5. The Influence of Amos and Hosea. — Thus these two
prophets strove to hold their people to the worship of Yah we
alone. And more, they speak of Yahwe as a holy God, who will
not endure wickedness. In this way they laid the foundations
of pure monotheism. Perhaps they thought that the Baals and
the other deities were real gods ; but Yahwe they believed stood
above them all in ethical qualities, and after a while Israel came
to see that they are not gods at all, but only names.


1. On Israelitish prophecy : the books mentioned in Lesson
VI. ; W. Robertson Smith's "Old Testament in the Jewish
Church," New York, 1881 ; Fairbairn's " Prophecy."

2. On Amos and Ilosea : the commentaries of Steiner, 1881
(" Kurzgefasstes Exegetisches Handbuch "), Lange, and Pusey,
and the " Speaker's Commentary ; " Heilprin's " Historical
Poetry of the Ancient Hebrews," New York, 1879, 1880 ;
Duhm's " Theologie der Propheten," Bonn, 1875; W. R.
Smith's " Prophets of Israel."

3. On the earliest writings : the Introductions of De Wette-
Schrader, Berlin, 1869, and Bleek-Wellhausen, Berlin, 1878;
Heilprin's work above mentioned.


1. When were the earliest of our Old Testament books composed ? How
do nations usually begin their literary efforts? What comes after this?
Was this the case with the Israelites ? What men wrote down the annals
and traditions ? Did the Israelites perhaps have brief historical and legal
writings in the days of Jeroboam II. and Uzziah ? Do any of thesj older
books now exist ?


2. Did the earliest prophets speak much ? On what occasions ? Was
the number of prophets great ? Did other gods besides Yahwe have
prophets ? Were the prophets of Yahwe all alike ? What was the difference
between Zedekiah and Micaiah, for instance V Did the earlier pi-ophets
compose books ? Wh^' not V What change came about in Israel's literary
culture and general condition V When Israel suffered, what did the true
prophets say was the reason ? Was it a great step forward when they be-
gan to talk about the holiness of Yahwe V

3 • Who is the earliest of the writing prophets ? Where was he born,
and what was his business ? Was he a professional prophet ? Why did he
preach '1 Where did he prophesy ? Under what king ? What was the
condition of Israel at this time? — the condition of Judah ? What is the
tone of Amos's words to Israel ? What hope does he hold out to Judah and
Israel ? Does he call Yahwe the lord of all nations ? Is this an advance
out of national religious narrowness ?

4. What was the date of Hosea's prophecies ? To which kingdom did
he chiefly address himself ? Was his disposition like that of Amos ? What
is his tone V What quality of Yahwe does he make prominent ? Is he also
sometimes severe ? What does he say of Assyria ?

5. What did Amos and Hosea try to do ? How did they speak of
Yahwe ? How did they lay the foundations of pure monotheism ?



1. The Fall of the Northern Kingdom. — After the death
of Jeroboam II. (about b.c. 744) the kingdom of Israel rapidly
declined. The throne was occupied for twenty years by a series
of worthless kings. There were constant wars, intrigues, and
murders. King Pekah of Israel twice joined the Syrians in
attacks on Judah; the second attack, which was directed against
Ahaz (about B.C. 731), failed completely (2 Kings xvi. 5, Is.
vii. 1).- Ahaz called in the aid of the Assyrian king Tiglath-
pileser II., who in B.C. 732 captured Damascus and destroyed the
kingdom of Syria. For about 230 years (that is, ever since the
deatli of Solomon) the Syrians had been a tliorn in the side of
Israel. But Israel gained notliiug by their destruction ; they


had, iu fact, of late years been a barrier between it and the
Assyrians, and now, the barrier removed, Israel was at the
mercy of the huge northern empire. The end was not long de-
layed. In the year 729 B.C. Hoshea (the name is the same as

1 2 3 4 6 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 6 of 15)