Copyright
Heinrich Graetz.

History of the Jews (Volume 1) online

. (page 16 of 46)
Online LibraryHeinrich GraetzHistory of the Jews (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the two kings sought to strengthen himself by
alliances, and thus frustrate all hostile plans. Reho-
boam made a treaty with the newly elected king of
Damascus, the state founded by Rezon, the bandit,
in Solomon's time, having attained great power.
Rezon, or his successor Tabrimon, had united various
Aramaean districts to Damascus, and ruled over
extensive territory. The treaty between Rehoboam
and the king of Damascus prevented Jeroboam from
attacking the kingdom of Judah, and visiting it with
the horrors of a long war. Jeroboam, on the other
hand, formed an alliance with another power, in order
to exasperate and alarm the king of Judah.

A union of the two kingdoms was distasteful to



1 84 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. CH. X.

both. The difference in their history prevented their
coalescing. The house of Israel, especially the tribe
of Ephraim, willingly relinquished the advantages
which might accrue from a union with the house of
David, in order that it might not be forced to assume
an inferior position. The more worthy in both king-
doms were probably filled with grief at the breach
which had occurred, but they were unable to avert it.
The civil war which appeared imminent was pre-
vented by the prophet Shemaiah, who, in the name
of God, called on the Judseans and Benjamites to
desist from fratricide. Slight feuds, however, broke
out between the contiguous kingdoms, as was un-
avoidable between such near neighbours, but they
led to no serious result.

Jeroboam was effectually aided in his ambitious
plans by Shishak (Sheshenk), who, it is said, married
his wife's elder sister Ano to the fugitive Israelite,

o

just as he had given another sister in marriage to
the Idumsean prince who had taken refuge with him.
Shishak probably had furnished Jeroboam with the
supplies of money that enabled him to return to his
fatherland, and now the new king seems to have
formed an alliance with him against Judah. Thus
Rehoboam was prevented from undertaking any
noteworthy steps against Israel. In order to secure
himself from Egyptian and Israelitish attacks, Reho-
boam erected a chain of fortresses in a circuit of
several miles round about the capital. But they failed
him in the hour of need. Shishak, with an overwhelm-
ing force, undertook a war against Rehoboam in the
fifth year of the Jewish king's reign (972). Overcome
by excess of numbers, the strongholds were taken one
after another by the Egyptian armies, and Shishak
pressed forward as far as Jerusalem. It appears that
the capital yielded without a struggle, and the
Egyptian king contented himself with seizing the
treasures which Solomon had deposited in the palace
and the Temple. He appropriated all the money



CH. X. WAR WITH EGYPT. 185

then in Jerusalem, as well as the golden shields
and spears which the king's guards used in royal
processions to the Temple. He, however, left the
kingdom of Judah intact, did not even touch the
walls of Jerusalem, and left Rehoboam on his throne.
On his return, Shishak commemorated his deeds of
prowess and his victories over Judah and other dis-
tricts by records and monuments. The alliance
between Solomon and the king of Egypt was thus
of but short duration. His son learned the futility
of such a treaty, and experienced how little trust can
be placed in plans and political measures, though
apparently the outcome of the deepest calculation
and forethought. Solomon, in spite of his wisdom,
had acted thoughtlessly in regard to the union with
the daughter of Pharaoh. He had built her a special
palace, and within a few years after his decease, an
Egyptian .:ing ransacked this very palace and other
monumental buildings of Solomon, and plundered
them of all their treasures. The grandeur and power
of Solomon's kingdom were at an end.

Jeroboam fortified Shechem and built himself a
palace, which served also as a citadel (Armon) for
purposes of defence. On the opposite side of the
Jordan, he also fortified various towns, among them
Penuel (or Peniel), to serve as a rampart against
attacks from the south, where the Moabites and the
Ammonites, in consequence of what had taken place,
had separated themselves from the Israelites, in the
same way as the Idumaeans had shaken off the yoke
of the Judaeans. Internal embarrassments forced
Jeroboam to introduce innovations. Guided either
by habit or conviction, the families of the northern
tribes continued to present themselves at Jerusalem
in the autumn at harvest time, in order to take part
in the service of the invisible God. This loyalty to the
Jewish capital, even though manifested by only a part
of his subjects, was a source of great anxiety to Jero-
boam. How would it be if the people turned in ever



1 86 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. CH. X.

increasing numbers to the temple in Jerusalem, and
once more made peace with the house of David?
Would he not be dethroned as quickly as he had
attained to royalty ? In order to avoid the possibility
of such a reunion, Jeroboam matured a wicked plan,
which caused Israel to fall back into the ways of
idolatry and barbarity.

During his protracted stay in Egypt, Jeroboam
had become acquainted with the system of worship
established there, and he had observed that the
worship of animals, particularly of the bull, tended to
promote the aims of despotic government. He had
observed that this animal worship served to stul-
tify the nation, and Jeroboam thought he might turn
to his own purposes a system so politic and advan-
tageous. He therefore, in conjunction with his ad-
visers, devised a plan by which these observances
should be introduced in the Ten Tribes. He con-
sidered that this idol-worship might be of advantage
to him in other ways, as it would keep him in favour
with the court of Egypt. Israel would appear as a
dependency of Egypt, and both countries, having com-
mon religious observances and customs, would also
have common interests. The habits of Egypt were
of special interest to him, as his wife was probably
an Egyptian, and connected with the royal house of
Egypt. Jeroboam also studied the convenience of
the tribes. He wished to relieve those who lived far
off from the necessity of making long journeys at the
time of the harvest. At Bethel and at Dan, Jeroboam,
therefore, put up golden calves, and issued a procla-
mation to the effect: "This is thy God,O Israel, who
brought thee out of Egypt." In Bethel, where he
himself intended to preside at the worship, he built a
large temple, in which he also placed a sacrificial altar.
To prevent the people from celebrating the Feast of
Ingathering at Jerusalem, he fixed the festival a month
later (in the eighth instead of the seventh month).
Probably also a different time-reckoning was followed,



CH. X. IDOLATRY OF JEROBOAM. I$7

according to the longer solar, instead of the shorter
lunar year.

The nation, as a whole, appears to have taken no
offence at this alteration, but to have actually re-
garded it as a revival of the ancient mode of worship.
The fundamental principle, the unity of God, was in
no way affected by it. Jeroboam had not attempted
to introduce polytheism, but had merely given them
incarnations of the Deity, symbolising strength and
fruitfulness. The people, naturally sensual, were,
indeed, well pleased to have a representation of the
Godhead. The spirituality of God, not admitting
of ocular demonstration, was at that period more
remote from their comprehension than the conception
of His unity. Sensual dissipation and depravity
were not bound up with the worship of the bull as
with the Canaanite service of Baal, and therefore it
did not outrage the moral sense.

Thus the people gradually became accustomed to
repair to Bethel or Dan for the high feasts; other-
wise they made their offerings at home, or at the
nearest place where sacrifices had been offered of old.
Jeroboam fully attained his object; the nation became
stultified, and bowed to him in servile obedience.
The tribe ofLevi, however, caused him anxiety. No
Levite would consent to perform the office of priest
at the worship of the bull; for Samuel's prophetic
teachings had made a lasting impression on this
tribe. That Jeroboam might not compel their
services, the Levites, who had been living in the
Israelitish towns, wandered forth, and settled in the
kingdom of Judah. As he could not possibly manage
without priests, he took any one who offered himself
to serve in that capacity. At one festival he himself
performed the priestly office, in order to elevate it in
the eyes of the people, or, perhaps, in imitation of
the Egyptian custom. Jeroboam was thus led step
by step to destroy the original principles of Judaism.

His conduct was not allowed to pass uncon-



1 88 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. CH. X.

demned. The old prophet, Ahijah, of Shiloh, who
had incited Nebat's ambitious son to insurrection, now
was too old and frail to lift his voice publicly against
these proceedings. When, however, Jeroboam's wife
visited him at Shiloh, to consult him about the dan-
gerous illness of her eldest son, the prophet took the
opportunity of announcing to her the approaching
dissolution of the royal house. But a return was
impossible, without paving the way to a reunion
with the house of David. From motives of self-pre-
servation, he was obliged to continue in the way he
had chosen. The new worship was, therefore, re-
tained during the existence of the kingdom of the
Ten Tribes, and none of Jeroboam's successors at-
tempted to make any alteration in its form.

In the kingdom of Judah (or House of Jacob), the
conditions were quite different. Politically weakened
by the severance of the tribes and the incursions of
Egypt under Shishak, its wounds were too deep to
heal before the lapse of a considerable time. But Judah
had not sunk in religion or morals. Rehoboam
appears to have troubled himself but little about
religious or moral affairs; he was indifferent in every
respect, and his pride having once received a blow,
he seems to have passed his days in idleness. But
the Temple, on the one hand, and the Levites, on the
other, appear to have counteracted all deteriorating
influences. In outward appearance all remained as
it had been in the time of Solomon ; the High Altars
(Bamoth), on which families performed the sacrificial
rites throughout the year, continued to be maintained,
but at the autumn festivals the people repaired to
the temple. Deviations from the established order
of divine service were exceptional, and were accepted
only by the circle of court ladies. As Solomon had
permitted altars to be erected for his heathen wives,
Rehoboam did not feel called upon to be more severe
in his enactments. His mother Maachah, the daughter
or granddaughter of Absalom, had a predilection for



CH. X. EVENTS IN JUDAH. 189

the immoral Canaanite worship ; she erected a statue
of Astarte in her palace, and maintained temple
priestesses. Rehoboam permitted all this, but the
unholy innovations did not spread very wide. Mean-
while, although idolatrous practices did not gain
ground in the kingdom of Judah, there was no im-
pulse towards a higher stage of moral culture under
Rehoboam's government. A weakness seemed to
have come over the people, as if they were in the last
stage of senility. Nearly two centuries elapsed before
traces of a higher spiritual force became evident.
Rehoboam's reign of seventeen years was inglorious.
The reign of his son Abijam (960-958) passed in a
like manner. He also indulged in petty acts of
hostility against Jeroboam, but without any important
result. He, too, permitted the idolatrous practices
of his mother Maachah. Abijam, it appears, died
young, leaving no issue, and he was therefore suc-
ceeded by his brother Asa (957-918). He again
was a minor, and the queen-mother Maachah held
the reins of government. At first she seems to
have desired to extend her idolatrous and immoral
worship, but a revolution in the kingdom of the Ten
Tribes put an end to her projects, and changed the
course of events.

Nadab, who had succeeded to the throne on the
death of Jeroboam (955-954), undertook a war
against the Philistines, and besieged the Danite city
of Gibbethon, which the Philistines had occupied.
During this campaign a soldier by the name of
Baesha (Baasha) conspired against the king in the
camp, and killed him. From the camp Baasha pro-
ceeded to the capital, Tirzah, and destroyed the
whole house of Jeroboam (954). The founder of
this dynasty had not been anointed by the prophet;
he was not considered inviolable, like Saul and
David, and therefore the hand of the murderer was
not restrained. Baasha was the first of the list of
regicides in the Ten Tribes, and his act hastened the
fate impending over the nation.



HISTORY OF THE) JEWS. CH. X.

Having perpetrated the murder, he took possession
of the throne and kingdom (954-933). He con-
tinued Tirzah as the capital, on account of its central
position. It lay in the very heart of the kingdom, and
possessed the additional advantage of being fortified.
Had Baasha abolished the worship of the bull, he
might have drawn to his side the worthier portion of
the people of Judah. The latter were indignant at
the idolatrous innovations of Maachah, which were
more reprehensible than the bull-worship, as with them
were connected the depraved habits of the temple
priestesses. In Jerusalem the fear of eventual sym-
pathy with Israel appears to have arisen ; but Asa
hastened to avert the calamity. Either on his own
impulse, or urged thereto by one of the prophets, he
snatched the reins of government from the hands of
the queen-mother, forbade the worship of Astarte,
removed the priestesses, and burnt the disgusting
image which had been erected for worship in the
valley of Kedron. Through these resolute acts Asa
secured for himself the good-will of the well-disposed
among his people.

The old inconclusive feuds between the two king-
doms were continued between Asa and Baasha.
The former is said to have acquired several cities of
Ephraim, and to have incorporated them in his own
kingdom. In order to secure himself from the attacks
of Judah, Baasha seems to have entered into a league
with the king of Egypt, and to have urged him to
carry war into the lands of his own foe. An Egyptian
general named Zerah (Osorkon) sallied forth with a
numerous body of Ethiopians, and pressed forwards
as far as Mareshah, about ten leagues south-west of
Jerusalem. Asa, however, marched against him
with the combined forces of Judah and Benjamin,
defeated the Ethiopian army north of Mareshah,
pursued it as far as Gerar,and brought back enormous
booty to Jerusalem.

Baasha was disconcerted by these proceedings,



CH. X. BAASHA.

and endeavoured to bring about an alliance with the
Aramaean king, Ben-hadad I., of Damascus, who,
hitherto friendly to the kingdom of Judah, had pre-
vented all inimical attacks. Ben-hadad, the son of
Tabrimon, now cancelled his treaty with Asa, and
went over to Baasha's side. The latter conquered
Ramah, the birth-place and residence of the prophet
Samuel, which belonged to the Benjamites, and
fortified it so that it served as a base whence to
make raids on the neighbouring districts. Alarmed
at these doings, Asa endeavoured to revive the
treaty with the king of Damascus, and sent ambas-
sadors to him, with quantities of treasure in silver
and gold, which he took both from the Temple and
from his palaces. Ben-hadad allowed himself to be
won over; it flattered him to be thus sought after
by both realms, to which his people had formerly
been obliged to pay tribute. He resolved to utilise
the weakness of both sides, and he commanded an
army to effect an entrance into the north of the
kingdom of Israel; he subjugated Ijon, Dan, and the
contiguous region of Abel-Bethmaachah; and also
reduced the district around the lake of Tiberias, and
the mountainous lands of the tribe of Naphtali. Asa
was thus saved at the expense of Judah's sister
nation ; and Baasha was forced to abandon his desire
for conquest, and to relinquish Ramah.

Asa now summoned all the men capable of bearing
arms to assist in the destruction of the fortifications
of Ramah. The death of Baasha, which occurred soon
after this (in 933), and a revolution which ensued
in Tirzah, left Asa free from menace on that side.
Mizpah, a town having a very high and favourable
situation, was made an important citadel by Asa.
He also built a deep and roomy cistern in the rocks,
in order to have stores of water in case of a siege.

Meanwhile, in the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, ter-
rible events were happening, which were productive
of changes in both kingdoms. Baasha was succeeded



192 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. CH. x.

by his son Elah (933-932), who was addicted to idle-
ness and drunkenness. Whilst his warriors were
engaged in battle with the Philistines, and were attack-
ing Gibbethon, he passed his days in drinking-bouts.
This circumstance was taken advantage of by his
servant Simri (Zimri), the commander of one-half of
the war-chariots, which had remained behind in
Tirzah. Whilst Elah was dissipating in the house of
the captain of his palace, Zimri killed him (in 932),
at the same time destroying the entire house of
Baasha, and not even sparing its friends. He then,
as a matter of course, ascended the throne, but his
reign was of short duration ; it lasted only one week.
No sooner had the news of the king's murder reached
the army, then besieging Gibbethon, than they elected
the Israelitish general Omri, as king. He repaired
to the capital, but finding the gates closed against
him, he laid siege to the city and effected a breach
in the wall. When Zimri discovered that he was
lost, he anticipated a disgraceful end by setting fire to
the palace and perishing in the flames. He was the
third of five kings of Israel who died an unnatural
death, and only two of them were buried in the
mausoleum for the kings, erected by Jeroboam. A
fourth king was soon to be added to the list. Omri,
a warrior, expected to obtain the vacant throne forth-
with, but he met with opposition. One part of the
population of the capital had chosen another king,
Tibni, the son of Ginath; he was probably a native
of the city. Thus two parties were formed in the
capital, and the streets were no doubt deluged with
blood. A civil war was the one thing wanting in
the domains of Ephraim to make the measure of
misery full to overflowing. For three years the
partisan conflict raged (932-928) ; at length the party
of Omri gained the upper hand. Tibni was killed,
and Omri remained sole ruler (928). He, however,
felt ill at ease in Tirzah; the palace was in ashes
since the death of Zimri, and other depredations had
no doubt taken place during the protracted civil war.



CH. X. OMRI. 193

The conquered party was hostile to him, and Omri,
therefore, determined to transfer the seat of the
empire. He could not select Shechem, where the
restless and rebellious spirit of the inhabitants would
not permit him to live in safety, and there was no other
important town situated in the heart of the country.
Omri therefore conceived the idea of building a new
capital. A high plateau, at a few hours' distance north-
west of Shechem, seemed to him the fittest spot. He
bought it of its owner, Shemer, erected buildings, a
palace and other houses, fortified it, and called it
Shomron, (Samaria). Whence did he obtain inhabi-
tants for the newly founded city? He probably
adopted a course similar to David's in the case of
Jerusalem, and caused the warriors attached to his
cause to settle there. A year after his victory over
the rival king, Omri left Tirzah, and removed
to Samaria, which was destined to be the rival of
Jerusalem for a period of two hundred years, and
then, after two centuries of desertion, to revive, and
once more wage war against Judah and Jerusalem.
Samaria inherited the hatred of Shechem against Je-
rusalem, and increased it tenfold. The new city gave
its name to the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, and the
land was thence called the land of Samaria.

Omri, the first king of Samaria, was neither a
strong nor a warlike leader, but he was a wise man.
The crown which he had acquired, rather by the
favour of circumstances than his own force of will, did
not satisfy him. He wished to make his court and
his people great, respected and wealthy, and he
hoped that the prosperity of the days of Solomon
might be restored to Israel. It is true that the nation
was divided, and thereby weakened. But was it
necessary for war always to be carried on between
the two portions, and for the sword to destroy them ?
Connected as they were by reason of tribal relations
and common interests, could they not henceforth
pursue their course in friendly alliance ?



194 HISTORY OF THE JEWS. en. x.

Omri endeavoured, in the first place, to make
peace with the representative of the royal house of
David, and to impress upon him the advantages, to
both of them, of pursuing an amicable policy. They
might in that way obtain their former sway over the
countries which had once been tributary to them. For
a long time friendly relations were actually estab-
lished between the two kingdoms; and they sup-
ported, instead of opposing, each other. Omri also
cherished to a great, perhaps even to a too great de-
gree, the hope of a friendly alliance with Phoenicia.
He desired that a part of the riches w^hich their ex-
tensive maritime expeditions and trade introduced
into that country, might also flow into his own king-
dom. At this time various kings had waded to the
throne in Tyre through the blood of their prede-
cessors, until at length Ethbaal (Ithobal), a priest of
Astarte, ascended the throne, after the murder of his
predecessor, Phalles. The disastrous occurrences in
Phoenicia had greatly weakened the land. The
great families had been compelled to emigrate, and
had founded colonies on the north coast of Africa.
The kingdom of Damascus, which had acquired
great power, sought to obtain possession of the
productive coast-line of Phoenicia ; Ethbaal, therefore,
had to strengthen himself by means of alliances.
The kingdom of the Ten Tribes was nearest to him.

Omri and Ethbaal therefore had common interests,
and formed an offensive and defensive treaty. The
league, desired by both powers, was confirmed by an
intermarriage. Omri's son Ahab married Ethbaal's
daughter Jezebel (Jezabel or Izebel) a marriage
which was fraught with disastrous consequences.

Omri, fortified by this alliance, could now venture
to think of undertaking warlike expeditions. He
captured several towns of Moab, which had emanci-
pated itself under Jeroboam's rule, and compelled it
to become once more tributary. He forced the
Moabites to send herds of oxen and rams every year



CH. X. OMRI. 1 95

as tribute. As, however, a sort of alliance existed
between Moab and Aram, and an increase of Israel's
power was watched by Aram with a jealous eye, the
Aramaean king of Damascus, Ben-hadad I., declared
war against Omri, and recovered some of the cities
he had taken. Omri was forced to accept peace
with Ben-hadad on hard terms, and bound himself
to open the caravan-roads through the kingdom of
Israel, and to allow free passage through the land.

Omri thereupon entered into a closer alliance with
the kingdom of Tyre, and pursued the plan of as-
similating his people to their Canaanite neighbours.
Why should he endeavour to keep Israel separate
from, the surrounding peoples? Would it not be
wiser and better to permit the kingdom of the Ten
Tribes to assume a Phoenician or Tyrian character ?
United as they were in language and customs, might
not the two races become more closely welded to-
gether, if the Phoenician form of worship were intro-
duced into the kingdom of Israel? Omri led the
way to this union. He introduced the service of
Baal and Astarte as the official mode of worship ;
he built a temple for Baal in his capital of Sama-
ria, ordained priests, and commanded that sacri-
fices should be universally made to the Phoenician
idols. He desired to see the worship of the bull,
as observed in Bethel and Dan, abolished. It
seemed to him too distinctly Israelitish in charac-
ter, and to be likely to maintain the division between
the Israelites and Phoenicians. Jehovah, adored with
or without a visible image, was too striking a con-
trast to the Tyrian Baal or Adonis for Omri to per-
mit His worship to remain. Omri's innovations
were of far greater import than those of Jeroboam ;
or, to speak in the language of the Bible, he acted



Online LibraryHeinrich GraetzHistory of the Jews (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 46)