Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, April 18th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
We are taking food to Ukrainians still living near the front lines. You can help by getting your church involved.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
2 Kings

The Expositor's Bible CommentaryThe Expositor's Bible Commentary

- 2 Kings

by Editor - William Robertson Nicoll



"Ich bin iiberzeugt, dass die Bibel immer schoner wird, je mehr man sie versteht, d.h. je mehr man einsieht und anschaut, dass jedes Wort, das wir allgemein auflassen und in Besondern auf uns anwenden, nach gewissen Umstanden, nach Zeit- und Orts-verhaltnissen einen, eigenen, besondern, unmittelbar individuellen Bezug gehabt hat."


"Es bleibt dabei, das beste Lesen der Bibel, dieses Gottlichen Buchs, ist menschlich. Ich nehme dies Wort im weitesten Umfang und in der andringendsten Bedeutung. Menschlich muss man die Bibcl lesen : denn sie ist ein Buch durch Menschen fur Menschen geschrieben ; menschlich ist die Sprache, menschlich die aussern Hulfsmittel, mit denen sie geschrieben und aufbehalten ist. . . . Es darf also sicher geglaubt werden : je humaner (im besten Sinn des Worts) man das Wort Gottes liest, desto naher kommt man dem Zweck

seines Urhebers, welcher Menschen zu seinem Bilde schuf . . . und fiir uns menschlich handelt."



"God shows all things in the slow history of their ripening."


God has given us many Bibles. The book which we call the Bible consists of a series of books, and its name represents the Greek plural tablia. It is not so much a book, as the extant fragments of a literature, which grew up during many centuries. Supreme as is the importance of this "Book of God," it was never meant to be the sole teacher of mankind. We mistake its purpose, we misapply its revelation, when we use it to exclude the other sources of religious knowledge. It is supremely profitable for our instruction, but, so far from being designed to absorb our exclusive attention, its work is to stimulate the eagerness with which, by its aid, we are able to learn from all other sources the will of God towards men.

God speaks to us in many voices. In the Bible He revealed Himself to all mankind by His messages to the individual souls of some of His servants. But those messages, whether uttered or consigned to writing, were but one method of enabling us to hold communion with Him. They were not even an indispensable method. Thousands of the saints of God lived the spiritual life in close communion with their Father in heaven in ages which possessed no written book; in ages before any such book existed; in ages during which, though it existed, it was practically inaccessible; in ages during which it had been designedly kept out of their hands by priests. This fact should quicken our sense of gratitude for the inestimable boon of a Book wherein he who runs may now read, and respecting the main teaching of which wayfaring men, and even fools, need not err. But it should at the same time save us from the error of treating the Bible as though it were in itself an amulet or a fetish, as the Mohammedan treats his Koran. The Bible was written in human language, by men for men. It was written mainly in Judaea, by Jews, for Jews. "Scripture," as the old theological rule said, "is the sense of Scripture," and the sense of Scripture can only be ascertained by the methods of study and the rules of criticism without which no ancient document or literature can be even approximately understood. In these respects the Bible cannot be arbitrarily or exceptionally treated. No a priori rules can be devised for its elucidation. It is what it is, not what we might have expected it to be. Language, at the best, is an imperfect and ever-varying instrument of thought. It is full of twilight and of gracious shadows. Vast numbers of its words were originally metaphorical. When the light of metaphor has faded from them they come to mean different things at different times, under different conditions, in different contexts, on different lips. Language can at the best be but an asymptote to thought; in other words, it resembles the mathematical line which approaches nearer and nearer to the circumference of a circle, but which, even when infinitely extended, can never actually touch it. The fact that the Bible contains a Divine revelation does not alter the fact that it represents a nation’s literature. It is the library of the Jewish people, or rather all that remains to us of that library, and all that was most precious in it. Holy men of old were moved by the Spirit of God, but as this Divine inspiration did not make them personally sinless in their actions, or infallible in their judgments, so neither does it exempt their messages from the limitation which attaches to all human conditions. Criticism would have rendered an inestimable service to every thoughtful reader of the Scriptures if it had done nothing more than impress upon them that the component books are not one, but complex and multiform, separated from each other by centuries of time, and of very varying value and preciousness. They too, like the greatest apostles of God, have their treasure in earthen vessels; and we not only may, but must, by the aid of that reason which is "the candle of the Lord," estimate both the value of the treasure, and the age and character of the earthen vessel in which it is contained.

There are hundreds of texts in Scripture which may convey to some souls a very true and blessed meaning, but which do not in the original possess any such meaning as that which is now attached to them. The words of Hebrew prophets often seem perfectly clear, but in some cases they had another set of connotations in the mouths of those by whom they were originally spoken. It requires a learned and a literary training to discover by philology, by history, or by comparison, what alone they could have meant when they were first spoken. In many cases their exact significance is no longer to be ascertained with certainty. It must be more or less conjectural. There are passages of Scripture which have received scores of differing interpretations. There are entire books of Scripture about the general scope of which there have been diametrically opposite opinions. The spiritual intuition of the saint may in some instances be keener to read aright than the laborious researches of the scholar, because spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned. But in general it is true that the ex cathedra assertions of ignorant readers, though they are often pronounced with an assumption of infallibility, are not worth the breath which utters them. All artificial dogmas as to what Scripture must be, and must mean, are worse than idle; we have only to deal with what it really is, and what it really says. Even when opinions respecting it have been all but unanimously pronounced by the representatives of all the Churches, they have nevertheless been again and again shown to be absurdly erroneous. The slow light of scholarship, of criticism, of comparative religion, has proved that in many instances not only the interpretations of former ages, but the very principles of interpretation from which they were derived, had no basis whatever in fact. And the methods of interpretation-dogmatic, ecclesiastical, mystic, allegorical, literal-have changed from age to age. The asserted heresy of yesterday has in scores of instances become the accepted commonplace of tomorrow. The duty of the Church in the present day is neither to make out that the Bible is what men have imagined that it was, nor to repeat the assertions of ancient writers as to what they declared it to be, but honestly and truthfully to discover the significance of the actual phenomena which it presents to the enlightened and cultivated intelligence.

If it were not so common a failing to ignore the lessons of the past, it might have been hoped that a certain modesty, of which the necessity is taught us by centuries of error, would have saved a multitude of writers from rushing into premature and denunciative rejection of results which they have not studied, and of which they are incapable to judge. St. Jerome complained that in his day there was no old woman so fatuous as not to assume the right to lay down the law about Scriptural interpretation. It is just the same in these days. Half-taught dogmatists, as they have been called-may sweepingly condemn the lifelong researches of men far superior to themselves, not only in learning, but in love of truth; they may attribute their conclusions to faithless infatuation, and even to moral obliquity. This has been done over and over again in our own lifetime; and yet such self-constituted and unauthorized defenders of their own prejudices and traditions-which they always identify with the Catholic faith-are impotent to prevent, impotent even greatly to retard, the spread of real knowledge. Many of the now-accepted certainties of science were repudiated a generation ago as absurd and blasphemous. As long as it was possible to put them down by persecution, the thumbscrew and the stake were freely used by priests and inquisitors for their suppression. E pur si muove. Theologians who mingled the gold of Revelation with the clay of their own opinions have been driven to correct their past errors. Untaught by experience, religious prejudice is ever heaping up fresh obstacles to oppose the progress of new truths. The obstacles will be swept away in the future as surely as they have been in the past. The eagle, it has been said, which soars through the air does not worry itself how to cross the rivers.

It is probable that no age since that of the Apostles has added so much to our knowledge of the true meaning and history of the Bible as has been added by our own. The mode of regarding Scripture has been almost revolutionized, and in consequence many books of Scripture previously misunderstood have acquired a reality and intensity of interest and instructiveness which have rendered them trebly precious. A deeper and holier reverence for all eternal truth which the Bible contains has taken the place of a meaningless letter worship. The fatal and wooden Rabbinic dogma of verbal dictation-a dogma which either destroys intelligent faith altogether, or introduces into Christian conduct some of the worst delusions of false religion-is dead and buried in every capable and well-taught mind. Truths which had long been seen through the distorting mirage of false exegesis have now been set forth in their true aspect. We have been enabled, for the first time, to grasp the real character of events which, by being set in a wrong perspective, had been made so fantastic as to have no relation to ordinary lives. Figures which had become dim specters moving through an unnatural atmosphere now stand out, full of grace, instructiveness and warning, in the clear light of day. The science of Bible criticism has solved scores of enigmas which were once disastrously obscure, and has brought out the original beauty of some passages, which, even in our Authorized Version, conveyed no intelligible meaning to earnest readers. The Revised Version alone has corrected hundreds of inaccuracies which in some instances defaced the beauty of the sacred page, and in many others misrepresented and mis-translated it. Intolerance has been robbed of favorite shibboleths, used as the basis of cruel beliefs, which souls unhardened by system could only repudiate with a "God forbid!" Familiar error has ever been dearer to most men than unfamiliar truths; but truth, however slow may seem to be the beat of her pinions, always wins her way at last.

"Thro’ the heather an’-howe gaed the creepin’ thing,

But abune was the waft of an angel’s wing."

Can there be any doubt that mankind has everything to gain and nothing to lose from the ascertainment of genuine truth? Are we so wholly devoid of even an elementary faith as to think that man can profit by consciously cherished illusions? Does it not show a nobler confidence in facts to correct traditional prejudices, than to rest blindly content with conventional assertions? If we do not believe that God is a God of truth, that all falsity is hateful to Him, -and religious falsity most hateful of all, because it adds the sin of hypocrisy to the love of lies, -we believe in nothing. If our religion is to consist in a rejection of knowledge, lest it should disturb the convictions of times of ignorance, the dicta of "the Fathers," or dogmas which arrogate to themselves the sham claim of Catholicity-if we are to give only to the Dark Ages the title of the Ages of Faith, then indeed

"The pillared firmament is rottenness, And earth’s base built on stubble."

"There is and will be much discussion," says Goethe, "as to the advantage or disadvantage of the popular dissemination of the Bible. To me it is clear that it will be mischievous as it always has been if used dogmatically and capriciously; beneficial as it always has been if accepted didactically (for our instruction) and with feeling." There is abundance in the Bible for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; -we shall weaken its moral and spiritual force, and gain nothing in its place, if we turn it into an idol adorned with impossible claims which it never makes for itself, and if we support its golden image upon the brittle clay of an exegesis which is morally, critically, and historically false.

I do not see how there can be any loss in the positive results of what is called the Higher Criticism. Certainly its suggestions must never be hastily adopted. Nor is it likely that they will be. They have to fight their way through crowds of opposing prejudices. They are first held up to ridicule as absurd; then exposed to anathema as irreligious; at last they are accepted as obviously true. The very theologians who once denounced them silently ignore or readjust what they previously preached, and hasten, first to minimize the importance, then to extol the value of the new discoveries. It is quite right that they should be keenly scrutinized. All new sciences are liable to rush into extremes. Their first discoverers are misled into error by premature generalizations born of a genuine enthusiasm. They are tempted to build elaborate superstructures on inadequate foundations. But when they have established certain irrefragable principles, can the obvious deductions from those principles be other than a pure gain? Can we be the better for traditional delusions? Can mistakes and ignorance-can anything but the ascertained fact-be desirable for man, or acceptable to God?

No doubt it is with a sensation of pain that we are compelled to give up convictions which we once regarded as indubitable and sacred. That is a part of our human nature. We must say with all gentleness to the passionate devotees of each old erroneous mumpsimus-

"Disce; sed ira cadat naso rugosaque sanna Cum veteres avias tibi de pulmone revello."

Our blessed Lord, with His consummate tenderness, and Divine insight into the frailties of our nature made tolerant allowance for inveterate prejudices. "No man," He said, "having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is good." But the pain of disillusionment is blessed and healing when it is incurred in the cause of sincerity. There must always be more value in results earned by heroic labor than in conventions accepted without serious inquiry. Already there has been a silent revolution. Many of the old opinions about the Bible have been greatly modified. There is scarcely a single competent scholar who does not now admit that the Hexateuch is a composite structure; that much of the Levitical legislation, which was once called Mosaic, is in reality an after growth which in its present form is not earlier than the days of the prophet Ezekiel; that the Book of Deuteronomy belongs, in its present form, whatever older elements it may contain, to the era of Hezekiah’s or Josiah’s reformation; that the Books of Zechariah and Isaiah are not homogeneous, but preserve the writings of more prophets than their titles imply; that only a small section of the Psalter was the work of David; that the Book of Ecclesiastes was not the work of King Solomon; that most of the Book of Daniel belongs to the era of Antiochus Epiphanes; and so forth. In what respect is the Bible less precious, less "inspired" in the only tenable sense of that very undefined word, in consequence of such discoveries? In what way do they touch the outermost fringe of our Christian faith? Is there anything in such results of modern criticism which militates against the most inferential expansion of a single clause in the Apostolic, the Nicene, or even the Athanasian Creed? Do they contravene one single syllable of the hundreds of propositions to which our assent is demanded in the Thirty-nine Articles? I would gladly help to mitigate the needless anxiety felt by many religious minds. When the Higher Criticism is in question I would ask them to distinguish between established premises and the exorbitant system of inferences which a few writers have based upon them. They may rest assured that sweeping conclusions will not be hastily snatched up; that no conclusion will be regarded as proved until it has successfully run the gauntlet of many a jealous challenge. They need not fear for one moment that the Ark of their faith is in peril, and they will be guilty not only of unwisdom but of profanity if they rush forward to support it with rude and unauthorized hands. There never has been an age of deep thought and earnest inquiry which has not left its mark in the modification of some traditions or doctrines of theology. But the truths of essential Christianity are built upon a rock. They belong to things which cannot be shaken, and which remain. The intense labors of eminent scholars, English and German, thanklessly as they have been received, have not robbed us of so much as a fraction of a single precious element of revelation. On the contrary, they have cleared the Bible of many accretions by which its meaning was spoilt, and its doctrines wrested to perdition, and they have thus rendered it more profitable than before for every purpose for which it was designed, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

When we study the Bible it is surely one of our most primary duties to beware lest any idols of the caverns or of the forum tempt us "to offer to the God of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie."


THE "Two Books of Kings," as we call them, are only one book (Sepher Melakim), and were so regarded not only in the days of Origen (ap. Euseb., H.E., 6:25) and of Jerome (A.D. 420), but by the Jews even down to Bomberg’s Hebrew Bible of 1518. They are treated as one book in the Talmud and the Peshito. The Western Bibles followed the Alexandrian division into two books (called the third and fourth of Kings), and Jerome adopted this division in the Vulgate (Regum, 3 et 4). But if this separation into two books was due to the LXX translators, they should have made a less awkward and artificial division than the one which breaks off the first book in the middle of the brief reign of Ahaziah. Jerome’s version of the Books of Samuel and Kings appeared first of his translations, and in his famous Prologus Galeatus he mentions these facts.

The History was intended to be a continuation of the Books of Samuel. Some critics, and among them Ewald, assign them to the same author, but closer examination of the Book of Kings renders this more than doubtful. The incessant use of the prefix "King," the extreme frequency of the description "Man of God," the references to the law, and above all the constant condemnation of high places, counterbalance the minor resemblance of style, and prove a difference of authorship.

What has the Higher Criticism, as represented in historic sequence by such writers as Vatke, de Wette, Reuss, Graf, Ewald, Kuenen, Bleek, Wellhausen, Stade, Kittel, Renan, Klostermann, Cheyne, Driver, Robertson Smith, and others, to tell us about the structure and historic credibility of the Books of Kings? Has it in any way shaken their value, while it has undoubtedly added to their intelligibility and interest?

1. It emphasizes the fact that they are a compilation. In this there is nothing either new or startling, for the fact is plainly and repeatedly acknowledged in the page of the sacred narrative. The sources utilized are:-

(1) The Book of the Acts of Solomon. {1 Kings 11:41}

(2) The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (referred to fifteen times).

(3) The Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel (referred to seventeen times).

By comparing the authority referred to in 1 Kings 11:41 with those quoted in 2 Chronicles 9:29, we see that "the Book of the Acts of Solomon" must have been to a large extent identical with the annals of that king’s reign contained in "the Book (R.V, Histories) of Nathan the Prophet," the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and "the story (R.V, commentary) or visions of Iddo the Seer." Similarly it appears that the Acts of Rehoboam, Abijam, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, were compiled, at any rate in part, from the histories of Shemaiah, Jehu the son of Hanani, Isaiah the son of Amoz, Hozai, {; 2 Chronicles 33:18, R.V} and other seers. In the narrative of a history of 450 years (from B.C. 1016 to 562) the writer was of course compelled to rely for his facts upon more ancient authorities. Whether he consulted the original documents in the archives of Jerusalem, or whether he utilized some outline of them which had previously been drawn up, cannot easily be determined. The work would have been impossible but for the existence of the officials known as recorders and historiographers (Mazkirim, Sopherim), who first made their appearance in the court of David. But the original documents could hardly have survived the ravages of Shalmanezer in Samaria and of Nebuchadnezzar in Jerusalem, so that Movers is probably right in the conjecture that the author’s extracts were made, not immediately, but from the epitome of an earlier compiler.

1. Although no direct quotations are referred to other documents, it seems certain from the style, and from various minor touches, that the compiler also utilized detailed accounts of great prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and Micaiah son of Imliah, which had been drawn up by literary students in the Schools of the Prophets. The stories of prophets and men of God who are left unnamed were derived from oral traditions so old that the names had been forgotten before they had been committed to writing.

2. The work of the compiler himself is easily traceable. It is seen in the constantly recurring formulae, which come almost like the refrain of an epic poem, at the accession and close of every reign. They run normally as follows. For the Kings of Judah:-

"And in the year of King of Israel reigned over Judah." "And years he reigned in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was the daughter of And did that which was {right-evil} in the sight of the Lord."

"And slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David his father. And his son reigned in his stead."

In the formulae for the Kings of Israel "slept with his fathers" is omitted when the king was murdered; and "was buried with his fathers" is omitted because there was no unbroken dynasty and no royal burial-place. The prominent and frequent mention of the queen-mother is due to the fact that as Gebira she held a far higher rank than the favorite wife.

1. To the compiler is also due the moral aspect given to the annals and other documents which he utilized. Something of this religious coloring he doubtless found in the prophetic histories which he consulted; and the unity of aim visible throughout the book is due to the fact that his standpoint is identical with theirs. Thus, in spite of its compilation from different sources, the book bears the impress of one hand and of one mind. Sometimes a passing touch in an earlier narrative shows the work of an editor after the Exile, as when in the story of Solomon {1 Kings 4:20-26} we read, "And he had dominion over all the region on the other side of the river," i.e., west of the Euphrates, exactly as in Ezra 4:10. Here the rendering of the A.V, "on this side of the river," is certainly inaccurate, and is surprisingly retained in the R.V also.

2. To this high moral purpose everything else is subordinated. Like all his Jewish contemporaries, the writer attaches small importance to accurate chronological data. He pays little attention to discrepancies, and does not care in every instance to harmonize his own authorities. Some contradictions may be due to additions made in a later recension (2 Kings 15:30; 2 Kings 15:33; 2 Kings 8:25; 2 Kings 9:29), and some may have arisen from the introduction of marginal glosses, or from corruptions of the text which (apart from a miraculous supervision such as was not exercised) might easily, and indeed would inevitably, occur in the constant transcription of numeric letters closely resembling each other. "The numbers as they have come down to us in the Book of Kings," says Canon Rawlinson, "are untrustworthy, being in part self-contradictory, in part opposed to other Scriptural notices, in part improbable, if not impossible."

1. The date of the book as it stands was after B.C. 542, for the last event mentioned in it is the mercy extended by Evil-merodach, King of Babylon, to his unfortunate prisoner Jehoiachin {2 Kings 25:27} in the thirty-seventh year of his captivity. The language-later than that of Isaiah, and earlier than that of Ezra-confirms this conclusion. That the book appeared before B.C. 536 is clear from the fact that the compiler makes no allusion to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, or the first exiles who returned to Jerusalem after the decree of Cyrus. But it is generally agreed that the book was substantially complete before the Exile (about B.C. 600), though some exilic additions may have been made by a later editor. "The writer was already removed by at least six hundred years from the days of Samuel, a space of time as long as that which separates us from the first Parliament of Edward I" This date of the book-which cannot but have some bearing on its historic value-is admitted by all, since the peculiarities of the language from the beginning to the end are marked by the usages of later Hebrew. The chronicler lived some two centuries later "in about the same chronological relation to David as Professor Freeman stands to William Rufus."

2. Criticism cannot furnish us with the name of this great compiler. Jewish tradition, as preserved in the Talmud, assigned the Books of Kings to the prophet Jeremiah, and in the Jewish canon they are reckoned among "the earlier prophets." This would account for the strange silence about Jeremiah in the Second Book of Kings, whereas he is prominently mentioned in the Book of Chronicles, in the Apocrypha, and in Josephus. But unless we accept the late and worthless Jewish assertion that, after being carried to Egypt by Johanan, son of Kareah, Jeremiah {Jeremiah 42:6-7} escaped to Babylon, he could not have been the author of the last section of the book. {; 2 Kings 25:27-30} Yet it is precisely in the closing chapters of the second book (in and after chapter 17) that the resemblances to the style of Jeremiah are most marked. That the writer was a contemporary of that prophet, was closely akin to him in his religious attitude, and was filled with the same melancholy feelings, is plain; but this, as recent critics have pointed out, is due to the fact that both writers reflect the opinions and the phraseology which we find in the Book of Deuteronomy.

3. The critics who are so often charged with rash assumptions have been led to the conclusions which they adopt by intense and infinite labor, including the examination of various books of Scripture phrase by phrase, and even word by word. The sum total of their most important results as regards the Books of Kings is as follows:-

i. The books are composed of older materials, retouched, sometimes expanded, and set in a suitable framework, mostly by a single author who writes throughout in the same characteristic phraseology, and judges the actions and characters of the kings from the standpoint of later centuries.

The annals which he consulted, and in part incorporated, were twofold-prophetic and political. The latter were probably drawn up for each reign by the official recorder, who held an important place in the courts of all the greatest kings, {2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24 1 Kings 4:3 2 Kings 18:18} and whose duty it was to write the "acts" or "words" of the "days" of his sovereign.

ii. The compiler’s work is partly of the nature of an epitome, and partly consists of longer narratives, of which we can sometimes trace the Northern Israelitish origin by peculiarities of form and expression.

iii. The synchronisms which he gives between the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah are computed by himself, or by some redactor, and only in round numbers.

iv. The speeches, prayers, and prophecies introduced are perhaps based on tradition, but, since they reflect all the peculiarities of the compiler, must owe their ultimate form to him. This accounts for the fact that the earlier prophecies recorded in these books resemble the tone and style of Jeremiah, but do not resemble such ancient prophecies as those of Amos and Hoshea.

v. The numbers which he adopts are sometimes so enormous as to be grossly improbable; and in these as in some of the dates, allowance must be made for possible errors of tradition and transcription.

vi. "Deuteronomy," says Professor Driver, "is the standard by which the compiler judges both men and actions; and the history from the beginning of Solomon’s reign is presented, not in a purely ‘objective’ form" (as e.g. in 2 Samuel 9:1-13; 2 Samuel 10:1-19; 2 Samuel 11:1-27; 2 Samuel 12:1-31; 2 Samuel 13:1-39; 2 Samuel 14:1-33; 2 Samuel 15:1-37; 2 Samuel 16:1-23; 2 Samuel 17:1-29; 2 Samuel 18:1-33; 2 Samuel 19:1-43; 2 Samuel 20:1-26), but from the point of view of the Deuteronomic code. The principles which, in his view, the history as a whole is to exemplify, are already expressed succinctly in the charge which he represents David as giving to his son Solomon; {; 1 Kings 2:3-4} they are stated by him again in 1 Kings 3:14, and more distinctly in 1 Kings 9:1-9. Obedience to the Deuteronomic law is the qualification for an approving verdict; deviation from it is the source of ill success, {; 1 Kings 11:9-13; 1 Kings 14:7-11; 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 17:7-18} and the sure prelude to condemnation. Every king of the Northern Kingdom is characterized as doing ‘that which was evil in the eyes of Jehovah.’ In the Southern Kingdom the exceptions are Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah-usually, however, with the limitation that ‘the high places were not removed’ as demanded by the Deuteronomic law.

The constantly recurring Deuteronomic phrases which most directly illustrate the point of view from which the history is regarded are, ‘To keep the charge of Jehovah’; ‘to walk in the ways of Jehovah’; ‘to keep (or execute) His commandments, or statutes, and judgments’; "to do that which is right in the eyes of Jehovah’; ‘to provoke Jehovah to anger’; ‘to cleave to Jehovah.’ If the reader will be at the pains of underlining in his text the phrases here cited "(and many others of which Professor Driver gives a list), "he will not only realize how numerous they are, but also perceive how they seldom occur indiscriminately in the narrative as such, but are generally aggregated in particular passages (mostly comments on the history, or speeches) which are thereby distinguished from their context, and shown to be presumably the work of a different hand."

vii. It must not be imagined that the late compilation of the book, or its subsequent recensions, or the dogmatic coloring which it may have insensibly derived from the religious systems and organizations of days subsequent to the Exile, have in the least affected the main historic veracity of the kingly annals. They may have influenced the omissions and the moral estimates, but the events themselves are in every case confirmed when we are able to compare them with any records and monuments of Phoenicia, Moab, Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon. The discovery and deciphering of the Moabite stone, and of the painted vaults of Shishak at Karnak, and of the cuneiform inscriptions, confirm in every case the general truth, in some cases the minute details, of the sacred historian. In so passing an allusion as that in 2 Kings 3:16-17 the accuracy of the narrative is confirmed by the fact that (as Delitzsch has shown) the method of obtaining water is that which is to this day employed in the Wady el-Hasa at the southern end of the Dead Sea.

viii. The Book of Kings consists, according to Stade, of,

(a) 1 Kings 1:1-53; 1 Kings 2:1-46, the close of a history of David, in continuation of 1 and 2 Samuel. The continuity of the Scriptures is marked in an interesting way by the word "and," with which so many of the books begin. The Jews, devout believers in the work of a Divine Providence, saw no discontinuities in the course of national events.

(b) 1 Kings 3:1-28; 1 Kings 4:1-34; 1 Kings 5:1-18; 1 Kings 6:1-38; 1 Kings 7:1-51; 1 Kings 8:1-66; 1 Kings 9:1-28; 1 Kings 10:1-29; 1 Kings 11:1-43, a conglomerate of notices about Solomon; grouped round chaps, 6, 7, which narrate the building of the Temple. They are arranged by the pre-exilic compiler, but not without later touches from the Deuteronomic standpoint of a later editor. {e.g., 1 Kings 3:2-3} 1 Kings 8:14, 1 Kings 9:9 also belong to the later editor.

(c) 1 Kings 11:1-43 - 2 Kings 23:29, an epitome of the entire regal period of Judah and Israel, after the three first reigns over the undivided kingdom, compiled mainly before the Exile.

(d) 2 Kings 23:30 - 2 Kings 25:30, a conclusion, added, in its present form, after the Exile.

Two positions arc maintained

(A) as regards the text, and

(B) as regards the chronology.

A. As regards the text no one will maintain the old false assertion that it has come down to us in a perfect condition. There are in the history of the text three epochs:

1. The Prae-Talmudic;

2. The Talmudic-Masoretic up to the time when vowel-points were introduced;

3. The Masoretic traditions of a later period.

The marginal annotations known as Q’ri "read" (plural, Qarjan), consist of glosses and euphemisms which were used in the service of the synagogue in place of the written text (K’tib); the oral tradition of these variations was known as the Masora (i.e., tradition). The Greek version (Septuagint, LXX), which is of immense importance for the history of the text, was begun in Alexandria under Ptolemy Philadelphus (B.C. 283-247). It presents many additions and variations in the Books of Kings.

All Hebrew manuscripts, as is well known, are of comparatively recent date, owing to the strict rule of the Jewish Schools that any manuscript which had in the slightest degree suffered from time or use was to be instantly destroyed. The oldest Hebrew manuscript is supposed to be the Codex Babylonicus at St. Petersburg (A.D. 916), unless one recently discovered by Dr. Ginsburg in the British Museum be older. Most Hebrew manuscripts are later than the twelfth century.

The variations in the Samaritan Pentateuch, and in the Septuagint version-the latter of which are often specially valuable as indications of the original text-furnish abundant proof that no miracle has been wrought to preserve the text of Scripture from the changes and corruptions which always arise in the course of constant transcriptions.

A further and serious difficulty in the reproduction of events in their historic exactitude is introduced by the certainty that many books of the Bible, in their present form, represent the results arrived at after their recension by successive editors, some of whom lived many centuries after the events recorded. In the Books of Kings we probably see many nuances which were not introduced till after the epoch-making discovery of the Book of the Law (perhaps the essential parts of the Book of Deuteronomy) in the reign of Josiah, A.D. 621. {2 Kings 22:8-14} It is, for instance, impossible to declare with certainty what parts of the Temple service were really coaeval with David and Solomon, and what parts had arisen in later days. There appear to be liturgical touches, or alterations as indicated by the variations of the text in 1 Kings 8:4; 1 Kings 8:12-13. In 1 Kings 18:29-36 the allusion to the Minchah is absent from the LXX in 1 Kings 18:36, and in 2 Kings 3:20 another reading is suggested.

B. As regards the difficult question of Chronology we need add but little to what has been elsewhere said. Even the most conservative critics admit that

(1) the numbers of the Biblical text have often become corrupt or uncertain; and

(2) that the ancient Hebrews were careless on the subject of exact chronology.

The Chronology of the Kings, as it now stands, is historically true in its general outlines, but in its details presents us with data which are mutually irreconcilable. It is obviously artificial, and is dominated by slight modifications of the round number 40. Thus from the Exile to the Building of the Temple is stated at 480 years, and from that period to the fiftieth year of the Exile also at 480 years. In the Chronicles there are eleven high priests from Azariah ben-Ahimaaz to the Exile of Jozadak, which, with the Exile period, gives twelve generations of 40 years each.

Again, from Rehoboam to the Fall of Samaria in the sixth year of Hezekiah, following the 40 years’ reign of Saul, of David, and of Solomon, we have:

Rehoboam, Abijah                     20 years,

Asa                         41 years,

Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah             40 years,

Joash                         40 years,

Amaziah, Uzziah                     81 years,

Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah                     38 years,

After the Fall of Samaria we have:

    Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon                80 years,

- and it can hardly be a mere accident that in these lists the number 40 is only modified by slight necessary details.

The history of the Northern Kingdom seems to be roughly trisected into 80 years before Ben-hadad’s first invasion, 80 years of Syrian war, 40 years of prosperity under Jeroboam II, and 40 years of decline. This is probably a result of chronological system, not uninfluenced by mystical considerations. For 480=40 X 12. Forty is repeatedly used as a sacred number in connection with epochs of penitence and punishment. Twelve (4X3) is, according to Bahr (the chief student of numerical and other symbolism), "the signature of the people of Israel"-as a whole (4), in the midst of which God (3) resides. Similarly Stade thinks that 16 is the basal number for the reigns of kings from Jehu to Hoshea, and 12 from Jeroboam to Jehu.

It is possible that the synchronistic data did not proceed from the compiler of the Book of Kings, but were added by the last redactor.

Are these critical conclusions so formidable? Are they fraught with disastrous consequences? Which is really dangerous-truth laboriously sought for, or error accepted with unreasoning blindness and maintained with invincible prejudice?


"The hearts of kings are in Thy rule and governance, and Thou dost dispose and turn them as it seemeth best to Thy godly wisdom."

WERE we to judge the compiler or epitomator of the Book of Kings from the literary standpoint of modern historians, he would, no doubt, hold a very inferior place; but so to judge him would be to take a mistaken view of his object, and to test his merits and demerits by conditions which are entirely alien from the ideal of his contemporaries and the purpose which he had in view.

It is quite true that he does not even aim at fulfilling the requirements demanded of an ordinary secular historian. He does not attempt to present any philosophical conception of the political events and complicated interrelations of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. His method of writing the story of the Kings of Judah and Israel in so many separate paragraphs gives a certain confusedness to the general picture. It leads inevitably to the repetition of the same facts in the accounts of two reigns. Each king is judged from a single point of view, and that not the point of view by which his own age was influenced, but one arrived at in later centuries, and under changed conditions, religious and political. There is no attempt to show that

"God fulfils Himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

The military splendor or political ability of a king goes for nothing. It has so little interest for the writer that a brilliant and powerful ruler like Jeroboam II seems to excite in him as little interest as an effeminate weakling like Ahaziah. He passes over without notice events of such capital importance as the invasion of Zerah the Ethiopian; {2 Chronicles 14:9-15; 2 Chronicles 16:8} the wars of Jehoshaphat against Edom, Ammon, and Moab; {; 2 Chronicles 20:1-25} of Uzziah against the Philistines; {2 Chronicles 26:6-8} and of the Assyrians against Manasseh. {; 2 Chronicles 33:11-13} He neither tells us that Omri subdued Moab, nor that he was defeated by Syria. He scarcely more than mentions events of such deep interest as the conquest of Jerusalem by Shishak; {1 Kings 14:25-26} the war between Abijam and Jeroboam; {; 1 Kings 15:7} of Amaziah with Edom; {2 Kings 14:7} or even the expedition of Josiah against Pharaoh-nechoh. {; 2 Kings 23:29} For these events he is content to relegate us to the best authorities which he used, with the phrase "and the rest of his acts, his wars, and all that he did." The fact that Omri was the founder of so powerful a dynasty that the Kings of Israel were known to Assyria as "the House of Omri," does not induce him to give more than a passing notice to that king. It did not come within his province to record such memorable circumstances as that Ahab fought with the Aramaean host against Assyria at the battle of Karkar, or that the bloodstained Jehu had to send a large tribute to Shalmaneser II.

There is a certain monotony in the grounds given for the moral judgments passed on each successive monarch. One unchanging formula tells us of every one of the kings of Israel that "he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord," with exclusive reference in most cases to "the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin. "The unfavorable remark about king after king of Judah that "nevertheless the high places were not taken away; the people offered and burnt incense yet in the high places" {1 Kings 15:14; 1 Kings 22:43 2 Kings 12:3; 2 Kings 14:4} makes no allowance for the fact that high places dedicated to Jehovah had been previously used unblamed by the greatest judges and seers, and that the feeling against them had only entered into the national life in later days.

It belongs to the same essential view of history that the writer’s attention is so largely occupied by the activity of the prophets, whose personality often looms far more largely on his imagination than that of the kings. If we were to remove from his pages all that he tells us of Nathan, Ahijah of Shiloh, Shemaiah, Jehu the son of Hanani, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, Isaiah, Huldah, Jonah, and various nameless "men of God," {1 Kings 13:1-32; 1 Kings 20:13-15; 1 Kings 20:28; 1 Kings 20:35; 1 Kings 20:42 2 Kings 21:10-15} the residuum would be meager indeed. The silence as to Jeremiah is a remarkable circumstance which no theory has explained; but we must remember the small extent of the compiler’s canvas, and that, even as it is, we should have but a dim insight into the condition of the two kingdoms if we did not study also the extant writings of contemporary prophets. His whole aim is to exhibit the course of events as so controlled by the Divine Hand that faithfulness to God ensured blessing, and unfaithfulness brought down His displeasure and led to national decline. So far from concealing this principle he states it, again and again, in the most formal manner. {; 2 Kings 17:7-23; 2 Kings 17:32; 2 Kings 17:41; 2 Kings 17:23-26; 2 Kings 17:27}

These might be objections against the author if he had written his book in the spirit of an ordinary historian. They cease to have any validity when we remember that he does not profess to offer us a secular history at all. His aim and method have been described as "prophetic-didactic." He writes avowedly as one who believed in the Theocracy. His epitomes from the documents which he had before him were made with a definite religious purpose. The importance or unimportance of kings in his eyes depended on their relation to the opinions which had come home to the conscience of the nation in the still recent reformation of Josiah. He strove to solve the moral problems of Gods government as they presented themselves, with much distress and perplexity, to the mind of his nation in the days of its decadence and threatened obliteration. And in virtue of his method of dealing with such themes, he shares with the other historical writers of the Old Testament a right to be regarded as one of the Prophetoe priores.

What are those problems?

They were old problems respecting God’s moral government of the world which always haunted the Jewish mind, complicated by the disappointment of national convictions about the promises of God to the race of Abraham and the family of David.

The Exile was already imminent-it had indeed partly begun in the deportation of Jehoiakin and many Jews to Babylon (B.C. 598)-when the book saw the light. The writer was compelled to look back with tears on "the days that were no more." The epoch of Israel’s splendor and dominion seemed to have passed forever. And yet, was not God the true Governor of His people? Had He not chosen Jacob for Himself, and Israel for His own possession? Had not Abraham received the promise that his seed should be as the sand of the sea, and that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed? Or was it a mere illusion that "when Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son"? The writer clung with unquenchable faith to his convictions about the destinies of his people, and yet every year seemed to render their fulfillment more distant and more impossible.

The promise to Abraham had been renewed to Isaac, and to Jacob, and to the patriarchs; but to David and his house it had been reiterated with special emphasis and fresh details. That promise, as it stood recorded in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, was doubtless in the writer’s hands. The election of Israel as "God’s people" is "a world-historic fact, the fundamental miracle which no criticism can explain away." And, in addition God had sworn in His holiness that He would not forsake David. "When thy days be fulfilled," He had said, "and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee and will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever, I will be his father, and he shall be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul whom I put away before thee, and thy house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee; thy throne shall be established forever." This promise haunted the imagination of the compiler of the Book of Kings. He repeatedly refers to it, and it is so constantly present to his mind that his whole narrative seems to be a comment, and often a perplexed and half-despairing comment, upon it. Yet he resisted the assaults of despair. The Lord had made a faithful oath unto David, and He would not depart from it.

It is this that makes him linger so lovingly on the glories of the reign of Solomon. At first they seem to inaugurate an era of overwhelming and permanent prosperity. Because Solomon was the heir of David whom God had chosen, his dominion is established without an effort in spite of a formidable conspiracy. Under his wise, pacific rule the united kingdom springs to the zenith of its greatness. The writer dwells with fond regret upon the glories of the Temple, the Empire, and the Court of the wise king. He records God’s renewed promises to him that there should not be any among the kings like unto him all his days. Alas! the splendid visions had faded away like an unsubstantial pageant. Glory had led to vice and corruption. Worldly policy carried apostasy in its train. The sun of Solomon set in darkness, as the sun of David had set in decrepitude and blood. "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared unto him twice but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept My covenant, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee Notwithstanding in thy day I will not do it for David thy father’s sake. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son, for David My servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen." {1 Kings 11:9-13}

Thus at one blow the heir of "Solomon in all his glory" dwindles into the kinglet of a paltry little province not nearly so large as the smallest of English counties. So insignificant, in fact, do the fortunes of the kingdom become, that, for long periods, it has no history worth speaking of. The historian is driven to occupy himself with the northern tribes because they are the scene of the activity of two glorious though widely different prophets. From first to last we seem to hear in the prose of the annalist the cry of the troubled Psalmist, "Lord, where are thy old loving kindnesses which Thou swarest unto David in Thy truth? Remember, Lord, the rebukes that Thy servants have, and how I do bear in my bosom the rebukes of many people wherewith thine enemies have blasphemed Thee, and slandered the footsteps of Thine anointed." And yet, in spite of all, with invincible confidence, he adds, "Praised be the Lord for evermore. Amen and Amen."

And this is one of the great lessons which we learn alike from Scripture and from the experience of every holy and humble, life. It may be briefly summed up in the words. Put thou thy trust in God, and be doing good, and He shall bring it to pass. In multitudes of forms the Bible inculcates upon us the lesson, "Have faith in God," "Fear not; only believe." The paradox of the New Testament is the existence of joy in the midst of sorrow and sighing, of exultation even amid the burning fiery furnaces of anguish and persecution. The secret of both Testaments alike is the power to maintain an unquenchable faith, an unbroken peace, an indomitable trust amid every complication of disaster and apparent overthrow. The writer of the Book of Kings saw that God is patient, because He is eternal; that even the histories of nations, not individual lives only, are but as one ticking of a clock amid the eternal silence that God’s ways are not man’s ways. And because this is so-because God sitteth above the water floods and remaineth a King forever-therefore we can attain to that ultimate triumph of faith which consists in holding fast our profession, not only amid all the waves and storms of calamity, but even when we are brought face to face with that which wears the aspect of absolute and final failure. The historian says in the name of his nation what the saint has so often to say in his own, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Amos, earliest of the prophets whose written utterances have been preserved, undazzled by the magnificent revival of the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam II, was still convinced that the future lay with the poor fallen "booth" of David’s royalty: "And I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old saith the Lord that doeth this." {Amos 9:11-12} In many a dark age of Jewish affliction this fire of conviction has still burned amid the ashes of national hopes after it had seemed to have flickered out under white heaps of chilly dust. {; Psalms 89:48-50}


"The Lord remaineth a King forever."

HAD the compiler of the Book of Kings been so incompetent and valueless a historian as some critics have represented, it would indeed have been strange that his book should have kindled so immortal an interest, or have taken its place securely in the Jewish canon among the most sacred books of the world. He could not have secured this recognition without real and abiding merits. His greatness appears by the manner in which he grapples with, and is not crushed by, the problems presented to him by the course of events to him so dismal.

1. He wrote after Israel had long been scattered among the nations. The sons of Jacob had been deported into strange lands to be hopelessly lost and absorbed amid heathen peoples. The district which had been assigned to the Ten Tribes after the conquest of Joshua had been given over to an alien and mongrel population. The worst anticipations of northern prophets like Amos and Hoshea had been terribly fulfilled. The glory of Samaria had been wiped out, as when one wipeth a dish, wiping and turning it upside down. From the beginning of Israel’s separate dominion the prophets saw the germ of its final ruin in what is called the "calf-worship" of Jeroboam. which prepared the way for the Baal-worship introduced by the House of Omri. In the two and a half centuries of Samaria’s existence the compiler of this history finds nothing of eternal interest except the activity of God’s great messengers. In the history of Judah the better reigns of a Jehoshapat, of a Hezekiah, of a Josiah, had shed a sunset gleam over the waning fortunes of the remnant of God’s people. Hezekiah and Josiah, with whatever deflections, had both ruled in the theocratic spirit. They had both inaugurated reforms. The reformation achieved by the latter was so sweeping and thorough as to kindle the hope that the deep wound inflicted on the nation by the manifold crimes of Manasseh had been healed. But it was not so. The records of these two best kings end, nevertheless, in prophecies of doom. {2 Kings 20:16-18; 2 Kings 22:16-20} The results of their reforming efforts proved to be partial and unsatisfactory. A race of vassal weaklings succeeded. Jehoahaz was taken captive by the Egyptians, who set up Jehoiakim as their puppet. He submits to Nebuchadnezzar, attempts a weak revolt, and is punished. In the short reign of Jehoiachin the captivity begins, and the futile rebellion of Zedekiah leads to tile deportation of his people, the burning of the Holy City, and the desecration of the Temple. It seemed as though the ruin of the olden hopes could not have been more absolute. Yet the historian will not abandon them. Clinging to God’s promises with desperate and pathetic tenacity he gilds his last page, as with one faint sunbeam struggling out of the stormy darkness of the exile, by narrating how Evil Merodach released Jehoiachin from his long captivity, and treated him with kindness, and advanced him to the first rank among the vassal kings in the court of Babylon. If the ruler of Judah must be a hopeless prisoner, let him at least occupy among his fellow-prisoners a sad pre-eminence!

2. The historian has been blamed for the perpetual gloom which enwraps his narrative. Surely the criticism is unjust. He did not invent his story. He is no whit more gloomy than Thucydides, who had to record how the brief gleam of Athenian glory sank in the Bay of Syracuse into a sea of blood. He is not half so gloomy as Tacitus, who is forced to apologize for the "hues of earthquake and eclipse" which darken his every page. The gloom lay in the events of which he desired to be the faithful recorder. He certainly did not love gloom. He lingers at disproportionate length over the grandeur of the reign of Solomon, dilating fondly upon every element of his magnificence, and unwilling to tear himself away from the one period which realized his ideal expectations. After that period his spirits sink. He cared less to deal with a divided kingdom of which only the smallest fragment was even approximately faithful. There could be nothing but gloom in the record of short-lived, sanguinary, and idolatrous dynasties, which succeeded each other like the scenes of a grim phantasmagoria in Samaria and Jezreel. There could be nothing but gloom in the story of that northern kingdom in which king after king was dogged to ruin by the politic unfaithfulness of the rebel by whom it had been founded. Nor could there be much real brightness in the story of humiliated Judah. There also many kings preferred a diplomatic worldliness to reliance on their true source of strength. Even in Judah there were kings who defiled God’s own temple with heathen abominations; and a saint like Hezekiah had been followed by an apostate like Manasseh. Had Judah been content to dwell in the defense of the Most High and abide under the shadow of the Almighty, she would have been defended under His wings and been safe beneath His feathers; His righteousness and truth would have been her shield and buckler. He who protected her in the awful crisis of Sennacherib’s invasion had proved that He never faileth them that trust Him. But her kings had preferred to lean on such a bruised reed as Egypt, which broke under the weight and pierced the hand of all who relied on her assistance. "But ye said, Nay, but we will flee upon horses; therefore shall ye flee: and, We will ride upon the swift; therefore shall they that pursue you be swift." {Isaiah 30:16}

3. And has not gloom been the normal characteristic of many a long period of human history? It is with the life of nations as with the life of men. With nations, too, there is "a perpetual fading of all beauty into darkness, and of all strength into dust." Humanity advances, but it advances over the ruins of peoples and the wrecks of institutions. Truth forces its way into acceptance, but its progress is "from scaffold to scaffold, and from stake to stake." All who have generalized on the course of history have been forced to recognize its agonies and disappointments. There, says Byron,

"There is the moral of all human tales;

‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past;

First Freedom, and then Glory-when that fails,

Wealth, Vice, Corruption-Barbarism at last.

And History, with all her volumes vast,

Hath but one page: ‘tis better written here

Where gorgeous tyranny hath thus amassed

All treasures, all delights that eye or ear,

Heart, soul could seek, tongue ask."

Mr. J.R. Lowell, looking at the question from another side, sings:-

"Careless seems the Great Avenger; History’s pages but record

One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt all systems and the Word

Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne-

Yet that scaffold sways the Future, and behind the dim unknown

Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own."

Mr. W.H. Lecky, again, considering the facts of national story from the point of view of heredity, and the permanent consequences of wrongdoing, sings:-

"The voice of the afflicted is rising to the sun,

The thousands who have perished for the selfishness of one;

The judgment-seat polluted, the altar overthrown,

The sighing of the exile, the tortured captive’s groan,

The many crushed and plundered to gratify the few,

The hounds of hate pursuing the noble and the true."

Or, if we desire a prose authority, can we deny this painful estimate of Mr. Ruskin?-"Truly It seems to me as I gather in my mind the evidence of insane religion, degraded art, merciless war, sullen toil, detestable pleasure, and vain or vile hope in which the nations of the world have lived since first they could bear record of themselves, it seems to me, I say, as if the race itself were still half serpent, not extricated yet from its clay; a lacertine brood of bitterness, the glory of it emaciate with cruel hunger and blotted with venomous stain, and the track of it on the leaf a glittering slime, and in the sand a useless furrow." Dark as is the story which the author of the Book of Kings has to record, and hopeless as might seem to be the conclusion of the tragedy, he is responsible for neither. He can but tell the things that were, and tell them as they were; the picture is, after all, far less gloomy than that presented in many a great historic record. Consider the features of such an age as that recorded by Tacitus, with the "Iliad of woes" of which he was the annalist. Does Jewish history offer us nothing but this horrible monotony of delations and suicides? Consider the long ages of darkness and retrogression in the fifth and following centuries; or the unutterable miseries inflicted on the seaboard of Europe by the invasions of the Norsemen-the mere thought of which drove Charlemagne to tears; or the long complicated agony produced by hundreds of petty feudal wars, and the cruel tyranny of marauding barons; or the condition of England in the middle of the fourteenth century when the Black Death swept away half of her population; or the extreme misery of the masses after the Thirty Years’ War; or the desolating horror of the wars of Napoleon which filled Germany with homeless and starving orphans. The annals of the Hebrew monarchy are less grim than these; yet the House of Israel might also seem to have been chosen out for a preeminence of sorrow which ended in making Jerusalem "a rendezvous for the extermination of the race." When once the Jewish wars began-

"Vengeance! thy fiery wing their race pursued,

Thy thirsty poniard blushed with infant blood!

Roused at thy call and panting still for game

The bird of war, the Latin eagle came.

Then Judah raged, by ruffian discord led,

Drunk with the steamy carnage of the dead;

He saw his sons by dubious slaughter fall,

And war without, and death within the wall."

Probably no calamity since time began exceeded in horror and anguish the carnage and cannibalism and demoniac outbreak of every vile and furious passion which marked the siege of Jerusalem; and, in the dreary ages which followed, the world has heard rising from the Jewish people the groan of myriads of broken hearts. "The fruits of the earth have lost their savor," wrote one poor Rabbi, the son of Gamaliel, "and no dew falls." In the crowded Ghettos of mediaeval cities, during the foul tyranny of the Inquisition in Spain, and many a time throughout Europe, amid the iron oppression of ignorant and armed brutality, the hapless Jews have been forced to cry aloud to the God of their fathers:

"Thou feedest Thy people with the bread of tears, and givest them plenteousness of tears to drink! Thou sellest Thy people for nought, and givest no money for them."

When the eccentric Frederic William I of Prussia ordered his Court chaplain to give him in one sentence a proof of Christianity, the chaplain answered without a moment’s hesitation: "The Jews, your Majesty." Truly it might seem that the fortunes of that strange people had been designed for a special lesson, not to them only, but to the whole human race; and the general outlines of that lesson have never been more clearly and forcibly indicated than in the Book of Kings.


"History, as distinguished from chronicles or annals, must always contain a theory whether confessed by the writer or not. A sound theory is simply a general conception which coordinates a multitude of facts. Without this, facts cease to have interest except to the antiquarian."


THE prejudice against history written with a purpose is a groundless prejudice. Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy, Sallust, had each his guiding principle, no less than Ammianus Marcellinus, St. Augustine, Orosius, Bossuet, Montesquieu. Voltaire, Kant, Turgot, Condorcet, Hegel, Fichte, and every modern historian worthy the name. They have all, as Mr. Morley says, felt the intellectual necessity for showing "those secret dispositions of events which prepared the way for great changes, as well as the momentous conjunctures which more immediately brought them to pass." Orosius, founding his epitome on the hint given by St. Augustine in his De Civitate Dei, begins with the famous words, "Divina providentia agitur mundus et homo." Other serious writers may vary the formula, but in all their annals the lesson is essentially the same. "The foundation upon which, at all periods, Israel’s sense of its national unity rested was religious in its character." "The history of Israel," says Stade, "is essentially a history of religious ideas."

Of course the history is rendered valueless if, in pursuing his purpose, the writer either falsifies events or intentionally manipulates them in such a way that they lead to false issues. But the man who is not inspired by his subject, the man to whom the history which he is narrating, has no particular significance, must be a man of dull imagination or cold affections. No such man can write a true history at all. For history is the record of what has happened to men in nations, and its events are swayed by human passions, and palpitate with human emotions. There is no great historian who may not be charged with having been in some respects a partisan. The ebb and flow of his narrative, the "to-and-fro-conflicting waves" of the struggles which he records, must be to him as idle as a dance of puppets if he feels no special interest in the chief actors, and has not formed a distinct judgment of the sweep of the great unseen tidal forces by which they are determined and controlled.

The greatness of the sacred historian of the Kings consists in his firm grasp of the principle that God is the controlling power and sin the disturbing force in the entire history of men and nations.

Surely he does not stand alone in either conviction. Both propositions are confirmed by all experience. In all life, individual and national, sin is weakness; and human life without God, whether isolated or corporate, is no better than

"A trouble of ants ‘mid a million million of suns."

"Why do the heathen so furiously rage together," sang the Psalmist, "and why do the people imagine a vain thing? He that dwelleth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall have them in derision." Even the oldest of the Greek poets, in the first lines of the Iliad, declares that amid those scenes of carnage, and the tragic fate of heroes:-

"Achilles’ wrath, to Greece the direful spring Of woes unnumbered, Heavenly Goddess sing; That wrath which hurled to Pluto’s gloomy reign The souls of countless chiefs untimely slain; Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore, Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore: Since great Achilles and Atreides strove, Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove!"

In the Odyssey the same conviction is repeated, where Odysseus says that it is the fate-fraught decree of Zeus which stands by as arbiter, when it is meant that "miserable men should suffer many woes." The heathen, too, saw clearly that,

"Though the mills of God grind slowly, Yet they grind exceeding small";

and that, alike for Trojans and Danaans, the chariot-wheels of Heaven roll onward to their destined goal.

Such words express a belief in the hearts of pagans identical with that in the hearts of the early disciples when they exclaimed: "Of a truth in this city against Thy holy Servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel foreordained to come to pass." {Acts 4:27-28}

The ever-present intensity of these convictions leads the historian of the Kings to many shorter or longer "homiletic excursuses," in which he develops his main theme. And if he inculcates his high faith in the form of speeches and other insertions which perhaps express his own views more distinctly than they could have been expressed by the earlier prophets and kings of Judah, he adopts a method which was common in past ages and has always been conceded to the greatest and most trustworthy of ancient historians.


"Great men are the inspired texts of that Divine Book of Revelation of which a chapter is completed from epoch to epoch, and by some named History."


THUS History becomes one of the most precious books of God. To speak vaguely of "a stream of tendency not ourselves which makes for righteousness," is to endow "a stream of tendency" with a moral sense. Philosophers may talk of "dass unbekannte hohere Wesen das wir ahnen"; but the great majority alike of the wisest and the humblest of mankind, will give to that moral "Not-ourselves" the name of God. The truth was more simply and more religiously expressed by the American orator when he said that "One with God is always in a majority," and "God is the only final public opinion." Only thus can we account for the fact that events apparently the most trivial have repeatedly been overruled to produce the most stupendous issues, and opposition apparently the most overwhelming has been made to further the very ends which it most fiercely resisted. "The fierceness of man shall turn to Thy praise, and the fierceness of them shalt Thou restrain."

St. Paul expresses his sense of this fact when he says, "Not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, and the weak things of the world, and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised did God choose, and the things that are not, that He might bring to naught the things that are": {1 Corinthians 1:26-28} and that "because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

The most conspicuous instance of these laws in history is furnished by the victories of Christianity. It was against all probability that a faith not only despised but execrated-a faith whose crucified Messiah kindled unmitigated contempt, and its doctrine of the Resurrection unmingled derision-a faith confined originally to a handful of ignorant peasants drawn from the dregs of a tenth-rate and subjugated people-should prevail over all the philosophy, and genius, and ridicule, and authority of the world, supported by the diadems of all-powerful Caesars and the swords of thirty legions. It was against all probability that a faith which, in the world’s judgment, was so abject, should in so short a space of time achieve so complete a triumph, not by aggressive force, but by meek nonresistance, and that it should win its way through armed antagonism by the sole powers of innocence and of martyrdoms "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."

But though the thoughtful Israelite had no such glorious spectacle as this before him, he saw something analogous to it. The prophets had been careful to point out that no merit or superiority of its own had caused the people to be chosen by God from among the nations for the mighty functions for which it was destined, and which it had already in part fulfilled. "And thou shalt answer before the Lord thy God, and say, A Syrian ready to perish was my father; he went down to Egypt, and sojourned there, few in number." {Deuteronomy 26:5} The chosen people could boast of no loftier ancestry than that they sprang from a fugitive from the land of Ur, whose descendants had sunk into a horde of miserable slaves in the hot valley of Egypt. Yet from that degraded and sensuous serfdom God had led them into the wilderness "through parted seas and thundering battles," and had spoken to them at Sinai in a voice so mighty that its echoes have rolled among the nations for evermore. If through their sins and shortcomings they had once more been reduced to the rank of captive strangers in a strange land, the historian knew that even then their lot was not so abject as it once had been. They had at least heroic memories and an imperishable past. He believed that though God’s face was darkened to them, the light of it was neither utterly nor finally withdrawn. Nothing could henceforth shake his trust that, even when Israel walked in the valley of the shadow of death, God would still be with His people; that "He would love their souls out of the pit of destruction." {; Isaiah 38:17} The vain-glorious efforts of the heathen were foredoomed to final impotence, for God ruled the raging of the sea, the noise of his waves, and the madness of the people.

If this high faith seemed so often to lead only to frustrate hopes, the historian saw the reason. His philosophy of history reduced itself to the one rule that "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is the reproach of any people." It is a sublime philosophy, and no other is possible. It might be written as the comment on every history in the world. The prophets write it large, and again and again, as in letters of blood and fire. Upon their pages, even from the days of Balaam.

"In outline dim and vast

Their mighty shadows cast

The giant forms of Empires on their way

To ruin: one by one

They tower, and they are gone!"

Balaam had uttered his denunciation on Moab and Amalek and the Kenite. Amos hurled defiance on Moab, Ammon, and the Philistines. Isaiah taunted Egypt with her splendid impotence, and had said of Babylon: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" As the sphere of national life enlarged, Nahum had poured forth his exultant dirge over the falling greatness of Assyria; and Ezekiel had painted the desolation which should come on glorious Tyre. These great prophets had read upon the palace walls of the mightiest kingdoms the burning messages of doom, because they knew that (to quote the words of a living historian) "for every false word and unrighteous deed, for cruelty and oppression, for lust and vanity, the price has to be paid at last. Justice and truth alone endure and live. Injustice and falsehood may be long-lived, but doomsday comes to them at last."

Has the course of ages at all altered the incidence of these eternal laws? Do modern kingdoms offer any exceptions to the universal experience of the past? Look at Spain. Corrupted by her own vast wealth, by the confusion of religion with the indolent acceptance of lies which paraded themselves as catholic orthodoxy, and by the fatal disseverance of religion from the moral law, she has sunk into decrepitude. Read in the utter collapse and ruin of her great Armada the inevitable Nemesis on greed, indolence, and superstition. Look at modern France. When the inflated bubble of her arrogance collapsed at Sedan as with a touch, two of her own writers, certainly not prejudiced in favor of Christian conclusions-Ernest Renan and Alexandre Dumas, fils-pointed independently to the causes of her ruin, and found them in her irreligion and her debauchery. The warnings which they addressed to their countrymen in that hour of humiliation, on the sanctity of family life and the eternal obligations of national righteousness, were identical with those addressed to the Israelites of old by Amos or Isaiah. The only difference was that the form in which they were uttered was modern and came with incomparably less of impassioned force.

The historian who, six hundred years before Christ, saw so clearly, and illustrated with such striking conciseness, the laws of God’s moral governance of the world stands far above the casual censure of those who judge him by a mistaken standard. We owe him a debt of the deepest gratitude, not only because he has preserved for us the national records which might otherwise have perished, but far more because he has seen and pointed out their true significance. Imagine an English writer trying to give a sketch of English history since the death of Henry VI in a thin volume of sixty or seventy octavo pages! Is it conceivable that even the most gifted and brilliant of our historians could in so short a space have rendered such a service as this sacred historian has rendered to all mankind? Do we owe nothing to the vivid insight which enabled him to set so many characters clearly before us with a few strokes of the pen? It is true that it is the history which is inspired rather than the record of the history; but the record itself is of quite exceptional value. It is true that the prophetic historian and the scientific historian must be judged by wholly different canons of criticism; but may not the prophetic historian be much the greater of the two? By the light of his histories we can read all histories, and see the common lesson taught us by the life of nations, as by the life of individuals which is, that obedience to God’s law is the only path of safety, the only condition of permanence. To fear God and keep His commandments is the end of the matter, and is the whole duty of man. To one who follows the guiding clue of these convictions history becomes "Providence made visible."

Bossuet, like St. Augustine, found the key to all events in a Divine Will controlling and overruling the course of human destinies by a constant exercise of superhuman power. Even Comte "ascribed a hardly less resistible power to a Providence of his own construction, directing present events along a groove cut ever more and more deeply for them by the past." And Mr. John Morley admits that "whether you accept Bossuet’s theory or Comte’s-whether men be their own Providence, or no more than instruments or secondary agents in other hands-this classification of either Providence equally deserves study and meditation."

Thus, though the Jews were a small and insignificant people-though their kings were mere local sheykhs in comparison with the Pharaohs, or the kings of Assyria and Babylon; though they had none of that sense of beauty which gave immortality to the arts of Greece; though their temple was an altogether trivial structure when compared with the Parthenon or the Serapeum; though they had no drama which can be distantly compared with the Oresteia of Aeschylus, and no epic which can be put beside the Iliad or the Nibelungen; though they had nothing which can be dignified with the name of a system of Philosophy yet their influence on the human race-rendered permanent by their literature, or by that fragment of it which we call "The Books" as though there were none other in the world worth speaking of-has been more powerful than that of all nations upon the development of humanity. Millions have known the names of David or Isaiah, who never so much as heard of Sesostris or of Plato. The influence of the Hebrew race upon mankind has been a moral and a religious influence. Leaving Christianity out of sight-though Christianity itself was nursed in the cradle of Judaism, and was the fulfillment of the Messianic idea which was the most characteristic element in the ancient religion of the Hebrews-the history of Israel is more widely known a million-fold than any history of any people. Professor Huxley is an unsuspected witness to this truth. He has declared that he knows of no other work in the world by the study of which children could be so much humanized, and made to feel that each figure in that vast historical procession fills, like themselves, but a momentary space in the interval between the two eternities. What other nation has contributed to the treasure of human thought elements so immeasurably important as the idea of monotheism, and the Ten Commandments, and the high spiritual teaching by which the prophets brought home to the consciousness of our race the nearness, the holiness, and the love of God? We do not underrate the value of Eternal Inspiration in the "richly-variegated wisdom" which "multifariously and fragmentarily" the Creator has vouchsafed to man; but the Jews will ever be the most interesting of nations, chiefly because to them were entrusted the oracles of God.

{e-Sword Note: In the printed edition, this material appeared at the end of 2 Kings as a topical chapter}


"On Jordan’s banks the Arab’s camels stray, On Zion’s hills the False One’s votaries pray, The Baal-adorer bows on Sinai’s steep; Yet there-e’en there-O God, Thy thunders sleep,"


"God, Thou art Love: I build my faith on that."


BEFORE concluding I should like to add a few words

(1) on what some may regard as the too favorable attitude towards what is called the "Higher Criticism" adopted in this book; and

(2) on the deep essential, eternal lessons which we have found in chapter after chapter of it.

1. As regards the first, I need only say that the one thing I seek, the sole thing I care for, is Truth, -truth, not tradition. Even St. Cyprian, devoted as he was to custom and tradition, warns us that "Custom without Truth is only antiquated error," and that what we believe must be established by reason, not prescribed by tradition.

And it cannot be laid down too clearly that the old view of Inspiration-which defined it as consisting in verbal dictation, which made the sacred writers "not only the penmen but the pens of the Holy Spirit," and which spoke of every sentence, word, syllable, and every letter of Scripture as Divine and infallible-was a dangerous and absolutely falsity, and that any attempt in these days to enforce it as binding on the intellect and conscience of mankind could only lead to the utter shipwreck of all sincere and reasonable religion. "Not needlessly," says the learned author of "Italy and her Invaders"-himself an able opponent of many modern conclusions on the subject-"should I wish to shake even that faith which practically believes that the whole Bible, exactly in its present shape, yes, almost the English Bible just as we have it, came straight down from heaven. But we do want to get away from all mere theories as to the way in which God might have revealed Himself, and to learn as much as we can of the way in which He has revealed Himself in actual fact, and in real human lives."

To do this has been one of my objects in this volume, and in the preceding volume on the First Book of Kings.

2. We have now only to cast one last glance on this book, and on the lessons which it is meant to teach.

Consider, first, its deep and varied interest. It has the combined value of History and of Biography; and, in dealing with both, its aim is to pass over all minor and earthly details, and to show the method of God’s dealings both with nations and with the individual soul.

If we look at the book only as a History, it shows us in the briefest possible compass a series of national events of the greatest importance in the annals of mankind. We become witnesses of the fierce occasional struggles between Israel and Judah, and of the constant warfare of both with those wild surrounding nations-the people of Moab, and of Edom, Gebal, and Ammon, and. Amalek, the Philistines also, and them that dwell at Tyre. We watch the indomitable resistance of Tyre to Assyria and Babylon. We see the Northern Kingdom of Israel rise into wealth, power, and luxury, only to sink into deep moral corruption, until, at last, the patience of God is exhausted, and He obliterates its very existence in an apparently final and irremediable overthrow. We witness the rise, culmination, and fall of Syria; the culmination and the crashing overthrow of Nineveh; the rise and the splendor of Babylon. We see the surging tide of the nomad Scythians and Cimmerians rise into flood and ebb away with spent and shallow waves. We see the petty fortress of Zion triumph in its defiance of the mighty hosts of Sennacherib because it is strong in reliance upon God, and we see it grow faithless to God until it succumbs to the captains of Nebuchadrezzar. Again and again we observe that the Almighty stills the raging of the sea, the noise of his waves, and the madness of the people. The conviction is borne upon our soul with overwhelming power, as we read the pages of Amos, of Isaiah, and of Jeremiah, that, in spite of all their rage and tumult, and apparently irresistible dominance, God still sitteth above the water-floods, and God remaineth a King forever. Side by side with this spectacle of the dealing of God with nations, in which we see written in large letters, in characters of blood and of fire, His dealing with guilty nations, we have abundantly in these chapters the narrower yet more intense interest which arises from the contemplation of human nature-one and the same in its general elements, but infinitely varied in its conditions-in the lives of individual men. It is revealed to us as in a picture-it is brought homo to us, not by didactic inferences, but with the silent conviction which springs from the evidence of facts-that wealth is nothing, and rank nothing, and power nothing, but that the only thing of essential importance in human lives is whether a man does that which is good or that which is evil in the sight of the Lord. Good kings and bad kings pass before us; and though the best kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah, were no more free from earthly misfortune than are any of the saints of God-though Hezekiah had to suffer anguish and humiliation, and Josiah died in defeat on the battle-field, -yet we are irresistibly led to the belief: "Say ye of the righteous that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him; for the work of his hands shall be done to him." We all have a guide in life. "We are not left to steer our course even by the stars, which the clouds of earth may dim. The ship has something on board which points towards the spiritual pole of the universe. I will not venture to call it an infallible guide. It wavers with tremulous sensitiveness; it may be deflected by disturbing influences; but still in the main it points with mysterious fidelity towards the pole of our spirits, even God. And what is this compass which we have for our guidance? Some would call it Conscience; but we call it by a holier name, and say that even as the needle is acted on by the magnetic current, so our spiritual compass is the spirit of man acted on by the Spirit of the living and infinite God." The lesson of this book-of every book of biography or of history-is that men are noble and useful in proportion as they are true to that law of an enlightened conscience which represents to them the will and the voice of God.

Ahaziah and Jehoram of Judah, tainted with the blood of Jezebel, and perverted by the example of Ahab, live wretchedly, reign contemptibly, and perish miserably; while good Jehoshaphat and pious Josiah are richly blessed. In the vaunting elation of Amaziah, in the blood-stained ferocity of Jehu, in the ruthless examples of usurpation and murder set by king after king in Israel, and in the consequences which befell them, we see that "fruit is seed." Shallum, Menahem, Pekah, Athaliah, have to pay a terrible price for brief spells of troubled royalty; and the slow corruption and disintegration of the people reflects the vile example of their rulers. Like king, like people; like people, like priest. We look on at a succession of thrilling scenes-the horrors of beleaguered cities, the raptures of unexpected deliverance, the insulting vanities of triumph; we hear the wail that rises from long lines of fettered captives as they turn their backs weeping upon their native land. And we are told "strange stories of the death of kings." We see the King of Moab sacrificing his eldest son to Chemosh upon the wall of Kirharaseth in the sight of three invading hosts.

We shudder to think of Ahaz and Manasseh passing their children through the fire before the grim bull-headed monster in the valley of the children of Hinnom. We see the two ghastly piles of the heads of young princes on either side the gates of Jezreel. We see Jehu driving his fierce chariot over the body of the painted Tyrian Queen. We catch a glimpse of the sackcloth under the purple of the King of Israel as he rends his clothes at the horrible cry of mothers who have devoured their babes. We see the child Joash standing with the high priest in the Temple amid the blast of trumpets, while the alien murderess is pushed out and hewn to the ground. We see Manasseh dragged with hooks to Babylon. We watch the haggard face of the miserable Zedekiah as his sons are slaughtered before the eyes which thenceforth are blinded forevermore. We burn with indignation to see the villain Ishmael close with corpses the well of Mizpah. But even when the phantasmagoria seems most appalling and most bloody, we watch the Day-star from on high begin to shed its glory over the grey east. In due time that Daystar was to rise in men’s hearts and on the world, with healing in His wings; and we feel that somehow, beyond the smoke and stir of earth’s anguish,

"God’s in His heaven,

All’s right with the world."

And like a Greek chorus amid the agonies of destiny stand the prophets, those clearest and greatest of moral teachers. They, in spite of their holiness and faithfulness, are not exempt from the calamities of life. Amos was insulted and expelled by the high priest of Bethel; Urijah was martyred; Hosea’s prophecy is one long and almost unbroken wail; Isaiah was mocked and slandered by the priests of Jerusalem, and, if the tradition be true, sawn asunder; Micah, though spared, prophesied under imminent peril; Jeremiah, saddest of mankind, type of the suffering servant of Jehovah, was smitten in the face by the priest Pashur, thrust into the stocks for the general derision, flung into a deathful prison, let down into a miry well, hurried into exile, defied, denounced, insulted, at last in all probability martyred. Prophets in general were hated and disbelieved. They were the eternal antagonists of priests and mobs. With priests they had so little affinity that, when a prophet was born a priest, like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, he might count on the undying hatred and antagonism of his order. Priests, with scarcely an exception, under every erring or apostatizing king, from Rehoboam to Ahaz, from Ahaz to Zedekiah, with a monotony of meanness, did nothing but acquiesce, careful mainly for their own rights and revenues; prophets did little but raise, against them and their party, an unavailing protest. When, in the days of the priest-regent Jehoiada, the priests had power, he had made a special ordinance that there should be overseers in the Temple whose function it should be to put in the stocks and the collar "every man that is mad, and that maketh himself a prophet"; {Jeremiah 29:25-27} and Shemaiah was quite indignant that there should be any delay in putting this convenient ordinance into force. Priests were chiefly absorbed in functions and futilities in the exact spirit of their guilty successors in the days of Christ. There could be little sympathy between them and the inspired messengers who spoke of such reliance on observances with almost passionate scorn, and to whom religion meant righteousness towards men and faith in the Living God.

This high lesson of Prophecy came into greater prominence with each succeeding generation. It had been taught by Amos, the first of the literary prophets, with emphatic distinctness. It was summarized by Hosea in words which our Savior loved to quote: "Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." It had been uttered by Micah in an outburst of splendid poetry which summed up all that God requires. It was reiterated in many forms by Isaiah and by Jeremiah in words of richer moral value than all that came from the teaching of the priestly functionaries from the days when Aaron seduced Israel with his golden calf till the days when Caiaphas and Annas goaded the multitude to prefer Barabbas to Jesus, and to shout of their Messiah, "Let Him be crucified."

It was the richest fruit which sprang from the long Divine discipline of the nation, -the knowledge that outward things are of no avail to save any man; that God requires righteousness, that God looketh at the heart.

And the prophets themselves had to learn by the irony of events that no suppression of local sanctuaries under Hezekiah, no multiplication of ceremonies and acceptance of Deuteronomic Codes under Josiah, were deep enough to change men’s hearts. Isaiah, like Amos, dwells with anger, on the reliance upon vain ritual, which is so cheap a substitute for genuine holiness; and Jeremiah, despairing utterly of that reformation under Josiah of which he had once felt hopeful; had to denounce the new reliance on the Temple and its sacrifices. He ultimately felt no confidence in anything except in a new covenant in which God Himself would write His law upon men’s hearts, and all should know Him from the least even to the greatest.

But the History of Prophecy also in this epoch is marked by events of world-wide importance. In the days of Isaiah we see the change of Israel from a nation into a church of the faithful, for which alone he has any permanent hope. In him, too, we hear the first distinct utterances of the final form in which should be fulfilled the Messianic hope. Under Jeremiah there was still further advance. He points, as Joel does, to the epoch of the gift of the Holy Spirit, and shows that God does not only deal with men as nations, or as churches, or even as families, but as beings with individual souls.

This and much besides we have seen in the foregoing pages, in which we have endeavored to point the lessons of the Books of Kings. The one main lesson which the narrative is meant to teach is absolute faith and trust in God, as an anchor which holds amid the wildest storms of ruin, and of apparently final failure. Not until we have realized that truth can we hear the words of God, or see the vision of the Almighty. When we have learnt it, we shall not fear, though the hills be moved and carried into the midst of the sea. It is the lesson which gets behind the meaning of failure, and raises us to a height from which we can look down on prosperity as a thing which - except in fatally delusive semblance-cannot exist apart fromrighteousness and faith. This is the lesson of life, the lesson of lessons. If it does not solve all problems on their intellectual side, it scatters all perplexities in the spiritual sphere. It shows us that duty is the reward of duty, and that there can be no happiness save for those who have learnt that duty and blessedness are one. And thus even by this book of annals-annals of wild deeds and troubled times-we may be taught the truths which find their perfect illustration and proof in the life and teaching of the Son of God. When those truths are our real possession, the work of life is done. Then

"Vigor may fail the towering fantasy,

But yet the will rolls onward, like a wheel

In even motion by the love impelled

That moves the sun in heaven, and all the stars."

{e-Sword Note: In the printed edition, the appendices appeared at the end of 2 Kings }



DATES from the "Eponym Canon" and the Assyrian Monuments; Schrader, "Cuneiform Inscriptions, and the Old Testament," E. Tr., 1888, pp. 167-187.


860         Shalmaneser II

854         Battle of Karkar. War with Ahab and Benhadad.

842         War with Hazael. Tribute of Jehu.

825         {Samsi-Ramman}

812         Ramman-Nirari.

783         Shalmaneser III

773         Assur-dan III

763         June 15th. Eclipse of the sun.

755         Assur-Nirari.

745         Tiglath-Pileser II

742         Azariah (Uzziah) heads a league of nineteen Hamathite districts against Assyria (?).

740         Death of Uzziah (?).

738         Tribute of Menahem, Rezin, and Hiram.

734         Expedition to Palestine against Pekah. Tribute of Ahaz.

732         Capture of Damascus. Death of Rezin. First actual collision between Israel and Assyria.

728         Hoshea refuses tribute.

727         Shalmaneser IV

724         Siege of Samaria begun.

722         Sargon. Fall of Samaria.

721         Defeat of Merodach-Baladan.

720         Battle of Raphia. Defeat of Sabaco, King of Egypt.

715         Subjugated people deported to Samaria. Accession of Hezekiah.

711         Capture of Ashdod.

707         Building of great palace of Dur-Sarrukin.

706         Sargon expels Merodach-Baladan, and becomes King of Babylon.

705         Assassination (?) of Sargon.

705         Sennacherib.

704         Embassy of Merodach-Baladan to Hezekiah.

703         Belibus made King of Babylon.

702         Construction of the Bellino Cylinder.

701         Siege of Ekron. Defeat of Egypt at Altaqu. Siege of Jerusalem. Campaign against Hezekiah and Tirhakah disastrously concluded at Pelusium and Jerusalem.

681         Murder of Sennacherib.

681         Esarhaddon.

676         Manasseh pays tribute.

668         Assur-bani-pal (Sardanapalus).

608         Death of Josiah in the battle of Megiddo against Pharaoh Necho.

The dates and names of Assyrian kings as given in "Records of the Past" (2. 207, 208) do not exactly accord with these in all cases.



Tiglath-Pileser II                     950

Assur-dan II                     930

Rimmon-Nirari II                     911

Tiglath-Uras II                     889

Assur-natzu-pal                     883

Shalmaneser II                     858

Assur-dain-pal (a rebel)                 825

Samsi-Rimmon II                     823

Rimmon-Nirari III                     810

Shalmaneser III                     781

Assur-dan III                     771

Assur-Nirari                     753

Tiglath-Pileser III (Pul’)                 745

Shalmaneser IV (a usurper)                 727

Sargon (Jareb?) (usurper)                 722

Sennacherib                     705

Esar-haddon I                     681

Assur-bani-pal                     668

Destruction of Nineveh under Esar-haddon II, or Sarakos     606

It begins with an invocation to the gods Rimmon, Adar, Merodach, Nergal, Beltis, Istar, and proceeds:-

"I am Shalmaneser, the strong king, king of all the four Zones of the Sun, the marcher over the whole world who has laid his yoke upon all lands hostile to him, and has swept them like a whirlwind." It tells of his campaigns against the Hittites, etc., etc.

The allusion to Jehu runs as follows:-"The tribute of Yahua, son of Khumri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, vessels of gold, goblets of gold, pitchers of gold, lead, scepters for the king’s hand, staves, I received."

This inscription is supplemented by another on a monolith found at Karkh, twenty miles from Diarbekr ("Records," 3:81-100), which mentions the battle of Karkar, with its slaughter of fourteen thousand of the enemy, among whom was Akkabhu Sirlai-i.e., Ahab of Israel.


(CIRCA B.C. 739)

In his Records he mentions no less than five Hebrew kings-Azariah, Jehoahaz (Ahaz), Menahem, Pekah, Hoshea-as well as Rezin of Damascus, Hiram of Tyre, etc. His name perhaps means "He who puts his trust in Adar." See "Records of the Past," 5:45-52; Schrader, "Keilinschr.," pp. 149-151; G. Smith, "Assyrian Discoveries," pp. 254-287.

Unfortunately the inscriptions are very mutilated and fragmentary.


Our chief knowledge of SARGON is from the great inscription in the Palace of Khorsabad. It is translated by Prof. Dr. Jules Oppert, "Records of the Past," 9:1-21. The king’s inscription at Bavian, northeast of Mosul, is in the same volume, pp. 21-28, translated by Dr. T. G. Pinches. See, too, id., 7:21-56, 11:15-40.

The Khorsabad inscription has these passages:-

"The great gods have made me happy by the constancy of their affection; they have granted me the exercise of my sovereignty over all things."

He says:-

"I besieged and occupied the town of Samaria; I took twenty-seven thousand two hundred and eighty of its inhabitants captive. I took from them fifty chariots, but left them the rest of their belongings. I placed my lieutenants over them; I renewed the obligations imposed upon them by one of the kings who preceded me." [Tiglath-Pileser, whom Sargon does not choose to name.]

"Hanun, King of Gaza, and Sabaco, Sultan of Egypt, allied themselves at Raphia to oppose me. I put them to flight. Sabaco fled, and no one has seen any trace of him since. I imposed a tribute on Pharaoh, King of Egypt."

He tells us that he defeated the usurper Ilubid of Hamath, who had been a smith; burnt Karkar; and flayed Ilubid alive.

He defeated Azuri and Jaman of Ashdod, and his most persistent enemy, Merodach-Baladan, son of Jakin, King of Chaldaea.

He ends with a prayer that Assur may bless him.


Bellino’s Cylinder

Bellino’s Cylinder comprises the first two years of SENNACHERIB. It is translated by Mr. H. F. Talbot, "Records of the Past," 1:22-32. It was published by Layard in the first volume of "British Museum Inscriptions," pl. 63. The facsimile of it was made by Bellino. It begins:-

"SENNACHERIB, the great king, the powerful king, the king of Assyria, the king unrivalled, the pious monarch, the worshipper of the great gods, the noble warrior, the valiant hero, the first of all kings, the great punisher of unbelievers who are breakers of the holy festivals."

"Assur, my lord, has given me an unrivalled monarchy. Over all princes he has raised triumphantly my arms."

"In the beginning of my reign I defeated Marduk-Baladan, King of Babylon, and his allies the Elamites, in the plains near the city of Kish. He fled alone; he got into the marshes full of reeds and rushes, and so saved his life."

(He proceeds to narrate the spoiling of Marduk’s camp, and his palace in Babylon, and how he carried off his wife, his harem, his nobles.)

We see here an illustration of the vaunting tones of this king which are so faithfully reproduced in 2 Kings 18:1-37.

His Bull Inscription, chiefly relating to his defeats of Merodach-Baladan, is translated by Rev. J.M. Rodwell ("Records of the Past," 7:57-64.)


The Taylor Cylinder

The Taylor Cylinder, so called from its former possessor, is a hexagonal clay prism found at Nineveh in 1830, and now in the British Museum (translated by Mr. H.F. Talbot, "Records of the Past," 1:35-53).

The first two campaigns of Sennacherib are related as on the Bellino Cylinder. The Taylor Cylinder narrates campaigns of his first eight years.

The story of the third campaign narrates the defeat of Elulaeus, King of Sidon; the tribute of Menahem, King of Samaria; the defeat of Zidka, King of Askelon; the revolt of Ekron, which deposed the Assyrian vassal Padi, and sent him in, iron chains to Hezekiah; the battle of Egypt and Ethiopia at Altaqu, {Eltekon, Joshua 15:59} and the capture of Timnath. OfHezekiah the king says:-

"And Hezekiah, King of Judah, who had not bowed down at my feet, forty-six of his strong cities, castles, and smaller towns, with warlike engines, I captured; 200,500 people, Small and great, male and female, horses, sheep, etc., without number, I carried off. Himself I shut up like a bird in a cage inside Jerusalem. Siege towers against him I constructed. I gave his plundered cities to the kings of Ashdod, Ekron, and Gaza. I diminished his kingdom; I augmented his tribute. The fearful splendor of my majesty had overwhelmed him. The horsemen, soldiers, etc., which he had collected for the fortification of Jerusalem his royal city, now carried tribute, thirty talents of gold, eight hundred of silver, scarlet, embroidered woven cloth, large precious stones, ivory couches and thrones, skins, precious woods; his daughters, his harem, his male and female slaves, unto Nineveh, my royal city, after me he sent; and to pay tribute he sent his envoy."

He then narrates his fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh campaigns against Elam, etc. His eighth was against "the children of Babylon, wicked devils," etc. He ends by describing the splendor of the palace which ‘he built.


An inscription of ESAR-HADDON, found at Kouyunjik, now in the British Museum, mentions his receipt of the intelligence of his father’s murder by his unnatural brothers, while he was commanding his father’s army on the northern confines.

"From my heart I made a vow. My liver was inflamed with rage. Immediately I wrote letters, saying I assumed the sovereignty of my Father’s House."

He prayed to the gods and goddesses; they encouraged him, and in spite of a great snowstorm he reached Nineveh, and defeated his brother, because Istar stood by his side and said to their army, "An unsparing deity am I" ("Records of the Past," 3:100-108).


A terra-cotta cylinder of ASSUR-BANI-PAL (the Sardanapalus of the Greeks) is now in the British Museum. It is translated by Mr. G. Smith, "Records of the Past," 1:55-106, 9.37-64; Oppert, "Memoire sur les Rapports de l’Egypte et l’Assyrie"; and G. Smith, "Annals of Assur-bani-pal."

Its most interesting parts relate to the campaign of his father Esar-haddon against Egypt, and how Tirhakah, King of Egypt and Ethiopia, reoccupied Memphis. He defeated the army of Tirhakah, who, to save his life, fled from Memphis to Thebes. The Assyrians then took Thebes, and restored Necho’s father, Psamatik I, to Memphis and Sais, and other Egyptian kings, friends of Assyria who had fled before Tirhakah. The kings,

"however, proved ungrateful, and made a league against him. He therefore threw them into fetters, and had them brought to Nineveh, but subsequently released Necho with splendid presents. Tirhakah fled to Ethiopia, where he went to his place of night"-i.e., died.



THE inscription of Siloam is the oldest known Hebrew inscription. "It is engraved on the rocky wall of the subterranean channel which conveys the water of the Virgin’s Spring at Jerusalem into the Pool of Siloam. In the summer of 1880 one of the native pupils of Dr. Schick, a German architect, was playing with other lads in the Pool, and while wading up the subterranean channel slipped and fell into the water. On rising to the surface he noticed, in spite of the darkness, what looked like letters on the rock which formed the southern wall of the channel. Dr. Schick visited the spot, and found that an ancient inscription, concealed for the most part by the water, actually existed there." The level of the water was lowered, but the inscription had been partly filled up with a deposit of lime, and the first intelligible copy was made by Professor Sayce in February, 1881, and six weeks later by Dr. Guthe. Professor Sayce had to sit for hours in the mud and water, working under masonry or earth. There can be little doubt that this work is alluded to in 2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30; Isaiah 8:6 ("the waters of Shiloah ["the tunnel"?] which flow softly").

The alphabet is that used by the prophets before the exile, somewhat like that on the Moabite Stone, and on early Israelitish and Jewish seals. The language is pure Hebrew, with only one unknown word - zadah, in line three: perhaps "excess" or "obstacle."

Professor Sayce thinks that it proves that "the City of David" (Zion) must have been on the southern hill, the so-called Ophel. If so, the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom must be the rubbish-choked Tyropaeon, under which must be the tombs of the kings, and the relics of the Temple and Palace destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar.

The inscription is:-

"The excavation! Now this is the history of the excavation. While the excavators were lifting up the pick each towards his neighbor, and while there were yet three cubits [to excavate], there was heard the voice of one man calling to his neighbor, for there was an excess in the rock on the right hand [and on the left?]. And after that on the day of excavating, the excavators had struck pick against pick, one against another, the water flowed from the spring [motsa, " exit," 2 Chronicles 32:30] to the Pool" (that of Siloam, which therefore was the only one which then existed) "for twelve hundred cubits. And [part] of a cubit was the height of the rock over the head of the excavators" (Sayce, "Records of the Past," 1:169-175).

The letters are on an artificial tablet cut in the wall of rock, nineteen feet from where the subterranean conduit opens on the Pool of Siloam, and on the right-hand side. The conduit is at first sixteen, feet high, but lessens in one place to no more than two feet. It is, according to Captain Conder, seventeen hundred and eight yards long, but not in a straight line, as there are two culs-de-sac, caused by faulty engineering. The engineers, beginning, as at Mount Cenis, from opposite ends, intended to meet in the middle, but failed. The floor has been rounded to allow the water to flow more easily. It is a splendid piece of engineering for that age.

The Pool of Siloam is at the southeast end of a hill which lies to the south of the Temple hill: the Virgin’s Fountain is on the opposite side of the hill, more to the north, and is the only natural spring or "Gihon" near Jerusalem, so that its water was of supreme importance. Being outside the city wall, a conduit was necessary.

Hezekiah "stopped all the fountains" {2 Chronicles 32:4} -i.e., concealed them. By providing a subterranean channel for them, he saved them from the enemy and secured the water-supply of the besieged city.



THE question might seem absurd, but for its solution I must refer to my paper on the subject in the Expositor for October, 1893.

The sole authorities for a calf at Dan are 1 Kings 12:28-30; 2 Kings 10:29. If in the former passage we alter one letter, and read dKah (the "ephod") for djah (the "one")-as Klostermann suggests-we throw light on an obscure and perhaps corrupt passage. The allusion then would be to Micah’s old idolatrous image (which may have been a calf) at Dan. The two words "and in Dan" in 2 Kings 10:29 may easily have been (as Klostermann thinks) an exegetical gloss added from the error of one letter 1 Kings 12:30.

Dan was a most unlikely place to select: for

(1) It was a remote frontier town; and

(2) there was no room, and no necessity there, for a new cultus beside the ancient one established some centuries earlier, and still served by priests who were direct lineal descendants of Moses. {Judges 18:30-31}

This would further account for the absolute silence of prophets and historians about any golden calf at Dan; and it adds to the inherent probability, also supported by some evidence, that there were two cherubic calves at Bethel.

For further arguments I must refer to my paper.



ISRAEL                    B.C.

Ahaziah                     855-854

Jehoram                     854-842

Jehu                     842-814

Jehoahaz                     814-797

Joash                     797-781

Jeroboam                     781-740

Zachariah                     740

Shallum                     740

Menahem                     740-737

Pekahiah                     737-735

Pekah                     735-734

Hoshea                     734-725

JUDAH                    B.C.

Jehoram ben-Jehoshaphat             851-843

Ahaziah ben-Jehoram             843-842

Athaliah                     842-836

Joash ben-Ahaziah                 836-796

Amaziah                     796-783

Amaziah-Uzziah                 783-737

Jotham                     737-735

Ahaz                     735-715

Hezekiah                     715-686

Manasseh                     686-641

Amon                     641-639

Josiah                     539-608

Jehoahaz                     608

Jehoiakim                     608-597

Jehoiachin                 597

Zedekiah                     597-586

adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile