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CHAPTER III

A CENTURY OF HISTORY The death of Saul is placed approximately at 1000 B.C. We shall be obliged to consider in a brief chapter the changes which took place in Israel in one hundred and twenty-five years following that event. The kingdom attained under David, the successor of Saul, a territory so great as to include not only all of Palestine (excepting only a narrow strip of coast line to the southwest still held by the Philistines) but also a portion of the land of Syria, on the northeast. Friendly relations were also established with Phoenicia on the northwest. Not only so, but David organized the kingdom, strengthened it internally, ruled it so wisely, and was so beloved by his people as to stand in all the centuries following as the type of the perfect king. His kingdom was the ideal toward which the efforts of Israel were ever afterward directed.

The extravagance and tyranny of his son Solomon produced a more glorious kingdom externally, but aroused a spirit of revolt in the hearts of a people which had never yet learned to bow to one who ruled only by virtue of blood succession.". At the death of Solomon, therefore, the kingdom, at its greatest not larger than three hundred miles from north to south, was divided, the inhabitants of the northern section revolting against Rehoboam, the successor of David's line, and founding an independent kingdom. It is significant that the king who was placed upon the throne in the north had the full support of the prophets, who were ever the champions of the people against oppression and injustice. The two nations are henceforth to be known as Israel, on the north, and Judah, on the south.

i The system of taxation devised by Solomon by which his kingdom was divided into twelve parts, each part being responsible for the maintenance of the royal household for the period of one month in the year, is but one of the evidences of the burden which his increased establishment and his extravagance placed upon the people. See [ Kings, chap. 4, for this and other evidences of the splendor of Solomon's reign. The story of the building and dedication of the Temple follows in chaps. 5-8.

2 The story of the division of the kingdom is related in I Kings, chap. 12.

Jerusalem remained the capital of the southern kingdom, and the stronghold of the Jehovah religion, with its magnificent temple erected by Solomon. Shechem, the first capital of the northern kingdom, was afterward exchanged for Tirzah and again for Samaria, built upon the hills a thousand feet above the surrounding valley, a strong site for military defense. Jerusalem also, well fortified by David, was well-nigh impregnable, situated upon a rocky summit that presented almost insuperable difficulties to a besieging army.

It was hardly to be expected that two kingdoms of one blood could exist peacefully side by side in such a limited territory, their capitals but thirty miles apart. The south with Jerusalem, the capital of the once united kingdom, longed for her old sovereignty over the north, and her repeated attempts to establish her claim caused almost constant warfare between Israel and Judah. Lying back among the hills, however, apart from the main routes of travel, with Israel to act as a buttress between her and the encroaching armies of Syria and Assyria on the northeast, Judah remained for a century comparatively undisturbed. The Davidic succession gave stability to her government. The Temple, at first only a royal sanctuary, became increasingly the center of religious worship, and long and peaceful reigns enabled the country to develop commercially and socially.

In the north the case was far different. Continually harrassed by warfare with Judah, Israel lay open also to the north and east, unprotected by the natural barriers of mountain ranges and deserts from the invasions of Syria and Assyria, who were seeking to command her coveted roads and territory. Her unstable government founded in revolution continued under kings whose only right to rule lay in superior military power, temporary popularity, or party support. The kingdom was therefore subject to conditions of anarchy and sudden and violent changes in the ruling dynasty." The growing power of Syria on the northeast was at times augmented by her temporary alliance with Judah, and in 875 B.C.,

For such records as we have of the anarchy and confusion of the government in the Northern Kingdom previous to the accession of Omri read I Kings 15:25-28; 15:33—16:28.

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when Ahab came to the throne, many Israelitish cities were in the hands of the Syrians, notwithstanding the fact that Ahab's father, Omri, was one of the strongest of the kings of northern Israel. So great had become the danger from this source that for the time Israel and Judah had combined against a common enemy.

But northern Israel was not only in danger of loss of territory, but even of existence as a separate state. Exposed to all the influences of the ancient world, torn by internal dissensions and enduring the shocks of foreign invasion, the stream of life ran deep and fast. Currents of thought common to the surrounding nations swept over Israel, bringing foreign ideals of conduct and life. The tide of commerce and of warring armies constantly ebbing and flowing across her territory revealed the wealth and display, class systems and moral conditions of the greater nations, which, in the earlier days, had passed unheeded amidst the struggles of the conquest, yet which made a strong appeal to the ambitions and natural proclivities of an oriental people. Jehovah worship had gradually proved itself stronger than the Canaanitish worship, absorbing from it what was good and shaking off, under the leadership of Samuel and his fellows, much that was evil. But it became a grave question as to whether Jehovah worship would not be swallowed up or exterminated by foreign influences, supported as they were by the splendor and the military prowess of these greater nations. Social abuses, the aristocracy of wealth, formal and ostentatious worship accompanied by debasing orgies, disregard of the rights of one's fellow-men, inability to conceive of Jehovah as a God whose approval could not be obtained by external gifts, use of images in the worship of Jehovah, a custom not new in Israel, but given great prestige in the north through the royal sanctuaries at Bethel and Dan where Jehovah was represented by the golden calves—these were the influences in the face of which Jehcvah worship had to win the allegiance of the people or perish.

Not in the more peaceful southern kingdom, but in the busy north in these critical days do we find the prophets of Jehovah. Greatly increased in numbers since the days of Samuel, but still

See chap. vi.

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