תמונות בעמוד

managed the whole affair, did not undertake the prosecution in her own name; as a woman, she had not the legal power. So she stole the king's ring, and sealed the indictinent with the royal seal.

Thus by force and fraud under skilful technicalities, and by usurpation of the royal authority, the crime was consummated, and had the sanction of the law. Oh, what crimes have been perpetrated in every age and country under cover of the law! The Holy Inquisition was according to law; the early Christian persecutions were according to law; usurpers and murderers have reigned according to law; the Quakers were put in prison, and witches were burned according to law. Slavery was sustained by legal enactments; the rum shops are all under the protection of the law. There is scarcely a public scandal and wrong in any civilized country which the law does not somehow countenance or sustain. All public robbers appeal to legal technicalities. How could city officials steal princely revenues, how could lawyers collect exorbitant fees, if it were not for the law ? Neither Ahab nor Jezebel would have ventured to seize Naboth's vineyard except under legal pretences; false witnesses swore to a lie, and the law condemned the accused. Ahab in this instance was not as bad as his wife. He may not even have known by what diabolical craft the vineyard became his.

But such crimes, striking at the root of justice, cry to heaven for vengeance. On Ahab as king rested the responsibility, and he as well as his more guilty partner was made to pay the penalty. God in his providence avenged the death of Naboth. The whole affair was widely known. As Naboth's reputed offence was unusual, and the gravest known to the Jewish laws, there was so great a sensation that a fast was proclaimed. The false trial and murderous execution were accomplished“ before all the people.” But this very ostentation of legal form made the outrage notorious. It reached the ears of Elijah. The prophet's keen sense of right detected such an outrageous combination of hypocrisy, covetousness, fraud, usurpation, cruelty, robbery, and murder, that he once more heard the Divine voice which summoned him from his retirement and sent him to the court with an awful message. Suddenly, unannounced and unexpected, the man of God appeared before the king in his newly acquired possession, surrounded by his gardeners and artificers, and accompanied by two of his officers, — Bidkar, and Jehu the son of Nimshi, ---destined to be both instrument and witness of the retribution. With unwonted austerity, without preface or waste of words, Elijah broke forth : “Thus saith Jehovah !” – how the monarch must have quaked at this awful name: “In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs also lick thine, even thine.” The conscience-stricken, affrighted monarch could only say, “Hast thou found me, oh mine enemy!” And terrible was the response: "Yes, I have found thee! and because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord, behold, I will take away thy posterity, and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin. And as to thy wife also, saith Jehovah, the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”

When and where, in the annals of the great, has such a dreadful imprecation been uttered ? It was more awful than the doom pronounced on Belshazzar. The blood of Ahab and his wife was to be licked up by dogs, their dynasty to be overthrown, and their whole house destroyed. This dire punishment was inflicted probably not only on account of the crime pertaining to Naboth, but for a whole life devoted to idolatry. The sentence was not to be executed immediately, — possibly a time was given for repentance; but it would surely be inflicted at last. This Ahab knew better than any man in his kingdom. He was thrown into the depths of the most abject despair. He rent his clothes ; he put ashes on his head and sackcloth on his flesh, and refused to eat or drink. He repented after the fashion of criminals, and humbled himself, as Nebuchadnezzar did, before the Most High God. God in mercy delayed, but did not annul, the punishment. Ahab lived long enough to fight the king of Syria successfully, so that for three years there was peace in Israel. But Ramoth in Gilead, belonging to the northern kingdom, remained in the hands of the Syrians.

In the mean time Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, who had married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and who was therefore in friendly social and political relations with Ahab, came to visit him. They naturally talked about the war, and lamented the fall of Ramoth-Gilead. Ahab proposed a united expedition to recover it, to which Jehoshaphat was consenting; but before embarking in an offensive war against a powerful state, the two monarchs consulted the prophets. It is not to be supposed that they were the priests of Baal, but ordinary prophets who wished to please. False prophets and false friends are very much alike, they give advice according to the inclinations and wishes of those who consult them. They are afraid of incurring displeasure, knowing well that no one likes to have his plans opposed by candid advisers. Therefore they all gave their voices for war, foretelling a grand success. But one prophet, more honest and bold — perhaps more gifted — than the rest, Micaiah by name, took a different view of the matter. He was constrained to speak his honest convictions, and prophesied evil, and was thrown into prison for his honesty and boldness.

Nevertheless Ahab in his heart was afraid, and had sad forebodings. Knowing his peril, and alarmed at the words of a true prophet, he disguised himself for the battle; but a chance arrow, shot at a venture, penetrated through the joints of his armor, and he was mortally wounded. His blood ran from his wound into the chariot, and when the chariot was washed in the pool of Samaria, after Ahab had expired, the dogs licked up his blood, as Elijah had predicted.

The death of Ahab put an end to the fighting; nor was Jehoshaphat injured, although he wore his royal robes. The Syrian general had given orders to slay only the king of Israel. At one time, however, the king of Judah was in great peril, being mistaken for Ahab; but when his pursuers discovered their mistake, they turned from the pursuit.

It seems that Jezebel survived her husband fourteen years, and virtually ruled the kingdom, for she was a woman of ability. She exercised the same influence over her son Ahaziah that she had over her husband, so that the son like the father served Baal and made Israel to sin

To this young king was Elijah also sent. Ahaziah had been seriously injured by an accidental fall from

« הקודםהמשך »