תמונות בעמוד

his upper chamber, through the lattice, to the courtyard below. He sent to the priests of Baal, to inquire whether he should recover or not. But Elijah by command of God had intercepted the king's messengers, and suddenly appearing before them, as was his custom, confronted them with these words : “Is there no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baalzebub, the God of Ekron ? Now, therefore, say unto the king, Thou shalt not coine down from the bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.” On their return to Ahaziah, without delivering their message to the god of the Phænicians or Philistines, the king said : “Why are ye now turned back?” They repeated the words of the strange man who had turned them back; and the king said: “What manner of man was he who came up to meet you ?” They answered, “He was a hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather around his loins.” The king cried, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” Again his enemy had found him!

Whereupon Ahaziah sent a band of fifty chosen soldiers to arrest the prophet, who had retired to the top of a steep and rugged hill, probably Carmel. The captain of the troop approached, and commanded him in the name of the king to come down, addressing him as the man of God. “If I am a man of God," said Elijah, “let fire come down from heaven and consume thee and thy fifty.” The fire came down and consumed them. Again the king sent another band of fifty with their captain, who met with the same fate. Again the king sent another band of fifty men, the captain of which came and fell on his knees before Elijah and besought him, saying, “O man of God! I pray thee let my life and the lives of these fifty thy servants be precious in thy sight.” And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, “Go down with him; be not afraid of him.” And he arose and went with the soldiers to the king, repeating to him the words he had sent before, that he should not recover, but should surely die.

So Ahaziah died, as Elijah prophesied, and Jehoram (or Joram) reigned in his stead, — a brother of the late king, who did not personally worship Baal, but who allowed the queen-mother to continue to protect idolatry. The war which had been begun by Ahab against the Syrians still continued, to recover Ramoth-Gilead, and the stronghold was finally taken by the united efforts of Judah and Israel; but Joram was wounded, and returned to Jezreel to be cured.

With the advent of Elijah a reaction against idolatry had set in. The people were awed by his terrible power, and also by the influence of Elisha, on whom his mantle fell. It does not appear that the people had utterly abandoned the religion of their fathers, for they had not hesitated to slay the eight hundred and fifty priests of Baal at the command of Elijah. The introduction of idolatry had been the work of princes, chiefly through the influence of Jezebel; and as the establishment of a false religion still continued to be the policy of the court, the prophets now favored the revolution which should overturn the house of Ahab, and exterminate it root and branch. The instrument of the Almighty who was selected for this work was Jehu, one of the prominent generals of the army; and his task was made comparatively easy from the popular disaffection. That a woman, a foreigner, a pagan, and a female demon should control the government during two reigns was intolerable. Only a spark was needed to kindle a general revolt, and restore the religion of Jehovah.

This was the appearance of a young prophet at Ramoth-Gilead, whom Elisha had sent with an important message. Forcing his way to the house where Jehu and his brother officers were sitting in council, he called Jehu apart, led him to an innermost chamber of the house, took out a small horn of sacred oil, and poured it on Jehu's head, telling him that God had anointed him king to cut off the whole house of Ahab, and destroy idolatry. On his return to the room where the generals were sitting, Jehu communicated to them the message he had received. As the discontent of the nation had spread to the army, it was regarded as a favorable time to revolt from Joram, who lay sick at Jezreel. The army, following the chief officers, at once hailed Jehu as king. It was supremely necessary that no time should be lost, and that the news of the rebellion should not reach the king until Jehu himself should appear with a portion of the army. Jehu was just the man for such an occasion, — rapid in his movements, unscrupulous, yet zealous to uphold the law of Moses. So mounting his chariot, and taking with him a detachment of his most reliable troops, he furiously drove toward Jezreel, turning everybody back on the road. It was a drive of about fifty miles. When within six miles of Jezreel the sentinels on the towers of the walls noticed an unusual cloud of dust, and a rider was at once despatched to know the meaning of the approach of chariots and horses. The rider, as he approached, was ordered to fall back in the rear of Jehu's force. Another rider was sent, with the same result. But Joram, discovering that the one who drove so rapidly must be his own impetuous captain of the host, and suspecting no treachery from him, ordered out his own chariot to meet Jehu, accompanied by his uncle Ahaziah, king of Judah. He expected stirring news from the army, and was eager to learn it. He supposed that Hazael, then king of Damascus, who had murdered Benhadad, had proposed peace. So as he approached Jehu — the frightful irony of fate halting him for the interview in the very vineyard of Naboth — he cried out, “Is it peace, Jehu?” “Peace!

replied Jehu; "what peace can be made so long as Jezebel bears rule ?” In an instant the king understood the ominous words of his general, turned back his chariot, and fled toward his palace, crying, “ There is treachery, 0 Ahaziah!” An arrow from Jehu pierced the monarch in the back, and he sank dead in his chariot. Ahaziah also was mortally wounded by another arrow from Jehu, but he succeeded in reaching Megiddo, where he died. Jehu spoke to Bidkar, his captain, and recalling the dread prophecy of Elijah, commanded the body of Ahab's son to be cast out into the dearly-bought field of Naboth.

In the mean time, Jezebel from her palace window at Jezreel had seen the murder of her son. She was then sixty years of age. The first thing she did was to paint her eyelids, and put on her most attractive apparel, to appear as beautiful as possible, with the hope doubtless of attracting Jehu, - as Cleopatra, after the death of Antony, sought to win Augustus. Will a flattered woman, once beautiful, ever admit that her charms have passed away? But if the painted and bedizened queen anticipated her fate, she determined to die as she had lived, — without fear, imperious, and disdainful. So from her open window she tauntingly accosted Jehu as he approached : “What came of Zimri, who murdered his master as thou hast done?” " Are there any on my side ?” was the only reply he

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