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IX.

ISAIAH.

NATIONAL DEGENERACY.

760 B.O.

IX.

ISAIAH.

NATIONAL DEGENERACY.

To understand the mission of Isaiah, one should

1 be familiar with the history of the kingdom of Judah from the time of Jeroboam, founder of the separate kingdom of Israel, to that of Uzziah, in whose reign Isaiah was born, 760 B.C.

Judah had doubtless degenerated in virtue and spiritual life, but this degeneracy was not so marked as that of the northern kingdom, — called Israel. Judah had been favored by a succession of kings, most of whom were able and good men. Out of nine kings, five of them “ did right in the sight of the Lord;" and during the two hundred and sixteen years when these monarchs reigned, one hundred and eighty-seven were years when the worship of Jehovah was maintained by virtuous princes, all of whom were of the house of David. The reigns of those kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord were short.

During this period there were nineteen kings of Israel, most of whom did evil. They introduced idol. atry; many of them were vsurpers, and died violent deaths. If the northern kingdom was larger and more fertile than the southern, it was more afflicted with disastrous wars and divine judgments for the sins into which it had fallen. It was to the wicked kings of Israel, throned in the Samarian Shechem, that Elijah and Elisha were sent; and the interest we feel in their reigns is chiefly directed to the acts and sayings of those two great prophets.

The kingdom of Judah, blessed on the whole with virtuous rulers, and comparatively free from idolatry, continually increased in wealth and political power. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, after the rebellion of the ten tribes, seems to have changed somewhat his course of life, although the high places and graven images were not removed; but his grandson Asa destroyed the idols, and made fortunate alliances. Asa's son Jehosha phat terminated the civil wars that had raged between Judah and Israel from the accession of Rehoboam, and almost rivalled Solomon in his outward prosperity. Jerusalem became the strongest fortress in western Asia ; the Temple service was continued in its former splendor; all that was vital in the strength of nations pertained to the smaller kingdom. The dark spot in the history of Judah for nearly

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