« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
They inspired the king and his subjects with manly fortitude, and with a firm confidence in the God of their fathers, at a season of imminent danger; and they secured the interposition of providence in their defence. When Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had triumphed over every other opponent, and came up against Judah and Jerusalem with a mighty host, confident of success, Hezekiah, after he had employed the proper means of defence, “gathered the people together and spake comfortably to them, saying, be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him; for there is more with us than with him; with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah.” Sennacherib made use of every artifice to repress their ardour: boasted that the Gods of other nations were not able to deliver their votaries out of his hands; and warned them not to expect deliverance from the God whom they served. He also wrote letters speaking contumeously of the God of Israel; and attempted to terrify the garrison by addressing them in their own language, and with a view to disseminate discord; “speaking against the God of Jerusalem as against the gods of the people of the earth, which were the work of the hands of man.” But “Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed and cried unto heaven.” Their prayers were answered. The leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria were destroyed by the immediate hand of God; Sennacherib returned home with confusion, and was slain by his own sons. The prosperity of Hezekiah was not favourable to piety. He became proud and ostentatious, and thus offended the Being who had protected him in so extraordinary a manner. The long reign of Manasseh may be divided into two periods. In the first, “he did that which was evil, like unto all abominations of the heathen.” In profaneness he exceeded the most irreligious of his predecessors; for he not only rebuilt the high places, reared up altars to Baalim, made groves and worshipped the host of heaven, but he built idolatrous altars in the house of the Lord. He also caused his children to pass through the fire; used enchantments and witchcraft, and dealt with familiar spirits, &c. Thus “he made Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathens.” But when he was taken captive by
* 2 Chron. ch. xxxii. v. 6.
surprise, was bound in fetters, and carried to. Babylon, his afflictions had the most salutary. influence. “He besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.”. In consequence of his humiliation he recovered his liberty, returned to Jerusalem, and became very assiduous to restore that religion which he had so rashly attempted to destroy. His son Amon was an idolater; he grew bold in iniquity, rendered himself obnoxious to his subjects, and was slain by his own servants. . . . Josiah, the son of Amon, though a child, was distinguished for his piety. He was but eight years old when he ascended his throne; in the eighth year of his reign, he began to seek the God of the fathers; and in the twelfth year he commenced the arduous task of purifying Jerusalem and Judea from the high places, and the groves, and the carved and molten images, &c. and he exerted himself to the utmost in the restoration of true religion. The following circumstance manifests to what an extent the worship of God, according to the command of Moses, had been neglected in the preceding reigns; and how imperfectly it was restored by those sovereigns who had made the attempt. As they were busily employed in examining and repairing the temple, “Hilkiah
the priest found a book of the law of the Lord given by Moses.” The discovery was announced to the king. The book was read before him ; and, according to the ancient custom, he rent his clothes, as expressive of his surprise and consternation at the deviations that had been so long practised. He was terrified at the universal and habitual neglect of the divine law; and dreading the judgments of heaven upon so wicked a people, he consulted the prophetess Huldah. She unreservedly foretold the evils that would come upon the land, after the death of Josiah; “whom the Lord had spared because his heart was tender, and he humbled himself before his God.” He solemnized the passover according to the law of Moses, and attempted to revive the service of the temple in its original purity. He unadvisedly interfered in a contest between Nicho, king of Egypt, and the king of Assyria; and espousing the cause of the latter, he was mortally wounded. The solemnities observed at his funeral, were a testimony of his superior worth; and these solemnities were enhanced by their being conducted by Jeremiah the prophet. -- This rash act of Josiah was the occasional ad introductory cause, of all those sufferings from a foreign bondage, which the nation was destined to experience. In consequence of the victory obtained by the king of Egypt, the au. thority of this conqueror over Judah became so great, that he deposed Jehoahaz, whom the people had chosen, substituting his brother Eliakim, afterwards named Jehoiakim, in his place. The deposed prince was conveyed to Egypt. After Jehoiakim had reigned eleven years, “ doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God,” he was bound in fetters and carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, who had conquered Judea. His son Jehoiachin, though a child, in the space of three months gave sufficient indications of a , depraved disposition, and he suffered a similar fate. The temple was plundered of all its treasures, and this youth was carried to Babylon; Nebuchadnezzar having appointed Zedekiah his brother, king over Judah and Jerusalem. This was after a lapse of some years; for Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years. Despising the faithful and alarming admonitions of the prophet Jeremiah, “ he, all the chief of the priests, and the people transgressed very much, after all the abominations
2 Chron, ch. xxxiv. v. 14.