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CHAPTER VIII.

THE ISRAELITISH MONARCHY,

FROM THE REIGN OF SOLOMON TO THE CAPTIVITY OF THE

TEN TRIBES.

B.C. 1015 TO B.C. 721.

The æra of History now to pass before us, will present all those A.M. 2989. mingled characters, and sudden transitions, which might well be s.c. 1015. deemed an epitome of human affairs upon the largest scale, and a map of the political changes made on the face of the whole earth from age to age. It opens with a splendour eclipsing the glory of the mightiest empires; it closes under a cloud, which may admonish all nations of their instability, and of the claims of truth and righteousness to be the firmest pillars of a state. Nothing can more distinctly Prosperity prove the extent of the renown of the Jewish empire at the period of Solomon's of which we speak, than the fact, that the name of Solomon has passed over all countries, and has ever been associated with the qualities of power, of wisdom, and of glory; while the very fables with which imagination has connected them, tend to establish the facts which are recorded of this monarch in the Scriptures. Had he been any thing less than he is there represented, it had never occurred to the wildest fancy to decorate him, almost in preference to every other potentate, with superhuman attributes. But all the East resounds with his name and his praise; and the system of His Mohammed has borrowed its most vivid beauties from the traditions universal which have been circulated relative to this prince. Not satisfied with the fact, that he developed the secret laws of nature, they assigned to him the command of the elements; and, as though the material universe were too limited a dominion, they have subjected to his control the rebel spirits and the invisible world; they have invested him with an authority which survives the kingdom over which he ruled; and have constructed the mighty machinery of genii and magic upon the traditions of his wisdom and their conceptions of his majesty.

The reign of David terminated in glory, yet it was troubled to the last moment. He named Solomon his successor, neither from caprice nor from parental partiality, but by divine appointment. That illustrious monarch had projected the building a splendid temple to

fane.

project for

Solomon.

conspiracy.

A M. 2989. Jehovah; and the design was approved, but he was not to be the B.C. 1015. instrument of carrying it into effect. His hands were polluted with David's blood; the stormy character of his reign had compelled him too a national

frequently to make appeal to the sword, for the God of Peace to think temple, it fitting that he should rear the national sanctuary; and when

Solomon, whose very name became a pledge of the peaceful character

of his reign, irabw, peaceable, from bbw,) was appointed as his succesReferred to sor, it was promised that he should accomplish this pious purpose;

that the throne of David should be established in him; and as well for the consolation of the father, under the loss of his first child by Bathsheba, as to mark the divine favour to this young prince, he received another title from Nathan the prophet, Jedidiah, i.e.

Beloved of the Lord. Adonijah's Notwithstanding this appointment, so evidently under divine dis

posal, the eldest son of David, Adonijah, in the closing days of that monarch, attempted to usurp his throne, and formed a powerful conspiracy, in which Joab, the celebrated Israelitish general, and Abiathar the priest, who had remained faithful during the revolt of Absalom, were involved, to exclude Solomon from the succession. The tidings of this formidable coalition were brought to the ears of the aged sovereign by Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah, a rising

general, through Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. In this Solomon extremity, David commanded the immediate coronation of Solomon, crowned.

who thus came to the kingdom before the death of his father; and Adonijah, unable to establish his pretensions, submitted to the youthful monarch, and was forgiven his rash attempt upon the empire. This clemency proved, in the event, of little avail.

David having issued instructions relative to the projected temple,

and placed in the hand of his son a schedule of the immense materials David's last he had prepared for that purpose, in giving his last charge, did not charge.

forget the indignities which he had suffered from Shimei and Joab; the latter of whom he enjoined upon Solomon decidedly to punish, while he was carefully to watch over the conduct of the former, Accordingly, upon the death of his father, one of the first acts of Solomon's reign was to deal with these offenders. Adonijah, who seems to have forgotten the perilous circumstances from which he was just rescued, with a rashness at which one cannot but be astonished, requested that he might be permitted to marry Abishag, the wife of the late king. This petition was also put in the most arrogant terms, enforcing his right of primogeniture, affirming the choice of the people, and making a merit of the resignation of the throne, for which he would consider the grant of this favour as a sufficient remuneration. It seems still more remarkable, that Bathsheba should have consented to prefer a demand so couched, especially when to marry any of the king's concubines was notoriously considered, by oriental nations, treason against the royal dignity. Solomon instantly perceived those covert designs, as well as the gross

W

Adonijah's rashness.

of Abiathar.

insult, which his mother had overlooked ; and enraged at the A.M. 2990. temerity of Adonijah, he commanded him to be immediately put to B.C. 1014. death, and proceeded to the punishment of others involved in the His death. former conspiracy.

The king dispossessed Abiathar of the priesthood, and put Zadoc Punishment in his place; but he spared his life in consideration of his fidelity to of his father; and, with strong menaces, confined him to his possessions in Anathoth. Thus, at the close of a century and a half, the house of Eli was visited in the person of Abiathar, as had been predicted by Samuel; and the punishment which commenced with the death of Hophni and Phinehas, reached even to the reign of Solomon. Joab heard of these proceedings, and foresaw his own destruction. He fled to the tabernacle as a sanctuary, and was slain, even while Death of he clung to the horns of the altar. This severity was justified by Joab, the crime of Joab, in shedding innocent blood in two instances, which the perilous situation of David's affairs at the time, did not allow him to punish. Benaiah, who executed the king's sentence, received his appointment as commander of the forces, in the room of Joab. It remained only to visit Shimei; and Solomon appears to have respected the original promise of David, that he should not die for his former offence, (2 Sam. xix. 23,) by only confining him within the walls of Jerusalem :-at the same time apprizing him that if he presumed to trespass upon the injunction his life would be the forfeit. To this condition Shimei thankfully subscribed; but violating it, three years afterwards, by passing over to Gath in pursuit of two of his servants who had fled from him, he voluntarily incurred the and of penalty, which Solomon immediately executed.

Having firmly seated himself on the throne, Solomon sought to strengthen his kingdom by foreign alliances; and married the Solomon's daughter of the king of Egypt, at that time one of the most powerful marriage empires existing. This marriage has been differently regarded by Pharaoh's different writers. Some, considering it a violation of the Mosaic law, Deut. vii. 3. at least in the spirit of it, as including all foreign alliances, besides those expressly enumerated, have seen in this connection the source of that idolatry into which this distinguished prince degenerated in his old age: while others have supposed that this princess had embraced the Jewish religion before he married her. It is certain that no disapprobation is expressed, or implied, on the part of Deity, and that this event was immediately followed by a very signal mark of divine favour at Gibeon, which laid the basis of Solomon's preeminent wisdom; while the idolatry of his advanced life may be traced to another origin than his alliance with the Egyptian princess, in his connection with “many strange women (besides the daughter of Pharaoh);" from those very nations with whom marriages had been expressly prohibited, and whose manners and superstitions he was seduced to imitate. Upon occasion of his union with the Egyptian princess, it is supposed that matchless specimen of oriental

Shimei.

daughter.

Solomon's dream and choice

A.M. 2990. poetry, called Solomon's Song, was composed as an epithalamium: B.C. 1014. together with the sublime forty-fifth Psalm. The latter bears evident Solomon's reference to something beyond the occasion, and involves considerSong.

ations relative to the empire of the Messiah of the highest order; and that the former should be considered not merely as an epithalamium, but as having a hidden and spiritual meaning conveyed in its splendid imagery—its position in the sacred canon, and the concurrent judgment of many distinguished divines, may well induce us to suppose.

Before the erection of the temple, the tabernacle was at Gibeon ; and while this sumptuous structure was rearing, Solomon went up thither to sacrifice. Hitherto, the testimony respecting him was, “ Solomon loved the Lord:” and this testimony was recorded after his marriage with Pharaoh's daughter. On one solemn occasion, he offered no less than a thousand sacrifices. While he remained at Gibeon, it pleased God “in a dream by night,” to signify his approbation of the youthful monarch; and to say, “ Ask what I shall give thee.” Sensible of the weight of government which rested upon his youthful shoulders, he implored for wisdom in preference to every other blessing. This choice was approved so highly, that not only was it promised he should excel all other men in knowledge, but the honour, and riches, which he had not sought, were superadded ; and it was further stated, on condition of his keeping the divine statutes, that his days should be lengthened also.

An occurrence soon happened to put his qualifications to a public test. Two women brought before him a living and a dead child, each affirming herself to be the mother of the living infant, and assigning the dead one to her antagonist. The plea seemed so equal, that in the absence of other evidence than their own, which was directly contradictory, it was impossible to decide which had the real right in the surviving babe. Solomon took the most effectual way of determining this intricate question, by irresistibly calling forth the feelings of nature. He commanded a sword to be brought, that the living child might be divided between the claimants. This the real mother could not endure, but consented to relinquish her interest in the babe, rather than be accessary to its death; while the other applauded the equity of the sentence. To her whose tenderness discovered her relationship to the child, he commanded it to be delivered, amidst the admiration of his surrounding counsellors, and the reverence of his people, among whom the report of this instance of his penetration soon diffused itself.

The wisdom of Solomon was further demonstrated in his political

appointments; the princes whom he called round his person, and the National general provisions for the government of his empire. The prosperity prosperity.

and glory of his reign may be gathered from the extent of his dominions, from the Euphrates to the Nile, and even beyond the Euphrates; and from the profound peace which prevailed during his

His wise judgment.

life. The nations around him were either tributary to him, or a.m. 2990 strengthened him with their alliance: “and Judah and Israel dwelt B.c. 1014. safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig-tree, from Dan even unto Beersheba, all the days of Solomon.” In the mean while, the unbounded researches of his mighty mind were exploring the fields of nature; the animal and vegetable world submitted to his scrutiny; nothing escaped his penetration, from the loftiest to the most minute forms of the creation; while the fountains of intellectual being were broken up to his view, and displayed in productions, some of which only survive to tell the world what he was, and others have passed away with the age that produced them. His fame reached the remotest parts of the known world, and incorporated itself with the history of all countries.

The attached and tried friend of his father David, Hiram, king Hiram. of Tyre, was among the first to offer his sincere congratulations to the young prince, who so ably filled the throne. This prompt tender of friendship was as frankly and warmly met on the part of Solomon, who concerted with this monarch the means of carrying into effect the intention of his father, and of accomplishing his own magnificent plans for the temple. Hiram engaged to furnish Assists him him with skilful artificers to co-operate with his own workmen, and i

in building

the temple. to transport cedars, fir-trees, and other wood, from Lebanon, in floats to his own ports. Solomon, in return, agreed to furnish him yearly with “ 20,000 measures of wheat, for food to his household, and 20 measures of pure oil:" so the Hebrew and the Vulgate read; but it is generally agreed that it ought to be read, 20,000 measures of oil also. Startling as this circumstance may at first Variation of appear, it should be remembered that the ancient mode of defining numbers. numbers by letters, with super-added marks, the least of which would swell units into thousands, and the omission of a point sink thousands into units, will easily account for certain numerical variations, almost unavoidable in such a process, while these variations, so easily and naturally accounted for, in mere numbers, leave the authenticity of the history unimpeached, and its general features unchanged. We make this remark here, and once for all, because other instances occur of differences in numbers, arising from these obvious causes, between the historical accounts of the books of Kings and Chronicles, while the facts in both are one and the same.

In the fourth year of his reign, and the 480th of the departure A.M. 2992. of Israel from Egypt, Solomon began that stupendous work, which s.c. 1012. was the admiration of the world while it stood, and has since been the theme of all ages. He employed, of the descendants of the Canaanites, 70,000 to bear burdens, 80,000 to hew timber and stone in the mountains, under 3,600 overseers; making a total of 153,600. In addition to these strangers, he levied 30,000 Israelites, whom he sent, 10,000 a month, by courses, under the direction of Adoniram. To describe the magnificent structure which rose The temple.

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