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his mantle over him: this was an ancient manner of investing a person with a new dignity.* Having taken leave of his parents, Elisha offered a sacrifice of his oxen and instruments of husbandry, to which he invited the people; and thus bidding adieu to his former occupations, he “went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.”
The next occurrence in the reign of Ahab is the unprovoked attack of Benhadad, king of Damascus, who sent him a haughty message, demanding that he should give him “his silver, and his gold, his wives and his children." To this insolent demand Ahab returned a meanly submissive answer, promising compliance. Benhadad hereupon sent again, and added to his former demand these yet more insulting conditions, “I will send my servants unto thee tomorrow about this time, and they shall search thine house, and the houses of thy servants; and it shall be, that whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away.”
On receiving this second embassy, Ahab called together the princes and laid it before them. With one consent they urged the king not to hearken to such humiliating terms, and the messengers were dismissed with their first reply.
* It is now observed in Persia by the sect of the Sooffees, whose most celebrated teachers bequeath their mantle to their favorite follower, whom they select as successor,-- See Dr. Kitto's notes in loci,
Benhadad immediately prepared to invade the country, and boasted that the dust of Samaria should not suffice for handfuls for his mighty host. But the prophet of the LORD came to Ahab, and bade him fear nothing, for that all this mighty host should be delivered into his hand: Accordingly, the Syrian army was defeated with great slaughter by a small body of Israelites, and their king Benhadad only saved himself by flight. The Syrians fled the country, but the prophet warned Ahab to keep prepared, as they would return the following year; and so it was. For the next year the courtiers of Benhadad persuaded him that the gods of the Israelites were gods of the hills only, as the battle they lost was in a mountainous district, but that if they fought them in the plain, they should overcome them. Again, therefore Benhadad assembled an army, as numerous as the former one, and entered Israel.
" And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the vallies, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” The Syrians came to battle with the Israelites, and were totally routed. Benhadad fled to the city of Aphek, where he had no means of defence or escape. From hence he sent his servants in the guise of suppliants, dressed in sackcloth, with ropes round their
necks, to implore the conqueror to spare his life; Ahab without asking counsel of the prophet, granted Benhadad easy terms, and permitted him to depart unhurt. For this Ahab was reproved in the following manner.
One of the sons of the prophets appeared before him, wounded, and with ashes on his head, and said, “ Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man; if by any means he is missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.”
Then the prophet discovering himself to Ahab, reproved him for releasing Benhadad, whom the Lord had given into his hand to be punished for his crimes: and the king went to his house sorrowful and displeased.
CHAPTER IX. NABOTH'S VINEYARD. ARAB'S DEATH. AHAZIAH.
ELIJAH DESTROYS THE FIFTIES.
I. Kings xxi. xxii. II. Kings i.
AHAB's character partook largely of 899. the despotic temper usually found in Eastern monarchs; accustomed to power, he
thought every opposition to his will a crime, and to have one wish ungratified was sufficient to embitter every other blessing he enjoyed. Near to his palace in Samaria, Naboth the Jezreelite had a small vineyard, which Ahab desired to possess, that he might make of it a garden of herbs. But it was contrary to the law of Moses, for an Israelite to part with his inheritance; he could in no case sell it except for a term of years, to revert back to his family on the year of Jubilee: and even that was considered a disgrace, only to be incurred when reduced to extreme poverty. Naboth therefore refused the king's offer of buying his vineyard with indig. nation. “The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.”
Unused to disappointment, the king returned to his house heavy and displeased: his palace, his gardens, all were distasteful to him, and he laid him down on his bed, and turned his face to the wall, and would eat no bread.
When Jezebel saw him in this state and heard the cause, she reproached him, not for his sin in coveting the vineyard, but for his weakness in suffering any subject to withstand his will. “Dost thou govern the kingdom of Israel ?" she scornfully exclaimed, “ Arise, and eat bread, and I will give thee the vineyard of Naboth the Jesreelite."
Now by the law of Moses the crime of blasphemy was punished in an Israelite by the forfeiture of his inheritance to the king, if his guilt were proved by two witnesses. Jezebel resolved to pervert this law to compass the destruction of Naboth; she wrote letters in Abab's name to the elders in the city where Naboth lived, commanding them to proclaim a fast and set Naboth in the midst, and then procure two false witnesses to swear that they had heard Naboth blaspheme God and the king. The iniquitous order was basely complied with. Naboth was accused by these false witnesses, condemned, and carried forth out of the city, and there stoned to death.
Then Jezebel, rejoicing in the success of her wickedness, desired Ahab to arise, and take possession of the vineyard which Naboth had refused to give him for money, for he was dead. And Ahab without one feeling of remorse, rose up and went down joyfully to possess himself of the vineyard of the murdered Naboth.
But there is One who sees and punishes the wickedness of kings. By God's command, the prophet Elijah went down to meet Ahab, and suddenly confronted the oppressor as he stood surveying his illgot vineyard.
“Hast thou killed ?” he sternly demanded, “and hast thou taken possession ? Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city, the dogs shall eat, and him that dieth in the field, shall the fowls of the air eat;” intimating by this that they would die a violent death, and not receive the rights of sepulture.