"I am the Lord, thy God, from the land of Egypt; Thou knowest no God but Me, And besides Me there is no Savior."
Hosea could not conceive the idea that God would desert Israel forever. He recognized, however, that the doom of the sinful nation was sealed. And so he read the drama of Israel in his own life. Assyria would destroy Samaria. Israel would leave the fatherland as Gomer left her home. In exile Israel would learn through suffering and hardships as Gomer had done. Israel would redeem itself and, eventually, would return to God. God, loving Israel always, would wait to receive His repentant people, as he himself had received Gomer.
And so Hosea drew a beautiful picture of that future day in these words:
"And I will betroth thee unto me forever. Yea, I will betroth thee unto me with righteousness, And with justice and with loving-kindness and in mercy; Yea, I will betroth thee unto me with faithfulness, And thou shalt know God."
* * * * *
The compiler of the fragments of Hosea's speeches in the book bearing the prophet's name—the most fragmentary book in the Bible, and from which this story has been built up—concludes his labors with this admonition:
"Whoso is wise, let him understand these things; Whoso is prudent, let him realize them; For straight are the ways of the Lord. The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble upon them."
THE STATESMAN PROPHET
The Vision in the Temple.
Even his closest friends could not explain what had come over young Isaiah, since the physicians announced that King Uzziah was nearing his end.
Amoz, Isaiah's father, was of a noble family, very near the throne in Jerusalem, and a dear personal friend of the king. Isaiah, too, was a prime favorite of Uzziah's, not by virtue of his father's friendship for the king, but because of his own fine qualities and excellent disposition.
Often Isaiah had been invited, with the Crown Prince, Jotham, to be present at the Great Councils of State—a very distinguished honor for so young a man. But no one thought, for an instant, that this change in manner and behavior, so noticeable to everyone, had come upon Isaiah because of his grief over the aged king's fatal illness.
Isaiah was being trained to enter upon a political career. His politics was the only serious thing in life for him. The country was so peaceful and prosperous, however, that even politics was a matter of little consequence to most of the royalty in Jerusalem. They lived the joyous life, paid little attention to the Temple and its priests, and often laughed at the whole religious ritual. But when great State functions occurred at the Palace or foreign ambassadors appeared at Court, all royalty celebrated with feasting—and Isaiah was among those present and in high favor.
He always came to these occasions in rare good humor and with cheerful enthusiasm. He was a young man of many accomplishments. His knowledge of affairs was wide and extensive. His cleverness and wit had made him famed far and wide. His occasional poems, written for sport and festivals, showed a genuine talent, almost a genius, for the poetic art. He was considered by all the very life and spirit of the younger Court set. A great future as a statesman and man of letters was predicted for him by everybody.
Now, however, since King Uzziah became so critically ill that his life was despaired of, this unexplainable change took place in Isaiah. He seemed to have quarreled with Prince Jotham, who had been reigning as king since Uzziah was smitten beyond hope of recovery, though both laughed at the rumor and denied it.
What proved the greatest surprise to all, was the fact that Isaiah often went to the Temple and talked earnestly with the priests. At times he would linger about the place long after the evening sacrifices had been offered and the priests had gone home. His jolly friends would make sport of him; but his more sober-minded companions became quite alarmed when, instead of displaying his usual good humor, he spoke with bitter sarcasm. His contagious laugh began to ring forced and hollow. He was morose and always ill at ease, as if he were laboring under a great strain that burdened his heart and mind.
King Uzziah's death was a lingering one. For many weeks reports from the sick chamber were to the effect that he was passing away, but he clung to life. Jerusalem had doffed its gala attire and the whole of Judah was prepared to go into mourning for its king. For a month or more the nobility and the Court had not indulged in any social functions, state or private. The Capital and the country were awaiting the royal funeral.
Uzziah had been a great king and a good ruler. He had done much for the whole country, and especially for the Capital. The mourning in Jerusalem and all through Judah was, therefore, genuine and sincere, when the king died. The pomp and ceremony that characterized the funeral procession were not mere royal show, but expressions of honor and deep regret of a loyal people for its beloved sovereign.
The young Isaiah was accorded an honored place in the long list of notables who followed the body of the king to its last resting place. He walked beside Jotham, his bosom friend; but did not accompany the new king on the return to the palace. In the slight confusion that followed after Uzziah had been "buried with his fathers," Isaiah slipped quietly away and took the road to the Temple Mount.
Taking his way through the Water Gate, on the west side of the Temple, he entered the Inner Court. Then he mounted the twelve steps leading to the vestibule of the Temple proper. Two priests, who had just come out of the chamber where the implements for sacrificing were kept, bowed low to him and passed out into the Inner Court. Isaiah was evidently so absorbed in his thoughts that he did not notice them, for he did not return their salute, but walked forward to the entrance of the Hekal, or Temple proper.
There he stood for a moment in silence; then he leaned wearily against one of the entrance pillars. Behind him the Priests' Hall and the Inner Court were deserted. Before him, in the Hekal, was the Altar of Incense, on which coals from the recent sacrifices were still alive. To the right of the Altar was the Menorah, the seven-light candlestick, and to the left the table of showbread. Behind these hung the golden curtains that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple.
A thin line of blue and purple smoke rose from the live coals on the Incense Altar and wound its way upward to the ceiling of the Hekal. As Isaiah watched the rising smoke, it became thicker and thicker, and filled the whole Temple. His eyes gazed from the Altar to the glittering gold curtains behind it. The reflection from the coals, and the playing of the blue and purple smoke on the golden sheets, caused them to sheen and shimmer until they faded entirely away into the blue and purple maze that filled the Hekal.
Isaiah was gazing right into the Holy of Holies, where no human eyes, except those of the High Priest, once a year, ever looked, and behold! he saw a most remarkable vision.
There, instead of the wooden Ark of the Covenant, he beheld a great and lofty throne on which was God, Himself. Instead of the two Cherubim of wood and gold, that surmounted the Ark, he beheld Seraphim, the fiery Angels, standing attendant before Him. Each of the Seraphim had six wings, with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet and with two he flew. And one cried unto another and said:
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory."
Isaiah felt the very foundations of the threshold shake under him, at the sound of the calling. Covering his face with both hands, he cried out:
"Woe is me! I am undone. For I am a man of unclean lips. And I am dwelling among a people of unclean lips; Yet mine eyes have seen the King, the God of hosts."
Uncovering his face, he stretched out his hands towards the throne in mute appeal. Thereupon one of the Seraphim flew to the Altar and, with a pair of tongs, took from it a live coal. From the Altar the Seraph flew directly to Isaiah and, touching his mouth with the live coal, said:
"See, this has touched thy lips, Therefore thine iniquity is gone And thy sin forgiven."
Then Isaiah heard the voice of God Himself, saying:
"Whom shall I send, And who will go for us?"
Falling to his knees, and again stretching out his hands towards the throne, Isaiah answered:
"Here am I! Send me!"
Kneeling there, motionless, hardly breathing, his lips apart, his face expressing the fear and anguish that were in his heart, Isaiah heard the reply:
"Go and say to this people: Hear and hear again, but understand not; See and see again, but perceive not. Make fat the heart of this people, And their ears dull, and besmear their eyes, Lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears And their heart should understand and they be healed."
The force of this message struck Isaiah to the heart. He understood its meaning very well. It was terrible! It carried with it the sound of doom and the end of his nation. The very thought of it terrified him. Holding his head with both hands his back bent forward as under a heavy weight, until his face touched his knees upon the floor, he cried in heartbreaking tones:
"Lord! How long?"
And God answered him:
"Until the cities are in ruin without an inhabitant, And the houses without a human occupant, And the land become utterly desolate, And God hath sent the men far away, And in the midst of the land the deserted territory be great. And should there be a tenth in it, It must in turn be fuel for flame, Like the terebinth and the oak, Of which, after falling, but a stump remains."
For a long time after the voice had ceased speaking, Isaiah remained in the position in which he had listened to the last reply.
When, finally, in fear and trembling, he slowly raised his head, the vision had gone! Behind him the Priests' Hall and the Inner Court were deserted. Before him a thin line of blue and purple smoke rose from the live coals on the Incense Altar and wound its way upward to the ceiling of the Hekal.
Isaiah passed his hands over his eyes. For a moment he let his cool palm rest against his burning forehead. Then he slowly found his way out of the Temple and passed out into the silent night.
The Parable of the Vineyard.
The fact was that Isaiah did not grieve particularly over King Uzziah's illness and approaching death. What troubled him was the attitude taken by his dear friend, the Crown Prince, Jotham, toward the political future of the Kingdom of Judah, since his sick father had placed the reins of government in his hands.
The differences of opinion between Isaiah and Jotham, as to what was best for the nation were so great as to be almost hopeless. So that, even before Uzziah died the two stopped discussing problems of State, although they continued their warm friendship.
As long as King Uzziah lived, it was plain nothing serious could happen to the country. To the south, Uzziah was feared by the Philistines and Arabians, whom he had subdued, and his name was honored even at the Court of Egypt. To the north Jeroboam II was prosperous and at peace; Syria was weak and Assyria had not yet made its power felt. Within the extended borders of his own country, Uzziah had established peace and had built up commercial enterprise and prosperity.
To the average citizen of Judah, therefore, the country was all right, the king was all right, and the future had not the slightest cloud before it. To Isaiah, the keen-sighted and well-posted young statesman, however, neither the country nor the king was fit to deal with a great national crisis—and the future had one in store.
When Uzziah became sick and abdicated, quietly, in favor of Jotham, then a young man of twenty-five, Isaiah began to call Jotham's attention to the internal social conditions of the country; but Jotham had such a high respect for his father's ruling power that he would not alter a single law nor make a single reform.
When Isaiah attempted to drum into Jotham's head the causes of the reign of anarchy in Samaria and the lessons to be drawn therefrom for Judah, Jotham, desiring to show his power as a ruler while his father was yet alive, busied himself fighting with the Ammonites and extending the boundaries of his kingdom.
When, finally, in the year 788 B. C. E., the news came to Jerusalem that King Menahem, of Israel, had sent a heavy tribute to the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser, Isaiah's worries over the future of his own country became very acute.
It was in this year Uzziah died; and it was on the day of the king's funeral that Isaiah saw the remarkable vision in the Temple.
Up to that hour Isaiah was conscious only of the fact that something must be done in Judah to save it from the evils of injustice and unrighteousness that were being practiced by the rich and powerful upon the poor and weak. From that hour on he knew that God had called him to be His prophet, that God had selected him to bring the truth home to the Judeans and, if possible, to save the nation from the doom that awaited the sister-nation, Israel.
What Isaiah saw and heard in the Temple at the close of that memorable day, gave him the germ of an idea as to what God demanded of him to do. Time, thought and experience ripened that idea into a plan. The course of events offered him the opportunity to put the plan into action.
Isaiah could not count on Jotham to institute and carry out reforms in the religious beliefs and practices of the people, in their commercial wrongdoings, in the corrupt law courts and in the general oppression of the lower classes. He had to begin work on his own initiative; and he began it with the people themselves, in the City of Jerusalem.
He came to the Temple Mount one day, when many pilgrims were gathered there. He listened attentively, with the rest, to travelers from Arabia, who were relating wonderful tales of adventure. From stories of adventure in foreign lands the pilgrims drifted into stories of happenings in their own country. Some related rumors of what was going on in Samaria; others spoke of the possibility of Judah's being forced to fight Assyria some day. Some laughed at such a suggestion; others were in grave doubt whether such an emergency would find the nation prepared. Some spoke of the evils that were sapping the strength of the people; others complained that the king, instead of attending to his business of State, was busying himself with his wealth of herds and vineyards.
Here Isaiah, who had been silently listening to the discussions, offered to recite a poem, an original composition. The suggestion was received with loud applause and Isaiah began:
"Let me sing a song of my friend, My friend's song about his vineyard."
At this introduction everybody settled down comfortably to listen, and Isaiah continued:
"My friend hath a vineyard On a fertile hill; He digged it and gathered out the atones, And planted it with choicest vine; A tower he built in the midst of it And hewed out a wine press. He looked to find grapes that were good, And it yielded only wild grapes."
Isaiah's listeners were disappointed. The story not only lacked excitement, it even lacked interest. They shifted in their places uneasily, but Isaiah caught their attention again by continuing:
"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, And ye people of Judah. Judge, I pray you, betwixt me And betwixt my vineyard. What more could be done to my vineyard Than that which I have done? When I looked to find grapes that were good Why yielded it wild grapes?
"And now, pray, I will tell you What I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, That it shall be devoured; I will break down the wall thereof, That it shall be trodden down; Yea, I will make a waste thereof, That it shall not be pruned or weeded. Then it shall put forth thorns and thickets of brambles; The clouds I will command that they rain not thereon."
Everybody understood now that Isaiah was speaking a parable and that its application was to them and to their country. But who was the "friend" who possessed this vineyard? Isaiah did not hold the questioners in long suspense:
"For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the House of Israel, And the men of Judah are His cherished plant; And he looked for justice, but, behold! bloodshed; For righteousness, but, behold! a cry of distress."
Then Isaiah launched forth into a powerful denunciation of the social evils of which Judah and the leading Judeans were guilty—a sixfold woe that was rushing the Nation on to destruction.
"Woe unto them that join house to house, Who add field to field, Until there is no space left, And they dwell alone in the midst of the land.
"Woe unto them that rise at dawn To pursue strong drink, Who tarry late into the night Until wine inflames them; But they regard not the work of the lord And see not what His hands have made
"Woe unto them that draw guilt upon themselves With cords of folly, And sin as with a cart rope!
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; That put darkness for light, and light for darkness; That put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
"Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own conceit!
"Woe unto them that are heroic in drinking wine, And valiant in mixing strong drink! Who, for a bribe, justify the wicked And strip the innocent man of his innocence!
"Therefore, as the fire devours stubble, And as hay shrivels in a flame, So their root shall be as rottenness And their blossom go up as dust; Because they have rejected the teaching of the Lord of hosts, And despised the word of Israel's Holy One."
So intensely absorbed in his speech was Isaiah, and so deeply interested was the vast assembly whom he was addressing, that no one took note of a splendidly arrayed group of men who had come up and stood with the rest, listening.
When Isaiah had finished speaking, and the people had caught their breath again, some one shouted:
"Behold! The king!"
Isaiah looked over the heads of the crowd toward the newcomers, and there he beheld Jotham and a retinue of nobles, laughing heartily, no doubt, at his masterful effort.
Fearlessly, and without a moment's hesitation, the prophet did what he had threatened Jotham he would do—he denounced his friend, the king, before his people:
"The Lord standeth forth to present his case, And He standeth up to judge His people. The Lord entereth into judgment With the elders of His people and their princes. 'Ye, yourselves, have devoured the vineyard. The spoils of the needy are in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people And by grinding the face of the needy?' Saith the Lord, God of hosts."
Laughing still more heartily at this madness of his old friend, Jotham easily made his way to where the prophet stood. He placed his arm around Isaiah's shoulder and invited him to go with him and his companions to the palace.
Isaiah did as he was bidden. All the way Jotham and his friends made fun of the feverish enthusiasm with which the denunciations were delivered, but Isaiah did not feel hurt. His heart was quite at peace. At last he had launched forth upon the work to which God had so unexpectedly and so marvelously called him!
When Jotham and his friends arrived at the palace, a joint embassy from Rezin, the king of Syria, and from Pekah, the king of Israel, was awaiting them. To the amazement of them all, the ambassadors placed before Jotham a demand that Judah join forces with Syria and Israel, forthwith, and fight Tiglath-Pileser, the king of Assyria, who was then threatening to invade Damascus and Samaria!
A Coward on the Throne.
King Jotham was wise enough to follow the advice of the Prophet Isaiah in his reply to the embassy from Rezin and Pekah. At the Council of State, called to consider the message from the kings of Syria and Israel, Isaiah counselled an unhesitating and decisive refusal of their demand. While, therefore, the ambassadors were received and entertained royally in Jerusalem, they returned to their respective sovereigns, their mission unaccomplished.
The answer that Jotham sent back to Damascus and Samaria was plain, simple and to the point. Judah, he said, had no interest in the political policies and intrigues of Syria and Israel and would not join a coalition against Assyria.
Both Rezin and Pekah stormed against Jotham and his advisors, but to no avail. Judah was strong, independent and at peace, and Jotham would not involve his country in a quarrel with which he had nothing to do.
Conditions in Israel were different, however. The majority of the people chafed under the indignity of being tributary to Assyria. They hated King Menahem who, in his fear, sent the tribute to Tiglath-Pileser and became his voluntary subject. Menahem was hated by the rich merchants and large landowners as well as by the people generally, because on them the burden of the tribute fell the heaviest. The powerful Samarians, therefore, formed themselves into a party to oppose the king.
King Rezin, of Syria, who was watching his opportunity to rebel against Assyria, kept alive this hostile spirit against Menahem in Samaria and Israel. Rezin was working toward a coalition of all the countries along the Mediterranean sea that were tributary to Tiglath-Pileser, so that in their combined strength they might rise and throw off the Assyrian yoke.
The leaders of the opposition to the king,—the national patriots—in Samaria, hoped that Pekaiah, Menahem's son and successor, would prove himself a truer son of his country than his father. They looked to him to refuse the payment of the Assyrian tribute and to re-establish the independence of the Kingdom of Israel; but they were disappointed. Pekaiah followed in the political footsteps of his father and the hopes of the Samarian patriots waned when he succeeded his father on the throne.
Rezin, however, was not to be denied in the plan he had laid out for himself and for the other Assyrian tributaries. Pekaiah reigned in Samaria less than two years, when, in 735, through the assistance of Rezin and the connivance of the patriotic party in Samaria, he was assassinated by one of his generals, Pekah, the son of Remaliah.
Pekah was thus raised to the throne of Israel with the avowed purpose of uniting with Rezin in the proposed rebellion against Tiglath-Pileser. Israel wanted, and needed, the help of Judah in the desperate conflict that awaited them. The smaller countries north of Israel and Syria, crushed under the burden of their Assyrian tribute, gladly joined the Syro-Israelitish coalition; but the embassy to Jerusalem returned empty-handed. Rezin and Pekah, however, were not dismayed by the refusal of Judah to join them. They bided their time for a better opportunity.
This opportunity came the very next year when Jotham died, suddenly, and his son, Ahaz, a young man of twenty, came to the throne of Judah.
Without any notice whatever, Rezin and Pekah united their armed forces and marched upon Jerusalem. This sudden invasion of Judah had been carefully planned beforehand. It was so arranged that, when the Syro-Israelitish forces attacked Jerusalem, a certain man, the son of Tabeal, who was willing to play the traitor, was to assassinate Ahaz, proclaim himself king, admit the enemy into the city and throw all the power and wealth of Judah into the scale with Syria and Israel in the war against Tiglath-Pileser.
Ahaz was entirely unprepared for such a move on the part of Pekah and Rezin. The news that the two armies were on the march caused consternation, not alone in the palace of the king, but in Jerusalem and in the entire country.
The northern part of Judah, as far as Jerusalem, was unprotected and at the mercy of the enemy. Neither Uzziah nor Jotham looked for a foe from that direction. In fact, the Syro-Israelitish forces met no opposition whatever until they came within sight of Jerusalem.
The very first thing that Ahaz and his generals did, when they had recovered from their consternation, was to prepare the capital for a siege. The fortifications were examined and strengthened. The water supply to the south of the city, without which Jerusalem could not have withstood a siege for three months, was especially looked after.
Now, Ahaz was like that ancient Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, or like his own predecessor, Rehoboam, who "took council with the young men that were grown up with him." Ahaz did not call Isaiah, the old friend and counsellor of the royal house, to advise him in his great extremity.
Isaiah, however, called to God to save his nation—if the nation would be saved—and did not wait for an invitation from the young king. While Ahaz, his advisors and the commanders of his army, were examining the water supply of Jerusalem, preparatory to the inevitable siege, Isaiah went out to meet him. The prophet came upon the royal party at the end of the conduit of the upper reservoir, in the highway of the Fuller's field.
Isaiah, who had been quietly and carefully studying the entire situation since the embassy came to Jotham, understood well enough that an intrigue must be brewing in Jerusalem against the young King. When the report reached the city that the enemy was on the march, Isaiah's searching inquiries and careful observation of the leaders of the capital resulted in the discovery that the son of Tabeal was in league with Rezin and Pekah. It was Isaiah at this meeting, who informed Ahaz that his immediate danger was as much within his own city as from the enemy that was approaching. No wonder, then, that "his heart trembled, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the forest tremble with the wind."
But Isaiah immediately reassured the trembling Ahaz in the following words:
"Take heed and keep thyself calm; fear not, neither be fainthearted because of these two fag ends of smoking firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and of the son of Remaliah. Syria, with Israel, hath purposed evil against thee, saying, 'Let us go up against Judah and distress it and overpower it and appoint the son of Tabeal king in its midst.' But thus saith the Lord God: It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass, for, the head of Syria is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin, and the head of Israel is Samaria and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. Verily, if you will not hold fast, ye shall not stand fast."
Ahaz laughed at the idea of keeping quiet and having no fear, under the conditions. He turned away impatiently from the prophet and proceeded with his business of examining the reservoir. Isaiah, however, would not be put off with mere impatience.
"Ask thee a sign of the Lord, thy God," he cried to Ahaz. "Ask it either in the depths of Sheol or in the heights above."
But Ahaz replied, "I will not ask, neither will I put the Lord to the test."
Then Isaiah said:
"Hear now, O House of David! Is it too small a thing for you to weary men, that ye must also weary my God? Therefore the Lord, Himself, will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman will bear a son and call his name Immanuel (God is with us). Before this child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good those two kings before whom thou tremblest shall be deserted."
Ahaz was tired of mere words. Advice he had enough; he wanted now to act. In fact, when the knowledge of the political intrigue in Jerusalem became known to him, he immediately made up his mind what to do. He, therefore, again turned from Isaiah and ordered his retinue to continue the examination of the water supply.
Isaiah then tried another form of argument with this cowardly young king, in order to bring him to his senses. He, himself, was positive that Tiglath-Pileser, who was at that time in Asia Minor, had, no doubt, been informed by his spies of the action taken by Rezin and Pekah. Isaiah felt sure, also, that Tiglath-Pileser would immediately invade Syria. He knew, in addition, that neither Rezin nor Pekah was strong and powerful enough, at this time, to wage a protracted war with Assyria; that is why he described them as "two fag ends of smoking firebrands." He, therefore, concluded that, at the first information of Tiglath-Pileser's march into the northern country, Rezin and Pekah would have to return to defend their own lands.
On the other hand, Isaiah knew that, if Ahaz did anything that would in any way displease the mighty King of Assyria, the latter would, after finishing his campaign in Syria and Israel, attack Judah. Therefore, he warned Ahaz in these words:
"God will bring upon thee and upon thy people and upon thy father's house days such as have not been, since the day Ephraim departed from Judah, through the King of Assyria. Curds and honey will be that child's food (in the wilderness) when he knows to refuse evil and choose the good."
Isaiah ceased. He had delivered his message, had counseled and warned the king. He made it clear to Ahaz that, if he did anything except trust in the power and care of God for his people, Judah, like Syria and Israel, was destined to become a wilderness in the short time that it takes a child to reach that age when it can begin to think for itself.
Ahaz, however, acted upon his own and his young men's counsel. Hardly had he returned to the palace that day, when he sent messengers carrying the following letter to Tiglath-Pileser, King of Assyria:
"I am your servant and your son. Come up and save me from the power of the King of Assyria and from the power of the King of Israel, who have attacked me."
Ahaz followed up this message by ransacking the Temple in Jerusalem and the treasures of the royal palace, sending both as a gift and bribe to Tiglath-Pileser.
Then exactly what Isaiah foresaw happened. Tiglath-Pileser immediately invaded Syria and attacked Damascus. Rezin and Pekah were forced to hurry back to defend their own countries, and Judah was saved from Syro-Israelitish attack; but Ahaz had already thrown himself at the feet of the great Assyrian conqueror, with terrible results to his own country.
On Deaf Ears.
Though the spineless Ahaz sent his cowardly note, and the presents that followed, to Tiglath-Pileser secretly, the truth leaked out. Great indignation was aroused among certain opponents of the king in Jerusalem at the discovery of his act of treachery to the nation, and a new party was formed to fight against submission to Assyria.
The aim of the new movement was, principally, to preserve the independence of Judah. The only avenue open seemed to be the alliance with Israel and Syria that the lamented king, Jotham, would not enter into.
With Ahaz looked upon as a traitor, the only one whom these patriots could turn, was the Prophet Isaiah, who loved his land and knew its traditions. So, the leaders of the patriotic party came to him with their plans. But Isaiah stood firm in the position he had taken with Jotham against entangling alliances.
He shocked these gentlemen with a well-spoken rebuke. He told them that the patriotism Judah needed was not of alliances and war, but of faith in God, of trust in Him who always guards and protects a righteous nation against its enemies.
Isaiah knew well enough the weakened and helpless condition of both Israel and Syria. To join with them in a war against Tiglath-Pileser would mean even greater ruin for Judah than the peaceful submission of Ahaz. He pictured the results of such an alliance in the following words:
"Because this people have rejected the waters of Shiloah that flow softly, And rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son, Therefore the Lord is about to bring upon them The waters of the River Euphrates, mighty and great, (Even the King of Assyria, in all his glory). And it shall rise above all its channels, And overflow all its banks; And it shall sweep onward into Judah, And it shall overflow and pass over it, Reaching even to its neck, And its outstretched wings shall cover the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel."
To the king, the prophet sent a concise message that would have been heeded and understood by any one but a weakling like Ahaz. Isaiah referred to the utter helplessness into which Ahaz had cast Judah by his cowardly self-subjugation to Tiglath-Pileser. He pictured what might happen when that mighty monarch would receive the king's pitiful cry for help:
"In that same day the Lord will shave with the razor hired beyond the Euphrates the head and the hidden hair; and it shall even sweep away the beard."
Despite Isaiah's efforts, the peace party that stood by Ahaz, and the war party that desired an alliance with Pekah and Rezin, continued their separate agitations.
The capture of the town of Elath, at the head of the Arabian Gulf, by a detachment of the Syrian army, strengthened Ahaz in his belief that help could come only from Tiglath-Pileser. On the other hand, it convinced the war party that only the union with Samaria and Damascus could restore to the country this center of Judah's lucrative trade, that commanded the commerce to the south.
Isaiah recognized the uselessness of appealing to either of these opposing parties. He determined to appeal to the country at large, to the whole people, who were interested not in party quarrels, but in the welfare of the nation. He wanted to create a public opinion in favor of peace and in opposition to entangling alliances, either with Assyria or with the Palestinian coalition.
On his own property, in the heart of Jerusalem, where all the passers-by could see and read it, Isaiah erected a great sign which read:
"SWIFT BOOTY—SPEEDY PREY."
He meant this to indicate to the people that the triumphs of either the champions of peace or the champions of war would mean ruin to the nation at the hands of Assyria.
About this time a son was born to Isaiah. He gave a magnificent feast to the leading people of Jerusalem and, to bring his conviction home more forcibly, named the boy "Swift Booty—Speedy Prey."
At the close of the feast he addressed his guests and said, in part:
"Before the boy knows how to cry, 'My mother' and 'My father,' they shall carry off the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria before the King of Assyria."
At a great meeting in Jerusalem, soon thereafter, Isaiah again took up the burden of his argument against Israel and Syria. He predicted the inevitable destruction of these two kingdoms, because they were in rebellion against Assyria, and he pointed out the consequent foolhardiness of involving Judah in the oncoming disaster. Regarding Israel he said:
"In that day the glory of Jacob shall grow dim, And the fatness of his flesh wax lean. And it shall be as when a harvester gathers standing grain, And his arms reap the ears; Yea, it shall be as when he gleans in the valley of Rephaim, And the gleanings thereof shall be as the beating of an olive tree— Two or three berries on the topmost branch, Four or five on the boughs of a fruit tree, Saith the Lord, the God of Israel."
Then, addressing himself as if he were speaking to the people of Israel, but hoping to drive the lesson home to the people of Judah, who were listening to him, he spoke most regretfully:
"For thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation And hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength."
Turning to a consideration of the second of the allies, Syria, Isaiah continued:
"Soon shall Damascus cease to be a city And shall be a ruinous heap. Its cities shall be given up to flocks Which shall lie down, with none to make them afraid. Ephraim shall lose her bulwark, And Damascus her sovereignty, And the rest of Syria shall perish; Like the Israelites shall they be, Saith the Lord of Hosts."
These descriptions of what would happen to Syria and Israel, however, did not go unchallenged. The prophet was told that he had evidently forgotten that all the nations in Palestine and along the Mediterranean, except Judah, were parties to this coalition against Tiglath-Pileser. Isaiah laughed. With fine scorn he cried:
"Ah! The multitude of many peoples That roar like the roaring of the seas! And the rushing of nations, That rush like the rushing of many waters! But he shall rebuke them and they shall flee far off, And shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, And like the whirling dust before the storm. At eventide, behold, terror; Before the morning, they are no more."
Then, as if addressing himself to all the petty northern countries that were trying to drag his own beloved fatherland into the whirlpool of disaster, Isaiah spoke as follows:
"Make an uproar, And be broken in pieces; And give ear, all ye of far countries; Gird yourselves and be broken in pieces, Take counsel together, and it shall be brought to naught; Speak the word and it shall not stand; For God is with us."
And in answer to the appeal of the people as to what ought to be done in this national crisis, Isaiah replied:
"Call ye not conspiracy all that this people calleth conspiracy. What they fear do not fear, nor be filled with dread. The Lord of Hosts, Him regard as the conspirator! Let Him be your fear and your dread!"
The Survival of the Fittest.
While Isaiah was thus attempting to influence the two parties in Jerusalem, exactly what he had warned Ahaz of happened. The Assyrian forces made a speedy march into Syria, with Damascus as the point of attack. The combined Syro-Israelitish army, upon hearing of Tilgath-Pileser's new move, abandoned the siege of Jerusalem and hurried back to defend their own countries.
The great Assyrian conqueror easily subdued all the land about Damascus and finally besieged the city itself. Rezin offered him desperate resistance, but it was useless. Tiglath-Pileser destroyed all the forests, fruit groves and fertile fields in the vicinity of the city, until both food and water failed the defenders.
In a last sally from the doomed city, the Syrian troops were literally cut to pieces. Rezin escaped with his life, and, disguised and alone, re-entered Damascus. But he was caught, brought before Tiglath-Pileser and put to death.
In the meantime, all Israel and Samaria quaked at the fate that awaited them. Pekah, who had been lending Rezin what help he could, without entirely weakening himself, was ready and willing to give the Assyrian battle. Tiglath-Pileser, however, had his hands full with Damascus. He therefore, welcomed the suggestion of a certain Hoshea, son of Elah of Samaria, who offered to follow the example of the traitor Menahem.
Tiglath-Pileser assented gladly. He promised help and protection to Hoshea, as he did to Ahaz, for voluntary submission to Assyrian rule. So Hoshea conspired against Pekah in Samaria, slew him, proclaimed himself king under the protection of Assyria. and sent tribute to Tiglath-Pileser at Damascus. Cowardice and treachery thus once more sealed the fate of the kingdom of Israel.
After the fall of Damascus, the victorious Assyrian ordered a great Durbar to celebrate his victory in that city. All the tributary kings in Palestine were commanded to meet him and pay homage to him there.
The splendor and display of the gathering was rivaled only by the magnificence of the welcome the terrible monarch received on his return to Asshur, his own capital.
Among the princes who hob-nobbed with their master at Damascus were the cowardly Ahaz and the traitorous Hoshea. But both were happy in that their countries escaped the awful havoc they witnessed in Damascus and throughout Syria.
Tiglath-Pileser always carried with him a wonderfully wrought altar on which he offered sacrifices to Asshur, the Assyrian god. During the religious exercises at the Damascus festival, in which all the Assyrian vassals participated, Ahaz was particularly struck with the beauty of this altar. Thereupon he sent to Urijah, the high priest in Jerusalem, "the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof," with instructions to have it duplicated for the Temple in Jerusalem.
Isaiah, when he heard of this, was thunderstruck by the audacity of the king who had no respect for his people or for his God.
Not only was this heathen altar built, but it replaced the ancient one, which was set aside. Ahaz even went further. When he returned from Damascus, he himself, instead of the regularly appointed priest, offered the sacrifices upon the new altar, as he had seen Tiglath-Pileser do. To cap the climax, Ahaz introduced certain pagan religious ideas, copied from the Assyrian worship, into the cult of the Temple, simply to please and gratify his Assyrian master.
With so base a king, Isaiah could hope nothing for the nation. Truly could he cry out in the anguish of his spirit:
"My people—a boy is their leader!" "My people—thy guides lead thee astray."
Of one thing, however, Isaiah was positive. When messengers came to him from various parts of the country to inquire what to do in this national crisis he answered them all alike: "God hath founded Zion, and in her shall the afflicted of His people take refuge."
He was certain that neither a weakling like Ahaz nor a terror like Tiglath-Pileser could bring destruction upon the city that God had selected as the center of His worship, or upon the people whom God had chosen, to reveal Himself to them and to entrust them with His law.
The patriotic and religious backsliding of Ahaz and his counselors, however, seemed to point to the destruction of both. But Isaiah was not dismayed. Trusting faithfully in God's protecting hand over His people, he could not conceive that God would desert them for long. God would not permit a backboneless king to reign over His people. The successor to Ahaz would be a different type of man—an ideal prince in the sight of God and men:
"And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, And a branch of his roots shall bear fruit. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and might, The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, Neither arbitrate after the hearing of his ears; But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, And arbitrate with equity for the afflicted of the land: And he shall smite the tyrannous with the rod of his mouth, And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked, And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, And faithfulness the girdle of his reins, And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, And the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall feed together; And a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall make friends; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, And the weaned child shall stretch out his hand to the serpent's eye. None shall do evil or act corruptly in all my holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
In all literature there is no more beautiful and meaningful description of what an ideal ruler should be and of the peaceful and happy state to which such a ruler could bring his country.
But Isaiah did not lose sight of the fact that just as little as an Ahaz could accomplish the destruction of the nation, so little could an ideal king, even if his fond dream would come true, accomplish the reconstruction of the nation, single-handed and alone.
What was necessary, therefore, was the raising and educating of a new generation of citizens in Judah; a just, patriotic, God-fearing company of men who, when the hoped-for king shall have come to the throne, would support him, with their valor and their lives, in building up the entire nation to walk in God's way.
So Isaiah began quietly with his own family first, and later with a few friends and disciples who believed as he did. "Binding up the admonition and sealing the instruction among my disciples," said Isaiah, "I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the House of Jacob, and in Him will I trust. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord of Hosts who dwells in Mount Zion."
Isaiah's idea was similar to that of Moses in the olden days in the wilderness. The present generation, ruler and people, that did not place its trust wholly in God, would slowly die out; a new generation, better and more fit, would survive to save the nation.
Just at this time, when Isaiah began his slow work of upbuilding the nation, a son and heir was born to the king. Isaiah accepted this incident as a message of approval of his course from God. He and his disciples looked to this prince to be the ideal king; and in celebration of the event Isaiah greeted the heir apparent in the following fine outburst of hope for the future:
"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; And the government shall be upon his shoulder; And his name shall be called wonder-counselor, Divine hero, father of glory, prince of peace. For the increase of dominion and for peace without end, Upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom, To establish and support it by justice and by righteousness From henceforth, even forever; the favor of the Lord of Hosts will perform this."
Working With the Remnant.
Isaiah called his little band of disciples and followers "The Remnant." He referred to them as "The Remnant" because he knew that, if only these remained true and faithful to God, for their sakes God would not forsake the Fatherland.
It was upon "The Remnant" that he placed the future welfare of his country. Through these few he hoped to regenerate the rest of his people, despite the corruption and wrongdoing of their leaders. He aimed, especially, to prepare the young generation for patriotic, God-fearing, God-trusting lives.
The prophet had set for himself no easy task. He met opposition from many directions. The king himself opposed him for political reasons. The priests, who sided with the king in his introduction of Assyrian rites and practices in the Temple service, opposed him on religious grounds; so that, for many years, Isaiah simply devoted himself to teaching and preaching moral living, just and righteous dealing and absolute trust in God.
"Hear, O heavens, and give heed, O earth, for the Lord speaketh: Sons have I brought up and placed on high, but they have proved false to me. The ox knows its owner and the ass its master's crib, But Israel has no knowledge; my people have no insight; Ah! Sinful nation, people deep laden with guilt, Race of evil-doers, perverse children! They have forsaken the Lord; They have spurned the Holy One of Israel; They have become rebellious.
"On what place can you yet be smitten since you continue rebelling? The whole head is sick and the whole heart faint, From the sole of the foot to the head there is no soundness, Only wounds and bruises and fresh sores, Which have not been dressed nor bound up nor softened with oil."
With words of this kind, and in similar speeches, Isaiah tried to describe the condition of Judah to its people. The cowardice of Ahaz in throwing himself at the feet of the Assyrian had, indeed, smitten the land and the people very sore. The large tribute to Tiglath-Pileser had to be collected and paid. The burden was terrible to bear. In the meantime, Judah's enemies from the south and along the Mediterranean coast took advantage of the weakened condition of Judah and attacked the country from many points.
Isaiah tried, with all his might, to bring the people, as a whole, to an understanding of Judah's condition. He wanted them to join "The Remnant" and to live their lives in accordance with his teaching, which were really not his, but God's. Only in this way, Isaiah said, could a country that had fallen deeply into sin and unrighteousness, and was at the mercy of its enemies, be saved:
"Your land is a desolation, your cities are burned with fire, Your tilled land—before your eyes strangers devour it; And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, Like a lodge in a field of cucumbers, like a watchtower. Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a remnant, We should almost be as Sodom, We would have been like Gomorrah."
This simile, comparing Jerusalem to these ancient cities of evil repute, was answered by Isaiah's opponents with the statement that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were idol worshipers, but that the people of Judah brought their sacrifices to the Temple and observed the holydays in accordance with the ancient laws. This was the same kind of an argument as the citizens in Samaria gave to Amos and Hosea.
Isaiah, however, who knew, and had taught "The Remnant" that sacrificing animals was not the true manner of worshipping God, replied as follows:
"Hear the word of the Lord, ye Rulers of Sodom; Give heed to the instruction of our God, ye people of Gomorrah! What care I for the great number of your sacrifices? saith the Lord. I am sated with the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts, And in the blood of bullocks and lambs and he-goats I take no pleasure. When ye appear before me—who has required this of you? Trample no more my courts, bring no more offerings, Vain is the odor of incense—it is an abomination to me; I am not able to endure a fast and a solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed days my soul hateth. I am tired of bearing it. When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you. Also, if ye make many prayers, I will not hear."
Then Isaiah launched forth into one of the most beautiful speeches that he delivered in his whole career. In it he brought home to the people the true idea of the religion which God had commanded to Israel, and through which Judah could be regenerated, strengthened and saved:
"Your hands are stained with blood; Wash, that ye may be clean; Remove the evil of your deeds from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil; learn to do good; Seek justice; relieve the oppressed; Vindicate the orphan; plead for the widow."
In one of the sublimest passages that any prophet ever uttered, Isaiah promised the people God's forgiveness in the following wonderful appeal:
"Come now, let us argue together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, They may become white as snow; Though they be red as crimson, They may become as wool; If ye willingly yield and are obedient, Ye shall eat the good of the land, But if you refuse and rebel, Ye shall be devoured by the sword. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!"
While Isaiah thus pleaded and threatened, he gained many additions to "The Remnant," but he failed to create a deep impression either with the reigning house or with the powerful priesthood or with the majority of the rich in Jerusalem and Judah.
In the meantime, a vassal of Assyria, in far-off Babylonia, rebelled successfully. Immediately, various Palestinian states, including Judah, began to prepare a similar attempt to free themselves from the Assyrian yoke.
Ahaz had died in 721, the year in which Sargon the Great captured Samaria, after a two year's siege, and effectually reduced the kingdom of Israel. Hezekiah, his young son, to whom Isaiah looked for the ideal prince he had pictured, succeeded him.
The calamity of the northern kingdom did not seem to bring Isaiah or Ahaz any warning. The king had been paying his Assyrian tribute regularly and faithfully; the prophet had centered his hope in "The Remnant" and in the crown prince, and bided his time.
When, however, six years later, in the year 715, Hezekiah joined the coalition of Palestinian states against Assyria, Isaiah was not only disappointed, but became greatly alarmed.
To permit Hezekiah to follow the advice of his father's counselors, Isaiah knew would be national suicide. For three years, therefore, while the agitation for coalition and rebellion was going on, Isaiah cast off his prophet's mantle and sandals, and walked barefooted and in the garb of a captive through the treets of Jerusalem, as an object lesson to the people of Judah, to show them what might await them if they rebelled against Assyria.
But even this, for the time being, was of no avail. Rebellion was in the blood of the king and the court clique. Somehow the very thought of it in Jerusalem seemed to reach the Assyrian capital. Hardly had Hezekiah begun to carry his contemplated revolt into action when Sennacherib, the new Assyrian king, was on the march.
Once more Judah was invaded by the Assyrian hosts, and once more Judah's rulers bent their knee in submission and undertook to pay a tribute that was heavier than ever before.
Yet Isaiah, though heartbroken, was in no way dismayed. His unbounded faith in the final triumph of God's purposes led him to go on, fearlessly, to oppose the king and his associates to the very end.
Like Father, Like Son.
A chain, we are told, is as strong as its weakest link. The weak link in the long chain of Assyrian provinces was the fact that whenever a new king came to the throne, if he happened to be away, fighting in the field, he had to hurry back to the capital, backed by the complete military force under his command, in order to establish himself firmly in his dominions.
Immediately upon the withdrawal of the king's armies from the field, all the provinces that hated Assyria bitterly, rebelled. Naturally, all the work of conquest had to be done over again. Then, when another change took place in the rulership of Assyria, the new king met the same conditions and the same difficulties.
When Tiglath-Pileser died, Shalmaneser IV., who laid siege to Samaria, was forced to reconquer all the Syrian and Palestinian tributaries. The great Sargon, who reduced Samaria and carried its inhabitants captive into the northern part of the Assyrian Empire, left his successor, Sennacherib, no better legacy.
With Sennacherib's ascension to the throne in the year 704, therefore, the usual thing happened—rebellion broke out all along the line of his possessions.
In Palestine, King Hezekiah of Judah became the leader of a movement for a strong organization of all Palestinian and Syrian states and cities with the purpose of concerted rebellion against the new king.
So strong was the patriotism aroused among the various peoples that Padi, king of the city of Ekron, who would not join the proposed coalition, was captured by the citizens, bound in chains and handed over a prisoner to Hezekiah in Jerusalem.
It did not take Sennacherib long to make up his mind what to do. His predecessors had shown him the way. He organized a strong force, composed mostly of mercenaries, and marched at once into Phoenicia.
City after city fell before his prowess and he worked his way rapidly into Palestine. Unfortunately for Hezekiah and his allies, no concerted action could be agreed upon by them. Each one feared for himself; each one tried to be on the safe side.
Sennacherib took advantage of the situation in this rebellious district of his empire. He marched his armies, victorious throughout Phoenicia, into Palestine, meeting with success after success. The city of Tyre resisted most nobly on its own account, but it was no match for the Assyrians. Immediately after that Ekron, too, fell, and Judah itself was overrun by Sennacherib's troops.
The great disappointment of the Palestinian allies in this struggle for independence during the years 703-701, was that the help they looked for from the Arabian tribes to the south was very meagre, and that the horses and chariots they counted upon from Egypt did not materialize at all.
In Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah counseled against the proposed rebellion from its very beginning. He warned Hezekiah, the leaders in Jerusalem, and even the nations who were entering into the coalition with Hezekiah, of the folly of this step. Knowing, as he did, the situation, the weakness of the leaders, the corruption within Judah and the demoralization of the army and the people generally, because of greed and oppression, he understood that Sennacherib's forces would rout the Palestinian forces unmercifully.
He wanted no coalition. He wanted Hezekiah and the Judeans to trust wholly in God. "Quietness and trust" was his motto and "Abiding faith in God" his standard.
"By repenting and remaining quiet you shall be delivered; In resting and in trusting shall your strength consist."
Hezekiah, like his father, Ahaz, however, placed his trust in himself and in the power of his armies. There was no doubt in Hezekiah's mind but that the assistance that would come from Egypt would strengthen him sufficiently to defeat Sennacherib and gain complete independence for Judah.
Isaiah, who knew differently, preached openly against Hezekiah; but he had no more influence with the king than he had had with his father:
"Woe to the rebellious sons, is the oracle of Jehovah, Carrying out a plan which is not mine, Establishing a treaty contrary to my spirit, So that they heap sin upon sin; Who would set out for Egypt without asking my decision, To flee to the shelter of Pharaoh, And the refuge in the shadow of Egypt. The shelter of Pharaoh will be your shame, And the refuge in the shadow of Egypt your confusion."
While Isaiah's position among the people, and his standing in the community in Jerusalem, made Hezekiah fear to do him bodily harm, or even to arrest him, the king and his counselors, who were, naturally, eager to gain all the assistance possible from the people at home, sent out men who were in favor of fighting Assyria to refute the opinions and arguments of Isaiah.
These men also called themselves prophets of God; but Isaiah saw in them only false prophets:
"For it is a rebellious people, lying sons, Sons who will not heed Jehovah's instruction, Who say to the seers, 'See not!' And to those who have visions, 'Give us no vision of what is right! Speak to us what is agreeable, give us false visions! Turn from the way, go aside from the path, Trouble is no more with Israel's Holy One.'"
When Sennacherib's armies finally came into Judah, Isaiah still saw the possibility of saving the country from the horrors of devastation, and he warned the king and people in these words:
"Therefore, thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye reject this word, And trust in perverseness and crookedness and rely thereon, Therefore this guilty act shall be to you Like a bulging breach in a high wall about to fall, Suddenly, in an instant, will come its destruction; Yea, its destruction shall be as when one dashes an earthen vessel in pieces, shattering it ruthlessly, So that not a potsherd is found among the pieces With which to take up fire from the hearth or to draw water from a cistern."
Notwithstanding the utter failure that faced Hezekiah in his course, neither he nor his counselors gave heed until Sennacherib had captured and destroyed forty-six fortified Judean cities and towns and had actually begun preparations for a siege of Jerusalem.
It was then that Hezekiah came to his senses. When Sennacherib was at Lachish, Hezekiah sent him a message which was almost a duplicate of the one sent by Ahaz to Tiglath-Pileser:
"I have offended; withdraw from me; whatever you lay on me I will bear."
The tribute that Sennacherib laid on Hezekiah was three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. To meet this, Hezekiah was forced to ransack the Temple in Jerusalem and the treasure-chamber of the royal palace. He was even forced to strip the doors and pillars of the Temple of their gold decorations in order to make up the enormous tribute to send to Sennacherib.
Judah once more lay a helpless tributary at the feet of Assyria. Sennacherib withdrew his armies and returned to Nineveh. Hezekiah had proved himself both a coward and a traitor; a traitor because he did not do all in his power to assist such allies as Tyre and Ekron; a coward because, unlike Tyre and Ekron, he did not fight Sennacherib to the bitter end.
It was only after his own country had been terribly devastated by the Assyrian mercenaries that he followed the advice which Isaiah gave him in the first place. Had he followed it before, he would have saved not alone his country and his people from the ravages of war, but he would have been spared the payment of so large a tribute and the desecration of the Temple.
The real reason why Sennacherib withdrew from before Jerusalem was the fact that, while he was engaged in Palestine, all the Babylonian provinces rebelled. He, therefore, received Hezekiah's message with a great deal of pleasure. In truth, he was eager to act upon it, for he had to hurry to Babylonia to subdue the rebels there.
Immediately after the Assyrian troops were out of Palestine, however, Hezekiah returned to his old policy and began a war to regain the forty-six cities which Sennacherib had conquered and in which he had left Assyrian governors.
The Prophet Triumphs.
The fearful crisis through which Judah and Jerusalem had passed, before Sennacherib withdrew from Judah to fight his subjects in Babylonia, set both the king and the people to thinking.
Hezekiah had evidently become convinced that Isaiah's counsel for peace with Assyria was the best; for, after he had reconquered several of the fortified cities and towns captured by Sennacherib, he made an arrangement with the Assyrian king to pay an annual tribute peacefully, in order that his country should be at rest.
During the ten years that followed, Hezekiah, instead of seeking alliances with foreign nations, for the purpose of rebellion, devoted himself to building up his own country, and to reforming his own people, in line with the preaching of Isaiah.
Once, when Hezekiah was sick, Isaiah called on him at the palace. The prophet cheered him in his illness and expressed his hope for the king's speedy recovery. This call established a friendlier relationship between the king and the prophet.
At another time, Hezekiah invited Isaiah to the palace; and Isaiah was glad to go, because Hezekiah, in his new policy, was following the commandments of God which, as taught by Isaiah, were destined to save the nation from its enemies.
"The Remnant," which Isaiah educated, now grew in great proportions, until it included the majority of Jews who were leading upright lives. Isaiah, himself, was established as a true prophet of God among his people.
Upon his recovery from his illness, Hezekiah began to reform the religious life of the country. He destroyed the "high places" on which many people offered sacrifices to strange gods. He broke up the brazen serpent to which the people sacrificed and which they worshiped from the days of the Wilderness. He destroyed many idols and practically banished idolatry from the land. Men turned from their evil ways; they left off their wrongdoing and dealt justly and honorably, one with another. Not only did they worship their God, but they had full faith in Him.
It so happened, therefore, in the year 690, when Sennacherib marshaled his great Assyrian army, in order to conquer Egypt, that another crisis came upon Hezekiah and Judah; but neither king nor people feared the Assyrians, because they now trusted in the God of their fathers to save them from the hands of their enemy.
Sennacherib had determined to conquer Egypt for two reasons: first, because none of his great predecessors on the Assyrian throne had ever gone so far south in their conquest; second, because Egypt was always stirring up rebellion in the Assyrian provinces of Asia Minor, by promising them help. Sennacherib figured, therefore, that, with Egypt thoroughly subdued, the great Assyrian Empire would be permanently established and strongly founded on absolute union.
Sennacherib made one of his whirlwind marches toward Egypt. A little poem describing his march, is preserved in an ancient record:
"He has gone up from Rimmon. He has arrived at Aiath. He has passed through Migron. At Michmash he lays up his baggage. They have gone over the pass. At Geha they halt for the night, Ramah trembles. Gibeah of Saul flees. Shriek aloud, O people of Gallim. Hearken, O Laishah. Answer her, Anathoth. Madmenah flees. The inhabitants of Gebin are fled. This very day he halts at Moab. He shakes his fist against Mount Zion, Against the Hill of Jerusalem."
Finally, Sennacherib had a problem to solve: He wanted to be sure of the friendship of Hezekiah, through whose land he would have to pass on his way to Egypt. He was afraid on the one hand, that, having passed through Judah, Hezekiah might rebel and attack him from the rear; on the other hand, he wanted the city of Jerusalem to be a safe-guard to himself, so that, if he should be defeated by the Egyptians, he could escape to its shelter.
Therefore, when he came within hailing distance of Jerusalem, he sent word to Hezekiah to deliver the city into his hands peacefully, and also to join with him in the proposed conquest of Egypt. Sennacherib was willing to furnish two thousand horses if Hezekiah would furnish him two thousand men to mount them, and to join the Assyrian cavalry. He did not want to attack Jerusalem, because he could not afford to waste his strength on a long siege, and thus weaken his forces before he met Egypt on the battlefield.
But this time, Hezekiah, being older and wiser, and knowing that his people were certain that God was on their side, sent word back to Sennacherib that there was no reason whatever for such action on the part of Judah at this time since the country was at peace with Assyria, paying the tribute annually.
Encamped at Lachish, on the western border of Palestine, and eager to press on toward Egypt, Sennacherib thought to force Hezekiah into helping him by an unusual display of his power; so he sent his Commander-in-Chief, with a great retinue, to the king in Jerusalem.
A meeting was arranged between them and Hezekiah's representatives just outside of Jerusalem, at the conduit of the upper reservoir, the place where Isaiah first confronted King Ahaz.
King Hezekiah, himself, did not go out to receive the emissaries from the Assyrian army. Instead, he sent Eliakim, who was Governor of the Royal Palace, Shebnah, the Secretary of State, and Joah, the Chancellor of the Treasury.
A great assembly of the leading citizens of Jerusalem gathered upon the walls to see and hear the interview between the agents of Sennacherib and Hezekiah.
The spokesman for the Assyrians began:
"Thus saith the great king, the King of Assyria, 'What confidence is this which you cherish? You, indeed, think, a simple word of the lips is counsel and strength for the war!' Now, on whom do you trust, that you have rebelled against me?
"Indeed, you trust in the staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, which, if a man lean on it, will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh King of Egypt to all who trust in him."
Eliakim, speaking of his king, attempted to make clear to the Assyrians that they were misjudging Hezekiah. He did not lean upon Egypt; no alliance had been entered into between the two nations; Judah did not desire to enter into this quarrel at all and relied upon neither Egypt nor Assyria. "We trust in the Lord our God," concluded Eliakim.
Quick as a flash came back the reply from Assyria:
"If you say to me, 'We trust in the Lord our God,' is not he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and Jerusalem, 'You shall worship on this altar in Jerusalem?'
"Now, therefore, give pledges to my master and King of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders upon them.
"How can you repulse one of the least of my master's servants? And yet you trust in Egypt for chariots and horsemen! Have I now come up against this place to destroy it without God's approval? God it was who said to me, 'Go up against this land and destroy it'"
Shaken a little bit in their argument, and a great deal in their faith, Eliakim, Shebnah and Joah held a short consultation. Then Eliakim said to the spokesman, in a whisper:
"Speak, I pray you, to your servants in the Aramaic language, for we understand it; but do not speak with us in the Jewish language in the hearing of the people who are on the wall."
The Assyrian caught the drift of this request at once. He understood that the people had evidently not given up their idolatrous practices very graciously and that their trust in the Lord their God was not as great as that of Hezekiah. He, therefore, answered Eliakim, so that all could hear:
"Has my master sent me to your master and to you to speak these words? Is it not rather to the men who sit on the wall, that they shall eat their own refuse and drink their own water together with you?"
Then, walking away from the official group and facing the assembly on the walls, he cried with a loud voice in the Jewish language, saying:
"Hear the message of the great king, the King of Assyria. Thus saith the king, 'Let not Hezekiah deceive you; for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand.'
"Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in God by saying, 'God will surely deliver us, and this city shall not be given into the power of the King of Assyria.'
"Hearken not to Hezekiah, for thus saith the King of Assyria, 'Make your peace with me and come over to me; thus shall each one of you eat from his own vine and his own fig tree and drink the waters of his own cistern, until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land full of grain and of new wine, a land full of bread and vineyards, a land full of olive trees and honey, that you may live and not die.'
"But hearken not to Hezekiah, when he misleads you, saying, 'God will deliver us!' Has any of the gods of the nations ever delivered his land out of the power of the King of Assyria? Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena and Ivvah? Where are the gods of the land of Samaria that they have delivered Samaria out of my power? Who are they among all the gods of the countries, that have delivered their country out of my power, that God should deliver Jerusalem out of my power!'"
This speech cast a deep gloom upon the people gathered upon the wall. All were silent. Not a single man, not even the representatives of the king, could answer the Assyrians' arguments.
Then Eliakim, Shebnah and Joah hastened back to Hezekiah and repeated to him the message of Sennacherib through his Commander-in-Chief. As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the Temple. He sent Eliakim, Shebnah and the eldest of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah, and they said to him:
Thus saith Hezekiah:
"This is a day of trouble and of discipline and of contumely. It may be God, thy God, will hear all the words of the high official, whom his master, the King of Assyria, has sent to defy the living God, and will rebuke the words which the Lord your God has heard; therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left."
When Isaiah heard the message of the king, he sent back this reply of hope and courage to the palace:
"Thus saith the Lord: 'Be not afraid of the words that thou hast heard, with which the servants of the King of Assyria have blasphemed me. Behold I will put forth a spirit in him so that he shall hear tidings and shall return to his own land, and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.'"
Hezekiah, acting upon the advice of Isaiah, then sent Sennacherib's emissaries back to Lachish with a flat refusal to do what the King had asked him.
When the Commander-in-Chief returned to Lachish, to his great amazement, Sennacherib and his army were not there. An officer who was left behind, however, told him that Sennacherib had broken camp and had marched against Libnah.
The next that was heard of the Assyrian armies in Jerusalem was that a plague had fallen upon the camp of Sennacherib and that, in great disgust and disappointment, the king and what remained of his forces, had returned to Nineveh.
It was at that time that Isaiah gave expression to a conception of God's relationship to the nations of the earth that was entirely different from that held by the people up to this time.
According to Isaiah, God had used Assyria as a rod with which to whip the people of Judah, God's chosen people, into an understanding of His law and commandments, by which they should live.
Now that Hezekiah and his people had thoroughly reformed and were following in the ways of God and His commandments, Assyria's work was done. Because Assyria, however, had prided herself that she had become a great power in the world on account of her own strength, God would now destroy Assyria.
This is the dirge that Isaiah sang regarding Assyria and God's hand in the life and death of nations, while Sennacherib was retreating toward Nineveh, his capital:
"Woe, Assyria, rod of mine anger, The staff in whose hand is mine indignation. Against an impious nation am I wont to send him. And against the people of my wrath I give him charge, To take spoil and gather booty, And to tread them down like the mire in the streets. But he—not so doth he plan; And his heart—not so doth it purpose. For destruction is in his heart, And to cut off nations not a few. For he saith, By the strength of my hand have I done it, And by my wisdom, for I have discerned it; And I have removed the bounds of thy peoples, And I have robbed their treasuries, And like a mighty man I have brought down those who sit enthroned. And my hand hath seized, as on a nest, The riches of the peoples. And as one gathers eggs that are unguarded, I, indeed, have carried off all the earth."
To this boasting of Assyria, God answers, speaking through Isaiah:
"Before me is thy rising up and thy lying down, Thy going out and thy coming in. I know thy raging against me And thine arrogance hath come to my ears. Therefore I will put my ring through thy nose, And my bridle between thy lips, And will make thee return, By the way in which thou hast come."
Not long after this, while Sennacherib was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch, in Nineveh, he was attacked by his own sons and killed, and Esarhaddon, one of his sons, succeeded him on the throne of Assyria.
The Fruit of His Labor.
Blessed is the man whose toil and striving of a lifetime bring results, even though he, himself, does not live to see them!
Thrice blessed is the man, the fruit of whose labor is garnered while he is among the living, to see and enjoy it!
The prophet Isaiah was a thrice-blessed man. Although no one knows where or how he died, every one knows where and how he lived, and how his life was fruitful in blessings for his people.
He saw kings come and go on the throne of Judah. He passed through many crises in the history of his country. He experienced many woes because of his patriotic devotion to the welfare of his land and people.
But through it all he remained, uncomplainingly, staunch in his faith and true to his God. He believed, implicitly, in the justness of God and, therefore, in His demand of righteousness as the standard of living for the people. Isaiah's own strength, in time of trial and tribulation, came from his trust in God; and that same trust he urged upon Jerusalem and Judah in his day and, through his discourses, upon all men, for all time.
Thus it was given Isaiah to see the fruit of his labor in the peace and prosperity of Judah during the remainder of his life which he, undoubtedly, spent in peace with his family in his home in Jerusalem.
It is no wonder that he conceived the ideal of a time of universal peace, in which God shall be the God of all the nations, an era in which all peoples shall come to Him, and believe in Him, and follow in His law, and live such just and righteous lives that there would be an end to war in all the earth:
"It shall come to pass, in the end of days, That the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established at the top of the mountains, And it shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow unto it. And many nations shall go and say, 'Come ye, and let us go up to the mountains of the Lord, And to the house of the God of Jacob; And he will teach us of His ways, And we will walk in His paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, And He shall judge between the nations, And arbitrate for many peoples; And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war any more."
Sloping down from the Judean hills toward the plain of Philistia and the Mediterranean Sea is the Shefelah, or Lowlands, a section of Palestine, far-famed for its stretches of rich farm lands, vineyards and olive groves.
These foothills were once the constant battlefield on which the Israelites from the hill country and the Philistines from the plain struggled for mastery; but, since the days of King Amaziah, who conquered Philistia soon after he came to the throne of Judah, in the year 798, the Shefelah, far away from the political turmoils in Samaria and Jerusalem, was one of the most peaceful and richest farm sections in Israel or Judah.
Up in Samaria, in the year 734, Hoshea, son of Elah, had played the traitor and had bent his head to Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian conqueror. Up in Jerusalem, Ahaz, son of Jotham, had acted the coward and had slipped his neck under the Assyrian yoke. But down in the Shefelah, on the lower highlands, politics and political intrigues played little part in the lives of the humble peasant folk.
Numerous towns and villages dotted the Shefelah, especially on the highway running northeast from Gaza, in Philistia, to Jerusalem, in Judah. These towns and villages were the centers where the neighboring farmers gathered at set times and where the many daily wage earners lived all the time.
Rich and fertile sections like the Shefelah were the backbone, the strength and the power of Israel and Judah. While the high and mighty princes and merchants lived in the capitals and squandered their wealth, the simple and hard-working farm folk and wage earners made up the bone and muscle of the population, raised the necessities of life and, in times of need, furnished the sinews of war.
Yet, notwithstanding the fertility of the Shefelah, its rich fields and olive groves, its plentiful and well-watered pasture lands, the farmers in the entire section, had to live from hand to mouth. Though they labored hard at their toil, they were, in fact, poor and unable to lay aside anything for a rainy day.
It was very difficult to become reconciled to such a condition of affairs. No one seemed interested enough to fathom the reason for it, except a certain young peasant, named Micah, who had a home in the town of Moresheth, and was the proud possessor of several well-paying olive groves and vineyards in the vicinity.
Micah's interest in the population was aroused, one day, when the widow of one of his neighbors came to him for advice. Her husband had owned a farm, adjoining one of Micah's pastures, on which there was a heavy mortgage. Now that the head of the family was gone, the merchant in Jerusalem, who held the mortgage, threatened to eject the widow and the children, because they could neither pay the amount borrowed nor the interest due thereon.
The sturdy young peasant, brought up in a home of severe simplicity, where gentleness and kindness were taught and practiced, pitied the woman and her children in their sad plight and loaned her the needed interest payment to stave off ejection from her home. Thereafter, he looked after her family until the oldest son was able to manage his own affairs.
Talking to some of his day-laborers he discovered a very amazing situation. He found that most of them had, at one time or another, owned their farms, but had lost possession of them through lawsuits, in which mortgage holders from Jerusalem had involved them, or through unjust treatment on the part of tax collectors and corrupt judges.
More amazing still was the knowledge that, all through the Shefelah, the majority of vineyards and olive groves were not owned by those who cultivated them, at all, but that they formed the vast estates of the princes and wealthy men of Jerusalem.
The beautiful and fertile Shefelah, then, was not the habitation of happy and contented tillers of the soil, who sang at their tasks and prided themselves upon their independence! It was in the heavy grip of a land trust, controlled by the great interests in the capital!
This knowledge caused Micah to enter upon his investigations with greater interest and deeper feeling. He discovered that the nobility and the rich were fattening upon the sweat and toil of the rural and working population. A farmer thrown into debt was sure to lose his acres, and a wage earner, having no possessions that could be taken from him, was sure to lose his liberty. Widows and orphans were quickly robbed of their inheritances by the greedy land-grabbers of the metropolis, aided by a corrupt judiciary.
All this was a severe shock to the young peasant. He, himself, born and raised on a farm, had inherited his father's estates free from debt. He lived simply, worked hard, saved a neat sum every year—and imagined that every one else was doing the same.
Awakened to the real condition of affairs, Micah now determined to leave his estates in the care of his trusted overseers and to go to the great and famed cities of his land, to study at first hand the causes that had made possible the terrible economic and social wrongs in his section of the country.
The Cause of the Common People.
Micah, the Moreshtite, came to Jerusalem when the capital was at comparative peace. The struggle between King Ahaz and the Prophet Isaiah had narrowed down to an armed neutrality, as it were—the king was paying his tributes to Tiglath-Pileser and the prophet was preparing his "Remnant" for the day when the crown prince, Hezekiah, would come to the throne.
The young peasant took no sides and embraced no causes in Jerusalem. He stood aside, the better to study conditions as an onlooker. To his great dismay and sorrow, he found the situation even worse than he had imagined it. It was true of the rich and mighty of the capital that
"They covet fields and seize them, And houses, and take them away. They oppress a man and his house, Even a man and his heritage."
This much was clear on the surface of things. Rapacity on the part of the rich meant oppression of the poor; increase of power for the mighty meant decrease of opportunity for the humble tiller of the soil and for the wage earner.
Seeing all this and understanding it, Micah felt himself impelled to fight the cause of the common people.
Conditions and a sympathetic soul thus made Micah a Prophet.
One of the people, he spoke in their behalf with the feeling and passion of a man who has been through the mill of bitter experience:
Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, As when they glean the grapes of the vintage: There is no cluster to eat, Nor first-ripe fig which my soul desireth.
The godly man has perished out of the earth, And the upright among men is no more: They all lie in wait for blood; They hunt every man his brother with a net. Both hands are put forth for evil, To do it diligently. The prince asketh and the judge is ready for reward, And the great man, he uttereth the evil of his soul; Thus they weave it together. The best of them is as a brier; The most upright is worse than a thorn hedge. A man's enemies are the men of his own house.
Where shall he look for help and guidance—he, a commoner, without power, without influence? To whom shall he go for instruction, for inspiration, to struggle against conditions in the face of which he was helpless?
Micah returned to Moresheth to think matters over at his leisure. It was not an easy or simple task that he had voluntarily assumed.
One source of strength he always had to rely upon. Close to the soil, seeing the Creator's handiwork in the fields at his feet by day and in the wonders of the starry firmament by night, he was full of the spirit of God.
At the very outset of his self-imposed mission he could exclaim, fervently:
"But as for me, I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation: My God will hear me."
God's guiding hand often leads us to our destinations by winding and unexpected paths. It is strange to record that Micah's first opportunity, in the task he had set before himself, came to him by way of Egypt and an Ethiopian usurper. The ambitions of that wily Pharaoh led directly to the fall of Samaria and to the Commoner's first great prophetic utterance.
When Samaria Fell.
A man who is a traitor to his country will, in all likelihood, prove traitorous to his avowed friends.
Hoshea, son of Elah, of Samaria, was such a man. Tilgath-Pileser, the Assyrian conqueror of Damascus assisted Hoshea to assassinate King Pekah, and appointed the assassin to rule in Pekah's stead, in the year 734 B. C. E., merely as a matter of expediency. It was an easier method of re-annexing the rebellious Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrian Empire without cost of life or treasure, and he stooped to it.
But when Tiglath-Pileser died and Shalmaneser IV succeeded him on the throne in Nineveh, Hoshea gave ear to the siren voice of Egypt, and rebelled.
It is related that Hoshea sent an embassy to King So, more correctly, Pharaoh Sabako, of Egypt, when that energetic Ethiopian prince became master over the whole of the ancient Nile country.
The new Pharaoh had ambitions northward. It was he who organized a coalition of Assyrian provinces in the Mediterranean country, with an eye to Nineveh. The traitor, Hoshea, proved the miserable stuff he was made of by joining actively in Sabako's ambitious schemes.
In answer to Sabako, Shalmaneser rushed his veteran troops toward Egypt. The Kingdom of Israel was the first rebellious province he had to deal with. Hoshea was prepared when, in 728, Samaria was besieged. Samaria held out bravely enough for two years, waiting all the time for help from Egypt. But Sabako's promised armies and funds never came.
Shalmaneser died during this siege; but his successor, the great Sargon, came on with re-enforcements and finally, in 721, captured and reduced Samaria, before Hoshea's Egyptian ally had been heard from.
That was the end of the Kingdom of Israel, founded by Jeroboam ben Nebat, in the year 937, B. C. E., when he rebelled from Rehoboam, King Solomon's son. The Kingdom of Israel had lasted just 218 years.
Sargon sent away 27,290 captives, the youth and pride of Israel and Samaria, and had them scattered widely apart, in all his provinces. The conqueror, himself, proceeded southward to meet and defeat Sabako, at Raphia, on the great Nile-delta-highway along the Mediterranean coast.
While the records do not show that these events made any impression upon the leaders of thought, such as Isaiah, in Jerusalem, they brought Micah his first opportunity to prohesy.
Living in Moresheth, on the highroad from Gaza to Jerusalem, Micah, who up to this time knew only of the corruption of the classes and the oppression of the masses of Judah, now had first-hand information of the political situation, as well.
Sargon's armies captured and passed through Gaza on their march to Raphia. By way of Gaza, Micah learned that Samaria had not been razed to the ground. There was, therefore, hope for the city and for Israel. Micah's hope, however, was not political. He, unlike Isaiah in Jerusalem, was not concerned with politics. His concern was with the social wrongs and economic outrages of which, as he had now learned, both Israel and Judah were victims.
There was this distinction, however, Israel had already collected the wages of its sins, had paid the price and had been chastised by the rod of Assyria. Judah might be recalled to its better self and escape a similar calamity.
So, before the dust of Sargon's victorious armies, passing through Gaza, had settled in the roads, Micah went again to Jerusalem and launched forth earnestly and with vigor upon his prophetic mission.
In his very first public utterance he drew a deadly parallel between Israel and Judah:
"Hear, ye peoples, all of you; Hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: And let the Lord God be witness against you, The Lord from His holy temple.
For, behold, the Lord cometh forth out of His place. And will come down, and tread upon the high places the earth. And the mountains shall be molten under Him, And the valleys shall be cleft, As wax before the fire, As waters that are poured down a steep place.
For the transgression of Jacob is all this, And for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? Is it not Samaria? And what are the high places of Judah? Are they not Jerusalem?"
Fearlessly, with bold strokes, and in vivid pictures, he described the terrible conditions as he knew them:
"Hear, I pray you, ye chiefs of Jacob, And ye judges of the house of Israel! You surely ought to know what is just! Yet, you hate good and love evil; You who devour the flesh of my people, Flay their skin from off of them, And break their bones!"
It was possible for Judah to be saved, if the governing classes, the judiciary, the great landowners and the wealthy merchants dealt justly and righteously with the common people, the poor, the peasant and the wage earner:
"For this will I lament and wail; I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals, And a lamentation like the ostriches."
Micah did more than merely preach and wail. Down in the Shefelah he set himself to help his fellow-peasants and to correct the injustices practiced upon them, wherever he could.
But the western foothills were not the whole of Judah; and the origin and source of the demoralizing wickedness lay not in the farm sections, but in the capital; and as to the capital, "her wounds are incurable." The cause of the downfall of Samaria and Israel
"Is come even to Judah; It reacheth unto the gate of my people, Even unto Jerusalem."
Therefore Micah, less hopeful than Isaiah, who was biding his time for a change of heart in the rulers and chiefs of the country, said of the coming of the day of reckoning:
"Then shall they cry unto the Lord, but He will not answer them: Yea, He will hide His face from them at that time, According as they have wrought evil in their doings."
Judah Learns its Lesson.
King Hezekiah's preparation for rebellion against Sennacherib, in 715, shattered any optimistic hopes that Micah held for a continuation of improvement in the condition of the common people, in which he had been instrumental up to this time. The costs of war always fell heaviest on the poor, and the devastating results of war upon the farming population.
Younger and readier to act than his older contemporary, Isaiah, he was not satisfied with a negative warning, such as the older prophet gave the leaders in Jerusalem when he walked about the city barefoot and in the garb of a slave.
Micah came up to the capital to stir it up; and he did set the people to talking and to thinking when, in a memorable speech, he differed fundamentally from Isaiah in his declaration that the Temple, the very House of God, as well as the city in which it was situated, could and would be destroyed: