« ForrigeFortsæt »
hardened idolaters who refused to listen to reproofs, would now be compelled to confess that the prophets were sent from God. When at ease in their own land, they might mock at the denunciation that they should “be wanderers among the nations ;" but in the weariness of their long journey, and yearning for their native home, they would feel the folly of their unbelief. Surrounded by warlike tribes, exposed to taunts and oppression, they would learn to value that heritage of plenty and peace which they had forfeited by disobedience.
Their descendants retained the knowledge of the God of Israel until, after two long centuries, Cyrus gave the Jews permission to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. A part of the ten tribes then returned to Palestine, and united themselves with the tribe of Judah. As many of the latter tribe chose to remain in exile, it is reasonable to suppose that still more of the Israelites, who had lived much longer in those countries, would prefer remaining there, to the trials and dangers of forming a new colony in the land of their fathers; and it is probable that all "questions and investigations for the purpose of ascertaining what has become of the ten tribes, and whether it is likely they will ever be discove ered, are superfluous and futile.”
Hosea, the last messenger to the ten tribes by whom " the Lord testified against Israel," seems to
have been more entirely engrossed by the fortunes of his country than any other prophet. Its privileges and their abuse, its backslidings and their punishment, are the burden of his message. Its crimes excited his indignation—its sufferings and impending doom, his pity. Its promised glory in future years comforted the heart of the aged seer in view of its approaching downfall, which he did not probably survive to witness.
The overthrow of the kingdom of Israel, in accordance with the prophetic denunciations, would strengthen the faith of Hezekiah in the promises of God, and inspire him with new zeal in his service. In some of these denunciations his own kingdom was included, and the fulfilment of a part was a pledge that the remainder would be accomplished in due time, if the nation faltered in their course of penitence.
In the time of our Saviour, the northern part of the territory occupied by the ten tribes was called Galilee. There were then'two large caravan routes through it from Damascus, one to the port of Acre on the Mediterranean, the other down the coast to Egypt. The caravans crossed the Jordan between lake Huleh on the north and the sea of Tiberias on the south. In consequence of their mixed origin and their intercourse with foreigners, the inhabitants of Galilee were less bigoted than those of Judea, and less hostile to the doctrines taught by Christ, which seemed to conflict with Judaism. For this reason, in part, he passed the greater portion of his ministry in Galilee, and chose his disciples from that country, where his miracles and teachings excited less opposition than at Jerusalem. “ The last shall be first, and the first last.”
WARS AND DECLENSIONS.
The Philistines occupied a narrow strip of land along the coast of the Mediterranean south-west of Judah, and within the territory originally allotted to that tribe. As already stated, they had taken advantage of the weak reign of Ahaz to make inroads on his kingdom. They still kept possession of several cities and villages in the western and south-western parts of Judah, some of which were only a few miles from Jerusalem. It was no mean proof of the zeal of Hezekiah, that a prince of his spirit and vigor should suffer these hereditary enemies to occupy positions so near the heart of his kingdom, while he devoted his thoughts and resources to the restoration of its religious institutions. With less faith and sincerity, he might have made this state of the country an excuse for delaying such a work. Some might even think his conduct in this matter showed a want of patriotism. But Hezekiah felt that success as well as duty demanded of him first of all to seek the divine favor. Jehovah was not only the God of Israel but their King, in a sense in which he was King of no other nation. Hezekiah believed that if the people were obedient, they might rely on the aid of heaven, as
in ancient times. The entire history of the nation proved that they were invincible when they cleaved to the God of their fathers, and powerless when they foolishly revolted to the service of idols. His whole hope, therefore, was in the Lord for deliverance from his enemies. He was firmly persuaded that the Lord would send him “ help from the sanctuary, and strengthen” him “out of Zion.” In the true spirit of the dispensation under which he lived, he could say, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” In that name, therefore, he resolved now to set up his banners, and free his kingdom from foreign aggression.
If done only from policy, Hezekiah was wise in deferring war until he had prepared his subjects to engage in it with the expectation of victory. In the reign of Ahaz, their spirit seems to have been broken by successive defeats. Casting off allegiance to Jehovah, they lost confidence in themselves, and became an easy prey to any invader. “How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up ?” But Hezekiah had inspired them with his own faith and hope in the God of Israel ; and again they were ready to rush into battle with the exulting shout, “The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
The first warlike enterprise of. Hezekiah.. was