Old Testament History

By Henry Preserved Smith | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XII
THE FALL OF SAMARIA

THE reign of Jeroboam II showed the energy of the people, but it was the convulsive energy of a man in a fever. The reaction began with the death of the king, or even earlier. His son Zechariah came to the throne, but reigned only six months before his murder by Shallum. Shallum enjoyed the ill-gotten throne but one month before he was in turn murdered by Menahem, one of the generals. Civil war raged, and the ancient capital, Tirzah, was besieged and sacked by Menahem.1The reign of this king lasted ten years, but not without conflict, if we may judge from the fact that he bought the help of Tiglath-pileser by an enormous tribute. The period was, in fact, a period of anarchy. Before looking at it more closely, we must consider two literary monuments which belong in the closing years of Jeroboam II, or in the brief reigns which follow.

The first of these is the work of the historian whom we have called E, who treated from his own point of view the same material used by J, and whose writing was afterward combined with that of his predecessor. We can readily understand how a gentle spirit may seek consolation for the sad state of things around him in contemplating earlier and happier generations. Our author is one of the earliest examples of those who thus seek consolation. That his purpose is also hortatory is evident; he will hold up the examples of the Patriarchs and testify of the goodness of God to Israel. Ignoring the primeval history, he therefore begins with the call to Abraham. The Patriarch is presented as a prophet and intercessor, as well as the father of the chosen people. In contrast with the warlike aggression of later generations is the peaceful method in which Abraham obtains a foothold in the land, entering into convenant with the Philistines.

In conscious or unconscious opposition to Amos, this author lays emphasis upon the ritual side of religion. The sanctuary at

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1
2Kings, 1516, where Tirzah should probably be read instead of Tiphsah (Stade in the Zeitsch. f. d. Alttest. Wissensch., VI, p. 159 f.).

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