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intended to build. He gave him plans which he had prepared, and immense treasures of gold and silver, and of brass and iron, which he had collected together for the purpose; also a multitude of gold and silver vessels which he had caused to be made, and vast quantities of hewn timber and stone; and he called upon all the people, especially the great and rich men, to make free offerings of gold, and silver, and precious stones.
SOLOMON was the richest of all the kings of his time. His people enjoyed the blessings of peace during the whole of his reign. Every man dwelt securely under his own vine and under his own fig tree. But his wisdom was still more remarkable than his wealth. Shortly after he came to the throne, God appeared to him in a dream, and said to him, "Ask what I shall give thee." Solomon said, "Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy; and thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father; and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said
unto him, "Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither
hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days."a
Although this was a dream, the result proved that the dream was from God. Solomon was more famed for his wisdom, his riches, and his glory, than any other king has ever been. His ships went to India by way of the Red Sea. Kings came from a great distance to see him, and to hear his wisdom. His proverbs are so full of truth and so rich in meaning, that they still serve both for the instruction of the ignorant and for the edification of the wisest.
Yet the possession of such great wisdom could not preserve Solomon from sin. He had in his court many hundred queens, amongst whom there were princesses of Canaan, of Sidon, of Tyre, of Egypt, and others, who brought their own false religions with them to Jerusalem, and led Solomon's heart astray to idolatry. Thus this wisest of kings himself took the lead in breaking that covenant which God had made with Israel; and his grievous fall affords a solemn warning against evil connexions.
THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM.
44. THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM.
AFTER the death of Solomon, the men of Israel assembled together at Shechem. Rehoboam considered himself as already king. But he acted not as a king who desires to be the father of his people; but as a haughty tyrant, whose only desire is to rule by fear. The people sent deputies to him with this message, "Thy father made our yoke grievous: now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee." But Rehoboam said, "My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." (This is supposed to have been the name of a kind of scourge with sharp pricks.) With these harsh words the foolish son of the wise Solomon thought to frighten the people; but they had already resolved what to do: "What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel. Now see to thine own house, David." a
Ten of the tribes fell away from Judah, and formed a separate kingdom, which was called the kingdom of Israel. They chose a celebrated captain, Jeroboam, for their king, and God himself allowed them to do so; for when Rehoboam wished to go to fight against the ten tribes, God sent a prophet, who said to the king and to all the people, "Ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me."
every one returned to his house, as the Lord commanded.
45. JEROBOAM AND THE PROPHET.
BUT Jeroboam did not adhere to the God of Israel, but set up golden calves to be worshippedone at Bethel and the other at Dan-and caused the people to go no more up to Jerusalem to the feasts. Then God sent a man out of Judah, who came to Bethel, and cried against the altar which Jeroboam had set up: O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee." And he gave a sign the same day, saying, "This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out." When Jeroboam heard these words, he stretched forth his hand and said, "Lay hold on him." And Jeroboam's hand was dried up, so that he could not pull it in again. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out upon the altar. And the king said to the man of God, "Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again." And the man of God besought the Lord, and the king's hand was restored to him again, and became as it was before.
When the man of God had finished his commission, he returned home again directly, as the Lord had commanded him. But an old prophet of
THE PROPHET ELIJAH.
Bethel hastened after him, and by deceitful words persuaded him to go back with him to his house, and to eat bread with him, contrary to the commandment of the Lord. And afterwards, as he went on his way, a lion met him and slew him, and did not devour him, but remained standing by the dead body, with the ass also by his side, until the old prophet came from Bethel, and buried the prophet whom he had deceived.
But, notwithstanding these things, Jeroboam did not turn from his evil ways. From that time there was little prosperity in Israel. One revolution followed another. Scarcely was a new king seated upon the throne, before another came and dethroned him, and slew him and all his family; and he, again, was succeeded by another still worse. Not only did every one of them follow the sin of Jeroboam by worshipping the golden calves; but all the idolatries of the heathen, and their abominable sacrifices, were by degrees introduced, and the doors were opened to the entrance of every corruption.
46. THE PROPHET ELIJAH.
KING Ahab exceeded in ungodliness all his predecessors; and his wife Jezebel, a Sidonian princess, built a splendid temple in Samaria for the idols of Sidon. She maintained four hundred and fifty priests of Baal, the god of the sun, and four hundred priests of Ashtaroth the goddess of the moon, who was worshipped in dark groves and with impure ceremonies. All who worshipped the God of Israel were persecuted, and his prophets were slain. There was, however, among