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JEHOAHAZ PUT IN BANDS BY PHARAOH-NECHO.
(2 KINGs xxiii. 33; 2 CHRONICLES xxxvi. 1–3.)
TEMPORAL prosperity frequently proves hostile to the real welfare of mankind. This truth receives a remarkable illustration in the histories of the kings of Judah. From the date when the people demanded a king at the hands of Samuel to reign over them, to the period when the Hebrew monarchy was subverted, full many of them, unmindful of their duty to Jehovah, worked wickedness, and were punished by the invasion of hostile powers, by captivity, by disease, and by premature deaths. Such was the general effect which prosperity had upon the conduct and destinies of the kings of Judah. There were, however, Some bright exceptions, as David, and Asa, and Jehoshaphat, and Hezekiah, and Josiah, on whose conduct, in the main, the Divine approbation was stamped. These walked in the ways of the Lord, and “his favour encompassed them as with a shield.” The very evils which were predicted to fall upon Judah, for the sins of their wicked rulers, were postponed for the righteousness of Hezekiah and Josiah —a striking proof that piety in the sight of God is of great price. Among those who did evil, and thereby incurred the anger of the Most High, was Jehoahaz; and the object of the annexed engraving is to represent his punishment, the circumstances connected with which are as follow. Egypt had been long consolidating its strength, and at length, in the days of Josiah king of Judah, Pharaoh-Necho, who then ruled in the valley of the Nile, taking advantage of the wars in which the Assyrian power was involved with the Medes and Chaldeans, directed his march to Carchemish, an important post on the Euphrates, and the key of Assyria on the western side, designing its conquest. He passed along the sea coast of Palestine northward; and Josiah, being apprised of it, mindful of his relation to Assyria, he reigning by favour of that power, and of his obligation to defend the frontier against the Egyptians, assembled his forces to arrest the passage of the Egyptian monarch. Josiah posted himself on the skirts of the plain of Esdraleon; and hearing of this, Pharaoh-Necho sent messengers to engage him to desist from his interference, alleging that he had no hostile intentions against him, but against an enemy with whom he had long been at war. At the same time, Pharaoh-Necho warned the Hebrew monarch that his interference might prove fatal to himself and his people. Josiah, however, seems to have considered that he was in the path of duty, and he took no note of Pharaoh-Necho's communication. He resisted his progress with great spirit; but he was slain, and his hosts overwhelmed; upon which the Egyptian monarch continued his route to the Euphrates.
On the death of Josiah, the people called a younger son, named Jehoahaz, or Shallum, to the throne, overlooking an elder brother. But the conduct of Jehoahaz was so evil that the Lord stirred up Pharaoh-Necho against him. Hearing of his accession, as he was returning victorious from the capture of Carchemish and the defeat of the Assyrians, and displeased that such a step had been taken without any reference to him, as now their paramount lord and conqueror, he sent and summoned Jehoahaz to attend on him at Riblah, in the land of Hamath. When Jehoahaz arrived he deposed him, and bound him in chains, after he had reigned three months, and condemned the land to pay in tribute a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.* Having done this, the Egyptian monarch took him as a prisoner to Jerusalem, where he made Eliakim, the eldest son of Josiah, king in the room of his father, changing his name to Jehoiakim, according to a custom frequently practised in the East by conquerors towards subject princes and slaves. Then taking the silver and gold which he had levied, Pharaoh-Necho departed for Egypt, carrying with him the captive Jehoahaz, who there terminated his inglorious career, according to this prophecy of Jeremiah:—
Weep ye not for the dead,
Neither bemoan him:
But weep sore for him that goeth away:
Nor see his native country.
For thus saith the Lord
* In the whole about 44,368l. sterling.
JEHOAHAZ PUT IN BANDS BY PHARAOH-NECHO.
It is to this affecting event that the engraving has reference. It represents Jehoahaz bound at Riblah by Pharaoh-Necho; and it possesses great interest from the fact, that although the monarchical history of Judea presents the very finest subjects for the pencil, yet, hitherto, they have been almost disregarded. The interest is heightened by the circumstance, that the authorities, both for the Egyptians and Jews, have been derived from the great historic bas-reliefs of Thebes, which throw much light upon Scripture incidents. The attention of the reader is particularly directed to the handcuffs, or “bands,” the military standards, and the chariot-horses, for which Egypt was so greatly celebrated in the days of antiquity. In the cavalry of Egypt, indeed, lay its chief strength; to which there are many allusions in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament, and concerning which we have the direct testimony of history. Thus, before Pharaoh smote Gaza, the prophet Jeremiah describes the inhabitants thereof as howling
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses,
Jer. xlvii. 3.
The prophet Isaiah, also, denounced a woe upon the children of Israel for confiding in the horses of Egypt instead of God; adding this significant declaration:
Now the Egyptians are men, and not God;
And when the king of Egypt pursued the hosts of Israel, as they fled from his hated shores, he is described as taking six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, with his horsemen, that he might overtake them, and bring them back again to serve him, as of old. In the engraving at the end, the reader's attention is directed to the manner in which the ancients were wont to bind their common captives. It exhibits a company of people of various nations led captive by the Egyptians. It has been taken from a bas-relief at Medinet-Abou, which represents the victories of Remeses III., and affords a very striking illustration of the cruelties which attended the actual “putting into bands” of a conquered people. The horrible distortion of limb which is displayed therein, unfolds the spirit which swayed the actions of oriental conquerors. It was the refinement of cruelty. The fate of Jehoahaz exhibits the evil nature of sin. For that his inglorious end was the effect of his transgressions, is clearly manifested by the prophet Ezekiel, who thus describes his ferocious disposition, which he couples with his punishment:
What is thy mother? [Judah.] A lioness:
She lay down among lions,
She nourished her whelps among young lions.
And she brought up one of her whelps:
It became a young lion,
And it learned to catch the prey; it devoured men.
The nations also heard of him ;
He was taken in their pit,
And they brought him with chains unto the land of Egypt.
Let the reader, therefore, learn to abstain from the very “appearance of evil.” For sin and punishment are inseparable; and nothing but the mercy of God, through the atonement of Christ, can divide them. “Be sure your sin will find you out,” was the emphatic warning of Moses to the Hebrews, Numb. xxxii. 23; and it applies with equal force and meaning to every child of Adam under the sun. Abundant examples of the truth of this may be discerned in the history of the kings of Judah. Sin and punishment, for the most part, made up its sum. Who, therefore, would be happy, in this world and the next, must seek Divine grace, and walk in the ways of righteousness. Hence it is that the psalmist exclaims, in the fervour of inspiration:—