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35
OLD TESTAMENT TIMES

It was not long before their warnings were justified by the facts. Athaliah, Joram's queen, was the daughter not only of Ahab but also of Jezebel and brought with her to Jerusalem the fierce spirit and heathen habits of her Tyrian mother. King Ahaziah her son lost his life through his close association with King Jehoram of Israel, his uncle, for Jehu made away with both kings at the same time, and with all the princes of Judah, kinsmen of Ahaziah, on whom he could lay his hands. The old tigress at Jerusalem, Athaliah, now turned upon her own flesh and blood, the children of Ahaziah, and murdered them all so as to secure the power for herself. One grandson alone, the infant Joash, escaped, saved by an aunt who hid him and his nurse from the cruel queen mother. Six years later this child was proclaimed king in the Temple courts by Jehoiada, the high priest. Athaliah was slain, and a new era began in Judah with the destruction of Baal worship and the repair of Jehovah's Temple.

Joash was too weak to do more than buy off the king of Syria when his army threatened Jerusalem, and he himself met his death in a conspiracy. The same fate befell his son Amaziah, after a reign that promised well but was wrecked on the king's ambition to subdue the Northern Kingdom under him. Uzziah (or Azariah) succeeded to the throne, though for half of his long reign he and his kingdom seem to have been in a state of vassalage to Jeroboam II, the powerful ruler of Israel. The latter part of Uzziah's reign was more prosperous, in spite of the king's pitiable state — for he was stricken with leprosy and had to live apart. It was on this account that he associated his son Jotham with himself, and during the sixteen years of Jotham's reign — most of which was included within the long nominal reign of Uzziah — the Philistines, Ammonites, and Arabians were defeated in warfare, while considerable building both in and out of the capital helped to prepare the little kingdom for the troublous days just ahead.

The mighty kingdom of Assyria, with its capital at Nineveh on the Tigris River, was the force which God used to punish his faithless people. Lying beyond the kingdoms of Syria, Israel's nearest neighbors on the north, Assyria was not at first felt to be the menace which in the end it proved to be. Whenever Assyria was strong, Syria was weak, and the king in Samaria could breathe freely. But there came a day when a king of unusual power ascended the throne at Nineveh, Tiglath-pileser (or Pul, as he was also called, see II Kings 15:19, 29), and the fate of both Syria and Israel was sealed.