1. About the same time Pekah, the king of Israel, died by the treachery of a friend of his, whose name was Hoshea, who retained the kingdom nine years' time, but was a wicked man, and a despiser of the Divine worship; and Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, made an expedition against him, and overcame him, [which must have been because he had not God favorable nor assistant to him,] and brought him to submission, and ordered him to pay an appointed tribute. Now, in the fourth year of the reign of Hoshea, Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, began to reign in Jerusalem; and his mother's name was Abijah, a citizen of Jerusalem. His nature was good, and righteous, and religious; for when he came to the kingdom, he thought that nothing was prior, or more necessary, or more advantageous to himself, and to his subjects, than to worship God. Accordingly, he called the people together, and the priests, and the Levites, and made a speech to them, and said, "You are not ignorant how, by the sins of my father, who transgressed that sacred honor which was due to God, you have had experience of many and great miseries, while you were corrupted in your mind by him, and were induced to worship those which he supposed to be gods; I exhort you, therefore, who have learned by sad experience how dangerous a thing impiety is, to put that immediately out of your memory, and to purify yourselves from your former pollutions, and to open the temple to these priests and Levites who are here convened, and to cleanse it with the accustomed sacrifices, and to recover all to the ancient honor which our fathers paid to it; for by this means we may render God favorable, and he will remit the anger he hath had to us."
2. When the king had said this, the priests opened the temple; and when they had set in order the vessels of God, and east out what was impure, they laid the accustomed sacrifices upon the altar. The king also sent to the country that was under him, and called the people to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread, for it had been intermitted a long time, on account of the wickedness of the forementioned kings. He also sent to the Israelites, and exhorted them to leave off their present way of living, and return to their ancient practices, and to worship God, for that he gave them leave to come to Jerusalem, and to celebrate, all in one body, the feast of unleavened bread; and this he said was by way of invitation only, and to be done of their own good-will, and for their own advantage, and not out of obedience to him, because it would make them happy. But the Israelites, upon the coming of the ambassadors, and upon their laying before them what they had in charge from their own king, were so far from complying therewith, that they laughed the ambassadors to scorn, and mocked them as fools: as also they affronted the prophets, which gave them the same exhortations, and foretold what they would suffer if they did not return to the worship of God, insomuch that at length they caught them, and slew them; nor did this degree of transgressing suffice them, but they had more wicked contrivances than what have been described: nor did they leave off, before God, as a punishment for their impiety, brought them under their enemies: but of that more hereafter. However, many there were of the tribe of Manasseh, and of Zebulon, and of Issachar, who were obedient to what the prophets exhorted them to do, and returned to the worship of God. Now all these came running to Jerusalem, to Hezekiah, that they might worship God [there].
3. When these men were come, king Hezekiah went up into the temple, with the rulers and all the people, and offered for himself seven bulls, and as many rams, with seven lambs, and as many kids of the goats. The king also himself, and the rulers, laid their hands on the heads of the sacrifices, and permitted the priests to complete the sacred offices about them. So they both slew the sacrifices, and burnt the burnt-offerings, while the Levites stood round about them, with their musical instruments, and sang hymns to God, and played on their psalteries, as they were instructed by David to do, and this while the rest of the priests returned the music, and sounded the trumpets which they had in their hands; and when this was done, the king and the multitude threw themselves down upon their face, and worshipped God. He also sacrificed seventy bulls, one hundred rams, and two hundred lambs. He also granted the multitude sacrifices to feast upon, six hundred oxen, and three thousand other cattle; and the priests performed all things according to the law. Now the king was so pleased herewith, that he feasted with the people, and returned thanks to God; but as the feast of unleavened bread was now come, when they had offered that sacrifice which is called the passover, they after that offered other sacrifices for seven days. When the king had bestowed on the multitude, besides what they sanctified of themselves, two thousand bulls, and seven thousand other cattle, the same thing was done by the rulers; for they gave them a thousand bulls, and a thousand and forty other cattle. Nor had this festival been so well observed from the days of king Solomon, as it was now first observed with great splendor and magnificence; and when the festival was ended, they went out into the country and purged it, and cleansed the city of all the pollution of the idols. The king also gave order that the daily sacrifices should be offered, at his own charges, and according to the law; and appointed that the tithes and the first-fruits should be given by the multitude to the priests and Levites, that they might constantly attend upon Divine service, and never be taken off from the worship of God. Accordingly, the multitude brought together all sorts of their fruits to the priests and the Levites. The king also made garners and receptacles for these fruits, and distributed them to every one of the priests and Levites, and to their children and wives; and thus did they return to their old form of Divine worship. Now when the king had settled these matters after the manner already described, he made war upon the Philistines, and beat them, and possessed himself of all the enemy's cities, from Gaza to Gath; but the king of Assyria sent to him, and threatened to overturn all his dominions, unless he would pay him the tribute which his father paid him formerly; but king Hezekiah was not concerned at his threatenings, but depended on his piety towards God, and upon Isaiah the prophet, by whom he inquired and accurately knew all future events. And thus much shall suffice for the present concerning this king Hezekiah.
1. When Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, had it told him, that [Hoshea] the king of Israel had sent privately to So, the king of Egypt, desiring his assistance against him, he was very angry, and made an expedition against Samaria, in the seventh year of the reign of Hoshea; but when he was not admitted [into the city] by the king,he besieged Samaria three years, and took it by force in the ninth year of the reign of Hoshea, and in the seventh year of Hezekiah, king of Jerusalem, and quite demolished the government of the Israelites, and transplanted all the people into Media and Persia among whom he took king Hoshea alive; and when he had removed these people out of this their land he transplanted other nations out of Cuthah, a place so called, [for there is [still] a river of that name in Persia,] into Samaria, and into the country of the Israelites. So the ten tribes of the Israelites were removed out of Judea nine hundred and forty-seven years after their forefathers were come out of the land of Egypt, and possessed themselves of the country, but eight hundred years after Joshua had been their leader, and, as I have already observed, two hundred and forty years, seven months, and seven days after they had revolted from Rehoboam, the grandson of David, and had given the kingdom to Jeroboam. And such a conclusion overtook the Israelites, when they had transgressed the laws, and would not hearken to the prophets, who foretold that this calamity would come upon them, if they would not leave off their evil doings. What gave birth to these evil doings, was that sedition which they raised against Rehoboam, the grandson of David, when they set up Jeroboam his servant to be their king, when, by sinning against God, and bringing them to imitate his bad example, made God to be their enemy, while Jeroboam underwent that punishment which he justly deserved.
2. And now the king of Assyria invaded all Syria and Phoenicia in a hostile manner. The name of this king is also set down in the archives of Tyre, for he made an expedition against Tyre in the reign of Eluleus; and Menander attests to it, who, when he wrote his Chronology, and translated the archives of Tyre into the Greek language, gives us the following history: "One whose name was Eluleus reigned thirty-six years; this king, upon the revolt of the Citteans, sailed to them, and reduced them again to a submission. Against these did the king of Assyria send an army, and in a hostile manner overrun all Phoenicia, but soon made peace with them all, and returned back; but Sidon, and Ace, and Palsetyrus revolted; and many other cities there were which delivered themselves up to the king of Assyria. Accordingly, when the Tyrians would not submit to him, the king returned, and fell upon them again, while the Phoenicians had furnished him with threescore ships, and eight hundred men to row them; and when the Tyrians had come upon them in twelve ships, and the enemy's ships were dispersed, they took five hundred men prisoners, and the reputation of all the citizens of Tyre was thereby increased; but the king of Assyria returned, and placed guards at their rivers and aqueducts, who should hinder the Tyrians from drawing water. This continued for five years; and still the Tyrians bore the siege, and drank of the water they had out of the wells they dug." And this is what is written in the Tyrian archives concerning Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria.
3. But now the Cutheans, who removed into Samaria, [for that is the name they have been called by to this time, because they were brought out of the country called Cuthah, which is a country of Persia, and there is a river of the same name in it,] each of them, according to their nations, which were in number five, brought their own gods into Samaria, and by worshipping them, as was the custom of their own countries, they provoked Almighty God to be angry and displeased at them, for a plague seized upon them, by which they were destroyed; and when they found no cure for their miseries, they learned by the oracle that they ought to worship Almighty God, as the method for their deliverance. So they sent ambassadors to the king of Assyria, and desired him to send them some of those priests of the Israelites whom he had taken captive. And when he thereupon sent them, and the people were by them taught the laws, and the holy worship of God, they worshipped him in a respectful manner, and the plague ceased immediately; and indeed they continue to make use of the very same customs to this very time, and are called in the Hebrew tongue Cutlans, but in the Greek tongue Samaritans. And when they see the Jews in prosperity, they pretend that they are changed, and allied to them, and call them kinsmen, as though they were derived from Joseph, and had by that means an original alliance with them; but when they see them falling into a low condition, they say they are no way related to them, and that the Jews have no right to expect any kindness or marks of kindred from them, but they declare that they are sojourners, that come from other countries. But of these we shall have a more seasonable opportunity to discourse hereafter.
[ These judges constituted by Jehoshaphat were a kind of Jerusalem Sanhedrim, out of the priests, the Levites, and the principal of the people, both here and 2 Chronicles 19:8; much like the old Christian judicatures of the bishop, the presbyters, the deacons, and the people.]
[ Concerning this precious balsam, see the note on Atiq. B. VIII. ch. 6. sect. 6.]
[ What are here Pontus and Thrace, as the places whither Jehoshaphat's fleet sailed, are in our other copies Ophir and Tarshish, and the place whence it sailed is in them Eziongeber, which lay on the Red Sea, whence it was impossible for any ships to sail to Pontus or Thrace; so that Josephus's copy differed from our other copies, as is further plain from his own words, which render what we read, that "the ships were broken at Eziongeber, from their unwieldy greatness." But so far we may conclude, that Josephus thought one Ophir to be some where in the Mediterranean, and not in the South Sea, though perhaps there might be another Ophir in that South Sea also, and that fleets might then sail both from Phoenicia and from the Red Sea to fetch the gold of Ophir.]
[ This god of flies seems to have been so called, as was the like god among the Greeks, from his supposed power over flies, in driving them away from the flesh of their sacrifices, which otherwise would have been very troublesome to them.]
[ It is commonly esteemed a very cruel action of Elijah, when he called for fire from heaven, and consumed no fewer than two captains and a hundred soldiers, and this for no other crime than obeying the orders of their king, in attempting to seize him; and it is owned by our Savior, that it was an instance of greater severity than the spirit of the New Testament allows, Luke 9:54. But then we must consider that it is not unlikely that these captains and soldiers believed that they were sent to fetch the prophet, that he might be put to death for foretelling the death of the king, and this while they knew him to be the prophet of the true God, the supreme King of Israel, [for they were still under the theocracy,] which was no less than impiety, rebellion, and treason, in the highest degree: nor would the command of a subaltern, or inferior captain, contradicting the commands of the general, when the captain and the soldiers both knew it to be so, as I suppose, justify or excuse such gross rebellion and disobedience in soldiers at this day. Accordingly, when Saul commanded his guards to slay Ahimelech and the priests at Nob, they knew it to be an unlawful command, and would not obey it, 1 Samuel 22:17. From which cases both officers and soldiers may learn, that the commands of their leaders or kings cannot justify or excuse them in doing what is wicked in the sight of God, or in fighting in an unjust cause, when they know it so to be.]
[ This practice of cutting down, or plucking up by the roots, the fruit trees was forbidden, even in ordinary wars, by the law of Moses, Deuteronomy 20:19, 20, and only allowed by God in this particular case, when the Moabites were to be punished and cut off in an extraordinary manner for their wickedness See Jeremiah 48:11-13, and many the like prophecies against them. Nothing could therefore justify this practice but a particular commission from God by his prophet, as in the present case, which was ever a sufficient warrant for breaking any such ritual or ceremonial law whatsoever.]
[ That this woman who cried to Elisha, and who in our Bible is styled "the wife of one of the sons of the prophets," 2 Kings 4:1, was no other than the widow of Obadiah, the good steward of Ahab, is confirmed by the Chaldee paraphrast, and by the Rabbins and others. Nor is that unlikely which Josephus here adds, that these debts were contracted by her husband for the support of those "hundred of the Lord's prophets, whom he maintained by fifty in a cave," in the days of Ahab and Jezebel, 1 Kings 18:4; which circumstance rendered it highly fit that the prophet Elisha should provide her a remedy, and enable her to redeem herself and her sons from the fear of that slavery which insolvent debtors were liable to by the law of Moses, Leviticus 25:39; Matthew 18:25; which he did accordingly, with God's help, at the expense of a miracle.]
[ Dr. Hudson, with very good reason, suspects that there is no small defect in our present copies of Josephus, just before the beginning of this section, and that chiefly as to that distinct account which he had given us reason to expect in the first section, and to which he seems to refer, ch. 8. sect. 6. concerning the glorious miracles which Elisha wrought, which indeed in our Bibles are not a few, 2 Kings 6-9., but of which we have several omitted in Josephus's present copies. One of those histories, omitted at present, was evidently in his Bible, I mean that of the curing of Nanman's leprosy, 2 Kings 5.; for he plainly alludes to it, B. III. ch. 11. sect. 4, where he observes, that "there were lepers in many nations who yet have been in honor, and not only free from reproach and avoidance, but who have been great captains of armies, and been intrusted with high offices in the commonwealth, and have had the privilege of entering into holy places and temples." But what makes me most regret the want of that history in our present copies of Josephus is this, that we have here, as it is commonly understood, one of the greatest difficulties in all the Bible, that in 2 Kings 5:18, 19, where Naaman, after he had been miraculously cured by a prophet of the true God, and had thereupon promised [ver. 17: that "he would henceforth offer neither burnt-offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord," adds, "In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimnu to worship there, and he leaneth on my hands, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmort; when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmort, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. And Elisha said, Go in peace." This looks like a prophet's permission for being partaker in idolatry itself, out of compliance with an idolatrous court.]
[ Upon occasion of this stratagem of Elisha, in Josephus, we may take notice, that although Josephus was one of the greatest lovers of truth in the world, yet in a just war he seems to have had no manner of scruple upon him by all such stratagems possible to deceive public enemies. See this Josephus's account of Jeremiah's imposition on the great men of the Jews in somewhat like case, Antiq. B. X. ch. 7. sect. 6; 2 Samuel 16:16, &c.]
[ This son of a murderer was Joram, the son of Ahab, which Ahab slew, or permitted his wife Jezebel to slay, the Lord's prophets, and Naboth, 1 Kings 18:4; 21:19; and he is here called by this name, I suppose, because he had now also himself sent an officer to murder him; yet is Josephus's account of Joram's coming himself at last as repenting of his intended cruelty, much more probable than that in our copies, 2 Kings 6:33, which rather implies the contrary.]
[ This law of the Jews, for the exclusion of lepers out of the camp in the wilderness, and out of the cities in Judea, is a known one, Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:14.]
[ Since Elijah did not live to anoint Hazael king of Syria himself, as he was empowered to do, 1 Kings 19:15, it was most probably now done, in his name, by his servant and successor Elisha. Nor does it seem to me otherwise but that Benhadad immediately recovered of his disease, as the prophet foretold; and that Hazael, upon his being anointed to succeed him though he ought to have staid till he died by the course of nature, or some other way of Divine punishment, as did David for many years in the like case, was too impatient, and the very next day smothered or strangled him, in order to come directly to the succession.]
[ What Mr. Le Clerc pretends here, that it is more probable that Hazael and his son were worshipped by the Syrians and people of Damascus till the days of Josephus, than Benhadad and Hazael, because under Benhadad they had greatly suffered, and because it is almost incredible that both a king and that king's murderer should be worshipped by the same Syrians, is of little force against those records, out of which Josephus drew this history, especially when it is likely that they thought Benhadad died of the distemper he labored under, and not by Hazael's treachery. Besides, the reason that Josephus gives for this adoration, that these two kings had been great benefactors to the inhabitants of Damascus, and had built them temples, is too remote from the political suspicions of Le Clerc; nor ought such weak suspicions to be deemed of any force against authentic testimonies of antiquity.]
[ This epistle, in some copies of Josephus, is said to come to Jotare from Elijah, with this addition," for he was yet upon earth," which could not be true of Elijah, who, as all agree, was gone from the earth about four years before, and could only be true of Elisha; nor perhaps is there any more mystery here, than that the name of Elijah has very anciently crept into the text instead of Elisha, by the copiers, there being nothing in any copy of that epistle peculiar to Elijah.]
[ Spanheim here notes, that this putting off men's garments, and strewing them under a king, was an Eastern custom, which he had elsewhere explained.]
[ Our copies say that this "driving of the chariots was like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously," 2 Kings 9:20; whereas Josephus's copy, as he understood it, was this, that, on the contrary, Jehu marched slowly, and in good order. Nor can it be denied, that since there was interval enough for king Joram to send out two horsemen, one after another, to Jehu, and at length to go out with king Ahaziah to meet him, and all this after he was come within sight of the watchman, and before he was come to Jezreel, the probability is greatly on the side of Josephus's copy or interpretation.]
[ This character of Joash, the son of Jehoahaz, that "he was a good man, and in his disposition not at all like to his father," seems a direct contradiction to our ordinary copies, which say [2 Kings 13:11] that "he did evil in the sight of the Lord; and that he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin: he walked therein." Which copies are here the truest it is hard positively to determine. If Josephus's be true, this Joash is the single instance of a good king over the ten tribes; if the other be true, we have not one such example. The account that follows, in all copies, of Elisha the prophet's concern for him, and his concern for Elisha, greatly favors Josephus's copies, and supposes this king to have been then a good man, and no idolater, with whom God's prophets used not to be so familiar. Upon the whole, since it appears, even by Josephus's own account, that Amaziah, the good king of Judah, while he was a good king, was forbidden to make use of the hundred thousand auxiliaries he had hired of this Joash, the king of Israel, as if he and they were then idolaters, 2 Chronicles 25:6-9, it is most likely that these different characters of Joash suited the different parts of his reign, and that, according to our common copies, he was at first a wicked king, and afterwards was reclaimed, and became a good one, according to Josephus.]
[ What I have above noted concerning Jehoash, seems to me to have been true also concerning his son Jeroboam II., viz. that although he began wickedly, as Josephus agrees with our other copies, and, as he adds, "was the cause of a vast number of misfortunes to the Israelites" in those his first years, [the particulars of which are unhappily wanting both in Josephus and in all our copies,] so does it seem to me that he was afterwards reclaimed, and became a good king, and so was encouraged by the prophet Jonah, and had great successes afterward, when "God had saved the Israelites by the hand of Jeroboam, the son of Joash," 2 Kings 14:27; which encouragement by Jonah, and great successes, are equally observable in Josephus, and in the other copies.]
[ When Jonah is said in our Bibles to have gone to Tarshish, Jonah 1:3, Josephus understood it that he went to Tarsus in Cilicia, or to the Mediterranean Sea, upon which Tarsus lay; so that he does not appear to have read the text, 1 Kings 22:48, as our copies do, that ships of Tarshish could lie at Ezion-geber, upon the Red Sea. But as to Josephus's assertion, that Jonah's fish was carried by the strength of the current, upon a nean, it is by no means an improbable determination in Josephus.]
[ This ancient piece of religion, of supposing there was great sin where there was great misery, and of casting lots to discover great sinners, not only among the Israelites, but among these heathen mariners, seems a remarkable remains of the ancient tradition which prevailed of old over all mankind, that Providence used to interpose visibly in all human affairs, and storm, as far as the Euxine Sea, it is no way impossible; and since the storm might have driven the ship, while Jonah was in it never to bring, or at least not long to continue, notorious judge, near to that Euxine Sea, and since in three more days, while but for notorious sins, which the most ancient Book of he was in the fish's belly, that current might bring him to the Job shows to have been the state of mankind for about the Assyrian coast, and since withal that coast could bring him former three thousand years of the world, till the days of Job nearer to Nineveh than could any coast of the Mediterranian and Moses.]
[ This account of an earthquake at Jerusalem at the very same time when Uzziah usurped the priest's office, and went into the sanctuary to burn incense, and of the consequences of the earthquake, is entirely wanting in our other copies, though it be exceeding like to a prophecy of Jeremiah, now in Zechariah 14:4, 5; in which prophecy mention is made of "fleeing from that earthquake, as they fled from this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah;" so that there seems to have been some considerable resemblance between these historical and prophetical earthquakes.]
[ Dr. Wall, in his critical notes on 2 Kings 15:20, observes, "that when this Menahem is said to have exacted the money of Israel of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give Pul, the king of Assyria, a thousand talents, this is the first public money raised by any [Israelite] king by tax on the people; that they used before to raise it out of the treasures of the house of the Lord, or of their own house; that it was a poll-money on the rich men, [and them only,] to raise oe353,000, or, as others count a talent, oe400,000, at the rate of oe6 or oe7 per head; and that God commanded, by Ezekiel, ch. 45:8; 46:18, that no such thing should be done [at the Jews' restoration], but the king should have land of his own."]
[ This passage is taken out of the prophet Nahum, ch. 2:8-13, and is the principal, or rather the only, one that is given us almost verbatim, but a little abridged, in all Josephus's known writings: by which quotation we learn what he himself always asserts, viz. that he made use of the Hebrew original and not of the Greek version]; as also we learn, that his Hebrew copy considerably differed from ours. See all three texts particularly set down and compared together in the Essay on the Old Testament, page 187.]
[ This siege of Samaria, though not given a particular account of, either in our Hebrew or Greek Bibles, or in Josephus, was so very long, no less than three years, that it was no way improbable but that parents, and particularly mothers, might therein be reduced to eat their own children, as the law of Moses had threatened upon their disobedience, Leviticus 26;29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57; and as was accomplished in the other shorter sieges of both the capital cities, Jerusalem and Samaria; the former mentioned Jeremiah 19:9; Antiq. B. IX. ch. 4. sect. 4, and the latter, 2 Kings 6:26-29.]