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of wise and equitable regulations for dividing the tithes and offerings of the people in due proportion among
the Levites and their families, so that, whether engaged in religious service at the temple or as magistrates and teachers in other parts of the land, they might "each in their set office sanctify themselves in holiness”—might devote their whole
powers and time to the duties of their calling, without anxiety for a support.
Throughout the whole of these proceedings, Hezekiah exhibited the qualities which become a reform
He was resolute and decided; for he knew he was doing what was “good and right, and truth before the Lord his God.” Obstacles did not discourage him ; opposition did not daunt him. He was earnest in his work, for “ he did it with all his heart.” He made no compromises; he stopped at no half-way measures, to please the timid or the luke
He was not diverted from its completion by any intervening object, or deterred by the magnitude of the cost. It was dearer to him than the treasures of royalty or the friendship of man. His irrepressible ardor penetrated other minds and created coworkers, and before a blow was struck, was a sure omen of success. Yet with all this there was no rash zeal to provoke and almost justify opposition. He was compassionate to the weak and gentle to the erring, and chose rather to win them to duty by his example, than to force them by his kingly power. He was not discouraged or out of temper, if others were dull to apprehend existing evils, or slow to adopt suitable measures for their removal. With a due self-reliance, he arrogated nothing to his own wisdom or energy, but ascribed the glory of the work to God. Few of the human race can have the honor of accomplishing so high an enterprise ; but all may be faithful in their several stations, and enter with Hezekiah into the joy of their Lord.
CAPTIVITY OF THE TEN TRIBES.
Though the altars and groves were demolished among the ten tribes by the Israelites, returning from the feast of the passover, the tendency to worship idols remained among a large part of the people. The reformation, even when deep and permanent, was not extensive enough to produce more than a temporary eddy in the strong current which was bearing the nation to ruin. Mere sympathy mingled with genuine religious feeling, and did not long survive the occasion which called it forth. The spirit of the movement began to decline, and the multitude who had been awed into silence by its resistless impulse, soon regained confidence, and rebuilt their altars. Hosea expresses the temporary character of the reform in the melting expostulation, “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee ? 0 Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as the morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away. For I desired mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burntofferings.” They had been liberal in offerings at the temple on the late occasion, but in too many cases they forgot their professions of love and obedience to God, and violated the principles of justice and humanity. They did not, in their daily lives, follow up their sacrifices by works “ meet for repentance."
The cup of their iniquity was now full. The power of reproof and threatening, of love and winning invitation, had been of no avail to turn them from apostasy. A gleam of hope, like the going forth of the morning, had been kindled by the disposition of a few to return to their allegiance, but it soon waned into darkness, and a long night of calamity settled down on the land. The honor of God forbade that his name should be profaned any longer in the sight of the heathen. The overthrow of the kingdom, begun about twenty years before by Tiglath-pilezer, was now completed in the ninth year of Hoshea, and the sixth of Hezekiah. Shalmaneser, after a siege of three years, took Samaria, carried “ Israel into Assyria, and put them in Halah and Habor, by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes."
Thus, as had been predicted, the land was emptied of its inhabitants. The king of Assyria attempted to supply their place by importations of heathen from various parts of his realm ; but the region was still so desolate, that wild beasts threatened to overrun it. The idolaters thought them sent to punish their neglect of the God of the country. They therefore procured one of the captive priests from Assyria to teach them how to worship this local deity so as to gain his favor. While burning their children in the fire to the gods of heathenism, they vainly imagined they could acceptably fear and worship the God of Israel. How often do men still attempt to unite the service of the Lord with other service less gross and revolting than this, but not much less absurd and displeasing in his sight! Ambition, avarice, luxury, and fashion, are idols which they must hold in light esteem, who would at all times render due homage to God their Saviour.
The captives of the ten tribes were transplanted to one of the remotest provinces of the Assyrian empire. The river Gozan, on which Halah and Habor were situated, rises in the north-eastern mountains of the Kurds, and after a circuitous and rapid course through a vast stretch of hilly country, amidst majestic scenery, empties into the southwestern part of the Caspian sea. Some pious Israelites may have removed to the kingdom of Judah, and thus escaped the calamities that fell on their idolatrous countrymen; but others were carried into exile. Many of these, yielding to the pressure of circumstances, consented to “eat the bread of the Gentiles;" but a few observed the rites of their law and kept their festival days, though when they thought of other years, as had been foretold, their feasts were “ turned into mourning," and their “mirth into lamentation.” The