Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Siege of Samaria

The king, whom Elisha had helped so many times in the war against the Syrians, was Joram. As we have already seen, this ruler of Israel allowed idolatry; and now God withdrew his protection from him, and even permitted the Syrians to march into his kingdom and besiege his capital.

During this siege the people of Samaria suffered much from famine, and at last had nothing to eat but dogs, cats, and mice. We are told that their hunger was so great that some of the inhabitants even became cannibals, and that mothers ate their own children.

The king, who pretended that Elisha was to blame for all these troubles, finally sent for him, intending to cut off his head. But the prophet refused to go to court, and bade the messengers go back and tell the king that there would be plenty of food at Samaria on the morrow. All the Samaritans believed this prophecy except one man, and he was told that, in punishment for his unbelief, he alone would not eat of the promised plenty.

That self-same day, four lepers went into the Syrian camp. While they were there, they heard "a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host." These sounds caused a panic in the camp, and the Syrians fled in haste, leaving their tents and all their stock of provisions behind them.

After satisfying their own hunger, and securing much plunder, the lepers went and told this news to the king. Then all the people of Samaria swarmed out of the city and rushed into the deserted camp, where they found plenty to eat. Elisha’s prediction was fulfilled in every particular; for the man who had doubted his word was trodden under foot and killed by the hungry multitude as they rushed toward the Syrian camp.

We are told in the Bible that Elisha worked one more miracle, many years after his death. It seems that the grave-diggers once hastily flung a body into his grave. As soon as this corpse touched the dead prophet’s bones, it came to life again, and the man walked home as if nothing had happened to him.

While Joram was reigning over Israel, another Joram became king of Judah. This man was the son of Jehoshaphat, and had married Athaliah, daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, who influenced him to set up idols.

So great was the wickedness of this king of Judah, we are told, that his reign would have been the last, had not the Lord remembered his covenant with David, and the promise which he had made, that the house of that great king should last.

So, instead of being entirely cut off, Joram, King of Judah, had many troubles. In the first place, several of his cities rose up against him. Then the Philistines and their allies came into his kingdom, plundered his palace, and carried off all his family into captivity, except one son. Last of all, Joram of Judah became very ill, as a prophet had foretold, and died after much suffering, leaving his throne to his son Ahaziah. This young king was so wicked that he was allowed to rule only one year before he too was forced to give up the crown.

You remember, do you not, how Joram, King of Israel, was killed by his captain, Jehu? Well, at that time, Ahaziah of Judah was on a visit to the King of Israel, and rode out of the city with him on the day of his death. When Joram was shot, Ahaziah fled, but he too had been struck by one of Jehu’s arrows, and soon died.

It was not enough to have killed two kings and one queen, so Jehu slew also many other members of the royal house of Israel. In fact, only one member of Ahab’s family was now left. This was Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, King of Judah. As soon as Athaliah heard that her son was dead, she treacherously killed, as she thought, all her children and grandchildren, so that she might wield the royal scepter herself, and keep up the worship of Baal in Judah.

But her grandson Joash, the son of Ahaziah, was saved by his nurses, who carried him, bleeding and almost lifeless, to his aunt, the wife of the high priest. She gladly received this little charge, and brought him up in the temple in secret.

Joash himself did not know who he really was, and Athaliah was allowed to reign over Judah undisturbed for more than six years. But in the seventh year, a conspiracy was formed by the high priest, and Joash was proclaimed king in the temple.

The priests, armed with the sacred weapons, stood around the child king, ready to defend him, when Athaliah suddenly burst into the temple. She had heard rumors of an uprising, and came there to put it down with a high hand. When she saw her own grandson seated upon the throne, and heard the joyful shouts of the people, she would have liked to flee.

But it was too late. The measure of her crimes was full, and the priests killed her just as she was about to escape. Many of her followers were also slain, and the heathen idols which she had worshiped were banished from the kingdom.