Story Three

THREE KINGS AND A GREAT PROPHET
AM-A-ZĪ́ AH was the ninth of the kings of Jū́ dah, if the years of Ăth-a-lī́ ah's rule be counted as a separate reign. Am-a-zī́ ah worshipped the Lord, but he did not serve the Lord with a perfect heart. He gathered an army of three hundred thousand men, to make war on Ḗ dom, and bring its people again under the rule of Jū́ dah. He hired also an army from Ĭś̝ ra-el to help him in this war; but a prophet said to him, "O king, do not let the army of Ĭś̝ ra-el go with you against Ḗ dom, for the Lord is not with the people of Ĭś̝ ra-el. But go with your own men, and be strong and brave; and the Lord will help you.”
"But how will I get back the money that I have paid to the army of Ĭś̝ ra-el?" said Ăm-a-zī́ ah to the prophet.
"Fear not," said the prophet; "the Lord is able to give you much more than you have lost.”
Then Ăm-a-zī́ ah obeyed the Lord, and sent back the men of Ĭś̝ ra-el to their own land, and went against the Ḗ dom-ītes with the men of Jū́ dah. The Lord gave him a great victory in the land of Ḗ dom; Am-a-zī́ ah was cruel to the people whom he conquered, and killed very many of them in his anger. And when he came back from Ḗ dom, he brought with him the idol-gods of that land, and although they could not save their own people, Ăm-a-zī́ ah set them up for his own gods, and burned incense to them and bowed down before them. And when a prophet of the Lord came to him, and warned him that God was angry with him, and would surely punish him for this wickedness, Am-a-zī́ ah said to the prophet, "Who has asked you to give advice to the king? Keep still, or you will be put to death!" And the prophet answered him, "I know that it is God's will that you shall be destroyed, because you will not listen to the word of the Lord.”
Ăm-a-zī́ ah's punishment was not long delayed, for soon after this, he made war upon Jṓ ash, the king of Ĭś ra-el, whose kingdom was far greater and stronger than his own. The two armies met at Bĕth=shḗ mesh, northwest of Jē̇-rṳ-sā̇́ lĕm. Ăm-a-zī́ ah was beaten in a great battle, many of his men were slain, and Ăm-a-zī́ ah himself was taken prisoner by Jṓ ash, the king of Ĭś̝ ra-el. Jṓ ăsh took the city of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm, and broke down the wall, and carried away all the treasures in the palace and in the Temple of the Lord.
After this Ăm-a-zī́ ah lived fifteen years, but he never gained the power that he had lost. His nobles made a plan to kill him, and Am-a-zī́ ah fled away from the city to escape them. But they caught him, and slew him, and brought his body back to Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm to be buried in the tombs of the kings. His reign began well, but it ended ill, because he failed to obey the word of the Lord.
After Ăm-a-zī́ ah came his son Ŭz-zī́ ah, who was also called Ăz-a-rī́ ah. He was the tenth king of Judah. Ŭz-zī́ ah was only sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he was king for fifty-two years. He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord during most of his reign. Ŭz-zī́ ah found the kingdom weak and he made it strong, for the Lord helped him. He won back for Jū́ dah the land of the Phĭ-lĭś tĭnes̝, the land of the Aḿ mon-ītes on the east of Jôŕ dan, and of the Ā̇-rā́ bĭ-ans̝ on the south. He built cities and made strong walls around them, with towers full of weapons for defense against enemies. He loved the fields, and planted trees and vineyards, and raised crops of wheat and barley.
But when Ŭz-zī́ ah was strong and rich his heart became proud, and he no longer tried to do God's will. He sought to have the power of the high-priest as well as that of the king, and he went into the Holy Place in the Temple to offer incense upon the golden altar, which was allowed to the priests only. The high-priest Ăz-a-rī́ ah followed Ŭz-zī́ ah into the Holy Place with the other priests, and said to him:
"It is not for you to offer incense, O King Ŭz-zī́ ah, nor to come into the Holy Place. This belongs to the priests alone. Go out of the Holy Place, for you have disobeyed the Lord's command; and it will not bring upon you honor, but trouble.”
Ŭz-zī́ ah was standing before the golden altar with a censor of incense in his hand. Instantly the white scales of leprosy rose upon his forehead. The priests saw in that moment that God had smitten Ŭz-zī́ ah with leprosy; indeed, he felt it himself, and turned to leave the Holy Place. But they would not wait for him to go out; they drove him out, for the leper's presence made the house unholy. And from that day until he died, Ŭz-zī́ ah was a leper. He could no longer sit as king, but his son Jṓ tham took his place; nor was he allowed to live in the palace, but he stayed in a house alone. And when he died they would not give him a place among the tombs of the kings; but they buried him in a field outside. Jṓ tham, the eleventh king, ruled after his father's death sixteen years. He served the Lord, but he did not stop his people from worshipping the idols. He was warned by his father's fate, and was content to be a king, without trying at the same time to be a priest and to offer incense in the Temple. God was with Jṓ tham, and gave his kingdom some success.
The next king, the twelfth, was Ā́ hăz, who was the wickedest of all the kings of Jū́ dah. He left the service of God, and worshipped the images of Bā́ al. Worse than any other king, he even offered some of his own children as burnt-offerings to the false gods. In his reign the house of the Lord was shut up, and its treasures were taken away, and it was left to fall into ruin. For his sins and the sins of his people, God brought great suffering upon the land. The king of "Ĭś̝ ra-el, Pḗ kah, came against Ā́ hăz, and killed more than a hundred thousand of the men of Jū́ dah, among them the king’s own son. The Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes also took away many more,— men, women and children,—as captives. But a prophet of the Lord in Ĭś̝ ra-el, whose name was Ṓ ded, came out to meet the rulers, and said to them.
"The Lord God was angry with Jū́ dah, and gave its people into your hand. But do you now intend to keep your brothers of Jū́ dah as slaves? Have not you also sinned against the Lord? Now listen to the word of the Lord, and set your brothers free and send them home."
Then the rulers of Ĭś̝ ra-el gave clothing to such of the captives as were in need, and set food before them; and they sent them home to their own land, even giving to those that were weak among them asses to ride upon. They brought them to Jĕŕ ĭ-chō in the valley of the Jordan, and gave them to their own people.
When the Ḗ dom-ītes came against Jū́ dah, King Ā́ hăz sent to the Ās-sy̆ŕ ĭ-ans̝, a great people far away, to come and help him. The Ăs-sy̆ŕ ĭ-ans̝ came, but they did not help him, for they made themselves the rulers of Jū́ dah, and robbed Ā́ hăz of all that he had, and laid heavy burdens upon the land. At last Ā́ hăz died, leaving his people worshippers of idols and under the power of the king of Ăs-sy̆ŕ ĭ-ȧ.
In the days of these three kings; Ŭz-zī́ ah, Jṓ tham and Ā́ hăz, God raised up a great prophet in Jū́ dah, whose name was Ī-s̝á̄ iah. The prophecies that he spoke in the name of the Lord are given in the book of Ī-s̝ā́ iah. In the year that King Ŭz-zī́ ah died, Ī-s̝ā́ iah was a young man. One day, while he was worshipping in the Temple, a wonderful vision rose suddenly before his sight. He saw the form of the Lord God upon a throne, with the angels around him. He saw also strange creatures called seraphim, standing before the throne of the Lord. Each of these had six wings. With two wings he covered his face before the glory of the Lord, with two wings he covered his feet, and with two he flew through the air to do God's will. And these seraphim called out to one another, "Holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the young Ī-s̝ā́ iah felt the walls and the floor of the Temple shaking at these voices; and he saw a cloud of smoke covering the house. Ī-s̝ā́ iah was filled with fear. He cried out saying:
"Woe has come to me! for I am a man of sinful lips, and I live among a people of sinful lips: and now my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim took into his hand the tongs that were used in the sacrifices. He flew to the altar, and with the tongs took up a burning coal. Then he flew to the place where Ī-s̝ā́ iah was standing, and pressed the fiery coal to Ī-s̝ā́ iah's lips; and he said, "This coal from God's altar has touched your lips, and now your sin is taken away, and you are made clean.”
Then Ī-s̝ā́ iah heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send to this people? Who will bear the message of the Lord to them?”
And Ī-s̝ā́ iah said, "Here am I, Lord; send me!”
And the Lord said to Ī-s̝á iah, "You shall be my prophet, and shall go to this people, and shall give to them my words. But they will not listen to you, nor understand you. Your words will do them no good, but will seem to make their hearts hard, and their ears heavy, and their eyes shut. For they will not hear with their ears, nor see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor will they turn to me and be saved.”
And Ī-s̝ā́ iah said, "How long must this be, O Lord?”
And the Lord said:
"Until the cities are left waste without people, and the houses without men to live in them; and the land shall become utterly desolate; and the people shall be taken far away into another land. But out of all this there shall be a few people, a tenth part, to come back, and to rise like a new tree from the roots where the old tree has been cut down. This tenth part shall be the seed of a new` people in the times to come.”
By this Ī-s̝ā́ iah knew that, though his words might seem to do no good, yet he was to go on preaching, for long afterward a new Jū́ dah should rise out of the ruins of the old kingdom, and should serve the Lord.
Ī-s̝ā́ iah lived for many years, and spoke the word of the Lord to his people until he was a very old man. He preached while four kings, perhaps also a fifth, were ruling. Some of these kings were friendly, and listened to his words: but others were not willing to obey the prophet and do the will of God; and the kingdom of Jū́ dah gradually fell away from the worship of the Lord, and followed the people of the Ten Tribes in the worship of idols.