|Jesus the babe of Bethlehem|
Soon after the time when John the Baptist was born, Joseph the carpenter of Nazareth had
a dream. In his dream he saw an angel from the Lord standing beside him. The angel said
“Joseph, sprung from the line of king David, I have come to tell you, that Mary, the young
woman whom you are to marry, will have a son, sent by the Lord God. You shall call his
name Jesus, which means ‘salvation,’ because he shall save his people from their sins.”
|Angel by the altar|
At the time when the story of the New Testament begins, the land of Israel, called also the
land of Judea, was ruled by a king named Herod. He was the first of several Herods, who
at different times ruled either the whole of the land, or parts of it. But Herod was not the
|Daniel in lions den|
The lands which had been the Babylonian or Chaldean empire, now became the empire of
Persia; and over these Darius was the king. King Darius gave to Daniel, who was now a
very old man, a high place in honor and in power. Among all the rulers over the land,
Daniel stood first, for the king saw that he was wise and able to rule. This made the other
princes and rulers very jealous, and they tried to find something evil in Daniel, so that
they could speak to the king against him.
There was in the land of Judah a wicked king-named Jehoiakim, son of the good Josiah.
While Jehoiakim was ruling over the land of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, a great conqueror of
the nations, came from Babylon with his army of Chaldean soldiers. He took the city of
Jerusalem, and made Jehoiakim promise to submit to him as his master. And when he
went back to his own land he took with him all the gold and silver that he could find in
the Temple; and he carried away as captives very many of the princes and nobles, the best
people in the land of Judah.
When these Jews were brought to the land of Chaldea or Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar
gave orders to the prince, who had charge of his palace, to choose among these Jewish
captives some young men who were of noble rank, and beautiful in their looks, and also
quick and bright in their minds; young men who would be able to learn readily. These
young men were to be placed under the care of wise men, who should teach them all that
they knew, and fit them to stand before the king of Babylon, so that they might be his
helpers to carry out his orders; and the king wished them to be wise, so that they might
give him advice in ruling his people.
Among the young men thus chosen were four Jews, men who had been brought
from Judah. By order of the king the names of these men were changed. One of them,
named Daniel, was to be called Belteshazzer; the other three young men were called
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They were taught in all the knowledge of the
Chaldeans; and after three years of training they were taken into the king’s palace.
King Nebuchadnezzar was pleased with them, more than with any others who
stood before him. He found them wise and faithful in the work given to them, and able to
rule over men under them. And these four men came to the highest places in the kingdom
of the Chaldeans.
At one time King Nebuchadnezzar caused a great image to be made, and to be covered
with gold. This image he set up, as an idol to be worshiped, on the plain of Dura, near
the city of Babylon. When it was finished, it stood upon its base or foundation almost a
hundred feet high; so that upon the plain it could be seen far away. Then the king sent out
a command for all the princes, and rulers, and nobles in the land, to come to a great
gathering, when the image was to be set apart for worship.
|Jonah and the whale|
At this time another prophet, named Jonah, was giving the word of the Lord to the
Israelites. To Jonah the Lord spoke, saying:
“Go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it; for its wickedness rises up before me.”
But Jonah did not wish to preach to the people of Nineveh; for they were the enemies of
his land, the land of Israel. He wished Nineveh to die in its sins, and not to turn to God
and live. So Jonah tried to go away from the city where God had sent him. He went down
to Joppa and took a ship for Tarshish.
But the Lord saw Jonah on the ship; and the Lord sent a great storm upon the sea, so that
the ship seemed as though it would go to pieces. The sailors threw overboard everything
on the ship; and when they could do no more, every man prayed to his god to save the
ship and themselves. Jonah was now lying fast asleep, and the ship’s captain came to
him, and said:
|Elijah the prophet|
One of the greatest of all the kings of the Ten Tribes was Jeroboam the second. Under
him the kingdom of Israel grew rich and strong. He conquered nearly all Syria, and made
Samaria the greatest city of all those lands.
But though Syria went down, another nation was now rising to power—Assyria, on the
eastern side of the river Tigris. Its capital was Nineveh, a great city, so vast that it would
take three days for a man to walk around its walls. The Assyrians were beginning to
conquer all the lands near them, and Israel was in danger of falling under their power.
One of the kings who ruled over Israel was named Ahab. He provoked the anger of the
Lord. His wife, Jezebel, who was a worshiper of Baal, persuaded him to build an altar to
the false god.
Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, was sent to him and proposed a test. Two altars were built;
one to Jehovah and one to Baal. The priests of Baal called upon their god to send down
fire; but there was no answer. Then Elijah called upon the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac
and Israel, and fire came down and burnt up the offering.
The people turned upon the priests of Baal and killed them all. Later the wicked queen,
Jezebel, coveted a vineyard for Ahab, and she caused Naboth, the owner of the vineyard,
to be placed in front of the battle. When he was slain Ahab took the vineyard.
Once more Elijah came and denounced Ahab and Jezebel, telling them that they had done
wickedly, and that the Lord would punish them.
In a little while the prophet’s words came true, for Ahab was slain in battle and Jezebel
was put to death by order of King Jehu. Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire.
There was another prophet, a companion of Elijah, whose name was Elisha, a brave and
courageous man who did not fail to deliver God’s message.
It happened that when Elisha was an old man there can to him King Joash,
who had been made king when he was only seven years old. Joash was now a
young man and was trying to do right in the sight of the Lord. But he felt the need of the
prophet’s aid, and he came to Elisha and said:
“My father, my father, you are more to Israel than its chariots and horsemen.”
Elisha, though weak in body, was yet strong in soul. He told Joash to bring him a bow and
arrows, and to open the window to the east, looking toward the land of Syria. Then Elisha
caused the king to draw the bow; and he placed his hands on the king’s hands. And as the
king shot an arrow, Elisha said:
“This is the arrow of victory; of victory over Syria; for you shall smite the Syrians in
Aphek and shall destroy them.”
It happened as Elisha had foretold and the Syrians were defeated and their cities taken.
|Solomon and his temple|
brass, and iron, for the building of a house to the Lord on Mount Moriah. This house was
to be called “The Temple”; and it was to be made very beautiful, the most beautiful
building, and the richest in all the land. David had greatly desired to build this house
while he was king of Israel, but God said to him:
“You have been a man of war, and have fought many battles, and shed much blood. My
house shall be built by a man of peace. When you die, your son Solomon shall reign, and
he shall have peace, and shall build my house.”
So David made ready great store of precious things for the temple; also stone and cedar to
be used in the building. And David said to Solomon, his son: “God has promised that
there shall be rest and peace to the land while you are king; and the Lord will be with you,
and you shall build a house, where God shall live among His people.”
But David had other sons who were older than Solomon; and one of these sons, whose
name was Adonijah, formed a plan to make himself king. David was now very old; and
he was no longer able to go out of his palace, and to be seen among the people.
Adonijah gathered his friends; and among them were Joab, the general of the army, and
Abiathar, one of the two high-priests. They met at a place outside the wall, and had a
great feast, and were about to crown Adonijah as king, when word came to David in the
palace. David, though old and feeble, was still wise. He said:
“Let us make Solomon king at once, and thus put an end to the plans of these men.”
So at David’s command they brought out the mule on which no one but the king was
allowed to ride; and they placed Solomon upon it; and with the king’s guards, and the
nobles, and the great men, they brought the young Solomon down to the valley of Gihon,
south of the city.
And Zadok, the priest, took from the Tabernacle the horn filled with holy oil, that was
used for anointing or pouring oil on the head of the priests when they were set apart for
their work. He poured oil from this horn on the head of Solomon, and then the priests
blew the trumpets, and all the people cried aloud, “God save King Solomon.”
All this time Adonijah and Joab, and their friends were not far away, almost in the same
valley, feasting and making merry, intending to make Adonijah king. They heard the
sound of the trumpets, and the shouting of the people. Joab said: “What is the cause of all
this noise and uproar?”
A moment later, Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, came running in. Jonathan said to the men
who were feasting:
“Our lord King David has made Solomon king, and he has just been anointed in Gihon;
and all the princes, and the heads of the army, are with him, and the people are shouting,
‘God save King Solomon!’ And David has sent from his bed a message to Solomon,
saying, ‘May the Lord make your name greater than mine has been! Blessed be the Lord,
who has given me a son to sit this day on my throne!’”
When Adonijah and his friends heard this they were filled with fear. Every man went at
once to his house, except Adonijah. He hastened to the altar of the Lord, and knelt before
it, and took hold of the horns that were on its corners in front. This was a holy place, and
he hoped that there Solomon might have mercy on him. And Solomon said:
“If Adonijah will do right, and be faithful to me as the king of Israel, no harm shall come
to him; but if he does wrong, he shall die.”
Then Adonijah came and bowed down before King Solomon, and promised to
obey him, and Solomon said, “Go to your own house.”
Not long after this David sent for Solomon, and from his bed he gave his last advice to
Solomon. And soon after that David died, an old man, having reigned in all forty years,
seven years over the tribe of Judah, at Hebron, and thirty-three years over all Israel, in
Jerusalem. He was buried in great honor on Mount Zion, and his tomb remained standing
for many years.
The great work of Solomon’s reign was the building of the House of God. It was
generally called the Temple. It was built on Mount Moriah, one of the hills of Jerusalem.
King David had prepared for it by gathering great stores of silver, stone and cedar-wood.
The walls were made of stone and the roof of cedar. Solomon had great ships which
visited other lands and brought precious stones and fine woods for the building. Seven
years were spent in building the Temple, and it was set apart to the worship of God with
beautiful ceremonies in which Solomon, in his robes of state, took part.
Solomon was indeed a great king, and it was said that he was also the wisest man in all
the world. He wrote many of the wise sayings in the Book of Proverbs, and many more
that have been lost.
|Cave of Adullam|
Now Saul had a son, Jonathan, near David’s own age. He and David became fast friends
and loved one another as brothers. Saul the king became very jealous of David because
the people praised him after his fight with Goliath. He even threatened to take David’s
life. He tried to catch him in his own house, but David’s wife let him down from a
window by a rope and he escaped. He met his friend Jonathan, who told him that he
should flee. They renewed their promises of friendship, which they kept ever afterward.
From his meeting with Jonathan, David went forth to be a wanderer, having no home as
long as Saul lived. He found a great cave, called the cave of Adullam, and hid in it. Soon
people heard where he was, and from all parts of the land, especially from his own tribe of
Judah, men who were not satisfied with the rule of King Saul gathered around David.
Saul soon heard that David, with a band of men, was hiding among the mountains of
Judah, and that among those who aided him were certain priests.
This enraged King Saul, and he ordered his guards to kill all the priests. The guards would
not obey him, for they felt that it was a wicked thing to lay hands upon the priests of the Lord.
But he found one man whose name was Doeg, an Edomite, who was willing to
obey the king. And Doeg, the Edomite, killed eighty-five men who wore the priestly
All through the land went the news of Saul’s dreadful deed, and everywhere the people
began to turn from Saul, and to look toward David as the only hope of the nation.
When Saul died he was followed by David, the shepherd boy, now grown to manhood and
greatly loved by the people. He had many battles to fight with the Philistines and was
nearly always victorious. He was a warrior king; but he was more than a warrior. He
played on his harp and composed many beautiful hymns and songs, which are collected in
the book of Psalms. He was a good king and tried to obey God’s command. He had a long
reign and his people were happy and prosperous. He had many sons and daughters and
beautiful palaces for them to live in.
|David fights the giant|
All through the reign of Saul, there was constant war with the Philistines, who lived upon the lowlands west of Israel. At one time, when David was still with his sheep, a few years after he had been anointed by Samuel, the camps of the Philistines and the Israelites were set against each other on opposite sides of the valley of Elah. In the army of Israel were the three oldest brothers of David.
Every day a giant came out of the camp of the Philistines, and dared some one to come from the Israelites’ camp and fight with him. The giant’s name was Goliath. He was nine feet high; and he wore armor from head to foot, and carried a spear twice as long and as heavy as any other man could hold; and his shield bearer walked before him. He came every day and called out across the little valley:
“I am a Philistine, and you are servants of Saul. Now choose one of your men, and let him come out and fight with me. If I kill him; then you shall submit to us; and if he kills me, then we will give up to you. Come, now, send out your man!”
But no man in the army, not even King Saul, dared to go out and fight with the giant.
Forty days the camps stood against each other, and the Philistine giant continued his call. One day, old Jesse, the father of David, sent David from Bethlehem to visit his three brothers in the army. David came, and spoke to his brothers; and while he was talking with them, Goliath the giant came out as before in front of the camp calling for some one to fight with him.
They said one to another:
“If any man will go out and kill this Philistine, the king will give him a great reward and a high rank; and the king’s daughter shall be his wife.”
And David said: “Who is this man that speaks in this proud manner against the armies of the living God?
Why does not some one go out and kill him?” David’s brother Eliab said to him:
“What are you doing here, leaving your sheep in the field? I know that you have come down just to see the battle.”
But David did not care for his brother’s words. He thought he saw a way to kill this boasting giant; and he said:
“If no one else will go, I will go out and fight with this enemy of the Lord’s people.”
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