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or Homer's account of the Trojan war. Besides which, as those works are anonymous, and as we know nothing of the writer, or of his character, it is impossible for us to know what degree of credit to give to the matters related therein. Like all other ancient histories, they appear to be a jumble of fable and of fact, and of probable and of improbable things, but which distance of time and place, and change of circumstances in the world, have rendered obsolete and uninteresting.
The chief use I shall make of those books, will be that of comparing them with each other, and with other parts of the Bible, to show the confusion, contradiction, and cruelty in this pretended word of God.
The first book of Kings begins with the reign of Solomon, which, according to the Bible chronology, was 1015 years before Cbrist ; and the second book ends 588 years before Christ, being a little after the reign of Zedekiah, whom Nebuchadrezzar, after taking Jerusalem, and conquering the Jews, carried captive to Babylon. The two books include a space of 127 years.
The two books of Chronicles are an history of the same times, and in general of the same persons, by another author ; for it would be absurd to suppose that the same author wrote the history twice over. The first book of Chronicles (after giving the genealogy from Adam to Saul, which takes up the first nine chapters) begins with the reign of David ; and the last book ends, as in the last book of Kings, soon after the reign of Zedekiah, about 588 years before Christ. The two last verses of the last chapter bring the history fifty-two years more forward ; that is, to 536. But these verses do not belong to the book, as I shall show when I come to speak of the book of Ezra.
The two books of Kings, besides the history of Saul, David, and Solomon, who reigned over all Israel, contain an abstract of the lives of seventeen kings and one queen, who are styled kings of Judah ; and of nineteen, who are styled kings of Israel ; for the Jewish nation, immediately on the death of Solomon, split into two parties, who chose separate kings, and who carried on most rancorous wars against each other.
Those two books are little more than a bistory of assassinations, treachery, and wars. The cruelties that the Jews bad accustomed themselves to practise on the Canaanites, whose country they had savagely invaded under a pretended gift from God, they afterwards practised as furiously on each other. Scarcely half their kings died a natural death, and, in some instances, whole families were destroyed to secure possession to the successor; who, after a few years, and sometimes only a few months, or less, shared the same fate. In the tenth chapter of the second book of Kings, an account is given of two baskets full of children's heads, seventy in namber, being exposed at the entrance of the city: they were the children of Abab, and were murdered by the order of Jebu, wbom Elisha,
the pretended man of God, bad anointed to be king orer Israel, on purpose to commit this bloody deell, and assassinate his predecessor. And in the account of the reign of Menabem, one of the kings of Israel, who had murdered Shallum, who had reigned but one month, it is said, 2 Kings, chap. sv. ver. 16, Then Menahem smote Tiphsah, because they opened not to him, and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up.
Could we permit ourselves to suppose that the Almighty would distinguish any nation of people by the name of his chosen people, we must suppose that people to have been an example to all the rest of the world, of the purest piety and humanity, and not such a nation of ruffians and cut-throats as the ancient Jews were ; a people who, corrupted by and copying after such monsters and impostors as Moses and Aaron, Joshua, Samuel, and David, had distinguished themselves above all others on the face of the known earth for barbarity and wickedness. If we will not stubbornly shut our eyes and steel our hearts, it is impossible not to see, in spite of all that long-established superstition imposes upon the mind, that the flattering appellation of his chosen people is no other than a lie, which the priests and leaders of the Jews had invented, to cover the baseness of their own characters; and which Christian priests, sometimes as corrupt, and often as cruel, have professed to believe.
The two books of Chronicles are a repetition of the same crimes; but the bistory is broken in several places, by the author leaving out the reign of some of their kings : and in this, as well as in that of Kings, there is such a frequent transition from kings of Judah to kings of Israel, and from kings of Israel to kings of Judah, that the narrative is obscure in the reading. In the same book, the history sometimes contradicts itself: for example, in the second book of Kings, chap. i., ver. 17, we are told, but in rather ambiguous terms, that after the death of Abaziah, King of Israel, Jehoram, or Joram, (who was of the house of Ahab,) reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram, or Joram, son of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah ; and in chap. viii., ver. 16, of the same book, it is said, And in the fifth yeur of Joram, the son of Ahab, King of Israel, (Jehoshaphat, being then King of Judah,) began to reign : that is, one chapter says Joram of Judah began to reign in the second year of Joram of Israel ; and the other chapter says, that Joram of Israel began to reign in the fifth year of Joram of Judah. Several of the most extraordinary matters related in one history as having happened during the reign of such and such of their kings, are not to be found in the other, in relating the reign of the same king; for example, the two first rival kings, after the death of Solomon, were Rehoboam and Jeroboam ; and in 1 Kings, chap. xii. and xiii., an account is given of Jeroboam making an offering of burnt incense, and that a man, who is there called a man of God, cried out against the altar, chap. xiii., ver. %. - O altar! altar! thus saith the Lord ; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name : and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places, that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee.”- Ver. 4, “ And it came to pass, when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar, in Beth-el, that he put forth his band from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him; and his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not pull it in ugain to him.”
One would think that such an extraordinary case as this, (which is spoken of as a judgment,) happening to the chief of one of the parties, and that at the first moment of the separation of the Israelites into two nations, would, if it had been true, been recorded in both histories. But though men in later times have believed all that the prophets have said unto them, it does not appear that these prophets, or historians, believed each other; they knew each other too well.
A long account also is given in Kings abont Elijah. It runs through several chapters, and concludes with telling, 2 Kings, chap, ii., ver. 11, “And it came to pass, as they (Elijah and Elisha,) still went on, and talked, tbat, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Hum ! this the author of Chronicles, miraculous as the story is, makes no mention of, though he mentions Elijah by name: peither does he say any thing of the story related in the second chapter of the same book of Kings, of a parcel of children calling Elisha bald head, bald head ; and that this man of God, ver. 24, “ turned back, and looked upon them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord, and there came forth two she-bears out of the wood, and tare fortyand-two children of them.” He also passes over in silence the story told, 2 Kings, chap. xii., that when they were burying a man in the sepulchre where Elisha had been buried, it happened that the dead man, as they were letting him down, (ver. 21,) "touched the bones of Elisha, and be (the dead man,) revived and stood up on his feet.” The story does not tell us whether they buried the man, notwithstanding he revived and stood up on his feet, or drew him up again. Upon all these stories the writer of Chronicles is as silent as any writer of the present day, who did not choose to be accused of lying, or at least of romancing, would be about stories of the same kind.
But, however these two historians may differ from each other, with respect to the tales related by either, they are silent alike with respect to those men styled prophets, whose writings fill up the latter part of the Bible. Isaial, who lived in the time of Hezekiah, is mentioned in Kings, and again in Chronicles, when these historians are speaking of that reign, but, except in one or two instances at most, and those very slightly, none of the rest are
If those pro
80 much as spoken of, or even their existence hinted at; though, according to the Bible chronology, they lived within the time those histories were written, some of them long before. phets, as they are called, were men of such importance in their clay, as the compilers of the Bible, and priests and commentators lave since represented them to be, how can it be accounted for, that not one of these histories should say any thing about them?
The history in the books of Kings and of Chronicles is brought forward, as I have already said, to the year 588 before Christ: it will therefore be proper to examine which of these prophets lived before that period.
Here follows a table of all the prophets, with the times in wbich they lived before Christ, according to the chronology affixed to the first chapter of each of the books of the prophets ; and also of the number of years they lived before the books of Kings and Chronicles were written. Table of the Prophets, with the time in which they lived before Christ, and also before the books of Kings and Chronicles were written. Names. Yrs, bef. 'Yrs bef Kings
172 mentioned. Jeremiah
mentioned only in the
7 not mentioned. Daniel
19 not mentioned. Hosea
97 not mentioned. Joel .
212 not mentioned. Amos
199 not mentioned. Obadian
199 not mentioned. Jonah
274 see the note. Micah
162 not mentioned. Nahum
125 not mentioned. Habakkuk
38 not mentioned. Zephaniah
42 not mentioned. Haggai Zachariah
after the Malachi
:) yr. 588.
This table is either not very honourable for the Bible historians, or not very honourable for the Bible prophets ; and I leave to priests and commentators, who are very learned in little things, to settle the point of etiquette between the two; and to assign a reason why the authors of Kings and Chronicles have treated those prophets, whom, in the former part of the Age of Reason, I have considered as poets, with as much degrading silence as any historian of the present day would treat Peter Pindar.
I have one observation more to make on the book of Chronicles, after which I shall pass on to review the remaining books of the Bible. In
* In 2 Kings, chap. xiv., ver. 25, the name of Jonah is mentioned, on ac. count of the restoration of a tract of land by Jeroboam, but nothing further is said of him, nor is any allusion made to the book of Jonah, nor to bis expedition to Nineveh, nor to his encounter with the whale,
my observations on the book of Genesis, I have quoted a passage from the 36th chapter, ver. 31, which evidently refers to a time after that kings began to reign over the children of Israel ; and I have shown, that as this verse is verbatim the same as in Chronicles, chap. i. ver, 43, where it stands consistently with the order of history, which in Genesis it does not, that the verse in Genesis, and a great part of the 36th chapter, have been taken from Chronicles; and that the book of Genesis, though it is placed first in the Bible, and ascribed to Moses, has been manufactured by some unknown person, after the book of Chronicles was written, which was not until at least eight bundred and sixty years after the time of Moses.
The evidence I proceed by, to substantiate this, is regular, and has in it but two stages. First, as I have already stated, that the passage in Genesis refers itself for time to Chronicles ; secondly, that the book of Chronicles, to which this passage refers itself, was not begun to be written until at least eight hundred and sixty years after the time of Moses. To prove this, we have only to look into the 13th verse of the 3rd chapter of the first book of Chronicles, where the writer, in giving the genealogy of the descendants of David, mentions Zedekiah ; and it was in the time of Zedekiah that Nebuchadrezzar conquered Jerusalem, 588 years before Christ, and consequently more than 860 years after Moses. Those who have superstitiously boasted of the an. tiquity of the Bible, and particularly of the books ascribed to Moses, have done it without examination, and without any authority than that of one credulous man telling it to another; for, so far as historical and chronological evidence applies, the very first book in the Bible is not so ancient as the book of Homer by more than three hundred years, and is about the same age with Æsop's Fables.
I am not contending for the morality of Homer; on the con. trary, I think it a book of false glory, tending to inspire immoral and mischievous notions of honour : and with respect to Æsop, though the moral is in general just, the fable is often cruel; and the cruelty of the fable does more injury to the heart, especially in a child, than the moral does good to the judgment.
Having now dismissed Kings and Chronicles, I come to the next in course, the book of Ezra.
As one proof among others I shall produce, to shew the disorder in which this pretended word of God, the Bible, has been put together, and the uncertainty of who the authors were, we have only to look at the three first verses in Ezra, and the two last in Chronicles ; for by what kind of cutting and shuffling has it been, that the three first verses in Ezra should be the two last verses in Chronicles, or that the two last in Chronicles should be the