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The Prophet Isaiah and the Kings of Israel and Judah after the times of the Prophets Elijah and Elisha

Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured some of the towns from Hazael and from Hazael’s son Ben-Hadad, successive kings of the Aramaeans.

His son Jeroboam followed Jehoash as king.

In Judah, Amaziah became king and reigned from 796 to 781 BC, during the reign of Jehoahaz king of Israel. His son Uzziah, who was barely sixteen years old when he was crowned, succeeded him. Uzziah was struck with a violent skin-disease so that he was confined to his rooms. Jotham his son governed the country in his name until he himself became king.

In Israel, Jeroboam II son of Joash was King from 783 to 743 BC. He recovered much territory from Aram. Jeroboam of Israel was succeeded in his turn by his son Zechariah (743 BC). Shallum, son of Jabesh, plotted against him and murdered him at Ibleam. Shallum then usurped the throne of Israel in 743 BC. But Menahem, son of Gadi, entered Samaria and murdered Shallum. Menahem the reigned from 743 to 738 BC. In his times Pal, in fact Tigliat-Pileser III King of Assyria invaded Israel and Menahem had to pay off the King of Assyria to remain on the throne. When Menahem died his son Pekaiah reigned in Israel (738-737 BC). Pekah, son of Remaliah, his equerry, plotted against the King and assassinated him. He became the new king of Israel. He reigned for twenty years and lost much land to the Assyrians. Hoshea son of Elah plotted against him, murdered him and became king in his turn.

Meanwhile in Judah, Jotham son of Uzziah became King of Judah and reigned from 740 to 736 BC. Then his son Ahaz succeeded him from 736 to 718 BC. The Kings of Israel and of Aram made war on Judah. Ahaz sent messengers to Tigliat-Pileser, king of the Assyrians, for help. Ahaz paid the Assyrians and even went to Damascus to plead his cause. His son Hezekiah succeeded him.

The Assyrian Invasion of Israel and the Assyrian Exile

Hoshea reigned for nine years in Israel, from 732 to 724 BC. Shalmaneser, king of Syria, waged war on Hoshea and the King of Israel had to pay a tribute to the Assyrians. Hoshea played a double game with Sais, King of Egypt, against the Assyrians. So the King of Assyria imprisoned Hoshea in chains. Assyria invaded Israel and sacked the country for three years. Samaria was captured and the Israelites were deported to Assyria. Shalmaneser settled the Israelites in Hadah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had thus fallen and the Israelites were sent in Assyrian banishment.

The King of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthath, Avra, Hamath and Sepharnaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. These people came with their own gods, Succoth-Benoth, Nergal, Ashima, Niblaz, Tartak, and Adrammelech, but they worshipped Yahweh as well at the same time as the local god.

The Kings of Judah until the Babylonian Exile

In Judah, the Southern Kingdom, Hezekiah had become king and he reigned for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem (716-687 BC). He put his trust in Yahweh and was successful in his wars against the Assyrians. When the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen and its capital Samaria taken, Sennacherib King of the Assyrians marched also against the fortified towns of Judah. But Sennacherib withdrew from Judah for much gold and silver.

Later the King of Assyria sent his cupbearer with a large force to Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s ambassadors came to see the cupbearer but the cupbearer shouted to the people saying that the King of Judah should not elude them. He cried that the appeal to Yahweh would not work this time. The ambassadors returned then to Hezekiah to report. Hezekiah sent Eliakim, the master of the palace and Shebirah the secretary as well as the elders of the priests to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah spoke with Yahweh. Yahweh said not to be afraid of the words and blasphemies uttered by the King of Assyria’s minions. Isaiah assured that Yahweh would send the King of Assyria back into his own country. And indeed, the cupbearer returned to Lachish but then continued to Libnah for Tirhalsah the king of Cush was on his way to attack Assyria. Sennacherib later again sent messengers to Hezekiah but Isaiah prayed to Yahweh and prophesied that Judah would not be harmed. That same night an angel of God struck down many men, almost tow hundred thousand, in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib returned to stay in Nineveh. One day his sons Addramelech and Sharepar murdered him with a sword and escaped into the territory of Ararat. Sennacherib’s son Esarhaddon became King of Assyria.

Hezekiah fell ill and at first Isaiah prophesied to him that he would die. But Hezekiah prayed to Yahweh. Isaiah then received a message from Yahweh informing him that since Hezekiah had shown faith in God he would be saved. In three days’ time Hezekiah was cured.

It was at that time that the King of Babylon, Herodach-Baladon sent letters to Hezekiah and a gift because he had heard of the king’s illness. Hezekiah was much pleased with this and he showed all the riches of Jerusalem to the Babylonian ambassadors. Isaiah warned that one day the Babylonians would return and carry off all the wealth that Hezekiah’s ancestors had amassed. But Hezekiah was too flattered by the Babylonian honours to take heed at Isaiah’s words.

When Hezekiah died his son Manasseh succeeded him and reigned from 687 to 642 BC. Manasseh was twelve years old when he came to the throne of Judah and he reigned for fifty-five years. He worshipped many other gods but Yahweh. Yahweh then promised that he would bring great disasters over Judah and Jerusalem. He promised to Jerusalem the same treatment as to Samaria. Manasseh took no heed of the warning and shed much innocent blood as a tyrant.

When Manasseh died his son Amon succeeded him (642-640 BC). Amon’s retinue plotted against him and killed him in his own palace. The people of the country however proclaimed his son Josiah as his successor. Josiah was eight years old when he came to the throne. He reigned in Jerusalem for thirty-one years (640 – 609 BC). During his reign the prophet Hilkiah re-discovered the Book of the Law in the Temple. The King asked Hilkiah to consult Yahweh. Hilkiah and other priests went to the prophetess Huldah. This prophetess predicted that a great disaster would fall on Judah but not in the lifetime of Josiah. Josiah had humbled himself before Yahweh, so Yahweh would let die Josiah in peace. Josiah then assembled all the people and renewed the allegiance to Yahweh in a new Covenant. The King then ordered a religious reform in Judah, fully dedicated to Yahweh. Notwithstanding all the good and pious orders that Josiah gave to re-install the true religion of Yahweh, Yahweh did not lessen the great anger that had been aroused in him against Judah.

In Josiah’s times, Pharaoh Necho advanced to meet the King of Assyria at the River Euphrates and Josiah went to intercept him. But Necho killed Josiah at the battle of Megiddo. Archers shot Josiah. The people of Judah chose his son Jehoabaz to succeed him.

Jehoabaz reigned only for three months. Pharaoh enchained him and put another son of Josiah, called Eliakim, on the throne of Judah. This King changed his name to Jehoiakim. Necho took Jehoabaz with him to Egypt, where he died.

Jehoiakim reigned for six years from 609 to 598 BC. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah in his lifetime and Jehoiakim became a vassal of Babylon for three years until he rebelled against Babylon. When Jehoiakim died, his son Jehoiachim succeeded on him (598-597 BC). He reigned only for three months, for Nebuchadnezar advanced on Jerusalem again and the city was besieged. Jerusalem surrendered and Jehoiachim was taken a prisoner. Nebuchadnezar plundered the Temple of Jerusalem. The Babylonians then deported Jehoiachim into exile in Babylon.

Jehoiachim was only eighteen years then. Nebuchadnezar deposed him in favour of his paternal uncle Mattoniah, whose name he changed to Zedekiah. Zedekiah was twenty-one when he became King and he stayed for eleven years on the throne (598-587 BC). Nebuchadnezar again advanced on Jerusalem, besieged it and captured it. Zedekiah escaped but Chaldaean troops caught up with him and took him to Nebuchadnezar. The Assyrian king slaughtered all Zedekiah’s sons before him, put out his eyes, chained him and carried him off to Babylon.

The Chaldaeans now sacked Jerusalem. They took prisoner all the men of distinction, including the head priest Seraiah and deported all of them to Babylon. A man called Gedaliah was appointed governor of Judah. But the Judaeans soon killed this governor and Ishmael, who was of royal decent, and who had killed the governor fled to Egypt. In Babylon, the Babylonian King Evil-Merodach pardoned Jehoiachim after a while. He treated him with kindness but kept him and his people in Babylon.

The Prophet Isaiah

Master of the Annunciation of Aix (active around 1445, Barthélémy d’Eyck). Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen – Rotterdam.

The Master of the Annunciation of Aix was one of those artists of the Gothic Medieval period whose proper names have been forgotten, if they were ever known. He worked in the Provence region of France in times when this country was very independent still from the centralising power of the French Kings and when a soft culture of fine arts, of poetry, paintings and music could develop in a part of the land that was rich and prosperous. The Master of Aix lived around the middle of the fifteenth century. He was called after almost only one sole great painting, a triptych of which the central panel was an ‘Annunciation to the Virgin’, now in a church of Saint Mary Magdalene of Aix-en-Provence in the south of France. Originally the panels were in the church Saint Sauveur of Aix. They were ordered by the cloth merchant Pierre Corpici of Aix, who was a draper of the King. The other panels of the altarpiece are dispersed over many museums.

It is now believed that the master of Aix who did not sign the triptych was in fact Barthélémy d’Eyck, a painter who must have come from the Netherlands and who may have been connected to the Eyck family, the family of the very well known painters Jan and Hubert van Eyck who worked in the town of Gent of Flanders and who were court painters for the Dukes of Burgundy. King René d’Anjou of the Provence appealed to painters from the Netherlands and Flanders and invited them to his court of Aix. Barthélémy d’Eyck may have been one of those painters that were attracted to the Mediterranean and to the good character of René d’Anjou, who was called ‘Le bon Roi René’, the ‘Good King René’. Other great masters worked at that court, among whom Enguerrand Carton and - after Barthélémy death – another Flemish painter, Nicolas Froment. Barthélémy d’Eyck was not only a painter of large panels. He was also a miniaturist. He may have studied with Jan van Eyck for this art and he decorated books of prayers for King René. His father-in-law was Pierre du Billant, also a Flemish painter, whose original name was Pieter van Bijlandt and this Pierre may have gotten Barthélémy to Aix. Pierre du Billant was also a court painter of the Provence and du Billant’s presence in Naples is acknowledged, as he accompanied René d’Anjou to the South Italian court, so there may have been ties between the North (Flanders), the Provence region with Barthélémy and Naples.B23. Barthélémy d’Eyck was a very fine Gothic painter and a keen portraitist. His ‘The Prophet Isaiah’ is in the Boymans-Van Beuningen museum of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The Master of Aix painted a portrait in long of a medieval noble man and presented the man as the Prophet Isaiah. We see a dignified man in long robes coloured in green, with a red head dress. The robe definitely is very similar to dresses se saw in other pictures of the period, mainly made for the Dukes of Burgundy. Medieval dress was alike in the Provence region that lay just south of Burgundy in contemporary France. Isaiah holds his hand in a blessing and he was turned towards the rest of the panels of the altarpiece. The Master of Aix painted the Prophet as if he was a sculpture, and that was a habit in the Middle Ages on polyptychs that served as altarpieces. Commissioners, mostly the clergy of churches, preferred sculptures for their altarpieces but the pieces needed to be protected so they ordered panels that would close on the boxes in which the sculptures stood. The panels then had to be painted, but on the outside the painters imitated the sculptures that were inside. Often pictures on the outside were painted in grisaille, so the images of prophets on the polyptych of Aix are not typical. If the altarpiece dated from around 1450 however, painting had evolved and tastes also so that colours could be used. In the Isaiah we see that the Master of Aix knew very well how to use chiaroscuro and this mater did not use black or grey to indicate the shadows, but deeper shades of green. That was quite an evolution, for painters had come to recognise that also shades had colour and not just absence of colour. This fact showed a keen observation of nature, of things as they were, instead of objects imagined. The observation of nature had also grown from previous periods and the Master of Aix was one of those painters that had learned.

Barthélémy d’Eyck showed a learned man in the Prophet Isaiah, with a stern, thoughtful face, a guardian of the church. The Prophet stands in full against a background of brown and green hues and his figure throws a dark shadow on the wall. This shadow is not painted in the complementary colour of green, but still in black or dark grey. We would have to wait much longer still for painters to fully understand that also in the shadow thrown, colour was seen.

Other Paintings:

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
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