Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV.: Shewing the State of the Israelits under their Kings, to the Captivity. - The Oceana and Other Works
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CHAP. IV.: Shewing the State of the Israelits under their Kings, to the Captivity. - James Harrington, The Oceana and Other Works 
The Oceana and Other Works of James Harrington, with an Account of His Life by John Toland (London: Becket and Cadell, 1771).
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Shewing the State of the Israelits under their Kings, to the Captivity.
Sect. 1. The method of this part.FOR method in this part, I shall first observe the balance or foundation, then the superstructures of the Hebrew monarchys; and last of all, the story of the Hebrew kings.
Sect. 2. The balance of this monarchy.The balance necessary to kingly government, even where it is regulated or not absolute, is thus describ’d by Samuel:This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your fields, your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants.1 Sam. 8. 11, 14. That is, there being no provision of this kind for a king, and it being of natural necessity that a king must have such an aristocracy or nobility as may be able to support the monarchy (which otherwise, to a people having equal shares in property, is altogether incompatible) it follows that he must take your fields, and give them to his servants or creatures.
This notwithstanding could not Saul do, in whose time the monarchy attain’d not to any balance, but was soon torn from him like the lap of a garment. The prince who gave that balance to this monarchy, which it had, was David:2 Sam. 8. 1[Editor: illegible character] for besides his other conquests, by which he brought the Moabits, the Syrians of Damascus, the Ammonits, the Amalekits, the Edomits, to his obedience, and extended his border to the river Euphrates;1 Chron. 11he smote the Philistins, and subdu’d them, and took Gath and her towns, out of the hand of the Philistins. Now this country which David thus took, was part of the land given to the people of God, and which was by the law of Moses to have bin divided by lot to them. Wherfore if this division follow’d not, but David having taken this country, did hold it in his particular dominion or property; then tho he took not from the people any thing wherof they were in actual possession, yet, as to their legal right, took he from them (as Samuel had forewarn’d) their fields, their vineyards, and their oliveyards, even the best of them, and gave them to his servants, or to a nobility, which by this means he introduc’d.
2 Sam. 23.The first order of the nobility thus instituted, were, as they are term’d by our translators, David’s worthys: to these may be added, the great officers of his realm and court, with such as sprang out of both.1 Chron. 11. But however, these things by advantage of foren conquest might be order’d by David, or continu’d for the time of his next successor: certain it is, that the balance of monarchy in so small a country must be altogether insufficient to it self, or destructive to the people.
Sect. 3. A parallel of the monarchical balances in Israel and in Lacedemon.The commonwealth of Lacedemon, being founded by Lycurgus upon the like lots with these design’d by Moses, came, after the spoil of Athens, to be destroy’d by purchasers, and brought into one hundred hands; wherupon, the people being rooted out, there remain’d no more to the two kings, who were wont to go out with great armys, than one hundred lords: nor any way, if they were invaded, to defend themselves, but by mercenarys, or making war upon the penny; which, at the farthest it would go (not computing the difference in disciplin) reach’d not, in one third, those forces which the popular balance could at any time have afforded without mony.Plutarch in Agis and Cleomenes. This som of those kings perceiving, were of all others the most earnest to return to the popular balance. What disorders, in a country no bigger than was theirs, or this of the Israelits, must, in case the like course be not taken, of necessity follow, may be at large persu’d in the story of Lacedemon; and shall be fully shewn, when I com to the story of the present kings.
Sect. 4. The superstructures of the Hebrew monarchy.For the superstructures of David’s government, it has bin shewn at large what the congregation of Israel was; and that without the congregation of Israel, and their result, there was not any law made by David. The like in the whole, or for the most part, was observ’d till Rehoboam, who, refusing to redress the grievances of the people, was depos’d by one part of this congregation or parlament, and set up by another; and to the confusion both of parlament and people. And David (as after him Jehoshaphat) did restore the sanhedrim; I will not affirm, by popular election, after the antient manner.1 Sam. 8. 15. He might do it perhaps, as he made Joab over the host, Jehoshaphat recorder, and Seraiah scribe. Certain it is, the Jewish writers hold unanimously, that the seventy elders were in David’s time, and by a good token; for they say, to him only of all the kings it was lawful, or permitted, to enter into the sanhedrim:Psal. 111. 1. which I the rather credit, for the words of David, where he says, I will praise the Lord with my whole heart in the council, and in the congregation of the upright; which words relate to the senat, and the congregation of Israel. The final cause of the popular congregation, in a commonwealth, is to give such a balance by their result, as may, and must keep the senat from that faction and corruption, wherof it is not otherwise curable, or to set it upright. Yet our translation gives the words cited, in this manner: I will praise the Lord with my whole heart in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. There are other allusions in the English psalms, of the like nature, shaded in like manner:Psal. 82. 1. as, God is present in the congregation of God (that is, in the representative of the people of Israel) he judges among the gods, that is, among the seventy elders, or in the sanhedrim. What the orders of the Israelitish monarchy in the time of David were, tho our translators throout the Bible have don what they could against popular government, is clear enough in many such places.
Sect. 5. The story of the Hebrew kings.To conclude this chapter with the story of the Hebrew kings: Till Rehoboam, and the division (thro the cause mention’d) of the congregation in his time, the monarchy of the Hebrews was one, but came thenceforth to be torn in two: that of Judah, consisting of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin; and that of Israel, consisting of the other ten. From which time this people, thus divided, had little or no rest from the flame of that civil war, which, once kindl’d between the two realms or factions, could never be extinguish’d but in the destruction of both. Nor was civil war of so new a date among them; Saul, whose whole reign was impotent and perverse, being conquer’d by David; and David invaded by his son Absalom so strongly, that he fled before him. Solomon, the next successor, happen’d to have a quiet reign, by settling himself upon his throne in the death of Adonijah his elder brother, and in the deposing of the high priest Abiathar; yet made he the yoke of the people grievous. After him, we have the war between Jeroboam and Rehoboam. Then, the conspiracy of Baasha against Nadab king of Israel, which ends in the destruction of Jeroboam’s house, and the usurpation of his throne by Baasha, which Baasha happens to leave to his son Asa. Against Asa rises Zimri, captain of the chariots; kills him with all his kindred, reigns seven days; at the end wherof he burns himself for fear of Omri, who upon this occasion is made captain by one part of the people, as is also Tibni by another. The next prize is plaid between Omri and Tibni, and their factions; in which Tibni is slain. Upon this success, Omri outdoing all his predecessors in tyranny, leaves his throne and virtues to his son Ahab. Against Ahab drives Jehu furiously, destroys him and his family, gives the flesh of his queen Jezebel to the dogs, and receives a present from those of Samaria, even seventy heads of his master’s sons in baskets. To Asa and Jehoshaphat, kings of Judah, belongs much reverence. But upon this throne sat Athaliah; who, to reign, murder’d all her grandchildren except one, which was Joash. Joash being hid by the high priest, at whose command Athaliah was som time after slain, ends his reign in being murder’d by his servants. To him succedes his son Amaziah, slain also by his servants. About the same time Zachariah king of Israel was smitten by Shallum, who reign’d in his stead: Shallum by Manahim, who reign’d in his stead: Pekaha the son of Manthim by Pekah one of his captains, who reign’d in his stead: Pekah by Hoshea. Hoshea having reign’d nine years, is carry’d by Salmanazzer king of Assyriah with the ten tribes into captivity. Now might it be expected that the kingdom of Judah should injoy peace: a good king they had, which was Hezekiah; but to him succeded his son Manasseh, a shedder of innocent blood. To Manasseh succeded his son Ammon, slain by his servants. Josiah the next, being a good prince, is succeded by Jehoahaz, who being carry’d into Egypt, there dys a prisoner, while Jehoiakim his brother becoms Pharaoh’s tributary. The last of these princes was Zedekiah, in whose reign was Judah led away captive by Nebuchadnezzar.Deut. 28. Thus came the whole enumeration of those dreadful curses denounc’d by Moses in this case, to be fulfill’d in this people;Hos. 13. 11. of whom it is also said, I gave them a king in my anger, and took him away in my wrath.
To conclude this story with the resemblances or differences that are between monarchical and popular government: what parallel can there be beyond the storys wherby each of them are so largely describ’d in Scripture? true it is, that Ahimelec usurp’d the magistracy of judg in Israel, or made himself king by the men of Sichem; that the men of Ephraim fought against Jeptha, and that there was a civil war caus’d by Benjamin: yet, in a popular government, the very womb (as they will have it) of tumult, tho never so well founded that it could be steddy, or take any sufficient root, can I find no more of this kind.
Sect. 6. A parallel of the tribunitian forms with those in the Hebrew monarchys.But the tribuns of the people in Rome, or the Romans under the magistracy of their tribuns, throout the whole administration of that government, were never quiet; but at perpetual strife and enmity with the senat. It is very true; but first, this happen’d not from a cause natural to a popular government, but from a cause unnatural to popular government; yea, so unnatural to popular government, that the like has not bin found in any other commonwealth. Secondly, the cause is undeniably discover’d to have consisted in a faction introduc’d by the kings, and foster’d by the nobility, excluding the suffrage of the main body of the people thro an optimacy, or certain rank or number admitted not by the people or their election, but by the value of their estates, to the legislative power, as the commons of that nation. So the state of this people was as if they had two houses of lords, and no house of commons. Thirdly, this danger must have bin in any other nation, at least in ours, much harder to be incur’d, than authors hitherto have made it to be seen in this. And last of all, this enmity, or these factions, were without blood, which in monarchys they are not, as you saw well in those mention’d; and this nation in the barons wars, and in those of York and Lancaster, besides others, has felt. Or, if at length they came indeed to blood, this was not till the foundations were destroy’d, that is, till the balance of popular government in Rome was totally ruin’d; which is equally in cases of the like nature inavoidable, be the government of what kind soever, as of late years we have bin sufficiently inform’d by our own sad experience.