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AHAB AND AHAZIAH, (EIGHTH AND NINTH) KINGS OF ISRAEL. - JEHOSHAPHAT, (FOURTH) KING OF JUDAH.
The Visit of Jehoshaphat to Ahab - The projected Expedition against Ramoth-Gilead - Flattering Predictions of False Prophets - Micaiah - The Battle of Ramoth-Gilead - Death of Ahab. (1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18)
THE events told in the previous chapter were followed by a period of rest. Religiously, it might be described as one of approximation to the worship of Jehovah. But it might prove only the more dangerous on that account, as being the outcome of an attempted compromise where compromise was impossible. Evidence of this occurs to us alike from the summons and the bearing of those four hundred prophets whom Ahab called together, when requested by Jehoshaphat to inquire at "the word of Jehovah" as to the projected expedition against Ramoth-Gilead. Those four hundred could not have been "prophets of Baal," since the latter had been destroyed on Mount Carmel. Their bearing also widely differs from that of the prophets of Baal. Nor could they have been the four hundred "prophets of Asherah" [Astarte] - specially supported by Jezebel - who had been summoned to (1 Kings 18:19), but did not appear at, the decisive contest on Carmel (vers. 22, 26, 40). For, first, they were now summoned as professedly bringing "the word of Jehovah," that is, as prophesying in His Name.
Further, although they spoke at first of, Adonai (the Lord, ver. 6* ), yet afterwards (vers. 11, 12)they professed to announce what "Jehovah" would do, while Zedekiah their leader expressly referred to "the Spirit of Jehovah" as having gone from himself to Micaiah (ver. 24).
* At the same time all the ancient Versions and many Codd. read Jehovah.
On the other hand, they must not be regarded as either true "prophets of Jehovah," or as "sons of the prophets." For from the first Jehoshaphat appears unwilling to recognize their authority. They were evidently not those whose guiding message he had originally wished (ver. 5), and in contrast to them he continued to ask for "a prophet of Jehovah" (ver. 7), upon which Ahab mentioned Micaiah (not one of those four hundred prophets) as one by whom "to inquire of Jehovah." Lastly, the four hundred false prophets are afterwards expressly designated, first, by the evil spirit, and then by Micaiah, not as those of Jehovah, but as those of Ahab (vers. 22, 23).
These considerations lead us to characterize the religious condition prevailing at the time as a debasement of the worship of Jehovah. Apparently these prophets professed to bring the word of Jehovah: yet they were only the lying prophets of Ahab. It seems not unlikely that Ahab may have restored the ancient rites instituted by Jeroboam, when Jehovah was professedly worshipped under the symbol of the golden calf that had brought Israel out of Egypt. This transformation of the religion of Israel has been fully described in another place. Such a form of worship would have the twofold recommendation, that, while it seemed a return from the service of Baal to that of Jehovah, it still left to Ahab, as king, the office and control of chief pontiff of the new religion (comp. 1 Kings 12:32, 33).*
* Comp. Volume 5 of this History.
Indeed, it may have been in this sense also that the four hundred prophets were designated those of Ahab, just as they of Astarte may have been called those of Jezebel, because in her character as queen she was their high-priestess. And if these prophets were really priests of the worship originally instituted by Jeroboam, and now restored, it is only natural to suppose that they may have been formed into a prophetic association, after the mode and in imitation of the institution of the "sons of the prophets." Whether any connection between the two really existed at the time can scarcely be determined, although the angry speech of Zedekiah (ver. 24), the leader of the prophets of Ahab, seems to imply it.
And we can readily believe that in those degenerate days many of the "sons of the prophets" - perhaps even an association of them - may have lent themselves to this spurious worship of Jehovah. We can now realize the scene enacted before Ahab and Jehoshaphat. It is related in almost identical terms in the Books of Kings and of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 18:2-34). In the latter it is introduced, by an account of the circumstances which led up to the ill-fated expedition against Syria. We remember* that eight or nine years previously, Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, then a youth of about fifteen or sixteen, had been married to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel.
* Comp. Volume 5.
So far as we know, the two monarchs had not personally met after that event. But when Israel, after the defeat of Ben-hadad, enjoyed a long period of peace, while Judah was in an equally prosperous condition (2 Chronicles 18:1), it was both natural and easy for the two monarchs whose families and kingdoms were so closely connected to arrange a personal interview. We may conjecture that the proposal had come from Ahab, nor are we probably mistaken in supposing that in this the Israelitish king had the scheme of an alliance against Syria in his mind. At any rate this would accord with that systematic intriguing and desire to form alliances which we have repeatedly noticed as characteristic of Ahab.
Jehoshaphat and his retinue were right royally received and entertained at Samaria. It was, surely, a strange thing to see a Davidic king of Judah on a visit to the capital of the rebel provinces, yet not more strange than that one of the decided religiousness of Jehoshaphat should consort with an Ahab. The consequences appeared only too soon. The Book of Chronicles uses the expression that Ahab "enticed"* Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 18:2), while the Book of Kings only relates the circumstances that led to the formal alliance between them. Similarly we are not quite sure whether this "enticement" had preceded or followed the appeal of Ahab to "his servants," recorded in the Book of Kings (22:3).
But in all likelihood Ahab, who may have planned everything with a view to the project he had at heart, may have availed himself of the presence of all his chieftains to do honor to the king of Judah, to bring before them on some public occasion - perhaps at a banquet - the great grievance which Israel had against Syria. If our conjecture be correct, it would account both for Jehoshaphat's immediate and strange consent, and then for his hesitation and desire to ascertain the will of God in the matter.
The appeal which Ahab made, in the first place to his own officers, was about Ramoth-Gilead. Situated on the eastern bank of the Jordan - perhaps represented by the modern Es-Salt, and in that case pitched on a mountain-spur which far overlooks the country - it was a threatening outpost for Syria to occupy, whence they might not only watch Israel, but swoop across Jordan and up the valley to Jezreel, before even certain information of their advance could be brought to Israelitish headquarters. This city Ben-hadad had, under one or another pretext, not given up to Ahab, as by his treaty he had bound himself to do (1 Kings 20:34). We cannot wonder that Ahab should have desired to regain a place so important, and which, while in the possession of Syria, was a constant menace to him. But he should have remembered not only that the real blame rested with himself, but what the prophet had predicted as the punishment of his guilty folly in allowing Ben-hadad to escape (1 Kings 20:42). Accordingly he should not have taken such an expedition in hand without some express warrant from God. We are not told how the appeal to their patriotism was received by the officers of Ahab, but it was responded to by Jehoshaphat, to whom Ahab next addressed himself, in terms which sound terribly ominous, as we recall the word of the LORD in regard to the fate of any expedition of Ahab against Syria.
But, as already noted, other thoughts soon came to the king of Judah. He must have felt that he himself would never have entered on such an undertaking without the sanction of Jehovah. And in the present instance this seemed doubly needful. Yet, except as the expression of Jehoshaphat's tardy repentance, the proposal which he made to Ahab to "inquire at the word of Jehovah," seemed singularly inconsistent. He had entered into an alliance as regarded this special campaign; perhaps his hearty concurrence had decided the officers of Ahab; at any rate, it was - as the event proved - too late now to withdraw, whatever the word of Jehovah might be. In truth, it was only what may always be expected when those who serve and love the LORD allow themselves to be entangled in alliances with ungodly men, where one step leads to another, and one inconsistency involves the next, till at last we recoil when it is too late to withdraw, and the only thing consistent is to be inconsistent in owning God where His will can no longer be obeyed. But even this is good, for it is the first step to repentance. And though we must suffer the punishment of our folly, yet God will hear a Jehoshaphat in the disastrous battle, when he crieth to Him, and give gracious deliverance (2 Chronicles 18:31).
We are "in the void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria" (1 Kings 22:10) - that is, in the open square before the gate. Two thrones have been set for the two kings, who appear arrayed in their royal robes.* Before them is gathered the motley multitude of prophets.
* The word "royal" is not in the original. The Hebrew offers some difficulties; but, as the issue is not of any practical importance, it is useless to burden these pages with the discussion.
Ahab puts the question, whether or not he (in Chron. "we") should go up to Ramoth-Gilead. And now the prophets - concerning whom we must not forget that they knew what saying of theirs would be "good" in the king's ears (1 Kings 22:13) - sway about in frenzied excitement. Here, there, everywhere rises the cry, "Go up, for the LORD will give it into the hand of the king." It was not only the unanimity of these four hundred men, but, no doubt, their appearance and bearing which made Jehoshaphat inquire whether, besides all these, there was not a prophet of Jehovah to be found in Samaria. From the answer of Ahab when mentioning the name of Micaiah: "I hate him, for he does not prophecy concerning me good, but only evil," and from the later direction to "one of the chamberlains," it has been inferred that Micaiah had lately been "prophesying" evil to the king - whether in answer to his inquiry, or directly commissioned of God - and that the prophet was at that moment a prisoner of Ahab. The latter point, indeed, seems quite established by verse 26, where Micaiah is ordered to be "taken back," or "returned" to custody.
Some points of interest for the understanding of this history may here be noted. It appears that the prophets of God delivered many more "prophecies" than are recorded in the Scriptures - and more especially, that Ahab was not left without warning. Further, it casts light on the true and the false prophets, that the latter were wont to declare what was pleasing to their employers ("good"); while the prophets of God faithfully delivered their message, whatever the consequences might be. And, lastly, it appears that the king regarded such message as the outcome of personal enmity towards himself. This is most instructive, as showing that men like Ahab took a purely heathen view of prophetism. As Balak had sought to influence Balaam, apparently in the belief that the soothsayer had power with God, and could at will direct or control His action, so Ahab imagined that what he called "good" or "evil" in the message was the result of either personal friendship or enmity. It was against this that Jehoshaphat protested (ver. 8, last clause), and not merely against the notion that Micaiah hated the king. Ahab yielded to Jehoshaphat,* but the view which he had in advance presented of the motives and conduct of Micaiah must have blunted the edge of his words, alike to Ahab and to the people.
This explains the otherwise strange fact that his emphatic warning remained so entirely unheeded. It was, as we imagine, during the interval while Micaiah was being brought from his prison, that the leader of the false prophets indulged in a symbolical action. We can scarcely be mistaken in supposing that when Zedekiah rushed forward holding against his forehead two pointed pieces of iron, and exclaiming: "With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until they be consumed," he referred to the Divine promise by Moses in regard to Joseph (Deuteronomy 33:17).
Here was the kingdom of Ephraim - the son of Joseph - and Ahab was the representative of that promise which was now about to have its fulfillment. Deeply interesting as this reference is, as showing the mixture of Old Testament religion and acknowledgment of God which, as we have seen, was combined in these prophets with that which was false, and opposed to Jehovah, it is also instructive as implying that the Book of Deuteronomy was not only existent at the time this history was originally recorded, but that its sayings - specially so far as they referred to Israel - must have thoroughly permeated the people.
If, as seems likely, the object of Zedekiah's symbolic action had been to impress on all present the certainty of his prediction, the arrival of Micaiah speedily changed the aspect of things. On the way, the official charged with bringing him from the prison had told Micaiah of the unanimous prediction of success by the four hundred prophets, and asked him to confirm it. We do not wonder at the emphatic reply which this elicited. If the prophetic office was to fulfill its Divine object, or, indeed, to be continued in Israel, it was needful to state distinctly that the prophet would, without fear or favor, simply deliver the message of Jehovah. And this, rather than irony, seems to have been also the reason why, in answer to Ahab's inquiry, Micaiah at first spoke in the same terms as the false prophets. Such a mechanical outward conformity to them could not have been misunderstood. It meant that Ahab did not really wish to have a message from Jehovah; that he had chosen his own path and his own guides in it. Ahab evidently understood him so, and, rendered bold by the scene which had been enacted, and by the apparent unwillingness, or, it might be, inability of Micaiah to interpose, he adjured him to speak only the truth in the name of Jehovah. Thus challenged, Micaiah could no longer hesitate. Indeed, after his first apparent confirmation of what the prophets had declared, as it were in chorus, his message would come with the more startling effect. We may also mark that it affords us yet further insight into the nature and origin of prophecy. When Micaiah said: "I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd; and Jehovah said, These have no masters, let them return every man to his house in peace," - the words represent, evidently, a vision; and that, not of something literally real, but as we might term it a parabolic vision.
It is in the same manner that we regard the next part of Micaiah's message. It must not be understood as declaring what really took place in heaven, but as a vision in which the prophet saw before him, as in a parable,* the explanation and the higher Divine meaning of the scene that had just been enacted before the two kings, and the final sequence of it which he had just announced.
* It was a real, external vision, God-directed, which the prophet describes; not a vision of what really occurred in heaven, but that which really occurred, the seduction of Ahab by his false prophets as the result of Divine judgment, was thus presented in a parable, as it were, from the heavenly point of view. In ver. 21, "a spirit" should be rendered "the spirit."
The points to be kept in view are: that the final judgment which would come to Ahab in his self-chosen campaign against Syria was of the LORD; nay, that the seductive influence of the prophets was part of the Divine judgment, and therefore of the Divine appointment - at least, in its permissive sense. Yet in all this Ahab's destruction would come through his own sin: being led to his ruin by those false prophets whom he had chosen, and by his unwillingness to hear the word of Jehovah, which he regarded as the outcome of personal hostility. Thus his destruction would be really due to his deliberate choice of a course in direct opposition to the Will of God. For these two elements are always combined in manner to us inexplicable, yet very really: the appointment of God and the free choice of man. And it was all the more necessary for Micaiah to state all this fully and fearlessly, since his first message had been interrupted by the peevish and false complaint of Ahab to Jehoshaphat, that it had happened as he had expected, since Micaiah would never prophesy aught but evil of him.
Thus viewed, there is a peculiar depth of meaning and a grandeur in the parabolic vision which Micaiah so vividly described. It would have carried conviction to all, if they had been open to it. The scene enacted in the open market-place of Samaria had its counterpart - its true spiritual reflex - in the great court of heaven. Instead of Ahab sitting on his throne surrounded by his own flattering prophets, and anticipating his victorious march upon Ramoth-Gilead, it was Jehovah, the God of truth, surrounded by all His host, who sat on His judgment-seat decreeing the destruction of the infatuated king. But as Ahab shall prepare his own destruction, so shall he also compass it. And this is quite in accordance with all God's dealings in mercy and judgment with Ahab. Ahab has disowned the LORD; he has now surrounded himself by these 400 prophets of falsehood to encourage himself and those with him in his undertaking. Be it, as he has chosen for himself; these prophets shall prophesy - yea, lies - and he will believe their smooth prophecy to the disregard of the Divine Will and warning, and so perish in his folly and rebellion. All this was so truthfully presented in the parabolic vision, and so pictorially set before those assembled, that at least Zedekiah, the leader of the false prophets, could have no doubt in the matter. However we may explain his ebullition of personal resentment in striking Micaiah, whether as a punishment or to put upon him a public affront, we can have no difficulty in understanding his words (ver. 24). If they sounded like a satirical reproof of Micaiah's presumption in arrogating to himself that he alone had really the Spirit of Jehovah, while all the others had not that inspiration - as if the Spirit of Jehovah had gone from him to Micaiah - they also convey to us yet another meaning. Zedekiah must have known that he had not a message from Jehovah,* and he had imagined that Micaiah's prophecy would be as self-originated as had been his own.
* Josephus has the curious idea that the blow was intended to test whether Micaiah was a true prophet, in accordance with 1 Kings 13:4. Thenius treats the question of Zedekiah as a sneer. Bahr regards it as implying that Zedekiah did not purposely and consciously prophesy falsely, and that it meant: How dare you say that the Spirit has gone from me to you?
But the words which he heard left on him no doubt that Micaiah had truly spoken from Jehovah, and the resentment at feeling that this was so, and that Micaiah, not himself, was the organ chosen by God, awakened within him feelings which found expression in angry words and still angrier deed. It was a spirit like that of Simon Magus - only intensified and manifested in manner congruous to Old Testament times. And this also explains the reply of Micaiah, which was directed against the words of Zedekiah. He should "see," quite perceive, the real difference between the true and the false prophet, when he would experience its results. Then, when his prediction would not only remain unfulfilled, but appear by the side of the warning of the true prophet, as having been false and misleading, would he in utter disgrace seek to hide himself from the sight of all men, and to escape that punishment of his crime which the survivors from the battle would no doubt inflict.
Not a few in that assembly must have understood the real meaning of the words of Zedekiah. But the majority would prefer to give them an interpretation more consonant with their mood, or at least more convenient. It might seem to them - to adopt the language of many among ourselves when inconvenient truth is in question - that the whole matter had now degenerated into a wrangle between opposing and rival theologians. At any rate, the time for all such talk had passed, and that for action come. Ramoth-Gilead was theirs; truly and fairly, by the law of God and of man, let theologians say what they pleased in exaltation of their respective schools and dogmas. And the two kings were united in an alliance against the Syrians that could not be unsuccessful: all was propitious, let them go up - make a sudden raid upon the stronghold, and take what was their own. And to mark how deeply he resented, and was able to punish what he regarded as an act of rebellion, Ahab ordered Micaiah to be taken back to the custody of Amon, the governor of the city. With him the name of Joash, the king's son, perhaps only a royal prince, was combined, probably in order to indicate that Micaiah was a state prisoner. And as such he was to be treated with special severity.
Thus far Ahab possessed the requisite power; but when he added: "Until I come in peace," he uttered a distinct challenge. To this, by whomsoever made - be he prince or private person, and howsoever made, whether in public or in private, or even in inward opposition to God's revealed truth, there is only this answer: "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision." But Micaiah could not allow it to pass unnoticed. The honor of Jehovah, Whose prophet he was, required the reply: "If thou comest at all in peace, Jehovah hath not spoken by me." And then, turning to the multitude around, he summoned them as witnesses between himself and the king.
We are not told what impression the scene had made upon Jehoshaphat. But we cannot help feeling that, in spite of his boastful language, it must have had a deep effect even upon Ahab. The expedition against Ramoth-Gilead would naturally follow as soon as possible after the popular assembly in Samaria. From the circumstance, that Jehu the prophet of the LORD delivered the Divine reproof against the alliance of Jehoshaphat with Ahab only after the return of the former from the Syrian campaign (2 Chronicles 19), we are inclined to infer that the king of Judah had not gone back to his own dominions before the joint march upon Ramoth-Gilead.
With this accords another impression derived from the narrative. The whole account of the battle, the apparently very subordinate part which Jehoshaphat played in it, as well as the absence of any reference to the army of Judah, and the solitary notice that Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem in peace (2 Chronicles 19:1), without any reference to his people - all convey the impression that Jehoshaphat had, without returning to Jerusalem, merely summoned a small Judaean contingent, so that his presence and aid - if known at all to the Syrians - were regarded as a very secondary element in the campaign. And when we compare this with the language of Jehoshaphat on entering into alliance with Ahab (1 Kings 22:4), and before he had heard the words of Micaiah, we feel that the contrast between his promises and performance must have been due to the prophetic warning which he had heard.
* Josephus states - though without support from the sacred text - that Ahab and the people had at first been afraid at the words of Micaiah, but that they took courage when Divine judgment did not immediately follow on the blow which Zedekiah gave to the prophet.
When Ahab, therefore, made the strange proposal that Jehoshaphat alone should go in his royal robes, while he disguised himself, this must have been caused by apprehension of the Divinely threatened judgment, which after his usual manner he hoped to foil by astuteness. And if it be asked why in such case Jehoshaphat did not also disguise himself, the obvious answer is, that the Divine message had not threatened death to the king of Judah, and that, if both monarchs had so disguised themselves, it would have been virtually an announcement to their followers that they expected defeat, and the fulfillment of Micaiah's prophecy.
This is one side of the picture; the other is that presented from the Syrian camp. The military organization, introduced in the former campaign (1 Kings 20:24), now proved its efficiency. The "thirty and two captains" who commanded "the chariots" evidently formed the first line of attack. To them Ben-hadad gave special orders to direct their movements exclusively against the king of Israel,* in the hope that, with his capture or death, alike the battle and the campaign would be ended.
The disguise of Ahab had almost defeated this plan. For when the Syrians pressed around the only chariot which bore one in royal apparel, in the belief that they fought with Ahab - and this also seems to imply that they were not aware of the presence of the king of Judah - Jehoshaphat "cried out," on which the Syrians, recognizing that it was not the voice of Ahab, desisted from the pursuit.* It is impossible to determine whether Jehoshaphat had appealed to his pursuers, or called for the support of his men.
* Probably they thought some one had been arrayed as a king for the purpose of misleading them.
But the fact itself is of sufficient importance to be recorded alike in the Book of Kings and in that of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 18:31) and in precisely the same terms. But the writer of the Book of Chronicles, who tells this history from the standpoint of Judah, as in the Book of Kings it is related from that of Israel, adds that the providential deliverance which Jehoshaphat experienced was from Jehovah. It is scarcely necessary to add that this reflection is not in any way inconsistent with the briefer Israelitish record, nor implies divergent sources of information.
But the disguise of Ahab, so far from frustrating the judgment predicted, only served the more clearly to show the Divine agency in his destruction. As the battle continued, a man, "drew a bow in his simplicity" - that is, without taking aim at any definite person - when the arrow struck the king of Israel "between the joints and the breastplate," that is, where the cuirass which covered the breast met the jointed armor that protected the lower part of the body. Such a wound would, of necessity, be mortal, and the king directed the driver of the chariot to take him away from the fight. But the Syrians were unaware that the king of Israel had received his fatal wound. Thicker and hotter grew the fight, and the command of Ahab could not be obeyed. And all day long had he to be stayed in his chariot while his life was slowly ebbing away. It was a ghastly spectacle, the disguised king, mortally struck despite his disguise, now held up in his chariot, to continue against his will in the battle. Rarely has history so visibly and in every detail taught its Divine lessons. The sun was going down, and his slanting rays fell on the dying Ahab - more royal now than in his life.* Presently the sound of battle was stilled, and the rest of darkness fell on the combatants.
* The Targum and some interpreters have regarded the "staying" as an act of Ahab's, that, in order to sustain the courage of his soldiers, and to continue the battle, he had borne his pain and hurt, and kept up in his chariot.
But as the tidings spread of the death of their king, the people must have recalled the prophecy of Micaiah. And the very remembrance of it led to its literal fulfillment. For through the host ran the proclamation which scattered them as sheep that have not a shepherd: "Every man to his city, and every man to his own country."
While one prophecy was thus translated into fact, the knell of yet another was sounding in the hearing of the house of Ahab, had they but had ears to hear it. Through the darkness speeded the chariot that bore the dead body of Ahab, lying on its bloody bed. They reached Samaria, and there they buried their king. But the chariot full of his gore they took outside, to wash in the pool by the city. And, horrible to behold, in the pale moonlight the wild masterless dogs, which in the East prowl at night about the city- walls, lapped up the water mingled with gore which flowed out of the blood-dyed chariot as they washed it. And stranger and still more horrible, the red flood in large eddying circles mingled with the waters of the pool - that pool where "the harlots washed,"* - no doubt where Jezebel's priestesses of Astarte, the ministers of the worship of debauchery, nightly performed their semi-religious ablutions in that sacred fishpond,** which here, as in all other places where the Syrian Astarte was worshipped, had been constructed and consecrated to the goddess.
* The rendering in the A.V. (1 Kings 22:38), "and they washed his armor," is untenable. The words mean, "And the harlots bathed," and the terrible significance of the event lies in this: that the blood of Ahab, who had erected altars in Israel to Baal and Astarte (see Vol. 5.), was not only licked by dogs - which would remind of the prophecy of Elijah (1 Kings 21:19), and its threatened transference to his successor (ver. 29) - but that it also mingled with that pool which served for lustration to those abandoned women whose life of debauchery was part of the worship of Astarte, introduced by Ahab and Jezebel. And this fulfilled the prediction of Elijah upon Ahab's public sins (1 Kings 21:21-23).
** The existence of this "sacred fishpond" not only explains the narrative, but seems to me a remarkable confirmation of it. Such sacred "ponds," dedicated to Atergatis, Astarte, the Venus that rose from the sea, are found in all places where the goddess was adored according to ancient Hittite and Phoenician rites (comp. Conder, Heth and Moab, p. 64).
What a coincidence, and how full of deepest significance! But did Ahab's successor not think of the blood of Naboth, and the curse which rested on Ahab, not only as the murderer of Naboth, but as he who had seduced Israel into idolatry and all sin? And did Jezebel not see in this red flood, in which her priestesses of the worship of impurity performed their sacred ablutions, a warning token of that judgment which was gathering, like a dark cloud, over her own head?