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you. As for
exclaiming, Thou shalt surely die.' The outcry of the people brought the chief men of Judah from the king's palace to the Court of the Temple; they seated themselves as in judgment round the gates, and decreed that the audacious prophet of evil should suffer death. But Jeremiah was not afraid ; he had obeyed the command of God. • The Lord sent me,' he said, “to prophesy against this House and against this city. . . . Now amend your ways and doings, obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will repent of the evil He has pronounced against
hand ; do with me as seems good and meet to you. But know for certain that if you put me to death, you shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and upon the inhabitants thereof.'
The people now demurred and began to feel that Jeremiah ought not to be put to death; some of the elders even cited as a precedent the prophet Micah who, in the time of Hezekiah, had predicted the ruin and devastation of Jerusalem, and whose warnings had been respected and followed by the king. Nor did Jeremiah stand alone in his fearless reproofs; his example stimulated other prophets, among whom Uriah was conspicuous by the boldness of his denunciations. The king's anger was roused; Uriah filed for his life into Egypt, but the royal messengers pursued him and dragged him back to Jerusalem, where he was mercilessly slain and cast into the burial-place of the common people.'
Yet Jeremiah, unconcerned for his own safety, never wavered in his counsels. The king and the people, fatally miscalculating their strength, were determined to oppose the Babylonian hosts who were advancing under the impetuous leadership of Nebuchadnezzar himself. The prophet, convinced of their blind infatuation, strongly and anxiously advised them to yield. •Serve the king of
Babylon,' he said, “and live; wherefore should this city be laid waste ?!
Nebuchadnezzar, remaining in the north, sent a part of his army southward to invade Judea; Joiakim was forced into submission, and a heavy tax was imposed upon the land. For three years the tribute was paid, but in the fourth it was refused. To punish this rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar in wrath and anger sent again his hosts into Judah, together with troops from Syria, Moab, and Ammon. But before the Babylonian forces arrived or had achieved any decisive triumph, Joiakim had died in peace, and his son Jehoiachin had succeeded him.
147. JEHOIACHIN (599). [2 Kings XXIV. 6–15; XXV. 27—30; 2 Chron. XXXVI. 8-10.]
Jerusalem was besieged, Nebuchadnezzar himself joined the army, and Jehoiachin, after an idolatrous reign of only three months, delivered himself up to the Babylonian monarch, together with his mother and all his chief officers (599). Nebuchadnezzar now plundered the Temple and the royal palace, and carried away from Jerusalem 10,000 captives, including the king and his family, all the men of influence and wealth, with all the artisans; he left behind none but the very poorest of the population, over whom he appointed Mattaniah, the uncle of Jehoiachin, as tributary king, changing his name into Zedekiah. The first act in the downfall of Judah had been completed; only the empty shadow of an empire remained.
148. ZEDEKIAH (599—588).
[2 Kings XXIV. 17-XXV. 7; 2 CHRON. XXXVI. 10 899.] Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he ascended the degraded throne of his ancestors as vassal of Nebuchad
But he chafed against the galling yoke, and his discontent was fostered by flattering prophets, who constantly preached insurrection, and by the thoughtless multitude who madly applauded their advice. He secretly sought the assistance of Egypt, the implacable enemy of Babylon. Jeremiah was one of the few who preserved calmness and prudence amidst the giddy hopes and schemes; he insisted upon a fair fulfilment of the engagements to which the king was pledged; in this he saw the only means of safety; even to his captive brethren in Babylon he sent, in a letter, a similar counsel : Build houses and dwell in them, plant gardens and eat their fruit; ... see the peace of the city whither you are led captives, and pray for it to the Lord; for its peace will be your peace also ;' in seventy years they would be brought back rejoicing into their own land; till then they should suffer in trustful patience.
The king was deaf alike to Jeremiah's entreaties, arguments, and bitter reproof. He entered into an alliance with Psammethis II. king of Egypt, and in the ninth year of his reign (590) he openly declared his revolt against the Chaldees by withholding the stipulated tribute. The Babylonian troops stationed in Syria marched at once against Jerusalem and besieged it: but being informed of the approach of an Egyptian army, they retreated northwards. However, Nebuchadnezzar himself now advanced with a vast army; he remained at Riblah, while he sent his troops southwards. Jerusalem was besieged. In vain Jeremiah advised again a timely surrender. After eighteen months, the famine in the town was so fearful that the people were seized by frenzy and despair ; the most horrible deeds of atrocity were committed to satisfy the maddening hunger. At last king Zedekiah and many of his soldiers escaped from the city, but the army was routed, Zedekiah himself and his
were captured near Jericho, and brought before Nebuchadnezzar to Riblah. Here his sons were slain in his presence, then his own eyes were put out, and he was sent in fetters to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar now despatched Nebuzaradan, the chief of his guard, to Jerusalem with the command to punish the rebellious town (588). The Babylonian general sternly carried out that terrible mandate. He marched into Jerusalem, and broke down its walls; he burnt the Temple, the stately palaces, and all the better houses ; he took the large brazen pillars and all the holy vessels ; he carried away many thousand Jews as slaves, only leaving behind a number of poor agriculturists, over whom he set as governor Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, of a good Jewish family; and he took the chief priests and the civil and military officers to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be put to death.
Among the few men of distinction who were spared by the Babylonian king, was Jeremiah, who had always exhorted the people to moderation. At the capture of Jerusalem, he was found in the court of the prison ; he was taken to Ramah to Nebuchadnezzar, who allowed him to choose between remaining in Canaan or going to Babylon as the honoured friend of the royal house. Jeremiah preferred ending his life on the soil of Judah, amidst the ruins of his beloved country, once so rich and so blooming. Laden with presents, he went to Mizpah, where Gedaliah had established the seat of his governorship under the protection of a small Babylonian garrison : he trustea Gedaliah, because his father Ahikam had more than once saved his life by shielding him from the rage of the people. The share which Jeremiah took in the events that happened from the beginning of the Babylonian invasion till long after its conclusion, will be more fully set forth in that section of the Second Volume of this work which is devoted to the life and the writings of the great prophet.
XII. THE JEWS UNDER BABYLONIAN RULE.
149. GEDALIAH (588-560).
[2 Kings XXV, 22—26; JEREM. XL. XLI.) THE few patriots who remained in the land of their ancestors rested their last hope in Gedaliah, a man of wisdom and zeal, eagerly and honestly intent upon improving his scanty resources with the utmost prudence and care. He encouraged the people to cultivate with untiring diligence the fields and vineyards which Nebuchadnezzar had given them, and thus to lay the foundation of a better future. The fame of the new and industrious settlement soon spread abroad, and it attracted towards Judea all those Hebrews who, in times of danger, had escaped to places of safety in the neighbouring countries, to the districts of Ammon and Moab, to Edom and the desert. All these came to Gedaliah in Mizpah, who joyfully received them with this admonition: “Fear not to serve the Chaldeans; dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you. As for me, behold I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans who will come to us: but you, gather wine and summer fruits and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that you have occupied. It seems that this judicious advice fell upon willing ears; the community prospered and grew in number and wealth: “they gathered wine and summer fruits in abundance. They even began to establish a new