Imagens das páginas

tains and the wooded or vine-clad hills of Judah, they had been transplanted to the flat and monotonous tracts of Chaldea. They may indeed have looked with amazement on Babylon, a city of enormous and almost fabulous extent, covering an area of no less than 225 square miles, with a hundred brazen gates; with the magnificent temple of Bel and the royal palace, a marvel of size and splendour; with the wonderful bridge over the Euphrates, and gardens and fields so extensive that their produce sufficed, in times of war, for the maintenance of a large garrison. Yet despite its singular grandeur and pomp, Babylon seemed strange and dreary to the exiles; they could not suppress a painful longing for their own beautiful home, for their rock-crowned citadel of Jerusalem. A Jewish poet of the time gave thus expression to the common feelings of his contemporaries :

* By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, and we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song ; and they that subdued us reqnired of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land ? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth ; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. ...0 daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed ; happy shall he be, that rewards thee as thou hast served us.'

Many other Psalms originated in this period of bondage. Nor were prophets wanting, eager to fan the flame of patriotism by their lofty eloquence. Among these Ezekiel, who lived in the large Jewish settlement on the river Chaboras, a tributary of the Euphrates, exercised the most powerful influence. "To the bold and rapid creations of

the earlier Hebrew poets, he adds not merely a vehement and tragical force, peculiar to his own mind, but a vastness and magnificence of imagery drawn from the scenery and circumstances by which he was surrounded.''

He was of priestly descent, and seems himself to have performed sacerdotal functions at the Temple in Jerusalem. Therefore, his thoughts naturally turned to the re-building of the Sanctuary, and in soaring visions he described the stateliness of the new edifice and the splendour of public worship to be conducted by a pious and revered priesthood. Besides Ezekiel we find another prophet, whose writings have in our Canon been incorporated with those of the great Isaiah of Hezekiah’s time, and who is therefore called the second or later Isaiah. He was master of a style the poetic beauty of which is unsurpassed among Hebrew writers; he may be inferior to the elder Isaiah in power and variety, but he equals him in sublimity and ardent patriotism. He taught, admonished, and elevated his countrymen, and as the years of the exile rolled on, he cheered them with the glad pictures of liberty, of return to their old home, and of restoration to their old glory.” Men like Ezekiel and the second Isaiah proved that the old spirit of Judah was not crushed, that the old power and culture of mind had not vanished; and it was probably owing to such men that the Jewish captives were treated by their conquerors with kindness and forbearance, and in some cases even with distinction,

Such an instance is recorded in the history of Daniel, one of the most remarkable among the youths educated in the royal palace,

From an early age he was conspicuous for piety, intelligence, unusual love of learning, and above all for

Milman, History of the Jews, vol. i. p. 410.
2 For a fuller account of these prophets, see vol. ji.

sincere and ardent attachment to the precepts of his Divine faith. Brought into close contact with the great Chaldean monarch, he was in the eyes of the latter the chief representative of the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. To him it was given to relate and interpret dreams, and to unravel mysteries which baffled the shrewdness of all the magicians of Chaldea. He was therefore raised to an exalted station second only to that of the king himself.

In the year 562, Nebuchadnezzar died, and was succeeded by his son Evil Merodach. The new monarch liberated Jehoiachin, the king of Judah, who had been kept in prison for thirty-seven years; he treated him kindly, assigned to him a high rank at his court, and provided for him with great liberality. Thus the bitterness between the conquerors and the conquered faded more and more away, and the latter had little cause for complaint.

When Evil Merodach died, his brother Belshazzar came to the throne (541). In the meantime, eastern Asia had been convulsed by the irresistible progress of a new conquering power—the Persians. They were as yet a simple and hardy race, untainted by luxury and effeminacy. Their fare was rude, and their mode of life almost primitive; they were inured to danger and insensible to fatigue, brave, enterprising, and warlike. They had made themselves the masters of the great kingdom of Media, and were impetuously pressing westward. The next object of their ambition was the magnificent Chaldean empire. Well might the degenerate Babylonians dread such foes.

The fall of Babylon is predicted, in a remarkable narrative of the Book of Daniel (ch. v.), by an inscription mysteriously written on the wall of the royal banqueting hall, where king Belshazzar was revelling with his courtiers

1 On the Prophecies of the Book of Daniel, see rol. ii. pp. 193–221.

and profaning the holy vessels which had been taken from the Temple. Belshazzar was slain in the very night of that vision. Babylon was conquered (538), and soon the name of Cyrus, king of Persia, filled the earth. He added victory to victory, until his sway was acknowledged from the Ægean Sea to the Indus, and from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean. The Jews became subjects of the Persians, and Daniel, still treated with honour and distinction, was appointed one of the great monarch's satraps.




[Ezra I. II.)

The religion of the Persians had important points of resemblance with that of the Jews. The Persians suffered no representation of the Deity, nor any idols; they held even temples superfluous, believing that the abode of the gods is everywhere as far as the world extends. Cyrus, therefore, evinced deep reverence for the God of the Jews, and warm sympathy with their loss of country and independence. He determined to restore them to their old homes and institutions, and in the very first year after his conquest of Babylon, he issued this edict throughout his empire: Thus, says Cyrus, king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a House at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people-his God be with him--who will go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the House of the Lord God of Israel ? He is the God.' This edict stirred the hearts of the captive Jews with enthusiasm. Jerusalem and the Temple, as the emblems of freedom and prosperity, rose before their enchanted vision; the name of Cyrus was blessed by every lip; and it is enshrined in

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