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the sublime pages of the second Isaiah. Soon the land rang with busy preparations for the homeward journey ; the Jews received from the Persians and Babylonians, as parting gifts, gold and costly ornaments, and all kinds of cattle; and Cyrus not only granted them large sums for defraying the first expenses of their new settlement, but he restored to them all the gold and silver vessels—5,400 in number--which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the Temple, and which he and his successors had so often desecrated at their licentious banquets. At last the great caravan set out on its way; it consisted of 42,360 souls, men, women, and children, among whom there was a large proportion of priests and Levites (more than 4,600), besides about 7,000 men- and maid-servants. They were led by Zerubbabel (or Shesh bazzar), the son of Shealtiel, descended from the royal house of David, a man well qualified for the great task. It must not be supposed, however, that the appeal was responded to by all classes of captive Jews alike; on the contrary, it was chiefly welcomed by the poorer people, while many of those who had found happy and prosperous homes in Babylon, hesitated to entrust their fortune to what they considered a hazardous enterprise, especially as they urged, with apparent justice, that they were merely to change their place of abode, but not their condition of dependence; that they were not to become a really free people, with their own ruler and their own laws, but that they were destined to remain under the yoke of Persia, which they would feel in Jerusalem as much as in Babylon. Thus, as later Jewish writers expressed it, “the chaff' only returned to Palestine, while the wheat' remained in Babylon. But there was in that small band of colonists a strength and a vitality which have outlasted for millenniums the vast empire of Persia.
153. THE BUILDING OF THE SECOND TEMPLE
VI.] When the immigrants arrived in Palestine, they chose for their dwellings, as far as they possibly could, the towns and places which they or their ancestors had occupied before the captivity, while the priests and Levites took up their abodes throughout the territory of Judah, and especially in and around Jerusalem. They had been careful to reach their destination before the commencement of the rainy season, and they had fairly settled down towards the end of the summer. When, therefore, the seventh month of the Hebrew year approached, and with it the series of high festivals prescribed in the Pentateuch, they were anxious at once to testify their zeal by celebrating those sacred days in the ordained manner. “The people assembled together at Jerusalem as one man. By direction of Zerubbabel and of the priest Joshua (or Jeshua), the son of Jozadak, they erected a large altar, probably on the spot where the old one had stood in the Court of the destroyed Temple, and there they offered the sacrifices appointed for the Day of Memorial, the first of the seventh month, and for the Feast of Tabernacles; and there they continued regularly to present the daily holocausts every morning and every evening, the offerings for the days of the new-moon, and the freewill gifts of the people.
They were naturally most anxious to rebuild the Temple of the Lord, which was once more to crown the height of Moriah. The great work was commenced, in the second year after the return (536), with intense fervour and earnestness. Money was liberally contributed by the chiefs, and by the common people according to their means. As
in the days of Solomon, well-paid Phænician workmen were employed, who, by permission of Cyrus, cut cedartrees on Mount Lebanon, and drifted them along the shore down to Joppa, from whence they were brought to Jerusalem. The Levites above twenty years of age had the supervision of the whole work. At last the preparations were sufficiently advanced to allow of the foundation stone being laid. This ceremony was performed with the utmost solemnity. The priests dressed in their holy vestments, the Levites, the numerous singers, and all the people that had assembled from every part, burst forth to the sound of the trumpet and the cymbal, in words of joy. and thanksgiving : ‘Praise the Lord, because He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel !'
Among this joyous crowd was a group of aged priests and Levites, who had seen the first Temple as it stood in all its splendour and glory, the pride and delight of Judah. Their gaze was riveted upon the past, and they broke out into a loud wail of sorrow. But the shouts of glad rejoicing drowned the sounds of grief, and re-echoed among the hills of Judah.
Yet the noble work was soon to receive a serious check. It will be remembered that, when Shalmaneser made an end of the kingdom of Ephraim, and carried most of its inhabitants away to Assyria, he sent men from Persia and Media to occupy the conquered districts. The heathen settlers mingled with the comparatively few Israelites that had remained in the land ; and this mixed race, dwelling chiefly in the province of Samaria, became known under the name of Samaritans or Cutheans. It cannot be surprising that these Samaritans were looked upon with little favour by the Jews who had recently returned from Babylon. For supposing even that the Assyrians who were
1 Men from Cutha were among the colonists sent by Shalmaneser to middle and northern Palestine (2 Kings xvii. 24); see p. 488.
among them had renounced their idolatry and adopted the faith of the Hebrews, they formed so overwhelming a majority in the population, that the Jews, now more jealously watchful than ever for the purity of their race, would not recognise the so-called Samaritans as a people of Jewish descent. Thus were sown the seeds of an animosity almost without parallel in history for implacable violence. An occasion for open rupture was at hand.
When the Samaritans heard that the Jews had commenced to rebuild the Temple, they sent this message to Zerubbabel and to the other chiefs : •Let us build with you, for we seek
your God as you do, and we sacrifice to Him since the days of Esar-haddon, king of Assur, who brought us hither. But Zerubbabel sent back this answer: “You have nothing to do with us to build a House to our God; but we ourselves together will build to the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us. Thus the hidden spark of bitterness was kindled into a blazing flame. The Samaritans, deeply wounded and hurt, determined to take their revenge by frustrating, if possible, the completion of the Temple. They sent a letter to Cyrus, pointing out that it was by no means in his interest to allow the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, as the Jews, ever bent upon mutiny and rebellion, would then surely refuse the payment of taxes and imposts, and renounce their allegiance to Persia. The sinister letter had the desired effect. Cyrus interdicted the continuance of the work, which was suspended during the remainder of his reign as well as during that of his cruel successor Cambyses, down to the second year of Darius Hystaspis (520). However, this monarch, well disposed towards the Jews, repealed the prohibition of his predecessors, raised Daniel to a post of eminence, and granted new privileges to the Jews, who at once resumed the long-deferred task. Encouraged by watchful
and ardent patriots, such as the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, they displayed a zeal which soon manifested itself by great results. The Persian satrap, seeing the rapid progress of the work, thought it his duty to report upon it to Darius, and to request his decision. The king, finding that an edict of Cyrus, issued in the first year of his reign, had authorised the restoration of the Temple, not only confirmed the permission, but commanded his satrap to supply the Jews with subsidies towards the building expenses from the public revenue, and to give them cattle for their national sacrifices, together with wheat and salt, wine and oil. When the messengers arrived in Jerusalem with this reply, fresh enthusiasm was roused, and the prophets repeating their admonitions whenever the people's zeal flagged, the work was perseveringly carried on.'
At last, in the sixth year of Darius's reign (516), in the twelfth month (Adar), the holy edifice was completed. Of its size and structure we have no further description than these few details: The height thereof was sixty cubits, and the breadth thereof sixty cubits; with three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber.' It was probably built upon the same model as the first Temple, only of less costly and splendid materials. It wanted, moreover, not only the glittering porch hung round with its forty shields of gold, but, what was more important, the Ark of the Covenant with the tablets of the Law and the blooming staff of Aaron. Yet as it stood there, complete in all its parts, the Jews looked upon it with just pride, for great had been the difficulties under which the enterprise had been accomplished. It was dedicated with becoming solemnity and rejoicing, and with numerous sacrifices. The priests and Levites were installed in their various
See on Haggai and Zechariah in rol. ii. pp. 169-189.