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The desolation inflicted upon Jerusalem by the hands of her enemies excited the deepest sorrow, and gave rise to the most gloomy apprehensions in regard to the future. Considering themselves under the special protection of Jehovah, the inhabitants could not by any means be induced to believe that the throne of David would be overturned by the armies of the heathen. It was in vain that Jeremiah, at the imminent peril of his life, announced the approaching judgment, assuring the monarch and his princes that the King of Babylon would certainly besiege and lay waste their holy city, unless the evil were averted by an immediate change of man. ners. All his remonstrances were treated with contempt ; and at length the prophet had to bewail the misery which thus overtook his people, and the varied sufferings, the contumely, and the degradation, which they were doomed to endure in the land of their conquerors. “How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people ! How is she become as a widow ! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, is become tributary ! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks! Judah is gone into captivity; she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest.”*
These sentiments, although applied to a later period, are beautifully expressed by a modern poet, to whom was granted no small share of the pathetic eloquence of the prophetic bard whose words have just been quoted.
« Reft of thy sons, amid thy foes forlorn,
* Lamentations i. 1-4.
While suns unblest their angry lustre fling,
The seventy years which were determined con. cerning Jerusalem began, not at the demolition of the city by Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard, but at the date of the former invasion by his master, in the reign of Jehoiakim, when the Assyrians carried away some of the princes, and among others Daniel and his celebrated companions, as captives, or perhaps as hostages for the good conduct of the king. The event now alluded to took place exactly six centuries before the Christian era ; and hence the return of the Jews to the Holy Land must have occurred about the year 530 prior to the same great epoch. But as their migration homeward was gradually accomplished under different leaders, and with various objects in view, their historians have not thought it necessary to enter into particulars; and hence has arisen a certain obscurity in the calculations of divines, respecting the commencement, the duration, and the end of the Babylonian captivity.
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who now constituted the whole Jewish nation, brought back with them to Palestine the ancient spirit of hosti
* Heber's Palestine.
lity towards the Israelitish kingdom, the people of which they were pleased to class under the general denomination of Samaritans, an impure race, descended from the eastern colonists sent by Shalmaneser to replace the Hebrew captives whom he removed to Halah and Habor and the cities of the Medes. In this way they roused an opposition, and created difficulties, which otherwise they might not have experienced during their erection of the second Temple. The countenance of the Persian court itself was occasionally withdrawn from men, who appeared to acknowledge no affinity with any other order of human beings, and who seemed determined to exclude from their country, as well as from their religious rites and privileges, all who could not establish an immaculate descent from the Father of the Faithful. For this reason, the sympathy which is so naturally excited in the breast of the reader in behalf of the weary exiles, who sat down and wept by the waters of Babylon with their thoughts fixed on Zion, is very apt to be extinguished when he contemplates the bitter enmity with which they rejected the kind offices of their ancient brethren amid the ruins of their metropolis.
The names of Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and Ezra, occupy the most distinguished place among those worthies who were selected by Divine Providence to conduct the restoration of the Chosen People. Af. ter much toil, interruption, and alarm, Jerusalem could once more boast of a Temple, which, although destitute of the rich ornaments lavished upon that of Solomon, was at least of equal dimensions, and erected on the same consecrated ground. But the worshipper had to deplore the absence of the Ark,
F Divine Prese unceasing na heen dispersesolete.
the symbolical Urim and Thummim, the Shechi. nah or Divine Presence, and the celestial fire which had maintained an unceasing flame upon the altar. Their Sacred Writings, too, had been dispersed, and their ancient language was fast becoming obsolete. To prevent the extension of so great an evil, the more valuable manuscripts were collected and arranged, containing the Law, the earlier Prophets, and the inspired Hymns used for the purpose of devotion. Some compositions, however, which respected the remotest period of their commonwealth, especially the Book of Jasher and the Wars of the Lord, were irretrievably lost.
Under the Persian satraps, who directed the civil and military government of Syria, the Jews were permitted to acknowledge the authority of their own High Priest, to whom, in all things pertaining to the law of Moses, they rendered the obedience which was due to the head of their nation. Their prosperity, it is true, was occasionally diminished or increased by the personal character of the sovereigns who successively occupied the throne of Cyrus; but no material change in their circumstances took place until the victories of Alexander the Great had laid the foundations of the Syro-Macedonian kingdom in Western Asia, and given a new dynasty to the crown of Egypt. The struggles which ensued between these powerful states frequently involved the interests of the Jews, and made new demands upon their allegiance ; although it is admitted, that as each was desirous to conciliate a people who claimed Palestine for their unalienable heritage, the Hebrews at large were, during two centuries, treated with much liberality and favour. But this gene
rosity or forbearance was interrupted in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, who, alarmed by the report of insurrections, and harassed by the events of an unsuccessful war in Egypt, directed his angry passions against the Jews. Marching at the head of a large force, he attacked Jerusalem so suddenly that no means of defence could be used, and hardly any resistance attempted. Forty thousand of the inhabitants were put to death, and an equal number condemned to slavery. Not satisfied with this punishment, he proceeded to measures still more appalling in the eyes of a Jew. He entered the Temple, pillaged the treasury, seized all the sacred utensils, the golden candlestick, the table of shew. bread, and the altar of incense. He then commanded a great sow to be sacrificed on the altar of burnt-offerings, part of the flesh to be boiled, and the liquor from this unclean animal to be sprinkled over every part of the sacred edifice; thus polluting with the most odious defilement even the Holy of Holies, which no human eye, save that of the High Priest, was ever permitted to behold.
A short time afterwards, being the year 168 before the epoch of Redemption, he issued an edict for the extermination of the whole Hebrew race, against whom he had again conceived a furious dislike. This commission was intrusted to Apollonius,—an instrument worthy of so sanguinary a tyrant,—who, waiting till the Sabbath, when the people were occupied in the peaceful duties of religion, let loose his soldiers upon the unresisting multitude, slew all the men, whose blood deluged the streets, and seized the women as captives. He first proceeded to plunder, and then to dismantle the city, which he