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for the Master of the house is no longer therein. The enemy has
leave to despoil it and destroy it. Go ye into the vineyard and snap
the vines asunder, for the Watchman hath gone away and
abandoned it. But let no man boast and say, he and his have
vanquished the city. Nay, a conquered city have ye conquered, a
dead people have ye killed."

The enemy rushed in and ascended the Temple mount, and on the
spot whereon King Solomon had been in the habit of sitting when
he took counsel with the elders, the Chaldeans plotted how to
reduce the Temple to ashes. During their sinister deliberations,
they beheld four angels, each with a flaming torch in his hand,
descending and setting fire to the four corners of the Temple. The
high priest, seeing the flames shoot up, cast the keys of the Temple
heavenward, saying: "Here are the keys of Thy house; it seems I
am an untrustworthy custodian," and, as he turned, he was seized
by the enemy and slaughtered in the very place on which he had
been wont to offer the daily sacrifice. With him perished his
daughter, her blood mingling with her father's. The priests and the
Levites threw themselves into the flames with their harps and
trumpets, and, to escape the violence feared from the licentious
Chaldeans, (29) the virgins who wove the curtains for the
sanctuary followed their example. Still more horrible was the
carnage caused among the people by Nebuzaradan, spurred on as
he was by the sight of the blood of the murdered prophet
Zechariah seething on the floor of the Temple. At first the Jews
sought to conceal the true story connected with the blood. At
length they had to confess, that it was the blood of a prophet who
had prophesied the destruction of the Temple, and for his candor
had been slain by the people. Nebuzaradan, to appease the prophet,
ordered the scholars of the kingdom to be executed first on the
bloody spot, then the school children, and at last the young priests,
more than a million souls in all. But the blood of the prophet went
on seething and reeking, until Nebuzaradan exclaimed: "Zechariah,
Zechariah, the good in Israel I have slaughtered. Dost thou desire
the destruction of the whole people?" Then the blood ceased to

Nebuzaradan was startled by the thought, if the Jews, who had a
single life upon their conscience, were made to atone so cruelly,
what would be his own fate! He left Nebuchadnezzar and became
a proselyte. (30)


On his return from Anathoth, Jeremiah saw, at a distance, smoke
curling upward from the Temple mount, and his spirit was joyful.
He thought the Jews had repented of their sins, and were bringing
incense offerings. Once within the city walls, he knew the truth,
that the Temple had fallen a prey to the incendiary. Overwhelmed
by grief, he cried out: "O Lord, Thou didst entice me, and I
permitted myself to be enticed; Thou didst send me forth out of
Thy house that Thou mightest destroy it." (31)

God Himself was deeply moved by the destruction of the Temple,
which He had abandoned that the enemy might enter and destroy
it. Accompanied by the angels, He visited the ruins, and gave vent
to His sorrow: "Woe is Me on account of My house. Where are My
children, where My priests, where My beloved? But what could I
do for you? Did I not warn you? Yet you would not mend your
ways." "To-day," God said to Jeremiah, "I am like a man who has
an only son. He prepares the marriage canopy for him, and his only
beloved dies under it. Thou doest seem to feel but little sympathy
with Me and with My children. Go, summon Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and Moses from their graces. They know how to mourn."
"Lord of the world," replied Jeremiah, "I know not where Moses is
buried." "Stand on the banks of the Jordan," said God, "and cry:
'Thou son of Amram, son of Amram, arise, see how wolves have
devoured thy sheep.'"

Jeremiah repaired to the Double Cave, and spake to the Patriarchs:
"Arise, ye are summoned to appear before God." When they asked
him the reason of the summons, he feigned ignorance, for he
feared to tell them the true reason; they might have cast reproaches
upon him that so great a disaster had overtaken Israel in his time.
Then Jeremiah journeyed on to the banks of the Jordan, and there
he called as he had been bidden: "Thou son of Amram, son of
Amram, arise, thou are cited to appear before God." "What has
happened this day, that God calls me unto Him?" asked Moses. "I
know not," replied Jeremiah again. Moses thereupon went to the
angels, and from them he learned that the Temple had been
destroyed, and Israel banished from his land. Weeping and
mourning, Moses joined the Patriarchs, and together, rending their
garments and wringing their hands, they betook themselves to the
ruins of the Temple. Here their wailing was augmented by the loud
lamentations of the angels: (32) "How desolate are the highways to
Jerusalem, the highways destined for travel without end! How
deserted are the streets that once were thronged at the seasons of
the pilgrimages! O Lord of the world, with Abraham the father of
Thy people, who taught the world to know Thee as the ruler of the
universe, Thou didst make a covenant, that through him and his
descendants the earth should be filled with people, and now Thou
hast dissolved Thy covenant with him. O Lord of the world! Thou
hast scorned Zion and Jerusalem, once Thy chosen habitation.
Thou hast dealt more harshly with Israel than with the generation
of Enosh, the first idolaters."

God thereupon said to the angels: "Why do ye array yourselves
against Me with your complaints?" "Lord do the world," they
replied, "on account of Abraham, Thy beloved, who has come into
Thy house wailing and weeping, yet Thou payest no heed unto
him." Thereupon God: "Since My beloved ended his earthly career,
he has not been in My house. 'What hath My beloved to do in My
house'?" (33)

Now Abraham entered into the conversation: "Why, O Lord of the
world, hast Thou exiled my children, delivered them into the hands
of the nations, who torture them with all tortures, and who have
rendered desolate the sanctuary, where I was ready to bring Thee
my son Isaac as a sacrifice?" "Thy children have sinned," said God,
"they have transgressed the whole Torah, they have offended
against every letter of it." Abraham: "Who is there that will testify
against Israel, that he has transgressed the Torah?" God: "Let the
Torah herself appear and testify." The Torah came, and Abraham
addressed her: "O my daughter, dost thou indeed come to testify
against Israel, to say that he violated thy commandments? Dost
thou feel no shame? Remember the day on which God offered thee
to all the peoples, all the nations of the earth, and they all rejected
thee with disdain. (34) Then my children came to Sinai, they
accepted thee, and they honored thee. And now, on the day of their
distress, thou standest up against them?" Hearing this, the Torah
stepped aside, and did not testify. "Let the twenty-two letters of the
Hebrew alphabet in which Torah is written come and testify
against Israel," said God. They appeared without delay, and Alef,
the first letter, was about to testify against Israel, when Abraham
interrupted it with the words: "Thou chief of all letters, thou
comest to testify against Israel in the time of his distress? Be
mindful of the day on which God revealed Himself on Mount
Sinai, beginning His words with thee: 'Anoki the Lord thy God.' No
people, no nation accepted thee, only my children, and now thou
comest to testify against them!" Alef stepped aside and was silent.
The same happened with the second letter Bet, (35) and with the
third, Gimel, and with all the rest all of them retired abashed, and
opened not their mouth. Now Abraham turned to God and said: "O
Lord of the world! When I was a hundred years old, Thou didst
give me a son, and when he was in the flower of his age,
thirty-seven years old, Thou didst command me to sacrifice him to
Thee, and I, like a monster, without compassion, I bound him upon
the altar with mine own hands. Let that plead with Thee, and have
Thou pity on my children."

Then Isaac raised his voice and spake: "O Lord of the world, when
my father told me, 'God will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt
offering, my son,' I did not resist Thy word. Willingly I let myself
be tied to the altar, my throat was raised to meet the knife. Let that
plead with Thee, and have Thou pity on my children."

Then Jacob raised his voice and spake: "O Lord of the world, for
twenty years I dwelt in the house of Laban, and when I left it, I met
with Esau, who sought to murder my children, and I risked my life
for theirs. And now they are delivered into the hands of their
enemies, like sheep led to the shambles, after I coddled them like
fledglings breaking forth from their shells, after I suffered anguish
for their sake all the days of my life. Let that plead with Thee, and
have Thou pity on my children."

And at last Moses raised his voice and spake: "O Lord of the
world, was I not a faithful shepherd unto Israel for forty long
years? Like a steed I ran ahead of him in the desert, and when the
time came for him to enter the Promised Land, Thou didst
command: 'Here in the desert shall thy bones drop!' And now that
the children of Israel are exiled, Thou hast sent for me to mourn
and lament over them. That is what the people mean when they
say: The good fortune of the master is none for the slave, but the
master's woe is his woe." And turning to Jeremiah, he continued:
"Walk before me, I will lead them back; let us see who will
venture to raise a hand against them." Jeremiah replied: "The roads
cannot be passed, they are blocked with corpses." But Moses was
not to be deterred, and the two, Moses following Jeremiah,
reached the rivers of Babylon. When the Jews saw Moses, they
said: "The son of Amram has ascended from his grave to redeem
us from our enemies." (36) At that moment a heavenly voice was
heard to cry out: "It is decreed!" And Moses said: "O my children, I
cannot redeem you, the decree is unalterable may God redeem
you speedily," and he departed from them.

The children of Israel raised their voices in sore lamentations, and
the sound of their grief pierced to the very heavens. Meantime
Moses returned to the Fathers, and reported to them to what dire
suffering the exiled Jews were exposed, and they all broke out into
woe-begone plaints. (37) In his bitter grief, Moses exclaimed: "Be
cursed, O sun, why was not thy light extinguished in the hour in
which the enemy invaded the sanctuary?" The sun replied: "O
faithful shepherd, I sware by the life, I could not grow dark. The
heavenly powers would not permit it. Sixty fiery scourges they
dealt me, and they said, 'Go and let thy light shine forth,'" (38)
Another last complaint Moses uttered: "O Lord of the world, Thou
hast written it in Thy Torah: 'And whether it be cow or ewe, ye
shall not kill it and her young both in one day.' How many mothers
have they slaughtered with their children and Thou art silent!"

Then, with the suddenness of a flash, Rachel, our mother, stood
before the Holy One, blessed be He: "Lord of the world," she said,
"Thou knowest how overwhelming was Jacob's love for me, and
when I observed that my father thought to put Leah in my place, I
gave Jacob secret signs, that the plan of my father might be set at
naught. But then I repented me of what I had done, and to spare
my sister mortification, I disclosed the signs to her. More than this,
I myself was in the bridal chamber, and when Jacob spake with
Leah, I made reply, lest her voice betray her. I, a woman, a
creature of flesh and blood, of dust and ashes, was not jealous of
my rival. Thou, O God, everlasting King, Thou eternal and
merciful Father, why wast Thou jealous of the idols, empty
vanities? Why hast Thou driven out my children, slain them with
swords, left them at the mercy of their enemies?" Then the
compassion of the Supreme God was awakened, and He said: "For
thy sake, O Rachel, I will lead the children of Israel back to their
land." (39)


When Nebuchadnezzar dispatched his general Nebuzaradan to the
capture of Jerusalem, he gave him three instructions regarding the
mild treatment of Jeremiah: "Take him, and look well to him, and
do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee."
At the same time he enjoined him to use pitiless cruelty toward the
rest of the people. But the prophet desired to share the fate of his
suffering brethren, and when he saw a company of youths in the
pillory, he put his own head into it. Nebuzaradan would always
withdraw him again. Thereafter if Jeremiah saw a company of old
men clapped in chains, he would join them and share their
ignominy, until Nebuzaradan released him. Finally, Nebuzaradan
said to Jeremiah: "Lo, thou art one of three things; either thou are a
prophesier of false things, or thou art a despiser of suffering, or
thou art a shedder of blood. A prophesier of false things for since
many a year hast thou been prophesying the downfall of this city,
and now, when thy prophecy has come true, thou sorrowest and
mournest. Or a despiser of suffering for I seek to do thee naught
harmful, and thou thyself pursuest what is harmful to thee, as thou
to say, 'I am indifferent to pain.' Or a shedder of blood for the
king has charged me to have a care of thee, and let no harm come
upon thee, but as thou insistest upon seeking evil for thyself, it
must be that the king may hear of thy misfortune, and put me to
death." (40)

At first Jeremiah refused Nebuzaradan's offer to let him remain in
Palestine. He joined the march of the captives going to Babylon,
along the highways streaming with blood and strewn with corpses.
When they arrived at the borders of the Holy Land, they all,
prophet and people, broke out into loud wails, and Jeremiah said:
"Yes, brethren and countrymen, all this hath befallen you, because
ye did not hearken unto the words of my prophecy." (41) Jeremiah
journeyed with them until they came to the banks of the Euphrates.
Then God spoke to the prophet: "Jeremiah, if thou remainest here,
I shall go with them, and if thou goest with them, I shall remain
here." Jeremiah replied: "Lord of the world, if I go with them, what
doth it avail them? Only if their King, their Creator accompanies
them, will it bestead them." (42)

When the captives saw Jeremiah make preparations to return to
Palestine, they began to weep and cry: "O Father Jeremiah, wilt
thou, too, abandon us?" "I call heaven and earth to witness," said
the prophet, "had you wept but once in Zion, ye had not been
driven out." (43)

Beset with terrors was the return journey for the prophet. Corpses
lay everywhere, and Jeremiah gathered up all the fingers that lay
about; he strained them to his heart, fondled them, kissed them,
and wrapped them in his mantle, saying sadly: "Did I not tell you,
my children, did I not say to you, 'Give glory to the Lord your God,
before He cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the
dark mountains'?" (44)

Dejected, oppressed by his grief, Jeremiah saw the fulfilment of
his prophecy against the coquettish maidens of Jerusalem, who had
pursued but the pleasures and enjoyments of the world. How often
had the prophet admonished them to do penance and lead a
God-fearing life! In vain; whenever he threatened them with the
destruction of Jerusalem, they said: "Why should we concern
ourselves about it?" "A prince will take me unto wife," said one,
the other, "A prefect will marry me." And at first it seemed the
expectations of Jerusalem's fair daughters would be realized, for
the most aristocratic of the victorious Chaldeans were charmed by
the beauty of the women of Jerusalem, and offered them their hand
and their rank. But God sent disfiguring and repulsive diseases
upon the women, and the Babylonians cast them off, threw them
violently out of their chariots, and ruthlessly drove them over the
prostrate bodies. (45)


Nebuchadnezzar's orders were to hurry the captives along the road
to Babylon without stop or stay. He feared the Jews might else find
opportunity to supplicate the mercy of God, and He,
compassionate as He is, would release them instantly they did
penance. (46) Accordingly, there was no pause in the forward
march, until the Euphrates was reached. There they were within
the borders of the empire of Nebuchadnezzar, and he thought he
had nothing more to fear.

Many of the Jews died as soon as they drank of the Euphrates. In
their native land they had been accustomed to the water drawn
from springs and wells. Mourning over their dead and over the
others that had fallen by the way, they sat on the banks of the river,
while Nebuchadnezzar and his princes on their vessels celebrated
their victory amid song and music. The king noticed that the
princes of Judah, though they were in chains, bore no load upon
their shoulders, and he called to his servants: "Have you no load
for these?" They took the parchment scrolls of the law, tore them
in pieces, made sacks of them, and filled them with sand; these
they loaded upon the backs of the Jewish princes. At sight of this
disgrace, all Israel broke out into loud weeping. The voice of their
sorrow pierced the very heavens, and God determined to turn the
world once more into chaos, for He told Himself, that after all the
world was created but for the sake of Israel. The angels hastened
thither, and they spake before God: "O Lord of the world, the
universe is Thine. Is it not enough that Thou hast dismembered
Thy earthly house, the Temple? Wilt Thou destroy Thy heavenly
house, too?" God restraining them said: "Do ye think I am a
creature of flesh and blood, and stand in need of consolation? Do I
not know beginning and end of all things? Go rather and remove
their burdens from the princes of Judah." Aided by God the angels
descended, and they carried the loads put upon the Jewish captives
until they reached Babylon.

On their way, they passed the city of Bari. (47) The inhabitants
thereof were not a little astonished at the cruelty of
Nebuchadnezzar, who made the captives march naked. The people
of Bari stripped their slaves of their clothes, and presented the
slaves to Nebuchadnezzar. When the king expressed his
astonishment thereat, they said: "We thought thou wert particularly
pleased with naked men." The king at once ordered the Jews to be
arrayed in their garments. The reward accorded the Bariites was
that God endowed them forever with beauty and irresistible grace.

The compassionate Bariites did not find many imitators. The very
opposite quality was displayed by the Ammonites, Moabites,
Edomites, and Arabs. Despite their close kinship with Israel, their
conduct toward the Jews was dictated by cruelty. The two
first-mentioned, the Ammonites and the Moabites, when they
heard the prophet foretell the destruction of Jerusalem, hastened
without a moment's delay to report it to Nebuchadnezzar, and urge
him to attack Jerusalem. The scruples of the Babylonian king, who
feared God, and all the reasons he advanced against a combat with
Israel, they refuted, and finally they induced him to act as they
wished. (49) At the capture of the city, while all the strange
nations were seeking booty, the Ammonites and the Moabites
threw themselves into the Temple to seize the scroll of the law,
because it contained the clause against their entering into the
"assembly of the Lord even to the tenth generation." (50) To
disgrace the faith of Israel, they plucked the Cherubim from the
Holy of Holies and dragged them through the streets of Jerusalem,
crying aloud at the same time: "Behold these sacred things that
belong to the Israelites, who say ever they have no idols."

The Edomites were still more hostile (51) in the hour of Israel's
need. They went to Jerusalem with Nebuchadnezzar, but they kept
themselves at a distance from the city, there to await the outcome
of the battle between the Jews and the Babylonians. If the Jews
had been victorious, they would have pretended they had come to
bring them aid. When Nebuchadnezzar's victory became known,
they showed their true feelings. Those who escaped the sword of
the Babylonians, were hewn down by the hand of the Edomites.

But in fiendish cunning these nations were surpassed by the
Ishmaelites. Eighty thousand young priests, each with a golden
shield upon his breast, succeeded in making their way through the
ranks of Nebuchadnezzar and in reaching the Ishmaelites. They
asked for water to drink. The reply of the Ishmaelites was: "First
eat, and then you may drink," at the same time handing them salt
food. Their thirst was increased, and the Ishmaelites gave them
leather bags filled with nothing but air instead of water. When they
raised them to their mouths, the air entered their bodies, and they
fell dead.

Other Arabic tribes showed their hostility openly; as the
Palmyrenes, who put eighty thousand archers at the disposal of
Nebuchadnezzar in his war against Israel. (53)


If Nebuchadnezzar thought, that once he had the Jews in the
regions of the Euphrates they were in his power forever, he was
greatly mistaken. It was on the very banks of the great river that he
suffered the loss of a number of his captives. When the first stop
was made by the Euphrates, the Jews could no longer contain their
grief, and they broke out into tears and bitter lamentations.
Nebuchadnezzar bade them be silent, and as though to render
obedience to his orders the harder, he called upon the Levites, the
minstrels of the Temple to sing the songs of Zion for the
entertainment of his guests at the banquet he had arranged. The
Levites consulted with one another. "Not enough that the Temple
lies in ashes because of our sins, should we add to our
transgressions by coaxing music from the strings of our holy harps
in honor of these 'dwarfs'?" (54) they said, and they determined to
offer resistance. The murderous Babylonians mowed them down in
heaps, yet they met death with high courage, for it saved their
sacred instruments from the desecration of being used before idols
and for the sake of idolaters.

The Levites who survived the carnage the Sons of Moses they
were bit their own fingers off, and when they were asked to play,
they showed their tyrants mutilated hands, with which it was
impossible to manipulate their harps. (55) At the fall of night a
cloud descended and enveloped the Sons of Moses and all who
belonged to them. They were hidden from their enemies, while
their own way was illuminated by a pillar of fire. The cloud and
the pillar vanished at break of day, and before the Sons of Moses
lay a tract of land bordered by the sea on three sides. For their
complete protection God made the river Sambation to flow on the
fourth side. This river is full of sand and stones, and on the six
working days of the week, they tumble over each other with such
vehemence that the crash and the roar are heard far and wide. But
on the Sabbath (56) the tumultuous river subsides into quiet. As a
guard against trespassers on that day, a column of cloud stretches
along the whole length of the river, and none can approach the
Sambation within three miles. Hedged in as they are, the Sons of
Moses yet communicate with their brethren of the tribes of
Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, who dwell near the banks of the
Sambation. Carrier pigeons bear letters hither and thither.

In the land of the Sons of Moses there are none but clean animals,
and in every respect the inhabitants lead a holy and pure life,
worthy of their ancestor Moses. They never use an oath, and, if
perchance an oath escapes the lips of one of them, he is at once
reminded of the Divine punishment connected with his act his
children will die at a tender age.

The Sons of Moses live peaceably and enjoy prosperity as equals
through their common Jewish faith. They have need of neither
prince nor judge, for they know not strife and litigation. Each
works for the welfare of the community, and each takes from the
common store only what will satisfy his needs. Their houses are
built of equal height, that no one may deem himself above his
neighbor, and that that the fresh air may not be hindered from
playing freely about all alike. Even at night their doors stand wide
open, for they have naught to fear from thieves, nor are wild
animals known in their land. They all attain a good old age. The
son never dies before the father. When a death occurs, there is
rejoicing, because the departed is known to have entered into life
everlasting in loyalty to his faith. The birth of a child, on the other
hand, calls forth mourning, for who can tell whether the being
ushered into the world will be pious and faithful? The dead are
buried near the doors of their own houses, in order that their
survivors, in all their comings and goings, may be reminded of
their own end. Disease is unknown among them, for they never
sin, and sickness is sent only to purify from sins. (57)


The Sons of Moses were not the only ones to escape from under
the heavy hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Still more miraculous was the
deliverance of the pious Ethiopian Ebed-melech from the hands of
the Babylonians. He was saved as a reward for rescuing Jeremiah
when the prophet's life was jeopardized. On the day before the
destruction of the Temple, shortly before the enemy forced his way
into the city, the Ethiopian was sent, by the prophet Jeremiah
acting under Divine instruction, to a certain place in front of the
gates of the city, to dole out refreshments to the poor from a little
basket of figs he was to carry with him. Ebed-melech reached the
spot, but the heat was so intense that he fell asleep under a tree,
and there he slept for sixty-six years. When he woke up, the figs
were still fresh and juicy, but all the surroundings had so changed,
he could not make out where he was. His confusion increased
when he entered the city to seek Jeremiah, and found nothing as it
had been. He accosted an old man, and asked him the name of the
place. When he was told it was Jerusalem, Ebed-melech cried out
in amazement: "Where is Jeremiah, where is Baruch, and where
are all the people?" The old man was not a little astonished at
these questions. How was it possible that one who had known
Jeremiah and Jerusalem should be ignorant of the events that had
passed sixty years before? In brief words he told Ebed-melech of
the destruction of the Temple and of the captivity of the people,
but what he said found no credence with his auditor. Finally
Ebed-melech realized that God had performed a great miracle for
him, so that he had been spared the sight of Israel's misfortune.

While he was pouring out his heart in gratitude to God, an eagle
descended and led him to Baruch, who lived not far from the city.
Thereupon Baruch received the command from God to write to
Jeremiah that the people should remove the strangers from the
midst of them, and then God would lead them back to Jerusalem.
The letter written by Baruch and some of the figs that had retained
their freshness for sixty-six years were carried to Babylonia by an
eagle, who had told Baruch that he had been sent to serve him as a
messenger. The eagle set out on his journey. His first halting-place
was a dreary waste spot to which he knew Jeremiah and the people
would come it was the burial-place of the Jews which
Nebuchadnezzar had given the prophet at his solicitation. When
the eagle saw Jeremiah and the people approach with a funeral
train, he cried out: "I have a message for thee, Jeremiah. Let all the
people draw nigh to receive the good tidings." As a sign that his
mission was true, the eagle touched the corpse, and it came to life.
Amidst tears all the people cried unto Jeremiah: "Save us! What
must we do to return to our land?"

The eagle brought Jeremiah's answer to Baruch, and after the
prophet had sent the Babylonian women away, he returned to
Jerusalem with the people. Those who would not submit to the
orders of Jeremiah relative to the heathen women, were not
permitted by the prophet to enter the holy city, and as they
likewise were not permitted to return to Babylonia, they founded
the city of Samaria near Jerusalem. (58)


The task laid upon Jeremiah had been twofold. Besides giving him
charge over the people in the land of their exile, God had entrusted
to him the care of the sanctuary and all it contained. (59) The holy
Ark, the altar of incense, and the holy tent were carried by an angel
to the mount whence Moses before his death had viewed the land
divinely assigned to Israel. There Jeremiah found a spacious place,
in which he concealed these sacred utensils. Some of his
companions had gone with him to note the way to the cave, but yet
they could not find it. (60) When Jeremiah heard of their purpose,
he censured them, for it was the wish of God that the place of
hiding should remain a secret until the redemption, and then God
Himself will make the hidden things visible. (61)

Even the Temple vessels not concealed by Jeremiah were
prevented from falling into the hands of the enemy; the gates of
the Temple sank into the earth, (62) and other parts and utensils
were hidden in a tower at Bagdad by the Levite Shimur (63) and
his friends. Among these utensils was the seven-branched
candlestick of pure gold, every branch set with twenty-six pearls,
and beside the pearls two hundred stones of inestimable worth.
Furthermore, the tower at Bagdad was the hiding-place for
seventy-seven golden tables, and for the gold with which the walls
of the Temple had been clothed within and without. The tables had
been taken from Paradise by Solomon, and in brilliance they
outshone the sun and the moon, while the gold from the walls
excelled in amount and worth all the gold that had existed from the
creation of the world until the destruction of the Temple. The
jewels, pearls, gold, and silver, and precious gems, which David
and Solomon had intended for the Temple were discovered by the
scribe Hilkiah, and he delivered them to the angel Shamshiel, who
in turn deposited the treasure in Borsippa. The sacred musical
instruments were taken charge of and hidden by Baruch and
Zedekiah until the advent of the Messiah, who will reveal all
treasures. In his time a stream will break forth from under the
place of the Holy of Holies, and flow through the lands to the
Euphrates, and, as it flows, it will uncover all the treasures buried
in the earth. (64)


At the time of the destruction of the Temple, one of the prominent
figures was Baruch, the faithful attendant (65) of Jeremiah. God
commanded him to leave the city one day before the enemy was to
enter it, in order that his presence might not render it impregnable.
On the following day, he and all other pious men having
abandoned Jerusalem, he saw from a distance how the angels
descended, set fire to the city walls, and concealed the sacred
vessels of the Temple. At first his mourning over the misfortunes
of Jerusalem and the people knew no bounds. But he was in a
measure consoled at the end of a seven days' fast, when God made
known to him that the day of reckoning would come for the
heathen, too. Other Divine visions were vouchsafed him. The
whole future of mankind was unrolled before his eyes, especially
the history of Israel, and he learned that the coming of the Messiah
would put an end to all sorrow and misery, and usher in the reign
of peace and joy among men. As for him, he would be removed
from the earth, he was told, but not through death, and only in
order to be kept safe against the coming of the end of all time. (66)

Thus consoled, Baruch addressed an admonition to the people left
in Palestine, and wrote two letters of the same tenor to the exiles,
one to the nine tribes and a half, the other to the two tribes and a
half. The letter to the nine tribes and a half of the captivity was
carried to them by an eagle. (67)

Five years after the great catastrophe, he composed a book in
Babylon, (68) which contained penitential prayers and hymns of
consolation, exhorting Israel and urging the people to return to
God and His law. This book Baruch read to King Jeconiah and the
whole people on a day of prayer and penitence. On the same
occasion a collection was taken up among the people, and the
funds thus secured, together with the silver Temple vessels made
by order of Zedekiah after Jeconiah had been carried away captive,
were sent to Jerusalem, with the request that the high priest
Joakim and the people should apply the money to the sacrificial
service and to prayers for the life of King Nebuchadnezzar and his
son Belshazzar. Thus they might ensure peace and happiness under
Babylonian rule. Above all, they were to supplicate God to turn
away His wrath from His people.

Baruch sent his book also to the residents of Jerusalem, and they
read it in the Temple on distinguished days, and recited the prayers
it contains. (69)

Baruch is one of the few mortals who have been privileged to visit
Paradise and know its secrets. An angel of the Lord appeared to
him while he was lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem and
took him to the seven heavens, to the place of judgment where the
doom of the godless is pronounced, and to the abodes of the
blessed. (70)

He was still among the living at the time in which Cyrus permitted
the Jews to return to Palestine, but on account of his advanced age
he could not avail himself of the permission. So long as he was
alive, his disciple Ezra remained with him in Babylonia, for "the
study of the law is more important than the building of the
Temple." It was only after the death of Baruch that he decided to
gather together the exiles who desired to return to the Holy Land
and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. (71)


The piety of Baruch and the great favor he enjoyed with God were
made known to later generations many years after his death,
through the marvellous occurrences connected with his tomb.
Once a Babylonian prince commanded a Jew, Rabbi Solomon by
name, to show him the grave of Ezekiel, concerning which he had
heard many remarkable tales. The Jew advised the prince first to
enter the tomb of Baruch, which adjoined that of Ezekiel. Having
succeeded in this, he might attempt the same with the tomb of
Ezekiel, the teacher of Baruch. (72) In the presence of his grandees
and his people the prince tried to open the grave of Baruch, but his
efforts were fruitless. Whosoever touched it, was at once stricken
dead. An old Arab advised the prince to call upon the Jews to gain
entrance for him, seeing that Baruch had been a Jew, and his books
were still being studied by Jews. The Jews prepared themselves by
fasts, prayers, penitence, and almsgiving, and they succeeded in
opening the grave without a mishap. Baruch was found lying on
marble bier, and the appearance of the corpse was as though he
had only then passed away. (73) The prince ordered the bier to be
brought to the city, and the body to be entombed there. He thought
it was not seemly that Ezekiel and Baruch should rest in the same
grave. But the bearers found it impossible to remove the bier more
than two thousands ells from the original grave; not even with the
help of numerous draught-animals could it be urged a single step
further. Following the advice of Rabbi Solomon, the prince
resolved to enter the bier on the spot they had reached and also to
erect an academy there. These miraculous happenings induced the
prince to go to Mecca. There he became convinced of the falseness
of Mohammedanism, of which he had hitherto been an adherent,
and he converted to Judaism, he and his whole court.

Near the grave of Baruch there grows a species of grass whose
leaves are covered with gold dust. As the sheen of the gold is not
readily noticeable by day, the people seek out the place at night,
mark the very spot on which the grass grows, and return by day
and gather it. (74)

Not less famous is the tomb of Ezekiel, at a distance of two
thousand ells from Baruch's. It is overarched by a beautiful
mausoleum erected by King Jeconiah after Evil-merodach had
released him from captivity. The mausoleum existed down to the
middle ages, and it bore on its walls the names of the thirty-five
thousand Jews who assisted Jeconiah in erecting the monument. It
was the scene of many miracles. When great crowds of people
journeyed thither to pay reverence to the memory of the prophet,
the little low gate in the wall surrounding the grave enlarged in
width and height to admit all who desired to enter. Once a prince
vowed to give a colt to the grave of the prophet, if but his mare
which had been sterile would bear one. When his wish was
fulfilled, however, he did not keep his promise. But the filly ran a
distance equal to a four days' journey to the tomb, and his owner
could not recover it until he deposited his value in silver upon the
grace. When people went on long journeys, they were in the habit
of carrying their treasures to the grave of the prophet, and
beseeching him to let none but the rightful heirs remove them
thence. The prophet always granted their petition. Once when an
attempt was made to take some books from the grave of Ezekiel,
the ravager suddenly became sick and blind. For a time a pillar of
fire, visible at a great distance, rose above the grave of the prophet,
but it disappeared in consequence of the unseemly conduct of the
pilgrims who resorted thither.

Not far from the grave of Ezekiel was the grave of Barozak, who
once appeared to a rich Jew in a dream. He spoke: "I am Barozak,
one of the princes who were led into captivity with Jeremiah. I am
one of the just. If thou wilt erect a handsome mausoleum for me,
thou wilt be blessed with progeny." The Jew did as he had been
bidden, and he who had been childless, shortly after became a
father. (75)


The most distinguished member of the Babylonian Diaspora was
Daniel. Though not a prophet, (76) he was surpassed by none in
wisdom, piety, and good deeds. His firm adherence to Judaism he
displayed from his early youth, when, a page at the royal court, he
refused to partake of the bread, wine, and oil of the heathen, even
though the enjoyment of them was not prohibited by the law. (77)
In general, his prominent position at the court was maintained at
the cost of many a hardship, for he and his companions, Hananiah,
Mishael, and Azariah, were envied their distinctions by numerous
enemies, who sought to compass their ruin.

Once they were accused before King Nebuchadnezzar of leading
an unchaste life. The king resolved to order their execution. But
Daniel and his friends mutilated certain parts of their bodies, and
so demonstrated how unfounded were the charges against them.

As a youth Daniel gave evidence of his wisdom, when he
convicted two old sinners of having testified falsely against
Susanna, as beautiful as she was good. Misled by the perjured
witnesses, the court had condemned Susanna to death. Then
Daniel, impelled by a higher power, appeared among the people,
proclaimed that wrong had been done, and demanded that the case
be re-opened. And so it was. Daniel himself cross-questioned the
witnesses one after the other. The same questions were addressed
to both, and as the replies did not agree with each other, the false
witnesses stood condemned, and they were made to suffer the
penalty they would have had the court inflict upon their victim.

Daniel's high position in the state dates from the time when he
interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The king said to the
astrologers and magicians: "I know my dream, but I do not want to
tell you what it was, else you will invent anything at all, and
pretend it is the interpretation of the dream. But if you tell me the
dream, then I shall have confidence in your interpretation of it."

After much talk between Nebuchadnezzar and his wise men, they
confessed that the king's wish might have been fulfilled, if but the
Temple had still existed. The high priest at Jerusalem might have
revealed the secret by consulting the Urim and Thummim. At this
point the king became wrathful against his wise men, who had
advised him to destroy the Temple, though they must have known
how useful it might become to the king and the state. He ordered
them all to execution. Their life was saved by Daniel, who recited
the king's dream, and gave its interpretation. (80) The king was so
filled with admiration of Daniel's wisdom that he paid him Divine
honors. Daniel, however, refused such extravagant treatment he
did not desire to be the object of idolatrous veneration. (81) He left
Nebuchadnezzar in order to escape the marks of honor thrust upon
him, and repaired to Tiberias, where he build a canal. Besides, he
was charged by the king with commissions, to bring fodder for
cattle to Babylonia and also swine from Alexandria. (82)


During Daniel's absence Nebuchadnezzar set up an idol, and its
worship was exacted from all his subject under penalty of death by
fire. The image could not stand on account of the disproportion
between its height and its thickness. The whole of the gold and
silver captured by the Babylonians in Jerusalem was needed to
give it steadiness. (83)

All the nations owning the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, including even
Israel, obeyed the royal command to worship the image. Only the
three pious companions of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah, resisted the order. In vain Nebuchadnezzar urged upon
them, as an argument in favor if idolatry, that the Jews had been so
devoted to heathen practices before the destruction of Jerusalem
that they had gone to Babylonia for the purpose of imitating the
idols there and bringing the copies they made to Jerusalem. The
three saints would not hearken to these seductions of the king, nor
when he referred them to such authorities as Moses and Jeremiah,
in order to prove to them that they were under obligation to do the
royal bidding. They said to him: "Thou art our king in all that
concerns service, taxes, poll-money, and tribute, but with respect
to thy present command thou art only Nebuchadnezzar. Therein
thou and the dog are alike unto us. Bark like a dog, inflate thyself
like a water-bottle, and chirp like a cricket." (84)

Now Nebuchadnezzar's wrath transcended all bound, and he
ordered the three to be cast into a red hot furnace, so hot that the
flames of its fire darted to the height of forty-nine ells beyond the
oven, and consumed the heathen standing about it. No less than
four nations were thus exterminated. (85) While the three saints
were being thrust into the furnace, they addressed a fervent prayer
to God, supplicating His grace toward them, and entreating Him to
put their adversaries to shame. The angels desired to descend and
rescue the three men in the furnace. But God forbade it: "Did the
three men act thus for your sakes? Nay, they did it for Me; and I
will save them with Mine own hands." (86) God also rejected the
good offices of Yurkami, the angel of hail who offered to
extinguish the fire in the furnace. The angel Gabriel justly pointed
out that such a miracle would not be sufficiently striking to arrest
attention. His own proposition was accepted. He, the angel of fire,
was deputed to snatch the three men from the red hot furnace. He
executed his mission by cooling off the fire inside of the oven,
while on the outside the heat continued to increase to such a
degree that the heathen standing around the furnace were
consumed. (87) The three youths thereupon raised their voices
together in a hymn of praise to God, thanking Him for His
miraculous help. (88) The Chaldeans observed the three men
pacing up and down quietly in the furnace, followed by a fourth
the angel Gabriel as by an attendant. Nebuchadnezzar, who
hastened thither to see the wonder, was stunned with fright, for he
recognized Gabriel to be the angel who in the guise of a column of
fire had blasted the army of Sennacherib. (89) Six other miracles
happened, all of them driving terror to the heart of the king: the
fiery furnace which had been sunk in the ground raised itself into
the air; it was broken; the bottom dropped out; the image erected
by Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate; four nations were wasted by
fire; and Ezekiel revived the dead in the valley of Dura.

Of the last, Nebuchadnezzar was apprised in a peculiar way. He
had a drinking vessel made of the bones of a slain Jew. When he
was about to use it, life began to stir in the bones, and a blow was
planted in the king's face, while a voice announced: "A friend of
this man is at this moment reviving the dead!" Nebuchadnezzar
now offered praise to God for the miracles performed, and if an
angel had not quickly struck him a blow on his mouth, and forced
him into silence, his psalms of praise would have excelled the
Psalter of David.

The deliverance of the three pious young men was a brilliant
vindication of their ways, but at the same time it caused great
mortification to the masses of the Jewish people, who had
complied with the order of Nebuchadnezzar to worship his idol.
(90) Accordingly, when the three men left the furnace which they
did not do until Nebuchadnezzar invited them to leave (91) the
heathen struck all the Jews they met in the face, deriding them at
the same time: "You who have so marvellous a God pay homage to
an idol!" The three men thereupon left Babylonia and went to
Palestine, where they joined their friend, the high priest Joshua.

Their readiness to sacrifice their lives for the honor of God had
been all the more admirable as they had been advised by the
prophet Ezekiel that no miracle would be done for their sakes.
When the king's command to bow down before the idol was
published, and the three men were appointed to act as the
representatives of the people, Hananiah and his companions
resorted to Daniel for his advice. He referred them to the prophet
Ezekiel, who counselled flight, citing his teacher Isaiah as his
authority. The three men rejected his advice, and declared
themselves ready to suffer the death of martyrs. Ezekiel bade them
tarry until he inquired of God, whether a miracle would be done
for them. The words of God were: "I shall not manifest Myself as
their savior. They caused My house to be destroyed, My palace to
be burnt, My children to be dispersed among the heathen, and now
they appeal for My help. As I live, I will not be found of them."

Instead of discouraging the three men, this answer but infused new
spirit and resolution in them, and they declared with more decided
emphasis than before, that they were ready to meet death. God
consoled the weeping prophet by revealing to him, that He would
save the three saintly heroes. He had sought to restrain them from
martyrdom only to let their piety and steadfastness appear the

On account of their piety it became customary to swear by the
Name of Him who supports the world on three pillars, the pillars
being the saints Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their deliverance
from death by fire worked a great effect upon the disposition of the
heathen. They were convinced of the uselessness of their idols, and
with their own hands they destroyed them. (93)


Among the dead whom Ezekiel restored to life (94) at the same
time when the three men were redeemed from the fiery furnace
were different classes of persons. Some were the Ephraimites that
had perished in the attempt to escape from Egypt before Moses led
the whole nation out of the land of bondage. Some were the
godless among the Jews that had polluted the Temple at Jerusalem
with heathen rites, and those still more godless who in life had not
believed in the resurrection of the dead. Others of those revived by
Ezekiel were the youths among the Jews carried away captive to
Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar whose beauty was so radiant that it
darkened the very splendor of the sun. The Babylonian women
were seized with a great passion for them, and at the solicitation of
their husbands, Nebuchadnezzar ordered a bloody massacre of the
handsome youths. But the Babylonian women were not yet cured
of their unlawful passion; the beauty of the young Hebrews
haunted them until their corpses lay crushed before them, their
graceful bodies mutilated. These were the youths recalled to life
by the prophet Ezekiel. Lastly, he revived some that had perished
only a short time before. When Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
were saved from death, Nebuchadnezzar thus addressed the other
Jews, those who had yielded obedience to his command
concerning the worship of the idol: "You know that your God can
help and save, nevertheless you paid worship to an idol which is
incapable of doing anything. This proves that, as you have
destroyed your own land by your wicked deeds, so you are now
trying to destroy my land with your iniquity." Forthwith he
commanded that they all be executed, sixty thousand in number.
Twenty years passed, and Ezekiel was vouchsafed the vision in
which God bade him repair to the Valley of Dura, where
Nebuchadnezzar had set up his idol, and had massacred the host of
the Jews. Here God showed him the dry bones of the slain with the
question: "Can I revive these bones?" Ezekiel's answer was
evasive, and as a punishment for his little faith, he had to end his
days in Babylon, and was not granted even burial in the soil of
Palestine. God then dropped the dew of heaven upon the dry
bones, and "sinews were upon them, and flesh came up, and skin
covered them above." At the same time God sent forth winds to the
four corners of the earth, which unlocked the treasure houses of
souls, and brought its own soul to each body. All came to life
except one man, who, as God explained to the prophet, was
excluded from the resurrection because he was a usurer.

In spite of the marvellous miracle performed from them, the men
thus restored to life wept, because they feared they would have no
share at the end of time in the resurrection of the whole of Israel.
But the prophet assured them, in the name of God, that their
portion in all that had been promised Israel should in no wise be
diminished. (95)


Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of the whole world, (96) to whom even
the wild animals paid obedience, his pet was a lion with a snake
coiled about its neck, (97) did not escape punishment for his sins.
He was chastised as none before him. He whom fear of God had at
first held back from a war against Jerusalem, and who had to be
dragged forcibly, as he sat on his horse, to the Holy of Holies (98)
by the archangel Michael, he later became so arrogant that he
thought himself a god, (99) and cherished the plan of enveloping
himself in a cloud, so that he might live apart from men. (100) A
heavenly voice resounded: "O thou wicked man, son of a wicked
man, and descendant of Nimrod the wicked, who incited the world
to rebel against God! Behold, the days of the years of a man are
threescore years and ten, or perhaps by reason of strength
fourscore years. It takes five hundred years to traverse the distance
of the earth from the first heaven, and as long a time to penetrate
from the bottom to the top of the first heaven, and not less are the
distances from one of the seven heavens to the next. How, then,
canst thou speak of ascending like unto the Most High 'above the
heights of the clouds'?" (101) For this transgression of deeming
himself more than a man, he was punished by being made to live
for some time as a beast among beasts, treated by them as though
he were one of them. (102) For forty days (103) he led this life. As
far down as his navel he had the appearance of an ox, and the
lower part of his body resembled that of a lion. Like an ox he ate
grass, and like a lion he attacked a curious crowd, but Daniel spent
his time in prayer, entreating that the seven years of this brutish
life allotted to Nebuchadnezzar might be reduced to seven months.
His prayer was granted. At the end of forty days reason returned to
the king, the next forty days he passed in weeping bitterly over his
sins, and in the interval that remained to complete the seven
months he again lived the life of a beast. (104)


Hiram, the king of Tyre, was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar,
and in many respects resembled him. He, too, esteemed himself a
god, and sought to make men believe in his divinity by the
artificial heavens he fashioned for himself. In the sea he erected
four iron pillars, on which he build up seven heavens, each five
hundred ells larger than the one below. The first was a plate of
glass of five hundred square ells, and the second a plate of iron of
a thousand square ells. The third, of lead, and separated from the
second by canals, contained huge round boulders, which produced
the sound of thunder on the iron. The fourth heaven was of brass,
the fifth of copper, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold, all
separated from each other by canals. In the seventh, thirty-five
hundred ells in extent, he had diamonds and pearls, which he
manipulated so as to produce the effect of flashes and sheets of
lightening, while the stones below imitated the growling of the

As Hiram was thus floating above the earth, in his vain
imagination deeming himself superior to the rest of men, he
suddenly perceived the prophet Ezekiel next to himself. He had
been waved thither by a wind. Frightened and amazed, Hiram
asked the prophet how he had risen to his heights. The answer was:
"God brought me here, and He bade me ask thee why thou art so
proud, thou born of woman?" The king of Tyre replied defiantly: "I
am not one born of woman; I live forever, and as God resides on
the sea, so my abode is on the sea, and as He inhabits seven
heavens, so do I. See how many kings I have survived! Twenty-one
of the House of David, and as many of the Kingdom of the Ten
Tribes, and no less than fifty prophets and ten high priests have I
buried." Thereupon God said: "I will destroy My house, that
henceforth Hiram may have no reason for self-glorification,
because all his pride comes only from the circumstance that he
furnished the cedar-trees for the building of the Temple." The end
of this proud king was that he was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar,
deprived of this throne, and made to suffer a cruel death. Though
the Babylonian king was the step-son of Hiram, he had no mercy
with him. Daily he cut off a bit of the flesh of his body, and forced
the Tyrian king to eat it, until the finally perished. Hiram's palace
was swallowed by the earth, and in the bowels of the earth it will
remain until it shall emerge in the future world as the habitation of
the pious. (105)


Not only among the heathen, but also among the Jews there were
very sinful people in those days. The most notorious Jewish
sinners were the two false prophets Ahab and Zedekiah. Ahab
came to the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and said: "Yield thyself
to Zedekiah," telling her this in the form of a Divine message. The
same was done by Zedekiah, who only varied the message by
substituting the name of Ahab. The princess could not accept such
messages as Divine, and she told her father what had occurred.
(106) Though Nebuchadnezzar was so addicted to immoral
practices that he was in the habit of making his captive kings
drunk, and then satisfying his unnatural lusts upon them, and a
miracle had to interpose to shield the pious of Judah against this
disgrace, (107) yet he well knew that the God of the Jews hates
immorality. He therefore questioned Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah about it, and they emphatically denied the possibility that
such a message could have come from God. The prophets of lies
refused to recall their statements, and Nebuchadnezzar decided to
subject them to the same fiery test as he had decreed for the three
pious companions of Daniel. To be fair toward them, the king
permitted them to choose a third fellow-sufferer, some pious man
to share their lot. Seeing no escape, Ahab and Zedekiah asked for
Joshua, later the high priest, as their companion in the furnace, in
the hope that his distinguished merits would suffice to save all
three of them. They were mistaken. Joshua emerged unhurt, only
his garments were seared, but the false prophets were consumed.
Joshua explained the singeing of his garments by the fact that he
was directly exposed to the full fury of the flames. But the truth
was that he had to expiate the sins of his sons, who had contracted
marriages unworthy of their dignity and descent. Therefore their
father escaped death only after the fire had burnt his garments.


No greater contrast to Hiram and the false prophets Ahab and
Zedekiah can be imagined than is presented by the character of the
pious Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar offered him Divine honors,
(109) he refused what Hiram sought to obtain by every means in
his power. The Babylonian king felt so ardent an admiration for
Daniel that he sent him from the country when the time arrived to
worship the idol he had erected in Dura, for he knew very well that
Daniel would prefer death in the flames to disregard of the
commands of God, and he could not well have cast the man into
the fire to whom he had paid Divine homage. Moreover, it was the
wish of God that Daniel should not pass through the fiery ordeal at
the same time as his three friends, in order that their deliverance
might not be ascribed to him. (110)

In spite of all this, Nebuchadnezzar endeavored to persuade Daniel
by gentle means to worship an idol. He had the golden diadem of
the high priest inserted in the mouth of an idol, and by reason of
the wondrous power that resides in the Holy Name inscribed on
the diadem, the idol gained the ability to speak, and it said the
words: "I am thy God." Thus were many seduced to worship the
image. But Daniel could not be misled so easily. He secured
permission from the king to kiss the idol. Laying his mouth upon
the idol's, he adjured the diadem in the following words: "I am but
flesh and blood, yet at the same time a messenger of God. I
therefore admonish thee, take heed that the Name of the Holy One,
blessed be He, may not be desecrated, and I order thee to follow
me." So it happened. When the heathen came with music and song
to give honor to the idol, it emitted no sound, but a storm broke
loose and overturned it. (111)

On still another occasion Nebuchadnezzar tried to persuade Daniel
to worship an idol, this time a dragon that devoured all who
approached it, and therefore was adored as a god by the
Babylonians. Daniel had straw mixed with nails fed to him, and
the dragon ate and perished almost immediately. (112)

All this did not prevent Daniel from keeping the welfare of the
king in mind continually. Hence it was that when Nebuchadnezzar
was engaged in setting his house in order, he desired to mention
'Daniel in his will as one of his heirs. But the Jew refused with the
words: "Far be it from me to leave the inheritance of my fathers for
that of the uncircumcised." (113)

Nebuchadnezzar died after having reigned forty years, as long as
King David. (114) The death of the tyrant brought hope and joy to
many a heart, for his severity had been such that during his
lifetime none dared laugh, and when he descended to Sheol, its
inhabitants trembled, fearing he had come to reign over them, too.
However, a heavenly voice called to him: "Go down, and be thou
laid down with the uncircumcised." (115)

The interment of this great king was anything but what one might
have expected, and for this reason: During the seven years spent by
Nebuchadnezzar among the beast, his son Evil-merodach ruled in
his stead. Nebuchadnezzar reappeared after his period of penance,
and incarcerated his son for life. When the death of
Nebuchadnezzar actually did occur, Evil-merodach refused to
accept the homage the nobles brought him as the new king,
because he feared that his father was not dead, but had only
disappeared as once before, and would return again. To convince
him of the groundlessness of his apprehension, the corpse of
Nebuchadnezzar, badly mutilated by his enemies, was dragged
through the streets. (116)

Shortly afterward occurred the death of Zedekiah, the dethroned
king of Judah. His burial took place amid great demonstrations of
sympathy and mourning. The elegy over him ran thus: "Alas that
King Zedekiah had to die, he who quaffed the lees which all the
generations before him accumulated." (117)

Zedekiah reached a good old age, (118) for though it was in his
reign that the destruction of Jerusalem took place, yet it was the
guilt of the nation, not of the king, that had brought about the
catastrophe. (119)


When God resolved to take revenge upon Babylon for all the
sufferings it had inflicted on Israel, He chose Darius and Cyrus as
the agents of vengeance. Cyrus, the king of Persia, and his
father-in-law Darius, the king of Media, together went up against
Belshazzar, the ruler of the Chaldeans. The war lasted a
considerable time, and fortune favored first one side, then the
other, until finally the Chaldeans won a decisive victory. To
celebrate the event, Belshazzar arranged a great banquet, which
was served from the vessels taken out of the Temple at Jerusalem
by his father. While the king and his guests were feasting, the
angel sent by God put the "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin" on the
wall, Aramaic words in Hebrew characters, (1) written with red
ink. The angel was seen by none but the king. His grandees and the
princes of the realm who were present at the orgy perceived
nothing. The king himself did not see the form of the angel, only
his awesome fingers as they traced the words were visible to him.

The interpretation given to the enigmatical words by Daniel put an
end to the merry-making of the feasters. They scattered in dread
and fear, leaving none behind except the king and his attendants.
In the same night the king was murdered by an old servant, who
knew Daniel from the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and doubted not
that his sinister prophecy would be fulfilled. With the head of King
Belshazzar he betook himself to Darius and Cyrus, and told them
how his master had desecrated the sacred vessels, told them of the
wonderful writing on the wall, and of the way it had been
interpreted by Daniel. The two kings were moved by his recital to
vow solemnly that they would permit the Jews to return to
Palestine, and would grant them the use of the Temple vessels.

They resumed the war against Babylonia with more energy, and
God vouchsafed them victory. They conquered the whole of
Belshazzar's realm, and took possession of the city of Babylon,
whose inhabitants, young and old, were made to suffer death. The
subjugated lands were divided between Cyrus and Darius, the
latter receiving Babylon and Media, the former Chaldea, Persia,
and Assyria. (2)

But this is not the whole story of the fall of Babylon. The wicked
king Belshazzar arranged the banquet at which the holy vessels
were desecrated in the fifth year of his reign, because he thought it
wholly certain then that all danger was past of the realization of
Jeremiah's prophecy, foretelling the return of the Jews to Palestine
at the end of seventy years of Babylonian rule over them.
Nebuchadnezzar had governed twenty-five years, and
Evil-merodach twenty-three, leaving five years in the reign of
Belshazzar for the fulfilment of the appointed time. (3) Not
enough that the king scoffed at God by using the Temple vessels,
he needs must have the pastry for the banquet, which was given on
the second day of the Passover festival, made of wheaten flour
finer than that used on this day for the `Omer in the Temple.

Punishment followed hard upon the heels of the atrocity. Cyrus
and Darius served as door-keepers of the royal palace on the
evening of the banquet. They had received orders from Belshazzar
to admit none, though he should say he was the king himself.
Belshazzar was forced to leave his apartments for a short time, and
he went out unnoticed by the two door-keepers. On his return,
when he asked to be admitted, they felled him dead, even while he
was asseverating that he was the king. (4)


Daniel left Belshazzar and fled to Shushtar, where he was kindly
received by Cyrus, who promised him to have the Temple vessels
taken back to Jerusalem, provided Daniel would pray to God to
grant him success in his war with the king of Mosul. God gave
Daniel's prayer a favorable hearing, and Cyrus was true to his

Daniel now received the Divine charge to urge Cyrus to rebuild the
Temple. To this end he was to introduce Ezra and Zerubbabel to
the king. Ezra then went from place to place and called upon the
people to return to Palestine. Sad to say, only a tribe and a half
obeyed his summons. Indeed, the majority of the people were so
wroth against Ezra that they sought to slay him. He escaped the
peril to his life only by a Divine miracle. (5)

Daniel, too, was exposed to much suffering at this time. King
Cyrus cast him into a den of lions, because he refused to bow
down before the idol of the king. For seven days Daniel lay among
the wild beasts, and not a hair of his head was touched. When the
king at the end of the week found Daniel alive, he could not but
acknowledge the sovereign grandeur of God. Cyrus released
Daniel, and instead had his calumniators thrown to the lions. In an
instant they were rent in pieces. (6)

In general Cyrus fell far short of coming up to the expectations set
in him for piety and justice. Though he granted permission to the
Jews to rebuild the Temple, they were to use no material but
wood, so that it might easily be destroyed if the Jews should take it
into their head to rebel against him. Even in point of morals, the
Persian king was not above reproach. (7)

Another time Cyrus pressingly urged Daniel to pay homage to the
idol Bel. As proof of the divinity of the idol the king advanced the
fact that it ate the dishes set before it, a report spread by the priests
of Bel, who entered the Temple of the idol at night, through
subterranean passages, themselves ate up the dishes, and then
attributed their disappearance to the appetite of the god. But
Daniel was too shrewd to be misled by a fabricated story. He had
the ashes strewn upon the floor of the Temple, and the foot-prints
visible the next morning convinced the king of the deceit practiced
by the priests. (8)

Pleasant relations did not continue to subsist forever between
Cyrus and Darius. A war broke out between them, in which Cyrus
lost life and lands. Fearing Darius, Daniel fled to Persia. But an
angel of God appeared to him with the message: "Fear not the
king, not unto him will I surrender thee." Shortly afterward he
received a letter from Darius reading as follows: "Come to me,
Daniel! Fear naught, I shall be even kinder to thee than Cyrus
was." Accordingly Daniel returned to Shushtar, and was received
with great consideration by Darius.

One day the king chanced to remember the sacred garments
brought by Nebuchadnezzar out of the Temple at Jerusalem to
Babylon. They had vanished, and no trace of them could be
discovered. The king suspected Daniel of having had something to
do with their disappearance. It booted little that he protested his
innocence, he was cast into prison. God sent an angel who was to
blind Darius, telling him at the same time that he was deprived of
the light of his eyes because he was keeping the pious Daniel in
durance, and sight would be restored to him only if Daniel
interceded for him. The king at once released Daniel, and the two
together journeyed to Jerusalem to pray on the holy place for the
restoration of the king. An angel appeared to Daniel, and
announced to him that his prayer had been heard. The king had but
to wash his eyes, and vision would return to them. So it happened.
Darius gave thanks to God, and in his gratitude assigned the tithe
of his grain to the priests and the Levites. Besides, he testified his
appreciation to Daniel by loading him down with gifts, and both
returned to Shushtar. The recovery of the king convinced many of
his subjects of the omnipotence of God, and they converted to
Judaism. (9)

Following the advice of Daniel, Darius (10) appointed a
triumvirate to take charge of the administration of his realm, and
Daniel was made the chief of the council of three. His high dignity
he was second to none but the king himself exposed him to envy
and hostility on all sides. His enemies plotted his ruin. With
cunning they induced the king to sign an order attaching the
penalty of death to prayers addressed to any god or any man other
than Darius. (11) Though the order did not require Daniel to
commit a sin, he preferred to give his life for the honor of the one
God rather than omit his devotions to Him. When his jealous
enemies surprised him during his prayers, he did not interrupt
himself. He was dragged before the king, who refused to give
credence to the charge against Daniel. Meanwhile the hour for the
afternoon prayer arrived, and in the presence of the king and his
princes Daniel began to perform his devotions. This naturally
rendered unavailing all efforts made by the king to save his friend
from death. Daniel was cast into a pit full of lions. The entrance to
the pit was closed up with a rock, which had all of its own accord
rolled from Palestine to protect him against any harm
contemplated by his enemies. (12) The ferocious beasts welcomed
the pious Daniel like dogs fawning upon their master on his return
home, licking his hands and wagging their tails.

While this was passing in Babylon, an angel appeared to the
prophet Habakkuk in Judea. He ordered the prophet to bring
Daniel the food he was about to carry to his laborers in the field.
Astonished, Habakkuk asked the angel how he could carry it to so
great a distance, whereupon he was seized by his hair, and in a
moment set down before Daniel. They dined together, and then the
angel transported Habakkuk back to his place in Palestine. Early in
the morning Darius (13) went to the pit of the lions to discover the
fate of Daniel. The king called his name, but he received no
answer, because Daniel was reciting the Shema at that moment,
(14) after having spent the night in giving praise and adoration to
God. (15) Seeing that he was still alive, the king summoned the
enemies of Daniel to the pit. It was their opinion that the lions had
not been hungry, and therefore Daniel was still unhurt. The king
commanded them to put the beasts to the test with their own
persons. The result was that the hundred and twenty-two enemies
of Daniel, together with their wives and children numbering two
hundred and forty-four persons, were torn in shreds by fourteen
hundred and sixty-four lions. (16)

The miraculous escape of Daniel brought him more distinguished
consideration and greater honors than before. The king published
the wonders done by God in all parts of his land, and called upon
the people to betake themselves to Jerusalem and help in the
erection of the Temple.

Daniel entreated the king to relieve him of the duties of his
position, for the performance of which he no longer felt himself
fit, on account of his advanced age. The king consented on
condition that Daniel designate a successor worthy of him. His
choice fell upon Zerubbabel. Loaded with rich presents and amid
public demonstrations designed to honor him, Daniel retired from
public life. He settled in the city of Shushan, where he abode until
his end. (17) Though he was no prophet, God vouchsafed to him a
knowledge of the "end of time" not granted his friends, the
prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, (18) but even he, in the
fulness of his years, lost all memory of the revelation with which
he had been favored. (19)


Daniel was buried in Shushan, on account of which a sore quarrel
was enkindled among the inhabitants of the city. Shushan is
divided in two parts by a river. The side containing the grave of
Daniel was occupied by the wealthy inhabitants, and the poor
citizens lived on the other side of the river. The latter maintained
that they, too, would be rich if the grave of Daniel were in their
quarter. The frequent disputes and conflicts were finally adjusted
by a compromise; one year the bier of Daniel reposed on one side
of the river, the next year on the other. When the Persian king
Sanjar came to Shushan, he put a stop to the practice of dragging
the bier hither and thither. He resorted to another device for
guarding the peace of the city. He had the bier suspended from
chains precisely in the middle of the bridge spanning the river. In
the same spot he erected a house of prayer for all confessions, and
out of respect to Daniel he prohibited fishing in the river for a
distance of a mile on either side of the memorial building. (20)
The sacredness of the spot appeared when the godless tried to pass
by. They were drowned, while the pious remained unscathed.
Furthermore, the fish that swam near it had heads glittering like
gold. (21)

Beside the house of Daniel lay a stone, under which he had
concealed the holy Temple vessels. Once an attempt was made to
roll the stone from its place, but whoever ventured to touch it, fell
dead. The same fate overtook all who later tried to make
excavations near the spot; a storm broke out and mowed them
down. (22)


The successor to Daniel in the service of the king, Zerubbabel,
enjoyed equally as much royal consideration and affection. He
occupied a higher position than all the other servants and officials,
and he and two others constituted the body-guard of the king. (23)
Once when the king lay wrapped in deep slumber, his guards
resolved to write down what each of them considered the mightiest
thing in the world, and he who wrote the sagest saying should be
given rich presents and rewards by the king. What they wrote they
laid under the pillow on which the head of the king rested, that he
might not delay to make a decision after he awoke. The first one
wrote: "Wine is the mightiest thing there is"; the second wrote:
"The king is the mightiest on earth," and the third, Zerubbabel,
wrote: "Women are the mightiest in the world, but truth prevails
over all else." When the king awoke, and he perused the document,
he summoned the grandees of his realm and the three youths as
well. Each of the three was called upon to justify his saying. In
eloquent words the first described the potency of wine. When it
takes possession of the senses of a man, he forgets grief and
sorrow. Still more beautiful and convincing were the words of the
second speaker, when his turn came to establish the truth of his
saying, that the king was the mightiest on earth. Finally Zerubbabel
depicted in glowing words the power of woman, who rules even
over kings. "But," he continued, "truth is supreme over all; the
whole earth asks for truth, the heavens sing the praises of truth, all
creation quakes and trembles before truth, naught of wrong can be
found in truth. Unto truth belongeth the might, the dominion, the
power, and the glory of all times. Blessed be the God of truth."
When Zerubbabel ceased from speaking, the assembly broke out
into the words: "Great is truth, it is mightier than all else!" The
king was so charmed with the wisdom of Zerubbabel that he said
to him: "Ask for aught thou wishest, it shall be granted thee."
Zerubbabel required nothing for himself, he only sought
permission of the king to restore Jerusalem, rebuild the sanctuary,
and return the holy Temple vessels to the place whence they had
been carried off. Not only did Darius grant what Zerubbabel
wished for, not only did he give him letters of safe-conduct, but he
also conferred numerous privileges upon the Jews who
accompanied Zerubbabel to Palestine, and he sent abundant
presents to the Temple and its officers. (24)

As unto his predecessor Daniel, so unto Zerubbabel, God
vouchsafed a knowledge of the secrets of the future. Especially the
archangel Metatron dealt kindly with him. Besides revealing to
him the time at which the Messiah would appear, he brought about
an interview between the Messiah and Zerubbabel. (25)

In reality, Zerubbabel was none other than Nehemiah, who was
given this second name because he was born in Babylon. (26)
Richly endowed as Zerubbabel-Nehemiah was with admirable
qualities, he yet did not lack faults. He was excessively
self-complacent, and he did not hesitate to fasten a stigma publicly
upon his predecessors in the office of governor in the land of
Judah, among whom was so excellent a man as Daniel. To punish
him for these transgressions, the Book of Ezra does not bear the
name of its real author Nehemiah. (27)

When Darius felt his end approach, (28) he appointed his
son-in-law Cyrus, (29) who had hitherto reigned only over Persia,
to be the ruler over his kingdom as well. His wish was honored by
the princes of Media and Persia. After Darius had departed this
life, Cyrus was proclaimed king.

In the very first year of his reign, Cyrus summoned the most
distinguished of the Jews to appear before him, and he gave them
permission to return to Palestine and rebuild the Temple at
Jerusalem. More than this, he pledged himself to contribute to the
Temple service in proportion to his means, and pay honor to the
God who had invested him with strength to subdue the Chaldeans.
These actions of Cyrus partly flowed from his own pious
inclinations, and partly were due to his desire to accomplish the
dying behests of Darius, who had admonished him to give the Jews
the opportunity of rebuilding the Temple.

When the first sacrifice was to be brought by the company of Jews
who returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra, and set
about restoring the Temple, they missed the celestial fire which
had dropped from heaven on the altar in the time of Moses, and
had not been extinguished so long as the Temple stood. They
turned in supplication to God to be instructed by Him. The
celestial fire had been hidden by Jeremiah at the time of the
destruction of the Holy City, and the law did not permit them to
bring "strange fire" upon the altar of God. An old man suddenly
remembered the spot in which Jeremiah had buried the holy fire,
and he led the elders thither. They rolled away the stone covering
the spot, and from under it appeared a spring flowing not with
water, but with a sort of oil. Ezra ordered this fluid to be sprinkled
upon the altar, and forthwith an all-consuming flame shot up. The
priests themselves scattered in fright. But after the Temple and its
vessels were purified by the flame, it confined itself to the altar
never more to leave it, for the priest guarded it so that it might not
be extinguished. (30)

Among the band of returned exiles were the prophets Haggai,
Zechariah, and Malachi. Each one of them had a place of the
greatest importance to fill in the rebuilding of the Temple. By the
first the people were shown the plan of the altar, which was larger
than the one that had stood in Solomon's Temple. The second
informed them of the exact location of the altar, and the third
taught them that the sacrifices might be brought on the holy place
even before the completion of the Temple. On the authority of one
of the prophets, the Jews, on their return from Babylonia, gave up
their original Hebrew characters, and re-wrote the Torah in the
"Assyrian" characters still in use at this day. (31)

While the Temple work was in progress, the builders found the
skull of Araunah, the owner of the Temple site in the time of
David. The priests, unlearned as they were, could not decide to
what extent the corpse lying there had defiled the holy place. It
was for this that Haggai poured out his reproaches upon them. (32)


The complete resettlement of Palestine took place under the
direction of Ezra, or, as the Scriptures sometimes call him,
Malachi. (33) He had not been present at the earlier attempts (34)
to restore the sanctuary, because he could not leave his old teacher
Baruch, who was too advanced in years to venture upon the
difficult journey to the Holy Land. (35)

In spite of Ezra's persuasive efforts, it was but a comparatively
small portion of the people that joined the procession winding its
way westward to Palestine. For this reason the prophetical spirit
did not show itself during the existence of the Second Temple.
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were the last representatives of
prophecy. (36) Nothing was more surprising than the apathy of the
Levites. They manifested no desire to return to Palestine. Their
punishment was the loss of the tithes, which were later given to the
priest, though the Levites had the first claim upon them. (37)

In restoring the Jewish state in Palestine, Ezra cherished two
hopes, to preserve the purity of the Jewish race, and to spread the
study of the Torah until it should become the common property of
the people at large. To help on his first purpose, he inveighed
against marriages between the Jews and the nations round about.
(38) He himself had carefully worked out his own pedigree before
he consented to leave Babylonia, (39) and in order to perpetuate
the purity of the families and groups remaining in the East, he took
all the "unfit" (40) with him to Palestine.

In the realization of his second hope, the spread of the Torah, Ezra
was so zealous and efficient that it was justly said of him: "If
Moses had not anticipated him, Ezra would have received the
Torah." (41) In a sense he was, indeed, a second Moses. The Torah
had fallen into neglect and oblivion in his day, and he restored and
re-established it in the minds of his people. (42) It is due to him
chiefly that it was divided up into portions, to be read annually,
Sabbath after Sabbath, in the synagogues, (43) and he it was,
likewise, who originated the idea of re-writing the Pentateuch in
"Assyrian" characters. (44) To further his purpose still more, he
ordered additional schools for children to be established
everywhere, though the old ones sufficed to satisfy the demand. He
thought the rivalry between the old and the new institutions would
redound to the benefit of the pupils. (45)

Ezra is the originator of institutions known as "the ten regulations
of Ezra." They are the following: 1. Readings from the Torah on
Sabbath afternoons. 2. Readings from the Torah on Mondays and
Thursdays. 3. Sessions of the court on Mondays and Thursdays. 4.
To do laundry work on Thursdays, not Fridays. 5. To eat garlic on
Friday on account of its salutary action. (46) 6. To bake bread
early in the morning that it may be ready for the poor whenever
they ask for some. 7. Women are to cover the lower parts of their
bodies with a garment called Sinar. (47) 8. Before taking a ritual
bath, the hair is to be combed. 9. The ritual bath prescribed for the
unclean is to cover the case of one who desires to offer prayer or
study the law. (48) 10. Permission to peddlers to sell cosmetics to
women in the towns. (49)

Ezra was not only a great teacher of his people and their wise
leader, he was also their advocate with the celestials, to whom his
relation was of a peculiarly intimate character. Once he addressed
a prayer to God, in which he complained of the misfortune of
Israel and the prosperity of the heathen nations. Thereupon the
angel Uriel appeared to him, and instructed him how that evil has
its appointed time in which to run its course, as the dead have their
appointed time to sojourn in the nether world. Ezra could not rest
satisfied with this explanation, and in response to his further
question, seven prophetic visions were vouchsafed him, and
interpreted by the angel for him. They typified the whole course of
history up to his day, and disclosed the future to his eyes. In the
seventh vision he heard a voice from a thorn-bush, like Moses
aforetimes, and it admonished him to guard in his heart the secrets
revealed to him. The same voice had given Moses a similar
injunction: "These words shalt thou publish, those shalt thou keep
secret." Then his early translation from earth was announced to
him. He besought God to let the holy spirit descend upon him
before he died, so that he might record all that had happened since
the creation of the world as it was set down in the Torah, and
guide men upon the path that leads to God.

Hereupon God bade him take the five experienced scribes, Sarga,
Dabria, Seleucia, Ethan, and Aziel, with him into retirement, and
dictate to them for forty days. After one day spent with these
writers in isolation, remote from the city and from men, a voice
admonished him: "Ezra, open thy mouth, and drink whereof I give
thee to drink." He opened his mouth, and a chalice was handed to
him, filled to the brim with a liquid that flowed like water, but in
color resembled fire. His mouth opened to drink, and for forty days
it was not closed. During all that time, the five scribes put down,
"in signs they did not understand," they were the newly adopted
Hebrew characters, all that Ezra dictated to them, and it made
ninety-four books. At the end of the forty days' period, God spoke
to Ezra thus: "The twenty-four books of the Holy Scriptures thou
shalt publish, for the worthy and the unworthy alike to read; but
the last seventy books thou shalt withhold from the populace, for
the perusal of the wise of thy people." On account of his literary
activity, he is called "the Scribe of the science of the Supreme
Being unto all eternity." (50)

Having finished his task, Ezra was removed from this mundane
world, and he entered the life everlasting. But his death did not
occur in the Holy Land. It overtook him at Khuzistan, in Persia, on
his journey to King Artachshashta. (51)

At Raccia, in Mesopotamia, there stood, as late as the twelfth
century, the synagogue founded by Ezra when he was journeying
from Babylonia to Palestine. (52)

At his grave, over which columns of fire are often seen to hover at
night, (53) a miracle once happened. A shepherd fell asleep by the
side of it. Ezra appeared to him and bade him tell the Jews that
they were to transport his bier to another spot. If the master of the
new place refused assent, he was to be warned to yield permission,
else all the inhabitants of his place would perish. At first the
master refused to allow the necessary excavations to be made.
Only after a large number of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the
place had been stricken down suddenly, he consented to have the
corpse transported thither. As soon as the grave was opened, the
plague ceased.

Shortly before the death of Ezra, the city of Babylon was totally
destroyed by the Persians. There remained but a portion of the wall
which was impregnable by human strength. (54) All the prophecies
hurled against the city by the prophets were accomplished. To this
day there is a spot on its site which no animal can pass unless
some of the earth of the place is strewn upon it. (55)


At the same time with Ezra, or, to speak more accurately, under
his direction, the Great Assembly carried on its beneficent
activities, which laid the foundations of Rabbinical Judaism, and
constituted the binding link between the Jewish Prophet and the
Jewish Sage. (56) The great men who belonged to this august
assembly once succeeded, through the efficacy of their prayers, in
laying hands upon the seducers unto sin, and confining them, to
prevent them from doing more mischief. Thus they banished from
the world "the desire unto idolatry." They tried to do the same to
"the desire unto lustfulness." This evil adversary warned them
against making away with him, for the world would cease to exist
without him. For three days they kept him a prisoner, but then they
had to dismiss him and let him go free. They found that not even
an egg was to be had, for sexual appetite had vanished from the
world. However, he did not escape altogether unscathed. They
plastered up his eyes, and from that time on he gave up inflaming
the passions of men against their blood relations. (57)

Among the decrees and ordinances of the Great Assembly, the
most prominent is the fixation of the prayer of the Eighteen
Benedictions. The several benedictions composing this prayer date
back to remote ancient times. The Patriarchs were their authors,
and the work of the Great Assembly was to put them together in
the order in which we now have them. We know how each of the
benedictions originated: 1. When Abraham was saved from the
furnace angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the Shield of
Abraham," which is the essence of the first of the Eighteen. 2.
When Isaac lay stunned by fright on Mount Moriah, God sent His
dew to revive him, whereupon the angels spoke: "Blessed art
Thou, O Lord, who quickenest the dead." 3. When Jacob arrived at
the gates of heaven and proclaimed the holiness of God, the angels
spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Thou holy God." 4. When
Pharaoh was about to make Joseph the ruler over Egypt, and it
appeared that he was unacquainted with the seventy tongues which
an Egyptian sovereign must know, the angel Gabriel came and
taught him those languages, whereupon the angels spoke: "Blessed
art Thou, O Lord, who graciously bestowest knowledge." 5. When
Reuben committed the trespass against his father, sentence of
death was pronounced upon him in the heavens. But when he
repented, he was permitted to continue to live, and the angels
spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hast delight in repentance."
6. When Judah had committed a trespass against Tamar, and
confessing his guilt obtained forgiveness, the angels spoke:
"Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who pardonest greatly." 7. When Israel
was sore oppressed by Mizraim, and God proclaimed his
redemption, the angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who
redeemest Israel." 8. When the angel Raphael came to Abraham to
soothe the pain of his circumcision, the angels spoke: "Blessed art
Thou, O Lord, who healest the sick." 9. When Israel's sowing in
the land of the Philistines bore an abundant harvest, the angels
spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who blessest the years." 10.
When Jacob was reunited with Joseph and Simon in Egypt, the
angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who gatherest the
dispersed of Thy people Israel." 11. When the Torah was revealed
and God communicated the code of laws to Moses, the angels
spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who lovest righteousness and
justice." 12. When the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, the
angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who shatterest the enemy
and humiliatest the presumptuous." 13. When Joseph laid his
hands on the eyes of his father Jacob, the angels spoke: "Blessed
art Thou, O Lord, who are the stay and the support of the pious."
14. When Solomon built the Temple, the angels spoke: "Blessed
art Thou, O Lord, who buildest Jerusalem." 15. When the children
of Israel singing hymns of praise unto God passed through the Red
Sea, the angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who causest the
hour of salvation to sprout forth." 16. When God lent a gracious
ear to the prayer of the suffering Israelites in Egypt, the angels
spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who hearest our prayer." 17.
When the Shekinah descended between the Cherubim in the
Tabernacle, the angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who wilt
restore Thy Divine Presence to Jerusalem." 18. When Solomon
dedicated his Temple, the angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O
Lord, whose Name is worthy of praise." 19. When Israel entered
the Holy Land, the angels spoke: "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who
establishest peace." (58)


The Book of Esther is the last of the Scriptural writings. The
subsequent history of Israel and all his suffering we know only
through oral tradition. For this reason the heroine of the last
canonical book was named Esther, that is, Venus, the
morning-star, which sheds its light after all the other stars have
ceased to shine, and while the sun still delays to rise. Thus the
deeds of Queen Esther cast a ray of light forward into Israel's
history at its darkest. (1)

The Jews at the time of Ahaseurus were like the dove about to
enter her nest wherein a snake lies coiled. Yet she cannot
withdraw, because a falcon bides without to swoop down upon
her. In Shushan the Jews were in the clutches of Haman, and in
other lands they were at the mercy of many murderous enemies to
their race, ready to do the bidding of Haman to destroy and to
slay them, and cause them to perish. (2)

But the rescue of the Jews from the hand of their adversaries is
only a part of this wonderful chapter in the history of Israel. No
less important is the exalted station to which they rose in the realm
of Ahasuerus after the fall of Haman, especially the power and
dignity to which Esther herself attained. On this account the
magnificent feast prepared by Ahasuerus for his subjects belongs
to the history of Esther.

The splendor of his feast is the gauge whereby to measure the
wealth and power she later enjoyed. (3)

Ahasuerus was not the king of Persia by right of birth. He owed his
position to his vast wealth, with which he purchased dominion
over the whole world. (4)

He had various reasons for giving a gorgeous feast. The third year
of his reign was the seventieth since the beginning of
Nebuchadnezzar's rule, and Ahasuerus thought it quite certain that
the time had passed for the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah
foretelling the return of Israel to the Holy Land. The Temple was
still in ruins, and Ahasuerus was convinced that the Jewish
kingdom would never again be restored. Needless to say, it was not
Jeremiah who erred. Not with the accession of King
Nebuchadnezzar had the prophet's term of years begun, but with
the destruction of Jerusalem. Reckoned in this way, the seventy
years of desolation were at an end exactly at the time when Darius,
the son of Ahasuerus, permitted the rebuilding of the Temple. (5)

Beside this mistaken cause for a celebration, there were reasons
personal to Ahasuerus why he desired to give expression to joy. A
short time before, he had crushed a rebellion against himself, and
this victory he wanted to celebrate with pomp and ceremony. (6)
The first part of the celebration was given over to the hundred and
twenty-seven rulers of the hundred and twenty-seven provinces of
his empire. His purpose was to win the devotion of those of them
with whom otherwise he did not come in direct contact. But can it
be said with certainty that this was a good policy? If he had not
first made sure of the loyalty of his capital, was it not dangerous to
have these rulers near him in case of an insurrection?

For six whole months he celebrated the feast for the grandees the
nobles and the high officials, the latter of whom, according to the
constitution, were all required to be Medians under the Persian
king Ahasuerus, as they would have had to be Persians under a
Median king. (7)

This was the program of the feast: In the first month Ahasuerus
showed his treasures to his guests; in the second, the delegates of
the king's royal vassals saw them; in the third the presents were
exposed to view; in the fourth the guests were invited to admire his
literary possessions, among them the sacred scroll; in the fifth his
pearl and diamond-studded ornaments of gold were put on
exhibition; and in the sixth he displayed the treasures which had
been given him as tribute. (8) All this vast wealth, however,
appertained to the crown, it was not his personal property. When
Nebuchadnezzar felt his end draw nigh, he resolved to sink his
immense treasures in the Euphrates rather than let them ascend to
his son Evil-merodach, so great was his miserliness. But, again,
when Cyrus gave the Jews permission to build the Temple, his
divinely appointed reward was that he discovered the spot in the
river at which the treasures were sunk, and he was permitted to
take possession of them. These were the treasures of which
Ahasuerus availed himself to glorify his feast. So prodigious were
they that during the six months of the feast he unlocked six
treasure-chambers daily to display their contents to his guests. (9)

When Ahasuerus boasted of his wealth, which he had no right to
do, as his treasures had come from the Temple, God said: "Verily,
has the creature of flesh and blood any possessions of his own? I
alone possess treasures, for 'the silver is mind, and the gold is
mine.'" (10)

Among the treasures displayed were the Temple vessels, which
Ahasuerus had desecrated in his drinking bouts. When the noble
Jews who had been invited to the capital saw these, they began to
weep, and they refused to take further part in the festivities.
Thereupon the king commanded that a separate place be assigned
to the Jews, so that their eyes might be spared the painful sight.

This was not the only incident that aroused poignant memories in
them, for Ahasuerus arrayed himself in the robes of state once
belonging to the high priests at Jerusalem, and this, too, made the
Jews smart uncomfortably. (12) The Persian king had wanted to
mount the throne of Solomon besides, but herein he was thwarted,
because its ingenious construction was an enigma to him. Egyptian
artificers tried to fashion a throne after the model of Solomon's,
but in vain. After two years' work they managed to produce a weak
imitation of it, and upon this Ahasuerus sat during his splendid
feast. (13)


At the expiration of the hundred and eighty days allotted to the
feast for the nobles, Ahasuerus arranged a great celebration for the
residents of Shushan, the capital city of Elam. From the creation of
the world until after the deluge the unwritten law had been in
force, that the first-born son of the patriarchs was to be the ruler of
the world. Thus, Seth was the successor to Adam, and he was
followed in turn by Enosh, and so the succession went on, from
first-born son to first-born son, down to Noah and his oldest son
Shem. Now, the first-born son of Shem was Elam, and, according
to custom, he should have been given the universal dominion
which was his heritage. Shem, being a prophet, knew that
Abraham and his posterity, the Israelites, would not spring from
the family of Elam, but from that of Arpachshad. Therefore he
named Arpachshad as his successor, and through him rulership
descended to Abraham, and so to Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, and to
David and his posterity, down to the last Judean king Zedekiah,
who was deprived of his sovereignty by Nebuchadnezzar.

Then it was that God spake thus: "So long as the government
rested in the hands of My children, I was prepared to exercise
patience. The misdeeds of the one were made good by the other. If
one of them was wicked, the other was pious. But now that the
dominions has been wrested from My children, it shall at least
revert to its original possessors. Elam was the first-born son of
Shem, and his seed shall be given the rule." So it happened that
Shushan, the capital city of Elam, became the seat of government.

That there were any celebrations in Shushan was due to Haman,
who even in those early days was devising intrigues against the
Jews. He appeared before Ahasuerus, and said: "O king, this
people is a peculiar people. May it please thee to destroy it."
Ahasuerus replied: "I fear the God of this people; He is very
mighty, and I bear in mind what befell Pharaoh for his wicked
treatment of the Israelites." "Their God," said Haman, "hates an
unchaste life. Do thou, therefore, prepare feasts for them, and
order them to take part in the merry-makings. Have them eat and
drink and act as their heart desireth, so that their God may become
wrathful against them."

When Mordecai heard of the feasts that were planned, he advised
the Jews not to join in them. (15) All the prominent men of his
people and many of the lower classes took his advice to heart.
They fled from Shushan, to avoid being compelled to take part in
the festivities. (16) The rest remained in the city and yielded to
force; they participated in the celebrations, and even permitted
themselves to eat of food prepared by the heathen, though the king
had taken care not to offend the religious conscience of the Jews in
such details. (17) He had been so punctilious that there was no
need for them to drink wine touched by the hand of an idolater, let
alone eat forbidden food. The arrangements for the feast were
entirely in the charge of Haman and Mordecai, so that neither Jew
nor Gentile might absent himself for religious reasons. (18)

It was the aim of the king to let every guest follow the inclination
of his heart. When Ahasuerus issued the order, that the officers of
his house were to "do according to every man's pleasure," God
became wroth with him. "Thou villain," He said, "canst thou do
every man's pleasure? Suppose two men love the same woman, can
both marry her? Two vessels sail forth together from a port, the
one desires a south wind, the other a north wind. Canst thou
produce a wind to satisfy the two? On the morrow Haman and
Mordecai will appear before thee. Wilt thou be able to side with
both?" (19)

The scene of the festivities was in the royal gardens. The upper
branches of the high trees were made to interlace with each other,
so as to form vaulted arches, and the smaller trees with aromatic
foliage were taken up out of the ground, and placed in artfully
constructed tents. From tree to tree stretched curtains of byssus,
white and sapphire blue, and vivid green and royal purple, fastened
to their supports by ropes depending from round silver beams,
these in turn resting on pillars of red, green, yellow, white, and
glittering blue marble. The couches were made of delicate
draperies, their frames stood on silver feet, and the rods attached
to them were of gold. The floor was tiled with crystal and marble,
outlined with precious stones, whose brilliance illuminated the
scene far and wide. (20)

The wine and the other beverages were drunk only from golden
vessels, yet Ahasuerus was so rich that no drinking cup was used
more than a single time. (21) But magnificent as these utensils of
his were, when the holy vessels of the Temple were brought in, the
golden splendor of the others was dimmed; it turned dull as lead.
The wine was in each case older than its drinker. To prevent
intoxication from unaccustomed drinks, every guest was served
with the wine indigenous to his native place. In general, Ahasuerus
followed the Jewish rather than the Persian manner. It was a
banquet rather than a drinking bout. (22) In Persia a custom
prevailed that every participant in a banquet of wine had to drain a
huge beaker far exceeding the drinking capacity of any human
being, and do it he must, though he lost reason and life. The office
butler accordingly was very lucrative, because the guests at such
wassails were in the habit of bribing him to purchase the liberty of
drinking as little as they pleased or dared. This Persian habit of
compelling excess in drinking was ignored at Ahasuerus's banquet;
every guest did as he chose. (23)

The royal bounty did not show itself in food and drink alone. The
king's guests could also indulge in the pleasures of the dance if
they were so minded. Dancers were provided, who charmed the
company with their artistic figures displayed upon the
purple-covered floor. (24) That the enjoyment of the participants
might in no wise be marred, as by separation from their families,
all were permitted to bring their households with them, (25) and
merchants were released from the taxes imposed upon them. (26)

So sure was Ahasuerus of his success as a host that he dared say to
his Jewish guests: "Will your God be able to match this banquet in
the future world?" Whereunto the Jews replied: "The banquet God
will prepare for the righteous in the world to come is that of which
it is written, 'No eye hath seen it but God's; He will accomplish it
for them that wait upon Him.' If God were to offer us a banquet
like unto thine, O king, we should say, Such as this we ate at the
table of Ahasuerus." (27)


The banquet given by Queen Vashti to the women differed but
slightly from Ahasuerus's. She sought to emulate her husband's
example even in the point of exhibiting treasures. Six
store-chambers she displayed daily to the women she had bidden
as guests; aye, she did not even shrink from arraying herself in the
high-priestly garments. The meats and dishes, as at Ahasuerus's
table, were Palestinian, only instead of wine, liqueurs were served,
and sweets.

As the weak sex is subject to sudden attacks of indisposition, the
banquet was given in the halls of the palace, so that the guests
might at need withdraw to the adjoining chambers. The gorgeously
ornamented apartments of the palace, besides, were more
attractive to the feminine taste than the natural beauties of the
royal gardens, "for a woman would rather reside in beautiful
chambers and possess beautiful clothes than eat fatted calves."
(28) Nothing interested the women more than to become
acquainted with the arrangement of the interior of the palace, "for
women are curious to know all things." Vashti gratified their
desire. She showed them all there was to be seen, describing every
place as she came to it: This is the dining-hall, this the wine-room,
this the bed-chamber. (29)

Vashti, too, was actuated by a political motive when she
determined to give her banquet. By inviting the wives of hostages
in case the men rose in insurrection against the king. (30) For
Vashti knew the ways of statecraft. She not only was the wife of a
king, but also the daughter of a king, of Belshazzar. The night of
Belshazzar's murder in his own palace, Vashti, alarmed by the
confusion that ensued, and not knowing of the death of her father,
fled to the apartments in which he was in the habit of sitting. The
Median Darius had already ascended the throne of Belshazzar, and
so it happened that Vashti, instead of finding the hoped-for refuge
with her father, ran straight into the hands of his successor. But he
had compassion with her, and gave her to his son Ahasuerus for


Though Ahasuerus had taken every precaution to prevent
intemperate indulgence in wine, his banquet revealed the essential
difference between Jewish and pagan festivities. When Jews are
gathered about a festal board, they discuss a Halakah, or a
Haggadah, or, at the least, a simple verse from the Scriptures.
Ahasuerus and his boon companions rounded out the banquet with
prurient talk. The Persians lauded the charms of the women of
their people, while the Medians admitted none superior to the
Median women. Then "the fool" Ahasuerus up and spake: "My
wife is neither a Persian nor a Median, but a Chaldean, yet she
excels all in beauty. Would you convince yourselves of the truth of
my words?" "Yes," shouted the company, who were deep in their
cups, "but that we may properly judge of her natural charms, let
her appear before us unadorned, yes, without any apparel
whatsoever," and Ahasuerus agreed to the shameless condition.

The thing was from God, that so insensate a demand should be
made of Vashti by the king. A whole week Mordecai had spent in
fasting and praying, supplicating God to mete out punishment to
Ahasuerus for his desecration of the Temple utensils. On the
seventh day of the week, on the Sabbath, when Mordecai after his
long fast took food, because fasting is forbidden on the Sabbath
day, God heard his prayer and the prayer of the Sanhedrin. (32) He
sent down seven Angels of Confusion to put an end to Ahasuerus's
pleasure. They were named: Mehuman, Confusion; Biztha,
Destruction of the House; Harbonah, Annihilation; Bigtha and
Abagtha, the Pressers of the Winepress, for God had resolved to
crush the court of Ahasuerus as one presses the juice from grapes
in a press; Zetha, Observer of Immorality; and Carcas, Knocker.

There was a particular reason why this interruption of the feast
took place on the Sabbath. Vashti was in the habit of forcing
Jewish maidens to spin and weave on the Sabbath day, and to add
to her cruelty, she would deprive them of all their clothes. It was
on the Sabbath, therefore, that her punishment overtook her, and
for the same reason it was put into the king's heart to have her
appear in public stripped of all clothing. (34)

Vashti recoiled from the king's revolting order. But it must not be
supposed that she shrank from carrying it out because it offended
her moral sense. She was not a whit better than her husband. She
fairly revelled in the opportunity his command gave her to indulge
in carnal pleasures once again, for it was exactly a week since she
had been delivered of a child. But God sent the angel Gabriel to
her to disfigure her countenance. Suddenly signs of leprosy
appeared on her forehead, and the marks of other diseases on her
person. (35) In this state it was impossible for her to show herself
to the king. She made a virtue of necessity, and worded her refusal
to appear before him arrogantly: "Say to Ahasuerus: 'O thou fool
and madman! Hast thou lost thy reason by too much drinking? I
am Vashti, the daughter of Belshazzar, who was a son of
Nebuchadnezzar, the Nebuchadnezzar who scoffed at kings and
unto whom princes were a derision, and even thou wouldst not
have been deemed worthy to run before my father's chariot as a
courier. Had he lived, I should never have been given unto thee for
wife. Not even those who suffered the death penalty during the
reign of my forefather Nebuchadnezzar were stripped bare of their
clothing, and thou demandest that I appear naked in public! Why,
it is for thine own sake that I refuse to heed they order. Either the
people will decide that I do not come up to thy description of me,
and will proclaim thee a liar, or, bewitched by my beauty, they will
kill thee in order to gain possession of me, saying, Shall this fool
be the master of so much beauty?'" (36)

The first lady of the Persian aristocracy encouraged Vashti to
adhere to her resolution. "Better," her adviser said, when
Ahasuerus's second summons was delivered to Vashti, together
with his threat to kill her unless she obeyed, "better the king
should kill thee and annihilate thy beauty, than that thy person
should be admired by other eyes than thy husband's, and thus thy
name be disgraced, and the name of thy ancestors." (37)

When Vashti refused to obey the repeated command to appear
before the king and the hundred and twenty-seven crowned princes
of the realm, Ahasuerus turned to the Jewish sages, and requested
them to pass sentence upon his queen. Their thoughts ran in this
wise: If we condemn the queen to death, we shall suffer for it as
soon as Ahasuerus becomes sober, and hears it was at our advice
that she was executed. But if we admonish him unto clemency
now, while he is intoxicated, he will accuse us of not paying due
deference to the majesty of the king. They therefore resolved upon
neutrality. "Since the destruction of the Temple," they said to the
king, "since we have not dwelt in our land, we have lost the power
to give sage advice, particularly in matters of life and death. Better
seek counsel with the wise men of Ammon and Moab, who have
ever dwelt at ease in their land, like wine that hath settled on its
lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel. (38)

Thereupon Ahasuerus put his charge against Vashti before the
seven princes of Persia, Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish,
Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, who came from Africa, India,
Edom, Tarsus, Mursa, Resen, and Jerusalem, respectively. (39)
The names of these seven officials, each representing his country,
were indicative of their office. Carshena had the care of the
animals, Shethar of the wine, Admatha of the land, Tarshish of the
palace, Meres of the poultry, Marsena of the bakery, and Memucan
provided for the needs of all in the palace, his wife acting as
housekeeper. (40)

This Memucan, a native of Jerusalem, was none other than Daniel,
called Memucan, "the appointed one," because he was designated
by God to perform miracles and bring about the death of Vashti.

When the king applied for advice to these seven nobles, Memucan

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