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The Chosen People by Charlotte Mary Yonge

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"God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spake in time past unto
the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by
His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things."--_Heb_. i, l,

"Yes; so it was ere Jesus came--
Alternate then His Altar flame
Blazed up and died away,
And Silence took her torn with Song,
And Solitude with the fair throng
That owned the festal day;
For in earth's daily circuit then
Only one border
Reflected to the Seraphs' ken,
Heaven's light and order.

But now to the revolving sphere
We point and Say, No desert here,
No waste so dark and lone
But to the hour of sacrifice
Comes daily in its turn, and lies
In light beneath the Throne.
Each point of time, from morn till eve.
From eve to morning,
The shrine doth from the Spouse receive
Praise and adorning."--_Lyra Innocentium_.



In drawing up this little book, at the request of several friends, the
Author has been chiefly guided by experience of what children require to
be told, in order to come to an intelligent perception of the scope of
the Scripture narrative treated historically. Since a general view can
hardly be obtained without brevity, many events have been omitted in
the earlier part, and those only touched upon which have a peculiar
significance in tracing the gradual preparation for the work of
Redemption; and though one great object has been the illustration of
Prophecy, the course of types has been passed over, lest the plain
narrative should be confused, since types are rather subjects of
devotional contemplation than of history, and they should be perfectly
comprehended as _facts_, before being treated as allegorical.

The next portion is little save an abridgement from Prideaux's
Connexion, taken in connection with the conclusions drawn by modern
discoveries, as detailed in Mr. G. Rawlinson's valuable edition of
Herodotus. It is hoped that by thus filling up the interval between
the New and Old Testaments, that children may thus be fairly able to
understand what they read in the Gospels of the Roman dominion, the
relation to Herod, the mutual hatred of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and
the enmity to the Samaritans.

The concluding lessons are offered with great diffidence, and with many
doubts whether the absence of detail may not prevent them from being
easily remembered; but it has been felt important that the connection of
the actual Church with that of the Apostles and Martyrs, should be made
evident to the general mind, and the present condition of the Church
accounted for. The choice of subjects has been very difficult; but it
is hoped that those selected may be those most needful to be known as
evidence that our present Church has every claim to the promise of Him
Who will abide with her for ever.

If older and more critical persons than those for whom the little work
is intended should cast an eye over it, the author hopes that they will
bear in mind how the need of being both brief and clear is apt to render
statements apparently bolder, and sometimes harsher, than where there is
room for qualification or argument; and that they will not always accuse
the work of unthinking boldness of assertion, where the softening is
omitted for fear both of wearying and perplexing the young reader.

The chronology, for the sake of the convenience of teachers and
scholars, is that of the margin of our Bibles.

The questions at the end are chiefly intended to direct the mind of
the learner to the point of each lesson. It will be perceived that the
answers must he prepared as well from the Bible as from the book; and
in most cases the teacher will in use have to multiply, and perhaps to
simplify them. One of their especial objects has been to show the ever
brightening stream of prophecy, and afterwards, its accomplishment alike
with regard to heathen nations, to the history of the Jews, of the
Church, and, above all, to the Life of our Blessed Lord; and it is hoped
that those who examine into them, cannot fail to be struck with the full
and perfect accordance of the beginning with the end; and if they learn
no other lesson, will have it impressed on them, how "the counsel of the
Lord endureth for ever."

Two tables have been added for the convenience of the scholar, one
giving the contemporary kings and prophets, the other the course
of historical chapters, with, as far as possible, the prophetical,
didactic, or poetical books, of the same date ranged in parallel lines.
It is hoped that these may be found useful in arranging lessons for
upper classes or pupil teachers.

_May 20th_, 1859.



1689 Genesis
1529 Job
Psalm lxxxviii. by Heman, the Ezrahite, (See
1 Chron. ii. 6)
1491 Exodus
1491 Leviticus
1451 Numbers Psalm xc. and (perhaps) xci
1450 Deuteronomy
1427 Joshua
1312 Ruth
1120 Judges
1056 1 Samuel Psalms, certainly vii, xi, xvi, xvii, xxii, xxxi,
xxxiv, lvi, liv, lii, cix, xxxv, lvii, lviii,
cxliii, cxl, cxli, and many more
1056 1 Chronicles Psalms, certainly ii, vi, ix, xx,
1023 Psalms iii, iv, lv, lxii,
lxx, lxxi, cxliii, cxliv, all on
occasion of the war with Absalom
1017 2 Samuel 1015 from chap. ii xxi, xxiv, lxviii, xxxii, xxxiii,
xxxviii, xxxix, xl, li,
xxxii, ci, ciii.
1017 Psalms xviii, xxx, many more
of David
Psalm xxviii (other Psalms
of the elder Asaph) Chron.
xvi. 5




"The creature was made subject unto vanity, not willingly, but by reason
of Him who hath subjected the same in hope."--_Rom_. viii. 20.

When the earth first came from the hand of God, it was "very good," and
man, the best of all the beings it contained, was subjected to a trial
of obedience. The fallen angel gained the ear of the woman, and led her
to disobey, and to persuade her husband to do the same; and that failure
gave Satan power over the world, and over all Adam's children, bringing
sin and death upon the earth, and upon all, whether man or brute, who
dwelt therein.

Yet the merciful God would not give up all the creatures whom He had
made, to eternal destruction without a ray of hope, and even while
sentencing them to the punishment they had drawn on themselves, He held
out the promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the head of the
serpent, the Devil; and they were taught by the sight of sacrifices of
animals, that the death of the innocent might yet atone for the sin of
the guilty; though these creatures were not of worth enough really to
bear the punishment for man.

Abel's offering of the lamb proved his faith, and thus was more worthy
than Cain's gift of the fruits of the earth. When Cain in his envy slew
his brother, he and his children were cast off by God, and those of his
younger brother, Seth, were accepted, until they joined themselves to
the ungodly daughters of Cain; and such sin prevailed, that Enoch, the
seventh from Adam, prophesied of judgment at hand, before he was taken
up alive into Heaven. When eight hundred and nine hundred years were
the usual term of men's lives, and the race was in full strength and
freshness, there was time for mind and body to come to great force;
and we find that the chief inventions of man belong to these sons of
Cain--the dwelling in tents, workmanship in brass and iron, and the use
of musical instruments. On the other hand, the more holy of the line of
Seth handed on from one to the other the history of the blessed days of
Eden, and of God's promise, and lived upon hope and faith.

Noah, whose father had been alive in the latter years of Adam's life,
was chosen from among the descendants of Seth, to be saved out of the
general ruin of the corrupt earth, and to carry on the promise. His
faith was first tried by the command to build the ark, though for
one hundred and twenty years all seemed secure, without any token of
judgment; and the disobedient refused to listen to his preaching. When
the time came, his own family of eight persons were alone found worthy
to be spared from the destruction, together with all the animals with
them preserved in the ark, two of each kind, and a sevenfold number of
those milder and purer animals which part the hoof and chew the cud, and
were already marked out as fit for sacrifice.

It was the year 2348 B.C. that Noah spent in floating upon the waste of
waters while every living thing was perishing round him, and afterwards
in seeing the floods return to their beds in oceans, lakes, and rivers,
which they shall never again overpass.

The ark first came aground on the mountain of Ararat, in Armenia, a
sacred spot to this day; and here God made His covenant with Noah,
renewing His first blessing to Adam, permitting the use of animal food;
promising that the course of nature should never be disturbed again till
the end of all things, and making the glorious tints of the rainbow,
which are produced by sunlight upon water, stand as the pledge of this
assurance. Of man He required abstinence from eating the blood of
animals, and from shedding the blood of man, putting, as it were, a mark
of sacredness upon life-blood, so as to lead the mind on to the Blood
hereafter to be shed.

Soon a choice was made among the sons of Noah. Ham mocked at his
father's infirmity, while his two brothers veiled it; and Noah was
therefore inspired to prophesy that Canaan, the son of the undutiful
Ham, should be accursed, and a servant of servants; that Shem should
especially belong to the Lord God, and that Japhet's posterity should be
enlarged, and should dwell in the tents of Shem. Thus Shem was marked as
the chosen, yet with hope that Japhet should share in his blessings.

It seems as if Ham had brought away some of the arts and habits of the
giant sons of Cain, for in all worldly prosperity his sons had the
advantage. In 2247 B. C. the sons of men banded themselves together to
build the Tower of Babel on the plain of Shinar, just below the hills of
Armenia, where the two great rivers Euphrates and Tigris make the flats
rich and fertile. For their presumption, God confounded their speech,
and the nations first were divided. Ham's children got all the best
regions; Nimrod, the child of his son Cush, kept Babel, built the first
city, and became the first king. Canaan's sons settled themselves in
that goodliest of all lands which bore his name; and Mizraim's children
obtained the rich and beautiful valley of the Nile, called Egypt. All
these were keen clever people, builders of cities, cultivators of the
land, weavers and embroiderers, earnest after comfort and riches, and
utterly forgetting, or grievously corrupting, the worship of God. Others
of the race seem to have wandered further south, where the heat of the
sun blackened their skins; and their strong constitution, and dull meek
temperament, marked them out to all future generations as a prey to be
treated like animals of burden, so as to bear to the utmost the curse of

Shem's sons, simpler than those of Ham, continued to live in tents and
watch their cattle, scattered about in the same plains, called from
the two great streams, Mesopotamia, or the land of rivers. Some
travelled westwards, and settling in China and India, became a rich and
wealthy people, but constantly losing more and more the recollection of
the truth; and some went on in time from isle to isle to the western
hemisphere--lands where no other foot should tread till the world should
be grown old.

Japhet's children seemed at first the least favoured, for no place,
save the cold dreary north, was found for most of them. Some few, the
children of Javan, found a home in the fair isles of the Mediterranean,
but the greater part were wild horsemen in Northern Asia and Europe.
This was a dark and dismal training, but it braced them so that in
future generations they proved to have far more force and spirit than
was to be found among the dwellers in milder climates.



"The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham."--Acts, vii. 2.

Among the sons of Shem (called Hebrews after his descendant Heber, who
dwelt in Mesopotamia) was Abram, the good and faithful man, whom God
chose out to be the father of the people in whom He was going to set His
Light. In the year 1921, He tried Abram's faith by calling on him to
leave his home, and go into a land which he knew not, but which should
belong to his children after him--Abram, who had no child at all.

Yet he obeyed and believed, and was led into the beautiful hilly land
then held by the sons of Canaan, where he was a stranger, wandering with
his flocks and herds and servants from one green pasture to another,
without a loot of land to call his own. For showing his faith by thus
doing as he was commanded, Abram was rewarded by the promise that in
his Seed should all the families of the earth be blessed; his name was
changed to Abraham, which means a father of a great multitude; and as a
sign that he had entered into a covenant with God, he was commanded to
circumcise his children.

One son, Ishmael, had by this time been born to him of the bondmaid
Hagar; but the child of promise, Isaac, the son of his wife Sarah, was
not given till he was a hundred years old. Ishmael was cast out for
mocking at his half-brother, the heir of the promises; but in answer to
his father's prayers, he too became the father of a great nation, namely
the Arabs, who still live in the desert, with their tents, their flocks,
herds, and fine horses, much as Ishmael himself must have lived. They
are still circumcised, and honour Abraham as their father; and with them
are joined the Midianites and other tribes descended from Abraham's last
wife, Keturah.

Isaac alone was to inherit the promise, and it was renewed to him and
to his father, when their faith had been proved by their submission to
God's command, that Isaac should be offered as a burnt-offering upon
Mount Moriah, a sign of the Great Sacrifice long afterwards, when God
did indeed provide Himself a Lamb.

When Abraham bought the Cave of Machpelah for a, burial-place, it was
in the full certainty that though he was now a stranger in the land, it
would be his children's home; and it was there that he and the other
patriarchs were buried after their long and faithful pilgrimage.

Isaac's wife, Rebekah, was fetched from Abraham's former home, in
Mesopotamia, that he might not be corrupted by marrying a Canaanite.
Between his two sons, Esau and Jacob, there was again a choice; for God
had prophesied that the elder should serve the younger, and Esau did not
value the birthright which would have made him heir to no lands
that would enrich himself, and to a far-off honour that he did not
understand. So despising the promises of God, he made his right over
to his brother for a little food, when he was hungry, and though he
repented with tears when it was too late, he could not win back what he
had once thrown away.

His revengeful anger when he found how he had been supplanted, made
Jacob flee to his mother's family in Mesopotamia, and there dwell for
many years, ere returning to Canaan with his large household, there to
live in the manner that had been ordained for the first heirs of the
promise. Esau went away to Mount Seir, to the south of the Promised
Land, and his descendants were called the Edomites, from his name,
meaning the Red; and so, too, the sea which washed their shores, took
the name of the Sea of Edom, or the Red Sea. They were also named
Kenites from his son Kenaz. Their country, afterwards called Idumea, was
full of rocks and precipices, and in these the Edomites hollowed
out caves for themselves, making them most beautiful, with pillars
supporting the roof within, and finely-carved entrances, cut with
borders, flowers, and scrolls, so lasting that the cities of Bosra and
Petra are still a wonder to travellers, though they have been empty
and deserted for centuries past. The Edomites did not at once lose the
knowledge of the true God; indeed, as many believe, of them was born the
prophet Job, whom Satan was permitted to try with every trouble he could
conjure up, so that his friends believed that such sufferings could only
be brought on him for some great sin; whereas he still maintained that
the ways of God were hidden, and gave utterance to one of the clearest
ancient prophecies of the Redeemer and the Resurrection. At length God
answered him from the whirlwind, and proclaimed His greatness through
His unsearchable works; and Job, for his patience in the time of
adversity, was restored to far more than his former prosperity.

Jacob's name was changed to Israel, which meant a prince before God; and
his whole family were taken into the covenant, though the three elder
sons, for their crimes, forfeited the foremost places, which passed to
Judah and Joseph; and Levi was afterwards chosen as the tribe set apart
for the priesthood, the number twelve being made up by reckoning Ephraim
and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, as heads of tribes, like their uncles.
Long ago, Abraham had been told that his seed should sojourn in Egypt;
and when the envious sons of Israel sold their innocent brother Joseph,
their sin was bringing about God's high purpose. Joseph was inspired
to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, which foretold the famine; and when
by-and-by his brothers came to buy the corn that he had laid up, he made
himself known, forgave them with all his heart, and sent them to fetch
his father to see him once more. Then the whole family of Israel,
seventy in number, besides their wives, came and settled in the land
of Goshen, about the year 1707, and were there known by the name of
Hebrews, after Heber, the great-grand-son of Shem. There in Goshen,
Jacob ended the days of his pilgrimage, desiring his sons to carry his
corpse back to the Cave of Machpelah, there to be buried, and await
their return when the time of promise should come. He gave his blessing
to all his sons, and was inspired to mark out Joseph among them as the
one whose children should have the choicest temporal inheritance; but of
the fourth son, he said, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor
a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." Shiloh meant Him
that should be sent, and Judah was thus marked out to be the princely
tribe, which was to have the rule until the Seed should come.



"When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of
Egypt."--_Hosea_, xi. 1.

The country where the Israelites had taken up their abode, was the
valley watered by the great river Nile. There is nothing but desert,
wherever this river does not spread itself, for it never rains, and
there would be dreadful drought, if every year, when the snow melts upon
the mountains far south, where is the source of the stream, it did not
become so much swelled as to spread far beyond its banks, and overflow
all the flat space round it. Then as soon as the water subsides, the hot
sun upon the mud that it has left brings up most beautiful grass, and
fine crops of corn with seven or nine ears to one stalk; grand fruits of
all kinds, melons, pumpkins, and cucumbers, flax for weaving linen, and
everything that a people can desire. Indeed, the water of the river is
so delicious, that it is said that those who have once tasted it are
always longing to drink it again.

The sons of Mizraim, son of Ham, who first found out this fertile
country, were a very clever race, and made the most of the riches of the
place. They made dykes and ditches to guide the floodings into their
fields and meadows; they cultivated the soil till it was one beautiful
garden; they wove their flax into fine linen; and they made bricks of
their soft clay, and hewed stone from the hills higher up the river, so
that their buildings have been the wonder of all ages since. They had
kings to rule them, and priests to guide their worship; but these
priests had very wrong and corrupt notions themselves, and let the poor
ignorant people believe even greater folly than they did themselves.

They thought that the great God lived among them in the shape of a bull
with one spot on his back like an eagle, and one on his tongue like a
beetle; and this creature they called Apis, and tended with the utmost
care. When he died they all went into mourning, and lamented till a calf
like him was found, and was brought home with the greatest honour; and
for his sake all cattle were sacred, and no one allowed to kill them.
Besides the good Power, they thought there was an evil one as strong as
the good, and they worshipped him likewise, to beg him to do them no
harm; so the dangerous crocodiles of the Nile were sacred, and it was
forbidden to put them to death. They had a dog-god and a cat-goddess,
and they honoured the beetle because they saw it rolling a ball of earth
in which to lay its eggs, and fancied it an emblem of eternity; and thus
all these creatures were consecrated, and when they died were rolled up
in fine linen and spices, just as the Egyptians embalmed their own dead.

Mummies, as we call these embalmed Egyptian corpses, are often found
now, laid up in beautiful tombs, cut out in the rock, and painted in
colours still fresh with picture writing, called hieroglyphics, telling
in tokens all the history of the person whose body they contained. The
kings built tombs for themselves, like mountains, square at the bottom,
but each course of stones built within the last till they taper to a
point at the top. These are called pyramids, and have within them very
small narrow passages, leading to a small chamber, just large enough to
hold a king's coffin.

They had enormous idols hewn out of stone. The head of one, which you
may see in the British Museum, is far taller than the tallest man, and
yet the face is really handsome, and there are multitudes more, both of
them and of their temples, still remaining on the banks of the Nile.
The children of Israel, being chiefly shepherds, kept apart from the
Egyptians at first; but as time went on they learnt some of their
habits, and many of them had begun to worship their idols and forget the
truth, when their time of affliction came. The King of Egypt, becoming
afraid of having so numerous and rich a people settled in his dominions,
tried to keep them down by hard bondage and heavy labour. He made them
toil at his great buildings, and oppressed them in every possible
manner; and when he found that they still throve and increased, he made
the cruel decree, that every son who was born to them should be cast
into the river.

But man can do nothing against the will of God, and this murderous
ordinance proved the very means of causing one of these persecuted
Hebrew infants to be brought up in the palace of Pharaoh, and instructed
in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, the only people who at that time had
any human learning. Even in his early life, Moses seems to have been
aware that he was to be sent to put an end to the bondage of his people,
for, choosing rather to suffer with them than to live in prosperity
with their oppressors, he went out among them and tried to defend them,
and to set them at peace with one another; but the time was not yet
come, and they thrust him from them, so that he was forced to fly for
shelter to the desert, among the Midianite descendants of Abraham. After
he had spent forty years there as a shepherd, God appeared to him, and
then first revealed Himself as JEHOVAH, the Name proclaiming His eternal
self-existence, I AM THAT I AM, a Name so holy, that the translators of
our Bible have abstained from repeating it where it occurs, but have put
the Name, the LORD, in capital letters in its stead. Moses was then sent
to Egypt to lead out the Israelites on their way back to the land so
long promised to their fore-fathers; and when Pharaoh obstinately
refused to let them go, the dreadful plagues and wonders that were sent
on the country were such as to show that their gods were no gods; since
their river, the glory of their land, became a loathsome stream of
blood, creeping things came and went at the bidding of the Lord, and
their adored cattle perished before their eyes. At last, on the night of
the Passover, in each of the houses unmarked by the blood of the Lamb,
there was a great cry over the death of the first-born son; and where
the sign of faith was seen, there was a mysterious obedient festival
held by families prepared for a strange new journey. Then the hard heart
yielded to terror, and Israel went oat of Egypt as a nation. They had
come in in 1707 as seventy men, they went out in 1491 as six hundred
thousand, and their enemies, following after them, sank like lead in the
mighty waters of that arm of the Red Sea, which had divided to let the
chosen pass through.



"Where Is He that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd of
His flock? Where is He that put His Holy Spirit within him?"--_Isaiah_,
lxiii. 11.

When Moses had led the 600,000 men, with their wives, children, and
cattle, beyond the reach of the Egyptians, they were in a small
peninsula, between the arms of the Red Sea, with the wild desolate peaks
of Mount Horeb towering in the midst, and all around grim stony crags,
with hardly a spring of water; and though there were here and there
slopes of grass, and bushes of hoary-leaved camel-thorn, and long-spined
shittim or acacia, nothing bearing fruit for human beings. There were
strange howlings and crackings in the mountains, the sun glared back
from the arid stones and rocks, and the change seemed frightful after
the green meadows and broad river of Egypt.

Frightened and faithless, the Israelites cried out reproachfully to
Moses to ask how they should live in this desert place, forgetting that
the Pillar of cloud and fire proved that they were under the care of Him
who had brought them safely out of the hands of their enemies. In His
mercy God bore with their murmurs, fed them with manna from Heaven, and
water out of the flinty rock; and gave them the victory over the Edomite
tribe of robber Amalekites at Rephidim, where Joshua fought, and Moses,
upheld by Aaron and Hur, stretched forth his hands the whole day. Then,
fifty days after their coming out of Egypt, He called them round the
peak of Sinai to hear His own Voice proclaim the terms of the new

The Covenant with Abraham had circumcision for the token, faith as the
condition, and the blessing to all nations as the promise. This Covenant
remained in full force, but in the course of the last four hundred
years, sin had grown so much that the old standard, handed down from the
patriarchs, had been forgotten, and men would not have known what was
right, nor how far they fell from it, without a written Law. This Law,
in ten rules, all meeting together in teaching Love to God and man,
commanded in fact perfection, without which no man could be fit to stand
in the sight of God. He spoke it with His own Mouth, from amid cloud,
flame, thunder, and sounding trumpets, on Mount Sinai, while the
Israelites watched around in awe and terror, unable to endure the dread
of that Presence. The promise of this Covenant was, that if they would
keep the Law, they should dwell prosperously in the Promised Land, and
be a royal priesthood and peculiar treasure unto God, They answered with
one voice, "All the words the Lord hath said will we do;" and Moses made
a sacrifice, and sprinkled them with the blood, to consecrate them and
confirm their oath. It was the blood of the Old Testament. Then he went
up into the darkness of the cloud on the mountain top, there fasting,
to talk with God, and to receive the two Tables of Stone written by
the Finger of God. This was, as some believe, the first writing in the
letters of the alphabet ever known in the world, and the Books of
Moses were the earliest ever composed, and set down with the pen upon

Those Laws were too strict for man in his fallen state. Keep them he
could not; breaking them, he became too much polluted to be fit for
mercy. Even while living in sight of the cloud on the Mountain, where
Moses was known to be talking with God, the Israelites lost faith, and
set up a golden calf in memory of the Egyptian symbol of divinity,
making it their leader instead of Moses. Such a transgression of their
newly-made promise so utterly forfeited their whole right to the
covenant, that Moses destroyed the precious tables, the token of the
mutual engagement, and God threatened to sweep them off in a moment and
to fulfil His oaths to their forefather in the children of Moses alone.
Then Moses, having purified the camp by slaying the worst offenders,
stood between the rest and the wrath of God, mediating for them until he
obtained mercy for them, and a renewal of the Covenant. Twice he spent
forty days in that awful Presence, where glorious visions were revealed
to him; the Courts of Heaven itself, to be copied by him, by Divine
guidance, in the Ark and Tabernacle, where his brother Aaron, and his
seed after him, were to minister as Priests, setting forth to the eye
how there was a Holy Place, whence men were separated by sin, and how it
could only be entered by a High Priest, after a sacrifice of atonement.
Every ordinance of this service was a shadow of good things to come, and
was therefore strictly enjoined on Israel, as part of the conditions of
the Covenant, guiding their faith onwards by this acted prophecy; and
therewith God, as King of His people, put forth other commands, some
relating to their daily habits, others to their government as a nation,
all tending to keep them separate from other nations. For transgressions
of such laws as these, or for infirmities of human nature, regarded as
stains, cleansing sacrifices were permitted. For offences against
the Ten Commandments, there was no means of purchasing remission; no
animal's, nay, no man's life could equal such a cost; there was nothing
for it but to try to dwell on the hope, held out to Adam and Abraham,
and betokened by the sacrifices and the priesthood, of some fuller
expiation yet to come; some means of not only obtaining pardon, but of
being worthy of mercy.

The Israelites could not even be roused to look for the present temporal
promise, and hankered after the fine soil and rich fruits of Egypt,
rather than the beautiful land of hill and valley that lay before them;
and when their spies reported it to be full of hill forts, held by
Canaanites of giant stature, a cowardly cry of despair broke out, that
they would return to Egypt. Only two of the whole host, besides Moses,
were ready to trust to Him who had delivered them from Pharaoh, and had
led them through the sea. Therefore those two alone of the grown-up men
were allowed to set foot in the Promised Land. Till all the rest should
have fallen in the wilderness, and a better race have been trained up,
God would not help them to take possession. In their wilfulness they
tried to advance, and were defeated, and thus were obliged to endure
their forty years' desert wandering.

Even Moses had his patience worn out by their fretful faithlessness,
and committed an act of disobedience, for which he was sentenced not to
enter the land, but to die on the borders after one sight of the promise
of his fathers. Under him, however, began the work of conquest; the rich
pasture lands of Gilead and Basan were subdued, and the tribes of Reuben
and Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, were permitted to take these as
their inheritance, though beyond the proper boundary, the Jordan. The
Moabites took alarm, though these, as descended from Abraham's nephew
Lot, were to be left unharmed; and their king, Balak, sent, as it
appears, even to Mesopotamia for Balaam, a true prophet, though a guilty
man, in hopes that he would bring down the curse of God on them. Balaam,
greedy of reward, forced, as it were, consent from God to go to Balak,
though warned that his words would not be in his own power. As he stood
on the hill top with Balak, vainly endeavouring to curse, a glorious
stream of blessing flowed from his lips, revealing, not only the fate of
all the tribes around, even for a thousand years, but proclaiming the
Sceptre and Star that should rise out of Jacob to execute vengeance on
his foes. But finding himself unable to curse Israel, the miserable
prophet devised a surer means of harming them: he sent tempters among
them to cause them to corrupt themselves, and so effectual was this
invention, that the greater part of the tribe of Simeon were ensnared,
and a great plague was sent in chastisement. It was checked by the zeal
of the young priest, Phineas, under whose avenging hand so many of the
guilty tribe fell, that their numbers never recovered the blow. Then
after a prayer of atonement, a great battle was fought, and the wretched
Balaam was among the slain.

The forty years were over, Moses's time was come, and he gave his last
summing up of the Covenant, and sung his prophetic song. His authority
was to pass to his servant, the faithful spy, bearing the prophetic name
of Joshua; and he was led by God to the top of Mount Nebo, whence he
might see in its length and breadth, the pleasant land, the free hills,
the green valleys watered by streams, the wooded banks of Jordan, the
pale blue expanse of the Mediterranean joining with the sky to the west;
and to the north, the snowy hills of Hermon, which sent their rain and
dew on all the goodly mountain land. It had been the hope of that old
man's hundred and twenty years, and he looked forth on it with his eye
not dim, nor his natural force abated; but God had better things for him
in Heaven, and there upon the mountain top he died alone, and God buried
him in the sepulchre whereof no man knoweth. None was like to him in the
Old Covenant, who stood between God and the Israelites, but he left a
promise that a Prophet should be raised up like unto himself.



"But He was so merciful, that He forgave their misdeeds and destroyed
them not."--_Psalm_ Lxxviii. 38.

In the year 1431, Joshua led the tribes through the divided waters of
the Jordan, and received strength and skill to scatter the heathen
before them, conquer the cities, and settle them in their inheritance.

The Land of Canaan was very unlike Egypt, with its flat soil, dry
climate, and single river. It was a narrow strip, inclosed between the
Mediterranean Sea and the river Jordan, which runs due south down a
steep wooded cleft into the Dead Sea, the lowest water in the world, in
a sort of pit of its own, with barren desolation all round it, so as to
keep in memory the ruin of the cities of the plain. In the north, rise
the high mountains of Libanus, a spur from which goes the whole length
of the land, and forms two slopes, whence the rivers flow, either
westward into the Great Sea, or eastward into the Jordan, Many of these
hills are too dry and stony to be cultivated; but the slopes of some
have fine grassy pastures, and the soil of the valleys is exceedingly
rich, bearing figs, vines, olive trees, and corn in plenty, wherever it
is properly tilled. With such hills, rivers, valleys, and pastures, it
was truly a goodly land, and when God's blessing was on it, it was the
fairest spot where man could live. When the Israelites entered it,
every hill was crowned by a strongly-walled and fortified town, the
abode of some little king of one of the seven Canaanite nations who
were given into their hands to be utterly destroyed. Though they were
commanded to make a complete end of all the people in each place they
took, they were forbidden to seize more than they could till, lest the
empty ruins should serve as a harbour for wild beasts; but they had
their several lots marked out where they might spread when their numbers
should need room. As Jacob had promised to Joseph, Ephraim and half
Manaseh had the richest portion, nearly in the middle, and Shiloh, where
the Tabernacle was set up, was in their territory; Judah and Benjamin
were in a very wild rocky part to the southwards, between the two seas,
with only Simeon beyond them; then came, north of Manasseh, the fine
pasture lands of Issachar and Zebulon, and a small border for Asher
between Libanus and the sea; while Reuben, Gad, and the rest of
Manasseh, were to the east of the Jordan, where they had begged to
settle themselves in the meadows of Bashan, and the balmy thickets of

Many a fortified town was still held by the Canaanites, in especial
Jebus, on Mount Moriah, between Judah and Benjamin; and close to Asher,
the two great merchant cities of the Zidonians upon the sea-shore.
These were called Tyre and Zidon, and their inhabitants were named
Phoenicians, and were the chief sailors and traders of the Old World.
From seeing a dog's mouth stained purple after eating a certain
shell-fish on their coast, they had learnt how to dye woollen garments
of a fine purple or scarlet, which was thought the only colour fit for
kings, and these were sent out to all the countries round, in exchange
for balm and spices from Gilead; corn and linen from Egypt; ivory,
pearls, and rubies from India; gold from the beds of rivers in Chittim
or Asia Minor; and silver from Spain, then called Tarshish. Thus they
grew very rich and powerful, and were skilful in all they undertook. The
art of writing, which they seem to have caught from the Hebrews, went
from them to the Greeks, sons of Japhet, who lived more to the north, in
what were called the Isles of the Gentiles.

The Canaanites had a still fouler worship than the other sons of Ham in
Egypt. They had many gods, whom they called altogether Baalim, or lords;
and goddesses, whom they called Ashtoreth; and they thought that each
had some one city or people to defend; and that the Lord Jehovah of the
Israelites was such another as these, instead of being the only God
of Heaven and earth. Among these there was one great Baal to whom the
Phoenicians were devoted, and an especial Ashtoreth, the moon, or Queen
of Heaven, who was thought to have a lover named Tammuz, who died with
the flowers in the autumn and revived in the spring, and the women
took delight in wailing and bemoaning his death, and then dancing and
offering cakes in honour of his revival. Besides these, there was the
planet Saturn, or as they called him, Moloch or Remphan, of whom they
had a huge brazen statue with the hands held a little apart, set up over
a furnace; they put poor little children between these brazen hands, and
left them to drop into the flames below as an offering to this dreadful

Well might such worship be called abomination, and the Israelites be
forbidden to hold any dealings with those who followed it. As long
as the generation lived who had been bred up in the wilderness, they
obeyed, and felt themselves under the rule of God their King, Who made
His Will known at Shiloh by the signs on the breastplate of the High
Priest, while judges and elders governed in the cities. But afterwards
they began to be tempted to make friends with their heathen neighbours,
and thus learnt to believe in their false deities, and to hanker after
the service of some god who made no such strict laws of goodness as
those by which they were bound. As certainly as they fell away, so
surely the punishment came, and God stirred up some of these dangerous
friends to attack them. Sometimes it was a Canaanite tribe with iron
chariots who mightily oppressed them; sometimes the robber shepherds,
the Midianites, would burst in and carry off their cattle and their
crops, until distress brought the Israelites back to a better mind, and
they cried out to the Lord. Then He would raise up a mighty warrior, and
give him the victory, so that he became ruler and judge over Israel; but
no sooner was he dead, than they would fall back again into idolatry,
and receive another chastisement, repent, and be again delivered. This
went on for about 400 years, the Israelites growing constantly worse. In
the latter part of this time, their chief enemies were the Philistines,
in the borders of Simeon and Judah, near the sea. These were not
Canaanites, but had once dwelt in Egypt, and then, after living for a
time in Cyprus, had come and settled in Gaza and Ashkelon, and three
other very strong cities on the coast, where they worshipped a fish-god,
called Dagon. They had no king, but were ruled by lords of their five
cities, and made terrible inroads upon all the country round; until at
last the Israelites, in their self-will, fancied they could turn them to
flight by causing the Ark to be carried out to battle by the two corrupt
young priests, sons of Eli, whose doom had already been pronounced--that
they should both die in one day. They were slain, when the Ark was taken
by the enemies, and their aged father fell back and broke his neck in
the shock of the tidings. The glory had departed; and though God proved
His might by shattering Dagon's image before the Ark, and plaguing the
Philistines wherever they carried it, till they were forced to send
it home in a manner which again showed the Divine Hand, yet it never
returned to Shiloh; God deserted the place where His Name had not been
kept holy; the token of the Covenant seemed to be lost; the Philistines
ruled over the broken and miserable Israelites, and there was only one
promise to comfort them--that the Lord would raise up unto Himself
a faithful Priest. Already there was growing up at Shiloh the young
Levite, Samuel, dedicated by his mother, and bred up by Eli. He is
counted as first of the prophets, that long stream of inspired men,
who constantly preached righteousness, and to whom occasionally future
events were made known. He was also last of the Judges, or heaven-sent
deliverers. As soon as he grew up, he rallied the Israelites, restored
the true worship, as far as could be with the Ark in concealment, and
sent them out to battle. They defeated the Philistines, and under
Samuel, again became a free nation.



"As is the fat taken away from the peace-offering, so was David chosen
out of the children of Israel ... In all his works he praised the Holy
One Most High with words of glory .... The Lord took away his sins and
exalted his horn for ever, He gave him a covenant of kings, and a throne
of glory in Israel."--_Ecclus._ xlvii. II.

When Samuel grew old, the Israelites would not trust to God to choose a
fresh guardian for them, but cried out for a king to keep them together
and lead them to war like other nations. Their entreaty was granted, and
in 1094 B. C. Saul the son of Kish, of the small but fierce tribe of
Benjamin, was appointed by God, and anointed like a priest by Samuel,
on the understanding that he was not to rule by his own will, like the
princes around, but as God's chief officer, to enforce His laws and
carry out His bidding.

This Saul would not do. When, instead of lurking in caves, with no
weapons save their tools for husbandry, the Israelites, under his
leading, gradually became free and warlike; and his son Jonathan and
uncle Abner were able generals, he fancied he could go his own way, he
took on him to offer sacrifice, as the heathen kings did; and when sent
forth to destroy all belonging to the Amalekites, he spared the king
and the choicest of the spoil. For this he was sentenced not to be the
founder of a line of kings, and the doom filled him with wrath against
the priesthood, while an evil spirit was permittted to trouble his soul,
Samuel's last great act was to anoint the youngest son of Jesse the
Bethlehemite, the great grandchild of the loving Moabitess, Ruth, the
same whom God had marked beside his sheepfolds as the man after His own
Heart, the future father of the sceptred line of Judah, and of the
"Root and Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star."

Fair and young, full of inspired song, and of gallant courage, the youth
David was favoured as the minstrel able to drive the evil spirit from
Saul, the champion who had slain the giant of Gath. He was the king's
son-in-law, the prince's bosom friend; but, as the hopes of Israel
became set on him, Saul began to hate him as if he were a supplanter,
though Jonathan submitted to the Will that deprived himself of a throne,
and loved his friend as faithfully as ever. At last, by Jonathan's
counsel, David fled from court, and Saul in his rage at thinking him
aided by the priests, slew all who fell into his hands, thus cutting off
his own last link with Heaven. A trusty band of brave men gathered round
David, but he remained a loyal outlaw, and always abstained from any
act against his sovereign, even though Saul twice lay at his mercy.
Patiently he tarried the Lord's leisure, and the time came at last. The
Philistines overran the country, and chased Saul even to the mountain
fastnesses of Gilboa, where the miserable man, deserted by God, tried to
learn his fate through evil spirits, and only met the certainty of his
doom. In the next day's battle his true-hearted son met a soldier's
death; but Saul, when wounded by the archers, tried in vain to put an
end to his own life, and was, after a reign of forty years, at last
slain by an Amalekite, who brought his crown to David, and was executed
by him for having profanely slain the Lord's anointed.

For seven years David reigned only in his own tribe of Judah, while the
brave Abner kept the rest of the kingdom for Saul's son, Ishbosheth,
until, taking offence because Ishbosheth refused to give him one of
Saul's widows to wife, he offered to come to terms with David, but in
leaving the place of meeting, he was treacherously killed by David's
overbearing nephew, Joab, in revenge for the death of a brother whom he
had slain in single combat. Ishbosheth was soon after murdered by two of
his own servants, and David becoming sole king, ruled prudently with all
his power, and with anxious heed to the will of his true King. He was a
great conqueror, and was the first to win for Israel her great city
on Mount Moriah. It had once been called Salem, or peace, when the
mysterious priest-king, Melchizedek, reigned there in Abraham's
time, but since it had been held by the Jebusites, and called Jebus.
When David took it, he named it Jerusalem, or the vision of peace,
fortified it, built a palace there, and fetched thither with songs and
solemn dances, the long-hidden Ark, so that it might be the place where
God's Name was set, the centre of worship; and well was the spot fitted
for the purpose. It was a hill girdled round by other hills, and so
strong by nature, that when built round with towers and walls, an enemy
could hardly have taken it. David longed to raise a solid home for the
Ark, but this was not a work permitted to a man of war and bloodshed,
and he could only collect materials, and restore the priests to their
offices, giving them his own glorious Book of Psalms, full of praise,
prayer, and entreaty, to be sung for ever before the Lord, by courses of
Levites relieving one another, that so the voice of praise might never
die out.

David likewise made the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites
pay him tribute, and became the most powerful king in the East,
receiving the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham; but even he was
far from guiltless. He was a man of strong passions, though of a tender
heart, and erred greatly, both from hastiness and weakness, but never
without repentance, and his Psalms of contrition have ever since been
the treasure of the penitent. Chastisement visited his sins, and
was meekly borne, but bereavement and rebellion, care, sorrow, and
disappointment, severely tried the Sweet Psalmist of Israel, shepherd,
prophet, soldier, and king, ere in 1016, in his seventieth year, he went
to his rest, after having been king for forty years, he was assured that
his seed should endure for ever.

All promises of temporal splendour were accomplished in his peaceful
son, Solomon, who asked to be the wisest, and therefore was likewise
made the richest, most prosperous, and most peaceful of kings. No enemy
rose against him, but all the nations sought his friendship; and Zidon
for once had her merchandise hallowed by its being offered to build and
adorn the Temple, Solomon's great work. The spot chosen for it was that
of Isaac's sacrifice, where was the threshing-floor bought by David from
Araunah, but to give farther room, he levelled the head of the mountain,
throwing it into the valley; and thus forming an even space where,
silently built of huge stone, quarried at a distance, arose the courts,
for strangers, women, men, and priests, surrounded by cloisters,
supporting galleries of rooms for the lodging of the priests and
Levites, many hundreds in number. The main building was of white marble,
and the Holy of Holies was overlaid even to the roof outside with plates
of gold, flashing back the sunshine. Even this was but a poor token of
the Shechinah, that glorious light which descended at Solomon's prayer
of consecration, and filled the Sanctuary with the visible token of
God's Presence on the Mercy Beat, to be seen by the High Priest once a

That consecration was the happiest moment of the history of Israel,
What followed was mournful. Even David had been like the kings of other
eastern nations in the multitude of his wives, and Solomon went far
beyond him, bringing in heathen women, who won him into paying homage
to their idols, and outraging God by building temples to Moloch and
Ashtoreth; though as a prophet he had been inspired to speak in his
Proverbs of Christ in His Church as the Holy Wisdom of God. A warning
was sent that the power which had corrupted him should not continue in
his family, and that the kingdom should be divided, but he only grew
more tyrannical, and when the Ephraimite warrior, Jeroboam, was marked
by the prophet Ahijah as the destined chief of the new kingdom, Solomon
persecuted him, and drove him to take refuge with the great Shishak,
King of Egypt, where he seems to have learnt the idolatries from which
Israel had been so slowly weaned. Sick at heart, Solomon in his old age,
wrote the saddest book in the Bible; and though his first writing, the
Canticles, had been a joyful prophetic song of the love between the Lord
and His Church, his last was a mournful lamentation over the vanity and
emptiness of the world, and full of scorn of all that earth can give.



"But if his children forsake My Law, and walk not in My judgments: if
they break My statutes, and keep not My Commandments, I will visit their
offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges."--_Ps._ lxxxix. 31,

Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, brought about, by his own harshness and
folly, the punishment that God had decreed. By the advice of his hasty
young counsellors, he made so violent a reply to the petition brought to
him by his subjects, that they took offence, and the ten northern tribes
broke away from him, setting up as their king, Jeroboam, who had been
already marked out by the prophet.

The lesson of meekness seems to have been the one chiefly appointed for
Rehoboam, for when he assembled the fighting men of Judah and Benjamin
to subdue the revolt, Shemaiah the prophet was sent to forbid him, and
he submitted at once; and when again Jeroboam's friend Shishak invaded
his kingdom, Shemaiah told him it was as a punishment sent him by God,
against which he must not struggle; so he gathered all the riches left
him by his father, paid the tribute that the Egyptians required; and
for being thus patient and submissive, he was again blessed by God, and
Judah prospered. No doubt Rehoboam's obedience saved him from sharing
the fate of the other kings whom Shishak conquered and dragged back to
Egypt, where he yoked them to his chariot, four abreast, and made them
draw him about. Shishak was a great conqueror, and in nine years overran
all Asia, as far as the river Ganges. All his victories were recorded
in hieroglyphics, and the learned have made out the picture of a people
with the features of Jews, bringing their gifts to his feet, no doubt
the messengers of Rehoboam. He lost his sight in his old age, and is
said to have killed himself.

In 955 Abijah came to the throne instead of Rehoboam, and was permitted
to gain a great victory over Jeroboam, but he died at the end of three
years, and was succeeded by his son Asa. The great temptation of the men
of Judah seems to have been at this time the resorting to hill tops and
groves of trees as places of worship, instead of going steadily to the
Temple at Jerusalem; and the kings, though obedient in other respects,
did not dare to put down this forbidden custom. Asa's mother, Maachah, a
daughter of Absalom, even had an idol in a grove; but after the king
had been strengthened to gain a great victory over the Ethiopians, he
destroyed the idol, and put her down from being queen. His end was less
good than his beginning; he made a league with the Syrians instead of
trusting to God; and threw the prophet Hanani into prison for having
rebuked him; and in his latter years he was cruel and oppressive. He
died in 891.

His son Jehoshaphat was a very good and gentle prince, but his very
gentleness seemed to have led him into error, for he became too friendly
with the idolatrous House of Ahab in Samaria, and allowed his son
Jehoram to take to wife the child of Ahab and Jezebel, Athaliah, who
proved even more wicked than her mother. Jehoshaphat was in alliance
with Ahab, and went out with him to his last battle at Ramoth-Gilead,
where Ahab tried to put his friend into danger instead of himself by
making him appear as the only king present, but entirely failed to
deceive the hand appointed to bring death. Afterwards, when the
Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites came up against Judah, Jehoshaphat was
commanded to have no fears, but to go out to meet them, with the Levites
singing before him, "Praise the Lord, for His mercy endureth for ever!"
So the battle should be his without fighting; for the three banded
nations fought among themselves, and made such a slaughter of one
another, that the Jews had nothing to do but to gather the spoil, which
was in such heaps, that they spent three days in collecting it. And
again, when Jehoshaphat went out with Jehoram, King of Israel, against
the Moabites, with Jehoshaphat's tributary, the King of Edom, another
miraculous deliverance was granted by the hand of Elisha, and the water
which was sent to relieve the thirsty hosts of Israel and Judah, seemed
to the Moabites as blood; so that, thinking the three armies had
quarrelled and slain each other, they made an unguarded attack, and
suffered a total rout.

Jehoshaphat was succeeded in 891 by his son Jehoram, who, though he had
seen such signal proofs of God's power, chose rather to follow the
will of his wicked wife Athaliah, than to obey the commands of God. To
strengthen his dominion, he followed the example of the worst heathen
tyrants, and killed his seven brethren; and he permitted and encouraged
idolatry in the most open manner. He was first punished by the loss of
the Edomites, who rose against him, and set up a free kingdom according
to the prophecy of Isaac; next by an in-road of the Arabians and
Philistines, who ravaged his very house, and killed all his children
except the youngest, Ahaziah; and lastly, by a loathsome and deadly
disease, which ended his life in the fortieth year of his age.

Ahaziah was only twenty-two, and was ruled by his mother Athaliah for
the one year before, going to visit his uncle Jehoram, of Israel, he
was slain with him in Jehu's massacre of the House of Ahab. Athaliah
herself fulfilled the rest of the decree which she did not acknowledge.
She was bent on reigning, and savagely murdered all her grandsons who
fell into her hands; but as the House of David was never to fail, one
tender branch, the infant Joash, was hidden from her fury by his aunt,
the wife of the High Priest Jehoiada; and when the fitting time was
come, the Levites were armed, and the people were shown their little
king. They acknowledged him with shouts of joy, and Athaliah coming to
see the cause of the outcry, was dragged out of the Temple and put
to death. Jerusalem was cleansed from the worship of Baal, and all
prospered as long as the good Jehoiada lived. After his death, however,
Joash fell away grievously, and promoted idol worship; nay, he even slew
the son of his preserver, Jehoiada, for bringing him a Divine rebuke,
and for this iniquity his troops suffered a great defeat from the
Syrians, and his servants slew him as he lay sick on his bed in 838. His
son Amaziah began well, obeying the Lord by dismissing the Ephraimites
whom he had hired to aid him against the Edomites, and he was therefore
rewarded with a great victory; but so strangely blind was he, that he
brought home the vain gods of Edom and worshipped them. He too was slain
by rebels in the flower of his age, leaving his son Uzziah, also called
Azariah, to succeed him at sixteen years old. Uzziah met with such
success at first, that his heart was lifted up, and in his pride he
endeavoured to intrude into the priest's office, and burn incense on the
Altar; but even while striving with the High Priest, the leprosy broke
out white on his brow, setting him apart, to live as an outcast from
religious services for ever. His son Jotham became the governor of the
kingdom during his lifetime, and afterwards reigned alone till the year
759, when he was succeeded by his son Ahaz, one of the worst and most
idolatrous of the Kings of Judah. The Syrians made alliance with Israel,
and terribly ravaged Judea, till Jerusalem stood alone in the midst
of desolation; and Ahaz, instead of turning to the Lord, tried to
strengthen himself by fresh heathen alliances, though the prophet Isaiah
brought him certain messages that his foes should be destroyed, and
promised him, for a sign, that great blessing of the House of David,
that the Virgin's Son should be born, and should be God present with us.



"As for Samaria, her king is cut off as the foam upon the
water."--_Hosea_, x. 7.

Many promises had marked out Ephraim for greatness, and at first the
new kingdom seemed quite to overshadow the little rocky Judah. But the
founder of the dominion of the ten tribes sowed the seeds of decay,
because, like Saul, he would not trust to the God who had given him his
crown. He was afraid his subjects would return to the kings of the House
of David, if he let them go to worship at Jerusalem, and therefore
revived the old symbol of a calf, which he must have seen in Egypt in
his exile, setting up two shrines at Bethel and at Dan, the two ends of
his kingdom, bidding his people go thither to offer sacrifice. Thus he
made Israel to sin; and while hoping to strengthen his power, was the
cause of its ruin. Prophets warned him in vain, that his line should
not remain on the throne; and in the reign of his son Nadab, the rebel
Baasha arose and slew the whole family of this first king of the
idolatrous realm, in the year 952. Baasha was not warned by the fate of
Nadab, but followed the same courses; and his son Elah and all his house
were destroyed in 928, when after the slaughter of two short-lived
usurpers, the captain of the army, Omri, became king. Omri belonged
to the city of Jezreel, in the inheritance of Issachar; but he built
Samaria in the midst of Ephraim, between the two hills of blessing and
of cursing, and this town becoming the capital, gave its name to the
whole kingdom. In 918, Omri left his crown to his son Ahab, who allied
himself with the rich Phoenicians, and took the Zidonian princess
Jezebel for his wife; the most unfortunate marriage in the whole
Israelitish history. Sinful as had been the calf-worship, it was still
meant for adoration of the true God; but Jezebel brought her foul
Phoenician faith with her, and tried to force on the Israelites the
worship of Baal as a separate god, in the stead of the Lord Jehovah.

Ahab was weak, and yielded; and the greater number of the nation were so
much corrupted by the breach of the Second Commandment, that they were
not slow to break the First, although God had sent the most glorious of
all His prophets to prove to them that "the Lord, He is the God." Three
years of drought showed who commands the clouds, and then came Elijah's
challenge to the four hundred prophets of Baal, to prove who was the God
who could send fire from Heaven! All day did the four hundred cry wildly
on their idol, while Elijah mocked them; at evening his offering was
made, and drenched with water to increase the wonder of the miracle. He
prayed, the fire fell at once from Heaven, and the people shouted "The
Lord He is the God!" and gave their deceivers up to punishment; and when
this partial purification was made, he prayed upon Mount Carmel, and the
little cloud arose and grew into a mighty storm, bringing abundance of
rain on the thirsty land.

Who could withstand such wonders? Yet they only hardened Jezebel into
greater cruelty, and Elijah was forced to flee into the utmost desert,
where he communed with God on Mount Sinai, even like Moses. Only once
more did he appear again to Ahab, and that was to rebuke him for having
permitted the murder of a poor subject whose property he had coveted,
and to foretell the horrors in which his line should end.

Ahab was not wholly hardened, and often had gleams of good which brought
favour upon him. A new enemy had risen up since the Canaanites had been
destroyed, and the Philistines repressed, by David; namely, the Syrians,
a powerful nation, whose capital was at Damascus, a city which is said
to be a perfect paradise, so delicious is the climate, and so lovely
the two rivers, one making the circuit of the walls, the other flowing
through the middle of the town. These Syrians were appointed to bring
punishment upon Samaria; but at first, two great victories were
vouchsafed to Ahab, because Benhadad, King of Syria, fancied that
the Israelites only won because their gods were gods of the hills.
Afterwards, when Ahab went out to recover Ramoth Gilead, wilfully
trusting to lying prophets, and silencing the true one, not all his
disguise could avail to protect him; he was slain in the battle; and
when his chariot was washed, the dogs licked his blood, as they had
licked that of his victim Naboth.

Ahaziah, his son, soon died of a fall from the top of his palace, and
the next brother Jehoram reigned, trying to make an agreement between
the worship of God and of Baal. It was now that Elijah was taken away
into Heaven by a whirlwind, leaving behind him Elisha to carry on his
mission of prophecy and to execute the will of the Lord. It was Elisha
who sent a messenger to anoint Jehu, the warrior who performed the
vengeance of the Lord upon the House of Ahab. In the year 884 Jehoram
was slain in his chariot; Jezebel, thrown out of window by her own
slaves, perished miserably among the ravenous flocks of street dogs; and
all the princes of the line were slaughtered by the rulers of Samaria;
the worshippers of Baal were massacred, and the land purified from this
idolatry. Still Jehu would not part with the calves of Dan and Bethel;
and he was therefore warned that his family should likewise pass away
after the fourth generation.

Elisha had already wept at the fore-knowledge of the miseries which
Hazael of Syria should bring upon Israel; and Hazael, murdering his
master Benhadad by stifling him with a wet cloth as he lay sick on his
bed, became a dreadful enemy to Samaria. So much broken was the force of
Jehoahaz, Jehu's son, that at one time he had only one thousand foot,
fifty horse, and ten chariots; but after this, prosperity began to
return to the Israelites. Joash, his son, was a mighty king, and would
have been still greater, if he would have believed that obeying the
simple words of the prophet Elisha on his death-bed would bring him
victory. Yet so much greater was his force than that of Judah, that when
Amaziah sent him a challenge, he replied by the insulting parable of the
thistle and the cedar. Jeroboam II., his son, was likewise prosperous;
but neither blessings nor warnings would induce these kings to forsake
their golden calves. Amos, the herdsman-prophet of Tekoa, was warned
to say nothing against the king's chapel at Bethel; and Hosea in vain
declared that Ephraim was feeding on wind, and following after the
east-wind, namely, putting his trust in mere empty air. So in the time
of Zechariah, son to Jeroboam, came the doom of the House of Jehu, and
in 773 the king was murdered by Shallum, who only reigned a month, being
killed by his general, Menahem. Again, Menahem's son, Pekahiah, was
killed by his captain Pekah, a great warrior, who made an attack upon
Ahaz of Judah, and slew one hundred and twenty thousand Jews in one day.
Many more with all their spoil were brought captives to Samaria; but
there was some good yet left in Israel, and at the rebuke of the prophet
Oded, the Ephraimites remembered that they were brethren, gave back to
the prisoners all their spoil, fed them, clothed them, and mounted them
on asses to carry them safely back to their own land. But Pekah, and his
ally, Rezin of Damascus, were sore foes to Ahaz, and cruelly ravaged his
domains; and though God encouraged him, by the words of Isaiah, to trust
in Him alone, and see their destruction, Ahaz obstinately resolved to
turn to a new power for protection.



"Where is the dwelling-place of the lions, and the feeding-place of the
young lions?"--_Nahum_, ii. 11.

When the confusion of tongues took place at Babel, and men were
dispersed, the sons of Ham's grandson, Cush, remained in Mesopotamia,
which took the name of Assyria, from Assur, the officer of Nimrod, the
first king. This Assur began building, on the banks of the Tigris, the
great city of Nineveh, one of the mightiest in all the world, and the
first to be ruined. It was enclosed by a huge wall, so wide that three
chariots could drive side by side on the top, and built of bricks made
of the clay of the country, dried in the sun and cemented with bitumen,
guarded at the base by a plinth fifty feet in height, and with immense
ditches round it, about sixty miles in circumference. Within were huge
palaces, built of the same bricks, faced with alabaster, and the rooms
decked with cedar, gilding, and ivory, and raised upon terraces whence
broad flights of steps led down to courts guarded by giant stone figures
of bulls and lions, with eagles' wings and human faces, as if some
notion of the mysterious Cherubim around the Throne in Heaven had
floated to these Assyrians. The slabs against the walls were carved with
representations of battles, hunts, sacrifices, triumphs, and all the
scenes in the kings' histories, nay, in the building of the city; and
there were explanations in the wedge-shaped letters of the old Assyrian
alphabet. The Ninevites had numerous idols, but their honour for the
Lord had not quite faded away; and about the year 830, about the time of
Amaziah in Judah, and Jeroboam II. in Israel, the prophet Jonah was
sent to rebuke them for their many iniquities. In trying to avoid the
command, by sailing to Tarshish in a Phoenician ship, he underwent that
strange punishment which was a prophetic sign of our Lord's Burial and
Resurrection; and thus warned, he went to Nineveh and startled the
people by the cry, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed!" At
that cry, the whole place repented as one man; and from the king to the
beggar all fasted and wept, till God had mercy on their repentance and
ready faith, and turned away His wrath, in pity to the 120,000 innocent
children who knew not yet to do good or evil.

The prophet Nahum afterwards prophesied against the bloody city, and
foretold that her men should become like women, and that in the midst of
her feasting and drunkenness an overflowing flood should make an end of
her. But first God had a work for the Ninevites to do, namely, to punish
His own chosen, who would not have Him for their God. Therefore, He
strengthened the great King Tiglath Pileser, who already held in
subjection the other great Assyrian city of Babylon, and the brave
Median mountaineers, to come out against the Syrians and Israelites.
Ahaz, King of Judah, hoping to be delivered from his distresses, sent
messengers to Tiglath Pileser, to say, "I am thy servant and thy son,"
and to beg him to protect him from his two enemies, promising to pay him
tribute. Tiglath Pileser did indeed take Damascus, and put the king to
death, destroying the old Syrian kingdom for ever, and he carried away
the calf of Dan, and severely chastised Samaria, where Pekah was shortly
after murdered by his servant Hoshea; so that Isaiah's prophecy of the
ruin of "these two tails of smoking firebrands," Pekah and Rezin, was
fulfilled; but as Ahaz had tried to bring it about in his own way, he
gained nothing. Though he went to pay his service to the conqueror at
Damascus, Tiglath Pileser did not help him, but only distressed him;
and instead of learning Who was his true Guardian, Ahaz only came
home delighted with the Syrian temples, and profanely altered the
arrangements in the Temple, which Moses and Solomon had ordained by
God's command, as patterns of the greater and more perfect Tabernacle
revealed to Moses in Heaven. He soon died, in the year 725, when only
thirty-six years old, leaving his crown to Hezekiah, then only sixteen,
the king whose heart was more whole with God than had been that of any
king since his father David, and whose first thought was to purify the
Temple, and to destroy all corrupt worship, breaking down idols, and
destroying the high places and groves, which had stood ever since
Solomon's time.

Hoshea, too, was the best King of Samaria that had yet reigned, for he
encouraged his subjects to go to worship at Jerusalem, whither Hezekiah
invited them to keep the Passover, and that feast had not been held so
fully since Solomon's time. They came back full of zeal, and destroyed
many of the idols; but the reformation came too late; the measure of
Israel's sin was full. Hoshea offended Shalmaneser, who had succeeded
Tiglath Pileser, by making friends with So, King of Egypt, and the
Assyrian army came down upon Israel in the year 722, and killing Hoshea,
carried off all the people as captives, settling them in the cities of
the Medes, never more to dwell in their own land. Sargon seems to
have dethroned Shalmaneser about this time, and to have completed the
conquest of Israel, of which he boasted on the tablets of a great palace
near Nineveh, which has been lately brought to light.

The remnant that was left, the small realm of Judah, took warning, and
turned to God with all their heart, and therefore were protected; but
they had much to suffer. Sargon's son, Sennacherib, was a proud and
ambitious monarch, who used his Israelite captives in building up the
walls of Nineveh, and making the most magnificent of all the palaces
there, eight acres in size, and covered with inscriptions. He invaded
Judea, took forty-six cities, and besieged Jerusalem, raising a mound
to overtop the walls; but on receiving large gifts from Hezekiah, he
returned to his own land. At Babylon a prince named Merodach Baladan
had set himself up against Sennacherib, and sought the friendship of
Hezekiah. When the good King of Judah recovered from his illness by a
miracle, the sign of which was, that the sun seemed to retreat in his
course, it probably won the attention of the Chaldeans, who were great
star-gazers; and Merodach Baladan sent messengers to compliment the
king, whose favour with Heaven had thus been shown to all the earth.
For once Hezekiah erred, and was so much uplifted, as to display his
treasure and his new-born son in ostentation. Isaiah rebuked him,
telling him that his children should be slaves in the hands of the very
nation who had heard his boast. He meekly submitted, thankful that there
should be peace and truth in his days. Soon after, Babylon was reduced
by Sennacherib, and Merodach Baladan driven into exile. In the latter
years of his reign, Sennacherib undertook an expedition into Egypt, and
on his way sent a blasphemous message by his servant, Rabshakeh, to
summon Hezekiah to submit, and warning him and his people, that their
God could no more protect them than the gods of the conquered nations
had saved their worshippers. In answer to the prayer of Hezekiah, came,
by the mouth of Isaiah, an assurance that the boaster who insulted the
living God, was only an instrument in His Hands, unable to go one step
against His will. Not one arrow should he shoot against the holy city,
but he should hear a rumour, a blast should be sent on him, and he
should fall by the sword in his own land.

Accordingly, on the report that Tirhakah, the great King of Ethiopia,
was coming to the aid of the Egyptians, he hurried on to reinforce the
army he had sent against him, intending to take Jerusalem on his way
back. But on the night when the two armies were in sight of each other,
ere the battle, the blast of death passed over the Assyrians; and in
early morning the host lay dead, not by the sword, but by the breath of
the Lord, and Sennacherib was left to return without the men in whom he
had trusted! Even heathens recorded this deliverance, but they strangely
altered the story. They said that it was the prayer of the Egyptian king
that prevailed on his gods to send a multitude of mice into the enemy's
camp, to gnaw all the bow-strings, so that they could not fight; and
they showed a statue of the king with a mouse in his hand, which was,
they said, a memorial of the wonder.

Sennacherib, in rage and fury, cruelly persecuted the Israelites at
Nineveh for their connection with the Jews; and then it was that the
pious Tobit buried the corpses that were cast in the street until he
lost his sight, afterwards so wonderfully restored. Sennacherib was
murdered in the year 720 by two of his sons, while worshipping his god
Nisroch; and another son, Esarhaddon, became king.

Esarhaddon, who is known by many different names, soon after came out
and marauded all over the adjacent country; and it is believed that
it was about this time that Bethulia was so bravely defended, and the
Ninevite general slain by the craft and courage of Judith. Esarhaddon
took away all the remaining Israelites from their country, and filled
it up with Phoenicians and Medes from cities which had been conquered.
These, bringing their idols into the land of the Lord, were chastised
with lions; and, begging to be taught to worship the God of the land,
had priests sent them, who taught them some of the truth, though very
imperfectly; and these new inhabitants were called Samaritans.

In the time of Hezekiah, many more of the Psalms than had been before
collected, were written down and applied to the Temple Service. The
latter part of the Proverbs of Solomon were first copied out, and the
inspired words of the prophets began to be added to the Scriptures.
Joel's date is unfixed, but Hosea, Amos, and Jonah, had recently been
prophesying, and the glorious evangelical predictions of Isaiah and
Micah were poured out throughout this reign, those of Isaiah ranging
from the humiliation and Passion of the Redeemer, to the ingathering of
the nations to His Kingdom, and Micah marking out the little Bethlehem
as the birth-place of "Him whose goings are from everlasting."

Manasseh, the son of the good Hezekiah, began to reign in 699. He was
in his first years savagely wicked, and very idolatrous. It is believed
that he caused the great evangelical prophet, Isaiah, to be put to death
by being sawn asunder, and he set an image in the Temple itself. He
soon brought down his punishment on his head, for the Assyrian captains
invaded Judea, and took him captive, dragging him in chains to Babylon.
There he repented, and humbled himself with so contrite a heart, that
God had mercy on him, and caused his enemies to restore him to his
throne; but the free days of Judah were over, and they were thenceforth
subjects, paying tribute to the King of Assyria, and Manasseh was only a
tributary for the many remaining years of his reign, while he strove in
vain to undo the evil he had done by bringing in idolatry.

Meantime the greatness of Nineveh came to an end. The Babylonians
and Medes revolted against it, and it was ruined in the year 612.
Sardanapalus succeeded his father at Nineveh, but was weak and
luxurious. His brother, Saracus, was so like him, that what seems really
to have been the end of Saracus, is generally told of Sardanapalus. He
was so weary of all amusement and delight, that, by way of change, he
would dress like his wives, and spin and embroider with them, and he
even offered huge rewards to anyone who would invent a new pleasure. He
said his epitaph should be, that he carried with him that which he had
eaten, which, said wise men, was a fit motto only for a pig, not a man.
At last his carelessness and violence provoked the Babylonians and Medes
to rise against him, and they besieged his city; but he took no notice,
and feasted on, putting his trust in an old prophecy, (perhaps Nahum's,)
that nothing should harm Nineveh till the river became her enemy. At
last he heard that the Tigris had overflowed, and broken down a part of
the wall; and so giving himself up, he shut himself up in his palace,
and setting fire to it, burnt himself with all his wives, slaves, and
treasures, rather than be taken by the enemy. So ended Nineveh, in the
year 612. No one ever lived there again; the river made part a swamp,
and the rest was covered with sand brought by the desert winds. It was
all ruin and desolation; but of late years many of its mighty remains
have been brought to our country, as witnesses of the dealings of God
with His people's foes.



"Is this the city that men call the perfection of beauty, the joy of the
whole earth?"--_Larn._ ii. 15.

Manasseh's son, Amon, undid all the reformation of his latter years, and
brought back idolatry; and indeed, the whole Jewish people had become so
corrupt, that even when Amon was murdered in 642, after only reigning
two years, and better days came back with the good Josiah, it was with
almost all of them only a change of the outside, and not of the heart.
Josiah was but eight years old when he came to the throne, and at
sixteen he began to rule, seeking the Lord earnestly with his whole
heart, as David and Hezekiah alone had done before him. One of his first
acts was to purify the Temple, and in so doing, the book of the Law
of Moses was found, cast aside, and forgotten by all. Josiah bade
the scribes read it aloud, and then for the first time he heard what
blessings Judah had forfeited, what curses she had deserved, and how
black was her disobedience in the sight of God. Well might he rend his
clothes, weep aloud, and send to the prophetess Huldah, to ask whether
the anger of the Lord could yet be turned aside. She made answer by
the word of the God of Justice, that the doom must come on the guilty
nation, but that in His mercy, He would spare Josiah the sight of the
ruin, and that he should be gathered into his grave in peace; and at the
same time Zephaniah likewise spoke of judgment, and Jeremiah, the priest
of Anathoth, was foretelling that treacherous Judah should soon suffer
like backsliding Israel. Yet even this hopeless future did not daunt
Josiah's loving heart from doing his best. He collected his people, and
renewed the Covenant, he rooted out every trace of idolatry, even more
thoroughly than Hezekiah had done, overthrowing even Solomon's idol
temples; and he went to Bethel, which he seems to have held under the
King of Assyria, and defiled the old altar there by burning bones on it,
as the disobedient prophet had foretold of him by name, when that altar
was first set up. He likewise caused copies of the Law to be made, so
that it might never be lost again; and the Jews have a story, that
knowing the Temple was to be destroyed, he saved the Ark of the
Covenant, Aaron's rod, and the pot of manna, from sacrilege, by hiding
them away in the hollow of Mount Nebo, where they have never since been
found; but this is quite uncertain.

Josiah lived between two mighty powers; the King of Babylon, who had
newly taken Nineveh, and Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt, a very bold and
able man, who hired Phoenician ships to sail round Africa, and then did
not believe the crews when they came back, because they said they had
seen the sun to the north at noon, and wool growing on trees. He tried
to cut a canal from the Nile to the Red Sea; and wishing to check the
power of Babylon, he brought an army by sea to make war upon Assyria,
landing at Acre under Mount Carmel, and intending to march through
Gilead. Josiah, being a tributary of Babylon, thought it his duty to
endeavour to stop him, and going out to battle with him at Megiddo, was
there mortally wounded, and died on his way home, in the year 611. The
mourning of the Jews over their good king was so bitter, that it was a
proverb long after; and they had indeed reason to lament, for he was the
last who stood between them and their sin and their punishment.

Jehoahaz, or Shallum, his third son, a wicked young man, only reigned
while Necho was fighting a battle with the Babylonians on the Euphrates,
and then was carried off in chains to Egypt, while Necho set up Eliakim,
or Jehoiakim, another brother, in his stead. Jehoiakim was idolatrous,
cruel, and violent; he persecuted the prophets, and did everything
to draw on himself the punishment of Heaven. Necho, making another
invasion, was defeated by the great Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and
hunted back by him into Egypt. On his way Nebuchadnezzar seized
Jerusalem, in the year 606, and carried off some of the treasures of the
Temple, and many of the royal family, to Babylon, among them the four
holy children, but he let Jehoiakim continue to reign as his vassal.
Jeremiah prophesied that the time of captivity and desolation should
last seventy years from this time, but the worst was not yet come.
Jehoiakim was bent on trusting for help to the Egyptians, who had made
him king, and treated Jeremiah as a traitor for counselling him to be
loyal to the Assyrians; he threw Jeremiah into prison, and when Baruch
read the roll of his prophecies in the Temple, he caused it to be cut to
pieces and destroyed. At last he rebelled, relying on help from
Egypt, but it did not come, for Necho was dying; and in the year 598,
Nebuchadnezzar himself came up against Jerusalem, and besieged it.
Jehoiakim died in the midst of the war, and his equally wicked son,
Jehoiachin, Coniah, or Jeconiah, was soon forced to come out, and
surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, who dishonoured his father's corpse, and
carried him away to Babylon, with the chief treasures of the Temple, and
a great multitude of warriors and mechanics. Among them was the prophet
Ezekiel, who, on the banks of the Chebar, saw mighty visions of the
chariot of God borne up by the Cherubim; and while he rebuked the
present Jews for their crimes, promised restoration, and beheld the new
and more perfect Building of God measured out by the angel. A marble
cylinder with most of this prophecy engraven on it in Assyrian
characters, has lately been found in the ruins near the Tigris.

The last son of Josiah, Mattanias, or Zedekiah, was set up as king, and
reigned for eleven years; like his brothers, wavering and sinning, and
trusting to false prophets, instead of Jeremiah, who gave him hopes of
rest, if he would only bear his present fallen state meekly, and not
trust to Egypt. The counsellors who loved Egypt, however, persuaded him
to rebel, as Pharaoh Hophra was actually coming out to his assistance;
and he put Jeremiah into prison for prophesying that he would bring
ruin on himself, Nebuchadnezzar soon marched upon him, and besieged
Jerusalem; and his friend, Pharaoh Hophra, left him to his fate, showing
himself the broken reed that Jeremiah had said he would prove. The siege
of Jerusalem lasted a year, and no one suffered more than the prophet,
who was thrown into a noisome prison, and afterwards lowered into a pit,
where he nearly died; but not for all this did he cease to denounce the
judgments of God on the rebellious city. Horrible famine prevailed, and
the streets were full of dead; but Jeremiah told the king, that if he
would go out and make terms with Nebuchadnezzar all might yet be saved.
But Zedekiah would not listen, and at last broke out with his men of war
to cut his way through the enemy. His self-will met its deserts; he was
taken by Nebuzaradan, the captain who had been left to carry on the
siege, and brought a prisoner to Babylon, after his sons had been slain
in his very sight, and his eyes then put out, according to a prophecy of
Ezekiel, which he is said to have thought impossible; namely, that he
should die at Babylon, and yet never see it.

The Temple was stripped of the last remains of its glory, and utterly
overthrown, the walls were broken down, and the place left desolate; the
Edomites who were in the conqueror's army savagely exulting in the fall
of their kindred nation; but both Psalm cxxxvii. and the Prophet Obadiah
spoke of vengeance in store for them likewise. All the Jews of high rank
were carried away, and none left but the poorer sort, who were to till
the ground under a ruler named Gedaliah. Jeremiah, who was offered his
choice of going to Babylon or remaining in Judea, preferred to continue
near the once glorious city, whose solitude and ruin he bewailed in the
mournful Book of Lamentations; and he did his utmost to persuade the
remaining Jews to rest quietly under the dominion of Assyria. Had they
done so, there would yet have been peace; but Ishmael, a prince of the
seed royal, who had fled to the Ammonites during the invasion, came
back, and in the hope of making himself king murdered Gedaliah at a
harvest feast, with many Jews and Chaldeans, and was on his way to his
friend, the King of Ammon, when Johanan, a friend of Gedaliah, came upon
him and slew many of his party, so that he escaped with only eight men
to the Ammonites. So shocked were the Jews at this murder of Gedaliah,
that they ever after kept a fast on the anniversary. Johanan now
asked counsel from Jeremiah, who still enjoined him to submit to the
Assyrians, but assured him that if he went to Egypt it would only be to
share the ruin of that country; but Johanan and his friends would not
listen, and carried all the remnant of Judah, and Jeremiah himself, off
by force into Egypt. All this happened in the miserable year 588, and
Jerusalem remained utterly waste, the land enjoying a long sabbath of
desolation, What became of Jeremiah afterwards is not known; he is said
to have been stoned in Egypt, but this is not at all certain. He left
behind him the promise that a Deliverer should come--the Lord our
Righteousness--and that the former redemption out of bondage in Egypt
should be as nothing in comparison with the ingathering of the New
Covenant from the north country and from all countries; also that the
New Covenant should be within, written upon the hearts and minds of the



"By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered thee,
O Sion."--_Psalm_ cxxxvii, 1.

Babylon, the city which was to be the place of captivity of the Jews,
was the home of the Chaldeans, who are believed not to have been the
sons of Gush, like the Assyrians whom they had conquered at Nineveh,
but to have been at first a wandering tribe of the north, and to have
descended from Japhet. They had nearly the same gods as the Ninevites,
but thought the special protector of their city was Bel-Merodach, the
name by which they called the planet Jupiter. They were such great
observers of the courses of the stars, that astronomy is said to have
begun with them; but this was chiefly because they fancied that the
heavenly bodies would help them to foretel coming events, for they put
great faith in soothsayers. They settled upon the bank of the Euphrates,
near the ruins of the Tower of Babel, round which a city arose,
sometimes free, sometimes under the power of the King of Nineveh.

In the time of the weak and luxurious Saracus, Nabopolassar was
governor of Babylon. He joined himself to the Medea, giving his son,
Nebuchadnezzar, in marriage to the Median Princess Amytis; and as has
already been said, the two nations together destroyed Nineveh,
after which, Babylon became the head of the Assyrian Empire, and
Nebuchadnezzar was the king.

He made the city exceedingly grand and beautiful. It was fifty five
miles in circuit, square, surrounded by a wall eighty-seven feet thick,
and three hundred and fifty high, with houses and a street on the top,
and an enormous ditch filled with water all round, another lesser wall
some way within. There were one hundred brazen gates in the wall,
besides two larger gateways upon the Euphrates, which ran through the
middle, dividing the city into two parts. It was full of streets and
houses, with such fields and vineyards, that it was like a whole country
walled in; and the soil was exceedingly rich, being all brought down
from the Armenian hills by the Euphrates. As this river rose in the
mountains of Armenia, it used to overflow in the spring, when the snows
melted and swelled the stream; but to prevent mischief, the country was
covered with a network of canals, to draw off the water in safety. The
pride of the city was the Temple of Bel, which is thought to have been
built on a fragment of the Tower of Babel. It was a pile of enormous
height, with seven stages in honour of the seven planets then known, and
with a winding ascent leading from one to the other. On the top was the
shrine, where stood Bel's golden image, twelve cubits high, and before
it a golden table where meats and wine were served up to him. On either
side of the river were two palaces, joined together by a bridge, and the
nearer one, four miles round, with wonderful grounds, containing what
were called the hanging gardens, namely, a hill which Nebuchadnezzar
had caused to be raised by heaping up earth, and planted with trees, to
please his Median queen, whose eye pined for her native mountains in the
flats of Babylon.

There must have been other eyes at Babylon wearying for their own free
heights, for there the captives of Judah bore the punishment of their
fathers' sins and their own, and repented so completely, that they never
returned to their idolatry. When in 606, Nebuchadnezzar carried to
Babylon Jehoiachin and the nobles of Judah, he commanded that some
of the royal children should be brought up as slaves to serve in his
palace, and gave them new names after his gods. Daniel, Ananias, Azarias,
and Misael, gave their first proof of their obedience to the Law of
their God in their exile and slavery, by denying themselves the choice
meats set before them, lest they should eat of some forbidden thing, and
living only on dry beans and water. So blessed was their abstinence,
that they excelled all the other youths both in beauty and in wisdom,
and were soon promoted above them. Soon after, Daniel was shown to be
a prophet, for God inspired him, not merely with the meaning of
Nebuchadnezzar's perplexing dream, but revealed to him the dream itself,
which the king had forgotten. That dream was the emblematic history of
the world. It was an image with a head of gold, shoulders of silver,
thighs of brass, legs of iron, feet partly of iron, partly of clay, all
overthrown together by a stone cut out without hands from a mountain.
Great Babylon was the head, soon to give way to the less splendid
Persian power, then again to the Greek dominion, and lastly to the iron
rule of Rome, which would grow weak and mixed with miry clay, till at
last all would be overthrown and subdued by the Stone which the builders

After this wonderful interpretation, Daniel became a chief ruler under
Nebuchadnezzar, and even in his youth, his name was a very proverb for
wisdom and holiness. He judged among the Jews, and confuted the two
wicked elders who sought to bring about the death of Susanna; and he
probably stood too high to be accused, when, soon after the taking of
Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar threw the three other princes into the fiery
furnace, for refusing to bow down to the golden image on the plains of
Dura. Then the fiery blast was to them as a moist whistling wind, and
even the tyrant beheld the Form like the Son of God, walking with them
in the midst of the flame, while they sung that hymn which calls every
created thing to praise the Lord. The miracle seems not to have been
witnessed by a heart hardened against belief Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed
the glory of the God who could work such miracles, and whose instrument
of vengeance he himself was. Edom was soon after conquered by
Nebuchadnezzar, thus fulfilling many prophecies.

Another great work which was set for him to do, was to give the first
great overthrow to the Phoenicians, and fulfil the prophecies of Isaiah
and Ezekiel, by destroying Tyre. The siege lasted thirteen years, and
the besiegers suffered as much as the besieged, till, as Ezekiel had
foretold, every head was bald, every shoulder peeled with the burdens
that were carried; but at last it was taken in the year 573, and so
utterly destroyed, that not a trace was left of it. It had been said
by Isaiah, that after seventy years Tyre should take her harp and sing
again, and return for a time to her former splendour and corruption;
and thus it happened, for a new Tyre arose upon a little island at some
little distance from the shore.

Ezekiel had promised the Chaldeans that the toils of Tyre should be
repaid by the spoil of Egypt, the land that was henceforth to be a slave
for ever; and in 574, Nebuchadnezzar marched thither, and conquered
it with the utmost ease, there being at that time a quarrel among the
Egyptians, which weakened their hands; Hophra, the last of the Pharaohs,
was slain by a rebel, and Egypt has never more been free, or
under native rulers. The Ammonites too, were put down for ever by
Nebuchadnezzar, and he came home puffed up with the pride of conquest.
Then came another warning dream, of a tree, great and spreading, the
rest and stay of bird and beast, till a watcher and a holy one came down
and bade that it should be cut down, and only a stump to be left, to be
wet with the dew of Heaven until it should recover. It was no wonder
that Daniel was astonished for one hour ere he explained the vision, which
bore that the great conqueror should lose his reason, be chased from
the haunts of men, and live like the beasts, with hair like eagle's
feathers, and nails like eagle's claws. Nebuchadnezzar does not seem to
have punished him for thus revealing the will of God; and time went on,
while the city grew more magnificent under the builder's hand, till at
last, in the pride of his heart, the king made his boast, "Is not this
great Babylon that I have builded, for the house of the kingdom, and for
the honour of my majesty?"

That moment, the watcher cried from Heaven, and sense and strength fled
from the mighty Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from men, and lived seven
years among the beasts of the field, till for one year, reason was
mercifully restored to him, and he made the best use of it in publishing
to all the world the story of his pride and of his fall, and with all
his heart honouring the King of Heaven, whose works are truth, and His
ways are judgment.

This humbled conqueror died in 563, and was succeeded by his son,
Evil-Merodach, who released the captive Jehoiachin, and made him eat at
his own table until his death. Two more kings succeeded, each reigning
but a few years, and then came Belshazzar, in the first year of whose
reign Daniel had a vision, where the like events as were shown by the
dream of Nebuchadnezzar, were foreshadowed under the form of animals,
typifying the several empires. Four beasts came from the sea: the
lion with eagle's wings was his own Assyria, but was set aside by the
devouring bear of Persia; then followed the flying four-headed leopard
of Greece; and lastly, the dreadful and terrible destroying creature,
meaning Rome, which ground with iron teeth, and brake all in pieces. It
had ten horns, which are believed to mean the kingdoms into which Rome
was divided in later times, and one which destroyed some of the others,
and became blasphemous, till all was lost in an awful manifestation of
the Ancient of Days coming to judgment. This little horn is thought to
mean the spirit of Antichrist, and the great falling away which is to
prevail in the latter days, but the end is not yet.

A second vision was sent two years after, likewise of emblematic beasts,
and was likewise explained by an angel. A ram, pushing west, north, and
southwards, was Persia, whose victory was already nigh, even at the
door; but in his full power came from the west the Grecian he-goat, who
overthrew the ram, and stamped on him, and waxed great; but then his
one great horn was broken, and four others rose up, four lesser kings
instead of one great conqueror; and one of these produced a lesser horn,
which wrought woe and ruin to the pleasant land. This horn was not
meant, like the first, to typify the sinful one of the latter Christian
days, but a terrible foe, who was to try the faith of the Jews; and all
these visions seem to have been intended to show, that though prophecy,
and God's visible dealings with His people, were so nearly over, yet all
kingdoms and empires are His, and are founded, flourish, and decay at
His will.



"When the Lord turned again the captivity of Sion, then were we like
unto them that dream."--_Psalm_ cxxvi. 1.

The Persian power, prefigured by the silver shoulders, the bear and the
ram, was indeed nigh. The ram had two horns, because two nations were
joined together, the Medes, who had revolted from Nineveh, and the
Persians. The Medes lived in the slopes towards the Tigris, and had
learnt to be luxurious and indolent from their Assyrian neighbours; but
the Persians, who lived in the mountains to the eastward, were much more
spirited and simpler, and purer in life. They are thought to be sons of
Japhet, and their religion had not lost all remains of truth, for they
believed in but one God, and had no idols, except that they adored
the sun as the emblem of divine power, and kept horses in his honour,
because they thought he drove his car of light round the sky. They
worshipped fire likewise as the sign of the light-giving and consuming
Godhead; and this notion is not entirely gone yet, so that there are
many Parsees, or fireworshippers, still in the East. Their priests were
called Magi, and their faith was therefore termed Magian. Though it went
astray in adoring these created things, yet it did not teach wickedness,
as did the religions of the sons of Ham; and the Persians were a brave,
upright race, who loved hardy, simple ways, and said the chief things
their sons ought to learn were, to ride, to draw the bow, and speak the

Cyrus was the son of a Persian king and Median princess, and had been
so well brought up at home, that when as a little boy he visited his
grandfather at Echatana, in Media, he was very much shocked to see the
court drinking to intoxication, and said wine must be poison, since it
made people lose their senses; and he was much puzzled by the hosts of
slaves who would not let people do anything for themselves. He thought
only those who were old and helpless could like being waited on, and he
kept these hardy, simple ways, even after he was a great king over both

When he was about forty years old one of the kings in Asia Minor made
war on him, and he not only overthrew this monarch, but won that whole
country, which was kept by the Persians for many years. Afterwards, in
the year 540, he marched against Assyria, which had insulted him in the
time of Evil-Merodach. He beat Belshazzar in battle, and then besieged
him in his city; but the Babylonians had no fears; they trusted to their
walls and brazen gates, and knew that he could not starve them out,
as they had so much corn growing within the walls. For two years they
remained in security, and laughed at the Persian army outside; but at
last Cyrus devised a new plan, and set his men to dig trenches to draw
off the water of the Euphrates, and leave the bed of the river dry.
Still there were the great gates upon the river, which he expected
to have to break down; but on the very day his trenches were ready,
Belshazzar was giving a great feast in his palace, and drinking wine out
of the golden vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had brought from the Temple.

Full in the midst of his revelry appeared a strange sight. Near the
seven-branched Candlestick that once had burnt in the Holy Place, came
forth a bodiless hand, and the fingers wrote upon the wall in characters
such as no man knew. The hearts of the revellers failed them for fear,
and the king's knees smote together! Then Nitocris, his mother, a brave
and wise woman, bethought her of all that Daniel had done in the days of
Nebuchadnezzar, and at her advice he was called for. He knew the words;
they were in the Hebrew tongue, the language of his own Scriptures, the
same in which the Finger of God revealed the Commandments. He read them,
and they signified, "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
Thou art weighed in the balances, and found wanting. Thy kingdom is
divided, and given to the Medes and Persians!"

At that moment Cyrus and his Persians were entering by the river gates,
which had been left open in that time of careless festivity. One end of
the city knew not that the other was taken; and ere the night was past
Belshazzar lay dead in his palace, and the Assyrian empire was over for

It was 170 years since, by the mouth of Isaiah, God had called Cyrus
by name, had said He would give the nations as dust to his sword, and
stubble to his bow; had said of him that he was His anointed and His
shepherd, and that he would build up the Holy City and Temple, and let
the captives go free without money or price. Moreover, it was seventy
years since Daniel himself had been carried away from the pleasant land,
and well had he counted the weary days prophesied of by Jeremiah; till
now he hoped the time was come, and most earnestly did he pray, looking
towards Jerusalem, as Solomon had entreated, when his people should
turn to God in the land of their captivity, pleading God's goodness and
mercy, though owning that Judah had done wickedly. Even while he was yet
speaking came the answer by the mouth of the Angel Gabriel; and not only
was it the present deliverance that it announced, but that from the
building of the street and wall in troublous times, seventy weeks of
years were appointed to bring the Anointed, so long promised, the real

Daniel's prayers had won, and in the first year of Cyrus, 536, forth
went the joyful decree that Judah should return, build up the city and
Temple, and receive back their sacred vessels and treasure from the
king, to aid them in their work. Daniel being nearly ninety years old,
did not go with them, but remained to protect them at the court of
Babylon. Cyrus set up his uncle, who is commonly called Darius, to be
king in Babylon, while he returned to Persia; and Daniel, though so old
a man, was made one of the chief rulers under him, one of the three
presidents over the hundred and twenty satraps or princes over the
provinces of the great Persian empire. The envy of the Medes caused
them to persuade Darius by foolish flattery to say that whoever for a
month should make request of god or man, save of the king, should be
cast into a den of lions, and Daniel, who was not likely in his old
age to cease from prayer to his God for any terror of man, endured the
penalty, much against the king's will; but only that again God's power
might be known among the heathen, and His glory proclaimed by the
shutting the mouths of the hungry lions. About the same time he seems to
have shown Darius, who, though not an idolater himself, was puzzled
by seeing that the victuals daily spread on Bel's golden table always
disappeared, that after all, the idol was not the consumer. He spread
ashes on the floor at night, and in the morning showed the king the
tell-tale footmarks of men, women, and children, the priests and their
families, the true devourers of the feast. No wonder that after this,
the Persians ruined the Temple of Bel, while decay began in Babylon,
and the river never being turned back into its proper bed, spread into
unwholesome marshes. Daniel, when at Susa, a Median city on the river
Ulai, beheld his last vision, when the Angel Gabriel prophesied to him
in detail all the wars of the Persians, and afterwards of the Greek
kings of Egypt and Syria, who should make Judea their battlefield, and
the afflictions of the Jews under the great Syrian persecutor. He ended
with a sure promise to Daniel himself, that he should "stand in his lot"
when the end of all things should come; and some time after this blessed
assurance, died this "man greatly beloved," a prince, a slave, an exile,
and a statesman, perhaps the most wonderful of all the sons of David,
except the great Anointed One of whom he spoke. His tomb is still deeply
reverenced, and no one is allowed to fish near the part of the river
where he is said to have seen his vision.

Cyrus died about seven years after Daniel, much loved by his people,
who, for many years, would not believe him dead, but trusted he would
yet return to rule over them.



"The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, and gather together the outcasts of
Israel."--_Psalm_ clxxvii. 2.

42,360 was the number of Jews who returned to their own land by the
permission of Cyrus. They were under the keeping of Joshua the High
Priest, and of Zerubbabel, son of Salathiel, who was either by birth,
son of King Jehoiachin, or else had been adopted by him from the line of
Nathan, son of David. In either way, he was head of the house of David,
and would have been king, had not the crown been taken away because of
the sin of his fathers. He had, it is said, won favour at the court of
Darius the Mede by his cleverness in a contention of wits, where each
man was asked what was the strongest thing in existence. One said it was
wine, because it made men lose their senses; another said it was the
king, because of his great power; but Zerubbabel said it was woman, and
so ingeniously proved how women could sway the minds of men, that the
king was delighted, and promised to give him whatever he would ask. What
Zerubbabel requested was, that the decree of Cyrus might at once be put
in force, so that his people might go home to their own country. Darius
consented, and put into his hands orders that the vessels of the Temple,
and all the other sacred things, together with a large sum of money,
should be given to him; and thus he went forth, praising and blessing
God. Some of the dispersed of Israel joined the returning Jews, and were
thenceforth counted among them; but so many of Judah itself had become
settled in the place of their exile, that they never returned, though
they sent gifts to assist in rebuilding Jerusalem. It used to be said
that only the bran, or coarse sort of people, returned, the fine flour
remained; but it must have in truth been in general the lovers of ease
who stayed, the faithful who loved poverty in the Promised Land better
than wealth at Babylon.

Zerubbabel was called Tirshatha, or governor. His kingdom was gone, but
his right remained to the fields of Boaz and Jesse at Bethlehem; and
thence should "He come forth Whose goings are from everlasting." The
true birthright was not lost by this son of Solomon, whom God blessed by
the lips of Zechariah for having laid the foundation of His Temple,
and not having despised the day of small things. The blessings to the
Priest, Joshua, were foreshadowings of Him Whose Name he bore, and Whose
office he represented.

All was ruin and desolation; heaps of stones lay where beauteous
buildings had been, and the fields and vineyards lay waste; but glad
promises came by the mouth of Zechariah, that these empty streets should
yet be filled with merry children at play, and with aged men leaning on
their staves, at peace and at ease.

The first thing done by these faithful men, was to set up an Altar among
the ruins, where they might offer the daily sacrifice once more. Then
they began the Temple, in the second year after their return; the
trumpeters blew with silver trumpets, the Levites sang, and the people
shouted; but what was joy to the young, whose hope was fulfilled, was
grief to the old, who had seen Solomon's Temple in its glory. Where was
the Ark? where the manna? where the Urim and Thummim? where the Light
upon the Mercy-seat? Gone for ever, and heaps of ruins around! The old
men wept as the youths cried out for joy, and the shout of rejoicing
could barely be heard for the sound of wailing. But Haggai was sent to
console them with the promise, that though this House was as nothing
in their eyes, its glory should exceed that of the former one, for the
Desire of all nations should come and fill this House with glory. Haggai
had likewise to rebuke the people for their slackness in the work, and
for building their own houses instead of the Temple, and soon they fell
into trouble. The men of Samaria, children of those whom Esarhaddon had
planted there, came, saying that they worshipped the God of the Jews,
and wished to be one with them; but these half idolaters would soon have
corrupted the Jews, so Zerubbabel and Joshua refused their offers.
This made them bitter foes to the Jewish nation, and they wrote to the
Persian court, saying that these newly returned exiles were no better
than a set of rebels, who would destroy the king's power, if they were
allowed to rebuild their city. Cyrus was dead, and his son, Cambyses,
(called also Ahasuerus) who was a cruel selfish tyrant, at once forbade
the work to go on, so that it was at a standstill for many years.

The wealth and luxury of Babylon were fast spoiling the Persians, who
were losing their hardy ways, and with them their honour, mercy, and
truth; and Cambyses was a very savage wretch, almost mad. He made war on
Egypt, where he gained a battle by putting a number of cows, dogs, and
cats, in front of his army, and as the Egyptians thought these creatures
sacred, they dared not throw their darts at them, and so fled away. He
won the whole country; and he afterwards marched into Ethiopia, where he
nearly lost his whole army by thirst in a desert. The Egyptians hated
him because he struck his sword into their sacred bull Apis, in his
anger at their feasting in honour of this creature, when he himself had
just met with such misfortunes. He had but one brother, named Smerdis,
whom he caused to be secretly put to death; and when his sister wept for
him, he kicked her so that she died. No one grieved when he was killed
by a chance wound from his own sword, in the year 522; but a young
Magian priest, pretending to be Smerdis, whose death was not generally
known, became king. However, some of the nobles suspected the deceit;
and one of them, whose daughter was among the many wives of the king,
sent word to her to find out whether the king were the real Smerdis. She
could not tell, having never seen the Prince Smerdis; but her father,
who knew that the young Magian had had his ears cut off for some
offence, told her to examine. She Answered that the king was earless;
and the fraud being thus detected, seven of the great lords combined and
slew him. One daughter of Cyrus still remained and the seven agreed that
one of them should marry her and reign. The rest should have the right
of visiting him whenever they pleased, and wearing the same sort of
tiara, or high cap, with the point upright, instead of having it turned
back like the rest of the Persians. The choice was to be settled by
Heaven, as they thought; namely, by seeing whose horse would first neigh
at the rise of their god, the sun. Darius Hystaspes, who thus became
king in 521, was a good and upright man, in whose reign the Jews
ventured to go on with the Temple. When the Samaritans came and stopped
them, they wrote to beg that search might be made among the records
of the kingdom for Cyrus's decree in their favour, which no one could
change, because the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be altered.
The decree was found, and Darius gave the Jews farther help, and forbade
anyone to molest them; but they were very poor, and the restoration went
on but feebly.

In Darius's reign Babylon revolted, and he laid siege to it. So
determined were the inhabitants to hold out, that they killed their
wives and children in order that the provisions might last longer, and
thus they fulfilled what Isaiah had foretold--that in one day the loss
of children and widowhood would come on them. The place was at last
betrayed by a friend of Darius, who cut off his own nose and ears, and
showed himself bleeding, at the gates, pretending the king had done him
this cruel injury. The Babylonians received and trusted him, and he
soon opened the gates to his master, who terribly punished the rebels,
destroyed as much as he could of the Temple of Bel, and left the city to
go to decay, so that she never again was the Lady of Kingdoms. Darius
was a great King, and records of his history are still to be read, cut
out in the face of the rocks; but he tried two conquests that were far
beyond his strength. He led an army into the bare and dreary country of
the Scythians, the wild sons of Japhet, near the mouth of the Danube,
and there would have been almost starved to death, but that a faithful
camel loaded with provisions kept close to him. He also sent a large
fleet and army to subdue the brave and wise Greeks, who lived in the
isles and peninsulas opposite to Asia Minor, thinking he should easily
bring them under his dominion, but they met his troops at Marathon, and
gained a great victory, driving the Persians home with great loss.

Darius died in 485, and his son, Xerxes, who Daniel had said should stir
up all the east against Grecia, led a huge army to conquer that brave
little country. All the nations of the east were there, and Xerxes made
a bridge of boats chained together over the Hellespont, for them to
cross over. So proud and hasty was he, that when a storm destroyed his
works, he caused the waves to be scourged, and fetters to be thrown into
the sea, to punish it for having dared to resist him. He sat on
his throne to see the army pass over the bridge, and as he saw the
multitudes, he wept to think how soon they must all be dead, but he did
not cease from sending them to their death. Though they were so many,
the Greeks were much braver, and though they overran all the north part
of the country, after they had killed the few brave defenders of the
little pass of Thermopylae, they could not keep what they had taken;
they were beaten both by land and sea, and a very small remnant came
home to Persia in a wretched state. Xerxes was a weak vain boaster, and
was very angry; he wanted to make another attempt, but never did so; he
stayed at home feasting with his wives and living in luxury, till he was
murdered, in the year 464.



"They that be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shall raise
up the foundations of many generations, and thou shalt be called the
repairer of the breach."--_Isaiah_, lviii. 12.

There is great difficulty as to what the Persian kings were called;
their real names were very hard to pronounce, and they are commonly
known by words that mean a king, instead of by their real names. This
makes people uncertain whether the king who is called Ahasuerus in the
Book of Esther be the same with him whom the Greeks call Xerxes, or with
Artaxerxes the Long-armed, his son. It was one or other of these kings
who made a great banquet at his palace at Shuahan or Susa, where the
remains of the pillars that supported the many-coloured hangings of his
palace are still to be seen. After seven days' feasting, he sent in his
pride for Vashti, his queen, to show her beauty to his companions. It
was, as it is still in Persia and most eastern countries, a shame and
disgrace for a woman's face to be seen by any man save her husband; and
Vashti refused this insulting command of the king. He was persuaded by
the satraps that her example would teach all other ladies to think for

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