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Babylon without being conscious of having traversed it.”
How changed the scene since Nebuchadnezzar, looking down from the top of his palace on the magnificent city, exclaimed, “ Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the metropolis of my kingdom ?” “After an active search of six days,” a late traveller “could discover no appearance of the wall." The ruins of Babylon now “consist of mounds of earth, formed by the decomposition of buildings, channelled and furrowed by the weather; and the surface of these strewed with pieces of brick, bitumen, and pottery.”
- Those who stand on its site are sometimes at a loss to distinguish between the remains of a street or canal, or to tell where the crowds frequented, or where the water flowed.” “ Babylon is fallen, is fallen !''
Jeremiah predicted of Babylon, “The wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the islands shall dwell there.” We have seen that it was a place where wild beasts were shut up in the fourth century. "There are now many dens of wild beasts in various places." A traveller, not long since, saw “two or three majestic lions the height of a ruin which is supposed to be the remains of the temple of Belus; and “ the broad prints of their feet were left plain in the clayey soil." “ The mound was full of large holes; we entered some of them, and found them strewn with
the carcasses and skeletons of animals recently killed. Our guide told us the ruins abounded in lions and other wild beasts."
Jeremiah predicted that on the overthrow of the Chaldean monarchy the Jews would be permitted to return to their own land, and that they would no more revolt from Jehovah to the service of idolgods. “ In those days and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping; they shall go and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten."
This prediction was fulfilled when Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, gave the Jews liberty to return to their country, and rebuild their city and temple. Since that time they have never, as a people, fallen into idolatry, but have recognized Jehovah as the only true God.
JEREMIAH'S DEALINGS WITH ZEDEKIAH
ZEDEKIAH was a weak as well as wicked prince. He was not without good impulses, but he wanted firmness and perseverance to carry them into execution. He sometimes had a feeble preference for the right, and with more upright counsellors might have made a respectable ruler; but he had not stability enough to resist the pressure of corrupt courtiers, prompting him to evil. He seemed occasionally to struggle between conscience and crime, between humanity and the permission of cruel deeds, between respect for the word of the Lord and the feigned words of the prophets, which were more congenial to his depraved propensities. Even when consulting Jeremiah, with an apparent intention to follow his advice, he was afraid the princes would get some intimation of the conference. He was manifestly king only in name, while the measures of his administration were shaped by others.
So long as Zedekiah continued his allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, his kingdom enjoyed peace. Under the protection of that powerful monarch, he had little to fear from any foreign enemy. For a time he seems to have hearkened to the admonitions of Jeremiah, and notwithstanding the persuasions of the false prophets, to have sent tribute regularly to Babylon. But at length other counsels prevailed. In the ninth year of his reign, as already related, he cast off the Babylonish yoke, and once more an alliance was formed between Judah and Egypt.
What good reason for this change its advocates could offer, it would be difficult to conceive. To one or the other of the two great powers between which they were pent, the Jews must necessarily have been subject, if they renounced the service of Jehovah. From the dealings of Providence with the church in other times, as well as from the threatenings of the law of Moses, they might, if disobedient, have anticipated a removal from their own land. But they could not expect to be better treated by Egypt than by Babylon. Daniel was at that time prime-minister at the court of the latter, and other Jews were in office in different parts of the realm. These would have many opportunities to protect the captives from oppression and to redress their grievances. In fact, the condition of the Jews was far from abject in Babylon. They were not persecuted for their religion. They were indeed exposed to ridicule and scorn for their peculiar institutions, but to these they would have been exposed in any other heathen land. If they were to be severed from their country on account of their wickedness, their condition could nowhere have
been more tolerable than under the Chaldean government.
But the Jews probably hoped, by an alliance with Egypt, to be protected against the Chaldeans, and to remain in their own land. Egypt was an ancient, powerful kingdom; Babylon but just rising into notice among the nations. Egypt was already densely populated, and did not need an accession of foreign immigrants. On the other hand, Nebuchadnezzar was aiming to found a mighty empire. His policy, therefore, was to strip the conquered countries of their riches and best inhabitants. Hence, at the first invasion of Judah, he carried away a select portion of the princes and nobility to wait on him at his palace, and afterwards removed a large number of artificers and armorers, whose services he could use in adorning his capital and preparing weapons for his soldiers.
The Jews, moreover, would be disposed to choose the yoke of Egypt, because they had carried on intercourse with that kingdom for many ages; whereas the Chaldeans were a fierce, distant people, with whose customs and country they were unacquainted.
The Babylonish army was approaching Jerusalem to punish Zedekiah for his revolt, or was already besieging the city. Hitherto he had not taken
notice of Jeremiah in the administration of his government.
The prophet had borne to the