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fore manifest that the patience of God was exhausted, and that the nation suffered the deserved chastisement of their crimes. Yet, in the midst of his judgments, as we have often seen before, in considering the history
of the Jews, God was merciful; for, during 172. their captivity of seventy years, prophets,
such as Ezekiel and Daniel, were sent to comfort, as well as to instruct them. What awful lessons might not nations, as well as individuals, learn from these examples of the justice of God, lessons which are applicable, at all times, to all nations. The protection which God Almighty extended to Daniel, in the lions' den, ought to encourage all who put their trust, as he did, in the power of God to save to the uttermost, to persevere in well-doing, even in the midst of such apostasy as was that of the Jews. Whilst, on the other hand, the fate of Nebuchadnezzar, and of Babylon, ought to teach those who interpret the judgments of God, as related in the Bible, to be solely applicable to the Jews, that they are equally so to all people who
forget that they depend entirely upon Him, ,173. the Author of all good : for so did the king
of Babylon sin, when he said, (Dan. iv. 30,
B. C. 536.
“Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of
my power, and for the honour of my majesty ?” How this presumption was punished by the Almighty, the prophet Jeremiah informs us. (Jeremiah xxv. 12.)
The Israelites remained in captivity seventy Betyren si years, as a punishment for having seventy diviny: times neglected to observe the law of sabbaths, which was established by Moses, and which consisted in allowing the earth to rest every seventh year, that the poor might gather from it what they could without seed being sown. This law was not only beneficial to the land, which requires rest; but was also charitable toward the poor. And the severe penalty which this gross and covetous people were made to pay, for their non-observance of this law, shows us how unprofitable is, in the end, the vice of covetousness. (Lev. xxvi. 34; 2 Chron. xxxvi. 21.)
Cyrus was persuaded, at the end of this 175. period, by Daniel the prophet, to allow the Jews to return to their own country. Daniel had acquired, by his great knowledge, the esteem of Cyrus, and had made that monarch read the Prophecies of Isaiah, who, though
176. he had lived two hundred years before him,
spoke of him by name in the 44th and 45th chapters. Cyrus, astonished at the prediction, allowed the people to go; and not only gave them back the golden vessels (Esdras i. 7) which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from them, but permitted them to rebuild the temple of
Jerusalem, under the conduct of Jerubbabel, 177. a prince of Judah. Some of the Israelites,
however, unmindful of this merciful deliverance from captivity, chose to remain behind.
But the good intentions of Cyrus were, for the moment, frustrated by the ungracious manner with which an offer of the Samaritans to assist in the rebuilding of the temple was met by the Jews.
The Samaritans, therefore, through their intrigues (Esdras iv.) with the officers of the Persian king, caused the building to be suspended till further orders. And it was not before the reign of Darius Hystaspes, (Id. vi.,) who discovered the order which Cyrus had given to that effect, that the building was allowed to go forward. He even gave money to assist the Israelites, and the dedication of the temple took place seven years afterwards.
Artaxerxes, surnamed Longimanus, the grandson of Darius, chose Nehemiah and Esdras (Esdras vii.) from amongst the Israelites, and sent them to Jerusalem about 70 years after the first edict of Cyrus, in 179. order to re-establish good order in the ecclesiastical as well as civil government of the Jews. Esdras restored the synagogues, 180. 181. or places of worship, and is said to have caused the bible to be written in the Chaldean character, in order to render the reading of it more easy for the people who had forgotten their own language.
It was in the reign of this Artaxerxes, 182. called in scripture Ahasuerus, that the interesting story of Mordecai and Haman took place. The king had espoused Esther, not knowing (Est. ii. 10. 20,) that she was of Hebrew parents, for Mordecai, her uncle, had enjoined her not to divulge that fact. It happened that Mordecai so slighted the favourite of the king, called Haman, that the latter resolved to cause the death of Mordecai, by involving him in a general massacre of his nation, which Haman had meditated. But Haman, upon the king's discovering his treachery, was himself hanged upon the gib«
183. bet that had been prepared for his enemy.
The Jews to this day commemorate in the feast of Purim,* their deliverance from this conspiracy, which is a convincing proof of
the truth of the book of Esther. 184. The Jews after their return from captivity
continued to live peaceably under their highpriests as heretofore, excepting that they were tributaries of Persia, until the conquest of that kingdom by Alexander the Great, when they became tributary to him. At his death, Judea became again the theatre of war, and after being disputed between the kings of Syria and Egypt, it at last fell under the dominion of the former. It was at this period that the temple was established at Gerizim by the Samaritans. Jadus, the priest of Jerusalem, wished to drive away all the strange women that the Jews on their return from captivity had married, contrary to the law of Moses. But Manesses, his brother, and others, would not submit to this
measure, and they repaired to Samaria, 185. where they built a temple on Mount Geri
* This means the Feast of Lots, for all was settled for the consummation of the massacre, but the day, for which Lots were to have been drawn.