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mit them to masters of the laws and languages of the Chaldees, that they might be qualified for their distinguished lot.
The famous Daniel, and his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, more familiar to us under the names they received from their conquerors, of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, were amongst these favoured scholars, and this, together with other circumstances agreeing with the prophecies, which relate to the captivity of Judah, the seventy years predicted by Jeremiah, are dated from this first capture of the city, by Nebuchadnezzar. ; CATHERINE. Did the prophet himself so explain these events to the king ?
Mrs. M. It does not appear that he did, but he continued his entreaties with both people and prince, to“ turn every one from his evil way,” and avert the wrath of heaven from their afflicted country. And when we read over the eloquent pleadings of Jeremiah, to us they seem irresistible. But the corrupt habits of the Jews were too deeply rooted to be changed. They were willing, however, to pay a price for their darling indulgencies, and accordingly appointed a solemn fast, to deplore their calamities. The indefatigable pastor, now liberated from his prison, took advantage of another season of apparent humiliation, and, when a great concourse of persons were assembled, he sent Baruch up to the temple to read a second time, publicly, the awful judgments which threatened their devoted land, and the merciful invitations to return to their heavenly Father. Neither the king nor his counsellors were present, but they were speedily informed of what was passing in the court of the temple: the latter were alarmed, and summoning the orator into their chamber, respectfully
listened whilst he read the roll, and then advised him to conceal himself together with the prophet, until they should try its effect upon the monarch. It would seem hardly possible that Jehoiakim should yet be unmoved, by the events that had passed, and the yet more frightful aspect of the future. But so it was ;-hastening on his own ruin, indignation alone was excited, and the sacred roll was committed to the flames, by the hands of Jehoiakim himself, and an order immediately issued, for the apprehension of Jeremiah and his secretary ; but already concealed by their friends, they escaped from his meditated violence.
The burning of the roll was but an aggravation of Jehoiakim's condemnation. To us the loss was made up by a second edition, dictated by the prophet, and written by his secretary, containing the same words, and also much additional matter. This second roll was laid up with the national archives, and is that book of Jeremiah, which has been handed down to us.
But notwithstanding all these convincing evidences of his impending fate, the king of Judah continued to harden himself in iniquity, and in three years, provoked Nebuchadnezzar to send another army against Judea, which, harassing them for three years, Jehoiakim was at length slain, and his dead body contemptuously cast out of the city gates without burial,* after a turbulent and inglorious reign of eleven years; thus fulfilling literally the prophecy of Jeremiah.
Jehoiachin, his son, ascending the throne, and the city being still more closely besieged, after having been three
* “ In the last year of Jehoiakim's reign, was born Cyrus, the famous founder of the Persian monarchy, and the restorer of the Jews to their country, their temple, and their state."---Prideaux.
short months amused with the semblance of a crown, was compelled to take leave of his palace, and deliver himself up with his mother, his princes, and his servants, to the conqueror, whence he was carried in chains to Babylon! On this second capture of Jerusalem, the palace and temple were despoiled of their treasures, many of the golden vessels were seized, and cut in pieces, and all the nobility, the army, and artificers, to the number of eighteen thousand persons, (three thousand having been sent out of the country before the fall of the city,) were carried away, leaving only the meaner classes of the people. Over this miserable remnant, Mattaniah, the uncle of the late king, was constituted a sort of chief, yet with the empty title of king, and his name changed to Zedekiah. This name, which, signifying the justice of the Lord, was designed to keep him in mind of the vengeance that would follow his violation of the oath, which had bound him a vassal to Babylon. (B. C. 599.)
CATHERINE. What became of the prophet Jeremiah? was he included in this sad deportation of the principal men of Jerusalem ?
Mrs. M. He was still left by Providence, to serve ad unworthy master. The Babylonians having left Jerusalem, a deputation came from several neighbouring kings, all tributaries of the great Nebuchadnezzar, to engage Zedekiah in a revolt from that monarch. Whereupon Jeremiah was commanded to make “ yokes and bands," and send them by the ambassadors, to their several masters, commanding them to say, when they delivered these expressive emblems, that “ the Lord of the whole earth had given their dominions to the king of Babylon"—that submission would be beneficial to their people, but, on the contrary,
revolt would involve them in utter ruin. And, by the same arguments, he persuaded the king of Judah not to listen to those who would but hasten his destruction,
CATHERINE. Of what use was the advice of Jeremiah to idolators unacquainted with the Supreme Being, in whose name he addressed them ?
Mrs. M. It did not, indeed, produce obedience to his commands, but these divine messages, together with their .continual intercourse with the Jews, were calculated to shew them the difference between their graven images and the supreme Jehovah, and left them without excuse when the predictions were fulfilled.
A messenger from Zedekiah, to the king of Babylon, in the second year of his reign, afforded an opportunity to the active and benevolent Jeremiah, to write to his unhappy countrymen, expostulating with them on the folly with which they had listened to those who falsely prophecied a speedy restoration to their own land; assuring them, the appointed seventy years would not be diminished, and advising them to consider themselves as settled inhabitants in the dominions of the conqueror; and ameliorate their deplorable misfortune as well as they could, by application to business and obedience to the laws.
And, farther to console them in their present sufferings, and give them confidence in his advice, in the fourth year of Zedekiah he wrote that ample prediction of the fall of their oppressors by the Medes and Persians, which we have in the fifty-first chapter of Jeremiah ; and sent it into Babylon, with a charge to the messenger to read it publicly, on the bank of the Euphrates, and then binding it to a stone, to cast it into the river, denoting by this sig,
nificant action, that so Babylon should sink to rise no more !
In the fifth year of Zedekiah, the miserable captives were comforted by an eminent prophet amongst themselves, EZEKIEL, who had been carried from Jerusalem with king Jehoiakim. He was this year commissioned to preach resignation to his countrymen ; and to promise to the penitent a return to their own land. The subsequent fall of Jerusalem, the dreadful end of Zedekiah, and the utter desolation of the whole land of Israel, were revealed to Ezekiel about this time.
The utter ruin of Judah being the determined object of the insatiable Nebuchadnezzar, in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, Jerusalem was again menaced by another Babylonish army. The inhabitants, in great consternation, made a show of repentance by a partial reformation of the abuses in which they had long indulged.
The near prospect of servitude to themselves, now brought them to reflect on the injustice they had exercised towards their servants, whom they had detained beyond the seventh year, the time of release prescribed by the Mosaic Law. In a moment of terror, these injured persons obtained the liberty to which they were entitled, and both the king and the people entered into a formal covenant,* to revive the neglected institutions of their still venerated lelislator. But the apprehended siege being suspended awhile by the march of Nebuchadnezzar against the neighbouring princes, who, together with Zedekiah, had manifested a disposition to rebel against their tyrant, no sooner
* A covenant was made, by dividing an animal in two parts, and the covenanting parties passing between the separated parts.