Page images

on yours can be profitable without the blessing of God's Holy Spirit to direct, enlighten, and sanctify us; guiding our hearts and lives in the way of God's precepts, and bringing our souls to an entire confidence in his mercy through Christ the only Saviour. That you may have grace to seek this inestimable blessing, and that my endeavours may be made profitable to you, is the sincere prayer of

{ „Ji 16:11,

Your very affectionate, NI DO!

&e. &e. :

. of yligini IVOT 91:- "


MY DEAR ROBERT, In order to afford you a concise and clear' account of the events which befell the Jews during their captivity in Babylon, and after their return from it, I shall go back to the reign of Jehoabaz, the immediate successor of Josiah, King of Judah ; for, though there is much of their subsequent history contained in the Bible, it is either blended with the writings of the prophets and rulers, or related by the apochryphal writers, in such a manner as to lose the clearness and continuity which are needful to render history intelligible to young minds. I presume you are well acquainted with the history of the kings of Israel and Judah; if not, I would advise you to study it in the Bible itself. Your Chronology of the Bible will help you in tracing the successions, and the Key I lately sent you will direct you to the chapters in which the several reigns are recorded. The destruction of Jerusalem, and the captivity of Judah, had long been foretold by the prophets; yet

king reduced to vassalage, and many of his family and nobles to slavery, the seventy years' captivity predicted by Jeremiah is very properly reckoned from this year, the fourth of Jehoiakim.

Nebuchadnezzar, after leaving Jerusalem, proceeded with uninterrupted success to recover all that the Egyptiáns had formerly taken in Syria and Palestine, till he confined them within their natural boundary, the river of Egypt.* He was prevented at this time from proceeding farther against Pharaoh Necho, by the death of his father Nabopolasser, which obliged him to hasten back to Babylon, in order to take possession of the kingdom. After the departure of the Chaldean army from Jerusalem, the inhabitants of that city seem to have forgotten the judgments inflicted on them, at least no salutary récollection of them prevailed; for neither Jehoiakim nor his people turned from their idolatry, though Jeremiah continually warned them by the terrors of the Lord, or besought them by the promises of his mercy to repent. It seems, however, that some of the external forms of worshiping the Lord God were yet retained; for on the anniversary of the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar a fast was proclaimed in commemoration of that calamity.† Jeremiah, availing himself of this opportunity, again sent Baruch to read the roll of prophecy in the ears of all the people who came to the house of the Lord. Baruch went accordingly, and having stationed himself in the king's council chamber, which was over the eastern gate of the temple, read from a window, to the multitude then assembled in the court below, all the prophecies JereThe river Sichor, which separates Palestine from Egypt.

+ See Note G.

miah had written; Michaiah, the son of Gemariah, one of the king's officers, having heard Baruch, went down to the king's house, and informed the princes and nobles of the prophecies that had been read. The princes immediately sent for Baruch, and desired him to read the words of the Lord to them also ; inquiring more particularly as to the manner in which they were delivered by the prophet, and promising to speak to the king on the subject, with which they seemed greatly impressed. They next sent away Baruch, desiring him to leave the roll; and advising that he and Jeremiah should immediately conceal themselves; then putting the roll carefully away, they proceeded to tell the king all that had passed. Jehoiakim sent for the roll, and commanded one of his nobles to read it to him; but he had not proceeded far, when the king seized it in a rage, and cutting it with a penknife, cast the whole into a fire that was burning before him, notwithstanding the entreaties of some of the nobles that he would not destroy it. He then commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch should be immediately apprehended, but the Lord preserved them, and rendered the search of the king's officers ineffectual. Jehoiakim's burning the roll, on which the threatenings of God against him and his people were written, is an act of presumption scarcely paralleled in history. Yet, as the prophet remarks, it had not the effect which might have been expected. The princes were not greatly shocked at this horrid impiety,* neither did they show much concern at the awful message they had heard; they were accustomed

The Jews keep an annual fast even to this day for the burning of this roll; thus showing more compunction than the princes who witnessed it.

[merged small][ocr errors]

to such conduct in their king, and had in some measure anticipated it, when they advised Jeremiah and Baruch to hide themselves. How wretched must man become when he forsakes the living God, and how contemptible does he appear when striving against his Maker! God not only protected his prophet at this time from the impotent rage of Jehoiakim, but commanded him to write again the prophecies which the king's impiety had sought to obliterate, and to add to them a special message predictive of the monarch's awful doom. In the seventh year of Jehoiakim, Daniel, who had been above three years a captive in Babylon, and had finished the course of studies to which that time was assigned, was brought into public notice at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, by interpreting that monarch's dream, which had made a serious impression on his mind, though it had totally escaped his memory. This prophet, now about twenty-two years of age, was immediately advanced to great dignity; the first use he made of this distinction was to request similar advancement for his three companions; and the highest gratification he received was doubtless from the acknowledgment of Nebuchadnezzar, that his God was a “ God of gods, and a Lord of kings.” I would advise you now to read the first and second chapters of the book of Daniel, but I shall forbear any comment at present; for the character of Daniel is so lovely, that I intend, if God permit, to set it before you at a future period of the history, in a separate letter.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

In the same year that Daniel began to be publicly distinguished at Babylon, Jehoiakim rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, refusing to be any longer tributary to him, and entering into a league with Pharaoh Necho against him. The sacred historian informs us, that

the Lord sent against Jehoiakim bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servants the prophets.” All the nations here mentioned were at this time under the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar, who most probably ordered them to annoy his disobedient vassal; but they as well as their sovereign were but instruments in the hands of God, to inflict the judgments with which he had threatened his impenitent people. These detachments continued to harass Jehoiakim during three years, till at length they completely invested Jerusalem, and shut him up in it. Here, in the eleventh year of his reign, he was taken prisoner by the assailants, and killed. His dead body was cast into the highway, without one of the gates of the city; and thus were fulfilled two remarkable prophecies to this effect: one of which was delivered to him by Jeremiah in the beginning of his reign," the other written by God's command after he had burned the roll. Thus ended the reign of the impious Jehoiakim, whose character needs no comment, since it has been but too * Jeremiah xxii. 18, 19.

+ Jeremiah xxxvi. 30.

« PreviousContinue »