« PreviousContinue »
have I watched the convulsions of this unhappy land, and could recount them to thee to the smallest iota; I remember when this Herod, not far from my own age, an enterprising, sagacious youth, was governor in Galilee, and soon after in Cæle-Syria; and how, after the Parthian captured the Holy City, he hied to Rome. There, through Antony and Augustus, he easily procured himself decreed by the facile senate King of Jerusalem. Full well do I recall his siege of the Holy City, two years later, and the massacre of forty of her chief citizens. I have not forgotten the tragedy in the baths of the palace at Jericho, where Aristobulus, the young, the beautiful high-priest, was found foully murdered, this crafty hypocrite pretending loudly to bemoan the deed! Yes, I recall the murder of his uncle Joseph. I remember the procession of the haughty Augustus through Judea with his warlike eagles, and how this Edomite hung fawning round his steps. Next, I remember the murder of the lovely Mariamne--for whose sake remorse never ceases to haunt him—then of Alexandra. Then arose that insane zeal against things holy, which would have made us Jews to bow before the thousand deities of Rome, until, warned by popular clamors and secret conspira
cies, the arch tyrant resolved to flatter the nation by rebuilding the sacred temple.
Finally, I close the scroll of his dark deeds with the murder of his two noble sons, Alexander and Aristobulus. Returned from Rome, adorned with the laurels of heathen literature, they mingled their blood with that of their mother in indelible stains upon the hand of a father! This is that wretch who grasps the scepter long since passed from Judah! "How long, oh Lord, holy and true, dost thou not set thy king upon thy holy hill of Zion ???
“How, then," asks his attentive companion, " is it written that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come?'. De we not too mournfully see them passed away from us? Yet where is He whom the nations shall obey ?"
“Nay,” replies the sage Zachariah, “say not both are passed away. The · lawgiver' is yet between his feet. Judah subsists by his own laws, and wields judicial authority. The scepter only has passed away, even as it was written of profane and wicked Zedekiah, last of David's line. Remove the diadem; take off the crown; this shall not be the same; exalt him that is low, and abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, until he come
whose right it is, and I will give it him.' That diadem that Zedekiah laid off, thou seest, none but Shiloh may put on!”
“ And is not his day near ?" rejoins Elizabeth, anxiously.
“Ay,” responds the other, musingly, “near it must be. Are not the seventy sevens already wellnigh measured since Cyrus's great decree? And as for this tyrant, he lives yet for a season, but the shadow of Azrael darkens gloomily over his dwelling! Disease gnaws his vitals; his subjects abhor him; his family conspire against him. Hoary monster! crimson with murder, foul with every crime that can stain a man, a citizen, and a king, thou standest on the brink of Hades! God shall smite thee, and that right early !"
So saying, while the sun sinks behind the western wave, and the long shadows deepen across the valleys, they seek their quiet mountain dwelling
SABBATH IN THE TEMPLE. BEFORE the first gray streak of dawn has kindled in the east, all is commotion in the spacious courts that surround the sanctuary.
Hundreds of priests are either bathing them. selves in rooms prepared for this purpose, or, their ablutions completed, are donning their official robes. At length they stand, unsandaled, on the cool and polished marble, in beautiful array.
Their ample tunics of snowy muslin, reaching to the feet, are girded by a sash wrought in imitation of the scales of a fish, ornamented with embroidered flowers of purple, blue, scarlet, and white, which, twice encompassing the loins, falls down to the ankles.
Glorious band! mysterious ORDER! shadowy sacerdotal race! impressively, prefiguring, in mute but gorgeous magnificence of symbolic heraldry, that other, that eternal ORDER of Melchisedek!
Dividing into two companies of several hundred each, yet seemingly small parties in these extensive courts, with a lighted torch in every
hand, they march in opposite directions round the holy place, throwing a ruddy glare upon the white marble columns, and upon the golden plates that cover the walls of the sanctuary.
Meeting on the eastern side, the president of the temple calls to a Levite, saying,
“Go, my son, and see whether it be time to kill the morning sacrifice."
He, ascending to the battlements, looks forth, and shouts, “It is light !"
“ Is the light come so far,” they answer from below, “that thine eyes can see to Hebron ?”
If he reply affirmatively, lots are immediately cast for the ministry of cleansing the great brazen altar and offering the morning sacrifice.
The seven gates of the court of Israel are opened, and as the seventh revolves upon its golden axis, a flourish of silver trumpets echoes through every nook and cranny of the edifice. The singers hasten to their desks.
Far, far below, the multitude have caught the summons, and throng the streets toward the long stair-flights that ascend the lofty hill toward the outer gates, while other multitudes from Mount Zion pour across the mighty bridge that stretches over the valley of the Tyropoëon, and conducts them to the temple gate.
The huge folding doors of these are now un