One night, as Asaph was returning home from his
nightly forage for food, he heard the battering-rams
pounding viciously at a certain gate near the Temple; he
hastened to his house, and depositing the food, said:
"My mother, I fear for Jerusalem to-night.
aught befall the city and I not be here, disguise thyself
and seek Shalmai s house, and abide with him the poor
will fare best with the conquering Chaldeans. Take
Marth with theo. Now 1 will go and see what the tidings
lie hastened to the 6esieged gate. The noise of the
blows was terrific. Crash! crash! then wild shouts from
without. But the streets were deserted; the poor starved
Israelites slept the sleep of utter exhaustion. Bang! bang!
crash! then again the shouts of the besiegers.
Asaph listened intently.
Crash! bang! then a slight crackling sound, as if a por
tion of the wood had given way.
Asaph s heart beat fast.
Again the terrific pounding of the ram, again the crash
and breaking timbers, again the shouts from the triumph
Pound! pound! Crash! and the end of the immense
beam of the battering-ram pierced through the timbers,
and came in sight to the watching Asaph.
"Oh, God of Israel! have mercy, have mercy! Oh,
pity Thy children!"
But the aperture became larger and larger, and crash!
the gate fell from its hinges and the army poured in.
" Sh! silently!" was the command, and the princes
and generals made all haste to be the first to enter the
holy Temple. These superstitious people had been eager
ly waiting for eighteen months to see the grand mysteries
therein contained mysteries so deep and subtle that had
so long helped the chosen people and spread terror among
Immediately Asaph sped along the streets, as fleet as a
deer, to the palace to inform the king, lie pounded on
" Open, open, quickly!" he cried. " I have great tid
ings for the king! Quick, quick! before it is too late!"
Ebon was hastily summoned, and questioning Asaph,
accompanied him to the king.
" Oh, my lord the king, thine enemies have entered
into the holy places of the Temple! The gate by the
market-place is thrown to the ground, and the Chaldeans
are pouring in!"
" Oh, beloved lord and master, fly, fly! Let not these
wicked men take thy precious life! This is the Moloch
boy, his word is truth!"
In a moment the palace was in the utmost confusion.
Men, women, and children were running hither and
thither, gathering their necessaries and valuables, to take
with them in their flight.
Elia came to Asaph, and said:
" What shall I do, my brother?"
" Disguise thyself. The poor will have more mercy
shown them. I will hasten to my mother, then we will
join the king and thee in thy flight. Trust in Jehovah,
oil, princess! and in thy friend Asaph."
Then, fleet as the wind, he sped back to his mother s
house; but all was dark, silent, and deserted. Then on to
Shalmai s, but the streets were full of armed men, captur
ing old and young. But no cries of agony arose from the
prisoners, there seemed rather to be a feeling of relief. 80
Asaph, trusting his mother to the better care of the God
they both adored, hastened back to the palace; but now it
too was quite deserted, and Asaph could see in the moon
light the king, his court and servants moving toward the
gate by the garden, so he ran with his utmost speed and
he could outrace a horse and joined them just as they
passed into the valley.
From the Temple came cries of agony, for the Chal
deans, Medes, and Moabites, and all the other allies were
fiercely slaughtering nearly all \vho had taken refuge
there, trusting in Jehovah and the sanctity of the place,
but the Chaldeans, fearing neither the God of Israel nor
revering His holy Temple, tore aside the beautiful cur
tains and laughed in derision at the bareness of the Holy
" Where is this people s God?" they cried, while tho.r
who had surrendered looked on in horror, expecting some
terrible manifestations of Jehovah s wrath against their
impious invaders; but the Most High had withdrawn from
His Temple, and now it was merely a building of wood
In the streets those who resisted were quickly dispatched
by the sword of the enemy.
Slmlmai came to his door with all his family, including
Ilelah and old Marth, and they prostrated themselves to
" Ah! that is as it should be," said the Chaldean cap
tain, to whom they had made obeisance, and who was not
an unusually cruel man. " Put thy women in this cart.
Thou art a fine specimen of a Jew, and thou lookest wise.
The king might need thee in his service. Get thee in,
Each had their little bundle. Helah s contained her
jewels and money. Once outside the gates, the kind cap
tain gave them bread and bade them be of good cheer.
Two soldiers had entered the Lovite s hovel.
"Come! hasten, wretch!" the leader said.
" I 1 can not leave my gold!" cried Zuccur, trem
" Come, thou Levite! Why didst thou not obey thy
God, and come to us?"
" Good man of war, leave me here in peace, and 1 will
give thee some of my lovely gold gold! Ah! how it
shines!" cried Zaccur.
" Wilt thou come?"
But he clung to the closet where he had buried his treas
" I I can not leave it! Oh, good man of war, have
"Thou starving dog! thou dost not know what is for
thine own good!" cried the leader, angrily.
" Father, the good man speaks the truth. Let us go
with him, and live!" spoke Jlaggith.
"I will not leave my gold my beautiful gold!" he
Quickly the leader drew forth a ring which was attached
to a chain. It opened with one end sharpened to a point.
Seizing Zaccur by the beard, he pressed the point through
the soft flesh above his lip, and the Levite wus a prisoner.
With a cry of pain he dropped his arms by his side, his
head drooped upon his breast, and lie was utterly sub
llaggith wept, and with her veil she wiped the dripping
blood from Zaccur s face, and walked by his side support
The leader gave the chain to a subordinate, who thus
led them outside the walls.
Word was brought by some deserters to the victorious
generals Xergal, Sharezur, iSamgar, IS ebo, l\absaris, Sar-
eschim, and Rabmag, that the king and many fighting
men had escaped, and were on their way to Jericho.
Quickly the trumpets were sounded, and all the men
who could be spared from guarding the captives were or
dered to pursue the fugitives.
THE KING IS CAPTURED AND MADE BLIND.
IT was midnight, and the solemn silence of the hour was
broken by the distant shouts in the furthest parts of
Jerusalem and the cries of the dying from the Temple.
" Toward Jericho!" was the command, and the march
was as rapid as possible under the circumstances.
The guards and fighting men who surrounded the palace
were all with the king and seemed a fair protection.
They reached the desert, and hastened through the still
warm sand on, on to safety!
Jericho was near. Would not the king give them pro
tection till Jehovah s favor was turned again to His poor
Only a little further, and they could rest from this
weary flight, and eat and refresh themselves.
But suddenly a noise as of distant thunder fell upon
their listening oars. Nearer and nearer it came, like the
deep roar as it reverberates through the riven sky faster
the fugitives iled, and faster the enemy pursued them.
Suddenly the sun burst out in all its splendor, and
showed the whole plain full of men of war in their glitter
ing armor, on horses, in chariots, on mules anything for
speed in the pursuit.
With the sight Zedekiah s generals, friends, and soldiers
scattered in all directions, and left him deserted, save by a
few princes of his house and his wives and children.
Further flight was now useless, and poor, brave Zede-
kiah was forced at last to submit.
He was quickly surrounded by a shouting, victorious
multitude, who bore him in triumph to Nebuchadnezzar at
Kiblah, from which city he had directed both the siege of
Tyre and Jerusalem. Asaph had followed secretly.
When Zedekiah was brought before the King of Baby
lon, he was intensely angry, and cried:
"Oh, thou wretch! thou covenant breaker! Did 1 not
give thee a fair kingdom to keep for rue, and not to make
alliance with mine enemies? But God is great, and hateth
that conduct of thine, and hath brought thee under us!"*
Then, at a sign, they brought Zedekiah s sons beauti
ful boys and placing them before his eyes, the soldiers
pierced them through and through with many sword-
Zedekiah cried out in agony.
" They are sons of a false father, and shall not live to
be mine enemies!" cried the mighty king.
Then the princes were also put to the sword.
Zedekiah could almost feel the cold steel at his own
heart, but he was not anticipating the cruel torture in
store for him.
" Thou treacherous wretch! thou shalt not see my glory,
nor the beauty of Babylon the great!" said Nebuchad
At a sign from him two soldiers approached with each a
small brazier of fire.
They pressed the points of their swords into the fires,
then, standing before the king, they awaited the sign.
Zedekiah turned pale with horror. Nebuchadnezzar
smiled a ghastly smile, and clapped his hands.
Simultaneously the soldiers plunged the red-hot swords
into the staring eyes of the captive king; two little wreaths
of smoke ascended, and the smell of burning human flesh
filled the air. Zedekiah shrieked and fell to the earth,
writhing in agony. Asaph, from his conceal merit, swooned
The poor, blinded king, bound in chains of brass, was
led like a dumb beast captive to the great city of Babylon.
ASAPH HIDES IN THE TEMPLE CISTERNS. JERUSALEM IS
WHEN Asaph recovered consciousness, the plain was de
serted, save by the birds of prey that had scented blood
and hovered above the bodies of the murdered princes.
With a heavy heart he turned and fled back to Jerusa
What a forlorn sight met his eyes! Outside the walls
the ground was strewn with the leavings of the vast army,
and there, fighting with the flocks of evil birds, were the
poor, hungry Israelites the remnant of the once proud
tribe of Judah searching for castaway bits of food and
lees of wine.
How eagerly they pressed the empty bottles to their
parched lips, and how they snatched and fought for any
goodly piece of bread or bit of llesh! The love of kin was
quite forgotten, and self alone predominated.
What could Asaph do? It is useless to preach to an
empty stomach; this he knew from the experience of
many months. He thanked Jehovah for ending the fam
ine, for now the people that were left those who had
secreted themselves, or had been overlooked in the haste
of the enemy were free to go into the valleys, where they
could hunt or seek for wild honey, or fruits, dates, figs,
grapes, olives this last was both food and llebh to them,
for without its oil domestic life would be sorely inconven
The gardens of lentils, millet, leeks, and sweet spices,
had all been devastated by the enemy, but they found
much food in the deserted camp, and some were too weak
to restrain themselves, and eat and gorged till they lay
Asaph hurried from the sad sight, and going into the
city, he hastened to his house.
[low sad and deserted it was! Where was his mother
now? Was she in safety? Would he ever see her loved
face again? Then he went to the house of Shalmai. The
doors were wide open, so he passed into the houses of all
his friends, and he noticed that the places where they kept
the writings of the sacred law were vacant, then he fell to
the earth and prayed.
" Oh, Jehovah! to Thy holy name be all glory! From
river to river and from sea to sea let the seed of Thy
sacred law, which is thus sown among many peoples, bear
rich fruit, so that the whole world shall understand Thy
loving-kindness, and that they may be good to the poor.
And, oh! keep my mother from all sickness and harm,
and let us once more behold each other face to face! Amen
Jle arose, feeling strengthened and less dreary and for
saken. Suddenly he thought of his friend Jeremiah, and
immediately proceeded to the prison, but the doors were
open, and the cells empty. He passed on to the palace,
but it was utterly deserted; the poor people who were left
had the hereditary awe for their king and royal family,
184: ASA PH.
anil so had left it undisturbed. 80 it was still in all the
glory of its wondrous beauty, the Chaldeans at the last be
ing in too great a hurry to spoil it of its treasures or to mar
its fair proportions.
He went into Elia s pavilion. He thought of the many
happy hours he had spent here when a boy, and how the
little princess had ever loved him from the first, and how
beautiful and good she was. Should they ever meet again?
" Yes," he cried, " I will search for her to the ends of
He touched, with a caressing hand, her little treasures,
the playthings of her childhood, the dainty work-tools of
her maiden hours, and the pretty ornaments that used to
adorn her neck and brow, and tears of sorrow for her ab
sence fell on the glittering toys.
He had no plans arranged for the future; that he left in
-Jehovah s hands. Now he would do what he could to help
his pnor brothers left in Jerusalem, where the people had
somewhat settled down to a miserable, forlorn existence.
Asaph went daily into the wilderness and brought them
food, and many looked for his coming with eagerness and
greeted him with joy. And to each he spoke of the love
and kindness of their neglected God, and by his efforts
turned many to Him where they found peace of heart and
One day Asaph went into the Temple and unconsciously
entered the uncurtained Holy of Holies. He quickly cov
ered his eyes with his mantle and prayed for forgiveness
for thus unwittingly breaking the law; but no fearful pun
ishment came upon him for his act, and this made him
ASA PH. 185
meditate. He did not yet fully realize that the old laws
were passing away; the bloody sacrifices of the Temple
that had polluted the ground with blood for over four
hundred years were become distasteful to God, and the
ground must be purified. Again and again had the Lord
declared through His prophets that the burned offerings
were a stench ill his nostrils. He desired a purer religion:
to speak no evil of any one, to live in peace, charity, and
holiness. False weights and measures were an abomination
in his sight, and the Israelites were reproved again and
again for their covetousness and false dealing.
In the silent solitude of the Temple Asaph seemed to
corne very near to his loving Father, and to have a clear
er, deeper insight into the Scripture and the interpretation
of the law.
One day, as he was looking over his beloved city from
the Temple mount, just one month lacking two days*
from the time the first gate fell in Jerusalem, he noticed
from the north- west a great cloud of dust. Nearer and
nearer it came, and once more the glittering paraphernalia
of armed men burst upon his sight, together with chariots,
horses, camels, and great carts.
Was not this poor remnant of Judah to be left alive, or
were they coming to devastate the city?
In a moment ho was in the streets warning the people,
and many lied and secreted themselves in the ruined
tombs that were plentiful in the valley; but Asaph went
back to the Temple, and there uttering a prayer to Crod,
* Authorities differ about the date.
he went into the inclosure that contained the opening to
the immense cisterns beneath the Temple. After looking
down some time he lowered the great bucket, then fast
ened the rope so that it could descend no further, then he
grasped the rope firmly with both hands and feet and de
scended slowly, so as not to tear his ilesh. At first he
could distingiush nothing in the semi-darkness, then look
ing beneath him he could see the water shining in the
shaft of light that came from the opening above.
He grasped the rope still firmer and paused in his de
scent. How deep was the water, and how to reach the rocky
ledges that projected all around above the little sea? lie
thought for a moment, then gently swayed the rope till it
assumed an oscillating motion whose area became larger
and larger as he descended. Now he almost touched the
rocks again, but his foot slipped; this time he must ac
complish it. lie planted his feet firmly, but with diffi
culty retained the rope, which he needed for future use;
he secured it by placing a heavy rock in the bucket.
His eyes soon became accustomed to the bright spot of
light that radiated for a space around but left much of
the immense place in utter darkness.
For awhile he forgot all else as he traversed the rocky
ledges and wondered at the gigantic arches that supported
the Temple foundations. What a wtmdrous work was
here! and the water so clear and sparkling. The cistern,
or rather immense cavern, was capable of containing un
told quantities, so it was to this superhuman work of the
wise Solomon that they owed their lives for not famishing
for lack of water as well as food.
The time passed away unnoticed by Asaph till he was
aroused by the shouting of many voices and the sound of
heavy blows in the Temple above the beautiful Temple
that had never echoed even to the sound of hammer and
saw to be thus desecrated by the destructive blows of Is-
rael s cruel enemies!
He would ascend immediately and defend it with his
life: but suddenly the thought came to him that God s
word was being fulfilled that had been spoken by (he
Prophet Jeremiah; so he was powerless to interfere. Still
he could not help suffering intense mental pain at the
thought of the ruthless destruction of the magnificent
After many hours of anxious listening the water in the
cistern changed to blood. Asaph s heart seemed to leap
into his throat.
"Oh, God! oh, God! Thy Temple is on fire!" he
cried, and fell on the rocks and writhed in the intensify of
How long he remained in the cistern he could not tell
whether it was hours or days. At last he became faint
from hunger and exhausted by his painful emotions.
Death seemed the easiest way to end his misery; but
suddenly the thought of his mother and Elia aroused him.
Perhaps even now they were needing him, and watching
each passing face in hopes that it would be his. He would
go to them. He felt for the rope it was gone! In his
grief he had touched the bucket; it had rolled from the
rock, and now hung in the center of the water. He threw
u stone to try the depth. From the sound it was immeas-
urably deep. He was entombed alive! After the first
shock of horror was over a sweet peace came over him,
and he slept.
When he awoke he was very sveak. Clouds of smoke
darkened the opening above; then for a moment it would be
clear and bright, then blood red with yellow flashing flames.
lie groped about the dark to try and find some means
of egress; but he had to feel every footstep lest he should
plunge unwittingly into the deep water. How many times
he went around the immense place or whether he ever
skirted it once he could not tell; but the time seemed
long, and he was about to give up in despair, when he
suddenly came upon a llight of steps cut in a deep recess.
He cautiously ascended them, his heart beating fast with
excitement. At last he came to a door. He tried it, but
it did not yield to his hand; then he picked up a rock and
pounded it with the strength of despair. At last the lock
gave way, and the door swung open. What a sight met
his gaze! The Temple a smoldering mass, and the city be
yond only heaps of burning ruins! The gates were still
on fire, and the walls broken and destroyed, and in many
places leveled to the ground.*
Away ol? in the valley he could see, by the light of the
rising moon, great masses of people moving toward the
" I will go to my mother," he said. And with a last
lingering loving look toward Jerusalem, he followed after
* The Temple was burned four hundred and seventy years six
months and ten days after it was built.
ASA PH. 189
FOOTSORE and weary Asaph kept on the fearful march,
resting when the army rested, and living on the crumbs of
food left in their path. Sometimes he found wild honey,
and sometimes shot and cooked a clean bird.
When he came to a well or stream he never neglected to
purify himself and perform his devotions; so when at last
they arrived at the great city his beauty was scarcely
marred save the rounded contour of his graceful limbs
was just a little shrunk from their fair proportions.
Jle entered with the stragglers, and when the watchman
at the gate saw him he wondered at his beauty and spoke
to the captain.
" Thou hast brought a young god in beauty among thy
captives. The king will thank thee for such a present/
The captain looked.
" Why, 1 saw him not before. Didst thou come with
us?" he said.
" Ay, but voluntarily," Asaph answered.
" Art thou not a captive, and an Israelite?"
"An Israelite, ay, but a captive, no. See, I have no
"Why didst thou come, then? the captain asked, SIF-
" 1 would serve Nebuchadnezzar and live in Babylon;
my mother and my friends are here as captives."
The captain, Nebuzar-adan, took Asaph to his own house
and fed and clothed him in rich apparel. The first day the
king gave audience to his people the captain presented
Asaph to him. At a sign from his protector he prostrated
himself to the floor. Nebuchadnezzar extended his scep
ter for him to arise. When he stood before his feet all the
glory of his transcendant beauty and his fair proportions
struck the king s eye with amazement aiid pleasure, for of
all the kings of the earth Nebuchadnezzar most loved
beauty of form and color.
" Speak! what would st thou? he said.
" Oh, king, live forever!" Asaph replied, making a sec
ond obeisance. " 1 would serve thee, oh, Nebuchadnez
zar. My mother is a captive Israelite. I would be near
her and live in Babylon."
The king smiled at this unusual speech that would have
cost others dearly; but Asaph s golden hair, his glorious
beauty drove all other thoughts from Nebuchadnezzar s
breast save pleasure at the sight.
" Art thou not also a captive?" he asked.
" Nay, great king. I came to thee voluntarily, walk
ing all the weary way."
Nebuchadnezzar s brow darkened.
" Art thou the treacherous Zedekiah s son?" he asked.
" Nay, oh, king, 1 am a friend of Jeremiah and serv
ant of the great Jehovah. I drew not a single bow against
thy men of war."
The king s brow cleared again, and his admiration for
Asaph increased each moment for Nebuchadnezzar could
love long and tenderly those who were truly his friends,
and he could hate as long and bitterly those who had
proved false to him.
The king looked at him in silence, scanning him from
head to foot.
"Thou art a young god in beauty!" at last he cried
enthusiastically. Then noticing the scar: " But what has
thus marred thy fair face?"
For a moment Asaph drooped his head, then said:
" Oh, king, as a little child they would pass me through
the fire to Moloch; but my mother saved me."
" Those Jews were a cruel people. The worship of our
gods is not so sanguinary. Thy mother did well to save
theo for my service. " Then turning to the captain he
said: "Tis well."
Nebuzar-adan felt a thrill of joy, for that was praise
" Take the young man to thy house. Stay what is thy
" Asaph, oh, king!" he replied.
" It has a pleasant sound. I will not change it."
The audience was ended, so Asaph made obeisance and
departed with his new friend.
With an absolute monarch like Nebuchadnezzar every
thing is possible that is achievable by human ingenuity or
intellect or unlimited power; so Ilelah was soon found
and installed with Asaph in the royal palace, surrounded
by every luxury and attention.
The venerable Shalmai was given a place of liouor, and
Asaph was his friend during the rest of his life.
Each day the affection of Nebuchadnezzar for Asaph
seemed to increase, for he was in the very flower of his
youth and beauty, so he almost immediately appointed
him one of his outriders.
Dressed in magnificent garments, with his beautiful hair