falling below his shoulders and profusely powdered with
gold dust, riding on a spirited horse with the other youths,
each morning he preceded the king in his daily drives.
The sight was so entrancingly beautiful that people flocked
to their doors and gave thanks to all their gods for being
permitted to behold it, then sighed as the cavalcade swept
on into the distance and was lost to view.
The king would scarcely ever let Asaph leave his pres
ence, so made him one of his cup-bearers also; he seemed
to delight in the admiration he excited; and it was indeed
a picture worthy to be preserved for all time. Asaph s
fair angelic beauty standing out like an ideal sun-god s
against the dusky, brilliant, fascinating splendor of the
thrice-handsome Nebuchadnezzar, with his hair black and
nhining as the raven s wing, arranged in stately curls, his
beard of the same hue and waving almost to his waist, and
his eyes cruel and black when angry, but with those he
loved soft and tender as a mother s.
The king never allowed him to accompany him on his
" No, no," he would say, " thou hast had hurt enough;
remain to glad my sight on my return."
Everything possible to make Asaph happy and content-
ed was done by both king and officers; but he had a pain
in his heart nothing could assuage he was ignorant of
the fate of his loved princess \vhether she was yet living,
a captive with her uncle, or carried off by some of the
brutal allies, or dead, he could not ascertain,
Day by day, as he rode before the king, he scrutinized
each face in the hope of seeing hers he loved; but each
day he was disappointed of his hope. Half the night he
took from sleep and wandered disguised through the vari
ous quarters assigned to his exiled people. He listened to
every plaintive cry of the homesick Israelites sighing for
their beautiful mountains and almost cursing the hot
level plains of Babylon, still he heard no speech that
thrilled him with the sweet sound of Elia s voice.
Knowing how the king hated Zedekiah, he dared not
mention one of the royal family, so he searched all alone
and with a breaking heart; yet before the king he must
ever be smiling and happy.
About this time Nebuchadnezzar had an immense beau
tiful golden image constructed and set up in the plain of
Dura, near Babylon. He was a restless, ambitious man,
always desiring some greater god to worship. The prepa
rations for the dedication of this image were of unusual
magnitude and grandeur, and all the princes and people
were summoned to be present and take part in its worship.
But Asaph determined he would lose his life before he
would thus insult the true God. So when the magnificent
festival was at its height the herald cried:
" To you it is commanded, oh, people, nations, and lan
guages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet,
flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of
music, ye fall down and worship the image that Nebu
chadnezzar the kind hath set up. And whoso falleth not
down and worshipeth shall the same hour be cast in the
midst of a burning fiery furnace."
Then the music sounded, and all bowed and worshiped,
even the Jews, save only a few.
But Asaph, on whom the king leaned, being somewhat
shorter in stature, stood erect to support him, and no one
But the native princes were jealous of the power pos
sessed by some of the captive race, and accused them be
fore the king, and they were condemned to a terrible pun
But God was with them, and used the miraculous escape
of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as a means to en
lighten Xebuchadnezzar as to the true God, and for awhile
he worshiped the great Jehovah; but he had not attained
as yet to a true understanding of the Most High, and his
lapses to idolatry were numerous.
THE LION HUNT. THE ARENA.
STILL no news of Elia came to the waiting, watching
Asaph. llelah sympathized with her son, for she too
loved the gentle beautiful princess.
Each night before his search began he would visit his
mother and tell her the news of the day, and ascertain
from her aught that had occurred of interest to either of
them, or that would give him any hope of ultimate success
in his weary search.
One day the palace was in a state of subdued excite
ment, for the king was going hunting, and extra prepara
tions were being made. All the young men composing his
outriders were each one busy with several attendants
combing their hair out from its curl till it lay in waves
upon their shoulders, then powdering it profusely with
fine gold dust, painting their faces both red and white,
and rubbing their bodies with rich, sweet-scented un
guents, placing their finest ear-rings in their ears, and
dressing them in their most magnificent apparel.
The king s robes were embroidered and fringed till not
a spot remained unadorned; his high head-dress was a
mass of gold and jeweled work, with several flying horned
horses in filigree around the crown.
Nebuchadnezzar dearly loved this regal display when he
drove through the streets of Babylon, " the city which is
the delight of mine eyes."
How gloriously did Asaph s beauty show by contrast
with these bepainted youths! And as the splendid caval
cade swept through the palace gates, to the flourish of
trumpets and the plaudits of the people, Nebuchadnezzar s
heart swelled with love for the beautiful boy. On they
dashed, through the fine, broad streets, the populace lin
ing the way, ani cheering as they passed, for all loved or
respected the king even the Jews, finding him a lenient
master and well disposed toward the flower of Israel, gave
him just praise.
They crossed the Euphrates on the great bridge, then
passed out of one of the hundred gates the Gate of Nein
on, on into the wilderness.
Asaph rode neur to the chariot s side. Nebuchadnezzar
looked upon him as almost a being from another world,
for he had heard the story of his descent from the sons of
God, and his beauty, purity, and goodness were all factors
to enhance the king s regard.
On still further into the wilderness, still no game ap
peared. Asaph left the chariot s side for a moment, and
gave a low, peculiar cry. After a pause he repeated it,
but unobserved by all; then from the forest came a low
roar; another cry from Asaph, then a magnificent lion
slowly emerged from the wilderness, looking about as if
seeking for its mate, whose cry of distress Asaph had so
In a moment the outriders parted to the right and left,
and Nebuchadnezzar and Asaph swept to the front.
Again Asapli repeated the cry, then let the king ad
vance alone to have all the glory of the capture, for he had
said at first sight of the lion:
" 1 will not kill so glorious a beast, but only wound and
Nebuchadnezzar drew a steady bow, and his aim was
sure. Quickly the dart transfixed the lion s paw, and held
him to the ground. The king leaped from his chariot,
and throwing several cords about the beast, soon had him
bound and helpless. He was placed in a separate chariot,
the driver of which proceeded immediately behind the
This was glory enough for one day, so Nebuchadnezzar
gave orders for the return. An outrider hastened with all
speed back to the city, and informed the officers and peo
ple of the great event.
When the king entered the gates of Babylon, it was as
if he had returned triumphant from the wars; the whole
city came forth to meet and cheer him and throw flowers
in his way. The eunuchs and chief officers of the king s
household, wishing to show their admiration for his won
derful prowess in capturing alive the magnificent king of
beasts, also wishing to flatter him in a new and most
unique manner, presented an humble petition, asking for
permission to erect a temporary building* where the lion
could be exhibited to his delighted people, and that for
once those condemned to the lion s den might be given a
chance to fight for their lives in public.
* This is an historical liberty, as it was several hundred years
after that the first amphitheater was built.
Nebuchadnezzar graciously granted this request, and the
work progressed rapidly.
In the meantime there was a magnificent festival to Bel-
tis, in her beautiful shrine in the immense Temple of
Bel us. Before the goddess stood two golden lions and two
enormous silver serpents, and many seats. Here were
crowded the women worshipers, who, no matter how
wealthy or how high their social position, were compelled
once in their lives to sacrifice their chastity to the first
man who threw a silver coin in their lap.* The coin was
considered sacred to the goddess, and could not be refused.
The festival progressed with music and merriment, and
the coming and going of many strangers attracted by this
unique but unchaste custom, and the constant arrival and
departure of the women, many coming in .conveyances
with retinues of attendants, bearing food and change of
apparel as all were compelled to remain till the goddess
was obeyed, some, being old or ill-favored, not leaving the
Temple for years.
Suddenly, at the first great shrine of Bel, as clouds of
inceuso arose from the thousand talents worth burned
daily, a lovely figure appeared, like an apparition, out of
the soft mist. But clinging to its skirts was an Ethio
pian, black arid shining, but silent with terror.
" Xo, no!" she cried, as two priestesses attempted to
force her up the incline that wound around the seven de
creasing elevations that led to the shrines of Bel and Bel-
tis, " I will not go. 1 am a daughter of Zion, a child of
Israel. I will not pollute my body by this worship of the
false gods of Babylon! I adore Jehovah alone, the one
" Impious wretch!" cried one of the priestesses. " How
darest thou thus slander our great goddess? Thy mouth
should burn with thy words!"
And she struck her on her tender lips till the blood
trickled down in a little stream and fell upon her gar
" I will not no, I will not thus break the pure laws of
our most gracious God! I will not shame the name of our
poor captive people!"
" Aha! thon art a captive Jewess, and thus defy our
sacred rites! There is a way to make thee submit the
fiery furnace, the lion s den!" cried the priestess.
" The fiery furnace would be a bed of roses compared to
the wickedness of this worship of thy detested goddess, the
embrace of the lion kindness to that to which thou wouldst
have me submit!"
" No, no; no burn up in furnace. Cleo die! no let lion
eat up pretty white flesh!"
"Impious, impious!" shrieked the priestess. "Thou
wast born under an evil star, and on an unlucky day!"
Then, as they obstructed the way and the crowd began
to laugh, she beckoned to a priest, and said:
"Take this wretch away and put her in a dungeon
until the furnace is prepared or the lions ready!"
" Thrice-welcome death!" the maiden cried, as she was
borne away, the Ethiopian shrieking wildly and tearing
200 ASAl H.
At length the day arrived for the public spectacle to the
king anil people. All the city was in a state of wild enjoy
ment; houses, temples, palaces, were all decorated with
the utmost splendor, for it was the king s birthday, and
all wished to do honor to the occasion.
lu the amphitheater, tier on tier ot faces arose from the
floor to the height of the great wall; all Babylon would
have been present had it been possible.
The great Nebuchadnezzar, with his beloved wife, Ani} -
itis, and his son, Enil-Merodach, together with his especial
favorites and guards, occupied a special portion decorated
with banners and ensigns of Babylonia placed above the
beautiful captured insignia of his many vassals.
Asaph, pale and sad, stood by the king s side. He had
heard some slight intimation that the games were to be
cruel, and perhaps blood would be shed, and he whose
heart was so gentle could not contemplate the sufferings
of others, or of even poor dumb animals, without his own
heart enduring all their pain.
Inspiring music made glad the vast assemblage, and
from the elegantly dressed people the intoxicating per
fume from delicate unguents filled the air.
With a flourish of trumpets the games commenced.
There was wrestling, vaulting, running, and jumping by
those skilled in these arts, both among the native youths
and those of the many captured nations. These sports
were miu-h enjoyed by the spectators, as each was " on his
mettle " to do his very best before such an illustrious as
semblage. Asaph s heart beat fast, and ever and anon he
could almost fancy himself one of the contestants, espe-
ASA PH. 201
ciully as they sped around the arena fleet as the wind,
lie, too, joined in the applause, giving a sigh of relief,
thinking the exhibition was to end in these peaceful
games. But the hush of expectation that fell upon the
audience told him something more exciting was to come.
The music burst forth in the strains of a national hymn.
JS ow they knew what was coming.
" The lion! the lion!" they shouted, and the excitement
knew no bounds.
Several gaudily dressed attendants entered from a side
door, bearing a great wooden cage; they placed it in the
arena in full view of the people; then one mounted on top
of it, and remained like a statue. It contained the capt
ured lion. Suddenly a herald came from an opposite
door, and stood in the arena; he blew a shrill blast upon
the trumpet, then cried:
" Oh, king, live forever! One of the meanest of thy
slaves has dared to defy thy power, neither worshiping thy
great image on the plain, nor giving tribute to our good
Beltis. She scandalized the service of the godess and
brought our religion into contempt. She has been con
demned by divine command to punishment by furnace or
" But, oh, king of all the earth, knowing thy wondrous
kindness, \vo ask thy permission to grant this maiden a
chance of life, even with the lion thou hast caught, or that
one fight for her who feels inclined!"
The king extended his scepter, and plaudits filled the
air. Ah! now there will be fine sport, for there was
202 ASA PH.
enough natural cruelty in this bitter hasty nation to
enjoy the contest even to the shedding of blood.
Again the herald blew the trumpet, then opening a door
close to the lion s cage he led forth a most lovely maiden
dressed in flowing white robes, with her black hair falling
nearly to her feet, and, clinging to her like her shadow,
the Ethiopian slave it was the Princess Elia and the
Asapli started back in terror. It was the Princess Elia.
All the blood left his face and he shook like one with ague.
Again the herald sounded the trumpet and cried:
" Oh, king! live forever, and oh, all ye people! will one
from among your number, moved by the compassion of
the gods, encounter the noble beast to save this fair cap
Quick as a flash, Asaph stripped from his shoulders his
garments of state, ran to the separating wall, and vaulted
over it like a trained athlete.
Standing in the center of the arena, with his bow and
arrows in his hands which he had concealed he cried:
" I, Asaph, the Israelite, will fight for the captive
Nebuchadnezzar turned ashy pale. Should the boy he
so loved be torn to pieces for a worthless slave? He was
about to cry out in his agony to let the slave go free and
save the youth, when suddenly the princess and the herald
having retired to their places, the attendant on the top of
the cage raised the barred gate, and the lion came forth.
For a moment Asaph gazed into his eyes; the vast as
semblage held their breath from fear; then, uttering a low
cry, ho turned suddenly and ran. For a moment the lion
stood still, but Asaph repeated the cry still louder, and
with a roar the lion followed fast upon his tr ack.
The people all loved the beautiful youth, and their
spirits fell as they saw him thus turn and run, without one
effort to save his life.
On and on he ran around the arena, then around again;
no racer in the games had made such time. Still on and
on, the lion gaining slowly but surely; ever and anon the
low cry of an animal in distress came from Asaph s lips;
the people were so excited they could scarcely keep their
Still on and on would he never tire? Nearer and
nearer came the lion; yet faster and faster flew the boy,
till his feet seemed scarcely to touch the earth. With ter
rific roars the lion made greater efforts, swaying his great,
shaggy head from side to side. Ah! a few more steps, and
there would be a bloody corpse upon the sand!
Nearer and nearer came the beast, till Asaph could feel
his panting breath upon his limbs. Suddenly he caught a
portion of Asaph s garment and tore it with his cruel
fangs. A great sob went up from the people. Nebu
chadnezzar turned the hue of a corpse, and the princess
from her door, where she could see it all, gave a loud
shriek of despair that, rang through the vast amphithe
But Asaph sprung lightly aside and countermarched
upon the lion, who continued his way, roaring and shak
ing his inane.
His impetus had been so great that he had finished the
circuit of the arena before he seemed to realize that his
prey had escaped him.
Asaph, slowing his paces to a walk, awaited the ap
proach of the infuriated beast, who, catching sight of him,
again advanced with renewed roars of anger. Asaph
affixed an arrow to his bow, and calmly drew the string,
then another, and another, and the king of beasts lay dead
by the princess s door, transfixed by three arrows through
Asaph opened the door, and taking Elia by the hand,
" Oh, king, live forever! Grant me of thy mercy this
maiden s life!"
Nebuchadnezzar, as with a sob of joy, extended his
scepter, and the vast assemblage shouted till the walls of
Babylon gave back the sound again and again like rolling
ASAPH WEDS THE PRINCESS.
AT the palace there was a great feast, and all was hap
piness. The king s strong nature gave every evidence of
his joy at the safety of his loved Asaph. From his pecul
iar golden hair and radiantly fair skin all the princes and
officers and eunuchs of the court looked at him as outside
the pale of their petty jealousy, as a being really descend
ed from the gods, so they revered him as well as loved
him, and all rejoiced that he had escaped the fangs of the
Amyitis was almost as glad as the king himself.
" How brave thou wert, my pretty boy; when the lion
tore thy garment my heart gave a great bound, for I did
not think thou wert such a master of the art as to be able
to deceive the king of beasts himself."
And so they all praised him; and his mother looked
glad and happy.
To-night Asaph was unusually joyous. He had found
his princess, and had saved her life. When Nebuchad
nezzar was leaning on his loved cup-bearer s arm and
speaking to him gently, his heart being glad with wine,
Asaph told him of his love for the princess, and asked his
permission to espouse her.
The king was silent for awhile, then said :
206 AS A PH.
" So that is the reason thou hast often looked sad?
Will she take thy heart away from thy king?"
" Kay, oh, king. I worship thee forever, as the sun
thut brightens all my life. Thou wilt have two to love
and serve thee now in place of one."
After a pause Nebuchadnezzar said:
" Wouldst thou forego the custom of thy people and ask
not the year of rest from attendance on the lord thy
" Most willingly, oh, king! A year without the light of
thy countenance would be a year of darkness to thy serv
The king smiled.
" Be it as thou wishest, and according to thine own cus
toms; but I will have the ceremonies with such grandeur
as befits a favorite of the king and a princess of royal
Then the music burst forth, and the singers and dancers
appeare:!, and so amusements followed close upon each
other till all were summoned to the magnificent banquet
ing chambers, and there they remained till the stars grew
Asaph could neither interpret dreams nor foretell events
by the configuration of the stars, but he could answer the
king in his own language in chosen befitting words, and
could make his heart glad with a seraphic smile or sad
with a look of sorrow.
He never disputed with the wise Chaldeans; and even
the dignified Daniel looked upon him as scarce more than
a pretty boy, but deep in Asaph s heart was a yearning to
enlighten his captive brethren, to instill into their minds a
greater reverence for the true God, a clearer idea of His
mercy and goodness, to arouse them from the apathy into
which they had often fallen by the almost impossibility of
being perfect in practice in the stern school of the Mosaic
dispensation of the law. But his attendance was so con
stant that he could not fulfill his heart s desire; but many
times late into the night he would lay prostrate on the
floor of his chamber and pray for light to the great Je
Asaph often passed the royal prison, where the gentle
Jehoiakim and Zedekiah resided, and where a certain
amount of liberty was allowed them for the king did not
forget they were of the royal blood. One day, as they
were walking in the small garden, the poor blind Zedekiah,
leaning on the arm of the young king, Asaph paused at the
iron-barred gate. The sentinnel advanced.
" 1 would speak a moment to the captives," Asaph
said; and as the man recognized the king s cup-bearer, he
withdrew a pace. " King Jehoiakim," called Asaph,
" Who calls?" asked Zedekiah, with the quicker ear of
" Asaph, who brought thee food in Jerusalem."
Jehoiakim turned quickly.
" Oh, king, thy sister is alive and well. We are to
wed. The great Nebuchadnezzar has sanctioned it; dost
" What, the Moloch boy?" he replied, in astonishment.
208 ASA PH.
" No, the king s cup-bearer. I saved her life from the
cruel lion. We love each other; and thy consent will
make us still more happy, and thine too, oh, Zedekiah."
" What matters the consent of two poor prisoners, one
with blinded eyes who can never look upon thy face again,
yet I remember it was a kindly face. And thou art rich
and honored now, while I am but a captive slave." And
Jehoiukim bowed his head.
" Thy consent, oh, kings! We will remember thee in all
our prayers to the God of Israel," said Asaph, softly.
" Thou hast it, boy," they replied, " and may Jehovah
smile upon you both."
" Peace be upon you now and forever, Asaph replied
softly, then moved away.
The marriage of Asaph and the Princess Elia was cele
brated with the utmost magnificence, and the festivities
were kept up for many days, and Asaph was in the full
ness of his happiness. Helah nightly gave thanks to Je
hovah for the one loved son that He had given her.
NEBUCHADNEZZAB S MADNESS.
YEARS passed away. Asaph still waited on the king;
sons and daughters were born to him, and he was honored
The captive Israelites in and around Babylon were slow
ly but surely turning again to the true God. Asaph be
lieving that old customs and traditions were passing away,
arid that this very captivity was to work out Jehovah s
plan of turning the whole world to His knowledge and
worship, taught the Jews secretly in the underground hid
den places, many of which were built for cool retreats dur
ing the torrid heat of summer.
A number of Israelites of advanced opinions were accus
tomed to come each night and listen to him and treasure
each word that fell from his lips as though from a
One night an ancient asked him:
" Master, why in our father s time was the least igno
rant infringement of the law so severely punished?"
" The law is unchangeable and inexorable now and for
ever, since the beginning, knowing neither mercy, pity,
nor compassion; certain consequences followed, and still
their breaking, and no one can escape their effects save by
Divine interposition. If a man falls from a great height
the la\v of force causes him injuries of which he may die.
Should a heavy substance strike him in a vifal part, even
in his eagerness and joy to serve Jehovah, he may die as
witness Uzzah trying to steady the ark, which, according
to the light I have so prayed to receive, was not punished
for good intentions; but the law of force was violated by