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at his disposal, and entreated permission to put an
end to the malefactor; but Gedaliah placed no faith
in their warning. This confidence, whether it owed
its cause to a feeling of power or of weakness, was
destined to prove fatal to him and to the newly-
organised community.

It was about four years after the destruction
of Jerusalem and the gathering of the scattered
Judaeans around their governor, that Ishmael, with
ten followers, displaying great friendliness to Geda-
liah, arrived in Mizpah to celebrate a festival. Geda.
liah invited them to a banquet, and whilst the assem-
bly, perhaps under the influence of wine, anticipated
no evil, Ishmael and his followers drew their swords
and killed the governor, the Chaldaeans and all men
present who were capable of bearing arms. The
remaining people in Mizpah, old men, women, chil-
dren, and eunuchs, he placed under the guard of his
people, in order that his crime might not become
known. Ishmael and his ten followers then carried
off into captivity the inhabitants of Mizpah, for the
most part women and children, among them the
daughters of King Zedekiah, as also the venerable
prophet Jeremiah and his disciple Baruch, taking
them across the Jordan to the Ammonites.

However, secretly though he had performed his evil
deeds, they could not long remain unknown. Joha-
nan and the other chiefs had received information of


what had happened, and were not a little indignant
at being deprived of their protector, and cast back
into the uncertainties of an adventurous existence.
They hurriedly armed themselves to punish the
crime as it deserved. The murderers were met at
their first halting-place, at the lake of Gibeon, by
Johanan and the others, who prepared to do battle
with them. At sight of the pursuers the prisoners
hurried to join them. It appears that a fray ensued, in
which two of Ishmael's followers were killed. He,
however, escaped, with eight men, crossed the Jor-
dan, and returned to the land of Ammon. His
nefarious design, nevertheless, had succeeded; with
the death of Gedaliah the Jewish commonwealth was
broken up.

The survivors were at a loss how to act. They
feared to remain in their country, as it was easy to
foresee that Nebuchadnezzar would not leave the
death of the Chaldseans unavenged, even if he over-
looked the murder of Gedaliah, and would punish
them as accessories. Even had this fear been
groundless, how could they remain in the country
without a leader to control the unruly elements?
Their first thought was to emigrate to Egypt. The
chiefs, with Johanan at their head, therefore directed
their steps southwards. As they gradually became
calmer, the question arose whether it might not be
more advisable to remain in the land of their fathers
than to travel, on a venture, into a foreign country.
It appears that the idea first suggested itself to
Baruch, and that it was received with favour by
some of the chiefs, whilst others were opposed to
it. Owing to this difference of opinion concerning
the plan on which the weal and woe of so many
depended, the leaders determined to leave the de-
cision to Jeremiah. He was to pray to God, and
entreat Him for a prophetic direction as to the
course they should adopt, calling on God to witness
that they would abide by his word.


Ten days Jeremiah wrestled in prayer that his
spirit might be illumined by the true prophetic light.
During this time the feelings of the leaders had
changed, and they had all determined on emigra-
tion. When Jeremiah called together the chiefs
and all the people, and informed them that the
prophetic spirit had revealed to him that they should
remain in the land without fear, he saw from their
looks that they rejected this decision. He therefore
added the threat that, if they insisted on emigra-
tion, the sword which they feared would the more
surely reach them ; that none of them would ever
again behold his fatherland, and that they would all
perish through manifold plagues, in Egypt. Hardly
had Jeremiah ended his address, when Jezaniah and
Johanan called to him, " Thou proclaimest lies in
the name of God ; not He has inspired thee with
these words, but thy disciple Baruch." Without
further consideration the leaders proceeded on the
way towards Egypt, and the entire multitude had
perforce to follow them.

Jeremiah and Baruch also had to join the rest, for
they could do nothing in their deserted country.
Thus they wandered as far as the Egyptian town of
Taphnai (Tachpanches). They were kindly received
by King Hophra, who was sufficiently grateful to
show hospitality towards those whom his persua-
sions had brought to their present misery. There
they met with older Judsean emigrants. Thus,
more than a thousand years after the Exodus, the
sons of Jacob returned to Egypt, but under what
changed circumstances! At that time they had
been powerful shepherd tribes, narrow in their views
it is true, but unsullied and strong, with hearts
swelling with hope. Their descendants, on the con-
trary, with sore hearts and disturbed minds, were
too much estranged from their principles to find
solace and tranquillity in their God and their nation-
ality, yet not sufficiently changed to merge them-


selves into the other races and disappear amongst
them. Like all unwilling emigrants, they were
buoyed up by false hopes, and watched every polit-
ical movement which might bring them an oppor-
tunity to return to their country, there to live in their
former independence.

Meanwhile, Judaea was almost completely depopu-
lated. Nebuchadnezzar was not inclined to treat
the occurrences at Mizpah, the murder of Gedaliah
and the Chaldseans with him, with indifference. He
probably saw that it had been an error to permit a
weak Judaean community to exist, dependent solely
on one man. He, therefore, once more sent out the
leader of his guards, in order to take revenge on the
remaining Judaeans. Nebuzaradan, as a matter of
course, found none of the leaders, nor any man of
importance; none but the remaining agriculturists,
gardeners, and vine-dressers. These, with their
wives and children, being seven hundred and forty-
five persons in all, the last remnant of the population
of Judaea, were led to Babylonia (582) into captivity.
This was the third banishment since Jehoiachin.
The innocent, on this occasion also, had to suffer for
the guilty. There is no historical record as to what
became of Ishmael and his fellow-conspirators. Geda-
liah's name, on the other hand, remained in the mem-
ory of the survivors, on account of his violent death.
The anniversary of his murder was observed in Baby-
lonia as a fast day. Nebuchadnezzar, after Gedaliah's
death, determined to leave no Judaean in the country,
and Judaea remained depopulated and deserted. A
later prophet laments over its utter desertion : " The
holy cities have become a waste, Zion a wilderness,
Jerusalem a desolation " (Isaiah Ixiv. 9).

Thus the punishment which the prophets had pre-
dicted was fulfilled. The soil of Judah could now
rest, and celebrate the Sabbatical years which had
been neglected so long. In the south the Idumaeans
had appropriated some stretches of Judaean territory


on their borders (with or without permission from
the Babylonian king), and had extended their pos-
sessions as far as the slope (Shephela) of the Medi-
terranean Sea. The exiles therefore felt a bitter
hatred against the Idumseans, who, in addition to
plundering Jerusalem, and giving up the fugitives,
had now seized on the land of their heritage. Two
prophets, who had escaped from the massacre and the
desolation, and lived amongst the exiles, gave vivid
expression to this deplorable feeling Obadiah and an
anonymous prophet. Both prophesied evil against
Edom, as a retribution for its conduct towards the
kindred nation, the Jews, and towards Jerusalem.

Although the Judseans were everywhere coldly
received, and their own country had become, to a
certain extent, the property of their enemies, the
refugees in Egypt still nursed the hope that they
would soon return to their fatherland, and again
inhabit it. Warlike happenings strengthened this
hope, but the venerable prophet Jeremiah endeav-
oured to dispel their illusions. His heart prompted
him to speak severely to the Egyptian Judseans,
because, unchastened by misfortunes, they had once
more devoted themselves to the worship of the god-
dess Neith. Despite their infatuation with strange
gods, they yet, in their incomprehensible blindness,
clung to the name of Jehovah, and swore by
Him. Jeremiah, for the last time before descend-
ing to his grave, desired to tell them that, owing
to their unconquerable folly, they would never return
to their fatherland. He therefore summoned the
Judaeans of Migdol, Taphnai, Memphis, and Sais (?)
to a general meeting at Taphnai. He still pos-
sessed sufficient influence to ensure their obeying
his summon?!. He put the case before thf m in plain
language. Their idolatrous practices, however, were
so dear to their hearts that they openly boasted of
thqm, and told the prophet that they would not re-
linquish them. The women were particularly aggres-


sive: "The oath which we have taken, to offer up
incense and wine to the queen of heaven, shall be
kept, as we and our fathers were formerly accus-
tomed to do in the cities of Judaea and in the
streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had bread
in plenty, we were happy, and saw no evil. Since
we have left off making sacrifices to the queen of
heaven we have been in want, and our people have
perished by the sword or through hunger." Jere-
miah thus answered their blasphemy: "Fulfil your
oaths; all the men of Judah will surely die in the
land of Egypt; only a few fugitives from the sword
shall return from Egypt into the land of Judah.
They shall learn whose word shall endure mine or
theirs." As a sign, he predicted that King Hophra,
on whom they depended, would fall into the hands
of his enemy, as Zedekiah had lallen into the hands
of Nebuchadnezzar. The announcement that Hophra
would meet with a disastrous end was fulfilled. In
a warlike expedition against Cyrene, his army was
defeated, and his warriors, jealous of the Carians
and lonians, whom he favoured, rebelled against
him. An Egyptian of low caste, Amasis (Amosis),
placed himself at the head of the rebels, conquered
Hophra, dethroned him, and caused him to be
strangled (571-70). This new Pharaoh, who was
very careful to attract to himself the Egyptians and
also to win the Greeks over to his side, took no
interest in those Judseans who had settled in Egypt.
They were neglected, and their dream of returning
to their fatherland through the help of Egypt was
dispelled. Jeremiah seems to have lived to see this

His tender heart must have become still sadder
in his old age, as he had not succeeded in "bringing
forth the precious from the vile." The few Judseans
who were around him in Egypt remained firm in
their folly and hardness of heart. But Jeremiah had
not toiled in vain. The seed which he had sown


grew up plentifully on another ground, where it was
carefully tended by his fellow-prophets. His office,
not only to destroy, but to rebuild and plant anew,
was carried on in another place. His disciple Baruch,
son of Neriah, appears to have left the exiles in
Egypt for those in Babylon, after the death of the
prophet of Anathoth.



Nebuchadnezzar's treatment of the Exiles The Exiles obtain grants
of land Evil-Merodach favours Jehoiachin Number of the
Judsean Exiles Ezekiel's captivity in the first period of the Exile
Moral change of the People Baruch collects Jeremiah's Pro-
phecies and compiles the Histories The Mourners of Zion
Proselytes The Pious and the Worldly The Poetry of the
Time Psalms and Book of Job Nabonad's Persecutions The
Martyrs and the Prophets of the Exile The Babylonian Isaiah
Cyrus captures Babylon The Return under Zerubbabel.

572537 B. C. E.

WAS it chance, or was it a special design, that
the Judseans, who were banished to Babylonia, were
humanely and kindly treated by the conqueror Neb-
uchadnezzar? Is there, in fact, in the history of
nations, and in the chain of events, such a thing as
chance ? Can we affirm positively that the condition
and state of mankind would have been quite unlike
what they now are, if this or that circumstance had
accidentally not occurred ? Can we believe that,
whilst firm and unalterable laws govern all things in
the kingdom of nature, the history of nations should
be the result of mere caprice? Nebuchadnezzar's
clemency to the people of Judah was of great im-
portance in the historical development of that na-
tion. The preservation of the exiles, reduced by
much misery to a mere handful, was mainly due to
this kindness. Nebuchadnezzar was not like those
ruthless conquerors of earlier and later days, who
took pleasure in wanton destruction. The desire to
build up and to create was as dear to his heart
as conquest. He wished to make the newly
established Chaldsean kingdom great, populous
and rich. His capital, Babylon, was to surpass the


now ruined Nineveh. He built a wall round his
city, which was nine miles in circumference, and he
added a new town to the old one, on the eastern side
of the river Euphrates. The conquered people, taken
forcibly from their own homes, were transplanted
into this new city, whilst domiciles were given to
many Judaean captives in the capital itself, those in
particular being favoured who had freely accepted
Nebuchadnezzar's rule. In fact, so generous was his
treatment that entire families and communities from
the cities of Judaea and Benjamin, with their kindred
and their slaves, had the privilege of remaining
together. They were free, and their rights and cus-
toms were respected. The families transplanted
from Jerusalem such as the princes of the royal
house (the sons of David), the descendants of Joab
or the family of Pahath-Moab, the family of Parosh
and others, formed each a special league, and were
allowed to govern themselves after the manner of
their family traditions. Even the slaves of the Temple
(the Nethinim) and the slaves of the state, who had
followed their masters into exile, lived grouped
together according to their own pleasure.

Most probably the exiles received land and dwell-
ing-places in return for those which they had for-
feited in their own country. Ihe land divided
amongst them was cultivated by themselves or by
their servants. They not only possessed slaves,
but also horses, mules, camels, and asses. As long
as they paid the tax on their lands and, perhaps,
also a poll-tax, and obeyed the laws of the king,
they were permitted to enjoy their independence.
They probably clung to each other and their common
national memories the more closely, as, like most
exiles, they fondly cherished the hope that their re-
turn to their own country would surely be brought
about by some unforeseen event. One other cir-
cumstance greatly helped them. In the Chaldsean
kingdom the Aramaic language predominated, and


as it was cognate with Hebrew, the exiles learnt it
easily, and soon made themselves understood by the
inhabitants. Even in those days the Judaeans pos-
sessed peculiar facility for acquiring foreign lan-
guages. The position of the Judaeans in Babylonia
after the death of Nebuchadnezzar (561) was still
more favourable.

Nebuchadnezzar's son and successor, Evil-Mero-
dach (Illorodamos) was utterly unlike his father.
He was not courageous, nor did he love warfare, .
and he paid little attention to the business of the
state. Judaean youths, from the royal house of
David, were to be found at his court as eunuchs.
How often have these guardians of the harem, these
servants of their master's whims, become in turn
masters of their master. The king Evil-Merodach
appears to have been under the influence of a Judaean
favourite, who induced him to release the captive king
Jehoiachin, who had been imprisoned for thirty-seven
years. The Babylonian monarch clothed him in royal
garments, invited him to the royal table, and supplied
his wants most generously. When Evil-Merodach
held his court with unusual pomp, and assembled
all the great men of the kingdom about him, he
raised a throne for Jehoiachin higher than the thrones
of the other conquered kings. He wished all the
world to know that the former king of Judaea was his
particular favourite.

This generosity of Evil-Merodach must have ex-
tended in some degree to Jehoiachin's fellow-pris-
oners, for to many of them greater freedom was
given, whilst others, who had been kept in the strictest
captivity on account of their enmity to Nebuchad-
nezzar, were released. In fact, it is possible that
Evil-Merodach might have been persuaded to allow
the exiles to return home, with Jehoiachin as king
of Judaea, had not his own death intervened. After
a short reign of two years, he was murdered by his
brother-in-law, Neriglissar (560). The dream of re-


turning to their own country, in which some Babylo-
nian Judseans had indulged, was thus dispelled.
They were soon to learn the hardships of captivity.

One of the many prophecies of the Hebrew seers
namely, that only a small part of the people
should be saved had been fulfilled. Insignificant
indeed was the remnant. Of the four millions of
souls which the children of Israel numbered in the
reign of King David, only about a hundred thousand
remained. Millions had fallen victims to the sword,
famine, and pestilence, or had disappeared and been
lost in foreign lands. But there was another side
to the prophecies, which had not yet been realised.
The greater number of the Judsean exiles, particularly
those belonging to the most distinguished families,
unchastened by the crushing blow \\hich had befallen
their nation and their country, persisted in their obsti-
nacy and hardness of heart. The idolatrous practices
to which they had been addicted in their own country,
they continued in Babylon. It was difficult indeed to
root out the passion for idolatry from the hearts of
the people. The heads of the families, or elders, who
laid claim to a kind of authority over all the other
exiles, were as cruel and as extortionate in Babylonia
as they had been in Palestine. Regardless of those
beneath them, they did not try to better their condi-
tion. They chose the best and most fruitful portions
of the lands assigned to them, leaving the worst to
their subordinates.

Ezekiel, the son of Buzi, the first prophet of the
captivity (born about 620, died about 570) directed
his prophetic ardour against the folly and obstinacy
of the exiles. Gifted with simple, yet fiery and im-
pressive eloquence, with a sweet and impassioned
voice, and fully conscious of the highest ideal of
religion and morality that the Judseans were capable
of attaining, he spoke with courage and energy to
his fellow-exiles. At first they treated him roughly
(actually fettering him upon one occasion), but at

CH. xvm. EZEKIEL. 333

last he gained their attention, and they would gather
round him when he prophesied.

The elders had often entreated him to foretell the
end of that terrible war whilst it was raging in and
about Jerusalem, but he had been silent. Why
should he repeat for the hundredth time that the
city, the nation, and the Temple were to be inevitably
destroyed? But when a fugitive announced to him
that the threatened misfortune had become a reality,
he broke silence. Ezekiel first addressed himself to
the conscienceless and heartless elders, who were
leading a comfortable existence in captivity, whilst
they were ill-treating their unfortunate brethren.
(Ezekiel, ch. xxxiv.) But also in another direction,
he had to combat a false idea prevailing amongst
the exiles. Like the rest of the prophets, Ezekiel
had foretold with absolute certainty the ultimate
return of the Judaeans to Palestine, but also their
return to a purer state of morality. Many of the
captives, however, in consequence of their repeated
misfortunes, began to despair of the new birth of the
nation, and looked upon it as a mere dream. They
said, " Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost:
we are quite cut off." The greatest of all evils is for
a nation to despair of its future and to give up every
hope. Ezekiel considered it a most important duty
to banish this gloom from the hearts of his people.
In a beautiful simile that of the dry bones restored
to life he placed before them a picture of their new

But there was another group of exiles who de-
spaired of the restoration of the Judsean people.
They felt themselves utterly crushed by their sins.
For centuries the nation had tempted the anger of
its God by idolatry and other misdeeds. These sins
could not be undone, but must meet with their inev-
itable result the death of the sinner. These unfor-
tunate people exclaimed, " If our transgressions and
our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how


then should we live ?" But the prophet Ezekiel also
combated this gloomy belief, that sin and its punish-
ment were inseparably connected, and that crime
must necessarily lead to the death of the sinner. In
eloquent words, he laid before the people his con-
solatory doctrine of the efficacy of repentance.

Often and in varied terms Ezekiel spoke of the
future deliverance of the exiles, and painted it in
ideal colours. So deeply was this prophet of the
exile impressed with the certainty of a return to the
old order of things in his own country, that he actually
devised a plan for the building of a new Temple, and
for the ordering of divine service and of the priest-
hood. Ezekiel was far from thinking that such a
brilliant and glorious future was near at hand. The
ideas, the feelings, and the actions which he daily
observed in the exiles were not of a kind to justify
such a hope. But he and other holy men helped to
make a small beginning. Not long after the death
of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, an unexpected change for
the better commenced. The captivity which, not-
withstanding the kind treatment at the hands of
Nebuchadnezzar and his son, was attended with much
suffering, but more especially the influence of their
peculiar literature led to a change in the disposition
of the people. In the very midst of the idolatrous
abominations of the kingdoms of Ephraim and Judah,
the flowers of a higher morality had blossomed.
" The Spirit of God had dwelt amidst the uncleanli-
ness of the people." The sublime thoughts of the
prophets and the psalmists, awakened during the
course of centuries, had not vanished into thin
air with speech and song, but had taken root in
some hearts, and had been preserved in writing.
The priests of the sons of Zadok, who had never
been idolatrous, had brought with them into cap-
tivity the Torah (the Pentateuch) ; the disciples of
the prophets had brought the eloquent words of
their teachers; the Levites had brought the sublime


Psalms; the wise men, a treasure of excellent say-
ings; the learned had preserved the historical books.
Treasures, indeed, had been lost, but one treasure
remained which could not be stolen, and this the exiles
had taken with them into a strange land. A rich,
brilliant, and manifold literature had been carried into
exile with them, and it became a power that taught,
ennobled, and rejuvenated. These writings were
replete with wonders. Had not the prophecy been
realised to the letter, that the land of Israel would
spew forth its people on account of their folly and
their crimes, just as it had thrust out the Canaan-
ites? Had not the menacing words of the prophets
come to pass in a most fearful manner? Jeremiah
had prophesied daily, in unambiguous words, the
destruction of the nation, the city, and the Temple.
Ezekiel had foretold the terrible war and subse-
quent misery, and his words had been fulfilled ;
and earlier still, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, and even
Moses had warned the people that exile and destruc-
tion would follow upon the transgression of the Law.
Yet in spite of all their terrible misery, the people
were not entirely annihilated. A remnant existed,
small indeed, and homeless, but this remnant had

Online LibraryHeinrich GraetzHistory of the Jews (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 46)