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RELIGIOUS ID E A S.
JEWS AFTER THE EXILE.
" Judea's homeless hearts, that turn
From all earth's shrines thee,
In sleepless memory."
The captives in Babylon did not reside in a district by themselves, as their ancestors had done in Egypt. They were dispersed in all parts of the country, and effectually mixed with the inhabitants. Nebuchadnezzar gave orders that the handsomest and most intelligent lads belonging to the higher classes among them should be placed in the schools of the Magi, and instructed in all Chaldean learning. At these schools, which were very famous in their day, young Hebrews had an opportunity to study divination, for the interpretation of dreams; astrology, in connection with prophecy; astronomical calculations, in which were included the periodical destruction of the world ; and chemical knowledge, made use of by priests, to resist ordeals by fire or poison. Daniel, and his kinsmen of the royal line of Judah, were educated at these schools. By
his skilful interpretation of a dream, he became a favourite with Nebuchadnezzar, who appointed him Chief of all the Magi, and the governor of a province, and bestowed upon him the name of Baaltasar, from Baal, the tutelary deity of Babylon. It seems marvellous that he could have been advanced to such high honours, especially to priestly dignity, without considerable conformity on his part to the established worship of the country. But the Sacred Books inform us that he clung to his religion with Hebrew tenacity, and even at the peril of his life turned his face toward Jerusalem and prayed publicly, three times a day, to the God of Israel.
The old prophecy of Nathan concerning the house of David sustained the hopes of pious exiles, who never allowed themselves to doubt that Israel would be restored to the promised land. When Cyrus the Great, of Persia, conquered Babylon, five hundred and thirty-six years before Christ, he likewise acquired possession of the land of Canaan. Hebrew prophets pointed toward him as a deliverer; and whether he was informed of that circumstance, as some have said, or whether he was merely influenced by good policy in having the soil cultivated by colonies warmly attached to it, certain it is, he gave the captives leave to return to their native land, and offered them many inducements. A large proportion, probably including the wealthiest, preferred to remain in the Persian empire, where they had acquired possessions, and formed connections in business. It was a common saying among themselves that only the bran returned to Jerusalem, while the fine flour was left in Babylon. For many ages after, the number of Jews in Chaldea, Assyria, and Persia, was thought greatly to exceed those of Palestine. A large multitude never returned.
Forty-two thousand men, with their families, accepted the permission of Cyrus to return to Jerusalem, and rebuild the temple. They belonged to Judah and Benjamin, with perhaps a few scattered individuals from other tribes. Judah, to whom pointed all the prophecies concerning a future deliverer and prince, being by far the most numerous, gave their name to the whole people, who were thenceforth called Jews. A month after their return, as soon as they had provided shelter for their families, they assembled at Jerusalem, built an altar on Mount Moriah, and offered sacrifices to the God of Israel. But their plans for rebuilding the temple met with obstructions from an unexpected quarter.
The ten tribes which formed the kingdom of Israel had been carried captive into Assyria, two hundred years before the time of Cyrus. Salmanassar, their conqueror, not wishing to leave the soil uncultivated, when it might be productive of revenue, sent thither colonies of men from various nations, probably mixed with some fugitive Israelites. These new settlers found the country infested with lions; and, according to the prevailing ideas of that period, they supposed the tutelary god of the place was angry, because the worship to which he had been accustomed was neglected. They accordingly sent messengers to the king of Assyria, begging to be instructed how the God of the Hebrews was worshipped, that they might turn aside his wrath, and thus be relieved from the plague of the lions. The king sent them some priests from among the Israel. itish captives. Thus the ritual of Moses was restored in Samaria, but became very much mixed with the worship of various foreign gods. When these Samaritans heard that Judah had returned from Babylon, with many privileges granted by Cyrus, they wished to strengthen themselves by friendly alliance with the new comers.
Accordingly, they proposed to unite with them in rebuilding the temple, saying: “We worship your God in the same manner as ye do.” But the elders of Judea scornfully replied that they were not descendants of Israel; that they were a mixed race of idolaters, and altogether unworthy to assist in rebuilding their temple. This was the beginning of a deadly enmity between Jews and Samaritans, which continued to the end of their history. As soon as the foundations of the temple were laid, the Samaritans sent ambassadors into Persia to say that the Jews had always been a people greatly given to insurrections, and thereby troublesome to kings; that they were building a citadel under the name of a temple, and planning to set up a government for themselves. By these and similar representations, the active animosity of the Samaritans defeated the rebuilding of the temple during nine years; for which
; the priests and elders of Judea solemnly pronounced a public curse upon them. At last, in the reign of Darius, hing of Persia, permission was obtained to complete the work. The Jews had contributed generously in the beginning, and laid the foundations with great joy; the priests blowing trumpets, and Levites singing Psalms of thanksgiving. But finding themselves unexpectedly impeded in the work, their zeal relaxed; and when the king of Persia allowed them to resume their labours, they neglected to do so, until famine came upon them. Then the prophet Haggai proclaimed in their ears the old doctrine of temporal rewards and punishments : “Thus saith the Lord, called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and
, upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands. Ye have sown much, and lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man to his own house. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.”
Thus exhorted, the people applied themselves with renewed diligence. The workmen were obliged to go constantly arıned, by reason of attacks from the Samaritans and other nations round them; but in seven years they completed a new temple where the old one had stood. It was of the same size and form, but much inferior in splendour, and the remembrance of more glorious days made aged men weep as they looked upon it. Cyrus had given orders that the sacred vessels carried away by Nebuchadnezzar should be restored. But it is supposed the Ark of the Covenant, the altar of incense, the golden table for show-bread, and the golden candlestick, were destroyed. They were never brought back from Babylon, and new ones, of similar pattern, were made for the second temple. The Shechinah did not again appear over the Mercy Seat, in a visible cloud, from which oracles were given. The Urim and Thummim were gone. The sacred fire had been extinguished when the old temple was demolished, and no flame descended from heaven to kindle sacrifices on the new altars of Judea. The holy oil, prepared and preserved by Moses, was wanting now; and the High Priest could not be consecrated by anointing, according to immemorial custom. However, they observed ancient rites with as much exactness as possible, and the people were satisfied. “The priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. They offered a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin-offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, as it is written in the book of Moses.”
Henceforth, we hear no more of image-worship in Jewish history. Their aversion to that kind of idolatry remained strong and permanent. During their long years of exile, prophets constantly reminded them that they had been carried into captivity as a punishment for idolatry; that because they had avariciously neglected to give rest to their land, by observing the Sabbatical Year, as the Lord had commanded Moses, therefore their once fruitful fields and vineyards were resting in desolation; that the words of the old prophets would not fail; that a royal branch certainly would spring from the root of David, and restore prosperity to Israel, if they would turn to the Lord their God, and worship him only. And when a remnant were brought back to their holy land, as some of the prophets had predicted, they were again and again reminded that