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were surprised and confounded at the triumphi of Elijah over the false prophets, “ Jehovah he is the God; Jehovah he is the God."
Such sentiments being deeply impressed upon their minds at an early period, were obviously preserved and cherished, not only among the immediate sufferers, but by the rising generation, in the progressive years of their captivity, by a series of interesting events which took place at different seasons. They could not be ignorant, that the elevation of their countryman and fellow sufferer Daniel, to the most exalted station in Chaldea, was entirely owing to the great superiority of his wisdom over that of the most renowned magicians: and that he was inspired with this superior wisdom by the Jehovah of Israel. They were doubtless informed of the danger and miraculous preservation of the three conscientious Governors, when they were in the fiery furnace, because they refused to worship the golden image erected in the plains of Dura. The triumph of Daniel over hisenemies, when he was cast into the den of lions, and escaped unhurt, because he persevered in his prayers and supplications to his God, in opposition to the royal mandate, must have made a deep impression upon their minds; must have had a tendency to alienate them from the service of idols which never had delivered, and never could de
liver any of their worshippers. The solemn acknowledgment also of Darius, the king, when he was astonished at the preservation of Daniel, that “the God of Daniel is the living God, and stedfast for ever; his kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end;” must have inspired them with such an exultation and confidence in the divine superiority, as would prevent them from relapsing into their former follies.
Upon the eve of their return, the deep veneration expressed by the great Cyrus for the God of the Hebrews, manifested by the peculiar patronage bestowed upon these captives, because they were professedly his servants, and by his liberal grants to enable them to rebuild their temple, and reinstate the worship of Jehovah in its pristine splendour, must have struck their minds as a complete conquest over the gods of the heathens.
Thus were they gradually prepared, during the several stages of their sojournment in Chaldea, to return to the land of their fathers, according to the predictions of their prophets. Their knowledge of these predictions, united with the events which gradually unfolded their accomplishment, would naturally dispose and encourage them to pursue the necessary measures, when the favourable opportunity arrived.
In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we have circumstantial narratives of the methods by which the return of this scattered people, at different periods, and their reorganization in the land of Judea, was effected. We shall refer our readers to these records for numerous particulars, introductory of a new and important æra to the children of Israel ; and shall solely direct our attention to those circumstances, which manifested and confirmed a total change of character.
The first detachment under Zerubbabel, amounting to upwards of fifty thousand souls, testified their pięty by immediately erecting an altar "to offer burnt offerings thereon, to the God of Israel, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God; and although fear was upon them because of the people of these countries, yet they burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord morning and evening. They also kept the feast of tabernacles, and all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated.". But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid, and they testified an ardent zeal for the work, by
giving money unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat and drink and oil unto them of Zidon, and unto them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa,
according to the grant they had of Cyrus, king I of Persia.”
Few of those who were carried captive at an early period with their king Jehoiakim, could have remained alive; but many
of the younger captives, when the city was sacked, and the house of God destroyed by fire, under the weak and wicked Zedekiah, might, in their advanced years, be witnesses to the important change. The multitude, however, were strangers to the splendour of the first temple; their joy and exultation was great, and unalloyed by any unpleasant reflections, which might have arisen from a comparison of former days with the present. The different emotions of these two classes, are described in a simple but affecting manner. The solemn act of laying the foundation of the temple was accompanied with every demonstration of pious joy. “They set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbols, to praise the Lord after the ordinance of David, king of Israel ; and they sang together in course in praising and giving thanks unto Jehovah, because he is good, for his mercy endureth for evertowards Israel. And the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was
many of the priests and Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, , that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the shout of joy for the noise of the weeping of the people.”
Many of those who had continued in Judea, and had been deeply contaminated with the abominations of idolatry; and also the inhabitants of Samaria, who were very imperfect proselytes to the Jewish religion, were ambitious to share in the honours of the new establishment; but they would have been dangerous associates, and their application was rejected. The refusal excited an inveterate resentinent, and produced such malicious and artful misrepresentations, that the work was suspended during the life of Artaxerxes. But in the second year of Darius, the original grant of Cyrus was examined, and enforced under the protection of the sovereign; and the work was re-commenced with renewed vigour. The undertaking of Zerubbabel and Joshua was assisted and encouraged, by the prophets Haggai and Zachariah. . The temple was finally built and finished, “according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and accord