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flood over the land. For two years the Jews defended their city. During the siege, the famine was so severe, that mothers even slew their own children for food. At last, the enemy forced an entrance into the city. Zedekiah fell in his flight into the hands of the enemies; and now was fulfilled what Ezekiel had foretold concerning him— that he should go to Babylon and die there, but that he should not see the land. The Chaldeans put out his eyes, and the last thing which he saw before that was done, was the execution of his own sons; and then he was carried away to Babylon. The city of Jerusalem and the temple were plundered and burned; and the costly vessels and utensils of the temple were carried away to Babylon, and placed in the temple of Bel. And all the people, except a few of the great men in whom Nebuchadnezzar had confidence, and a number of the poorest of the people, were taken away and placed in different parts of the Babylonian kingdom; and thus were scattered as stubble before the wind, as the prophets had said.
The chief man among those who were left was Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon made governor over Judah. But the Jews slew this faithful man. Jeremiah the prophet received permission from the king to remain in the land; and he wrote his Lamentations among the ruins of Jerusalem.
55. THE HEBREW YOUTHS.
WE must not form such an idea of the captivity, as to suppose that the Jews were given up
THE HEBREW YOUTHS.
entirely to the will of their conquerors, or that they were their slaves. They enjoyed equal rights with the Chaldeans, and were able to rise to the highest dignities. Nebuchadnezzar caused some Jewish youths to be brought up and educated in science. Amongst these were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, whom Nebuchadnezzar afterwards raised to the highest offices and honours, by means of which they were enabled to promote the welfare of their countrymen, and at the same time to diffuse the light of Divine truth among the heathen. But they had first to go through a severe trial.
They considered it sinful to eat the food which Iwas sent to them from the table of Nebuchadnezzar; and they requested the person who had the oversight of them to allow them to eat instead only pulse, or vegetables; and instead of wine, to drink only water. In doing this God blessed them, so that they became stronger and fairer than any of the others; and when the time came for them to be presented before the king, there was no one found equal to them in wisdom and knowledge.
Out of the great spoil which Nebuchadnezzar had collected together out of various countries, he caused a golden image to be made, sixty cubits high. At the dedication of this image, all his mighty men were assembled. Then a herald cried aloud, "To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages. That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up; and whoso falleth not
down and worshippeth, shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."
At this dedication, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, on account of the offices they held, had been required to be present; and as soon as the ceremony was over, an accusation was brought against them to the king, that when all the rest had fallen upon their faces, they alone had remained standing. Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to be brought before him, and said, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" And they answered and said to the king, "Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and he commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And then these three men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. And the fired burned so furiously, that the men who cast them into the furnace were consumed by the flames, and the three men fell down bound into the midst of the furnace.
Then the king rose up in astonishment, and said to his counsellors, "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? Lo! I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the
fourth is like the Son of God." Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither." Then they came forth, and there was not a hair of their head singed, neither were their garments changed, nor had the smell of fire passed upon them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him." And the king gave to these three men great power in his kingdom.
GREATLY as Daniel had been honoured by Nebuchadnezzar in his youth, he was raised still higher by his successor, Belshazzar; but he was most exalted by Darius the Mede, who made him president over the third part of the kingdom, and thought to set him over the whole realm. Daniel's prosperity so excited the envy of the princes, that they sought his overthrow. But it was impossible to find any occasion against him, except concerning the law of his God. His enemies, therefore, persuaded the king to make a decree, that whosoever should ask a petition of any god or man, except of the king, should be cast into a den of lions. Daniel, however, continued to pray to his God three times a day, as he was accustomed, with his windows open towards Jerusalem. His enemies assembled, and found Daniel praying and
a Dan. iii.
making supplication before his God, and they immediately made it known to the king.
The king would gladly have delivered him; but, on account of the decree which he had made, they succeeded in inducing the king to cast him into the den of lions. "Thy God," said the king
to him, "whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." The king sealed the door of the den with his own signet, and then went to his palace; but he ate nothing, nor could he sleep the whole night. And he arose very early in the morning, and went in haste to the den of lions, and with a lamentable voice he cried out, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God,