Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

here to be generally unfertile, the soil being in many places encrusted with salt, and having small heaps of a white powder, like sulphur, scattered at short in. tervals over its surface.

6 In about an hour after our turning to the eastward, we came to a ravine, apparently the bed of a torrent discharging itself from the north-west into the Jordan. We descended into this, which was now perfectly dry, and it led us, after a course of a few hundred yards, into the valley of Jordan itself. The whole of the plain, from the mountains of Judea on the west, to those of Arabia on the east, may be called the vale of Jordan, in a general way; but in the centre of the plain, which is at least ten miles broad, the Jordan runs in another still lower valley, perhaps a mile broad in some of the widest parts, and a furlong in the narrowest.

“ Into this we descended, and we thought the hills of white clayey soil on each side to be about two hundred feet in height; the second, or lower plain, being about a mile broad, generally barren, and the Jordan flowing through the middle of it, between banks which were now fourteen or fifteen feet high, while the river was at its lowest ebb. There were close thickets all along the edge of the stream, as well as upon this lower plain, which would afford ample shelter for wild beasts : and as the Jordan might overflow its banks, when swollen by rains, sufficiently to inundate this lower plain, though it could never reach the upper one, it was, most probably, from these that the lions were driven out by the inundations which gave rise to the Prophet's simile,

Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan, against the habitation of the

HISTORY OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH.

219

strong." * The overflowing is said to have been in the first month, which corresponds to our March, as, in the enumeration of the armies that came to David at Hebron, those are spoken of who went over Jordan in the first month, when he had overdowed all his banks. In the description of the passage of the priests with the ark, while the waters were divided and stood on a heap, as in the passage of the Red Sea, it is said, too, that Jordan overfloweth all his banks at the time of harvest,t which would be both in the autumn and in the spring, as there are two harvests here, one succeeding the early, and the other the latter rains.”

HISTORY OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH.

(Continued from page 188.) That God regards his servants in affliction, is often specially displayed in the peculiar means employed for their deliverance. While drawing the resources of his Providence from the most distant and unlooked. for quarters, he impresses on their spirits the con. viction, that such succour could only have proceeded from himself.

The Prophet JEREMIAH, left by his countrymen to perish in a loathsome dungeon, was extricated by a stranger from the consequences of their cruelty. An Ethiopian, an attendant in the palace of the King of Judah, had witnessed the barbarity with which he had been treated, and touched with pity for an innocent and holy sufferer, resolved, if possible, to save him from impending death. Hastening to ZedekiAU, he informed him of the dangerous and afflictive cir

+ Joshua iii. 15,

* Jer. xlix. 19, and 1. 44.

U ?

cumstances of the Prophet, and obtained the royal sanction to employ the most effectual methods for his rescue ; which was accomplished by means of ropes and rags, let down into the dungeon, whereby he was drawn up out of its horrible and deadly gloom. The pious and humane exertions of this stranger were especially rewarded : he received from God a promise of protection and deliverance, in that season of calamity with which the land was shortly to be visited, accompanied with the divine approval of his conduct, as resulting from a principle of faith.

On being rescued from the dungeon, JEREMIAH was again shut up in prison ; where he received a secret message to attend once more upon the King. Full of perplexity and trouble, ZEDEKIAH wished to know if any revelation had been given him from the LORD; but hearing only a renewed denunciation of calamity, unless averted by such measures, as he persisted still in his determination not to take, he sent the Prophet from his presence, and sought no further intercourse with one whose admonitions were reproving, and to whose counsels he had neither courage nor integrity to yield.

At length the hour arrived in which Jerusalem was to endure that dreadful vengeance, which its augmented iniquities had so long provoked. Having suffered from the siege, which lasted for a year, such miseries as pestilence and famine in their most fearful forms of devastation could inflict, the city fell at last into the hands of the Chaldeans, who put its wretched population to the sword, King ZEDEKIAH, seeing the leaders of the Babylonish army in possession of the several gates, fled with precipitation through a subterraneous avenue, in hopes of secretly.

HISTORY OF THE PROPHET JEREMIAH.

221 .

effecting his escape. His sons and his nobility were sharers in his flight, but all of them were equally unable to elude the vigilance of their pursuers. Vainly hoping to effect the passage of the river Jordan, they were overtaken in the plains of Jericho, and brought to Riblah, where the King of Babylon had fixed his court. Pride, indignation, and a settled purpose of revenge, stifled those feelings of commi. seration which a prostrate enemy should have excited in the bosom of the conqueror. By an infernal cruelty, the miserable ZEDEKIAH was compelled to witness the successive slaughter of his friends and children, and afterwards to have his eyes put out. His life, thus rendered bitter both by bodily and mental torture, was only spared that he might suffer the indignity of being dragged in chains to grace the triumph of the victor, on his proud return to Babylon. Too late, this feeble and infatuated Monarch learned to tremble at the terrors of an angry judge. His days were ended in the gloomy confines of a prison, where possibly he sought that favour, which in happier hours he had despised.

But while the King was thus compelled to drink so deeply of the cup of trembling, Jerusalem was sufa fering all the horrors with which imagination can invest a city in the hands of merciless invaders, who, having stormed its bulwarks, are quenching in the blood of the affrighted multitudes the ebullitions of their wrath. Equally cruel and rapacious, having stain the people and collected all the treasures, they set fire both to the city and the temple, and reduced to ashes that fabric whose magnificence has been the wonder of the world. The walls were razed to their foundations, and every tower and fortress overthrown.

The shouts of conquest, and the groans of the expiring victims, were succeeded by a sullen silence ; and desolation, in the midst of the extended ruins, exulted over the calamities of man.

But, although judgments were inflicted on Jerusalem, such as no nation under the whole heaven had suffered,* and though punishment was awfully proportioned to neglected blessings, yet did not the unsheathed sword fall indiscriminately, blending the righteous and the wicked in one common fate. The minister of mercy, preceding the avenger, secretly impressed the servants of Jehovah as with a sign, by which they were distinguished and passed over, when the weapons of destruction smote the rest.

The Prophet JEREMIAH, during this season of tremendous visitation, was preserved in an especial manner by the Providence of God. The King of Babylon, divinely prompted, laid an injunction on the officer to whose command the city was entrusted, not only to protect him from all danger, but to treat him with the utmost kindness, and dispose of his according to his wish. Immediately, therefore, upon the capture of the city, he was liberated from confinement, and received the option, either to continue in Judea with the miserable remnant of the poorest of his people, who were permitted to remain to dress the vineyards, and to cultivate the ground; or to accompany the King to Babylon, and there receive from his munificence an adequate supply of every want. Zion, the city of his God, though desolate, was dearer to the Prophet than the palaces of her oppressors : he therefore felt no hesitation in de

* Dan. ix. 12.

Ezek. ix.

« VorigeDoorgaan »