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No particulars of the last hours of Daniel are recorded; we cannot but remark how few accounts of this nature are given in Scripture, even concerning the most important characters of holy writ: surely this might teach many who write obituaries, that it is far more important to relate how a man lived, than merely to tell what passed in his closing hours. The particulars related of Daniel afford very important precepts and examples, nor is there occasion to enlarge upon his character. Enough is told us in the book that bears his name, and in the remarkable testimony of God the Holy Spirit, who, speaking by the prophet Ezekiel, expressly unites Daniel with Job and with Noah, as pre-eminently righteous men, Ezek. xiv. 14. And when reproving the prince of Tyre, whose heart was lifted up, so as to imagine himself a God, the prophet speaks of him in bitter irony, as "wiser than Daniel," Ezek. xxviii. 3; evidently implying that, in his own conceit, he was wiser than the man possessing more wisdom than any other then alive.
The coincidence as to the time of the death of the prophet Daniel, with the staying of the building of the temple is clear; how far the one event might be connected with the other, we cannot now fully ascertain. This suspension of the work continued not only during the latter years of Cyrus, but also through the following reign, and the changes that ensued.
Cyrus died B.C. 529, appointing Cambyses, his eldest son, to be his successor, to rule over nearly the whole of his dominions. He was a tyrannical and cruel prince. In the fourth year of his reign he invaded Egypt, which country had endeavoured to shake off the domination of Persia. Egypt was soon subdued and ravaged, and the reigning monarch put to death; but Cambyses vainly attempted farther conquests. One division of his army, sent to plunder the riches of the temple of Jupiter Ammon, situated in a fertile spot, one of the oases in the sandy desert
to the west of Egypt, perished in the moving sands of that desolate region, when fifty thousand men were overwhelmed. This scene of horror and confusion is
described by a poet :
Onward resistless rolls the infuriate surge,
Clouds follow clouds, and mountains mountains urge;
Bursts o'er their heads, inhumes their struggling limbs;
And one great earthly ocean covers all!
Then ceased the storm-awhile the living hill
Bruce and Lyon have described the horrors of sand storms, and of the moving pillars of sand in that region, before which all the plans and arrangements of man, however powerful, however skilful, are as nothing, and less than nothing: their descriptions are very impressive. Bruce says the swiftest horse could not escape from their rapid approach. On one occasion they began immediately after sunrise, and appeared like a thick wood. The rays of the sun shining through them for near an hour, gave them the appearance of pillars of fire. He adds, "Our people now became desperate. The Greeks shrieked out, and said it was the day of judgment. Ismael, a Turk, pronounced it to be hell; and the Turcorories, that the world was on fire." He says they left an impression upon his mind, to which he could give no name.
The main army of Cambyses, led by himself to the south, against the Ethiopians, nearly perished with hunger; a part having been selected by lot, and sacrificed to feed the survivors. This brings us to B.C. 524. These scenes of horror seem to have deprived Cambyses of his reason, A series of extravagant and horrible cruelties were committed by him, which cannot be otherwise accounted for. The first and least was his mortally wounding the sacred bull Apis, worship
SMERDIS THE MAGIAN.
ped by the Egyptians, insulting the priests of this false. divinity. This animal god is thought to be alluded to in Jeremiah, xlvi. 15, which the Greek version renders, Why did Apis flee from thee? Thy chosen bull, why did not he stand? Because the Lord made him weak, and thy multitude was weak and fell." Cambyses ordered many Persians to be put to death without cause; among whom was his brother Smerdis. He took two of his sisters to be his wives, one of whom he killed, and he committed a variety of other cruel and extravagant actions.
In Persia, one of the Magi personated the murdered Smerdis, and assumed the sovereignty. Cambyses hastened homewards to crush the pretender, but while on his march, was mortally wounded by his scymitar in mounting his horse, and died at Ecbatana, a small town in Syria, not the capital of Media.
The usurper did not reign more than about half a year. He was slain by seven conspirators of noble rank, one of whom, Darius Hystaspes, succeeded to the empire by agreement with his confederates, who became chief princes of the empire. Soon after his accession the Babylonians revolted; but the city was captured, after being besieged for a year and a half, when it was taken by a stratagem. Zopyrus, having pretended to join the Babylonians in revenge against Darius, betrayed the city to his master. The proud city of Babylon suffered much at this period; in consequence of its revolt, the walls were considerably lowered. Previous to this siege the Jews had been warned to flee from Babylon, Zech. ii. 6-7 :
Flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord:
As the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord.
That dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
THE BUILDING OF THE TEMPLE RESUMED THE PROPHECIES OF HAGGAI-THE EARLY PROPHECIES
In the second year of Darius Hystaspes the work of building the temple at Jerusalem was resumed. This great work had been at a stand for more than ten years, the people having sunk into a state of apathy, so as to neglect the rebuilding of the temple, though they improved their own habitations, and now dwelt in "ceiled houses," buildings more elegantly finished, and more completely fitted than those constructed on their first arrival. But the Lord will not allow his people to remain careless, when it is time for them to be up, and to be doing. They rebuilt on the site the city had formerly occupied, which is still partly covered by modern Jerusalem, the mosque of Omar being on the spot where the temple stood.
It is recorded that the Jews were aroused in the first instance by a dispensation of Providence. The harvest and vintage failed. Prophets were raised up to declare the will of the Lord. This was B.C. 520. Haggai then called upon them, ch. i. 5—8:
Consider your ways,
Ye have sown much-and bring in little;
Ye eat-but ye have not enough;
Ye drink-but ye are not filled with drink;
Ye clothe you-but there is none warm;
And he that earneth wages-earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
Thus saith the Lord of hosts;
Consider your ways.
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.