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few, indeed, are called to act in spheres like those of Mordecai and Esther; but let every one endeavour, in like manner, to discharge the duties of their more lowly stations, and to live in the self-denial and selfdevotion they displayed.

A building, at the site of the ancient Ecbatana, is

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shown as the ancient tomb of Esther and Mordecai. But the present edifice was built long after that time, in place of a monument destroyed by Timour Beg. An inscription refers to that more ancient building, which, however, only goes back to about A.D. 250, as the period of the erection of that structure by two devout Jews. Two sarcophagi are preserved, as those of the queen and her uncle; they are of a dark hard wood, richly carved. The following translations of inscriptions in this tomb are from Porter.

On the sarcophagus of Esther. "I praise thee, O God, that thou hast created me. I know that my sins merit punishment, yet I hope for mercy at thy hands: for whenever I call upon thee thou art with me; thy

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holy presence secures me from all evil. My heart is at ease, and my fear of thee increases. My life became at the last, through thy goodness, full of peace. O God, shut not my soul out from thy Divine presence. Those whom thou lovest never feel the torments of hell. Lead me, O merciful Father, to the life of life; that I may be filled with the heavenly fruits of paradise! Esther."

Their

On the sarcophagus of Mordecai. "It is said by David, Preserve me, O God! I am now in thy presence. I have cried at the gate of heaven, that thou art my God; and what goodness I have I received from thee, O Lord!-Those whose bodies are now beneath in this earth, when animated by thy mercy were great; and whatever happiness was bestowed upon them in this world came from thee, O God! grief and sufferings were many, but they became happy because they always called upon thy holy name in their afflictions. Thou liftedst me up, and I became powerful. Thine enemies sought to destroy me in the early times of my life; but the shadow of thine hand was upon me, and covered me as a tent from their wicked purposes. Mordecai."

The Jew, as the royal steed he strode,
Through the thickening crowds in silence rode;
Grave was his mien, and calm his brow,
Undazzled, unmoved by the glittering show;
That stedfast soul which did not fear

The heathen's menace, the heathen's sneer;
Had known too long the favour and smile
Of the world, to be duped by its artful guile.
His heart in solemn prayer arose

To his only defence, when encompassed with foes;
To the Author of all that brightened his days,
The stay of his soul, and the theme of his praise;
His thoughts to captive Israel roam,

To the land of his birth, and his distant home;
And much he prayed that the Sun which gleamed
Tho' briefly and dimly, once more to have beamed
On the captive sons of Israel, might

Break forth and shine with its former light.

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NEHEMIAH OBTAINS LEAVE TO GO TO JERUSALEM, AND REBUILD THE WALLS HIS REFORM-HE SILENCES THE ENEMIES OF THE JEWS.

THE time when the Persian monarchs were interested to favour the Jews, by restoring their state, was now come here we see how God overrules the devices and projects of men, for the support and enlargement of his church. In the sixteenth year of his reign, B.C. 450, Artaxerxes, who having subdued the Egyptians, had engaged in warfare against their allies, the Athenians, was defeated. Cimon, the Athenian, gained victories over both the land and naval forces of his opponents. The Persian monarch was thereby compelled to make peace upon terms humbling and

FAVOURS NEHEMIAH.

171

disadvantageous to himself. He consented that the Greek colonies, or cities in Asia, should be free, and governed by their own laws; also, that no Persian governor should advance with an army nearer to the sea coast than three days' journey; and that no Persian ships of war should appear on the coasts of Asia Minor, or Syria. These stipulations rendered Palestine an important country, if in alliance with the Persians, or subject to that power. Greater favours and privileges, therefore, were granted to the Jews; who continued friendly to the Persians till their empire was overturned by Alexander.

Although this state of affairs may have rendered it a matter of policy for the Persian government to encourage the Jews; yet we find, from Scripture, the favourable decrees were obtained by the Divine blessing on the efforts of an individual.

Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah, was the royal cupbearer, an office of great trust and honour; but although thus favourably placed, so far as his worldly affairs were concerned, he took a lively interest in the state of his fathers' land. Though he lived far away from Judea, at ease and in honour, he did not forget that he was an Israelite; he was anxious to promote the welfare of his people. Hanani, one of the brethren of Nehemiah, just returned from Jerusalem with other Jews, gave a doleful account of the state of affliction and reproach in which the Jews then were. Nehemiah was deeply affected; he prayed earnestly for his nation, resolving to exert himself in their behalf. It is well when we thus unite our best efforts to our best prayers. An opportunity soon offered. When presenting the cup to Artaxerxes, the king remarked an expression of sadness on his countenance, and immediately asked the cause. Nehemiah was 66 very sore afraid." He had reason to fear lest his feelings should be misunderstood by an arbitrary monarch, accustomed to act on the impulses of the moment. But in all cases of doubt and difficulty,

172

NEHEMIAH GOES TO JERUSALEM.

the only safe course is that of truth; he told the real cause the desolate state of Jerusalem. The king asked what was his request; he was emboldened to speak, but dared not to open his lips till he had sought Divine assistance. If ever there was a case apparently precluding from prayer, this was one; but though standing in the royal presence, in the act of presenting the cup, and called upon for an immediate answer, Nehemiah first "prayed to the God of heaven;" he did so, feeling the urgent necessity for Divine assistance. He could only offer a sudden and secret petition; but this was prayer ;

Prayer is the soul's sincere desire,

Utter'd, or unexpress'd.

It was heard and answered. Nehemiah petitioned the king that he might be sent to Jerusalem to rebuild it thus he showed readiness to forego the worldly advantages of his station at court, to forward the work of the Lord and the welfare of his people.

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The Lord inclined the king's heart; the petition of Nehemiah was granted, supported as it appears by the queen, perhaps Esther; greater authority was granted to him, as chief ruler of his people, than to any who had preceded him. Orders were given for all the supplies necessary in the work; a military guard was sent with the new governor. Thus his journey was under circumstances very different from those of Zerubbabel and Ezra.

The Samaritans, and other enemies of the Jews, soon heard that one was come from the court, empowered to seek the welfare of the children of Israel; they determined to make all the opposition in their power. Nehemiah felt the importance of acting with much caution. His first object was to secure the city by repairing the walls: his survey of their ruined state was made secretly by night; the light of the moon would enable him sufficiently to discern the objects around him. He saw the unprotected state of

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