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time he purchased an earthen vessel of the potter, and in the presence of the elders of Israel, and the chief of the priests, he threw the vessel upon the ground and broke it to pieces, with these words: “ Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again : and the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the princes of Judah, shall be defiled, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto other gods.” b
But the great subject of the prophecies was the coming of the Saviour. It was foretold that he should be of the family of David. Yet that he should be the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace :d that he should be born at Bethlehem : that he should perform miracles of mercy and kindness; opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, making the lame man to leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb to sing :e that he should preach good tidings to the meek, and bind up the broken-hearted :f that he should feed his flock like a shepherd, and gather the lambs with his
them in his bosom. And, especially, his sufferings and death were described by the prophets so clearly and fully, that it seems almost as if we were reading a history of what was then already past, rather than a prophecy of future events. It was foretold that this holy and gracious Being should be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; that he should be wounded for our transgressions, and
b Jer. xix. 11-13. c Isa. xi. 1; Jer. xxiii. 5. d Isa. ix. 6. e Isa. xxxv. 5, 6.
f Isa. Ixi. 1. 6 Isa. xl. 11.
bruised for our iniquities; that he should pour out his soul unto death; that he should be numbered with the transgressors; that he should bear the sin of many, and make intercession for the transgres
His manner of suffering is thus described : “ He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”h And, lastly, the glorious results an fruits of his sufferings were also foretold. The gift of the Holy Spirit was promised, and a happy period was predicted, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. i
54. THE BABYLONISH CAPTIVITY. The Jews, whether they had believed it or not, had now to experience, that, of all which the prophets had foretold, not one thing failed. The Chaldeans came, a cruel people, and under their destroying hands the beautiful city of Jerusalem became a heap of ruins. Yet even here the judgments of God came on by degrees. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Chaldeans, first imposed a tribute upon the land of Judea, and carried Jehoiakim away to Babylon, and ten thousand fighting men of the chief of the people, and all the smiths and artificers. He placed another king over the country, and so the kingdom continued for ten years.
Zedekiah then sought help and protection against the Chaldeans from the Egyptians; but the Chaldean armies came like an overwhelming
h Isa. liii.
i Isa. xliv. 3; Joel ii. 28, 29; Isa. xi. 9.
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 entrance into the city. Zedekiah fell in his flight into the hands of the enemies; and now was fulfilled what Ezekiel had foretold concerning himthat he should go to Babylon and die there, but that he should not see the land. Th 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
Jeremiah the prophet received permission from the king to remain in the land; and he wrote his Lamentations among the ruins of Jerusalem.
THE HEBREW YOUTHS.
55. We must not form such an idea of the captivity, as to suppose that the Jews were given up
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 was 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, 0 people, nations, and languages. That at what time ye 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,
6 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