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Most of the Persian monarchs were well disposed towards the Jews. The proudest of them all, the haughty Xerxes, took a Jewish maiden, Esther, for his wife, and by her means great benefits were conferred upon the Jews in the Persian empire. When Mordecai, her uncle, discovered a conspiracy against the life of Xerxes, and informed the queen of it, at first the only notice taken of it was, that it was recorded in the chronicles of the kingdom ; but after some years he was made the first minister of the Persian kingdom, to the great advantage of his nation.
Nehemiah received during the time he was governor in Jerusalem no payment for his office. Also he daily fed at his own table one hundred and fifty guests. He relieved those who were in need, by gifts and loans, to the utmost of his ability. He did not spare himself from any labour or trouble; his own servants worked with the rest of the people in building the walls of Jerusalem. By his own example, he induced the rulers of the people and the rich men to restore the goods which they had taken in pledge from the poor
who were indebted to them, and to give up the debts.
Such men were very useful to the Jewish people for their temporary restoration. But of the true Restorer it was said by the Lord, through the prophet Malachi: “ BEHOLD, I WILL SEND MY MESSENGER, AND HE SHALL PREPARE THE WAY BEFORE ME: AND THE LORD, WHOM YE SEEK, SHALL SUDDENLY COME TO HIS TEMPLE, EVEN THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT, WHOM YE DELIGHT IN: BEHOLD, HE SHALL COME, SAITH THE LORD OF HOSTS.”
h Mal. iii, 1.
OLD TESTAMENT STORIES.
Four hundred and eighty three years, according to the prophecy of Daniel, were to pass away between the rebuilding of the temple and the coming of Christ. This period was distinguished by most remarkable changes of prosperity and adversity in the history of the Jews.
Alexander, the Grecian emperor, showed great respect for the temple and the priests of the true God, much to the surprise of his captains; and he manifested much kindness to the people. After his death, Ptolemy, one of his generals, who was king of Egypt, conquered the land of Judea, and carried away many thousand Jews as prisoners to Egypt. His son and successor showed great favour to the Jews, and had a translation of the Holy Scriptures made, at great expense, into the Greek language.
After they had been more than a hundred years under the kings of Egypt, they came under the power of Antiochus, the king of Syria. He, by means of enticements and threats, led away many thousands of the Jews to idolatry. But many preferred rather to suffer the death of martyrs, that they might obtain a resurrection to a better life.
One admirable race of heroes appeared at this time, the Maccabees. They delivered the land from foreign dominion. The people could not, however, remain independent, but were obliged to seek an alliance with the Romans, who then seized the opportunity of making the land tributary, and appointed a governor over it. A merely nominal king, Herod, an Edomite, governed the land under the Romans. He was a man of great talent and energy, but a cruel tyrant. His flatterers called him the restorer of the throne of David; but the true Israelites saw with deep sorrow that a foreigner ruled over them, and that the sceptre had departed from Judah. They perceived, however, in this circumstance a sign of the coming of Him to whom, as their forefather Jacob had prophesied, the gathering of the people should be.
After Malachi, no other prophet appeared to impart to their minds Divine consolation. This made them long the more earnestly for the promised One, the Son of David, the Anointed of the Lord, to restore again the throne of David, and to expel the Romans from the land. But they had something very different to learn. Long before, the prophet Isaiah had said, “ MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, NEITHER ARE YOUR WAYS MY WAYS, SAITH THE LORD. FOR AS THE HEAVENS ARE HIGHER THAN THE EARTH, SO ARE
YOUR WAYS, AND THOUGHTS THAN YQUR THOUGHTS. a
a Isaiah lv. 8, 9.
END OF OLD TESTAMENT.
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