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torious enemy puts down the wicked son of Josiah, and lades him with chains at Riblath, in the land of Hamath ; and lades his people with a tribute of a hundred talents of silver, and a talent of gold : yet, as if he that was unwilling to fight with Josiah, were no less unwilling to root out his posterity, this Egyptian sets Eliakim, the second son of Josiah, upon the seat of his father; and, that he might be all his, changes his name to Jehoiakim. Oh, the woful and unworthy succession of Josiah ! one son is a prisoner, the other is a tributary; both are wicked. After that Jehoiakim hath been some years Pharaoh's bailiff, to gather and rack the dear tents of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, comes up, and sweeps away both the lord and his feodary, Pharaoh and Jehoiakim.
So far was the ambitious Egyptian from maintaining his encroachment upon the territories of Judah, that he could not now hold his own. From Nilus to Euphrates all is lost: so subject are the lesser powers still to be swallowed up of the greater: so just is it with God, that they, which will be affecting undue enlargement of their estates, should fall short of what they had
Jehoiakim is carried in fetters to Babylon; and now, in that dungeon of his captivity, hath more leisure than grace, to bethink himself of all his abominations; and, while he inherits the sad lodging of his great grandfather Manasseh, inherits not his success.
While he is rotting in this gaol, his young son Jehoiakim starts up in his throne, like to a mushroom that rises up in a night, and withers in a day. Within three months and ten days is that young prince, the meet son of such a father, fetched up in irons to his father's prison ; neither shall he go alone (his attendance shall add to his misery), his mother, wives, his officers, his peers, his craftsmen, his warriors accompany him manacled and chained, to their perpetual bondage.
Now, according to Isaiah's word, it would have been great preferment for the fruit of Hezekiah's loins to be pages in the court of Babylon.
One only branch yet remains of the unhappy stock of holy Josiah, Mattaniah, the brother of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar, changing his name to Zedekiah, sets up in that forlorn and tributary throne; there might he have lived, though an underling, yet peaceable: this man, to make up the measure of God's just judgments, as he was ever a rebel to God, so proves rebellious to his sovereign master the king of Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah hath forewarned him in vain : nothing could teach this man but smart.
Who can look for other than fury from Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem, which now had affronted him with three several successions of revolts and conspiracies against his government; and thrice abused his bounty and indulgence! with a mighty army doth he therefore come up against his seditious deputy, and besieges Jerusalem, and blocks it up with forts round about. After two years' siege, the Chaldees without and the famine within have prevailed; king Zedekiah and his soldiers are fled away by night, as thinking themselves happy, if they might abandon their walls, and save their lives.
The Chaldees, as caring more for the birds than for the nest, pursue them, and overtake Zedekiah, forsaken of all his forces, in the plain of Jericho, and bring him to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. What can so unthankful and perfidious a vassal expect, but the worst of revenge? The sentence is fearful: first, the sons of Zedekiah are slain before his eyes ; then those eyes of his, as if they had seen enough, when they had seen him childless, are put out. His eyes are only lent him so long as to torment him with the sight of his own utmost discomfort; had his sons but over-lived his eyes, the grief had been so much the less as the apprehension of it had been less lively and piercing ; now this woful object shall shut up his sight, then even when his bodily eyes are gone, yet the
eyes of his mind might ever see what he last saw; that thus his sons might be ever dying before him, and himself in their death ever miserable.
Who doth not now wish that the blood of Hezekiah and Josiah could have been severed from these impure dregs of their lewd issue ? No man could pity the offenders, were it not for the mixture of the interest of so holy progenitors.
No more sorrow can come in at the windows of Zedekiah, more shall come in at his doors ; his ears shall receive what more to rue for his Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the great marshal of the king of Babylon, comes up against that deplored city, and breaks down the walls of it round about, and burns the temple of the Lord, and the king's house, and every fair palace of Jerusalem, with fire; drives away the remainder of her inhabitants into captivity, carries away the last spoils of the glorious temple. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the wonder of all times, the paragon of nations, the glory of the earth, the favourite of heaven, how art thou now become heaps of ashes, hills of rubbish, a spectacle of desolation, a monument of ruin! If later, yet no less deep hast thou now pledged that bitter
сир of God's vengeance, to thy sister Samaria ; how carefully had thy God forewarned thee! Though Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah sin: lo now, as thine iniquities, so thy judgments have overtaken her Both lie together in the dust, both are made a curse to all posterities. O God, what place shall thy justice spare, if Jerusalem have perished ? If that delight of thine were cut off for her wickedness, “Let not us be high-minded, but fear.”
What pity it was to see those goodly cedars of the temple flaming up higher than they stood in Lebanon! To see those curious marbles which never felt the dint of the pick-axe or hammer, in the laying, wounded with mattocks, and wounding the earth in their fall! To see the holy of holies, whereinto none might enter
but the high-priest once a year, thronged with Pagans; the vails rent, the sacred ark of God violated and defaced, the tables overturned, the altars broken down, the pillars demolished, the pavements digged up, yea, the very ground where that famous pile stood, deformed. O God, thou wouldst rather have no visible house upon earth, than endure it defiled with idolatries.
Four hundred thirty and six years had that temple stood, and beautified the earth, and honoured heaven, now it is turned into rude heaps. There is no prescription to be pleaded for the favour of the Almighty : only that temple not made with hands, is eternal in the heavens. Thither he graciously brings us, that hath ordained us thither, for the sake of that glorious High-priest, that hath once for all entered into that holy of holies. Amen.
ZERUBBABEL AND EZRA.
The first transportation into Babylon, under Jehoiakim, wherein Daniel, Ezekiel, and many others of the best note, were driven into captivity, was, some eleven years after, followed with a second under Zedekiah, wherein the remnant of the now ruined Jerusalem and Judah were swept away. Seventy years was the period of their longest servitude: while Babylon was a queen, Judah was her vassal. When that proud tyranness fell, God's people began to rise again. The Babylonian monarchy was no sooner swallowed up of the Persian, than the Jews felt the comfort of liberty.
For Cyrus, conquering Babylon and finding the
Jews groaning under that captivity, straight releases them, and sends them, under the conduct of their captain Zerubbabel, back to their almost forgotten country.
The world stands upon vicissitudes: every nation hath her turn, and must make up her measure. Threescore and ten years ago, it was the course of Judah, the iniquity of that rebellious people was full
. Some hundred and thirty years before that, was the turn of Samaria, and her Israelites: now the staff is come to the doors of Babylon, even that wherewith Judah was beaten ; and those Persians, which are now victorious, must have their term also. It is in vain for any earthly state to promise to itself an immutable condition. At last, the rod that scourged God's children is cast into the fire. “Thou hast remembered, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem, how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the ground. O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery, how happy is he that rewardeth thee as thou hast served them !" It is Cyrus that hath wrought this revenge,
this rescue. Doubtless, it did not a little move Cyrus to this favour, that he found himself honourably fore-named in these Jewish prophecies, and fore-appointed to this glorious service, no less than a hundred and seventy years
before he was. Who would not be glad to make good so noble and happy a destiny? O God, if we hear that thou hast ordained us to life, how gladly, how carefully should we work out our salvation! if to good works, how should we abound !
În the first year of his monarchy, doth Cyrus both make proclamations, and publish them in writing, through all his kingdom, wherein he both professeth his zealous resolutions, and desires to build up God's house in Jerusalem, and enjoins and encourages all the Jews through his dominions, to address themselves to that sacred work ; and incites all his subjects to aid them with silver and gold, and goods, and beasts.