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enemies, but as a paternal and corrective chastisement from their own God.*
[B. C. 536.] When Cyrus permitted the small remnant of pure Jews to re-occupy their own land, and to re-build their temple and city,t their most extravagant hopes seemed about to be realized. A new æra opened upon them ;I they were in the way to take rank again amongst the nations, and if this could be attained out of a state of general servitude, a patriotic Jew might easily believe his nation destined, in the end, to eclipse Egypt and Assyria. S
Accordingly in their writings about the time of the restoration, (and a large proportion of those called the prophets appear to be nearly of that date,)|| these topics occur in almost every page. The imagination and literary talents of the Jews had been much developed by their contact with the Chaldees and Persians, and naturally displayed themselves chiefly on such a stirring theme. Besides, the Jewish leaders would encourage their poets
serve thee shall perish : yea those nations shall be utterly wasted. The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and they shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Ísrael...thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever...a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation; I the Lord will hasten it in its time.
* Ezekiel, passim, xxxix. 23; Micah i. 5, For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. Isaiah xlii. 24, Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? xlvii. 6, I was wroth with my people, and have given them into thine (Chaldea's) hand. xlviii. 10, Behold I have refined thee (Jacob), I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. Lam. iv. 22; Hosea xiv. 1; Daniel ix. 11.
+ By comparing Ezra i. 3, with 1 Esdras iv. 63, it is seen that the decree of Cyrus was not understood as limited to the temple.
| Haggai ii. 9, The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former. Zech. i. 16-21; ii. 10-13.
$ Isaiah xiv. 2, Israel shall take them captive, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
| Haggai, B.C. 520; Zechariah, B.C. 519. Many parts of the older prophets appear to be interpolations of the same time. (See Ezek. xxxix. 23-29.) In chap. xiii. reasons will be given for considering Isaiah, xl. chap. to the end, as written in the time of Cyrus.
and orators to choose such subjects, in order to animate the people under difficulties.
It is not surprising, then, to find in the poetic writings of the Old Testament extravagant descriptions of a kingdom of Israel which should cover the earth,* and of a great prince who should restore the throne of David. The beautiful anticipations which, under various forms, have existed in nearly all nations, of the future perfection of the earth, were, in the minds of the Jews, blended in a peculiar manner with the hopes and fortunes of Israel. On this subject each prophet or poet indulged in his own fancies; but one prevalent notion seems to have been that this kingdom would be established, and their final triumph over the nations effected, not so much by military
* Haggai ii. 22; Zech. ii. 21; Micah iv. 5; Isaiah ii. 2; Dan. vii. 13, 14.
+ Ezek. xxxiv. 23, 24, And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them.—xxxvii. 22-26, And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations...and they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, and their children's children for ever, and my servant David shall be their prince for
Jer. xxiii. 5, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
Isaiah xxxii. 1, 18, Behold a king shall reign in righteousness... and my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings.
Jer. xxiii. 17, For thus saith the Lord, David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of Israel.
The kings of Judah were called the Lord's anointed; therefore the expected restorer of their throne came to be described emphatically as the Anointed or Messiah ; and it became a favourite literary amusement with the Jews to find passages of their scriptures applicable to him. Many passages consequently were thus applied which originally referred to real personages. Schoettgenius gives a minute account of all the texts interpreted by the ancient Rabbis concerning the Messiah. Horæ Heb. lib. 2.
It is not likely that Virgil had read Isaiah; yet the resemblance between the ideas in his Pollio and those of the Hebrew poet has struck all readers.
means, in which they were obviously deficient, as by some special intervention of their protector, the God of Israel. It was supposed that the presence of the Deity would be then made manifest to them in a more visible manner than had been known hitherto, and that signs and wonders, more impressive and more public than those granted in the days of Moses, would at last proclaim to the whole world the connexion subsisting between God and his chosen people. Hence this state of things came to be called popularly the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven.
The captivity and restoration were thought of less and less as events rolled on; but the writings which they had occasioned, remained amongst the Jews, a conspicuous part of their scanty literature. There is, indeed, in them so much of rich imagery and wild beauty, that they are to this day read with pleasure by those who look upon them merely as poetical relics; it is no wonder, then, that they should have continued for centuries in the hearts and mouths of all patriotic Jews, and that, when sufficiently veiled by antiquity, the prophets, as well as the law, should have been reverenced as divine oracles.
Events, however, did not correspond with these pro
* Haggai ii. 6,7, For thus saith the Lord of Hosts, yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory. Zech. ix. 13, 14, When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man: and the Lord shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go
forth as the lightning; and the Lord God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south. Zech. xiv. 3, 4, Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east, and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. See also Zech. xii. 4-8; Zephaniah iii. 8-20; Malachi iii. iv. ; Joel i. 15, ii. 27-32, iii. 1,2, 9-21; Hosea ii. 21-23; Ezek. xxxix. 21, 22.
+ Zech. xiv. 9, And the Lord shall be king over all the earth. Ezek. xxxvii. 23, So they shall be my people, and I will be their God. xxxiv. 30, 31; Zech. viii. 8.
phecies of Jewish greatness.
With slow and painful efforts, their temple and city were rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah [B. C. 536—445]; but they remained insignificant as a nation, and were successively tributary to the Persians and Macedonians, until the revolution effected by Judas Maccabæus. [B. C. 166.] Under him and the subsequent able princes of the Asmonæan race, they attained the rank of a respectable second-rate power, although inferior to the adjoining kingdoms of Syria and Egypt. But the Asmonaan dynasty grew weak from internal dissension; and during the quarrel between Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, Jerusalem was taken by Pompey, who first imposed upon the Jews a Roman tribute. [B. C. 63.] Under the patronage of the Romans, Herod the Idumean obtained the sovereignty, [B.C. 40,] to the exclusion of the native Asmonæan family; and although generally hateful to the Jews as a heathen and usurper, maintained by a vigorous government the respectability of the nation. After his death, [B. C. 3,] however, the Jews were compelled to make another step towards national servitude, by the appointment of Roman governors of Judea (A. D. 6 or 7], who exercised a jurisdiction superior to the family of Herod, and of the Jewish sanhedrim.
Throughout all these changes, the Kingdom of Heaven may be seen to have been from time to time a popular idea,* and during the Roman encroachments, it revived in full force. The romantic exploits of Maccabæus had
* Tobit xiii. 15, 18, Let my soul bless God the great king. For Jerusalem shall be built up with sapphires, and emeralds, and precious stone : thy walls, and towers, and battlements, with pure gold. And the streets of Jerusalem shall be paved with beryl, and carbuncle, and the stones of Ophir; and all her streets shall say Alleluia!
Josephus says that the Pharisees persuaded Pheroras, Herod's brother, that he was the predicted king, who would have all things in his power. Antiq. xvii. 2d chap.
In the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. iii. 2) the kingdom is introduced without any explanation, as a well-known idea.
Josephus, War vi. ch. 6. “ What did most elevate them in undertaking this war [A. D. 66-70] was an ambiguous oracle found in their sacred writings, how about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth."
renewed the Jews' spirit of independence, and encouraged the hope that the holy nation might, at length, in its turn succeed Assyria, Persia, and Macedonia, in the empire of the world. And now, that God's people should again be slaves to the Gentiles, was a thought of grief and indignation. The Jewish princes and aristocracy were easily soothed into submission to their powerful masters, who allowed them to retain many of their privileges; but the indignation of the populace broke out in continual tumults and insurrections,* which the Roman governor, aided by the priests and nobles, always quickly suppressed. The most remarkable of these was the insurrection of Judas the Galilean or Gaulonite,f who persuaded the
* Soon after the accession of Archelaus, occurred the sedition against Sabinus, and those of Judas, son of Ezekias, Simon, slave of Herod, and Athronges. “And now Judea was full of robberies; and as the several companies of the seditious lighted upon any one to head them, he was created a king immediately, in order to do mischief to the public.” Josephus, Ant. xvii
. ch. 10. + "Moreover Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus's money; but the Jews, although at the beginning they took the report of a taxation heinously, yet did they leave off any further opposition to it by the persuasion of Joazar, who was the son of Boethus, and high priest. So they, being over-persuaded by Joazar's words, gave an account of their estates without any dispute about it; yet there was one Judas, a Gaulonite, of a city whose name was Gamala, who, taking with him Sadduc, a Pharisee, became jealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty... They also said that God would not otherwise be assisting to them, than upon their joining with one another in such counsels as might be successful, and for their own advantage; and this especially if they would set about great exploits, and not grow weary in executing the same: so men received what they said with pleasure, and this bold attempt proceeded to a great height. All sorts of misfortunes also sprang from these men, and the nation was infected with this doctrine to an incredible degree. One violent war came upon us after another, and we lost our friends who used to alleviate our pains: there were also very great robberies and murders of our principal men. This was done in pretence, indeed, for the public welfare, but in reality for the hopes of gain to themselves; whence arose seditions, and from them