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THE STORY OF A JOYOUS JOURNEY
Ezra i: 1, to iii: 7.
E have seen, in the story of the kingdom of Israel, or
the Ten Tribes, how the great empire of Assyria arose
from the city of Nineveh, on the Tigris river; how it
ruled all the lands and carried away the Ten Tribes of
Israel into captivity, from which they never came back
to their own land. (Story 91.) We
saw, too, how the empire of Assyria went down, and the
empire of Babylon, or Chaldea, arose in its place under
Nebuchadnezzar. (Story 97.) As soon as
Nebuchadnezzar died, the empire of Babylon began to
fall, and in its place arose the empire of Persia,
under Cyrus, who is called Cyrus the Great, because of
his many victories and his wide rule. His empire was
much greater than either the Assyrian or the Chaldean
empire, for it held in its rule the land of Egypt, all
the lands known as Asia Minor, and also many lands in
the far east.
Cyrus, the great king, was a friend to the Jews, who at
this time were still living in the land of Chaldea,
between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was now
seventy years since the first company of captives had
been taken away from the land of Judah by
Nebuchadnezzar (see Story 97), and fifty
years since the city of Jerusalem had been burned. By
that time the Jews were no longer looked upon as
captives in the land of Chaldea. They lived in their
own houses, and tilled their own farms, and were in
peace. Many of them were rich, and some of them, like
Daniel and his three friends, were in high places at
the court of the king.
You remember that in the early days of the captivity,
Jeremiah the prophet wrote a letter to those who had
been carried away to Babylon, telling them that after
seventy years they would come back to their own land.
(Story 97.) The seventy years were now ended. The
older men and women who had been taken away had
 died in the land of Chaldea, but their children, and
their children's children still loved the land of Judah
as their own land, although it was so far away.
The Lord put it into the heart of Cyrus, the king of
Persia, very early in his reign, to send word among the
Jews that they might now go back to their own land.
This was the word, as it was written and sent out:
"Thus saith Cyrus, the king of Persia, The Lord, the
God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the
earth; and he has commanded me to build him a house in
Jerusalem, in the land of Judah. Therefore, let those
of the people of God who are among you go up to
Jerusalem, and help to build the house of the Lord. And
those who do not go to Jerusalem, but stay in the
places where they are living, let them give to those
who go back to their own land gifts of gold and silver,
and beasts to carry them, and goods, and also a free
gift toward the building of the house of the Lord in
At this the Jews in the land of Chaldea were very glad,
for they loved their own land, and longed to see it.
One of them wrote a song at this time. It is Psalm 126:
"When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion,
We were like unto them that dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then said they among the nations,
'The Lord hath done great things for them,'
The Lord hath done great things for us;
Whereof we are glad.
Turn again our capitivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South,
They that sow in tears
Shall reap in joy,
Though he goeth on his way weeping,
Bearing forth the seed,
He shall come again with joy,
Bringing his sheaves with him."
So the Jewish people began to make ready for going back
to their own land. Those who were rich, and noble in
rank, stayed in the land of Chaldea and in other lands
of the Persian Empire. But though they did not go back
to the land from which their fathers
 had come, they gave large gifts of gold and silver to
help those who did go. And Cyrus, the king, took from
the treasure-house in Babylon all the vessels of the
Temple that had been taken away by Nebuchadnezzar, and
gave them to the Jews, to be used in the new Temple
which they were soon to build. These were plates, and
dishes, and bowls, and cups of gold and silver, more
than four thousand in all. So, with the gifts of the
king, and the gifts of their own people, and what was
owned by those who went to the land of Judah, the
company took away a vast treasure of gold and silver.
It was a happy company of people that met together for
the journey back to the land which they still called
their own, though very few of them had seen it. There
were forty-two thousand of them, besides their servants
to help them in the journey. They traveled slowly up
the Euphrates river, singing songs of joy, until they
reached the northern end of the great desert. Then they
turned toward the southwest, and journeyed beside the
Lebanon mountains, past Damascus, and through Syria,
until at last they came to the land of their fathers,
the land of Judah.
With all their joy they must have felt sad when they
saw the city of Jerusalem all in ruins, its walls
broken down, its houses heaps of blackened stone, its
once beautiful Temple burned into a heap of ashes.
A DISTANT VIEW OF JERUSALEM
As soon as they came, they found the rock where the
altar of the Lord had stood, the same rock where David
had long before offered a sacrifice (see Story 69),
and the same rock upon which travelers
look even in our time under the Dome of the Rock. From
the smooth face of this rock they gathered up the
stones, and swept away the ashes and the dust. Then
they built upon it the altar of the Lord, and Joshua,
the high-priest, began to offer the sacrifices which
for fifty years had not been
 placed upon the altar. Every morning and every
afternoon they laid on the altar the burnt-offering,
and thus gave themselves to the Lord, and asked God's
From this time there were two branches of the Jewish
race. Those who came back to the land of Judah, which
was also called the land of Israel, were called
"Hebrews," which was an old name of the Israelites.
Those who stayed in the lands abroad, in Chaldea and
throughout the empire of Persia, were called "the Jews
of the Dispersion." There were far more of the Jews
abroad than in their own land, and they were the
richer, and the greater people. Many of them went up to
Jerusalem to visit and to worship, and many others sent
rich gifts; so that between the two great branches of
the Jewish people, in their own land and in other
lands, there was a close friendship, and they all felt
wherever the Jews were they were still one people.
The Jews who had been captives in the land of Babylon
were now free to go wherever they chose; and besides
those who went back to the land of their fathers, there
were many who chose to visit other lands, wherever they
could find work and get gain. It was not many years
before Jews were found in many cities of the Persian
Empire. They went also to Africa; and also to Europe,
choosing the cities for their home rather than the
country. Everywhere, in all the great cities, the "Jews
of the Dispersion" were found, besides those who were
living in their own land of Israel.
When the Jews came back to their land their leader was
named Zerubbabel, a word which means "One born in
Babylon." He belonged to the family of David, and was
called "the prince"; but he ruled under the commands of
Cyrus, the great king, for Judah (which now began to be
spoken of as Judea) was a small part, or "province" as
it was called, in the great empire of Persia.