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Our Young Folk's Josephus by  William Shepard
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THE INVASION OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR

AFTER Jehoiakim had been king for four years, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, marched against him with a great army, and threatened to destroy the country unless Jehoiakim would pay him a large sum of money every year. Jehoiakim was frightened, and agreed to do this. But the third year afterwards he heard that Nebuchadnezzar was about to fight with the Egyptians, so he did not pay his tribute that year, hoping the Egyptians would be victorious.

In vain did the prophet Jeremiah warn him against putting his trust in the Egyptians, and foretell that Jerusalem would be overthrown by the king of Babylon, who would take Jehoiakim captive. Jeremiah wrote down all his prophecies in a book, and read them to the people in the temple. When the rulers heard of this, they took the book from him and brought it to the king. And the king ordered that it should be read to him. But he was angry when he found what the book contained, and tore it up and threw it into the fire.

Nebuchadnezzar came against the city, as the prophet had foretold, and took it, and slew the king, Jehoiakim, and made his son Jehoiachin king in his place. But afterwards Nebuchadnezzar repented of having put Jehoiachin on the throne, fearing that he would endeavor to avenge his father's death, [228] so he displaced him and made Zedekiah king instead, having first made him promise that he would always be faithful to him. Zedekiah was a brother of Jehoiakim. He was not a bad man naturally, but was weak, and could easily be persuaded to do evil. He allowed his courtiers and his people to sin against the law of Moses, and he worshipped false gods himself. Jeremiah came often to him and warned him that if he did not leave off his transgressions great calamities would fall upon him and his people, and the king of Babylon would destroy their cities and carry their people into bondage. And another prophet, named Ezekiel, also prophesied that God would punish him. Now, Zedekiah did not believe these prophets, because, although they agreed in all other points, they seemed to disagree in one thing, for Jeremiah said that Zedekiah "would be carried a captive to Babylon," while Ezekiel said that "he would not see Babylon." So Zedekiah flattered himself that neither prophet spoke the truth.

After Zedekiah had been king eight years he broke his promise to Nebuchadnezzar, and allied himself with the king of Egypt, who was fighting against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar gathered up an army, and, having defeated the Egyptians, marched against Jerusalem.

The prophet Jeremiah had been thrown into prison by his enemies, but he did not cease to exhort the multitude to open their gate to the king of Babylon and trust to his mercy, for if they resisted the city would surely be taken, and they would suffer the worst at the hands of their conquerors. Then his enemies came to Zedekiah and accused the prophet of giving evil counsel to the people, and they persuaded the king to deliver him into their hands. And they came into the prison and took him and let him down into a pit full of mire, that he might be suffocated there. And he stood up to his neck in the mire, and would surely have perished if one of the king's servants had not obtained permission to draw him out again. [229] For the king was so weak and good-natured that it was easy to make him change his mind.

For eighteen months Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, and then the city could no longer hold out against him. And when Zedekiah saw that all was lost, he took his wives and his children and his captains and his friends, and with them fled out of Jerusalem by night. But at daybreak the Babylonians overtook the fugitives near Jericho, and they seized the king and his wives and children, but let the rest escape. So Zedekiah was brought before Nebuchadnezzar. And Nebuchadnezzar reproached Zedekiah for having broken his promises to him who had made him ruler over Judea. Then he ordered the children of Zedekiah to be slain in the presence of their father, and he put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him, and carried him to Babylon. Thus the prophecies both of Jeremiah and of Ezekiel were fulfilled, for the king of Judea was brought captive to Babylon, yet he did not see that city.

The general of Nebuchadnezzar's army was ordered to pillage the temple and the royal palace, and afterwards to set fire to them, and to overthrow the whole city to its foundations. And he did as he was told, so that not a stone remained in its place. He also carried away captive all the people of Jerusalem who were not slain, except a few of the poor of the land, who were left to work in the fields and vineyards. The gold and silver and all the treasures of the temple and the royal palace were taken to Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar dedicated the holy vessels to the service of his own gods.

And thus the kingdom of Judah came to an end.


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