Page images
[ocr errors]

were meant the national records of the Israelites; such as were kept, by Divine command, from the time of Moses. From these it is supposed the Prophet Ezra drew up the Book of Chronicles that we have now in our Bible; which, in the ancient translation of the Old Testament, was entitled the book of things omitted in the foregoing. It contains an exact statement of the several generations from Adam to David, and a particular account of the tribes of Israel.

The Book of Ezra continues the history from the time at which the Chronicles conclude, and informs us that Cyrus, king of Persia, who had overturned the empire of Babylon, after that the people had accomplished the seventy years of captivity (foretold by the prophet Jeremiah), made a decree, by which he restored them to their country and possessions, and gave them permission to rebuild ineir city, according to another prophecy of Isaiah, delivered 200 years before the event tock place. Ezra, who was of the family of the priesthood, and speaks of himself as a ready scribe, became afterwards their governor, and re-established their laws and religion ;

they rebuilt the temple upon the foundation of that of Solomon, which had been destroyed; Cyrus restoring many of the treasures taken away by Nebuchadnezzar.

A very small number of the Israelites seem to have returned with those of the kingdom of Judah, who had so long continued at Babylon; and therefore the people thus restored received the common name of Judæans, or Jews, which they have ever since continued to bear.

Nehemiah succeeded Ezra in the government of Judea, under the authority of the kings of Persia ; and the people, at length made sensible of their great wickedness and ingratitude to the Almighty, were brought, through his care and regulations, to a thorough reformation, abandoning their former inclination to the worship of images. They are related in the Book of NEHEMIAH to have made offerings and atoneinents for their past sins; and from that time forward became as remarkable for their rigid attachment -to their religion, as before they had been unmindful of it. This book, being the latest of the historical writings of the Old Testament, brings

down the Sacred History to about 400 years before Christ.

The Book of Esther, supposed to have been written by Ezra, contains the history of a female captive of the Jewish nation ; who, through her influence with King Ahasuerus (who had raised her to the throne of Persia), prevented a universal massacre of her countrymen planned by Haman, the wicked minister of that monarch. This remarkable deliverance was commemorated by the Jews in aftertimes by a solemn festival called Purim, or the Feast of Lots, from the event recorded in chap. iii. 7, and ix. 24.

Esther as has been observed, is a narrative of a most singular deliverance of the Jews from the brink of destruction, and as all Scripture is given for our learning, “so should the conduct of the Jewish queen, under circumstances of the utmost delicacy and danger, serve as another conspicuous pattern of that due precaution, which ought never to be separated from a pious resignation to events, and the humblest submission to the Divine will.

Haman, who was an Amalekite, we have just

read plotted the destruction of the Jews, and artfully obtains their death warrant to be sealed with the king's ring. The plot however against the life of Mordecai falls on himself; and his plan to ruin the Jews is also defeated. The trial to which Esther was exposed was one of no ordinary kind, and her behaviour in it affords an example that can scarcely be sufficiently admired.

Sir Robert Ker Porter, in his travels thus speaks of this book; we quote it with much pleasure, his volumes being large and expensive, consequently beyond the reach of many readers.

“ The character of Esther,” he says appeared to me, one of the most lovely pictures of female perfection; a beautiful example of female heroism without any of that hardness of feature which gives the idea of an Amazon. She exhibits the most heroic self-devotion in the cause of her unhappy nation, mixed with all the attractive softness of feminine delicacy and tenderness of heart. She shrinks from the act of exposing herself to open

shame of the violent death she yet steadily resolves to dare" for the magnanimous purpose of

“ has ever



saving her people from the execution of the decree pronounced against them. Thus with all the natural and becoming apprehensiveness of a delicate woman, trembling at the thought of her blood being shed by a private or public executioner, she warns Mordecai of the danger she must incur in preferring her petition. She implores him to pray that penalty may be averted, whilst she declares herself determined to run the desperate risk: 'Go,' said she, 'gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night nor day; I also, and my maidens will fast likewise. And so will I go in unto the King, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.

Sir Robert is writing from Hamadan, the ancient Ecbatana, when he says

“ The Jewish part of the inhabitants with whom I conversed, entered with a solemn interest into the questions I put to them respecting the sepulchre of Esther and Mordecai, the dome roof of which rises over the low dun habitations of the poor remnant of Israel, still lingering in the land of their captivity. This

« PreviousContinue »