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subdued several kings, and extended his conquests over all Asia, from the river Indus to the Ægean Sea.
It was promised that he should find great spoil and treasure among the conquered nations; Isaiah xlv. 3: "I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places." And the riches which Cyrus found in his conquests amounted to a prodigious value, in Pliny's account; nor can we wonder at it, for these parts of Asia at that time abounded in wealth and luxury. Babylon had been heaping up treasures for many years; and the riches of Crœsus king of Lydia, whom Cyrus conquered, and took prisoner, are in a manner become proverbial.
It was foretold that the Babylonians should be terrified, and hide themselves within the walls. Jeremiah li. 30: "The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight, they have remained in their holds, their might hath failed, they became as women." And accordingly the Babylonians, after the loss of a battle or two, never recovered their courage to face the enemy in the field again. They retired within their walls; and the first time that Cyrus came with his army before the place, he could not provoke them to venture forth, and try their strength; he sent a challenge to the king to fight a duel with him, but G
in vain; he therefore consulted with his officers about the best method of carrying on the seige, "since," saith he," they do not come forth and fight."
It was foretold that the river should be dried up before the city should be taken; which was very unlikely ever to happen, the river being more than two furlongs broad, and deeper than two men standing one upon another; so that the city was thought to be stronger and better fortified by the river than by the walls; but yet the prophets predicted that the waters should be dried up, Isaiah xliv. 27: "That saith to the deep be dry, and I will dry up the rivers." Jer. 1. 38: "A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up." Jer. li. 36: "I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry."
And accordingly Cyrus turned the course of the river Euphrates, which ran through the midst of Babylon; and, by means of deep trenches and canals, so drained the waters, that the river became easily fordable for his soldiers to enter the city; and by these means Babylon was taken, which was otherwise impregnable, and was supplied with provisions for many years, saith Herodotus; for more than twenty years, saith Xenophon.
Herodotus saith, if the Babylonians had but
known what the Persians were doing, by shutting the gates which opened to the river, and by standing upon the walls which were built as banks, they might have taken or destroyed the Persians as in a net or cage.
It was foretold that the city should be taken by surprise during the time of a feast. Jer. 1. 24: “I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, Oh Babylon! and thou wast not aware; thou art found, and also caught." Chap. li. verse 39: "In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the Lord." li. 57: "I will make drunk her princes, her wise men, her captains and her rulers, and her mighty men; and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of Hosts." And accordingly the city was taken, in the night of a great annual feast, while the inhabitants were dancing, revelling, and drinking.
Aristotle reports, it had been taken three days before some part of the city perceived it. But Herodotus's account is more modest and probable; that the extreme parts of the city were in the hands of the enemy, before they who dwelt in the middle of it knew any thing of their danger. These were extraordinary occurrences;
and how could any man foresee or foretel such remarkable events, such singular circumstances, without revelation, and inspiration of God?— Here then is no room for scepticism.
Could the prophets, unless they had been prophets indeed, have foreseen and foretold what would come to pass so many ages afterwards? And yet they expressly foretold, that so great a city should be reduced to desolation.
Isaiah is very strong and poetical; xiii. 19: "Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; it shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there but wild beasts of the desert shall be there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and Satyrs shall dance there. And wild beasts of the island shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces." Again, xiv. 22, 23: "I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of Hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and son and nephew; I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts."
Jeremiah prophesieth much in the same strain, chapter 1. verses 13. 23. 39. 40, and again, chapter li. verses 13. 26. 29. 37. 42. 43. The prophets speak often of things future, as if they were already effected; past, present, and to come, being all alike known to an Infinite mind; and the intermediate time not perhaps revealed to the minds of the prophets.
Isaiah addresseth Babylon by the name of a virgin, as having never before been taken by an enemy. Isaiah xlvii. 1: "Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground." And Herodotus saith expressly, this was the first time that Babylon was taken. After this, it never more recovered its ancient splendour; for Xenophon informs us, that Cyrus obliged the Babylonians to deliver up all their arms, upon pain of death, distributed their best houses among his officers, imposed a tribute upon them, appointed a strong garrison, and compelled the Babylonians to pay the charge, being desirous to keep them poor, as the best means of keeping them obedient. But notwithstanding these precautions they rebelled against Darius, and sustained a siege of twenty months, when the city was taken by stratagem.
As soon as Darius had made himself master of the place, he ordered three thousand of the prin