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where they all gave public thanks, and offered burnt-offerings; but Judith's offering was the plunder of Holofernes's tent, with all his equipage, with which the soldiers had presented her. After this she returned to Bethulia, and died in a good old age, being a hundred and five years old. Return we now to the siege of Jerusalem.
The Jews being closely besieged, the prophet Jeremiah frequently applied to the king, acquainting him with his fate, and that of the city; with which Zedekiah was at length so much affected, that he and his people, to shew some token of reformation, agreed to proclaim a manumission, or liberty to all Hebrew servants of both sexes, which they ratified by the ancient and usual solemnity of dividing* a calf into two parts, and passing between them. But this they soon retracted; for upon the coming of Hophra,t king of Egypt, to the relief of Je. rusalem, the Chaldeanst raised the siege of the city, and went to fight the Egyptians; and the people of Jerusalem, who had made the proclamation of liberty, thinking that Nebuchadnezzar's army had fled for fear of the Egyptian army, obliged the servants to return every one to his respective duty and service. This prevarication so incensed the Lord, that he repeats his former judgments of sword, famine, and pestilence, by his servant Jeremiah. Shortly after which, Zedekiah sent Jehucal and Zephaniah the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, to desire him to pray to the Lord for them. But he returned answer, that they were mistaken in concluding that the Chaldeans were gone ; and supposing that the Chaldeans should be worsted, so that none but wounded men should be left, yet they would fire the city.
* Dividing. Jeremiah xxxiv. 9, which imported a sort of imprecation on themselves, that they might be cut asunder in case they did not observe and perform the covenant into which they then entered.
+ Hopbra. He is called so by the prophet Jeremiah, ch. xliv. ver. 33; by others Apries, by Eusebius, Vaphres.
| Chaldeans. They were part of Nebuchadnezzar's army.
After this, the prophet seeing the siege raised for the present, thought fit to take this opportunity of the gates being open, to go into the country ; but being stopped by the guard, was seized as a deserter, and carried before the princes, who were in such a rage, that they fell upon him, beat him, and committed him to prison. From whence he was, by the king's order, released, and brought to his house, where, between themselves, the king asked him if he had any word from the Lord concerning him ? “ Yes,” replied Jeremiah, “ for thou shalt “ be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.” Then expostulating with the king on the hardship of his case, who, for telling the truth in the siege of the city, and other matters, was punished and confined, while the false prophets were excused, he desired the king to put him in a more commodious prison ; he was accordingly removed, and better care taken of him so long as any provision was left.
The good old prophet, though in prison, spoke what the Lord commanded him; and all that he said being a constant denunciation of the heavy judgments of God against the city and people of Jerusalem, particularly that it should be taken by the king of Babylon, and that they should languish under those three plagues, famine, pestilence, and sword; the princes were so enraged, that they went to the king, and remonstrated with him on the subject, declaring that the prophet ought to be put to death, as his speeches discouraged both the soldiers and the people. The king, in this distress, not daring to contest with his people, who, upon every little occasion, were too apt to mutiny, allowed them to do what they pleased. Upon which, they took Jeremiah, and let him down by cords into a filthy miry dungeon, where he must inevitably have perished, had not God raised him up a friend in the person of Ebedmelech, a black eunuch, who interceded with the king for him, and procured him to be brought back to his former prison. For this courtesy, Jeremiah assured the charitable moor, that
when the city should be taken, he should not fall by the sword.
And now the king having the prophet near him again, he desired him not to hide any thing from him that he should ask. But the prophet, who had been ill treated before for speaking his mind so freely, began now to expostulate with him, and before he answered the king, he told him, that if he would promise* not to put him to death, if what he should report to him did not please him, and that if he gave him good advice, he would observe it, he would freely answer him. To the first the king answered positively, that no one should hurt him; but as to the second he was silent. However, the
prophet ventured to advise him to surrender to the king of Babylon, with assurance of good quarter for himself and family. The king scrupled at it, but the prophet persisted ; and at the breaking off of the discourse, the king obliged him to secrecy, which for his own sake he ob served; for if the princes had known what had passed between him and the king, it might have cost the prophet his life.
The siege drawing near to a close, the people, through the scarcity of provisions, were reduced to extremity, being forced to rake the very dunghills for food, and at last to feed on one another. In this sad condition, the city was taken by storm, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah's reign. The Chaldeans having possessed themselves of one gate, king Zedekiah, with the few forces he had left, endeavoured to escape at another gate; but the city being enclosed on every side with the enemy's army, he had not gone far before he was seized, and the few that were with him dispersed. The wretched king, thus taken, was carried to Nebuchadnezzar, who was then at Riblah, where, to add to his misery, he saw his sons put to death before his face, and the princes of Judah, who
* Promise. See Jeremiah xxviii. 16.
† Another. See Lament. iv. 4, 5, 10, and Ezek. v. 10.
had opposed his inclining to believe the prophet Jeremiah, were likewise slain. As for himself, the king of Babylon commanded his eyes to be put out, and binding him in fetters of brass, he carried him in triumph to Babylon, where he died in prison. The people being put to military execution, the enemy fell to plunder, and destroyed the place. This was executed with the utmost rage by Nebuzaradan, captain of the king of Babylon's guards, for he threw down the walls, burnt the temple and royal palace, and all the principal houses, and set the rest of the city on fire. Those that escaped the sword, with them that had deserted during the siege, were sent prisoners to Babylon; none but a few of the poorer sort being left to till the country. All the sacred vessels, utensils, and treasure of the temple, were carried off, together with the priests, and some officers that used to attend the service of the Lord.
The contemporary reigns of the kings of Israel and
Judah, being somewhat intricate, from the manner in which they run into each other in the Sacred History, the following Table will exhibit an abstract of their several reigns, from the founding of Solomon's temple to the destruction of it at this period of the his tory.
ABSTRACT of the Reigns of the Kings of Judah and Israel,
from the founding of Solomon's Temple in the year of the world 3983, to its final destruction, by Nebuchadnezzar. Containing the space of 423 years.
The Number of ihe Kings of Judah, of the race and family
of David, excepting Athaliah, who was daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, was 21. Average of their reigns in 423 years, 20 years and 52 days each. Number of the Kings of Israel in 254 years from the reign of Jeroboam I. to the third captivity under Hosea, 19. Average of their reigns, 18 years 98 days each.