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It is the Observation of Theodoret, and of St. Jerom, upon Ezek. V. 5. that God placed Jerusalem, the Seat of the Jewish Government, in the midst of the Nations, that it might be a Direction to the Heathen in Matters of Religion, from whence, as from the Centre, Light might be communicated to the farther Parts of the Earth. But the Divisions and Calamites of the People of Israel, the Destruction of their City, and Dispersion of their whole Nation, contributed as much to the Propagation of Religion, as their greatest Prosperity could do.
The Division of the Ten Tribes, after the Death of Solomon, and the Ere&tion of the Kingdom of Israel, distinct from that of Judah, with the many Leagues and Wars which these two mighty Kingdoms had with the Kings of Ægypt, and Syria, and Babylon, and with other Nations, could not but exceedingly conduce to the divulging the True Religion in the World, and give opportunity to the Prophets to declare their Prophecies, and work their Miracles among the Heathen, as we find they did in many Instances. One of the greatest Cities of the World was converted by JC, nab's Preaching. Upon the Fasting and Prayer of Jehofhaphat, a very numerous Army of Moabites, and Ammonites, and other Nations, according to the Predi&tion of Jehaziel, destroyed one another : And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel, 2 Chron. xx. 29. Hezekiah being distressed by Sennacherib, prayed to God for Deliverance out of his Hand; that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only : and his Prayer was answer'd, not only in the Deliverance, but in the manner of it; which was so wonderful, that all must know, and be astonished at it; for that very Night the Angel of the Lord went out, and (mote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore aud five thouJand, 2 Kings xix. 19, 35. which was the fulfilling
of the Proplttcy of Isaiah, deliver'd to Hezekich; ' int a Message to him from God, in Anfwer to his Prayer: And Sennacherib returned to Nineveh and there fell by the Sword, as the same Prophet had förețold, and new ver came before Jerusalem, Ver. 7, 33, 37. And afterwards Ambasladors came from the King of Babylon, to enquire of the Wonder, of Miracle; that was wrought in the Recovery of Hezekiah from his Sickness, ¿ Chron.xxxii.zr. And at laft;the Captivity of the Jews for Seventy Years in Babylon, made their Religion almost as well known there, as in Jerusalem it felf. Jeremiah had foretold the Captivity of the Jews, and the Conquest of all the adjacent Countries, so long and fo plainly, before-hand, that all the 'neighbour Nations nuft be fenlibre of it, as Nebuchadnezzar himfelf also was; for which reason, he gave a ftri& Charge concerning Jeremiah, to Nebuzaradan the Captain of the Guard, who declares the reafon of their Captivity to be, their Sints against the Lord, 'or Jehovah, Jer. xl. 3: and, as the fetus say, he became a Profelyte." Their Enemies were fensible of the Cause of their Destru&tion: Their adversaries faid; We offend not, because they have finned against the Lord, the habitation of Yuftice, even the Lord the hope of their fathers; Jer. l. 7. God profeffes, that he had a regard to the Honour of his Name among the Heathen, in his Mercies vouchfafed to the Children of Israel, or else he had utterly consumed them; "Ezek. xx. 9. xxxvi. 22, 23, 38. and the Judgments upon the feveral Nations prophesied against, were to this Ertd, that they might know him to be the Lord, Ezek. xxv. 7, 17. xxvi. 7. xxviii. 22, 23, 24. xxix. 6. xxxv.9. xxxvi. 23. xxxvii. 28. I am a great king, faith the Lord of hosts, and my 'name is dreadfub among the heathen, Mal. i. 14. The Jews, in their Captivity, are commanded to make an open De claration against the Heathen Gods; and because they understood not the Chaldee Tongue, the Prophet feremiah supplies them with so much of the Language
as might ferve them for that. Purpose ;- Thuis Mall ye say unto-them, Jer.x. it). that is, b.Ye shall speak to them in their own Language, and in the Words which I now fet down to you, to bid Defiance to their False Gods. Thus did he fulfil his Commiflion arid Chara&er, who was fanctified and ordained a Prophet unto the nations, Jer. 1.5: And Jeremiah was put to Death in Egypt, and Ezekiel in Babylon, for appearing against the Idolatry of those Places.
During the Captivity, Jeboiachin was reconciled to the King of Babylon, and in great favour with him : His throne was setabove the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon, 2 Kings xxv.28. The Jews were commanded to take Wives for them, and for their Sons, that they might be encreased there's and not diminished, (Jer. xxix. 6:) And they were not only considerable for their Number, but were in great Esteem, and in Places of great Honour and Trust ; and their Religion was extulled and recommended by Publick Edičs to all under that vast Empire. The Almighty Power of God was manifested by Miracles, and by the Interpretation of Dreams and Prophecies; and his Majesty and Honour was acknowledged and proclaimed in the most publick and folemn manner, throughout all the Babylonian Empire, at the Command of Princes who were Idolaters, and were forced to it by the mere Convictions of their own Consciences, wrought in them by the irresistible Power of God; Dan. chap. it; iii, iv, v, vi.
Daniel had acquainted Cyrus (as Josephus fays) with the Prophecy of Ilaiah, in which he was so long before mention'd by Name: However, the Lord stirred up the Spirit of Cyrus, by this or some other means, to
b Lingui Aramaa dicunt Interpretes Prophetam idcirco locutim ese, quia Judæos cum Chaldæis disputantes Jeremias influeba!, quomodo iis respondendum effet Linguâ Chaldaicá. Abravanel
. de Cap. Fidei, c. 20,
accomplish the Prophecy which had been deliver'd both by Isaiah and Jeremiah, concerning the Restoration of the Jews, after a Captivity of Seventy Years; and Cyrus sent forth his Proclamation, declaring that he had received his Kingdom from God, with a Charge to rebuild the Temple at Yerusalem, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 23. And this Decree of Cyrus was reinforced by Darius and Artaxerxes, Ezra vi, vii. Now so many several Decrees put forth in favour of the Religion of the Jews, and the miraculous Power and Wifdom which gave occasion to them, and the Advancement of Daniel and others, and the long Life and Continuance of Daniel in that Power and Esteem, must leave all the Eastern part of the World without any Excuse, who were not Converted to the Knowledge and Worship of the True God. The Advancement of Esther and Mordecai under Ahasuerus, and of Nehemiah under Artaxerxes, gave the Jews great Authority, and great opportunities of propagating their Religion from India even unto Æthiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces ; for this was the extent of the Dominions of Ahasuerus, Exb.i. 1. and the Jews were dispersed in all the Provinces of the Kingdom of Babylon, chap. iii. 8. And they wanted no Care nor Diligence to improve every Opportunity; as we learn from the Books of Ezekiel, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. And the very Names of fuch Persons are enough to convince us, that that part of the World could want no Means of Conversion : Confess him before the Gentiles, ye children of Israel; for he hath scattered us among them : there declare his greatness, and extol bim before all the living ; for he is our Lord, and he is the God our Father for ever. In the land of my captivity do I praise him, and declare his might and majesty to a finful nation, Tob. xiii. 3, 4,6. This was the Practice of pious Men among the Ten Tribes, of whom fome were likewise in great Place and Authority, chap.i. 13, 21, 22.
And as the Ten Tribes were first carried away Captive; so, upon the Restoration of the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin, all but a few, in comparison of the other Tribes, remained in the Places of their Captivity; and many of those Two Tribes also choferather to continue in the Territories of Babylon, than forsake the Poffeffions which they enjoyed there: It is supposed, that not much more than half of them returned ; and there were afterwards three celebrated Universities d of the Jews in Babylon, Nebardea, Pombeditha, and Soria, besides several other Places famous for Learning. The Jews relate, that the Ten Tribes were carried away not only into Media and Perfia, but into the Northern Countries beyond the Bosphorus; and Ortelius finds them in Tartary. The Odomantes, a People of Thrace, were Circumcised; and the
Scholiaft. of Aristophanes says, that they were reported to be Fews. In process of time they went as far as China.
The Restoration of the Jews by Cyrus, who had been fo long before appointed and named by God himself for that Work, was ordained for this End, that they might know, from the rifing of the sun, and from the west, that there is no God besides him, Isa, xlv. 0. The Conquests of Cyrus opened a great Correspondence between the Nations of the World; and his particular Favour to the Jews, made them much taken notice of by other Nations : And it is observable, that after the Captivity, the Jews were never given to Idolatry ; and though they were before too much addicted to it, yet this gave occasion to Prophecies and Miracles to withdraw them from it'; and thefe, with the Judgments of God which befel them for their Iniquities,
c Jofeph. Antiq. 1. 11. C. 1. Mede's Discourse, 20. p. 75.
d Buxtorf. liber. c. 6. Lightf. Harm. N. T. p. 335, Exercitat. on Acts, p. 681, 709.
e Hier. in Zęch x, Aristophan. Acharnenf. Ac. 1. Scen. 4,