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mised law can do. And then the spade takes up the tale. We come now to the time of Cyrus, and most striking of recoveries; we see its people at this period in their actual trade with the world at large. In clay jars have been discovered the archives of one of the great banking houses of the past. Its documents are the same imperishable clay tablets as those of their poems and holy writings. In sequence these are to be found until the time when Alexander the Great is master of the empire. Hundreds of years are comprised in their accounts. And now our magnates of finance will tell us that we have here a system of exchange which in essentials is identical with that now in use in our own vast system of commerce. Apparently they had business ramifications the world over, with the same need for the free and easy transfer of bullion or bullion's worth that we have. And as they solved the problem so have we solved it. With us in this solution the Jews have always played a great part. Did it originate with these exiles, or were they already initiated in its mysteries? We have the account of how Tobit, a captive in Nineveh, became purveyor to Sargon, and how, to provide against accidents, he deposited with an Israelitish brother in Media ten talents of silver against documents which in due course were duly recognized and honoured. Again, in Esther we see how the Jewish colonists were even then to be found in every part of the empire, and in numbers which, if correct, aresomewhat surprising. If they are, they would seem to indicate that the Jews had gone farther afield as colonists and at an earlier date than hitherto supposed. In an ever full cradle we may perhaps find the key to many of their social and historical problems as to our own. They were an enterprising people, and ever ready to seek their fortunes in other lands. This, however, is only surmise founded on the figures given as mentioned in Esther. But to a people whose temple was at Jerusalem but whose country was the world, we can see how a banking system such as we have mentioned would fit in with their polity. Its very
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essential was having reliable agents in every place dealt with. These more than any nation the Jews would have, and thus of very necessity to them sooner or later this vast and also profitable business of finance must have gravitated. Probably the temple at Jerusalem also served as a clearing house for their exchange as well as being the centre of their faith. Later on, under the Greek dynasty, we know that it was used as a treasury where deposits could be made for safe keeping. Thus in a double way we see the temple fitting in with the lives of the people, and the more we appreciate this the more we realize what an appalling disaster it proved when the end came and it was totally destroyed.
Taken by Cyrus, though the capital of the new empire was now Susa, Babylon still remained an administrative centre of highest importance. The prudent sagacity of Cyrus led him to disturb existing conditions as little as possible, and in this enlightened policy we see the key to the rapid consolidation of his conquests. To the people his success meant little more than change of master; and when this brought them a strong rule and strict justice, with all the added amenities of life which these imply, they quickly acquiesced in the new conditions which brought them so many solid advantages. This was even the case with the Greeks in Asia Minor. As for the Jews they absolutely rejoiced in his success. Of course their case was an extreme one. They had not even been subjects of the Assyrian, but had been his abused and despised slaves. Cyrus was “their deliverer," "the anointed of the Lord"; their messiah; the shepherd of their God. No terms were too extravagant in which to express their admiration of him and their joy in their new master. In the black days of the Assyrian cruelty, these poor exiles had clung to their memories and their faith as the one tie with a once happier past. And now, coming to the time of Ezra, that hideous nightmare is gone, and Babylon itself is no longer a city of horrors. For eighty years it has proved a veritable house of promise. It is the hub of civilization. It has a learning and society hardly to be matched elsewhere. It is the acme of culture, and in it art, literature, and religion itself are to find a congenial home. It is a centre of the refinement the cultivated Jew has ever loved and to which he has ever contributed his part. Later on it is to be replaced by Alexandria, but meantime it knows no serious rival. True, the fame of the Greek is beginning to be whispered, but it is a whisper as yet hardly heard. For the present it is Babylon which is the proud city of the proudest empire in the world, and in her it is the Jew who is one of the first and proudest of her citizens and chiefs.
THE MISSION OF EZRA. | 14. EIGHTY years, as said, have passed since the return of the first contingent of exiles, and we now see Ezra the Scribe, who is in high favour with Artaxerxes, sent by him and his seven counsellors to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and to carry with him the gold and silver offered by the king and his counsellors unto the God of Israel whose habitation is in its temple. And Ezra is given great powers both to appoint magistrates and to teach the law and to execute judgment-death, banishment, confiscation. or imprisonment-on all such as fail to do his commands.
They set out with high enthusiam not unlike that of their first kinsfolk, for they are to visit the home of their fathers and worship their God in His own house. With ourselves, England is never so dear as when far from her, and with some of our colonial brothers it is the old country that is still home. To them it is a sacred place with sacred memories. And so it would seem with these residents in Babylon. There is a halo of romance about this ancient city of their race, and subdued with suppressed excitement they are now to look upon it. We have a picturesque account of their journey and of its dangers; of the treasure they took with them; of their arrival, and of the delivery of the king's commission. And now the very next verse is disillusion absolute and complete. Probably they were bound to be disappointed. Plant down some London habitués in a small provincial city with only attraction a not too magnificent cathedral, and you may possible get some faint notion of what their feelings must have been. Our little island is one of the lovely gardens of the world; its archaelogical treasures make it one of the show places of Europe, and with our colonial visitor the illusion may remain until the end. But these poor Babylonian enthusiasts ! Imagine the city they had left, “This great Babylon that I have builded,” fifteen miles square (? 15 square miles) and the mighty Euphrates flowing in its midst, and all on a scale of corresponding magnificence. And they arrive at a mean peasant city of no great dimensions, and the Temple—why their great tower of Belus would swallow a dozen such and not be incommoded. And the people! They have been mixing with the intellectuals of the empire and for eighty years as their peers. And these, are their kinsmen! They have been living in memories of a great past, but as far as actualities are concerned with little relation to facts as they have now to be faced. And still more, most unhappily in that past are memories of undying feuds and deathless hates; memories of peoples they loathed, of peoples who loathed them. Almost the very last act of their very brethren of Israel as a nation was to wipe out their holy city and to destroy its inhabitants. And now, now in this very city of David—the David they had abjured—they are actually inter-marrying with its inhabitants. And hardly arrived, and Shechaniah and his sons with the princes of his train, the priests, and the Levites overwhelm Ezra with accusations against their own kith and kin. They had done according to their abominations and had taken for themselves and their sons their daughters as wives; they had mingled the holy seed with the people of the land, and the princes and rulers also had been chief in the trespass. We will not enquire too nicely into the mainspring of their actions. Is it zeal for the law ? Or is it disappointment born of disenchantment that thus finds assertion? We remember Christ and the woman of Samaria, and we also remember that Esther—also daughter of their people—they had given in marriage to a stranger, and that to this day it is celebrated as one of the glorious events of their history. That such a stranger was a mighty king, could it make a difference in essentials? What if these humbler marriages had healed the strife of centuries? What if they had restored peace to a distracted land? What if they tended to a united race, which meant its salvation in days to come? Were these reasons to sway the purists of Babylon? In the marriage of Queen Esther they in Babylon had found safety and consequence and dignity, but it was another matter when these despised fellows of their race dared similar lapse. And now was reinaugurated that policy which through the centuries is to pursue the Jew as a curse, and is only to find end when his city is obliterated and he as a nation no longer is to exist. And this is a great crisis in the history of civilization. What had been the world had a united people under the leadership of the Jews dominated their own land? We see the terrific struggle they could make for liberty when standing alone and torn by dissensions. And what if united they had opposed a solid front to those devastating scourges, Macedon and Rome? Again we will not speculate on the might-have-beens of history.
15. The great division between the children of Judah and the other Abrahamic tribes who mostly peopled the adjacent lands dates from the time when David and Solomon made attempt to centralize the kingdom in Jerusalem. It violated the sentiments of all but the elect Jews themselves in their most cher