Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Return from Captivity

There is a story told about Daniel which is not found in all Bibles, but which has so often been used as a subject for pictures that it should be well known. This story tells us that when Daniel was very young, he was once present where a trial was taking place.

Two old men had come before the judge, and had accused a beautiful young woman named Susannah of a terrible crime. The judges, after listening to all that the old men had to say, condemned Susannah to death. The executioners were about to lead her away, when Daniel suddenly arose, and said that the old men were the real culprits and that they had tried to make Susannah do wrong; that, as she was a very good woman, she refused to do so, and the old men, in anger, had decided to punish her for not doing as they wished, by telling a lie to the judges.

When Daniel had spoken thus, the judges gazed upon the old men, whose guilty faces proved that he had told the truth. So the old men were condemned, and Susan nah was allowed to go free. She was honored everywhere after this as a truly good woman.

Danielís career after he had been saved from the lions' den seems to have been very prosperous. He spoke many prophecies, which are written down in the book bearing his name, and he foretold that at the end of seventy weeks the captive Jews would be allowed to go back to Jerusalem. He added that their hopes would finally be crowned by the coming of the long-promised Messiah, the Prince of Peace.

Daniel also had many visions, among which was one of four beasts. The first was like a lion with eagleís wings, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard, with four wings and four heads, and lastly came another beast, different from all the rest, and with ten horns on its head. This strange vision, like the statue which Nebuchadnezzar had seen, was interpreted as a sign of the kingdoms which would rule the land in turn; and it has been called a prophecy of coming political events.

Cyrus the Great, having finished all his conquests, now came back to rule in person over Babylon; and there he soon made a law which allowed the Jewish captives to go back to Jerusalem, and he also gave them permission to rebuild their famous temple. A great-grandson of King Jehoiakim was chosen by Cyrus to lead the Jews home, and a long caravan was soon formed, numbering forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty men. Among these was Jeshua, the high priest, to whom were entrusted all the golden vessels carried away from Jerusalem so many years before, and plenty of money to build a new temple.

As soon as the Jews came to Jerusalem, they offered up sacrifices, and began rebuilding both the city and the temple. They were greatly hindered in this work, however, by the constant raids of their neighbors, whose proffered services had been refused because they were idolaters.

As one half of the Jews were obliged to be always under arms and on the watch to drive back these enemies, the work went on very slowly. Then, long before the temple was finished, Cyrus died, and when a new king came to the throne, he sent them strict orders to stop their labors.

Two of the Hebrew prophets finally obtained the repeal of this order, and, setting vigorously to work, the Jews finished their new temple five hundred and fifteen year before Christ.