Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape and they will prefer death to flight. — Sun Tzu

Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber




The Captivity of Judah

Jehoiakim relied upon the help of the Egyptians, and soon revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. This king was busy just then with another war, so he paid no heed at first to the uprising of the Jews.

When the war was ended he marched against Jerusalem, and put Jehoiakim to death in the way that Jeremiah had foretold. The son of Jehoiakim now became King of Judah, but, as he was only eight years of age, his courtiers reigned in his stead. They were neither good nor wise, and made so much trouble that Nebuchadnezzar, in anger, came again to Jerusalem, and carried off the king, his courtiers, and ten thousand prisoners.

It was probably sometime during these campaigns that an event took place which you will not find in some Bibles, but which you will often see in pictures. It seems that one of the Assyrian generals caused so much trouble in the country, that a brave Jewish woman named Judith made up her mind to kill him. She dressed herself up in her finest clothes, and went down to the generalís tent, pretending that she had come to visit him because she loved him. The general gave her a grand supper, and when he fell asleep after drinking much wine, she took a sword and cut off his head. Then she called her servant, put the dead generalís head in a cloth, and carried it home, to show her people what she had done.

As Jerusalem could not be left without a ruler, the Babylonians now chose Zedekiah, Josiahís youngest son, to fill this office. He was a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar, and as he closely followed Jeremiahís advice during the beginning of his reign, all went well at first.

Judith
JUDITH


Made bold by success, Zedekiah fancied that he might shake off the Babylonian yoke, so he sought the alliance of Egypt. In punishment, his capital was again besieged, and at the end of two and a half years it fell into the hands of the Babylonians. They took Zedekiah captive and sacked the city of Jerusalem.

Not only were the temple and the houses burned, but the city walls were all torn down. This calamity seemed so great to the Jews that the anniversary of this evil day was always observed as a time of mourning and fasting.

Although the Babylonians would have liked to carry all the population off into captivity, the people had suffered so much during the long siege that only eight hundred and thirty-two of them were strong enough to stand the long journey.

The others were left in Palestine, to farm the land and take care of the vineyards. The country was placed under the rule of a governor, advised by Jeremiah. The prophet told the people to be patient and to submit, and at first they were so weak and so tired of war that they were only too ready to obey; but as soon as they got back strength, they again revolted, choosing a prince of Jewish blood as their leader.

After murdering the governor whom Nebuchadnezzar had given them, the Jews suddenly began to fear the wrath of the Babylonians. Hoping to escape from it, they fled into Egypt, where they fancied that they would be safe, although Jeremiah warned them that Egypt also would soon fall into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

This prophecy was also spoken at the same time by Ezekiel, who was among the captive Jews at Babylon. It came true, too, before long; for Nebuchadnezzar became master of Tyre, after a siege of more than thirteen years, and then went on to conquer Egypt.

The Jews who had taken refuge in Egypt were duly punished, and when the Babylonian army went home, they took with them long caravans of captives, and left Judah a desert. These captives found many of their friends at Babylon, for twice before some of the Jews had been led thither into bondage.