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The Destruction of the Temple.

“They have cast fire into thy sanctuary; they have defiled by casting dow the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.—Psalm lxxiv. 7

THERE is no part of sacred history, except perhaps the account of the construction of the temple, which should be more interesting to the advanced mason than that which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, the captivity of the Jews at Babylon, and the subsequent restoration under Cyrus for the purpose of rebuilding “the house of the Lord.” Intimately connected, as the events which are commemorated in this period are, with the organization of the Royal Arch degree, it is impossible that any mason who has been exalted to that degree, can thoroughly understand the nature and bearing of the 'secrets with which he has been entrusted, unless he shall have devoted some portion of time to the study of the historical incidents to which these secrets refer.

The history of the Jewish people from the death of Solomon to the final destruction of the temple, was one continued series of civil dissensions among themselves, and of revolts in government and apostacies in religion. No sooner had Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, ascended the throne, than his harsh and tyrannical conduct so incensed the people that ten of the tribes revolted from his authority, and placing themselves under the government of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, formed the separate kingdom

of Israel, while Rehobcam continued to rule over the tribus of Judah and Benjamir., which thenceforth constituted the kingdom of Israel, whose capital remained at Jerusalem. From thenceforward the history of Palestine becomes twofold. The ten revolting tribes which constituted the Israelitish monarchy, soon formed a schismatic religion, which eventually terminated in idolatry, and caused their final ruin and dispersion. But the two remaining tribes proved hardly more faithful to the God of their fathers, and carried their idolatry to such an extent, that at length there was scarcely a town in all Judea that did not have its tutelary deity borrowed from the idolatrous gods of its pagan neighbors. Even in Jerusalem, “the holy city,” the prophet Jeremiah tells us that altars were set up to Baal. Israel was the first to receive its punishment for this career of wickedness, and the ten tribes were carried into a captivity from which they never returned. As a nation, they have been stricken from the roll of history.

But this wholesome example was lost upon Judea. The destruction of the ten tribes by no means impeded the progress of the other two towards idolatry and licentiousness. Judah and Benjamin, however, were never without a line of prophets, priests, and holy men, whose teachings and exhortations sometimes brought the apostate Jews back to their first allegiance, and for a brief period restored the pure theism of the Mosaic dispensation.

Among these bright but evanescent intervals of regeneracy, we are to account the pious reign of the good King Josiah, during which the altars of idolatry throughout his kingdom were destroyed, the temple was repaired, and its regular service restored. It was in the prosecution of this laudable duty, that a copy of the Book of the Law, which had long been lost, was found in a crypt of the temple, and after having been publicly read to the priests, the levites, and the people, it was again, by the direction of the prophetes3 Huldah, (leposited in a secret place,

But notwithstanding this fortuitous discovery of the Book of the Law, and notwithstanding all the efforts of King Josiah to reëstablish the worship of his fathers, the Jews were so attached to the practices of idolatry,

that upon

his death, being encouraged by his son and successor Jehoahaz, who was an impious monarch, they speedily returned to the adoration of pagan deities and the observance of pagan rites.

The forbearance of God was at length exhausted, and in the reign of this King Jehoahaz, the series of divine punishments commenced, which only terminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of its inhabitants.

The instrument selected by the Deity for carrying out his designs in the chastisement of the idolatrous Jews, was Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Chaldees, then reigning at Babylon; and as this monarch, and the country which he governed, played an important part in the series of events which are connected with the organization of the Royal Arch degree, it is necessary that we should here pause in Che narrative in which we have been engaged, to take a brief view of the locality of Babylon, the seat of the captivity, and of the history of the Chaldee nation, whose leader was the conqueror of Judah.

“Few countries of antiquity,” says Heeren,* “have so just a claim to the attention of the historian as Babylonia.” The fertility of its soil, the wealth of its inhabitants, the splendor of its cities, the refinement of its society, continued to give it a pre-eminent renown through a succession of ages. It occupied a narrow strip of land, lying between the river Tigris on the east and the Euphrates on the west, and extending about five hundred and forty miles west of north. The early inhabitants were undoubtedly of the Shemitic race, deriving their existence from one common origin with the Hebrews, though it is still a question with the historian whether they originally came from India or

* IIistorical Researches into the Politics, Intercourse, and Trade of the principal nations of antiquity, vol. i. p. 371.

from the peninsula of Arabia.* They originally formed a part of the great Assyrian monarchy, but their early history having no connection with Royal Arch Masonry, may be passed over without further discussion. About six hundred and thirty years before the Christian era, Babylon, the chief city, was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Chaldeans, a nomadic race, who descending from their homes in the mountains of Taurus and Caucasus, between the Euxine and the Caspian seas, overwhelmed the countries of Southern Asia, and became masters of the Syrian and Babylonian empires.

Nebuchadnezzar was a warlike monarch, and during his reign was engaged in many contests for the increase of his power and the extension of his dominions. Among other nations who fell beneath his victorious arms, was Judea, whose King Jehoahaz, or as he was afterwards named Jehoiakim, was compelled to purchase peace by paying an annual tribute to his conquerors. Jehoiakim was subsequently slain by Nebuchadnezzar, and his son Jehoiachin ascended the throne of Israel. The oppression of the Babylonians still continued, and after a reign of three months, Jehoiachin was deposed by the King of the Chaldees, and his kingdom given to his uncle Zedekiah, a monarch who is characterized by Josephus as “a despiser of justice and his duty."

It was in the reign of this ungodly sovereign that the incidents took place which are commemorated in the first part of the Royal Arch degree. Having repeatedly rebelled against the authority of the Babylonian king, to whose appointment he was indebted for his throne, Nebuchad. nezzar repaired with an army to Judea, and laying siege to Jerusalem, after a severe struggle of eighteen months' duration, reduced it. He then caused the city to be leveled with the ground, the royal palace to be burned, the temple

* Historical Researches into the Politics, Intercourse and Trade of tbo principal nations of antiquity, vol. i. p. 381.

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to be pillaged, and the inhabitants to be carried captive to Babylon.

These events are symbolically detailed in the Royal Arch, and in allusion to them, the passage of the Book of Chronicles which records them, is appropriately read during the ceremonies of this part of the degree.

“ Zedekiah was one-and-twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, and stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel. Moreover, all the chief of the priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord, which he had hallowed in Jerusalem, and the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy."

This preparatory clause announces the moral causes which led to the destruction of Jerusalem—the evil counsels and courses of Zedekiah,-his hardness of heart,-his willful deafness to the denunciations of the Lord's prophet, -and his violation of all his promises of obedience to Nebuchadnezzar. But not to the king alone was confined this sinfulness of life. The whole of the people, and even the priests, the very servants of the the house of the Lord, were infected with the moral plague. They had abandoned the precepts and observances of their fathers, which were to have made them a peculiar pec ple, and falling into the idolatries of their heathen neighbors, had desecrated the altars of Jehovah with the impure fire of strange gods. Message after message had been sent to them from that

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