The Young Captives
Erasmus W. Jones
Part 2 out of 4
if, by the request of my good friend Barzello, I give her the name of an
"On the contrary," said Perreeza, "thy young handmaiden is very grateful
to the noble friend of Barzello for every token of his notice and kind
"Then, maid of Judah," said Joram, "thy floral name, from this hour, is
the Rose of Sharon."
"The Rose of Sharon!" cried Jupheena. "Oh, Perreeza, is not that
delightful? Rose of Sharon!"
"Beautiful, indeed!" said Perreeza, "and better than all, it is the sweet
rose of my own native land."
"True, young maid, true," said Joram, "'tis the favorite rose of Judah."
"The noble friend of Barzello will accept the thanks of his unworthy
young acquaintance for his very happy compliment," said Perreeza.
"Well," responded Joram, "one Hebrew lay, accompanied by the harp of
Judah, will recompense us a thousand times."
"That shall be attended to with pleasure," said Perreeza, and the two
young women left to bring the harp.
"Now, my good friend, what thinkest thou of the maid of Judah?" asked
"The Rose of Sharon is all loveliness," said Joram. "Ah, my friend,
sawest thou not the majestic glance of that dark eye, the inimitable hue
of those fair cheeks, the full perfection of those lips, the glossy
richness of the profuse curls, and the marble whiteness of that model
neck? Add to this, my friend, the amiability of her character and her
ripe accomplishments, and in her we find a charming and suitable
companion for the daughter of Barzello."
"Joram, are the Hebrew women noted for their beauty?"
"Perhaps no nation can boast of greater fairness of complexion among
their females than the Jews."
"Now the youthful maid of the royal line of Judah will make us happy with
one of her Hebrew melodies, she having brought her favorite harp," said
"My kind friend may well say favorite harp," replied Perreeza, with deep
emotion; "for to me, surely, it is a very precious treasure. For many
years it has been in our family. To me it was left by the dearest of
mothers, and to her it was given by a brother beloved, who found an early
This was received by the company in silence, but it was noticed that
Joram was deeply affected.
Perreeza took the instrument in her arms, swept her delicate hand over
the well-tuned strings, and, after a moment's pause sang in seraphic
tones a plaintive melody peculiar to her life in Jerusalem.
Profound silence fell on the assembly after her song was finished. The
performance and its effect were such that applause or compliments would
have sounded ill-timed. All gazed with solemn delight on Perreeza as she
laid aside her harp and took her seat beside Jupheena.
Suddenly, the disappearance of Joram was noticed, and Barzello sprang up
in an agitated manner. The merchant was not in the room, and none had
seen him depart.
"In the name of the gods, what has befallen my good friend!" cried the
officer, as he went to the adjoining apartment.
"Be calm," faintly replied the voice of Joram, as the host came to where
he was reclining.
"Barzello," said the guest, "thou hast given me reason these many years
to believe in thy friendship."
"Thou art not in the least mistaken," responded Barzello.
"Then I shall proceed without delay to explain my singular conduct, and,
in making these developments, I am confident I shall share the sympathies
of my kind friend. To-night my heart has been almost rent with contending
emotions. I have been well-nigh overwhelmed with both sadness and joy.
During my long residence in this part of the world a degree of mystery
has hung over myself and family, and even to-day my country and origin
are not known. For many years past I have had strong doubts in regard to
the wisdom of this course of secrecy. The time has at last arrived when
my life history must be divulged.
"In the first place, then, let me inform you that I am a Hebrew. I was
born of noble and wealthy parents who lived within the metropolis of
Judah. I was the pride of my father, and by my mother I was almost
idolized. Being of a lively temperament I was fond of company and
overfond of amusements. I was sent to one of the city's leading halls of
learning and found but little trouble in mastering my studies. I was
early thrown into the companionship of those who had not the fear of God
before their eyes. I drank in their spirit, and, consequently, the yoke
of parental authority became painful to my youthful neck. My affection
for parents and near relatives was strong, and it was not without a hard
struggle that I yielded to the enticements of older transgressors.
Gradually I became the willing companion of youths whose chief object
"One night we tarried together until a late hour and several of my
companions indulged freely in wine. Before we left the scene of our
carousal they had become quite boisterous. I was more sedate than usual,
though entering into the spirit of the occasion. At that late hour the
watchmen, or guards, of the city found it necessary to interfere and
check our hilarity. A fight ensued in which I took part. Being recognized
by one of the officers, I fled the city rather than face the disgrace of
trial and punishment. Taking leave of my sisters, I was soon far from the
land of my birth. My last act was to present to my favorite sister the
harp which thou hast seen and heard to-night.
"My dear friend, judge of my surprise and joy when I recognized in the
maid of Judah one of my own relatives. The beautiful and noble orphan who
is your daughter's companion in this house is none other than my own
"I feel that my long neglect of my surviving relatives makes me unworthy
even to serve them, but I am determined now that this sweet damsel shall
share in my wealth and enjoy all the advantages which my efforts can
obtain for her, together with her worthy brothers. In this way I can make
partial atonement for the mistakes of the past."
This remarkable revelation was soon made known to the excited company.
With a cry of joy the fair maid of Judah fell into the arms of her uncle.
Tears fell from every eye. The "Lily of the Valley" wept, and so did the
brave soldier, her father, and so did young Mathias. The scene was one
that pen cannot adequately describe, but happiness was supreme in the
AT THE school, agreeable to the expectations of Barzello, the four
Hebrews made astonishing progress in their multiform studies. Those
profound sciences which had cost their teachers years of ceaseless toil
were, by these four young men, mastered with apparent ease. They soon
became objects of wonder to their instructors, and were pronounced
favorites of the gods. Ashpenaz often would have an interview with them,
and soon they became the objects, not only of his admiration, but also of
his friendship. This became visible to their fellow-students, and
jealousy, accompanied by malice, found a ready entrance to more than one
heart. Alas, for poor fallen humanity!
Among the students from the city of Babylon there were two young men,
brothers, whose father, by a sudden freak of fortune, had arrived at the
possession of much wealth. For some years these young men's advantages
had been quite favorable, and withal they had not been negligent in their
studies. They were exceedingly vain of their acquirements, and their
pride and arrogance kept pace with their vanity. The success of others,
to them, was invariably a source of mortification.
They had already heard complimentary reports of the youths of Judah from
no mean sources; and they became their foes, and were determined to see
them humbled. As students, they met but seldom, and the real acquirements
of the Israelitish youths were not known to these envious Chaldeans. With
these two victims of vanity and envy was cast the unhappy lot of another
youth, their cousin. He was of "humbler birth," as the term is used, but
almost infinitely their superior in everything that beautifies and adorns
humanity. He was frank, generous, noble, and endowed with no small share
of natural wit. For his conceited cousins he was anything but a pleasant
companion; and daily was their arrogance rebuked by his far-searching
repartees. Thus have we introduced to the reader three young Chaldeans,
Scribbo and Shagoth, with their Cousin Apgomer.
"I cannot, for my part," said Scribbo, "see the propriety of elevating
these contemptible captives to share equal privileges with the native
sons of Chaldea. Surely the king, in this, has betrayed a lamentable lack
"Truly!" replied Shagoth, with an air of consequence. "And if he does not
ere long see his folly, and retrace his steps, he will lose my
confidence, and that of all the members of our house."
"May the gods pity the king!" cried Apgomer, with a feigned solemn
visage. "Peradventure, that in the great pressure of business he forgot
that the confidence of my illustrious cousins was so essential to his
well-being, as well as the safety and perpetuity of the empire."
"My remarks were called forth by the sensible statement of my brother,"
said Shagoth, peevishly; "and it would have been perfectly excusable in
thee to have remained silent, until I should have thought fit to make
some remarks suitable to the capacity of thy mind."
"My worthy cousin will, I trust, in the plenitude of his overflowing
generosity, pardon the officiousness of his unworthy servant of limited
capacities, and believe him when he assures thee that those remarks were
offered as an humble apology for the great sovereign of the Chaldean
empire; and I still hope that, in the richness of thy clemency, thou wilt
"I trust," replied Scribbo, "we are able to appreciate thy remarks, and
undoubtedly they will receive the respect they deserve. If thou couldst
have thy quarters removed to the society of these pretending foreigners,
methinks it would better suit thy groveling taste."
"Such a sudden bereavement might be more than my tender-hearted cousins
could well endure. May the gods forbid that I should be the means of
overwhelming you with unnecessary sorrow! And, besides, I fear I am not
such a favorite of the gods as to receive such a marked favor."
"A prodigious favor to be the companions of illiterate captives!" cried
Scribbo, with a disdainful curl of his lip. "The Chaldean who calls that
a favor, is anything but an ornament to his country."
"We may have different tastes in regard to ornament," replied the
good-natured cousin, looking with an arch smile on his cousin's heavy and
useless jewelry. "As for me, I am a plain young man. I value the useful
far above the ornamental. I consider healthy ablutions and clean linens
far more desirable than the decoration of our persons with ornamental
trash. And why may it not be so in the government? So much in regard to
ornaments. 'Ignorant and illiterate captives.' Ah, cousin! Believest thou
this? Dost thou not rather hope that this is so? Hope on! The day of
trial hastens apace! Hope vigorously and diligently; for such hope is of
short duration. Ye expect, by your superior learning, to humble the
youths of Judah in the presence of the king and his nobles. Ye are
sanguine in your expectations. Already ye see their heads bowing with
shame and embarrassment, while your own brows are decorated with
well-earned laurels. Do ye not already enjoy the bliss of the prophetic
vision, until the bursting in of the reality? Ah, ye do! Now think it not
over-officious in your cousin of low capacity to assure you that your
hopes are but the baseless fabrics of vain minds. The day of examination
will reveal to your astonished sensibilities that ye have dreamed the
dream of fools. Those noble young men, who are the objects of your
hatred, will soar above you triumphantly, and their enemies will be
covered over with shame. Let me give you fair warning! Ye are ignorant of
the strength of those youths, over whom your vain imaginations appear to
triumph with such ease."
"Our forbearance, brother, I fear, only encourages the insolence of this,
our ungrateful relative," said Shagoth, in anger. "How soon these
upstarts forget their poverty when they are permitted to mingle in good
"And how soon they forget the kind hands that lifted them up from their
low estate!" answered Scribbo, casting a reproachful glance in the
direction of Apgomer.
"Now, cousins," said Apgomer, smilingly, "since these charges are thrown
out against me, without going through the usual form of asking
permission, I shall at once take the liberty of repelling them.
"In the first place, I am charged with being an 'upstart,' and of too
soon forgetting my poverty. This I deny. I have, by no means, forgotten
my own poverty, or the low condition of my ancestors. Let us look at this
for a moment. Painful as it may be, I believe ye do occasionally admit
that I am your cousin. Well, then, be it remembered that I am your
cousin. Our fathers were brothers, and our grandfather was one and the
same person. It is well known to you that our respected grand-sire was an
individual who had to plod his way along through the very steeps of
poverty, and procure a little bread for his family by humble employments.
In poverty he lived, and in deep poverty he would have died, had it not
been for the grateful regard of one of his sons; of the other, I have
nothing to say at present. Now to some, who have suddenly risen from
poverty to a degree of affluence, it proves a source of deep
mortification to remember that they sprang from a low origin. But is this
the case with your cousin Apgomer? Have I forgotten the source whence I
sprang? Does it create a blush on this cheek to remember that my
grandfather was poor, and that my father had to win his bread through the
sweat of his brow? Whoever has forgotten the poverty of his father and
grandfather, be it known that Apgomer is not that youth.
"So much in regard to the first charge. Now for the second. I am accused
of forgetting those 'kind friends, who lifted me up from my low estate.'
Those friendly hands who helped me to the situation I now hold are, by no
means, forgotten; they are deeply graven upon a grateful memory. While
this pulse shall beat, and while this heart shall throb, the names of
Barzello and Joram will, by me, be fondly cherished. Then there was much
opposition from certain quarters. There were those who could not discern
the propriety of my being elevated to an equality with those of greater
wealth; and I am not sure, since the king has not seen fit to retrace his
steps, but that he has lost the confidence of those concerned. Cousins! I
am ever grateful to those kind friends who so nobly took me by the hand.
I know well who they are, and I know well who they are not."
"Surely our young instructor is becoming eloquent," said Scribbo, rather
"Yea, verily," replied his brother; "and who can withstand such a mighty
torrent of oratory? Let us away to the groves!" And Apgomer was left, for
the time being, the sole occupant of the apartment.
DAYS, weeks, months, and years, have passed away, and the great day of
examination has arrived--that day for which that youthful group has looked
so long, with mingled feelings of pleasure and embarrassment. This day
broke on the capital of Chaldea with unusual brightness. The sun shone
brightly in a cloudless firmament, and Nature had put on her sweetest
smile. In the vicinity of the king's palace it was evident that something
of more than ordinary interest was that day to be attended to. Officers
hurried to and fro. Dignitaries bowed to one another with additional
smiles. Groups of citizens of the better class appeared here and there,
in earnest conversation. Magnificent chariots, drawn by fiery steeds,
halted at the king's gate about the third hour. A splendid national flag
proudly waved on the high pinnacle of the students' building, while each
window presented ingenious mottoes appropriate for the occasion.
The place appointed by the king for the public examination of the
students, was a magnificent audience room that stood within the royal
grounds, and in close proximity to the palace. This apartment was
finished in the highest perfection of art, and, in addition, on this
occasion, was decorated with ornaments suitable for the day.
At an early stage, the room was well filled with the first of Babylon's
aristocracy, together with some few who had no just claim to title.
Appropriate seats were reserved for the king and his attendants, who were
soon expected to make their appearance. Among the number assembled there
were many of the students' parents. With but two or three exceptions, joy
and good feeling appeared to be the expression of every countenance,
while, with hearts free from envy and malice, they gazed on the comely
forms of those before them. Among these smiling countenances might have
been seen three individuals--a father, mother and daughter--who smiled,
indeed, but whose smiles would never have convinced the beholder that
they were an index to noble and generous hearts.
"'Twas a strange notion of the king, surely," said the daughter, "to
bring these Hebrew captives in competition with the refined minds of
Chaldea; I cannot account for it, unless it is purposely done to show
them their great inferiority, and thus, by to-day's exercises, teach them
a lesson of humility that they will not soon forget; for no one can be so
unwise as to think that such illiterate foreigners can appear to any
advantage in a place like this."
"Thy remarks, daughter, are perfectly correct," answered the mother. "I
am at a loss, myself, to understand the king in this. But thy brother,
Shagoth, has learned, of late, that these Jews are far from being dull
scholars; and he fears that, by some strange contrivance, they have
worked themselves into the graces of Ashpenaz. I have my fears that these
reports are too true. Yet I have strong hopes that in this trial of
learning, they will fall entirely below thy accomplished brothers. I am
quite sure it cannot be otherwise."
The sound of music from without, gave them to understand that the king
was approaching. Presently the illustrious monarch of Chaldea made his
grand entry, accompanied by a brilliant escort, and amid the flourishing
of trumpets and the loud acclamations of his subjects he took his seat,
and beckoned to the enthusiastic throng to be seated. Perfect stillness
being secured, Ashpenaz arose with dignity, and, bowing low to the
"According to appointment, O king, behold these young men are conducted
hither for public examination in the presence of their illustrious
sovereign, and in the presence of these, his nobles."
To which the monarch replied in an interesting address:
"Citizens of Babylon! the king taketh much pleasure in greeting you on
this occasion. To witness your smiles is truly refreshing to my mind amid
all the pressing duties of my extensive empire. I trust I shall always
merit your smiles and good wishes. Long may the Chaldean empire continue
to shine a superior orb in the firmament of nations.
"The stability of government must greatly depend on the wisdom and
intelligence of the people; and ever since I have had the honor of
presiding over the destinies of this vast empire, I have not for a day
lost sight of this important truth. Whether since the beginning of my
reign the cause of education has been advanced, I leave to the judgment
of my worthy subjects. Three years ago, I thought it advisable to
establish a school at the expense of the government, where a number of
young men might be placed under the care of superior instructors, and so
be prepared to serve with distinguished ability in the different spheres
in which they might be called to move. Those youths are now before you;
and if their mental culture will well compare with their fair
countenances and manly forms, my most sanguine expectations are more than
realized. I am happy to know, from vigilant observation, that the
teachers, without any exceptions, have nobly proved themselves worthy of
the unreserved confidence of their king; and let them now be assured that
such unwearied faithfulness will not go unrewarded. The king has been
well pleased also, from time to time, to hear of the great proficiency
and rapid advancement of many of the scholars."
It cannot be expected, on an occasion like the present, that all scholars
will exhibit precisely the same amount of ability and cultivation. While
all may give satisfaction, some, I trust, will even excel. Those who
shall at this time give the clearest proof of ripe scholarship, shall,
according to agreement, be permitted to remain at the palace, and
minister in the presence of the king, with the prospect of promotion as
the fruit of faithfulness. I trust there are no unpleasant feelings to
arise from the final result of this day's exercises. True, there may be
some disappointment among both parents and scholars; but let not the king
be grieved by witnessing any signs of displeasure on the countenance of
young or old; for, hitherto, no partiality hath been permitted in any of
our councils. Those whom the king promotes must therefore be promoted on
the strength of their own worth and merit.
"My worthy and noble friend, Ashpenaz, will now commence the examination;
after which, if I think it expedient, I may ask a few questions myself."
Ashpenaz then, according to direction, commenced the examination, the
king, in the meanwhile, earnestly facing the students, and paying
particular attention to every answer, and the source whence it proceeded.
After an examination of one hour, the king gave to Ashpenaz a signal, by
which he understood that he might dispense with any further questioning.
The king then, as he had previously intimated, became the examiner. Being
somewhat astonished, as well as delighted, by the perfect ease with which
the youths of Judah answered every question, he purposed, within himself,
to make a further trial of their skill, by propounding questions to the
school which were far more difficult to answer than those asked by
Ashpenaz. The reader is already aware that the king was one of the ripest
scholars within the empire, and, therefore, was fully prepared for the
undertaking. The first problem was directed to Shagoth. Shagoth colored,
and, in endeavoring to answer, stammered out something which the king
could not understand. The same question was directed to Apgomer. Apgomer,
with steady voice and correct emphasis, answered; and it was pronounced
to be correct. The next question was directed to Scribbo. He, greatly
alarmed at the result of the other question, became confused, and gave no
answer. The same question was directed to Daniel, and was promptly
answered, with marked ease and great clearness. The next was directed to
a young student who sat in the vicinity of Shagoth, but it was not
answered to the satisfaction of the king. The same was directed to
Hananiah, and the answer was such as to astonish the examiner. Another
perplexing question was directed to a young student, a resident of the
city; but it was of too profound a nature for the young man to answer.
The king having asked the same question of several without receiving an
answer, at last directed it to Azariah. The young Hebrew hesitated--it was
but for a moment--then, in a clear, silvery tone, he gave the answer,
without the least degree of confusion. It was beyond the expectation of
the king. He gazed on the youth for a moment in silence, and then
pronounced the answer to be a correct one. Another question of the same
nature, requiring, perhaps, some additional knowledge, was asked, the
king remarking, at the same time, that his good opinion of their
abilities did not depend upon their answering those questions, for they
were of such a nature as would puzzle more experienced heads; but such
was the readiness with which some of the scholars had answered all the
questions hitherto asked, that he was anxious to know if it were in his
power to ask a question which they could not answer; and in order to give
all an equal opportunity, he would direct his questions to each one. So
the king commenced on the left, and deliberately pointed to each scholar;
but no answer was heard until he came to young Mishael. With promptness,
and in a few words, he gave a perfect answer to a question which the King
of Babylon considered beyond the capacity of any student present.
By this time it was evident to the king that the number of those who
truly excelled was four; and that these four sat together. To these,
therefore, he would direct his remaining questions. And now, in earnest,
commenced a regular contest for the mastery. On one hand, behold the
great sovereign of the Chaldean empire, noted for the depth of his
learning. On the other, behold four young men, from the land of Israel,
whom, three years before, he had brought as captives of war from the
metropolis of Judah. All the king's powers of mind were called forth.
From the occasion he gathered a degree of enthusiasm, and he was glad of
an opportunity to show himself to such pleasing advantage before so many
of his nobles and influential subjects. With the four Hebrews he was
highly delighted. Their great knowledge astonished him; but still he
thought that soon he would be able to bring them to a dead stand.
Question after question was asked, and question after question was
answered, to the utter astonishment of the large audience. The contest
was long, and of a thrilling nature; and not until the king was convinced
that he was dealing with his superiors did he cry out, in a loud voice:
"It is enough!"
Every eye rested on Ashpenaz, as he stood ready to announce the names of
those whom the king wished to honor.
Daniel, with calm dignity and genuine modesty, left his seat, walked to
the place appointed, and bowed low in the presence of the king.
Hananiah, with a slight blush, that rendered him but the more comely,
left his seat, and stood by the side of his cousin, in the presence of
Mishael, with a smile on his lip, and an unfaltering step, found his
place by the side of his brother.
Azariah, with a degree of paleness spread over his youthful countenance,
left his seat, and joined his comrades.
Apgomer was startled. The contented youth looked for no such result.
Delighted with the triumph of the Hebrews, and the punishment of his
cousins' vanity, he considered himself well rewarded. But, remembering
himself, he quickly left his seat, and, with a pleasant smile upon his
countenance, he took his place by the side of Azariah.
The parchment was rolled up and delivered over to the king.
The king arose, and thus addressed the five:
"Young men! Your honor cometh not from the king. It is the result of your
own industry and perseverance. By the favorable interposition of the
gods, ye have arrived at a perfection in knowledge never exhibited before
on any occasion in the presence of the king. Four of your number are from
another country. The hills of Judah are yet fresh in your memories, and
Jerusalem is far from being forgotten. I have been well pleased, from
time to time, to learn of your amiable deportment and noble bearing.
Justice requires me to say that a peculiar perfection has been visible in
all your past performances; and now, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego, youths of Judah, ye are, through the power and word of the
king, elevated to share in all the immunities and privileges of Chaldean
citizens. Long, by your superior wisdom and knowledge, may ye continue to
shed additional luster on my already shining empire.
"Apgomer! Thou hast well sustained thyself throughout the examination;
and, although thou hast not reached that lofty perfection manifested in
the uniform answers of these, thy young friends from Judah, yet thou hast
convinced the king that thou standest far above the level of thy
fellows--as such thou art rewarded.
"The king findeth no fault with any. Ye have given proof of a good degree
of mental strength, and I trust that from this place ye shall go forth to
add to the stability and perpetuity of my empire.
"In conclusion, I command that Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego,
and Apgomer be decorated with their appropriate badges, and conducted,
with due honor, to their apartments at the palace. The examination is
The merry blasts of trumpets followed this announcement. The king and his
attendants first left the apartment; then followed the five youths, next
the other students. Then the concourse dispersed as their various fancies
dictated. The grand result was known, and, with few exceptions, it gave
universal satisfaction. The superior wisdom of the young Hebrews was so
abundantly evident, that no room was left for caviling; and each one was
compelled to unite in the righteous verdict of the king. The amiable and
modest deportment of the young Hebrews so won the affections of the
spectators that when they were adorned with their badges of honor, they
were loudly cheered.
Before they all disperse let the reader have the pleasure of a glimpse at
a group of countenances that give unmistakable signs of genuine delight.
"Charming!" cried Joram, in ecstasies. "The reward of fidelity and
THE stately mansion of Barzello was brilliantly illuminated. Streams of
light poured forth from every window. Sweet melody floated on the wings
of the gentle zephyrs. Chariot after chariot arrived, and halted before
the massive portals. It was evident to the passer-by that it was not an
event of common occurrence that called forth such unusual movements and
From the first moment of Mathias and Perreeza's introduction to each
other, there was a warm attachment formed, and from the subsequent
revelations, this sentiment greatly increased.
On this night the maid of Judah was to become the happy bride of Mathias;
and from the smiles that greet smiles on the happy countenances of those
who hurry to and fro through the richly furnished apartments, it is
evident that their union is hailed as a joyous event.
The marriage was not, in all its parts, so strictly after the customs of
the Hebrews as if it had been solemnized in the land of Judah. The long
residence of Joram in Babylon, together with the very high regard he
cherished for his friend Barzello and his family, gave the features of
the occasion an admixture of Hebrew and Chaldean customs.
Never did the "Rose of Sharon" bloom fairer. Three years have added
ripeness to her beauty, and dignity to her charms. She is no longer the
timid maid of seventeen, but a blooming damsel, having reached her
twentieth year, with a finish stamped on all her words and actions; and
no one who has had the pleasure of her acquaintance can envy such a
choice spirit the heart and hand of one of the most brilliant young men
in the great metropolis.
The "Lily of the Valley" has but one thing to diminish her full share of
enjoyment--and that is by no means a trifling one. Her sweet Perreeza, her
constant companion for the last three years, whom she loves as her own
sister, is about to leave her father's house and take her abode with
another. This, at times, makes her sad. The same cause produces the same
effect on Perreeza. She, also, is about to impress the parting kiss on
the fair cheek of one who has proved herself worthy of her ardent
love--one who gave her such a warm welcome to her large heart, when a
stranger in a foreign land--one who has continued to love her with a pure
affection. But these gloomy feelings are not to predominate at this time;
so the "Lily" ceased to droop, and the "Rose" bloomed fresh and gay.
The announcement that Mathias, with his attendants, had arrived at the
entrance, caused an exclamation of joy. Jupheena and a merry group of her
maiden acquaintances formed themselves in procession, to meet them, and
to escort the company, with warm congratulations, to the parlors, where
they were received by Barzello with enthusiastic welcome, and conducted
with appropriate honors to their apartments.
The ceremony was performed in a spacious room, extending throughout the
length of the grand edifice. The services were conducted by a Hebrew
priest, who was brought to Babylon with other captives at the close of
Jeconiah's reign of three months.
In entering the wedding apartment, one part of the company appeared at
one end, while the rest at the same time appeared at the other end. Thus
Mathias, with a band of young men, and Perreeza, with a group of damsels,
slowly marched, met, and formed into a circle in the center of the room,
the officiating priest, with a small altar, in the midst.
"Ye who are to take upon you the holy and solemn vows of matrimony, draw
nigh," said the priest.
Without delay, the loving twain left the circle, and stood side by side
before the sacred altar, when the priest, after a brief marriage
ceremony, gave them this blessing: "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
keep, bless, and preserve you, and so fill you with all benediction and
grace, that ye may walk before Him in the beauty of true perfection and
holiness. Perreeza, daughter of Amonober, of the royal line of Judah,
behold thy husband! Mathias, son of the illustrious Joram, behold thy
wife! Take her as thine own, and convey her to thine own habitation, and
there make merry with thy numerous friends."
At the house of Joram, preparations on a magnificent scale were made for
the return of the bridegroom with his bride. A large number of the flower
of the young men and maidens of Babylon were assembled, to congratulate
the young pair on their happy union.
The bridegroom and bride led the train. They were seated in a superb
chariot, drawn by two spirited, snow-white steeds. The next was that of
Barzello, containing himself and daughter, while a merry company brought
up the rear. Nothing could have exceeded the beauty and brilliancy of the
occasion. A flashing light from a hundred flaming torches completely
banished the gloom of night, while hundreds of delighted spectators made
the welkin ring with cheers. They soon reached the wide portals of
Joram's mansion. The charioteers alighted. The bridegroom and bride first
entered, the guests following in regular order. "They that were ready
entered with him into the marriage, and the door was shut."
. . . . . . .
The celebration was over. The company had retired. Quietude was restored.
The Joram family, with one additional gem, was once more left to the
peacefulness of its own mansion. They were all quietly seated. Joram
arose, and slowly approached the old harp, the friend of his early days,
and inspected it with fondness, while the thoughts of other years fast
crowded upon his memory.
"My dear father, and my dear Uncle Esrom!" said Perreeza, smiling, "now
that they are all gone, let us have one dear little song from thee."
"Ah, precious child!" said Esrom, at the same time brushing away a
fugitive tear, "I play so seldom nowadays, I fear I would not appear to
very good advantage among such fine performers."
"Nay, father! but thy playing is far superior to our best performances."
"Well, Perreeza, I will try; but I fear my song will make thee sad."
"Sadness at times, dear father, is far more profitable to the mind than
"True, my daughter! True! We both know it by experience."
The Hebrew took the harp, and, in tones peculiar for their sweetness,
sang a plaintive melody.
GREAT success attended the reign of the King of Babylon. His powerful
legions had proved victorious in every clime. In addition to Judea, he
had subjugated Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, and Arabia. Peace once more was
proclaimed, and the great body of the army was called home. The monarch's
popularity was unbounded, and his praises were loudly trumpeted on the
wings of every breeze, from east to west, and from north to south. The
Chaldean empire rose still higher in glory, while numerous tributaries
continued to pour their streams of gold into its already rich treasuries.
The afternoon was warm and sultry. The king reclined on an easy couch
within a bower, in the palace garden. His mind was occupied with
reflections on the past and thoughts of the future, and thus ran the
soliloquy of the mighty potentate:
"Yea, the years are passing! On looking back they seem but short. But
where has more been accomplished in so short a period? Ah, King of
Babylon, thy career, hitherto, has been a brilliant one. My armies have
clothed themselves with glory, which glory reflects back on their king.
Surrounding nations do me homage. My coffers are filled from the wealth
of Judah, Egypt, Syria, Phoenicia, and Arabia. What hinders my success?
Babylon is but in the infancy of her greatness. Her glory shall yet reach
the heavens! Tea, I will make her a fit place for the residence of the
gods. Selfish? Yea, truly. And who ever succeeded without being selfish?
Yea, the King of Babylon is selfish; but may the gods assist me to hide
it from the people. To them, may it appear that all my efforts are put
forth in their behalf. But have I no regard for the welfare of my people
aside from my own glory? I have! The gods know I have. And yet, I have a
strong desire that my name shall be carried down to posterity surrounded
by a halo of glory. Is this selfishness? Be it so. It must be done! Am I
not deep in the affections of my people? In this I cannot be mistaken.
Never was the Chaldean empire so firmly established. It will stand
forever. Forever? Ah, that word has a long meaning. But what power can
overthrow us? Is not Babylon the mistress of the world? Is not Chaldea
the queen of nations? Will not her prosperity be perpetual? Alas for our
brief knowledge! The gods, in this, have not elevated the king above the
beggar. The future is enshrouded in gloom and hid from the gaze of
mortals. My wise men say that they can penetrate this gloom. Can they? I
have my doubts. The future--the far, far future of Chaldea--I should be
glad to know: but who shall sit on the throne one hundred years from
to-day, and what shall be the greatness of Babylon in two hundred years,
are questions which time alone must solve. Surely, this is a sultry day!
Well, the future we cannot know. It may be all in wisdom. Peradven--Ah,
sleep! thou art the great conqueror of conquerors. I surrender. Thy
powers are irresistible. Let me not long be thy captive. In one hour, I
pray thee, strike my chains asunder, and restore me to my friends."
And the king, quietly yielding to the stern demands of Nature, was soon
in the fast embrace of slumber.
. . . . . . .
"Oh, ye gods that dwell in light, what a dream!" cried the king, hastily
leaving his couch, in agitation. "Oh, what a dream! But, alas, it has
gone from me! Oh, ye gods, why have I not retained it? But can I not
recall it to mind? Alas, it has fled! It has vanished! How perplexing! It
was not a common dream. Nay, it bore particularly upon the future of my
vast empire. And yet not one clear circumstance is retained in my memory.
What shall I do? How shall the lost dream be restored? My astrologers
profess to give the interpretation of dreams. If they can do this, why
not as well restore the dream entire?"
And the king, in an agitated state of mind, left the garden and entered
"Arioch!" cried the king, "haste thee, and without delay let the most
noted of the wise men and astrologers of Babylon be commanded to appear
in my presence. Let there be no useless tarrying. My demands are urgent.
Haste thee! Away!"
Without asking any questions, the astonished and half frightened officer
hastened from the presence of his king, and gave all diligence in the
performance of his urgent duty. He found ready access to the prince of
the magicians, delivered to him the message of the king, and retired. The
astrologer soon sent the message to his numerous companions, and in a
short time the concentrated wisdom of the great metropolis stood in the
presence of the king.
"Ye have done well," said the king, eying them with a degree of severity,
"to be thus punctual; a failure on this point might have involved you in
serious difficulties. Ye stand before the king as the representatives of
wisdom. Ye profess to be able to bring to light hidden mysteries, and to
make known the transactions of the future. The correctness of your
professions is about to be tested. If it stands the ordeal, well; if not,
woe be unto you!"
"All this thy servants profess," replied the chief astrologer, "and all
this they can perform. Let them but learn the desire of the king, and
they stand ready to execute his pleasure."
"This day," replied the king, "while slumbering on my bed, I dreamed a
peculiar dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the vision."
"Oh, king, live forever!" replied the magicians, well pleased with the
nature of their task. "Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show thee
the interpretation thereof."
"Will ye, indeed!" answered the king, ironically. "But the thing has gone
from me. I have no distinct remembrance of the various features of the
dream. And now, as a proof that ye are able to give a correct
interpretation, I demand that ye restore to my mind the dream in all its
parts. Remember that ye are not able to impose on me a false vision. Now,
proceed with your divination, and if in this ye fail, by the gods, ye
shall be cut to pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill."
"Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation
thereof," answered again the now astonished magicians.
"Ah, indeed!" said the king, disdainfully. "And have I not already told
you that the thing is gone from me; and how can I tell you the dream? If
I were able to do this, ye would readily produce your lying and corrupt
interpretations. Do ye not profess to derive your knowledge and power of
interpretation from the gods? Then let the same gods reveal unto you the
"This is a strange demand, indeed," answered the alarmed astrologers.
"There is not a man on earth that can grant thy desire, and show thee
this matter. Be assured, O king, that thou requirest impossibilities at
the hands of thy servants; and there is none other that can show it
before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not in the flesh."
"And do ye not profess to hold intercourse with those gods?" answered the
king, in a passion; "thus ye have proved yourselves to be a band of lying
hypocrites. Begone from my presence, ye corrupt deceivers, and learn that
your guilty career is near its close!"
So the terrified magicians were hurried from the presence of the
passionate king, and by his orders were confined; and, moreover, a decree
was issued, that all the wise men of Babylon should be put to death. Such
was the unholy impulse of a king who had hitherto manifested, on most
occasions, a commendable degree of self-possession.
The next day, while Daniel was walking in the vicinity of the palace, he
was suddenly accosted by the captain of the guard, who informed him that
it was his painful duty to apprehend him as an individual who was
condemned to die by a late edict of the king.
"My worthy friend must certainly be mistaken in regard to the person,"
answered Daniel, with a smile; "for I am happy to know that in nothing
have I transgressed the law of my sovereign."
"It would give me much pleasure on this occasion to find myself
mistaken," replied Arioch, "but I fear that it will prove otherwise. Art
thou not Belteshazzar, of the captivity of Judah, and art thou not
numbered among the wise men?"
"And what can be the nature of my offense?" asked the young Hebrew,
nothing daunted. "If in anything I have offended, I ask not to be
"And hast thou not heard the decree?"
"No new decree has reached my ears."
"Then I shall communicate to Belteshazzar all I know concerning the
matter." Which he proceeded to do.
"Many thanks to thee, kind officer. I have no desire to escape thy
vigilance. Only permit me to see the king, and, peradventure, things may
take a different course."
"Any favor I can show, without violating positive orders, will readily be
granted. So I will make thy pleasure known to the king."
Arioch hastened into the presence of the sovereign, and informed him that
one of the wise men prayed to be admitted into his presence.
"I desire not to see any of the vile race!" answered the king, with a
frown. "I was satisfied yesterday that they are a band of lying
"May the king pardon his unworthy servant," replied Arioch; "but the
young man that seeks thy face to-day was not among the number yesterday."
"And by what name is he known?" frowningly inquired the king.
"His name, O king, is Belteshazzar, of the captivity of Judah."
"Belteshazzar! Belteshazzar!" exclaimed the king, suddenly rising to his
feet. "May the gods forgive me! Belteshazzar, whose wonderful display of
wisdom astonished the city on the day of examination? Why did I not think
of him sooner? Yea, and his three companions! and all at the palace!
close at hand! and far superior in wisdom to all others! Belteshazzar!
Yea, Arioch! By all means let the young Hebrew be admitted."
The captain of the guard hastened from the presence of the king to inform
Daniel of his success.
"Belteshazzar, the king grants thy petition, and thou art requested to
appear before him."
Daniel, with his usual calmness and dignity, walked into the presence of
the king, while Arioch was beckoned to retire.
"Belteshazzar," said the king, "thou art thus admitted into my presence,
and thou art at perfect liberty to speak freely on whatever subject
mostly occupies thy mind. I have heretofore been well pleased with thy
superior knowledge and wisdom, as well as that of thy comrades. The army
has of late occupied the most of my attention, and among the various
affairs of importance it is nothing astonishing if some of my best
subjects are partially overlooked. Proceed with thy request."
"A little over four years ago, O king, according to thy direction, thy
servant, with his three companions, was brought from the land of Judah to
the great city of Babylon. Hitherto, we have been the subjects of thy
kind regards. At thy expense we have been taught in all the learning and
wisdom of the Chaldeans; and, in the presence of hundreds of thy worthy
nobles, thou sawest fit to pronounce us superior in the various branches
of learning, and, amid enthusiastic cheers, we were escorted to the
palace of the king. We have endeavored to prove ourselves worthy of the
favors and regard. We have spared no pains to render ourselves agreeable
in the eyes of our superiors; and never have we heard a word of
complaint. We have made no pretensions to superior wisdom. We are
numbered among the wise by the direction of the king. In all things have
we aimed to be thy faithful, loyal subjects. Judge then, O king, the
astonishment of thy servant when, not half an hour ago, he was
apprehended by the captain of the guard as one already appointed to
death, according to the direction of the king. I wonder not that thine
anger is kindled against the false pretensions of the magicians. But why
should the innocent suffer with the guilty? And why, especially, should
thy Hebrew servants die without, at least, a trial of their ability
through the direct agency of their God, to restore to the king his lost
dream? I, therefore, pray thee, O king, to give thy servant time, and the
God that I worship will give me the knowledge of the dream and its
"Belteshazzar," cried the king, "thy request is granted. Go! and may thy
God give thee the knowledge of the vision."
Daniel left the presence of the king and hastened to join his comrades at
"What now, fair cousin?" said Azariah. "What am I to learn from such a
countenance? Nothing of a joyful nature, I fear!"
"Alas, comrades!" answered Daniel, "unless Jehovah interfere with a
miraculous hand, we are undone. The decree has already gone forth from
royal lips that all the wise men of Babylon must perish by the sword."
He then gave his companions a full history of the thing, as he had
received it from the mouth of Arioch, the captain of the guard.
"In all our trials hitherto," said Hananiah, "we have found Jehovah to be
our sure refuge. In him we trust, and he will surely open to us a way of
"Already I feel the strange assurance that from this conflict we shall
come forth triumphant," said Daniel.
"Most humbly will we all bow before our God, and pray that a clear
revelation of the lost dream may be made on the mind of our beloved
Daniel," said Azariah.
In solemn silence, the youths of Judah departed, and retired to their
respective apartments, there to prostrate themselves before the Lord in
humble devotion, with full confidence that the God in whom they trusted
would hear their prayer and grant their petition.
Many hours had already passed away. Stillness prevailed throughout the
thoroughfares of the great metropolis. Silence reigned throughout
Babylon. The faithful night guardians solemnly paraded the streets in the
performance of their important duties. The queen of cities was hushed to
repose; its vast thousands had, for a while, forgotten their toil and
sorrow. Old midnight was left far in the rear, and some faint signs in
the eastern skies betokened the distant approach of day. But yonder, on
their bended knees, see the trembling forms of Amonober's children! For
many hours they have wrestled with God. Does He hear them? But where is
Daniel? Let us silently enter his chamber. The son of Baramon is asleep!
Mark his countenance!
Still the three brothers, "with their faces toward Jerusalem," are bowed
before the Lord. But hark! Ah! it is the well-known voice of Daniel. It
rings melodiously throughout every apartment and it falls on the ears of
the cousins. Hark!
"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are
his. And he changeth the times and seasons. He removeth and setteth up
kings. He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that seek
understanding. He revealeth deep and secret things. He knoweth what is in
the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank Thee and praise
Thee, O God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast
made known unto me now what we desired of Thee; for Thou hast made known
to us now the king's matter."
Early in the morning, Daniel sought an interview with Arioch, and
besought the reversing of the sentence against the wise men, and assured
him that he was fully prepared to appear before the king, and restore to
him the lost vision.
"Let Belteshazzar be assured," said the captain of the guard, "that I
shall not move a finger against the wise men but by the positive orders
of the king, and I am happy to say that he hath ordered me to delay
execution until I receive further directions. I have just learned by
chance that the merchant Joram has had an interview with the king in
behalf of thee and thy friends. If I can be of any service to
Belteshazzar, I am at his pleasure."
"In one hour, then, I will call on thee again, and thou shalt accompany
me into the presence of the king," and Daniel departed.
Daniel found his companions sunk into calm slumber, from which they were
not then awakened. He partook of a slight repast, bowed once more in
adoration before God, and returned to seek Arioch, the captain of the
They were soon on their way to the palace. Arioch first entered.
"O king, live forever! Belteshazzar is without, desiring to see thee;
"No more from thee at this time," interrupted the king. "Retire, and send
the young man hither."
The officer, well used to the manner of his sovereign, bowed low and
"Belteshazzar," said Arioch, "thou are admitted; and may the gods give
With a firm step, and a calm look, and with full confidence in the God of
Israel, the Hebrew youth once more marched into the presence of the King
"Belteshazzar," cried the king, "art thou able to make known unto me the
dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?"
"The secret which the king demandeth of his servant is far above the
knowledge and comprehension of all his wise men, astrologers, magicians,
and soothsayers. But the God of heaven--that Jehovah who dwelleth in
light--he revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king,
Nebuchadnezzar, what shall come to pass in the latter days. Be it known,
therefore, to the king, that this secret is not revealed to me through
any wisdom that I have more than any living, but it is the kind
interposition of Jehovah in behalf of thy servant and his companions in
tribulation, who are doomed to die; and, moreover, to show the king that
Jehovah is the only God.
"Thy dream, and the vision of thy head, are these: As for thee, O king,
thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass
hereafter; and He that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee the grand
events of the future.
"Thou, O king, sawest a great image. This great image, whose brightness
was excellent, stood before thee, and the form thereof was terrible. This
image's head was of fine gold, his breast and arms of silver, his belly
and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of
clay. Thou sawest that a stone smote the image upon the feet which were
of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay,
the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and
became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloor, and the wind carried
them away, that no place was found for them; and the stone that smote the
image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the
dream. Now, O king, listen to the interpretation thereof.
"Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee
a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wheresoever the children of
men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heaven, hath he
given unto thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art
this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to
thee; and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over the
earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, forasmuch as iron
breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that breaketh all
these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the
feet and toes, part of potter's clay and part of iron, the kingdom shall
be divided, but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron;
forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with clay, so the kingdom shall
be partly strong and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed
with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but
they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with
clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a
kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and this kingdom shall not be
left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these
kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the
stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in
pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great
God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and
the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure."
For a while the king, in silent astonishment, gazed on the wonderful
being before him; then he arose and fell prostrate at the feet of the
captive Hebrew, and paid him adoration suitable only to a divine being.
"Let thy adoration be paid to Jehovah, O king!" cried Daniel, "for it is
he that revealeth secrets, and bringeth to light the hidden mysteries."
"Of a truth, your God is a God of gods," cried the king, "and a revealer
of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this mystery. And now,
Belteshazzar, thou art exalted to be a ruler over the whole province of
Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Chaldea; and
if thou desirest any particular favor, let it not be hidden from the
king; for thou art worthy of all honors, and the full desire of thy heart
shall be given thee."
"For himself, thy servant has nothing to ask; but be it known to thee, O
king, that thou art as much indebted for the restoration of the vision to
my three companions as to thy servant, for in answer to our united
prayers the secret was made known. I pray thee, therefore, that while I
am thus honored, my companions may share in it."
"Wisely remarked. Thy three companions shall be promoted to posts of
honor and trust in the empire. Let them, under thee, preside over the
province of Babylon."
Thus Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, through the miraculous
interposition of that Jehovah they loved, and whose law they honored,
were elevated to be the chief personages in the Chaldean empire.
YEARS passed by, and uninterrupted success attended the reign of the king
of Babylon. The aggrandizement of the city was without a parallel in
history. It appeared to have become the leading passion of the monarch's
mind. The reader may have a faint idea of the glory of the city when he
remembers that it was a regular square, forty-five miles in compass,
enclosed by a wall two hundred feet high, and fifty broad, in which there
were one hundred gates of brass. Its principal ornaments were the Temple
of Belus, and the famous "hanging gardens."
The Temple of Belus was most remarkable for a prodigious tower that stood
in the midst of it. According to Herodotus, it was a square, of a furlong
on each side--that is, half a mile in the whole compass; and according to
Strabo, it was a furlong in height. It consisted of eight towers, built
one above the other; and because it decreased gradually towards the top,
Strabo calls the whole a pyramid. It is not only asserted, but proved,
that this tower far exceeded the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt in
The ascent to the top was by stairs round the outside. Over the whole, on
the top of the tower, was an observatory, by means of which the
Babylonians became more expert in astronomy than any other nation, and
made, in a short time, the great progress in it ascribed to them in
In addition to these magnificent works, the public buildings of Babylon
were counted by thousands, and its splendid mansions by tens of
The four Hebrews still continued in power, and more than retained their
former excellence. Daniel was highly esteemed by the king for his great
wisdom and skill in the affairs of government; but the impressions of the
superiority of Jehovah, made upon the monarch's mind at the
interpretation of the dream, had well-nigh been obliterated. Pride
rebelled against the thought of the future overthrow of the empire; and
fain would he have persuaded himself that uneasiness brought about by a
troublesome dream was unworthy of him.
The three brothers, in their spheres, performed their duties with a
degree of perfection and exactitude that greatly pleased the king; and
for this, more than on account of their genuine excellence, were they
regarded by him in a favorable light. Those pleasing qualities so
apparent in the earlier history of the king were fast disappearing, to
give way to pride, vanity, peevishness, and even cruelty.
The bold and impetuous declaration of the king, in regard to the
sovereignty of the God of Israel, and the peculiar circumstances under
which the poor Hebrews were promoted, were far from being forgotten by
the Babylonians. There was a deep and abiding dissatisfaction in the
minds of thousands in the realm, not so much on account of the elevation
of the Hebrews, as on account of the conviction that the sovereign was
not a sincere worshiper of the gods of the empire. The king, by
occasional remarks from his nobles, had noticed more than once that there
was something in their language that indicated a lack of confidence in
his fidelity to the gods. Nebuchadnezzar, notwithstanding his increasing
vanity, was far from being indifferent to the estimation in which he was
held by his subjects. He knew that his safety was based on the confidence
and friendship of his people, and he was determined, if by his former
professions he had unwisely magnified the God of Daniel, and thereby lost
the confidence of his Chaldean subjects, to give them unmistakable proof
that he still was a worshiper at the shrine of Belus.
Summoning Belrazi, one of his most trusted officers, to his side, the
"From the nature of thy position, thou art called to mingle in very
numerous circles, and no man at the palace is better qualified than thou
to judge of the feelings of the subjects toward their king. Come, now, be
frank and plain with thy sovereign, and tell me how I stand in the
estimation of my nobles."
"O king, live for ever!" replied the officer, highly delighted with this
unusual mark of the king's confidence. "Thou livest in the warm
affections of thy nobles, and in the pure regard of all thy numerous
subjects. Thou art the peculiarly favored of the gods. All the nations of
the earth fear thee, and pay their homage at thy feet."
"True. But art thou not aware that on one point my subjects are not as
fully satisfied with their king as they might be? Behold, I have placed
unusual confidence in my servant, and in return the king requireth equal
"As thy soul liveth, O king, I shall hide nothing from thee. In mingling
with thy nobles, I find that, without distinction, they are abundantly
loyal. In a very few instances I have heard language that indicated that
my lord the king was favorably inclined toward the God of the Hebrews,
and less ardent in his devotion to the gods of Chaldea. But in this, has
not my lord the king the perfect right to do as seemeth good in his
"The King of Babylon can do as seemeth good in his sight; and it shall
seem good in his sight, not many days hence, to give abundant proof that
the gods of Chaldea are the gods of the king. I am well satisfied with
thy words. Let this interview, and others of the same nature which we may
have, remain a secret. Thou mayest now leave, and to-morrow at the third
hour be punctual to meet me again at this apartment."
The dignitary retired, and the king was left alone in his apartment.
"My suspicions were well founded! And, indeed, have they had no cause?
Well, I was then young, and without experience. But was not the recovery
of that dream a wonderful thing? Will anyone dare deny that? Had the God
of Belteshazzar nothing to do with it? Again my thoughts are on the God
of Israel! 'Tis hard to banish it from my mind! The interpretation was
natural, and perfectly consistent. But I swear by the gods, that it shall
not come to pass! I will establish my empire on such a sure foundation
that it shall not be in the power of mortals to shake it. Are not the
nations at my command? Are not my armies stationed on every shore? Is not
Babylon the terror of kings? Ah! where is the power that can compete with
Chaldea? My nobles are jealous of my fidelity to the gods. Yea, truly,
and have I not given them reason?
"This must go no further. If I have some lingering fears of the God of
Belteshazzar, it must not be made manifest. In this I must regain the
full confidence of the nation. Are they jealous of the four Hebrews? In
this I fear them not. They are worth more to my empire than any chosen
score of their fellow-officers. And of the wisdom of my wise men--is not
more than one half of it centered in Belteshazzar? If they are envious of
these young men, let it not be known to the king, or by the powers of
Belus I will let them feel my vengeance!
"But for the king to be suspected of being a believer in their God is of
a more serious nature. What measure shall I resort to in order to satisfy
the mind of the nation? Deny the insinuation in a proclamation? Shall the
King of Babylon ever stoop to this? Never! Something more consistent with
royal dignity than this must be found. An image? Yea! That will do, O
king! Thou hast well thought. An image of Bel. What? 'With the head of
gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the
legs of iron, the feet of iron and clay?' Nay! The image of Bel which I
shall set up for public worship, shall be all of gold. Why otherwise? My
wealth is inexhaustible. Who, after such a display, would ever suspect
the King of Babylon of adhering to the God of the Hebrews? This, then, is
my purpose. I shall build a great image of Bel, made of pure gold, and
set it up in some favorable spot, and appoint a day for its public
The next morning, at the appointed hour, Belrazi was punctual to meet the
king at his apartment. The monarch, well pleased with his scheme of the
image, manifested a pleasant countenance.
"Thou art punctual, Belrazi. The king is well pleased to meet thee. Thy
frank sincerity yesterday was an additional proof of thy worth. I have
seen fit, since we parted, to bestow some thought on the subject on which
we conversed. It is of the utmost importance to the well-being and
security of the empire that the people have unbounded confidence in their
king in all things--in matters of religion as well as in matters of state.
Now, in order to expel all doubts from the minds of my nobles in regard
to my fidelity to the gods of my fathers, I have thought of a measure
which, I trust, must prove successful. It is this: Let an image of our
god Bel be made of gold. Let it be of large dimensions, and far superior
to any image heretofore seen in any country. Let it be set up in some
favorable spot; and on the day of its dedication, let all who hold office
under the government, be commanded, by a royal decree, to appear on the
spot, and, at the appointed hour, fall down and worship it; and let the
penalty of disobedience be death. Let those who dare set at naught the
will of the king be taken and thrown into the burning fiery furnace. What
thinkest Belrazi of this?"
"O king, live forever! Thy goodness is unbounded. Thy design is dictated
by that wisdom that cometh from the gods. The measure shall be hailed
throughout the empire with shouts of rejoicing, and the day of its
dedication will be a day of days in the future history of Chaldea."
"Let no time be lost, then," replied the king. "Let my head goldsmith be
called, and from the lips of the king let him receive instructions in
regard to the making of the image. This is my desire. Let the measure be
known but to a few, until the proclamation shall go forth."
The head goldsmith was soon in the presence of the king, and after much
deliberation the exact dimensions of the great image were settled upon;
and, moreover, it was agreed, that by a certain day it should be
According to the direction of the king, no publicity was given to the
measure. Few of the king's confidential friends were apprised of it. In
the meantime, no pains were spared by the chief goldsmith to have
everything in readiness by the time appointed. Hundreds of the craft were
called together to speed the great undertaking; and, even before the time
agreed upon, the idol was ready to be set up. Word was sent to the king,
and immediately the proclamation was trumpeted far and wide, throughout
the length and breadth of the vast empire:
"Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to all his Princes, Governors,
Captains, Judges, Treasurers, Counselors, Sheriffs, and all rulers of his
provinces: Ye are hereby commanded to appear on the twenty-third day of
the eighth month, at the third hour of the day, in the plain of Dura,
within the province of Babylon, to witness the dedication of the great
image which I have set up in honor of Bel, the god of the Chaldeans. Ye
are, moreover, hereby commanded, at the hour appointed, to fall down and
worship the golden image. Disobedience will be punished with the utmost
rigor. Those who shall refuse to bow and worship shall in that same hour
be taken and thrown into a burning fiery furnace.
"Given under my hand and seal, at the great City of Babylon, on this the
fourth day of the seventh month.
The dedication of the great image now became the chief theme of
conversation. In city and village, on hill and in dell, in the palace and
cottage, it was the leading subject; and throughout the empire it gave
universal satisfaction. The measure for the time being had its desired
effect--to establish in the minds of the Chaldeans the conviction that the
king was faithful to the gods.
This proclamation was received by the three Hebrews with profound
astonishment and deep regret. For many years now they had enjoyed
tranquility and Worshiped the God of their fathers in calm simplicity;
and this was the first time, since they came to Babylon, that they were
required to do violence to their conscience by worshiping a false god.
Daniel, on business of great importance, was sent to Egypt.
The three worthies soon met for the special purpose of deciding upon a
course of action to be followed in the approaching emergency. No fearful
apprehensions could be read in those countenances. No fainting fear took
hold of their spirits. Their eyes sparkled with holy courage, their
cheeks flushed with noble emotions, their forms were unusually erect.
They were fully prepared for the worst.
The opening remarks were from Hananiah.
"Well, brothers, another cloud seems to darken our skies, and to hang
threateningly over our heads; but I trust that, as servants of the Host
High, we have by this time learned to gaze upon such things without
terror or alarm. We are now assembled together to take a calm, sober look
at the thing as it really is, and decide on our future course. We are
surely much indebted to the king. For a number of years, we have been the
recipients of his bounty and the objects of his kind regard, for which,
undoubtedly, we all feel grateful. But the question is this: is it our
duty, as the professed worshipers of the God of Israel, to yield
obedience to the demand of an unholy and wicked law, that throws insult
into the face of the God of heaven, and the Jehovah of the universe? In
this case, either obedience or disobedience must be pleasing to God. Is
it the will of Jehovah that we should obey this law, or disobey it? To my
mind, it is clear that, in this case, nothing short of a manly
disobedience can be agreeable to the will of our God. Brothers, we must
have decision of character. In this matter there must be no compromise
And Hananiah took his seat with a smile of holy satisfaction playing on
his lips, when Mishael arose, and said:
"The question rests here, brothers! Can any edict from any king,
potentate, or human power, make null and void the laws of the eternal
God? To this question, from us, there is but one short answer, and that
is, 'Nay!' Is He not higher than the highest? Are not His commands far
superior to all human edicts? The law of Jehovah is supreme, and let the
higher law be obeyed, though the heavens should fall! Azariah, what
"I say I shall not bow to any god but the God of Israel! In Him I trust.
If we perish by the hand of our enemies, so let it be! Better death than
a base betrayal of our sacred trust. But is not that God who saved us
once from death able to deliver us again? Is his arm shortened, that he
cannot save? Then let them heat the fiery furnace! That God in whom we
trust will yet deliver us from this calamity, and overrule this dark
providence to his glory."
A knock was heard. The door was opened, and the pleasant voice of the
newcomer gave them to understand that he was no other than the
"I trouble you, at this time, as a bearer of dispatches from my kind
master, Belteshazzar, who is now in Egypt, on government business of
pressing importance. Before he left, he gave me positive orders to
deliver all messages to his cousins without the least delay."
"Thou art ever welcome, dear Apgomer!" answered Hananiah. "and especially
to-day, as a bearer of a dispatch from one we love so well."
"And here is another, from one that, peradventure, ye love the more. Ye
perceive that the children of Judah have some confidence in their
"And great is the confidence thou deservest, as one that has proved
himself a genuine friend in every trial," said Azariah.
"Let not my noble friend speak thus!" said the modest Chaldean, "for I
deserve it not. I must return, and any further dispatches that may be
sent to my care shall, without delay, be conveyed hither. Adieu!"
These dispatches proved to be letters. The last delivered was
confidentially handed to Apgomer by Mathias, and was written by Perreeza.
The letter from Daniel was first considered. It was read aloud by
"Ever Dear Cousins: I have this moment read the wonderful proclamation of
the king, in regard to the great image of Bel, to be dedicated on the
plains of Dura. By some strange providence, he saw fit to send me hither,
with imperative instructions to remain until some unpleasant affairs
between the two governments are amicably adjusted; and before this can be
accomplished, the great idolatrous display will have passed. Your minds,
undoubtedly, have been much troubled in view of the unpleasant position
in which ye are placed. So hath the mind of your beloved cousin. Already
I know full well that, with holy courage, ye are ready for the trial. The
flames of a fiery furnace must fail to frighten a true Israelite from the
worship of the God of his fathers. Past favors are not to be repaid by
proving traitors to the God of Israel. We are the temporal subjects of
the King of Babylon it is true, and in anything that interferes not with
the command of Jehovah, we are happy to render him willing obedience: but
with us obedience to the higher law is paramount to all other
considerations. The words of a loving mother are yet fresh in my mind.
The morning on which we left our beloved Jerusalem, she called me to her
apartment, and, among a multitude of other good things, she said, 'The
same integrity to the law of thy God will certainly secure thy prosperity
among strangers. Thy path may occasionally be obstructed; but trust in
God, my son, and all will be well. The land whither thou goest is a land
of universal idolatry, where the God of thy fathers is not known, and
where his worship may cause universal ridicule. Heed them not. With thy
face toward Jerusalem, let thy petitions daily ascend to the God of
Abraham, and he will direct thy paths. Never prove a traitor to the
religion of thy fathers. My son will be obedient to the laws of his king
that do not come in contact with his religion; but if ever thou art
required to render obedience to any law that clashes with the law of thy
God, remember, my son, that disobedience to that law must be rendered,
even unto death if required. Let "Obedience to the Higher Law" be thy
motto; for thy mother would sooner hear of thy death as a martyr to the
religion of Judah, than of thy promotion to a throne by apostasy.'
"These burning words of your Aunt Josepha, to her son Daniel, are the
words of Daniel to his cousins. Prove true to your religion! and if in
this ye die, it shall be but the will of your God. But, cousins, ye shall
not die! That same Jehovah who appeared in our behalf years ago, in the
revelation of the king's dream, will again stretch out his arm to save.
If Jehovah interferes in your behalf, there is not fire enough in all
Chaldea to injure a hair of your head. I long to be with you! Nothing
would give me greater pleasure than to be immediately called back to
Babylon. Then side by side would we stand erect, and scorn to bow before
a golden image. But it appears to be the will of Jehovah that I should
be absent. I have confidence that I shall soon embrace you in Babylon:
but if in this I am mistaken, we soon shall meet in the better Jerusalem
It was with some difficulty that Azariah commanded sufficient control
over his feelings to enable him to read the letter aloud; but with a
trembling accent it was done.
"Thanks be to Jehovah." cried Mishael, "for such consolation in the midst
of sore affliction."
"But what says our beloved Perreeza?" said Hananiah.
No one felt willing to read aloud their sister's letter, so it was read
by each in silence. It ran thus:
"Dear Brothers: With emotions indescribable, Perreeza endeavors to write
these few lines, that may impart some consolation to her dear brothers
while strong waves of affliction pass over their souls. Being much
confined of late to my dwelling, it was but yesterday that I derived any
knowledge of that awful proclamation of the king in regard to his great
image. Uncle Esrom is at present traveling in a far country on important
business, and I am deprived of his counsel and ye are deprived of his aid
in this crisis. Ob, my brothers! the companions and guardians of my
juvenile hours, into whose care and warm affections I was committed by
the parting words of a dying mother! How ardently does your sister love
you! how deep for you is the affection of Perreeza's heart! What can I
say that will cause one sweet ingredient to drop into your bitter cup?
Nothing better do I know, than the favorite sentence of our beloved
Jeremiah. If the good prophet were here would he not say, 'Jehovah is the
strength of all his saints; trust in him and be at peace!' Oh, how
sweetly flowed the gentle words of the man of God! Brothers! dear as ye
seem to my throbbing heart, terrible as the fiery furnace may rage,
Perreeza has no desire that your safety should be purchased at a
dishonorable price. Nay, brothers! if for a moment I should indulge in
such an unholy desire, that moment I should forfeit all right to call you
brothers. I shall not even advise you to stand firm in the fiery trial.
Ah! too well do I know that your noble souls already scorn the command of
an apostate king, who once acknowledged the supremacy of the God of
"My precious Jupheena came to see me this morning, and she is very
confident that the God in whom we trust will bring you through this trial
triumphantly. Dear brothers, accept this hasty dispatch as an offering of
pure affection. Farewell, until our next meeting."
With full hearts, the brothers bowed before the Lord and rolled their
burdens upon the Almighty. The entire consecration was now made, and they
were ready for the trial. The struggle was over and their minds became as
calm and tranquil as a summer evening.
IN AN extravagantly furnished apartment of a fine-looking mansion in the
heart of the city, sits a family group, consisting of a father, mother,
two sons, and one daughter. They are far from exhibiting in their
countenances that contentment of mind which is a "continual feast," and
yet something has transpired that gives them, for the time being, an
unusual degree of pleasurable emotion.
The father leaves his seat, and with folded arms he begins to pace slowly
backward and forward the length of the apartment with an air of pompous
dignity, while ever and anon a smile of extreme selfishness plays on his
lips. He has received intelligence which he considers by no means
The mother, to whom nature has been rather niggardly in the endowment of
outward charms, is loaded with a superabundance of golden ornaments, in
the vain attempt to supply the lack of the natural with the artificial.
In her eye you look in vain for intelligence, or in her countenance for
benevolence; but she smiles! yea, indeed, with something the mother is
The two sons, in making a declaration of their brotherhood to a stranger,
would stand in no danger of being suspected on that point as deceivers.
The resemblance is quite striking.
The daughter is beautiful--in her own estimation. To this she clings as an
essential part of her creed--that she constitutes a very important share
of the beauty of Babylonia, but in getting it implanted into the creed of
others, she proves unsuccessful--her converts being wholly confined to her
father's household. She also, with the rest, on this night manifests an
unusual degree of hilarity.
"Ah! they are ensnared at last!" said Scribbo, with an air of triumph.
"They must either deny their religion or face the furnace. This is right,
and happy am I that the king has at last seen fit to enact a law that
will bear with stringency on those pretending foreigners who fill the
most important stations in the government."
"But, brother," said the sister, eagerly, "which thinkest thou they will
choose--the worship of our gods or the fiery furnace?"
"I am in hopes they are fanatical enough to choose the latter," answered
the brother; "for in case they should choose the former, they would be as
much in our way as ever. But then it would be some consolation to know
that they had been compelled to worship and bow before the gods of the
"There is one thing to be deeply regretted," said Shagoth. "I am informed
that Belteshazzar, the great Rab Mag, is now in Egypt, and is not
expected to return for some weeks. He also ought to bear them company and
share the same fate. But if only we can put these three out of our way we
shall have abundant reason to adore the gods."
"But, my sons," said the mother, "will not these Hebrews elude notice
among so many? The gods know how I fear lest after all they may escape."
"Fear not that, mother," answered Scribbo. "Shagoth and myself will so
arrange matters as to be near them; and if they bow not with us we will
on the spot report them to the king."
"This is a matter of ponderous importance, and of immense consequence,"
said the promenading father. "From this, Chaldea shall hereafter reap
abundant harvests. These proud and insolent foreigners who insinuate
themselves into offices which native Chaldeans ought to fill, will now
learn a lesson of modesty to which they have hitherto been strangers. Far
better for our beloved Chaldea if the superstitious brood had been left
in their own country. May the gods grant that every Hebrew office-holder
may so cling to his imaginary god as to walk straight from office into
sure destruction. My motto is 'Chaldeans for Chaldea!' Personally, I have
no hostility toward these young men. Nay! But, O my country! my country!
it is for thee my heart bleeds! Sons! ye shall do well to be on your
guard, and see to it that they escape not your vigilance. If they die,
their offices will be vacant, and must soon be supplied by some persons
of ability. O my country! It is for thee, O Chaldea! my heart bleeds!"
"But," said the anxious mother, "are not these important offices at the
disposal of the Rab Mag? If he still remains, can we expect any favors
from him? Alas! my husband may well cry, 'O my country!'"
"Perhaps," said the daughter, "if he hears of the death of his
companions, he will never return, but flee over the mountains to his own
"A trivial mistake, my daughter," said the patriot; "his country would
lie in an opposite direction."
"But could he not change his course?" asked the half-offended daughter.
"Yea, verily, my child, if he should find that he was in the wrong path;
peradventure, this would constitute his first business."
"I can hardly hope for such a happy result, sister," said Shagoth. "The
conniving demagogue will cling to his office until compelled by a
stringent law to abandon it."
"Before many days, the Rab Mag will return," said the erect promenader.
"And will not the king ere long set apart another day for the public
worship of the gods? And if this foreign pretender escapes now, justice
will overtake him then. The vengeance of our deities will not always
slumber, and these worshipers of other gods shall soon know that the best
offices in our government and the best interests of our beloved country
are not to be entrusted to a horde of superstitious foreigners. O my
country! Sons! let me caution you again to be on the watch for these
three rulers. They hold important offices, and such a favorable
opportunity is not to be lightly regarded. O my country, my country!"
. . . . . . .
The day appointed for the dedication of the great image at last arrived.
Its ushering in was hailed by the populace with universal enthusiasm,
marked by shouts of rejoicing. The day was fair and beautiful. No
threatening cloud was visible in the heavens. The metropolis, at a very
early stage, presented one grand scene of activity and preparation. The
soldiery were out by thousands, their glittering panoply dazzling in the
clear sunbeams. Officers of all grades hurried to and fro with excitement
visible on their countenances. Those swarming thousands were evidently
expecting some signal, at which they were ready to march. The word of
command was at last given, and the multitude moved forward.
Onward the mighty concourse moved through the principal thoroughfares,
amid the ringing of bells, the blasts of trumpets, and the waving of
banners, until they arrived in a spacious square in front of the royal
palace. Here they halted.
At last, the massive portals were thrown open, and the king, in a
magnificent chariot, surrounded by an imposing guard, made his
appearance. He waved his hand in the direction of the multitude, when,
with one voice, the people exclaimed:
"O king, live forever!"
The procession was soon on its way to the plains of Dura, the king
leading the pompous train, while eager thousands brought up the rear. On
the way, they were joined by thousands more, who at different places
waited their arrival, and at every stage the high praises of the King of
Babylon echoed from ten thousand voices.
The great image far surpassed anything of its kind within the realm. Its
dimensions were large and well proportioned, its height being twenty
cubits, and its breadth six cubits, elevated on a richly gilded pedestal,
forty cubits in height, thus being perfectly visible to all the
worshipers. Around its base stood the officiating priests of Belus, with
solemn visages, their long flowing robes adorned with numerous articles
of rich regalia.
Scribbo and Shagoth, faithful to their revengeful promise, were on the
keen alert for the three Hebrews. In their wanderings they came across
"We are in search of thy three Hebrew friends," said Shagoth. "Canst thou
inform us where we may find them?"
"I can," promptly replied Apgomer. "I know the exact spot on which they
"This is truly gratifying," replied Scribbo. "Now lead us to the spot
"To my Hebrew friends your presence would be anything but agreeable; and,
as I am under far more obligations to them than to some others, I am very
happy to disregard your request."
"Thou art in command of the same daring insolence as characterized thy
school-days," said Scribbo, in an angry tone.
"To be accused of insolence by the envious sons of Skerbood, is fully
equivalent to being called noble and gentle by a worthy citizen,"
answered Apgomer, with a smile of contempt playing on his lip. "So permit
me to thank you for the high compliment."
"Speakest thou so to us, thou insulting pretender!" cried Shagoth, in a
rage. "Thou hadst better depart ere we punish thy insolence with the edge
of the sword."
"Terrible words, surely, from mighty swordsmen!" said Apgomer, smiling.
"Is it any wonder I tremble beneath your gaze? Even from the days of your
childhood your courage and valor have been proverbial. My cousin Scribbo,
at the early age of ten years, would, without fear, push headlong into
the water little girls years younger than himself; while the brave
Shagoth, at the early age of twelve, could find no more pleasing
recreation than to scourge his poor relatives of eight years old and
under. Then ye were heroes in embryo; and now, having grown up, is it any
wonder that the whole realm quakes beneath your tread? Hail! all hail, ye
mighty sons of Skerbood! This is the day in which ye look for the full
realization of your guilty hope, in the death of three of the choicest
noblemen that ever adorned the Chaldean realm. Be not too sure of your
prey. Strange things have appeared in those young men's histories, and
more strange manifestations may yet appear."
"Too long already have we listened to thy insolent and silly harangue,"
said Scribbo. "Right glad are we that these foreign pets, who have so
long been dandled on the lap of royalty, are at last brought to the test.
We only hope that their fanaticism may lead them to disobedience. In that
event, we would ask for no greater pleasure than to be permitted to throw
them into yon blazing furnace."
"Ye are surely well adapted for such an undertaking. By all means,
volunteer your services; and remember that, in the midst of your burning
patriotism, these young foreigners hold responsible offices, that must be
filled by some competent personages."
"Away, Scribbo, from the sound of this barking dog!" said Shagoth. And
the two office-seekers hurried away in search of the doomed Hebrews.
They had gone but a little distance when they saw the three brothers
together, a few rods on the left from the throne. The two Chaldeans,
unobserved, stationed themselves close behind them, and there waited for
the grand result.
Soon, a signal was given for the throng to come to silence and order.
This was not easily accomplished. At length, however, order was fully
gained, and breathless silence reigned over half a million of idolaters.
This silence was broken by the loud accents of heralds, who passed
through all parts of the assembly, crying at the top of their voices:
"To you it is commanded, O people of all nations and languages, that at
what time ye hear the sound of the flute or harp, ye fall down and
worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up. And
whoso falleth not down and worshipeth shall the same hour be cast into a
burning fiery furnace."
The heralds returned to their places, and their voices were no longer
The grand signal was given! The musical instruments poured forth their
loud strains, and the great mass fell prostrate before the glittering
idol. But, yonder, behold those champions of moral integrity! Only three
among five hundred thousand! While all besides have bowed the knee, there
they stand! Their figures are heroic, their forms are erect, their arms
folded, while an involuntary smile of contempt plays on their lips.
"By the gods, we have them!" whispered Shagoth, in ecstasies. "Behold,
Scribbo, how erect their posture!"
"Hold thy peace!" whispered Scribbo, in return, "or they will hear us.
When we rise, then we will confront them to good advantage. Thanks to the
gods, they have well favored us."
The signal for the vast throng to arise from their worshiping attitude
was given. No sooner was it heard, than Scribbo and Shagoth walked with
an air of conscious triumph and stood before the three Hebrews.
"And who are these presumptuous and rash mortals," said Shagoth, "who
thus dare to set the laws of the king at defiance? Tremble, ye daring
wretches! for who are ye to withstand the vengeance of our sovereign?"
"To the king, then, we are accountable; and not to thee, thou crawling
reptile," answered Hananiah. "So haste thee away; and if thou hast any
authority, let it be displayed within its own sphere."
"Ah!" cried Shagoth, "ye are doomed to die! See ye not the heated smoke
of the fiery furnace? Your guilty and rash conduct shall be made known to
the king without delay. Your guilty career is well-nigh run; and Chaldea
shall soon be delivered from the curse of foreign office-holders."
"But not from the curse of a groveling, envious, unprincipled horde of
office-seekers," said Azariah, casting a withering glance on the two
"Away, brother!" cried Scribbo. "For why should we hear the abusive
harangue of these overfed demagogues?"
And away the patriots hurried with their complaint to the king.
The monarch was surrounded by a large number of his nobles, who were loud
in their congratulations at the complete success that had crowned the
An officer in uniform came forward, and bowed low in the presence of the
"What is thy pleasure, Arioch!" asked Nebuchadnezzar.
"Two men have approached the guard, O king, greatly desiring to be
admitted into thy presence."
"Let them be admitted!" was the answer.
With anything but ease of manner, Scribbo and Shagoth walked into the
"And what have ye to communicate?" inquired his majesty, eying them as if
not quite satisfied with their appearance.
"O king, live forever!" replied the Chaldeans. "Thou, O king, hast made a
decree that every man shall fall down and worship the golden image; and
whoso falleth not down and worshipeth should be cast into a fiery
furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of
the province of Babylon--Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego--these men, O
king, have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, nor worship the
golden image which thou hast set up."
Then was the king full of wrath and fury. "What!" said he, "is my royal
decree to be thus set at defiance? Is this the return they make to the
king for their high promotion in the government? By all the gods, I will
bend their stubborn wills, or they will suffer my vengeance to the
uttermost! Let them be summoned into my presence without further delay!"
And officers were soon on their march to bring the offenders.
The king, from his elevation, saw them approaching. An innocent smile
rested on each countenance; and in spite of his haughty arrogance, the
king's heart was touched, and his better feelings for a while triumphed.
They stood in his presence, and respectfully, as usual, made their
"Am I rightly informed, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego," said the
king, "when I hear that ye do not serve my gods, nor worship the golden
image that I have set up? It may be true; yet for your sakes, I will give
you one more trial: but beware that ye further provoke not my
displeasure! The king's command is not to be trifled with!"
Without the least betrayal of fear, Hananiah, in a firm tone of voice,
addressed the monarch:
"O king, it requireth no careful deliberation in this matter. In so plain
a case the answer is ready at hand. Thy servants, as thou well knowest,
are natives of Judah, and we worship no god but the God of our fathers.
As foreigners, we have at all times been careful to use no disrespectful
language in regard to the gods of Chaldea, or those who pay them homage;
and hitherto, unmolested, have we paid our simple adoration to the Lord
God of Israel. The law of our God, with us, is regarded as infinitely
superior to all human edicts. In all things pertaining to the government,
we have faithfully endeavored to do thy will, and obey the directions of
our sovereign. But not until this day have we been required to deny our
religion, and insult our God. To thee, O king, we are much indebted. For
many years have we been the objects of thy kind regard. But be it known
to Nebuchadnezzar, that the continuance of his favor is not to be
purchased by a base betrayal of our principles, or a denial of our God.
We cannot serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast
set up. We bow the knee to God Most High alone! To us thy fiery furnace
has no terrors! Jehovah, in whom we trust, is able to deliver us. That
God who divided the Red Sea in two parts and made Israel to pass through
the midst of it, and who parted the waves of the swelling Jordan, is able
to preserve thy servants alive in the midst of the devouring flames! Yea,
he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king! But, if in this we are
mistaken, be it known unto thee, that toe can never obey any law of man
that requireth a violation of the law of God. Therefore, we refuse to
serve thy gods, or worship this golden image which thou hast set up."
"Seize the ungrateful wretches!" cried the king, in a rage, while
paleness spread over his countenance. "Seize all who set my authority at
naught, and who thus insult their king! By the gods, now shall they feel
the weight of my displeasure, and reap the reward of their daring
insolence! Let the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Let
the worthless dogs be thrown in, and let their God, if he be able, prove
himself superior to the gods of Chaldea! Bind them now, in my presence!"
The three brothers were seized on the spot by several strong men, and
bound hand and foot with cords. When this was done, they were conveyed in
the direction of the fiery furnace. The news soon spread throughout the
assemblage, and pressing thousands urged their way towards the place of
execution. The fire raged with fury. Fagot after fagot was thrown in. The
flames leaped high above the top of the black walls that surrounded them.
The executioners were strong men of the royal guard. To these were added
a number of others, who, to show the strength of their patriotism,
volunteered their services. Foremost among these were Scribbo and
Shagoth. With what triumphant malignity they gazed on the bound Hebrews!
How complete they considered their own victory!
The word of command was given, and the victims were dragged up the
massive steps that led to the upper edge of the burning pit. In this the
volunteers showed more than an ordinary degree of patriotism. The Hebrews
were laid side by side, ready for their awful doom. The stout hearts of
the soldiers were touched with pity as they gazed on the noble forms of
their victims, of whom they had never heard aught but good; and they felt
loath to perform the awful deed. But not so the patriotic sons of
"Why not throw the guilty rebels in?" cried Shagoth, with an air of
"As ye appear to take far more pleasure in this transaction than we do,
we are very willing to bestow the honor of throwing them in on
yourselves. So proceed with your delightful performance," said an
officer, at the same time giving way, while his companions followed him
some two or three steps downward.
"With all pleasure!" answered Scribbo, while, with fiendish eagerness,
they both turned to perform the foul deed. With a firm grasp they first
laid hold on Azariah, and he was thrown into the midst of the flames. The
same was done to Mishael; and, finally, as Hananiah dropped to the
burning depth below, the ascending flames became doubly fierce; at the
same moment the wind shifted and became strong, and, as sudden as a flash
of lightning, the flames poured their awful vengeance on the guilty heads
of Scribbo and Shagoth. For a moment they whirled in the midst of God's
avenging scourges, crying loudly for help; but no help could be
administered! In another instant they became bewildered, and soon their
blackened forms fell on the edge of the furnace, where a few moments
before had lain the sons of Judah!
The king had not accompanied the prisoners to the fatal spot, but
continued, in a surly mood, to sit on his elevated throne. He was far
from being satisfied, and he inwardly regretted his severity toward the
best of his officers.
The furnace was a roofless inclosure, twenty feet square, built of very
thick walls in solid masonry. At the height of about twenty-five feet
from the ground, on the inside, there were ponderous bars of iron, which
were made to cross each other at right angles, and which fastened in the
walls, forming the bottom of the furnace into which the victims were
thrown from above. Below, in different parts, were appropriate places for
fagots and light combustibles wherewith to heat the furnace. To the lower
story there were eight doors or openings, two on each square, through
which easy access was obtained to the fireplaces. On the outside there
was but one entrance to the top. This was by means of massive stone
steps. The depth from the edge of the furnace to the crossbars below was
fifteen feet, making the whole height, from the ground, forty feet. From
above also, there were steps to descend into the bottom. To spectators,
on the ground, the victims were not visible after they had been thrown
over the edge.
The king unwillingly turned his eyes towards the fiery furnace, and from
his elevation he could see its interior. He suddenly sprang to his feet,
lifted his hands on high, and exclaimed, in affrightened tone:
"O ye gods, what do I behold! What do I behold, O ye gods!" Then, turning
to his nobles, he exclaimed: "Do I fancy, or is it real? Turn your eyes
on yonder flames! In their midst what behold ye? Speak!"
The nobles tremblingly replied:
"We see men walking unhurt in the midst of the fire, O king!"
"It is even so!" cried the monarch, in deep agitation. "It is not a
delusion! It is a marvelous reality! But did we not cast in three men
bound? And I see four men loose walking in the midst of the fire, and
they have no hurt! And the form of the fourth is like unto a son of the
gods! Arise, let us hasten to the spot!"
The king, attended by a number of his nobles, and surrounded by the royal
guard, was soon on his way towards the furnace. The thronging masses
divided to give way to their sovereign. There were but few there that
knew the cause of the king's agitation. Those who witnessed his
countenance attributed it to the awful death of Scribbo and Shagoth.
All eyes are fastened on the king. With a hurried pace he ascends the
steps of the furnace. He has nearly reached the top. He stops. Now the
vast assembly eagerly listen for a royal address. But why turns he not
his face toward the throng? Regardless of the swaying masses, he lifts
his hand on high--he speaks! Hark! "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye
servants of the most high God, come forth and come hither!"
At the conclusion of this, which seemed to the multitude an
incomprehensible speech, there were but few present who did not inwardly
pronounce the king to be laboring under a sudden fit of insanity.
While all is still and solemn, behold, arm in arm, the forms of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego! A heavenly smile rests on their countenances.
Already they have reached the top, and they stand in the presence of the
wondering thousands. For a moment they cast a smiling glance on the
throng below; then, with that ease of manner which always characterized
them, they approach the king, and make their obeisance, with as much
apparent good feeling as if nothing of an unkind nature had ever
transpired. The king grasps them by the hand, and a mighty shout of good
feeling and gladness resounds from thrice ten thousand tongues. The king
then, turning to the multitude, in a loud voice exclaims:
"Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his
angel and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have yielded
their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god except their
own God. Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and
language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces; because there is no other
god that can deliver after this sort. And now, by the command of the
king, let that image be taken down, and let it be carried to the temple
of Belus, and there, in a secluded part, let it remain."
The assembly was now disbanded and broken up by royal authority. The
masses began to move homeward with deep astonishment. The golden image
was lost sight of, and the miraculous deliverance of the three Hebrews
was the all-absorbing theme. The priests of Belus were utterly
confounded. This mighty demonstration of the power of Jehovah soon spread
throughout the land. The numerous Hebrew captives were treated with much
more kindness; thousands of Chaldeans lost all confidence in their gods,
and learned to pay their homage at the shrine of Jehovah.
Daniel returned from the court of Pharaoh, after having arranged all
things to the satisfaction of his sovereign, in whose estimation he now
stood higher than ever. The three brothers were held in awe and reverence
by all, and the king communed with them freely on all subjects. Their
lives were rendered comfortable, and, according to the late decree of the
king, whosoever dared to speak disrespectfully of their God did so at his
The priests of Belus kept much within their temple, and whenever they
appeared in public, it was with far greater modesty and much less
arrogance. They were fast losing the confidence of the populace, and the
worship of the gods was greatly disregarded. The great Rab Mag was
universally admired, and his three companions stood above reproach.
FOR some years after that wonderful display of Divine power, as exhibited
before vast thousands on the plains of Dura, Chaldea was comparatively
free from wars.
The king contented himself with adding to the already magnificent
grandeur of the seat of his empire. Thousands were continually employed
in carrying out the schemes developed by his inventive mind, and no
sooner was one mighty enterprise completed, than another project was
brought forward. But the monarch's vast ambition was not to be satisfied
by the erection of massive walls and costly edifices. The fire of war and
the love of conquest were not yet quenched in his soul. He had a strong
passion for the din of battle.
Tyre was a strong and opulent city on the Mediterranean coast of Syria.
It was one of the most celebrated maritime cities of antiquity, and
remarkable for its power and grandeur. Hitherto, it had never been
subject to any foreign power. It was built by the Sidonians, two hundred
and forty years before the Temple of Jerusalem. For Sidon being taken by
the Philistines of Askelon, many of its inhabitants made their escape in
ships, and founded the city of Tyre; and for this reason we find it
called in Isaiah, the "Daughter of Sidon." But the daughter soon
surpassed the mother in grandeur, riches, and power.
Toward this proud city of Syria, the King of Babylon, in the twenty-first
year of his reign, led his conquering legions, with full confidence of a
speedy surrender. With a powerful army he encamped before the city, and
soon commenced his attack, which was vigorously repelled. It became
evident to the Chaldeans that the subduing of Tyre was not the work of a
few days, or even a few months. His troops suffered incredible hardships,
so that, according to the Prophet's expression, "every head was made
bald, and every shoulder was peeled." Not until after a protracted siege
of thirteen years was the city conquered, and even then Nebuchadnezzar
found nothing to recompense him for the suffering of his army and the
expense of the campaign.
Soon after the surrender of Tyre, the King of Babylon led his forces into
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