The Young Captives
Erasmus W. Jones
Part 3 out of 4
Egypt, where he was much more successful than on the shores of the
Mediterranean. A large number of provinces were brought to subjection,
and thousands of captives were carried to Chaldea and distributed along
the shores of the Euphrates.
The king of Babylon "was at rest in his own house, and flourishing in his
own palace." The thoughts of the past, present, and future deeply
occupied his mind. The past of his own history had been crowned with
unparalleled success. The present was all that his heart could wish. He
found himself surrounded with glory and magnificence that completely
eclipsed the splendor of all other nations combined. The future--ah, the
future! Who could penetrate its darkness? Could it be possible that the
predictions of Belteshazzar, in regard to the future, were true? Was the
glory of Chaldea to be trampled in the dust? Was the kingly line of
Nebuchadnezzar to be broken? Was not the kingdom at last established on
an immovable foundation? But, had he not, at different times, been
convinced that Belteshazzar had been instructed by the God of heaven in
regard to the future? Tea, truly! But many years had passed since then,
and his greatness had been daily increasing. The king would have gladly
persuaded himself that all was clear in the future, but it was beyond his
power, and under a degree of perplexity he threw himself upon his couch.
A few wandering thoughts, and the king was asleep.
. . . . . . .
"Another dream of troubles!" cried the king, while his countenance
bespoke alarm. "Do the gods, indeed, delight in my misery? Why must I be
thus tormented? Aye! a dream big with meaning! A vision surcharged with
great events! But who will show me the interpretation thereof? Where is
Belteshazzar! But why may not my Chaldean wise men answer the purpose?
Yea! Let them have the first trial. Why do I thus tremble? Whom shall I
fear? 'Hew down the tree!' O, ye gods, how that voice sounded! 'Let his
portion be with the beasts, in the grass of the earth!' What meaneth it?
Why do I fear to call Belteshazzar first? Is it not best at once to know
the worst? But let my Chaldeans have the first trial;" and the king
called a young page into his presence.
"Young man, where is thy father?"
"My father is in the adjoining chamber, O king."
"Call him hither without delay."
The page hastened from the presence of the king, and presently a
venerable-looking person walked into the apartment, and bowed in
reverence before the king.
"Arioch, it is my desire to see the wise men of Babylon as soon as
possible at this apartment. Go! Haste thee! for the command of the king
is urgent. Let them be native Chaldeans who appear before me at this
time; trouble not Belteshazzar. If I need his services I shall call for
The officer, faithful to his charge, was soon on his way to summon the
wise men to appear before the king.
It was not long before a number of the Chaldeans stood in the presence of
the king, ready to learn his will and do his pleasure.
"Are ye able to give me the correct interpretation of a wonderful dream?"
asked the king, in a doubtful tone.
"We surely can, O king!" replied the chief of the wise men; "we derive
our knowledge from the gods, and the interpretation of the dream must be
"But what proof do your gods give of their own existence?" asked the
king, looking sternly on the chief.
"Our gods made the world, O king!"
"Some gods, or God, made the world; but why not the God of Israel? Can
you point to any miraculous interference of your gods in the affairs of
mortals? If I have forgotten my dream, can ye, through your gods, restore
it? And if, in case ye fail, I should cast you all into a fiery furnace,
would your gods preserve you unhurt in the midst of the fire? Answer me!"
"Thy servants," said the trembling magician, "from their youth up have
been taught to reverence and adore the gods of Chaldea. That there is a
God in Israel, we are ready to admit; and far be it from us to hide from
the king our convictions that this God has given us infallible proofs of
his power. This we do not admit before the populace: but why should we
dissemble before our king? Since the issuing of thy decree on the plains
of Dura, we have never said aught against the God of the Hebrews. Let thy
servants, I pray thee, find favor in thy sight, and deal not with us
"At this time," said the king, "ye are not required to restore a lost
dream. I have the vision in all its parts, and, if ye are able, ye may
give me the interpretation. If ye are not able, confess your ignorance,
or, by the God of Israel, I will pour my vengeance on every head!"
The king then carefully rehearsed his dream in their presence. When he
had finished he arose, and, approaching the head magician, with a look
that made him tremble, he asked:
"Canst thou or thy comrades give me the interpretation of this wonderful
"The king's dreams are at all times of a very peculiar nature, and far
different from ordinary dreams," replied the prince of the magicians.
"The king demands honesty at our hands, and may the gods forbid that we
should be otherwise. We are not able to give thee the interpretation of
thy wonderful dream. We fall on thy mercy! Oh, deal not harshly with thy
"Thy simple honesty hath at this time saved thy life and the lives of thy
companions! Go your way, and bear in mind that ye are a band of
hypocritical pretenders. I have demanded your service for the last time!"
The magicians hurried away from the palace, thankful that they had
escaped so well; and nevermore were their services required in the
presence of the king.
"Much as I expected! The vile, deceitful race! The gods! Much they know
about the gods. Have we any gods? I have no proof of any god but the God
of the Hebrews. Belteshazzar must at last explain the vision! Why do I
dread the knowledge of it? Is this trembling the result of fear? The day
is damp and cold. 'Hew down the tree!' That voice was solemn! Why must I
remain in this suspense? I will know the worst! If the God of the Hebrews
has a quarrel with the King of Babylon, let me know it! Without delay
I'll send for Belteshazzar."
The prime minister, always obedient to the demands of his sovereign,
hastened into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar, where he was received with
the most profound respect.
"O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit
of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the
visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.
Thus were the visions of my head on my bed: I saw a tree in the midst of
the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was
strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof
to the end of all the earth; the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit
thereof much, and in it was meat for all; the beasts of the field had
shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof,
and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the vision of my head upon my bed,
and behold a watcher, and a holy one came down from heaven! He cried
aloud, and said thus, 'Hew down the tree and cut off his branches, shake
off his leaves, and scatter his fruit; let the beasts get away from under
it, and the fowls from his branches. Nevertheless, leave the stump of his
roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass in the tender
grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his
portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. Let his heart be
changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let
seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers,
and the demand by the word of the holy ones, to the intent that the
living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and
giveth to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.'
This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar,
declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my
kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation; but thou
art able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee."
Daniel was astonished, and his thoughts greatly troubled him.
"Belteshazzar," said the king, "let not the dream or the interpretation
thereof give thee pain or uneasiness."
"My lord," said Daniel, "the dream is to them that hate thee, and the
interpretation thereof to thine enemies. The tree that thou sawest, which
grew and was strong, whose height reached into the heavens, and the sight
thereof to all the earth, it is thou, O king, that art grown and become
strong; for thy greatness is grown and reacheth unto heaven, and thy
dominion to the end of the earth. And whereas the king saw a watcher and
a holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, 'Hew down the tree and
destroy it, yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even
with the band of iron and brass in the tender grass of the field, and let
it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts
of the field till seven times pass over him,' this is the interpretation,
O king, and this is the decree of the Most High which is come upon my
lord the king: that they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling
shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee eat grass
as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven; and seven times
shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the
kingdom of men, and giveth to whomsoever he will. And whereas they
commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots, thy kingdom shall be sure
unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to thee, and break off
thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the
poor, if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility."
The king, conscious that the Hebrew was under peculiar inspiration, bowed
in solemn reverence, dismissed him in the most respectful manner, and
then threw himself on his couch, in the deepest agony of mind.
"The fates are against me! What shall I do? Shall I weep like a woman,
and sob like a corrected child? Shall the King of Babylon, the great
conqueror of nations, turn at last to be a coward? Shall the great
sovereign of Chaldea say he is sorry, beg pardon of the gods, and thus
reduce himself to the level of a common subject? Never! Let all the gods
hear it! Never! 'Driven from among men!' Who shall be able to drive
Nebuchadnezzar? 'Eat grass as oxen!' O, ye gods, is not that laughable?
And yet I cannot laugh! Let it come! I fear not the gods! Ah, do I not? I
fear not the gods, but still I have a dread of that one God. I destroyed
his temple, I plundered his sanctuary, I carried his vessels to the house
of my god, in the land of Shinar. Is he about to retaliate? I shall see.
Shall I humble myself before a strange god? Shall I now, after having
reached the very pinnacle of fame and glory, dishonor myself in the eyes
of my nobles? Nay! Sooner than this, I will brave the vengeance of all
the gods and nobly perish in the unequal conflict!"
. . . . . . .
Twelve months passed after the King of Babylon was troubled by his
wonderful dream. His grief was not of long duration, and this period had
been one of more than usual gayety and hilarity in the great city. The
king gave entertainments on a magnificent scale; and, in the midst of his
dazzling splendor, the mournful predictions of Belteshazzar were
well-nigh forgotten. Occasionally they would rush to the monarch's mind,
but with a desperate effort they would be banished as troublesome
intruders and unwelcome guests.
. . . . . . .
The day was beautifully clear. The king, about the ninth hour of the day,
walked upon the roof of his high palace. Babylon, in all its glory, stood
before him, its massive walls bidding defiance to all the surrounding
nations. The temple of Belus, with its famous tower, stood forth in
majestic grandeur, together with the hanging gardens, decorated with all
that was beautiful and lovely in nature. The city's famous buildings he
could count by thousands, and its rich palaces by tens of thousands. The
predictions of Daniel found way to the monarch's mind; but they were
expelled by a proud spirit and stubborn will. His soul laughed to scorn
the dark prophecy.
"What!" said the proud monarch, "does this look like 'eating grass like
an ox'? Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the
kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? Who
shall--" Hark! A voice speaks from the heavens! "O King Nebuchadnezzar, to
thee it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from thee, and they shall
drive thee from among men; and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of
the field; they shall make thee eat grass as oxen; and seven times shall
pass over thee, until thou knowest that the Most High ruleth in the
kingdom of men."
The voice ceased. The king uttered a loud, hysterical laugh, descended
from his palace, and ran into the park, a raving maniac.
. . . . . . .
Stillness reigns in the home of Joram. No merry voices fall on the ear of
the passer-by. The few that move around the premises tread carefully and
silently, while solemnity settles on each countenance. The voice of song
is hushed; the loud peals of melody are no longer heard; and for many a
day the "Harp of Judah" has remained in its corner, and no delicate hand
has swept its well-tuned strings. Inside of that mansion to-day you
witness not that joy which is wont to pervade it. You perceive cheeks wet
with tears, and bosoms heaving with sighs. The inmates converse together
in whispers, and tread lightly. In an apartment richly furnished, into
which the beams of the sun are not permitted to enter, we find assembled
a large company of relatives and near friends. It is not an occasion of
small import that calls them thus together. There we find Mathias,
Perreeza, and their children. The amiable Jupheena is there, with her
husband and sons and daughters. Venerable men and women are seen here and
But where to-night is Joram? Where is that benign countenance? Hush!
Speak low, tread lightly! Disturb not the last moments of the dying
Israelite! Joram is at the banks of Jordan. Already his feet are touching
the cold waters.
The sick man turns on his pillow and faintly
"Mathias, why comes he not? Shall I not once more see my most excellent
"My dear father, he will ere long be here. The messenger is trustworthy,
and will soon return."
"The journey of life is near its close. The holy hill is in sight. I pass
through the vale of death on my way to the better land. Yonder is the
home of the faithful. Sorrow and mourning shall flee away."
"He is here! He is here!" cried Jupheena.
"Has he arrived?" asked the sick man, in faint accents.
"Yea, father," replied Mathias, in soothing tones, "he has arrived."
"Thanks be to Jehovah!"
Presently, a man of venerable appearance, his hair silvered over with
age, apparently a Chaldean, walked into the apartment. Jupheena was the
first to greet him.
"Jehovah bless my lovely daughter!" whispered the aged man, as the tears
coursed down his furrowed cheeks. For a moment he looked around upon the
company with an earnestness of affection not easily described; then
looking up to heaven, in trembling accents he broke forth:
"Oh, Jehovah, let the smiles of Thy countenance rest on these Thy chosen
The venerable man was then gently led by Mathias to the bedside.
A smile passed over the pale countenance of Joram, the fountain of his
tears overflowed; he looked up to the face of his old friend, reached out
his trembling hand, and cried:
"Ah! my good Barzello! thou hast come once more to see thy friend Joram,
before he leaves for the spirit land."
"If thou art to go first," replied the old soldier, "we shall not long be
separated; with me, also, the battle of life will soon be closed."
"I find, Barzello, that my race is well-nigh run! I am fast passing away.
I have a strong impression that this day I shall join the society of
immortals; therefore I thought fit to send for my best friend, to be with
me in my dying moments. I am spared to see a good old age. For the last
forty years my cup of joy has been often filled and running over. Jehovah
has dealt with his servant in great kindness. The iniquities of my youth
are forgiven--I am at peace with the God of Israel."
The sick man desired to be raised a little higher on his pillow.
"That is better. Now I can see you all. We must soon part; my sun is fast
sinking, and in a few hours Joram will be gone. The chariot will soon
call. I chide you not for your tears, for here on earth I know too well
their value. In that bright world above where Jehovah dwells, and where
angels spread their wings, no tears are found."
Joram, quite exhausted, closed his eyes, and deep silence for a while
prevailed. He soon revived, and called for Perreeza.
"What can I do for my ever-dear uncle?" whispered Perreeza.
"One more little song, accompanied by the harp of Judah," said Joram,
with a smile, "and I ask no more."
"Perreeza greatly fears that it will disturb thee."
"Nay, my sweet child, thy Uncle Esrom was never yet disturbed by the
sound of melody. Sing to me that little song thy aunt so dearly loved."
"Oh, my dear uncle," whispered the weeping Perreeza, "I fear it is beyond
my power to sing. I am filled with weeping. Yet, at thy request, I will
make the effort. Oh, God of my fathers, help me!"
"He will, my child," faintly answered the old Israelite; "get thy harp
Once again the old harp was brought from its corner. Perreeza wiped away
her tears, and succeeded in conquering her emotions. She took the
familiar instrument in her arms, and sat at a little distance from the
dying man. Joram cast one look on the old harp, smiled, and gently closed
his eyes. Perreeza softly touched the chords and sang:
"Father, send Thy heavenly chariot,
Call Thy weeping child away;
Long I've waited for Thy coming,
Why, O why, this long delay?
Of this earth my soul is weary,
Yonder lies the better land;
Fain my soul would leave its prison,
Glad to join the glorious band.
"Thrice ten thousand happy spirits
Sing Thy praise in heaven above;
All arrayed in robes of glory.
Crowned with righteousness and love;
Old companions wait to greet me,
Smilingly they bid me come.
Father, send Thy heavenly chariot,
Call Thy weary pilgrim home.
"Earth is fading from my vision;
Brightness gathers o'er my head:
Thrilling strains from heavenly harpers
Sound around my dying bed.
Blessed land of saints and angels!
Here I can no longer stay;
Yonder comes my Father's chariot;
Rise, my soul, and haste away!"
The song was ended. The harp was laid aside.
"Did my father enjoy the song?" soothingly inquired Mathias. Joram made
no reply. The "chariot" had arrived, and Joram had departed! As the last
vibrations of the "harp of Judah" died on the ear, his soul was wafted on
angelic pinions, and introduced to the melody around the throne of God.
AFTER the insanity of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, his son, acted as
regent. The misfortune of the Chaldean monarch cast a deep gloom over the
vast empire. He fell at the zenith of his popularity, and the government
throughout felt the shock. Evil-Merodach was far from being a favorite,
and among all classes in the nation there seemed to be a growing
dissatisfaction. This feeling would have been immeasurably greater had it
not been for the wisdom and vigilance of Belteshazzar, his prime
minister. Of Daniel's wisdom the regent had no doubt. From his father he
had learned all the particulars in regard to Daniel's interpretation of
the dream; and, seeing before his eyes daily a literal fulfillment of its
awful predictions, he could not but hold the interpreter in much
Nearly seven years passed without witnessing events of special importance
in the empire. During most of this time Nebuchadnezzar exhibited all the
signs of a maniac. As he showed no disposition to injure those around
him, he was permitted to go at large, within royal inclosures. His
treatment was much according to the direction of Daniel, who was the only
person at the palace of whom the maniac king appeared to have the least
recognition. He carefully shunned the presence of every one, and the only
thing that appeared to give him satisfaction and check his raving was the
permission to be a companion of his oxen, that quietly fed in the palace
park. Here it may be well to remark that the peculiar feature of the
king's insanity was the strange conviction that he was an ox; and, under
this conviction, he would endeavor to imitate that animal in all its
motions and voices. He was never confined or bound with chains, but
permitted to enjoy himself as his maniac fancies might dictate. This was
not the result of indifference, but quite the contrary. The king was held
in much respect at the palace, even in his deplorable insanity; and there
was much faith placed in the opinion of Daniel in regard to the king's
final restoration to his reason and the kingdom. Among many of Daniel's
Chaldean friends at the court the opinion was becoming prevalent that the
interesting occasion was not far distant.
. . . . . . .
The afternoon was fair and beautiful. It was about the ninth hour of the
day. Daniel, weary with his arduous duties within, thought fit, in order
to invigorate both his body and mind, to take a walk in the beautiful
groves of the palace park. So he laid his papers aside, and was soon
under the refreshing breezes of the open skies. The scene was truly
delightful. The sun was gradually losing the intensity of its heat, and
slowly sinking toward the western hills. Nature was adorned in beauty and
innocence. The sweet choristers of the trees chanted their melodious
sonnets on the high branches, and the parks rang with the sound of praise
from the feathered tribe. The river rolled majestically along, while its
shores were strewed with the choicest roses and flowers. On the banks of
"proud Euphrates' stream," the Rab Mag sat down and gave freedom to his
"His paths are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out! He reigns in
heaven above, and on earth beneath. Jehovah is God alone. By him kings
rule and princes govern. He taketh down one and setteth up another. O
Lord, thou art very great, and highly exalted above all gods. In thy
hands are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is
thine also. I adore thee, O my God! I praise thee, O Jehovah! From my
youth the God of Israel has been my help. He has brought me through ways
I have not known. How terrible is his wrath toward those who rebel
against him! How great his love to all that fear him! He bringeth down
the proud look, and causeth his enemies to be ashamed. The scepters of
kings are broken in pieces. Jehovah is King of kings! Babylon, with all
her glory, shall become a desolation. Her lofty towers shall fall, her
walls shall be destroyed, her palaces shall become heaps of ruin, and her
idol temples shall be no more!"
Such were the meditations of Daniel, when his attention was called to a
rustling noise in the foliage, on his right, a short distance from the
spot on which he sat. He looked, and beheld the uncouth form of the
maniac king slowly approaching him. The sight affected the Hebrew's
heart. His eyes became moistened with tears. The punishment was just, he
knew; but in the history of that degraded monarch, he could find many
things to admire. In other days he had a heart that throbbed with kind
and warm emotions. Had he not in the main been kind to him and his three
companions? And, in the midst of envy and jealousy, had he not kept them,
foreigners as they were, in the highest offices in the gift of the
government? He had. And Daniel's heart throbbed with pity as he beheld
the brutish antics of one who was once so powerful and intelligent. The
king gradually approached the spot where Daniel sat, without observing
him, sometimes standing erect, other times running on all fours,
sometimes uttering incoherent expressions, other times bellowing like an
"God of my fathers," silently cried Daniel, "let this suffice! According
to thy promise restore the unhappy king to his reason, and let his
courtiers know that there is no God like unto thee."
By this time the maniac stood close by the side of his courtier, but as
yet he had not observed him.
"Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon!" cried Daniel, with a loud voice.
The maniac was startled, looked up to the face of the minister for a
moment, and cried, in loud accents, "Belteshazzar! Belteshazzar!" and, as
if greatly terrified, ran. He soon stopped and stood at a distance, with
his wild, flashing eyes steadfastly fixed on the form of the Rab Mag.
Daniel arose, and slowly directed his footsteps towards the spot. He was
glad to find that the king remained stationary. He approached within a
respectful distance of the maniac, uncovered his head, made his humble
obeisance as in days of yore, and cried:
"O king, live forever!"
The king, in silence, continued to gaze on Daniel, with a wild, vacant
"Jehovah, the God of Israel!" cried Daniel, pointing with his finger to
"J-e-h-o-v-a-h!" slowly whispered the king, gazing upward.
The Hebrew now ventured nearer the king, fell upon his knees, and "with
his face toward Jerusalem," sent his urgent, silent petition to the God
of Israel, in behalf of his unfortunate sovereign. Daniel had not been
long in prayer before the king, with restored reason, fell down by his
side and loudly rejoiced and praised the God of heaven. The set time had
come; the prayer of the man of God had, indeed, prevailed; the lost was
found, the maniac was restored.
The restoration of reason to the king was brought about by the same
miraculous power that had deprived him of it, and it was accomplished in
the same sudden manner. He was not only restored to the right use of his
faculties, but also to a perfect recollection of the past. The dream, its
interpretation, with all subsequent transactions up to the very day of
his insanity, were brought clearly to his mind; but since that moment all
was one dark void. In mercy, not a vestige was permitted to remain to
embitter his after years.
The most important thing that now appeared to occupy the monarch's mind
was the life and health of his family, and the length of the period of
"Tell me, O Belteshazzar, how long has the king of Babylon remained in
this degraded condition?"
"Seven years of deep calamity, O king, have passed over thy head!"
"Seven years!" cried the king, with a trembling voice, while his tears
were fast falling. "O thou God of heaven, thou art just in all thy ways!
But are the members of my family spared to see the restoration of the
"They are all spared and in good health, O king, and will be overjoyed to
see thee restored to thy throne."
"Jehovah is the only God! He ruleth among the armies of the heavens, and
the inhabitants of the earth. Let all nations praise the God of Israel!
But come, Belteshazzar, let us bend our footsteps towards the palace."
Daniel threw one of his loose garments over the almost naked form of the
king, side by side, they started towards the palace royal. On their way
thither, they were met by the captain of the guard. The old soldier was
overwhelmed with joy to hear once more the familiar voice of his beloved
king. He fell before him, and would have embraced his feet if permitted.
He begged of the king to remain where he was with Belteshazzar, and
permit him to hasten to the palace to herald the joyful news, and return
with the king's old guard to escort him home. The measure struck the king
favorably, and Arioch, with a bounding heart, was on his way. The regent,
Evil-Merodach, was first apprised of the fact, which he received with
demonstrations of joy.
The news was quickly learned by hundreds, and the palace rang with shouts
of rejoicing. The regent, with the guard, was soon on the march for the
place where Arioch had left the king. When they reached the spot, the
monarch arose and gently bowed. His son now ran up to his father, fell on
his neck, and they warmly embraced each other. The old royal guard, as
soon as their emotions were partially subsided, approached as near their
sovereign as they could, and, at a given signal from their captain, they
broke forth in one grand shout that made the forest ring. The king was
deeply moved; he endeavored to speak, but was not able.
The procession was on its way. The king with his son and the prime
minister, was drawn in the royal chariot. Shouts of joy echoed on the
high turrets of the royal mansion as the restored monarch entered once
more through its massive portals, to sit on the throne of his empire.
Heralds were hurried into every part of the city to acquaint officials
with the king's restoration, and on that night the great metropolis of
Chaldea was brilliantly illuminated, and loud shouts of rejoicing burst
forth from thousands of gladdened hearts.
The king resumed the responsible duties of his government amid the warm
congratulations and the best wishes of his courtiers and subjects. New
life was infused into every department of state, and the metropolis once
more appeared to breathe the breath of former years.
Belteshazzar was now to the king a constant and confiding friend. They
conversed together freely on all points, and no measure was put forth
without the consent and approbation of the Rab Mag.
In regard to the God of Israel no doubt remained longer in the mind of
the king. At last he was wholly saved from idolatry. The process of his
conversion had been a severe one, but in the hands of Jehovah it had
proved successful. His vanity was conquered, his haughtiness slain, the
pride of his heart subdued; he was a meek and lowly worshiper at the
shrine of the God of Israel.
The king was getting well stricken in years, and he was conscious that he
was not long for earth. Therefore, like a wise man, he bestowed much
thought on that world into which he was fast hastening. His worldly
ambition was at an end, he appeared but seldom in public, and was much
given to retirement and meditation. He had at last learned to see the
things of earth in their true light, and the enthusiasm of his younger
friends was viewed with a smile and a sigh. He clearly saw in the
distance the glory of Babylon brought to the dust, and its majestic halls
resounding with the voice of revelry from the sons and daughters of
strangers. Of this the reformed king could not think without painful
emotions; but with resignation he bowed to the Will divine.
ON THE death of Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach took the throne. Of this
man we have said but little. He acted as regent during his father's
Insanity. He was a person of a low, groveling mind, and no sooner was he
established on his throne than he began to give signs that the scepter
was in the hands of a profligate tyrant. Contrary to the request of his
dying father, he neglected the weighty matters of the empire, and plunged
into dissipation and gluttonous revelry.
As with the commencement of Nebuchadnezzar's reign began the real glory
of Chaldea, so with his death the glory departed, and the empire was soon
in a rapid decline. No feature in the character of the new king was in
the least calculated to command either the love or the admiration of his
subjects. He was inwardly cursed by the nation, and feared only on
account of his cruelty. Of Daniel he had some dread, and over him the
Hebrew had some control. He was well convinced, from what he had seen in
his father's history, that Daniel was not to be slighted, and that among
all the wise men of the realm, there was none like him. And, moreover, he
was well aware that his superior wisdom had had much to do in elevating
the empire to its present high position. Through the influence of this
man of God, the wicked king dealt with comparative mildness toward the
captive Hebrews so numerous within the realm.
The reign of this monarch was of short duration. Some of his own
relatives, conspiring against him, put an end to his existence; and so
died Evil-Merodach, unwept by the nation, and Nerriglisser, one of the
chief conspirators, reigned in his stead.
The three brothers, since the death of Nebuchadnezzar, had seen best to
retire from public life. In Babylon they were greatly beloved, and
considered as the peculiarly favored of the gods, and over whom no mortal
Nerriglisser, immediately on his accession to the throne, made great
preparations for war against the Medes, which preparations lasted for
three years. Cyaxeres, king of the Medes, seeing the hostile attitude of
the Babylonians, sent to Persia, imploring the help of his young nephew,
Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, king of Persia, who had married his sister
Mandana. Now Cyrus was beautiful in person, and still more lovely in the
qualities of his mind; was of sweet disposition, full of good nature and
humanity, and always had a great desire to learn and a noble ardor for
glory. He was never afraid of danger nor discouraged by any hardship or
difficulty. He was brought up according to the laws and customs of the
Persians, which were excellent in those days with respect to education.
With the consent of his father, he readily complied with the wish of his
uncle, and, at the head of 30,000 well-trained Persians, he marched into
Media and thence to Assyria, to meet the forces of Nerriglisser, king of
Babylon, and the forces of Croesus, king of the Lydians. The armies met.
The Chaldeans were routed. Croesus fled, and Nerriglisser, the king of
Babylon, was slain in the action. His son, Loboros-barchod, succeeded to
This was a very wicked prince. Being naturally of the most vicious
inclinations, he now indulged them without restraint, as if he had been
invested with sovereign power only to have the privilege of committing
with impunity the most infamous and barbarous actions. He reigned but
five months; his own subjects, conspiring against him, put him to death,
and Belshazzar, the son of Evil-Merodach, reigned in his place.
Since the death of Evil-Merodach, and during the reign of his two
successors, Daniel had retired to private life, and was but little spoken
of at public places. This king, following in the footsteps of his
predecessors, led a life of dissipation and profligacy.
In the meantime, the fame of the Persian prince was spreading far and
wide. His armies proved victorious on every shore; and, to the faithful
Hebrews, who discerned the signs of the times, his conquests were hailed
with inward joy. Cyrus for some years had tarried in Asia Minor, and had
reduced all the nations that inhabited it to subjection, from the AEgean
Sea to the River Euphrates. Then he proceeded to Syria and Arabia, which
he also subdued.
The fortifications of Babylon, since the death of Nebuchadnezzar, had
been strengthened, and now the work of fortifying was carried on with
great vigor. Belshazzar, if from no other motive than fear, gave all
encouragement to this kind of improvement, and during his reign
prodigious works of this nature were completed. He was well aware that
the famous Persian had his eye upon him, and that the besieging of the
city was but a question of time. He therefore made all preparations for a
formidable attack. Provisions of all kinds, from all parts of the
country, were stored within the city in great abundance, and everything
was put in readiness to withstand a protracted siege.
Cyrus, whom divine Providence was to make use of, was mentioned in the
Scriptures by his name one hundred and fifty years before he was born in
"Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have
holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of
kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not
be shut. I will go before thee and make the crooked places straight; I
will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of
iron; and I will give thee the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of
secret places; that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by
thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel
mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee,
though thou hast not known me" (Isa. 45: 1-4).
THE army of Cyrus had already reached the capital of Chaldea. The vast
plain before the city swarmed with moving thousands of Medes and
Persians. At this time no warriors were finer in appearance than the
battlemen of the Persian prince. Their discipline had reached to an
almost inconceivable degree of perfection. The wishes and desires of
their great commander had become their law; and each one vied with the
other in rendering obedience to his orders. Their fame had spread
throughout lower Asia, and through many parts of Assyria.
But the Babylonians thought themselves so well prepared for this
emergency that the numerous legions of Cyrus failed to alarm them. Their
walls they considered proof against any attack, and they had a sufficient
amount of provision in the city for twenty years. They laughed to scorn
the demand of the Persians, and loudly ridiculed them from the city
walls. Belshazzar and his counselors, considering themselves secure, gave
way to their depraved appetites. The palace was one scene of debauchery
and revelry by day and by night.
The Persian general soon saw that an assault on such formidable defenses
would be useless. A project was conceived in his mind. He made the
inhabitants believe that he intended to reduce the city by famine. To
this end he caused a line of circumvallation to be drawn quite around the
city with a large and deep ditch; and, that his troops might not be
over-fatigued, he divided his army into twelve bodies, and assigned to
each of them its month of guarding the trenches. The great ditch was
completed, but the reveling Babylonians little thought of its real
Belshazzar, the king, made a feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank
wine before the thousand. This feast was one of great splendor. The most
spacious and magnificent rooms in the richest city in the world were
crowded with rank and beauty. Learning, aristocracy and royalty were
there. Precious stones and costly perfumery filled the salon with
dazzling luster and sweet fragrance. Wit sparkled with the sparkling of
the cups, and reason flowed with the flowing of the wine. They drank
toasts of enthusiastic patriotism; they sang songs of unbounded loyalty,
and shouted defiance to every foe. Strains of melody poured forth from an
hundred instruments, and hilarity and excessive mirth beamed forth from
every countenance. The high praises of the gods of Chaldea, with
rapturous shouts in honor to their king, mingled together and broke forth
from a thousand tongues. The besieging army and its commander, together
with the God of the Hebrews, were made the subjects of their keenest
This feast was given in honor of Belshazzar's birth; and we may easily
judge that flattery without measure was poured into his willing ear. On
this occasion, from the very nature of the festival, much was expected
from the monarch himself, and it was very evident that he was fully
determined that in this they should not be disappointed. He spoke in this
"All hail, brave Babylonians! Welcome! Thrice welcome to the presence of
your king! Before me on this night I behold the pride and glory of
Babylon. Here are my nobles who have at all times distinguished
themselves by their valor and great bravery. Let us banish gloom, and let
our hearts overflow with mirth! We may well congratulate ourselves on the
perfect safety of Babylon. Our walls are impregnable and our possessions
are abundant. We laugh to scorn the silly movements of the Persians that
parade before the city. Dark predictions there are, I know, in regard to
the future of Chaldea, but these Hebrew delusions have well-nigh
vanished. I am sorry to confess that my royal grandsire gave too much
countenance to these groundless delusions, in the preferment of the
Hebrew Belteshazzar with his three companions to high offices within the
province of Babylon. This, my lords, was a great mistake of the past, for
which we have already too dearly paid. Since I came to the throne, this
intermeddling of foreigners with the affairs of the nation has received
no countenance; and happy am I to know that to-day all offices under the
government are entrusted to none but native Chaldeans. In this I do not
wish to cast a shade on the memories of the illustrious dead, for truly
no monarch ever distinguished himself more than my lamented grandfather.
The trophies of his victories are to-day visible throughout the empire.
To him, indeed, the gods of Chaldea were propitious, and unmistakable
proof they gave of their superiority to the gods of other nations. We
have heard much of the renowned God of the Hebrews! But, under the
protection of our own, we bid defiance to all other gods! Who is the God
of Israel that I should fear him? Did not my grandfather, under the
guidance of the gods of Chaldea, enter into his territory, destroy his
city and burn his temple? Why did he not then vindicate his power and
glory? Why permit the vessels of his temple to be carried into Babylon,
and there deposited in the temple of Belus? Ah, my lords, those vessels
were worthy of a more trusty god! They are beautiful to behold, and would
well become an occasion like the present. Surely this is well thought!
Let the vessels of the temple of the God of Israel be brought hither, and
from them let us drink wine in honor of the gods of Chaldea! Bring them
hither in haste! My thirst increases with the thought! All praise to our
matchless gods! Again I say, let us banish gloom, and let us be filled
with mirth! But here, indeed, come the temple vessels of the God of
Israel! Bring them hither. Look ye here, Babylonians! Saw ye ever
anything more beautiful? Such fine specimens of art as these must be
rendered serviceable in the employ of more worthy gods! Let them be
filled with wine! Let us drink to the gods of the empire; and, if there
is a God in Israel, let him come to the rescue! We defy his power,
Chaldeans! These Hebrews among us must be limited in their privileges.
The worship of their imaginary God, if at all permitted, must be on a
more private scale. They are corrupting in their influence, and their
liberties must be restricted. This I have accomplished in a measure, and,
by the gods, I swear that in this my pleasure must be realized to the
full! These foreigners have too long lived in ease, and many of them have
been unwisely elevated to fill the most responsible offices in the gift
of the government, to the exclusion of Chaldeans and more worthy men. Of
this We shall hear no more complaint. I have cut short the work, and not
one Hebrew remains in office within the empire. Babylonians, in this has
not the king met your wishes? Your joyous looks and merry countenances
answer 'yea!' Let this then be our motto, 'Chaldeans to rule Chaldea!'
Drink! Drink freely! Drink to the gods! Is there a God in Israel? Let him
come and claim the vessels of his sanctuary! Oh, the wine tastes
delicious from these thy golden goblets! Oh, thou God of Israel! Ha! ha!
ha! More wine! Let us rejoice and be glad, and drink defiance to all gods
save the gods of Chaldea! Who shall Belshazzar fear? What god can alarm
the king of Bab--"
The vessel fell from the monarch's hand! Paleness gathered on his brow! A
sudden trembling shook his whole frame! A cry of terror broke from his
On the wall, over against the candlestick, there appeared the fingers of
a man's hand, which wrote on the plaster. This was the mysterious sight
that gave terror to the king and alarmed the merry throng.
"Haste ye!" cried the terrified king, "and bring hither my wise men, and
let them give me the signification of the writing. Go in haste!"
Messengers were speedily hurried to summon the magicians and wise men
into the presence of the monarch, and within a short period the whole
"college" stood before the agitated sovereign in the midst of the
"Look ye yonder!" said the king, with a trembling voice, pointing to the
mysterious writing. "Whosoever shall read this writing, and show me the
interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of
gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom."
The wise men gazed in silent astonishment on the writing, cast solemn
glances at one another, and at last frankly confessed that it was written
in a language with which they had no acquaintance--peradventure,
understood only by the gods.
"What shall I do?" cried the king, in deep agony. "I fear some awful
calamity is about to befall me! A curse upon you pretenders' Depart from
my presence! O ye gods, what shall I do?"
The great fear of the king had been made known to the queen-mother, the
famous Nitocris, wife of Nebuchadnezzar. She hastened to the banquet
chamber, where she found all in the greatest consternation, especially
"O king, live forever!" cried the queen-mother. "Let not thy thoughts
trouble thee, nor thy countenance thus be changed in the presence of thy
mighty lords, lest hereafter they despise thy fear. There is a man in thy
kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and, in the days of thy
grandfather, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the
gods, were found in him, whom the king, Nebuchadnezzar, thy grandfather--I
say the king himself--made master of the magicians, astrologers and
soothsayers; and this was a sure sign of his superior wisdom. This great
man is not found among thy nobles. Since in thy great wisdom thou didst
see fit to deprive all Hebrews of office, this mighty Daniel, whom thy
grandfather called Belteshazzar, has been seen but seldom. But be it
known to thee, O king, that he is not utterly forgotten."
Without delay messengers were sent to the house of Daniel, and in a short
time a venerable person, with his hair silvered over, slowly marched into
the banqueting hall, and, without the least embarrassment, stood in the
presence of the pale and trembling Belshazzar.
"Art thou that Daniel who art of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my
grandfather brought from Judah? I have even heard of thee that the spirit
of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellence
are found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been
brought in before me, that they should read this writing and make known
unto me the interpretation thereof; but they could not show the
interpretation of the thing. Now, if thou canst read the writing and make
known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with
scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shall be the third
ruler in the kingdom."
Then Daniel answered and said before the king:
"Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another. Yet I will
read the writing to the king, and make known unto him the interpretation.
"O thou king! the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, and
majesty, and glory, and honor. All people, nations and languages trembled
and feared before him. Whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept
alive; whom he would he set up, and whom he would he put down. But when
his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed
from his kingly throne and his glory was taken from him; and he was
driven from the sons of men, and his heart was made like the beasts, and
his dwelling was with the wild asses. They fed him with grass like oxen,
and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till he knew that the Most
High God ruleth in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it
whomsoever he will. And thou, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thy heart,
though thou knewest all this, but hast lifted up thyself against the Lord
of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee,
and thou and thy lords, thy wives and thy concubines, have drunk wine in
them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron,
wood and stone, which see not, nor bear, nor know; and the God in whose
hand thy breath is, thou hast not glorified.
"This is the interpretation of the thing. Mene--God hath numbered thy
kingdom and finished it; Tekel--thou art weighed in the balances and found
wanting; Peres--thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and
Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put
a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him,
that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
. . . . . . .
As soon as Cyrus saw that the ditches, which they had long worked upon,
were finished, he began to plan for the execution of his vast design,
which as yet he had communicated to no one. He was informed that, in the
city, on a certain day, a great festival was to be celebrated, and that
the Babylonians, on occasions of that solemnity, were accustomed to pass
the whole night in drunkenness and debauchery. Of this impious feast we
have already spoken. Thus Providence furnished him with as fit an
opportunity as he could desire. He therefore posted a part of his troops
on that side where the river entered the city, and another part on that
side where it went out, and commanded them to enter the city that very
night by marching along the channel of the river as soon as ever they
found it fordable. Having given all necessary orders, he exhorted his
officers to follow him--that he was under the direction of the gods. In
the evening he gave orders to open the great receptacles, or ditches, on
both sides of the town, above and below, that the waters of the rivers
might run into them. By this means the Euphrates was quickly emptied and
its channel became dry. Then the two bodies of troops, according to their
orders, went into the channels, the one commanded by Gobryas and the
other by Gadates, and advanced toward each other without meeting any
Thus did these two bodies of troops penetrate into the very heart of the
city without opposition. According to agreement, they met together at the
royal palace, surprised the guard, and slew them. The company, hearing
the tumult without, opened the door. The Persian soldiers rushed in. They
were met by the king with his sword in hand. He was slain, and hundreds
of his drunken associates shared the same fate. Thus terminated the great
banquet of Belshazzar, where the God of heaven was wickedly blasphemed;
and thus terminated the Babylonian empire, after a duration of two
hundred and ten years from the first of Nabonassar's reign, who was the
IMMEDIATELY after the taking of Babylon, Cyrus ordered a day of public
thanksgiving to the gods, for their wonderful favors and their kind
interposition; and then, having assembled his principal officers, he
publicly applauded their courage and prudence, their zeal and attachment
to his person, and distributed rewards to his whole army. He also
reviewed his forces, which were in a spirited condition. He found they
consisted of 120,000 horse, 2,000 chariots armed with scythes, and
When Cyrus judged he had sufficiently regulated his affairs at Babylon,
he thought proper to take a journey into Persia. On his way thither he
went through Media, to visit Darius, to whom he carried many presents,
telling him at the same time that he would find a noble palace at Babylon
ready prepared for him whenever he should please to go thither. After a
brief stay in Persia, he returned to Babylon, accompanied by his uncle,
where they counseled together a scheme of government for the whole
The fame of Daniel, as one who had served under so many kings in Babylon,
and also as one to whom the gods had imparted a miraculous degree of
wisdom, was spread throughout the city and provinces of Babylon; and,
since his appearance before the king as the interpreter of the mysterious
handwriting on the night of the fatal banquet, his name was held in great
reverence by all the dignitaries of that city.
In a magnificent apartment of the king's palace in the conquered city of
Babylon, sat together, in earnest conversation, Darius the Mede, and
Cyrus the hero of Persia.
"Thou well sayest that he is neither a Mede nor a Persian," said Cyrus,
"neither is he a Chaldean. He was brought from the land of Judah, a
captive, about the commencement of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. From what I
can learn of his history, he was soon placed under tutors, and
outstripped all his companions and became a great favorite of the, king.
He was soon elevated to posts of honor, and, with the exception of short
intervals, he has been the first officer in the kingdom for more than
threescore years. He receives wonderful revelations from the gods, and
the fall of Babylon came to pass according to his predictions. Now,
uncle, to me it appears far more important to secure the services of an
individual, be he even a foreigner, whose head is filled with wisdom and
his heart with charity, than to place far inferior personages to fill
important offices because they are Medes or Persians. We have many wise
men among us, but among this people, whose manners and customs are so
different from our own, I fear we have none that can rule with that
profound wisdom which has always marked the course of this Hebrew sage. I
consider him by far the safest man to appoint as the chief president."
"In this most surely the illustrious son of my brother shall be
gratified," replied the Mede. "But why may we not have a short interview
with this wonderful man, who appears to have more the attributes of a god
than a mortal? Wouldst thou not be pleased to see him?"
"Then I shall send for him without delay."
A messenger was, therefore, hurried to the house of the ex-Prime Minister
of the Babylonian empire.
The Hebrew soon made his appearance, and such was the calm dignity of his
bearing, as he slowly walked into the presence of his superiors, that
both the Mede and the Persian unconsciously found themselves on their
feet to receive him.
"Our distinguished friend has readily complied with our request," said
the Persian, beckoning Daniel to a seat on his right.
"Throughout the days of my pilgrimage it has been my great pleasure to
render strict obedience to the will of my superiors in all things
consistent with the law of my God."
"Then thou considerest the law of thy God as having stronger claims on
thy obedience than the laws of thy king?"
"The law of Jehovah is supreme! By that law my life has been shaped; and
now, at its close, it is surely my joy and consolation."
"Precious sentiments from a noble Hebrew!" cried Cyrus, with feeling.
"And how long hast thou been a resident of Babylon?"
"Threescore and six years have passed away since thy servant bade adieu
to his native hills in the land of Judah, and came to this great city of
Babylon. The companions of my early days have mostly passed away, and
soon thy servant shall follow them."
"I trust that such a life shall be precious in the sight of the gods for
many years to come. Such is thy deep experience in the affairs of state,
that we have purposed in our hearts to appoint thee first president of
the provinces. Is Belteshazzar willing to serve the king in this
capacity, and shed honor upon the joint reign of the Medes and Persians?"
"My life, for the short period I may tarry among mortals, if ye consider
me worthy, will be consecrated to your service."
"Then, O Belteshazzar," answered Darius, "thou art, by our united power
and authority, appointed chief of the presidents. May the gods be thy
Soon after his appointment, Daniel, in humble reverence, left the
presence of the royal dignitaries, and slowly directed his footsteps
towards his own mansion.
"The praises of this man have not yet reached his real merits, Cyrus,"
said Darius. "Thou well sayest. There is a striking peculiarity in all
his movements that convinces the beholder that he is one among ten
"Thy stay in Babylon must be of short duration. Thou art soon off to the
wars. I also must soon return to Media; therefore, this appointing of the
presidents must be attended to without delay. On thee, I pray, let this
business rest; and whomsoever, in thy wisdom, thou shalt appoint, be
assured the appointment will receive my cordial approbation."
"In this I will strive to do the will of my kind uncle. I will call
together my council, and the thing shall soon be accomplished."
. . . . . . .
In the mansion of one of the presidents, in a delightful part of the city
of Babylon, sat together two men in deep and earnest conversation. One of
these, whose name was Kinggron, was the owner of the superb mansion. The
other, whose name was Fraggood, was his fellow president, under Daniel.
On some point of great moment they appeared to be well agreed; while
envy, mingled with anger, rested on each countenance.
"The king will soon be again in Babylon," said Kinggron, "and there is no
time to be lost. Whatever measure we resort to in order to replace this
old Hebrew, whose eye is upon us continually, must be attended to without
delay, for the king's stay among us will be of short duration."
"As soon as our companions come, I trust we shall be able to contrive
some measure that will remove this ever-watchful old Israelite far out of
our way. Does it not ill become the wisdom of Cyrus the Persian to place
over our heads this exacting old stranger, who is neither a Persian,
Mede, nor even a Chaldean, but a Hebrew, brought to the country as a
captive of war--and behold, surely he stands next to the king! One year
has gone. We have borne our grief in painful silence. The time for action
has arrived--he must be removed. Our combined wisdom must be brought to
bear on this one point, and no rest must we find until it is fully
The door opened and four persons silently walked into the apartment. They
were of middle age, and appeared to be on familiar terms with the two
presidents. They were all Medes, and appeared to be princes of the
provinces, and it was very soon evident that with the two superior
officers they were favorites.
"Let it be well understood," said Kinggron, "that this Daniel is greatly
in the favor of Cyrus; and, moreover, that he stands high in the
estimation of the king. Of Cyrus we have no present fear, seeing he is
out in the wars. This is well, for before him we would not dare to
complain. The king is in possession of far less power of discernment than
he, and with him, I trust, we must be successful."
"But," answered Bimbokrak, "we must have some cause--something specific to
offer as a ground of complaint against him before the king, or the
movement will utterly fail, and prove disastrous to ourselves."
"Thou art right, my good friend," answered the president, "perfectly
right. There must be a ground of complaint, and I trust we shall be able
to find it. We must find it!"
AGAIN the great city of Babylon was all excitement, and expectation was
raised to its highest pitch. The long-expected day had arrived, and the
grand entry of Darius the Mede was momentarily expected by an
enthusiastic and curious throng. By the Babylonians generally, their new
king was regarded in a favorable light. Such had been the profligacy and
tyranny of their late kings, that any change was hailed with gratitude;
and, moreover, the mildness of Darius toward them on a previous
visitation, when accompanied by Cyrus the Persian, had won their regard
and affection. Thousands of the people had gone without the walls to meet
him, and tens of thousands were seen thronging the public grounds in the
vicinity of the royal palaces. At last the monarch's triumphal train
appeared in the distance, the shining spears and bright armor of his
guard glittering in the clear sunbeams. Nearer and nearer they
approached, and entered the city; and, amid enthusiastic shouts, the
monarch was escorted to the royal palace.
Darius the Mede was far from being a man of stern moral worth and true
decision of character. He was rather weak in mind and easily flattered.
Nevertheless he was a man of tender feelings, and cruelty was no part of
his nature. He was greatly elated with the warm reception he had received
at the hands of the Babylonians, and now or never was the time for the
foul conspirators to try their power with the king.
The two presidents, accompanied by the four princes, soon made their
appearance in the presence of the king.
"Welcome into the presence of your sovereign!" said the king in a
pleasant mood. "Let the full desires of your hearts be made known to the
king, and with pleasure he will grant your every wish."
"O king, live forever!" replied President Fraggood. "Thou art a mighty
ruler. Thy dominions are unbounded. Thy rich possessions are found in
every clime. The name of Darius falls on the ears of the kings of the
earth, and they tremble. In thy wisdom thou hast set over the provinces
of Babylon an hundred and twenty princes, and over these thou hast set
three presidents, the first of whom is Daniel, a man mighty in wisdom and
understanding. Now, O king, thou knowest that these provinces are united,
and may the gods forbid that anything should ever transpire to dissolve
this glorious union. Thy servants have some reason to fear that among
some of the inhabitants of these northern provinces there is a
disposition to think that the commands of the king are not absolute, and
that in certain cases they may be disregarded. Far be it from us to think
that this feeling prevails to any serious extent. We are happy to know
that, in all the southern provinces, they are abundantly loyal; and,
indeed, in the northern provinces this rebellious and dangerous
disposition is confined to a few mischievous fanatics; but it is a
poisonous plant, O king, that must be destroyed in the bud. If such
looseness is permitted to go unpunished, how long will it be before our
beloved union is shivered to ruined fragments? We have had this subject
under our most serious consideration. We have thought over it with
throbbing hearts. Some measure must be resorted to that will impress the
inhabitants with the matchless greatness of our king, and convince them
that, when he commands, he intends to be obeyed. Therefore, O king, with
nothing but the good of the nation at heart, thy servants the three
presidents, with all the princes, have enacted this law, and it is now
presented to thee for thy royal signature and seal:
"'It is hereby enacted, for the safety of the Union: Let no person offer
any prayer or petition to any god or man, except the king, for the space
of thirty days; and whosoever shall violate this decree shall be taken
and thrown into the den of lions.
"'Given under my hand, at the city of Babylon, on this twelfth day of the
ninth month, and sealed with the seal of the Medes and Persians, which
"In this, surely, there is nothing unreasonable," said the easily
flattered king. "My wise presidents and faithful princes could never
propose and advocate a measure that was not highly beneficial in its
results. That which has any tendency to weaken the glorious bond of our
union must be put down, and the safety of the united provinces must be
placed on an immovable basis. If, in your superior wisdom, ye have judged
that this law is called for, may the gods forbid that I should refuse to
give it countenance."
"The measure shall be hailed with universal joy, O king, among all thy
loyal subjects, and let those who dare disobey suffer the consequence!
From this day the name of Darius the Mede shall be a terror to every evil
doer, and all his enemies shall be put to shame."
"Let the king have the writing."
The writing was delivered over to the monarch by a hand that trembled
"It is surely a peculiar enactment," said the king, as he took the pen in
his hand. "I fail to see its strong points, but at this stage of my reign
I am not prepared to oppose a measure that is the offspring of the
combined wisdom of the realm. If my Persian nephew were present, I would
deem it advisable to have his opinion; but, as he is out in the wars, I
cannot avail myself of that."
So the king's name was given to the fatal parchment; and, moreover, it
was sealed with the seal of the Medes and Persians.
"The thing is done," said Darius. "Is there anything more that ye wish to
communicate to the king?"
"Thy goodness is ever abundant, O king," answered Fraggood. "This is all
that we have to present this day. Will the king accept our united
gratitude for the kind manner in which we have been received into the
presence of the mightiest monarch that ever swayed a scepter? Long live
our matchless king! We shall no longer trespass on thy time. We return to
our respective stations, to carry out the pleasure of our king."
The conspirators, with bounding hearts, made their way in haste and
entered the house of President Fraggood, and there gave vent to the
fiendish joy of their malicious hearts at the success of their nefarious
"Now we must be on the watch," said Kinggron, "or he will, after all,
escape. Let three of our number be appointed, and let them be called 'The
Union Safety Committee,' whose business it shall be to mark well the
movements of the old Hebrew, and prepare, for all emergencies, ready
answers for the ears of the king."
"Thou hast well thought," answered Fraggood, "for I apprehend that as yet
we are not quite out of danger. I fear this measure will be repulsive to
the king, when he thinketh of it in all its parts; and more repulsive
still, when he finds the first transgressor to be none other than the
first president. Let us be prepared for the mighty contest! This is a
movement that will justify desperate measures. Things must be resorted to
that, in other matters, would be justly condemned. The object in view
must justify our every step. Our words have gone forth to the king that
this law is the fruit of the calm deliberations of all the presidents.
Now, in regard to the future of this matter, there must be no cowardly
apologies, no lame explanations, no faltering embarrassment, nor weak
equivocation. Let us still unitedly adhere to every statement that we
have made. And shall the testimony of one be strong enough to impeach the
testimony of six men? Nay, verily! Let us, therefore, be firm, and we
shall not only succeed in condemning the old Israelite, but also prove
him a liar. Are we now ready to swear solemnly, in the presence of the
gods, that our testimonies, if called before the king, shall say that
this Daniel was concerned in framing this law?"
"All ready, most noble Fraggood!" was the united reply.
"Then we swear!"
The next day, by order of the presidents, the streets of Babylon rang
with the proclamation of the new law. Heralds were sent to and fro, who,
at the top of their voices, sounded the peculiar edict throughout every
thoroughfare. At first it was thought by many to be a mischievous hoax,
but it was soon found to be stern reality. Nothing could exceed the
astonishment and consternation produced among the inhabitants when they
first heard it; it was so unlike anything they could expect from the mild
Mede. Not only among the Hebrews, who were numerous in the city, was this
singular law looked upon as monstrous in its nature, but also by the
great body of Chaldeans, many of whom were warmly attached to the worship
of their gods. The shortness of the period in which it was to be
enforced, however, served to quiet them in a manner. Thirty days would
soon be over, and then they would closely watch the future movements of
their new king.
The "Union Safety Committee" acted well their part. Daniel, perfectly
acquainted with all their movements, gave himself no uneasiness. With
full confidence in his God, he rolled his burden upon Jehovah, and felt
the perfect assurance that all would be well.
To Fraggood and Kinggron the devotional hours of the first president were
well known; and at such hour it was necessary that they should, under
some pretense, find their way into his worshiping chamber. To find such
an excuse was but the work of a moment to those so expert in mischievous
plots as the two presidents.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, when the loud voices of
the heralds proclaiming the peculiar enactment fell on his ears, he laid
by his parchment, closed his eyes for a moment in silent devotion, then
rose and calmly entered that little chamber, where he had so often, for
so many years, bowed before the God of his fathers. There he had sat for
many hours in silent meditation on the length of Judah's captivity, and
cried, "How long, O Lord, how long!" A dear spot to the man of God that
little chamber had been for many a long year.
"From the days of my childhood I have prayed to the God of my fathers,"
soliloquized Daniel. "I well remember when, by the side of my mother,
while I was yet but a little child, I bowed the knee in humble adoration
of my God. From that day to this, throughout my long, weary pilgrimage, I
have always prayed and offered my petitions to the Most High. And am I
now to be frightened in my old age from the worship of my God through the
fear of the lions? Is this the strength of Daniel's faith? I laugh to
scorn their blasphemous law!"
Soon after Daniel had left for his devotional exercises, the members of
the "Union Safety Committee" (Fraggood, Bimbokrak and Scramgee) were seen
on their way from the house of Kinggron, moving in the direction of the
house of the first president.
"If we find him in prayer before his God," said Fraggood, "we shall not
be called upon to offer any excuse for our calling. We will ask
forgiveness for the intrusion and retire. But if we find him otherwise,
our object seems reasonable indeed."
"May the gods grant that we need not speak of our object," said
By this time the "committee" had arrived at the door of the mansion.
Fraggood led the way into the office; but the first president was not
"Hark ye!" whispered Fraggood. "Hark!"
"It is the voice of prayer!" said Bimbokrak.
"Silently! Silently!" answered Scramgee, "or he will surely hear us."
"Follow me!" said the president. "Tread lightly!"
The "committee," with beating hearts and light footsteps, sought the
chamber whence came the sound of prayer. They soon found the spot; the
door was open, and the man of God, on his bended knees, was engaged in
They gazed upon him for a moment; he saw them not, for his countenance
was turned in another direction. Fraggood did not wish to return without
acquainting Daniel of his presence, but still he wished to escape an
interview. Therefore, in a voice that the first president would surely
hear, he said:
"We beg pardon for this intrusion. Let us not disturb our most excellent
friend whilst he makes his petitions to his God."
The Hebrew prophet gently turned his head, but he saw only the receding
forms of the members of the "committee" as they hastened to the street
below, and so he continued his supplications to the God of his fathers.
The "Union Safety" men were soon back again at the house of President
Kinggron, and great was the demonstration of joy at the promised success
of their malignant plot.
The next morning witnessed again the guilty form of the leading
conspirator, with his two accomplices, on the way towards the king's
palace. They were admitted, and were soon in the presence of their king.
"And what good thing do the presidents desire of the king?" asked Darius,
in rather a surly mood, for, the more he thought of their new statute,
the more repulsive it appeared in his sight.
"O king, live forever!" replied Fraggood, with a deceitful smile on his
countenance. "Hast thou not signed a decree that every man that asketh a
petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall
be cast into the den of lions?"
"The thing is true," answered the king, "according to the laws of the
Medes and Persians, which altereth not."
"Then it is made our painful duty to inform thee that Daniel, which is of
the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor
the decree that thou has signed; but maketh his petition three times a
"Daniel!" replied the king. "I know of no Daniel but my worthy first
president, whom ye say assisted in making this law."
"This same Daniel, O king, thy first president, is the guilty one!"
answered Fraggood. "After having exerted his influence with thy servants
to make the law, he is now the first of all to transgress. In this he
hath but sought an opportunity to show thee, O king, how utterly he
disregardeth all thy wise commandments."
"What!" said the king, suddenly rising to his feet. "Daniel, the first
president in the kingdom? Daniel, noted for his wisdom and prudence?
Impossible! Ye have been wrongly informed! Beware how ye thus accuse the
best man in Babylon!"
"Thy servants wonder not at thy astonishment, O king! If we had not been
eye-witnesses to the thing, we could have in no wise believed it; but the
eyes and ears of thy servants are witnesses against him. He offers his
petitions, and tramples upon the authority of our king."
"His petitions!" cried the excited king. "And to whom does he offer his
"He daily offers his petitions to his God, O king!"
"His God! Wiseman! Who can--But--If--Say ye not that Daniel was
concerned in making this law?"
"Yea, verily, O king! May the gods forbid that we should utter aught but
truth in the presence of King Darius!"
"To me it seemeth a strange thing that Daniel, the worshiper of the God
of Israel, should frame a law that bears oppressively on himself and upon
thousands of his nation within the realm. And it seemeth still more
strange to the king that he should be the first transgressor! Already
have I sorrow of heart because I signed the decree; but the thing is
done, and my name must go down to posterity as the name of a fool. There
is a mystery connected with this affair that to me, as yet, is
inexplicable. If by any means I find that I have been wrongly dealt with,
by all the gods I swear I will pour vengeance on the guilty heads!"
"If thou wilt permit the four princes to testify, they will say, with thy
servant, that this Daniel was the chief mover in the formation of this
"At present I have no desire to hear from any of the princes. But to
think of casting Daniel into the den of lions is mournful beyond
description--it must not be done!"
"So say we all, O king, when we consult our feelings; but the decree is
signed according to the law of the Medes and Persians, and cannot be
altered. The honor of the king depends upon the faithful execution of all
his laws; and if in this one point thou failest and let the guilty one
escape, thy subjects will laugh at thy timidity, and lawlessness will
prevail throughout our borders."
"Of this we may speak hereafter. I must see the first president and learn
more of this matter ere I take another step in this unhappy affair."
On the departure of the conspirators, the king immediately sent for
Daniel, and soon the Hebrew prophet stood in the presence of Darius the
Mede. On his countenance rested that same calm smile. The king gazed upon
him for a moment, and could not but notice the contrast between the
serene, noble countenance of the Hebrew prophet, and the uneasy, agitated
visage of President Fraggood.
"Thou standest before the king, O Daniel, accused as an evil doer! What
sayest thou for thyself?"
"What is the nature of thy servant's offense, O king?"
"Thou art accused of violating a law, chiefly of thine own making, by
offering thy petitions to thy God. To the king it seemeth strange indeed
that he who was the first mover in the formation of a new law, should be
the first one to transgress it. What meaneth all this?"
"I readily perceive by the words of thy mouth, O king, that thou hast
been greatly deceived in this matter. Thy servant had nothing to do in
forming a law whose every feature is repulsive to his soul and an insult
to the God he worshipeth. This law came from the enemies of thy servant,
for the purpose of his overthrow. Having failed in every other point,
with malicious hearts they have brought forward this measure, knowing
well that I could never yield it my obedience. With lying tongues have
they declared before thee that it received my approbation. It is true, O
king, that I have violated thy law; and, moreover, I must do so
hereafter. For fourscore years has thy servant offered his prayers to the
God of his fathers. When a little lad in the land of Judah, I was taught
by a beloved mother to lisp the name of Jehovah. From that time to this,
O king, at morning, noon and eventide, thy servant has prayed to his God.
And is Daniel to be frightened from his duty now in his old age? Nay, O
king! My prayers must daily ascend to the throne of the Most High! Sooner
would I suffer a thousand deaths than prove a traitor to the God of
The king was deeply moved by the words of the aged Hebrew, and continued
for some time in deep silence. At last he rose to his feet, and, with a
voice trembling with anger, exclaimed:
"By the gods! If these presidents have come before me with lying words, I
will cut them in pieces, and leave them neither root nor branch! Daniel,
if thou sayest, I will have them arrested and destroyed! This very hour
the word shall go forth!"
"Nay, O king! Listen to the counsel of thine aged servant. This hasty
movement would not be well received among thy subjects. The decree has
gone forth. I pray thee let the law have its course, but be assured, O
king, that not a hair of thy servant's head shall be injured. The God
that I serve and in whom I trust, shall deliver me from every danger, and
no weapon formed against me shall prosper. Hereafter do with mine enemies
as thou seest fit. Be assured, O king, that my life is as secure among
the lions as in the presence of my kind sovereign! The same God that
preserved my cousins alive in the midst of a burning, fiery furnace, can
easily shut the mouths of the lions, and make them as harmless as the
little lambs of the flock."
Here the king was melted into tears; and, so deeply was he affected, that
for a long time he was unable to speak. At last, in a low key, he spoke:
"O Daniel, this thing must never come to pass! May the gods forbid that I
should endanger the life of my servant! But the writing is signed! My
heart is sad! My soul is sick!"
"Let not the king be sore troubled on account of his servant," said
Daniel. "The God of heaven shall certainly overrule this matter to his
"Thou mayest return, Daniel," said the king. "I know not what to do. I
fear I have been greatly deceived."
"The word of thy servant, in a case like this, is not sufficient to
gainsay the testimony of six witnesses. When the proper hour arrives, the
king shall learn from other lips than mine the deep iniquity of these
foul conspirators. Adieu, O king! Let Jehovah use his own measures for
the vindication of his own law!" And the first president left the royal
On that night Darius the Mede laid his head on his pillow with the full
purpose of delivering Daniel.
Early on the morrow, the "Union Safety Committee," accompanied by the
other three, made their way into the presence of the king.
"Ye are punctual!" said the king, with a meaning glance.
"We take unbounded pleasure in obeying all the requirements of our king,"
said Fraggood, "and may the gods curse all those that are disobedient!"
"Since ye left my presence yesterday, I have had an interview with the
first president, and from his venerable lips I learn that he had no voice
in the formation of this law that ye say he hath violated."
"This is as thy servant expected, O king!" answered Kinggron. "What
transgressor do we ever find that will not strive to hide his guilt?"
"Daniel strives not to hide his guilt," replied the king in a firm tone.
"He freely acknowledges that he violated the law, and moreover he assures
me that he will continue to violate it three times every day. Thus ye
perceive that the first president wishes not to hide his guilt, nor even
to escape the punishment. But with all the weight of reason, consistency
and humanity on his side, he pronounces the law at war with all goodness,
and denies having had any part in bringing it into existence. Now, with
all due respect to your testimonies, which, in point of law, must
outweigh the declaration of one man, I freely acknowledge to you, my
presidents and princes, that it is my firm conviction that ye are a band
of unprincipled liars, fully bent on the destruction of this Daniel!"
At this plain, royal truth, the "Union Safety Committee" turned pale, and
the other three appeared to be similarly affected. But Fraggood,
recovering his self-possession, hastened to the rescue.
"Then my lord the king had rather believe a man that defies his power by
boasting his determination to violate the king's decree at least three
times a day, than his faithful servants who honor his laws, and who
desire to bring the guilty to punishment. Let not the king be deceived by
the smooth tongue of this intriguing old Israelite, who can by the
eloquence of his lips give to truth the color of falsehood, and to
deception the appearance of sincerity. Thy servants now in the presence
of the king are ready to prove all the declarations of thy servants who
testified in thy presence yesterday. But what would avail their testimony
in the ears of Darius? But, O king, remember that thy decree hath gone
forth, and it cannot be recalled. And, moreover, it is well understood in
Babylon that Daniel sets thy power at defiance, and thy decision in this
matter is watched for by tens of thousands; and if this Daniel escapes
the punishment of the law, we may as well burn up our statute books and
give absolute liberty to every ruffian and desperado. Law and order will
be at an end, the union of the provinces will be forever dissolved, and
confusion and desolation shall follow. The question now to be settled is
not, 'How came this law to be enacted?' but, seeing that it is enacted,
is there power enough in the king of the Medes and Persians to put it in
force; and, if there is, will he do it? Or does he wish us to retire from
his presence and send forth heralds through the streets of Babylon to
inform the people that the decree enacted a few days ago, and signed
according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which changeth not, is
abolished? Shall it be told in the streets of this proud city that Darius
the Mede has so quickly changed his mind and is sorry for what he hath
done, because one of his favorites has violated the law? Thou saidst
yesterday that thy name would go down to posterity as the name of a fool.
The king was far from being believed by thy servant then, but, if thou
persistest in this determination of letting the guilty escape, I know not
but thou wilt cause to be brought about the fulfillment of thine own
Long and severe was this interview between the king and the conspirators,
and all the weight of their ingenuity was brought to bear on his mind. It
failed to convince him that Daniel's words were false; yet, partly from a
false view of consistency, and partly from the advice of the first
president, he gave his signature to the death warrant of the old
THE news of the condemnation of the Hebrew prophet soon spread through
all Babylon, and the hour of his execution was well known. It was the
great theme of conversation among high and low, rich and poor, and there
were but few who were not horrified at the awful doom of the man of God.
No man in Babylon was better known or more universally beloved than the
old prime minister of Nebuchadnezzar. His long residence in the city had
rendered his name familiar to the populace, and a vast number held him in
respect bordering on veneration. His mild and friendly deportment
whenever brought into the society of the common people, had won their
affection. The poor and the needy had ever found relief at his door. The
little children even claimed the aged prophet as their friend. He found
it not beneath the dignity of his station to speak to them in the street,
put his hand on their heads, and say, "May Jehovah bless my little
In the vicinity of the first president's mansion were seen numerous
groups of persons engaged in low conversation, while deep sorrow was
visible on every countenance. These gatherings gradually swelled to one
solid mass of human beings. The doors of the president's house were
closed, and thick curtains' were drawn across the lattices, and no one as
yet appeared to enter those portals. Presently the throng was in
commotion, several chariots halted before the door, and a number of
government officials alighted, and, with slow steps, and solemn
countenances, they ascended the steps, entered, and closed the door. A
peculiar gathering that! A solemn, sad throng! All conversation had
ceased. The stillness was broken by the sudden appearance of several
platoons of soldiers, who took their stand and formed a square in front
of the mansion. The door at last opened, and two uniformed officers
appeared side by side, and slowly marched out. Next appeared the sheriff,
with the prisoner leaning on his arm. On the broad platform he waited for
a moment, evidently to permit some of his near friends to embrace him
before they parted. Thick and fast they gathered around the aged saint,
with loud weeping and lamentation; but soon their cries were drowned amid
the louder lamentations of the throng. Last of all there approached the
man of God two aged women, on whose countenances Time had tried in vain
to erase marks of loveliness and beauty.
With a smile, one of the twain took the hand of the prophet, and gently
"May Jehovah grant a happy night to his servant among the lions, and on
the morrow may we have a joyful meeting."
"God bless thee, dear Perreeza!" said the man of God.
The other one now approached, and, in a mild voice, said:
"Daniel, the servant of the living God, is secure in the midst of all his
foes. He that quenched the violence of the fire, shall tame the fury of
"Heaven smile upon the daughter of Barzello!" was the prophet's answer.
The procession was now formed, and soon reached the vicinity of the
lions' den, where thousands of the inhabitants had assembled to take the
last lingering look at their aged fellow-citizen. There also was the king
himself, with a number of his most intimate nobles. The soldiers moved
forward, and a clear space was prepared in front of the platform on which
the king and his friends stood.
The countenance of the monarch was pale, and his whole appearance gave
the beholder to understand that he was one of the unhappiest of mortals.
The conspirators were not permitted to occupy the platform with him, but
were commanded to stand together on his left.
When the prisoner arrived, he gently bowed and saluted the king, which
salutation was answered only by falling tears. The throng, witnessing the
emotion of the king, gave vent to their grief, and one loud wail
ascended. Then, indeed, did those conspirators tremble! Then did they
really learn the deep hold their victim had on the popular mind. Again
the agitation was partially quieted, when the loud roaring of lions
within made the earth tremble. The awful moment was drawing nigh! Daniel
ascended some steps near by, and having had permission from the king,
proceeded, in a few words, to address the multitude:
"Babylonians! with naught of malice in my heart against any man, and with
perfect good feeling toward the king, I yield myself to the demands of a
broken law. Here, in the presence of the God of my fathers, whom I
worship, and in the presence of my king, whom I respect, and in the
presence of this throng, whose tears flow for my sorrow, and in the
presence of these mine accusers, who thirst for my blood, I solemnly
declare, that as first president in the kingdom, I never was consulted
in regard to the making of this law, that is about to consign your aged
servant to the lions. In honor to my king, who now laments the sad fate
of his unworthy president, let me also testify that in order to persuade
him to sign a decree which had never entered his heart, the most
deliberate falsehoods were poured into his ears, by those whose only
object was the overthrow of Daniel. After more than threescore years of
public service, I cheerfully submit to my fate, knowing well that
Jehovah, the God of Israel, in whom I trust, will direct this whole
matter to his own glory. Hereafter it will be known in Babylon, that it
was not the 'safety of the Union' that demanded the enactment of this
cruel law; but that it was conceived in envy, and brought forth in
malice, and thoughtlessly signed by our king, who considered all his
presidents to be men of benevolence, wisdom, and understanding. For
violating this law I ask no forgiveness. Sooner would I suffer a
thousand deaths than prove a traitor to the religion of my fathers.
Babylonians, I say no more! Accept my thanks for your tears! May Jehovah
continue to grant you great prosperity, when your friend Daniel shall
have passed away."
Then turning to those whose painful duty it was to lead him to the den,
"Now I am ready."
The executioners, with trembling hands, laid hold of the aged prisoner,
and led him to the door of the den. Again there was an awful roaring of
lions. As he passed the king on his way to the den, the monarch cried
"Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will surely deliver thee!"
The prisoner was seized with strong hands and elevated over the inner
walls, and by means of strong cords was lowered to the bottom of the den,
where the ravenous lions held their nightly revels. The executioners, as
if afraid to hear the prisoner's dying shrieks, hastened away. The throng
soon dispersed in sorrowful silence. The king, in deep agony of mind,
entered his chariot, and was driven to the palace.
How sad was that night for royalty! Filled with remorse for having signed
the fatal decree, and knowing not how to retrace his steps or to retrieve
the effects of his rash act, the king passed the hours in agony. With a
heavy heart and a throbbing brow, he paced the length of his royal
bedchamber, and thus did he converse with himself:
"How he justified the king, almost with his dying breath! Ah! but I
justify not myself. Why did I sign that silly and cruel decree, by which
the prime jewel of my kingdom is lost? Why did I not consider the thing
well, and consult the first president? Alas! it is now too late. The deed
is done, and there is no remedy! How the multitude sympathized with the
noble prisoner! How copious their tears and how audible their sobs! How
beloved in the estimation of the populace was that aged Daniel! What
think they by this time of my prudence and wisdom? Have I not lost in
this the estimation of my people? Will his God, indeed, deliver him? Is
he not already torn by the lions? How cruel a fate for so worthy a man!
But if Daniel is spared, no thanks to me! Will not this people inwardly
curse me, and wish me out of their borders? What poor returns to them,
for the grand reception they gave me! What will my nephew, Cyrus, think
of my sagacity and power of discernment!"
. . . . . . .
Let us for a while leave the unfortunate Mede, and take a view of the
hero of the lions' den.
When Daniel was thrust among the lions, the sun was yet one hour above
the western horizon, and the light from the top of the den, made the
interior comparatively light. When he found himself at the bottom, for a
minute he walked to and fro, then fell on his knees, and began to pour
his prayers into the ears of the God of his fathers. The lions, quite
unaccustomed to such a sight, looked on for a while in silent wonder.
Then they ran together to the other end of the den, where the old lion of
all--the "lord of the manor"--and his aged companion, the old lioness, the
mistress of the "establishment," were, heedless of the youthful pranks
and occasional quarrels of their offspring, enjoying a good, comfortable
sleep. A loud roar from one of the youngsters, which was answered by
another louder roar from his companion, aroused the energies of the old
couple. They uttered an ill-natured growl, very much on the same
principle that anyone else would on being unnecessarily disturbed in the
midst of a nap. Perhaps the growl was equivalent to, "Children, you are
very rude. Make less noise, or I shall attend to you!" This reproof (if
reproof it was) did not seem in the least to frighten the young lions.
One of them, the one that roared the loudest, put his head close to that
of his sire, and if he said anything, it was in so low a whisper that it
could not be heard at any distance. From what immediately followed, one
might think the young chap said something in this fashion:
"Get up quickly! Come to the other end of the den, and there you will see
a sight that you never saw before in all your days. There is another
victim; but he has no more the appearance of common victims than thou
hast. I know by his eye he has no fear of the lions. Why, think! as soon
as he came to the bottom of the den, he walked to and fro among us as
deliberately as my brother here, or myself, would walk among our
After the whispering was over (if whispering it was), the old lion
uttered another growl, as much as to say, "That sounds to me rather
improbable, but I guess I will go and see for myself." The old lion led
the way. Close by his heels followed the lioness. Next in order followed
the rest of the family. They soon arrived at the spot, and sure enough,
it was as the young lion had declared. The old lion paused for a moment,
but he soon made up his mind that there was nothing to fear. So he slowly
approached. He paused again. Daniel reached out his hand and spoke. The
lion fancied the peculiarity of that voice; so with eyes half closed he
slowly walked up to the man, and with the innocence and harmlessness of a
young spaniel, he licked the hand of the prophet. After having partially
conquered his embarrassment, he uttered another low growl, and looked
toward the rest of the company, as much as to say, "Come this way! Don't
They slowly and silently gathered around the strange visitor, and each
one appeared to be pleased to be permitted to come in contact with his
person in some way. And when the darkness of night gathered around them,
the old lion answered for Daniel's pillow, the lioness lay at his feet,
and the young lions stretched themselves on either side, to keep him
warm; and soon the Prophet of Jehovah was fast asleep.
. . . . . . .
If ever a sleepless mortal, wearied with the tediousness of a painful
night, rejoiced to see the first glimmering dawn of the morn, King Darius
did, after that dark, dreary period of agony. No sooner was it fairly day
than the monarch ordered his chariot, and, with a number of his nobles,
he was once more on his way toward the den of lions. The royal chariot,
as it moved through the various thoroughfares, attracted the notice of
the inhabitants. Its destination was understood, and as there was some
faint hope in the minds of thousands that the God of Daniel would
miraculously interfere and save his servant, they had accordingly held
themselves in readiness to be early at the den. They, therefore, with all
haste followed in the direction of the royal train. The king was greatly
astonished to find already there a large number of the inhabitants. The
movements and excitement of the people had also brought to the spot the
six conspirators, who were greatly astonished to see the king. The
monarch, in trembling accents, ordered the stone to be removed from the
door of the den. The order was quickly obeyed. While every eye rested
upon him, the king entered and stood inside of the outer door, and cried,
in a loud voice:
"Oh, Daniel! is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver
thee from the lions?"
Oh, the breathless silence of that moment! A thousand hearts throb with
deep emotion, in painful suspense to learn the result. Hark! A voice
clear and firm ascends from the depths, and falls on the ears of the
"O king, live forever!"
It was enough! Gladsome shouts echoed from a thousand tongues! The joy
was unbounded. Their sorrow for their old friend was turned into joy, and
the name of the God of Daniel was praised.
Immediate orders were given to bring the old Hebrew up, and soon he stood
in the presence of the king and the rejoicing throng.
Then said Daniel, turning to the king, "My God hath sent his angel, and
hath shut the mouths of the lions, that they have not hurt me; forasmuch
as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king,
have I done no hurt."
An aged man at this moment was seen making his way through the crowd, as
if endeavoring to find admittance into the presence of the king. His
venerable appearance served to make for him room.
"We meet again, Apgomer!" cried Daniel, in a familiar, friendly voice:
and then to the king he said:
"This is my good friend Apgomer, O king, one of the few friends of my
early days. He hath words to communicate to the king, in the presence of
this throng, that will give thee to understand clearly that this law was
prepared on purpose to ensnare thy servant Daniel."
"Let my worthy friends, Fraggood and Kinggron, with their four
companions, the princes, stand in this direction!" said the king, with an
angry expression of countenance.
The conspirators, with paleness gathering on their brows, obeyed, and
tremblingly stood facing the king.
"Now, O Daniel, thy friend Apgomer may give his testimony before the
"O king, live forever!" said Apgomer. "This day thy servant is fourscore
and ten years old. From the days of my childhood have I dwelt in Babylon;
and never for any long period have I departed hence. Soon thy servant
shall leave this world of sorrow--I stand on the verge of the grave. At
this time, with deep soberness, I appeal to the God that dwelleth in
light for the sincerity of my purpose in thus appearing before my lord
the king. My words will be few, therefore, O king, I pray thee hear me
"These men who now stand before thee and by whose continual importunity
thou gavest thy signature for the arrest of thy servant Daniel, are
wicked and deceitful men, and with lying words have they deceived thee, O
king. Their secret devices are well known to thy servant. With mine own
ears have I listened to their midnight plotting; and from their own lips
have I learned their fixed purpose to destroy the innocent without cause,
even thy servant Daniel. For many months, O king, these cruel men have
sought an occasion against the first president, and after having failed
in every other point, they thought at last of this.
"I heard the plot described at midnight recently while resting in the
public garden. The conspiracy was led by Fraggood and Kinggron. They were
assisted by a number of the princes, among whom are Bimbokrak and
Scramgee. This foul movement has been going on for many a day, but until
last week the conspirators could not agree on a plan. At last, Prince
Scramgee brought forward a scheme, which met with the cordial approval of
the rest. And who but the chief evil spirit of the universe could have
put in his heart such a horrible measure? It was in effect that a law be
enacted that anyone who prayed to the God of Israel should be cast into
the lions' den. When I made thy servant Daniel acquainted with the plot
against his life, his only reply was:
"'Let them proceed in their scheme of wickedness. Let it become ripe. The
God in whom I trust shall vindicate the honor and superiority of his own
law. I might easily frustrate all their malicious designs by acquainting
the king with their cowardly plots; but the cause of Jehovah shall gather
more strength from a miraculous display of his power in the preservation
of his servant from harm. Forty years ago, idolatry in Chaldea received a
blow, from the effects of which it has never recovered, in the miraculous
deliverance of my three cousins from the midst of a burning, fiery
furnace. And if a visit to the lions for a few hours may cause the name
of Jehovah to be feared, I ask for no greater honor. No weapon formed
against the servant of Jehovah shall prosper. Let not my good friend
Apgomer be troubled. The life of Daniel is as safe in the lions' den as
among his friends at his own home. Therefore let them proceed with their
malicious measures; let no impediment be thrown in their way. Let them
have a few days of rejoicing, and their brief nights of merriment. Soon
the day of retribution shall overtake them; for He that is higher than
the highest shall surely avenge himself on these workers of iniquity.'"
"Believe not this man, O king!" said the pale and trembling Fraggood,
"seeing he prepareth lying words before thee."
At this moment a young man, whose countenance denoted some passion,
rushed on the stage, and, without any apology or ceremony, began to
"Let not the worthy and aged Apgomer be called a liar! A lie never
escaped those venerable lips, O king! As soon may the gods lie! Thy
servant is the doorkeeper of the Garden. I can testify to the existence
of a plot to destroy Daniel."
"It is enough!" cried the king. "Seize the guilty wretches! Let the
cowardly liars meet the doom they had prepared for my servant Daniel! Up!
and throw them to the lions!"
No sooner were the words spoken than a score of willing hands seized the
forms of the conspirators, and, amid the curses of an indignant throng,
they were thrown to the depth of the den, to meet a far different fate
from that of the man of God.
Then spoke the king:
"I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom, men tremble and
fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast
forever, and his kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed, and his
dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he
worketh signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who hath delivered
Daniel from the power of the lions."
"O king, live forever!" cried the well pleased throng.
Daniel was taken into the royal chariot and seated by the side of the
king, and the royal train moved forward, amid the triumphant shouts of
Thus fidelity to the God of Israel was abundantly rewarded.
IN TWO years after these occurrences Darius the Mede died; and about the
same time died also Cambyses, the father of Cyrus, in Persia. Cyrus,
therefore, returned to Babylon, and took upon himself the government of
The history of the lions' den, with all the intrigues that led to it,
made Daniel thrice dear to the inhabitants of Babylon. His name commanded
reverence wherever it was mentioned, He was looked upon as an angel of
mercy, goodness, and wisdom, sent by the gods to bless the race.
Cyrus, for a long time, had desired the opportunity of a prolonged
interview with Daniel, of whom he had heard so many wonderful things,
both as a minister to the king of Babylon and also while administering
the affairs of the kingdom under the reign of his Median uncle. The
Persian was already well versed in current history. Of the God of Israel
he had heard much of late, and he felt a strong inclination to hear more.
And of whom could he learn to better advantage than of the famous Hebrew
prophet? The celebrated Persian, from his infancy, had been taught to
worship and adore the imaginary gods of his own country; but he had
always felt doubtful in regard to the existence of these gods; and many
of the popular theories of Persia, in regard to their various deities,
were, to him, full of inconsistencies and contradictions.
Not many days after his arrival in Babylon, the royal chariot was seen to
halt at the door of Daniel's residence; and, moreover, the king himself
was seen to enter.
"Thou wilt pardon this sudden intrusion," said Cyrus; "I have long
desired an interview with the president, and for this purpose I have
entered his house; the king is happy to find that he is not absent."
"My lord the king hath greatly honored his unworthy servant by entering
under his roof," said the old Hebrew. "This condescension of the great
Persian conqueror is a favor of such a magnitude that it shall never be
"Let not my aged friend Daniel speak thus," said the king, in a friendly
manner. "Call it not condescension in Cyrus to seek the society of one
who has justly earned the reputation of being the most profound statesman
that ever moved among mortals. Let the king rather consider himself
honored in being permitted to listen to thy words of wisdom and
"Humility becometh well the potentates of earth. But yet, O king, thou
beholdest not the real grandeur of thy mission. Thou knowest not that
thou art the peculiarly anointed--not of the gods, but of the only God of
heaven, the Almighty Jehovah, the God of Israel, to pour his wrath upon
the nations, and to restore the children of Judah to their own land."
"Thou hast touched a theme on which, above all others, at this time, the
king would choose to dwell. Of the gods I have but an imperfect
knowledge. Conscious am I that under the particular direction of some
invisible power I have been led forward in all my movements, from my
youth up. I was taught to worship the gods in my juvenile days; but ever
since I arrived at years of thought and judgment, my mind has been
greatly perplexed by what seemeth to me to be glaring inconsistencies in
our theory of religion."
"Praised be the name of Jehovah, under whose direction thou comest at
this time to seek knowledge! Happy is thy servant Daniel to know that he
is indeed able to impart unto the king that which he inquireth after.
Jehovah is the only God, and the signs which he hath in all ages given of
himself, O king, are abundant. We hear much of the exploits of the gods
of the heathen; but of these performances there are no proofs, and they
exist only in the imaginations of their worshipers. Not so with our God--
the God that made the world. The history of our nation, which history no
one can gainsay, is an assemblage of miracles. Examine the records of our
historian Moses, who conversed with God face to face. Our God brought us
out from under the dominion of Pharaoh with a strong hand and an
outstretched arm. He gave evidence of his presence by the infliction of
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