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These severe measures awed the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, and of all the sea-coast unto Azotus and Askelon. In the spirit of fear, therefore, they sent ambassadors to Holofernes, to solicit peace. Holofernes granted it; but he put garrisons into their towns, and obliged them to furnish recruits for his army. He also destroyed the barriers on their frontiers, and cut down their sacred groves; and he destroyed "all the gods of the land, that all nations should worship Nabuchodonosor only, and that all tongues and tribes should call upon him as god," Judith iii. 8.
The little state of Judea, it would appear, still preserved its independence. Accordingly, after Holofernes had spent a full month in the plain of Esdraelon, on its confines, waiting to collect the carriages of his army, he encamped in the valley over against Bethulia, the key to the hill country of Judea, with an army increased to 170,000 foot, resolving to reduce it to the allegiance of Nabuchodonosor.
The particulars of the seige of Bethuliah, and its final deliverance by the heroine Judith, with the death of Holofernes, and defeat of his hosts, are recorded in the book that bears her name; but as that book is of somewhat doubtful authority, the details are here passed over.
Nabuchodonosor died about four years after, or B. c. 636; and he was succeeded by the last king of Nineveh,
SARAC, OR SARDANAPALUS.
This prince ascended the throne at a time when revolt and rebellion raged throughout the empire. The Medes once more took up arms, and they soon regained Ecbatana, and the territory they had lost. Nor did they stop here. Revenge, that evil composition of pride and cruelty, inflamed the warlike Cyaxares their king, and he attacked and defeated the Assyrians, and beseiged Nineveh.
His first attempts, however, proved abortive. He was himself attacked and defeated by a powerful Scythian army, who possessed themselves of Upper Asia, and ruled with great rigour for twenty-eight years. At the end of this time, B. C. 612, Cyaxares massacred their chieftains at a banquet, and shook off their yoke.
The design which Cyaxares had formed, of reducing Nineveh, was now renewed. He formed an alliance with Nabopolassar, king of Babylon, who, taking advantage of the disaster of Holofernes, had also recovered his independence ;
and a marriage having been concluded between Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, and Amytis, the daughter of Cyaxares, the kings of Babylon and Media jointly beseiged Nineveh.
According to Justin, Sardanapalus was a most effeminate prince, who betrayed great cowardice on the revolt of the Medes, and, instead of defending his crown, fled, after a feeble resistance, to his palace, and burned himself and his treasures in a pile erected for that purpose. Diodorus, however, gives a more probable account of the downfall of Nineveh. He states, that, relying upon an ancient prophecy, that Nineshould never be taken until the river became its enemy, Sardanapalus omitted nothing that prudence and courage could suggest for his defence and security. He sent his children, and a great part of his treasures, to his intimate friend Cotta, governor of Paphlagonia, and provided ammunition and provisions for the defence and support of the inhabitants. At length, after the confederates had beseiged the city for two years without effect, an unusual overflow of the Tigris, occasioned by heavy rains in the mountains of Ararat and sources of the river, occurred, and the water rising up to the city, threw down twenty furlongs of its great wall. Sarac, struck with dismay and despair at the unexpected fulfillment of the prophecy, burned his concubines, his treasures, and himself, upon a great pile, in the court of the palace, to avoid falling into the hands of the confederate kings. The enemy entered by the breach, and sacked the city, and raised it to the ground, after it had stood for about 1,900 years. [See the section on Nineveh.]
This event took place about B. c. 606; after which, Assyria was governed by the monarchs of Babylon; for the power of Assyria was now passed away as a shadow.
THE capture of Nineveh rewarded the Medes with independence, and the Babylonians with empire. The essential power of Assyria was, however, in the hands of the Babylonians before this transaction took place: it was only the crowning act, which placed Nabopolassar in the position of undisputed master of the empire.
The Babylonians and the Medes having destroyed Nineveh, became so formidable, that they drew upon themselves the jealousy of their neighbours. Pharaoh-nechoh, king of Egypt, was so alarmed at their power, that, to stop their progress, he marched towards the Euphrates, at the head of a powerful army, and made several conquests. [See the History of the Egyptians, page 146.]
In the fourth year after this expedition, Nabopolassar, observing, that since these conquests of Nekus, all Syria and Palestine had shaken off their allegiance to him, and that his years and infirmities would not permit him to march in person against the rebels, associated his son Nebuchadnezzar with him in the empire.
This young prince, B. c. 604, revenged his father's quarrel upon Nekus. He invaded Egypt, and stripped him of all his conquests, from the Euphrates to the Nile, so effectually, that the king of Egypt no more invaded his neighbours. 2 Kings xxiv. This event was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. See chap. xlvi.
The conquests of Nebuchadnezzar did not end here. He likewise entered Judea, besieged Jerusalem, and took it. At first, he caused Jehoiakim to be put in chains, with a design
to have him carried to Babylon; but being touched with pity at his repentance and affliction, he restored him to the throne. Great numbers of the Jews, and, among the rest, some children of the royal family, were carried captive to Babylon, whither the treasures of the king's palace, and a part of the sacred vessels of the temple, were likewise transported. Among the captives may be mentioned the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, and Mordecai was carried thither some time afterwards. Thus was the judgment which God denounced, by the prophet Isaiah, to king Hezekiah, accomplished. See 2 Kings xx. 16—18. From this famous epoch, therefore, B. c. 605, which was the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, must be dated the captivity of the Jews at Babylon, so frequently and so emphatically foretold by Jeremiah. See Jer. xxii. 13-26; xxv. 11; xxvi. 20-23; xxix. 10;
Towards the end of the year, B. c. 604, Nabopolassar king of Babylon died; and he was succeeded in his empire by his son
Berosus says, that Nebuchadnezzar having heard of his father's death while yet he was carrying on his conquests in Judea, left his Syrian, Phenician, Egyptian, and Jewish captives, with his heavy-armed troops and baggage, to the care of his friends or officers, to be conducted to Babylon, and went thither himself with a small party across the desert, to take possession of the kingdom, when he appointed the fittest stations in Babylonia to be colonized by the captives.
In the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Jehoiakim rebelled against him, whereupon his generals, who still remained in Judea, marched against him, and avenged the "innocent blood," which he and his people, following the example of Manasseh, had shed, 2 Kings xxiv. 2—4. The prophet Jeremiah had foretold his destruction in these words:
"Therefore thus saith the Lord
Concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah;
They shall not lament for him, saying,
They shall not lament for him, saying,
He shall be buried with the burial of an ass,
Drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem."
Jer. xxii. 18, 19.
His doom is referred to more explicitly, also, in another passage:
“Therefore thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim king of Judah;
In the day to the heat,
And in the night to the frost."-Jer. xxxvi. 30, 31.
Accordingly, as we learn from Ezekiel, in his figurative description of Jehoiakim, as another rapacious lion's whelp, succeeding Shallum, that
"The nations set against him on every side from the provinces, And spread their net over him:
He was taken in their pit.
And they put him in ward in chains,
And brought him to the king of Babylon."-Ezek. xix. 8,9.
That is, to Nebuchadnezzar, who "bound him," says the sacred historian, "in fetters," (foretold Hab. i. 6.) "to carry him to Babylon," 2 Chron. xxxvi. 6. It would appear, however, that Jehoiakim died before the king of Babylon's intentions could be carried into effect; and we may conclude that he was buried "with the burial of an ass," as a just reward for his abominations," 2 Chron. xxxvi. 8.
Jehoiakim was succeeded in his kingdom by Jehoiachin, who had not reigned more than three months and ten days, before Nebuchadnezzar sent to his servants to besiege Jerusalem; and he surrendered himself into their hands, and was brought to Babylon, where he remained in captivity all his days, 2 Kings xxiv. 8-12; Jer. lii. 31—34. This event was predicted by Jeremiah, chap. xxii. 24-27; who, also, foretold the failure of his succession.
"O earth! earth! earth! hear the word of the Lord.
Thus saith the Lord,
Write ye this man childless,
A man that shall not prosper in his days:
For no man of his seed shall prosper,
Sitting upon the throne of David,
And ruling any more in Judah."—Jer. xxii. 20, 30.
When Nebuchadnezzar deposed Jehoiachin, he appointed his uncle Zedekiah to reign in his stead, and none of his family reigned any more in Judah.
Zedekiah was neither more pious nor prosperous than his predecessors. Having made an alliance with the king of Egypt, he broke the oath of fidelity he had taken to the