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had the Scriptures frequently read and explained to them by the most learned amongst the Levites and other scribes, which at first it is likely they did in the same manner as Ezra; but the inconvénience of standing in the open street in all weathers, suggested the thought of building afterwards houses or tabernacles. for the purpose; and this seems to have been the original of synagogues, which soon multiplied like our parish-churches; for every town where there were ten persons of full age, and in easy circumstances of life, so as to have leisure to attend the public service, was at liberty to erect one, and in each of these synagogues was a copy of the law. The service performed in them consisted of prayers, reading the Scriptures, and preaching or expounding them. This was done two days in the week, besides on the Sabbath and the festivals. The law being divided into so many sections as there are weeks in the year, they read half a lesson on Monday morning, and the other half on Thursday morning, and this same lesson they read on the Sabbath both morning and afternoon; and when reading of the prophets was added to reading the law, the same order was observed in respect to them.
The hours of prayer, amongst the Jews, whether in their synagogues or private houses, were at the times of offering the morning and evening sacrifices in the Temple; for they supposed that the sacrifices and incense were designed to render GoD propitious to them, and to make their prayers acceptable. The priests and Levites only officiated in the Temple, but persons of any tribe were appointed for the service of the synagogue by some of the elders of the town, who were called rulers of the synagogue.
Great advantages arose from the practice of building synagogues, and reading and explaining the Scriptures:
for the Jews were never guilty of idolatry any more; but when they were afterwards scattered into various nations, they erected places for public worship whereever the rulers of the country would permit them. It was also by means of these synagogues that the heathens, where the Jews were dispersed, came to know the true GOD, and some general principles of virtue and piety.
Nehemiah, after he had been governor of Judea twelve years, returned to the Persian court: he staid about five years in Persia, and then was sent by the king with a fresh commission: during his absence many things had gone wrong, but he exerted his usual zeal to reform all irregularities. About four years after Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem, Artaxerxes died in the forty-first year of his reign: during his government, Nehemiah acted with great justice, and supported his office with a very expensive magnificence out of his own private purse, he had, as I said before, amassed great wealth, and thought he could not expend it better than in the service of God and his country, and in promoting RELIGION, and GOD prospered him accordingly.
Artaxerxes was succeeded by his son Xerxes the second, who was killed by his brother Sogdianus.
Sogdianus was put to death in a cruel manner by his brother Ochus.
Ochus obtained the kingdom, and changed his name to Darius, and is the same whom historians call Darius Nothus.
Nehemiah, during these revolutions, continued still in the government of Judea. Eliashib the high-priest, died in the 11th year of the reign of Darius Nothus, and was succeeded by Jehoiada.
This king permitted a man named Sanballat to erect a Temple on mount Gerizim, like that at Jerusalem,
and make his son-in-law, Manasses, high-priest of it. Manasses was one of those Jews who married heathen wives, and resolving not to give up his, had fled from Jerusalem to escape punishment; from this time Samaria became the common refuge and asylum of those Jews who were found guilty of breaking the sabbaths, &c. so that in time the greatest part of its inhabitants were apostate Jews. Those whom Essar-haddon had planted there, worshipped other gods besides the LORD: but these did not do so, for a book of the law was carried to Samaria, and publicly read; daily service was also performed there the same as at Jerusalem. Notwithstanding this, the Jews hated the Samaritans above all the people upon earth, and avoided all kind of converse and communication with them.
How long Nehemiah lived at Jerusalem after this is uncertain; but it is supposed he continued in the government to the time of his death. After him there
seems to have been no governor of Judea: but this ⚫ country being added to Syria, became wholly subjected to the governor of that province, and under him the high-priest had the charge of regulating all affairs there. Darius Nothus met with great disturbances, and after he had reigned nineteen years he died.
Nehemiah's exalted piety, his love for his country, extensive benevolence, judicious liberality, and manly courage, shew his character in a most amiable light, and render him worthy of the imitation of those who are blessed with power and affluence.
Ezra's example is deserving of the consideration of those whose business it is to instruct others in the duties of RELIGION; for he was indefatigable in the study of the Scriptures, and took infinite pains to render them intelligible and useful.
It has been observed before, that the LORD made
two COVENANTS with ABRAHAM, one relating to TEMPORAL PROSPERITY in the land of Canaan, the other to a general blessing to be conveyed through him to ALL MANKIND. We have seen the completion of the first, in the course of the history of the Israelites from Abraham to king David; and also know that the LORD made a covenant with David, and by what means his descendants forfeited the Divine favour; and that the Israelites, for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribe of Judah, for the sake of David, were miraculously preserved from utter destruction, although they had so frequently provoked the LORD by disobedience. Notwithstanding the general defection of God's chosen people, there were always some among them who adhered to the Divine law; but these were unavoidably involved in the public calamities which were inflicted on the disobedient: to comfort them, and warn the wicked to return to the LORD, a succession of prophets were sent, who foretold the various revolutions that would happen in the Jewish state and the heathen nations, with whom the Israelites were at different periods connected. We have read how exactly the prediction respecting the captivity of Israel and Judah were accomplished, and by what wonderful means their restoration to the land of their inheritance was effected; where they were once more governed by their own laws, and allowed to worship GoD in His holy Temple; but the children of Israel were not yet in so honourable a condition as formerly, being still under subjection to the heathens, and dispersed in different countries. The LORD had graciously provided a continual source of consolation for them, by revealing to the prophets, who committed these revelations to writing, that a farther deliverance would be wrought for the remnant of his faithful people by the coming of the
But we will pass over these prophecies at present, that we may read them with the New Tes tament, as the history of the events they treat of will be the best comment on them.
Let us now see what Daniel foretold concerning the fall of the Persian empire.
DANIEL'S VISION OF THE RAM AND THE HE-GOAT.
From Daniel, Chap. viii.
In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me, Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river Ulai.
Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and behold, , there stood before the river a ram which had two horns; and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.
And as I was considering, behold, an he-goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable born between his eyes.
And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.
And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was