Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

now by Cyrus, revolted from him; against whom he employed Pactias, and then Harpagus, who first reduced the Phocians under their former obedience, and then the rest of the Greeks inhabiting Asia the Less ; as the Ionians, Carians, iEolians, and Lycians, who resolvedly, (according to the strength they had,) defended themselves. But in the attempt upon Babylon itself, it is not to be doubted, that Cyrus employed all his forces, having taken order beforehand, that nothing should be able to divert him, or to raise that siege, and make frustrate the work upon which he did set all his rest. And great reason there was, that he should bend all his care and strength unto the taking of that city, which beside the fame and reputation that it held, as being head of an empire thereon depending, was so strongly fenced with a treble wall of great height, and surround, ed with waters unibrdable, so plentifully victualled for many years, that the inhabitants were not only free from all doubt and fear of their estate, but despised and derided all purposes and power of their besiegers.

The only hope of the Medes and Persians, who despaired of carrying by assault a city so well fortified and manned, was, in cutting off' all supplies of victuals and other necessaries; whereof though the town was said to be stored sufficiently for more than twenty years, yet might- it well be deemed, that in such a world of people as dwelt within those gates, one great want or other would soon appear, and vanquish the resolution of that unwarlike multitude. In expecting the success of this course, the besiegers were likely to endure much travail, and all in vain, if they did not keep strict watch and strong guards upon all quarters.

This was hard to do, in regard of the vast circuit of those walls which they were to gird in, with numbers neither great enough, nor of men sufficiently assured unto their commander; the consideration whereof ministered un,to the Babylonians matter of good pastime, when they saw the Lydlans, Phrygians, Cappadocians, and others, quartered about their town to keep them in', who having been their ancient friends and allies, were more likely to join with them, if occasion were offered, than to use much diligence on the behalf of Cyrus, who had, as it were yesterday, laid upon their necks the galling yoke of servitude. Whilst the besieged were pleasing themselves in this deceitful and vain gladness, which is the ordinary forerunner of sudden calamity, Cyrus, whom the ordinance of God made strong and constant, and inventive, devised, by so many channels and trenches as were sufficient and capable of Euphrates, to draw the same from the walls of Babylon, thereby to make his approach the more facile and assured; which when by the labour of many hands he had performed, he stayed the time of his advantage for the execution; for he had left certain banks or heads uncut, between the main river, which surrounded the city, and his own trenches.

Now Balthasar, finding neither any want or weakness within, nor any possibility of approach for his enemies without, prepared an exceeding sumptuous feast, public plays, and other pastimes; and thereto invited a thousand of his princes or nobility, besides his wives, courtezans, and others of that trade. This he did either to let the besiegers know, that his provisions were sufficient, not only for all needful uses, but even for jollity and excess; or because he hoped that his enemies, under the burthen of many distresses, were well near broken; or in honour of Bel his most reverenced idol; or that it was his birth or coronation-day; or for many or all of these respects. And he was not contented with such magnificence as no prince else could equal, but (using Daniel's words) • he lifted himself up against the 'Lord of heaven:* for he, and his princes, wives, and concubines, made carousing cups of the vessels of God, in contempt of whom he praised his own pup

1 Xwioph' C/ropied. 1. 7.

pets, made of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone. 'Quanta fuit stultitia, in vasibus aureis

* bibentes, ligneos et lapideos deos laudare!' How great a foolishness was it (saith St. Jerome) drinking in golden cups to praise gods of wood and stone! Whilst Balthasar was in this sort of triumphing, and his brains well filled with vapours, he beheld a hand, which by divine power, wrote on the wall opposite unto him, certain words which he understood not; wherewith so great a fear and amazement seized him, as 4 the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees 'smote one against the other*.' Which passion, when he had in some part recovered, he cryed out for his Chaldaeans, astrologians, and soothsayers, promising them great rewards, and the third place of honour in the kingdom to him that could read and expound the writing: but it exceeded their art. In this disturbance and astonishment, the queen hearing what had passed, and of the king's amazement, after reverence done, used this speech: 'There is a

* man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the

* holy gods ; and, in the days of thy father, light and

* understanding, and wisdom, like the wisdom of the 4 gods was found in him, whom the king Nabucho4 donosor, thy father, the king (I say) thy father,

* made chief of the enchanters, astrologians, Chaldae

* ans, and soothsayers, because a more excellent spi

* rit, and knowledge, and understanding, were found

* in him, even in Daniel,' &c. 4 Now let Daniel be 4 called, and he will declare the interpretation.'

This queen, Josephus takes for the grandmother; Origen and Theodoret3, for the mother of Balthasar; either of which may be true; for it appeareth that she was not any of the king's wives, because absent from the feast; and being past the age of dancing, and banquetting, she came in upon the bruit of the miracle, and to comfort the king in his distraction. And whereas Daniel was forgotten and neglected by

2 Daniel v. «. I Orig. et Theod. in Din. Joseph. Ant. x.

others both of younger years and times, this old queen remembered well what he had done in the days of Nabuchodonosor, grandfather to this Balthasar, and kept in mind both his religion and divine gifts.

When Daniel was brought to the king's presence, who acknowledged those excellent graces wherewith God had enriched him, he prayed him, together with promises of reward and honour, to read and interpret those words miraculously written; to whom Daniel made answer in a far different style from that he used towards his grandfather: for the evil which he foretold Nabuchodonosor, he wished that the same might befall his enemies; but to this king, (whose neglect of God, and vice, he hated) he answered in these words, 'Keep thy rewards to thy'self, and give thy gifts to another; yet will I read 'the writing unto the king, and shew him the inter* pretation.' Which before he had performed, he gave him first the cause of God's just judgment against him, and the reason of this terrible sentence, whereof the king and all his wise men were utterly ignorant. Which being written at large in Daniel, hath this effect, that forgetting God's goodness to his father, whom all nations feared and obeyed, and that for his pride and neglect of those benefits, as he deprived him of his estate and understanding, so upon the acknowledgment of God's infinite power he restored him to both; this king, notwithstanding, lifted himself up against the same God; and presuming both to abuse those vessels dedicated to holy uses, and neglecting the Lord of all power, praised and worshipped the dead idols of gold, silver, brass, iron, stone, and wood; and therefore those words, fromthe oracleof a true God delivered, viz. Mene Mene Tekel, Upharsin, gave the king knowledge, that God had numbered the time of his kingdom, and finished it; that he was weighed in the balance of God's justice, and found too light \ and that his empire was divided, and given to the Medea and Persians.

The very evening or night of this day, wherein Balthasar feasted and perished, Cyru3, either by his spies, according to Xenophon, or inspired by God himself, whose ensign he followed in this war, found the time and opportunity to invite him; and therefore, while the king's head, and the heads of his nobility were no less filled with the vapours of wine, than their hearts with the fear of God's judgment, he caused all the banks and heads of his trenches to be opened and cut down with that diligence, as by them he drew the great river of Euphrates dry for the present) by whose channel running, his army made their entrance, finding none to disturb them. All the town lay buried (as the poet saith) in sleep and wine l such as came in the Persians' way were put to the sword, unless they saved themselves by flight, as some did, who ran away crying and filling the streets with an uncertain tumult.

Such Assyrian lords as had revolted from Balthazar, and betaken themselves to the party of Cyrus, did now conduct a selected company to the king's palace; which having easily forced, they rushed into the chamber where the king with his princes were banqueting, slew both him and them without any mercy, who struggled in vain- to keep those lives which God had newly threatened to take away. And now was the prophecy of Jeremiah fulfilled, and that of Isaiah, two hundred years before this subversion; who in his forty-seventh chapter, and elsewhere, writeth this destruction so feelingly and lively, as if he had been present both at the terrible slaughter there committed, and had seen the great and unfeared change and calamity of this great empire; yea, and had also heard the sorrows and bewailings of every surviving soul thereunto subject. His prophecy of this place he beginneth in these words; • Come down, and sit in tb«

« AnteriorContinuar »