The inhabitants of Jerusalem had never seen anything like this. King Nebuchadnezzar’s armies decided to crown a brutal rampage across the plains of Egypt and Philistia by besieging Jerusalem. All the water jars ran dry. Sanitation became an unknown word. Hunger turned men into cannibals after they had eaten all the animals in sight. Not a single plant was left standing on its roots; anything that could be digested disappeared from sight. People desperately cried out to the God they had earlier forsaken, but their cries went unheeded. After 30 gruesome months, Jerusalem could no longer hold out against its superior Babylonian invaders.
The invaders broke through the city walls and destroyed anything in sight. They plundered the temple treasures and with them carried assets more superior than the temple gold and silver; the aristocrats, military commanders and skilled craftsmen of Jerusalem hiding within the temple walls. These elite of the Jewish society, after being forcefully uprooted from the beloved city they called home, were transported to the great city of Babylon where they were to be settled and trained in the Chaldean ways and customs. Hebrew was to be replaced by the Akkadian language, Yahweh was to be exchanged with Marduk , the sacred rites performed at King’s Solomon’s temple were to be substituted with the vile practices of the goddess Ishtar; basically their handlers’ tasks were to strip them of their Jewish identities and convert them to Babylonians.
While this brainwashing was going on, the Jewish exiles sat down by the banks of the River Euphrates and Tigris filled with sadness after their once comfortable lives were interrupted.
· *(2) By the rivers of Babylon,
· There we sat down, yea, we wept
· When we remembered Zion.
· We hung our harps
· Upon the willows in the midst of it.
…so they sang, full of tears tears in their eyes as they looked at the majestic walls and the world famous Euphrates and Tigris rivers which were now their prison boundaries.
· For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
· And those who plundered us requested mirth,
· Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
· How shall we sing the Lord’s song
· In a foreign land?
…songs of gladness were replaced with cries of pain. The harpists had no more strength left to play their instruments and the singers’ voices became hoarse.They were demotivated.
· O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
· Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
· Happy the one who takes and dashes
· Your little ones against the rock
…revenge against the Babylonians was the fodder of their daydreams. They longed for the day one of Babylon’s numerous foes would rise up and crush that proud city.
While all this was happening, a small group of the Jewish exiles were seeing the whole picture differently. While others were wallowing in a pity party, they were spotting opportunity. While others’ spirits were crushed because of the trauma they had experienced, these young men were rising in rank and influence. Join me in part 3 as I reveal who they were and their connection to the first part of this story.