In Babylon, however, an event occurred long before that time had elapsed, which marked the political recognition of Judah's separate identity as a nation. That event was the release of Jehoiachin from prison by the new king of Babylon, Evil-merodach, successor of Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiachin, it will be remembered, was the unfortunate prince of David's line who held the throne only three months after his father Jehoiakim's death and was then deported to Babylon in 598. From that time on, through all the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar's long reign, he had been imprisoned in Babylon. But now he was not only released, but given a pension from the royal treasury for the rest of his life and a standing superior to all the other captive princes in Babylon.
This was in 562, and many Jewish hearts must already have begun to beat with fresh hope, as the old loyalty to David's house flamed up, and the promises of a restoration recorded in the old Law and the Prophets were echoed by the prophet of the Exile, Ezekiel. This man, himself a priest by birth, had been carried to Babylon at the same time as Jehoiachin, and through all those years of doom had there preached to his countrymen, first to the portion exiled with him while Jerusalem still stood, but after 587 to the whole people united in a common catastrophe. His voice had even reached to Jerusalem, as he joined Jeremiah in reminding King Zedekiah of his oath to Nebuchadnezzar. With the elevation of Jehoiachin and the stirring of the national hopes, Ezekiel became the prophet of hope. He pictures the breath of Jehovah stirring to life the dry bones in the valley of death. Ezek., ch. 37. And he warns the optimistic people that only as God takes away from them their old stony heart and gives them a heart of flesh, and sprinkles clean water upon them to cleanse them from their pollution through idolatry, can they be fit to form the new community wherein God shall indeed reign. Ch. 36: 25, 26. What such a community might outwardly and visibly resemble, Ezekiel pictures in a long, detailed, descriptive vision wherewith his book closes. Chs. 40 to 48.
Another outstanding Jew of the Exile was a man of an entirely different type. Daniel, a noble youth carried away from Judah to Babylon at the first clash of Nebuchadnezzar's armies with the Jews, 605 b.c., and brought up at the court, succeeded through interpreting a dream of the king in attracting his notice and winning his favor, much as Joseph had done in ancient Egypt. Dan., ch. 2. From his position of political