power, Daniel was able, doubtless, to minister to the interests of his brethren, the Jewish exiles. Possibly it is to him that Jehoiachin owed his astonishing reversal of fortune. At any rate Belshazzar, the last ruler of the Chaldean state, still maintained Daniel in power, in spite of the very solemn warning of ruin to that state which Daniel fearlessly pronounced. Ch. 5. When the Persians succeeded the Chaldeans as masters of Babylon, this Jewish statesman still held his high post, and retained it in spite of the bitter enmity of officials who used his Jewish faith as a handle against him. Ch. 6. In fact, there is no better way to understand the favor accorded the Jews by Cyrus, the Persian conqueror, and the edicts preserved in Ezra 1: 2-4; 6: 3-5, than by supposing that Daniel, who had the king's ear, brought to his attention the earlier prophecies of Jeremiah and of other spokesmen for Jehovah, God of the Jews.
Certainly, however the affair was managed, it turned out entirely to the Jews' liking. All who were willing to return to Palestine were permitted and encouraged to go. They were assisted by the gifts of their brethren who could not, or would not, leave Babylon. They bore back with them the old vessels for the service of the sanctuary which Nebuchadnezzar had carried off. And, best of all, they took with them royal authority to erect the Temple of Jehovah on its ancient site, at the expense of the king of Persia, that is, out of taxes and tribute he remitted. At their head went a prince of the old royal house, and a high priest who was grandson of that high priest whom Nebuchadnezzar had executed half a century before. Their number totaled forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, with enough slaves in addition to make the entire company number nearly fifty thousand.
Their purpose was threefold: to reoccupy the Holy Land, to rebuild Jerusalem, and to erect a temple where Solomon's Temple had stood. We should be likely to rate the importance of these three objects in the same order as that in which they have just been named. But not so the believing Jew. It was above all else the sacred house of his God that he wanted to see restored, so that the prescribed sacrifices of the Law might be resumed, the nation's sin might thus be atoned for, and God might once more visibly dwell among his people. All else was in order to this one great end. The origin of Judaism, which lies in the movements of this time, cannot be understood unless this supreme motive is clearly grasped. How Judaism developed under the new conditions will be the subject of the next lesson.