LISTEN to those noises! Do you hear the clash of the swords; and the thump, thump, thump, of the marching soldiers?
And oh! that crying and moaning and wailing!
The Temple, that beautiful building, has fallen. Jerusalem, the holy city, the city which we thought would never, never, be destroyed lies in ruins--a heap of little stones.
Look at the people. They are pale. Their hands tremble. They cannot walk. They escaped the sword of the enemy and now they are dying of hunger and thirst. A little boy cries: "Mamma, mamma, I want something to eat--just a little piece of bread."
"Mamma, mamma, I am thirsty. I want some water. Oh, please give me just one little drink," moans another.
What can their mothers do? They have no bread for their children, they have no water for them.
Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty king, is taking those who, are still living, to his own city, Babylon. They must leave their once beautiful city and their wonderful temple, the temple which King Solomon has built, and they must become prisoners-prisoners in a strange land.
Do you see that blind man walking straight into that tree? Yes, he is Zedekiah, the blind Jewish king. The cruel king, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, has placed him at the head of all the people. And now with only their blind king to lead them, the Jews leave their beloved city.
Listen to their mournful chant as they trudge wearily on:
Thus slowly and sadly they leave Jerusalem.
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MANY years passed. The little children became big men and women. But they never forgot Jerusalem and the Temple. Ceaselessly they worked and worked, and planned and planned, until they were at last able to return to their dear Jerusalem. They then began to rebuild the Temple which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. By this time they were old men and women. Even these people who had never seen Jerusalem and the Temple, but had only heard of it from their grandparents wanted to help in the rebuilding of the Temple.
And many were the little boys and girls who pulled loads of stones, carted dirt, and ran errands for the older people. Oh, they helped all they could and never seemed to get tired. They pulled the stones and pulled the stones for many, many miles. They filled one wagon of dirt and rode away with it, and then another wagon and still another wagon. Not until sunset did they leave off working and go home.
I remember two little boys in particular. They were called Sallu and Nob. At the end of the day you could often hear one say to the other, "Sallu, how many stones did you pull over to the Temple today?"
"More than you did, anyway," Nob would sneer
"Well, I pulled two more than yesterday," Sallu would say, his black eyes sparkling with glee.
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"But, how many altogether?"
"Suppose you tell me first."
"Oh, I pulled twenty stones," Nob would say proudly but quietly.
"Well, I'll pull more than that tomorrow."
And so every day they would ask each other how many loads each had taken away and how many stones each had brought. And the little boy who had done more was the happier.
In the meantime, day after day and week after week, the elders were busy collecting gold and silver and fine stones for the Temple.
One day when they were busier than ever before, the Samaritans, who you know were not Jews, came over and said:
"Let us help you build. We too need a temple. We want to pray together with you."
But the Jews loved the Temple so much that they wanted to do everything, every little bit, all by
themselves. Do you blame them? So they answered: "You are not Jews. Why should you do our work? We thank you very much, but we want to do the work ourselves."
For the next few days the Jews, as usual, worked very hard in peace and quiet. Alas! this did not last long. The Samaritans went to the king of the country and said:
"The Jews are building a temple in Jerusalem. The city, too, they are rebuilding. When all their work is done, O King, they will make war against you. Do not let them finish their work."
So the king sent out an order that all work on the Temple should be stopped. The next day the bricklayers stopped laying the bricks, the carpenters stopped sawing the wood, and the children stopped carting the dirt. Everybody stopped working and that little worker, Sallu, said to Nob:
"Some day I am going to fight those Samaritans. I will gather all the children. I will be the captain. Do you want to join the army?"
"Of course, of course," cried Nob, forgetting his rivalry with Sallu and jumping for joy.
But before Sallu had a chance to gather his army, news came that the Jews were once more permitted to take up the work.
Oh, how happy everybody was! The Temple would at last be finished. But this time they put on their swords. They would take no chances! Now they would be prepared should the Samaritans attack them again. So with sword buckled to belt, each went back to his special task.
Many, many weeks had passed. At last, the great Temple was finished. On a warm summer day, the priests and the singers, the children and all the rest of the people entered the newly built Temple for the first time.
The priests were dressed in long white silk robes. Their jewels shone brightly in the sun as they led the procession into the Temple. Then came the singers dressed in gowns of purple and red, trimmed with gold. After them followed the children, in loose, flowing garments. And who do you think led the children? Why, Sallu and Nob, of course. They had gathered their army but instead of leading it against the Samaritans, they were leading it up, up, up the many stairs to the Temple. Lastly followed the multitude. They all had trumpets and timbrels and harps. At the
command of the high priest they began to play their instruments, and sing and shout and dance.
That was indeed a happy day for the Jews. Jerusalem the beloved, the city of David and Solomon, once more had a beautiful Temple. And merrily did the people dance and happily did they sing:
Jerusalem the dear,
Oh how happy, happy
Are we to be here!