The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the Bible Told for Young and Old - Jesse Hurlbut

The Story of a Joyous Journey

We have seen, in the story of the kingdom of Israel, or the Ten Tribes, how the great empire of Assyria arose from the city of Nineveh, on the Tigris river; how it ruled all the lands and carried away the Ten Tribes of Israel into captivity, from which they never came back to their own land. (Story Eighteen in Part Fourth.) We saw, too, how the empire of Assyria went down, and the empire of Babylon, or Chaldea, arose in its place under Nebuchadnezzar. (Story Six in this Part.) As soon as Nebuchadnezzar died, the empire of Babylon began to fall, and in its place arose the empire of Persia, under Cyrus, who is called Cyrus the Great, because of his many victories and his wide rule. His empire was much greater than either the Assyrian or the Chaldean empire, for it held in its rule the land of Egypt, all the lands known as Asia Minor, and also many lands in the far east.

Cyrus, the great king, was a friend to the Jews, who at this time were still living in the land of Chaldea, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was now seventy years since the first company of captives had been taken away from the land of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (see Story Six in this Part), and fifty years since the city of Jerusalem had been burned. By that time the Jews were no longer looked upon as captives in the land of Chaldea. They lived in their own houses, and tilled their own farms, and were in peace. Many of them were rich, and some of them, like Daniel and his three friends, were in high places at the court of the king.

You remember that in the early days of the captivity, Jeremiah the prophet wrote a letter to those who had been carried away to Babylon, telling them that after seventy years they would come back to their own land. (Story Six.) The seventy years were now ended. The older men and women who had been taken away had died in the land of Chaldea, but their children, and their children's children still loved the land of Judah as their own land, although it was so far away.

The Lord put it into the heart of Cyrus, the king of Persia, very early in his reign, to send word among the Jews that they might now go back to their own land. This was the word, as it was written and sent out:

"Thus saith Cyrus, the king of Persia, The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, in the land of Judah. Therefore, let those of the people of God who are among you go up to Jerusalem, and help to build the house of the Lord. And those who do not go to Jerusalem, but stay in the places where they are living, let them give to those who go back to their own land gifts of gold and silver, and beasts to carry them, and goods, and also a free gift toward the building of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem."

At this the Jews in the land of Chaldea were very glad, for they loved their own land, and longed to see it. One of them wrote a song at this time. It is Psalm 126:

"When the Lord turned again the capitivity of Zion,

We were like unto them that dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

And our tongue with singing.

Then said they among the nations,

'The Lord hath done great things for them,'

The Lord hath done great things for us;

Whereof we are glad.

Turn again our capitivity, O Lord,

As the streams in the South,

They that sow in tears

Shall reap in joy,

Though he goeth on his way weeping,

Bearing forth the seed,

He shall come again with joy,

Bringing his sheaves with him."

So the Jewish people began to make ready for going back to their own land. Those who were rich, and noble in rank, stayed in the land of Chaldea and in other lands of the Persian Empire. But though they did not go back to the land from which their fathers had come, they gave large gifts of gold and silver to help those who did go. And Cyrus, the king, took from the treasure-house in Babylon all the vessels of the Temple that had been taken away by Nebuchadnezzar, and gave them to the Jews, to be used in the new Temple which they were soon to build. These were plates, and dishes, and bowls, and cups of gold and silver, more than four thousand in all. So, with the gifts of the king, and the gifts of their own people, and what was owned by those who went to the land of Judah, the company took away a vast treasure of gold and silver.

It was a happy company of people that met together for the journey back to the land whch they still called their own, though very few of them had seen it. There were forty-two thousand of them, besides their servants to help them in the journey. They traveled slowly up the Euphrates river, singing songs of joy, until they reached the northern end of the great desert. Then they turned toward the southwest, and journeyed beside the Lebanon mountains, past Damascus, and through Syria, until at last they came to the land of their fathers, the land of Judah.

With all their joy they must have felt sad when they saw the city of Jerusalem all in ruins, its walls broken down, its houses heaps of blackened stone, its once beautiful Temple burned into a heap of ashes.

A distant view of Jerusalem

As soon as they came, they found the rock where the altar of the Lord had stood, the same rock where David had long before offered a sacrifice (see Story Sixteen in Part Third), and the same rock upon which travelers look even in our time under the Dome of the Rock. From the smooth face of this rock they gathered up the stones, and swept away the ashes and the dust. Then they built upon it the altar of the Lord, and Joshua, the high-priest, began to offer the sacrifices which for fifty years had not been placed upon the altar. Every morning and every afternoon they laid on the altar the burnt-offering, and thus gave themselves to the Lord, and asked God's help.

From this time there were two branches of the Jewish race. Those who came back to the land of Judah, which was also called the land of Israel, were called "Hebrews," which was an old name of the Israelites. Those who stayed in the lands abroad, in Chaldea and throughout the empire of Persia, were called "the Jews of the Dispersion." There were far more of the Jews abroad than in their own land, and they were the richer, and the greater people. Many of them went up to Jerusalem to visit and to worship, and many others sent rich gifts; so that between the two great branches of the Jewish people, in their own land and in other lands, there was a close friendship, and they all felt wherever the Jews were they were still one people.

The Jews who had been captives in the land of Babylon were now free to go wherever they chose; and besides those who went back to the land of their fathers, there were many who chose to visit other lands, wherever they could find work and get gain. It was not many years before Jews were found in many cities of the Persian Empire. They went also to Africa; and also to Europe, choosing the cities for their home rather than the country. Everywhere, in all the great cities, the "Jews of the Dispersion" were found, besides those who were living in their own land of Israel.

When the Jews came back to their land their leader was named Zerubbabel, a word which means "One born in Babylon." He belonged to the family of David, and was called "the prince": but he ruled under the commands of Cyrus, the great king, for Judah (which now began to be spoken of as Judea) was a small part, or "province" as it was called, in the great empire of Persia.


Front Matter

The Story of a Beautiful Garden
The First Baby in the World and His Brother
The Great Ship That Saved Eight People
The Tower That Was Never Finished
The Story of a Long Journey
How Abram's Choice Brought Blessing
The Angel by the Well
The Rain of Fire That Fell on a City
The Boy Who Became an Archer
How an Angel's Voice Saved a Boy's Life
The Story of a Journey after a Wife
How Jacob Stole His Brother's Blessing
Jacob's Wonderful Dream
A Midnight Wrestling Match
The Rich Man's Son Who Was Sold as a Slave
From the Prison to the Palace
How Joseph's Dream Came True
A Lost Brother Found
From the Land of Famine to the Land of Plenty
The Beautiful Baby Who Was Found in a River
The Voice from the Burning Bush
The River That Ran Blood
The Night When a Nation Was Born
How the Sea Became Dry Land and the Sky Rained Bre
The Mountain That Smoked and Words That Were Spoke
How Aaron Made a Golden Calf and What Became of It
The Tent Where God Lived Among His People
How They Worshipped God in the Tabernacle
What Strong Drink Brought to Aaron's Sons
The Scapegoat in the Wilderness
The Cluster of Grapes from the Land of Canaan
How the Long Journey of the Israelites Came to an
What a Wise Man Learned from an Ass
How Moses Looked upon the Promised Land
The Story of Job
The Story of a Scarlet Cord
How the River Jordan Became Dry
The Story of a Wedge of Gold
How Joshua Conquered the Land of Canaan
The Old Man Who Fought Against the Giants
The Avenger of Blook and the Cities of Refuge
The Story of an Altar Beside the River
The Presnt That Ehud Brought to King Eglon
How a Woman Won a Great Victory
Gideon and His Brave Three Hundred
Jephthah's Rash Promise and What Came from It
The Strong Man: How He Lived and How He Died
The Idol Temple at Dan and Its Priest
How Ruth Gleaned in the Field of Boaz
The Little Boy with a Linen Coat
How the Idol Fell Down Before the Ark
The Last of the Judges
The Tall Man Who Was Chosen King
How Saul Saved the Eyes of the Men of Jabesh
The Brave Young Prince
Saul's Great Sin and His Great Loss
The Shepherd Boy of Bethlehem
The Shepherd Boy's Fight with the Giant
The Little Boy Looking for the Arrows
Where David Found the Giant's Sword
How David Spared Saul's Life
The Last Days of King Saul
The Shepherd Boy Becomes a King
The Sound in the Treetops
The Cripple at the King's Table
The Prophet's Story of the Little Lamb
David's Handsome Son and How He Stole the Kingdom
Absalom in the Wood; David on the Throne
The Angel with the Drawn Sword on Mount Moriah
Solomon on This Father's Throne
The Wise Young King
The House of God on Mount Moriah
The Last Days of Solomon's Reign
The Breaking Up of a Great Kingdom
The King Who Led Israel to Sin
The Prophet Who Raised a Boy to Life
The Prayer That Was Answered in Fire
The Voice That Spoke to Elijah in the Mount
The Wounded Prophet and His Story
What Ahab Paid for His Vineyard
The Arrow That Killed a King
Elijah's Chariot of Fire
A Spring Sweetened by Salt
The Pot of Oil and the Pot of Poison
The Little Boy at Shunem
How a Little Girl Helped to Cure a Leper
The Chariots of Fire around Elisha
What the Lepers Found in the Camp
Jehu, the Furious Driver of His Chariot
Elisha and the Bow; Jonah and Nineveh
How the Ten Tribes Were Lost
The First Four Kings of Judah
The Little Boy Who Was Crowned King
Three Kings and a Great Prophet
The Good King Hezekiah
The Lost Book Found in the Temple
The Last Four Kings of Judah and the Weeping Proph
What Ezekiel Saw in the Valley
The Jewish Captives in the Court of the King
The Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace
The Tree That Was Cut Down and Grew Again
The Writing upon the Wall
Daniel in the Den of Lions
The Story of a Joyous Journey
The New Temple on Mount Moriah
The Beautiful Queen of Persia
The Scribe Who Wrote the Old Testament
The Nobleman Who Built the Wall of Jerusalem
Ezra's Great Bible Class in Jerusalem
The Angel by the Altar
The Manger of Bethlehem
The Star and the Wise Men
The Boy in his Father's House
The Prophet in the Wilderness
Jesus in the Desert, and beside the River
The Water Jars at the Wedding Feast
The Stranger at the Well
The Story of a Boy in Capernaum and a Riot
A Net Full of Fishes
The Leper and the Man Let Down through the Roof
The Cripple at the Pool and the Withered Hand
The Twelve Disciples and the Sermon on the Mount
The Captain's Servant, the Widow's Son, and a Sinn
Some Stories Jesus Told by the Sea
"Peace, Be Still"
The Little Girl Who Was Raised to Life
A Dancing Girl and What Was Given Her
The Feast beside the Sea and What Followed It
The Answer to a Mother's Prayer
The Glory of Jesus on the Mountain
The Little Child in the Arms of Jesus
At the Feast of Tabernacles
The Man with Clay on His Face
The Good Shepherd and the Good Samaritan
Lazarus Raised to Life
Some Parables in Perea
The Poor Rich Man and the Rich Poor Man
Jesus at Jericho
Palm Sunday
The Last Vistis of Jesus to the Temple
The Parables on the Mount of Olives
The Last Supper
The Olive Orchard and the High Priests Hall
The Crown of Thorns
The Darkest Day of All the World
The Brightest Day of All the World
The Stranger on the Shore
The Church of the First Days
The Man at the Beautiful Gate
The Right Way to Give, and the Wrong Way
Stephen with the Shining Face
The Man Reading in the Chariot
The Voice That Spoke to Saul
What Peter Saw by the Sea
How the Iron Gate Was Opened
The Earliest Missionaries
The Song in the Prison
Paul's Speech on the Hill
Paul at Corinth
Paul at Ephesus
Paul's Last Journey to Jerusalem
The Speech on the Stairs
Two Years in Prison
The Story That Paul Told to the King
Paul in the Storm
How Paul Came to Rome and How He Lived There
The Throne of God
The City of God