The King of Judah’s treatment of the Chaldean ambassador, in regard to the tribute money, had so exasperated the King of Babylon, that he was determined to chasten his audacity with rigor. This monarch, at this period of his reign, was of rather a mild disposition, but, like his sires before him, a love of conquest had become with him a strong passion.
Three years before, he had dealt with much mildness toward the inhabitants of Jerusalem. On taking the city, he charged his soldiers to show no indignity to the inhabitants, under the severest penalty—which charge was well heeded. Towards Jehoiakim he also evinced a kind disposition. With but few restrictions, he was permitted to reign. Now that Jehoiakim had abused these acts of kindness, had violated solemn obligations, and, in addition to all this, had publicly ridiculed the ambassador, Nebuchadnezzar’s indignation was kindled to a flame.
The King of Judah on this occasion, as well as on all other occasions of embarrassment and perplexity, sought relief in mixed wines. These stimulated his courage for the time being, which, being left to its own resources, was of a low order; but, under the effects of these deceitful liquids, he became heroic.
“Jared!” said Jehoiakim, “where is that Sherakim who was so full of fight at the banquet hall last night?”
“As my soul liveth, O king, I know not his whereabouts. I have not seen him since early dawn; and then he appeared to be in haste, and was in no mood for conversation.”
“A curse on his cowardly head! I suppose these Chaldeans have put his valor to flight. Jared! how many armed men have we within the royal enclosures?”
“Two hundred of the royal guard, O king, are present—all armed and ready to face death for their illustrious sovereign.”
“It is well!” said Jehoiakim, filling his bowl. “Ha, ha, ha! Let the King of Babylon beware of my vengeance? What does the fool desire? The King of Judah is not to be frightened. Jared! where is Sherakim?”
“Sherakim, O king, is not to be found.”
“Ah, I had forgotten. Sherakim not to be found! Ha, ha, ha! Sherakim not to be found! The cowardly babbler! Jared, command more wine! Sherakim has fled—he is afraid of a shadow—he has not the courage of a maiden. Have I not known him of old? Did not a thunderstorm always make him cry? Ha, ha, ha! Sherakim the orator! fool! coward!”
“A messenger, O king, from the King of the Chaldeans, desires to be introduced into thy presence. Shall I conduct him to the apartment?”
“Is he alone or accompanied?”
“Accompanied by armed men.”
“Let the messenger be admitted, but let the guard remain behind.”
The messenger was accordingly ushered into the presence of Jehoiakim.
“And what business of importance has brought thee into the presence of the King of Judah?” asked Jehoiakim, with curling lip.