“I stand in thy presence as a bearer of a message from my sovereign master, King of Babylon.”
“Methinks I have seen thee on another occasion.”
“And was not my behavior honorable and becoming?”
“Did the King of Judah say otherwise?”
“By his vile and haughty treatment of the king’s ambassador.”
“Be sparing with thine insolence, or at this time thou mayest fare far worse.”
“The Chaldean ambassador is not to be frightened by idle threats from one who lives at the mercy of his master.”
“Thinkest thou thyself safe because thou art surrounded with a few soldiers? Knowest thou not that within my call there are hundreds of armed men, ready to execute my will?”
“And knowest thou not that Jerusalem is in the hands of the Chaldeans, and that threescore thousand men of war are stationed in the city?”
“Threescore thousand! But come, sir, what is the message of the King of Babylon to the King of Judah? Let thy words be few.”
“Then thou art commanded, without delay, to appear in my master’s presence, and there learn his sovereign will concerning thyself and the city.”
“Commanded! Ha, ha, ha! Go thy way, and inform thy master that if he desires to see Jehoiakim, King of Judah, he must call at the royal palace, where he may have his desires gratified.”
“Then I go. Faithfully will I convey thy answer to my illustrious sovereign.”
The minister hastened from the royal palace, to convey to the king the result of the interview, while the King of Judah, waxing more desperate, still applied himself to his cups.
The King of Babylon, on his arrival in Jerusalem, ordered his magnificent royal tent to be pitched in the center of a large square in the very heart of the city. The great body of the army was stationed in another part—the royal guard remaining near the royal tent. From this spot went forth the summons to the King of Judah to appear in the presence of the King of Babylon.
“Where is his Royal Highness, the King of Judah?” asked Nebuchadnezzar.
“In his palace, O king, indulging in excess of wine, apparently perfectly at ease.”
“Is he not forthcoming?” asked the king, with a darkened brow.
“He laughs to scorn thy commands, O king! and wishes to inform thee that if thou hast aught to communicate he may be consulted at his palace.”
“By all the gods, the fellow is mad!” cried Nebuchadnezzar in a passion. “I’ll have to bend his stubborn will—yea, I shall do it. I thirst not for his blood; but let the guilty monarch beware how he trifles with my commands! Balphoras! haste thee back with a double guard, and inform Jehoiakim that my orders are not to be trifled with; and moreover, that if he persists in his stubbornness, I shall send sufficient force to drag him into my presence as a guilty culprit.”