Nearly a quarter of a century had rolled away, and again the city of Jerusalem was ablaze with light and social gayety. But vastly different was the moral tone of the government. The good King Josiah had been called to rest, and his profligate son Jehoiakim was on the throne. Nightly the walls of the royal palace rang with the sound of high revelry. Laughter and drunken song echoed through every part of the proud edifice. Jehoiakim, following the example of some of his predecessors, did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord and filled the Holy City with his foul abominations. His counselors also lived in forgetfulness of the God of Israel. They flattered the king’s vanity and encouraged his excesses. Pride and infidelity promenaded together. Crimes of the darkest hue were being perpetrated with official sanction, and, although God’s prophets had the courage to rebuke the sinful rulers and warn them of their fearful doom, the moral standard of the city went lower and lower.
The night was serene and calm. The glorious orb shone brightly in the eastern skies and shed her silvery beams on the glassy lakes of Judea. In the clear moonbeams, those lofty towers of spotless white stood forth in majestic grandeur on the walls of the great metropolis. Nature, with smiles of lovely innocence on her fair countenance, was hushed to sweet repose; but not so the busy thousands that thronged the wide thoroughfares of Jerusalem. This day was one of the anniversaries of Jehoiakim’s reign, and at an early hour the city presented a scene of excitement. The king’s vanity provided everything requisite for a general display; and, although far from being loved by his numerous subjects, yet because they could eat, drink, and be merry at the expense of others, the streets of Jerusalem were thronged with those who cared far more for the gratification of their appetites than they did for their vain sovereign.
The royal palace was thronged with the rich, the great, the gay, and the giddy. Unholy excitement ran high. Wines and strong drinks flowed freely. Flattery without measure was poured into the ears of the king. “Long live Jehoiakim!” echoed from a thousand voices. The prophets of the Most High, who prophesied evil against Jerusalem, were ridiculed and laughed to scorn; and those few persons of influence who regarded them in a favorable light were made the subjects of their keenest sarcasm and their most insulting wit. It was about the third hour of the night. The king’s heart was merry with wine. A thousand of Judah’s nobles, with their wives, their sons, and their daughters, sat at the banquet table. Suddenly a voice, deep and solemn as the grave, was heard below, as if in the garden at the rear of the palace, crying, “Woe unto Jehoiakim, King of Judah! Woe! Woe to the Holy City!” The sound was of an unearthly nature. The assembly heard it, the king heard it. For a moment, all was still. Again the same deep minor sound was clearly heard. “Woe unto Jehoiakim, King of Judah! Woe! Woe unto the Holy City!”