The Jews - Exiles from the Garden of God
Lewis C. Bond, Tavistock
Gardens are part of the glory of England. We who live in this island love its natural scenery, and our gardens are made to share tlie features of their setting; the best of them are unrivalled in their faithfulness to nature. The Englishman's instinctive love of flowers is shown by city-dwellers who boast their window-boxes when they cannot have true gardens. The growing of flowers for pleasure lias become common only in recent times, but the art of gardening for both pleasure and profit has been pursued from the earliest ages of which records exist. In eastern lands it is refreshing to go out from the oppressive confinement of buildings and sit or walk under the shady trees and by the brooks and fountains. Such pleasure-parks were developed by the Babylonians and later by the Egyptians, Indians and Chinese. Elegant statues graced the Grecian and Roman gardens, and tin: Greeks were the first to build glass conservatories; landscape gardening reached its highest perfection in Japan, In every age men have felt they were exiles from Paradise, and poets and sages have depicted the ideal life of man as close to the earth and its flowers and fruits - a garden life. Increasingly in modern times of steel and electricity, jet propulsion and atomic energy, we feel the: urge to return to the simple, unhurried, natural life of the Earthly Paradise. Our love of gardens and the life they represent reminds us perpetually that we are exiles from the garden which "the Lord God planted in Eden …" where "He put the man whom He had formed."
It was to please an exile that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon built the renowned "Hanging Gardens." one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The king had married a lady from far-away Media, who soon grew tired of the flat landscape at Babylonia and longed for a sight of her native hills and valleys and forests. The king was afraid that his wife would think too much of the contrast between the land of her birth and the land of her adoption, so he determined to construct an imitation of Media within the walls of the city of Babylon. This extravagant plan was carried out, but we do not know if it satisfied the homesick queen.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. When Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne the city contained many palaces and temples, but the new king rebuilt most of them and erected gigantic walls around the city and along the banks of the river Euphrates. The river ran through the city, and bridges connected the two parts;at the ends of the bridges were elaborate gates of brass in the walls. There were 25 gates on each side of this city and from the gates ran straight, wide Streets which crossed one another. The houses were not crowded together but the town-planners left ample room for gardens and even fields and vineyards. An artificial lake was formed outside the walls, so that the water of the river could be diverted into it when it was too high. Deep moats surrounded the walls like those of a mediaeval English castle. We are told that the Hanging Gardens were made on the slope of the city towards the river near the Citadel. If we imagine ourselves to be standing on the top of the city wall on the opposite side of the river, the gardens would then appear ranch as follows. From the far bank of the river the great wall rises to a height of over 300 feet, with towers at intervals along its length. Between two of the towers we can see the gardens, for they axe built upon arches to raise them high above the ground. The arches are supported by hollow pillars, varying in height from 75 to 300 feet. Upon this elevated, undulating platform, rise several series of terraces bearing earth to a depth sufficient for large trees to take root securely. Over an area of about four acres are planted trees, shrubs and flowers. There are banqueting halls and great fountains fed with water cramped from the river to a reservoir on one of the "hills" of the gardens, and the reservoir also supplies an irrigation system. Surrounding the gardens tire battlements and bulwarks at about the level of the city walls. Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest of all the sovereigns of the Babylonian Empire, and during his reign of 43 years Babylon took her place as the foremost nation and empire of the world. About half a century ago excavators explored the long-deserted site of the great king's "New Babylon" and discovered among the remains of palaces, temples, and city walls, bricks bearing the king's name.
The Wonder-Nation. From the Bible we learn that at the height of his power Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city of Jerusalem and destroyed it. He took many captive Jews to Babylon and there they remained in exile for long unhappy years. Yet those poor captives were destined to play a much greater part in the future of the world than their mighty conquerors. The Jews returned from their exile in Babylon, but in later times they were scattered over the face of the earth, aliens among the nations of the world. Their land became a, barren desert, and remained so for centuries. In our day we are seeing the return of the exiles to their own country once more, and there are signs that Palestine will be a more wonderful garden-land than ever before: "The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose." The Jews have had an amazing history, and the chief reason for the amazement of men as that history has been gradually unfolded before them is that its outline and many details are recorded in advance in the prophecies of the Bible. A thousand years ago people who read that Book were impressed by the fact that the Jews had been dispersed, as foretold, throughout tlie countries of the world. There was then merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness, and repentest Thee of the evil." Jonah was in sympathy with Divine righteousness, but not with Divine mercy. Did Jonah learn the lesson?
Micah 7. 18. "Who is a God like unto Thee - He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy."