IT has already been told how some years before the fall of Jerusalem, a considerable body of Jerusalemites were carried away by Nebuchadrezzar, and settled in Babylonia. It would seem that they were not made slaves, and that they were not taken to the city of Babylon, whose proletariat we may suppose to have been already numerous enough. The indications are that they were settled in agricultural communities along one of the great irrigating canals, to which the country then owed its extraordinary productiveness. The "river" Chebar, of our text, was such a canal.1 Babylonian supervision seems not to have gone so far as to destroy a certain measure of autonomy. We hear of the Sheikhs (Elders), who came to the prophet for advice, and we naturally suppose that they preserved something of their traditional authority.
The expectations of these people have already been remarked upon. In the face of all human probability their prophets fostered a hope that they would soon return to their native land. Jeremiah bitterly opposed these delusions, and saw plainly that the exile would be of long duration. But even he could hardly suppose that Yahweh would permanently leave His people in the hands of foreigners. For the time being this hope may have made the exiles cling together, so that they were able to adapt themselves to their new circumstances. But it also made them restless and unwilling to listen to the counsel of the more thoughtful of their number. It was not till the fall of Jerusalem that they were disposed to look the situation squarely in the face. That they did so then, and that they were able to adhere to the faith of Yahweh, is due to Ezekiel, in some respects the most remarkable of Israel's prophets.____________________