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Silent Conflict

Source: Hebrew Heroes

The maiden kept her silent promise; faithfully she obeyed the hest of
Hadassah. Seldom as possible did she enter the room which communicated
with the hiding-place of Lycidas, and never save in the company of her
aged relative. Zarah's wheel was carried to her sleeping apartment;
heat and discomfort were made no excuse for leaving the more secluded
portions of the small and inconvenient dwelling. Zarah, a voluntary
prisoner, avoiding seeing him who appeared to her to be an embodiment
of all that was beautiful in form, and brilliant in mind, one whose
society resembled the light which glorifies every object on which it
may fall.

And Zarah did not, as many maidens in her place might have done, punish
Hadassah for throwing her influence into the scale of duty, by showing
her the extent of the sacrifice which she had required. The young
girl, while her heart was bleeding, struggled to maintain a serene and
placid mien. Hadassah never heard Zarah sigh, never surprised her in
tears. No duty was neglected, no work left undone; nay, Zarah spun
more busily than ever, for the support of the stranger was a drain on
the scanty resources of Hadassah, and to work for him and pray for him
was the sole indulgence which Zarah could allow herself without
self-reproach. She tried--how arduous was the effort!--even to turn
her thoughts from the subject which was to her as the forbidden fruit
was to Eve. The chasm which divided Abraham's daughter from the
heathen was one over which, as Zarah knew, it would be sinful to throw
even the rainbow bridge of imagination. She must force her mind from
approaching the dangerous brink. How many of the Psalms of David,
always those most mournful in their tone, Zarah repeated to herself, to
bring solace to her spirit by day, or sleep to her eyelids by night.
While Judas Maccabeus was maintaining a gallant struggle against the
enemies of his country, conquering, but through much stern endurance,
Zarah, with the same faith and obedience as animated the warrior, was
keeping up a more painful fight against the heathen in her own gentle

There was one subject of thought, and that a distressing one, to which
Zarah's mind most readily reverted when she would turn it from the
channel into which it was ever naturally flowing. This was the mystery
connected with the fate of Abner her father. The few words which had
escaped Hadassah in an unguarded moment, were as the dull red light
which a torch might throw on the sides of some yawning pit, whose
depths are left in profound darkness. Often had Zarah yearned to know
more of her father, how he had died, for she had once deemed him dead,
where his dear remains had been laid,--all that concerned him was of
deep interest to his only child. But any attempt to break through the
reserve which sealed the lips of Hadassah had evidently occasioned such
acute distress that Zarah had long since given up the hope of gaining
information from her. Anna had entered the service of Hadassah, since
the Hebrew lady had quitted Bethsura; the attendant knew nothing, and
therefore could tell nothing, of what had previously occurred in the
family. Solomona, when she had paid occasional visits to her
kinswomen, had never given Zarah an opportunity of speaking on so
delicate a subject. Once when Zarah had ventured to ask the question,
"Did you know my father?" Solomona had appeared not to hear it, and had
instantly started some quite irrelevant topic of conversation. Abishai
doubtless knew much about the brother of his wife, but Zarah shrank
from questioning him; from his fierce impetuosity of character, he was
not one to draw out the confidence of a gentle and timid girl. Zarah
almost felt as if her uncle disliked, and for some reason which she
understood not, regarded her with mingled pity and contempt. Thus the
daughter of Abner, cut off from all means of gaining reliable
information, was thrown back on her own conjectures. A vague doubt
which had lately arisen in Zarah's mind, but which had always
heretofore been repelled as treason to a parent's memory, was given
form and substance by the faint exclamation which grief had wrung from
Hadassah, "_Must I know that misery twice._" Many slight circumstances
then recurred to Zarah's memory to confirm her suspicions, especially
the anguish which Hadassah had betrayed at the burial of Solomona, when
a strange pang of envy had seemed to intensify that of bereavement.
Zarah was as one bending lower and lower over that pit of which she
longed, yet dreaded, to sound the depths, straining her eyes to
penetrate the darkness, while trembling to think what horrors that
darkness might hide.

"Is it possible that my father may yet be breathing on earth,
living--the life of an apostate!" The idea haunted Zarah like a
spectre. There was only one hope which had power to lay it: "If
living, he may be spared for repentance. God is merciful; He judgeth
not severely; He delighteth in receiving His wanderers back. Did not
Nathan say to penitent David, 'Thou shalt not surely die;' was not even
the guilty Manasseh restored to his throne? Oh, the son of the pious
Hadassah, a woman of such faith and prayer, can never be lost!" After
such meditations, the burdened heart of Zarah would find relief in
fervent supplications for her father. Her filial affection came to the
aid of her religious obedience. "God will not hear prayers," thought
Zarah, "from one in whose heart an idol is enshrined. For my father's
sake, as well as my own, let me strive to give unreserved obedience to
my Lord."

So, endeavouring to overcome one grief by the help of another, and to
cast a veil over both, Zarah passed weary day after day, letting no
murmur mar her offering of meek submission. She would even speak
cheerfully to Hadassah, and sing to her songs of Zion, which the aged
lady delighted to hear. There was one song especially dear, in which
Hadassah had herself woven prophetic promises into verse. The rhymes
might be rude, and altogether unworthy of their theme; but when softly
warbled by Zarah's melodious voice, they appeared to the aged listener
like the very breathing of hope.


"Jerusalem, thou sittest in the dust,
God's heavy judgment on thy children lies;
But He in whom their fathers put their trust
Shall bid thee yet, as from the grave, arise.[1]
Oh, Zion, discrowned Queen!
A throne awaits for thee;[2]
For glorious thou hast been,
All glorious shalt thou be.[3]

"Behold the white-winged ships from Tarshish strand,[4]
Shall bear thy sons and daughters o'er the wave;

All nations call thee blessed, delightsome land,[5]
Which God of old to faithful Abraham gave.[6]
Oh, Zion, &c.

"Ephraim with Judah God shall then restore,[7]
The Hand that severed, now uniteth them;
Ephraim shall envy, Judah, vex no more,[8]
All shall rejoice in thee, Jerusalem.
Oh, Zion, &c.

"Assyria, Egypt, shall with Israel join,[9]
(The land where Daniel trod the lion's den,
The land where Pharaohs bowed at Apis' shrine),
Oppressors once--but more than sisters then.
Oh, Zion, &c.

"God shall a wall of fire round thee abide,[10]
To guard thee as the apple of the eye;[11]
Rejoicing as the bridegroom o'er the bride.[12]
For He hath pardoned thine iniquity.[13]
Oh, Zion, &c.

"The mountains may depart, the hills may shake,[14]
But nought thy Saviour's love from thee shall sever,
The mother may her sucking child forsake,
God thy Redeemer shall forsake thee never.[15]
Oh, Zion, discrowned Queen!
A throne still waits for thee;
For glorious thou hast been,
All glorious shalt thou be."

[1] Isa. lx. 1.

[2] Isa. xxii. 23.

[3] Isa. lx. 13, 14.

[4] Isa. lx. 9.

[5] Mal. iii. 12

[6] Gen. xiii. 15.

[7] Ezek. xxxvii. 16, 17.

[8] Isa. xi. 13.

[9] Isa. xix. 24.

[10] Zech. ii. 5.

[11] Zech. ii. 8.

[12] Isa. lxii. 5.

[13] Isa. xliv. 22.

[14] Isa. liv. 10.

[15] Isa. xlix. 15.

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Previous: Trials Of The Heart

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