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When Shallum succeeded his father Josiah as king of Judah, changing his name to Jehoahaz, he only reigned for three months in Jerusalem. After defeating the Babylonians at Harran, Pharaoh Necho II took Jehoahaz captive and demanded a tribute of more silver and gold than Judah possessed. He was mistreated and became the first king of Judah to die in exile. Necho then appointed Eliakim, a younger son of Josiah, as king of Judah, changing his name to Jehoiakim. After his defeat at the hands of Judah's former ally Nebuchadnezzar II, and serving as his vassal for three years, Jehoia- kim revolted against Babylon. The combined armies of the Chaldeans, the Arameans, the Moabites, and the Ammonites laid siege to Jerusalem. King Jehoiakim was assassinated and his body cast over the wall to end the siege. He was succeeded by his son Jeconiah.

Like his uncle Jehoahaz, King Jeconiah only reigned for three months in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar personally laid siege to Jerusalem with the plan of carrying off the elites of the city to Babylon and knocking some sense into them. Nebuchadnezzar took all the treasures of the temple of El Shad- dai and deported the king, the army, the craftsmen, and all the leading citizens of Jerusalem. Only the very poor remained behind to till the land. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, another uncle of Jeconiah, as king and changed his name to Zedekiah.

King Zedekiah reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. Near the end of his reign he rebelled against the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. Zedekiah at- tempted to escape the city but he was captured. The sons of Zedekiah were slain before his eyes, and then Zedekiah himself was blinded, bound in chains, and taken to Babylon.

The Babylonians burned the temple of El Shaddai, the palace of the king, and every house in Jerusalem. The walls of the city were torn down and the surviving people of the city, numbering about fifty thousand, were taken in exile to Babylon. From that day forward the kingdom of Judah ceased to exist. Only a very few of the poorest people and a handful of army offi- cers remained behind in the Judean hills, and even these soon fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians, leaving the land entirely vacant.

One moonless night Ariel came to a man named Lael who had gone into the wilderness to pray. Che glowed with her full radiance, and Lael fell flat on his face in fear and reverence, mistaking hem for an angel of God. But Ariel told Lael to rise once more to his feet, and when he did, he could see another step into the circle of light being cast by Ariel's own body. It was her brother-in-law Gordon, who was also her lover, and he did not cast light of his own, but he could move objects through the air.

Gordon caused a clay pot to descend from the sky and hover in front of Lael, and he commanded Lael to take hold of this pot. Inside you will find a scroll that is only half complete, Gordon told him. The scroll contains the commandments of El Shaddai to his people and also his commandments to you alone, Lael of fallen Jerusalem. You and everyone who will follow you in days to come must obey these commandments to the letter.

I hear you, servants of the Most High God, Lael said, but why is the scroll only partly complete?

Ariel said to Lael, It is appointed to you, and to your sons, and to their sons, to preserve in this scroll, and also in the copies of the scroll you will faithfully make, the new history of the remnant of God.

A third person joined them, drawn by the light cast by Ariel which penetrated deep into the gloomy night. It was Ambe, the mother of Gordon, and he was glad to see her, but he did not greet her as "Mom" because it would confuse Lael. Ambe sensed this, and pitched her message accordingly. The Eldest demands your presence at Taurus to witness the judgment of Belial.

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Strangers In Paradise