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VASSAL (מַס, H4989, a body of forced laborers, serfdom). A word found in Lamentations 1:1 (KJV “tributary”) to describe the sad state of Jerusalem after its fall to the Babylonians. This fall from rank and power was, however, nothing new to the Israelites. Menahem and Hoshea, kings of Israel in the period just before the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c., were forced to acknowledge the sovereignty of Assyria; and most of the kings of Judah from the time of Ahaz to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. were vassals first of Assyria and then, after its fall, of Babylon. During the period of Pers. rule over Judah men like Zerubbabel and Nehemiah were vassals to Persia with the title of “governor.” Except for the brief period of Maccabean rule, the whole subsequent history of the Jews was one of vassalage—to Egypt, Syria, and the Romans. Vassal rulers had a good deal of wealth and dignity, but they had to pay tribute to the powers to whom they were subservient, and they could stay in office only as long as they were permitted by their overlords. See Tribute.

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