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not sink into the water of this lake, so deep as the navel. Josephus does not say, that the slime, or bitumen, was cast out at a certain time of the year only; and Strabo directly states the contrary : Pliny agrees with Tacitus. Brotier quotes the authority of an eminent traveller in the East, affirming it to be thrown up on the surface of the waters during the autumn, probably from the places mentioned in the Bible. All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt
And the vale of Siddim was full of slime pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountains.”—Genesis, chap. xiv. This concretion, after floating for some time, is driven by the wind to the shore, where it is carefully collected by the Arabs for their own use and profit, after delivering a certain proportion to the Bassa of Jerusalem. Tacitus and Josephus agree that the cities burnt by fire from heaven were not exactly in the place where the lake now is, but only in its neighbourhood. But when Tacitus says that the Jews were of all slaves the most despicable, he deserts his best authority, and slanders them.
Both Josephus and Tacitus give a true account of the Jews, preliminary to the last war, the primary occasion of which arose out of the concourse of Jewish supplicants, but without arms, who came to Petronius, the president of Syria, to state their determination not to place Caius Cæsar's statue in the Temple. Tacitus is not quite accurate on this subject in his history; but in his annals, subsequently composed, he corrects his statements by the authority of Josephus. He is mistaken, however, in what he says about Cumanus and Felix. Cestius Gallus succeeded Petronius. Josephus says nothing of his death. Tacitus mentions it, but in the failure of his principal authority, without par. ticulars. Josephus takes notice in general of the many omens, which predicted Vespasian's advancement to the empire, and distinctly adds a remarkable prophecy of his own to the same effect.
“ Initium ferendi ad Vespasianum Imperii Alexandriæ coeptum, festinante Tiberio Alexandro, qui Kal. Jul. sacramento ejus legiones adegit. Isque primus Principatus dies in posterum celebratus, quamvis Judaicus exercitus v. Non. Jul. apud ipsum jurasset, eo ardore, ut ne Titus quidem filius expectaretur, Syria remeans, ut consiliorum inter Mucianum ac patrem nuntius."--Historiarum, lib. ii. cap. 79. This agrees with the History of Josephus, that Vespasian was proclaimed Emperor in Judea, where he then was, before he was so proclaimed at Alexandria. It requires, however, entirely to reconcile the Jewish and Roman historians, that the Nones, or perhaps the Ides of June should be substituted for the Nones of July in Tacitus and Suetonius. The interlacing of the months by their backward reckoning occasioned frequent confusion in dates.
The miraculous cures imputed to Vespasian are strongly attested by both parties. The prediction of Josephus, already mentioned, assumes Vespasian and Titus to be raised to the Roman empire, and to command against Judea and Jerusalem, not in the ordinary way of divine providence, but by especial interposition. The heathen oracle of Serapis confirmed the approbation of heaven. This was probably the first, and the only truth it ever told, further than as propitious auguries tend by encouragement to their own fulfilment. It is not probable that this was merely either a lucky hit, or even a wise conjecture on the part of the oracle. All history concurs in the discredit into which these impostures fell from the time of our Saviour. It seems to have been the will of Providence, that these systematic retailers of falsehood and absurdity, these right-hand instruments of idolatrous theology, should once bear testimony to the truth before their final extinction. Their death was to point the moral, and adorn the tale of their vicious life. Josephus, also, standing as a boundary-stone between the heathen and the Christian, knowing the one true God, and a member of his first covenant, but not receiving, rather than rejecting his second, was evidently chosen as an instrument of divine operation. He was the most fit instrument.
According to an admitted maxim in philosophy, waste of power is defect of wisdom. The Deity never acts by strong means, when moderate will suffice; by preternatural means, when natural ones will produce the required effect; by remote means, when those which are competent are near at hand. Josephus met all occasions : he was almost the only Jew conversant with heathen learning, and therefore calculated to ingratiate himself, as he did, with the Roman generals. He, therefore, was selected, not like the Jewish prophets, for the permanent and exclusive service of God, but as the vehicle of occasional inspiration. We are not to look on his exercise of prophetic powers, as the mere ebullition of enthusiasm guessing right, or of personal arrogance, for his habitual modesty in speaking of himself is remarkable; but as a link
in the chain of means, by which our Saviour's touchstone prophecy of the almost immediate fall of Jerusalem was to be fulfilled. The object of that prophecy seems to have been principally, that his early converts might have some striking and notorious fact to appeal to, as a voucher for the truth of their belief.
All the acting parties in this history, heathen as well as Jewish, were the instruments of the Deity, independently of that influence which he exercises through the medium of his general providence. He might indeed have raised up any, the most obscure name among the Romans, to carry destruction against the Jews, as a divine judgment for their sins. But strictly defined moderation is a part of infinite wisdom. Vespasian and Titus stood exactly in such a situation as Romans, that their advancement to the empire, for the purpose of executing this signal military vengeance, was best calculated to arrest attention and impress awe, without bearing the external stamp of miracle.
We have already seen how difficult was the accomplishment of this enterprise in the hands even of such accomplished generals. It might, in truth, have been effected by a babe or a suckling ; but the Deity does not make his wonders unnecessarily cheap among the heathen.
We have also seen how exactly Tacitus and Josephus agree in the personal character of Titus, and the description of his military array.
Igitur castris, ubi diximus, ante moenia Hierosolymorum positis, instructas legiones ostentavit.”
- Lib. y. cap. 10. Titus's first camp was near the Mount of Olives. The substance of the parallel passage in Josephus has been already given. Both authors coincide as to the first bickerings and battles near the walls of Jerusalem, and as to the deliberations among the Romans, and their ultimate resolution, that it would not seem honourable to stay till the enemies were reduced by famine. They also give a concurrent description of the city, its two hills, its three walls, and four towers, as well as the pools for the preservation of rainwater. Josephus does not mention the cisterns, which Tacitus says they constructed in consequence of Pompey's siege.
Tacitus mentions, that they obtained permission by bribery, in the reign of Claudius, to rebuild their walls. Josephus says nothing of this ; nor does he handle Claudius so severely, as do both Tacitus and Suetonius. Dio says, he was not covetous, though the other historians represent him as corrupt and venal. But Josephus might have been influenced to partiality by his kindness to the · Jews. His learning, his quiet and unambitious temper, might have been a further recommendation. His deference to the counsels of so bad a minister as Pallas, and his mean subjection to his wife Agrippina, who at last poisoned him, have rendered him contemptible in the eyes of posterity.
The portents and prodigies have been already mentioned: but the passage in Tacitus is sufficiently striking to merit transcription :—“ Pluribus persuasio fuerat, antiquis Sacerdotum litteris contineri, eo ipso tempore fore, ut valesceret Oriens profectique Judæa rerum potirentur. Quæ ambages Vespasianum ac Titum prædixerant. Sed vulgus, more humanæ cupidinis, sibi tantam fatorum magnitudinem interpretati, ne adversis quidem ad vera mutabantur.” - Lib. V. cap. 13.