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Tacitus directly copies the testimony of Josephus concerning Christ and the Christians, given under the head of Titus. The fidelity, love of truth, and learning of Josephus are every where conspicuous; so that he may safely be trusted as an authority, not only on subjects immediately connected with the Jews, but on the affairs of foreigners.
He is also a very entertaining historian, on subjects not immediately connected with the interests of religion. Of this the History of Herod will furnish an example.
Cassius, on his flight from Rome, obtained possession of Syria, and checked the career of the Parthians, who had made incursions upon it after their victory over Crassus.
As he came back to Tyre, he went up into Judea also, and fell upon Taricheæ. He soon took it, and carried about thirty thousand Jews into captivity. He slew Pitholaus, who succeeded Aristobulus in his seditious practices, and that by the persuasion of Antipater who had great interest with him. Antipater was also in great repute with the Idumeans. Out of that nation he married a woman of high birth among the Arabians, by name Cypras, not Cypris, the Greek name for Venus, as some critics propose to read. By her he had four sons, Phasael, and Herod, afterwards king ; Joseph, and Pheroras; and a daughter, named Salome. Hyrcanus the second received the appointment of highpriest from Cæsar, As he was of an inactive temper, Antipater, as procurator of Judea, made his eldest son Phasael governor of Jerusalem, and of the adjoining places, but committed Galilee to his next son Herod, when he was about twentyfive
years of age, as he must have been, if Herod's age be rightly stated as seventy, at his death, fortyfour years afterwards. His courage was soon signalised. Finding that one Hezekias, a captain of banditti, was over-running the neighbouring parts of Syria, he seized and slew him, with a great number of his band. This procured him the affection of the Syrians, who were anxious to be delivered from this scourge. They sang songs to his praise, in their villages and cities, for having procured them peace and security in their possessions. Thus he became known to Sextus Cæsar, a relation of Julius, and was made president of Syria. His brother Phasael grew jealous of all this, and determined to rival Herod's popularity in his own government of Jerusalem. But his emulation took an honourable turn; for he ingratiated himself with the inhabitants, and managed their business judiciously, without abusing his authority. In the mean time, it became known that Antipater had sent money, which he had prevailed on Hyrcanus to furnish, as a present to his imperial friends at Rome from himself. The chief men among the Jews were angry at this, and began to be afraid of Herod's boldness and violence, and its termination in actual tyranny. They went to Hyrcanus, and accused Antipater publicly, reproaching the high-priest for his indifference. They pointed out that Antipater and his sons had already usurped the government, and left nothing but the name of king to Hyrcanus. They cautioned him against wilful blindness, or a time-serving hope of avoiding danger by affected carelessness. Antipater and his offspring, who had been his stewards, were become his masters. Herod had slain Hezekias and his party, and thereby had trangressed the law, which forbids the destruction of any man, however wicked, but in consequence of legal condemnation by the Sanhedrim. Yet he had done this without the authority of Hyrcanus. This latter charge refers to a provision in the law of Moses, that even in criminal causes, and especially where life was concerned, an appeal should lie from the lesser councils of seven in the other cities, to the supreme council of seventy-one at Jerusalem. In reference to this our Saviour
says, “Nevertheless, I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” - Luke, chap. xiii.
The mothers of those slain by Herod raised the indignation of Hyrcanus, by thronging the temple every day, and urging the king and people to put Herod on his trial before the Sanhedrim. Hyrcanus consented, and Herod obeyed the sum
His father persuaded him to come with a body-guard, and not as a private person. He advised him to arrange the affairs of Galilee to his own advantage, and then to set out with a body of men sufficient for his own security against his enemies, but not so numerous as to alarm Hyr
Sextus Cæsar, president of Syria, wrote to Hyrcanus, desiring him, with threats in case of non-compliance, to procure Herod's acquittal. Hyrcanus, who loved Sextus sincerely, determined to comply with his demand. When Herod stood with his guards before the Sanhedrim, the whole assembly was terrified into silence, and his accusers shrunk from their charge. A righteous man, above all fear, whose name was Sameas, or Simeon, the son of Shetach, stood up and made the following speech :-“ you, that are assessors
with me, and O thou that art our king, never probably have ye known a parallel case ; that one who is to take his trial from us ever stood so before us. Every one, be he who he may, that comes to be tried by this Sanhedrim, presents himself in a submissive manner, and like one that is in fear of himself. He endeavours to excite compassion, by appearing in a mourning garment, with his hair dishevelled. This Herod, who is called to answer the charge of murder, stands here clothed in purple, with his hair finely trimmed, with his armed men about him, that if he be condemned by our law, he may slay us, and by bearing down justice, escape death. Yet I make not this complaint against Herod himself, who is more dear to himself than are the laws. But my complaint is against you and your king, who give him this licence so to do. Yet take you notice, that God is great, and that this very man, whom you are going to acquit for the sake of Hyrcanus, will one day punish both him and yourselves.”
Nor was Sameas mistaken in his prediction. On the accession of Herod to the kingdom, he slew Hyrcanus and all the members of this Sanhedrim, with the exception of Sameas himself, whom he held in high honour for his fearless integrity. Sameas had also purchased his forbearance, by persuading the people to admit Herod into the city, when he and Sosius besieged it. The motive of Sameas was to prevent the effusion of blood, as he was persuaded, that for their sins, they would not be able to save themselves out of his hands.
When Hyrcanus saw the effect of this harangue, and that the members of the Sanhedrim were suf
ficiently spirited up to pronounce sentence of death, he put off the trial to another day, and privately advised Herod to escape out of the city.
Sextus sold the post of general of the Cælesyrian army to Herod. Hyrcanus was in fear lest Herod should make war upon him, which he soon did, in resentment of the trial he had been summoned to undergo before the Sanhedrim. But his father Antipater, and his brother Phasael, dissuaded him from assaulting Jerusalem. He the sooner yielded to their arguments, as he thought it sufficient for his future hopes to have merely displayed his strength before the nation.
He got into favour with Cassius and the Romans, by strictly exacting the required taxes from Galilee. He felt it prudent to cultivate their friendship at the expence of his countrymen, who were, however, saved by this apparent harshness. The curators of the other cities, with their citizens, were sold for slaves. Cassius reduced four cities to a state of slavery: the two most powerful were Gophna and Emmaus; the other two, Lydda and Thamna.
On the war between Cassius and Brutus on the one side, and Augustus Cæsar and Antony on the other, Cassius and Marcus got together an army out of Syria. As Herod was likely to be of much service in providing necessaries, they made him governor of all Syria, with an army of foot and horse. Antipater had recently saved Malichus, who afterwards murdered him. The hopes of Herod, whom the Roman generals had promised to make king of Judea, made Antipater the sacrifice to the wickedness of Malichus. This