Page images

2. So they came and invited the man to come up, and gave him assurances that his life should be preserved; but they did not prevail with him; for he gathered suspicions from the probability there was that one who had done so many things against the Romans must suffer for it, though not from the mild temper of those that invited him. However, he was afraid that he was invited to come up in order to be puuished, until Vespasian sent besides these a third tribune, Nicanor, to him; he was one that was well known to Josephus and had been his familiar acquaintance in old time. When he was come, he enlarged upon the patural mildoess of the Ro mans towards those they have once conquered, and told him, that he had behaved himself so valiantly, that the commanders rather admired than hated him; that the general was very desirous to have him brought to him, not in order to punish him, for that he could do, though he should not come voluntarily, but that he was determined to preserve a man cf his courage. He moreover added this, that Vespasian, had he been resolved to impose upon him, would not have sent to him a friend of his own, nor put the fairest colour upon the vilest action, by pretending friendship, and meaning persidiousness; nor would he have himself acquiesced, or come to him, had it been to deceive him.

3. Now, as Josephus began to hesitate with himself about Nicanor's proposal, the soldiery were so angry, that they ren hastily to set fire to the den; but the tribune would not permit them so to do, as being very desirous to take the man alive. And uow, as Nicanor lay hard at Josephus to com. ply, and he lunderstood how the multitude of the enemies threatened him, he called to mind the dreams, which he had dreamed in the night-time, whereby God had signified to him beforehand, both the future calamities of the Jews, and the events that concerned the Roman emperors. Now, Josephus was able to give shrewd conjectures about the interpretation of such dreams as have been ambiguously delivered by God. Moreover, he was not unacquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books, as being a priest himself, and of the posterity of priests; and just then was he in an ecstacy, and setting before him the tremendous images of the dreams he had lately had, he put up a secret prayer to God, and said, “ Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the “ Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their " good fortune is gone over to the Romans, and since thou

«hast made choice of this soul of mine to foretel what is to « come to pass hereafter, I willingly give them my hands, * and am content to live. And I protest openly, that I do -€¢ not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but 56 as a minister from thee."

4. When he had said this, he complied with Nicanor's invitation. But when those Jews who had fled with him anderstood that he yielded to those that invited him to come up, they came about him in a body, and cried out, “ Nay, " indeed, now may the laws of our forefathers which God “ ordained himself, well groan to purpose ; that God, we “ mean, who hath created the souls of the Jews of such a

temper, that they despise death. O Josephus! art thou “ still fond of life? and canst thou bear to see the light in a 66 state of slavery ? How soon hast thou forgotten thy

self? How many hast thou persuaded to lose their lives “ for liberty? Thou hast therefore had a false reputation “ for maohood, and a like false reputation for wisdom, if " thou canst hope for preservation from those against whom " thou hast fought so zealously, and art, however, willing to * be preserved by them, if they be in earnest. But although " the good fortune of the Romans hath made thee forget thyu self, we ought to take care that the glory of our forefathers 6 may not be tarnished. We will lend thee our right hand " and a sword; and if thou wilt die willingly, thou wilt 66 die as general of the Jews; but if unwillingly, thou wilt “ die as a traitor to them.” As soon as they said this they began to thrust their swords at him, and threatened they would kill him, if he thought of yielding himself to the Romans.,

5. Upon this Josephus was afraid of their attacking him, and yet thought he should be a betrayer of the commands of God, if he died before they were delivered. So he began to talk like a philosopher to them, in the distress he was then in, when he said thus to them: “ O my friends, why « are we so earnest to kill ourselves ? and why do we set 6 our soul and body, which are such dear companions, at such 6 variance? Can any one pretend that I am not the man I

was formerly ? Nay, the Romans are sensible how that 66 matter stands well enough. It is a brave thing to die in “ war; but so that it be according to the law of war, by the “ hand of conquerors. If, therefore, I avoid death from 6 the sword of the Romans, I am truly worthy to be killed Vol. VI.

a by my own sword, and my own hand: but if they admit of " mercy, and would spare their enemy, how much more 6 ought we to have mercy upon ourselves, and to spare our is ourselves ? for it is certainly a foolish thing to do that * to ourselves which we quarrel with them for doing to us. " I confess freely, that it is a brave thing to die for liberty ; “ but still so that it be in war, and done by those who take 5 that liberty fiom us; but in the present case our enemies co do neither meet us in battle, nor do they kill us. Now, " he is equally a coward who will pot die, when he is obliged is to die, and he who will die when he is not obliged so to do. " What are we afraid of when we will not go up to the Ro“ mans? Is it death ? If so, what are we afraid of, when we " but suspect our enemies will inflict it on us, shall we in“ flict it on ourselves for certain ? But, it may be said, we * must be slaves. And are we then in a clear state of lib“ erty at present ? It may also be said, that it is a manly “ act for a man to kill himself. No certainly, but a most is unmanly one; as I should esteem that pilot to be an ar. - rant coward, who, out of fear of a storm, should sink - his ship of his own accord. Now, self-murder is a crime 6 most remote from the common nature of all animals, and e an instance of impiety against God our Creator : nor “ indeed is there any animal that dies by its own con“ trivance, or by its own means, for the desire of life is a 1 law engraven in them all; on which account we deem * those that openly take it away from us to be our enemies, *6 and those that do it by treachery are punished for so do"ing. And do not you think that God is very angry when

a man does injury to what he hath bestowed on him ? For " from him it is that we have received our being, and we * ought to leave it to his disposal to take that being away “ from us. The bodies of all men are indeed mortal, and is are created out of corruptible matter ; but the soul is ever im. “ mortal, and is a portion of the divinity which inhabits our bo46 dies. Besides, if any one destroys or abuses a depositum he " hath received from a mere man, he is esteemed a wicked and * perfidious person; but then if any one cast out of his “ body this divine depositum, can we imagine that he who is " thereby affronted does not know of it ? Moreover, our “ law justly ordains that slaves which run away from their “ masters shall be punished, though the masters they ran " away from may have been wicked masters to them. And

« shall we endeavour to run away from God, who is the “ best of all masters, and not think ourselves guilty of im“ piety? Do not you know, that those who depart out of this “ life according to the law of nature, and pay that debt which “ was received from God, when he that lent it us is pleased "s to require it back again, enjoy eternal fame; that their “ houses and their posterity are sure, that their souls are 66 pure and obedient, and obtaiu a niost holy place in heaven, « Trom' whence, in the revolutions of ages, they are again sent s into pure bodies; while the souls of those, whose bands have 66 acted madly against themselves, are received by the dark“ est place in Hades, and while God, who is their father, 56 punishes those that offend against either of them in their s posterity for which reason God hates such doings, and the * crime is punished by our most wise legislator. Accord$ ingly our laws determine, that the bodies of such as kill " themselves should be exposed till the sun be set, without 56 burial, although at the same time it be allowed by them to 66 be lawful to bury our enemies (sooner). The laws of 66 other nations also enjoin such men's hands to be cut of 66 when they are dead, which had been made use of in des" troying themselves when alive, while they reckoned, có that as the body is alien from the soul, so is the hand alien 66 from the body. It is, therefore, my friends a right thing " to reason justly, and not add to the calamities, which men

bring upon us, impiety towards our Creator. If we 66 have a mind to preserve ourselves, let us do it; for to

be preserved by those our enemies, to whom we have giy" en so many demonstrations of our courage, is no way in6 glorious ; but if we have a mind to die, it is good to die by - the hand of those that have conquered us. For my part, 56 I will not run over to our enemies quarters, in order to be 65 a traitor to myself; for certainly I should then be much 66 more foolish than those that deserted to the enemy, since « they did it in order to save themselves, and I should do it “ for destruction, for my own destruction. However, I “ beartily wish the Romans may prove treacherous in this $ matter; for if, after their offer of their right hand for secue “ rity, I he slain by them, I shall die cheerfully, and carry « away with with me the sense of their perfidiousness, as a “ consolation greater than victory itself.”

6. Now these and many the like motives did Josephus use to these men to prevent their murdering themselves ; but desperation had shut their ears, as having long ago devoted themselves to die, and they were irritated at Josephus, They then rau upon him with their swords in their hands, one from one quarter, and another from another, and called him a coward, and every one of them appeared openly as if he were ready to smite him; but he calling to one of them by name, and looking like a general to another, and taking a third by the hand, and making a fourth ashamed of bimself, by praying him to forbear, and being in this condition distracted with various passions, (as he well might in the great distress he was then in, he kept off every one of their swords from killing him, and was forced to do like such wild beasts as are encompassed about on every side, who always turn themselves against those that last touched them. Nay, some of their right hands were debilitated by the reverence they bare to their general, in these his fatal calamities, and their swords dropped out of their hands, and not a few of them there were, who, when they aimed to smite him with their swords, they were not thoroughly either willing or able to do it.

7. However, in this extreme distress, he was not destitute of his usual sagacity ; but trusting himself to the provi. dence of God, he put his life into bazard (in the manner following]: “And now," said he, “ since it is resolved among " you that you will die, come on, let us commit our mutual 46 deaths to determination by lot. He whom the lot falls to “ first, let him be killed by him that hath the second lot, and so thus fortune shall make its progress through us all; vor “shall any of us perish by his own right hand, for it would 56 be unfair if, when the rest are gone, somebody should re5 pent and save himself.” This proposal appeared to them to be very just ; and when he had prevailed with them to determine this matter by lots, he drew one of the lots for himself also. He who had the first lot laid his neck bare to hin that had the next, as supposing that the general would die among them immediately; for they thought death, if Jose pbus might but die with them, was sweeter than life: yet was he with another left to the last, whether we must say it happened so by chance, or whether by the providence of God. And as he was very desirous neither to be condemned by the lot, nor, if he had been left to the last, to imbrue bis right hand in the blood of his countryman, he persuaded him to trust his fidelity to him, and to live as well as himself


« PreviousContinue »