Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. VIII.

Concerning * the ambassage of the Jews to Caius ; and how

Caius sent Petronius into Syria to make war against the

Jews, unless they would receive his statue. $1. I høre was now a tumult arisen at Alexandria, between the Jewish inhabitants and the Greeks; and three.f ambassadors were chosen out of each party that were at variance, who came to Caius. Now one of these ambassadors from the people of Alexandria was Apion, who uttered many blasphemies against the Jews; and among other things that he said, be charged them with neglecting the honours that belonged to Cæsar; for that while all who were subject to the Roman empire built altars and temples to Caius, and in other regards universally received him as they received the gods, these Jews alone thought it a dishonourable thing for them to erect statues in honour of him, as well as to swear by his name. · Many of these severe things were said by Apion, by which he hoped to provoke Caius to anger at the Jews, as he was likely to be; but Philo, the principal of the Jewish ambassage, a man eminent on all accounts, brother to Alexander I the alabarch, and one not unskilful in philosophy, was ready to betake himself to make his defence against those accusations; but Caius prohibited bim, and bid him be gone : he was also in such a rage, that it openly appeared he was about to do them some very great mischief. So Philo being thus affronted went out, and said to those Jews who were about him, that “ they should be of good courage, since

* This is a most remarkable chapter, as containing such instances of the interposition of Providence, as have been always very rare among the other idolatrous nations, but of old very many among the posterity of Abraham, the worshippers of the true God; nor do these seem much inferior to those in the Old Testament, wbich are the more remarkable, because, among all their other fol. Jies and vices, the Jews were not at this time idolaters; and the deliverances here mentioned were done in order to prevent their relapse into that idolatry,

t Josephus here assures us, that the ambassadors from Alexandria to Caius, were on each part po more than three in number, for the Jews, and for the Gentiles, which are but six in all: whereas Philo, who was the principal ambassador from the Jews, as Josephus here confesses, (as was Apion for the Gentiles), says, the Jews ambassadors were themselves no fewer than five, towards the end of his legation to Caius; which, if there be no mistake in the copies, must be supposed the truth; por, in that case, would Josephus have contradicted so authentic a witness, had he seen that account of Philo's, which that he ever did, does not appear.

I This Alexander, the alabarch, or governor of the Jews at Alexandria, and brother to Philo, is supposed by bishop Pearson, in Act. Apost. p. 41, 42. to be the same with that Alexander who is mentioned by St. Luke, as of the kindred of the high-priests, Acts iv. 6.

of successor in ne sent Petro he should

ė, to copul took, thepistle. Hhey could, an prole

eat a numo legions of the intending to its wha

" Caius's words indeed shewed anger at them, but in reality " bad already set God against himself.”

2. Hereupon Caius, taking it very heinously that he should be thus despised by the Jews alone, sent Petronius to be president of Syria, and successor in the government to Vitellius, and gave him order to make an invasion into Judea, with a great body of troops, and if they would admit of his statue willingly, to erect it in the temple of God; but if they were obstinate, to conquer them by war, and then to do it. Accordingly. Petronius took the government of Syria, and made haste to obey Cæsar's epistle. He got together as great a number of auxiliaries as he possibly could, and took with him two legions of the Roman army, and came to Ptolemais, and there wintered, as intending to set about the war in the spring. He also wrote word to Caius what he had re. solved to do, who commended him for his alacrity, and ordered him to go on, and to make war with them, in case they would not obey bis commands. But there came many ten thousands of the Jews to Petronius to Ptolemais, to offer their petitions to him, that “ he would not compel them to trans. * gress and violate the law of their forefathers; but if, said « they, thou art entirely resolved to bring this statue, and “ erect it, do thou first kill us, and then do what thou hast « resolved on; for while we are alive, we cannot permit such 66 things as are forbidden us to be done by the authority " of our legislator, and by our forefathers determination, that " such prohibitions are instances of virtue." But Petronius was angry at them, and said, “ If indeed I were myself em" peror, and were at liberty to follow my own inclination, and “ then had designed to act thus, these your words would be " justly spoken to me; but now Cæsar hath sent to me, I am un“ der the utmost necessity of being subservient to his decrees, " because a disobedience to them will bring upon me inevit“ able destruction." Then the Jews replied, “ Since there“ fore thou art so disposed, O Petronius, that thou wilt not 66 disobey Caius's epistles, neither will we transgress the com« mands of our law; and as we depend upon the excellency " of our laws, and by the labours of our ancestors, have con“ tinued hitherto without suffering them to be transgressed, so we dare not by any means suffer ourselves to be so timo" rous as to transgress those laws out of the fear of death, 66 which God hath determined are for our advantage ( and if « we fall into misfortunes, we will bear them in order to pre

serve our laws, as knowing, that those who expose them. “ selves to dangers, have good hope of escaping them, be“ cause God will stand on our side, when out of regard to “ him we undergo afflictions, and sustain the uncertain turns

Fejhould have of the late ning

" of fortune. But if we should submit to thee, we should be 66 greatly reproached for our cowardice, as thereby shewing “ ourselves ready to transgress our law; and we should incur " the great anger of God also, who, even thyself being judge, 6 is superior to Cajus.”

3. When Petronius saw by their words that their determination was hard to be removed, and that without a war, he should not be able to be subservient to Caius in the dedica-. tion of his statue, and that there must be a great deal of blood shed, he took his friends, and the servants that were about him, and hasted to Tiberias, as wanting to know in what posture the affairs of the Jews were ; and many ten thousands of tbe Jews met Petronius again, when he was come to Tiberias. These thought they must run a mighty hazard if they should have a war with the Romans, but judged that the transgression of the law was of much greater consequence, and made supplication to him, that he would by no means reduce them to such distresses, nor defile their city with the dedication of the statue. Then Petronius said to then, Will you then make war with Cæsar, without considering “ his great preparations for war, and your own weakness?" They replied, “ We will not by any means make war with • him, but still we will die before we see our laws transgress“ ed.” So they threw themselves down upon their faces, and stretched out their throats, and said they were ready to be slain ; and this they did for forty days together, and in the mean time left off the tilling of their ground, and that while the season * of the year required them to sow it. . Thus they continued firm in their resolution, and proposed to themselves to die willingly, rather than to see the dedication of the statue.

4. When matters were in this state, Aristobulus, king Sa Agrippa's brother, and Helcias the Great, and the other principal men of that family with them, went in unto Petronius, and besought him, That “ since he saw the resolution of the “ multitude, he would not make any alteration, and thereby

drive them to despair; but would write to Caius, that the 56 Jews had an insuperable averseness to the reception of the “ statue, and how they continued with him, and left off the " tillage of their ground; that they were not willing to go to " war with him, because they were not able to do it, but “ were ready to die with pleasure, rather than suffer their laws

[ocr errors]

* What Josephus here, and sect. 6. relates as done by the Jews before seedtime, is, in Philo, not far off the time when the corn was ripe, who, as Le Clerc notes, differ here one from the otber. This is another indication that Josephus, when he wrote this account, had not seen Philo's Legat, ad Caium, otherwise he would hardly have herein differed from himme

[ocr errors]

" to be transgressed : and how, upon the lauds continuing 66 unsown, robberies would grow up, on the inability they " would be under of paying their tributes; and that perhaps “ Caius might be thereby moved to pity, and not order any « barbarous action to be done to them, nor think of destroy" ing the nation: that if he continues inflexible in his former, “ opinion to bring a war upon them, he may then set about “ it himself.” And thus did Aristobulus, and the rest with him, supplicate Petronius. So Petronius,* partly on account of the pressing instances which Aristobulus and the rest with him made, and because of the great consequence of what they desired, and the earnestness wherewith they made their sup-, plication ; partly on account of the firmness of the opposition made by the Jews, wbich he saw, while he thought it an horrible thiog for him to be such a slave to the madness of Caius, as to slay so many ten thousand men, only because of their religious disposition towards God, and after that to pass his life in expectation of punishment; Petronius, I say, thought it much better to send to Caius and to let him know how intolerable it was to him to bear the anger he might have against him for not serving him sooner, in obedience to his epistle, for that perhaps he might persuade him; and that if his mad resolution continued, he might then begin the war against them; nay, that in case he should turn his hatred against himself, it was fit for virtuous persons even to die for the sake of such vast multitudes of men. Accordingly he determined to hearken to the petitioners in this matter.

5. He then called the Jews together to Tiberias, who came, many ten thousands in number; he also placed that army he now had with him opposite to them; but did not discover his own meaning, but the commands of the emperor, and told them, That “ his wrath would without delay be executed on 66 such as had the courage to disobey what he had command6 ed, and this immediately ; and that it was fit for him, who " had obtained so great a dignity by his grant, not to contra6 dict bim in any thing: yet,” said he, “I do not think it “ just to have such a regard to my own safety and honour, 66 as to refuse to sacrifice them for your preservation, who are 66 so many in number, and endeavour to preserve the regard "s that is due to your law, which, as it hath come down to “ you from your forefathers, so do you esteem it worthy of

* This Publius Petronius was after this still president of Syria, under Claudius, and, at the desire of Agrippa, published a severe decree against the iphabitants of Dora, who, in a sort of imitation of Caius, had set up a statue of Claudius in a Jewish synagogue there. This decrec is extant, B. XIX, ch. vi. sect. 3. Vol. III. and greatly confirms the present accounts of Josepbus, as to the other decrees of Claudius, relating to the like Jewish affairs, B. XIX. ch. v. sect. 2, 3. Vol. III. to which I refer the inquisitive reader.

“ your utmost contention to preserve it : nor, with the su“ preme assistance and power of God, will I be so hardy as " to suffer your temple to fall into contempt by the means of 66 the imperial authority. I will therefore send to Caius, and 66 let him know what your resolutions are, and will assist your “ suit as far as I am able, that you may not be exposed to “ suffer on account of the honest designs you have proposed " to yourselves ; and may God be our assistant, for his au66 thority is beyond all the contrivance and power of men; 6. and may he procure you the preservation of your ancient " Jaws, and may not he be deprived, though without your 66 consent, of his accustomed honours. But if Caius be irri

tated, and turn the violence of his rage upon me, I will ra“ther undergo all that danger and that affliction that may

come either on my body or my soul, than see so many of

you to perish, wbile you are acting in so excellent a man. “ ner. Do you therefore, every one of you, go your way 66 about your own occupations, and fall to the cultivation of "6 your ground: I will myself send to Rome, and will not re“ fuse to serve you in all things, both by myself and by my “ friends."

6. When Petronius had said this, and had dismissed the assembly of the Jews, he desired the principal of them to take care of their husbandry, and to speak kindly to the people, and encourage them to have good hope of their affairs. Thus did he readily bring the multitude to be cheerful again. And now did God shew his presence * to Petronius, and signify to him, that he would afford him his assistance in his whole design; for he had no sooner finished the speech that he made to the Jews, but God sent down great showers of rain, contrary to humair expectation ; for that day was a clear day, and gave no sign, by the appearance of the sky, of any rain ; nay the whole year had been subject to a great drought, and made men despair of any water from above, even when at any time they saw the heavens over-cast with clouds; insomuch that when such a great quantity of rain came, and that in an unusual manner, and without any other expectation of it, the Jews hoped that Petronius would by no means fail in his petition for them. But as to Petronius, he was mightily surprised when he perceived that God evidently took care of

* Josephus bere uses the solemn New Testament words, Tapola, and {Tupayakat, the presence and appearance of God, for the extraordinary manifestation of his power and providence to Petronius, by sending rain in a time of distress, immediately upon the resolution he had taken to preserve the temple unpolluted, at the hazard of his own life, without any other miraculous appearance at all in that case; which well deserves to be taken notice of here, and greatly illustrates several texts, both in the Old and New Testament.

« PreviousContinue »