Page images
PDF
EPUB

Aristobulus, younger brother of Hyrcanus, who never rested until he had deposed him and made himself king in his stead. Hyrcanus would have acquiesced but for his great friend Antipater, the father of Herod the Great. As we have noticed, he was a Jew of Idumaea, and though of no important family was of consequence on account of his great wealth, and he was never ceasing in urging him to assert his rights. Thus civil war, with varying fortunes, ensued, which was more bitter than usual even amongst them.

And at this time Pompey was carrying out his campaign in Coele-Syria generally. Both sides made him great promises and sent him large presents, as they appealed to him for his support one against the other. He acted most circumspectly. The Jews were friends and allies of the Romans. But there was only one end when Rome was thus appealed to. Step by step events led up to the investing and taking of Jerusalem. With his then force it had easily withstood him but for their own divisions. In the main he was assisted by Hyrcanus, and the city was his. But he was no common conqueror. He took the temple, but did not touch so much as a drachma in its treasury; neither would he interrupt the daily service at the altar.

But for all that, the independence of the Jews was at an end. From now on they were to be ruled by a nominee of Rome. As regards their outside cities and territories, these Pompey freed from their rule and confined them strictly within their own bounds. Thus we read of Hippos, Sythopolis, Pella, Dios, and Samaria as also taken from them, Marissa, Ashdod, Jamnia, and Arethusa, as well as Gadara to be rebuilt. In addition he also liberated the maritime cities of Gaza, Joppa, Dora, as well as Stratos tower, which Herod beautified, changing its name to Caesarea. All these Pompey joined to the province of Syria, and in its ruins we see how great their kingdom had become. But it is in name alone that they now are “allies ” of Rome.

49. Pompey, more than satisfied with the realities of success, was careful to avoid unnecessary offence to the susceptibilities of the Jews. He had simply intervened at their request to decide between two claimants to the kingdom, and he had found in favour of the elder brother Hyrcanus II. And it was a signal party triumph which had been secured, and what, compared with it, the independence of their country? Mahomet had never overrun the East had he not found the Christians more bitterly hating one another than even himself. But for all that, faction is far from ended. They are now to be involved in the fierce party fighting amongst the Romans themselves. Pompey and Julius Caesar are now in contest for the mastery of the Roman Empire. At first Pompey had sent Aristobulus as prisoner to Rome. There he was well received. According to Josephus he was a man of great soul. Escaping thence, he returned to Judea to pose as a popular leader to deliver the country from foreign influence. Fortune was too hard for him. He was again beaten and carried back to Rome, where he was imprisoned by the Senate. Meantime his mantle fell on his son Alexander, who continued the struggle. Then Caesar, having made himself master of Rome, released Aristobulus, and giving him two legions of soldiers, sent him back once more to subdue the country. This, however, came to nought, as he was treacherously poisoned, and things also faring badly with Alexander, he was seized and executed by Scipio at Antioch. Thus his end, and the cause now devolved upon his brother Antigonus. Altogether it was a miserable time for the Jews. The affairs were too trilling and complicated to be worth particularizing here. However they went, they suffered. Whichever general was triumphant mattered little to them. They were impartially slaughtered and plundered by all alike. Crassus wanted money for his eastern campaign and violently stripped the temple. Cassius found excuse for like rapacity, and Anthony was no whit behind in his wants and his greed. No wonder a popular party became strong in influence if not in force

they identiformer cival under eyes from Josepho chiefly ated the popular, the real come partyand robbefistorians

which should end these horrible spoilings. Hyrcanus and Antipater meant well and in intervals of quiet governed fairly wisely. But feeling was strong against them, the one that he tolerated the foreigner, the other that he was of ignoble blood. And the very fact that they identified themselves with Rome the more alienated their former rivals. Hence the numerous risings, always popular, and under every variety of leader. We get little of the real merits from Josephus, who was to the core of the Rome party, and who chiefly saw in these insurgents marauders and robbers. And this is the label mostly attached to them by historians following his lead. But obviously there was more behind it than we now know. Thus we observe that Hyrcanus was not only friendly with the Romans, but as much so with the Athenians, who went so far as to erect his statue in brass in the temple of Demus and of the graces. On this little comment is needed. We know the violent antipathy of the orthodox to images in every form, and this incident would tend to show that as ever—from the days of the first worship of the golden calf—the nation is still divided in its outlook on matters of religion. Obviously there is still the Hellenistic spirit-Hellenism represented a great world-principle--and naturally to outsiders like Antipater it would far more appeal than the sterner outlook of the puritan Jews. These probably would be found among the rural aristocracy and the humbler population, the small farmers and their servants, rather than amongst the commercial and more cosmopolitan part of the community. A stronghold of such Jews certainly seems to have been found in Galilee who, like Mattathias, delighted in uncompromising hostility to every foreign innovation, especially in things religious. As we follow their history it will be seen that the principal men amongst them were probably of the House of David. They had fallen upon evil times since the days when Zerubbabel led the return of the first exiles from Babylon. It is more than likely that the Maccabees found their lineage inconvenient, and

they were not too nice with rival pretensions that troubled them. The hostility between the two is to remain until the end, and is to be the source of terrible misfortune in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile, as leaders, they find equal delight in Judas Maccabaeus, and in his methods of carrying on war against the wicked and ungodly. We recollect how, at first, he gathered about him a small band of men like himself, with whom he raided the surrounding country, and how in most amazing fashion the movement grew and prospered until folly and division alone prevented it becoming the great power of the East. No doubt Josephus saw these robbers as most hateful of ordinary criminals; but for all that behind this word “robber” we must probably read some political movement as well. Certainly is this so in the case of Hezekias of Galilee. He was a man of great resource and was captain of a band of robbers. With them he overran parts of Syria, which he kept in a state of terror. And then Herod, hardly more than a boy, given charge of Galilee, with signal skill and courage tracked him down, captured him, and slew him. So great his triumph he became a hero sung in song. And surely the destruction of a common robber, disturber of the peace, was a matter of general congratulation. But not so at all. On the contrary there were tremendous scenes in Jerusalem, and Herod was called to answer to the charge of having put him to death without his having been first condemned by the Sanhedrin. And this was contrary to the law, and worthy of death. And the accusers were reinforced by the cries and complaints of the wives and mothers of those whom he had slain. And Herod defiantly answered the summons, attended by his soldiers; but for all that would have been condemned had not Hyrcanus, on the motion of the Romans, and by their expressed desire, adjourned the charge that Herod might escape to Damascus. And later on, in power, Herod bitterly avenged himself on those who had thus brought him into peril. So far

people sawst interest by accide credit it violent

from this Hezekias being a common malefactor, he was probably of royal blood, and later on we see his son Judas founder of the fourth party of the Jews, and his grandson Manahem, assuming the actual title of king. And it is in the opposition of this fourth party to the Rome party that we find the political key to these times. But most unfortunately we can only pick out the story from Josephus. Obviously in the palaces of the Caesars, their favoured friend, he had to weigh every word he said; and further, it was with this fourth party he was in most violent animosity. Thus not a word to their credit is likely to escape from his pen except by accident. For us this family has the highest interest. It was in this Judas that the people saw the beginnings of those Messiahs or Christs referred to in the gospels, who were to lead away the people, and in his followers many of the early Christians are to be identified. So also we see in these same people the same fierce fanaticism, indomitable bravery, and utter contempt for life and suffering which is to be their distinguishing feature in the days to come.

50. And for a moment fortune favoured the popular party, and Herod's fortunes were at the lowest ebb. Julius Caesar was assassinated and Antipater murdered. The Parthians also took up the cause of Antigonus, and he had to flee for his life. After many dangers escaped he reached Rome, where he was well received by Anthony and Augustus. With their favour his fortunes revived, and collecting an army he returned to conquer the kingdom which these two great potentates conferred upon him. Meantime, Antigonus, once more master for the time being, deposed Hyrcanus, and to ensure his never again resuming office for no maimed man might be High Priest-cut off both his ears, or, according to the other account of Josephus, bit them off whilst he was kneeling to him begging mercy.

But Herod had by no means an altogether easy task resuming possession. There were still large numbers

« PreviousContinue »