Page images

probably hunted and proscribed, were driven to find safety in the fastnesses of Galilee, where they were certain of finding friends and sympathizers as well. It is rather a pretty story, the affection of these northern tribes for Judah. In the days of his prosperity “Hezekiah sent to all Israel, and wrote letters also to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the House of the Lord at Jerusalem to keep the Passover unto the Lord God of Israel. . . . So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulon; but they laughed them to scorn and mocked them. Neverthe less, divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulon humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem.* And this good feeling found in the north persisted in their descendants when we find the Galileans equally attached to their brethren in Jerusalem, and opposed to their neighbours the Samaritans. That Judas was one of the family of these refugees is confirmed by the political upheaval which the execution of his father Hezekias by Herod had occasioned in Jerusalem, as well as the consideration there shown him. In this home of family prejudice his birth was never matter of scorn, not even by Josephus, who altogether detested him, his family, and his party. He assumed the leadership of right, it remained with his family, and it was never challenged. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” was never asked of him. But in addition to those headed by Judas there were many other risings in Galilee, the hot-bed of intrigue against Rome. It was the very centre of disaffection, and was in continual protest against the tyranny of Rome. Amongst these turbulent people, no leader who raised the flag of revolt was in want of followers. There was one, Simon. He had been a slave of Herod. He declared for independence. Then there was a shepherd, Athronges, who, with his four brothers, all mighty men of their hands, collected a body of like enthusiasts, and made themselves a terror to the very legions of Rome itself. In those days they knew no neutral. Either defy Rome with them, or be pillaged. They were either grim, fierce patriots or violent men and robbers, according to the point of view of their observer. Josephus, ever supporter of Rome, saw them as criminals alone. Thus Galilee and Judea were in one wild state of disorder. But Rome was no divided Greek power to let disaffection grow unchecked. Under Varus, President of Syria, the rising was mercilessly crushed. Having defeated the rebels, he captured two thousand of them, whom he crucified. The principal men of Jerusalem were able to clear themselves of any complicity in the national rising; it was a popular movement, of which they had rather been the victims than the authors.

* 2 Chron. XXX. 1, 10-11.

Thus for the time we see Archelaus confirmed in his kingdom. But it is no peaceful time, no happy relations which he is to have with his subjects. Then, in the tenth year of his government, the principal men of Judea and Samaria, not being able to bear his barbarous and tyrannical usage of them, accused him before Caesar. And Augustus was so wrath with him that he would not even write to him, but ordered him to report himself in Rome. Then, having heard the case, he deposed him, confiscated his estate, and banished him to Vienna. And acceding to their wishes he made Judea part of the Roman province of Syria, over which he had just appointed Cyrenius as governor. To him he deputed the carrying through all the formalities of the transfer, the sale of the house of Archelaus, and the disposal of his money. Thus even the last vestige of independence was taken from them. Bitterly as they resented a stranger king—for so they regarded Herod—yet hitherto the semblance of government had remained much the same. The ruler, however appointed, was usually an autocrat, and provided the tribute came regularly to hand, there was very little interference either in the method of its collection or in other domestic matters. This was much the same, whoever was overlord-Persian or Greek or Roman. But once made into a province of the empire and the system was changed in its entirety. Then was brought home to them in every incident of daily life that now indeed they were a conquered people. Some realized the temporal advantages that followed from being part of the Roman Empire, and which, in their eyes, far exceeded any sentimental objections to such dependency; but to those of the Judas party it was bitterness itself. At times their animosity slumbered. When the rule was strong and there was no particular grievance they submitted, but sullenly at best. But all the proud, turbulent spirits were on their side, and the most trilling slight to their law or their religion and some wild outburst was the result. Their more peacefully inclined brethren at home and in their many colonies far from sympathized with them. In fact, they found much solid satisfaction in law and order rigorously enforced. They dreaded the tyranny of these enthusiasts more than that of an alien master. As for their cry, “No king but God,” it found no response in other parties, and they only heard in it a plausible faction cry, neither commanded by their law nor warranted by their history, and ever to be abandoned when one of their line aspired to the crown. For themselves it was enough that Rome was anxiety itself to govern them according to their laws; was willing to call to swift account any governor who was oppressive, and was ever ready to find great careers for their greatest men. A slight study of existing political conditions shows how much it was to the interests of the empire to attach to her independent nations like the Jews. Its very strength was in having subject people on whose fidelity it could rely. We can see in interest alone every motive for the empire seeking to attach them to itself. And in particular at this time the Jews were worth cultivating. They were now so widespread and important; their colonies were so numerous and their ramifications so general, that it was high policy to conciliate them to the utmost. There is little doubt that by now they were become the bankers of the world, and altogether the most formidable organization with which the empire mught have to cope. They were in a position to work silently, secretly, and beneath the surface, and in every land. Many a trouble in its incipience they were in a position to foment or suppress. And secured, and their reputation was to be ever faithful subjects and on the whole a strong stabilizing influence. But these home irreconcilables, whose strength so much lay in the rural population, were the discordant element. Their liberty—with which largely they seemed to have identified their faith, they put first and foremost in their outlook on life. They are of a race that knows no compromise. The court party they abhor, they are fanatical and unreasonable. In their blood the old puritanism of their forefathers runs strong. They will die; but accommodate in religious thought? Never !

53. And now our interest centres round those terrible followers of Judas and their successors. As for those in antagonism to them, they are the very ordinary, commonplace, worldly-wise men we find in such abundance on every hand and in every age, and need no further particular mention. Those who square their beliefs with their material advantage are too universal to occasion any remark. But a man who has an idea, and will die for it—well, whatever the idea, he is already one of the immortals, and we would reverently ask, what of the spirit that inspired him? We would by no means suggest that all these successors of Judas were thus moved. Probably, then as now, there were evil-minded charlatans who took advantage of the simplicity of their fellows to prosecute their own schemes of ambition; but for all that, there was this core of single-eyed enthusiasts both in Galilee and Judea, who alone made such movements possible. No doubt, as time passed, and disorders multiplied and increased, a spirit of lawlessness overwhelmed the country, until we find the very boys and girls delighting in bloodshed, and a nation brought up to violence from

its cradle. And bloodshed appealed to, and, unless superior power intervenes, the poison will spread and increase until a whole country is plunged in crimson ruin, and the very terms right and wrong cease to connote any specific ideas. All this in its utmost horrors was to be the fate of Judea in the next fifty or sixty years. These sanguinary uprisings ceased only when resolutely held down by the strong arm of Rome. This spirit of insubordination was like highpressure steam in a boiler. The slightest flaw and it was there to burst forth and deluge the land in murders, rioting, and war. And Josephus and his school saw in them a poor, ignorant mob, deluded by imposters, fishers in troubled waters, men who sought only their own advancement in the general confusion.

Maybe, but for all that they played with an ideaan idea for which they were ready to lay down their lives. And this Josephus could never appreciate. The last thing he personally was prepared to do was to sacrifice his life for an idea. On the contrary, we shall find him saving it by a trick, and no very respectable trick either. To really understand that period we have but to ask ourselves what our future had been as a race if the Germans had conquered us. As a servile race we never could have continued to exist. And freedom impossible for once down, no matter how; no matter whether due to felon blow or assassin's stab; we had never this side many a century risen again—and there is not a doubt this old Jewish story would have been repeated. Some, but I doubt if they had been many, would have seen on which side their bread was buttered, and apostates and recreants, more German than the German himself, would have risen on their country's ruins. And in their history again would be the history of the Greek, who, with loss of freedom, so degenerated that we hardly know him as one of the same race as the heroes of Marathon, Salamis, or Thermopylace. But for ourselves we have too much the same spirit of these wild robbers and assassins and sicarrii of Josephus for this to have

« PreviousContinue »