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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

We have seen how the ten tribes were carried captive to Assyria, on
the fall of Samaria, by Shalmanezer, B.C., 721. From that time history
loses sight of the ten tribes, as a distinct people. They were probably
absorbed with the nations among whom they settled, although imagination
has loved to follow them into inaccessible regions where they await their
final restoration. But there are no reliable facts which justify this
conclusion. They may have been the ancestors of the Christian converts
afterward found among the Nestorians. They may have retained in the East,
to a certain extent, some of their old institutions. But nothing is known
with certainty. All is vain conjecture respecting their ultimate fortunes.

The Jews of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin never entirely
departed from their ancient faith, and their monarchs reigned in regular
succession till the captivity of the family of David. They were not
carried to Babylon for one hundred and twenty-three years after the
dispersion of the ten tribes, B.C. 598.

During the captivity, the Jews still remained a separate people,
governed by their own law and religion. It is supposed that they were
rather colonists than captives, and were allowed to dwell together in
considerable bodies--that they were not sold as slaves, and by degrees
became possessed of considerable wealth. What region, from time
immemorial, has not witnessed their thrift and their love of money? Well
may a Jew say, as well as a Greek, "Quae regio in terris nostri non
plena laboris." Taking the advice of Jeremiah they built houses, planted
gardens, and submitted to their fate, even if they bewailed it "by the
rivers of Babylon," in such sad contrast to their old mountain homes. They
had the free enjoyment of their religion, and were subjected to no general
and grievous religious persecutions. And some of their noble youth, like
Daniel, were treated with great distinction during the captivity. Daniel
had been transported to Babylon before Jerusalem fell, as a hostage, among
others, of the fidelity of their king. These young men, from the highest
Jewish families, were educated in all the knowledge of the Babylonians, as
Joseph had been in Egyptian wisdom. They were the equals of the Chaldean
priests in knowledge of astronomy, divination, and the interpretation of
dreams. And though these young hostages were maintained at the public
expense, and perhaps in the royal palaces, they remembered their
distressed countrymen, and lived on the simplest fare. It was as an
interpreter of dreams that Daniel maintained his influence in the
Babylonian court. Twice was he summoned by Nebuchadnezzar, and once by
Belshazzar to interpret the handwriting on the wall. And under the Persian
monarch, when Babylon fell, Daniel became a vizier, or satrap, with great
dignity and power.

When the seventy years' captivity, which Jeremiah had predicted,
came to an end, the empire of the Medes and Persians was in the hands of
Cyrus, under whose sway he enjoyed the same favor and rank that he did
under Darius, or any of the Babylonian princes. The miraculous deliverance
of this great man from the lion's den, into which he had been thrown from
the intrigues of his enemies and the unalterable law of the Medes,
resulted in a renewed exaltation. Josephus ascribes to Daniel one of the
noblest and most interesting characters in Jewish history, a great skill
in architecture, and it is to him that the splendid mausoleum at Ecbatana
is attributed. But Daniel, with all his honors, was not corrupted, and it
was probably through his influence, as a grand vizier, that the exiled
Jews obtained from Cyrus the decree which restored them to their beloved

The number of the returned Jews, under Zerubbabel, a descendant of
the kings of Judah, were forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty men--a
great and joyful caravan--but small in number compared with the Israelites
who departed from Egypt with Moses. On their arrival in their native land,
they were joined by great numbers of the common people who had remained.
They bore with them the sacred vessels of the temple, which Cyrus
generously restored. They arrived in the spring of the year B.C. 536, and
immediately made preparations for the restoration of the temple; not under
those circumstances which enabled Solomon to concentrate the wealth of
Western Asia, but under great discouragements and the pressure of poverty.
The temple was built on the old foundation, but was not completed till the
sixth year of Darius Hystaspes, B.C. 515, and then without the ancient

It was dedicated with great joy and magnificence, but the sacrifice
of one hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve
goats, formed a sad contrast to the hecatombs which Solomon had offered.

Nothing else of importance marked the history of the dependent,
impoverished, and humiliated Jews, who had returned to the country of
their ancestors during the reign of Darius Hystaspes.

It was under his successor, Xerxes, he who commanded the Hellespont
to be scourged--that mad, luxurious, effeminated monarch, who is called in
Scripture Ahasuerus,--that Mordecai figured in the court of Persia, and
Esther was exalted to the throne itself. It was in the seventh year of his
reign that this inglorious king returned, discomfited, from the invasion
of Greece. Abandoning himself to the pleasures of his harem, he marries
the Jewess maiden, who is the instrument, under Providence, of averting
the greatest calamity with which the Jews were ever threatened. Haman, a
descendant of the Amalekitish kings, is the favorite minister and grand
vizier of the Persian monarch. Offended with Mordecai, his rival in
imperial favor, the cousin of the queen, he intrigues for the wholesale
slaughter of the Jews wherever they were to be found, promising the king
ten thousand talents of silver from the confiscation of Jewish property,
and which the king needed, impoverished by his unsuccessful expedition
into Greece. He thus obtains a decree from Ahasuerus for the general
massacre of the Jewish nation, in all the provinces of the empire, of
which Judea was one. The Jews are in the utmost consternation, and look to
Mordecai. His hope is based on Esther, the queen, who might soften, by her
fascinations, the heart of the king. She assumes the responsibility of
saving her nation at the peril of her own life--a deed of not extraordinary
self-devotion, but requiring extraordinary tact. What anxiety must have
pressed the soul of that Jewish woman in the task she undertook! What a
responsibility on her unaided shoulders? But she dissembles her grief, her
fear, her anxiety, and appears before the king radiant in beauty and
loveliness. The golden sceptre is extended to her by her weak and cruel
husband, though arrayed in the pomp and power of an Oriental monarch,
before whom all bent the knee, and to whom, even in his folly, he appears
as demigod. She does not venture to tell the king her wishes. The stake is
too great. She merely invites him to a grand banquet, with his minister
Haman. Both king and minister are ensnared by the cautious queen, and the
result is the disgrace of Haman, the elevation of Mordecai, and the
deliverance of the Jews from the fatal sentence--not a perfect deliverance,
for the decree could not be changed, but the Jews were warned and allowed
to defend themselves, and they slew seventy-five thousand of their
enemies. The act of vengeance was followed by the execution of the ten
sons of Haman, and Mordecai became the real governor of Persia. We see in
this story the caprice which governed the actions, in general, of Oriental
kings, and their own slavery to their favorite wives. The charms of a
woman effect, for evil or good, what conscience, and reason, and policy,
and wisdom united can not do. Esther is justly a favorite with the
Christian and Jewish world; but Vashti, the proud queen who, with true
woman's dignity, refuses to grace with her presence the saturnalia of an
intoxicated monarch, is also entitled to our esteem, although she paid the
penalty of disobedience; and the foolish edict which the king promulgated,
that all women should implicitly obey their husbands, seems to indicate
that unconditional obedience was not the custom of the Persian women.

The reign of Artaxerxes, the successor of Xerxes, was favorable to
the Jews, for Judea was a province of the Persian empire. In the seventh
year of his reign, B.C. 458, a new migration of Jews from Babylonia took
place, headed by Ezra, a man of high rank at the Persian court. He was
empowered to make a collection among the Jews of Babylonia for the
adornment of the temple, and he came to Jerusalem laden with treasures. He
was, however, affected by the sight of a custom which had grown up, of
intermarriage of the Jews with adjacent tribes. He succeeded in causing
the foreign wives to be repudiated, and the old laws to be enforced which
separated the Jews from all other nations. And it is probably this stern
law, which prevents the Jews from marriage with foreigners, that has
preserved their nationality, in all their wanderings and misfortunes, more
than any other one cause.

A renewed commission granted to Nehemiah, B.C. 445, resulted in a
fresh immigration of Jews to Palestine, in spite of all the opposition
which the Samaritan and other nations made. Nehemiah was cup-bearer to the
Persian king, and devoted to the Persian interests. At that time Persia
had suffered a fatal blow at the battle of Cindus, and among the
humiliating articles of peace with the Athenian admiral was the
stipulation that the Persians should not advance within three days'
journey of the sea. Jerusalem being at this distance, was an important
post to hold, and the Persian court saw the wisdom of intrusting its
defense to faithful allies. In spite of all obstacles, Nehemiah succeeded,
in fifty-two days, in restoring the old walls and fortifications; the
whole population, of every rank and order having devoted themselves to the
work. Moreover, contributions for the temple continued to flow into the
treasury of a once opulent, but now impoverished and decimated people.
After providing for the security of the capital and the adornment of the
temple, the leaders of the nation turned their attention to the
compilation of the sacred books and the restoration of religion. Many
important literary works had been lost during their captivity, including
the work of Solomon on national history, and the ancient book of Jasher.
But the books on the law, the historical books, the prophetic writings,
the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Songs of Solomon, were
collected and copied. The law, revised and corrected, was publicly read by
Ezra; the Feast of Tabernacles was celebrated with considerable splendor;
and a renewed covenant was made by the people to keep the law, to observe
the Sabbath, to avoid idolatry, and abstain from intermarriage with
strangers. The Jewish constitution was restored, and Nehemiah, a Persian
satrap in reality, lived in a state of considerable magnificence,
entertaining the chief leaders of the nation, and reforming all disorders.
Jerusalem gradually regained political importance, while the country of
the ten tribes, though filled with people, continued to be the seat of

On the death of Nehemiah, B.C. 415, the history of the Jews becomes
obscure, and we catch only scattered glimpses of the state of the country,
till the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes, B.C. 175, when the Syrian
monarch had erected a new kingdom on the ruins of the Persian empire. For
more than two centuries, when the Greeks and Romans flourished, Jewish
history is a blank, with here and there some scattered notices and
traditions which Josephus has recorded. The Jews, living in vassalage to
the successors of Alexander during this interval, had become animated by a
martial spirit, and the Maccabaic wars elevated them into sufficient
importance to become allies of Rome--the new conquering power, destined to
subdue the world. During this period the Jewish character assumed the
hard, stubborn, exclusive cast which it has ever since maintained--an
intense hostility to polytheism and all Gentile influences. The Jewish
Scriptures took their present shape, and the Apocryphal books came to
light. The sects of the Jews arose, like Pharisees and Sadducees, and
religious and political parties exhibited an unwonted fierceness and
intolerance. While the Greeks and Romans were absorbed in wars, the Jews
perfected their peculiar economy, and grew again into political
importance. The country, by means of irrigation and cultivation, became
populous and fertile, and poetry and the arts regained their sway. The
people took but little interest in the political convulsions of
neighboring nations, and devoted themselves quietly to the development of
their own resources. The captivity had cured them of war, of idolatry, and
warlike expeditions.

During this two hundred years of obscurity, but real growth,
unnoticed and unknown by other nations, a new capital had arisen in Egypt;
Alexandria became a great mart of commerce, and the seat of revived
Grecian learning. The sway of the Ptolemaic kings, Grecian in origin, was
favorable to letters, and to arts. The Jews settled in their magnificent
city, translated their Scriptures into Greek, and cultivated the Greek

Meanwhile the internal government of the Jews fell into the hands
of the high priests--the Persian governors exercising only a general
superintendence. At length the country, once again favored, was subjected
to the invasion of Alexander. After the fall of Tyre, the conqueror
advanced to Gaza, and totally destroyed it. He then approached Jerusalem,
in fealty to Persia. The high priest made no resistance, but went forth in
his pontifical robes, followed by the people in white garments, to meet
the mighty warrior. Alexander, probably encouraged by the prophesies of
Daniel, as explained by the high priest, did no harm to the city or
nation, but offered gifts, and, as tradition asserts, even worshiped the
God of the Jews. On the conquest of Persia, Judea came into the possession
of Laomedon, one of the generals of Alexander, B.C. 321. On his defeat by
Ptolemy, another general, to whom Egypt had fallen as his share, one
hundred thousand Jews were carried captive to Alexandria, where they
settled and learned the Greek language. The country continued to be
convulsed by the wars between the generals of Alexander, and fell into the
hands, alternately, of the Syrian and Egyptian kings--successors of the
generals of the great conqueror.

On the establishment of the Syro-Grecian kingdom by Seleucus,
Antioch, the capital, became a great city, and the rival of Alexandria.
Syria, no longer a satrapy of Persia, became a powerful monarchy, and
Judea became a prey to the armies of this ambitious State in its warfare
with Egypt, and was alternately the vassal of each--Syria and Egypt. Under
the government of the first three Ptolemies--those enlightened and
magnificent princes, Soter, Philadelphus, and Evergetes, the Jews were
protected, both at home and in Alexandria, and their country enjoyed peace
and prosperity, until the ambition of Antiochus the Great again plunged
the nation in difficulties. He had seized Judea, which was then a province
of the Egyptian kings, but was defeated by Ptolemy Philopator. This
monarch made sumptuous presents to the temple, and even ventured to enter
the sanctuary, but was prevented by the high priest. Although filled with
fear in view of the tumult which this act provoked, he henceforth hated
and persecuted the Jews. Under his successor, Judea was again invaded by
Antiochus, and again was Jerusalem wrested from his grasp by Scopas, the
Egyptian general. Defeated, however, near the source of the Jordan, the
country fell into the hands of Antiochus, who was regarded as a deliverer.
And it continued to be subject to the kings of Syria, until, with
Jerusalem, it suffered calamities scarcely inferior to those inflicted by
the Babylonians.

It is difficult to trace, with any satisfaction, the internal
government of the Jews during the two hundred years when the chief power
was in the hands of the high priests--this period marked by the wars
between Syria and Egypt, or rather between the successors of the generals
of Alexander. The government of the high priests at Jerusalem was not
exempt from those disgraceful outrages which occasionally have marked all
the governments of the world--whether in the hands of kings, or in an
oligarchy of nobles and priests. Nehemiah had expelled from Jerusalem,
Manasseh, the son of Jehoiada, who succeeded Eliashib in the high
priesthood, on account of his unlawful marriage with a stranger. Manasseh,
invited to Samaria by the father of the woman he had married, became high
priest of the temple on Mount Gerizim, and thus perpetuated the schism
between the two nations. Before the conquests of Alexander, while the
country was under the dominion of Persia, a high priest by the name of
John murdered his brother Jesus within the precincts of the sanctuary,
which crime was punished by the Persian governor, by a heavy fine imposed
upon the whole nation. Jaddua was the high priest in the time of
Alexander, and by his dignity and tact won over the conqueror of Asia.
Onias succeeded Jaddua, and ruled for twenty-one years, and he was
succeeded by Simon the Just, a pontiff on whose administration Jewish
tradition dwells with delight. Simon was succeeded by his uncles, Eleazar
and Manasseh, and they by Onias II., son of Simon, through whose
misconduct, or indolence, in omitting the customary tribute to the
Egyptian king, came near involving the country in fresh
calamities--averted, however, by his nephew Joseph, who pacified the
Egyptian court, and obtained the former generalship of the revenues of
Judea, Samaria, and Phoenicia, which he enjoyed to the time of Antiochus
the Great. Onias II. was succeeded by his son Simon, under whose
pontificate the Egyptian monarch was prevented from entering the temple,
and he by Onias III., under whose rule a feud took place with the sons of
Joseph, disgraced by murders, which called for the interposition of the
Syrian king, who then possessed Judea. Joshua, or Jason, by bribery,
obtained the pontificate, but he allowed the temple worship to fall into
disuse, and was even alienated from the Jewish faith by his intimacy with
the Syrian court. He was outbidden in his high office by Onias, his
brother, who was disgraced by savage passions, and who robbed the temple
of its golden vessels. The people, indignant, rose in a tumult, and slew
his brother, Lysimachus. Meanwhile, Jason, the dispossessed high priest,
recovered his authority, and shut up Onias, or Menelaus, as he called
himself, in a castle. This was interpreted by Antiochus as an
insurrection, and he visited on Jerusalem a terrible penalty--slaughtering
forty thousand of the people, and seizing as many more for slaves. He then
abolished the temple services, seized all the sacred vessels, collected
spoil to the amount of eighteen hundred talents, defiled the altar by the
sacrifice of a sow, and suppressed every sign of Jewish independence. He
meditated the complete extirpation of the Jewish religion, dismantled the
capitol, harassed the country people, and inflicted unprecedented
barbarities. The temple itself was dedicated to Jupiter Olympius, and the
reluctant and miserable Jews were forced to join in all the rites of pagan
worship, including the bacchanalia, which mocked the virtue of the older

From this degradation and slavery the Jews were rescued by a line
of heroes whom God raised up--the Asmoneans, or Maccabees. The head of this
heroic family was Mattathias, a man of priestly origin, living in the town
of Modin, commanding a view of the sea--an old man of wealth and influence
who refused to depart from the faith of his fathers, while most of the
nation had relapsed into the paganism of the Greeks. He slew with his own
hand an apostate Jew, who offered sacrifice to a pagan deity, and then
killed the royal commissioner, Apelles, whom Antiochus had sent to enforce
his edicts. The heroic old man, who resembled William Tell, in his mission
and character, summoned his countrymen, who adhered to the old faith, and
intrenched himself in the mountains, and headed a vigorous revolt against
the Syrian power, even fighting on the Sabbath day. The ranks of the
insurrectionists were gradually filled with those who were still zealous
for the law, or inspired with patriotic desires for independence.
Mattathias was prospered, making successful raids from his mountain
fastnesses, destroying heathen altars, and punishing apostate Jews. Two
sects joined his standard with peculiar ardor--the Zadikim, who observed
the written law of Moses, from whom the Sadducees of later times sprang,
and the more zealous and austere Chasidim, who added to the law the
traditions of the elders, from whom the Pharisees came.

Old men are ill suited to conduct military expeditions when great fatigue
and privation are required, and the aged Mattathias sank under the weight
which he had so nobly supported, and bequeathed his power to Judas, the
most valiant of his sons.

This remarkable man, scarcely inferior to Joshua and David in
military genius and heroic qualities, added prudence and discretion to
personal bravery. When his followers had gained experience and courage by
various gallant adventures, he led them openly against his enemies. The
governor of Samaria, Apollonius, was the first whom he encountered, and
whom he routed and slew. Seron, the deputy governor of Coelesyria, sought
to redeem the disgrace of the Syrian arms; but he also was defeated at the
pass of Bethoron. At the urgent solicitation of Philip, governor of
Jerusalem, Antiochus then sent a strong force of forty thousand foot and
seven thousand horse to subdue the insurgents, under the command of
Ptolemy Macron. Judas, to resist these forces, had six thousand men; but
he relied on the God of Israel, as his fathers had done in the early ages
of Jewish history, and in a sudden attack he totally routed a large
detachment of the main army, under Gorgias, and spoiled their camp. He
then defeated another force beyond the Jordan, and the general fled in the
disguise of a slave, to Antioch. Thus closed a triumphant campaign.

The next year, Lysias, the lieutenant-general of Antiochus, invaded
Judea with a large force of sixty-five thousand men. Judas met it with ten
thousand, and gained a brilliant victory, which proved decisive, and which
led to the re-establishment of the Jewish power at Jerusalem. Judas
fortified the city and the temple, and assumed the offensive, and
recovered, one after another, the cities which had fallen under the
dominion of Syria. In the mean time, Antiochus, the bitterest enemy which
the Jews ever had, died miserably in Persia--the most powerful of all the
Syrian kings.

On the accession of Antiochus Eupater, Lysias again attempted the
subjugation of Judea, This time he advanced with one hundred thousand
foot, twenty thousand horse, and thirty-two elephants. But this large
force wasted away in an unsuccessful attack on Jerusalem, harassed by the
soldiers of the Maccabees. A treaty of peace was concluded, by which full
liberty of worship was granted to the Jews, with permission to be ruled by
their own laws.

Demetrius, the lawful heir of Antiochus the Great, had been
detained at Rome as a hostage, in consequence of which Antiochus Eupater
had usurped his throne. Escaping from Rome, he overpowered his enemies and
recovered his kingdom. But he was even more hostile to the Jews than his
predecessor, and succeeded in imposing a high priest on the nation
friendly to his interests. His cruelties and crimes once more aroused the
Jews to resistance, and Judas gained another decisive victory, and
Nicanor, the Syrian general, was slain.

Judas then adopted a policy which was pregnant with important
consequences. He formed a league with the Romans, then bent on the
conquest of the East. The Roman senate readily entered into a coalition
with the weaker State, in accordance with its uniform custom of protecting
those whom they ultimately absorbed in their vast empire: but scarcely was
the treaty ratified when the gallant Judas died, leaving the defense of
his country to his brothers, B.C. 161.

Jonathan, on whom the leadership fell, found the forces under his
control disheartened by the tyranny of the high priest, Alcimus, whom the
nation had accepted. Leagued with Bacchides, the Syrian general, the high
priest had every thing his own way, until Jonathan, emerging from his
retreat, delivered his countrymen once again, and another peace was made.
Several years then passed in tranquillity, Jonathan being master of Judea.
A revolution in Syria added to his power, and his brother Simon was made
captain-general of all the country from Tyre to Egypt. Jonathan,
unfortunately, was taken in siege, and the leadership of the nation
devolved upon Simon, the last of this heroic family. He ruled with great
wisdom, consolidated his power, strengthened his alliance with Rome,
repaired Jerusalem, and restored the peace of the country. He was, on a
present of one thousand pounds of gold to the Romans, decreed to be prince
of Judea, and taken under the protection of his powerful ally. But the
peace with Syria, from the new complications to which that kingdom was
subjected from rival aspirants to the throne, was broken in the old age of
Simon, and he was treacherously murdered, with his oldest son, Judas, at a
banquet in Jerusalem. The youngest son, John Hyrcanus, inherited the vigor
of his family, and was declared high priest, and sought to revenge the
murder of his father and brother. Still, a Syrian army overran the
country, and John Hyrcanus, shut up in Jerusalem, was reduced to great
extremities. A peace was finally made between him and the Syrian monarch,
Antiochus, by which Judea submitted to vassalage to the king of Syria. An
unfortunate expedition of Antiochus into Parthia enabled Hyrcanus once
again to throw off the Syrian yoke, and Judea regained its independence,
which it maintained until compelled to acknowledge the Roman power.
Hyrcanus was prospered in his reign, and destroyed the rival temple on
Mount Gerizim, while the temple of Jerusalem resumed its ancient dignity
and splendor.

At this period the Jews, who had settled in Alexandria, devoted
themselves to literature and philosophy in that liberal and elegant city,
and were allowed liberty of worship. But they became entangled in the
mazes of Grecian speculation, and lost much of their ancient spirit. By
compliance with the opinions and customs of the Greeks, they reached great
honors and distinction, and even high posts in the army.

Hyrcanus, supreme in Judea, now reduced Samaria and Idumea, and was
only troubled by the conflicting parties of Pharisees and Sadducees, whose
quarrels agitated the State. He joined the party of the Sadducees, who
asserted free will, and denied the more orthodox doctrines of the
Pharisees, a kind of epicureans, opposed to severities and the authority
of traditions. It is one proof of the advance of the Hebrew mind over the
simplicity of former ages, that the State could be agitated by theological
and philosophical questions, like the States of Greece in their highest

Hyrcanus reigned twenty-nine years, and was succeeded by his son,
Aristobulus, B.C. 106. His brief and inglorious reign was disgraced by his
starving to death his mother in a dungeon, and imprisoning his three
brothers, and assassinating a fourth, Antigonus, who was a victorious
general. This prince died in an agony of remorse and horror on the spot
where his brother was assassinated.

Alexander Jannaus succeeded to the throne of the Asmonean princes, who
possessed the whole region of Palestine, except the port of Ptolemais, and
the city of Gaza. In an attempt to recover the former he was signally
defeated, and came near losing his throne. He was more successful in his
attack on Gaza, which finally surrendered, after Alexander had incurred
immense losses.

While this priest-king was celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles, a
meeting, incited by the Pharisaic party, broke out, which resulted in the
slaughter of ten thousand people. While invading the country to the east
of the Jordan, the rebellion was renewed, and the nation, for six years,
suffered all the evils of civil war. Routed in a battle with the Syrian
monarch, whose aid the insurgents had invoked, he was obliged to flee to
the mountains; but recovering his authority, at the head of sixty thousand
men,--which shows the power of Judea at this period,--he marched upon
Jerusalem, and inflicted a terrible vengeance, eight hundred men being
publicly crucified, and eight thousand more forced to abandon the city.
Under his iron sway, the country recovered its political importance, for
his kingdom comprised the greater part of Palestine. He died, after a
turbulent reign of twenty-seven years, B.C. 77, invoking his queen to
throw herself into the arms of the Pharisaic party, which advice she
followed, as it was the most powerful and popular.

The high priesthood devolved on his eldest son, Hyrcanus II., while
the reins of government were held by his queen, Alexandra. She reigned
vigorously and prosperously for nine years, punishing the murderers of the
eight hundred Pharisees who had been executed.

Hyrcanus was not equal to his task amid the bitterness of party strife.
His brother Aristobulus, belonging to the party of the Sadducees, and who
had taken Damascus, was popular with the people, and compelled his elder
brother to abdicate in his favor, and an end came to Pharisaic rule.

But now another family appears upon the stage, which ultimately
wrested the crown from the Asmodean princes. Antipater, a noble Idumean,
was the chief minister of the feeble Hyrcanus. He incited, from motives of
ambition, the deposed prince to reassert his rights, and influenced by his
counsels, he fled to Aretas, the king of Arabia, whose capital, Petra, had
become a great commercial emporium. Aretas, Antipater, and Hyrcanus,
marched with an army of fifty thousand men against Aristobulus, who was
defeated, and fled to Jerusalem.

At this time Pompey was pursuing his career of conquests in the
East, and both parties invoked his interference, and both offered enormous
bribes. This powerful Roman was then at Damascus, receiving the homage and
tribute of Oriental kings. The Egyptian monarch sent as a present a crown
worth four thousand pieces of gold. Aristobulus, in command of the riches
of the temple, sent a golden vine worth five hundred talents. Pompey,
intent on the conquest of Arabia, made no decision; but, having succeeded
in his object, assumed a tone of haughtiness irreconcilable with the
independence of Judea. Aristobulus, patriotic yet vacillating,--"too
high-minded to yield, too weak to resist,"--fled to Jerusalem and prepared
for resistance.

Pompey approached the capital, weakened by those everlasting
divisions to which the latter Jews were subjected by the zeal of their
religious disputes. The city fell, after a brave defense of three months,
and might not have fallen had the Jews been willing to abate from the
rigid observance of the Sabbath, during which the Romans prepared for
assault. Pompey demolished the fortifications of the city, and exacted
tribute, but spared the treasures of the temple which he profaned by his
heathen presence. He nominated Hyrcanus to the priesthood, but withheld
the royal diadem, and limited the dominions of Hyrcanus to Judea. He took
Aristobulus to Rome to grace his triumph.

But he contrived to escape, and, with his son Alexander, again
renewed the civil strife; but taken prisoner, he was again sent as a
captive to the "eternal city." Gabinius, the Roman general--for Hyrcanus
had invoked the aid of the Romans--now deprived the high priest of the
royal authority, and reorganized the whole government of Judea;
establishing five independent Sanhedrims in the principal cities, after
the form of the great Sanhedrim, which had existed since the captivity.
This form lasted until Julius Caesar reinvested Hyrcanus with the supreme

Jerusalem was now exposed to the rapacity of the Roman generals who
really governed the country. Crassus plundered all that Pompey spared. He
took from the temple ten thousand talents--about ten million dollars when
gold and silver had vastly greater value than in our times. These vast
sums had been accumulated from the contributions of Jews scattered over
the world--some of whom were immensely wealthy.

Aristobulus and his son Alexander were assassinated during the
great civil war between the partisans of Caesar and Pompey. After the fall
of the latter. Caesar confirmed Hyrcanus in the high priesthood, and
allowed him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But Antipater, presuming on
the incapacity of Hyrcanus, renewed his ambitious intrigues, and contrived
to make his son, Phasael, governor of Jerusalem, and Herod, a second son,
governor of Galilee.

Herod developed great talents, and waited for his time. After the
battle of Philippi Herod made acceptable offerings to the conquering
party, and received the crown of Judea, which had been recently ravaged by
the Parthians, through the intrigues of Antigonas, the surviving son of
Aristobulus. By his marriage with Mariamne, of the royal line of the
Asmoneans, he cemented the power he had won by the sword and the favor of
Rome. He was the last of the independent sovereigns of Palestine. He
reigned tyrannically, and was guilty of great crimes, having caused the
death of the aged Hyrcanus, and the imprisonment and execution of his wife
on a foul suspicion. He paid the same court to Augustus that he did to
Antony, and was confirmed in the possession of his kingdom. The last of
the line of the Asmonaeans had perished on the scaffold, beautiful,
innocent, and proud, the object of a boundless passion to a tyrant who
sacrificed her to a still greater one--suspicion. Alternating between his
love and resentment, Herod sank into a violent fit of remorse, for he had
more or less concern in the murder of the father, the grandfather, the
brother, and the uncle of his beautiful and imperious wife. At all times,
even amid the glories of his palace, he was haunted with the image of the
wife he had destroyed, and loved with passionate ardor. He burst forth in
tears, he tried every diversion, banquets and revels, solitude and
labor--still the murdered Mariamne is ever present to his excited
imagination. He settles down in a fixed and indelible gloom, and his stern
nature sought cruelty and bloodshed. His public administration was, on the
whole, favorable to the peace and happiness of the country, although he
introduced the games and the theatres in which the Romans sought their
greatest pleasures. For these innovations he was exposed to incessant
dangers; but he surmounted them all by his vigilance and energy. He
rebuilt Samaria, and erected palaces. But his greatest work was the
building of Caesarea--a city of palaces and theatres. His policy of reducing
Judea to a mere province of Rome was not pleasing to his subjects, and he
was suspected of a design of heathenizing the nation. Neither his
munificence nor severities could suppress the murmurs of an indignant
people. The undisguised hostility of the nation prompted him to an act of
policy by which he hoped to conciliate it forever. The pride and glory of
the Jews was their temple. This Herod determined to rebuild with
extraordinary splendor, so as to approach its magnificence in the time of
Solomon. He removed the old structure, dilapidated by the sieges, and
violence, and wear of five hundred years; and the new edifice gradually
arose, glittering with gold, and imposing with marble pinnacles.

But in spite of all his magnificent public works, whether to
gratify the pride of his people, or his own vanity--in spite of his efforts
to develop the resources of the country over which he ruled by the favor
of Rome--in spite of his talents and energies--one of the most able of the
monarchs who had sat on the throne of Judea, he was obnoxious to his
subjects for his cruelties, and his sympathy with paganism, and he was
visited in his latter days by a terrible disorder which racked his body
with pain, and inflamed his soul with suspicions, while his court was
distracted with cabals from his own family, which poisoned his life, and
led him to perpetrate unnatural cruelties. He had already executed two
favorite sons, by Mariamne whom he loved, all from court intrigues and
jealousy, and he then executed his son and heir, by Doris, his first wife,
whom he had divorced to marry Mariamne, and under circumstances so cruel
that Augustus remarked that he had rather be one of his swine than one of
his sons. Among other atrocities, he had ordered the massacre of the
Innocents to prevent any one to be born "as king of the Jews." His last
act was to give the fatal mandate for the execution of his son Antipater,
whom he hoped to make his heir, and then almost immediately expired in
agonies, detested by the nation, and leaving a name as infamous as that of
Ahab, B.C. 4.

Herod had married ten wives, and left a numerous family. By his
will, he designated the sons of Malthace, his sixth wife, and a Samaritan,
as his successors. These were Archelaus, Antipas, and Olympias. The first
inherited Idumea, Samaria, and Judea; to the second were assigned Galilee
and Peraea. Archelaus at once assumed the government at Jerusalem; and
after he had given his father a magnificent funeral, and the people a
funeral banquet, he entered the temple, seated himself on a golden throne,
and made, as is usual with monarchs, a conciliatory speech, promising
reform and alleviations from taxes and oppression. But even this did not
prevent one of those disgraceful seditions which have ever marked the
people of Jerusalem, in which three thousand were slain, caused by
religious animosities. After quelling the tumult by the military, he set
out for Rome, to secure his confirmation to the throne. He encountered
opposition from various intrigues by his own family, and the caprice of
the emperor. His younger brother, Antipas, also went to Rome to support
his claim to the throne by virtue of a former will. While the cause of the
royal litigants was being settled in the supreme tribunal of the civilized
world, new disturbances broke out in Judea, caused by the rapacities of
Sabinus, the Roman procurator of Syria. The whole country was in a state
of anarchy, and adventurers flocked from all quarters to assert their
claims in a nation that ardently looked forward to national independence,
or the rise of some conqueror who should restore the predicted glory of
the land now rent with civil feuds, and stained with fratricidal blood.
Varus, the prefect of Syria, attempted to restore order, and crucified
some two thousand ringleaders of the tumults. Five hundred Jews went to
Rome to petition for the restoration of their ancient constitution, and
the abolition of kingly rule.

At length the imperial edict confirmed the will of Herod, and
Archelaus was appointed to the sovereignty of Jerusalem, Idumea, and
Samaria, under the title of ethnarch; Herod Antipas obtained Galilee and
Peraea; Philip, the son of Herod and Cleopatra of Jerusalem, was made
tetrarch of Ituraea. Archelaus governed his dominions with such injustice
and cruelty, that he was deposed by the emperor, and Judea became a Roman
province. The sceptre departed finally from the family of David, of the

Asmonaeans, and of Herod, and the kingdom sank into a district dependent on
the prefecture of Syria, though administered by a Roman governor.

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