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.

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars Philip Of Macedon facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail