Containing The Interval Of About One Year
From Vespasian's Coming To Subdue The Jews To The Taking Of Gamala.
HOW JOSEPHUS WAS DISCOVERED BY A WOMAN, AND WAS WILLING TO DELIVER HIMSELF UP TO THE ROMANS; AND WHAT DISCOURSE HE HAD WITH HIS OWN MEN, WHEN THEY ENDEAVORED TO HINDER HIM; AND WHAT HE SAID TO VESPASIAN, WHEN HE WAS BROUGHT TO HIM; AND AFTER WHAT MANNER VESPASIAN USED HIM AFTERWARD.
1. AND now the Romans searched for Josephus, both out of the hatred they bore him, and because their general was very desirous to have him taken; for he reckoned that if he were once taken, the greatest part of the war would be over. They then searched among the dead, and looked into the most concealed recesses of the city; but as the city was first taken, he was assisted by a certain supernatural providence; for he withdrew himself from the enemy when he was in the midst of them, and leaped into a certain deep pit, whereto there adjoined a large den at one side of it, which den could not be seen by those that were above ground; and there he met with forty persons of eminency that had concealed themselves, and with provisions enough to satisfy them for not a few days.
So in the day time he hid himself from the enemy, who had seized upon all places, and in the night time he got up out of the den and looked about for some way of escaping, and took exact notice of the watch; but as all places were guarded every where on his account, that there was no way of getting off unseen, he went down again into the den. Thus he concealed himself two days; but on the third day, when they had taken a woman who had been with them, he was discovered. Whereupon Vespasian sent immediately and zealously two tribunes, Paulinus and Gallicanus, and ordered them to give Josephus their right hands as a security for his life, and to exhort him to come up.
2. So they came and invited the man to come up, and gave him assurances that his life should be preserved: but they did not prevail with him; for he gathered suspicions from the probability there was that one who had done so many things against the Romans must suffer for it, though not from the mild temper of those that invited him. However, he was afraid that he was invited to come up in order to be punished, until Vespasian sent besides these a third tribune, Nicanor, to him; he was one that was well known to Josephus, and had been his familiar acquaintance in old time. When he was come, he enlarged upon the natural mildness of the Romans towards those they have once conquered; and told him that he had behaved himself so valiantly, that the commanders rather admired than hated him; that the general was very desirous to have him brought to him, not in order to punish him, for that he could do though he should not come voluntarily, but that he was determined to preserve a man of his courage. He moreover added this, that Vespasian, had he been resolved to impose upon him, would not have sent to him a friend of his own, nor put the fairest color upon the vilest action, by pretending friendship and meaning perfidiousness; nor would he have himself acquiesced, or come to him, had it been to deceive him.
3. Now as Josephus began to hesitate with himself about Nicanor's proposal, the soldiery were so angry, that they ran hastily to set fire to the den; but the tribune would not permit them so to do, as being very desirous to take the man alive. And now, as Nicanor lay hard at Josephus to comply, and he understood how the multitude of the enemies threatened him, he called to mind the dreams which he had dreamed in the night time, whereby God had signified to him beforehand both the future calamities of the Jews, and the events that concerned the Roman emperors. Now Josephus was able to give shrewd conjectures about the interpretation of such dreams as have been ambiguously delivered by God. Moreover, he was not unacquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books, as being a priest himself, and of the posterity of priests: and just then was he in an ecstasy; and setting before him the tremendous images of the dreams he had lately had, he put up a secret prayer to God, and said,
"Since it pleaseth thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress the same, and since all their good fortune is gone over to the Romans, and since thou hast made choice of this soul of mine to foretell what is to come to pass hereafter, I willingly give them my hands, and am content to live. And I protest openly that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from thee."
4. When he had said this, he complied with Nicanor's invitation. But when those Jews who had fled with him understood that he yielded to those that invited him to come up, they came about him in a body, and cried out,
"Nay, indeed, now may the laws of our forefathers, which God ordained himself, well groan to purpose; that God we mean who hath created the souls of the Jews of such a temper, that they despise death. O Josephus! art thou still fond of life? and canst thou bear to see the light in a state of slavery? How soon hast thou forgotten thyself! How many hast thou persuaded to lose their lives for liberty! Thou hast therefore had a false reputation for manhood, and a like false reputation for wisdom, if thou canst hope for preservation from those against whom thou hast fought so zealously, and art however willing to be preserved by them, if they be in earnest. But although the good fortune of the Romans hath made thee forget thyself, we ought to take care that the glory of our forefathers may not be tarnished. We will lend thee our right hand and a sword; and if thou wilt die willingly, thou wilt die as general of the Jews; but if unwillingly, thou wilt die as a traitor to them."
As soon as they said this, they began to thrust their swords at him, and threatened they would kill him, if he thought of yielding himself to the Romans.
5. Upon this Josephus was afraid of their attacking him, and yet thought he should be a betrayer of the commands of God, if he died before they were delivered. So he began to talk like a philosopher to them in the distress he was then in, when he said thus to them:
6. Now these and many the like motives did Josephus use to these men to prevent their murdering themselves; but desperation had shut their ears, as having long ago devoted themselves to die, and they were irritated at Josephus. They then ran upon him with their swords in their hands, one from one quarter, and another from another, and called him a coward, and everyone of them appeared openly as if he were ready to smite him; but he calling to one of them by name, and looking like a general to another, and taking a third by the hand, and making a fourth ashamed of himself, by praying him to forbear, and being in this condition distracted with various passions, (as he well might in the great distress he was then in,) he kept off every one of their swords from killing him, and was forced to do like such wild beasts as are encompassed about on every side, who always turn themselves against those that last touched them. Nay, some of their right hands were debilitated by the reverence they bare to their general in these his fatal calamities, and their swords dropped out of their hands; and not a few of them there were, who, when they aimed to smite him with their swords, they were not thoroughly either willing or able to do it.
7. However, in this extreme distress, he was not destitute of his usual sagacity; but trusting himself to the providence of God, he put his life into hazard [in the manner following]:
"And now," said he, "since it is resolved among you that you will die, come on, let us commit our mutual deaths to determination by lot. He whom the lot falls to first, let him be killed by him that hath the second lot, and thus fortune shall make its progress through us all; nor shall any of us perish by his own right hand, for it would be unfair if, when the rest are gone, somebody should repent and save himself."
This proposal appeared to them to be very just; and when he had prevailed with them to determine this matter by lots, he drew one of the lots for himself also. He who had the first lot laid his neck bare to him that had the next, as supposing that the general would die among them immediately; for they thought death, if Josephus might but die with them, was sweeter than life; yet was he with another left to the last, whether we must say it happened so by chance, or whether by the providence of God. And as he was very desirous neither to be condemned by the lot, nor, if he had been left to the last, to imbrue his right hand in the blood of his countrymen, he persuaded him to trust his fidelity to him, and to live as well as himself.
8. Thus Josephus escaped in the war with the Romans, and in this his own war with his friends, and was led by Nicanor to Vespasian. But now all the Romans ran together to see him; and as the multitude pressed one upon another about their general, there was a tumult of a various kind; while some rejoiced that Josephus was taken, and some threatened him, and some crowded to see him very near; but those that were more remote cried out to have this their enemy put to death, while those that were near called to mind the actions he had done, and a deep concern appeared at the change of his fortune. Nor were there any of the Roman commanders, how much soever they had been enraged at him before, but relented when they came to the sight of him. Above all the rest, Titus's own valor, and Josephus's own patience under his afflictions, made him pity him, as did also the commiseration of his age, when he recalled to mind that but a little while ago he was fighting, but lay now in the hands of his enemies, which made him consider the power of fortune, and how quick is the turn of affairs in war, and how no state of men is sure; for which reason he then made a great many more to be of the same pitiful temper with himself, and induced them to commiserate Josephus. He was also of great weight in persuading his father to preserve him. However, Vespasian gave strict orders that he should be kept with great caution, as though he would in a very little time send him to Nero.
9. When Josephus heard him give those orders, he said that he had somewhat in his mind that he would willingly say to himself alone. When therefore they were all ordered to withdraw, excepting Titus and two of their friends, he said,
"Thou, O Vespasian, thinkest no more than that thou hast taken Josephus himself captive; but I come to thee as a messenger of greater tidings; for had not I been sent by God to thee, I knew what was the law of the Jews in this case? (5) and how it becomes generals to die. Dost thou send me to Nero? For why? Are Nero's successors till they come to thee still alive? Thou, O Vespasian, art Caesar and emperor, thou, and this thy son. Bind me now still faster, and keep me for thyself, for thou, O Caesar, are not only lord over me, but over the land and the sea, and all mankind; and certainly I deserve to be kept in closer custody than I now am in, in order to be punished, if I rashly affirm any thing of God."
When he had said this, Vespasian at present did not believe him, but supposed that Josephus said this as a cunning trick, in order to his own preservation; but in a little time he was convinced, and believed what he said to be true, God himself erecting his expectations, so as to think of obtaining the empire, and by other signs fore-showing his advancement. He also found Josephus to have spoken truth on other occasions; for one of those friends that were present at that secret conference said to Josephus,
"I cannot but wonder how thou couldst not foretell to the people of Jotapata that they should be taken, nor couldst foretell this captivity which hath happened to thyself, unless what thou now sayest be a vain thing, in order to avoid the rage that is risen against thyself."
To which Josephus replied,
"I did foretell to the people of Jotapata that they would be taken on the forty-seventh day, and that I should be caught alive by the Romans."
Now when Vespasian had inquired of the captives privately about these predictions, he found them to be true, and then he began to believe those that concerned himself. Yet did he not set Josephus at liberty from his hands, but bestowed on him suits of clothes, and other precious gifts; he treated him also in a very obliging manner, and continued so to do, Titus still joining his interest ill the honors that were done him.
(5) I do not know where to find the law of Moses here mentioned by Josephus, and afterwards by Eleazar, 13. VII. ch. 8. sect. 7, and almost implied in B. I. ch. 13. sect. 10, by Josephus's commendation of Phasaelus for doing so; I mean, whereby Jewish generals and people were obliged to kill themselves, rather than go into slavery under heathens. I doubt this would have been no better than "self-murder;" and I believe it was rather some vain doctrine, or interpretation, of the rigid Pharisees, or Essenes, or Herodiaus, than a just consequence from any law of God delivered by Moses.