Containing The Interval Of About Three Years
From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus To The Sedition At Cyrene.
THAT MANY OF THE SICARII FLED TO ALEXANDRIA ALSO AND WHAT DANGERS THEY WERE IN THERE; ON WHICH ACCOUNT THAT TEMPLE WHICH HAD FORMERLY BEEN BUILT BY ONIAS THE HIGH PRIEST WAS DESTROYED.
1. WHEN Masada was thus taken, the general left a garrison in the fortress to keep it, and he himself went away to Cesarea; for there were now no enemies left in the country, but it was all overthrown by so long a war. Yet did this war afford disturbances and dangerous disorders even in places very far remote from Judea; for still it came to pass that many Jews were slain at Alexandria in Egypt; for as many of the Sicarii as were able to fly thither, out of the seditious wars in Judea, were not content to have saved themselves, but must needs be undertaking to make new disturbances, and persuaded many of those that entertained them to assert their liberty, to esteem the Romans to be no better than themselves, and to look upon God as their only Lord and Master. But when part of the Jews of reputation opposed them, they slew some of them, and with the others they were very pressing in their exhortations to revolt from the Romans; but when the principal men of the senate saw what madness they were come to, they thought it no longer safe for themselves to overlook them. So they got all the Jews together to an assembly, and accused the madness of the Sicarii, and demonstrated that they had been the authors of all the evils that had come upon them. They said also that
"these men, now they were run away from Judea, having no sure hope of escaping, because as soon as ever they shall be known, they will be soon destroyed by the Romans, they come hither and fill us full of those calamities which belong to them, while we have not been partakers with them in any of their sins."
Accordingly, they exhorted the multitude to have a care, lest they should be brought to destruction by their means, and to make their apology to the Romans for what had been done, by delivering these men up to them; who being thus apprized of the greatness of the danger they were in, complied with what was proposed, and ran with great violence upon the Sicarii, and seized upon them; and indeed six hundred of them were caught immediately: but as to all those that fled into Egypt and to the Egyptian Thebes, it was not long ere they were caught also, and brought back, whose courage, or whether we ought to call it madness, or hardiness in their opinions, every body was amazed at. For when all sorts of torments and vexations of their bodies that could be devised were made use of to them, they could not get any one of them to comply so far as to confess, or seem to confess, that Caesar was their lord; but they preserved their own opinion, in spite of all the distress they were brought to, as if they received these torments and the fire itself with bodies insensible of pain, and with a soul that in a manner rejoiced under them. But what was most of all astonishing to the beholders was the courage of the children; for not one of these children was so far overcome by these torments, as to name Caesar for their lord. So far does the strength of the courage [of the soul] prevail over the weakness of the body.
2. Now Lupus did then govern Alexandria, who presently sent Caesar word of this commotion; who having in suspicion the restless temper of the Jews for innovation, and being afraid lest they should get together again, and persuade some others to join with them, gave orders to Lupus to demolish that Jewish temple which was in the region called Onion, (19) and was in Egypt, which was built and had its denomination from the occasion following: Onias, the son of Simon, one of the Jewish high priests fled from Antiochus the king of Syria, when he made war with the Jews, and came to Alexandria; and as Ptolemy received him very kindly, on account of hatred to Antiochus, he assured him, that if he would comply with his proposal, he would bring all the Jews to his assistance; and when the king agreed to do it so far as he was able, he desired him to give him leave to build a temple some where in Egypt, and to worship God according to the customs of his own country; for that the Jews would then be so much readier to fight against Antiochus who had laid waste the temple at Jerusalem, and that they would then come to him with greater good-will; and that, by granting them liberty of conscience, very many of them would come over to him.
3. So Ptolemy complied with his proposals, and gave him a place one hundred and eighty furlongs distant from Memphis. (20) That Nomos was called the Nomos of Hellopolls, where Onias built a fortress and a temple, not like to that at Jerusalem, but such as resembled a tower. He built it of large stones to the height of sixty cubits; he made the structure of the altar in imitation of that in our own country, and in like manner adorned with gifts, excepting the make of the candlestick, for he did not make a candlestick, but had a [single] lamp hammered out of a piece of gold, which illuminated the place with its rays, and which he hung by a chain of gold; but the entire temple was encompassed with a wall of burnt brick, though it had gates of stone. The king also gave him a large country for a revenue in money, that both the priests might have a plentiful provision made for them, and that God might have great abundance of what things were necessary for his worship. Yet did not Onias do this out of a sober disposition, but he had a mind to contend with the Jews at Jerusalem, and could not forget the indignation he had for being banished thence. Accordingly, he thought that by building this temple he should draw away a great number from them to himself. There had been also a certain ancient prediction made by [a prophet] whose name was Isaiah, about six hundred years before, that this temple should be built by a man that was a Jew in Egypt (Isaiah 19:18-23). And this is the history of the building of that temple.
4. And now Lupus, the governor of Alexandria, upon the receipt of Caesar's letter, came to the temple, and carried out of it some of the donations dedicated thereto, and shut up the temple itself. And as Lupus died a little afterward, Paulinns succeeded him. This man left none of those donations there, and threatened the priests severely if they did not bring them all out; nor did he permit any who were desirous of worshipping God there so much as to come near the whole sacred place; but when he had shut up the gates, he made it entirely inaccessible, insomuch that there remained no longer the least footsteps of any Divine worship that had been in that place. Now the duration of the time from the building of this temple till it was shut up again was three hundred and forty-three years.
(18) Since Josephus here informs us that some of these Sicarii, or ruffians, went from Alexandria (which was itself in Egypt, in a large sense) into Egypt, and Thebes there situated, Reland well observes, from Vossius, that Egypt sometimes denotes Proper or Upper Egypt, as distinct from the Delta, and the lower parts near Palestine. Accordingly, as he adds, those that say it never rains in Egypt must mean the Proper or Upper Egypt, because it does sometimes rain in the other parts. See the note on Antiq. B. II. ch. 7. sect. 7, and B. III. ch. 1. sect. 6.
(19) Of this temple of Onias's building in Egypt, see the notes on Antiq. B. XIII. ch. 3. sect. 1. But whereas it is elsewhere, both of the War, B. I. ch. 1. sect. 1, and in the Antiquities as now quoted, said that this temple was like to that at Jerusalem, and here that it was not like it, but like a tower, sect. 3, there is some reason to suspect the reading here, and that either the negative particle is here to be blotted out, or the word entirely added.
(20) We must observe, that Josephus here speaks of Antiochus who profaned the temple as now alive, when Onias had leave given them by Philometer to build his temple; whereas it seems not to have been actually built till about fifteen years afterwards. Yet, because it is said in the Antiquities that Onias went to Philometer, B. XII. ch. 9. sect. 7, during the lifetime of that Antiochus, it is probable he petitioned, and perhaps obtained his leave then, though it were not actually built or finished till fifteen years afterward.