Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Judas Maccabeus To The Death Of Queen Alexandra.
How Aristobulus, When He Had Taken The Government First Of All Put A Diadem On His Head, And Was Most Barbarously Cruel To His Mother And His Brethren; And How, After He Had Slain Antigonus, He Himself Died.
1. NOW when their father Hyrcanus was dead, the eldest son Aristobulus, intending to change the government into a kingdom, for so he resolved to do, first of all put a diadem on his head, four hundred eighty and one years and three months after the people had been delivered from the Babylonish slavery, and were returned to their own country again. This Aristobulus loved his next brother Antigonus, and treated him as his equal; but the others he held in bonds. He also cast his mother into prison, because she disputed the government with him; for Hyrcanus had left her to be mistress of all. He also proceeded to that degree of barbarity, as to kill her in prison with hunger; nay, he was alienated from his brother Antigonus by calumnies, and added him to the rest whom he slew; yet he seemed to have an affection for him, and made him above the rest a partner with him in the kingdom. Those calumnies he at first did not give credit to, partly because he loved him, and so did not give heed to what was said against him, and partly because he thought the reproaches were derived from the envy of the relaters.
But when Antigonus was once returned from the army, and that feast was then at hand when they make tabernacles to [the honor of God,] it happened that Arlstobulus was fallen sick, and that Antigonus went up most splendidly adorned, and with his soldiers about him in their armor, to the temple to celebrate the feast, and to put up many prayers for the recovery of his brother, when some wicked persons, who had a great mind to raise a difference between the brethren, made use of this opportunity of the pompous appearance of Antigonus, and of the great actions which he had done, and went to the king, and spitefully aggravated the pompous show of his at the feast, and pretended that all these circumstances were not like those of a private person; that these actions were indications of an affectation of royal authority; and that his coming with a strong body of men must be with an intention to kill him; and that his way of reasoning was this: That it was a silly thing in him, while it was in his power to reign himself, to look upon it as a great favor that he was honored with a lower dignity by his brother.
2. Aristobulus yielded to these imputations, but took care both that his brother should not suspect him, and that he himself might not run the hazard of his own safety; so he ordered his guards to lie in a certain place that was under ground, and dark; (he himself then lying sick in the tower which was called Antonia;) and he commanded them, that in case Antigonus came in to him unarmed, they should not touch any body, but if armed, they should kill him; yet did he send to Antigonus, and desired that he would come unarmed; but the queen, and those that joined with her in the plot against Antigonus, persuaded the messenger to tell him the direct contrary: how his brother had heard that he had made himself a fine suit of armor for war, and desired him to come to him in that armor, that he might see how fine it was.
So Antigonus suspecting no treachery, but depending on the good-will of his brother, came to Aristobulus armed, as he used to be, with his entire armor, in order to show it to him; but when he was come to a place which was called Strato's Tower, where the passage happened to be exceeding dark, the guards slew him; which death of his demonstrates that nothing is stronger than envy and calumny, and that nothing does more certainly divide the good-will and natural affections of men than those passions. But here one may take occasion to wonder at one Judas, who was of the sect of the Essens, (31) and who never missed the truth in his predictions; for this man, when he saw Antigonus passing by the temple, cried out to his companions and friends, who abode with him as his scholars, in order to learn the art of foretelling things to come?
"That it was good for him to die now, since he had spoken falsely about Antigonus, who is still alive, and I see him passing by, although he had foretold he should die at the place called Strato's Tower that very day, while yet the place is six hundred furlongs off, where he had foretold he should be slain; and still this day is a great part of it already past, so that he was in danger of proving a false prophet."
As he was saying this, and that in a melancholy mood, the news came that Antigonus was slain in a place under ground, which itself was called also Strato's Tower, or of the same name with that Cesarea which is seated at the sea. This event put the prophet into a great disorder.
3. But Aristobulus repented immediately of this slaughter of his brother; on which account his disease increased upon him, and he was disturbed in his mind, upon the guilt of such wickedness, insomuch that his entrails were corrupted by his intolerable pain, and he vomited blood: at which time one of the servants that attended upon him, and was carrying his blood away, did, by Divine Providence, as I cannot but suppose, slip down, and shed part of his blood at the very place where there were spots of Antigonus's blood, there slain, still remaining; and when there was a cry made by the spectators, as if the servant had on purpose shed the blood on that place, Aristobulus heard it, and inquired what the matter was; and as they did not answer him, he was the more earnest to know what it was, it being natural to men to suspect that what is thus concealed is very bad: so upon his threatening, and forcing them by terrors to speak, they at length told him the truth; whereupon he shed many tears, in that disorder of mind which arose from his consciousness of what he had done, and gave a deep groan, and said,
"I am not therefore, I perceive, to be concealed from God, in the impious and horrid crimes I have been guilty of; but a sudden punishment is coming upon me for the shedding the blood of my relations. And now, O thou most impudent body of mine, how long wilt thou retain a soul that ought to die, in order to appease the ghosts of my brother and my mother? Why dost thou not give it all up at once? And why do I deliver up my blood drop by drop to those whom I have so wickedly murdered?"
In saying which last words he died, having reigned a year. He was called a lover of the Grecians; and had conferred many benefits on his own country, and made war against Iturea, and added a great part of it to Judea, and compelled the inhabitants, if they would continue in that country, to be circumcised, and to live according to the Jewish laws. He was naturally a man of candor, and of great modesty, as Strabo bears witness, in the name of Timagenes; who says thus:
"This man was a person of candor, and very serviceable to the Jews; for he added a country to them, and obtained a part of the nation of the Itureans for them, and bound them to them by the bond of the circumcision of their genitals."
(31) Hence we learn that the Essens pretended to have ruled whereby men might foretell things to come, and that this Judas the Essen taught those rules to his scholars; but whether their pretense were of an astrological or magical nature, which yet in such religious Jews, who were utterly forbidden such arts, is no way probable, or to any Bath Col, spoken of by the later Rabbins, or otherwise, I cannot tell. See Of the War, B. II. Ch. 8. Sect. 12.