Containing The Interval Of Thirty-Two Years.
From The Death Of Queen Alexandra To The Death Of Antigonus.
How Antipater Committed The Care Of Galilee To Herod, And That Of Jerusalem To Phasaelus; As Also How Herod Upon The Jews' Envy At Antipater Was Accused Before Hyrcanus.
1. NOW when Caesar had settled the affairs of Syria, he sailed away. And as soon as Antipater had conducted Caesar out of Syria, he returned to Judea. He then immediately raised up the wall which had been thrown down by Pompey; and, by coming thither, he pacified that tumult which had been in the country, and this by both threatening and advising them to be quiet; for that if they would be of Hyrcanus's side, they would live happily, and lead their lives without disturbance, and in the enjoyment of their own possessions; but if they were addicted to the hopes of what might come by innovation, and aimed to get wealth thereby, they should have him a severe master instead of a gentle governor, and Hyrcanus a tyrant instead of a king, and the Romans, together with Caesar, their bitter enemies instead of rulers, for that they would never bear him to be set aside whom they had appointed to govern. And when Antipater had said this to them, he himself settled the affairs of this country.
2. And seeing that Hyrcanus was of a slow and slothful temper, he made Phasaelus, his eldest son, governor of Jerusalem, and of the places that were about it, but committed Galilee to Herod, his next son, who was then a very young man, for he was but fifteen years of age (14) But that youth of his was no impediment to him; but as he was a youth of great mind, he presently met with an opportunity of signalizing his courage; for finding that there was one Hezekiah, a captain of a band of robbers, who overran the neighboring parts of Syria with a great troop of them, he seized him and slew him, as well as a great number of the other robbers that were with him; for which action he was greatly beloved by the Syrians; for when they were very desirous to have their country freed from this nest of robbers, he purged it of them.
So they sung songs in his commendation in their villages and cities, as having procured them peace, and the secure enjoyment of their possessions; and on this account it was that he became known to Sextus Caesar, who was a relation of the great Caesar, and was now president of Syria. Now Phasaetus, Herod's brother, was moved with emulation at his actions, and envied the fame be had thereby gotten, and became ambitious not to be behindhand with him in deserving it. So he made the inhabitants of Jerusalem bear him the greatest good-will while he held the city himself, but did neither manage its affairs improperly, nor abuse his authority therein. This conduct procured from the nation to Antipater such respect as is due to kings, and such honors as he might partake of if he were an absolute lord of the country. Yet did not this splendor of his, as frequently happens, in the least diminish in him that kindness and fidelity which he owed to Hyrcanus.
3. But now the principal men among the Jews, when they saw Antipater and his sons to grow so much in the good-will the nation bare to them, and in the revenues which they received out of Judea, and out of Hyrcanus's own wealth, they became ill-disposed to him; for indeed Antipater had contracted a friendship with the Roman emperors; and when he had prevailed with Hyrcanus to send them money, he took it to himself, and purloined the present intended, and sent it as if it were his own, and not Hyrcanus's gift to them. Hyrcanus heard of this his management, but took no care about it; nay, he rather was very glad of it. But the chief men of the Jews were therefore in fear, because they saw that Herod was a violent and bold man, and very desirous of acting tyrannically; so they came to Hyrcanus, and now accused Antipater openly, and said to him,
"How long wilt thou be quiet under such actions as are now done? Or dost thou not see that Antipater and his sons have already seized upon the government, and that it is only the name of a king which is given thee? But do not thou suffer these things to be hidden from thee, nor do thou think to escape danger by being so careless of thyself and of thy kingdom; for Antipater and his sons are not now stewards of thine affairs: do not thou deceive thyself with such a notion; they are evidently absolute lords; for Herod, Antipater's son, hath slain Hezekiah, and those that were with him, and hath thereby transgressed our law, which hath forbidden to slay any man, even though he were a wicked man, unless he had been first condemned to suffer death by the Sanhedrim (15) yet hath he been so insolent as to do this, and that without any authority from thee."
4. Upon Hyrcanus hearing this, he complied with them. The mothers also of those that had been slain by Herod raised his indignation; for those women continued every day in the temple, persuading the king and the people that Herod might undergo a trial before the Sanhedrim for what he had done. Hyrcanus was so moved by these complaints, that he summoned Herod to come to his trial for what was charged upon him. Accordingly he came; but his father had persuaded him to come not like a private man, but with a guard, for the security of his person; and that when he had settled the affairs of Galilee in the best manner he could for his own advantage, he should come to his trial, but still with a body of men sufficient for his security on his journey, yet so that he should not come with so great a force as might look like terrifying Hyrcanus, but still such a one as might not expose him naked and unguarded [to his enemies.]
However, Sextus Caesar, president of Syria, wrote to Hyrcanus, and desired him to clear Herod, and dismiss him at his trial, and threatened him beforehand if he did not do it. Which epistle of his was the occasion of Hyrcanus delivering Herod from suffering any harm from the Sanhedrim, for he loved him as his own son. But when Herod stood before the Sanhedrim, with his body of men about him, he affrighted them all, and no one of his former accusers durst after that bring any charge against him, but there was a deep silence, and nobody knew what was to be done. When affairs stood thus, one whose name was Sameas, (16) a righteous man he was, and for that reason above all fear, rose up, and said,
"O you that are assessors with me, and O thou that art our king, I neither have ever myself known such a case, nor do I suppose that any one of you can name its parallel, that one who is called to take his trial by us ever stood in such a manner before us; but every one, whosoever he be, that comes to be tried by this Sanhedrim, presents himself in a submissive manner, and like one that is in fear of himself, and that endeavors to move us to compassion, with his hair dishevelled, and in a black and mourning garment: but this admirable man Herod, who is accused of murder, and called to answer so heavy an accusation, stands here clothed in purple, and with the hair of his head finely trimmed, and with his armed men about him, that if we shall condemn him by our law, he may slay us, and by overbearing justice may himself escape death. Yet do not I make this complaint against Herod himself; he is to be sure more concerned for himself than for the laws; but my complaint is against yourselves, and your king, who gave him a license so to do. However, take you notice, that God is great, and that this very man, whom you are going to absolve and dismiss, for the sake of Hyrcanus, will one day punish both you and your king himself also."
Nor did Sameas mistake in any part of this prediction; for when Herod had received the kingdom, he slew all the members of this Sanhedrim, and Hyrcanus himself also, excepting Sameas, for he had a great honor for him on account of his righteousness, and because, when the city was afterward besieged by Herod and Sosius, he persuaded the people to admit Herod into it; and told them that for their sins they would not be able to escape his hands: - which things will be related by us in their proper places.
5. But when Hyrcanus saw that the members of the Sanhedrim were ready to pronounce the sentence of death upon Herod, he put off the trial to another day, and sent privately to Herod, and advised him to fly out of the city, for that by this means he might escape. So he retired to Damascus, as though he fled from the king; and when he had been with Sextus Caesar, and had put his own affairs in a sure posture, he resolved to do thus; that in case he were again summoned before the Sanhedrim to take his trial, he would not obey that summons. Hereupon the members of the Sanhedrim had great indignation at this posture of affairs, and endeavored to persuade Hyrcanus that all these things were against him; which state of matters he was not ignorant of; but his temper was so unmanly, and so foolish, that he was able to do nothing at all. But when Sextus had made Herod general of the army of Celesyria, for he sold him that post for money, Hyrcanus was in fear lest Herod should make war upon him; nor was the effect of what he feared long in coming upon him; for Herod came and brought an army along with him to fight with Hyrcanus, as being angry at the trial he bad been summoned to undergo before the Sanhedrim; but his father Antipater, and his brother [Phasaelus], met him, and hindered him from assaulting Jerusalem.
They also pacified his vehement temper, and persuaded him to do no overt action, but only to affright them with threatenings, and to proceed no further against one who had given him the dignity he had: they also desired him not only to be angry that he was summoned, and obliged to come to his trial, but to remember withal how he was dismissed without condemnation, and how he ought to give Hyrcanus thanks for the same; and that he was not to regard only what was disagreeable to him, and be unthankful for his deliverance. So they desired him to consider, that since it is God that turns the scales of war, there is great uncertainty in the issue of battles, and that therefore he ought of to expect the victory when he should fight with his king, and him that had supported him, and bestowed many benefits upon him, and had done nothing itself very severe to him; for that his accusation, which was derived from evil counselors, and not from himself, had rather the suspicion of some severity, than any thing really severe in it. Herod was persuaded by these arguments, and believed that it was sufficient for his future hopes to have made a show of his strength before the nation, and done no more to it - and in this state were the affairs of Judea at this time.
(14) Those who will carefully observe the several occasional numbers and chronological characters in the life and death of this Herod, and of his children, hereafter noted, will see that twenty-five years, and not fifteen, must for certain have been here Josephus's own number for the age of Herod, when he was made governor of Galilee. See Ch. 23. Sect. 5, and Ch. 24. Sect. 7; and particularly Antiq. B. XVII. Ch. 8. Sect. 1, where about forty-four years afterwards Herod dies an old man at about seventy.
(15) It is here worth our while to remark, that none could be put to death in Judea but by the approbation of the Jewish Sanhedrim, there being an excellent provision in the law of Moses, that even in criminal causes, and particularly where life was concerned, an appeal should lie from the lesser councils of seven in the other cities to the supreme council of seventy-one at Jerusalem; and that is exactly according to our Savior's words, when he says,
"It could not be that a prophet should perish out of Jerusalem," (Luke 13:33).
(16) This account, as Reland observes, is confirmed by the Talmudists, who call this Sameas, "Simeon, the son of Shetach."