Containing The Interval Of Three Years And A Half.
From The Departure Out Of Babylon To Fadus, The Roman Procurator.
What Other Acts Were Done By Agrippa Until His Death; And After What Manner He Died.
1. WHEN Agrippa had finished what I have above related at Berytus, he removed to Tiberias, a city of Galilee. Now he was in great esteem among other kings. Accordingly there came to him Antiochus, king of Commalena, Sampsigeratnus, king of Emesa, and Cotys, who was king of the Lesser Armenia, and Polemo, who was king of Pontus, as also Herod his brother, who was king of Chalcis. All these he treated with agreeable entertainments, and after an obliging manner, and so as to exhibit the greatness of his mind, and so as to appear worthy of those respects which the kings paid to him, by coming thus to see him. However, while these kings staid with him, Marcus, the president of Syria, came thither.
So the king, in order to preserve the respect that was due to the Romans, went out of the city to meet him, as far as seven furlongs. But this proved to be the beginning of a difference between him and Marcus; for he took with him in his chariot those other kings as his assessors. But Marcus had a suspicion what the meaning could be of so great a friendship of these kings one with another, and did not think so close an agreement of so many potentates to be for the interest of the Romans. He therefore sent some of his domestics to every one of them, and enjoined them to go their ways home without further delay. This was very ill taken by Agrippa, who after that became his enemy. And now he took the high priesthood away from Matthias, and made Elioneus, the son of Cantheras, high priest in his stead.
2. Now when Agrippa had reigned three years over all Judea, he came to the city Cesarea, which was formerly called Strato's Tower; and there he exhibited shows in honor of Caesar, upon his being informed that there was a certain festival celebrated to make vows for his safety. At which festival a great multitude was gotten together of the principal persons, and such as were of dignity through his province. On the second day of which shows he put on a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful, and came into the theater early in the morning; at which time the silver of his garment being illuminated by the fresh reflection of the sun's rays upon it, shone out after a surprising manner, and was so resplendent as to spread a horror over those that looked intently upon him; and presently his flatterers cried out, one from one place, and another from another, (though not for his good,) that he was a god; and they added,
"Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature."
Upon this the king did neither rebuke them, nor reject their impious flattery. But as he presently afterward looked up, he saw an owl (22) sitting on a certain rope over his head, and immediately understood that this bird was the messenger of ill tidings, as it had once been the messenger of good tidings to him; and fell into the deepest sorrow. A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner. He therefore looked upon his friends, and said,
"I, whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death. But I am bound to accept of what Providence allots, as it pleases God; for we have by no means lived ill, but in a splendid and happy manner."
When he said this, his pain was become violent. Accordingly he was carried into the palace, and the rumor went abroad every where, that he would certainly die in a little time. But the multitude presently sat in sackcloth, with their wives and children, after the law of their country, and besought God for the king's recovery. All places were also full of mourning and lamentation. Now the king rested in a high chamber, and as he saw them below lying prostrate on the ground, he could not himself forbear weeping. And when he had been quite worn out by the pain in his belly for five days, he departed this life, being in the fifty-fourth year of his age, and in the seventh year of his reign; for he reigned four years under Caius Caesar, three of them were over Philip's tetrarchy only, and on the fourth he had that of Herod added to it; and he reigned, besides those, three years under the reign of Claudius Caesar; in which time he reigned over the forementioned countries, and also had Judea added to them, as well as Samaria and Cesarea. The revenues that he received out of them were very great, no less than twelve millions of drachme. (23) Yet did he borrow great sums from others; for he was so very liberal that his expenses exceeded his incomes, and his generosity was boundless. (24)
3. But before the multitude were made acquainted with Agrippa's being expired, Herod the king of Chalcis, and Helcias the master of his horse, and the king's friend, sent Aristo, one of the king's most faithful servants, and slew Silas, who had been their enemy, as if it had been done by the king's own command.
(22) We have a mighty cry made here by some critics, as the great Eusebius had on purpose falsified this account of Josephus, so as to make it agree with the parallel account in the Acts of the Apostles, because the present copies of his citation of it, Hist. Eceles. B. II. Ch. 10., omit the words an owl--on a certain rope, which Josephus's present copies retain, and only have the explicatory word or angel; as if he meant that angel of the Lord which St. Luke mentions as smiting Herod, Acts 12:23, and not that owl which Josephus called an angel or messenger, formerly of good, but now of bad news, to Agrippa. This accusation is a somewhat strange one in the case of the great Eusebius, who is known to have so accurately and faithfully produced a vast number of other ancient records, and particularly not a few out of our Josephus also, without any suspicion of prevarication. Now, not to allege how uncertain we are whether Josephus's and Eusebius's copies of the fourth century were just like the present in this clause, which we have no distinct evidence of, the following words, preserved still in Eusebius, will not admit of any such exposition:
"This [bird] (says Eusebius) Agrippa presently perceived to be the cause of ill fortune, as it was once of good fortune, to him;"
which can only belong to that bird, the owl, which as it had formerly foreboded his happy deliverance from imprisonment, Antiq. B. XVIII. Ch. 6. Sect. 7, so was it then foretold to prove afterward the unhappy forerunner of his death in five days' time. If the improper words signifying cause, be changed for Josephus's proper word angel or messenger, and the foregoing words, be inserted, Esuebius's text will truly represent that in Josephus. Had this imperfection been in some heathen author that was in good esteem with our modern critics, they would have readily corrected these as barely errors in the copies; but being in an ancient Christian writer, not so well relished by many of those critics, nothing will serve but the ill-grounded supposal of willful corruption and prevarication.
(23) This sum of twelve millions of drachmae, which is equal to three millions of shekels, i.e. at 2s. 10d. a shekel, equal to four hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds sterling, was Agrippa the Great's yearly income, or about three quarters of his grandfather Herod's income; he having abated the tax upon houses at Jerusalem, Ch. 6. Sect. 3, and was not so tyrannical as Herod had been to the Jews. See the note on Antiq. B. XVII. Ch. 11. Sect. 4, Note 23. A large sum this! but not, it seems, sufficient for his extravagant expenses.
(24) Reland takes notice here, not improperly, that Josephus omits the reconciliation of this Herod Agrippa to the Tyrians and Sidoninus, by the means of Blastus the king's chamberlain, mentioned Acts 12:20. Nor is there any history in the world so complete, as to omit nothing that other historians take notice of, unless the one be taken out of the other, and accommodated to it.