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The Jews page 2

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At last some great deliverers arose in the heroic family of the Maccabees. A priest named Mattathias had five sons, John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan. The family name was Asmonasus, and the glorious title of "Maccabees" came from that bestowed on the most distinguished son, Judas, styled "Maccabaeus," from Makkabi - connected with the word "Maccab," a hammer, like the cognomen of the great Frank warrior, Charles "Martel," the "pounder" of the Saracens in after-time. The father and family had retired to Modin, a small place between Jerusalem and Joppa, there to mourn in solitude over the existing misery. When a Syrian officer came and demanded that he should offer sacrifice to idols, offering bribes of money and high office, Mattathias refused in the boldest terms, and slew with his own hand an apostate Jew at the altar, with the royal envoy and some of his men. He and his sons then retired to the hills, and raised a standard of rebellion which soon had many followers. The worship of Jehovah was quickly restored in many places, and the pagan altars were destroyed. The father died in 166, bequeathing the cause specially to his sons Simon as a wise counsellor, and Judas as the chief captain in battle. Nobly did these men fulfil their trust. Judas became even as Joshua and Jephthah, Gideon and Samson, of the olden days. He defeated again and again, by stratagem and by the most desperate fighting, great armies of Antiochus and his two successors, being well supported by his brethren, and in 164 became master of the capital, where he purified the Temple and restored the service of the One God of the Jews. Three years later Judas Maccabseus laid down his life, and won immortal fame as one of the world's greatest champions of freedom, in fighting against a vastly superior force of Greek veterans, skilfully led for the king of Syria, in Galilee. He had already become high-priest, and in that ruling capacity he had sent envoys to the Senate at Rome soliciting aid in his struggle. It is likely that then, for the first time, the Roman senators beheld the face of the Jews whom the Roman power was to subdue. Eleazar and John also died in action, and the burden of the contest came upon the surviving brethren, Simon and Jonathan.

For a time the cause of tyranny and persecution prevailed, and more Jewish martyrs died. Then Jonathan, who had renewed the Roman alliance, became high-priest and instituted the famous Sanhedrim, but he perished by Syrian treachery in 143. Simon, the sole survivor, gained the almost absolute mastery of Judea, and in 142 a new era had public documents beginning "In the first year of Simon, high-priest and chief of the Jews." Seven years later Simon was treacherously murdered by his own son-in-law, who vainly hoped to succeed to his power. Then John Hyrcanus, his son, who ruled from 135 to 105, became complete master of Judea, Samaria to the north, and Idumea to the south, and, in alliance with the Romans, recovered almost all the territory ruled by David. The country was very prosperous under his mainly righteous and enlightened rule. It was in his days that the famous rival sects of Pharisees and Sadducees became established. The former were, as the name implies, "separatists," in their superior holiness apart from the world around them, and strict observers of the traditional Law which Moses was believed to have received orally on Sinai, in addition to the written Decalogue. The Pharisees had great political importance in being a very large and influential class, including most of the lawyers and scribes, and they became the very heart and vital part of the Jewish race. The extreme Pharisees formed the party of the Zealots, so conspicuous in the death-struggle of Jerusalem against Rome. The Sadducees, styled thus after Sadok, one of their teachers, denied the traditional Law, the immortality of the soul, and the existence of angels and spirits, and regarded the Pentateuch alone as their rule of life. They were fewer in number than the Pharisees, but superior in wealth and social rank. They viewed Gentiles favourably, and from them was formed the lax Romanising party of "Herodians," important in the later history preceding the downfall of the nation.

A period of rapid decline came with the successors of John Hyrcanus, a time of civil war, massacre, and murder, which ultimately led to the interference of the great Roman general Pompeius, whose forces were then engaged in Syria. He entered Jerusalem as a conqueror, made Judea dependent on the Roman province of Syria, and appointed an "ethnarch" as governor of Judea proper, combining the high-priesthood with the civil office. In 37 b.c. Herod, the son of Antipater, an Idumean, declared king of Judea by the Roman Senate, took Jerusalem and became master of the whole territory of Palestine. He was a very ambitious man devoid of Jewish manners and ideas, and a strong supporter of the Roman party. Styled "Herod the Great" among the various Herods of his dynasty, he held the office of "tetrarch" of Judea, or "governor of the fourth part," - the country being now divided into Judea, with its capital at Jerusalem; Samaria, with Samaria and Sichem as chief towns; Galilsea, with Nazareth, Capernaum, and Cana; and Pereea, the district east of Jordan. This friend of Antony was politic enough to secure the favour of his successful rival Octavianus or Augustus, and he reigned in full power until his death in the year of Christ's birth, which was probably the year 4 prior to the Christian era, as erroneously reckoned. This Herod was a man of great architectural undertakings, rebuilding the Temple at Jerusalem in Grseco-Roman style; the city of Samaria, with a new temple there on Mount Gerizim, in place of the one destroyed by John Hyrcanus; and the city of Caesarea. He was not less distinguished by atrocious cruelties, put in practice against all who incurred his lightest suspicion. Among his victims were his wife Mariamne and his and her two sons, countless persons who opposed and rebelled against his Roman policy, and the "Innocents" of Bethlehem. This last event occurred just after his murder of his own eldest son Antipater and just before his own death. Herod's son Antipas, born of a Samaritan woman, one of the tyrant's ten wives, became double tetrarch of Galilee and Pereea. It was he who put John the Baptist to death for his rebuke of the marriage with Herodias, his half-brother Philip's wife, and who had Jesus sent before him by Pilate. He finally died in exile at Lugdunum (Lyon), whither he was sent by the Roman emperor. Herod Agrippa I., grandson of Herod the Great, through his son Aristobulus, put to death by his father, was brought up at Rome, and became, under the emperor Claudius, king of all Judea in a.d. 41. It was he who, in persecuting the Christians, put the apostle James to death, and died at Gssarea, "eaten of worms," in a.d. 44. Claudius then re-changed the kingdom into a Roman province, but in a.d. 53 Herod Agrippa II., son of the first Agrippa, was made sovereign by the same emperor over most of his father's territory. It was before this king that Paul made his memorable defence. This last of the Herods retired to Rome on the destruction of the Jewish nationality, and there died.

In tracing the history of the chief Herods, made interesting and important by their connection with events recorded m the New Testament, have passed over matters now to be related, as leading up to the final catastrophe. A son of Herod the Great, Archelaus, became in 2 b.c. ruler, under Augustus of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. In a.d. 7 he was deposed for his tyranny, and then Judea and Samaria became a Roman province under a "procurator," with his seat of government at Caesarea, subject to the prefect of Syria. In a.d. 26 Pontius Pilate held the office, and exercised it in a tyrannical way which made him very unpopular, and led straight to his cowardly crime in allowing the "Innocent One" to be sacrificed, in order that he might win back some favour with the Jews and keep them from accusing him at Rome. In a.d. 37 he was banished to Vienna in southern Gaul, after his cruelties and rapacity had caused many outbreaks, and had culminated in the murder of many Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. It was Roman tyranny that caused the great and disastrous rebellion of the Jews. In a.d. 38 that mad monster, the emperor Caligula, issuing an edict for divine honours to be paid to himself, was steadfastly disobeyed by the Jews in every part of his vast dominions. Frightful massacres took place at Alexandria and in Judea, and all the efforts of Herod Agrippa I., under the emperor Claudius, to conciliate the people, failed against the determined hostility of the national party. In a.d. 41 the Jews received the rights of Roman citizenship, and this Herod strictly observed the Jewish law. After his death the land became a scene of confusion and misery. Governor after governor came and was removed. Lawlessness and fanaticism were rampant. Insurrections, robbery, and assassinations provoked reprisals in which the Roman procurators crucified by hundreds the banditti and the "zealots" who infested the land. Felix, who was procurator a.d. 53-60, the man denounced by Tacitus, in his scathing style, as "giving full license to his lust and his cruelty, and wielding the power of a king in the spirit of a slave," the man whom Paul made to tremble, " as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come," was succeeded by Porcius Festus, who had at least the grace to admit the innocence of Paul. After him came some cruel procurators, and confusion became worse confounded amid the work of fanatical patriots, ruffianly freebooters, Jews and Samaritans, impostors and pretenders to magic; the priesthood torn by fierce dissensions, the populace at daggers-drawn with the Roman soldiery, who were chiefly of Graco-Syrian race. The end was close at hand. In vain did Agrippa II. strive to restore order and dissuade the national party from the suicidal step of open rebellion. The tyranny of Gessius Floras, procurator in a.d. 65, caused the Zealots, also styled Sicarii or Assassins, to revolt. A civil war ensued, in which the rebels won the day over their own countrymen, and then the sturdy old soldier, of Sabine birth, Vespasian, was sent by the emperor Nero to suppress the rebellion, which in 66 had involved Galilee and Samaria along with Judea in common cause against Rome. We need pursue the story no further. The struggle was one of hideous renown. The command relinquished by Vespasian on his accession as emperor in a.d. 69 was assumed by his son Titus. Jotapata, in Galilee, had been taken after desperate fighting, and Jerusalem was invested at a time when the city was overcrowded by refugees from the country and by those who had come up to celebrate the Passover. A siege of several months, unsurpassed in history for its horrors, for valour, skill, and persistence in the assailants, for magnificent heroism and insane desperation in the defence, ended in the autumn of a.d. 70 with the storming and almost entire demolition of the city which was to the conquered people the centre of unity for their national life. According to their own historian, over 1,000,000 Jews had perished by the sword and by famine. The history of the Jews as a nation, independent or tributary, was at an end.

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