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ing soon collected an army of six thousand men, he eagerly undertook to free Judea from the oppression and persecution of the Syrians, and to restore the worship of the God of Israel; but being very old when he engaged in this important and arduous work, he did not live to see its completion.
At his death, his own son Judas Maccabæus succeeded to the command of the army; and having defeated the Syrians in several engagements, drove them out of Judea, and established his own authority in the country. His first care was to repair and to purify the temple for the restoration of Divine worship; and to preserve the memory of this event, the Jews ordained a feast of eight days, called the feast of the dedication, to be yearly observed.
Judas Maccabæus was slain in battle, and his brother Jonathan succeeded him in the government. Jonathan was also made high priest, and from that time the Maccabean princes continued to be high priests. Judas Maccabæus and his brethren were so successful in asserting the liberty of their country, that in a few years they not only recovered their independence, but regained almost all the possessions of the twelve tribes, destroying at the same time the temple at mount Gerizim, in Samaria".
Historians say, that the bravery and patriotism of Judas Maccabæus and his brethren, exceeded the greatest achievements of Grecian and Roman warriors. Those conquerors had always to contend with enemies whose forces, however numerous, were far inferior to their own in military skill and discipline; but the Maccabæans en- B. C. gaged enemies not only superior in numbers, but beyond all comparison superior in discipline and the science of war; and by a persevering courage, which no difficulties could daunt, effected the deliverance of their country from political and religious oppression.
Aristobulus was the first of the Maccabees who assumed the name of king. About fortytwo years after, a contest arising between the two brothers, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, the sons of Alexander Jaddeus, relative to the succession to the crown, both parties applied to the Romans for their support and assistance.
Scaurus, the Roman general, suffered himself to be bribed by Aristobulus, and placed him on the throne. Not long after, Pompey, the Roman general, returned from the east into Syria, and both the brothers applied to him for his protection, and pleaded their cause before him.
Pompey considered this a favourable opportunity for reducing Palestine under the power of the Romans, to which the neighbouring nations had already submitted; and therefore without deciding the point in dispute between the two brothers, he marched his army into Judea; and after some pretended negociation with Aristobulus, besieged and took possession of Jerusalem. He appointed Hyrcanus high priest, but would not allow him the title of king; he gave him however the specious name of prince, with very limited authority.
Pompey did not plunder the temple of its utensils or its treasures, but he made Judea subject and tributary to the Romans; and Crœsus, another Roman, about nine years after, plundered the temple of every thing valuable belonging to it.
Julius Cæsar, the first Roman emperor, confirmed Hyrcanus in the pontificate, and granted fresh privileges to the Jews; but about four years after the death of Julius Cæsar, Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, with the assistance of the Parthians, while the empire of Rome was in an unsettled state, deposed his uncle Hyrcanus, seized the government, and assumed the title of king.
Herod, by birth an Idumean, but of the Jewish B. C. religion, whose father Antipater, as well as himself, had enjoyed considerable posts of honour and trust under Hyrcanus, immediately set out for Rome, and prevailed upon the senate, through the interest of Anthony and Augustus, to appoint him king of Judea. Armed with this authority, he returned, and began hostilities against Antigonus.-About three years after, he took Jerusalem, and put an end to the government of the Maccabees, or Asmonæons, after it had lasted nearly a hundred and thirty years. Antigonus was sent prisoner to Rome, and was there put to death by Anthony.
Herod married Mariamne, who lived to be the only representative of the Asmonæon family, and afterwards caused her to be publicly executed, from motives of unfounded jealousy. Herod considerably enlarged the kingdom of Judea, but it continued tributary to the Romans. He greatly depressed the civil power of the high priest, and changed it from being hereditary, to an office granted and held at the pleasure of the monarch; and this sacred office was now often given to those who paid the highest price for it, without any regard to merit.
It is allowed that Herod was possessed of great and splendid abilities; but he was an inexorably
cruel tyrant. He put to death two of his own sons, and he condemned a third, his favourite Antipater; but his own death prevented the exeeution of the sentence. He was a slave to his passions, and indifferent by what means he gratified his ambition. But to preserve the Jews in subjection, and to erect a lasting monument to his own name, he repaired the temple of Jerusalem at a vast expense, and added greatly to its magnificence. At this time there was a confident expectation of the Messiah among the Jews; and indeed a general idea prevailed among the Heathens also, that some extraordinary conqueror, or deliverer, would soon appear in Judea.
In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Herod, while Augustus was emperor of Rome, the Saviour of mankind was born of the Virgin Mary, of the lineage of David, in the city of Bethlehem of Judea, according to the word of prophecy, Herod, misled by the opinion which was then common among the Jews, that the Messiah was to appear as a temporal prince, and judging from the inquiries of the "wise men of the east," that the child was actually born, sent to Bethlehem, and ordered that all "the children of two years old, and under, should be put to death," with the hope of destroying one whom he considered as the rival of himself, or, at least, of his family.