Page images
PDF
EPUB

.

$

*

He was soon after smitten with a most loathsome and tormenting disease, and died about a year and a quarter after the birth of our saviour, in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, a signal example of Divine justice.

Herod made his will not long before his death, but left the final disposal of his dominions to Augustus. The emperor ratified this will in all its material, points, and suffered the countries over which Herod had reigned, to be divided among his three sons. Archelaus succeeded to the lar gest share, namely, to Judea Proper, Samaria, and Idumea. Herod Antipas, called Herod the tetrarch, who afterwards beheaded John the Baptist, succeeded to Galilee and Perœa; and Philip to Trachonitis, and to the neighbouring region of Iturea. The sons of Herod the great were not suffered to take the title of king, they were only called tetrarchs, or ethnarchs.

Archelaus acted with great cruelty and injustice; and in the tenth year of his government, upon a regular complaint being made against him by the Jews, Augustus banished him to Vienne in Gaul, where he died.

After the banishment of Archelaus, Augustus sent Publius Sulpitius Quirinus, called by the Greeks Cyrenius, president of Syria, to reduce

the countries over which Archelaus had reigned, to the form of a Roman province; and appointed Coponius, a Roman of the equestrian order, to be governor, under the title of Procurator of Judea, but subordinate to the president of Syria.

The power of life and death, was now taken out of the hands of the Jews; and taxes were from this time paid immediately to the Roman emperor. Justice was administered in the name and by the law of Rome; though in what concerned their religion, their own laws, and the power of the high priests and Sanhedrim, or great council, were continued to them; and they were allowed to examine witnesses, and exercise an inferior jurisdiction in other causes, under the control of the Romans, to whom their tetrarchs were subject. It may be remarked, that, at this very period of time, our Saviour, who was now in the twelfth year of his age, being at Jerusalem with Joseph and Mary, upon occasion of the passover, appeared first in the temple, in his prophetic office, sitting among the doctors of the temple, both hearing them, and asking them questions.

After Coponius, the procurators successively appointed were Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Grotus, and Pontius Pilate; and this was

[ocr errors]

the species of government to which Judea and Samaria were subject during the ministry of Christ. Herod Antipas was still tetrarch of Galilee; and it was he, to whom our Saviour was sent by Pontius Pilate. Philip continued tetrarch of Trachonitis 37 years, and died in the 20th year of the reign of Tiberius. The emperor Caligula gave his tetrarchy to Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the great, with the title of king; and afterwards he added the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, whom he deposed and banished, after he had been tetrarch forty-three years.

The emperor Claudius gave bim Judea, Samaria, the southern parts of Idumea, and Abilene; and thus, at last, the dominions of Herod Agrippa, became nearly the same as those of his grandfather, Herod the great. It was this Agrippa, called also Herod Agrippa, and in the Scriptures, Herod only, who put to death James, the brother of John; and imprisoned Peter. He died in the seventh year of his reign, and left a son called also Agrippa, then seventeen years old; and Claudius thinking him too young to govern his father's extensive dominions, made Cuspus Fadus governor of Judea.

Fadus was soon succeeded by Tiberius and he was followed by Alexander Cumanus, Felix, and

Festus; but Claudius afterwards gave Trachonitis and Abilene to Agrippa, and Nero added a part of Galilee, and some other cities. It was this younger Agrippa, who was also called king, before whom Paul pleaded at Cesarea, which was at that time the place of residence of the governor of Judea. Several of the Roman governors had severely oppressed and persecuted the Jews; and at length, in the reign of Nero, and in the government of Florus, who had treated them with greater cruelty than any of his predecessors, they openly revolted from the Romans.

Then began the Jewish war, which, after an obstinate defence and unparalleled sufferings on the part of the Jews, was terminated by the total destruction of the city, and the temple of Jerusalem, by Titus, the son of Vespasian, emperor of Rome.

The overthrow of their civil and religious polity, and the reduction of the people to a state of slavery ensued. For though in the reign of Adrian, numbers of them collected together in different parts of Judea, it is to be observed they were then considered and treated as rebellious slaves; and those commotions were made a prétence for the general slaughter of those who were taken, and tended to complete the work of

their dispersion into all countries under hea

ven".

To use the striking language of Hunter, “We see laid down in the Old Testament, the principles, form, design, and use of the most ancient civil and religious polity in the world. And while the first beginnings of religion and government in every other nation under heaven, lie buried in darkness, contusion, and contradiction, aided by Divine light, we can trace to its source the religion of a nation, the most singular in the annals of mankind; raised out of an ancient pair, and they as "good as dead;" threatened with utter extinction during the first ages of their existence, but miraculously preserved in the very jaws of destruction :-formed in a desert for conquest, eminence, and empire; raised, after many struggles, to a pitch of grandeur unparalleled in history, and declining as fast into contempt and obscurity. But in captivity undissolved, in the wreck of empire maintained, upheld, rescued, and restored.

At length, behold them involved in one mighty ruin, driven from their capital, and from their country. Their temple, the great bond of union, razed to the foundation, and they themselves scattered among the nations during a period of

« PreviousContinue »