The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
This was the Herod who sat on the throne of David and Solomon in Jerusalem when Christ was born. Some writers not going deep into history, or not knowing well the Herodian family, say he was an Edumean and not a Jew. But he was only born there, and his father and grandfather were of the tribe of Juda, Jews of pure Jewish blood. 6 Thus was fulfilled the word of the prophet Jacob on his deathbed: "The scepter shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he comes that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations. Tying his foal to the vineyard, and his ass, O my son, to the vine. He shall wash his robe in wine and his gar ment in the blood of the grape." (Gen. xlix. 10, 11)
Herod had a difficult position to fill. All Galilee was overrun with Bedouin robbers; entire towns like Lydda, Thamna, Gophna, and Emmaus had been depopulated: 1 Jericho had been more than once plundered, and her chief people sold as slaves by Cassius; five towns lying near it in the deep Jordan valley lay in ashes and rubbish. The Parthians had destroyed Marissa, and the famous Cleopatra, with her tool Antony, had crushed the regions of the lower Jordan with taxes.
But by Herod's genius order soon followed chaos, and surrounding himself with his old friends, he soon built up a strong government. While filling posts of honor with foreigners, he cultivated the friendship of the fanatic Pharisees, favored the leading Rabbis, and worshiped at the Temple of his forefathers. One of his first acts was to take from the Sanhedrin and the schools of the Jews the powers over life and death they had exercised under the Machabees, leaving them only religious authority, and the management of the local government of the cities and small towns.
One of his next moves was the selection of a high priest. Hyrcanus still survived, but lived in Babylon, where he had fled from the revolutions and upheavals which preceded Herod's reign. Aristobulus, Herod's brother-in-law, was too young, and he looked around for a member of Aaron's family, and found him in a Rabbi from Babylon, whom he thought would make no trouble, and in the year B. C. 36 he induced this priest, named Hyrcanus, to return to Judea, lest he might rouse the Jews of Babylonia against him in case of another Parthian war.
Herod wished to reign as a Jew, for the purest blood of the tribe of Juda flowed in his veins. But he was also a diplomat. All his power came from Rome. To conciliate the Romans he had sacrificed a thank-offering in the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome for his crown, while to conciliate his subjects, he flattered the Rabbis on his return. He had overthrown the royal family of the Machabees, but he turned around and married their daughter, the beautiful Mariamne, to center in himself the glories of her ancestors. Finding himself well seated on the throne, he began a series of atrocities, hardly equaled in the pages of human history.
Mariamne's brother, Aristobulus, was heir of the crown, and in him Herod saw a rival, and he took the Oriental way of disposing of him by murdering him a little later in cold blood. Towards the close of the year B. C. 36, his friend Antony, the Triumvir, and his army met disaster on their retreat from Media, where their barbarian allies deserted them, and for twenty-seven days the Roman army marched through the vast deserts of northern Arabia, pursued by the Parthians. In this retreat, 27,000 foot and 4,000 cavalry perished for want of food and water, the army-train was lost in the sand-hills, and be fore they reached the shores of the Caspian or the Araxes 8,000 more died. Reaching Sidon at last, here Antony waited for Cleopatra, who, frightened on hearing that his wife Octavia was coming to meet him, pretended that she would die if he left her and this so unmanned him, that he left his army and went back to Egypt with this celebrated charmer. After this all kinds of misfortunes befell the Roman power in Judea.
Alexandra, mother of Aristobulus and Mariamne, was grieved that her son was not made the high priest, and with one of Antony's officers, then living at Jerusalem, she plotted with him to get him the position through Antony's help. Getting portraits of the brother and sister, he sent them to Antony, and the latter fell in love with Mariamne the Jewish queen, but the jealousy of Cleopatra kept Antony from espousing the daughter of the Machabees, and he asked Herod to send to him her brother.
This frightened Herod, who asked Antony to withdraw the request, stating that it would lead to revolt among the Jews. To straighten out the difficulty, he deposed the high priest he had called from Babylon, and appointed Aristobulus. This took place in the year 35 B. C. The Jews were delighted with the appointment, for he was the heir of their great leaders, the Machabees, who had rescued the nation from foreign foes. Aristobulus became so popular that he aroused Herod's jealousy. Waiting his time with great cunning, Herod induced him to visit the winter house in Jericho he had built, where the great spring bursts out from the sands under the mountain where Christ later fasted, and Herod induced the simple youth to take a bath in his palace, where the attendants held him under water till he drowned; and Herod pretended that it was an accident.
1 Josephus, Jewish Wars, I. ii. 2.