Thursday, 11 February 2016

The tragedy of Calvary. Part 23.

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

Thus all through Palestine rose temples to the gods, as products of Herod's liberality. Alone Jerusalem had remained faithful to the worship of Jehovah, for Herod could never break down the love of the Jew of the sacred city for his Law, his Temple and his religion. But heathen ism was slowly making inroads into the pure religion of the Lord of Hosts. Along the roads leading up to the Holy City could be seen cenotaphs, mausolea, tombs in pagan style, monuments with Greek and Latin names, inscriptions praising the emperor and the royal family, aqueducts, piazzas, and places for pagan games. It seemed as though the throne of David which he occupied, existed only to spread heathenism. Herod's bosom friends were all pagans, and they filled his most important offices. Following the example given at the great Alexander's death, he preserved the body of his murdered wife Mari-amne for seven years in a coffin filled with honey. He had put to death all the famous Rabbis of Israel who opposed him, except Baba-Ben-Buta, and he had put out his eyes.

All these temples we have mentioned he had built for heathen gods, and he had done nothing for the Temple of Jehovah, and the Jews were always talking about this. It was in the year 20 before Christ that Herod told them that he intended to restore the Temple of the Exile, built by Zorobabel, and he began the erection on the site, of a vast structure greater than that of Solomon. It is said that the famous Rabbi mentioned above, before his sight was destroyed, had seen cracks in the walls of the old Temple, and had advised the king to restore it as an expiation for Mariamne's murder, for the killing of the Rabbis, and to conciliate the Jews for the building of the pagan temples. It is said that they showed him the prophecy of Aggeus, who foretold that " the Desired of all nations shall come to it, and that the glory of the latter Temple would be greater than that of the first." 1 But the stipulation they made with him was that all the material for the work would be prepared beforehand, as was done when Solomon built the first edifice.

At last, on Herod's anniversary, in the year B. C. 14, the unfinished structure was dedicated with the sacrifice of three hundred oxen and hundreds of victims. All Israel rejoiced, and terms of gratitude were poured out on Herod. But soon all was turned to sorrow. For on the next day Herod set up a great gold eagle, emblem of heathen Rome, over the chief gate leading into the Temple, in expectation of visitors from the Imperial City. A revolt broke out, and Herod destroyed the records of births and marriages, because when he tried to show that he was descended from pagan royalty, they brought these forward to show him that he was born of the tribe of Juda, taunting him that he was nothing but a Roman proconsul under Augustus. They told him no earthly power could show him to be descended from Aaron's family when he sought the high priesthood. But in hundreds of synagogues throughout the land the records were kept, and from these the writers of the Gospels traced the genealogies of Christ.

In vain after this Herod tried to gain the love of his subjects. No rain fell the next year; men and beasts died by the thousands, and the Jews claimed it was a visitation of God for Herod's crimes, for murdering Mariamne, for building heathen temples, for heathenizing Palestine and for profaning Jerusalem. Herod took strong measures. He sold the plate of his palace, abolished the taxes, emptied his treasury and sent the money to Egypt to buy grain for the starving people. He clothed the people that winter, for all the sheep had been killed for food, and they had no skins with which to make winter coats. He provided them with seed in the spring. The following year he remitted a third of the taxes. He also decreed that all thieves should be sold as slaves, but the people murmured, saying that they would lose the faith in heathen countries, and the outcry against him continued.

Agrippa, the famous Roman general, and schoolmate of the emperor Augustus, visited for the second time Jerusalem, and when he went back, thousands escorted him to the seashore, strewing his path with flowers. The next year Herod returned the visit at Sinope, going and coming he lavished bounties on Jew and heathen alike. The Hebrews, in various cities engaged in trade, complained to him that the privileges granted them by Augustus were not being observed, while the Greeks reviled them, calling them blood-suckers, cancers on the community, who refused to honor the gods, and that they were not worthy of favors. But Herod prevailed with Rome, renewed the immunities, and on his return for the first time he was received with honors in Jerusalem, and he remitted a quarter of the taxes.

His domestic troubles began again. He had recalled his sons from Rome. Alexander being then eighteen and Aristobulus seventeen, both being tall, refined, and taking after their handsome murdered mother Mariamne. Their education had refined them. They had moved in Rome's highest society, where they were received with the highest honors as descendants of Israel's greatest heroes, the Machabees, and as the sons of Herod. But their morals had suffered in that whirlpool of vice, where every crime flourished, and soon charges of seduction were brought against Alexander, which if true would be punished by the Jewish law with death. They were frank, open, as becomes the European, and they were little fitted for the plots of a degraded oriental court. The death of their mother they did not forget. They showed their aversion to their father, and to the plotters who brought about her sad fate.

A storm soon broke around their heads. Herod tried to reconcile the parties by marrying Aristobulus to Berenice, his sister Salome's daughter, who was under the influence of her mother. Alexander, the heir to the throne, Herod had married to Glaphyra, the daughter of Archelaus, whom he had by a prostitute of the temple of Venus in Corinth. Glaphyra was not prudent, and she filled Herod's palace with stories of her contempt for Herod's family as com pared with her own. The women got fighting; all kinds of stories were set afloat, and spies were placed to watch the young men and their wives. The quarrels of the women grew day by day and involved the princes. Soon it became the talk of the town. Pheroras joined Salome's party. He had married a slave who was a fanatical follower of the Pharisees. Like the Edomites, from whom his mother sprung, he was fickle, a born conspirator, and goaded by the taunts of the members of Herod's family, he resolved to plot the death of the young princes.

In the winter of the year B. C. 14, on his return from his visit to Agrippa in Asia Minor, when Herod found his palace and the whole of Jerusalem in an uproar, it was bruited around that the young princes were going to apply to Augustus to have the process against Mariamne reversed, and in his rage he resolved to recall his eldest son, Antipater, who with his mother, had been banished the court by Mariamne's friends, and who with his party was hostile to the two princes. Antipater returned, joined Salome's party, watched every move of the young men, reported their every word and action, and thus excited Herod's suspicions that they were plotting for his crown. Doris, Antipater's mother, was also sent for to help the conspiracy, enemies separated the princes, and the plot to ruin both went merrily on.

Antipater soon had himself named as heir to the throne of David, and in B. C. 13 he was sent to Rome to have the emperor confirm the appointment. In the year 10 Herod himself followed him, taking the two young princes with him to have them tried for the plot of conspiring to murder their father. But they defended themselves so well that the Romans made a kind of reconciliation between them, and Herod returned to Jerusalem with them as joint heirs with Antipater in his kingdom.

But the truce did not last long. The hatred of the women, the jealousies of the court, the plots of Pheroras, the intrigues of Antipater, and the gossipers of the city soon brought things to a crisis. The slaves of the young men were tortured to wrest confessions from them, and whether it was through pain or because it was the truth we know not, but they confessed that Alexander was guilty of conspiring against his father, and the former, tired of life with its ceaseless turmoils, and furious at the plots laid for him, confessed that he was guilty in common with all Herod's relations, except Antipater, for whom he had a special friendship.

Aggeus ii. 2-9.