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
A Greek menial at the Jewish court made up his mind to bring matters to a crisis, and thus gain favors and wealth for himself. Thinking that he could get money from Herod, Antipater, and Archelaus, he forged documents and invented acts to show that the princes were forming a plot to put the king himself to death. Herod fell into the trap and threw his young sons in prison, loading them with chains. Putting their slaves to the torture, Herod had many of them stoned to death who confessed. Only the fear of Augustus the emperor prevented him from executing his sons at once. Even Salome daily tormented him with demands for their death, although one of them was her son-in-law.
At last he sent to Rome to ask Augustus' permission to kill them, and the emperor said that a man who could not keep his house in order was not fit to reign, and forth with deprived him of the crown of Arabia, yet giving him power to do as he thought fit with his sons. A court, half Roman, half Jewish, was appointed to sit at Berytus, now called Btiyrouth, to try the case, and before it appeared Herod as prosecutor. The Roman proconsul brought his own three sons with him, to see if he could mollify the hatred of the headstrong, gray haired Jewish king, but it was in vain. Herod acted like a madman. He was filled with hate, jealousy, anger and rage. He detailed his injuries with bursts of fury, his influence prevailed, the sentence was given as he asked, and in the year B. C. 7 his two sons were strangled at Samaria, where he had married their mother.
But the peace for which he hoped did not come, Antipater, with his brothers Archelaus and Philip, went to Rome for their education, and there the first named excited the two young men against their father, and on their return he betrayed their hatred of him to Herod. Antipater tried to make his uncle Pheroras kill his father Herod, for he was afraid that if the king lived much longer his own plots might be discovered. His wife was a strict Pharisee, and these fanatics wanted Herod killed and Pheroras placed on the Jewish throne. To bring this about, they manufactured and circulated numerous prophecies showing, as they thought, that-it was the will of God that Herod should be removed from the kingdom, and Pheroras ascend the throne. As a tool they used Bagoas, Herod's eunuch, whom they claimed was to have a son, who would be the long looked for Messiah. They gained many followers, but Herod discovered the plot, and with ruthless hand he murdered Rabbis, Pharisees, and every one connected with the conspiracy.
Herod demanded that Pheroras divorce his wife, but he refused and retired to Perea with her, where the court menials followed and poisoned him. But like a designing diplomat Herod had the body brought to Jerusalem, and appointed a great national funeral for him. Inquiring into the cause of his death, it was brought out that he took the poison Antipater had sent to kill Herod himself —even the second Mariamne and her son Herod junior, were found to be implicated, and this was why the latter was not mentioned in his father's will.
Antipater was thus unmasked, and Herod for the first time saw the nature of the man for whom he had sacrificed his wife and sons, and with the cunning of an Oriental he sent for him to come from Rome. As no one warned the young man of his danger, we suppose that Herod kept his mind to himself. The first suspicion was raised when he found no one at Csesarea to receive him when he landed from the Roman galley ; but he could not return, and putting on a bold front, he faced danger. Drawing near Jerusalem, his escort was taken from him, and he saw that he was ruined. Herod received him coldly, and handed him over to the Roman consul for trial. As usual in such cases, friends deserted the fallen youth, every one turned against him, and testified that he had tried to poison his father. They had preserved the drink he had prepared for his father, it was given to a slave who promptly fell dead, and Antipater was led away in chains.
Herod's strong constitution broke down under such rev elations, which he promptly communicated to his master Augustus at Rome. The Rabbis could not conceal their joy. Two of them, Judas son of Sariphai, and Matthias son of Margolouth, gathered armies around them, preaching to them revolution and rebellion. Pharisees taught that all these calamities fell on them because Herod had desecrated the Temple, profaned the Holy City, and heathenized the nation, and that they should all die for their Temple and religion.
At midday a great crowd of young men, mostly students of the Law, rushed to the Temple, ascended the great gate, let themselves down with ropes, tore down the hated eagle, emblem of Rome, over the gate, and smashed it to pieces in the streets. Mobs gathered in diverse parts of the city, fanatic Jews ran through the streets crying out the tenets of Judaism, troops were called out, butchered the unarmed populace and captured the leaders with forty of the young men. Brought before Herod, he asked them who advised them to act thus, and they replied that they did it for the Law, for the Temple, and for the glory of their religion. He tried to frighten them by telling them that they must die, but they told him their reward would be greater in the other life, for they would be martyrs. Two Rabbis taken with them and their leaders were burned alive, and the young students were sent to Jericho for trial before Herod, where they were beheaded, History tells us the night after there was an eclipse of the moon, which enables us to fix the date as being the 11th of March in the year B. C. 4.
During the summer he lived in the Holy City, and in the cold winter months he retired to his palatial home at Jericho, 1.300 feet below the sea, which always enjoys an almost tropical climate. Soon after, while he was at Jerusalem, Magi came from the East, asking of him where was born the new King, for they had seen his star in the East, and they had come to adore him, bringing with them gold as to a king, incense as to God, and myrrh for his burial. Herod, who was always looking for plots against his person and his throne, as usual lied to them, telling them that he too wanted to go and adore him. Herod had all the sacred books examined to find out where the long looked for Messiah would be born, and the Rabbis, and the men learned in law and prophecy, told him he would be born in Bethlehem. But when the Persian priest-kings, worshipers of God under the name of Ahura-Mazda, did not return, the crafty king sent and had brought be fore him every male child from two years old and under, and before his palace doors in the Forum where Christ was later tried, he saw them ruthlessly slaughtered. The Gospel narrative, striking in its simplicity, is in perfect agreement with the characteristics of Herod's barbarity as history hands him down.
Herod's whole life was an endless struggle with enemies without, foes within, domestic turmoils, and in his old age he found out that selfish schemers had brought on these troubles to further their own ends. A loathsome dis ease took deep hold on him, he suffered untold agonies, he had not a friend on earth, and men said it was a punishment of God for his crimes. He went to his winter home in Jericho, but found no relief, and they carried him across the desert sands to the other side of the Dead Sea, to the sulphur baths of Callirhoe, where he fainted, and nearly died under the treatment. They feared he would die before giving orders to execute his son Antipater. But the latter, imprisoned at Jericho, had tried to bribe his jailer, and the matter being laid before Augustus, the latter gave orders for his execution, saying it was better to be Herod's sow than his son. Five days after the death of his son, in his seventy-second year, Herod died.