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
With the death of Herod came to an end the Jewish monarchy. The scepter passed forever from Juda, as Jacob had foretold. (Gen. xlix. 10.) The Saviour was born in Bethlehem the year before his death as predicted, fled to Egypt, stopped a month at what is now called Old Cairo, lived at Heliopolis, was called out of the land of the Pharaohs by the Angel, and went to live at Nazareth (from Nazir, a a prince," "the separated"), for he was the "Crown of the Nazarite among his brethren." (Deut. xxxiii. 16.) who was to establish another kingdom built on Israel's religion and turn the vast machinery of the Roman empire established by Japheth's sons into the world-wide empire of the Church.
Herod had ten wives by whom he had many children. But we will mention only those whose history bears on our story. Doris was the mother of Antipater, the Machabean Mariamne gave birth to Alexander and Aristobulus ; another Mariamne, whose father he had made high priest, bore him one son whom he called Herod. Malthake, a Samaritan, generated Archelaus and Herod Antipas, and Cleopatra of Jerusalem brought forth Philip.
Herod before his death had imprisoned in the Hippodrome at Jerusalem Juda's noblest and wealthiest sons, and gave orders that at his death they should all be executed. But Salome, his sister, and her husband re fused to put the decree into execution, delivered them from prison, and the leaders of the people celebrated it with a great feast called Megillath Taanith," Roll of Feasts," and ever after it has been called Yom Tobh, "Feast Day," on which mourning is forbidden among the Jews.
Three times Herod had changed his will. In the first named Antipater had been named his successor, with the proviso that in case of his death before coming to the crown, Herod, son of Mariamne II., was to succeed him. But when Antipater's treachery was unmasked, he made another will naming Herod Antipas his heir. But a few days before his death, he made a third leaving a part of his dominions to Archelaus, son of Malthake the Samari tan, naming Antipas tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip tet-rarch of the country east of the Jordan. These wills re flect the vagaries of mind and the domestic troubles of this much married Jewish despot. Each will stated that it depended on the approval of Augustus, who had given him permission to name his successors.
The army at once proclaimed Archelaus king, but he refrained from assuming the title till he had consulted the emperor. (Antiq. xvii. ; viii. 4, and ix. 5.) The night of his father's death and for some days following, he spent in rioting and feasting with his friends, and promised reforms. But the recent murder of the Rabbis by his father roused a storm of lamentation, arid Archelaus' soldiers promptly slaughtered 3,000 of them, killing some even in the holy precincts of the Temple. With his mother Salome Archelaus started for Rome, followed by his brother Antipas, with whom Salome joined her influence, deserting her own son.
The members of the Herodian family then all flocked to Rome, and began to fight each other, all claiming that they would rather be under the direct suzerainty of the Romans than have any single one of the family receive the crown of the Jewish kingdom. They filled Rome with their disputes, intrigues and quarrels. But they seemed to prefer Antipas to Archelaus. Fresh troubles broke out in Judea, which were put down by sword and crucifix ion. Philip, who had been left to administer the Jewish kingdom, now started for Rome to look after his own interests, as well as to support Archelaus. A deputation of of fifty prominent Jews from Palestine, accompanied by over 8,000 Roman Jews, demanded of the emperor the deposition of the whole Herodian family because of their high crimes, and asked that the Jewish kingdom be incorporated with Syria as part of the empire.
But Augustus concluded to confirm the last will Herod had made, with slight modifications, of which the most important was that Archelaus was to bear the title of Ethnarch, which would be later changed to that of king if he deserved it. His dominions were Judea, Edumea, which had embraced the Jewish religion, and Samaria, the revenues from which would pour into his pockets about $1,200,000 a year. He began his reign by the ruthless slaughter of every opponent. He deposed and appointed the high priests after the example of his father, whom he surpassed in cruelty, debauchery, oppression, luxury, sensuality and selfishness. His crimes became so awful that after a reign of one year, in the year (6 of our era, the emperor deposed and banished him to Gaul, now France.
The Jewish kingdom was now divided into four parts, Judea came under the direct administration of Roman emperors over whom they appointed procurators. Herod Antipas received the regions around Galilee and Perea, and his brother Philip the territory east of the Jordan, while the small principality of Abilene was ruled by Lysanias.
For forty-three years Herod Antipas governed his Galilean principality. But he had all the vices of the great Herod, his father, without his genius. He had no settled religious faith, but he was covetous, avaricious, dissipated, immoral, cruel and a man of great but low cunning. Our Lord calls him a fox. (Luke xiii. 32.) Like his father he had a taste for building, but he was always careful to dedicate all his buildings to the emperor.
Under the wise councilors of Irenaeus, and his father, Ptolemy, Antipas' first care was the repairing of his king dom, which had been sadly injured by the wars with the Arabs on the south, the Romans on the north, and the securing of his throne. Two hours to the north of Nazareth he built Sepporis, making it his capital and fortifying it against attack. It had been taken and burned to the ground by the proconsul Varus, in the summer of 4 B. C., when Judas, son of Hezekiah, rose in rebellion and fortified caverns 800 feet high, up the steep mountains at Arbela on the Sea of Galilee, Varus had sold the inhabitants as slaves, because they took part in the insurrection, but Antipus brought others to repeople his capital.
He turned his attention to the south, where Perea was exposed to the robber chiefs of the Bedouin tribes. There on a high volcanic rock, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, Alexander Janneus had built a defense against them called Machserus, and in the old Machabean wars it had become almost impregnable. But the Romans had destroyed the fortress. Herod dreaded most Aretas, Arab king of Edumea, and here he fortified himself by marrying his daughter. He built another town at the upper end of the Dead Sea, at the place called Beth Harum, and called it Livias, in honor of the empress-mother, Livia.
He acted all his life as a spy on the Roman proconsuls of the East, and secretly he reported their doings to the emperor, and thus he gained his friendship, and to show him favor the emperor gave him leave to move his capital from Sepporis, of which Herod had tired, and to build a new one on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where the hot springs of Emmaus burst out from the ground. It was the finest site in all Palestine and soon the city rose, all buildings planned in Roman style. But the near-by marsh made it unhealthy, and the spot was an old burying-ground, arid the Jews, with their horror of dead bodies, refused to settle in the place. After visiting the new city the Jew was for seven days unclean and he had to go through all the purification rites in the Temple.
But in spite of all these the place flourished under the king's patronage, and soon rose a stately palace decorated with statues, sculptures and ornaments, but hated by the Jews as being against the laws of Moses. The interior of his palace was finished up with imperial splendors, magnificent stately candelabra, and furniture dazzled the eye. Table service of solid silver, costly Corinthian brass, carved statuary, beautiful tables, and magnificent decorations were carried away from it at the outbreak of the war with Rome in which Jersusalem was ruined.
Stately mansions soon rose on all sides. Herod built a synagogue large enough to hold all the people, a castle in which 70,000 men could lodge. On every side he ex tended the city, and for the next fifty years it was the capital of that part of Judea. There the leading learned Jews took up their residence when the Romans had ruined Jerusalem and there the Talmud was composed.
Herod Philip II. was the best of the family. When he renounced his rights to a part of his father's dominions, he retired to Jerusalem, where he lived as a private citizen in ease and luxury. There he married his relative, Herodias, sister of Herod Agrippa I., by whom he had a daughter, Salome. This Herodias was the daughter of Aristobulus, ill-fated son of the murdered Mariamne, daughter of the Machabees. Her husband was her half uncle and son of Herod who killed the children when Christ was born. Such marriages were common in that day of loose morals, and the custom still obtains among the Mahommedans.