« PreviousContinue »
tributary to the Romans; he greatly depressed the civil power of the high priesthood, and changed it, from being hereditary and for life, to an office granted and held at the pleasure of the monarch; and this sacred office was now often given to those who paid the highest price for it, without any regard to merit; he was an inexorably cruel tyrant to his people, and even to his children, three of whom he put to death; a slave to his passions, and indifferent by what means he gratified his ambition; but to preserve the Jews in subjection, and to erect a lasting monument to his own name, he repaired the temple of Jerusalem (k) at a vast expence, and added greatly to its magnificence.
At this time there was a confident expectation of the Messiah among the Jews; and indeed a general idea prevailed among the heathen (1) also, that some extraordinary conqueror or deliverer would soon appear in Judæa. In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Herod, while Augustus was
(k) As it appears that divine worship was not interrupted during these repairs, which continued forty-six years, it is evident that the temple was not wholly pulled down. Herod built also a magnificent palace for himself on Mount Sion. Both works were probably designed as an imitation of Solomon. (1) Tac. Hist. lib. 5. cap. 13. Suet. in Vita Vesp. C. 4.
emperor of Rome, the Saviour of mankind was 4. born of the Virgin Mary, of the lineage of David,
in the city of Bethlehem of Judæa (m), according to the word of prophecy. Herod, misled by the opinion which was then common among the Jews, that the Messiah was to appear as a temporal prince, and judging from the inquiries of -the wise men of the East,” that the child was actually born, sent to Bethlehem, and ordered that all “ the children of two years old and under” should be put to death, with the hope of destroying one whom he considered as the rival of himself, or at least of his family. He was soon
after smitten with a most loathsome and torment3. ing disease, and died, a signal example of divine
justice, about a year and a quarter after the birth
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
(m) Our Saviour was born four years before the common æra. Bethlehem was originally the mother city of the tribe of Judah: it was about five miles southwest of Jerusalem.
(n) Joseph, Ant, lib. 17.
over which Herod had reigned, to be divided among his three sons. Archelaus succeeded to the largest share, namely, to Judæa Propria, Samaria, and Idumaa. Herod Antipas, called Herod the Tetrarch, who afterwards beheaded John the Baptist, succeeded to Galilee and Peræa, and Philip to Trachonitis and to the neighbouring region of Ituræa. The sons of Herod the Great were not suffered to take the title of king; they were only called ethnarchs or tetrarchs. Besides the countries already mentioned, Abilene, which had belonged to Herod during the latter part of his life, and of which Lysanias is mentioned by St. Luke (0) as tetrarch, and some cities, were given to Salome, A. D. the sister of Herod the Great. Archelaus acted 7. 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 Quirinius (who, according to the Greek way of writing that name, is by St. Luke called Cyrenius (p), president of Syria,
- to (0) Luke, c. 3. v. 1.
(P) Three years before the birth of Christ, Augustus issued a decree for the making a general survey of the
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 Judæa, 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 admi- nistered in the name and by the laws of Rome; though in what concerned their religion, their own laws, and the power of the high priest, and sanhedrim, or great council, were continued to them; and they were allowed to examine witnesses, and exercise an inferior jurisdiction in other causes, subject to the control of the Romans, to whom their tetrarchs or kings were also subject; and 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 whole Roman empire, including every dependent state, with the design of raising a general tax. Sentius Saturninus, being then president of Syria, was charged with the execution of this decree in Judæa, and it was to render an account of their property that Joseph and Mary went up to Bethlehem with a multitude of other people; but the tax was not laid or levied till Judæa became a Roman province, subject to Cyrenius, the president of Syria. Vide Prideaux, part 2. book 9.
with Joseph and Mary upon occasion of the passover, appeared first in the temple in his prophetic office, and in the business of his Father, on which he was sent, sitting among the doctors of the temple, and declaring the truth of God to them (g).” After Coponius, Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, and Pontius Pilate, were successively procurators; and this was the species of government to which Judæa and Samaria were subject during the ministry of our Saviour. Herod Antipas was still tetrarch of Galilee, and it was he to whom our Saviour was sent by Pontius Pilate. Lardner is of opinion that there was no procurator in Judæa after Pontius Pilate, who was removed A. D. 36, but that it was governed for a few years by the presidents of Syria, who occasionally sent officers into Judæa. Philip continued tetrarch of Trachonitis thirty-seven years, and died in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius. 37. 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 him Judæa, 40. Samaria, the southern parts of Idumea, and Abilene; and thus at last the dominions of Herod
Agrippa (9) Home, vol. 1. p. 254.