Between the Testaments

By Dr. B. H. Carroll
Late President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminar, Fort Worth, Texas
Edited by Dr. Ronald D. Lesley for Fundamental Baptist Institute

A Class on Biblical History


Lesson # 7

THE JEWS UNDER THE ROMANS AND HEROD

65 B. C.—The Birth of Christ

I commence this chapter with these opening remarks:

First, I have not been able, in the space allowed, to even name all of the Jewish books of the period, nor to distinguish sufficiently between them. The classifications of that literature are: The Wisdom literature, such as Wisdom and Ecciesiasticus; the Romance literature, such as Tobit and Judith; and the Apocalyptic literature, such as Baruch and Enoch—though it is doubtful if any part of Enoch was written before Christ; and the spurious prophetic literature, such as the Sibylline books and the imitation Psalter literature; the philosophic literature of the Alexandrian Jews; and the historical literature, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees; and the forged epistolary literature, such as the letter of Jeremiah; and the literature of forged prayers, such as those attributed to Manasseh and Azarias.

Second, There has not been space enough to examine critically the discrepancies between Jewish historians on the one hand and the Greek and Roman historians on the other hand.

Third, There has been such condensation of names and dates and little chance to differentiate enough to make living pictures before the mind.

It will, therefore, be understood that these seven chapters do not constitute a full discussion on the inter-biblical period, but are intended merely as a guide to a more extended study of this period.

I will now give a very brief summary of the preceding six chapters:

1. The names, "Jews" and "Judaism," came into prominence with Ezra, the scribe, called the Second Moses.

2. With him also rose the order of the scribes, who were the copyists, multipliers, and expounders of the sacred Scriptures, and the synagogues as places of worship and biblical instruction, and the council of the elders, which later became the Sanhedrin.

3. With him also came the revival of the law, the sanctity of the sabbath, the sanctity of the marriage relation, the permanent renunciation of idolatry by the Jews, and ever-increasing hopes of imn~ra1ity and of the coming of the Messiah.

4. The Judea of the restoration, after the Babylonian exile, was a small territory around Jerusalem, not as big as some of the counties of Texas, to be vastly enlarged under the Macca-bees.

5. Following the refusal to recognize the Samaritans as Jews, and the strict construction of the marriage law, arose the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim, which stood until destroyed by John Hyrcanus.

6. Judea was subject to Persia until annexed by Alexander the Great, 332 B. C.

7. After his death it was subject to Egypt, from 323 B. C. to 198 B. C.

8. The greatest events under the Ptolemies were the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek and the rise of Hellenism, distinguishing the Hebrews from the Hellenists.

9. From 1983. c. to 128 B. c. Judah was subject to the Seleucids of Antioch.

10. The events of this subjection were: First, the attempt of Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes, to utterly destroy the Jews’ religion, bringing the kingdom of God into greater peril than ever in human history except in the days of Noah and in the days of Elijah when he stood alone against the world. Second, the heroic resistance of Mattathias and his five sons, John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan, all of them dying violent deaths in the violent struggle, continued by John Hyrcanus, son of Simon.

11. In these Maccabean wars the following great results were obtained: (1) religious liberty by Judas Maccabeus; (2) political independence by his brothers Jonathan and Simon and by John Hyrcanus, son of Simon; (3) great expansion of the Jewish territory until it almost reached the old boundaries of David’s kingdom—this expansion included Samaria, Perea, Galilee, Gilead, Iturea, Idumea, and Philistia; (4) that Aristobulus, son of John Hyrcanus, was the first to put on the royal diadem; (5) in this period came to the front the three noted Jewish sects—the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes; (6) that a Jewish temple was established in Egypt, which lasted until A.D. 70, when the Jerusalem Temple was also destroyed.

12. The kings of the Asmonaean Dynasty were unworthy of their illustrious Maccabean ancestry.

The foregoing remarks refer to the preceding chapters on the inter-biblical period, and we are now to consider the last section of the period, from 65 B.C. to the birth of Christ, in which Judea is subject to the Romans, and the Asmonaean Dynasty is succeeded by Herod, sometimes called the Great, an Idumaean, whose mother was an Arabian. The countries now to the front are Rome, Pontus under Mithridates, Parthia, which Rome never conquered, and the dying kingdoms of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids. Let us glance now for a moment at

ROME

At this time Rome, as a republic, had become utterly corrupt. Indeed, it was no longer a republic in any true sense. There is the distinction between a democracy and a republic. In a pure democracy the people rule directly; in a republic they rule representatively. The United States is a republic, ever approaching a democracy. The Baptist churches are the only pure democracies in the world. The Presbyterians have a republican form of government; they govern by representatives. The senate of Rome constituted its republican feature, and had become the most corrupt oligarchy in history. They appointed the proconsuls who governed all the provinces, except those ruled by military appointees of Caesar. The tribunes, elected by the citizens, constituted the only democratic element—but the elections became a mere farce. The lands of Italy were now owned by a few corrupt landlords who used up the resources of the farms to support a vicious city life. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Italy were slaves, captives of foreign wars, who tilled all the farms, built all the imposing edifices, constituted the entire class of mechanics, artisans, scribes, and domestics. These slaves were not of an inferior race, but were the nobles, patriots, the picked men and women of the conquered nations from all over the world, and in thousands of instances far superior to their masters in education and nobility. Thy had no legal rights. Their labor, their persons, their honor their lives, were absolutely at the disposal of their luxurious, and oftentimes vicious masters. The sturdy yoemanry had passed away. Those who were counted citizens, and could vote for the tribune, did not work, and lived on gratuitous distribution of rations and free shows. Whoever could most liberally supply them with "bread and circuses" could command their votes. Only by the spoils of conquered nations, or by the spoils of robbery of subject provinces could one have means enough to thus feed and amuse the pampered and fickle body of so-called Roman citizens. Goldsmith, in The Deserted Village, well says,

Ill fares the land to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates and men decay.

About the beginning of our period, Cicero, the great orator, was consul exposing the Cataline conspiracy, in those famous orations which are studied as a preparation for college. Three men, by combination, controlled the world. This was the first Roman Triumvirate, that is, three-man power, or three-man government—Julius Caesar, Gnaeus Pompey, and Publius Crassus. There were two formidable enemies of Rome at this time—Mithridates, king of Pontus, and the Parthians from the shores of the Caspian Sea. Pompey conquered Mithridates, and also overthrew the last of the Seleucids at Antioch, winding up this division of the Greek Empire, and this brought him in touch with Judea. Pompey besieged and captured Jerusalem and pushed his way into the holy of holies, and was astounded at what he found. Tacitus tells what he found: "He found within no images of the gods, a vacant mercy seat, and an empty ark."

Thus passed away the Asmonaean kingdom. The Jews never forgave this impiety of Pompey. While the Asmonaean kingdom passed away, members of the family yet remained for some years, with a kind of princely dignity. The Jews were more tolerant to Pompey’s fellow triumvir, Crassus, who nine years later (54 B. c.), when governor of Syria, robbed the temple of all its treasures, amOunting in cash value to about $10,-000,000. A year later, 53 B. c., Crassus was defeated by the Parthians, his army annihilated, and himself slain at the battle of Carrhae. This downfall of Crassus the Jews interpreted as the vengeance of the Almighty for his robbery of the Temple. At any rate, this victory of the Parthians, 53 B. C., brought about two results:

1. It opened the way for them to come in touch with Judea, which I will tell about later.

2. It opened a way for the rupture between Caesar and Pompey (49 B.C.), the other triumvirs, and which led to the famous civil war which was settled at the battle of Pharsalia, in which Caesar with 22,000 of his veterans defeated and captured Pompey’s army of 50,000 men. Caesar’s grim old veterans were told that Pompey’s legions were "city dandies," and hence were instructed to strike at their faces, since they prided themselves so much on their good looks that to hit at their prettiness scared them worse than to hit at their hearts.

Pompey fled to Egypt, and was assassinated as soon as he stepped ashore. Caesar followed him, and was temporarily snared by the witchery of the famous Cleopatra. Caesar is now the ruler of the world.

ESAU AND ISHMAEL ON THE THRONE OF JACOB.

IN THE PERSON OF HEROD, THE IDUMARAN, WHOSE MOTHER WAS AN ARABIAN.

In a former chapter was recounted the final conquest of Idumaea, or Edom, by John Hyrcanus, and its incorporation into Judea, thus forcibly uniting Jacob and Esau. Antipas, a shrewd and powerful Idumaean, was left as local governor of the conquered Edom. He left as his successor a greater and more unscrupulous son, Antipater. This Antipater had sided with Pompey against Caesar, but when he learned the result of the battle of Pharsalia, he flopped over to Caesar in the snap of the fingers. He hurriedly gathered an army and rushed to Caesar’s help at Alexandria, where Caesar was having a time of it trying to conquer that great city, and so says Mime Rea:

"The Iduinaean mouse helped the Roman lion, and the lion was grateful." On the rupture with Pompey, Caesar had released Aristobulus, one of the contesting Maccabees, and loaned him to legions to create a diversion in Judea against Pompey. Pompey’s friends poisoned Aristobulus and executed his brother Alexander. Now, for the help rendered him at Alexandria, Caesar made Antipater a Roman citizen and procurator of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Hyrcanus II was made high priest and a Roman senator, and also was made hereditary ethnarch, that is, subordinate governor. Antipater at once began to advance his family, as fathers are wont to do. His son, Phasael, was made governor of Jerusalem, and his greater gon, known later as Herod the Great, then just twenty-five years old, was sent into Galilee to put down bands of desperadoes, robbers, and religious zealots, who as patriots, sheltered themselves in caves and warred against Rome.

Many years ago Harper’s Magazine gave a richly illustrated account of Herod’s successful war against these devoted Jews, who so desperately resisted the Roman supremacy. From the mountain tops Herod let down huge boxes, as big as a flat car, by chains, filled with Roman soldiers, until they were just level with the mouth of the caves, and there, swung in the air, these grim Roman soldiers gained an entrance by desperate fighting, killing and capturing these so-called robbers. If they had succeeded they would have passed into history with the fame of William Tell, Sir William Wallace, or Francis Marion, and we must not think of these men as ordinary robbers. Barabbas, who was preferred to Christ, was this kind of robber—not an ordinary highwayman—and one of the apostles was Simon the Zealot. We may, therefore, understand why the Sanhedrin summoned Herod, in this case, to answer at its bar for murdering "free Jews," who counted themselves patriots, and why they later preferred Barabbas to Christ. The two so-called thieves crucified with Christ were also of this kind. When summoned to appear before the Sanhedrin, Herod came with an armed band and overawed the court. Only one member, Shammai, dared to move his condemnation, and before the motion could be put the weak old Hyrcanus, the high priest, the mere tool of Herod’s father, adjourned the court. Soon after this Rome was turned into a bedlam by

THE ASSASSINATION OF CAESAR IN THE ROMAN SENATE

(March 15, 44 B.C.)

Bedlam is the name for a madhouse. There was an old English madhouse called Bedlam, and ever since a madhouse has been called a bedlam. Sixty senators, led by Brutus and Cassius, participated in the murder of Caesar. Read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Froude’s Sketch of Caesar, and Mommsen’s History of Rome at this period. The senate was far more corrupt than Caesar. It was impossible, out of such material, to reconstruct a republic, and this led to the second Roman Triumvirate, to wit: Octavius Caesar, a nephew of Julius, and his adopted son, Mark Antony, and Lepidus. Antipater was raising an army to help Brutus and Cassius when, in 43 B. c. the Jews poisoned him. Herod, his son, would have followed his father’s course, l~it at the famous battle of Philippi the incipient republic perished, where Octavius and Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius, who both committed suicide, as did the great Cato somewhat later, in Africa. Mark Antony also captured and slew Cicero, who also favored the republic, just as he was about to get into a boat to escape. There is a great painting of Cicero stepping out of his litter to meet his murderer.

Herod now cajoled Mark Antony, who commanded in the East, and who against all Jewish accusations made both Herod and Phasael tetrarchs under the nominal sovereignty of the Maccabee, Hyrcanus II. This was 41 B.C.. Antigonus, the younger eon of Aristobulos and brother of Hyrcanus, claimed the throne, and was supported by the Parthians. They made him king, and upheld him in power for three years, 40 B.C., to 37 B.C., and for this time Judea was under control of the Parthians. With their help Antigonus, the last of the Asmonaean kings, captured Jerusalem and with it Phasael and Hyrcanus. He cut off the ears of Hyrcanus, the mutilation barring him from the priesthood, and sent him to Babylon. Phasael committed suicide; and Herod fled to Masada at the southern end of the Dead Sea, and left his women folk there with his brother Joseph, and he himself went first to Egypt, and then to Rome, telling how Antigonus welcomed the Parthians, the enemies of Rome, and so cajoling both Octavius and Antony, and by a decree of the senate was made king of Judea. Thus passed away the Asxnonaean line—or Maccabee line—and thus Herod, the descendant of Esau, whose mother was a descendant of Ishmael, takes his seat on the throne of Jacob. Herod returned with two Roman legions, and swelled the number to about 100,000 by enlisting renegade Jews, and besieged and captured Jerusalem on the twenty-sixth anniversary of its capture by Pompey. He also captured Antigonus, whom the Parthians had put in power, and sent him to Antony at Antioch, who executed him. Antony called him "Antigona," which is the female name for Antigonus. He thus changed his name to a woman’s name because he cried and whined, but I have known some women who would neither whine nor cry. Antony executed him, and that was the first time in history that a sovereign of a nation suffered death under the ax of the Roman lictor.

THE REIGN OF HEROD, 37-4 B.C.

We now take up the reign of Herod from 37 B.C. to the birth of Christ. Before he captured Jerusalem he had married the beautiful Asmonaean princess, Mariamne, hoping to secure thereby the support of the favorers of the Maccabean line. The marriage was unfortunate for this beautiful woman, for she was persecuted by Herod’s sister, Salome, and by Cypros, his Arabian mother. In the end—for these two women never stopped—Herod was induced to murder his beautiful wife, the only woman he ever loved—and he married a great many women—and later to murder his two sons by this wife. Remorse for murdering the woman that he loved kept biting him like an undying worm, and kept stinging him like a scorpion as long as he lived.

Here we can do no more than summarize his reign.

1. When he captured Jerusalem he put to death forty-three members of the Sanhedrin, which had once summoned him to trial.

2. He made Ananel, an obscure Jew of Babylon, high priest, and when this raised a clamor he yielded and appointed the brother of his wife, Mariamne, a boy seventeen years of age, very popular and very much beloved of the people.

3. There was an appeal by the people, by the Maccabean women, to Cleopatra, who had completely ensnared Antony. Influenced by Cleopatra, Antony summoned Herod to appear before him at Alexandria, but having heard him, notwithstanding that Cleopatra was against him, he dismissed the charges against him, and added Coele-Syria to his kingdom. Nearly everybody would be willing to be put on trial if followed by such a verdict as that.

4. When on the death of Lepidus civil war was waged between the two remaining triumvirs, Herod sided with Antony, but the great sea battle at Actum decided the war in favor of Octavius, 31 B.C.

5. Herod instantly flopped over to the other side, sought Octavius in the Island of Rhodes, cajoled him, was confirmed in his kingdom, and in the next year Octavius enlarged his territory by adding Gadara, Hyppo, Samaria, and the seaports of Joppa, Anthedo., Gaza, and a place called Straton’s Tower, which afterward became the Caesarea of the New Testament.

6. Soon after this, Herod, as I have said, put to death his wife, the beautiful Maccabean princess, and mother of two sons, 28 B. C., and one year later he executed her mother, Alexandra.

7. He began to Hellenize the country by erecting in Jerusalem a Grecian theater, and an enormous amphitheater, and instituted Grecian games and gladiatorial combats. He erected heathen temples in all the new cities that he built, particularly Caesarea and old Sainaria. Herod rebuilt that and called it Sebaste, in honor of Augustus. He erected a splendid palace in Jerusalem, whith we read about in the New Testament, and he also erected that famous tower of Antonia, which we also read about in the New Testament, and which commanded the approach of the Temple.

8. Feeling that he was hated of all men, he sought to regain popularity by the Roman method of free distribution of bread, and as this was in the time of both famine and pestilence, he did thereby regain much popular favor.

9. But his greatest exploit in this direction was the restoration and enlargement of the Temple built five centuries before by Zerubbabel. This mighty enterprise, far superior to either Solomon’s Temple or the one by Zerubbabel, was commenced 20 B.C., and was not finally completed until A.D. 65, which was just five years before Titus destroyed it. This is the famous temple whose huge stones excited the wonder of the apostles, and called forth our Lord’s great prophecy in Matthew 24-25, and which Christ twice purified, once at the beginning and once at the end of his ministry.

10. Herod murdered his two sons by Mariamne, where their mother before them had been murdered.

11. He was now the subject of a loathsome disease, somewhat like what we now call the bubonic plague. His life was miserable.

12. He put to death his son, Antipater, by his first wife Doris, which caused Octavius (now Augustus Caesar) to say, "It is safer to be Herod’s swine than his son," for a superstition kept him from killing a hog.

13. In 4 B. c. he slaughtered the infants at Bethlehem, so graphically told in Matthew 2:16-18, in an effort to destroy him who was "born King of the Jews," and for whom the angels sang their great Christmas hymn. His own death was as horrible as that of Antiochus Epiphanes, or that of his grandson, Herod, told about in Acts 12, who died eaten up by worms, while the word of God lived and prospered.

HEROD’S CHARACTER

Just a glance at his character. He is not entitled to be called "the Great." He was a shrewd politician, easily cajoling greater men than himself, as he did Julius Caesar and Antony, and Augustus Caesar, and was never himself cajoled by Cleopatra, though she tried her best on him, and she did captivate Julius Caesar and Antony, though she failed when she tried her charms on Augustus Caesar. Herod wanted to kill her in the interest of Antony when she visited him some time before this near Jerusalem. And he doubtless regretted that he allowed his friends to over persuade him not to kill her. He was a fearless man, and a really great soldier.

He was a great builder. Look at the great city he built up at the source of the Jordan. Look at the city of Samaria. Look at the city of Caesazea. Look at that great temple and the tower of Antonia. He was an unscrupulous murderer. He was not a persecutor of the Jews’ religion, like Antiochus Epiphanes, though he had no religion himself, and had no respect for any religion.

My last remark is concerning his descendants mentioned in the New Testament. The tetrarch, Philip of Luke 3:1, the Archelaus of Matthew 2:22, the Herod Antipas who murdered John the Baptist (Mark 6:14) and who mocked Christ when sent to him by Pilate—these were all his sons. The Herod who murdered James (Acts 12) was his grandson. The Drusilla who sat with Felix when Paul was tried (Acts 24), and the Agrippa and Bernice, before whom Paul appeared, were his great-grandchildren.

QUESTIONS

1. Give the title and extent of the last section of the inter-biblical period.

2. Why may not these seven chapters constitute a full course on the inter-biblical pediod?

3. Classify the Jewish literature of the period.

4. Give a summary of the six preceding chapters.

5. What nations to the front in this last section of the period?

6. State the conditions at Rome at the beginning of this section.

7. Who constituted the first great Triumvirate at Rome?

8. What the results of the war with Mithridates?

9. Describe the end of the Seleucids’ Empire at Antioch and its effect on Judea.

10. When did Pompey capture Jerusalem?

11. Of what sacrilege was he guilty, and how does Tacitus describe what he found?

12. How many Jews did Pompey deport as slaves to Rome, and how did this possibly affsst the citizenship?

13. Who nine years later robbed the temple of all its treasures?

14. What the fate of the triumyir, Crassus, and what the two great results?

15. When and where was the issue between Caesar and Pompey decided, and what the fate of Pompey?

16. What the last division of this section of the inter-biblical period?

17. When Edom was incorporated into Judea, what Idumaean was made local governor?

18. Who his greater and more unscrupulous successor?

19. What the part played by Antipater in the war between Caesar and Pompey, and by what rapid change and help extended did he secure the friendship of Caesar?

20. State the honors conferred upon Antipater by Caesar.

2i. State how Antipater advanced his family.

22. What magazine a few years ago gave a richly illustrated account of Herod’s war against the Galilean Jews, and how was the war conducted to a successful issue?

23. If these zealots and so-called robbers had been successful, with what illustrious names would they have been classified?

24. What the result of the Sanhedrin’s summoning Herod to answer for destroying these Galileans?

25. What great event March 15, 44 B.C., converted Rome into a bedlam?

26. Give the names of the second Roman Triumvirate.

27. What four illustrious Romans opposed the Triumvirate?

28. When and where was decided the great issue between the Republicans and the Triumvirate?

29. What the fate of Brutus, Cassius, Cato, and Cicero respectively?

30. With what party did Antipater sympathize?

31. After the assassination of Antipater, how did Herod, who succeeded his father, cajole Mark Antony, and what honors were received?

32. Show how the Parthians came in touch with Judea, and whom they placed on the throne at Jerusalem.

33. When Antigonus became the governor of Jerusalem, what the resuit to the Herodian family?

34. By what experiment did Herod turn the scales? How did he conquer Jerusalem, and what the fate of Antigonus?

35. What the period of the reign of Herod?

36. Tell the story of Mariamne, his Maccabean wife, and of her two eons by Herod.

37. When Herod captured Jerusalem, how did he avenge on the Sanhedrin their once summoning him to trial?

38. Give the relations between Herod and Cleopatra, queen of Egypt.

39. When on the death of Lepidus civil war was waged between Octavius Caesar and Antony, with which side did Herod align himself?

40. What great sea battle decided the war in favor of Octavius, and what its date?

41. After this battle, how did Herod cajole Octavius and what new honors were conferred upon him?

42. How did Herod attempt to Hellenize the country?

43. By what two great expedients did Herod seek to placate the hatred of the people?

44. What loathsome disease now came upon him?

45. What remark was made by Augustus Caesar when Herod put to death his son Antipater, by his first wife Doris?

46. What his last murderous exploit, and where in the New Testament do we find an account of it?

47. Give a summary of Herod’s character.

48. Give the proofs that he was a great builder.

49. Name his descendants and their part in New Testament history.

 


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