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kings go forth to battle, David did not go forth personally, but “ sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel.”
« Tidings out of the north,” as we learn from Josephus, about the same time, also, troubled him. We have seen that, in the preceding verses, we are to understand Rome to be the seat of the king of the north ; and from that city, of more northern latitude than Judea, Herod, about the very period of the arrival of the wise men from the east, received various pieces of intelligence which troubled him greatly. Antipater, his eldest son, then at Rome, contrived letters to be sent to him, giving information, that Archelaus and Philip, two of his younger sons, then at Rome also, had calumniated their father. From Rome, also, a letter of Acme, a maid of Julia Augustus' wife, confirmed the evidence of Antipater's conspiracy against the life of Herod, which had been otherwise partly discovered ; and betrayed an additional plot of Antipater against Salome, Herod's sister. These remarkable occurrences, with their tragical results, are related circumstantially by Josephus, in his Antiquities, * and again in his Wars of the Jews. We feel the whole too long for insertion here, as the narrative, in both places, is extended, by Josephus, over several chapters. Instead of giving a longer narrative ourselves than the above brief indication of the facts, or describing, in our own language, the troubles that surrounded Herod at this time, we prefer transcribing a passage, on these subjects, and on the state of Herod's mind, when he received the tidings from both the east and the north, from the accurate Authors of the Universal History. They have given a brief, but clear account of the various treacherous arts and conspiracies of Antipater; and the following reflections which they make on the condition of Herod, at this time, might seem indeed a commentary on the 44th verse, now under consideration, as applied to him. We copy them the more readily, as the Authors had no intention of applying it to him; and as therefore forming a singular incidental confirmation of the appropriateness with which we so apply it.-After having interrupted their narrative of the events of Herod's reign, and of the disturbances in his family, to give an account of the births of John the Baptist, and of Christ, they thus resume Herod's history :-" The reader may remember, that we left Herod in the most distracted state that can be well imagined ; his conscience stung with the most lively grief for the murder of his beloved and virtuous Mariamne, and of her two worthy sons; his life and crown in imminent danger from the rebellious Antipater, and ungrateful Pheroras ; his reign stained with rivers of innocent blood ; his latter days embittered by the treacherous intrigues of a sister ; his person and family hated by the whole Jewish nation ; and, last of all, his crown, and all his glories, on the eve of being obscured by the birth of a miraculous child, who is proclaimed by heaven and earth to be the promised and long-expected Messiah and Saviour of the world. To all these plagues we must add some fresh intelligences, which came tumbling in upon that wretched monarch ; and which, by assuring him still more, not only of the treasonable designs of the unnatural Antipater, but
* Antig. xvii. 4-7.
+ Wars i. 30-33.
also of the bitter complaints which his other two sons, then at the Roman Court, vented against them both, rendered him more than ever completely miserable. Had these two princes continued in their duty to him, they would have been a support and comfort, though his favourite one had proved the traitor they had represented him ; but whom could he trust, when there was not one of his family left, that did not in some measure declare himself an enemy to him? This was the dreadful view in which he beheld himself and his unnatural offspring ; not that those two young princes were really so divested of all filial affection, as they were represented to him by Antipater and his instruments, but it had been his and their constant care and study, by such vile misrepresentations, to render them more and more suspected by the jealous king."*
The innocents of Bethlehem were not the only victims, at this time, of Herod's fury. It was in a fit of fury that he ordered his own son Antipater to be executed, as related by Josephus. He states, that upon Herod, under the agony of his last disease, having attempted to kill himself, there was a great tumult made in the palace where he then was, as if he were dead. “Upon which Antipater, who verily believed his father was deceased, grew bold in his discourse, as hoping to be immediately and entirely released from his bonds, and to take the kingdom into his hands, without any more ado ; so he discoursed with the jailor about letting him go, and in that case promised him great things, both now and hereafter, as if that were the only thing now in question ; but the jailor did not only refuse to do what Antipater would have him, but informed the king of his intentions, and how many solicitations he had had from him. Hereupon Herod, who had formerly no affection nor good-will towards his son to restrain him, when he heard what the jailor said, cried out, and beat his head, although he was at death's door, and raised himself upon his elbow, and sent for some of his guards, and commanded them to kill Antipater without any further delay.”*
* Universal History, Vol. x. p.p. 492, 493.
It was also during paroxysms of fury, that, nearly about the same time, he burned alive Matthias, and forty young men with him, who had pulled down the golden image of the eagle, which he had placed over the gate of the temple, as related in Josephus' Antiquities, Book xvii. chapter 6, section 4; and also issued the inhuman order to his sister Salome, and her husband, as related by Josephus in the same chapter. “ He came again to Jericho, where he grew so choleric, that it brought him to do all things like a madman ; and though he were near his death, he contrived the following wicked designs. He commanded that all the principal men of the entire Jewish nation, wheresoever they lived, should be called to him. Accordingly, there were a great number that came, because the whole nation was called, and all men heard of this call, and death was the penalty of such as should despise the epistles that were sent to call them. And now the king was in a wild rage against them all, the innocent, as well as those who had afforded him ground for accusations ; and when they were come, he ordered them all to be shut up in the hippodrome, and sent for his sister Salome, and her husband Alexas, and spake thus to them :-I shall die in a little time, so great are my pains ; which death ought to be cheerfully borne, and to be welcomed by all men ; but what principally troubles me is this, that I shall die without being lamented, and without such mourning as men usually expect at a king's death.”” He added an order to them, to make the soldiers, immediately on his death, kill with their darts, all he had shut up in the hippodrome ; that every family in Judea might have cause to mourn in earnest when he expired.
* Antiq. xvii. 7.
Thus strictly do the quarters whence disagreeable tidings reached Herod, his extreme fury, and matchless cruelty, agree with the terms of the prophet.
V. 45th. ~ And he shall plant his royal dwelling-places between the seas, in the glorious holy mountain ; and he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
It is hardly necessary for us to observe, that Mount Zion, situated between the Mediterranean and the Dead Seas, is named in the Scriptures the Mountain of Holiness, as in Psalm xlviii. 1, 2, and in other places. There Herod built two palaces, one of which was the tower Antonia, within the precincts of the temple itself, as already referred to. Josephus expressly calls Antonia a royal palace. « The citadel he repaired,” says he, “ at a vast expense ; nor was it other than a royal palace, which he called Antonia, in honour of Antony.”* The other palace
* Wars, i. 21. 1.