AMERICAN SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION.
ABRIDGED FROM THE HISTORY OF THE JEWISH WARS, BY JOSEPHUS
Sketches of the History of the Jews, since their dispersion
"(Josephus') history is so perfect a delineation of certain passages of the Bible, ..that they are not only the exact counterparts of each other, but seem almost as if they had been written by the same person."
BY THE AUTHOR OF
PIERRE AND HIS FAMILY, &c.
REVISED AND ENLARGED BY THE COMMITTEE OF PUBLICATIONS OF THE AMERICAN S.S. UNION.
AMERICAN SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION.
NO. 146 CHESTNUT STREET
JOSEPHUS, the author of the History of Jewish wars, was a Jew of a noble family connected by descent both with the sacerdotal and royal dignities, being at once of the blood royal, and of the line of the priests. He was a general of the Jewish army at the commencement of the war, and had a command in Galilee; and after sustaining, with admirable talent, the long protracted siege of Jotapata, he was taken captive by the Romans, and lived a prisoner, yet much esteemed in the camp of Vespasian, till that general was declared emperor by the legions in Judea, on which occasion Josephus received his freedom. He still, however, continued among the Romans, where he acted as interpreter between them and the Jews. Being an eye-witness of the war, he has left a most affecting and authentic history of the miseries of his own nation, as well as of their crimes; and has given such a detail of massacre and rapine; famine and fire, as is unparalleled in all the annals of all other nations on the earth.
Many learned commentators on the Scriptures have remarked, regarding the writings of Josephus, that his history is so perfect a delineation of certain passages of the Bible, and particularly those two verses in the twenty-fourth chapter of St. Matthew, -- "For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except these days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved," &c. -- that they are not only the exact counterparts of each other, but seem almost as if they had been written by the same person (Newton). Yet Josephus was not born till after our Saviour's crucifixion; he was not a Christian, but a Jew, and certainly never meant to give any testimony to the truth of the Christian religion.
Destruction of Jerusalem.
"We have no King but Caesar!"
The memorable occasion on which these words -- "We have no king but Caesar," -- were vociferated by the Jewish multitude, is well known to every Christian reader; and it is not my intention to allude, at present, to the sacred and awful circumstances with which this exclamation stands connected. But it may be well, before entering on the following history, to draw one or more two proofs from Scripture, illustrative at once, of the power of the Roman authorities in Judea, in the time of the apostles, and of the frantic and unbridled fury with which this tumultuous people, seem ever to have aced, when any event excited public interest, or pressed with peculiar force on the feelings or prejudices of the nation.
For this purpose it might be sufficient to cite the case of Stephen, whom, untried and uncondemned, they proceeded against with the most infuriate rancour, -- "they gnashed on him with their teeth," -- and hastily put him to death, even at a time when, by their own acknowledgement, no such judicial power belonged to them. Or we might point to the case of Paul, when he went up to Jerusalem with alms for his nation; who being found in the temple by certain Jews of Asia, who had probably heard him preaching to the Gentiles in their own country, "stirred up all the people, and laid hands of him; and all the city was moved, and the people ran together, and all Jerusalem was in an uproar, until Lysias, the chief captain," or commanding officer of the Roman forces in Jerusalem, came down and rescued Paul, and carried him into the castle.
If it excite astonishment to observe a mixed multitude, in the precincts of the temple, thus transported with rage; the dissensions in the Sanhedrim the next day, when Paul pleaded his own cause before them, will not diminish it; for the strife and passion of the members of that sacred court arose to such a height, that Lysias, "fearing that Paul should be pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him b force from among them, and bring him into the castle"
The total want of decency and decorum in the highest ecclesiastical court in the world, marks, more strongly than a thousand arguments could do, the peculiarly ferocious temperament of the Jews; their unrestrained fury, and ungovernable passion; and detaches all respect from an assembly, which we should otherwise have considered of the most august and dignified character: while the interference of Lysias, a Roman tribune, in interrupting those sacred proceedings, over which the high priest of the Jews was presiding in person, proves, unequivocally, that all civil authority had passed away from this people, -- that the scepter had departed from Judah, -- that Shiloh was come, -- and that, in a temporal sense, they had indeed "no king but Caesar."
The sacred historian continues to inform us, that "certain Jews banded together, and bound themselves by a curse, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul;" and that Lysias imagined Paul was a certain chief of banditti, who had led into the wilderness four hundred thousand men that were murderers.
It seems unnecessary, here to allude any further, to the circumstances which induced Lysias to send Paul to Felix, the Roman governor, who resided at Cesarea, and who kept the apostle two years a prisoner. And when we read that Felix "hoped that money should have been given him of Paul to loose him," we see at once the corrupt and avaricious character of the Roman government, and that Felix, while he was ready to sell justice, if such an anomaly could exist, was yet, without any conviction of the guilt of Paul, but merely to ingratiate himself with the Jews, lest they should accuse him of rapacity and mal-administration to Caesar, "willing to show them a pleasure," and so "left Paul bound."
Felix was succeeded in the government of Judea by Porcius Festus, before whose tribunal Paul was again accused of the Jews, and again found guiltless by the Romans; but having appealed to Caesar, he was send to Rome; and the sacred writers of the New Testament make no further mention of the political state of Judea, or the administration of its civil polity.
When Festus came into Judea, he found the whole country infested with banditti, who murdered the inhabitants, plundered the houses, and set fire to the villages. That such should be the demoralized state of the provinces need excite no surprise, when the citizens of Jerusalem, or perhaps some of the very members of the Sanhedrim, had bound themselves by an oath to attempt the assassination of Paul. These robbers were called Siccarii, on account of a small sword called Sicca, or dagger, which they carried concealed under their garments. They slew men in open day, in the midst of the city, but chiefly at the festivals, where they mingled among the multitude, and stabbing their enemy, they immediately affected to join the outcry against the murderers, and thus escaped detection.
Festus sent out patroles of soldiers to destroy these men, and to deliver the country from their tyranny: but Festus was soon succeeded by Albinus, as procurator of Judea, who was very remiss in his endeavours to correct these abuses; on the contrary, there was hardly any wickedness of which he was not himself guilty. His rapacity and extortion were so great, that he not only, in his political or official capacity, robbed and plundered the people, and burdened them with the most vexatious and oppressive taxes, but he sold the very contents of the prison house; and every robber and malefactor who had been incarcerated for their crimes by former governors, he permitted to be redeemed by their friends or accomplices for money; so that the prisons ceased to contain any but such as were too poor to pay for their liberty. These disorderly persons being suffered to regain their freedom, only increased the evils and terrors of the people; for every bandit was encompassed by his own troop, and those who were robbed were obliged to be silent, while others who escaped being plundered, were constrained to flatter the guilty, lest in their turn they should be exposed to depredations.
But while such was the administration and character of Albinus, Gessius Florus, who succeeded him, was still more flagitious. For this latter omitted no kind of rapine or plunder; his turpitude and effrontery were unparalleled even by all who had gone before him. He scorned to pilfer individuals only; such a booty was too contemptible for his avarice. He spoiled whole cities, -- and almost proceeded so far as openly to guarantee the safety of assassins and robbers, provided he went shares with them in their spoils. His extortion and rapacity brought whole districts into a state of desolation; and many of the people, oppressed beyond endurance by his insufferable cupidity, left the land of their fathers, and went into exile to foreign countries.
At this period, Cestius Gallus was President of the Roman possessions in Syria, and resided at Antioch; but coming to Jerusalem during the season of the Passover, the Jews gathered around him in numbers, not less than three millions, beseeching him to have compassion on their nation, and free them from the cruel exactions of Florus. But Florus, who was standing beside Cestius at the moment, laughed at their demands, and contriving to colour over his enormities and his crimes in the eyes of Cestius, the later merely temporised with the Jews, and dismissed them with an assurance that their governor would treat them more gently in future.
Cestius returned to Antioch, and Florus continued as tyrannical as before; and it was at this period that the occasion of the war commenced. The Jews at Cesarea held a synagogue, which was built on the property of a certain Greek. The Jews had frequently wished to purchase the place, but the Greek would not dispose of it; and he continued to raise other buildings around them, such as shops, with a view of affronting the Jews, and left them so narrow and entrance to their synagogue, that it was difficult to approach. The Jews bribed Florus with the sum of eight talents to prevent the work; and he being intent only on getting money, took the bribe, promising to protect them, but went away from Cesarea, and suffered the business to go on.
On the next Sabbath-day when the Jews were crowding to their place or worship, a mean of Cesarea took an earthen vessel, and placing it at the entrance o the synagogue, sacrificing upon it some birds -- thereby affronting the Jews through the medium of their religion, and also polluting their sanctuary. The Jews and the populace of Cesarea cam to blows upon this occasion; and the former, taking away their sacred books, retired to Narbota, and afterwards complained to Florus: But this oppressive governor instead of supporting their cause, seized upon certain of the Jews, and put them in prison for carrying the books of the law out of Cesarea.
Though the inhabitants of Jerusalem were as deeply offended by this event as the rest of their brethren, they yet restrained their passion, and passed it over in silence, till Florus, rising in wickedness, and ingenious in insult and rapaciousness, sent to the temple and took seventeen talents out of the sacred treasury, under pretence that they were demanded by Caesar. Upon this the inhabitants of Jerusalem became exasperated, and ran in crowds to the temple, calling upon Caesar by name to free them from Florus. They seem also to have treated Florus with ridicule and pasquinades, carrying about a basket through the streets of the city, and begging pieces of money for him as for one who was destitute. Upon this Florus marched to Jerusalem, instead of quelling the disturbances at Cesarea, and did all in his power to provoke the Jews to revolt, that he might screen himself from the wrath of Caesar. The confusion in Jerusalem at the arrival of Florus was tremendous, and his cruelties so excessive, that in one day upwards of three thousand of the populace were slain.
Agrippa, who was at this time in Jerusalem, attempted to allay the ferment of the people, and induce them to obey Florus till Caesar should appoint another to succeed him, -- but this conduct of the king procured him nothing but insult and contumely; so, perceiving that his avarice was disagreeable to them, and that they had not paid the tribute to Caesar, he sent the rulers and chief men to Florus, who had returned to Cesarea, that he might appoint persons to collect the tribute, and Agrippa himself retired into his own kingdom.
The whole administration of Florus is marked by the same cruelty and oppression -- the same reckless and merciless tyranny: while the conduct of the Jews is not unstained by treachery to the Romans, particularly in their slaughter of the Roman guards in the castle of Antonia, after having laid down their arms on terms of peace. This latter insult brought up Cestius from Syria, with an immense army, who besieged Jerusalem; and certainly had he continued the siege at that time, the Jews had sooner met the fate which hung over them; but by one of the unaccountable circumstances which, however mysterious to the mere worldly mind, marks so strongly the interposition of Divine Providence, Cestius raised the siege, and fled from Jerusalem, pursued and discomfited by the Jews; and having thus tarnished the glory of the Roman arms, prepared for the unhappy Jews, all the horrors which awaited them, during the war carried on by Vespasian.
On this occasion, however, through the mercy of God, the Christians in Jerusalem found the means of their preservation; for the great tribulation which was brought upon the nation by the conduct of Cestius, in besieging the city, led those who remembered the words of the Lord, "when ye shall see the abomination of desolation," (or the Roman ensigns, on which were the idolatrous images of the heathen,) spoken of by Daniel the prophet, "stand in the holy place, then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains. For there shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world, no, nor ever shall be." The Christians in Jerusalem, recalling this prediction, made their escape, upon the retreat of Cestius, out of the city, and fled to Pella beyond Jordan, and to the mountains of Perea. Or to use the words of Josephus, -- though he knew not the cause of their flight,-- "After this calamity which had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship that was going to sink."
On this state of affairs being reported to Nero, the Roman emperor, he appointed Vespasian, one of his most able and experienced generals, to go into Judea to take the command of the army there, to punish the refractory Jews, and restore the tarnished honour of the Roman legions.
Vespasian having send his son Titus to Alexandria in Egypt, to bring up two of the Roman legions which were in that country, proceeded himself into Syria. From Antioch he went to Ptolemais, a city in Palestine, where Titus joined him with his soldiers.
While Vespasian was in Judea, he besieged the different cities in that country, and in Galilee, and after various vicissitudes succeeded in making himself master of the whole country. During this part of the war, the Roman emperors who succeeded Nero, were deposed and slain, and the army of Vespasian proclaimed him emperor. Upon this occasion Vespasian went to Rome, and the command of the army, as well as the whole conduct of the war, devolved on Titus, his son. It is at this period that I shall commence the regular abridgment of Josephus' history of the siege of Jerusalem; beginning first with a description of Judea; then of the Roman army; lastly, the details of the siege, and the destruction of the city and temple.
Destruction of Jerusalem.
DESCRIPTION OF GALILEE, SAMARIA AND JUDEA.
"A land flowing with milk and honey"
"I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven,
and as the sand which is upon the sea-shore."
WHEN Moses, the prophet and lawgiver of the Israelites, described the country beyond Jordan to his people, he said, "The Lord bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks and water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil-olive and honey." It is of this beautiful country, of which Jerusalem was the capital, that I now proceed to give you some account, abridging the text of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus.
The upper and lower Galilee are encompassed by Phoenicia and Syria: they are bounded on the west by the territory of Ptolemais and Carmel, and on the south by Samaria, as far as the river Jordan; on the east by Hippene, Gadaris and Gaulonitis, and the kingdom of Agrippa; on the north by Tyre and the country of the Tyrians.
The population of these two Galilees is very great. The people are inured to war from their infancy, and it has never been without men of courage. The soil is rich, and full of plantations of trees of all kinds. The cities lie crowded together; and its inumerable villages are so full of people, on account of the richness of their soil and salubrity of the climate, that the very least of them contained above fifteen thousand inhabitants.
This observation of the historian, in regard to the populousness of the villages of the Jews, (now greatly reduced in number and population) as well as the other occasions in which we shall remark the immense multitude of this people, reminds us of the truth and beauty of the promise, as made to Abraham on that night when the Lord "brought him forth abroad, and said, look now toward heaven, and tell the stars if thou be able to number them; and he said unto him, so shall thy seed be." Gen. xv.5.
Perea is larger in extent than Galilee; and, though the greater part of it is deset, yet the soil being moist in other parts, it produces all kinds of fruits; and its plains are planted with all varieties of trees -- but the olive, the vine, and the palm-tree, are the chief objects of cultivation. It is also well watered with torrents from the mountains; and when these torrents fail, which they do in the heats of summer, yet the springs of water never run dry. The length of Perea is from Macherus to Pella, and its breadth from Philadelphia to Jordan. These are on the north and west; the land of Moab is its southern limit, and on the east it reaches to Arabia.
Samaria lies between Judea and Galilee, and is entirely of the same nature with Judea; for both countries are made up of hills and valleys, are fit for agriculture, and very fruitful. They are full of trees and fruit, both that which grows wild, and that which is cultivated. They are naturally watered by many rivers, but derive their chief moisture from rain. The waters of their rivers are exceedingly sweet, and their pasture so excellent, that the cattle yield more milk than those in other places; and what is the greatest proof of excellence and abundance, they each of them are exceedingly populous.
The village of Anuath is the northern boundary of Judea. On the south it adjourns the confines of Arabia; its breadth extends from Jordan to Joppa. The city of Jerusalem, is situated in the centre. Judea is not without such benefits as are derived from the sea, for its maritime border extends to Ptolemais. It was divided into eleven portions, of which the royal city of Jerusalem was supreme.
THE ROMAN ARMY.
"The Lord of Hosts, mustereth the host to the battle"
As has been hinted in the preface of this book, when Vespasian took the command of the war in Judea, he sent his son Titus into Egypt, to bring up some of the other legions (a legion consisted of about 5000 men).
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BE IT REMEMBERED, that on the twenty sixth day of April, in the fifty-second year of the Independence of the United States of America, AD1828, PAUL BECK, junior Treasurer in trust for the American Sunday School Union, of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor, in the words following, to wit:
DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM; abridged from the history of the Jewish Wars, by Josephus; together with Sketches of the history of the Jews, since their dispersion. By the author of Pierre and his family, &c. Revised and enlarged by the Committee of Publication of the American S.S. Union.
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- 14 Aug 2004
I'll be adding chapters as time allows.. check back! Todd
- 04 Oct 2004
can you pls. summarize the story
- 04 Oct 2004
hey thanks for the information
- 25 Nov 2004
Any chance for a downloadable PDF? [Eventually]
Date: 30 Jan 2006
I happened across an original copy of this
book today at a library estate sale (for 5
cents!) What a great book!