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 Main Index : History : Josephus : War of the Jews : Book II Index : Chapter 15

The History Of The Destruction Of Jerusalem.

Chapter 14 | Chapter 16


1. ABOUT this very time king Agrippa was going to Alexandria, to congratulate Alexander upon his having obtained the government of Egypt from Nero; but as his sister Bernice was come to Jerusalem, and saw the wicked practices of the soldiers, she was sorely affected at it, and frequently sent the masters of her horse and her guards to Florus, and begged of him to leave off these slaughters; but he would not comply with her request, nor have any regard either to the multitude of those already slain, or to the nobility of her that interceded, but only to the advantage he should make by this plundering; nay, this violence of the soldiers brake out to such a degree of madness, that it spent itself on the queen herself; for they did not only torment and destroy those whom they had caught under her very eyes, but indeed had killed herself also, unless she had prevented them by flying to the palace, and had staid there all night with her guards, which she had about her for fear of an insult from the soldiers. Now she dwelt then at Jerusalem, in order to perform a vow (22) which she had made to God; for it is usual with those that had been either afflicted with a distemper, or with any other distresses, to make vows; and for thirty days before they are to offer their sacrifices, to abstain from wine, and to shave the hair of their head. Which things Bernice was now performing, and stood barefoot before Florus's tribunal, and besought him [to spare the Jews]. Yet could she neither have any reverence paid to her, nor could she escape without some danger of being slain herself.

2. This happened upon the sixteenth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar]. Now, on the next day, the multitude, who were in a great agony, ran together to the Upper Market-place, and made the loudest lamentations for those that had perished; and the greatest part of the cries were such as reflected on Florus; at which the men of power were aftrighted, together with the high priests, and rent their garments, and fell down before each of them, and besought them to leave off, and not to provoke Florus to some incurable procedure, besides what they had already suffered. Accordingly, the multitude complied immediately, out of reverence to those that had desired it of them, and out of the hope they had that Florus would do them no more injuries.

3. So Florus was troubled that the disturbances were over, and endeavored to kindle that flame again, and sent for the high priests, with the other eminent persons, and said the only demonstration that the people would not make any other innovations should be this, that they must go out and meet the soldiers that were ascending from Cesarea, whence two cohorts were coming; and while these men were exhorting the multitude so to do, he sent beforehand, and gave directions to the centurions of the cohorts, that they should give notice to those that were under them not to return the Jews' salutations; and that if they made any reply to his disadvantage, they should make use of their weapons. Now the high priests assembled the multitude in the temple, and desired them to go and meet the Romans, and to salute the cohorts very civilly, before their miserable case should become incurable. Now the seditious part would not comply with these persuasions; but the consideration of those that had been destroyed made them incline to those that were the boldest for action.

4. At this time it was that every priest, and every servant of God, brought out the holy vessels, and the ornamental garments wherein they used to minister in sacred things. The harpers also, and the singers of hymns, came out with their instruments of music, and fell down before the multitude, and begged of them that they would preserve those holy ornaments to them, and not provoke the Romans to carry off those sacred treasures. You might also see then the high priests themselves, with dust sprinkled in great plenty upon their heads, with bosoms deprived of any covering but what was rent; these besought every one of the eminent men by name, and the multitude in common, that they would not for a small offense betray their country to those that were desirous to have it laid waste; saying, "What benefit will it bring to the soldiers to have a salutation from the Jews? or what amendment of your affairs will it bring you, if you do not now go out to meet them? and that if they saluted them civilly, all handle would be cut off from Florus to begin a war; that they should thereby gain their country, and freedom from all further sufferings; and that, besides, it would be a sign of great want of command of themselves, if they should yield to a few seditious persons, while it was fitter for them who were so great a people to force the others to act soberly."

5. By these persuasions, which they used to the multitude and to the seditious, they restrained some by threatenings, and others by the reverence that was paid them. After this they led them out, and they met the soldiers quietly, and after a composed manner, and when they were come up with them, they saluted them; but when they made no answer, the seditious exclaimed against Florus, which was the signal given for falling upon them. The soldiers therefore encompassed them presently, and struck them with their clubs; and as they fled away, the horsemen trampled them down, so that a great many fell down dead by the strokes of the Romans, and more by their own violence in crushing one another. Now there was a terrible crowding about the gates, and while every body was making haste to get before another, the flight of them all was retarded, and a terrible destruction there was among those that fell down, for they were suffocated, an broken to pieces by the multitude of those that were uppermost; nor could any of them be distinguished by his relations in order to the care of his funeral; the soldiers also who beat them, fell upon those whom they overtook, without showing them any mercy, and thrust the multitude through the place called Bezetha, (23) as they forced their way, in order to get in and seize upon the temple, and the tower Antonia. Florus also being desirous to get those places into his possession, brought such as were with him out of the king's palace, and would have compelled them to get as far as the citadel [Antonia;] but his attempt failed, for the people immediately turned back upon him, and stopped the violence of his attempt; and as they stood upon the tops of their houses, they threw their darts at the Romans, who, as they were sorely galled thereby, because those weapons came from above, and they were not able to make a passage through the multitude, which stopped up the narrow passages, they retired to the camp which was at the palace.

6. But for the seditious, they were afraid lest Florus should come again, and get possession of the temple, through Antonia; so they got immediately upon those cloisters of the temple that joined to Antonia, and cut them down. This cooled the avarice of Florus; for whereas he was eager to obtain the treasures of God [in the temple], and on that account was desirous of getting into Antonia, as soon as the cloisters were broken down, he left off his attempt; he then sent for the high priests and the sanhedrim, and told them that he was indeed himself going out of the city, but that he would leave them as large a garrison as they should desire. Hereupon they promised that they would make no innovations, in case he would leave them one band; but not that which had fought with the Jews, because the multitude bore ill-will against that band on account of what they had suffered from it; so he changed the band as they desired, and, with the rest of his forces, returned to Cesarea.


(22) This vow which Bernice (here and elsewhere called queen, not only as daughter and sister to two kings, Agrippa the Great, and Agrippa junior, but the widow of Herod king of Chalcis) came now to accomplish at Jerusalem was not that of a Nazarite, but such a one as religious Jews used to make, in hopes of any deliverance from a disease, or other danger, as Josephus here intimates. However, these thirty days' abode at Jerusalem, for fasting and preparation against the oblation of a proper sacrifice, seems to be too long, unless it were wholly voluntary in this great lady. It is not required in the law of Moses relating to Nazarites, Numbers 6., and is very different from St. Paul's time for such preparation, which was but one day, Acts 21:26. So we want already the continuation of the Antiquities to afford us light here, as they have hitherto done on so many occasions elsewhere. Perhaps in this age the traditions of the Pharisees had obliged the Jews to this degree of rigor, not only as to these thirty days' preparation, but as to the going barefoot all that time, which here Bernice submitted to also. For we know that as God's and our Savior's yoke is usually easy, and his burden comparatively light, in such positive injunctions, Matthew 11:30, so did the scribes and Pharisees sometimes "bind upon men heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne," even when they themselves "would not touch them with one of their fingers," Matthew 23:4; Luke 11:46. However, Noldius well observes, De Herod. No. 404, 414, that Juvenal, in his sixth satire, alludes to this remarkable penance or submission of this Bernice to Jewish discipline, and jests upon her for it; as do Tacitus, Dio, Suetonius, and Sextus Aurelius mention her as one well known at Rome.--Ibid.

(23) I take this Bezetha to be that small hill adjoining to the north side of the temple, whereon was the hospital with five porticoes or cloisters, and beneath which was the sheep pool of Bethesda; into which an angel or messenger, at a certain season, descended, and where he or they who were the "first put into the pool" were cured, John 5:1 etc. This situation of Bezetha, in Josephus, on the north side of the temple, and not far off the tower Antonia, exactly agrees to the place of the same pool at this day; only the remaining cloisters are but three. See Maundrel, p. 106. The entire buildings seem to have been called the New City, and this part, where was the hospital, peculiarly Bezetha or Bethesda. See ch. 19. sect. 4.

Chapter 14 | Chapter 16

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