WARNING: THIS IS A VERY LONG YEARBOOK!
Herod the Great changes his will & dies. His son, Archelaus, causes a riot at Passover. Joseph, Mary & Jesus move to Galilee to avoid Archelaus. Rebellion lasts all summer in Judea & Galilee. But Governor Varus finally restores the peace. Meanwhile, Caesar settles Herod's will in Rome by dividing Israel into three parts! Now, Archelaus rules Judea, his brother Antipas gets Galilee, and the youngest prince, Philip, gets Trachonitis.
Now, here is the Story of Four BC...
Jan-Feb, 4 BC
March, 4 BC
April, 4 BC
May, 4 BC
June, 4 BC
July, 4 BC
August, 4 BC
September, 4 BC
October, 4 BC
Nov-Dec, 4 BC
And just in case you want it all on one page (on this page)...
Here is the whole text of the 4 BC site:
Jan-Feb, 4 BC
At the end of last year, King Herod the Great locked up his oldest son and changed his will. It took him all year long, but the King finally caught his only heir, Antipater, plotting to kill him and take over the Kingdom!
Now, as the new Roman year begins, Herod is still waiting to hear from Augustus Caesar. (Herod needs Caesar's okay to execute an heir to the throne, and the King wants the Emperor's approval about the new will too, just to be safe.)
So Antipater rots in a cell in Herod's winter palace at Jericho. The younger son, Antipas, is the only legal heir (for now). And Herod's messengers wait in Rome while Caesar is thinking things over.
Before February, Augustus calls Herod's messengers and gives them a letter for Herod. The letter simply says that Herod can do whatever he thinks is right with Antipater, and the new will is fine, too.
Herod's messengers leave Rome, traveling overland, in late winter.
Meanwhile, at his palace in Jericho, Herod himself is deathly ill and getting worse!
For 33 years as King, Herod had enjoyed every pleasure he could afford. He took nine wives, and pretty much anything else he wanted to. But by now he was almost 70 years old, and the lifestyle had caught up with him. So had the final stages of Syphilis.
It's important to know just how sick Herod was. Aside from old age, he had severe, ongoing pain from fever, cramping, hunger and the shakes. There were ulcers in his gut, seeping blisters on his swollen feet and belly, and worms in the rotting flesh of his private area. On top of that, his eyesight was fading, his lungs were weak, and his breathing stank like death.
Clearly, Herod was suffering a lot. Most of the time, he couldn't even sit up. The king even did everything his doctors were telling him to, but nothing was making him better.
Still, at this point, Herod refused to give up hope of finding a cure.
The old king thought he might have one last chance to get well if he visited some warm springs nearby. (People said they had healing powers.) So his servants carried him across the Jordan River about 20 miles down the Dead Sea shoreline, to visit these special baths near a town called Kalliroe.
Herod spent a few days in the warm baths. But he didn’t get any better.
And at that point, Herod truly lost hope. ((See footnote.))
by now, it was the first week of February.
From Kalliroe, Herod's team loaded him into the royal wagon and took him back to Jericho. For the first time, the king truly believed he was going to die.
On the way back, Herod started giving away money! He promised fifty silver coins to each soldier and more for their commanders. The next morning, back in Jericho, he started giving away even more money to his friends.
Herod was trying to buy a little extra good will from his soldiers and friends. (He was hoping they would stay loyal to his son Antipas, after he was gone.)
Happy with his gifts to his friends, Herod began to think about his enemies! (He was worried that powerful men might turn against Antipas when he was gone.)
Herod was now so depressed about his illness that he imagined everyone in Israel hated him and was glad he was almost dead. He got really paranoid about it, and really angry.
And then he came up with a plan! (Herod wasn't the kind of man to mope around when he could just unleash a little blind rage instead!)
A couple of days after his return, Herod sent out messengers with letters to all the chief men of every city in Israel. The letters told the chief men to come to a special meeting in Jericho on a certain time and date.
Now, Herod knew these busy men were scattered all over his kingdom. He knew it would take many days for the messengers to reach everyone, and many more days for chief men from the farthest cities to reach Jericho. (Even though others were only a half day's trip away!)
There was only one way to get them all together at once.
Sick and dying though he was, the king had to schedule the meeting a few weeks ahead of time. (Advance notice has always been the ONLY way to succeed at large event planning!)
Fortunately, the Jewish festival of Purim was about a month away! (It fell a month later than normal, that year, because of the Jewish Leap Year.)
Herod's messengers left in early February for all parts of Israel. Soon after, the chief men of every city received letters telling them to come to Jericho for a meeting on the first day of Purim - March 12th. (The "first day" means the day leading up to the sunset when the feast actually started.)
Since Herod also knew the chief men of Jerusalem could make the trip in one morning, he scheduled the meeting for high noon.
All over Israel, each city's chief men made their plans to arrive in Jericho by noon on March 12th.
Herod was smart to choose Purim for the meeting. It was a two day festival - a day of fasting, followed by a day of feasting. The chief men couldn't forget the date. And they couldn't say they were busy! (No one was allowed to do any work on the day of the fast.)
The king was now sure he would get ALL of them there at ONE time, AND he now had a month to decide what to do with them. (Mainly, he wanted to test their loyalty, but a part of him was just thinking - "kill 'em all!")
First, though, Herod had to find a way to kill a month. While suffering. A lot.
He could hardly do anything at all, but lie on his back.
March, 4 BC
As Herod's days of waiting dragged on, something happened in Jerusalem!
The trouble was caused by two teachers (rabbis) named Judas, son of Saripheus, and Matthias, son of Margalothus. These teachers had become very popular in Jerusalem in recent years, because they taught the upper-class youth.
About once every day - in those years - a group of studious young men would come and hear Judas & Matthias lecture to them about Jewish virtue and the law. The young men looked up to their teachers, and the whole city was proud of them all.
Now, these two rabbis were zealous for the law, and very well thought of, in the city. But as God-fearing men, Judas & Matthias were not big fans of Herod. They were certainly not impressed with his virtue, and they were also upset about a lot of things he’d done in his 33 years as their ruler.
Normally, they kept it to themselves, because they wanted to stay alive! But there was something new in Jerusalem that was really hard to deal with.
There was a new decoration near the top of the Temple.
Now, it needs to be said that the Jews were very fond of their Temple. Herod had pledged it to them sixteen years before, and work had been ongoing for at least the past fourteen. (See 27-10 BC.) Anyway, as of February in 4 BC, it so happened that the whole project was just about finished! ((At least, for the moment! See footnote.))
The whole project - the sanctuary, the courts, the chambers, the walls, towers and covered walkways - was very nearly done. Of course, the courts and floors were still dirt, but this was normal. In fact, since the difficult part of the work was all finished, Herod had just recently ordered the workmen to trim the whole thing with expensive decorations.
And that was where it went wrong.
One of the last decorations that got put up was a large golden eagle! Even worse, Herod's workers put it above the Great Gate! The door to the Temple sanctuary itself had a graven image above it!
Oh, some Jews didn't have a problem with it. But Judas & Matthias sure did.
These two Rabbi's felt very strongly that the laws of Moses were against the making of images, even statues of animals. And they were beyond being extremely upset about where it was placed!
Judas & Matthias were burning mad, and they'd been telling their students about it. They were even talking about finding some way to take the eagle down. Purim was less than two weeks away, and they had been talking about this for several days. But - of course - they were afraid of Herod's men.
Then, Herod himself came to town.
By now, it was the first week of March, 4 BC. Herod had gotten tired of waiting in Jericho and decided to make a trip into Jerusalem to check on his things there.
Since he could barely sit up, he had to be carried into the Jerusalem palace on a bed. Someone saw this, and the rumor got around town that the king was about to die any minute!
Of course, the rumor grew (as most do).
After Herod wasn't seen for a couple of days, the story went around that he must've died, and his family was hiding it so they could keep the peace for a few more days. On that day, the whole town began to believe Herod was dead.
Judas & Matthias and their students believed it too.
Suddenly, they found the courage they'd been wanting. The two youth leaders made a stirring speech and talked their young men into pulling down that golden eagle! Feeling new zeal, and extra bravery because of the rumor, the students went wild!
In the middle of that day, Judas & Matthias took their class into the Temple courts. Somehow, a few of them managed to climb up the door posts before the guards could stop them - and the pulled the eagle down!
Many of the boys had hidden axes in their clothes, and they started smashing the big statue into tiny pieces.
Of course, the people in the temple noticed, and a big crowd gathered around. The guards had already called for help, and it wasn't long before the King's Captain came with a large group of Herod's soldiers to stop the celebration.
Some of the students got away, but about 40 of them were proud enough to stand up bravely as the troops came up. (They still thought Herod was dead!)
So the soldiers took Judas & Matthias and more than 40 young men all to prison.
Across town, in his palace, Herod heard about the arrests. He was furious about what happened, but he also knew the young men all had wealthy parents who were well connected in Jerusalem! (Some of those parents were also some of the "chief men" Herod had called together, who were planning to see him at Purim.)
Herod called his men to bring the prisoners to him. And they all came in, surrounded by guards.
Raging, Herod asked them, "Are you the ones who pulled down what I gave to God?"
Judas & Matthias spoke first. The two Rabbis were brave enough to admit what they'd done. They told Herod they cared about the laws God gave Moses so much that they were willing to be punished and killed for their actions. Then all the students agreed.
So Herod had them bound and sent to Jericho. He was ready to have the whole group killed right then, but he couldn't do it in Jerusalem. Besides, there was less than a week left until Purim, and he had to get back to Jericho and prepare for the big meeting with the chief men.
So Herod went back to Jericho, and so did his prisoners. But Herod decided to keep them alive until Purim.
He wanted to make an example out of them, in front of the chief men.
The Fast of Esther began at sunset on March 12. So the chief men were due in Jericho that day at noon. But something very odd happened early that morning in Jerusalem, around dawn.
In fact, it was so odd that the chief men of Jerusalem heard about it in the early morning, as they were getting together to leave for Jericho.
(The sun rose that day between 5:30 and 6:00 am. They had six hours until the meeting, and the road to Jericho was about 16 miles long. On horeseback, they could make it in 4 to 5 hours, without hurrying. But they needed to leave right away, to get there early.)
That morning in Jerusalem, right around dawn, Matthias the high priest woke up with a problem. (Obviously, this was a different man from Matthias the imprisoned Rabbi.)
It seems he'd been having a dream about his wife, and had woken up unclean. This made Matthias unfit to act as high priest on that day... but actually, that wasn't the problem!
The real problem was that Matthias had panicked. In those early hours, he'd already called for his own cousin to take his place - to be high priest for the rest of the day, and for the festival services that evening.
But Matthias the high priest didn't have the power to appoint his own substitute.
Only the king could appoint a high priest.
So this was the big news the chief men of Jerusalem heard just before they left the city, and it was an outrage. But since Herod was expecting them at noon, they didn't have time to do anything about it. And yet, since it was Herod they were going to see, they figured they could tell him what happened, and that would be the next best thing to dealing with it.
The chief men went ahead and left town early in the morning, on schedule. And nobody else in town had the authority to stop the cousin from acting as high priest... so he got away with it!
And that is how a man named Joseph, son of Ellemus, got to act as the high priest for a single day.
By noon that day, on March 12, all the chief men had arrived in (or woken up in) Jericho, and they gathered in the theater to wait for the king.
Walking into the amphitheater, the chief men saw that Judas & Matthias and their students were there too, tied up, surrounded by the king’s guards. (But Jerusalem’s chief men were the only ones that knew who the prisoners were, or why they were there.)
When everybody was there, Herod’s men carried him into the arena on a couch.
Lying there, Herod made a long, angry speech about how much he had done for Israel – but mainly about the Temple. He told them it was a great honor to God, and how the Hasmoneans had never done anything so great in the 125 years before he was king. Herod bragged about the expensive decorations being put on the temple, and how much money he himself had given to put them up. Finally, the king told them all they should be proud of him for doing it all.
(The King was so proud of his finished Temple. He couldn't have guessed that most of it was going to burn down, later this year!)
Suddenly, during this speech, Herod’s anger blew up into a wild rage!
He yelled at them that he couldn’t believe they would abuse him by attacking his temple! (Herod was yelling at all the men who were there, even though it was only the tied-up prisoners who were guilty of the attack.)
Finally, King Herod told them all that the ones who pulled down his dedication had not only insulted their king – they had insulted God by defiling his Temple!
By the end of Herod’s speech, lots of the chief men were still trying to figure out exactly what was going on! But at least they could tell this: Herod was really mad, and they didn’t want to get in trouble for it!
So some of them spoke up and agreed with Herod. They said the prisoners had no reason to do what they did, and should be punished.
Then Herod said the prisoners would be executed. So the guards took the young students away with Judas & Matthias, to be killed.
At this point, the king was already exhausted! He wasn’t sure what else to do with the chief men. So he sat quietly for several minutes, staring into space.
But the men had come together expecting to discuss business.
If Herod had nothing left to say, they figured it was their turn.
One of the men from Jerusalem asked permission to speak, and told Herod all about Matthias the high priest, and what happened the day before.
Herod had just enough anger left to respond. He quickly declared that Matthias the high priest was done! Then he appointed a man named Joazar (who happened to be the guilty high-priest’s brother-in-law) as the new high priest.
With that item of business was done, the men waited. But Herod was too tired to go on. (And he didn't have anything else to say, anyway.)
So the king ordered them to wait there. Then he left.
The chief men just sat there... surrounded by guards, of course!
Quickly, the captain of the guards followed Herod out of the arena. The captain could tell Herod wasn't planning to come back right away, and he guard wanted orders about practical things. (The men had no place to relieve themselves, in the Amphitheater.)
When the captain mentioned this to Herod, the king told him, "Fine. Move them all to the Horse Track and let them use the stables." So they did.
And it was a good thing, too. Because the chief men were going to stay locked in that Hippodrome for another eight days!
As soon as Herod left the arena, he sent for his sister, Salome (and her husband Alexas).
(Note: "Salome" was a family name. The famous one, who dances for Herod Antipas over 30 years from "now", isn't born yet. But that one is going to be the grand-neice of this one!)
Herod told his sister Salome & her husband Alexas that he was going to die very soon, and he was afraid there would not be enough sadness in the country, when he was gone. (Herod knew people were eager to see him die.)
Then the king made Salome & Alexas promise to do something that was truly horrible.
Herod told them to kill every chief man in the hippodrome right after the moment their king died! That way – Herod figured – his death would cause the greatest single day of mourning that Israel would ever see. (Herod thought this would be a great honor!)
In one very strange moment, Salome & Alexas both promised to do it. (It's key to remember that Herod’s disease was extremely painful. He was talking crazy. And they were humoring him.)
The king had only days to live.
The evening of March 12 was the beginning of the Jewish date "the 13th of Adar-Two".
So what does that mean?
The sunset after the big meeting was the official beginning of the first day of Purim, called "the Fast of Esther". (By the way, sunset at that time of year is about 6 pm.)
On that night, in every Jewish city, people gathered at the Synagogue to hear the scripture, to pray, and to mark the beginning of their 24-hours of fasting.
Since the next day was a fast, nobody had to go to work. So it was the regular custom to sit out with family and friends late into the night. (The later you could stay up, the later you might sleep, and the less time you'd have to go until sunset of the next day, when you could eat again!)
So... wait for it... there's a point here.
People all over Israel were up very late, that night.
AND... like all major festival nights, there was a full moon.
AND... a couple of hours past midnight, there was a partial eclipse.
Please take note. This is a very famous eclipse.
Now, not everyone was still awake or outdoors, but plenty of people were. And those who saw the eclipse told everyone else on the following night. (The second night of Purim was the Feast!) So everyone who didn't see the eclipse (which came about 1 or 2 AM on March 13) got to hear about it at the Feast the next evening.
The next day, all the Jews who saw or heard about this eclipse were wondering if it was a sign. And if so, they asked each other, what could it mean?
As it happened, the old king was dying. And a new King was coming.
Herod the Great had a week left to live. And the tiny Lord Jesus would soon return from Egypt.
One more big event happened the night of March 12.
That night in Jericho, Herod's guards took Judas & Matthias the Rabbis and around 40 of their students... and burned them all alive.
The partial eclipse came that same night, after midnight.
And that's why it's a famous eclipse.
The morning after the eclipse was March 13, 4 BC. Passover was 29 days away.
Three days later, on the 16th, Herod’s messengers finally got back from their trip to Rome. (See footnote, on the date.)
(Remember, he sent them late last year to ask Caesar’s will about the traitor, Herod’s son, Antipater. Since it was still winter, they had walked all the way, there & back!)
The messengers had brought back two letters written by Augustus Caesar, for Herod.
One letter was about a traitorous slave named Acme who’d helped Antipater. She was a Jew, but served Caesar’s wife, Julia-Livia, in Rome, where Antipater had recruited her. Caesar wanted Herod to know she had been executed for treason.
The other letter was about Antipater himself. Caesar simply told Herod to kill him or exile him – whichever seemed best.
The second letter also told Herod that his new will was fine. (The one that made Antipas, not Antipater, his only heir.)
So the king was pleased! As he put down the letters, Herod felt hungry. He called for an apple, and a knife to eat it with.
When the knife came, Herod was alone for a moment. He was in so much pain he had a sudden desire to kill himself with the knife!
Herod was about to stab himself when someone walked in and stopped him! (It was the king’s cousin, named Achiabus.)
But at the first moment when Herod's cousin saw him with the knife – and just before stopping him – Achiabus let out a desperate yell that could only mean one thing!
Everyone in the palace heard that yell.
The whole palace was filled with yelling and crying. Almost everyone thought that Herod must have just died.
Way down in the palace dungeon, even Antipater heard the noises, and thought his father was dead. At that very moment, he got excited and tried to bribe the guard. Antipater bragged to the guard that he would soon be set free and become king! (He didn't know the new will had just become official.)
The guard did not accept the bribe, but he did go right away to tell Herod!
Fresh from his failed suicide, Herod heard what Antipater had said. So now the old king started yelling and beating himself in the head.
After a few minutes of this, Herod pulled himself up on one elbow and called for more guards. He told the guards to go kill Antipater right away, and to bury him some place without any honor.
And they did.
Herod himself was four days from death.
All week long, before Herod died, his soldiers kept guard over several hundred of Israel’s chief men in the Jericho Hippodrome.
There was no other place to keep so many temporary prisoners. They used the stables for a bathroom, the stands for sleeping, and the horse track itself for daily exercise. Every day for eight days, the guards moved their prisoners through this simple routine. But there was no way to keep them all separated, and no way to keep them all silent.
The guards kept them from organizing anything, but they let them talk in little groups. Then some of the chief men figured out how to move around from group to group without looking suspicious.
Herod had given his enemies a chance to plot against him!
Now, a few dozen of the chief men there were from Jerusalem. Actually, there were about fifty of them, all very old.
Anyway, some of these Fifty Elders came up with a plan, and talked it up with the others. The plan was very simple, and this week, everyone who heard it was in a mood to agree.
Of course, this plan was based on the hope that they wouldn’t be killed. But the plan was this:
Israel should ask Caesar to get rid of Herod.
The chief men agreed to this part very quickly. But the real question was, “what next?” So Jerusalem’s Jews then suggested the only plan they thought Caesar would go along with. They would ask Augustus to make Israel part of the Province of Syria.
These Jews actually wanted to become part of Syria!
Now this was an amazing development. Here was the entire nation of Jewish leaders. These were old men! For centuries, their fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ had all taught their children to hate the Syrians (and the Assyrians, before them!).
But now – trapped like animals, waiting to die, knowing their death would cripple Israel, and all for the vanity of an evil king – being added to Syria didn’t seem like the worst thing that could happen.
Day after day, the Fifty Elders from Jerusalem worked their way around the Hippodrome. Slowly, as the week went on, they were able to talk everyone else into agreement with them.
Now, these were the leaders of every Jewish city in Israel. So the entire Jewish Nation now had one opinion, to ask for this, from Caesar.
Even Syria would have to be better than Herod.
And better than whichever teenage son he picked to rule them next!
Now, back to the middle of that week.
At the point when Herod still had four days left to live, his official will said he wanted his young son, Antipas to become king next.
But Herod kept thinking about Antipater, the son he'd just executed.
He thought about Livia’s slave, Acme, and how Antipater had so many friends in Rome. Herod knew Acme had written fake letters for his son, and he figured she wasn’t the only one.
Then Herod remembered the letters from a year before (5 BC); the ones that made him distrust his sons Archelaus and Philip.
Those letters were written by people in Rome, who happened to be friends of Antipater’s, but Herod had never guessed it was a setup until now.
Finally, Herod remembered how his other sons, Alexander & Aristobulus were executed (in 7 BC) because of evidence found in letters. And he believed more strongly than ever that Antipater had framed them with fake letters. (Which, remember, was true.)
So, with all these memories of letters on his mind, Herod made a decision.
He decided to trust his sons, Archelaus & Philip.
And he changed his will… again!
Herod simply wrote notes, altering his old will. And he didn’t have time to get Caesar’s approval. But here’s what he wrote:
Herod now willed that Archelaus (the oldest) should be “King of the Jews”, ruling Judea, Samaria & Idumea.
He demoted Antipas (the 2nd oldest) to be “Tetrarch” over Galilee and Peraea.
Finally, he willed his youngest son, Philip, to be “Tetrarch” over the old kingdom of Zenodorus (see 27-10 BC) which was mainly Trachonitis, Gaulonitis & Ituraea.
He also willed money and ongoing-income to his sister Salome. And Herod even willed millions of silver coins to Augustus Caesar and his wife Livia.
The king began working on these notes to his will the same day he executed Antipater.
He worked on the notes for four days. And on the fifth day, he died.
The date was March 20, 4 BC. (See footnote.)
Passover was twenty-two days away.
The first ones to know Herod died were his sister, Salome & her husband Alexas.
The first thing they did was to keep it a secret!
By now, the chief men of Israel had been locked up and living in the hippodrome for a whole week! Lucky for them, Salome & Alexas had no plans to kill them all, like they'd promised to do.
So Salome & Alexs unlocked the arena gates, went in, and told the chief men they were all free to go.
They lied to the men and told them Herod was alive! They said Herod knew that Israel needed them to go take care of business in their own cities. They said Herod thanked them for waiting, but now they could go.
So the chief men all left, very put out, but still believing that Herod was alive. And as soon as all the chief men were away from Jericho, Salome & Alexas made their next move.
A large part of Herod's army was at Jericho in those days, and the royal couple called all few hundred of those soldiers into the Amphitheater.
Salome & Alexas read a letter to the soldiers, that Herod had written to them. It thanked them for their loyalty and asked them to stay loyal to his son Archelaus.
Then the king’s advisor, Ptolemy (who had the use of Herod’s seal) read the will. Ptolemy said it was valid even though Caesar hadn’t yet seen the changes. He instructed the soldiers and their commanders to obey it.
Soon, Archelaus came into the arena.
The army swore an oath to serve Archelaus. Then they all marched past him, as each unit and commander stopped to promise their loyalty.
Of course, Salome & Alexas put this whole event together to keep the country under control, and to win positions as Archelaus' advisers.
And that was how they put out the word that Herod was dead.
Now, at long last, we get to hear about Jesus again!
The little Lord Jesus (now almost 3 years old) has been in Alexandria, Egypt for over two years, with Joseph & Mary.
In the evening of the day Herod died (March 20th - see footnote), Joseph had a dream. In it, he saw an angel telling him to get up and go back to Israel, because those who were wanting to hurt the baby were dead.
So right then, in the middle of the night, Joseph took Jesus & Mary and left town. They told no one that Herod was dead. Alexandria was going to have to wait for that news to travel 370 miles south, from Jericho.
But little Jesus, Joseph & Mary only had to travel about 314 miles north, to reach the city of Gaza, at the limits of Judea.
A day or two into their journey, Joseph finds a town and trades the last of the magi's gold to buy a donkey for Mary & Jesus to ride on.
They make between 15 and 20 miles a day, depending where they stopped along the way, and resting on every Sabbath.
It's going to take them just about three weeks to get to Israel.
By the way, they leave Alexandria, Egypt in March. Now, Alexandria sits on the west side of the Nile River Delta, on the coast. They had to hire ferry-men to get them across the river's forks, but it was easier because the river was low - Egypt was still three months away from the start of it's annual flood season.
Anyway, Joseph, Mary & Jesus are going to reach southern Judea right around the start of Passover... which is when the next batch of trouble starts.
But before we get to that...
Let’s see what Archelaus did in those three weeks, during the time Joseph was bringing Mary & Jesus home to Israel.
Let's go back to the day Herod died.
Archelaus’ first duty, after the troops swore to be loyal, was to send his advisor, Ptolemy, up to Antioch, Syria. (The same Ptolemy who read the will to the soldiers.) There was no question about it. Caesar’s Governor – Publius Quinctillus Varus – would have to be notified right away.
(We'll cover Ptolemy's trip after he gets back.)
As Ptolemy left, Archelaus’ second task was to put together his father’s funeral. It didn’t take long. (Salome & Alexas had servants working on the body from the moment of death.)
Early on the 21st, everything was ready for transport. So were all the soldiers and family members who were going to the funeral. Then they marched 24 miles south of Jericho, until they were a mile outside a place called Herodium.
(Years before, king Herod had built himself a tomb, surrounded it with a small city, and named it after himself!)
Herodium was 25 miles away from Jericho, and the military had marched a long day to pitch camp outside the town. The plan was to break camp the next day, prepare for the funeral, have the funeral, and make camp again at the end of the day.
So on the morning of the 22nd, the soldiers broke camp as planned, and after much preparation, the grand procession was ready.
Everything around the king’s body was gold and jewels, including the scepter, the crown, and even the stand his coffin rode on!
Herod’s troops marched slowly behind the coffin in full armor. His personal guard went first; then came Herod’s foreign troops – Thracians, Germans and Galatians. Behind these special teams followed the whole army (a few thousand) and five hundred servants, carrying spices to lay with the body.
The whole train marched slowly for one mile – starting from a mile outside Herodium. And there, Archelaus buried his father.
The new ruler of Israel stayed in mourning for four more days (seven total), to honor his father and for show, since the Jewish law required it.
On the eighth day, March 27th, Archelaus thought he was ready to begin running the kingdom.
Archelaus came to Jerusalem just two weeks before Passover.
He went straight to the Temple’s outer courts and set up a high throne (made of gold) so he could talk to the people.
As the crowds gathered, the eighteen year old Archelaus started making promises! He told them he’d treat them better than his dad, and he wouldn’t even call himself their “King” until Caesar confirmed the will. But he made it clear that he was still the “ruler”. And he won them over by promising to reward their loyalty. Everyone in the crowds spoke well of Archelaus.
Then they started asking for stuff!
Some asked for lower yearly taxes. (The Jews still paid taxes to Herod – the census of 7 BC was just for accounting purposes!) And some wanted lower trading (marketplace) taxes. Archelaus listened to them all, and he promised to meet these requests.
Then others started asking Archelaus to release people that Herod had put into prison.
The new “ruler” agreed to everything. At least, he pretended to agree. Really, he was just promising things to earn their good will in the beginning. But the crowd of people in Jerusalem believed him.
Archelaus excused himself to offer a sacrifice in the Temple. Then he went away and had a party with his friends!
But the people went home, expecting to get what they’d asked for.
Which, of course, is going to cause a problem... because they didn't!
April, 4 BC
In the early days of April, crowds of people started meeting outside Herod’s Jerusalem Palace. Every day, they tried to call Archelaus out, to ask him about keeping his promises. The crowds kept shouting, but Archelaus never came out to see them.
One day, the crowd started complaining about the rabbis Judas & Matthias and their young students, who had all been burnt to death. Then they started insulting Herod. And these shouts became a regular part of the daily protest.
Finally after a long time, Archelaus actually came out on his balcony and spoke to the crowd. He ignored the dead rabbis, but agreed to another request – the people wanted him to get rid of the High Priest, Joazar, son of Boethus (the one Herod had just appointed during Purim).
The people were glad when Archelaus promised to depose Joazar. (Though he isn't going to actually do it until next year!)
But this was the first thing Archelaus promised that he honestly knew he was really GOING to actually DO, for the people. The young king could see that it wasn’t enough to shut them up... and somehow, that made him get really upset!
Standing on his balcony, he shouted angrily that the people should go away because he needed to prepare for his trip to go visit Caesar in Rome. (He thought this would convince them he was important, and shut them up.)
But the next day, the crowds were still down there yelling! So Archelaus sent a top army general to deal with them. The general was supposed to talk the people into calming down, defend the executions of the rabbis, and remind the crowd about Archelaus' trip. He was also supposed to threaten them with treason, if they didn't shut up!
The general went down into the crowd to speak, but couldn't! The crowds just got louder and more active, until the general’s own life was in danger! The general had to leave, and the crowd got even louder, for the rest of that day.
On the morning after that, Archelaus put armed soldiers in front of the palace. So the crowds moved their demonstrations to the Temple grounds. And they kept shouting their protests, day after day.
By now, it was the final few days before Passover, when people were coming into the city early, to find a place to eat the feast.
As the Passover crowds filled up the city, the yelling in the temple got larger, too. (Many visitors were joining in.)
Day after day, Archelaus sent important men to try to speak to them. But the crowd refused to treat them well at all. Each messenger who tried to speak got shouted down, until they ran him off.
The crowd kept crying out about prisoners, and taxes, and the executed rabbis. And Archelaus kept ignoring them and doing nothing about his promises. The whole situation was getting worse by the day.
And it was almost the day before Passover.
On April 10th, the day before Passover, the king’s advisor Ptolemy got back from Antioch!
Remember, Ptolemy had left Jericho on March 21st, the morning after Herod died – because the Governor simply had to be told. Ptolemy went 363 miles in 12 days on horseback. That’s about 30 miles/day, which was average, but not super – after all, there was no reason to hurry to tell the Governor!
Anyway, Ptolemy got to Antioch late in the evening on April 1st.
The next morning, on April 2nd, Ptolemy had gotten right in to see the Roman Governor Varus. Ptolemy told Varus about the new will and tried to make it sound like a smooth transition was underway.
But Varus didn’t buy it! The Governor knew there was likely to be trouble after the death of a king who’d held his country with an iron fist for 34 years! He was also a little worried that the last minute changes to Herod’s will might cause the young princes to start fighting each other.
So Varus told Ptolemy he was going to come down right away to help keep order during the changeover.
Varus also told Ptolemy he was bringing one of Syria’s three Roman Legions down with him.
Ptolemy asked that he not come to Jerusalem, because of the religious attitude towards Romans, and the holy festival season. And Varus said that was fine, they would go to Caesarea.
Varus thanked Ptolemy for coming and ordered his legion to prepare for marching at dawn.
Ptolemy was a little surprised, and not thrilled about the Governor and his Legion. But the king’s advisor left calmly, saddled his horse, and then rode out of town like a lightning bolt!
Ptolemy knew that Salome, Nicolas and Archelaus needed to know right away, so this time he rode as fast as humanly possible. Since he had the use of Herod’s seal, he could demand a fresh horse at every town south of Berytus. (At least from the synagogues; but those were hard to find in Western Syria.)
With fresh horses, Ptolemy could make 50 miles a day, but with a tired horse, he was doing well to get 40. So Ptolemy made Sidon in 6 days, and then Jerusalem in 3 more.
So Ptolemy got back to Jerusalem on April 10th, as mentioned. Just in time for Passover!
Ptolemy learned about the protests in Jerusalem, and told the Royal Family about Varus.
But Ptolemy did NOT tell them who ELSE was coming down from Syria.
Because Ptolemy himself didn’t know!
Who was this surprise visitor? Caesar’s personal Procurator over Syria, a Roman soldier named Sabinus.
It helps to understand what a “Procurator” is.
First of all, the Governor was a “Proconsul”. And that means… Varus was a Senator and former Co-President of the City of Rome, and Varus was hand-picked by Caesar to manage a Province where Legions were stationed.
(Got all that?)
Now then, Sabinus the “Procurator” was a personal agent of the Emperor himself, a military man who rose through the ranks to command cohorts, at least. And Sabinus was hand-picked by Caesar to supervise his taxes in the Province, and to take charge of any other revenues the Emperor had direct claims to.
That last point is the key point here.
Basically, it was Sabinus’ job to claim money and property that Caesar had a claim to.
Sabinus also commanded a detachment of troops and he could draw on the Governor’s resources for whatever he needed, in service to the Emperor. And finally, Sabinus made it his business to know everything Varus was up to – just in case.
So that’s who Sabinus was.
Now, what happened is this:
When Ptolemy told Varus about Herod’s death and the altered will, Sabinus had a man in the room, taking notes (as he always did). So that evening, Sabinus’ man gave the Procurator the scoop: Varus was leaving at dawn, and Herod’s will might be in dispute.
Sabinus decided he needed to “secure” Herod’s possessions, until Caesar could make a final ruling on the will.
With a few dozen troops, Sabinus slipped out of Antioch before dawn, and ahead of Varus. Since he wanted to beat Varus down there, they hurried.
Sabinus and his troops move at a forced march, about 30 miles a day. Varus and his 5,500 troops moved at a normal military pace of 20 miles a day.
Sabinus is going to beat Varus to Caesarea by almost a week.
At any rate, lots of Romans are heading for Judea!
Now, let’s get back to Jerusalem for the first day of Passover.
On the morning of the feast, April 11th, Archelaus decided he needed to put a stop to the protesters in the Temple grounds and their dangerous ranting.
Meanwhile, in the inner court, the priests were slaughtering hundreds of lambs brought in by families, for the feast later that night. (As they usually did, all day long, on this “Preparation Day”.)
During the preparations, Archelaus sent a regiment of troops to clear the temple of protesters. But when the troops came into the courtyard armed for battle, the crowd of protesters screamed so loud they stirred up the pilgrims, too.
Most of Herod’s army was foreign mercenaries.
But every Jew in that courtyard knew they were desecrating a holy place. On a holy day. Disturbing their special sacrifices.
Instantly the crowds started stoning the soldiers. (The courtyard wouldn’t be paved for another 60 years. See footnote. )
The crowd started throwing stones with so much energy the soldiers actually fell back! Some were wounded. And finally, the whole regiment retreated.
Then the people went right back to their sacrifices. (They’d stoned a regiment one-handed and without losing grip on their live, bound, spotless, unblemished lambs!)
So now Archelaus was in real trouble!
The young king was desperately afraid not to show weakness so soon – and he was afraid that he’d lose the whole country if he just let this go.
So very soon after the stoning – just as long as it took him to gather the whole army from the Fortress Antonia – Archelaus sent his whole army back to the temple!
The foot soldiers marched into the courtyard prepared for anything, and this time, the crowds of pilgrims, priests and protesters all scattered!
The people were trying to get away from the soldiers, but the troops were coming in every exit. So after pushing the people back, the foot soldiers worked around the walls and pushed the people across the middle, back to the exits.
Now everyone in the temple was rushing to get out through a small number of doorways and stairways. People began to get trampled.
When they got outside, the army’s cavalry was waiting to funnel them down hill and out through the southeast gate.
People kept running out, trying to get past the cavalry to the upper city, but the horse soldiers were not giving ground or letting people through. And many people got trampled by the horses.
Then the foot soldiers came down the stairs, still trying to push the crowds out of the city.
Hundreds and hundreds of people in the crowd just panicked. They couldn’t tell which way the soldiers were trying to force them to go. Everyone who tried to go around, past or through the army got killed or beaten and stomped on.
Archelaus had told them to clear the whole area, and to kill anyone who tried to go back to their places. Travelers living in lean-tos and tents by the temple walls were thrown out and watched their dwellings get crushed. If they tried to go back for things, they were cut down.
This horrible scene went on for some time.
When everything finally calmed down, three-thousand people had been murdered or trampled to death, by the army.
Then Archelaus put out the word that everyone not from Jerusalem should go home.
Archelaus’ troops went through the streets making sure everyone in the city was staying in their houses. Arechelaus put out the message that anyone not from Jerusalem should leave the city and go home.
It was still daylight. The festival evening had not even been allowed to begin!
Later, at sunset, the thousands of Jews who had traveled in for the feast were camping out in little groups, as far away from the city as they’d each managed to get, before dark. Many people who’d gotten separated didn’t know if their loved ones were dead or alive.
There were so many bodies at the Temple steps and in the streets of the lower city, the army had to start stacking them in the nearby hippodrome, until they could be claimed or burned. (Most non-local corpses would never be claimed.)
Truly, this was horrible beyond all imagining.
Essentially, Passover had been cancelled.
The date was April 11th, 4 BC – the very first Passover Night after King Herod died. And young Archelaus had just become like his father in at least one new way.
Now, people feared him.
On the day Archelaus became fearsome, Joseph, Mary & Jesus had not quite reached Judea.
Actually, they were in Gaza, on the edges of the kingdom – having just reached the town and rented a room on the 10th – the day before. Joseph & Mary had stopped in Gaza because they needed a place to observe the Passover.
Of course, they had no idea what was going on just 40 miles away, in Jerusalem.
Since most of the Jews in Gaza had gone up to Jerusalem for the feast, Joseph bought supplies in the market and Mary made a small dinner for three in their rented room.
To them, it was a peaceful night. Joseph recited the Passover story to Mary & the toddling Jesus. They ate the flat bread with the bitter herbs, and thought about how the ancient Hebrews had escaped death and finally gotten out of Egypt.
Just. Like. They. Just. Did.
The next day, April 12th, was supposed to be a special Day of Rest (because it was still the Hebrew day of Passover until sunset).
Everyone in Jerusalem was observing the day of rest also – hiding in their homes out of fear, as much as anything. But Archelaus snuck his bad self out of town! (More on that in a little bit.)
The pilgrims who’d been forced to leave Jerusalem didn’t have the option to observe the Sabbath. They woke up early and started walking, hoping to get as far away from yesterday’s danger as possible.
The pilgrims from Gaza woke up that morning for a two-day walk home.
Meanwhile, back in Gaza, Joseph & Mary stayed put to observe the Sabbath. At sundown, they knew it was only 24 hours until Friday night when the regular Sabbath began.
Joseph & Mary had been walking from Egypt for almost four weeks. They already had a decent place to rest there in Gaza, and they didn’t know if they could get such a nice place at the next town up the road AND be settled for the night, in time for the Sabbath. (Remember, Joseph and Mary had become very devout about practicing their faith, in the past three to four years – especially Joseph!)
They knew they were two days from Bethlehem.
(At this point, Joseph's plan was to go back to Bethlehem, where they'd been before they ran away, two and a half years ago! Mary liked the idea because Joseph still had kinfolk in Bethlehem they could turn to for help, and their still-young marriage was about to make it's third brand-new start in four years!)
With Herod dead, Bethlehem seemed like a good idea. So they only had two days of travel left.
But they decided to stay put an extra day, because of the Sabbaths, and just wait to leave on Sunday morning.
It was a good thing they did!
On Friday evening, Joseph and Mary decided to see if there was an evening service at the Synagogue in Gaza. They got there shortly after the Gaza Pilgrims had begun to reach town, fresh from the end of their two-day walks home.
That night, they heard all about what had happened in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Joseph heard that Archelaus was ruling in Judea. he also heard about the 3,000 people who got trampled by Archelaus' order, and how he'd basically shut down the whole festival!
Joseph sat and listened to the men, while Mary tried to help comfort the women who’d been traveling.
On each side of the room, in their own ways, the women and the men kept telling Mary and Joseph one horrible detail after another. (The children were all playing on the floor in an adjoining room.)
It was starting to sound like Archelaus could be worse than his father Herod!
Both Mary and Joseph kept feeling more and more afraid.
They went to bed that night absolutely terrified!
And then, God spoke to Joseph in another dream.
(Joseph never knew for sure, but this would be the last time God ever spoke to him, like that.)
God the Father, in Joseph’s dream, instructed Joseph about the situation. We don’t know exactly what God said to Joseph, but he talked to him about things. And that was enough.
When Joseph woke up on Saturday, he felt better, and he told his wife about the dream.
Then Joseph told Mary that they were going back to live in her family’s town of Nazareth, in Galilee.
They had the whole day to rest.
Then, on Sunday morning, Joseph, Mary & little Jesus – who was now in his 4th year, but a month from his third birthday, so he was really only “two” in the way some people count – started walking again.
They headed straight up the Sea Road towards Caesarea, and to Galilee beyond there.
Let’s get back to that special Sabbath on the 12th, when Archelaus snuck out of Jerusalem.
The king’s entire entourage broke the Passover Sabbath and left town together. All of them – his Aunt Salome (& Alexas), his mother, Malthrace, his father’s chief advisers, Nicolas of Damascus and Ptolemy (just back from Antioch), and of course, a troop of his soldiers for protection – all of them left town on the 12th. Archelaus even brought along all his party-loving friends.
Some of Salome’s cousins (from her side of the family) had been staying with her, and they came along too. These cousins pretended to support Archelaus, but they hated everything about what he’d just done.
The more Salome listened to her cousins, the more trouble she had defending Archelaus. But the country was in a crisis! She had a lot of thinking to do.
So she began to consider Antipas.
Up until now, both Antipas & Philp have been going along with Aunt Salome and supporting their older brother Archelaus.
Now, Philip had a different mother than the other two. And Philip had an easy-going disposition. So when Archelaus decided to leave Jerusalem, he asked Philip to stay behind with the army to keep the city calm. And Philip – never one to cause trouble – easily agreed.
But Antipas concealed his anger and jealousy (at being demoted from king to tetrarch, in the new will). He wisely decided to stay close to his Aunt Salome and his mother Malthrace, and to stay quiet… for now. With that strategy, Antipas also went with his family to Caesarea.
The entire group left together in several chariots, heading to Herod’s palace at Israel’s “second capital”, Caesarea by the Sea. (The city was safe for the Herodians, because it was only half-Jewish, and the other half of the population was Greek-Syrians.
As we said, the Herodian Family left Jerusalem on April 12. To avoid trouble, they took off right around dawn.
The Family didn’t know it, but they were just starting what was going to be a very long trip together.
The Herodians changed horses at Lydda and Joppa, and made it to Caesarea after two long days of chariot-driving. So it was late Friday night on April 13th that Herod’s Family moved into the large palace Herod had built there.
They all went straight to bed, exhausted from travel, and the palace servants (who lived there year round) began taking care of them.
In the morning, on April 14th, the entire Royal Family woke up in Herod’s Caesarea Palace on the Sabbath day. Right away, their servants told them the news that was going around the city that morning.
(There was not going to be any rest for the weary, or the wicked!)
The Romans were in town!
Somehow, Sabinus and Archelaus arrived on the same night, but just missed each other!
Sabinus and his cohort had just marched 304 miles in ten days! They’d also arrived in Caesarea after sunset on Friday the 13th, where they solicited free lodging “at Caesar’s request” and found a local guide to give them a run-down on the city… including all the details about Herod’s extravagant palace!
By the time they woke up to start the day Saturday, Sabinus was heading straight to the Palace.
On the way, he learned the Herodians were there too!
The Palace servants answered the door, and Sabinus’ troops made their way through the entrance. Fortunately for Archelaus, he’d brought just enough troops from Jerusalem to present a show of force himself.
No fighting broke out. Sabinus asked to meet with the new king. And Archelaus refused to come out. (The young king’s advisors told him what the Procurator’s job was, so he knew why Sabinus was there.)
Archelaus kept sending others to deal with the problem for him - just like he did in Jerusalem. And Sabinus was asked to come back the next day.
Ptolemy assured Archelaus that Varus himself was on the way down with over 5,000 soldiers.
All they had to do – Archelaus figured – was stall Sabinus for a few more days.
In the meantime, Nicolas, Ptolemy & Salome all reminded Archelaus that their next move, still, was to sail for Rome as soon as possible.
The problem was that it was only April 14th, when even professional sailors only sailed if they really had to. But the wealthy people – the ones who could afford the time it always takes to be careful about things – wealthy people like the royal family knew it was wise not to sail until May.
Even if May was still two weeks away.
Archelaus only had to stall Sabinus for four days.
Varus arrived in the evening on the 17th.
His Legion (12 Fulminata, the Lightning Carriers) made camp on the north side of Caesarea, near the beach.
That night, Varus found Sabinus and set him straight. (Without any real claims to property for Caesar, Sabinus was below Varus in every area.)
The Governor made Sabinus promise not to take anything until Caesar had ruled on the will, in Rome. Sabinus agreed. But secretly, he was still looking for a chance to go against his promise and seize Herod’s property.
The next morning, Varus went to the palace and met with Archelaus and his advisers. All of them agreed the young king needed to be in Rome as soon as possible, but Varus understood about the weather.
Varus and his staff met with the Herodians all day long, while the palace servants brought food and refreshments. The Governor interviewed them all about recent events, and the state of the kingdom.
At some point during the meetings, Varus announced that he would be taking his Legion to Jerusalem, and keeping it there for a while. Even Archelaus had to agree this was a good idea.
The meetings kept on all day. Since this was the first official meeting between Rome and the new administration of it's "client kingdom" Israel... Varus had a LOT of things to ask and go over!
Even Sabinus was allowed to sit in on these meetings, as Caesar's personal Agent. So the greedy Procurator and his note takers came out of there with a full and detailed accounting of all Herod's properties at the time.
Sabinus seemed especially interested to make a list of all the Palaces and Fortresses, and Varus noticed. Later, when the Governor asked him privately not to seize any of those places, Sabinus lied, and said he would leave them alone.
The Romans and Herodians kept meeting all day and into the night, until the Governor felt his staff had shared enough information from both sides to be prepared for everything that might lie ahead.
Meanwhile, the Lightning Carriers had been given a whole day of rest from marching.
In the evening, as the meetings began to wind down, Varus sent word to the Legion that they should expect to strike camp and march out after dawn.
Varus' order happened to set up an incredible coincidence. An amazing, dramatic event that happened very quietly...
On that next morning.
Remember where we last saw Jesus & his parents?
Joseph, Mary & Jesus left Gaza on Sunday, April 15th, and Caesarea was 83 miles away – a four day walk.
Around mid-day Wednesday, as they were getting closer to Caesarea, they’d seen some travelers on the road who were telling everyone about the Royal Family and the Romans (in case people wanted to avoid the authorities.)
Joseph & Mary weren’t worried, but they both agreed it would feel safer not to sleep in the same city with Archelaus. Just in case.
So they stopped early that day at the last small town outside Caesarea. They spent the night there, just a few miles away from the city, and started walking again in the morning.
That next day was Thursday, April 19th, when the Legion was striking camp. (At that time of year, sunrise was a bit before 6 AM.)
The Romans broke camp in about an hour and started marching down the road into Samaria. On a road like that, the Legion could only march four abreast.
With the baggage train and rear guard, the entire column was almost two miles long. That means it took about 40 minutes for the entire column to cross a given point.
Now, Joseph & Mary woke at sunup, like everyone did in the ancient world every day. Mary fed Jesus while Joseph packed the mule, and they were off.
They were walking 3 to 4 miles an hour, starting from four miles away from Caesarea, they were there a bit after 7 AM.
The timing was remarkable.
As Joseph & Mary circled around the outer wall of Caesarea and came towards the eastern cross-roads junction… they saw the Legion!
Actually - to try and be precise – they saw the Legion crossing their path very near to the beginning of its column. In fact, Varus himself was somewhere near the front of the column.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus literally crossed the path of a Roman Legion on the march!
They were awed, but not afraid, because God had told Joseph that Galilee would be safe. (The road from Caesarea was the beginning of Galilee.)
Somehow, the same crimson and gold colors that ordered them to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth now seemed to be welcoming him to safety in Galilee.
After a few minutes, they heard soldiers barking orders, and horns sounding briefly. Then the column to the left of them halted. (The column to the right of them kept on going.)
An officer shouted, “Pass through now!” (Other travelers had stopped on both sides of the junction.)
Humbled and relieved, Joseph & Mary crossed in front of the soldiers and kept on going.
They spent one more night at another small town on the way, and finally brought Jesus up to their old home, late Friday afternoon.
After everything, they had made it back to Nazareth.
When Joseph & Mary got to Nazareth and showed up at Mary’s father’s home, everyone was shocked and thrilled to see them. It had been over two years since they’d heard about the Bethlehem Massacre, and they never knew what had happened to the young couple, or the baby.
And so it was that on Friday evening, April 20th, 4 BC, Mary introduced Jesus to his maternal grandparents for the very first time.
The infant Messiah had finally found a home to grow up in.
As the sun began to set, they all walked to the Synagogue together, to show all of Nazareth who’d come home.
This will be our last good look at Nazareth, for a while. So let’s take a quick peek forward.
Joseph and Mary got to settle back into their old town’s life again. They lived in her father’s house, until Joseph got his business going enough to support them on his own.
Most importantly, God’s advice to Joseph in his dream was proven to be true. Nazareth was indeed a safe place to raise Jesus – even in this crazy, awful, war torn year!
Safe is good, but it doesn’t make history! So this is the last time Jesus himself will be involved in actual events... for a few more “years”.
At this moment, the Lord's third birthday was a month away.
The next big events in Jesus' life will be just before his thirteenth birthday - which is ten years away!
We’ve got a lot of history to cover, before that happens.
We left Archelaus and the Herodians at Casarea, by the Sea.
Varus had just urged them to get to Rome as quickly as possible.
Now the King’s small navy was always moored in Caesarea. They hired a captain who’d sailed Herod’s flagship before, and began preparing to get underway. And by the last week of April, they were ready to set sail.
They left in the early season, despite the slight risk, because Varus had urged it.
The voyage west to Rome was a long one, always partly against the winds. So, as the Herodian Royals left port, they settled in for at least 6 to 8 weeks at sea together.
They didn’t know they had spies watching them leave!
Caesar’s procurator, Sabinus was still in Caesarea. He’d been laying low since Varus left, just waiting for Archelaus to leave the country.
Sabinus had figured out the largest part of Herod’s treasure was at Jerusalem. So now Sabinus only had to wait until Varus left, too.
Governor Varus and the Lightning Legionnaires made it to Jerusalem on Sunday, April 22nd.
As always, the Legion built their camp outside the city. And, as always, they gave it a wall, with a dry moat.
But Varus himself went into the city.
Right away, the Governor met with their council – the Sanhedrin. (FN: The High Priest Joazar, son of Boethus, whom Herod appointed on March 12th, was their official leader.) Varus promised them he was only there to keep the peace, and he asked if they had any questions.
They had one.
The old men on the Sanhedrin were among the chief men held over at Jericho, after Purim. (See March, 4 BC.) They told Varus about their week in the Hippodrome, and about how they’d talked with the chief men of the entire nation about giving Israel to Syria.
They told all that to Varus. Then their question was, “We can sail to Rome right now, but how do we get into Caesar’s presence, to ask him?”
Now, first of all, Varus liked this idea.
In fact, Varus liked it so much that he offered to write a letter to Caesar, for them. The Governor offered his personal support, for the proposal. (He said they could use his name, to say so.) And he advised them in how to speak and behave, when they met the Emperor.
They asked, “how will the Emperor know for sure that we speak on behalf of the whole nation?” And Varus answered, “You should all go.” He said Caesar would be impressed by so many witnesses.
So that day, the Governor sent a letter, by special dispatch. And the Sanhedrin began planning to take their delegation to Rome.
A week later, they were ready to go. They left Jerusalem near the very end of April, made stops in Joppa and Caesarea, to build up support, and sailed out of Caesarea while it was still the first week of May.
They didn’t know they were leaving their country on the verge of a revolt.
But we’ll get to that soon.
Right “now”, there’s still more left for Varus to do, on the day he arrived.
The Sanhedrin briefed Varus about the city he’d be guarding.
They also introduced him to Herod’s son, Philip. (FN: Remember, Archelaus had asked Philip to stay and be in charge of the Army, the Palace and their other holdings, in Jerusalem.)
Philip invited Varus to dinner that night at the Palace. And the next night. And so on. And the two hit it off.
The young man’s royal staff spared no expense in taking care of Varus’ needs. And the Governor realized he was a father figure to Philip. So Varus and Philip spent hours talking, each night, at the Palace.
That is how the two men became great friends.
Among other things, Philip shared his views on the Jewish leaders, with Varus. The prince told the General all about his father’s dealings with them. Philip tried to explain why Herod was as harsh as he needed to be, when dealing with Israel.
So Varus started second guessing his decision to support the Fifty Elders. But by the time the Governor’s feelings on that became certain, the elders were gone!
But the friendship of Varus and Philip was only beginning.
There is only one other thing to mention, about this last week of April.
Jews all over Judea had heard about, or noticed, the Roman Legion that was camped outside the holy city. They also heard that Archelaus had left the country with most of his family.
The presence of foreign invaders made most common Jews furious. And the absence of their new king made them reckless enough to start trouble over it!
Nobody knew it yet, but Judea was about to erupt.
May, 4 BC
Some time in the very first days of May, a mass revolt broke out in central Judea. (FN: This was just after the Fifty Elders left Judea and went to the Sea.)
So, in various towns all around Jerusalem, Varus and the 12th Legion jumped into action.
Now, this might be called “the first rebellion” of the year. But all the details about what happened are completely unknown!
All we know is that the rebellion was really big, and really bad, and it was over really quickly. Varus and his Legion stopped the uprising without too much fighting. (FN: Josephus says they “suppressed” it.) The Governor punished those who’d stirred it up. And that was that. It seemed the Lightning Legion was as quick as their name.
The Judean rebels settled down, like they were supposed to. But things were still very tense, all over Judea.
The Governor was pretty sure another revolt would erupt, any time.
So he wrote a report about it, to Caesar, and he said so. (More on this later…)
At that point, Varus made three decisions. First, he left Legion XII in its camp outside Jerusalem to keep the peace, as planned. Next, Varus got Philip to hand over control of the Herodian Army. (The Legion’s top General was now in command over the Army’s top general.) And Thirdly, Varus took Philip and a few soldiers, and they rode quickly back to Antioch. (FN: 363 miles, or 7/8 days, switching horses
The Governor didn’t want Philp, or himself for that matter, to be around when the next trouble started. Besides, Varus had some other affairs to check on, up in Syria - like making sure his other two Legions were put on alert!
So – some time into the second week of May – the Governor left Judea.
But mostly, he expected to return.
By the way, about that report Varus just sent to Caesar…
It needs 48 days to get to Rome, by personal carrier.
As it happens, the Herodians needed between 40 and 60 days to sail there. But they had a two or three week head start on Varus’ letter.
Remember this, when we get to June. The Herodians are going to meet with Caesar just before Varus’ report gets there, too. (FN: Lastly, the Fifty Elders get there 2-4 weeks after the report.)
And that is not going to be helpful, to Archelaus.
Back to “now”…
We just saw Varus leave Judea. But more importantly, so did the spies of Sabinus!
The Procurator’s spies rode for two days back to Caesarea, to tell him. And Sabinus hurried to Jerusalem in the two days after that. So by mid-May, on the fourth day after Varus left the Holy City, his rival Sabinus was in town.
And that’s when things began to get crazy again.
Sabinus took Herod’s Palace (“for Caesar”) and stationed his cohort there (because it was built like a fortress). Then he called all Herod’s personal staff (that was in the city) to the Palace, and told them each to write up a list of what Royal property they controlled, and where it was kept.
But when Sabinus started to go clean out the first set of strongholds, the men guarding those citadels refused to let him in. When Sabinus said he was there to protect the treasure for Caesar, the Hebrew Soldiers just said, “By Archelaus’ orders, that’s just what we’re doing.”
Sabinus was stuck. The places he wanted the most were the three strong Towers next to the palace. The Procurator was sure there was treasure hiding in the towers, if he could get into them. (The towers had names – Phasael, Mariame and Hippicus.)
Of course, Herod’s personal officials and property were all over the city, and Sabinus kept trying to find ways to get anything he could.
The Jews in Jerusalem were upset about Sabinus and they complained to Varus’ Generals. But the Generals couldn’t help, because the Procurator only answered directly to Caesar.
It was the middle of May.
One day, a small group of rebels started attacking Sabinus’ men. Little attacks – like throwing things over the palace walls, or hitting the soldiers rocks in the street. These rebels always ran away quickly and they hid well in crowds, because the Romans thought all Jews looked just alike! Also, no one in the crowds would point out the rebels.
Day after day, the rebels kept up these little raids and ambushes. Their small-size tactics were difficult for the Roman Soldiers to fight against. Privately, these secret rebels were gaining sympathy and support from more and more of the common folks in Jerusalem.
But then, after several of these small attacks, Sabinus decided to fight fire with fire!
The Procurator sent out a group of his personal slaves, dressed like the Jews, to find the trouble makers. It didn’t work very well, but these ‘bodyguards’ bothered so many innocent people, that the whole city was starting to sympathize with the rebels.
Sabinus didn’t really care. He was still trying to figure out a way into the towers.
Meanwhile, the big Festival, Pentecost was about a week away.
Thousands of Jews from all over Israel were coming into the city, ahead of the Feast.
Thousands and thousands of Jews were heading to Jerusalem.
…which means thousands of new problems were heading Sabinus’ way!
As it turned out, many other rebellions had been popping up all over Israel, ever since Varus left. There was major chaos affecting several cities, and some rebels were organizing into larger, armed groups.
Rebels from Jerusalem had gone out looking for more troublemakers, hoping to spread the news and fan the fires of revolt even higher. The best story these Jerusalem rebels had to share with their kinsmen was Sabinus – about his attempted thefts and his harassment of the people.
So the rebellious Jews in Galilee, Idumea, Transjordan, and Judea heard about what Sabinus was doing. And all of them – especially those from Judea – were hoping to take their rage out on Sabinus during the Festival.
Tens of thousands of Jews were heading to Jerusalem – and thousands of them were itching for a fight!
Here’s a quick listing of the four biggest rebellions that began this month:
One: In Jericho, a strong, handsome Jew named Simon – a leading slave at the Jericho Palace – put on one of Herod’s crowns and got together a group of men who declared him the new King of Israel! Right then and there, the group burned down the Palace. After the fire, they looted the treasures that were left and moved around Transjordan, recruiting and growing larger.
The entire company of Simon the Slave is now heading to Pentecost.
Two: In Galilee, at a town named Sepphoris, a man named Theudas (often called “Judas”) raised another small army. Years before, Theudas’ father, Ezekias, had been the powerful chief of some Jewish Raiders. Back in those years, Herod captured and killed Ezekias. And now, the men who’d been waiting for Ezekias’ son to fill his father’s sandals were eager for a fight.
So this Theudas led some Galilean tough guys in a surprise attack on the Royal Palace at Sepphoris. Quickly, they looted the palace and seized all the weapons from it’s armory. Then, Theudas and his men rode around Sepphoris and other nearby towns, stealing and threatening anyone they came across. Theudas began acting like the new King of Galilee.
Theudas also sent a group of his men down to the Festival in Galilee, to see what they could steal, in case there was another riot.
By the way, in Samaria, there were no rebellions. And of course, the Samaritans did not attend the Jerusalem Festivals. As they watched hundreds of Galileans move thru Samaria on their way down, the Samaritans made it clear they were not interested in joining. (Not that the Galileans would have had them!)
Three:In the Judean countryside, a group of 2,000 Veterans (retired Herodian soldiers) got together somewhere in the flats to form an army. These Veterans wanted to make a show of force, but didn’t seem to have much of a plan!
Actually, they just wanted money! They were already discharged when Herod started giving away money to soldiers, after his hot-baths trip. But they were so recently discharged, that these Veterans figured they deserved the same reward! So their only plan was they hoped to somehow seize or demand some part of Herod’s vast wealth.
Anyway, these 2,000 Veterans were just assembled in the countryside, doing nothing. But the Army heard about their getting together.
So, just before Pentecost, Herod’s cousin Achiabus (the one who saved him from suicide this year) took a couple of thousand active Herodian Soldiers into the plains. Once there, Achiabus ordered the Veteran army to disband (he figured they had to be old & soft, and easy to disperse.)
But the old Veterans proved how valuable their experience was against the younger troops. The Veterans attacked and forced Achiabus’ units to retreat until he found higher ground. Actually, the 2,000 Veterans kept chasing the others until Achiabus’ soldiers reached a high enough position that the old guys couldn’t climb up to.
After that, the Veteran army moved closer to Jerusalem, to see what they might be able to accomplish, or ask for. And of course – like all Jews – they felt a natural burden to observe the festival, like they were supposed to!
Fourth:Somewhere in southern Judea or Idumea, there was a simple Sheep Herder named Athronges, who was known in his parts only because of his amazing size and the ways he sometimes showed off his great strength. This man, Athronges, figured he was strong enough to make himself King of Israel, and he figured he’d enjoy being King more than being a shepherd. (He also figured he didn’t have much to lose, if he died!)
Athronges had four brothers, who were also very tall and strong, like Athronges, and his brothers all joined together to help him become king. So these Five Strong Men started flexing and boasting around their parts until they were able to get together a large group of men for each brother to command.
The brothers split up into Five Bands, raiding, looting & recruiting around Southern Judea. Everywhere they went, no one was able to stand up to them. Very soon, Athronges called a meeting of all Five Bands, and put on a crown, as their King.
One major motivation for Athronges and his brothers was hate. The Five Brothers absolutely hated Herod’s men, for their years of over-lording Israel. And they viciously hated the Romans for supporting Herod, and for the recent military actions they’d heard about in Northern Judea.
Athronges told his men to kill any Roman or Herodian loyalist they came across.
Now, the Five Brothers got started early on, around the time Varus was leaving Jerusalem. And sometime in mid-May, their forces made a raid into Northern Judea. During this raid, while they were near the town of Emmaus, Athronges’ men saw a small unit of Legionaires who were bringing extra grain & weapons to Legion XII at Jerusalem.
Athronges’ men attacked and killed over forty Roman Legionaires, including a centurion named Arius. The rest of the unit fled towards Jerusalem, where they met a Herodian General bringing some soldiers out to meet the suppliers.
This General, a Jew named Gratus, protected the fleeing Romans and helped them back to Jerusalem. When Athronges’ forces saw Gratus, they stopped chasing the Romans and turned back to the south.
But the worst part of this whole event wasn’t the 40 dead Romans! It was the fact – which the surviving Romans reported fully to Gratus – that the Legionaires had tried to find shelter in the town of Emmaus. But the people of Emmaus refused to help the Romans, so they basically helped Atronges’ Raiders to slaughter the Romans.
It’s worth betting that Emmaus is going to pay for making that decision!
Meanwhile, Athronges and his Five Bands kept on raiding and shooting people. (Many of them were archers.) At first, they killed only to gain money and power. But after a short while, they started killing more people, just out of habit! (Most of May was just one, long, wild, reckless month for the Southern rebels.)
Athronges kept on doing whatever he felt like doing, calling himself the King of Israel. And as “King”, he decided to send several hundred men up to Jerusalem for the Feast – just to see what they could do, if they somehow found any chance to help their rebellion.
So, let’s recap:
Simon the Slave is leading hundreds from Jericho to loot and burn Herod’s other palaces.
A group of 2,000 Veterans is on the march, hoping to improve their retirement fund.
Theudas, son of Ezekias, has claimed Galilee, and sent some thugs down to Jerusalem.
And the shepherd Athronges has Five loyal Bands, who want to help him take Israel.
Got all that?
That makes four major groups of rebels. (Plus, there were countless other little disturbances that happened all over Israel that month.) There was a lot of unrest, everywhere. But these were the only four groups who managed to get somewhat organized!
And now – by the last day of May – these rebels joined the other thousands upon thousands of Jews who had all come to Jerusalem.
Now, the Judeans who got to Jerusalem first were all very upset about what Sabinus was doing with his plain-clothes bodyguards. And these Judeans made sure to tell everyone who would listen.
So every single Jew arriving for the Feast was quickly taught to hate the name “Sabinus” – which only multiplied the feelings they were already going through, this year.
So, obviously, something VERY bad was about to happen in Jerusalem.
And most of the Pilgrims had arrived by May 31st.
June, 4 BC
The night of Friday, June 1st, began the Sabbath. And Saturday night, June 2nd was set for the Feast of Pentecost.
By Sunday afternoon, the whole city was in chaos!
Here’s what happened.
All the Jews took care to observe the Sabbath and the Feast. Then, on Sunday morning, the rebel factions started jumping into action.
First of all, the horsemen of Athronges moved into the Hippodrome and made it their stronghold. Then – wisely – they waited there to see what else would develop.
Next, the 2,000 Veterans moved into the city, entered the Temple Courtyard, and claimed the NorthEast corner of the walls, just across the gap from the Fortress Antonia they knew so well. From this position, the Veterans hoped to call over to some comrades on the Fortress Towers, and win sympathy for their petitions.
Now, the Galilean thugs sent by Theudas, son of Ezekias, didn’t do anything special, on this day. For one thing, Jerusalem-ites generally looked down on Galileans as country-folks. For another, these thugs were only here to be seen by the other Galileans who came down.
But the third group (who took action today) was the mob that followed Simon the Slave over from Jericho and Transjordan. This group – who was the poorest, most chaotic, and worst-prepared group of rebels, by far – took the whole Western part of the city!
Since Simon’s Mob was mostly very poor men and ex-slaves, they couldn’t resist being drawn to the wealthy, upper city on Jerusalem’s Western hill. Besides, Simon’s only strategy so far was to use what he knew about the Jericho Palace to try and get into other Palaces. (And Herod’s Palace sat on the far Western Wall, at the top of the hill, surrounded by the wealthiest of all Jerusalem’s households.
This is key. Simon’s Mob only wanted to loot Herod’s Palace, and then burn it down (which was going to be a nice reversal of the hasty two-step plan they used in Jericho!) They had no better plan.
But Simon didn’t realize Sabinus’s personal cohorts were using the Palace as their barracks!
Simon himself started yelling over the Palace Gate for the Herodian slaves to let him in. Since Simon thought he was dealing with weak-minded servants, he shouted that he would begin burning the Palace down if they didn’t open the Gate right away. (Threaten, loot and burn was, actually, Simon’s ONLY stratgegy!)
Sabinus’ men heard Simon shouting, and looked down from a tower in the Palace Wall, to see what was going on. The Procurator’s cohort thought the Palace was secure, but they were afraid, simply because the mob was so large. Sabinus himself looked down from the top of the palace and saw hundreds of slaves and commoners ruling the streets of the wealthy quarter.
(Naturally, the rich Jews bolted all their doors and even their upstairs window shutters. The wealthy folks knew better than to come outside into a screaming mob of peasants!)
Sabinus had sent his bodyguards out to find rebels, and had less than a hundred soldiers with him in the Palace.
(The 5,500 Legionaires were secure in their walled camp, NW of the city. And Herod’s Army was secure in the Fortress Antonia. As of yet, only Sabinus and the wealthy families were under siege of any kind… so far. But the day was very young!)
Sabinus quickly decided his life was worth more than Herod’s fortune.
The Procurator quickly dictated a letter to his assistant that was for Varus in Syria. Sabinus was clever enough to make it sound like the whole Legion was besieged (even though it was just him and his cohort). And, actually, Sabinus was pretty sure the whole legion would be in danger pretty soon, anyway.
Sabinus knew this because he was getting ready to call the Legion for help!
So the sly money-grabber finished his letter, pleading with Varus to bring his other two Legions as quickly as possible. Then Sabinus sent a messenger over the Western Wall (which no one was watching at all!) and straight up to Antioch.
The messenger rode right past the Legion’s walled camp, without stopping!
Next, Sabinus himself took his troops north, across the Palace courtyard into the courtyard of the three towers (all of which was protected from the city streets by the Palace Wall).
Partly because the Tower Guards were confused by the disturbance outside, and partly because Sabinus had come down to his very last chance of getting rich, Sabinus’ men forced their way past the Guards into the one tallest Tower, called Phasael.
(Before now, Sabinus hadn’t dared to actually seize the Towers because the whole army would have come down on him. But now he decided to use the chaos to his advantage.)
From the top of the Tower Phasael, Sabinus himself looked down into the Roman camp, just several hundred feet away, and signaled for help.
This was the master stroke of his suddenly hatched plan.
No Legion was required to obey any Procurator. But Sabinus knew the Legion would have to respond to a desperate help request from the personal Agent of Caesar Augustus himself!
Sabinus used the sun’s rays, flashing off his sword, to send a distress signal to the Legion.
And during all of this, Simon the Slave was still standing outside the Palace Gate, trying to figure out his next move.
Outside of Jerusalem, inside the walls of their camp, Five Thousand Roman Legionnaires got the message that Caesar’s Agent was under attack.
The scouts double-checked the signals coming to them from the Tower. And the Generals got out their maps of the city to get the full picture of what they were being told.
It was a very quick planning session.
The Legion also sent a squadron around the North Wall to the Fortress Antonia, just to let the Herodian Army know what was going on, over on the West Side.
As quickly as the Legion could get ready for battle, the Commanders divided it in two, leaving almost half the men behind to guard the camp, and marching toward the Western Gate with the larger half of their forces.
Legion XII “The Lightning Throwers” were invading Jerusalem!
But they were about to get more than they expected…
From the tower, Sabinus had called in about 3,000 troops to go after just several hundred. But by the time the Romans got into full gear and marched into the city, a couple of thousand Judean pilgrims had heard about the mob and joined in.
That’s how Simon’s mob swelled so quickly into thousands of Jews. First, the news came to the lower city that the Palace was being threatened. And since the local Jerusalem-ites knew Sabinus was in the Palace, the word quickly spread that Sabinus was being threatened.
And that was the pleasant news that drew such a huge crowd, so fast!
So now 3,000 Legionnaires march into the Jerusalem streets to take on roughly the same number of Jews (if not many more). The huge Jewish mob was now scattered all over the Western half of the city, but the Romans were organized and disciplined.
The Legion moved slowly and surely towards the Palace, first. They ran off most Jews in their path, and killed many of the ones who were brave enough to fight.
Since the whole city had dirt streets, it was easy for the mob to find stones everywhere, either just above the packed soil, or just on top. So the Jews made lots of small hits on the Legion, and kept themselves encouraged.
But the Romans moved methodically down each street, and gradually took more ground as they went. So the Jews were soon forced out of the Upper City.
Finally, after many Jews had been killed in this intense street fighting, the rest of the mob – still thousands strong – began retreating towards the temple.
And when the mob reached the Temple, they found the 2,000 Veterans in it’s NE corner.
We need to take a quick break, to see what the Veterans had been doing, for the past few hours.
(It is still Sunday, June 3rd, 4 BC.)
Remember, the Herodian Veterans really just wanted some extra retirement money!
In the late morning, they’d assembled in the NE corner of the Temple Yard because it was close to the Army’s Fortress (The Antonia). And all morning long, Veterans had been communicating across the gap with their old comrades in the Antonia’s SE tower.
Actually, from the top of the Temple Walls, that ran around it’s Courtyard, the Veterans could walk right underneath the Antonia’s SE Tower.
((There was also a secret passage (they knew about) that ran from the inside of the Inner Courtyard (near the Temple House itself) all the way underground to the Fortress! Herod designed this 16 years ago, as an emergency route for a worst case situation.))
So the Veterans had two ways to contact the Herodian Army in the Fortress. And the Veterans were making good arguments about their rights to the money.
Even though the Army couldn’t give any of Herod’s money to the Veterans, they had sympathy for their case. Soon, the whole Army (inside the Fortress) knew about the Veterans outside, in the Temple Yard.
Then the Roman Squadron reached Antonia with the news about Sabinus.
The first thing the Army realized was that Sabinus had finally got up into one of the Towers! The towers where Herod’s treasure was hidden. The towers Sabinus had been trying to get into for weeks, to steal the money. The money which the Army (now) partly wished could be shared with the Veterans.
Naturally, the Roman Squadron who delievered the message was most concerned about protecting their own people, and ending the riot.
But naturally, the Herodian Army had a different reaction entirely… even if they kept it to themselves.
Whatever else the Squadron said to the Army… the Herodian Army stayed put in their Fortress and let the Roman Legion work on clearing the City streets all by themselves.
And some of the soldiers in the Fortress told the Veterans in the Courtyard about the mob by the Palace.
So the Veterans knew (mostly) what was going on, even before they saw the crowds pouring into the Courtyard.
Which is where we left off, just a moment ago.
By now, it was mid-afternoon – still Sunday, June 3rd.
The rebellious situation in Jerusalem was coming together around the Temple.
Here are the major groups, and their approximate numbers.
Almost 3,000 Romans (minus a few casualties) have cleared the streets coming downhill into the Tyropoean Valley, at the foot of Mount Zion.
Far above the Romans – high atop the Mountain-Wall and the Temple Wall, safely inside the Temple Yard – was Simon the Slave (he survived) and a few hundred of his surviving mob. Along with the Jericho-ians were the rest of the Judean and Galilean pilgrims who’d joined the mob to get Sabinus. But they were all forced back by the Legion. There were also many Jews with them from Transjordan and even Idumea.
By the way, the group of men that Theudas sent from Sepphoris, in Galilee, didn’t do anything special in Jerusalem but watch and pay attention. Their only ambition was to rule other Galileans, and they had mainly come down for the Festival. If Theudas’ men threatened anyone in Jerusalem this week, it would have been Galileans they knew from back home. (Many Judean Jews looked at Galileans as kind of like country hicks.)
But two of the other three major Rebel Groups were now together.
Once again: Simon’s mob from Jericho and Transjordan was sharing the Temple Yard with the 2,000 Veterans, and thousands of other angry pilgrims from all over Israel. And half a Roman Legion was far below them, in the city’s valley.
Now then, the third group – the Five Bands of Athronges the Shepherd – were still keeping their cool in the Hippodrome. Up to now, they’d done nothing to alert the Romans or the Herodian Army that they were even in the city. (No one paid much attention to the Horse Racing Stadium, during religious festivals!)
Finally, we have somewhere between six and ten thousand Herodian soldiers in the Fortress Antonia (and stationed in the normal towers that ran around the City Wall).
And now we come to a key moment.
Here is one key fact that will completely turn the events of the day.
Some of Herod’s Army were not Jewish, but most of them were.
And the Jews in Herod’s Army were feeling less and less comfortable with the fact that a Roman Legion was attacking Jewish Pilgrims INSIDE the city of Jerusalem, during a religious holiday.
Something is about to break.
Now, which part of this power-balance, do you think, is more likely to give way, first?
The new situation changed things more than the Romans expected.
At the moment, because of the Veterans, things had changed even more than they knew.
This half-a-Legion had just marched itself into a valley, with a hostile mob larger than itself perched almost a hundred feet directly above their position. And any soldier knows, that’s a bad position!
So now, the entrance steps to the Temple were on the West and Southern sides, but they were narrow and winding steps. The Western stairs were wide-open and the Southern steps wound up through the earth, until they reached the courtyard. Neither was a smart move, to take.
Not that the Romans wanted to march into the Sacred Area, anyway! (They didn’t need the mob to get even angrier.) At the very least, their Commanders had been briefed about what happened to the Army at the Passover, seven weeks before now.
But they had another, better option – the Fortress Antonia!
A squadron was sent around the corner to get the Army’s doors open.
Meanwhile, the Jews who were up on the City’s “roof” were starting to throw heavy stones down into the valley. Men took loose stones from the parapets to drop on the Romans. Some Jews took off their belts or sandal straps to make slings, for aiming small stones more carefully.
Even some of the Veterans joined the battle. A group of them carried bows and started shooting arrows down into the Roman lines.
The Romans held up under their shields, as best they could, and took cover at the base of the Mountain’s Wall, while they waited for their Commanders’ Antonia Strategy to move forward.
During all this, not far away, the Bands of Athronges had noticed, from the top rows of the Hippodrome, what was going on. Since there were many archers among them –and since they had so recently become used to killing people as a hobby – the archers in the Hippodrome started sending arrows into the Roman lines (but only a few at a time, to avoid being noticed.)
The arrows only had to fly a couple of hundred feet to reach the Romans. And the bloodthirsty southern strong-men just couldn’t resist!
The Romans were essentially trapped. They needed to move forward so urgently, that they didn’t dare retreat. But the process of getting almost 3,000 Legionnaires through one Fortress door, that was down the street and around the corner, was, sadly, just not a very fast process! They tried throwing a few javelins at the Temple, from back uphill a bit, but their javelins just bounced off the retaining wall of Mount Zion and fell back onto their own men.
This unique, one-sided battle went on for almost an hour, and it was now well into the late afternoon.
During this long volley, the Jews actually managed to kill several hundred Romans, which was a severe blow to the Half-a-Legion. If this went on much longer, they knew they might become a Quarter-Legion. And reinforcements were no good, with such a lousy position.
Trapped in such an impossible situation, the Romans realized they had to change tactics.
Their new goal was a forced retreat, through the Antonia and/or the Western Gate, the Romans’ new plan was to get back into their fortified camp.
But they needed a distraction to stop the mob and help them get away.
As desperate as they were, the Legion’s commanders (now in the Antonia) decided to start fires in the Temple. (They figured the Jews would stop fighting long enough to save the Temple, and let them get away.)
Of course, the Romans could only reach the Temple Walls from the roof of the Antonia.
Or by the secret passage.
And of course, the Romans did NOT tell the Herodian soldiers – who had stayed safely on guard in their Fortress, all this time – about their plans to put fire on parts of the Temple!
Talk about going from bad to much, much worse!
Now, Sabinus had stayed up in the Tower Phasael all afternoon. While his men came in and out, sneaking small amounts of treasure out as they could, Sabinus watched the battle move through the streets and down into the valley.
From high up in the tallest Tower on the Western Hill, Sabinus could see the Jews on the top of the Temple walls, throwing their stones and shooting their arrows down into the Romans.
Sabinus could also – just barely – see the line of Romans moving up the slight hill by the Western steps of the Antonia.
In a flash, the Procurator’s greedy little mind guessed there might be treasure in the Antonia, or at least a doorway from it into the Temple storage – not that he knew this for sure, but it was a smart guess to figure that the temple treasure might be accessible from the fortress.
So suddenly, Sabinus decided he could take a second “last chance” to get rich!
He climbed down the tower, gathered his men, and cut through the narrowest streets by the Northern City Wall. By taking this route, Sabinus and his men stayed well out of sight, and far away from the fighting.
They got into the Antonia just in time to find out about the secret passage.
Inside the Antonia, the Legion Commanders quickly got together with the Army leaders they knew they could trust.
There were at least two Italian Sympathizers among the Herodian Commanders. Their names were Gratus, who helped the soldiers escape from Emmaus, and another man, named Rufus.
They also found a division of 3,000 soldiers from Samaria (none of whom were Jewish, and many of whom were not even Samaritan!)
While the commanders quietly made secret plans about where to set their escape fires, they also made an attempt to connect with these parts of the Army they thought they could count on.
The Romans had chosen a plan of absolute desperation.
They totally expected that burning the Temple would probably break all their ties with the Jewish Herodian soldiers.
They simply had no other option.
A couple of dozen Romans hid flint and tinder inside their armor, and scattered to different locations.
Some went up into Antonia’s towers, to throw fire down. The walkways on the top of the Temple Walls burned quickly, because of the wood planks, sealed with pitch and wax, and supported by wood beams.
Another area that burned quickly was Herod’s Pavillion – the wide, covered area at the south end of the Temple yard. The roof of the Pavillion was entirely wood, and it was very large.
Once the Romans got as far as the southern end, and set fire to the Pavillion… the fire was out of control, and the Romans had won the advantage back.
As the flames grew higher and hotter, on all sides of the temple yard, even the marble started to burn. (Marble becomes flammable at VERY high temperatures. In fact, burning marble is a common way to make lime.)
The entire complex was on fire, and burned on for many hours. By the time it was done, the whole outside wall of the Temple yard was completely destroyed – even the marble burned down to the level of the yard! Even the Pavillion turned into rubble, because of the fire. And the rest of the structures – the inner court and the retaining walls on the south and west sides of Mt. Zion – these, too, were damaged, though not completely destroyed.
What was left? The Temple mount itself (the leveled earth and retaining walls) was still there. So was the inner court (mostly) and the actual Temple Sanctuary in the center.
But overall, the Great Temple of Herod had been nearly if not mostly destroyed.
It’s going to be many years before it can be completely rebuilt.
Now, back to the action!
Once the fire got going, the scene around the Temple was chaos. Later on, almost nobody could say they had a clear idea of just what happened, at which point. It is difficult to explain how so much changed so quickly.
Many things were happening all at once.
Roman soldiers were sneaking into the Temple yard from the Fortress and Pavillion. Some Romans even ran down the secret passageway to the Inner Courtyard.
Many Jews died when the walkways burned thru and gave out. Others on the roof, losing hope, threw themselves into the fires on purpose. Some Jews who had swords, used them on themselves. They couldn’t believe the Temple was actually burning AND being spoiled by Roman sandals, both at the same time.
Some Jews tried to run down the underground stairs, beneath the Pavillion. Every one of those, who went that way, were killed by the Romans who set the fires there. It was easy for a small group of Romans to kill those Jews, for three reasons. One, the stairways leading down through the mountain were narrow, leveling the odds. Two, the Jews running through them were unarmed, in their panic. And three, the horror and sadness of what was happening simply crushed the Jews’ spirits. There was no fight left in them.
Other Jews left the Courtyard through the Eastern Gate, across the bridge that ran over the Kidron Valley. And those people got away safely.
But every one of the Jews who’d climbed up on the “roof” – on the walkways of the Yard Walls – every single one of them was killed by the fire, or when the roof fell in, or by suicide.
As many as 5 or 6 thousand Jews were on Mt. Zion when the fire began. Most of them died.
Now, the Romans who made their way into the Temple Yard were killing Jews left and right.
But one group of soldiers pushed their way past the flames and the fighting, to the center. As the Jews scattered towards the exits, these Romans went up the steps to the Inner court, and took it. (Once there, they met other Legionnaires coming out of the Inner court – the ones who’d taken Herod’s secret passage!)
So, whether they pushed thru the terror in the yard or snuck thru the underground tunnel, a group of Romans wound up inside the walls of the upstairs yard. (This was the court where no Gentiles were ever allowed to come!)
Sabinus was there with them. (He was of the group that took the passage!)
Now the corners of the Inner Yard had four large Storage Vaults. One of those four units was the Temple Treasury!
The Romans raided the treasury. Sabinus even had the nerve to take 400 talents for himself.
And this was while Jews were being scattered and slaughtered outside, in every direction.
And – remember – this was still Pentecost Sunday. (And still June 3rd, of 4 BC.)
It was yet another VERY long day, of MANY, this year!
After the burning and looting, the battle was pretty much over.
But the trouble wasn’t.
The surviving Romans from Legion XII cleared out and made their way back to their camp, NW of the city. And Sabinus & his cohort went back to the Palace.
But the Herodian Army, in the Fortress Antonia, was split into two groups.
One group stood with the Romans, and defended their actions. This group was made up of the soldiers who were Samaritans, or Gentiles. (This was not a small number. Many cities of Herod’s Kingdom, where he’d recruited his army from, had large Greek, Syrian and Arab populations. And Herod was known to hire mercenaries from other lands to fight for him, as well.)
Among those supporting Rome were 3,000 soldiers from Sebaste, in Samaria. Also, two high-ranking Army Commanders, named Rufus and Gratus. (Both were Gentile, by birth.)
The other group, naturally, was Jewish. These Herodian soldiers were deeply offended and disgusted by what happened, and they wanted revenge.
The Jewish soldiers were in the majority.
That night, Rufus and Gratus quickly left the Fortress and ran to the Roman camp. The 3,000 Sebastians and some other soldiers went along with them.
Before dawn on June 4th, there were about 6 or 7,000 men living in the Roman camp. About a thousand or two more than usual, but the Romans had lost many lives, during the battle.
And by dawn on the 4th, the remaining Herodian Army (about 7,000 itself, or more) had decided to join the rebellion.
But before the Herodian Army marches against the Legion’s Camp, we need to cover the midnight events.
Something else happened, the evening of June 3rd.
The Five Bands of Athronges the shepherd finally came out of the Hippodrome!
After the Temple fight ended, and after the Romans were gone from the streets, Athronges led his group uphill to Herod’s Palace. (His men were fresh, and he figured the Romans were whipped.)
So now Athronges yelled out threats to burn down the Palace – just like Simon the Slave had been doing, about twelve hours before.
This time, Sabinus took the quick way out. He and his men just climbed over the Western wall, and ran to the Legionnaires’ camp.
Athronges’ men managed to get into the Palace. He took what he wanted and left again. But the Palace itself was not burned down.
Athronges’ men rode out by dawn, the next day, hoping to avoid the Legion AND the Herodian Army.
But thanks to Athronges, ALL of the Romans were now in Legion XII’s camp.
At dawn on the 4th, the Herodian Army surrounded that camp.
The Twelfth Legion was actually besieged!
In fact, many Jews from the city joined the Army at that time, to strengthen the siege. The Jewish Army was now larger than the Romans.
More importantly, the Jewish Army now had a common goal.
They declared, very loudly, that they were now fighting for nothing less than the Liberation of Israel!
Now, inside the city, most of the Jerusalem Council would have sided with the Romans. They were wealthy and conservative. (Think about it. They made their money off the Status Quo, and they honestly had no desire to see any kind of “Liberation” come to Israel.)
But the Council had no control over the Army, and the Army had the support of the people.
Remember, by the way, that Philip & Archelaus were gone. And Herod’s cousin Achiabus – whether or not he would have helped calm the Army down – had still not yet returned from the high ground he’d escaped onto, somewhere in Judea.
The Jewish Army was now in command of itself.
Within days, the Army started digging under the Roman walls, and they shouted over the Roman walls for their comrades to change sides.
Inside the camp walls, Sabinus wanted to escape, but he couldn’t, because the Jews had the Romans totally blocked on every side. Sabinus even thought about calling over and making a deal for his own release, but he knew he couldn’t bargain with the Jews because of how much they hated him, personally.
So Sabinus (and his stolen loot) had to sit tight in Legion XII’s camp. In fact, the Procurator was pretty sure they could hold out until Varus came down with the other two Legions.
But of course, Varus was actually the main reason Sabinus wanted to leave soon.
Anyway, the Jews weren’t very fast diggers.
So the Jewish siege of the Legion’s camp is going to linger on several weeks.
In Antioch, Syria, Varus got Sabinus’ message late in the evening on Saturday, June 9th.
He knew the Legion in Jerusalem had been fighting or besieged for a week now. So he did what any good Roman General would do, in the same situation.
He waited longer. (But not much longer.)
Varus realized things in Judea were even worse than he’d feared they’d become. He called his advisers, and they had a late night strategy session. One decision they made was to bring down both Legions – numbers XXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXX.
But Varus felt they might need even more strength. He simply felt like the Jews were so zealous for their country, they would need to see a crushing show of force. Varus wanted to do more than kill the rebellion. The Governor wanted to kill every last drop of fighting spirit in every Jew in Israel – and mainly in Judea.
So Varus sent a messenger at dawn to the two kingdoms close enough to lend their support.
He called for King Archelaus of Cappadocia (whose daughter was the widow of Herod’s executed son, A__________.
And Varus called for Aretas the Nabatean.
Varus knew about the bad blood between Israel and the Arabs of Nabatea. But he was confident he could control the Arabian King. (Varus knew that Aretas was on shaky ground with Caesar.)
Like a good Roman, Varus was thinking with his head. Not with his heart.
He had no idea how much trouble the Nabateans were going to cause…
The next day, at dawn, Varus told Legion III (The XXXX) and Legion VI (The XXXX) to prepare for marching, and they set out later that morning (June 10th). They also took four Cavalry units and a couple of Auxilary units.
They were heading for Ptolemais, by the Sea. Just outside Galilee, Ptolemais was a good place to choose for a meet-up point with Archelaus & Aretas’ Armies. Varus also sent scouting teams ahead, into all parts of Israel.
In Berytus, on their way down, the people of Berytus gave Varus another 1,500 troops.
Finally, after nine days of forced marching (30 miles/day), Varus and two Legions made camp at Ptolemais. It was June 18th.
Patiently, the Governor waited for his scouts and his allies to join him there.
Remember when the Herodians sailed to Rome?
The royal family got to Italy right about the time about the time Varus began marching south.
So Archelaus and the others got to Rome around June 12th and sent Nicolas & Ptolemy to inform Caesar they’d arrived.
((Footnote: because of missing pages in the history of Dio Cassius, we don’t know what else Augustus was doing, this year. But we do know at least that he was present in Rome for the rest of this year.))
At this time, Augustus had at least two letters from Varus about Israel’s status – a report from Antioch after Ptolemy’s visit and one from Caesarea after the Palace meetings – but the rebellion letter had not yet arrived.
The Emperor also had a letter from Sabinus listing all Herod’s assets, as told to him by the Royal Family in Caesarea. Sabinus’ letter made some negative comments about Archelaus, too, and Sabinus sent an extra letter about Archelaus, simply to accuse the young Prince for his earlier lack of cooperation.
If those letters weren’t enough, Nicolas & Ptolemy gave Caesar another handful of papers to read, as well. First, there were the notes Herod made about changing his will, before he died. Then there was a letter from Archelaus to the Emperor, presenting his claim to the throne.
Finally, Nicolas & Ptolemy let Caesar know that young Antipas was also busy writing him a letter, to make his own case for the crown.
Antipas had actually picked up more and more family support since they all left Jerusalem together. In fact, by this time, Salome, Ptolemy and many others had all decided to back Antipas. Even Malthrace, the Samaritan mother of both princes, made a decision to support Antipas against Archelaus.
Of the major players, only Nicolas of Damascus stayed loyal to Archelaus.
When Augustus saw how divided the Herodians were, he asked them all to meet on a certain day. Of course, Caesar made sure his own chief advisers were there too, along with his grandson, Gaius!
(Remember Gaius Caesar? He was Augustus’ adopted son & natural grandson – the first born of Marcus Agrippa & Caesar’s daughter Julia, the step-son of Tiberius, and the reason Tiberius went into self-imposed exile, in 6 BC.)
In these days, since Augustus had Gaius on the fast-track to inherit the Empire, the Emperor put his young protégé into the chief seat, during the meeting.
By the way, Gaius & Archelaus were not far apart, in age. This year, Gaius turned 16, and Archelaus was 19.
As the meeting began, Salome’s son stood up to speak. (The son’s name happens to be Antipater – just the same as his grandfather and as his older cousin who was executed just before Herod died.)
Salome’s Antipater got up to speak and delivered a great speech in favor of Antipas.
Salome’s Antipater accused Archelaus of gross incompetence and treason against Caesar, for being too quick to claim the crown, back in Israel. Salome’s Antipater even defamed the prince’s manhood! Then he praised Antipas, reminded Caesar the actual will (apart from the added-on bits) still named Antipas as the only heir, and argued that Herod was out of his mind from illness, when he started changing his will.
Many family members also stood up as witnesses of what Salome’s Antipater had said.
Next, Nicolas of Damascus spoke in favor of Archelaus. Nicolas basically said that those who died at Passover were guilty of treason against Caesar himself, for assaulting the troops Archelaus sent to stop their demonstration. Nicolas claimed that everyone who switched over to Antipas’ side was only being petty, greedy and selfish, and then he argued that Herod’s was in his right mind when he changed his will, and so it should stand. Finally, Nicolas praised Caesar’s wonderful judgment, and appealed to his old friendship with Herod.
After these speeches, Archelaus got up and laid himself face down at the Emperor’s feet.
And Augustus was so impressed that he personally stooped over and gave Archelaus a hand getting up.
So then, in front of the entire Royal Family, Caesar said that Archelaus deserved his father’s throne. Caesar told Archelaus to rest easy, because Caesar would confirm what Herod wrote in his will, and it seemed to him that Herod wanted Archelaus.
The rest of the family just had to sit there, eating it! But they also noticed that Caesar didn’t actually make a decision. (For one thing, it was always Augustus’ custom to consider things, before deciding rashly.)
So when Caesar dismissed the meeting, he secretly debated with himself whether to give the whole kingdom to Archelaus or whether to split it up among him, Antipas, and Philip.
All the Royal Family could do now was settle in at Rome to wait for Caesar’s decision.
((Footnote: They may even have checked in on little Herod Agrippa. Remember, Agrippa was the son of Aristobulus, sent to Rome at Aristobulus’ execution in 7 BC. Agrippa was about six years old now, still living with Antonia, the widow of Drusus. He often played with her children, Germanicus & Claudius.))
Meanwhile, the royal mother, Malthrace, was horribly upset by the feud between her sons, Archelaus and Antipas. In fact, Malthrace got so upset she developed horrible diarrhea for several days and died from it.
And just after that – when the Herodians had been in Rome for nearly two weeks (on about the 26th or so) – the letter Varus wrote about the rebellion finally got to Augustus.
Caesar read the letter, found out what was going on in Israel, and put off the whole decision.
The Emperor didn’t want to rule on Herod’s will until Varus wrote back to say the trouble was past.
So now, by the end of June, they were ALL waiting.
By the way, nothing else happens in Rome this month.
Back in Israel, Varus is on the march.
And his allies are about to get drafted…
Down in Petra, Nabatea, King Aretas was totally aware of the chaos in Israel.
Since the day Herod died, Aretas had done his best to stay informed about what was going on. He didn’t want any uprisings to spill over into Nabatea and cause the Arabs any trouble.
Wisely, the Nabatean Army had been on alert since mid-March.
So when Varus’ messenger got down to Petra (late on June 19th), it took no time at all for Aretas to respond. His army was ready to march.
(And of course, there was no chance of refusing a request by the Roman Governor. Remember, this “King” of Nabatea knew who was really in charge of the World!)
Anyway, the Arabian Army was on the march the morning after Varus’ message arrived.
They were told to meet Varus in Ptolemais – a march of 9 or 10 days. To stay out of danger, Aretas led his army thru Transjordan and Samaria, which also happened to be the fastest possible route.
Hurrying, and making 30 miles a day, the Nabateans (Arabians) made it to Ptolemais late in the afternoon of June 28th.
Archelaus of Cappadocia – which is just north of Syria – also reached Ptolemais by the 28th, with his Army.
There were now almost 30,000 soldiers under Varus. They knew they were going up against less than 10,000… but Varus also knew there was always the “unexpected”.
When his scouts came back, Varus learned just how much “unexpected” rebellion was going on, outside Judea.
Varus learned about Theudas, the son of Ezekias, in Sepphoris. He learned about the group of slaves running around burning Palaces. (Somehow, Simon-the-slave had survived the battle at Pentecost!) He hadn’t yet learned about the Five Bands of Athronges. (Athronges was smart enough to lay low for a while, after the Temple fight.)
Varus had also learned about the incident at Emmaus. Actually, that news came to him before Sabinus’ letter, in one of the daily dispatches from Legion XII. At the time, the Emmaus incident hadn’t been enough of a reason, by itself, to march down with extra troops. But now that Varus was already making the trip, he made sure to include the citizens of Emmaus in his plans!
Varus kept his Army in Ptolemais an extra day. He made sure to get Archelaus & Aretas, and their commanders inside one big tent with himself and his own advisors and commanders.
The Governor directed this Council of War in his own tent, all day long.
By the end of that day – June 29th – they had made some decisions.
First, they decided to split into two groups.
Now, this was only possible because Varus was so pleased at how large his forces had grown. But also, his son (“Varus, Jr.”) was there, one of his Commanders, and he wanted to give the young man some experience.
They also had the nearby (and less difficult) problem of the Galileans to deal with.
So the Governor gave one whole Legion to “Varus Junior”. He also put an old, trusted friend, a Roman named Gaius, to advise Varus Junior. And the Governor gave his friend and son the nearby task of taking down the Galileans at Sepphoris.
The rest of Varus’ enormous army – still over 20,000 soldiers, altogether – began marching south, but away from the Sea.
They were heading thru Samaria, straight for the trouble in Judea.
July, 4 BC
To keep the story together, we’re going to start one day before July.
At dawn on June 30th – Varus forces broke camp and began marching out.
The main army took the road due south, to Samaria. But Varus Junior took his Legion southeast, straight into Galilee.
Sixteen miles (about four hours) later, “Junior” was outside Sepphoris.
The Legion set up a front line some distance from the city gates, while the rear guard set up the camp and built its wall. Messengers were sent into Sephoris, demanding that the city leaders give up the rebel leaders.
Varus Junior threatened to destroy the whole city, unless they gave up Theudas.
The Galileans refused. There wasn’t a Jew in Sepphoris who didn’t hate the Romans for slaughtering their kinsmen and burning the Temple at Pentecost.
The whole town angrily chose to side with Theudas and his gang.
This, of course, was a big mistake.
The son of Varus gave the town until morning to change its mind. But when the last messenger came back, early on the morning of July 1st, the answer was still no.
So Varus Junior gave the Command. The Legion had already prepared its battering rams, catapults and teams of tunnel diggers. Right away, they began attacking the walls.
In less than a week, Sepphoris was destroyed.
The fate of Theudas himself was unclear. He was either killed or he managed to run away. But Theudas, son of Ezekias, was never heard from again.
(FN: Another man with a similar sounding name, who will also lead rebels, shows up in Galilee in 6 AD, nine years from now. But they are two different men. (See note XX in May of 4 BC.)
(His legend, of course, remained for many decades. Not that it was a flattering legend! Mainly, he was remembered for being a short burst of failure. In fact, years later, powerful Jerusalem-ites would sometimes use Theudas’ name as one example of how nothing from Galilee ever amounted to much. At least, so they liked to say!) (FN: See Acts X:XX.)
Theudas the gang leader may have flamed out, but Varus Junior was done with Sepphoris in about a week.
And then they marched south, to catch up with the rest of the Roman forces.
By the way, Sepphoris was just seven miles away from Nazareth!
Luckily for Nazareth, their small town was far off the main roads, up in the hills. There was only one decent road going in or coming out. The city was pretty much surrounded by hills, on all sides.
Nazareth was a very safe place to be, this year.
So no one in Nazareth was hurt by the rebellions this year. The worst thing they saw was when some of Theudas’ thugs came around, back in May, making threats, stealing and recruiting a little bit.
Nazareth had been small game, even to those thugs. And now Theudas’ group wouldn’t be causing any more trouble. Even Junior himself barely gave Nazareth a thought or a look.
The only thing Nazareth got to do… was watch the smoke.
During that first or second week of July, Joseph & Mary looked west with the other townspeople. Over the surrounding hilltops, they watched dark smoke rising from Sepphoris. For some days afterward, they could still see the smoke from the burning city and its ruins.
Joseph & Mary were amazed again at how Jesus was kept safe from harm.
And they gave all the credit to God.
While Varus Junior burned Sepphoris, Varus Senior was marching south.
The Governor’s forces were hurrying, now, to Judea. Going a bit over 30 miles a day, they reached Sebaste (capital of Samaria) on the second afternoon – July 1st.
All through Samaria, the Romans kept on finding support and encouragement in every town. Sebaste itself was both a Samaritan and a Greek city, named after Augustus. And so Varus took no action against any Samaritan town.
From Sebaste, Varus went off-road, and cut west of Mount Gerizim. They reached a town called Arous, just south of Sebaste, and set up camp late on the second evening. It was July 1st.
(Arous was in the region of Judea, but it was safe for the Romans. The small town was loyal to the royal advisor Ptolemy, who owned most of its land. (Varus knew this from his scouting reports, or from his interviews in Caesarea, back in April.)
So Varus knew he was safe with the people of Arous. They offered to support his legion for a night, and replenish their supplies. Even though they were all devout Jews, they had learned to fear those who had power.
They learned this from the man who owned their town – Herod’s adviser, Ptolemy.
The next day, July 2nd, Varus and his troops pulled out of Arous, heading for Emmaus.
But – without being noticed – some of Aretas’ Nabateans stayed behind.
A few of the Arabian soldiers had learned that Arous belonged to Herod’s man, Ptolemy. Remember, everyone from Nabatea had hated Herod for the past 16 years – since he took Trachonitis from King Odobas (in 20 BC – see 9 BC). They hated him so much, they kept right on hating him after he was dead.
The Nabateans not only hated Herod. They hated anyone who was friends with Herod. And they hated anyone who was loyal to the friends of Herod. So the Nabateans hated Ptolemy.
So… they hated the town of Arous.
Aretas the King told his army to march after Varus’ forces. But secretly, he made sure to leave a few hundred soldiers behind, near Arous. When the Legion was far out of sight, the Nabateans killed, looted and burned down the entire town of Arous.
The Arabians did this simply because it was loyal to Herod’s man, Ptolemy! (Who is in Rome now, remember.)
Then, instead of trying to catch up with Varus & Aretas, these few hundred Arabians made their own way back east across Judea, heading back to Nabatea. And sadly – after having a taste of destruction and robbery – these Nabateans kept on burning and killing, all the way home. (One town they destroyed was called Sampho, between two rivers. And there were others.)
Varus never saw these particular soldiers again. But it wouldn’t be long until he heard about what they had done.
Except – at that moment – the Governor still had bigger problems to deal with.
On the afternoon of July 2nd – while the Nabateans were burning down Arous – Varus and his company reached Emmaus.
Now, the people of Emmaus saw him coming. They heard how large his Army was. And they knew for sure the Governor was going to punish them for refusing to help the Soldiers, back in May. Even the innocent ones knew they would be killed, just because of the others.
The people of Emmaus knew they had no hope. Wisely, then, they decided to panic!
Every man, woman and child, in Emmaus, left Emmaus on foot, cart or donkey back, carrying whatever they could hold and take with them. The entire town was abandoned, before Varus ever had time to make threats.
Varus gave the order to burn down the empty village. Then they made camp.
Jerusalem was 16 miles away.
On the morning of July 3rd – their fourth day of marching – Governor Varus and his 20,000 soldiers left Emmaus, heading toward Jerusalem.
It had been exactly one month since Pentecost!
The Twelfth Legion (or what was left of it) was still besieged by the Herodian Army. The 3,000 Sebastians were also inside the Legion’s walled camp. (FN: Remember, the Sebastians defected from Herod’s Army, at the end of the day on Pentecost. See June, 4 BC.)
Let’s catch up with what they’ve been doing there, since June 3rd.
In that one month that passed, during the siege, the Herodian Army had gotten larger.
Their new battle cry – to fight for the liberation of Israel – had inspired the common people. Many hundreds of volunteers and new recruits had come to join them. Almost none were skilled fighters, but the Liberation Army let them “join” because of their numbers, and their zeal.
Also, at some point since Pentecost, the 2,000 troops of Achiabus had come down out of the hills. (Remember, they’d been hiding there, from the Veteran Army, since May.) They’d missed the battle at the feast.
Now, Achiabus tried to persuade the whole Jewish Army to stop the siege and make peace. But they were still too worked up since the festival, and his own troops were more affected by their brothers in arms.
So Achiabus’ troops joined the besieging Army. But Achiabus himself left them, and found a safe place to wait, in the city.
Now, all that happened some time in June. But we saved it to tell, until now. The point, now, is simply to explain what kind of state the Jewish Army was in, at the start of July. It had swelled to ten or twelve thousand people, in only a month.
But even with the extra help, their siege wasn’t going very well.
The Romans only had a camp wall – not a large, city wall. But the Herodian Army had failed to get over, under or through it in any way. After a month-long siege, their tunnels and ramparts were only half-finished. And it looked like the Legion had enough food supplies to outlast them, after all.
This dragged out failure was discouraging, to say the least. The Army had to keep reminding itself why they were there – it was “Freedom for all Israel.” But their morale was starting to weaken.
And then, around noon on July 3rd, they saw Varus’ forces marching up the road.
Now, the Army had been warned the night before, because many of the Emmaus townspeople ran to Jerusalem for safety. But they’d stayed put.
Now, however, the Army actually saw almost 20,000 Roman and Auxiliary Soldiers forming battle lines, not far away. The sight of that huge force was what finally scared the Herodian soldiers.
The reminders about freedom quickly turned into cries of “scatter” and “get out of here!”
Of course, it was the volunteers and new recruits who panicked first. Then the idea caught on. The actual soldiers in Herod’s Army were much smaller, by themselves, and didn’t dare stand against twenty thousand! So, finally, they left too.
The Jewish Army just ran away. They didn’t even try to get into Jerusalem… for good reason! They were now too small to defend it. The people weren’t all on their side. And their “recruits” had all run to the hills!
So the Army scattered, too. It was simply the only smart thing they could do.
In this way, Varus marched on Jerusalem and entered it, unopposed. Once more, Varus took a city without firing a single arrow, or swinging a sword.
By the evening of July 3rd, it seemed, Varus had ended the rebellion in Judea. (FN: With the larger force, Varus Senior actually took Samaria and Judea in less time than his son needed to conquer Sepphoris.)
But Varus remembered May – when he had “ended” this rebellion once before.
He knew groups of rebels were still at large.
There was a lot left to do.
Varus wanted to make sure the rebellion was not going to start up again.
So – as usual for a Roman General – he made time to plan and organize, before taking action.
First, the Governor debriefed the Twelfth Legion’s surviving Commanders. After that, he met Rufus, Gratus, and the 3,000 Sebastians of Herod’s Army. Also, that same day, Herod’s cousin Achiabus showed up at the fort.
(FN: Varus met one other Commander who’d joined the Romans. His name was Joseph, yet another cousin of King Herod. He must not have done much, but we know his name. Josephus probably included him by name just to show there were more than just one or two good men in Herod’s family.)
Varus welcomed Rufus, Gratus and Achiabus into his War Council, along with the Legion’s commanders. The Governor knew he would need to rely on local military leaders, at some point. He also wanted to reward – and increase – their loyalty to Rome. Besides, Achiabus was the closest living relative to Herod, still in Israel.
Very soon, Rufus, Gratus and Achiabus are going to play key roles. But not just yet.
After these meetings, Varus started looking for Sabinus.
But the man who’d started this latest mess was nowhere to be found!
The procurator Sabinus had slipped out, right after the Jewish Army ran away. Caesar’s self-serving Agent was (wisely) afraid to see Varus in person. So he rode out, straight for the coast.
Sabinus simply disappeared!
After leaving the fort to avoid the Governor, the procurator Sabinus actually vanishes from the pages of history. Naturally, the 400 talents he stole vanished with him.
So the Governor’s scribe took down another report, for the Emperor.
And then Varus moved on.
Next, Varus met with the Sanhedrin – or what was left of them.
Remember, Fifty Elders from the Jewish Council had sailed to Rome. (More on that, soon.) But the rest assembled. Then, Varus criticized them bitterly for failing to control their people, during the revolt at Pentecost.
Naturally, the Council members said it wasn’t Jerusalem-ites who’d rebelled. They blamed the whole thing on the Pilgrims who came in for the feast. (This was mostly true.) To a man, the Council denied having any responsibility for what happened.
Varus accepted their answer and moved on. But he wasn’t very happy with it.
At that point, Varus remembered the Fifty Elders who’d sailed to Rome in May. The Governor remembered the letter he’d written in support of them. (Remember, the Jewish leaders wanted to be put under the Province of Syria.)
Varus had supported the Jews, in May, mainly because he’d gotten a low opinion of Archelaus at Caesarea, in April. But now, after two quick rebellions in less than a month, Varus now changed his opinion on Herodian rule.
Partly, Varus chose between the lesser of two evils. But there was more.
Varus was a Roman Senator – a noble man who knew how to wield power. To him, the Sanhedrin didn’t seem to be capable of managing Jerusalem, let alone the surrounding area.
Also, after growing close to Philip, Varus had come to respect Herodian views about the people and elders of the Jews. And Herod’s view had always been this: that the Jews could only be ruled by wielding power ruthlessly.
Essentially, Varus now agreed with this view.
So the Governor wrote another letter to Caesar, altering his advice, and throwing his personal support over to Archelaus, Antipas and Philip.
Varus wanted to ride back to Antioch and tell his friend, Philip, too.
But that had to wait.
They still had some runaway rebels to chase down.
Now, speaking about the Fifty Elders, who sailed to Rome in May…
It was right about this time – in early July – that they finally got there!
After eight weeks at sea, going from port to port, they were finally in Italy.
(FN: The Herodians’ private ship could afford to sail more directly to Rome, with fewer stops, and thus made it there more quickly than otherwise. These Fifty Elders were using Jerusalem’s city funds, and maybe their own, to buy passage for fifty individuals. They had to take what they could get, which probably meant more stops, and a longer trip. I imagine the Herodians were closer to a six week trip, while the elders took more like eight weeks. On top of all this Josephus happens to mentions them during this point in the action. It’s an amazing bit, showing that Josephus tried to line up events, in time, as often as he could. But other things – like the end of Athronges and Simon the Slave, which haven’t happened yet, but which Josephus mentions before all this – he puts together. The point is – Josephus knew the timetable very well. The places he breaks it are on purpose and for narrative purposes, to keep certain storylines as self-contained, in his text. His goal was to understand each bit, since the big picture was more recent. In this book, our goal is to get the whole picture. Anyway, this bit helps to see Josephus’ patterns more clearly, which helps us know how to re-order the events of his narrative. It’s complex, but not impossible!)
In Rome, the Fifty Elders take Varus’ letter to the Forum. They find an official and ask permission to give it to the Emperor personally. The official tells them to come back in a few days, when Caesar is hearing court cases.
So they waited.
While they were waiting, the Synagogue in Rome heard that the Fifty Jews who’d just arrived from Jerusalem were actually wealthy members of the Sanhedrin! (The whole Jewish community had already been buzzing about what was going on in Israel, since the Herodians arrived. So they knew this new development must be a really big deal!)
As soon as that news got around, the Synagogue Ruler found the Fifty Elders. First, he offered them all the support he could call upon. Then, he invited them to a special meeting of the whole Jewish Community, to allow them to speak to the people.
At that time, there were over Eight Thousand Jews, living in Rome. Every one of them wanted to meet the famous Jerusalem Sanhedrin.
So the Synagogue Ruler found an empty field, outside the city, where they could all meet on Saturday. By custom, they found a hilly spot by the banks of the Tiber River. And the Elders stood at a high point and talked about why they had come.
When the Elders finished speaking, there were about 8,000 Jews ready to help. They wrote a petition, supporting the Elders. In the petition, they all requested the opportunity to speak to Caesar, for Israel. All 8,000 signed it, or made their mark.
The Synagogue Ruler (and his local elders) thought this would help. They believed Caesar might listen to so many voices, living right there in Rome. (FN: None of these men were Roman citizens, so far as we know. So they had no rights to stand before Caesar. However, the Fifty Elders were getting in on Varus’ recommendation. And the 8,000 hoped to be “heard” simply by their sheer number of “voices”. They knew Roman leaders would always show a little respect for a “mob”!)
So, a few days later, the Fifty Elders went back to the Forum.
That day, Augustus Caesar was sitting on his judgment seat, hearing cases. All day long, the Fifty Elders waited while the Emperor handed down judgments in case after case. Finally, Augustus’ aides informed him about the Jews.
Caesar invited the Elders to speak. He listend. Then he explained to them all the things they didn’t know.
Augustus tells the Elders that a rebellion broke out right after they left Israel. He explains that he can’t decide anything about Israel until Varus – whose support they claim – is able to restore peace, back there.
The Jews were discouraged. But Caesar wasn’t done.
Secretly, inside, Caesar saw another opportunity. The Emperor knew Archelaus and the Herodians were still waiting. Herod’s will was still in dispute. But here were the people of Herod’s land – offering themselves to him, as willing subjects! In all this, Augustus saw an opportunity to increase Rome’s power and influence.
Shrewdly, Augustus decided to keep all options open, at this point.
Caesar asked the Jews from Jerusalem if they were willing to stay in the city a while. He told them he would consider their request, and give them a proper hearing when the peace was settled.
So then, with renewed hope, the Fifty Elders thanked the Emperor. They also took that moment to tell him about the Roman Synagogue.
When Augustus learned that 8,000 Jews wanted to be at this hearing, he had a new problem. It was easy enough to allow them in, but where to do it? He didn’t want to let non-citizens assemble in the Forum. And he didn’t want to use any of Rome’s theaters, or arenas.
Augustus knew at least one pagan temple with a courtyard that would be just the right size. But he wasn’t sure how the Jews would feel about meeting in a pagan Temple.
So Caesar decided to test them. If they wanted to join a Roman Province, he wanted to see how well they could handle standing around in a Roman Temple.
But he didn’t tell the Jews about this, yet.
Caesar waited to hear more news from Judea. So did all the others, in Rome The Fifty Elders, the whole Roman Synagogue, and the Herodian Royal Family – all of them… waiting to hear about Israel.
So, let’s not keep them waiting too much longer.
Let’s get back to Israel!
Remember, when we left Israel, it was still July 3rd.
At Jerusalem, after the Jewish Army fled, Varus met with the Legion commanders and the local leaders, too.
Then he wanted to survey the situation. There were still many rebels at large.
For starters, there was Simon the Slave and his group from Jericho.
Reports had come to Jerusalem about ‘Simon the King’, and the trouble he was causing. Simon’s rebels were still looting and burning palaces east of Judea, in Peraea, near the Jordan. But Varus didn’t want to send his soldiers that far away, just yet. Besides, he had a much better option.
The Governor turned to Rufus & Gratus.
Varus knew these two Greek commanders were loyal to Rome. The Legion reported how they left the Herodian Army when it revolted, at Pentecost. And Varus wanted to reward their loyalty by putting it to use!
So the Governor sent Rufus & Gratus, with the 3,000 Sebastian troops, after Simon’s gang.
(More on that, later.)
Next, Varus focused his attention on Judea.
It was still early July.
The Governor remembered the first rebellion (in Judea, in May). That one died quickly, but started right up again.
Varus didn’t want to let that happen again! So he divided his Legions into search parties and sent them all over Judea.
These Romans went out by cohorts, to every town. The cohorts hunted down anyone who had been a leader in the rebellions. Then they took those leaders back to Varus, as prisoners.
This took a while. A steady stream of prisoners came back to Jerusalem, for weeks.
Varus judged the prisoners himself. The Governor alone decided the fate of each man. He let some go free. Many others, he condemned to be crucified.
The Legionnaires started putting up crosses. Some they built and sunk into post-holes. Many times, they just used trees. But almost every place they found, for the crucifixions, was along one of the roads leading into Jerusalem.
The Governor wanted this punishment to leave a lasting impression.
Now, most men take two or three days to die, on a cross. (FN: SEE BELOW!!!) When one prisoner died, they put up another one in his place. When new prisoners were judged, the Romans didn’t build more crosses. They just kept them in chains until a spot opened up!
(FN: Legs were broken to keep crucified men from pushing up, to take a breath. Crucifixion kills by asphyxiation – a slow loss of the ability to breathe, because you’re hanging there by your arms. Men with strong legs could push-up on the tree once every few minutes, to take a breath. When you ran out of strength, you ran out of breath. Jesus died in six hours on the cross because he hadn’t slept the night before, and he’d been beaten close to death, before morning. His physical body just ran out of strength.)
The Romans found about a hundred places, close to Jerusalem, where they could crucify prisoners. They didn’t need more crosses, because the new prisoners came in waves, and waited in chains. Besides, the Romans were taking their time.
Varus wanted these executions to linger in the minds of everyone who saw it. He wanted to be sure the punishment really worked!
So they crucified the first hundred men right away. The oldest ones and the injured ones didn’t last more than a day. The youngest and the strongest men lasted two or three days, before dying. Any prisoner still alive after three days got their legs broken.
The Romans kept a steady stream of dying men on crosses and trees, outside Jerusalem, for several weeks. More prisoners kept coming in. And Varus kept judging them.
It went on like this for the rest of the month. (By late July, the judging will be over, but the killings are going to last into August.)
Only a couple of things disturbed Varus’ focus, during his judging.
The first interruption wasn’t big. But it was important.
Varus made sure the Arabians stayed to witness the first crucifixions. Then, after the first couple of days, he let them go.
So King Aretas and his Nabatean Army marched away from Jerusalem in late July.
Then, Varus wrote an angry report about their actions, to Caesar.
The Nabatean Army, under Aretas, had disobeyed Varus. They had been unruly, out of line, and uncontrollable. The Nabateans had looted towns without permission, more than once. And they had kept doing it, after Varus asked Aretas to make it stop.
On top of all that was the two villages that were totally destroyed by the Nabatean unit that went rogue and left the rest of the Army, in early July.
Varus knew how upset Caesar was going to be, about this. Augustus’ first two options were going to be: 1) punish Nabatea, or 2) punish Aretas.
So the Governor wrote the letter, because he had to. But he knew he was making more work for next year.
We will see how Caesar punishes Aretas, next year. But it won’t be by Varus! Quinctillius Varus is going to finish his three years as Governor in 3 BC. His replacement will come from Rome by July.
So for now, Varus kept judging prisoners.
And then the second interruption happened.
It came during the first week of judgments. It was right after the Arabians left, and only a handful of days after the Jewish Army ran away. (Still early July, then.)
A new rebel army showed up!
Out of nowhere, 10,000 men had assembled in a plain nearby.
Now, most of these ten-thousand were the same men who’d fled from Varus on July 3rd. After a few days to find each other, and build up supplies…
They hid in the hills a few more days, and sent a spy towards Jerusalem. The spy saw Rufus & Gratus leave with the 3,000 Sebastians. The spy also saw Varus break up Legion ____ and send it away. Quickly, the spy hurried back with this exciting news.
A couple of days later, from the hills, they saw the Arabian Army marching back to Nabatea. Varus had now sent away over 13,000 of his troops. (FN: He still had the original Legion XII, plus the 1,500 troops from Berytus, and probably 5,000 Cappadocians – for a grand total of (roughly) 12,000 men on hand. Plus another 11,000 (two Legions) in Judea and Galilee.)
The New Rebel Army wasted no more time. They let the Arabians get a day further away. Then they came down, out of the hills, into a plain near Jerusalem.
These 10,000 didn’t wait for more information. They were short on supplies, and they figured now was their best chance. Besides, morale was getting low, and the rallying cry of “Independence for Israel” wasn’t going to last long without food or victories.
So the 10,000 lined up, in a plain near Jerusalem.
Varus heard about it, and brought his 12,000 to line up against them.
But Varus knew he didn’t have a big advantage. The Rebels were fighting for their homeland, and for their freedom. And the Roman Legions (__ & __) were two days away, at best. So, wisely, the Governor preferred not to fight.
Varus sent someone over to talk, and he learned something new. Most of the Leaders of the New Rebel Army… were all kin to Herod!
So Varus sent over Herod’s cousin, Achiabus. (Remember, Achiabus saved Herod from suicide (in March), led forces against the Veteran Army (in late May), and joined the Romans after Varus marched to the Fort on July 3rd.)
Achiabus went over to talk with his cousins and kinfolk, the Leaders of the Rebel Army.
Now, Achiabus had three key advantages. That is, Achiabus knew three things the Rebels didn’t: They didn’t know about the Legion in Galilee. They didn’t know the Legion ___ had stayed within Judea. And they didn’t know about the crucifixions.
Achiabus talked a while, and told them his view. He said they were actually fighting against Israel, not for it. He told them Rome was their friend, not their enemy, and they needed to wait until Caesar had ruled on the will, to see what would happen next.
The Rebels weren’t convinced. They still thought 10,000 against 12,000 might be worth trying. So Achiabus told them the other two Legions were still in Israel – another 11,000 Roman soldiers to fight – eventually. This almost convinced them.
Then Achiabus told them about the crucifixions. He told them Varus didn’t want to fight, and he didn’t want to crucify them. Achiabus told them Varus would be happy to show mercy, since he was already showing his wrath.
Achiabus told them, basically, “Surrender, and we let you live.”
This convinced them. The 10,000 Jewish Rebels disarmed and disbanded.
The Army was set free to go back to their homes. But the Leaders were put in chains.
Varus told the Leaders he would not judge them or kill them. He was going to let Caesar make that decision!
A cohort of soldiers marched the Leaders in chains to the Sea. They reached Caesarea after four days of normal walking. Then they sailed for Rome.
By now, it was mid-July. And the Sea Winds blow hard against Israel during August.
Every ship captain knew it took longer to get West, in late summer. The only way to Rome was to go around Cyprus, staying close to land. From there, it was underneath Asia Minor and Crete, to the bottoms of Greece and Italy. The route made a 6 week trip twice as long, and sailing season would be over by mid-October.
The Soldiers and their prisoners (the Rebel Leaders, kinfolk of Herod) had just enough time to get there, before winter.
October in Italy is starting to look like a big time Herodian reunion… The only Herodian not in Italy, or heading there, right now, was Philip.
But Philip’s going to head there too, very soon.
August, 4 BC
The War in Israel was pretty much over.
But the results were only starting to play themselves out.
When Varus left Judea in late July, he had an 8 day ride back to Antioch. That’s eight days, at fifty miles per day, changing horses every night. (FN: Varus used the Governor’s seal to demand fresh horses. Also, a group of armed men rode with him, for protection.)
There were plenty of reasons for Varus to get back to Antioch. First of all, the war in Judea was pretty much over. (FN: Gratus & Rufus were still hunting Simon, and Athronges was laying low in southern Judea & Idumea.) Besides that, the Governor was tired of the killing, and didn’t care to watch the ongoing crucifixions.
But there were two reasons why Varus was hurrying back.
Varus wanted to correct a mistake. And he wanted to help his friend, Philip.
The Governor had learned a lot about Israel, in just this past summer. In May, he’d supported the Sanhedrin and agreed with their desire to have no king. But that was before the two months of war! Now, after dealing with the Jews’ zeal and vigor up close, Varus saw the need for a strong King to rule them. (FN: Of course, this had been Herod’s view all along, as Varus learned from Philip.)
Varus had to reverse his support of the Sanhedrin.
The Governor now believed Herod’s children must rule Israel. Varus overlooked his dislike of Archelaus and decided to back him, in a letter.
But that was not all. Varus felt Israel needed a king, but he didn’t think any of the three Herodian heirs were strong enough, alone, to be that man. But the Governor knew that Herod’s will suggested a three-way break-up of Israel. Varus knew Caesar would consider this the best of all options, once the Emperor had all the facts.
Varus knew his final letters would cause Caesar to split up the country.
So Varus hurried up to Antioch to tell Philip.
Because Varus wanted his new friend Philip to get a share of the split!
So the Governor rode at top speed, changing horses each day, and made it back to Antioch in eight days.
In Antioch, Varus had his servants pack Philip’s things, and the two men talked during their ride down to the Sea. One day’s carriage ride later, they reached the port of Selucia, Syria.
On the ride to Selucia, Varus wrote three separate letters to Caesar.
First, he wrote his last report to Caesar, on the War. Varus told the Emperor every detail, up to then. He wrote that there were still prisoners being executed, and one band left to round up. But, Varus said, the Rebellion was over, and Israel was secure.
Next, Varus wrote a letter about his changing views on Israel. He noted his earlier support for the Fifty Elders, and said he no longer felt that way. In this letter, Varus now threw his whole support behind Archelaus, for the throne. (This was the same version of the will that would make Antipas and Philip into regional Tetrarchs.)
Finally, Varus wrote a third letter to Caesar. This final letter was to introduce Philip and to give the Emperor a high opinion of the young Herodan.
Varus handed these three letters to Philip.
Then Philip got on a boat there, at Selcuia, and sailed away from Syria.
By now, August was less than a week old.
The heavy winds had come, blowing hard from the Northwest.
Luckily, Philip’s boat was already at the North end of the Sea. So they sailed east, along the coast and under Crete. (FN: With the sails turned a certain way, they could make steady progress due West, into the face of a NW wind. Sailors call this “tacking to the wind”.)
This was the same route Varus sent the Herodian prisoners on, from Judea. (See July.) Philip was leaving a couple of weeks after them. But Philip’s trip was shorter by about 265 nautical miles!
Anyway, when it all works out, Philip’s boat and the Herodian prisoners’ boat are going to reach Italy at about the same time.
They all had just enough time to get to Rome, before October.
Meanwhile, in Rome, everyone kept waiting.
The Herodians were waiting. The Fifty Elders were waiting. And the 8,000 Synagogue Jews were waiting. They were waiting for the official word that the war was over in Israel.
In other words, they were waiting for Varus’ letter. Which was now on it’s way.
Another several weeks away… but still, on it’s way!
In Judea, Legion Twelve kept crucifying prisoners.
All month long!
Each day, as they did in late July, Roman soldiers inspected all the trees and crosses. As before, they broke the legs of anyone who was taking too long to die. They pulled down anyone who was actually dead. And they put up new prisoners as often as a spot was open.
They kept taking down about 30 to 40 corpses each day, on about a hundred or so crosses. At that rate, the killings would be over before mid-September.
Roughly one-half of the 2,000 crucifixions took place in August.
One last thing, that happened in August…
In Perea, near the Jordan River, Gratus & Rufus finally cornered Simon the Slave.
They’d spent most of July hunting Simon down. During that time, Simon and his gang had been palace hopping!
Herod the Great kept palaces all over Israel, including some in East Judea and Perea, by the Jordan. Remember, Simon sparked his rebels by burning the Jericho Palace, in May. Then he put on a crown and they proclaimed him the King. Remember also that Simon tried to burn down Herod’s Jerusalem Palace on June 2nd, at Pentecost. But a lot of his rebels were killed in the Temple that day.
So, since June, Simon had been rebuilding his group. Together, they’d looted and burned down a few more Palaces, around Israel. But mostly, they’d stayed near the Jordan River and close to Jericho, where Simon had begun.
By late July, Simon was on the run from Gratus & Rufus. His group moved north, up the River. But they didn’t get far.
By August, Simon had to stand and fight. Gratus and his Roman cohorts from Legion Twelve had caught up!
There was a long, heavy battle. Simon’s mob fought like wild men. But the Romans knew what they were doing. By the end of the battle, most of the rebels were destroyed.
Simon himself tried to run away down a ravine. But Gratus personally cut him off – and then cut his head off!
The Romans with Gratus & Rufus secured all the loot taken by Simon and his mob. The cohort claimed possession of these (Herod’s) riches in the name of Caesar. And Israel’s wealth shrank a bit more.
When all that was done, Gratus, Rufus & the Roman cohorts marched back to Jerusalem.
And they rejoined the rest of Legion Twelve some time before September . . .
September, 4 BC
Here’s what was happening at the start of September, in Israel.
Galilee was quiet. The Jordan region was free from Simon’s mobs. And the rebel Athronges was still laying low around Idumea, with his brothers.
As for Judea, Legion Twelve had everything under control.
The Romans finished the last of their crucifixions before mid-September. All together, about 2,000 rebels had been executed. The killings had lasted about two months – which was as long as the uprising had lasted themselves! (FN: The rebellion lasted from early May to early July. The crucifixions went from mid July to early September.)
Nobody still breathing air in Judea had any desire to start fighting again.
Which was a very good thing… for them!
Saturday, September 22nd was Tishri 1st in Israel – the first day of the Civic New Year. (FN: The New Year actually began at sunset on September 21st.)
So, at sunset the evening before, a trumpet blew.
The high priest Joazar, son of Boethus, stood in the Temple Yard. Climbing a large pile of rubble (because the walls around the Temple had all burned down), Joazar sounded his horn.
All over Jerusalem, that evening, the Jews knew what it meant.
The trumpet signaled the start of the high holy days in Israel. The next three weeks were a sacred season, each Autumn. (FN: This particular year, the Civic New Year marks the beginning of a “Preparation Year” – the 6th year of a Sabbatical Cycle – the year when Israel was supposed to expect a double harvest from the land, to store up for their Year of Rest.)
The Jews were grateful the killings had ended, before that trumpet blew.
The crosses outside the city had all been taken down. But many trees along those roads were still stained with blood. And there were still blood stains in the city streets. And on the piles of stones around the Temple.
The last major festivals of the year were coming. Everyone hoped they would be peaceful.
Of course, Varus had left Legion Twelve camped there, to make sure of it.
Meanwhile, in Rome… everyone was still waiting.
Archelaus, Antipas, Salome, Ptolemy & Nicolas, and the rest of the Herodians… The Fifty Elders and the 8,000 Jews from the Roman Synagogues… Even the Emperor Augustus Caesar himself!
At the start of September, all of them were waiting on news from Judea.
Remember, Varus had written the letter in early August. Actually, he’d written three letters. And he’d handed them all to Philip.
Philip, who was still a few weeks away from Rome!
At least, when September began, Philip’s ship could start to speed up. By the time those strong August winds were over, Philip’s boat was beneath Crete, about half-way to Italy.
But the young Prince wouldn’t get to Rome until October.
At least that other group sailing to Rome was a little bit ahead of Philip.
The Leaders of those last 10,000 rebels in Judea… about a Hundred Prisoners… many of whom were Herod’s kin… were coming to Rome in chains.
Their ship had left Caesarea-by-the-Sea in late July, sailed north around Cyprus, past Lycia and turned underneath Crete. A ways ahead of Philip’s boat, these Hundred Prisoners made it to Rome in late September.
The Soldiers assigned to them brought the Hundred Prisoners to stand before Caesar.
The Emperor read the Letter from Varus about the Hundred Prisoners. The Soldiers from Judea told Caesar it had been the last battle. But Augustus didn’t see that fact stated in Varus’ letter.
So the Emperor kept waiting for a final judgment from Varus, about whether the war was over.
Meanwhile, Augustus judged the Hundred Prisoners. He freed most of them. But he punished the ones who were Herod’s kinfolk.
The Emperor called for the Herodian Family who were waiting at Rome. And he made them listen, and watch the punishment.
Caesar explained to all the Herodians, including the prisoners, what they’d done wrong.
And the Royal Family learned something about Augustus’ strong views on family.
Caesar said the punishment was because these Prisoners had fought against their own kin! They had rebelled in a country that they knew was belonging to Herod’s heirs.
Augustus said it was shamefully unjust to fight against one’s own kinfolk.
Then, after the punishment, the Royal Family was dismissed. Suddenly, those who’d supported Antipas (against Archelaus) realized they had no hope, in Caesar’s court.
With this – plus knowing there were 8,050 Jews coming to oppose them all – the Royal Family unified around Archelaus.
It was the only thing they could do.
As they continued to wait…
Philip’s boat landed in Italy before the last day of September.
And the young Prince began walking towards Rome, with Varus’ three letters.
The time for Caesar to rule on the will was coming soon…
In fact, it’ll happen next month, in October!
October, 4 BC
Herod’s youngest son, Philip, finally reached Rome. It was the very first days of October.
In the Forum, Philip told Caesar’s officials he had three letters from the Governor of Syria. And the officials brought him straight to Caesar’s Palace.
The Emperor read the letters. One said the war was over. One was Varus’ stand in favor of Archelaus (and against the Fifty Elders). The last one told Caesar who Philip was, and praised the young Prince highly.
The Emperor asked Philip some questions. Then he sent the young man to meet his family.
Caesar told Philp to let them know – it was finally time to rule on Herod’s will.
And Augustus set a date for the hearing in the second half of the month.
Back in Israel, the High Holy Days were in full swing.
Early in the morning of October 1st, the high priest was presiding over the sacred Day of Atonement.
Three days later was the Festival of Booths. Everyone in Jerusalem built shelters outside their homes, for a week. The booths reminded them of when Moses and their people lived in tents, in the wilderness.
Jews all over Judea were grateful for the Autumn harvest – all the fruits and vines had come ripe around late September.
And the High Holy Season passed with no trouble.
So everyone in Judea was grateful… especially the 4,000 Roman Soldiers camped outside Jerusalem. They were glad that Varus’ methods of ending the rebellion had worked.
And speaking of that...
As usual, thousands of Pilgrims came into Jerusalem for the Holy Season. Every road they came in on was surrounded by bloody trees, near the city. Everyone they asked, in the city, told them the horrible story of Varus’ crucifixions. And when the Pilgrims left, a week later, they walked past those bloody trees again. And they shuddered.
Of course, this all proved that Varus was a cruel but brilliant man.
The Governor had made sure the killings would end before the Holy Days. But he also made sure they would still be fresh news, at the festival.
Varus was that calculating. Two-thousand crosses bought decades of peace.
There would not be another major uprising in Judea for 69 years.
On October 15th, as they did each year, the city of Rome celebrated their own Harvest Festival.
Caesar’s date for the hearing was just a few days after that.
Since 8,000 local Jews were coming to witness the event, Augustus held the meeting at the Temple of Apollo. (FN: Augustus himself had built the Temple of Apollo. So it was one of the largest and grandest temples in Rome. It was large enough to hold the meeting. It was impressive enough (and pagan enough) to help emphasize to the Jews who was really in control.)
The Emperor’s judgment seat was placed on the top temple step. His top advisors and other leading Romans sat across the top, with Augustus. Archelaus and his friends stood below the steps, facing the Emperor, on one side of the temple courtyard. The Fifty Elders from Jerusalem stood on the other side of the yard. Finally, the 8,000 Roman Jews filled up the rest of the courtyard behind them.
It would have been hard to hold the meeting anywhere else!
Now, Archelaus’ supporters stood by him, in the front. Mainly, this included his chief advisor, Nicolas of Damascus. But Antipas, Salome, Philip and the other Herodians stood a ways behind Archelaus’ group.
Antipas’ group didn’t want to show any direct support for Archelaus. They were hoping Caesar would remember their earlier arguments, in July. But they remembered the lesson from September, when Caesar judged their kinfolk, the Prisoners from Judea.
Antipas’ group knew better than to offend Caesar. With 8,000 witnesses present, the Emperor would detest them for openly opposing a family member. So Antipas’ group just stayed silent. So did Philip.
Besides, Philip had told them what Varus predicted, and what he wrote in his letters. They were expecting Caesar to split Israel into three parts.
Now the meeting was ready to begin.
Caesar motioned for the Fifty Elders to speak first.
One of the Elders got up and made a long speech. Mostly, the Elder accused the dead King Herod of many crimes during his rule. Basically, the Elder said Herod left Israel in poverty, treated the wealthy Jews with cruelty, and treated their women very wickedly.
Then the Elder spoke about Archelaus. He said the young Prince had claimed the title “king” before Caesar had approved it. (This was true.) Then the Elder said that Archelaus had already proven what kind of ruler he would be. He said the slaughter of the 3,000 at Passover showed Archelaus was going to be just as cruel as his father Herod ever was.
Finally, the Elder officially asked Caesar to deliver Israel from all Kings. (FN: see below.) Humbly and obediently, the Elder requested that the Emperor consider putting all of Israel inside the Province of Syria.
(FN: This is ironic. The Jews said they didn’t want a King, but they didn’t mind being subject to an Emperor! Their true motive must have been obvious to Caesar – they simply preferred to keep their “King” as far away as possible. Even though Augustus avoided the title of King, the Jews saw him as one, and wanted him to be theirs. PARBR. The Jews were still over three decades from yelling out “We have no King but Caesar!” But 4 BC was the year when they first desired it to be true.)
Then the Elder stepped down.
Now it was Archelaus’ turn. Wisely, the young Prince had his Chief Advisor speak for him.
So Nicolas of Damascus came up to speak.
Nicolas complained it was unfair for the Jews to accuse Herod of anything, after his death. Besides, Nicolas said, the Jews had never said such things when the king was alive.
Next, Nicolas knew he couldn’t argue against the early-crown issue. So he ignored it! But he did defend Archelaus about the Passover slaughter. About that, Nicolas blamed the whole thing on the pilgrims who first started the stoning.
Finally, Nicolas said the whole rebellion was not the Royal Family’s fault. He said Israel’s city councils had refused to train their people into obedience. Nicolas said the people of Israel were always very selfish, and resisted the rule of law over them.
(FN: This last argument was shrewd, because it agreed with Varus’ final opinion. Basically, Nicolas suggested that the Jews were simply difficult to rule over, no matter who was ruling them. In other words, the clever Advisor was king of saying, “You don’t really want to burden your Governors with such unruly subjects.” And the implication was, “Let us do it. We’re used to it.”)
So that was all Nicolas had to say. And then he stepped down.
Now that Augustus had heard from both sides, he ended the meeting.
The Emperor told the people he would consider everything. He dismissed them all, and they went away.
And then, true to his word, Caesar considered things. (FN: True to his character, Augustus decides slowly. From all angles, it seems like he already knew what he was going to decide. But one of the Emperor’s favorite sayings was, “Make haste slowly.” This was just one of his habits – Augustus always gave himself time to think things over.)
A few days later, Caesar made his decision.
Augustus sent messengers around Rome to tell everyone the news. The Herodian Royal Family, the Fifty Elders, and the Synagogues of Rome… everyone found out the same day.
The Emperor had decided that Herod’s last will should stand. (FN: That meant the last minute notes Herod made to his will, in the few days before his death in March.) Caesar made only one change.
Archelaus was not made “King” of anything. Instead, Caesar named him “Ethnarch” of the Jews in Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Now, an “Ethnarch” only rules the people of his same race, in the region. That meant Archelaus was not in charge of any Greek towns or cities in that region!
In fact, Caesar put the Greek cities all over Israel into the province of Syria. But the Jewish cities were all left under the Herodians.
This wasn’t random. When the Fifty Elders spoke to Caesar, they spoke for all the Jewish cities AND all the Greek cities in Israel. (Remember, Herod had invited the Leading Men from every city in Israel to that meeting at Jericho in March. That included the Greek cities!)
(FN: Remember, back in March, when Herod invited all “the leading men of Israel” to a meeting in Jericho? It seems now that Herod must have included the Greek cities of Israel, also. So then, when the Fifty Elders told Varus (in early May) that all Israel wanted to join Syria, they meant that was also true of the Greek cities. And the Fifty Elders told Caesar the same thing, in July.)
In other words – Caesar gave the Greek cities what the Jews told him the Greek cities wanted. But the Jews who gave the message were denied the same reward!
Augustus had read all of Varus’ reports, through the summer. So Caesar knew the Greeks and Arabs in Israel had not revolted. And when Varus’ last report suggested the Jews needed to be ruled by Herodians – well, by that time, Caesar could see why.
So the Emperor gave the Greeks what they wanted. The cities of Gaza, Gadara and Hippus, among others, were taken away from Archelaus and given to Syria.
Now, some cities were mixed. Caesarea-by-the-Sea (FN: This place used to be called “Strato’s Tower”.) and Sebaste (in Samaria) were about 50/50, Jews and Greeks. But Herod had built Caesarea, and the Samaritans were descended from the Jews. So Augustus left Caesarea and all Samaria under Archelaus.
Then Caesar felt the Samaritans deserved at least some reward for not rebelling. So he reduced their tribute by twenty-five percent. (This, by the way, also reduced Archelaus’ annual income.)
Finally, Augustus gave Archelaus the Ethnarch one promise. Caesar told Archelaus he might still grant the title of “king” if the young man could prove he deserved it, over time.
Those were the changes Caesar made to Judea, Samaria and Idumea. Jerusalem, of course, was left solidly in the young Ethnarch’s hands.
Now, what about Archelaus’ two brothers? And what about the rest of Israel?
First of all, the Greek cities of Galilee, Peraea, and the other regions all joined Syria. But the Jewish cities in those regions were divided up among Antipas and Philip.
Antipas became “Tetrarch” over Galilee and also Perea – the thin region up and down the Jordan River.
Philip became “Tetrarch” over the old Kingdom of Zenodorus. This were lands Herod received from Caesar in 20 BC, and they included these regions: Trachonitis, the Golan Heights, Auranitis, Batanaea, and Ituraea.
And that is how Israel was divided into three parts.
But that wasn’t all, for Herod’s will.
With all the land split up, the next issue was money.
First of all, Herod the Great used to expect an annual income of several thousand talents – much more than 1,000 talents a year. This was from all his territories, plus other revenue. (FN: It’s interesting Josephus doesn’t mention the copper mines of Cyprus, whose income Herod used to share with Caesar. Oh, well!) But now that the Greek cities were under Syria, their annual tribute money would go to the Province. So Israel was much poorer, now, than before.
Still, the Herodian brothers had a good income! Archelaus was able to expect 600 talents from his territories. Antipas could get 200 talents a year. And Philip – with the rough country and the mountains – could expect about 100 talents every spring.
(FN: Sometimes, people add these three numbers to estimate what Herod used to make in income. But truly, Herod probably took in much more, through any means necessary. And on top of that, was the income from the Greek cities and his copper mines, already mentioned. In truth, Archelaus was now ruling about half of what Herod used to, but he may have had only a third of the revenue Herod used to rule it with!)
Herod the Great even left land & money to his sister, Salome. Three cities – Jamneia, Azotus, and Phasaelis – added up to give her 60 talents a year. And Caesar himself gave her the Palace as Ascalon in Judea, near the Sea.
So “Aunt Salome” got to live in Archelaus’ territory, off the money from cities that should have been his.
Caesar and his wife Livia got money and expensive gifts, from Herod’s will. The Emperor declined most of it, with respect. But he kept a few precious items to remember Herod by.
Herod left small gifts to many other relatives, too.
But, of course, the people of Israel got nothing!
As the Elder said at Apollos’s Temple, Herod had drained Israel dry. But now the people had to keep supporting a Royal Family whose treasure vaults and Palaces had been cleaned out, in the war!
Now, it’s normal to say almost everyone in the ancient world was poor, anyway. But this was extreme. Naturally, the Royal Family was going to stay rich. But the rest of Israel was going to have money problems for some time to come.
For example, the Council at Jerusalem is going to have money trouble soon… very soon.
As soon as, say, next month!
We’re done with Rome, now, for 4 BC.
When Caesar sent word on his ruling, he went back to other business.
(FN: The gap in Dio Cassius’ text means we have no specific idea what else Caesar might have been doing this year. But based on Josephus alone, it does seem like he spent most if not all of the year in Rome.)
The Fifty Elders and the Herodians had nothing left to do in Rome. So they started making travel plans for Israel.
Which is going to take us right into the month of November…
Nov-Dec, 4 BC
By the first of November, the Herodians had been in Rome nearly six months!
It was time to go home.
But since it was November, they had a problem. No one was sailing! So Archelaus, Nicolas, Ptolemy, Antipas, Aunt Salome, Philip and the others… all of them… had two options.
They could go by land, through the winter. Or they could wait for spring, and sail.
The new Ethnarch of South Israel knew he had to get back fast. Archelaus took Ptolemy and some of his young friends overland. They bought horses for the 2,400 mile trip. At 30 miles per day, it was going to take Archelaus & Ptolemy about 80 days to get back to Jerusalem.
It was also going to be 80 nights! So Archelaus asked Caesar for a few soldiers to escort them. And Augustus easily agreed to this, since it added to the security of the Empire.
With the Roman soldiers, Archelaus could stay free at every inn they passed, on the way.
The Ethnarch and his advisor were looking to get home around late January or so. They had a lot to do, in Judea
Archelaus left his family to make their own plans. Most of them waited for Spring. (FN: Neither Antipas nor Philip had the pressing need to get back that Archelaus did. Judea was the only region where the rebellion had grown large and lingered. At any rate, we know Archelaus and Ptolemy have to be involved in hunting down Athronges’ brothers. So those two, at least, must have hurried back from Rome, overland.)
They didn’t have as much to hurry back for, as Archelaus did.
Now, what about the Fifty Elders?
Unlike the Herodians, they only had one option to choose from.
As long as they stayed in Rome, the Sanhedrin members could live off the admiration and generosity of the local Synagogues, for a few months. But they didn’t have enough travel money to buy fifty horses, let alone fifty rooms and meals a night.
Besides that was simply the trouble of moving as a 50 person caravan. And don’t forget, they were all old guys! So three months of winter land travel wasn’t much of an option.
So the Fifty Elders stayed in Rome all winter long.
They served and taught a little bit, in the Synagogue. So they could earn their keep.
The Roman Jews told the Elders about the Spring Winds, that come in April. The Elders found out those winds could blow ships from Rome to Egypt in about two weeks! And from Alexandria, it was just a week or so up to Joppa.
The Jewish Elders figured they would be back in Jerusalem by early May. That would mean they’d be gone for exactly one year.
The Fifty were eager to get back to their home.
Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, the City Council had a problem.
The problem was, they were still running the city without 50 of their members!
From the moment those Fifty left, the Sanhedrin Council had dealt with a lot! There were two months of rebellion, the Governor’s return, and the second harvest. In the same period, they had the High Holy Days, with many thousands of pilgrims to manage. And as always, they had the burden of running all the normal business of City Government.
The skeleton crew running the Sanhedrin was tapped out!
Anyway, sometime around November, they had a meeting.
The meeting was mainly about money!
Every year, about this time, the Sanhedrin had to count their money. Their portion of the Fall Harvest had been distributed. The extra amount was sold. And the Fall Holy Season was their last big-revenue month for the year, before winter. (FN: Many of the inns and rooms to rent, in town, were undoubtedly owned by the Sanhedrin, or it’s members. So the Sanhedrin made money on the keeping AND the feeding of the pilgrims, plus the donations they put in at the Temple!)
Besides, the approach of winter was a good time to check their accounts, anyway.
Each year, the Sanhedrin’s main money-goal was survival. Also, they needd to store enough food to feed the very poor. The Council almost never had enough money left for special needs. So big, expensive needs were out of the question.
But this year, the Sanhedrin was looking at one very big, very expensive, very special need.
The Temple Walls had burned down.
Now, five months after Pentecost, the Jews’ Most Holy Place was surrounded by rubble. The Outer Courtyard Wall was gone. The Inner Courtyard Wall and Closets were almost gone. Mercifully, the Temple House itself was still standing. But that House was still sitting in the middle of a disaster zone.
For Five Months, the Council members who were left had been waiting. They’d gotten through the war. They’d overseen the second harvest. They’d settled accounts before the Winter came. And they’d counted their money.
The Sanhedrin counted nearly zero “extra” money in the budget.
So they had no idea how the Temple was going to get cleaned up, and rebuilt.
Of course, the King would have been able to fix it. Of course, they knew, Herod the Great had the power, the money, the contacts, and the resources to get the job done.
But they didn’t.
The King had announced his project in 20 BC. He’d started the work in 18 BC. And Herod had declared it virtually finished just this March, at Purim!
(FN: See note XYZ in March, about the preparation time, between 20 & 18 BC.)
Herod was able to do it in just 14 years!
Now the Jews by themselves only had to rebuild the closets and walls. And they didn’t know if 40 years was going to be enough.
They had only two options. If Caesar ruled for Archelaus, they thought, then they might be able to ask him for some help on the rebuilding project. But still, they were hoping to be part of Syria. (Naturally, they hadn’t heard yet, about the ruling in October.)
The other option was to do it without any Herodian funds. And that was going to take time.
The Sanhedrin members still-in-Jerusalem had to wait, on such a big problem. They didn’t have the money to get started right away. Their partners, the Fifty Elders, were still in Rome. And they didn’t know yet if they were going to be under a Governor or Herod’s son.
They just had to wait. But they knew one thing, at least.
They knew what they wanted.
The Pharisees, Saducees, Priests and Elders on the Jerusalem City Council were sure of this much. They would commit themselves to rebuilding the Temple Complex. They would rebuild it all the way back, like it had been in May of this year.
The Sanhedrin would do this, no matter how little money they had left to spend, each year. No matter how many years it took. They were sure. They would get it done, someday. The Council Members knew that much, at least.
But here’s what they didn’t know!
It was going to take them until 29 AD.
The Project that Herod finished in 14 years. The damaged parts of which took him 12 of those 14 years. The work That Herod did in those 12 years…
The Sanhedrin was going to need 32 years.
So Herod’s 14 years, plus the Sanhedrin’s 32 years. That’s 46 years! And it was going to be finished before Passover of 29 AD… which was just in time for the Lord of the Temple to stop by… so He could take a look at it.
(FN: When Jesus comes to his first adult Passover in Jerusalem, he visits the Temple. Some Jews in the Temple tell him “It took forty-six years to build this Temple.” The reference is John 2:20. But the point is this: They said “took”. As in past tense. As in done, over, finished. PAR BRK. Now, it was once observed, and often repeated, that Josephus waits until about 62-63 AD to say that work on the Temple was finally completed. But the “work” of the 50’s and 60’s was a renovation. Namely, Herod Agrippa II paid to have the Temple Courtyards PAVED. (See note XYZ in April, 4 BC, when the courtyard was full of stones.))
But that’s a story for a future Year Book!
For now, it’s November of 4 BC. The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was like most City Councils in the ancient world. They had very little extra to work with.
(FN: Most ancient cities were built by Kings. Most major city improvements were paid for by Kings. Whether it was Walls, Temples, Theaters, Hippodromes or whatever – very little that was truly large was ever actually built without King-Level money.)
For now, the Temple Complex was going to have to wait, in its own rubble.
There was one spot of good news, about the Temple Walls.
At least the Romans were still around to protect the Holy City.
Yes, Legion Twelve was STILL camped outside Jerusalem, in November. In fact, they were going to be there for December, too. And the rest of the winter.
The Legion Varus left at Jerusalem was going to stay there as long as it took.
Now, next year in the early spring, Archelaus will come back. And he’ll start rebuilding the Royal Army. And at some point in 3 BC, the Legion will break camp.
But it’s going to be around a year or more, total time, that Legion XII was there.
The Jews in Judea were getting used to Rome’s presence. And to Rome’s power. The Jews were also getting used to Rome’s protection!
(FN: In 6 AD, when Rome starts direct taxation of Israel, Galilee revolts. But Judea doesn’t revolt. Among all the other reasons that comes true, this winter of benevolent protection isn’t the least on that list. The Jews were learning Roman soldiers were often good to have around.)
The Legion not only protected Jerusalem. They also went out patrolling Judea.
And that was when the Shepherd-King Athronges made his move.
And now, finally, this very long year is almost over.
Here is the last new thing that happened, in 4 BC.
Remember Athronges the Shepherd? Back in May, Athronges put on a crown and started acting like a King, in the South. He was very strong, so he could do whatever he wanted.
Athronges and his Four Brothers led Five Bands around Southern Judea and Idumea. They moved around. They took what they wanted. And they killed people who stood up to them.
They’d gotten used to the killing. They started enjoying it. One time, they attacked a Roman supply-line at Emmaus, back in May. And they shot arrows at the Romans from the Hippodrome, at Pentecost.
Okay. Remember Athronges, now?
Anyway, Athronges & his Five Bands had been laying low since Pentecost. They’d taken so much gold and money from Herod’s Palace at Jerusalem, they didn’t have to raid.
Athronges & his men had been living off that treasure for over five months! In May, they’d lived like Kings by being tough. After that, they kept the same lifestyle, just from their Pentecost loot. They did whatever they wanted. And they got whatever they wanted. Just like before.
Athronges & his brothers were living like Kings.
And then the money ran out.
Athronges & his Four Brothers knew Legion Twelve was still around. But they couldn’t afford to lay low any longer. They’d gotten used to their new lifestyle. And their Five Bands of men had gotten used to eating well.
They didn’t want to go back to their poverty.
So they went back to killing and stealing.
For the rest of November & December, of 4 BC, Athronges’ Five Bands moved around Southern Israel, causing trouble.
The Roman patrols chased them, some. And Athronges’ men attacked the Romans patrols, every once in a while. But the bandit-raiders always escaped quickly.
The Five Bands kept moving around. They caused a ton of trouble for the Romans. And they managed to stay at large, through the end of the year.
(FN: Like all foreign occupiers, the Romans had trouble capturing small bands of enemies they weren’t used to fighting against. Modern readers should not take this as a comment on recent wars. Rome had this problem everywhere it went! For example, Roman Macedonia went almost 200 years before it was fully pacified. This is one reason, by the way, why Caesar & Varus knew they weren’t ready to take over. The Empire had learned, over the centuries. It was always smarter to postpone direct control, if they had reliable client-kings to lean on, instead. PAR BK. Anyway, Athronges & his brothers don’t get beaten by the Roman Legion Twelve. Their Five Bands used “guerrilla tactics” because that’s just what small groups do against a big army. And they disappeared quickly because they knew the land well, and the Romans did not. Again, that’s almost always the way. PAR BK. But the brothers are going to go down when Judea’s Royal forces get back into the fight… see the Epilogue: “After 4 BC”.)
Because of Athronges, people in Judea said they felt like the war was still going on.
So, in that sense, it did. Right up to the end of the year 4 BC.
You should consider Dr. Ernest Martin's work on "The Star Bethlehem" for additional information around the chronology of Herod's death (to 1 BC).
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