May 21, 2007

Year-by-Year: 3 BC

Herod’s three sons begin ruling Israel. Joseph continues keeping Jesus out of Judea. Varus punishes Aretas. And Quirinius ends his war in Galatia.

On January 1st of 3 BC, the Lord Jesus was 3 years old. For much of the year, Jesus spent his time doing what other 3 year olds did in the ancient world. He played in the dirt!

Now, at some later age, Jesus is going to remember when he made that dirt. But first, he needs time to grow into that awareness.

The Father sent Jesus to grow up and live as a human being. So he played in the dirt. And he lived with his parents in Mary’s father’s house, in Nazareth.

Joseph & Mary have been back in Galilee for eight months, now, plus this year. Joseph is finding enough work to help out, while slowly building up his business.

But you know, that’s life!

Things just take time.


And speaking of time… It took most of last year to get Israel settled down, after King Herod died. And now Herod’s son Archelaus was coming back to rule his people, the Jews.

Archelaus & his advisor Ptolemy have been riding back from Rome, since November. A small Roman escort and some of the young Ruler’s friends rode with them.
They had reasons to be in a hurry.

First of all, Archelaus wanted to make sure he saw Passover at Jerusalem. After the troubles last year, the ex-Prince wanted all of Israel to see that Augustus Caesar had made him their “Ethnarch”.

Next, Archelaus knew that Judea had seen most of the fighting in 4 BC. In Rome, he’d heard that his treasury might have been raided. Also, letters claimed the Jerusalem Palace had been threatened at one point. The new Ruler had to find out how much he had left to rule with!

Archelaus’ team reached Jerusalem before February. They had 2 months until Passover, but plenty to do…

Archelaus & Ptolemy had to meet with the Elders of Jerusalem. They met with Gratus, who told them there were still a few rebels at large.

Athronges “the Shepherd-King” was still at large, and his Four Brothers were still running their Bands of Robbers all over South Judea & Idumea. Their Archers would shoot & ride off so fast, the Roman Patrols had nothing but trouble all winter long, trying to find them.

Of course, it was humbling for Archelaus to even think about the Roman Fort sitting outside Jerusalem. No matter what title the Ruler held, the Jews all knew who was really in charge – it was Rome!

Finally, inside the Holy City itself, the Ethnarch found his Royal Palace still standing, but robbed bare! Then he found out the Towers and the Temple Treasury had been cleaned out, too. Plus, the Temple Walls were still in rubble.

What a lousy homecoming!

Basically, Archelaus found out he was still at war… but he couldn’t raise an Army… because he was broke, too!

The only good news was that Spring was coming soon. Springtime was money season for the ruler of Israel. So Archelaus waited for the money to come in.

The only thing the new Jewish Ethnarch actually did, before summer, was a religious duty! To make the people happy, Archelaus deposed the High Priest Joazar, son of Boethus. Then he chose Eleazar, son of Boethus (Joazar’s brother) to be the new High Priest.

Archelaus enjoyed putting in a new High Priest.

He got to prove he was the only one who could!


Now let’s get back to Nazareth.

By late February, everyone had heard that Herod’s son Archelaus was back in Judea. But the rumor was also going around that Galilee had been given to Antipas.

Joseph was thrilled for Nazareth & Galilee to be under Antipas – as long as it kept Archelaus away from Jesus.

The carpenter never forgot the way he’d felt running out of Bethlehem, to save Mary’s child, in 7 BC. That same fear was what came back to him when he heard about Archelaus after last year’s Passover riot.

Of course, it made no sense to imagine that Herod’s son would also try to kill Jesus. (Or that only the worst son was a threat, and not the other two.) But that’s what fear is. Fear doesn’t have to make sense.

Joseph was afraid that Archelaus would hurt Jesus. So he refused to ever bring the child into Judea.

Sure enough, in early April, Joseph & Mary left Jesus with family, during Passover. Like most other Jews in Israel, they went up to the Festival, stayed about a week, and came home. Two months later, Jesus celebrated his 4th birthday.

Joseph simply made it his mission to keep the child safe.


Israel’s Passover came and went peacefully, in 3 BC.

The “Money Season” began to kick in for Archelaus, and for the City Council of Jerusalem, too.

The Sanhedrin was still running the city without Fifty of their Eldest council members. And now they had Archelaus to deal with.

Late last year, the Sanhedrin had hoped they might get some financial help from Archelaus to rebuild the Temple. But now things were going the other way around. The Ethnarch expected a higher percent of the Sanhedrin’s income… he said it was to pay for the war.

The Jerusalem Council realized their new Ruler was going to keep most of Judea poor, so he could get rich again.

Just like his father, Herod, had done.


Meanwhile, Herod’s other children were still in Rome.

Last year, Antipas & Philip didn’t have to hurry back like Archelaus did. So they waited until Passover ended, which was right around the start of sailing season.
Sailing East in the Great Sea is always faster than sailing West. With the right ship, it only takes about a month to reach Palestine.

Antipas & Philip took the Royal Ship down to Egypt, and up to Caesarea. They were home before Pentecost.

The Fifty Elders had been waiting all winter, too. Without their own ship, it took them longer to find space on different boats. They took whatever route was available, and got back within two months. Some made it back for the Pentecost, and some didn’t. But the Sanhedrin was all together again, before July.

Everyone who’d made a power grab, last year, was finally done. (Except the Southern Robbers, still!)

This year – 3 BC – set the new Status Quo.


Soon after Pentecost, Archelaus finally had enough money to raise an Army with. Now he could truly control his people, by fear, like his dad did!

Now he could also (finally) end last year’s war.

When Archelaus started hiring local mercenaries, it wasn’t long before they beat all the Robbers. The Commander Gratus defeated one of the Brothers. Ptolemy defeated another. Even Archelaus himself actually led a group of soldiers to capture the third Brother.

Before winter, the fourth Brother of Athronges found himself all alone, with no one left to help him. Athronges and the others were all dead or captured. So finally, after a year of fighting, the last Jewish “rebel” gave up.

The war was finally over. Southern Israel was secure.


Legion Twelve “Thunder-Arms” stayed in Judea just long enough to make sure they were no longer needed.

The Governor of Syria found out Archelaus’ new Army was doing just fine. So, before the end of 3 BC, he sent the word for Legion XII to withdraw.

But everyone in Israel knew how quickly more Legions could return.

Rome had even more power in Israel, than before.


Up in North Israel, Antipas & Philip had work to do too.

Antipas came back to Galilee to find Sepphoris burned down and his first project was to rebuild it. As the new Tetrarch of Galilee, Antipas needed a Capital City, not to mention a Palace. But with a limited budget, the project was going to take years – maybe even a decade.

By mid-summer, Antipas’ messengers were recruiting carpenters, masons and craftsmen from all nearby towns, including Nazareth!

This meant Joseph suddenly found more work! But the struggling carpenter didn’t have to walk seven miles to and from Sepphoris. So many Nazarene carpenters went, there was plenty of work for the ones who stayed.

Thanks to Antipas, Joseph’s business grew a bit more, this year. They kept living with Mary’s family, grateful again to be part of Antipas’ Tetrarchy.


Across the River and Lake from Galilee, Philip settled into his territory. But the youngest Herodian Tetrarch had a very small budget and nothing to fix!

Philip made plans to build up the city of Panias for his capital, and to rename it “Caesarea Philippi”. But Philip didn’t have the money to start building anything this year. So, to make his mark and to honor Augustus, he renamed a small town after the Emperor’s daughter, Julia.

This year, the Elders of Bethsaida, by the Lake, found out they now lived in ”Julias”. But they didn’t have to like it…

Philip would be changing it back very soon.


Just about that time, in Rome, Julia was on the verge of getting herself into major trouble!

Remember, Augustus’ first born, Julia, was married to his step-son, Tiberius. The couple couldn’t stand each other, and then Tiberius moved to the island of Rhoads. (See 6 BC.) Since then, Julia had decided to live like she was single!

Actually, the Emperor’s daughter was throwing some pretty wild parties. She was doing lots of things with lots of men that aren’t polite to print. A few Senators, even, were getting very friendly with Caesar’s daughter.

Julia carried on like this all year long. But Augustus isn’t going to find out until next year…


Meanwhile, this year brought major news from Parthia. Far east of Israel, the Queen and Prince of Parthia – Musa and Phrataces – murdered the King of Parthia, Phraates IV.

This was very bad news. Phraates IV had been an ally of Caesar, but Phrataces was unstable. In fact, Musa & Phrataces are going to start a war (next year) that will change the future course of the whole Empire!


What else was going on in Rome, this year?

Caesar spent most of this year building his new Forum and Temple to Mars. But he got interrupted around mid-summer, when a strange visitor came into Italy.

A Jewish man walked into Rome who claimed to be (and looked exactly like) Herod the Great’s dead son, Alexander! Oddly enough, this “Fake Alexander” had spent the winter and spring touring Synagogues in the Greek world. He acted like royalty, made up a story to explain why he was “still alive”, and conned lots of people into paying for his trip to Rome.

When he got there, Fake-Alex tried to claim the throne of Israel! But Caesar wasn’t fooled. The Emperor found a man named Celadus, who knew the real Alexander from his time in Rome. Celadus saw a difference in the man’s face, and callouses on his hands which no royal Prince would ever have.

Augustus threatened the Faker and got the real story. Then Caesar killed the Mastermind who’d been coaching the imposter. But Fake Alex was sent to row ships in the Emperor’s fleet. And that was that.

But long before that strange business, Augustus made one decision this year that was truly important…


Augustus had to punish Aretas, King of Nabatea.

Late last year, the Emperor learned how the Nabatean Army had looted & burned down two Jewish cities, during the war in Israel. It wasn’t clear whether Aretas had ordered or just overlooked the war crimes, but Augustus was outraged, anyway.

Since then, the Emperor had been thinking over his options. And early this year, he made up his mind.

Augustus sent a messenger to Varus in Syria, who arrived before Spring. And by early Summer, Varus was on the march, down to Northern Arabia, to meet with the King.

In Petra, the Nabatean capital, Varus told Aretas how unhappy the Emperor was, and what he’d decided.

Nabatea was no longer a “client-Kingdom”. It was now part of Syria. Aretas could act as a regional manager, under the Governor, but Aretas was no longer a “king”. Also, one Legion would stay at Petra, to make sure the Nabateans stayed obedient to Rome.

Aretas’ army was disbanded, and he lost the right to mint coins with his face on them. The Nabatean got to keep his Palace, but none of his power. If Aretas refused, he knew Varus could be back in less than a month with two more of Rome’s Legions.

But Varus gave the former-King a bit of hope with some personal advice. The Governor told Aretas he guessed the punishment might not be forever.

Varus said the Emperor was only interested in peace, and that no Governor of Syria wanted these extra duties so far south of Antioch. Varus suggested that if Aretas could make peace with Israel, then he might get his crown back.

Aretas thought it all over as Varus rode out. He hated Herod the Great, and was being asked to make peace with Herod’s sons.

That plus the punishments was an awful lot to swallow, and the former king needed time to process everything. But before 3 BC was over, he knew what he had to do.

And we’ll hear more about what Aretas actually did, in the next couple of years!


By the way, Publius Quinctillius Varus is now done in the East. The Nabatean mission was his last major task from the 48 months he Governed Syria.

Around July 1st, a new Governor sailed into Selucia, Syria, and made his way up to Antioch. Varus spent a month or so turning over control, and sailed for Rome by about August.

The new Governor of Syria was a famous, well respected Proconsul of Rome, named Lucius Calpurnius Piso.


Meanwhile, P. Sulpicius Quirinius, another well respected Proconsul, was busy fighting a War as the Governor of Galatia. Actually, the War was almost over.

Quirinius had been in Galatia since 5 BC. He started this war last year, when we barely had time to mention it. It’s actually kind of important.

So here is the story of the Homanadensian War.

Quirinius took two Legions and used two cities as their points of attack. Legions ___ & ___ built forts at Antioch-near-Pisidia and Lystra (in Lycaonia). Those two towns were the perfect locations for crushing the Homanadensian tribes, who moved around the Pisidian Mountains near the bottom of Lake Trogidis.

For two summers, Quirinius moved through the Taurus Mountains, destroying villages and moving bands of Homanadensians. Even thru winter, the Governor besieged the Homanadensians in towns and on hilltops. With two Legions, the General had almost 11,000 troops, so the other Tribes were too afraid (and unorganized) to come help any one group or village.

Slowly, group by group, Quirinius captured or killed all the Homanadensian men. After two summers, the Romans had captured and sold 4,000 hostile tribesmen as slaves.

By the end of 3 BC, the War was finally over. There were other small tribes in the Mountains of Southern Galatia, but for now, Galatia was on its way to becoming a peaceful province.

And Quirinius was on his way to going home.


Next year, the Proconsul P. Sulpicius Quirinius will be honored in Rome. But first he’s going to make a quick stop at a certain Island, along the way. In fact, Quirinius is going to visit with someone who can make his career!

But we’ll have to find out more about that… in 2 BC!

No comments:

Recent Posts
Recent Posts Widget
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton