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Title: The historians' history of the world in twenty-five volumes, volume 02

Israel, India, Persia, Phoenicia, Minor Nations of Western Asia

Editor: Henry Smith Williams

Release date: May 28, 2016 [eBook #52177]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Edwards and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note: As a result of editorial shortcomings in the original, some reference letters in the text don’t have matching entries in the reference-lists, and vice versa.







A comprehensive narrative of the rise and development of nations
as recorded by over two thousand of the great writers of
all ages: edited, with the assistance of a distinguished
board of advisers and contributors,


(decorative, publisher’s mark) PRIUS PLACENDUM QUAM DOCENDUM


The Outlook Company
New York

The History Association



Copyright, 1904,

All rights reserved.

201-213 E. 12TH ST.
U. S. A.


Contributors, and Editorial Revisers.




Introductory Essay. Israel as a World Influence. By Bernhard Stade1
A Critical Survey of the Scope and Sources of Israelitic History to the Destruction of Jerusalem4
Hebrew History in Outline (1180 B.C.-70 A.D.)30
Land and People45
The land, 46. The people, 48.
Origin and Early History (2300-1200 B.C.)56
The age of the patriarchs, 57. Early movements of the Israelites, 57. The Egyptian sojourn, 58. Biblical account of Moses and the Exodus, 61. Israel’s early neighbours, 63. The conquest of Canaan, 66.
The Judges (1200-1020 B.C.)72
Samuel and Saul (1020 B.C.-1002 B.C.)77
Samuel and Saul, 78. The rise of David, 79. David in revolt against Saul, 80. The death of Saul and the struggle for the succession, 83. David secures the crown, 85.
David’s Reign (1002-970 B.C.)86
David’s greatness in time of peace, 89. Further wars break out, 91. David and [viii]Absalom, 93. Renan’s estimate of David, 98.
Solomon in his Glory (970-930 B.C.)99
The early years of Solomon’s reign, 100.
Decay and Captivity (930-586 B.C.)106
The schism of the Ten Tribes, 106. The Moabite stone, 109. Destruction of the two kingdoms, 113. The Babylonian Captivity, 118.
The Return from Captivity (586-415 B.C.)122
The prophecy of the return, 122. The condition of the exiles, 125. The coming of Cyrus, 126. The return to Jerusalem, 127. The walls upraised again, 130.
From Nehemiah to Antiochus (415-166 B.C.)133
Under Persian rule, 133. Persian influences on Jewish religion, 134. Alexander the Great, 134. Under the Seleucids, 135. The Syrian dominion; Antiochus the Great, 138. Antiochus Epiphanes, 139. Jason and Antiochus torment the people, 140.
The Maccabæan War (166-142 B.C.)147
Independence, 156.
From the Maccabees to the Romans (135-4 B.C.)159
The warring sects, 160. Antipater, 163. Herod, 164.
The Rise of Christianity (4 B.C.-62 A.D.)168
A critical view of Christ and other messiahs, 168. The development of the messianic idea, 169.
The Revolt against Rome (62-68 A.D.)177
[ix]The defence of Jotapata described by Josephus, 180.
The Fall of Jerusalem (68-73 A.D.)190
Josephus’ account of the famine, 193. The close of Jewish history, 199.
Hebrew Civilisation203
The life and customs of the Israelites, 205. Hebrew art, architecture: the temple tombs, etc., 209.
The Prophets and the History of Semitic Style. By Dr. D. H. Müller213
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters227
A General Bibliography of the History of Israel229
Introductory Essay. Individuality of Phœnician History, and Origin of the Name. By Richard Pietschmann243
Phœnician History in Outline (3800 B.C.-1516 A.D.)246
Carthaginian History in Outline (813 B.C.-697 A.D.)251
Land and People255
Origin of the Phœnicians, 259.
Early History and Influences263
Beginnings of the history and civilisation of Phœnicia, 263. The colonies, 270. Voyages and trading-stations, 274.
The Phœnician Time of Power (980-532 B.C.)279
The reign of Hiram I, 279. The successors of Hiram, 283.
Phœnicia under the Persians (525-323 B.C.)289
Phœnicia under the Greeks, the Romans, and the Saracens (301 B.C.-1516 A.D.)301
The Story of Carthage (813 B.C.-697 A.D.)308
The site and early history of Carthage, 310. Mommsen’s account of Carthage, 312. War in Sicily between Rome and Carthage, 319. Rome and Carthage, 321. Last days of Carthage, 325.
Phœnician Commerce329
Sea trade, 330. Manufactures and land trade of the Phœnicians, 334. Silver and gold in antiquity as money, 339. The slave trade of Phœnicia, 342.
Phœnician Civilisation346
The Phœnicians and the alphabet, 347. Manners and customs; religion, 348. Culture; art, 352. The Phœnician influence on history, 353.
Classical Traditions356
“The voyage of Hanno, beyond the pillars of Hercules, which he deposited in the temple of Saturn,” 356. Himilco’s voyage of discovery, 358. Pomponius Mela on the Phœnicians, 359. Appianus Alexandrinus on the founding of Carthage by Dido, 360.
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters361
A General Bibliography of Phœnician History363
Introductory Essay. The Position of Asia Minor in History. By William J. Hamilton373
History in Outline of the Minor Kingdoms of Western Asia (1528-546 B.C.)380
The Hittites391
Recent Hittite research, 393. The Hittites and the Egyptians, 394. The Hittites [xi]and the Hebrews, 395. Hittite art, 396. Hittite monuments in Asia Minor, 397.
Scythians and Cimmerians400
The Scythians, 400. Scythian influences in Asia Minor, 400. Scythian movements, 401. Herodotus on the customs of the Scythians, 404. The Cimmerians, 410.
Some Peoples of Syria, Asia Minor, and Armenia413
The Aramæans, 413. Phrygia, 413. The Cappadocians, 415. The Cilicians, 416. Pamphylia and Pisidia, 416. The Carians, 417. The Lycians, 417. The Mysians, 419. The Bithynians and the Paphlagonians, 419. Armenia, 420.
The Lydians421
The land, 422. The people, 423. Sardis and the name of Asia, 424. Early history of Lydia, 426. Ardys, 427. Early dynasties, 429. Gyges, 430. The triumph of Persia, 431. Lydian civilisation, 433. A picture of life in Lydia, 434.
Classical Traditions438
Justin’s account of the Scythians and the Amazons, 438. Pomponius Mela on the Scythians and other tribes, 441. Diodorus on the Amazons and the Hyperboreans, 444. Herodotus on the legendary Gyges, 446. The story of Crœsus as told by Herodotus, 448. Crœsus and Solon, 449. The vision of Crœsus, 451. Crœsus loses his son, 453. Crœsus consults the oracles, 454. The reply of the oracles, 455. Crœsus makes an alliance with Sparta, 456. Crœsus invades Cappadocia, 457. Crœsus in conflict with Cyrus, 458. The siege of Sardis, 460. The fate of Crœsus, 460.
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters464
A General Bibliography of the History of the Minor Nations of Western Asia465
Indian History in Outline (2000 B.C.-1556 A.D.)475
Græco-Bactrian dominion in the Indus region, 480.
Land and People482
[xii]The land, 484. The early peoples of India, 488.
Indian History—Legend and Reality493
Chronology and ancient history of the Hindus, 493. The authority of the Vedas, 496. Monumental records, 496. Legends of the early heroes, 498. An inscription of Asoka, 499. Traditional kings, 500. Brahmanic learning, 501. The epochs of Indian history, 502. Vedic period, 503. The Buddhist period, 503. Chandra Gupta, 504. Twelve centuries of obscurity, 505.
Manners and Customs of the Ancient Hindus508
Division and employment of classes, 508. The property of the Brahman, 510. The despised Sudra, 511. Mixture of classes, 513. The administration of justice, 515. Criminal law, 516. Civil law, 517. Hindu commerce, 519. Precious metals, 520. Coinage; precious stones; weaving, 520. Intoxicants; spices; perfumery, 521. Commercial routes, 523.
Brahmanism and Buddhism525
The origin and development of Brahmanism, 525. The Vedas, 529. Soul transmigration, 533. Buddhism, 535. Disappearance of Buddhism in India, 538. New light on Buddhism, 542. The actual piety of the Hindus and the Hindu separation of religion from fine morals, 545.
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters549
A General Bibliography of Indian History550
Persian History in Outline (700-330 B.C.)559
Land and People565
Racial and dynastic origins, 567. The land, 568. The people, 569. Character of the empire of the Achæmenides, 570.
The Median or Scythian Empire (700-550 B.C.)573
The rise and fall of the Median Empire according to Herodotus, 573. The [xiii]Median Empire: a modern interpretation, 580. New light on the Medes, 583.
The Early Achæmenians and the Elamites, Cyrus and Cambyses (836-522 B.C.)587
The death of Cyrus, 593. Character and influence of Cyrus, 596. Xenophon’s estimate of Cyrus, 596. A modern estimate of the character and importance of Cyrus, 597. Cambyses, 600.
The Persian Dynasty: Darius I to Darius III (521-330 B.C.)605
Darius I, 605. Organisation of Darius’ empire, 607. Later conquests of Darius, 609. Affairs in Egypt since the Persian conquest, 611. Xerxes I, 614. The successors of Xerxes, 615. Darius II, 618. Artaxerxes II, 619. Artaxerxes III, 626. The fall of the empire, 630. The old Orient at the end of the Persian Empire, 631.
Persian Civilisation634
Religion and social orders, 635. Organisation of the Persian court, 641. Administration of the provinces; financial system; satraps, 645. Military methods, 652. The fine arts, 657.
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters662
A General Bibliography of Persian History663


















Copyright, 1904,

All rights reserved.





Translated for the present work from Geschichte des Volks Israel.

Many a nation has walked God’s earth, has long enjoyed its good things, has come into being and passed away, without our knowing anything of its history, or even whether it had a history at all. For no nation has a history except one that makes history, that is to say, that influences the course of human development. It is with races as with individuals; none is kept in mind by posterity save those who have distinguished themselves by ideas that have modified the life of mankind, or (which comes to the same thing) have been pioneers in fresh fields of action. The greater the spiritual gain a nation has brought to the rest of the world, the longer and more steadily its life has flowed in the channels it was the first to make, the longer is its history told among them. The nations of history are those which have put forward, in one fashion or another, their claim to the dominion of the world.

Thus we may fitly ask what claim it is that is made upon our interest by the history of the Jewish nation. And the answer will be, that nothing which excites our attention, or stirs us to admiration or imitation in the history of other nations, is here present in any large measure. Israel was always a small, nay, a petty nation, settled in a narrow space, never of any considerable importance in the political history of the East; it never brought forth a Ramses II, a Sargon, an Esarhaddon, an Asshurbanapal, a Nebuchadrezzar, or a Cyrus to bear its banner into distant lands. Yet, for all this, the history of Israel has, for us, an interest quite different from that of those other nations of antiquity.

And if, as we see, Israel is far surpassed in martial glory by the peoples of the great empires, and by the Romans in their influence on the development of law, there are yet other points in which it must yield unquestioned precedence to other nations of antiquity. We do not find in Israel the same feeling for beauty as among the Greeks, who, like no nation before them or after, showed forth the laws of beauty in every sphere of intellectual life, and to this day, in such matters, stand forth in a perfection which has never again been attained, far less excelled. Among the Hebrews there is nothing analogous, nothing comparable to what we admire in the Hellenic people. It has no epic, nothing that can be compared with the Iliad and the Odyssey, against which the Germans set the Nibelungen Lied, and the Finns the Kalewala; it has not the slightest rudiments of a drama—the Song of Songs and Job are not dramas. There is a school of lyrical poetry unsurpassed for all time, and the music that corresponds to it. But the bent towards science, which actuates the Greeks, is wholly lacking—wholly lacking the bent towards[2] philosophy. Nor was it ever eminent in ancient days, in the walks of commerce, enterprise and invention, by which, also, a nation may conquer the world; its intellectual life is absolutely one-sided, a one-sidedness that produces on us the effect of extreme singularity.

But the attraction it has for us does not lie in this singularity. It is due, rather, to the circumstance that this small nation has exerted a far greater influence over the course of the history of the whole human race than the Greeks or Romans, that to us it has become typical in many more respects than they. Our present modes of thought and feeling, our lives and actions, are far more profoundly influenced by the world of thought and feeling which Israel brought to the birth, than by that of Greece or Rome. Our whole civilisation to-day is saturated with tendencies and impulses which have their origin in Israel.

The reason for this is that in Israel one side of human nature had developed to a very high perfection, a side which is of far greater consequence to mankind in general than art or science, law or philosophy. While in Hellas, philosophy first, and then, indirectly, science, developed out of mythology, in Israel the age of mythology was succeeded by that of religion. And we may say that the religion of Israel is still the active religion of mankind in a far higher degree than the philosophy of the Greeks is still its active philosophy. What Israel did in the sphere of religion is without a doubt far more epoch-making, unique, and effective than what the Romans did in the sphere of politics, or the Greeks in that of art or science. As Israel assumed the leadership of the human race in religion, so Rome did in matters of government, and Greece in questions of philosophy; but while the civilised nations which adopted Roman law strove with increasing energy to free themselves from the band of Roman legal conceptions; while the relics of Greek art and science only roused the enthusiasm of a chosen few, and the philosophy which the Greeks had created was confined within ever-narrowing limits by religion on the one hand, and the ever-widening field of science on the other; religion embraces all classes of the people, from the king to the beggar, and strives more and more to embrace all the nations upon earth. Moreover, however men may shut their eyes to the fact, among ourselves to-day religion is a subject of far more universal interest than art, science, or any political institution whatsoever. Disputed questions of religion shake kingdoms and kindle the most sanguinary wars. By this means it changes the character of nations and brings forth new national types. The spiritual features of mankind at the present time, under Mohammedan and European civilisation alike, are substantially the product of the monotheistic religion that arose in Israel.

We cannot find a more striking example of the effect of Israelitish ideas on mankind nowadays than by recalling the importance of the religious figures of ancient Israel in the eyes of our own people. For the bulk of the nation, Biblical history stands for all the history there is. The populace knows more about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, about Saul, David, and Solomon, about Samuel and Elijah, than about the heroes of its own history, and feels them (in marked contrast with its sentiments towards their posterity, which it beholds with the eyes of the body and not with the eyes of the spirit) to be flesh of its flesh and bone of its bone. In this respect our own nation is thoroughly Hebraised, or, if you prefer it, Semiticised.

And this is even more strikingly the case with nations which have adopted the creed of Islam. In the eyes of Mohammedans, Abraham was a Mohammedan; through Ishmael, his first-born and rightful heir, he is the[3] progenitor of the People of the Revelation; in their eyes all the religious figures of Israel of old are Mohammedan saints.

Thus the importance of Israel in the history of mankind, and, consequently, our interest in its own history, is due to the leading part it took in the sphere of religion. In Israel, indeed, religion—or, as most people prefer to express it, monotheism—first came into being. Let not the reader misunderstand the latter word. The monotheism of Israel is not the acknowledgment that there is but one Supreme Being. That is not a religious but a philosophical idea. The God of the Israel of old is not to be defined as the sole, supreme, and absolutely perfect being, but as the Not-World, or, better still, as the sum of all forces present and active in the world conceived of apart from the substratum through which they are manifest in phenomena. Hence the God of Israel of old is simply the Mighty One. But in the eyes of the Israelite of old the world was no wider than the land that nourished him. For this reason the God of ancient Israel is the God of the Land of Israel, and the actual existence of the gods of other nations is not denied. They exercise in the lands of other nations the same sway as Israel’s God in the world of Israel.

Brazen Fountain used for supplying Water to the Temple, Ancient Judea




Written Specially for the Present Work


Oriel Professor of the Interpretation of Scripture, Oxford; Joint Editor of the Encyclopædia Biblica


The difficulty of sketching the outlines of the history of Israel in pre-Maccabean times is unusually great. Historical curiosity was denied to this people, and the Captivities were literary as well as political disasters. The record of events which may have been kept, partly in the royal archives, partly perhaps in the temples, had disappeared; nor have any royal inscriptions as yet been discovered. It is only the land of Moab which has yielded up an historical inscription, to which we shall refer in due course as an illustration of contemporary Israelitish history. It is probable that the disciples of the prophets kept some record of interesting events in the lives of their masters—and the greater prophets were personages of political as well as religious importance—but the inveterate tendency of such history to become hagiology, compels us to read the fragments of prophetic narrative literature which have survived, even more critically than the passages of narrative which may, perhaps, have been derived from royal annals.

There were also, however, collections of popular traditions which, though suffused with imagination, were doubtless more precious to the early Israelites than the dry facts of contemporary or nearly contemporary history. They were the imaginative vesture of vague and distorted recollections of long-past events. In the form in which they have reached us, they must have lost much of the original spirit and of the primitive phraseology; on the other hand, the narrators, some of whom were gifted writers as well as religiously progressive men, have contributed original elements which, for many of us, must outweigh the most interesting folklore, because we find in them the germs of Jewish monotheism. The historian, however, must constantly remember the consciously or unconsciously didactic object of these narrators, or rather schools of narrators. Five of them are specially well known, and of these it is only the so-called Elohist who is comparatively free from preoccupation with definite ethical and religious principles. The[5] Yahvist is very distinctly on the side of the greater prophets; the Deuteronomist, the Priestly Narrator, and the Chronicler have for their chief object the direct or indirect enforcement of the religious principles of the earlier or the later law, to which in the Chronicler’s case we may add the glorification of the temple at Jerusalem, its various classes of ministers, and its ritual.

The composition of these works ranges over a long period, extending at any rate from the eighth to the third century B.C.; the upper limit is not certain. It is the task of the critic to extract the passages belonging to the first four of these narrators (or rather sometimes schools of narrators) from the composite works in which they are found, and also to investigate the sources from which they may have been drawn. On the first part of this task much skill has been lavished by a long succession of critics, but the second part is still very far behindhand. And it must regretfully be said that owing to the backward condition of the criticism of the text of the Old Testament, there is some uncertainty in the basis of all constructive treatment of the political and religious history. The scantiness of outside material, which is peculiarly needed as a check on the subjective Hebrew writers, is also no slight hindrance to the formation of thoroughly trustworthy conclusions.

Tradition tells that the founder of the Israelitish nation first saw the light in Egypt, where a number of Hebrew tribes were sojourning. A change in the sentiments of the court towards the Hebrews had brought about a cruel oppression. According to the Elohist (one of the narrators mentioned above, fragments of whose work are preserved in the Pentateuch), Moses, the child of a Hebrew man and woman of a tribe called Levi, was hidden in an “ark of bulrushes” by the Nile, on account of a royal edict that all male children of the Hebrews should be put to death. Pharaoh’s daughter saw the child, had compassion on him, and finally adopted him as her son. This, however, is by no means a contemporary account, and the details would never have been thought of, but for the existence in popular Hebrew tradition of a mythic tale of the setting adrift of a divine or at least heroic infant on water.

The earliest traditions respecting Moses knew nothing of this. They place the cradle of the national existence of the Israelites, and must consequently have placed the cradle of the deliverer Moses, not in Mizraim or Egypt, but in a region of northern Arabia called Mizrim, the border of which on one side adjoined Egypt.


The whole story of the Exodus from Egypt appears to be due to a confusion between Mizraim and Mizrim—a confusion which is presupposed by what remains of the Yahvist’s and the Elohist’s narratives in their present form, but which was probably not made by these narratives in their original form, and cannot be shown indisputably to have been made by the earliest prophets (Amos ii. 10; iii. 1; v. 25; ix. 7; Hosea ii. 15; viii. 13; ix. 3; xi. 1, 5; xii. 9, 13; xiii. 4).

The residence of Moses in Egypt constitutes, in fact, a considerable difficulty. Had Moses been reared as an Egyptian prince, he would have received an Egyptian name, an Egyptian office and an Egyptian wife. We are told, however, that he married one of the seven daughters of Hobab, the[6] priest of a tribe of Midianites (or Kenites) which dwelt not far from Yahveh’s sacred mountain, Horeb. Her name is Zipporah, and, in accordance with the undoubtedly true theory that the relations of tribes were expressed by the Hebrews under the form of genealogies, we may assume that the seven daughters of Hobab were the tribes occupying seven districts in Arabia, in the neighbourhood of Horeb. Where Horeb or Sinai was, is disputed; it is even doubted whether the Old Testament is entirely consistent with itself on this point. The traditional view, however, which comes down to us from Christian antiquity, that the mountain of the giving of the Law was on the western side of the Sinaitic peninsula, is sufficiently refuted by this one historical fact, that in the days when the Exodus from Egypt (if Egypt was really the temporary abode of the primitive Israelites) may be conceived to have taken place, a portion of the peninsula was occupied by Egyptian officials and miners, and garrisoned by Egyptian troops. The student may well be perplexed by the divergent views as to the situation of Horeb (which in the original tradition was probably a synonym for Sinai), nor can we digress to relieve his perplexity. All that we can say is that, if he accepts our guidance, he will have provisionally to adopt the view (strongly opposed to the later tradition) that Horeb or Sinai was near the sacred town of Kadesh, better known as Kadesh-Barnea, on the northern Arabian border, and also to assume that Zipporah (the name of the traditional wife of Moses) is connected with Zarephath (the vowels of this name are uncertain), a place which Moses (i.e., the Moses-clan) may be supposed to have acquired, either by cession or by conquest.


To couple this with the traditional belief that there was once a person called Moses, would be to misconceive the possible range of oral tradition, and to forget the universal tendency to imagine the ancestors or founders of tribes and races. That there was a clan bearing a name like Mosheh or Moses; that, owing to a close connection with a Yahveh-worshipping tribe of Kenites, this clan became ardently devoted to the service of Yahveh; and that its chief centre was at Zarephath [Sarepta] (whence, be it noted, another prophetic hero of tradition, Elijah, probably sprung), may, however, be admitted as probable. Other kindred clans must have gathered round that which bore the name of Moses, and we find that when the northward migration of those whom we know as Israelites took place, the number of the emigrants was increased by the adhesion of other North Arabians. All who were thus brought together must have had the link of a common worship—the worship of the god called Yahveh, a name which must originally have expressed a physical relation or phenomenon, but which in course of time came to be explained by some as meaning the truly existent or the self-manifesting One.

This God was believed to be specially present on Mount Sinai, whence it is natural that the Yahveh-worshipping tribes of Israel conceived themselves to have derived laws and institutions which were really of late origin. The Israelites in Arabia were nomads, but the three great annual festivals referred to in the Pentateuch are those of an agricultural people, and must have been adopted by the Israelites after they had passed into a settled mode of life. One portion of the first of these feasts, however—the so-called Passover—is really a monument of the nomadic life of the Israelites; it corresponds to a[7] similar spring-festival which we know to have been observed by the ancient Arabians. The festival of the New Moon, which was entirely unconnected with agriculture, and that of sheep-shearing, may have been retained by the Israelites from their nomadic period.

The city of Zarephath seems to have been regarded as on the border-line between the country known as Mizrim or Muzri, and the pastoral country called in Hebrew the Negeb, though there are some Old Testament passages which indicate that in later times a more southerly limit was fixed, viz., at Kadesh. It is possible that among the pre-Israelitish inhabitants of the Negeb were the “sons of Anak” or Anakites, and that these Anakites (whose terribleness was magnified by legend) were identical with, or closely related to, the “Rephaim” or Rephaites, whose king, called Og, is commonly, by a very early error of the text, transferred to the country on the east of the Jordan, and who were really Amalekites, i.e., Jerahmeelites (the leading race of northern Arabia in primitive times, including Edomites). In fact, Og and Agag (the latter a traditional Amalekite name) are names which could only, for some strong philological or historical reason, be separated.


It is too true that the Hebrew texts are often sadly corrupt, but among other things we can still see, underneath the corruption, that the first migration of the Israelites from Kadesh (near Horeb or Sinai) was neither to the western nor to the eastern part of Canaan, but to the country on the south of Palestine (the Negeb) where the inhabitants had passed (as probably those of Mizrim had also passed) into a settled mode of life and were flourishing agriculturists; their vineyards were especially renowned in ancient legend. This region, in consequence, became the scene of a large number of Hebrew legends, and the sacred spots in it continued to draw reverent pilgrims as late as the fall of the kingdom of Judah. (This follows from a critical examination of Jeremiah xli.) Among these legends are those of the patriarchs in their earlier form, and perhaps even those of the so-called Judges. The period when the Israelitish centre was still in the Negeb was one in which very little unity of action was possible, and the first attempts to introduce personal sovereignty appear to have had full success only within the sphere of single tribes (see especially the stories of Jephthah and Gideon). It need hardly be added that regal government presupposes the possession of cities, towns, and villages.

The most trustworthy record that we possess of the transitional pre-regal period is the so-called Song of Deborah (Judges v.) which celebrates the successful war of a number of Hebrew clans, confederated for the present occasion, against the common enemy, who, according to the corrupt text of Judges iv. (compare also v. 19, also corrupt), was king of Canaan; but according to a more trustworthy reading, derived by methodical criticism from the corrupt text, was king of Kenaz (a widely spread tribe related to Edom). The Song appears to represent tradition at a point when it may still be called historical. It shows that in times of great need it was possible for the clans to unite, and a parallel case, which we could easily believe to be historical, is mentioned in Judges iii. 8-11: the oppression of the Israelites by a Jerahmeelite king called Cushan (properly a race name), which was closed by the intervention of a friendly clan of Kenizzite origin called Othniel (Ethan?). This Othniel-clan must have had a leader of more[8] than common heroism, who induced the other clans to follow him. Such occurrences, renewed, perhaps, at frequent intervals, must have prepared the way for regal government.

The adversaries of Israel evidently derived their power not merely from their superior armour and experience in warfare, but from their union. It was possible for nomads, by the fierceness and suddenness of their attacks, to effect conquests in settled and civilised territories; it was not so easy to maintain these conquests against the assaults of determined, united and well-equipped foes. To what extent the Israelite clans had settled themselves in Canaan, as distinct from the Negeb, we can hardly be said to know, but we find a territory known as Benjamin in the hands of Israelite clans at the close of the transitional period, and we cannot doubt that between Benjamin and the Negeb there must have been settlements of Israelite clans interspersed with the older populations; and we may venture to assert that one of the most important of these clans was called Judah and another Caleb. That the Israelites were also established in the centre and to some extent in the north of Palestine is, of course, not to be questioned. But then, no very certain Hebrew traditions on this point have been preserved, and the supposition that the tribe of Asher was so called because its seats were in the once important land of Asaru (mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions) in what became western Galilee, and may, indeed, at one time have possessed all Galilee, is less probable than the theory that the name is a modification of Ashkhur, derived from a time when this tribe dwelt in the neighbourhood of a Tekoa in Calebite territory far away to the south (1 Chronicles ii. 24, iv. 5). We cannot, therefore, say anything about the Israelitish occupation of central and northern Palestine, nor can we venture to assume that the Israelites of this region were in any sense, however limited, subjects of King Saul.


As to the chronology of the events of the pre-regal period, great uncertainty prevails. We are not, indeed, without some light from external sources, but this light leads us in an unexpected and undesired direction. In 1896 Professor Flinders Petrie discovered an inscription of the Pharaoh Meneptah in which that king speaks of having conquered not only Askalon, Gezer, and Yenuam, but Israel. Kharu (a land) is also mentioned, the exact position of which is uncertain. The situation of Askalon and Gezer is well known. The former is a Philistine city, the site of the latter is on the right of the railway from Joppa to Jerusalem, south of Lydda. The position of Yenuam is less certain. A city called Janoah is mentioned in 2 Kings xv. 29 between Abel-beth-maacah and Kadesh, in connection with Gilead, Galilee, and Naphtali, but the correctness of the received geographical view of the reference of these old names cannot be implicitly relied upon. Naville thinks that we may identify Yenuam with Jabneel or Jamnia, but the names can hardly be connected philologically. We do know, however, that Naamah is a clan name of southern Palestine and northern Arabia, and there being in 2 Kings xv. 29 probably a confusion between Asshur (Assyria) and Ashkhur (a northern Arabian kingdom, perhaps Melukhkha, often mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions), it appears most critical to assume that Meneptah’s Yenuam was in the south of Palestine. It thus becomes a plausible view that clans of Israelites existed in the south of Palestine about 1273 B.C.[9]

Let us go a step further. From the treaty of peace between Ramses II (father of Meneptah) and the king of the Kheta or Hittites (about 1300 B.C.) we seem to gather that the south of Palestine was at that time garrisoned by Egyptian troops. Only the south was Egyptian; the north continued to be under the control of the Hittites. Even Seti I (father of Ramses II), who had a course of unbroken success in northern Arabia and southern Palestine, could occupy permanently no fortress in Canaan to the north of Megiddo. From these facts we may conclude that one section of Israelites may perhaps have penetrated from Kadesh into southern Palestine before the reign of the Pharaoh Seti I, during the period of the decline of the Egyptian authority in Asia. And it so happens that we have in the famous Tel-el-Amarna correspondence unimpeachable statements of the trouble caused in southern Palestine in the century preceding Ramses II by certain people called Khabiri, whom some have identified with the Israelites; and it is Abd-khiba, king or at least governor of Urusalim or Jerusalem, who complains to his liege lord the king of Egypt that the king’s dominion is being lost to the Khabiri.

These Khabiri were apparently plundering nomad tribes, which were on the way to adopt a settled mode of life. It is not improbable that the name is equivalent to Ibrim (Hebrews); only if we adopt this equation, we must not confine the application of the term “Hebrews” to the Israelites, but extend it to “all the sons of Eber” (Genesis x. 24), a Biblical phrase which shows that the Israelites themselves were by no means narrow in the use of the term. Sooner than identify the Khabiri with the Israelites, who probably became to a large extent agriculturists in the Negeb, one would suppose the chieftain of Jerusalem to refer to those whom we know as the Amalekites. Still one cannot deny the bare possibility that the people in southern Canaan called “Israel” by the Pharaoh Meneptah may have been partly derived from some of the plundering clans called Khabiri.

The facts of importance for the history of Israel to be gained from the Tel-el-Amarna letters are these:

1. The continuance of the Babylonian language and the cuneiform characters—a proof of the intensity of the early Babylonian influence over Syria and Palestine.

2. The semi-independence of the cities—a consequence of the disintegration of the Egyptian empire in Asia.

3. The existence of names (Milkili, Abd-Milki) pointing to a Jerahmeelite element in the settled population of Palestine.

4. The name Urusalim (Jerusalem), and the importance of the city so-called.

5. The name Khabiri, possibly connected with Ibrim, “Hebrews.”

6. The importance of the Hittites in northern Palestine (including the later kingdom of Israel).

7. The restless activity of warlike nomads, some of whom entered the service of kings and chiefs.

8. The favour shown to natives of Palestine at the Egyptian court, reminding us of the story of Joseph.

We cannot pause to comment on each of these facts, but may point out that the story of Joseph, as it now stands, certainly has a more historical appearance than any other of the early Hebrew legends. The Egyptian functionary who superintends the magazines of grain in the land of Yarimuta, according to the Amarna tablets, reminds us of Joseph in a similar office; and the question arises whether at the root of the story of Joseph there may[10] not be a tradition of some gifted member of one of the clans of Jacob or Israel who found favour and employment at the court of Amenhotep IV (one of the Pharaohs of the Amarna tablets).

Still, the story of Joseph may, like the other ancient Hebrew legends, have had an earlier form, in which the scene of the events was in the wide region to the south of Palestine, and the king spoken of was a North Arabian. And though there may have been an “Israel” in South Palestine in the thirteenth century B.C., yet the same authority which appears to state this as a fact also says that the victorious Egyptian king laid Israel waste, leaving no fruits of the field, and the context suggests that the male population had been carried captive, or slain.


We return to Saul, whom the legend represents as the first king of Israel, but who, if his story be critically regarded, was no more than the dictator of the South Israelitish tribes in a time of continually renewed warfare. His foes, according to our present texts, were the Ammonites, the Philistines, and the Amalekites, but in the original legends, only one great foe was referred to—those whom the Amarna tablets called the Khabiri, i.e., North Arabian tribes, sometimes called Jerahmeelites (whence the name “Amalekites”), sometimes Zarephathites (whence probably “Pelethites” and “Pelishtim” or Philistines). The notice in 1 Samuel xiv. 47, 48, that Saul had wars with other foreign foes besides these here mentioned, viz., the northern Aramæans, is not to be relied upon; it is evident that there has been both interpolation and confusion of names. It is only the latter part that concerns the historian, for it gives the achievement of the reign of Saul in a nutshell, “He smote Amalek, and delivered Israel out of the hand of his spoiler.” Another pithy and truthful saying is, “There was sore war against the Philistines (Zarephathites) all the days of Saul” (1 Samuel xiv. 52).

It is probable, however, that Saul had another foe. This is not expressly indicated in our texts, but the language of 1 Samuel xvi. 28; xviii. 8 acquires a new force when regarded as an echo of this deliberately suppressed fact. That foe was the man who became Saul’s successor—David. It is important to know where this opponent of Saul came from. He was a native of one of several places called (originally) Beth-jerahmeel: a later editor made a geographical mistake and supposed that it was a Beth-jerahmeel better known as “Beth-lehem of Judah,” whereas really it was a Beth-jerahmeel in the “Negeb” or steppe-country. It is a significant fact that David’s sister Abigail married a man of Jezreel (near Carmel in Judah, whence came David’s favourite wife Abigail), and that David himself took his first wife from that place. All this points to a place nearer than Beth-lehem to northern Arabia; probably it was not far from Maon and Carmel. Nominally this district of the Negeb was a part of Saul’s dominion. This we infer from 2 Samuel ii. 9, which states (rightly interpreted) that Saul’s son (and consequently Saul, himself, before him) was king over (the southern Gilead) Asshur, Jezreel and Ephraim, as well as over Benjamin. Judah is not mentioned, because, according to the legend, David had lately been made king over the “house of Judah” in Hebron. But to hold so many semi-independent clans in check was beyond Saul’s power, and David, a member of one of them, conceived the idea of carving out a principality for himself in the[11] south till such time as the ripe fruit of a larger kingdom should drop into his mouth. His political rôle began when he gathered round him a band of freebooters, consisting partly of his own kinsmen, partly of desperate outlaws. Among his haunts are especially mentioned Adullam, Keilah, Carmel and Ziklag—all places in the “Negeb.” The last-named place is represented to us as belonging to Achish, king of Gath. But a Philistine suzerain of an Israelite free-lance is inconceivable, and again and again in the Hebrew narratives we find that the name Gath has sprung by corruption out of a mutilated fragment of “Rehoboth.” A little to the northeast of the site of Rehoboth (Ruhaibeh), in the direction of Beersheba, stand the ruins of Halasa, the Elusa of the early Christian age, famous in that period for its peculiar heathen cult. This is not improbably David’s Ziklag. While David was prince of Ziklag, the fatal contest between Saul and the Zarephathites (Philistines) took place, the scene of which was not Mount Gilboa in the north (as textual criticism shows), but Mount Jerahmeel in the south. Whether the traditional narrative is right in asserting David’s abstention from the battle, no one can tell.

That David all this time had acted with consummate craft, we need not doubt. At the time of the death of Saul, he was not only lord of Ziklag, but had become by marriage chief of a powerful clan settled in the neighbourhood of the southern Carmel, i.e., probably near his own home. His object must have been to detach the clans of the Negeb from Saul, and to prepare them to receive himself as their lord, or, where Saul had not even won the nominal allegiance of a clan, to bring the clans into personal relation to himself by doing them some service. At last David was strong enough to have himself proclaimed king. This implies that a number of clans dwelling near together (compare 1 Samuel xxx. 27-31) trusted or feared him enough to promise him obedience. What was the centre of his dominion? and was he really independent, or was he the vassal of a more powerful king?


The capital of David’s earlier realm was Hebron, that is, he had succeeded in winning allegiance where Saul had failed. The clan of Judah (not as yet a “tribe”), and with it other clans which had common interests with Judah, joined together, and recognised David as their king. After this David carried out another great stroke of policy. He was scheming for a larger kingdom than that of Judah, and at once selected and fought for his capital. This capital was a Jebusite (Ishmaelite, i.e., Jerahmeelite) city, which had succeeded thus far in preserving its independence—Jerusalem. Its geographical position and natural strength, and the circumstance that it was unconnected with any Israelite clan or tribe, made it admirably suited for the capital of an extensive Palestinian kingdom. But before he could proceed further he had to cope with foes. The Rehobothites and Zarephathites, who had been not unfriendly to David, regarding him as the foe of Saul, now saw that he had stepped into the position of Saul, and would carry on that king’s patriotic work. In the neighbourhood of “Gob” or “Gath” or rather Rehoboth (of which both names are a corruption), and also in the valley of Rephaim, David and his warriors fought with and conquered the Zarephathites, and it is a reasonable conjecture that the “Cherethites and Pelethites,” who, according to the present text, became David’s bodyguard, were men of Rehoboth and Zarephath, who, seeing that it was hopeless to[12] fight against David, chose the next best part—that of fighting with him. It must have been this victory which enabled David to bring back the sacred ark of Yahveh from its place of captivity among the Jerahmeelites.


David’s next task was to put down Saul’s successor, Eshbaal or Ishbosheth, and to conquer what remained to this weakling of Saul’s realm. That more blood was shed than our texts allow, may be assumed. The legend-makers idealised David, but the historian is bound to go behind the legend. The epithets hurled at David by Shimei, according to 2 Samuel xvi. 7, must have something more for their justification than the concession professedly made by David to the vengeance of the Gibeonites (2 Samuel xxi. 1-14); and the strange legend of the destruction of Benjamin in Judges xx., xxi., is probably a disguise of an historical fact which took place later than the period assumed in the legend. Both Benjamin and parts of the Negeb had to be won by force, and from the nature of the case, as well as from the fact that Saul’s general and relative, Abner, took the side of Eshbaal, we may assume that this war lasted for some time. What took place in the large part of Palestine, which did not, so far as we can be said to know, enter into the dominion of Saul, we would gladly be able to tell, but the traditions have faded away. That David had statecraft as well as great ability in war, may be accepted from the tradition, and the advantages of unity may have been patent to tribes which had a fertile territory, and were liable to be swept by Midianite and Aramæan invasions. Still, fear of David, as well as a regard for self-interest, may have contributed to the annexation, as we may fairly call it, of central and northern Israel to the empire of the adventurer from the Negeb. Probably, however, this event did not take place as soon as the present form of our texts suggests; probably, too, the union of north and south was never as close as that which came to exist between Judah, and part, at least, of Benjamin. Further investigation may throw some rays of light on this subject.


Two revolts are recorded as having occurred in the latter part of David’s reign. In both cases the narratives have to be closely and critically examined. At the present stage of the inquiry it appears that the rebellion of Sheba is wrongly connected with the revolt of Absalom, and occurred at an earlier part of David’s reign. David had probably not as yet succeeded in crushing the independent spirit of the Benjamites, and Sheba, who was sheikh of the important clan (it was Saul’s clan) of the Bicrites, raised the standard of revolt supported not only by the Bicrites, but to some extent by the Israelitish inhabitants of Maacah in the Negeb (2 Samuel xx. 14). What he aimed at was probably a revival of the kingdom of Saul, and a definite renunciation of the ambitious scheme of a Palestinian empire. His attempt, however, failed. The revolt of Absalom was similar, but its chief supporters were not in Benjamin (which, indeed, had most probably by this time been subjugated), but in Judah. This tribe was, no doubt, the creation of David, but the elements which had been combined with the old clan of Judah, being Calebite or Jerahmeelite, still felt the keenest interest in the country to the south of Palestine called the Negeb, and when Absalom, the child of a northern[13] Arabian mother, adopted their aspirations as his own, the whole Israelitish population of the Negeb flocked to his standard. This well-conceived plan, however, which probably presupposes further successful warfare of David against the southern Aram (i.e., the Jerahmeelites in and near the Negeb), was also doomed to failure.


David’s successor, Solomon, reached the throne by a coup d’état. His success was largely due to the energy of the Jerusalem priest, Zadok, who was devoted to the service of David’s new sanctuary on Mount Zion. The friendship of the priestly party had important results both for Solomon (whom the priests of Jerusalem naturally idealised in legend) and for the state, which now possessed a sanctuary officially recognised as supreme. The erection of a temple required a large supply both of timber and of stone, and our texts represent that the timber and the stone came from Lebanon by the friendly offices of the king of Tyre, to whose territory Lebanon is supposed to have belonged. Underneath the present texts, however, we can discern a different and much more probable form of text, in which the king whose help is requested is the king of Mizzur (the North Arabian land of Muzri), and it is also presumably the same king (called in this case the king of Muzri) whose daughter became Solomon’s wife.


Afterwards, however, the relations between the two kings, Solomon and Hiram, appear to have changed for the worse. Twenty cities are recorded to have been ceded by Solomon to Hiram, and (in the original text) a large sum of money to have been paid. We can hardly doubt that this was the price of peace; hostilities must have broken out between the two kings, whose territories adjoined each other. It is possible that the war was occasioned, not only by the memories of wrongs done to Mizrim by David, but also by the desire on Hiram’s part for commercial advantages. Solomon was bent on enriching himself by commercial voyages, and Hiram would not be behind him. Ezion-geber, at the head of the Gulf of Akabah, formed part of Solomon’s dominion. Hiram can have had no mariners of his own, but was resolved not to allow all the profits of the voyages which started from Ezion-geber to go to his rival. So he sent his own “servants,” i.e., probably commissioners and merchants, to carry on traffic for him at the different ports touched at, the chief of which was doubtless Ophir, the port of the great Arabian or East African gold-land. Nor was the King of Mizrim the only North Arabian prince who made Solomon’s position a difficult one. For a time the region adjoining the Negeb, called Cusham, had received Israelite garrisons, but an adventurer named Rezon expelled the Israelites, and founded a new line of kings of Cusham, which was destined to cause infinite trouble to future Israelite kings.


Another bitter opponent of Solomon was the once fugitive Edomite or rather Aramite prince, Hadad, who returned to his own country (the southern Aram or Jerahmeel) and distressed Israel. And a third was Jeroboam,[14] son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of mixed parentage (his mother was a Mizrite). That he belonged to the northern tribe of Ephraim, cannot be safely argued; Ephrath was the name of a district in the Negeb, and it was the district to which Jeroboam belonged. His home was at Zeredah, otherwise called Tirzah, and seeing that he was “industrious” and specially interested in the Negeb, Solomon “put him in charge over all the burden of the house of Ishmael,” i.e., over the compulsory work (the corvée) of the northern Arabian subject population. This position of trust Jeroboam used for his own ambitious ends. Naturally, he incurred Solomon’s resentment, and had to flee for his life to his mother’s country, Mizrim.

The suppression of Jeroboam’s revolt left behind it angry feelings towards the Davidic family. When, therefore, the fugitive returned after Solomon’s death, the Israelites in the Negeb were prepared to espouse his claims to sovereignty. What line was taken by the Israelites of Ephraim and the other northern tribes, was not expressly stated in the original narrative. We may be sure, however, that they took no interest in Solomon’s temple, but the greatest possible interest in the sanctuaries of the Negeb. They had to support Jeroboam because they loved the land in which the patriarchs had dwelt. Its sanctuaries were to them the holiest spots upon earth; Canaan without the Negeb would have been like a temple without its altar. Consequently, whether the northern tribes sent representatives, or not, on the death of Solomon, to the national assembly at the venerable city of Cusham-Jerahmeel (later scribes, and hardly by mere accident, wrote “Shechem”), the voice of the nation was adequately expressed, and the doom pronounced on the house of David, in the name of the northern Israelites and the kindred clans in the Negeb, was final.


Most probably, however, the story of the national assembly is a legend, and Jeroboam and his party at once appealed to the arbitrament of war. There may have been fighting on the northern border, but the field of battle was no doubt chiefly in the Negeb, which, henceforth, according to several indications in our texts, was partly Israelite, partly Judahite, at least when Aramite or Jerahmeelite invaders did not take advantage of some temporary relaxation of vigilance on the part of Israel and Judah. So Jeroboam, not unaided perhaps by his Mizrite friends, became the king of the northern, and Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, of the southern part of Israel.

All the Israelite tribes from Asher to Ephraim adhered to Jeroboam; Judah and Benjamin to Rehoboam. The Holy Land of the Negeb appears to have been claimed by both, but especially by northern Israel. Jeroboam, we are assured, occupied Beth-el, and if we may venture to hold that this means the southern Bethel (in the Negeb), a new light is thrown on many Old Testament passages of great importance for the history of religion. In the Bethel sanctuary Jeroboam is said to have placed an image of a bull overlaid with gold. This bull must have represented the Jerahmeelite Baal, whom Jeroboam identified with the Yahveh, whose worship the ancient Israelites adopted from the Kenites of Kadesh (on the border of the Jerahmeelite Negeb), who conducted them in their migration. To this cultus Jeroboam was naturally devoted. We cannot, indeed, suppose that there was no such image of Baal at Bethel till he placed one there, but at least by making Bethel the “king’s sanctuary” (Amos vi. 13) he gave fresh prestige to the cultus.


We cannot, therefore, be surprised if in northern Israel the Jerahmeelite Baal more and more threw Yahveh into the shade, so that men swore, not by Yahveh, but by the Baal of Beth-el, and shut themselves entirely off from the forces, so active in Judah, which made for religious progress. Meantime the outward condition both of Israel and of Judah was so prosperous, that even a king of Egypt (Shashanq) thought it worth while to raid both territories. Sculptures on the south wall of the great temple at Karnak (Egyptian Thebes) appear to record this.


The new dynasty did not long maintain itself. Jeroboam’s son, Nadab, was slain by Baasha, of the tribe of Issachar, while he was besieging (so our text says) Gibbethon in Philistia. It was a military revolution such as became frequent in northern Israel. Baasha energetically resumed the war with Judah, whose king Asa, however, paralysed Baasha by invoking the help of Ben-Hadad (probably Bir-dadda), king of Cusham in northern Arabia, who sent an army against the cities of Israel (in the Negeb). It is remarkable to see the two kings, who jointly represent Israel, contending with one another for the favour and protection of a northern Arabian power. Presumably, Asa offered a larger payment than Baasha. Elah, Baasha’s son, quickly suffered the fate of Nadab, before the Philistine fortress of Gibbethon. Whether the singularly exact correspondence between the circumstances of the first two northern Israelite dynasties is historical, has not unnaturally been questioned.

Zimri, “who slew his master,” did not live many days in the enjoyment of royalty. The majority of the warriors were not on his side, but favoured the commander-in-chief Omri. The late king had been murdered in Tirzah. From Gibbethon, therefore, Omri and the army moved to Tirzah, and besieged the city. Zimri met his death in his burning palace.

But Omri had yet to fight for his crown. Another party of the people favoured the claims of Tibni; after a civil war, the party of Omri finally prevailed. The result was for the good of northern Israel. Omri, though not always fortunate in war (1 Kings xx. 34), was a highly capable ruler. This appears from three particulars which have come down to us; (1) the subjugation of Moab by northern Israel in his reign, (2) his foundation of the city of Shomeron, or, rather, Shimron, better known as Samaria, and we may perhaps add, (3) the respect given to his name by the Assyrians, who after his death designated the kingdom of northern Israel mat Khumri or Bit Khumri, “land” or “house of Omri.”


The first of these facts is recorded in the famous “Moabite Stone,” which tells how Omri afflicted Moab and took possession of the land of Medeba, and how Israel dwelt therein, during his days, and half his son’s days—forty years. The second, if correctly reported, is equally interesting; for Omri’s predecessors, and Omri himself for the first six years of his reign, held their court at Tirzah, which appears to have been a strong city in the Negeb. If Omri really built the northern Shimron, he not improbably named it after a city called Shimron in the Negeb, not far from Beth-el.[16] The resolution to place his capital in central Palestine, if it be a fact, was a most judicious one, considering the increasing danger from Assyria and from the northern Aram. Perhaps, some day, the spade of the excavator may remove the slight doubt which seems to exist on this point.


The misfortune is that the fragments of Hebrew historical tradition, critically regarded, tell us very little that can be trusted respecting the contact of the northern Israelites with these two powers at this period. Shalmaneser II tells us in an inscription that (in 854 B.C.) he was victorious at Qarqar, near Hamath, over a league of kings, the first of whom was Dad-idri, or Bir-idri, of Damascus, the second Irkhulina of Hamath, and the third Akhabbu of Israel (?). Of this important fact not a hint is given in 1 Kings; indeed, the Hebrew account of the last campaign of Ahab is not strictly reconcilable with the Assyrian inscription. The same Assyrian king records that (in 842) Yaua, son of Khumri, together with the Tyrians and Sidonians, paid him tribute. Not a word of this in 1 Kings. Similar records of the northern Aramæans are, unhappily, not extant. The final editor of the narratives in 1 Kings must have believed that the Israelites had serious conflicts with northern Aram, but underneath the traditional Hebrew text, lie narratives, which can still be approximately restored, in which the contending powers were not Israel and Aram-Damascus, but Israel and Aram-Cusham. The Shimron and the Jezreel spoken of in these narratives are not Samaria and the northern Jezreel, but places bearing those names in the “Negeb.”

The name Ben-Hadad, given in 1 Kings to the king of Aram, corresponds not to Bir-idri (the name of a contemporary king of Damascus), but to Bir-dadda, the possibility of which, as the name of a North Arabian king, is shown by its occurrence in the inscriptions. Hazael, too, is equally possible on similar grounds, as the name of a king of the northern Arabian land of Cusham. Elijah and Elisha, too, in the original Hebrew narratives, were certainly represented (according to recent criticism) as prophets of the Negeb. The appearances and disappearances of Elijah now cease to be meteoric; he has not so very far to go either to Shimron to meet the king, or to Horeb to revive his spiritual energies by communion with the God who specially dwelt on the summit of that mountain.


The whole religious history of northern Israel now becomes a good deal more intelligible. It is the Jerahmeelite Baal whom the Israelites worship, identifying him with the God of the Exodus; and the unprogressive character of his cultus, which addressed itself largely to the senses, was the reason why the prophets of Judah used such vehement language in denouncing its votaries. Elijah, we may be sure, that is, the school of prophets whom he represents (i.e., Amos), never entered a Jerahmeelite temple. But the sanctity of Horeb, in so far as it was not impaired by a corrupt cultus and its buildings, was not denied by these successors of Moses.

It is commonly held that Ahab was the husband of a Tyrian wife and the promoter of a newly imported Tyrian variety of Baal-worship. The[17] analogous history of Solomon, however, warns us to caution, and a critical view of the text shows that Ahab’s wife was a northern Arabian princess from Mizrim, and his offence, from the point of view of Elijah, was in giving a fresh official sanction to what we may call Jerahmeelitism. Jeroboam had given his royal favour to the sanctuary of Bethel; Ahab conferred a similar distinction on the new sanctuary at Shimron. It was this southern city of Shimron, and not its northern namesake, that Ben-Hadad (Bir-dadda?) of Cusham besieged. The ultimate result of the siege, of which we have probably two accounts (1 Kings xxi. 22 and 2 Kings vi. 24-vii.), was fortunate for Ahab. On the other hand, Ramoth (or Ramath), in the southern Gilead, still had to be fought for by Ahab, and the brave king met his death by a chance shot from an Aramite bow. It was also before Ramoth in Gilead that Jehoram, son of Ahab, who succeeded his elder brother Ahaziah, received those wounds of which we hear in the story of the rebellion of Jehu.


Turning to the southern kingdom, we notice that it was some time before the Davidic king made an effort to obtain foreign protection. In Jeroboam’s time, indeed, it would have been useless. In Rehoboam’s fifth year the king of Mizrim proved his regard for Jeroboam and for his own selfish advantage by invading the Jewish dominion. Resistance was hopeless; Jerusalem itself was taken, and the departure of Cushi (the name is corrupted in our own texts into Shishak) was only purchased at a great price. It was the third king, Asa, who, finding himself in danger of becoming the vassal of Baasha, became virtually the vassal of the king of Cusham; the story of his having defeated an army of Cushite invaders (at Zephath, or Zarephath?) must surely be apocryphal. Asa and his son Jehoshaphat are both praised for their fidelity to Yahveh. The latter king, however, managed to exchange a Cushite for an Israelite suzerain, and according to the (late) Chronicler gained a victory over the (southern) Aramites or Jerahmeelites in the Negeb (the text of 2 Chronicles xx. has suffered, as regards the geographical setting).

In the war against Moab, Jehoshaphat did a vassal’s service to Ahab, and we may suppose that there was a Judahite contingent in the force of ten thousand men sent by Ahab to the battle of Qarqar. We are also told that he sought to open once more direct communication by sea with the gold-country Ophir. His son Jehoram continued loyal to the northern Israelitish king. Asa had found it impossible to oppose a marriage between the crown-prince and Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel. So, officially at any rate, there was religious as well as political union between northern and southern Israel; Jehoram, we are told, “walked in the way (i.e., practised the cultus) of the house of Ahab.”

The revolt of the Edomites, who had hitherto recognised the supremacy of Judah, marks the reign of Jehoram. His son Ahaziah continued his policy, and just after he had performed a vassal’s duty before Ramoth in the southern Gilead (still fought for by the Aramites), he fell a victim with his uncle and suzerain, Jehoram of Israel, to the machinations of the ambitious general, Jehu. The name of Jehu (as it seems, an Israelite of the Negeb) is attached to a revolution which had different results from those which had been contemplated. We have only the account of it which was given by the prophetic school of narrators. According to this, the revolution was planned by a[18] prophet named Elisha, and received the sanction of the sheikh of a subdivision of the Kenites, called Rechabites. Certainly it is probable enough that the prophets of the Negeb interfered with politics, and that that portion of the Kenites which had not adopted a settled mode of life was greatly agitated by the continuance of that sensuous form of cultus which was favoured by the house of Omri.


Jehu, too, may have been widely known as an energetic and unscrupulous man whose ambition could be used in the interests of religious reformation. At any rate the Baal-worship of the court, which, as we are assured, had become aggressive, was violently put down by Jehu, and this bold adventurer now began to scheme for a united kingdom of Israel, like David’s of old. With this object, he massacred not only Jehoram of Israel, but Ahaziah of Judah, though, as the event proved, he reckoned without his host, for Athaliah, the queen-mother in Judah, on her side, massacred all the children of the other wives of Jehoram of Judah, and, in intention, also the son of Ahaziah (he escaped, however), and usurped the throne. The consequence was that north and south Israel, for the present, went each its own way.

In 842 B.C. Jehu found it expedient to send rich presents to Shalmaneser II, which this king denominated “tribute.” Here we are painfully conscious of the meagreness of our information. What was the policy of the queen of Judah during the six years of her reign? Did she intrigue with Cusham against northern Israel? We know that Hazael, the Cushamite king, renewed the war in the Negeb with double fury. Next, what was the policy of the other Hazael—the king of Damascus—towards northern Israel? The editor of Kings seems to have thought that this Hazael was an opponent of Jehu. This might account for the “present” sent by Jehu to Shalmaneser, who waged war with Hazael. On the other hand, Jehu does not appear to have sent any gifts in 839 B.C., when Shalmaneser had his second encounter with Hazael, and Tyre, Sidon, and Gebal again sent tribute. Had Jehu in the interval been obliged to become a vassal of the king of Damascus, who was still able to withstand the repeated attacks of the Assyrians?

The furious onslaught of Hazael of Cusham continued after Jehu’s death. So large a part of the Negeb was taken either by Hazael or by his successor Ben-Hadad, i.e., Bir-dadda, and so many of its Israelite inhabitants had been either slain in battle or carried away into slavery, that the most valued jewel in the crown of Israel’s kings seemed to have been lost. A turn for the better in Israel’s fortunes took place under Joash. Probably this was mainly due to the victories of the Assyrian king, Adad-nirari III, who claims to have received tribute from Tyre, Sidon, Khumri (Israel), Edom, and Philistia, and who humbled, though he did not destroy, Mari, the brave king of Damascus. If, as one may plausibly suppose, the latter king punished Jehoahaz for his father’s Assyrian proclivities, we can understand that when Damascus ceased to be dangerous, the son of Jehoahaz, stimulated by prophets like Elisha, might make a supreme, successful effort against invaders of the Negeb.

The work of liberation, however, had still to be completed; this was the achievement of Jeroboam II. It was he who reconquered the venerable city of Cusham-jerahmeel, and recovered the region of Maacath (or[19] Jerahmeel) for Israel. This period, as criticism is able to show, receives vivid illustration from the work of Amos, the account of whose conflict with Amaziah, the priest of the southern Bethel, refers to Jeroboam by name. The war was still going on, however, when this prophet of evil tidings wrote. It is probable that for some part of the reigns of Joash and Jeroboam the king of Judah was once more in vassalage to the king of Israel.


The death of Jeroboam was the beginning of the end for the northern realm. Murders and revolutions succeeded each other with fearful rapidity. Of Zechariah and Shallum there is nothing to be said. Menahem’s reign, however, marks an epoch. Tiglathpileser III states in his Annals that he received tribute from Kushtashpi of Kummukh, Rasunnu of Damascus and Minihimi of Samirina. It is plausible to identify the third king with Menahem of Samaria. The identification, however, is not certain; some other city may perhaps have been meant. Moreover, the Hebrew record speaks of an invasion of the northern kingdom, and calls the invader Pul (a Greek reading is Paloch) king of Asshur. Now there is good evidence in the Book of Hosea that the Israelites at this period were suing for the favour of the North Arabian kings of Mizrim and of Asshur. Mizrim we know to be the land otherwise called Muzri; Asshur (Ashkhur) we may suspect to be the land called by the Assyrians Melukhkha. Probably, therefore, it is the king of Melukhkha, the greatest of the North Arabian kings, who invaded Menahem’s realm, and exacted tribute from Menahem. In this case it was not central Palestine which he invaded, but the Negeb. In the next reign but one—that of Pekah—the same king of Asshur (called this time, not Pul, but by the equally inaccurate name Tiglath pileser or Tilgath pilneser) returned to the Negeb, a part of which he conquered, deporting its Israelite inhabitants into northern Arabia.


Probably he was displeased because the impoverished kingdom of Israel could not pay its tribute. The North Arabian king, however, must have had some additional reason for his activity. The true Assyrian Tiglathpileser tells us of the queen of Aribi and of the minor Arabian sheikhs who paid him tribute, and we may well suppose that, knowing the ambitious projects and the intrigues of Assyria, the greatest North Arabian potentate sought to strengthen the North Arabian border by introducing colonists on whom he could depend. Shortly afterwards he treated Cusham in a similar manner, deporting its inhabitants to Kir. Again we must regret the paucity of external information illustrating this period. The Hebrew text as it stands speaks of Pekah of Israel as joining the king of the northern Aram in an invasion of Judah. This, as we shall see, is highly doubtful. There is also much besides in the traditional history of this period which is liable to revision. The confusion between the two Shimrons and the two Asshurs is as troublesome as the confusion between the two Arams and the two Muzurs. But, have the Assyrian inscriptions no facts to communicate? On the contrary, they mention both Pekah and Hoshea. The former they present to us as a member of the anti-Assyrian party which existed in Samaria,[20] as elsewhere, and we gather from the Annals that, as a punishment for this, the inhabitants of a large part of Bit-Khumri (Samaria) were deported by the Assyrians, and that when Pekah had been assassinated, Tiglathpileser ratified the appointment of Hoshea as king of the scanty remnant of North Israel (733 B.C.).

From the same source we learn that early in Sargon’s reign (722 B.C.?) that king besieged and captured Samirina (Samaria), carried away 27,290 of its inhabitants, reserved fifty of their chariots, placed a governor over the remnant of the people, and imposed upon them the tribute of the former king. This is all that we know about the doings of the Assyrians; for those of the Asshurites we must turn to the prophet Hosea and to the second Book of Kings. The former, writing probably when the doom of the southern Shimron was already sealed, prophesies not only that it will be taken, but that the king of Israel will meet his death through Asshur. He also probably gives the name of the Asshurite king who succeeded Pul or Paloch as Shalman (Hosea xi. 14), referring to some typical barbarities of which this king had been guilty.

Shalman appears incorrectly in 2 Kings as Shalmaneser. We learn that for some years Hoshea paid tribute to Shalman (eser), but that after this, relying upon the help of the king of Mizrim, he withheld it; the Asshurite king therefore cast him into prison. If the letter of 2 Kings xvii. 4, 5, is correct, this preceded an Asshurite invasion of the land (i.e., the Negeb), which ended with a siege of Shimron. The siege lasted three years, at the end of which the king of Asshur took Shimron, and deported a large part of the remaining Israelite population of the Negeb into his own land, filling their place in the Negeb with North Arabian colonists. These new Shimronites are the people who caused the Jews so much trouble in the days of Nehemiah.

Thus the two sections of that large part of Israel which had rejected the Davidic Dynasty were all but annihilated, for history can take no further account of the remnants which survived both in northern Israel and in the Negeb, remnants which, though they retained the divine name Yahveh, in their cultus, were in no essential respect different from the non-Israelites with whom they mingled. We do, indeed, gather from 2 Kings xvii. 25-33 that the North Arabian colonists in the Negeb combined the ritual worship of Yahveh with that of their own gods, and we may assume that they learned the “manner” or ceremonial prescriptions of Yahveh, not from a single priest—the sole representative of Israel in the wide land of the Negeb—but from a scanty remnant of Israelites left by the conqueror (compare 2 Kings xxiii. 20). But of what value or significance for the history of Israel or of Israel’s history, is this poor and uninteresting fact? Henceforth the world-historical mission of Israel was confined to that portion of the people which was loyal to the Davidic Dynasty, and in which, thanks to prophets largely drawn from the Negeb (a land of opposites in religion), the elements of progress were still active in spite of great hindrances.


We return to Athaliah, and her bold attempt to naturalise more fully the sensuous religious developments of North Arabia in Judah. After six years, both she and her movement came to a sudden end. The only surviving male representative of David was set upon the throne. The priest Jehoiada[21] won over the “prætorian guard” on which Athaliah had relied; the usurper was slain and the house of Baal broken down. The new king Jehoash conformed to the directions of the priests. This did not, however, avert a serious calamity. A Cushamite invasion took place, and the retirement of Hazael had to be bought at a high price. Jehoash was succeeded by his foolhardy son Amaziah, who seems to have had a dream of throwing off the suzerainty of North Israel. As the first step to this, he tried his martial prowess on the Jerahmeelites, whom he encountered in a valley in the Negeb, but when Joash of Israel, who had no mind to let Judah become predominant in that region, came down upon him with his army, the result was disastrous for Judah. Jerusalem was taken, so that the suzerainty of northern Israel was secured, and the king, Amaziah, met with a violent death. His son and successor, Azariah (or Uzziah), is to some extent a mystery; we have two narratives respecting him, one of which surprises us as much by its brevity as the other (2 Chronicles xxvi.) by its particularity. The probability, however, is that the account in 2 Kings xv. 1-7 omits all detailed reference to Azariah’s wars in the south because of a great humiliation which he received in the course of them. That heavy blow was probably nothing less than captivity in Mizrim, from the record of which, accidentally or deliberately, the later tradition extracted the statement that Azariah was smitten with leprosy. During his father’s enforced absence, Jotham acted as regent. We can hardly believe that the period of these two reigns was in any sense a prosperous one for Judah. No special misfortune, indeed, is put down to Jotham, but we are informed that the king of Aram or Cusham began those incursions into Judah which became such a serious danger in the next reign. Whether either Azariah or Jotham succeeded in becoming independent of Israel, we cannot say.


It was Ahaz, so well known to us from the prophet Isaiah, who succeeded Jotham. The editors of the Books of Kings and of Isaiah believed that the “Aram,” which became so troublesome to Ahaz, was the North Aramæan kingdom of Damascus, and that the ruler of this state in conjunction with Pekah, king of Israel, fearing the aggressions of Assyria, sought to force Judah into alliance with them. It was notorious that Ahaz favoured a different policy, but the allies thought themselves strong enough to capture Jerusalem and to place a nominee of their own upon the throne of Judah.

It is probable, however, that here, as elsewhere, the editors have adjusted the narratives and prophecies to historical and geographical ideas which were not those of the narrators. In reality, it was the king of Aram (i.e., Cusham) and the king of Ishmael (i.e., some other North Arabian principality) who sought the humiliation of Judah. The object, as the experience of the past had shown, was not unattainable, but since the time when the king of Mizrim humiliated Rehoboam, the suzerain of all the smaller kings—the great “Arabian king” (Asshur)—had become more jealous of the ambitious activity of his lieges. Hence, as soon as Ahaz sent an importunate message to the king wrongly called Tiglathpileser, deliverance came to him, and ruin to Cusham through an Asshurite intervention. The prophet Isaiah, however, took a different position. According to him, trust in the true Yahveh and obedience to his righteous law (of which Isaiah and those like him were the exponents) was the sure, the only sure, defence against human foes, while[22] for Ahaz to send for the Asshurite king was to put his head into the mouth of a lion. But how could such trust and obedience be expected of Judah? Ever since Solomon’s time this little country had hankered after a worldly prosperity which was inconsistent, as the most high-minded prophets believed, with the worship of the true Yahveh. Consequently both Isaiah and Micah, like Amos and Hosea, saw nothing for their people to expect but ruin.

In the next reign it appeared as if this prophecy were about to be fulfilled. Two invasions took place—one of the Assyrians, the other of the Asshurites of northern Arabia—which have been confounded by the editors who brought the Books of Kings and of Isaiah into their present form. The difficulties which have been found in reconciling the Hebrew narratives with the inscription of Sennacherib are partly due to this confusion. We may suppose that the Asshurite invasion, which ended in the hurried departure of the invaders, came first; it is this which is referred to in the prophetic utterances of Isaiah. Whether or no Isaiah lived to see the second invasion (which took place in 701) is a problem for critics. The prophet has at any rate given us a vivid picture of the alarm of Judah and the neighbouring countries in the Asshurite crisis, and we can venture to supplement this to some extent with facts from the late narratives in 2 Kings xviii. 13; xix. 37 (Isaiah xxxvi. 1-xxxvii. 38), provided that a methodical criticism has first been applied to the text.


From Sennacherib himself we have particulars respecting his operations in Judah. He asserts that he took 46 towns and carried off 200,150 persons; that he shut up Hezekiah like a cage-bird in Jerusalem, made him deliver up a captive Ekronite king, imposed a heavy fine upon him and curtailed his territory. We can easily believe that Judah was not in a position to resist a second invasion, even though the first was not quite so calamitous as it might have been. It is also plausible to suppose that the misfortune arising from Sennacherib’s invasion may have led Hezekiah to put himself under the tuition of the priests of Jerusalem, and begin a movement for the centralisation of the cultus. If so, his son and successor Manasseh revised his policy, and initiated a reaction in the direction of North Arabian heathenism. Worshippers of the true Yahveh found in the king’s subsequent career a divine judgment upon such wickedness. The generals of the king of the North Arabian Asshur (such is the most tenable explanation of 2 Chronicles xxxiii. 11) brought him as captive to the capital of that country, but he was afterwards restored. It must be confessed, however, that we do not know to what North Arabian people the Hebrew compiler applies the old name of Asshur; the kingdom of Melukhkha appears not to have recovered from the blow dealt to it by the Arabian invasion of Esarhaddon. One thing is certain from the Assyrian inscriptions—that Manasseh gave no cause of complaint to the northern Asshur. Among the vassals who paid them homage, both Esarhaddon and Asshurbanapal mention Manasseh king of Judah.


Manasseh’s son Amon continued to promote the religious reaction. After two years he was murdered, but the “people of the land,” who appear to have sympathised with Amon’s views, punished the murderers.[23] This was about 636 B.C., noteworthy as the date of the accession of the young Josiah. Assyria was still powerful, and few could have foreseen its impending decline and fall. But it was not Assyria to which the prophet Jeremiah pointed as the executor of Yahveh’s judgment, nor yet (as many have supposed) the hordes of Scythian nomads, but a people or peoples of northern Arabia. Josiah, however, did not lose his composure. He had thrown himself into the arms of the priests, and the priests and prophets (not Jeremiah) combined to produce a law-book (our Deuteronomy has grown out of it), obedience to which might be expected to insure prosperity.

The reform of the cultus, and the prohibition of more than the one sanctuary, were far-reaching measures which affected the daily life of every Israelite. We are even told (2 Kings xxiii. 15-20) that the reformation extended to Beth-el and the cities of Shimron, i.e., to the Negeb. This view of the narrator’s meaning is a solid result of criticism, and certainly the detail has no slight verisimilitude. The realm of Judah needed expansion, and what region could Josiah more reasonably covet than the Negeb, so dear to Israelite tradition? Events proved, however, that a greater potentate also had designs upon it, viz., the king of Mizrim. We do not know what race predominated at this time in the ancient Muzri, but we can hardly doubt the fact that the king of a territory adjoining the Negeb, who was at any rate more powerful than Josiah, went upon an expedition against Kidsham (i.e., Kadesh), or perhaps Cusham (i.e., Cusham-jerahmeel), and found his passage barred by Josiah. A battle took place in Maacath-migdol (if we rightly read the name), and the king of Judah was mortally wounded. All Judah mourned. The people had lost a king, and were in danger of losing a faith. For the religious law book promising prosperity to the obedient, which they had accepted in deference to the king and the priests, seemed to have been proved a delusion and a snare.


Thus the power most dreaded by Judah is once more the North Arabian Mizrim, though the race which now predominated in Mizrim had, perhaps, only lately arrived there. The late editor of Kings, however, confounded Mizrim with Mizraim (Egypt), and represented the king whom Josiah encountered as Neku of Egypt; he also confounded the place-name Migdol with Megiddo. It is not impossible that the enterprising Neku of Egypt really did interfere with the affairs of Syria, but, if so, it was hardly Josiah whom he had to deal with. It appears to be clear from the Hebrew narratives, critically interpreted, that it was first the Mizrites and then the Babelites or Jerahmeelites (i.e., the peoples to which the Hebrew writers, archaising, apply these names) who interfered with southern Palestine. The Mizrite king is said to have deposed Josiah’s successor, Jehoahaz, after a reign of three months, and nominated a brother of Jehoahaz named Eliakim or Jehoiakim, as king (608 or 607 B.C.?). It was a short-lived suzerainty; another king, miscalled by the later editor the king of Babel (the name should be “Jerahmeel”), appeared, and asserted his claim to the Negeb. Jehoiakim became his vassal, but after three years rebelled, preferring the old vassalage to the new. Apparently he died before a fresh invasion took place; it was his son Jehoiachin who, yielding to necessity, surrendered to the Jerahmeelite army, and together with the principal citizens of Jerusalem, including the[24] prophet Ezekiel, was deported. A third son of Josiah, named Mattaniah or Zedekiah, was appointed king by the conqueror. The early part of his reign was quiet, but the unenlightened war party, which trusted in the oracles of its own prophets and in the promises of the king of Mizrim, forced the king to revolt, thus involving his people in the fate long foreseen by the prophet Jeremiah. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and a second captivity, followed. The sons of Zedekiah were slain; he himself was blinded.


It is true, the possibility must be allowed for, that the Arabians were but the helpers of the (true) Babylonians in their destructive operations, and that captives were carried away, partly to Babylon, partly into northern Arabia. It is at any rate difficult to believe that no captives of Judah at all went to Babylon. It is stated by the late Babylonian historian Berosus (if we may trust Josephus) that Nebuchadrezzar, who succeeded his father Nabopolassar after the destruction of Nineveh, conquered Egypt, Syria, Phœnicia and Arabia, from which countries he carried away captives. Egypt, however, Nebuchadrezzar cannot, apparently, be shown to have conquered, and the statement made by Berosus in another quotation of Josephus relative to the destruction of Jerusalem may not contain the whole truth. Inscriptions of Nebuchadrezzar are urgently wanted. At any rate, so far as we can learn from the evidence producible by criticism from the Hebrew writings, the bulk of the captives went into northern Arabia, and the oppression of the Jews in Judah, wherever this is referred to, appears to have proceeded from Arabians.


The events of the following period, however, are only known in a legendary form. The disciples of Jeremiah appear to have remembered that a Judahite was the first governor set up in the land of Judah, by which is probably meant the cities occupied by Judahites in the Negeb. Also that numerous fugitives escaped for a time into the land still known as Mizrim. Ezekiel was hardly in Babylonia, but in a northern Arabian territory; the text of Ezekiel which refers to “the land of Chaldea” has been manipulated. This prophet was one of the heroes of the monotheistic movement, but he did not confine himself, like Jeremiah, to denouncing the corrupt popular religion; he saw that only by a strict organisation of the ritual could the people be trained to a pure worship of the one true God. His successors, nameless but influential men, carried on his work, the description of which, however, belongs rather to a history of the literature of Judaism than to a history of the Jews.

The facts relating to the revival of the Jewish people in their own land are difficult to ascertain. Our most trustworthy records are the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah (i.-viii.). From these we learn that Zerubbabel (this form of the name is hardly original), the civil head of the Judahite community, laid the foundation of the temple, and with him we hear of the high priest Jeshua as stirring up the people to the work of rebuilding. There are also traces of ambitious hopes of the recovery of the national independence through Zerubbabel. Whether the chronological[25] statements of these books in their present forms can be relied upon is more doubtful, while to restore to some extent the original forms of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah requires a keen criticism such as has only lately been begun. So much, however, is plain that our ideas of this period require not a little reconstruction. The chief opponents of the Jews in Judah were not “Samaritans,” but Shimronites (i.e., the mixed population of the Negeb) and Arabians, and there is reason to suspect that the historical and geographical framework of both books was originally such as we should expect from the prominence of the northern Arabians in the destruction of Jerusalem.


That the liberator of the Jewish captives was Cyrus, is at first sight plausible, but no mention occurs in the extant inscriptions of Cyrus of any restoration of exiles to their native land, nor do the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah appear to presuppose any such restoration on a large scale. It is very possible, however, that some Jewish exiles had returned from northern Arabia before the surrender of Babylon to Cyrus, and, indeed, that Haggai and Zechariah exercised their ministry before that event. Ezekiel (vi. 4) expects the captivity of Judah to last only forty years, and part of his book is occupied by a kind of programme for the restored theocracy. There is also a tradition (2 Kings xxv. 27) that a Babelite (Jerahmeelite) king signalised his accession by releasing Jehoiachin from prison in the thirty-seventh year of his captivity.

That by degrees more and more Babylonian Jews returned, is also a probable conjecture, and even those who stayed behind were doubtless serviceable both by pecuniary and by intellectual contributions. The intellectual help of the Jews of Babylon must, indeed, have been considerable; the highly developed literary and religious cultus of Babylon cannot have been altogether lost upon them, nor must we underrate the religious influence of Persia. It would seem, however, that though Judah doubtless became part of the Persian empire, it continued to groan under Arabian oppression. The expansion of the northern Arabian races was irresistible, and the Persian rulers do not seem to have interfered in behalf of the Jews. As time went on, these rulers themselves appear to have altered for the worse.


Hence, like other nations, the Jews were ready to welcome Alexander the Great as a God-sent deliverer. Long before his arrival a more developed law-book, carrying out Ezekiel’s ideas, had been introduced at Jerusalem, in spite of considerable opposition. It is said to have been brought by the scribe Ezra from Babel, but whether Babylon or the land of Jerahmeel was originally meant, is disputed.

For the following period we are mainly dependent on Josephus and on the Book of Maccabees. The former is not very trustworthy; the first, and, to some extent, the second Book of Maccabees, however, repay the student. Under the first three Ptolemies (306-221) the Jews were well off, but during the struggle between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, they became not disinclined for a change of masters. From 198-197 B.C. onwards Judea[26] formed part of the Syrian kingdom, and in this period we meet with a movement among the Jews towards Greek culture. This was favoured by the ruling power; the Seleucidæ were favourable, as the Ptolemies now were, to a Hellenising of the subject nationalities. Antiochus Epiphanes went further than his predecessors, and dreamed of a universal adoption of Greek culture and of the recognition by all races of the Olympian Zeus as supreme God. Other Syrian peoples complied with his demands. If the Jews refused, it was obstinacy which deserved punishment.

The priestly aristocracy of Jerusalem brought themselves to yield; Yahveh and Zeus could be regarded as identical. But there were Jews who saw the inherent weakness of compromise, and valued their ideals more than life, so successful had been the movement towards strict legal orthodoxy, connected with the name of Ezra. It was a country priest named Mattathias, who, with his sons, set an example of heroic resistance. The supreme command of the revolters was taken by the third of the brothers, Judas Maccabæus (166 B.C.), and such was his success that exactly three years after the temple had been profaned, the signs of heathenism were removed and the legal cultus restored. This was the main object of the struggle. Judas, however, was not content with the concession, which was offered to the Jews, of religious liberty. We need not deny that earthly ambition had to do with his refusal, but, no doubt, he also thought that without political independence the freedom of the pious community was insecure. And it so happened that the disputes between the various claimants of the Syrian throne made it easy for Jonathan—a diplomatist not less than a general—to gain more and more advantages. In 143-142 B.C., Jonathan’s successor, Simon, concluded formal peace with Demetrius II, and in the following year the Syrian garrison evacuated the Acra at Jerusalem. Simon himself was, by a popular decree, made hereditary high priest and ethnarch. He was succeeded by his son, John Hyrcanus, who extended his comparatively narrow territory by conquest; Shechem, Samaria and Edom became Jewish.


Of Judas Aristobulus, according to Josephus, not much good can be said (105-104 B.C.). All considerations of piety were sacrificed to political expediency. Strabo, however, in the name of Timagenes, speaks favourably of him. As a Sadducee and a “philhellen” it is possible that he was calumniously misrepresented by the Pharisees. He was the first of his family to assume the title of king. The eldest of his three brothers, Alexander Jannæus (104-78 B.C.), came to the throne by the favour of Alexandra, or Salome, his deceased brother’s widow, who also gave him her hand. His aim was to extend the limits of his kingdom, so that he was almost always conducting military operations. At home his struggle with the Pharisees and their friends (inevitable in the first instance, no doubt) was carried on with a cruelty worthy of a heathen. On one occasion six hundred Jews were massacred for insulting him while he was discharging his priestly office. He was succeeded by his widow, Alexandra, who nominated her eldest son, Hyrcanus II, high priest. By the advice, it is said, of Jannæus, she made peace with the Pharisees; indeed, as the same authority (Josephus) assures us, “she had indeed the name of royalty, but the Pharisees had the power.” In fact, there was a Pharisean reaction, and the Talmud represents the age of Simon ben Shetach (a celebrated Pharisee) and Queen Salome as a[27] golden age, in which even the grains of corn attained a miraculous size. Externally, the queen showed both energy and prudence. A serious danger from Tigranes of Armenia was arrested, partly by bribes, partly by a diversion caused by the Romans under Lucullus (69 B.C.).

No sooner was the queen dead than a war broke out between the brothers, Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II, the one able and daring, the other easy-going and indolent, which was destined to close with the extinction of Jewish liberty. Hyrcanus, being the eldest son, had the right of succession, but ill success in war induced him to abdicate the royal and high-priestly dignities in favour of Aristobulus, on condition that he was left in the enjoyment of his property. But this arrangement did not last long. The younger Antipater, governor of Idumæa, and himself an Idumæan, saw clearly that he could do better for himself under the weakling Hyrcanus than under the warlike Aristobulus. Taking Hyrcanus’ side, he persuaded him that his life was in danger, and that he must flee to the Nabatæan prince Aretas III. This he did, and Aretas took the field against Jerusalem to redress his wrongs. Aristobulus defended himself in the temple, and the siege promised to be a long one, when Pompey, who was then in Asia, sent his legate Scaurus into Syria (65 B.C.), who at first decided for Aristobulus. In the spring of 63 B.C. Pompey himself appeared, and finally decided for Hyrcanus, who was therefore again installed as high priest. Aristobulus was arrested; his adherents defended themselves in the temple, which was at length captured by the Romans. The Asmonæan monarchy was at an end. All the succeeding high priests were vassals of the Romans.


Judea now became a subdivision of the Roman province of Syria. The religious institutions, however, which antedated the Maccabæan rising still continued; liberty of worship was guaranteed by Pompey. But so strong was the attachment of the people to the Asmonæan family that a succession of revolts broke out. Meantime, the power of Antipater went on increasing; Hyrcanus was too weak to oppose him; from Rome, too, he received signal marks of favour, being even made governor of Judea. A rival, however, gained over the cupbearer of Hyrcanus, who put Antipater to death by poison as he was one day dining with Hyrcanus (43 B.C.).

Thus Antipater had fallen, but the power of his family was not diminished thereby. One of his sons, Herod, had already shown his energy as governor of Galilee; he now displayed his craft in adapting himself to the vicissitudes of the supreme Roman power. A closing struggle between Herod and Antigonus—the last representative of the Asmonæan family—terminated in Herod’s favour. Antigonus was beheaded at Antioch by order of Mark Antony, “supposing he could in no other way bend the minds of the Jews so as to receive Herod whom he had made king in his stead” (Josephus).

On the news of the battle of Actium (31 B.C.), Herod lost no time in passing over to the winning side. Though aware of his loyalty to Antony, Octavian confirmed him in his kingship. It is an eternal blot upon Herod’s character that he swept away the last representatives of the Asmonæan family. It is true, he considered this indispensable to the security of his throne. By princely gifts he kept the Romans on his side, though the concessions of Cæsar and the senate were sufficiently justified by the proof of[28] his capacity as a governor. He put down Arabian robbers, created magnificent cities, and helped his people in times of famine. Yet the Jews were never drawn to his person; he was after all only an Edomite, and he curried favour with a heathen power. Herod died 4 B.C. Mommsen, the historian of the Roman Empire, has said that there is no royal house of any age in which such bloody domestic quarrels raged.

His dominions were apportioned among his sons Archelaus, Antipas and Philip. Archelaus became ethnarch of Idumæa, Judea, and Samaria, with the exception of certain cities; Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Peræa; Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis, Batanæa, Gaulanitis and Paneas. This arrangement soon came to an end, so far as the government of Archelaus was concerned. He was deposed by Augustus, and his dominions were incorporated in the province of Syria, but specially entrusted to a procurator. The vicissitudes of the other governments we cannot here follow. Herod Agrippa had for a time the realm of his grandfather, but after his death (44 A.D.) the whole of Palestine came under the direct authority of Rome, and was ruled by procurators (Pontius Pilate, 26-36 A.D.) under the supervision of the governor of Syria.

The Jews had wished this, but the oppressiveness of the new rule was powerfully felt. Discontent became rife. At length Gessius Florus disregarded justice to such an extent that war became inevitable. In Jerusalem the war party obtained the predominance. Preparation was made for the defence of the country, which was mapped out into districts, each with its own commander. The man responsible for Galilee was Josephus, a Pharisee, but destined to become a friend of the Romans, and the historian of the war. Nero, when informed of the threatening state of affairs, summoned the general, Vespasian, and entrusted him with the conduct of the war against the revolters. Vespasian’s son, Titus, brought two legions from Alexandria; he himself proceeded to Antioch, and took command of another legion together with auxiliary troops. The scene of war was at first in Galilee.

The Jews met with great misfortunes, but this only intensified the fanatical excitement of the party of zealots, which obtained the upper hand in Jerusalem. Vespasian adopted a waiting attitude, and was at length precluded from taking a decisive step by grave news from Rome. Vitellius had followed Otho as emperor, but the legions in the East disapproved, and in July, 67, Vespasian was acclaimed emperor. He hastened to Rome, leaving the siege of Jerusalem to his son Titus. For two years party strife had raged in the city. The priestly aristocrats were accused of treachery; the zealots were too obviously careful for nothing but the intoxication of an otherworldly enthusiasm.

Many false prophets arose and led many astray, as an apocalyptic passage in the Gospel says; Josephus asserts that they were suborned by the tyrants (i.e. by the dominant faction) to keep the people from deserting. At length the end came. The city and temple were destroyed. The golden altar of incense, the golden candlestick and the Book of the Law were taken to Rome and exhibited to the populace in the triumph of Vespasian and Titus.

Still, though the temple was destroyed, the Jewish religion remained, and the wonder is that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law should have been able so skilfully to adjust the religious and social systems to the altered circumstances. Could the Jews have put aside the hope of a sudden divine intervention, and devoted themselves to the task of witnessing for righteousness within the wide limits of the Roman world, the Jewish people would[29] yet have recovered from even such a great humiliation. But the transcendentalism which pervades so much of the later Jewish literature was too deeply seated to be expelled from the national mind. And the command of the emperor Hadrian that Jerusalem should be rebuilt as a Roman colony, was the spark which rekindled the flame of revolt.

Again the Jews in Palestine flew to arms with the sympathy of the entire Jewish world. Their leader was a certain Simon, surnamed Bar Kosiba, or Bar Kocheba, who claimed to be the Messiah, and was recognised as such even by Rabbi Alciba. His coins bear the legend “Simon, Prince of Israel.” He actually succeeded in “liberating” Jerusalem; the sacrificial system, too, was probably restored. Julius Severus had to be brought from Britain to crush the rebellion. The closing struggle took place at Bether, now Bittir, to the southwest of Jerusalem. After a heroic resistance the fortress was taken, Bar Kocheba having been already slain. The war had probably lasted three and a half years (132-135 A.D.).

The history of the expansion of Judaism from a national to a universal religion has too many lacunæ for us to attempt it here. We have but given the outward history of the people which was the appointed bearer of the monotheistic idea. These facts are themselves highly significant. They show the wonderful receptivity of the Jewish race; they also show that there was, at least, in certain heroes of the race, a moral enthusiasm which converted all experiences, as well as all intellectual acquisitions, into the basis of an ever higher and nobler faith in God. The evolution, however, of pure spiritual religion was far from complete when the old Jerusalem passed away forever, and the name of Israel had become little more than a rhetorical archaism.





The modern historian knows as little of the origin of the Hebrews as he knows of the beginnings of the racial history of any other nation. The Hebrew traditions, according to which the race originated in Chaldea, and migrated thence under Father Abraham, are familiar to every one through the Bible records. There is no reason to doubt that here, as elsewhere, the national tradition represents at least a general outline of the historical truth. But the scientific historian of to-day looks askance at all unverified traditions of antiquity, and it is becoming more and more common to begin the history of Israel with the Egyptian sojourn, or at least to treat the prior history of the race as merely traditional.

There are ethnologists, indeed, who regard the Hebrews as primarily of Egyptian origin; but such a theory is only tenable on the assumption that the entire Semitic race came originally from the valley of the Nile. For it is not at all in question that the Hebrews were closely related ethnically to the Semitic races of Mesopotamia. Whatever the ultimate origin of the Semites, it need not be doubted that the Hebrews were the offshoot of that portion of the race which had settled at an early day in the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates. It must be admitted, however, that the present day historian has no such tangible records of the pre-Egyptian history of the Hebrews as have been discovered for the early period of Babylonian history.

Even as regards the Egyptian sojourn of the Hebrews, our records are by no means so secure as could be wished. Despite patient searching, the monuments of Egypt fail to reveal any traces of the Jewish captivity. A few years ago it was thought that a monument discovered by Professor Flinders Petrie, in the tomb of Meneptah at Thebes, had at last furnished the long looked for mention of the people of Israel. As Meneptah, the son and successor of Ramses II, was believed to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus, this inscription naturally excited the widest curiosity and the most eager expectations. But when fully elucidated, the record was found to contain merely a somewhat doubtful reference to the Hebrews as a people existing at the time of Meneptah, throwing no light whatever on the vexed question of the Exodus. No other reference to the people of Israel has been found in the Egyptian records. Of course, such a record may exist as yet undiscovered; but as the task of searching the Egyptian monuments goes on, this becomes increasingly improbable. It would appear that national egoism,[31] which is the birthright of every people, gave to the Egyptian sojourn an importance in the eyes of the Hebrews themselves, which it did not possess for their captors. There is little reason, therefore, to suppose that the Hebrews made any important impression on the course of Egyptian history.

It is quite otherwise, however, when we consider the probable influence of the Egyptian residence upon the Hebrews themselves. What they may have been, before going to Egypt, is only inferential; but there is no reason to suppose that they were other than an uncultivated, partially civilised, nomadic race. The contact with the high civilisation of the Egyptians may have had upon them some such effect as the contact with the Romans had in later times upon the barbaric German hordes. In any event it is notable that the Hebrews after their migration, and throughout the period of their subsequent history, were firmly imbued with some essentially Egyptian ideas. They alone, of ancient people other than the Egyptians, practised a circumcision. It is at least an open question whether the Hebrew belief in the immortality of the soul was not gained through contact with the people of the Nile. This entire subject, however, is too new and too deeply hedged in by prejudice and preconception, to be susceptible of full and satisfactory handling at the present time. Fortunately, the main facts of Hebrew political history may be discussed with greater certitude.

After leaving Egypt, the Hebrews settled in the region of the Jordan, and entered upon a localised national existence. But for several centuries they made too small a mark to be remembered otherwise than by vague tradition; and even at their best, they cut no very large figure in the scheme of political news in the ancient world. There was but one period when they attempted, with any measure of success, to rival their powerful neighbours. This was the brief period when David and his son Solomon occupied the throne. The wars of David, if not so extensive as those of some of his contemporaries, have left no less sanguinary records of pillage and plunder than the records of other oriental conquests; and Solomon, under whose government the kingdom reached its apex of political glory, so far succeeded in vying with other kings, that his name became a byword of magnificence to later generations, though it probably did not dazzle his contemporaries. If the national tendency toward exaggeration has not played false to the facts, Solomon established a record, in one regard at least, that has not been equalled to this day: his harem of a thousand wives and concubines has no historical counterpart.

Yet after all the Hebrew monarchy, in its golden age, must have seemed a petty state as viewed from the contemporary standpoint of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and, perhaps, even the Hittites. The absence of contemporary references is sufficient evidence of this fact. And after the death of Solomon almost every vestige of world-historical importance vanished from the divided Hebrew nation. The weak and senescent people, whose whole time of glory had compassed but two brief generations, was from this time on to struggle for national existence, with no thought of conquest; it asked only that it might be allowed to live. And this boon was vouchsafed, despite vicissitudes of fortune that would have pressed out the very life of almost any other nation.

The Assyrians and the Babylonians repeatedly put the Israelites to the sword; yet that conquered people maintained its integrity long after these persecutors had ceased to have national existence. In one sense, this time of decline had greater importance than any other period that preceded it, because its vicissitudes gave rise to that impassioned poetry of denunciation[32] which remained, and will always remain, the chief glory of Hebrew history. Thanks largely to this poetry, the Hebrews first began to have a truly world-historical importance some centuries after the Romans effected their final dispersion. All through their life as an autonomist nation they vainly strove to vie with their neighbours in royal power, looking out upon other peoples jealously, and accepting their own insignificance with angry protest. Yet by a strange irony of fortune the despised Hebrew was to be chiefly responsible for preserving the memory of his more glorious contemporaries. For two thousand years the swords of the Assyrians and Babylonians were remembered chiefly because the stylus of the Hebrew scribe had told of their prowess.


A little over half a century ago James Ferguson, the historian of architecture, commented on the lack of Hebrew records as follows:

“It is one of the peculiarities of the Jewish history, and certainly not one of the least singular, that all we know of them is derived from their written books. Not one monument, not one sculptured stone, not one letter of an inscription, not even a potsherd, remains to witness by a material fact the existence of the Jewish kingdom. No museum ever possessed a Jewish antiquity, while Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and all the surrounding countries teem with material evidence of former greatness, and of the people that once inhabited them.”

Half a century of investigation has altered somewhat the aspect of Hebrew archæology. It is no longer quite true that there are no Hebrew antiquities in any museum. But the number of these antiquities is so small, and their importance so slight from an historical standpoint, that Ferguson’s criticism remains true in spirit if not in letter. The most patient researches in Palestine, beginning with the famous tour of Ernest Renan, have failed to bring to light more than two or three Hebrew inscriptions, as against the tens of thousands of records from Mesopotamia. Nor is it at all probable that any startling finds will ever be excavated. In all probability the ancient records of the Hebrews have almost utterly perished, whereas in Mesopotamia there are doubtless myriads of inscribed tablets to reward the future searcher. In Palestine it is almost certain there are no such stores of buried treasure undiscovered. Nor is the reason for this paucity of antiquities hard to find. The explanation is found in the seemingly paradoxical fact that the cities of the Israelites were not destroyed in ancient times, and continued to be inhabited far into the Middle Ages, or, as in the case of Jerusalem, until the present day. It will be recalled that the Babylonian and Assyrian tablets were preserved beneath the ruins of destroyed cities, and the most important collections have come from Nineveh, the city that was overthrown in the most cataclysmic manner. It requires but a moment’s consideration to make it clear that all of the tablets that were preserved beneath the ruins of Nineveh would long since have been scattered or broken had they continued to be accessible to successive generations of that destructive animal, man. Making the application to the case of the Hebrews it is clear that their antiquities were in fact scattered and destroyed in the course of time as those of Nineveh would have been under those circumstances.

It should be added, however, that it is doubtful whether the Hebrews produced inscriptions on relatively imperishable materials in such relative[33] abundance as did the Mesopotamians. The Hebrews came upon the historical field at a comparatively late day. It has been doubted whether any of their records were written much before the eighth or ninth century B.C.; and it is probable that they largely employed such perishable materials as the papyrus and animal skins to receive their writings. Doubtless the clay tablet of Babylonia was well known to them; indeed, they cannot have failed to be familiar with this document through the experiences of the Babylonian captivity. But it does not follow that they largely adopted the customs of their Mesopotamian cousins. There is, then, perhaps, a double reason for the paucity of ancient Hebrew inscriptions: the destructive agency of time acting upon a supply which was relatively meagre in the beginning.

All this applies to original inscriptions comparable to those which have come down to us from Egypt and Mesopotamia. But as every one knows, the story is quite different when we consider the Hebrew records that have come down to us through the efforts of successive generations of copyists. Here again we find that the case of the Israelites is sharply contrasted with that of the Assyrio-Babylonians. The records of the latter, produced in such abundance, and preserved by burial, were soon forgotten, because no lineal descendants of the people who made them were at hand to interest themselves in their preservation. The Hebrew records were passed down from one generation to another through a never ending series of copies: so that, curiously enough, the same agency which resulted in the destruction of the original documents themselves effected at the same time a permanent preservation of their contents. Thus it has happened that the oriental nation which has left us the fewest antiquities has sent down to us the most voluminous and complete literature.

It is to this literature of the Hebrews themselves that we must chiefly look for the history of that people. Contemporary nations paid but little attention to the Israelites, and the historians of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome have left us only random references, which in the aggregate suffice to give only the barest glimpses of Hebrew history. Aside from the Bible, including the apocryphal books, the only considerable texts that have come down to us, even from classical times, is the work of Josephus; and that author, it will be recalled, was himself a Jew, though he wrote in the Greek language. But for that matter the oldest existing texts of the Bible itself are also in the Greek language. No Hebrew text is known from earlier than the ninth century A.D.; whereas three reasonably complete Greek codices date from the fourth century A.D.

The authenticity of the various texts of the Hebrew writings need not be discussed here. It is estimated that the various manuscripts in the Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and other languages that are to-day preserved, present, when their texts are critically compared, about one hundred and fifty thousand discrepancies. Under these circumstances there must obviously be certain doubts about the exact reading of many texts; but it is held that the discrepancies as a whole are of minor importance; and doubtless in most instances it may safely be assumed that such is the case. In the main, the chief substance of the original text has probably been preserved, even where details have been consciously or unconsciously altered.

As to the reliability of the original records thus preserved, opinions differ widely. It seems to be generally conceded that the Hebrews were somewhat lacking in the true historical sense, being in this regard comparable rather to the Egyptians, than to their relatives the Babylonians.[34] But on the other hand, what has already been said about the general reliability of national traditions may be applied with full force here. The most sceptical historian will hardly deny that in their broad outlines the books of the Old Testament give expression to the actual facts of Hebrew history, however prejudiced the point of view, and however lacking the sense of chronology. In any event, whatever doubt may be cast upon the authenticity of any particular Bible record, the fact remains that, generally speaking, the Bible records as a whole constitute practically our sole source for ancient Hebrew history. As has been said, the references made here and there by other nations, by which the Bible records may be checked, have abundant interest, but can hardly be said to be truly consequential. There is, indeed, but a single inscription known to us in the original which makes direct reference to a specific event mentioned in the Bible. This unique monument is the famous Moabite stone, which bears an inscription in which King Mesha refers to an encounter with the Hebrews, which is told of from the other standpoint in the Bible reference. For all practical purposes, then, it is to the Bible alone that the historian must turn in attempting to reconstruct the history of Israel. No one need be reminded with what zeal this source has been investigated.

The attitude of the modern critic towards the Hebrew texts has changed very radically within the past few generations. As long ago as the year 1753 Dr. Astruc, court physician to Louis XV, pointed out that the earlier books of the Old Testament were not homogeneous. The suggestion was at that time regarded as most iconoclastic, and it had little influence. But in the nineteenth century a new school of scientific criticism arose which went back virtually to the position of Dr. Astruc, then forged ahead to still more iconoclastic conclusions. It was pointed out that two different sources had been used in the compilation of the first two chapters of Genesis. A further analysis placed the heterogeneous nature of the Pentateuch, or as one school of critics would prefer, the Hexateuch, seemingly beyond question. The upshot of the matter, so far as this can be phrased in a few words, is that many books of the Old Testament, once regarded as of undisputed authorship, are now considered by the dominant school of critics to be anonymous. Indeed, this remark applies, according to Professor Ewald, to the narrative books of the Old Testament without exception. Ewald’s views on the subject are worth quoting in extenso as showing the opinion of a recognised leader of this new school of criticism.

“There is one general token by which, in spite of its apparent insignificance, we can at once recognise with tolerable certainty the whole distinctive character of Hebrew historiography in relation to a special science of history. This token is the anonymous character of the historical books.


“The historian did not mention himself as the author nor do the readers make much inquiry after his name; this custom is persistent throughout and was only gradually changed in the last centuries, as may be concluded from the book of Ezra and Nehemiah, and from the Chronicles which question more particularly as to the names of the authors of more ancient histories. Moreover, it is only in these last days of the ancient people that names like ‘Book of Moses’ or ‘Books of Samuel’ appear, as will be shown presently. We must say that the practice of writing anonymously was established for the historical works from the very first, and that in the most flourishing times of historiography it was retained unaltered; it was just this that constituted the fundamental distinction between the writing of Hebrew history and that of both Greek and Arab (especially Mohammedan), and here was a failing from which it never properly freed itself even in later times. Much as, amongst the Indians, little inquiry has from ancient times been made concerning the author of a Purana, and the individual himself did not usually mention his own name.”

This estimate may doubtless be regarded as fairly representative of the opinions of such modern authorities as Wellhausen, Stade, Kittel, and Cheyne. It would be far afield from the present purpose to enter into a discussion of this subject in detail. Needless to say, there is scarcely any other topic that has excited more general interest or more acrimonious controversy. But for the purposes of the general historian it suffices to know that the historical writings of the Hebrews are now subjected to the same kind of analysis that is applied to the other writings of antiquity, and that, making the usual allowances for the ambiguities of an unscientific age, for the national prejudice of a peculiarly stubborn and egotistical people, and for the chronological inaccuracies of a race somewhat deficient in the historical sense, the Hebrew writings, like the writings of the old Greek historians, may be said to have stood fairly well the test of modern criticism.

Overlooking, for the present purpose, the traditional early wanderings of the race, the history of Israel as a nation properly begins with the occupation of the land of Canaan. The tribes practically occupy the territories subsequently called after them, and become consolidated into a nation. But the Philistines and Phœnicians still hold the coast land, and the Canaanites some of their central strongholds.

THE AGE OF THE JUDGES (1180-1020 B.C.)

B.C. The so-called judges are tribal chiefs, military leaders, who in this period stand at the head of the state. There is no regular transmission of authority, and no one is at the head of all the tribes at once. Sometimes they rule contemporaneously. In this age of settlement the bonds between the different tribes gradually become dissolved as they attain to security and peace. The earlier judges carry on the conquest of Canaan, and repel some outside invaders. Barak of Kadesh prompted by the prophet Deborah deals a crushing blow on the banks of the Kishor to a strong coalition of northern Canaanites under the leadership of Sisera. Gideon, one of the judges, puts a stop to the frequent incursions of the Midianites. The need of a monarchy begins to be felt. Gideon refuses a crown offered by the tribes of central Palestine, but his son Abimelech, aided by Shechemite kinsfolk, attempts to found a kingship. He is unsuccessful owing to internal dissension among his followers.

Jephthah leads the Gileadites in a successful campaign against the Ammonites, and this leads to a bloody tribal conflict between the Gileadites and Ephraimites. There are short wars with Philistia, with which the name of Samson the Danite is connected. In one of them the Israelites are 1040 badly beaten at Aphek and the Ark of the Covenant captured. The latter is returned after seven months, and sent to Kirjath-jearim for safe keeping. The tribes are rapidly becoming disorganised, though by conquest and fusion with the Canaanites they have become a large and vigorous people. The old religion is almost forgotten. In this age probably belongs the beginning of Hebrew literature, and the use of writing becomes common.


About twenty years after the battle of Aphek, Samuel, the last of the judges, calls an assembly of the tribes at Mizpeh. Law and order are restored in the community, and the covenant with Yahveh renewed. To complete the work of unification, Saul of Benjamin is elected king of Israel, and anointed by Samuel. Samuel also establishes schools of the prophets (Nebiim) in various parts of the land, whose main duties are to keep the light of religion from dying out, and to preserve the feeling of national unity.


1020 Saul.—He delivers Jabesh-Gilead from the besieging Ammonites, and assisted by his son Jonathan, conducts a successful war against the Philistines. His leniency towards Agag, king of the Amalekites, brings about his rejection by Samuel. David, an unknown youth, becomes attached to the king’s person, probably on account of his skill as a musician. Saul finally regards David as a rival, and exiles him. David gathers his tribesmen and many malcontents about him, and makes the Cave of Adullam his stronghold. He attacks 1010 the Philistines and the Amalekites. Saul and three sons are slain at Mount Gilboa in a battle with the Philistines, and Eshbaal (Ishbosheth), a surviving son, is made king by Abner, Saul’s general. David returns to Hebron and is anointed king of Judah. After several conflicts between the forces of the rival kings, Abner quarrels with Eshbaal and makes overtures to David, but is shortly assassinated by Joab.

1002 Murder of Eshbaal. David is invited to the throne of all Israel. Judah becomes the leading tribe. The Philistines revolt. David defeats them at Baal-perazim and Rephaim. Gath becomes tributary. David dislodges the Canaanites from Jebus and refounds the city, now Jerusalem. Royal palace on Mount Zion built. The Ark is brought from Kirjath-jearim to the new capital. David goes to war to defend and consolidate his kingdom. Campaigns against Edom, Moab, and Ammon. Rabbath Ammon captured, and inhabitants barbarously put to death. His son Absalom rebels and receives such support that David flees from Jerusalem, and Absalom takes possession. The king returns after Absalom’s death. The revolt of Sheba is suppressed and punished. Through her influence, Bathsheba succeeds in having her son Solomon appointed heir over Adonijah, the eldest son. The kingdom now extends from the borders of Egypt to the Euphrates on the west, and the Orontes on the north.

970 Solomon.—King at David’s death. He puts Adonijah, Joab, and Shimei to death at once. Banishes Abiathar the high priest, and installs Zadok. Marries daughter of the Pharaoh (probably Pasebkhanu II). Makes alliance with Hiram of Tyre. Builds fortresses and institutes an elaborate system of taxation, which arouses discontent and jealousy.

966-959 Building of the temple at Jerusalem. In the luxuries of the court various forms of heathen worship creep in, and the oppression of the people to support the king’s splendour, paves the way to disruption. Hadad of Edom and Rezon of Damascus become powerful rivals.

940 Jeroboam of Ephraim, revolts with the help of Ahijah of Shiloh. The plot fails, and Jeroboam seeks refuge with Shashanq I of Egypt.


930 At death of Solomon, the ten northern tribes which get no promise of better treatment from his successor, openly revolt, and sending for Jeroboam, elect him their king. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, retains Judah and Benjamin only.


Judah (930-586 B.C.)
(Judah and Benjamin)
Israel (930-722 B.C.)
(The Ten Northern Tribes)
930 Rehoboam attempts to win back the ten tribes; finally prevented by the prophet Shemaiah. 930 Jeroboam I becomes leader of a democratic movement looking to the abolishment of the elective monarchy. Makes Dan and Bethel the chief centres of religion, where Yahveh is worshipped in the form of a bull. A new non-Levitical priesthood started. Ahijah, the prophet, denounces these reactionary measures.
925 Invasion of Judah by Shashanq I of Egypt.
Capture and sack of Jerusalem.
920 Abijam, king of Judah.
917 Asa, king of Judah. Wars with Israel continue. Asa allies himself with Ben-Hadad I of Damascus. 917 Nadab succeeds his father, is murdered after two years by
915 Baasha, a captain of the army, while besieging Gibbethon. Baasha makes himself king, and is denounced by the prophet Jehu. Ben-Hadad invades Israel.
892 Elah, Baasha’s son succeeds him, and is slain in conspiracy by
890 Zimri, one of his officers, who, usurping the throne for seven days, is killed by
Omri, the commander of the Israelites, who takes the throne after slaying another pretender, Tibni. The capital of the kingdom is transferred from Sechem to Samaria, built by Omri. He founds the first secure dynasty in Israel—makes the Moabites pay tribute, but is hard pressed by the growing power of Damascus.
874 Jehoshaphat, king of Israel. Alliance of Judah and Israel through marriage of Jehoram and Athaliah, daughter of Ahab. 875 Ahab, king of Israel. Defeats the Syrians twice, and then, to the offence of the prophets, allies himself with them, probably to resist Assyria.[38]
854 Shalmaneser II of Assyria invades Syria, and defeats Israelites and Syrians at Qarqar. The alliance comes to an end, and Ahab is killed the following year in attempting to recover Ramoth-gilead from Ben-Hadad. Ahab marries Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal of Tyre, and the worship of Baal is instituted at Tyre. The prophet Elijah vigorously denounces this course. Contest between Baal and Yahveh, after which the latter is rehabilitated. Elijah flees.
853 Ahaziah, king of Israel. Elijah rebukes him for calling on Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron.
851 Jehoram succeeds his brother with help of Jehoshaphat. Attempts to recover allegiance of Moabites, but fails.
849 Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, succeeds his father. Athaliah attempts to introduce the heathenism and profligacy of Israel into Judah. The Edomites successfully revolt. The Philistines invade and pillage Jerusalem. Elisha, servant and successor of Elijah, comes into prominence, and makes fierce war upon Baal worship, and in the course of this anoints Jehu, an officer of the army, king. Jehu in revolt at once attacks Jehoram and Ahaziah, who are visiting him, and slays them both.
844 Ahaziah succeeds his father. Is killed by Jehu. 843 Jehu. Roots out Baal worship by fire and sword. The house of Omri is entirely exterminated. Comes to terms and pays tribute to Shalmaneser II, to protect his kingdom from Syria.
842 Athaliah usurps throne. Kills all the royal house except Joash, who is concealed by the high priest Jehoiada. The cult of Baal established in Jerusalem.
836 Jehoiada organises an insurrection. Athaliah is murdered and Joash made king. Reaction against Baal worship, although the cult still continues. Prophecies of Zechariah. Hazael of Damascus invades Judah.
815 Jehoahaz, Jehu’s son, succeeds him. Ben-Hadad III of Damascus besieges Samaria, but withdraws on approach of Assyrian army.
[39] 802 Jehoash. Defeats Syrians and recovers lost cities. Israel delivered from the Syrian yoke. Death of Elisha. Defeat and capture of Amaziah at Beth-shemesh. Enters Jerusalem.
797 Amaziah. The Edomites defeated in the valley of Salt. Declares war upon Israel and is badly defeated. Assassinated at Lachish in a conspiracy.
782 Jeroboam II, his son, succeeds. Recovers all of lost territory from Syria, reduced to impotency by Assyria, and Israel extends once more from “the entering in of Hamath unto the sea of the Arabah.”
778 Azariah (Uzziah). Builds harbour of Elath. Era of commercial prosperity. Kingdom made secure against the Philistines. Uzziah dies a leper. An era of peace and prosperity begins, although the attitude of Assyria is threatening.
Prophecies of Amos and Hosea. They denounce the corruption and heathenism of the people, and predict the fall of the kingdom.
741 Zechariah, king of Israel.
740 Jotham, his son, becomes king, after a short regency. 740 Shallum, a conspirator, murders the king and takes the throne.
738 Menahem, a soldier, kills and replaces Shallum. Levies an immense tax to purchase Tiglathpileser III’s support to his claim on the throne.
737 Pekahiah, his son, succeeds.
736 Ahaz, a man of weak character, succeeds his father. In spite of the prophet Isaiah’s warnings, calls upon Tiglathpileser III to help resist Pekah and Rezin. Religion is in a state of corrupt decay. Prophecies of Isaiah and Micah. Isaiah preaches against the consequences of the Assyrian alliance to the nation and religion of Judah, and advises a policy of quietness; Micah against the condition of the poor. 736 Pekah, an officer at the head of a military plot, slays the king and seizes the throne. Allies himself with Rezin of Damascus to attack Judah.
734 Hoshea, supported by Tiglathpileser, slays Pekah, and becomes an Assyrian vassal.
727 Hezekiah. Carries out moderate religious reforms in early years of reign. The religion centralised at Jerusalem. Many administrative improvements in the kingdom.
725 Hoshea, on Shabak’s advice, withholds tribute from Shalmaneser IV, who at once lays siege to Samaria.
722 Capture of Samaria by Shalmaneser’s successor Sargon II. The population is deported beyond the Euphrates, and replaced by Assyrio-Babylonian settlers. Absorption of the northern kingdom by Assyria.


Growing strength, in spite of Isaiah’s warning of the 702 anti-Assyrian party until finally Hezekiah withholds tribute from Assyria; his example is followed by other vassal states of Palestine.

701 Sennacherib invades Palestine. Battle of Eltekeh (Altaku). Tirhaqa of Egypt comes to Hezekiah’s assistance. The Assyrians, disabled by great pestilence, return to Nineveh without taking Jerusalem, but Hezekiah resumes payment of tribute.

695 Manasseh succeeds Hezekiah. Revival of Baal worship. Reaction against disciples of the prophets who are persecuted. Adoration of the sun and stars introduced from Assyria, where Manasseh spends some time as a hostage to Asshurbanapal.

641 Amon, king of Judah. Persecution of the faithful Jews continues.

639 Josiah, son of Amon, succeeds at age of eight. Terrible social and moral conditions exposed in prophecies of Zephaniah and Nahum.

621 Pretended discovery by Hilkiah of the “Book of the Law” leading to religious reforms. Idolatrous emblems are cast out and local sanctuaries abolished.

608 Neku II of Egypt enters Palestine on a career of conquest. Josiah meets him at Megiddo and is slain. Jehoahaz elected king by the people over his elder brother, Jehoiakim.

607 Jehoahaz made prisoner by Neku, and Jehoiakim placed on the throne. Judah, weakened and in disorder, becomes an Egyptian province.

605 Defeat of Neku by Nebuchadrezzar at Carchemish, in consequence whereof 601 Jehoiakim becomes a vassal of the Babylonian king.

597 Jehoiakim slain in a Chaldean invasion; his son Jehoiachin succeeds. After three months’ reign is carried captive to Babylon, after the surrender of Jerusalem to Nebuchadrezzar. The flower of the population is deported also. Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, is appointed king and his name changed to Zedekiah. Jeremiah counsels complete submission to Babylon, but, 588 Zedekiah rebels, relying on the vain promise of Uah-ab-Ra [Hophra] of Egypt, and as a consequence 588-586 Siege and capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar.

586 The Jews “except the poorest of the land” are carried into captivity at Babylon. Gedaliah is appointed governor over the remnant left behind. A few surviving leaders flee and settle in Egypt, among them Jeremiah. End of the Hebrews as a nation. Henceforth they exist as a religious community. Beginning of Judaism.


586-536 The Period of Exile. The Jews form the nucleus of a new people. Jehoiachin is released by Amil Marduk (Evil-Merodach) and treated with kindness. Ezekiel labours with his people to bear their burden and cheers them with the hope of restoration. They spend much time in compiling and revising the literary records of the past. The “Priestly Code” is compiled.

538 Conquest of Babylon by Cyrus. Persian dominion.

536 Cyrus issues decree permitting Jews to return to Jerusalem with their sacred vessels and to rebuild the temple. A band sets out at once headed by Zerubbabel and Jeshua.


534 The rebuilding of the temple is begun, but interrupted on account of the opposition of the Samaritans. Haggai and Zechariah exhort the Jews to complete the temple.

520 The rebuilding is renewed.

516 The temple is dedicated.

510-460 A period whose history is unknown. Zerubbabel may have been crowned king, but this is doubtful. Judea now an insignificant province of the empire, controlled by Persian satraps whose rulers are corrupt and oppressive. Religious faith again begins to decay. The Law is evaded and disobeyed, and in this condition of things a small reactionary and zealous party increase in numbers and influence.

483 Ezra, a Zadokite priest, is encouraged to visit Jerusalem on a mission of reform, by Artaxerxes I, who wishes to conciliate the Jews in Babylon, who are uneasy at the condition of religion in Judea. His mission fails.

445 Nehemiah, a Babylonian Jew, arrives in Jerusalem with Artaxerxes’ permission to repair the city’s walls. Ezra reappears. The Law Book is published and the covenant between Israel and Yahveh is renewed. The foundation stone of Judaism is laid. The Law is now the possession of each Israelite. Nehemiah improves the social condition of the poor and returns to Persia (433).

432 Second visit of Nehemiah. He finds some of the old abuses again in practice. The founding of the Samaritan colony gets rid of those opposed to Nehemiah, and unifies the loyal Jews.

415 Death of Nehemiah. The internal administration of Judea passes to the line of hereditary high priests.


415 Eliashib, high priest. He and his successors direct the affairs of Judea assisted by a council of elders and priests.

413 Joiada becomes high priest.

373 Johanan murders his brother Joshua, who attempts to seize the high-priesthood. The Persian satrap interferes and fines the Jews.

350 Judea ravished by Artaxerxes III, while suppressing a Syrian revolt. The temple destroyed. Many Jews deported.

341 Jaddua becomes high priest. The age of “Wisdom” literature (Khokmah).

333 Overthrow of the Persian Empire by Alexander at the battle of Issus. Israel has a new master.

323 At death of Alexander, Judea becomes a part of the satrapy of Syria.

321 Onias I becomes high priest.

320 Conquest of Jerusalem by Ptolemy Lagus. He deports some of the inhabitants to Egypt.

314-302 Judea a Syrian province.

302 Ptolemy Lagus retakes Judea.

300 Simon the Just becomes high priest. He repairs the temple and strengthens the fortifications of the city.

294-280 Judea nominally a Seleucid province.

285 Ptolemy Philadelphus succeeds his father, who abdicates. The Septuagint version of the Bible begun under his patronage.

250 Onias II becomes high priest. Tries to withhold tribute from Ptolemy.

247 Ptolemy Euergetes succeeds his father.


222 Ptolemy Philopator succeeds his father.

219 In the war between Antiochus the Great and Ptolemy Philopator, Jerusalem is pillaged and the temple profaned by the latter.

217 Simon II becomes high priest.

204 Judea lost to the Ptolemies, under whom she has been happier than any time since she lost her independence, and comes under the rule of the Seleucidæ.

198 Onias III becomes high priest. Antiochus makes a bloodless capture of Jerusalem. His treatment of the Jews is very favourable.

187 Seleucus Philopator succeeds Antiochus.

176 Attempt of Heliodorus, instigated by the viceroy Apollonius, to plunder the temple.

175 Antiochus Epiphanes succeeds Seleucus.

175 Onias, friendly to the Egyptian party, is deposed by Antiochus IV, and retiring to Egypt with his followers founds Leontopolis. Jason becomes high priest. A Greek gymnasium established at Jerusalem.

172 Menelaus ousts Jason from the priesthood.

Antiochus intervenes in the resulting quarrel. Menelaus is forcibly installed as high priest and Apollonius takes Jerusalem. Profanation of the temple. Daily sacrifice and other rites suspended.


167 There is a rising at Modin, under the priest Mattathias, because Syrian officers try to compel the Jews to worship heathen deities. Many desperate adherents flock to Mattathias’ standard, and a large band is soon roaming the country destroying heathen altars and enforcing circumcision. Mattathias dies (166) making Judas Maccabæus his successor. A systematic campaign is now decided upon.

166 Judas Maccabæus defeats the Syrians at Emmaus.

165 Judas Maccabæus defeats the Syrians at Bethzur, reconsecrates the temple and restores daily sacrifice.

164 Antiochus Eupator. The Book of Daniel is written.

162 Judas attempts to expel the Syrian garrison from Acra, meets a crushing defeat from the Syrians at Bethzur. Alcimus, leader of the Hellenistic party, becomes high priest, to the resentment of the Maccabæans.

Demetrius I usurps the Syrian throne, and has Antiochus killed.

161 Judas defeats Nicanor, the Syrian, at Beth-horon (Adasa). Nicanor slain. Judas defeated and killed at Elasa. He had made secret overtures to Rome. Judas’ brother Jonathan succeeds to the leadership of the party.

159 Death of Alcimus. An interregnum in the high-priestship. Jonathan establishes himself at Michmash as governor of the Jewish nation.

153 Alexander Balas, a pretender to the Syrian throne, makes Jonathan high priest.

150 Death of Demetrius.

145 Alexander Balas killed by Ptolemy Philometor. Demetrius II succeeds. Confirms Jonathan in the priesthood.

142 Trypho, the general of Alexander Balas, and his son Antiochus, seize Jonathan and put him to death. Simon, son of Mattathias, assumes the leadership, and induces Demetrius to release Judea from tribute. Capture of Acra by Simon. Judea free from Syrian control.


141 Simon confirmed as high priest. A time of peace and prosperity. The Law finally re-established.

135 Murder of Simon and his two sons by his son-in-law, Ptolemy. The third son, John Hyrcanus, succeeds to the high-priesthood. The position becomes one of practically independent sovereignty. Antiochus VII attempts to recover Judea. He devastates the country and Hyrcanus is obliged to purchase the withdrawal of the army, and the immunity of the capital.

128 Antiochus killed in Parthia. Hyrcanus annexes new territory. Captures Shechem and Samaria. Era of grandeur for the Jewish commonwealth.

105 John Hyrcanus dies. His son Aristobulus imprisons his mother, kills two brothers, and assumes title of king. Conquest and annexation of Ituræa.

104 Alexander Jannæus succeeds his brother. The growing opposition of the Scribes and Pharisees to the development of the Maccabæan commonwealth into a kingdom, leads to civil war, during which the Pharisees summon assistance from Syria and drive Alexander from Jerusalem, but he recovers the throne and works bloody revenge upon the Pharisees.

79 Hyrcanus II succeeds his father Alexander.

78 Alexandra (widow of Jannæus) makes terms with the Pharisees.

69 Aristobulus II wrests power from his brother Hyrcanus. Antipater, governor of Idumæa, sides with the latter. Aristobulus defeated, and Hyrcanus nearly succeeds in 65 regaining the throne, but the Romans appear in Syria, and take sides with Aristobulus.

63 Pompey, appealed to by both princes, captures Jerusalem; Hyrcanus retains his title, but Judea is made tributary to Rome.

47 Antipater made procurator of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee by Julius Cæsar. Hyrcanus assumes title of ethnarch.

43 Assassination of Antipater. His son Phasael is governor of Jerusalem. His son Herod is governor of Galilee.

40 Phasael captured by Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, and commits suicide. Herod flees to Rome and is made king of the Jews.

37 Herod captures Jerusalem in his war against Antigonus.

He reorganises the sanhedrim, and the Pharisees become nearly as numerous in it as the priests and elders.

35-25 Herod removes the surviving members of the Asmonæan family from his path.

20 Herod begins reconstruction of the temple. He founds the cities of Antipatris and Cæsarea.

7-6 Herod causes the sons of Mariamne to be condemned and strangled.

4 Birth of Jesus—Death of Herod. He wills his dominions to his surviving sons, Herod Antipas and Archelaus.

A.D. The Jews appeal to Rome on account of Archelaus’ misgovernment. Augustus deposes the ethnarch, and Judea becomes a Roman province.

7 The census of Quirinius takes place. Coponius is procurator. He is followed by Marcus Ambivius and Annius Rufus.

15 Valerius Gratus appointed procurator.

26 Pontius Pilate appointed procurator. The procurators are subordinate to the Imperial Legates of Syria and reside at Cæsarea.

29 Jesus begins his ministry.

33 Death of Jesus.


36 Marcellus appointed procurator.

37 Marullus appointed procurator.

38 Persecution of the Jews for refusing to worship Caligula.

41 The emperor Claudius commits the former kingdom of Herod to the latter’s grandson, Agrippa.

44 Death of Agrippa. Cuspius Fadus appointed procurator. The insurrection of Theudas takes place.

46 Tiberius Alexander appointed procurator.

48 Cumanus appointed procurator. Signs of revolt among the Jews appear.

52 Felix appointed procurator. The state of anarchy increases. The Zealots become the dominant party.

60 Porcius Festus appointed procurator.

62 Albinus appointed procurator.

64 Gessius Florus, the last procurator, appointed.

66 Florus seizes the temple treasure. After other atrocities the Jews revolt. The Syrian legate appears before Jerusalem, but quickly raises the siege. The emperor then appoints Vespasian to conduct the war.

67 Vespasian arrives in Galilee. Siege and capture of Jotapata. Josephus the insurgent general taken.

68 Siege of Jerusalem begins.

70 Fall of Jerusalem.




It is difficult nowadays to realise how unimportant the people of Israel seemed in their own time, as viewed by contemporaries. Thanks to their traditions, which the Western world accepted almost unchallenged for many centuries, the Hebrews came to be thought of as occupying a central position in the Oriental world. In point of fact they had no such position. They were quite overshadowed by numerous competitors. Except for a brief period under David and Solomon, they were never a conquering people, or of political consequence. They could not compete in culture with the Egyptians on the one hand, or with the Assyrians on the other. They were not great traders like their neighbours, the Phœnicians. We shall see that they even turned to the latter for aid in building their famous temple which, after all, as it appears, was but an insignificant structure compared with the great pyramids and temples of their neighbours.

Nevertheless, the importance which the Hebrews attained in the eyes of subsequent generations through their literature, gives them a world-historical status fully on a plane with that of any other oriental nation. The smallness of the land, and the relative feebleness of the people, only serve to emphasise the contrast between material prosperity and possible intellectual influence. It is curious, however, looking back from a modern standpoint, to realise how little influence the Hebrews had in their own day. One can never escape this thought; it returns to one constantly as one scans the history of the inhabitants of the tiny land of Palestine.

We have already seen that the Hebrews were a Semitic race, closely allied to the Mesopotamians. We shall come across many Semitic traits in dealing with the Israelites, that are familiar through our studies of the Babylonians and Assyrians. Despite the contention of some modern ethnologists, most readers will probably feel that the Semite was a peculiarly cruel and relentless victor when fortune favoured his arms; but it must be admitted that he was a stubborn, heroic sufferer under reverses. The persistence of the Hebrew race, scarcely modified to the present day—the most extraordinary case of racial preservation in all history—may be traced directly to the dominant ideas which the people entertained from the earliest times, and which they never relinquished.

A word should be said as to the names “Hebrew,” “Israelite,” and “Jew,” which are so often used synonymously. Etymologically, a Hebrew is a descendant of Heber, a great grandson of Shem; an Israelite is a descendant of Israel, a name given to Jacob after he had proved himself what the name implies, a “warrior of God”; while a Jew is a descendant of[46] the kingdom of Judah. The fact that the northern branch of the divided kingdom took the specific name of Israel, in contradistinction to the kingdom of Judah, has led to the restricted application of the name Israel. Nevertheless, it is customary to apply the word in its wider or original sense, and the more recent historians generally make the name “Israelite” synonymous with “Hebrew,” as applying to the entire race from earliest times. It is customary, however, for careful writers to use the name “Jew” only in reference to the later period of racial history, as it was the descendants of the kingdom of Judah alone that maintained racial existence after the Babylonian captivity.a


Palestine is the southern portion of Syria. It extends from Mount Hermon to the desert of Arabia Petræa, between the thirty-first and thirty-second degree north latitude. The inhabitants of the country called it Canaan, and its borders are thus defined in the Book of Genesis: “The border of the Canaanites was from Sidon as thou camest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.” Its eastern boundary, of which Genesis makes no mention, was probably the Jordan. To the seacoast the Greeks gave the name of Phœnicia; as for that of Palestine, it originally denoted only the southwestern part, which was inhabited by the Pelesheth or Philistines. After the Hebrew conquest, the country of Canaan, now become the land of Israel, stretched beyond the right bank of Jordan towards the desert. After the division of the Israelite tribes into two kingdoms, the southern portion, west of the Dead Sea, became the land of Judah, whence comes the name of Judea. Under the Maccabees, the name of Judea included the whole region which, in earlier days, had been the land of Israel. The Romans divided the country into four provinces; the first three, on the western bank of Jordan, being—Galilee, in the north, next Samaria, and then Judea; the fourth, Peræa, was on the eastern bank. This division corresponds roughly with the character of the country; and is that which we meet with in Greek and Latin authors, in the New Testament, and in the Fathers of the Church.

Two ranges of mountains, with the Jordan flowing between, traverse Palestine from north to south and connect Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon with Horeb and Sinai. They are intersected by valleys and plains, and the principal peaks bear names hallowed by historical associations or mythological traditions. The most famous are the hills about Jerusalem—Zion, Moriah, and the Mount of Olives. Proceeding northwards, we come to Mount Gerizim, where stood a rival sanctuary to that at Jerusalem; Carmel, the abode of Elijah the prophet; Tabor, where St. Jerome places the scene of the Transfiguration; and, east of Jordan, to Mount Nebo, whence Moses viewed the Promised Land before he died. To the north the mountains are clothed with trees and vegetation; to the south, in Judea proper, they are barren rocks; even the plains on the shore of the Dead Sea are untilled and waste. The contrast becomes even more marked when we pass beyond the borders of Palestine; to the south, rugged Idumæa, the country of Job, and beyond it the sandy deserts where reigns the burning simoon, the wrath whereof is a devouring fire; and the holy mountain of Sinai, where the One God revealed himself in tempest and lightnings. To the north, the deep gorges of Lebanon, whence spring the sources of the Jordan; and those gardens of God, the hollow of Syria and the plain of Damascus; and[47] the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon, whence the sons of God came down to join themselves, under the shade of the great cedars, with the daughters of men. After the lapse of many centuries, this marriage of heaven and earth was destined to be renewed in a chaster form, and Eden and Galilee to see bloom, like a lily under green palm trees, the new Eve, the Virgin who should bear a God.

The Jordan first traverses a small lake, which is almost dry in summer, and then flows into the lake of Gennesareth or Tiberias, also called the Sea of Galilee, and famous in Christian tradition. The shape of this lake is an irregular oval, twenty kilometres in length by about nine in breadth. The water is fresh and fit for drinking, but the volcanic nature of the soil is indicated by springs of hot water in the vicinity, and by the basaltic rocks that cover its shores. Its level is two hundred and thirty metres below that of the sea. This low level has been found constant throughout the whole valley of the Jordan, which, leaving the lake of Gennesareth, continues its course southwards, and, at a distance of twenty-five leagues from it, falls into the Dead Sea. The mouth is four hundred metres below the level of the Mediterranean. The Dead Sea, also called Lake Asphaltites, because of the bitumen which floats upon its surface, is a lake with no outlet, and loses by evaporation about the same amount of water that it receives from the Jordan and its other affluents. It is sixty-four kilometres in length, its breadth varies from eight to thirteen kilometres, its greatest depth is about four hundred metres. Its basin is the bottom of the great valley which extends from Mount Hermon to the Gulf of Akabah on the Red Sea. This basin is in all likelihood due to the giving way of a vast crater formed by the great volcanic eruption which swallowed up the cities of Pentapolis. Genesis has preserved the memory of this cataclysm, which it calls a rain of fire and brimstone. In the neighbourhood we find deposits of lava, pumice-stone, sulphur, and bitumen. The saltness and causticity of the water of the Dead Sea explain why no fish nor any sort of animal can live in it; it contains twenty-four to twenty-six and a quarter per cent. of saline matter, in place of the four per cent. of other seas. Its specific gravity is greater by a fifth than that of the water of the ocean, and it is consequently impossible to drown in it. The saline concretions met with in such regions as this may have given rise to the fable of Lot’s wife, who was changed into a pillar of salt.

The sacred writers frequently extol the fertility of Palestine, “a country of wheat, of barley, of vines, of fig trees, and pomegranate trees, a country of olive trees, of oil, and of honey.” It is true that the soil about Jerusalem is barren and stony, a fact which caused Strabo to say that the people led by Moses had had no trouble in conquering a country that did not deserve to be defended; but the whole of Palestine is not like the environs of Jerusalem. Latin authors confirm the testimony of the Bible as to the fertility of Judea. “The soil,” says Tacitus, “yields in abundance the products of our country, and balm and the palm tree beside.” According to Justin, the balm of Judea, which was grown chiefly in the plain of Jericho, was the principal source of the wealth of the country. Ammianus Marcellinus speaks in the same way of the rich husbandry of Palestine. To this day, in spite of Turkish misgovernment and Arab raids, it retains—in the north more especially—many traces of its ancient fertility. The valley of Jordan is rich in pastures. The olives of Palestine are said to be preferable to those of Provence. Judea itself, though on the whole barren, has some districts which yield good harvests, and, above all, excellent wine. But the scourge of the country, according to the Turks and Arabs, is locusts.[48] “The number of these insects,” says Volney, “is incredible to any one who has not seen it with his own eyes: the ground is covered with them for the space of several leagues. The noise they make, browsing on the trees and herbs, can be heard from afar, like an army pillaging by stealth. It is better to have to do with Tartars than with these destructive little creatures, it is as though fire followed in their wake. Wherever their legions repair, verdure disappears from the land like a curtain rolled up; trees and plants, stripped of their leaves and reduced to mere branches and stalks, make the hideous aspect of winter succeed, in the twinkling of an eye, to the bounteous scenes of spring. When these clouds of locusts rise on the wing, to surmount some obstacle or to cross some desert place more rapidly, it is literally true to say that they darken the sky.”b

Ancient Joppa


The inhabitants of the country just described have each and all (with exceptions so small as to count for nothing in the mass) belonged to a race which we are in the habit of calling “Semitic,” or the “nations of the Semitic tongue.” The term has been so much abused, in scientific works no less than in public life, that we must first determine its real significance. The name of “Semite” is derived from “Shem,” who appears in the tenth chapter of Genesis (in the language of the genealogising historiographer) as the ancestor of the Hebrews and a number of neighbouring tribes.

Because most of the nations whose descent is traced from Shem, in Genesis x., speak languages alike in structure and entirely different from other languages, we have accustomed ourselves, ever since the days of Eichhorn, to call these nations and languages Semitic. And because peoples who speak analogous languages are always, to a certain extent, connected by similarity of descent, and consequently, by physical and mental resemblances, we likewise speak of a Semitic race. Under this heading we class all the nations that speak languages of the Hebrew type, and these are the Aramæans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Canaanites, Phœnicians, Arabs, and a large proportion of the Abyssinians. Hence the phrase Semitic peoples or languages is, like so many that are used in science, merely a conventional term.

As far back as history goes, the inhabitants of Palestine have always been people of Semitic speech, i.e. of a language of the Hebrew type. In the very earliest times to which historical research can give us any clew, the period before the immigration of the Israelites into the land west of Jordan,[49] the population of Palestine varied, exactly as it does now, according to the character of the various parts of the country. Moreover, then as now, the Jordan and the Jordan Valley constituted the main barrier between these Semitic peoples. To the west of Jordan dwells an agricultural population, divided up into numerous small tribes, which we are in the habit of calling Canaanite. The collective term Canaanite had of course been extended from a single district or tribe named Canaan to the whole body of cognate peoples. The inhabitants of the Phœnician maritime cities are of the same race, and so are those of the kingdom of the Hittites, which lies to the north of Palestine.

On the farther side of Jordan, however, dwell Semitic tribes, in many cases still nomadic, speaking the same language as the rest, but inferior to them in civilisation, who are each and all styled “Ibrim” (Hebrews), i.e. “those beyond” or those that dwell beyond Jordan.

But along the southern, no less than on the eastern, frontier of the land west of Jordan, wandered nomadic tribes (intermingled to a great extent with Canaanite and Hebrew tribes), who are classed, according to common opinion, under the general heading of Arab, a view to which the few remains in the shape of proper names which have come down to us, offers no contradiction.

This order of things was disturbed when one of the aforesaid Hebrew tribes began to migrate by degrees into the country west of Jordan, to settle there, and ultimately to take possession of it more and more completely. During the process it mingled freely with the original Canaanite population, whose civilisation it gradually assimilated, while at the same time some other Hebrew and Arabian tribes were merged in it.

The product of this intermixture is the people of Israel. It first came into being by the immigration into the country west of the Jordan, which consequently has a perfect title to pass in legend for the Promised Land. It did not come out of Egypt as an organised nation, and arrive on the west of Jordan after many wanderings to and fro. It was as little a nation of pure blood as any on earth, for it admitted persons of Aramæan and Egyptian descent as well as the Canaanite, Hebrew and Arabic elements already mentioned.

The people of Israel never succeeded in possessing themselves of the whole country west of Jordan. And only on that condition could it have grown into one of the greater nations and established a homogeneous state of commanding importance. Nay, it could not so much as permanently hold its own in its old territory east of Jordan. That would only have been possible if it had been able to occupy the regions northwards from the plain of Megiddo to Lebanon and the opposite districts on the east of Jordan with a dense population of settlers. There no obstacle interferes with intercourse between the two halves of the country. There a compact population could have developed, a unit in customs and interests; and by this means the southern portions of the country, divided by the river Jordan, would have been held together. But in those parts of the country west of the river, which lie to the north of the plain of Megiddo, the Israelite population was never numerous in the days of the kingdom of Israel. It had always a strong intermixture of Canaanite elements which it was unable to assimilate. Hence many of the Israelite families which settled there were early lost to the nation.

But since the people of Israel were not numerically strong enough to win these regions for Israelite nationality, and since a compact body of Israelitish[50] inhabitants existed on the highlands south of the plain of Megiddo to the southern margin of the Dead Sea, and these parts accordingly became the nucleus of the kingdom of Israel; the latter bore the seeds of destruction within itself from the beginning. And there was another factor to add to the difficulties of the situation: before the regions which afterwards formed the nucleus of the Israelite state had passed into the whole possession of the immigrants, before the fusion of Canaanite, Hebrew, and Arabian families with the tribes of Israel was everywhere complete, before, that is, they could contemplate the conquest of the coast, two other claimants of the land west of Jordan appeared on the scene. From the northeast, Aramæan tribes pressed forward as far as Anti-Lebanon, from the southwest came the warlike nation of the Philistines. Like the Israelites, they both amalgamated with the original Canaanite population of the territory they conquered. They, and not the Canaanite population of the coast, were for centuries the real adversaries of the state of Israel. Nay, the nation was first called into being by the danger that menaced it from the Philistines.

Thus the strength of the Israelite nation was exhausted in the struggle for the possession of the land west of Jordan. A people less tenacious, less valiant, less persevering, would never have maintained its national existence so long under the circumstances. By holding its own against Philistines and Aramæans, and succumbing only to the onset of the great Asiatic empires, Israel gave proof of its high capacities in the sphere of politics.

But how did an Israelite state come into being at all under such circumstances? Why did not the Hebrews who migrated to the west of Jordan join themselves to the original Canaanite population which spoke the same language and was ethnologically so closely akin to them? Why did not a Canaanite state arise, seeing that in all points of civilisation the Canaanites were the instructors of the Hebrew immigrants? The answer to this question is to be found in the fact that the immigrant Hebrew clans who gave the first impulse to the creation of the nation of Israel, were prevented from so doing by the difference between their religion and that of the Canaanites. Before their migration across the Jordan they had separated from the rest of the Hebrew tribes and adopted a religion of a far higher type than that of the original Canaanite dwellers west of Jordan. By this means they had already become one people. Concerning the process by which it came to pass we have nothing but myth and legend. But if we compare these with the observations we have been able to make in the case of religion, civilisation, and customs of other Hebrew tribes, we can at all events draw general conclusions as to the course of the movements which led to this result. Let us therefore next consider the relation in which the children of Israel stand to other Hebrew peoples. According to what has been said in the foregoing pages, there are three things which distinguish the children of Israel from the rest of the Hebrews. Firstly, the large intermixture of Canaanite blood—in one, at least, of the latter races there was a larger measure of Arab blood than in the children of Israel. Secondly, their adoption of Canaanite civilisation, and, as a consequence, a more complete transition to agricultural life. Thirdly, the worship of Jehovah as their national god.

Israel represents that section of the Hebrew race which, on the one hand, was most strongly influenced by Canaanite civilisation, and on the other, had advanced farthest in religious development, and was most largely permeated with foreign elements. Generally speaking, the other nations of the same class are of purer Hebrew blood and have remained partly nomadic, and therefore—with the exception of the Moabites—they have remained more[51] barbarous in a lower stage of development. In the earliest times, more particularly, the differences between the Israelites and the Hebrews proper were vague and undefined. Several Hebrew clans found admittance into Judah, a tribe which is not even mentioned among those of Israel in the Song of Deborah, and at that time when Numbers xxv. 1-5 was composed, a licentious worship of Baal of Peor was in vogue in that neighbourhood. But all the Old Testament records prove that the Moabites worshipped one god only, the divinity Chemosh. Hence, since such a narrative as the Yahvistic text is absolutely trustworthy in such matters, we are forced to conclude that it was Chemosh who was thus worshipped in that neighbourhood as the Baal (i.e. Lord) of Peor. The conduct of the Moabite men and women is in no way different from that of Israel of old in the lament of Hosea iv. 13-15. That the Moabites, like the Israelites, gave their god the name of Baal, i.e. Lord, may be deduced from the two Moabite local names of Baal Meon and Bamoth Baal. It is therefore unnecessary to have recourse to the theory that the phrase “Baal Peor” may have been coined by the Israelites.

The language of the Moabites is merely a dialect of that in which the Old Testament scriptures are written, and which we usually call Hebrew, though Israelitish would be the better word. The affinity of the two languages is not only evident from Moabitish proper names that have come down to us; it is raised above the reach of doubt by Mesha’s inscription. From this inscription it is plain that Moabitish presents some points of contact with Arabic, a fact that can be explained by the contiguity of the two languages.

The idea that the Israelites conquered the country north of Arnon as early as the days of Moses must be given up as unhistorical. It is derived from an uncritical application of Numbers ii. From this chapter the inference is usually drawn that an Amorite invasion of Moab had taken place shortly before the time of Moses. They are supposed to have conquered all the northern half of Moab and the farther side of Jordan and then to have been defeated and destroyed by Moses. The groundwork of the passage in Numbers xxi. is a narrative taken from the Elohistic text xxi. 4-9, 12-18, 21-25, 27, 30. According to this, there existed in the time of Moses a kingdom of the Amorites (i.e. Canaanites) under a king named Sihon, to the north of Arnon, between that river and the Jabbok, and bordered on the east by the land of the Ammonites. Verse 26 is warrant that this king Sihon had taken his country from the Moabites. But this verse is an interpolation which interrupts the continuity of vv. 25 and 27, and is intended to bring the view of the Elohistic text into line with that which prevailed elsewhere, and according to which these districts belonged to Moab.

In support of the opinion that this district was invested from the Moabites in the time of Moses, the Elohistic text refers to an ancient song, probably taken from the Book of the Wars of Jehovah. In vv. 27-30 he says, “wherefore they that speak in proverbs say:

‘Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:
For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon:
It hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon.
Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh:
He hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters into captivity, (unto Sihon, king of the Amorites.)
We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon.’”


But this song contradicts at all points the statement which the Elohistic text brings it forward to verify. King Sihon, who was conquered according to the song, is rather a king of the Moabites, and his conquerors, who in the introduction are invited to settle in conquered cities, are obviously Israelites, since the invitation comes in an Israelite song. The “Sihon, king of the Amorites” put in brackets above, is proved by its incompatibility with the whole tenor of the song to be a gloss, interpolated for the purpose of bringing it into harmony with the presuppositions of v. 26. The song is a poem, composed on the occasion of such an inroad from the north into Moabite territory north of the Arnon, as the inscription of Mesha describes.

Hence it is out of the question that Israel should have settled in northern Moab after the conquest of an Amorite king, Sihon by name, at a period anterior to the migration into the land west of Jordan. The settlement took place much later, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, whom Moses is supposed to have conquered, came into being by a misinterpretation of the song just quoted.

This same settlement of Israel in the northern half of Moab was temporary only. According to Isaiah xv.-xvi. the whole region north of Arnon, which Numbers xxi. represents to us as having been conquered by Moses and which the Fundamental Writing gives to Reuben, is part of the kingdom of Moab. Jeremiah xlviii. also names the cities north of Arnon as Moabite. Hence, in the region between the northern margin of the Dead Sea and the Arnon, the conflict between the two cognate nations of Moab and Israel surged to and fro for centuries. And probably the immediate object of each was the possession of the walled cities. They must have been held first by one nation and then by the other. The country population may have changed less; it fled before the invading foe and submitted to the victor. A large proportion of it was probably Moabite even while Israel was in temporary possession of the cities. And this was, of course, even more the case when the whole of Moab was tributary to Israel.

All the hatred of Israel for the kindred tribe of Moab that defended its territory and won back their conquests from them finds expression in the legend that Moab and the people of Ammon took their rise from the incestuous intercourse of Lot with his daughters (Genesis xix. 30 seq.). The bias of the whole legend is betrayed by its ignorance of the names of the daughters. It is obviously nothing but a malicious travesty of the view that made the Moabites sons of Lot (Deuteronomy ii., ix., xix.).

The figure of Lot, on the other hand, is not an invention of Jewish legend or an interpretation of some physical phenomena observed on the Dead Sea, but the name of a Hebrew or Moabitish clan. The figure of Lot’s wife (who is also anonymous) alone is a nature-myth. It is the interpretation given to a block of rock-salt, exposed by the action of water, on the shore of the Dead Sea, in which the beholders fancied they saw the figure of a woman, an idea found repeatedly in the legendary lore of the most diverse races. A pillar of salt of this kind is shown at the present day. The ethnological origin of Lot, on the contrary, can be maintained with the more assurance since we meet with the adjective “Lotan,” derived from Lot as the name of an Edomite clan in Genesis xxxvi. 20, 29.

The second Hebrew people with which we have to do, the Bene-Ammon, the sons of Ammon or Ammonites, of whose putative descent from Lot’s younger daughter we have already spoken, seems to have been a genuine desert race. The land east of Jordan being occupied by Moab in the south and Israel in the north, there certainly were but few districts fit for tillage[53] left for them. Nevertheless, attempts were not wanting on their part to gain possession of the east side of Jordan.

The Edomites, the third of these Hebrew peoples, were those with whom Israel came most into contact. The close relations and frequent intermixtures which took place between Edomite and Israelite clans find expression in the legend that makes Esau, the progenitor of the tribe, the brother of Jacob and, like him, the son of Isaac of Beersheba. Esau is really the name of a god, and we meet with it again in Phœnician mythology in its Hellenised form of Usoos. The divine nature of Esau is also betrayed in the fact that in the Elohistic text it is he, while in the Yahvistic text, it is God, who meets Jacob at Penuel (Genesis xxxii. 31, 33, seq.). The name of this divinity was probably in old times the name of the clan that worshipped him. At any rate, we never meet with Esau as the collective name of this people; it is invariably Edom. But Edom itself is the name of a half-forgotten god, as is evident from the proper name Obed-Edom.

The Edomites were no more a nation of pure Hebrew blood than the Israelites. They sprang from the fusion of Hebrew immigrants with the population that already occupied the country, on the one hand, and with Arab tribes, on the other. And these two elements which the Edomite race absorbed must have retained their distinctive character to a comparatively late period, for on no other supposition can we explain the extent and definiteness of the information which has come down to us on the subject. In the west, the Edomites spread from the southern margin of the Dead Sea and from the Nachal ha ’Arabum (Brook of the Arab Bushes, now the Wady Alachsi) to the Gulf of Akabah. In the west and north they forfeited much of their nationality. For at one time they occupied the whole of what was afterwards southern Judah, though intermixed with Arab clans. The Edomites united with Judah later—probably constrained to do so by their geographical situation—and possessed the hegemony in the time of David. The capital of this Edomite district was the ancient city of Hebron.

Its union with Judah was naturally accompanied by a corresponding loss to Edom, which from that time forward passed for less powerful than Israel in those parts, whereas, in earlier times, being united under the rule of kings, it had been superior to the kingless state of Israel, divided up into tribes, each eager in pursuit of its personal ends. The national monarchy of Israel is no sooner consolidated than it is strong enough to subdue Edom.

This is expressed in legend by making Esau the elder brother of Jacob, but only the elder of twins, with whom the younger strives even in the womb and tries to prevent him from being the first to issue forth. Ultimately, Esau is cheated of his birthright by Jacob or sells it to him for a mess of pottage. Edom, on the other hand, always maintained his dominions, although for a while under the suzerainty of Israel or Judah, in the wild and barren mountain tract of Seir, which rises to the south of the mountains of Judah. But this is precisely where the aboriginal inhabitants whom the Edomites had found in possession held their ground longest, protected by the unfertility of their country, which made agriculture impossible and compelled its inhabitants to adopt the rude life of shepherds and hunters.

These aboriginal inhabitants were called Horites, i.e. cave-dwellers. There may have been Horite elements even in the Edomite population of southern Judah, for we still find cave-dwellings at Beit-Jibrin (Bethogabris) and meet with Horite clan-names amongst those of Judah.

It may also be conjectured that a very primitive state of civilisation had survived among them, for a great many of these little clans are called by[54] the names of animals. But neither from this circumstance nor from the form of their names can we deduce any conclusion as to the branch of the Semitic race to which these Horites belonged. For the names of animals are found as tribal names among all Semites, and the form of these names—even supposing it to have been handed down accurately—would allow of their being considered either Hebrew or Arabic.

In the course of Jewish history the vicissitudes of the fortune of the Edomite nation occupy us again and again. Just such a Hebrew tribe, or coalition of Hebrew tribes, as they were, amalgamating with the Semitic population already in possession to form the nations of the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites, was the stock from which, by amalgamation with Canaanite and other elements, the people of Israel sprang. Israel, Men of Israel, Children of Israel, was in historic times the title of honour which it bestowed upon itself and its members. But even after its migration and settlement in the land west of Jordan, the non-Israelite inhabitants of the country called it by the collective name of the Hebrews, and thus it comes about that to this day it bears that name in the speech of all nations, and its language is spoken of as Hebrew.

What, then, is the origin of the national name of Israel? It must have become the name of the nation in the same way as the names of other nations come into being; by extension from one tribe to the whole body of those who belong to the same national coalition. Accordingly, there must once have been a tribe of Israel which distinguished itself in some way and won fame, and whose name was then assumed by others. Nothing of the sort has ever taken place in historic times. But this fact does not affect the correctness of the conclusion that tribal names are very liable to alteration by the division of old tribes and the rise of new ones. This forgotten tribe of Israel, which gave its name to the whole people, may have its dwelling-place in the land east of Jordan, on both banks of the Jabbok, and at the spot where Mahanaim, a city of the highest importance in the earliest period of the monarchy, was situated. For the memories of Israel that survive in legend centre about the land east of Jordan, Mahanaim, and Penuel more particularly. At Mahanaim Jacob sees the army (machane) of angels; or, according to another etymological legend, he there divides his army into two parts (machanajin); at the Jabbok he wrestles with God, or meets with Esau. There he receives the name of Israel.

The double name of Jacob-Israel may be explained by the identification and amalgamation of two mythological figures revered as eponymous heroes. Israel is attested as such by his wrestling with God. The figure of Jacob, on the other hand, belongs to the west of Jordan. This is proved by the association of his name with Bethel. If Jacob-Israel had been a single figure from the beginning, we should expect to find reminiscences of Israel west of Jordan.

A hypothesis has recently been started to the effect that this tribe of Israel was not Hebrew at all, but Arab, i.e. that it belonged not to the Canaanite group of northern Semites, but to the southern Semitic group.

Two arguments have been advanced in support of this contention with some show of reason. One of these is the borrowing of the religion of Jehovah from the Kenites; the other the name of Israel. But religions are equally likely to pass from one nation to kindred or alien peoples. The determining factor is not the greater or less degree of consanguinity, but the circumstance that they are at the same stage of civilisation. Religion, the most universal of all phenomena common to the human race, has everywhere[55] something of an international character. The second argument is even less to the purpose. It is true that the word Israel is formed like Ishmael, Jerahmeel, Abdeel. But on the other hand we find Jiphtah-el as the name of a valley in northern Palestine, called after some forgotten nation that was certainly Canaanite. Nay, we find identical tribal names among Semitic nations of different descent, e.g. among Edomites, Hebrews, Canaanites and Arabs.

If the clan which bore the name of Israel was Arab by origin, it must have been merged in a Hebrew majority. For the nation of Israel that arose spoke a Hebrew language, that is, one that belonged to the north Semitic group, nay, actually to the Canaanite division of it.

From the foregoing considerations it is clear how the second title of honour, the name of Jacob, must be explained. This, too, was in the first instance the name of a clan and of the eponymous hero from whom it claimed descent. He was worshipped in various places west of Jordan, more particularly at Bethel. But the use of the name Jacob to denote the whole nation of Israel is confined to prophets and poets, no historical document ever applies it to Israel. Possibly the name of Israel had become the name of the nation before the migration west of Jordan. Moreover, we cannot even assert that the figure of Jacob is of necessity Hebrew. It may have been associated with Bethel before the immigration and transmitted to the Hebrews by the original Canaanite inhabitants.

Even before its migration west of Jordan, Israel was distinguished from all other Hebrews by the worship of Jehovah as the national divinity. It is a right instinct, therefore, which makes the rise of Israelite nationality and the rise of the religion of Jehovah coincide in the mythical reminiscences of the people of Israel. Legend alone, and no historic document, records the rise of this worship. But legend, rightly interrogated, gives us hints as to how we should suppose it to have come to pass. And legend connects it with the immigration into the Holy Land and more particularly with the conquest of the land east of Jordan.c

Hebrew Dolmen at Ala-Safat




It is a matter of some delicacy to speak of the origin of the Hebrews. But whatever the historian’s individual bias, he has no resource but to treat the early history of this race exactly as he treats the early history of other races. It has already been pointed out again and again, that history knows nothing of racial beginnings.

We have noted that modern historians are disposed to begin their accounts of the history of the Israelites with the Egyptian sojourn. It is impossible, however, to avoid questioning as to the home of the people prior to that period, and at least a brief reference must be made to the traditional wanderings of the race in the earlier epoch. Whoever is disposed to feel that the modern historian in his iconoclastic treatment of the Hebrew records is passing beyond justifiable bounds, may be reminded that some of the greatest of living scholars are able to separate their ideas as to it into two classes, and to entertain two seemingly antagonistic sets of judgments regarding the entire subject of Hebrew history. As archæologists and historians they study the Hebrew records as human documents, to be judged by ordinary historical standards; while as theologians, they view the same documents through a prism of faith that gives them an altogether altered position. Perhaps this attitude of a certain school cannot be better expressed than in the words of the Rev. A. H. Sayce, Professor of Assyriology at Oxford, who is recognised everywhere as one of the highest authorities on oriental archæology.

In the preface to his Early History of the Hebrews Professor Sayce points out that “There is no infallible history any more than there is infallible philology; and if we are to understand the history of the Hebrews aright, we must deal with it as we should with the history of any other ancient people. The Old Testament writers were human; and in so far as they were historians, their conceptions and manner of writing history were the same as those of their oriental contemporaries. They were not European historians of the nineteenth century, and to treat them as such would be not only to pursue a radically false method, but to falsify the history they have recorded. No human history is, or can be, inerrant, and to claim inerrancy for the history of Israel is to introduce into Christianity the Hindu doctrine of the inerrancy of the Veda. For the historian, at any rate, the questions involved in a theological treatment of the Old Testament do not exist.” But after making these statements, Professor Sayce continues:[57] “The present writer, accordingly, must be understood to speak throughout simply as an archæologist and historian. Theologically he accepts unreservedly whatever doctrine has been laid down by the Church as an article of the faith. But among these doctrines he fails to find any which forbids a free and impartial handling of Old Testament history.”

If so great an authority finds this attitude justifiable, surely it is open to every one to read the history of the Hebrews as interpreted according to modern ideas, and then to apply to it whatever prism of faith may suit his own fancy.a


[ca. 2300 B.C.]

The age of the patriarchs, according to Max Löhr, belongs to the prehistoric period of Israel, to the childhood of the nation; and nations, in their childhood, are like children, colouring everything with the brilliant hues of their imaginations and transforming the commonplace events of the beginnings of their national existence into marvellous fairy tales, narrating the deeds of the founders of the nation. This is as true of Israel as of other nations; and it is in this light that the modern historian reads the accounts of the patriarchs as recorded in Genesis, almost our only source of information, and endeavours to extract the small kernels of historic truth, which nearly all of them contain, from the surrounding mass of the legendary shells.

Abraham is the central figure in the record of the patriarchs. Some historians would take from him his historical personality. They believe that he was originally a local deity of Hebron, or other place; and that in the course of time he was transformed, through legendary alchemy, into one of the fathers of his race. But the chief value of Abraham’s character is not historical; it is religious. The Old Testament makes him the hero of faith, whose confidence in the goodness and justice of God cannot be shaken. The words of Goethe, in his fourth book of Poetry and Truth, concerning the patriarch can be applied especially to Abraham, and they indicate the source of his lofty religion:

“Their mode of life on the sea, the desert, and the pasture land, gave breadth and freedom to their convictions. The star-sown vault of heaven, under which they lived, ennobled their emotions; they were more than active and skilful hunters, more than industrious home-loving husbandmen; they believed that God was confiding in them, visiting them, taking an interest in them, leading and saving them.”

Even at the beginning, religion was the motive power in the history of Israel. Unshaken faith in God was the characteristic of all the patriarchs; and even if their knowledge of God was crude and imperfect, their faith in him was sublime.

If we consider the patriarchs as nomadic chiefs, at the head of one or more pastoral races, who willingly submitted to the command of men of superior wealth, courage, and energy, then we must look upon the wanderings of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and their successors, as a series of great racial migrations, extending over centuries, and resulting in frequent changes and reorganisations, with its final culmination into the historic nation of Israel.c


[ca. 2300-1270 B.C.]

The eminent historian, Bernhard Stade, takes a view of Israelitish traditions far less confiding than that of Max Löhr. According to the oldest tradition, he says, the people of Israel came from northern Mesopotamia; and Kharran (Haran), the city of Nachor (the Carrhæ of the Greeks[58] and Romans on the south of the Armenian Mountains), was, according to the Yahvist and Elohist texts, the home of Abraham. Also Jacob’s two wives, Leah and Rachel, i.e. the Hebraic families of those names which early became extinct, came out of Kharran. There seems accordingly to have been an old tradition that certain Hebraic clans migrated from those districts to Palestine. Moreover, one can suppose that they there found family connections with whom they amalgamated; and this would be the interpretation of the marriage of Jacob with Leah and Rachel.

This tradition would not be at all incredible in itself, but another reason also can be cited for the emigration of Hebraic tribes from the district lying south of the Armenian Mountains. After the Hebrews, the Aramæan tribes came from the northwest into Syria, pushing on and absorbing parts of the Hebrew population, as the Hebrews drove on the Canaanites. The pressure of these Aramæan people may have already burdened the Hebrews and have driven them to migrate towards the southwest. But after all there is no historical certainty about these things, on account of the fragmentary character of the traditions and their complete mixture with mythological elements.

According to the sacred legend, the fathers of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), who were of Mesopotamian origin, dwelt for three generations in the country west of Jordan, settling in different places; but the third generation emigrated to Egypt, where Joseph, the great-grandson of Abraham, had already reached a high position. But the Hebrew legend tells us no more of the history of the emigrants while in Egypt until the time of their departure from the country, than do the Egyptian accounts thus far found.


[ca. 1270-1250 B.C.]

Israel comes to Egypt a single family, and leaves the country a populous nation. Tradition connects the migration from Egypt into the land east of Jordan with the Levites, Moses and his brother Aaron, the forerunners and founders of the Israelitish priesthood. Moreover, the oldest form of the legend, as the Yahvistic text gives it, mentions only Moses. He is in it the liberator, leader, and priest of Israel. Neither the residence of the Patriarchs in the country west of Jordan, nor the stay of the Israelites in Egypt, have been historically proved, and the former is quite improbable.

Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham are heroes of the race, the first two being at the same time tribal names. The last three have been revered at celebrated sanctuaries; and it must not be overlooked that the sanctuary of the first ancestor is the least important one. Moreover, it is a fact, proved by the history of different sanctuaries of the land, that those of Israel were considered sacred by the original inhabitants. This is the case at Sichem and Gibeon; Bethel was likewise a Canaanitish town in earlier times. Hebron was Edomitish, probably in the first place Horitish, and the very name of Beersheba shows its Canaanitish origin.

If the ancient Israelites took over the sanctuaries from the original Canaanitish inhabitants, as we know definitely concerning some and must surmise in the case of others, and if they nevertheless maintain that these sanctuaries were founded by their fathers, the object of this assertion is merely to gain a legal title to the possession of these pre-Israelitic sacred spots, and to obliterate the fact of their non-Israelitish origin. We shall have to go even farther and say that the Israelites either adopted from the[59] Canaanites the hero that was honoured in those places, or that they there localised a certain Hebraic hero. But in both cases there is no evidence of a pre-Egyptian sojourn of Israelitish families in the land west of Jordan. Moreover, the comparatively recent origin of the patriarchical tradition must be borne in mind.

It is not quite so bad, though not essentially better, with the question of the residence of Israel in Egypt before its migration to the land east of Jordan. That, in spite of the most anxious search of apologetic Egyptologists and theologians, no trace of Moses and the Hebrews has been found in the Egyptian records is just as suspicious as the fact that the Hebrew account says nothing about all that happened between the time of Joseph and that of Moses.

It seems as if the flight of story-spinning imagination had been sufficient to transpose both the historical personage of Moses and the eponymous hero, Joseph, together with the eponyms of the two tribes descended from him, to Egypt, but not to fill out the intervening period. Egypt has, however, been too often for longer or shorter periods the residence of Semitic families for one to dare to deny the possibility that some Hebrew tribes or families stayed in Egypt. But that the Hebrew people, to say nothing of the race of Israel, did not do so, follows necessarily from the origin of these terms.

So it is easily seen why the search of the Egyptologists for traces of the residence of the Children of Israel or the Hebrews in Egypt must be fruitless. If any Hebrew clan did stay there, its name is unknown, and the Egyptologists would not recognise it, even if they understood more of Hebraic antiquity. But in any case the search for the Pharaohs, under whom Israel entered and left Egypt, is a useless jugglery with dates and names; and it is also useless to attempt to discover the route by which Israel left Egypt.

Tradition makes the institution of the Jewish religion on Mount Sinai contemporaneous with the emigration from Egypt; and it has been often surmised, especially by Egyptologists, that Moses imposed upon Israel elements of Egyptian theology. But there is no basis in fact for this theory. It is not known what the Hebrews may have borrowed from the Egyptians. Part of that which has been put under that category is entirely foreign to the old Jewish religion, and was gradually and spontaneously evolved, and the rest plays no part in it at all. It is especially absurd to attribute the idea of the unity of God to Egyptian influences.

However, the worship of God which the Jews adopted at Sinai certainly was originally foreign to them. It is an error to suppose from the story that Moses represented himself to Israel as the ambassador of the God of their fathers, that he must have found among the people the faith of this one God. This theory would lessen the importance of Moses for the Old Testament religion. Like all founders of religion he endowed the people with a new creative idea which gave a fresh turn to their life, and this new idea was the worship of Jehovah as their ancestral God. For if we take away all that the worship of Israel gained upon the path it travelled in historical times, then, supposing such antiquity for the worship of Jehovah in Israel, there is left no fresh idea, from the adoption of which by the people a new epoch could date. Moses, then, would in the most favourable light be only a restorer or a reformer of the old Israelitish religion, and not the founder of a religion as he is rightly considered by priestly tradition.

Two further points must be noted in this connection. In the first place, we know nothing of Israel’s worship before the time of Moses; not a single tradition exists of it. But this cannot be wondered at; and it may be[60] observed elsewhere also that after the adoption of a higher religion, all recollection of an earlier form of worship not only dies out, but is designedly destroyed. Secondly, however, it should be noted that the worship of Jehovah may have been in a more imperfect and undeveloped form among the people from whom Moses borrowed it, than that in which he imposed it on his race.

Many features of the sacred tradition show that the worship of Jehovah was originally foreign to Israel. To ancient Israel Jehovah dwells on Sinai, which, therefore, is the original seat of his worship. Moreover, confused as the accounts may seem in some particulars, the old tradition explicitly states that Moses, who imposes the worship of Jehovah upon Israel, is the son-in-law of the priest of an Arabian race; that is, that the priesthood of Moses and Levi is connected with an older non-Israelitish Jehovah priesthood.

This father-in-law of Moses is called in Exodus iii. 1, Jethro the priest of the Midianites, and in Exodus ii. 18, Reuel. Exodus xviii. contains a fairly authentic account of Jethro by the Elohist, and yet it is questionable whether this account really refers to him. It is, however, probable. In Numbers x. 29, his name appears as Hobab. And in Judges i. 16, the Kenites are brought into connection with the father-in-law of Moses; Judges iv. 2 likewise calls Hobab, Moses’ father-in-law, a Kenite; he, therefore, should rather have been called a priest of the Kenites.

That the Arabic or nomadic race, from which Moses borrowed the worship of Jehovah, was the tribe of the Kenites, is proved by the later history of this people, who henceforth are closely interwoven with the worship of Jehovah.

According to Numbers x. 29, and Judges i. 16, the Kenites joined the children of Israel in their journey to the land west of Jordan, and according to the latter passage “they went up out of the city of palm trees (Jericho), with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah.” In the south of the district of Judah, we meet in the earliest ages of the Kings a nomadic Kenite race, which was in friendly relations with Judah (1 Samuel xxx.), although dwelling among the Amalekites (1 Samuel xv. 6).

It is questionable whether, after such a definite proof as the latter passages, it can be maintained that the Kenites were in alliance with the Midianites, especially as the land of Midian lies on the east of the Persian Gulf, and the Midianites at the time of the birth of the Jewish kingdom lived on the east of Jordan.

In this connection may be cited the fact that a single Kenite clan was nomadic in the north, and that Ephraim was, according to Judges v. 14, of partly Amalekitish origin. Nevertheless these are all only surmises. The scarcity of the records deprives us of any clear light on the ancient ethnological relations.

The people of Israel, then, strengthened by Kenitish elements, migrated from the Sinaitic peninsula into the land east of Jordan. But we know neither by what route they went, the time when it happened, nor how long the journey took. To be sure, in Amos v. 25, it is stated that the people were in the wilderness for forty years. This round number is, however, not only doubtful in itself; it is still more so because it rests upon the assumption, proceeding from theological hypotheses, that the whole of the people which emigrated from Egypt, with the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, died in the desert for their unbelief and never saw the Holy Land.

The most ancient source of the Pentateuch probably knows nothing of this forty years’ wandering. The accuracy of the mention of the places,[61] which were the stations of the wandering in the desert, cannot, however, be brought forward as historical proof of this time in the desert. These places, it goes without saying, have all, within historical times, been desert stations. But that Israel repaired to them is supported solely by the tradition of later times which, on the hypothesis that Israel came from the Sinaitic peninsula and, on the other hand, on the basis of its knowledge of the roads through the desert, constructed a picture of the way which the Israelites might have taken. Moreover, it is evident that the veneration by neighbouring peoples of some of the places in the doubtful territory influenced the tradition. Hence the choice of Kadesh-Barnea as a chief station, of Mount Horeb as the place of Aaron’s death, and of the mountains in the north of Moab, as the abode of Moses in his last days.

It is then of little import for us to verify the route which Israel is said to have taken in its journey from the peninsula of Sinai to the land east of Jordan. We have already shown that there is no historical tradition concerning the conquest of the land east of Jordan, and that what is related about the conquest of the kingdom of Sichem by the Israelites under Moses is based upon conclusions as to the primitive condition of the country which are drawn from its condition at the time of the early Kings, but which are not free from misunderstanding.e

Before continuing with the critical narrative it may be well to glance over the biography of Moses as given in the Bible, Exodus and Deuteronomy.


And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive.—Exodus i. 22.

And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.

And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.

And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.

And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.

And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.

And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

Then said his sister to Pharaoh’s daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?

And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child’s mother.

And Pharaoh’s daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.

And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.


And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.

And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.

And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?

And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.

Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.—Exodus ii. 1-15.

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover.

And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning.

For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.

And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.

And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service?

That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped.

And the children of Israel went away, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they.

And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.

And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.

And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.

Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading-troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.


And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:

And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.

And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.

And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough which they brought forth out of Egypt, for it was not leavened; because they were thrust out of Egypt, and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victual.

Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.

And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.—Exodus xii. 21-41.

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,

And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,

And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.

And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.

And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,

In all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land,

And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.—Deuteronomy xxxiv.


To return to modern analytic accounts, it is noted by Stade that Israel never mastered the whole country west of the Jordan. The coast, with the exception of a few places, remained in the possession of the Canaanites, who,[64] at the period of the Hebrew immigration, had long been organised into the prosperous and powerful commercial states known to us under the name of Phœnician. Nay, the influence, intellectual and material, of Akko, Sor (Tyre), and Sidon on the inland country was so great that it prevented the absorption of the original Canaanite population by the immigrant Israelites, and consequently the formation of compact Israelite tribes in the north.

As far as we know, the Israelites were always on a friendly footing with these Phœnician states. They could not avoid trading with one another, and commerce only thrives in time of peace. The Phœnician cities disposed of the produce of Palestine, the wheat of the land west of Jordan, the balsam of the Jordan lowlands, the male and female slaves taken in war, and they offered an ever ready market for the produce of the flocks. The Israelites, on the other hand, procured from them, in ancient times, all products of handicraft and art which could not be made by the inmates of each farm for themselves. Thus it comes about that to the Israelite, Canaanite and trader were synonymous terms.

This commerce, no less than the fact that the Phœnician cities were impregnable to their unpretentious strategy, obliged them to keep the peace. Furthermore, from the very moment the Philistines embarked on a career of conquest in Palestine, the interests of the Phœnician cities had been directed towards forming the inhabitants of the southern part of Syria, which they exploited commercially, into a strong political structure. For against the former the Israelites were the only allies to be had.

Of all the neighbours of the people of Israel, these Philistines were farthest removed from them in manners and customs. However, we must not conclude from this circumstance that no intermixture took place between the two. The legend of Samson is sufficient proof to the contrary. In the time of the first monarchy, in particular, numerous Philistines came to Israel to serve in the army and then continued to dwell in the land. Obed-Edom the Gittite, in whose house David left the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel vi. 19 seq.), was a Philistine.

According to Amos ix. 7; Deuteronomy ii. 23; Jeremiah xlvii. 4, the Philistines had migrated into Syria from Caphtor. Caphtor has often been conjectured to be the island of Crete. This may very well be the case, especially as—to judge from 1 Samuel xxx. 14—part of the territory of the Philistines was called the South of the Cretans [Cherethites], to distinguish it from the south of Judah and Caleb. In that case we should here have to do with a migration of Semites back from Crete, from which they may have been ousted by immigrant Hellenes. It is well known that in the description of Crete in the Odyssey XIX, 172-177, the statement occurs that various languages were spoken and five different races dwelt there, among whom were the Eteocretans (real Cretans), as well as Achæans, Cydonians, Dorians, and Pelasgians. The presence of Semites among the inhabitants of the island is proved by the name of one of its rivers, the Jardanus. And the names of the Philistines, their cities and institutions, prove them to have been Semites.

The Philistines dwelt in the tract of country southward from Jaffa to Gaza. But their settlements were by no means confined to the coast; on the contrary, they stretched inland to the mountains of Judah on the frontier of which Gath and Timnath lie. Only the seaboard population, at most, can have been of pure Philistine blood.

The Philistines, like the Israelites, gradually absorbed the autochthonous Canaanite population they found in possession. In the earliest days of the[65] monarchy Judah and the Philistines are not neighbours along the whole eastern frontier of the latter, remnants of the Canaanite population lay between and were not amalgamated with Judah till later. Nor did the frontier afterwards always remain the same, as is well seen in the case of Libnah.

[ca. 1250-1200 B.C.]

Philistine territory was divided into the territory of the five cities of Gaza, Ashdod, Askalon, Gath, and Ekron, the so-called Philistine Pentapolis. Each of these districts was ruled by a prince, and these rulers were the five princes of the Philistines (sarne pelischim). They were the leaders in war.

The Philistines proved themselves to be a people of great military capacity. They possessed an organised army—chariots, horsemen, and foot-soldiers—who fought in regular battle array. Hence it came to pass that for a time they ruled over Israel.

In the very earliest times Israel’s neighbours on the northern frontier were also Canaanites. Northwards from Hermon stretched the kingdom of the Hittites, a Canaanite race, whose capital was Kadesh, situate on an artificial lake on the Orontes which is called the lake of Kedesh to this day. This kingdom of the Hittites was tributary to David. We find a Hittite in David’s bodyguard, Uriah, who had Bathsheba, an Israelite woman of good family, to wife. The connubium therefore existed between the Hittites and Israelites.

In the age of the XVIIIth, XIXth, and XXth Egyptian Dynasties this kingdom of the Hittites (or Kheta, as the Egyptians called them) was the mightiest in Anterior Asia. It engaged in fierce warfare with the Pharaohs of these dynasties. But the state of affairs in the north was gradually altered by the arrival of Aramæan tribes on the scene.

These last seem to have come from the Euphrates and the mountain regions of the north, and, like the Israelites, to have been pastoral tribes originally. Remnants of this race, speaking a group of northern Semitic dialects closely akin to Canaanite languages, are still to be found in these parts. They make their first appearance in Palestine in the north of the land east of Jordan. They founded the kingdoms of Damascus, Geshur, Ishtob, Maacah, and Zobah, against which David had to fight. They pressed steadily westwards rather than southwards. Like the Hebrews, they amalgamated with themselves the original Canaanite population they found in possession, and thus the Hittite nation was gradually merged into them.

But the Aramæans were no more capable of gaining the mastery over the emporiums of trade on the coast than the Hebrews had been. To the east of Jordan, Gilead was long the frontier province of the Hebrews. Hence arises the legend that Jacob and Laban set up a pillar there to witness the peace concluded between them (Genesis xxxi). They were the arch-enemies of Israel before the rise of the Assyrians. Under Assyrian, Persian, and even Greek rule, their language continued to make conquests in Palestine. By the time of the birth of Christ it had superseded all Semitic languages there and divided the ground with Greek alone. In later days a like fate befell the Aramæan language and nationality from the spread of Arabic.

The space between the southwestern border of Judah and the Philistines and the wall of Egypt had been occupied from time immemorial by nomadic tribes, which we are accustomed to call “Arabic,” a name that only came into use at a comparatively late period.

These desert tribes were the Amalekites, the Kenites, and the Ishmaelites. Of the Kenites and their relations with the Amalekites and Midianites we[66] have already spoken. The Amalekites seem to have lived in a state of open hostility to the Israelites, and to have harassed them by predatory raids. Saul and David both fought against them. One body of the Amalekites appears afterwards to have joined itself to Edom; another to have been absorbed in Ephraim (Judges v. 14). The Ishmaelites and Israelites may, on the other hand, have been on friendly terms, although the divergence of their respective interests would naturally make the ungovernable nomads, who acknowledged a political authority, troublesome neighbours to husbandmen.

Thus the admirable description of her future son given by the angel of the Lord to Hagar at the well of Lahai-roi in Genesis xvi. 12, “He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren,” is drawn straight from the life. The more friendly relations in which Ishmael and Israel stand with one another finds expression in the mythical genealogy which makes Ishmael half brother to Isaac and traces his descent from Hagar, the Egyptian, Abraham’s concubine. Hagar is, of course, the name of an Ishmaelite clan. We meet with another expression of the same relation when Keturah is given to Abraham as a concubine. This must likewise be understood as the name of an Ishmaelite clan. This mode of expression took its rise in the holy places of Beersheba, Beer-lahai-roi, and Hebron, which were probably visited by Israelites and Ishmaelites alike. One proof that the connubium existed between Israelites and Ishmaelites is the fact that Abigail, a sister of David, had an Ishmaelite husband, Ithra by name.

The name of Ishmaelite speedily disappears from history. We hear nothing of any catastrophe that overwhelmed the nation, and consequently it seems possible that Ishmael, like Israel, was in historic times merely the name of a confederation of distinct tribes. The confederation dissolved, and the name of Ishmael vanished with it, as the name of Israel would have vanished after the catastrophe of 722 had it not acquired a spiritual significance which rendered its transference to Judah possible. The post-Exilic Jews acquired the habit of calling all Arabs by the name of Ishmael. From the Jews the name and the idea passed over to the Arabs themselves. This explains why the name of Ishmael has been made by Arab genealogists the basis of every kind of speculation. The application of the term Ishmaelites to the Mohammedans is also to be referred to Jewish usage.e


On their departure from Egypt the Israelites might have entered Canaan direct by the route that skirted the Mediterranean, but there they would have been in danger of attack from the garrisons which occupied the Egyptian fortresses or from the Philistines. They therefore chose a much longer route, and betook themselves to the desert. The kings of Egypt possessed, or had possessed, important metallurgical works in the peninsula of Sinai. Perhaps the fugitives wished to seize upon them. The Bible does not say so, but some of the legends it relates might well incline us to believe it; the fashioning of the golden calf, the brazen serpent, and the ornaments of the tabernacle presuppose a settled position and a command of material ill compatible with the wandering life of a caravan, and easier to explain by an Israelite occupation of the copper mines of Sinai.


The transition from nomadic to sedentary life must of necessity have been slow and gradual, and there is nothing that obliges us to say with Goethe that the Bible exaggerates the length of the sojourn in the wilderness. Israel dreamed of a land flowing with milk and honey, but, pending its arrival there, led its flocks where they could find pasture, and settled as best it could in the lands of which it could possess itself. It endeavoured to conclude alliances with the inhabitants of the desert, who were of the same race; with the Midianites, for example, that they might serve “as eyes,” that is, as guides to the tribes. This alliance with the Midianites is indicated in the Bible by the visit of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who, when he hears of the passage of the Red Sea, proclaims Jehovah the greatest of all gods. But alien tribes did not always exhibit the same good will; witness the struggle against Amalek. It is probable that, on leaving Sinai, the Israelites bent their steps towards the frontiers of Canaan, and that, repulsed in that direction, they once more took the southern road and skirted the mountains of the land of the Edomites, so to turn towards the east. In Deuteronomy, Jehovah commands his people not to molest the Edomites, who had already been seized with dread of them, and even to pay for the food and water of which they should have need, because Jehovah had given Seir to Edom for an inheritance. The same admonition is given with regard to the Moabites and the Ammonites, for these peoples also had received their land from Jehovah.

The children of Lot, that is, the Ammonites and Moabites, were settled in the country east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan; but the Amorites, having crossed the Jordan, took part of the territory of the Moabites from them. The Israelites, who were then wandering in the deserts that lay to the east of the land of Moab, defeated the Amorites, probably with the help of the Moabites. The tribes of Reuben and Gad, who had doubtless borne the brunt of the conflict, occupied the land between the Arnon and the Jabbok, promising to co-operate later with the rest of the children of Israel. All the cities of the conquered country were “devoted,” that is to say, all the inhabitants were massacred, men, women and children; “there was none left remaining.” Immediately after this conquest the Bible places that of the land of Bashan, whose king, Og, was the last of the race of Giants (Rephaïm). All the inhabitants of Bashan were likewise massacred, according to Deuteronomy, and in the Bible these two wars are placed before the death of Moses. There are, however, several passages in the Book of Judges from which it must be inferred that the land of Bashan or Gilead was not conquered till later. As for the legend of Balaam, related in the Book of Numbers immediately after the conquest of Bashan, it is now acknowledged that it must have been composed during the last days of the kingdom of Israel, probably in the reign of Jeroboam II. It was inspired by hatred of Moab and contains allusions to Assyria. At the period of this conquest the Israelites had no reason to fear the Assyrians, of whose existence they were not even aware, and to them the Moabites, far from being enemies, were natural allies and auxiliaries, as were the Ammonites and the Edomites.

The conquest of Canaan is related in the Book of Joshua, which appears to have been written at the time of the Babylonian captivity. The thesis of political unity guaranteed by religious unity is supported, as in the Pentateuch, by a series of miracles. The miracle of the passage of the Red Sea is repeated at the passage of the Jordan. Joshua then besieges Jericho.[68] “And it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early at the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout: for Jehovah hath given you the city. So the people shouted, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they devoted all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.” Only Rahab, the harlot, who had betrayed her country by hiding the spies sent out by Joshua, was spared with her family and all her house. “And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein.” And Joshua pronounced a curse upon the man that should build it again.

The Israelites then besieged the city of Ai, near Bethel, and, having taken it by a stratagem, treated it as they had treated Jericho. “And all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand.… So Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation, unto this day. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until the eventide: and at the going down of the sun Joshua commanded, and they took his carcase from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raised thereon a great heap of stones, unto this day.” At the news of the destruction of Ai and Jericho, Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, forms a coalition with the kings of Hebron, of Jarmuth, of Lachish, and of Eglon, and, hearing that Gibeon has treated with the enemy, they lay siege to the city which has betrayed their common cause. The Gibeonites call Joshua to their aid, and he departs from Gilgal with his army and comes up with the allied kings. “And Jehovah discomfited them before Israel, and he slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and smote them unto Azekah and unto Makkedah. And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, while they were in the going down of Beth-horon, that Jehovah cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with the hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword. Then Joshua spake to Jehovah in the day when Jehovah delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.’ And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of the Upright? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that Jehovah hearkened to the voice of a man, for Jehovah fought for Israel.”

The five kings, having taken refuge in a cave at Makkedah, are discovered, and when the people return to the camp after the extermination of the defeated army, they are brought before Joshua. All the chiefs of the men of war that had marched with him put their feet upon the necks of the kings, then Joshua causes them to be hanged on five trees, and in the evening their corpses are cast into the cave and great stones are rolled to the mouth of it. “And Joshua took Makkedah on that day and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he devoted and all the souls that were therein, he left none remaining.” The same formula is repeated in the Bible with melancholy monotony, in the case of the cities of Libnah and Lachish; the king of Gezer having attempted to help Lachish, “Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left none remaining.” And the Bible resumes the tale of massacres, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir are devoted with all their inhabitants, not one of whom is spared.[69] “So Joshua smote all the land, the hill country, and the south, and the lowland, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but he devoted all that breathed, as Jehovah, the God of Israel, commanded.” Then it is the turn of the kings of the north; the king of Hazor and the other Canaanite kings take the field with a large army, “even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many.” Joshua attacks them near the waters of Merom, pursues them to Zidon, and destroys them, “until he left none remaining”; he houghs their horses and burns their chariots with fire. Then he returns upon his footsteps and seizes Hazor, the chief city of all these kingdoms, and slays its king with the sword. “And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, having devoted them; there was none left that breathed: and he burnt Hazor with fire. And the cities of those kings and all the kings of them did Joshua take, and he smote them with the edge of the sword and devoted them, as Moses the servant of Jehovah commanded.… So Joshua took all that land, the hill country, and all the south, and all the land of Goshen, and the lowland, and the plain of Israel, from the bare mountain that goeth up unto Seir, even unto Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them and put them to death.… For it was of Jehovah to harden their hearts, to come against Israel in battle, that he might devote them, that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as Jehovah commanded Moses.”

Such is the summary of the legend of the conquest as related in the Book of Joshua. The usual way of extracting from it such historical fact as it may contain is to suppress the miraculous circumstances, or to explain them, as well as may be, by natural causes. Serious criticism cannot rest satisfied with this method. Unfortunately, in the case of Jewish history, we have no such invaluable aid as the study of inscriptions supplies to the history of Egypt and Assyria. We have no other source of information than a book compiled several centuries after the event, from popular traditions more or less wrested for political ends. Nevertheless Biblical exegesis, by collecting a certain amount of scattered testimony, has succeeded in discovering the facts of the case. This is not the place to recapitulate this work of analysis, a summary of it may be found in the introduction to the Bible written by Professor Reuss, of the University of Strassburg. A comparison of all these materials for research leads scholars to the conclusion that the surest means of gaining a totally false impression of the conquest of Canaan is to abide by the view of it conveyed in the Book of Joshua.

That which this book tells us was accomplished in five years was as a matter of fact, very gradually accomplished in the course of two centuries and a half, for the conquest of the country and the complete subjugation of the Canaanites were not finally achieved until the reign of Solomon. It is precisely the same thing that happened in the conquest of the Peloponnesus by the Dorians, and of Roman Gaul by the Franks. From this we may infer, for the honour of the Israelites, that the frightful massacres related in the Book of Joshua have been greatly exaggerated by the compilers of the Bible, who regarded the extermination of the vanquished as among their ancestors’ titles to fame, and as a proof of their obedience to the commands of the national God of Israel. “We must not,” say the Dutch authors of The Family Bible,[70] “imagine all the children of Israel gathered together in a single camp at Gilgal and all acting in concert. It would be much nearer the truth to imagine the Israelite tribes indulging in local and intermittent raids into the land of the Canaanites, who were perhaps enfeebled in consequence of a war with Ramses III, king of Egypt.”

The partition of the lands conquered or still to be conquered is given in the concluding chapters of the Book of Joshua, which are not by the same hand as the narrative of the conquest. The region to the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan, afterwards known as Peræa, had been occupied ever since the time of Moses by the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. Judah took the southern part of the land of Canaan, west of the Dead Sea. The small tribes of Simeon, Dan, and Benjamin grouped themselves about Judah, the first-named on the west, the other two on the north. These four tribes afterwards constituted the kingdom of Judah. Many portions of the territory assigned to them in this partition long remained in the occupation of alien peoples. Thus the Jebusites were first subjugated by David, who seized upon their city, thereafter called Jerusalem; the Philistines, whom Joshua had not ventured to attack, kept the five cities which they occupied on the Mediterranean coast, and these served as a refuge for the Anakim. At the period when the monarchy was instituted in Israel the sway of the Philistines extended over almost all the territory of Judah.

The powerful tribe of Ephraim, to which Joshua belonged, established itself in the middle of the land of Canaan, between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. The Ark of the Covenant, first set up at Gilgal, was afterwards carried to Shiloh, which became the common sanctuary of all the Israelite tribes. The tribe of Issachar settled to the north of the territory of Ephraim, along the Jordan, and the half-tribe of Manasseh farther to the west. Lastly, the tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali settled in the northern region, afterwards called Galilee; Asher spread abroad on the seacoast north of Carmel, but was not able to gain possession of the Phœnician cities within the border assigned to it; Zebulun encamped in the plain of Jezreel, northwest of Issachar, and Naphtali along the Upper Jordan, between the waters of Merom and the lake of Gennesareth. The tribe of Levi had no territory of its own, for, as the Bible frequently repeats, Jehovah was its inheritance. The Levites received forty-eight cities, scattered over the territory of the other tribes. Some of these cities were intended to serve as places of shelter for involuntary homicides; these were called cities of refuge.

The genealogies which take up so much space in the Bible show clearly the importance which the tribes of Israel attached to the descent from Abraham and Jacob. Nevertheless they were far from being a race of pure blood. Before their sojourn in Egypt they had allied themselves with the women of the country, as their own legends testify; of the sons of Jacob four are the issue of female slaves of whose descent we know nothing. Joseph weds the daughter of an Egyptian priest, Moses a Midianitess and an Ethiopian woman, and when his sister Miriam upbraids him for this mésalliance, Jehovah smites her with leprosy. On their departure from Egypt the Children of Israel are accompanied by “a mixed multitude,” who must have been incorporated into the tribes, for there is no subsequent mention of them. During the half-century which lies between the going forth out of Egypt and the conquest of Canaan there must have been unions with Edomites, Ammonites, and Moabites. At the time of the invasion, wandering hordes of Arabs, too weak to make their way into Palestine by themselves, may have taken advantage of this opportunity to join the Israelite tribes; such were the children of Keni, the father-in-law of Moses, who accompanied the Children of Judah as far as the city of palm trees (Jericho). These Kenites or Kenizzites settled among the men of Judah[71] and were ultimately merged in them; it was impossible to hold aloof from allies who had contributed their share towards victory.

After the conquest, unions with the indigenous peoples became very numerous. “The Children of Israel,” says the Book of Judges, “dwelt among the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the Children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and forgot Jehovah their God, and served the Baalim and the Ashtaroth.” It was not the first time that they had been unfaithful to Jehovah; in the wilderness, for forty years, according to the prophet Amos, they had borne before them the image of Moloch and the star of their idols.

The position of the Israelites settled in the midst of the Canaanites was not everywhere the same; in some districts the earlier inhabitants had been exterminated or reduced to slavery, but in others they had remained in possession of the land, and the new-comers had only been able to take up their abode there on payment of tribute. Oftenest of all, the old inhabitants and the new lived side by side on a footing of armed neutrality, frequently disturbed by feuds, each on the watch for an opportunity of subjugating or expelling the other. After the Israelites had settled in various parts of the country, the Canaanites, the Amorites, and the Philistines took their revenge, and made them pay by instalments for the outrages of the invasion. The stronger tribes did not succour the weaker, for the tie that bound them together was religious, not political, and was growing weaker and weaker; hence the Bible invariably attributes the defeats of the Israelites to their neglect of the national religion.

“And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he delivered them into the hand of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about. Whithersoever they went out, the hand of Jehovah was against them for evil, as Jehovah had sworn unto them; and they were sore distressed. And Jehovah raised up judges, which saved them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. And when Jehovah raised them up judges, then Jehovah was with the judge, and saved them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented Jehovah because of their groaning by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them. But it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they turned back and dealt more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their doings, nor from their stubborn way.”g

Tiberias, looking toward Hermon


Ancient Thebez


[ca. 1200-1020 B.C.]

The Bible gives the title of Judges (Sophetim) to those “deliverers” whom Jehovah raised up from time to time; but they were not elective magistrates, like the Suffetes of Carthage, who bore the same name; they were valiant chieftains who placed themselves at the head of a band of patriots to free their own tribes. Some successful exploit would give them a kind of moral authority for the remainder of their lives, but they were not invested with regular powers recognised by the whole nation. Though the Bible is careful to state the duration of the government of each one, these figures cannot serve as the basis of a sound chronology, for it is probable that many of the judges were contemporary and belonged to different tribes. We are given details concerning three or four of them; others are merely named. The first of whom mention is made is Othniel, the nephew of Caleb, who delivers the tribes of the north from the dominion of the king of Mesopotamia. Then a king of Moab takes possession of Jericho and oppresses Israel for eighteen years; Ehud the Benjamite slays him by treachery and delivers the land. The Bible next names Shamgar, the son of Anath, who slew six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. The much longer narrative of the expedition of Barak and Deborah seems to be historical in character. It tells of the defeat of Sisera and his death at the hands of Jael (Judges iv.). On this occasion Deborah composed a savage and spirited canticle, the oldest piece of Hebrew poetry that has come down to us.

The invasion of Canaan by the Israelites was not an unexampled occurrence; in all ages the nomadic Bedouins of the desert had cast covetous glances at the fertile cultivated plains of Palestine. When the tribes of Israel had succeeded in establishing themselves there, they, in their turn, were forced to defend themselves against fresh hordes of invaders. “Because of Midian the Children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and in the caves, and the strongholds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the Children of the East; they came up against them and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance in Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass.”

A peasant of the tribe of Manasseh placed himself at the head of a few resolute men and delivered Israel. His name was Jerubbaal, and he was[73] surnamed Gideon, that is, the Sword, just as Judas, the Asmonæan was surnamed Maccabæus, that is, the Hammer. The little band, with torches and trumpets, made a night attack on the camp of the Midianites, who were seized with panic and slew one another. Gideon sent messengers to the men of Ephraim who hastened up to cut off the retreat of the fugitives at the ford of the Jordan.

The Children of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule thou over us, both thou and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast saved us out of the hand of Midian.” He answered, “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you, Jehovah shall rule over you.” After his death one of his seventy sons, Abimelech, had himself proclaimed king at Shechem, and had himself proclaimed king by the oak of Shechem. Civil war broke out. Shechem was destroyed and its ruins sown with salt. Abimelech set fire to the tower of the temple of Baal-berith, where the principal inhabitants of the city had taken refuge; a thousand souls perished in it. He next besieged the city of Thebez; the inhabitants shut themselves up in the citadel; and as he drew near to set it on fire, a woman cast a millstone on his head, and he commanded his armour bearer to kill him, that he might not die by the hand of a woman.

After repulsing the invasion of the Midianites, the tribe of Manasseh, whose territory lay on both banks of the Jordan, were desirous of enlarging their borders to the east, and completed the conquest of the land of Bashan. The Ammonites, however, laid claim to the country, which had formerly belonged to them. They gathered together and encamped at Gilead. “And it was so, that when the children of Ammon made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to fetch Jephthah out of the land of Tob; and they said unto Jephthah, Come and be our chief, that we may fight with the Children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto Jehovah, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver the children of Ammon into mine hand, then shall it be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, it shall be Jehovah’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the Children of Ammon to fight against them, and Jehovah delivered them into his hand. And Jephthah came to Mizpah unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and dances; and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto Jehovah, and I cannot go back. And she said unto him, My father, thou hast opened thy mouth unto Jehovah; do unto me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as Jehovah hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may depart and go down upon the mountains and bewail my virginity, I and my companions. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she departed, she and her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she had not known man. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.”

There is so great a resemblance between this tradition and the Greek legend of the sacrifice of Iphigenia that we may well believe that one was[74] borrowed from the other. It may be that Phœnician mariners, or even Israelite prisoners sold into slavery on the coast of Asia Minor, recounted the tragic story of a general who gained the victory at the price of the sacrifice of his daughter. The very name of Iphigenia seems to be no more than a Greek translation of the words “daughter of Jephthah.” The legend is unknown to Homer. Euripides borrowed it from a cyclic poem, the Cypria. According to this poem the sacrifice was not consummated; the goddess substituted a hind for the maiden. Some theologians have tried to extenuate the sacrifice of Jephthah in the same way, and have maintained that his daughter was vowed to perpetual celibacy. This explanation, however, has failed to win acceptance. “The text,” says M. Munk, “leaves no room to doubt that Jephthah did actually offer up his daughter as a burnt offering, and Josephus expressly says so” (Antiq., V, 7, 10).

While the tribes of the north were striving with the Canaanites, and those of the east with the Midianites and Ammonites, the tribes of the south were not always successful in defending their independence against the Philistines. The isolated position of the Israelite tribes made it possible for the Philistines to subjugate those in their immediate neighbourhood. The resistance of Israel to this suppression is personified in Samson, the hero of the tribe of Dan, the Israelitish Hercules.

Samson cannot be considered an historical figure. He appears to bear a strong resemblance to Samdan, the Assyrian Hercules, and, generally speaking, to all solar divinities. Like Apollo, his hair has never been cut; like Hercules he subdues lions and is himself subdued by women. The metamorphosis of an ancient divinity into a local hero is of common occurrence in all mythologies. The existence of a city of the sun, Beth-shemesh, within the borders of the tribe of Dan, leads us to suppose that the oldest inhabitants paid peculiar honours to the sun; it is natural that the Israelites, who held a different religion, should graft the legend of a hero on the fables current in the locality.

As a sequel to the legend of Samson, we find two narratives which form, as it were, an appendix to the Book of Judges. The first seems to refer to the actual period of the conquest, for the tribe of Dan had no territory as yet, and sought an inheritance to dwell in. Five men were sent out to explore the land. “And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol; and said unto them, Arise, and let us go up against them; for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: but keep ye silence, be not slothful to go and to enter in to possess the land.”

As they pass through the hill country of Ephraim, their spies inform them that, in the house of a certain man named Micah, there is an ephod, teraphim, and a graven image, under the charge of a Levite. They represent to the Levite that it will be to his advantage to be the priest of a tribe rather than the chaplain of a private individual, and carry him off, taking the graven image, the ephod, and the teraphim with them. Micah pursues him and complains of the theft, they bid him hold his peace or they will set fire to his house. Then the Danites come to Laish: “They came unto a people quiet and secure, and smote them with the edge of the sword; and they burnt the city with fire.… And the children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set them up Micah’s graven image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.” If we attribute the Decalogue, with its prohibition of graven images, to Moses, we[75] must suppose that the precepts of the lawgiver had been very quickly forgotten, even in his own family.

The story of the Levite of Ephraim throws a yet more melancholy light on the morals of the Israelites. The wife of this Levite is outraged and murdered by a band of men at Gibeah, of the tribe of Benjamin. The husband cuts the corpse into twelve pieces, which he sends to the twelve tribes of Israel. And all men, when they saw it, said, “There was no such deed done since the day when the Children of Israel came up out of Egypt.” The Benjamites are required to give up the culprits, they refuse and take up arms, to the number of twenty-six thousand men. The other tribes put four hundred thousand soldiers in the field, according to the Bible, and inquire of Jehovah who shall march first to battle. Jehovah appoints the tribe of Judah. But twice in succession the Benjamites come forth out of Gibeah and gain the advantage over the enormous army of Israel, which loses forty thousand men in two days. The people go up to Bethel, where the Ark of the Covenant then was; they fast, they offer burnt offerings, and Jehovah promises them the victory. The attacking force surrounds the enemy, and defeats them with such slaughter that only six hundred men escape and take refuge in the wilderness. The victors burn all the cities of Benjamin and put all their inhabitants to the sword.

After this vengeance, however, they regret the annihilation of a whole tribe, and offer terms of peace to the six hundred survivors of the Benjamites.

At the beginning and at the end of this narrative the Bible says that in those days there was no king in Israel, and that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. The author imagines that thus he can explain the atrocities he has related; but there was no king in the Greek cities either, and nothing of this kind took place there.

We may be astonished that a nation which “rose up as one man to punish a crime and blot out a stain from Israel” should not be able to unite to repulse a foreign foe. But this contrast is not enough to cast doubt upon the Bible narrative; it is unhappily true that an age and a country may witness at one and the same time the most merciless reprisals in civil war and the most deplorable weakness in face of the outside world. The Philistines had already subjugated the southern tribes, Dan, Judah, and Zebulun; they were now menacing those of the centre.

The Israelites remembered that after their coming forth out of Egypt the Ark of the Covenant had led them to the conquest of Canaan, and they thought that now again it would insure them the victory. The Ark was at that time at Shiloh, under the charge of the aged Eli, who combined the office of high priest with the title of Judge in Israel. So the Ark was brought from thence in charge of the two sons of Eli. But its presence was after all of no avail. “Israel was smitten, and they fled every man to his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the Ark of the God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.”

Such a blow could not but daunt the spirit of the nation. As a matter of fact, the Philistines did not keep the trophy long; believing that the presence of a hostile god would bring misfortune upon them, they sent the Ark of the Covenant back to the Israelites. But to prevent any attempt at rebellion, they forbade the vanquished to bear arms and carried off all the smiths, so that no Israelite could mend his plough unless he went to the Philistines.


The reawakening of the national sentiment took the form of a revival of religious zeal, as it does among the Arabs of this day. The initiative in this religious movement is attributed to Samuel, of the tribe of Ephraim. From his childhood he had been dedicated to the service of Jehovah, and he was early believed to receive direct communication from God. He was therefore what was called a nabi (inspired person). This word is usually translated by “prophet,” which signifies soothsayer, because such inspired persons were supposed to be gifted with the power of foreseeing the future, and themselves believed that they possessed it.

The distinction between priests and prophets is clearly marked, even in the legend of Moses; for the lawgiver, the interpreter of Jehovah, reserves the sacerdotal office, not for his own descendants, but for those of his brother Aaron. This distinction is not peculiar to the Hebrews; the Greeks also had soothsayers, who received inspiration from a god, and priests, or rather sacristans, who were charged with the maintenance of the temples and superintended the ceremonial of worship. The Hebrew priesthood became by degree an exclusive caste; prophecy which had its origin in personal inspiration, could not be hereditary, for the spirit bloweth where it listeth. There were no priestesses among the Israelites, though there were prophetesses, like Miriam the sister of Moses, or Deborah. In the same way it was a woman, the Pythia, who transmitted the oracles of Apollo at Delphi.

Samuel tried to make prophecy a permanent institution. After the death of Eli he went back to his own home, Ramah, a city of Benjamin, and there founded a college or convent of prophets (najoth). There were similar schools at Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho. The members of these brotherhoods lived in community, for enthusiasm is contagious. Music was the means employed to call down inspiration. With the prophets of Israel, as with the Pythia of Delphi, the ecstasy was the result of a morbid excitation, a kind of intoxication, an intermittent delirium; when this phase of exaltation was over the prophet became an ordinary man once more.

But the trait that distinguishes the religious institutions of the Hebrews from anything analogous that may have existed at other times and in other countries, is their exclusively national character and their attitude of unvarying hostility towards the outer world. The religion of Israel is intolerant because it is but the ideal form of a fanatical patriotism. For this reason every awakening of public spirit among the Hebrews manifests itself by a fresh outbreak of invective against the religions of their neighbours.d



A Palace of Ancient Israel


We come now to the period when, for the first time, Israel as a nation attains sufficient unity to come under the control of a single monarch. Samuel, the last of the judges, causes Saul to be elected king of the united tribes. Saul is succeeded by David, and he in turn by his son Solomon. The three reigns cover a period of about ninety years, from 1020 to 930 B.C. For this brief period alone all Israel is united into a somewhat homogeneous monarchy. But even at best, it is the powerful hand of David more than any national unity of spirit that holds the various tribes together; and under Solomon, dissensions are gathering force, which are to cause the disruption of the kingdom immediately after that monarch’s death.

As the latter day Jew looked back upon this period, across an interval of centuries, it seemed to him that the kingdom of Israel, in this its time of relative might, had shone as a star of the first magnitude in the oriental firmament. But in truth it was only the eye of national prejudice that could thus magnify the mild effulgence of Hebrew glory. In reality, the kingdom of Israel, even under David, was but a petty state; and such power as it seemed to wield was due largely to the momentary weakness of surrounding nations. It chanced that the epoch of Hebrew monarchy was contemporary with the XXIst Dynasty of Egypt, during which time that land was governed simultaneously by the Tanites and high priests, whose dissensions so weakened the government that the chief authority gradually passed into the hands of the commanders of Libyan mercenaries. Torn thus by internal dissensions, Egypt had little time to think of external conquests. Meantime a condition of things not altogether dissimilar existed in Mesopotamia. Babylonia and Assyria were struggling one against the other, and mutual antagonism weakened each principality.

It was this temporary lull in the warlike activities of the really great oriental nations that enabled the Israelites to achieve a momentary position of relative consequence, which traditionalists of a later day were able, with some slight show of verisimilitude, to magnify into a period of actual glory. “Man to console himself for a destiny most frequently leaden,” says Ernest Renan,[1] speaking of the last great Hebrew monarchs,[78] “is constrained to imagine brilliant ages in the past, a kind of fireworks which did not last, but produced a charming effect. In spite of the anathemas of prophets and the disparagements of the northern tribes, Solomon left, amongst a section of the people, an admiration that expressed itself, after a lapse of two or three hundred years, in the half-legendary history which figures in the Books of the Kings. The misfortunes of the nation only served to excite these visions of a lost ideal. Solomon became the pivot of the Jewish agada, [the legendary element of the Talmud]. To the author of Ecclesiastes he is already the richest and most powerful of men. In the Gospels he is the embodiment of all human splendour. A luxuriant garden of myths grew up around him. Mohammed fed on it; then on the wings of Islamism this shower of fables, variegated with a thousand hues, spread through the whole world the magic name of Soleyman. The historic fact concealed behind these marvellous stories was roughly this: A thousand years before Christ there reigned in a petty acropolis in Syria, a petty sovereign, intelligent, and unencumbered by national prejudices, understanding nothing of the true vocation of his race, and wise according to the ideas of that time, though it cannot be said that he was superior in morality to the average Eastern monarchs of all ages. The intelligence which evidently characterised him, early won him a reputation for philosophy and learning. Each age understood this learning and philosophy according to the style which predominated. Thus Solomon was in turn parabolist, naturalist, sceptic, magician, astrologer, alchemist, cabalist.”

With these corrective views in mind, we may turn to the history of Israel in its golden epoch, with less fear of gaining an incorrect historical image. We shall be still further guarded if we recall that it is very doubtful whether any of the Hebrew writings now extant were in existence in the time of David and Solomon. By this it is not meant to deny that the Israelites of that day knew how to write. Doubtless the works of that period were drawn upon by later compilers. But by far the larger number of records ostensibly dating from this time must be ascribed to a much later period. It is held by Renan that “the only part of the Hebrew literature now preserved, which might be attributed to Solomon, is that portion of the Book of Proverbs which extends from verse one of the tenth chapter to the sixteenth verse of the twenty-second chapter.” And even this, it is alleged, cannot in all probability be the work of Solomon himself. “Not only have we no work of Solomon’s,” says Renan, “but it is probable that he did not write at all.” Even if such iconoclastic views as this are accepted, it does not follow that we have no knowledge of the true history of Israel in this period. The fact is quite the contrary; however much tradition may have befogged the view, the time of Hebrew monarchy is a truly historical epoch, the main outlines of which are clearly preserved. We turn now to the detailed examination of this interesting period.a


[ca. 1020 B.C.]

It was not only the Philistines with whom Saul had to contend. The Amalekites invaded the country from the south, devastating it as they went. Saul defeated them, marched through their territory, and made their king, Agag, prisoner. All the Amalekites taken were destroyed with the edge of the sword, and the same was done to all such cattle as were useless; the captive Agag and the best of the animals were brought back in triumph to Gilgal, through the territory of the tribe of Judah.


Samuel came from Ramah, where he had lived since the loss of the holy Ark, to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and said to Saul: “What meaneth this bleating of the sheep in mine ears and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? Thou hast done evil in the sight of Jehovah.” He was displeased because all that lived had not been utterly destroyed, and would not offer the sacrifice. The victorious king was submissive enough to confess his fault. “I have sinned,” he said, “yet honour me now I pray thee before the elders of my people, and turn again with me that I may worship the Lord thy God.” Then Samuel demanded that the captive king of Amalek should be brought before him. This was done, and Samuel said to him, “As thy sword has made women childless, so shall thy mother be made childless among women.” And “Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.”

King Saul, so the story continues in summary fashion, performed mighty deeds of valour, and when he saw any strong man or any valiant man, he took him unto him and fought against all the enemies of Israel on every side, against Moab and against Edom and against the kings of Zobah (in the north); and the war was sore against the Philistines so long as Saul lived, and wherever he turned he conquered. His sword never came back empty, and the daughters of Israel could clothe themselves in purple from the spoil of his victories and adorn their garments with gold. By these long and hard struggles, Saul succeeded in destroying the lordship of the Philistines over Israel and breaking the power of their arms, and “delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled them.” In Saul’s hands the royal power accomplished what the Israelites had expected when they placed it there. Supported by his son Jonathan and his cousin Abner, whom as a distinguished warrior the king had made the captain of his host, Saul had become the saviour of Israel; but for him the tribes on the hither side of Jordan would have been subdued by the Philistines, those beyond Jordan by the Ammonites and Moabites, and they would probably have completely succumbed to their power. He sought also to improve the state of affairs within the country; it is reported that “in his zeal for Israel,” he brought the Hivites of Gibeon to submission and obedience; the wizards and the conjurors of the dead he had put away out of the country.


[ca. 1020-1010 B.C.]

As king, Saul remained faithful to the simple manners of his early life. When not in the field, which was, however, generally the case, he lived on his own portion at Gibeah. There was no question of state, dignitaries, ceremonial, or a harem. His wife, Ahinoam, had borne Saul three sons besides Jonathan: Abinadab, Malchishua, and Ishbosheth [Eshbaal], and two daughters, Merab and Michal; the elder, Merab, was married to Adriel, the son of Barzillai.

It was the ambition, the intrigues, and the rebellion of a man whom Saul had himself raised from obscurity, which not only robbed the latter of the reward of his deeds and his house of the throne, but also deprived Israel of all the fruits of so many and such great efforts, and once more set the fate of the nation at stake.

David, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, in the tribe of Judah, belonged “to the valiant men whom Saul had taken to himself”; he had distinguished himself in the struggle against the Philistines, and the king had made him[80] his armour bearer and sent him out frequently against them; with fortune on his side David’s expeditions succeeded better than those of other captains. Thus he was beloved in the eyes of the people and of the king’s servants, and Jonathan, the brave son of Saul, “made a covenant with David, for he loved him as his own soul.” In Saul’s house David was trusted and honoured before the other warriors. Saul made him a captain of a thousand and gave him the command of the bodyguard. After Abner, David was the first of Saul’s followers and ate at his table. Saul even went farther; he gave David his second daughter Michal to wife, because she loved him, though David had himself refused to take her. “What am I,” said David, “and what is my life or my father’s family that I should be the king’s son-in-law? But I am a poor man and lightly esteemed.”

After this, Saul was seized with a suspicion of David, fearing lest this man whom he had raised so high and had made his son-in-law, and who was the bosom friend of his son, should conspire against him and his house in alliance with Samuel and other priests who had not abandoned their unfriendly attitude towards the newly established throne and the man who filled it.

It is related that Saul thrust at David with a spear, but that the latter avoided the blow and fled to his house. Then Saul commanded that the house should be surrounded, that David might be killed the next day. But Michal let David down in the night from a window, and laid the household god in the bed in his place, covered it up with a cloth, and placed the fly-net of goat’s hair over the face of the image. Meantime David fled to Samuel at Ramah and hid with him at Naioth until Saul learned his whereabouts. Then David escaped to Nob, where the priest Ahimelech inquired of Jehovah for him and gave him provisions and a sword, and thence he fled farther to the Philistine prince, Achish, king of Gath.

Saul blamed his daughter for having helped David out of his difficulties, and said to Jonathan: “As long as the son of Jesse liveth, thou shalt not be established nor thy kingdom.” Then he held a strict trial of the priests, under the tamarisk at Gibeah. When the priests of Nob were brought before him, Saul asked Ahimelech: “Why have ye conspired against me, thou and the son of Jesse, that he should rise against me? Thou shalt surely die. Slay the priests,” he cried to his bodyguard; “their hand is with David and because they knew when he fled and did not shew it to me.” But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the Lord. And the king said to Doeg, “Turn thou and fall upon the priests.” And Doeg the Edomite turned and fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.

“And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword.

“And one of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled after David. And Abiathar shewed David that Saul had slain the Lord’s priests.”


We do not know exactly how far Saul’s suspicion of David was justified: from the story which has been revised and worked up with a view to prejudicing us in David’s favour, we can only perceive that the son of Jesse actually was in close alliance with the priests, and David’s own actions[81] after he had broken with Saul are evidence of far-reaching and carefully laid schemes, the means of whose execution were not too scrupulous. But whether Saul had perceived David’s ambitious intentions in good time, or had gone too far in his proceedings against him, in either case he had committed an error: David was by no means content with escaping from the king’s anger; if wrong had been done him he far outdid it by his own acts. The Philistines would neither have received in Gath a dangerous enemy like David, who had done them so much injury, nor have spared his life, if he had not agreed to support them for the future in their struggle against Saul. David also entered into relations with other enemies of his country.

His father and mother he took to the king of Moab, to secure them against Saul’s vengeance. He then threw himself into the desolate tracts of eastern Judea about the Dead Sea, and here he attempted to organise a rising; he probably counted on the adhesion of the tribe of Judah, to which he belonged, as he might reckon on their jealousy of the king from the little tribe of Benjamin, although the tribe of Judah should have been especially grateful to Saul, since it had been the one to suffer longest under the Philistine dominion. His father’s house really gathered round him, “and all the oppressed, and whosoever had a creditor and whosoever had a grievance.” They were for the most part people of the tribe of Judah, with some from Benjamin and others from Gad, beyond Jordan—four to six hundred men, who assembled round David in the cave of Adullam. This was no great result, and David found himself compelled to lead a robber existence with this band, and by so doing he ran the danger of rousing the inhabitants of the neighbourhood against him.

He therefore tried a middle course and sent to a rich man, Nabal of Carmel, who possessed three thousand sheep and one thousand goats, and who was a descendant of that Caleb who had here once founded a lordship for himself with the sword. David sent to say that he had taken nothing from Nabal’s flocks, and to ask if the latter would not, therefore, send him and his the means of subsistence. But Nabal answered David’s messenger: “Who is David and who is the son of Jesse; there be many servants nowadays that break away every man from his master.” Then David set out, by night, to fall on Nabal’s house and flocks. On the way he was met by Nabal’s wife Abigail, who, in her dread of the freebooters, had had some asses laden with slaughtered sheep, bread, jars of wine, figs, and raisin cakes, to take secretly to David’s camp. “Blessed be thy advice, woman,” said David, “for as the Lord God of Israel liveth, hadst thou not met me, surely by the morning light there had been none left of Nabal and his house.” Nabal miraculously died ten days after this incident. David reflected that so rich a possession in this region could not but be useful. Saul’s daughter was lost to him, so he sent some servants to Abigail at Carmel. They said: “David sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife.” And Abigail arose and bowed herself on her face to the earth and said, ‘Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.’ Then she arose with five of her maidens, and went after the messengers of David and became his wife. In fact, this marriage seems to have been of great assistance to David’s enterprise. The southern towns of Judah—Aroer, Hormah, Ramoth, Jattir, Eshtemoa, even Hebron itself, declared for him. From here David endeavoured to press forward to the north and made himself master of the fortified city of Keilah.

When Saul was informed of this, he said:[82] “God hath delivered him into mine hand, for he is shut in by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.” As Saul approached, David bade Abiathar the priest, who had fled to him from Nob with the image of Jehovah, to bring the image. David inquired of it: “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hands of Saul; O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee tell thy servant.” And Jehovah said, “They will deliver thee up.” Then David despaired of holding the town and fled to Ziph and Maon in the wilderness by the Dead Sea. But Saul followed and overtook him: nothing but a mountain now divided David’s band from the king. David was already surrounded and lost—when a message reached Saul: “The Philistines have invaded the land.”

It was probably an expedition that the Philistines had undertaken in aid of the hard-pressed rebels. Saul immediately abandoned the pursuit and marched against the foreigner. But David named the rock the Rock of Escapes. After the king had beaten the Philistines he took three thousand men from the army that he might completely quell the rebellion. David had retreated farther east, on the border of the Dead Sea in the neighbourhood of Engedi, “upon the rocks of the wild goats,” and here Saul reduced him to such straits that he despaired of maintaining himself in Judah and got away to the Philistines with his following. The rising was at an end.

David’s attempt to induce the tribe of Judah to secede from Saul, had completely failed. Driven from the soil on which he had raised the standard of revolt, he no longer hesitated to formally enter the service of the Philistines, and the latter welcomed the support of a brave and clever rebel, knowing that though once their enemy, he had already given much trouble in Judah to the arms of Saul, whose force they had so often felt and who had snatched from them their dominion over Israel, and aware that his resentment against his benefactor and master might prove of the greatest service to them, King Achish of Gath, to whom David had a second time fled, declared: “He hath made his people Israel utterly to abhor him; therefore he shall be my servant forever.” And he gave him and his band of freebooters the town of Ziklag as a dwelling-place. David was now established at Ziklag as a vassal of Achish. At the latter’s command he had to march to battle and also to deliver up a share of the booty taken, and from Ziklag in the territory of the Philistines he and his small army, still recruited from the discontented of Israel who fled to David across the frontier, conducted a guerilla warfare against Saul and his native country. In these expeditions David was shrewd enough to spare his former adherents in Judah, the towns which had once declared for him, and to direct his attacks solely against the followers of Saul; he even secretly maintained relations with his party in Judah, and out of the booty derived from his warlike and plundering raids he sent presents to the elders of those towns which were well-disposed towards him.

David had dwelt some time in Ziklag when the Philistines assembled their whole force against Saul. When the princes of the Philistines reviewed the army and made the various sections pass before them, David and his men also came amongst the soldiers of Achish. Then said the other princes to Achish: “What do these Hebrews here? Let David not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he be an adversary to us and go over to his master that he might once more gain favour with Saul with our heads.” Achish trusted David and said: “He has already been with me for some time, for years. I have found nothing against him up till now.” But the other princes insisted. When Achish informed David that he could not accompany the army, the latter answered:[83] “But what have I done and what hast thou found in thy servant so long as I have been with thee unto this day, that I may not go fight against the enemies of my king?” But in spite of his urgent wish David was sent back.

[ca. 1010-1002 B.C.]

The army of the Philistines penetrated far into Israel; but north of the territory of the tribe of Ephraim, on the mountain of Gilboa, Saul encamped opposite them with the army of the Israelites. The battle was a fierce one. Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul, fell, and Jonathan himself was slain. The ranks of the Israelites gave way and the enemies’ archers attained the king.


Saul was determined not to survive the fall of his sons and his first defeat. He called to his armour bearer: “Draw thy sword and kill me, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But the faithful servant refused to lay hands on his lord; then Saul fell on his own sword, and the armour bearer followed the king’s example. The army of the Israelites fled in every direction and the inhabitants of many towns escaped from the Philistines by retreating across the Jordan.

The dread which Saul had inspired in the enemies of Israel and how great a shield he had been to his own people, was shown after his death. The Israelites sang laments for him.

“The gazelle, oh Israel, is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen. Tell it not in Gath; publish it not in the streets of Askalon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain upon you, nor fields of offerings. For there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul. From the blood of the slain, from the fat of the mighty the bow of Jonathan turned not back and the sword of Saul returned not empty. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet with other delights; who put ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!” The Philistines rejoiced when they found the body of Saul on Mount Gilboa. They took away the arms of the dead king and sent them round through their whole country, to convince all men that the dreaded leader of Israel was really dead. Then the arms were hung up in the temple of Astarte. The head of the corpse the Philistines hewed from the body, and hung it up in the temple of Dagon; the trunk, and the bodies of Saul’s three sons, they placed in the market at Beth-shan, in the territory of the tribe of Manasseh.

The men of Jabesh in Gilead, which Saul had once saved in its sorest need, arose and secretly stole away the corpse of Saul and the corpses of his three sons from the market-place of Beth-shan, burnt them at Jabesh and there buried them under the tamarisk; and they fasted and mourned over Saul seven days.

But the other tribes also preserved a faithful memory of the fallen king. Saul’s youngest son alone survived; he had escaped across the Jordan with Abner, Saul’s captain of the host. Although a single battle had destroyed all that Saul had won in long and painful struggles and although the Philistines were again masters of the hither side of Jordan, as in the dreary days before the reign of Saul, yet the tribes beyond Jordan recognised Ishbosheth[84] [Eshbaal] as their lawful king. He was, however, obliged to fix his seat at Mahanaim, east of Jordan. Abner’s courage and energy succeeded in gradually bringing back the fruits of the Philistine victory at Gilboa, and in freeing the territory of the northern tribes, including Ephraim and Benjamin, from the yoke of the Philistines.

Whilst Abner was doing his utmost to save the wrecks of Saul’s dominion for the king’s son, and to drive the Philistines out of the country, David had been looking after his own interests. After the defeat of Gilboa, many had hastened to him at Ziklag. David had been a notable warrior, and there was a certainty of finding protection from the Philistines’ vassal. Those towns of the tribe of Judah which had formally adhered to David, also now for the most part went over to him, and indeed the tribe of Judah was more accustomed than the others to the Philistines’ rule. David inquired of Jehovah whether he should go up from Ziklag to any of the cities of Judah, and Jehovah answered: “To Hebron.” He did so, “and the men of Judah came and there they anointed David, king over the house of Judah, for only the house of Judah followed David.” Thus David had succeeded in achieving what he had failed to accomplish in Saul’s life-time, and had founded an independent sovereignty in the territory of the tribe of Judah. At first he ruled there from Hebron in peace, as the vassal of the Philistines so long as Abner had to fight with the latter. But when Ishbosheth’s government was once more established in the north and centre of the country, Abner, to complete the liberation of Israel, was obliged to attack David as he had done the Philistines.

“There was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David,” says the tradition. It continued during several years, without any decisive issue, when a breach between Abner and Ishbosheth gave David his advantage, and finally won him the throne of Saul. Ishbosheth appears to have become distrustful of Abner, to whom he owed everything. When Abner took to himself Saul’s concubine Rizpah, Ishbosheth imagined that he intended by this means to acquire a claim to the throne, in order to be able to seize the government himself; and he did not conceal his resentment. Then Abner turned from the man whom he had raised to greatness, and opened secret negotiations with David. David responded gladly.

With characteristic cunning he first demanded the restoration of his wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter, whom, after David’s rebellion, Saul had given in marriage to another man. David had learnt to know the Israelites’ attachment to Saul, and saw that nothing would bring him nearer to the throne than a renewal of the union with Saul’s family; then, if none of Saul’s descendants remained except his daughter, he himself would be actually the rightful heir. Abner sent Michal to him, and went himself to Hebron, to arrange for handing over the kingdom. An agreement had been arrived at. Abner had accomplished his task, and was already on his way home to Mahanaim, when Joab, David’s captain, sent to call him back. He came, and Joab led him aside under the gate as though he had some private words to say to him, instead of which he thrust him through the body with his sword. David protested his innocence (Abner must have had many friends and followers among the Israelites) and mourned over Abner’s death. The corpse was solemnly interred at Hebron and David went in sackcloth behind the bier, but Joab was left unpunished. More just was the Israelites’ lament for Abner’s death. “Must Abner die as the godless dieth?” they sang.[85] “Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters; as a man falleth before the sons of iniquity fellest thou.”

[ca. 1002 B.C.]

When the news of Abner’s death came to Mahanaim, Ishbosheth’s “hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.” The pillar of the kingdom had fallen. The two captains thought to earn David’s gratitude. While Ishbosheth was taking his midday rest on his bed in the sleeping chamber, they crept unnoticed into the house, hewed off the head of their king, and brought it with all speed to David at Hebron. This murder also must have been welcome to David; it brought him quickly to his goal; but he would not reward the agents—he had them both hanged.


The throne of Saul was vacant, and David, the husband of his daughter, was at the head of no inconsiderable power; whom else could the tribes of Israel, which had obeyed Ishbosheth, now raise to the throne, if the melancholy division was to be brought to an end and the people again united under one rule? The elders of the tribes were wise enough to judge the situation aright. So the whole people came together at Hebron; in full assembly David was raised to the throne of all Israel, and anointed by the elders. All was joy, harmony, and hope, that, after the close of the long, fraternal quarrel, better times might now be in store.

Eight years had gone by since Saul had fallen at Gilboa, and David had at last attained the object which he had persistently aimed at through so many changes of fortune. But he did not feel secure so long as male descendants of Saul were still surviving. Still he would not lay hands on them himself. Now the Hivites of Gibeon nourished a deadly hatred against Saul’s family, because, “in his zeal for the children of Israel,” Saul’s hand had lain heavy upon them. David offered “to make atonement for the wrong which Saul had done them,” and thereupon they demanded: because their land had borne no fruit for three years, that seven men of Saul’s family should be delivered to them “to be hanged before Jehovah at Gibeah,” the home of Saul. Just seven male descendants of Saul survived, two sons of his concubine, Rizpah, and five grandsons, whom Saul’s eldest daughter had borne to Adriel. These David took and “delivered into the hands of the Gibeonites and they hanged them in the hill before Jehovah.”

Only Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, David spared, remembering his oath of friendship to Jonathan. Moreover, Mephibosheth was young and lame in both feet; in the night of terror after the battle of Gilboa, his nurse had let him fall. David left him his inheritance intact, in so far that he was allowed to take possession of Saul’s portion in Gibeah, and the king ordered that the bones of Saul and Jonathan should be brought from Jabesh to Zelah near Gibeah, where Saul’s father rested. In the tribe of Benjamin, which had been Saul’s and, among the friends of his house, David’s deeds were not forgotten; these men hated “David, the man of blood.”c


[1] Histoire du Peuple d’Israel, Paris, 1889, p. 175.


Ancient Jewish Fountain


[ca. 1002-990 B.C.]

The eyes of Israel were now all turned to David. All the tribes of Israel, in the persons of their nobles, came to Hebron and said: “Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. And moreover, in times past, even when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord thy God said unto thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be ruler over my people Israel.” Thereupon the elders of Israel anointed David to be their king before Jehovah in Hebron. Nothing denotes more clearly than these words of our chronicler, the idea which animated all Israel in calling upon David to mount the throne of Saul. He still lived in their memory as the renowned leader in the struggle with the Philistines. And the memory of the days of Saul must have been all the more vivid, the more inglorious and mean the present appeared.

David could consequently be in no doubt as to his first task as newly elected king of Israel. Israel must be again free, and the Philistines thrown back on their coasts. Nothing else was intended when the tribes invited him to be their prince. And, like Saul in former days, by this means alone could David permanently retain the confidence with which the tribes approached him at his anointing.

In the country of the Philistines also, the significance of what had passed in Hebron was quickly perceived. There was probably no need of many words and messages to announce that the position of vassal to Philistia, in which David had hitherto stood, was at an end. If Saul’s kingdom had passed to David, between him and the Philistines the cause of Israel still retained the same rights as in the days of Saul. In spite of this, David seems to have been attacked sooner than he could have anticipated; immediately, on the news of his anointing at Hebron, the Philistines invaded Judah. David seems to have been taken unawares, and Israel’s attempt to make itself independent through him, to have been nipped in the bud. Beitlahm (Bible Bethlehem) David’s home, was quickly occupied, and Hebron was threatened. David was warned, but having no time to summon the militia, was compelled to withdraw hastily to the cave of Adullam, which stronghold had long ago been intrusted to him. Here he seems to have remained some time, until he had collected his forces, and later he succeeded in inflicting a sensible defeat on the Philistines, who had fixed their camp in the land of giants, the so-called plain of Rephaim north of Jebus, opposite Gibeon.


But it must be confessed that the Philistines were not annihilated, or even merely reduced to quiescence by this. The struggle was again renewed on the occasion of a second invasion of Judah by the enemy. In obedience to Jehovah’s oracle, David passed round the Philistines, who had again encamped in the land of giants, and attacked them from the north, i.e. from behind. He smote them from Gibeon to Gezer.

For the time the Philistines seemed to have remained quiet after these two defeats, which David had inflicted on them within so short a time. But their power was not yet broken, and David must have fought many and doubtless severe battles before Israel had rest from the Philistines. Many a reminiscence of David and his heroes, many a bold feat of his valiant host, lived on through subsequent generations and was referred to this very struggle. At one time it is David’s own life which is at stake, at another, Goliath of Gath is slain, the enemy who has also lent his name to the unknown Philistine giant whom David had formerly killed. Finally, by a decisive battle, David succeeds in winning the Philistine’s capital and with it their whole country. From this time forward the power of the Philistines is broken. Never afterwards do they appear as the enemies of Israel. From the time of David the relations between the two nations are essentially peaceful. Nor, in spite of his victories, did David subjugate Philistia or destroy her nationality. He was content to have won back Israel’s position, defeated the enemy, and kept peace with him. It even appears that moderately friendly relations were opened between the rivals. Indeed, so little were the Philistines now considered as the hereditary foes of Israel, that David chooses his bodyguard from amongst them.

But David was not content with the success he had so far attained. Israel was not merely to be free. Israel was to be united, and raised to a position commanding respect among the neighbouring states. Step by step, David brought this aim nearer fulfilment. He trained the tribes to give new and better expression to their cohesion than had formerly been possible; he fitted them to guide their destinies according to his own ideal; thanks to him, for a time, Israel was even able to have a decisive voice in the council of the peoples of Anterior Asia, who dwelt west of the Euphrates. No wonder, then, that Israel knows no greater king than David, and that his name is the expression, to the most remote posterity, of all the magnificence and all the splendour which could ever have been imagined in Israel. David was and remains the greatest man next to Moses in the history of Israel, and is at the same time the most popular.

It was not David’s work which awakened in the tribes of Israel the consciousness that they formed an unit, a single people, nor that for a transitory period they acted as one nation. Moses, and again later, Saul, even Deborah for some of the tribes, had given expression to this ideal unity, and temporarily realised it. The tribes must now long have known that they were the limbs of a single nation. But always, as had been lately manifested in Saul, the strength was lacking to maintain what had been momentarily acquired. What was especially wanted even when liberty had been won, was a national centre, round which the life of the nation, political as well as religious, might gather. Only when this was attained could the unification be really complete, and any sort of permanence be guaranteed for the liberty won by the sword. Saul, with inconceivable shortsightedness, did little or nothing towards this object. The national sanctuary, first lost and afterwards again recovered, he had left standing in an obscure corner of Israel, and had fixed his royal abode in his native Benjamite city of Gibeah where[88] he had lived as a peasant, and which had neither past nor future—the best evidence that Saul lacked the kingly faculty. David saw deeper than Saul. If Saul was an able warrior, who, when he had sheathed his sword, returned to his cattle at Gibeah, David, on the contrary, was a born ruler. He recognised that religion and national life needed a centre, unity a base, national power a place of assembly—in short that if the country was to maintain its unity and independence, it must have a capital worthy of royalty and fitted to secure it.

[ca. 990 B.C.]

Immediately after the conclusion of the first Philistine wars, David proceeded to the accomplishment of this object. His choice bears witness to his genius. Hebron, lying at the southern end of the country, and being moreover the capital of his own tribe, could be suited, neither by its position nor its tribal character, to form the centre of the new kingdom, which must be superior to the ancient tribal distinctions. Saul’s residence of Gibeah was disqualified on similar grounds, and probably also strategically unimportant. On the other hand, the fortress of Jebus answered, as did no other place in Israel, to what David sought. Furnished by nature with the attributes of an almost impregnable stronghold from a strategical point of view, Jebus is one of the most important places in the country. At the middle point of the traffic between the Mediterranean and the East, as of that between Syria and Egypt, it is a natural centre for trade and commerce. As it was still in the possession of the Canaanites, it was well qualified to remain aloof from the contention for precedence among the tribes. And yet again as it lay not far from David’s birthplace, Jebus provided for the preservation of David’s kingship and of that connection with the tribe of Judah which was to a certain extent indispensable. In fact, David’s choice of Jebus—henceforth called Jerusalem in the Old Testament—as capital of his kingdom, was an act of incalculably wide-reaching importance. It is quite impossible to say what would have become of Judah and the throne of David in the centuries which followed Solomon’s death, but for the possession of Jerusalem. Of the part played by Jerusalem in the destinies of Israel, both before and after the exile, every one who knows the story is aware. If David’s successful fight for liberty against the Philistines was the first jewel which he added to his newly acquired crown, the second was the town of Jerusalem, which he now won and raised to be the royal city of Israel.

Jebus had hitherto been a relic of that large territory forming with Gibeon, Beeroth, Kirjath-jearim and Chephirah, a Canaanitish strip of land, which once, in the period of the conquest and for a considerable time after, had extended into the possession of Israel. In course of time, most of this land, so long beyond the borders of Israel, had been absorbed. Finally Saul had exerted himself in the matter by the application of force. Only Jebus, with its strong rock-citadel Zion, had obstinately resisted all attacks. Its possessors seem to have formed a singular little Canaanitish nation, called, from their town, the Jebusites.


David’s attempt to win the Jebusites and their town for Israel by peaceful means, miscarried. Their rocky eyrie, Zion, appeared to the Jebusites so strong that the lame and blind would suffice to defend it. Undismayed by their scorn, David proceeded to use force, and stormed town and citadel. The citadel he took possession of himself and called it David’s citadel (the city of David) after having first restored the building for his own purposes. Hiram of Tyre, to whom the friendship of his powerful neighbour must have been a matter of some importance, is said to have assisted him with[89] cedar wood and workmen. The former masters of the town seem, like the Philistines after them, not to have been treated according to the usage of war, but to have been spared. At least in later times we find the Jebusites living with Israel in Jerusalem.


But the conquest of Jerusalem by David, and the selection of this town as the capital of the country, had yet a further significance. A royal sanctuary was a necessary adjunct to the king’s residence and the capital of the country. But religion in Israel was a popular institution. No affair which touched the whole nation could dispense with it. The national capital, the centre of the life of the people, must, if it were to answer its purpose, also be the centre of the religious life. In order, therefore, to make Jerusalem, as a capital, what it might be and what by David’s means it actually was to become for Israel, it must be the centre of Jehovah’s worship.

Jewish King performing a Religious Rite

David’s greatness is raised to a still higher level by the fact that he thought of this also. History is made by the man who recognises the spirit of his time and of his country, and is in a position to step forward and act decisively in consonance with it. David perceived that the spirit of his nation and its destiny only worked in the close connection of the national with the religious life. He had an eye for the most secret inner existence of his nation, according to which it must be the people of religion, God’s people. Thus he became at once the historical, and what was inseparable from this, the religious hero of Israel. We need neither overlook the weakness and despotic whims of David, nor transform the man, by nature a hero, into a feeble saint, in order to appreciate his deep religious character and his importance for the religion of Israel. As David had glorified Israel’s past, so he had done for its future, and in days of tribulation his name revived Israel’s sinking hope and faith in God. Jehovah, the God of Israel, became through him the chief dweller at Jerusalem, the neighbour and almost the household companion, nay more, the host and father of its king. Jerusalem, the royal city, is at the same time the city of God, the holy city; Davi[90]d’s Dynasty is Jehovah’s royal house, and its members Jehovah’s sons, and even the hero of the last days, who shall save Israel and the world from all their woes, can henceforth be pictured in no other way than as a second David, the great son and antitype of the glorious founder of the holy city.

The ancient sanctuary of the time of Moses, the Ark of God, had been almost forgotten since the evil days when it fell into the enemy’s hand. The Philistines indeed, smitten with a solemn awe, had restored the ark. But neither Saul nor the priesthood of Nob, which had succeeded that of Shiloh, nor any one else in Israel, had interested himself in it. It might seem that its sojourn in the enemies’ country had desecrated it. Or probably the small measure of good fortune it had brought to the arms of Israel’s hosts at Aphek had shaken the belief in its virtue.

Not so David. The scruples of superstitious Saul and of his age, did not terrify him. He saw what the Ark of God was and that it was what he needed: the ancient sanctuary of Israel, which assured Jehovah’s presence in the desert, and with which great memories were connected. For him the fact that it had long, and perhaps in the first instance, had its location with the tribe of Joseph, could only be an additional reason for once more restoring it to honour. Everything must depend on his winning over to himself and Jerusalem that northern group of the tribes.

Thus the Ark of God was fetched in solemn procession and in the presence of the whole people from Baal Jehuda [Bible, Baalah (Kirjath-jearim) in Judah] where it stood in the house of a private individual. But an accident which befell the driver of the cart upon which it was carried, perplexed David. The fancy he had thought dispelled, that Jehovah’s hand of blessing was withdrawn from the ark, now appeared to be founded on the truth. He did not venture to conduct it to Zion. It was only when even a foreigner, Obed Edom of Gath, in whose house the Ark had been left for three months, derived blessing from it, that David carried out his intention. With rejoicing and the sound of trumpet, the people led Jehovah to Zion. David himself executed the motions of dancing before the Ark, clad in the linen garment of a priest, and fulfilled as chief the priestly office before Jehovah in Zion. Michal, Saul’s proud daughter, was ashamed of her husband for degrading himself before his serving men and maids. David was proud of having been honoured before Jehovah. There was in him a truly religious nature, which did not scruple to go even to the verge of what were, even for that age, religious eccentricities.

It must be in the highest degree astonishing that David built no temple for the Ark. If he fetched it to his capital and his palace, he must also have meant to erect there a fitting resting-place for Jehovah. Since he did not do so, he must have been guided by special reasons and considerations. If, as the history of Samuel hints, the Ark had already a temple of its own in Shiloh, it can be positively said that only a divine oracle could have withheld David from building a fitting temple. Without such a definite declaration of Jehovah’s will, it would have been culpable indifference and criminal contempt for the Majesty of Jehovah for David to have built no temple. There is consequently no real grounds to discredit as a late invention the tradition of David’s firm intention to build Jehovah a temple on Zion and its prevention by a prophetic saying. The rather late compilation of the writings concerning it cannot be taken into consideration, in face of such overwhelming inherent grounds for the truth of the fact. Nay, it is believeable that already on this occasion a prophetic saying furnished David with the prospect of the continuance of his dynasty.



[ca. 990-980 B.C.]

David was not left to the peaceful enjoyment of what he had already acquired. It could scarcely have been otherwise, and David would hardly have desired that it should. If Israel were to be master in Syria, if her borders were to be secured and the independence so often contested by surrounding peoples were to be rendered indisputable, explanations with her remaining neighbours must take place. David could not then possibly rest content with the acquisition of the kingship over all Israel, and the overthrow of the Philistines. The occasion, not undesired by David, came from without, from Ammon. The Ammonites soon joined themselves with the various Aramaic peoples, so that, when he had conquered them, David was master of all the border country to the north and east of Israel.

It is extremely doubtful whether the Ammonites were permanently subdued. At a later period their territory did not belong to Israel, but it probably did in David’s time. In any case the marauding eastern tribes which had so often threatened Israel, were for the present reduced to quiescence. The frontier of David’s kingdom was now secured in the east as far as to the desert. In the north his rule extended to Lebanon and Hebron. Even the rulers of the territories lying farther to the north and east sought his friendship. As for instance, King Toi of Hamath on the Orontes, who had lived at feud with Hadad-ezer and consequently could only be grateful to David for his overthrow. Also King Talmai of Geshur, a district of Hermon, southwest of Damascus. A daughter of his was one of David’s wives. She became the mother of Absalom.

The Phœnicians had even better reason than these northern neighbours to keep on good terms with David. Nothing but gain could result to their commercial operations from the existence in the interior of Palestine of a powerful and well-ordered state, such as David was striving after. Their king, Hiram of Tyre, concluded a friendly alliance with David, which continued under Solomon.

Thus David’s kingdom stretched from the Red Sea to Lebanon. It was the ruling power in Syria. It stood in uncontested power. It had no longer any adversary to fear. Next to David the greatest share in this result was due to Joab, his chief general—especially as David did not latterly often take the field himself. From beginning to end he remained faithfully devoted to David, unshaken through all the storms and vicissitudes of fortune—a warrior to whose keen sword success was never denied, but also a man of rude violence and unbridled selfishness, to whom no bond seemed sacred, no means to be rejected.

It is obvious that in such quarrels as he had to conduct on all sides, David had need of a carefully administered and well-disciplined army. The nucleus of his troops, a kind of guard on whom he could implicitly rely, consisted of those six hundred men, who, long ago, in the days of his flight from Saul, had gathered round him and had remained true to him during his persecution. When David became king, they, of course, stayed with him. Henceforth they represented his bodyguard, and bore the name of Gibborim, the “Heroes.” In war, special tasks were, as a matter of course, assigned to them. The gaps in the circles of these picked troops, which resulted from David’s numerous wars, were afterwards filled up after the victories over the Philistines—for reasons which are explained by the purpose of the force as the king’s bodyguard. The recruits were chiefly[92] foreigners, especially Philistines and Cretan mercenaries of cognate race. Thus this whole force soon bore the name of Cretans and Philistines.

Important as this picked body was at all times to David, it could not possibly suffice for his great campaigns. David recognised that for wars such as he had to conduct, a permanent and reliable military organisation was necessary for Israel, even in time of peace, so that even then Israel’s troops might be under surveillance and no tribe be able to evade its duty in the moment of war. The census of the people undertaken by David’s chief captain, Joab, served this object. It was to secure the supervision of those capable of bearing arms in Israel, and to afford a groundwork for that organisation. Joab spent three-quarters of a year on the way; he extended his journey to Kadesh on the Orontes, the capital of the once mighty Hittite empire, which, consequently, if the statement is correct, had also been subdued by David. Soon after this numbering, a destructive pestilence fell upon Israel. In this David recognised Jehovah’s avenging hand. We have other reasons to assume that David’s remodelling of the army was not the cause of his success in the struggle with the neighbouring peoples. It appears only to have been taken in hand as a result of the information here collected, and as a measure which might be of value at a subsequent period.

The close of David’s history, so far as it is not dominated by the well-known occurrences in his own family, might be said to be comprised in two episodes, which concern his relations to the few surviving members of the family of his predecessor, Saul. They probably belong to the time before David’s foreign wars, but stand in our narrative in no historical sequence, so that it is difficult to define their date exactly. The second of them is to be judged from the first.

According to this, David, doubtless some time after the whole of Saul’s kingdom has fallen to him, and he had firmly established himself in Zion, felt constrained to exercise some grace towards the surviving posterity of Saul, in memory of the friendship which had united him to Saul’s son, Jonathan. On inquiry it appeared that a son of Jonathan’s, named Meribaal (or Mephibosheth) was still alive. He was lame from a child, and lived, as it seems, in profound seclusion—probably from fear of David’s vengeance—in Lodebar. David had Meribaal brought before him, and presented him with his grandfather’s possessions. It would seem, therefore, that for a time this had been assumed by David. He was, however, to take up his abode at Jerusalem, and Saul’s servant, Ziba, was to cultivate the estate in Gibeah. David here joins magnanimity and policy. He magnanimously pardons Meribaal, who might regard his life as forfeited, and also makes him royal gifts. But he also does not omit to separate the prince from his family and Saul’s royal seat, and to keep him under his own eyes in Jerusalem. He, as well as the nobles of Benjamin, were to be removed from everything which might remind them of the ancient claims of Saul.

If David here exercised magnanimity in a manner which no one could have expected of him, it is not probable that, in another instance of which we are apprised he was influenced by a desire to exterminate the house of Saul. The town of Gibeon, which an ancient compact had secured in its Canaanitish integrity, had suffered violence from Saul “in his zeal for Israel.” It is to be presumed that he made an attack on Gibeon, and executed a sanguinary punishment on a part of the Canaanite population. For this breach of faith, the guilt of blood lay on Saul and on Israel and must be expiated. Once in David’s time, some time after the above described event, the land had been scourged for three years with drought and famine. David[93] questioned Jehovah concerning it, and its cause is named as the blood-guiltiness weighing on the house of Saul, and therefore—for the king represents the people—on Israel. The citizens of the injured Gibeon were to decide on the atonement. They demanded blood for blood; seven male descendants of Saul were delivered to the Gibeonites and by them “hanged up before Jehovah.” They were Saul’s two sons by his concubine Rizpah, who had once caused the breach between Abner and Eshbaal (Ishbosheth), besides Saul’s five grandsons from the marriage of Merab (the correct reading instead of Michal, lxx. Luc. Pesh.) with Adriel the son of Barzillai of Abel-meholah. Jonathan’s son, Meribaal, was spared for the sake of David’s bond of brotherhood with Jonathan. In her profound mother-love Rizpah kept watch by her slaughtered sons, scaring wild beasts and birds of prey from the corpses, till at last rain fell as a token that Jehovah’s anger was appeased. The bodies could now be buried. David collected their bones and had them deposited in the hereditary sepulchre of Kish at Gibeah. Saul’s house fell, but scarcely with David’s consent—a sacrifice to the religious belief of the time.


[ca. 990-970 B.C.]

David had gloriously overcome the foes of Israel, but he had not attained to winning the mastery over his own unruly passions. The same man who could guide his people step by step with strength and dexterity, did not possess enough firmness of will to train his own sons. The bitter fruit could not fail to appear. Our records tell the story, with a plain objectivity, with an unsparing impartiality, and from a high moral standpoint that it would be hard to parallel.

Gate of Joppa, Jerusalem

Whilst Joab is with the army before Rabbath-Ammon, David transgresses with the wife of a captain who has gone to the war. In order to escape the responsibility for the consequences which do not fail to follow, David had Uriah, the husband, sent home with a message concerning the state of the war. But, ostensibly from a feeling of soldierly duty, although he probably knew what had happened, he refuses to visit his wife and hastens back to the army. Only one means now remains to hide the king’s fault. David gives Uriah a letter to Joab which disposes of the troublesome accuser. Joab must place him at a dangerous place in the battle and leave him to his fate. The plan succeeds; Uriah’s wife Bathsheba duly bewailed her spouse and then became the wife of her seducer.


When Bathsheba had given birth to a child, that which Uriah had already suspected or discovered could no longer be concealed, and the prophet Nathan becomes spokesman for the public conscience. First in a parable, and then in plain language, he announces to David the judgment of Jehovah. David, thereby showing his true greatness, instead of being angered by Nathan, owns his guilt. The child falls sick, and, in spite of David’s prayer, dies after seven days. In the child’s death David recognises Jehovah’s judgment on his own sin. But he cannot prevent his example from speedily ripening into evil fruit in his grown sons.

His first-born, Amnon, is consumed by a passion for his half-sister, Tamar. By a stratagem, suggested by an unscrupulous flatterer at the court, he manages to get her into his power. A feigned sickness offers an excuse for her visit to him. When the deed has been accomplished, he roughly thrusts the dishonoured maiden from him with pitiless violence, a sure sign that it was not love, but savage desire which had prompted him.

It is as though we were watching a Greek tragedy of fate, when we follow the chronicler’s relation of how the evil deed brought forth evil. Now in fatal succession, guilt is heaped on guilt. The father had begun with open adultery, and had then sought to veil his guilt by hypocrisy and to cover it with blood. He could not, therefore, be surprised if his children did not shrink from the violation of honour, or even from incest, and thence allowed themselves to pass to murder and rebellion.

After what he had done himself, David had not the courage to punish Amnon’s crime, save with words. So another of his sons, Tamar’s own brother Absalom, took it on himself to avenge the outrage on his sister. But he knew how to wait till opportunity offered. Two years after the crime had been committed, Absalom invited the king’s court to the festival of the sheep-shearing at his estate of Baal Hazar. Amnon and the other princes attended. During the meal, Amnon was struck down unawares by Absalom’s people. The others fled homewards, and Absalom to Geshur to his grandfather, Talmai. Three years he remained there in exile, till, by a stratagem of Joab, he succeeded in altering the king’s disposition towards him. Absalom was permitted to return to Jerusalem, but for two years more he was forbidden to appear before the king’s eyes. Finally he succeeded, again through Joab’s intervention, in obtaining a complete pardon.

No good came to David from his pardon of Absalom. To the son’s ambitious and imperious spirit, were now joined spite and the desire to revenge the wrong which he believed, or professed to believe, had been done him. Established in his rights as heir to the throne, he took advantage of his newly acquired position to steal the hearts of the people from the king, who was now growing old. And, not content with the prospect of eventually becoming his father’s lawful successor, he laid a malicious plan for the premature supersession of the king. For the space of four years he secretly prepared what he had in mind, winning over the people by royal splendour and popular mildness, and obtaining accomplices and comrades for his treacherous plans. Fully equipped, he passed to open rebellion against the unsuspecting king.

[ca. 970 B.C.]

He desired, with the king’s permission, to make sacrifice in the ancient, sacred Hebron, the discarded, and consequently discontented, capital of Judah. Messengers who left Jerusalem at the same time as he did, announced throughout Israel Absalom’s approaching succession. Here in Hebron, supported by Jewish tribal chiefs, Absalom unfurled the standard of rebellion. Soon a considerable number of the men of Israel rallied round him.


To David, the news of Absalom’s rising was a thunderbolt from a clear sky. It found him unsuspecting and completely unprepared. Not only in Judah but in the remaining portion of Israel, David’s government must have aroused discontent. Beyond his six hundred faithful followers, he seems for the moment to have been able to count on little support in the country west of Jordan. Only the east, which had formerly stood firmly by the house of Saul, appears also to have remained true to him. Even in his strong capital he did not feel himself safe for an instant from a sudden attack of Absalom, and decided to leave it.

Even now, reduced to the sorest straits ever experienced in his stirring life, the trust in God, the courage and wisdom which had so often sustained him, did not forsake David. Leaving his harem behind in the palace, he flees across the Kidron to Jordan. His bodyguard, his household, and what remains to him, accompanies his flight, including the priests Zadok and Abiathar with the Ark of God. David bids them return to Jerusalem; he cherishes the hope that Jehovah will not forsake his city. Moreover, the priests will be able secretly to inform him through their sons Jonathan and Ahimaaz of what is passing in the city. With the same object he sends back the faithful Hushai, commissioning him to appear as a partisan of Absalom and to frustrate the counsels of the crafty Ahitophel, who has gone over to Absalom.

David was now soon to learn that Absalom’s appeal to Israel had also found a willing ear in Saul’s house and tribe. He was still at the Mount of Olives when Meribaal’s steward, Ziba, met him with the message that his master had joined Absalom in the hope of recovering the throne of his grandfather. Soon afterwards in Bahurin a notable Benjamite, Shimei, comes upon him. He receives him with fierce reproaches, which betray plainly enough how fresh was the hold retained over many irreconcilables by the memory of Saul and his house’s bloody fall, though of this David was guiltless.

Absalom took possession of the empty capital. He showed the people that he had entered upon the succession to David, by appropriating to himself the latter’s harem. If Absalom meant to secure his throne, David must first be removed. Now, before he had collected an army, this would be an easy matter, since Absalom had already considerable force. This, in view of the present state of things, was the counsel of Ahitophel. But Absalom’s destiny willed it that he should not follow this advice. It flattered the vanity of the king’s son to let one of David’s former adherents also speak. Hushai’s stratagem succeeded in befooling the deluded man, and his fate was sealed. He worked on Absalom’s dread of David’s brave and daring host, and induced him to wait till he should have collected round him the forces of all Israel. At the same time he informed David, through the priests, of what he had counselled.

David was now master of the situation, and his decision was immediately taken. He crossed the Jordan, went to Eshbaal’s (Ishbosheth) former capital, Mahanaim, and employed the time allowed him in gathering an army.

Meanwhile Absalom had also crossed the Jordan. In the country east of that river a battle could not be avoided. David’s army marched in three bodies, led by Joab, Abishai, and the Gittite Ittai. Absalom’s commander was David’s nephew Amasa, who was the son of an Ishmaelite Ithra and David’s sister Abigail. David himself, on the earnest entreaty of his people, remained behind in Mahanaim. In the wood of Ephraim—which must have[96] been the name of a wooded district east of Jordan—the decisive struggle took place. Absalom’s host, though far more numerous, for they stand to the narrator for “all Israel,” made no stand before David’s men. In the hurry of the flight Absalom is caught by his long waving hair in the branches of a terebinth. The mule gallops on. Swinging thus between heaven and earth, he is found by a common soldier who informs Joab of what he has seen. That savage warrior knows no mercy. Even David’s special injunction which had restrained the soldier meets with no regard from him. He rates the man’s weakness and himself thrusts three darts into Absalom’s body. Immediately afterwards he causes trumpet-calls to announce the end of the pursuit. Absalom’s body is thrown into a pit and covered with stones.

David, seated at the gate of Mahanaim, awaits the issue. The watchman perceives a man running up from the battle-field, then a second: in the first he recognises Zadok’s son, Ahimaaz, who had already done good messenger work in Jerusalem. Outrunning Joab’s messenger, he brings tidings of David’s victory. The father’s heart thinks only of Absalom. Asked concerning him, Ahimaaz evades the question. Meantime the other runner has come up and tells bluntly what has happened. The king trembles. Deeply moved, he mounts into the upper chamber of the gate-house, breaking out into loud lamentations over his son. He remained there a long time in his sorrow, not even heeding the victorious army which had meantime marched up. Joab’s anger at this treatment of his brave and faithful troops was not small. It was only his vigorous words which succeeded in inducing the king to rouse himself and master his sorrow.

As was to be expected, the people’s conscience revived after the sword had spoken. The revolted tribes, mindful of Israel’s debt of gratitude to David, and, perhaps, in obedience to the ancient grudge against Judah, once more turned penitently to David. Only Judah still stood defiantly apart. It is distinctly apparent that David’s own tribe had been the home of the conspiracy. The first thing, as David believed, was to win it over. He entered into negotiation with the elders of the tribe of Judah, and even offered Amasa Joab’s place in the army. Perhaps an ancient cause of Judah’s discontent was by this means removed.

The men of Judah now brought David across the Jordan with much ceremony, the Shimei before mentioned joining them at the head of one thousand Benjamites. David magnanimously pardoned him. Ziba, too, was active in David’s service. Soon the lame Meribaal also appeared to clear himself from Ziba’s accusation. David, not wholly trusting in his innocence, restored to him only half of his possessions. In Gilgal, the rest of the army encountered David’s train. The pre-eminence accorded by David to the stiff-necked men of Judah, breeds very comprehensible ill will. The feud between north and south threatens to break out anew.

Indeed, a portion of the tribe of David could not even now manage to restrain its enmity towards him. Sheba-ben-Bichri of Benjamin once more sounded the call to arms against the king. A considerable section of Israel seems to have again responded to the summons to revolt. But this time Judah remained steadfast and conducted David back to Jerusalem. In accordance with David’s promise, Amasa was to summon the militia of Judah to face the rebels. Joab was not the man to endure patiently a slight which he had not wholly deserved. As Amasa delayed, Joab once more contrived to render himself indispensable to the king. Him, also, David sent out to battle against Sheba with the bodyguard. At Gibeon they came upon Amasa. Like Abner before him, he fell by Joab’s hand.


The rebels had gone north. Joab pursued and drove them to the uttermost borders of the Israelite territory. In Abel-beth-maacha, near Dan and the sources of Jordan, Sheba succeeded in making a stand. Joab prepared to storm the town. Then, in response to his demand, the rebel’s head was thrown to him over the wall. Joab departed, and spared the faithful city.

With this, David’s control over the course of events comes to an end. What followed was scarcely of his doing. For a quiet and undisturbed period David may still have held the reins in Israel; then we find him as a worn-out old man, scarcely master of his own will, and in the hands of a court and harem not too nice in their aims and methods. As far as history is concerned, David had disappeared from the scene.

The Pillar of Absalom

The outline of David’s character stands more clearly in the light of history than that of Saul. Israel’s greatness and Jehovah’s honour are David’s first precepts, and this fact also secured for him the gratitude of Israel and the love and respect of posterity for all time. Nor could they be obscured by the truly gigantic shadow of the man of violence. David towers head and shoulders above the average human ruler. He also stands out prominently beyond both the kings of Israel who followed him and his predecessor Saul, in respect of grandeur, magnanimity, wisdom, tenacity, strength, and skill in victory as in rule. Even in the extravagance of his personal and despotic passions there are few who come up to him.

But even in his weaknesses David’s greatness of soul always reappears in its original beauty. David’s despotic whim seduced Bathsheba and basely murdered Uriah—but bowed, in righteous sense of guilt and unfeigned repentance, to the judgment of the people and the uncompromising sentence of Jehovah’s prophet. David’s paternal weakness was responsible for Amnon’s crime and Absalom’s rebellion—but the father’s heart did not cease to beat warmly for the son who had sinned so deeply. David’s weakness comes home to us in his noble sorrow over Absalom, and is, in our eyes, a striking instance of paternal fidelity. David’s magnanimity may seem to have degenerated into want of firmness in regard to Joab—though we have too little insight into the exact course of events to be able to form a conclusive judgment—but as concerns Saul and his house, as well as Shimei and Amasa, it is indisputable. Poetic endowment and religious zeal are so much the characteristics of his nature, that the possibility of David’s having taken an active share in the beginnings of the religious lyric in Israel will scarcely be called in question.b



David died at the age of about sixty-six years, after a thirty-years’ reign, and in his palace of Zion. He was buried close by, in a tomb hollowed in the rock, at the foot of the hill on which stood the city of David. All this happened about one thousand years before Christ.

A thousand years before Christ. This fact must not be forgotten in seeking to gain an idea of a character so complex as that of David, in endeavouring to form a picture of the singularly defective and violent world which has just unfolded itself before our eyes. It may be said that religion in the true sense was not yet born. The god, Jehovah, who is daily assuming in Israel an importance without parallel, is of a revolting partiality. He brings success to his servants; this is what is supposed to have been observed, and this makes him very strong. There is as yet no instance of a servant of Jehovah, whom Jehovah has abandoned. David’s profession of faith may be summed up in one word: “Jehovah who preserved my life from all danger.” Jehovah is a sure refuge, a rock whence one may defy one’s enemy, a buckler, a saviour. The servant of Jehovah is in all things a privileged being. Oh, it is a wise thing to be a scrupulous servant of Jehovah!

It was above all in this sense that the reign of David was of extreme religious importance. David’s was the first grand success made in the name and by the influence of Jehovah. The success of David, confirmed by the fact that his descendants succeeded him on the throne, was the palpable demonstration of Jehovah’s power. The victories of Jehovah’s servants are the victories of Jehovah himself; the strong god is he who wins. This idea differs little from that of Islam, whose vindication has scarcely any other support than that of success. Islam is true, for God has given it the victory. Jehovah is the true God by proof of experience; he gives the victory to the faithful. A brutal realism saw nothing beyond this triumph of material fact. But what is to happen on the day when the servant of Jehovah shall be poor, dishonoured, persecuted for his fidelity to Jehovah? The element of the grandiose and the extraordinary reserved for that day, may be perceived from the struggle of the Israelite conscience up to the present time.c

Tiberias, looking toward Lebanon




The picture of the last period of King David’s life is clouded by the struggle for the succession. The true circumstances of Solomon’s accession will forever remain to some extent obscure, owing to the incompleteness of our information. We give the account as found in the records we possess.

David had grown old and needed careful attendance. At the court the question as to who should succeed him could not remain in abeyance. According to order of birth, David’s fourth son, Adonijah, stood next to the throne after Absalom’s death. In fact, Adonijah regarded himself as the heir, and went so far as to exercise the rights of heir-apparent, even in public, as Absalom had done. A part of the court, and an influential portion of the people, seem also to have fully recognised Adonijah as the future king. David himself, who tenderly loved Adonijah, and had regarded him as taking the place of the Absalom whom he still mourned, did not venture to oppose him. Adonijah had the same mother (Haggith) as Absalom.

But Adonijah’s hopes did not meet with universal acceptance at the court. It is true that he succeeded in winning over Joab and the priest Abiathar, to his cause. But on the other side stood Bathsheba, who was exerting herself to obtain the succession for her son Solomon. Her cause was favoured by the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah, the captain of the royal bodyguard. Thus in the last days of David’s life, two parties stood opposed to one another at the court.

One day Adonijah gave a banquet to his followers at the serpent-stone (En-rogel), a sacrificial stone in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Nathan, who was, as it appears, the spiritual head of the opposition, feared lest the banquet should end, like that of Absalom in Hebron, with the hailing of Adonijah as king. This would mean the ruin of Solomon’s cause. It was therefore an occasion for prompt measures. Bathsheba must at once inform the king of what was happening at the serpent-stone; she must remind David of a former promise that gave a prospect of Solomon’s succession, and obtain its immediate confirmation.

Bathsheba did what she was told. According to agreement, Nathan, after a short interval, follows her to the king’s presence, to lend her words emphasis. He even professes to have already heard the cry of the conspirators, “Long live King Adonijah.” The two succeed in arousing the king’s suspicions. He is convinced that again in his old age he is to be deprived of the throne and become the victim of a conspiracy of one of his sons. At once he solemnly adjudges the succession to Solomon. By David’s command the latter is conducted on the king’s own mule to Gihon, a sacred[100] spring near Jerusalem, anointed by Zadok and Nathan, hailed as king, and solemnly enthroned. The joyful acclamations of the people and the noise of the trumpets, reach the ears of the banqueters, who are not far off. They have scarcely time to ask the cause, when Jonathan, Abiathar’s son, brings tidings of what has occurred. Solomon is king. Adonijah has no resource but the altar, at whose horns he implores bare life from his more fortunate brother. He does homage to the latter and is granted his life.

[ca. 970-960 B.C.]

Solomon is thereupon proclaimed King, and now before David bows his head in death he lays on his successor a charge which he has closely at heart. He reminds him that Joab’s deeds of blood against Abner and Amasa have not yet been expiated, and puts him in mind of the services rendered to him by Barzillai, and of Shimei’s curses upon his house. Barzillai he is to reward loyally; the other two he shall not let go down to sheol (i.e. the Hebrew hades) in peace.


David had scarcely closed his eyes when the desire for the throne was again roused in Adonijah, whom Solomon had pardoned. Through Bathsheba’s intervention he requested Solomon to give him David’s nurse, Abishag, to wife. What this wish meant, according to the conception of the period, we know from Absalom’s behaviour towards David’s harem. Solomon saw through Adonijah’s daring plans, and the latter paid with his life. The fate of Adonijah’s most distinguished partisans was also decided. Abiathar was relieved of his priestly office, but his life was spared in consideration of the services he had rendered to David in trouble and prosperity. He was banished to Anathoth, and his former colleague, Zadok, took his place. Joab, foreboding evil, fled to the altar of Jehovah, but there was no mercy for him. Appealing to his ancient blood-guiltiness, Solomon had him hewn down. Finally Shimei, who had not shared in Adonijah’s attempts, was for the time being confined to Jerusalem, and, soon after, when in opposition to the king’s command he left the city, he was executed.

This is the account contained in 1 Kings i.-ii. Many have recently taken the view that the first part distinctly contains the story of a palace intrigue, set on foot by Nathan and Bathsheba in favour of Solomon against Adonijah’s succession; while the second part of the narrative has been recognised as an only partially veiled attempt to avert from Solomon the responsibility for the bloody deeds with which he thought to establish his newly acquired throne.

The fact that there hitherto had been no word of Solomon’s succession seems to be decidedly in favour of this view. If Adonijah was the innocent victim of a court intrigue, it must be assumed that Bathsheba and Nathan persuaded the weak old king into acknowledging a promise he had never given, but which he now gladly adopted in his anxiety for the peace of his last days. This conception seems also to be favoured by the additional circumstance, that the narrator, obviously in an access of intentional irony, does not give an account of his own respecting Adonijah’s criminal intentions at the sacrificial feast, but makes Nathan give his detailed version in the king’s presence. Finally, as regards the second part of the narrative, in the passage concerning David’s last dispositions, the traces of a later hand are distinctly visible, suggesting the idea that the whole passage is of late origin. This also lends support to the notion that, both according to[101] the original account and also in reality, Solomon at least removed Joab from his path, not on account of his earlier but by reason of his later conduct, and not in compliance with David’s wish, but for being a partisan of Adonijah.

But the literary basis of this last conception is not sufficiently secure. It is just those portions of David’s last words which refer to Joab and Shimei, which are indisputably old, while the whole passage comes from our most authentic sources. Besides, as a matter of fact, such a wish on David’s part does not in itself awaken such grave doubts as might appear. Only we must guard against trying to measure the distant past by our own moral feelings, and we must bear in mind what David, following the cruel faith of his time, did to the house of Saul, in order to blot out the stain of an ancient deed of blood which still lay on it. Thus it cannot really appear strange that he should have been tormented by an uneasy fear at the guilt and curse of a past, which, one day, when he was gone, might strike his house as that guilt of blood had chastised the house of Saul.

[ca. 960-950 B.C.]

With Abiathar’s removal from the priesthood, an act of the highest importance for the history of religion in Israel was accomplished. In place of the house of Eli, which had already been severely threatened in the time of Saul, but had finally recovered itself under David’s favour, a new priesthood appeared on the scene. How significant the change was is shown by the circumstance that a prophetic reference to it is already made in the story of Eli. Eli derived his priesthood and that of his family from Egypt and probably from the father of the priesthood, Aaron. In what Zadok’s claim consisted we do not know. He can hardly have been the first of an entirely new line, and thus not even a Levite. Solomon would have guarded against putting in Abiathar’s stead a priest of quite unpriestly blood. Henceforth the “Bene- (sons of) Zadok” hold possession of the priesthood at Jerusalem. And after the erection of the temple they succeeded in bringing this priesthood, and with it their own house, to high prosperity and power.

Solomon’s task as king was clear. As David’s successor he was heir to great wealth; he had only to preserve what David had created and to confirm himself in its possession. Abroad he had to maintain the extraordinary prestige which Israel had acquired; at home to make the unity of the tribes, which David had completed, a permanent thing, and to chain Israel to the house of the great king.

In the last Solomon did not succeed. For himself, as far as we can see, he seems to have been possessed of sufficient force and skill. As long as he lived, David’s kingdom remained in his hands, if not undisputed, still in the main undiminished. And if he did not contrive, or did not care, to make the tribes of Israel contented under his sway, yet, during his reign, matters did not come to an open breach. The single attempt at a rising of which we hear, that of Jeroboam, he put down by force. Eager as the northern tribes may have been to renounce the house of David, they did not dare to wrest from Solomon the sceptre he wielded with so much power. This, which mainly concerns internal relations, shows that Solomon was not the weak, inactive king whom many have represented him to be. But abroad also Solomon showed himself equal to his task, at least in all questions of importance.

Difficulties were not wanting. The death of the great David was an event which many of Israel’s adversaries had doubtless long been looking for. When to this was added the disappearance from the scene of his bravest soldier, Joab, the opportunity for attacking Israel could not have[102] been more favourable. A scion of that ancient royal house of Edom which David had overthrown, Hadad by name, had fled to Egypt. He had succeeded, like Solomon himself, in obtaining in marriage a princess of the house of Pharaoh, the sister of Queen Tahpenes. Immediately after David’s death he returned to his own country and seems to have wrenched at least a part of Edom from Solomon. But either his dominion was insignificant and not dangerous to Solomon, or the latter afterwards succeeded in regaining possession of Edom, for the approach to the Red Sea by Ezion-geber remained open to Solomon.

A second adversary is said to have risen against Solomon in the north. One of the captains of that Hadad-ezer of the Aramæan state of Zobah whom David had conquered, Rezon-ben-Eliadah, separated himself from his master. After a long life of adventure, he founded a dominion of his own, and made the ancient Damascus its capital. He drove out the governor whom David had placed there, and Solomon did not succeed in recovering the city. Here, then, if the tale be historical, Solomon suffered a real and, as it seems, a permanent loss. Still it would be hard to say whether, at the time, it was much felt; for probably neither David nor Solomon had ever been in possession of Damascus and Aram-Damascus. Here, too, as in Solomon’s home government, the most serious question would seem to be the outlook for the future. For in course of time the kingdom of Damascus was to become one of Israel’s most dangerous opponents.

[ca. 950-940 B.C.]

If, therefore, in this way Solomon had received in the south, and perhaps also in the north, certain, though probably not very important checks, still he appears to have done a considerable amount for the preservation and strengthening of Israel’s prestige. It is possible that he did not attach so much importance to those of David’s conquests which lay on the outskirts of the kingdom as to the preservation of Israel itself. It is a fact that he protected it by founding strong fortresses against hostile invasions—an undertaking whose high utility cannot possibly be called in question. Thus in the north he fortified Hazor and Megiddo; in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem Beth-horon and the royal Canaanitish city, Gezer; to the south, for the protection of the border as the caravan route from Hebron to Eloth, he fortified the city of Tadmor. The Egyptian Pharaoh, whose daughter Solomon married, had conquered Gezer for him. A town named Baalath whose site is uncertain but perhaps lay near Gezer, is also mentioned among Solomon’s fortified places. He also bestowed great attention on increasing the war material and cavalry which were distributed through a series of garrison towns and in keeping them ready for use. Though the figures concerning these are somewhat doubtful, the fact itself cannot be called in question. All this shows that we can scarcely speak of a decline in the power of Israel under Solomon, even if he abandoned certain outlying posts.

Yet, nevertheless, Solomon did not attain to his father’s greatness. He had grown up as a king’s son, without occasion and necessity to steel his will in the hard school of danger and privation, and he did not possess his father’s energy and initiative. He thought more of the rights and pleasures of kingship than of his high duties and tasks. The father’s despotic tendencies, in him only showing at intervals and immediately restrained and overcome, are in the son the groundwork of his character. His favourite amusements are costly buildings, strange women, rich display.

But he also insisted on the regular execution of justice, and his chief strength lay in the orderly administration of his country. Side by side with this went the final removal and absorption of the Canaanites. Both probably[103] served the same object. Solomon required a great deal of money and labour for his costly buildings. His subjects must supply them. He made no distinctions amongst the population, no one escaped the common burdens. To him all Israel formed one unit and was partitioned, without regard to the differences between the tribes or the distinction between Israelite and Canaanite, into twelve zones, each of which was administered by a governor. Some of their names have been lost. The amount to be paid in taxes was regulated on the basis of this division. The compulsory service which Solomon required for his mighty structures for war and peace, were doubtless arranged in a similar manner. In Lebanon alone he is said to have kept ten thousand men who rendered such service, constantly occupied under Adoniram. The distinction between Israelites and Canaanites was continued only to a certain extent, in that what had formerly been the Canaanitish zones were considerably smaller than the others. Thus, when it came to their turn to serve, the Canaanites were more affected; the forcible incorporation in Israel, indeed, made them liable to be called on.

[ca. 940-930 B.C.]

Such burdens were unknown to the simple courts of David and Saul, and they must now, therefore, have weighed all the more heavily. Freedom, as the possession of the subject, was little regarded. No wonder, then, that in course of time the discontent, probably long nourished in secret, broke out into fierce rebellion. It was no accident that it started in the house of Joseph, that is, from Ephraim, still less that it proceeded from one of Solomon’s overseers. From two sources, the ancient dislike of the northern tribes to the house of Jesse, and the discontent with the present harsh government, the waters flowed into the same channel.

An Ephraimite of Zereda, Jeroboam-ben-Nebat, placed himself at its head. He seems to have been a young man of low rank, the son of a poor widow. The king came to know and value him amongst his workmen when, towards the end of his reign, he was building mills and thus “repaired the breaches of the city of David.” Soon the oversight “of the charge of the house of Joseph” was laid on him: the best opportunity to make himself acquainted with the people’s grievances and to utilise them for his own benefit. At some time or other Jeroboam made up his mind to raise the standard of rebellion. But without success: either the conspiracy was prematurely discovered or Jeroboam’s rising was put down. He himself escaped, and found a welcome with Pharaoh Shishak (Shashanq) the founder of the XXIInd Dynasty (Manethan). It is worthy of note that a prophet of Shiloh, Ahijah by name, supported the action of Jeroboam. The discontent with Solomon’s rule had already taken hold of all classes of the population.

Tradition represents Solomon as a king rich in wisdom and justice and in gold and treasures. That he was so, is shown by his measures for securing his frontier, and for regulating the administration, as well as by the famous and certainly historical judgment of Solomon, respecting which posterity may indeed ask itself, for which did the great king deserve the palm: wisdom or justice? It is certain that many sayings of practical worldly wisdom have also come down from him. It is also probably credible that, at the very beginning of his reign, a vision indicated to him the path he was to follow and Jehovah’s will as well. That rich treasures should have passed through his hands cannot seem strange, when we consider the heavy taxes he exacted and how many profitable enterprises he conducted besides.

It is beyond all doubt that Solomon was the first who imported the horse into Israel, at least to any great extent and especially for purposes of war.[104] More remarkable is it that all accounts concerning this, agree with later notices respecting Solomon’s splendour and magnificence. Nor can this prevent them from being regarded—at least so far as concerns the fact as worthy of credit. If Egypt was, as it appears, the country from which Syria obtained its horses, and Solomon the son-in-law of the ruling Pharaoh, we can find little objection to the statement that Solomon managed to derive considerable profit from the import of Egyptian horses. The visit to Solomon of the queen of the ancient kingdom of Sheba, may probably have been connected in the first instance with commercial relations. This, too, I am not inclined to relegate at once into the domain of fable. For even if later stories have considerably exaggerated Solomon’s splendour, they would not have arisen without some foundation in fact. The voyages of Solomon’s ships to the Arabian gold country of Ophir are, it seems to us, particularly well authenticated. The account speaks of a single ship, which Hiram of Tyre managed with his skilled seamen and which is said to have brought the products and articles of merchandise of the favoured Arabia direct to Israel and Tyre.

That, in spite of all this, Solomon’s coffers were often empty, finally to such a serious extent that he was obliged to pledge twenty towns in Galilee to Hiram, cannot be denied in face of the last-named fact: the marriage with a daughter of Pharaoh made his household costly, and the castles and fortifications must have swallowed enormous sums.

In Solomon’s government there was one weak point which might easily produce a rupture. There was no need for it to come now; but if a fit and determined man were forthcoming the crisis was ready. For opinion in Israel was sufficiently prepared.

The transition from an elective monarchy to a rigidly despotic government, had been too rapidly completed. The tribes of Israel, of their own free choice, had set the crown on David’s head as formerly on that of Saul. Israel had been a purely elective kingdom. But David’s sons played each in turn the rôle of heir-apparent. Neither Absalom, Adonijah, nor Solomon had thought of first obtaining election by the tribes. As David’s sons, the succession to their father belonged to them. Israel had become an hereditary monarchy. This development lay indeed in the nature of the case. It would have been already completed in the house of Saul had Jonathan lived or Eshbaal been abler or more fortunate; nevertheless, it was now in all the greater danger, for the exclusion of the house of Saul had a second time brought home to the consciousness of the tribes, the independence of the people’s will.

The change, however, could only have worked beneficially if in the meantime the binding of the tribes of Israel to the house of David could really have been effected. Even David had not entirely accomplished this task, so difficult under existing conditions. The northern tribes and Benjamin always eyed his rule with distrust. Still less was Solomon equal to the task. It was impossible that his despotic inclinations, and especially the severe pressure of the taxes, could serve to make the tribes forget that only a short time ago, not birth, but the people’s will, had raised the king to his throne.

How far the ferment had gone in the northern tribes, even in Solomon’s own day, we see clearly enough from the circumstance that the rebellion broke out during his life-time. It was only by force that it was suppressed, and the secession of the northern tribes from Solomon was averted. It was Jeroboam, one of the overseers of the king’s workmen, who had prepared it. He was compelled to flee to Egypt, and was there, as it seems, received with[105] open arms. But Solomon’s rule was strong enough to make it impossible for him and his to think of a repetition of the rising, so long as Solomon possessed the throne. It may excite surprise that an Israelite rebel should have received protection in Egypt whose Pharaoh was the father of one of Solomon’s wives. The explanation is to be found in the fact that Shishak, the Egyptian Shashanq I, was the founder of a new dynasty and consequently knew not Solomon.

[ca. 930 B.C.]

After Solomon’s death, which we may place about the year 930 B.C., the succession of his son Rehoboam at first appeared to be a matter of course. What it was which secured to him the precedence over Solomon’s other sons we do not know. As a fact he seems to have mounted the throne and occupied it for a time. But the seething discontent with Solomon’s government which the northern tribes had so long restrained, broke out, if not immediately on his accession, at any rate soon after. There may have been many negotiations and attempts to smooth things over, until finally Rehoboam determined himself to make terms with the discontented in Shechem. Meanwhile Jeroboam had also had time to return from Egypt, and take the guidance of the movement into his own hand.b

Exterior of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem



Rehoboam could easily have made himself popular by a few insignificant concessions. He had come to Shechem in Ephraim to be acknowledged by the assembled tribes. Jeroboam spoke in the name of the people, praying the king to lighten the burdens that Solomon had put upon them. Rehoboam demanded three days in which to reflect and consult his courtiers. The old men advised him to submit, the young men counselled him to resist public opinion. He followed this latter advice and gave an insolent and rough answer: “My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” Then the people answered: “What portion have we in David? To your tents, Israel.”


Jewish Shrine

[ca. 930-875 B.C.]

Upon signs of open rebellion Rehoboam hastily returned to Jerusalem. The weak bond which had united the tribes of the north to those of the south was severed forever. The Judeans alone remained faithful to David’s race, including Jerusalem, which had an interest in keeping its place as a royal city. A part of the land of Benjamin, forming the outskirts of Jerusalem, and the towns of Simeon enclosed in the land of Judah remained united to the little Judean kingdom, which also retained Idumæa under its sovereignty. All the rest of the land on both sides of Jordan kept the name of the kingdom of Israel, with an uncertain suzerainty over the territory of Moab and Ammon. Syria had already made itself independent of the Jewish[107] empire. Thus the empire which had had a moment of brilliancy under the reigns of David and Solomon, was replaced by two kingdoms, nearly always at war with one another. The schism is placed about the year 975 B.C.[2]

Jeroboam, who was at the head of the separatist movement, had no trouble in having himself proclaimed king by the dissenting tribes. But he feared the attraction which the temple of Jerusalem already had for the Israelites. Wishing to prevent pilgrimages dangerous to his authority, and to consecrate the political secession by a religious one, he established the worship of the golden calf.

The history of the kingdom of Israel is only a succession of violent usurpations nearly always provoked by the prophets, who intervened in everything in the name of Jehovah, and made all manner of government impossible by their perpetual opposition. In Judea, on the contrary, the undying remembrance of David assured the regular succession of royal power in his family.

The only important event in the reign of Rehoboam, is the expedition of Shashanq I, king of Egypt, called Shishak in the Bible, who took Jerusalem and pillaged the treasures of the temple and of the palace, amongst others the golden shield Solomon had had made. The end of Rehoboam’s reign and that of his son, Abijam, and his grandson, Asa, were filled by wars of no importance against the kingdom of Israel.

Jeroboam did not succeed in founding a dynasty in Israel. He died after a reign of twenty-two years, and his son Nadab was massacred with all his family, by his lieutenant, Baasha. The same event was reproduced after an equal interval. Baasha reigned twenty-two years, and his son Elah and all his family were assassinated by Zimri. But the army which was then in the land of the Philistines, proclaimed Omri general, and marched against the usurper, who burnt himself in his palace after a reign of seven days.

The kingdom of the north had not the advantage of possessing a strong and well-situated capital like that of the south, and on a height in the territory of Ephraim, Omri built the city of Samaria, which by its strong position could become a centre of resistance for Israel, as Jerusalem was for Judah. In Assyrian inscriptions, Samaria and even the kingdom of Israel are always called the house of Omri. Besides this important foundation to which his name was to remain attached, Omri showed proof of his ability by securing himself an ally against the ever-increasing danger of a struggle with Syria. He asked and obtained the hand of Jezebel, daughter of Ithobaal (Ethbaal), king of Tyre, for his son Ahab.

[ca. 875-860 B.C.]

Ahab is generally represented as a type of impiety; to assert this is entirely to misunderstand the character of this epoch. No one was impious; each people had its god and thought him stronger than the others. Ahab heard his wife boasting of the power of Baal; he thought it clever to make sure of two divine protectors instead of one, and leaving Jehovah his sanctuaries at Dan and Bethel, he built a temple to Baal at Samaria. There was no intention of abolishing the worship of Jehovah. The worship of Baal had existed in Israel at the time of Gideon, and even in the time of Saul; it had been abolished since the reign of David. When Ahab wished to re-establish it, he stumbled against the unyielding patriotism of the prophets, who would acknowledge no other god but the national one.

They made a desperate fight against Baal. The people, persuaded like the king, that two religions are better than one, looked on at these quarrels [108]without taking part in them. Elijah, the prophet, reproaches them with being lame in both feet. The legend of Elijah and the priests of Baal (2 Kings xviii.) in its theatrical setting sums up the struggle between the national worship of Jehovah and the Phœnician worship of Baal, a struggle which was prolonged for half a century.

Elijah, the Tishbite, is probably an historical personage, but it is difficult to discern his real personality in the midst of the fables accumulated about him. The massacre of the priests of Baal really took place under Jehu, after the extermination of the princes of the house of Omri. Elijah’s mysterious life, his sojourn in the desert where he was fed by ravens, his visions and miracles, the power attributed to him of making rain fall at his word, have made him the model and patron of ascetics of the succeeding ages. The last passage of the legend has not a Hebrew character; he is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. The resemblance of the name Elijah with the Greek name of sun, “Helios,” might lead one to believe in some mythological infiltration.

The legends of Elijah and Elisha show us the extent of the admiration of the people for the prophets, and by that we can judge of the influence they must have had on the politics of their time. This influence was not limited to the kingdom of Israel, and was not always beneficial. Thus Jehovah orders Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet, Jehu as king of Israel, and Hazael as king of Syria, and the Bible adds: “that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal and every mouth which has not kissed him.” Foreign war was added to religious dissensions. Ben-Hadad, king of Damascus, “having thirty-two kings as his auxiliaries,” assembled his army and laid siege to Samaria. The Children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day. But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city and there a wall fell upon seven and twenty thousand of the men that were left. And Ben-Hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber. Ahab spared Ben-Hadad upon his promise to restore the cities of Israel that were in possession of the Syrians. This clemency, which reminds one of that shown by Saul to the king of the Amalekites, could not please the prophets. One of them said to Ahab: “Thus saith the Lord, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore shall thy life go for his life, and thy people for his people.”

Ahab had played a fine part; unfortunately he soon furnished a legitimate grievance to his enemies: he wanted a vineyard adjoining his house, and the proprietor refused to sell it. On the advice of Jezebel, he had the owner accused of treason, and when the judges condemned him he confiscated his goods. No doubt it was a crime, but no greater than that of David, who had caused the death of one of his officers so as to obtain the latter’s wife; and that had not prevented David from being a king after the Lord’s heart: whilst the death of Naboth served as a pretext to justify the plots of those jealous of Ahab’s family.

It is remarkable that there should have been proofs of friendships between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah only under the kings of the house of Omri; and singularly enough, this alliance was concluded with one of the kings of Judah, who found grace in the sight of the writers of the Bible, because of their fervour for the worship of Jehovah.

Asa, grandson of Rehoboam, died after a reign of forty-two years. His son Jehoshaphat surpassed him in piety; the only reproach made against him[109] in the Book of Kings, is with regard to his having tolerated sacrifices “in the high places,” and this reproach is without import, as this custom was not considered heretic until the reign of Hezekiah. Jehoshaphat made his son Jehoram (or Joram) marry a daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, called Athaliah. The king of Israel, wishing to retake Ramoth in Gilead, which had not been included among the towns restituted by Ben-Hadad, demanded the assistance of the king of Judah as his ally: Jehoshaphat consented to follow him; but not until he had consulted Jehovah on the issue of the battle. Ahab gathered together four hundred prophets: all announced the success of the expedition. Micaiah, however, when urged to speak the truth, prophesied the defeat and death of Ahab.

[ca. 860-850 B.C.]

Thereupon Ahab ordered him to be seized and kept until his return. “If thou certainly return in peace,” says the prophet, “then hath not the Lord spoken by me.” Ahab left and Jehoshaphat accompanied him according to his promise. The Syrians had received the order to direct their attack against the king of Israel. He disguised himself so as to mingle with the soldiers. Jehoshaphat, who had retained his royal robes, ran great danger, and only escaped death by making himself known through his war-cry. But a chance arrow smote Ahab between the joints of his armour. He had himself supported in his chariot, with his face turned toward the Syrians, and died in the evening. His courage did not prevent the loss of the battle; at sunset the cry went forth: “Every man to his city and to his own country.”

The dead king was brought back to Samaria and buried there. He had reigned twenty-two years, during which he had checked the invading power of the Syrian kings, and contracted useful alliances with Tyre and the kingdom of Judah. He had built several towns and protected the arts and industry. Although he raised a temple to Baal, it is difficult to admit that he proscribed the worship of Jehovah, as he consulted the prophets in all circumstances, and before his last campaign found four hundred prophets to reply to his appeal.

At the news of Ahab’s death, the Moabites, who for forty years had paid a tribute to Israel, hastened to shake off their yoke. This event has been unexpectedly enlightened in recent times, by the discovery of a stele erected at Dibon by Mesha, king of Moab. This stele, covered with characters similar to those of the most ancient Phœnician inscriptions, was with great difficulty taken away by M. Clermont-Ganneau, vice-consul of France, who offered it to the museum of the Louvre.


The Arabs, perceiving the importance which Europeans attached to this monument, had blown it up; but nearly all the pieces were put together again, and those missing supplemented by the help of an impression, which fortunately had been taken when the inscription was whole. Here is a translation of the principal passages:[110] “I am Mesha, son of Nadab (Chemosh-melesh), king of Moab. My father reigned over Moab thirty years, and I reigned after my father. I have erected this stone to Chemosh, the stone of deliverance, for he has delivered me from my enemies, he has avenged those that hate me. Omri was king of Israel and oppressed Moab for a long time because Chemosh was angered against his people. The son of Omri succeeded him and said: ‘I will also oppress Moab.’ But in my day Chemosh said: ‘I will cast my eyes on him and over his house and Israel shall perish forever.’”

He then enumerates the towns which he has taken from the king of Israel: “I attacked the town of Ataroth and I took it and killed all the people in honour of Chemosh god of Moab. And I carried away the arel of Dodah[3] and I dragged it along the ground before the face of Chemosh at Kerioth. And Chemosh said unto me: Go and take Nebo from Israel. And I went at night and fought against the town from daybreak until noon, and I took it, and killed all, seven thousand men, for they had been interdicted in honour of Ashtar-Chemosh. And I carried away the arels of Jehovah, and I dragged them along the ground before Chemosh.” Mesha then speaks of the town of Korkhar which he had built, and where wells and canals were dug by the captives of Israel.

This inscription, which is the most ancient monument of Semitic epigraphy, clearly shows us the purely national character of the religions of Palestine. In it, Chemosh plays the part attributed to Jehovah in the books of the Hebrews. If Moab was oppressed by Israel, it was because Chemosh was angered against his people, in the same way as Israel explains its servitude by the anger of Jehovah. If Mesha undertook a war, it was in obedience with the orders of Chemosh: he placed an interdict over the towns and massacred the inhabitants in honour of Chemosh, as Joshua or David did in honour of Jehovah. These are the same ideas and the same expressions. The stele of Mesha concerns political history as well as the religious. The war between Israel and Moab is described in the Bible, and the two versions can be compared. The Moabite version is an official bulletin, that of the Book of Kings bears a legendary character, and the prophet Elisha plays in it the most important part.

[ca. 850-840 B.C.]

Under the reign of Jehoshaphat’s son, called Jehoram or Joram, like the king of Israel, the Edomites made themselves independent of the kingdom of Judah. The Chronicles also mention an invasion of the Philistines and the Arabs, in which all the children of Jehoram perished, excepting Ahaziah who succeeded him. The intrigues of the prophets were then preparing bloody revolutions in Syria and the kingdom of Israel.

Joram, king of Israel, and Ahaziah, king of Judah, son of Jehoram’s sister Athaliah, renewed the attack of Ahab and Jehoshaphat against Ramoth of Gilead, and had no better success. Joram, wounded by the Syrians, returned to Jezreel to establish himself, and his nephew Ahaziah came to see him.

[ca. 840-815 B.C.]

A new revolt was now raised by Jehu, who, having been anointed by the prophets, slew the kings of Israel and Judah, Jehoram and Ahaziah, Jezebel and “all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men, and his kinsfolk and his priests, until he left him none remaining.”

The priests of Baal, assembled by treachery, were all killed, the temple was overthrown and made into a draught house. These butcheries had an unexpected counterblow in Jerusalem. Of all Ahab’s family there remained only Athaliah, Joram’s widow, and Ahaziah’s mother. She occupied the throne after her son’s death, and as a singular result of Jehu’s crime, the worship of Baal, proscribed in the kingdom of Israel, found a refuge in the kingdom of Judah.



Thus is this event described in the Book of Kings: “And when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal. Jehosheba, the daughter of king Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash, the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons which were slain; and they hid him, even him and his nurse, in the bed chamber, from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. And he was with her hid in the house of the Lord six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.”

This story, which furnishes the subject of one of Racine’s masterworks, is more dramatic than probable. The Bible does not tell us of whom this royal family, exterminated by Athaliah, was composed. The brothers and nephews of Ahaziah had been assassinated by Jehu on the road to Samaria; there is no reason why Athaliah should have completed the massacre by killing her grandchildren. If some of the king’s sons remained at Jerusalem safe from the rage of Jehu, no one had more interest in keeping them than the queen mother, as she was their guardian and could legalise her power by reigning in their name. All we know is that six years later the high priest Jehoiada presented a child to the soldiers, telling them that he was Ahaziah’s son, and the last branch of David’s race.

This child was proclaimed king under the name of Jehoash; Athaliah heard acclamations and rushed out of the palace and was slain by order of the high priest. The temple of Baal was invaded, and the high priest Mattan slain before the altar. Jehoiada appointed himself guardian of the new king, who was only seven years old: it was a government ruled by the priests.

The kingdom of Israel was divided for the first time in Jehu’s reign, for it is easier to deal with disarmed people than to cope with strange invasions. Hazael, the usurper, raised, like Jehu, by the prophet Elisha, conquered all the region to the east of the Jordan: “the land of Gilead, the territories of Gath, Reuben and Manasseh, from Aroer on the torrent Arnon to Gilead and Bashan.” The time was not far distant when the kingdoms of Israel and Damascus were to be absorbed by the powerful Assyrian Empire. Hazael, twice beaten by Shalmaneser II, acknowledges his supremacy, Jehu sent him a tribute of gold and silver bars.

These facts, which the Bible does not mention, are contained in two Assyrian inscriptions, one of which is found on the obelisk of Nimrud, and the other on a tablet in the British Museum. In these inscriptions Jehu is called the son of Omri, which proves that the Syrians knew little about the genealogy of the kings of Israel. A bas-relief on the Nimrud obelisk represents persons of Jewish or Aramæan types, wearing turbans with pointed tops, bringing presents, and one of them is prostrating himself before Shalmaneser. It is supposed that this bas-relief, twice repeated, represents the submission of Hazael and Jehu. If Jehu, in declaring himself vassal to the king of Assyria, hoped for protection against Hazael, he was mistaken. Shalmaneser did not intervene in the quarrels of his vassals and Jehu left his son Jehoahaz a weakened and mutilated kingdom in 815 B.C.

[ca. 815-780 B.C.]

Hazael, and his son, Ben-Hadad III, who succeeded him, reduced the Israelite army to ten thousand footmen, fifty horsemen, and ten chariots. Israel did not begin to recover itself until the reign of the son of Jehoahaz, named Joash like the king of Judah; the two kingdoms of the north and south were once more governed by kings of the same name. At Jerusalem the priests, who had governed without control since Athaliah’s death, appropriated to themselves the revenues destined for the maintenance of the temple. At the[112] end of twenty-three years, as these repairs were not made, Jehoash, who was then thirty, wished to put an end to this scandal and withdrew from them the free disposal of money. The discontent of the priests only broke out after Jehoiada’s death, perhaps because thenceforth Jehoash took less caution. According to the Book of Chronicles, he had the son of his benefactor, who was remonstrating with him, stoned by the people, and it is to avenge this death that he was assassinated on his return from a war with the Syrians, in which he was wounded. The Book of Kings does not mention this war, and on the contrary says that Jehoash diverted Hazael by giving him the treasures of the temple. The Book of Kings does not mention the murder of Jehoiada’s son, neither does it explain the reason of Jehoash’s assassination. His son, Amaziah, succeeded him and punished his murderers, “but the children of the murderers he slew not,” which indicated an improvement in the ideas and morals of the country (797 B.C.).

The kingdom of Israel, so weakened in the reigns of Jehu and Jehoahaz, was raised by three victories of Jehoash over Ben-Hadad, son of Hazael. It is said that they were predicted by Elisha on his death-bed.

Joash regained the towns taken from his father, Jehoahaz. At the same time Amaziah, king of Judah, beat the Edomites in the valley of Salt, and took from them the town of Sela, afterwards called Petra. Proud of this success he provoked the king of Israel. An encounter took place at Beth-shemesh; Amaziah was beaten and taken prisoner. Joash entered Jerusalem, destroyed the walls for four hundred cubits, pillaged the temple and the royal treasure, and took hostages back to Samaria. According to Josephus, Joash had given life and liberty to Amaziah on condition that he should open the gates of the city to him. Joash, who survived his victory only a short time, had as successor his son Jeroboam II. The kingdom of Judah remained under the dependence of the kingdom of Israel until the end of the reign of Amaziah, who died like his father, by an assassin’s hand, the result of conspiracy. The Book of Chronicles says he had turned away from the Lord, which might lead one to believe that this conspiracy was headed by the priests.

[ca. 780-740 B.C.]

The second Book of Chronicles entirely omits the name of Jeroboam, son of Joash, whose name is mentioned only once in the first book in connection with an enumeration. This is a curious omission, for in this reign the kingdom of Israel seems to have attained a certain amount of power and brilliancy. According to the Book of Kings: “He restored the coast of Israel from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher.”

Jonah’s prophecy has not descended to us. The legend which says he was swallowed by a whale, was written at a much later date. A German theologist thought he could attribute to him the oracle against Moab, cited in the Book of Isaiah as belonging to a more ancient prophet, and concluded that Jeroboam had subjugated the Moabites, but Munk rejects this opinion. The conquest of Syria has also been attributed to Jeroboam by explaining, in an arbitrary manner, the very obscure sentence in the Book of Kings: “He recovered Damascus and Hamath, which belonged to Judah, to Israel.” To complete this scanty information concerning the long reign of Jeroboam, which lasted more than forty years, we are reduced to gathering details from prophetic writings.

Thus, through Joel and Amos, we know that at about this time there was an earthquake and a plague of locusts. Historical allusions are rarely made by the prophets, and their predictions bear a general character which[113] does not allow of fixing dates. This incertitude does not exist for Amos, who himself relates that he was denounced by the high priest of Bethel for having predicted the approaching fall of Jeroboam. As he was of Judah, he was requested to go and prophesy in his own country. Since Jehu’s accession, it became known that the declamations of the prophets were not without danger to the dynasties.

Prophecy was developed later in Judah than in Israel, perhaps because the priests were more powerful there. A passage in Jeremiah (xxix. 26) tells us that the high priest Jehoiada had established officers in the house of the Lord, who were to put “every man that is mad and maketh himself a prophet,” in prison with chains around their necks. But these restrictive measures could not entirely prevent the development of prophecy, which answered to a public necessity as the press does to-day. Without the opposition maintained among the people by the prophets, the Hebrews would have been a race of slaves, bowing the knee to their masters like other eastern nations. The attachment of the Judeans to the house of David, explains why the part of the prophet was different in the two kingdoms. Instead of stirring up plots like those of Israel, the prophets of Judah attacked the morals of their fellow-citizens. They announced to them that in punishment of their vices, and above all of their impiety, Jehovah would deliver them into the hands of strange conquerors.

Their preachings were written, and were addressed to the educated portion of the population. The collections of prophecies in the Bible form one of the most important parts of Hebrew literature, and contain pieces of great beauty. There is a difference of temperament and style among them, but that which is common to all, is an ardent patriotism blending itself with religion. As patriotism is an exclusive sentiment, religion had to bear the same character. It was not sufficient to say that the national god was the most powerful of all gods; it was believed that he was the only God. The prophets did not doubt that after having chastised His people, He would place them at the head of all nations under a new David. The brilliant future they dreamt of corrected the bitterness of their complaints of the present. But the hopes of the Messiah, ever adjourned, were not realised. They were given a mystical meaning, and this change of sense prepared the way for a new religion.



[ca. 780-722 B.C.]

Judah had become vassal to Israel; probably for a time the kingdom of the south had been annexed to that of the north, for the Book of Kings places an interval of twelve years between the assassination of Amaziah and the accession of his son Azariah, also called Uzziah. If there was no interregnum, then the text is faulty. The death of Jeroboam II was followed by an epoch full of troubles, in which Judah seized the opportunity to raise itself.


Azariah took and rebuilt the port of Elath on the Red Sea. According to the Book of Chronicles he conquered Gath and even Ashdod from the Philistines, he exacted tributes from the Ammonites, fortified all the towns of Judah, and made agriculture prosperous. Elated at his success, he ventured to offer incense in the temple, thus usurping the privileges of the priests, and was instantly struck with leprosy. The Book of Kings, a little less impregnated with sacerdotal ideas than the Chronicles, limits itself to saying, that the Lord afflicted him with a disease, and that he remained in a house for lepers until his death, whilst his son Jotham reigned in his stead.

During this time Israel had fallen a prey to anarchy. Jeroboam II had died after a reign of forty-one to fifty years, unless here also there was an interregnum, for the figures of the Bible do not agree. His son Zechariah was assassinated by Shallum at the end of six months. At the end of a month the murderer of Zechariah was assassinated by Menahem, who, according to Josephus, commanded the army. This was a repetition of the events which had taken place at the fall of the house of Baasha. Menahem reigned ten years, and left the throne to his son Pekahiah, who two years later was assassinated at Samaria by one of his captains named Pekah, the son of Remaliah.

The kingdom of Judah had continued to improve under the reign of Jotham, son of Azariah, who like his father imposed a tribute on the Ammonites. But Jotham died after a reign of sixteen years, and his son Ahaz, from the time of his accession, had to fight a coalition of Rezin, king of Damascus and Pekah, king of Israel. According to the prophet Isaiah, they wished to place a son of Tabeal on the throne of Judah; he was a man from among them. Ahaz was beaten by the king of Syria, who took the port of Elath from the Judeans, and by the king of Israel, who killed one hundred and twenty thousand of his men, and made two hundred thousand prisoners, according to the author of Chronicles. Ahaz, frightened at the coalition of the Syrians and Israelites, placed himself under the protection of the king of Assyria, Tiglathpileser III; he declared himself his vassal, and sent him all the treasures of the temple and of the royal house. Tiglathpileser marched against Syria, took Damascus and carried away its inhabitants to Kir, and slew Rezin. He also invaded the kingdom of Israel: “and took Ijon and Abel-beth-maacha and Janoah, and Kadesh and Hazor and Gilead and Galilee, all the land of Napthali, and carried them captive to Assyria.”

Pekah did not survive his defeat for long. Like most of his predecessors he was slain. His murderer, Hoshea, took possession of the throne and was the last king of Israel. His authority only extended over the territory of Ephraim, and he paid a tribute to the king of Assyria. Too weak to free himself from this subjection, he tried to obtain help from outside, and sent messages to a king of Egypt whom the Bible calls So, and who is probably Shabak, an Ethiopian king of the XXVth Dynasty.

[722-700 B.C.]

Hoshea did not pay the annual tribute regularly, which the king of Assyria had imposed upon him, either because his resources were insufficient or because he counted on the assistance he had asked of Egypt. Shalmaneser had him seized and put in prison, then attacked Samaria, which resisted bravely, in vain awaiting help. The king of Egypt did not wish to risk the chances of war for the support of a lost cause. The king of Judah, Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, was afraid of bringing wrath on his head and prudently stayed at home, occupying himself solely in preparing a religious reform. The siege of Samaria had already lasted ten years when Shalmaneser died. It[115] was actively carried on by his successor, who took the town and carried away its inhabitants to Assyria and Media to the number of about twenty-seven thousand, according to the inscription of Khorsabad. They were gradually absorbed by the populations in the midst of which they had been placed. The Israelites of the northern tribes transported by Tiglathpileser, and those which Sargon had taken from Samaria, were replaced by colonies taken from diverse provinces of the Assyrian Empire, who likewise mingled with those who remained of the old Israelite and Canaanite inhabitants. There arose a mixed race for whom the Judeans always had a great aversion. These new Samaritans had nevertheless adopted the worship of Jehovah without abandoning the religion of the country they had left. Among the Israelites who had been left in the country, there were great numbers who migrated into the kingdom of Judah and even into Egypt. The prophets of Judah have not a word of pity for their brethren of Israel. The author of Chronicles does not mention the fall of Samaria. This event seems to him less worthy of the attention of posterity than the details of the ritual, the choirs of the Levites, the burnt offerings and purifications. (722 B.C.)

The piety of Hezekiah is represented in the Book of Chronicles as forming an absolute contrast to the impiety of his father Ahaz. The changes he introduces into the national worship were far more serious than those his father was accused of having made, only they conformed to the interest of the sacerdotal caste. Ahaz had limited himself to renewing parts of the accessories of the temple which dated from Solomon’s time, and did not seem of such good taste to him, as what he had seen in Damascus. Hezekiah destroyed all the high places in his kingdom, that is to say, local sanctuaries, chapels, private altars, groves, and all material symbols of religion, notably “the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the Children of Israel did burn incense unto it: and he called it Nehushtan.” The temple of Jerusalem thenceforth became the only sanctuary where sacrifices could be made to the national God. The priests who offered sacrifices and the Levites charged with the keeping of the temple, thus saw the increase of their importance and their revenues.

After Sargon’s death there had been a general revolt among the vassals of Assyria. Hezekiah did as the others; he refused to pay the tribute and sought the aid of Egypt, in spite of the advice of the prophet Isaiah, who would have liked all human aid disdained and divine protection alone reckoned on. Sennacherib, Sargon’s successor, after having punished the Babylonian revolt, invaded Palestine. “Hezekiah remained shut up in Jerusalem like a bird in a cage,” says the Assyrian inscription. The towns and strongholds were taken, two hundred thousand captives were sent to Assyria. Then Hezekiah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, to say: “I have offended, return from me, that which thou puttest on me I will bear. And the king appointed unto Hezekiah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold, and Hezekiah gave him all the treasure that was found in the temple and in the treasures of the king’s house. At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.”

[700-680 B.C.]

Sennacherib was not appeased; he had just heard that a new Egyptian army was being formed at Pelusium and he thought Hezekiah was trying to gain time. He remained before Lachish, which he was besieging, and sent part of his army towards Jerusalem. Having heard that Tirhaqa, king of[116] Ethiopia, was advancing against him at the head of an army, Sennacherib made a fresh attempt to obtain the surrender of Jerusalem.

The prophet Isaiah then reassures Hezekiah on the issue of the war; he promises him that in a year’s time his subjects will be able to cultivate their fields and gather the fruits. “And it came to pass that the Angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred four score and five thousand: and when they arose in the morning, behold they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib, king of Assyria, departed and returned and dwelt at Nineveh.”

There is an Egyptian legend concerning Sennacherib’s hasty departure. According to this legend, told to Herodotus by the priests, the god Ptah, so as to reward the piety of Sethos, king of Egypt, who favoured the sacerdotal caste, had sent a multitude of rats into the Assyrian camp. In one night they gnawed all the strings of the bows and of the shields; the enemy being unable to fight, were obliged to flee, and the greater number perished in the panic. Herodotus adds that in his time there was a statue in the temple of Ptah, representing the king holding a rat in hand, with the following inscription: “Whoever thou art, on seeing me, learn to respect the gods.”

According to a Dutch work, The Family Bible, which we have already mentioned, the Egyptian priests who related this legend to Herodotus did not know much about the symbols of their own religion. “Generally the rat is a symbol of destruction, particularly of the plague. The invasion of rats spoken of in our fable is no other than a false interpretation of the rat found in the hands of statues. This rat really represents the plague. As the Israelites attributed the cause of this illness to the angel of the Lord, the Egyptian story would agree with what the Bible says of the retreat of Sennacherib, were it not that Herodotus gives Pharaoh the name of Sethos, whilst the Bible calls him Tirhakah. At any rate, Sennacherib was obliged to interrupt his wars on account of infectious diseases. Of course his inscription does not state this: at the end of it he boasts of having brought back to Nineveh, not a greatly reduced army, but great treasures conquered partly in the land of Judah, and of having received from Hezekiah, not only the offer of a heavy ransom, but also that of submission. This point was only realised in the imagination of the vain monarch. Hezekiah maintained his independence.”

The Assyrians had left the land in a deplorable state. The fields had been ravaged, the towns burnt, the strongholds destroyed, and their inhabitants reduced to slavery. The people ascribed all these evils to the theocratical side which was all-powerful in the reign of Hezekiah. This side had always preached war to the death; it is true that the national independence had been saved, but it was at the cost of material interests, and prompt submission might have prevented terrible disasters. The destruction of local sanctuaries, to the benefit of the temple at Jerusalem, had also upset all religious customs, especially in the provinces.

Rabshakeh knew that this radical step was impiety in the eyes of conservatives, and it was not without reason that he wished to speak to the people in the Hebrew language. It is thus that one can account for the violent reaction which took place against the reforms of Hezekiah in the reign of his son Manasseh. The Bible attributes all to the king, but the invectives of the prophets against what they call “the hardening of the people,” suffice to prove that the government more or less unconsciously followed the course of public opinion.


[680-610 B.C.]

The reaction raised continual opposition on the vanquished side, as is always the case after bloody repressions; for the Book of Kings tells us that Manasseh (2 Kings xxi. 22) “shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.” The tradition referred to in the Talmud, according to which Isaiah was sawn between two planks, is rejected generally; a detail of such importance would not have been omitted in the Bible. The account in Chronicles of another Assyrian invasion, of the captivity of Manasseh and his repentance, is likewise rejected; the prayer he is said to have made after his conversion makes part of what is called the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, and is comparatively of recent origin.

The Assyrian documents do not mention any invasion into Judea by the successors of Sennacherib. Jeremiah and the Book of Kings represent the ruin of the kingdom of Judah as the punishment for the idolatry of Manasseh without alluding to his repentance. M. Munk says: “Therefore we believe in giving no value to the deeds which the Chronicles assign to Manasseh. We will say as much of the Apocryphal history of Judith. The book of Judith must be considered as an edifying story, but fabulous, composed by an author little versed in history and geography. Thus we do not know of any important historical event of the long reign of Manasseh, excepting the reaction which took place among the priests and prophets. It is probable that Judah was troubled by no outside enemies during this reign.”

Manasseh died after a reign of fifty-five years (641 B.C.) and his son Amon, who had also shown himself hostile to the theocratic party, was assassinated two years later. It is not known whether there were religious or political motives for this murder: but the people were very wroth about it, and killed the conspirators and placed Josiah, son of Amon, aged eight years, on the throne (639 B.C.).

In the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign, whilst the carpenters, architects, and masons were doing some repairs in the temple, the high priest Hilkiah presented himself before the scribe and said that he had found the Book of the Law in the temple. The Book was brought to the king, who had it read to him. At the reading of the terrible threats it contained, he rent his garments: “Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah concerning the words of the Book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this Book to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.”

It is believed that this Book found in the temple comprised the principal parts of Deuteronomy, especially the commandments contained in the iv. chapter, the curses pronounced in the xxviii. chapter against those who would turn away from the terms of the alliance; and in the intermediate chapters all that related to the proscribing of strange religions and the worshipping of images, the privileges of the tribe of Levi, and the establishment of one sanctuary alone in the town chosen by the Lord.

Judaism, that is to say, exclusive theocratic and iconoclastic monotheism, was under the patronage of Moses, the legendary hero who had brought Israel out of Egypt. To change the religious customs of the nation, they opposed to the conservative tradition another represented as being more ancient and which was connected to a venerated name. King Josiah, armed with a version which he did not think necessary to authenticate, set himself to the task of executing all its prescriptions. The sanctuaries of Judah[118] were destroyed, the priests were maintained, but they had no function in the temple. The king then went to Bethel and destroyed the sanctuary raised by Jeroboam. He did likewise in all the towns of Samaria: “And he slew all the priests of the high places upon the altars and burned men’s bones.”

[610-605 B.C.]

After this invasion into the ancient kingdom of Israel, to which it would seem that the Assyrians, then in their decline, opposed no obstacle, the king of Judah entered Jerusalem, where he ordered a solemn celebration of the Passover: “According as it was written in the Book of this Covenant. Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah: but in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem.”

The enthusiasm of the theocratic party is shown by the unlimited praises of the Book of Kings: “And like unto Josiah was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses, neither after him arose there any like him.”

All the promises of the prophets could not fail to be realised under the reign of such a prince; he could consider himself certain of the protection of the Lord, whose worship reigned entirely throughout all the land of Judah and even of Israel. These hopes were cruelly crushed by the disastrous events which marked the end of the reign of Josiah. Neku, king of Egypt, wishing to take advantage of the fall of the Assyrian Empire, was directing an army towards the Euphrates to fight against Nabopolassar, king of Babylon. Judah was in no wise threatened, and the Book of Kings does not explain the motives which may have decided Josiah to take part in an uneven struggle. He came to meet the Egyptian army at Megiddo in the plains of Jezreel. According to the Book of Chronicles, Neku sent ambassadors to him, saying, “What have I to do with thee, thou King of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.” Josiah paid no heed to this warning; he fought and was killed. “And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah; and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day.”

The Bible contains only a very dry account of the events which followed the death of Josiah, which has been a little further completed by the help of some passages taken from Jeremiah. The defeat of Megiddo seems to have dealt a fatal blow to the reforms of Josiah, for the Book of Kings accuses all his successors of having “done evil in the sight of the Lord.” The people had placed Jehoahaz, son of Josiah, called Shallum by Jeremiah, on the throne. Three months later Neku made him go to Riblah and sent him as prisoner to Egypt and replaced him by another son of Josiah’s named Eliakim, and changed his name into Jehoiakim, exacting from Judea a tribute of one hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold.


[605-597 B.C.]

At the end of three years Neku was beaten at Carchemish by Nebuchadrezzar, son of the king of Babylon. The little kingdom of Judah was situated between two great empires, Egypt and Chaldea, and pressed on all sides. Jehoiakim, although vassal to the king of Egypt, to whom he owed[119] the throne, so as to keep it, submitted to the suzerainty of the king of Babylon. But as he always preferred Egypt, he revolted. Nebuchadrezzar sent some troops, and scattered bands of Moabites and Ammonites in Judea, who only wanted an opportunity to avenge their long oppression. The king shut himself up in Jerusalem, awaiting from Egypt help which never came. The prophets did not agree, and accused one another of imposture. Jeremiah discouraged resistance by his sinister predictions. The people were more and more irritated, and several times his life was threatened. But he had partisans, for at least his was a free voice protesting against public misery. If he was severe towards the people, he was far more so towards the king, whom he accused of foolish expenditures and tyranny. “He said, ‘thus saith the Lord concerning Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah: He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.’” The king burnt his prophecies and had him pursued; but as Jeremiah belonged to the sacerdotal caste, being the son of Hilkiah, they helped to hide him. One of his disciples was not so fortunate; he had taken refuge in Egypt, and was brought back and put to death.

[597-586 B.C.]

According to the Book of Chronicles, Jehoiakim was sent to Babylon laden with chains. Josephus pretends that Nebuchadrezzar, having entered Jerusalem promising to do no harm to the king, made him die in spite of his promise, and deprived him of burial according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. The Book of Kings merely says that Jehoiakim “slept with his fathers.” His son Jehoiachin, called Jeconiah or Coniah by Jeremiah, reigned only three months.

Nebuchadrezzar established as king in Jerusalem the last of the sons of Josiah, who changed his name, Mattaniah, to Zedekiah. As to Jeconiah, he remained prisoner in Babylon for thirty years. Evil-Merodach, successor to Nebuchadrezzar, freed him. Had Zedekiah contented himself with being satrap to the king of Babylon, he could have governed the remainder of the Jews in peace; but he was drawn in different ways by the current of public opinion, then represented by the prophets as it is to-day by the newspapers. Those who announced an approaching deliverance were more eagerly listened to than those who, like Jeremiah, preached submission to the conqueror, for they could not believe that the Lord had abandoned his people. Zedekiah had received messages from Tyre and Sidon, Ammon and Moab; no doubt it was concerning a general rebellion. Jeremiah sent each of the ambassadors, and even the king, a wooden yoke, announcing that all people who resented the Babylonian yoke would be punished by the sword, famine, and plague. He himself appeared in the temple with a yoke on his shoulders. A prophet who was for war tore it off and broke it before the people, saying, “Thus saith the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years.”

The king was greatly embarrassed, for it was only by the fulfilment that a true prophecy could be distinguished from a false. He began negotiations with Egypt; the king of Egypt, Hophra (Apries, Uah-ab-Ra), having promised him help, he refused to pay the tribute he had been subjected to for eight years. Nebuchadrezzar decided to settle the Jews, and came to attack Jerusalem. Zedekiah assembled the people, and to obtain the Lord’s favour it was decided that those who had Jewish slaves should free them, conforming with a law attributed to Moses, but which had never been carried out. The oath was taken with the ancient custom of cutting an ox in two and[120] passing between the portions of meat. But the news came that an Egyptian army was arriving in Judea; the Chaldeans went to meet it. They thought that all was won, that there was no necessity to mind, and each one took back his slaves. Jeremiah, indignant at this, announced that the town should be burned, and that the land should become a desert. Then, as he tried to leave Jerusalem, he was accused of wanting to pass over to the enemy. They had become very suspicious of him. “Let him be put to death,” said they, “for he unnerves the hands of the fighting men.” The king was obliged to have the prophet put in prison.

[586 B.C.]

According to Josephus, the Egyptian army was beaten in a great battle. Jeremiah alone says it returned to Egypt. The Chaldeans continued the siege of Jerusalem, which lasted for nearly ten years: “The famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land. And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king’s garden. Now, the Chaldeans were against the city round about: and the king went the way toward the plain. And the army of the Chaldeans pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him. So they took the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah.” The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, the city was devastated by fire, and great numbers of prisoners were carried off to Babylon.

The king of Babylon confided the government of the land to a Jew called Gedaliah, a friend of Jeremiah, and probably, like him, a partisan of peace and submission. Gedaliah established his residence at Mizpah, and announced to the Jews that they had nought to fear in remaining faithful to Nebuchadrezzar. The officers and soldiers who had hidden themselves in the provinces at the time of the taking of Jerusalem, returned in large numbers. A great number of Jews emigrated to Egypt, in spite of the prophecies of Jeremiah, announcing to them that they would be pursued by the vengeance of the king of Babylon, and that Egypt would be conquered. The prophet Ezekiel, one of those transported in Jehoiachin’s time, also prophesied the conquest of Egypt by the Chaldeans. According to Josephus, these predictions were fulfilled. Nebuchadrezzar had beaten and killed Hophra (Apries, Uah-ab-Ra), and had taken away into Chaldea the Jews established in the Delta. But M. Maspero says, “Egyptian accounts do not allow of admitting the authenticity of this tradition; on the contrary, they prove that Nebuchadrezzar met with a serious reverse.”

An appendix to the Book of Jeremiah talks of 745 Jews carried away to Babylon five years after the fall of Jerusalem; but it is probable that they were taken from among those who had remained in Judea after the murder of Gedaliah. According to these passages, the total number of those transported thrice in the reign of Nebuchadrezzar would be forty-six hundred souls. This number is so weak that one might think the author had counted only the heads of the family. The Lamentations attributed to Jeremiah offer us a poetical picture of the misery of Jerusalem and Judea after the Chaldean conquest:


“How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people; how is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces; how is she become tributary? She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies. Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens. We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows. But thou, O Lord, remainest for ever, thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us for so long time.”

At the same time the exiled, in the remembrance of their country, gave vent to accents of a depth which even Dante has never surpassed, and in which the hope of vengeance was displayed with a fierce energy.

“By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth: if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”

That which has given life to the Jewish people is the feeling of patriotism carried to the extreme, the hatred for the stranger. The native land is not alone the corner of the earth in which one is born, it is the moral link uniting the members of a society in common thought so as to form one family. This small nation, surrounded and then subjugated by more numerous and stronger neighbours, from which it differed neither in race nor language, was distinguished from them by religion. This religion is the ideal form of patriotism; it dominates and fills its history. If they regret Jerusalem, it is on account of the temple. The intolerant fanaticism of the prophets, the narrow formalism of the priests, raised around the people of the Lord an invisible rampart, more insurmountable than the great wall of China. At the same time, when national independence was giving way to strength, the resolute energy of the theocratical party was preparing its revival. This is one of the greatest marvels of history, and all the miracles with which this nation filled its legends are not worth those which they themselves performed by the sole power of their faith.b


[2] [That is according to the Usher chronology. The probable real date is about 930 B.C.]

[3] [Professor Sayce says: “Dodah must have been a deity who received divine honours in the northern kingdom of Israel by the side of the national god.” Arel signifies a hero. So probably there were certain “heroes” who acted as champions of the deity to whom they were attached.]

Convent of Terra Santa, Nazareth





Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.—Isaiah xl. 1-5.

Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law.

Therefore he hath poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.—Isaiah xlii. 24-25.

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;

I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.—Isaiah xliii. 1, 3, 5, 6.

Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish.

That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:

That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.—Isaiah xliv. 24-28.

Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron.—Isaiah xlv. 1-2.


Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle; your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.

They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.—Isaiah xlvi. 1-2.

Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.—Isaiah xlvii. 1.

Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.

I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.

And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.

Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:

But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.—Isaiah xlvii. 5-9.

Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.

Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.

Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.—Isaiah xlvii. 13-15.

Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel.—Isaiah xlviii. 1.

[586-536 B.C.]

After hearing this sonorous prophecy of Isaiah, in which, at worst, the wish was father to the thought, we may hear what so critical a student of Jewish history as Ernest Renan had to say of the prophets in general.

“As much as half a century before the capture of Samaria,” he says, “almost all the activity of the Hebrew genius had been concentrated in Judah. Prophetism had arrived at its main conclusions—namely, monotheism, God (or Jehovah) being the sole cause of the phenomena of the universe; the justice of Jehovah and the necessity that that justice should be carried into effect on earth and for each individual within the limits of his own existence; a democratic puritanism in manners, hatred of luxury, of secular civilisation, of the obligations resulting from complicated civil organisation; absolute trust in Jehovah; the worship of Jehovah, consisting above all in purity of heart. The immensity of such a revolution astounds us, and when we reflect on it we find that the moment when the creation took place is the most fertile in the whole history of religion. Even the initial movement of Christianity in the first century of our era, gives place to this extraordinary movement of Jewish prophetism in the eighth century before Christ. All of Jesus is contained in Isaiah. The humanitarian destiny of Israel is as clearly written towards 720 as that of Greece will be two hundred years later.

“Down to the time of Elijah and Elisha, Israel is not essentially distinguished from the neighbouring peoples; there is no mark on her forehead. From the moment now reached, her vocation is absolutely laid down for her. After a very favourable reign (that of Hezekiah), prophetism will traverse[124] a long period of trial (the reigns of Manasseh and Amon), and will then completely triumph under Josiah. The history of Judah will henceforth be the history of a religion, first confined during long centuries to her own limits, then mingling by the victory of Christianity in the general movement of mankind. The ancient prophets’ cry of justice will not be stifled. Greece will lay the foundations of lay society, free in the sense in which the economists understand it, without heeding the sufferings of the weak which result from the greatness of the social work. Prophetism will accentuate the just claims of the poor; it will undermine the position of the army and of royalty in Israel; but it will found the synagogue, the Church, societies for the poor, which, from the time of Theodosius, will become all powerful and will govern the world. During the Middle Ages the thundering voice of the prophets, interpreted by Saint Jerome, will awe the rich and powerful, and, for the benefit of the poor, or those who pretend to be such, will prevent every sort of industrial, scientific, or worldly progress.

“Germanic laicism repulsed the thrusts of this oppressive ebionism. The warrior, Frank, Lombard, Saxon, Frisian, took his revenge on the man of God. The warrior of the Middle Ages was so simple-minded that his credulity soon brought him again under the yoke of theocracy, but the Renaissance and Protestantism emancipated him; the Church could not recover her hold on her prey. In fact, the barbarian, the most brutal of lay princes, was a deliverer compared with the Christian priest with the secular arm at his disposal. The hardest oppression is that exercised in the name of a spiritual principle; lay tyranny contents itself with the homage of the body; the community which has the power to enforce its opinions is the worst of scourges.

“The work of the prophets has thus remained one of the essential elements of the world. The motion of the world is the resultant of the parallelogram of two forces—liberalism on the one side, and socialism on the other; liberalism of Greek origin, socialism of Hebrew origin; liberalism making for the greatest human development, socialism paying attention first of all to justice, understood in a strict sense, and to the happiness of the greatest number in practice, so often sacrificed to the needs of civilisation and the state. The socialist of our time who declaims against the abuses inevitable in a great organised state, greatly resembles Amos, representing as monstrous the most obvious necessities of society, such as the payment of debts, loans on security, and taxes.

“Before venturing to say which of these two opposing tendencies is the right one, we must know what is the goal of humanity. Is it the well-being of the individuals who compose it, or is it the attainment of certain abstract, objective aims, as they are called, which require hecatombs of individuals as sacrifices? Each will answer according to his moral temperament, and that is enough. The universe, which never ceases to make revelations, reaches its end by an infinite variety of ways. What Jehovah wills always comes to pass. Let us be calm; if we are of those who are mistaken, who work against the tide of the supreme will, it is of little consequence. Humanity is one of the innumerable ant-hills where reason gains her experience in space; if we miss our part, others will gain it.”

Accepting the prophets and prophecy, then, in whatsoever spirit one individually will, it is interesting to note in what manner and to what degree the prophecy is fulfilled, for the Jews return to rebuild the temple and the walls, only to remain obscure, and helplessly to pass from master to master.a



The history of the Hebrews is divided into two distinct periods. The first, purely legendary until the time of Samuel, only becomes a true history under the kings; it ceases abruptly for Israel at the siege of Samaria by Shalmaneser IV [and Sargon II] and for Judah about a century later at the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar.

The ruin of Israel was complete; the tribes, transported to the other side of the Euphrates, by degrees forgot their former recollections, customs, language, even their religion, and became confounded with the nations of Higher Asia. When and how, it is not known. Colonists brought into Canaan by Esarhaddon, replaced them by mingling themselves with the remains of the Israelite population. Such was not the case with the Judeans taken to Babylon; although not so numerous, they kept to their national life during exile. When the occasion arose, they returned to their own country, surrounded themselves by the rural population left by the conqueror to cultivate the land, and became the centre of a new nation.

The Jews transported by Nebuchadrezzar had been established in different provinces of the Chaldean Empire, in which they dwelt together. Their condition was infinitely better than that of political exiles in Siberia, Cayenne, or Numea at the present time. Jeremiah advised his compatriots to cultivate and build, which proves that they were given land and that they formed colonies.

They were governed by their elders who judged without appeal even in extreme cases, as is seen by the story of Susanna in the addition to the Book of Daniel. Nothing prevented them from carrying on their religion freely. It is true that as sacrifices could be offered regularly only at Jerusalem, the sacrificers had no employment: but the prophets maintained their influence, and Ezekiel speaks several times of the visits paid to them so as to consult the Lord. M. Munk says: “There were probably meetings where prayer was offered up in common, and perhaps the origin of synagogues dates back to this time. A tradition referred to in the Talmud of Babylon, Meghilla, fol. 28, a, attributes the foundation of a synagogue built of stones from the Holy Land, to the exiles who had accompanied Jehoiakim.”

The legends of Daniel in the lions’ den, and of the three men in the furnace, do not suffice to make one believe in a religious persecution, which the contemporary prophets would not fail to have mentioned; all that can be concluded from these popular traditions, gathered very much later, is that some Jews, doubtless eunuchs or diviners, were able to play a part at the court of the Babylonian kings. The natural wrath of the Jews against the destroyer of Jerusalem, gave rise to a legend according to which, Nebuchadrezzar, in punishment of his arrogance, was driven from amongst men for seven years and reduced to being a beast. “And he did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.” It is probable that the Jewish captives in Babylon took the large winged bulls with human heads at the gates of the Assyrian palaces, for images of the kings. The historical books of the Bible do not mention this legend, which is only quoted in the Book of Daniel, written in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. A song of triumph on the death of Nebuchadrezzar is written in the Book of Isaiah.



[538 B.C.]

In the reign of Nabonidus, called Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel, Babylon was besieged by Cyrus, king of the Persians. The town was well supplied with provisions, and relied on the strength and height of its walls: but Cyrus turned aside the waters of the Euphrates, and made his army enter the dried-up bed of the river. Had the Babylonians suspected his intentions they might have caught the enemy in a trap by closing the doors leading to the Euphrates: but they were occupied in celebrating a feast. This circumstance gave rise to the legend of Belshazzar, related in the Book of Daniel.

Cyrus is not even mentioned in this account, a strange omission, considering it was he who gave the Jews back their country. M. Munk identifies the Median Darius of Daniel with the Xerxes of Xenophon; but the Cyropædia is a romance bearing no more authority than the Book of Daniel. After the accession of Cyrus, the Jews had followed the rapid progress of the New Persian Empire with interest. The siege of Babylon seemed to them the vengeance of their God on those who had oppressed his people. They considered the Persians as deliverers, for the enemies of our enemies are always our friends. This sympathy and hope are vividly expressed by the second Isaiah. He calls Cyrus, “the Shepherd of Jehovah, who performeth his pleasure even in saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built, and to the temple, Thy foundations shall be laid.”

He is so persuaded that Cyrus is the instrument of the God of the Jews, chosen especially to deliver them, that he gives him the name of Messiah like to a true king of Israel: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, to open before him the gates. I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass and cut in sunder the bars of iron.… I am the Lord and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” The last sentence is an allusion to the Mazdean doctrine of the two principles. The Persians attribute the good to a good god named Ormuzd, and evil to a wicked god named Ahriman. The prophet on the contrary proclaims one only god, author alike of good and evil, which proves that at this time the belief in the devil had not yet been accepted by the Jews.

Nevertheless, there was a great connection between the Jewish and Iranian religions: both were iconoclastic, and the Bible never accuses the Persians of idolatry, as it does other nations. The kindness Cyrus showed to the Jews is generally attributed to these religious affinities. It can also be accounted for by political reasons. The facility with which he had taken Babylon seems to indicate that he had accomplices in the place. In favouring the Jews he was acquitting himself of a great obligation. It may be that he proposed from thence to conquer Egypt, and that he thought it would be advantageous to place on the Egyptian frontier, an energetic people whose fidelity was assured to him. According to the Bible, from the first year of his reign, or rather in the year following the siege of Babylon, he allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and build their temple. He even gave the chief priest all the sacred vessels that had been taken from the temple at Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar. This chief priest, grandson to King Jehoiachin, bore the characteristic name of Zerubbabel, that is to say, “born at Babel.” In other passages he is designated under the name of Sheshbazzar, which seems to be more of a title than of a proper name.


The Damascus Gate, Jerusalem


[536-515 B.C.]

The decree of Cyrus appeared in 536 B.C., fifty-two years after the fall of Jerusalem, and sixty-three years after the exile of King Jehoiachin. Ineffectual efforts have been made so that these figures should correspond to the seventy years of captivity prophesied by Jeremiah, which only represents a round and undetermined number in the mind of the prophet. The greater part of the Hebrew captives had followed the advice of Jeremiah, and built houses and cultivated their fields. In the land of their exile they had developed that aptitude for commerce which to-day distinguishes the Jewish race. It was hard for them to sacrifice their interests to begin a new life in a ruined country. Those who, having taken advantage of the decree of Cyrus, had left Babylon under Zerubbabel, numbered about forty thousand without counting the slaves according to Ezra, who also gives a list of the families; this list is reproduced with variations in the Book of Nehemiah and in the Third Book of Esdras.

“In adding up the detailed numbers,” says M. Munk, “there are scarcely thirty thousand. According to the Jewish doctors one must take into consideration the surplus of the Israelites of the ten tribes.”

In spite of this explanation made to conciliate the figures, it is generally acknowledged that the emigrants all, or nearly all, belonged to the ancient tribe of Judah. The name Jehoudin, Judeans, corrupted into that of Jews, must henceforth be used to designate the new political and religious society which established itself in Palestine.

It was, thanks to the unceasing efforts and exclusive patriotism of the theocratic party, that the Jews had gone through the long years of exile without ceasing to be a nation, without mixing with strange people. Among the families who returned to Judea, those of the priests formed at least one-eighth of the total. Some, not having their genealogies, were excluded from the priesthood.


After the return to Jerusalem, the first care of Zerubbabel and the high priest Jeshua was to raise the altar for the sacrifices, and to gather together the offerings of the chiefs of the fathers for the reconstruction of the temple.

“They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat and drink, and oil, unto them of Sidon and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus, king of Persia. Now in the second year of their coming into the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord.… And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David, king of Israel” (Ezra iii. 8, 10).

In this, the Book of Ezra describes an event which Josephus places in the time of Darius, and which shows that in the narrow zeal of the sacerdotal aristocracy, the pride of race had as large a share as religious intolerance. We remember that after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, populations from Media and Chaldea, principally Kutheans, had been established by Esarhaddon in the land of Samaria, so as to replace the Israelites transported over the Euphrates. According to the Book of Kings, these strange colonists adopted the God of their new country. They feared the Lord and served their own gods after the manner of the nations out of which they had been brought to Samaria.

The descendants of these colonists having mingled themselves more and more with the remains of the former Israelite population, the custom of strange worship diminished. The reform of Josiah spread itself over the land, and in the Book of Jeremiah we read that after the destruction of Jerusalem, the people of Shiloh, Shechem, and Samaria came and wept over the ruins of the temple. Thus, in spite of their strange origin, the Samaritans had the same religion as the Jews, and although the Book of Ezra calls them the enemies of Judah and Benjamin, the step they took with regard to the emigrants of Babylon showed the most brotherly dispositions.

“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the Children of the Captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers and said unto them: Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Asshur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel said unto them: Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building. And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

[515-450 B.C.]

But the temple was built in spite of the intrigues of the Samaritans, and the dedication took place in the sixth year of the reign of Darius (515 B.C.). According to the Book of Ezra, Darius found the decree of Cyrus among the records at Ecbatana and ordered it to be carried out. We know nothing of the fate of the Jewish colony during the last thirty years of the reign[129] of Darius and during the twenty years of the reign of Xerxes. The Book of Ezra contains no fact relating to this period for more than half a century.

In the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus (458 B.C.), more than half a century after the establishment of the temple, a new colony of Jews left Babylon for Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra, grandson of the priest Seraiah who had been put to death by Nebuchadrezzar at the fall of Jerusalem. Ezra had taken the title of “sophar,” that is to say, scribe or doctor of the law: “he had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” The firman he had obtained from Artaxerxes has come to us travestied by the Jews, and the terms are even more suspicious than those of the decree of Cyrus. It is possible that the king may have helped the emigrants with money or provisions and even exempted the priests from taxes; but it is not likely that he would have condemned to death, as the Book of Ezra says, those who would not submit to the religious law which the leader of the expedition was going to enforce. This law, wrought during the captivity under the influence of the prophet Ezekiel, answered to the authoritative inspirations of the sacerdotal party of whom Ezra was the chief. All privileges were reserved for the priests, of whom the Levites were only the servants. This explains why among the fifteen chiefs of families, who answered to Ezra’s appeal, there was not one Levite. Nevertheless, there was a great number of them in Babylonia. Ezra, with a great deal of trouble, succeeded in recruiting a few of them.

The first colony led by Zerubbabel, arrived in Judea under very trying circumstances. The land had not remained unoccupied during the captivity at Babylon. Besides the poor people whom Nebuchadrezzar left there, because they were not worth taking away, Idumæans, Moabites, and other strangers had come and settled themselves. A place had to be found among them, for the new-comers were not powerful enough to expel them. The emigrants had to consider themselves lucky in forming alliances with the families who were in possession of the territory, without ascertaining whether these families were of pure Israelite blood. But when Ezra arrived at the head of a new colony, the difficulties of the first installation no longer existed. The marriages contracted by his predecessors with strange women seemed to him abominable and ungodly. He prayed, fasted, rent his garments, assembled the people, and begged that these wretched beings should be sent away with their children. It was, as the authors of The Family Bible remark, like a new form of sacrifice of children to Moloch. But without seeking examples in the Canaanite religions, Ezra could remind them of Abraham sending his servant Hagar into the desert accompanied by her child.

[450-445 B.C.]

The authority of a priest and the national pride stifled all family feeling: “All the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do. But the people are many and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing.”

An assembly, presided over by Ezra, held a severe investigation. The Bible gives us the names of one hundred and thirteen individuals who had married strange women, and who had to send them away with their children. Those belonging to the priesthood offered a ram in expiation of their sin. The number of children is unknown, also whether each mother was able to take away the bread and water such as Abraham had given to Hagar in[130] sending her into the desert. In the following year great events took place, the counterblow of which must have been felt in Judea, although the Bible does not mention it.


[445-415 B.C.]

Egypt raised itself against Persia and took as king the Libyan Inarus. The armies of the land and sea, destined to crush this rebellion, assembled in Syria and Phœnicia. Inarus having been put to death with fifty Greek prisoners in spite of the conventions sworn, the satrap of Syria, Megabyses, indignant at this treachery, in his turn revolted. It is not known whether the Jews took the part of the king or of the satrap. It is supposed that on this occasion the walls of Jerusalem were again destroyed, but the Book of Ezra does not say so; it ends abruptly after the account of the expulsion of the strange women, and we only find Ezra again, thirteen years later, in the Book of Nehemiah, which also bears the title of The Second Book of Ezra. Nehemiah, whose recollections helped to compose this work, was a zealous Jew, cupbearer to king Artaxerxes. He obtained his master’s permission to go to Jerusalem and raise the walls, and started as a pasha of Judea with an escort of cavalry, and royal letters to the keeper of the forests who was to supply the timber for construction. In spite of his official position, and the prestige which the favour of the king was to give him, he had to fight against adversaries who were sufficiently powerful to raise serious difficulties for him. He names three of them: Sanballat, the Horonite; Tobiah, a royal servant in the land of the Ammonites; and Geshem, the Arab.

The pride of the Jews began to bear its fruit; the Samaritans whose disinterested help they had refused, the strange families whose daughters they had repudiated, were not anxious to see Jerusalem a stronghold once more: those who were for peace feared the dreams of independence pertaining to the Messiah, and useless rebellions followed by blood-shed: the country people feared the concentration of political and religious authority in the capital.

At first they mocked at the fortifications begun, then threatened the workmen; Nehemiah made them work with their swords at their sides; at night there were sentinels. They tried to intimidate him, and told him that he was accused of wishing to be proclaimed King of the Jews, they wanted to draw him to meetings, but by prudence he refused to go. He was even suspicious of his friends; prophets told him his life was in danger, and advised him to hide in the temple; he thought a trap was being laid for him, and that they were trying to make him violate the law which forbids the laity to enter the temple; and he answered, “Should such a man as I flee?” Thanks to his energy and activity, the work was finished at the end of fifty-two days.

After having raised the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah resolved to quiet the discord which was beginning to show itself among the classes. The poor complained of the rich. Many people had to borrow money to pay the taxes; they had hired out their fields and vineyards, and then sold their sons and daughters so as to have bread.

Nehemiah, instead of preaching resignation and patience to the poor, made the rich ashamed of their hardness. He reminded them that at Babylon, according to his means he had redeemed those Jews who had become slaves to strangers:[131] “And will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer. And I said: It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? I likewise, and my brethren and my servants might exact of them money and corn. I pray you let us leave off this usury. Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive yards, and their houses. Then said they We will do as thou sayest.” Nehemiah made them take the oath before the priests and shook his garment, saying: “So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus he be shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said Amen.”

With its walls and gates Jerusalem was a town and not a city; there were no inhabitants. The Jews preferred living in the country, where they cultivated their fields, to shutting themselves up in this town without any resources, which in the time of the monarchy owed its riches only to the presence of the court. Nehemiah and the chiefs of the people agreed that one-eighth of the population of Judea should establish itself at Jerusalem, and they cast lots for the families who had to transfer, nolens volens, their dwellings thither. They established a sort of police; sentinels were placed at the gates, which were shut at night, and only opened in the morning after sunrise. But the new Jewish state could only be constituted by the promulgation of the law. Standing on a platform facing the people, solemnly assembled for the autumn feast, Ezra read the Law called by the name of Moses.

If Josephus can be relied on, the public reading of the Law took place several years sooner, and Ezra had died before the arrival of Nehemiah in Jerusalem: but the Bible attests the presence of Nehemiah beside Ezra. The congregation indulged in oriental demonstrations, there were fasts, prayers, loud confessions; they smote their breasts, clad themselves in sackcloth, and put dust on their heads, after which they signed the agreement to conform to the Law. The Bible gives the names of those who signed in the name of all the people. There were twenty priests, almost as many Levites, and forty-four laymen. Ezra’s name is not on the list; it is supposed that he had died before the act was drawn up.

Those who signed undertook to repudiate all strange marriages, to buy nothing on the Sabbath day, to observe the sabbatical year, to pay one-third of a shekel (about twenty cents) yearly for the divine service, to supply the wood for the sacrifices, to offer the first-born of men and animals and the first fruits of the earth, and to pay tithes for the maintenance of the priests and Levites. As they had to live in Jerusalem they had to be kept: but the precepts which appeal to peoples’ purses are not readily received. Malachi, the last of the prophets, complains of the negligence in the paying of the tithes. At the same time he accuses the priests of failing to do their duty and making themselves despised by the people.

[415 B.C.]

After a sojourn of twenty-two years in Jerusalem, Nehemiah had resumed his duties at the court of Artaxerxes. He soon heard that his constitution had difficulty in establishing itself, and he obtained fresh leave from the king. He found his work compromised: buying and selling took place on the Sabbath as on other days; the Levites not being paid, had left their posts; mixed marriages had become so frequent that the children spoke a mixture of Hebrew and strange dialects. The ruling class set the bad example, as is nearly always the case. The high priest, Eliashib, had given a lodging in the temple to Tobiah, one of his relations, and had married one of his sons to a daughter of Sanballat; these two men were adversaries of[132] Nehemiah. He showed himself very severe; he sent away the son-in-law of Sanballat, turned Tobiah out of his apartment, closed the gates of the town during the whole Sabbath, and forbade the merchants of Tyre to approach the walls on that day. He entirely shared the ideas of Esdras on the subject of mixed marriages. Had not strange women been the fall of the wise king Solomon? Israel must be purified from this contamination. He struck those who were refractory and pulled out their hair. They had to submit, willingly or unwillingly. The payment of the tithes was assured to the Levites and priests, and regular order was established in the administration of the revenues of the temple. That was the chief point, and Nehemiah had the right to consider himself the benefactor of the Jewish theocracy: “Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.”[4] d


[4] [It should perhaps be mentioned that some critics and historians are not inclined to accept the statements of the writers of Ezra and Nehemiah en masse.]

The Dead Sea, looking towards Moab, with the Convent of Mar Saba in Foreground




Jewish Priest and Altar

[415-332 B.C.]

We have very little information from trustworthy sources concerning the subsequent events of the period of Persian dominion. The list of high priests during this interval of some two centuries is—reckoning from father to son, with the approximate date at which they flourished—Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, 463; Josakim, 449; Eliashib, the contemporary of Nehemiah, 415; Joiada, 413; Johanan or Jonathan, 373; Jaddua, 341. Into their hands, it appears, the direction of the commonwealth passed by degrees, unless some other person were appointed by the king of Persia; the Persian governors retaining certain prerogatives not more fully particularised, but probably the collection of the king’s taxes and the levy of recruits for military service.


Generally speaking, the Jews enjoyed humane treatment under Persian rule, only alloyed now and again by extortionate taxation. Bagoses, governor under Artaxerxes II, imposed on the country a tax of fifty drachmas for every lamb of the daily sacrifice for seven years, in consequence of a quarrel between Johanan the high priest and Joshua his brother. Concerning a rebellion against Artaxerxes III (Ochus, 362-338), which ended in the destruction of Jericho and the carrying away captive of many Jews to Hyrcania, we have but vague reports.

In the north the extent of the restored state was hardly greater than that of the former kingdom of Judah, while in the south, where Edomite tribes had forced their way into the country, it was hardly so great. From the dense population which appears to have dwelt in the land by the end of the Persian supremacy, we may conclude that other immigrations had taken[134] place besides those recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. There were, moreover, numerous Jewish communities, not only in the regions about the Euphrates, but in the countries round Palestine, and even in Asia Minor and Egypt, which remained in touch with the mother country, and provided sacrifices and other gifts for the temple.


It is true that the hopes of the complete restoration of their former might and independence cherished at the time of the return from captivity had not been fulfilled. The splendid promises of the prophets withdrew from the mean and narrow sphere of the present into an ideal and remote future. If any expectations of political power still existed, they had to be abandoned perforce. The pressure of the times taught and compelled the people to turn their eyes to internal and spiritual conditions, by no means to the detriment of the community. The period of the Babylonian exile, comparatively short though it was, had wrought a complete change in the religious views of the nation. The leaning towards heathen cults, which had been so strongly manifest in earlier times, had completely disappeared; the prophets and psalms of this date employ no weapon but ridicule against idolatry. The sufferings they had endured, the infliction of the long-threatened chastisement, had brought about a purification of religious feeling. The adherents of heathen cults had withdrawn from the Jewish society in time of oppression, and the result had been a tightening of the bond that held them together, and a stern abhorrence of intermixture with foreigners, born of a keen instinct of self-preservation and strengthened by the memory of old and mournful experience. Contact with the Magian religion, which predominated in the Persian Empire and permitted no image-worship, may have done something towards this end; at least an acquaintance with eastern Asiatic conceptions is evident in the writings of the prophets of the exile (Ezekiel and Zechariah). The belief in the personal existence of angels, and of evil spirits likewise, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead in the enlightened aspect of the immortality of the soul, a greater accuracy of chronological statement, etc., are intellectual acquirements which the Jews brought with them from exile and developed further under the same influences.


[332-312 B.C.]

In the year 334 Alexander of Macedon entered upon that campaign of conquest against Persia which speedily brought about the fall of the great empire. After the battle of Issus (November 333) Syria and Phœnicia were subjugated, Tyre alone offered a stubborn resistance, and was not taken until August 332, after a seven months’ siege. It is said that at the beginning of the siege Alexander called upon the high priest of Jerusalem to rebel against Darius. But, unlike the Samaritans, who promptly brought an auxiliary army to Alexander’s assistance, the Jews refused to renounce the allegiance they owed to the king of Persia. In order to punish this disobedience, Alexander marched upon Jerusalem after the fall of Tyre, which was soon followed by that of Gaza. The high priest came to meet him at the head of the assembled priesthood, marching in solemn procession in their sacred vestments. At this spectacle Alexander dismounted and bowed reverently[135] before the venerable high priest, because—as he declared to the astonished Parmenio—just such an august figure had once appeared to him in a dream. He made a peaceful entry into Jerusalem, caused sacrifices to be offered for him in the temple, and permitted the Jews to live according to their laws, granting them, among other privileges, exemption from taxation during the Sabbath year. Many Jews thereupon determined to enter his army.

The authenticity of this story of Alexander’s march to Jerusalem, which is told by Josephus and the Talmud but by no Greek historian, has been impugned with good reason.[5] The high priest in question is called Jadus (Jaddua) by Josephus, and Simon the Just by the Talmud. Later amplifications of these stories declare that, as a token of gratitude for Alexander’s favour, the high priest promised him that all sons born to high priests that year should be called Alexander. Although certain books of the Bible are later than the dissolution of the Persian Empire, Alexander’s name is not mentioned in any; he is only referred to under various figures in the dreams and visions of the book of Daniel. Thus the great figure which Nebuchadrezzar beholds in a dream, the iron thighs (Daniel ii. 32-40), the fourth terrible beast in Daniel’s dream (vii. 7, 19), the goat coming from the west in the following vision (viii. 5 seq.), and, lastly, the great king (xi. 3), stand for the Macedonian kingdom or Alexander the Great.

The dissolution of the Persian Empire at first brought about no substantial change in the political and religious condition of the Jews, and the influences bred of the diffusion of Greek civilisation in Anterior Asia were not felt by them till much later. But, generally speaking, the state of the Jewish commonwealth during this period and down to the wars of the Maccabees is wrapped in a certain amount of obscurity, since the lack of Biblical records throws us back almost entirely on the narrative of Josephus, who himself drew from somewhat turbid sources and did not sift his material with sufficient care. After the rapid decline of the Macedonian kingdom and during the conflict of Alexander’s generals among themselves, Palestine, together with Phœnicia and Cœle-Syria, became the apple of discord between the rulers of the Syrian and Egyptian kingdoms. Ptolemy I (Lagi or Soter reigned until 283) seized Jerusalem in the year 320 by a sudden attack on the Sabbath (on which day no resistance was offered) and carried away a large number of Jews to Egypt, where some of them were sold as slaves and some enrolled in the royal army. Ptolemy, however, did not gain permanent possession of the country until the battle of Gaza, in 312, after which he again marched into Jerusalem, but acted with great clemency, so much so that many Jews of consequence migrated with him to Egypt, one of them being a learned man of the name of Ezekias (Hizkiah). The high priests at the time were Onias I, in 330, and his son Simon I, in 310.


[312-204 B.C.]

With the battle of Gaza in 312 is associated, among the Jews as among other oriental nations, the “era of the Seleucids” (also called Minjan Shtarot—æra contractuum—and, probably, “[the years] of the rule of the Hellenes”) which remained in use during the Middle Ages and even later. When afterwards the era of the creation of the world also came into use among the Jews, most Jewish chronologists, in order to reduce the two to a [136]common standard, assumed that the era of the Seleucids had begun in the year 3448 after the creation of the world, and one thousand after the coming forth out of Egypt. They accordingly reduced any given date of the Seleucid era to the corresponding date after the creation of the world by adding 3447 to it, and to the corresponding date of the Christian era (with precision only for the first nine months of the year, as the Seleucid year begins in autumn) by deducting the Seleucid date from 312 to find the year B.C., or deducting 312 from it to find the year A.D. Asarja de’ Rossi, in the twenty-third chapter of Meor Enajim, enlarges upon the error of Jewish chronologists, who identify the beginning of the Seleucid era with the beginning of Greek dominion in Asia.

For more than a century Judea remained under the rule of the Greek kings of Egypt, and on the whole enjoyed, with slight interruptions, a period of happy tranquillity and benevolent treatment. The relation of the kings of Egypt to the country cannot have been widely different from that of the kings of Persia, the commonwealth was represented abroad by the high priest, whose first business it was to see to the levying of the taxes. After Simon I, mentioned above, the office was held by his brother Eleazar (his son Onias being too young), who was succeeded by his uncle Manasseh (276), and then by Onias II (250).

An old tradition associates with the name of the second Ptolemy (Philadelphus) the origin of a literary undertaking in some respects unique in the literature of antiquity, the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the Greek language.

The high priest, Onias II, mentioned above, who is depicted as a morose and avaricious man, brought down upon himself the wrath of Ptolemy III, surnamed Euergetes, his Egyptian suzerain, by refusing to pay the annual tribute of twenty talents, and would have involved his country in a great calamity had not Joseph ben Tobiah, his sister’s son, stepped into the breach. With his uncle’s permission he undertook to go as ambassador to the Egyptian court, where by wise liberality he contrived first to win the favour of the courtiers, and then of the king himself. At the farming out of the taxes of Cœle-Syria, Phœnicia, and Judea, for which purpose many nobles from those countries had come to the Egyptian court, Joseph, without more ado, offered twice as much as any of them, and, being provided by the king with adequate forces, was able by well-directed severity not only to levy the sum agreed upon but to gain great wealth and reputation for himself. For two and twenty years he filled the office of tax-farmer for the whole region known as Syria.

Josephus relates with great satisfaction that Ptolemy Euergetes, passing through Jerusalem on his way back from a victorious struggle with Seleucus Callinicus, king of Syria (245) offered sacrifices in the temple and bestowed great gifts on it; but Judea had nevertheless suffered from the perpetual friction between Egypt and Syria. She also endured many evils at the hands of the Samaritans under the administration of Onias.

These quarrels between the two great kingdoms between which Judea was wedged, did not cease in the reign of the fourth Ptolemy (Philopator, 221-204). Antiochus (the Great) of Syria had occupied Galilee and the land east of Jordan when Philopator took the field against him, defeated him at Raphia, and forced him to conclude peace. Among those who congratulated Philopator on this victory were ambassadors from the Jews, whom he received graciously, and desired to show his favour towards them by coming to Jerusalem and sacrificing in the temple. On this occasion he[137] was inspired with a wish to enter the Holy of Holies, nor would he be restrained by the urgent remonstrances of the priests and the tumult of the whole city. But as he was about to set his foot within the hallowed space he was seized with sudden faintness and had to be carried away senseless.


Thirsting for vengeance, he departed, and promulgated harsh measures against the Jews, and, when they did not produce the effect he anticipated, he collected all the Jews in Egypt together on his return home, and shut them up in a circus, where they were to be trodden to death by elephants excited by intoxicating liquors for the purpose. At the decisive moment, however, the elephants turned against their drivers and wrought hideous havoc among the assembled crowds of Egyptians. This cruel act of Philopator and the miraculous deliverance of the Jews forms the subject of the third Book of the Maccabees and lacks historic confirmation. According to Josephus, the event took place in the reign of Ptolemy Physcon (146-117), the motive being revenge because the Jews had supported the claims of Cleopatra, widow of Ptolemy Philometor.

[204-200 B.C.]

After the death of Philopator (204), and the accession of his son, a child of five, Antiochus succeeded in conquering Palestine, and it never again fell under the sway of Egypt.

Onias II was succeeded by his son, Simon II, who proved more worthy of his high office than his father had been. It is on this Simon that the name of “the Just” (ha-Zaddik) was bestowed, and in the Mishnah he is styled one of the last of the men of the Great Assembly. His motto as there given, “The world rests upon three things, doctrine, the service of God, and benevolence,” is in sharp contrast to the views that dominated the world in his day, and is characteristic of the aspirations of the spiritual leaders of the time. The list of the Tannaïm (teachers of the Mishnah) usually opens with his name. Joshua ben Sirach, a younger contemporary of his, lavishes encomiums on him, and he has been glorified even more by later legend. He embellished and fortified the temple, constructed aqueducts, and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem which Ptolemy Lagi had broken down and left in a state of demolition. The means for this expenditure were promptly and liberally supplied by the numerous and valuable gifts and contributions which were bestowed on the temple from all quarters, and not by Jews only; and which served likewise to attract the envy and covetousness of many foreign rulers. Onias III, the son and successor of Simon the Just, filled the office of high priest no less worthily.

The labours of the Sofrim seem to have been unaffected by any of these political events; the storm which raged throughout the whole of Anterior Asia after the death of Alexander had only made the Jews, who had no political power whatever, devote themselves the more diligently to the consolidation of their religious inheritance, and in this occupation they found compensation for the loss of external splendour and constancy at the approach of their enemies. The 119th Psalm, that “hundred-fold echo of the excellence and needfulness of the Law,” is typical of this spirit. The completion of the Book of Psalms and the composition of Chronicles, and the Book of Esther must be assigned to the first century of Greek dominion, i.e. to about 200 B.C. The language of these books leads us to infer a flagging of the primitive spirit of Jewish nationality; as a result of close intercourse with Syria, Aramaic gained ground, especially as the speech of the common people.



[300-187 B.C.]

On the disintegration of the Macedonian Empire, Syria fell first to Antigonus, and then (after the battle of Ipsus in 301) to Seleucus I, surnamed Nicator, who was assassinated in 281. His successors were—his son, Antiochus I, surnamed Soter (281-261), Antiochus II, surnamed Theos (261-247), Seleucus II, surnamed Callinicus (246-227), Seleucus III, surnamed Ceraunus (227-224), then the brother of the last-named monarch, Antiochus III, surnamed the Great (224-187), Seleucus IV, surnamed Philopator (187-176), Antiochus IV, surnamed Epiphanes (175-163). The son of Antiochus IV, Antiochus Eupator, who was only thirteen years of age at the time of his father’s death, was assassinated, together with his guardian, Lysias, by Demetrius, the son of his father’s brother Seleucus, in the year 161.

The Greek language and literature, Greek ideas and habits, which had been making an abiding conquest of Anterior Asia since the days of Alexander the Great, had not failed to make their influence felt at length by the Jews. First, indeed, by those who lived away from Judea, remote from the centre of Jewish thought and Jewish life. We have already seen how, as a result of these conditions, the need of a Greek translation of the sacred books arose among the Egyptian Jews; to what kind of literature this translation itself gave rise we shall presently show. But while in Egypt, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, the Jewish and Greek spirit contrived to establish some sort of accord, a very different state of things prevailed in Palestine. Here the contrast of the Jewish and Greek conceptions of the universe was manifest in its full strength and bitterness. In Judea, in place of the conditions which had facilitated reciprocal approximation and partial amalgamation in Egypt, such as a preponderant Greek majority, brisk intercourse in civil life, and general culture on the part of the Jews, the situation was reversed. Jerusalem was the original seat of Jewish life, which constantly derived fresh strength from perpetual and minute study of the national scriptures and zealous practice of the divine precepts. This life, grave, strict, based on the inviolable ground of morality, tending always towards austerity and self-sacrifice, contrasted vividly with the blithe and sensuous mode of life of the Greeks, with its ready enjoyment of the moment and what it offered. The clear intellect of the Jewish thinker plainly perceived that this alluring existence hid the most shameful vices under an artificial veil.

The relations of the Syrian Empire with the Jews were at first of an amicable character. Seleucus Nicator had given Jews equal privileges with Macedonians and Greeks in the cities he founded in Asia Minor and Syria and in Antioch itself, and his example was followed by his grandson Antiochus Theos. After the death of Ptolemy Philopator the Jews gave a cordial welcome to Antiochus the Great, who had defeated Scopas, the Egyptian general, and Antiochus readily acknowledged their good will. He helped them to repair the damage done by the war, gave liberal gifts in money and natural objects for the service of the temple, permitted and advanced the completion of the temple buildings begun before his time, and granted the members of the senate, the priests, and other temple officers entire immunity from taxation. To increase the population of the capital, he granted exemption from taxation for three years to its inhabitants and to any who would remove thither within a fixed period, and remission of one-third of the taxes after that; any who were sold as slaves were to have their liberty and property restored. He gave evidence of the great confidence he reposed in the loyalty of the Jews by transplanting two thousand of them[139] from Mesopotamia and Babylonia to the provinces of Lydia and Phrygia, which were on the verge of rebellion, and granting them fields and vineyards, together with ten years exemption from taxation. He also guaranteed to all Jews within his empire, without restriction, the right of living according to the law of their forefathers.

[187-175 B.C.]

Seleucus IV, surnamed Philopator, the son and successor of Antiochus the Great, was a man of humane and pacific temper, and yet during his reign a cloud, the presage of the storm that was so soon to burst, gathered over Judea. The Syrian court was constantly involved in great financial straits because of the contribution which had yet to be paid to the Romans. Under these circumstances Simon, the overseer of the temple, who had had a quarrel with the high priest, drew the attention of Apollonius, commander of the Syrian forces in Cœle-Syria, to the riches of the temple treasury. The hint was eagerly taken, and Seleucus despatched his servant Heliodorus with orders to inspect the temple treasury. In vain did the pious and conscientious Onias expostulate with him, in vain did he protest that a great part of the treasure consisted of deposits made by widows and orphans, and that the sum total amounted to no more than four hundred talents of silver and two hundred talents of gold. Heliodorus was obstinate; but was prevented by a supernatural appearance, when he was actually within the treasury, from carrying his sacrilegious purpose into effect. It seemed to him that a gorgeously clad horseman trampled him under foot, while at the same time two youths appeared, glorious to behold, and scourged him unremittingly, so that he was carried thence in a swoon. The intercessions and expiatory sacrifices of the high priest restored him to life, and nothing would induce him to repeat the attempt. Onias himself repaired to the court of Seleucus to defend himself against the charges brought by his violent adversary Simon, with what result is uncertain. Seleucus was soon afterwards poisoned by this same Heliodorus, but the latter’s purpose of placing himself on the throne was frustrated.


[175 B.C.]

On hearing the news of the death of Seleucus, his brother Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, who was in Rome at the time as a hostage, hastened home and assumed the reins of government. He is the Antiochus who won a melancholy celebrity in the annals of the Jews, and gave occasion for a glorious episode in their history, which ended with the attainment of political independence. Nevertheless, the imputations cast upon his character are to some extent baseless or exaggerated. In spite of the luxurious and licentious life he led, he was not worse than the majority of Syrian and Egyptian monarchs of the period. He was good-natured and liberal, though accessible to the arts of flatterers and evil counsellors, and irritable under the restraints imposed upon him by the Romans. Ancient Greece was incapable of comprehending the existence of religious conviction or the capacity for making such sacrifices on its behalf as were made by the Jews; to Antiochus the question was merely that of reducing rebellious subjects to submission, the rather because certain of them compelled him to have recourse to measures of ever-increasing severity.

The first seed of the growing complications was sown by the Jews themselves. Soon after the accession of Antiochus, Joshua (Greek Jason) the brother of the high priest, visited him and purchased the office of high priest for a large annual payment, Onias being compelled to retire into private life.[140] Jason took advantage of his exalted position to introduce Greek customs into Jerusalem, and among other things instituted a gymnasium (a place for the practice of physical exercises). A large number of the priests took great pleasure in it, so much so that the regularity of the temple services suffered; while to the devout it seemed an abomination and a desecration of the holy city. Hand in hand with these practices went the violation of the precepts for the regulation of Jewish life, and among other things the artificial obliteration of the traces of circumcision.

Meanwhile the friendly relations between Egypt and Syria had once more been disturbed by the refusal of Antiochus to give up Cœle-Syria, which his father had promised as the dowry of Cleopatra on her marriage with Ptolemy Philopator. In a progress which he made through his western dominions while war with Egypt was impending, Antiochus came to Jerusalem, where he met with a magnificent reception, and made his entry by torchlight amid the joyful acclamations of the people.b

There was a sharp contrast between the welcome of his entry and the mood imposed by his stay. Under Antiochus Epiphanes the Jews suffered such outrages as finally steeled even their unwarlike hearts to battle. The character and cruelties of Antiochus deserve some further detail, as do also the deeds of his native lieutenant, who tormented the conservative Jewish conscience more exquisitely perhaps than the foreign master; for to the people Jason was a renegade who began his Hellenising, it was said, on his own name, which was originally Joshua or Jesus. In the following account of Antiochus’ conduct towards the Jews, George Smith does not take so kindly a view of the Syrian king as has been given above.a


[175-170 B.C.]

Antiochus Epiphanes was mean in his spirit, low in his habits, covetous in disposition, and exceedingly cruel in temper. The evil tendency of his bad character was, however, rather elicited by the corrupt state of Jewish morals, than voluntarily directed against this people. But the result was terrible beyond description. Soon after his accession, Jason, the brother of the high priest, proceeded to the king at Antioch, and offered a great increase of tribute, if he would appoint him high priest, and confine his deposed brother Onias in his capital. The necessities of the king, occasioned by the great tribute which he had to pay to Rome, acting upon an unprincipled and covetous mind, induced him to yield a ready compliance with this infamous proposal. The pious and venerable Onias therefore was forthwith deposed and banished, and Jason invested with the high-priesthood.

Finding how availing money was with the young monarch, Jason gave a further sum for liberty to erect a gymnasium at Jerusalem, for the celebration of Grecian games in the holy city; and to build an academy for teaching youth the sciences, after the manner of Greece; and for power to make such Jews as he thought fit free of the city of Antioch. The effect of these licenses tended to strengthen the party of the usurper, and at the same time to inflict a terrible blow on the great cause of Jewish nationality and religion. The academies were erected, and Grecian learning cultivated. His gymnasium was so much frequented, that priests neglected their duties at the altar to contend in the games. As these exercises were performed naked, it induced a general desire to avoid the distinguishing mark of Judaism.[141] “The only avowed purpose of these athletic exercises was the strengthening of the body; but the real design went to the gradual changing of Judaism for Heathenism, as was clearly indicated by the pains which many took to efface the mark of circumcision. The games, besides, were closely connected with idolatry; for they were generally celebrated in honour of some pagan god. The innovations of Jason were therefore extremely odious to the more pious part of the nation, and even his own adherents did not enter fully into all his views.”

Robes of the High Priest

So extensively did this impious priest carry out his irreligious and denationalising plans, that he actually sent Jews to contend in the games which were celebrated at Tyre before Antiochus, although they were avowedly in honour of Hercules; transmitting by them, at the same time, a large sum to be presented as a votive offering to the god. The persons entrusted with the present had, however, so much more sound principle than their master, that they presented the money to the Tyrians for building ships of war.

About this time Antiochus, aware that the king of Egypt intended to attempt the recovery of Judea and Phœnicia, in making a tour of these provinces, went to Jerusalem, where he was received by Jason with great splendour.

This apostate high priest had now laboured for three years to destroy the Jewish constitution and religion, when he found himself the victim of villainy similar to that which he had himself practised. It being the time to remit the annual tribute to Antioch, he sent it by the hand of his younger brother, Onias, who, carrying out in his own case the prevailing desire to merge all Hebrew distinctions in an accommodation to Greek customs and manners, had taken the name of Menelaus. This person, in his intercourse with the Syrian king, instead of discussing those subjects with which he had been charged by his brother, availed himself of every opportunity of insinuating himself into the good graces of the king; and having to some extent succeeded, he ventured to bid a much larger sum than Jason had paid as tribute, and was accordingly invested with the high-priesthood. Thus did the unworthy descendants of Israel barter away the interests of their country; and, instead of uniting their energies to make Judea strong and respectable in the eyes of surrounding states, they looked at nothing but the gratification of their own low and sordid passions.

Menelaus returned to Jerusalem with his commission, where, as he was supported by the powerful sons of Tobias, he soon found himself at the head of a formidable party. But, notwithstanding this, Jason had sufficient[142] strength to resist his pretensions; and the people being disgusted with his infamous treachery, he was obliged to return to Antioch. Here, the further to commend himself to the favour of the king, he and his friends solemnly abjured the Jewish religion, and engaged to bring the whole Hebrew people to take the same course, and to assimilate their manners and institutions in all respects to the model of the Greeks. On making these promises, he obtained a military force, which being unable to resist, Jason fled to the country of the Ammonites, leaving to the still more apostate Menelaus the government of Jerusalem. He proceeded to carry out his engagement with the imperial court in all but one particular—he neglected to send the tribute which he had promised to pay. After having been repeatedly reminded of his obligation in vain, he was summoned to Antioch, where he soon found that the amount must at once be paid; but the temporary absence of the king at the moment of his arrival gave him time to send orders back to Lysimachus, his deputy at Jerusalem, to abstract as many of the golden vessels from the temple as would suffice to raise the money. By these means he realised enough to pay his debt, and, besides, to make large presents to Andronicus, to whom Antiochus had entrusted the direction of affairs in his absence. But this fact coming to the knowledge of Onias, the deposed high priest, who resided in exile at Antioch, he complained so severely of this conduct, that an insurrection of the Jews residing in the capital was seriously apprehended, in consequence of their anger against Menelaus. At his instance, therefore, Andronicus murdered the pious ex-high-priest under circumstances of the greatest baseness and atrocity. This sacrilegious conduct was equally fruitful of mischief at Jerusalem; for although Lysimachus had three thousand men under his command, so enraged were the populace when they heard what had been done, that they attacked him and his guards, and, having slain many, pursued him into the temple, where he was destroyed.

[170 B.C.]

On the return of Antiochus to Antioch, he was informed of the death of Onias by the hand of Andronicus; and, wicked as he was, he was so affected at the enormity of this crime, that he ordered that officer to be taken to the spot where he had committed the murder, and there to suffer the penalty of death.

These collisions and murders had brought Jerusalem into great trouble and difficulty, and rendered the rule of Menelaus hateful to the people. While the Jewish capital was in this distracted condition, Antiochus visited Tyre. The Jewish sanhedrim took advantage of the proximity of the king to Jerusalem to send three persons thither, for the purpose of explaining the unhappy circumstances of the Jewish people, and of showing that this was attributable to the conduct of the high priest. They acquitted themselves so well in this duty, that Menelaus, unable to defend himself, had recourse to his usual weapon, bribery: by this means he gained over the king’s favourite, Ptolemy Macron, who not only induced the monarch to acquit the high priest, but also to put the deputies to death.

This afforded Menelaus a complete victory; so he henceforth proceeded on in his career of impiety and cruelty, unchecked by inward principle or external power. During this time, while Antiochus was engaged in an expedition to Egypt, on a report being spread that he was killed before Alexandria, Jason, who had been long sheltered among the Ammonites, suddenly appeared before Jerusalem with a band of one thousand resolute men. With this force, by the aid of his friends within the city, he easily obtained admission, and forced Menelaus to retire into the citadel. Being[143] thus in possession of the metropolis, he vented his rage against all those whom he suspected to belong to the party of his brother: this led to the most shocking barbarity, which, however, was soon terminated by the approach of Antiochus.

[170-167 B.C.]

The king, having invaded Egypt with every encouragement and prospect of success, was suddenly arrested in his progress by the presence of Roman ambassadors, who insisted on his immediate retreat, on pain of being declared an enemy to Rome. Not daring to meet the arms of the republic, he sullenly relinquished his prey; and, returning, heard that the Jews had rejoiced at the rumour respecting his death, and were now in a state of insurrection against his authority: he therefore marched directly to Jerusalem. The Jews, aware of his wrath, closed their gates, and defended their city with great vigour; but in vain; they could not resist his army: Jerusalem was taken by storm, and subjected to the most horrid barbarities. The carnage lasted for three days; and it is said forty thousand persons were killed, and an equal number taken for captives and sold as slaves into the neighbouring countries. Elated with his success, he caused Menelaus the high priest to lead him into the temple, even into the most holy place. Here he defiled the sacred vessels, and removed all the gold, valuables, and treasure which had been laid up there, even to the vail of the sanctuary. By these means he obtained one thousand eight hundred talents of gold and silver, besides the gold and vessels which he took from the temple; and with this booty he marched in triumph to Antioch. And as if this butchery and robbery was not a sufficient infliction on the unhappy Jews, he confirmed Menelaus in the high-priesthood, and appointed one Philip, a Phrygian, a most barbarous man, to be governor of the country.

These measures were the commencement of a regular system of tyranny and slaughter. After two years from the spoiling of the temple by Antiochus, he sent Apollonius to Jerusalem, with an army of twenty-two thousand men. He came in a peaceable way, and took up his quarters in the city, until the first Sabbath day, when he sallied out with his troops, ordering them to massacre the men, and make captives of all the women and children. This cruel and unexpected attack on an unarmed population, amid the sanctities of the Sabbath, filled Jerusalem with blood, and was followed by universal rapine; the houses were plundered and demolished, the walls of the city broken down, and a castle built on Mount Zion, which commanded the entrance of the temple; by which means Apollonius obtained entire control over the celebration of worship.

These preparations appear to have been made with the design of carrying out a preconceived purpose of the king. Soon afterwards an edict was published at Antioch, and proclaimed in all the provinces of Syria, commanding the people, throughout the whole empire, to worship the gods of the king, and to acknowledge no religion but his. An old Greek was sent to Judea to enforce this law. Henceforth all the services of the temple were prohibited; circumcision, the keeping of the Sabbath, and every observance of the law, were now made capital offences; all the copies of the sacred books that could be found were destroyed. Idolatrous altars were erected in every city, and the people were commanded to offer sacrifices to the gods, and to eat swine’s flesh every month on the birthday of the king. The temple at Jerusalem was altered and profaned, in accordance with this infamous policy. The sacred building was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus; an image of this heathen deity set up; and, on the altar of Jehovah, another smaller one was erected, on which to sacrifice to Jupiter.


The Jews had never before been subjected to a persecution so directly levelled against all their institutions, and enforced with such diligent and persevering malignity. The execution of these laws was as execrable as their object. Two women, having circumcised their infants with their own hands, being detected, were led through the streets of Jerusalem, with their infants hung about their necks, and then cast from the highest part of the walls of the city, and dashed to pieces. On another occasion a thousand men, women, and children were discovered secretly observing the Sabbath in a cave, and all barbarously put to death by the inhuman Philip.

Great Jewish Altar for making Sacrifices

Antiochus was enraged to find that so many of the Jews resisted his will; and his wrath was perhaps rendered more intense because the Samaritans had readily submitted to his edict, and allowed their temple to be dedicated to Jupiter Xenios, or, “the protector of strangers.” He therefore came in person to Jerusalem, to enforce the law, or extirpate the people. His first victim was Eleazar, a very aged scribe, who, when commanded to eat swine’s flesh, positively refused, and, although ninety years of age, upheld the religion of his God with sterling energy; and, at last, exhorting others to follow his example, died under the lash of the tyrant. A mother and her seven sons, all grown up, acted in the same heroic manner. The young men, refusing to transgress the law, were subjected, in succession, to the most horrid tortures, until every one of them, and, lastly, the mother also, died martyrs for the cause of truth and righteousness.

[167-166 B.C.]

These atrocities produced the results which always follow such deeds, where any manly spirit or nobility of soul remains. Men who had a conscientious regard for the law of their God and the religion of their fathers, and whose minds were not so debased by slavery as to have lost every noble attribute of human nature, would prefer dying in a patriotic resistance to such tyranny, rather than to perish tamely under the power of the tyrant. The man who first dared to adopt this course was an aged priest, named Mattathias, the father of five sons, all distinguished for bodily strength and nobility of mind. When the king’s officers came to the city of Modin, where this family resided, to make the Jews sacrifice to the heathen gods, they invited Mattathias to bring his sons and brethren first to the sacrifice, that the influence of his character and office, as a ruler, might induce others to follow his example; that he might thus be regarded as one of “the king’s friends.” The aged priest indignantly refused compliance, protesting[145] that, if himself and his sons stood alone, they would adhere to the law and ordinances of God. While he was thus declaring his determination, he saw one of the apostate Jews come forth to the altar to offer sacrifice. This flagrant act roused the spirit of the priest: inflamed with zeal, he ran towards the culprit, and, in the sight of all the people, inflicted on him the punishment which the law denounced against idolatry—he slew him upon the altar. He also killed the king’s commissioner, who had been sent to compel the people to sacrifice, and pulled down the altar; then, running through the city, crying, with a loud voice, “Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him follow me,” he, with his sons, abandoned all the property they had in the city, and went out into the wilderness. They were quickly followed by many others; and, as soon as it was noised abroad, great numbers crowded to their retreat, until Mattathias found himself at the head of a considerable body of men.

Having placed himself and his friends in this position, the venerable priest addressed himself to the arduous duty which he had undertaken with becoming gravity and zeal. The first point which appears to have engaged his attention was, the proper line of conduct which they were bound to pursue with respect to the Sabbath. Hitherto the Jews had always regarded themselves as under a religious obligation to avoid all warlike operations on that holy day. To such an extent had this been carried, that they would not defend themselves, even when attacked. Their heathen foes, therefore, generally selected the sacred day for their assaults, that they might secure their object without resistance. But Mattathias, having considered the subject with his friends, and consulted such learned scribes as he had access to, decided that, although it was not right to provoke a combat on the Sabbath day, it was, nevertheless, their duty, if attacked on that day, to defend themselves, and resist the aggression. This was a most important decision, and had a mighty influence upon the results of the ensuing war.

The general course of proceeding adopted by the aged chief seems, also, to merit particular attention. He did not shrink from engaging any of the Syrian forces that came in his way; but his principal object, or, at least, his immediate design, does not appear to have been the expulsion of the Syrians. As a patriotic soldier, this might have been expected; but as a patriotic priest, he thought it wiser to act differently. He appears to have viewed the humbled and prostrate condition of Israel as the result of the infidelity of the people; and therefore directed his energies to the restoration of the Jewish faith. With this object he marched from town to town, destroying all idolatrous altars, punishing with death, or driving into other lands, those that had apostatised from the faith, recovering the sacred books which had been concealed, and restoring again the law, the worship, and the authority of Jehovah. In these efforts he was eminently successful. Those who had not been circumcised submitted to that rite; and not only was the religious aspect of the country soon greatly improved, but some important advantages were gained over the enemy. When the venerable Mattathias found his end approaching, he exhorted his sons to devote their lives to the holy cause in which they had been engaged, reminding them of the noblest examples in Hebrew history. He then advised them to regard their brother Simon as their counsellor, on account of his wisdom; and Judas he appointed the captain, because of his strength and bravery: him he surnamed Maccabeus, or, “the hammerer.”[6] Thus Mattathias blessed his sons, and died in a good old age.


[166 B.C.]

On the death of his father, Judas took the command of the band which had been gathered together, about six thousand men (2 Maccabees viii. 1); and, as soon as the days of mourning had expired, proceeded to carry on the war. This may be called the war of Jewish independence. From the time of their return from captivity the Jews had been always in entire subjection to Gentile powers. At first they were a part of the Persian Empire; they then passed under the dominion of Alexander; on the division of his kingdom they were subjected to Egypt; and, lastly, had been attached to the Greek kingdom of Syria. Nor is it probable that the Jews would have made any vigorous efforts to obtain freedom and self-government, if they had been ruled with tolerance and moderation. But the boundless cruelty and insane impiety of Antiochus were too much for endurance, by men of such energy and intellect as the Jews. Besides, the time was peculiarly appropriate for such an attempt. The disjointed fragments of the Macedo-Grecian Empire were becoming daily more feeble and disorganised; while the mighty power of Rome was steadily advancing, giving constant evidence of her great purpose and destiny—to govern the world. It was, therefore, the manifest policy of Rome to encourage, rather than to suppress, efforts made by states, subject to the kingdoms of Syria and Egypt, for the purpose of obtaining independence. Under such circumstances Judas commenced his martial career.g


[5] [See also the chapter in the later books devoted to Greece and Alexander.]

[6] [A similar appellation was given to Charles of France, who was surnamed Martel, or, “the hammer.”]

Sepulchre at Siloam, the so-called Monolith



[166-165 B.C.]

The Hebrews had not only their Exodus but also their War of Independence. Their Garibaldi bore the name of Judas, from which his memory should take some of the stain. To this name was added the epithet of “Hammer” or “Maccabæus.”

Hebrew Warrior

(After Bardon)

The ancient Hebrew valour was at last aroused from its deathlike slumber. Those Jews who would rather endure wrong from man than do wrong in the sight of God, were not all willing nor in the long run able to maintain an attitude of patient suffering. They saw that war was not always one-sided, and that when their escape was cut off they must at last be brought by despair to defend themselves. So the sluggish mass gradually became thoroughly leavened, until even cowards took heart, and the national spirit was stirred to its very depths.

This was not to be a war for independence, distorted by priests into a war of faith; but Israel from the start was fighting for its religion, the root of its national existence. This origin of the war ennobled it also in its continuation, when it aimed at and gained political freedom.

The beginning of resistance to the oppression of conscience, the first active opposition to violence, was made by Mattathias, a priest who, to avoid unreasonable demands and persecution, had retired to his birthplace, Modin. But hither came also the servants of the king. When commanded to sacrifice to the heathen gods and thus set a good example to others, Mattathias steadfastly refused. When a Jew prepared to make such a sacrifice before his eyes, he struck him down at the altar, and also slew the Syrian captain. Then he escaped to the mountains with his five sons and his followers. His flight was the signal for many orthodox families to flee to the desert and take up their abode in the caverns of the mountains.

An armed force was sent out against them from Jerusalem. As they would not lift their hands in self-defence on the Sabbath, about one thousand, including women and children, were slaughtered. Then Mattathias took counsel with his followers, and it was decided that henceforth, though they would themselves make no attack on the Sabbath, they would nevertheless, if attacked, defend themselves. As the forces of Mattathias grew, raids were undertaken in all directions, altars were overthrown, newborn[148] boys were circumcised, and apostates and heathen without distinction were punished with the sword.

Within a year Mattathias died (166 B.C.), leaving the leadership to his third son Judas, with his elder brother Simon as adviser.

The conduct of the war could not but gain in rapidity and reckless determination under Judas, who was a man of great personal bravery and had already shown great qualities of leadership. He was very skilful in choosing time and place of battle. He made much use of the night for sudden surprises, setting fire to the enemy’s camp and intimidating the masses of the Syrians. His surname Maqqabi, “the hammer,” was long afterwards applied to the whole family, who at this time were called Asmonæans. Their party called themselves Assideans or Chasidees (the pious).

Apollonius was sent against Judas with a large force, among them auxiliaries from Samaria, which had made peace with Antiochus. He was probably over-confident of his superiority and advanced incautiously, for he was defeated and killed. Judas gained a second victory immediately afterwards. Seron, commander of the Syrian militia, thinking he saw an opportunity to gain honour by suppression of the rebellion, now marched against Judas. Near the pass of Beth-horon he was suddenly attacked on the march by Judas. As he was unable to manage his forces properly they became disordered, were driven down the mountain-side, and fled with great loss to Philistia.

Such tidings from Judea were not calculated to put the king in a good humour, especially as the whole affair came at a most inopportune time for him. An instalment of his war debt to Rome was due; but his treasury had been exhausted by the equipment of his great army, and his income was inadequate, owing to the difficulty of collecting taxes in the remote provinces of the east and to the disruption he had rashly provoked among the Jews. So with half of his army he set out for Persia to collect tribute and raise money by any means possible. The rest of the army was left in command of Lysias, who received peremptory orders to make an end of the Jews, bring foreign settlers into the country, and divide the lands among them by lot. (166 B.C.)

Since the defeat of Seron there had been no force in Judea able to cope with Judas’ little army of six thousand men, and he had remained undisputed master of the country. Philip, the governor, finding himself confined in Jerusalem under the protection of the garrison of the citadel, appealed in distress to Ptolemæus, governor of Cœle-Syria and Phœnicia. The latter perhaps at the same time received orders from Lysias. He sent out an army under Nicanor and Gorgias, which was augmented by Syrian and Philistine militia to a strength of perhaps twenty thousand men. Nicanor, confident of victory, had proclaimed in the coast cities that he would sell Jewish slaves at one talent each; so there were many traders with money and chains in the train of the army which encamped at Emmaus, fifteen Roman miles from Jerusalem.

Judas and his followers saw that there would be a decisive battle. Unable to implore divine help in the temple at Jerusalem, they assembled in an old sanctuary at Mizpah, fulfilled their religious duties as far as possible, and opening the “Book of the Law” for a prophecy, obtained the watchword “Eleazar,” “God hath stood by.” Judas organised his army and purged it of its weak elements in accordance with the Law, his force being thus reduced to only about three thousand men.

Meanwhile the enemy had approached the foot of the mountain south of Emmaus. Gorgias set out by night with foot and horse to surprise Judas.[149] But the latter got news of the movement, and Gorgias found the camp empty. At daybreak Judas stood face to face with the main army, now weakened by the absence of Gorgias’ division. Without hesitation he began the attack. The Syrians were utterly defeated, and driven to the south and west. When Gorgias returned, he saw the camp burning from afar, and the Jews, whom their leader had forbidden premature plundering, drawn up in battle array against him. At this sight, the courage of his men deserted them, and they took to flight. The Syrian general hastened directly across country to Antioch to report the wretched outcome of the campaign. The Jews, returning from pursuit, found immeasurable booty in the enemy’s camp.

For this year the war was at an end. In the following year (165 B.C.), however, Lysias himself, at the head of a much greater force, crossed to the east of Jordan, and marched around the Dead Sea into Idumæa, in order to attack and crush his opponent from the rear. But on the boundary near Bethzur he found his way barred by Judas with an army of ten thousand men. The resistance offered by the Jews was so stubborn that Lysias was obliged to give up the whole undertaking as hopeless. He set out on his return to Antioch, with the intention of raising a still larger army and again trying his luck. He took the same route by which he had come. Judas, following closely, and harassing him continually, was victorious in a number of battles, and after taking the city of Jaser returned to Judea.

Judas now proceeded with all his forces to Jerusalem, in order to restore the temple and the orthodox worship of God. The garrison in the citadel was harassed and worried by incessant attacks. All traces of heathen worship were wiped out, the great altar was rebuilt with new stones, and new sacred vessels were procured. On the anniversary of the day when, three years before, the altar had first been desecrated by heathen sacrifice, the first orthodox worship was held again as the beginning of an eight days’ dedication festival.b

This ceremonial has been enthusiastically described by the patriotic Josephus: “When, therefore, the generals of Antiochus’ armies had been beaten so often, Judas assembled the people together, and told them that after these many victories which God had given them, they ought to go up to Jerusalem, and purify the temple, and offer the appointed sacrifices. But as soon as he, with the whole multitude, was come to Jerusalem, and found the temple deserted, and its gates burnt down, and plants growing in the temple of their own accord, on account of its desertion, he and those that were with him began to lament, and were quite confounded at the sight of the temple; so he chose out some of his soldiers, and gave them order to fight against those guards that were in the citadel, until he should have purified the temple. When therefore he had carefully purged it, and had brought in new vessels, the candlestick, the table (of shew-bread), and the altar (of incense), which were made of gold, he hung up the veils at the gates, and added doors to them. He also took down the altar (of burnt-offering), and built a new one of stones that he gathered together, and not of such as were hewn with iron tools. So on the five and twentieth day of the month Kislev, which the Macedonians call Apelleus, they lighted the lamps that were on the candlestick, and offered incense upon the altar (of incense), and laid the loaves upon the table (of shew-bread), and offered burnt-offerings upon the new altar (of burnt-offering). Now it so fell out, that these things were done on the very same day on which their divine worship had fallen off, and was reduced to a profane and common use, after[150] three years’ time; for so it was, that the temple was made desolate by Antiochus, and so continued for three years. This desolation happened to the temple in the hundred forty and fifth year, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Apelleus, and on the hundred and fifty-third olympiad: but it was dedicated anew, on the same day, the twenty-fifth of the month Apelleus, in the hundred and forty-eighth year, and on the hundred and fifty-fourth olympiad. And this desolation came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given four hundred and eight years before; for he declared that the Macedonians would dissolve that worship (for some time).

[165-164 B.C.]

“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them, by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.”c

The news of the Jews’ military successes had been received by their enemies with fierce wrath; those who had been so lately scourged by Judas were breathing revenge; and now the report of the restoration of the Jewish religion made their cup full. The heathen peoples all about fell upon their Jewish neighbours, so that defence had continually to be made on all sides, and Judas was unable to lay down arms at all.

Finally the Assideans decided in council to divide their army into three parts. Simon with three thousand men was sent into Galilee to drive out the enemies there. Judas and his brother Jonathan with the main army were to cross the Jordan to the aid of the besieged garrison in Gilead, while the remaining force was to defend Judea from attack. Simon completed his task first. Victorious in numerous battles, he drove the forces of the heathen out of the district and brought the Jewish population of Galilee in safety to Judea.

[164-163 B.C.]

Judas, with his usual rapidity of movement and promptness in availing himself of opportunities, overran the whole district of Gilead, winning battle after battle and siege after siege, and destroying temples and altars as well as fortifications. With regard to the Jews of Gilead he pursued the same policy that Simon had carried out in Galilee, leading them across into Judea, where he could the more easily defend them from the raids of the heathen. The Jewish armies returned home crowned with victory, and the country was left in peace for a short time, unmolested by the Syrian government, which had its hands full with its own affairs after the death of King Antiochus on his Persian campaign. (164 B.C.)

The warrior Judas was now in such honour among his people that he could assume the leadership in time of peace. He had now to consider the reorganisation of the unsettled commonwealth. Support had to be provided for the families brought from Galilee and Gilead, not an easy task, as the following year was a sabbatical one. Furthermore, the hostile citadel beside[151] the temple remained a thorn in the side of Israel. At first Judas had only time to attend to the collection of the scattered sacred books.

[163-162 B.C.]

In 163 he began the siege of the citadel. Some of the garrison escaped and were joined by recreant Jews, who went to Antioch to make complaint against their own people. On the death of Antiochus Epiphanes his son, the child Antiochus, surnamed Eupator, had succeeded to the throne. The regency, to which the father had appointed Philip, had been seized by Lysias. In him the messengers from Jerusalem found a willing listener, for he was not likely to forget how he had been put to shame two years before. Besides, the new kingdom could not allow itself to be defied.b

The death of the relentless Antiochus Epiphanes could not but seem to the Israelites a divine dispensation. So we find Josephus explaining it and declaring that it was not because of his sacrilege towards the Persian Diana, but towards the Hebrew Yahveh. His account of this event and his stirring picture of the following conflicts we quote at some length.a

“About this time it was that King Antiochus, as he was going over the upper countries, heard that there was a very rich city in Persia, called Elymais; and therein a very rich temple of Diana, and that it was full of all sorts of donations dedicated to it; as also weapons and breast-plates, which, upon inquiry, he found had been left there by Alexander, the son of Philip, king of Macedonia; and being incited by these motives, he went in haste to Elymais, and assaulted it, and besieged it. But as those that were in it were not terrified at his assault, nor at his siege, but opposed him very courageously, he was beaten off his hopes; for they drove him away from the city, and went out and pursued after him, insomuch that he fled away as far as Babylon, and lost a great many of his army; and when he was grieving for this disappointment, some persons told him of the defeat of his commanders whom he had left behind him to fight against Judea, and what strength the Jews had already gotten. When this concern about these affairs was added to the former, he was confounded, and, by the anxiety he was in, fell into a distemper, which, as it lasted a great while, and as his pains increased upon him, so he at length perceived he should die in a little time; so he called his friends to him, and told them that his distemper was severe upon him, and confessed withal, that this calamity was sent upon him for the miseries he had brought upon the Jewish nation, while he plundered their temple and contemned their God; and when he had said this, he gave up the ghost. Whence one may wonder at Polybius of Megalopolis, who, though otherwise a good man, yet saith that ‘Antiochus died, because he had a purpose to plunder the temple of Diana in Persia’; for the purposing to do a thing, but not actually doing it, is not worthy of punishment. But if Polybius could think that Antiochus thus lost his life on that account, it is much more probable that this king died on account of his sacrilegious plundering of the temple at Jerusalem. But we will not contend about this matter with those who may think that the cause assigned by this Polybius of Megalopolis is nearer the truth than that assigned by us.

“However, Antiochus, before he died, called for Philip, who was one of his companions, and made him the guardian of his kingdom; and gave him his diadem, and his garment, and his ring, and charged him to carry them, and deliver them to his son Antiochus; and desired him to take care of his education, and to preserve the kingdom for him. This Antiochus died in the hundred forty and ninth year; but it was Lysias that declared his death to the multitude, and appointed his son Antiochus to be king (of whom at present he had the care), and called him Eupator.


[162-161 B.C.]

“At this time it was that the garrison in the citadel at Jerusalem, with the Jewish runagates, did a great deal of harm to the Jews: for the soldiers that were in that garrison rushed out upon the sudden, and destroyed such as were going up to the temple in order to offer their sacrifices, for this citadel adjoined to and overlooked the temple. When these misfortunes had often happened to them, Judas resolved to destroy that garrison; whereupon he got all the people together, and vigorously besieged those that were in the citadel. This was in the hundred and fiftieth year of the dominion of the Seleucidæ. So he made engines of war, and erected bulwarks, and very zealously pressed on to take the citadel. But there were not a few of the runagates who were in the place, that went out by night into the country, and got together some other wicked men like themselves, and went to Antiochus the king, and desired of him that he would not suffer them to be neglected, under the great hardships that lay upon them from those of their own nation; and this because their sufferings were occasioned on his father’s account, while they left the religious worship of their fathers, and preferred that which he had commanded them to follow: that there was danger lest the citadel, and those appointed to garrison it by the king, should be taken by Judas and those that were with him, unless he would send them succours. When Antiochus, who was but a child, heard this, he was angry, and sent for his captains and his friends, and gave order that they should get an army of mercenaries together, with such men also of his own kingdom as were of an age fit for war. Accordingly an army was collected of about a hundred thousand footmen, and twenty thousand horsemen, and thirty-two elephants.

“So the king took this army, and marched hastily out of Antioch, with Lysias, who had the command of the whole, and came to Idumæa, and thence went up to the city Bethzur, a city that was strong, and not to be taken without great difficulty. He set about this city, and besieged it; and while the inhabitants of Bethzur courageously opposed him, and sallied out upon him, and burnt his engines of war, a great deal of time was spent in the siege; but when Judas heard of the king’s coming, he raised the siege of the citadel, and met the king, and pitched his camp in certain straits, at a place called Bethzachariah, at the distance of seventy furlongs from the enemy; but the king soon drew his forces from Bethzur, and brought them to those straits; and as soon as it was day, he put his men in battle-array, and made his elephants follow one another through the narrow passes, because they could not be set sideways by one another. Now round about every elephant there were a thousand footmen and five hundred horsemen. The elephants also had high towers (upon their backs), and archers (in them); and he also made the rest of his army to go up the mountains, and put his friends before the rest; and gave orders for the army to shout aloud, and so he attacked the enemy. He also exposed to sight their golden and brazen shields, so that a glorious splendour was sent from them; and when they shouted, the mountains echoed again. When Judas saw this, he was not terrified, but received the enemy with great courage, and slew about six hundred of the first ranks. But when his brother Eleazar, whom they called Auran, saw the tallest of all the elephants armed with royal breast-plates, and supposed that the king was upon him, he attacked him with great quickness and bravery. He also slew many of those that were about the elephant, and scattered the rest, and then went under the belly of the elephant, and smote him, and slew him; so the elephant fell upon Eleazar, and by his weight crushed him to death. And thus did this man come to his end, when he had first courageously destroyed many of his enemies.


“But Judas, seeing the strength of the enemy, retired to Jerusalem, and prepared to endure a siege. As for Antiochus, he sent part of his army to Bethzur, to besiege it, and with the rest of his army he came against Jerusalem; but the inhabitants of Bethzur were terrified at his strength; and seeing that their provisions grew scarce, they delivered themselves up on the security of oaths that they should suffer no hard treatment from the king. And when Antiochus had thus taken the city, he did them no other harm than sending them out naked. Fie also placed a garrison of his own in the city; but as for the temple of Jerusalem, he lay at its siege a long time, while they within bravely defended it; for what engines soever the king set against them, they set other engines again to oppose them. But then their provisions failed them; what fruits of the ground they had laid up were spent, and the land being not ploughed that year, continued unsowed, because it was the seventh year, on which, by our laws, we are obliged to let it lie uncultivated. And withal, so many of the besieged ran away for want of necessaries, that but a few only were left in the temple.

“And these happened to be the circumstances of such as were besieged in the temple. But then, because Lysias, the general of the army, and Antiochus, the king, were informed that Philip was coming upon them out of Persia, and was endeavouring to get the management of public affairs to himself, they came into these sentiments, to leave the siege, and to make haste to go against Philip; yet did they resolve not to let this be known to the soldiers or the officers; but the king commanded Lysias to speak openly to the soldiers and the officers, without saying a word about the business of Philip; and to intimate to them that the siege would be very long; that the place was very strong; that they were already in want of provisions; that many affairs of the kingdom wanted regulation; and that it was much better to make a league with the besieged, and to become friends to their whole nation, by permitting them to observe the laws of their fathers, while they broke out into this war only because they were deprived of them, and so to depart home. When Lysias had discoursed thus with them, both the army and the officers were pleased with this resolution.

“Accordingly the king sent to Judas, and to those that were besieged with him, and promised to give them peace, and to permit them to make use of and live according to the laws of their fathers; and they gladly received his proposals; and when they had gained security upon oath for their performance, they went out of the temple: but when Antiochus came into it, and saw how strong the place was, he broke his oaths, and ordered his army that was there to pluck down the walls to the ground; and when he had so done, he returned to Antioch.”c

The defenders of the temple had, however, possessed no authority to make a treaty for others. Judas and the Assideans were not bound by it nor included in it. So negotiations had to be continued after the withdrawal of the hostile army. The principal in these negotiations seems to have been the notorious Menelaus, who had been made high priest by Antiochus Epiphanes, and whose shameless plundering and desecration of the temple had been one of the main causes of the popular uprising. During the progress of the negotiations, Lysias, apparently fearing that Menelaus might undermine his influence with the king, accused him of being the cause of all the mischief and had him put to death. As the execution of this wretch seemed to give proof that Lysias and the king sincerely desired peace, an agreement was soon arrived at.


Demetrius, the uncle of Eupator, who had for years been held as a hostage at Rome, now managed to make his escape. Landing at Tripolis with a small force, he soon got control of the army, and was thus easily enabled to take possession of the government. He had the young king and Lysias put to death, and assumed the royal title (162 B.C.). Immediately Jews of the Hellenistic party under the leadership of Alcimus, an aspirant for the high-priesthood, approached the new king with complaints of the Assideans. As Alcimus had been guilty of heathen excesses, Judas and his followers had denied him access to the altar which they had restored. Demetrius listened to his complaint, appointed him high priest, and sent a considerable force under Bacchides to establish him in office by violent means. The learned aristocracy were disposed to come to terms with Alcimus; and as the services of the temple were no longer interfered with by the soldiers of the citadel and religion was not threatened with any disturbance, Judas could not reckon upon sufficient support to resist the command of the king in violation of the treaty.

So Bacchides led Alcimus without opposition to Jerusalem, transferred the government of the country to him, and left a body of troops for his protection. Alcimus sought to strengthen his hold on his position; but proving faithless to the learned caste, sixty of whom he caused to be put to death, he soon began to lose influence, and the Assideans again got the upper hand. Alcimus finally found his position quite untenable and journeyed to Antioch a second time.

It was probably during this time that Judas sent an embassy to Rome to propose a protective alliance (1 Maccabees viii. 17). This proposal of course had particularly in view protection against Demetrius, for Judas certainly must have known that the Senate was not favourably disposed towards the king. The embassy brought home a treaty which left it to the judgment of each of the two parties as to whether circumstances required the performance of military service. But the assistance of the Jews could not be of much use to Rome at this time; and as the treaty did not bind Rome strongly enough, it was of but little benefit to the Jews. However, the alliance had at least the appearance of reality, and it is likely that the Senate sent Demetrius a warning.

In response to the complaint of Alcimus, the king sent a strong force under Nicanor, former master of elephants, to Judea. Although a bitter hater of the Jews, this leader first tried the way of friendly negotiation. Judas consented to a meeting after his brother Simon had suffered a defeat. But Nicanor could not retreat from the demand that Alcimus be acknowledged, and Judas suspecting treachery, withdrew. Soon after this, Nicanor, defeated in a first skirmish, vented his ill-humour on the priests, whom he suspected of Assidean sympathies. In spite of their burnt-offerings for the king, he derided and insulted them, and threatened to destroy the temple upon his return.

[161 B.C.]

A battle took place at Adasa, not far from Guphna. Nicanor was reinforced by Syrian militia and impressed Jews, but neither could have been a very reliable kind of troops, so that it was probably necessary for the general to set an example of great bravery. After a severe conflict, Nicanor fell fighting gloriously; his troops turned in flight, and were pursued a day’s journey with great slaughter. (161 B.C.) The head and arm were cut from Nicanor’s body and exposed in Jerusalem; and that day was long annually celebrated as the “day of Nicanor” (2 Maccabees xv.).


But the land was not to enjoy peace long. Such a triumph of rebellious subjects was not easily overlooked. The king once more placed his reliance in the faithful Bacchides, who was now sent a second time with Alcimus. Passing through Galilee to Jerusalem without opposition, he reinstalled Alcimus and then marched to Berea in search of Judas. The latter was encamped at Elasa, a place which, like Berea, appears to be situated in the mountain wastes of southern Judea. Judas, then, had chosen a position in a wild mountainous region, and there he was attacked. The sight of the hostile army disheartened Judas’ followers, and only eight hundred remained by him. Nevertheless, Judas would not yield to the superior force but inspired his handful of men to desperate battle. The position was favourable to defence, and flight was probably impossible except to individuals.b

For the account of the last brave fight of Judas we turn again to the pages of his countryman, Josephus.

“Now when Judas was deserted by his own soldiers, and the enemy pressed upon him, and gave him no time to gather his army together, he was disposed to fight with Bacchides’ army, though he had but eight hundred men with him; so he exhorted these men to undergo the danger courageously, and encouraged them to attack the enemy. And when they said they were not a body sufficient to fight so great an army, and advised that they should retire now and save themselves, and that when he had gathered his own men together, then he should fall upon the enemy afterwards, his answer was this: ‘Let not the sun ever see such a thing, that I should show my back to the enemy; and although this be the time that will bring me to my end, and I must die in this battle, I will rather stand to it courageously, and bear whatsoever comes upon me, than by now running away, bring reproach upon my former great actions, or tarnish their glory.’ This was the speech he made to those that remained with him, and whereby he encouraged them to attack the enemy.

“But Bacchides drew his army out of their camp, and put them in array for the battle. He set the horsemen on both the wings, and the light soldiers and the archers he placed before the whole army, but was himself on the right wing. And when he had thus put his army in order of battle, and was going to join battle with the enemy, he commanded the trumpeter to give a signal of battle, and the army to make a shout, and to fall on the enemy.

“And when Judas had done the same, he joined battle with them; and as both sides fought valiantly, and the battle continued till sunset, Judas saw that Bacchides and the strongest part of the army was in the right wing, and thereupon took the most courageous men with him, and ran upon that part of the army, and fell upon those that were there, and broke their ranks, and drove them into the middle, and forced them to run away, and pursued them as far as to a mountain called Aza: but when those of the left wing saw that the right wing was put to flight, they encompassed Judas, and pursued him, and came behind him, and took him into the middle of their army; so not being able to fly, but encompassed round about with enemies, he stood still, and he and those that were with him fought; and when he had slain a great many of those that came against him, he at last was himself wounded, and fell, and gave up the ghost, and died in a way like to his former famous actions. When Judas was dead, those that were with him had no one whom they could regard (as their commander); but when they saw themselves deprived of such a general, they fled. But Simon and Jonathan, Judas’ brethren, received his dead body by a treaty from the enemy, and carried it[156] to the village Modin, where their father had been buried, and there buried him; while the multitude lamented him many days, and performed the usual solemn rites of a funeral to him.

“And this was the end that Judas came to. He had been a man of valour and a great warrior, and mindful of all the commands of their father Mattathias; and had undergone all difficulties, both in doing and suffering, for the liberty of his countrymen. And when his character was so excellent (while he was alive), he left behind him a glorious reputation and memorial, by gaining freedom for his nation, and delivering them from slavery under the Macedonians. And when he had retained the high-priesthood three years, he died.”c


If ever praise was deserved by any soldier-patriot, it was earned by the noble-minded Judas Maccabæus. His sphere of action did not place nations at his feet, or give him an opportunity of marshalling myriads; yet, making a proper estimate of his small resources and his great achievements, the Hebrew hero, during the six years of his martial career, will not be disparaged, when placed in comparison with any warrior whose deeds have been heralded by history, or formed the theme of poetic inspiration.

[161-153 B.C.]

After the death of Judas, the apostate Jews, under the protection of the Syrians, again recovered strength, and were placed by the Syrian general in possession of all offices of trust throughout the country; while, at the same time, no mercy was shown by Bacchides to any one who was known to have been a follower of Judas. In this crisis those who still adhered to the worship of Jehovah, and were willing to hazard their lives in his cause, gathered themselves together, and made Jonathan, the youngest brother of Judas, their captain. Under his command they withdrew to the wilderness. Bacchides retired to Antioch, and the Jews had two years of tranquility.

Jonathan and his friends did their utmost during this interval to strengthen their cause and increase their numbers, until they had become so formidable, that the apostate Jews sent to inform Demetrius, king of Syria, of their growing strength, and to invite him to cut them off. Bacchides was accordingly sent again into Judea with his army; but Jonathan, having discovered the design of the apostate Jews to seize his person, and deliver him up to the Syrian general, had fifty of the principal conspirators put to death. This prevented the others from attempting anything. The forces of Jonathan did not enable him to meet Bacchides in the field. He therefore retired to Bethbasi, a fortified place in the wilderness, which he repaired, and put into such a posture of defence, that the utmost efforts of the Syrians could not reduce it. Bacchides, enraged at his failure, raised the siege, and in his wrath put to death many of those Jews who had invited him to undertake this disastrous campaign. On his retiring from Bethbasi, Jonathan sent an embassy after him, with proposals of peace, which were accepted, and sworn to by both parties.

[153-142 B.C.]

The affairs of Syria now afforded some prospect of good for the Jewish people. Demetrius Soter having made himself obnoxious to the surrounding states, and given himself up to luxury, a young man of obscure birth was put forward, who pretended to be the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, and as such laid claim to the Syrian throne. Having, by means of this external support, raised an army and made himself formidable under the title of[157] Alexander Balas, Demetrius was aroused from his sloth. In those circumstances, the rival parties saw the importance of winning over the Jews. Demetrius therefore sent to Jonathan, offering to make him governor of Judea, and ordering all the hostages detained in the citadel of Jerusalem to be released, giving him at the same time full power to levy troops. By using this letter, Jonathan obtained the release of the hostages, and the retirement from Judea of all Syrian garrisons, except that of Bethzur, and the citadel of Zion, which were still held for the Syrians, but which were occupied chiefly by apostate Jews.

Alexander Balas was not behind his rival in his offers. He called Jonathan his friend and brother, sent him a golden crown and a purple robe, and appointed him to the high-priesthood. Jonathan accepted these presents, and entered upon his office as high priest; he did not, however, openly commit himself to either party.

Demetrius, upon hearing of this, became still more extravagant in his offers; and in an epistle which has been preserved by Josephus, he endeavoured to outdo Balas in the extravagance of his promises. All this was vain: the Jews could not forget what they had suffered, and ultimately gave their hearty support to Balas, who, having defeated and slain his rival, ascended the throne. The affairs of Syria, however, were at this time too uncertain and troubled to allow an occupant of the throne repose: a short time sufficed to dispossess Balas, and place Demetrius Nicator, son of the preceding king, at the head of the government.

While these changes were taking place in Syria, Jonathan again invested the citadel of Zion. Notice of this being sent to Nicator, he summoned Jonathan to meet him at Ptolemais. The Jewish chief obeyed the mandate; and not only succeeded in justifying his conduct, but so pleased the Syrian king that he placed under the government of Jonathan several districts which had previously belonged to Samaria. Jonathan, having returned to Jerusalem, pressed the siege of the citadel; but finding it impregnable, he petitioned Demetrius that the garrison might be withdrawn. The king happened to be at this time in great distress: the citizens of Antioch having raised an insurrection against him, he solicited aid from the Jewish chief. Jonathan complied, and sent three thousand chosen men, who restored the city to obedience; when the faithless king, freed from danger, not only refused to withdraw the garrison, but insisted upon the payment of the tribute which he had previously remitted. By this conduct he completely alienated the Jews from his cause; nor did much time elapse before an opportunity offered for manifesting this alienation.

Trypho, who had administered the affairs of Syria under Alexander Balas, managed to obtain the custody of a son of his, who had been consigned to the care of an Arab chief. With this powerful element of rebellion, he soon collected an army, and appeared against Demetrius. So readily was his cause espoused, that Demetrius was defeated, and compelled to retire into Seleucia. The young prince then assumed the government, under the profane title of Antiochus Theos, “the God.”

[142 B.C.]

As Jonathan had great cause to be dissatisfied with Demetrius, he joined Antiochus, who, in return, confirmed him in possession of all his dignities and privileges. In consequence of this arrangement, Jonathan fought several battles with the soldiers of Demetrius, with varying success. At this time, however, he sent another embassy to Rome, which was kindly received, and dismissed with marks of friendship. The two brothers, Jonathan and Simon, exerted themselves, in this season of comparative tranquillity, to put the[158] fortresses of the country in the best condition, and to prepare for any future circumstances. Nor was it long before dark reverses crossed their way. Trypho had used Antiochus only as a means to work out his own personal and ambitious views. But he now found the way so opened, that Jonathan, the Jewish high priest, was the only apparent obstacle to his views. He accordingly devised a plan for getting this hero into his power, and, under pretence of adding Ptolemais to his dominions, Jonathan was induced to go there with only one thousand men. But immediately on their entering the gates, his men were cut in pieces, and he thrown into chains.

This was a terrible stroke to the rising cause of Jewish liberty. But Simon, the remaining brother, broke its force by taking on himself the command of the army and the direction of affairs; so that, when Trypho, immediately on the capture of Jonathan, marched into Judea, he was met by Simon with such an imposing force, that the Syrian general durst not hazard a battle. Trypho then pretended that his object in seizing Jonathan was to obtain the payment of one hundred talents, due for tribute; and that if this sum was sent him, and Jonathan’s two sons as hostages, the chief should be released. Although Simon distrusted these statements, he sent the money and the young men. The perfidious Syrian received the hundred talents, and retained both Jonathan and his sons in captivity; and being compelled to retire into Gilead, he there put the noble Jonathan to death.

Simon now formally assumed the command of the army, and the high-priesthood, and sent ambassadors to inform the Senate of Rome of his accession, and of the fate of his brother. They were received with every demonstration of honour, and returned with a treaty between Rome and the Jewish priest. During this time Demetrius had still maintained the war with Trypho; and Simon and the Jewish people, being greatly incensed against the murderer of Jonathan, thought the friendship of Demetrius preferable to intercourse with such a perfidious person. They accordingly sent a present of a golden crown to Demetrius, with overtures of peace.

This measure was the means of restoring the Jews to political independence. Demetrius at this moment so greatly needed the aid of the Jews in his war with Trypho, and was so pleased with their voluntary adhesion to him, that he accepted their present, consented to bury in oblivion all past differences, recognised Simon as high priest and prince of the Jews, and relinquished all future claims on the Jewish people; and these grants were published as a royal edict. Thus did Judea again take its place among the independent nations of the earth.d

Coins of Ancient Judea




From the decayed Syrian kingdom, whose king, Demetrius, was languishing in imprisonment in Parthia, the Jewish people had no serious danger to fear. So Simon, as prince and high priest, ruled the land wisely and justly for several years. He restored the national religion everywhere, had coins struck with his name, and took suitable measures for the welfare and the safety of the people. And when Antiochus, the brother of the imprisoned king, demanded again the tribute to which Demetrius had relinquished claim, and took the field upon Simon’s refusal, John, the son of Simon, who had been appointed general by his father, inflicted a defeat upon the Syrian army at Ashdod. (139 B.C.)

Jewish Tomb, Judea

Now Simon ruled like a second David over the liberated land. The Jewish people in solemn assembly named him “Commander-in-chief and unimpeachable prince of the nation, with the right of conferring all the dignities and offices in the kingdom and of forever exercising supervision over sacred affairs,” and a record of this plebiscite was set up in the sanctuary. Simon strengthened the alliance with Rome, promoted agriculture and commerce, and honoured justice and the fear of God.

Simon sought the best interests of his people, “as that evermore his authority and honour pleased them well,” says the first Book of Maccabees. (xiv. 4, etc.)[160] “Then did they till their ground in peace, and the earth gave her increase, and the trees of the field their fruit. The ancient men sat all in the streets, communicating together of good things, and the young men put on glorious and warlike apparel. He provided victuals for the cities, and set in them all manner of munition, so that his honourable name was renowned unto the end of the world. He made peace in the land, and Israel rejoiced with great joy. For every man sat under his vine and his fig tree, and there was none to fray them. Neither was there any left in the land to fight against them; yea, the kings were overthrown in those days. Moreover, he strengthened all those of his people that were brought low; the law he searched out, and every contemner of the law he took away. He beautified the sanctuary, and multiplied the vessels of the temple.”

[135-126 B.C.]

But Simon’s end was not to be so happy as David’s. His son-in-law, Ptolemæus, whom he had placed in command of the plain of Jericho, was ambitious for the supreme authority. So he invited the high priest with his two sons, Mattathias and Judas, to his house, and slew them at a banquet. This crime, however, brought its perpetrator no advantage. Simon’s son John, surnamed Hyrcanus, escaped the snares of his brother-in-law, and after killing the murderers sent against him, quickly took possession of Jerusalem and the high-priesthood, and after a long siege, took Jericho. Ptolemæus, however, after murdering the imprisoned mother and two brothers of the Maccabæan, saved himself by flight across the Jordan.

Afterwards John concluded a favourable treaty with Antiochus, by which for a moderate tribute and the pledge of military service, he was confirmed in his ancestral dignity and position. With the sums that he took from David’s rifled tomb, John enlisted an army of mercenaries, with which he completed the liberation of the land, extended the bounds of his state on all sides, subjugated Samaria and Galilee, and forced the Idumæans (Edomites) either to accept the Jewish law and be circumcised, or to emigrate.

King Antiochus fell in battle against the Parthians. Against his brother Demetrius, who was released from imprisonment, John protected himself by renewed alliance with the Romans, who now in their accustomed manner held out their protecting hand over the little people on Lebanon until the hour came when they could devour it along with the great state against which they had protected it. (128-126 B.C.)

A consequence of this alliance with Rome was that the Jewish nation once more enjoyed a happy period before its fall. The nearly thirty years’ reign of John Hyrcanus was a period of external peace and internal well-being, when the Jew lived free and unhindered according to the laws of their theocracy, and brought the “holy state” to its full development. Only internal quarrels, caused by the sectarian hatred of the schools and religious parties, and by the race jealousy and pride of orthodoxy with which the Jews looked down upon the Samaritans and Galileans, disturbed the harmony of their relations.


[126-108 B.C.]

When the worship of Jehovah was restored to its rights and external religious pressure ceased, the place of the former sects, the heathenising Hellenists and the orthodox Chasidees (Assideans), was taken by the Sadducees and Pharisees, two schools of religious brotherhoods which followed the same tendencies, only with less roughness and without violent means of conversion. The Sadducees, named after their founder Zadok, made the attempt “in teaching and precept to amalgamate the Greek wisdom of the time with the Jewish nature, not in order to destroy the latter, but to uplift and advance it.” Consisting of the wealthier and more aristocratic part of the people, they aimed at greater freedom in life and thought, put a less strict construction upon the Mosaic Law and tried to bring it more into harmony with Greek customs, teachings, and mode of thought. Under the[161] influence of Greek philosophy they took the ground that there is no higher fate which unalterably predestines all human affairs, and especially that God neither does evil nor controls it; that good and evil, human weal and woe, depend solely upon man’s own choice, and upon his knowledge or his ignorance. A further step brought them to the denial of immortality and eternal reward, as well as of the actual existence of angels and spirits.

In contrast to the Sadducees were the Pharisees (i.e., “the particular”), who claimed to be distinguished from others by their greater piety. They originated in the ranks of the Chasidees (“the pious”), and held strictly to the law and the prophets. But they regarded with greatest care and solicitude the letter and the wording of the law, and thus through arbitrary and forced interpretation, they produced a great mass of directions, commandments, and petty definitions of external sanctimoniousness, upon the observation of which they set great value. In this way they fell into hypocrisy and mock holiness.

Acting on the principle: “Build a fence about the law,” they saw in the restriction and limitation of action a sign of orthodox piety. “Driven by ambition, and more or less consciously indulging their own selfishness, the Pharisees made piety a kind of trade, in order by it to gain permanent power.” They wore certain signs, e.g., little rolls on arm or neck inscribed with words from the sacred law; and they sought by the “appearance of piety” to draw the people to them. “Living poor in the sight of the world, many of them, nevertheless, did not despise the treasures and pleasures of the world.”

A third sect, called the Essenes or Essees, like the Pharisees descended from the Chasidees, believed God was best served and their own salvation promoted by separation from the world and its indulgences, by the curbing of all passions and lusts, by abstinence from wine, meat, and oil, and by pious penances and common devotion. They dwelt in groups on the west side of the Dead Sea, carried on agriculture, cattle raising, and innocent, peaceful occupations. As the individuals renounced private property, they brought both possessions and profits together into a common treasury for common use. All members of the order wore the same garb; only a few believed in marriage. As overseers of the poor and physicians, they earned the gratitude of mankind. “Their external forms, their division into three successive, strictly separated degrees, their admission and strict investigation of pupils, with the vow of secrecy, their solemn oath upon reception into the last degree with the requirement henceforth to refuse all oaths—many of these things may appear to be copied from the Pythagoræan societies; but after all that would only be something chance and unimportant beside the nature of their efforts themselves. At all events, they are the noblest and most remarkable product that ancient religion brought forth without attempting to go beyond itself.”

Related to the Essees, only a “refinement and improvement” of them, were the Egyptian Therapeutæ, of whom the Jewish-Alexandrian author Philo gives an enthusiastic description. As among the former, we find among the latter also “community of life and labour in deserts, close conformity to Holy Scriptures and allegorical interpretation of them. But the common labour becomes here merely a common spiritual exercise in the true fear of God and veneration of the great lawgiver Moses in contemplative rest.” The Therapeutæ lived in small companies about a house of prayer, but on Sabbaths and feast days they united for greater services. Their principal seat and place of assembly was in the desert by Lake Mareotis[162] west of Alexandria. Women were also received in the order, “at the meetings modestly taking their places beside the ranks of men. Besides the expounding of the sacred books and edification out of them, prayers and fasting were their daily business, with bread, salt, and hyssop as the most suitable nourishment. Moreover the actual spiritual exercises readily rose to new and characteristic songs and poetic creations of various kinds.” The “Book of Wisdom” appears to be one of the finest fruits of this spiritual tendency.

[108-65 B.C.]

The Maccabæan family, which had showed itself so great in time of need and distress, degenerated in good fortune. Before his death John Hyrcanus bestowed the secular princely dignity upon his wife, while the high-priesthood went by right of inheritance to his eldest son Aristobulus. Hardly had the latter taken possession of his office, however, when he assumed the title of King, imprisoned his mother and let her starve to death. He also kept three of his brothers in durance; the fourth, Antigonus, fell a victim of a court cabal before his very eyes. These deeds, however, awakened the conscience of the royal high priest, who was not without feeling, and so tormented him that he died the very next year. (108 B.C.)

His brother Alexander Jannæus now stepped from the cell to the throne. He was a rough man, who took pleasure only in women, wine, and arms, and began his reign with the murder of one of his brothers. He was brave and warlike, and during the twenty-seven years of his reign extended the boundaries of the kingdom to the south. The Pharisees, however, who were angered with him for his preference for Hellenistic manners, aroused the people against him. At the Feast of Tabernacles, while sacrificing at the altar as high priest, he was pelted with citrons. Enraged at this disgrace, the violent man had six thousand of the people apprehended and killed by his mercenaries.

This hasty deed was to bear evil fruits for him. On a campaign against the Arabians he lost the greater part of his army through an ambush. When he returned to the capital a fugitive, the Pharisees stirred up the people to civil war, raised troops, and called on the king of Syria for aid. Alexander Jannæus was defeated and for a long time wandered about helpless in forest and mountains. But after a while he again got together a mixed force of Jews and mercenaries, gained a victory over his enemies, and returned to Jerusalem. Here, while celebrating the most voluptuous feasts, he had eight hundred crucified and their wives and children slaughtered before their eyes. By these bloody deeds he inspired such terror in his opponents that they thenceforth attempted no further resistance. He could now follow his lust of conquest unhindered. And his arms were in fact so victorious beyond Jordan that at his death the Jewish kingdom had almost the extent it had in the days of David. (79 B.C.)

Jannæus’ widow, Alexandra, a wise and determined woman, by the advice of her late husband, attached herself to the Pharisees and thus obtained a quiet reign, her son Hyrcanus occupying the high priest’s office. She defended the conquered lands, and in spite of an army of foreign mercenaries, had a full treasury. But scarcely had she closed her eyes when her son Aristobulus, at the head of the persecuted Sadducees, raised the banner of revolt, was victorious in battle, and compelled his brother to abdicate in his favour the high priestly dignity together with the royal power. (70 B.C.) But after some time Hyrcanus, at the suggestion of the sly and enterprising Idumæan, Antipater, escaped from Jerusalem and with the aid of several Arabian chiefs began war against his brother.



[65-47 B.C.]

This gave the Romans, before whose tribunal the quarrelling Asmonæans brought their case for decision, an occasion for intervention. Pompey, whom Aristobulus, by the costly gift of a golden vine had tried in vain to gain for his side, demanded the surrender of all fortresses, including the capital. And when the royal high priest hesitated and made preparations for war, he had him imprisoned, and took Jerusalem by storm after a three months’ siege. (63 B.C.) Then he appointed Hyrcanus high priest and prince of the nation (ethnarch) without the royal title, imposed upon him annual tribute to the Romans, demolished the walls of Jerusalem and the principal fortress of the land, and narrowed the boundaries of Judea. Samaria became independent, Galilee was attached to the viceregency of Syria. Pompey’s curiosity led him to enter the Holy of Holies, but he refrained from all violation or spoliation. Aristobulus and his two sons followed the general to Rome to adorn his triumph. After a while the elder son Alexander, and soon afterward, the father also made their escape. They returned to Palestine and raised a new war, but both were captured again. Alexander was beheaded at Antioch; Aristobulus was put out of the way in Rome itself, probably by poison, but was buried at Jerusalem with royal honours.

[47-40 B.C.]

During these events the brave and shrewd Idumæan Antipater had rendered the Romans great services, thus winning the favour of all the generals from Pompey to Cæsar. They transferred to him the entire secular authority over Judea, together with Galilee and Samaria, while Hyrcanus the high priest was restricted to the guidance of religious affairs. Through him the Jews were granted the right to live in accordance with the laws of their fathers, were freed from all burdens of war and the tribute was put upon a just and moderate basis. By these services Antipater won the love of the Jews in such a degree that he could rule in the land like a king, even though he did not bear that title.b

With Weber’s theory that Antipater was popular, George Smith does not agree. But we shall turn from Antipater to note the rise of that dark name in Jewish chronicle, King Herod.

Antipater carefully conformed to the views of Cæsar in arranging the affairs of Judea. He raised again the walls of Jerusalem, journeyed through the country, used every means to repress the lawlessness and disorder which the late troubles had engendered, and, by alternate persuasion and power, reduced the people to obedience. To carry out this plan, he made his eldest son, Phasael, governor of Jerusalem, and his second, Herod, governor of Galilee. The latter was a young man of extraordinary talent and spirit. He devoted himself with great ability to the difficult duty which devolved upon him. Galilee was at this time greatly infested with bands of robbers: Herod sought them out, and all that fell into his hands he put to death, even including Hezekiah, their leader. The government of Antipater and his sons was not popular with the Jewish people; for all saw that, although Hyrcanus was the nominal head, restored by Pompey, the Idumæan was really the chief. This was unpalatable: the people preferred Aristobulus. When, therefore, Herod was found acting in this decisive manner, he was summoned before the sanhedrim, to answer the charge of having arbitrarily exercised the power of life and death. The young man, under the advice of his father, appeared in their court, bearing with him a letter from the prefect of Syria, charging Hyrcanus, the president of the sanhedrim, to protect him. He presented himself, however, more like a prince than a criminal.[164] He was attired in purple, with hair neatly dressed, and surrounded with his guards. This appearance confounded the Jewish elders. Even those who had preferred the charge against Herod did not now dare to repeat it, and he was thus virtually acquitted; when Sameas arose, and, protesting at length against their cowardice, affirmed, that if they thus spared Herod, the time would come when he would not spare them. This roused the assembly; but Hyrcanus adjourned the business, and then advised Herod to withdraw; and thus the case terminated.

About three years afterwards, while Judea was progressing in order and wealth, Julius Cæsar was assassinated in the capitol, and the Roman world again convulsed, from its centre to its circumference.

Immediately after this event, Hyrcanus sent ambassadors to the Roman Senate, requesting a confirmation of all the privileges and immunities which had been given by Cæsar; a request which was immediately granted. While Rome and the provinces were in the utmost perplexity as to the result of pending arrangements, Antipater was most ungratefully poisoned by Malichus, a Jewish general, who soon after was put to death for the crime, at the instance of Herod, by Cassius Longinus, who then wielded the Roman power in Syria and Asia Minor. This circumstance, as Malichus was popular with many, increased the dislike of the Jews to Herod; and they petitioned Marc Antony, who soon after came into Syria, against him; but in vain: the address of Herod, in showing the services which his father had rendered to the Roman cause, warded off all danger, and secured him the protection of this triumvir.

Urgent necessity, however, called Antony into Italy; and Syria and the neighbouring kingdoms—having lately been subjected, in rapid succession, to the rapacity and extortion of Dolabella, Longinus, and Antony; and knowing that Rome was at war with Parthia, and that they were, in consequence, likely to be subjected to a repetition of these evils—agreed to invite the Parthians to come and occupy these countries. This was done. Syria and Asia Minor were occupied; and Antigonus, the surviving son of Aristobulus, was seated on the Jewish throne, with the title of king, under the protection of Parthia. In the course of these events, Hyrcanus and Phasael were made prisoners. The former had his ears cropped, and was thereby rendered incapable of ever being high priest again; the latter killed himself in prison. Herod contrived to escape; and, having placed his family and treasures in safety, fled to Rome.


[40-4 B.C.]

When Herod reached the imperial city, he fortunately found Antony and Octavius there on friendly terms. He therefore renewed his friendship with the former, who received him very cordially, introduced him to Octavius, and stated how very useful Antipater had been to Julius Cæsar in Egypt. Herod was, therefore, patronised by both these great men, who held in their hands, at that moment, the political destinies of Rome and of the world. When the son of Antipater had fled as a fugitive to the imperial city, his highest hope was to get Aristobulus, a grandson of Hyrcanus, and brother to Mariamne, to whom he was espoused, placed upon the throne, with himself as minister, or procurator, under him. In this way his father had wielded all the power of Judea; and he hoped, at that time, for no higher dignity. But, being received with such marks of distinction, and promising Antony further sums of money, he was, by the favour of these two arbiters[165] of the affairs of nations, himself raised to the throne. The senate was accordingly convened, and Herod introduced to the conscript fathers by two noble senators, who set forth the invaluable services rendered by his father to the Romans; and, at the same time, declared Antigonus, who then governed at Jerusalem, to be a turbulent person, and an enemy to their nation; while Antony pointed out the importance of having a fast friend to Rome on the throne of Judea during his approaching expedition against Parthia. The Senate hereupon unanimously elected Herod to the throne, and voted Antigonus an enemy of Rome.

The whole of these proceedings was evidently conducted upon the presumption that Judea was either a recognised province of the Roman Empire, or, at least, entirely dependent upon the imperial state. But what follows is yet more strange. Considering the entire peculiarity of Jewish manners and religion, it might have been supposed, even if the Senate had made the appointment, that the inauguration of the king would have been in accordance with the rites of the nation to be ruled. But, no! Immediately, upon the vote of the fathers, Herod was conducted by Antony and Octavius into the capitol, and there consecrated king, with idolatrous sacrifices. Having thus far secured the object of his highest ambition, Herod remembered that the affairs of his family and kingdom did not justify a protracted stay at Rome: he therefore departed from the city at the expiration of seven days; and, by a rapid journey, reached Judea just three months after he had left it.

Here, although beset with difficulties, he found a fair field; the Parthians had, during his journey, been driven from Syria, which was again occupied by Roman troops. His first care was to collect an army, with which, and some aid from the Roman general, he made himself master of Galilee. Following up this success, he marched to the relief of his family, who were closely besieged by Antigonus. In this object he also succeeded; and, after a series of dangers and exploits, he became master of all the country, and shut up Antigonus in Jerusalem. Yet, notwithstanding the utmost efforts of Herod, it was not until his rival had reigned three years that he was able, when supported by a Roman army, to reduce the capital, which was at length taken by assault, and subjected to fearful massacre and pillage from the Roman troops, who, enraged at the obstinacy of the defence, continued the slaughter after all resistance had ceased; and at length Herod had to pay a large sum of money to save Jerusalem from being destroyed. Antigonus was taken and put to death by the Romans as a malefactor.

Herod was now seated on the throne of Judea, the first of a new dynasty. Hitherto the Asmonæan or Maccabæan family had really or nominally governed. With Hyrcanus and Antigonus this line had ended; and Herod, who was not a Jew, but an Idumæan by nation, and professedly a Jewish proselyte in religion, was, by the favour of Rome, invested with supreme authority over the Jewish people. From the first elevation of Antipater, the cause of his family was unpopular; and it was only the consummate sagacity of that person, in attaching himself to the oldest branch of the Asmonæan family, which enabled him to carry out his purpose. Herod felt this throughout his career. It was this which kept Antigonus so long upon the throne; it was this which caused the son of Antipater so much difficulty, when possessed of the object of his ambition.

Fully aware of the state of the public mind, his first care, after having recovered Jerusalem, was the extermination of the Asmonæan family. Although he had married Mariamne, the daughter of Hyrcanus, this seemed in no wise to soften the violence of his political hate. All those Jews who[166] had supported Antigonus were proscribed, forty-five of the principal of them were slain; all their property was confiscated, and seized by the king; all the gold, silver, and valuables found in Jerusalem were taken for his use; and thus, with the exception of a small part of the people, the land was treated like a conquered country. Influenced by this jealousy of the Asmonæans, Herod found an obscure priest of Babylon, who was descended from the ancient high priests of Israel. Him he raised to the high-priesthood, although his wife’s brother was of age, and heir to the office. He also cut off the whole sanhedrim, except Sameas and Pollio.

The superseding of Aristobulus in the high-priesthood created an element of discord and misery in the family of Herod, which ultimately destroyed his peace. Herod’s intimacy with Antony introduced his family to the infamous Cleopatra. Alexandra, the mother of Mariamne and Aristobulus, by her influence with this queen, and her intercession with Antony, induced Herod to cancel his appointment. Ananelus was set aside, and Aristobulus inducted into the high-priesthood. But this young man was received with such marks of favour and affection by the people, whilst officiating at the ensuing feast of tabernacles, that all the jealous enmity of Herod was again blown into a flame, and the heartless king soon after caused the young priest to be drowned whilst bathing. Cleopatra, informed of this crime, used her utmost influence with Antony to have Herod slain. Besides the gratification of vanity and revenge (for she had attempted in vain to seduce Herod), she greatly desired the possession of Judea; but as Antony was equally in want of money to sustain him in his contest with Octavius, Herod supplied him, and continued to reign.

After the fall of Antony, Herod waited upon Octavius, and by his frank and candid deportment secured the friendship of the sole governor of the great Roman Empire. Prior to this time, Herod had lured the aged Hyrcanus from his captivity in Parthia, and, after placing him in close surveillance for several years, had him beheaded. The future course of Herod was violent, miserable, and vile. He laboured, on the one hand, to make his kingdom great, and his country magnificent; but his means of effecting this were most atrocious: while, on the other hand, his conduct to his family was suspicious and cruel.

In his public life he consolidated his power, and raised Judea to a state of wealth and prosperity which it had not before attained for centuries. Having by the most sanguinary means cut off the last of the Asmonæans, he built a theatre in Jerusalem, and a spacious amphitheatre in the suburbs. All kinds of heathenish games were introduced. Musicians, players, courses, gladiators, and wild beasts, were exhibited in the holy city. And it is a circumstance worthy of observation, that there yet existed sufficient zeal for the Divine Law to render all these exceedingly disgusting to a great body of the Jewish people. About this time Herod also rebuilt several important fortresses, and restored Samaria, which had long lain in ruins. He also adorned Jerusalem with a stately palace for himself, which was built of the most costly materials, and of exquisite workmanship.

Yet all these things were performed in a manner and style so foreign to the peculiar genius of the Jewish mind, that, proud as they were of their country, they were by these means more and more alienated from the king. He saw this, and laboured to stem the torrent of public feeling. At one time he wished to introduce an oath of allegiance; but it was so strenuously opposed by the most eminent Jewish doctors, that he was compelled to lay it aside. He then remitted a part of the taxes, professedly on account of[167] several national calamities which had recently fallen upon the country, but really to bid for popular favour: this also was vain. One other course was open to him; and he pursued it. The temple, as then existing, was unworthy of the nation and of the improved state of Jerusalem: he proposed to rebuild it; but so distrustful were the people of his promise and of his religion, that they would not have the old one removed until they saw the materials collected for the new building. After two years of preparation, the old edifice was taken down in parts, as the new one was raised. The holy place was finished in eighteen months, the body of the structure in eight years. This building was erected in the Greek style of architecture, and of the most costly and beautiful marble and other material; and the great work appears to some extent to have produced a better state of feeling between the Jews and their king.

Yet, during all these works, Herod’s domestic course was one of continued misery and crime. As if the blood through which he had waded to the throne, and the numerous victims which in these times of turbulence and war were sacrificed to his ambition, were not sufficient to satiate his sanguinary nature, his lovely wife Mariamne, after having borne him two sons, was doomed by his order to perish on the scaffold, the victim of the most groundless jealousy and cruel conspiracy. He endeavoured to bury this crime in oblivion by other marriages, but in vain. Intense suspicion haunted all his thoughts; a morbid apprehension of evil destroyed every acquisition, and turned all the members of his family into foes. Under this influence, after years of disquiet, he condemned his two sons by Mariamne to death. It were useless to attempt the history of this family at greater length. Herod married ten wives, eight of whom bore him children. This was not the least amongst the causes of his domestic misery.d

[4 B.C.]

Herod willed his dominion to his two sons, Herod Antipas and Archelaus, and after some delay they entered into their inheritance. Archelaus was ethnarch over Samaria, Judea, and Idumæa, which he misgoverned so grossly that the exasperated Jews complained to Rome (6 A.D.). Augustus deposed and banished his faithless servant, putting a procurator over the dominions.a

Sebaste, in Samaria





In Judea the position of the Roman procurators was one of great difficulty. The Jews were the most restless of all the peoples of the empire. The most inoffensive measures wounded their religious susceptibilities. Thus the general census made by Quirinus, governor of Syria, at the command of Augustus, seemed to them a menace and a danger. Long ago, in the reign of David, a similar measure had evoked murmurs amongst them; it was worse still under foreign rule. They persuaded themselves that the object of the census was to reduce them to slavery. A certain Judas, surnamed the Gaulonite or the Galilean, stirred up a revolt, which was suppressed by the procurator, but the partisans of Judas, who were afterwards known as the Zealots, formed a sect which played an important part during the last days of Jewish history. According to them, the law forbade the Jews to recognise any sovereign except God, and it was their duty to die rather than submit to a human authority. This perpetual confounding of religion and politics was often extremely troublesome to the Romans. Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, having brought into Jerusalem Roman ensigns adorned with the portrait of Tiberius, the Jews complained loudly at the offence, and betook themselves to Cæsarea, where the governors resided, to demand the removal of the ensigns. He surrounded the malcontents with his troops, but they offered their throats to the knife, declaring that they would rather die than endure the desecration of the Holy City. Pilate gave way, and afterwards, by the express command of Tiberius, removed the golden shields which bore in their inscriptions the names of the gods of the empire. Another time, desiring to build an aqueduct to bring water to Jerusalem, he took money from the temple treasury, and there was another riot on that score.

[33 A.D.]

The rule of the Romans, like that of the Seleucidæ before them, made the Jews fall back upon their Messianic dreams. In these the Bible played the leading part. The prophets of old had merely been religious and popular tribunes; nevertheless, by the aid of fanciful interpretation they succeeded in making them soothsayers. They were made to predict the supremacy of the Jewish nation over all others; by taking some sentences of their writings apart from the context the people discovered allusions to their future deliverer, their Messiah. Like all mythological types, this ideal figure of the Messiah grew more and more clearly defined. But at the same time it assumed a loftier significance, it became purely moral in character. In face of the vastness of the Roman power, a warrior king like David would not have been enough; what was needed was rather a revealer, like Moses, to set up the kingdom of God upon earth. The Messiah, in this supernatural rôle,[169] was bound to exercise a far greater effect upon the people; but any kind of revolution, whether violent or mystical, must always inspire the ruling classes with equal abhorrence. The Jewish priesthood implored the aid of the secular arm against Jesus of Nazareth, as it had done against Judas Maccabæus. Pilate being loth to put an innocent man to death in order to gratify priestly spite, they gave him to understand that his own position would be compromised by indulgence, and he yielded for fear of losing his office. Moreover, it is likely that the death sentence caused him no great remorse; no doubt he said to himself that it was the price of maintaining order, and that in dealing with an enemy to society there was no constraining need to be just. This event, which divides the history of the world in two, passed unmarked by the generation that witnessed it. The five or six lines which we find in Josephus appear to be an interpolation. If Josephus had believed, as the passage states, that Jesus was the Messiah and that he was more than man, it is obvious that, instead of remaining a Jew, he would have become a Christian.b

The excerpt from Josephus is as follows: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works—a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

As has just been said, this paragraph is probably an interpolation of a copyist of a much later period. It would seem, then, that no contemporary record, no mention even, of the life of Jesus has been preserved to us. This fact is one of the most striking paradoxes in all history. As a general rule, it may be taken for granted that the great names in history are achieved during the life of their bearers. But here, speaking purely from the standpoint of the historian, was an obscure personage, whose entire theatre of action, so far as known, consisted of the petty state of Palestine, at that time one of the minor dependencies of Rome. The period of activity of this personage as an historical character compasses but a few years; and it would appear that during his life his deeds were practically unknown beyond the bounds of the petty state in which he lived. Yet the historical result of these activities was more momentous, even from a strictly secular standpoint, than the deeds of any other character of history. A new era, recognised by the chief civilisations of the world, dates from his birth; and whole libraries of literature are devoted to every aspect of his life, in strange contrast to the paucity of contemporary records.

There is no occasion to chronicle here the incidents of the life of Jesus. To every reader of these pages these incidents have been familiar from childhood. As there is no contemporary source to quote, at best we could but paraphrase the scriptural accounts, to which every reader may turn for himself.a


Beyond the borders of Palestine, where they held their ancient glories in perpetual remembrance, the Jews gave less thought to their Messiah. In[170] the Greek cities whither they had been allured by commerce, at Ephesus, Cyrene, and above all, Alexandria, they tried to gain acceptance for their traditions and their monotheism under the warranty of the Sibyls; they composed apocryphal writings in somewhat tame verse, or studied Greek philosophy. The monistic theories of Plato attracted them most strongly to his school, and Philo makes amazing efforts, by dint of moral allegorising, to discover Platonic teachings in Genesis. The word, λόγος, which signifies both the reason of things and human speech, became the starting point of a kind of abstract mythology; and among the Hellenistic Jews the idea of the Word assumed an importance equal to, and a character hardly less personal than, that of the Messiah among the Jews of Palestine. From one of these groups Christian legend was destined to arise, from the other Christian philosophy. The Persian doctrine of the principle of evil, the Egyptian doctrine of the resurrection of the body, had already become familiar to the Jews; Christianity adopted them and made them the basis of a vast mythological edifice, the Fall and Redemption, the great Judgment Day of God, and the coming of His kingdom upon earth after the destruction of the world, which was placed in the immediate future. The dispersion of the Jews throughout all the eastern provinces of the empire offered a vast field to Christian propaganda, which, however, soon spread beyond the Jewish race, when once the innovating party had definitely rejected circumcision, the distinction between clean and unclean meats, and all the trivial and troublesome practices which separated Israel from other nations. The Jewish element was soon submerged by the rising tide of world-wide proselytism known as the calling of the Gentiles.

The introduction of Christianity into Greece is associated with the name of a Jew, St. Paul, just as the introduction of the Dionysiac mysteries is with that of the Thracian Orpheus. It is a divine seed come forth from the East, after an interval of fifteen centuries, and developing in the fructifying rays of the sun of Greece. But Christianity, although it represents the last phase of the progressive invasion of the West by oriental beliefs, is an original religion and not a heresy of Judaism. Far from being the supplement of the Jewish faith, we might rather call it its denial. The dominant note of Judaism is the attitude at which it places the conception of the Divine; between man and his God the distance is infinite. Christianity, on the contrary, had for its fundamental dogma the worship of the God-man. The Jewish religion, alone of all the religions of the earth, confined itself absolutely to this present life, without following man beyond the limits of his earthly destiny; to Christianity the earth is but a temporary place of trial, and life a preparation for eternity. The Jewish nation prides itself on the exclusive inheritance of the Law and casts forth the multitude of the uncircumcised from its midst; while Christianity proclaimed itself the universal religion from the beginning, and has never ceased to call men of all nations to itself. The Christians borrowed nothing from Judea but its traditions and its legends; had they rested satisfied with these, they would have been no more than a small Jewish sect that would have passed away unnoted. Judaism is one of the tributaries of the great Christian river, but it is not its principal source. In its apotheosis of humanity Christianity has a direct link with Hellenism, of which it is the legitimate successor.

The doctrines of the Fall, the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, all have their source in the most ancient beliefs of Indo-European peoples; which explains why the Jews so obstinately hold[171] aloof from it. The true heir of Jewish thought is Islamism, the modern religion of the Semitic race. By depriving Christianity of its Greek elements, by setting aside the idea of the incarnation of the Divine in humanity, which spanned the gulf between God and man, Mohammed restored Semitic monotheism to its pristine severity, tempered only by belief in the devil and in a future life, which the Jews themselves had ended by accepting.

[37-41 A.D.]

At Rome, whither all men seeking their fortunes drifted, the Jews were very numerous, and insinuated themselves among all classes, especially among women, exploiting their credulity by interpreting dreams and selling philtres and amulets. They were generally confounded with Chaldeans and other venders of horoscopes. A lady of rank, whom they had converted to their religion, having had reason to complain of their sharp practices, Tiberius enlisted four thousand Jews, whom he sent to Sardinia. A grandson of Herod, Agrippa by name, who had squandered his fortune in profligate courses and lived by his wits, insinuated himself into the good graces of the young Caligula. During a walk which they took together, Agrippa said aloud, “When will the day come on which the death of old Tiberius will leave thee master of the empire, for my happiness and that of the world?” The words were repeated to Tiberius by a freedman, and Agrippa was put in prison. Caligula, who became emperor soon after, set him at liberty and gave him the tetrarchy of his uncle Philip (who had died shortly before), with the title of King. But the ambitious Herodias could not endure to see her brother, whom she had formerly assisted out of her bounty, win a higher rank than her husband. At her instigation Antipas proceeded to Rome to solicit the diadem. It was an evil day for him; Agrippa accused him of having laid up a store of arms and of holding communication with the Parthians; Caligula, without deigning to inquire into the matter, banished him to Lyons in Gaul, and added his tetrarchy to Agrippa’s kingdom.

The new king soon had an opportunity of rendering signal service to his co-religionists. Caligula desired to have divine honours paid him. This was no new thing; Alexander had caused himself to be worshipped, like the ancient kings of Egypt, the majority of his successors had followed his example; the Cæsars might well do as much. It was a logical result of monarchy; when one man is set above the rest, it is easy for him to fancy himself a god. The Jews alone, to their eternal honour in history, had courage to protest against this apotheosis of tyrants that disgraced the end of the Old World. When orders had been given to place the emperor’s statue in the temple of Jerusalem, the attitude of the Jews became so menacing that Petronius wrote to the emperor asking him to revoke the command, which could only be carried into effect by the extermination of the whole people. Agrippa was at Rome at the time. He gave a magnificent banquet to Caligula, and when the emperor, inflamed with wine, offered to extend his kingdom, he entreated him to respect the religious scruples of his subjects. The emperor yielded, but when he received Petronius’ letter he flew into a violent rage, accused the governor of having taken bribes from the Jews, and threatened him with the imperial vengeance. Fortunately for Petronius and the Jews, Caligula was soon afterward assassinated by Chærea, one of his officers. The Senate was desirous of restoring the republic, but the prætorian guard, composed of Germans, offered the throne to Claudius, the uncle of Caligula. According to Josephus, it was Agrippa who persuaded him to accept, and served as[172] intermediary between the Senate and the army. Chærea was put to death. Claudius had no sooner assumed possession of the empire than he added Judea, Samaria, and some districts in the Lebanon, to the kingdom of Agrippa. The principality of Chalcis was bestowed upon his brother Herod.

[41-44 A.D.]

Agrippa, having thus become king over the whole of Palestine, proceeded to Jerusalem, and hung in the temple a golden chain which Caligula had given him when he came out of prison. Like Herod, his grandfather, he set up a great many monuments, he enlarged Jerusalem considerably, and built an amphitheatre at Berytus, where he instituted gladiatorial shows. But while Herod had never been able to win popularity, Agrippa gained the affections of the Jews by showing himself a strict observer of the Law. Munk, who takes the story from the Rabbis, tells how, at the Feast of the Tabernacles, he read the Book of Deuteronomy in public, and, coming to the passage in which the lawgiver denies a foreigner the right of reigning over Israel, he burst into tears, remembering his own Idumæan descent. But from all sides the people cried to him, “Fear not, Agrippa, thou art our brother!” It was undoubtedly to please the priests at Jerusalem that he put James, the brother of John the Evangelist, to death; for the Jews, when they were in the ascendant, were very far from allowing others the religious liberty which they everywhere claimed for themselves. Christian preaching might be attended with more or less success among the communities of Jews or Jewish proselytes settled elsewhere than in Judea; but at Jerusalem, where memories of independence still survived, no man could be acknowledged as the true Messiah who had failed to deliver his nation from foreign oppression, and the new sect could not take root in the country that had been its cradle. Moreover, the little church at Jerusalem was very inoffensive, and the Book of Acts does not tell us on what pretext James was beheaded. Simon Peter, the chief of the Apostles, whom Agrippa had cast into prison, was delivered by night, and his deliverance was ascribed to angelic agency. This miraculous deliverance of St. Peter forms the subject of one of Raphael’s finest pictures.

[44-52 A.D.]

At Agrippa’s death, which took place a short time after, his son, also named Agrippa, was only seventeen years of age. In spite of his youth the emperor was desirous of letting the kingdom of Judea descend to him, but was unfortunately dissuaded from his purpose by his advisers. The tetrarchy of Philippi was afterward bestowed on Agrippa the Younger, but Judea fell finally under the rule of procurators. Of all the provinces of the empire it was the most difficult to govern. The others accepted Roman dominion. In exchange for their independence Rome offered civilisation to Spain and Gaul, peace and quiet to Greece and Asia, wearied as they were by centuries of war. But the Jews understood Græco-Roman civilisation no better than the Mohammedans understood our own, and as for peace, they would accept it only on the condition that they should be over all other nations: that was what they understood by the kingdom of God.

Their Messianic dreams haunted them more and more persistently. The land was full of visionaries, and they always found disciples. A prophet named Theudas induced more than four hundred persons to follow him into the wilderness by declaring that he would cause them to pass dry-shod over Jordan. Fadus, the procurator, despatched a body of horsemen, who slew him and dispersed his following. The author of the Acts, who placed the said Theudas before the time of Judas the Gaulonite, indicates the comparison generally made between the preaching of these two agitators and[173] that of the Apostles. Roman governors and Jewish lovers of order saw no great difference between men inspired and robbers. Tiberius Alexander, a renegade Jew of Alexandria, who succeeded Fadus in the government of Judea, crucified two sons of Judas the Gaulonite, who were still upholding the sect of the Zealots. As for the populace, they were well disposed to all attempts, but among innovators they liked those who adopted violent measures better than those whose methods were peaceable; thus, as the Gospel relates, Barabbas was preferred to Jesus.

Samaria, like Jerusalem, had its prophets and its messiahs. In the days of Pontius Pilate there was one who gathered together a great multitude on Mount Gerizim, promising to show them the sacred vessels which had been buried there by Moses. Pilate punished these wretched people so severely that Vitellius, governor of Syria, compelled him to go to Rome, there to exculpate himself before Tiberius. In the reign of Claudius one Simon of Gittha taught in Samaria with great success a subtle form of theology borrowed from the Judæo-Egyptian schools of Alexandria, which subsequently reappears in the mythological doctrines of Christian Gnosticism. He assigned the principal rôle in it to himself, giving himself out to be an incarnation of the great power of God, though he acknowledged the divine mission of Jesus. He averred that in him, Simon, God had revealed himself to the Samaritans in the character of the Father, as he had revealed himself to the Jews in the crucifixion of the Son, and to the Gentiles by the gift of the Holy Ghost. The doctrine of the Trinity, perhaps borrowed from Egypt, has become a part of Christianity, but Simon appears to have given a place in it to the Feminine Principle, probably represented by the Holy Ghost, that name being feminine in Hebrew. Wherever he went he took with him a very beautiful woman, whom he had bought in the market at Tyre. Her name was Helen, and Simon, identifying her with Homer’s Helen, deduced from the name a mystical scheme of redemption for the Eternal Feminine. It was the time when Christianity was first preached, and the Apostles were credited with miraculous powers of healing by the laying on of hands. A prophet ought to work miracles, and Simon was accordingly anxious to purchase their methods, and proposed that they should work together. The invincible repugnance of the Jew for the Samaritan made them repel his advances with scorn. A legend grew up in the Christian church about the name of Simon, surnamed Magus, who became the type of all charlatans, and the name of simony has since been given to all traffic in holy things.

The reciprocal antipathy of Jews and Samaritans was a source of embarrassment to the Roman government. Some Galileans, on their way to Jerusalem for the feasts, passed through Samaria and quarrelled with the inhabitants. The men of Jerusalem, led by a robber chieftain, pillaged Samaria. Cumanus, the procurator, was called upon to intervene, and decided in favour of the Samaritans. The Jews accused him of taking bribes, and appealed first to the governor of Syria and then to the emperor. The young Agrippa, who stood high in the good graces of Claudius, contrived that the Jews should win their suit, and Cumanus was banished.

[52-62 A.D.]

From the government of this same Cumanus, Josephus dates the disorders which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem. He had, nevertheless, treated the religious scruples of the Jews with great consideration, going so far as to inflict capital punishment on a Roman soldier who had torn up a copy of the Pentateuch while engaged in suppressing a riot. The sway of Rome was not oppressive, and the government confined itself to protecting the public peace against adventurers who lived on plunder under the cloak of religion,[174] and fanatics who endeavoured to stir up the people by promising to work miracles before them. One of these induced thirty thousand persons to follow him to the Mount of Olives, that thence they might see the walls of Jerusalem fall at his behest. Felix, the procurator, sent soldiers to disperse the multitudes, and the prophet took to flight. But it was always the same story. “Judea,” says Josephus, “was full of robbers and sorcerers who deceived the people, and not a day passed in which Felix did not punish some of one sort or the other. But the robbers continued to stir up the people to rebel against the Romans, giving over to fire and plunder the villages of those who refused to rejoin them.”

When it might have been imagined that severe repressive measures had delivered Judea from this pest, it reappeared in a yet more formidable shape. At the festivals, when a great concourse of people from all parts were gathered together at Jerusalem, bandits known as sicarii, that is “men of the knife,” mingled with the throng and stabbed their victims, without any being able to see whence the blow came, for the assassins were the first to cry murder. “The first whom they assassinated on this wise,” says Josephus, “was Jonathan the high priest, and not a day passed on which they did not kill several in the same manner. The panic that prevailed throughout the city was worse than the evil itself. Men looked for death at any moment, as in time of war. They saw none approach without trembling, they did not dare to trust their friends. These precautions and suspicions did not put a stop to the murders, so great was the daring of these villains and their skill in hiding themselves.” Josephus does not ascribe anything of a religious character to these assassinations. But according to the author of the Philosophumena (Origenf or St. Hippolytus) the sicarii were identical with the Zealots, and were connected with the sect of the Essenes. “When they hear any of the uncircumcised speak of God and of His law, they seek to come upon him by stealth in a solitary place and threaten to kill him unless he will be circumcised: if he refuses to obey, he is slain. This is wherefore they are called Zealots, and by some sicarii.” Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews accuses Felix, the procurator, of having procured the assassination of the high priest Jonathan by the sicarii, an accusation which he does not repeat in the Wars of the Jews. Felix was a brother of Pallas, the freedman and favourite of Claudius. Tacitus speaks of him in even harsher terms than Josephus. “Claudius made Judea into a province which he abandoned to Roman knights or to freedmen; among these Felix distinguished himself by every sort of cruelty and license, he exercised the authority of a despot in the base spirit of a slave.” The Jews caused him to be accused before Nero, who had succeeded Claudius, but he was saved by the influence of his brother Pallas.

At Cæsarea there was a constant rivalry between the Jewish and the Greek or Syrian part of the population. The Jews were exempt from military service; the Greeks and Syrians, from whose ranks the legions were recruited, were jealous of this inequality. Hence arose taunts on the one side and recriminations on the other, sanguinary quarrels and riots. Finally the two parties sent agents to plead their cause before Nero, who decided against the Jews and deprived them of civil rights. Josephus says that this decree was the cause of the rebellion of the Jews; but it was only the last drop that makes the cup overflow. The rebellion had long been inevitable. It was not induced, like that of Judas Maccabæus, by religious persecution; the Romans allowed the Jews the free exercise of their religion, as they allowed it to all other nations. But the Jews were the chief people in the[175] empire who did not belong to the Indo-European race. There is an incompatibility of temper between that race and the Semitic; we perceive the fact only too clearly in Algeria. The demand for union with the empire, raised after the death of Herod, had proceeded from the Jews themselves. A procurator, even if not beyond reproach, could not possibly be worse than their native kings. Festus, who succeeded Felix, seems to have governed with firmness and prudence. Like his predecessors, he dealt severely with robbers, sicarii, and messiahs. But nothing could allay the fever that had laid hold upon Judea and worked madness in the brain; for there are epidemics in the moral as in the physical order. We cannot lay all the blame on the Romans; their rule secured the peace of the world, a boon which was doubtless worth the sacrifice of the restless and precarious autonomy of a few peoples. But we mourn for Greece, and we may be permitted to mourn for Judea. Nor must we cast a stone at this small and fiery nation, with its obstinate will to live. Depopulated Greece had died of weariness and exhaustion. Judea, overflowing with inhabitants, was about to die in a frenzy of patriotism; it is the worthier death.

[62 A.D.]

In spite of the Roman occupation, the Jewish theocracy found means for tyrannical action. The high priests seized upon the tithes due to the priests, the principal inhabitants of Jerusalem, espoused the cause of the inferior clergy, who were starving; there were fights in the streets, and the Roman government looked on passively, not wishing to meddle with religious matters. They were Agrippa’s affair, since the appointment of the high priests had been left to him. He, though his kingdom did not extend to the northern provinces, resided in Herod’s palace at Jerusalem. He had built a tower, from the height of which the inner court of the temple could be scanned. The priests regarded this as a profanation, and built a high wall, shutting off both the palace and the barracks of the Roman guard. Agrippa and Festus wished to demolish it, but, thanks to the support of the Empress Poppæa, who was a Jewess, or, at least, very well disposed towards the Jews, the priests gained permission from Nero that the wall should remain. After the death of Festus, and before the arrival of Ananus, the high priest convoked the Sanhedrim to sit in judgment on and condemn certain transgressors of the law, and, among others, James, the brother or cousin of Jesus. Hanan belonged to the sect of the Sadducees, which consisted entirely of wealthy people. James was greatly beloved by the poor. The epistle attributed to him, though it preached patience to the latter, contains passages little favourable to the rich. He was stoned. The sentence was illegal, for the high priest had no right to pass sentence of death in the absence of the procurator. Ananus was deposed from his office, but the death of James gave rise to great disaffection, and no doubt contributed to the separation of Christians from Jews. James was one of those who endeavoured to avoid this separation, and the church at Jerusalem, of which he was the head, showed great attachment to the practices of Judaism.

At Rome, the preaching of Christianity had begun in the reign of Claudius, and as it stirred up incessant quarrels among the Jews, which led to the disturbance of public order, the emperor had them all expelled from the city. Suetonius ascribes these scenes of disorder to Christ; it is the first time that we meet with the name in a pagan author, and the phraseology of Suetonius appears to indicate that, in his opinion, Christ was a person who lived at Rome in the time of Claudius: “Judæos, impulsore Christo assidue tumultuantes, Roma expulit.” According to Dion Cassius,[176] the Jews were not expelled from the city, but were forbidden to assemble together. The Christians were confounded with the Jews; the distinction first began to be made under Nero. “They put to the torture,” says Suetonius, “the Christians, a sort of men holding a new and noxious superstition.” A terrible fire, which destroyed more than half of Rome, gave occasion for these tortures. Rumour accused Nero of having set fire to Rome that he might rebuild it in greater beauty; it was even said that during the fire he had gone up into his theatre and sung the destruction of Troy.

“To put an end to these rumours,” says Tacitus, “he sought for guilty persons, and inflicted the most cruel tortures upon persons detested for their infamous practices, who were commonly called Christians. This name they took from Christ, who was condemned to death under Tiberius by the procurator Pontius Pilate. This pernicious superstition, suppressed for the moment, had since overflowed, not only in Judea, where was the source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all crimes and shames meet together. Those were first seized who confessed, and afterwards, on their testimony, a great number of others, who were convicted, less of having set fire to Rome than of hating the human race. Mockery was added to torture; they were wrapped in the skins of beasts to be cast to dogs to devour; they were crucified; they were set alight like torches to give light by night. Nero had offered his gardens for this spectacle, and he mingled with the people in the garb of a charioteer or driving a chariot. Thus these wretches, though deserving of exemplary punishment, inspired pity, for they were not sacrificed to the interests of the public but to the cruelty of a single man.”

It seems as though the Christians must have been safe in their obscurity from the emperor’s notice if it had not been directed to them by some special influence. Gibbon appears to believe that the beautiful Poppæa, the mistress and wife of Nero, and a Jewish comedian who had won his master’s favour, prevented the persecution from spreading to all Jews at Rome by concentrating it on a dissenting sect, in very evil odour with genuine Israelites. Renan goes farther, and thinks that the persecution directed against the Christians may have been excited by the intrigues of the Jews. He bases his opinion upon an ingenious interpretation of a very obscure passage in Clemens Romanus. Against this conjecture we may set the silence of the Apocalypse, which contains no allusion to Poppæa nor to the Neronian persecution. Now, as Renan has demonstrated by a wealth of evidence, the Apocalypse was a direct outcome of this persecution.

Nero is Antichrist and the Beast, and the number 666, which is the number of the Beast, represents the letters of his name, Νέρων Καισαρ, transcribed in Hebrew and added up according to their numerical value. Like the Book of Daniel, written at the time of the great struggle of the Jews with the kings of Syria, the Book of the Revelation is a political and religious pamphlet. The author gives his estimate of the events of his time or expounds his hopes for the future under the figure of prophetic visions and of enigmas to which he sometimes supplies the key. The Jews were extremely fond of this form of literature. The Apocalypse, i.e., the Revelation, ascribed to John, the last survivor of the Apostolic band, was written during the period of anarchy which lay between the death of Nero and the accession of Vespasian. It was the eve of the last agony of Judea; the speedy dissolution of the Roman Empire was expected. A supreme conflict between heaven and earth was about to begin, and would end by the great judgment of God and the reign of his Christ. Nor did the prophet lie; for it was in truth the end of the old world and the birth of the new.b


Jewish Headdresses


[62-67 A.D.]

The Jewish heart had been kindled to a successful revolt under Judas Maccabæus. The memory of this triumph and of the cruelties that had forced it upon the unwarlike people, ripened the national heart for an effort against even the mighty empire of Rome. The struggle was one of the bravest and one of the most horrible in the world’s annals. It found a splendid chronicler in Josephus, who was one of the generals, and fought bravely, and yet, like his Grecian prototype, Thucydides, won his immortality by his pen instead of by his sword. Josephus’ account is, however, a voluminous work in itself, and we must be content with some of the most brilliant pages, turning to Ménard for a briefer sketch of the general story.a

In Judea, the temper of the nation had long given warning of approaching revolt. It broke out at length when Gessius Florus was appointed procurator through the influence of his wife, who was a friend of Poppæa’s. His vexatious measures and rapacity wore out the patience of the Jews; on this point Tacitus is at one with Josephus. Disorders first occurred at Cæsarea on the occasion of Nero’s decree; then the action of Florus in taking seventeen talents out of the temple treasury provoked a riot at Jerusalem. The soldiery spread through the streets, plundering the houses and massacring the peaceable inhabitants, not sparing even women and children; after which the procurator withdrew to Cæsarea, leaving only one cohort in the tower of Antonia. The Zealots promptly occupied the temple precincts. When a government flees before the mob it may safely be predicted that the most excited and violent party will impose its will on the rest. In vain did Agrippa II and his sister Berenice, who happened to be at Jerusalem at the time, endeavour to allay the popular frenzy. They could gain nothing, in spite of the respect felt for the last descendants of the ancient kings. A band of men left the city, seized the fortress of Masada, and massacred the garrison.

The moderate party, composed of the wealthier classes and the priests, would have recoiled from an insensate struggle against the power of Rome, but Eleazar, the leader of the party of action, made the rupture final by refusing to offer in the temple the victims which were wont to be sacrificed there by the emperor’s command for the prosperity of Rome and of the empire. The friends of order sent to entreat Agrippa and Florus to come with all speed to protect them against the rebels. Agrippa sent three thousand horsemen, who took possession of the upper city, while the Zealots, robbers, and sicarii occupied the temple and the lower city. Florus returned no answer. According to Josephus, he wished the insurrection to grow to a[178] head, and, when it was exhausted by its own violence, to extinguish it in blood. Such are the habitual tactics of military leaders in time of revolution. Such deliverers deserve, as Lamennais says, to be execrated in the present and in the future.

The insurgents, who were masters of the temple, refused entrance to the partisans of peace, made their way into the upper city, and set fire to the palace of Agrippa and Berenice. They also burnt the archives, in order to destroy all vouchers of credit and so bring over the debtors to their side. They were commanded by Manahem, the son of Judas the Gaulonite, and by Eleazar, the son of the high priest Ananias, who was one of the principal leaders of the opposite party, for civil war had set division even between members of the same family. The tower of Antonia was taken and burnt by the revolutionaries, who allowed Agrippa’s horsemen to depart unmolested. The Romans, for their part, took refuge in the three towers of the old wall. Ananias, who, with his brother Hezekiah, was found hidden in an aqueduct, was slaughtered by Manahem. Then Eleazar, enraged at the assassination of his father and uncle, stirred up the people against Manahem, who now gave himself the airs of a tyrant. “It was not worth while,” he said to them, “to cast off the yoke of Rome in order to stoop to that of the least among yourselves.” Manahem was stoned in the court of the temple. Such of his partisans as could make their escape took refuge in the fortress of Masada. The Romans asked for terms of capitulation. They were promised their lives, but they had no sooner given up their arms than Eleazar and the Zealots fell upon them and slew them all but one, who consented to be circumcised. The rest died, to a man, without asking for mercy, only crying out upon the sanctity of their oaths. These imprecations filled the people with dire forebodings, all the more so because this perjury had been committed on the Sabbath day.

The same day and hour, as if by the working of divine vengeance, says Josephus, a massacre of the Jews took place at Cæsarea; of twenty thousand men not one was left, for those who escaped were captured by Florus and sent to the galleys. This massacre roused the whole nation to such a pitch of fury that they ravaged the towns and villages of the Syrian frontier, Philadelphia, Heshbon, Gerasa, Pella, and Scythopolis, with fire and sword. They then sacked Gadara, Hippos, and Gaulonitis, burned Sebaste and Askalon, and demolished Anthedon and Gaza. They slew all that were not Jews. Then, as was to be expected, terrible reprisals followed. An epidemic of carnage raged all over southern Syria and extended to Egypt. Every mixed city became a battle-ground. If we are to trust Josephus, the Jews were never the aggressors. That is hard to believe. It is possible that the rabble, seeing Judea rebel against Rome, concluded that they might massacre the Jews with impunity. But it is also very probable that the insurrection had roused to the highest pitch the fanaticism of Jews settled elsewhere than in Judea, and that they were desirous of imitating the exploits of their brethren at Jerusalem. In Alexandria, as a sequel to a discussion in the theatre, the Jews armed themselves with torches and threatened to burn all the Greeks alive. The governor of the city was Tiberius Alexander, the Jewish convert to Hellenism who had formerly been procurator of Judea. He tried to make his compatriots listen to reason, but without success. He was obliged to send for the Roman legions. The Jewish quarter, known as the Delta, was heaped with corpses; Josephus speaks of fifty thousand slain. At Damascus the Syrians cooped the Jews up in the gymnasium and slew ten thousand of them. They had carefully concealed[179] their design from their wives, nearly all of whom professed the Jewish religion.

After they had succeeded in retaking Jerusalem, the Zealots occupied the fortresses of the Dead Sea district. They massacred the Roman garrison of the castle of Cypros, which commanded Jericho; that of Macherus capitulated. At length Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria, determined to take up arms against the insurrection. He started from Antioch with his legions and some auxiliary troops furnished by Agrippa, who accompanied him on this expedition, and by the kings of Commagene and Ituræa. Galilee and the seaboard were subdued, and Cestius advanced to Gabao, two leagues from Jerusalem. The city was full of pilgrims who had come up to the Feast of Tabernacles. Although it was the Sabbath day, an immense multitude marched forth, and the irresistible onset of this troop of anarchists triumphed over Roman discipline. Simon, the son of Giora, one of the bravest leaders of the Zealots, pursued the fugitives and dispersed the Roman rear-guard. Agrippa endeavoured to induce the insurgents to submit by promising them an amnesty in the name of Cestius; one party among the people was desirous of accepting terms, but the anarchists killed the ambassadors. Cestius again advanced upon Jerusalem and took possession of the outskirts of the city. The insurgents had abandoned the new city and fallen back upon the temple. If he had attacked immediately, the war would have come to an end. A member of the family of Ananus, who was at the head of the party of order, offered to open the gates to the Romans; the Zealots flung him from the walls. For five days Cestius endeavoured to storm the temple precincts. The soldiers were at work sapping the walls, sheltering themselves under their shields, in the formation known as the “tortoise” (testudo). The anarchists, losing heart, began to take to flight, and the moderate party were about to open the gates, when Cestius, deceived by false reports, or perhaps seduced by bribery, sounded the retreat, withdrew to Gabao, and—pursued and harassed by the Jews, who killed six thousand of his men—escaped under cover of night, leaving his baggage and engines of war behind.

The partisans of peace, seeing that in spite of their efforts they were embarked upon the conflict, resolved to set themselves at the head of the movement, so as to keep it within bounds if that were still possible. “Ananus,” says Renan, “took more and more the position of head of the moderate party. He still had hopes of bringing the mass of the people over to peaceful counsels; he endeavoured secretly to check the manufacture of arms, and to paralyse resistance while seeming to organise it. This is the most dangerous of all games to play in time of revolution; Ananus was, no doubt, what revolutionaries call a traitor. In the eyes of the enthusiasts he was guilty of the crime of seeing clearly; in those of history he cannot be absolved from the guilt of having accepted the falsest of false positions, that which consists of making war without conviction, merely under pressure from ignorant fanatics.” Among the peace party were some who held aloof lest they should be involved in a destruction which they regarded as inevitable. Such, for example, were some of the Pharisees, and certain doctors, careless of politics and absorbed in the study of the law, the adherents of the Herod family, and the members of the Christian church, who, since the death of James, had begun more and more to regard their cause as distinct from that of the Jews.

Munk, though he says nothing of the rabbis who emigrated to Jabneh before the final struggle, deals somewhat harshly with the Herodians and[180] Christians. “Only such,” he says, “as rated their personal interests above those of their country, or sought the melancholy satisfaction of seeing in its ruin the triumph of their political or religious opinions, fled in the hour of peril. The friends of Agrippa openly betrayed their country by going over to the Roman side and paying court to Cestius and the emperor Nero. Among the fugitives were also the Christian Jews, following the advice given by Jesus Christ to his disciples (Matthew xxiv. 16). Preoccupied with the kingdom of Heaven, which they then seriously looked for, the Christians did not feel it their duty to meddle with earthly matters nor to take part in the defence of their unhappy country; led by Simeon, their bishop, they withdrew beyond Jordan, far from the clash of arms, and sought a refuge in the city of Pella.”

Cestius died, of disease or grief, shortly after his defeat. Nero handed over the command to Vespasian, an experienced general, who had given proof of his military capacity in Germania and Brittany. Vespasian proceeded to Syria by way of Asia Minor, while his son Titus went to Alexandria to fetch two legions and lead them into Palestine. Agrippa and some other petty kings from the country round about, Antiochus of Commagene, Sohemus, and Malchus the Arab, brought auxiliary troops to Vespasian, and at the end of the winter of the year 67, an army of sixty thousand men marched into Galilee. The government of that province had been committed by his fellow-countrymen to Josephus, the historian to whom we owe the account of the whole war; and though he was one of the peace party, he had neglected no measures for putting the country in a state of defence. The defence, which he relates in detail, was heroic. The little city of Jotapata held out with amazing resolution against arms and engines of war. Forty thousand men succumbed during the siege.c

Both as a vivid narrative and as a type of the ferocity of assault, resistance and revenge marking the battles of that time, the account by Josephus of his own ingenious and desperate defence of Jotapata is well worth citing at length. He speaks of himself, like Cæsar, in the third person.a


Jotapata, he says, is almost all of it built upon a precipice, having on all the other sides of it every way valleys immensely deep and steep, insomuch that those who would look down would have their sight fail them before it reaches to the bottom. It is only to be come at on the north side, where the utmost part of the city is built on the mountain, as it ends obliquely at a plain. This mountain Josephus had encompassed with a wall when he fortified the city, that its top might not be capable of being seized upon by the enemies. The city is covered all round with other mountains, and can no way be seen till a man comes just upon it. And this was the strong situation of Jotapata.

Vespasian, therefore, in order to try how he might overcome the natural strength of the place, as well as the bold defence of the Jews, made a resolution to prosecute the siege with vigour. To that end he called the commanders that were under him to a council of war, and consulted with them which way the assault might be managed to the best advantage; and when the resolution was there taken to raise a bank against that part of the wall which was practicable, he sent his whole army abroad to get the materials together. So when they had cut down all the trees on the mountains that adjoined to[181] the city, and had gotten together a vast heap of stones, besides the wood they had cut down, some of them brought hurdles, in order to avoid the effects of the darts that were shot from above them. These hurdles they spread over their banks, under cover whereof they formed their bank, and so were little or nothing hurt by the darts that were thrown upon them from the wall, while others pulled the neighbouring hillocks to pieces, and perpetually brought earth to them; so that while they were busy three sorts of ways, nobody was idle. However, the Jews cast great stones from the walls upon the hurdles which protected the men, with all sorts of darts also; and the noise of what could not reach them was yet so terrible, that it was some impediment to the workmen.

Vespasian then set the engines for throwing stones and darts round about the city; the number of the engines was in all a hundred and sixty; and bade them fall to work and dislodge those that were upon the wall. At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose, threw at once lances upon them with great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire, and a vast multitude of arrows, which made the wall so dangerous, that the Jews durst not only not to come upon it, but durst not come to those parts within the walls which were reached by the engines; for the multitude of the Arabian archers, as well also as all those that threw darts and slung stones, fell to work at the same time with the engines. Yet did not the others lie still when they could not throw at the Romans from a higher place; for they then made sallies out of the city like private robbers, by parties, and pulled away the hurdles that covered the workmen, and killed them when they were thus naked; and when those workmen gave way, these cast away the earth that composed the bank, and burnt the wooden parts of it, together with the hurdles, till at length Vespasian perceived that the intervals there were between the works were of disadvantage to him; for those spaces of ground afforded the Jews a place for assaulting the Romans. So he united the hurdles, and at the same time joined one part of the army to the other, which prevented the private excursions of the Jews.

And when the bank was now raised, and brought nearer than ever to the battlements that belonged to the walls, Josephus thought it would be entirely wrong in him if he could make no contrivances in opposition to theirs, and that might be for the city’s preservation; so he got together his workmen, and ordered them to build the wall higher; and when they said that this was impossible to be done while so many darts were thrown at them, he invented this sort of cover for them:

He bade them fix piles, and expand before them raw hides of oxen newly killed, that these hides, by yielding and hollowing themselves when the stones were thrown at them, might receive them, for that the other darts would slide off them, and the fire that was thrown would be quenched by the moisture that was in them; and these he set before the workmen; and under them these workmen went on with their works in safety, and raised the wall higher, and that both by day and by night, till it was twenty cubits high. He also built a good number of towers upon the wall, and fitted it to strong battlements. This greatly discouraged the Romans, who in their own opinions were already gotten within the walls, while they were now at once astonished at Josephus’ contrivance and at the fortitude of the citizens that were in the city.

And now Vespasian was plainly irritated at the great subtilty of this stratagem, and at the boldness of the citizens of Jotapata; for taking heart[182] again upon the building of this wall, they made fresh sallies upon the Romans, and had everyday conflicts with them by parties, together with all such contrivances as robbers make use of, and with the plundering of all that came to hand, as also with the setting fire to all the other works; and this till Vespasian made his army leave off fighting them, and resolved to lie round the city, and to starve them into a surrender, as supposing that either they would be forced to petition him for mercy by want of provisions, or if they should have the courage to hold out till the last, they should perish by famine: and he concluded he should conquer them the more easily in fighting, if he gave them an interval, and then fell upon them when they were weakened by famine; but still he gave orders that they should guard against their coming out of the city.

Now the besieged had plenty of corn within the city, and indeed of all other necessaries, but they wanted water, because there was no fountain in the city, the people being there usually satisfied with rain-water; yet it is a rare thing in that country to have rain in summer, and at this season, during the siege, they were in great distress for some contrivance to satisfy their thirst; and they were very sad at this time particularly, as if they were already in want of water entirely, for Josephus, seeing that the city abounded with other necessaries, and that the men were of good courage, and being desirous to protect the siege to the Romans longer than they expected, ordered their drink to be given them by measure; but this scanty distribution of water by measure was deemed by them as a thing more hard upon them than the want of it; and their not being able to drink as much as they would, made them more desirous of drinking than they otherwise had been; nay, they were so much disheartened hereby as if they were come to the last degree of thirst. Nor were the Romans unacquainted with the state they were in, for when they stood over against them, beyond the wall, they could see them running together, and taking their water by measure, which made them throw their javelins thither, the place being within their reach, and kill a great many of them.

Hereupon, Vespasian hoped that their receptacles of water would in no long time be emptied, and that they would be forced to deliver up the city to him; but Josephus being minded to break such his hope, gave command that they should wet a great many of their clothes, and hang them out about the battlements, till the entire wall was of a sudden all wet with the running down of the water. At this sight the Romans were discouraged, and under consternation, when they saw them able to throw away in sport so much water, when they supposed them not to have enough to drink themselves. This made the Roman general despair of taking the city by their want of necessaries, and to betake himself again to arms, and to try to force them to surrender, which was what the Jews greatly desired; for as they despaired of either themselves or their city being able to escape, they preferred a death in battle before one by hunger and thirst.

However, Josephus contrived another stratagem besides the foregoing, to get plenty of what they wanted. There was a certain rough and uneven place that could hardly be ascended, and on that account was not guarded by the soldiers; so Josephus sent out certain persons along the western parts of the valley, and by them sent letters to whom he pleased of the Jews that were out of the city, and procured from them what necessaries soever they wanted in the city in abundance; he enjoined them also to creep generally along by the watch as they came into the city, and to cover their backs with such sheepskins as had their wool upon them, that if any one should[183] spy them in the night-time, they might be believed to be dogs. This was done till the watch perceived their contrivance, and encompassed that rough place about themselves.

[67 A.D.]

And now it was that Josephus perceived that the city could not hold out long, and that his own life would be in doubt if he continued in it; so he consulted how he and the most potent men of the city might fly out of it. When the multitude understood this, they came all round about him, and begged of him not to overlook them while they entirely depended on him, and him alone; for that there was still hope of the city’s deliverance if he would stay with them, because everybody would undertake any pains with great cheerfulness on his account, and in that case there would be some comfort for them also, though they should be taken: that it became him neither to fly from his enemies, nor to desert his friends, nor to leap out of that city, as out of a ship that was sinking in a storm, into which he came, when it was quiet and in a calm; for that by going away he would be the cause of drowning the city, because nobody would then venture to oppose the enemy when he was once gone, upon whom they wholly confided.

Hereupon, Josephus avoided letting them know that he was to go away to provide for his own safety, but told them that he would go out of the city for their sakes; for that if he stayed with them, he should be able to do them little good while they were in a safe condition; and that if they were once taken, he should only perish with them to no purpose; but that if he were once gotten free from this siege, he should be able to bring them very great relief; for that he would then immediately get the Galileans together, out of the country, in great multitudes, and draw the Romans off their city by another war. That he did not see what advantage he could bring to them now, by staying among them, but only provoked the Romans to besiege them more closely, as esteeming it a most valuable thing to take him; but that if they were once informed that he was fled out of the city, they would greatly remit of their eagerness against it. Yet did not this plea move the people, but inflamed them the more to hang about him.

Accordingly, both the children and the old men, and the women with their infants, came mourning to him, and fell down before him, and all of them caught hold of his feet, and held him fast, and besought him, with great lamentations, that he would take his share with them in their fortune; and I think they did this, not that they envied his deliverance, but that they hoped for their own; for they could not think they should suffer any great misfortune, provided Josephus would but stay with them.

Now, Josephus thought, that if he resolved to stay, it would be ascribed to their entreaties; and if he resolved to go away by force, he should be put into custody. His commiseration also of the people under their lamentations, had much broken that of his eagerness to leave them; so he resolved to stay, and arming himself with the common despair of the citizens, he said to them:

“Now is the time to begin to fight in earnest, when there is no hope of deliverance left. It is a brave thing to prefer glory before life, and to set about some such noble undertaking as may be remembered by late posterity.”

Having said this, he fell to work immediately, and made a sally, and dispersed the enemies’ out-guards, and ran as far as the Roman camp itself, and pulled the coverings of their tents to pieces, that were upon their banks, and set fire to their works. And this was the manner in which he never left off fighting, neither the next day nor the day after it, but went on with it for a considerable number of both days and nights.


Upon this, Vespasian, when he saw the Romans distressed by these sallies (although they were ashamed to be made to run away by the Jews; and when at any time they made the Jews run away, their heavy armour would not let them pursue them far; while the Jews, when they had performed any action, and before they could be hurt themselves, still retired into the city), ordered his armed men to avoid their onset, and not to fight it out with men under desperation, while nothing is more courageous than despair; but that their violence would be quenched when they saw they failed of their purposes, as fire is quenched when it wants fuel; and that it was most proper for the Romans to gain their victories as cheap as they could, since they are not forced to fight, but only to enlarge their own dominions. So he repelled the Jews in great measure by the Arabian archers, and the Syrian slingers, and by those that threw stones at them, nor was there any intermission of the great number of their offensive engines. Now, the Jews suffered greatly by these engines, without being able to escape from them; and when these engines threw their stones or javelins a great way, and the Jews were within their reach, they pressed hard upon the Romans, and fought desperately, without sparing either soul or body, one part succouring another by turns, when it was tired down.

When, therefore, Vespasian looked upon himself as in a manner besieged by these sallies of the Jews, and when his banks were now not far from the walls, he determined to make use of his battering-ram. Now, at the very first stroke of this engine, the wall was shaken, and a terrible clamour was raised by the people within the city, as if they were already taken.

And now, when Josephus saw this ram still battering the same place, and that the wall would quickly be thrown down by it, he resolved to elude for a while the force of the engine. With this design he gave orders to fill sacks with chaff, and to hang them down before that place where they saw the ram always battering, that the stroke might be turned aside, or that the place might feel less of the strokes by the yielding nature of the chaff. This contrivance very much delayed the attempts of the Romans, because, let them remove their engine to what part they pleased, those that were above it removed their sacks, and placed them over against the strokes it made, insomuch that the wall was no way hurt, and this by diversion of the strokes, till the Romans made an opposite contrivance of long poles, and by tying hooks at their ends, cut off the sacks.

Now, when the battering ram thus recovered its force, and the wall having been but newly built, was giving way, Josephus and those about him had afterwards immediate recourse to fire, to defend themselves withal; whereupon they took what materials soever they had that were but dry, and made a sally three ways, and set fire to the machines, and the hurdles, and the banks of the Romans themselves; nor did the Romans well know how to come to their assistance, being at once under a consternation at the Jews’ boldness, and being prevented by the flames from coming to their assistance; for the materials being dry with the bitumen and pitch that were among them, as was brimstone also, the fire caught hold of everything immediately; and what cost the Romans a great deal of pains, was in one hour consumed.

And here a certain Jew appeared worthy of our relation and commendation; he was the son of Sameas, and was called Eleazar, and was born at Saab, in Galilee. This man took up a stone of vast bigness, and threw it down from the wall upon the ram, and this with so great a force that it broke off the head of the engine. He also leaped down and took up the head of[185] the ram from the midst of them, and without any concern, carried it to the top of the wall, and this, while he stood as a fit mark to be pelted by all his enemies. Accordingly, he received the strokes upon his naked body, and was wounded with five darts; nor did he mind any of them while he went up to the top of the wall, where he stood in sight of them all, as an instance of the greatest boldness: after which he threw himself on a heap with his wounds upon him, and fell down, together with the head of the ram. Next to him, two brothers showed their courage; their names were Netir and Philip, both of them of the village of Ruma, and both of them Galileans also; these men leaped upon the soldiers of the tenth legion, and fell upon the Romans with such a noise and force as to disorder their ranks, and put to flight all upon whomsoever they made their assaults.

After these men’s performances, Josephus, and the rest of the multitude with him, took a great deal of fire, and burnt both the machines, and their coverings, with the works belonging to the fifth, and to the tenth legion, which they put to flight; when others followed them immediately, and buried those instruments and all their materials under ground. However, about the evening the Romans erected the battering-ram again, against that part of the wall which had suffered before; where a certain Jew that defended the city from the Romans, hit Vespasian with a dart in his foot, and wounded him a little, the distance being so great, that no mighty impression could be made by the dart thrown so far off.

But still Josephus and those with him, although they fell down dead one upon another by the darts and stones which the engines threw upon them, yet did not they desert the wall, but fell upon those who managed the ram, under the protection of the hurdles, with fire, and iron weapons, and stones; and these could do little or nothing, but fell themselves perpetually, while they were seen by those whom they could not see, for the light of their own flame shone about them, and made them a most visible mark to the enemy, as they were in the day-time, while the engines could not be seen at a great distance, and so what was thrown at them was hard to be avoided; for the force with which these engines threw stones and darts made them hurt several at a time, and the violent force of the stones that were cast by the engines was so great, that they carried away the pinnacles of the wall, and broke off the corners of the towers; for no body of men could be so strong as not to be overthrown to the last rank, by the largeness of the stones; and any one may learn the force of the engines by what happened this very night; for as one of those that stood round about Josephus was near the wall, his head was carried away by such a stone, and his skull was flung as far as three furlongs. In the day-time also, a woman with child had her belly so violently struck, as she was just come out of her house, that the infant was carried to the distance of half a furlong; so great was the force of that engine.

The noise of the instruments themselves was very terrible, the sound of the darts and stones that were thrown by them, was so also; of the same sort was the noise the dead bodies made, when they were dashed against the wall; and indeed dreadful was the clamour which these things raised in the women within the city, which was echoed back at the same time by the cries of such as were slain; while the whole space of ground whereon they fought ran with blood, and the wall might have been ascended over by the bodies of the dead carcasses; the mountains also contributed to increase the noise by their echoes; nor was there on that night any thing of terror wanting that could either affect the hearing or the sight: yet did a great part of those[186] that fought so hard for Jotapata fall manfully, as were a great part of them wounded. However, the morning watch was come ere the wall yielded to the machines employed against it, though it had been battered without intermission. However, those within covered their bodies with their armour, and raised works over against that part which was thrown down, before those machines were laid by which the Romans were to ascend into the city.

In the morning Vespasian got his army together, in order to take the city by storm. But Josephus, understanding the meaning of Vespasian’s contrivance, set the old men, together with those that were tired out, at the sound parts of the wall, as expecting no harm from those quarters, but set the strongest of his men at the place where the wall was broken down, and before them all, six men by themselves, among whom he took his share of the first and greatest danger. He also gave orders, that when the legions made a shout they should stop their ears, that they might not be affrighted at it, and that, to avoid the multitude of the enemies’ darts, they should bend down on their knees, and cover themselves with their shields, and that they should retreat a little backward for a while, till the archers should have emptied their quivers; but that, when the Romans should lay their instruments for ascending the walls, they should leap out on the sudden, and with their own instruments should meet the enemy, and that every one should strive to do his best, in order not to defend his own city, as if it were possible to be preserved, but in order to revenge it, when it was already destroyed; and that they should set before their eyes how their old men were to be slain, and their children and their wives to be killed immediately by the enemy; and that they would beforehand spend all their fury, on account of the calamities just coming upon them, and pour it out on the actors.

And thus did Josephus dispose of both his bodies of men; but then for the useless part of the citizens, the women and children, when they saw their city encompassed by a threefold army (for none of the usual guards that had been fighting before were removed), when they also saw not only the walls thrown down, but their enemies with swords in their hands, as also the hilly country above them shining with their weapons, and the darts in the hands of the Arabian archers, they made a final and lamentable outcry of the destruction, as if the misery were not only threatened, but actually come upon them already.

But Josephus ordered the women to be shut up in their houses, lest they should render the warlike actions of the men too effeminate, by making them commiserate their condition, and commanded them to hold their peace, and threatened them if they did not, while he came himself before the breach, where his allotment was; for all those who brought ladders to the other places, he took no notice of them, but earnestly waited for the shower of arrows that was coming.

And now the trumpeters of the several Roman legions sounded together, and the army made a terrible shout; and the darts, as by order, flew so fast that they intercepted the light. However, Josephus’ men remembered the charges he had given them, they stopped their ears at the sounds and covered their bodies against the darts; and as to the engines that were set ready to go to work, the Jews ran out upon them, before those that should have used them were gotten upon them. And now, on the ascending of the soldiers, there was a great conflict, and many actions of the hands and of the soul were exhibited, while the Jews did earnestly endeavour, in the extreme danger they were in, not to show less courage than those who, without being[187] in danger, fought so stoutly against them; nor did they leave off struggling with the Romans till they either fell down dead themselves, or killed their antagonists. But the Jews grew weary with defending themselves continually, and had not enow to come in their places to succour them—while, on the side of the Romans, fresh men still succeeded those that were tired; and still new men soon got upon the machines for ascent, in the room of those that were thrust down; those encouraging one another, and joining side to side with their shields, which were a protection to them, they became a body of men not to be broken; and as this band thrust away the Jews, as though they were themselves but one body, they began already to get upon the wall.

Then did Josephus take necessity for his counsellor in this utmost distress (which necessity is very sagacious in invention, when it is irritated by despair), and gave orders to pour scalding oil upon those whose shields protected them. Whereupon they soon got it ready, being many that brought it, and what they brought being a great quantity also, and poured it on all sides upon the Romans, and threw down upon them their vessels as they were still hissing from the heat of the fire: this so burnt the Romans, that it dispersed that united band, who now tumbled down from the wall with horrid pains, for the oil did easily run down the whole body from head to foot, under their entire armour, and fed upon their flesh like flame itself, its fat and unctuous nature rendering it soon heated and slowly cooled; and as the men were cooped up in their head-pieces and breast-plates, they could no way get free from this burning oil; they could only leap and roll about in their pains, as they fell down from the bridges they had laid. And as they were thus beaten back, and retired to their own party, who still pressed them forward, they were easily wounded by those that were behind them.

However, in this ill success of the Romans, their courage did not fail them, nor did the Jews want prudence to oppose them; for the Romans, although they saw their own men thrown down, and in a miserable condition, yet were they vehemently bent against those that poured the oil upon them, while every one reproached the man before him as a coward, and one that hindered him from exerting himself; and while the Jews made use of another stratagem to prevent their ascent, and poured boiling fenugreek upon the boards, in order to make them slip and fall down; by which means neither could those that were coming up, nor those that were going down, stand on their feet; but some of them fell backward upon the machines on which they ascended, and were trodden upon; many of them fell down on the bank they had raised, and when they were fallen upon it were slain by the Jews; for when the Romans could not keep their feet, the Jews, being freed from fighting hand to hand, had leisure to throw their darts at them. So the general called off those soldiers in the evening that had suffered so sorely, of whom the number of the slain was not a few, while that of the wounded was still greater; but of the people of Jotapata no more than six men were killed, although more than three hundred were carried off wounded. This fight happened on the twentieth day of the month Desius (Sivan).

Hereupon Vespasian comforted his army on occasion of what had happened, and as he found them angry indeed, but rather wanting somewhat to do than any further exhortations, he gave orders to raise the banks still higher, and to erect three towers, each fifty feet high, and that they should cover them with plates of iron on every side, that they might be both firm by their weight, and not easily liable to be set on fire. These towers he set upon the banks, and placed upon them such as could shoot darts and[188] arrows, with the lighter engines for throwing stones and darts also; and besides these, he set upon them the stoutest men among the slingers, who not being to be seen by reason of the height they stood upon, and the battlements that protected them, might throw their weapons at those that were upon the wall, and were easily seen by them. Hereupon the Jews, not being easily able to escape those darts that were thrown down upon their heads, nor to avenge themselves on those whom they could not see, and perceiving that the height of the towers was so great, that a dart which they threw with their hand could hardly reach it, and that the iron plates about them made it very hard to come at them by fire, they ran away from the walls, and fled hastily out of the city, and fell upon those that shot at them. And thus did the people of Jotapata resist the Romans, while a great number of them were every day killed, without their being able to retort the evil upon their enemies; nor could they keep them out of the city without danger to themselves.

But as the people of Jotapata still held out manfully, and bore up under their miseries beyond all that could be hoped for, on the forty-seventh day (of the siege) the banks cast up by the Romans were become higher than the wall; on which day a certain deserter went to Vespasian, and told him, how few were left in the city, and how weak they were, and that they had been so worn out with perpetual watching, and also perpetual fighting, that they could not now oppose any force that came against them, and that they might be taken by stratagem, if any one would attack them; for that about the last watch of the night, when they thought they might have some rest from the hardships they were under, and when a morning sleep used to come upon them, as they were thoroughly weary, he said the watch used to fall asleep; accordingly his advice was, that they should make their attack at that hour.

But Vespasian had a suspicion about this deserter, as knowing how faithful the Jews were to one another, and how much they despised any punishments that could be inflicted on them; this last, because one of the people of Jotapata had undergone all sorts of torments, and though they made him pass through a fiery trial of his enemies in his examination, yet would he inform them nothing of the affairs within the city, and as he was crucified, smiled at them!

However, the probability there was in the relation itself did partly confirm the truth of what the deserter told them, and they thought he might probably speak the truth. However, Vespasian thought they should be no great sufferers if the report was a sham; so he commanded them to keep the man in custody, and prepared the army for taking the city.

According to which resolution they marched without noise, at the hour that had been told them, to the wall; and it was Titus himself that first got upon it, with one of his tribunes, Domitius Sabinus, and had a few of the fifteenth legion along with him. So they cut the throats of the watch, and entered the city very quietly. After these came Cerealis the tribune, and Placidus, and led on those that were under them. Now when the citadel was taken, and the enemy were in the very midst of the city, and when it was already day, yet was not the taking of the city known by those that held it; for a great many of them were fast asleep, and a great mist, which then by chance fell upon the city, hindered those that got up from distinctly seeing the case they were in, till the whole Roman army was gotten in, and they were raised up only to find the miseries they were under; and as they were slaying, they perceived the city was taken.


And for the Romans, they so well remembered what they had suffered during the siege, that they spared none, nor pitied any, but drove the people down the precipice from the citadel, and slew them as they drove them down; at which time the difficulties of the place hindered those that were still able to fight from defending themselves; for as they were distressed in the narrow streets, and could not keep their feet sure along the precipice, they were overpowered with the crowd of those that came fighting them down from the citadel. This provoked a great many, even of those chosen men that were about Josephus, to kill themselves with their own hands; for when they saw that they could kill none of the Romans, they resolved to prevent themselves being killed by the Romans, and got together in great numbers, in the utmost parts of the city, and killed themselves.

And on this day the Romans slew all the multitude that appeared openly; but on the following days they searched the hiding-places, and fell upon those that were under ground, and in the caverns, and went thus through every age, excepting the infants and the women, and of these there were gathered altogether as captives twelve hundred; and as for those that were slain at the taking of the city, and in the former fights, they were numbered to be forty thousand. So Vespasian gave order that the city should be entirely demolished, and all the fortifications burnt down. And thus was Jotapata taken, in the thirteenth year of the reign of Nero, on the first day of the month Panemus (Tammuz).b



The Golden Gate, Jerusalem


[68-70 A.D.]

Josephus escaped from the general massacre at Jotapata with much difficulty. His life was threatened not only by the Roman soldiers who found him shut up in a cave and wished to have his life, but also by the forty other inmates of the cave who did not approve of Josephus’ desire to surrender. Josephus had recourse to the pious subterfuge of a divine vision ordering him to surrender to the Romans. But his companions in misery treated him as a contemptible coward, and he was forced to prove his physical valour by holding them all at bay. He finally suggested that they draw lots and kill each other successively. By some strange circumstance, which Josephus does not explain, the Jews in the cave bravely met death at the hands of one another until only two survived, of whom Josephus was one. Josephus easily persuaded this man to resign the privilege of martyrdom and join him in surrendering to the Romans. Josephus is our only authority for the story and he does not shine in particular brilliance even according to his own explanation. Dean Milman heaps contempt upon him for the hypocrisy and trickery of his attitude in this matter, but in the first place it would have been a profitless folly to yield to the fanaticism of his comrades, and in the second place his death would have deprived us of his invaluable history. And even Milman, while confessing the inconsistency of Josephus’ character, admits the glory of his generalship in spite of his lack of previous military instruction, confesses that he held the Roman arms in check for two months on the very frontier of an “insignificant province,” and takes the siege of Jotapata as a type of “the nature of the conflict of the Jews with the Roman supremacy, against which, in the wide circle of the empire, they were the last desperate combatants for freedom.” Josephus was treated as a traitor by the Jews, even as Thucydides had been exiled by the Greeks, but he[191] strove hard to mitigate the horrible extremes to which Roman cruelty was driven by the superb courage of the doomed nation.

Jotapata having fallen, the Roman arms speedily overran the country. The Samaritans, despised by the Jews, entrenched themselves on Mount Gerizim, where they were massacred to the number of eleven thousand and six hundred. The city of Cæsarea was surrendered by the Greeks who had massacred the Jews in the city. Tiberias also opened its gates to the Romans. Tarichea resisted, and received only butchery as the reward of its heroism. Many of the inhabitants fled to the Lake of Galilee in light fishing boats, and yet when they were pursued by the heavy barks of the Romans, they had the courage to attack the Romans with stones. “Feeble warfare,” as Milman says, “which only irritated the pursuers: for if thrown from a distance they did no damage, only splashing the water over the soldiers or falling harmless from their iron cuirasses; if those who threw them approached nearer, they could be hit in their turn by Roman arrows. All the shores were occupied by hostile soldiers, and they were pursued into every inlet and creek; some were transfixed with spears from the high banks of the vessels, some were boarded and put to the sword, the boats of others were crushed or swamped, and the people drowned. If their heads rose as they were swimming, they were hit with an arrow, or by the prow of the bark; if they clung to the side of the enemy’s vessel, their hands and heads were hewn off. The few survivors were driven to the shore, where they met with no more mercy. Either before they landed, or in the act of landing, they were cut down or pierced through. The blue waters of the whole lake were tinged with blood, and its clear surface exhaled for several days a fœtid steam. The shores were strewn with wrecks of boats and swollen bodies that lay rotting in the sun, and infected the air, till the conquerors themselves shrank from the effects of their own barbarities. Here we must add to our bloody catalogue the loss of six thousand lives.”

Those who had remained in the town and surrendered peaceably, trusting in Roman honesty, had even more bitter fate. After long and cold-blooded deliberation, Vespasian had twelve hundred of the aged and weak put to death; six thousand of the strongest were sent to help dig the ditch which Nero was trying to cut through the Isthmus of Corinth; more than thirty thousand others were sold as slaves. This deed of Vespasian, as Milman says, “tarnished his fame forever.” The harshness, however, led to the instant surrender of all the rest of Galilee except the towns of Gamala, Giscala, and Itabyrium. Gamala held out four months, and its fate was as curious as it was terrible. Josephus describes the town as clinging to the side of a mountain with the houses very thick and close to one another. The Romans made a breach in the walls and gradually forced the Jews up to the top of the town, where they made a sudden rally and charged fiercely down upon the Romans, who being able neither to resist the impetus of the Jews nor to press back the Romans in their rear, took refuge in the houses. The houses were so lightly built that they collapsed under the weight of the crowded soldiers and the whole town came tumbling down the cliff-side like a pack of cards. The Romans suffered a great panic with heavy loss and the Jews drove them out of the town, Vespasian himself being saved with great difficulty from slaughter. Gradually, however, the city was overcome and a bloody massacre followed. Hundreds threw themselves over the precipices with their wives and children. Hundreds of others the Romans flung over the cliffs. Nine thousand corpses marked the vain courage of the people of Gamala. Itabyrium had fallen in the meanwhile and Giscala was abandoned[192] by its commander John of Giscala, who took his troops and his ambition into Jerusalem, though hotly pursued by Titus.

“But Jerusalem,” says Milman, “was ill-preparing herself to assume the part which became the metropolis of the nation, in this slow contest; and better had it been for her, if John of Giscala had perished in the trenches of his native town, or been cut off in his flight by the pursuing cavalry. His fame had gone before him to Jerusalem, perhaps not a little enhanced by the defection of his rival Josephus. The multitude poured out to meet him, as well to do him honour, as to receive authentic tidings of the disasters in Galilee. They assumed a lofty demeanour, declared that for Giscala, and such insignificant villages, it was not worth risking the blood of brave men—they had reserved all theirs to be shed in the defence of the capital. Yet to many their retreat was too manifestly a flight, and from the dreadful details of massacre and captivity, they foreboded the fate which awaited themselves. John, however, represented the Roman force as greatly enfeebled, and their engines worn out before Jotapata and Gamala; and urged, that if they were so long in subduing the towns of Galilee, they would inevitably be repulsed with shame from Jerusalem. John was a man of the most insinuating address, and the most plausible and fluent eloquence. The war and the peace factions not only distracted the public councils, but in every family, among the dearest and most intimate friends, this vital question created stern and bloody divisions. Every one assembled a band of adherents, or joined himself to some organised party. The youth were everywhere unanimous in their ardour for war; the older in vain endeavoured to allay the frenzy by calmer and more prudent reasoning. First individuals, afterwards bands of desperate men, began to spread over the whole country, spoiling either by open robbery, or under pretence of chastising those who were traitors to the cause of their country. The unoffending and peaceful who saw their houses burning, and their families plundered, thought they could have nothing worse to apprehend from the conquest of the Romans than from the lawless violence of their own countrymen.”

There is no space here to tell in detail the horrors of the civil war that ensued within Jerusalem. The cruelties inflicted by the Romans themselves hardly rivalled the infamous treacheries, murders, and indignities even to corpses, which the Jews heaped upon their own people. The Roman Empire itself, however, was also undergoing the throes of a civil war, in which the Jews thought they saw the dissolution of the empire and the golden opportunity for the independence of their own country. But the ship of Roman state weathered this tempest as so many another, and by the spring of the year 70 A.D. Titus commenced the siege of the city in earnest. At this time Jerusalem was crowded with something like a million persons who had come in for the Passover, but the aggregate number of fighting men seems to have been less than twenty-four thousand, while the forces of Titus are estimated at about eighty thousand. The Jews expected succour from their kinsmen of Parthia as well as from other quarters of the empire, but before these arrived, if they were ever sent at all, the forces of Titus appeared before the city. Taking six hundred horse with him Titus advanced at once to reconnoitre, but as no one appeared to oppose his progress he incautiously approached so near the wall that he was suddenly surrounded by a multitude of men who rushed out from one of the gates behind him. Bareheaded and without his breastplate as he was, yet he forced his way through this multitude and escaped unharmed to the Roman camp, although many of his followers were slain.


[70 A.D.]

Attempts were made at once to take the walls by storm, but these assaults were repulsed by the defenders, the Roman army retired to its entrenchments, and a regular siege began. Battering-rams were brought into play against the walls, while catapults and ballistæ were plied incessantly against the defenders on the walls, and were responded to with similar weapons by them. In the use of these weapons, however, the Jews were very unskilful, while the bolts and stones thrown from the Roman camp did effective work both on the walls and inside them. The enormous thickness of the outer walls resisted the battering-rams for some days, but they gave way at last and the defenders retired within their second line. This second wall was carried five days later and Titus was thus made master of the lower city.

Famine now added to the war within and without the city its ghastly terrors. Never has a more thrilling picture of human misery been painted than that of Josephus.a


It was now a miserable case, and a sight that would justly bring tears into our eyes, how men stood as to their food, while the more powerful had more than enough, and the weaker were lamenting (for want of it). But the famine was too hard for all other passions, and it is destructive to nothing so much as to modesty; for what was otherwise worthy of reverence was in this case despised; insomuch that children pulled the very morsels that their fathers were eating out of their very mouths, and what was still more to be pitied, so did the mothers do as to their infants; and when those that were most dear were perishing under their hands, they were not ashamed to take from them the very last drops that might preserve their lives; and while they ate after this manner, yet were they not concealed in so doing; but the seditious everywhere came upon them immediately, and snatched away from them what they had gotten from others; for when they saw any house shut up, this was to them a signal that the people within had gotten some food; whereupon they broke open the doors, and ran in, and took pieces of what they were eating, almost up out of their very throats, and this by force: the old men, who held their food fast, were beaten; and if the women hid what they had within their hands, their hair was torn for so doing; nor was there any commiseration shown either to the aged or to infants, but they lifted up children from the ground as they hung upon the morsels they had gotten, and shook them down upon the floor; but still were they more barbarously cruel to those that had prevented their coming in, and had actually swallowed down what they were going to seize upon, as if they had been unjustly defrauded of their right.

They also invented terrible methods of torment to discover where any food was, and they were these: to stop up the passages of the privy parts of the miserable wretches, and a man was forced to bear what it is terrible even to hear, in order to make him confess that he had but one loaf of bread, or that he might discover a handful of barley-meal that was concealed; and this was done when these tormentors were not themselves hungry; for the thing had been less barbarous had necessity forced them to it; but this was done to keep their madness in exercise, and as making preparation of provisions for themselves for the following days. These men went also to meet those that had crept out of the city by night, as far as the Roman guards, to gather some plants and herbs that grew wild; and when those people thought they had got clear of the enemy, these snatched from them what[194] they had brought with them, even while they had frequently entreated them, and that by calling upon the tremendous name of God, to give them back some part of what they had brought; though these would not give them the least crumb; and they were to be well contented that they were only spoiled, and not slain at the same time.

It is therefore impossible to go distinctly over every instance of these men’s iniquity. I shall therefore speak my mind here at once briefly: That neither did any other city ever suffer such miseries, nor did any age ever breed a generation more fruitful in wickedness than this was, from the beginning of the world. Finally, they brought the Hebrew nation into contempt, that they might themselves appear comparatively less impious with regard to strangers. They confessed what was true, that they were the slaves, the scum, and the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation, while they overthrew the city themselves, and forced the Romans, whether they would or no, to gain a melancholy reputation, by acting gloriously against them, and did almost draw that fire upon the temple, which they seemed to think came too slowly; and, indeed, when they saw that temple burning from the upper city, they were neither troubled at it, nor did they shed any tears on that account, while yet these passions were discovered among the Romans themselves: which circumstances we shall speak of hereafter in their proper place, when we come to treat of such matters.

So now Titus’ banks were advanced a great way, notwithstanding his soldiers had been very much distressed from the wall. He then sent a party of horsemen, and ordered they should lay ambushes for those that went out into the valleys to gather food. Some of these were indeed fighting men, who were not contented with what they got by rapine; but the greater part of them were poor people, who were deterred from deserting by the concern they were under for their own relations: for they could not hope to escape away, together with their wives and children, without the knowledge of the seditious; nor could they think of leaving these relations to be slain by the robbers on their account; nay, the severity of the famine made them bold in thus going out: so nothing remained but that, when they were concealed from the robbers, they should be taken by the enemy; and when they were going to be taken, they were forced to defend themselves, for fear of being punished: as after they had fought, they thought it too late to make any supplications for mercy: so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city. This miserable procedure made Titus greatly to pity them, while they caught every day five hundred Jews; nay, some days they caught more; yet did it not appear to be safe for him to let those that were taken by force go their way; and to set a guard over so many, he saw would be to make such as guarded them useless to him.

The main reason why he did not forbid that cruelty was this, that he hoped the Jews might perhaps yield at that sight, out of fear lest they might themselves afterwards be liable to the same cruel treatment. So the soldiers, out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.

But so far were the seditious from repenting at this sad sight, that, on the contrary, they made the rest of the multitude believe otherwise; for they brought the relations of those that had deserted upon the wall, with such of the populace as were very eager to go over upon the security offered[195] them, and showed them what miseries those underwent who fled to the Romans; and told them that those who were caught were supplicants to them, and not such as were taken prisoners. This sight kept many of those within the city who were so eager to desert, till the truth was known; yet did some of them run away immediately as unto certain punishment, esteeming death from their enemies to be a quiet departure, if compared with that by famine.

So Titus commanded that the hands of many of those that were caught should be cut off, that they might not be thought deserters, and might be credited on account of the calamity they were under, and sent them in to John and Simon, with this exhortation, that they would now at length leave off (their madness), and not force him to destroy the city, whereby they would have those advantages of repentance, even in their utmost distress, that they would preserve their own lives, and so fine a city of their own, and that temple which was their peculiar pride. He then went round about the banks that were cast up, and hastened them, in order to show that his words should in no long time be followed by his deeds. In answer to which, the seditious cast reproaches upon Cæsar himself, and upon his father also, and cried out with a loud voice, that they contemned death, and did well in preferring it before slavery; that they would do all the mischief to the Romans they could while they had breath in them; and that for their own city, since they were, as he said, to be destroyed, they had no concern about it, and that the world itself was a better temple to God than this. That yet this temple would be preserved by him that inhabited therein, whom they still had for their assistant in this war, and did therefore laugh at all his threatenings, which would come to nothing; because the conclusion of the whole depended upon God only. These words were mixed with reproaches, and with them they made a mighty clamour.

So all hope of escaping was now cut off from the Jews, together with their liberty of going out of the city. Then did the famine widen its progress, and devoured the people by whole houses and families; the upper rooms were full of women and children that were dying by famine; and the lanes of the city were full of the dead bodies of the aged; the children also and the young men wandered about the market-places like shadows, all swelled with the famine, and fell down dead wheresoever their misery seized them. As for burying them, those that were sick themselves were not able to do it; and those that were hearty and well, were deterred from doing it by the great multitude of those dead bodies, and by the uncertainty there was how soon they should die themselves; for many died as they were burying others, and many went to their coffins before that fatal hour was come!

Nor was there any lamentation made under these calamities, nor were heard any mournful complaints; but the famine confounded all natural passions; for those who were just going to die, looked upon those that were gone to their rest before them with dry eyes and open mouths.

A deep silence also, and a kind of deadly night, had seized upon the city; while yet the robbers were still more terrible than these miseries were themselves; for they brake open those houses which were no other than graves of dead bodies, and plundered them of what they had; and carrying off the coverings of their bodies, went out laughing, and tried the points of their swords on their dead bodies; and, in order to prove what mettle they were made of, they thrust some of those through that still lay alive upon the ground; but for those that entreated them to lend them their right hand, and their sword to despatch them, they were too proud to grant their[196] requests, and left them to be consumed by the famine. Now every one of these died with their eyes fixed upon the temple, and left the seditious alive behind them. Now the seditious at first gave orders that the dead should be buried out of the public treasury, as not enduring the stench of their dead bodies. But afterwards, when they could not do that, they had them cast down from the walls into the valleys beneath.

However, when Titus, in going his rounds along those valleys, saw them full of dead bodies, and the thick putrefaction running about them, he gave a groan, and, spreading out his hands to heaven, called God to witness that this was not his doing.

Some of the deserters, having no other way, leaped down from the wall immediately, while others of them went out of the city with stones, as if they would fight them; but thereupon, they fled away to the Romans: but here a worse fate accompanied these than what they had found within the city; and they met with a quicker despatch from the too great abundance they had among the Romans, than they could have done from the famine among the Jews; for when they came first to the Romans, they were puffed up by the famine, and swelled like men in a dropsy; after which they all on the sudden over-filled those bodies that were before empty, and so burst asunder, excepting such only as were skilful enough to restrain their appetites, and, by degrees, took in their food into bodies unaccustomed thereto.

Yet did another plague seize upon those that were thus preserved; for there was found among the Syrian deserters a certain person who was caught gathering pieces of gold out of the excrements of the Jews’ bellies,—for the deserters used to swallow such pieces of gold, when they came out,—and for these did the seditious search them all, for there was a great quantity of gold in the city, insomuch that as much was now sold (in the Roman camp) for twelve Attic drachmæ as was sold before for twenty-five; but when this contrivance was discovered in one instance, the fame of it filled their several camps, that the deserters came to them full of gold. So the multitude of the Arabians, with the Syrians, cut up those that came as supplicants, and searched their bellies. Nor does it seem to me that any misery befell the Jews that was more terrible than this, since in one night’s time about two thousand of these deserters were thus dissected.

But as for John, when he could no longer plunder the people, he betook himself to sacrilege, and melted down many of the sacred utensils which had been given to the temple, as also many of those vessels which were necessary for such as ministered about holy things, the caldrons, the dishes, and the tables; nay, he did not abstain from those pouring-vessels that were sent them by Augustus and his wife; for the Roman emperors did ever both honour and adorn this temple. Whereas this man, who was a Jew, seized upon what were the donations of foreigners, and said to those that were with him that it was proper for them to use divine things while they were fighting for the Divinity, without fear, and that such whose warfare is for the temple, should live of the temple; on which account he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil, which the priests kept to be poured on the burnt-offerings, and which lay in the inner court of the temple, and distributed it among the multitude, who, in their anointing themselves and drinking, used (each of them) above an hin of them. And here I cannot but speak my mind, and what the concern I am under dictates to me, and it is this: I suppose, that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder[197] as the country of Sodom perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments, for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.

And, indeed, why do I relate these particular calamities?—while Manneus, the son of Lazarus, came running to Titus at this very time, and told him that there had been carried out through that one gate, which was entrusted to his care, no fewer than a hundred and fifteen thousand eight hundred and eighty dead bodies, in the interval between the fourteenth day of the month Xanthicus (Nisan), when the Romans pitched their camp by the city, and the first day of the month Panemus (Tammuz). This was itself a prodigious multitude; and though this man was not himself set as a governor at that gate, yet was he appointed to pay the public stipend for carrying these bodies out, and so was obliged of necessity to number them, while the rest were buried by their relations, though all their burial was but this, to bring them away, and cast them out of the city. After this man there ran away to Titus many of the eminent citizens, and told him the entire number of the poor that were dead; and that no fewer than six hundred thousand were thrown out at the gates, though still the number of the rest could not be discovered; and they told him further, that when they were no longer able to carry out the dead bodies of the poor, they laid their corpses on heaps in very large houses, and shut them up therein; as also that a medimnus of wheat was sold for a talent; and that when, a while afterwards, it was not possible to gather herbs, by reason the city was all walled about, some persons were driven to that terrible distress as to search the common sewers and old dunghills of cattle, and to eat the dung which they got there; and what they of old could not endure so much as to see, they now used for food. When the Romans barely heard all this, they commiserated their case; while the seditious, who saw it also, did not repent, but suffered the same distress to come upon themselves; for they were blinded by that fate which was already coming upon the city, and upon themselves also.

Now of those that perished by famine in the city, the number was prodigious, and the miseries they underwent were unspeakable; for if so much as the shadow of any kind of food did anywhere appear, a war was commenced presently; and the dearest friends fell a fighting one with another about it, snatching from each other the most miserable supports of life. Nor would men believe that those who were dying had no food; but the robbers would search them when they were expiring, lest any one should have concealed food in their bosoms, and counterfeited dying: nay, these robbers gaped for want, and ran about stumbling and staggering along like mad dogs, and reeling against the doors of the houses like drunken men; they would also, in the great distress they were in, rush into the very same houses two or three times in one and the same day. Moreover, their hunger was so intolerable, that it obliged them to chew everything, while they gathered such things as the most sordid animals would not touch, and endured to eat them; nor did they at length abstain from girdles and shoes; and the very leather which belonged to their shields they pulled off and gnawed; the very wisps of old hay became food to some; and some gathered up fibres, and sold a very small weight of them for four Attic drachmæ. But why do I describe the shameless impudence that the famine brought on men in their eating inanimate things, while I am going to relate a matter of fact, the like to which no history relates, either among the Greeks or Barbarians! It is horrible to speak of it, and incredible when heard. I had indeed willingly omitted this calamity of ours, that[198] I might not seem to deliver what is so portentous to posterity, but that I have innumerable witnesses to it in my own age; and besides, my country would have had little reason to thank me for suppressing the miseries that she underwent at this time.

There was a certain woman that dwelt beyond Jordan, her name was Mary; her father was Eleazar, of the village Bethezub, which signifies “the House of Hyssop.” She was eminent for her family and her wealth, and had fled away to Jerusalem with the rest of the multitude, and was with them besieged therein at this time. The other effects of this woman had been already seized upon; such, I mean, as she had brought with her out of Peræa, and removed to the city. What she had treasured up besides, as also what food she had contrived to save, had been also carried off by the rapacious guards, who came every day running into her house for that purpose. This put the poor woman into a very great passion, and by the frequent reproaches and imprecations she cast at these rapacious villains, she had provoked them to anger against her; but none of them, either out of the indignation she had raised against herself, or out of the commiseration of her case, would take away her life; and if she found any food, she perceived her labours were for others, and not for herself; and it was now become impossible for her any way to find any more food, while the famine pierced through her very bowels and marrow, when also her passion was fired to a degree beyond the famine itself; nor did she consult with anything but with her passion and the necessity she was in.

She then attempted a most unnatural thing; and snatching up her son, who was a child sucking at her breast, she said: “O thou miserable infant! for whom shall I preserve thee in this war, this famine, and this sedition? As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves! This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us;—yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets and a byword to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews.”

As soon as she had said this she slew her son; and then roasted him, and ate the one half of him, and kept the other half by her concealed. Upon this the seditious came in presently, and smelling the horrid scent of this food, they threatened her, that they would cut her throat immediately if she did not show them what food she had gotten ready. She replied, that she had saved a very fine portion of it for them; and withal uncovered what was left of her son. Hereupon they were seized with a horror and amazement of mind, and stood astonished at the sight; when she said to them:

“This is mine own son; and what hath been done was mine own doing! Come, eat of this food; for I have eaten of it myself! Do not you pretend to be either more tender than a woman, or more compassionate than a mother; but if you be so scrupulous, and do abominate this my sacrifice, as I have eaten the one half, let the rest be reserved for me also.”

After which, those men went out trembling, being never so much affrighted at anything as they were at this, and with some difficulty they left the rest of that meat to the mother. Upon which the whole city was full of this horrid action immediately; and while everybody laid this miserable case before their own eyes, they trembled, as if this unheard-of action had been done by themselves. So those that were thus distressed by the famine were very desirous to die; and those already dead were esteemed happy, because they had not lived long enough either to hear or to see such miseries.


This sad instance was quickly told to the Romans, some of whom could not believe it, and others pitied the distress which the Jews were under; but there were many of them who were hereby induced to a more bitter hatred than ordinary against our nation;—but for Cæsar, he excused himself before God as to this matter, and said, that he had proposed peace and liberty to the Jews, as well as an oblivion of all their former insolent practices; but that they, instead of concord, had chosen sedition; instead of peace, war; and before satiety and abundance, a famine. That they had begun with their own hands to burn down that temple, which we have preserved hitherto; and that therefore they deserved to eat such food as this was. That, however, this horrid action of eating one’s own child, ought to be covered with the overthrow of their very country itself; and men ought not to leave such a city upon the habitable earth to be seen by the sun, wherein mothers are thus fed, although such food be fitter for the fathers than for the mothers to eat of, since it is they that continue still in a state of war against us, after they have undergone such miseries as these. And at the same time that he said this, he reflected on the desperate condition these men must be in; nor could he expect that such men could be recovered to sobriety of mind after they had endured those very sufferings for the avoiding whereof it only was probable they might have repented.c


In spite of such gaunt famine, however, the war went on and the resistance continued. Soon the battering-rams made a breach in the wall of Antonia, and Titus called upon his soldiers to mount the breach, but only one soldier, Sibanus, and eleven others responded, and these were overwhelmed at once. Two nights later, however, twenty-four soldiers crept into the breach, and Antonia was taken. Titus at once made offers of clemency and many accepted his offer of mercy, but the rest fled to Zion and the temple. He then called a council of war to decide whether the temple should be saved; many of his generals were in favour of destroying it, but nevertheless Titus ordered the flames to be extinguished, fixing the next day for the final assault. But even Roman discipline could not control the infuriated soldiers and one of them threw a blazing torch into the gilded lattice of the porch. “The flames sprang up at once. The Jews uttered one simultaneous shriek and grasped their swords with a furious determination of revenging and perishing in the ruins of the temple. Titus rushed down with the utmost speed: he shouted, he made signs to his soldiers to quench the fire: his voice was drowned and his signs unnoticed in the blind confusion. The legionaries either could not or would not hear: they rushed on, trampling each other down in their furious haste, or stumbling over the crumbling ruins, and perished with the enemy. Each exhorted the other, and each hurled his blazing brand into the inner part of the edifice, and then hastened to his work of carnage. The unarmed and the defenceless people were slain in thousands; they lay heaped like sacrifices round the altar; the steps of the temple ran with streams of blood, which washed down the bodies which lay upon it.”

Titus himself entered the Holy of Holies before the flames had reached the sanctuary, and with a last effort attempted to save it, but in his very presence his soldiers fired the great door and the building was soon wrapt in flames.


[70-73 A.D.]

Thus was Jerusalem destroyed. Josephus reckons that the number of people who perished in this siege was one million one hundred thousand, and while this is probably an exaggeration it is not impossible that such a number may have perished, when we remember that a large proportion of the male population of Judea had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. Persecutions of the remaining Jews were soon begun at Antioch, where several Jews were burnt and tortured. It is to Titus’ credit that these persecutions were checked and his soldiers rebuked: “The country of the Jews is destroyed—thither they cannot return: it would be hard to allow them no home to return to—leave them in peace.” The booty taken at Jerusalem was so enormous as to cause an immense depreciation in the value of gold and silver throughout Asia, and this even though the treasures of the temple had been burned and destroyed.

The revolt lasted a little longer in the Dead Sea region. The castle of Herodion soon fell; Macherus surrendered, but the men were slain, the women and children sent to slavery. Masada held out till the year 73, when the garrison, seeing their case hopeless, killed their wives and children, and then themselves after setting fire to the castle. The Jews in other parts of the world suffered many disasters and made a few efforts at revolt under Zealots, but gradually all resistance was crushed out in blood, and the Jews having perished by the hundred thousand, ceased to be a nation. As Munk said, “Almost all Judea became a desert; the wolves and the hyenas entered the cities.”a


Entrance to the Tomb of the Kings, Jerusalem

From that day forward the Jews have no important history. The extremist party of the prophets and Zealots, which was likewise the nationalist party, no longer existed; it had been drowned in blood. As for the priests and rabbis, they had long since withdrawn from the conflict, but it is due to them that the Jews, having completely lost their national existence, have been able to subsist to this day as a religious body. “Renouncing the hope of playing a political rôle,” says Munk, “the[202] Jews directed all their efforts towards a moral aim, and devoted themselves wholly to consolidating their religious unity.” Convinced at last that their mission as a body politic was at an end, and that the sanctuary at Jerusalem, with its priests and sacrifices, could no longer be the symbol about which the scattered remnants of the Jewish nation were to gather, they laid down their arms, and sought by peaceful ways and intellectual methods to strengthen themselves as a religious body. For a while Palestine still remained the chief seat of religious study, the rabbis settling in several cities of Galilee, notably Sephoris and Tiberias. From the school of Tiberias, founded about the year 180, came forth the famous rabbi, Yehudah, surnamed the Holy, who collected the incomplete codes and traditional laws of the schools of the Pharisees, and, in the first quarter of the third century, fashioned them into an immense system of laws known under the name of the Mishnah, or Second Law. This code is divided into six parts, entitled Sedarim, orders. Each of the six is subdivided into several treatises, each treatise into chapters. This code was annotated, discussed, and amplified, first by the Palestinian and then by the Babylonian school, and each school afterwards made a collection of these annotations and discussions. The name of Gemara, Complement, was given to these collections, which were much more voluminous than the Mishnah that serves for their text. The Mishnah and the Gemara together form the Talmud, the Teaching.

The Zealots who had perished in the struggle for independence or in the massacres that followed on their defeat, and the rabbis who laboured in obscurity and silence, constituted but a comparatively small part of the Jewish population, and we may well ask what became of the innumerable slaves who flooded the empire after the fall of Jerusalem. They did not all succumb to the arduous toils of the Coliseum. Under Hadrian there was a fresh influx of Jewish slaves; Dion Cassius, who speaks of five hundred and eighty thousand men killed in the course of the war, says nothing of women or children. We cannot doubt that they were sold, according to the common custom. Renan says that at the yearly fair of the Terebinth, near Hebron, Jews could be bought at the same price as horses. Once bought, they ran no further risk of death from hunger or destitution, for a slave, even if bought at the price of a horse, represented money’s worth, which it was not in his master’s interest to lose. Among their co-religionists, slaves like themselves, or freedmen, these unhappy beings found the pathetic brotherhood of the poor, ingenious in expedients. All the little nameless trades offered resources to this humiliated race, unscrupulous, skilful in exploiting the vices of the ruling classes, armed with good reasons for not loving the human race. Mingled with slaves of other races, they communicated to them the fanaticism of their wrath and their hopes of revenge. This revenge was afterwards relegated to a distant future; but at that time, smarting under the memory of recent disaster, they dreamt of it as complete and in the immediate future. Let the world come to an end, since nothing could reform it; let it go down to the bottomless pit, with all its defilements, and the agonies of the outcasts of life, and oppressions without number, and inexpiable ills! The hour of deliverance is near, and the accursed shall go to everlasting fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The fall of the Jewish nation redounded to the advantage of Christian propaganda. From that time forward we hear less and less of the Jews and more and more of the Christians.

It is an inevitable consequence of military government that after every conquest the conquered impose their ideas on the conquerors. When Rome had subjugated Greece, she herself submitted to the dominion of the Hellenistic spirit, which imposed on the Romans its own forms of art, its literary culture, its mythology, and its philosophy. Rome, mistress of Asia, was invaded by Asiatic luxury, the East opened upon the West the floodgates of its superstitions, sensual, gloomy, frenzied, or ascetic; nothing was talked of save mysteries, funeral feasts, horoscopes, magic, purifications, Isis and Mithras, the passion of Attys, gods dead and risen again. Egypt had deified the Pharaohs, Rome deified the Cæsars. Finally, Judea, the last province conquered by the Romans, was the last to impose its religious thought upon the world. The obscure traditions of a despised people were destined to take the place of the glorious memories of Greece and Rome. A monarchy required a monarchial religion. The republic had vanished from the earth, it could not be left in the heavens. The images of the gods still stood in their temples, but since the time of Augustus the only god of the empire had been the emperor. Since the conscience of the conquerors of the world had not revolted from the apotheosis of tyrants, the conquered were fully entitled to seek among their own ranks for a worthier object. One nation alone had refused its incense to the emperors. That nation was destined to provide a God for the coming centuries. In the arrogant words of a Jew of our own times, this nation said to the world, “Till thou art able to understand me, behold a man of my race, make of him thy god.” Humanity had found its social ideal in servitude; it was just that the gibbet of slaves should become the symbol of the religion of the human race.

Thus in the great Christian synthesis, the worship of the God-man, which sums up the whole of Greek anthropomorphism, took its place by the side of Jewish monotheism. With the principle of universal order, the source and reason of things, was associated, in the unity of the Divine, the moral law in its loftiest form, the sacrifice of self and redemption through suffering. But while other religions, when introduced into the empire, had allowed the traditions and monuments of Græco-Roman civilisation to remain, the monistic religion of the Semitic race was destined to exclude all other religious forms and wipe out the traces of them. Like the wind of the desert that destroys everything in its path, the solitary God of Sinai was to sweep away all the works of the past. Hence, some centuries later, Rutilius Numatianus, the last of pagan poets, exclaimed, in the midst of the ruins of civilisation and the empire, “Would to the gods that Judea had never been conquered! The plague, extirpated there, hath spread abroad, and a vanquished nation oppresses its conquerors.” Had this poet had a little of the living faith of those he despised, had religion been anything to him beyond a literary form, he would have recognised that this conquest of the world by Jewish thought was but a just vengeance for the hideous wars of Titus and Hadrian, and a striking proof of the justice of the gods. The events of human history are neither effects of capricious chance nor phases of necessary evolution, but moral consequences of a great law of equilibrium and expiation which is the nemesis of history.e



The Tower of David, Jerusalem


If a nation can be in any sense summed up, the National Idea of the Hebrews as a unit has been stated by Hegel in contrast with the Idea of other peoples. He says: While among the Phœnician people the Spiritual was still limited by Nature, in the case of the Jews we find it entirely purified—the pure product of thought. Self-conception appears in the field of consciousness, and the Spiritual develops itself in sharp contrast to Nature and to union with it. It is true that we observed at an earlier stage the pure conception “Brahma,” but only as the universal being of Nature; and with this limitation, that Brahma is not himself an object of consciousness. Among the Persians we saw this abstract being become an object for consciousness, but it was that of sensuous intuition—as Light. But the idea of Light has at this stage advanced to that of “Jehovah,”—the purely One. This forms the point of separation between the East and the West; Spirit descends into the depths of its own being, and recognises the abstract fundamental principle as the Spiritual. Nature, which in the East is the primary and fundamental existence, is now depressed to the condition of a mere creature; and Spirit now occupies the first place. God is known as the creator of all men, as he is of all nature, and as absolute causality generally. But this great principle, as further conditioned, is exclusive Unity.

This religion must necessarily possess the element of exclusiveness, which consists essentially in this—that only the One People which adopts it, recognizes the One God, and is acknowledged by Him. The God of the Jewish People is the God only of Abraham and of his seed: National individuality and a special local worship are involved in such a conception of deity. Before Him all other gods are false: moreover the distinction between “true” and “false” is quite abstract; for as regards the false gods, not a ray of the Divine is supposed to shine into them. But every form of spiritual force, and a fortiori every religion is of such a nature, that whatever be its peculiar character, an affirmative element is necessarily contained in it.


However erroneous a religion may be, it possesses truth, although in a mutilated phase. In every religion there is a divine presence, a divine relation; and a philosophy of history has to seek out the spiritual element even in the most imperfect forms. But it does not follow that because it is a religion, it is therefore good. We must not fall into the lax conception, that the content is of no importance, but only the form. This latitudinarian tolerance the Jewish religion does not admit, being absolutely exclusive.

The Spiritual speaks itself here absolutely free of the Sensuous, and Nature is reduced to something merely external and undivine. This is the true and proper estimate of Nature at this stage; for only at a more advanced phase can the idea attain a reconciliation (recognise itself) in this its alien form. Its first utterances will be in opposition to Nature; for Spirit, which had been hitherto dishonoured, now first attains its due dignity, while Nature resumes its proper position. Nature is conceived as having the ground of its existence in another—as something posited, created; and this idea, that God is the lord and creator of Nature, leads men to regard God as the Exalted One, while the whole of Nature is only His robe of glory, and is expended in His service.

In contrast with this kind of exaltation, that which the Hindu religion presents is only that of indefinitude. In virtue of the prevailing spirituality the Sensuous and Immoral are no longer privileged, but disparaged as ungodliness. Only the One—Spirit—the Non-sensuous is the truth; Thought exists free for itself, and true morality and righteousness can now make their appearance; for God is honoured by righteousness, and right-doing is “walking in the way of the Lord.”

With this is conjoined happiness, life, and temporal prosperity as its reward; for it is said: “that thou mayest live long in the land.”—Here too, also, we have the possibility of a historical view; for the understanding has become prosaic; putting the limited and circumscribed in its proper place, and comprehending it as the form proper to finite existence: Men are regarded as individuals, not as incarnations of God; Sun as Sun, Mountains as Mountains—not as possessing Spirit and Will.

We observed among this people a severe religious ceremonial, expressing a relation to pure Thought. The individual as concrete does not become free, because the Absolute itself is not comprehended as concrete Spirit, since the Spirit still appears posited as non-spiritual—destitute of its proper characteristics. It is true that subjective feeling is manifest—the pure heart, repentance, devotion; but the particular concrete individuality has not become objective to itself in the Absolute. It therefore remains closely bound to the observance of ceremonies and of the Law, the basis of which latter is pure freedom in its abstract form. The Jews possess that which makes them what they are, through the One: consequently the individual has no freedom for itself. Spinoza regards the code of Moses as having been given by God to the Jews for a punishment—a rod of correction. The individual never comes to the consciousness of independence; on that account we do not find among the Jews any belief in the immortality of the soul; for individuality does not exist in and for itself.

But though in Judaism the Individual is not respected, the Family has inherent value; for the worship of Jehovah is attached to the Family, and it is consequently viewed as a substantial existence. But the State is an institution not consonant with the Judaistic principle, and it is alien to the legislation of Moses. In the idea of the Jews, Jehovah is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob; who commanded them to depart out of Egypt,[205] and gave them the land of Canaan. The accounts of the Patriarchs attract our interest. We see in this history the transition from the patriarchal nomad condition to agriculture.

On the whole the Jewish history exhibits grand features of character; but it is disfigured by an exclusive bearing (sanctioned in its religion) towards the genius of other nations (the destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan being even commanded), by want of culture generally, and by the superstition arising from the idea of the high value of their peculiar nationality. Miracles, too, form a disturbing feature in this history—as history; for as far as concrete consciousness is not free, concrete perception is also not free; Nature is undeified, but not yet understood.b


The expiatory offerings of the Israelites were governed by precepts which were more numerous than sacrifices. If any one had violated the Laws of the Torah, or Book of the Law, he was obliged at once to offer up a young ox; the fat and kidneys of the ox were burnt before Yahveh, the skin, head, legs, stomach, and flesh were burnt outside the camp. If the whole community sinned, the ancients or heads of families had to offer up this sacrifice. Any one who could not afford an ox could replace it by a goat or a young lamb if he had witnessed a curse without declaring it, or if he had blasphemed himself, or had touched the body of an impure animal or any other impurity. A poor man was only obliged to offer up two doves or pigeons, one as a sin offering, the other as a sacrifice. If he was very poor indeed, he contented himself by bringing the tenth part of an ephah of flour without adding oil or the incense for the sacrifice.

The peace offering was offered up after a vow or a pious act, or after a benefit for which the son of Israel wished to thank Yahveh. The law also ordained a few peace offerings such as the ram brought by the Nazarite, at the same time that he offered up a sacrifice. At the festival of the First Fruit, the Hebrews brought two yearling lambs which belonged to the priests. The priest only had the breast and right shoulder of the other peace offerings, while the remainder of the victim formed part of the grand repast to which the tribe was invited, and from which the Christian feasts must have sprung.

Besides the victims chosen for these three kinds of sacrifices, there were two others, the young cow and the red cow, which were sacrificed on special occasions. When the body of a murdered man was found in the country, the ancients and the chiefs of the families of the surrounding towns assembled together. When the nearest place to where the murder had been committed had been carefully fixed upon, the ancients of that city or borough were obliged to take a young heifer, which had not yet worked, to a rough and uncultivated valley. There, after wringing the neck of the cow, the ancients in the presence of the priests washed their hands over the victims killed in the valley, and sang. The guilty man remaining unknown and not making atonement for his crime, the sacrificed heifer served as an atonement instead.

The red heifer, quite full grown, but which had never been yoked, was killed and burnt whole by the cohene-hakadel, who sprinkled the entrance of the tabernacle, seven times with his finger dipped in the blood of the victim. The cinders of the cow were collected to make lustral water (water of separation), which purified people from the touch of corpses. Perhaps the cow thus sacrificed represented sin and impurity. Amongst the Egyptians,[206] red seems to have been a wicked colour. That was doubtless why the Hebrews had chosen a cow of this colour as victim of sin.

The entire nation was expected to make presents to Yahveh, without counting the private offerings which were added to all these donations. The law decided upon some of them. The poor, who could not offer up two doves or two of their young as sin offerings, could instead offer a tenth part of an ephah of flour without oil or incense. The husband who doubted his wife’s chastity brought her before the priests to try her, but began by presenting some barley, as the offering of jealousy.

The first day the priest exercised his powers he brought the tenth part of an ephah of flour. He offered up half in the morning and half in the evening. According to the Talmud and Josephus, the high priest had every day to offer up sacrifices. This offering had to be consumed whole; as for the other presents, only a handful was burnt and the rest was given to the priests. Voluntary donations and those which were the result of vows have also to be added to those ordained by religion.

Sweet-smelling perfumes were brought by the sons of Israel and burnt upon the altar, Yahveh alone was allowed to smell them. “Whoever makes this perfume for his own use, let him be taken from his people.”

Every first-born belonged to Yahveh; a month after birth, a child had to be presented to the temple and bought back for five shekels at most. As for the first-born of animals, it was offered up as a peace sacrifice, and the flesh went to the priests. If it were an unclean animal, it could be sold or killed for the benefit of the tabernacle.

Besides these sacrifices, which took place, for the most part, at no fixed times, the Hebrews celebrated feasts in honour of Yahveh. Each week they had to observe the Sabbath, by abstaining from work. This was in memory of the repose of Yahveh, the seventh day after he had created the world. Perhaps this number seven, so particularly beloved by the Hebrews, which was the close for them of certain periods of days and years, was also a remembrance of Egypt. The great mourning for the death of Osiris lasted seven days. During the same length of time the death of Adonis, the divine young man slain by the teeth of a wild boar, was mourned in Phœnicia.

On the Sabbath day every occupation was forbidden, even picking up wood or cooking food. No longer journey was allowed than a walk of two thousand steps outside the town. All the religious functions as well as military operations were carried on on that day as on other days. It was only after exile, when a spirit of narrow fanaticism took hold of the people, that Jewish soldiers at certain times preferred to let themselves be killed rather than violate the repose of the Sabbath by fighting. Originally the difference between the Sabbath and other days was only the absence of work and the sacrifice of two lambs, followed by an offering of libation, which had to be made in the middle of the day. Later when there were synagogues throughout Palestine, everybody went there on the Sabbath to pray in common and to hear the Law explained from the mouth of the rabbi. The Sabbath began, like all the days amongst the Hebrews, at sunset, and ended the following evening.

Every seven years the earth also had a Sabbath. During the whole year it rested. People were forbidden to till or sow, or trim the vine or olive trees. Everything the earth produced naturally and unaided went to the land-owner and to the beggars and strangers. That year also all debts and all slavery were cancelled. A Hebrew slave had the right to leave his master[207] after six years; if he preferred to stay with him, he was put against a door and his ear was pierced.

The Egyptians celebrated the feast of the New Moon and the different phases of its course. The Hebrews also celebrated the New Moon; during this feast sacrifice was offered up composed of two bulls, a ram, and seven lambs, to which a he-goat was added as an expiatory offering. Offerings and libation were also added to all this. There was doubtless a solemn repast at the New Moon, when the people were assembled to eat the sacrificed animals.

It was generally the day after the new moon had been seen in the sky that the feast was celebrated.

But the principal feasts of Israel were the feasts of the Passover, of Pentecost, and of Tabernacles, and the day of Atonement. The first three originally had to do with the different phases of the harvest, later souvenirs of national life were associated with them.

The social organisation of the Hebrew people was to a certain degree the outcome of the religious ideas. Yahveh, the master and king of Israel, governed the country through the Law. The chiefs were only the lieutenants of Yahveh, whose business it was to see that the laws were observed which had been transmitted by Moses. All the eldest sons of the Hebrews were equals, there was no aristocracy, no lower class, no plebeians; nothing in Israel resembled Greek or Roman society, divided into castes, whose only objects very often were to crush one another. With this principle of equality among the Hebrews, royalty and its origin did not even enter into the thoughts of the Israelites. If the political and administrative codes of the Hebrews be examined, as they appear in the Pentateuch and in subsequent history, it will be seen that certain great assemblies were called together by the chiefs of Israel, and were composed of ancients, judges, and scribes.

The ancients appear to have been the elders of the family. In each town they formed a kind of local council, and regulated the affairs of the city; they also seem to have had a fairly large judicial power. The Law gave them, in many instances, the right of pronouncing judgments and enforcing the Law. The elders also formed on great occasions a national council, in whose wisdom the chief of the Hebrews could enlighten himself. In general matters they appeared to be often invested with sovereign powers. It was the elders of Israel who invited Samuel to choose a king. Later, they chose David to rule over Israel. It would be a mistake to consider these elders as an aristocratic assembly, full of hatred and bound down to odious privileges; they were the natural representatives of the family, members of different houses who came out of the shade of the fig trees at certain times, to regulate at the gates the affairs of the town, or to give their opinions on the general interests of the Hebrew state.

In each important locality, there was a tribunal composed of judges. The Levites of the city, versed in the knowledge of the Law, doubtless formed part of the tribunals. The judges held very honoured places and formed part of all the great assemblies where the interests of Israel were discussed. They held their office by election.

The scribes, who were also elected, assisted in the great assemblies. They formed the learned part, holding the style like the Egyptian scribes. They were attached to the elders or to the judges, holding the office of genealogists, and in the wars served as heralds to the commanders of the army. At the head of the scribes, there was a chief with certain rights not enjoyed by the others.


In order to assure the equality of rights for the entire Hebrew race, the Law tried to establish, as far as possible, equality of fortune. Every fifty years transferred property had to be returned to the original possessors, but this rule seems hardly to have been observed. Trade and usury, the principal sources of the investment of money, were excluded by the Law from this rule, and thus making Israel an agricultural nation. Israel soon escaped from the obligations. The Hebrew was a most astonishing mixture of idealism and of practical common sense, and this explains many contradictions in his nature. Even to-day the Jew can unite to a prodigious extent, the most terrestrial details with the highest and noblest sentiments. All that was most idealistic in Israel was collected together in the Law; but how far did the lives of the Hebrews resemble their book?

Foreigners and colonists were not ill-treated in Israel. The Law guaranteed protection to Hebrew and colonist alike. But the good will shown towards the Canaanite and the sons of Ammon and Moab was not very great. They were forever excluded from using the title of citizen. Neither they nor the bastard nor the eunuch could take a place in the assembly of Yahveh. But at the third generation the sons of Edom and Mizraim were admitted as Israelites on condition they submitted to the ceremony of circumcision, by which the Hebrew was always distinguished from the Gentile.

Marriage was considered an absolute obligation, from which nobody could be exempt. This idea was certainly one of the causes of the morality and power of Israel. Woman was not according to the Law an inferior being, she was part of man, she bore the same name as man; he was called isch, and she ischa, with the feminine termination. No more in Israel than in Egypt were the young girls and young women shut up from all eyes. Nobody could have enjoyed more liberty than Miriam and Deborah. Woman looked up to and free, as she was imagined in a country where law was respected, has been marvellously described at the end of Proverbs. The more they thought of woman, the more she was punished when she forgot her duties.

The power of fathers over their sons and daughters before marriage was very great. The latter could be sold as slaves, but only for a time. However, the Law forbids the father the right of killing his children. It was necessary for the father, in order to have his son put to death, to appeal to the assembly of the elders assembled at the gates of the town. Brought up with the knowledge of the Law, the son remained for a long time under the authority of his father, for whom he had to work even after marriage, which emancipated the daughters.

How were the inheritances divided, and did the right of the eldest son ever exist in Israel? The eldest son, so long as a daughter had not come before him, had a right to two parts of the paternal succession. The remainder was distributed equally amongst the other children. As for the father, he could not lawfully change his will in favour of a favourite son. What Jacob did for Joseph, the Hebrew legislators wished to spare to future generations. Israel with the proud Josephides suffered too severely from favouritism not to repudiate it energetically. Far inferior to the right of priority of birth, the law of favouritism only feeds hypocrites and stirs up hatred and jealousy in the bosoms of families. When a man died leaving only daughters, they shared the inheritance with the obligation of only marrying members of their tribe. If there were no daughters, the nearest relations inherited. Later, by putting aside the Law, the heads of families commenced leaving a part of their property either to their daughters or sometimes to their slaves.


This short account of the Jewish Law would be incomplete if it were silent on an interesting feature of the society of Israel, the slave. Like all nations of antiquity, Israel had slaves. But the Law softened their lot. Amongst the slaves were Hebrews and foreigners. A man who was much in need could sell his young daughter as a slave. Sometimes the son of her master was obliged to marry her. The Hebrew incapable of paying the fine after a theft was obliged to deliver himself up to the man he had stolen from. When reduced to the last extremity, he could sell himself. These were the principal circumstances of slavery in Israel, but at the end of six years the slave became free, and left his master with a reward in the shape of lambs, kids, and goats. They also received presents of ground and of household linen. But if the slave at the eighth year said to his master, “I will not leave you,” the master would take a bodkin or puncheon, and pierce the ear of the slave leaning against the door of his house: this was a sign of perpetual slavery.

Foreigners became slaves in Israel by selling themselves, or when they were prisoners of war. The Law was lenient towards them. They had the right to take part in the panegyrics and joys of Yahveh, to share the repast of the climes and the natural fruit of the Sabbatic years, and to rest on the Sabbath day. If their masters mutilated them, they were obliged to liberate them; freedom might be the result of a broken tooth. If the slave died from his master’s ill-treatment, the master was terribly punished; how, is not clearly stated. A slave seems once to have enjoyed the office of steward; the management of the whole house was in his hands.

Except in regard to Yahveh, the Hebraic Law appears to have received beneficial influence from Egypt and Assyria; at every moment that beautiful chapter cxxv of The Book of the Dead seemed to be remembered, where the soul justifying itself before Osiris, after stating that the precepts of charity had been fulfilled, dares to add “I have not made tears flow.”c


During the last three centuries, many scholars have devoted themselves especially to the art of this nation that has played such an extraordinary rôle in the history of the world. These researches have been directed almost entirely upon the temple at Jerusalem and its furniture; for here, where the national life was concentrated, was in fact all the art that the country produced. Moreover, while the remains are no longer in our hands or under our eyes, there is not a single edifice in all oriental or classical antiquity concerning which we possess such numerous and circumstantial records.

The city of Jerusalem occupies to-day the northern extremity of a plateau which is bounded on the east by the valley of the Kidron, and on the south and west by the valley of Hinnom. This plateau is divided from north to south by a ravine called the valley of the Tyropœon (“the cheesemakers”) in such a manner as to form two hills. The eastern hill is Mount Moriah, whose southern extremity, now called Ophel, was Zion, the “city of David.”

When Solomon ascended the throne, Jerusalem occupied only Zion, and did not begin to extend to the western and larger hill until under the kings of Judea. Mount Moriah, on the north, was given up to husbandry, and a rich man of Jerusalem, Araunah, owned there a field with a threshing-floor, where camels and oxen trod out the grain at harvest-time. David had bought[210] the field of Araunah as a site for the temple of the true God, and had erected an altar on the threshing-floor.

The work began in the fourth year of the reign of Solomon. The materials had already been in great part fitted. Architects, workmen, and artists were engaged in Tyre by the aid of King Hiram, and the work progressed rapidly. The summit of Moriah was first levelled, and then around the remaining hillock was constructed an immense retaining wall of extraordinary solidity, extending up to the level of the summit. It was built of enormous blocks held together by cramp-irons, and was supported on the outside by embankments. All the space between the interior face of this wall and the rock was filled in with rubble in such a way as to form a square platform.

Movable Vessel of the Temple

(After Mangeant)

Then followed the erection of the temple itself, and so rapidly was it pushed that the dedication feast was celebrated only seven years after the laying of the first stone of the substructure. The temple was to be enclosed by two courts, but Solomon completed only the first or inner one, and the east wall of the second or outer, which was not finished until long after the great king’s death, in the reign of Manasseh.

The Bible gives us a detailed description of the magnificence of the interior of this sanctuary, built and decorated by Phœnician workmen, and of the objects of art accumulated there by the most ostentatious of Hebrew kings.

The architecture and the decorations of the interior were all in Egyptian style, like the temples of the Phœnicians themselves. But of the works of Solomon nothing has remained but the cisterns and the east wall of the outer court. This wall is ornamented with a gate under which Solomon had his throne placed when he assisted at public ceremonies; it was still called Solomon’s gate, even after the time of Herod. Numerous enlargements and restorations were made under the kings of Judea; but in 586 B.C., when the Chaldeans took Jerusalem, the temple was totally destroyed.

Fifty-two years later, the captive Jews in Babylon having been delivered by Cyrus, their leader, Zerubbabel, undertook to rebuild the temple of the true God. Though similar in plan to that of Solomon, the new edifice was[211] less beautiful and of less majestic proportions; the old men who recalled the former one wept. This building stood for nearly five centuries, passing through the domination of the Seleucidæ and the Roman conquest of Pompey without being sacked or demolished.

Then Herod, the Idumæan, made king of the Jews by the Romans, conceived the idea of making himself popular with the people by rebuilding the temple in all the splendour of Solomon. The execution of his plan, which included enlargement,—Josephus says he doubled the original size,—required the complete demolition of the former structure and the rebuilding of the ancient terraces and the gates crowning them. The only portion of the old temple that he seems to have preserved was the eastern gate or gate of Solomon. The ancient plan, however, was apparently not departed from in the main.

The great outer court was surrounded on three sides by a double colonnade of Doric columns twenty-five cubits high. On the south side was a basilica, i.e. “a building with three unequal naves supported by columns.” This enclosure was the Court of the Gentiles, and was open to all visitors. A barrier only three cubits high prevented the ungodly from entering the enclosure reserved for the Israelites, which comprised the Court of Women and the Court of Men, or of Israel. The Court of Women had at its four corners square halls serving for the supplies of the temple, for ablutions, or other pious exercises.

From this court three gates led through a group of buildings to the Court of Israel. The principal one of these gates, celebrated as the Nicanor Gate, had doors of Corinthian bronze, and was of beautiful architectural proportions and rich construction. The Court of Israel, which was reserved for men who had performed certain acts of purification, was eleven cubits wide. The halls surrounding it on three sides, which had façades furnished with porticoes, were appendages of the divine cult. Each was consecrated to a special service. Here the skins of victims were salted and washed; the musical instruments, the salt, the eternal fire, the wood were kept here; and here was the hall of the sanhedrim.

Finally came the Court of the Priests, in the middle of which were the temple proper and the altar of burnt offerings. The temple stood on a terrace six cubits high, so that there was thus a difference of level of eight and a half metres between the platform of the temple and the Court of the Gentiles. Its architectural features were essentially the same as those of Solomon’s temple. This temple of the Jews was one of the most majestic works of architecture that antiquity produced. The succession of enclosed courts rising one above another and crowned by the gigantic white marble pylons of the sanctuary is a conception of genius that was realised only here, and all antiquity had but one voice in praise of its imposing grandeur.

The House of the Eternal was embellished with an unprecedented luxury. Costly woods, gold, silver, ivory, precious stones even—nothing was spared by this people that was so jealous of its God. The accessories of the cult, moreover, sacred vessels, knives, basins, utensils of every kind, were works in which caster and engraver vied with one another in the display of their art.

But it must not be forgotten that the artists who decorated the ancient temple were Phœnicians; and as the Phœnicians always limited themselves to imitation of the Egyptians and the Assyrians, their technique has a hybrid character, which, like Syria itself from a geographical point of view, is a sort of compromise between Asia and Egypt.d

The race which had so little influence on the art of the world and so much upon its literature, religion, commerce, and destinies, has had the[212] strangest of all national fates. To the Christian it is as the escape of the soul from the corruption and death of the body. Newmane has thus closed his History of the Hebrew Monarchy, in words that may fitly serve as finis here:

“It is not intended here to pursue the later fortunes of the Jewish nation. We have seen its monarchy rise and fall. In its progress, the prophetical and the sacerdotal elements were developed side by side; the former flourished in its native soil for a brief period, but was transplanted over all the world, to impart a lasting glory to Jewish monotheism. The latter, while in union with and subservient to the free spirit of prophecy, had struck its roots into the national heart, and grown up as a constitutional pillar to the monarchy: but when unchecked by prophet or by king, and invested with the supreme temporal and spiritual control of the restored nation, it dwindled to a mere scrubby plant, whose fruit was dry and thorny learning, or apples of Sodom, which are as ashes in the mouth. Such was the unexpansive and literal materialism of the later rabbis, out of which has proceeded nearly all that is unamiable in the Jewish character: but the Roman writers who saw that side only of the nation, little knew how high a value the retrospect of the world’s history would set on the agency of this scattered and despised people.

“For if Greece was born to teach art and philosophy, and Rome to diffuse the processes of law and government, surely Judea has been the wellspring of religious wisdom to a world besotted by frivolous or impure fancies. To these three nations it has been given to cultivate and develop principles characteristic of themselves: to the Greeks, Beauty and Science; to the Romans, Jurisprudence and Municipal Rule; but to the Jews, the Holiness of God and his Sympathy with his chosen servants. That this was the true calling of the nation, the prophets were inwardly conscious at an early period. They discerned that Jerusalem was as a centre of bright light to a dark world; and while groaning over the monstrous fictions which imposed on the nations under the name of religion, they announced that out of Zion should go forth the Law and the word of Jehovah. When they did not see, yet they believed, that the proud and despiteful heathen should at length gladly learn of their wisdom, and rejoice to honour them. In this faith the younger Isaiah closed his magnificent strains, addressing Jerusalem:

‘Behold, darkness covereth the earth,
And thick mist the peoples;
But Jehovah riseth upon thee,
And his glory shall be seen on thee:
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light,
And kings to the brightness of thy rising.…
The Gentiles shall see thy righteousness,
And all kings thy glory;
And thou shalt be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of Jehovah shall name.
Thou shalt be a garland of glory in the hand of Jehovah,
And a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall thy land any more be termed Desolate;
For Jehovah delighteth in thee,
And thy land shall be married to him.’”e



Written Specially for the Present Work


Professor in the University of Vienna; Member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, etc.

The Prophets prophesied in a far-off land, many, many hundred years ago. They prophesied to a small nation that dwelt in a small country and established a petty kingdom. The petty kingdom has been crushed under the iron heel of the world’s advance, the nation scattered to every quarter under heaven; but the writings of the prophets remain; they have come down to us in the original text; they have been translated into every language and are read by every nation.

To this day the words of the prophets resound from every pulpit, in admonition and menace, for comfort and salvation. The substance of the prophetic discourses is sufficiently familiar, and these words spoken thousands of years ago do not fail of their effect to-day. From the depths of the heart they welled forth, divine inspiration was their source, they were addressed to men burdened with passions and frailties; and hence they have kept their power through centuries and tens of centuries.

We will not at present concern ourselves with the substance of the prophetic books nor with the development of prophecy; we will consider the form of the prophetic discourses. Men prized the substance so highly that they neglected to examine the form. Are they prose or poetry? Even this question has not been answered. A Greek oration is minutely analysed; we know the rules of rhetoric, and divide each oration into its component parts. A Greek or Latin poem is classed as drama, epic, lyric, etc., and its metre is studied and criticised. What rules govern the composition of the prophetic books?


On the basis and in pursuance of my previous researches I advance the thesis that “the main characteristics of the style of the prophetic writings are strophic composition and responsion.” What a strophe is every one knows; nevertheless I will expressly state that by “strophe” I mean a group of lines or verses, standing in relation to other verses, and yet forming in and by themselves a compact whole.


In Semitic poetry or rhetoric, in so far as we may speak of it, the “responsion” has hitherto been an unknown quantity; but we are familiar with it in classical literature, the best examples being the choruses of the Greek dramas. The strophe and antistrophe correspond in metre, in form, and in the division of the periods; they frequently correspond in substance also; and this correspondence is often marked by verbal consonance or assonance. This peculiarity, which seems to be of infrequent occurrence and trifling importance in Greek literature, has been recognised and named by the exact observation and penetrative criticism of classical philology; in Semitic poetry, where the responsion, combined with the strophic structure, to which it serves as the element of crystallisation, must be regarded as of the very essence of the poem or discourse, it has neither been explained nor named.


I will take an example of the responsion from Amos, the first prophet who cast his discourses into literary form, Chaps. vii.-viii.

1) Thus the Lord God shewed me:
And, behold, he formed locusts in the beginning of the shooting up after the latter growth;
And, lo, it was the latter growth after the king’s mowings.
2) And it came to pass that when they made an end of eating the grass of the land,
Then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee:
How shall Jacob stand? for he is small.
3) The Lord repented concerning this:
It shall not be, saith the Lord.
4) Thus the Lord God shewed me:
And, behold, the Lord God called to contend by fire;
And it devoured the great deep,
And would have devoured up the land.
5) Then said I, O Lord God, cease, I beseech thee:
How shall Jacob stand? for he is small.
6) The Lord repented concerning this:
This also shall not be, saith the Lord God.
7) Thus he (the Lord God) shewed me:
And behold he stood beside a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand.
8) And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou?
And I said, A plumbline.
Then the Lord said, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel;
I will not again pass them by any more:
9) And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste.
And I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
1) Thus the Lord God shewed me:
And, behold, [there was] a basket of summer [ripe] fruit.
2) And he said, Amos, what seest thou?
And I said, A basket of summer [ripe] fruit.
3) Then said the Lord unto me,
The end [ripeness] is come upon my people Israel;
I will not again pass by them any more.
And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day.
The dead bodies shall be many; in every place have they cast them forth: be silent.


This vision of Amos sets forth a series of punishments which have overtaken or threaten to overtake the land. “The first two refer to dangers already past at the time of the discourse, the last two to the future.” In form, again, the first two and the last two exhibit a close affinity with one another. All four strophes have eight lines apiece and begin with the same phrase; in all four the second line begins in the same fashion, but proceeds differently even in the verses of each couple. In the third line the couples diverge entirely, the twin strophes alone remaining in close correspondence.

This method of working on a definite plan was a favourite one with the prophets. The change of picture in the same framework produces a lasting impression, and the repetition of the same form with a different substance fixes the mind on the thing seen, which is in danger of vanishing all too quickly. The responsion in verses apparently different is very noteworthy; as are lines 7 and 8 respectively, where the desolate places of Isaac correspond to the songs of the temple changed into howlings, and the rising with the sword of the third strophe to the many dead bodies of the fourth.


I take another example of correspondence between the strophes from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chap. xxi.

1) And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 6) And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
2) Son of man, 7) Son of man,
Set thy face toward the South. Set thy face toward Jerusalem
And drop thy word toward the South, And drop thy word toward the Sanctuaries,
And prophesy against the forest of the field in the South; And prophesy against the land of Israel;
3) And say to the forest of the South: 8) And say to the land of Israel:
Hear the word of the Lord;
Thus saith the Lord God: Thus saith the Lord:
Behold I will kindle a fire in thee Behold I am against thee,
And it shall devour every green tree in thee and every dry tree. And will draw forth my sword from its sheath
And will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
9) Seeing that I will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.
The flaming fire shall not be quenched, Therefore shall my sword go forth out of its sheath against all flesh
And all faces shall be burnt thereby.
From the north to the south. From the north to the south.
4) And all flesh shall see 10) And all flesh shall know
That I, the Lord, have kindled it: That I the Lord have drawn forth my sword out of its sheath;
It shall not be quenched. It shall not return any more.



One of Ezekiel’s grandest poems is the Song of the Sword. The sword from the North in the hand of Nebuchadrezzar comes forth against Jerusalem and destroys the last remnant of life in the perishing city. The introduction to the Song of the Sword is an allegory such as Ezekiel loves; he looks in prophetic trance towards the south and sees a fire approaching from thence which seizes upon the forest of the south and devours the green tree and the dry. Then he solves the riddle, thus interpreting the vision. By placing the riddle and the interpretation in parallel columns, we obtain a classic example of strict responsion.

As a third example of the responsion I select Matthew vii. 13, 14,

Enter ye in by the narrow gate:
For wide is the gate,For narrow is the gate,
And broad is the way,And straitened the way,
That leadeth to destructionThat leadeth unto life,
And many be they that enter in thereby.And few be they that find it.

In order to grasp the fundamental idea, that of the responsion, let us once more clearly define that of the strophe and antistrophe.


The strophe consists of a number of verses combined so as to form a larger whole; it contains a sheaf of ideas which express a single idea, just as a sheaf of rays unites to form a single light.

The antistrophe represents an analogous or contrasting idea, which is, like the former, the sum or product of another sheaf of ideas, and answers to the former in some or all of its component parts.

Accordingly the responsion, thus conceived of, is the formal expression of this relation of two or more strophes to one another. Where the principle of the responsion is strictly carried out each line of the first strophe corresponds to the corresponding line of the second, either verbally or substantially, and in the latter case either by parallelism or antithesis. The similarity of the majority of lines which thus correspond throws the differences at certain points into strong relief and renders them all the more forcible and impressive.

The highest organic structures have been analysed and found to be built up from a single cell. All the preliminary conditions which enable the cell to form organisms lie dormant in it already, but the germ cannot become an organic being except by a slow process of development. What we now have to do is to find the germ from which the responsion has developed; and the[217] germ of this phenomenon is the parallelismus membrorum which constitutes the vital element of apothegm and verse in the Semitic languages, and more particularly in Hebrew. But two things may be parallel one with another not only by analogy but by contrast. The parallelismus membrorum places side by side two or more ideas, analogous but not identical, and adapted by their slight diversity to give an image of what the poet desires to convey. Such sentences abound in the prophetic discourses, as in Isaiah i. 3,

The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib:
But Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.

And Amos ix. 2,

Though they dig into hell, thence shall my hand take them;
And though they climb up into heaven, thence will I bring them down.

The idea, being presented under a different figure, is repeated without producing an effect of tedium or monotony.

What the parallelismus membrorum is to the verse or sentence, that the responsion is to the strophe or discourse.

By slight variations on the responsion two literary forms were evolved to supply an æsthetic want. When two strophes stand in such a relation that the conclusion of the one answers to the beginning of that which succeeds it, the result is the concatenation, which unites two strophes with one another and leads the way from one field of thought to another. Again, if the beginning of one strophe or group of strophes corresponds with the conclusion of the same, the result is the inclusion, the object of which is to emphasise the logical and æsthetic unity of the said strophe or group of strophes.

An example of concatenation may be cited from Isaiah, Chap. i.

One column begins—

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken

and ends—

We should have been as Sodom, we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

The second strophe-column begins—

Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom;
Give ear unto the Lord our God, ye people of Gomorrah.

Here, as we see, the beginning of the second column answers to the beginning of the first and is linked with its conclusion.

Habakkuk (ii. 11) affords another example,

(end of strophe)

For the stone shall cry out of the wall,
And the beam out of the timbers shall answer it.

Herewith the image of a building rises before the prophet as before the reader. A thought flashes through the prophet’s mind, and he proceeds,

(beginning of strophe)

Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood
And stablisheth a city by iniquity.


And as an example of the inclusion we may quote Jeremiah xlvi. 20-24:

(beginning of strophe)

Egypt is a very fair heifer; but destruction out of the north is come, it is come.

(end of strophe)

The daughter of Egypt shall be put to shame, she shall be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.

In the second chapter of Zephaniah, we find an example of the two-lined inclusion:

(beginning of strophe)

8) I have heard the reproach of Moab, and the revilings of the children of Ammon,
Wherewith they have reproached my people and magnified themselves against my border.

(end of strophe)

10) This shall they have for their pride,
Because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.

Thus the three literary forms, besides the strophic measure, which govern the composition of the prophetic books are—the responsion, the concatenation, and the inclusion.

If the responsion is the expression of the outward and inward symmetry—of substance and form—proper to two strophic organisms which, though they may be far apart, show their relation one to another by similarity of character and structure, and correspond to each other more or less, either by analogy or antithesis, the concatenation may be regarded as the complement and counterpart of the responsion, inasmuch as it unites the two strophic organisms by an outward and inward bond—of substance and form. By this means the two are combined to constitute a greater whole. For this reason the concatenation does not run parallel to the responsion, but joins the end of one strophe to the beginning of a second, and leads from one field of thought to another. The inclusion may be regarded as, in a certain sense, the reverse of the concatenation. As the concatenation brings about the conjunction of two strophes, so the inclusion constitutes the boundary line that cuts one strophic organism off from the next. The concatenation obliterates the distinctive character of two separate strophic organisms, the inclusion rounds off and defines a strophe, or group of strophes, and emphasises its distinctive character.


I cannot refrain from giving at least one example from Isaiah of a strophe-column, which corresponds with a parallel column of similar structure. I select the famous vision of Chapter vi. for the purpose. It may be regarded as one of the earliest prophecies of Isaiah, in conception perhaps the earliest of all. The Tesetes tradition gives the passage as a single whole, without break or paragraph. In dealing with a prophet of Isaiah’s rank, and one so pre-eminent in the composition of these prophetic discourses, we[219] naturally seek to discover a definite plan in the composition of this vision, and such a plan does, as a matter of fact, become manifest to the critical student. The vision begins, “And I saw the Lord,” and the continuation and complement opens with the words (verse 8), “And I heard the voice of the Lord.” The passage, accordingly, falls into two parts, one describing what the prophet saw, the other what he heard. If we examine the two parts more closely we are struck by the phrase, “Then said I,” occurring in the one after he had seen all, and in the other after he had heard all. Hence it appears that the grand vision consists of two images, which correspond with each other exactly.

1) And I saw the Lord 8) And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,
Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
And his train filled the temple. Then I said, Here am I, send me.
2) Above him stood the Seraphim:
Each one had six wings; 9) And he said, Go, and tell this people
With twain he covered his face, Hear ye indeed, but understand not;
And with twain he covered his feet, And see ye indeed, but perceive not.
And with twain he did fly.
3) And one cried unto another, and said, 10) How fat is the heart of this people
Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts. And their ears how heavy,
The whole earth is full of his glory. And their eyes as it were shut.
Else might they see with their eyes
4) And the foundations of the thresholds were moved at the voice of him that cried, And hear with their ears
And understand with their heart,
And turn again, and be healed.
And the house was filled with smoke.
5) Then said I, Woe is me! 11) Then said I, Lord, how long?
Because I am a man of unclean lips, etc. And he answered, Until the cities be waste, without inhabitant, etc.

Besides these two-column discourses, of which we have just seen an example, we find three-column discourses, especially in Micah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. They frequently consist of three parallel parts, each divided into two or three strophes. The strophes of each column correspond on the one hand, the corresponding stanzas of each part on the other, so that we have, if we may so express it, a vertical and a horizontal responsion. The double responsion gives, as it were, the fixed points between which the network of the strophes is outspread. A classic example of this method is the great discourse in the ninth chapter of Jeremiah, which belongs to the best period, and the authenticity of which is unreservedly admitted by Biblical criticism. Lack of space unfortunately forbids me to give it here arranged according to the principles I have laid down.

It is time to observe that the same laws may be shown to prevail in cuneiform inscriptions and the works of the prophet Mohammed.



As an example of responsion I give a passage from the great inscription of Sargon (L. 186-194).

That city and that palace, (But) its ruler,
Asshur, the father of the gods, Its royal architect,
In the glory of his shining countenance May he attain to old age,
May he obtain power
Graciously may he look upon it, For ever and ever,
To days far hence May its maker grow old.
May he proclaim its renewing.
With his shining mouth may he decree: With his sounding lips may he speak:
The protecting genius, He who dwelleth in them,
The rescuing God, In health of body,
Day and night And joy of heart,
Let them rule therein, And gladness of spirit,
Nor let their power cease. May he rejoice therein,
May he taste the joy of life.


A very instructive example of the strophe combined with responsion is afforded by the second Babylonian version of the Creation, which has been for the first time translated and published by T. G. Pinches. It consists of forty lines, and is arranged in four strophes of ten lines each. The responsion is clear and vivid to the last degree, the end harks back to the beginning with manifest intention. The concatenation constitutes, as it were, a rivet between the strophes. I will confine myself at present to quoting the beginning of the first three and the ending of the last two strophes.

Str. I (beginning),

The glorious house, the house of the gods, in a glorious place had not been made,
A plant had not been brought forth, a tree had not been created, etc.

Str. I (end),

(As for) the glorious house, the house of the gods, its seat had not been made,
The whole of the lands were sea.

Str. II (beginning),

When within the sea there was a stream
In that day Eridu was made, Ê-sagila was constructed, etc.

Str. II (end),

The gods were to be caused to sit in a seat of joy of heart,
He made mankind.

Str. III (beginning),

Aruru had made the seed of mankind with him.
He made the beasts of the field and the living creatures of the desert; etc.

The age of this Babylonian story of the Creation probably goes back to at least the middle of the second millennium of our chronology, and in this very ancient specimen of Semitic poetry we find this poetic form fully developed.



It seems hardly possible to believe that the Arab prophet, who regarded it as an insult to be described as a poet, should have employed definite literary forms, and more particularly the strophe combined with the responsion, in his revelations. Yet such is the fact. In most cases the strophes rise and fall in harmony with his abrupt and agitated style (similar strophes occur in the prophetic books), but regular strophes are to be found, and in those that rise and fall we can trace a definite law which altogether excludes the idea of chance. The occurrence of the strophe combined with the responsion in the Koran, is a point of the utmost importance to the hypothesis of strophic composition, because the correctness of the arrangement of the Koran in lines seems to be assured both by the rhyme and by tradition. I will bring to your notice in this place an example of the regular strophe from the Koran. In the thirty-sixth surah we come upon a passage framed, as it were, between two verses, which form the inclusion.

v. 28. There was only one cry (of Gabriel from heaven), and behold, they became utterly extinct.
v. 49. They only wait for one sounding (of the trumpet), which shall overtake them while they are disputing together.

Between these two lie five strophes of four lines each.

Str. I, begins (v. 29),

Oh, the misery of men! no apostle cometh unto them but they laugh him to scorn.

Str. II, begins (v. 33),

One sign [of the resurrection] unto them is the dead earth, we quicken the same, etc.

Str. III, begins (v. 37),

The night also is a sign unto them, we withdraw the day from the same, etc.

Str. IV, begins (v. 41),

It is a sign also unto them that they carry off their offspring in the ship filled with merchandise, etc.

Str. V (v. 45), takes up the burden of the first, and begins,

And if it is said unto you, Fear that which is before you and that which is behind,
It may be ye shall find mercy, etc.

I will also subjoin an example of the falling strophe combined with the responsion, from sura 56, vv. 57-72.[222]

57) We have created you, will ye not therefore believe.…
58) What think ye? The seed that ye emit.
59) Do ye create the same or are we the creators thereof?
60) We have decreed death unto you all, and we shall not be prevented.
61) We are able to substitute others like you in your stead, and to produce you again in the condition or form which ye know not.
62) Ye know the original production by creation; will ye not therefore consider.…
63) What think ye the grain which ye sow?
64) Do ye cause the same to spring forth, or do we cause it to spring forth?
65) If we pleased, we could render the same dry and fruitless, so that you would not cease to wonder, saying,
66) Verily we have contracted debts for seed and labour, but we are not permitted to reap the fruit thereof.
67) What think ye? The water which ye drink,
68) Do ye send down the same from the clouds, or are we the senders thereof?
69) If we pleased we could render the same brackish: will ye not therefore give thanks?
70) What think ye? The fire which ye strike,
71) Do ye produce the tree whence ye obtain the same, or are we the producers thereof?
72) We have ordained the same for an admonition, and an advantage to those who travel through the deserts.

This passage, which is complete in itself, consists of four stanzas, of 5-4-3-2 verses, all of them diverse presentations of the same idea and alike in construction.

The whole group is enclosed between two single verses which correspond to one another, and form, as it were, a frame to it.

An exact observation of the Koran shows that strophes of the most varied structure occur in it, often combined with the responsion, and held together by all kinds of other literary forms. The principal characteristic of the strophe is still unity of idea, which, being in its nature relative, is subject to great variation. Nor is the strophe the final and greatest unit. As the strophe is formed by the combination of several lines or sentences, so a group is formed of a number of strophes and a great systematically constructed discourse of several groups. The same laws which govern the sentence and the verse prevail in the structure of the strophe and the formation of the group. Parallelism and antithesis are the principal elements of form in sentence and verse; they are likewise the forces that struggle for expression, and assert themselves in the structure of the strophe and the formation of the group.

The question may be raised: How did Mohammed come to adopt this form of composition? For the present, I can only advance a hypothesis in reply. Mohammed received the first impulse to meditate upon matters of religion from various wise and learned men, and through them became acquainted with the principal doctrines of Judaism and Christianity; and in like manner he must have acquired from them the tradition of this form of poetry, a form which, unlike the poetry of the heathen, was not devoted to the delight and joy of life, but to religious meditation and to ancient and pious legend. This form of composition may have been practised and preserved by the old soothsayers (Kahin) after it had been generally superseded by the new-fangled and rigidly metrical poetry. Mohammed may possibly have acquired the secret of this form of composition from such a Kahin, who had meditated upon the nature of religion. He therefore rightly rejected the title of poet, and with equal right called himself the “Seal of the Prophet”; for he spoke and wrote in the style of the prophets of old.



A careful consideration of the laws of strophic form and responsion which can be shown to exist, though in unequal measure, in the three great Semitic literatures, leads us to the conclusion that there are only three possible explanations of their occurrence. Either we have to do with a phenomenon evolved independently in different parts of the world, or these literary forms were invented by one nation and borrowed and imitated by the others, or, lastly, they must all be referred to a common origin.

The three nations among whom we find these literary forms are so widely separated in space and time that there can be no question of borrowing between them. But, again, phenomena so original and complicated could not appear in different places without something of a common origin.

Accordingly, the only possible assumption is that they may all be referred to a common origin, and that even in primitive times religious poetry was governed by these literary forms. They have been preserved in the Bible, the cuneiform inscriptions, and the Koran.

The establishment of the fact that strophic composition combined with responsion is to be found in all three Semitic literatures naturally drew my attention to a similar phenomenon in the choruses of Greek tragedy, a phenomenon noted and recognised by classical philology, though not treated with the consideration it deserves. Too much stress has been laid on the metrical uniformity of the strophes, too little on their substantial correspondence, and more especially on the way in which the latter is interwoven with assonance and verbal responsion. A certain amount of critical acumen is required for the recognition of these subtly concealed and delicate allusions and antitheses, but when once they are recognised, we cannot doubt that in their choruses the Greek tragedians employed the same artistic methods as the prophets. Strophe and antistrophe are modelled on the same pattern, not in rhythm and syntax alone, but in idea. Now and then the correspondence may be seen and shown to exist line for line, but in most cases it is found only in single lines, though almost always in such as occur in the same place, a circumstance that proves that the correspondence is not due to chance, but that a definite artistic intention was at work to create a certain symmetry between the two strophes.


I subjoin a few examples in support of this assertion. From the Prometheus of Æschylus, 397-414.

I mourn thy grievous fate,
Prometheus! From my tender eyes pours forth a flood of tears,
Wetting my cheeks from the springs of weeping. 400
For thus harshly Zeus,
Ruling in the law of his own will, displays
An imperious sceptre to the gods of old.
And now all the earth mourns,
And for that grand and ancient sway she weeps,
With mourning for the empire thou and thy brothers held. 410
And all who have abodes
On holy Asia’s borders, in thy loud mourned woes
Those mortals suffer with thee.


The curious responsion of these two strophes is very interesting, interwoven as it is with most of the lines, now by verbal similarity (as in στένω and στονόεν), now by similarity of sense (tears and weeps), now by antithesis (gods and men), and lastly, by an etymological play upon words (νόμος and νέμονται). In addition we have the contrast of ideas in the last lines, in the one strophe Zeus constrains the gods, in the other men mourn complaining. Again in the Œdipus Rex of Sophocles, 1, 863-910:

Strophe I Antistrophe I
863) Be it my lot to keep 873)’Tis insolence begets the tyrant,
That reverent purity of word and deed, etc. Insolence, foolishly puffed up, etc.
870) Ne’er shall forgetfulness lull them to rest: 880) Rivalry that brings
Weal to the state I ask not God to end: A great god in them dwells, nor ever waxeth old.
Never shall I depart from God my champion.
Strophe II Antistrophe II
883) But a man who walks in haughty insolence of word or deed, 897) Never shall I more in reverence go to Delphi’s holy place
Fearing not the hand of Justice, nor revering shrines of gods. Nor the shrine of Abæ, nor Olympia.
895) But if such deeds as these are held in honour 909) No longer in Apollo’s worship manifest,
What offerings need I bring the gods? But honours to the gods go all unpaid.

This form of strophic construction is worthy of note, because not only do the strophe and antistrophe correspond, but the couples of strophes answer to one another; in other words, besides the vertical responsion we find a horizontal responsion (as in Jeremiah ix.), expressed sometimes by the use of identical words, sometimes by antithesis.

Euripides, Bacchæ.

Strophe. 862-870
All night in choric dances my white foot shall beat
The Bacchic rout; my head I will toss in the dewy air,
As the fawn that sports among the pleasures of green fields,
When in fear it flees the chase,
Escaping the trap, overleaping the well-wrought toils.…
Antistrophe. 882-890
Slowly, yet surely moves the power divine,
It punisheth mortals who go the way of folly,
And madly fail to reverence the gods.
But subtly the gods still wait
Long time in hiding, and hunt down the impious man.…


In the strophe we have the shy and timid fawn which takes flight from the pasture and rejoices at her escape from the pursuit of the hunters, in the antistrophe the presumptuous man who transgresses the laws of nature and custom. In the one the timid flight, in the other the subtle (ποικίλος) lying in wait of the gods; the fawn escapes the huntsman, man escapes not the gods. The antithesis in lines 4-5 is most striking. The last lines of both strophes are identical.

A careful study of the responsion in all the wonderful variety of form it presents will suffice to show, even from these few examples, that they bear an amazing resemblance to the forms exhibited by Semitic poetry, particularly by the prophetic writings.


Instead of attempting to prove here that the Greek chorus came into being under Semitic influences I will subjoin the opinion of a classical philologist who has studied the question more minutely than any one else. I refer to D. P. Thomas M. Wehofer (Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Epistolographie, p. 16).

“For the rest, long before the Christian era Greek literature had received a strong admixture of Semitic art-forms. For, as has been convincingly proved, in my opinion, by Dr. D. H. Müller (Die Propheten, p. 244 seq.), the Greek choruses, those splendid productions of Greek poetry, must be referred for their origin to the temple of Apollo at Delphi, whither (according to the tradition preserved by Euripides in the Phœnissæ) ‘chosen Phœnician virgins were sent from Tyre to conduct the service of the god.’ It is evident that the Greek chorus, the germ from which Greek tragedy was destined to be evolved, followed the same path as Greek painting and plastic art.

“The Greek spirit took possession of all the elements of beauty it encountered, not to preserve them in a petrified state, but by its own working to shape and perfect them, and bring them to the highest conceivable pitch of development.”

The genius of Greece recognised the power of Semitic poetry; it gladly left it its soaring flight, but brought into it the noble feeling for form which was its own peculiar gift, and to ideas and responsion added metrical symmetry. The choruses present a happy combination of the Semitic spirit and the Greek sense of beauty.

The assumption that the Greek chorus, with its strophe and antistrophe, is a Semitic invention is not without bearing on the history of the earliest ages of Semitic poetry. If the Greeks borrowed the chorus, it must have been in use in the religious worship of the Phœnicians. If, in connection with this fact, we consider the responsion in the strophes of the prophetic writings, which exhibit precisely the same method of composition and[226] literary form as the Greek choruses, we are forced upon the hypothesis that the earliest form of prophetic composition must be regarded as a chorus with strophes and antistrophes.

Authorities.Die Propheten in ihrer ursprünglichen Form. Die Grundgesetze der ursemitischen Poesie erschlossen und nachgewiesen in Bibel Keilinschriften und Koran und in ihrer Wirkung erkannt in den Chören der griechischen Tragödie, by D. H. Müller. 2 vols. Vienna, 1896.

Strophen und Responsion. Neue Beiträge. By D. H. Müller. Vienna, 1898. (Cf. also Felix Perles in the Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunde des Morgenlandes, X, 112, 71; and J. Zeenner in the Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie, XX, p. 378.)

Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Epistolographie, by D. P. Thomas M. Wehofer. Vienna, 1901.

Ancient Quarry near Jerusalem



[The letter a is reserved for Editorial Matter.]

Chapter I. Land and People

b L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

c B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel.

d The Holy Bible.

e Strabo, Γεωγραφικά.

f Tacitus, Annales.

g Justin, The History of the World.

h Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum libri.

i Comte de Volney, Voyage en Égypte et en Syrie.

j J. G. Eickhorn, De Antiquis Historiæ Arabum Monumentes.

Chapter II. Origin and Early History

b A. H. Sayce, The Early History of the Hebrews.

c Max Löhr, Geschichte des Volkes Israel.

d Wolfgang von Goethe, Dichtung und Wahrheit.

e B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel.

f The Holy Bible.

g L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

h Eduard Reuss, Introduction to the Holy Bible.

Chapter III. The Judges

b Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

c Salomon Munk, La Palestine.

d L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

e The Holy Bible.

Chapter IV. Samuel and Saul

b J. E. Renan, Histoire du peuple d’Israël.

c Max Duncker, Geschichte des Alterthums.

d The Holy Bible.

e The Talmud.

Chapter V. David’s Reign

b Rudolf Kittel, Geschichte der Hebräer.

c J. E. Renan, Histoire du peuple d’Israël.

d The Talmud.

e Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

f The Holy Bible.

Chapter VI. Solomon in his Glory

b Rudolf Kittel, Geschichte der Hebräer.

c The Holy Bible.

d F. W. Newman, A History of the Hebrew Monarchy.

Chapter VII. Decay and Captivity

b L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

c Rudolf Kittel, Geschichte der Hebräer.

d The Moabite Stone.

e A. H. Sayce, The Early History of the Hebrews.

fAssyrian Inscriptions.

g Salomon Munk, La Palestine.

h Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

i The Holy Bible.

j The Apocrypha.

k Gaston C. C. Maspero, Histoire ancienne des peuples de l’Orient.

Chapter VIII. The Return from Captivity

b The Holy Bible.

c J. E. Renan, Histoire du peuple d’Israël.

d L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

e Salomon Munk, La Palestine.

f Xenophon, Cyropædia (translated from the Greek by J. S. Watson and Henry Dale).

g The Apocrypha.

h Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).


Chapter IX. From Nehemiah to Antiochus

b David Cassel, Lehrbuch der jüdischen Geschichte und Litteratur.

c Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

d The Talmud (the Mishnah).

e J. Jahn, The Hebrew Commonwealth.

f The Apocrypha (The Books of the Maccabees).

g George Smith, The Hebrew People.

h Asaria de’ Rossi, Meor Enajim.

Chapter X. The Maccabæan War

b F. Hitzig, Geschichte des Volkes Israel.

c Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

d George Smith, The Hebrew People.

e J. Jahn, The Hebrew Commonwealth.

f The Holy Bible.

g The Apocrypha.

h Polybius, Καθολικὴ κοινὴ ἱστορία.

Chapter XI. From the Maccabees to the Romans

b Georg Weber, Allgemeine Weltgeschichte.

c The Apocrypha (The Book of Wisdom).

d George Smith, The Hebrew People.

e Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

Chapter XII. The Rise of Christianity

b L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

c Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews and the Wars of the Jews (translated from the Greek by William Whiston).

d The Holy Bible.

e Salomon Munk, La Palestine.

f Origen, φιλοσοφούμενα.

g Cornelius Tacitus, The Works of Cornelius Tacitus (translated from the Latin by A. Murphy).

h J. E. Renan, Histoire du peuple d’Israël.

i E. Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

j Suetonius, Vitæ duodecim Cæsarum.

k Dion Cassius, Ῥωμαικὴ ἱστορία.

l Clemens Romanus, Epistolæ.

Chapter XIII. The Revolt Against Rome

b Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews.

c L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

d Salomon Munk, La Palestine.

e Thucydides, Συγγραφή.

f F. R. Lamennais, Essai sur l’indifférence en matière de la religion.

Chapter XIV. The Fall of Jerusalem

b H. H. Milman, History of the Jews.

c Flavius Josephus, The Wars of the Jews.

d Salomon Munk, La Palestine.

e L. Ménard, Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient.

f Dion Cassius, Ῥωμαικὴ ἱστορία.

g The Talmud (Mishnah and Gemara).

Chapter XV. Hebrew Civilisation

b G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History.

c E. Ledrain, L’histoire d’Israël.

d E. Babelon, Manuel d’archéologie orientale.

e F. W. Newman, History of the Hebrew Monarchy.

f The Holy Bible.

g Baruch Spinoza, Opera posthuma.

Chapter XVI. The Prophets and the History of Semitic Style

The Holy Bible.

T. G. Pinches, “Babylonian Story of the Creation” (in Records of the Past).

Thos. M. Wehofer, Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Epistolographie.

D. H. Müller, Die Propheten in ihrer ursprünglichen Form.

D. H. Müller, Strophen und Responsion.

Felix Perles, article in Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunde des Morgenlandes, X, 112, 71.

J. Zeenner, article in Zeitschrift für Katholische Theologie, XX, 378.


Ramla, Once the Finest City in Palestine



Abbott, I. K., Essays chiefly on the original texts of the Old and New Testament, London, 1901.—Adams, H. C., The History of the Jews, London, 1887.—Alker, E., Die vortrojanische ägyptische Chronologie im Einklang mit der biblischen, Leobschütz, 1894.—Amitai, L. K., Étude sur les rapports qui ont existé entre les romains et les juifs jusqu’à la prise de Jerusalem, Paris, 1893.—Andrée, R., Zur Volkskunde der Juden, Bielefeld and Leipsic, 1881.—Andrée, J., L’esclavage chez les anciens Hébreux, Genève, 1892.—Andrian, E. von, Höhenkult asiat. und europ. Völker, Wien, 1895.—Archinard, Étude d’histoire et d’archéologie d’Israël et ses voisins asiatiques: la Phénicie, l’Aram et l’Assyrie de l’époque de Salomon à celle de Sanherib, Genève, 1890.

Babelon, E., Manuel d’archéologie orientale, Paris, 1888.—Back, S., Das Synhedrion unter Napoleon I, Prag, 1879; Die relig. gesch. Litteratur der Juden in dem Zeitraum v. 15-18 Jahrhundert, Trier, 1893.—Basnage, T. de Beauval, Histoire des juifs depuis J. C. jusqu’à présent, pour servir de continuation à l’histoire de Josephus, La Haye, 1716.—Bauer, G. L., Manual of the History of the Hebrew Nation, Nürnberg and Altdorf, 1880, 3 vols.—Baxter, W. L., Sanctuary and Sacrifices, London, 1895.—Bellange, C., Le judaïsme de l’histoire du peuple juif, Paris, 1889.—Bennett, W. H., Economic conditions of the Hebrew Monarchy (in The Thinker, 8, II, 9, I), New York, 1893.—Benzinger, J., Hebräische Archæologie, Freiburg, 1894.—Bestmann, H., Entwicklungsgeschichte des Reiches Gottes unter dem Alten und Neuen Bunde, Berlin, 1895.—Berliner, A., Geschichte der Juden in Rom, Frankfurt, 1893.—Bender, A., Vorträge über die Offenbarung Gottes auf alttest. Boden.—Bertholet, Die Stellung der Israeliten und der Juden zu den Fremden, Freiburg, 1896.—Bettany, G. T. A., Sketch of Judaism and Christianity in the Light of Modern Research, London, 1892.—Bible, The Holy (“authorised version”), London, 1611; (“revised version”), London, 1884.—Blaikie, W. G., Heroes of Israel, Gütersloh, 1891.—Bloch, J. S., Der nationale Zwist und die Juden in Österreich, Wien, 1886.—Bois, H., Essais sur les origines de la philosoph. judéo-alexandrine, Paris, 1895; Alexandre le Grand et les juifs en Palestine, (in Revue de Théol. et Philos., Paris, 1890-91).—Boralevi, E., Civiltà e Culto giudaico, Livorno, 1893.—Borselli, F., Introduction in libros prophetarum, Neapolis, 1893.—Boscawen, W. St. C., The Bible and the Monuments, London, 1895.—Braun, M., Geschichte der Juden und ihrer Litteratur, vom Auszug aus Ægypten bis Talmud, Breslau, 1896.—Brooks, J. W., The History of the Hebrew Nation from its First Origin to the Present Time, London, 1841.—Brownlee, W. C., The History of the Jews, from the Taking of Jerusalem by Titus to the Present Time, New York, 1842.—Bruce, W. S., The Ethics of the Old Testament, Edinburgh, 1895.—Brugsch, H., Die biblischen sieben Jahre der Hungersnoth, etc., Leipsic, 1891; Steininschrift und Bibelwort, Berlin, 1891.—Budde, K., Die Religion des Volkes Israel, Giessen, 1900; Die Ebed-Jahwe-Lieder und die Bedeutung des Knechtes Jahwes (in Jes. 40-55),[230] Giessen, 1900; Der Kanon des Alten Testamentes: Ein Abriss, Giessen, 1900; Israel und Ägypten (in Deutsches Wochenblatt, No. 26).—Buhl, F. P. W., Det israelitiskhe Folks historie, Copenhagen, 1893.—Buhl, F., Kanon und Text des Alten Testamentes, Leipsic, 1891; Die Geschichte der Edomiter, Leipsic, 1893; Geographie des alten Palästina, Freiburg, 1894; Die socialen Verhältnisse der Israeliten, Berlin, 1898.—Baudissin, Count, W. H. F. C., Geschichte des alttestamentlichen Priestertums, Leipsic, 1889; Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, Leipsic, 1876-78, 2 vols.

Capefigue, B. H. R., Histoire philosophique des juifs, Paris, 1833.—Casabo y Pages, P., La España Judia, Barcelona, 1891.—Cassel, D., Lehrbuch der jüdischen Geschichte und Litteratur, Leipsic, 1879.—Castelli, D., Storia degl’ Israeliti dalle origini fino della monarchia, Milano, 1887; Gli ebrei sunto di storia politica e letteraria, Florence, 1899.—Cavagnaro, C., Gli ebrei in Egitto, Genova, 1890.—Cazes, D., Essai sur l’histoire des Israélites de Tunisie, Paris, 1888.—Chaikin, A., Étude historique sur l’état des juifs, etc., Paris, 1887.—Chastel, E., Histoire du Christianisme, Paris, 1881, 4 vols.—Cheyne, T. K., From Isaiah to Ezra: A Study of Ethanites and Jerahmeelites (in Am. Journ. of Theology, Vol. V., p. 433 et seq.); Founders of Old Testament Criticism: biogr., descript., and critical studies, London, 1893; The Origin and Religious Contents of the Psalter in the Light of Old Test. Criticism and the History of Religions, London, 1894.—Cheyne, T. K. and Sutherland, Black, J., Encyclopædia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary of the Liter., Polit., and Relig. History, the Archæol., Geography, and Natural History of the Bible, London, 1899, etc.—Chmerkin, X., Les juifs en Russie, Paris, 1893.—Cobb, W. F., Origines Judaicæ.—Cohen, L., Chronologische Beiträge zur jüdischen Geschichte, Breslau, 1892.—Commilito, Luther und die Juden, Leipsic, 1881.—Conder, C. R., The Hebrew Tragedy, Edinburgh, 1900.—Cordier, H., Les juifs en Chine, Paris, 1891.—Corneilhan, G., Le Judaïsme en Egypte et en Syrie, Paris, 1889.—Cornill, Entstehung des Volkes Israel und seiner nationalen Organisation, Hamburg, 1888 (Virchow, Samml. wissenschaftl. Vorträge, n. F. 3 Serie, Heft 60); Einleitung, C. H., in das Alte Testament, Freiburg, 1896.—Costa, I. de, Israel en de volken overzicht van de geschiedenis der Toden tot op owzen tijd, Utrecht, 1876.

Daly, C. P., Settlement of the Jews in North America, New York, 1893.—Davies, T. W., Magic Divination and Demonology among the Hebrews and their Neighbors, London, 1898.—Davis, M. D., Hebrew Deeds of English Jews before 1290, London, 1888.—Day, E., The Social Life of the Hebrews, New York, 1901.—Deane, W. I., Pseudepigrapha: An Account of Certain Apocryphal Sacred Writings of the Jews and Early Christians, Edinburgh, 1894.—Dédié, M., Les esséniens dans leur rapports avec le judaïsme et christianisme, Montauban, 1894.—Deissmann, G. A., Beiträge zur Geschichte der Sprache, etc., des hellenistischen Judenthums, Marburg, 1895; Die sprachliche Erforschung der griechischen Bibel, ihr gegenwärtiger Stand und ihre Aufgaben, Giessen, 1898.—Delattre, R. P., Le pays de Chanaan, province de l’ancien empire égyptien (in Revue des questions historiques, Paris, July, 1896, pp. 5-94).—Delitzsch, Franz, Geschichte der jüdischen Poesie, Leipsic, 1836; Beiträge zur mittelalterlichen Scholastik unter Juden und Moslemen, Leipsic, 1841; Jesus und Hillel, mit Rücksicht auf Renan und Geiger verglichen, Erlangen, 1879; Jüdisch-arabische Poesien aus vormuhammedanischer Zeit., Leipsic, 1874; Die biblisch-prophetische Theologie, Leipsic, 1845; Die Bücher des Alten Testaments aus dem Griechischen ins Hebräische übersetzt, Berlin, 1885; Das System der biblischen Psychologie, Leipsic, 1861; Physiologie und Musik in ihrer Bedeutung für die Grammatik, besonders die hebräische; Leipsic, 1868.—Delitzsch, Friedrich, Wo lag das Paradies? Leipsic, 1881. The Hebrew Language viewed in the Light of Assyrian Research, London, 1883; Prolegomena eines neuen hebräisch-aramäischen Wörterbuchs zum Alten Testament, Leipsic, 1886.—Dérenbourg, J., Essai sur l’histoire de la Palestine, Paris, 1867.—Dessauer, J. H., Geschichte der Israeliten mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Culturgeschichte derselben, Breslau, 1870.—Destinon, J. v., Die Chronologie des Josephus, Kiel, 1880.—Dillmann, A., Über die Herkunft der urgesch. Sagen der Hebräer (in Sitz. Ber. d. Berliner Acad. d. Wiss.), Berlin, 1882; Über den Ursprung der alttest. Religion, Giessen, 1865; Über die Propheten des Alten Bundes nach ihrer politischen Wirksamkeit, Giessen, 1868.—Dion Cassius, History of Rome, London, 1704.—Driver, S. R., Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, London, 1894.—Drumont, E. A., La France juive, Paris, 1886.—Duncker, M., Geschichte des Alterthums, Leipsic, 1877, 6 vols.—Dutt, A., Old Test. Theology, London, 1900.

Edersheim, A., Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, London, 1884; Law and Policy of the Jews, London, 1880; Sketches of Jewish Social Life in Days of Christ, London, 1876; History of the Jewish Nation after the Destruction of Jerusalem under Titus, London, 1890.—Emil, E., Erinnerungen eines alten Pragers, Ghettogeschichten, etc., Leipsic,[231] 1893.—Errera, L., Les juifs russes, Brussels, 1893.—Eusebius, F., Chronicon.—Ewald, G. H. A., Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Göttingen, 1864-1867, 7 vols. Die Altertümer des Volkes Israel, Göttingen, 1866.

Georg Heinrich August Ewald was born at Göttingen, November 16, 1803; died at Göttingen, May 4, 1875. He was professor of oriental languages in Göttingen from 1827 to 1837 and from 1848 to 1867. Professor Ewald was one of the most stalwart figures in that company of great men who took part in reorganising the attitude of nineteenth-century thought toward Hebrew literature. But while delving to the very depths of oriental scholarship, he took no less keen an interest in the politics of the Germany of his own time; and it was this interest, rather than the other, which determined most of the important steps in his personal history. Thus the interruption of his first course as professor at Göttingen was due to his association with that famous company known as the “Göttingen Seven,” who protested so vigorously against what they regarded as a political outrage that it was no longer possible for them to retain their connection with the university there. Subsequently Ewald was recalled to his old post, but again a conflict came, in which he needs must say his mind, with a result much as before. And even later in life, when the world-famed orientalist was past his seventy-first year, he was tried, convicted, and condemned to three weeks’ imprisonment for having expressed his honest opinions of the actions of Prince Bismarck and the Imperial Government which that statesman dominated. With these biographical details in mind it can never be in question that the great orientalist was a man of the firmest convictions, who always stood ready to battle for the faith that was in him, which was the keynote of his very existence. He was a controversialist, a reformer—as has been said—another Luther. A student of oriental literature from his early childhood, he came in after life to be recognised everywhere as one of the greatest authorities upon this subject; and his writings, nearly all of them having to do with Hebrew history, mark an epoch in the progress of the religious and historical thought of his age. The Geschichte des Volkes Israel, especially, must always stand at once as a monument of learning and as a milestone of the intellectual progress of a generation. When it appeared, and for many years afterwards, it seemed to the generality of scholars of the time an iconoclastic work—a work tending to shake the foundations of faith, though written by one whose own faith was of the profoundest character. It was, indeed, a forerunner of that work of biblical exegesis which has since become famous under the popular name of the “The Higher Criticism.” But so swift were the changes during the later decades of the nineteenth century that what seemed iconoclasm—almost scepticism—in 1840 must be classed as conservatism in 1900. Ewald himself would have stood aghast could he have seen whither the road on which he had entered was sure to lead.

Fenton, J., Early Hebrew Life: a Study of Sociology, London, 1880.—Fergusson, J., The Palaces of Nineveh and Persepolis Restored, London, 1851.—Fiske, A. K., The Jewish Scriptures: the Books of the Old Testament in the Light of their Origin and History, New York, 1894.—Flöckner, Über den Character der alttest. Poesie; Beuthen, 1898.—Floigl, V., Chronologie der Bibel, Leipsic, 1880.—Fowle, E., Short Papers on Jewish History, London, 1880.—Fox, A., Patriarchs and Leaders of Israel, London, 1890.—Frederic, H., The New Exodus: Study of Israel in Russia, London, 1892.—Fresco, Hist. des Israélites, Paris, 1898.

Garredi, M., Catholicisme et Judaïsme, Paris, 1888.—Gautier, L., La mission du prophète Ezéchiel, Lausanne, 1895.—Geneste, Max, Parallel Histories of Judah and Israel, with explanatory notes, London, 1843.—Geikie, C., Landmarks of Old Testament History, London, 1893.—Gibbon, Edward, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (ed. by W. Smith), London, 1872, 8 vols.—Gilbert, I., Nature, the Supernatural and the Religion of Israel, London, 1893.—Gindraux, F., À la suite des Israélites d’Egypte au Sinai, Lausanne, 1895.—Ginsburg, C. D., The Moabite Stone, London, 1891 (contains translations by Dermbourg, Gannean, Geiger, Hang, Hayes, Hitzig, Kaempf, Neubauer, Noeldeke, Schlottmann and Wright).—Girard, R. de, Études de géologie biblique, Freiburg, 1893.—Glover, A. K., Jewish Chinese Papers, 1894.—Goethe, Wolfgang von, Dichtung und Wahrheit, Weimar, 1811-1812, 1814.—Goldschmidt, S., Geschichte der Juden in England, Berlin, 1890.—Goodspeed, G. S., A Sketch of Canaanitish History to about the Year 1000 (in Bibl. World, 7, II, Chicago, 1896).—Gordon, R. A., Old Testament History, London, 1890.—Gourgeot, E., La Domination juive en Algérie, Alger, 1894.—Grant, M., L’Orient et la Bible, Genève, 1897.—Grätz, H., Geschichte der Juden von den ältesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart, Leipsic, 1853-1875; Volkstümliche Geschichte der Juden, Leipsic, 1888.—Green, General Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon, London, 1899.—Grünbaum, M., Neue Beiträge zur semitischen Sagenkunde, Leiden, 1893.—Grüneisen, Der Ahnenkultus und die Urreligion Israels, Halle, 1899.—Guthe, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Freiburg, 1899.


Haneberg, Die religiösen Altertümer, Stuttgart, 1869.—Harper, E. J., Important Movements in Israel Prior to the Establishment of the Kingdom (in Bibl. World, 7, II, Chicago, 1896).—Harris, M. H., The People of the Bible, New York, 1890.—Hastings, F. E., Biblical Chronology, The historical period, kings, judges (in Proc. Soc. of Bibl. Archæol., Vol. XXII, p. 10 et seq., London).—Havet, E., Étude d’histoire religieuse, Paris, 1894.—Heath, D. J., On the Jewish Exodus, as illustrated by Certain Egyptian Papyri (in Journ. Brit. Archæol. Assoc., Vol. XI, p. 238, London).—Hegel, G. W. F., Lectures on the Philosophy of History, London, 1857.—Henderson, A., Palestine, its Historical Geography (2nd edition), Edinburgh, 1894.—Hengstenberg, E. W., Geschichte des Reiches Gottes unter dem alten Bunde, Berlin, 1870-1871.—Henne Am Rhyn, O., Allgemeine Kulturgeschichte, Leipsic, 1877-1879, 6 vols; Kulturgeschichte des jüdischen Volkes von den ältesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart, Jena, 1892.

Otto Henne am Rhyn was born August 26, 1828, at Zürich. We have already had occasion to refer to the advantageous point of view of the historian who is also a practical man of affairs. The case of Henne am Rhyn is another illustration in point. In his early days, and even till well on in life, he was a practical journalist, and he abandoned this field for the position of professor in the University of Zürich. As a journalist he attained notable distinction, and the fact of obtaining a professorship speaks for itself as to his scholarship. The briefest glance at his Allgemeine Kulturgeschichte makes it clear that he was a man of a broad sweep of mind, fully conversant with the great subject which he attempted to treat. German scholarship has given us several “culture” histories of the widest type, notably those of Wachsmuth and Osman, but among them all there is perhaps none of higher or more various merit than that of the Swiss journalist-professor.

Herzfeld, L., Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Braunschweig, 1847-1857, 3 vols.; Handelsgeschichte der Juden des Altertums, Braunschweig, 1879.—Hitzig, F., Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Leipsic, 1869.—Holtzmann, V., Religionsgeschichtliche Vorträge, Giessen, 1902.—Holzinger, H., Einleitung in den Hexateuch, Freiburg, 1895.—Hoonacker, A. van, Nouvelles études sur la restauration juive d’après l’exit de Babylone, Paris-Louvain, 1893.—Hommel, F., The Ancient Hebrew Tradition, as illustrated by the Monuments, London, 1897.—Hosmer, J. K., Jews in Ancient and Modern Times, London, 1866; The Story of the Jews, Ancient, Mediæval, and Modern, New York, 1891.—Hudson, E. H., History of the Jews in Rome, London, 1882-1884.—Hutton, L., Literary Landmarks of Jerusalem, New York, 1895.

Inman, Dr. T., Ancient Faiths, Liverpool, 1868-1869, 2 vols.

Jacobs, J., Studies in Biblical Archæology, London, 1894; The Jews of Angevin History, London, 1893; Inquiry into the Sources of the History of the Jews in Spain, London, 1894.—Jahn, Johann, The Hebrew Commonwealth, London, 1829.—Jellinek, A., Franzosen über Juden, Wien, 1880.—Johnson, W. E., Our Debt to the Past, or Chaldean Science, London, 1890.—Josephus, F., Περι τοῡ Ἰουδαϊκοῡ πολέμον, Basel, 1554; Ἰουδαϊκὴ ἀρχαιολογία, Oxford, 1720; Κατὰ Ἀπίωνος, Leipsic, 1691; Antiquities of the Jews, Edinburgh, 1843; The Wars of the Jews, Edinburgh, 1843.

Flavius Josephus, a Jew, was born about the year 37 A.D. and died about 95 A.D. He is the one secular historian whose writings had great importance in perpetuating the knowledge of the Jewish history throughout later classical and mediæval times. Indeed, thanks to the subject upon which he wrote, Josephus has continued to be better known to the general public than almost any other classical author. Josephus, though a Jew, spent most of his life in Rome, and he appears to have taken it as his mission to justify his race to his western associates. As is well known, the Jews were not favourably regarded among the Greeks and Romans; hence the character of the narrative of Josephus. His chief work on the history of the Jews is based very manifestly upon the sacred records of his people. It is, in short, in the main a bald transcript, with certain additions and omissions, of the biblical record. It can hardly be maintained that the transcript was made with entire candour and honesty. In the nature of the case, these merits were hardly to be expected of Josephus. He was a Jew, a member of a despised and insignificant race, striving to prove to the most cultured people in the world that the contempt in which they held his compatriots was not merited. His whole effort, therefore, is to magnify the importance of the Jews, to minimise their faults. It is true he introduces into his narrative, here and there, much matter that is not to be found in the Bible records. To a certain extent such matter may be drawn from other Jewish sources that have not come down to us; but it is quite impossible to draw the line between such matter and other matter which the imagination of Josephus may have invented, not indeed as to bald facts, but as to the elaboration of details. The work of Josephus has an added importance in that it brings the history of his race down to his own time; that is to say, to the latter part of the first century A.D. For[233] later events, in some of which the author himself participated as a military leader, the work of Josephus is the highest, if not indeed the sole authority, and we have quoted from him frequently. For the earlier period, Josephus depended upon the traditions of his race.

Jost, Israel Marcus, Geschichte der Israeliten, Berlin, 1820-1847, 12 vols.; Allgemeine Geschichte des israelitischen Volkes, Leipsic, 1850; Geschichte des Judentums und seiner Sekten, Leipsic, 1857-1889, 3 vols.—Justinius, Historiæ Philippicæ et totius Mundi Origenes et Terræ Situs, Venice, 1470.—Jungfer, H., Die Juden unter Friedrich dem Grossen, Leipsic, 1880.—Justi, F., Geschichte der altorientalischen Völker im Altertum, St. Petersburg, 1884.

Kahn, L., Histoire de la communauté israélite à Paris, Paris, 1894.—Kalischer, E., Parabel und Fabel bei den alten Hebräern, Berlin, 1894.—Kamphausen, A., Das Lied Moses, Leipsic, 1862; Das Gebet des Herrn, Elberfeld, 1866; Die Chronologie der hebräischen Könige, Bonn, 1883; Das Buch Daniel und die neuere Geschichtsforschung, Leipsic, 1893; Bleek’s Einleitung ins Alte Testament, Berlin, 1870.—Karpeles, G., A Sketch of Jewish History, Philadelphia, 1897; Jewish Literature and Other Essays, Philadelphia, 1895.—Kautzsch, An Outline of the History of the Literature of the Old Testament, New York, 1899.—Keil, Handbuch der biblischen Archæologie, Frankfurt, 1875.—Kellner, Max, The Assyrian Monuments (illustrating the Sermons of Isaiah), Boston, 1900.—Kellogg, S. H., The Jews, or Prediction and Fulfilment, New York, 1883.—Kennard, H. M., Philistines and Israelites: A New Light on the World’s History, London, 1895.—Kent, C. F., A History of the Hebrew People, New York, 1896; A History of the Jewish People during the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek Periods, New York, 1899.—Kirkpatrick, A. F., The Doctrine of the Prophets, London, 1897.—Kittel, R., Die Anfänge der hebräischen Geschichtsschreibung im Alten Testament, Leipsic, 1895; Geschichte der Hebräer, Gotha, 1884.—Klostermann, Geschichte des Volkes Israel bis zur Restauration unter Esra und Nehemia, München, 1896.—Koehler, A., Lehrbuch der Geschichte des Alten Bundes, Erlangen, 1875-1881.—Kohlbauer, A., Geschichte des alttestamentlichen Bundesvolkes, Regensburg, 1886.—König, Ed., Einleitung in das Alte Testament mit Einschluss der Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen des Alten Testamentes, Bonn, 1893.—Kosters, W. H., Die Wiederherstellung Israels (in der Pers. Studie), Heidelberg, 1895.—Kuehnen, A., Gottesdienst von Israel, Haarlem, 1869-1870; Hist. critisch onderzoek naar het ontstaan en de verzameling van de boeken des ouden Verbonds. 2 uitgave. Leyden, 1885-1893; Die Profeten und die Profetie in Israel, Leyden, 1875, 2 vols.; Volksreligion und Weltreligion, Berlin, 1883; Skizzen aus der Geschichte Israels, Nimwegen, 1882-1892, 2 vols.; Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur biblischen Wissenschaft, Freiburg, 1894.—Kurtz, J. H., Geschichte des alten Bundes, Berlin, 1848-1855, 2 vols.

Landau, R., Geschichte der jüdischen Ärzte, Berlin, 1895.—Laroche, E., Chronologie des Israélites, Angers, 1892.—Latimer, Judæa: from Cyrus to Titus, 537 B.C.-70 A.D., London, 1894.—Lazarus, M., Die Ethik des Judentums, Frankfurt, 1898.—Leathes, S., The Law in the Prophets, London, 1894.—Ledrain, E., L’histoire d’Israël, avec append. par J. Oppert, Paris, 1879.

Eugène Ledrain was born at St. Suzanne (Mayenne), France, in 1844. Professor Ledrain is a distinguished member of that large coterie of French scholars who have devoted their lives to the study of biblical history. His works have for some reason not been translated, and his name is therefore not very familiar to the English reader. His particular field has been the history of the Jews in all its phases. His industry is illustrated not only by the long list of his writings, but particularly by the fact that these included a new translation of the Bible. So much said, it is clear that his investigations have been of a kind to give him the fullest familiarity with his subject, and it is no surprise to find that he is able to present his knowledge in an acceptable form.

Leitner, F., Die prophetische Inspiration, Freiburg, 1894.—Lidzbarski, Handbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphik nebst ausgew. Inschrift., Weimar, 1898.—Lieblein, J., L’exode des hébreux (in Proc. Soc. of Bibl. Archæol., Vol. XX, p. 277; Vol. XXI, p. 53, London, 1898).—Lincke, V., Die Entstehung des Judentums (in Ztschr. für Wissenschaftl. Theologie, Jahrg. 44, p. 481 et seq., Leipsic, 1901).—Linden, G. v., Der Sieg des Judentums über das Germanentum, Leipsic, 1879.—Lindo, E. H., History of the Jews of Spain and Portugal, London, 1848.—Lippe, Ch. D., Biblisches Lexicon der gesammten jüd. Litteratur der Gegenwart, Wien, 1881.—Löhr, M., Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Strassburg, 1900.—Lotz, W., Geschichte und Offenbarung im Alten Testament, Leipsic, 1894.—Löwenstein, L., Beiträge zur Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland, Frankfurt, 1895.—Lury, I., Geschichte der Edomiter im biblischen Zeitalter, Bern, 1897.—Lyon, Sketch of Babylonian and Assyrian History with special reference to Palestine (in Bibl. World, 7, II, Chicago, 1896).


McCurdy, F. F., History, Prophecy, and the Monuments to the Fall of Nineveh, London, 1894; To the Downfall of Samaria, London, 1894.—MacDonald, M., Harmony of Ancient History and Chronology of the Egyptians and the Jews, Philadelphia, 1891.—Magdeleine, J. de, La France catholique et la France juive, Paris, 1888.—Magnus, Lady Philip, Outlines of Jewish History, London, 1892.—Mally, J., Historia sacra antiqui Testamenti, Strigonii, 1890.—Margoliouth, G., Hebrew-Babylonian Affinities, London, 1899.—Marquart, J., Fundamente israelitischer und jüdischer Geschichte, Göttingen, 1896.—Marti, K., Geschichte der israelitischen Religion, Strassburg, 1897.—Masse, E., La Révolution française et la Rabbinat, Paris, 1890.—Mayers, M., The History of the Jews: from their Origin to their Ultimate Dispersion, London, 1824.—Mears, J. W., From Exile to Overthrow: a History of the Jews from Babylonian Captivity, Philadelphia, 1881.—Ménard, L. N., Histoire des Israélites, Paris, 1883; Histoire des anciens peuples de l’Orient, Paris, 1883.

Louis Nicolas Ménard was born at Paris, October 15, 1822. The celebrated French professor of art is better known to the general public through his historical writings than through those that pertain to his own speciality. But, indeed, it would be perhaps keeping in too narrow a vein to speak of Ménard as pre-eminently a specialist in the field of art, for his interests are cosmopolitan, and he is quite as much at home in the field of history pure and simple as in that of his favourite study. As a writer, Ménard has the merit of comprehensiveness of view and of unusual felicity of presentation. His history of the Israelites is, on some accounts, the best brief popular presentation of the subject that has been written in any language. It is at once free from the idolatrous prejudice which has marred the works of certain historians, and from the iconoclastic prejudice which has disfigured certain others. It is a work, therefore, which every earnest student of ancient history who would wish to view the Israelites in their proper historic perspective, may read with interest and profit.

Mendelssohn, M., Jerusalem, Berlin, 1783.—Merx, Adalbert, Zur Geschichte des Stammes Levi, 1870.—Meyer, Ed., Die Entstehung des Judentums, Halle, 1896; Geschichte des Altertums, Stuttgart, 1884-1902, 5 vols.—Mills, A., The ancient Hebrews, New York and Chicago, 1874.—Milman, H. H., The History of the Jews from the Earliest Period to the Present Time, London, 1878.—Moabite Stone. (For numerous translations see Christian D. Ginsburg.)—Moebius, H., Die Kinder Israel nie in Ägypten, Ilmenau, 1884.—Monasch, M., Geschiedenis van het volk Israel, Amsterdam, 1891.—Montefiore, C. G., Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Hebrews (Hibbert Lectures, 1892), London, 1893 (2nd edition).—Montet, J., Le Deutéronome et la question de l’Hexateuque, Paris, 1895.—Morrison, W. D., The Jews under Roman rule, London, 1890.—Moulton, H. G., The Literary Study of the Bible, London, 1895.—Munk, Salomon, La Palestine, Paris, 1845.

Naville, E., The Store City of Pithom, London, 1885.—Neil, J., Pictured Palestine, London, 1893.—Nestle, E., Marginalien und Materialien, Tübingen, 1893.—Neteler, B., Stellung der alttest. Zeitrechnung in der altorientalischen Geschichte, Münster, 1893; Die Zeitstellung des israelitischen Auszugs, Münster, 1895.—Neubauer, A., Mediæval Jewish Chronicles, London, 1887.—Neubauer, A., and Stern, M., Hebräische Berichte über die Judenverfolgungen, Berlin, 1888.—Newman, F. W., A History of the Hebrew Monarchy, London, 1847.

Francis William Newman was born at London, June 27, 1805. Professor Newman had the misfortune to be the brother of a man more famous than himself. His name, partly on this account, is comparatively little known to-day, while that of the Cardinal is almost a household word. Nevertheless, he was a man of distinguished scholarship, and traces of that same stalwart character of mind which characterised his brother are manifest everywhere in his writings. His history of the Hebrew monarchy, written about the middle of the century,—when, as we have already noted, the higher criticism was making itself felt,—remains to this day one of the clearest and most interesting and authoritative accounts of that people. To most readers of the time of its first publication it must have seemed a daringly iconoclastic work, and even now there are many who would follow some of its pages with bated breath. Yet neither its fairness, its lack of prejudice, nor its scholarly foundations can be in question, and combined with these traits it has qualities of style which must give it a lasting value for the popular reader.

Niebuhr, C., Die Chronologie der Geschichte Israels, Ägyptens, etc., Leipsic, 1894; Geschichte des Hebräischen Zeitalters, Berlin, 1894.—Nikel, I., Der Monotheismus Israels in der vorexil. Zeit, Paderborn, 1893.—Nöldeke, Th., Die Amalekiter, Göttingen, 1864; Alttestamentliche Litteratur, Leipsic, 1868: Untersuchungen zur Kritik des Alten Testamentes, Kiel, 1869; Inschriften des Königs Mesa von Moab, Kiel, 1870; Die semitischen Sprachen, Leipsic, 1887.—Novikov, T., Das jüdische Russland, Berlin, 1892.—Nowack, W., Die sozial. Probleme in Israel, Strassburg, 1892; Die Entstehung der israelitischen Religion, Strassburg, 1895.


Öhler, G. F., Theologie des Alten Testamentes; (3 ed.), Stuttgart, 1893.—Oppert, J., Salomon et ses successeurs: solution d’un problème chronologique, Paris, 1877.—Origen, φιλοσοφουμενα (in Jac. Gronovius’ Theasaurus Antiquitatem Græcorum, Vol. X, p. 349, et seq. Leyden, 1697).—Ottley, R. L., A Short History of the Hebrews to the Roman Period, Cambridge, 1901; Hebrew Prophets, London, 1898.—Oxford, A. W., Introduction to the History of Ancient Israel, London, 1887.

Palmer, E. H., History of the Jewish Nation, London, 1874.—Paludan-Muller, B., Bibelhistorien og den gameltestamentlige Kritik, Copenhagen, 1893.—Perreau, P., Gli ebrei in Inghilterra nel secole XI e XII, Trieste, 1887.—Philipson, D., Old European Jewries, Philadelphia, 1894.—Picciotto, J., Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, London, 1875.—Piepenbring, C., Histoire du peuple d’Israël, Paris, 1898.—Pomeranz, B., La Grèce et la Judée dans l’antiquité, Paris, 1891.—Post, G. E., Essays on the Sects and Nationalities of Syria and Palestine (in Quart. Statement of Eg. Explor. Fund, London, 1890).—Prévost-Paradol, L. A., Essai sur l’histoire universelle, Paris, 1890.

Lucien Anatole Prévost-Paradol was born at Paris, August 8, 1829; died by his own hand, in Washington, U.S.A., July 20, 1870. The celebrated author of the Essay on Universal History was not primarily a historian—certainly not a great historian. He was a professional writer and practical politician. But practical politics is, after all, nothing more or less than contemporary history, and from the earliest times the men who have taken part in the events of their epoch have been regarded as the most competent to describe these; one need but mention the names of Thucydides, Xenophon, and Polybius as cases in point. Not that Prévost-Paradol can be justly compared to these great historians, not that it can in any sense be claimed that he wrote a great history, but that the practices of a professional politician in any age necessarily give him, on some accounts, a better point of view from which to look out upon the events of universal history than can be attained by the mere closet student. The great difficulty with the large mass of modern historical literature is that the men who have produced it have been impractical closet students, who knew next to nothing of the actual life of the practical everyday diplomatist and statesman; hence so much infantile criticism and childish credulity in estimating the motives of the men who in all ages have made history; hence also, on the other hand, the value of the estimate of any man who, having had forced upon him a practical realisation of the motives that control men in modern history, shall attempt to estimate, from the point of view thus gained, the deeds of men of other times. Doubly valuable must be such work if the practical statesman who makes it is also an accomplished writer. Such was the status of Prévost-Paradol. His work has the charm of a polished literary style, and his estimate of peoples and of events is that of one who is at once artist and man of affairs. What he says of the Hebrews or any other people is not to be considered as the estimate of a scholar who has devoted his life to studying the original sources for his history, yet it is the estimate of a littérateur of scholarly habits, who is fully in touch with his subject, at least at second hand, and whose skill as a writer enables him to bring it more vividly before his public than the more scholarly investigator is usually able to do.

Price, J. M., Important Movements in Israel Prior to 1000 B.C. (in Bibl. World, 7, II, Chicago, 1896); The Monuments and the Old Testament, Chicago, 1900.—Prideaux, H., History of the connection of the Old and New Testaments, London, 1715-1717, 6 vols.

Rabelleau, M., Histoire des Hébreux, Paris, 1825.—Racah, L., Gl. Israeliti. Storia politico-litteraria, Roma, 1898.—Reinach, T., Histoire des israélites, etc., Paris, 1884.—Renan, J. E., Histoire du peuple d’Israël, Paris, 1887-93, 4 vols.

Joseph Ernest Renan was born at Tréguier, Côtes-du-Nord, France, January 27, 1823; died at Paris, October 2, 1892. Doubtless no other name that we have occasion to cite in connection with Hebrew history is so widely known to the general public as that of Renan. The famous ex-priest, who till the end of his life contended that he was still at heart a priest, early gained the ear of the public and maintained it to the end, partly through the eloquence of his discourse, partly through the seemingly startling character of his message. As a stylist, even in the land of stylists, Renan, from the first, took a foremost rank; as a littérateur, his position was assured, whatever subject he might choose to treat. But he also attained a corresponding distinction as a scholar pure and simple. He devoted himself early to the fullest investigation of Hebrew history, and his whole life was bound up with this task. Starting out with the intention of becoming a priest, he found himself presently lacking in sympathy with some of the dearest tenets of the church, and was led to retire from his prospective profession to devote himself purely to his literary pursuits. He became known, and for a time at least it seemingly pleased him to be known, as a sceptic, and his name has been mentioned with opprobrium from many a pulpit. Yet whoever reads his work from the standpoint of our own generation will find in it but little that is startlingly[236] iconoclastic, and will be almost prepared to admit that Renan was right when he said—perhaps half jestingly—that he was still a priest to the end. In his later years, Renan himself came to feel that he had, perhaps, in so far that he had combated ancient beliefs, been doing little more than to fight a man of straw, and at last regretted that he had not turned his attention to some field of science rather than to the narrower channel of the history of an ancient nation. Yet perhaps this regret was ill-advised; for after all, Renan’s cast of mind was essentially theological, and it must be at least an open question whether he could have accomplished more in any field of science than he was able to accomplish in the field of history and of literature. Had he, on the other hand, chosen a purely literary field, without the hampering weight of historical traditions, he might very probably have produced something of more lasting merit than any of his existing histories. Be that as it may, however, his histories remain as a monument of industry and of artistic presentation which the biblical student of our generation cannot neglect.

Rendu, A., The Jewish Race in Ancient and Roman History, London, 1895.—Reville, A., Herodes der Grosse: Cap. aus der jüdischen Geschichte des l. Halbjahres vor Christus (in Deutsche Revue, Berlin, Mai-Juli, 1892).—Riehm, C. A., Handwörterbuch des biblischen Altertums, Bielefeld, 1892-1894; Die Gesetzgebung Mosis im Lande Moab, Gotha, 1854; Die besondere Bedeutung des Alten Testamentes für die religiöse Erkenntniss, Halle, 1864; Die messianische Weissagung, Gotha, 1875; Der Begriff der Sühne im Alten Testament, Gotha, 1877; Der biblische Schöpfungsbericht, Halle, 1881; Einleitung in das Alte Testament (ed. by Brandt), Halle, 1889; Alttestamentliche Theologie (ed. by Pahncke), Halle, 1889.—Riggs, T. S., History of the Jewish People during Maccabean and Roman Periods (Incl. New Test. Times), 1900.—Robert, U., Les signes d’infamie au moyen age, juifs, etc., Paris, 1817.—Robertson, James, The Early Religion of Israel as set forth by Biblical Writers and by Modern Critical Historians, London, 1892; The Poetry and Religion of the Psalms, London, 1899.—Rodocanachi, E., Le Ghetto à Rome, Paris, 1891.—Röhricht, R., Bibliotheca geographica Palæstinæ Chronolog. (Verzeichniss der auf Palästinas Geographie bezüglichen Litteratur von 338 bis 1878), Berlin, 1890.—Rosenmüller, Handbuch der biblischen Altertumskunde, Leipsic, 1823-1827, 2 vols.—Roskoff, Die hebräischen Altertümer, Wien, 1857.—Rothschild, C. de and R. de, The History and Literature of the Israelites according to the Old Testament and the Apocrypha, London, 1871.—Rougé, E. de, Moïse et les hébreux d’après les monuments, Paris, 1869.—Rupprecht, E., Beitr. zur richtigen Lösung des Pentateuchrätsels, Gütersloh, 1896.

Saalschütz, J. L., Archæologie der Hebräer, Königsberg, 1855-1856, 2 vols.—Sack, I., Israël et Juda (in Revue d’études juives, Vol. XXXVIII, p. 172 et seq. Vol. XXXIX, Paris, 1898).—Sailer, F., Die Juden und das Deutsche Reich, Berlin, 1876.—Sanday, W., The Oracles of God, London, 1891.—Sayce, A. H., The Higher Criticism and the Verdict of the Monuments, London, 1894; Patriarchal Palestine, London, 1895; Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, London, 1899; The Early History of the Hebrews, London, 1897; Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments (Religious Tract Society), London, 1893.—Scaliger, J. J., Thesaurus Temporum, Leyden, 1606.—Schäfer, Die religiösen Altertümer der Bibel, Münster, 1892.—Schalin, Z., Der Aufenthalt der Israeliten in Ägypten, Helsingfors, 1894.—Schall, E., Staatsverfassung der Juden, Leipsic, 1894.—Scharling, H., Hauran, Reisebilder aus Palästina, Bremen, 1890.—Schenkel, Bibellexicon für Geistliche und Gemeindeglieder, Leipsic, 1869-1875, 5 vols.—Schlatter, Zur Topographie und Geschichte Palästinas, Calw and Stuttgart, 1894.—Schlosser, F. C., Weltgeschichte, Frankfurt, 1844-1854, 19 vols.—Schmidt, N., Moses, his Age and his Work (in Biblical World, 7, II, Chicago, 1896).—Scholz, A., Zeit und Ort der Entstehung der Bücher des Alten Testamentes, Würzburg, 1893.—Scholz, P., Die heiligen Altertümer des Volkes Israel, Regensburg, 1869-1870, 2 vols.—Schrader, Eberhard, Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament, Berlin, 1872, 2 vols.; 2nd edition, 1883 (English translation, London, 1885-1889, 2 vols.); Studien zur Kritik und Erklärung der biblischen Urgeschichte, Berlin, 1863.

Eberhard Schrader was born at Brunswick, Germany, January 5, 1836. Professor Schrader is known to scholars everywhere as one of the leaders among modern Hebrew scholars. In particular, his investigations have looked to the elucidation of Hebrew history from the Mesopotamian side, so to speak. He early took up the study of the cuneiform writing, and became known as one of the foremost authorities in that new field. From this standpoint he has investigated, as far as might be, the origin of the Hebrew people, and has compared the biblical records with the similar ones which the exhumations at Nineveh and Babylon have revealed. The scholarship of Professor Schrader is essentially of the German type, in the more ponderous meaning of that word. There is little in his writings to appeal to the popular audience, except that the subject has universal interest. Nevertheless, some of them have been translated into English and widely read; in particular, the translations of the so-called Chaldean Genesis have interested a wide public.


Schultz, H., The Theology of the Old Testament, London, 1895 (2nd edition).—Schürer, Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitalter Christi, Leipsic, 1885; Der Kalender und die Æra von Gaza (in Sitz. Ber. d. Berliner Acad. d. Wiss. no. 41).—Scott, C. A., The Making of Israel, from Joseph to Joshua, Edinburgh, 1895.—Seinecke, L. C., Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Göttingen, 1876-1884.—Sellin, Beitr. zur isr. und jüd. Religionsgeschichte, Leipsic, 1895.—Sharpe, S., History of the Hebrew Nation and its Literature, London, 1882.—Shuckford, S., The Sacred and Profane History of the World, London, 1728-1754.—Sime, J., The Kingdom of all Israel: its History, London, 1883.—Smend, R., Lehrbuch d. alttest. Religionsgeschichte, Freiburg, 1899.—Smith, George, The Hebrew People.—Smith, G. A., The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, London, 1901.—Smith, W., Illustrated History of the Bible, 1871; Dictionary of the Bible, London, 1860-1863, 3 vols.—Smith, W. R., The Prophets of Israel and their Place in History, to the Close of the Eighth Century: with Additional Notes by T. K. Cheyne, London, 1895.—Soares, Th. G., Hebrew Historiography (in Bibl. World), Chicago, September, 1893.—Solly, H. S., Antiquities of Israel, London, 1876.—Somerville, R., The Parallel History of the Jewish Monarchy, Cambridge, 1895.—Spanier, M., Quellenbuch für den Unterricht in jüdischer Geschichte, Frankfurt, 1890.—Spence, H. D. M., and Exell, J. S., Pulpit Commentary, London, 1880.—Spiro, S., Étude sur le peuple samaritain, Paris, 1897.—Stade, B., Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Berlin, 1887, 2 vols.; Die Entstehung des Volkes Israel, Giessen, 1899.

Bernhard Stade was born at Arnstadt, May 11, 1848; professor of Old Testament history in the University of Giessen. Scholarship is so universally a pre-requisite to the holding of a professorship in German universities that the iteration of the fact becomes tiresome. One might almost say that no German dares to think of writing a book on history or science without having first made himself fully master of his subject. When a book comes from a German press one is usually justified in assuming that it will be found to have all the authority that can come from mere knowledge of the subject of which it treats. The Germans are proverbially linguists and philologists. Scholarship with them is traditional, and the tradition was never more amply sustained than in the present generation. But there is one other question to be asked in taking up a German book, the answer to which is by no means so secure, and that is the question as to the style of the author; for unfortunately German scholarship is not more proverbial among the writers of history than is German lack of literary mastery. The German language peculiarly lends itself to a manner of presentation that seems to the Frenchman or the Englishman obscure; and there is only here and there a writer in the long list of German historians who has achieved that distinction of style which, it must be freely admitted, is almost a national heritage with the Frenchman and which is by no means unusual with the writers of English. Among this select company we at once recall the name of Heeren, and it will be remembered that such men as Curtius and Mommsen have done their full share to create a new standard of literary excellence for their countrymen. It seems clear that the admirable examples thus given have not been lost upon the German historians of the present generation. Among these it will, perhaps, hardly be claimed that Professor Stade has attained in this regard a peculiar distinction, but at least he has secured an honourable place; and there is, perhaps, no other work on the history of Israel which, as a whole, can claim a better average of desirable qualities, at once of knowledge and of style, than the work now before us.

Staerk, W., Studien zur Religions- und Sprachgeschichte des Alten Testamentes, Berlin, 1899.—Stanley, A. P., Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, London, 1884, 3 vols.—Stapfer, E., La Palestine au temps de Jésus-Christ, (5th edition), Paris, 1892.—Stave, Über den Einfluss des Parsismus auf das Judentum, 1898.—Steinschneider, M., Die hebräischen Übersetzungen des Mittelalters, Berlin, 1893.—Stern, M., Urkundliche Beiträge über die Stellung der Juden, Kiel, 1893; Die israelitische Bevölkerung der deutschen Städte, Frankfurt, 1890-1896.—Steuernagel, Der Rahmen des Deuteronomiums, Halle, 1894; Die Entstehung des deuteronom. Gesetzes, Halle, 1895.—Stosch, G., Alttest. Studien, Gütersloh, 1895.—Strange, Guy de, Palestine under the Moslems. A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D. 650 to 1500, London, 1896.—Sulzbach, A., Die religiöse und weltliche Poesie der Juden vom 7, bis zum 16, Jahrhundert, Trier, 1893.—Sunderland, I. T., The Bible: its Origin and Growth, New York, 1893.

Tacitus, Cornelius, Historiæ Venice, 1470.—The Talmud, Venice, 1520-23.—Tineo, H. A., Los Judios en España, Madrid, 1881.—Tristram, H. B., Land of Israel, London, 1865.

Uhlemann, M. A., Israeliten und Hyksos in Ägypten: eine histor. kritische Untersuchung, Berlin, 1856.—Unger, G. F., Die Seleucidenära der Makkabäerbücher, München, 1895; Die Regierungsjahre der makkab. Fürsten (Abhdl. Acad. München, Heft. 2).


Vatke, W., Die biblische Theologie wissenschaftlich dargestellt, Berlin, 1835.—Vernes, M., Du prétendu polythéisme des hébreux, Paris, 1893, 2 vols.—Visser, I. Th. de, Hebreeuwsche Archæologie, Utrecht, 1894.

Ward, A., Hebrew Monarchy: its History and Purpose, London, 1900.—Weber, G., Allgemeine Weltgeschichte, Leipsic, 1857-1880.—Weber, G., and Holtzmann, H. J., Geschichte des Volkes Israel und der Entstehung des Christentums, Leipsic, 1867.—Weber, J. B., and Kempter, W., La Situation des Juifs en Russie, Paris, 1893.—Wedgwood, J., The Message of Israel in the Light of Modern Criticism, London, 1894.—Weill, A., Les cinq livres (mosaïstes) de Moïse, Paris, 1893; Le centenaire de l’émancipation des Juifs, Paris, 1888.—Weinstein, N. I., Beiträge zur Geschichte der Essäer, Bern, 1892.—Wellhausen, J., Geschichte Israels, Berlin, 1878; Sketch of the History of Israel and Judah, (3rd edition), London, 1895; Compos. d. Hexateuchs, Berlin, 1889; Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, vol. V., Berlin, 1895; Ansicht über den Gang der Geschichte Israels, Berlin, 1878. (Julius Wellhausen was born in Hameln, Germany, May 17th, 1844. At present, holds a professorial chair at Göttingen. He is one of the best known of the critical investigators of the Bible narratives.)—Wendland, P., Die Therapeuten und die philon. Schrift vom beschaulichen Leben: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des hellen. Judentums, Leipsic, 1894.—Westphal, R., Allgemeine Metrik der indogermanischen und semitischen Völker, Berlin, 1893.—Wete, Henry Barclay, The Old Testament in Greek according to the Septuaginta, Cambridge, 1898.—Wiener, L., The history of Yiddish Literature in the XIXth Century, New York, 1889.—Wilberforce, B. F., Heroes of Hebrew History, London, 1895.—Wildeboer, G., De Letterkunde des Ouden Verbonds naar de tijdsorde van haar ontstaan, Groningen, 1893; Die Litteratur des Alten Testamentes, Göttingen, 1895; Die Entstehung des alttestamentlichen Kanons, Gotha, 1894.—Willrich, H., Judaica: Forschungen zur hellen.-jüdischen Geschichte und Litteratur, Göttingen, 1900; Juden und Griechen vor der makkabäischen Erhebung, Göttingen, 1895.—Wilson, A. M., The Wines of the Bible, London, 1877.—Winckler, Hugo, Geschichte Israels in Einzeldarstellungen, Leipsic, 1895; Altorientalische Forschungen, Leipsic, 1893; Alttestamentliche Untersuchungen, Leipsic, 1892.—Winer, G. B., Biblisches Realwörterbuch, Leipsic, 1847-1848.—Wright, G. H. B., Was Israel ever in Egypt? London, 1895.

Xenophon, Κυροπαιδεία, Florence, 1516.

Zahn, A., Israelitische und jüdische Geschichte; Beurtheilung der Schrift, Gütersloh, 1895.—Zeller, P., Biblisches Handwörterbuch (2nd edition), Calw and Stuttgart, 1893.—Zenos, A. C., The Elements of the Higher Criticism, New York, 1895.—Zöckler, Die Apokryphen des Alten Testamentes, nebst Anhang über Pseudepigraphenlitteratur, München, 1893.—Zunz, L., Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, Frankfurt, 1892.














Copyright, 1904,

All rights reserved.




Individuality of Phœnician History and Origin of the Name243
Phœnician History in Outline246
Carthaginian History in Outline251
Chapter I. Land and People255
Chapter II. Early History and Influences263
Chapter III. The Phœnician Time of Power279
Chapter IV. Phœnicia under the Persians289
Chapter V. Phœnicia under the Greeks, the Romans, and the Saracens301
Chapter VI. The Story of Carthage308
Chapter VII. Phœnician Commerce329
Chapter VIII. Phœnician Civilisation346
Appendix A. Classical Traditions356
Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters361
A General Bibliography of Phœnician History363





Translated for this work from his Geschichte der Phönizier.

The history of both the Egyptian and the Babylonian peoples is closely bound up with the territorial history of a limited tract of land, while with the Phœnicians it is quite otherwise. Their history is in a far less degree the history of their land. Among all civilised nations of antiquity, Phœnicia was the first that, maintaining its national individuality and its form of civilisation, learned to become independent of the clod of earth upon which this individuality had been developed. It was the first that, by means of emigration and the founding of settlements, gained sufficient space to attain to full historical importance.

Upon the determination of the balance of power of the old Orient, upon the political life of their neighbours, the petty states of this district in reality never exerted a positive influence. At the most, their existence and their policy of the moment helped in the decision of some questions of relatively small importance in the course of world-historic events. Would we be more interested in the history of Tyre and Sidon than in that of Gaza and Ashdod, if the first communication of the East with the West had not been opened chiefly by the Phœnicians; and if a Phœnician colony, Carthage, a most dangerous rival first to the Greek towns of Sicily, and afterward to the rising world-power of Rome, had not fought the bitter struggle for supremacy on the coast-lands of the western half of the Mediterranean—a struggle which, after a long past poor in feats of arms, immortalised the name of the Punic race? The fame that illuminates the figures of the generals Hamilcar and Hannibal is reflected on the history of the mother country.

It is no new thing in the history of races for a reorganisation of the national life of an active people to take place in its colonies and emigrant fragments. We may cite the foundation of the states of the Veragri, and of the Normans, and the rise of the United States of America out of the settlements of New England. But, as these examples show, this seldom comes to pass without the evidence of considerable sacrifice of national individuality. Generally such new political formations involve at the same time a more or less complete change of national character, a great portion of which is sacrificed[244] in the adaptation to changed conditions of life; but few traces of such a change can be observed amid the Phœnicians in their colonial cities.

Moreover, we are only now, since excavations in Greece have brought to light considerable quantities of remains from pre-Homeric times, beginning to put a correct estimate upon the sum of fruitful suggestions and finished products which the Phœnician seafarers and traders together with their wares brought to the nations of the West, and above all to Greek art. In this way, the expansion of the Phœnicians exercised an enduring influence upon the whole course of the history of civilisation in all later times.

What fitted them to become, in this sense also, an historically important people was, besides the tenacity of will with which they pursued their aims, a high degree of intellectual receptivity, which enabled them to assimilate with ease the attainments of foreign culture; and also the adaptability and insight with which they could make themselves at home even in entirely foreign surroundings.

Of the favourableness, or unfavourableness of circumstances, they were no more independent than any other people on earth has been. It even appears that, in accordance with some law, they achieved results only when, in the course of their undertakings, they came in contact with nations whose civilisation was still in process of formation, or at least, during the period of contact, did not attain to any importance of its own.

But the skill with which they were able to turn just such circumstances to their own advantage, and to continue a national existence in the midst of such an environment (this highly developed capacity for adaptation was their peculiar inheritance) was something that at least would have been utterly impossible with the cultured races of the Nile and the Euphrates. It was chiefly due to the fact that, not national elements, but those which had been learned and borrowed from foreign races, predominated in Phœnician culture. This made culture a comfortable garment, took from it and its wearers the awkwardness that would have developed in case of a more independent origin, kept it free from many fast chains and immutable faults which come with a uniform national culture and an isolated history of development.

As the scene of the history of the Phœnicians varies in extent with the location of their settlements, Phœnicia is less a fixed geographical idea than a name, which would simply designate in general that portion of the Syrian coast, whose chief population was of Phœnician descent.

Accordingly, the origin of the name “Phœnicia” (Phoinike) which the Greeks gave to this stretch of coast, is to be found in the Greek name of the inhabitants: “Phoinix,” the plural “Phoinix” and not “Phoinikes” from the name of the country.

“Phoinix” is formed like “Cilix,” the “Cilician,” and denotes the Phœnician as a man of reddish-brown complexion, as in Greek “phoinos” is the name of a colour varying from a brownish to a deep red. The same root which is in “phoinos” and “Phoinix” is also found in “Pœnus,” “the Punic,” which was the form given by the Italian races to the name they heard from the mouths of the Greeks of Greece proper (Hellas).

Word formations like that of Phoinix, not being very common in Greek as names of races, the Greeks did not always keep in mind the fundamental meaning of Phoinix, and very early began to devise artificial etymologies for it, which have in part proved to be quite arbitrary and absurd but in part have found approval among modern savants. Nor have the latter, on their side, neglected to increase the number of unsuccessful attempts at interpretation. It is not necessary to enter here into a discussion of the majority of[245] these explanations, upon a refutation of the assertion that the Phœnicians received their name from Phoinix, a brother of Cadmus, or that the word “dyers in red” designates them as “purple merchants,” or even “robbers” and “murderers,” and other such notions, for they are now things of the past. Nevertheless they are in some degree on the right track, inasmuch as in them Phoinike is regarded as the derived, and Phoinix the root word.

As the date-palm and its fruit first became known to the Greeks through the medium of the Phœnicians, this tree was likewise called by them Phoinix, the “Phœnician” palm. So in antiquity it was a widespread interpretation to make Phoinike come, not from Phoinix, “the Phœnician,” but from phoinix, “date palm,” making Phoinike signify the “land of palms,” “the land of the date palm.” Among moderns, Movers in particular has brought forward many reasons for the correctness of this explanation.

Athenæus expressly mentions dates as a valuable article of Phœnician trade; but it is perhaps a great mistake to take them for a product of Phœnicia instead of a mere article of commerce, for the fruit of the Phœnix dactylifera does not reach maturity at all in Phœnicia. Little can be proved from the representation of the palm tree on coins whose origin may be traced solely to Grecian prototypes.

Finally, it is a philological impossibility that after the form Phoinike, as the name of the country, has been derived from phoinix, “date palm,” such a form as Phoinix as a designation of the inhabitants could ever have been in turn the result of derivation from this name of the country.

Phœnician Terra-cottas in the Louvre





Of the sources for this history it is hardly possible to do more than to say that they hardly exist in any tangible form, and to echo Heeren’s complaint:

“The severest loss which ancient history has to mourn, a loss irreparable, is that of the destruction of the records that should inform us of the affairs, the government, and the enterprises of the Phœnicians. In proportion to the vast influence which this nation had in the civilisation of mankind by its own great inventions and discoveries (the invention of alphabetical writing is alone sufficient to show their importance), by its numerous colonies established in every quarter, and by its commerce extending even beyond these; the more sensibly we feel the gaps which the loss of these records leaves in the history of the human race. It is the conviction of the extent of this loss that gives the few fragments which have been preserved out of the great mass, a peculiar attraction to the historian; and though it may be impossible to compile from them a history of the Phœnicians, yet they will probably enable him to draw a tolerably faithful picture of the general character and genius of this nation in its various undertakings.”

The Phœnicians were a Semitic people, probably an early offshoot, like the Canaanites, from the parent stock; a people of remarkable industry, intelligence, and enterprise. Their country lay in southern Syria, between the Lebanon Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, a strip of land about two hundred miles in length by thirty-five at its greatest width. Phœnicia was never a united state, but rather a confederacy of cities. At the time of our earliest knowledge Sidon stood at the head, but in the thirteenth century, B.C. Tyre became the most important.


3800 B.C. The empire of Sargon of Agade is believed to have included Syria and the shores of the Mediterranean.

2750 Foundation of Tyre, according to Herodotus’ account.

1950 One of the Elamite sovereigns of Babylon appears to have reduced a large part of Syria to subservience, which state of affairs does not last long.


1635 Aahmes I visits Zahi (southern Phœnicia) in his invasion of Asia, after the expulsion of the Hyksos.

1590 Tehutimes I appears to have made the Phœnicians pay tribute.

1530 Tehutimes III lays waste the land of Zahi; again in 1516.

1506 Arka (Akko) destroyed by Tehutimes III. Phœnicia is made tributary.

1500 Settlement of the Phœnicians in Cyprus. From this time on colonisation of the shore of the Mediterranean becomes active. Rhodes, the Cyclades, the islands of the Thracian coast, Samothrace, and Thasos are occupied. The stations on the Ægean are early abandoned—but the Phœnicians remain in Cyprus until ousted by the Dorians.

In the twelfth century B.C. the later Ramessides lose their dominion over Phœnicia. Egyptian culture and civilisation left little trace on Phœnicia, whereas the influence of Babylonia was very strong. After the loss of Phœnicia by Egypt, a number of petty feeble states arise.

About this time the colonists have reached the western shore of the Mediterranean, and Gades (Cadiz) and Tarshish in Spain are founded. The Atlantic is discovered, and according to classical accounts tin is brought from the mines of the Cassiterides, which by some authorities is said to mean the Scilly Isles and Cornwall, by others the island near Vigo in Spain.

1110 Tiglathpileser I of Assyria visits Phœnicia in his military campaigns.

SECOND PERIOD (1100-538 B.C.)

Up till now Sidon has stood at the head of the Phœnician cities, but the hegemony is lost to Tyre. The first king of 1020 whom we have any knowledge is Abibaal.

980 [or 969] Hiram I, his son, succeeds. He fortifies the island of Tyre; makes war against the Cypriotes who have refused tribute, and again subjugates them. Is the friend of Solomon.

936 Baalbazer, Hiram’s son, succeeds him.

929 Abdastarte, his son, succeeds.

920 Is killed by a conspiracy of his foster-brothers. Metuastarte, the eldest of the assassins seizes the throne.

908 Astarte, a scion of Hiram’s house, reigns in conjunction with Metuastarte.

896 Astarym, brother of Metuastarte, succeeds.

887 Is murdered by another brother, Phelles, who takes the throne, but the same year he also is killed by Ithobaal or Ethbaal, a priest of Astarte, who thereby becomes king.

In after years Jezebel, Ithobaal’s daughter, marries Ahab of Israel.

876 Asshurnazirpal of Assyria invades Phœnicia and erects a stele at the Nahr-el-Kelb, near Berytus. Tyre, Sidon, Tripolis, and Aradus hasten to send presents, and he does not trouble them further. Ithobaal founds Botrys, probably as a means of defence against the Assyrians, also Aoza in Africa.

855 Baalazar, Ithobaal’s son, succeeds to the throne of Tyre.

854 Battle of Qarqar. Victory of Shalmaneser II over Ben-Hadad II of Damascus and his allies. King Mettenbaal of Aradus takes part with the Syrians in the battle.


849 Metten I, Baalazar’s son, succeeds.

842-839 According to Shalmaneser’s record he takes tribute from Tyre, Sidon, and Byblus, but this may mean that voluntary presents are sent.

820 Pygmalion, Metten’s son, succeeds at age of nine.

812 He slays his uncle Sicharbas, the regent.

813 Flight of Elissa, Pygmalion’s sister and Sicharbas’ wife. She founds Carthage.

804-803 Adad-nirari III’s armies reach Phœnicia, and exact tribute from Tyre and Sidon.

773 Death of Pygmalion. The list of Phœnician kings given by Menander comes to an end.

738 Tiglathpileser III invades Syria, where a coalition has been formed to evade tribute. He returns to Assyria with rich treasure; amongst it the tribute of Hiram (II) of Tyre and Sibittibi’li of Byblus.

734 Byblus and Aradus pay tribute. Tyre does so under force. Tyre is still practically an independent state.

728 Elulæus, king of Tyre, rules under the name of Pylas.

Revolt of the Cittæi in Cyprus subdued.

727 According to Josephus, Shalmaneser IV attacks Elulæus. Sidon, Akko, and Palætyrus submit, and Tyre is captured after a five years’ siege. But there is no mention of this in Shalmaneser’s records, and it is extremely probable that Josephus confuses these events with those that actually took place in the reign of Sennacherib.

In his annals, Sargon II speaks of Tyre as of a town that belongs to him.

701 Sennacherib invades Syria where Hezekiah of Judah and other princes are planning a strong rebellion against Assyria. Elulæus (Luli), king of Sidon, flees at the Assyrian’s approach. Sennacherib makes the city the capital of a new province, and Ithobaal its king. The cities of the coast are ravaged, and Phœnician commerce greatly interfered with.

The colonial power of Tyre now begins to decay. The Assyrians settle themselves in Cyprus, and the Dorian migration has already driven the Phœnicians from the Grecian islands.

695 An independent kingdom is established at Tarshish.

690 The Phœnicians begin to lose their hold on Sicily.

680 Abd-milkot, king of Sidon, with Sandurri of Kundu and Sizu, revolts against Assyria. Abd-milkot flees at Esarhaddon’s approach and the latter besieges Sidon.

678 Fall of Sidon after a siege of nearly three years. The city is destroyed, and a new one, Kar-Asshur-akhe-iddin built on its ruins.

Abd-milkot beheaded.

Phœnician and Cypriote kings make submission to Assyria.

671 Baal I of Tyre revolts unsuccessfully against Esarhaddon. In submission he sends his own son Yahi-melek to the Assyrian court.

668 Asshurbanapal succeeds Esarhaddon on the Assyrian throne. With the help of Tyre he compels Yakinlu, king of Aradus, to submit. Subsequently Yakinlu is deposed and his son Azebaal given the throne. After this time the Phœnicians begin to throw off the Assyrian yoke, an achievement made easy by Asshurbanapal’s struggle with Shamash-shum-ukin in Babylonia. The recovery of independence is a peaceable one.


636 Is the last date we possess of an Assyrian governor in Phœnicia.

625 The Scythian tribes invade Phœnicia from the northeast.

610 Africa circumnavigated for Neku II by Phœnician seamen.

608 Battle of Megiddo, and submission of Syria to Neku II. Phœnicia once more under Egyptian dominion.

605 Battle of Carchemish. Defeat of Neku by Nebuchadrezzar. Phœnicia comes under the rule of Babylonia. Phœnicia now remains docile to Nebuchadrezzar until stirred up by Uah-ab-Ra, Pharaoh of Egypt, who enters into an alliance against Babylonia with Tyre and Sidon, after proceeding against them by land and sea.

587 Nebuchadrezzar besieges Tyre, of which Ithobaal II is king.

574 Fall of Tyre. Ithobaal removed to Babylon and Baal II put in his place.

564 Death of Baal II. The government of Tyre is reorganised, and a suffet is placed over the city.

563 A three months’ interregnum in which the high priest Abba is at the head of affairs, then a rule of two suffets—one for the island and one for Palætyrus. A state of anarchy arises.

557 Balatorus, an elected king, rules for one year.

556 Maharbaal (or Merbaal), a member of the exiled royal family is sent from Babylon to be king.

552 Hiram III succeeds his brother Maharbaal.

538 Capture of Babylon by Cyrus of Persia. Phœnicia becomes a Persian province. Tyre sinks into insignificance and Sidon becomes the leading city. Aahmes II of Egypt occupies Cyprus.

THIRD PERIOD (538-332 B.C.)

532 Death of Hiram III. Phœnicia, Palestine, and Syria become the fifth Persian satrapy.

530 Carthage becomes an independent power.

525 The Phœnicians furnish a fleet for Cambyses’ war in Egypt.

496 Phœnician fleet shares in the Persian victory off Lade.

480 Tetranestus, king of Sidon, Mapen of Tyre and Merbaal of Aradus accompany Xerxes to Greece. Phœnician fleet takes part in the expedition. 466 Battle of Salamis. Phœnician and Persian fleet defeated by the Greeks at Eurymedon.

455 Phœnician fleet is sent to aid Persians to reconquer Egypt for Artaxerxes I.

449 Defeat of the Phœnician fleet by the Athenians off Cyprus.

405 Battle of Ægospotami. Phœnician fleet aids Athens to defeat the Spartans.

400 Straton I comes to the throne of Sidon. He is the son of Tabnit (Tennes I), and grandson of Eshmunazer I, a descendant of Tetranestus, and succeeds his elder brother Eshmunazer II, who has died a minor.

394 Phœnician fleet helps the Athenians to defeat the Spartans at Cnidus. Friendly relations between Sidon and Athens.

390 Evagoras of Salamis in Cyprus storms Tyre, which is now in an enfeebled condition.

361 Straton I of Sidon joins Tachus of Egypt against the Persians and is killed by his wife to prevent falling into the hands of the enemy. Tabnit (Tennes) II succeeds him.


352 Tennes leads a revolt of Phœnicia against Persia, Cyprus joins him.

345 Tennes betrays Sidon to Artaxerxes III, who afterwards puts the king of Sidon to death. Cyprus subdued. Tyre resumes the leading position in Phœnicia.

333 Battle of Issus. Aradus and Byblus and Sidon join Alexander the Great. Tyre besieged by Alexander.

332 Capture of Tyre by Alexander. Azemilcus, the king, is spared, but eight thousand Tyrians are slain, and thirty thousand sold as slaves. End of Tyre’s political existence. The foundation of Alexandria also makes it lose much trade. The Phœnicians cease to be a great nation.

FOURTH PERIOD (332 B.C.-636 A.D.)

331 Alexander forms Phœnicia, Syria, and Cilicia into one province, over which he places Menes.

323 Death of Alexander. Phœnicia occupied alternately by Ptolemy and by Antigonus and his son Demetrius. Ptolemy finally retains possession (287).

315 Siege of Tyre by Antigonus.

246-198 Struggle between the Seleucidæ and Ptolemies for Phœnicia.

The Seleucidæ left in possession of Phœnicia after the surrender of Sidon (198).

The trade of Media and the Red Sea is diverted to Alexandria in Egypt.

125 Tyre and Sidon are practically independent after the Tyrians put Demetrius II to death.

86 Syria, worn out by the civil wars of the Seleucidæ puts itself under the dominion of Tigranes, king of Armenia.

67 Phœnicia and Syria return for a short time to the Seleucidæ after the victories of Lucullus.

63 Pompey reduces Syria to a Roman province.

44-42 Cassius divides Phœnicia into small principalities. Antony gives Phœnicia to Cleopatra, but reserves freedom of Tyre and Sidon.

20 Augustus deprives Tyre and Sidon of their liberties. He founds a Roman colony called Augustana, at Beirut (Berytus), which has a famous law school under the dominion of Rome. Tyre and Sidon have no political importance, but retain their commercial and manufacturing interests. They continue to have no historical importance until

193-194 A.D. Tyre and Laodicea take part in the struggle of Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger for the emperorship. Niger sends troops to Tyre, which burn and pillage the city.

201 Severus recruits the population of Tyre and gives it a colonial title. Tyre and Berytus enjoy the monopoly of producing that dye known as the imperial purple. As part of the second Syrian province of Rome, their prosperity 616 increases until the Persian king, Chosroes II, subjugates Syria (including Phœnicia) and rules it until 622 when the Byzantine emperor regains control.

636 Battle of the Hieromax. As a result the Emperor Heraclius abandons Syria to the Mohammedans.


FIFTH PERIOD (633-1516 A.D.)

Under the rule of the caliphs Phœnician civilisation suffers no decay. Tyre maintains its commercial importance.

1100-1110 Baldwin and the Crusaders capture all the Phœnician cities except Tyre.

1111 Siege of Tyre begun by Baldwin. He abandons it during the winter.

1124 Siege and capture of Tyre by the Crusaders.

1187 Saladin overthrows the kingdom of Jerusalem.

Tyre begins a heroic defence against him.

1189 Relief of Tyre by Guy de Lusignan. Capture of Acre (Akko) by Philip Augustus and Richard Cœur-de-Lion.

1192 Treaty of peace with the Mohammedans. The Christian territory extends from Joppa to Tyre.

Acre becomes the chief commercial centre of the Phœnician coast and 1291 is taken by the sultan of Egypt, to whom other Syrian towns also submit.

1516 Selim I conquers the whole of Syria, which since then has been included in the Ottoman empire.


FIRST PERIOD (813-410 B.C.)

814-813 B.C. Carthage, according to tradition, is founded by Elissa, sister of King Pygmalion of Tyre, who fled from her brother. The Phœnicians find the land occupied by Libyans whom they dispossess. They also manage to get some kind of control over the nomads in the outlying regions of their new domain. The official heads of the government were the suffets, similar to the Roman consuls. There may have been only two in office at a time, serving for one year, but capable of re-election.

600-550 Malchus, mentioned by Justin, who calls him “king” of Carthage. Successful wars in Africa and Sicily undertaken to extend the city’s commerce. Malchus defeated in Sardinia; he turns against Carthage.

550-500 Decline of Tyre after Persian conquest. Carthage becomes independent (530). Mago, father of Hasdrubal and Hamilcar succeeds Malchus. It is to the efforts of this family that Carthage owed her supremacy. Hasdrubal’s sons are Hannibal, Hasdrubal, and Sappho; Hamilcar’s are Himilco, Hanno, and Gisco. Carthaginian supremacy established over Sardinia, Balearic Isles, parts of Sicily, Liguria, and Gaul; in the course of which conquests there occurred a 536 sea-fight of the Etruscans and Carthaginians against the Phocæans of Aleria, in Corsica. Phocæans victorious, but their losses oblige them to abandon Corsica.

509 Commercial treaty between Carthage and Rome restricting Roman commerce in Punic waters.

500 Expedition of Hanno and Himilco to colonise west African coast, and to explore the Atlantic. Britain discovered.

480 Expedition against Agrigentum and Syracuse in conjunction with Persian invasion of Greece. Battle of Himera. Hamilcar defeated with great loss by Gelo of Syracuse.


SECOND PERIOD (410-264 B.C.)

410 Renewal of attempts of Carthage to reduce Sicily. Hannibal, son of Gisco, storms Selinus. Agrigentum destroyed by Hannibal and Himilco. Death of Hannibal. Himilco attacks Gela.

405 Treaty between Carthage and Dionysius of Syracuse secures Carthaginian conquests in Sicily.

398 Dionysius attempts to expel Carthaginians from Sicily. In the ensuing war all Sicily falls before the Punic arms. Dionysius is besieged in Syracuse, but pestilence breaks out among the Carthaginians, and they are defeated. Himilco starves himself to death.

397 Libyans revolt against Carthage. The city has a narrow escape.

396-392 Mago leads an expedition against Syracuse, which is not successful.

380 Mago’s second Sicilian expedition defeated at Cabala. The whole of Sicily is nearly lost, but Mago’s victory at Corsica restores the Carthaginian power. The Halycus recognised as boundary to Carthaginian possessions in Sicily.

368 Dionysius again tries to expel the Carthaginians. Is unsuccessful and dies. Dionysius II makes peace with Carthage.

345 Timoleon of Corinth, having liberated Syracuse from her tyrants, makes war on Carthage.

340 Battle of the Crimissus. Carthaginians defeated with severe loss. Peace restores the boundary on the Halycus. Greek cities declared free.

333 Carthaginians send help to the Tyrians besieged by Alexander the Great.

310 Agathocles of Agrigentum besieges Carthage, but is recalled by revolt of Agrigentum.

306 Peace between Carthage and Agrigentum. It lasts until Agathocles dies (289). His death encourages the Carthaginians to extend their dominions, until 277 the Syracusans call on Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, for help against Carthage, and he aids them to drive the Carthaginians from the west of Sicily and besieges them in Lilybæum. Carthage and Rome united against him.

276 Pyrrhus quits Sicily.

265 Carthaginians go to the aid of Campanian mercenaries besieged in Messana (Messina) by Hiero of Syracuse. Another party in Messana appeals to Rome.

THIRD PERIOD (264-146 B.C.)

264 First Punic war (for the possession of Sicily). Romans occupy Messana. Retreat of the Carthaginians and Syracusans. Hiero joins the Romans. Roman successes in Sicily.

260 Sea-fight off Mylæ. Carthaginians defeated by Romans.

256 Sea-fight off Ecnomus. Carthaginian fleet defeated. Romans invade Africa.

255 Carthaginians under Xanthippus defeat the Romans under Regulus. Loss of Roman fleet on homeward voyage.

254 Roman victory at Panormus.


253 Roman fleet destroyed in a storm.

249 Battle of Drepanum. Carthaginian victory.

248-243 Success of Carthaginians under Hamilcar Barca on Italian coast and in Sicily.

242 Battle off Ægates islands. Romans under Catulus defeat Carthaginian fleet.

241 Hamilcar Barca makes peace, agreeing to evacuate Sicily and to pay indemnity. Sicily lost to the Carthaginians.

241-237 Civil war in Carthage. Mercenaries rise against the citizens.

238 Sardinia and Corsica lost by Carthage to Rome.

236-219 Carthaginian conquests in Spain under Hamilcar, Hasdrubal, and Hannibal. Attempt to convert Spain into a Carthaginian province. By an understanding with the Romans, the Ebro is recognised as the Carthaginian boundary.

219 Saguntum captured by Hannibal.

218 Second Punic war (for the possession of Italy). Roman army despatched to Africa.

218 Hasdrubal opposes the Scipios in Spain. Hannibal crosses the Alps and wins victories of the Ticinus and the Trebia. Hannibal crosses the Apennines.

217 Battle of Lake Trasimene. Hannibal defeats the Romans and ravages the country as far as Apulia.

216 Battle of Cannæ. Roman army annihilated. Hasdrubal ordered to join Hannibal in Italy. He is prevented by a defeat on the Ebro.

215 Philip of Macedon allies himself with Carthage.

214 Carthaginians land in Sicily.

212 Romans recover their position in Sicily. Carthaginian successes in Spain.

211 Philip of Macedon’s attention occupied by a coalition against him in Greece. Romans besiege Capua. Hannibal fails to relieve Capua. Hannibal at the gates of Rome. Hannibal’s retreat from Rome. Fall of Capua.

209 New Carthage in Spain taken by the Romans. Battle of Bæcula and defeat of Hasdrubal. Hasdrubal crosses the Pyrenees and Gaul, and appears in the north of Italy.

207 Battle of Metaurus. Hasdrubal defeated and slain. The last hope of the Carthaginians is gone.

206 Carthaginians finally expelled from Spain.

204 Scipio invades Africa.

203 Scipio defeats the Carthaginians. Hannibal recalled to Carthage.

202 Battle of Zama. Scipio defeats Hannibal.

201 Peace with Rome. Carthage resigns the right to wage foreign wars and promises to pay a heavy indemnity. The supremacy of the West passes to Rome. Hannibal governs Carthage, and reforms the Constitution. He plans an alliance with Antiochus of Syria against Rome.

195 Hannibal expelled from Carthage.

183 Death of Hannibal.

183-150 Internal dissensions between the Roman and national parties. Encroachments of Masinissa of Numidia.

151 War between Carthage and Masinissa. The Romans claim this a breach of treaty and prepare for a siege of Carthage.


149 Third Punic war. Siege of Carthage.

146 Carthage taken and destroyed. Her territories become Roman provinces, and are organised as such.

FOURTH PERIOD (146 B.C.-697 A.D.)

122 Caius Gracchus leads a colony which founds the city of Junonia on the site of Carthage. The colony is unsuccessful.

29 Augustus sends out a colony which attains to great prosperity.

439 A.D. Genseric captures Carthage and makes it the capital of the Vandal kingdom.

533 Carthage is stormed by Belisarius and incorporated in the eastern Roman empire.

697 Carthage destroyed by the general of caliph Abdul-malik.

Phœnician Vase


Aqueduct of Tyre


Phœnicia proper, even in its most flourishing state, was one of the smallest countries of antiquity. It comprised that part of the Syrian coast extending from Akko to Aradus, [Arvad] a narrow strip of land about two hundred miles in length, from north to south; and probably nowhere more than thirty-five miles in width. This short line of coast, rich in bays and harbours, was covered with lofty mountains, many of which ran out into the sea and formed promontories, and whose heights, covered with forests, supplied the most valuable material in the construction of the fleets and habitations of the Phœnicians. The larger range of these mountains bore the name of Libanus [Lebanon], and the other parallel range, the Antilibanus, lay eastward towards Syria. The sea, which broke with great fury upon this rocky shore, had probably separated some of these promontories from the mainland, and which, forming little islands at a small distance from the shore, are not less worthy of note than the mainland itself, being everywhere covered with extensive colonies and flourishing cities. Thus Aradus, the most northern frontier city of Phœnicia, was built on one of these islands; and opposite to it on the mainland was Antaradus, which derived its name from it. About eighteen miles to the south of this stood, and still stands, Tripolis; and at a like distance Byblus, with the temple of Adonis; and again, farther south, Berytus. Keeping along the coast, we come to Sidon at nearly the same distance; and finally, fourteen or fifteen miles farther, towards the southern boundary of the country, was erected, upon another island, the stately Tyre, the queen of Phœnician cities. The space between these places was covered with a number of towns of less import, but equally the abode of industry, and widely celebrated for their arts and manufactures. Among these were Sarepta [Zarephath], Botrys, Orthosia, and others; forming, as it were, one unbroken city, extending along the whole line of coast and over the islands; and which, with the harbours and seaports, and the numerous fleets lying within them, must have afforded altogether a spectacle scarcely to be equalled in the world, and must have excited in the stranger who visited them, the highest idea of the opulence, the power, and the enterprising spirit of the inhabitants.

Although these cities existed altogether in the flourishing period of Phœnicia, history has given us some account of the manner and time of their successive foundations. They were colonies of one another; and, like all other colonies of the ancient world, were founded either for purposes of trade, or by bodies of citizens who left their native abode in consequence of civil dissensions. The oldest of them, “the first-born of Canaan,” according to the Mosaic record, was Sidon, the foundress of the trade and navigation of the Phœnicians. Sidon was the parent of Tyre. In the first[256] place, merely as a staple for her own wares; but the daughter soon waxed greater than the mother, and successfully rivalled her. In the blooming period of Phœnicia, Sidon was only the second Phœnician city in point of extent, though still rich and mighty, and secured in a great measure by her excellent harbours from ruin and decline, so long as the maritime commerce of the Phœnicians should endure. Arvad was founded by another colony from Sidon, and owed its origin to a civil broil in this city, which drove the discontented party to seek a new abode.

Palætyrus, founded by Sidon, and situated on the mainland, continued a powerful, rich, and flourishing commercial city till the time of Nebuchadrezzar, the Babylonian-Chaldean conqueror; against whom it had to defend itself during a siege or blockade of thirteen years; but that he in reality ever took or destroyed it, as is commonly asserted, there is no historical proof. During this blockade, the greater part of the inhabitants took refuge upon a neighbouring island, already furnished with numerous establishments and buildings, and thus founded the island city of Tyre, which, favoured by its strong position, soon equalled the parent city, and not only outlived the Babylonian and Persian empires, but continued to increase as the ancient Tyre declined. It was finally captured by Alexander, after an obstinate resistance; but he robbed it less of its ancient opulence and splendour by his arms, than by the foundation of Alexandria, which henceforth became the great seat of the commerce of the world, though Tyre did not altogether decline. In the midst of this city stood the temple of the principal deity of the Tyrians, the protecting god of the city, as its name, Melkarth, signifies. This deity was called by the Greeks the Tyrian Hercules, though entirely different from their god bearing the same name; hence the myths of the two are often confounded. The worship of the Tyrian deity was introduced into the most distant parts of the world to which that people penetrated and founded settlements; he was honoured as the national god by the independent colonies of Tyre, who were wont to acknowledge his supremacy by solemn embassies. The city was protected by high walls of cut stone; and had two harbours, one on the north towards Sidon, the other on the south towards Egypt. The mouth of the latter could be closed by immense chains.

Let us now inquire what was the internal government of these cities? What their relation with each other? Whether they formed one general confederation? or whether they remained entirely separate states, without any common tie? These questions demand our serious attention.

The remarks above made upon the nature of the country readily explain why the Phœnicians could never become a conquering nation, and the founders of a great monarchy, such as that of the Chaldeans, the Persians, and others. They must have been well satisfied, if they could protect their little territory from the invasions of such powerful Asiatic conquerors; and being, from the earliest times downwards a people dwelling in cities, they could have had no idea of taking the long marauding expeditions common to nomad nations.

In order to obtain a correct idea of the political state of Phœnicia, it is necessary to have a general notion of the rise and progress of civil government among the Syrian tribes. As far as the light of history carries us back, we everywhere find a number of single cities, with the territory around them, under a monarchial form of government; the sovereign power being placed in the hands of kings or princes. Examples certainly are to be met with where some of these cities and their monarchs obtained a decided[257] preponderance (Damascus is at once an instance) and assumed to themselves a degree of authority. This, however, was a kind of forced alliance, which extended no farther than the exaction of tribute and subsidies in times of war, without depriving the subjected cities of their government and rulers. Syria, while independent and left to itself, never became organised into one state or one monarchy.

Here, then, we trace the groundwork of the Phœnician government. This country, like Syria, never became one state; but, from the earliest period down to the Persian monarchy, was always divided into a number of separate cities, each with its little territory around it. Some writers have stated positively the precise extent of the dominions of each city. Thus Antaradus, and the territory about it, formed part of the domain of Aradus, to which it lay opposite; thus Sarepta came within the dominion of Sidon, etc.

Allied cities, however, were certainly frequent in Phœnicia; indeed it seems very probable, that at certain times all the cities of Phœnicia formed one confederation, at the head of which stood originally Sidon, and afterwards Tyre. Even as early as the Mosaic period, alliances among these cities were common; the necessity of their common defence from foreign attack, which separately they were too weak to withstand, must naturally have led to this system. Neither were these confederations confined to Phœnicia alone; they prevailed also in the countries colonised by the Phœnicians; and Carthage in Africa, as well as Gades [or Gadeira] in Spain, stood at the head of the settlements in these districts without, however, obtaining a complete authority over them. A common religion, the worship of the Tyrian Hercules, the national and colonial deity, formed likewise a bond of union for all these cities, both of the mother country and the colonies, and strengthened and preserved the connection between them.

It is the nature, however, of all such confederations, to be liable to frequent changes; they vary indeed according to the political interests, and even the power and views of the separate states. Many changes of this kind must have arisen in this quarter, by the foundation and growing prosperity of the inland colonies; and many modifications must have taken place as these acquired sufficient strength to assume a kind of independence of the parent states. In the present case, in which we shall confine our observations to the flourishing period of Tyre,—that is, the period from Solomon to Cyrus, or at least Nebuchadrezzar,—it will be sufficient to show that Tyre, in the sense just stated, was always the dominant city of Phœnicia.

This may be inferred, in the first place, from the description given of Tyre by the prophet Ezekiel. Sidon and Arvad [Aradus] were at this time her allies, and supplied their contingents of soldiers and sailors. This being proved of the largest and most distant city of Phœnicia, no doubt can be well entertained respecting the smaller and nearer.

Besides, the subjects and allies of Tyre, and their revolts against the capital, are more than once expressly spoken of in history. The most striking proof of this is preserved in Josephus, from the works of Menander. For when King Shalmaneser undertook his expedition into western Asia and against Phœnicia, the allied cities, Sidon, Palætyrus, Akko, and many others, revolted against the Tyrians, and submitted to the king of Assyria. They went so far indeed as to fit out a fleet against them, which was defeated by the Tyrians, who thus secured themselves from further danger.


By comparing these fragments of Phœnician history and its government with the accounts that are left us respecting the state of Carthage, we obtain something more than bare historical conjecture, as we find a striking similarity between the government of the mother country and the colonies. What Tyre was towards Sidon, Arvad, Tripolis, etc., Carthage was towards Utica, Leptis, Adrumetum, and other cities. It not only seems quite natural, that in cities inhabited by one people, and so frequently called upon to struggle against their common and powerful enemies, alliances should be formed, and by alliances a kind of authority be conceded to the mightiest; but it is also consonant with the whole tenor of ancient history, that colonies should adopt the government of the mother state.

It may be concluded, then, from these facts, that the Phœnician cities formed together one confederation, at the head of which, in the period of their greatest splendour and perfect independence, stood Tyre. At the time of their subjection to Assyria and Persia, the bond that connected them necessarily became loosened, the other cities paid their tribute and furnished their contingents to Persia instead of to Tyre; the latter, however, still preserved its rank, and was always considered the chief city of the land.

The next question, namely, What was the internal government of the Phœnician cities? is equally difficult and obscure.

However desirable it may be to trace out accurately the gradual rise and progress of civic government in these, the earliest commercial cities, want of information limits us to a few general observations.

First, then, there can be no doubt but that each Phœnician city had its own proper government, and that in this respect they were perfectly independent of each other. They always appear so, as the following pages will evince, upon every occasion, and in every period of their history; being never spoken of but as separate states.

Secondly, It seems equally certain, that the chief authority was placed in the hands of kings, and certainly of hereditary kings, although political parties many times fomented revolutions by which new families were raised to the throne. This is especially shown by the history of Tyre; a catalogue of whose kings is extant in Josephus, from the time of Hiram, the contemporary of David, till the siege of the city by Nebuchadrezzar. Even under the dominion of the Persians, the royal dignity was preserved, though the monarchs were now only tributary princes, obliged to furnish money and ships to the Persians, and to attend them, when required, in their military expeditions. The kings of Tyre appear in this state in the expedition of the Persians against Athens, and even as late as the overthrow of Persia and the capture of Tyre by Alexander. As Tyre had its proper kings, so also had the other Phœnician cities, Sidon, Aradus, and Byblus. These are mentioned in various periods, and even as late as the Macedonian conquest.

Thirdly, Notwithstanding the existence of the royal dignity, the government was certainly not despotic; nay, the monarchial power was so strictly limited as to render it almost republican. It was indeed well-nigh impossible that despotism could have endured for so many centuries in commercial states, which can thrive only in the atmosphere of political liberty. A large maritime commerce requires a spirit of enterprise and resolute activity altogether incompatible with despotic government. Even the repeated political changes which took place in all these cities, and more particularly in Tyre, as well as the continual departure of colonies and their settlement in distant parts of the world, are circumstances which not only could not have been brought forth by despotism, but are the legitimate offspring of free nations.[259] Many particulars which warrant this conclusion may still be found in Phœnician history, notwithstanding the general scantiness of its information.

Next to the kings stood the Phœnician magistrates. These conjointly sent ambassadors. Indeed, at certain periods, a general congress of the great Phœnician cities was wont to be held, when the kings in council with the sanhedrim deliberated upon the common affairs of the confederacy. Tripolis was the place destined for the common assembly of the three principal cities.

Besides this, there is no question but the authority of the monarchs was very essentially limited by religion. The priests in these states formed a numerous and powerful class, and seem to have stood next in rank to the kings. Sicharbas, or Sichæus, the chief priest of the principal temple, was the husband of Dido [Elissa], and brother-in-law to King Pygmalion. His persecution and death by the latter, gave rise to those serious commotions which ended in the emigration of that numerous colony which founded the city of Carthage. The political influence of the Phœnician priests of Baal among the Jews, which caused a revolution in the state, is sufficiently well known. Among a people like the Phœnicians, where everything so much depended on sanctuaries and religion, the priesthood could scarcely fail to have a large share in the government, though we are not in a situation to determine precisely its extent.

The prophet Ezekiel in his prophecy against the king of Tyre, gives us a somewhat deep insight into the power of the prince of that city. He is pictured as a powerful prince, living in great splendour; but still as the ruler of a commercial city, which by its trade filled his treasury; as one who encourages and protects commerce by his wisdom and policy; but who, in the end, degenerating to craft and injustice, is threatened with the punishment of his misdeeds. “With thy wisdom and with thy understanding,” Ezekiel cries, “hast thou gotten thee riches; with gold and silver hast thou filled thy treasury by means of the greatness of thy commerce. Full of wisdom sealedst thou great sums; thou dwellst in a garden of God, ornamented from thine infancy with precious stones, clothed with fine garments. But traffic has enriched thee with ill-gotten wealth and thou hast sinned.” From this remarkable passage it may at least be gathered, that the revenue of the Tyrian kings, and without doubt that of the princes of the other cities also, was derived from commerce; but whether from the customs, or, which seems more probable, from a monopoly of some of the branches of trade, or from both, cannot be decided.b


As is seen on examination of the different names which were in course of time applied to the Phœnicians, they are not as a race to be separated from the rest of the Canaanites, especially from the various elements of the pre-Israelitish population of Palestine. Their history is only that of a section of the Canaanite race, the history of that portion which, as far back as the times to which the earliest historical information concerning this territory refers, had fixed its abode, not in the interior of Palestine but on the edge of the sea, along the coasts of the strip of country which bordered it on the north as far as those level stretches of the coast lands of Syria which extended to the northwestern slopes of Lebanon. Although in the matter of descent no difference can be discerned between[260] them and the other Canaanites, historical science must, nevertheless, regard them as a different people. It is in this sense that they are spoken of as the Phœnician race, the Phœnician people. They, and the inhabitants of the colonies which they founded, alone have a claim to the name of Phœnicians.

We can only guess at the manner in which the settlement of the Phœnician country by the Canaanites was effected, but the occurrences which afterwards took place in the interior of Palestine point to the assumption that the Canaanites did not spread inwards from the coast. It is not easily conceivable that at first they possessed merely those long narrow stretches of land and only subsequently extended their settlements from thence over those portions of the country west of Jordan of which they were masters before the Israelites. From ancient times there prevailed, as far as can be discovered, an endeavour on the part of the population of the interior, to approach the flat country on the coast, where the fruitful fields were in any case much more attractive than the mountains and hilly districts which, even in the time of the Israelites, were still partly covered with forest.

It may be concluded, therefore, that the Canaanite population of Phœnicia had at some time immigrated thither, either from the southern strips of the Syrian coast or from the northern portions of the interior of Palestine. But if this be so, the immigration must still be looked upon as an event which was completed at a distance of time historically so remote, that a distinct and faithful recollection of it can hardly have been preserved by the Phœnicians themselves. Even a possibility that a dim notion of these occurrences may have lingered, at least in isolated legends, is scarcely to be calculated on. Rather should we expect all real knowledge of the kind to be early extinguished, and that the Phœnicians in their new home, as a result of the historical development through which they passed, should have early come to regard themselves as the primitive inhabitants of the country. As a fact there do exist notices respecting what purport to be Phœnician traditions, the age and to some extent the authenticity of which cannot indeed be determined, but which seem to indicate that at least in Hellenic and still later times, the Phœnicians cherished this opinion. Every people considers itself autochthonous, directly it has ceased to remember its origin.

On the other hand, there are accounts which tell of an immigration of the Phœnicians, and even of an immigration from regions lying farther south. The first who speaks of this is Herodotus. In the description of the collection of Xerxes’ army which he sketches in the seventh book of his work, he says: “As regards the Phœnicians, they formerly dwelt, as they themselves say, on the Erythræan Sea. From thence they passed transversely across Syria and now dwell there on the seashore.”

Most of the remaining notices of the coming of the Phœnicians from the Erythræan Sea, which are found in the writings of the ancients, are to be referred to this assertion of Herodotus. The few other isolated references may be passed over in silence, with the exception of the one concerning the origin of the Phœnicians furnished by Justin in his extracts from the historical works of Pompeius Trogus. What he tells us is as follows: “The people of the Tyrians are descended from Phœnicians who, disquieted by an earthquake, left their first home on the inland sea of Syria (ad Syrium stagnum), and soon after settling on the nearest seacoast, there built a town, which they called Sidon on account of the abundance of fish, for the fish is called ‘sidon’ by the Phœnicians.” The statement that “sidon” means “fish” is incorrect, but it has at least the sense of[261] “fishing.”

The inland sea, the Syrium stagnum which is here mentioned, is said to be not far from the Syrian coast. This has been thought to refer to the Lake of Gennesareth, the Sea of Galilee, with its abundance of fish. But as stagnum means a body of water with no outlet, this interpretation is improbable. Christian Carl Josias Bunsen seems rather to have found the real one, when he expressed the opinion that the Dead Sea is meant, and that the earthquake which is said to have induced the Phœnicians to quit the shores of that sea was the same to which the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is ascribed in the Bible. The tale of the destruction of these towns apparently lies at the root of the idea that in this region, immeasurable ages ago, there existed a higher civilisation than was known in historical times, and which belonged to races other than those which dwelt there in the historical period. The higher the idea which men formed of this ruined civilisation, the less could they impute its disappearance exclusively to chance, and the blind forces of the rude powers of nature. When legend glances back to the prehistoric past, she always regards the overthrow of the noble and beautiful as the direct result of a crime.

Compared with one another, the two accounts allow us to conclude the existence of a common tradition, in which the division of the peoples into different tribes is explained generally, and its cause is conceived to have been a great natural disturbance, a transformation of the earth’s surface which is said to have occurred in the region round about the Dead Sea. In the reports which underlie the statements of Justin, or rather the sources of Pompeius Trogus, the history of the rise of the Phœnicians began with this catastrophe and therefore probably the general history of the various offshoots of the Canaanite section of humanity. On the other hand, in the Bible narrative, the same tradition is applied to connect it with the rise of two races which afterwards dwelt in the vicinity of that catastrophe. The peculiar nature of the catastrophe and the circumstance that just such great convulsions of the earth give occasion to new adjustments of the relations of peoples, lead to the conclusion that the joint tradition, which may be inferred from the two presentations, again refers back to a conception which cannot have arisen in the north of Palestine or in its coast districts, but only in the immediate neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, and in face of tokens which witness in eloquent language to the effects of the mighty forces of nature. In other words, a legend of local origin which ascribed the creation of the Dead Sea to a powerful convulsion of the earth, formed the germ of a legendary cycle with much common groundwork, in which the chief importance was assigned to the region of the Dead Sea and an earthquake which is said to have done its work there. This cycle consisted of a series of legends whose subject was the destruction of a lost civilisation which had attained a high pitch of excellence, and expression was thereby given to the conviction that the history of nations is not indeed to be traced back to its first starting-point, the origin of man, but that nevertheless the human race must have had a common origin.

If we ask with which race this legendary cycle developed, it is evident that we have here to do with a tradition of Canaanite origin which can have arisen only amongst those Canaanites who had their seat in the inland district, which lies in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. When it arose, cannot of course be determined. The Biblical account comes from the so-called Yahvistic narrator, who wrote as is assumed about the middle of the ninth century B.C. No doubt, however, the tradition on which this narrator draws is of much more ancient origin.


At best then we conclude that the information of Herodotus and Justin was derived from a Canaanite legend, in which a region by the Dead Sea was regarded as the starting-point of a division of the nations. And the starting-point was placed there, not because it was historically certain that such a movement of nations had begun in that place, but, on the contrary, because the starting-point was really unknown. But that region was said to have been the scene of a violent transformation of the earth’s surface, which had swallowed up the flourishing settlements of antiquity, and in their place created a dreary waste. It was only for this reason that the legend for the division of the nations was there localised.

The early study of navigation in Phœnicia, the development of the Phœnician race into a seafaring commercial people, the international character of their proceedings—in short all those peculiarities attending the appearance of this people in history, which have always required explanation—have been readily ascribed to their former sojourn on the shore of the Erythræan Sea. For the idea is, that it was not by any means in a state of savagery, but as skilled seamen, as experienced traders, conversant with all the achievements of the civilisation of southern latitudes and prepared for every contingency, that the Phœnicians for some cause not further explained, changed their home and sought out the Mediterranean coast of Syria. Although it has never been asserted that this event could belong to historical times, with it the explanation of historical problems, which so far as it is admissible, at all times is to be drawn entirely and without arbitrary suppositions from the condition and situation of the Phœnician settlements on the Syrian shore, is relegated into the region of the entirely unknown. As a matter of fact, those particular regions which have been specially represented as the primitive home of the Phœnicians, namely, the Babylonian coasts of the Persian Gulf and those which lie to the west of them, are so little qualified to favour the rise of navigation, owing to the want of suitable woods, that, as Aristobulus informs us, when Alexander the Great conceived the design of bringing the coast district of eastern Arabia under his dominion, both seamen and portable ready-made ships had to be brought from Phœnicia to Babylon, and this was actually done with the express intention of making of Babylonia, what it had never hitherto been, namely, “a second Phœnicia.”

Thus neither those statements which make the Phœnicians the primitive inhabitants of their country, nor those which represent them as immigrants, have any convincing force. It is in itself probable that they were originally native not to Phœnicia but to some place farther south, and in the interior of Palestine; but not because we have information to that effect, but solely on account of the outlying position of their settlements, representing the most northerly extent of territory of the Canaanites. Amongst the peoples of antiquity the Phœnician is not indeed the only one which must not be regarded as autochthonous, although all the accounts of their immigration which we possess are unworthy of credit. As a rule no conjectures can be brought forward, as to the road by which this or that people reached its place of abode. That this is possible in the case of the Phœnicians is one of the exceptions. They can only have reached their homes from the south, and that which urged them forward was, as has already been emphasised above, that same movement of peoples, which, starting from the northern territories of Arabia, has always produced an effect in the south of Palestine.c





According to the opinion of eminent geologists Phœnicia was an inhabited country at some wholly prehistoric period, long before the first appearance of the Phœnicians. Nevertheless neither skulls nor other portions of the skeletons of the primitive, prehistoric inhabitants have been found there up to the present time. But on the floor of particular caves, of which there are many on the western slopes of Lebanon, are certain strata composed of the remains of burnt coal and ashes, potsherds, splinters of the bones of animals, and flint stones of various shapes. The whole, as it were, cemented together by calcareous sinter, into a kind of brecciated mass as hard as stone. The bones of animals have been declared to be those of a species no longer extant, but they exhibit no trace of having been modelled. On the other hand the flints, which exist in great quantities, are regarded as products which are certainly the work of human hands. At least, experts who have gone deep into this department of inquiry, have expressed the conviction that shapes such as these exhibit could not have come into existence in any other way, by means of any fall of rock or chance splitting of masses of flint. Unfortunately, however, a class of shapes is in question concerning whose origin doubt and hesitation are permissible. There is no object amongst them which bears on the face of it either the unmistakable impress of a tool or a sure sign of polishing or careful fashioning. It also seems as though the deposits on the floors of those grottos which have been the principal subjects of investigation had in no instance remained undisturbed. Further confirmation must consequently be looked for before the existence of a population of Phœnicia which was prehistoric in the geological sense, can be regarded as an established fact, and even then the generation which exclusively employed tools of such a rough form as these flint fragments must in any case have been, would be divided by an immeasurable gulf from the generations which were subsequently established in the same country.

It is in no way probable that when the Phœnicians chose the lowlands on the west side of the Lebanon chain as their place of abode they took possession of a tract of country which had as yet practically no population. But we have not the slightest grounds for guessing the stage of civilisation of the predecessors whom they encountered there, nor to what race these belonged. Certain scholars have indeed sought to answer the question, why it was in Phœnicia that in early times a much higher development of[264] civilisation appeared than in most of the other countries inhabited by members of the Semitic family of peoples, by the hypothesis that the branch of Semites which immigrated there found, as did those who settled in Babylonia, a population entirely different in endowments and descent, and who had long been in possession of a many sided civilisation; with these they may have intermingled, and from the complete amalgamation first proceeded that section of humanity, which bears in history the name of Phœnicians. This hypothesis has no other foundation than the idea that otherwise it would be necessary to attribute to a Semitic people qualities which are denied to the Semitic family generally.

As already shown, the exact point of time at which the race of Phœnicians established its claims to a home in Phœnicia, cannot be computed. It is still more impossible to fix its date than it is to determine the first commencement of historical development in Egypt and Babylonia, because in Phœnicia there is a total lack of monuments which might afford some kind of glimpse at such far remote distances of the past as are revealed by the earliest monuments of Egyptian and Babylonian origin. It may, however, be regarded as established that a consistent development, preparing the way for results which are known to history, began much later in Phœnicia than in the Nile Valley and the territory at the mouth of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Like the Babylonians and Egyptians, the Phœnicians were subsequently unable to refrain from drawing up a chronological scheme of their own history, embracing an inconceivably long period. At least Julius Africanus, a Christian chronographer who wrote in the first quarter of the third century A.D., mentions incidentally that there were versions of Phœnician history in which the latter was made to go back no less than 30,000 years. But this is quite a modest total when we remember that Babylonians are said to have asserted that their reckoning extended back 480,000 years. In what manner the enormous number of 30,000 years was attained may be guessed. A brief span of time would be filled by historical occurrences and lists of rulers.

As to primitive history, properly so called, or if it is preferred, the sojourn of the Phœnician people in its first and original home, it is probably not touched on in any way. In all probability the lion’s share was accorded to the gods, and to a plan of arrangement designed to bring the doctrine of the rule of the gods on earth, and especially in Phœnicia, into the framework of a regular chronological system. Such a scheme was required, because the lists of rulers were not limited to the enumeration of historical personages, but began with mythical figures and with gods. Therefore, on the whole, there is nothing behind these high figures, if they have been accurately reported, beyond a chronology of the Phœnician cosmogony and stories of the gods.

[ca. 2750 B.C.]

Of much more ancient origin and of much greater positive value is another date which is given by Herodotus. He asserts that during his stay at Tyre, which may be placed in the year 450 B.C., certain priests of the sanctuary there which was consecrated to the god Hercules (i.e. Melkarth) responded to his question as to how long the temple had been standing, by saying that that temple had been erected when the town was founded, and that that event had happened 2300 years before. According to this the founding of Tyre would fall somewhere in the year 2750 B.C. B. G. Niebuhr has declared himself very sceptical of the trustworthiness of the informants to whom Herodotus owed this intelligence. But even if their estimate is not to be taken as exact, and was not derived direct from records of the founding of the temple, and if it is also uncertain whether Herodotus was not merely[265] informed of the period at which, in Phœnicia, the founding of the oldest city in that country began, still in itself few objections can be found to the correctness of this estimate as on the whole an approximately accurate date. It stands to reason that on practical grounds it was to the interest of the priesthood of that temple to bring exaggerated notions of its age into circulation. But in doing this, since they expressly invoke the notorious age of the town, they had every inducement to keep within the bounds of what was generally regarded as possible. At best, therefore, their estimate will be the earliest date with which the contemporary inhabitants of Phœnicia believed that they might associate their historical recollections generally. It was not merely a date such as is derived from simple love of romancing; otherwise they would have gone further back. In fact about twenty-five hundred years before Christ the Canaanites had actually taken up their abode in Phœnicia.


As everything points to the presumption that we have no historical information which stands in the way of free invention as to the age of the towns, this fact should serve to confirm the theory that the origin of the towns of Phœnicia did not take place under the influence of historical events of a violent character, and that the character of the conformation of the soil of the whole territory which favoured the isolation of the different sections, had its effect at a very early stage of their development. This was all the more to be expected because the rest of the Canaanites exhibited only slight tendencies towards national unity, a want which may perhaps be explained by the probability that their original home was also the border territory of the cultivated land of Syria, and that presumably the force of circumstances under which the transition to the life in fixed abodes was completed had not been enough to banish all remains of the nomad’s disposition. Even at the time of the immigration of the Israelitish tribes, the land west of Jordan was not, according to all appearance, thickly populated, and although along the Syria coast, a greater density of population had long prevailed, yet even in Phœnicia itself the first scattered settlements had little of the character of townships until the development of an active maritime trade, which continually drew fresh sections of the inhabitants of the lowlands to the neighbourhood of the landing-places. But for this very reason the fact that subsequently every separate section of the Phœnician country was referred to solely as the appendage and domain of each great coast city, should not lead us to the conclusion that these sections corresponded to a primitive division of the Phœnician race into separate branches. What this phenomenon really points to is rather mainly an historical effect arising from the geographical peculiarities of Phœnicia. And if the population was not everywhere of pure Phœnician origin, especially in the northern districts—it apparently received continual accessions from the territory of Lebanon and the inland country south of the latter—it is still not to be admitted that distinctions of tribe influenced the choice of the country to be settled.

There is a special tendency to assign a peculiar position to the men of Byblus and Berytus. But the reasons which have prompted it are by no means conclusive; the fact that these two towns are not mentioned in the table of peoples is explained by the general application of the term “Sidonian.” It is true that in another passage of the Old Testament (Joshua xiii. 5) the Byblites are apparently not included under the general name of Sidonians. But if the general sense of this passage has not been distorted by numerous interpolations, which can scarcely be conceded, still, the independent and separate importance of Byblus will appear as a historic[266] fact and not as one to be referred to the prehistoric founding of the city by a tribe of non-Phœnician origin. A writer who, as in this case, wishes to point out to his fellow tribesmen the tracts of country they are to subdue, concerns himself rather with states and political units than with ethnological problems. As regards the separate existence of Byblus, we need only ask the question whether as a town not founded by Phœnicians it could have become what it did: namely, a pre-eminently sacred place, a centre of religious life and thought which had no second in this country—in fact, the Mecca of the Phœnicians. The coins of this city make it clear that to them “Kaddischat” (i.e., the “holy”) and Gebal (i.e., Byblus) were regarded as identical names. Here special honour was paid to “El” or, as the Greeks said, Kronos, who was the highest conception of God in Phœnician theology. Here, too, the service of the “Lady of the City,” Astarte, acquired, with all the unrestraint of the primitive sensuousness inherent in the notion of a goddess of love and vitality, a more distinct and potent shape than in the rest of Phœnicia. In the territory of Byblus, moreover, lay the scenes in which love once united the goddess with the youthful ruler Adonis, the most beautiful of the gods, and where at the instigation of a jealous deity, his deadly enemy, her lover met his early death from the tusk of a wild boar.

[ca. 2800 B.C.]

The surmises concerning the diverse origin of the original inhabitants of the towns of Phœnicia lose still more importance from the fact that, like Syria generally, Phœnicia first becomes the scene of historical events only in connection with the development of other countries, and had evidently long before then been subjected to foreign influences. One of the most ancient records of the history of the world, a relief which the Egyptian King Sneferu caused to be set upon a rock in the Wady Magharah, shows us the Egyptians, somewhere about the year 2800 B.C., as conquerors of the Mentiu [or Mentu], the nomad tribes of Mount Sinai.

In this warlike expedition they fought for the possession of the tracts of that inhospitable mountain region where copper ore was to be found, but long before this there appear to have been manifold relations between the inhabitants of the Nile Valley and the people of Anterior Asia—relations which rested mainly on the exchange of merchandise. For instance, it was doubtless as an article of commerce that the produce of those copper mines first became known in Egypt. It was only when this source threatened to fail them that the nation, little warlike as its temper was, determined by the subjection of the predatory inhabitants of the mountains to secure itself a regular supply of the invaluable ore which was not obtainable in Egypt. Whether, as has been assumed, the operation of friendly relations went so far that the influence of ancient Egyptian art may even be traced in the most ancient statues of Babylonia, is a question which must remain undecided. The stiff appearance of the figures which has been taken as a sign of this is probably better explained by the hardness of the material in which the works were executed in order that they might be able to last for all time, and also by the lack of convenient tools. On the other hand, even in the treatment of separate portions of the body, more attention is paid to the shape of the internal structure on which the outer depends, and more regard had to the modelling than is found in the formal style, where the chief attention is paid to rendering the general outline, and which is characteristic of Egyptian art. These differences are the beginning of a line of development peculiar to the sculpture of the Babylonians and Assyrians. Still, even in the Egypt of the pyramid age, there is much which points to very early commercial relations, regularly subsisting between it and the Semitic countries.


Far greater importance must be attached to the influence exercised by the Babylonian civilisation on the nationalities of Syria, before the conditions which are seen to have prevailed in historical times began to take visible shape. Although it may have begun to make itself felt later than that which came from Egypt, this influence was still from the first more enduring and penetrating. Two routes led the civilisation of Babylonia to the countries of the west. The one ascends the course of the river Euphrates, and has its outlet somewhere at the top of the Bay of Issus, in the northeast of the interior of Syria. Here the land of the Kheta borders the Euphrates, or, as the Assyrians name it, the land of Khatti. It was chiefly from this territory, that is, from the extreme northwest of Mesopotamia, that the Babylonian—subsequently the Assyrio-Babylonian civilisation—made its way into Syria, and similarly in Syria itself it spread mainly in the direction of from north to south. The wide circuit which it takes is necessitated by the fact that it is only on the upper course of the Euphrates that the great Syrian desert, which extends between the eastern borders of Palestine and the right bank of the Euphrates, comes to an end.

The other route also shuns the great desert land and turns in a southwesterly direction from the estuary of the two rivers towards the north of Arabia. From here also Babylonian civilisation only reached Palestine and Syria by a circuitous path which led moreover through tracts of country whose natural conformation refuses its inhabitants any impulse towards the reception of an advanced civilisation. This route, however, supplies a more direct connection with the actual starting-point and home of the civilisation of Babylonia. In all ages the zone of this southern thoroughfare, which stretches from the country of the Euphrates to the land east of Jordan and down to the south of Palestine, has in great part formed a home for nomads and semi-nomads. Of all Eastern nations, Babylonia exercised in the west of Palestine and the coast plains of Syria the greatest influence on the unstable populations of this zone. The habits of life which from all time have distinguished most of the tribes dwelling here,—namely, the Bedouin habits,—can only be pursued so long as each separate tribe has a wide range. As during long periods of isolation the layers of air that cover the steppe roll up into balls of cloud which suddenly break in heavy storms on the surrounding countries; so when the density of the population has increased to such an extent that this zone can no longer feed its inhabitants, a movement sets in which induces whole tribes to seek a new home in the cultivated land in the neighbourhood, and thus once more leave sufficient space for those who remain behind. Whilst the lands of the nomads give up their surplus population, those tribes which previously dwelt farther off arrive in the near neighbourhood of the arable districts, and gradually approach the level of the inhabitants of the latter. That form of existence which is the only one possible in the purlieus of a zone habitable only for nomads and semi-nomads, necessitates, from the very facts of the case, that most of the attainments of the civilisation of other and more happily situated countries must forever remain of little value to the dwellers of that district. The civilisation of Babylonia could no more be imitated here as a whole than any other phase of development resting on division of labour, on wealth, and the development of the idea of property.

Such regulated conditions and restrictions of the will of the individual as prevailed in Babylonia must, in any case, have always been in the highest degree repugnant to the unrestrained inhabitants of this zone, which lived only in the present, and must have seemed by no means worth striving after,[268] as even in the present day European conditions have no attraction for most of the dwellers in Arabia. The ingenious products of industry they no doubt regarded as desirable valuables and adornments, and sought to obtain them without thinking of the possibility of learning to make such things for themselves. The only inventions which they really adopted were certain simple and practical ones, the use of which gave them light, and whose employment was permitted even by the primitive existence which they led, and besides these they received whole series of religious conceptions in which they imagined themselves to perceive an important increase and extension of their own knowledge. On the other hand, the wanderings to and fro which prevailed amongst the tribes, secured a rapid and general diffusion of any acquisitions they might make.

Phœnician Vase

The influence of Babylonia on the rise of the civilisation of Syria would consequently, as far as regards the immigration of the Canaanites and the lands in the south of the great Syrian desert considered as its route, have been at first limited to a few main features. On the other hand the influence which the same civilisation acquired in Syria from the north, by virtue of its early extension in the countries of the upper course of the Euphrates, was probably equally old and far more complete. The race of the Hittites concerning whose origin and descent little is known, may have had a special part in this as intermediaries. But it is uncertain when the presence of this influence in Syria begins. The peoples of Syria were made in the highest degree susceptible to Babylonian civilisation by the fact that by descent and language they belong primarily to the Semites. For although the civilisation of Babylonia is probably not originally the product of a Semitic race, yet in Babylonia itself individual tribes of Semitic origin had made this civilisation their own in an age which belongs to the prehistoric period, and had transformed it so as to give it a Semitic character. And the elements of culture which penetrated into Syria from the northern territories of the Euphrates had passed through still further modifications and adaptations, and had laid aside whatever was foreign to the Semites. Merely on this account, it is obvious that what was transmitted could have retained little that was of a specifically Babylonian complexion. Everything in Syria which seems to bear this character on the face of it was, perhaps, just because this is so distinctly obvious, not borrowed in very ancient times, more probably adopted later; for the relations with the Assyrians lasted for centuries, and there was, speaking generally, no geographical boundary on the northeast between Syria and the countries of the Euphrates. At best such phenomena are due to a revival and renovation which left little standing that bore a true Syrian stamp, even if anything of the kind was attempted. Even the Assyrians themselves took all the trouble imaginable to copy the Babylonians as exactly as possible, and the peoples of Syria, who were still less independent in spirit, did the same so far as they were under the influence of the Assyrians. And even many centuries before the power of the Assyrians reached such a height that they were compelled to adjust[269] themselves to it, they had derived everything that we call cultivation from the Babylonian sphere of civilisation.

Above all, the religious conceptions of the peoples of Syria were remoulded by it. Most of the attempts which were made with the object of formulating the native beliefs into a system were only brought about subsequently, as the Assyrio-Babylonian example became known. But not merely the interpretation of the existing worship and belief, not only the theology must have become more and more closely assimilated to the Assyrio-Babylonian pattern, but also, in the course of time, the names and artistic representations of the gods. For instance, we are informed that in the towns of the Philistine plains a god of the name of Dagon enjoyed specially high honour. He is frequently represented on coins, bearded and with long locks of hair, and holding a fish in either hand: the lower half of the body ends in a fish’s tail covered with scales and provided with fins. Both the name and the manner of representation distinctly point to a connection with Babylonia. In this case, according to all appearance, we are not dealing with a god whose worship was only introduced by the Philistines, but with an ancient Canaanite deity. He was also worshipped by the Canaanites of the interior. If we may trust the statement of Philo, in the Phœnician accounts of the beginnings of human civilisation it was to Dagon that the discovery of the nourishing properties of corn and the invention of the plough were ascribed. Now amongst the gods of Babylonia there is also found a god named Dagon or Dakan who figures in several inscriptions as the author of the laws, and it is also known that there were Babylonian legends which referred the first regulations of human life to teachings said to have been imparted by beings who were half men, half fish. Further, in Babylonian and Assyrian art we frequently find such hybrid creatures as well as human forms disguised as fish, the head of a fish’s skin, which hangs down the back being placed on the head of each figure. Up till now, however, we have no explanation of what these figures are meant to signify nor do we know by what name they were called. Nevertheless a model of this kind probably furnished the original for that representation of Dagon which was usual amongst the Canaanites. If he passed as the god of agriculture and its rules, he might still have adopted this shape. In any case the form is proof of Babylonian influence. As to the name, it is very probable that it was really of Semitic origin, but reached the Canaanites by way of Babylonia together with the conception of the god of the cultivation of the soil, which it denoted, and this may even have happened when they had not yet fixed their abode in Palestine. But as regards the pictorial representation, it is in the highest degree improbable that a people of essentially inland origin should from the first have imagined the divine protector and patron of agriculture as half man, half fish, and with fishes in his hands. The Canaanites can only have lighted on this strange manner of representing him when they had been already long established in Palestine, when divine beings of this form had become known to them through numerous designs imported from Babylonia, and it seemed as though no essential distinction existed between the conception of these beings and that of Dagon. Presumably the most decisive point of union was afforded by the name Dagon. Etymologically it signifies no more than a god of “corn” = dagan, but it also sounds like the word dag which means “fish,” and so easily lends itself to a double meaning which directly justifies and explains the design afterwards adopted from the name of the god.

In other cases Babylonian names seem to have dislodged the original[270] designations of Syrian deities. But the same may be said of the Egyptian influences which, penetrating into Syria from the south, and especially into the coast districts, encountered those of Babylonia and Assyria.

With all this it must not be forgotten that the civilisation of the peoples of Syria did not stop at mere borrowing. In its beginnings it was not indeed an independent and uniform creation; but still the diversities of the separate districts lent it a certain variety, and the distribution of the different tribes gave a great deal of individuality. We may presume that the civilisation of the districts connected with the countries on the Euphrates first reached a considerable height and that then the other parts of Syria, in their various degrees, merely followed this development. In some details the influence of the earliest civilisation of northern Syria, or at least a special connection with it, betrays itself among the Phœnicians.

[ca. 1500 B.C.]

The gods Anat and Reschuf, seem to have reached the Phœnicians from North Syria at a very early period. So far, indeed, it is only certain that they were worshipped by the Phœnician colonists on Cyprus. However, the name Anat appears in the names of several towns in the Holy Land (in Beth-Anat and perhaps also in Anatoth), and a trace of the name Reschuf is still recognisable in the name of the coast town Arsuf. Portraits of these deities are displayed on the monuments of the Egyptians, who had appropriated them during their intercourse with Syria. The circumstance that the Egyptians were fond of representing both deities with the town goddess of Kadesh on the Orontes, points to Reschuf as well as Anat having been received into the Phœnicians’ system of gods from the pantheon of the northern portion of Syria. From the closing sentence of the treaty which Ramses II concluded with the Kheta [Hittites], it even seems that Anat was worshipped in many towns in the Hittite kingdom.


The settlement of the island of Cyprus by Phœnicians must have begun at a very early period, and probably took place at the beginning of the complete occupation of the mainland. In this process Phœnicia acquired an outland only a day’s journey from the coast of Syria, with favourable harbours on the side facing that coast, and sources of wealth of the most various kinds. The Phœnicians were most attracted by copper, the “Cyprian earth,” which along with iron and silver was found in the mountain range in the middle of the southern half of the island. It is probable that they acquired that masterly skill in mining which was the wonder of ancient times, not in Lebanon, but in the process of exploiting the copper treasures of Cyprus.

In most places there is no trace in historical times of distinction between autochthonous Cypriotes and descendants of the immigrant Phœnicians. It is only in places where there is a continuous flow of maritime intercourse from Phœnician districts, that we find an element of pure Phœnician nationality in the inhabitants. The political conditions of the island took shape quite in the same form as in Phœnicia and in Canaanitish Palestine. Here, too, the more flourishing municipal communities acquired supremacy over the neighbouring districts under the sovereign superintendence of town kings; in this way, it is true, they did not form an organic unit of political independence, but they formed different kingdoms of small area which corresponded to an equal number of town districts. Certain dynasties succeeded[271] for a while in reducing several of these town districts to subservience, but at the first opportunity the league of kingdoms which had been thus expanded breaks up very easily into its original constituents.

Excavations recently carried on in Cyprus have brought to light seals on which are engraved pictorial representations of Babylonian form, and inscriptions in Babylonian cuneiform writing, with names of ancient Babylonian sovereigns. These seals which reach Cyprus in the form of rarities in the course of barter and exchange, show how ancient are the trade communications extending from the districts about the mouth of the Euphrates and the Tigris to the shore lands of northern Syria.

The wars which the Egyptians repeatedly waged from about 2830 B.C. with the Bedouin races of Sinai, exercised upon the political relations of Syria no more influence than the punishment executed by the Egyptian king, Pepi, upon an Aamu tribe, the Herusha, so that for the whole period of time from 2750 B.C., until the rise of the second [New] Theban Kingdom of Egypt, there is no political incident to note further than the conjecture that about the year 1950 B.C. one of the Elamite sovereigns of Babylonia appears to have reduced a large part of Syria to ephemeral subservience. Before the beginning of the second half of the second millennium B.C., must also be placed the commencement of t