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other nations, and sometimes governed by their own rulers; sometimes favored and sometimes oppressed by the powerful princes around them. On the whole, their condition was far from prosperous. Even the voice of prophecy ceased to be heard, and God withdrew the signs of his special interposition. No prophet appeared among them after they had been one hundred years returned from Babylon. They seemed to be given up to darkness, both political and religious. The family of the Maccabees at one period arose, and by its patriotism and talents cast a temporary brightness on the condition of the country. But this soon passed away. The people were too corrupt and too weak to maintain their rights against other nations, or to remain united among themselves. They divided into parties under two brothers, Aristobulus and Hyrcanus, who contended for the power. The quarrel was decided by an appeal to Pompey, the Roman general, who espoused the party of Hyrcanus, marched his legions to Jerusalem, besieged and took it, and subjected the whole country to the Roman government. This was sixty-three years before the birth of our Saviour.
But though the independence of the country was gone, the people were still allowed the exercise of their former customs and of their peculiar religious institutions and laws. The gov
ernment was for a long time unsettled, until Herod, surnamed the Great, was made king by the Romans about thirty years before Christ. He was a courageous and cunning man; a brave soldier, a good general, a lover of magnificence and pomp, but ambitious, deceitful, and cruel He did much for the prosperity of the nation, ornamented Jerusalem in various ways, and rebuilt the temple at great expense and with great splendor. But his jealousy and cruelty caused him to be detested by the people. He put to death his own wife and children, and many other members of his family. No one could feel safe from his capricious cruelty. When about to die, he assembled the chief men of the nation at Jericho, and shut them up in the circus. Then he gave orders, that, at the moment of his death, the soldiers should be let in upon them, and put them all to the sword. For, he said, he knew that the Jews would rejoice at his death, and he was resolved to make them mourn. Happily these horrible orders were not executed, and there was probably unmixed joy at the tyrant's death. After knowing this, which is related by Josephus, the Jewish historian, we cannot think it incredible that he should put to death the infants of Bethlehem, for fear the new-born Saviour should escape. We understand, too, why all Jerusalem was troubled when the Magi inquired
for the young king. They knew well enough that it would exasperate the jealous Herod, and lead to some deed of cruelty and blood. It has even been thought by some, that he pretended to be himself the Messiah, and therefore would allow no one else to be so. Their reason for this is, that we read in the Evangelist of a sect of the Herodians, who are supposed to have favored his claims, and been his followers. If it were so, it might help to account yet more perfectly for his desire to slay the infant Christ. But it is altogether uncertain.
At the death of Herod, he divided his dominions between his three sons, Archelaus, Antipas, and Philip.
Archelaus had Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. He reigned less than ten years, and having been guilty of great injustice, was then deposed, and banished to Gaul, where he died. At his death his dominions became a province of the Roman Empire, of which, during our Saviour's ministry, Pontius Pilate was governor.
Herod Antipas possessed Galilee and Peræa. He is the Herod spoken of in the Gospels during our Lord's ministry. It was he who put John the Baptist to death, and to whom Pilate sent Jesus, that he might be tried, because he was a Galilean.
Herod Philip was tetrarch of Ituræa and Trachonitis, which lie opposite Galilee, on the other side of the Jordan. He is barely mentioned in the New Testament. He was a mild and just prince, and into his dominions Jesus retreated when he desired to avoid the plots of Herod Antipas.
It appears, then, that the country in which Jesus exercised his ministry, was divided into three governments;-Galilee and Peræa under Herod, Judea and Samaria under Pilate, and Trachonitis and Ituræa under Philip. Herod was styled tetrarch, and sometimes, though not rightfully, king. Pilate was simply governor, or, to use the Roman title, Procurator. Herod was tyrannical and cunning, well deserving the name, which our Lord gave him, of the Fox. Pilate was weak, cruel, rash, and obstinate. Both of them were at last banished by the Emperor for misgovernment, and Pilate in consequence destroyed himself. Philip was a good and just prince, and died quietly after a reign of thirty-seven years.
Such was the government of the country. It was no longer in the hands of the Jews, but of foreigners. The sceptre had departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from between her feet. It was, therefore, time to look for the Messiah: for the prophet had said, that these things should not be until Shiloh come; which the Jews understood to mean the Messiah. Accordingly at this time
they were eagerly looking out for him. When they saw the Roman soldiers garrisoned in their towns, and the Roman tax-gatherers collecting their money, and felt every day the wretchedness of their enslaved and impoverished condition, their hearts burned with impatience. They longed to throw off the yoke, to drive out the oppressors, and be free. They had read in the Prophets, that God would send them a mighty deliverer, the son of David, who should come amongst them in power and glory, and set up a kingdom over the whole earth. He was known among them by the name of the Messiah, or the Christ; that is, the Anointed. They thought it time for him to appear, for the signs spoken of by Moses and Daniel seemed to be fulfilled. They were waiting for him with eagerness. They trusted that he would free them from their bondage. They did not think of him as a religious teacher, coming to establish a spiritual kingdóm. No; they were satisfied with their religion, and proud of their goodness. They wanted nothing but to be rid of the Romans, and have their country restored to the power and greatness of the days of David and Solomon. This they expected to be done. They were ready to rise in arms, and fight for it. And it was because Jesus would not do this for them, that they pronounced him a deceiver, and put him to death, va