Towards the spring, Simon and his
family were surprised by a visit from the Rabbi Solomon
Ben Manasseh. It was a year since they had last
seen him, when he called to take leave of them, on
starting for Jerusalem. They scarcely recognized
him as he entered, so old and broken did he look.
“The Lord be praised that I
see you all, safe and well!” he said, as they
assisted him to dismount from the donkey that he rode.
“Ah, my friends, you are happy, indeed, in your
quiet farm; free from all the distractions of this
terrible time! Looking round here, and seeing
you just as I left you save that the young
people have grown, somewhat I could think
that I left you but yesterday, and that I have been
passing through a hideous nightmare.
“Look at me! My flesh has
fallen away, and my strength has gone. I can
scarce stand upon my legs, and a young child could
overthrow me. I have wept, till my tears are
dried up, over the misfortunes of Jerusalem; and yet
no enemy has come within sight of her walls, or dug
a trench against her. She is devoured by her own
children. Ruin and desolation have come upon
The old man was assisted into the
house, and food and wine placed before him. Then
he was led into the guest chamber, and there slept
for some hours. In the evening, he had recovered
somewhat of his strength, and joined the party at
When it was concluded, and the family
were alone, he told them what had happened in Jerusalem
during the past year. Vague rumors of dissension,
and civil war, had reached them; but a jealous watch
was set round the city, and none were suffered to leave,
under the pretext that all who wished to go out were
deserters who sought to join the Romans.
“I passed through, with difficulty,”
the rabbi said, “after bribing John of Gischala,
with all my worldly means, to grant me a pass through
the guards; and even then should not have succeeded,
had he not known me in old times, when I looked upon
him as one zealous for the defense of the country
against the Romans little thinking, then,
that the days would come when he would grow into an
oppressor of the people, tenfold as cruel and pitiless
as the worst of the Roman tribunes.
“Last autumn when, with the
band of horsemen, with steeds weary with hard riding,
he arrived before the gates of Jerusalem saying
that they had come to defend the city, thinking it
not worth while to risk their lives in the defense
of a mere mountain town, like Gischala the
people poured out to meet him, and do him honor Terrible
rumors of slaughter and massacre, in Galilee, had reached
us, but none knew the exact truth. Moreover, John
had been an enemy of Josephus and, since Josephus
had gone over to the Romans, his name was hated and
accursed among the people; and thus they were favorably
inclined towards John.
“I don’t think anyone
was deceived by the story he told, for it was evident
that John and his men had fled before the Romans.
Still, the tidings he brought were reassuring, and
he was gladly received in the city. He told us
that the Romans had suffered very heavily at the sieges
of Jotapata and Gamala, that they were greatly dispirited
by the desperate resistance they had met with, that
a number of their engines of war had been destroyed,
and that they were in no condition to undertake the
siege of a strong city like Jerusalem. But though
all outwardly rejoiced, many in their hearts grieved
at the news, for they thought that even an occupation
by the Romans would be preferable to the suffering
they were undergoing.
“For months, bands of robbers,
who called themselves Zealots, had ravaged the whole
country; pillaging, burning, and slaying, under the
pretense that those they assaulted were favorable to
the cause of Rome. Thus, gradually, the country
people all forsook their homes, and fled to Jerusalem
for refuge and, when the country was left a desert
and no more plunder was to be gained, these robber
bands gradually entered Jerusalem. As you know,
the gates of the holy city were always open to all
the Jewish people; and none thought of excluding the
strangers who entered, believing that every armed
man would add to the power of resistance, when the
Romans appeared before it.
“The robbers, who came singly
or in small parties from all parts of the country,
soon gathered themselves together in the city, and
established a sort of terror over the peaceable inhabitants.
Men were robbed, and murdered, openly in the street;
houses were broken open, and pillaged; none dare walk
in the street, without the risk of insult or assault.
Antipas, Levias, and Saphias all of royal
blood were seized, thrown into prison, and
there murdered; and many others of the principal people
“Then the robbers proceeded
to further lengths. They took upon themselves
to appoint a high priest; selected a family which had
no claim whatever to the distinction and, drawing
lots among them, chose as high priest one Phannias a
country priest, ignorant, boorish, and wholly unable
to discharge the function of the office. Hitherto,
the people had submitted to the oppression of the
Zealots, but this desecration of the holy office filled
them with rage and indignation; and Ananus the
oldest of the chief priests, a man of piety and wisdom was
the head of the movement and, calling the people together,
exhorted them to resist the tyranny which oppressed
them, and which was now desecrating the Temple for
the Zealots had taken refuge there, and made the holy
place their headquarters.
“The people seized their arms,
but before they were ready for the attack the Zealots,
learning what was going on, took the initiative and
fell upon them. The people were less accustomed
to arms than their foes, but they had the superiority
of numbers, and fought with fury. At first the
Zealots gained the advantage, but the people increased
in numbers. Those behind pressed those in front
forward, and the Zealots were driven back into the
Temple, and the Quadrangle of the Gentiles was taken.
“The Zealots fled into the inner
court, and closed the gates. Thither their wounded
had already been carried, and the whole place was
defiled with their blood. But Ananus, having the
fear of God before his eyes, did not like to attack
them there and, leaving six thousand chosen men on
guard in the cloisters, and arranging that these should
be regularly relieved, retired.
“Such was the state of things,
when John of Gischala arrived. He at once professed
complete agreement with the party of Ananus, and was
admitted into all their councils; but all the time,
as we afterwards learned, he was keeping up a secret
correspondence with the Zealots, and betrayed to them
all that took place at the council. There was
some distrust of him but, in addition to the party
that had entered the city with him, he had speedily
gathered together many others and, distracted as we
already were with our troubles, none cared to add
to the number of their enemies by openly distrusting
John who took many solemn oaths of fidelity
to the cause of order.
“He at length volunteered to
enter the inner Temple, on a mission to the Zealots;
and to persuade them to surrender, and leave the city.
But no sooner was he among them than he threw off the
mask, and told the Zealots that the offers to allow
them to depart in peace were blinds, and that they
would at once be massacred if they surrendered.
He therefore advised them to resist, and to send for
assistance without recommending them especially
to send to the Idumeans. Eleazar and Zacharias the
chiefs of the Zealots felt sure that they,
above all, would be sacrificed if they surrendered;
and they embraced John’s counsel, and sent off
swift-footed messengers to the Idumeans, urging them
to come to their assistance.
“The Idumeans had, since their
conquest by Hyrcanus, been incorporated with the Jews.
They were a fierce and warlike people of
Arab descent and, immediately the messengers
of the Zealots arrived, they embraced the proposal,
anticipating the acquisition of great plunder in Jerusalem.
Marching with all speed, they appeared, twenty thousand
strong, before the walls of Jerusalem.
“Although taken completely by
surprise for none knew that messengers
had gone over to the Idumeans the people
manned the walls; and Jesus, a colleague of Ananus,
addressed the Idumeans. He asked them to take
one of three courses - either to unite with the
people, in punishing the notorious robbers and assassins
who were desecrating the Temple; or to enter the city
unarmed, and arbitrate between the conflicting parties;
or to depart, and leave the city to settle its own
difficulties. Simon, the leader of the Idumeans,
answered that they came to take the part of the true
patriots, against men who were conspiring basely to
sell the people into the hands of the Romans.
“At this answer Jesus left the
wall, and we held debate upon the situation.
Before the arrival of this new enemy, we felt certain
of overpowering the Zealots; and Ananus would, ere
long, have been persuaded to lay aside his scruples
and attack them for, as they were desecrating the
sanctuary, it would be better to shed their blood
there and, when these wicked men were slain, to offer
up atonement and purify the Temple as had
been done before, in the days of the Maccabees, after
the Temple had been defiled.
“We redoubled our guards round
the Temple, so that none could issue out thence to
communicate with the Idumeans. At night a terrible
storm set in, with lightning, thunder, and rain, so
that the very earth seemed to shake. A great
awe fell upon all, within and without the city.
To all, it seemed a sign of the wrath of God at the
civil discords; but though, doubtless, it was the voice
of the Almighty, it was rather a presage of further
“Under shelter of the storm which
drove all the guards to take refuge some
of the Zealots cut asunder the bars of the gate, and
crept along the street to the wall. Then they
sawed through the bars of the gate that faced the
Idumeans, who were trembling with terror in the storm.
Unseen by anyone, the Idumeans entered the gate, marched
through the city, and approached the Temple. Then
they fell upon our guards, while the Zealots attacked
them from behind.
“Furious at the hours they had
passed exposed to the tempest, ashamed of their fears,
and naturally pitiless and cruel, the Idumeans gave
no quarter; and a terrible carnage took place among
the ten thousand men who had been placed in the outer
court of the Temple. Some fought desperately,
others threw themselves down from the wall into the
city and, when morning dawned, eight thousand five
hundred of our best fighting men had been slain.
“As soon as it was daylight,
the Idumeans broke into the city, pillaging and slaying.
The high priests, Ananus and Jesus, were among those
who were slain; and in that terrible night were extinguished
the last hopes of saving Jerusalem.
“Ananus was a man of the highest
character. He had labored unceasingly to place
the city in a posture of defense; believing, and rightly,
that the stronger were its walls, and the more formidable
the resistance it could offer, the better chance there
was of obtaining favorable terms from the Romans.
Ananus was the leader and hope of the peace party,
which comprised all the respectable classes, and all
the older and wiser men in Jerusalem. His death
left the conduct of affairs in the hands of the thoughtless,
the rash, and the desperate.
“The massacre continued for
days, the Idumeans hunting the citizens in the streets.
Vast numbers were killed, without question. The
young men of the upper classes were dragged to prison,
and were there scourged and tortured to force them
to join the Zealots, but not one would do so.
All preferred death. Thus perished twelve thousand
of the best and wisest in Jerusalem.
“Then the Zealots set up a tribunal
and, by proclamation, assembled seventy of the principal
citizens remaining to form a court; and before it
brought Zacharias, the son of Baruch an
upright, patriotic, and wealthy man. Him they
charged with entering into correspondence with the
Romans, but produced no shadow of evidence against
him. Zacharias defended himself boldly, clearly
establishing his own innocence, and denouncing the
iniquities of his accusers. The seventy unanimously
acquitted the prisoner, preferring to die with him,
to condemning an innocent man. The Zealots rushed
forward, with cries of rage, and slew Zacharias and,
with blows and insults, turned the judges out of the
“The Idumeans at length began
to weary of massacre, and were sated with pillage
and, declaring that they had been deceived by the
Zealots, and that they believed no treason had been
intended, they left the city; first opening the prisons,
and releasing two thousand persons confined there,
who fled to Simon the son of Gioras, who was wasting
the country toward Idumea.
“The Zealots, after their departure,
redoubled their iniquities; and seemed as if they
would leave none alive, save the lowest of the people.
Görion, a great and distinguished man, was among
the slain. Niger of Peraea, who had been the
leader in the attack on the Romans at Ascalon a
noble and true-hearted patriot was also
murdered. He died calling upon the Romans to come
to avenge those who had been thus murdered; and denouncing
famine, pestilence, and civil massacre, as well as
war, against the accursed city.
“I had lain hidden, with an
obscure family, with whom I had lodged during these
terrible times. So great was the terror and misery
in the city that those who lived envied the dead.
It was death to bury even a relative, and both within
and without the city lay heaps of bodies, decaying
in the sun.
“Even among the Zealots themselves,
factions arose. John of Gischala headed one party,
and that the more violent. Over these he ruled
with absolute authority, and occupied one portion of
the city. The other party acknowledged no special
leader. Sometimes, then, the factions fought
among themselves; but neither side ceased from plundering
and murdering the inhabitants.
“Such, my friends, was the condition
of Jerusalem when I left it; having, as I told you,
purchased a permission from John of Gischala to pass
through the guards at the gates.
“As I traveled here, I learned
that another danger threatens us. The sect called
the Assassins, as you know, seized the strong fortress
of Masada, near the Dead Sea, at the beginning of the
troubles. Until lately, they have been content
to subsist on the plunder of the adjacent country
but, on the night of the Passover, they surprised
Engaddi, dispersed all who resisted, and slew seven
hundred women and children who could not escape.
They carried off the contents of the granaries, and
are now wasting the whole region.
“What hope can there be of success,
my friends, when, with an enemy close to their gates,
the Jews are slaying more of their fellow countrymen
than the Romans themselves? Did ever a country
present so humiliating and terrible a spectacle?
Were such atrocities ever perpetrated by men upon
their brothers? And yet, the madmen still believe
that the Almighty will deliver them will
save from destruction that Temple which they have
polluted, the altars that they have deluged with blood.”
When the rabbi had finished his narration,
there was a long silence. Martha was in tears,
at the recital of the misery which was endured by
the inhabitants of Jerusalem; Simon sat with his face
covered with his hands; John had scarce moved, since
the rabbi had begun his story, but sat with a heavy
frown on his face, looking straight before him; while
Mary anxiously watched him, to see the effect of the
recital upon him.
Simon was the first to speak.
“It is a tale of mourning, lamentation,
and woe that you have told us, rabbi. Not even
in the days of our captivity in Babylon were the Jewish
people fallen so low. Let us to bed now.
These things are too terrible to speak of, until we
have laid them before the Lord, and asked his guidance.
I wonder not, now, rabbi, that years seem to have
rolled over your head since we last met.”
The others rose. Mary, as she
passed John, laid her hands on his shoulder with a
caressing action which was very rare to
her, for she generally behaved to him as to a brother,
holding any exhibition of greater affection unmaidenly,
until the days of betrothal were ended. The action
seemed to recall John from his gloomy thought, and
he smiled down at her anxious face; then, when the
others went off to their apartments, he went out into
the night air and stood for hours, nearly immovable,
with his eyes fixed on the stars.
In the morning, Mary joined him in
the garden; as had come to be their custom, this being
the only time in the day when they were alone together.
“Well, John?” she asked.
He understood her question.
“I have thought it over, Mary,
in every way; but I cannot see that my duty is changed
by what we heard last night. Affection for you,
and my parents, would keep me here; and I wish that
I could see that my duty could go hand in hand with
my wishes. I have been sorely tempted to yield to
resign the struggle, to remain here in peace and quiet but
I should never be happy. I do not believe that
I am, as so many think, specially called to be a deliverer though
God has assuredly specially protected and aided me but,
did I draw back now, it would be a grievous discouragement
to many. I have put my hand to the plow, and
cannot look back.
“God has permitted these miseries
to fall upon Jerusalem, doubtless, as a punishment
for the sins of the people. It may be yet that
his wrath will be abated, and that he will remember
the mercies of old. He has suffered his Temple
to be profaned, but it may not be his purpose to allow
it to be destroyed, utterly. The evil doings,
therefore, of evil men do not release us from our
duty; and it has always been held the chief duty of
all Jews to die, if need be, in defense of the Temple.
Never, so long as that stands, can we say that the
Lord has wholly turned his face from us that
he purposes another period of exile, and captivity,
to befall his people.
“Therefore, Mary, I shall go
on as I have intended; warring against the Romans,
and doing what I can to hinder their advance against
Jerusalem. I think that the war may last longer
than I had expected. Vespasian will have heard from
those who, like the rabbi, have escaped from Jerusalem what
is going on within the city; and knowing the great
strength of its walls; and judging, from what he saw
at Jotapata and Gamala, how desperate would be its
resistance, were he to appear before it, he may well
decide to leave it for the present; suffering the
population to prey upon each other, to consume their
provisions and waste their strength till, when he
marches against it, there will be no longer men left
to man the walls.”
“I thought you would decide
so, John,” Mary said, quietly; “and much
as I love you for I do love you, John I
would rather part with you so, never to see you again,
than that you should draw back now. I set you
up on a pedestal, before I knew that it was you who
was my hero; and I would not have it said that he,
of whom such high hopes were cherished, drew back
from the enterprise he had taken up. Rather would
I mourn for you, all my life, than that men should
say of you:
“’This is he of whom we
said, he is the deliverer; but who shrank from the
dangers of battle, and threw down his country’s
“Thank you, Mary. I am
glad to hear you say so. I thought that I was
right, but it was very hard so to decide. And,
now that you agree with me, my chief cause for hanging
back is removed. Henceforth, I shall trouble
no more over it. My conscience tells me that
I am right to go. You say go, also. Therefore
now, whatever betides, I shall not blame myself; but
shall feel that I could not have taken any other course.”
“I have faith, John, that you
will come back to me, when the troubles are over.
I believe that, whatever may happen at Jerusalem,
you will be spared to me. I think that it was
either for the country, or for me, that your life
was spared, alone of all those that fought at Jotapata;
and I mean to keep on thinking so. It will keep
up my spirits, while you are away, and will help me
to cheer our mother.”
“If the Romans do not move upon
Jerusalem, I may be able to be often at home.
Our policy will be to strike a blow; and then, when
the Romans gather in force, to scatter and disappear;
so that I may often be home, until the time comes
when the enemy gather round Jerusalem.
“But at any rate, Mary, I shall
try and believe that your hope is well founded; and
that, in the end, I shall return alive to you.
Certainly I shall not spare my life; for, when one
takes up the post of a leader of his fellows, he must
never hang back from danger, but must be always in
the front. At the same time, I shall never forget
that you are thinking and praying for me, and will
never throw away my life recklessly; and if the time
comes when I see that all is lost that
fighting is no longer of avail I will neither
rush into the enemy’s ranks to die, nor will
I throw down my arms and die unresisting, nor will
I slay myself with my own weapons; but I will strive,
in every way, to save my life for your sake, having
done all that I could for our country, and the Temple.”
“That is all I ask, John.
I am quite content to wait here, until the day comes
that you shall return; and then, though our cause be
lost, our country ruined, and God’s Temple destroyed,
we can yet feel that God has been good and merciful
to us even if we be driven out of our home,
and have to become exiles, in a far land.”
A week later, the news came that the
Romans were preparing to take the field. The
young men of the village at once started, as messengers,
through the country. At night, a vast pile of
brushwood was lighted on the hill above Gamala; and
answering fires soon blazed out from other heights.
At the signal, men left their homes on the shores
of Galilee, in the cities of the plains, in the mountains
of Peraea and Batanaea. Capitolias, Gerisa and
Pella, Sepphoris, Caphernaum and Tiberias and
even the towns and villages almost within sight of
Caesar’s camp, at Caesarea sent their
contingents and, in twenty-four hours, eight thousand
armed men were gathered on the slopes of Mount Galaad.
Each man brought with him grain, sufficient
for a week’s consumption; and all had, according
to their means, brought money, in accordance with
the instructions John and the other commanders had
issued. For John held that although as
they were fighting for the country they
must, if necessary, live upon the country; yet that,
as far as possible, they should abstain from taking
food without payment, and so run the risk of being
confounded with the bands who, under the cloak of
patriotism, plundered and robbed the whole country.
The bands assembled, each under their
leaders. It was easy to see that they had come
from different localities. Tarichea and Tiberias
had both sent two companies, and the aspect of these
differed widely from that of the companies of peasants,
raised in the villages on the slopes of Hermon or
among the mountains of Peraea; but all seemed animated
by an equal feeling of devotion, and of confidence
in their young leader.
John, after carefully inspecting his
own band, visited the camps of the other companies;
and was everywhere received with acclamations.
He addressed each company in turn not only
urging them to show bravery, for that every Jew had
shown, who had fought against the Romans but
pointing out that far more than this was required.
While they must be ready to give their lives, when
need be; they must be equally ready to shun the fight,
to scatter and fly, when their leaders gave the orders.
It was not by bravery that they could hope to overcome
the Romans; but by harassing them night and day, by
attacking their camps, cutting off their convoys, and
giving them no rest. Above all, obedience was
“Look at the Roman soldiers,”
he said. “They have no wills of their own.
They advance, or retreat; they attack, when they know
that those who first attack must die; they support
all hardships and fatigues; they accomplish marvels,
in the way of work; they give themselves up, in fact,
to obey the orders given them, never questioning whether
those orders are the best, but blindly obeying them;
and so it must be, here, if we are to fight the Romans
with a chance of success.
“The most useful man here the
man who will do best service to his country is
not he who is strongest, or bravest, but he who is
most prompt in his obedience to orders. The true
hero is he who gives up his will and, if need be,
his life, at the order of his leader. You have
chosen your own officers, and I have confirmed the
choice that you have made. It is for you, now,
to give them your support and assistance. There
will be hardships, these must be borne without complaint;
there will be delays, these must be supported with
patience; there will be combats and dangers, these
must be met with confidence and courage believing
that God will give you success; and that, although
the issue of the strife is in his hands, each of you
should do his best, by his conduct and courage, to
“We shall not act in one great
body, for we could not find food, in the villages,
for so large a number. Moreover, to do so would
be to give the Romans an opportunity of massing their
forces against us, of surrounding and destroying us.
On great occasions, and for a great object, we may
gather together and unite our forces. At other
times, although acting upon a general plan, and in
concert with each other, each company will work independently.
So we shall elude the Romans. When they strike
at us, we shall be gone. When they try to inclose
us, we shall disperse. When they pursue one body,
others will fall upon them. When they think that
we are in one part of the country, we will be striking
a blow in another. When they fancy themselves
in security, we will fall upon them. We will give
them no rest, or peace.”
John’s addresses were received
with shouts of approval. By the great majority
of those present, he was now seen for the first time;
but his appearance, the tone of authority with which
he spoke, his air of confidence, and the manner in
which he had evidently thought out the plans of action,
and prepared for all contingencies, confirmed the
reports which they had heard of him; and the conviction
that he was a specially appointed leader was deepened,
and strengthened. How otherwise could one who
was a mere youth speak with such firmness, and authority?
The memories of the Jews were stored
with legends of the prowess of Judas the Maccabean,
and his brothers; and of other leaders who had, from
time to time, arisen and enabled them to clear their
country of oppressors; and they were thus prepared
to accept, willingly, those who appeared to them specially
sent as leaders, and the question of age and experience
weighed but little with them. Moreover, as none
had been trained as soldiers, there were none who
had to set aside superior claims.
Samuel had been chosen as a child,
Saul was the youngest of his brethren, and David a
lad when he slew the champion of the Philistines.
Such being the case, the youth of John was no drawback,
in the eyes of his followers; and indeed the fact that,
being still a youth, he had yet escaped from Jotapata,
where all his elders had died; and that he had inflicted
a heavy blow upon the Romans, when all others who
had opposed them had perished, seemed in itself a
proof that he was under special protection.
John probably believed in himself
less than did any man among his followers. Piously
and devoutly brought up, he saw in the two escapes
that he had had, from death at the hands of the Romans,
signs of a special protection of God. But, while
he hoped that he might be able to do the Romans much
harm, he had not any conviction that he was destined
to deliver his country. He had none of the fervent
enthusiasm of men who are convinced that they have
a divine mission, and that miracles would be wrought
in his favor.
He had seen the tremendous strength
of the Roman army, as it defiled from the mountains
before Jotapata. He had learned the power of
their war engines, and had evidence of their discipline,
their bravery and perseverance; and had no idea that
such a force as that gathered round him could cope
with the legions of Rome. Still, that firm and
pious belief, which was so deeply ingrained in the
heart of the Jews, that God specially interested himself
in them that he personally directed everything
that befell them, and intervened in every incident
of their history had its natural effect
His training taught him that he was
an instrument in God’s hands and, although he
hardly even hoped that he was destined to be a deliverer
of Jerusalem, he thought that God might intend him
to do great things for his people. At any rate,
while never claiming any special authority or
to have, more than those around him, any special mission he
was careful not to damp the enthusiasm of his followers,
by disclaiming the mission they attributed to him;
knowing how much such a belief added to his authority,
and to the efficiency of the force under his command.