lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)
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Describing Lake Ḥula, Josephus says (IV.1):
Lake Semechonitis is thirty furlongs in breadth, and sixty in length; its marshes reach as far as the place Daphne,* which in other respects is a delicious place, and hath such fountains as supply water to what is called Little Jordan, under the temple of the golden calf, where it is sent into Great Jordan.

* Apparently a mistake for Dan, as no such place Daphne is referenced there anywhere else.

Temple of the golden calf!? The answer lies, astonishingly, one thousand years back in Israelite history:

1 Kings 12:26-31 מלכים א יב כו-לא
Yārāv`ām said to himself, "Now the kingdom shall return to the house of Dāwið: If this people goes up to sacrifice in the house of the Lord Yerushalem, then the heart of this people shall turn again unto their lord, Reḥav`ām king of Yehuðāh, and they shall kill me, and go again to Reḥav`ām king of Yehuðāh." Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and told, "It is too much for you to go up to Yerushalem: behold your gods, O Isrāél, which brought you up out of the land of Two-Miṣrs." He set the one in Beþ-Él, and the other in Dān. This thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even as far as Dān. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, who were not of the sons of Lévi. וַיֹּאמֶר יָרָבְעָם בְּלִבּוֹ עַתָּה תָּשׁוּב הַמַּמְלָכָה לְבֵית דָּוִד׃ אִם־יַעֲלֶה הָעָם הַזֶּה לַעֲשׂוֹת זְבָחִים בְּבֵית־ה׳ בִּירוּשָׁלִַם וְשָׁב לֵב הָעָם הַזֶּה אֶל־אֲדֹנֵיהֶם אֶל־רְחַבְעָם מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה וַהֲרָגֻנִי וְשָׁבוּ אֶל־רְחַבְעָם מֶלֶךְ־יְהוּדָה׃ וַיִּוָּעַץ הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיַּעַשׂ שְׁנֵי עֶגְלֵי זָהָב וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם רַב־לָכֶם מֵעֲלוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִַם הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם׃ וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת־הָאֶחָד בְּבֵית־אֵל וְאֶת־הָאֶחָד נָתַן בְּדָן׃ וַיְהִי הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְחַטָּאת וַיֵּלְכוּ הָעָם לִפְנֵי הָאֶחָד עַד־דָּן׃ וַיַּעַשׂ אֶת־בֵּית בָּמוֹת וַיַּעַשׂ כֹּהֲנִים מִקְצוֹת הָעָם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־הָיוּ מִבְּנֵי לֵוִי׃

It is impressive that this temple had lasted throughout all the ructions that had overtaken the nation since.

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, the Zealots invite the Idumaeans into the city. Anan, the High Priest, bars the gates against them, and Yeshua, the deputy High Priest, gives a speech to them. At one point, he says (IV.4):

You may, if you please, come into the city, though not in the way of war, and take a view of the marks still remaining of what I now say, and may see the houses that have been depopulated by their rapacious hands, with those wives and families that are in black, mourning for their slaughtered relations; as also you may hear their groans and lamentations all the city over; for there is nobody but hath tasted of the incursions of these profane wretches, who have proceeded to that degree of madness, as not only to have transferred their impudent robberies out of the country, and the remote cities, into this city, the very face and head of the whole nation, but out of the city into the temple also; for that is now made their receptacle and refuge, and the fountain-head whence their preparations are made against us.

I'm surprised to see wearing of black as a sign of mourning; it's not present in Judaism nowadays.

Skipping past a great deal of internecine warfare and atrocities, to where Shim'on bar Giora is about to take control of the city, Yoḥanan of Giscala and the Zealots being hemmed up in the Temple, we encounter (IV.10):

[The Zealots] erected four very large towers aforehand, that their darts might come from higher places, one at the north-east corner of the court, one above the Xystus, the third at another corner over against the lower city, and the last was erected above the top of the Pastophoria [priests' chambers], where one of the priests stood of course, and gave a signal beforehand, with a trumpet at the beginning of every seventh day, in the evening twilight, as also at the evening when that day was finished, as giving notice to the people when they were to leave off work, and when they were to go to work again.
This echoes the siren sounded in Jerusalem to mark the advent of the Shabbos today; I wonder whether it directly influenced it. The commentator in the online edition says:
This beginning and ending the observation of the Jewish seventh day, or sabbath, with a priest's blowing of a trumpet, is remarkable, and no where else mentioned, that I know of. Nor is Reland's conjecture here improbable, that this was the very place that has puzzled our commentators so long, called "Musach Sabbati," the "Covert of the Sabbath," if that be the true reading, 2 Kings 16:18, because here the proper priest stood dry, under a "covering," to proclaim the beginning and ending of every Jewish sabbath.

I'm surprised the announcement of the Sabbath is not known to be mentioned elsewhere (or was not when this commentary was written); after all, we know the Temple had a herald (Sheqālim 5:1) with a voice loud enough (yeah, right!) to allegedly be heard from Jericho (Tāmid 3:8).

The reference in Kings is:

2 Kings 16:18 מלכים ב טז יח-טז יח
And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king's entry without, turned he from the house of the Lord for the king of Assyria. וְאֶת־מיסך (מוּסַךְ) הַשַּׁבָּת אֲשֶׁר־בָּנוּ בַבַּיִת וְאֶת־מְבוֹא הַמֶּלֶךְ הַחִיצוֹנָה הֵסֵב בֵּית ה׳ מִפְּנֵי מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר׃
Meanwhile, in Rome, civil war was raging in what has become known as the year of the four emperors. Right at the end of this, we read (IV.10):
Now Vitellius was not much concerned at this Primus, but was very angry with those that had revolted with Sabinus; and thirsting, out of his own natural barbarity, after noble blood, he sent out that part of the army which came along with him to fight against the capitol; and many bold actions were done on this side, and on the side of those that held the temple. But at last, the soldiers that came from Germany, being too numerous for the others, got the hill into their possession, where Domitian, with many other of the principal Romans, providentially escaped, while the rest of the multitude were entirely cut to pieces, and Sabinus himself was brought to Vitellius, and then slain; the soldiers also plundered the temple of its ornaments, and set it on fire.

Martin Goodman argues, in his book Rome and Jerusalem, that for the Romans to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem was unprecedented; the Romans had respect for temples. As we see here, however, that's not true. It might have been an unruly mob of soldiers who destroyed the temple (presumably that of Jupiter; the narrative just says "the Capitol") where Sabinus was holing up rather than its destruction being a state decision, but they still did it.

[Josephus] Josephus notes         Jewish learning notes index


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