SermonIndex Audio Sermons
SermonIndex - Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival
SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter 7: The Massacre On The Lake.

For The Temple by G. A. Henty

Chapter 7: The Massacre On The Lake.

John remained for three weeks at his uncle's. A messenger, with the news of his safe arrival there, had been sent off to his father; who came up to see him, three days later. The formal act of betrothal between John and his cousin took place. Simon and Martha would have been willing that the full ceremony of marriage should take place, and the latter even urged this upon her son.

|You are now more than seventeen, John, and have taken your place among men; and may well take to yourself a wife. Mary is nigh fifteen, and many maidens marry earlier. You love each other. Why, then, should you not be married? It would cheer the old age of your father, and myself, to see our grandchildren growing up around us.|

|Had the times been different, mother, I would gladly have had it so; but with the land torn by war, with our brethren being slaughtered everywhere, with Jerusalem and the Temple in danger, it is no time for marrying and giving in marriage. Besides, the law says that, for a year after marriage, a man shall not go to the war or journey upon business; but shall remain at home, quiet, with his wife. I could not do that, now. Did the news come, tomorrow, that the Romans were marching upon Jerusalem, assuredly I should do my duty, and take up arms and go to the defense of the Holy City; and maybe Mary would be left a widow, before the days of rejoicing for the marriage were over.

|No, mother; the life of no man who can wield a weapon is his own, at present. The defense of the Temple is the first, and greatest, of duties. If I fall there, you will adopt Mary as your child; and marry her to someone who will take my place, and be a son to you. Mary will grieve for me, doubtless, for a time; but it will be the grief of a sister for a brother, not that of a wife for her husband and, in time, she will marry the man to whom you shall give her, and will be happy. Even for myself, I would rather that it were so left. I shall feel more free from cares and responsibilities; and though, if you and my father lay your orders upon me, I shall of course obey them, I pray you that, in this matter, you will suffer me to have my way.|

Martha talked the matter over with her husband; and they agreed that John's wishes should be carried out, and that the marriage should be postponed until the troubles were over. Neither of them believed that John would fall in the struggle. They regarded his escape from Jotapata as well-nigh miraculous, and felt assured that God, having specially protected him through such great danger, would continue to do so to the end.

Contrary to expectation, Vespasian had not followed up his success at Jotapata by a march against Jerusalem. His army had suffered very heavy losses in the siege; and the desperate valor which the defenders of the town had shown had, doubtless, impressed upon his mind the formidable nature of the task he had undertaken.

If a little mountain town had cost him so dearly, what would not be the loss which would be entailed by the capture of a city like Jerusalem, with its position of vast natural strength, its solid and massive fortifications; and defended, as it would be, by the whole strength of the Jewish nation, fighting with the fury of religious fanaticism and despair! His army, strong as it was, would doubtless capture the city, but at such a cost that it might be crippled for further action; and Vespasian was keeping one eye upon Rome, and wished to have his army complete, and in perfect order, in readiness for anything that might occur there.

Therefore, after the fall of Jotapata he marched first to Caesarea and, after a short halt there, passed north to Caesarea Philippi -- where the climate, cooled by the breezes from the mountains, was pleasant and healthful -- and here he gave the army twenty days to rest, and recover from their wounds and fatigues. He then marched south again to Scythopolis, or Bethsan, lying just within the borders of Samaria, and not far from the Jordan. Here Titus, with a detached force, joined him; and they prepared to reduce the cities near the lake.

Simon had by this time returned home, accompanied by John and Jonas. Simon tried to persuade his son to remain with his mother, but John had entreated that he might accompany him.

|The war may last for a long time, father; and the land must be tilled, else why should you yourself return home? We are in the province of King Agrippa and, after what has befallen Jotapata and Japha, it is not likely that the people of Hippos, or of other towns, will venture to show disaffection -- therefore there is no reason why the Romans should carry fire and sword through Agrippa's country, east of Jordan. It is well that my mother and Mary should not return for, if evil days should come, they could not save themselves by rapid flight; besides we risk but death, and death were a thousand times better than slavery among the Romans. If we find that they are approaching, and are wasting the land, we can fly. The boats are close by; and we can take to the lake, and land where we will, and make our way back here.|

|And you will not seek, John, when the Romans approach, to enter Tiberias or Gamala, or any other cities that may hold out against the Romans?|

|No, father. I have had my share of defending a walled city and, save for Jerusalem, I will fight no more in cities. All these places must fall, sooner or later, if the Romans sit down before them. I will not be cooped up again. If any leader arises, and draws together a band in the mountains to harass and attack the Romans, I will join him -- for it has always seemed to me that in that way, only, can we successfully fight against them -- but if not, I will aid you in the labors of the farm, until the Romans march against Jerusalem.|

Simon yielded to his son's wishes, for the events of the last year had aged him much, and he felt the need of assistance on the farm. The men who had worked for him had -- save Isaac, and one or two of the older men -- gone away to Jerusalem, or to Gamala, or one or other of the fortified towns. The time for the harvest was at hand, and there would be few to gather it in.

Martha would fain have accompanied them, but Simon would not hear of this.

|You are in a safe refuge here, wife, and rather than that you should leave it, I would abandon our farm, altogether. If you come, Mary and the women must come also and, even for us men, the danger would be greater than were we alone.|

Mary also tried her power of persuasion, but Simon was not to be moved; and the three set off together -- for Jonas, as a matter of course, accompanied John wherever he went.

The three weeks' kindness, rest, and good feeding had done wonders for him. The wild, reckless expression, which John had noticed when he had first met him, had well-nigh disappeared; his bones had become better covered, and his cheeks filled out and, comfortably clothed as he now was, few would have recognized in him the wild goatherd of Jotapata.

Simon was mounted on a donkey, the others walked.

|It is well that I am off again,| Jonas said. |Another month there, and I should have got fat and lazy, and should have almost forgotten how to run and climb, and should have grown like the dwellers on the plains.|

|There will be plenty of work for you, on the farm, Jonas,| Simon said. |You need not be afraid of growing fat and lazy, there.|

|I don't think I am fond of work,| Jonas said, thoughtfully, |not of steady work, but I will work hard now, Simon; you have all been so good to me that I would work till I dropped for you. I wouldn't have worked before, not if they had beaten me ever so much; because they were always unkind to me, and why should one work, for those who do nothing for you but beat and ill-use you?|

|You should always do your duty, Jonas,| Simon said. |If others do not do their duty to you, so much the worse for them; but that is no excuse for your not doing your duty, as far as you can.|

Jonas, being a little behind Simon, made a little face expressive of his disagreement with this opinion; but he said nothing.

They followed the course of the river Hieromax down to Capitolias; where they slept, that night, in the house of some friends of Simon and, on the following evening, arrived at the farm. John received a hearty greeting, from Isaac and the other men; and several of the fishermen, when they heard of his return, came in to see him.

For the next fortnight, John and Jonas worked from daylight till dark and, by the end of that time, the greater part of the corn was gathered in the granary. A portion was stored away in a deep pit, straw being laid over it when the hole was nearly full, and earth being thrown in level to the surface; so that, should the Romans come and sack the granary, there should still remain a store which would carry them on until the next harvest.

Then the news came, from across the lake, that the Romans were breaking up their camp at Scythopolis, and were moving towards Tiberias. No resistance was expected to be offered there. The greater part of the inhabitants had, all along, been well affected to the Romans; and had only been compelled by, a small faction in the city and by the fear of the country people of Galilee, to join in the insurrection. It was, too, the richest city in the dominions of King Agrippa for, although these lay for the most part east of Jordan, the towns of Tiberias and Tarichea were included in them.

Tiberias was, in fact, his chief city. Here he had his richest palace; and the city, which greatly benefited by being the seat of his government, was Roman rather than Jewish in its hopes and feelings. So confident was Vespasian that no resistance would be offered that, when he arrived within half a mile of the town, he sent forward an officer, with fifty horse, to exhort the people to open their gates.

When he got near the town, the officer dismounted and went forward to speak; when a party of the war faction, headed by Jesus the son of Shaphat, charged out upon him. The officer, having had no orders to fight the Jews, fled on foot; with five of his men, who had also dismounted. Their assailants seized the horses, and carried them in triumph into the city.

The senate of Tiberias at once issued out from the city, and hurried to the camp of Vespasian; and implored him not to visit the crime of a small body of desperate men upon the whole city, whose inhabitants had always been favorably disposed towards Rome. Agrippa added his entreaties to theirs; and Vespasian, who had just given orders for the troops to advance to storm and sack the city, recalled them. The insurgents under Jesus fled to Tarichea and, the gates being opened, the Romans entered Tiberias; Vespasian issuing strict orders against plundering, and the ill treatment of the inhabitants.

At Tarichea were assembled not only the insurgents from Tiberias, but fighting men from all the towns on the lake, and from the country on the east. The city had been carefully fortified by Josephus and, as the inhabitants had a very large number of vessels in the port, they relied upon these for escape, in case the town should be reduced to extremities. No sooner did the Romans appear before their walls, and begin to lay out their siege works, than the Tiberians and others, under the command of Jesus, sallied out and dispersed the workmen.

When the Roman troops advanced, in regular order, some of the Jews retired into the city. Others made for their boats, which were ranged along on the shore; and in these, putting out a little distance, they cast anchor, and opened fire with their missiles upon the Romans.

In the meantime, a large number of Jews had just arrived from the farther side of Jordan. Vespasian sent Titus, with six hundred chosen horse, to disperse them. The number of the Jews was so large that Titus sent for further succor, and was reinforced by Trajan, with four hundred horse; while Antonius Silo, with two thousand archers, was sent by Vespasian to the side of a hill opposite the city, to open fire thence upon the defenders of the walls, and thus prevent them from harassing the Roman horsemen as they advanced.

The Jews resisted the first charge of the cavalry; but they could not long withstand the long spears, and the weight and impetus of the horses, and fled in disorder towards the town. The cavalry pursued and tried to cut them off from it but, although great numbers were slaughtered, the rest -- by pure weight of numbers -- broke through, and reached the city.

A great dissension arose within the walls. The inhabitants of the town -- dismayed by the defeat inflicted, by a small number of Romans, upon the multitude in the field -- were unwilling to draw upon themselves the terrible fate which had befallen the towns which had resisted the Romans, and therefore clamored for instant surrender. The strangers -- great numbers of whom were mountaineers from Peraea, Ammonitis, and the broken country of Mount Galaad and the slopes of Hermon, who knew little of what had been passing in Galilee -- were for resistance, and a fray arose in the town.

The noise of the tumult reached Titus; who called upon his men to seize the moment, while the enemy were engaged in civil discord, to attack. Then, leading his men, he dashed on horseback into the lake, passed round the end of the wall, and entered the city.

Consternation seized the besieged. The inhabitants attempted no resistance, still hoping that their peaceful character would save them from ill treatment; and many allowed themselves to be slaughtered, unresistingly. Jesus and his followers, however, fought gallantly; striving, but in vain, to make their way down to the ships in the port. Jesus himself, and many of his men, were killed.

Titus opened the gates, and sent word to his father that the city was captured; and the Roman army at once entered. Vespasian placed a number of his troops in the large vessels in the port, and sent them off to attack those who had first fled to the boats. These were, for the most part, fishermen from the various towns on the lake. The cavalry were sent all round the lake, to cut off and slay those who sought to gain the land.

The battle -- or rather the slaughter -- went on for some time. The fishermen, in their light boats, could do nothing against the soldiers in the large vessels. These slew them with arrows or javelins, from a distance; or ran them down, and killed them as they struggled in the water. Many of the boats were run ashore; but the occupants were slain, there, by the soldiers on the lookout for them. Altogether, six thousand perished in the slaughter.

In the meantime, Vespasian had set up a tribunal in Tarichea. The inhabitants of the town were separated from the strangers. Vespasian himself was, as Josephus said, unwilling to shed more blood -- as he had promised, when he had entered the city, to spare the lives of all -- but he yielded to the arguments of those who said that the strangers were mountain robbers, the foes of every man. Accordingly, they were ordered to leave the city, by the road to Tiberias.

As soon as they had left the town, the troops surrounded them, headed by Vespasian in person. Twelve hundred of the aged and helpless he ordered to be slain, at once; six thousand of the most able-bodied he sent to Nero, to be employed on the canal he was digging across the isthmus of Corinth; thirty thousand four hundred were sold as slaves; and a large number were bestowed upon Agrippa, who also sold them as slaves. This act, after the formal promise of pardon, disgraces the memory of Vespasian even more than the wholesale massacres of the garrisons of the towns which resisted to the last.

The news of this act of wholesale vengeance spread such terror through the land that the whole of the cities of Galilee at once opened their gates; and sent deputations to Vespasian to offer their submission, and ask for pardon. Gamala, Gischala, and Itabyrium -- a town on Mount Tabor, which had been strongly fortified by Josephus -- alone held out. Itabyrium lay some ten miles to the west of Tiberias.

Standing back among the trees, at a short distance from the lake, Simon, John, and the workers on the farm watched with horror the slaughter of the fishermen on the lake. None of their neighbors were among those who had gone out to aid in the defense of Tarichea; for Simon had gone among them, to dissuade them from launching their boats and joining the flotilla, as it proceeded down the lake in the morning. He urged upon them that, if they took part in the affair, they would only bring down vengeance upon themselves and their families.

|There is no lack of men,| he said, |in Tiberias and Tarichea. Such aid as you can give would be useless and, whether the cities fall at once, or whether they resist, the vengeance of the Romans will fall upon you. In a few hours, their horsemen can ride round the shores of the lake, and cut off all who are absent from returning to their homes, and give the villages to fire and sword. Those who can point to their boats, drawn up at the side of the lake, will be able to give proof to the Romans that they have not taken part against them. So far, we have escaped the horrors of war on this side of Jordan.

|If the strong cities of Galilee cannot resist the Roman arms, what hope should we have on this side, where the population is comparatively scanty, and where there are few strong places? Do not let us provoke the Romans, my friends. If they go up against Jerusalem, let those who will, go, and die in defense of the Temple; but it would be worse than folly to provoke the wrath of the Romans, by thrusting yourselves into the quarrel here.|

Warmly did the fishermen congratulate themselves, when they saw the combat proceeding on the lake, and when a strong body of Roman horse rode along the shore, leaving parties at regular intervals to cut off those who might try and land. A body of twenty were posted down by the boats, and two came into the village and demanded food for the party. Simon, when he saw them coming, ordered all the able-bodied men to retire, and remain in the olive groves on the slopes, at a distance from the lake, until the Romans had gone; while he, and Isaac, and some other old men, went down and met the soldiers.

|Are any of the people of this place out there on the lake?| the officer in command of the twenty men asked; as Simon and his party, bringing bread, fruit, and wine, came down to the waterside.

|No, sir,| Simon replied. |We have but eight boats belonging to the village, and they are all there. We are peaceable people, who till the soil and fish the lake, and take no part in the doings of the great towns. We are subjects of King Agrippa, and have no cause for discontent with him.|

|A great many other people have no cause for discontent, old man,| the officer said; |but they have, nevertheless, risen in rebellion. However, as your boats are here, and your people seem to have taken no part in this matter, I have naught to say against you; especially as your wine is good, and you have brought down plenty of it.|

Simon and his companions withdrew and, with aching hearts, watched from a distance the massacre upon the lake. The fury, however, produced among the men in the towns and villages on the shore, at the sight of the numerous corpses washed ashore, was so great that many of the young men left their avocations and started for Gamala; which, relying upon the strength of its position -- which was even stronger than that of Jotapata -- was resolved to resist to the last.

Several of the young men of the village, and many from the villages near, were determined to take this course, maddened by the slaughter of many friends and relations. John himself was as furious as any, especially when the news came of the violation of faith at Tarichea, and of the selling of nigh forty thousand men into slavery.

|Father,| he said, that evening, |I had thought to stay quietly with you, until the Romans advanced against Jerusalem; but I find I cannot do so. The massacre at Jotapata was bad enough, but the slaughter of defenseless men, on the lake, is worse. I pray you, let me go.|

|Would you go into Gamala, and die there, John?| Simon asked. |Better to die at the Temple, than to throw away your life here.|

|I do not intend to go into Gamala, father, nor to throw away my life -- though I care little for it, except for the sake of you and my mother and Mary -- but I would do something; and I would save the sons of our neighbors, and others, from the fate that assuredly waits them if they enter Gamala. They know not, as I do, how surely the walls will go down before the Roman engines; but even did they know it, so determined are they to fight these slayers of our countrymen that they would still go.

|What I propose to do is to carry out what I have always believed to be the true way of fighting the Romans. I will collect a band, and take to the mountains, and harass them whenever we may find opportunity. I know the young men from our village will follow me, if I will lead them; and they will be able to get their friends along the shore to do the like. In that way the danger will not be so great for, in the mountains, the Romans would have no chance of overtaking us while, if we are successful, many will gather round us, and we may do good service.|

|I will not stay you, John, if you feel that the Lord has called upon you to go; and indeed, you may save, as you say, the lives of many of our neighbors, by persuading them to take to the hills with you, instead of shutting themselves up in Gamala. Go down, then, to the village, and talk to them; and see what they say to your plan.|

John had little doubt as to his proposal being accepted by the younger men of the village. The fact that he had been chosen as one of the bodyguard of Josephus had, at once, given him importance in the eyes of his neighbors; and that he should have passed through the siege of Jotapata, and had escaped, had caused them to regard him not only as a valiant fighter, but as one under the special protection of God. Since his return, scarce an evening had passed without parties coming, from one or other of the villages along the shore, to hear from his lips the story of the siege.

As soon, then, as he went down to the fishing village, and told the young men who had determined to leave for Gamala that he thought badly of such action -- but that he intended to raise a band, and take to the mountains and harass the Romans -- they eagerly agreed to follow him, and to obey his orders. There were eight of them, and John at once made them take an oath of obedience and fellowship; swearing in all things to obey his orders, to be true to each other to death, to be ready to give their lives, when called upon, for the destruction of the Romans; and never, if they fell into the hands of the enemy, to betray the secrets of the band, whatever might be the tortures to which they were exposed.

John could have obtained more than eight men in the village, but he would only take quite young men.

|I want only men who can undergo fatigue and watching; who can climb mountains, and run as fast as the Roman horse can gallop. Besides, for work like this it is necessary that there should be one leader, and that he should be promptly obeyed. If I take older men, they will naturally wish to have a voice in the ordering of things. I have seen enough of military matters to know that, for prompt decision and swift execution, one head -- and one head only -- is necessary. Besides, we may find difficulties in the way of getting food and, at first, I wish for only a small band. If success attends us, we shall increase rapidly. Twenty will be quite enough, to begin with.|

As soon as the eight young men -- of whom all but two were under twenty years old -- had taken the oath, they started at once to the villages round.

|Do each of you gather in two, but no more,| John said; |and let them be those whom you know to be strong and active. Do not bring more; and if four of you bring but one, so much the better. If you find many more eager to join, you can tell them that we will send for them, when the time comes, to increase our numbers; and pray them to abide here, and not to go into Gamala.

|Let each bring his arms and a bag of meal; and meet me, tomorrow evening at sundown, on the Hieromax River, three miles below Capitolias -- that will be opposite to Abila, which lies on the mountain side. Let all travel singly, for the Roman horse may be about. However, as we shall be walking east, while Gamala lies to the west of south, they will not take us -- should we come upon them -- for men going thither to aid in the defense of the town.|

The young men started at once on their missions, full of confidence in John; and feeling certain that, under his leadership, they should soon come to blows with the Romans; being also, in their hearts, well satisfied that their warfare would be in the open country, and they should not be called upon to fight pent up in walls from which there was no escape.

Having seen his followers off, John returned home, and told Simon the progress he had made. The old man sighed.

|I do not seek to keep you, John; for your duty to your country stands, now, in the first rank of all; and it may be that the Lord preserved you, at Jotapata, because he intends you to do great deeds for him, here. I do not say spare yourself, or avoid danger, for our sakes. I only say, do not throw away your life by rashness. Remember that, young as you are, you are a leader, and be prudent as well as brave.

|After Gamala has fallen -- as fall I fear it will -- and the Romans have moved away from these parts -- as they will then do, for there is no resistance to them, on this side of Jordan, save at that town -- I shall bring your mother and Mary back again; and you will find us waiting here to welcome you, if you return. If not, my son, I shall mourn for you, as Jacob mourned for Joseph -- and more, seeing that you are the only prop of my old age -- but I shall have the consolation of knowing that you died for your country.|

|You will find in Mary a daughter, father; and you must find a husband for her, who will take my place. But it may be that if the Romans march not direct upon Jerusalem -- and they say that Vespasian has arranged that two of the legions shall winter on the sea coast, at Caesarea, and the third at Scythopolis -- it is probable that he will not move against Jerusalem till the spring. In that case I may be often here, during the winter. For I will not go down to Jerusalem until the last thing; for there all is turmoil and disturbance and, until the time comes when they must lay aside their private feuds and unite to repel the invader, I will not go down.|

Father and son talked until late in the night. In the morning John made his preparations for departure. He had told Jonas of his intentions. The boy listened silently, only saying, |Wherever you go, John, I am ready to go with you; it makes no difference to me;| and afterwards went down to the lake side, where he filled his pouch with smooth pebbles, each of which he selected with great care for, when herding his goats among the mountains, Jonas had been always practicing with a sling, and many a cony had fallen before his unerring aim.

All the lads in the mountains were accustomed to the use of the sling, but none in Jotapata had approached Jonas in their skill with this weapon. During the siege he had often astonished John by the accuracy of his aim; and had several times compelled the Romans to cease working one of their machines, which specially harassed the defenders of the wall, by striking down one after another of those who directed it -- his stones seldom failing to strike them full in the face, the only spot unprotected by their armor.

In the morning, John prepared to start. He and Jonas each carried a small sack, supported by a strap passing over the shoulders, and containing some eight pounds of meal and a gourd of water. Jonas carried no weapon, save a long knife hidden under his garment, and his sling and pouch of stones. John carried a sword and buckler, and a horn. Before they started, John knelt before his father and received his blessing; and Simon, as he bade him adieu, gave him a small bag of money.

|You will need to buy things in the mountains, lad; and I would not that you should be driven, like the robber bands, to take food by force. It is true that they who go not to the war should support those who risk their lives for their country; but there are many aged men who, like myself, cannot fight, there are many women whose husbands are away in Gamala or Jerusalem, and these may not be able to afford to assist others. Therefore, it is well that you should have means of paying for what you require; otherwise the curse of the widow and fatherless may fall upon you.

|And now, farewell, my son! May God have you in his keeping, and send you home safe to your mother and me!|

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2021 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Affiliate Disclosure | Privacy Policy