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[398] After this, king Alexander, although he fell into a distemper by hard drinking, and had a quartan ague, which held him three years, yet would not leave off going out with his army, till he was quite spent with the labors he had undergone, and died in the bounds of Ragaba, a fortress beyond Jordan. But when his queen saw that he was ready to die, and had no longer any hopes of surviving, she came to him weeping and lamenting, and bewailed herself and her sons on the desolate condition they should be left in; and said to him, "To whom dost thou thus leave me and my children, who are destitute of all other supports, and this when thou knowest how much ill-will thy nation bears thee?" But he gave her the following advice: That she need but follow what he would suggest to her, in order to retain the kingdom securely, with her children: that she should conceal his death from the soldiers till she should have taken that place; after this she should go in triumph, as upon a victory, to Jerusalem, and put some of her authority into the hands of the Pharisees; for that they would commend her for the honor she had done them, and would reconcile the nation to her for he told her they had great authority among the Jews, both to do hurt to such as they hated, and to bring advantages to those to whom they were friendly disposed; for that they are then believed best of all by the multitude when they speak any severe thing against others, though it be only out of envy at them. And he said that it was by their means that he had incurred the displeasure of the nation, whom indeed he had injured. "Do thou, therefore," said he, "when thou art come to Jerusalem, send for the leading men among them, and show them my body, and with great appearance of sincerity, give them leave to use it as they themselves please, whether they will dishonor the dead body by refusing it burial, as having severely suffered by my means, or whether in their anger they will offer any other injury to that body. Promise them also that thou wilt do nothing without them in the affairs of the kingdom. If thou dost but say this to them, I shall have the honor of a more glorious Funeral from them than thou couldst have made for me; and when it is in their power to abuse my dead body, they will do it no injury at all, and thou wilt rule in safety." 1 So when he had given his wife this advice, he died, after he had reigned twenty-seven years, and lived fifty years within one.

1 It seems, by this dying advice of Alexander Janneus to his wife, that he had himself pursued the measures of his father Hyrcanus. and taken part with the Sadducees, who kept close to the written law, against the Pharisees, who had introduced their own traditions, ch. 16. sect. 2; and that he now saw a political necessity of submitting to the Pharisees and their traditions hereafter, if his widow and family minded to retain their monarchical government or tyranny over the Jewish nation; which sect yet, thus supported, were at last in a great measure the ruin of the religion, government, and nation of the Jews, and brought them into so wicked a state, that the vengeance of God came upon them to their utter excision. Just thus did Caiaphas politically advise the Jewish sanhedrim, John 11:50, "That it was expedient for them that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not;" and this in consequence of their own political supposal, ver. 48, that, "If they let Jesus alone," with his miracles, "all men would believe on him, and the Romans would come and take away both their place and nation." Which political crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth brought down the vengeance of God upon them, and occasioned those very Romans, of whom they seemed so much afraid, that to prevent it they put him to death, actually to "come and take away both their place and nation" within thirty-eight years afterwards. I heartily wish the politicians of Christendom would consider these and the like examples, and no longer sacrifice all virtue and religion to their pernicious schemes of government, to the bringing down the judgments of God upon themselves, and the several nations intrusted to their care. But this is a digression. I wish it were an unseasonable one also. Josephus himself several times makes such digressions, and I here venture to follow him. See one of them at the conclusion of the very next chapter.

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