The Berean Expositor
Volume 27 - Page 118 of 212
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of some surprise that the Jews should have been permitted to maintain their Sabbaths, to
exact tribute, and to gather together from all parts of the Roman Empire to keep the feast
at Jerusalem, not only with the approval of Rome, but under its protection. These
privileges were largely due to the decrees of Julius Csar, which, in substance, were as
The first decree was issued in B.C.47 as a recognition of the assistance that Hyrcanus,
the High Priest, had rendered during the Alexandrian war.
"Caius Julius Csar, imperator and high priest, and dictator the second time, to the
magistrates, senate, and people of Sidon, sendeth greeting. If you be in health, it is well.
I also and the army are well. I have sent you a copy of that decree, registered on the
tables, which concerns Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander, the high priest and ethnarch of
the Jews, that it may be laid up among the public records; and I will that it be openly
proposed in a table of brass, both in Greek and in Latin. It is as follows:--
I, Julius Csar, imperator the second time, and high priest, have made this decree,
with the approbation of the senate: Whereas Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander the Jew,
hath demonstrated his fidelity and diligence about our affairs, and this both now and in
former times, both in peace and in war, as many of our generals have borne witness, and
came to our assistance in the Alexandrian war with fifteen hundred soldiers; and when
he was sent up by me to Mithredates, showed himself superior in valour to all the rest of
that army: for this reason I will that Hyrcanus, the son of Alexander, and his children be
ethnarchs of the Jews, and have the high-priesthood of the Jews for ever, according to the
customs of their forefathers, and that he and his son be our confederates; and that beside
this, every one of them be reckoned among our particular friends. I also ordain, that he
and his children retain whatsoever privileges belong to the office of the high priest, or
whatsoever favours have been hitherto granted to them; and if at any time hereafter arise
any questions about the Jewish customs, I will that he determine the same; and I think it
not proper that they should be obliged to find us winter quarters, or that any money
should be required of them" (Josephus Ant. 14: 10: 2).
The next decree ordained:
"That he, as himself the high priest and ethnarch of the Jews, defend those that are
"This (comments Lewin) was a concession of no little practical consequence. The
most beneficial laws would be utterly worthless, if their provisions could be broken with
impunity. Now, however, that the relation of patron and clients was established between
the High Priest, and the Jews of all countries, if any one suffered wrong the High Priest
had authority to make a formal complaint; either to the Proconsul or to the Emperor, and
the High Priest's ambassadors were to have a free passage for the purpose."
Another edict permitted the Jews to possess Jerusalem and encompass the city with
walls, while yet another exempted them from paying tribute on what "they call the
Sabbatical Year because thereon they neither receive the fruits of their trees nor do they
sow the land".
Finally, Julius Csar wrote:
"The Jews of Delos, and some other Jews that sojourn there, in the presence of your
ambassadors, signified to us, that, by a decree of yours (the inhabitants of Parium, a city