Text #4067The Complete Works .
[Joseph. AJ. 15.9.1. Translated by William Whiston. Christian Classics Ethereal Library pp. 839--840]
Now on this very year, which was the thirteenth year of the reign of Herod, very great calamities came upon the country; whether they were derived from the anger of God,or whether this misery returns again naturally in certain periods of time1 for, in the first place, there were perpetual droughts, and for that reason the ground was barren, and did not bring forth the same quantity of fruits that it used to produce; and after this barrenness of the soil, that change of food which the want of corn occasioned produced distempers in the bodies of men, and a pestilential disease prevailed, one misery following upon the back of another; and these circumstances, that they were destitute both of methods of cure and of food, made the pestilential distemper, which began after a violent manner, the more lasting. The destruction of men also after such a manner deprived those that surived of all their courage, because they had no way to provide remedies sufficient for the distresses they were in. When therefore the fruits of that year were spoiled, and whatsoever they had laid up beforehand was spent, there was no foundation of hope for relief remaining, but the misery, contrary to what they expected still increased upon them; and this not only on that year, while they had nothing for themselves left [at the end of it], but what seed they had sown perished also, by reason of the ground not yielding its fruits on the second year.2 This distress they were in made them also, out of necessity, to eat many things that did not use to be eaten; nor was the king himself free from this distress any more than other men, as being deprived of that tribute he used to have from the fruits of the ground, and having already expended what money he had, in his liberality to those whose cities he had built; nor had he any people that were worthy of his assistance, since this miserable state of things had procured him the hatred of his subjects: for it is a constant rule, that misfortunes are still laid to the account of those that govern.
Here we have an eminent example of the language of Josephus in his writing to Gentiles, different from that when he wrote to Jews; in his writing to whom he still derives all such judgments from the anger of God; but because he knew many of the Gentiles thought they might naturally come in certain periods, he complies with them in the following sentence. See the note on the War. B. I. ch. 33. sect. 2. [OF] ↩
This famine for two years that affected Judea and Syria, the thirteenth mid fourteenth years of Herod, which are the twenty-third and twenty-fourth years before the Christian era, seems to have been more terrible during this time than was that in the days of Jacob, Genesis 41., 42. And what makes the comparison the more remarkable is this, that now, as well as then, the relief they had was from Egypt also; then from Joseph the governor of Egypt, under Pharaoh king of Egypt; and now from Petronius the prefect of Egypt, under Augustus the Roman emperor. See almost the like case, Antiq. B. XX. ch. 2. sect. 6. It is also well worth our observation here, that these two years were a Sabbatic year, and a year of jubilee, for which Providence, during the theocracy, used to provide a triple crop beforehand; but became now, when the Jews had forfeited that blessing, the greatest years of famine to them ever since the days of Ahab, 1 Kings 17., 18. [OF] ↩