Unfortunately, there is no proof for what I am about to tell you about the man who fearlessly spoke to Herod and the Sanhedrin. (See previous segment). From all accounts it seems that the man could have been one of Hillel’s great teachers, Shemaya or Avtalion. However, the time frame is not entirely in order, because judging from the sources, at this date both of them very likely had already passed away. The other option is that it was one of their disciples. The description From Josephus is: “…there was silence and doubt about what was to be done. While they were in this state, someone named Samaias, an upright man and for that reason superior to fear, arose and said...” Variants on the name are Sameas, Samaeus, and Samaios. The name is speculated to be a variant on Shemaya, and indeed it is very similar. To further complicate the issue, he is mentioned elsewhere in Josephus as a disciple of the Pharisee Pollion, and that name is almost certainly a variant of Avtalion. Later, Josephus describes additional encounters between Samaias, Pollion, and Herod, who seemed to have a great respect for them – perhaps, Josephus thought, because of Samaias fearlessness during the trial. If the man was one of Shemaya’s and Avtalion’s deciples, could it have been Hillel himself? Hillel was known as totally fearless in all his doings, and from later events, it is clear that Herod respected and perhaps was even in awe of Hillel. I personally think it was Hillel, but I am not sure; much research is needed on this ancient mystery. If I ever find more evidence, I will certainly reveal it in this book.
But let’s return to the trial and its aftermath. Hyrcanus, as mentioned before, requested the Sanhedrin to postpone the trial for one day. The sages, already confused and uncomfortable with this mock trial, were only too happy to withdraw. Hyrcanus knew that the members of the Sanhedrin would do anything in their power to execute Herod. So he secretly sent to Herod, advising him to immediately leave Jerusalem. Herod decided to follow Hyrcanus’ advice, and took off with his soldiers. He went to Damascus, and made himself secure there with the help of old friend Sextus Caesar. He then made it clear that even if summoned again by the Sanhedrin, he would not come. This was an act of defiance of the highest order, since no one would ever dare to disobey the Sanhedrin’s summons. The members of the Sanhedrin, extremely offended, tried to influence Hyrcanus to send after Herod, but to no avail. Hyrcanus kept putting them off.
In the meantime, Sextus Caesar was perfectly happy to help Herod achieve greatness in a typically practical Roman way. For a hefty sum of money, which Herod could certainly afford, Sextus made him the governor of Coele-Syria[i] and possibly also of Samaria. Any normal young man would have been satisfied, but Herod would not settle down. Still furious about the humiliation of the trial and the attempts to get him back to Jerusalem for a second trial, he decided to take his army and go against the man who had saved his life – Hyrcanus. It makes no sense, unless a second version of the story is consulted. That second version states that Hyrcanus demanded that he should come a second time and render an account of himself to the Sanhedrin, but promised to make sure that Herod would be acquitted. If this was true, then Herod’s action against Hyrcanus makes more sense – even though a more sensible action would have been to simply ignore the summons and stay put.
When Antipater heard that Herod was on his way to fight Hyrcanus, he acted quickly. He realized that if Herod would kill Hyrcanus, it could very well be the end of all hopes of peacefully taking over the power in Judea after Hyrcanus’ natural death. Taking Herod’s brother Phasael with him, they intercepted Herod who was already camped near Judea.
The idea of using his diplomatic skills against his own hot-headed son must have been quite amusing to Antipater, and of course he succeeded; young Herod was no match for his father’s tactics. The father and brother persuaded Herod that it would be in his best interest to turn back, return to Coele-Syria, and let Hyrcanus live in peace. They made it clear to him that hurting the beloved old King and High Priest would cost him his popularity in Judea, that anyway Hyrcanus loved him and never done him anything but good, and that the summons were really not from him but from the Sanhedrin and perhaps also from some evil councilors who badgered Hyrcanus. They invoked God’s wrath, too, which added weight to their arguments, since Herod was rather religious in his own way. As Josephus says so beautifully:“Herod yielded, believing that it was enough for his future plans merely to have made a show of his strength to the people. This, then, was the state of affairs in Judea.”
I can’t think of too many instances, later on, when Herod would listen to the voice of reason… but then again, not too many people had the personal skills and intelligence of Antipater. I do suspect that had it not been for the mental illness that became evident later in his life, Herod would have been more like his father, since he did possess high intelligence and seductive charm. Great pity… the history of Judea would have taken another road had this been the case.
valley region of central Lebanon. Located between the Lebanon
mountain ranges, it is about 75 mi (120 km) long and 10 mi (15 km)