Herod the Great

Address to the Jews on the Arabian War

Recorded by Josephus

 

The present dread you are under seems to me to have seized upon you very unreasonably. It is true, you might justly be dismayed at that providential chastisement which hath befallen you; but to suffer yourselves to be equally terrified at the invasion of men is unmanly.

As for myself, I am so far from being affrighted at our enemies after this earthquake, that I imagine that God hath thereby laid a bait for the Arabians, that we may be avenged on them; for their present invasion proceeds more from our accidental misfortunes, than that they have any great dependence on their weapons, or their own fitness for action.

Now that hope which depends not on men's own power, but on others' ill success, is a very ticklish thing; for there is no certainty among men, either in their bad or good fortunes; but we may easily observe that fortune is mutable, and goes from one side to another; and this you may readily learn from examples among yourselves; for when you were once victors in the former fight, your enemies overcame you at last; and very likely it will now happen so, that these who think themselves sure of beating you will themselves be beaten.

For when men are very confident, they are not upon their guard, while fear teaches men to act with caution; insomuch that I venture to prove from your very timorousness that you ought to take courage; for when you were more bold than you ought to have been, and than I would have had you, and marched on, Athenio's treachery took place; but your present slowness and seeming dejection of mind is to me a pledge and assurance of victory.

And indeed it is proper beforehand to be thus provident; but when we come to action, we ought to erect our minds, and to make our enemies, be they ever so wicked, believe that neither any human, no, nor any providential misfortune, can ever depress the courage of Jews while they are alive; nor will any of them ever overlook an Arabian, or suffer such a one to become lord of his good things, whom he has in a manner taken captive, and that many times also.

And you do not disturb yourselves at the quaking of inanimate creatures, nor do you imagine that this earthquake is a sign of another calamity; for such affections of the elements are according to the course of nature, nor does it import any thing further to men, than what mischief it does immediately of itself. Perhaps there may come some short sign beforehand in the case of pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes; but these calamities themselves have their force limited by themselves [without foreboding any other calamity].

And indeed what greater mischief can the war, though it should be a violent one, do to us than the earthquake hath done? Nay, there is a signal of our enemies' destruction visible, and that a very great one also; and this is not a natural one, nor derived from the hand of foreigners neither, but it is this, that they have barbarously murdered our ambassadors, contrary to the common law of mankind; and they have destroyed so many, as if they esteemed them sacrifices for God, in relation to this war.

But they will not avoid his great eye, nor his invincible right hand; and we shall be revenged of them presently, in case we still retain any of the courage of our forefathers, and rise up boldly to punish these covenant-breakers. Let every one therefore go on and fight, not so much for his wife or his children, or for the danger his country is in, as for these ambassadors of ours; those dead ambassadors will conduct this war of ours better than we ourselves who are alive.

And if you will be ruled by me, I will myself go before you into danger; for you know this well enough, that your courage is irresistible, unless you hurt yourselves by acting rashly.


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