whether he was of good morals, whether he had certain and indubitable
signs of his mission, and whether what he wanted to say in God’s name
agreed with accepted doctrine and the common laws of the country. If
the signs were unsatisfactory or the doctrine was new, he could rightly
condemn him to death, but if all
was well, he was accepted solely on the
authority and testimony of the leader.
21] There is also, fourthly, the fact that the leader did not surpass
the rest in nobility, nor by right of blood. The government of the state
belonged to him only because of his age and his virtue.
22] There is, ¢nally, also the advantage that the leaders and body of the
armed forces could not be carried away by a desire for war rather than peace.
For the armed forces, as we said, consisted only of citizens, and therefore
matters of war as well as of peace were handled by these same men.The man
who was a soldier in the camp was a citizen in the assembly; the o⁄cer in the
camp was a judge in the council of elders; and the general in the camp was a
leader in the state. Hence no one could desire war for war’s sake, but only for
the sake of peace and the protection of freedom. Perhaps also a leader
abstained from novelties so far as he could, so that he would not be obliged
to come before the high priest and su¡er the indignity of standing in his
presence. So much for the factors that kept political leaders within bounds.
23] We must now see by what means the people were held in check,
and this too is clearly indicated by the principles of their government.
Anyone willing to pay any attention to these will immediately see that
they must have aroused in the minds of the citizens such a unique love
that it would be the hardest thing in the world to induce them to betray
their country or defect from it. On the contrary, they must all have been
ready to su¡er death rather than tolerate a foreign power. For having
transferred their right to God, they believed their kingdom was the
kingdom of God, that they alone were the children of God and that other
nations were enemies of God, whom for that reason they regarded with
extreme hostility (believing as they did that this was pious: see Psalm
139.21^2). Nothing was more abhorrent to them than to swear loyalty to
a foreigner and to promise allegiance to him. No greater disgrace, noth-
ing more detestable could be imagined than to betray their country, the
very kingdom of God. Just to go and live outside the country was
thought to be an outrage, since the worship of God by which they were
for ever bound, could be practised, all agreed, only on their native soil, as
it was held to be the only holy land, all others being unclean and pol-
luted. When David was forced into exile, he grieved before Saul in these
words: ‘If those who incite you against
me are men, they are accursed,
because they banish me from walking in the inheritance of God, and say,
‘‘Go, and worship other gods’’ ’.
For the same reason, we must espe-
cially note here, no citizen was condemned to exile: for a transgressor
deserves punishment but not disgrace.
Thus the love of the Hebrews for their country was not simple love
but piety, which along with hatred of other nations, was so nourished
and in£amed by daily worship that it must have become second nature.
For their daily worship was not only completely di¡erent (which made
them altogether unique and utterly distinct from others) but absolutely
contrary to that of other peoples. As a consequence of which these daily
expressions of reproach were bound to generate a ceaseless hatred, and
one more ¢rmly entrenched in their minds than any other, given that
such a detestation born of great devotion and piety, was itself viewed as
pious, and no hatred is greater or more persistent than this type. Nor
was the usual cause of hatred lacking either, that is, of course, reciprocal
abhorrence becoming more and more in£amed, because other nations
were bound to react by developing an extreme hatred for them.
24] Freedom from human government, devotion to their country, an
absolute right over all others, a hatred which was not only permitted but
pious, a perception that all men are enemies, a unique system of morals
and worship: reason teaches clearly, and experience itself testi¢es, how
much all these things served to harden the minds of the Hebrews in bear-
ing all things with singular constancy and courage on behalf of their
country. Never while the city was standing, could they bear to be under
alien rule, and therefore Jerusalem was often called a rebellious city (see
4.12^15). The second commonwealth was scarcely a shadow of the
¢rst, after the priests had usurped the authority of civil government, but
even so the Romans experienced very great di⁄culty in destroying it, as
Tacitus himself remarks with these words in Histories, book
had almost completed the Jewish war, the siege of Jerusalem alone being
1 Samuel 26.19.
The Hebrew state in the time of Moses
left, but that was a great and arduous task more because of the character of
the nation and the obstinacy of their superstition than because there
remained su⁄cient strength in the besieged to bear their dire situation’.
25] Apart from these factors, whose impact stemmed from opinion
alone, there was another aspect to this state, a very solid factor unique to
them which must have very much discouraged the citizens from thinking
about defection or ever conceiving a desire to desert their country. This is
consideration of their interest which is the life and strength of all human
actions. It was I say uniquely powerful
in this state. For nowhere else did
citizens hold their possessions with a stronger right than this state’s sub-
jects. They held an equal portion of the lands and ¢elds with the leader,
and each one was the perpetual owner of his share. If anyone was com-
pelled by poverty to sell his estate or ¢eld, he had to be restored to it again
when the Jubilee came around, and there were other customs of this kind
to ensure that no one could be dispossessed of his allotted property.
Nowhere could poverty be more tolerable, than where it was a matter of the
highest piety to practise charity towards one’s neighbour, that is, towards
one’s fellow-citizen, so that God their king would continue to look with
favour upon them. Hebrew citizens therefore could live well only within
their own land; outside of it there was nothing [for them] but loss and shame.
Other signi¢cant factors helped to retain the citizens on their native
soil, as well as obviate civil wars and remove causes of con£ict. No one
was subject to his equal, each being subject only to God. Charity and love
towards one’s fellow citizen were esteemed as the highest piety and con-
siderably reinforced by the shared animosity with which they viewed
other nations and vice versa. But the most potent factor was the strong
discipline of obedience in which they were brought up. Every single
thing they had to do according to a speci¢c prescript of the Law. They
could not plough as and when they pleased, but could only do so at certain
times and in particular years, and with only one kind of beast at a time; they
could sow and reap only in a certain way and at a particular time; their lives
without exception were a continual practice of obedience (on this issue
on the use of ceremonies). To people wholly accustomed to
this, it must have appeared to be freedom rather than slavery; surely no one
could have desired what was forbidden, only what was prescribed.
Another key factor seems to have been that at certain times of the
year they were under obligation to devote themselves to leisure and