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Josephus, Let it Go

Dreamed c.65 AD by Josephus Flavius.

Josephus, the Jewish historian and warrior... took dreams into his counsel, marked out the course of his life in conformity with their directions, and did not hesitate to stake his most critical interests upon their validity.

When Josephus was defending Jotapata, it was taken by the Romans through the treachery of a deserter. For some days, Josephus concealed himself in a den in the hills. The Roman general, Vespasian, wished to persuade him from his refuge peacefully. Two messengers, tribunes, tried in vain; at length, a third tribune, Nicanor, a former friend of Josephus, was deputed to offer him terms of safety and honour.

When Josephus still hesitated, the Roman troops were so angry they ran hastily to set fire to the den; but Nicanor stopped them, hoping still to take Josephus alive. And now, as Nicanor pressed him to comply, and Josephus considered how overwhelming the enemy forces were, he called to mind the dreams of recent nights, by which God had signified to him the future: both the calamities of the Jews, and events concerning the Roman emperor.

Now, Josephus could shrewdly conjecture about the interpretation of such dreams as have been ambiguously delivered by God. Moreover, he was acquainted with the prophecies contained in the sacred books, being a priest himself: and he entered a trance, and setting before him the tremendous images of the dreams he had lately had, he put up a secret prayer to God, and said:

"Since it pleaseth Thee, who hast created the Jewish nation, to depress us, and since all this good fortune is gone over to the Romans, and since Thou hast made choice of this soul of mine to foretell what is to come hereafter, I willingly give them my hands, and am content to live. And I protest openly that I do not go over to the Romans as a deserter of the Jews, but as a minister from Thee."

EDITOR'S NOTES

May the current fighters in the region, both Jews and Muslims, at least consider Josephus's reasoning: "God's plans are mysterious, and seem to require such misery of us now... but why add to it?"

From Josephus's Wars of the Jews, as quoted in Frank Seafield's The Literature and Curiosities of Dreams (1865). I've edited Seafield's murky text a bit for clarity.

--Chris Wayan



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