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William Shepard


By the will of Hyrcanus the government of Judea was left to his wife. But Aristobulus, the eldest son, who was a wicked man, would not let her possess it, but seized upon it himself. When she would have asserted her rights he threw her into prison and let her starve to death. He also imprisoned all his brothers except Antigonus, whom he loved and made commander of his armies.

Aristobulus was the first one of his family to wear a crown, for he determined to change the government into a kingdom, and made himself king as well as high-priest.

Now, though Aristobulus loved his brother Antigonus, his wife and many other hated and were jealous of him, so they told the king many wicked stories about him. At first he would not believe them, but after a while he began to grow suspicious of his brother. It happened that on the occasion of a great festival Aristobulus lay very ill in his palace; and Antigonus returned from the army and went up to the temple, splendidly adorned, and with his officers in armor around him, to offer up prayers for the recovery of his brother. Then his enemies went to the king and told him of the great show that Antigonus had made. And they tried to make him believe that Antigonus was very ambitious, and had come to Jerusalem with his armed men in order to slay his brother and reign in his stead.

Aristobulus was troubled, and knew not what to think. He placed guards in a dark passage leading to his palace, and ordered them to kill Antigonus if he came in armor, but to let him pass if he came unarmed. He then sent word to his brother to attend him unarmed. But the queen persuaded the messengers to tell Antigonus to come in his finest armor, for that the king had heard a great deal about its beauty, and wished to see it. Antigonus, suspecting nothing, put on the armor, and when he came to the dark passage he was slain by the guards.

Aristobulus repented of the great crime he had committed, and, brooding over his wicked deeds, he became very ill indeed. One day he vomited a quantity of blood. The servant who carried out the blood slipped and fell upon the very spot where Antigonus had been slain, and spilled the blood over the very blood-stains of the murdered brother. Then a great cry arose among the spectators. The king heard it, and asked his attendants what had happened. At first they would not tell him, but he forced them to speak. When he heard the story he burst into tears, and groaned, and said, "So I perceive I cannot escape the all-seeing eye of God, who wishes to punish me for the crimes I have committed. O thou most impudent body, how long wilt thou retain a soul that is stained with the blood of a mother and a brother? How long shall I myself spend my blood drop by drop? Let them take it all at once, and let their ghosts be no longer disappointed by a few drops offered to them." Thus speaking, the wretched king expired, having reigned barely a year.