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Chapter 114 - The complaints about Herod.
114,1. Only at that time the chief went fully humbly to Agricola, greeted him and asked him if he wanted to make known his high and mighty will.
114,2. Agricola looked at him seriously and said: “I unfortunately have noticed several times on my trip through Palestine that you chiefs who have received all judicial power from us are making an offensive abuse of it. Today I have heard something similar about you, which was extremely unpleasant to me. How will you now justify yourself before me, because you are accused by the soldiers and actually by this honest and kind citizen? I know as well as you do that you are entirely guilty and I do not need to point it out to you. Thus, speak now and justify yourself.”
114,3. The chief said: “Mighty ruler of the emperor and highest commander and disposer of the wise laws of Rome. Justifying, I cannot before you, although strictly speaking I did not really act contrary to the content of the authority that was given to me in Rome, but out of humanitarian considerations I could of course also have acted differently, because I am also free to be mild if I think it is right. In this case there was of course no reason to let the soldiers go to another province with a little too much freedom, but I wanted to make some savings by holding back their traveling money. But I have permitted instead of that to indemnify themselves moderately for the necessary provisions at the big inns along the way. And in this case, this is my actual guilt, which I want to indemnify even tenfold.
114,4. But the fact that the soldiers have dared, together with their well-instructed leaders, already from here to make rudely abuse of the freedom that was only given to them with moderation, I was not able to expect or to foresee, for they behaved themselves already for 3 full years in Bethlehem in such a way that no one has introduced a single complaint about them. Besides, they often have been here during the free days, have eaten and paid, which the innkeeper will surely know. But that they already since their departure from here have behaved themselves as if they were in a hostile country, is truly not my fault, for I did not give them instruction for that.
114,5. But because I am guilty anyway of the fact that the soldiers committed such an indecency, I also want, as already said, indemnify all damage tenfold. I have said.”
114,6. Then Agricola said: “This is only correct and fair, but if ever such matter would happen again in the future, and I am informed about it in Rome, then my judgment will be quite different. Because the authority that has been given to you in the name of the emperor does not go that far that you can completely arbitrarily withhold from the soldiers what is due to them and keep it for yourself. Only in urgent cases, when for instance in a country there is unrest and rebellion, such a means could be used if necessary, so that the soldiers would treat the rebels more strictly and relentlessly. But even then, a wise moderation of a too great strictness is preferable as long as this is somehow possible, because a too heavily tormented people will never show love and devotion to a government. The hidden fire of anger will continue to glow in such people. As soon as they will sense something, they will break out in all destructive flames, against which it will be difficult to raise an embankment. This is now what you have to observe strictly as an ever-valid instruction for the further application of your office.
114,7. But now it is up to the innkeeper that he truthfully will report how much the soldiers have consumed with him and how much he will claim for the mistreatment of himself, his wife and especially his children. And finally, still today you must pay Lazarus, a loyal innkeeper from Bethany who stands at my right, the traveling money for the soldiers. Now speak, owner of this inn.”
114,8. The innkeeper said: “Listen, high ruler, thanks to this very wise and wonderful mighty Savior, an invaluable great benefit has been my share, and as citizen my wealth is still such – all praise to the Lord – that I can easily bear the loss that was caused to me by the soldiers, and therefore I do not make any claim for any indemnity. But if the chief and ruler of Bethlehem and this whole region, which apart from that has been kind to me, wants to show kindness to the poor, then this is up to him and it is his free will. But about your matters and those of Lazarus, I cannot say anything.”
114,9. Moved by the generosity of the innkeeper, Agricola said: “Truly, it is only very seldom that I have come across such generosity, and the chief will also appreciate it.”
114,10. The chief said: “Yes, by all powers of Heaven, I surely will. I will never fail to reward such generosity, not only tenfold but a thousandfold, with all the means that are at my disposal. However, that which I have to pay to Lazarus, that money will be brought here within an hour. I will send out my secret writer and treasurer immediately. But allow me then that I, as converted sinner, may stay in your company, for also I would like to know better this wonderful Savior and express my thanks to Him for the fact that He had already beforehand indemnified this noble innkeeper which I had to indemnify to him.”
114,11. Agricola said: “You may surely stay now as our friend, and it will be of great benefit to you when you will be better acquainted with our greatest Savior. You soon will have more to be thankful about to Him than for what you have to thank Him now. But now, see to it that you take arrangements with Lazarus, because on our way, with his permission I have given the leaders of the soldiers the instruction that, at your expenses, they could provide for themselves there with moderation and that they also could let them be paid the traveling money that you withheld from them.”
114,12. Now Lazarus said: “Let me say something now also. Since this chief has been so generous and had shown me 10 years ago also unmistakably great friendship, I will do now the same as our noble innkeeper, so that the kind ruler is now also no more in debt to me. May he, in exchange for that, always protect the rights of the poor and the oppressed and protect them against the offenses and great arbitrariness of Herod, for in this environment he makes it even worse than in Jerusalem.”
114,13. Now the innkeeper spoke again: “Yes, Herod is our greatest plague. We would follow the emperor with an even greater love than is the case now if he would like to deliver us from this plague, which would certainly be easy. We well know that Herod as feudal monarch pays a great tribute to Rome, but he indemnifies himself tenfold by the extortion of more than high taxes, and he spares no one. When his tax extortioners are coming, there is nothing else to do than to pay willingly what and how much they want. No delay is given, but what can be heard is: pay! Everything is taken away from the one who cannot pay, cattle and grain and, if all that is not enough, also wife and children. When the man who has been robbed like this of everything cannot pay the demanded taxes before a determined time, then his cattle, grain, wife and children are sold at the public markets. Yes, this is certainly something terrible. Then a person can complain at the Roman courts of justice as much as he wants, no protection can be found there, and this is surely an injustice that cries to Heaven.
114,14. If we pay the emperor the yearly tax coin, then we are doing this gladly, for firstly it is not much, and secondly we know why we pay these little taxes, because the emperor gives us wise laws for that and takes care of the good order in the country by means of his courts of justice and his soldiers. But Herod, as mere feudal monarch favored by Rome, demands tenfold, yes often even hundredfold, and he does or gives us nothing in return. We have of course the right from the emperor to redeem ourselves from Herod, but this goes with much trouble and expenses. We wealthy men of this region and also in other places have also done that and feel very good with that, but the poor possessor who cannot do that and who are afraid of the threats of the priests, who choose the side of Herod, feel all the more miserable, because, although he receives the ransom money, this true tyrant will then increase the taxes for others in such a way that they also have to pay for those who are redeemed, what we have paid before.
114,15. So for instance, I had to pay yearly at least 100 silver coins to Herod. But when I already 10 years ago had redeemed myself with 1.000 silver coins, Herod was still completely indemnified since he has placed those 1.000 silver coins at the rate of 10% at the bank of exchange. But that was for that great reveler not enough. He imposed the 100 silver coins, which he could not receive anymore from me, on 20 other citizens who had to pay taxes, so that everyone had to pay 5 silver coins more than before. And when they complain to the Romans, they seldom can find protection there, but they advice them to redeem themselves also. Yes, that would be all right if those who have to endure most would have the means for it. And then, the redeeming from the arbitrarily and unrestrained behavior of Herod is also a question of conscience and an offence against neighborly love, for I surely have improved my lot, but at the same time have made that of 10 or 20 other people heavier.
114,16. Highly ranked and wise rulers of the emperor, I have described this matter now as it is. Please think about it, so that this great evil would finally be halted. Everyone would gladly pay the emperor a tenfold tax if only he could be freed from the plague of Herod. And the emperor would certainly receive more than half more than what Herod is now paying to him, for we know indeed how much Herod has to pay, and that is not even one hundredth part of what the citizens have to pay to Herod.”
114,17. Agricola said: “Yes, I perceive all too well and clearly what Herod is doing, and already many restrictions were imposed on him, and after your complaint, soon still greater ones will be imposed on him. But for the moment there is nothing that can be changed, for he has given himself again the country for 10 years in loan and he has the sealed contract for that in his hands. But nevertheless, we surely will achieve with the emperor that in the right and effective way there will be put limits to the malicious behavior of that great reveler. But before I will now command already here something in the name of the emperor, I will also ask for a correct advice from this most wise Lord and Master here, and He will tell me what is needed above all.”
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