“And although such was the character of Albinus, yet did Gessius Florus, who succeeded him, demonstrate him to have been a most excellent person, upon the comparison.“
Flavius Josephus, The Jewish Wars, Book II, Chapter 14, Section 2
The first 130 years of Roman rule in Judea – from Pompey’s conquest in 63 BC until the outbreak of the Jewish revolt in 66 AD – is characterized by great unrest that always ends in compromise and agreement. The end of this period sees Gessius Florus appointed Roman procurator of Judea in 64 AD. Florus quickly becomes notorious for the pride he takes in his corrupt and brutal methods; he constantly abuses his power to kill civilians and steal money from his subjects. When Cestius Gallus, Roman proconsul of Syria, visits Jerusalem, the people complain to him about their governor’s cruelty. However, despite his promises, Gallus does nothing to restrain his subordinate. Once Gallus leaves Judea, Florus acts even more ruthlessly – he not only wants to take revenge for the people’s accusations, but also wishes to stir a revolt and let someone else deal with the mess he initiated.
Conflicts erupt between the gentiles and Jews in Caesarea in 66 AD, prompting the latter to flee for Nuribta carrying a Torah scroll. These developments lead to an eruption of protests in Jerusalem. However, instead of calming the situation, Florus only aggravates it. Upon arriving in the capital, he demands money from the Temple’s treasury. Faced with popular opposition, Florus orders his cavalry men to trample the multitude. He then sets up camp at the city gates and demands that the instigators be handed to him. He tells his men to go up to the marketplace and kill any Jew they encounter – ending with 3,600 Jews being killed that day.
Manifold manifestations of evil and envy make it challenging for the Jews to choose light over darkness. The Roman conquerors do not understand the importance of maintaining stability between the various sectors in their society – or between themselves and the Jewish majority.
“And although such was the character of Albinus, yet did Gessius Florus who succeeded him, demonstrate him to have been a most excellent person, upon the comparison” (Josephus Flavius, The Jewish Wars, Book 2, Chapter 14, paragraph 2)
Stability is achieved when we remain constant in our spiritual work, regardless of the volatility and disorder surrounding us.