30 AD to 50 AD, Psalm 49: all can see that the wise die

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crucifixion shutterstock_258652034This generation is that of the 50s and 60s.

This forty-ninth generation marks the end of the first watch of the night, one associated with the sin of the golden calf and is marked by curses announced in Leviticus.
The temple lives its last hours, the Jewish people is in respite in expectation of the last exile associated with the destruction of second temple which will mark the beginning of the second watch of the night.
This second watch and the next one, the third, will last together four come eighteen generations, as many generations as curses evoked in Deuteronomy.
During these last two watches the Jewish people will be confronted with the nations under the constant domination of Rome, Esau. Apart from the political aspects related to Judea, this generation is mainly marked by the death of Jesus who will be the leaven for the nations of the recognition of the Lord.
Jesus is in a way a new prophet, not turned towards the Jewish people who has since reached his religious maturity and is no longer likely to turn to paganism, but turned to the pagans.
During this generation, three emperors succeed each other in Rome. It begins with the end of the reign of Tiberius (14/37) followed by the reign of Caligula (37/41) and the generation concludes with the beginning of the reign of Claudius (41/54).
The date of Jesus’ death can not be determined with certainty. Apart from the Gospels, contemporary Roman historians of this generation have not been much interested in this Jew of Judea who, like many other co-religionists of the time, proclaimed himself a Messiah. Or rather was proclaimed Messiah by these followers anxious to give back to Judea a newfound supremacy by driving the Romans out of the kingdom.


According to the accounts of the Gospels relating to the last days of Jesus’ death, especially those relating to the Easter meal, the commentators oscillate between April 30 and April 33, to situate the death of Jesus. Moreover this one must fit with the mandate of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem.

What_is_truthAt the beginning of this generation Judea is therefore governed by Pontius Pilate, whose Gospels have left a relatively favorable image. According to these Gospels, it is washed (literally and figuratively) of all responsibility for the death of Jesus, since it is the Jews, following the same Gospels, who insist that Jesus be crucified despite his efforts to condemn Barrabas in his place.

Apart from the advantage for future Christians of exploiting the Deicide people’s thesis for Jews, it is hard to see how the writers of the Gospels could “charge” the Romans they were already trying to convert to their new religion at the time. writing.
The image that Flavius Josephus of Pontius Pilate gives is much less flattering (let us recall that apart from a few lines widely disputed by historians who consider them as later additions, Flavius Josephus, like the other historians of the time, does not have not considered the epic of Jesus as a historical event, and therefore he makes no mention of the events related to him):
  • Pilate [1], governor of Judea, sent to winter quarters, from Caesarea to Jerusalem, troops carrying on their flags images of the emperor, which is so contrary to our laws that no other governor before him had not done anything like it. These troops entered at night, and so we did not notice until the next day. Immediately the Jews went in great numbers to find Pilate at Caesarea, and 1024px-Caesarea_maritima_BW_5conjured him for several days to carry these flags elsewhere. He refused, saying that he could not do it without offending the Emperor. But, as they continued to press him, he ordered his men of war on the seventh day to keep secretly under arms, and then mounted his tribunal, which he had deliberately set up in the place of the public exercises. because he was more able than anyone else to hide them. Then the Jews continued to make the same request to him, he gave the sign to his soldiers, who immediately enveloped him on all sides and he threatened to kill them if they insisted more and if they did not return each itself. At these words, they all threw themselves on the ground and presented their throat uncovered, to let him know that the observation of their laws was much more expensive than their lives. Their constancy and zeal, so ardent for their religion, gave Pilate so much admiration that he commanded that the flags of Jerusalem be brought back to Caesarea.
Another event showing the tensions between Pilate and the Jews of Judea, this event reported by Philo of Alexandria through a letter attributed to Agrippa for Caligula:
  • (Pilate) [2], not so much to honor Tiberius as to vex the people, dedicates, in the palace of Herod, located in the Holy City, golden shields which bore neither figure nor anything else forbidden, but only an indispensable inscription mentioning these two things: the author of the dedication and for whose intention it was made. But as soon as the crowd was informed – the fact was quickly proclaimed everywhere – the people took for spokesman the four sons of the king (Herod), who did not lack the rank nor the dignity of sovereign, and all their other descendants as well as the notables of their court; they asked to return to the subversive measure relative to the shields and to renounce to modify ancestral customs which, in all the centuries, had been kept intact by kings as well as by the emperors.
It is this character, governor of Judea from 26 to 36, who is one of the actors of the most important event of this generation with regard to the destinies of the world: the death of Jesus.
The high priest of the time is Caiaphas. The high priests since Herod are appointed by power according to their submission to power. They are therefore easily revoked at the slightest disagreement. Since Judea became a Roman province, the governors of Judea logically assigned the function of naming the high priest.
Thus Valerius Gratus, the governor who precedes Pontius Pilate, names three high priests in a period of three years before appointing Caiaphas. Caiaphas will continue to be high priest until 37 during the entire period when Pontius Pilate will be governor, that is to say the complicity of the two characters.
It is therefore likely that Caiaphas enjoyed little recognition from the people of Judea in the same way as Pontius Pilate, whom the two figures represented for the people of Judea, the power of Rome increasingly incompatible with Jewish national sentiment which was developing.

Sanhedrin1The Gospels as they have come down to us, assimilate the high priest to the Sanhedrin and all the Jewish people, thus showing a Jewish people hostile to Jesus in contradiction with the fact that in many passages the same Gospels show us a Jesus popular with all the fringes of the population as well as John the Baptist.

It is thus unlikely that the Jewish people would have asked a power they did not recognize for the death of Jesus while Jesus was working against the Roman power, hated unanimously by the Jews of Judea.
In the generation that interests us, it is also unlikely that the first Christians who were originally Jews had deified Jesus, because it was too much in disagreement with their original beliefs, it required a certain maturation of Christian dogmas.
For his followers, Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. The Roman domination made plausible then the arrival of it. Such a belief could not justify the animosity of the Jews of the time towards Jesus, as described in the Gospels. It is more appropriate to describe the tense relations between the two competing religions a few generations later.
The messianic claim of Jesus (direct or through his followers) was not at all disturbing to the Jewish religion:
  • The synagogue [3] did not, as far as I know, repudiate the supporters of Messiah Bar Kokhba (who will be illustrated in a few generations), even after the failure of his attempt showed that God was not with him . Rabbi Akiba, who had followed him, remained one of the most revered doctors in the memory of Israel. As well, the touchstone of Jewish orthodoxy is not messianic hope. To attach oneself to a false messiah does not lead to excommunication for sure unless it is accompanied by erroneous characterizations of dogma and observance: this is neither the case of the insurgents of 135 (revolt of Bar Kokhba), or “Nazarenes (comparable to the early Christians, and later those who remained faithful to Jewish law while claiming to be Christians)” from Palestine. These would not have been treated by the synagogue otherwise than those if the name of Jesus had not known beyond Israel such a prodigious fortune and had raised against the synagogue the church of the Gentiles.
As for the role of the Sanhedrin, so too, it is unlikely that he intervened as indicated in the Gospels. Here again there is confusion between the men of the high priest and the Sanhedrin. Indeed, the Sanhedrin was already largely occupied by the crimes of the zealots and as such had exiled from Jerusalem presumably before the judgment of Jesus to avoid having to pronounce death sentences:
  • Forty years [4] before the Temple was destroyed, the Sanhedrin was exiled from the Chamber of Hewn Stone and sat in the store near the Temple Mount.
  • (The Gemara explains: What is the reason that the members of the Sanhedrin ceased to meet in their proper place and thereby ended the adjudication of capital cases? Once they saw that the murderers were so numerous and they were not able to judge them and punish them with death, they said: It is better that we should be exiled from the Chamber of Hewn Stone and move from place to place, so that offenders will not be deemed liable to receive the death penalty in a time period when the court does not carry out their sentences. )
At the beginning of this generation, Jesus closes his teaching for the pagan world, which is what the beginning of the Psalm of this generation evokes:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verses 1 to 5 )

  • For the conductor, by the sons of Korah, a song.
  • Hear this, all you peoples; hearken, all You inhabitants of the earth.
  • Both the sons of « adam, » and the sons of « ish, » together rich and poor.
  • My mouth shall speak wisdoms and the thoughts of my heart are understanding.
  • I will bend my ear to a parable; with a lyre, I will solve my riddle.
Jesus, practicing and convinced Jew, descendant of Jacob, does not hesitate to address the pagan world then dominated by Rome, considered as the kingdom of Esau. Jesus thus confirms the role of Jacob vis-à-vis Esau sketched by his birth:
  • And [5] her days (from Rebecca) to give birth were completed, and behold, there were twins in her womb.
  • And the first one emerged ruddy; he was completely like a coat of hair, and they named him Esau.
  • And afterwards, his brother emerged, and his hand was grasping Esau’s heel, and he named him Jacob. Now Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.
The Jewish people, through Jesus, therefore come, as we have already described, to protect Esau from the path of evil by pointing to the good, the way to follow. The heel representing the sensitive part of the man in relation to sin (this is where the snake comes to sting).
This is expressed in the following verse of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verses 6 )

  • Why should I fear in days of misfortune? The iniquity of my heels surrounds me.
In relation to this task, Jesus tries to detach man from the attraction of the material by trying to teach him the quest for the spiritual. Particularly in the Gospels of Luke, Jesus illustrates this in a more substantiated way:
  • Someone [6] in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
  • Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
  • Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
  • And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
  • He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
  • “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.
  • And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
  • “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
  • “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
  • “There was [7] a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.
  • At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores
  • and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 
  • “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.
  • In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
  • So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
  • “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.
  • And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
  • “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,
  • for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
  • “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
Those principles already assimilated by the Jewish people who do not hesitate, even for the generation that interests us, to brave death rather than renounce their faith, taught by Jesus to the pagan world are mentioned in the rest of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verses 7 to 10 )

  • Those who rely on their possessions and boast of their great wealth,
  • -a brother cannot redeem a man, he cannot give his ransom to God.
  • The redemption of their soul will be too dear, and unattainable forever.
  • Will he live yet forever and not see the Pit?
But Jesus was not content to be somehow the prophet of the Gentiles, supported by his disciples, he thought he could hasten the end of the world.
It is true that at the time many regarded Roman rule as heralding the end of time and the coming of the Messiah. It is with this faith in a better future world that Jesus expresses himself. Announced as the Messiah by his disciples, Jesus can normally think that his death should be the sign of the end of time.
Thus, his death, what Christians call the Passion, is widely announced by Jesus in the Gospels as necessary. He will be helped in this by Judah.
It is interesting to note that Christians have since stuck the image of Judah, the “traitor”, to all Jews. Forgetting that if Judah were Jew, Jesus and all the apostles were also like the majority, if not all, of his followers then, and that Judah was only doing the will of Jesus.
Jesus is finally crucified and finds death without the end of the world in the messianic sense of the term. Obviously, Jesus is the first astonished:
  • And  [8] at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
In fact Jesus is not crucified alone:
  • At [9] that time two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.
If Jesus represents wisdom, the two bandits who accompany him represent the opposite to this wisdom. Bandits who act out of the fear of the Lord may, on the contrary, be called fools:
  • The fear [10] of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.
It is in this context that David, following the psalm, responds to the questioning of Jesus on the cross indicating that the wise  (Jesus) as the foolish and the senseless (the bandits) die:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verse 11 )

  • For all can see that the wise die, that the foolish and the senseless also perish, leaving their wealth to others.
Whatever the wisdom of a man, he is not immortal and can not question the divine purposes.
Many prophets died before Jesus without being able to change the course of history. This one must come to an end, it is not during this generation but nearly two thousand years later that it must happen.
The death of Jesus will not have been in vain.
By giving birth to Christianity and later to Islam, it will not be able to avoid new deaths and new massacres, but it will significantly increase the fear of God in the pagan world and thus will pave the way for the victory of wisdom over foolishness.
To return to the purely national history of the Jewish people, other wise men and other fools mark this generation before dying there.

Agrippa_I-Herod_agrippaAgrippa  [11] the grandson of Herod, had entered the court of the Emperor Tiberius in Rome through his brother Drusus.

At the death of the latter, riddled with debts, Agrippa took refuge with Herod the Tetrarch who had married Herodias (Agrippa’s sister).

Tiberius_head_archmus_HeraklionThe coexistence became worse, Agrippa finally found the court of Tiberius and approached Caius (the future emperor Caligula) and fell out of favor with Tiberius who had him imprisoned. Tiberius’s plans to establish a dynasty were called into question by his untimely death:

  • In the middle of such a large disorder (Tiberius suddenly fell very ill) than where it was to see that, against his purpose, the Empire would fall into the hands of him that he had not meant for his successor ( Tiberius relies on Caius to prevent his grandson, who should have claimed his estate, from being spared). Such were the last words of Tiberius, and there was nothing that Caius promised him, but without having the intention of holding it; for immediately after he saw himself the master, he killed young Tiberius, as his grandfather had foreseen.
The premature death of Tiberius who kills in the bud the dynasty he wanted to set up is illustrated in the rest of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verses 12 and 13 )

  • In their heart, their houses are forever, their dwellings are for every generation; they call by their names on plots of land.
  • But man does not repose in his glory; he is compared to the silenced animals.

Caligula_02If the fate of Tiberius in Rome preoccupies David, during the writing of the psalm, it is that it will not only allow Caius to become emperor but also Agrippa to become king of Judea and recover for a few years a large part of kingdom of his grandfather Herod.

Indeed, Caius replaced, as Flavius Josephus indicates, Agrippa’s iron chains in gold chains and acceded to his request to recover the kingship of Judea.
Agrippa’s reversal of fortune displeased Herodias, who had sheltered him when he was miserable, and pushed Herod the Tetrarch, her husband, to rebel against this appointment to Caius.

royaume agrippaThis did not succeed, for Agrippa’s maneuvers caused Herod to lose his tetrarchy to his advantage, thus increasing Agrippa’s kingdom. Herod, on the other hand, was exiled to Lyons in Gaul. The reversal of the fate of Agrippa confirms the promise made to Mariamne, her grandmother in Psalm 45 that we had already mentioned:

(extract of the psalm 45, verses 17 )

  • Instead of your forefathers will be your sons; you shall appoint them as princes throughout the land.
If in a way, Tiberius illustrates the foolish, having thought he could impose his views on the empire for several generations without worrying about the divine will that ruined his plans, Caius, nicknamed Caligula illustrates the senseless:
  • This  [12] new emperor (Caius) governed very well during the first two years of his reign, and won the hearts of the Romans and all peoples subject to the Empire. But this great power in which he saw himself elevated then so inflamed his heart that he forgot that he was a man. And his folly went so far that he dared to speak blasphemies against God and to attribute to himself honors that belong to him alone. (Flavius Josephus justifies the position of Caius by a visit to Alexandria where Jews and Greeks are in disagreement).
  • This superb prince, not being able to suffer that the Jews were the only ones who refused to obey him, sent Petronius to Syria to be governor in the place of Vitellius, with order to enter arms in Judea, to place his statue in the Temple of Jerusalem if the Jews consented to it, and to make war on them and force them there by force if they refused it.
The Jews went to meet Petronius to try to convince him not to execute the order of Caius, that they themselves had chosen death rather than let the statue be installed in the Temple.
The relatives of King Agrippa met him in turn, arguing that if he executed the order he would bring ruin to the Judea he ruled. Petronius then decided not to execute the order, being aware of the risk taken against Caius.
Agrippa, who was in Rome and had attracted the favor of Caius, obtained from him the annulment of the order. But at the same time, Caius learned of the situation in Judea and confirmed his order by attacking Petronius.

Stich, Abbildung, gravure, engravingfrom Alma-Tadéma & J. Lavée & J. Robert : 1874Caius, who had been as insane to his fellow citizens as to the peoples subjugated to Rome, was finally murdered by his own, who also killed his wife and daughter in order to be sure of definitively eliminating all traces of Caligula in the Empire. Roman. This execution made it possible to save Petronius who was thus rewarded, divinely, for his salutary and daring choice for Judea.

The Jews also saw the danger of Caligula’s folly for them as they waited for the dramatic events of the next generation.
The fate reserved for Caligula when his madness compared the equal of the gods (of the Roman pantheon) is well illustrated by the following verses of the psalm:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verses 14 and 15 )

  • This is their way; folly is theirs, and after them they will tell with their mouth forever.
  • Like sheep, they are destined to the grave; death will devour them, and the upright will rule over them in the morning, and their form will outlast the grave as his dwelling place.

1024px-Claude_1erAlthough Agrippa lost one of his greatest allies in Caius Caligula, the new Emperor Claudius was equally favorable to him. Agrippa, like his grandfather Herod was probably an exceptional politician and was preparing to give back to his people and his country the glory and lost luster, but death prevailed before it came to fruition.


At the death of Agrippa, Judea becomes a Roman province.


Agrippa II will succeed him only in 50 but without having the same ambitions and the same attachment to religion as his fathers.
Nothing can stop the revolt of the Jews against the Romans that will lead to the destruction of the Second Temple and the beginning of the last exile that will really stop only at the advent of Messianic times.
After the foolish (Tiberius), the senseless (Caligula), the wise  (Agrippa) dies in turn before having executed his plans and he only has to wait in the Cheol (the kingdom of the dead) redemption final of his people.
This is what the following of the psalm of our generation expresses:

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verse 16 )

  • But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall take me forever.
The fate of all wise (Jesus / Agrippa) foolish and senseless (the bandits crucified with Jesus, Tiberius and Caligula) allow David to conclude his psalm on the fragility of our life in the material world common to all men :

(extract of the psalm 49 associated to this generation, verses 17 to 21 )

  • Fear not when a man becomes rich, when the honor of his house increases,
  • For he will not take anything in his death; his glory will not descend after him.
  • Because in his lifetime he blesses himself, but [all] will praise you, for you will benefit yourself.
  • You shall come to the generation of his forefathers; to eternity they will not see light.
  • Man is in his glory but he does not understand; he is compared to the silenced animals.



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[1] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eighteenth / Chapter 4. (French: Flavius Josèphe/Antiquités Juives/Livre Dix-huitième/chapitre 4 )

[2] Philo of Alexandria / Legation ad Caium 299-300, following a quote from “The world where Jesus lived” by Hugues Cousin / Jean Pierre Lemonon / Jean Massonet. (French: Philon d’Alexandrie/Legation ad Caium 299-300, suivant une citation de « Le monde où vivait Jésus » ).

[3] “Verus Israel” by Marcel Simon / Chapter “Destinies of Judeo-Christianity”. (French: « Verus Israël » de Marcel Simon/Chapitre « Destinées du Judéo-christianisme » ).

[4] Babylonian Talmud / Avodah Zarah 8b (The William Davidson Talmud)

[5] Bereishit – Genesis – Chapter 25, verses 24 to 26

[6] Luke 12 ( New International Version (NIV) ), Chapter 12, verses 13 to 21

[7] Luke 12 ( New International Version (NIV) ), Chapter 16, verses 19 to 29

[8] Mark 15 (New International Version (NIV) ), Chapter 15, verse 34, (equivalent verses in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke).

[9] Matthew (International Standard Version), Chapter 27, verse 38, (verses equivalent in the other three Gospels).

[10] Mishlei – Proverbs – Chapter 1, verse 7

[11] See Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eighteenth / Chapter 8. (Voir Flavius Josèphe/Antiquités Juives/Livre Dix-huitième/chapitre 8 ).

[12] Flavius Josephus / Jewish Antiquities / Book Eighteenth / End of Chapter 9 at the beginning of Chapter 11. (French: Flavius Josèphe/Antiquités Juives/Livre Dix-huitième/fin du chapitre 9 au début du chapitre 11 ).