The Book of Acts mentions both Queen Bernice and Princess Drusilla in ca 57-59 A.D. Paul had been arrested to save him from young priests who vowed to kill him for bringing Gentiles into the Temple and Roman Procurator Felix wanted to hear what Paul was saying that was causing such turmoil in Jerusalem. His nineteen-year-old wife Drusilla daughter of King Agrippa also came to hear him.
“And, after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. (Acts 24:24
When the next procurator, Festus, arrived in Jerusalem, he moved Paul to Caesarea where eventually Agrippa II and Bernice came to hear what he had to say, also.
After certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea…Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself…And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing…. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth his hand, and answered…
“I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer…this day before thee…Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise from the dead…King Agrippa…I know that thou believest.” Then Agrippa said unto Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me” …And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice…And… they talked between themselves, saying, This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Acts 25
Very simplistically, I think what Paul did do, as many were trying to explain why Jesus had not returned as promised twenty-five or so years after his death, was change the concept of resurrection from one with warriors rising up bodily to fight again…anathema for Rome…to a spiritual less political concept:
That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead….(Acts 26:2)
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:45)
This change in the form of resurrection validated Paul’s sighting of Jesus in a vision and was something even the king and queen could subscribe to without committing treason. And while the Roman Procurator, a very pragmatic guy, could still think that Paul was crazy…he was a little less seditious kind of crazy.
Acts wasn’t written until ca 135 A.D. making the gap between Jesus’ death and then about 75 years. Paul will be sent off to make his case before Caesar as life grew steadily worse in Palestine. The Jews are fast approaching the end of days for Jewish Palestine and Jerusalem and their Temple. Militias of the unemployed spring up as farms are lost to taxes and confiscation. Militias also robbed farmers to feed their troops as they vied with one another. The family and disciples of Jesus spun all the parables about waiting and being ready.
How long Mary/Mariamne/Mary Magdalene endured, no one knows…but her belief in her promise…in the resurrection of her son…does not die with her. She earned a blessed memory over time…and was the only other mortal to be raised to heaven with her son…and as queen mother, her main role being as petitioner for the people to her son as Bathsheba had done with her son Solomon.
The Fall of Rich Women
For a time in the city, Nicodemus’ haughty daughter Miriam could demand her rich ointments and get them…and Martha daughter of Boethus could make her new husband Jesus/Yehoshua of Gamal the High Priest and go to watch him officiate in the Temple in an over-the-top manner:
They laid out carpets for her from the entrance of her house to the gateway of the Temple so that her feet not be exposed (to the ground. (See below)
The rich and arrogant women’s behavior in good times turned to a symbol of decadence that led to God’s retribution and a terrible end for Miriam and Martha.
The Talmud recounts the story of her last day during the Roman siege of Jerusalem (Talmud Gittin 56a.) At that time, Martha sent her manservant out to bring her some fine flour, but it was sold out…In desperation, without putting on her shoes, she went out to see if she could find anything to eat. She stepped in some dung and died of shock. Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai thus applied to her the Biblical verse. “The tender and delicate woman among you who would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground.” (Deut. 28:56.) …When Martha was about to die, she brought out all her gold and silver and threw it in the street, saying, “What is the good of this to me,” thus giving effect to the verse, “They shall cast their silver in the streets.” (Ezek. 7:19.) (Talmud Gittin 56a.) [i]
Miriam had fled the city but fared even worse than Martha…
After the destruction of Jerusalem, Eliezer is found at Acco (Acre), where, as he himself relates, he witnessed the distress of his vanquished people. There he saw the daughter of the once fabulously rich Nicodemus b. Gorion of Jerusalem risking her life at the hoofs of horses to pick up the grains which they had dropped (Ket. 67a; Lam. R. i. 16; compare Yer. Ket. v. 30b et seq.).… Eliezer saw (her) tied by her tresses to the tail of a horse, and thus dragged behind the Roman horsemen (Yer. Ket. v. 30c; compare Lam. R. l.c.). From the Jewish Encyclopedia\: “Eleazer B. Zaddok,” by Solomon Schecter and S. Mendelsohn.
One stepped in dung, and one was trying to pull grain from horse’s dung. These stories were all written down well after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. after a siege. The Rabbis, like the gospel writers, were trying to understand why the city was allowed to be destroyed and one major reason they lit upon was the sinning of rich women. The author of the Book of Revelation who may have written it during, immediately after, or long after–opinions vary–the destruction of the city would call HER Babylon and revel in the judgment meted out by God for HER evil arrogant ways.
The King and Queen in the Last Days
But at the time, people flocked to the city for the protection of Jerusalem’s walls, believing that God would not allow the walls to be breached or surrender her Temple. But as tensions reached the breaking point, Agrippa II tried one more time to speak to the people. While Bernice stood on the wall of the Hasmonean castle in Jerusalem, he spoke to the multitudes of the foolishness of rushing to war with Rome and how God had gone over to the side of the Gentile Romans.
O, my friends, it were best, while the vessel is still in the haven, to foresee the impending storm, and not to set sail out of the port into the middle of the hurricanes; for we justly pity those who fall into great misfortunes without foreseeing them; but for him who rushes into manifest ruin, he gains reproaches…Wars of the Jews II.XVI.4-5
Agrippa II and Bernice were the last king and queen of Israel. There was no doubt of who would win the war as the Roman legions built their siege engines. But Bernice, as seen in an earlier post, took a Nazarite vow before going before the Roman Procurator to plead for the lives of the people in the city. She also petitioned Vespasian the Roman Commander himself in order to get a death sentence of a Jewish historian reduced to a prison sentence by her “earnest entreaty.” (Life 65) Bernice, too, left the city when the Sicarii grew in boldness and strength to set fire to the palaces of Ananias the High Priest, King Agrippa, and her own home. (Wars II.17.6)
While nothing is known about Mariamne VII daughter of Agrippa I, sister to Bernice and Drusilla, Josephus makes one comment about one of her “henchmen.” As the Romans are putting up ramps to batter the walls…
A certain Gephthaeus from…Galilee, and Managssarus, a soldier of the king and one of the henchmen of Mariamme, along with a certain Nabataeus from Adiabene…snatched up torches and rushed at the engines…. Wars V.XI.5 Josephus says it was one of the bravest acts of the war.
Bernice then does something that made her famous and infamous “to this very day.”
About this time Berenice entered into relations with Titus that lasted for many years, although she was much older than he—according to Wilcken, no less than thirteen years. Her beauty, however, was still irresistible, and, perhaps in the eyes of Titus, her vast wealth was even more attractive (compare Tacitus, “Historiæ,” ii. 2). These relations continued at Rome, whither Berenice had gone with Agrippa in 75. Titus and Berenice lived on the Palatine Hill; and it was generally supposed that he would soon marry her (Suetonius, “Titus,” vii.)…Fully expecting Titus to marry her, Berenice tried to hasten the event (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 15, § 4); but when she publicly appeared as the wife of Titus he was compelled, much against his will, to separate from her, the hatred of the Jews by the Romans being too intense to tolerate such a union (Suetonius, l.c.; Dio Cassius, l.c.). Still Berenice did not give up the hope of sharing with Titus the throne of the Roman empire. At the news of Vespasian’s death (June 23, 79) she hastened to Rome; but Titus sent her back (Dio Cassius, lxvi. 18).[ii]
Was it because she was “wanton,” as she is known even today, or because she might continue to act as an intercessor for her people? [iii] As, also, Drusilla made her scandalous marriage to the Roman Procurator Felix… It might help to remember that these women were raised to be the cohorts of rulers…to be queens…in good times and in bad…and the higher up they could rise in the enemy’s hierarchy, the more good they could do for their defeated people…as Queen Esther risked her life to petition the Persian king for the safety of her people and Bernice, herself, took a Nazarite vow to petition a Roman Procurator.
This role for royal women will always be a two-edged sword. And we know that it was a well-used writing tool of the prophets and the priests to say that when things were bad for Jerusalem, it was she who was at fault, an adulteress. This fragment was found in the book depository in the caves by the Dead Sea thought to be Essenes…:
And concerning the practice of illegal marriage that exists among the people: (this practice exists) despite their being so[ns] of holy [seed], as is written, Israel is holy.
And concerning his (i.e. Israel’s) [clean ani]mal, it is written that one must not let it mate with another species….Because they (Israel) are holy, and the sons of Aaron are [most holy.] But you know that some of the priests and [the laity mingle with each other] [as well as] [And they] unite with each other and pollute the [holy] seed [as well as] their own [seed] with women whom they are forbidden to marry. Since [the sons of Aaron should…
[… … … … …] that they will come [ ]
And who will [… … …] he will [ ]
And concerning the women [… … …the malice] and the treachery […]
for in these [… because of] malice and fornication [some] places were destroyed.
[ii] Jewish Encyclopedia Bernice
[iii] As I write this, I am reading a Dan Brown-type novel published in 2007 that I found at the Goodwill that has Bernice marry Titus so she could spy on Rome for her people. So happy to see that! Also, this… “By Felix, Drusilla had a son, Agrippa, who, together with his wife, perished during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79.” Jewish Encyclopedia