Caesar Augustus

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Caesar Augustus was on top of the world.  He had reined a long time, presiding over a relative peace, or Pax Romana.  He had stabilized taxes and income into the Roman Empire.  He had enlarged the empire dramatically, developed networks of all-weather Roman roads, and even had a month renamed after him (August).  He used the title “divi filius”, son of god, in reference to himself being the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who had been declared a god by the Senate, to advance his agenda. 

In 2 BCE Augustus celebrated his silver jubilee, which coincided with the 750th anniversary or Rome, and the Senate celebrated with bestowing on him the title, Pater Patriae or “Father of the Country”.  In doing this, a worldwide census was taken in 3 BCE whereby every citizen of the Roman Empire swore allegiance to Caesar, and a notice stating this was presented to Caesar Augustus in February of 2 BCE.

Most citizens were just required to just report to a local administrative center, but King Herod the Great added that Jews who were descendants of King David must also fulfill a special requirement of returning to their ancestral home in Judea, specifically Bethlehem, the City of David.  He did this to keep a close eye on anyone who might have a claim on his throne, even if that claim was not likely to be pursued.  Herod was an Idumean, a descendant of Esau (brother of Jewish patriarch Jacob).  This race used to reside in Moab, present day Jordan, but relocated to the southern part of Israelcalled Idumea.  To reward his loyalty toRome, the Roman Senate had bestowed on Herod the title “King of the Jews”.  

It was thus that this mighty Roman Caesar and paranoid tyrant king set in motion events that would compel a poor carpenter in Nazareth to load up his betrothed pregnant wife and travel 80 miles down the Jordan River valley.  Both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David, and thus had to go to Bethlehem, where their reception would be cold (more on this later). They were just victims of circumstance, forced to comply with actions they could ill afford at this time.  

Yet it was the hand of God that was manipulating these mighty Roman administrators to do His bidding, all the while thinking it was their own ideas.  To be continued

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