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Intertestamental Period

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Inter-Testament Period Paper


Donald Reul

November 1, 2012
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………. 1
Alexander the Great ……………………………………………………………………. 1
Dividing the Empire…………………………………………………………………… 4
Ptolemaic Dynasty ……………………………………………………………………. 4
Seleucid Dynasty …………………………………………………………………….. 6
Antiochus Epiphanies ………………………………………………………………. 8
Maccabean Period …………………………………………………………………… 10 Mattathias ………………………………………………………………….. 10 Jonathan ……………………………………………………………………. 12 Simon ……………………………………………………………………….. 13 John Hyrcanus ……………………………………………………………… 14 Aristoblus ……………………………………………………………………. 15 Alexander Jannaeus …………………………………………………………. 16 Aristobulus II ………………………………………………………………… 17 The Roman Period ……………………………………………………………………. 18 Antipater II …………………………………………………………………… 18 Phasael ………………………………………………………………………. 19 Herod the Great ……………………………………………………………… 19
Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………….. 21

Gaining insights into the “Inter-Testament Period” provides New Testament readers with a heightened perception of the world into which Jesus came. The interval between the final words spoken by Malachi and the New Testament narrative has often been referred to as the “four hundred silent years”. It is referenced as such only because the Prophets, who were enabled from God, were silent during this span, thus no Canon books were recorded. Many in academia prefer to call this time “the Second Temple period”. Whatever ones preference, it deals with events that start with Alexander the Great and end with John the Baptist. The consequences of the historical events that transpired in that period create a backdrop from which the New Testament canvas is painted. Even though the period is often called the "Silent Years" they were anything but silent in terms of the effects that were exerted on the New Testament writers. Many dynasties rose up and diminished in this time period, but the indelible impressions they left, greatly affected the political and religious landscape. The scope of this paper is to discuss the luminary events and the characters involved in the Second Temple period; then to ascertain the impact they had on the Jewish homeland and her residents. This paper will start with the reign Alexander the Great and end with the reign of Herod the Great.
Alexander the Great The ancient Greek speaking people called their homeland Hellas and they called themselves Hellenes. The most influential of the Greek city states was Athens, which provided the major inspiration for the achievements of the Greek Empire that was briefly to stretch across territories nearly as large as the United States of America. The Hellenic culture was thrust upon the people the Greeks conquered through a deliberate process called Hellenization. Hellenistic thought touched art, religion, war, commerce, and the very way men reasoned. The common Greek language was called Koine and it became the international form of communication. The wide spread use of this dialect was a causal agent that resulted in the New Testament scriptures being penned in the Greek language. The mighty forces of Hellenization were set in motion by the rise of a man named Alexander the Great. Alexander was the son of King Phillip of Macedon, a state in ancient Greece. He was born in 356 BC in the town of Pella. He was groomed from a very early age to follow in his father’s footsteps. At age 12 Phillip hired Aristotle to teach the young Alexander about the underlying principles of the Greek way of life. Alexander’s education was taught around the Greek principle “a sound mind in a sound body”. He studied literature, philosophy, and politics, and he received training in sports, physical fitness and warfare. When Alexander turned 16 years old his education was abruptly stopped and his father gave him the command of the Macedonian Heavy Calvary, with the responsibility of watching over the left Phalanx flank. By 337 BC Phillip had unified the Greek city states and collectively (under his command) they declared war on the Persian Empire in an attempt to avenge the devastation of Greek temples by Xerxes. To accomplish that goal Phillip was commissioned to lead the armies against the perpetrators. However, before this could be accomplished, Phillip was assassinated (in 336 BC) and Alexander ascended to the throne. Alexander’s ascension to the throne roused the military machine his father created. Soon thereafter he crossed the Hellespont into Asia Minor and engaged the Persians. He was victorious and dealt a grievous blow at the battle of Granicus. This opened all of Asia Minor to him and he wasted no time in consolidating his hold upon the land. Alexander then proceeded south where he encountered a second Persian army, and routed it at the battle of Issus. Subsequently, Alexander was left with an unencumbered route as his army headed south. The first real resistance to his forces came from the city of Tyre in January of 332 BC. After a seven month siege the city fell. Thousands were killed when the walls were breached. Afterwards Alexander ordered that 2000 of the defenders be crucified, while an additional 30,000 were sold into slavery. This action caused all towns that lay before his marching army to quickly surrender and offer their allegiance to him. The city of Gaza was the next defiant stronghold, but it fared no better than Tyre. It was while he was besieging Gaza, that a Jerusalem led procession of priests came to meet Alexander. The High Priest brought with him the scroll of the Book of Daniel and showed Alexander where it declared that the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians. Josephus in Antiquities 11:8:5 tells us that Alexander supposed that he was the person the narrative spoke of and he was glad. Alexander was so impressed by the Jews and their scriptures that he permitted them to keep practicing their “cultic” religion. He also allowed them a great deal of autonomy in governance as long as they remained politically loyal to him. In the ensuing years, Alexander outclassed all opposition, whether in formal battle, in hit-and-run tactics or in siege warfare. He conquered the then-known world. One quality dominated him through it all – ambition. In his passion for achievement he assumed every task and faced every risk As the years went by Alexander pushed east as far as the Indus River where his troops finally refused to advance any further. Understanding their great reluctance, he galvanized his base and then returned to Persia where he took on the lifestyle of an oriental despot, a rather curious choice for a man who valued Greek ideals. In the year 323 BC, he caught the fever and died at the age of 33, having conquered his empire in only 13 years. As Alexander’s life closed, his efforts at Hellenization were made manifest throughout his kingdom. He had accomplished his goal by importing Greek settlers into all the conquered territories. He encouraged intermarriage among the various populations. He readily advanced the idea that all occupants of the realm should feel a sense of brotherhood. These acts caused him to be largely successful in his efforts of Hellenization. The Jews were the only group that consistently opposed the process and results.

Dividing the Empire At Alexander’s death there was no heir or successor to the throne. His wife was pregnant when he passed and she bore a son. Before any power could be transferred both were murdered. It was reported that the Diadochi (his inner circle of Generals) asked Alexander, in his fleeting moments, which person he wanted to rule the kingdom. He answered saying, “The strongest one”. Soon a power struggle broke out. It lasted more than seven years before it was resolved with a four way division of the kingdom. The kingdom was divided as follows:
1. Ptolemy controlled from southern Syria southward through all of Egypt.
2. Antigonis controlled northward from southern Syria to the Hellespont and eastward to the Indus River.
3. Lysimachus controlled the lands east of Macedonia and north of the Hellespont
4. Cassander controlled the Macedonian homeland
Ptolemy and Antigonis almost immediately began warring as each tried to expand their holdings to the detriment of the other.
Ptolemaic Dynasty
After Alexander died in Babylon Ptolemy Soter I took the embalmed body of his previous commander and departed for Egypt to rule over his allocated portion of the Empire. Once there, Alexander’s body was enshrined in his new capital city, Alexandria. As Soter I solidified his grip over his apportioned territory he declared himself Pharaoh and began implementing policies that would help insure his lineage the hold of power for the next 250 years. He accomplished this through military might and by mixing Hellenistic traditions with the legacies of Egypt. He firmed his northern border to southern Syria thereby bringing all Israel under his jurisdiction. Under Ptolemaic governance the city of Alexandria was developed into a dynamic cultural and economic center, whose presence was felt throughout the ancient world. Early on, the Ptolemies renovated the irrigation systems and dramatically increased food production. They introduced a new crop called cotton and imported a better genetic strain of grapes from the Far East. Trade was enhanced and the populace’s standard of living was raised. Egypt had become enchanted with the Ptolemies. Soter I and his son Philadelphus set about making Alexandria a city of magnificence and splendor. They built the famed Pharos Light House, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. They erected a building they called the Museum and established it as a university. It became a place where scholars, scientists and philosophers gathered from all parts of the world. Immigrants from all countries and territories were invited to make this city their home. With those settings and atmosphere in place the Diaspora Jews flocked there and soon more Jews lived in Alexandria than in Jerusalem. It is estimated over 1 million Jews called this their home. With such a large populace of Greek speaking Jews, Ptomely Philadelphus was asked to commission a translating of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language. He contracted 70 Jewish scholars to accomplish the task. The finished work was called the Septuagint (LXX) which means 70. The significance of that commissioned work is felt to this present day. The Septuagint was so well received that it became the version of choice by the vast majority of the Jewish people. The New Testament writers also relied heavily on the Septuagint, as a majority of Old Testament quotes cited in the New Testament were quoted directly from the Septuagint. Even today, some modern Bible translations use the LXX alongside the Hebrew manuscript as their source text. When the LXX was finished it contained the traditional 39 books of the Old Testament canon, but it also included some other specified writings. These other writings latter would be called the Deuterocanonical or Apocryphal writings. The list included Judith, Tobit, Baruch, Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), the Wisdom of Solomon, First and Second Maccabees, the two Books of Esdras, additions to the Book of Esther, additions to the Book of Daniel, and the Prayer of Manasseh. Today both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church recognize the writings as sacred, while the Protestant Church has dropped them. The male rulers of the Ptolemaic dynasty always referenced the Ptolemy name in their royal title. The female rulers took on the name Cleopatra. The most famous member of the female rulers was the last queen, Cleopatra VII whose surname was Philopator. She was known for her role in the Roman political battles between Julius Caesar and Pompey, and later between Octavian and Mark Antony. Her apparent suicide (in 30 BC) marked the end of Ptolemaic rule in Egypt. It ushered in the Roman Empire time of governing.
The Seleucid Dynasty
As previously mentioned, at the death of Alexander the Great, his Empire was divided by his generals, the so-called Diadochi, into four pieces. Antigonis, who was called the Cyclops, became ruler over of the Eastern Provinces, which are more or less, modern day Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, together with parts of Turkey, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. He was able to maintain his authority over that part of the empire for approximately five years. However in 301 BC, Selecus (also called Nicantor), who was a Governor of what is modern day Iraq, challenged Antigonis for the leadership position. After several wars Selecus was victorious. He quickly solidified his position and asserted his absolute control over the whole of the realm. He founded as his capitals Seleucia on the Tigris and Antioch in northern Syria. Both cities became major trade centers. The Seleucid Kingdom was Hellenistic in its outlook and governing, yet there was noticeable influence by native Asian traditions. The kings, for example, spoke Greek, but they ruled in the Oriental manner as an absolute sovereign. Selecus, early on, began to build new cities throughout many parts of the Empire. Soldiers were dispatched to these new enclaves along with their families in order to help populate them. Additionally, Macedonians from the over populated homeland were invited to settle in the conquered territories. On the average, over 500 Greeks were settled into each new city, further assuring dissemination of Greek thought and ideologies. Seleucus Nicantor was murdered by the son of Ptolemy Soter in 280 B.C. His descendants included five other kings named Seleucus and 12 kings named Antiochus. The most notable among them were Antiochus III who reigned from 223–187 B.C. and Antiochus IV who reigned from 175–163 B.C . From 301 BC, until Antiochus III assumed power in 223 B.C. the political and military landscape between the Ptolemy’s and the Seleucid’s changed very little. However, when Seleucus II died after falling from his horse, his successor, the 18 year old Antiochus III, would forever change the disposition of the two realms. Prior to his ascension to power, the territories the Seleucids controlled had been diminsihing. With this new king in place conquest became the standard operating procedure. This vigorous ruler, in a series of triumphant campaigns, reasserted Seleucid power from Asia Minor to the frontiers of India. With success on his Eastern flank he marched south to engage Egypt. After many battles, in 198 B.C., near the headwaters of the Jordon River, Antiochus the Great shattered Ptolemy V’s military forces. The people of Judea, who had enjoyed great latitudes and religious freedom under Egypt’s administration, rejoiced at her fall. Desiring civility in his kingdom, Antiochus III changed very little as Jerusalem pledged her allegiance to the new scepter that now held power. As with many of his Greek predecessors Antiochus the Great wanted to expand the boundaries of his holdings. In 198 B.C. he invaded Greece and began pushing westward. The neighboring Romans, an ascending power in the neighborhood, quickly declared war. In 192 B.C. Rome marched to meet Antiochus. The Greeks were no match for the Romans and were utterly defeated. At Apamea, a treaty was signed under which Antiochus yielded substantial amounts of his holdings as well as much of his military weaponry. As an inducement to adhere to the signed treaties, the Romans took 20 of Antiochus’ most influential people with them back to Rome. His son Antiochus IV, who would succeed him, was included in that group. The result of those actions caused Antiochus to be pressed for the monetary means to keep what land he now governed together. The Seleucid dynasty was now in decline.
Antiochus Epiphanies After the defeat at the hands of the Romans, Antiochus III was in bad need of capital infusions. He levied higher taxes, imposed stiffer tariffs on goods passing through his kingdom and pressured the large cultic temples for more of their previously exempted revenues. For the Jerusalemites these actions were especially noticeable, for earlier when the king had come to power he had granted them freedom of religious worship and practice, immunity from taxation on all the elders, priests, Temple scribes, and singers, and for all who settled in Jerusalem before a certain time. He also decreed that such things as wine, oil, incense, wheat, wood, salt, etc., that were needed for sacrificial use, were to be supplied at the king's expense. Upon Antiochus the Greats’ death, his son Selecus IV Philopater ascended to the throne. Wishing to cause no disturbance in the territories he extended the policies enacted by his father. However, tensions were rising. Once such tension came from the Hellenistic Jews who believed any excess temple taxes (and there were significant surpluses) should be funneled towards the maintenance projects within the city or territory. Onias III was High Priest at the time and he greatly resisted such pressures. Instead, Onias set the funds aside in anticipation of future Temple claims against it. Seleucus IV seems to have been unaware when one of his Minister’s, a man named Heliodorus, decided to take the excess monies by force and apply them where he thought there was need. Heliodorus entered the Temple accompanied by many Hellenistic Jews to secure his goal. His efforts proved unsuccessful but turmoil erupted in the city. The situation unfolded with so much rancor and antagonism that both Onias and Heliodorus raced back to Antioch to give an accounting to the King. Heliodorus arrived first and gave his version of the event. However, before Onias could give his, Heliodorus betrayed the King and killed him. He then placed himself on the throne. News of his older brother’s death reached Antiochus IV in Rome. He had lived there for 23 years, for he was one of the twenty with whom his father had guaranteed the treaty of Apamea. Rome granted permission for his exit and he left for Antioch. Upon his arrival he quickly dispatched the usurper and took his place on the throne, thereby extending the Seleucid dynasty. He took on the title Epiphanies, which means “God Manifest”. The administrative and monetary pressures his brother had experienced still existed and Epiphanies soon brought his style of oversight to them. He had a particular interest in the Jews. One of his first directives was the selling of the rights to the office of the High Priest. He ousted Onias and replaced him with his brother (Jason) who had offered more political and monetary remunerations. This practice of selling prominent offices would be repeated many times over in Antiochus IV’s tenure. Jason was the opposite of his older brother Onias, he was liberal and Hellenized. Under his direction, Greek culture was given the emphasis. In fact, a gymnasium was built in Jerusalem where Greek sports and fashion were promoted. The allure of this competition was so strong that many of the young priests abandoned their duties. Since all games were conducted naked, many tried to cover their circumcision through surgery. The Greek gods were recognized in ceremonies that predicated the competitions and the Jewish participants acquiesced and paid their homage. The event that tipped the scales, so to speak, with Jerusalem occurred in 168 BC. Antiochus decided to exert Seleucid control over Egypt. He marched south with his army. Ptolemies forces had little success against his approaching forces. Soon the old capital of Memphis was captured, whereupon Epiphanies headed to Alexandria to bring about its subjugation. There a Roman messenger delivered a conveyance that warned if Antiochus didn’t cease and return home, he would meet the full measure of Roman reprisal. Steeped in humiliation, Epiphanies complied. Through the sequestration of events, Jerusalem had surmised the end of Antiochus and behaved as such. When he returned to his throne he was infuriated with the Jews. He reckoned it was the Jewish cult and liturgy that undermined his governing, so he outlawed Judaism. He then ordered a citadel built where David’s palace once stood, He named it the Acra. It headquartered and housed a military garrison. Epiphanies then laid claim to the Temple and ceased its operations. He also ended Sabbath observance, traditional feasts, forbade circumcision, and burned copies of the Law. He decreed anyone who broke these new edicts would be put to death. Women who circumcised their babies were put to death with their whole family. Anyone keeping the Sabbath was cut down by the stationed garrison, and many died for refusing to touch unclean food As Antiochus’ policies were instituted, a resistance soon formed that was faithful to the Mosaic law. They were called the Hasidim. Many contemporary scholars believe this group latter became the Pharisees and Essenes.
Maccabean Period
Mattathias: To ensure the demise of Judaism and the embracement of Hellenism, officials were dispatched throughout Judea. They traveled around with a Shrine of Zeus and the locals were obligated to pay homage to it. When confronting people connected with the old cult they were prodded even further. Those people were asked to offer a sacrifice to this foreign deity. In 167 B.C., a Syrian official arrived in the town of Modi-in, intent on exacting compliance with the inhabitants. Mattathias, an old priest, was approached and asked to comply. He was resisting the official requests when a Hellenized Jew intervened and offered to show his compliance. This outraged Mattathias and he killed both men. Realizing the gravity of his actions he took his five sons and many followers and fled into the Judean wilderness. Soon more liked minded Jews joined him and an outright rebellion was under way. Judas: Two years later Mattathias passed away and his third son Judas became the leader of the banded resistance. He was nicknamed “the Hammer” (Maccabeus) because his exemplary military skills dealt devastating blows to the enemy. His guerilla style tactics provided victory after victory, often sending the routed Syrians fleeing. Judas not only attacked the Syrians, he also attacked any Jews who had sided with them. He destroyed all the pagan altars that crossed his path. He forcibly circumcised newborn Jewish babies and adamantly subscribed to the Mosaic Law, save one tenet- he would fight on the Sabbath. A recklessly courageous and thoroughly able man, Judas turned the Jewish resistance into a full-scale struggle for independence. He was so successful that the whole revolt is commonly known by his nickname as the “Maccabean War”. As providence would have it, the Parthians (the people of modern day northeast Iran) undertook a resistance at the same time. Perceiving them a greater threat, Antiochus committed his main army to quelling that rebellion. This left the SouthernTerritories with diminished resources. Judas quickly took advantage of the dilemma and marched on Jerusalem. Within a short season, he governed Jerusalem. He ordered all articles related to the Zeus cult to be destroyed. The defiled altar in the Temple was replaced, as were all the garments and vessels. Then in December of 164 B.C. the Temple was rededicated with great fanfare. This event was called the Feast of Dedication (Hanukah) and it is celebrated by Jews to this day. Even though Judas was successful at many junctures, Seleucid rule was not eradicated. The Maccabees had won the battle for religious liberty, but the Seleucids remained their overlords. Hellenism was still a threat and those residing away from Jerusalem lived in constant danger of attack. In 160 B.C. the Seleucid ruler Demetrius Soter I found resources and opportunity to fully tackle the Jewish rebellion. He ordered his General Bacchides to Palestine with a great Syrian army to quell the rebellion. Vastly outnumbered, coupled with superiority of weaponry, the Syrians prevailed mightily. During the engagement, Judas, whom they called “the hammer” was killed. With the overthrow of Judas it was finally and definitely proved that it was a vain endeavor on the part of the Jewish nationalist to measure swords with the mighty forces of Syria. Jonathan Jonathan was then made leader of the remnant forces after his brother’s death. He was called Apphus which means “the Diplomat”. He was gallant in deed, but did not possess his brother’s military skill. His accurate assessment of situations coupled with his negotiating savvy led to many notable accomplishments. One such example was Jonathan’s fight and fallback policy that wearied Bacchides. After a prolonged season of that policy, Jonathan perceived that Bacchides regretted how events were unfolding. He contacted the rival general with offers of a peace treaty and exchange of prisoners of war. Bacchides readily consented and even took an oath of nevermore making war upon Jonathan. He and his forces then vacated Judea. The victorious Jonathan now took up his residence in the old city of Michmash. From there he endeavored to clear the land of "the godless and the apostate". Soon eternal conflicts began erupting in Syria with opposing powers each jockeying for the upper hand. In 153 B.C. Jonathan was offered the office of High Priest for his assurances of allegiance to one of the quarrelling parties. At the Feast of Tabernacles he put on the sacred vestments. All at once he became the head of the Jewish people. Quickly, he dispatched the Greek party from power, eliminating their voice so thoroughly they never again gained a foothold. Soon thereafter, Alexander Balas triumphed over Demetrius I in Antioch. Balas was an incapable ruler whose tenure would be short lived. His obsession with sensual gratification and his lack of interest in the affairs of state soon brought trouble. The son of his predecessor (Demetrius II) was soon vying for Selecid throne. After a season of conflict Balas was defeated; whereupon he fled to Arabia and was put to death (in 145B.C.) at the hands of an assassin. All the internal strife greatly weakened the abilities of Demetrius II to hold the power he had recaptured. Forces aligned with Balas refused to be quiet. Demetrius needed military support and turned to Jonathan for help. Jonathan said he would send troops only if Judea (as well as some surrounding areas) were freed from Syrian rule. Demetrius agreed. Jonathan fulfilled his end of the agreement in 147 B.C. Judea was granted self-rule with exemption from all taxes. In 145 B.C., while trying to expand his holding Jonathan invaded southern Galilee but was killed in the endeavor. Simon: Simon, the last son of Mattathias, then became leader of Judea. He continued to build on the advancements of his brother, even adding to them. Militarily he removed the last Greek troops from Jerusalem. He expanded Jewish influence northward and eastward. Politically he maintained appropriate relations with neighboring kings. He strengthened Judean legitimacy with Rome. He governed with favor among the people. Simon then reaped the full fruit of the common labor of the Maccabees: the formal legitimizing on the part of the people of their family as the ruling sacerdotal family. This action established the Hasmonean Dynasty. In 141 B.C., at a large assembly in Jerusalem, the elders, the priests, and the people adopted a resolution that declared “that Simon should be there leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet. In 139 B.C. the Roman Senate confirmed and recognized what the assembly had earlier proclaimed. It then seemed as if Simon was going to be allowed to end his days in peace. But that was not the case for he, like his brothers before him, would meet a violent death. His son-in-law Ptolemy, son of Abubus, was military commander over the plain of Jericho. He decided to usurp the throne. In February of 135 BC, Simon embarked upon a tour of the cities of the land. He visited his son-in-law at the fortress of Dok near Jericho. An elaborate feast was made ready, where Simon and his two sons, Mattathias and Judas were treacherously murdered. John Hyrcanus: Since the high priestly and princely offices had been declared hereditary to the family of Simon, his third surviving son, John Hyrcanus (who held the post of governor of Gazara) was nominated his successor. His ascension to power was quickly tested. The Seleucids moved an army south and invaded Judea. The first years of the conflict went poorly for him, but by the seventh year Hyrcanus had re-asserted Judean independence. With the Syrian forces once again out of the way, he endeavored to expand his domain. He added areas east of the Jordon, Idumea to the south, and Samaria to the north. As each of these regions were conquered Hyrcanus forced the local populations to be circumcised. Hyrcanus’ exploits were welcomed by some, but many despised the cruelty he exhibited in exacting his will. The divisions in Jerusalem would soon delineate along three distinct schools of thought, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. It may be unhesitatingly stated, that in the early years of his reign, he held the doctrines of the Pharisees. As he abandoned their traditions some of the more stringent Jews began to openly oppose him. One noteworthy incident occurred when a Pharisaical leader named Eleasar asked him to relinquish the position of High Priest. Hyrcanus, perceiving this was the feelings of most the Pharisees, put a distance between he and them. From that time on, because of the separation, he forbade under threat of retribution, the observance of the laws ordained by them, and attached himself to the Sadducess. From that time forward, for all intents and purposes, the Pharisees were antagonist to the Hasmonean Dynasty, whereas the Sadducees became its advocates. The external policies of Hyrcanus were marked by considerable energy and tact, and were aided by favoring circumstances. His 30 year tenure was so successful that the Jewish nation was in a position of independence and of influence such as it had not known since the days of Solomon. Josephus recorded that John Hyrcanus was a great lover of God’s Law, even if he did force his religious beliefs on others. He was, by most standards, a good man and competent ruler. He did what he did because he honestly believed it would be to the benefit of the people he conquered and ruled. He truly felt that by forcing his religious beliefs upon them, he was improving their prospects in life. His children, however, were an entirely different matter, being raised in a luxurious palace, they regarded themselves as aristocrats (superior to other people). Their schooling was more in the Greek than the Hebrew areas of study and they came to view the Pharisees with outright loathing. Aristobulus: Upon the death of Hyrcanus in 104 BC, his son Aristobulus I (who was nicknamed Judas) was elevated to his father’s position as High Priest, while his mother was to receive the throne. However, he was not content merely with the priestly office, Aristobulus seized the throne, cast his mother in prison where she died of hunger. He also incarcerated all his brothers, except Antigonus, for whom he had a particular affection. After a while Aristobulus became suspicious of his brother at the behest of Queen Salome Alexandra. A plan was devised to test if he were loyal to the throne. The king sent orders that his brother should come to him unarmed. He then told his palace guards that if Antigonus came armed he was to be slain. The enemies of Antigonus (specifically the Queen) bribed the messenger, so they would announce that Antigonus should approach the king in new amour and with new weapons. Antigonus acted accordingly, and was cut down by a bodyguard when he, suspecting nothing, entered the citadel. After the deed was done, Aristobulus is said to have bitterly repented, and his sorrow seemed to have accelerated his death. After one year in office he succumbed to a painful death in 103 BC. Alexander Jannaeus: His Hebrew name was Jonathan and he is referenced in the Talmud as King Yannai. After Aristobulus died, Salome ordered the release of her late husband’s three brothers from prison. Through a prearranged plan, she then offered the oldest brother Alexander Jannaeus the office of High Priest, while at the same time giving her hand in marriage to him. With the consummation of the marriage, he also became king. His rule would last from 103 B.C. until 78 BC. He continued the success of his father, and substantially expanded Judea's territory. However, his sympathy with the Sadducees deeply alienated him from the Pharisees and led to a bloody civil war. In 88 BC, the Syrian king Demetrius III brought his army south to aid internal forces in Judea in an effort to remove King Yannai from the throne. This would have been accomplished except that 6000 Jews went over to Alexander. They reasoned a Hasmonean rule was better than Seleucid rule. This defection turned the tide and Demeterius was forced to retreat. With that withdrawal, 800 pharisaical Jews either surrendered or were captured. They were taken back to Jerusalem and all were crucified in the presence of the king. When all were on their crosses, Alexander ordered the families of the dying men be brought to stand in front of them. With this accomplished, he then proceeded to kill all the wives and children as the dying traitors watched. His actions struck such fear among the followers of the Pharisaic party that 8000 fled the city and never returned during Alexander’s reign. Another noteworthy point, Alexander was the first of the Jewish kings to introduce the coin that was called the “Widow's mite". Those coins are referenced in the Bible in Luke 21:1-4. Also, Alexander established the city of Gamla in 81 B.C. as the capital for the Golan Heights. This town would become the headquarters for the Zealot resistance in New Testament times. Alexander appointed a governor to administer the lands south of Judea (Idumea) by the name of Antipater, whose son would be Herod the Great. Yannai met his death while besieging Regev, a fortress east of Jordan. According to his will, the throne went to his widow. He left two sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, the former was nominated high priest by Alexandra, until the civil war which erupted after the death of their mother (67 B.C.). Salome Alexandra: Upon the death of her husband she ruled Judea from 78 BC till 69 B.C. She was in all respects the antithesis of King Yannai, whereas he loathed the Pharisees and was loathed by them, she embraced them, and committed her governing in accordance. Her rule, when measured against Pharisaical standards was faultless. Josephus recorded that she indeed had the name of Regent, but the Pharisees had the authority. It was they who restored such as were banished, and set such as were prisoners at liberty. Her reign was viewed as being a success, for peace encompassed the land. In the Pharisaic tradition her tenure is referred to as a Golden Age. A noteworthy action of her rule was that she allowed the Pharisees the right to execute King Yannai’s counselors who advised the massacre of the 800 rebels and their families. When Salome was 73 years old she became very sick and knew she was probably going to die. She was in the process of bestowing the succession on her oldest son Hyrcanus II when her younger son Aristobulus II decided he wanted the throne for himself and started a revolt. Forces loyal to the Pharisees rallied around the older son, while forces loyal to the Sadducees rallied around the younger son. For their part, Aristobulus II and the Sadducees were better positioned to defend themselves, to the point of seizing power. Arsitobulus II: Upon the death of Salome, a fight between the brothers openly erupted. In a battle near Jericho Aristobulus’ forces prevailed. Under the terms of the surrender Hyrcanus was to renounce the throne and the office of High Priest, but was to enjoy the revenues of the latter office. This agreement however was short lived because Hyrcanus feared that Aristobulus was planning to kill him. Soon thereafter, he fled Jerusalem and took refuge with Aretas III, King of the Nabataeans. At the behest of Anipater governor if Idumea, the Nabataeans joined with a Pharisaical force and advanced toward Jerusalem with an army of 50,000 and besieged the city for several months. Out maneuvered and militarily disadvantaged, Aritobulus fortified himself in the Temple area. He then sent messengers to the Roman army that had just subdued Syria. He was asking for their intervention. Hyrcanus became aware of the ploy and dispatched his own messenger to Scaurus, Pompey’s underling, now in charge of the conquered territory. After hearing both sides plead their cases, he decided to go to Jerusalem and listen to the brothers personally. In the end, Scaurus sided with Aritobulus. He ordered Hyrcanus to step down and warned the Nabataeans to return home or face Rome. They compiled. However, as they were returning, Aristobulus fell upon them and dealt them a great defeat. That action, coupled with other dealings that were questionable, caused Pompey to lose confidence in Aristobulus. Eventually armed conflict between him and Rome broke out. Before all was settled 12,000 of Aritobulus’ followers perished inside Jerusalem. All outlying territories were stripped from Judean governance, tribute levels were established, and the army was retired. Hyrcanus was restored to the position of High Priest, but not king. Rome was now in control of Jerusalem, the year was 63 B.C.
The Roman Period
As the Roman period of governance took hold, the internal conflicts that had brought to an end the Hasmonean Dynasty still remained. They were partitioned into three factions; Hyrcanus, Aristobulus and Antipater. Hyrcanus desired to maintain his hold, Aritobulus endeavored to take his brother’s place, and Antipater was maneuvering through his close alliance with Rome, to have it all. Antipater II: He was the grandson of Antipater I, who had served as governor over Idumea for Alexander Jannaeus’. While Josephus and the Talmud characterized Antipater's family as wealthy Edomites, Herod's biographer, Nicholas of Damascus, portrayed them as Babylonian Jews that were accepted by his contemporaries. Antipater II rose to prominence in the Jewish political circles as champion of Hyrcanus II & leader of Jews who were opposed to Aristobulus II. His marriage to the daughter of a Nabataean aristocrat gave him Arab allies on whom he called on to force Aristobulus into exile. During and after the ensuing Hasmonean Civil War, the Roman general Pompey treated Antipater as leader of the Jews. After Pompey was murdered (48 B.C.), Antipater sent substantial support to Julius Caesar's Egyptian campaign against Cleopatra Philopater. Caesar rewarded Antipater by making him and his family full citizens of Rome. This gave Antipater's family an important role in Roman politics and diplomacy for the next 140 years. His appointment as a Roman procurator over Judea gave him the authority to appoint his sons, Phasael and Herod, as governors of Jerusalem & Galilee. After Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C., Caesar's nemesis Cassius occupied Syria & ordered Antipater to collect tribute from the Jews. That arrangement was short lived, for in 43 B.C., he was poisoned and died. Phasael: Josephus tells us that Antipater viewed Hyrcanus as slow and stupid, so he appointed his oldest son, Phasael, as governor over Jerusalem and its territory. He then entrusted Galilee to Herod, his next oldest son, although he was still a youth. In fact, he was only fifteen. But his youth was no hindrance. These actions of Antipater left Hyrcanus as the High Priest as his sons administered the affairs of state. For a while tranquility prevailed, but soon Antigonus Mattathias, a son of Aristobulus, formed an alliance with the Parthians and attacked Jerusalem. Those efforts would prove to be successful. Before the walls were breached, however, Phaesal committed suicide. Upon his entry into the city, Antigonus summoned Hyrcanus and ordered his ears cut off, thereby disqualifying forever his claim to the post of High Priest. His reign would last from 40 BC until 37 B.C. He was the last of the Hasmonean line to rule Judaea. His short, but volatile reign was subjected to persistent conflict with Herod the Great. Herod ultimately exacted his revenge and was victorious. He executed Mattathias at Antioch in 37 BC..
Herod the Great: Herod was born in 74 B.C. He possessed a powerful body that could endure much fatigue. He was a skillful rider and a bold, daring huntsman. He was feared in the Greek boxing arena. His lance was unerring, and his arrow seldom missed its mark. He had been trained and tested in the art of war from his youth. At the age of 15 he began governing Galilee. By age 37 he also ruled all of Judea. He could be characterized as wild and passionate, yet harsh und unyielding. He was cunning and adroit and thoroughly understood what measures should be taken in changing circumstances that surrounded him. He recognized the power of Rome and tightly held Rome’s alliance in any state of affairs. He also possessed an almost insatiable ambition and lived his life as such. Difficulties and hindrances only induced him to put forth more effort. Some have said he attained greatness because of those attributes, yet others say it was in spite of them. Nevertheless, history labeled him as Herod the Great. Because Herod was an Edomite, an Idumean, the Jewish population he ruled often resented him. To help soothe that resentment, he married the grand-daughter of John Hyrcanus, a woman named Marianne. He seems to have truly loved her. He also appointed Marianne’s 17 year old brother Aristobulus III, to the office of High Priest. Despite these appeasements, the Hasmonean faction in Jerusalem sought his demise. So in 35 BC, Herod deceptively arranged for the drowning of the young Aristobulus, in a bathhouse, at Jericho. In 31 BC, Herod ordered the death of Hyrcanus for reasons of treason. In 29 BC, through a judicial investigation, Marianne was put to death. In 28 BC, Alexandra (Marianne’s mother, the last of the Hasmonean hierarchy) was executed for treason, thereby eliminating the forces that contended for his throne. Herod’s retaliations revealed all the savagery and sensuality of his nature. The period of 25 B.C. until 13 B.C. is referred to as the period of enjoyment. During this era, Herod entered into a time of building, such as few rulers have experienced. New cities in large numbers were built under his direction. The most noteworthy being Caesarea, which became the only harbored, deep-water port between Tyre and Egypt. In the center of the city, Herod built a temple that honored the Emperor. He built cities and named then in honor of his Father, Mother, and Brother. To honor himself, he built several military fortresses, the most notable were the Herodium and Masada. The most resplendent of his projects was the temple in Jerusalem. The complex was greatly enlarged and elaborately ornamented. The temple was redecorated with white marble, gold, and jewels and became renowned for its splendor and lavish appearance. Its beauty became proverbial to the extent it was said, “He who has not seen Herod’s building has never seen anything beautiful.” Herod strengthened the Jewish states position in the ancient world by increasing its commerce and turning it into a trading hub for Arabia and the East. His massive building program included theaters, amphitheaters, a port, markets, temples, housing, palaces, walls around Jerusalem, and aqueduct. He is probably most well remembered in of the gospel of Matthew. In that writing, the Wise Men met Herod on their way to worship Jesus. He tried to trick them into revealing the child's location in Bethlehem. However, on their way home, being warned in a dream to avoid Herod, they returned to their countries by another route. Matthew 2:16-18 recorded it this way:6 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: That incident is remembered as the slaughter of the innocent. Conclusion In 4 B.C., Herod the Great died and his kingdom was distributed between his three sons. Herod named his son Archelaus to be his successor as king, with Antipas and Philip as tetrarchs. Some insights of how they governed (and lived their lives) and can be read in different parts of the gospel narrative. One of the Sons, Herod Antipas would become involved in the judging of Jesus. The Jews continued to be an unruly people to govern throughout those times. In the year 66 B.C. an effort was made to throw off the Roman yoke. It failed miserably. After a four year siege, Jerusalem fell and was destroyed. The Temple was razed. The sacrificial system instituted by Moses had come to an end. The time of the Jews inhabiting Judea and Galilee had come to an end. Vast amounts of the population were carried off. As the New Testament narrative starts, it continues the story of God’s relations with man. It tells of God sending His son to carry out His will.


Billows, R. (1994). Kings and Colonist: Aspects of Macedonian Imperilism. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishing Company.
Black, T. D. (2003). The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Nashville: Broadman & Holman.
Board, S. F. (2009). The World Book. Chicago: World Book Inc.
Bright, J. (1982). A History of Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster.
Durant, W. (1939). The Life of Greece. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Edersheim, A. (1974). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Mclean: MacDonald Publishing Company.
Falwell, J. (1980). The Bible Almanac. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
Gromacki, R. G. (1974). New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Jr, J. J. (1995). Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Keller, W. (1929). The Bible as History. New York: William Morrow and Comapny.
Kostenberger, A. (2009). The Cradle, The Cross, and the rown. Nashville: B & H Publishing.
Pomeroy, S. B. (1998). Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press.
Schurer, E. (2010). A History of the Jewish People. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers.
Starr, C. G. (1974). A History of the Ancient World. New York: Oxford University Press.
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