Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Judas Maccabeus To The Death Of Queen Alexandra.
How Upon The Quarrel Between Antiochus Grypus And Antiochus Cyzicenus About The Kingdom Hyrcanus Took Samaria, And Utterly Demolished It; And How Hyrcanus Joined Himself To The Sect Of The Sadducees And left That Of The Pharisees.
1. WHEN Antiochus had taken the kingdom, he was afraid to make war against Judea, because he heard that his brother by the same mother, who was also called Antiochus, was raising an army against him out of Cyzicum; so he staid in his own land, and resolved to prepare himself for the attack he expected from his brother, who was called Cyzicenus, because he had been brought up in that city. He was the son of Antiochus that was called Soter, who died in Parthia. He was the brother of Demetrius, the father of Grypus; for it had so happened, that one and the same Cleopatra was married to two who were brethren, as we have related elsewhere.
But Antiochus Cyzicenus coming into Syria, continued many years at war with his brother. Now Hyrcanus lived all this while in peace; for after the death of Antlochus, he revolted from the Macedonians, (27) nor did he any longer pay them the least regard, either as their subject or their friend; but his affairs were in a very improving and flourishing condition in the times of Alexander Zebina, and especially under these brethren, for the war which they had with one another gave Hyrcanus the opportunity of enjoying himself in Judea quietly, insomuch that he got an immense quantity of money. How ever, when Antiochus Cyzicenus distressed his land, he then openly showed what he meant. And when he saw that Antiochus was destitute of Egyptian auxiliaries, and that both he and his brother were in an ill condition in the struggles they had one with another, he despised them both.
2. So he made an expedition against Samaria which was a very strong city; of whose present name Sebaste, and its rebuilding by Herod, we shall speak at a proper time; but he made his attack against it, and besieged it with a great deal of pains; for he was greatly displeased with the Samaritans for the injuries they had done to the people of Merissa, a colony of the Jews, and confederate with them, and this in compliance to the kings of Syria. When he had therefore drawn a ditch, and built a double wall round the city, which was fourscore furlongs long, he set his sons Antigonus and Arisrobulna over the siege; which brought the Samaritans to that great distress by famine, that they were forced to eat what used not to be eaten, and to call for Antiochus Cyzicenus to help them, who came readily to their assistance, but was beaten by Aristobulus; and when he was pursued as far as Scythopolis by the two brethren, he got away.
So they returned to Samaria, and shut them again within the wall, till they were forced to send for the same Antiochus a second time to help them, who procured about six thousand men from Ptolemy Lathyrus, which were sent them without his mother's consent, who had then in a manner turned him out of his government. With these Egyptians Antiochus did at first overrun and ravage the country of Hyrcanus after the manner of a robber, for he durst not meet him in the face to fight with him, as not having an army sufficient for that purpose, but only from this supposal, that by thus harassing his land he should force Hyrcanus to raise the siege of Samaria; but because he fell into snares, and lost many of his soldiers therein, he went away to Tripoli, and committed the prosecution of the war against the Jews to Callimander and Epicrates.
3. But as to Callimander, he attacked the enemy too rashly, and was put to flight, and destroyed immediately; and as to Epicrates, he was such a lover of money, that he openly betrayed Scythopolis, and other places near it, to the Jews, but was not able to make them raise the siege of Samaria. And when Hyrcanus had taken that city, which was not done till after a year's siege, he was not contented with doing that only, but he demolished it entirely, and brought rivulets to it to drown it, for he dug such hollows as might let the water run under it; nay, he took away the very marks that there had ever been such a city there. Now a very surprising thing is related of this high priest Hyrcanus, how God came to discourse with him; for they say that on the very same day on which his sons fought with Antiochus Cyzicenus, he was alone in the temple, as high priest, offering incense, and heard a voice, that his sons had just then overcome Antiochus. And this he openly declared before all the multitude upon his coming out of the temple; and it accordingly proved true; and in this posture were the affairs of Hyrcanus.
4. Now it happened at this time, that not only those Jews who were at Jerusalem and in Judea were in prosperity, but also those of them that were at Alexandria, and in Egypt and Cyprus; for Cleopatra the queen was at variance with her son Ptolemy, who was called Lathyrus, and appointed for her generals Chelcias and Ananias, the sons of that Onias who built the temple in the prefecture of Heliopolis, like to that at Jerusalem, as we have elsewhere related. Cleopatra intrusted these men with her army, and did nothing without their advice, as Strabo of Cappadocia attests, when he saith thus,
"Now the greater part, both those that came to Cyprus with us, and those that were sent afterward thither, revolted to Ptolemy immediately; only those that were called Onias's party, being Jews, continued faithful, because their countrymen Chelcias and Ananias were in chief favor with the queen."
These are the words of Strabo.
5. However, this prosperous state of affairs moved the Jews to envy Hyrcanus; but they that were the worst disposed to him were the Pharisees, (28) who were one of the sects of the Jews, as we have informed you already. These have so great a power over the multitude, that when they say any thing against the king, or against the high priest, they are presently believed. Now Hyrcanus was a disciple of theirs, and greatly beloved by them. And when he once invited them to a feast, and entertained them very kindly, when he saw them in a good humor, he began to say to them, that they knew he was desirous to be a righteous man, and to do all things whereby he might please God, which was the profession of the Pharisees also. However, he desired, that if they observed him offending in any point, and going out of the right way, they would call him back and correct him. On which occasion they attested to his being entirely virtuous; with which commendation he was well pleased. But still there was one of his guests there, whose name was Eleazar, a man of an ill temper, and delighting in seditious practices. This man said,
" Since thou desirest to know the truth, if thou wilt be righteous in earnest, lay down the high priesthood, and content thyself with the civil government of the people,"
And when he desired to know for what cause he ought to lay down the high priesthood, the other replied,
"We have heard it from old men, that thy mother had been a captive under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes." (29)
This story was false, and Hyrcanus was provoked against him; and all the Pharisees had a very great indignation against him.
6. Now there was one Jonathan, a very great friend of Hyrcanus's, but of the sect of the Sadducees, whose notions are quite contrary to those of the Pharisees. He told Hyrcanus that Eleazar had cast such a reproach upon him, according to the common sentiments of all the Pharisees, and that this would be made manifest if he would but ask them the question, What punishment they thought this man deserved? for that he might depend upon it, that the reproach was not laid on him with their approbation, if they were for punishing him as his crime deserved. So the Pharisees made answer, that he deserved stripes and bonds, but that it did not seem right to punish reproaches with death. And indeed the Pharisees, even upon other occasions, are not apt to be severe in punishments. At this gentle sentence, Hyrcanus was very angry, and thought that this man reproached him by their approbation. It was this Jonathan who chiefly irritated him, and influenced him so far, that he made him leave the party of the Pharisees, and abolish the decrees they had imposed on the people, and to punish those that observed them.
From this source arose that hatred which he and his sons met with from the multitude: but of these matters we shall speak hereafter. What I would now explain is this, that the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses; and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are to esteem those observances to be obligatory which are in the written word, but are not to observe what are derived from the tradition of our forefathers. And concerning these things it is that great disputes and differences have arisen among them, while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and have not the populace obsequious to them, but the Pharisees have the multitude on their side. But about these two sects, and that of the Essens, I have treated accurately in the second book of Jewish affairs.
7. But when Hyrcanus had put an end to this sedition, he after that lived happily, and administered the government in the best manner for thirty-one years, and then died, (30) leaving behind him five sons. He was esteemed by God worthy of three of the greatest privileges, - the government of his nation, the dignity of the high priesthood, and prophecy; for God was with him, and enabled him to know futurities; and to foretell this in particular, that, as to his two eldest sons, he foretold that they would not long continue in the government of public affairs; whose unhappy catastrophe will be worth our description, that we may thence learn how very much they were inferior to their father's happiness.
(27) Dean Prideaux takes notice at the year 130, that Justin, in agreement with Josephus, says,
"The power of the Jews was now grown so great, that after this Antiochus they would not bear any Macedonian king over them; and that they set up a government of their own, and infested Syria with great wars."
(28) The original of the Sadducees, as a considerable party among the Jews, being contained in this and the two following sections, take Dean Prideaux's note upon this their first public appearance, which I suppose to be true:
"Hyrcanus," says be, "went over to the party of the Sadducees; that is, by embracing their doctrine against the traditions of the eiders, added to the written law, and made of equal authority with it, but not their doctrine against the resurrection and a future state; for this cannot be supposed of so good and righteous a man as John Hyrcanus is said to be. It is most probable, that at this time the Sadducees had gone no further in the doctrines of that sect than to deny all their unwritten traditions, which the Pharisees were so fond of; for Josephus mentions no other difference at this time between them; neither doth he say that Hyrcanna went over to the Sadducees in any other particular than in the abolishing of all the traditionary constitutions of the Pharisees, which our Savior condemned as well as they." [At the year 108]
(29) This slander, that arose from a Pharisee, has been preserved by their successors the Rabbins to these later ages; for Dr. Hudson assures us that David Gantz, in his Chronology, S. Pr. p. 77, in Vorstius's version, relates that Hyrcanus's mother was taken captive in Mount Modinth. See Ch. 13. Sect. 5.
(30) Here ends the high priesthood, and the life of this excellent person John Hyrcanus, and together with him the holy theocracy, or Divine government of the Jewish nation, and its concomitant oracle by Urim. Now follows the profane and tyrannical Jewish monarchy, first of the Asamoneans or Maccabees, and then of Herod the Great, the Idumean, till the coming of the Messiah. See the note on Antiq. B. III. Ch. 8. Sect. 9. Hear Strabo's testimony on this occasion, Book 16, p. 761, 762:
"Those," says he, "that succeeded Moses continued for some time in earnest, both in righteous actions and in piety; but after a while there were others that took upon them the high priesthood, at first superstitious and afterward tyrannical persons. Such a prophet was Moses and those that succeeded him, beginning in a way not to be blamed, but changing for the worse. And when it openly appeared that the government was become tyrannical, Alexander was the first that set up himself for a king instead of a priest; and his sons were Hyrcanus and Aristobulus."
All in agreement with Josephus, excepting this, that Strabo omits the first king, Aristobulus, who reigning but a single year, seems hardly to have come to his knowledge. Nor indeed does Aristobulus, the son of Alexander, pretend that the name of king was taken before his father Alexander took it himself, Antiq. Book 14, Ch. 3. Sect. 2. See also Book 14, Ch. 12. Sect. l, which favor Strabo also. And indeed, if we may judge from the very different characters of the Egyptian Jews under high priests, and of the Palestine Jews under kings, in the two next centuries, we may well suppose that the Divine Shechinah was removed into Egypt, and that the worshippers at the temple of Onias were better men than those at the temple of Jerusalem.