Containing The Interval Of A Hundred And Seventy Years.
From The Death Of Judas Maccabeus To The Death Of Queen Alexandra.
How Antiochus, Who Was Called Dionysus, And After Him Aretas Made Expeditions Into Judea; As Also How Alexander Took Many Cities And Then Returned To Jerusalem, And After A Sickness Of Three Years Died; And What Counsel He Gave To Alexandra.
1. AFTER this, Antiochus, who was called Dionysus, (43) and was Philip's brother, aspired to the dominion, and carne to Damascus, and got the power into his hands, and there he reigned; but as he was making war against the Arabians, his brother Philip heard of it, and came to Damascus, where Milesius, who had been left governor of the citadel, and the Damascens themselves, delivered up the city to him; yet because Philip was become ungrateful to him, and had bestowed upon him nothing of that in hopes whereof he had received him into the city, but had a mind to have it believed that it was rather delivered up out of fear than by the kindness of Milesius, and because he had not rewarded him as he ought to have done, he became suspected by him, and so he was obliged to leave Damascus again; for Milesius caught him marching out into the Hippodrome, and shut him up in it, and kept Damascus for Antiochus [Eucerus], who hearing how Philip's affairs stood, came back out of Arabia.
He also came immediately, and made an expedition against Judea, with eight thousand armed footmen, and eight hundred horsemen. So Alexander, out of fear of his coming, dug a deep ditch, beginning at Chabarzaba, which is now called Antipatris, to the sea of Joppa, on which part only his army could be brought against him. He also raised a wall, and erected wooden towers, and intermediate redoubts, for one hundred and fifty furlongs in length, and there expected the coming of Antiochus; but he soon burnt them all, and made his army pass by that way into Arabia. The Arabian king [Aretas] at first retreated, but afterward appeared on the sudden with ten thousand horsemen. Antiochus gave them the meeting, and fought desperately; and indeed when he had gotten the victory, and was bringing some auxiliaries to that part of his army that was in distress, he was slain. When Antiochus was fallen, his army fled to the village Cana, where the greatest part of them perished by famine.
2. After him (44) Arems reigned over Celesyria, being called to the government by those that held Damascus, by reason of the hatred they bare to Ptolemy Menneus. He also made thence an expedition against Judea, and beat Alexander in battle, near a place called Adida; yet did he, upon certain conditions agreed on between them, retire out of Judea.
3. But Alexander marched again to the city Dios, and took it; and then made an expedition against Essa, where was the best part of Zeno's treasures, and there he encompassed the place with three walls; and when he had taken the city by fighting, he marched to Golan and Seleucia; and when he had taken these cities, he, besides them, took that valley which is called The Valley of Antiochus, as also the fortress of Gamala. He also accused Demetrius, who was governor of those places, of many crimes, and turned him out; and after he had spent three years in this war, he returned to his own country, when the Jews joyfully received him upon this his good success.
4. Now at this time the Jews were in possession of the following cities that had belonged to the Syrians, and Idumeans, and Phoenicians: At the sea-side, Strato's Tower, Apollonia, Joppa, Jamhis, Ashdod, Gaza, Anthedon, Raphia, and Rhinocolura; in the middle of the country, near to Idumea, Adorn, and Marissa; near the country of Samaria, Mount Carmel, and Mount Tabor, Scythopolis, and Gadara; of the country of Gaulonitis, Seleucia and Gabala; in the country of Moab, Heshbon, and Medaba, Lemba, and Oronas, Gelithon, Zorn, the valley of the Cilices, and Pollo; which last they utterly destroyed, because its inhabitants would not bear to change their religious rites for those peculiar to the Jews. (45) The Jews also possessed others of the principal cities of Syria, which had been destroyed.
5. After this, king Alexander, although he fell into a distemper by hard drinking, and had a quartan ague, which held him three years, yet would not leave off going out with his army, till he was quite spent with the labors he had undergone, and died in the bounds of Ragaba, a fortress beyond Jordan. But when his queen saw that he was ready to die, and had no longer any hopes of surviving, she came to him weeping and lamenting, and bewailed herself and her sons on the desolate condition they should be left in; and said to him,
"To whom dost thou thus leave me and my children, who are destitute of all other supports, and this when thou knowest how much ill-will thy nation bears thee?"
But he gave her the following advice: That she need but follow what he would suggest to her, in order to retain the kingdom securely, with her children: that she should conceal his death from the soldiers till she should have taken that place; after this she should go in triumph, as upon a victory, to Jerusalem, and put some of her authority into the hands of the Pharisees; for that they would commend her for the honor she had done them, and would reconcile the nation to her for he told her they had great authority among the Jews, both to do hurt to such as they hated, and to bring advantages to those to whom they were friendly disposed; for that they are then believed best of all by the multitude when they speak any severe thing against others, though it be only out of envy at them. And he said that it was by their means that he had incurred the displeasure of the nation, whom indeed he had injured.
"Do thou, therefore," said he, "when thou art come to Jerusalem, send for the leading men among them, and show them my body, and with great appearance of sincerity, give them leave to use it as they themselves please, whether they will dishonor the dead body by refusing it burial, as having severely suffered by my means, or whether in their anger they will offer any other injury to that body. Promise them also that thou wilt do nothing without them in the affairs of the kingdom. If thou dost but say this to them, I shall have the honor of a more glorious Funeral from them than thou couldst have made for me; and when it is in their power to abuse my dead body, they will do it no injury at all, and thou wilt rule in safety." (46)
So when he had given his wife this advice, he died, after he had reigned twenty-seven years, and lived fifty years within one.
(43) Spanheim takes notice that this Antiochus Dionysus [the brother of Philip, and of Demetrius Eucerus, and of two others] was the fifth son of Antiochus Grypus; and that he is styled on the coins, "Antiochus, Epiphanes, Dionysus."
(44) This Aretas was the first king of the Arabians who took Damascus, and reigned there; which name became afterwards common to such Arabian kings, both at Petra and at Damascus, as we learn from Josephus in many places; and from St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:32. See the note on Antiq. Book 16, Ch. 9, Sect. 4 (Footnote 11).
(45) We may here and elsewhere take notice, that whatever countries or cities the Asamoneans conquered from any of the neighboring nations, or whatever countries or cities they gained from them that had not belonged to them before, they, after the days of Hyrcanus, compelled the inhabitants to leave their idolatry, and entirely to receive the law of Moses, as proselytes of justice, or else banished them into other lands. That excellent prince, John Hyrcanus, did it to the Idumeans, as I have noted on Ch. 9. Sect. 1 (Footnote 25), already, who lived then in the Promised Land, and this I suppose justly; but by what right the rest did it, even to the countries or cities that were no part of that land, I do not at all know. This looks too like unjust persecution for religion.
(46) It seems, by this dying advice of Alexander Janneus to his wife, that he had himself pursued the measures of his father Hyrcanus and taken part with the Sadducees, who kept close to the written law, against the Pharisees, who had introduced their own traditions, Ch. 16. Sect. 2; and that he now saw a political necessity of submitting to the Pharisees and their traditions hereafter, if his widow and family minded to retain their monarchical government or tyranny over the Jewish nation; which sect yet, thus supported, were at last in a great measure the ruin of the religion, government, and nation of the Jews, and brought them into so wicked a state, that the vengeance of God came upon them to their utter excision. Just thus did Caiaphas politically advise the Jewish Sanhedrin,
"That it was expedient for them that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not;", John 11:50,
and this in consequence of their own political supposal, ver. 48, that,
"If they let Jesus alone," with his miracles, "all men would believe on him, and the Romans would come and take away both their place and nation."
Which political crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth brought down the vengeance of God upon them, and occasioned those very Romans, of whom they seemed so much afraid, that to prevent it they put him to death, actually to
"come and take away both their place and nation"
within thirty-eight years afterwards. I heartily wish the politicians of Christendom would consider these and the like examples, and no longer sacrifice all virtue and religion to their pernicious schemes of government, to the bringing down the judgments of God upon themselves, and the several nations intrusted to their care. But this is a digression. I wish it were an unseasonable one also. Josephus himself several times makes such digressions, and I here venture to follow him. See one of them at the conclusion of the very next chapter.