Concerning The Interval Of One Hundred And Sixty-Seven Years.
From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Antiochus Epiphanes,
To The Death Of Herod The Great.
ALEXANDRA REIGNS NINE YEARS,
DURING WHICH TIME THE PHARISEES WERE THE REAL RULERS.
1. NOW Alexander left the kingdom to Alexandra his wife, and depended upon it that the Jews would now very readily submit to her, because she had been very averse to such cruelty as he had treated them with, and had opposed his violation of their laws, and had thereby got the good-will of the people. Nor was he mistaken as to his expectations; for this woman kept the dominion, by the opinion that the people had of her piety; for she chiefly studied the ancient customs of her country, and cast those men out of the government that offended against their holy laws. And as she had two sons by Alexander, she made Hyrcanus the elder high priest, on account of his age, as also, besides that, on account of his inactive temper, no way disposing him to disturb the public. But she retained the younger, Aristobulus, with her as a private person, by reason of the warmth of his temper.
2. And now the Pharisees joined themselves to her, to assist her in the government. These are a certain sect of the Jews that appear more religious than others, and seem to interpret the laws more accurately, low Alexandra hearkened to them to an extraordinary degree, as being herself a woman of great piety towards God. But these Pharisees artfully insinuated themselves into her favor by little and little, and became themselves the real administrators of the public affairs: they banished and reduced whom they pleased; they bound and loosed [men] at their pleasure; (4) and, to say all at once, they had the enjoyment of the royal authority, whilst the expenses and the difficulties of it belonged to Alexandra. She was a sagacious woman in the management of great affairs, and intent always upon gathering soldiers together; so that she increased the army the one half, and procured a great body of foreign troops, till her own nation became not only very powerful at home, but terrible also to foreign potentates, while she governed other people, and the Pharisees governed her.
3. Accordingly, they themselves slew Diogenes, a person of figure, and one that had been a friend to Alexander; and accused him as having assisted the king with his advice, for crucifying the eight hundred men [before mentioned.] They also prevailed with Alexandra to put to death the rest of those who had irritated him against them. Now she was so superstitious as to comply with their desires, and accordingly they slew whom they pleased themselves. But the principal of those that were in danger fled to Aristobulus, who persuaded his mother to spare the men on account of their dignity, but to expel them out of the city, unless she took them to be innocent; so they were suffered to go unpunished, and were dispersed all over the country. But when Alexandra sent out her army to Damascus, under pretense that Ptolemy was always oppressing that city, she got possession of it; nor did it make any considerable resistance. She also prevailed with Tigranes, king of Armenia, who lay with his troops about Ptolemais, and besieged Cleopatra, (5) by agreements and presents, to go away. Accordingly, Tigranes soon arose from the siege, by reason of those domestic tumults which happened upon Lucullus's expedition into Armenia.
4. In the mean time, Alexandra fell sick, and Aristobulus, her younger son, took hold of this opportunity, with his domestics, of which he had a great many, who were all of them his friends, on account of the warmth of their youth, and got possession of all the fortresses. He also used the sums of money he found in them to get together a number of mercenary soldiers, and made himself king; and besides this, upon Hyrcanus's complaint to his mother, she compassionated his case, and put Aristobulus's wife and sons under restraint in Antonia, which was a fortress that joined to the north part of the temple. It was, as I have already said, of old called the Citadel; but afterwards got the name of Antonia, when Antony was [lord of the East], just as the other cities, Sebaste and Agrippias, had their names changed, and these given them from Sebastus and Agrippa. But Alexandra died before she could punish Aristobulus for his disinheriting his brother, after she had reigned nine years.
(4) Matthew 16:19; 18:18. Here we have the oldest and most authentic Jewish exposition of binding and loosing, for punishing or absolving men, not for declaring actions lawful or unlawful, as some more modern Jews and Christians vainly pretend.
(5) Strabo, B. XVI. p. 740, relates, that this Selene Cleopatra was besieged by Tigranes, not in Ptolemais, as here, but after she had left Syria, in Seleucia, a citadel in Mesopotamia; and adds, that when he had kept her a while in prison, he put her to death. Dean Aldrich supposes here that Strabo contradicts Josephus, which does not appear to me; for although Josephus says both here and in the Antiquities, B. XIII. ch. 16. sect. 4, that Tigranes besieged her now in Ptolemais, and that he took the city, as the Antiquities inform us, yet does he no where intimate that he now took the queen herself; so that both the narrations of Strabo and Josephus may still be true notwithstanding.