The Postexilic History of Israel. IX.

By Professor Willis J Beecher, D.D.,

Auburn, N. Y.

 

FROM THE DEATH OF NEHEMIAH TO THE MACCABAEAN TIMES.

The sources.—The direct sources of information for this. period are Josephus, the Seder Olam, 3 Maccabees, chaps. 3 and 4 of 2 Maccabees, various Alexandrian writings, including especially Aristeas; and the fragments given by Eusebius in his Prep. Evang., and indirectly, the Apocryphal books of Baruch, Tobit, Judith, and Ecclesiasticus, with incidental notices in the Jewish and Christian fathers, and in other writings. To secular history we are especially indebted for a pretty good chronological basis for the history. On the whole, however, the information given in these sources is meagre, incomplete, to some extent contradictory and fabulous, and thus unsatisfactory.

The chronological basis.—After the death of Alexander the great, it becomes necessary to follow two lines of chronological statement.

     B. C. 404-359 are the 46 years of Artaxerxes Mnemon.

     B. C. 358-338 are the 21 years of Artaxerxes Ochus.

     B. C. 337-324 are the 14 years of Arogus, Darius Codomannus, and Alexander the great.

B. C. 323-283, Ptolemy Lagus.

B. C. 285-247, Ptolemy Philadelphus.

B. C. 246-222, Ptol. Euergetes I.

B. C. 221-205, Ptol. Philopator.

B. C. 204-181, Ptol. Epiphanes.

B. C. 180-146, Ptol. Philometer.

B. C. 170-116, Ptolemy Euergetes II. (Physcon).

 

 

B. C. 312-280, Seleucus Nicator.

B. C. 279-261, Antiochus Soter.

B. C. 260-246, Antiochus Theos.

B. C. 245-226, Sel. Callinicus.

B. C. 225-223, Sel. Ceraunus,

B. C. 222-187, Anti. the great.

B. C. 186-175, Sel. Philopator, or Soter..

B. C. 174-164, Ant. Epiphanes.

B. C. 163-162, Anti. Eupator.

B. C. 161-151, Demetrius Soter.

B. C. 150-146, Alexander Bala.

B. C. 145, Demet. Nicanor.

 

     

In using this table, it is even more necessary for us than it has hitherto been, to remember that the first year of any king, as here counted, is the first complete year of his reign, so that his accession actually took place, in most cases, in the previous year. In the table, the reign of Lagus is counted from the death of Alexander; it is often counted, however, from 203 B. C. Ptolemy Philadelphus was for three years co-regnant with his father. The reign of Physcon was greatly broken. It is possible to count it from B. C. 170, when he first became king along with Philometer, or to count it from the death of Philometer.

The year 312 B. C., the first year of Seleucus I., is the first year of what is now commonly known as the Seleucid era. This era is constantly used in the sources of the history, and by it events are dated as occurring in such and such a " year of the Greeks. " Most of the known dates are given either in this form, or in the regnal years of the Ptolemies.

In a sketch as brief as this must necessarily be, I think that the events can best be presented by taking up the times of the successive highpriests, in chronological order.

Jonathan, Johanan, John.—In the STUDENT for Jan. 189o, I have presented the view that the death of Nehemiah occurred early in the pontificate of the highpriest who is called by these names. The date of his pontificate, as given in books of reference, is about B. C. 371-339, but the strongest evidence in the case is the tradition that he and his son Jaddua together held the office fifty-two years, Jaddua dying about the same time with Alexander the great, who died B. C. 324, Jos. Ant. XI. viii. 7. This gives about B. C. 376, instead of 371, for the beginning of Jonathan's pontificate. The events of Jonathan's time that occurred before the death of Nehemiah have been considered in the STUDENT for Jan. and Feb. I890. Later, occurred the murder by Jonathan of his brother Jesus, and the consequent oppression of the Jews by Bagoses (see STUDENT for Jan. I890, page 34).

Jaddua.—His pontificate is commonly dated B. C., 339-319, but, as we have just seen, it probably began at least five years earlier. At the beginning of his term, probably, occurred the Samaritan schism (see STUDENT for Jan. I890, pages 3334). Jaddua's brother Manasseh, who had many years before married into the Sanballat family, was for that reason excluded from participation in the highpriesthood. The consequence was the establishment of a rival highpriesthood at Shechem. Josephus belittles the movement, but it is evident from his account that priestly blue blood was largely represented among the seceders, and that the Israelite element was the prevailing element in the new religion, however much it may have incorporated from foreign sources. In Ant. XI. viii., XII. i. et al., Josephus presents the early Samaritans to us as well versed in their own views of the Law, and as full of zeal for the Law. From later sources of information, we know that they received the Pentateuch, and rejected the rest of the Old Testament. If they did this from the first, their doing it is the earliest distinct notice we have of the drawing of a sharp line of separation between the Pentateuch and the other sacred writings. Their receiving the Pentateuch only is sometimes accounted for on the theory that only the Pentateuch was regarded as canonical, up to the time of the schism, but this theory is inconsistent with the fact that the book of Joshua is continuous with the Pentateuch, inconsistent with the use which Nehemiah and his associates make of the other books (see STUDENT for Dec. 1889, page 344 sq.), inconsistent with what the traditions say of the times of Nehemiah (see article in STUDENT for Feb. 1890), and altogether improbable. This improbability is confirmed by the circumstance that there are two historical facts which, taken together, sufficiently account for the phenomena. First, there was a modified continuity between the Samaritans and the ancient ten tribes of Israel, and from the time of the schism they made the most of this, Jos. Ant. XI. viii. 6 et al. Now the book of Joshua mentions Jerusalem, and all the later books (even those of the northern Israelite prophets Hosea and Amos) were written from a Judaean point of view. This is one fact. The other fact is that mentioned in the STUDENT for Dec. 1889, especially page 351. The precepts of the Pentateuch, taken by themselves, did not condemn the men who went to Shechem, for their foreign marriages, but did condemn them when interpreted by the other sacred writings. In the circumstances, the Samaritan priests were likely to discover that the other sacred writings were merely tribal and not national, and were lacking in authority; and they would find a convenient line of demarcation, exactly suiting their views, if they accepted only the writings that treated of the times of Moses.

While Jaddua was highpriest, Alexander conquered the Persians, and marched through Palestine to Egypt, taking Tyre and Gaza, after long sieges. Josephus says that the Samaritans eagerly joined him, and received from him permission to build a temple for their new religion on mount Gerizzim. The Jews at first refused to submit, on the plea of the fidelity they owed to Darius. Josephus tells an admirable story of Alexander's approach to Jerusalem, the going out of a procession of priests and people to meet him, his adoration of Jehovah, his being shown the predictions concerning himself in the book of Daniel. The one clear historical fact in all this seems to be that Alexander received both Jews and Samaritans into favor, and used them in the founding of Alexandria, and in his other projects in Egypt.

The indications are that Palestine had now again at length become populous and wealthy, and that the institutions established by Ezra and Nehemiah were maintained at Jerusalem.

Onias I. and Simon.—About the time of the death of Alexander, Jaddua was succeeded by Onias, and he, by Simon, whose pontificate is said to have closed about 293 B. C.1 In the struggle for power between Ptolemy Lagus and his competitors, Palestine was, at several dates, the scene of military operations, but the control of these regions was at length secured to Ptolemy by the battle of Ipsus, B. C. 301. From Josephus, Ant. XII. 1., Cont. Ap. i. 22, and from other sources, we learn that Ptolemy cruelly ravaged Judaea, slew many citizens, captured Jerusalem on the Sabbath, and transplanted many citizens to Egypt, Cyrene, and Cyprus, but afterward showed signal favor to the Jews everywhere. In B. C. 212 began the Seleucid era, and the Syrian-Greek empire of Seleucus. He enlarged and beautified Antigonia on the Orontes, named it Antioch from his father, and made it his capital. He also built many other Greek cities in his dominions, and Ptolemy did the same in his. Alexandria and the Egyptian-Greek cities vied with Antioch and the Syrian-Greek cities in offering inducements to desirable immigrants, and large numbers of Palestinian Jews and Samaritans, as well as Israelites from other countries, took advantage of these offers.

Josephus says, Ant. XII. ii. 5, that Simon I. is the celebrated Simon the Just of the Jewish traditions.

Eleazar.—The years of his pontificate were perhaps B. C. 293-260. Apparently they were years of prosperity. Ptolemy Lagus associated his son Philadelphus with himself on the throne, or perhaps abdicated in favor of Philadelphus, B. C. 285, and died B. C. 283, leaving Philadelphus sole king. The traditions attribute the project for the making of the Septuagint translation, commonly to Philadelphus, but also to Lagus, and represent Demetrius Phalereus, whose career ended with the death of Lagus, as active in the matter. It follows that the date thus given by the traditions is B. C. 285-283. This translation is a matter so important as to demand treatment by itself, and is therefore now dismissed with this brief mention.

Mannasseh.—His years were B. C. 260-234. Just before his accession, Antiochus Theos had succeeded Antiochus Soter, the successor of Seleucus. Josephus says, Ant. XII. iii. 2, that Theos granted great privileges to the Jews, which were still extant in the times of Marcus Agrippa. Antiochus Theos was followed by Seleucus Callinicus, B. C. 246. The previous year, Philadelphus had been succeeded by Ptolemy Euergetes, who soon after conquered all Syria, raising Egypt to the high water mark of greatness. Josephus says, Cont. Ap. ii. 5, that on his return from the conquest, he offered sacrifices and made gifts at the temple at Jerusalem.

Onias II.—During his pontificate, B. C. 234-219, the hitherto prosperous course of affairs became disturbed. Callinicus was succeeded by Seleucus Ceraunus, B. C. 226, and he by Antiochus the great, B. C. 223. The following year, Ptolemy Euergetes was succeeded by his son Philopator. Up to these dates, Palestine, though in relations with both the Greek kingdoms, seems to have paid tribute to the Ptolemies. Josephus says that Onias was parsimonious, and neglected to pay his personal tax of twenty talents, Ant. XII. iv. I. Euergetes, just before his death, sent a legate named Athenion, to look after the delinquent. Joseph the son of Tobias, nephew to the highpriest, flattered the legate, got permission to have an ambassador sent to explain the matter, and got himself named as ambassador. Meanwhile Euergetes died, and was succeeded by Philopator, then about twenty years old.2 Joseph, himself a very young man, succeeded on that score in ingratiating himself with Ptolemy and Cleopatra,3 and not only obtained indulgence for Onias, but obtained for himself a fat contract in the farming of taxes, Jos. Ant. XII. iv.

Simon II.—He was highpriest B. C. 21I9-199. Antiochus the great overran Palestine, attempting to wrest that region from Egypt. About 217 B. C. (" Egypt, " Encyc. Brit.), he was defeated by Ptolemy at Raphia. According to 3 Mac., Ptolemy soon after visited Jerusalem, and was received with enthusiasm, but was prevented, by a popular tumult and by miracle, from entering the holy of holies in the temple; hence he conceived a grudge against the Jews, which he afterward attempted to gratify by taking away the privileges of those who lived in Egypt, and having them trampled to death by elephants, but his attempts were miraculously frustrated. The story is well told, but is of course purely fictitious.

In B. C. 205, Philopator died, and Ptolemy Epiphanes became king. Meanwhile, Antiochus conquered the whole Palestinian region, and received the Jews as allies, honoring them greatly. But whether Egypt or Syria was dominant, apparently Joseph the son of Tobias continued to make his profits as farmer of taxes. It is claimed by many that Simon II. and not Simon I. is the Simon the Just of the traditions.

Onias III.—He was the son of Simon II., and held the office 199-175 B. C. About the time of his accession Hyrcanus the son of Joseph was born, twenty-two years after his father became a farmer of taxes.4 About 193 B. C., through Roman interference (" Egypt," Encyc. Brit.) Ptolemy Epiphanes, being then perhaps fifteen years old, married Cleopatra, daughter of Antiochus, receiving Coelesyria, Phoenicia, Samaria, and Judaea by way of dowry, the revenues being divided between the two kings, Jos. Ant. XII. iv. 1. About 186 B. C. Ptolemy Philorneter, son of Epiphanes, was born, and it was presumably upon this occasion that Hyrcanus, then a precocious boy of thirteen, is said to have represented his father Joseph at the court of Epiphanes, Jos. Ant. XII. iv. 7, 8, 9. About the same time, Seleucus IV., known as Philopator or Soter, succeeded Antiochus. At the outset, like his father, he was favorable to the Jews, bearing the temple expenses out of his own revenues. But an enemy of the highpriest led him to believe that there were immense treasures in the temple, which might be turned into the royal treasury, and he sent Heliodorus to take charge of them. This caused distress and tumult, but Heliodorus was prevented from profaning the temple, by miraculous interferences. The story is told in full in 2 Mac. chap. 3. The account says, ver. 11, that Hyrcanus son of Tobias had then certain sums on deposit at the temple. There is no insuperable difficulty in the way of recognizing in this man the young Hyrcanus, grandson of Tobias, and son of Joseph the tax farmer. Hyrcanus himself, at this time, was at his rock castle, near Heshbon, enjoying himself, and collecting taxes of his neighbors, Jos. Ant. XII. iv. I I.

Josephus says, XII. iv. 10, that this Onias received a letter from the king of the Lacedemonians, claiming kindred with the Jews. Something of the same sort is alluded to in 2 Mac. 5:9; Mac. 14:16 sq.; 12:2 sq. et al.

Jason (Jesus), and Menelaus (Onias IV.).—The events of these two pontificates, B. C. 175-163,5 belong to the Maccabaean period, but the men themselves were the product of the pre-Maccabaean times, and are typical of certain important tendencies of those times. The statements concerning them are contradictory. Jesus was the brother of Onias III., and took the name Jason. Josephus says that Antiochus gave him the office6 after the death of Onias, while the author of 2 Mac. declares, 4:7 sq., that Jason got the office by bribing the king, and that Onias was treacherously put to death several years later, by the procurement of Menelaus, 4:33 sq. Josephus leaves us to infer that Jason was orthodox, but in 2 Mac. he figures as a Hellenizing apostate.

Josephus says that Menelaus was otherwise known as Onias, and was brother to Onias III. and Jason, Simon II. thus having three sons who were high priests. He says this, with much variation of the form of the statement, in four different contexts, Ant. XII. v. 1; ix. 7; XV. iii. 1; XIX. vi. 2. But in 2 Mac. 4:23; 3:4 sq. he is described as the brother of Simon, the Benjamite wretch who betrayed the temple treasures to Seleucus. Very likely, however, the author intended this only as a vituperative figure of speech, taking it for granted that his readers knew that Menelaus was of highpriestly blood. Josephus lays stress upon the wickedness of Menelaus as an apostate, while the author of 2 Mac., accusing both him and Jason of apostasy, treachery, and bloodshed, differentiates Menelaus as the man who stole and sold the temple treasures.

It should be added that the author of 2 Maccabees is fanatically orthodox, and that when he charges Jason with perverting the national institutions and participating in idolatry, he does it with the air of a man who knows that he will be contradicted, and therefore strengthens his position (not with evidence, but) with vituperation. Perhaps the fact is that Jason and Menelaus represented two different types, then prevalent, of the Hellenizing tendency.

Hellenizing tendencies and their opposers.—The great fact of Israelite history, during the period we have been considering, is the contact of the Israelite with the Greek. From the point of view of the Jewish writers, there were then just two notable races in the world, namely, the dominant Greek race and Israel. From the point of view of the Greek historians, Israel is less prominent. But from either point of view, the two races had been constantly and closely associated, throughout the Orient, during the hundred and fifty years from Alexander to Antiochus Epiphanes. At the beginning of this period, through the influence that had been exerted by Ezra and Nehemiah, the feeling of distinctiveness, among the Jews, had been intense. Everywhere we find them asking and receiving from the Greeks the privilege of living according to their own laws. But as the generations passed by, and the close relations with the Greeks continued, it was inevitable that two different Hellenizing movements should arise, and that these should be met by reactionary anti-Hellenizing movements.

Menelaus is the representative of the more ignoble of these two Hellenizing tendencies. As unpatriotic as he was unscrupulous, he regarded it as for the advantage of his countrymen to drop their distinctive religion and customs, and become merged into the dominant race. I conjecture that Jason was a rather poor representative of the less ignoble Hellenizing tendency, though his namesake, Jesus the son of Sirach is a much better representative of it. This man glories in everything that is distinctively Israelitish, and his glorying in it leads him to wish to extend the knowledge and the influence of Israelitish institutions. He further wishes to receive and profit by whatever other nations have that is good, whether Israel has it or not. Wherever these two tendencies manifested themselves, they were sure to call into existence a reactionary spirit, like that of the author of 2 Maccabees, as bitterly unjust to the one of them as it was bitterly just toward the other. The fact that this conflict was thus three-sided, and not merely two-sided, has its bearing on the literary problems of the period, including the problem of the origin of the Septuagint. It is further the key to much in the history of the origin and progress of the Tanaite scribes, and the Jewish sects, and to much in the splendidly dreadful events of the Maccabaean times.

 

 

1) This numeral and the others used below for the dates of the highpriests are taken mainly from the article " Highpriest" in McClintock and Strong. Dr. Bissell, in his volume on the Apocrypha, in the Schaff-Lange series of commentaries, page 16, gives a different system of dates, as follows: Onias I. 331-299, Simon I. 299-287, Eleazar 287-266, Manasseh 266-240, Onias II. 240-227, Simon II. 226-198.

2) Josephus, in telling this story, in which three different Ptolemies were concerned, makes no clear distinction among them, but it is not difficult to disentangle them, and this fact justifies the conclusion that the story is historical, though doubtless colored.

3) The sister and wife of Euergetes. Here and in Livy xxxvii. 4 she is called Cleopatra; in Justinus xxx. I, 7 she is called Eurydice; but she is most commonly known as ArsinoŽ, 3 Macc. I:i; Polybius V. lxxxiii. 3; XV. xxv. 2 and the Rosetta stone. (See Bissell, page 621).

4) See Jos. Ant. XII. iv. 6, o0. It would be easy to understand from these numerals that the whole time of Joseph's farming the taxes was twenty-two years; but it is also possible to understand that he farmed them for twenty-two years before the birth of Hyrcanus, and an indefinite time afterward. The second of these two interpretations fits the facts in the case, while the first does not.

5) Jason seems to have become highpriest soon after the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes, B. C. 175, Jos. Ant. XII. v. i, 2 Mac. 4:7 sq. Menelaus succeeded him after three years and after B. C. 173, the year when Antiochus visited Jerusalem, 2 Mac. 4:21-23. This gives B. C. 172 as the year of his accession. He was highpriest ten years (172-163), dying "the 150th year", that is, B. C. 163, Jos. Ant. XII. ix. 7, 3.

6) So in Bekker's edition. The Geneva edition and Whiston omit the subject of the verb.