The Life of Jesus in Harmony | Index | Previous | NextThe History of the Hellenized Jew - Part Three
(160 - 67 BC) Jonathan - Death of Salome Alexandra
A Yoke Within
The Jews free themselves from a foreign yoke only to discover that a native yoke can be just as heavy
The Victory that Failed
- The heroic struggle of the Maccabees ultimately ended in defeat because the
later Hasmoneans, thirsting for power and glory, lost touch with Jewishness, so
that their actions cast dark shadows upon the memory of their ancestors.
Jonathan and Hasmonean Ambitions
- Jonathan led a small army in the Eastern Jordan wilderness and was a constant threat to the Hellenizing Jews and the Syrian
forces.- The Syrians failed to stop him time and again- All the Jewish population exalted Jonathan as their hero and they were ready
to follow him
The Great Diplomat
- Though Jonathan did not possess the military genius of his brother Judah he
did possess a more valuable quality judging by the times (150-140 BC). He was a
remarkable diplomat (peaceful negotiations). - A civil war broke out in Syria and Jonathan came back into Judea
Judea and Rome
- Something interesting is that Jonathan and the Hasmoneans entered into an
alliance with Rome (since they were both hostile to Syria). Jonathan knew better
than to become "Rome's friends" but this would make the Syrians think twice about attacking them. - But little did they know that later on they would have much more to fear
from Rome than Syria.
Jonathan's Policy (Good and Bad)
- Jonathan's goals were for self government (more than the Hassidim had ever
thought possible) where Judah's were for religious freedom. Jonathan improved
the economic position of the Jews. He became high priest and ruler of the people and his family became the most powerful among the
The Great Assembly
- When Jonathan died (killed by a Syrian general) the Jews turned to
(Hasmonean Family) the only son of Mattathias still alive, Simon. He was known for his calm wisdom though he was very old.- Simon called together an extraordinary assembly of all leading Jews
(important priests, prominent family members, known leaders, etc.) and this was the
beginning stages of the great Sanhedrin.
The Election of Simon
- Simon was unanimously the favored choice for high priest and ruler. - But the Hassidim wanted a priest from the family of Onias and a ruler from
the line of David- The son of Onias had fled to Egypt during the Maccabean struggle- Simon was elected because they saw Gods hand in the Maccabees and they came
up with the saying, "Ruler and high priest until a true prophet should arise."
- Simon was an old man so he couldn't lead the army in battle but he
faithfully attended to priestly and civil duties.- He left the fighting to his sons (one of them was John Hyrcan)- Simon maintained the policy of his brother Jonathan
Policy and Politics
The New Generation
- Simon's death (135 BC) marked the end of the heroic age of the Hasmonean
struggle.- John Hyrcan became the next ruler and the Syrians agreed with him rather
than the Hellenizing Jews- Hyrcan promised to be an ally to Syria and to give up the pagan cities
except Jaffa (the famous port city). The Hellenizing party now disappeared from the
The Policy of Expansion
- Judah won religious freedom, Jonathan gained power for the Hasmonean family,
and Hyrcan's reign began the policy of territorial expansion. The goal was
greater national prosperity.- The pagan cities that surround Jerusalem had controlled the commerce previously and hated the Jews.- When Syria ran into problems again Hyrcan recaptured the cities and
developed Jewish commerce.- He soon conquered Edom where one of the great trade routes between Egypt and
Asia was. - To assure their loyalty Hyrcan compelled the Idumeans to adopt Judaism.- But God's religion can never be forced on people.
New Political Parties
Those in Favor of Conquering
- Men of wealth wanted to expand their horizons (more money)- Government officials who had intermarried with the wealthy (power and
prestige)- People who were seeking to become wealthy- Patriots who wanted to conquer
Those Against Conquering
- The poor (shopkeeper, artisan, farmer) did not see any benefit for them in
the conquests. They were reminded of the scribes' teaching that they should not
seek war and wealth. All they ever saw from this was more wealth among the
aristocrats and less devotion to God among the priests.- Those who did not want to send their sons into war and pay more taxes to
Which was more important, religious welfare or national strength?
- Two political parties emerged- The Scribes who were opposed to expansion was the Pharisees (probably from
parosh "to separate."- Separated from the pagans or separated from those that favored expansion.- The Pharisees (spiritual descendants of the Hasidim) argued that their
religion saved the Jewish people. Therefore everything must be subordinate to
religion. - They wanted not to force but to persuade by example.
- Those who remained in complete charge of the government were the sadducees- It is difficult to know where the name came from. They claimed to be
descendants of Solomon's high priest Zadok. Zadok also means "righteous" so it may but
doubtfully mean "righteous ones," there is another possibility is that it came
from the Greek word meaning judges or controllers. - The Sadducees argued that national power had saved the people and their
religion. They were not opposed to Judaism and were for the forcing of Judaism on
How Did They Differ in Religious Views?
- The Sadducees were in favor of a strict interpretation of the Torah (willing
to obey all of It)- The Pharisees were for a liberal interpretation (general truths and
principles). They wanted to extend these principles to every phase of life. They argued
that there was also an oral Torah (to support their views) a set of traditions
that had been handed down to them by the former scribes (who received from their predecessors all the way back to Moses).- Pharasaic Judaism was difficult to live by because it insisted on piety in
every conceivable action- The Jewish people became divided on national, economic, and religious policy.
The Civil War
The Hated Hasmoneans
- As long as John Hyrcan lived there were not serious divisions. He remembered
poverty.- His sons were different being raised in a palace with much Greek education. - They wanted to eliminate the Pharisaic party and their was mutual dislike.- The life and actions of the later Hasmoneans caused the deeds of the earlier
ones to be almost completely forgotten.
Aristobulus, Lover of the Greeks
- The one-year reign (104 BC) of Hyrcan's oldest son Judah showed the
Pharisees what they were to expect.- He preferred the Greek name Aristobulus- He immediately threw three of his brothers into prison because of jealousy
and two of them supposedly starved to death. A few months later another brother
was brutally murdered in the palace. This kind of thing happened regularly
among the pagan nations but it shocked and disgusted the Jews. - In national policy Aristobulus continued to conquer more territory.- He boldly assumed the title of king (though he didn't use the Hebrew Title
"melech")- The Jews sighed with relief when he died. But this left many problems on the
The Approaching Storm
- His successor was no better, Alexander Jannai (Jonathan was his Hebrew name
changed to Jannai) was the only brother of Judah Aristobulus still alive in
prison at his death.- For 15 years Alexander Jannai extended his territory. All of Israel's pagan
city boundaries and trade centers were under Jewish rule. - In 89 BC. he campaigned against the Arabs to the south. He was ambushed and
lost his entire army. - The Pharisees seized upon this opportunity. On the following Succoth, while
Alexander was officiating as high priest in the Temple, the people who were watching, struck him with the "etrogin" (citrons,
fruit). He ordered the slaughter of hundreds of defenseless people.
- The people rebelled and along with the help of Syria defeated Alexander and
he fled to the hills. - The Syrians (giving themselves credit for the victory) wanting to put the
Sadducees into power caused thousands of the Pharisees to flee to Alexander. With
their help Alexander came back defeating the Syrians and the others.- He instituted an inquisition (hunt) against those who had rebelled earlier
and many fled the country.- Alexander made a horrible example of those he caught. At one party he crucified 800 Pharisees. This marked him as one of the cruelest tyrants in Jewish
history because he used a pagan method of execution.- The Jews were again moving toward losing their independence.
Good Queen Salome
- Supposedly on his deathbed (76 BC.) Alexander advised his wife Salome
Alexandra, whom he had appointed as successor, to dismiss the Sadducean advisors and
to govern with the aid of the Pharisees. - Whether it is true or not she did it and appointed Pharisees to the
Sanhedrin (at that time it was legislature and supreme court combined).
The School Law
- The Pharisees immediately went to work on the Jewish government. - They ended the policy of conquest- They reformed the judicial system and any contamination's on Jewish life. - They established the school law. Every young man was in duty bound to seek
- The Sadducees could not agree with any arrangement that left them out of
control of the government.- They believed that they were the only ones fit to rule. They also knew that
the Pharisees would not forgive the murderous crucifixion of the other
Pharisees.- While the Pharisees were sure of the populations support, the army, the
military leadership, and the wealthy in the land were all on the Sadducean side.
Hyrcan and Aristobulus
- Alexander had little faith in his oldest son Hyrcan or his youngest son
Aristobulus. While Salome was alive Hyrcan was high priest and was favored by the
Pharisees. Aristobulus possessed the military qualities and with the peaceful
Pharisees in power he was quite restrained. The Sadducees all favored him.
The Calm Before the Storm
- For the 9 years of her rule (76-67BC) Salome was somehow able to maintain
peace the two parties.- When she died another civil war broke out.
"I marvel that whereas the
ambitious dreams of myself, Caesar, and Alexander should have
vanished into thin air, a Judean peasant - Jesus should be able to
stretch his hands across the centuries and control the destinies of
men and nations." - Napoleon
I Bonaparte (1809)