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(3760 - 2080 BCE)
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Death of Alcimus, the Hellenistic High Priest
(3601 AM - 159 BCE)
(3603 AM - 157 BCE)
(3608 AM - 152 BCE)
The Seleucid succession wars
(3608 AM - 152 BCE)
Death of Alexander Balas
(3615 AM - 145 BCE)
Death of Ptolemy Philometor
(3615 AM - 145 BCE)
Death of Jonathan Maccabee
(3617 AM - 143 BCE)
Start of Hasmonean Dynasty
(3618 AM - 142 BCE)
The nassi Joshua Ben Perachiah
(3620 AM - 140 BCE)
Simon Maccabee High Priest
(3621 AM - 139 BCE)
Death of Simon Maccabee
(3625 AM - 135 BCE)
(3626 AM - 134 BCE)
Conversion of Idumea
(3648 AM - 112 BCE)
The conquest of Maresha
The siege of Samaria
(3649 AM - 111 BCE)
The Book of the Jubilees
Its date of the Exodus
(3653 AM - 107 BCE)
Persecution of the Pharisees
(3654 AM - 106 BCE)
Aristobulus and Antigonus
(3656 AM - 104 BCE)
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Hebrew years 3600 to 3720 (160-40 BCE)
~~~ Part I ~~~ Part II ~~~
When Bacchides started to put down the walls around the Temple of Jerusalem, Alcimus was struck with ailment and died. He was the High Priest who favoured assimilation to the Hellenistic culture and had, just before his death, threatened to execute the head of Sanhedrin, Yose ben Yoezer, as they had been in constant conflict about religion and assimilation.
According to some theory, the person who succeeded Alcimus proclaimed himself “Teacher of Righteousness” and later founder of the Essenes sect, in the Inter-Sacerdotium period between 159 and 152 BCE.
Bacchides returned to Antioch to seek policy from Demetrius who was more concerned by the situation on the Eastern front against the Parthians.
Bacchides came back to Judea with a large army. But he struck a deal with Jonathan whereas the latter was accepted by Demetrius as the High Priest and also Governor of the Judean province of the Seleucid empire. In other words, Judea finally achieved autonomy, even if it was under the umbrella of the Seleucid empire. Peace ensued and Jonathan could finally clean the land from the Hellenistic influence and destroy the high places that pagans had built in Judea. The agreement did not include Jerusalem yet, as the city was still sheltering a Seleucid (or Hellenized Jews) garrison protected by the high towers of the Acra fortress.
Furthermore, as the Seleucid army was now busy in the Eastern front, Jonathan proposed his protection to some territories and cities close to Judea (such as Lod/Lydda, Ramatayim, the county of Ephraim) and incorporated them in the Judean dominion. He extended it further with the addition of the southern cities on the border with Judea.
Jonathan Maccabee destroys the temple of Dagon (Gustave Doré, 1868)
The High Priest, whose exact name had not been recorded in Jewish History, was ousted by Jonathan in 152 BCE who took his role. Embittered by this situation, he left Jerusalem and founded a sectarian community in the Judaean desert, northwestern side of the Dead Sea, in a location now called Qumran.[1a] This community followed the Jewish Scriptures but also introduced new rules leading to a more drastic and secluded life style. This community had existed roughly between 150 BCE and 73 CE when the Jewish nation was destroyed by the Romans. Some documents clearly demonstrate their bitterness towards the person who in their eyes usurped the role of High Priest: they referred to him as the Wicked Priest:
Interpreted, this concerns the Wicked Priest who was called by the name of Truth when he first arose. But, when he ruled over Israel, his heart became proud and he forsook God and betrayed the precepts for the sake of riches.--- Vermes, Geza, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Commentary on Habakkuk, VIII:9-12, Penguin Books edition 2004, p. 513
Most of the documents related to the rules of the community, found in Qumran and now part of the Dead Sea Scrolls, have been assumed to date from this period of time. A later document, called the Damascus Document, was written some years later, probably about 100 BCE, and contains some details about the origin and timing of this sect of the Essenes. For them, the origin of their movement started 390 years after the destruction of the First Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, although, at this time, the sect was not organised and it was just the birth of a man who will later give offspring to the founder of the community:
And, in the age of wrath, three hundred and ninety years after He had given them [Israel] into the hand King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, He visited them, and He caused a plant root to spring from Israel and Aaron to inheret His land and to prosper on the good things of His earth. And they perceived their iniquity and recognized that they were guilty men, yet for twenty years they were like blind men groping for the way. --- Vermes, Geza, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Damascus Document, I:5-10, Penguin Books edition 2004, p. 129
Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the First Temple in 587 BCE so 390 years later correspond to 197 BCE. This was the time when Judea passed from the governance of the Ptolemaic kingdom (Greeks from Egypt) to the one of the Seleucid (Greeks from Syria).[1b] This change led to catastrophic consequences for the Jewish nation. The text from the Essenes community also mentions a period of 20 years during which the Jews were like blind men groping for the way. It corresponds to the 20 years Seleucid rule, with more and more Hellenistic influence, which culminated in 175 BCE with the rise of the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes whose policy was ultimately to force the Jews to abandon their religion. Thus the Essenes considered that their spiritual leader was born about the year 197 BCE (390 years from the destruction of the First Temple) before he founded their community around the year 150 BCE. In their times, the main oppressor was Greek. There is some controversy among scholars between those who believe that the Rule of War of the Essenes applies to the Greeks and those who believes it applies to the Romans, but the following text seems to indicate that it rather refers to the Greek Seleucids:
For the M[aster. The Rule of] War on the unleashing of the attack of the sons of light against the company of the sons of darkness, the army of Belial: against the band of Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon, and [against the army of the sons of the East and] the Philistines, and against the Kittim of Assyria and their allies the ungodly of the Covenant. [...] [The king] of the Kittim [shall enter] into Egypt, and in his time he shall set out in great wrath to wage against the kings of the north, that his fury may destroy and cut the horn of [Israel]. This shall be a time of salvation for the people of God, and age of dominion for all the members of His company, and of everlasting destruction for all the company of Belial. The confusion of the sons of Japheth shall be [great] and Assyria shall fall unsuccoured. The dominion of the Kittim shall come to an end and iniquity shall be vanquished, leaving no remnant; [for the sons] of darkness there shall be no escape. --- Vermes, Geza, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, The War Scroll, I:5-10, Penguin Books edition 2004, pp. 165-166
There is little doubt that the above text refers to the Seleucid kingdom, and especially at a time of Seleucius Epiphanes: the names sons of the East, Belial (as the Babylonian god Bel) and Assyria (which gave root to Syria) refers to the Greek dominion of the Seleucids, whereas their allies the ungodly of the Covenant referred to the Jews who wanted assimilation to the Greek culture. The invasion of Egypt was carried out by Seleucius Epiphanes before he had to abandon his gain and took revenge against the Jewish nation in great wrath. He later led a doomed campaign against the northern borders of his kingdom (Parthia, Armenia), the so-called kings of the north. The text also refers to the Kittim as the sons of Japheth which traditionally points to the Greeks, whereas the Romans are mentioned to be from Edom.
It is also possible that some documents, such as the War Scroll, would have been composed of different texts written at different times to complete a topic. Therefore other passages of the text would point to a war against the Romans, while the earliest part of the text (section I) would be based on the war waged by the Greeks against Israel.
Last, concerning Qumran, it is worth mentioning that modern theories exclude that the site was Essene's ! The main reason being that the cemetary of Qumran has been found, and bones have been anlayzed with the expectation of them being all from males. But it was not the case: the people living in Qumran included women and children as well, quite far from the "rules" of the Essene community. So what about the scrolls? The new thoughts are that there is a disconnect between the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the caves around the site of Qumran, and Qumran itself. The latter may have been a village of workers who worked the production of a special plant: the parsimmon or basalm tree. It was very precious in the Antiquity as it was used to produce perfume. Cleopatra herself would later attempt to rob the production site (a few kilometers from Qumran) from Herod the Great. So Qumran may have been a workers' village: some workers lived there with their family. As of the scrolls, it was equally thought that the huge quantity of scrolls could not possibly have belonged to a small community in Qumran: researchers now believe that the scrolls were part or all of the Temple's library of manuscripts: they may have been hidden in the desert, like other treasures depicted in the Copper Scroll, as an anticipation of the Roman siege of 69 CE.
When Alexander Balas, an usurper claiming to be the youngest son of Antiochus Epiphanes, took some city of the Seleucid kingdom, Demetrius wanted to engage in a war to defeat the new claimant to the throne. He thus sought to strengthen his peace with Jonathan to avoid having the Jews join forces with Alexander. Jonathan agreed to the peace at the condition that Jerusalem would be returned to the Jews, to which Demetrius gave his consent:
And Jonathan settled himself in Jerusalem, and began to build and repair the city. And he commanded the workmen to build the walls, and the mount Sion round about with square stones, for fortification: and they did so. Then the strangers who were in the fortresses which Bacchides had built, fled away: insomuch that every man left his place, and went into his own country. Only at Bethsura certain of those [Jews] who had forsaken the law and the commandments, remained still: for it was their place of refuge. --- Maccabees, Book II, 10:10-14
But Alexander also sought Jonathan’s alliance by acknowledging him as High Priest for the Jewish nation and sending him a gold crown. Upon this, Demetrius raised the stakes by promising dignities to Jonathan and removing all duties and taxes for the Jewish state. Furthermore, he offered to pay 15,000 shekels of silver every year to maintain his alliance with the Jewish state. He also promised to respect the Jewish festivals as days of immunity (Maccabees, Book II, 10:34). Yet Jonathan and his counsel did not believe the words of Demetrius, owing to the great evil he had caused to the Jews in the past. So they approved the alliance with Alexander instead. In addition, Alexander’s claims to the throne were also accepted by Rome which started to see the vast Seleucid empire as an obstacle to their own expansion to the East.
In 150 BCE, Alexander finally defeated Demetrius and reigned over the Seleucid kingdom. He also sealed an alliance with the Ptolemaic king, with obvious blessing from Rome, and married Cleopatra Thea, a daughter of Ptolemy Philometor. Alexander also met with Jonathan and honoured him as an ally.
But, in 147 BCE, Demetrius’ son, called Demetrius Nicator, came from Crete to contest the rule of Alexander Balas. His army commander, Apollonius, landed near Jaffa and taunted Jonathan to come down to the lowland and fight a battle. Jonathan and Simon Maccabee raised their army and defeated him near Jaffa. Demetrius Nicator fled south but the Hasmoneans pursued him and defeated the remains of his army. Alexander was greatly pleased with Jonathan having been able to remove alone the threat from Demetrius Nicator and sent to him gold as well as the possession of Ashqelon and the Southern coast. Jonathan also obtained an official role for his (last surviving) brother Simon who was named by the Seleucid king as Stratagos of Peralia (ruler over the coastal cities).
Ptolemy, father-in-law of Alexander Balas, decided to fight against him who he now considered to have usurped the throne of the Seleucids. He made an alliance with Demetrius Nicator. He raised a great army and crossed the Levant region, setting up garrisons in the cities he entered. Ptolemy also conquered the Seleucid capital Antioch while Alexander was campaigning in Cilicia, Asia Minor. Ptolemy even gave to Demetrius the daughter he had married to Alexander Balas.
Alexander Balas and Cleopatra Thea
Alexander hurried back to Antioch to fight against Ptolemy but lost battle outside the city. He fled to Arabia but was caught there and killed by the local ruler. His head was sent to Ptolemy as a token of allegiance. But Ptolemy's victory was short-lived because he also had been wounded in the battle for Antioch. He died soon after from his own wounds. But finally Demetrius Nicator reigned over the Seleucid kingdom (Maccabees, Book II, 11:19).
Another Seleucid army commander, named Diodotus Tryphon, took the young son of Alexander and Cleopatra to challenge the throne of the Seleucid kingdom back from Demetrius. As Jonathan Maccabee had previously failed to side with Demetrius, he came under threat from Tryphon. War seemed inevitable but Tryphon lured Jonathan with peace talks in the city of Acre/Akko (in these times, the city was called Ptolemais). Once Jonathan got there by duplicity, Tryphon took him prisoner.
Simon Maccabee, the last son of Mattathias, raised to command the Jewish nation. Tryphon, on his side, was preparing his army ready to invade Judea, but snow fell over the land, so he decided instead to lead his army north against Antioch. But he killed Jonathan on the way back. Simon recovered the corpse of Jonathan and buried him with his family in Modi'in:
Simon also built a monument upon the sepulchre of his father and his brethren, and raised it aloft to the sight, with polished stone behind and before. Moreover, he set up seven pyramids one against another, for his father and his mother, and his four brethren. And on these he made cunning devices, about the which he set great pillars, and upon the pillars he made all their armour for a perpetual memory, and by the armour ships carved, that they might be seen by all who sail on the sea. This is the sepulchre which he made at Modin, and it stands yet unto this day. --- Maccabees, Book II, 13:27-30
This tomb of the Maccabees has recently been found in 1999 on a hill near Modi'in in Israel, and a monument have been placed there to commemorate the seven pyramids that Simon had built in his time.
Tomb of the Maccabees near Modin, Israel
(photography from the author)
After finally conquering Antioch back from Demetrius, Tryphon also deceived his protégé, Antiochus the young son of Alexander: he killed him and usurped the crown. Tryphon became very unpopular in his country and Simon took the opportunity to renew his alliance with Demetrius who granted immunity and independence to the Jewish nation in 142 BCE. Independance meant that the nation could elect to have its own king. After consulting with the Sanhedrin, Simon took the role of king. It was the first time in Jewish history that a king would not be from Davidic descent. With his new role, Simon also started to count his years of reign as official years (Maccabees, Book II, 13:42). It is possible that the sect of the Essenes, as maybe other sects that disappeared without trace from the course of time, emerged at the time of Simon's kingship, out of refusal to submit to a king who was not Davidic.
The Hasmonean royal dynasty, as it was called, continued until year 37 BCE when the last ruler of this family was deposed. It is assumed that the name Hasmonean came from an ancestor called Hesmai, or Assamoneaus, grand-father of Mattathias (Maccabees, Book V, 6). But, possibly, it was adopted as a double reminder of the miraculous eight days of Hannukah because the word Hasmonean is written חשמואי thus composed of the letter ח which has the value of 8 and of the word שמונה which means 8.
Simon then engaged in a campaign to cleanse the land from its idols. He took Gaza, but Jerusalem still had a number of Hellenized Jews who refused to return to the Jewish faith. They were entrenched in the Acra fortress but became under siege with no access to food or supplies. They finally asked for peace and Simon granted it to them. He cleansed the city after they departed from the citadel and finally razed the Acra fortress to the ground. This took place in the year 141 BCE, the 23rd day of the month of the 2nd month (Iyar), which was an observed festival in the times of the Jewish nation (Maccabees, Book II, 13:51).
The reign of Simon Maccabee was peaceful, owing to the civil war between the Seleucid factions supporting either Tryphon or Demetrius:
As for the land of Judah, that was quiet all the days of Simon; for he sought the good of his nation in such wise, as that evermore his authority and honour pleased them well. And in addition to all his glory, he took Joppe [Jaffa] for a haven, and made it an entrance to the isles of the sea, and enlarged the bounds of his nation, and recovered the country. --- Maccabees, Book II, 14:4-6
Meanwhile, Rome renewed with Simon the pact they had made with his brother Jonathan. In addition, the Lacedonians, who were the Spartans and who considered themselves descendants from the patriarch Abraham and thus brethren to the Jews, wrote to Simon:
The rulers of the Lacedaemonians, and the city [Sparta], unto Simon the high priest, and the elders and priests, and residue of the people of the Jews, our brethren, send greeting. The ambassadors who were sent unto our people, certified us of your glory and honour: wherefore we were glad of their coming: and did register the things which they spoken in the council of the people, in this manner: Numenius, son of Antiochus, and Antipater son of Jason, the Jews' ambassadors, came unto us to renew the friendship which they had with us. And it pleased the people to entertain the men honourably, and to put the copy of their ambassage in the appointed records of the people; to the end the people of the Lacedaemonians might have a memorial thereof: furthermore, we have written a copy thereof unto Simon the high priest. --- Maccabees, Book II, 14:20-23
After the death of the nassi Yose ben Yoezer in 140 BCE, Joshua ben Perachiah replaced him at the head of the Sanhedrin. With him, Nittai the Arbelite (also called Mattai of Arbela) was elected av beth din, the vice-president of the Sanhedrin. Both formed the second of the Zugot (pairs) as heads of this religious institution. Joshua ben Perachiah is known for the following wisdom:
Appoint a teacher for yourself. And get yourself a study companion. And judge all men in the scale of merit. --- Talmud, Pirke Avot, Mishna 1:6
Their tenure as nassilasted for 40 years until he fled to Egypt in 100 BCE with all the religious leaders to avoid persecutions from the Hasmonean ruler, Alexander Jannai. Some saw such persecutions as a divine punishment to the religious authorities to have endorsed a royal dynasty which was not acceptable by Jewish law.
Three years after the beginning of his kingship, Simon was confirmed as High Priest by the Jewish nation, as well as Keeper of the Sanctuary in Jerusalem. It was the first time that an individual would hold both the kingship and the priesthood, because, by Jewish law, the former was to be from Davidic descent and the second from the Pinhas family within the Cohanim cast. As a reminder, Levi son of Jacob had a son called Amran, who had two sons: Aaron and Moses. The descendants of Amran are all Levites, but the descendants of Aaron are Cohanim. Aaron had two sons: Eleazar and Ithamar. One of Eleazar's sons was Pinhas: it is from his descendants that the High Priest was to be selected, and not from any other member of the Cohanim or of the Levites.
A year later, Antiochus son of Demetrius succeeded to reconquer the Seleucid kingdom from the hands of Tryphon and reigned as Antiochus VII Sidetes. Tryphon fled to a city that Antiochus besieged. Acting in good faith, Simon sent reinforcements to Antiochus to support him, but the latter refused the Jewish help. Furthermore he sent a messenger to Jerusalem to ask from Simon a tribute in exchange for the cities he had taken possession of, which, he claimed, belonged to the Seleucid kingdom. Else, he threatened Simon with war. Simon replied:
We have neither taken other men's land, nor held that which appertains to others, but the inheritance of our fathers, which our enemies had wrongfully in possession a certain time. Wherefore we, having the opportunity, hold the inheritance of our fathers. But as for Joppe [Jaffa] and Gazara [Gaza] which you demanded, although they did great harm unto the people in our country, yet will we give a hundred talents for them. --- Maccabees, Book II, 15:33-35
Antiochus was not pleased and sent an army to the coast of Judea to invade the land, while he pursued the siege against Tryphon.
Simon was too old at the time to engage in any war so he entrusted his youngest son, John (or Jochanan), to defend the nation. He succeeded in defeating the Seleucid army and took the surname Hyrcanus after the commander he defeated.
Simon and his two older sons, Judas and Mattathias, came down to Jericho for an official visit. There they were killed deceiptfully during a banquet by a party led by Simon's son-in-law, Ptolemy son of Abulus, who wanted to take over the kingdom. This Ptolemy then sought to get rid of Simon’s surviving son, John, and make alliance with Antiochus by asking his support to take over the Jewish land.
The start of the Hasmonean dynasty
Antiochus VII himself came to besiege Jerusalem but he was defeated by John Hyrcanus. Rather than pursuing a war which already proved to be uncertain, Antiochus proposed a peaceful settlement: Hyrcanus paid a large sum of money, taken from the sepulchre of the Judean kings, and Antiochus accepted to be the protector of the Jewish nation which gained him a surname, “Pius” or “Euergetes” (the Benefactor) according to different sources.
Like his predecessors, Antiochus had indeed more pressing affairs: his eastern provinces were invaded by the Parthians led by their king Phraates II and he had to go to war against them. The Parthians had become a regional power since the rule of Mithridates, brother of Phraates II, who took over some of the Seleucid realm in the East.
Seleucid Empire in 200 BCE, before the expansion of Parthia
Antiochus overcame his enemies and restored the Mesopotamian territory to the Seleucid empire. But he became the last Seleucid ruler to reign over such a large kingdom, as he finally lost most of it over time to the Parthians, except for Syria until that country would eventually be conquered by the Romans.
After the death of Antiochus VII, Hyrcanus intended to restore territories that used to belong to the Jewish nation. On the Eastern side of the Jordan River, he conquered the region of Mount Seir (south from Perea) which was the old Edomite land but occupied by nomadic Arabian tribes (such as the Nabateans). After the destruction of the First Temple, Judea emptied itself from Jews. The Edomites moved to the Judean Mounts as the land was more fertile there, which their previous territory of Edom/Seir was then left empty and thus nomadic tribes moved in.
He then turned against the pagan Edomites (by this time called Idumeans). As they were descendants of Isaac the Patriarch, according to the Scriptures, Hyrcanus did not kill them but proposed to them to convert to the Jewish faith. It is the only example of forced conversion by Jews in the Jewish history. The Idumeans agreed to convert and kept in the Jewish faith until the Judean nation would be destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.
Judea under John Hyrcanus
(in pink, the areas he conquered)
Archaeology has found evidence of the conquest of Idumea and of its precise dating. In 1989, in the site of Tel Maresha in the Judean Hills, which was a Jewish town that the Idumeans occupied after the previous population fled, was found a hoard of coins, some dated 113-112 BCE. Tel Maresha had become a prosperous city, owing to the trade of olive oil and or doves (used for their meat). At the time of the Persian rule, Sidonians also moved inland from the coast and settled, along the Idumeans, in Tel Maresha. By the time of the Hasmonean conquest, when the citizens were offered to convert, the Idumeans accepted conversion but the Sidonians preferred to leave. The hoard was found in the house of a rich Sidonian merchant who, presumably, left in a hurry, buried his treasure hoping that he would soon come back and recover his property. But this never happened. The finding of this hoard helped historians to agree on the precise timing of the conquest of Maresha and of the conversion of Idumea.
Tel Maresha - the Colombarium cave
(photograph by Albert Benhamou)
After his conquests, Hyrcanus also built several fortresses in his extended kingdom. One of them was Hyrcania, located about 20km East from Jerusalem, on the border with Idumea, in the Judean desert. Another fortress was Doq, on the western side of Jericho, to control the Jordan Valley and access to the Wadi Qelt towards Jerusalem.
Mosaic floor in the ruins of Hyrcania hill-top fortress
Doq fortress, on a hill-top overlooking the Jordan Valley (view towards the East and Jericho)
Then Hyrcanus attacked Samaria and its capital, the old Sichem which had been renamed Neapolis (which means New City) since the time of the Greeks. The region was occupied by Samaritans since the forced deportation of the Ten Tribes to Assyria. Hyrcanus and his two preferred sons, Aristobulus and Antigonus, started the siege of the capital of the Samaritans in 111 BCE in the pursuit to restore the previous Jewish land, as promised by their covenant with God. The Samaritans implored both the Syrians and the Egyptians for rescue. Both Antiochus IX and Ptolemy IX marched respectively onto Judean land against Hyrcanus. Antiochus IX “Cyzicenus” was the son of Antiochus VII Sidetes, and had regained his throne in 116 BCE while Ptolemy IX “Lathyros” also started to reign in 116 BCE but jointly with his mother Cleopatra III.
Hyrcanus went first to fight the Egyptian army and defeated them: Ptolemy returned to Egypt. There he was soon deposed by his mother who put his younger brother Alexander on the throne as Ptolemy X. But a few months later she reinstated Ptolemy IX as king.
The Jews eventually destroyed the city of Sichem-Neapolis after two years of war and took over the land of the Samaritans.
In these days, the Jewish people were divided between three main movements: the Pharisees who lived according to the tradition learned from their forefathers who taught the Oral Law,[6a] the Sadducees who were disciples of Zadok and claimed to follow the Written Law alone but were the most assimilated to the Greek culture,[6b] and the Hasdanim who lived in an aesthete way of virtues (Maccabees, Book V, 25): the latter category is considered to be the same as the Essenes mentioned by Josephus.
There was another sect, similar to the Sadducees, and often counted as such, called the Boethusians. They came from one founder, Boethus, who, like Zadok, had been a disciple of Antigonus of Socho and diverted from mainstream Judaism to assimilate the Greek culture.[3a]
Hyrcanus was first a Pharisee but he later changed to be Sadducee. There were permanent disputes between the Pharisees and the Saduccees in his times. The Pharisees contested the right for Hyrcanus to be the High Priest owing to the fact that his mother was a captive while she conceived him. This was an extrapolation of the Written Law, which the Saduccees rejected, thus causing Hyrcanus to join their movement and this got him at odds with the Pharisees.
It was probably in this context, as an effort to prove the pharisaic interpretation of the Law to the Saduccees, and eventually decide who should be the High Priest, that the Book of the Jubilees ("Sefer ha-Yovalim" or "Sefer ha-Yovlot" in Hebrew) was written by one of the Pharisees.[3b] It is however certain that the content or traditions stated in the book were of a much earlier date, before 150 BCE. The book gives a chronology of the Bible from Adam to the Exodus, by periods of Jubilees (50 years). The book sets an important date, the date of the Exodus:
And I told you of the Sabbaths of the land on Mount Sinai, and I told you of the Jubilee years in the Sabbaths of years: but the year thereof have I not told you till you enter the land [of Canaan] which you are to possess. And the land also shall keep its Sabbaths while they dwell upon it, and they shall know the Jubilee year.
Wherefore I have ordained for you the year-weeks and the Jubilees: there are forty-nine [passed] Jubilees from the days of Adam until this day [of the entrance to Canaan], and one week and two years, and you have forty additional years for learning the commandments of the Lord until they pass over into the land of Canaan, crossing the Jordan towards the west side.--- Book of the Jubilees, 50:2-5, translated by R.H. Charles, 1913, with corrections from Albert Benhamou from the Hebrew text (to see it online, click here)
So the text states that, from the day of Adam until the crossing of the Jordan River, 49 Jubilees have completed (which means 50th *49= 2450 years), in other words that the entrance to Canaan happened in the 50th Jubilee. But he also positioned the setting of the Jubilee cycle also in the 50th Jubilee, precisely two years and one week from the start of that 50th Jubilee, so this is the Hebrew year 2452 + one week. As we know, the setting of the Jubilee cycle was announced to the Israelites in the desert after the start of a New Year from the Exodus, in the month of Tishri, heading to the first Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). In other words, if this event occurred in year 2452 + one week, on a month of Tishri, the Exodus occurred in Nisan the preceding Hebrew year 2451. The commentators of the Book of the Jubilees have assumed that the book set the Exodus on year 2431, 40 years before. Why? Because the translation in English misled them. Instead of understanding the Hebrew text as explaining that the timing of these events (Exodus, Jubilee, Canaan) all took place in the 50th Jubilee, they assumed that this day, for the crossing of Jordan River into Canaan, was applied to the 49 Jubilees + 2 years + one week. This is wrong because the Hebrew text (but not the English translation) explicitely says the count is 49 Jubilees + 2 years + one week + 40 additional years. The word additional (ועוד in the Hebrew text) has not been correctly translated in English.
The present chronology suggests that the year of the Exodus was 2454, and the Jewish tradition (set from the Seder Olam Rabbah) considers the year to be 2448. There is indeed some uncertainty of the year of Exodus, although that year is not as important as expected, as compared to the year of the construction of the First Temple which is key to define the proper historical chronology of the kingdoms and the exiles. Yet, if we follow the Book of the Jubilees to some extent, the important detail is that the Exodus had occurred after the completion of 49 Jubilees, which means after the year 2450 which is in contradiction with the Rabbinical tradition of year 2448. Why is this detail important? Because it sets the Exodus in the 50th Jubilee cycle, that spans from year 2450 until year 2500. In this 50th Jubilee, the Israelites experienced the following stages of their birth as a nation: the 10 Plagues which took place in the year preceding the Exodus and brought them a stop in the harsh labour (the Jubilee is after freeing slaves and servants from their labour, after all !), the Exodus itself which brought them physical freedom, the 40 years in the desert during which they formed as a spiritual nation (the giving of the Torah, the Written Law, and studying the commandments according to traditions of the Oral Law), and finally the conquest of Canaan until its completion (but not as complete as it should have been, due to the sinful ways into which the Israelites turned eventually). If we would follow the author of Seder Olam Rabbah who set the date of the Exodus in year 2448, it would fall during the 49th Jubilee, which has a very different significance. Instead the 50th Jubilee makes these important events inside a single cycle (the 50th) which is unique in itself because it is comparable to a "Jubilee of Jubilees" period, in other words, inside the 50x50 calendar cycle.
Yet it is to be noted that this Book of the Jubilees is not accepted by the Rabbinical view and considered to be apocryphical.
Hyrcanus' role of High Priest led to the darkest page of his reign:
Now the Jews had been, in the time of his father and uncles, united in affection towards them [the Hasmonean dynasty], and prompt to obey them, on account of their subduing of their enemies, and the excellent feats which they performed. They also continued united in affection to Hyrcanus, until the slaughter of the Pharisees was committed by him, and the rooting out of the Jews, and the civil wars on account of religion. From hence sprung perpetual enmities, and ceaseless evils, and many murders. This was the reason why many detested Hyrcanus. --- Maccabees, Book V, 27:6-8
Hyrcanus also had some family affairs to worry about: he had three sons, Aristobulus, Antigonus and Alexander. The later hated his father who in turn had the intent to keep him out of the heritage of the dynasty. To this effect, and in order to resolve the potential conflict of interest between religion and state, Hyrcanus took the decision that, after his death, the roles of ruler and High Priest will be separated again: his wife was to reign, while his oldest son Aristobulus was to become High Priest.
He also built himself a palace on the other side of the Jordan River.
Ruins of John Hyrcanus Palace (Iraq al Amir, Jordan)
Hyrcanus died after 31 years of reign, and was succeeded on the throne by his wife. But she was quickly deposed by Aristobulus with the complicity of Antigonus, and put to prison with her preferred son, Alexander. She died there of starvation.
Aristobulus was a vain person, the first ruler since many generations to wear a crown and minting coins with the mention of king, while only the descendants of King David were allowed the royal title according to Jewish tradition. In his campaigns, Aristobulus added the region of Galilee to the Hasmonean realm. In the Chronicles of Eusebius, one of the early Christian scholars, it is mentioned:
Aristobulus the son of Jonathan, the king and high priest of the Jews, was the first to wear the royal diadem, 484 years after the Babylonian exile.--- Chronicles of Eusebius, translated by St. Jerome, entry for First year of the 169th Olympiad, to see text online click here
The year of the 169th Olympiad corresponds to 168 x 4 -776 = 104 BCE in the Latin translation made by St. Jerome. The Armenian translation (done before 600 AD) also placed the event 4 years earlier thus 104 BCE. The Babylonian exile should be counted from the captivity of Jehoiachin, the last king of Judah, in 597 BCE, but is rather counted by non-Jewish scholars from the fall of Jerusalem 10 years later in 586 BCE. So the 480 years mentioned above from the 169th Olympiad would correspond to 584 BCE which is very close from 586 BCE.
But misfortune soon struck his reign. Aristobulus had a wife, Salome, who despised him. When he was sick, and remained in bed in his palace, his brother Antigonus came to visit him. Salome made an evil design which resulted in the guards killing Antigonus as he entered the palace, due to orders wrongly interpreted. And Aristobulus died soon after from his ailment. Thus, after barely one year since Hyrcanus’ death, his wife and his two preferred sons had died while Alexander, the son he despised most, was called to rule. And he married Salome, owing to the Biblical law of the levirate.
[1a] It is in Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls have been discovered in the 20th century in mountain caves near the site
[1b] To see related page in this site, click here
 Neapolis means New City in Greek, and is the name which has remained today as Naplouse or Nablus
[3a] To see the page on the High Priests of that period, click here
[3b] To read a translation of the text online, click here
 Before him, the Hasmonean rulers called themselves nassi which means president
 At the time of the Christian scholar Eusebius, Alexander was still believed to be the son of Antiochus Epiphanes, as seen in his Chronicles in the text for the 2nd year of the 157th Olympiad; to see the text, click here
[6a] The Pharisees derived their name from the Hebrew word פרש which means that 'they separated'; this is because they separated themselves from the offrandes that were made in the Temple in their days, owing to the fact that they considered these offrandes not to be religiously 'clean' (corruption of the upper society cast in charge of the Temple); they followed the Written Law and the Oral Law; they believed in the Next World and that one's actions in this world would have retribution or punishment in the next world; with this angle, they could be compared to the Greek Stoics who also believed in a Next World
[6b] The Saduccees derived their name from their founder, Zadok; they rejected the Oral Law and only followed the Written Law (Torah), although the Torah is not giving any specifics in many of its laws; they didn't believe in the Next World and therefore preferred to enjoy the present world; to this extent, they can be compared to the Greek Epicureans; the Sadducees ere found among the upper class of the society
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