Contents Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………… 1 The Grecian or Hellenistic Period…………………………………………………………….. 1 The Ptolemaic Period…………………………………………………………………………. 4 The Seleucid or Syrian Period………………………………………………………………... 6  Antiochus IV Epiphanes………………………………………………………………. 7 The Maccabean Period………………………………………………………………………. 11 The Hasmonean Period……………………………………………………………………….13 The Roman Period through Herod’s Sons…………………………………………………… 17 Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………… 21 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………. 22

1 Introduction From the period of Alexander the Great through the reign of Herod the Great and his sons, many changes and events took place in Palestine. This period of time covers over three hundred and thirty years and covers the vast majority of the Intertestamental period. Six

historical divisions are observable that occur after the period of the Persians. The Grecian or Hellenistic period began with Alexander the Great and his defeat of the Persians at the battle of Arbela in 331 BC. The Ptolemaic period continues after the Grecian period with the death of Alexander the Great. The Syrian period was ushered in with the defeat of the Ptolemies in 198 BC at the battle of Panion. The Maccabean period begins in 167 BC with a revolt against the Syrians. The Hasmonean period is actually a continuation of the Maccabean period but with its rulers having different agendas than their forefathers. 1 The final period is the Roman period which begins in 63 BC. This study will seek to present the events of each period chronologically with attention given to the historical and the religious developments of each period in relation to Palestine as well as describe how Antiochus IV Epiphanes affected the first century world of the New Testament. The Grecian or Hellenistic Period (331-320 BC) ―Hellenism‖ is a term used to describe the period of and culture stemming from the conquests of Alexander the Great.2 Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) was the son of Philip of Macedon who became king of Greece by force through the rousing of the Macedonian tribes in northern Greece. Philip had forged Macedonia into a mighty military machine. During his lifetime he made the Greek city-states the tributaries of Macedonia, and was on the verge of
Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message, (Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 19.
2 1

J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament, (Michigan: Baker Academic, 1995),78.

2 additional conquests when he died in 337 BC. 3 Alexander succeeded Philip as king upon his death and, in the year 334 BC, he set out on his career of conquest. 4 Alexander looked eastward to the vast areas controlled by the Greeks’ ancient enemy, the Persians. Leading his army, he crossed the Hellespont and defeated the Persians at the strategic Granicus River. This victory opened up the entire region of Asia Minor to him. 5 The following year, at Issus, Alexander met and defeated the Persian king Darius III Codomannus (336-330 BC).6 Alexander was then faced with a choice. He could either go east or south. Alexander advanced southward and gained Phoenicia, Palestine and Egypt. Tradition states that he spared the city of Jerusalem because Jaddua, the high priest, showed him out of the prophecy of Daniel 8 that he would conquer Persia. Whether this tradition is historically correct is difficult to determine, but it is a fact that Jerusalem was not destroyed even though other conquered cities were.7 Josephus recounts this encounter with Alexander in The Antiquities of the Jews and how when Alexander approached the city of Jerusalem, he saw a multitude in white clothing and the high priest clothed in fine linen. He decided to treat the Jews kindly because of a dream that he had at Dios in Macedonia from God that He would be with Alexander and that he would conquer the Persians. So after making sacrifice to God according to the high priest’s instruction, Alexander was shown the Daniel prophecy of a Greek who would conquer the Persians. Alexander supposed that it was he himself who was this person intended. The next day the high priest asked if the Jews would be

3 4 5 6 7

Lea and Black, 13. Scott, 79. Robert G. Gromacki, New Testament Survey, (Michigan: Baker Book House, 1974), 5. Scott, 79. Gromacki, 7.

3 allowed to enjoy the laws of their forefathers and pay no tribute on the seventh year. Alexander granted the request and also made it so for all of the Jews in Media and Babylon. 8 Alexander then retraced his steps northward, moved east, and conquered the Persians for the third time in the decisive battle of Arbela. This victory opened up the Persian heartland. His army then quickly moved through Babylon and Persia and extended itself as far as India. 9 The Greek philosopher Aristotle had tutored Alexander in the ideals of Hellenism, and Alexander developed a deep devotion to Hellenistic culture and tradition. As he conquered, he established colonies that became centers for spreading Hellenism. Alexander encouraged his soldiers to marry oriental women, thus enhancing the blending of Greek and oriental cultures. He also educated Persians in the Greek language.10 Alexander’s greatest desire was to found a worldwide empire united by language, custom, and civilization. Under his influence the world began to speak and study the Greek language. Hellenism became so popular that it persisted and was encouraged even into New Testament times by the Romans. The struggle that developed between the Jews and Hellenism’s influence upon their culture and religion was long and bitter. The most faithful of Jews staunchly resisted pagan polytheism. 11 When Alexander’s troops became restless, he turned back westward and began suffering losses. In 323 BC, while laying plans for future expeditions, he suddenly died of fever in Babylon at the age of thirty-three.12 When Alexander died, he left no heir old enough to take over the empire. Even with no heir Alexander had passed the legacy of Hellenism on to the next
Flavius Josephus, The Works of Josephus (Electronic Edition): The Antiquities of the Jews (Iowa: Parsons Technology, 1998), 11.8.5.
9 8

Gromacki, 7. Lea and Black, 13. William McDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, (Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), 1186. Scott, 79.

10 11 12

4 rulers of the area—the Ptolemaic and the Seleucid empire 13—and its influence would continue to spread throughout the world for the next six hundred years. 14 The Ptolemaic Period (320-198 BC) After seven years of internal struggle, Alexander’s conquered territory was divided into four sections under the control of four generals called the diadochi which is a derivation of the Greek word meaning ―successors‖: Antigonus took northern Syria and Babylon; Cassander ruled Macedonia; Ptolemy controlled southern Syria and Egypt; and Lysimachus reigned over Thrace and western Asia Minor. When Antigonus attempted to become a second Alexander, the other three generals aligned to check him. Ptolemy demanded that Antigonus yield Babylon to

Seleucus. When Antigonus resisted, he was defeated and Seleucus obtained Babylon by force. 15 Two of these generals developed empires that are important for New Testament history. In Egypt and southern Syria the Ptolemies ruled and established Alexandria as their capital. In northern Syria the rulers carried the name of either Seleucus or Antiochus. They made Antioch their capital. Ptolemy annexed Palestine to his territory ahead of Seleucus and, as a result, led to Ptolemy and Seleucus becoming bitter enemies. Their descendants continued that hostility and engaged in many wars, with Palestine being the battlefield and prize of victory. 16 Early in the period, Ptolemy I (323-285 BC) settled many Jews in Alexandria. They became the nucleus of the Jewish community, which constituted one of the city’s five wards and was to play an important part in history of succeeding centuries (the biblical Apollos came from

13 14 15 16

Lea and Black, 13, 15. Gromacki, 7. Ibid., 8. Ibid.

5 Alexandria [Acts 18:24-28]).17 These new immigrants fell fully under the influence of

Hellenistic culture. Hellenism also flowed into Palestine itself through the influence of Greek cities in the area and trade between Palestine and Egypt. In 320 BC, Ptolemy I deposed the

governor of Palestine and added its territory to his kingdom. 18 The absorption of the Grecian culture by a great number of Jews necessitated the translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek language. 19 Under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-246 BC), the Old Testament was translated into Greek. The appearance of this translation indicated that Jewish residents in Egypt were becoming more proficient in the use of Greek than in the use of their native Hebrew. Jewish tradition taught that this translation was the work of seventy-two Jewish scholars. The translation, known as the Septuagint, is commonly designated by the Roman numerals LXX, since seventy is the nearest round number to seventy-two.20 In the New Testament period, it was widely circulated throughout the Mediterranean world, used in the synagogues by both Jews and Gentile proselytes. Therefore, when the early churches, composed mostly of Gentile Christians, were established, they had the authoritative text of the Old Testament in a language they could read immediately. Before the writing of the Gospels and the Epistles, it was the Bible of the young church. 21 There is little information about affairs in Judea while it lay under Egyptian rule. Two families, the Oniads and the Tobiads, struggled for both political influence and control of the priesthood, a conflict which increased in significance in the following period. The Zeno Papyri

17 18 19 20 21

Scott, 80. Lea and Black, 15. Gromacki, 8. Lea and Black, 15. Gromacki, 9.

6 attest that Hellenistic culture was widespread in the Jewish countryside outside Jerusalem. 22 Also during this period, the many battles between the Ptolemies and Seleucids were constantly fought. In 198 BC, at Paneas, near the foot of Mt. Hermon in northern Palestine, Antiochus III of Syria decisively defeated Ptolemy V of Egypt. After this battle, control of Palestine passed from Egyptian to Syrian hands. 23 The Seleucid or Syrian Period (198-167 BC) With the arrival of the second century BC came also the passing of political power in the land of Israel from the Ptolemies to the Seleucids (often called Syrians). Both ideological reasons and practical political considerations prompted the Seleucids to forcefully accelerate the insertion of Hellenistic culture into all aspects of Jewish life. 24 The capital of the Seleucid empire was Antioch on the Orontes River in northern Syria. This city was destined to become the first major non-Jewish center of Christianity (Acts 11:19-26) and the headquarters from where Paul left for his missionary journeys. In 198 BC Antiochus III the Great (223-187 BC) defeated Ptolemy V Epiphanes (203-181 BC) at Paneas (later Caesarea Philippi) near the headwaters of the Jordan River. Some Jews welcomed Seleucid control. Antiochus confirmed Jewish privileges, reduced tribute, and made contributions to the temple. 25 Roman political influence first began to be felt in the East during this time. When Hannibal of Carthage was defeated by the Romans in 202 BC, he fled eastward and took refuge in the court of Antiochus III. Full of vengeance, Hannibal encouraged Antiochus to invade Greece to gain more territory. Rome interfered, defeated Antiochus, forced him to withdraw and
22 23 24 25

Scott, 80. Lea and Black, 16. Scott, 80. Ibid., 81.

7 took his son as a political hostage to Rome. Twelve years later the son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, was released, returned to Syria, and shortly after was crowned king.26 ANTIOCHUS IV EPIPHANES Even though many Jews welcomed the Seleucids, there was still opposition. Many Jews, led by the high priest Onias III, supported the Ptolemies of Egypt. Their opponents from the wealthy house of Tobias supported Syria. For some years a struggle ensued between the proEgyptian Oniads and the pro-Syrian Tobiads. The Oniads initially prevailed over the Tobiads, and their dominance continued until the Syrian ruler Antiochus IV (175-163 BC) came to the throne. Antiochus was a committed Hellenist and an egoist. He assumed the name ―Epiphanes,‖ meaning ―Manifestation of God,‖ suggesting that he was the incarnation of the Olympian Zeus on earth. In a mocking twist of irony the Jews dubbed him ―Epimanes,‖ the madman. 27 Antiochus IV had two problems to deal with when he came to the throne. On his southern border Ptolemy VI Philometor (181-145 BC) sought to regain the land of Israel; for his part Antiochus desired to control Egypt. Also, he was compelled to seek funds with which to pay a staggering settlement imposed by the Romans when they defeated Antiochus III. Thus, the tax burden on the Jews became heavier. Antiochus plundered the temple for its gold, and when the Jews resisted, they suffered military defeat and the slaughter of many of their countrymen. The walls of Jerusalem were razed, and troops friendly to the king were stationed in the newly constructed Acra, a Seleucid military stronghold in the city. Most severe of all was Antiochus’s

26 27

Gromacki, 9-10. Lea and Black, 16.

8 determination to create a loyal ideological-cultural boundary with Egypt by completely hellenizing Jewish society.28 Under Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Onias III lost his priestly office to his brother Jason, who used bribery and the promise (contrary to family policy) to promote Hellenism in Jerusalem. Jason established a gymnasium with a race track in Jerusalem where Jewish boys exercised in the nude after the Greek custom. This practice produced outrage among devoted Jews. Races opened with invocations to pagan deities and Jewish priests even began to leave their duties to attend these events. Prior to a planned invasion of Egypt, Antiochus replaced Jason with another Jew, Menelaus, who had offered a higher tribute to Antiochus. Pious Jews deeply resented the sale of the sacred office of high priest to the highest bidder. As an added offense, Menelaus may not have belonged to a priestly family. 29 Thus important precedents were set that removed the Zadokite family’s exclusive right to the high priesthood and placed bestowal of the office in the hands of the ruler. At this point, the written sources first introduce a group called the Hasidim (Pious Ones). They seemed to have resisted Hellenism. They were appalled at the transfer of the priesthood from Onias to Jason, horrified when it left the clan of Aaron and particularly the family of Zadok.30 Antiochus IV's decision to intervene in high-priestly politics, which may be viewed as a logical extension of his earlier activities, was bound both to worsen Seleucid-Jewish relations and to exacerbate difficulties among Jews. Here one can again see that financial concerns dominated his thinking. Antiochus achieved notable victories in his first campaign against a weakened Ptolemaic empire. Returning triumphantly north from these initial successes, he
28 29 30

Scott, 81. Lea and Black, 16-17. Scott, 82.

9 stopped in Jerusalem during the fall of 169 BCE and used this as an opportunity to expropriate huge sums in gold and silver from the Temple treasury. From the perspective of almost all the Jewish community, this was an illegal and impious action. From Antiochus's point of view, he was only helping himself to what was lawfully his, with the active support of the Jewish high priest Menelaus. Antiochus had high hopes for a repeat performance when he embarked on his second Egyptian campaign the following year. At first, everything went his way, as he and his victorious troops marched up the banks of the Nile toward Alexandria. But at that very moment, as if on cue, a Roman envoy arrived on the scene and demanded that Antiochus immediately halt his advance and return home. 31 The Roman legate, Popilius Laenas, protecting the ambitions of his government, confronted Antiochus outside Alexandria. He drew a circle on the ground around him, and demanded his promise to withdraw from Egypt before he stepped out of the circle. Antiochus, unable to resist the armed might of Rome, grudgingly withdrew from Egypt. 32 At one time he is praised for acting truly like a king; yet he had a contempt for court protocol, and a love of mixing with the common people and sharing their amusements, which shocked educated Greeks. A bohemian streak appears in his interest in art—particularly that of the goldsmiths and silversmiths, with whom he spent much of his spare time—and in his delight in dressing up and play-acting, the most notorious instance of which was his holding ―elections‖ on the Roman model in Antioch, with himself as a candidate for office. But these were minor matters. More important were the attempts to find compensation for the interview with Popilius. Much of this effort—such as the splendid triumphal procession on his return from Egypt—was chiefly directed towards making the Greek world forget his humiliation. This was politically
Leonard J. Greenspoon, ―Between Alexandria and Antioch,‖ in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, (2009, accessed 19 November 2009, available from, Internet.
32 31

Lea and Black, 17.

10 necessary. But the increasing signs of unbalance in his character show that he himself

desperately needed psychological compensation. His rule now became more arbitrary and his methods more oppressive, much against his political interest; and, above all, he began to lay increasing stress on his divinity. 33 As a result of this psychological break and his ―divinity‖ complex, Antiochus went to Jerusalem to defeat an effort by Jason to regain the priesthood. He took Jerusalem; killed large numbers of men, women, and children; entered the temple; and confiscated the holy vessels and offerings he found there. He built a strongly fortified citadel on the western hill of Jerusalem, garrisoned it with troops loyal to him, and left it behind to enforce his victory. Back in Antioch, he decreed steps for ending Jewish worship in Jerusalem. His purposes had little to do with his devotion to Hellenistic religion, but he wanted to unify his kingdom on a religious basis and to control the offerings pouring into the Jerusalem temple. After his decree it became a capital offense to practice circumcision, observe the Sabbath and other religious festivals, and even to own copies of portions of the Old Testament. Pagan sacrifices became compulsory in the temple and at altars throughout the country. Antiochus ordered the erection of a statue of Olympian Zeus in the temple and even had a sow (pig) sacrificed on the sacred altar. 34 Josephus attests to this account by showing in his Antiquities that, ―when the king had built an idol altar upon God’s altar, he slew swine upon it, and so offered a sacrifice neither according to the law, nor the Jewish religious worship in that country.‖ 35 Antiochus failed to reckon with the stubborn commitment of the Jews to follow their religion.
33 34 35

Many Jews courageously chose martyrdom rather than compromise their faith.
E. Badian, Antiochus Epiphanes and the Rebirth of Judaea, (History Today, 9:6, 1959:June), 419. Lea and Black, 17. Josephus, Antiquities, 12.5.4.

11 Courageous survivors of Antiochus’s withering persecution began to prepare themselves for armed resistance to his despotic decrees. As a result of Antiochus’s cruel decrees a revolt took place that would have a lasting impact up to and beyond the first century world of the New Testament. In 167 BC a band of Jews gathering around an aged priest named Mattathias from the village of Modin, about ten miles northwest of Jerusalem, sparked a revolt against Syrian power.36 This revolt would continue past Antiochus’ time. Antiochus died in 163 BC but rivalry and strife among his would-be successors aided the Jews in their quest for freedom. 37 This set the stage for a series of conflicts that would see the end of the Seleucid control over Palestine and usher in the next period in the nation of Palestine. The Maccabean Period (167-142 BC) After Antiochus Epiphanes’ intolerable pollutions of the Jewish temple in 168 BC, further abuses were heaped upon the Jews. The deplorable conditions reached a pinnacle when a Syrian official tried to force Mattathias, an old priest, to offer a pagan sacrifice in the village of Modin. The priest refused and when an apostate Jew volunteered to do so, Mattathias killed him and the government envoy, destroyed the altar, and fled into the wilderness with his sons. The priest became a national hero overnight. 38 Many others joined them in the mountains to form a resistance movement that would eventually lead to Jewish independence. Among those joining were the Hasidim who had fervently resisted outside cultural influences in order to remain

36 37 38

Lea and Black, 18. Ibid., 19. Gromacki, 10.

12 faithful to the Torah. Mattathias died in 166 B.C. and the leadership of the rebellion he had begun fell to his son Judas. 39 Judas (164-160 BC) proved to be a nearly invincible military leader. With stealth and sudden attacks he routed armies of superior numbers sent against him by Antiochus. His exploits earned him the nickname of Maccabeus, ―the Hammer.‖ The revolutionaries were henceforth called the Maccabees. The Maccabean family also was called Hasmonean after the name of an earlier ancestor, Hasmon. 40 The unstable international situation kept the Seleucids from devoting their full energies to crushing the Jewish revolt. Eventually they were forced to withdraw to regroup their forces. 41 In 164 BC, three years after the altar to Zeus had been set up, Judas wrested religious freedom from the Syrians. Antiochus rescinded his ban on the Jewish religion, and Judas was able to lead the Jews in the worship of Jehovah. The temple was cleansed, the daily burnt offering and other religious ceremonies resumed and the temple was re-dedicated. Modern Jews still commemorate this event in their annual celebration of the Feast of Lights, or Hanukkah. Although Judas obtained religious freedom, he still sought to win full national autonomy. 42 The Maccabees had won their struggle for religious liberty, but the Seleucids remained their overlords, Hellenism was still a threat, Menelaus continued as high priest, and Jews outside Jerusalem and Judea lived in constant danger of attack.43 Judas was killed in battle in 160 BC at the strategic Beth-horon pass and was succeeded by his brother Jonathan (160-143 BC), a man of
David C. Carson, A Brief History of the Intertestamental Period and Beyond, (2006, accessed 23 November 2009, available from, Internet.
40 41 42 43 39

Lea and Black, 18. Scott, 83. Lea and Black, 18. Scott, 83.

13 prudence and great skills. He exploited the internal Seleucid situation to great advantage,

succeeding in expanding Jewish-held territory and acquiring virtual independence. Although the Hasmonean family were ordinary priests rather than from the high-priestly line of Zadok, in 152 BC Jonathan became high priest; the position was to remain in the family until the Roman occupation. Jonathan was eventually murdered by the Seleucids in 143 BC. 44 Jonathan was succeeded by his brother Simon (143-134 BC) and he continued military and political pressure until 142 BC when a claimant to the Syrian throne offered Simon national release from tribute and taxation in return for his military and political support. The leader, Demetrius II Nicator, did not withdraw all Syrian forces from Palestinian soil, but Simon continued a military struggle and subdued the citadel in Jerusalem that had been established there by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. From then until the rise of the Roman Empire, the Jews enjoyed national autonomy. In the period of peace that followed, a grateful Jewish nation recognized the leadership of Simon and his family. Simon was awarded the office of hereditary high priest, and the Jewish people vested in him religious, military, and political authority. 45 This dual role (civil-religious) continued and caused the priests to become wealthy, powerful men. This act legitimized a new dynasty, a hereditary high priesthood that came to be known as the Hasmoneans. 46 The Hasmonean Period (142-63 BC) In many ways the original hopes of the Maccabean revolt had been realized by 142 BC. After that time many of the descendants of the Maccabees who served as rulers abandoned the

44 45 46

Scott, 84. Lea and Black, 19. Gromacki, 11.

14 aims and goals of their forefathers and pursued personal agendas that were often secular and influenced by Hellenism. 47 Though Simon was able to push back military threats from Syria, he succumbed to internal strife. In a display of unbelievable treachery, Simon’s son-in-law,

Ptolemy, murdered Simon and two of his sons. A surviving son, John Hyrcanus (134-104 BC), escaped and repulsed the military effort of Ptolemy. 48 Ptolemy had intended to seize leadership for himself, but Hyrcanus was acclaimed his father’s successor. During the first five or six years of Hyrcanus’s rule the Seleucids once again invaded and assumed temporary control of the land of Israel, but by the seventh year the Jews were once again independent. He then set out on a policy of conquest, using mercenaries as well as Jewish soldiers. He added areas east of the Jordan, Idumea to the south, and the Samaritan lands as far as Scythopolis (Beth-shan) to the north. The Idumeans were forced to accept circumcision and to live under the Jewish law. Hyrcanus destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim around 108 BC and, later, the city of Samaria.49 Hyrcanus’s military conquests made him virtually a Jewish king. His cruelty alienated many godly Jews and pushed Hyrcanus into a reconciliation with wealthy Jews who had sympathies for Hellenism. During his lifetime one can see the initial development of groups that later became the Pharisees and the Sadducees of the New Testament period. The Pharisees were the descendants of the Hasidim who had initially joined with the Maccabean brothers in their efforts to win Jewish freedom. The Sadducees became the wealthy party with priestly influence and a love for Hellenism. 50 Josephus notes that Hyrcanus at first favored the Pharisees, but
47 48 49 50

Lea and Black, 19. Ibid., 20. Scott, 85. Lea and Black, 20.

15 turned to favor the Sadducees when one of the Pharisees named Eleazer, suggested that he give up the high priesthood and to just be content with being in political and military power.51 From this time onward, with the sole exception of Salome Alexandra, the Pharisees were enemies of the Hasmonean dynasty; there grew a strong relationship between the Hasmoneans and the Sadducees. 52 When Hyrcanus died in 104 BC, Aristobulus (104-103 BC) took control. Although he reigned but a year, he consolidated his power at the cost of imprisoning his closest relatives, including his mother, whom he allowed to die of starvation. He continued the program of territorial expansion begun by his father and brought Iturea, in the Lebanese foothills, and Galilee under Jewish control. Aristobulus also openly claimed the title of king. Josephus notes that Aristobulus bore another title, Philhellene or ―lover of things Greek.‖53 Upon Aristobulus’s death his widow, Salome Alexandra, released his brothers from prison and offered herself to one of them, Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 BC). He then became king and high priest. His devotion to Hellenism is evident in the use of two names, on Greek and the other Hebrew, and also in his inscribing his coins in the two languages. During the majority of his rule, he was involved in either foreign or domestic military conflict. Early on he suffered defeat at the hands of the Egyptians and Nabateans. His relations with the Pharisees deteriorated to the point that some of their number called in the Seleucid king Demetrius III Eukairos against him. However, the sight of a Jewish king fleeing from the Seleucids caused his enemies to turn to his aid, and the Seleucids were expelled. This event marked the turning point in Jannaeus’s

51 52 53

Josephus, Antiquities, 13.10.5-6. Scott, 86. Josephus, Antiquities, 13.11.3.

16 fortunes.54 He retaliated against the Pharisaical conspiracy, and according to Josephus, ―as he was feasting with his concubines, in the sight of all the city, he ordered about eight hundred of them to be crucified; and while they were living, he ordered the throats of their children and wives to be cut before their eyes.‖ 55 This and other acts of atrocity caused eight thousand of his opponents to flee the country. Thereafter his military campaigns were largely successful. He extended the boundaries of

Jewish-held territory beyond those reached under Hyrcanus. Jannaeus modeled neither the ideals of the priestly Maccabean movement nor the higher values of Hellenistic culture. He was more of a hellenized Asian despot. His death left the country badly divided and the kingdom passed to Salome Alexandra, the widow of both Jannaeus and Aristobulus. 56 Salome Alexandra (76-67 BC), who took over control after the death of Jannaeus, had two sons. Hyrcanus II (63-40 BC), who was a quiet and peaceful man, became high priest. His brother Aristobulus II (67-63 BC), a more dominant personality and ambitious for power, became leader of the military forces. In foreign affairs there was little of significance during Alexandra’s reign. Internally, the old Sadducean-aristocracy coalition was not completely

broken and had the advantage of being closely allied with Aristobulus. In 67 BC the Pharisees, with the queen’s permission, sought to move against their enemies. For their part, Aristobulus and his associates were poised not only to defend themselves but also to seize power. At that point Alexandra died and civil war was inevitable. 57

54 55 56 57

Scott, 87. Josephus, Antiquities, 13.14.2. Scott, 87. Ibid., 88.

17 Aristobulus’s forces immediately defeated Hyrcanus. In return for permission to retire peacefully to his estate, Hyrcanus yielded the high priesthood as well as civil authority to his brother. The days of the Maccabean/Hasmonean rulers were all but over. Although priests, they had proved to be as corrupt as any pagan overlord. After Aristobulus had become king,

Antipater, whose father had been appointed governor of the area south of Judea (Idumea) by Jannaeus, set himself to gain power through the weak Hyrcanus. Eventually he persuaded Hyrcanus to seek support from the Nabatean king Aretas. With this aid Hyrcanus defeated Aristobulus, who in 65 BC fled to the temple area and fortified himself against a siege by his brother and the Nabateans. In the north, the Roman general Pompey had subdued Asia Minor and Syria. When word came to Pompey’s lieutenant, Scaurus, about the strife in Jerusalem, he went to the city where both Hyrcanus and Aristobulus sought Roman support. Aristobulus’s party was successful and the Nabateans were ordered to leave. On their way home, they suffered a humiliating defeat by Aristobulus and his army. Pompey eventually became suspicious of Aristobulus’s later activities and turned against him. After another siege and battle centered in the temple area, on a Sabbath day in 63 BC the temple fortress was breached, Aristobulus’s forces were defeated, and Jerusalem was claimed by the Romans. 58 The Roman Period through Herod’s Sons (63 BC-AD 39) The beginning of Roman rule in the land of Israel saw a continuation of the internal conflicts begun in the Maccabean/Hasmonean period. In fact, the same characters who had brought that era to an end were still involved—Aristobulus II, Hyrcanus II, and the Idumean Antipater.59 During the events of 63 BC when Rome captured Jerusalem and Aristobulus was

58 59

Scott, 88-89. Ibid, 89.

18 defeated, Hyrcanus II was restored to the priestly office. Thus Antipater was introduced to Jewish political life through Rome and Hyrcanus II. The influence of his family in the politics of Palestine continued for the next four generations. Antipater actually became the chief counselor and the real power behind the throne.60 At the death of Pompey, Antipater proved himself a faithful supporter of Julius Caesar, who bestowed upon Antipater the title of procurator of Judea. Two of Antipater’s sons, Phasael and Herod, were given authority over Jerusalem and Galilee respectively. After the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC, Antipater and Herod gave aid to the forces of the conspirators Brutus and Cassius. By 42 BC when Brutus and Cassius had been defeated by the forces of Octavian and Mark Antony, Antipater had died by poisoning. Mark Antony conferred on Phasael and Herod the title of tetrarch along with responsibility of Jewish politics. Antigonus, a surviving son of Aristobulus II managed to put this in a bad light and gained the support of the Parthians to lay siege to Jerusalem. Phasael committed suicide before he could be taken, and upon capturing Jerusalem Antigonus cut off the ears of Hyrcanus (his uncle) so that he would no longer qualify as High Priest. Herod managed to escape and sought out Antony in Alexandria. In 37 BC, three years after Antigonus had seized power, Herod retook Jerusalem with the support of the Romans. Antigonus was executed, and Herod controlled of all of Palestine. 61 Theoretically Herod was an independent monarch, but in fact a puppet of Rome. It is he whom history has labeled King Herod and Herod the Great. The execution of Antigonus ended the Hasmonean dynasty.62

60 61 62

Gromacki, 12. Carson, Internet. Scott, 89.

19 Herod the Great’s non-Jewish background caused most Jews to resent his presence. His capacity for scheming, cruel behavior appears in the biblical story of his slaughter of the children in Bethlehem. Despite his cruelty and suspicious attitude, Herod had excellent administrative abilities. He provided free grain during famine and free clothing in other calamities. He constructed many impressive buildings and was also responsible for refurbishing of the Jewish temple. The temple was redecorated with white marble, gold, and jewels and became renowned for its splendor and lavish appearance.63 Even though Herod was sensitive to Jewish concerns and usually went out of his way not to offend, he was at heart thoroughly Hellenistic. 64 He hated the Hasmonean family and killed every descendant of the Hasmoneans, even his own wife Marianne, the grand-daughter of John Hyrcanus. Then he proceeded to murder his own two sons by Marianne, Aristobulus and Alexander.65 His death in 4 BC, likely of intestinal cancer, found him haunted by the memory of the atrocious murders he had committed.66 His personal issues notwithstanding, on the whole he was an able ruler and his achievements were considerable. In particular, Herod’s friendship and cooperation with Rome were of real value to the Jews of the land of Israel. Politically he brought stability and a reasonable amount of prosperity to the region.67 At Herod’s death three of his sons inherited separate parts of his kingdom. Archelaus became ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea. The term ethnarch was used to describe the ruler over an ethnic group such as the Jews. He served from 4 BC–AD 6, when his distasteful

63 64 65 66 67

Lea and Black, 25. Scott, 95. McDonald, 1188. Lea and Black, 25. Scott, 95-96.

20 rule provoked the Jews to ask Augustus to replace him. His reign over Judea led Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to live in Galilee rather than to Judea. After Archelaus’s banishment from the Judean throne, the Romans generally ruled Judea through a prefect or proprietor who answered to the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was in the line of these prefects. 68 Herod Philip was appointed tetrarch (a general description of subordinate rulers) of Iturea, Trachonitis, Gaulanitis, Auranitis, and Batanea. He was fair and just in his dealings and served in this position from 4 BC–AD 34. Herod the Great had another son named Philip but this Philip never ruled over any territory and is know in Scripture only because he was the first husband of Herodias.69 Herod Antipas was appointed tetrarch of Galilee and Perea and reigned from 4 BC–AD 39. John the Baptist rebuked him for divorcing his wife to marry Herodias, the wife of his half brother. Jesus labeled him ―that fox‖ and later stood trial before him. 70 Antipas carried on the ambitious building projects, including the cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias. Herod Antipas seemed to have possessed the less desirable of his father’s qualities but not his ability to rule. When Caligula became emperor in AD 37, he gave to his friend Agrippa, Herodias’s brother, both the territory that had until three years earlier been ruled by Philip the tetrarch and the title of king. Herodias persuaded Antipas to request the same title from the emperor. However, Agrippa proceeded to bring charges against Antipas of plotting insurrection, which resulted in his being exiled to Gaul (modern France) in AD 39 accompanied by Herodias. 71

68 69 70 71

Lea and Black, 26. Ibid. Ibid. Scott, 97.

21 The Hasmonean priesthood that had exercised civil power for one hundred years lost it when the Herodians came to the throne and never regained it. Although the priests had much power among the Jewish populace, the iron hand of Rome was there to stay. The constant jealousy of the Hasmonean priests, the struggle between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the intervention of Gentiles (Syrians, Parthians, Idumeans, and Romans) created a genuine spirit of unrest among the people. They longed for a person to lead them to peace and freedom. Into this world Jesus came. 72 Conclusion From Alexander the Great up to and through the reign of the Herodians, man’s futile attempts to deal with the shifting tide of political power and religious belief had produced very little. Israel was in a kind of spiritual bondage that was even worse than her political bondage. The rise of the various parties and movements discussed in this study was evidence of a sincere search for some final solution to her problem. All seemed to have failed. The stage of history was dark and the situation was indeed desperate. Amid this setting God broke four hundred years of silence with the announcement of the coming of Christ, the faithful Servant of the Lord, and the Intertestamental period came to an end. 73

72 73

Gromacki, 12-13. McDonald, 1189.

22 Bibliography Badian, E. Antiochus Epiphanes and the Rebirth of Judaea. History Today, 9:6 (1959:June) pg. 415-423. Carson, David C. A Brief History of the Intertestamental Period and Beyond. 2006, accessed 23 November 2009; available from; Internet. Greenspoon, Leonard J. ―Between Alexandria and Antioch.‖ The Oxford History of the Biblical World. Oxford Biblical Studies Online. 2009, accessed 19 November 2009 from; Internet. Gromacki, Robert G. New Testament Survey. Michigan: Baker Book House, 1974. Josephus, Flavius. The Works of Josephus (Electronic Edition). Iowa: Parsons Technology, 1998. Lea, Thomas D., and Black, David Alan. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. McDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary. Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995. Scott Jr, J. Julius. Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Michigan: Baker Academic, 1995.

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