Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
At first there was no thought of meeting violence with violence; as the Book of Daniel shows, people consoled themselves with thoughts of the immediate intervention of God which would occur in due time. Quite casually, without either plan or concert, a warlike opposition arose. There was a certain priest Mattathias, of the family of the Hasmonæans, a man far advanced in life, whose home was in Modein, a little country town to the west of Jerusalem. Hither also the Syrian soldiers came to put the population to a positive proof of their change of faith; they insisted upon Mattathias leading the way. But he was steadfast in his refusal; and, when another Jew addressed himself before his eyes to the work of making the heathen offering, he killed him and the Syrian officer as well, and destroyed the altar. Thereupon he fled to the hill country, accompanied by his sons (Johannes Gaddi, Simon Thassi, Judas Maccabæus, Eleazar Auaran, Jonathan Apphus) and other followers. But he resolved to defend himself to the last, and not to act as some other fugitives had done, who about the same time had allowed
themselves to be surrounded and butchered on a Sabbath-day without lifting a finger. Thus he became the head of a band which defended the ancestral religion with the sword. They traversed the country, demolished the altars of the false gods, circumcised the children, and persecuted the heathen and heathenishly disposed. The sect of the Asidæans also intrusted itself to their warlike protection (1 Macc. ii. 42).
Mattathias soon died and left his leadership to Judas Maccabæus, by whom the struggle was carried on in the first instance after the old fashion; soon, however, it assumed larger dimensions, when regular armies were sent out against the insurgents. First Apollonius, the governor of Judæa, took the field; but he was defeated and fell in battle. Next came Seron, governor of Cœlesyria, who also was routed near Bethhoron (166). Upon this Lysias, the regent to whom Antiochus IV., who was busied in the far east, had intrusted the government of Syria and the charge of his son, Antiochus Philopator, a minor, sent a strong force under the command of three generals. Approaching from the west, it was their design to advance separately upon Jerusalem, but Judas anticipated their plan and compelled them to quit the field (166). The regent now felt himself called on to interpose in person. Invading Judæa from the south, he encountered the Jews at Bethsur, who, however, offered an opposition that was not easily overcome; he was prevented from resorting to the last measures by the intelligence which reached him of the death of the king in Elymais (165).
The withdrawal of Lysias secured the fulfilment of the desires of the defenders of the faith in so far as it now enabled them to restore the Jerusalem worship to its previous condition. They lost no time in setting about the accomplishment of this. They were not successful indeed in wresting Acra from the possession of the Syrians, but they so occupied the garrison as to prevent it from interfering with the work of restoration. On 25th Kislev 165, the very day on which, three years before, "the abomination of desolation" had been inaugurated, the first sacrifice was offered on the new altar, and in commemoration of this the feast of the dedication was thenceforth celebrated.
As it was easy to see that danger still impended, the temple was put into a state of defence, as also was the town of Bethsur, where Lysias had been checked. But the favourable moment presented by the change of sovereign was made use of for still bolder attempts. Scattered over the whole of Southern Syria there were a number of Jewish
localities on which the heathens now proceeded to wreak their vengeance.
For the purpose of rescuing these oppressed co-religionists, and of bringing them in safety to Judæa, the Maccabees made a series of excursions, extending in some cases as far as to Lebanon and Damascus. Lysias had his hands otherwise fully occupied, and perhaps did not feel much disposed to continue the fight on behalf of the cultus of Jupiter Capitolinus. Daily gaining in boldness, the Jews now took in hand also to lay regular siege to Acra. Then at last Lysias yielded to the pressure of Syrian and Jewish deputations and determined to take serious steps (162). With a large force he entered Judæa, again from the south, and laid siege to Bethsur. Judas vainly attempted the relief of the fortress; he sustained near Bethzachariah a defeat in which his brother Eleazar perished. Bethsur was unable to hold out, being short of provisions on account of the sabbatic year. The Syrians advanced next to Jerusalem and besieged the temple; it also was insufficiently provisioned, and would soon have been compelled to surrender, had not Lysias been again called away at the critical moment by other exigencies. A certain Philip was endeavouring to oust him from the regency; as it was necessary for him to have his hands free in dealing with this new enemy, he closed a treaty with the temple garrison and the people at large, in accordance with which at once the political subjection and the religious freedom of the Jews were to be maintained; Thus the situation as it had existed before Antiochus IV. was restored. Only no attempt was made to replace Menelaus as high priest and ethnarch; this post was to be filled by Alcimus.
The concessions thus made by Lysias were inevitable; and even King Demetrius I., son of Seleucus IV., who towards the end of 162 ascended the throne and caused both Lysias and his ward to be put to death, had no thought of interfering with their religious freedom. But the Maccabees desired something more than the status quo ante; after having done their duty they were disinclined to retire in favour of Alcimus, whose sole claim lay in his descent from the old heathenishly-disposed high-priestly family. Alcimus was compelled to invoke the assistance of the king, who caused him to be installed by Bacchides. He was at once recognised by the scribes and Asidæans, for whom, with religious liberty, everything they wished had been secured; the claims to supremacy made by the Hasmonæans were of no consequence to
them. Doubtless the masses also would ultimately have quietly accepted Alcimus, who of course refrained from interference with either law or worship, had he not abused the momentary power he derived from the presence of Bacchides to take a foolish revenge. But the consequence of his action was that, as soon as Bacchides had turned his back, Alcimus was compelled to follow him. For the purpose of restoring him a Syrian army once more invaded Judæa under Nicanor (160), but first at Kapharsalama and afterwards at Bethhoron was defeated by Judas, and almost annihilated in the subsequent flight, Nicanor himself being among the slain (13th Adar = Nicanor's day). Judas was now at the acme of his prosperity; about this time he concluded his (profitless) treaty with the Romans. But disaster was impending. In the month of Nisan, barely a month after the defeat of Nicanor, a new Syrian army under Bacchides entered Judæa from the north; near Elasa, southward from Jerusalem, a decisive battle was fought which was lost by Judas, and in which he himself fell.
The religious war properly so called had already been brought once for all to an end by the convention of Lysias. If the struggle continued to be carried on, it was not for the faith but for the supremacy,—less in the interests of the community than in those of the Hasmonæans. After the death of Judas the secular character which the conflict had assumed ever since 162 continually became more conspicuous. Jonathan Apphus fought for his house, and in doing so used thoroughly worldly means. The high-priesthood, i.e., the ethnarchy, was the goal of his ambition. So long as Alcimus lived, it was far from his reach. Confined to the rocky fastnesses beside the Dead Sea, he had nothing for it but, surrounded by his faithful followers, to wait for better times. But on the death of Alcimus (159) the Syrians refrained from appointing a successor, to obviate the necessity of always having to protect him with military force. During the interregnum of seven years which followed, Jonathan again came more and more to the front, so that at last Bacchides concluded an armistice with him on the basis of the status quo (1 Macc. ix. 13). From his residence at Michmash Jonathan now exercised a de facto authority over the entire nation.
When accordingly Alexander Balas, a reputed son of Antiochus IV., rose against Demetrius, both rivals exerted themselves to secure the alliance of Jonathan, who did not fail to benefit by their competition. First of all, Demetrius formally recognised him as prince of Judah; in
consequence of this he removed to Jerusalem, and expelled the heathen and heathenishly disposed, who continued to maintain a footing only in Acra and Bethsur. Next Alexander Balas conferred on him the title of "high priest of the nation and friend of the king;" in gratitude for which Jonathan went over to his side (152). He remained loyal, although Demetrius now made larger offers; he was justified by the event, for Demetrius I. had the worst of it and was slain (150). The victorious Balas heaped honours upon Jonathan, who maintained his fidelity, and fought successfully in his interests when in 147 Demetrius II., the son of Demetrius I., challenged a conflict. The high priest was unable indeed to prevent the downfall of Alexander in 145; but Demetrius II., won by presents, far from showing any hostility, confirmed him in his position in consideration of a tribute of 300 talents.
Jonathan was grateful to the king, as he showed by going with 3000 men to his aid against the insurgent Antiochenes. But when the latter drew back from his promise to withdraw the garrison from Acra, he went over to the side of Trypho, who had set up a son of Alexander Balas (Antiochus) as a rival. In the war which he now waged as Seleucid-strategus against Demetrius he succeeded in subduing almost the whole of Palestine. Meanwhile his brother Simon remained behind in Judæa, mastered the fortress of Bethsur, and resumed with great energy the siege of Acra. All this was done in the names of Antiochus and Trypho, but really of course in the interests of the Jews themselves. There were concluded also treaties with the Romans and Lacedæmonians, certainly not to the advantage of the Syrians.
Trypho sought now to get rid of the man whom he himself had made so powerful. He treacherously seized and imprisoned Jonathan in Ptolemais, and meditated an attack upon the leaderless country. But on the frontier Simon, the last remaining son of Mattathias, met him in force. All Trypho's efforts to break through proved futile; after skirting all Judæa from west to south, without being able to get clear of Simon, he at last withdrew to Peræa without having accomplished anything. On the person of Jonathan, whom he caused to be executed, he vented the spleen he felt on the discovery that the cause for which that prince had fought was able to gain the victory even when deprived of his help. Simon, in point of fact, was Jonathan's equal as a soldier and his superior as a ruler. He secured his frontier by means of fortresses, made himself master of Acra (141), and understood how to enable the
people in time of peace to reap the advantages that result from successful war; agriculture, industry, and commerce (from the haven of Joppa) began to flourish vigorously. In grateful recognition of his services the high-priesthood and the ethnarchy were bestowed upon him as hereditary possessions by a solemn assembly of the people, "until a trustworthy prophet should arise."
Nominally the Seleucidæ still continued to possess the suzerainty. Simon naturally had detached himself from Trypho and turned to Demetrius II., who confirmed him in his position, remitted all arrears of tribute, and waived his rights for the future (142). The friendship of Demetrius II. and of his successor Antiochus Sidetes with Simon, however, lasted only as long as Trypho still remained in the way. But, he once removed, Sidetes altered his policy. He demanded of Simon the surrender of Joppa, Gazara, and other towns, besides the citadel of Jerusalem, as well as payment of all tribute resting due. The refusal of these demands led to war, which in its earlier stages was carried on with success, but the scales were turned after the murder of Simon, when Sidetes in person took the field against John Hyrcanus, Simon's son and successor. Jerusalem capitulated; in the negotiations for peace the surrender of all the external possessions of the Jews was insisted upon; the suzerainty of the Syrians became once more a reality (135). But in 130 the powerful Antiochus Sidetes fell in an expedition against the Parthians, and the complications anew arising in reference to the succession to the Syrian throne placed Hyrcanus in a position to recover what he had lost and to make new acquisitions. He subjugated Samaria and Idumæa, compelling the inhabitants of the latter to accept circumcision. Like his predecessors, he too sought to secure the favour of the Romans, but derived no greater benefit from the effort than they had done. After a prosperous reign of thirty years he died in 105. By Josephus he is represented as a pattern of all that a pious prince ought to be; by the rabbins as representing a splendid high-priesthood. The darkness of the succeeding age lent a brighter colour to his image.
The external splendour of the Hasmonæan kingdom did not at once die away,—the downfall of the Seleucidæ, which was its negative condition, being also a slow affair. Judah Aristobulus, the son of Hyrcanus, who reigned for only one year, was the first to assume the Greek title of royalty; Ituraea was subdued by him, and circumcision forced upon the inhabitants. His brother Jonathan (Jannæus) Alexander (104-79),
in a series of continual wars, which were never very prosperous, nevertheless succeeded in adding the whole coast of Philistia (Gaza) as well as a great portion of Peræa to his hereditary dominions. 1 But the external enlargement of the structure was secured at the cost of its internal consistency.
From the time when Jonathan, the son of Mattathias, began to carry on the struggle no longer for the cause of God but for his own interests, the scribes and the Asidæans, as we have seen, had withdrawn themselves from the party of the Maccabees There can be no doubt that from their legal standpoint they were perfectly right in contenting themselves, as they did, with the attainment of religious liberty, and in accepting Alcimus. The Hasmonæans had no hereditary right to the high-priesthood, and their politics, which aimed at the establishment of a national monarchy, were contrary to the whole spirit and essence of the second theocracy. The presupposition of that theocracy was foreign domination; in no other way could its sacred—i.e., clerical—character be maintained. God and the law could not but be forced into the background if a warlike kingdom, retaining indeed the forms of a hierocracy, but really violating its spirit at every point, should ever grow out of a mere pious community. Above all, how could the scribes hope to retain their importance if temple and synagogue were cast into the shade by politics and clash of arms? But under the first great Hasmonæans the zealots for the law were unable to force their way to the front; the enthusiasm of the people was too strong for them; they had nothing for it but to keep themselves out of the current and refuse to be swept along by it. Even under Hyrcanus, however, they gained more prominence, and under Jannæus their influence upon popular opinion was paramount. For under the last-named the secularisation of the hierocracy no longer presented any attractive aspects; it was wholly repellent. It was looked upon as a revolting anomaly that the king, who was usually in the field with his army, should once and again assume the sacred mantle in order to perform the sacrifice on some high festival, and that his officers, profane persons as they were, should at the same time be holders of the highest spiritual offices. The danger which in all this threatened "the idea of Judaism" could not in these circumstances
escape the observation of even the common people; for this idea was God and the law, not any earthly fatherland. The masses accordingly ranged themselves with ever-growing unanimity on the side of the Pharisees (i.e., the party of the scribes) as against the Sadducees (i.e., the Hasmonæan party). 1
On one occasion, when Alexander Jannæus had returned to Jerusalem at the feast of tabernacles, and was standing in his priestly vestments before the altar to sacrifice, he was pelted by the assembled crowd of worshippers with citrons from the green branches they carried. By the cruelty with which he punished this insult he excited the populace to the highest pitch, and, when he lost his army in the disaster of Gadara, rebellion broke out. The Pharisees summoned the Syrian king Demetrius Eucærus; Jannæus was worsted and fled into the desert. But as he wandered in helplessness there, the patriotism of the people and sympathy for the heir of the Maccabees suddenly awoke; nature proved itself stronger than that consistency which in the cause of the Divine honour had not shrunk from treason. The insurgents for the most part went over to the side of the fugitive king; the others he ultimately overpowered after a struggle which lasted through several years, Demetrius having withdrawn his intervention. The vengeance which he took on the Pharisees was a bloody one; their only escape was by voluntary exile. Thenceforward he had peace so far as they were concerned. His last years were occupied with the reacquisition of the conquests which he had been compelled to yield to the Arabs during the civil war. He died in the field at the siege of Ragaba in Peræa (79).
Under Queen Salome, his widow, matters were as if they had been specially arranged for the satisfaction of the Pharisees. The high-priesthood passed to Salome's son, Hyrcanus II.; she herself was only queen. In the management of external affairs her authority was absolute (Ant., xiii. 16, 6); in home policy she permitted the scribes to wield a paramount influence. The common assertion, indeed, that the
synedrium was at that time practically composed of scribes, is inconsistent with the known facts of the case; the synedrium at that time was a political and not a scholastic authority. 1 In its origin it was the municipal council of Jerusalem (so also the councils of provincial towns are called synedria, Mark xiii. 9), but its authority extended over the entire Jewish community; alongside of the elders of the city the ruling priests were those who had the greatest number of seats and votes. John Hyrcanus appears to have been the first to introduce some scribes into its composition; it is possible that Salome may have increased their number, but even so this high court was far from being changed into a college of scribes like that at Jamnia. If the domination of the Pharisees at this time is spoken of, the expression cannot be understood as meaning that they already held all the public offices, but only at most that the holders of those offices found it necessary to administer and to judge in their spirit and according to their fundamental principles.
The party of the Sadducees (consisting of the old Hasmonæan officers and officials, who were of priestly family indeed, but attached only slight importance to their priestly functions) at length lost all patience. Led by Aristobulus, the second son of Jannæus, the leaders of the party came to the palace, and begged the queen to dismiss them from the court and to send them into the provinces. There they were successful in securing possession of several fortresses 2 in preparation for insurrection, a favourable opportunity for which they were watching. Such an opportunity occurred, it seemed to Aristobulus, as his mother lay on her death-bed. The commandants of the fortresses were at his orders, and by their assistance an army also, with which he accordingly advanced upon Jerusalem, and, on the death of Salome, made himself master of the situation (69). Hyrcanus was compelled to resign office. With this event the good understanding between the civil government and the Pharisees came to an end; the old antagonisms became active once more, and now began to operate for the advantage of a third party, the Idumæan Antipater, Hyrcanus's confidential friend. After the latter, aided by Antipater, had at length with great difficulty got himself into a position for asserting his rights against Aristobulus,
the Pharisees could not do otherwise than rank themselves upon his side, and the masses joined them against the usurper. With the help of the Nabatæan monarch the effort to restore the elder brother to the supreme authority would doubtless have succeeded had not the Romans procured relief for Aristobulus, besieged as he was in Jerusalem (65), though without thereby recognising his claims. Pompey continued to delay a decision on the controversy in 64 also when the rival claimants presented themselves before him at Damascus; he wished first to have the Nabatæans disposed of, and to have free access to them through Judæa. This hesitation roused the suspicions of Aristobulus; still he did not venture to take decisive action upon them. He closed the passes (to Mount Ephraim) against the Romans, but afterwards gave them up; he prepared Jerusalem for war, and then went in person to the Roman camp at Jericho, where he promised to open the gates of the city and also to pay a sum of money. But the Roman ambassadors found the gates barred, and had to return empty-handed. Aristobulus thereupon was arrested, and siege was laid to Jerusalem. The party of Hyrcanus, as soon as it had gained the upper hand, surrendered the town; but the supporters of Aristobulus took their stand in the temple, and defended it obstinately. In June 63 the place was carried by storm; Pompey personally inspected the Holy of Holies, but otherwise spared the religious feelings of the Jews. But he caused the chief promoters of the war to be executed, and carried Aristobulus and his family into captivity. He abolished the kingship, but restored the high-priestly dignity to Hyrcanus. The territory was materially reduced in area, and made tributary to the Romans; the city was occupied by a Roman garrison.
524:1 A number of half-independent towns and communes lay as tempting subjects of dispute between the Seleucidæ, the Nabathaæans or Arabs of Petra, and the Jews. The background was occupied by the Parthians and the Romans.
525:1 פרוש means "separated," and refers perhaps to the attitude of isolation taken by the zealots for the law during the interval between 162 and 105. צדוקי (Σαδδουκαῖος) comes from צדוק (Σαδδούκ, LXX.) the ancestor of the higher priesthood of Jerusalem (1 Kings ii. 35; 1 Sam. ii. 35; Ezek. xliv. 15), and designates the governing nobility. The original character of the opposition, as it appeared under Jannæus, changed entirely with the lapse of time, on account of the Sadducees’ gradual loss of political power, till they fell at last to the condition of a sort of "fronde."
526:1 Kuenen, "Over de Samenstelling van het Sanhedrin," in Proceedings of Royal Netherl. Acad., 1866.
526:2 Alexandrium, Coreæ, and similar citadels, which were at that time of great importance for Palestine and Syria.