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Flavius Josephus

Flavius Josephus Excerpts from 'Antiquities of the Jews'

Flavius Josephus
The Complete Works of Josephus
Translated and annotated by William Whiston, A. M. (1667-1752)


Excerpt from Antiquities of the Jews - Chapter XVI. 5 - (How the sea was divided asunder for the Hebrews, when they were pursued by the Egyptians, and so gave them an opportunity of escaping from them.)

As for myself, I have delivered every part of this history as I found it in the sacred books; nor let any one wonder at the strangeness of this narration, if a way were discovered to those men of old time, who were free from the wickedness of the modern ages, whether it happened by the will of God, or whether it happened of its own accord, - while, for the sake of those that accompanied Alexander, king of Macedonia, who yet lived, comparatively, but a little while ago, the Pamphylian Sea retired and afforded them a passage* through itself, when they had no other way to go; I mean, when it was the will of God to destroy the monarchy of the Persians;: and this is confessed to be true by all that have written about the actions of Alexander; but as to these events, let every one determine as he pleases.

*Take here the original passages of the four old authors that still remain as to this transit of Alexander the Great over the Pamphylian Sea; I mean, of Callisthenes, Strabo, Arrian, and Appian. As to Callisthenes, who himself accompanied Alexander in this expedition, Eustathius, in his Notes on the third Iliad of Homer, (as Dr. Bernard here informs us,) says, that “this Callisthenes wrote how the Pamphylian Sea did not only open a passage for Alexander, but, by rising and elevating its waters, did pay him homage as its king.” Strabo’s account is this, (Geog. Book xiv. p. 66): “Now about Phaselis is that narrow passage by the sea-side, through which Alexander led his army. There is a mountain called Climax, which adjoins to the Sea of Pamphylia, leaving a narrow passage on the shore which in calm weather is bare, so as to be passable by travellers; but when the sea overflows it is covered to a great degree by the waves. Now then, the ascent by the mountains being round about and steep, in still weather they make use of the road along the coast; but Alexander fell into the winter season, and committing himself chiefly to fortune, he marched on before the waves retired; and so it happened that they were a whole day in journeying over it, and were under water up to the navel.” Arrian’s account is this, (book I. pp. 72,73): “When Alexander removed from Phaselis, he sent some part of his army over the mountains to Perga, which road the Thracians shewed him. A difficult way it was, but short. However, he himself conducted those that were with him by the sea-shore. This road is impassable at any other time than when the north wind blows; but if the south wind prevail there is no passing by the shore. Now at this time, after strong south winds, a north wind blew, and that not without the Divine Providence (as both he and they that were with him supposed,) and afforded him an easy and quick passage.” Appian, when he compares Caesar and Alexander together (De Bel. Civil, book ii. p. 522) says, “That they both depended on their boldness and fortune, as much as on their skill in war. As an instance of which, Alexander journeyed over a country without water, in the heat of summer, to the oracle of (Jupiter) Hammon, and quickly passed over the Bay of Pamphylia, when, by Divine Providence, the sea was cut off – thus Providence restraining the sea on his account, as it had sent him rain when he travelled (over the desert.)”

N.B. - Since, in the days of Josephus, as he assures us, al the more numerous original historians of Alexander gave the account he has here set down as to the providential going back of the waters of the Pamphylian Sea, when he was going with his army to destroy the Persian monarchy, which the forenamed authors now reaming fully confirm, it is without all just foundation that Josephus is here blamed by some late writers for quoting these ancient authors upon the present occasion; nor can the reflections of Plutarch, or any other author later than Josephus, be in the least here alleged to contradict him. Josephus went by all the evidence he then had, and that evidence of the most authentic source also. So that, whatever the moderns think of the thing itself, there is hence not the least colour for finding fault with Josephs: he would rather have been much to blame had he omitted these quotations.


Complete chapter from Antiquities of the Jews – Chapter VIII – (Concerning Sanballat and Manasseh, and the temple which they built on Mount Gerizzim; as also how Alexander made his entry into the city Jerusalem; and what benefits he bestowed on the Jews.)

1. About this time it was that Philip, king of Macedon, was treacherously assaulted and slain at Egae by Pausanias, the son of Cerastes, who was derived from the family of Orestae, and his son Alexander succeeded him in the kingdom; who, passing over the Hellespont, overcame the generals of Darius’s army in a battle fought at the Granicum. So he marched over Lydia, and subdued Ionia, and overran Caria, and fell upon the places of Pamphylia, as has been related elsewhere.

2. But the elders of Jerusalem being very uneasy that the brother of Jaddua the high priest, though married to a foreigner, should be a partner with him in the high priesthood, quarrelled with him; for they esteemed this man’s marriage a step to such as would be desirous of transgressing abut the marriage of (strange) wives, and that this would be the beginning of a mutual society with foreigners, although the offence of some about marriages, and their having married wives that were not of their own country, has been an occasion of their former captivity and of the miseries they then underwent; so they commanded Manasseh to divorce his wife, or not to approach the altar, the high priest himself joining with the people in their indignation against his brother, and driving him away from the altar. Whereupon Manasseh came to his father-in-law, Sanballat, and told him, that although he loved his daughter Nicaso, yet was he not willing to be deprived of his sacerdotal dignity on her account, which was the principal dignity in their nation, and always continued in the same family. And then Sanballat promised him not only to preserve to him the honour of his priesthood, but to procure for him the power and dignity of high priest, and would make him governor of all the places he himself now ruled, if he would keep his daughter for his wife. He also told him further, that he would build him a temple like that at Jerusalem, upon Mount Gerizzim, which is the highest of all the mountains in Samaria; and he promised that he would do this with the approbation of Darius the king. Manasseh was elevated upon these promises, and stayed with Sanballat, upon a supposal that he should gain a high priesthood, as bestowed on him by Darius, for it happened that Sanballat was then in years. But there was now a great disturbance among the people of Jerusalem, because many of those priests and Levites were entangled in such matches; for they all revolted to Manasseh, and Sanbalat afforded them money, and divided among them land for tillage, and habitations also; and all this in order every way to gratify his son-in-law.

3. About this time it was that Darius heard how Alexander had passed over the Hellespont, and had beaten his lieutenants in the battle of Granicum, and was proceeding further; whereupon he gathered together an army of horse and foot, and determined that he would meet the Macedonians before they should assault and conquer all Asia. So he passed over the river Euphrates and came over Taurus, the Cilician mountain; and at Issus of Cilicia he waited for the enemy; as ready there to give him battle. Upon which Sanballat was glad that Darius was come down; and told Manasseh that he would suddenly perform his promises to him, and this as soon as ever Darius should come back, after he had beaten his enemies; for not he only, but all those that were in Asia also, were persuaded that the Macedonians would not so much as come to a battle with the Persians, on account of their multitude; but the event proved otherwise than they expected, for the king joined battle with the Macedonians, and was beaten, and lost a great part of his army. His mother also, and his wife and children, were taken captives, and he fled into Persia. So Alexander came into Syria, and took Damascus; and when he had obtained Sidon, he besieged Tyre, when he sent an epistle to the Jewish high priest, to send him some auxiliaries, and to supply his army with provisions; and that what presents he formerly sent to Darius, he would now send to him, and choose the friendship of the Macedonians, and that he should never repent of so doing; but the high priest answered the messengers, that he had given his oath to Darius not to bear arms against him; and he said that he would not transgress this while Darius was in the land of the living. Upon hearing this answer, Alexander was very angry; and though he determined not to leave Tyre, which was just ready to be taken, yet, as soon as he had taken it, he threatened that he would make an expedition against the Jewish high priest, and through him teach all men to whom they must keep their oaths. So when he had, with a good deal of pains during the siege, taken Tyre, and had settled its affairs, he came to the city of Gaza, and besieged both the city and him that was governor of the garrison, whose name was Babemeses.

4. But Sanballat thought he had now gotten a proper opportunity to make his attempt, so he renounced Darius, and taking with him seven thousand of his own subjects, he came to Alexander; and finding him beginning the siege of Tyre, he said to him, that he delivered up to him these men, who came out of places under his dominion, and did gladly accept of him for their lord instead of Darius. So when Alexander had received him kindly, Sanballat thereupon took courage, and spake to him about his present affair. He told him that he had a son-in-law, Manasseh, who was brother to the high priest Jaddua; and that there were many others of his own nation now with him, that were desirous to have a temple in the places subject to him; that it would be for a king’s advantage to have the strength of the Jews divided into two parts, lest when the nation is of one mind and united, upon any attempt for innovation, it prove troublesome to kings, as it had formerly provided to the kings of Assyria. Whereupon Alexander gave Sanballat leave to do so; who used the utmost diligence, and built the temple, and made Manasseh the priest, and deemed it a great reward that his daughter’s children should that dignity; but when the seven months of the siege of Tyre were over, and the two months of the siege of Gaza, Sanballat died. Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifices to God, whom he sought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced; and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.

5. And when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests, and the multitude of citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha; which name, translated into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple; and when the Phoenicians and the Chaldeans that followed him, though they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high priest to death, which the king’s displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate where the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high priest. The Jews also did together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind. However, Parmenio alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but the God who hath honoured him with his high priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is, that having seen no other person in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the divine conduct, and shall therefore conquer Darius and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind. And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city; and when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priests direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the book of Daniel was showed him,* wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the Persians, he supposed that he himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present, but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favours they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted them all they desired; and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired: and when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars.

*The place shewed Alexander might be Dan. vii. 6; viii. 3-8, 20, 21, 22; xi. 3; some or all of them very plain predictions of Alexander’s conquests and successors.

6. So when Alexander had thus settled matters at Jerusalem, he led his army into the neighboring cities; and when all the inhabitants, to whom he came, received him with great kindness, the Samaritans, who had then Shechem for their metropolis, (a city situate at Mount Gerizzim, and inhabited by apostates of the Jewish nation,) seeing that Alexander had so greatly honored the Jews, determined to profess themselves Jews; for such is the disposition of the Samaritans, as we have already elsewhere declared, that when the Jews are in adversity they deny that they are of kin to them, and then they confess the truth; but when they perceive that some good fortune hath befallen them, they immediately pretend to have communion with them, saying that they belong to them, and derive their genealogy from the posterity of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Accordingly, they made their address to the king with splendour, and shewed great alacrity in meeting him at a little distance from Jerusalem; and when Alexander had commended them, the Shechemites approached to him, taking with them the troops that Sanballat had sent him, and they desired that he would come to their city, and do honour to their temple also; to whom he promised, that when he returned he would come to them; and when they petitioned that he would remit the tribute of the seventh year to them, because they did not now sow thereon, he asked who they were that made such a petition; and when they said that they were Hebrews, but had the name of Sidonians, living at Shechem, he asked them again whether they were Jews; and when they said they were not Jews, “It was to the Jews,” said he, “that I granted that privilege; however, when I return, and am thoroughly informed by you of this matter, I will do what I think proper.” And in this manner he took leave of the Shechemites; but ordered that the troops of Sanballat should follow him into Egypt, because there he designed to give them lands, which he did a little after in Thebais, when he ordered them to guard that country.

7. Now when Alexander was dead, the government was parted among his successors; but the temple upon Mount Gerizzim remained; and if any one were accused by those of Jerusalem of having eaten things common, or having broken the Sabbath, or of any other crimes of the like nature, he fled away to the Shechemites, and said that he was accused unjustly. About this time it was that Jaddua the high priest died, and Onias his son took the high priesthood. This was the state of affairs of the people of Jerusalem at this time.


Excerpt from Antiquities of the Jews – Chapter IX. 1 – (Concerning the death of Antiochus Epiphanes; How Antiochus Eupator fought against Judas, and besieged him in the temple, and afterwards made peace with him, and departed; of Alcimus and Onias.)

About this time it was that King Antiochus, as he was going over the upper countries, heard that there was a very rich city in Persia, called Elymais; and therein a very rich temple of Diana, and that it was full of all sorts of donations dedicated to it; as also weapons and breastplates, which, upon inquiry, he found had been left there by Alexander, the son of Philip, king of Macedonia; and being incited by these motives, he went in haste to Elymais, and assaulted it, and besieged it. But as those that were in it were not terrified at his assault, nor at his siege, but opposed him very courageously, he was beaten off his hopes; for they drove him away from the city, and went out and pursued after him, insomuch that he fled away as far as Babylon, and lost a great many of his army; and when he was grieving for this disappointment, some persons told him of the defeat of his commanders whom he had left behind him to fight against Judea, and what strength the Jews had already gotten., When this concern about these affairs was added to the former, he was confounded, and, by the anxiety he was in, fell into a distemper, which, as it lasted a great while, and as his pains increased upon him, so he at length perceived he should die in a little time; so he called his friends to him, and told them that his distemper was severe upon him, and confessed withal, that this calamity was sent upon him for the miseries he had brought upon the Jewish nation, while he plundered their temple and condemned their God; and when he had said this, he gave up the ghost. Whence one may wonder at Polybius of Megalopolis, who, though otherwise a good man, yet saith that “Antiochus died, because he had a purpose to plunder the temple of Diana in Persia;” for the purposing to do a thing, but not actually doing it, is not worthy of punishment. But if Polybius could think that Antiochus had lost his life on this account, it is much more probable that this king died on account of his sacrilegious plundering of the temple at Jerusalem. But we will not contend about this matter with those who may think that the cause assigned by this Polybius of Megalopolis is nearer the truth than that assigned by us.

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