Part I. The Jews under the Persians, and the Kings of Egypt





B.C. 413-332. 

1.  AFTER the death of Nehemiah, about B.C. 413, a 
thick curtain falls on the history of the Jews till 
the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes, b.g. i 75 ^" During 
upwards of 230 years, a period as long, to compare it 
with modern history, as from the death of Queen Eliza- 
beth to the accession of Queen Victoria, the record of 
events is of the scantiest description. It appears cer- 
tain, however, that Nchemiah was the last of the gover- 
nors sent from the court of Persia. Judsea itself was 
annexed to the satrapy of Coelesyria, and the admi- 
nistration of affairs was entrusted to the high-priest sub- 
ject to the control of the Syrian Governor. Thus the 
civil and spiritual functions were united in one person, 
and the pontifical office became an object of competition 
to the different members of the family of Aaron, and 
the cause of many violent and disgraceful contests. 

As subjects, however, of the Persian kings, the Jews 
were pre-eminent for their loyalty and good faith. While 
Egypt, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and other dependencies of the 

luemcia,, i^ypriis, anu ouiur utjpeuuuii 
^ Milman's History of the Jaos, i. 443. 

1— S 


Persian crown, were frequently the scenes of rebellions, 
which were with difficulty suppressed, the Jews remained 
steadfast in their allegiance to the " Great King," and 
increased rapidly alike in wealth and population. 

A single incident distinguishes the uneventful annals 
of this period. During the lifetime of Ezra and Nehe- 
miah, the high-priest was Eliashib. His successor, Joi- 
ada, had two sons, the one Jonathan or Johanan (Neh. 
xii. II, 22), the other Joshua. Joshua stood high in the 
favour of Bagoses, the general of the Persian army, and 
obtained from him the promise of the high-priesthood. 
Relying on this assurance, he ventured to quarrel openly 
with his brother in the Temple, and fell slain by his 
hand within the precincts of the sanctuary itself. So 
flagrant a crime roused the indignation of Bagoses. 
Advancing to Jerusalem he demanded admittance into 
the Temple, and when the Jews would have prevented 
his entrance, declared he was less unclean than the 
body of the murdered man, and not only polluted the 
sanctuary by entering it, but also levied a fine of 50 
shekels on every lamb offered in sacrifice during the 
next seven years. 

Like his father, Johanan also had two sons, Jaddua 
(Nell. xii. 1 1) and Manasseh. Jaddua succeeded to the 
high-priesthood, B.C. 341, and distinguished himself by 
zealously maintaining the Mosaic institutions as restored 
by Ezra and Nehemiah. Manasseh, on the other hand, 
married the daughter of Sanballat the Horonite^ thus 
contracting one of those alliances, against which the 
Princes of the Captivity had so energetically protested. 
This roused the indignation of the elders in Jerusalem, 
and of Jaddua himself, who declared that Manasseh 
nuist put away his wife, or be no longer associated in 
the priesthood. This the other declined to do, and 

^ Jos. Ant. xi. 8. 1. Corap. Article Jerusalem iu Smith's 
Bihl. Diet. I. 998, and note. 


repaired to his father-in-law in Samaria, who suggested 
the building of a temple on Mount Gerizhu, where Ma- 
nasseh might continue to exercise his priestly functions. 
With the permission of the Persian court, this was ac- 
cordingly done, and Manasseh became the first priest of 
the Samaritans at their rival sanctuary, being joined 
from time to time by those Jews who had been guilty 
of criminal offences in their own country, or had any 
cause for dissatisfaction^. 

Though by these immigrations the Samaritans were 
more and more recalled from idolatry, the building of 
this temjile tended in no small degree to stimulate the 
animosity between the two nations. The Jews affirmed 
that sacrifice could only be offered at Jerusalem ; the 
Samaritans replied that on Gerizim Joshua had built his 
first altar, and that it was the true place of sacrifice. 
The controversy thus generated gradually extended, 
and produced that intense degree of illwill between the 
two peoples, to which there are several allusions in the 
New Testament (Lk. ix. 51 — 56; Jn. iv. 9, viii. 48). 

During the high-priesthood of Jaddua, the Persian 
empire, to which the Jews had so long been faithful, 
crumbled to pieces before the armies of Alexander the 
Great. Victorious over the Persian forces at the Grani- 
cus, B.C. 334, and again at Issus in the following year, 
the conqueror captured Damascus, and having taken 
Sidon, laid siege to Tyre, b.c. 332. Thence he sent a 
message to the high-priest at Jerusalem, demanding the 
transference of his allegiance, and auxiliaries and sup- 
plies for his army. This Jaddua declared was impossi- 
ble, on the ground of his oath of fidelity to the Persian 
monarch. Though incensed at this reply, Alexander 
delayed to execute his vengeance, till after the reduc- 
tion of Tyre, and then set out for the Holy City. Jad- 

^ Jos. Ant. XI. 8. 7. 


dua and his people were in the utmost consternation. 
Sacrifices were oiOfered, prayers were put up to God, and 
the Divine aid sought to appease the wrath of the inva- 
der. At length the high-priest is said to have been 
warned in a dream how to act. He hung the city with 
garlands, threw open the gates, and as soon as he was 
informed that Alexander drew near, clad in his pontifi- 
cal robes, and followed by the priests in their ceremo- 
nial attire and the people in white garments, he went 
forth to meet him at Sapha, probably Mizpch, the watch- 
tower, on the high ridge to the north of the city. 

As soon as the Grecian conqueror beheld the 
venerable form of the high-priest, he fell prostrate, and 
adored the holy Name inscribed in golden letters on 
the frontal of his tiara. The Phoenicians and Chal- 
dxeans in his retinue, ancient enemies of the Jewish 
people, were only awaiting the signal to pillage the city 
and j)ut the high-priest to the torture. They could not, 
therefore, conceal their astonishment, while the S}Tian 
chiefs concluded that the great conqueror had lost his 
senses, and Parmenio addressing Mm enquired why he, 
whom all the world worshipped, should kneel before the 
high-priest. "It is not the high-priest," replied the 
other, "whom I worship, but his God, who has honoured 
him with the priesthood. In a vision at Dies in Mace- 
donia, I saw him arrayed precisely as he now stands, 
and when I was debating \\o\w I might obtain the domi- 
nion of Asia, he exhorted me to make no delay, but 
boldly cross over the sea, for he would conduct my 
army, and give me victory over the Persians." 

Then taking Jaddua by the right hand, he entered 
the city, and repairing to the Temple, offered sacrifice to 
God, and paid high honours to the whole priestly body. 
The prophecies of DanieP were now read in his hear- 

^ Probably Dan. vii. 6; viii. ?>—^, '20, 21, 22 ; xi. 3. 


ing, and overjoyed at the prediction there recorded 
that a Greek would overthrow the Persian Empire, he 
offered the Jews whatever privilege they might select. 
Thereupon they requested that the free enjoyment of 
their lives and liberties might be secured to them, as 
also to their brethren in Media and Babylonia, and that 
they might be exempted from tribute during the Sab- 
batical years. These privileges the conqueror Avillingly 

This famous visit is recorded only by Josephus, and 
has been discredited on the ground that it is not men- 
tioned by Arrian or Plutarch, Diodorus or Curtius. But 
it has been observed that, though probably incorrect in 
some of the details, there are several points which con- 
firm the truth of the main facts. Thus Curtius himself 
relates that, after the capture of Tyre, Alexander visited 
some of the cities which refused to submit to him, and 
that he personally executed vengeance on the Sama- 
ritans \ The Jews, moreover, certainly served in the 
army of Alexander, and were located by him in great 
numbers in his new city of Alexandria ; while the privi- 
leges he is said to have conferred upon them undoubt- 
edly existed in later times, and imply some such relation 
between them and the great conqueror. Moreover, from 
policy or conviction, Alexander delighted to represent 
himself as chosen by destiny for the great acts which he 
achieved, and his visit to Gordium before the battle of 
Issus, and his pilgrimage to the shrine of Jupiter Am- 
mon alike illustrate the force of religious feelings in 
connection with his campaigns 2. 

1 Curtius, IV. 5. 13; IV. 8. 10. 

2 See Thirlwall's Greece, vi. 265 ; Kaphall's Eistwy of the 
Jews, I. 42 — 50. 



B.C. 323-247. 

ON the death of Alexander, b.c. 323, the vast emph'o, 
which he had won by his arms, was divided amongst 
his generals, and Palestine, as a province of Syria, passed 
into the possession of Laomedon, while Egypt was as- 
signed to Ptolemy Soter. Between these two war soon 
broke out, and Ptolemy having conquered Cyrene, cast 
longing eyes on the kingdom of Syria, the harbours of 
Phoenicia, and the iron and timber, which abounded in 
Palestine and amongst the lofty ridges of Libanus and 
Anti-Libanus. Accordingly he invaded the realms of 
Laomedon, defeated him in a great battle, and gained 
possession of all Syria and Phoenicia, 

The Jews on this occasion manifested such unwillingf- 
ness to violate their engagements to the Syrian king, 
that Ptolemy advanced against Jerusalem, and besieged 
it with a large army. Entering the city B.C. 320, under 
pretence of offering sacrifice on the Sabbath-day, when 
the scruples of the inhabitants forbade their offering 
any defence, he easily succeeded in capturing it. In- 
stead, however, of folloNNing up his victory by an indis- 
criminate massacre, he contented himself with trans- 
porting a gi'eat number of the inhabitants to Egypt, 
where he distributed them as garrisons in different 
places, but especially in Alexandria, and conceded to 
them equal privileges with the Macedonians themselves. 
Eight years afterwards he transported another largo 
body of them to Libya and Cyrene, and thus by succes- 
sive deportations and voluntary immigrations on the 
part of the people themselves, Egypt became an import- 
ant centre of Jewish influence. 


The king of Egypt, however, was not allowed to re- 
main long in undisturbed possession of his prize, and 
found it disputed with him by Antigonus, one of the 
most turbulent of the successors of Alexander. Twice 
the coveted province fell into the hands of his rival, 
twice Ptolemy managed to recover it, and it was finally 
adjudged to his share after the decisive battle of Ipsus 
in Phrygia, B.C. 301. 

Meanwliile Jaddua had been succeeded in the high- 
priesthood at Jerusalem by his son Onias I., and he 
again by Simon the Just, the last of the men of the 
''Great Synagogue V' as he was called by the Jews. He 
superintended the repair of the sanctuary of the Temple, 
surrounded with brass the cistern or " sea " of the prin- 
cipal court, fortified the city-walls, and maintained the 
sacred ritual with much pomp and ceremony (Eccles. 1. 
I — 22). He is also said to have completed the Canon 
of the Old Testament, by adding to it the books of Ezra 
and Nehemiah, of Chronicles and Esther, as also the 
prophecies of Malachi^ He died B.C. 291. 

The battle of Ipsus, besides securing to Ptolemy 
Soter the dominion of Palestine, Phoenicia, and Coele- 
syria, elevated Seleucus to the command of an Empire 
greater than any other held by the successors of Alex- 
ander. He assumed the title of "king of Syria," and his 

^ *'The Great Assembly or Synagogue, whose existence has 
been called in question on insufficient grounds, was the great 
council of the nation during the Persian period, in which the 
last substantive changes were made in the constitution of - 
Judaism. It was organized by Ezra, and, as commonly 
happens, the work of the whole body was transferred to its 
representative member. E;5ra probably formed a collection 
of the prophetic writmgs ; and the Assembly gathered together 
afterwards (as the Christian Church at a later period in corre- 
sponding circumstances) such books as were still left without 
the Canon, though proved to bear the stamp of the Spirit of 
God." Westcott's Bible in the Church, Appendix A. 

^ Prideaux's Connection, I. 545. 


domimoii, in the words of the prophet Daniel (Dan. xi. 
5), was a great dominion, extending from the EuxiiLe to 
the confines of Arabia, and from the Hindokush to the 
Mediterranean. His Eastern capital he founded on the 
banks of the Tigris, and called Seleucia, after his own 
name. For his western metropolis he selected a spot 
admirably situated both for military and commercial 
purposes^, on the left bank of the river Orontes, just 
where " the chain of Lebanon running northwards, and 
the chain of Taurus running eastwards, are brought to 
an abrupt meeting-." Here he founded a city with 
much display in the year B.C. 300, and called it Antioch, 
after the name of his father Antiochus, Convinced, like 
the Egyptian monarchs, of the loyalty of the Jews, he 
began to invite many of them to his new capital and 
other cities in Asia Minor, assuring them of the same 
privileges which they enjoyed under Ptolemy in Alex- 
andria. This invitation was readily embraced by many 
of the Jews, who settled down in Antioch, were govern- 
ed by their own etlmarch, and were admitted to the 
same advantages as the Greeks ^ 

Ptolemy Philadelphus succeeded his father Ptolemy 

^ " By its harbour of Seleucia it was in communication 
with all the trade of the Mediterranean ; and through the open 
country behind the Lebanon it was conveniently approached' 
by the caravans from Mesopotamia and Arabia. It united 
the inland advantages of Aleppo with the maritime opportu- 
nities of Smyrna." Conybeare and Hov.'^son, Life and Epi- 
stles of St Paul, I. 118; Smith's Diet. Gcog. Art. Antiochia. 

^ " Few princes have ever lived with so great a passion for 
the building of cities as Seleucus. IJe is said to have built in 
all 9 Seleucias, 16 Antiochs, and 6 Laodiceas. This love of 
commemorating the members of his family was conspicuous 
in his works by the Orontes. Besides Seleucia and Antioch, 
he built, in the immediate neighbourhood, a Laodicea in ho- 
nour of his mother, and an Apamea in honour of his wife. 
Convbeare and Howson, I. 119; Merivale, ill. 368. 

¦* Jos. Ant. XII. 3. I ; Conlr. Apion. ii. 4. 


Soter, B.C. 283. In pursuance of the policy of the pre- 
vious reign, he distinguished himself by uniform kind- 
ness to the Jewish nation, ransoming many who Iiad 
been sold as slaves, and inviting many to settle in Egypt. 
A liberal patron of literature and science, he established 
a famous library at Alexandria, and spared no pains in 
procuring books to be deposited therein. He is also 
represented to have caused the Hebrew Scriptures to 
be translated into Greek, and thus to have originated 
the celebrated Version called the Septuagint, from the 
tradition that 72 persons were engaged in the transla- 
tion, which obtained a wide circulation, and was exten- 
sively read. The same monarch conferred costly pre- 
sents on the Temple at Jerusalem, consisting of a table 
for the shewbread of marvellous workmanship, cisterns 
of gold, bowls, and other vessels for the public and 
private use of the priests \ 



B.C. 247-222. 

ON the death of Philadelphus, Ptolemy Euergetes 
succeeded to the Egyptian throne. The new king 
considerably extended the privileges of the Jews, and 
bestowed many presents upon their Temple. During 
his reign an incident occurred, which illustrates in a 
striking manner at once the condition of Judsea at this 
time, and the influence of individual members of the 
chosen nation. 

On the death of Simon " the Just," his brother Elea- 
zar became high-priest b.c. 291. He was succeeded in 

^ Jos. Ant. XII, 2. 10. 


B.C. 276, not by his own son Onias, but his uncle Ma- 
nasseh, the son of Jaddua. At his death, b. c. 250, the 
son of Simon, Onias II., became high-priest, but inhe- 
rited none of his father's virtues, being distinguished for 
nothing but meanness, and an inordinate love of money. 
The older he grew, the more avaricious he became, and 
neglected from year to year to remit to Ptolemy Euer- 
getes the customary tribute of 20 talents of silver. At 
length, about B.C. 226, that king sent his commissioner 
Athenion to Jerusalem to demand the arrears, and 
threatened violence, if his claims were not satisfied. 
The Jews were filled with dismay at the too probable 
consequences of continued disobedience, but Onias still 
persisted in his refusal. 

At length his nephew Joseph took upon him the 
task of appeasing the royal anger, and having ingratiated 
himself with Athenion persuaded him to return to Alex- 
andria, and promised that he himself would speedily 
follow, and satisfy every demand. Shortly afterwards 
he himself set out, and on his way fell in with several 
men of distinction belonging to Phoenicia and Coelesyria 
who were going up to the Egyptian capital to compete 
for the farming of the revenues, which were annually 
sold to the highest bidder. Not suspecting a compe- 
titor in the Jew, whose slender equipage contrasted 
unfavourably with their splendid cavalcade, they unwit- 
tingly revealed the amount at which the revenues had 
been farmed. 

Thereupon Joseph resolved to outbid them, and 
in an audience with the king contrived by his clever- 
ness and ready address completely to win the royal 
favour. When the day for the auction came, the nobles 
of Ph(enicia and Coelesyria bid 8000 talents for the 
farming of the revenues. But Joseph came forward 
and engaged to pay twice that sum, in addition to all 
the goods which should be confiscated for neglect of 


payment. Thereupon Ptolemy granted his request, and 
he became collector of the revenues from Judaea, Sama- 
ria, Coelesyria, and Phoenicia, and was furnished with 
a guard of 2000 soldiers to extort payment from the 

Having liquidated the arrears due from his uncle, 
Joseph returned to Palestine to carry out his instruc- 
tions. Excited by the disappointed collectors, Askelon 
at first refused payment, and treated his demands with 
insult. But Joseph was not to be trifled with. He 
slew 20 of the chief inhabitants, and sent 1000 talents 
of their confiscated property to the king, who highly 
commended his determination. A similar instance of 
severity at Scythopolis^ put down all further opposi- 
tion, and Joseph was at length universally acknow- 
ledged as the collector for the Egyptian king, and held 
the office upwards of 22 years. He now became the 
founder of a family, which vied with that of the high- 
priest in power and influence, and became the occasion 
of many serious quarrels between them. 

The reign of Ptolemy Euergetes came to a sudden 
and tragical close. In the year B.C. 222 he was assassi- 
nated by his own son Ptolemy IV., who in irony was 
called Philopator, the lover of his father. As soon as 
he ascended the throne, he murdered his mother Bere- 
nice, and his brother Magas, and gave himself up to 
luxury and dissipation. Taking advantage of his well- 
known effeminacy, Antiochus the Great welcomed the 
offer of Theodotus, governor of Coelesyria, to surrender 
that province, and after a brief campaign became master 
of Phoenicia, Tyre, Ptolemais, Damascus, and the greater 
part of Coelesyria. Roused at length from his lethargy, 
the Egyptian monarch confronted his rival at Raphia, 

1 The Beth-shan of the Old Testament; see Class-BooIc 
of Old Testament History, p. 316, and 445 note, 2nd ed. 


between Rhinocorura and Gaza, and defeated him with 
enormous loss, B.C. 217, tlie same year that Hannibal 
was victorious at Thrasymene. 

Meanwhile the Jews had remained steadfast in their 
allegiance to Ptolemy, and the conqueror visited Jeru- 
salem, offered sacrifices according to the Jewish law, 
and presented rich gifts to the Temple. Attracted by 
the beauty of the building, and the solemnity of the 
service, he desired to penetrate into the Holy of Holies. 
Simon II., who had succeeded Onias, together with the 
priests, entreated him to desist from his purpose, but 
this only increased his determination to view the inte- 
rior, and he pressed forward, amidst the dismay of the 
pontiff and the lamentation of the peojDle, towards the 
sanctuary. Here, however, he was seized with a sudden 
and supernatural terror, and was carried forth half-dead. 
Enraged at this repulse, he retired to A lexandria, and 
w reaked his vengeance on the numerous Jews who had 
settled there. Some he is said to have put to death, 
others he degraded from their high positions and con- 
signed to slavery, or reduced to the lowest class of citi- 
zens. Thirteen years afterwards, b. c. 204, he died a 
victim to his sensual habits, and ¦\vas succeeded by his 
son Ptolemy Epiphanes, then pnly five years old. 

Meanwhile, since his disastrous defeat at Raphia, 
Antiochus had been gradually strengthening his position 
in Upper Asia, where he had won his title of "the Great" 
by his successes against the Parthians and Bactrians, as 
also on the banks of the Indus. Having thus re-esta- 
blished the supremacy of the Seleucidce he returned to 
Western Asia, to find his old rival dead, and the Egyp- 
tian throne in the possession of a child. He instantly 
embraced the opportunity of attacking the Egyptian do- 
minions, and in concert with Philip III. of Macedon 
resolved to avenge the defeat at Raphia. In the cam- 
paigns that ensued the Jews suffered severely, and be- 


came in turn the prey of each of the contending parties \ 
In B.C. 203, Antiochus succeeded in taking Jerusalem. 
In B.C. 199 it was retaken by Scopas, the general of the 
Egyptian forces. Next year Antiochus reappeared in the 
field, and at the foot of Mount Panium^, near the sources 
of the Jordan, gained a decisive victory over Scopas, 
capturing that general himself and the remnant of his 
forces, "which had fled for refuge to Sidon. 

Wearied of the struggle, and remembering the in- 
dignities offered to their sanctuary by Philopator, the 
Jews now threw off their subjection to Egypt, welcomed 
the conqueror as their deliverer, and furnished supplies 
for his army. Antiochus in his turn treated his new 
subjects with liberality and kindness. Ho not only 
guaranteed to them perfect freedom and protection in 
the exercise of their religion, but promised to restore 
their city to its ancient splendour, forbade the intrusion 
of strangers in their Temple, and contributed largely 
towards the regular celebration of its services. At the 
same time, imitating the examples of Alexander and Se- 
leucus, he issued orders to Zeuxis, the general of his 
forces, to remove 2000 Jewish families from Babylon into 
Lydia and Phrygia, where they were to be permitted to 
use their own laws, to have lands assigned them, and to 
be exempted from all tribute for ten years 3. 

^ Jos. Ant. XII. 3. 3. 

^ One of the branches of the Lebanon, containing a cave 
sacred to Pan, whence it derived its name. See below, 
p. •SI 8, n. 

^ Jos. Ant, XII. 3. 3.