Second Temple Period

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Second Temple 538 BCE- 70 CE


In 586 BCE, the Chaldaean King Nebuchadnezzar II of the New Babylonian Empire destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and brought to an end the Southern Kingdom of Judah, which had existed from 931 to 586 BCE.

This marked the end of the First Temple Period of Jewish history.

Nebuchadnezzar took the families of the king, the high priest, and the leaders of Judah as captives to Babylon.  There they were forced to live from 586 to 538 BCE.  This is known as the period of the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews (586 - 538 BCE).

After King Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered the New Babylonian Empire, he allowed some of the Exiles to return to Jerusalem.

Under the leadership of Nehemiah and Ezra, Jerusalem was refortified, the Temple was rebuilt, and a semi-independent Jewish state was reestablished within the Persian Empire.  This client state under the Persians was ruled by the High Priest and is therefore considered to have been a theocracy.

The rebuilding of the Temple in 538 BCE marks the beginning of the Second Temple Period of the history of the Jewish people.

The Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament of the Christians, ends its historical account with the glorious return of the Jews to Jerusalem and the reestablishment of the Temple.

Later books detailing subsequent Jewish history are not considered canonical by either Jews or Christians.

Outline:  Second Temple Period 538 BCE- 70 CE

Nehemiah and Ezra returned with some of the exiled Jews from Babylon and founded the second Temple.

Theocracy under Persian domination 538 - 323 BCE

Theocracy under Hellenistic Kingdom of Ptolemaic Egypt 323 - 200 BCE

Theocracy under Hellenistic Kingdom of Seleucid Syria 198 - 160 BCE

                    Antiochus III the Great,  ca. 241–187 BC, ruled 223–187 BC)

                    Seleucus IV Philopator, ruled 187 BC to 175 BC

                    Antiochus IV Epiphanes ca. 215 - 264, ruled 175 - 164 BCE

                            Maccabean Revolt starts in 167

                            Jewish Independence first re-established 165

                                                Celebration of Chanukkah when the Temple is cleansed and enough oil is found to light the candles.

Maccabean (167 – 135) and Hasmonaean (142 - 38 BCE) Periods.

Struggle for Independence Under the Maccabees 167 – 135

The Independent Hasmonean Kingdom 142 - 63 BCE

Hasmoneans Under Roman Tutelage 63 - 38 BCE

Judea under Roman Domination 63 BCE - 6 CE

                    Pompey 63 BCE

                    Hasmoneans Under Roman Tutelage 63 - 38 BCE

                    King Herod the Great 38 - 4 BCE

                    Later Herodians

                                    Archelaus ruled Judea and Samaria

                                    Herod Antipas ruled Galilee and Peraea

                                    Philip ruled Batanaea

                    Archelaus 4 BCE – 6 CE

Roman Prefects, AD 6-41 

bulletCoponius, 6-9 
bulletMarcus Ambibulus, 9-12 
bulletAnnius Rufus, 12-15 
bulletValerius Gratus, 15-26 
bulletPontius Pilate, 26-36 
bulletMarcellus, 36/37 
bulletMarullus, 37-41

 Herod Agrippa I, 41-44 

 Roman Procurators, 44-66 

bulletCuspius Fadus, 44-46? |
bulletTiberius Iulius Alexander, 46?-48 
bulletVentidius Cumanus, 48-52 
bulletAntonius Felix, 52-60? 
bulletPorcius Festus, 60-62? 
bulletAlbinus, 62-64 
bulletGessius Florus, 64-66

The first Jewish-Roman War (years 66–73 CE),

            Destruction of the Second Temple 70 CE
            Masada 73 CE




 Theocracy under Seleucid Syria, 198 - 160 BCE

The Hellenistic Kingdoms that developed after Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire competed

with each other.  Judea had originally been part of Ptolomaic Egypt.  In 198, it fell permanently under the control

 of Seleucid Syria.


Antiochus III the Great,  ca. 241–187 BC, ruled 223–187 BCE

Seleucus IV Philopator, ruled 187 BC to 175 BC

 Antiochus IV Epiphanes ca. 215 - 264, ruled 175 - 164 BCE

        Maccabean Revolt takes place under Antiochus IV

 Seleucid rulers
from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (Accessed on August 8, 2007).

bullet Seleucus I Nicator (Satrap 311–305 BCE, King 305 BC–281 BCE)
bullet Antiochus I Soter (co-ruler from 291, ruled 281–261 BCE)
bullet Antiochus II Theos (261–246 BCE)
bullet Seleucus II Callinicus (246–225 BCE)
bullet Seleucus III Ceraunus (or Soter) (225–223 BCE)
bullet Antiochus III the Great (223–187 BCE)
bullet Seleucus IV Philopator (187–175 BCE)
bullet Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BCE)
bullet Antiochus V Eupator (164–162 BCE)
bullet Demetrius I Soter (161–150 BCE)
bullet Alexander I Balas (150–145 BCE)
bullet Demetrius II Nicator (first reign, 145–138 BCE)
bullet Antiochus VI Dionysus (or Epiphanes) (145–140 BCE?)
bullet Diodotus Tryphon (140?–138 BCE)
bullet Antiochus VII Sidetes (or Euergetes) (138–129 BCE)
bullet Demetrius II Nicator (second reign, 129–126 BCE)
bullet Alexander II Zabinas (129–123 BCE)
bullet Cleopatra Thea (126–123 BCE)
bullet Seleucus V Philometor (126/125 BCE)
bullet Antiochus VIII Grypus (125–96 BCE)
bullet Antiochus IX Cyzicenus (114–96 BCE)
bullet Seleucus VI Epiphanes Nicator (96–95 BCE)
bullet Antiochus X Eusebes Philopator (95–92 BC or 83 BCE)
bullet Demetrius III Eucaerus (or Philopator) (95–87 BCE)
bullet Antiochus XI Epiphanes Philadelphus (95–92 BCE)
bullet Philip I Philadelphus (95–84/83 BCE)
bullet Antiochus XII Dionysus (87–84 BCE)
bullet Tigranes I of Armenia) (83–69 BCE)
bullet Seleucus VII Kybiosaktes or Philometor (70s BC–60s BCE?)
bullet Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (69–64 BCE)
bullet Philip II Philoromaeus (65–63 BCE)

Seleucid Syria is absorbed into the Roman Empire

The Seleucid Rulers of Judea

Antiochus III the Great,  ca. 241–187 BC, ruled 223–187 BC), younger son of Seleucus II Callinicus, became the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire as a youth of about eighteen in 223 BC.

In 198 BC Antiochus defeated Scopas at the Battle of Panium, near the sources of the Jordan, a battle which marks the end of Ptolemaic rule in Judea.  

Seleucus IV Philopator, ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, reigned from 187 BC to 175 BC over a realm consisting of Syria (now including Cilicia and Palestine), Mesopotamia, Babylonia and Nearer Iran (Media and Persia).

He was compelled by financial necessities, created in part by the heavy war-indemnity exacted by Rome, to pursue an ambitious policy and was assassinated by his minister Heliodorus.  

The true heir Demetrius, son of Seleucus, now being retained in Rome as a hostage, the kingdom was seized by the younger brother of Seleucus, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, even though an infant son, also named Antiochus, was formal head of state for a few years until Epiphanes had him murdered.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ca. 215–164 BC) ruled the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death.

He was a son of Antiochus III the Great and brother of Seleucus IV Philopator.  Notable events during his reign include the near-conquest of Egypt, which was halted by the threat of Roman intervention, and the beginning of the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees.

[After his humiliation by the Romans which deprived him of his victory over Egypt, he sacked Jerusalem in 168 BCE on his way home.]

In a spirit of revenge, he organized an expedition against Jerusalem, which he destroyed; he put many of its inhabitants to death most cruelly. He had soldiers enter the Jewish Temple and slaughter a pig (which was considered "unclean" by the Jews) on the Altar of the Lord. They set the pig ablaze and then took the meat and tried to make some Jewish men eat it. The men refused and he cut their tongues out, scalped them, cut off their hands and feet, and burnt them on the Altar of the Lord.

After this, the Jews began the war of independence under their Maccabean leaders, defeating the armies that Antiochus sent against them. Enraged at this, Antiochus is said to have marched against them in person, threatening to exterminate the nation; but, on the way, he suddenly died (164 BC).

The exact causes of the Jewish revolt, and of Antiochus' response to it, are uncertain; the Jewish accounts are in the Books of the Maccabees, and the successful revolt is commemorated by the holiday of Hanukkah.

The Jews he oppressed mockingly referred to him as Antiochus Epimanes ("The Mad One") in a play of his name Epiphanes     


Maccabean (167 – 135) and Hasmonaean (142 - 38 BCE) Periods.

 Maccabean (167 – 135)

The Maccabean Period is from 167 to 135.  It refers to the struggle by Mattathias and his five sons to liberate Judea from Seleucid domination. 

In 172 BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes murdered Onias III, the High Priest, breaking the line of traditional Zadokite priests in Jerusalem. He put the office up to the highest bidder. Different Jewish religious factions vied with each other to gain the position of High Priest.  There was a bitter  power struggle within the Jewish community between traditionalists and Hellenizers. The Maccabees represented the traditionalists.  They gained control of the High Priesthood position.  It never did return to the legitimate line of hereditary Zadokite priests.  The position had become politicized and remained so till the end of the Temple period.

 Maccabean Revolt starts in 167

Mattathias began the uprising in 167 but died within the year.  He was from a Jerish priestly family and a traditionalist.


Mattathias had five sons who carried on the uprising.  The first of these was Judas the Maccabaean.  Maccabae means battle hammer.  So Maccabaean is not a family name but a nickname or moniker. The five brothers are collectively called the Maccabaeans.  They succeeded in re-establishing the political and religious independence of the Hebrew state for the first time since the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE.

Jewish Independence first re-established 165

Judah, the son of Matthatias,  assumed the leadership of the rebellion from 167 to 160. He was followed by Jonathan from 160 to 143 and Simon from 142 to 135.  Simon is the last of the Maccabean brothers and the founder of the Hasmonean line.

Judas the Maccabaean successfully liberated Jerusalem in 165 and cleansed the Temple from pagan practices.  This event marks the Jewish festival of lights--Chanukah.  The war went on even after this victory.  Judas died in 160 and his younger brother Jonathan took over the struggle to gain complete independence.

Antiochus V (164-162) appointed a new high priest, Alcimus.  This violated ancient traditions that the high priest had to come from the Zadokite family.

In 152, the Seleucid pretender Alexander Balas appointed Jonathan as high priest.  He also was not a Zadokite.  It is possible that the Qumran Sect, the Teacher of Righteousness, broke with the Jerusalem Temple on this issue. 

Jonathan becomes high priest in 152 BCE.  This in effect made the family of Judas and Jonathan into the new royal dynasty of Judaea.

The struggle against the Seleucid kings continued until 142 when the Seleucids were forced to withdraw their garrison from Jerusalem and could no longer collect tribute.  

A third brother, Simon, ruled from 143 to 134 BCE.

[See also, Jona Lendering, "The Hasmonaeans" at


Hasmonaean (142 - 38 BCE) Period


Simon starts the Hasmonean line. He and his descendants rule from 142 to 38 BCE.  However, after 63 BCE, they are under Roman tutelage.

The struggle against foreign occupation by the Seleucid rulers of Syria is also mirrored in a domestic struggle between Hellenizing Jews and traditionalists who oppose them.

Ironically, the Maccabees and Hosmonaean rulers politicize the position of High Priest.  The Biblical line of High Priests going back to Aaron and Zadok is ended in 172 BCE.


Hellenization:  Pro and Con

“When the High Priest Simon II died in 175 BCE, conflict broke out between supporters of his son Onias III (who opposed hellenization, and favored the Ptolemies) and his son Jason (who favored hellenization, and favored the Seleucids). A period of political intrigue followed, with priests such as Menelaus bribing the king to win the High Priesthood, and accusations of murder of competing contenders for the title. The result was a brief civil war. “

[Subsequently High Priests were politically selected.  The Hasmoneans, and later the Herodians, gained control of the position of the High Priest.  The Essenes may have been opposed to these developments and may have had a candidate from the line of Zadok.]

List of High Priests from 320 – 37 BC
from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia (Accessed on August 8, 2007).

bullet Onias I, son of Jaddua, ca. 320-280 BC
bullet Simon I, son of Onias, ca. 280-260 BC
bullet Eleazar, son of Onias, ca. 260-245 BC
bullet Manasseh, son of Jaddua, ca. 245-240 BC
bullet Onias II, son of Simon, ca. 240-218 BC
bullet Simon II, son of Onias, 218-185 BC
bullet Onias III, son of Simon, 185-175 BC, murdered 170 BC
bullet Jason, son of Simon 175-172 BC

                        The line of High Priests dating back to Aaron and Zadok comes to an end in 172 BCE.  The office becomes politicized.

bullet Menelaus 172-162 BC
bullet Onias IV, son of Onias III, fled to Egypt and built a Jewish Temple at Leontopolis (closed in AD 66)
bullet Alcimus 162-159 BC

Inter-Sacerdotium [159 – 153]”               

It is unknown who held the position of High Priest of Jerusalem between Alcimus' death and the accession of Jonathan.

Josephus, in Jewish Antiquities XX.10, relates that the office was vacant for six years, but this is indeed highly unlikely, if not impossible. In religious terms, the High Priest was a necessary part of the rites on the Day of Atonement - a day that could have not been allowed to pass uncelebrated for so long so soon after the restoration of the Temple service. Politically, Israel's overlords probably would not have allowed a power vacuum to last that length of time.

In another passage (XII.10 §6, XII.11 §2) Josephus suggests that Judas Maccabeus, the brother of Jonathan, held the office for three years, succeeding Alcimus. However, Judas actually predeceased Alcimus by one year. However, the nature of Jonathan's accession to the high priesthood makes it unlikely that Judas held that office during the inter-sacerdotium. The Jewish Encyclopedia tries to harmonise the contradictions found in Josephus by supposing that Judas held the office "immediately after the consecration of the Temple (165-162), that is, before the election of Alcimus"[2]
It has been argued that the founder of the Qumran community, the Teacher of Righteousness (Moreh Zedek), was High Priest (but not necessarily the sole occupant) during the inter-sacerdotium and was driven off by Jonathan. This view is based on sources from the Qumran, that portray the teacher as a figure of authority usually associated with the high priest, however, without clearly spelling out names or events.

High Priests of the  Hasmonean dynasty

bullet Jonathan Apphus, 153-143 BC
bullet Simeon Tassi, brother of Jonathan Apphus, 142-134 BC
bullet John Hyrcanus I, son of Simeon Tassi 134-104 BC
bullet Aristobulus I, son of John Hyrcanus, 104-103 BC
bullet Alexander Jannaeus, son of John Hyrcanus, 103-76 BC
bullet John Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, 76-66 BC
bullet Aristobulus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, 66-63 BC
bullet John Hyrcanus II (restored) 63-40 BC
bullet Antigonus, son of Aristobulos II, 40-37 BC


Maccabees (167 – 135 BCE)     
“The Maccabees (Hebrew: מכבים or מקבים, Makabim) were a Jewish national liberation movement that fought for and won independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, who was succeeded by his infant son Antiochus V Eupator. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean royal dynasty and established Jewish independence in the Land of Israel for about one hundred years, from 164 BCE to 63. BCE
The Revolt
“In 167 BCE, after Antiochus issued decrees in Judea forbidding Jewish religious practice, a rural Jewish priest from Modiin, Mattathias the Hasmonean, sparked the revolt against the Seleucid empire by refusing to worship the Greek gods. Mattathias slew a Hellenistic Jew who stepped forward to offer a sacrifice to an idol in Mattathias' place. He and his five sons fled to the wilderness of Judea. After Mattathias' death about one year later, his son Judah Maccabee led an army of Jewish dissidents to victory over the Seleucid dynasty. The term Maccabees as used to describe the Judean's army is taken from its actual use as Judah's surname.

The revolt itself involved many individual battles, in which the Maccabean forces gained infamy among the Syrian army for their use of guerrilla tactics. After the victory, the Maccabees entered Jerusalem in triumph and ritually cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there and installing Jonathan Maccabee as high priest. A large Syrian army was sent to quash the revolt, but returned to Syria on the death of Antiochus IV. Its commander Lysias, preoccupied with internal Syrian affairs, agreed to a political compromise that provided religious freedom.

Following the re-dedication of the temple, the supporters of the Maccabees were divided over the question of whether to continue fighting. When the revolt began under the leadership of Mattathias, it was seen as a war for religious freedom to end the oppression of the Seleucids. However, as Maccabees realized how successful they had been many wanted to continue the revolt as a war of national self-determination. This conflict led to the exacerbation of the divide between the Pharisees and Sadducees under later Hasmonean monarchs such as Alexander Jannaeus.

Those who sought the continuation of the war of national identity were led by Judah Maccabee. On his death in battle in 160 BC, Judah was succeeded as army commander by his younger brother, Jonathan, who was already High Priest. Jonathan made treaties with various foreign states, causing further dissent among those who desired religious freedom over political power. On Jonathan's death in 142 BC, Simon Maccabee, the last remaining son of Mattathias, took power. Simon founded the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted until 37 BC.

Every year Jews celebrate Hanukkah in commemoration of Judah Maccabee's victory over the Seleucids and subsequent miracles.

The name Maccabee is sometimes seen used as synonym for the entire Hasmonean Dynasty, but the Maccabees proper were Judah Maccabee and his four brothers.
From Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

(  (Accessed on August 5, 2007).

Mattathias was a Jewish priest depicted in the Books of the Maccabees, and the father of Judah Maccabee, the leader of the Maccabees. Mattathias was from a rural priestly family in Modiin, and served as a priest in Jerusalem. After the Seleucid persecutions began, he returned to Modiin. In 167 BC, when asked by a Seleucid Greek government representative under King Antiochus IV to offer sacrifice to the Greek gods, he not only refused to do so, but slew with his own hand the Jew who had stepped forward to do so. He then attacked the government official that required the act.

Upon the edict for his arrest, he took refuge in the wilderness of Judea with his five sons, and called upon all Jews to follow him. This was the first step in the war of the Maccabees against the Seleucid Greeks, the result of which was Jewish independence, which had not been enjoyed for 400 years. The events of the war of the Maccabees form the basis for the holiday of Hanukkah, which is celebrated by Jews on the 25th of Kislev (on the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to Mid-November to Late-December on the Gregorian Calendar).

Mattathias died in 167 BC while the rebellion was only beginning.

[Mattathias had five sons:   Eleazar, Johanan, Judas Maccabeus, Jonathan Maccabeeus, and Simon Maccabaeus.] (Accessed on August 5, 2007).

Judas Maccabeus (or Judah Maccabee, Hebrew: Yehudah HaMakabi) was the third son of the Jewish priest Mattathias. He led the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire from 167BCE-160 BCE and is acclaimed as one of the greatest warriors in Jewish history alongside Joshua, Gideon and David.

Judah was the third son of Mattathias,  In 167 BCE Mattathias, together with his sons, started a revolt against the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who since 175 BCE had issued decrees that forbid Jewish religious practices.. . . After Mattathias's death in 166 BCE, Judah assumed leadership of the revolt in accordance with the deathbed disposition of his father.

In the early days of the rebellion, Judas received a surname Maccabee. Several explanations have been put forward for this surname. One suggestion is that the name derives from the Aramaic maqqaba ("makebet" in modern Hebrew), "hammer" or "sledgehammer", in recognition of his ferocity in battle. It is also possible that the name Maccabee is an acronym for the Torah verse Mi kamokha ba'elim Hashem, "Who is like unto thee among the mighty, O Lord!" (Exodus 15:11).

Minding the superiority of Seleucid forces during the first two years of the revolt, Judas's strategy was to avoid any involvement with their regular army, and to resort to guerrilla warfare, in order to give them a feeling of insecurity.

[A series of victories] opened up the road to Jerusalem, which Judah entered at the head of his army. He purified the defiled Temple of Jerusalem and on the 25th of Kislev (December 14, 164 BCE) restored the service in the Temple. The reconsecration of the Temple is a permanent Jewish holiday, Hanukkah. The liberation of Jerusalem was the first step on the road to ultimate independence.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes at the end of 164 BCE.  After his death, a power struggle erupted between Lysias and the regent Philip. 

The Battle of Beth-Zechariah was fought between the Jewish Maccabeans and Greek forces during the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire [in 162 BCE.  It was major Jewish defeat.

In 164 BCE, Judas Maccabeus crushed the numerically superior Greeks under Lysias at the Battle of Beth-zur and restored the temple in Jerusalem. However, Seleucid forces still controlled the Acra, a strong fortress within the city that faced the Temple Mount and served as a symbol to remind the Jews that their land was still occupied.

Taking advantage of bitter rivalry between Lysias and the recently deceased emperor's regent, Philip, Judas laid siege to the fortress in 162 BC. However, Lysias did the unexpected and left Antioch and his dispute with Philip and took the field against the Maccabean army.

With an army of about 50,000 infantry and thirty war elephants, along with cavalry and chariots, Lysias approached Jerusalem from the south and besieged Beth-zur, eighteen miles from the city. Judas lifted his own siege on The Acra, and led his army south to Beth-Zechariah. The Jewish force of about 20,000 positioned itself on the high ground across the road to Jerusalem — directly in the path of the Syrian-Seleucid army.

After capturing Beth-zur, Lysias' force marched on Beth-zechariah, with war elephants and light infantry at the helm of the main attack and heavy cavalry anchoring the flanks on high ground. In the center rear marched the shock troops--the heavy infantry--in phalanx formation. Judas did not defer to his usual guerrilla tactics because he felt that his past success with them was cause for the Syrians to expect a non-traditional defense. He therefore used traditional field tactics and fought the Syrians in their own fashion. The result was a defeat for the Jews.

The war elephants unnerved Judas' troops. As the Jews began to break for the rear, the Maccabee's younger brother, Eleazar Horan, attempted to show his fellow men that the elephants were vulnerable. Charging into the mouth of the Syrian assault, he spotted a large elephant bearing the royal seal. Eleazar cast himself under the animal and thrust his sword into its soft belly. The elephant died immediately and fell onto Eleazar, killing him. This show of bravery was not enough to rally the Jewish forces, which collapsed under the heavy pressure of the Greek phalanx.

Lysias marched north to Jerusalem and laid siege to the rebel forces there. However, before he could restore total Seleucid control of the city, he was called back to Antioch to engage his enemy, Philip, for control of the empire. Before he left, he agreed to a compromise allowing the Jews to follow their customs and to worship as they pleased. (Accessed on August 5, 2007).

The Battle of Adasa was fought in 13th of the month Adar, 161 BC at Adasa near Beth-horon, between the Maccabees of Judas Maccabeus and the Seleucid Army, whose army was led by Nicanor. Maccabeus won this battle. This day was instituted as "Day of Nicanor" (13th of Adar) to commemorate this victory. (Accessed on August 5, 2007).

The Battle of Elasa was fought between Jewish and Seluecid armies during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire [in 160].  [This was a major Jewish defeat whereby the Seleucids temporarily regained control of Judea.  Judah Maccabeus was killed during this battle.]

The Seleucids had reasserted their authority temporarily in Jerusalem, but Judah's brother Jonathan and after him Simon, continued to fight, meeting Bacchides again in later battles. Eventually, after several additional years of war under the leadership of Judah's brothers and the defeat of Bacchides several times by both Jonathan and later Simon, Seleucid control of Judea was broken. The descendants of Simon established the Hasmonean dynasty which, due largely to internal strife, would last only around 100 years. (Accessed on August 5, 2007).

Jonathan Maccabaeus was leader of the Hasmonean Dynasty of Judea from 160  to 143 BC.  Jonathan Maccabeus was one of the sons of Mattathias Maccabaeus. His father was a Kohen credited as the founding figure of the rebellion of the Maccabees against Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire. However Mattathias died in 167 BC while the rebellion was only beginning.

He was survived by Jonathan and his brothers Eleazar, Johanan, Judas Maccabeus, Simon Maccabaeus. They were sworn to continue the rebellion of their father. Judas soon became their de facto leader and the military chief of the rebellion.

Jonathan served under his brother and took active parts in the battles against the Seleucid forces. His reputation for courage is lesser to that of Judas but hardly questionable. His courage had been frequently tried. However, Judas was one of the casualties of the Battle of Elasa (161/160 BC).

Jonathan took up residence at Jerusalem in 153 BC. He soon began to fortifying the city.

Jonathan was the first member of his dynasty to achieve appointment as High Priest. The title was not merely nominal. Jonathan became the official leader of his people and the Hellenistic party could no longer attack him without severe consequences. On the Feast of Tabernacles of 153 BC, Jonathan put on the High Priest's garments and officiated for the first time.

It is unknown whom Jonathan displaced as High Priest, though some scholars suggest that this was the Teacher of Righteousness, later founder of the Essenes. In this theory, Jonathan is considered the "man of lies".

Soon however, a new claimant to the Seleucid throne appeared in the person of the young Antiochus VI Dionysus, son of Alexander Balas and Clepatra Thea. He was three-years-old at most but general Diodotus Tryphon used him to advance his own designs on the throne.

Diodotus Tryphon went with an army to Judea and invited Jonathan to Scythopolis for a friendly conference, and persuaded him to dismiss his army of 40,000 men, promising to give him Ptolemais and other fortresses. Jonathan fell into the trap; he took with him to Ptolemais 1,000 men, all of whom were slain; he himself was taken prisoner [9].

When Diodotus Tryphon was about to enter Judea at Hadid, he was confronted by the new Jewish leader, Simeon, ready for battle. Trypho, avoiding an engagement, demanded one hundred talents and Jonathan's two sons as hostages, in return for which he promised to liberate Jonathan. Although Simeon did not trust Diodotus Tryphon, he complied with the request in order that he might not be accused of the death of his brother. But Diodotus Tryphon did not liberate his prisoner; angry that Simeon blocked his way everywhere and that he could accomplish nothing, he executed Jonathan at Baskama, in the country east of the Jordan [10]. Jonathan was buried by Simeon at Modin. Nothing is known of his two captive sons. One of his daughters was the ancestress of Josephus [11].

Last of the Maccabaeans and Founder of the Hasmonean Kings (142 – 38 BCE)

Simon Maccabaeus (died 135 BCE) was a son of Mattathias and the founder of the Hasmonean line of rulers.

He took part in the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire led by his brothers, Judas Maccabaeus and Jonathan Maccabaeus. He became the first prince of the Hebrew Hasmonean Dynasty. He reigned from 142 to 135 BC.

The Hasmonean Dynasty was founded by a resolution, adopted in 141 BCE, at a large assembly "of the priests and the people and of the elders of the land, to the effect that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet" (1 Maccabees xiv. 41).

Recognition of the new dynasty by the Roman Republic was accorded by the Senate about 139 BC, when the delegation of Simon was in Rome. Simon made the Jewish people semi-independent of the Seleucid Empire.

In February 135 BC, he was assassinated at the instigation of his son-in-law Ptolemy. Simon was followed by his third son, John Hyrcanus, whose two elder brothers, Mattathias and Judah, had been murdered, together with their father. (Accessed on August 5, 2007).

John Hyrcanus (Yohanan Girhan) (reigned 134 BCE - 104 BCE, died 104 BCE) was a Hasmonean (Maccabeean) leader of the 2nd century BC. Apparently the name "Hyrcanus" was taken by him as a regnal name upon his accession to power.

He was the son of Simon Maccabaeus and hence the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan Maccabaeus and their siblings, whose story is told in the deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, and in the Talmud. John was not present at a banquet at which his father and his two brothers were murdered, purportedly by his brother-in-law Ptolemy. He attained to his father's former offices, that of high priest and king (although some Jews never accepted any of the Hasmoneans as being legitimate kings, as they were not lineal descendants of David).

John Hyrcanus apparently combined an energetic and able style of leadership with the zeal of his forebears. He was known as a brave and brilliant military leader. He is credited with the forced conversion of the Idumeans to Judaism, which was unusual for a Jewish leader; Judaism was not typically spread by the sword. He also set out to resolve forcibly the religious dispute between the Jews and the Samaritans; during his reign he destroyed the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim (although their descendants still worship among its ruins), which served further to deepen the already-historic hatred and rivalry between the two groups. Many historians believe that the apocryphal book of Jubilees was written during his reign; some would suggest even at his behest. Some writers, particularly Christian ones, have dated the division of Judaism into the parties of Pharisees and Sadducees to his era; most Jewish writers and some Christian ones suggest that this split actually well predates him. Some historians would go so far as to identify him, as a priest, predominantly with the Sadducee party, which was closely associated with the Temple worship and the priestly class.

John Hyrcanus represented in some ways the highest point of the Hasmonean Dynasty. The restored Jewish "kingdom" approached its maximum limits of both territory and prestige. Upon his death, his offices were divided among his heirs; his son Aristobulus succeeded him as high priest; his wife as "Queen regnant". The son, however, soon came to desire the essentially unchecked power of his father; he shortly ordered his mother and his brothers imprisoned. This event seems to mark the beginning of the decline of the Hasmonean Dynasty; in just over four decades they were removed from power by the Roman Republic and none of them ever began to approach the level of power or prestige that had pertained to John Hyrcanus or his predecessors. (Accessed on August 5, 2007)


Religious Divisions During the Hasmonean Period

The Essenes were another early mystical-religious movement, who are believed to have rejected either the Seleucid appointed high priests, or the Hasmonean high priests, as illegitimate. Ultimately, they rejected the Second Temple, arguing that the Essene community was itself the new Temple, and that obedience to the law represented a new form of sacrifice.

Although their lack of concern for the Second Temple alienated the Essenes from the great mass of Jews, their notion that the sacred could exist outside of the Temple was shared by another group, the Pharisees ("separatists"), based within the community of scribes and sages. The meaning of the name is unclear; it may refer to their rejection of Hellenic culture or to their objection to the Hasmonean monopoly on power.

During the Hasmonean period, the Sadducees and Pharisees functioned primarily as political parties (the Essenes not being as politically oriented). The political rift between the Sadducees and Pharisees became evident when Pharisees demanded that the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannai choose between being king and being High Priest in the traditional manner. This demand led to a brief civil war that ended with a bloody repression of the Pharisees, although at his deathbed the king called for a reconciliation between the two parties. Alexander was succeeded by his widow, whose brother was a leading Pharisee. Upon her death her elder son, Hyrcanus, sought Pharisee support, and her younger son, Aristobulus, sought the support of the Sadducees. The resulting civil war ended with the Roman conquest of Jerusalem.



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