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333 BC-143 BC - Greek Rule

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great of Macedon destroyed the Persian Empire but largely ignored Judah. Alexander, with his main army, marched into Phoenicia, and met with no resistance anywhere until he reached the city of Tyre, which he was forced to besiege fifteen months, and then to take it by storm. The protracted siege of Tyre could not have been undertaken without receiving provisions for the army. The next agricultural countries were Judea and Samaria. Therefore, Alexander sent embassadors to Samaria and Jerusalem, demanding submission and provisions. The Samaritans sent supplies and a corps of eight thousand men to Alexander's army. The Hebrews refused, because, as they said, their oath of allegiance to the king of Persia was sacred and inviolable. This provoked the ire of the great warrior, and, after he had taken Tyre, he marched to Jerusalem. Judea had no army and could offer no resistance. The Persians were far away beyond the Euphrates.

Nothing could be more welcome to Alexander than the submission of a strong city and a rich country; and nothing could be more flattering to his vanity than a demonstration of friendship and submission. Therefore, Alexander, approached by the high priest, bowed to him reverently and treated him kindly. In explanation of his conduct, he, like Jaddua, also referred to a dream which he had before crossing the Hellespont. He was led in triumph through the decorated city to the temple, where he made sacrifices to the God of Israel, received the oath of allegiance, secured to Judea all the privileges enjoyed under the Medo-Persian monarchs, and exemption from tribute every Sabbath-year. The people had no cause to regret the change of rulers, and the priests called every boy born that year Alexander. No changes in the internal government of Judea were made.

After Alexander's death, his generals divided -- and subsequently fought over -- his empire. In 301 BC, Ptolemy I took direct control of the Jewish homeland, but he made no serious effort to interfere in its religious affairs. Ptolemy's successors were in turn supplanted by the Seleucids, and in 175 BC Antiochus IV seized power [175-164]. From the year 180 BCE until 161 BCE the Maccabees rebelled against the Syrian king Antiochus IV who persecuted the Jews. He launched a campaign to crush Judaism, and in 167 BC he sacked the Temple. At the end of the period, after the rebels had conquered Judah and Jerusalem, the Temple was re-inaugurated. The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is based on historic events.

When Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to the throne the Jewish nation had already been affected in no small degree by Greek influence, so that there existed a strong Hellenizing party, opposed, however, by the sect of the Chasidim, the "pious." The high priest Onias III, an anti-Hellenist, was removed and his brother Jason, a Hellenist who promised Antiochus a large sum of money for his appointment, was given the high-priesthood. Under Jason the Hellenizing process went on more rapidly. Menelaus offering a still larger sum for the office of high priest, Jason was deposed and Menelaus appointed in his stead. In 170, Antiochus being absent in Egypt, and it being reported that he was dead, the city was thrown into an uproar and Jason regained the priesthood. Antiochus returning treated the occurrence as a revolt, attacked Jerusalem, massacred citizens, plundered the temple.

In 168 Antiochus being defeated in his plans against Egypt turned his anger against Palestine, and undertook the extermination of the Jewish religion and the complete Hellenizing of Judea. The walls of Jerusalem were thrown down, but the old city of David was fortified and occupied by a Syrian garrison. The observance of Jewish rites, the Sabbath, and circumcision, was prohibited. Those who resisted were put to death. In December 168 at the great altar of burnt offering in the temple of Jerusalem a pagan altar was built, and on the 25th Chisleu sacrifices were offered on it.

In 167 BCE Mattathias, a loyal priest living at Modin, led an active revolt against the oppressions of Antiochus. Seeing a Jew about to offer sacrifice in obedience to the command of the king's commissioner, he slew both the Jew and the royal commissioner. He then fled with his sons to the mountains, and gathered about him those who were willing to fight to secure freedom to worship Jehovah. The Chasidim attached themselves to him. He died within a few months, committing the work to his sons. From 166 BCE to 142 BCE, the struggle for religious freedom and political independence continued under the sons of Mattathias.

In 166 BCE Judas, surnamed Maccabeus. Judas, the third son of Mattathias, succeeded his father as leader of the movement. Gathering an army of 6000 men, he was successful in several battles, regained possession of Jerusalem, and just three years after the pollution of the altar, having cleansed and rededicated the temple, he offered sacrifices on the reconsecrated altar, 25th Chisleu, 165 B. C. In 163 B. C. the Syrian general, being obliged to withdraw his army from Judea to attend to matters at home, granted to the Jews religious freedom, the right "to observe their own institutions as formerly." This freedom was not again denied by Syria. Thus all that the movement originally inaugurated by Mattathias had aimed at was secured. But the Jews were still in political subjection to Syria, and there still existed a strong Hellenizing party opposed to the Maccabees. With a view to acquiring political independence, Judas made a treaty with the Romans. In 161 BC he was defeated by the Syrians and slain in the battle of Eleasa.

The internal conflicts of Syria enabled the Maccabean party to strengthen their position, both against the Syrians and against the Hellenizing Jews. At home the Maccabees gained the supremacy, but Jonathan, the fifth son of Mattathias, died in 143 without having thrown off the Syrian yoke.



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Page last modified: 26-03-2012 18:43:09 ZULU