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Hanukkah: How independent was the Hashemite kingdom?

In this list, I would like to find out and emphasize the deterioration since the days of Judah the Maccabee and his successors in the face of the clear will, at least in the literature, of their father Matthias, who initiated the rebellion against the Greeks/Hellenists in 167 BC. It is in his will that Matthew outlined, as a sentence engraved in rock, what were and would be the goals of the Hasmonean rebellion. And my question is: did his sons, grandsons, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren follow in his footsteps?

Newitzch Statler - The Hasmoneans, 1844. From Wikipedia
Newitzch Statler - The Hasmoneans, 1844. From Wikipedia

In this list, I would like to find out and emphasize the slippery and slippery deterioration since the days of Judah the Maccabee and his successors in the face of the clear will, at least in the literature, of their father Matthias, who initiated the rebellion against the Greeks/Hellenists in 167 BC. It is in his will that Matthew outlined, as a sentence engraved in rock, what were and would be the goals of the Hasmonean rebellion. And my question is: did his sons, grandsons, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren follow in his footsteps?

And this I will ask to find out in this list of ours. And before that I will confess and say that it will be difficult for me to "spoil the party" somewhat, and to shake quite a few of the holiday songs such as: "We fought in the Greeks and we have the victory...", "We carry torches in dark nights...", "Who will sing the heroic deeds of Israel, who will name them?" ", "Nerot Ha'Zaroor, what will the stories be" and more of this kind.

Before formulating the goals of the rebellion quoted by Mattathias the Hasmonean in his will to his sons after him, I would like to point out, in my opinion, the dominant, cardinal goal, which is not stated at all in his will, but emerges from his unprecedented action and the actions of his sons after him, and it is: a real court revolution, in terms of "whose name is Namely - the removal of the sacred, traditional, classical, mythological House of the Great Priesthood and its replacement/conversion with a new Great Priesthood House which is Beit Hasmon. This is about a revolution in law and in fact, when it is worth noting that the High Priesthood at that time was a kind of monarchy, a tremendous economic-financial resource with a legal and social function of the first order, and those who understand will understand. We did not explicitly mention this in his will, but it emerges from his works and those of his sons and grandsons after him.

Gustav Dora's painting of the Hasmonean Matityahu calls for rebellion
Gustav Dora's painting of the Hasmonean Matityahu calls for rebellion

Well, what does his will say to his sons, although we will admit the truth, that we have no confidence because it was written and spoken. The author of Maccabim 66 (49:166-XNUMX) testifies to this: "And the days of Matthias neared his death (approximately XNUMX BCE) and he said to his sons ( According to this order: Yohanan, Shimon, Yehuda, Eleazar and Jonathan): now malice and rebuke prevailed and a day of revolution (allusion to the great priestly revolution) and Haron even. And now sons, be jealous of the Torah and give your lives (fight to the death) for the covenant of your fathers (since the days of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah). Remember the deeds of ancestors who in their generations and inheritance have great honor and eternal name (obvious incitement)... Pinchas our father in his jealousy received a covenant of eternal priesthood (forever) (the one who slaughtered Zimmeri ben Salo in the desert and many of his people, and is considered the father of Israeli jealousy)... Elijah in his jealousy and jealousy of the Torah was raised to heaven... Be strong my children and recover in the Torah for in it you will be honored. (This is therefore the dominant message in his will, and from here Matthew will move to its physical-realistic/pragmatic realization): And behold, your brother Shimon, I knew that he is a man of counsel (a wise and analytical statesman), to whom you will listen all the days. He will be your father (Matthew therefore crowns him as an heir). And Judah the Maccabee is a mighty man of valor from his youth, he will be your minister of the army and fight the people's war (that is, subordinate to Judah and at least parallel to him). (Yonathan was rejected at this stage from some commanding leadership position and Lazarus and Yochanan would fall in battle). And you will gather to yourselves all the keepers of the mitzvah (according to the laws of the Torah) and take revenge on your people. Return recompense (injury) to the Gentiles (referring to the Greeks/Hellenists and indirectly even to the Greeks) and keep the commandments of the Torah (a violin at your feet)".
The sanctified tasks are therefore: zeal for the Torah, when it is given to an interpretive layer and a war of greed in Greeks and Greeks.

Were these tasks completed? We will examine this right away, and we will already emphasize by saying that it is strange that Shimon, the designated heir, was pushed/kicked aside by Judah, and after him Jonathan will inherit the position of leadership, and only finally (when "the list of brothers is over") will Shimon finally be entitled to his somewhat usurped inheritance . In this context, it should be noted that Yehuda and Jonathan sought to equate the rebellion with a military, militant character and outlook, and from this they finally pushed Shimon, who was, similarly, moderate and level-headed, and from this the two greatly tampered with their father's will. Doubly tattooed: both in the order of inheritance and in the nature of the rebellion. We will now examine the path and behavior of Matthew's heirs and the agents of his will and ask ourselves, did the above follow his instructions, his will and his teachings?

And let's start with the priesthood. Well, all of them, without exception, first and foremost made sure to place the crown of the great priesthood on their heads, which gives them political, economic, social and spiritual power. And what this teaches is that although Matthew hid in his will the issue of priestly usurpation that he actually carried out, his sons and grandsons and their successors understood what power was in store for them as high priests. Judah the Maccabee actually placed the priestly crown over his head without any reference or support from any Jewish public institution such as the "Girousia" (Council of Elders) or the "Ekklesia" (Assembly of the People). And this immediately after the purification of the temple in 164 BC. thus continuing his father's usurpation. Jonathan, like him, did not receive the backing of the Jewish establishment, and behaved in a rude manner "befitting" the successor of Judah the Maccabee.

The cache of silver coins found in the mansion house from the Hasmonean period. Photo: Assaf Peretz, Antiquities Authority
The cache of silver coins found in the mansion house from the Hasmonean period. Photo: Assaf Peretz, Antiquities Authority

In fact, Jonathan was not appointed as the legal heir of Judah the Maccabee, and of course not by Matthias according to his will, but after the death of Judah in 161 BC, he was appointed/elected, but emphasized - not to the high priesthood - by a somewhat amorphous body, and perhaps rebellious, Called "Ohavi Yehuda" (Yehuda's supporters), which by the way expresses a distinct Greek-Hellenistic influence. That is, Jonathan can be regarded as an usurper. Jonathan therefore waited for the approval of his appointment by a Greek-Hellenistic factor rather than a Jew of his birth father, and this after he took the trouble to present his military abilities and skills mainly to please the Seleucids as it happened. Indeed, in 155 BC, Jonathan was recognized by Bacchides, the Syrian-Seleucid commander, as the leader of the Jews with very limited powers.

However, Jonathan could not serve in the office of the High Priesthood, to which he strove with all his vigor and strength, except with the approval of the Hellenistic kings in Syria, i.e. the Seleucids, thus setting a dangerous precedent, and therefore it was good for Hela to manipulate between two claimants to the crown of leadership in Hellenistic Syria, between Alexander Balas and Demetrius , when he decided to support Balas, the one who promised him the high priesthood and its strengthening from here on out, and this in a complete contradiction to the Jewish laws and norms that preceded him. Jonathan actually became the agent and "bearer of the tools" of the Syrian king. Jonathan therefore first crowned himself high priest, as Judah's successor, but he needed the Syrian/Hellenistic ruler's state approval, which took place in 150 BC. Did Matthieu strive for/expect/wish for this? Absolutely not.

Shimon, his successor, from 143 B.C., the one who was kicked aside as mentioned, despite Matthew's will, and unlike his predecessor Jonathan, made sure to receive the reference for his leadership (prior to his priesthood), by the representatives of the people and with his vocal support in Jerusalem, and in the language of the text: "You are our leader under Judah and Jonathan your brother. Fight our war and whatever you command we will do" (9 Maccabees 8:XNUMX-XNUMX). It is not clear what the meaning of the presidential appointment is, except at least in the military aspect.

Near the year 142 BCE, Shimon received considerable military and even economic benefits in the form of freeing Judah from paying taxes to the Seleucids, and the author of Maccabim 170 is enthusiastic about this, noting that "in the year seventy and one hundred (312 years after the Battle of Gaza in 41 BCE) the yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel" ( Ibid. 6 XNUMX). Likewise, Antiochus VII, "Sidatas", grants Simon the right to mint coins in Judea, and according to the book of Maccabees - "And I selfishly suppose you to mint your coin in your own country" (Maccabees XNUMX:XNUMX, XNUMX). Apparently, therefore, Judah became independent and thus fulfilled an important detail in Matthew's will, but it continued to be, politically of course, and even militarily subordinate as a vassal to Syria. It should be noted that Shimon won the honorable Hellenistic title of "Evil King", which required him as a loyal vassal to fulfill many obligations towards Hellenistic Syria.

Shimon clearly strove to place the crown of the priesthood on his head, which was realized in a historic event in the Temple in 140 BC when the Jewish People's Assembly, including the Council of Priests, granted/confirmed to Shimon three titles in this order: president, high priest and minister of the army and the right to bequeath them to his sons after him, that is, a kind of kingship without crown. It should be noted that the above order was changed/reversed in the next verse (ibid. 42): first a high priest, then an army minister and finally the president of the Jews. And this is only with the intention of creating a kind of principled order of importance, and thus, in my opinion, "his kings" followed the will of Matthew, perhaps so that Shimon would not become arrogant and boast of his "kingdom".

He continued the dynasty and his successor ("on the truth") was his son, Yohanan Hyrcanus, who "reigned" in 134 BC. Did Matthew strive for this? of course not. The book of Maccabim 24 was concluded with the verses - "And the words of John and his wars ... here they are written in the book of the days of his great priesthood (which unfortunately did not survive at all and did not come into our hands) to the man who was a high priest after his father" (23 Maccabim 230:XNUMX-XNUMX). Hela, similarly, did not receive the support of the People's Assembly and the confirmation of his ministry by it, as his predecessor, but "took (by force) the great priesthood of his ancestors..." (Yosef ben Matatiyo, The Antiquities of the Jews XNUMX, XNUMX).

Moreover, while his father was a kind of king without a crown, Yohanan Hyrcanus deviated from the tradition of his ancestors and reigned himself probably quite secretly in order not to upset the Seleucid authorities against him, and immediately after that he allowed himself to rob the biblical tomb of David and take 3000 kvars of silver from there in order to finance the The expenses of his kingdom and wars. Was this what Vaiwa Matatiyo was aiming for at the time?

Moreover, Matthias did indeed command war on the Greeks and the Methonians, but he probably did not imagine that his grandson, for economic and expansionist reasons, would force the conversion of the Reds by force in order to appropriate their territories for his kingdom.

When he died in 102/3 BC, Hyrcanus died and left behind five sons, when he ordered to divide the positions of control that were customary in his time, between his eldest son, Yehuda Aristobulus ("good head" in a direct/free translation from the Greek), who is supposed to wear the crown (turban) of the high priesthood (even here without the approval of the People's Assembly which began to be emptied of its powers) only that the rest of the positions, powers and jobs were supposed to belong to the widow.

The intentions of Hyrcanus, which were imprinted in his will, crashed in front of his son, who is cruel and pursues the ruler. Hella attached to his lap the title of "President" and even placed the royal crown on his head, without any approval or consent of the People's Assembly. And it can therefore be said that he was actually the first of the Hasmonean royal dynasty, and as we will see later, his time was immersed in streams of blood up to his neck if not higher than that.

The tyrannical and bloodthirsty Aristobulus died at the end of one year of reign (102 BC) and upon his death the inheritance passed to his brother, Jonathan, and as he was called Yanai Alexander. Alexander inherited the leadership in a similar way through the intervention of Aristobulus's wife, is she Shalom (Zion) - Shlomzion Alexandra, and apparently even "inherited" the tyrannical character and bloodthirstiness, since when he reigned, without any consent and approval from the people's assembly, he murdered one of his brothers, apparently competing with him , and he left the other to himself because he "preferred to live without meddling in the affairs of the state" (Yosef ben Matatiyo, The Antiquities of the Jews, 323, XNUMX).

Alexander Yanai, probably due to his brutal nature and lust for conquests, devoted all his time and energy to conducting wars on the coastal plain, in the Galilee and even past the eastern Jordan. And at least the realization of a part of Matthieu's will - war against idols and the removal of manifestations of idolatry in general - was a candle to Alexander Yanai's feet.

Taking the crown of the high priesthood, without the consent and blessing of the People's Assembly, was scandalous in the eyes of the Jewish public, and on the holiday of Sukkot, when the king was about to offer a sacrifice at the altar, this provoked resentment and severe agitation in the hearts of the celebrating public, and he beat the king to the throne. The public spread rumors about him that he was born of a captive woman, somewhat impure, and therefore unworthy of the priesthood and certainly the high priesthood. As a response he ordered his regiments, a significant part of which was made up of foreign mercenaries such as from Pisidia and Cilicia, to massacre the "insolent" public. About six thousand Jewish worshipers fell to the sword of the murderers, and immediately afterwards Yanai took advantage of the great uproar and his authority as high priest and "erected a wooden fence around the altar and the temple up to the grate, (the place) where only the priests were allowed to enter, and in this he blocked the entrance to it for the crowd ” (The Antiquities of the Jews 373, XNUMX). And this considering an unprecedented move that characterized Yanai's personality and actions.
Since we are dealing with the High Priesthood section, it should be noted that a widespread popular revolt broke out against Yanai and one of the main claims of the rebels was the demand to give up the throne of the High Priesthood which anyway, it was clear, had not been handed over to him by any Jewish entity, the Ecclesia or the Girosia
Yanai died after suffering from an illness (perhaps a fever and perhaps due to excessive drinking, or also from extreme exhaustion from too much "military toil") in 76 BC at the end of 26/27 years of rule.
Yanai did not leave a written will before his death, but in his address (did he say or didn't he?) to his wife Shlomzion on her deathbed, as quoted in the composition of Yosef ben Matthew. From it we learn that he implored her to grant some degree of rule to the Pharisees (a kind of popular leaders of the public), and that he did not command her to say anything about the ambiguity of the request and that there was no reference to the monarchy, the presidency, and in particular the status of the high priesthood. And also the interpretation that emerges from Joseph's composition, one that can be biased one way or the other, did not escape us from one conclusion or another. In the end, Shlomzion inherited the monarchy and she appointed her eldest son, Horcanus II, to serve in the high priesthood, perhaps due to his age and perhaps due to his weakness and of course due to the fact that she was a woman, she was prevented from heading the high priesthood.

The figure of Queen Shlomzion Alexandra. From Wikipedia
The figure of Queen Shlomzion Alexandra. From Wikipedia

In 67 BC, the year in which the Roman general Pompey was appointed the supreme administrator of Roman affairs in the East and the commander-in-chief of the Roman army in this region, the Land of Israel was in turmoil following a quarrel that broke out between Shlomzion Alexandra's sons - Aristobulus and Horcanus II. In this year Aristobulus assumed the royal crown and the high priesthood without any public-Jewish approval. Regarding gross rebellion in the Hyrcanus. In 63 BC, the conquest of the Land of Israel by Pompey was completed and it became a sub-province completely dependent on the Roman province in Syria. The great office of Hyrcanus was finally approved by the Romans and perhaps the presidency as well, although in a very limited scope, that is, the right to be responsible for the collection of taxes and to serve as having the right to judge the people in internal matters only.

In this way, the Hasmonean dynasty was actually cut off, albeit partially and historically, and most of its rights were denied and their freedom to conduct various and diverse moves was reduced.
We will therefore turn to the next point borrowed from Matthew's will and at least regarding its interpretation - was it correct to define Judah from Judah the Maccabee to the successors of Alexander Jannai as rulers with many leadership powers? Well, only Judah Maccabee carried this right until his fall in battle in 161 BC and from then until the time of Judah Aristobulus (102/103 BC) the Hasmonean rulers were leaders and then vassal kings who were well subordinated to the plans and whims of the Syrian-Seleucid kings. Yanai's days can be defined as freed from dependence on the Syrians except for one incident in the relationship between Yanai and the Egyptian Cleopatra.

That is, mathematically, out of the 100 years of Hasmonean rule (167-67 BC), only 31 years of independence can be counted.
It should be noted, by the way, that the Hasmonean rulers were tainted by quite a few dangerous and complex intrigues in the struggles in the Hellenistic royal court, which took revenge on them along the way. Moreover, the wording of the military alliance with Rome, which was largely one-sided from the point of view of the Romans, and to a certain extent qualified the Roman involvement in the East starting from the days of Judah the Maccabee, was not at all compatible with Mattathias' will.

Another point - the Hasmonean kings from the time of Hyrcanus onward reduced the power and strength of the People's Assembly and the Girosia (Council of Elders), and an example is Yanai's arrogant behavior towards the members of the Sanhedrin judiciary.
Another point - did the people complete, support and back the Hasmonean rule? Well, the picture is reversed from the previous point: "Precisely" during the years of Alexander Yanai's rule, there were popular, dramatic and tragic objections of the public towards Yanai, his character and his rule in general. The unrest that erupted in Judah against Yanai stemmed from the public's fatigue from the many wars that Yanai waged, the many sacrifices that were made on the altar of battles and Yanai's personal privations, the heavy financial expenses that fell on the public's shoulders, and more. His thirst for battles and blood earned him the dubious nickname "Tharkida", that is, son of Thrace, as someone who was known for the cruelty of its inhabitants.

Another point, and it perhaps indicates more than anything the tattooing of Mattathias' will: from the time of Hyrcanus onwards, all the Hasmoneans were called by Greek names alongside their Hebrew names such as: Hyrcanus, Aristobulus and Alexander. In addition, the manners of their government and their appearance were Hellenistic, the wearing of the crimson crown and the gold button for its purchase were Hellenistic, the use of palm palms in the various ceremonies was Hellenistic, the coins, in terms of circulation, were engraved with Yanai's name and titles in Greek. Also, the coronation ceremonies were immersed in Hellenistic influences and even the Hasmonean army was built in the Hellenistic format such as in the fighting methods, military equipment and weapons. What's more, Shimon the Hasmonean built a tomb estate in Modiim (there, to commemorate the outbreak of a rebellion by Matthias and his sons) and embellished it with the best of Hellenistic architecture, such as the construction of 7 magnificent pyramids and columns decorated with paintings of naval battles. The Yitzvain Sea Wars, for curiosity's sake, were well beyond the capabilities and conduct of the ruler Shimon. If so, it is a real imitation of Hellenistic essences. Yehuda Aristobulus further increased in this field from his predecessors when he took the trouble to call himself a "Philhellenus", that is - a lover/enthusiast of Greece and Greeks.
Nor will we list here the acts of killing and murder among the people of their people and some of them in their family in terms of an indelible stain in their lineage that was so far removed from Matthew's path.

It is true that in the chronological summary, a Hasmonean kingdom with relatively long and extensive borders arose in the days of Yanai, but this came at the expense of many Jewish sacrifices, heavy financial burdens and a rift among the people.
It is true that an army was built, but it was composed quite a bit of mercenary units.

It is true that a monarchy was created, but this came at the expense of reducing the power of the People's Assembly and its constituencies, and more and more priests as highlighted in this article

And to finish we will raise the rhetorical question: were the sons of Matthew and his grandchildren worthy to carry the title of his successors and his legacy/will? Judge for yourself!

A series of articles by Dr. Yehiam Sorek about the Hasmonean kingdom

6 תגובות

  1. Literally my friends of visitors. I would very much like to argue with you against the background of counter-evidence, relying on the sources: the external books and the Jewish antiquities of Joseph ben Mattathias, which are, what to do and with all the sadness in the matter, the only sources that can be relied on for the research criticism of my claims and arguments, since the archaeological and numismatic and certainly the Hellenistic and Roman ones are cesspools and absolute tyrannization

  2. To all my respondents, especially the first one, thanks and congratulations. As usual I will not go down to the low level of reaction although emotionality sometimes prevails over rationality.
    This means first of all - I am unable to back up, or almost back up, the core of my articles with archaeological infrastructures, which are almost non-existent, at least in relation to the essence of my articles.
    Second - everything I wrote is based on the well-known writings of the Maccabees literature and the writings of Joseph ben Matthew, and this, of course, as is customary in scientific articles, is accompanied by my interpretations as a writer, as a researcher. I did not include in my article all the trails of interpretations, especially popular ones, which gave birth to all kinds of myths, legends and songs, which have no place in a scientific article in all fairness.

  3. It is too short to describe all the ills of this article. Scientific is not, anyway.
    There is almost no section of historical error on which the article misses, from an interpretation of hindsight, through severe anachronism to a lack of understanding of the relations of ruling powers in the ancient world.
    Embarrassing that the writer, who boasts of a doctorate degree, failed miserably in things about which a second-year history student would have failed in every assignment or test.
    In addition, the writer attributes an extreme interpretation to the intentions and motives of the historical figures and then treats his hypotheses as facts carved in stone. But not so. It is nothing more than a deck of cards.

    It seems that this article mainly stems from the writer's desire to tattoo the popular "paradigms" in relation to the Hasmonean rebellion. It is not the facts and the information that lead him, but the goal he has already marked and from there the path to bending and adjusting the facts is already easy for him.

    An article so far from scientific thinking has no place on a site like science.

  4. The contribution of the Maccabees to the strengthening of Israel with all its flaws is priceless!
    Had it not been for them, there would not have been such a great gas revival for Judaism that by the Maccabees various sects such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees developed...

  5. And as for the monarchy after Alexander Yanai and Shlomit Alexandra.
    Alexander Yanai left a strong military kingdom.
    His sons Aristobulus and Hyrcanus handed over the country with open arms to Pompey on the condition that it should not fall into the hands of one of the brothers. The entire Jewish community participated in the madness of handing over sovereignty.
    The sequel is known. Herod the Red became an autonomous ruler of Rome - an inevitable process, apparently, and there is nothing wrong with it in my estimation.
    What amazes me and I still don't understand is why the clash of cultures is so serious, after all between Rome and Judaism since the Romans gave full religious autonomy to Judaism. Why is the destruction of 2000 years better in our eyes, the Jews, than a protectorate. Probably those who were not there do not understand. There are periods of loss of sovereignty. I understood that the attitude of the Romans to the Jews during the time of the Roman commissioners was very harsh and the people longed for a military messiah. But in all the rest of the empire there was no such hard resistance to the Romans.

  6. Hanukkah began to be celebrated as a Jewish holiday only after the Christians included the books of Maccabees in the New Testament which is the Old Testament along with the gospels of the apostles along with books outside the Jewish Bible.

    After the Christians perceived Judah the Maccabee as a hero, they began to realize that he was a hero with results
    In fact, only in the tenth century was Judah the Maccabee mentioned again in our sources.
    It was only at the beginning of Zionism that Judah the Maccabee was treated as a Jewish hero.

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