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Ptolemy Epiphanes had died in 182, and his widow, Cleopatra (Antiochus's sister), in 173, leaving as heir to the throne Ptolemy Philometor, a boy 14 or 15 years old, who was, of course, nephew to Antiochus Epiphanes. The youthful king having been induced by his ministers to take steps for the recovery of Coele-Syria, Antiochus determined to forestall him: in 170 he led an army into Egypt, defeated Ptolemy's forces at Pelusium, and obtaining possession of his nephew's person, occupied the country,,ostensibly, on his nephew's behalf, in reality with the view of securing it for himself. In spite, however, of the presence in Egypt of Antiochus's troops, Philometor's younger brother, Ptolemy Physcon (afterwards Ptolemy Euergetes II), was proclaimed king in Alexandria. This gave Antiochus an excuse for resuming military operations?, under the pretence of restoring Philometor to his lawful rights: he accordingly laid siege to Alexandria, but finding himself unable to take it, returned home to Syria, leaving Philometor nominal king at Memphis, and stationing a large garrison at Pelusium (cf. Dan. xi. 25—28). The garrison left at Pelusium opened Philometor's eyes: a reconciliation between the two brothers was soon effected, and Philometor was received into Alexandria. This led to Antiochus's 'third' campaign in Egypt (168), which was brought to an abrupt termination by the intervention of the Romans; Antiochus, when within four miles of Alexandria, being met by the Roman legate, Q. Popilius Laenas, and peremptorily commanded to leave the country (Dan. xi. 2930 a).
The policy of Antiochus towards the Jews was not, at least in its origin, the outcome of any particular hostility towards their religion: it was simply a corollary of the plan which he had conceived of unifying the various peoples of his empire by bringing them all under the influence of Hellenic civilization. 'His reign, his political rôle, and even the types of his coins, cannot be properly understood, unless account is taken of the fact that this prince was profoundly Hellenized, and that he
1 On the question whether or not this was a second invasion of Egypt, see the note on xi. 27 (p. 185).
exerted himself, without intermission and without scruple, to transplant Hellenic culture into Syria 1. His plan was not entirely out of harmony with feeling in Judah. For some time past,-probably indeed from the peaceful years of the earlier Ptolemies,—Greek influences had been making their way into Judah, and had found a home among the educated classes. Alexander himself, in furtherance of his scheme alluded to above, of creating a Hellenic world-empire, had founded Greek cities in several of the countries conquered by him; and under his successors Greek colonies were established in Palestine, and Greek colonists found their way thither. Many Jews also, as we have seen (p. xxxv), settled in Egypt; and the intercourse which was kept up in consequence between the two countries formed another channel by which Western influences would find entrance into Judah. Under Ptolemy Philadelphus (285– 247) parts of the O. T. were (in Egypt) translated into Greek: the Greek language became known in Judah-the grandson of Ben-Sira, who translated his grandfather's gnomic work into Greek, was a native of Palestine ; and Greek ideas and Greek customs were no longer unfamiliar in Jewish circles2.
The effect of this influx of new ideas into Judah was to emphasize parties there. On the one hand, since the return from Babylon, attention had more and more been concentrated by the Jews on their sacred books, especially on the Law, which had been made into an absolute rule of conduct, and the principles of which had been,-or at least, were being,-gradually systematized into a code governing every department of life. Though this devotion to the Law had its dangers, and in fact (as allusions in the N. T., and the Mishna, shew) degenerated ultimately into a barren ceremonialism, this was not its effect upon the more spiritually-minded Israelites; and the Psalms, many of which (especially those in the later books) certainly date from this period, shew what a real and profound piety prevailed among the religious section of the people. On the other hand, among the more worldly-minded, it became a
1 Babelon, Les Rois de Syrie, p. xcii.
fashion to adopt ostentatiously Greek customs: Hebrew names were exchanged for Greek, Joshua or Jesus became Jason, Eliakim became Alkimos; an influential and growing Hellenizing party sprang up, who made it their aim to obliterate the distinctive characteristics of their nation. Naturally innovations such as these intensified the rigour of the opposite or conservative party, and led them to cling together the more closely for the purpose of maintaining the integrity of their national institutions; and the crisis was precipitated by the accession of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Jesus, or, as he preferred to call himself, Jason, brother of the high-priest, Onias III, was the principal leader of the Hellenizing party; and by means of a large bribe, induced Antiochus not only to depose his brother and confer the vacant office upon himself, but also to grant permission for a "gymnasium,' or exercise-ground, to be constructed in Jerusalem, in which the Jewish youths might emulate the Greeks in athletic contests, and to bestow the citizenship of Antioch upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem (175 or 174 B.C.). "And when the king had given assent, and he had gotten possession of the office, he forthwith brought over them of his own race to the Greek fashion. And setting aside the royal ordinances of special favour to the Jews..., he brought in new customs forbidden by the Law: for he eagerly established an exerciseground under the citadel itself, and caused the noblest of the young men to wear the (Greek) cap [the petasus, a broadbrimmed hat, such as appeared on statues of Hermes, the patron-god of the palaestra]. And thus there was an extreme of Greek fashions, and an advance of an alien religion, by reason of the exceeding profaneness of Jason, that ungodly man and no high-priest, so that even the priests, it is said, leaving their sacrificial duties unfinished, hastened down from the Temple-court to take part in the spectacle, as soon as they heard the signal for throwing the discus, with which the games were opened (2 Macc. iv. 7-14; cf. 1 Macc. i. 11-15).
Jason continued high-priest for three years (till 172 or 171); and under his patronage, the Hellenizing Jews naturally became bolder. At the end of this time, one Menelaus, an unscrupulous adventurer, whom Jason had employed as his agent to carry the promised money to Antiochus, outbid his master, got him expelled from the high-priesthood, and secured the office for himself. Jason fled across the Jordan, and took refuge with the Ammonites: Menelaus, who is described as “having the passion of a cruel tyrant, and the rage of a savage beast' (2 Macc. iv. 25), stole some of the vessels of the Temple for the purpose of meeting his obligations to Antiochus, and when rebuked by the late high-priest for sacrilege was said to have procured his murder (see on ix. 26). The sacrileges of Menelaus occasioned riots in Jerusalem: he was arraigned before Antiochus at Tyre, but managed by judicious bribery to get himself liberated, and his accusers condemned. Menelaus consequently remained for the time in power (2 Macc. iv. 43—50). Soon afterwards a rumour reached Palestine that Antiochus had been killed in Egypt; and Jason, thinking that now his opportunity had come for recovering his position in Jerusalem, attacked the city with 1000 men, shut up Menelaus in the citadel, and slew many of the citizens, but was obliged before long to retire. Antiochus, thinking Judaea to be in revolt (2 Macc. v. 11), and (Jos. B.J. 1. 1) invited also by Menelaus and his friends, on his return from Egypt in 170 made a détour by way of Jerusalem : the gates of the city were opened to him by Hellenizing sympathisers within (Jos. Ant. XII. v. 3); he led his army in, slew many of the inhabitants, under the guidance of Menelaus entered presumptuously into the sanctuary,' and carried away most of its golden vessels, as well as whatever other valuables he found in it: having done this, he proceeded home to Antioch, leaving, as governors in Jerusalem, Menelaus, and a Phrygian, named Philip, described as being more barbarous than him that set him there' (1 Macc. i. 20—28; 2 Macc. v. 11-16, 21–23: cf. Jos. Il. cc.; Dan. xi. 28 b).
Two years afterwards, in 168, after his final withdrawal from Egypt, partly perhaps through disappointment at his failure to secure that country, partly on account of reports received from his Hellenizing friends in Jerusalem (cf. Dan. xi. 30), Antiochus
sent Apollonius, a 'chief collector of tribute,' who, pretending that his intentions were peaceable, surprised the city on sabbath-day: a massacre took place in the streets: numbers of women and children were sold into slavery; many of the houses and fortifications were demolished; and a Syrian garrison was established in the citadel overlooking the Temple, for the purpose of controlling and overawing the city. The immediate result was that many of those who had escaped massacre or servitude took to flight, and their places were filled by strangers (1 Macc. i. 29--40). In the pathetic, semipoetical words of i Macc., “And the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of them; and she became a habitation of strangers; and she became strange to them that were born in her, and her own children forsook her. Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness, her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths into reproach, her honour into contempt' (vv. 38, 39).
Soon after this, Antiochus adopted energetic measures to give effect to his scheme for the religious unification of his empire, that all should be one people, and that each should forsake his own laws' (ib. v. 41). Jerusalem, and the Jewish people, were to be completely Hellenized. All practices of the Jewish religion were to be prohibited under pain of death; the Temple was to be transformed into a sanctuary of Zeus Olympios (2 Macc. vi. 2); altars dedicated to heathen gods were to be set up, not only in Jerusalem, but also in the country towns of Judah; the Jews were to be compelled to sacrifice upon them, and also to eat of food ceremonially 'unclean'; and officers were appointed to see that all these injunctions were duly carried out (1 Macc. i. 41–53). On the 15th of Chisleu (Dec.) B.C. 168, an 'abomination of desolation,' i.e. a small heathen altar, was erected upon the altar of burnt-offering, and on the 25th of the same month the first sacrifices were offered upon it (1 Macc. i. 54, 59; see further the notes on Dan. xi. 31). Books of the · Law were burnt; and women who had their children circumcised were put to death. Many of the Jews, it is added, conformed to the requirements of Antiochus (1 Macc. i. 43–61; cf. Dan. xi. 306–32 a).