The Jewish War Essay

3278 words - 14 pages

Kevin Gahr Gahr 1

April 22, 2009

ENG 3100

Research Paper

The Jewish War, written by Jewish historian Josephus, was published sometime between 75 and 79 A.D. Although it was the historian’s earliest work, the book that has been translated today is not said to have been the original. According to scholars, Josephus wrote a first draft of the book in Aramaic, rather than Greek. The draft was dedicated to “…the barbarians in the interior” (natives of Parthia, Babylonia, and Arabia) and was meant to serve as a warning to further opposition.[1]

The first book of The Jewish War begins with Onias, a chief priest of Judaea, expelling the sons of Tobias from the ...view middle of the document...

It was also at this time that Judas himself was killed.

Jonathan, Judas’ brother, came to the throne after Judas was killed. Jonathan was soon murdered in an attempt to create an alliance with Antiochus. Simon, who was also a brother of Judas, began to rule after the death of Jonathan and was successful in creating the alliance with Antiochus. Not only did Simon successfully create an alliance with Antiochus against Trypho (who was responsible for Jonathan’s murder), but Simon was able to liberate the Jews from a Macedonian supremacy that had lasted over 170 years.[4] In 135, Ptolemy, Simon’s son-in-law, murdered not only Simon, but his own wife and two sons as well. Ptolemy A third son, Hyrcanus, heard of the news and instead of approaching the city, where he knew Ptolemy was waiting for him, he instead attacked Ptolemy’s fort at Jericho. In a desperate time of need, Antiochus and his forces came to the aid of Hyrcanus, but not at a small price. In order to repay Antiochus for his help, Hyrcanus was forced to open up the Tomb of David and pay Antiochus with the talents that were extracted.[5] Hyrcanus led the rest of his 31-year reign victoriously with an “excellently directed” government. According to Josephus, Hyrcanus was the only man to achieve the three highest privileges as commander of the nation, high priest, and prophet.[6]

After his death in 105 B.C., Hyrcanus was seceded by his oldest of five sons Aristobulus. Soon after taking the throne, Aristobulus turned the government into a monarchy and confined three of his four brothers to chains and starved his mother to death. The last brother, Antigonus, was made partner of his kingdom but was soon killed by a bodyguard under direct orders from Aristobulus. Josephus describes Aristobulus’ struggle with envy and power as follows:

“On [Antigonus] reaching the dark passage, called Strato’s Tower, he was slain by the bodyguard; affording a sure proof that calumny severs all ties of affection and of nature, and that of our better feelings none is strong enough to hold out interminably against envy”.[7]

Soon enough, the guilt struck Aristobulus and he died a year later in 104 B.C. After his death, his widow released his brothers who had been bound to chains. Alexander, one of the brothers who had been released, takes the throne after killing one brother and forcing the other into a quiet life in exile. The majority of Alexander’s reign was spent in warfare, whether with Demetrius II of Syria or with Jews. It was Alexander, who was responsible for the crucifixion of over 800 Jewish men in Jerusalem, and the butchering of their wives and children.[8] When Alexander died in 78 B.C., at the age of 27, he bestowed the kingdom to his wife, Alexandra.

Although Alexandra was an austere ruler, she was popular for her piety and had won the affection of the general population.[9] After becoming queen, Alexandra appointed her eldest son Hyrcanus...

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