John Hyrcanus

John Hyrcanus (/hərˈkeɪnəs/, יוחנן הורקנוס Yōḥānān Hurqanōs; Ancient Greek: Ἰωάννης Ὑρκανός Iōánnēs Hurkanós) was a Hasmonean (Maccabean) leader and Jewish high priest of the 2nd century BCE (born 164 BCE, reigned from 134 BCE until his death in 104 BCE). In rabbinic literature he is often referred to as Yoḥanan Cohen Gadol (יוחנן כהן גדול), "John the High Priest".[1]

John Hyrcanus
Hyrcanus Yohanan
Prince of Judaea
PredecessorSimon Thassi
SuccessorAristobulus I
High Priest of Judaea
PredecessorSimon Thassi
SuccessorAristobulus I
FatherSimon Thassi
ReligionHellenistic Judaism


Josephus explains in The Jewish War that John was also known as "Hyrcanus", but does not explain the reason behind this name. The only other primary source, the Books of the Maccabees, never used this name with respect to John. The single occurrence of the name Hyrcanus in 2 Maccabees 3:11 refers to a man to whom some of the money in the Temple belonged during the c. 178 BCE visit of Heliodorus.[2]

The reason for the name is disputed amongst biblical scholars, with a variety of reasons proposed:

Life and work

He was the son of Simon Thassi and hence the nephew of Judas Maccabaeus, Jonathan Apphus and their siblings, whose story is told in the deuterocanonical books of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, in the Talmud, and in Josephus. John was not present at a banquet at which his father and his two brothers were murdered, by John's brother-in-law, Ptolemy, son of Abubus. He attained to his father's former offices, that of high priest and ethnarch (national leader) - but not king.[4] Josephus said that John Hyrcanus had five sons but named only four in his histories: Judah Aristobulus I, Antigonus I, Alexander Jannai, and Absalom. It is this fifth brother who is said to have unsuccessfully sought the throne at the death of Aristobulus I.[5]

Siege of Jerusalem

During the first year of John Hyrcanus’s reign, he faced a serious challenge to independent Judean rule from the Seleucid Empire. Antiochus VII Sidetes marched into Judea, pillaged the countryside and laid a year-long siege on Jerusalem. The prolonged siege caused Hyrcanus to remove any Judean from the city who could not assist with the defence effort (Antiquities 13.240). These refugees were not allowed to pass through Antiochus’ lines, becoming trapped in the middle of a chaotic siege. With a humanitarian crisis on his hands, Hyrcanus re-admitted his estranged Jerusalemites when the festival of Sukkot arrived. Afterwards, due to food shortages in Jerusalem, Hyrcanus negotiated a truce with Antiochus.[6]

The terms of the truce consisted of three thousand talents of silver as payment for Antiochus, breaking down the walls of Jerusalem, Judean participation in the Seleucid war against the Parthians, and once again Judean recognition of Seleucid control (Antiquities 13.245). These terms were a harsh blow to Hyrcanus, who had to loot the tomb of David to pay the 3000 talents (The Wars of the Jews I 2:5).

Following the Seleucid siege, Judea faced tough economic times which were magnified by taxes to the Seleucids enforced by Antiochus. Furthermore, Hyrcanus was forced to accompany Antiochus on his eastern campaign in 130 BCE. Hyrcanus probably functioned as the military commander of a Jewish company in the campaign.[7] It is reported that Antiochus, out of consideration for the religion of his Jewish allies, at one point ordered a two days' halt of the entire army to allow them to avoid breaking the Sabbath and Festival of Weeks.[8]

This enforced absence probably caused a loss of support for the inexperienced Hyrcanus among the Judean population.[9] Judeans in the countryside were especially disillusioned with Hyrcanus after Antiochus’ army plundered their land. Furthermore, John Hyrcanus's driving out the non-military population of Jerusalem during the siege also probably caused resentment against him. The action of looting the Tomb of David violated his obligations as High Priest, which would have offended the religious leadership.[10]

Therefore, at a very early point in his thirty-one year reign of Judea, Hyrcanus had lost the support of Judeans in various cultural sectors. The Jerusalemites, the countryside Judeans and the religious leadership probably doubted the future of Judea under Hyrcanus. However, in 128 BCE Antiochus VII was killed in battle against Parthia. What followed was an era of conquest led by Hyrcanus that marked the high point of Judea as the most significant power in the Levant.[11]

Conquests by John Hyrcanus

Judea Johannes Hyrcanus
Hasmonean Kingdom under John Hyrcanus
  situation in 134 BC
  area conquered

John Hyrcanus was able to take advantage of unrest in Seleucia to assert Judean independence and conquer new territories. In 130 BCE Demetrius II returned from exile in Hyrcania to take control of Seleucia. However, transition of power made it difficult for Demetrius to assert control over Judea.[12] Furthermore, the Seleucid Empire itself fell apart into smaller principalities. The Ituraeans of Lebanon, the Ammonites of the Transjordan, and the Arabian Nabateans represented independent principalities that broke away from Seleucid control.[13] Hyrcanus was determined to take advantage of the dissipating Seleucid Empire to increase the Judean State.

Hyrcanus also raised a new mercenary army that strongly contrasted with the Judean forces that were defeated by Antiochus VII (Ant.13.249). The Judean population was probably still recovering from the attack of Antiochus, and therefore could not provide enough able men for a Hyrcanus-led army.[12] John Hyrcanus's army was supported by the Judean State once again by funds that Hyrcanus removed from the Tomb of David.[14]

Beginning in 113 BCE, Hyrcanus began an extensive military campaign against Samaria. Hyrcanus placed his sons Antigonus and Aristobulus in charge of the siege of Samaria. The Samaritans called for help and eventually received 6000 troops from Antiochus IX Cyzicenus. Although the siege lasted for a long, difficult year, Hyrcanus was unwilling to give up. Ultimately, Samaria was overrun and totally destroyed. Cyzicenus' mercenary army was defeated and the city of Scythopolis seems to have been occupied by Hyrcanus as well.[15] The inhabitants of Samaria were then put into slavery. Upon conquering the former Seleucid regions Hyrcanus embarked on a policy of forcing the non-Jewish populations to adopt Jewish customs.[16][17]

John Hyrcanus's first conquest was an invasion of the Transjordan in 110 BCE.[18] John Hyrcanus’s mercenary army laid siege to the city of Medeba and took it after a six-month siege. After these victories, Hyrcanus went north towards Shechem and Mount Gerizim. The city of Shechem was reduced to a village and the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim was destroyed.[16] This military action against Shechem has been dated archaeologically around 111–110 BCE.[19] Destroying the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim helped ameliorate John Hyrcanus's status among religious elite and common Jews who detested any temple to Yahweh outside of Jerusalem.

Hyrcanus also initiated a military campaign against the Idumeans(Edomites). During this campaign Hyrcanus conquered Adora, Maresha and other Idumean towns (Ant.13.257). Hyrcanus then instituted forced conversions on the Idumeans to Judaism.[20] This was an unprecedented move for a Judean ruler.

Economy, foreign relations, and religion

John Hyrcanus
JUDAEA, Hasmoneans. John Hyrcanus I (Yehohanan). 135-104 BCE. Æ Prutah (13mm, 2.02 gm, 12h). "Yehohanan the High Priest and the Council of the Jews" (in Hebrew) in five lines within wreath / Double cornucopia adorned with ribbons; pomegranate between horns; small A to lower left. Meshorer Group B, 11; Hendin 457.

After the siege of Jerusalem, Hyrcanus faced a serious economic crisis in Judea. We can assume that the economic difficulties subsided after the death of Antiochus VII. Hyrcanus no longer had to pay taxes or tributes to a weaker Seleucia.[21] The economic situation eventually improved enough for Hyrcanus to issue his own coinage (see below). On top of that, Hyrcanus initiated vital building projects in Judea. Hyrcanus re-built the walls destroyed by Antiochus. He also built a fortress north of the Temple called the Baris and possibly also the fortress Hyrcania.[22]

Moreover, Hyrcanus sought for good relations with the surrounding Gentile powers, especially the growing Roman Republic. Two decrees were passed in the Roman Senate that established a treaty of friendship with Judea.[23] Although it is difficult to specifically date these resolutions, they represent efforts made between Hyrcanus and Rome to maintain stable relations. Also, an embassy sent by Hyrcanus received Roman confirmation of Hasmonean independence.[24] Hyrcanus was an excellent case of a ruler backed by Roman support.

In addition to Rome, Hyrcanus was able to maintain steady relations with Ptolemaic Egypt. This was probably made possible due to various Jews living in Egypt who had connections with the Ptolemaic Court (Ant. 13.284–287). Finally, the cities of Athens and Pergamon even showed honor to Hyrcanus in an effort to appease Rome.[25]

Furthermore, the minting of coins by Hyrcanus demonstrates John Hyrcanus’s willingness to delegate power. Sixty-three coins found near Bethlehem bear the inscription, “Yohanan the High Priest.” The reserve side of the coins contains the phrase, “The Assembly of the Jews.” This seems to suggest that during his reign, Hyrcanus was not an absolute ruler. Instead, Hyrcanus had to submit at times to an assembly of Jews that had a certain amount of minority power.[26] The coins lack any depictions of animals or humans. This suggests that Hyrcanus strictly followed the Jewish prohibition against graven images. The coins also seem to suggest that Hyrcanus considered himself to be primarily the High Priest of Judea, and his rule of Judea was shared with the Assembly.[27]

In Judea, religious issues were a core aspect of domestic policy. Josephus only reports one specific conflict between Hyrcanus and the Pharisees, who asked him to relinquish the position of High Priest (Ant. 13.288–296).[28] After this falling-out, Hyrcanus sided with the rivals of the Pharisees, the Sadducees. However, elsewhere Josephus reports that the Pharisees did not grow to power until the reign of Queen Salome Alexandra (JW.1.110) The coins minted under Hyrcanus suggest that Hyrcanus did not have complete secular authority. Furthermore, this account may represent a piece of Pharisaic apologetics due to Josephus’s Pharisaic background.[29] Regardless, there were probably tensions because of the religious and secular leadership roles held by Hyrcanus.

Ultimately, one of the final acts of John Hyrcanus’s life was an act that solved any kind of dispute over his role as High Priest and ethnarch. In the will of Hyrcanus, he provisioned for the division of the high priesthood from secular authority. John Hyrcanus’s widow was given control of civil authority after his death, and his son Judas Aristobulus was given the role of High Priest. This action represented John Hyrcanus’s willingness to compromise over the issue of secular and religious authority.[30] (However, Aristobulus was not satisfied with this arrangement, so he cast his mother into prison and let her starve.)


John Hyrcanus the High Priest is remembered in rabbinic literature as having made several outstanding enactments and deeds worthy of memorial, one of which being that he cancelled the requirement of saying the avowal mentioned in Deuteronomy 26:12–15 once in every three years, since he saw that in Israel they had ceased to separate the First Tithe in its proper manner and which, by making the avowal, and saying "I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that you have commanded me," he makes himself dishonest before his Maker and liable to God's wrath.[31] In his days, the First Tithe, which was meant to be given unto the Levites, was given instead to the priests of Aaron's lineage, after Ezra had fined the Levites for not returning in full force to the Land of Israel. By not being able to give the First Tithe unto the Levites, as originally commanded by God, this made the avowal null and void.[32] In addition, John Hyrcanus is remembered for having cancelled the reading of Psalm 44:23, formerly chanted daily by the Levites in the Temple precincts, and which words, "Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord?, etc.", seemed inappropriate, as if they were imposing their own will over God's, or that God was actually sleeping.[33] In similar fashion, the High Priest cancelled an ill-practice had by the people to cause bleeding near the eyes of sacrificial calves by beating their heads so as to stun them, prior to their being bound and slaughtered, since by beating the animal in such a way they ran the risk of causing a blemish in the animal's membrane lining its brain.[34] To prevent this from happening, the High Priest made rings in the ground of the Temple court for helping to secure the animals before slaughter.

Before John Hyrcanus officiated as Israel's High Priest, the people had it as a practice to do manual work on the intermediate days of the Jewish holidays, and one could hear in Jerusalem the hammer pounding against the anvil. The High Priest passed an edict restricting such labours on those days, thinking it inappropriate to do servile work on the Hol ha-Moed, until after the Feast (Yom Tov). It had also been a custom in Israel, since the days that the Hasmoneans defeated the Grecians who prevented them from mentioning the name of God in heaven, to inscribe the name of God in their ordinary contracts, bills of sale and promissory notes. They would write, for example, "In the year such and such of Yohanan, the High Priest of the Most High God." But when the Sages of Israel became sensible of the fact that such ordinary contracts were often discarded in the rubbish after reimbursement, it was deemed improper to show disrespect to God's name by doing so. Therefore, on the 3rd day of the lunar month Tishri, the practice of writing God's name in ordinary contracts was cancelled altogether, while the date of such cancellation was declared a day of rejoicing, and inscribed in the Scroll of Fasting.[35]

The Mishnah (Parah 3:4[5]) also relates that during the tenure of John Hyrcanus as High Priesthood, he had prepared the ashes of two Red heifers used in purifying those who had contracted corpse uncleanness.[36]

In what is seen as yet another one of John Hyrcanus's accomplishments, during his days any commoner or rustic could be trusted in what concerns Demai-produce (that is, if a doubt arose over whether or not such produce bought from him had been correctly divested of its tithes), since even the common folk in Israel were careful to separate the Terumah-offering given to the priests. Still, such produce required its buyer to separate the First and Second Tithes.[37] Some view this as also being a discredit unto the High Priest, seeing that the commoners refused to separate these latter tithes because of being intimidated by bullies, who took these tithes from the public treasuries by force, while John Hyrcanus refused to censure such bad conduct.[38]

After all said and done, and after accomplishing many heroic feats, John Hyrcanus in the later years of his life, abandoned the sect of the Pharisees, and joined himself to the Sadducees. This prompted the famous rabbinic dictum: "Do not believe in yourself until your dying day."[39] At his death, a monument (Hebrew: נפשיה דיוחנן כהן גדול) was built in his honour and where his bones were interred. John's Monument was located in what was formerly outside the walls of the city, but in Josephus' time had been enclosed between the second[40] and third[41] walls of Jerusalem, and where the Romans had built a bank of earthworks to break into the newer third wall encompassing the upper city, directly opposite John's Monument.[42]

See also


  1. ^ Mishnah (Ma'aser Sheni 5:15); ibid. Sotah 9:10, Parah 3:5; Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 29a, Yoma 9a, Kiddushin 66a, Sotah 33a, Rosh Hashannah 18b); Jerusalem Talmud (Ma'aser Sheni 5:5); Pirke Avot 2:4
  2. ^ "2 Macc 3:11". Retrieved 2013-01-06.
  3. ^ A History of the Jews in Babylonia, Volume 1 By Jacob Neusner. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
  4. ^ Josephus, Antiquities XIII 11:1 and Jewish Wars I 3:1.
  5. ^ Josephus, Antiquities 13.12.1
  6. ^ H. Jagersma. A History of Israel from Alexander the Great to Bar Kochba. (Minneapolis.: Fortress Press, 1986), 83.
  7. ^ Joseph Sievers, and Jacob Neusner, ed. The Hasmoneans and Their Supporters: From Matthias to the Death of John Hyrcanus I. (Atlanta.: Scholars Press, 1990), 140.
  8. ^ Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, vol. II, (Jewish Publication Society, 1893), ch. I, p. 5
  9. ^ Sievers, 139
  10. ^ Jagersma, 89
  11. ^ Elias Bickerman. The Maccabees. (New York.: Schocken Books, 1947), 150
  12. ^ a b Sievers, 141
  13. ^ Gaalyahu Cornfled. Daniel to Paul: Jews In Conflict with Graeco-Roman Civilization. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1962), 50
  14. ^ Bickerman, 149–150
  15. ^ Jagersma, 83
  16. ^ a b Berlin, Adele (2011). The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion. Oxford University Press. p. 330. ISBN 9780199730049. John Hyrcanus I, who embarked upon further territorial conquests, forcing the non-Jewish populations of the conquered regions to adopt the Jewish way of life and destroying the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim..
  17. ^ Jonathan Bourgel (2016). "The Destruction of the Samaritan Temple by John Hyrcanus: A Reconsideration". Journal of Biblical Literature. Society of Biblical Literature (153/3). doi:10.15699/jbl.1353.2016.3129.
  18. ^ Encyclopaedic dictionary of the Bible, Volume 5, William George Smith. 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
  19. ^ Sievers, 142
  20. ^ George W. E. Nickelsburg. Jewish Literature Between The Bible And The Mishnah, with CD-ROM, Second Edition. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005), 93
  21. ^ Sievers, 157
  22. ^ W. D. Davies. The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 2: The Hellenistic Age. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 331–332
  23. ^ Jagersma, 84
  24. ^ David Noel Freedman. The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, H–J: Volume 3. (New Haven: Yale University Press), 1992
  25. ^ Davies, 332
  26. ^ Cornfeld, 52
  27. ^ Sievers, 153–154
  28. ^ Nickelsburg, 93
  29. ^ Sievers, 155
  30. ^ Gaalyahu, 55
  31. ^ Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 5:5
  32. ^ Maimonides' Mishnah Commentary (Ma'aser Sheni 5:15), vol. 1, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1963, p. 233
  33. ^ Jerusalem Talmud with a Commentary of Solomon Sirilio, Ma'aser Sheni 5:5
  34. ^ Maimonides' Mishnah Commentary (Ma'aser Sheni 5:15), vol. 1, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1963, p. 233; cf. Sirilio's Commentary (ibid.); Babylonian Talmud (Sotah 48a).
  35. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashanna 18b)
  36. ^ Maimonides' Mishnah Commentary (Ma'aser Sheni 5:15), vol. 3, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1967, p. 260
  37. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Sotah 48a)
  38. ^ Jerusalem Talmud, Ma'aser Sheni 5:5, Commentary of Solomon Sirilio.
  39. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Berakhot 29a)
  40. ^ This wall, according to Josephus, only encompassed the northern quarter of the city (Josephus, Wars v.iv.2)
  41. ^ According to Josephus, the person to begin the building of this wall was Agrippa I (Josephus, Wars v.iv.2)
  42. ^ Josephus, De Bello Judaico (Wars of the Jews) v.ix.2; ibid. v.xi.4

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

John Hyrcanus
 Died: 104 BCE
Jewish titles
Preceded by
Simon Thassi
Prince of Judaea
134 – 104 BCE
Succeeded by
Aristobulus I
High Priest of Judaea
134 – 104 BCE
104 BC

Year 104 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Marius and Fimbria (or, less frequently, year 650 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 104 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

63 BC

Year 63 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Cicero and Hybrida (or, less frequently, year 691 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 63 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Alexander II Zabinas

Alexander II Theos Epiphanes Nikephoros (Ancient Greek: Ἀλέξανδρος θεός Ἐπιφανής Νικηφόρος, surnamed Zabinas; c. 150 BC – 123 BC) was a Hellenistic Seleucid monarch who reigned as the King of Syria between 128 BC and 123 BC. His true parentage is debated; most ancient historians and the modern academic consensus maintain he was a pretender who claimed to be a Seleucid, either a son of Alexander I or an adopted son of Antiochus VII. His surname "Zabinas" is a Semitic name that is usually translated as "the bought one". It is possible, however, that Alexander II was a natural son of Alexander I, as the surname can also mean "bought from the god". The iconography of Alexander II's coinage indicates he based his claims to the throne on his descent from Antiochus IV, the father of Alexander I.

Alexander II's rise is connected to the dynastic feuds of the Seleucid Empire. Both King Seleucus IV (d. 175 BC) and his brother Antiochus IV (d. 164 BC) had descendants contending for the throne, leading the country to experience many civil wars. The situation was complicated by Ptolemaic Egyptian interference, which was facilitated by the dynastic marriages between the two royal houses. In 128 BC, King Demetrius II of Syria, the representative of Seleucus IV's line, invaded Egypt to help his mother-in-law Cleopatra II who was engaged in a civil war against her brother and husband King Ptolemy VIII. Angered by the Syrian invasion, the Egyptian king instigated revolts in the cities of Syria against Demetrius II and chose Alexander II, a supposed representative of Antiochus IV's line, as an anti-king. With Egyptian troops, Alexander II captured the Syrian capital Antioch in 128 BC and warred against Demetrius II, defeating him decisively in 125 BC. The beaten king escaped to his wife Cleopatra Thea in the city of Ptolemais, but she expelled him. He was killed while trying to find refuge in the city of Tyre.

With the death of Demetrius II, Alexander II became the master of the kingdom, controlling the realm except for a small pocket around Ptolemais where Cleopatra Thea ruled. Alexander II was a beloved king, known for his kindness and forgiving nature. He maintained friendly relations with John I Hyrcanus of Judea, who acknowledged the Syrian king as his suzerain. Alexander II's successes were not welcomed by Egypt's Ptolemy VIII, who did not want a strong king on the Syrian throne. Thus, in 124 BC an alliance was established between Egypt and Cleopatra Thea, now ruling jointly with Antiochus VIII, her son by Demetrius II. Alexander II was defeated, and he escaped to Antioch, where he pillaged the temple of Zeus to pay his soldiers; the population turned against him, and he fled and was eventually captured. Alexander II was probably executed by Antiochus VIII in 123 BC, ending the line of Antiochus IV.

Alexander Jannaeus

For other people with this name, see AlexanderAlexander Jannaeus (also known as Alexander Jannai/Yannai; Hebrew: יהונתן "ינאי" אלכסנדרוס, born Jonathan Alexander) was the second Hasmonean King of Judaea from 103 to 76 BCE. A son of John Hyrcanus, he inherited the throne from his brother Aristobulus I, and married his brother's widow, Queen Salome Alexandra. From his conquests to expand the kingdom to a bloody civil war, Alexander's reign has been generalized as cruel and oppressive with never ending conflict.

Alexander of Judaea

Alexander (Gr. Ἀλέξανδρος, died 48 or 47 BC), or Alexander Maccabeus, was the eldest son of Aristobulus II, king of Judaea. He married his cousin Alexandra Maccabeus, daughter of his uncle, Hyrcanus II. Their grandfather was Alexander Jannaeus, the second eldest son of John Hyrcanus. Mariamne, the daughter of Alexander and Alexandra, was Herod the Great's second wife and Hasmonean queen of the Jewish kingdom.

Alexander was taken prisoner, with his father and his brother Antigonus, by the Roman general Pompey, on the capture of Jerusalem in 63 BC, but escaped his captors as they were being conveyed to Rome. In 57 he appeared in Judaea, raised an army of 10,000 infantry and 1500 cavalry, and fortified Alexandrium and other strong posts. Alexander's uncle Hyrcanus (with whom Alexander's father Aristobulus had clashed) applied for aid to Gabinius, who brought a large army against Alexander, and sent Mark Antony with a body of troops in advance. In a battle fought near Jerusalem, Alexander was soundly defeated, and took refuge in the fortress of Alexandrium. Through the mediation of his mother, he was permitted to depart, on condition of surrendering all the fortresses still in his power. In the following year, during the expedition of Gabinius into Egypt, Alexander again incited the Jews to revolt, and collected an army. He massacred all the Romans who fell in his way and besieged the rest, who had taken refuge on Mount Gerizim. After rejecting the terms of peace which were offered to him by Gabinius, he was defeated near Mount Tabor with the loss of 10,000 men. The spirit of his adherents, however, was not entirely crushed, for in 53, on the death of Marcus Licinius Crassus, he again collected some forces, but was compelled to come to terms by Cassius in 52. In 49, when civil war broke out, Julius Caesar set Alexander's father Aristobulus II free, and sent him to Judaea to further his interests there. He was poisoned on the journey, and Alexander, who was preparing to support him, was seized at the command of Pompey, and beheaded at Antioch.

Alexandra the Maccabee

Alexandra the Maccabee (died ca. 28 BC) was the daughter of Hyrcanus II (died 30 BC), who was the son of Alexander Jannaeus. She married her cousin Alexander of Judaea (died 48 BC), who was the son of Aristobulus II. Their grandfather was Alexander Jannaeus, the second eldest son of John Hyrcanus. Their daughter was the Hasmonean Mariamne and son was Aristobulus III.

Alexandra opposed her son-in-law Herod, and when he became sick with grief after having Mariamne executed, Alexandra tried to seize power, but was unsuccessful and was herself executed.

Antiochus VII Sidetes

Antiochus VII Euergetes (Greek: Ἀντίοχος Ζ΄ Ευεργέτης) (c.164/160 BC - 129 BC) , nicknamed Sidetes (Greek: Σιδήτης) (from Side, a city in Asia Minor), also known as Antiochus the Pious, was ruler of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire who reigned from July/August 138 to 129 BC. He was the last Seleucid king of any stature. After Antiochus was killed in battle, the Seleucid realm was restricted to Syria.

Aristobulus I

For other people with this name, see Aristobulus (disambiguation)Judah Aristobulus I or Aristobulus I (Greek: Ἀριστόβουλος Aristóboulos, the epithet meaning "best-advising") was the first Hasmonean King of Judaea from 104 BCE until his death in 103 BCE. He was the eldest of the five sons of John Hyrcanus, the previous leader. Aristobulus was also referred to as "Philhellene", meaning he was an admirer of Greek culture. Josephus states that he was the first Jew in "four hundred and eighty three years and three months" to have established a monarchy since the return from the Babylonian Captivity.Aristobulus was not only the first king from the Hasmonean lineage, but the first of any Hebrew king to claim both the high-priesthood and kingship title. The Sadducees and the Essenes were not concerned about Aristobulus taking the title of king, but the Pharisees were infuriated; They felt that the kingship could only be held by the descendants of the Davidic line. The Pharisees began a massive rebellion, but Aristobulus died before any attempt to depose of him could occur. The major historical sources of his life is recorded in Josephus's Wars of the Jews and Antiquities of the Jews. Aristobulus's reign is particularly noted for the Judaization of Galilee, Golan, as well as the native Semitic people called Ituraeans. Timagenes described his regime as kindly and "very serviceable to the Jews" on account of the significantly expanded territory and the integration of "a portion of Ituraean nation whom he joined to them by the bond of circumcision".

Hasmonean coinage

Hasmonean coinage are the coins minted by the Hasmonean kings. Only bronze coins in various denominations have been found; the smallest being a prutah or a half prutah. Two Roman silver denarii are associated with the Hasmoneans; one has the inscription BACCIVS IVDAEAS; with its exact meaning unclear (short for "BASILEOS IUDAEAS", King Judas?). Both show a man thought to be Yehuda Aristobolus bowing before a camel with a palm branch in his hand.

The Hebrew inscriptions found on Hasmonean coins are:

"Yehochanan Kohen Gadol Chever Hayehudim" (Yehochanan the High Priest, Council of the Jews).

"Yehochanan Kohen Gadol Rosh Chever Hayehudim" (Yehochanan the High Priest, Head of the Council of the Jews).

"Yehonatan Kohen Gadol Chever Hayehudim" (Yehonatan the High Priest, Council of the Jews).

"Yehonatan Hamelech" (Yehonatan the King).

"Yehudah Kohen Gadol Chever Hayehudim" (Yehudah the High Priest, Council of the Jews).

"Malka Aleksandros" (King Alexander)

"Matityahu Kohen Gadol Chever Hayehudim" (Matityahu the High Priest, Council of the Jews).

"Matityahu HaKohen" (Matityahu the High Priest).


Hasmonean dynasty

The Hasmonean dynasty ( (audio); Hebrew: חַשְׁמוֹנַּאִים, Ḥashmona'im) was a ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE the dynasty ruled Judea semi-autonomously from the Seleucids. From 110 BCE, with the Seleucid Empire disintegrating, the dynasty became fully independent, expanded into the neighbouring regions of Samaria, Galilee, Iturea, Perea, and Idumea, and took the title "basileus". Some modern scholars refer to this period as an independent kingdom of Israel.The dynasty was established under the leadership of Simon Thassi, two decades after his brother Judas Maccabeus (יהודה המכבי Yehudah HaMakabi) defeated the Seleucid army during the Maccabean Revolt. According to 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and the first book of The Jewish War by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 CE–c. 100), Antiochus IV moved to assert strict control over the Seleucid satrapy of Coele Syria and Phoenicia after his successful invasion of Ptolemaic Egypt was turned back by the intervention of the Roman Republic. He sacked Jerusalem and its Temple, suppressing Jewish and Samaritan religious and cultural observances, and imposed Hellenistic practices. The ensuing revolt by the Jews (167 BCE) began a period of Jewish independence potentiated by the steady collapse of the Seleucid Empire under attacks from the rising powers of the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.

In 63 BCE, the kingdom was invaded by the Roman Republic, broken up and set up as a Roman client state. However, the same power vacuum that enabled the Jewish state to be recognized by the Roman Senate c. 139 BCE was later exploited by the Romans themselves. Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, Simon's great-grandsons, became pawns in a proxy war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. The deaths of Pompey (48 BCE) and Caesar (44 BCE), and the related Roman civil wars temporarily relaxed Rome's grip on the Hasmonean kingdom, allowing a brief reassertion of autonomy backed by the Parthian Empire. This short independence was rapidly crushed by the Romans under Mark Antony and Octavian.

The dynasty had survived for 103 years before yielding to the Herodian dynasty in 37 BCE. The installation of Herod the Great (an Idumean) as king in 37 BCE made Judea a Roman client state and marked the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. Even then, Herod tried to bolster the legitimacy of his reign by marrying a Hasmonean princess, Mariamne, and planning to drown the last male Hasmonean heir at his Jericho palace. In 6 CE, Rome joined Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea (biblical Edom) into the Roman province of Iudaea. In 44 CE, Rome installed the rule of a procurator side by side with the rule of the Herodian kings (specifically Agrippa I 41–44 and Agrippa II 50–100).

Hyrcanus II

John Hyrcanus II (, Hebrew: יוחנן הורקנוס Yohanan Hurqanos), a member of the Hasmonean dynasty, was for a long time the Jewish High Priest in the 1st century BCE. He was also briefly King of Judea 67–66 BCE and then the ethnarch (ruler) of Judea probably 47–40 BCE.

List of High Priests of Israel

This page gives one list of the High Priests of Ancient Israel up to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. Because of a lack of historical data, this list is incomplete and there may be gaps.


Mattai may refer to:

Mar Mattai Monastery, the traditional see of the Orthodox maphrian in Bartella

Nittai of Arbela or Mattai of Arbela, av beit din of the Sanhedrin under the nasi Joshua ben Perachyah at the time of John Hyrcanus (reigned 134–104 BCE)

Mount Gerizim

Mount Gerizim (; Samaritan Hebrew: ࠄࠟࠓࠂࠟࠓࠩࠆࠝࠉࠌ translit. ʾĀrgārēzem; Hebrew: Tiberian Hebrew הַר גְּרִזִים translit. Har Gərīzīm, Modern Hebrew: הַר גְּרִיזִים translit. Har Gərizim; Arabic: جَبَل جَرِزِيم‎ Jabal Jarizīm or Arabic: جبل الطور‎ Jabal et Tur) is one of the two mountains in the immediate vicinity of the West Bank city of Nablus (biblical Shechem), and forms the southern side of the valley in which Nablus is situated, the northern side being formed by Mount Ebal. The mountain is one of the highest peaks in the West Bank and rises to 881 m (2,890 ft) above sea level, 70 m (230 ft) lower than Mount Ebal. In Samaritan tradition, Mount Gerizim is held to be the highest, oldest and most central mountain in the world. The mountain is particularly steep on the northern side, is sparsely covered at the top with shrubbery, and lower down there is a spring with a high yield of fresh water.A Samaritan village, Kiryat Luza, and an Israeli settlement, Har Brakha, are situated on the mountain ridge.

The mountain is sacred to the Samaritans who regard it, rather than Jerusalem's Temple Mount, as having been the location chosen by God for a holy temple. The mountain continues to be the centre of Samaritan religion to this day, and most of the worldwide population of Samaritans live in very close proximity to Gerizim, mostly in Kiryat Luza, the main village. Passover is celebrated by the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, and it is additionally considered by them as the location of the Binding of Isaac (the Masoretic Text, Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scroll versions of the Book of Genesis state that this happened on Mount Moriah, which Jews traditionally identify as the Temple Mount). According to rabbinic literature, in order to convert to Judaism, a Samaritan must first and foremost renounce any belief in the sanctity of Mount Gerizim.

Nittai of Arbela

Nittai of Arbela (Hebrew: נתאי הארבלי) was av beit din or vice-president of the Sanhedrin under the nasi Joshua ben Perachyah at the time of John Hyrcanus (r. 134–104 BCE).

Ptolemy (son of Abubus)

Ptolemy was the son of Abubus. He was appointed governor of the Jericho region of Israel by the Seleucid king Antiochus VII Sidetes (reigned 138 to 129 BC) in the late second century BCE and married a daughter of Simon Maccabaeus (died 135 BC), military commander of the Maccabees and founder of Israel's Hasmonean dynasty. According to 1 Maccabees 16:11-24, Ptolemy held a banquet for his father-in-law Simon and two of Simon's sons during which he had them all killed. He then attempted to have Simon's third son, John Hyrcanus, killed also, but failed.

Ptolemy is accused in Dante's Inferno with the sin of treachery. His memory is perpetuated in Dante's Inferno as 'Ptolemaea', a place in hell designated for traitors against guests in their home.

Simon Psellus

Simon Psellus (Greek: Σίμων ὁ Ψελλός, his epithet Ψελλός was his nickname meaning in Greek: the stutter, flourished 2nd century BC) was an ethnic Jew living in Jerusalem.

Simon's ancestors were contemporary to the rule of the Ptolemaic dynasty and Seleucid dynasty over Judea. He was a wealthy man who served as a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. Simon belonged to the priestly order of the Jehoiarib, the first of the twenty-four orders of Priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. Simon lived when the Hasmonean rulers Simon Thassi (reigned 142–135 BC) and his son John Hyrcanus I (reigned 134–104 BC) ruled over Judea.Simon had nine children; among them was his son Matthias Ephlias. Through his son, Simon was an ancestor of the Roman Jewish Historian of the 1st century, Flavius Josephus. Josephus in his writings calls Simon the Patriarch of his family.

Simon Thassi

Simon Thassi (Hebrew: שמעון התסי Šiməōn HaṮasī; died 135 BCE) was the second son of Mattathias and thus a member of the Hasmonean family. The name "Thassi" has a connotation of "the Wise", a title that can also mean "the Director", "the Guide", "the Man of Counsel", and "the Zealous".

Wicked Priest

Wicked Priest (Hebrew: הכהן הרשע‎; Romanized Hebrew: ha-kōhēn hā-rāš'ā) is a sobriquet used in the Dead Sea Scrolls pesharim, four[1] times in the Habakkuk Commentary (1QpHab) and once in the Commentary on Psalm 37 (4QpPsa), to refer to an opponent of the "Teacher of Righteousness." It has been suggested[2] that the phrase is a pun on "ha-kōhēn hā-rōš", as meaning "the High Priest", but this is not the proper term for the High Priest. He is generally identified with a Hasmonean (Maccabean) High Priest or Priests. However, his exact identification remains controversial, and has been called "one of the knottiest problems connected with the Dead Sea Scrolls."The most commonly argued-for single candidate is Jonathan Apphus, followed by his brother Simon Thassi; the widespread acceptance of this view, despite its acknowledged weaknesses, has been dubbed the "Jonathan consensus." More recently, some scholars have argued that the sobriquet does not refer to only one individual. Most notably the "Groningen Hypothesis" advanced by García Martinez and van der Woude, argues for a series of six Wicked Priests.

(united monarchy)
(northern kingdom)
(southern kingdom)
(Hasmonean dynasty)
See also
First Temple
to the
Jewish Revolt


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