JUDEA2

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During the exile in Babylon scribes and priests successfully maintained a continuous tribal identity for their people by meticulously maintaining the genealogies and histories of the Jewish people. They wished to avoid what happened to the tribes of the northern kingdom.

After Cyrus the Great the emperor of Persia conquered the Babylonians he instituted a policy of repatriating the Jews back to Palestine. The first parties he sent began the task of rebuilding the temple of Yahweh. Many Jews in exile regarded Cyrus to be appointed by God.

Later Ezra led a second group of Babylonian Jews to Jerusalem. He compiled a scroll called the Torah from a set of older source documents including copies of the missing White Scroll of Leliel, and he also instituted fundamentalist restrictions against intermarriage.

Decades later Nehemiah, a Jewish servant of the successor to Cyrus named Artaxerxes, was sent to Jerusalem to become the governor. This third group of Jews returning from exile was tasked to complete the temple, repair the royal palace, and rebuild the walls of the city.

Governor Nehemiah lent official weight to Ezra's prohibition of Jewish men marrying "strange" wives. But when the temple was complete older Jews wept with sorrow, for the second temple was a pathetic shadow of the glory that had been the original temple-palace complex.

Philip II, king of Macedon, conquered the Thebans and Athenians at Chaeronea and brought all of Greece except Sparta under Macedonian rule. When he died his twenty year-old son Alexander succeeded him. Alexander freed all the Greeks living in Asia Minor from Persian rule.

For the next twelve years Alexander forged the largest empire the world had ever known up to that time. After defeating King Darius at Issus, Alexander subdued Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. In the following year the entire Levant fell under his domination.

Alexander reached as far as the east bank of the Indus River, but he died young and left no heir. Upon his death his generals, called the Diadochi, divided the empire between themselves and became rivals. The Diadochi put on royal crowns, and so did their sons after them.

Ptolemy I Soter was one of these Diadochi generals. After Alexander died he claimed Egypt for himself and defended the city of Alexandria from the other generals. He also founded the Library of Alexandria and became the first king of the Macedonian Dynasty of Ptolemies.

Ptolemy II Philadelphus succeeded him and brought Alexandria to its peak of power and influence. The Pharos lighthouse was constructed during his reign. Ptolemy III Euergetes extended the Ptolemaic Empire to embrace Palestine, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Aegean.

After his death the Ptolemaic empire in Egypt gradually began to decline. A rival Diadochi named Seleucus I Nicator founded a similar empire centered in Asia Minor that ruled the lands conquered by Alexander from Thrace to India and the Ptolemies weakened even further.

Palestine fell under the rule of the Selucid Dynasty. At that time many Jews began to adopt the ways of the Greeks who dominated them. They tried to cover evidence of their circumcision and built gymnasiums where they could participate in athletic activities in the nude.

The Hellenized Jews no longer observed the hundreds of mitzvot specified by the Code of Moshe. With the enthusiastic support of these secular Jews the Syro-Macedonian king Antiochus IV Ephiphanes declared Judaism abolished and rededicated the temple in Jerusalem to Zeus.

But the priest Mattathias instigated acts to deter Jews from sacrificing to Zeus. Those who were caught breaking the precepts of the Law were killed, and boys were forcibly circumcised. The book of Daniel was circulated purporting to have predicted the temple desecration.

Eventually the campaign of terror based out of hiding places in the desert became a full-scale revolution to return to the fundamentalist doctrines originally instituted by Ezra. And upon the death of Mattathias his son Judas Maccabeus took over leadership of the revolt.

Judas Maccabeus defeated Apollonius and Seron, and turned back Lysias who came with half of the army of King Antiochus IV Ephiphanes. And he re-purified the temple in Jerusalem after the abomination. But he was killed on the field of battle confronting governor Bacchides.

Jonathan Apphus, the fifth son of Mattathias, then led the revolt. He renewed the struggle against Bacchides, defeated Apollonius, then became the high priest of the Jews. Jonathan was taken prisoner and killed after an invitation to meet Trypho for peace negotiations.

Simon Thassi, the brother of Jonathan, then assumed leadership of the Jews. A king in all but name, Simon was also the high priest, as were his son and grandson after him. He obtained independence for Judea from Demetrius II, then battled Antiochus VII and defeated him.

But Simon together with two of his sons were betrayed and killed by the governor of Jericho, one Ptolemy, the son of Abubus, at a banquet in his own home. Ptolemy also tried to murder John Hyrcanus I, another son of Simon who was not present at the banquet, but he failed.

John rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and under his reign as ethnarch, not quite king, Judah prospered much. Aristobulus I Judah, son of John Hyrcanus, annexed the territory of Iturea to Judah. During his reign a curious belief that would have major ramifications took root.

An admixture of Greek and Jewish ideas held that everyone who had been born, lived, and died would be raised to life again in a simultaneous general resurrection to witness the power and sovereignty of God, and after that spectacle all life would come to a violent end.

Alexander Jannaeus, brother of Aristobulus, was the first high priest of the House of Mattathias to call himself King, thus founding the Hasmonean Dynasty. He lived by the sword, and so died by the sword. Under his reign the movement of the Pharisees came into existence.

Pharisee means "Separated One". They opposed the Hasmonean innovation of combining the kingship with the high priesthood in one man. They also believed that all of the dead would be raised to life once again, but they denied it would be followed by a pointless apocalypse.

The Pharisees built new synagogues in every Jewish city and town. There men could study the Torah under the tutelage of like-minded scribes, who were called Sopherim, and also offer messianic blessings and prayers for the return of the House of David to power in Israel.

After that, Queen Alexandra, wife of Aristobulus, enjoyed a benevolent reign of nine years. Since Jewish priests could only be male, during Alexandra's reign a high priest was chosen from the landed aristocracy of Judea. This elite group was also known as the Sadducees.

The policy of the Sadducees was to avoid rebellion at all costs, even to watering-down Jewish traditions with Hellenistic and Roman ideas. The willingness to accommodate with the world was much criticized by the Pharisees. Were Jews not the chosen ones of the Lord of all?

King Aristobulus II, the son of Alexander Jannaeus, reigned until the intervention of Pompey after his conquest of Syria. The Romans were the up and coming thing. King Hyrcanus II was named ethnarch of the Jews and elevated over his brother but Pompey was the real king.

Pompey, the Roman general Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, had won sweeping victories over the Seleucid Empire and was styled the "conqueror of Asia". In 63 BCE he set Judea in his sights and swore to bring it under the rule of Rome. Aristobulus was carried off to Rome a prisoner.

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