From Babylon to Bethlehem – Prelude to the Maccabean Revolt

November 23, 2009

At the time of the Greeks, the Davidic line passes into obscurity, and
the political power in Israel is held by the high priests. One such
high priest, Onias II, refuses to pay taxes to the Ptolemaic empire.
The Tobiad family steps in to cover the debt, and winds up becoming
responsible for the tax collection in Israel. The Seleucid Empire takes
over Israel, and gives the Jews certain concessions for their
assistance.

Onias III becomes high priest, and owing to a dispute with the governor
of the Temple, receives a favorable preliminary ruling from the
Seleucid Empire. Onias tries to confirm the ruling, but while he seeks
out this confirmation, a new emperor takes power, Antiochus IV
Epiphanes.

In Jerusalem, a new group of rulers also takes over, and a man named
Jason becomes high priest. Jason was not a particularly pious man, and
allows certain Hellenistic influences into Israel, most notably a
gymnasium. In this gymnasium, the men exercise naked, and in order to
appear more like the Greeks whom they exercise with, some Jews begin to
have cosmetic surgery to reverse their circumcisions.

Meanwhile, a man named Menelaus convinces the Seleucids to assassinate
Onias III and remove Jason to have himself named high priest. Menelaus
starts selling off temple vessels, and the people riot. Menelaus seeks
help from the Seleucids, who put down the riots bloodily. To keep the
peace, the Seleucids conscript some Jews to build a garrison near the
temple, and decide to begin construction on a Sabbath to prevent riots.
This backfires and there are even more riots. The pro-Greek populace
moved into the garrison and only left to enforce the edicts of the
empire. People fled Jerusalem, since it was not safe for either
orthodox or liberal.

Antiochus wages a preemptive war on Egypt and wins, but the cost of the
war causes him to despoil the Temple. As Antiochus attempts to
completely conquer Egypt, Rome intervenes and turns Antiochus back, who
now places the blame for this failure on the disunity in the empire
caused by the nonconforming Jews.

The closing theme is Gerard Satamian’s Chansons Sans Paroles Op. 2 Pastorale, from the album Dry Fig Trees. www.magnatune.com

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