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XIV. THE JEWS UNDER MACEDONIAN,
EGYPTIAN, AND SYRIAN RULE.
159. THE TIME OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT.
[Joseph. Antiq. XI. VIII. 3—7.] ABOUT a century after Nehemiah, the Persian empire succumbed to the impetuosity and ambition of a youthful hero, who suddenly appeared in the Eastern world like a brilliant meteor, to vanish as suddenly. Alexander the Great carried out the plans which his father Philip, king of Macedon, had devised, and which a premature death by the hand of assassins had prevented him from accomplishing. Philip had raised the small and obscure kingdom of Macedon into a powerful state, and had humbled Greece ; Alexander made Macedon for ever glorious in the annals of history, and subjected all the countries of the East from the Nile to the Indus. His first great victory at the river Granicus (334), by which he gained the whole of Asia Minor, was followed by another no less important success at Issus in Cilicia (333). From thence he continued his victorious march eastward, and turning to the south, resolved to invade Egypt. His way led him through Syria
and Phænicia, where he met with the most determined resistance. He took Damascus and Zidon, and laid siege to Tyre. While this siege was progressing, he despatched messengers to the Jewish High-priest Jaddua, with the request to send him without delay auxiliaries and provisions, and thenceforth to pay to him the tribute money which had hitherto been sent to the king of Persia. The High-priest declined to comply with this demand, pleading his oath of fidelity to the Persian monarch. Alexander angrily vowed that he would take his revenge. But the Samaritans, more prudent and more pliant, sent him a contingent of 7,000 men, and declared their submission, and in return for this Alexander confirmed their privileges with respect to the Temple on Gerizim. After the capture of Tyre, he proceeded to Gaza, which he took; and from thence he advanced upon Jerusalem. Terror and dismay seized the inhabitants. The High-priest, so continues the legendary account, and the common priests, all in their sacred vestments, together with a large number of citizens in white garments, went out in procession to meet Alexander, and to offer him their allegiance. When the king saw the High-priest, with the holy name of God written on his mitre, his wrath suddenly relaxed, he saluted the High-priest, and adored the God of Israel. Asked by his wondering generals what could be the reason of this strange conduct, Alexander replied, that when still in Macedonia, he had seen in a vision a man attired exactly like the High-priest, who encouraged him to undertake the expedition against Asia, and promised him success. Then Alexander entered Jerusalem, went into the Temple, and offered sacrifices to God. He gave to the priesthood magnificent presents, allowed the Jews throughout his empire to live in accordance with their own laws, and remitted to them all taxes in the Sabbath-year. The Samaritans solicited and obtained the same privileges.
Many Jews enlisted in the Macedonian army. Leaving Palestine, Alexander entered and subdued Egypt, where he built the large city Alexandria, which soon became famous as the principal seat of Greek and Eastern learning.
160. EGYPTIAN AND SYRIAN DOMINION.
[Joseph. Ant. XII. 1.-17.; 3 Macc. I.; 2 Macc. III.] At the death of Alexander his unwieldy empire collapsed, and was divided among his chief generals. Palestine was joined with Syria into one kingdom under the satrapy of Antigonus. Yet the coasts of Phænicia and the wooded heights of Lebanon were for the rulers of Egypt points too important not to tempt their ambition and avarice. Therefore, soon afterwards, Ptolemy I. Lagi, the satrap of Egypt, invaded Palestine, defeated Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, in a great battle at Gaza (312), took Jerusalem by entering the city on a Sabbathday, when the unsuspecting Jews did not dare to offer resistance, and subjected Palestine. This event proved of the greatest importance to the future history of the Jews. For Ptolemy transplanted large numbers of them into Egypt, it is said above 100,000, who partly settled in Alexandria, where they soon formed nearly half of the population, and partly spread over Cyrene, Libya, and other districts of Africa. The Egyptian Jews, especially those of Alexandria, though eagerly imbibing the Greek learning by which they were surrounded, clung tenaciously to their ancestral laws and customs. On the whole, they had no reason to be dissatisfied with their lot; though occasionally subjected to cruel oppression, they were treated by most of the Egyptian monarchs with consideration and even distinction; their sacred books
were, by the order of Ptolemy, translated into Greek ; they were sometimes raised to high dignities, both in the army and at court; and they even received permission from king Ptolemy Philometor (180) to build a Temple for themselves in Leontopolis, and to erect at the eastern boundary of the land a Jewish town, which they called Onion. They stood under a self-chosen chief (ethnarch), who was also their supreme Judge, and who was supported by a senate or kind of Sanhedrin. Yet they never gave up their connection with their mother-country. They contributed the usual imposts for the Temple and priesthood of Jerusalem, which city they still recognised as their religious capital. This constant intercourse between the Jews of Egypt and those of Palestine could not fail to exercise upon the latter also a perceptible influence. The elements of Greek culture and the works of Greek literature were imported into Palestine, where they soon found eager readers and ardent admirers; as everywhere else, the beauty of Greek art and the refinement of Greek thought worked their spell. Therefore, while the Egyptian Jews, more deeply imbued with this foreign civilisation, developed their own peculiar philosophy (p. 572), many of their brethren in Palestine adopted, to a considerable extent, Greek notions, by which their own national faith was not immaterially tinctured. Yet a large number of Palestine Jews adhered rigidly to their traditional principles, excluded and vehemently denounced all foreign, especially Greek philosophy, and branded the study of it almost as apostasy. Thus the germs were laid of two distinct sects, which became soon arrayed against each other in hostile opposition—the severe Pharisees and the innovating Sadducees.
Ptolemy Lagi did not enjoy long the possession of Palestine; for already in the year after his victory (311) Antigonus reconquered it. Yet Ptolemy did not lose
sight of this coveted province; and ten years later (301). he wrested it again from the hands of his enemies, after the great battle of Ipsus, when it remained united with Egypt for about a century (till 203).'
The High-priest Jaddua had been succeeded by his son Onias I. (331), in whose time the important events just related—the expedition of Alexander the Great and the wars of his generals—took place. During the term of office of the next High-priest Simon (about 300) no noteworthy event occurred. But during the rule of Eleazar (from 287), the Egyptian king Ptolemy II.(Philadelphus), induced by his learned librarian Demetrius Phalereus, granted liberty to all the captive Jews in his empire; then transmitting rich presents to Jerusalem, he requested Eleazar to send able men to Alexandria to translate the sacred Books of the Jews into Greek. Seventy competent scholars went to Egypt, where they were received and treated with due honour, and are said to have accomplished their task-the Septuagint version-in seventytwo days; but it is known that the work was only completed in the course of several generations. Eleazar was followed in the pontifical dignity by Manasseh (266), Onias II. (239), and then by Simon II. (226), surnamed the Just, a man highly revered by his contemporaries, and extolled by later writers. Only to a priest of extraordinary merit this glowing description of Jesus Sirach could be applied : " He was as the morning star in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon at its full, as the sun shining upon the Temple of the Most High, and as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds, and as the flower of roses in the spring of the year, as lilies by the
1 The following Egyptian kings were masters of Judea : Ptolemy I. Lagi (from 301, after the battle of Ipsus, to 284); Ptolemy II. Philadelphus (284—246); Ptolemy III. Euergetes (246—221); Ptolemy IV. Philopator (221—204); and Ptolemy V. Epiphanes (204-181).