Antiquities of the Jews, Vol 3, The

CHAPTER 3. The Friendship That Was Between Onias And Ptolemy Philometor; And How Onias Built A Temple In Egypt Like To That At Jerusalem.

1. But then the son of Onias the high priest, who was of the same name with his father, and who fled to king Ptolemy, who was called Philometor, lived now at Alexandria, as we have said already. When this Onias saw that Judea was oppressed by the Macedonians and their kings, out of a desire to purchase to himself a memorial and eternal fame he resolved to send to king Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra, to ask leave of them that he might build a temple in Egypt like to that at Jerusalem, and might ordain Levites and priests out of their own stock. The chief reason why he was desirous so to do, was, that he relied upon the prophet Isaiah, who lived above six hundred years before, and foretold that there certainly was to be a temple built to Almighty God in Egypt by a man that was a Jew. Onias was elevated with this prediction, and wrote the following epistle to Ptolemy and Cleopatra: "Having done many and great things for you in the affairs of the war, by the assistance of God, and that in Celesyria and Phoenicia, I came at length with the Jews to Leontopolis, and to other places of your nation, where I found that the greatest part of your people had temples in an improper manner, and that on this account they bare ill-will one against another, which happens to the Egyptians by reason of the multitude of their temples, and the difference of opinions about Divine worship. Now I found a very fit place in a castle that hath its name from the country Diana; this place is full of materials of several sorts, and replenished with sacred animals; I desire therefore that you will grant me leave to purge this holy place, which belongs to no master, and is fallen down, and to build there a temple to Almighty God, after the pattern of that in Jerusalem, and of the same dimensions, that may be for the benefit of thyself, and thy wife and children, that those Jews which dwell in Egypt may have a place whither they may come and meet together in mutual harmony one with another, and he subservient to thy advantages; for the prophet Isaiah foretold that, 'there should be an altar in Egypt to the Lord God;'" 5 and many other such things did he prophesy relating to that place.

2. And this was what Onias wrote to king Ptolemy. Now any one may observe his piety, and that of his sister and wife Cleopatra, by that epistle which they wrote in answer to it; for they laid the blame and the transgression of the law upon the head of Onias. And this was their reply: "King Ptolemy and queen Cleopatra to Onias, send greeting. We have read thy petition, wherein thou desirest leave to be given thee to purge that temple which is fallen down at Leontopolis, in the Nomus of Heliopolis, and which is named from the country Bubastis; on which account we cannot but wonder that it should be pleasing to God to have a temple erected in a place so unclean, and so full of sacred animals. But since thou sayest that Isaiah the prophet foretold this long ago, we give thee leave to do it, if it may be done according to your law, and so that we may not appear to have at all offended God herein."

3. So Onias took the place, and built a temple, and an altar to God, like indeed to that in Jerusalem, but smaller and poorer. I do not think it proper for me now to describe its dimensions or its vessels, which have been already described in my seventh book of the Wars of the Jews. However, Onias found other Jews like to himself, together with priests and Levites, that there performed Divine service. But we have said enough about this temple.

4. Now it came to pass that the Alexandrian Jews, and those Samaritans who paid their worship to the temple that was built in the days of Alexander at Mount Gerizzim, did now make a sedition one against another, and disputed about their temples before Ptolemy himself; the Jews saying that, according to the laws of Moses, the temple was to be built at Jerusalem; and the Samaritans saying that it was to be built at Gerizzim. They desired therefore the king to sit with his friends, and hear the debates about these matters, and punish those with death who were baffled. Now Sabbeus and Theodosius managed the argument for the Samaritans, and Andronicus, the son of Messalamus, for the people of Jerusalem; and they took an oath by God and the king to make their demonstrations according to the law; and they desired of Ptolemy, that whomsoever he should find that transgressed what they had sworn to, he would put him to death. Accordingly, the king took several of his friends into the council, and sat down, in order to hear what the pleaders said. Now the Jews that were at Alexandria were in great concern for those men, whose lot it was to contend for the temple at Jerusalem; for they took it very ill that any should take away the reputation of that temple, which was so ancient and so celebrated all over the habitable earth. Now when Sabbeus and Tlteodosius had given leave to Andronicus to speak first, he began to demonstrate out of the law, and out of the successions of the high priests, how they every one in succession from his father had received that dignity, and ruled over the temple; and how all the kings of Asia had honored that temple with their donations, and with the most splendid gifts dedicated thereto. But as for that at Gerizzm, he made no account of it, and regarded it as if it had never had a being. By this speech, and other arguments, Andronicus persuaded the king to determine that the temple at Jerusalem was built according to the laws of Moses, 6 and to put Sabbeus and Theodosius to death. And these were the events that befell the Jews at Alexandria in the days of Ptolemy Philometor.

CHAPTER 4. How Alexander Honored Jonathan After An Extraordinary Manner; And How Demetrius, The Son Of Demetrius, Overcame Alexander And Made A League Of Friendship With Jonathan.

1. Demetrius being thus slain in battle, as we have above related, Alexander took the kingdom of Syria; and wrote to Ptolemy Philometor, and desired his daughter in marriage; and said it was but just that he should be joined an affinity to one that had now received the principality of his forefathers, and had been promoted to it by God's providence, and had conquered Demetrius, and that was on other accounts not unworthy of being related to him. Ptolemy received this proposal of marriage gladly; and wrote him an answer, saluting him on account of his having received the principality of his forefathers; and promising him that he would give him his daughter in marriage; and assured him that he was coming to meet him at Ptolemais, and desired that he would there meet him, for that he would accompany her from Egypt so far, and would there marry his child to him. When Ptolemy had written thus, he came suddenly to Ptolemais, and brought his daughter Cleopatra along with him; and as he found Alexander there before him, as he desired him to come, he gave him his child in marriage, and for her portion gave her as much silver and gold as became such a king to give.

2. When the wedding was over, Alexander wrote to Jonathan the high priest, and desired him to come to Ptolemais. So when he came to these kings, and had made them magnificent presents, he was honored by them both. Alexander compelled him also to put off his own garment, and to take a purple garment, and made him sit with him in his throne; and commanded his captains that they should go with him into the middle of the city, and proclaim, that it was not permitted to any one to speak against him, or to give him any disturbance. And when the captains had thus done, those that were prepared to accuse Jonathan, and who bore him ill-will, when they saw the honor that was done him by proclamation, and that by the king's order, ran away, and were afraid lest some mischief should befall them. Nay, king Alexander was so very kind to Jonathan, that he set him down as the principal of his friends.

3. But then, upon the hundred and sixty-fifth year, Demetrius, the son of Demetrius, came from Crete with a great number of mercenary soldiers, which Lasthenes, the Cretian, brought him, and sailed to Cilicia. This thing cast Alexander into great concern and disorder when he heard it; so he made haste immediately out of Phoenicia, and came to Antioch, that he might put matters in a safe posture there before Demetrius should come. He also left Apollonius Daus 7 governor of Celesyria, who coming to Jamnia with a great army, sent to Jonathan the high priest, and told him that it was not right that he alone should live at rest, and with authority, and not be subject to the king; that this thing had made him a reproach among all men, that he had not yet made him subject to the king. "Do not thou therefore deceive thyself, and sit still among the mountains, and pretend to have forces with thee; but if thou hast any dependence on thy strength, come down into the plain, and let our armies be compared together, and the event of the battle will demonstrate which of us is the most courageous. However, take notice, that the most valiant men of every city are in my army, and that these are the very men who have always beaten thy progenitors; but let us have the battle in such a place of the country where we may fight with weapons, and not with stones, and where there may be no place whither those that are beaten may fly."

4. With this Jonathan was irritated; and choosing himself out ten thousand of his soldiers, he went out of Jerusalem in haste, with his brother Simon, and came to Joppa, and pitched his camp on the outside of the city, because the people of Joppa had shut their gates against him, for they had a garrison in the city put there by Apollonius. But when Jonathan was preparing to besiege them, they were afraid he would take them by force, and so they opened the gates to him. But Apollonius, when he heard that Joppa was taken by Jonathan, took three thousand horsemen, and eight thousand footmen and came to Ashdod; and removing thence, he made his journey silently and slowly, and going up to Joppa, he made as if he was retiring from the place, and so drew Jonathan into the plain, as valuing himself highly upon his horsemen, and having his hopes of victory principally in them. However, Jonathan sallied out, and pursued Apollonius to Ashdod; but as soon as Apollonius perceived that his enemy was in the plain, he came back and gave him battle. But Apollonius had laid a thousand horsemen in ambush in a valley, that they might be seen by their enemies as behind them; which when Jonathan perceived, he was under no consternation, but ordering his army to stand in a square battle-array, he gave them a charge to fall on the enemy on both sides, and set them to face those that attacked them both before and behind; and while the fight lasted till the evening, he gave part of his forces to his brother Simon, and ordered him to attack the enemies; but for himself, he charged those that were with him to cover themselves with their armor, and receive the darts of the horsemen, who did as they were commanded; so that the enemy's horsemen, while they threw their darts till they had no more left, did them no harm, for the darts that were thrown did not enter into their bodies, being thrown upon the shields that were united and conjoined together, the closeness of which easily overcame the force of the darts, and they flew about without any effect. But when the enemy grew remiss in throwing their darts from morning till late at night, Simon perceived their weariness, and fell upon the body of men before him; and because his soldiers showed great alacrity, he put the enemy to flight. And when the horsemen saw that the footmen ran away, neither did they stay themselves, but they being very weary, by the duration of the fight till the evening, and their hope from the footmen being quite gone, they basely ran away, and in great confusion also, till they were separated one from another, and scattered over all the plain. Upon which Jonathan pursued them as far as Ashdod, and slew a great many of them, and compelled the rest, in despair of escaping, to fly to the temple of Dagon, which was at Ashdod; but Jonathan took the city on the first onset, and burnt it, and the villages about it; nor did he abstain from the temple of Dagon itself, but burnt it also, and destroyed those that had fled to it. Now the entire multitude of the enemies that fell in the battle, and were consumed in the temple, were eight thousand. When Jonathan therefore had overcome so great an army, he removed from Ashdod, and came to Askelon; and when he had pitched his camp without the city, the people of Askelon came out and met him, bringing him hospitable presents, and honoring him; so he accepted of their kind intentions, and returned thence to Jerusalem with a great deal of prey, which he brought thence when he conquered his enemies. But when Alexander heard that Apollonius, the general of his army, was beaten, he pretended to be glad of it, because he had fought with Jonathan his friend and ally against his directions. Accordingly, he sent to Jonathan, and gave testimony to his worth; and gave him honorary rewards, as a golden button, 8 which it is the custom to give the king's kinsmen, and allowed him Ekron and its toparchy for his own inheritance.

5. About this time it was that king Ptolemy, who was called Philometor, led an army, part by the sea, and part by land, and came to Syria, to the assistance of Alexander, who was his son-in-law; and accordingly all the cities received him willingly, as Alexander had commanded them to do, and conducted him as far as Ashdod; where they all made loud complaints about the temple of Dagon, which was burnt, and accused Jonathan of having laid it waste, and destroyed the country adjoining with fire, and slain a great number of them. Ptolemy heard these accusations, but said nothing. Jonathan also went to meet Ptolemy as far as Joppa, and obtained from him hospitable presents, and those glorious in their kinds, with all the marks of honor; and when he had conducted him as far as the river called Eleutherus, he returned again to Jerusalem.

6. But as Ptolemy was at Ptolemais, he was very near to a most unexpected destruction; for a treacherous design was laid for his life by Alexander, by the means of Ammonius, who was his friend; and as the treachery was very plain, Ptolemy wrote to Alexander, and required of him that he should bring Ammonius to condign punishment, informing him what snares had been laid for him by Ammonius, and desiring that he might be accordingly punished for it. But when Alexander did not comply with his demands, he perceived that it was he himself who laid the design, and was very angry at him. Alexander had also formerly been on very ill terms with the people of Antioch, for they had suffered very much by his means; yet did Ammonius at length undergo the punishment his insolent crimes had deserved, for he was killed in an opprobrious manner, like a woman, while he endeavored to conceal himself in a feminine habit, as we have elsewhere related.

7. Hereupon Ptolemy blamed himself for having given his daughter in marriage to Alexander, and for the league he had made with him to assist him against Demetrius; so he dissolved his relation to him, and took his daughter away from him, and immediately sent to Demetrius, and offered to make a league of mutual assistance and friendship with him, and agreed with him to give him his daughter in marriage, and to restore him to the principality of his fathers. Demetrius was well pleased with this embassage, and accepted of his assistance, and of the marriage of his daughter. But Ptolemy had still one more hard task to do, and that was to persuade the people of Antioch to receive Demetrius, because they were greatly displeased at him, on account of the injuries his father Demetrius had done them; yet did he bring this about; for as the people of Antioch hated Alexander on Ammonius's account, as we have shown already, they were easily prevailed with to cast him out of Antioch; who, thus expelled out of Antioch, came into Cilicia. Ptolemy came then to Antioch, and was made king by its inhabitants, and by the army; so that he was forced to put on two diadems, the one of Asia, the other of Egypt: but being naturally a good and a righteous man, and not desirous of what belonged to others, and besides these dispositions, being also a wise man in reasoning about futurities, he determined to avoid the envy of the Romans; so he called the people of Antioch together to an assembly, and persuaded them to receive Demetrius; and assured them that he would not be mindful of what they did to his father in case he should be now obliged by them; and he undertook that he would himself be a good monitor and governor to him, and promised that he would not permit him to attempt any bad actions; but that, for his own part, he was contented with the kingdom of Egypt. By which discourse he persuaded the people of Antioch to receive Demetrius.

8. But now Alexander made haste with a numerous and great army, and came out of Cilicia into Syria, and burnt the country belonging to Antioch, and pillaged it; whereupon Ptolemy, and his son-in-law Demetrius, brought their army against him, [for he had already given him his daughter in marriage,] and beat Alexander, and put him to flight; and accordingly he fled into Arabia. Now it happened in the time of the battle that Ptolemy' horse, upon hearing the noise of an elephant, cast him off his back, and threw him on the ground; upon the sight of which accident, his enemies fell upon him, and gave him many wounds upon his head, and brought him into danger of death; for when his guards caught him up, he was so very ill, that for four days' time he was not able either to understand or to speak. However, Zabdiel, a prince among the Arabians, cut off Alexander's head, and sent it to Ptolemy, who recovering of his wounds, and returning to his understanding, on the fifth day, heard at once a most agreeable hearing, and saw a most agreeable sight, which were the death and the head of Alexander; yet a little after this his joy for the death of Alexander, with which he was so greatly satisfied, he also departed this life. Now Alexander, who was called Balas, reigned over Asia five years, as we have elsewhere related.

9. But when Demetrius, who was styled Nicator, 9 had taken the kingdom, he was so wicked as to treat Ptolemy's soldiers very hardly, neither remembering the league of mutual assistance that was between them, nor that he was his son-in-law and kinsman, by Cleopatra's marriage to him; so the soldiers fled from his wicked treatment to Alexandria; but Demetrius kept his elephants. But Jonathan the high priest levied an army out of all Judea, and attacked the citadel at Jerusalem, and besieged it. It was held by a garrison of Macedonians, and by some of those wicked men who had deserted the customs of their forefathers. These men at first despised the attempts of Jonathan for taking the place, as depending on its strength; but some of those wicked men went out by night, and came to Demetrius, and informed him that the citadel was besieged; who was irritated with what he heard, and took his army, and came from Antioch, against Jonathan. And when he was at Antioch, he wrote to him, and commanded him to come to him quickly to Ptolemais: upon which Jonathan did not intermit the siege of the citadel, but took with him the elders of the people, and the priests, and carried with him gold, and silver, and garments, and a great number of presents of friendship, and came to Demetrius, and presented him with them, and thereby pacified the king's anger. So he was honored by him, and received from him the confirmation of his high priesthood, as he had possessed it by the grants of the kings his predecessors. And when the Jewish deserters accused him, Demetrius was so far from giving credit to them, that when he petitioned him that he would demand no more than three hundred talents for the tribute of all Judea, and the three toparchies of Samaria, and Perea, and Galilee, he complied with the proposal, and gave him a letter confirming all those grants; whose contents were as follows: "King Demetrius to Jonathan his brother, and to the nation of the Jews, sendeth greeting. We have sent you a copy of that epistle which we have written to Lasthones our kinsman, that you may know its contents. 'King Demetrus to Lasthenes our father, sendeth greeting. I have determined to return thanks, and to show favor to the nation of the Jews, which hath observed the rules of justice in our concerns. Accordingly, I remit to them the three prefectures, Apherims, and Lydda, and Ramatha, which have been added to Judea out of Samaria, with their appurtenances; as also what the kings my predecessors received from those that offered sacrifices in Jerusalem, and what are due from the fruits of the earth, and of the trees, and what else belongs to us; with the salt-pits, and the crowns that used to be presented to us. Nor shall they be compelled to pay any of those taxes from this time to all futurity. Take care therefore that a copy of this epistle be taken, and given to Jonathan, and be set up in an eminent place of their holy temple.'" And these were the contents of this writing. And now when Demetrius saw that there was peace every where, and that there was no danger, nor fear of war, he disbanded the greatest part of his army, and diminished their pay, and even retained in pay no others than such foreigners as came up with him from Crete, and from the other islands. However, this procured him ill-will and hatred from the soldiers; on whom he bestowed nothing from this time, while the kings before him used to pay them in time of peace as they did before, that they might have their good-will, and that they might be very ready to undergo the difficulties of war, if any occasion should require it.

1 of 2
2 of 2