Gorgias succeeds Ptolemy (2 Macc 10:14-10:14)

“When Gorgias became governor of the region, he maintained a force of mercenaries. At every turn he kept attacking the Jews.”

There definitely is a change in tone when Gorgias became governor of Coele-syria after the death of Ptolemy. Gorgias attacked the Jews on every occasion. In 1 Maccabees, chapters 3 and 4, he played a major role in the battles with the Jews.

The tragic death of Simon and his sons (1 Macc 16:11-16:17)

“Now Ptolemy son of Abubus had been appointed governor over the plain of Jericho. He had much silver and gold. He was the son-in-law of the high priest. His heart was lifted up. He determined to get control of the country. He made treacherous plans against Simon and his sons, to do away with them. Now Simon was visiting the towns of the country, attending to their needs. He went down to Jericho with his sons Mattathias and Judas, in the one hundred and seventy-seventh year, in the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat. The son of Abubus received them treacherously in the little stronghold called Dok, which he had built. He gave them a great banquet, but he hid men there. When Simon and his sons were drunk, Ptolemy and his men rose up. They took their weapons and rushed in against Simon in the banquet hall. They killed him and his two sons, as well as some of his servants. So he committed an act of great treachery. He returned evil for good.”

Ptolemy, the son of Abubus, was the son-in- law of Simon, since he had married Simon’s daughter, who was the sister of John, Judas, and Mattathias. He had been appointed the governor of the area around Jericho, which was north of Jerusalem. This made sense since he was member of the family by marriage. However, he plotted to take over the whole country. While Simon and his sons Judas and Mattathias were visiting various towns, they probably dropped in to see their sister and her family. After they had a great banquet where the 3 visitors got drunk, Ptolemy and his men killed all the visitors and their servants. The moral of the story is to watch out how much you drink when you visit in-laws. This all took place in 134 BCE.

Simon’s speech in Jerusalem (1 Macc 13:1-13:6)

“Simon heard that Trypho had assembled a large army to invade the land of Judah and destroy it. He saw that the people were trembling and fearful. So he went up to Jerusalem. He gathered the people together. He encouraged them, saying to them.

‘You yourselves know

What great things

My brothers and I

And the house of my father

Have done for the laws and the sanctuary.

You know also the wars

And the difficulties

That my brothers and I have seen.

By reason of this,

All my brothers have perished for the sake of Israel.

I alone am left.

Now, far be it from me

To spare my life

In any time of distress.

I am not better than my brothers.

But I will avenge my nation

And the sanctuary

And your wives and children.

All the nations have gathered together out of hatred to destroy us.’”

Simon, who was the governor of the coastal states, saw how afraid the Israelites were. He knew that Trypho had a large army that was attempting to destroy the people of Judah. He went to Jerusalem to gather the people there in a great assembly. He spoke to the people to encourage them to keep going. He reminded them of what his family had done. His father and all his brothers had died fighting for Judah and the law. He was the only one left, even though he was not better than his brothers. Simon had assumed that Jonathan was dead and not captured. He wanted to avenge all the nations that had attacked the Jewish people. He was going to defend the sanctuary, their wives, and their children.

King Antiochus VI favors Jonathan (1 Macc 11:57-11:59)

“Then the young King Antiochus wrote to Jonathan, saying.

‘I confirm you in the high priesthood.

I set you over the four districts.

I make you one of the friends of the king.’

He sent him a gold plate and a table service. He granted him the right to drink from gold cups, dress in purple, and wear a gold buckle. He appointed Jonathan’s brother Simon governor from the Ladder of Tyre to the borders of Egypt.”

The young King Antiochus VI wrote to Jonathan to confirm him in his high priesthood. He even added a district to the 3 districts he already had, probably that of Ekron. He continued to be a friend of the king. Also he sent him a gold plate and the right to drink from the gold cup. He also could dress in purple and wear the gold buckle that he already had. On top of that he appointed his brother to be governor of the territory from Tyre to the Egyptian border along the Mediterranean Sea. The text does not indicate the age of the young king but he is called young. Trypho seemed to be in charge.

Demetrius II appears on the scene (1 Macc 10:67-10:69)

“In the one hundred sixty-fifth year, Demetrius son of Demetrius came from Crete to the land of his ancestors. When King Alexander heard of it, he was greatly distressed. He returned to Antioch. Demetrius appointed Apollonius the governor of Coele-syria. He assembled a large force and encamped against Jamnia.”

About 3 year later in 147 BCE, the son of Demetrius I called Demetrius II, the grandson of King Seleucus IV, came from the island of Crete. King Alexander I was upset and returned to Antioch in Syria. Demetrius II assembled a large army force in Jamnia.   He named the Philistine Apollonius the governor of this area.   Coele-syria means Hollow Syria, the area around Palestine with the sea coast town of Jamnia.

Jonathan is honored by the king of Syria (1 Macc 10:59-10:66)

“Then King Alexander wrote to Jonathan to come to meet him. So he went with pomp to Ptolemais. He met the two kings. He gave them, and their friends, silver, gold, and many gifts as he found favor with them. A group of malcontents from Israel, the renegades, gathered together against him to accuse him. However, the king paid no attention to them. The king gave orders to take off Jonathan’s garments and to clothe him in purple. They did so. The king also seated him at his side. He said to his officers.

‘Go out with him into the middle of the city.

Proclaim that no one

Is to bring charges against him about any matter.

Let no one annoy him for any reason.’

When his accusers saw the honor that was paid him, in accord with the proclamation, and saw him clothed in purple, they all fled. Thus the king honored him. He enrolled him among his chief friends. He made him general and governor of the province. Jonathan returned to Jerusalem in peace and gladness.”

The Seleucid King Alexander I was very kind to Jonathan. He invited him to meet with the Egyptian King Ptolemy. Jonathan gave them many gifts, including gold and silver. However, there were those nasty renegades, who have been around for 30-40 years, the Hellenistic leaning Jews, that accused Jonathan of many things, although it is not clear what these things were. Nevertheless, the king of Syria, King Alexander I, gave Jonathan royal robes and paraded him around the city saying that no accusations could be placed against Jonathan. He also made Jonathan a general and the governor of the province of Judea. With this, the renegades fled for their lives. Jonathan now had both religious, military, and civil authority. There was no sense in fighting city hall.

A holy day (Neh 8:9-8:12)

“Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people.

‘This day is holy to Yahweh your God.

Do not mourn or weep!’

All the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them.

‘Go your way!

Eat the fat!

Drink sweet wine!

Send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared.

This day is holy to Yahweh.

Do not be grieved!

The joy of Yahweh is your strength.’

So the Levites stilled all the people, saying.

‘Be quiet!

This day is holy!

Do not be grieved!’

All the people went their way to eat and drink. They sent portions to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.”

The roles of Nehemiah and Ezra are very clear here. Nehemiah is the governor and Ezra is the priest scribe. Ezra is the scholar while Nehemiah is the administrator. They wanted to make this reading of the Law of Moses a holy day. They wanted a celebration rather than weeping and a day of mourning, which it had become. The Levites joined in remind people that they should not be upset. Thus they understood the Law of Moses and began to eat and drink.

Money contributions (Neh 7:70-7:72)

“Now some of the heads of the ancestral houses contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand darics of gold, fifty basins, and five hundred thirty priests’ robes. Some of the heads of the ancestral houses gave into the building fund twenty thousand darics of gold and two thousand two hundred minas of silver. What the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand darics of gold, two thousand minas of silver, and sixty-seven priests’ robes.”

In the story in Ezra, chapter 2, this happened when they arrived in Jerusalem. There in Ezra was no mention of any gifts or money from the governor, who seems very generous here. This unnamed governor gave 1,000 gold darics and 530 priestly robes. Where did he get them? However, both books agree that the ancestral heads of families got together a free will offering to start a building fund for the Temple. There is no mention of the site here in Nehemiah as there was in Ezra, chapter 2. This was a substantial collection. The contributions amounts are different from Ezra. However, they only had the Persia daric gold coins and Babylonian silver minas to contribute. The gold coins were named after the Persian King Darius I. They were used for a couple of hundred years until the Greek King Alexander abolished them around 330 BCE. Here they got 40,000 darics of gold and 4,200 minas of silver. This was probably worth about a half a million USA dollars. In Ezra, they received 61,000 gold darics and 5,000 silver minas. Here they received over 530 priest robes as opposed to a mere 100 in Ezra. Apparently someone had taken these priestly robes into captivity with them, but where were they kept for 60 years?.

 

The disputed captives returning (Neh 7:61-7:65)

“The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their ancestral houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel. The descendents of Delaiah, the descendents of Tobiah, and the descendents of Nekoda were six hundred forty-two. Also, of the priests were the descendents of Hobaiah, the descendents of Hakkoz, and the descendents of Barzillai. They had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and were called by their name. These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there. Thus they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until a priest with Urim and Thummim should come.”

Once again, this is almost word for word from Ezra, chapter 2. This poses a dilemma. What if you could not prove that you were an Israelite? Could you say you wanted land in Israel without being an Israelite? Apparently there were some genealogical records that could be consulted. Like many things, they may not have been 100% accurate. There is a slight difference in the number of people in the category of whether they were Israelites, with 642 here as opposed to 652 in Ezra. The second group claimed to be priests. In the first group the only slight discrepancy is with Addon instead of Addan, while in the 2nd group there is Hobaiah instead of Habaiah. Barzillai had been a friend of King David. I believe that the only questions here were how these people were related to the groups that they claimed that they were from. The unnamed governor told them that they had to consult with a priest because they were unclean. The priests would go to the lots of Urim and Thummim. Urim and Thummim were in the breastplate of the ephod that the priests wore. They would consult with these stones on the breastplate to find out the will of Yahweh on what was to be done. Generally one was positive and the other negative. In fact, this was one of the ways that Yahweh communicated with his people. The other 2 ways were through dreams and prophets, which was also common among the Assyrians and Babylonians. This third way was like the tablets of destiny in Babylonia. Sometime in Jewish history it died out as a usage. However, this mysterious Urim and Thummim have found their way into novels and the writings of Joseph Smith, the first Mormon.

The food of Nehemiah (Neh 5:16-5:19)

“Indeed I devoted myself to the work on this wall. I acquired no land. All my servants were gathered there for the work. Moreover there were at my table one hundred and fifty men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations around us. Now that which was prepared for one day was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowls were prepared for me. Skins of wine in abundance were also prepared every ten days. Yet with all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because of the heavy burden of labor on the people.

‘Remember for my good,

O my God,

All that I have done for this people.’”

Nehemiah further explained his 12 year service. He himself, “I,” worked on the wall and did not acquire any land. He even had his servants work on this wall. He had over 150 people eat at his table. He then explained what kind of meals he prepared. Normally, he had an ox and 6 sheep as well as fowls. He also had wine every 10 days. Nevertheless, he never imposed a burden on the people with the food for the governor. Finally he ended with a prayer to God to remember all the good he had done for his people.