The wedding of King Alexander I and Cleopatra (1 Macc 10:57-10:58)

“King Ptolemy set out from Egypt with his daughter Cleopatra. He came to Ptolemais in the one hundred sixty-second year. King Alexander met him. King Ptolemy gave him his daughter Cleopatra in marriage. They celebrated her wedding at Ptolemais with great pomp, as kings do.”

The wedding of Cleopatra, the daughter of King Ptolemy VI of Egypt, and King Alexander I of Syria took place in 150 BCE, the 167th year. So now we have Cleopatra III as part of biblical history. There were a number of women in the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty named Cleopatra. William Shakespeare’s play “Anthony and Cleopatra” was about Cleopatra VII, about a century later. King Ptolemy must have been pleased to go to a place named after his family, Ptolemais. He and his family were strong proponents of Greek so that the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, was translated in Alexandria, Egypt, a strong Hellenized town as can be seen by its very name. King Ptolemy VI and King Alexander I met. Then he gave his daughter to him in a great big wedding ceremony, as kings normally do.

King Alexander I sends a message to Egypt (1 Macc 10:51-10:54)

“Then Alexander sent ambassadors to King Ptolemy of Egypt with the following message.

‘I have returned to my kingdom.

I have taken my seat on the throne of my ancestors.

I have established my rule.

I crushed Demetrius.

I gained control of our country.

I met him in battle.

He and his army were crushed by us.

We have taken our seat on the throne of his kingdom.

Now therefore let us establish friendship with one another.

Give me now your daughter as my wife.

I will become your son-in-law.

I will make gifts to you

And to her,

In keeping with your position.’”

King Alexander I of Syria called Balas sent ambassadors to the king of Egypt, King Ptolemy. His message was simple. He was in charge of the Seleucid Empire now since he had defeated King Demetrius I. He wanted to have friendly relationships with the Egyptians. In order to cement their relationship he wanted the king of Egypt to give him his daughter in marriage. He would then send appropriate gifts to him and her. This seems like a simple solution.

King Antiochus Epiphanes attacks Egypt (1 Macc 1:16-1:19)

“When Antiochus Epiphanes saw that his kingdom was established, he determined to become king of the land of Egypt, so that he might reign over both kingdoms. Thus he invaded Egypt with a strong force of chariots and elephants and a cavalry with a large fleet. He engaged King Ptolemy of Egypt in battle. King Ptolemy turned and fled before him. Many were wounded and fell. They captured the fortified cities in the land of Egypt. He plundered the land of Egypt.”

King Antiochus Epiphanes is known as King Antiochus IV. He decided to invade Egypt and combine it with Syria. He had a huge invasion army. This appears to be the first biblical mention of elephants and a fleet of battle ships. He took on the Egyptian King Ptolemy VI (186-145 BCE), who apparently fled. This Ptolemy VI had a strange history. His mother was called Cleopatra I. He married his sister called Cleopatra II. He had a daughter named Cleopatra III, who would marry a Syrian king. He was 6 when he became king with his mother until she died when he was 10. Thus he would have been 16 when this invasion by King Antiochus IV took place in 170 BCE, while the invading king was 45 years old. Some 25 years later in 145 BCE, this same Egyptian King Ptolemy VI, when he was 41, would invade and capture Syria. Now back to our story, King Antiochus IV has captured and plundered Egypt.