“When we had finished
The believing brothers.
We stayed with them
For one day.”
Ἡμεῖς δὲ τὸν πλοῦν διανύσαντες ἀπὸ Τύρου κατηντήσαμεν εἰς Πτολεμαΐδα, καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ἐμείναμεν ἡμέραν μίαν παρ’ αὐτοῖς.
The author of Acts indicated that Paul and his companions (Ἡμεῖς δὲ) had finished (διανύσαντες) the voyage (τὸν πλοῦν) from Tyre (ἀπὸ Τύρου). They arrived (κατηντήσαμεν) at Ptolemais (εἰς Πτολεμαΐδα). They then greeted (καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι) the believing brothers (τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς) and stayed (ἐμείναμεν) with them (παρ’ αὐτοῖς) for only one day (ἡμέραν μίαν). Acts was the only Greek biblical writing that used these words πλοῦν, that means a voyage or a sailing, and διανύσαντες, that means to accomplish fully, finish, or complete. Ptolemais, present day Acre, was a Roman colony town with a huge port about a little over 20 miles south of Tyre. Paul and his companions, including the author of Acts, only stayed there a day with the Christian believers. What is the shortest stay that you ever had?
“On the monthly celebration of the king’s birthday, the Jews were taken, under bitter constraint, to partake of the sacrifices. When a festival of Dionysus was celebrated, they were compelled to wear wreaths of ivy and to walk in the procession in honor of Dionysus. At the suggestion of the people of Ptolemais, a decree was issued to the neighboring Greek cities that they should adopt the same policy toward the Jews. They should make them partake of the sacrifices. They should kill those who did not choose to change over to the Greek customs. One could see, therefore, the misery that had come upon them.”
Here we have in some detail, the various pagan worship services that were introduced in Jerusalem instead of the generic comments of 1 Maccabees, chapter 1. First they had to celebrate the king’s birthday on a monthly basis with sacrifices. Then they had to celebrate the feast of Dionysius, the god of wine and grapes by processing with ivy wreaths on their heads. On top of that, the people of Ptolemais on the seacoast sent a decree that all the Greek cities should have the Jews participate in the Greek sacrifices. If they did not change to the Greek ways, they would be killed. This is something like what happened in the later Roman Empire times, when the emperor wanted to be worshiped as a divinity. Those Christians who failed to do so were killed and became Christian martyrs. Perhaps there was some Jewish martyrs but their names are not mentioned here.
“Jonathan trusted Trypho. He did as he said. He sent away the troops as they returned to the land of Judah. He kept with himself three thousand men, two thousand of whom he left in Galilee, while one thousand accompanied him. However, when Jonathan entered Ptolemais, the men of Ptolemais closed the gates and seized him. They killed with the sword everyone who had entered with him.”
Jonathan trusted Trypho, which was a big mistake. He did exactly what Trypho told him to do. He sent his troops home to Judah. He took 3,000 troops but left 2,000 in Galilee, so that he was traveling with about 1,000 men. When they got to Ptolemais, the men of Ptolemais closed the gate behind them. Then the seized him and killed the other 1,000 men with him.
“Jonathan went out to meet Trypho with forty thousand picked warriors. He came to Beth-shan. When Trypho saw that he had come with a large army, he was afraid to raise his hand against him. So he received him with honor and commended him to all his friends. He gave him gifts. He commanded his friends and his troops to obey him as they would himself. Then he said to Jonathan.
‘Why have you put all these people
To such trouble
When we are not at war?
Dismiss them now to their homes.
Choose for yourself a few men to stay with you.
Come with me to Ptolemais.
I will hand it over to you
As well as the other strongholds
And the remaining troops
And all the officials.
I will turn around and go home.
That is why I am here.’”
Jonathan now had a large force of 40,000 warriors. When he met Trypho at Beth-shan, Trypho was actually afraid. He did not want to fight such a large army. Instead, he said that he wanted to honor Jonathan as he gave him gifts. He told his whole army to listen and obey whatever Jonathan said. He wanted Jonathan to take a few troops to Ptolemais, where he would give him that city. He told Jonathan to dismiss most of his troops since they were not needed. They were not at war. He was going to hand everything over to Jonathan so that he could go home. He said that was the reason that he had come to this place. It is hard to tell whether Jonathan believed him or not, but we shall see.
“When Jonathan heard this, he gave orders to continue the siege. He chose some of the elders of Israel and some of the priests. He put himself in danger as he went to the king at Ptolemais. However, he took silver, gold, clothing, and numerous other gifts. He won his favor. Although certain renegades of his nation kept making complaints against him, the king treated him as his predecessors had treated him. He exalted him in the presence of all his friends. He confirmed him in the high priesthood. He gave him as many other honors as he had formerly had. He caused him to be reckoned among his chief friends. Then Jonathan asked the king to free Judea and the three districts of Samaria from tribute. He promised him three hundred talents. The king consented.”
Although Jonathan was skeptical about this meeting since he was not bringing an army, only the elders and the priests, it turned out okay. He brought some gifts of gold, silver, and clothing. Thus he won the favor of King Demetrius II, despite the bothersome renegades trying to talk bad about him. The king praised Jonathan in the presence of all. He gave him all the honors that he previously had. He continued to be a friend of the king. Jonathan, however, wanted one thing, to have a free Judea. In order to do this, he was willing to give the king 300 talents, about $300,000.00 USA dollars. King Demetrius II thought that this was a good deal.
“In those days, Jonathan assembled the Judeans to attack the citadel in Jerusalem. He built many engines of war to use against it. However, certain renegades, who hated their nation, went to the king. They reported to him that Jonathan was besieging the citadel. When the king heard this, he was angry. As soon as he heard it, he set out and came to Ptolemais. He wrote Jonathan not to continue the siege, but to meet him for a conference at Ptolemais as quickly as possible.”
You may wonder, while was the Syrian citadel still in Jerusalem. King Demetrius I had promised to hand it over in the preceding chapter. Apparently, it never happened. In fact, this was another attempt to get independence for Judea. Jonathan besieged the citadel with war machines, or catapults to hurl at the citadel. However, those nasty Jewish renegades showed up again and ran to the new king to tell him what Jonathan was doing. King Demetrius II then sent a letter to Jonathan that he wanted to talk to him in Ptolemais, the former home of the dead King Alexander I. He wanted this matter solved as quickly as possible.
“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.
“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 Ptolemy replied and said.
‘Happy was the day
On which you returned to the land of your ancestors.
You took your seat on the throne of their kingdom.
Now I will do for you as you wrote,
But meet me at Ptolemais,
So that we may see one another.
I will become your father-in-law,
As you have said.’”
This request from King Alexander I pleased the Egyptian King Ptolemy VI. He was happy to see Alexander there and would love to be his father-in-law. However, he wanted to stop by and see him at Ptolemais before everything was settled.