“Then the chief priests
And the elders
Of the people
In the palace court
Of the high priest,
Who was called Caiaphas.”
Τότε συνήχθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα,
This is somewhat similar to Mark, chapter 14:1, and to Luke, chapter 22:2. Matthew said that the chief priests (οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς) and the elders or the presbyters of the people (καὶ οἱ πρεσβύτεροι τοῦ λαοῦ) gathered together (Τότε συνήχθησαν) in the palace or court of the Jewish high priest (εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν τοῦ ἀρχιερέως), called Caiaphas (τοῦ λεγομένου Καϊάφα). This Caiaphas was the son in law of the former high priest Annas. Since Caiaphas was the high priest or chief Jewish religious person in Jerusalem from 18-36 CE, this would fit within this time frame of Jesus. These chief priests and the elders of the people seem to consult with the high priest Caiaphas. There was no mention of the Pharisees, Scribes, or Sadducees here. This is no longer a theological argument, but a life and death issue. The role of authority will be the key issue here.
“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.
“Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah. Tobiah sent letters to them. Many in Judah were bound by oath to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah son of Arah. His son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence. They reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.”
Tobiah seems to be the main intimidator in this section. Technically, they were still under the power of Samaria since Judah was not an independent province. They were part of the Province Beyond the River. Tobiah had a special relationship to the noble Jews of Jerusalem because of his marriage. Tobiah had married the daughter of the Jewish priest Shecaniah. His son had married the daughter of Meshullam who was one of the main builders of the wall. Thus there was a friendly relationship here. However, Nehemiah was not intimidated by Tobiah, even though some in Jerusalem looked favorably on him.