- The origin of the Hasmonean dynasty is recorded in the books 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees, covering the period from 175 to 134 BCE during which time the Hasmonean dynasty became semi-independent from the Seleucid empire but had not yet expanded far outside of Judea.
Hanukkah commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire.160 BCE.
As Judas Maccabeus also known as Judah the Maccabee death mark the beginning of a dynasty that would rule the Jewish people for over a century, during a time of extreme upheaval.
Judas, one of five brothers, had assumed leadership of the Hasmonean clan and in 167 BCE, beat back the Greek armies, recaptured Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple.
There were three remaining brothers, Johanan, Simon and Jonathan escaped with a small band of supporters Johanan was killed by the Nabateans.
Simon and Jonathan remained and eventually the Seleucids came to terms with the Hasmoneans. Five years of peace would ensue.
But Jonathan, in 153 BCE, used the war between Demetrius ruler of Seleucid Empire against the pretender, Alexander Balas.
First he lined up with Demetrius. But but betrayed him because Alexander Balas offered to make Jonathan high priest, in effect the leader of the Jewish people, and governor of Judea.
Demetrius II, son of the first Demetrius, put together forces and rebelled against Alexander Balas and killed him
Jonathan persuaded Demetrius II to affirm him as ruler over Judea, and even expand his territory.
another civil war broke out between Demetrius II, and Diodotus Tryphon, who wanted to place the young son of Alexander Balas
Jonathans was loyal to Demetrius II but switched sides when his brother Simon was offered the position of governor of the Mediterranean coast from Egypt to Tyre,
Diodotus Tryphon betrayed Jonathans took him captive, and later killed him.
Simon however, the last living brother of Judas Maccabaeus, survived and inherited the roles of high priest and ruler of Judea from Jonathan; and naturally switched sides, supporting Demetrius II in his war against the man who had killed his brother.
Happy to have the Hasmoneans back on his side, Demetrius II recognized Judeas independence, making Simon the first independent Jewish ruler of Judea since the fall of the Davidic Dynasty in 586 BCE.
But Simon was assassinated in 135 BCE, together with two of his sons, at a banquet. His third son John Hyrcanus survived, becoming high priest and ruler of Judea. Only to be subjugated by the Seleucid emperor, Antiochus VII, who was killed trying to conquer the Parthians.
John Hyrcanus was thoroughly Hellenized and was disliked by the Judean populace. In 113 BCE, sought to enlarge his kingdom at the expense of the crumbling Seleucid Empire.
John Hyrcanus left the control of the kingdom to his wife, whose name is lost to history, and the high priesthood to his son Aristobulus. But, unhappy with this arrangement, Aristobulus had his mother starved to death and to further cement his rule, he threw three of his brothers in prison. One, a close confidant of his, remained free, but eventually, Aristobulus grew suspicious of him too and had him killed.
Aristobulus was the first Hasmonean to actually crown himself king. Under his brief rule he expanded the territory of Judea into the Galilee and the Golan, then in 103, died of illness.
His wife Salome Alexandra released his brothers from prison and married the eldest of these, Alexander Jannaeus, in accordance with the biblical levirate law (Yibum).
Alexander Jannaeus began to expand Judea, conquering the important port city of Acre, and then Gaza in 94 BCE.
His Hellenic ways were despised at home. During one Sukkot holiday, as he was officiating the libation of water as a part of his duties as high priest, Alexander poured water on his feet instead of on the altar as tradition dictated. The shocked crowd pelted him with palm branches and etrogim, a local fruit. In response he had the whole crowd - according to Josephus, over 6,000 men - put to death.
Not long after that, the Pharisees, a powerful school of rabbis, incited a revolt that would turn into a six-year-long civil war, in which 50,000 Jews were killed.
At that point the Pharisees appealed to the Seleucid Empire for help, but the rebellion petered out after the Judeans decided they preferred to be ruled by a tyrant of their own rather than one ruling from Antioch. Alexander Jannaeus died in 76 BCE, leaving his kingdom to his wife, Queen Salome Alexandra.
Queen Salome creates the Sanhedrin
The queen secured her power by siding with the Pharisees and establishing a rabbinical council with religious legislative powers and judicial authority - the Sanhedrin. She also built up the Judean army and fortified many of Judeas cities and appointed her son Hyrcanus II as high priest - before dying in 67 BCE, and transferring the reins to him.
Hyrcanus II would rule for just three months before being overthrown in battle by his younger brother Aristobulus II. Undaunted, Hyrcanus Israeli allied with the Nabateans, who sent an army from the south and lay siege to Jerusalem in an attempt to reinstall him on the throne. But Aristobulus II appealed to his allies, the Romans, who had recently conquered the Seleucid Empire.
A Roman threat to invade the Nabataean kingdom was all that was needed to end the siege and send the Nabatean forces fleeing.
But Aristobulus IIs and his sons were arrested and shipped to Rome and Hyrcanus II was reinstalled as king of Judea.
Yet the real power was Antipater the Idumaean, a convert to Judaism and protected Roman interests in the region.
In 57 BCE, the Roman Senate released Aristobulus II and his sons from captivity, but he and his eldest son, Alexander died shortly after. The last son, Antigonus II Mattathias, tried to obtain control of Judea by appealing to Julius Caesar during his visit in Syria in 47 BCE, to no avail
By 40 BCE, Judea was simmering with revolt. The Judeans had wearied of the heavy taxes Rome levied and sickened of their overlords - King Hyrcanus II, Antipater, and Antipaters son, Herod.
The Judeans rallied behind Antigonus II Mattathias, who promised them independence from Roman domination. He allied with the Parthians, conquered Jerusalem and was crowned king and high priest. His uncle Hyrcanus II was maimed so as to render him unfit for the priesthood and was shipped into exile in Babylon.
But Antigonus II Mattathias reign was short and tumultuous. The Romans appointed Herod as king of Judea and the two kings warred for three years.
Antigonus was taken prisoner and executed in Antioch in 37 BCE.
Antigonus II Mattathias was the last Hasmonean king, but not the last Hasmonean. The year he was executed, King Herod married Antigonus II Mattathias niece Mariamne.
Mariamne convinced Herod to appoint her brother Aristobulus III as high priest; the following year Herod had Aristobulus III executed. That same year, Herod had the Hyrcanus II return from Babylon to live in court as a honored guest, but had him executed in 30 BCE. And that ended the male Hasmonean line.
The Herodian Dynasty that would rule Judea over the next century had Hasmonean blood through Mariamne, who bore Herod two sons and two daughters. In their assimilation, they were a far, far cry from the family of priests from Modiin who, centuries before, had raised the banner of revolt against the Hellenization of Judea.
Join The Living Network of The Companies of Ten
The Living Network | Join Local group | About | Purpose | Guidelines | Network Removal
Contact Minister | Fractal Network | Audacity of Hope | Network Links