Tuesday, May 19, 2020

When Greece and Rome Vied For Jerusalem

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                                                               
The House of David ruled Israel with Solomon dying in 920 BCE and his son, Rehoboam (933-917)  taking over.  At the same time, Rehoboam's ruling on taxes followed Solomon's wishes that were not the peoples, and so a split happened and Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, superintendent of forced labor, (933-912) took over the Northern 10 tribes.  They had had a Civil War and remained divided in Israel and Judah.  Israel lost their land and people when  the kingdom of Assyria had attacked them and took away the best they had, including their people in 721 BCE.  This was followed by the the Babylonians who had taken the Assyrians in 597-586 BCE who took the Jews to Babylonia.  Many Babylonian Jews had been freed by King Darius in 538 BCE to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple!  It had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Not all Jews returned.  
           Back  when Greece had become the new powerhouse and took over Judah, the Jewish kings had lost control.  Antiochus was the name of 13 Greek kings of the House of Seleucus who ruled Syria in the Hellenistic Period and it was Antiochus III who reigned from 223 to 187 BCE and was the most involved with Judah.  
Babylon with 200,000 population

Antiochus III transferred 2,000 Jewish families from Babylon to Lydia and Phrygia.  These were Jews who had not returned to Jerusalem when others by when King Darius had freed them to return and rebuild the first Temple.   Then he captured Jerusalem in 198 BCE.  Antiochus treated the Jews with some understanding.  

Then along came Antiochus IV Epiphanes who reigned from 175 to 163 BCE.  He was turned back by Rome on his 2nd expedition  against Egypt in 168 BCE and so he occupied Jerusalem, plundered the Temple treasure, and tried to hellenize Judea by force  in order to convert it into a reliable frontier province.   This brought about an uprising which Antiochus suppressed with great cruelty.  Thousands of Jews were killed and many were sold into slavery.  

Antiochus brought in foreign people into Jerusalem and fortified the ACRA (Fortress)  a stronghold of the Hellenizers to dominate the city.  He started a fierce religious persecution of the Jews by forbidding circumcision and observing the Sabbath.

He desecrated the Temple altar and set up pagan altars in the provincial towns, and then compelled the Jews to participate in pagan ceremonies.  
Maccabees fighting Greek soldiers

His excesses caused the Hashmonean uprising.  A priest in Jerusalem by the name of Mattathias had a son named Judah.  They were called the Maccabees.  They led this revolt.  They were very brave to do so as Antiochus had large forces of trained soldiers, weapons galore and even war elephants.  All Judah Maccabee had was a small band of followers who were devoted to the Law of G-d through Moses. Judah knew the land of Israel when the Greeks didn't.  The land had twisted hills and valleys, mountains and caves, forests and desert.  There were places where he and his men could hide.  They fought gorrilla-style; hide and reappear suddenly, striking the enemy when least expected.  

However, when Judah Maccabee captured Jerusalem in 165 BCE, he failed to  take the Acra.  The fortress continued in Greek occupation until 142 BCE when it was occupied by Simon the Hasmonean,(brother of Judas)  and the Greek garrison and Hellenizers who had escaped there were expelled.   That was enough to give them the miracle of victory over the Greeks. For the first time in history, a people fought a war to gain freedom of religion.   

Pope Alexander VI, born Rodrigo de Borja, was Pope from 11 August 1492 until his death in 1503. Born into the prominent Borgia family in Xàtiva in the Crown of Aragon, Rodrigo studied law at the University of Bologna.  This was much later happening In Italy at the time of the
Spanish Inquisition; quite a surprise. Two of Alexander's successors, Sixtus V and Urban VIII, described him as one of the most outstanding popes since Saint Peter even though he was controversial.  

Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella requested a papal bull establishing an inquisition in Spain in 1478Pope Sixtus IV granted a bull permitting the monarchs to select and appoint two or three priests over forty years of age to act as inquisitors.

Jews were living in Rome by 139 BCE in a Jewish community.   Judah and Rome had close relations, possibly in trading, and then of course, Jewish slaves were brought to Rome and reinforced the Jewish communities already started.  Catacombs show that Jews there came from 12 different communities during this classical period.  Future Popes felt that Jewish "insolence" and influence should be suppressed, but allowed them to worship.  Rome treated Jews better than other places did when they were expelling them.  In Rome, they were treated with a "modicum of humanity." The Pope during the days of the Borgias was  different from Popes later.  They were more like kings. This one even had 2 powerful children.         
Roman Nicea Christian Council 325 CE
Questioning what Christianity was to be about; crushing Judaism

(Christians and Jews wonder today what would have happened if Judaism had been erased at this point in time as the Romans tried to do.  There would have been no Jesus to be followed as he was a Jew  tweaking Judaism, not crushing it as the Romans tried to do.  It would take the Roman Emperors later in their conversion to try again to stamp out Judaism by re-addressing the concept Jesus had brought to them.)
Roman soldiers questioning a Jewish man,
one down on ground from brutality to these men
reading Hebrew books 

We remember this occasion today with a holiday we've celebrated ever since; Chanukah.  We have a game we play with a dreidel, a top we spin with letters on it that tells us how we win the pot.  It started with this as a cover-up to fool the Greek soldiers when coming across a few Jews.  They said they were playing this gambling game, but they were really studying the Torah (the 1st 5 books of Moses-now the 1st 5 in the Old Testament)  , something forbidden.  

For 100 years, the descendents of Mattathias ruled an independent Jewish state.  This family had produced great, even outstanding soldiers, but alas, they didn't turn out to be such kings.  The century of their rulers were almost wrecking the country of Judah.  

It came to the point where 2 Maccabean princes were in competition to rule.  they realized that their arguments might start a civil war, and that had happened long ago when King Solomon had died and their Israel had divided into North and South-North being Israel and South being Judah.  They fought each other.  Jerusalem stayed with Judah, and it was the land that cared the most for the religion, having Jerusalem so close to influence them.  These two princes looked for someone to choose between them like a wise prophet.  In the end they chose a Roman general who was handy, being in the area.  

The Roman general was indeed a general only, and not so wise.  He ignored both men, had no such good intentions,  and made Eretz Yisrael part of the Roman Empire.   The 2 princes had been terribly naive!  

"The Roman army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with Tiberius Julius Alexander as his second-in-command, besieged and conquered the city of Jerusalem, which had been controlled by Judean rebel factions since 66 CE, following the Jerusalem riots of 66, when the Judean provisional government was formed in Jerusalem. "

Independence from foreign nations had only lasted for a century.  It would be more than 2,000 years before the descendants of Jacob  would again be masters of their homeland.   That wasn't the end of their trying, though, before much time went by.                                                          

Rome had become the new powerhouse, ruling Eretz Yisrael and the rest of the Middle East, and would include Britain, most of Europe, and all of North Africa.
Governors of their lands were hardened soldiers with their own goals was making money.  They would steal as much as they could before being transferred to other posts.  One even took gold from the Temple treasury for his own personal use.  When the Jews found out and protested, thousands were massacred.  

The country was in rebellion again.  Tiny Judea (Roman change in name from Judah) challenged this mightiest world's empire.  It was another David and Goliath story.  Of course the Romans weren't ruffled and knew this would be an easy victory.  They were fooled, though, as it turned out to be a 4 year struggle for them that made them as angry as a million bees.  Finally after 4 long years they reached the gates of Jerusalem and surrounded the city.  The Jews kept them at bay for 5 long-enduring months.  

On the 9th day of the month of Av ( July-August) on the Jewish calendar in 70 CE, the Roman battering rams smashed through the walls of Jerusalem.  Soon the great 2nd Temple  of Solomon was in flames.  It hadn't been easy on the Jews, either.  They were all starving to death during this period as they were cut off from food supplies.  
A few had escaped before the serious closure was complete, but most all were caught inside.  We remember this defeat to this day every year by a fast on this date.  "Tisha B'Av (Hebrewתִּשְׁעָה בְּאָבˈ lit. "the ninth of Av") is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon's Temple by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the Second Temple by the Roman Empire in Jerusalem".  Jews were then taken as slaves for the various bloodthirsty uses Romans had such as the circuses with the lions.
 A Young Person's History of Israel 2nd edition, by David Bamberger
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Netflix, Borgia


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