Wars of the Jews     by Flavius Josephus
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Book I, Chapter 2

Concerning The Successors Of Judas, Who Were Jonathan And Simon, And John Hyrcanus

1. When Jonathan, who was Judas's brother, succeeded him, he behaved himself with great circumspection in other respects, with relation to his own people; and he corroborated his authority by preserving his friendship with the Romans. He also made a league with Antiochus the son. Yet was not all this sufficient for his security; for the tyrant Trypho, who was guardian to Antiochus's son, laid a plot against him; and besides that, endeavored to take off his friends, and caught Jonathan by a wile, as he was going to Ptolemais to Antiochus, with a few persons in his company, and put him in bonds, and then made an expedition against the Jews; but when he was afterward driven away by Simon, who was Jonathan's brother, and was enraged at his defeat, he put Jonathan to death.

2. However, Simon managed the public affairs after a courageous manner, and took Gazara, and Joppa, and Jamnia, which were cities in his neighborhood. He also got the garrison under, and demolished the citadel. He was afterward an auxiliary to Antiochus, against Trypho, whom he besieged in Dora, before he went on his expedition against the Medes; yet could not he make the king ashamed of his ambition, though he had assisted him in killing Trypho; for it was not long ere Antiochus sent Cendebeus his general with an army to lay waste Judea, and to subdue Simon; yet he, though he was now in years, conducted the war as if he were a much younger man. He also sent his sons with a band of strong men against Antiochus, while he took part of the army himself with him, and fell upon him from another quarter. He also laid a great many men in ambush in many places of the mountains, and was superior in all his attacks upon them; and when he had been conqueror after so glorious a manner, he was made high priest, and also freed the Jews from the dominion of the Macedonians, after one hundred and seventy years of the empire [of Seleucus].

3. This Simon also had a plot laid against him, and was slain at a feast by his son-in-law Ptolemy, who put his wife and two sons into prison, and sent some persons to kill John, who was also called Hyrcanus. (2) But when the young man was informed of their coming beforehand, he made haste to get to the city, as having a very great confidence in the people there, both on account of the memory of the glorious actions of his father, and of the hatred they could not but bear to the injustice of Ptolemy. Ptolemy also made an attempt to get into the city by another gate; but was repelled by the people, who had just then admitted of Hyrcanus; so he retired presently to one of the fortresses that were about Jericho, which was called Dagon. Now when Hyrcanus had received the high priesthood, which his father had held before, and had offered sacrifice to God, he made great haste to attack Ptolemy, that he might afford relief to his mother and brethren.

4. So he laid siege to the fortress, and was superior to Ptolemy in other respects, but was overcome by him as to the just affection [he had for his relations]; for when Ptolemy was distressed, he brought forth his mother, and his brethren, and set them upon the wall, and beat them with rods in every body's sight, and threatened, that unless he would go away immediately, he would throw them down headlong; at which sight Hyrcanus's commiseration and concern were too hard for his anger. But his mother was not dismayed, neither at the stripes she received, nor at the death with which she was threatened; but stretched out her hands, and prayed her son not to be moved with the injuries that she suffered to spare the wretch; since it was to her better to die by the means of Ptolemy, than to live ever so long, provided he might be punished for the injuries he done to their family. Now John's case was this: When he considered the courage of his mother, and heard her entreaty, he set about his attacks; but when he saw her beaten, and torn to pieces with the stripes, he grew feeble, and was entirely overcome by his affections. And as the siege was delayed by this means, the year of rest came on, upon which the Jews rest every seventh year as they do on every seventh day. On this year, therefore, Ptolemy was freed from being besieged, and slew the brethren of John, with their mother, and fled to Zeno, who was also called Cotylas, who was tyrant of Philadelphia.

5. And now Antiochus was so angry at what he had suffered from Simon, that he made an expedition into Judea, and sat down before Jerusalem and besieged Hyrcanus; but Hyrcanus opened the sepulcher of David, who was the richest of all kings, and took thence about three thousand talents in money, and induced Antiochus, by the promise of three thousand talents, to raise the siege. Moreover, he was the first of the Jews that had money enough, and began to hire foreign auxiliaries also.

6. However, at another time, when Antiochus was gone upon an expedition against the Medes, and so gave Hyrcanus an opportunity of being revenged upon him, he immediately made an attack upon the cities of Syria, as thinking, what proved to be the case with them, that he should find them empty of god troops. So he took Medaba and Samea, with the towns in their neighborhood, as also Shechem, and Gerizzim; and besides these, [he subdued] the nation of the Cutheans, who dwelt round about that temple which was built in imitation of the temple at Jerusalem; he also took a great many other cities of Idumea, with Adoreon and Marissa.

7. He also proceeded as far as Samaria, where is now the city Sebaste, which was built by Herod the king, and encompassed it all round with a wall, and set his sons, Aristobulus and Antigonus, over the siege; who pushed it on so hard, that a famine so far prevailed within the city, that they were forced to eat what never was esteemed food. They also invited Antiochus, who was called Cyzicenus, to come to their assistance; whereupon he got ready, and complied with their invitation, but was beaten by Aristobulus and Antigonus; and indeed he was pursued as far as Scythopolis by these brethren, and fled away from them. So they returned back to Samaria, and shut the multitude again within the wall; and when they had taken the city, they demolished it, and made slaves of its inhabitants. And as they had still great success in their undertakings, they did not suffer their zeal to cool, but marched with an army as far as Scythopolis, and made an incursion upon it, and laid waste all the country that lay within Mount Carmel.

8. But then these successes of John and of his sons made them be envied, and occasioned a sedition in the country; and many there were who got together, and would not be at rest till they brake out into open war, in which war they were beaten. So John lived the rest of his life very happily, and administered the government after a most extraordinary manner, and this for thirty-three entire years together. He died, leaving five sons behind him. He was certainly a very happy man, and afforded no occasion to have any complaint made of fortune on his account. He it was who alone had three of the most desirable things in the world, the government of his nation, and the high priesthood, and the gift of prophecy. For the Deity conversed with him, and he was not ignorant of any thing that was to come afterward; insomuch that he foresaw and foretold that his two eldest sons would not continue masters of the government; and it will highly deserve our narration to describe their catastrophe, and how far inferior these men were to their father in felicity.

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Matt Curtin
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