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CHAPTER XVI.—JEWISH HISTORY BETWEEN THE TIMES

OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT. MALACHI, the last of the ancient sacred prophets, foretold the advent of Jesus Christ, and the coming of his fore-runner John the Baptist, about four hundred years before those momentous events. A general idea of the state of the Jews, during the interval, from the best historical sources, must be desirable and important to every reader of the Bible: a few brief notices, therefore, of that period will be given in this chapter.

Nehemiah was contemporary with Malachi; but how long he lived at Jerusalem after his reformation of the religious and political affairs of the Jews we have no means of precisely ascertaining. After his decease, Judea appears to have been added to the prefecture of Syria, and it remained altogether subject to the Persian governor of that province, under whom the high-priest prescribed, and enforced such laws of general policy as he might think proper, or the state of things required. Even the high-priest himself, in some instances, was appointed by the governor.

Alexander the Great, procuring himself to be chosen general of the Grecian forces against the Persians, defeated their army in Cilicia, under Darius their sovereign, B. c. 333. He then subdued ali Syria and Phenicia, and marched into Judea, to punish the Jews for supplying his enemies with provisions, while they refused such assistance to him. Jaddua, the high-priest, hearing of his approach, called upon the people to unite with him in sacrifices and prayer, that God would avert the threatening calamity. Having humbled themselves before the Lord, it was communicated to Jaddua in a dream that he should go and meet the conqueror, robed in his pontifical habits, and accompanied by all the priests in their sacerdotal garments. Attended by a numerous body of the people dressed in white, they thus marched in solemn procession to an eminence called Sapha, which

commanded a view of the temple and of the whole city. The king approached, but was so struck with profound awe, at the extraordinary spectacle, that instead of indulging in revenge, he hastened forward and saluted the man of God with religious veneration. All stood amazed at his singular behaviour; and Parmenio, a favourite of the king, asked the reason of this act of unexpected homage. To this Alexander is said to have replied, that the worship was not offered to the priest, but to his God; in grateful acknowledgment for a vision at Dio, in Macedonia; in which this very priest, and in this very habit, appeared to him promising to give him the empire of Persia.

Haying cordially embraced Jaddua, it is said that Alexander entered Jerusalem, and offered up sacrifices in the temple. The high-priest showed him the prophecies of Daniel, which foretold the subversion of the Persian empire by a Grecian king: by reading these, Alexander went against Darius with still greater confidence of success in his expedition ; and, at the request of Jaddua, granted the Jews the free exercise of their religion, the observance of their laws, and exemption from the payment of tribute every seventh year, in which the law required that they should neither reap nor sow. Alexander defeated the immense army of Darius, and the predictions of Daniel were accomplished in his overthrow of the Persians, Dan. ii. 39; viii. 2. 5. 7. 20, 21 ; x. 20; xi. 2–4.

The conqueror greatly favoured the Jews, and Egypt having submitted to his power, he built Alexandria, and induced multitudes of that people to settle in the new city, granting them equal privileges with the Macedonians. This mighty conqueror died, aged only thirty-two years, B. c. 323; all his family were murdered, and four of his generals divided among themselves the vast dominions of their royal master.

Egypt fell to the lot of Ptolemy Lagus, who invaded Judea, and led a hundred thousand of its people captives into his country: but treating them liberally, many were

glad to follow their brethren, on account of the misera ble condition into which wars had plunged their native land.

In the year B. C. 292, Simon, surnamed the just, highpriest of the Jews, died. He was a man of singular wisdom and virtue, and the last of the men of the great synagogue, consisting of one hundred and twenty persons, appointed by Ezra for perfecting the restoration of the Jewish church. Simon the just, it is considered, made the last revision of the books of the Old Testament, and completed the sacred canon by adding the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Malachi.

The Jews in Egypt forgetting the Hebrew language, procured the sacred books to be translated into Greek for their use, and a copy of them was placed in the royal library of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about the year B. c. 284. This translation of the Scriptures into Greek, which is called the septuagint, became commonly used in all the churches of the Jews wherever they were dispersed. “ This version, therefore,” as Rollin observes," which renders the Scriptures of the Old Testament intelligible to a vast number of people, became one of the most considerable fruits of the Grecian conquests. In this manner did God prepare the way for the preaching of the gospel, which was then approaching, and facilitate the union of so many nations, of different languages and manners into one society, and the same worship and doctrines, by the instrumentality of the finest, most copious, and correct language that was ever spoken in the world, and which became common to all the countries that were conquered by Alexander.”

For more than a century, Judea suffered grievously in the continual wars of Alexander's successors; especially from Antiochus, surnamed by himself Epiphanes, the illustrious, but by others Epimanes, the madman. He de. posed Onias, the pious high-priest of the Jews, and sold the sacred office, for an annual tribute of 360 talents, to his brother Jason. Him he soon deposed, and again sold

it to his brother Menelaus for 660 talents. On a false report that Epiphanes was dead, Jason attempted to recover the priesthood; with a thousand soldiers he entered Jerusalem, and by the sword, and with various torments, he put to death all whom he considered his adversaries. Antiochus having heard that the Jews rejoiced at his death, and supposing that all the nation had revolted, took Jerusalem by storm, the year B. C. 170: he slew 40,000 persons, and sold as many more for slaves; and plundered the temple of its splendid furniture to the amount of 800 talents of gold. In contempt of the God of Israel, he entered the holy of holies, and sacrificed a sow upon the altar of burnt-offering. Antiochus then returned to Antioch, laden with the riches of his spoils, appointing Philip, a barbarous Phrygian, governor of Judea ; Andronicus, a wicked wretch, to preside in Samaria; and the unprincipled Menelaus to the high priesthood.

In his fourth expedition to Egypt, ambassadors from the Roman people arrived, and threatened him with the vengeance of their victorious legions unless he withdrew his forces. Infuriated to madness by their authoritative interference, he led back his army through Palestine, and despatched Apollonius with twenty thousand of his soldiers, with orders to destroy Jerusalem, to put to the sword all the men, and to make slaves of all the women and children. These commands were executed with savage fierceness on the sabbath-day, when the people were assembled for public worship; and none escaped but those who could reach the mountains by flight, or who concealed themselves in caverns of the earth. The city was spoiled of its riches by these impious invaders, and set on fire in several places: they broke down its walls and demolished the houses, and with the materials they erected a strong fortress on mount Acra; which, overlooking the temple, the garrison were ready to sally forth and murder those who dared to approach it as worshippers.

On his arrival at Antioch, Antiochus published a decree, requiring all people in his dominions to conform to the religion of the Greeks; and Atheneus was commissioned to instruct the Jews in the Grecian idolatrous ceremonies, and to put to death, with the most grievous torments, those who refused compliance with his commands. Arriving at Jerusalem, he obtained the co-operation of some apostate Jews: he put down the daily sacrifice, suppressed all the public and private observances of the Jewish religion, defiled the temple of God itself, and rendered that sacred edifice unfit for divine worship. He also sought out every copy of the Scriptures, and burnt all that could be found; he dedicated the temple of Jehovah to Jupiter Olympus, erected his statue on the altar of burnt-offering, and punished with death all that could be found who had acted contrary to the decree of his sovereign.

Mattathias, a venerable priest of the Asmonean family, with his five sons, John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar, and Jonathan, retired from the persecution at Jerusalem, to their native city Modin, in the tribe of Dan. They were followed by Apelles, an officer of the king, who strove to compel them to observe the commands of Antiochus. The people being called together, Apelles ad. dressed Mattathias to engage his compliance with the idol worship, promising him a reward of great honour and riches. The aged priest not only rejected his offers, but slew the first apostate Jew who approached the idolatrous altar. He also rose upon the king's agent, and, with the assistance of his sons, put him to death with all his attendants, demolished the idols and their altars, and then withdrew to the mountains. Being joined by a number of his faithful countrymen, he marched through Judea; broke down the heathen altars in all the cities; restored circumcision; cut off the ministers of the idols, and those Jews who had apostatised to their abominations, and re-established the true worship of God, B. C. 167. Mattathias died the next year, appointing his son

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