One other thing that Agrippa did to anger everyone hoping for a “purer” kingdom to come, was to “high-handedly” perpetuate the “wantonness” of his own virgin daughters. Josephus, bless him, tells us why they were so angered…
And thus did Agrippa depart this life. But he left behind him a son, Agrippa by name, a youth in the seventeenth year of his age, and three daughters, one of whom, Bernice, (he) married to Herod, his father’s brother, and was sixteen years old; the other two, Mariamne and Drusilla , were still virgins; the former was ten years old and Drusilla six. Now these his daughters were thus espoused by their father; Mariamne to Julius Archelaus Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus, the son of Chelcias; and Drusilla to the king of Commagena . Antiquities of the Jews XIX.IX.1
In the last post, Alexandra had prevailed upon Cleopatra to make Marc Antony demand that Herod come to Egypt to defend himself for killing her son, Mariamne’s younger brother; the seventeen year-old Hasmonean High Priest Jonathan Aristobulus. But now another woman is heard from: Salome, Herod’s sister who had hated Mariamne since those three years trapped with her on Masada—Mariamne took great freedoms, and reproached the rest for the meanness of their birth—told Herod that Mariamne had been unfaithful to him with her own husband and their uncle Joseph while he was gone—Herod had left Joseph to guard the two women during his absence with secret orders to kill them if he did not return. Herod confronted Mariamne in private but she convincingly denied any impropriety and Herod again made a declaration of his love for her… until…she said too much…
Mariamne said, “Yet was not that command thou gavest (to his uncle Joseph), that if any harm came to thee from Antony, I, who had been no occasion of it, should perish with thee, a sign of thy love to me?” When these words were fallen from her, the king was shocked at them, and presently let her go out of his arms, and cried out, and tore his hair with his own hands, and said, that now he had an evident demonstration that Joseph had had criminal conversation with his wife; for that he would never have uttered (his secret orders) unless there had been such a great familiarity between them. And while he was in this passion he had liked to have killed his wife; but being still overborne by his love to her…he only gave order to slay Joseph without permitting him to come into his sight; and as for Alexandra, he bound her, and kept her in custody, as the cause of all this mischief.Antiquities of the Jews XV.III.9
Herod consummated his marriage alliance with the young teenager Mariamne, officially making himself king to the Judeans, Samaritans and Galileans, having already been king by Roman appointment for three years. While he was away in Rome and since his return, he has been battling Antigonus son of Aristobulus…the current royal house…for the kingdom, though. Now, he had to rush back to Jerusalem to take the city and Antigonus, Mariamne’s uncle, who was barricaded in the Temple. Antigonus had actually been the King/High Priest for about three years before Herod could get his siege towers and Roman legions in place. But he now “stormed the city,” pleading with the Roman commander to not totally destroy it and leave him “king of a desert.” Thousands were killed and the city nearly destroyed but Antigonus was taken prisoner and was going to be shipped to Rome for Marc Antony’s victory parade but Herod feared that in Rome, Antigonus with his royal blood would plead his case before the Senate…
Out of Herod’s fear of this it was that he, by giving Antony a great deal of money, endeavoured to persuade him to have Antigonus slain.
And thus did the government of the Asamoneans cease,a hundred and twenty-six years after it was first set up. This family was a splendid and an illustrious one, both on account of the nobility of their stock, and of the dignity of the high priesthood, as also for the glorious actions their ancestors had performed for our nation: but these men lost the government by their dissensions one with another, and it came to Herod, the son of Antipater. Antiquities of the Jews XIV.XVI.4
The Fight Falls to the Women
The only thing was, the Hasmonean women did not know that it was the end. Josephus was writing with the benefit of one hundred years of hindsight—not to mention a male viewpoint. For the Hasmoneans left alive then, the struggle continued even though it now fell primarily to the women of the family…Queen Mother Alexandra and new young Mariamne I Queen of the Jews…locked into a marriage alliance with an Idumaean warrior in occupied Palestine that had just been through another devastating war with Jerusalem as good as destroyed.
One of the Great Romances
Josephus assures us that Herod and Mariamne loved one another and that their love rivaled that of any of the great loves of history such as Antony and Cleopatra, who were their friends. (Well, Antony was Herod’s friend and Cleopatra was Alexandra’s friend. Herod hated Cleopatra with a grand passion because they were rivals for Antony’s favors and she had an unfair womanly advantage. He repeatedly advised Antony to kill her.) Continue reading “Mariamne I Queen of the Jews”→
We should now have a slightly better understanding of the role that royal women could and did play in the political life of the Jewish nation…mostly through their marriage alliances and their advocacy for their children as heirs…but not always.
We have also seen the beginning of religious sects and political parties who will vie for dominance until the nation’s last days…the Sadducees, Pharisees, and the Essene. We know that there is a purist/priest/warrior faction/militia that believes in Holy Wars and bodily resurrection and/or resurrection as a star into heaven as a reward for martyrdom. We will see the rise of another cycle of this group as we go along from both Josephus and the New Testament…
As we approach that great dividing line in history, the B.C./A.D. year, I hope to show that all things progressed along a continuum. I don’t have the expertise or inclination or even space to show all of what befell this small nation, of course. Josephus wrote reams of pages on all of it and it is fascinating and one gets pulled this way and that…but…my red thread running through it all is the very fact of the existence of royal/noble women even if often unnamed.
The generation of women that were of an age to be the grandmothers of the people around Mary mother of Jesus crossed that B.C./A.D. divide—and how odd that there is a young virgin princess in a key political position on both sides of that time line….as we will see. Both these young girls, though two generations apart, carry with them the story of what happened next to the House of the Hasmoneans and the nation. Josephus gives speaking roles to their queens who will be the royal women in the New Testament. A good many of these women in both narrations will be named Mary/Mariamne. They are relevant and they have been “veiled,” both by Jewish historians and New Testament theologians alike…all because of a marriage alliance from Hell, as we will see.
As we pick up the story of the first Mariamne–daughter of Alexander son of King and High Priest Aristobulus son of Regent Salome Alexandra AND daughter of Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus Ethnarch and High Priest son of the same Salome–with both sides of the civil war in her very person, being the eldest child and not a boy…is about 9-10 years old and about to be betrothed….
Salome Alexandra and her husband, “King Jonathan”, as he was called and their two sons are all named in a Dead Sea Scroll titled Annalistic Calendar. Some places Salome is referred to as a Regent…a ruler, and other times as a Queen…meaning the wife of a king. “Shelamzion’s” mention does not really tell us anything about her, however, because it is so fragmentary; but it is a way to date that portion of the scrolls.
…[….) foundation, Shelamzion entered […] […] to receive […] […] Hyrcanus rebelled […]…(4Q322 Frag. 2. Also see 4Q324 with just her name.)
Stories of the Maccabees and royalty are full of the number seven. When Simon took over for his slain brother Jonathan:
(Simon) erected seven pyramids in a row, for his father and his mother and his four brothers… and …carved prows of ships, so that they could be seen by all who sailed the sea…I Maccabees 13:26-30, Antiquities of the Jews XIII. VI.5
The mother of Judas Maccabeus and his band of brothers must have been fierce, herself…and beloved. (I wish we knew her name!) But did her grandson—Simon’s son—John Hyrcanus, also try to honor his mother as a heroine and martyr? Looking at what comes next and again from hindsight and from a woman’s perspective, I think so. Bear with me a moment here.
John Hycanus’ mother—as we saw in the last post—was a daughter of the beloved martyred High Priest Onias III (my theory) and wife of Simon the Hasmonean who became the ruler and High Priest, in part, because of her marriage alliance with him—and was the mother of John Hyrcanus the next High Priest.
But, because John had just become the High Priest and it was a Sabbath Year, he had to leave his mother to die at the hands of their enemy. He would have tried to honor her, in my opinion—as he would have participated in his father Simon’s building of the pyramids including one for his mother. Anyway, dying as she did, her body was probably not retrieved for a burial that was required for a bodily resurrection. According to Judas Maccabee, John Hyrcanus’ uncle, bodily resurrection was the promised hero’s reward. But…as we saw in the post on Judas, perhaps a bodily resurrection was taking too long and something more was needed to honor their heroes. Consider this passage from the Book of Daniel written about this time…during or soon after what I call the Mother of All Wars:
Andmany of them that sleepin the dust of the earth shall awake… And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament…as the stars for ever and ever. Book of Daniel 12:2
Now look at this innocent little passage that comes shortly after the death of John Hyrcanus’ mother. He was besieged in Jerusalem by yet another Greek king, again taking advantage of the Sabbath Year and the Jews inability to fight then:
Andwhen he had burnt the country, he shut up Hyrcanus in the city, which he encompassed round with seven encampments…they were once in want of water, which yet they were delivered from by a large shower of rain, which fell at the setting of the Pleiades. Antiquities of the Jews XIII. VIII.2
This reference is one of two in Josephus relating to astrological events. The other one is the eclipse of the moon just days before King Herod died in 4 B.C. Josephus saw the eclipse as politically important, as we will see. Antiquities of the Jews XVII.VI.4
Most celestial events were applied to men, royal men or manly traits but the Pleiades were a group of seven stars well-known to ancients around the Mediterranean as some version of Seven Women (seven sisters, seven mothers, seven imams, seven stars). Maybe reading too much into it, maybe not, if you take into account the subtle use of the number seven, for those who knew the Pleiades were seven stars…thereby using “seven’ twice in one passage, one could get a glimpse of a belief that Hyrcanus’ widowed martyred mother was residing now as a star in the firmament, sending rain to her besieged son.
Whether it went that far or not—and any honoring of a woman would be too much for some—this woman–even after her death will cause no end of trouble, as we will see next.
The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker, Harper & Row Publishers NYC 1983
During the war against the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes, Judas son of Matthias Hasmon and his priest militia developed a strict code of purity and called themselves “Hasid” meaning “separated”[i] as in ritually pure, as a way to prepare to fight their Holy War against the Greeks. Judas was seen as the nation’s only hope to defeat Antiochus. Even the priests in Jerusalem whom Judas attacked as collaborators and who wrote II Maccabees saw Judas as the nation’s “Savior” and called upon the prophet Jeremiah to hand him a golden sword to “strike down your adversaries.” (II Maccabees 15:9)
But Judas also seems to have begun or at least made popular, the belief in a bodily resurrection and rewards in heaven for those who died in the Holy War. Such a doctrine was helpful because the warriors knew they were on a suicide mission and most would be martyrs. While I Maccabees recorded the war from the warrior’s viewpoint, again, it is II Maccabees who adds a new dimension to the war…resurrection. Continue reading “A Widow with Seven Sons and the Resurrection”→
With Jeshua/Jesus son of Josedek and his new dynasty of High Priests in charge, we hear no more of strange women. But during the reign of Onias III, the fifteenth High Priest, it all came crashing down and for the same reason the House of David crashed: invasion. The Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes decided to conquer tiny Judah in the 160s B.C. The war is captured in The Books of the Maccabees in the Apocrypha and by Josephus using those books.
The book of I Maccabees tells the story from the point of view of Judas the Hammer who rose up against “Epiphanes”…a name that means “god”…making their resistance a Holy War. II Maccabees is written from the point of view of the priests in Jerusalem. Both sides tell the gruesome story of Antiochus’ plan to make Jerusalem “the common graveyard of the Jews.” Pigs and prostitutes were brought into the Temple and priests were forced to offer sacrifices to the Greek king. Mattathias son of Hasmon, a priest, killed another priest making the sacrifice and took off to the hills:
Let everybody who is zealous for the Law…come out after me.” I Maccabees 2
Brand new King David decided to deny Michal daughter of the first king Saul her right to bear an heir to their combined kingdom. It was now his kingdom and he had lots of wives in the way of the known world at that time. David had lots of wives and lots of heirs…the priest’s worst nightmare. And, predictably, in the way of kingdoms and harems, the court then revolved around which wife’s son would be his heir. Mothers of sons played politics both at court and in their bedroom during their designated visit from the king. When the wives of the sons of David were incorporated into the harem as “daughters of King David,” they were treated as young goddesses who probably liked to flaunt their own bloodlines and youthful beauty…but…as Michal found out…David demanded their worship…and no laughing..he wrote a Psalm about them.
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces…Kings’ daughters were among thy honourable women: upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house; So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him. Psalm 45:8-11, KJV
First there was Sarah who was in the Book of Genesis as the wife of Abraham…who wasn’t technically a king…more the father of the nation with Sarah as its mother.
Sarah who laughed also…Genesis 17
5God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife…I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”17Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”
YHWY was rather long-suffering where special births were concerned…even into New Testament times, as we will see.
How to Choose your First King
But remember that the political nation of Israel had been run by priests making the laws and a military commander fighting the wars. Eventually, though, the people demand a king to be like the other nations. The priests were immediately against it. Having an actual king meant their would be queens, foreign and domestic, and daughters of kings, sons with queen mothers, and royal arrogant women with no end of evil doings.
Even though the Priests pointed out all these problems repeatedly, the people still demand a king…perhaps hoping to get out from under the thumb of such a strong priesthood. Eventually, though, the priests agreed to do it while making sure that they could control the process. A king approved of by God; i.e., the priests, would have to be chosen and anointed by a High Priest.
But how do you chose a king without an established royal bloodline? The answer seemed to have been that you have a pure-blooded priest who was known to communicate with God choose the king. In order to have a priest pure enough, he must have a pure (blooded) mother. The priest who chose the first king was Samuel…so, reading backwards, Samuel was given a birth story with a mother who would represent the best/purest that a woman could be at the time. She would be a married Hebrew woman with a good genealogy who desperately wanted a son enough to agree to turn him over to the priests as a child. The lucky woman was named Hannah, we are told, and she has the first official special birth story. Parts of it should look familiar.
Hannah was one of Elkanah’s two wives. The gold standard for women was to have a son for her survival and her husband’s futurity. Hannah’s sister-wife already had a son and made Hannah’s life miserable because she did not. So Hannah went to the Tabernacle in Shiloh to pray for a son…
Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. And Hannah was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.(First Book of Samuel I:6-11)