A Queen Mother as a Two-Edged Sword

IMMACOLATA_IN_PIAZZA_DI_SPAGNAhttp://www.asianews.it/news-en/Like-Mary,-the-Church-carries-Jesus,-meets-the-opposition-of-a-fierce-adversary,-pope-says-23389.html
Rome (AsiaNews) – In a comprehensive reading of the Woman of the Book of Revelation in today’s act of veneration of the Immaculate Mary, symbolised by the statue of the Virgin that stands at the top of the column in Rome’s Spanish Square, Benedict XVI said that the Woman (Rev, 12:1) represents the Church, which like Mary “carries in its breast Christ and delivers him to the world”. Because of this, “because it carries Jesus, the Church too meets the opposition of a fierce adversary, represented by the apocalyptic vision of “a huge red dragon” (Rev, 12:3).

John Hyrcanus son of Simon the High Priest and Ruler of Judea and the unnamed daughter of the last Oniad High Priest, (my theory) ran into a bit of trouble because of his mother. If he had indeed tried to deify his “sainted” mother by saying she was one of the stars in the Pleiades (see previous post), for instance, it created a backlash.  A frontal assault was made on her chastity as a way to stop him from officiating as the High Priest.

However, this prosperous state of affairs moved the Jews to envy Hyrcanus; but they that were the worst disposed to him were the Pharisees…Now Hyrcanus was a disciple of theirs, and greatly beloved by them. And when he once invited them to a feast… there was one of his guests there, whose name was Eleazar, a man of an ill temper, and delighting in seditious practices. This man said, “(I)f thou wilt be righteous in earnest, lay down the high priesthood, and content thyself with the civil government of the people.” And when he desired to know for what cause he ought to lay down the high priesthood, the other replied, “We have heard it from old men, that thy mother had been a captive under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.”…This story was false, and Hyrcanus was provoked against them…  Antiquities of the Jew XIII.X.5 (Use of bold emphasis is mine.)

John’s mother may well have been held hostage/captive as a child of the High Priest Onias III who died in exile when the Greek King Antiochus Epiphanes occupied Judea. That was what nations did then. The implication, of course, was that Hyrcanus’ mother could not have made it through being held as a captive as a virgin—no matter how young she was at the time. (More later.) The point being that she wasn’t a virgin when she married Simon, which totally disqualified  her to be the wife of a High Priest…and more importantly, the mother of the next High Priest according to the law.

And he that is high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured…he shall take a wife in her virginity. A widow, or a divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take: but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife… Leviticus 21:10-15

The sect called the Pharisees arose at just this time in Josephus’ Jewish history. They had two main areas of contention with the Sadducees, the High Priestly sect: one was that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and all that stuff about heroes being up among the stars. And two, the Sadducees were the “conservatives,” wanting to keep the Laws as written and Pharisees, in some respects, were more liberal and wanted to make the laws more responsive to their times. (Yes, Red vs. Blue went back at least that far!) Josephus actually gives an example of a change the Pharisees made to the exact law quoted above.

As for the priests, he (Moses)… forbade them to marry harlots. He also forbade them to marry a slave or a captive, and such as got their living by cheating trades, and by keeping inns: as also a woman parted from her husband, on any account whatsoever. Nay, he did not think it proper for the high-priest to marry even a widow of one that was dead, though he allowed that to the priests; but he permitted him only to marry a virgin, and to retain her. Antiquities of the Jews III.XII.2  (My underline to illustrate the portion added by the Pharisees that would affect Hyrcanus’ mother.)

I feel they made the change in the Law expressly to be used against Hyrcanus’ mother as a way to challenge his right to be the High Priest. Almost all women in a war had to deal with being a hostage or a captive and therefore rape. But for High Priests’ mothers and wives, the necessity of virginity was written into Mosaic Law. Hyrcanus could not let the accusation against his mother stand, though. He had contributed to her martyed death. Nor could he let the challenge to his right to the High Priesthood stand. He left…

…the party of the Pharisees, and abolished the decree… and punished them that observed them…But when Hyrcanus had put an end to this sedition, and after that lived happily…and then died, leaving behind him five sons, he was esteemed by God worthy of the three privileges—government of his nation, the dignity of the high priesthood, and prophecy; for God was with him, and enabled him to know futurities.  Antiquities of the Jews XIII.X.7

The first version of the life of John Hyrcanus that Josephus wrote in his earlier Wars of the Jews I.II.8, did not mention this passage on John’s mother but he does add it to his revision in Antiquities. Often his rewrites are to include or exclude passages on royal women. He goes to great lengths to include the stories of royal Hasmonean women, as we will see—in part, I think, because, as we will also see later, his own mother was a royal Hasmonean descended from Jonathan son of Mattathias son of Hasmon.

But it wasn’t just ancient history and old myths. The Book of Revelation in the New Testament uses the number seven and seven stars that scholars take to be a reference to the Seven Sisters:

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Mary and the EU Flag…Our Lady’s Crown. …The European Union flag’s designer, Arsène Heitz, has acknowledged that the Book of Revelation (where the twelve-star halo of the Queen of Heaven was first mentioned) helped to inspire him. The date the flag was adopted, 8 December 1955, coincided with the Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a feast decreed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. http://allthingscatholic.tumblr.com/post/36694398500/mary-the-eu-flag-our-ladys-crown

And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…and he had in his hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword…The Revelation of St. John the Divine 1:12-16

Somewhere along the line, Mary became conflated with the queen in Revelation and the stars increased to twelve…but I think it is possible that the whole theme of a woman raised up into the firmament as a star, a very Catholic concept, might…in Judaism…go back to John Hyrcanus’ mother…just a thought. I sure wish we knew her name.

Cleopatra Thea, a Greek Queen in Syria

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Cleopatra Thea was the daughter of Ptolomy Philometor Greek ruler of Egypt. She is known to have been more beautiful than the famous Cleopatra who married Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony. There are several coins depicting her likeness. This one is from http://www.touregypt.net with information by Jimmy Dunn.

Though the Jews had no official royal women during this war and rule by priests—after the end of the Old Testament and before the New Testament—and their heroine was a priestly/pure widow named Judith, Josephus gives an example of the political marital life of a daughter of the Greek Ptolomy House that ruled in Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great. This Cleopatra lived during Jonathan’s reign, the brother and successor of Judas Maccabee the Savior and was one of seven Cleopatra’s. Josephus says…

Demetrius being thus slain in battleAlexander [Balas] took the kingdom of Syria; and wrote to Ptolemy Philometor, and desired his daughter in marriage; and said it was but just that he should be joined in affinity to one that had now received the principality of his forefathers… and that he was on other accounts not unworthy of being related to him. Ptolemy received this proposal of marriage gladly; and wrote him an answer…promising him that he would give him his daughter in marriage; and assured him that he was coming to meet him at Ptolemais…and would there marry his child to him. When Ptolemy had written thus, he came suddenly to Ptolemais, and brought his daughter Cleopatra along with him; and as he found Alexander there…he gave him his child in marriage, and for her portion gave her as much silver and gold as became such a king to give…

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Judith the Savior and the Mother of All Wars

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Judith is a Jewish heroine. Her name is meant to imply “Jewish” and some think it is a feminine version of Judas the Maccabee, Savior of Israel during the war in the 160s B.C.

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

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The Last Davidic Queen Mother

Eastern Icon of Mary and Queen Mother
An Eastern Orthodox Icon of Mary as Queen Mother. This one shows Mary’s mother and father, not in the gospels. http://www.ukrainianmuseumlibrary.org/images/icons/queen-mother-with-jesus-big.jpg.

The last Davidic king’s mother is mentioned twice using the actual term gebirah[i] (queen mother)…

Jehoiachin…“and his mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan.”  II Kings 24:8

She rode out with her son to be taken into captivity in Babylon. She was mentioned before his “princes.”

Then when tiny Judah was defeated in their battle against Nebuchadnezzar…And Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, and his mother and his servants, and his princes, and his officers: and the king of Babylon took him in the eighth year of his reign. II King 24:12

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Mother and Daughter Queens of the Divided Kingdom

D200px-Jezebel01id you know that the queen mother of every Davidic king is named in the Old Testament? It took me a while to figure that out. Bathsheba is not mentioned again after she was received in Solomon’s court as a queen mother (in the last post) and I hope she wasn’t around to see her son run amok in the queen/consort/strange women department.

But king Solomon loved many strange women… he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart…. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD… (with) all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. I Kings 11

This is the format used for naming Davidic kings with their mothers beginning with Solomon’s heir:

And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah, Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign…And his mother’s name was Naamah an Ammonitess. I Kings XIV.21, II Chronicles XII.13

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Hanna and the First Birth Story

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Hannah the Hebrew mother of Samuel the Priest and Prophet who anointed Saul the first King of the Hebrews. She has the first “birth story.”

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

5 God 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.” 17 Abraham 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’s Vow

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) 

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