THE JEWISH WAR AGAINST SLAVERY (12/11/99)
(From the time of John Hyrcanus 1 to the Diaspora, 135 BCE - 135 CE)
The analyzation of the entire war encompasses more things than can be stated
accurately in one article or chapter; it warrants many books in actuality to cover
it completely, as it involves so many persons and events over so many years.
For the sake of avoiding confusion and to allow those who wish to research this in
greater detail, we have divided this chronology of the long war into 6 parts or
sections that cover different periods of the war;
(1) John Hyrcanus to King Herod (135 BCE-4 BCE)
(2) Death of King Herod to Masada (4 BCE-73 CE)
(3) The "Quiet Years" of Passive Resistance & Planning (74-114 CE)
(4) The Taking of Alexandria, Egypt by the Jews (115-116 CE)
(5) The Jewish Offensive Preparations (117-131 CE)
(6) The Culmination of the War & the Diaspora (132-135 CE)
To understand what was going on in each period, first one needs to determine and
define just who the 'Jews' are that are being spoken of at any given time and place.
We have done this for you so that you may get an overview and therefore a quicker
and better understanding of this as we tell it. Later, you may go and check on our
work through the references and by whatever other means may be at your disposal.
SECTION 1 (From John Hyrcanus to King Herod)
The successor to the Hasmonean ruler Simon Tharsi upon his death was his son
John Hyrcanus 1. This was in 135 BCE. John Hyrcanus was a leader and supporter
of the Sadducean party or sect of the Jews. To understand what this means, we must
first outline for you what these sects were about and how they stood in terms of
agreement or conflict with each other.
Simply stated, the Pharisees and Essenes were at variance with the Sadducees (and
the Romans) on the issue of slavery. As to the Pharisees, Josephus says; "...they follow
the conduct of reason..." Meaning a) ethics, and b) that the leaders of the Pharisees
were not 'religious', as in following after 'beliefs' over practicality, and c) "...they
also pay respect to such (as) that are in years..." (i.e., they honored and respected
their elders). And furthermore, "...they do not take away the freedom from men..."
Which indeed means that they were adverse to the idea of slavery. (Ref. Josephus,
Whiston translation, page 376-377).
As to the Essenes, Josephus says; "This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs,
which will not suffer anything to hinder them from having all things in common; so
that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth than he who hath nothing at all."
At least until the time of Judas of Galilee, the Essenes were communists. Yet, "...
nor are (they) desirous to keep servants (slaves)." The Essenes too, were from the
earliest times against slavery. However, this same thing may NOT be said of the
The Sadducees insisted upon the strict observance and teaching of the written law
(and books) of Moses with nothing added to them or deviation from them. The
reason being, of course, to keep the people perpetually ignorant and obedient to
their authority, meaning subject to them in every way. In this way, the leadership
of the Sadducees hoped (planned) to retain their wealth, power and slaves.
To these things Josephus says; "...the Pharisees have delivered to the people a
great many observances by succession from their fathers (forefathers), which are
NOT written in the law of Moses: and for that reason it is that the Sadducees reject
them..." And, "...while the Sadducees are able to persuade none but the rich, and
have the populace obsequious to them, (but) the Pharisees have the multitude on
their side." (Ref. Jose. "Antiquities of the Jews," Whiston, pg. 281).
The fact of the matter was the people favored the Pharisees, while the rich and
powerful (i.e., the slave owners) favored the Sadducees. For info on the rift that
occurred between the leadership of the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the time of
John Hyrcanus 1 (135-106 BCE), see the works of Flavius Josephus (Whiston
translation), page 281.
The Pharisees were the 'good guys'. They were actively reassessing issues like
government, the civil rights of the people, and practical matters and ethics for
everyday life. While the Sadducees did not want that at all, because they could
already see that the Pharisees had done too much to benefit the common persons
and as such would "spoil" them for the existing aggressively oppressive government.
Now it was that John Hyrcanus 1 was ruthlessly Pro-Sadducee and was adverse to
the people having any advantage that may be supplied by the Pharisees. And with
his passing in 106 BCE, his government and policies passed to his son Judas
Aristobulus 1, who held the office of government over the Jews for a short time
and then passed away as well. The wife of Aristobulus 1 then, who was the Queen,
married his brother Alexander 1 Janneus. This Alexander 1 Janneus, was also most
ruthless in his decrees and works against the Pharisees and the people and so was
much hated by the populace for this. He ruled then with his brother's wife Salome
(Regent) Alexandra 1 from 105 BCE to 79 BCE. During these times, it must be
noted, that the war was going on. It was in fact because of the war that such matters
happened to bring about the end of Alexander 1 Janneus and forced him to form a
plan upon his deathbed.
For things were is such a state that he feared the very end of the Hasmonean dynasty.
So, he confided in his wife the idea that he had that he had hoped would preserve it.
His wife was not to let on that he had died when he did, but instead return back to
the city as if in victory over their enemies and then call the leaders of the Pharisees
in so as to make a deal with them. And this was that they (the Pharisees) agree to let
her remain as regent (Queen) and leave the Hasmonean dynasty to exist; and in
exchange, she granted them all power over the government. And this indeed, shows
the degree of the struggle even in those times. Salome Alexandra (Regent) 1, then
continued to rule after the death of her husband Alexander 1 from 79 to 70/69 BCE.
One of the focal points in the war occurred upon the death of Salome Alexandra,
as that is apparently what led to a great civil battle within the war as a whole.
Whereupon she served as a figurehead and whether reluctant or not, supporter of
the Pharisees. Her son, then after her, likewise served the same purpose. He was
John Hyrcanus II. He ruled from the time of his mother's death in 70 BCE till 40
BCE, and he was finally put to death by King Herod in 31 BCE. Even though the
Pharisees were in great power in Judea, the Romans and rulers elsewhere were
still in opposition and the fighting continued. The very cave systems that were
employed for military use later in the war were already being used for that purpose
in these earlier times. (Ref. Jose. "Wars of the Jews," Whiston, pg. 447)
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