Volume. XXXiii, No. 48
Sunday, 26 May 2019

From the Pastor’s Heart: Jerusalem (4)

In my previous article I briefly mentioned about the Ptolemy dynasty, which ruled over Israel for more than 120 years.  Ptolemy Soter was a satrap (322-307 B.C.), and then king (305-285) of Egypt, and he was the founder of the Ptolemy dynasty. At this point, we may want to glean some more insights about the Ptolemaic rule from the Jewish Encyclopedia as follows:


It was Ptolemy I. who brought Palestine and the Jews under the dominion of the Ptolemies.  After the death of Alexander the Great Cœle-Syria and Judea were apportioned to Laomedon, but Ptolemy I. took them from this weak prince—as Josephus maintains, at least as regards Jerusalem by deception as well as by persuasion.  Ptolemy appeared before the city (320 B.C.), pretending that he wished to sacrifice, and seized it on a Sabbath, a day on which the Jews did not fight. . . . On this occasion Ptolemy I. is said to have taken many captives from Jerusalem and from the rest of Judea as well as from Samaria, and to have settled them in Egypt. Furthermore, since he knew how sacred an oath was for the Jews, he is said to have used them to garrison important strongholds ("Ant." l.c.).  Josephus adds that thereafter many Jews went voluntarily to Egypt to live, partly on account of the excellence of the land and partly on account of the kind treatment accorded them by Ptolemy (ib.).


Elsewhere also the kindness of the Ptolemies toward the Jews is highly praised by Josephus ("Contra Ap." ii., §§ 4, 5); and this especially in comparison with the cruel persecutions which the Jews suffered later at the hands of the Seleucidæ in Syria.  In fact, the policy of the leading circles in Jerusalem was always to rely on the Ptolemies in opposition to the Seleucidæ.  But that manifested itself only in the course of time. As regards the early period the statements of Josephus are very doubtful, since both the early settlement of Jews in Egypt—which, at least in the case of Alexandria, is said to have taken place under Alexander the Great—and their military virtues seem to have been assumed for apologetic reasons when the hatred of the Jews, proceeding from Alexandria, made an apology desirable.  According to a later authority, no less than 30,000 Jewish soldiers were placed in Egyptian forts (Aristeas Letter, ed. Wendland, § 13). Something similar must at any rate have happened later; for a "camp of the Jews" is explicitly mentioned, and military achievements of the Jews are certainly spoken of.  It is positive that the legal organization of the Egyptian Jews, as in fact the whole legal organization of the Ptolemaic state, was instituted by Ptolemy I.  It can hardly be doubted that he gave the Jews at Alexandria equal rights (ἰσοπολιτεία) with the incoming Macedonians.


Ptolemy went to Palestine several times on military expeditions, e.g., in the campaign of the year 320, and in that of 312, which ended with the battle of Gaza.  Although he was victorious, he found it expedient to evacuate Palestine for the time being; and on his departure he caused the strongholds of Acre (Acco), Joppa, Gaza, Samaria, and Jerusalem to be razed to the ground (see Appian, "Syriaca," § 50). According to the testimony of Hecatæus of Abdera, whom Josephus ("Contra Ap." i., § 22) cites, many Jews felt impelled on this occasion to move to Egypt, and the generally respected high priest Hezekiah also attached himself to Ptolemy.  It was, in truth, difficult for Egypt to retain Palestine in opposition to the newly arisen Syrian kingdom, but Ptolemy I. and his successors never relinquished their claim to the cities of Gaza, Joppa, and Jerusalem.  The wars which were waged for these places between the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ, and the sufferings which ensued therefrom for the Jews, are graphically described in Dan. xi.; the "king of the south" in verse 5 of that chapter referring to Ptolemy I. (see Jerome in the name of Porphyrius ad loc.).


The Seleucidan Rule

The Seleucidan rulers in Syria were always interested in the land of Israel.  However, they could not capture the land till the time of Antiochus the Great around 198 B. C.   The Jews of their own accord went over to him and supplied his army with plentiful provisions.  Here is a testimony of the same encyclopedia:

“Josephus produces letters in which Antiochus records his gratification at the reception given him by the Jews and grants them various privileges (same place).  We have an account of the prosperity of the city about this time (190–180 BC) by Jesus ben Sira in the Book of Ecclesiasticus; it is a city of crowded life and manifold activities.  He refers in glowing terms to the great high priest, Simon ben Onias (226–199 BC), who (Ecclus 50:1–4) had repaired and fortified the temple and strengthened the walls against a siege.  The letter of Aristeas, dated probably at the close of this great man’s life (circa 200 BC), gives a similar picture.  It is here stated that the compass of the city was 40 stadia.  The very considerable prosperity and religious liberty which the Jews had enjoyed under the Egyptians were soon menaced under the new ruler; the taxes were increased, and very soon fidelity to the tenets of Judaism came to be regarded as treachery to the Seleucid rule.” 


Antiochus Epiphanes

A temporary peace in Jerusalem was soon gone as Antiochus Epiphanes came into power.  Under his rule, “the Hellenization of the nation grew apace (2 Macc 4:9–12; Ant, XII, v, 1).  See how things began to change in Jerusalem: “at the request of the Hellenizing party a “place of exercise” was erected in Jerusalem (1 Macc 1:14; 2 Macc 4:7 f).  The Gymnasium was built and was soon thronged by young priests; the Greek hat — the πέτασος - became the fashionable headdress in Jerusalem.  The Hellenistic party, which was composed of the aristocracy, was so loud in its professed devotion to the king’s wishes that it is not to be wondered at that Antiochus, who, on a visit to the city, had been received with rapturous greetings, came to think that the poor and pious who resisted him from religious motives were largely infected with leanings toward his enemies in Egypt.  The actual open rupture began when tidings reached Antiochus, after a victorious though politically barren campaign in Egypt, that Jerusalem had risen in his rear on behalf of the house of Ptolemy.  Jason, the renegade high priest, who had been hiding across the Jordan, had, on the false report of the death of Antiochus, suddenly returned and re-possessed himself of the city.  Only the Akra remained to Syria, and this was crowded with Menelaus and those of his followers who had escaped the sword of Jason” (Jewish Encyclopedia).


Antiochus sent his army against Jerusalem in 170 B. C., captured the city, massacred the people and despoiled the temple (1 Macc 1:20–24; Ant, XII, v, 3).  Two years later Antiochus was balked by Rome in Egypt (Polyb. xxix. 27; Livy xlv. 12) and he continued to strengthen his power grip in Israel.  “He sent his chief collector of tribute (1 Macc 1:29), who attacked the city with strong force and, by means of stratagem, entered it (1 Macc 1:30). After he had despoiled it, he set it on fire and pulled down both dwellings and walls. He massacred the men, and many of the women and children he sold as slaves (1 Macc 1:31–35; 2 Macc 5:24).”



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  • Deepest sympathy to Dn Wai Kin & Sis Mavis Wong on the passing of his mother in Malaysia.
  • Special thanks to those who provided hospitality to Rev Kyle Graham & family last week.
  • 33rd Anniversary Thanksgiving next Lord’s Day: Please invite your family members, relatives, neighbours, friends, & work colleagues to join us. Speaker: Rev Edward Paauwe. Invites are still available on literature table at entrance foyer.
  • The Anniversary Fellowship Lunch will be catered.
  • All non-designated offerings next week will be channelled to the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.
  • Church Roster: Please send your availability for Jul – Sep quarter no later than 1 Jun to hopebpcrosterer@gmail.com
  • Lunch Duty: This week: YAF. Next week: Neighbourhood Groups.  


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • Rev Kyle Graham’s ministries last week.
  • Working Bees
  • Journey mercies: Rev Kyle Graham & family (PtLincoln);  & others who have travelled.



  • Healing: Pastor Ki; Rev George van Buuren; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); and others in affliction.
  • God’s comfort in grief – Dn Wai Kin Wong & family.
  • Missions: Rev & Mrs Stephen Choi (PhnomPenh).
  • Anniversary Thanksgiving Service: Speaker – Rev Edward Paauwe; God’s guidance for Hope BPC.
  • Those away: Pastor Okman & Sis Myung Ki (S’pore/Korea).
  • Elder Stephen Lim: God’s guidance & preparation to start Wellspring Bible Church on 2 Jun in Glen Waverley, Melbourne.
  • Journey mercies:  Those who are travelling.






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