In an attempt to get the number of people reading my Antiquities notes back up from what appears to be zero, I am switching to trickling incremental updates onto my blog, rather than in one swell foop for each book of the work. This post will be updated each time I post more Book XI comments.
So, on to Book Eleven:
Josephus, however, adduces a reason (XI.1.5):
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing: "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he has charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem." וּבִשְׁנַת אַחַת לְכוֹרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס לִכְלוֹת דְּבַר־ה׳ מִפִּי יִרְמְיָה הֵעִיר ה׳ אֶת־רוּחַ כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ־פָּרַס וַיַּעֲבֶר־קוֹל בְּכָל־מַלְכוּתוֹ וְגַם־בְּמִכְתָּב לֵאמֹר׃ כֹּה אָמַר כֹּרֶשׁ מֶלֶךְ פָּרַס כֹּל מַמְלְכוֹת הָאָרֶץ נָתַן לִי ה׳ אֱלֹהֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם וְהוּא־פָקַד עָלַי לִבְנוֹת־לוֹ בַיִת בִּירוּשָׁלִַם אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה׃ מִי־בָכֶם מִכָּל־עַמּוֹ יְהִי אֱלֹהָיו עִמּוֹ וְיַעַל לִירוּשָׁלִַם אֲשֶׁר בִּיהוּדָה וְיִבֶן אֶת־בֵּית ה׳ אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר בִּירוּשָׁלִָם׃
This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: "My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple." This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written.
XI.3 gives a story about Zerubavel which is not in the Bible, but which I have discovered from the online notes comes from the apocryphal book of 3 Esdras.
[Darius] awaked, and not being able to sleep any more, he fell into conversation with the three guards of his body, and promised, that to him who should make an oration about points that he should inquire of, such as should be most agreeable to truth, and to the dictates of wisdom, he would grant it as a reward of his victory, to put on a purple garment, and to drink in cups of gold, and to sleep upon gold, and to have a chariot with bridles of gold, and a head tire of fine linen, and a chain of gold about his neck, and to sit next to himself, on account of his wisdom; "and," says he, "he shall be called my cousin." Now when he had promised to give them these gifts, he asked the first of them, "Whether wine was not the strongest?"--the second, "Whether kings were not such?” — and the third, "Whether women were not such? or whether truth was not the strongest of all?"
Of course, the guard with whom the king is most impressed is the third one, who turns out to be Zerubavel, who goes on to say how all of the above derive in turn from the will of G-d.
About the building of the new Temple, Josephus says (XI.4.81):
Now the priests and Levites, and the elder part of the families, recollecting with themselves how much greater and more sumptuous the old temple had been, seeing that now made how much inferior it was, on account of their poverty, to that which had been built of old, considered with themselves how much their happy state was sunk below what it had been of old, as well as their temple. Hereupon they were disconsolate, and not able to contain their grief, and proceeded so far as to lament and shed tears on those accounts; but the people in general were contented with their present condition; and because they were allowed to build them a temple, they desired no more, and neither regarded nor remembered, nor indeed at all tormented themselves with the comparison of that and the former temple, as if this were below their expectations; but the wailing of the old men and of the priests, on account of the deficiency of this temple, in their opinion, if compared with that which had been demolished, overcame the sounds of the trumpets and the rejoicing of the people. spacer
But that's not what Ezra 3:10-13 says! It's really quite a touching moment in the Bible:
When the builders laid the foundation of the Temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks "to the LORD; because He is good, for His mercy endures for ever" toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were old men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off. וְיִסְּדוּ הַבֹּנִים אֶת־הֵיכַל ה׳ וַיַּעֲמִידוּ הַכֹּהֲנִים מְלֻבָּשִׁים בַּחֲצֹצְרוֹת וְהַלְוִיִּם בְּנֵי־אָסָף בַּמְצִלְתַּיִם לְהַלֵּל אֶת־ה׳ עַל־יְדֵי דָּוִיד מֶלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃ וַיַּעֲנוּ בְּהַלֵּל וּבְהוֹדֹת לַה׳ כִּי טוֹב כִּי־לְעוֹלָם חַסְדּוֹ עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכָל־הָעָם הֵרִיעוּ תְרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה בְהַלֵּל לַה׳ עַל הוּסַד בֵּית־ה׳׃ וְרַבִּים מֵהַכֹּהֲנִים וְהַלְוִיִּם וְרָאשֵׁי הָאָבוֹת הַזְּקֵנִים אֲשֶׁר רָאוּ אֶת־הַבַּיִת הָרִאשׁוֹן בְּיָסְדוֹ זֶה הַבַּיִת בְּעֵינֵיהֶם בֹּכִים בְּקוֹל גָּדוֹל וְרַבִּים בִּתְרוּעָה בְשִׂמְחָה לְהָרִים קוֹל׃ וְאֵין הָעָם מַכִּירִים קוֹל תְּרוּעַת הַשִּׂמְחָה לְקוֹל בְּכִי הָעָם כִּי הָעָם מְרִיעִים תְּרוּעָה גְדוֹלָה וְהַקּוֹל נִשְׁמַע עַד־לְמֵרָחוֹק׃
Incidentally, this serves as a nice rebuttal to those who claim no one got beyond middle age in ancient times. True, the average life expectancy may have only been thirty-something or forty-something, but that was due to high infant mortality. Once you got beyond that, the sides of the age pyramid were not vertical, as they are in our society—people could die at any age—but some got through to old age, and as we see here there were "many" old people who had seen the First Temple before its destruction living to see the foundations of the Second being laid seventy-one years later.
[ETA: Drat; this is wrong. The Wikipedia page on the Second Temple follows too slavishly Daniel 9:1-2, which in turn follows Jeremiah 29:10. The Second Temple may not have been completed until seventy years after the destruction of the first, following a long hiatus in the building, but its foundations were laid after only fifty years, as pointed out by the Soncino commentary on Ezra.]On to the Esther story. XI.5.120:
Moreover, there was now in Babylon a righteous man, and one that enjoyed a great reputation among the multitude. He was the principal priest of the people, and his name was Esdras. He was very skillful in the laws of Moses, and was well acquainted with king Xerxes. He had determined to go up to Jerusalem, and to take with him some of those Jews that were in Babylon; and he desired that the king would give him an epistle to the governors of Syria, by which they might know who he was.I don't know how Josephus dates Ezra to Xerxes when the the Bible clearly says (Esther 7:1-8):
Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah [...] went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him. [...] He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. וְאַחַר הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּמַלְכוּת אַרְתַּחְשַׁסְתְּא מֶלֶךְ־פָּרָס עֶזְרָא בֶּן־שְׂרָיָה [...] עָלָה מִבָּבֶל וְהוּא־סֹפֵר מָהִיר בְּתוֹרַת מֹשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר־נָתַן ה׳ אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּתֶּן־לוֹ הַמֶּלֶךְ כְּיַד־ה׳ אֱלֹהָיו עָלָיו כֹּל בַּקָּשָׁתוֹ׃ [...] וַיָּבֹא יְרוּשָׁלִַם בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי הִיא שְׁנַת הַשְּׁבִיעִית לַמֶּלֶךְ׃
Moving on, in XI.6.184 Josephus identifies Ahasuerus with Artaxerxes, following the tradition of the Apocryphal Book of Esther. Most scholars disagree, though, and identify him with Xerxes. Now, all three names have been dragged through a linguistic hedge backwards, as Greek lacked many of the sounds in the Persian such as š (like "sh" in English).
Personally, what I suspect happened to create the name Ahasuerus was Ḫšayāršā → אֲחַשְׁיַרְשׁ* → אֲחַשְׁוַרְשׁ† → אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹשׁ‡ → אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ.
* Other foreign words and names beginning ḫ- also get an initial /ă-/ in Hebrew, e.g. ḫšaθrapāvan (satrap) → אֲחַשְׁדַּרְפָּן.
† Scribal error due to the resemblance between י and ו.
‡ Corrupt tradition as to what the vowels were, which would at the time only have been oral tradition.
There are other odd names in the Greek: Hăthāch becomes Acratheus; Ḥarvonāh becomes Sabuchadas. Of course, these are Persian names, so possibly if you go to the Persian original it becomes more obvious how such different Hebrew and Greek forms can arise.
However, Josephus reads (XI.6.227):
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, "Don't think that you shall escape in the king's house, from the fate of all the Jews. For if you stay completely deaf [to our problems] at this time, then space and deliverance shall arise to the Jews from another place; but you and your father's house shall be destroyed—and who knows whether you have reached your regal position for such a time as this?" וַיֹּאמֶר מָרְדֳּכַי לְהָשִׁיב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּר אַל־תְּדַמִּי בְנַפְשֵׁךְ לְהִמָּלֵט בֵּית־הַמֶּלֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִים׃ כִּי אִם־הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר וְאַתְּ וּבֵית־אָבִיךְ תֹּאבֵדוּ וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ אִם־לְעֵת כָּזֹאת הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת׃
Now when the eunuch carried this message from Esther to Mordecai, he bade him also tell her that she must not only provide for her own preservation, but for the common preservation of her nation, for that if she now neglected this opportunity, there would certainly arise help to them from God some other way, but she and her father's house would be destroyed by those whom she now despised.Esther warns Mordechai that if she approaches the king unsummoned, she will face the death penalty if he does not extend his sceptre to her, then the Bible says (Esther 5:2):
However, Josephus (and, IIRC, the Apocryphal Esther) hike up the tension further (XI.6.234):
When the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she obtained favour in his sight; and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. וַיְהִי כִרְאוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת־אֶסְתֵּר הַמַּלְכָּה עֹמֶדֶת בֶּחָצֵר נָשְׂאָה חֵן בְּעֵינָיו וַיּוֹשֶׁט הַמֶּלֶךְ לְאֶסְתֵּר אֶת־שַׁרְבִיט הַזָּהָב אֲשֶׁר בְּיָדוֹ וַתִּקְרַב אֶסְתֵּר וַתִּגַּע בְּרֹאשׁ הַשַּׁרְבִיט׃
Yet did she go in to him with fear; and as soon as she was come over against him, as he was sitting on his throne, in his royal apparel, which was a garment interwoven with gold and precious stones, which made him seem to her more terrible, especially when he looked at her somewhat severely, and with a countenance on fire with anger, her joints failed her immediately, out of the dread she was in, and she fell down sideways in a swoon: but the king changed his mind, which happened, as I suppose, by the will of God, and was concerned for his wife, lest her fear should bring some very ill thing upon her, and he leaped from his throne, and took her in his arms, and recovered her, by embracing her, and speaking comfortably to her, and exhorting her to be of good cheer, and not to suspect any thing that was sad on account of her coming to him without being called, because that law was made for subjects, but that she, who was a queen, as well as he a king, might be entirely secure; and as he said this, he put the sceptre into her hand, and laid his rod upon her neck, on account of the law; and so freed her from her fear.
The Bible makes use, in Esther 8:17, of the unique verb לְהִתְיַהֶד, literally, "to be-Jew oneself":
Josephus interprets this as follows (XI.6.284):
And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king's commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them. וּבְכָל־מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה וּבְכָל־עִיר וָעִיר מְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר דְּבַר־הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ מַגִּיעַ שִׂמְחָה וְשָׂשׂוֹן לַיְּהוּדִים מִשְׁתֶּה וְיוֹם טוֹב וְרַבִּים מֵעַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ מִתְיַהֲדִים כִּי־נָפַל פַּחַד־הַיְּהוּדִים עֲלֵיהֶם׃
many even of other nations circumcised their foreskin for fear of the Jews, that they might procure safety to themselves thereby
At the end of the Esther chapter, in the middle of Book XI (covering the Persian period), the narrative runs out of Biblical source material (or so I thought; actually there's a few last passages from the Book of Nehemiah later on). I was looking forward to this, as I'm not very familiar with Second Temple history, and thought I would learn a lot.
Actually, as it turns out, Josephus covers the period between the close of the Bible and the beginning of the Hasmonean revolt, which he covers in a lot of detail, quite fast, and much of what comes in between I was already familiar with in the first place; though there were still passages that were completely new to me. I'm not blogging everything that's interesting, though; you'll just have to read the book yourselves!
For example, there's an extended story, in XI.8.306, (which I had come across beforehand), about how the Samaritans were re-Judaised (according to the Jewish account, and for the second time–for the first, see 2 Kings 17:24-41):
The elders of Jerusalem being very uneasy that the brother of Jaddua the high priest, though married to a foreigner, should be a partner with him in the high priesthood, quarreled with him; for they esteemed this man’s marriage a step to such as should be desirous of transgressing about the marriage of [strange] wives, and that this would be the beginning of a mutual society with foreigners, although the offense of some about marriages, and their having married wives that were not of their own country, had been an occasion of their former captivity, and of the miseries they then underwent; so they commanded Manasseh to divorce his wife, or not to approach the altar, the high priest himself joining with the people in their indignation against his brother, and driving him away from the altar. Whereupon Manasseh came to his father-in-law, Sanballat, and told him, that although he loved his daughter Nicaso, yet was he not willing to be deprived of his sacerdotal dignity on her account, which was the principal dignity in their nation, and always continued in the same family. And then Sanballat promised him not only to preserve to him the honour of his priesthood, but to procure for him the power and dignity of a high priest, and would make him governor of all the places he himself now ruled, if he would keep his daughter for his wife. He also told him further, that he would build him a temple like that at Jerusalem, upon Mount Gerizzim, which is the highest of all the mountains that are in Samaria; and he promised that he would do this with the approbation of Darius the king. Manasseh was elevated with these promises, and stayed with Sanballat, upon a supposal that he should gain a high priesthood, as bestowed on him by Darius, for it happened that Sanballat was then [sc. on] in years.
This seems to be an extended midrash on Nehemiah 13:28, within a few verses of the very end of the Bible's history:
And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me. וּמִבְּנֵי יוֹיָדָע בֶּן־אֶלְיָשִׁיב הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל חָתָן לְסַנְבַלַּט הַחֹרֹנִי וָאַבְרִיחֵהוּ מֵעָלָי׃
The strange thing is that Josephus presents this history as entangled with that of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire. Sanballaṭ was the leader of the Samaritans during the time of Nehemiah (mid to late fifth century BCE), whereas Alexander's conquest of the area happened in 332 BCE. Wikipedia provides the answer, that Josephus conflates Sanballaṭ I with Sanballaṭ III.
The Talmudic history of the world loses two centuries of history, presenting the Persian period as covering just eighteen years, whereas in reality it was two hundred and eight. (I think this is a major contributing factor to why Archbishop Ussher's count of the age of the world places it now as a little over six thousand years old, whereas in the Jewish count it's still only 5772). I mentioned early on in my notes that Josephus comes up with a larger figure; at some point I need to go through Josephus with a fine-toothed comb and find exactly where his discrepancies come from.
In a famous story, when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem (which the non-Jewish histories do not mention him as doing), the Jews, led by Shim`on the Righteous, opened the city's gates to him as a liberator; and they got on famously until Alexander demanded the Jews put up a statue of him in the Temple. For a while things looked bad, until someone came up with a compromise whereby the Jews would name male children born that year Alexander; and, because Jews name their children after deceased relatives, the name and glory of Alexander would thus be transmitted down through the ages—and, indeed, Alexander is my father middle Hebrew name.
In Josephus, however (XI.8.325), it's not Shim`on the Righteous who meets Alexander, but aforementioned Jaddua, the High Priest in the time of Nehemiah. Shim`on the Righteous will be his grandson (XII.2.43), but only gets a brief mention in Josephus, which is disappointing, because he's an important person in rabbinic history:
Avot 1:1 אבות א א Moses received the Torah from Sinai, and passed it on to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets; the prophets passed it on to the Men of the Great Assembly. [...] Shim`on the Righteous was one of the last of the Great Assembly; he said the world depends on three things: on Torah, on work and on doing good deeds. משה קבל תורה מסיני ומסרה ליהושע ויהושע לזקנים וזקנים לנביאים ונביאים מסרוה לאנשי כנסת הגדולה׃ [...] שמעון הצדיק היה משירי כנסת הגדולה׃ הוא היה אומר על שלשה דברים העולם עומד על התורה ועל העבודה ועל גמילות חסדים׃ [And so on through all the other leaders of each generation down to rabbinic times.]
Josephus's account has rather more narrative tension:
When [Alexander] had obtained Sidon, he besieged Tyre, when he sent an epistle to the Jewish high priest, to send him some auxiliaries, and to supply his army with provisions; and that what presents he formerly sent to Darius, he would now send to him, and choose the friendship of the Macedonians, and that he should never repent of so doing. But the high priest answered the messengers, that he had given his oath to Darius not to bear arms against him; and he said that he would not transgress this while Darius was in the land of the living. Upon hearing this answer, Alexander was very angry; and though he determined not to leave Tyre, which was just ready to be taken, yet as soon as he had taken it, he threatened that he would make an expedition against the Jewish high priest, and through him teach all men to whom they must keep their oaths. So when he had, with a good deal of pains during the siege, taken Tyre, and had settled its affairs, he came to the city of Gaza, and besieged both the city and him that was governor of the garrison, whose name was Babemeses.
But Sanballat thought he had now gotten a proper opportunity to make his attempt, so he renounced Darius, and taking with him seven thousand of his own subjects, he came to Alexander; and finding him beginning the siege of Tyre, he said to him, that he delivered up to him these men, who came out of places under his dominion, and did gladly accept of him for his lord instead of Darius. So when Alexander had received him kindly, Sanballat thereupon took courage, and spake to him about his present affair. He told him that he had a son-in-law, Manasseh, who was brother to the high priest Jaddua; and that there were many others of his own nation, now with him, that were desirous to have a temple in the places subject to him; that it would be for the king's advantage to have the strength of the Jews divided into two parts, lest when the nation is of one mind, and united, upon any attempt for innovation, it prove troublesome to kings, as it had formerly proved to the kings of Assyria. Whereupon Alexander gave Sanballat leave so to do, who used the utmost diligence, and built the temple, and made Manasseh the priest, and deemed it a great reward that his daughter's children should have that dignity; but when the seven months of the siege of Tyre were over, and the two months of the siege of Gaza, Sanballat died.
Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.
Despite Jaddua's "agony and terror", everything turns out well in the end, as G-d had also shown Alexander Jaddua in a dream, who "exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians."
XI.8.337 repeats an assertion I previously found in Notita Karaeorum:
And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.
Seeing that Alexander had so greatly honoured the Jews, [they] determined to profess themselves Jews; for such is the disposition of the Samaritans, as we have already elsewhere declared, that when the Jews are in adversity, they deny that they are of kin to them, and then they confess the truth; but when they perceive that some good fortune hath befallen them, they immediately pretend to have communion with them, saying that they belong to them, and derive their genealogy from the posterity of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh.This is typical of Josephus's attitude towards the Samaritans; he repeats this assertion several times. Though it turns out he's got cause for such cattiness: see a future post. After they've got Alexander to promise he will visit their temple when he comes back, like he visited the Jewish one, Josephus says:
And when they petitioned that he would remit the tribute of the seventh year to them, because they did but sow thereon, he asked who they were that made such a petition; and when they said that they were Hebrews, but had the name of Sidonians, living at Shechem, he asked them again whether they were Jews; and when they said they were not Jews, "It was to the Jews," said he, "that I granted that privilege; however, when I return, and am thoroughly informed by you of this matter, I will do what I shall think proper."Heh. Needless to say, he never came back.