Barely emerging, the religious-political movement of the Pharisees became the vanguard of the popular opposition. The Pharisees opposed the corrupt fusion of spiritual and state power and argued that the Messiah should be exclusively a political figure. According to the prophecies, he must come from the tribe of Judah, the offspring of David. Priests, according to the Law, should only be Levites (it is precisely this topic – how the Messiah can be both King and Priest – to which later a whole sermon is dedicated to in the New Testament, known to us as the Epistle to the Hebrews).
The Pharisees called on the king to renounce the diadem of the priest, for which they fall into disfavor. The confrontation turns into an open conflict. Six years of internecine struggle leads to the death of fifty thousand Pharisees and their supporters, and many of the survivors are forced to become refugees.
The golden age of the Pharisees began in 76 BC, when Alexandra Salome, the widow of Alexander Yanaias (great-grandson of Mattathias Hasmonaeus), refused to leave the throne and continued to reign herself. Since, being a woman, she could not be a high priest, this title was given to her eldest son, Hyrcanus II. The real power was in the hands of the queen’s brother, one of the most influential Pharisees, Simon ben Shatach. In fact, the Pharisees began to secretly rule the country.
The prosperity, however, did not last long. Aristobulus the Second, the youngest son of Alexandra, having enlisted the support of his eastern neighbor, takes away the high priesthood from his brother and after the death of the queen, he usurps the royal power. Syria, referring to centuries of common history and common culture (many Jews by that time no longer knew their native language – see Acts 6:1), strongly supports this choice. But Hyrcanus, who was left out of the lot and his followers begin to stand up for the pro-Western choice of Israel, Roman integration, the rule of law and other benefits of European civilization.
Referring to his legitimacy as a ruler, Hyrcanus turns to Pompey, who visited Palestine in 63 BC, for help. with a request to restore justice by making him a high priest. The Pharisees also send their deputation to Pompey, demanding the removal of both brothers from power and the creation of an autonomous republic in Judea under the protectorate of Rome. The split between supporters of the pro-Western civilizational choice and adherents of age-old ties with the eastern neighbor develops into a new civil strife. Pompey introduces “peacekeeping forces” into Palestine. Aristobulus closes the gates of Jerusalem before them, but Hyrcanus opens them.
The Romans restore the priesthood of Hyrcanus, and Caesar subsequently appoints him ethnarch (“national leader”). However, the emperor entrusts the real power, including the command of the troops and the collection of taxes, to the procurator – Herod Antipater the Younger (father of Herod the Great). The Jews are finally losing their kingdom. Israel becomes a province of Rome, ruled by the Edomites. We know the continuation of history from the New Testament.
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