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Got To Go Home: Jewish Sovereignty In Antiquity

2233 words - 9 pages

“Miserable men indeed were they, whose distress forced them to slay their own wives and children with their own hands, as the lightest of those evils that were before them.” (qtd Josephus, 393) Two thousand years ago an ancient historian named Josephus wrote those words about the zealots in Masada. After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the rebels who made it out alive fled to Masada, where three years later they were attacked. Every man had to kill his family and then commit suicide in order to not get enslaved by the Romans. Although the Ancient Israelites were completely outnumbered by many of their enemies, they would not give up their contented lifestyle to anyone even if it meant killing themselves.
The first Israelites supposedly migrated from Mesopotamia. They were a mix of races that were just trying to survive (Orlinsky, 8). The Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Amorites and the Babylonians had all thrown these people out of their country before a true golden era could arise (Hintz, 37). Israel was at its strongest starting in 1030BC. During this time Israel dominated west Asia. Two kings, David and Solomon were strong leaders and helped lead a strong nation. The golden era ended in 931 BCE when King Solomon died (Hintz, 37). After the king’s death the country slowly died from weak leaders, and split into two. The kingdom of Judah took over the south, including Jerusalem. About 200 years later, the kingdom of Israel died out. Judah lived on uninterrupted, until Alexander the Great and the Greeks came in 332BC (Hintz, 38).
One of the first conquerors of Judah was Alexander the Great and the Greeks. The Greeks did not just want to conquer land, and wealth; they wanted to change the ideas of other countries so that the people would think like they did (Mortimer, 19). In 332 BCE Alexander the Great conquered Judah but largely ignored it. Despite his philosophy, he did not think it was important to make Judah think like he did. He didn’t even leave any soldiers in Israel (Mortimer, 19). After his death, his generals fought over his empire and in 301 BCE Greek General Ptolemy took direct control of the Jewish homeland. For the most part Ptolemy did not try to interfere with religious affairs (Mortimer, 19). For the next century the Jews did not resist the Greek capture, because it did not affect their lifestyle. However, when Antiochus seized power in 175 BCE he decided to start a campaign against Judaism. Finally Greek foreign policy was upon them. In 167 BCE Antiochus destroyed the 500-year-old Temple (Miller, 57). Destroying the Temple provoked Jewish rebellion by Judah and the Maccabaeus.
The holy temple was the center of the Jewish religion, and destroying it was a huge factor in the rebellion. Antiochus wanted to destroy all belief in a single god. By trying to convince the Jews to change their ideas about religion he had to set harsh rules. These rules killed thousands of people for practicing their religion...

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