In the previous discourse Judah and Jonathan were both killed. The last surviving son of Mattathias was Shimon.
Shimon (Simon) succeeds Jonathan – semi-autonomy of Hasmonean Kingdom
In 141/140 BC Shimon, by a resolution, was also recognized as the High Priest and Prince of Israel by an assembly of priests and elders. However, the manner in which the election process was carried out departed from the Jewish custom. Instead it was performed in the Hellenistic fashion. Thus began the newly established Hasmonean kingdom. The Hasmonean Kingdom gained semi-autonomy for the region it controlled and thus remained a province of the Seleucid Empire. Around 139 BC the Roman Senate accorded recognition to the new dynasty. Approximately five years later, in 134/135 BC, Shimon was murdered during a banquet given by his son-in-law, Ptolemy, son of Abubus, who was made governor of the Jericho by the Seleucid king. Shimon’s two sons were also murdered during the banquet. The third son of Shimon was not at the banquet. Sometimes later, Ptolemy then tried to murder Shimon’s third son, John, also known as Hyrcanus or John Hyrcanus (the name “Hyrcanus”, probably referring to the region of Hyrcania on the Caspian Sea, of Old Persian and Sanskrit origin, was a Greek reginal name conferred by the Seleucid king). But the attempt failed.
John Hyrcanus succeeds Shimon – full independence of Hasmonean Kingdom
Around 135 BC John Hyrcanus assumed the official positions his deceased father had held prior to his demise. At this point the Hasmonean Kingdom slowly departed further from the Jewish tradition and also more into self-destructive internal conflicts as each successive generations inclined further into the Hellenistic way. During this time or possibly earlier, the Jewish community was split between two opposing political and religious parties, namely the Pharisee and the Sadducee factions. The Pharisees took issue with the House of Hasmonean on several issues. Among many disputes, the first contending issue was over the legitimacy of Hyrcanus holding both the office of High Priesthood while also filling the role of a ruler. Another issue arose when Hyrcanus looted the Tomb of David for the purpose of paying tribute imposed upon him by the Seleucid king, Antiochus VII Sidetes. The tribute was part of a truce agreement executed after a siege on Jerusalem during Hyrcanus’ first year. In desecrating the Tomb of David he also violated his obligations as High Priest. Thus, adding to the contentious climate among the Jewish community of his reign.
From 110 BC, the Hasmonean Dynasty became fully independent following the weakening and disintegrating of the Seleucid Empire. Hyrcanus subsequently conquered the neighboring regions of Galilee, Transjordan, Samaria and Idumea (aka Edom). He then forced the Idumeans to convert to Judaism. This caused another contention between Hyrcanus and the Pharisees.
John Hyrcanus was said to have five sons. But only four were recorded. The four named sons were Judah Aristobulus I, Antigonus I, Alexander Jannaeus and Absalom. He reigned from 134 until his death in 104 BC. Before his death Hyrcanus made an effort to compromise on the dispute over his role as High Priest and ethnarch. He established a reform effective on his successors. The reformation provided for the separation of the office of High Priest from secular authority. The secular authority was to be succeeded by his wife while the office of High Priest was to go to his eldest son Judah Aristobulus I. However, Aristobulus was not happy about such arrangement.
Judah Aristobulus I usurps power by subversion
Upon Hyrcanus’ death, Aristobulus had his mother and the other three brothers put in prison. He let his mother starved to death so that he could secure the throne for himself. In 103 BC, after only one year of reign, Aristobulus died from a painful illness. His widow subsequently release the three brothers from prison.
Succession of Alexander Jannaeus followed by Salome Alexandra
In 103 BC Alexander Jannaeus succeeded his brother and ruled the Hasmonean dynasty from 103 to 76 BC. During Alexander’s reign, at around 87 BC, 800 Jews were crucified in Jerusalem for rebellion. Alexander died during the siege of the fortress Ragaba and was succeeded by his wife, Salome Alexandra. Salome then appointed his eldest son, Hyrcanus II, as the High Priest. She also designated him as her successor to the throne. In 67 BC Salome died and Hyrcanus II succeeded her. Thus resuming the dual position of High Priest and ruler.
Succession of Hyrcanus II deposed and restored
But the reign of Hyrcanus II was very short. He was soon deposed by his younger brother, Aristobulus II. Hyrcanus II, however, fought back with the help of the Nabataean king. The civil war dragged on until Rome intervened in 63 BC under Pompey. The result was that Hyrcanus II was restored only as High Priest and Aristobulus II was taken to Rome as prisoner. The civil authority was delegated to Antipater the Idumean under the authority of Rome. The seditious Antipater was actually the one who convinced Hyrcanus II to contend against his brother for his rightful position.
Antigonus Mattathias deposes Hyrcanus II
Hyrcanus II held the position of High Priest for approximately 27 years before he was again deposed of his office in 40 BC by his nephew, Antigonus Mattathias, son of Aristobulus II. This was done with the help of the Parthians. He was taken to Babylonia and lived there for 4 years before being invited back by Herod the Great, aka Herod I when Antigonus was defeated and executed. Later Hyrcanus II was put to death by Herod. Thus ending the Hasmonean Dynasty and the beginning of the Herodian Dynasty.
In part VI I will cover the Herodian period to the time of the Messiah, Yehoshua, who is commonly known as Jesus Christ in the Western world.